Love Your Lifestyle
People who engage in regular movement or meditation are less likely to get sick during the winter months. Getting outside during daylight helps your circadian rhythm and vitamin D levels. Good sleep supports immunity and prevents colds. Here are 15 ways you can sleep better this season! Prevent getting sick so you can have more time with your loved ones.
Devour These Delicious Delicacies
This is the time of year to build your defences. Boost these in your diet. Enjoy this season more!
Colostrum: By providing immune cells directly, colostrum encourages the body’s resilience to external viruses. Milk that comes from mammals during the first 72 hrs of their baby’s life that is particularly high in antibodies.
Ginger: There is plenty of scientific research supporting the use of ginger in several pathogenic conditions. This is one of the most used herbs world-wide,
Vitamin C: This powerful nutrient contributes to immune defence by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. It protects against environmental oxidative stress. 42% of people do not eat enough Vitamin C.
Fish Oil: Much of your immune system is housed in your gut. Research indicates that DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in fish oil helps gut immunity by supporting B cell function. DHA is also one of the major building blocks of the brain. This omega-3 fatty acid is critical at all ages of life for optimal brain health. It is preventative against SADD.
Probiotics: Probiotics are living microorganisms that are found in the gut. They play an important role in regulation of host immune response. We are learning everyday how to best target symptoms with strain specific probiotics that are more likely to adhere to the gut lining.
Zinc: This nutrient is well documented as a source of immune support. Foods that are highest in zinc include oysters, crab and red meat. Nuts, seeds, legumes, avocados, berries and apricots also have zinc.
Echinacea: The active substances that help support cellular immunity are phenols and alkylamides. You know you have a potent product if it makes your tongue tingle.
Mushrooms: These work as antioxidants and immunomodulatory. Mushrooms such as Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Shiitake (Lentinus edodes), and Turkey tail (Colorus versicolor) protect immune cells.
Vitamin D Deserves Special Recognition
Low vitamin D levels may be one of the key reasons why acute respiratory infections are common during winter and spring. According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, vitamin D plays a critical role in enhancing immunity against viral, acute respiratory infections. Cod liver oil is an excellent way to increase your family’s intake of vitamin D. For prevention of diabetes type I and type II it is essential to optimize your vitamin D levels. The blood marker you can ask for from your doctor is 25-OH-D.
And Finally My Favourite: Beta Glucans
Beta glucans are highly branched polysaccharides that are non-caloric and impart an immune benefit. These prebiotic foods are mainly found in fungi (mushrooms and yeast) and grains (oats).
One study showed that 9g of beta glucans from brewer’s yeast taken for 16 weeks was able to reduce the number of cold infections by 25% and the symptom score of those who got infected by 15% (1)
Fungal beta glucans have a stronger effect on immune response. Beta glucans from oats have a more potent anti-lipidemic effect. My store is nearly stocked with some of the best formulas for supporting your health long-term. Stay tuned for its launch soon!
Glycine is the Amino Acid that Gives
Without knowing it, glycine is helping your body every day with muscle repair, cognitive function, metabolic health, and immunity. This amino acid assists in breaking down glycogen, fat and other nutrients to be used as energy at the cellular level. When it comes to aging gracefully it plays a role with the important antioxidant glutathione as well as the human growth hormone.
In the brain glycine acts as neurotransmitter in a similar way to GABA. It is in fact released with GABA to calm or inhibit parts of the central nervous system. Glycine modulates excitatory neurotransmissions as well, meaning that it can go both ways. This unique neurotransmitter helps with sleep, memory, mental performance, stress, anxiety and even severe mental illness. As a preventative measure for everything from fatigue to stroke this is a powerful supplement.
For stabilizing blood sugar research shows a significant benefit with 5 grams of glycine before each meal so 15 grams per day. This amount would be difficult to get in either bone broth or collagen. You’d need two full servings of collagen to get 5 grams of glycine. With metabolic issues sky rocketing glycine can be an excellent therapeutic aid.
Anyone who over methylates can benefit from glycine because it buffers excess methyl groups. Methylation is a biochemical process that has an impact on B vitamin status. Without adequate B vitamins the body will generate less glycine. Another problem that can happen is that glycine can produce oxalates instead. This causes a different kind of pain in the joints and can lead to kidney stones.
By restoring gut health you also support immunity. This is one of the far reaching benefits of glycine. Given that digestive disorders and autoimmune conditions have reached epidemic proportions it’s worth ensuring you are getting enough glycine.
Where to Get Your Glycine
I mentioned above a few reasons to take glycine in its free form and how it can be difficult to get a therapeutic dose otherwise. Collagen loading is one way to bring up the balance in the body. This means taking high doses for a few weeks.
One of the reasons bone broth has finally received so much attention is due to this amino acid along with proline and arginine. However its difficult to know what dose you are getting when you make bone broth yourself. If you purchase both broth and the label tells how much protein there is per serving then the amount of glycine is a 3:10 ration. So you get 3 grams of glycine per 10 grams of protein.
Both collagen and bone broth can be taken for maintenance. Testing B vitamins, metabolism and neurotransmitters through organic acids testing will let you know what is needed.
Types of Collagen: How to choose?
Grass-fed, bovine sources of collagen provide both type 1 and 3. What this means is that it targets muscle growth as well as the joints, skin, hair and nails. This is because Type 3 has proline which supports creatine production.
The parts of the animal that are often wasted are used to make collagen. Grass-fed, pasture raised animals supports a healthy ecosystem in ways that industrial agriculture can’t. The benefits to humans consuming small amounts of ethically raised animal products is well known. This is especially key for those with compromised digestive health or autoimmunity. For recovery from injury, surgery or to alleviate the damaging side effects of some medications it can be considered medicine. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding and caring for small children benefit as well.
Collagen harvested from fish can also be very nourishing and done ethically. However marine collagen has a higher price point. If its not then likely this is because the source is farmed fish. The bioavailability will therefore be compromised as the molecules are larger and therefore less absorbable. Well sourced marine collagen contains only Type 1 collagen which is the most bioavailable and often marketed for beauty reasons.
Type 2 collagen from chicken sources is especially rich in cartilage. For anyone taking MSM and glucosamine this may be a replacement especially if you try a higher dose.
Optimal Health & Hormones
I mentioned the human growth hormone (HGH). By building up and breaking down muscle we actually stimulate a cascade of positive physiological responses in the body that keep us feeling and looking great. I like to think of collagen and glycine as supporting an active lifestyle and optimal health. The liver loves glycine and the liver is what helps balance other hormones.
Here are all the ways that glycine supports your to feel your best:
- Energizes: whether you suffer from chronic fatigue or are an athlete this nutrient improves energy
- Metabolism: balancing blood sugar is key to metabolic health and weight maintenance
- Muscle growth: for those who have lost muscle mass from illness or are enjoying the benefits of strength training
- Sleep and Nerves: glycine has a positive, regulating effect on the central nervous system
- Digestion: helps repair the gut by helping form the two key elements required for this which are gelatin and collagen
- Aging: as a powerful antioxidant it prevents cellular damage and can slow the various ways that aging shows up
- Immunity: by improving gut health we improve immunity
- Injury repair: this includes post-birth or surgery, joint or ligament injuries and harmful side-effects of medications
Brain health is influenced by many factors and we know there are a few habits that support long term function.
The inflammatory cytokine model of depression shows the influence diet has on cognitive function. Omega 6 oils are linked to depression and are pro-inflammatory. One in four adults experience mental illness in the US and the standard American diet is high in omega 6 oils. (1) Depression is increasing at an alarming rate of 20% each year.
1. Protein and Fat
Supplementing with omega 3’s is an option, however quality is an issue. Keep in mind that grass-fed dairy, meat and pastured eggs all are high in omega 3’s whereas conventional varieties are much higher in omega 6’s. Cold water, fatty fish that is wild is an excellent source of omega 3 oils as well as the important fatty acids EPA and DHA. DHA has been shown to support brain function particularly in depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD . Comparatively, vegetarians and vegans ingest 30-60% less EPA and DHA.
Monounsaturated fats like cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil increase the production of ACTH which is an important neurotransmitter. All neurotransmitters are built from amino acids in the gut. Glycine, a component of bone broth, reduces psychotic episodes and improves cognition by acting as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It will antagonize norepinephrine which helps regulate the stress response. Cholesterol nourishes the myelin sheath of the brain.
A staggering 30-40% of people do not respond to anti-depressants. One of the ways these function is to inhibit the stress response by lowering high cortisol levels. Although, it can’t be known if an individual has high, normal, or low cortisol without testing. As a result this may explain why so many don’t respond. Cortisol is anti-inflammatory and by lowering it without proper testing it could actually increase inflammation.
2. Caffeine has many benefits in moderation
Caffeine is known to exacerbate anxiety especially in the afternoon and evening. The resulting lack of sleep and improper light exposure disrupt circadian rhythm. Over 20% of people with insomnia develop depression. In addition, those at high risk are mother’s whose iron and fat intake is not optimal. Interestingly half the population are poor metabolizers of caffeine. There may be a link between those with a gluten intolerance.
3. Gut Health and Gluten
The number of people who have undetected celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity is growing. The connection between celiac disease and cognitive dysfunction has determined at least 22% of people are likely to experience both. An astonishing 57% of those with neurological dysfunction test positive for anti-gliadin antibodies. Clinically I’ve seen people who tested negative for gliadin which is the standard test and when I test other gluten specific antibodies they are positive. The disorders associated with gluten include: seizures, neuropathy, ADD, ADHD, autism, ataxia, anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.
Vegetarians and vegans are 68-83% deficient in B12. B12 deficiency is associated with alzheimer’s, dementia, cognitive decline, memory loss, depression, bipolar and psychosis. B12 absorption can be impaired by dysbiosis, leaky gut, inflammation, pernicious anemia which is autoimmune, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, low stomach acid and IBD.
Folate and B6 are needed for serotonin synthesis. Additionally, a deficiency of these also increases inflammatory homocysteine.
5. The Minerals: Zinc and Magnesium
Copper and zinc act as neurotransmitters in the brain. The ideal serum ratio is .7 copper – 1 zinc. Oxidative stress and inflammation reduce zinc and increase copper. Low zinc indicates inflammation.
Magnesium acts at the blood brain barrier to prevent stress hormones from entering the brain. Prevents anxiety and depression after a traumatic brain injury. Caffeine and stress in excess deplete magnesium. Too much calcium inhibits absorption. Calcium from food is enough for most people.
Magnesium is stored in our bones. Acid reflux, Crohn’s, colitis, kidney disease and alcoholism contribute to a deficiency. Proton pump inhibitors are used to treat reflux by masking the symptoms and these will also deplete the body of magnesium overtime.
The recommended dose between 500-700 mg/day. Food sources include: dark leafy greens, cacao, bananas, soaked nuts, seeds and legumes. Protein will be better absorbed with a diet higher in protein. Some pharaceuticals block absorption and create deficiency of magnesium including PPI’s, Lasix, digoxin, nitrofurantoin, anti-malaria drugs and bisphosphonates.
Symtoms and conditions associated with low levels include: muscle cramps, heart arrhythmias, tremors, headaches, acid reflux, increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, migraines, premenstrual tension syndrome, asthma and hypothyroidism.
I recommend magnesium gylcinate and suggest that people take one capsule at night along with eating a nutrient dense diet free of the phytates that bind magnesium. Loose stool results from too much and can be to help with occasional constipation. Taking magnesium before bed will help relax your muscles and supports good sleep.
When the Body Speaks
The body generally tells us what we need to know. Often this occurs more readily when we are injured or sick. These interruptions to our daily life force us to tune in and listen to the body. In particular when we slow down our bodies will sync up or entrain to the part of us that is healthy. This mechanism is built-in to our genetics and is similar to what happens between mother and child or doctor and patient. Next time you are in pain notice what happens when your body is still and you will likely find that the inner physician speaks up.
Is it possible to Age Gracefully?
Research has proven a connection between mind and body. Harnessing this understanding along with our genetic history can show us how to live more fully. For two million years of our evolution we lived embedded in our surroundings. Only in the last 0.5% of this time have adapted to agriculture and our current system of industrial food systems accounts for a tiny portion of this. Archaeology indicates that bone health decreased as people began to homestead. The explosion of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic illness has specifically coincided with modern life. There is a mismatch between how we are genetically adapted to live and the age of agriculture. To live a long, healthy life and age gracefully we can simply look to our ancestors.
What to Eat: it can be Simple
We know that our ancestors ate a wide variety of foods which is what I encourage my patients to do. Enjoy a range of macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Choose foods with vivid colours and revel in the ritual of preparation. Each person has unique needs which change throughout a life span. What is right for you can be discovered through experimentation although specific diagnosis or guidance can be important at times. For example anyone with thyroid imbalances do better with a more consistent source of carbohydrates which will assist with the conversion of the T4 to T3. Or, for example, anyone experiencing hypoglycemia needs to focus more on protein and to ensure fats are consumed with fruit to reduce blood sugar spikes as well as increase absorption.
Four Steps You Can Take
Once your metabolism is relatively stable it becomes easier to experiment because the need to eat is less urgent. This is how our bodies are meant to function. If you need support to reach this place there are some simple steps that can be taken. First, focus on foods that with high levels of bioavailable nutrients and those that actually support the good digestive bacteria. Microbiota accessible carbs are best and what it basically comes down to is eating more vegetables; for example root vegetables are packed with nutrients that are easily assimilated. Second, remove any foods that hurt your gut lining especially refined carbs and any known allergens. Third, stabilize your blood sugar which will reduce your risk of developing diabetes and dementia later in life. Finally, add extra healthy fats to increase the assimilation of micronutrients. A couple of examples are beta carotene and lycopene which absorb up to eighteen times more so eat your carrots with butter and add a dose of olive oil to your tomato sauce.
Facts About Fat, Protein and Micronutrients
Furthermore it is commonly understood that iron is made bioavailable by adding vitamin c but less known that non-animal sources are only 2-20% available partially due to phytate and oxalates reducing absorption. This accounts for why up to 85% of vegetarians are deficient in this essential nutrient. Other nutrients that are often very low are vitamin D and E, B 6, zinc, calcium and magnesium. This is because animal protein is the most nutrient dense and bioavailable source of many micronutrients. Small amounts of well-sourced meat is a shift from the Standard North American diet and one worth taking. I encourage patients to view meat as a medicine and honour it in the way our ancestors did.
Fish and eggs are also foods we can look to as medicinal. Soft yolks are great sources of choline and lecithin that become more available once you add butter or any other fat. Fish is our only bioavailable source of the essential long chain fatty acids DHA and EPA. Flax and hemp oil contains ALA which is the precursor to these omega 3’s but are lacking the full benefit. Enjoy a wide range of full fats and oils including avocado, macadamia, olive, palm, butter, and lard while avoiding all industrial seed oils including canola, safflower, sunflower etc. Seed oils and refined carbohydrates make up for over 50% of the Standard North American Diet and is linked to nutrient deficiency, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Fat soluble vitamins like K2 have been proven to reduce heart disease and coronary calcification. When you consider that one in four people is affected by heart disease it is worth ensuring that you are getting enough of this fat soluble vitamin.
I’ll be writing more about fats and oils soon. Please send in any questions or comments.
Paleo is short for a nutrient dense, low allergic, anti-inflammatory and real food diet. Using the word ‘lifestyle’ means we include elements like sunlight, movement, pleasure, sleep and social support as key factors influencing health. For the majority of our genetic and biological history we lived on a wide variety of foods and when the environment allowed, lived a life span similar to today but free from chronic illness. The hunter-gatherer period lasted 66,000 years and during this time our brain development skyrocketed largely due the protein sources we began accessing. Although we continue to evolve, with a range of individual variation, the evidence supports us to look to our ancestors so we can live a long and happy life.
Diseases of civilization are the epidemic of our time. Now over 80 autoimmune disorders are recognized with more added each year. Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease and LDL particle count is now known to be the best risk assessment tool we have but medical practice is slow to catch up. Diabetes and dementia are growing at alarming rates and most concerning of all it is predicted that the majority of children today will live shorter lives than their parents.
For twelve years I’ve studied and worked in health both in clinical practice and in transformative education. Like many who work in this field I have a story of recovering from debilitating illness using an ancestral or ‘paleo’ approach. A vegetarian diet combined with a high intensity lifestyle training as a dancer throughout puberty led to a complete crash in my early 20’s. I was weak and contracted multiple parasites first from a farm and then from travel to Asia. Using chlorine to purify my water as I climbed the Himalayas was the move that wiped out my gut bacteria and immunity.
Recovering my health was not a simple or short journey. My aim as a clinician and educator is to make it much easier for others by offering the latest in medical research and nutritional science. Even if we rule out the evolutionary perspective of the paleo movement, its focus on nutrient density and bioavailability is difficult to argue with. Clinically I’ve witnessed results I couldn’t have imagined when people commit to the recommendations even for a short period of time. The amazing part is that this lifestyle is so engaging and enjoyable that it’s not difficult to stick with for a lifetime.
So here goes. Let’s discuss some of the most heavily researched proteins. Gliadin is the peptide in gluten and like all grains it is very difficult to break down. The unique problem with gliadin is that it is known to increase gut permeability which is the root of many autoimmune disease. Grains are very low on the nutrient density scale and unless they are soaked or fermented the phytic acid content decreases the bioavailability of these nutrients. Grains and legumes are seeds and therefore built to pass through mammals undigested in order to sprout elsewhere. Prior to agriculture these were not used widely and any traditional culture who consumed them learned to pre-digest them through a long process. Industrial agriculture has shown us that grains are not the long-term solution to a growing population because of the cost to top soil health. Harvard scientist Matt Lalonde explains that for humans develop the ability to break down grains and legumes into food would take an evolutionary leap equivalent to growing wings.
Dairy on the other hand is another story from an evolutionary perspective. As infants humans produce lactase and therefore it is a simple genetic step to continue producing. In fact 33% of the world’s population have evolved to tolerate dairy and this happened for good reason. Milk became more available as people started to farm and grains became our staple diet. Research shows that places that had diets high in grains experienced deficiencies of protein, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium and iron. Infectious disease was also higher. Under this pressure, milk became a way to mitigate some of these deficiencies. Evolution happens with time and pressure and this step didn’t require much time but the pressure was strong. People were not thriving with the onset of agriculture. For example they were 5-6 inches shorter than their hunter-gatherer predecessors.
Soy is a unique legume and by looking at it we can understand a lot about inflammation in the body and the increase in allergies. One benefit of soy is that it is a phytoestrogen however the downside is that it is highly allergenic. This means that it doesn’t just cause sensitivities where inflammation increases but can also cause full-blown allergic reactions. When the immune system is in high alert most of the time the body is not able to function optimally or even normally. This is where we are seeing more people reacting to a wider range of foods or developing autoimmune problems.
Individuals wanting to recover health can begin by removing the foods that are known to cause problems in many people and then slowly reintroduce them. There are also tests that can point you in the right direction. Eating a diet full of real foods including some animal protein, fish and a wide variety of vegetables with some fruits is an excellent starting point. This style of eating is very satiating and remarkably easy once you get started. Understanding that the standard North American diet is made up of over 50% of foods that have no nutrient value but are high in calories and anti-nutrients or toxins is motivation enough to cut these foods down and then out of your family’s life. Flours, sugars and industrial seed oils are leading to rising numbers of people who suffer from disease due to inflammation, malnutrition and depression.
The focus on local, organic and wild or pasture-raised food is powerful. It is the quickest way to stabilize your metabolism, mood, energy and weight. For ongoing inspiration please stay connected as I’ll be offering bi-weekly articles to strengthen our resilience, interconnectedness and ability to co-create solutions. Questions and comments are welcome.