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!
Let’s bust some health myths around low carb diets and ketone supplements.
Low Carb is Bad? What the heck!
Research that a low carb diet is dangerous recently hit mainstream news. If you look closely at this study you’ll notice the method used is one of the most inaccurate ways to draw conclusions. This subject is already difficult to research mostly because people are notoriously bad at reporting what they eat.
The Lancet study is an observational study based on questionnaires. There is no control in this kind of research. Only twice were the participant’s diets assessed in the 25 year period of the study. Specific interventions are not directed on the subject (ie a low-carb diet) to discover the outcome. Instead, the researchers just look at populations of people to make guesses about the effects of a diet or lifestyle variable.
Correlation is not Causation
We simply can’t draw conclusions from this kind of study. We can only generate hypotheses. Why? Because correlation is not causation. For instance, take a look at this statement, “Students who get extra help at school do worse on exams.” Obviously students who need extra help will improve the score on their own exam. This doesn’t mean they’ll score highest in the class. We can’t draw conclusion because correlation is not causation.
Given the sheer number of randomized control trials that show benefits for epilepsy, diabetes, hormone imbalance and irritable bowel, its worth taking a deeper look at this study that hit the headlines.
The Healthy Bias & Other Flaws
The healthy participant bias is real and is rarely controlled for. Behaviours that are popularly perceived as healthy like exercising, not smoking, avoiding sugar and red meat are all lumped together. Therefore in the general population anyone who eats red meat also has multiple risk factors already. The nuance of those who eat grass-fed meat as part a whole food diet and a healthy lifestyle gets missed.
Other problems are people tend underreport foods socially considered bad, like meat and alcohol. They overreport foods considered good, such as vegetables and fruits. Ingredients in restaurant or prepared foods are often unreported or unknown. Most people don’t measure portion sizes and forget some of what they eat. Tracking every bite and meal is inconvenient so a lot gets left out.
Finally, diets change over long periods of time and this study went on for 25 years. Researchers only had to control for 3 variables out of these: age, sex, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, cardiovascular disease and family history of cardiovascular disease. What this means is someone could have up to 5 major risk factors and still be part of the study. This explains why the outcomes they came up with were so bleak.
Macronutrients, Whole Food & the Ancestral Diet
We have significant evidence from much more reliable studies that people can thrive on any macronutrient ratio when eating unprocessed foods similar to what our ancestors ate. Low carbohydrate with high fat or protein can result in a thriving population. High carbohydrate for shorter periods of time also works. In fact, one population consumes honey as its main source of nutrient for part of the year.
Eating in a way that is adapted to your environment, the seasons, activity level and social support system is key. We are incredibly resilient. Why low carb works so well in our day and age is because the amount of processed junk we have access to is mostly carb based foods that are highly palatable. By simply avoiding these we also avoid a long list of health complications. It also makes us thrive and allows us to give back to our communities. Win, win!
So a Ketone Supplement is Good?
When a number of people approach me asking about a new supplement my eyebrows go up a bit. Ketosis is a approach to nutritional therapy that is not new however there is a resurgence in its popularity right now. In fact its searched in google more than any other diet right now! I have colleagues who have been using it with patients for nearly 30 years.
Here are the thoughts I had for the people who asked me about ketone salts. The first question I asked about this particular supplement is how is it being marketed? Is it direct sales/multi level marketing? Does it say its safe and effective for everyone? Do they want people using it long-term? Yes, yes and yes.
Another question I have is does it contain caffeine? Yes.
Finally its worth noting that electrolytes are important for anyone going into ketosis but supplementation is not. One patient who tried this supplement reported feeling very thirsty from it. I wonder why a ketone supplement would create thirst. It should do the opposite.
Sleep & Metabolic Disorders
Caffeine is going to make most people feel better temporarily. It is also going to inhibit appetite and sleep. What many don’t realize is that 50% of people don’t metabolize caffeine so it doesn’t clear the system. Insomnia is a major contributor to metabolic disorders like insulin resistance and diabetes. Lost sleep will increase inflammation and also make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Missing meals inhibits your ability to rest, rejuvenate and experience deep sleep.
Three sign of pre-diabetes are increased thirst, hunger and urination. One of the people who asked me about this supplement told me she experienced all three.
Today’s Biggest Health Concerns
High stress, insomnia and blood sugar dysregulation. They are connected. A caffeinated supplement is not the answer. For someone who is healthy and metabolizes caffeine well this supplement may not cause harm. I’d rather have people learn to manage their stress, sleep better and eat regularly in a way that supports their lifestyle than rely on any supplement.
I do have patients who are in ketosis. Usually these are people with very low stress like those who are retired. Occasionally its a person struggling with a serious illness where ketosis is indicated as a viable intervention. I don’t recommend ketosis to parents, business owners or those who are very active. The benefits roll out for those who are in the right stage of life to do it.
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.
What’s the Difference?
Symptoms like chronic yeast infections, brain fog and sugar cravings can indicate dysbiosis or an imbalance in the gut microbiome. About 20 years ago candida albicans began receiving a lot of attention. Some said to cause a long list of ailments. We’ve learned a lot since then and continue to learn more all the time. Endoscopies are not perfect but can show fungal overgrowth occurring in the small intestine. (SIFO). In out patient settings, we test the gut using stool and breath tests.
Candida albicans is one strain of bacteria residing in the colon and is part of a healthy colon when in balance. It can get out of balance. This can happen when there is a dybiosis of insufficiency meaning a lack of other bacteria. Often it occurs after antibiotics used especially if several rounds were used.
Keep in mind that high stress, poor diet and reactions to foods also trigger an imbalance in gut flora. Similarly a parasitic infection like giardia can trigger the onset of Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This is why people go traveling and say their gut was never the same afterwards.
So what causes SIFO?
If you are on a very limited diet to manage symptoms that appear to be fungal overgrowth but your labs come out looking good we have to consider SIFO. There isn’t a breath test available for SIFO and it won’t show on stool tests. Certain antibodies can be used to detect it but this is not yet widely used. An organic acids test has markers that are more telling. This is what I end up using because it has a variety of other markers that are helpful for assessing the patient’s health status in general. Knowing what triggered the symptoms is important so reinfection can be avoided. There is a strong correlation between long-term use of proton pump inhibitors and SIFO. Low stomach acid means more pathogens make it into the small intestine.
Treatment can include both pharmaceuticals and botanicals. As far as botanicals go I use monolaurin, a concentrate of coconut oil, oregon grape root, berberines, caprylic acid or allicin and biofilm disruptors like NAC or Interfase Plus. Cycling antibiotics followed antifungals is what gastroenterologist Dr. Satish Rao suggests. This is because onset of fungal infection occurs after the good bacteria is killed off whether its in the small intestine or the colon.
Can diet help?
A lower carb diet rich in nutrients is a good starting place. There is some indication in the research that ketones can feed the overgrowth so use caution with this approach. Often people will know what triggers symptoms and these need to be avoided. Following treatment a period of rebuilding is key to ensure that the colon is functioning optimally. A prokinectic like 5-HTP or bitters encourage the migrating motor complex to prevent reinfection in the small intestine. If the ileocecal valve between the two bowels is inflamed we want to address this. Bacteria collect around these valves and take up residence where they shouldn’t. So inflammation and any immune issues also need to be addressed.
Keep in mind that candida albicans is different than candidiasis, which is a serious condition occurring in immune compromised people. Candidiasis requires immediate medical intervention.
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.