Boost Your Immunity & Prevent Colds this Season

Boost Your Immunity & Prevent Colds this Season

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!

 

 

Collagen Supports Your Brain, Body & Beauty

Collagen Supports Your Brain, Body & Beauty

Why I Love Collagen

Collagen helps to balance the branch chain amino acids in our bodies.  This has far reaching effects.  Many of you understand the importance of balancing healthy fats to ensure you get enough omega 3’s.  There is a similar balance when it comes to amino acids.  Most of us get too much methionine and not enough glycine.  Glycine can be taken on its own or consumed in either bone broth or collagen.

The reason I love collagen is because of convenience.  I make bone broth but not as often as I need to consume it.  Collagen is convenient.  It can be added to my morning matcha, power balls or an afternoon workout drink.

Grace & Beauty

Collagen nourishes all of our connective tissue.  Its great for anyone who wants a faster recovery time post workout or is experiencing tendon or joint pain.  Connective tissue includes skin, hair and nails.  You may notice collagen being marketed as a beauty aid.  Certainly when we are pain free and nourished, we have a healthy glow.

Adequate amounts of glycine also supports phase two of liver detoxification.  This is often sluggish due to the modern lifestyle and the high stress that comes with it.  We can talk about this from an evolutionary standpoint and it makes a lot of sense.  We evolved eating a wide variety of foods that included some fish and animals.  We valued these sources of nutrient dense food by eating everything.  This gave us a balance of amino acids that nature provides.

Brain Health

Glycine is a neurotransmitter as well!   It has the ability to be both excitatory and inhibitory, meaning it can function both to stimulate brain and nervous system activity, or to quiet it.  Let’s put a few things together.

  • Calms the brain
  • Helps us sleep deeply to support repair
  • Supports organ function especially the liver which cleans our blood at night
  • Liver also regulates all emotions.  When it’s not functioning optimally, we tend to feel frustrated or angry.  When the liver is well we are able to grow in a direction that feels right
  • Grace is a feeling of ease with how life is.  This comes with a happy liver

Strong Bones Long Term

There is more collagen in our bones than calcium.  Remember this applies also to our skin, joints, ligaments and hair.  If you haven’t taken collagen before you can try taking it up to three times a day.  Ideally we’d have 30% of our protein from collagen rich foods.

 

Blood Sugar & Hormones

Protein can stabilize blood sugar so collagen can be an excellent way to support a higher protein intake.  Collagen is a great way to increase the cascade of dopamine first thing in the morning.  Patients report a huge benefit from beginning their day with a warm, protein rich breakfast.

If you aren’t a breakfast person collagen in your hot morning drink can suffice.  For hormone health this is a much better choice.  I often see people using caffeine and fat to suppress their normal morning appetite.  It works for awhile but then hormone and lipid markers start to go out of range.  Symptoms can include afternoon crashes, late night hunger, brain fog, thyroid problems and insulin resistance.

Low-carb is bad but Ketones are good?

Low-carb is bad but Ketones are good?

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.

Is it Genetic or Environment?

Is it Genetic or Environment?

For a long time it was thought that mapping the human genome would lead to breakthroughs in medicine.

What we are seeing in recent years as the research matures, is environment weighs in heavier than genetics. In fact, environmental factors account for over 90% of what ends up expressing genetically. My teacher uses this phrase to illustrate the connection: “Genes load the gun but environment pulls the trigger.”

Mismatch Theory

This theory explains how evolutionary medicine can influence environmental factors and turn around the epidemic of modern disease. The mismatch between how we evolved to live and how most people are living today is problematic. For example, humans have not evolved to digest grains and the genetic leap that would allow us to is unlikely. However human infants digest lactose and this explains why in some places up to 90% of people have learned to be lactose tolerant as adults. Dairy can be an excellent source of nutrients and some people have adapted to use this as a food source. Genetically this is not such a big leap.

Mismatch theory isn’t only applied to diet but also lifestyle. Consider light, dark cycles and sleep. Insomnia is a real problem and has serious health consequences. Apply an evolutionary approach by dimming lights at night, using amber-coloured glasses if you must use a screen and ensuring adequate exposure to bright daylight for at least an hour during the day. Many people work indoors and forget that daylight anchors our circadian rhythm. Moving regularly during the day is also important and this allows our body to rest at night. Of course it is easy to overdo this as well so finding a balance is key. These lifestyle factors are linked to environment but harness our genetic memory to optimize health. This is how genetics can be applied in a practical day-to-day way.

Genetics: A gene can be present but may not express

Let’s look at the growing list of diseases linked through autoimmunity. Genetically we have been able to associate a group of genes called HLA (human leukocyte antigen) with several autoimmune conditions including juvenile onset of arthritis (1) and other heightened immune responses. Leukocyte refers to white blood cell which is part of any immune response.

Environment: includes all of the non-genetic influences beginning with conception 

Autoimmunity is linked with gut health. A huge proportion of our immune system is housed in the gastrointestinal tract through the GALT (gastro associated lymphatic tissue). New research shows that probiotics stimulate immunity but do not substantially increase populations of good bacteria. Feeding theses bacteria with prebiotics promotes the long term health of the human microbiome by increasing beneficial gut microbes. Not surprising breastmilk is full of prebiotics.(3) A diet high in cellulose from plant foods is also known to feed the good bugs. Acellular or processed carbohydrates leads to an overgrowth of dysbiotic or pathogenic flora. Complete proteins and a nutrient dense diet supports the repair and growth of the gut lining. Good fats help absorption and blood sugar.

Chemical and biotoxin exposure need mentioning as well. Exposure can lead to chronic inflammatory response syndrome in roughly 25% of people. Mold illness has been linked with the HLA gene as well. One person may be unable to clear this biotoxin from their system whereas another might end up in chronic pain.due to the HLA gene. This same person may be able to integrate diet and lifestyle choices that mitigate damage, reduce inflammation and prevent further health complications long term.

I’m working with a 21 year old male who was given high doses of NSAIDS throughout childhood and who now suffers poor gut health as a result. He is committed to lowering stress, changing his diet and repairing his gut. Functional Medicine offers an approach that he never found in conventional medicine where diet was never discussed. He was continually given more medication that never addressed the root cause. NSAIDS damage the gut as do most medications.

The benefit of an evolutionary approach is the simple lens it offers to complex situations. It harnesses the power of our genetics in a very practical way. Choosing the right diet can seem overwhelming but if we think of how we evolved to eat it is much more manageable. The same can be applied to sleep, movement other important lifestyle factors. The momentum of our genetics is thousands of years in the making so even small changes have enormous benefit.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14960534

Increase Vitality with these Five Missing Nutrients

Increase Vitality with these Five Missing Nutrients

Research shows that there are a few keys nutrients most people are deficient in. Find out why and what to do about it.

A nutrient dense diet is the best way to ensure that your body receives as many of the micro-nutrients it requires for optimal functioning. For over 95% of human evolution we only ate this way. Removing foods that cause inflammation decreases the chance of unwanted weight gain.(1) This approach is protective against all modern diseases that involve chronic inflammation. Eating real food increases energy and absorption.

When is this not enough? Factors that influence the bioavailability of nutrients include soil quality and health of the gastro intestinal tract. These environments are crucial factors to vitality.

Simple guidelines to increase nutrient value:

  • Local and organic support soil health. Grow your own plants and animals or support those who do grass fed, pastured and/or organic.
  • Broccoli and other plant foods that grows above ground ought to be eaten shortly after harvest. Each hour and day means a loss of nutrients.
  • Preparation impacts assimilation of food. Slow food supports digestion. For example, bone broth has key micronutrients that nourish the gut and brain.
  • Pleasure is key. Enjoy the whole experience of gathering, preparing and eating. Turn off devices at meal time. Physiologically we are hard-wired for regular celebration and rituals around sharing food.
  • Medicinal aspects of foods are real. Eat a wide and varied diet representing all the flavours. Include pungent, sour, bitter and spicy along with sweet and salty.

A few suggestions to consider when supplementing:

Gut health and thyroid function both require adequate Vitamin D from sun or daylight exposure. These are just a couple on a long list of tissues that use this important nutrient. If you are supplementing please have your levels checked regularly and take breaks. I check a few markers including parathyroid hormone, to ensure accuracy of levels. Toxicity is becoming more common and the effects can be serious and even fatal.

Vitamin D works synergistically with vitamin K2. K2 is responsible for transporting calcium to the bones and is protective against cardiovascular disease.(2) It is found in grass-fed hard cheese, ghee, butter, poultry liver and fermentable foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, beet kvass, kefir and natto (a fermented soybean product from Japan).

Magnesium is key for muscle relaxation and repair. It can also support deep sleep. Regular sleep is protective against heart disease and nearly all other health concerns. Many magnesium supplements come with calcium. I don’t recommend supplementing with calcium as recent studies show it accumulates in arteries.(4) The best form is magnesium glycinate.

Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin and is bioavailable through animal sources in the form of retinol. Cod liver oil provides both vitamin A and D. It has been used in small amounts as an age old immune tonic for good reason. Organ meats are an excellent source and naturally are consumed in small amounts.

Zinc is key for immune function and balances other micronutrients like copper which become elevated when there is excess inflammation. Zinc is more bioavailable in animal food because phytic acid in plant foods binds zinc. Organ meats, red muscle meats and shellfish are good sources. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source if prepared properly by soaking and sprouting. I don’t recommend supplementing with zinc over the long-term and I always look at the ratio of copper to zinc when working with a patient.

Keep in mind that our current lifestyles are higher in stress than any other time in our evolution. Stress is pro-inflammatory and this along with industrial food systems is why we are missing these key nutrients. An evolutionary approach is valuable and can help simplify some the complexities around lifestyle, medicine and diet.

1. http://dx.doi.org/10.2337/diabetes.52.8.2097

2. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/11/3100.full

 

Heart Health 101

Heart Health 101

Suppressing symptoms with pharmaceuticals to treat high blood pressure or cholesterol means missing the investigation as to why these are high in the first place.

 

We know that blood sugar issues and metabolic syndrome contribute to heart disease. In fact there are multiple factors that affect heart health and its worth looking into because often these can be treated and pharmaceuticals can be avoided along with the side effects.

Low cholesterol is known to contribute to disease and death in those with brain disorders and with mental health problems. Low levels are also dangerous for women and the elderly but we rarely hear about this. Conventional medicine is still treating cholesterol as though it is the problem when we know it is not. This obviously leads to more problems. 

Cholesterol is carried on lipoproteins. Science used to believe that it was the concentration of cholesterol on these particles that led to CVD but recent studies have disproven this. Damage to arterial walls occurs not by the cholesterol carried in these particles but by there being too many particles in the blood at once particularly LDL particles.

Those who are at highest risk of heart disease may have normal or low cholesterol but high LDL particles. If one of these people only has their cholesterol tested it may seem that they are in the clear. Those with high LDL-C but low LDL-P are still given statins to lower cholesterol and these drugs have some of the worst side effects.

Our body needs a certain amount of cholesterol. LDL-P carry both cholesterol and triglycerides. When there are more trigycerides then there is less room to carry cholesterol and so more LDL-P are produced. Checking triglyceride levels is crucial as is looking at thyroid health as this can also increase the LDL-P. Thyroid hormone increases LDL receptors. It is also involved with cholesterol production in the liver and cholesterol absorption in the intestines.

Speaking of intestines would you be surprised if I told you there is a link between the markers we’ve been talking about and gut infections? Cholesterol, LDL-P, tryglycerides and low HDL are all linked with H. Pylori infection to name one culprit. In fact treating the gut can result in lowered LDL-P with no other interventions.

Soluable Fiber: Plant Food

Want to improve your life span and quality of life? Soluable fiber increases clearance of LDL, improves insulin sensitivity and binds to cholesterol. It is found in most root veggies, some that grow above ground and in some fruit.

Healthy Fats and Good Chocolate

Macadamia nuts, almonds and olive oil provide excellent sources of good monounsaturated fat. Dark chocolate lowers blood sugar and LDL. It also improves insulin sensitivity.

CoQ10 and Polyphenols

Organ meats and vegetables have plentiful anti-oxidants. They along with polyphenols are protective. Eating a range of colorful vegetables, spices and teas are provides enough and supplementing from reputable companies is also good.

Fish is better than Statins?

Once study showed that eating cold water fatty fish was more effective at reducing death than Statin drugs. The benefits of consuming enough EPA, DHA and long chain omega 3 fats has several benefits to cardiovascular health. Keep in mind that recent studies show that fish is better than fish oil.

Sleep and Move

Of course having fun, feeling connected and enjoying life are crucial for heart health. Sleep duration needs to be between 7-9 hours per night for adults. College age, adolescents and children require more sleep. Devices have no place in the bedroom as the light exposure interferes with the suprachiastmic mechanism in the brain and is disruptive to deep sleep cycling.

Five Key Habits for your Brain and Cognitive Function

Five Key Habits for your Brain and Cognitive Function

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.

4. B-Vitamins

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.

Your Gall Bladder & Gut Health

Your Gall Bladder & Gut Health

Cholecystectomy is the removal of the gallbladder.  In the later stages surgery is necessary but I’ll talk about how to avoid this and why.  A few years ago my dad had symptoms of a serious gall bladder attack.  I urged him to call the ambulance immediately.  I know how dangerous it can be if left untreated.  He was living out of town and was unable to drive because of the pain.

Surgery Doesn’t Treat the Underlying Cause

Surgery keeps people alive which I am so grateful for.  Now that his gallbladder is gone, bile flows from my dad’s liver to his small intestine via the common bile duct.  The liver continues to produce bile but an accumulation can still occur. Bile secretion directly into the small intestine has been shown to effect the microbiome and function of the gut negatively (1).  Also, those who have had a cholecystectomy can still have  gallstone issues if the underlying cause has not been addressed (2).

Gall Bladder Physiology

Bile is produced in the liver and travels via the common bile duct to the gallbladder. When dietary fats enter the small intestine, the gall bladder contracts to release bile. Bile is made up of mostly water, with only 3 percent consisting of a mixture of bile acids, cholesterol, phospholipids, bilirubin, inorganic salts, and trace minerals. Bile acids act like a detergent, helping to emulsify lipids in food. Without bile, these lipids go undigested, resulting in fatty stools. Bile is also crucial for proper absorption of cholesterol and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Gallbladder symptoms vary.  Initially pain in the upper abdomen that radiates into the back is common especially on the right side.  Nocturnal onset along with jaundice or yellowing of the skin, nausea and vomiting usually are involved (3).

Gallbladder diseases include:

  • Cholestasis: the backup of bile flow in the liver or in the biliary ducts.
  • Gallstones: stones form from the components of bile. 10-15% of adults are affected (4).
  • Cholesystitis: prolonged cholestasis characterized by inflammation of the gallbladder. 6 to 11% of patients with gallstones develop Cholecystitis (5).
  • Cholangitis: a complication where the flow of bile is blocked. The infection can also spread to the liver, so quick diagnosis and treatment are very important (6).

Leaky Gut

The connection between leaky gut and gall bladder problems is largely missed in conventional medicine. However, studies demonstrate a clear link between gluten intolerance (both celiac disease and in non-celiac wheat sensitivity) and inflammation of the gallbladder. Gluten damages the intestinal lining compromising the intestinal barrier function.  Largely this is due to zonulin.  Gluten increases this toxin resulting in a break down of the tight junctions.  Microbes and dietary proteins from the gut then ‘leak’ into the bloodstream (7).  The immune system sees these microbes and their microbial products as foreign invaders, and launches an immune response. The biliary system is affected by this inflammatory signaling. It has been shown to alter the gene expression and bile secretion in the liver (8).

Sure enough, research has linked gluten intolerance and celiac disease to increased prevalence of gallstones and biliary cirrhosis (9,10). Patients with autoimmune hepatitis are often also celiac (11). A study found that 42 percent of adults with celiac disease had abnormal levels of liver enzymes and I certainly see this in my practice. A gluten-free diet normalized liver enzyme levels in 95 percent of these patients (12).

Treating the gallbladder functionally

A low-fat diet may alleviate symptoms over the short term which is what conventional doctors often suggest.  But a long-term reduction of fat intake prevents gallbladder contractions which leads to more sluggishness and an increased risk of gallstones. Interestingly, a higher fat diet has been shown to protect against gallstone formation. Use it or lose it applies.

Gallbladder flushes are recommended by some natural health stores.  I learned long ago these have the potential to be dangerous as the bile duct can become obstructed. I typically stay away from extreme approaches that lack scientific evidence. I have yet to find a clinical trial on gall bladder flushes. I focus on treating the root cause.

Testing: markers like ALT, AST, bilirubin, LDH, GGT, ALP, and 5ʹ-nucleotidase can help discern what is going on.

Diet:  removing inflammatory foods like gluten, processed foods, and sugar are a great starting place.

Gut:  beak the cycle of gut inflammation leading to biliary stasis and lack of bile causing more gut inflammation.

Stimulate bile: with bitters like dandelion, milk thistle, and curcumin.

Reduce gallstones: with beet root, taurine, phosphatidylcholine, lemon, peppermint, and vitamin C.

Take bile: if you are having trouble with digestion of fats supplement with ox bile for a therapeutic period.

 

Do you have Candida? Or is it SIFO?

Do you have Candida? Or is it SIFO?

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.

Taking the Good Out of Food

Taking the Good Out of Food

 

A couple snapshots on food from clinic:

My patient, “I was thinking about fasting on bone broth. Do you think that would help right now.”

Me, “No. I do not.”

My patient “You mean its best if I keep eating?”

Me, “Yes. I’d like you to eat as varied a diet as possible. Please enjoy your food.”

My patient, “What a relief! I really didn’t want to stop eating.”

People with digestive discomfort often feel anxious around food. It can seem that eating is what is causing their symptoms. “If I could just get the perfect diet I would feel good again.” Under- eating is common and so is low body weight. But the problem isn’t food. The problem is an infection. Once resolved people feel better. The right diet does support the process but needs to be done with care and the right information.

The New Eating Disorder 

Orthorexia is any fixation with specialized or restricted diets.   Often people try one and then another. Like other eating disorders the underlying motivation often has very little to do with food or even health.   I see this in clinic and help people find a new, stable way to relate to food while referring out for support when indicated.

“So what you are saying is this ketogenic diet is making me GAIN weight?”

“Yes. I’d like you to eat a moderate to high carb diet because this is what your life requires. Your hormones will balance and your body will stop storing weight.”

Changing macronutrient ratios can be helpful. This is one way to vary diet and ensure adequate nutrient intake. Those eating lots of carbs could experiment with a less carbs and see excellent benefits.

A mother with a toddler who is training hard everyday will not benefit from ketosis. It sent this patient into a stress response and her brain likely thought it was a time of famine. Generally speaking mothers of small children are already giving a 110%. This is not a good time to fast. Fasting requires down time that’s just not available when there’s a little one.  When famine would hit, normal activity levels would also drop. Modern life makes this hard.

Carbs, Fats or Proteins?  

We have research on cultures where people thrived on carbs as their staple food. Others did well with protein or fat as their main energy source. Humans can adapt to any of these macronutrients as their baseline. Today we need to be careful with highly processed foods and anything that our ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food.

This decade carbs have been under attack. Last decade it was fat. Too bad people were told that industrial seed oils like canola and sunflower were safe alternatives to the so-called ‘bad’ fats that we have always consumed. The result is increased inflammation contributing to all chronic disease. Equally unfortunate is how sugar was added to low-fat food to make it taste better. Higher sugar means endless hunger. Diabetes and obesity are epidemic.

What about a Bone Broth Ketogenic Diet?

There is a trend of starvation in our culture that perhaps is us trying to mimic times of famine. It takes different forms and has been going on for decades. You may remember the lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne cleanse of the 90’s. Bone broth is great for many reasons.  So is fasting under the right circumstance. Energy requirements and stress need to be low during a fast. Ketosis is only indicated in specific neurological diseases like epilepsy. Restricting food intake for longer contributes to weight issues, cortisol and hormone imbalances.

Physiological starvation is often going on in those who are overweight. Nutrients are not being absorbed and the body is therefore in a state of constantly searching for a way to stay alive. Storing weight, especially around the abdomen, is how we survived famine.  It also indicates stress has been high for a prolonged period of time.

Food is Not a Moral Issue

What all this comes down to is that food is not a moral issue. Certain foods are not inherently bad or good. Ideally food is nourishment for our bodies.  It plays a central role to the health of our families and communities. Yet we refer to it with words that add meaning which takes it into the moral realm when its not.  If a dietary ‘rule’ is broken, we aren’t deliberating hurting another. This is what would qualify it as a moral issue.

New research shows us how we’ve linked food with morality by using words like “cheat” or “bad”. Removing a specific food for a period of time can be helpful to see if your body is reacting to it. However, in the long term, a varied diet is best for both gut health and social connection.  I aim for my patients to have only one or two restrictions if necessary.

Our brains still plan for times of famine by seeking out high energy foods to consume.  Often high energy foods are extremely rich in taste as well.  An ancestral or paleo-type diet gives us a template to eat nutrient dense food and remove those that are highly processed with little nutrient value. This leaves room for a lot of variety.  Its also satiating without compromising health.

We are hardwired a certain way.  By learning about and embracing this we can thrive.  Our world has changed faster than we have adapted.  To explore this topic more I encourage you to check out Dr. Guyenet’s recent book The Hungry Brain. 

“In The Hungry Brain, I argue that the problem is not necessarily a lack of willpower or an incorrect understanding of what to eat. Rather, our appetites and food choices are led astray by ancient, instinctive brain circuits that play by the rules of a survival game that no longer exists.” Dr. Stephan Guyenet, Ph.D The Hungry Brain

 

 

 

 

Getting to the Root of Postpartum Depression

Getting to the Root of Postpartum Depression

Sleep in pregnancy is important. It’s often the last uninterrupted sleep for months or even years. In counselling psychology, the cause of most postpartum depression is understood as a insomnia combined with anemia. This makes a lot of sense. In acupuncture theory we know that anemia can be the root of both insomnia and depression.

The second and third trimester is when iron levels tend to drop. This is in part due to an increase in fluid volume but also because the fetus is growing rapidly.   Low iron stores aren’t seen seen as a problem unless there are symptoms associated. Insomnia is not necessarily one of those symptoms. A midwife at my clinic was intrigued when I explained the connection.    

The amount of blood required to nourish a pregnancy and new-born is massive. Combine this with loss of blood at birth, low levels to begin with and a diet that is not nutrient dense to result in many health concerns. This is the perfect storm resulting in a tired mother who can’t sleep even when her baby is.  Early diagnosis and prevention can limit suffering. 

Research shows that postpartum depression isn’t limited to the first year of after birth. In fact onset is most common later, around the time a child is 4 years old. The number of lost nights of sleep is countless by then.   I often refer to motherhood as a high intensity endurance challenge. If this is so then preparing for it makes a lot of sense.

Patients who are ready to have children come to see me. Ideally both parents want to optimize their health prior to conception. I resolve any gut issues because we know this can contribute to a heightened stress response. We look at nutrient status and rule out any absorption issues.

We talk about stress management and hormone balance.   Onset of autoimmune driven thyroid disease occurs after pregnancy in the majority of cases. Preventing this by looking a specific markers and ensuring that triggers are removed is a first step.   Looking at the long-term health of the parents is the best way to support the child. Fertility, pregnancy or breastfeeding all require similar diet and lifestyle strategies.

Patients have told me they didn’t know they were depressed until they begin feeling better and are able to reflect.   Compound work, relationship, physical, mental and emotional stress along with a new baby means extra care and attention are needed.  Keep in mind that postpartum depression is a type of clinical depression affecting both sexes. Symptoms include sadness, low energy, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, reduced desire for sex, anxiety and irritability.  In severe cases in can include panic attacks, social withdrawal, addiction and psychotic episodes. 

Two Arguments for a Paleo Lifestyle

Two Arguments for a Paleo Lifestyle

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.