Natural Approaches to Preventing Alzheimer's Disease

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Is Alzheimer's Disease hardwired into the brain's destiny as we age?

It's a scary thought and many people believe it's true. But the good news is that we're learning more all the time about the root causes and progression of Alzheimer's and the factors that may protect the brain from this illness.

Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, affecting a person's memory, thinking and behavior to the point where they don't recognize themselves and their loved ones. Approximately 5.5 million people age 65 and older have Alzheimer's Disease. Nearly 200,000 people under age 65 have "younger-onset" AD. Symptoms start slowly and worsen over time, ultimately interfering with independent living and quality of life. Signs to look for include:

  • Persistent forgetting of recently learned information and important dates or events

  • Difficulty planning, problem solving, completing familiar tasks, and understanding time

  • Difficulty processing visual images, object distance and contrast

  • Trouble maintaining a conversation

  • Social withdrawal and depression

  • Changes in mood and personality, usually becoming anxious, suspicious, or confused

Scientists believe the disease process begins when protein deposits build up in brain tissue and damage nerve cells. This can evolve over 10-20 years before symptoms are noticed. While family history can increase your risk, there are many other factors influence the onset and progression of AD. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as outlined below, can help alter your brain's destiny.

The Brain-Body Health Connection. Several illnesses are linked to an increased risk for AD, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. To protect your mind from cognitive decline, exercise daily, eat more vegetables and whole foods, learn new skills, meditate, read regularly, and get quality sleep each night.

Smart Food for Healthy Aging. Choosing fresh, nutrient rich foods is vital for brain health (and the body, too!). Select organic foods to decrease exposure to toxins that exist in conventional farming. Limit your intake of caffeine, sugar, alcohol, refined grains, and packaged foods to ensure optimal health benefits from your food.

Manage Stress. Stress elevates hormones in the body that increase inflammation which, over time, interferes with optimal functioning and contributes to illness. Relax with yoga, mindful walking, or guided imagery to help keep these hormones in balance.

Get Your ZZs. We need just as much sleep in our elder years as in our 30s and 40s. What does change is the brain's ability to maintain continuity and quality of sleep, particularly deep sleep. Maintaining healthy sleep habits throughout your adult life can make it easier to maintain sleep quality as you age.

A Personalized Approach, Naturally. Prevention is important, but once signs of cognitive decline are noticed, you need expert guidance. Though more long-term studies are needed, initial research shows that a personalized approach incorporating natural medicines plus lifestyle change can reverse cognitive decline for some people. For expert guidance in developing a personalized prevention or early intervention program, consult with a specialist in natural medicine treatments for Alzheimer's Disease such as a Naturopathic Doctor or Functional Medicine practitioner.

 

References:

Give Teas a Chance

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As a Health Coach, I get asked a lot of questions about coffee and tea. So I’d like to clear up some myths, answer some commonly asked questions, and share with you the joys and benefits of TEA! I find no matter what the season, many people (including me) love the ritual of making and sipping tea. And with new studies showing the extraordinary health benefits of tea – including Matcha tea – I want to make sure you have the latest wellness information. Whether you drink it hot, iced, or at room temperature, I think you’ll find new reasons to love tea!

Now is a great time to learn about the benefits of tea and why you might want to swap out your coffee for tea, add it to your day, or continue drinking it if you’re already a tea-lover.

Tea dates back to 2700 B.C. According to an article published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chinese legend says that leaves from an Camellia sinensis plant fell into Emperor Shennong's cup of boiling water – and tea was born, brewed and boosted around the world for its soothing qualities and powerful health benefits.

In the past two years, scientists have conducted more than 30 studies on the health benefits and disease-fighting properties of tea, with nearly 1 million participants. That’s a lot of research! I’ve culled the findings below into several overall benefits. So put the kettle on and discover the health benefits of tea!

The Health and Wellness Benefits of Tea

Cancer-prevention. Tea contains powerful antioxidants that help reduce and repair free radicals in our body. Free radicals are the molecules that cause inflammation and can lead to diseases such as cancer. Herbal and green teas are less processed, and are the best choices to get your antioxidants.

Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease. Black tea has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks, while green tea has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Green tea has the highest amount of polyphenols. Polyphenols are particularly powerful in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and osteoporosis.

Weight loss. Some studies have found that tea may help you lose weight and reduce belly fat. The most effective weight-loss tea is green tea because it is high in catechins – antioxidants that can boost your metabolism and increase your body’s ability to burn fat. Other teas that may aid in weight loss are: 

  • Black tea: High in flavones, it’s associated with weight loss and lower BMI (less fat around the middle). 
  • Oolong tea: Some studies show it improves fat burning and speeds up metabolism. 
  • White tea: Early studies show it may increase fat loss.

Multiplied benefits with Matcha. If you want to maximize the health benefits of tea, Matcha tea is the powerhouse!

  • Made from baby green tea leaves ground into a powder, Matcha tea has the nutritional equivalency of 10 cups of green tea! Matcha has more antioxidants and catechins than green tea alone, so you get more of the disease-fighting and metabolism-boosting benefits.
  • One study found that Matcha has more than 100 times the amount of polyphenols as regular green tea, and more than 60 times the antioxidants as spinach.
  • A recent study (NIH) shows that the combo of phytochemicals, L-theanine and caffeine in Matcha (and green) tea improve mood and reduce brain fog.L-theanine is an amino acid known for its calming effects.
  • Matcha also has high amounts of EGCG, a component that stimulates thermogenesis, the biochemical process our bodies use to burn fat and create energy. Studies show EGCG may speed fat burning and reduce new fat cell production.
  • Matcha is still in the scientific discovery phase, so you should continue to read studies and avoid over-drinking it. (More is not necessarily better!) The recommended amount is ½ teaspoon per brewed cup, once daily. Quality matters, so be sure to buy organic Japanese matcha as there are concerns about soil contamination with Chinese matcha.

More Tea Benefits! 

  • Reduces depression. Tea (three cups a day) can lower the risk of depression by 37 percent (NIH, NLM, NCBI) and the risk of a stroke by 21 percent (AHA).
  • Reduces risk of liver disease. Tea reduces the risk of liver disease, including liver cancer, carcinoma, and cirrhosis. (NIH, NLM, NCBI).
  • Reduces risk of Type 2 diabetes. Tea (two cups) can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by nearly 5% (NIH, NLM, NCBI).
  • Reduces caffeine-related symptoms. If caffeine has a negative affect on you (contributing to anxiety or insomnia, for example) note that tea typically has 50% less caffeine. Naturally decaffeinated tea is considered healthier than the chemical process used to remove caffeine from tea (and coffee). An 8-ounce cup of tea using one tea bag, brewed for three to five minutes, has 40 mg of caffeine; a cup of brewed coffee contains 100 mg. For those who still struggle with caffeine-related symptoms even with less caffeine, there are many varieties of naturally caffeine-free tea, including hibiscus, chamomile, rooibos, and most herbal teas.

And as if all these benefits weren’t enough, the ritual of simply making a cup of tea has a calming, relaxing effect for many people. 

I’d love to hear how you enjoy tea! Please share with a comment below or post on my Instagram or Facebook page!

What Can Detoxing Do for You?

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Detoxing has become a popular way for people to restore their health, jumpstart their metabolism and kick off a weight-loss or clean-eating program. There are many reasons a detox can be beneficial, and done right, detoxing does a great job of helping you achieve those goals.

However, there are many different ways to detox, and the process you choose should be based on your individual needs, challenges, goals, and preferences. Don't just jump on the detox bandwagon without doing your research first! Beware of any program that requires extreme calorie deprivation or prolonged fasting, even juice fasting, as these extreme protocols can do more harm than good.

While healthy eating and/or detoxing should not feel like an exercise in depriving yourself, nearly all programs include refraining from one main food that may be the cause of many of the symptoms people suffer from most – fatigue, bloating, moodiness, headaches, congestion, itchiness, and stomach upset issues of one kind or another. That one food is sugar.

Consuming sugar does more than cause weight gain; it causes inflammation, belly fat storage, and spikes in your blood sugar that create a roller-coaster effect: it provides a burst of energy, but then it depletes your energy, so you crave MORE sugar. The more you eat, the more you want, and its effect on your body makes it nearly impossible to lose weight or reduce your symptoms.

Did you over-indulge over the holiday season? Have you been feeling more sluggish or achy than usual? Has your stomach been upset for days (weeks or years!)? Do you suffer from headaches, heartburn, or have trouble sleeping? Do you feel like your clothes have shrunk? Do you want to get back on track, feel and look fabulous and have more confidence? Would you love to fit into your skinny jeans? If you answered yes to any of these questions, embarking on a detox or clean-eating program for 10 to 21 days may be a great way to remedy your symptoms, increase your energy and lose the post-holiday padding. My best advice includes:

1) Recognize that there are many types of detoxes – they don’t all involve juicing, fasting, or deprivation. In fact, my program includes real, whole food at every meal – plus snacks, and a wide variety of easy, delicious recipes. Remember, a detox isn’t just about what you DON’T eat – it’s also about what you DO eat and how you nourish your body, mind and spirit.

2) Ask yourself how you feel, what you want and why you want it. Write it down. Don't rely on willpower for motivation! You need a driving purpose to keep you in the game. 

3) Get Support – Don't try to go it alone. Get a close friend or loved one to detox with you and/or talk to an expert who can help you determine the right approach for your individual goals. Prep week for my Reboot Your Bod 21-day winter detox starts Tuesday, January 2nd and the detox begins on Monday, January 8th. This is a great opportunity to reboot your system with a great group of like-minded people, and start the New Year feeling great! Read more about it here.

I’m happy to answer your questions about detoxing and help you find a program that’s right for you. YOU CAN DO IT. I can help you! Click here to schedule a free 50-minute Coffee Talk.

You're Sweet Enough Already...

Do you enjoy a no-sugar-added soda with dinner every night? What about a low-sugar, high protein ‘nutrition bar' after a workout? At the office, are you mindlessly grazing through the low-sugar or no-sugar added cookies? Do you read food labels to see where on the ingredient list sugars are hidden? If you're regularly drawn to sweets- or foods laden with artificial sweeteners-try going without them for a few days and see what happens. Are you having headaches, irritability, cravings, and symptoms that could only be described as withdrawal? Do you find yourself so uncomfortable that you're drawn right back to those same foods? You could be trapped in the vicious cycle of sugar addiction!

Sugar is a carbohydrate, one of the major nutrient groups, but it doesn't provide vitamins, minerals, or even fiber to our diet. Still, it's added to an array of foods, including ketchup, yogurt, cereal, canned soup, some lunch meats, salad dressing, condiments, bread, and so much more. While we require some sugar (glucose) in order to function property, all of this added sugar is harmful to our system.

Sugar's Addictive Qualities

When we ingest sugar, our body generates a response similar to that seen in addictions, which is why we develop cravings for more. It's often called the cocaine of dietary additives and recent studies have shown it to be 8 times more addictive than actual cocaine. Crazy right?

Here's how it works: Sugar -- whether natural, processed or artificial -- enters the bloodstream quickly, causing your blood sugar level to spike. The body recognizes this imbalance and acts to bring blood sugar back to normal. Insulin, a hormone, pushes glucose into the cells to be used for energy. But if you eat a lot of sugar, the body can't keep up. Insulin has to work harder and the body overcompensates, causing blood sugar to drop too low - and your brain reacts. You feel depleted, irritable, and crave more sugar.

Sugar by Any Other Name

Sugar names you might recognize are sucrose (table sugar), fructose (found in fruits, some root veggies, and honey), and lactose (milk sugar). Naturally occurring sugar in fruit and vegetables has a place in a balanced diet. But added sugar, artificial sweetener, and processed ‘natural' sugar like high fructose corn syrup are detrimental to your health.

Eliminate Unhealthy Sugar From Your Diet

Learn where Sugar Hides. On ingredient lists, any words that ends in -ose are sugars.  If they're among the first five items, walk away from it. If sugar is one of the last ingredients on the list, that's a better choice.

Avoid the Fake Stuff. Products containing artificial sweeteners are not a healthy alternative since these sweeteners are highly toxic and arguable more addictive than real sugar. Diet soda, 'fat free' and 'sugar free' candy and cookies are associated with weight gain and cravings, creating a cycle of addiction.

Sip with Awareness. A single can of soda, bottle of juice, flavored water, or Gatorade typically contains nine or more teaspoons of sugar. Four grams of sugar is a teaspoon so keep that in mind when reading nutrition labels.

Make Sweet Substitutions. Look for snacks labeled 'no added sugar' or 'unsweetened.' Use canned foods packed in water instead of juice or syrup. When baking, swap table sugar with stevia, monk fruit, applesauce, date paste, or molasses. Adding cinnamon or cacao powder is a great way to sprinkle flavor onto yogurt, oatmeal, or coffee. Opt for honey, maple syrup or coconut palm sugar over other processed sugars.

Reprogram your taste for sugar slowly. If you put two sugar packets in your coffee, cut back in half-packet increments and keep the sugar bowl off the kitchen table. Small steps add up to sweet success!

Broccoli: Superhero of Superfoods

Shaped like green mini-trees, broccoli is a real superhero. It is loaded with a powerhouse of nutrients beneficial for digestion, heart health, and the immune system. It's also high in fiber vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A and B6 and research shows that these nutrients, along with other compounds in broccoli, have anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties.

Broccoli is packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants. These amazing substances influence cancer-fighting activity within our bodies, such as stimulating the immune system, stopping substances we breathe or eat from becoming carcinogens, reducing inflammation that makes cancer growth more likely, and even slowing the growth rate of cancer cells.

Broccoli's secret weapon is actually two chemicals: sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (I3C). These chemicals boost the body's ability to detoxify, help moderate estrogen levels, and have been shown to slow the progression of tumors. In fact, sulforaphane is the most powerful antioxodant know to man according to a study at Johns Hopkins University and broccoli sprouts are the best source.

It's easy to add broccoli to your diet because you can enjoy it raw, steamed, in stir-fry, soups, slaws, and even in a green smoothie. A serving is one cup; aim for two to three servings per week. But don't eat that broccoli raw! You're actually better off steaming it lightly before eating it since raw cruciferous veggies can have thyroid suppressive effects.  You'll also want to enjoy it with a little fat like organic extra virgin olive oil or grass-fed ghee to make sure that you get all those wonderful fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

Tips for buying the best broccoli: Choose organic broccoli with uniformly colored florets (dark green, sage or purple-green, depending upon variety) and with no yellowing. Store in a plastic bag, with no extra air trapped inside, in the fridge for up to a week

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1549603

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/09/970919062654.htm   

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/Broccoli_SproutDerived_Extract_Protects_Against_Ultraviolet_Radiation

The Mind-Body Connection: Food for a Healthy Brain and Happy Mood

There's no doubt about it: what we eat, and how much we eat, has a direct impact on our physical health. But did you know that those same choices also influence mood, mental alertness, memory, and emotional wellbeing? Food can act as medicine, have a neutral effect, or it can be a poison to the body and mind.

When food acts as poison, it creates inflammation, which alters the body's balance of nutrients, hormones, and neurotransmitters. This directly affects your body's ability to manage and heal from stress or illness.

Below are four common culprits that can be detrimental to brain and emotional health and a list of foods that help support your brain and nervous system.

Foods that Impact Body-Mind Wellbeing

Gluten: Gluten stimulates secretion of a protein called zonulin which causes permeability in both the gut lining and the blood-brain barrier. This permeability allows undigested food molecules and pathogens to access the bloodstream which triggers an inflammatory immune response. This elevated inflammation in the gut and/or brain can cause short-term reactions like lethargy, "brain fog", and fatigue, and contribute to long-term issues like depression and dementia.

Caffeine: The most socially accepted psychoactive substance in the world, caffeine is used to boost alertness, enhance performance, and even treat apnea in premature infants. Caffeine is frequently added to other foods, so be mindful of total consumption. Too much caffeine (500-600 mg daily) interferes with sleep quality, which affects energy, brain detoxification, concentration, and memory. Caffeine can also aggravate other health conditions, cause digestive disturbances, and worsen menstrual symptoms and anxiety.

Food Dyes: Listed on ingredient labels as "Blue 2," or "Citrus Red," food dye has been documented to contain cancer-causing agents (e.g., benzidine). They're also associated with allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. Dyes are sometimes used to enhance skin color of fruits and veggies. A number of dyes have been banned from use in foods and cosmetics around the world and eating organic will help you avoid these chemical compounds.

Sugars: Increased sugar consumption (as much as 30% over the last three decades for American adults), is linked to decreased intake of essential nutrients and associated with obesity, diabetes, inflammatory disease, joint pain and even schizophrenia. Too much sugar results in blood sugar fluctuations, causing mood swings, anxiety, irritability, headaches, and increased depression. There are even sugars that can act as poison including High Fructose Corn Syrup, table sugar, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame .

MSG: Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer common in packaged and prepared foods. Although the FDA considers MSG "generally safe," some individuals experience a complex of physical and mental symptoms after eating MSG-containing foods. Symptoms vary but can include headache, sweating, nausea, chest pain, heart palpitations, and overstimulation of the central nervous system which can lead to alterations in sleep, mood, and immunity.

Becoming aware of your food choices, why you make them, and how you feel mentally and physically is an important first step in understanding your personal body-mind food connection. Keeping a mind-body food journal can be very helpful in providing a clear picture of how your food choices affect your health.

The Gut-Brain Connection and Foods that Support Body-Mind Wellbeing

Healthy Fats: These include fats such as organic avocado, virgin coconut oil, ghee and other animal fats from organic, grass-fed animals, fish oils, olive oil, flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds and oil, and organic nuts and seeds. Fat is your best friend when it comes to brain health, and contrary to old beliefs, it does not make you fat. In fact, healthy fats support healthy hormones and a healthy metabolism which means they can actually help you lose body fat.

Colorful Vegetables & Antioxidant Fruits: Vegetables and certain fruits like dark berries are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent or delay cell damage and they help reduce our overall inflammation and prevent disease. By "eating the rainbow" and getting as many different colors of veggies as possible (mostly those that grow above ground), you will be giving your body a healthy dose of antioxidants to help support a healthy brain and nervous system.

Naturally Fermented Probiotic Foods: Foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and homemade goat or sheep's milk kefir and yogurt are great sources of probiotics. We know that these friendly bacteria are crucial for a healthy gut but they also have a major influence on our mental and emotional health. You've heard the expression "gut feeling" or "gut instinct"; Well, doctors often refer to the gut as the enteric nervous system, or the second brain. The enteric nervous system or ENS is made up of over 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. 

The ENS can also play a major role in emotional distress experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gut problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” says According to  Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. “These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety,” 

In short, if you have a healthy gut, you probably have a healthy brain so eat the foods that benefit both and you can't lose. If you're experiencing symptoms that interfere with your quality of living, reach out and let's talk about the role these or other foods may play in your emotional and physical health.

References:

Powerful Foods & Herbs for Hormone Health

Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum)

While research results are mixed around flaxseed and its ability to reduce menopausal symptoms, there are enough positive findings to support use of this nutrient-rich, high fiber seed. For many women it has made the difference between comfort and discomfort when it comes to reduction of hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings). Here are three nutrients unique to flaxseed, all of which play a role in supporting good health.

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: beneficial for preventing or treating certain health conditions, including heart disease and depression.

2. Mucilage: refers to water-soluble, gel-forming fiber that can provide special support to the intestinal tract. This flaxseed an excellent support to digestion and relief of constipation. 

3. Lignans: provides fiber-related polyphenols that have two important health benefits. They provide antioxidants, which help prevent damage to other cells in the body and are associated with preventing disease. Additionally, polyphenols in lignans influence hormone metabolism.

Purchasing and Storing Flax

Raw flaxseed ranges in color from amber/gold to tan/brown. White or green flaxseed has been harvested before full maturity; black flaxseeds were likely harvested after full maturity. To reap the full health benefits, select the amber or brown variety. If possible, purchase the whole seed in bulk, store in the freezer and grind only the amount needed for immediate use. Flaxseed can be ground, sprinkled on salads, added to smoothies and baking mixes and used as a thickening agent in many recipes.

References

Cruciferous Vegetables

Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a compound found in "cruciferous" vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. Scientists think these crunchy vegetables may help protect the body against cancer because they contain diindolylmethane and a related chemical called indole-3-carbinol (I3C).

Dim helps balance the sex hormone estrogen and testosterone. When the body breaks down estrogen, for example, it can form either a harmful or beneficial metabolite. DIM, in some clinical and animal studies, has been shown to help the body form the more beneficial estrogen metabolite and reduce formation of the harmful metabolite. The beneficial estrogen metabolites can have many positive effects, including reducing the risk for some types of cancer. DIM may benefit patients with certain types of prostate cancer and may help reverse abnormal changes in cells on the surface of the cervix. Some scientists think DIM will be useful for preventing breast, uterine and colorectal cancer. However, because of the variability in types of cancer and the sensitivity of the estrogen system in the body, DIM and I3C supplements may not be appropriate for everyone. Instead, just enjoy plenty of delicious cruciferous veggies!

Note: If you have thyroid disease, I recommend eating cruciferous veggies (from the brassica family) cooked instead of raw to avoid and thyroid suppressive effects.

References

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

There's a long history to the medical uses of Black Cohosh. Native Americans have used it as a diuretic and to treat fatigue. European settlers used preparations of the roots to treat fever, menstrual problems, and pain following childbirth. Into the 19th century, black cohosh became a staple ingredient in medicines for "women's complaints." Over time, it faded from use in the U.S. while still being used in Europe. New studies in the U.S., however, are investigating the safety and long-term effectiveness of black cohosh and there's a resurgence of its use for treatment of women's health concerns.

Black cohosh is considered a menopause tonic for a number of reasons. It can improve mood and soothe anxiety. Also, herbal practitioners recommend it for taming hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. It's commonly prescribed for women who - for medical reasons - don't take conventional hormone replacement therapy.

Tinctures, capsules and standardized extract are available for medicinal use and the specific dose of this herb will depend on your individual needs and health concerns. Black Cohosh should not be used during pregnancy or nursing and it is not recommended for persons who have a heart condition or liver disease. Always check with your holistic health practitioner before using an herbal remedy.

References

Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs): What You Need To Know

If you've paid even a little attention to food industry news, you know there's huge concern over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in our food supply. It's estimated that more than half of America's processed grocery products contain GM ingredients. Since at least the 1990's we've been consuming genetically modified ingredients primarily in breads, cheeses, sodas, and beers. Today, the primary genetically modified foods are corn, soybeans, potatoes and canola oil.

What does all of this really mean? Is there really a threat to our health? Won't GM crops help us feed a planet with dwindling resources?

It's easy to get confused by arguments from both sides of the proverbial fence. I hope this basic, 5-point primer on GM foods helps you become a more informed consumer:

GE or GMO: What's the Difference?

"Genetically Engineered" (GE) and GMO are used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. Confusion arises because the USDA defines a GMO as an organism produced through any type of genetic modification.

Genetically engineering food is different from the way plant breeders make selections for plant traits between two cultivars. When a plant breeder (organic or conventional) selects a trait like disease resistance found in one plant and uses that trait to enhance another plant, that creates a hybrid. In this case, the plant breeder has encouraged the same kind of selections that might occur in nature. Breeders also monitor the plants for effects on specific characteristics including quality, nutrient density, and productivity. This is the true application of the term "genetically modifying organisms".

A Genetically Engineered crop is one in which a single gene or combinations of genes from one organism are artificially forced into the DNA of another organism. Essentially, the natural boundary between two species is broken in order to create a new life form (i.e., foods) with more desirable traits.

For example, to get cold-weather hardy tomatoes, scientists spliced the DNA from salmon, which has those genetic features and transferred it into tomatoes. This yields a larger crop when the weather is less than favorable. The problem? Tomatoes would never naturally contain those fishy genes.

But far more than fish genes are being spliced into crops. According to Jeffrey Smith, President of the Institute for Responsible Technology, "GM plants, such as soybean, corn, cottonseed, and canola, have had foreign genes, such as bacteria and viruses forced into their DNA. These have never been in the human food supply."

Therein lies the problem with food that has been genetically modified outside of nature's boundaries: The genetics of a plant, not only affect its color, taste, yield and nutrient quality, they likely affect the way that food goes to work in the human body.

In the interest of larger crop yields, profits for big biotech companies, and claims that GM foods will 'feed the world,' we have no proof that these foods are safe and no data to indicate the long-term effects on human health. And, people are still starving around the world.

"Even if the transgene itself is not dangerous or toxic, it could upset complex biochemical networks and create new bioactive compounds or change the concentrations of those normally present. In addition, the properties in proteins may change in a new chemical environment because they may fold in new ways. Further, the potential toxic or carcinogenic effects could have substantial latency periods."

- The Need for Greater Regulation and Control of Genetic Engineering: A Statement by Scientists Concerned About Trends in the New Biotechnology (1995)

What are the Health Concerns of GMO Food?

GM foods do not undergo regulated testing in the United States. Much of what we know comes from independent scientists conducting animal studies (and the so-called unbiased studies from big biotech). However, scientists and politicians in other countries believe the threat to health is real-GE/GM crop cultivation is now banned by 38 countries worldwide (28 in Europe).

Medical professionals claim there are health effects potentially linked to eating these foods. In her article for the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Martha R. Herbert, a pediatric neurologist wrote: "Today the vast majority of foods in supermarkets contain genetically modified substances whose effects on our health are unknown. As a medical doctor, I can assure you that no one in the medical profession would attempt to perform experiments on human subjects without their consent... Yet manufacturers of genetically altered foods are exposing us to one of the largest uncontrolled experiments in modern history."

Potential Health Effects:

  • Introduction of new allergens into crops could result in increased rates of allergies and allergy-related health conditions.
  • Pathogenic bacteria in our guts could pick up antibiotic-resistant genes found in many GM foods that have been spliced with antibiotics.
  • Animal studies indicate GM foods may cause toxic effects on the liver, kidneys, pancreas or reproductive system.
  • Animal studies show that DNA in food can travel into organs throughout the body, even into the fetus.
  • The risks to children and fetuses may be greater because their digestive and neurological systems are not fully developed.

Why are food genetics being manipulated?

There are two primary traits that have been added to crops: herbicide tolerance, which lets the farmer spray weed-killer directly on the crop without killing it, and the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide. These outcomes have no proven health benefit to humans, There is, however, economic benefit for biotech companies such as Monsanto, which develops (and owns the patent to) Roundup, the most commonly used weed-killer that farmers use on crops and we use in gardens. The company has been accused of everything from hiding research on the real health effects of glyphosate (the main active ingredient in Roundup) used on crops around the world to knowingly producing products that threaten biodiversity and cause cancer.

To date, six bio-tech giants are actively lobbying against the U.S. public's demand for GMO labeling on foods. And yet, legislators continue to protect citizens as demonstrated by California's recent decision requiring Monsanto to label Roundup as carcinogenic.

Personally I do my absolute best to avoid GMOs in both my food and anything that goes on my skin and I recommend you do the same. It's just not worth gambling on the health of you and your family.

Stay Informed!

Resources for learning more about GMOs:

References:

  • Endelman, R. “The Difference between GE and GMO.” Accessed on Feb 8, 2016. http://thedelicioustruth.blogspot.com/2012/03/difference-between-terms-ge-and-gmo.html
  • Herbert, Martha. "Feasting on the Unknown: Being Exposed To One Of The Largest Uncontrolled Experiments In History." Chicago Tribune (Sep 3, 2000). http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-09-03/news/0009030374_1_genetically-modified-new-proteins
  • Institute of Functional Medicine online. “Genetically Modified Foods 20 Years On: Still No Labeling and Minimal Safety Testing.” https://www.functionalmedicine.org/home/Focus_On/Genetically_Modified_Foods/
  • Third World Network, Penang, Malaysia (1995) p.18. Quoted in "Why the Genetic Engineering of Our Food Offends Principles of Most Religions." In reference to the quote form A Statement by Scientists Concerned About Trends in the New Biotechnology, As cited at PBS.org “Should we Grow GM Crops?” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/harvest/exist/arguments.html
  • SustainablePulse. “GM Crops Now Banned in 38 Countries Worldwide.” Accessed on Feb 8, 2016. http://sustainablepulse.com/2015/10/22/gm-crops-now-banned-in-36-countries-worldwide-sustainable-pulse-research/#.Vq-sA8cwfL8
  • InstituteforResponsibleTechnology.org. “Health Risks of GMO Foods.” Accessed on Feb 7, 2016. http://responsibletechnology.org/gmo-education/health-risks/
  • Artemis, D. & Arvanitoyannis, I. “Health Risks of Genetically Modified Foods.” Crit Rev Health Sci & Nutrition. (2002) 49:2, 164-175. DOI:10.1080/10408390701855993. Accessed on Feb 8, 2016. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408390701855993
  • PBS.org. “Genetically Modified Foods.” Accessed on Feb 8, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/pov/hybrid/genetically-modified-foods/
  • Medicine Talk Blog. “What You Really Need to Know About GMOs: Interview with Jeffrey Smith.” http://medicinetalk.org/blog/what-you-really-need-to-know-about-gmos-interview-with-jeffrey-smi th/
  • Environmental Working Group. “EWG’s 2014 Shopper’s Guide to Avoiding GMO Food.” Accessed on Feb 2, 2016. http://www.ewg.org/research/shoppers-guide-to-avoiding-gmos
  • GMO Free-Europe. Map of GMO-free Regions Worldwide. Accessed on Feb 8, 2016. http://www.gmo-free-regions.org/gmo-free-regions.html
  • Food Matters. “6 Easy Ways to Avoid GMO Products.” Accessed on Feb 8, 2016. http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/6-easy-ways-to-avoid-gmos

My Adventures In Candidaland - A Breakup Story

I'm nearing the 8-week mark of my sugar-free, starchy food-free, fruit-free, alcohol-free anti-candida diet. I was already gluten, dairy, soy and corn free so adding these additional restrictions was simultaneously easy and super hard. Yeah, I know that sounds confusing, but for those of you with dietary restrictions or food allergies, you know that once you get used to avoiding certain foods, you get used to the drill of label reading, cooking at home A LOT, and asking restaurant servers 16 questions before ordering when you do go out.

That's the easy part. The tough part was taking an already limited diet and whittling it down even more to the point where I'm eating only non-starchy vegetables (no fruit or sweet veg like beets, carrots, squash or roots), some organic, pasture-raised animal proteins, and a few types of nuts and seeds. Admittedly I'm a chocoholic so I've gotten creative with organic cacao in order to get my chocolate fix (see my Chocolate Pot De Crème recipe here). The first 10 days or so I had terrible sugar cravings but they did subside and are now long gone.

So why am I following this crazy, restricted diet protocol? Well, it all started on the day I was born. Yep, we have to go back that far, but you'll see why in a moment. I was a C-section baby, which meant that I was starting off my adventures on earth with two blows to my unformed immune system. First, I missed out on all the good bacteria in the birth canal that an infant should be exposed to. This bacteria populates the baby's skin and gut acting as its' first dose of probiotics. Second, since I was a C-section baby, both my mom and I were put on antibiotics, further compromising the good bacteria I did have and making me more prone to thrush and yeast infection. Thankfully my mom breast-fed me so I at least got colostrum, which is crucial for a healthy immune system and gut integrity.

Overall I was a healthy kid but I did get ear infections when I was little, all of which were treated with antibiotics. But no biggie, still a pretty healthy kid with a pretty healthy, unprocessed diet - thanks mom! When I hit my early teen years I started getting acne and, yes, you guessed it, more antibiotics. I think I took every antibiotic on the market to "help" my skin and when that didn't do the trick we turned to Accutane and after 2 courses of that my skin was significantly better, although still not acne-free. Little did I know at the time that my acne was due to a dairy intolerance and could have been remedied by a simple dietary change.

After high school I moved from sunny California to Seattle for college and went from eating mostly home cooked, unprocessed food to eating cafeteria food at school. I was a vegetarian at the time and had no clue how to be a healthy vegetarian, which meant I was eating mostly high starch, high sugar foods since those were the only vegetarian options available on campus. Now keep in mind that this was the early 90's when "high carb, low fat" was all the rage. I thought I was eating healthy but I was actually creating a massive systemic candida overgrowth and I began to feel generally cruddy. I was tired and depressed and by the end of freshman year I had gained nearly 30 pounds. I had such bad brain fog that I would study for hours but just couldn't retain the information. My grades suffered and my dream of getting into veterinary school slipped away before my eyes.

That summer I went home to California and managed to eat less and exercise my way back down to only 10 pounds heavier than I was when I arrived at school, but I still felt cruddy and I began feeling severely depressed. I though about food constantly and my cravings for sugar and starchy foods were out of control. I returned to school that Fall and almost immediately began gaining weight again. It was then that I began binge eating and purging, and suicidal thoughts became a regular part of my life. I was 19 years old.

About halfway through my second year at university it was clear that I didn't have the grades to get into vet school (which is more competitive than med school), and I was heartbroken. I quite literally did not know what to do with myself since all I had ever wanted to do was be a veterinarian. I was more depressed than ever and I often planned out how I could or would commit suicide. Thankfully my love for my mom and my faith saved me. I never acted on it because I knew that it would be devastating for my mom and I knew that God had a plan for my life that I couldn't just give up on. 

The bingeing and purging escalated to the point that I finally knew I needed help so I reluctantly reached out to my mom and told her what had been going on. Being the amazingly compassionate and giving person she is, she started doing some research and eventually found a nearby treatment center for eating disorders where I went through a couple years of pretty intense therapy. It wasn't a cure but it did get me out of the cycle of bingeing and purging and helped me to make peace with my body and create a healthier relationship with food.

I felt like I was beginning to recognize myself again and I knew it was time to refocus and find purpose and direction for my life. After being in such a rigid, scientific setting at university I wanted to do something more creative. I loved to cook and I thought that just maybe I could put my fascination (or obsession) with food to good use, so I decided to go to culinary arts school.

My culinary program was full at the time so I decided to start with their pastry program and move to culinary after finishing that. Long story short I was around bread and pastries all day every day and I was a poor student, so what did I end up eating every day? Yep, bread and pastries. Again, it was the 90's and high carb was supposed to be good for you. Ugh! If you know anything about candidiasis, or candida overgrowth (if you don't, check out this great article by Dr. Amy Myers), you know that eating high starch/sugar foods feed the yeast, creating a systemic problem that affects everything from gut health to brain function.

For those of us who have a history of antibiotic usage, we're more vulnerable because we no longer have sufficient amounts of the healthy bacteria and yeasts that keep the candida in check. My history of antibiotics and super high carb diet had created the perfect environment for the systemic candida overgrowth that would affect my life for the next 2 decades, baffling doctor after doctor with my constellation of mystery symptoms.

Fast forward several years and I had finally found a Naturopathic Doctor who understood what was happening in my body. I was eating a much better more balanced diet and had lost quite a bit of weight at this point so she helped me address my hypothyroid and nutritional deficiencies. She also put me on an anti-fungal drug but unfortunately didn't tell me that yeast will build a resistance to anti-fungal drugs and herbs if it is still being well fed. So while the treatment helped for a while, it didn't solve the problem or address my overall gut health.

As difficult as that part of my life was, it gave me a passion for natural healing and using food as medicine and it's what eventually led me to go back to nutrition school. I have since learned so much about the power of food in overcoming illness and I can share that knowledge to help others avoid or overcome similar challenges.

My health has come such a long way over the last few years and I am beyond blessed to have access to amazing doctors who deal with chronic illness all the time. I began feeling familiar symptoms again after the holidays so I decided enough was enough! It was time to break up with candida once and for all and to put my nutrition knowledge to work for me. So I am now undergoing anti-fungal treatment with the incomparable Dr. Giandomenico at Sophia Health Institute (where I work part-time as the Nutrition Counselor), and simultaneously following a strict anti-candida diet.

In the last couple of years I kept hoping that by eating clean, nourishing, anti-inflammatory foods and focusing on restoring my gut health, any residual candida issues would disappear. But I now understand that once candidiasis becomes chronic, it takes much more targeted and extreme measures to truly eradicate an overgrowth, especially one that's been around for years. But what is a few months of following a restricted diet in the grand scope of things? I'd rather do this for a few months than continue to struggle with my health for years to come.

At nearly 2 months into this protocol I have next to no brain fog, my energy has increased, I'm sleeping SO much better, and I don't have the vicious sugar cravings and constant bloated feeling anymore. I've had some rough days here and there which is normal due to the toxins released by the yeast as it dies off (read more about die off reactions here), but overall it has been a positive, necessary and long overdue change.

Even if you're not dealing with candidiasis you may benefit from saying goodbye to sugar for a while. I know it can seem overwhelming or even impossible to eliminate favorite foods from your diet like sugar, gluten and dairy, but you may not need to say goodbye to them forever. After a sufficient time of allowing the gut to heal on a therapeutic diet, most people are able to reintroduce certain foods in moderate amounts with no problem so it's not necessarily a death sentence for those foods. If you've been struggling with any chronic illness or condition, I encourage you to do some soul searching and ask yourself what do you want more? Do you want that tasty food that is only enjoyable for a short moment in time and may be destroying your health, or do you want a vibrant, healthy and functional body for a lifetime?

Are you ready to breakup with candida or another digestive issue? If so I'd love to support you. Click here to schedule a complimentary Coffee Talk session and let's talk about your journey to true wellness.

Supporting Detoxification with Massage

I am going through some detoxification protocols right now and I was feeling pretty darn cruddy last week. My digestion was off, my body was achey and I just wasn't myself. Luckily I had a massage scheduled with the wonderful and gifted Molly Lampi, LMP after work on Friday, and although I was feeling guilty about spending money on what may be considered a luxury, I knew that I desperately needed it. And let me tell you, it was a Godsend! I left feeling like a new woman. My gut felt better, my aches and pains were gone and I felt more relaxed than I have for weeks.

After that massage I felt compelled to share with you the importance of supporting your body's detox pathways, and massage is a wonderful way to do this. Our body's innate detox system can get sluggish for a variety of reasons such as lack of regular exercise, too little fluids or fiber in the diet, inflammatory foods, infections, or high stress. A massage can rev-up your body's natural detox process by promoting proper digestion, lymphatic drainage and supporting our organs of detoxifcation.

During massage therapy, the rhythmic strokes and pressure applied to muscles, tissues, and organs stimulate your circulatory system. When pressure is applied to body tissues, toxins are released from in between the muscle fibers and cells. Toxins are carried into circulation throughout the body and are then eliminated in a variety of ways. This is why it's so important to drink A LOT of water after a massage - you want to give those toxins an exit from the body!

This increase in circulation during massage positively affects other systems and organs in your body as well. Massage helps move oxygen-rich blood and nutrients into your organs, especially your organs of detoxification - your kidneys and liver. Massage also facilitates relaxed, deep breathing - another important way in which the body naturally detoxifies.

Working in tandem with your circulatory system is the lymphatic system, which carries immune cells throughout the body to help defend against infection. The lymph system doesn't have a big central pump like the heart to keep things moving. Instead, it relies on gravity, exercise, breathing and massage to work efficiently.

If you're not feeling your best or haven't been as good about your diet and exercise routine lately, a massage can help you detox, and get back in balance-naturally. Check out my Recommended Natural Practitioners page for recommended Licensed Massage Practitioners. They are all highly skilled professionals who are amazing at what they do. I hope you will treat yourself to a massage soon!

Go Wild with Dandelion Greens

You might not want dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) dappled across your lawn, but you'll definitely want to make them a part your healthy diet. For centuries, the sunny yellow dandelion, its greens and roots, has been embraced across cultures for its culinary and medicinal uses.

Dandelion roots contain several compounds beneficial to health, one of which is bitter taraxacin, which stimulates digestion. The leaves are rich in potassium, antioxidants such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and several B vitamins.

Dandelion helps filter waste products from the bloodstream. In many cultures it has been used as a liver tonic, diuretic, and digestive aid. Herbalists have used dandelion to treat jaundice, cirrhosis and liver dysfunction. Preliminary research suggests dandelion may even strengthen liver and gallbladder function.

All parts of the dandelion are edible. The bittersweet roots may be eaten raw, steamed or dried, roasted and ground for a coffee substitute. The flowers are commonly used to make wine and jam. Dandelion greens can be eaten steamed, boiled, sautéed, braised or raw in a salad.

Try adding dandelion greens to:

  • quiche, omelette
  • pesto
  • sauce such as garlic & olive oil
  • dips
  • seafood soup
  • sauteed vegetables
  • to replace some of the kale in a green smoothie
  • stuffing

Dandelion packs as much power in its flavor as it does in its nutrition. It can quickly overpower more delicate herbs and flavors-a little goes a long way.

When harvesting dandelion, especially for salad, take greens from young and tender plants, before the first flowers emerge. Greens from older plants will be larger, but also tougher and more bitter, so older leaves are better suited for cooking. At the grocery store, look for organic dandelion greens with vibrant green color.

Testing Food Reactions Using The Coca Pulse Test

Identifying food sensitivities and/or allergies can be a time consuming and often expensive task. Elimination diets are considered the most accurate method but they can take months to complete by which time you may have developed new or different sensitivities, especially if you have leaky gut syndrome due to underlying infections or inflammation. The food allergy tests available on the market can be helpful but they are not 100% accurate.  These tests can cost up to several hundred dollars and may not be covered by insurance, which makes them cost-prohibitive for many of us. Muscle testing or ART (autonomic response testing) is an excellent way to determine food intolerances but you will need access to a practitioner who is proficient in ART.

Thankfully there is a simpler option for determining if certain foods are your friend or foe compliments of an immunologist named Arthur F. Coca who discovered a method of testing reactions to specific foods that requires no equipment and can be done by anyone in their own home at no cost. Dr. Coca’s theory was that if someone has a sensitivity or allergy to a food, it would cause a stress response in the body indicated by an accelerated heart rate.

Dr. Coca’s wife who was a medical researcher was diagnosed with a debilitating case of angina pectoris (chest pain or discomfort due to coronary heart disease) and given a five-year life expectancy by two cardiologists. She noticed that her attacks would occur within a few minutes of eating and began to realize that it was always after eating certain foods. She would eat these offending foods and inevitably her pulse would speed up and she would have an attack of angina.

Dr. Coca began tracking what she ate and how her pulse changed after each food. Eventually they compiled a list of all the foods that caused her pulse to accelerate and removed them from her diet. Not only did her angina disappear, but other health problems and symptoms she’d had went away as well.

After this happy accident Dr. Coca began using this method of testing on other patients who all had similar results. Any food that caused a patients’ heart rate to increase was identified as a problematic food. When his patients removed these foods, their symptoms went away, and if the problematic foods were reintroduced, the same symptoms would reappear. He published his book The Pulse Test back in 1956 and to this day many well-respected practitioners, including my boss, Dr. Klinghardt, recommend this method for assessing food sensitivities and allergies.

So while it may take some time to test every food in your diet, it will be a lot simpler and more affordable to try this method out at home. Dr. Coca’s book is now public domain and you can read or download it here. His instructions are somewhat involved (detailed in part 7 of his book) but there is a simple method you can use to get the same information. Keep in mind that while this test is not a perfect science, it can be extremely helpful in determining which foods are causing stress to your body.

The simplest method for this test is as follows:

1.) Get ready with a pen, paper or tracking chart, a stopwatch or watch with a second hand, and whatever food(s) you want to test. Be sure to test individual ingredients vs. foods with several ingredients so you can identify exactly what you are and are not reacting to.

2.) Sit down long enough that you are relaxed. Don’t try to do this after exercising or being active. Additionally, do not take the test when feeling angry, or upset since these emotions will effect your digestion and parasympathetic nervous system. Take a few deep breaths, then take your “before” pulse for a full 60 seconds and write it down. You can take your pulse at your neck or wrist, but make sure you always take it from the same place.

3.) Put the food/drink/supplement that you want to test in your mouth and chew it or roll it around for about 30 seconds, but don’t swallow it. If your central nervous system perceives that substance as a threat or stressor, your pulse will increase. Keep the substance in your mouth and take your pulse again for another 60 seconds, uninterrupted, and write down the “after” result. The more your pulse increases, the worse the reaction to that food. An increase of 6 or more beats (less if you are Blood Type O) indicates a sensitivity or allergy to that food. Dr. Coca recommended not testing any foods you already know are problematic for you.

4.) Spit out the food you first tested, rinse your mouth with water and spit it out. Always wait until your pulse has returned to your normal or “before” rate before testing another food, drink or supplement. This can take up to several minutes depending on the severity of your reaction. You can test as many foods this way as you like or have time for.

It is recommended that you avoid any food you react negatively to for at least 6 weeks before re-testing. But the good news is that unlike true allergies, food sensitivities can be reversed if the problematic foods are removed long enough and the gut is given the proper support to heal. For those dealing with chronic illness or autoimmune disease, I recommend eliminating offending foods completely for 6-9 months and retesting them at that time. Some people may choose to retest every three months, especially if their diet is very restricted and they wish to reintroduce foods as quickly as possible. If you continue reacting to a food after testing three months in a row, you should avoid that food permanently.

When you re-test a food and no longer have an increased pulse, you can safely reintroduce it, but you will need to test it again after one month. If you experience an increased pulse again you have probably added in too much of that food, so eliminate it for another month and then try again, eating smaller quantities of that food less frequently.

The Nutritional Therapy Association also provides a test form that you can use to track your results. Keep in mind that if you smoke or are taking a beta-blocker, calcium-channel blocker or other medication that controls heart rate, you will not get accurate results from this test.

 

References:

The Pulse Test by Arthur F. Coca M.D.

The Autonomic Nervous System and its Relationship to Headache
by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, M.D., PhD

Pulse Challenge Food Sensitivity Testing

Coca Pulse Test by Dr. Jay Cullinane

How To Do Food Sensitivity Testing At Home by Lauren Geertsen, NTP

Food Allergy Detective: How to Find a Food Sensitivity or Food Allergy: Part 3 by Kirstin Carey

Fat Loss and Detoxification - Why Toxicity May Be Stopping You From Losing Weight

Detox has become somewhat of a dirty word these days. With all of the "detox" programs that require juice fasts, extreme calorie restriction and bizarre foods, it's no wonder that people cringe when they hear the word. Truth be told I have the same reaction and unless I know and trust the source of a detox program, I tend to assume it's a bad idea.

Our bodies have built-in detoxification processes which, as long as they are working properly, don't need crazy diets or loads of supplements to rid our bodies of the toxins and pollutants we're exposed to every day. However, our bodies were not designed to handle the amount of toxic exposure we are subjected to in this day and age which means that our internal detox pathways can get overloaded. Throw a poor diet on top of that and you'll find yourself feeling and looking pretty awful.

For years we have been told that losing weight is simply a matter of calories in, calories out, and to some degree that is true. But weight loss and fat loss are two VERY different things, and for most people, real fat loss is what we want to achieve. That brings us to our fat cells. These little guys get a bad wrap, but in fact they're helping to protect us by storing any fat-soluble toxins that our organs of detoxification can't get rid of. So the next time you see those rolls of chub on your tummy, remember that while you don't want to keep them, they're preventing your organs from being poisoned.

If we are storing a lot of toxicity in our fat cells, our bodies will not release that extra weight because it simply isn't safe. But if we nurture our liver and kidneys and optimize our body's detox pathways, we will have a much easier time eliminating those toxins and then we will more readily burn fat.

So how does one go about detoxing in a natural, gentle way without going to extremes? There are a few ways to go about it, but the bottom line is - use your food as medicine. By eliminating the most common inflammatory and allergenic foods, avoiding non-organic foods and toxic chemicals, and eating foods that support the your detox organs, you can help optimize your body's ability to "take out the trash".

October is a great time to step back and take stock of your health, using the change in season as a chance to make a fresh start. I wanted to give clients a way to do this that was both effective and enjoyable so I created the Reboot Your Bod Detox. My Fall detox program is an ideal way to detox gently and naturally while enjoying delicious, whole foods that nourish and heal your body. And you won't be going it alone! Starting on October 19 others just like you will begin their 21-day journey to a healthier, happier body and mind, and I'll be supporting you every step of the way with one-on-one coaching and a private Facebook group.

The most common feedback I hear from my Detoxers is that they are amazed at how they can eat so much delicious food and still lose weight, eliminate bloating, feel more energized. And the best part is that you'll learn skills to continue seeing results long after the program is over. Want to learn more? Click here for Detox details and to read what others are saying about this transformational program.

Other articles on this topic from industry experts:

PCBs are Linked to a Fat Stomach by Byron J. Richards, CN

Pesticides vs. Calories. Another hit to the calorie model. by Dr. Jade Teta

Remove Toxins From Your Fat Cells by Dr. John Douillard

How Toxins Make You Fat: 4 Steps to Get Rid of Toxic Weight by Dr. Mark Hyman

Glandular Gladness - The Magical, Mighty Thyroid

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which includes the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, thymus, pineal gland, testes, ovaries, adrenal glands, parathyroid, and pancreas. It makes hormones (e.g. T3, T4, free T3 and T4 and reverse T3)) that travel through your bloodstream and regulate your metabolism, brain and heart function, and reproductive and menstrual cycles.

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that lives just below your Adam’s apple and quietly does its thing without getting much attention until your doctor checks it with their hands during a routine exam. Unless something unusual is found (e.g., swelling) or symptoms manifest that indicate a problem, your doc probably won't take a second look at it. If they do check your thyroid on a blood test, they will often tell you only if your thyroid is within normal range, not if it is functioning optimally or not.

When the thyroid is not functioning properly, a chain reaction of hormonal events takes place that involves many other glands/hormones of the endocrine system and the bodily systems they regulate. The end result is one of two primary types of health conditions: hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underachieve thyroid).

Common Symptoms of Thyroid Dysfunction

  • Depression
  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • headaches / migraines
  • constipation
  • menstrual irregularities 
  • infertility and/or miscarriage
  • anxiety / panic attacks
  • poor memory
  • Inability to concentrate / focus
  • muscle & joint pain
  • decreased sexual interest
  • cold intolerance
  • swollen abdomen, legs, feet, hands
  • insomnia
  • sleep apnea
  • low body temperature
  • irritability
  • thinning hair
  • acne
  • allergies
  • iron and B12 deficiency
  • dizziness / vertigo
  • high blood pressure
  • gallstones
  • bladder & kidney infections
  • easy bruising
  • osteoporosis

I know, crazy long list, right?! And this isn't even a complete list of all the possible symptoms.

8 Ways to Keep Your Thyroid Healthy

1. Eat from the sea. The sea provides many natural sources of iodine, a building block of the thyroid hormone. Salt has a high concentration of iodine, but it can raise blood pressure. Instead, opt for saltwater fish, or try seaweed in a salad. Cod and halibut are high in selenium, which protects the thyroid gland during periods of stress and helps regulate hormone synthesis. Fish oil is also excellent since it provides essential fatty acids that reduce inflammation.

2. Eat foods high in B vitamins, which are precursors to thyroid hormones and influence cell energy. Balance your diet with pasture-raised meats and poultry, nuts (especially Brazil nuts) and seeds. Red meat provides iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and other minerals essential for thyroid hormone function, and the health of other bodily systems affected by thyroid disorders (skin, hair, metabolism).

3. Avoid dietary pitfalls that can compromise thyroid function. If your diet is too low in protein, fat or carbohydrates or too high in sugar, alcohol or soy products, you could be setting yourself up for thyroid problems. There is also a lot of talk about "goitrogens" or cruciferous vegetables being a potential enemy to the thyroid, but after a lot of reading and research I believe their benefits outweigh any potential problems, especially if they are cooked and not consumed excessively.

4. Love your liver and listen to your gut. If your liver is stressed in can inhibit your ability to convert T4 to T3 and produce thyroid binding globulin (TBG). Gut health must also be addressed and optimized to achieve healthy thyroid function.

5. Catch some rays. Vitamin D is also crucial for thyroid health and a plethora of other functions in your body. Try to get at least 10-15 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) several times a week and take a Vit. D supplement if your live in dark climate or don't get outside often enough.

6. Take time to unwind. A daily relaxation practice, such as just 10 minutes a day of silence and deep breathing, can make a difference in the state of mind and body. Stressed adrenal glands are often at the root of thyroid problems, so adrenal health should be addressed before beginning thyroid treatment.

7. Move your body! Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Yoga is particularly good for thyroid health, including poses such as butterfly, fish pose, shoulder stand, and child’s pose.

5. Get supplement-al insurance. Our diets aren’t perfect, so supplementing with a vitamin/mineral or botanical (herb) regimen can provide extra insurance against exposure to stress, toxins, and even genetic predispositions. Be sure to consult with your wellness practitioner about the best nutraceutical options for you.

If you suspect a thyroid condition, talk with your doctor or wellness practitioner right away. There are a variety of tests (micronutrients, thyroid-adrenal, hormones) that can help them create an appropriate treatment plan.

 

Resources

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. “Natural Therapies for Hypothyroidism.” October 11, 2013. 

American Thyroid Association. ATA Patient Education Web Brochures. Accessed May 2015.

Hormone Health Network. “Your Thyroid: What You Need to Know.” Accessed May 2015.

Women to Women. “Alternative Hypothyroidism Treatment.” Accessed May 2015.

 

The information offered by this post is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this web site.

Boosting Glutathione with Nutrition

Glutathione is a simple molecule made up of three amino acids - cysteine, glycine and glutamine. But don’t be fooled by its simplicity. This little molecule packs a seriously healing punch and is essential for proper immune function, detoxification, and controlling inflammation in the body.

For patients struggling with fatigue and chronic illness, maximizing glutathione is a top priority. Insufficient glutathione prevents the mitochondria (the power house of the cell) from producing ATP which is the primary source of energy for all living cells. Without the ability to make sufficient ATP, we feel exhausted and our body’s ability to heal is greatly reduced.

Not only is glutathione is our body’s main antioxidant, protecting our cells from oxidative stress and facilitating energy production, but it is the most critical component in our bodies’ detoxification system. It acts like a magnet to grab toxins and free radicals, delivering them into the bile and stool for safe removal from the body. Normally glutathione is recycled in the body, providing continuous protection from oxidative stress or toxicity, but when our bodies accumulate too high a toxic load, this process is inhibited.

Thankfully there are practical ways in which we can use good food and healthy lifestyle practices to increase glutathione production in our bodies.

1.    Eat more cruciferous vegetables.

Exposure to toxins and inflammatory foods causes oxidative stress in the body which causes our bodies to produce free radicals faster than we can neutralize them with antioxidants. Antioxidant foods, especially those high in a compound called sulforaphane, give the body the nutrient precursors necessary for the production of glutathione. Cruciferous veggies are the best source of sulforaphane, acting as powerful antioxidants to help spare our cells from damage and reduce oxidative stress. According to a study at Johns Hopkins University, sulforaphane is the most protective antioxidant substance on the planet.

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale, and in addition to providing sulforaphane, they are some of the richest food sources of glutathione. Brussels sprouts are the richest in glutathione, followed by cauliflower, broccoli (particularly the flowers, not the stem), cabbage, kale, bok choy, cress, mustard, horseradish, turnips, rutabagas, and kohlrabi. Brussels sprouts have also been shown to rejuvenate liver cell function.

Ideally these veggies should be lightly steamed for 3-5 minutes to maximize their antioxidant effects. Growing your own organic broccoli sprouts is also a great and affordable way to get major bang for your antioxidant buck.

2.   Increase your methylation nutrients.

Vitamins B6, B12 and Folate (also known as B9) are some of the most critical nutrients in glutathione production.

The best food sources of these B vitamins are meat, fish, poultry, eggs, organ meats, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, avocado, sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens, papaya, oranges, cantaloupe, and legumes.

3.   Raw milk and non-denatured whey.

For those who tolerate dairy well, raw organic milk and raw non-denatured whey protein may be helpful in supplying cysteine, which is considered the most important of the three building blocks of glutathione. I generally encourage our patients to avoid dairy, but in certain cases, the benefits may outweigh the risks when it comes to glutathione production.

Cysteine must come from food since our bodies cannot produce it and the two best sources are raw milk and bioactive, non-denatured whey protein. Since heat and cooking destroy the cysteine, it is important that the source is raw and from a quality source of organic, grass-fed milk.

4.   Get more glutamine.

Glutamine is plentiful in plants and meats but is easily destroyed by heat. Your best bets are fresh, raw parsley, spinach and sashimi, although I don’t recommend eating raw fish if your digestion or immunity are even slightly compromised (if you are producing sufficient stomach acid and the fish is from a reputable and high-quality restaurant, sashimi may be ok for you, but proceed with caution).

5.   Say yes to selenium.

Selenium plays an important role in helping the body both produce and recycle glutathione. The best food sources of selenium are Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, oatmeal (gluten-free), tuna, turkey, beef, chicken breast, eggs and brown rice.

6.   Spice things up.

Turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom are three spices that are helpful for restoring glutathione levels. Be sure to get high quality, organic spices which are additive free and as fresh as possible.

7.   Rest, relax and move your body.

Minimizing stress is key in preventing depletion of glutathione. Practice stress-reducing activities like deep breathing, meditation, yoga and leisure walking as often as possible. Sometimes a few minutes of stretching and deep breathing before bed can help you wind down, reduce stress hormone production, and contribute to a more restful nights’ sleep.

Sleep is a crucial component in the body’s ability to heal and produce sufficient glutathione.  Studies show that glutathione levels were significantly reduced in the brains of sleep-deprived animals, so try to get as much quality sleep as possible and take naps when necessary. Melatonin is a hormone that is released at night time and acts to regulate sleep. It is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to increase glutathione levels in the brain, liver, muscle tissue and blood. Sour cherries, especially Montmorency cherries are a great food source of melatonin.

Exercise also boosts glutathione production and improves the body’s ability to detoxify. Start slowly by doing gentle exercise and work your way up to 30 minutes a day of sports or more vigorous exercise such as hiking or biking. Resistance training for 20-40 minutes is also effective and will help increase and maintain lean muscle mass.

 Other glutathione boosting foods:

  • Garlic
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Raw red beets
  • Okra
  • Squash
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Tomato
  • Carrot
  • Dill
  • Mushrooms
  • Shellfish
  • Grapefruit
  • Orange
  • Zucchini
  • Strawberry
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Spirulina

Incorporating these lifestyle tips and delicious foods can help you boost your body’s glutathione production, increase immunity and antioxidant function, and enjoy a healthier, more vital life. Bon apetit!

References:

Deitrich Klinghardt, PhD/MD - The Use of Pharmax Nutriceuticals in the Treatment of Chronic Lyme Disease

Vesce, S et al. Acute Glutathione Depletion Restricts Mitochondrial ATP Export in Cerebellar Granule Neurons

Phytochemicals - Sulforaphane

Hayes, JD, McLelland LI. - Glutathione and glutathione-dependent enzymes represent a co-ordinately regulated defence against oxidative stress.

Hyman, M. - Glutathione: The Mother of All Antioxidants

ImmuneHealthScience.com - Glutathione Foods

ImmuneHealthScience.com - How to Raise Glutathione Levels

D'Almeida, Vânia, et al. - Sleep deprivation induces brain regionspecific decreases in glutathione levels

Mandal, A. - What is Oxidative Stress?

Vitamin B12 on Nutri-Facts.org

Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source - Three of the B Vitamins: Folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12

Biswas, SK, et al. – Curcumin Induces Glutathione Biosynthesis

 *All articles and information on this website are for educational purposes only. They are not to be regarded or relied upon as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease. Results may vary per person. Consult your health practitioner if you have health problems.

To Gluten or Not to Gluten?

Ah, gluten - the buzzword of the moment. Is it really as evil as it's made out to be? And do most of us even know what it is or are we just jumping on the latest health craze bandwagon? I've never been a bandwagon person. In fact, when I was little my mom always said, "If everybody's doing it, it's probably a bad idea".

Jumping on bandwagons usually goes hand in hand with a lack of critical thinking and formulating an educated opinion for oneself. I always encourage my clients to think for themselves and listen to their intuition when it comes to their health, especially when it comes to food trends and diet fads.

WheatCaution.jpg

So is gluten just another fad or is it a genuine health concern? The answer to both questions is yes.

First of all let me clarify what gluten is. Gluten is simply a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and kamut. It is also found in other grains such as oats that may be naturally gluten-free, but have been contaminated during growth, or processed on the same equipment used to process gluten containing products.

Some people cannot tolerate it at all (e.g. Celiac Disease and wheat allergy) and many have a sensitivity to it (non-celiac gluten sensitivity). Gluten sensitivity is more common in the U.S. because most strains of American wheat are significantly higher in gluten than those found in Europe. For those with gluten sensitivities (up to 1/3 of the American population), eating gluten causes inflammation in the gut which according to The New England Journal of Medicine can lead to a whole host of health issues such as  (i) fatigue, IBS, depression & anxiety, autoimmune disease, migraines and the list goes on.

Determining whether or not you are gluten sensitive is relatively easy to do with a simple elimination and reintroduction diet. Dr. Mark Hyman explains how to do that in this great article.

The bottom line in my opinion is that gluten is more likely than not to cause excess inflammation. Inflammation is one of the body's natural protection mechanisms, but we want to prevent excess inflammation which is at the root of most disease including dementia, heart disease, diabetes and obesity to name a few. Following an anti-inflammatory diet can only make you healthier, happier and slimmer so I don't think it can hurt to eliminate gluten. If you do test your sensitivity and have no issues, gluten may not be a problem for you but I still recommend limiting it in the same way that I recommend limiting all inflammatory foods including, but not limited to: sugar (the biggie), processed foods, refined and trans fats/oils, alcohol, commons allergens (dairy, soy, corn, eggs, peanuts) and refined flours.

It is also important to keep in mind that just because something is gluten-free does NOT mean it is a healthy food. There are scads of gluten-free products out there capitalizing on this trend (bandwagon alert) that are far more processed and unhealthy than their glutinous counterparts, so buyer beware.

Listen to your body! If you have inexplicable health problems like digestive issues, skin rashes, fatigue, headaches, joint pain and brain fog, you may want to explore possible food sensitivities. But above all, avoid jumping on bandwagons. If we avoid everything that is supposedly bad for us and try to eat everything that is supposedly good for us we will drive ourselves insane and get confused by all the conflicting info out there.

So stop stressing over your food, do your research, and consult an N.D. or nutrition expert to determine which foods agree with YOU and which do not. Then, enjoy your life and savor all of the wonderful, unprocessed, whole, nutritious and delicious foods that come from nature, not from a factory. Bon apetit!

(i) Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Celiac sprue. N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 17;346(3):180-8. Review.

Catch Some Rays the Healthy Way!


  1.   MyChelle Dermaceuticals  SunShield-Coconut SPF 28  2.   Goddess Garden Organics  Natural Sunscreen Spray SPF30  3.   Aubrey Organics  Natural Sun SPF 30  4.   Anne Marie Gianni Sun  Love - Natural Sun Protection  5.   Caribbean Solutions  SolGuard SPF 25

1. MyChelle Dermaceuticals SunShield-Coconut SPF 28 2. Goddess Garden Organics Natural Sunscreen Spray SPF30 3. Aubrey Organics Natural Sun SPF 30 4. Anne Marie Gianni Sun Love - Natural Sun Protection 5. Caribbean Solutions SolGuard SPF 25

We know all about the hazards of too much sun exposure - premature aging, skin cancer, and sun spots, to name a few.  Most of us slather ourselves and our children with sunscreen to protect ourselves from the sun (especially those of us in the NW who emerge in June looking like cave fish), but what about the chemicals in all of those sun care products?

Our skin is our body's largest organ and what we put on it can have a major effect on our health, both good and bad. I talked about this in my monthly Healthy Bites Newsletter but thought it was an important enough subject to address in multiple forums.

Many sunscreens are indeed toxic; according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 97 percent of Americans are contaminated with a widely-used chemical in sunscreens - oxybenzone - which can cause allergic reactions, hormone disruption and cell damage. Yuck!

In addition, not all sunscreens provide the protection they claim. To find a sunscreen that offers protection AND uses safe ingredients, check out my recommendations above or go to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) web site. EWG rates sunscreens based on this combined criteria, and provides a list of the top 100 that made the cut. Overall, EWG likes today’s zinc and titanium-based mineral sunscreens because they offer excellent UV protection but do not penetrate the skin. According to EWG, “half of the U.S. sunscreens that meet the United State’s FDA rules would not make it to store shelves in Europe,” which has stricter standards.

What else can you do to protect yourself from skin damage and the threat of melanoma?

  • Eat raw vegetables; they are packed with skin-protecting antioxidants/phytonutrients.
  • Reduce or eliminate your consumption of processed foods and sugars, which can suppress your immune system and increase inflammation.
  • Wear clothing that provides protection against UVA and UVB rays; check out products from  Coolibar  and Solumbra, or dozens of others available online. When in the water (or biking, hiking and running outdoors), wear a swim shirt – today’s versions are good-looking and breathable, and you don’t have to worry about chemicals or the sunscreen washing off. (Do make sure you use sunscreen on the parts of your face and body that are not protected by clothing.)
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, and wear sunglasses whenever you are outside, including when you are driving (don't forget your hands which get tons of exposure when driving!). Eyewear protects the sensitive skin around your eyes and can reduce the risk of developing cataracts. Make sure your sunglasses provide both UVA/UVB protection.
  • Avoid sun exposure during the hottest part of the day, 12pm to 4pm.
  • Avoid burning! Sunburns significantly increase your chances of developing melanoma, according to skincancer.org
  • Do not use tanning booths – these are NOT safer than the sun! People who use tanning beds are two to five times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, according to skincancerprevention.org
  • Remember to examine your body for signs of sun damage, and get a yearly skin check from a board-certified dermatologist.

Have a wonderful and safe summer outside!