How can homeopathy help you heal?

(Plus a personal and professional update)

 

Hello there!

It has been a while since I’ve written a blog post. There have been some big changes in my life and the various aspects of my practice (though no changes in my visits to California or my availability for telemedicine consults).

I recently signed a contract to join a lovely clinic in Olympia, Washington and will be moving a few hours farther north in a month and a half. This clinic is highly specialized in digestive health and detoxification, which is such a good fit for me and I’m so excited to get to work with a team of like-minded souls!

In my general approach to practicing medicine, I am always growing, evolving and learning how to better serve each person who seeks my guidance in discovering and addressing the root causes of their health concerns. I have spent many years studying and honing my skill in the use of homeopathy to understand and treat my patients, but I haven’t written much about the topic.

For those who aren’t familiar, homeopathy is a system of medicine using remedies made from natural substances such as plants or minerals to treat disease according to the philosophy of like-cures-like.

Each remedy is made from a single substance, and has certain symptoms and patterns of disease associated with it, which have been discovered through painstaking research and observation. By giving a remedy to a person who is experiencing the same pattern of symptoms, the person’s body is able to make adjustments and move toward greater health. I think of it like this: The remedy is a packet of information describing a stuck pattern that your body is playing out over and over again. When that information gets delivered, your body is able to recalibrate and stop repeating that stuck pattern.

You see, we don’t get sick in random or haphazard ways, but rather in organized, intelligent ways. This is because any illness you may have is actually a manifestation of your body doing its best to respond to stressors in your environment. These stressors could include eating processed, chemical-laden foods, getting fired from a job, going through a divorce, tripping and spraining your ankle, or getting a sunburn. Regardless of the stress, your system’s goal is to protect your most vital organs from harm, to contain and buffer the effects of the stressor, and to ensure your survival. Frequently this process results in symptoms in systems of the body that are less crucial to your survival. Though it can be uncomfortable, this is actually the wisdom of your body at work.

We can sometimes get stuck in certain patterns of thought, emotion or physical symptoms like anxiety, pain, allergies or skin rashes even after the stressor has passed. Homeopathy is the best way I have found to help people shift out of these stuck patterns of disease. And since the remedy is chosen because it fits the whole pattern of illness, not just a single symptom, I frequently see a single remedy producing improvements in mood, cognition AND the physical symptoms that are frequently what has a person seeking my help in the first place. Homeopathy is by no means the only tool I use in my practice, but when I am able to incorporate a well-chosen homeopathic remedy into a person’s treatment plan, I tend to see their health improve in a smoother, more efficient and more profound way.

In future blog posts, I look forward to sharing some cases from my practice demonstrating how this works in real life. In the meantime, I’m sending you wishes for healing and a joy-filled springtime!

Warmly,

Dr. Jennea

Want more info like this? Sign up to recieve expert natural health advice each month, delivered directly to your inbox.

You'll also receive a Free gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

Hooray! You Have a Fever!

Hello and Happy New Year,

I know a lot of folks are sick right now. Or just getting over being sick, or possibly just about to get sick…   : (    If so, I’m sorry for the discomfort you are in!

I sometimes hear my patients talking about catching a cold or flu like it’s a personal failure. And conversely, I have met many folks who have not been sick for years and take this as a sign of good health.

If you’ve been thinking this way… Whelp, I’m here to blow your mind.

Getting a cold once or twice per year or a flu every five to 10 years is actually a very good thing. Here’s why:

 

A Sign of a Functional Immune System

When you catch an infectious illness like a cold or flu, it’s actually not the virus causing your symptoms. It’s your immune system. Your body pumps out white blood cells to fight the infection, and those white blood cells make chemical messengers called cytokines to communicate with each other, to help fight the invader and to attempt to get you to rest and allow yourself to heal (These days, many people don’t listen to their immune system’s cues…).

Those cytokines make you feel tired and grumpy, increase the activity of your immune cells, stimulate a fever and more. Your immune system is doing this for a reason. It wants to you to sit down and conserve energy so it can do the work of fighting off the invader.

 

The Benefits of a Fever are Many and Varied

A higher body temperature actually helps your immune cells work more efficiently while inhibiting the growth of infectious organisms. Additionally, a fever results in increased heart rate and thinner blood, thereby helping to flush out infectious substances and other waste.

There was a study done in a hospital on people with fevers due to sepsis (a life threatening blood infection) comparing the rates of death between one group whose fever was continuously lowered with acetaminophen (Tylenol) to a second group who were allowed to have a fever as long as it did not get dangerously high.1 There was a dramatic increase in the rate of death among people given Tylenol to lower their fever.  The study was actually halted early due to this finding. Now, more research is certainly needed. Other studies on sheep and rats resulted in similar findings while a study that simply compared medical records from cases of sepsis that were treated with Tylenol or not did not find the same result.2 However, this idea that fever is an important factor in allowing your body to efficiently fight infection tallies with over a hundred years of practice of naturopathic medicine. 

 

Killing Cancer Before it Begins

Fevers also help kill off cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. Though it may sound scary, we all constantly have cells that sustain damage and become pre-cancerous or cancerous. Our immune systems do a brilliant job most of the time of nipping these in the bud, but it takes a functional immune system to perform this task.

If you have not been sick in years, it’s not that you’ve never “caught a cold”. It may actually be that your immune system is not strong enough to mount a response to any viruses you are exposed to, and therefore you don’t get symptoms when you catch a virus. If you are one of these people, it is in your best interest to work on improving your immune function. This is the best way to help prevent cancer down the road.  Cancer is, at its core, a disease of low immune function.

 

Immune System Education

Fever is not a common symptom of a cold, but catching a cold once in a while still serves as education for your immune system. Think of it like exercise for your white blood cells. They get to be active, get educated on what viruses are present in your environment, and produce antibodies to those viruses so that you are protected in the future.

 

A Chance for Your Body to “Clean House”

Our bodies are constantly in the process of eliminating waste products, whether they are byproducts of normal cellular functioning like carbon dioxide, or environmental chemicals that we are all exposed to daily. We have many routes of elimination for these toxins including through your poop, urine, sweat and breath. During a cold, most of us can add large quantities of mucus to the list of routes of elimination. During a fever, increased sweating also serves this purpose.

 

How to Team Up with your Immune System for Better Health

Over time, most conventional treatments like flu shots, antibiotics and fever reducing medications suppress the immune system, while natural therapies work by enhancing it.

As a side note, study after study has shown that the flu shot is not nearly as effective as we are led to believe. Though it varies by year, the 2017/2018 flu shot is estimated to have an efficacy rate of around 10%.

Getting sick totally stinks, but I hope this article will help you to start to see things a little differently. When you do get sick, I encourage you to try to look past the discomfort and see the truth. Your body is making a wise choice that will ultimately benefit your health. When I am working with someone with a severe chronic illness, I know we are on the right track when they get a fever. It tells me their immune system is becoming functional again.

If you are getting colds or the flu more than two times per year, this is a sign that your immune system is functional enough to mount an attack on an invader, but not efficient enough to prevent you from catching the majority of bugs that go around. In this case, you would benefit from some immune support and investigation to discover why your immune system is sluggish.

You can work with your body and your immune system to help it do its job so that you recover quickly and actually emerge healthier than you were before.

 

Here are my Top 6 Tips to Make Friends with your Immune System.

1. REST!

Do your best to listen to those cues of feeling tired and grouchy. Stay home and sleep. Your co-workers will thank you for not spreading the germs, and your immune system will thank you by helping you recover faster.

2. Stay Hydrated

Your body will be better equipped to maintain a productive and safe fever, and cool you down as needed if you are well hydrated. One of the greatest dangers during a fever is dehydration. 

3. Fast During a Fever

Most people don’t have an appetite when they have a fever. This is your body’s wisdom at work. Listen to it and don’t eat until your appetite returns. If you’re hungry, stick to broths and well cooked vegetables until you feel well again. Additionally, eating during a fever can confuse your immune system and actually put you at risk of the fever getting too high. 

4. Avoid Sugar, Dairy, Orange Juice and Meat During a Cold.

Even if you don’t have a fever, these foods are not your immune system’s friend during a viral illness. Do yourself a favor and avoid them. Each time you eat sugar, your immune system is actively suppressed for about 6 hour afterward. Dairy makes your mucus more sticky and tenacious, which makes it harder to clear out. Orange juice has too much sugar, and also increases mucus production, and meat takes a lot of energy to digest and your body would much rather direct that energy elsewhere to help you recover faster.

5. Tepid Baths

If your fever gets up to 104 °F, it’s a good idea to get in a tepid bath (98-100° F water) until the fever has reduced to 101° or 102°. The risk of neurological damage from fever starts above 105° F.

6. When in Doubt, Schedule a Visit

The flu in particular can be nasty and can sometime result in complications. Working with your naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist or other functional medicine minded provider can reduce risk of complications and aid in speedy recovery. When in doubt, see a doctor!

 

When to Seek Medical Care for a Fever

Call 911 if the Person is:

  • Unresponsive
  • Wheezing or having difficulty breathing
  • Having convulsions or seizures
    • A Child with a first time febrile seizure.  -  Although scary to witness, febrile seizures generally don’t affect a child’s long term health. That said, bring your child in to urgent care or the emergency room to be assessed following their fist seizure.
  • Appearing blue in the lips
  • Speaking in a confused or altered way

 

Seek Emergency Medical Care if the Person Has:

  • Symptoms of meningitis: Severe headache, stiff neck, sudden onset of rash and/or changes in cognition or mental functioning can point to a life-threatening infection. Go to the hospital!
  • A temperature of 105° F or higher - this is the threshold above which brain damage can occur.

 

When to See your Doctor:

  • Newborns (0-3 months) with a fever of 100.5° F or higher  - Teething won't cause a fever above 100.5°.
  • Infants or children with a fever of 104° F or higher that doesn’t respond to fever reducing therapies like a tepid bath.
  • Fever in children lasting more than 3 days.
  • Adults with a fever or 101.0° F or higher that lasts for longer than three days or is getting worse.
  • Adults with fever of 100.5° F that lasts longer than three weeks without other symptoms.
  • Elders with urinary symptoms, shortness of breath or any sign of infection, regardless of whether they have a fever.  -  Elderly folks are much less likely to develop a fever for any reason, even during serious illness.
  • If you are unable to stay hydrated during a fever - Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, dry mouth or lips, or skin tenting (if you pinch the skin on the back of the hand and it doesn't spring back into place instantly.) In kids you may notice fewer wet diapers. 
  • Severe pain in the lower abdomen
  • Severe stomach pain with vomiting or severe diarrhea
  • Pain with urination, back pain or shaking/chills
  • Symptoms of sinus, ear, lung or other infection.
  • Symptoms of strep throat such as severe sore throat, high fever, swollen lymph nodes, skin rash, enlarged tonsils or drooling.
  • If you’re unsure or want tailored support for a speedy recovery

 

Wishing you a healthy winter,

Dr. Wood

Want more info like this? Sign up to recieve expert natural health advice each month, delivered directly to your inbox.

You'll also receive a Free gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

 

References

  1. Schulman CI, Namias N, Doherty J, et al. The Effect of Antipyretic Therapy upon Outcomes in Critically Ill Patients: A Randomized, Prospective Study. Surg Infect (Larchmt). 2005;6(4):369-375. doi:10.1089/sur.2005.6.369.
  2. Mohr N, Skrupky L, Fuller B, et al. Early antipyretic exposure does not increase mortality in patients with gram-negative severe sepsis: A retrospective cohort study. Intern Emerg Med. 2012;7(5):463-470. doi:10.1007/s11739-012-0848-z.

Autumn Self-Care Reset

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my own root causes are that have the tendency to weaken my system and affect my health.

I often like to do a sort of autumn health reset, and in past years this has taken the form of doing the Whole 30 diet, or some other pre-prescribed dietary and lifestyle plan. This year I wanted something different that was specifically designed for me and tailored to the stresses I am dealing with, and the types of support and good habits I know I need to develop and maintain. 

I wanted to share my plan with you in case you are needing the encouragement to get started on a self care reset of your own. I’m actually focusing fairly little on food, and instead placing my energy on re-establishing other healthy habits that I’ve let slide recently. 

I would love to hear how this lands for you. Are you interested in doing something like this, but tailored to your own needs? Have you done this kind of self care plan in the past? 

 

For a total of 21 days I will be doing the following:

 

Diet:

  • Eat whole foods as much as possible. 
  • No sweets at all.
    • While I don’t eat very many sweets, I do have a sweet tooth, and I know that shifting this pattern of craving something sweet in the evenings would benefit my health. 
  • No alcohol
    • It’s nice to give the liver a break, (even from moderate alcohol consumption) now and then. 
  • One cup of coffee on Saturday and Sunday but none during the week
    • I’m starting to have coffee only as a treat, not as a staple. 
  • No gluten, cane sugar or eggs
    • These are foods that cause problems for me, and I have been consistently avoiding them for some time.

Exercise and meditation:

  • Start each day with at least 15 minutes of meditation and at least 15 minutes of stretching. 
    • This is so crucial for keeping my mind in a calm state and my body feeling good. I already do these things, but I've become a bit inconsistent of late. 
  • Bedtime by 10:30pm every week night and 11:30pm on the weekend.
  • Wake by 7:30am every week day morning and 8:30 on the weekend. 
    • When bedtime and wake time vary too dramatically from the week to the weekend, it throws off your circadian rhythm. I intend to be more consistent about this.
  • Exercise: At least 30 minutes EVERY DAY of some sort of exercise: Dancing, hiking, biking, yoga, high intensity interval training, etc. 
  • Ukulele: play at least 2x per week. Gotta leave time for creativity and music! : )
  • At least 15 minutes per day organizing something. 
    • Little messes and disorganization in my life contribute to my stress. I intend to be more consistent and intentional about de-cluttering my life.

There you have it!

I actually got started two weeks ago, and I feel great. My energy, sense of wellbeing and motivation have improved, my ability to handle work stress has increased, and my sugar cravings have decreased. It’s incredible what happens when you take a deep look at your own root causes and then make strides to change the things you have control over. 

If you would like some help devising a self care reset plan of your own, and some cheerleading and troubleshooting support along the way, please let me know. I’m here to help. 

Wishing you vibrant health, 

Dr. Jennea

 

Want more info like this? Sign up to recieve expert natural health advice each month, delivered directly to your inbox.

You'll also receive a Free gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

A Hidden Cause of Low Thyroid Function

Hypothyroidism or low thyroid function is a very common condition affecting an estimated 20 million Americans, and up to 60% of those people are not aware that they have a thyroid problem. Up to 95% of those with thyroid disease may have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease attacking the thyroid gland. Thyroid diseases disproportionately affect women and one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. (1)

This is one of those conditions that I work with all the time in my practice and I wanted to talk about some of the hidden root causes at work.

What does the thyroid gland do?

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the throat that produces two thyroid hormones called thyroxine, aka T4, and tri-iodothyronine, aka T3. These hormones travel through the blood stream and get absorbed by every cell in the body where they exert their actions. They play a direct role in the health and normal functioning of the brain, gut, heart, bones, blood, liver and gall bladder, hormone production, blood sugar balance, cholesterol metabolism, protein metabolism and body temperature. (2) So… They're important!

The thyroid is like the thermostat of the body. Turn it up to a normal level, and you might feel comfortably warm, your metabolism burns hotter, your hair and nails grow, your food moves through the digestive tract at a normal clip, you feel more energetic and lose weight or maintain a healthy weight more easily.

Turn it up too high and you will likely feel anxious, have trouble sleeping, feel overheated and sweat easily, have diarrhea, feel your heart racing or flip-flopping, and potentially lose too much weight. If this goes on for a long time, you can rapidly develop osteoporosis.

Turn it down too low and you will likely feel cold, tired and sluggish, gain weight more easily, get constipated, notice increased hair loss, dry skin, brain fog and achy muscles and joints.

So what are the hidden causes of thyroid disease?  

There are a lot of them, and they can vary from person to person. This is why it is so important to work with someone who can help you unravel your own unique root causes.

The hidden causes I want to address in today’s article are stress and adrenal dysfunction

The adrenal glands are two small triangular glands that sit like caps on top of your kidneys. They make up another crucial aspect of the hormonal systems of the body, and work in close concert with the thyroid gland to allow you to have energy and respond to stress appropriately. The adrenals are your stress response system. They produce adrenaline in acutely stressful situations to give you that shock of energy that makes your heart race. They also produce the more slow-burning stress hormone cortisol, which is released each morning to help you wake up and then titrated slowly throughout the day so that it drops off at night to allow deep sleep. When you are under chronic stress, it can be pumped out in excessive amounts and wonky patterns leading to poor sleep, low immune function, gaining weight around the midsection, and either a 'wired but tired' feeling, or sometime complete exhaustion.

You can think of the adrenal glands and their hormones as providing stable ground for the thyroid gland to stand on. If the adrenals are not working well, the thyroid has to work that much harder, and will be seriously affected. I have frequently seen my hypothyroid patients decrease the amount of thyroid hormone they need to take when we help their adrenals function optimally.

Additionally, when you are under a lot of stress and have high levels of cortisol present, your body takes this as a sign to conserve resources to deal with the perceived threat. In response, the most active form of thyroid hormone called T3 or triiodothyronine gets converted to an inactive, storage from called reverse T3. If you think about it, your body is simply doing its best to protect you and store up resources, but this demonstrates another reason why stress can cause a slowing of thyroid function.

Stress and adrenal dysfunction are just a couple of the factor that can cause or contribute to thyroid dysfunction. There are a number of other important hidden causes, and I am in the process of developing a course that covers them in detail.

If you or someone you know is struggling with hypothyroidism, in particular Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or if some of the symptoms discussed in this article ring a bell for you and you want to learn more, please stay in touch. I will be announcing the upcoming dates of my class soon. Signing up below to receive my newsletter, or liking and following my facebook page are great ways to stay up to date on upcoming classes and events. Please share this article in the mean time with anyone you know who struggles with thyroid disease. This is important information and I want to make sure anyone who needs it has access to it.

Wishing you the best on your health journey, 

Dr. Jennea

Want more info like this? Sign up to recieve expert natural health advice each month, delivered directly to your inbox.

You'll also receive a Free gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

References:

1. General Information/Press Room | American Thyroid Association. https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/. Accessed September 18, 2017.

2. Yen PM. Physiological and Molecular Basis of Thyroid Hormone Action. http://physrev.physiology.org/content/physrev/81/3/1097.full.pdf. Accessed September 18, 2017.

 

See What’s in Dr. Wood’s Natural Travel First Aid Kit

I love to travel (This photo is from a trip I took to an island in Cambodia a few years ago), and I also like to have my medicine kit handy so I don’t get stuck without any supplies if I get exposed to some contaminated food or there are way more mosquitos than expected.

Today I wanted to share with you what’s in my natural travel first aid kit.

I’m including SKUs for the products through my online store to make it easy to find and purchase products from reliable sources. You’re welcome to order what you need through my Fullscript online store, or just use this list as a guide when preparing for your travels.

Wishing you delightful summer travels.

With love,

Dr. Wood

1. Activated Charcoal

Charcoal is great for soaking up toxins and removing them from your body. This is very important during a bout of food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea because those terrible symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea are usually caused by toxins manufactured by disease-causing bacteria. A standard dose is to take 2 capsules every hour until you feel less sick. The maximum dose would be 14 capsules in a day. Don’t take activated charcoal within a couple hours of of your medications, as it will prevent your medicine from absorbing into your system. Fullscript SKU Code: ITI-70656

Brand: Integrative Therapeutics Activated Charcoal

2. All Purpose Salve

This one is great for all sorts of scrapes, small wounds and bug bites and really helps the skin heal faster. The ingredients calendula and comfrey are wonderful herbs that promote healing and prevent infection. Fullscript SKU Code: WWH-1APSA

Brand: Wise Woman Herbals - All Purpose Salve

3. Para-gard:

If you are traveling somewhere with a higher than usual risk of contaminated food, consider bringing a product like paraguard and taking 2-3 capsules before meals to help prevent infection with bacteria or parasites that cause travelers diarrhea. Fullscript SKU Code: ITI-136008

Brand: Integrative Therapeutics - Para-Gard

Arsenicum album 30c homeopathic:

This homeopathic is a good fit for many cases of food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea.  Dose: 3-5 pellets dissolved under the tongue after each bout of diarrhea or vomiting. If you don’t notice any improvement after taking 3 doses, stop taking the remedy. Fullscript SKU Code: BOI-76131

Brand: Boiron - Arsenicum Album

4. Shelf-Stable Probiotic:

Probiotics are vital when travelling in regions with a high risk of traveler’s diarrhea to help replenish healthy gut bacteria. Fullscript SKU Code: OHM-474030

Brand: Ortho Molecular Products - Ortho Biotic 100

5. Ginger:

This is a great digestive aid and soothing remedy for nausea from any cause, whether it’s from unfamiliar food, motion sickness or high altitudes. Carry a few tea bags, ginger candy or ginger capsules with you and use as needed for nausea. Fullscript SKU Code: THO-SF820 OR YGT-420063

Brand: Thorne Research - GingerPro OR Yogi Teas - Ginger Tea

6. Arnica Gel:

Apply this homeopathic gel to bruises or achy muscles to speed healing. Fullscript SKU Code: BOI-35594

Brand: Boiron - Arnicare Arnica Gel

7. Insect Repellant:

With rising rates of chronic Lyme disease, or when traveling in regions with endemic malaria, keeping the bugs off is crucial. Try a lemon eucalyptus bug spray instead of DEET. You can make your own or purchase the cutter brand.

8. Zinc Oxide Based Sunscreen:

There are a number of nasty chemicals found in non-mineral sunscreens, so I always go for the mineral based ones. Here are a few of my favorites: See here and here or Fullscript SKU Code: BAD-47405BLK

Brands: Devita Solar Body Moisturizer, Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen - Sport or Badger Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Tint SPF 30. 

9. Aloe Vera Gel:

If your skin gets a little over baked despite your best efforts, it’s always nice to have some aloe gel with you to help sooth and heal your skin. Fullscript SKU Code: NOW-7508

Brand: Now - Aloe Soothing Gel

10. Reishi Mushroom Extract

If your travels will take you into the mountains, preparing for the high altitude will serve you well. Consider taking reishi capsules starting 15 days before you are scheduled to travel to high altitudes. Fullscript SKU Code: HOS-NCGL120

Brand: Host Defense - Reishi Capsules

Note: These are all products I have used personally and trust. I do make a small commission if you choose to order products through my store. If you are a current patient, your account is already set to give you a 15% discount off of your purchase.

Want more info like this? Sign up to recieve expert natural health advice each month, delivered directly to your inbox.

You'll also receive a Free gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

How to Tend your Garden: Tips to Cultivate a Healthy Gut Microbiome

In my last article on the microbiome, I discussed the health benefits that your internal ecosystem of bacteria provides, or fails to provide, depending on its composition.

So what factors influence which gut bacteria thrive and which ones die off and disappear?

The first thing that needs to be said is that this is a major area of research and ongoing discovery and there is a lot that we don’t yet know. What we do know is beginning to provide some fascinating and useful insights into how we can encourage our own health through cultivating a healthy microbiome.

Initially each of our microbiomes is seeded during gestation and childbirth by our mother. Subsequently, those bacteria are fertilized by the many beneficial carbohydrates found in breast milk. Through this process, the microbiome is “set”, and some of those species of bacteria can’t be gotten in any other way. (1)

As time passes, the balance gets maintained or disrupted by what you eat, how much and what types of soil microbes you are exposed to, whether you have pets and whether you are exposed to antibiotics or other medications that kill off bacteria. Interestingly, children who live with pets have a lower incidence of allergic disease later in life. (2,3)

Taking probiotics and eating probiotic foods isn’t the whole story:

Currently available research shows that most probiotic bacteria, whether from fermented foods like yogurt or sauerkraut or from probiotic supplements don’t take up residence and survive long term in the gut. To varying degrees depending on the strain, they survive passage through the stomach and small intestine and exert health-promoting effects on their way through, but their benefits only last as long as you are taking the supplement or eating the food. (4,5)

For the purposes of this article, I want to talk about what can be done to take the ecosystem of bacteria that are already present and adapted to life in your digestive tract, and use diet and lifestyle to alter your internal “weather and gardening practices” to encourage the more health-promoting ones to thrive and outcompete the less helpful ones. Obviously, you can't just water your garden once in a while and expect this to lead to long term plant health. Similarly, the diet and lifestyle behaviors that promote microbiome health need to be consistent, long term habits.

How does the microbiome change with diet changes?

The microbiome changes rapidly with conditions, and one of the main conditions is what you eat. These shifts simply reflect the fact that whatever foods you are eating regularly will encourage the growth of bacteria that like those foods and thrive under the conditions created by eating those foods. In some ways, this is a good thing. It means your microbiome is adapting to help you digest and extract nutrition from whatever food you eat. However, these microbial changes have other impacts on your health as well. Switching over to eating a diet high in protein and fat causes rapid changes in the microbiome that trigger your body to become more insulin resistant. This is the state that favors the development of type 2 diabetes. (6)

Insulin is the hormone released in response to states of “plenty” that tells your body to take up excess glucose from the blood and store it.  Insulin resistance is a state where your cells become less responsive to insulin and therefore levels of sugar in the blood remain higher. This state is a precursor to type 2 diabetes and favors fat storage. 

Our ancestors lived with constant cycles of feast and famine. They would primarily live on an enormous variety of gathered, vegetarian foods that varied greatly throughout the year. This was supplemented by hunted game. Some of the meat was likely smoked and dried, but much of it was eaten quickly before it spoiled. These people ate a great variety of foods, and when they ate meat, it was usually over a few days in periods of “feast”.  

The interesting thing is that in the context of a feast and famine lifestyle, temporarily developing insulin resistance when there is plenty of meat and animal fat available makes sense. It is beneficial to pack on some pounds when the calories are available in order to better survive the lean times.

In contrast, many of us in the western world live in a constant state of feast. We are never without access to food, and often snack constantly throughout the day. We also have easy access to meat and many of us eat it at most or every meal. Particularly in the absence of adequate dietary fiber, this pushes our microbiomes in the direction of favoring insulin resistance and weight gain. So you can see that there is some innate biological wisdom or adaptation to this seemingly unhelpful pattern. It's just that this adaptation is not suited to our current way of life.

Current research shows that the diet that favors the greatest diversity in the microbiome is one high in fiber and relatively low in animal protein and fat. (7–9)

As always, I will temper this statement by saying that we do not all thrive on the same type of diet and our ancestors ate massively varied diets depending on where they lived and what was available. In my personal experience and my medical practice, I find that tailoring a diet to the individual is so important, and it can take some experimentation to discover the diet that works best for your body.

The importance of fiber

This understanding that dietary fiber is important is not new, but the more we learn about the microbiome, the better we begin to understand why it is important. First, some background:

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate somewhere in the range of 100 grams of fiber daily. Modern day Americans eat on average 12 to 18 grams per day. Current recommendations from the Institute of Medicine state that adult women should be eating around 25 grams of fiber daily, and adult men should eat around 33 grams. (10) These guidelines are based on studies showing that coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes decrease dramatically at this level of consumption. I don’t think these levels are sufficient however. Studies have found conflicting results on the benefit of “high” vs. low fiber diets on colon cancer and diverticulosis (a condition where pockets develop in the lining of the colon which can become inflamed). However I believe this conflict is because the “high fiber diet” used in these studies consisted of of around 23 grams of fiber per day, so the studies are essentially comparing a low fiber diet with an even lower fiber diet. (7)

Why is it important to eat plenty of fiber?

For one thing, fiber increases the rate at which food passes through the colon, which seems to significantly cut down on colon cancer risk. (7)

Specific types of fiber serve as the preferred food source for the most beneficial strains of gut bacteria. When we eat fiber, we feed these bacteria, which in turn produce substances called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are the preferred food source that nourishes, heals and feeds the human cells that make up the lining of the colon (enterocytes). The enterocytes metabolize these SCFAs and actually produce 5-7% of our daily energy. (11)

One type of short chain fatty acid called butyrate is also the signal to our gut immune system that all is well. Given how high our ancestors’ diets were in fiber, the only time that SCFAs were in short supply was in situations of dysbiosis, meaning when bad bacteria (that don’t produce butyrate) had taken over. As an adaptive response, when levels of SCFAs are low, the immune system interprets this as a signal that there are not enough good bacteria and too many bad bacteria around, and it initiates an assault to kill off the bad microbes. This cycle of increased inflammation continues until sufficient SCFAs return: a sign that balance has been restored. However, in our western world, it is frequently the case that the reason for the deficiency of SCFAs is due to inadequate fiber consumption, not necessarily to the presence of dangerous dysbiosis. (12,13) Unfortunately, the immune system can’t tell the difference. This type of gut immune response causes massive inflammation in the colon and can be one of the causes of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.

So what should you do?

1. For starters, eat more fiber:

  • I recommend working up to eating 50 or more grams of dietary fiber per day.
  • Unfortunately, fiber supplements don’t seem to have the same benefits, so stick to whole food sources.
  • If you don’t currently eat a high fiber diet, don’t jump in all at once. Work up slowly. Your body and your microbiome need time to adjust to this way of eating. 
  • Another way to think about slowly increasing fiber is to add an additional 5 grams of dietary fiber per day to your diet each week.
  • Aim for as much variety as possible.
  • For example: start with 1/4 cup of beans per day for a week, then add another quarter cup, working up to at least 1 cup of beans or lentils per day (about 15-20 grams of fiber). 
  • Add in whole grains like quinoa, amaranth, wild rice, buckwheat, whole grain rice, and whole oats. Whole grain breads, crackers and breakfast cereals are not nearly as high in fiber or as rich in antioxidants.
  • Eat moderate amounts of nuts and seeds.
  • Work up to 5-7 servings of vegetables per day with 2-3 servings of fruit. Increase your daily intake of vegetables by 1 serving each week. You will easily meet or exceed the goal of 50 grams of fiber daily if you eat 1 cup of beans, 1 cup of whole grains, 2 servings of fruit and 5-7 servings of vegetables daily.
  • See here and here for fiber content of different foods and more information about dietary fiber. 

Sources of fiber:

Resistant starches, also known as prebiotics are a type of fiber that our digestive tracts can’t break down, therefore they pass intact into the colon where they provide the preferred food of your friendly gut bugs. Some of these resistant starches are called fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides.

Sources of fructans: Nectarine and other stone fruits, persimmon, watermelon, cabbage, broccoli, artichoke, asparagus, garlic, onion, grains like barley, rye and wheat (obviously avoid these if you have a wheat or gluten intolerance), pistachio, chicory root and inulin.

Sources of galacto-oligosaccharides: Legumes such as beans, lentils and peas as well as pistachios and cashews.

Another form of resistant starch is actually formed during food preparation and depends on how you prepare your meals. When starchy foods like potatoes and rice are cooked and then cooled, some of the digestible starches become resistant and will now pass through the upper intestinal tract undigested so that they can then be fermented by gut bacteria.

Side note: If eating fiber causes or worsens digestive symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, you may have small intestine bacterial overgrowth, and should work with a doctor who is trained in treatment of this condition.

2. Avoid medications and chemicals that damage the microbiome

As much as possible, avoid medications that damage the microbiome such as antibiotics and heartburn medications like tums and omeprazole.

Work with a medical provider such as a naturopathic doctor who is trained in the appropriate use of antibiotics, and also knows when they are not necessary. If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics for you, ask if they are truly necessary. There are situations where the safest course is to take antibiotics, so the goal here is not to refuse them point blank, but to avoid taking them unnecessarily.

For example, most coughs, sinus infections and ear infections are caused by viruses and therefore won’t benefit from antibiotics. If the cough, ear infection or sinus infection is particularly severe or is not improving significantly within 2 weeks, it may be bacterial and antibiotics may be warranted.

Stomach acid is one of your body’s defense mechanisms against food poisoning or overgrowth of unhelpful bacteria. If you have heartburn, consider working with an ND to address the root causes rather than suppressing your stomach acid with medications. For more on the problems with longterm use of acid-blocking medications see here.

3. Eat organic:

Meats and animal products that are not organic are often grown with antibiotics, which will disrupt your colon bacteria. Glyphosate, or roundup, which is the most common herbicide used on vegetable and grain crops interferes with gut bacteria as well as impairing the liver’s detoxification mechanisms. (14)

4. Manage your stress

Occasional bursts of stress are unavoidable, but those things in your life that cause a constant low (or high) level of stress are harmful and have been show to decrease microbiome diversity, particularly reducing numbers of lactobacillus species, increase inflammation and increase susceptibility to gut infections with harmful bacteria. (15–19) It is vital to work on addressing the sources of stress in your life that can be remedied (Think cleaning off that messy desk that stresses you out every time you see it), and work on letting go of the things you don’t have control over.

5. Eat dirt

Spore forming bacteria, which generally live in soil are some of the only bacteria that do seem to colonize the gut and survive long term. (20,21) This sheds light on one reason why it's important to let children play in the dirt. You can also purchase organic produce from local farms or grow your own and then don’t be overly meticulous about washing off every last particle of dirt before you eat it.

6. Increase variety in your diet

Perhaps unsurprisingly, increasing dietary variety seems to increase microbiome diversity. (22) Even though we are presented with seemingly endless variety in the grocery store, many of these foods are actually genetically identical or very closely related. For example, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli are all different cultivars of the same species, Brassica oleracea. Similarly, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers (and all peppers) and tomatillos are also very closely related. Beets and chard plants are the same species and onions and garlic are closely related. Once you realize this, your become aware that your diet may not be as varied as you thought. Adding in more variety when available such as dandelion greens and chickweed from your backyard or from farmers markets can be a helpful part of nurturing a more varied microbiome. Never harvest wild plants for food our medicine unless you are positive of your plant identification skills. To learn more about wild food foraging, see here and here.

Want more info like this? Sign up to recieve expert natural health advice each month, delivered directly to your inbox.

You'll also receive a Free gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

References:

1. Gritz EC, Bhandari V, Gewolb IH, Martin Kadrofske M. The human neonatal gut microbiome: a brief review. 2015. doi:10.3389/fped.2015.00017.

2. Fujimura KE, Johnson CC, Ownby DR, et al. Man’s best friend? The effect of pet ownership on house dust microbial communities. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2010.05.042.

3. Xu Z, Knight R. Dietary effects on human gut microbiome diversity. doi:10.1017/S0007114514004127.

4. Bezkorovainy A. Probiotics : determinants of survival and growth in the gut 1 – 3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;73:399-405.

5. Ciorba MA. A gastroenterologist’s guide to probiotics. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012;10(9):960-968. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2012.03.024.

6. Wu GD, Chen J, Hoffmann C, et al. Linking long-term dietary patterns with gut microbial enterotypes. Science (80- ). 2011;334(6052):105-108. doi:10.1126/science.1208344.

7. Sonnenburg ED, Sonnenburg JL. Starving our Microbial Self: The Deleterious Consequences of a Diet Deficient in Microbiota-Accessible Carbohydrates. Cell Metab. 2014;20(5):779-786. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2014.07.003.

8. Le Chatelier E, Nielsen T, Qin J, et al. Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers. Nature. 2013;500(7464):541-546. doi:10.1038/nature12506.

9. Cotillard A, Kennedy SP, Kong LC, et al. Dietary intervention impact on gut microbial gene richness. Nature. 2013;500(7464):585-588. doi:10.1038/nature12480.

10.     Appendix 7. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations - 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines - health.gov. health.gov. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-7/. Accessed June 7, 2017.

11. Bowen R. Microbial Fermentation. http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/largegut/ferment.html. Accessed April 5, 2017.

12. Goldsmith JR, Sartor B. The role of diet on intestinal microbiota metabolism: Downstream impacts on host immune function and health, and therapeutic implications. J Gastroenterol. 2014;49(5):785-798. doi:10.1007/s00535-014-0953-z.

13. Kuo S-M. The Interplay Between Fiber and the Intestinal Microbiome in the Inflammatory Response 1,2. Adv Nutr. 2013;4:16-28. doi:10.3945/an.112.003046.

14. Samsel A, Seneff S. Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy. 2013;15(4):1416-1463. doi:10.3390/e15041416.

15. Galley JD, Bailey MT. Impact of stressor exposure on the interplay between commensal microbiota and host inflammation. Gut Microbes. 2014. doi:10.4161/gmic.28683.

16. Galley JD, Nelson MC, Yu Z, et al. Exposure to a social stressor disrupts the community structure of the colonic mucosa-associated microbiota. 2014;14:1-13. doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-189.

17. Bailey MT. Influence of Stressor-Induced Nervous System Activation on the Intestinal Microbiota and the Importance for Immunomodulation. In: Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Vol 817. ; 2014:255-276. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-0897-4_12.

18. Bailey MT, Dowd SE, Galley JD, Hufnagle AR, Allen RG, Lyte M. Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: Implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation. Brain Behav Immun. 2011;25:397-407. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2010.10.023.

19. Bailey MT, Dowd SE, Parry NMA, Galley JD, Schauer DB, Lyte M. Stressor Exposure Disrupts Commensal Microbial Populations in the Intestines and Leads to Increased Colonization by Citrobacter rodentium. Infect Immun. 2010;78(4):1509-1519. doi:10.1128/IAI.00862-09.

20. Casula G, Cutting SM. Probiotics: Spore Germination in the Gastrointestinal Tract. Society. 2002;68(5):2344-2352. doi:10.1128/AEM.68.5.2344.

21. Cutting BYS. Bacterial spore formers as probiotics. Feed Mix. 2006;14(6):7-8. doi:10.1616/1476-2137.14897.

22. Heiman ML, Greenway FL. A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity. 2016. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.02.005.

How much water should you be drinking?

Staying hydrated is one of the most basic ways you can support your health, and it’s so easy to forget to drink water. As the weather gets warmer and we lose more water via evaporation, I wanted to share a few tips on staying hydrated.

Signs of dehydration:

Frequent headaches can be a sign of dehydration. One of the first approaches I take with people who have frequent dull headaches is to have them increase their water intake. This frequently does the trick. If not, we can move on to other causes.

If you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and let go, the skin should spring back into place immediately. If stays pinched up, or slides back into place more slowly, this is called ‘tenting’ and is a sign of dehydration.

Your urine is dark yellow. When properly hydrated, your urine should be pale yellow to clear. If you are taking B vitamins, at least the first couple trips to the restroom after swallowing the pill will result in bright yellow urine. This is normal, and not a sign of dehydration.

You are not urinating every couple of hours. Most people need to pee at least every 3 hours, but if you are hydrated, you should be having an urge to urinate every 1.5 to 2 hours.

How much should you be drinking?

A common guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces. This does provide a nice target that works for many people. For example, a 150 pound person would drink about 75 oz of water daily. However, I have seen this recommendation prove harmful in people with higher body fat. Up to a point, more water helps your body flush out toxins, keeps your tissues hydrated and keeps your kidneys healthy. However, excess water consumption can actually throw off the precise levels of electrolytes in the blood, put stress on the heart and circulatory system, and make your cells swell in a potentially dangerous way. Someone who is carrying more weight in the form of fat, and weighs for example 300 lbs does not need to drink 19 glasses of water per day, and in fact, this can result in ankle swelling, which in this case is a sign of stress on the heart. I would say that a safe upper limit of water intake would be about a gallon or 3.7 liters per day.

You should drink more water (perhaps a couple more glasses of water than your usual recommended intake intake) if you are exercising or sweating a lot, if you have had a lot of coffee or other substances with a diuretic effect, if you take a diuretic drug for high blood pressure, or if you have indulged in excess sweets.

Timing makes a difference also. You could cause water intoxication if you drank a gallon of water within one to two hours, but when you spread your sips out over a day, your body will have a much easier time processing it. The best approach is to sip water throughout the day to allow your body to absorb and utilize it optimally. If you chug water a few times per day, it is much more likely that your body will be unable to utilize so much water at once, and you will simply have to pee within 20 minutes or so.

A few tips:

Drink 8-16 ounces of room temperature or warm water immediately on waking, at least 20 minutes before you have breakfast. This helps to start your day off with good hydration and flushes out your digestive tract each morning.

Designate a reusable water bottle as your main water receptacle. Work out how many of those bottles of water you need to drink per day to meet your goal, and then make sure to fill up your bottle the designated number of times.

Drink out of glass, ceramic, or stainless steel receptacles. No need to expose yourself to harmful substances leeched out of plastic or aluminum containers.

Drink no more than 8 ounces of water during meals. Drink the rest of your daily water at least 20 minutes away from meals. If you are drinking water to help you swallow bites of food, then this is a sign that you are not chewing enough. Rarely, this is due to issues with inadequate salivation, and should be discussed with your doctor.

Purchase a water filter:

Using a quality water filter will make your water taste better and will also cut down on the toxins your body is exposed to daily such as chlorine, fluoride, and even heavy metals like lead found in the pipes of some houses. Over time, build up of chlorine and fluoride in your body can interfere with thyroid function.

A few good filter brands include Berkey, Multi Pure and AquaTru

Dress up your water:

Adding a squeeze of lemon to your water adds an element of liver stimulation.

If you have low blood pressure, consider adding a pinch of sea salt to your water.

If you get bored with the flavor of water, add a few slices of fruit, cucumber or fresh mint to your water bottle.

Some people are much more likely to drink carbonated water. For these people, I recommend purchasing a sodastream so that you can make your own using filtered water rather than purchasing carbonated water that has been sitting around in plastic bottles. This cuts down on plastic waste as well.

If it feels as though water passes right through you without being absorbed and you are already spreading your water consumption out during the day, try adding some salty, fatty foods to your diet. Olives are a good example, or avocado with a sprinkle of sea salt. Salt and fat are important for helping your body hold on to water.

Want more info like this? Sign up to recieve expert natural health advice each month, delivered directly to your inbox.

You'll also receive a Free gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

Six ways your internal ecosystem keeps you healthy… or not

Maybe you’ve noticed by now that I’ve got a major passion for gut health. It really is one of those central areas of your body that, possibly more than any other system, can make or break your health. Today I want to delve into the gut microbiome, or the ecosystem of bacteria living in your digestive tract and how they influence your health. In my next article, I’ll dig deep into what factors influence whether that ecosystem is health promoting or health undermining.

This collection of bacteria is similar to a forest ecosystem, but in this case, population changes happen more rapidly since the life cycles of the bacteria are measured on a much shorter time scale than those of trees, plants and animals. The composition of species changes dramatically, even from day to day, based on conditions.

The digestive tract is home to the vast majority of your microbiome. An estimated 4 to 5 pounds of bacteria live here, with the majority of your gut microbes residing in your large intestine or colon (The last few feet of your digestive tract), and a comparatively much smaller number living further up in the small intestine and stomach.

There is a large and ever-expanding body of research confirming that the complement of bacteria making their home in your colon has EVERYTHING to do with your health. It affects digestive health (obviously), but dramatically influences other aspect of your health as well. Dysbiosis is the term used for imbalances in the gut ecosystem, whether from the wrong types of bacteria, overgrowth of yeasts or the presence of harmful viruses or parasites.

Here are six aspects of your health that are influenced by your microbiome:

1. Mood

Certain bacteria are responsible for stimulating your own gut cells to produce proper levels of serotonin. In mouse experiments, if these bacteria were absent, serotonin levels fell by 60%! And the research showed that this is likely true for humans as well. (1) Disruption of this process is one of the ways that dysbiosis plays a role in depression. Another way is that dysbiosis contributes to leaky gut, which leads to body-wide inflammation including brain inflammation. Brain inflammation is a major cause of depression and has little to do with neurotransmitter deficiency. Depression with this root cause is therefore less likely to be benefitted by antidepressant medications, which are designed to increase levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin.

2. Nutrition

Certain types of bacteria manufacture vitamin K and several B vitamins on site in the colon, reducing the need to get these vitamins from foods.(2, 3, 4) Some types of bacteria ferment cellulose, the fiber found in many plant foods that does not get broken down by your digestive processes in the stomach and small intestine. This fermentation process produces short chain fatty acids, which nourish the cells lining the large intestine, decrease your risk of colon cancer (5), and also provide about 6-9% of your daily calories. (6)

3. Inflammation

Certain less helpful forms of bacteria actually act as a chronic infection in your colon, contributing to intestinal inflammation and leaky gut, which increases body-wide inflammation. This can lead to heart disease, asthma, allergies, eczema and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and more. (7, 8, 9, 10)

4. Cholesterol levels

Depending on your gut bugs’ behavior, more or less cholesterol will be eliminated via the stool or recycled back into circulation.

5. Hormone balance

The liver processes all excess hormones, whether from your own endocrine system, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy or xenoestrogens (chemical compounds that act like estrogen in the body). The hormones are attached to carrier proteins to keep them water soluble and dumped into the bile for elimination via the stool. However if you have dysbiosis, the “bad bugs” produce excess enzymes that clip the bond between the estrogen and the protein carrier, thus allowing the estrogen to be reabsorbed. Elevated estrogens in the body contribute to menstrual cramps, acne, endometriosis and hormone related cancers.

6. Immune system function

Certain bacteria help to educate and stimulate your immune system so that it functions optimally. (11, 12) Without proper immune system education, conditions such as allergies, asthma and eczema crop up, and autoimmune diseases become more likely.

Keeping your internal ecosystem healthy is not as simple as taking a probiotic pill each day. One of the main reasons that healthy habits like staying hydrated, eating a varied, vegetable-rich diet (13), exercising (14–16), getting plenty of quality sleep (17) and handling stress well (18) are important is that they promote an internal environment that fertilizes the helpful bacteria and discourages growth of the unhelpful ones. All of these things benefit our human cells directly, but they also benefit us indirectly by nourishing and supporting healthy diversity in our microbiomes.

I have a lot more information to share with you regarding the specifics of supporting a healthy internal ecosystem. Please stay tuned next month for my next article:

How to tend your garden: Tips to cultivate the right gut bacteria and keep them thriving

In the mean time, subscribe to my newsletter below to make sure you don't miss a thing!

And if you're feeling ready for some individualized support with your health concerns, please be in touch. 

Wishing you vibrant health, 

Dr. Jennea

Claim Your Gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise

You'll also receive monthly health tips, info about upcoming events, and updates on products and services.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

References

1.        Yano JM, Yu K, Donaldson GP, et al. Indigenous bacteria from the gut microbiota regulate host serotonin biosynthesis. Cell. 2015;161(2):264-276. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.02.047.

2.        Conly JM, Stein K, Worobetz L, Rutledge-Harding S. The contribution of vitamin K2 (metaquinones) produced by the intestinal microflora to human nutritional requirements for vitamin K. Am J Gastroenterol. 1994;89(6):915-923.

3.        Leblanc JG, Laiño JE, del Valle MJ, et al. B-Group vitamin production by lactic acid bacteria - current knowledge and potential applications. J Appl Microbiol. 2011;111(6):1297-1309. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2672.2011.05157.x.

4.        LeBlanc JG, Milani C, de Giori GS, Sesma F, van Sinderen D, Ventura M. Bacteria as vitamin suppliers to their host: A gut microbiota perspective. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2013;24(2):160-168. doi:10.1016/j.copbio.2012.08.005.

5.        Sears CL, Garrett WS. Microbes, Microbiota, and Colon Cancer. Cell Host Microbe. 2014;15:317-328. doi:10.1016/j.chom.2014.02.007.

6.        Bowen R. Microbial Fermentation. http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/largegut/ferment.html. Accessed April 5, 2017.

7.        McLean MH, Dieguez D, Miller LM, Young HA. Does the microbiota play a role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases? Gut. 2015;64(2):332-341. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2014-308514.

8.        Fasano A. Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012;1258(1):25-33. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06538.x.

9.        Tlaskalová-Hogenová H, Štěpánková R, Hudcovic T, et al. Commensal bacteria (normal microflora), mucosal immunity and chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Immunol Lett. 2004;93(2-3):97-108. doi:10.1016/j.imlet.2004.02.005.

10.     Kelly D, Mulder IE. Microbiome and immunological interactions. Nutr Rev. 2012;70(SUPPL. 1). doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00498.x.

11.     Hill DA, Artis D. Intestinal Bacteria and the Regulation of Immune Cell Homeostasis. Annu Rev Immunol. 2010;28(1):623-667. doi:10.1146/annurev-immunol-030409-101330.

12.     Purchiaroni F, Tortora A, Gabrielli M, et al. The role of intestinal microbiota and the immune system. http://www.europeanreview.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/323-333.pdf. Accessed April 5, 2017.

13.     Heiman ML, Greenway FL. A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity. 2016. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.02.005.

14.     Clarke SF, Murphy EF, O’Sullivan O, et al. Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity. Gut. 2014;63(12):1913-1920. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2013-306541.

15.     Campbell 1☯ SC, Wisniewski PJ, Noji M, et al. The Effect of Diet and Exercise on Intestinal Integrity and Microbial Diversity in Mice. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150502.

16.     Mika A, Fleshner M. Early-life exercise may promote lasting brain and metabolic health through gut bacterial metabolites. Immunol Cell Biol. 2016;94(2):151-157. doi:10.1038/icb.2015.113.

17.     Benedict C, Vogel H, Jonas W, et al. Gut microbiota and glucometabolic alterations in response to recurrent partial sleep deprivation in normal-weight young individuals. Mol Metab. 2016;5:1175-1186. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.10.003.

18.     Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, Severi C. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Ann Gastroenterol. 2015;28:203-209. www.annalsgastro.gr. Accessed April 5, 2017.

 

Bieler Broth: Sooth Your Gut, Boost Your Energy

I want to share this wonderfully healing recipe with you.

It’s nothing new. It was first outlined by Dr. Henry Bieler, a visionary American physician and author of Food Is Your Best Medicine, who advocated healing chronic disease through diet. But it has stood the test of time and become a well-known and much loved therapeutic food.

Dr. Bieler believed that this combination of vegetables provided an ideal array of nutrients for restoring acid-alkaline balance in the organs and glands. In particularly, he felt this soup was nourishing to the adrenal glands, and is therefore well suited to anyone suffering from excess stress. Do you know anyone like that? : )

This is one of the recipes Karla and I will be serving at our upcoming Day Long Internal Cleansing Workshop in April. It is such a simple and quick recipe and provides a wonderful side dish throughout the week, or a perfect addition to a whole foods cleanse. During a cold or flu, I will make a batch of Bieler broth and a batch of bone broth and eat only these for a few days to allow my body to heal quickly from the virus.

Enjoy!

Warm wishes and I hope to see you at the workshop,

Dr. Jennea Wood

 

Bieler Broth

Makes 2 quarts

  • 4 medium zucchini, washed, ends removed and sliced
  • 1 pound green beans, ends removed
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 bunches parsley, stems removed
  • fresh herbs, such as thyme or tarragon, tied together with string (Optional)
  • 1 quart filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, grass fed butter or coconut oil

Place water, zucchini, green beans, celery and herbs in a pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, skim off foam and simmer, covered for 15 minutes. One pot of broth will produce several blender batches, so unless you are using an immersion blender, ladle the soup into your blender, add a handful of chopped parsley and 1 teaspoon of ghee or coconut oil per blender batch, then puree until smooth.  Eat immediately, or store in glass jars in the refrigerator.

I strongly recommend using organic vegetables as this recipe is meant to be healing and exposure to pesticides would be counterproductive. Also, most non-organic zucchini is genetically modified.

Claim Your Gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise

You'll also receive monthly health tips, info about upcoming events, and updates on products and services.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

The essential circulatory system you may not know you have

Did you know that besides your arteries and veins, there is an entire other circulatory system in your body called the lymphatic system?

The lymphatic system lies close under your skin and provides a super highway by which your immune cells travel throughout your body, monitoring for invaders such as bacteria and viruses. These vessels also act as a waste disposal system: Environmental toxins, excess hormones and metabolic wastes generated in the normal course of living are vacuumed up from your organs and the spaces between your cells and shunted through these vessels to your liver for processing and are then eliminated from your body via urine and stool.

Sounds pretty important, right?

That's why getting the lymph circulating properly is something I focus on with EVERY SINGLE PERSON I work with. If the lymph isn't moving, how will your immune system function well and how will your body get rid of toxins?

This extensive network of vessels reaches every part of your body, with lymph nodes placed at intervals along the way. Lymph nodes are like little immune science labs where samples of toxins or potential invaders are taken for analysis. If they are deemed to be dangerous, an immune response is mounted and those lymph nodes swell as production of immune cells is dramatically increased to help fight the invasion. If you’ve ever noticed painful, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw when you had a cold, this is what’s happening.

The largest concentrations of lymph nodes are in the neck and around the jaw, in the armpits and breasts, surrounding the intestines and in the groin. The spleen, a large organ located under your rib cage next to your stomach is the biggest individual organ in the lymph system and does a number or important jobs including filtering out old and damaged red blood cells and helping to produce immune responses to body-wide infections.

One way the lymphatic system is different from the blood system is that it doesn’t have a dedicated pump to move its fluid as the heart pumps the blood. Instead, this system actually relies on you using your muscles to keep things moving. And all that fluid has to travel upward against gravity to circulate normally. So if you spend a lot of time sitting and don’t move your body each day, the lymph can get stagnant, leading to accumulation of waste in the body. Taking medications and supplemental hormones, being exposed to environmental toxins such as food additives and pesticides in processed, non-organic foods, plus air pollution and unfiltered water gives the lymph system a lot of extra work.

I certainly don’t recommend stopping necessary medications to spare the lymphatic system, but I do think this is another reason to work with a naturopathic doctor to address the root causes of your health concerns so you likely won’t need as many medications in the first place.

So, what happens when your lymph system is sluggish?

  • Breast pain and fibrocystic breast disease
  • Skin rashes
  • Acne
  • Frequent colds and flus
  • Sinus infections
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Puffyness of the skin (not from fat)
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Luckily, there are several simple things you can do to give your lymph system some love. I really encourage my patients to approach these activities from a place of self-love and self-care.

Word to the wise: It's important to talk to your doctor before taking new herbs or trying new treatments. If you stir up a lot of toxins, but don't help your body eliminate them, you can make yourself feel worse instead of better. I particularly advise you against beginning to take lymphatic herbs or even doing castor oil packs and dry skin brushing if you are constipated. The constipation needs to be resolved first.

1. Get Moving!

The muscles act as a pump that moves the lymph. So do what you love: walk, run, stretch, do yoga, and do it regularly. Rebounding, or gentle bouncing on a trampoline is particularly effective to move the lymph.

2. Clean up the diet

Avoiding processed foods and eating organic food significantly decreases your exposure to chemicals such as artificial sweeteners, artificial food dyes, salt, pesticides and herbicides. All of these substances cause harm and provide extra work for the lymphatic system. Additionally, adding some raw fruit and vegetables to your diet every day provides you with naturally occurring plant enzymes, which actually make it to your blood stream and help to break up and thin out clogged lymph.

3. Clean up your personal care regimen

For the same reasons that you are cleaning up your diet, go through your cosmetics and body care products and look them up on SkinDeep Database to determine their safety. If they have a rating over a 3, replace them with a safer alternative.

4. Stay hydrated

One of the primary causes of lymphatic stagnation is dehydration and it’s not hard to imagine why. If the lymphatic fluid becomes more like glue than like liquid, it will tend to become clogged. Prevent this by drinking 8 to 10 glasses of filtered water per day.

5. Identify food intolerances and heal the gut

If you have leaky gut, excess bacteria and tiny particles of incompletely digested food leak into your blood stream, giving your lymph system exponentially more crud to clean up. This is one of those underlying causes that needs to be addressed to break the cycle of lymphatic stagnation.

6. Ditch the underwire

If you wear bras, remove the underwires or purchase bras without underwires. And for that matter, decrease the time you spend wearing a bra each day. Bras in general and underwires in particular compress the breasts and impede lymphatic flow in the breasts, which are one of the most lymph-rich tissues in the body. In my practice I see a lot of women with breast pain that improves or resolves when they remove the underwire from their bras. Over long-term use, this constriction may contribute to fibrocystic breast disease.

7. Dry skin brushing and lymphatic massage

Dry skin brushing is a wonderful home treatment to help stimulate lymph flow. Use a natural bristle brush to apply gentle sweeping motions to the skin from the ends of the limbs toward the heart. This is quite effective at moving the lymph through the vessels just beneath the skin and toward the thoracic duct where the lymph ultimately joins the bloodstream. I recommend spending several minutes each day gently brushing your skin. This is a great thing to do before a shower. Check out this video for a demonstration, and click here for an example of the type of brush I recommend using. The same affect can be attained with lymphatic massage, either self-administered or administered by a massage therapist trained in these techniques.

8. Castor oil packs

This is another wonderful treatment that I frequently recommend to my patients. Castor oil packs are an old naturopathic home treatment using castor oil applied topically over the belly to help stimulate lymph movement in the abdomen. See my handout here for directions.

9. Lymphatic herbs

Some of my favorite herbs to help move the lymph are cleavers and red root.

Cleavers or Galium aparine is a wonderful herb that may be growing nearby without you knowing it yet! The fresh herb is a lovely addition to smoothies or fresh pressed juice, or you can find the tincture here. Besides moving the lymph, it acts as a diuretic, so you may find yourself urinating more than usual while taking it. Never harvest wild herbs to eat or use as medicine without being positive of your ability to correctly identify them first!

Dose: 30 drops 1-2 times per day

Red root or Ceanothus americanus is another great herb for lymphatic health. This one is perhaps a bit stronger and doesn’t have the diuretic action of cleavers, but really targets the liver, lymphatics and spleen. It can be used in tea or tincture form. You can find the tincture here.

Dose: 20-40 drops 1-3 times per day

As always, discuss any diet, lifestyle or supplement changes with your primary healthcare provider. And please let me know in the comments section below: Have you tried any of these steps? What did you notice? What are you excited to try next?

May your immune system flourish,

Dr. Jennea

Claim Your Gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise

You'll also receive monthly health tips, info about upcoming events, and updates on products and services.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

SIBO Part 1: What is it and what do we actually need to treat?

*Note: This article concerns a specific condition, but the themes discussed apply to many conditions. Read on if you feel inspired!

There are many names for the nonspecific digestive symptoms that could mean that you have S.I.B.O. (aka Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth). A few of them include irritable bowel syndrome, gas, bloating, heartburn, nausea, tummy troubles, constipation, diarrhea and so on. It turns out that about 60% of people who would get the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome if they talked to a conventional medical doctor actually have this syndrome called SIBO. It’s a condition where the bacteria that normally live happily in your colon (aka the large intestine aka further down the digestive pipes) begin to grow in large numbers in the small intestine. The pattern of symptoms that may mean you have this condition consists of digestive disturbances such as those listed above, usually worsened by eating foods rich in fiber like apples, raw vegetables, ground flaxseed, whole grain foods etc. You also might have noticed a seemingly random improvement in your digestive symptoms when you took antibiotics for some unrelated reason. For many, these symptoms come on after a bout of food poisoning, though for some it’s hard to pinpoint when they started, or they have been going on for so long that you can’t remember the origin story.

The trouble that I see with this label of SIBO is that it simply describes your current predicament, but not how it came to be, or how to unravel the root causes so you can actually heal. No two people experience SIBO the same, because their bodies are reacting individually to a unique set of stressors. This is a problem that applies to any disease, and explains why a given treatment for a given disease only works for some percentage of those people with the disease.

The concept of a disease is an interesting thing. I know this sounds like the beginning of a long philosophical musing, but stay with me for a moment. In conventional medicine certain symptoms are often lumped together, given a name, and considered to be a specific disease. For example: if you are coughing and sneezing and have a runny nose and low energy, that “disease” is called a cold. If you have a burning sensation in your chest after eating certain foods, that’s called acid reflux or gastro-esophageal reflux disease in medical terminology.

The thing is, this is a reductionist way of looking at things. People develop similar symptom patterns that could be lumped into disease categories for different reasons, and if you just lump them all under the same disease title and give them all the same treatment, you’re missing the why of it, and therefore missing the opportunity to treat the root cause so the person can heal and eventually stop needing treatment.

So instead, what if we looked at each person as an individual and approached symptoms in a different way. If someone comes to me with burning in their upper chest after eating certain foods, I think “This person’s body is responding in the best way it knows how to a stress or a combination of stresses in their environment. Why is that? What are the stresses at work here? (And I’m not just talking about emotional stress, though that plays a role.) What can we do to shift this pattern? I find this approach to be much more successful in helping my patients to feel better.

So what about SIBO?

Now, we could do testing, identify SIBO, leave it at that and treat each person with SIBO the same... But that would not be very successful because SIBO is actually a result of deeper imbalances that vary from person to person. These imbalances may be in the digestive tract, endocrine system, musculoskeletal system, nervous system, immune system or mental/emotional system (or likely a combination!). If we don’t figure out where these imbalances lie and address them, then the so-called disease will just keep coming back over and over again.

Stay tuned next month for a discussion of the types of underlying imbalances at work in SIBO.

If you are ready to receive some individualized support with your health concerns, please be in touch. 

Wishing you vibrant health, 

Dr. Jennea

Claim Your Gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise

You'll also receive monthly health tips, info about upcoming events, and updates on products and services.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

How Healing Works

Dear Health Seeker,

 I entered this line of work because of a deep and abiding inspiration and respect for the wisdom of nature. We humans are of nature. Our bodies follow natural laws. We get sick when we ignore those laws, and we heal when we abide by and respect them.

In my undergraduate training, I loved learning about human anatomy and physiology. The way that science is often conducted is to break things down into smaller and smaller parts and study those parts. The complexity is incredible when you look at things in this way. A human broken down into different organs; an organ broken into different tissues; into different cells; into different components of cells; into proteins and DNA; into amino acids into nucleotides; into atoms; in electrons and protons and so on. But taking a step back, what I find even more inspiring is learning to notice the beauty of how all of these parts are not separate. The divisions are false. They work in concert, self-organize and follow patterns to produce life. When I say that the body is self-healing, I believe that utterly. Treatments that I give to my patients don’t “fix” or “heal” them. They work because they remove obstacles that are preventing those self-healing mechanisms from working, or they stimulate the healing forces already at work.

Disease is your body’s best attempt to adapt to dysfunctional circumstances. For example, when I see skin rashes, I think of liver dysfunction. You see, the liver is responsible for cleansing the blood of toxins, both those from the external world, and those produced by the body in the normal course of living. If the liver isn’t functioning optimally, the body is left with an excess of toxins. If you needed to make a decision of where to store excess toxins, would you choose to store them in the brain? The heart? The lungs? The kidneys? These are all vital organs that are required for life. The skin, while important, is not as vital, and it is therefore a wise choice to store toxins there instead of more important organs.

 So what are the laws that we must follow to thrive?

  • Breathe clean air
  • Drink clean water
  • Eat real food that is rich in nutrients and free from chemicals
  • Rest when you are tired
  • Move your body daily
  • Follow daily rhythms of sleeping and eating
  • Whatever you eat that is not fully digested and absorbed will cause harm, so choose foods that feel nourishing to your body, chew your food, and eat while relaxed.
  • Cultivate community
  • Cultivate connection with something greater than yourself, whether you call that being The Divine, God, Allah, The Great Unknown or some other name.
  • Laugh and experience joy
  • Experience gratitude
  • Spend time in nature
  • Treat symptoms of disease as signals from the body that something is amiss. Don’t suppress them with medications unless absolutely necessary and then only temporarily until the root causes can be identified and corrected.
  • Relearn how to listen to your body. This is something you were born knowing. Many of us unlearned this skill to greater or lesser extents as we traveled through life trying to cope with external demands. But I promise you, if you start paying attention again, your body is perfectly capable of telling you whether you should stop eating or eat more, whether you should eat that candy bar, take a nap, say no, stay home, tell your friend you are upset.

 This sounds simple (though it takes time), but it is bordering on an act of rebellion to choose to follow these laws in our society. Insisting on rest when you are expected to work 40+ hours per week while keeping your house clean and keeping up with social expectations? Refusing to suppress your cholesterol levels with a statin despite your doctor’s dire warnings? These are not easy things to insist on.

I learned of these natural laws in naturopathic medical school, and from mentors I have studied with since, but it has taken me some time to observe their truth and really trust them. I understand if it takes you time too. But I want you to know that this way of seeing the world and looking at health and disease exists. If you have tried other approaches and haven’t found the results you are looking for, perhaps it’s time to give this a try.

 

With Heart,

 

Dr. Jennea

In light of the recent election, I felt the need to hold off on the article I had planned to write and instead share a few thoughts.

My heart is feeling sad today. And I wanted to reach out and say, in case you needed to hear it, that however you are feeling post-election is 100% ok. There is no need to try to fix or change it.

As I grapple with the realities of what this election will mean, I’m asking myself, what can I do to make this world a kinder, safer, more loving place? Because my own choices and actions are literally the only thing I have control over. And the truth is, there are a lot of things that I can do. In my personal life, I can be loving to those I come into contact with. I can stand up for those most vulnerable in our society. I can donate money, be politically active, hold politicians accountable, be a part of dialogue and truly listen to those I disagree with. But I’m particularly excited about how I can use my work to make the world a better place. Through making my practice of medicine an act of love, I support people on their healing journey, and as I’ve written on the home page of my website, part of my core philosophy is that human beings become kinder, more generous, more whole people when they feel healthy and taken care of. 

So I invite you to ask yourself, what can you do to make this world a better place, because this country needs you to step into your power from a place of greatest love. If I can support you in your health along the way, please know that I am here.

With Heart,

Dr. Jennea

Stolen Minerals: The Story of Anti-Nutrients

I’m a big fan of healthy eating. I believe it is some of the best medicine available, and without it, no other treatments will work very well.

I love to keep it simple when I talk to people about how to eat well, and I love Michael Pollan’s recommendation to “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” : ) For people who are just starting out on the journey of learning how to care for their body with a wholesome diet, this advice is overly simplistic, but it covers some important points.

So, my goal with bringing up the concept of anti-nutrients is not to make you feel like you’re doing it all wrong, or to make your life more complicated. It’s an important topic, especially for folks with mineral deficiencies, and there are some fairly simple things you can do to help your body extract more minerals out of that healthy food you are so lovingly feeding yourself and your family.  

First of all, what are anti-nutrients?

Anti-nutrients are compounds found in plant foods that prevent animals from extracting nutrition from them. These compounds likely evolved as a defensive system developed by plants (who can’t fight or run away) to help prevent them from being eaten in the first place, or to help their seeds survive intact as they pass through animals’ digestive systems.

There are a number of anti-nutrients including oxalic acid, tannins, enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. This article will focus on phytic acid for simplicity’s sake, and because it’s a particularly big issue in the American diet.

Definitions and language:

This is a technical distinction, but phytic acid, once it’s bound to minerals is called phytate. To avoid confusion, I’ll be using the term phytic acid throughout this article. Phytase is an enzyme that is prepackaged in seeds, nuts and grains that, once activated, breaks down phytic acid. Grains and nuts are both technically a type of seed, so I’ll mostly be using the word seed as a general term for all three of these foods.

Phytic acid and why it’s a problem

Phytic acid is found in large quantities in nuts, seeds and grains, especially in the bran or outer hull. It’s a snowflake-shaped molecule with an important job. It is a storage molecule that holds onto phosphorus in the middle of the snowflake and keeps it stable until the seed sprouts and needs the phosphorus to grow into a new plant. It holds onto that phosphorus so tightly, that when seeds are eaten by animals, they remain intact, and the phosphorus inaccessible all the way through the digestive tract.

Here is the issue. Unless dealt with appropriately, phytic acid not only doesn’t let us extract phosphorus from our food (which we need for cell growth and repair, and bone health), but the arms of the 'snowflake' actually bind to other minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium, and make them much more difficult to absorb, thus taking a healthy diet and depleting it of minerals.

To be clear, phytic acid doesn’t target your ability to absorb protein, fat or fiber (the macronutrients) or vitamins from your food, just the minerals. However, phytic acid also inhibits the activity of our digestive enzymes, so on top of making our food less nutritious, it makes our digestion less efficient.

To give you an idea of the scale of the issue, in a meal free of phytic acid, you will absorb approximately 20% more zinc (1) and 60% more magnesium from your food. (2)

It's actually a bit ironic, because we’ve been told for years that whole grains are healthier than white bread/grains. But unless those whole grains are prepared properly, there’s not much nutritional difference between white bread and whole wheat bread because the phytic acid makes the minerals in whole grains much less accessible.

Who needs to worry about this?

This is a particularly big deal for people struggling with issues of calcium metabolism such as osteopenia, osteoporosis and frequent cavities (Though there is actutally a lot more going on with these conditions than calcium deficiency). But we all need magnesium for nervous system and heart health, and small amounts of trace minerals including iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc and molybdenum for countless other daily tasks our bodies must perform for us to thrive. Deficiencies in any of these minerals can cause all sorts of symptoms.

I won’t get into all the problems that can be caused by deficiencies in each of these minerals, but as an example, deficient magnesium can result in headaches, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, and irregular heart beats.

I think you get the point that paying attention to phytic acid is important.

As an interesting note, there is some research linking dietary phytic acid to decreased risk of colon cancer. This may be because it can actually bind to or chelate excess iron and harmful metals and remove them from the body, in essences aiding in detoxification. It may also act as an antioxidant.

So this tells us that perhaps we don’t need to panic that we all get some phytic acid in our diet, we just need to be conscious of its presence and make sure we’re not getting too much. 

So, what can you do about it?

Solutions fall into two categories:

1.     Preparing food in a way that breaks down phytic acid.

2.     Optimizing digestion and food choices to help prevent mineral depletion.

How much is too much phytic acid?

It is neither practical, nor likely necessary to remove all phytic acid from your diet. So let’s get practical. According to Ramiel Nagel in his article “Living With Phytic Acid”, the average phytic acid intake in the U.S. and the U.K. rages from 631 to 746 mg per day; the average in Finland is 370 mg; the average in Italy is 219 mg; and in Sweden it is 180 mg per day. (11)

In the context of a balanced diet taking into account my other suggestions listed below for optimizing mineral absorption, most people should do ok with 400-600 mg of phytic acid daily. For anyone who struggles with bone loss, tooth decay or other mineral deficiencies, I would recommend a total of 150-400mg per day as a healthy guideline. (11)

This means preparing your foods to decrease phytic acid content, and sticking to 2-3 servings of phytic acid containing foods per day. For example, a small handful of nuts, two slices of true sourdough bread, and one serving of properly prepared oatmeal.

Problems arise when whole grains, nuts or beans are eaten with every meal and make up the main sources of calories. Regular consumption of granola or commercial cereals for breakfast is also problematic.

Check out this table for an idea of phytic acid content of various foods without special preparation.

Reference (5)

 

Preparation Techniques

Our ancestors figured out through trial and error how to deal with phytic acid through food preparation. Some helpful techniques that decrease phytic acid are soaking, sprouting and fermenting grains, nuts and seeds. Fermenting is the most affective and soaking the least affective, with sprouting somewhere in between. Basically the goal is to recreate the conditions under which the plant would naturally sprout (warmth, acidity and moisture), because under these conditions, the seed produces an enzyme called phytase, which breaks down the phytate, releasing the phosphorus within.

Soaking

Soaking can begin the process of waking up the phytase enzyme and other enzymes stored in the seed to break down the phytic acid as well as complex sugars that might cause gas. It still leaves lots of phytic acid intact, however.

Sprouting

Sprouting not only activates the phytase enzyme which begins to break down phytic acid, but the process of germination also produces vitamin C and increases the B vitamin content and carotene content. Complex sugars (which would otherwise cause intestinal gas) begin to be broken down, and naturally occurring enzymes found in the seed, bean or grain are activated which work synergistically with our own digestive enzymes to improve our digestion.

Fermentation

Fermenting nuts, seeds and grains has the most dramatic effect on increasing their nutritional value and decreasing phytic acid content. The proliferation of lactobacilli bacteria in fermented foods significantly increases digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These probiotic bacteria produce copious enzymes that improve our digestion as well as substances that encourage growth of healthy bacteria, and discourage growth of unhealthy bacteria in the digestive tract.

Preparing foods for maximal removal of phytic acid can be a bit of a rabbit hole. Scroll to the bottom of this article for some basic preparation techniques for common foods, but if you want to investigate further, the Weston A. Price foundation and the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon are good places to start. Look here for a more in depth exploration of this topic.

Optimizing digestion and food choices

1. Optimize stomach acid

Apple cider before meals – Drink 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar in a little water before meals to help optimize your stomach acid. Stomach acid is vital for absorbing minerals.

2. Have one paleo meal per day

For example, have a breakfast of eggs or sausage and a plate of vegetables. No toast, no grains at all, and no nuts, seeds or legumes. Alternatively, you could have meat and veggies for dinner. I don’t believe that most people need to follow a strict paleo diet, but one meal per day gives your body an anti-nutrient free meal, allowing for better mineral absorption.

3. Take your vitamin D or get enough sun

Sufficient vitamin D is associated with stronger bones regardless of diet. Obviously a healthy diet is crucial too : ) Aim for 2000 IU of vitamin D daily, bumping your dose up to 4,000 IU daily during the winter.

4. Get enough absorbable calcium

Getting good forms of calcium in your food helps prevent bone loss from phytic acid. This might explain why cultures that traditionally eat bread, often eat it with cheese. The calcium in the dairy helps offset the calcium losses from the bread.

Great sources of calcium include raw cheeses and milk, yogurt, bone broth, and dark leafy greens. If you need to take a supplement, consider a food based calcium like this one or this one.

5. Eat vitamin C -rich foods with your grains, nuts and seeds

Vitamin C helps keep the iron in your food absorbable, so it doesn’t get stolen by phytic acid.

Good sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, dark leafy greens, strawberries and citrus. Vitamin C gets rapidly destroyed when cooked, so this is a good reason to eat some of your veggies raw.

6. Eat foods rich in vitamin A and beta carotene

These compounds can also help keep iron soluble and prevent phytic acid from binding to it. (8)

Foods rich in vitamin A include organ meats, grass fed butter, cod liver oil, milk and eggs. Foods rich in beta carotene are orange and green vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, kale, collards, broccoli and chard. 

7. Eat plenty of probiotic rich foods, and make sure your digestion is healthy.

The extent to which phytic acid inhibits mineral absorption varies somewhat from person to person, with some people severely affected, and others seemingly immune. This likely has to do with each person's specific gut flora, as certain probiotic bacteria can break down phytic acid. Making probiotic rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha and other fermented foods a regular part of your diet can help cultivate a healthy gut. 

8. Ask for help

If you’re struggling with compromised bone health or frequent cavities and need further support, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation to discover how I can help.

 

Specific Food Prep Tips for removing phytic acid

Brown Rice

Soak brown rice in filtered water for 24 hours at room temperature without changing the water. Reserve 10% of the soaking liquid (should keep for a long time in the fridge). Discard the rest of the soaking liquid; cook the rice in fresh water.

The next time you make brown rice, use the same procedure as above, but add the soaking liquid you reserved from the last batch to the rest of the soaking water.

Repeat the cycle. The process will gradually improve until 96% or more of the phytic acid is degraded at 24 hours. (

Quinoa

Process                                                                                   Phytate Reduction

Cook for 25 minutes at 212 degrees F                                           15-20 %

Soak for 12-14 ours at 68 degrees F, then cook                              60-77%

Sprouted quinoa is available as well. 

Oats and Corn

Some grains such as oats and corn are high in phytic acid, but naturally low in phytase, the enzyme that breaks down phytic acid under the right conditions. So even when soaked or sprouted, their phytic acid levels do not reduce much.

One option is to add a tablespoon or two of freshly ground rye flour (keep whole rye kernels around and grind some in a coffee grinder as needed) to your oats or cornmeal, then soak overnight (12 hrs) in an acidic medium. Soak your grain in 2 cups of warm water plus 2 TBSP of whey, lemon juice, yogurt or vinegar, and 2 TBSP of rye flour. Once processed this way, your oatmeal will only take about 5 minutes to cook the next day.

Breads

  • Sourdough starter is significantly more effective than packaged yeast at reducing phytate content.
  • Heat-treating flours destroys the phytase enzyme that breaks down phytic acid during fermentation. Therefore look for breads made with stone ground flour.
  • Phytic acid content decreases about 60% after 2 hours of leavening, and 80-85% after 48 hours of leavening. So make your own bread with non-heat treated flour, or look for a bakery near you who follows these guidelines.
  • Sprouted bread such as Ezekiel brand is widely available as well.

Beans

Soak for 24 hours, changing the water at least twice, then cook over low heat. This removes about 50% of the phytate. Sprouting would likely be even better. 

Some types of beans are available pre-sprouted, or you can sprout your own.

Lentils

Consider buying sprouted lentils or sprouting your own. This removes about 50% of the phytic acid.

Nuts and seeds

  • Nuts and seeds contain significantly more phytic acid than grains.
  • It’s unknown how much phytic acid is removed by various preparation techniques.
  • Roasting probably removes a significant percentage of phytic acid (since it does so in grains and soy nuts), but this hasn’t been studied.
  • Consuming large amounts of raw nuts, nut butters or nut flours like almond flour is likely problematic for long-term health due to mineral depletion.
  • Consider buying sprouted and dehydrated nuts like these.
  • Sprouted nut butters are also available and likely a better choice.
  • Don’t go overboard eating a ton of nuts. Keep it to occasional snacks, and don’t eat them with every meal, or handfuls at a time.

Coconut

While coconut does contain phytates, they actually have an extremely low mineral binding capacity, and therefore you don’t need to worry about soaking or otherwise processing your coconut.

Tofu

Limit tofu consumption, and purchase organic, sprouted tofu. 

*Note that if you soak your phytic acid-containing foods, you don’t need to throw out the soaking water, because the phytic acid has simply been broken down by the phatase enzyme. It is no longer present.

Resources:

Thrive market offers discounts on wholesome non-perishable food items like sprouted lentils, brown rice, pumpkin seeds, etc.

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

The Weston A. Price Foundation, and this blog post in particular.

Want more articles like this delivered to your inbox monthly? Sign up below:

Claim Your Gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise

You'll also receive monthly health tips, info about upcoming events, and updates on products and services.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

Citations

  1. Barbro, N., Sandström, B., & ÅKE, C. (1985, January). Reduction of the phytate content of bran by leavening in bread and its effect on zinc absorption in man. British Journal of Nutrition, 53(1), 47-53. http://dx.doi.org.nunm.idm.oclc.org/10.1079/BJN19850009
  2.  Bohn, T., Davidsson, L., Walczyk, T., & Hurrell, R. F. (2004). Phytic acid added to white-wheat bread inhibits fractional apparent magnesium absorption in humans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79, 418-423.
  3.  Ellis, R., Kelsay, J. L., Reynolds, R. D., Morris, E. R., Moser, P. B., & Frazier, C. W. (1987, August). Phytate:zinc and phytate X calcium:zinc millimolar ratios in self-selected diets of Americans, Asian Indians, and Nepalese. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 87(8), 1043-1047. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  4.  Fallon, S., Enig, M. G., Murray, K., & Dearth, M. (2001). Nourishing traditions: The cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Brandywine, MD: NewTrends Pub.
  5. Figures collected from various sources. Inhibitory effect of nuts on iron absoprtion. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1988 47:270-4; J Anal At Spectrum. 2004 19,1330 –1334; Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 1994, 42:2204-2209.
  6. Guyenet, Stephan. http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2009/04/new-way-to-soak-brown-rice.html.
  7.  Kresser, C. (2011, September 23). Another reason you shouldn’t go nuts on nuts. Retrieved October 20, 2016, from https://chriskresser.com/another-reason-you-shouldnt-go-nuts-on-nuts/
  8. Layrisse, M., Garcia-Casal, M. N., Solano, L., Baron, M. A., Arguello, F., Llovera, D., . . . Tropper, E. (2000, September). New property of vitamin A and beta-carotene on human iron absorption: Effect on phytate and polyphenols as inhibitors of iron absorption. Archivos Latinoamericanos De Nutricion, 50(3), 243-248. Retrieved October 20, 2016. 
  9.  Liang, J., Han, B., Nout, M. R., & Hamer, R. J. (2008, October 15). Effects of soaking, germination and fermentation on phytic acid, total and in vitro soluble zinc in brown rice. Food Chemistry, 110(4), 821-828. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.02.064
  10. Mensah, P., & Tomkins, A. (2003). Household-level Technologies to Improve the Availability and Preparation of Adequate and Safe Complementary Foods. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 24(1), 104-125. doi:10.1177/156482650302400106
  11. Nagel, R. (2010, March 26). Living With Phytic Acid. Retrieved October 20, 2016, from http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/living-with-phytic-acid/
  12. Zhou, J. R., & Erdman, J. W. (1995). Phytic acid in health and disease. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 35(6), 495-508. doi:10.1080/10408399509527712

 

7 Tips for Natural Relief from Heartburn

Heartburn or acid reflux is a condition where the acid made in the stomach backs up into the esophagus causing some seriously unpleasant sensations like: 

  • A burning sensation in the chest or throat
  • A gnawing sensation in the solar plexus area
  • Nausea
  • An acidic taste in the mouth
  • Cough and/or hoarseness

It is still often assumed that heartburn is the result of the stomach producing too much stomach acid, and therefore medications like Tums or Prilosec are prescribed to neutralize the acid or prevent the stomach from manufacturing it. In fact, it’s usually too little stomach acid that causes or contributes to heartburn, so these medicines actually worsen the problem in the long term (Though they can certainly provide short term relief).

Check out my blog post Why I hate Prilosec, Tums and Zantac for a more detailed discussion of the root causes of acid reflux and the health problems that can result from long term use of acid blocking medications.

Luckily, it is totally possible to be permanently heartburn free by discovering the root causes and using some simple natural therapies.

1. Avoid common heartburn triggers:

Note: These foods are not the CAUSE of heartburn. If they were, anyone who ate these foods would have heartburn, and that is not the case. They are a trigger for people who are already susceptible to this condition, so avoiding them can offer some relief while we work on the true root causes.

  • Spicy foods like salsa and hot sauce
  • Coffee, chocolate and caffeine
  • Greasy foods
  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Mint  (Peppermint relaxes the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus, making reflux more likely)
  • Acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Refined carbohydrates like cookies, pastries, bread and pasta

2. Pay attention to how you eat

Your body can’t make enough stomach acid to properly digest your food and prevent heartburn if you’re stressed or rushed while eating. Slow down and give your body a chance to do its job.

  • Take 10 deep belly breaths before meals to help your body get ready for digestion.
  • Sit down while eating and take your time. Chew each bite fully.
  • Avoid eating within 3 hours of bedtime

3. Identify food allergies/sensitivities

For some folks, certain foods other than those listed above will exacerbate their acid reflux. This is a sign that you may be allergic or sensitive to that food. Identifying and avoiding foods that you are allergic/sensitive to can go a long way toward stopping heartburn. The best way to do this is through an elimination diet. Check out my blog post on allergies (Allergies: Getting to the guts of the problem) for information on how to do an elimination diet. Just scroll down in the blog post until you get to the Remove phase of the Four R Program

4. Check in on your hormones

Elevated progesterone can relax the lower esophageal sphincter or "LES". This sphincter is a band of muscle that lies at the bottom of the esophagus and should stay closed at all times except when you swallow, preventing reflux.

Progesterone levels are high during pregnancy, and this is one of the reasons that pregnant women are more prone to heartburn (The other reason is the growing baby squashing your stomach up against your diaphragm).

Non-pregnant women can develop hormone imbalance with low estrogen and high progesterone which can contribute to heartburn. Consider getting your hormone levels checked and working with your doctor to balance them out if necessary. 

5. Make use of some soothing herbs

There are a number of herbs that have a "slippery" quality when they get wet. These can be used to coat the esophagus and stomach lining as you swallow them and help sooth and heal inflamed tissue. Pick one or two of the following and take them between meals or as needed during bouts of acid reflux.

Marshmallow tea - Steep 1 TBSP of the root in 8 oz of water for 30 minutes, and drink 1 cup as needed. You can make larger amounts and refrigerate for up to 3 days so you'll have it on hand when you need it. (Safe in pregnancy)

Aloe vera juice - Drink 1 oz as needed. 

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) - Chew 1-2 tablets (~500-1,000 mg) as needed for heartburn. Note: This type of licorice will not raise blood pressure

Slippery elm lozenges - Chew or suck on 2-4 lozenges as needed. (Safe in pregnancy)

6. Gentle abdominal massage

One often-overlooked factor that can cause or worsen heartburn is called hiatal hernia syndrome. This is a condition where the top of the stomach presses up against the bottom of the diaphragm. Hiatal hernia syndrome is less severe than a true hiatal hernia in which part of the stomach actually sticks up through the diaphragm into the chest cavity, but it causes problems none-the-less. 

A gentle abdominal massage technique that takes about 15 minutes can help correct this syndrome and offer immediate and often dramatic relief if this is part of the root cause of your acid reflux. Seek out a naturopathic doctor or functional medicine doctor trained in visceral manipulation or applied kinesiology for this treatment. 

7. Increase your stomach acid with foods or herbs

Sour and bitter tasting things stimulate the body to get ready for digestion. One of the ways they work is by signaling your stomach to make acid. Choose one of the following and use it 15 minutes before meals and large snacks. 

I saved this recommendation for last because for people who have been struggling with heartburn for a long time, especially those taking an acid blocking medication, going off the medicine and increasing stomach acid can sometime cause increased symptoms. First addressing the 6 recommendations above can go a long way toward making it easy and painless to wean off your medication and restore normal stomach acid levels. 

Bitters - 15 drops directly on the tongue or in a little water. Here are a couple kinds I like. 

Lemon juice - Squeeze 1/4 lemon into a glass and dilute with a little water. It should still make your mouth pucker. 

Apple cider vinegar - 1/2 to 1 oz mixed with a little water. Choose an organic one like these made by Bragg or Spectrum

Bitter greens - chew on a bit of dandelion green (make sure you get it from somewhere that isn't sprayed with pesticides), endive or other bitter greens. You can even get fancy by starting your meal with a small salad of bitter greens with an apple cider vinegar or lemon based dressing.

 

If you have been struggling with heartburn for some time now, taking these steps to address the root causes and get over it for good is such a wonderful thing to do for your long term health. Please let me know if I can offer you any support. 

Warmly, 

Dr. Jennea

 

Check out my earlier blog post Why I hate Prilosec, Tums and Zantac

 

WANT MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX MONTHLY? SIGN UP BELOW.

Claim Your Gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise

You'll also receive monthly health tips, info about upcoming events, and updates on products and services.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

How We Eat

I spent a recent weekend at a retreat where naturopathic doctors assembled to discuss the philosophy of the medicine we practice. One of the overarching themes of the weekend could be summed up as “Physician heal thyself”, or the necessity of healing and caring for yourself first so that you can better serve those who come to you seeking healing. As a side note, this concept applies to everyone who cares for or serves others in some way: teachers, parents, restaurant servers, etc. This can be as simple as making time each day to eat healthy food, exercise, sleep and spend time with loved ones. Or it can be as complex as delving into your flaws and biases and doing your best to become aware of them and address them so they don’t negatively influence your ability to help others. If you don't take time for self-care, it's so easy to get burned out. This is such an important conversation to have in the field of health care.

While at this retreat, I noticed a pattern that I have noticed many times before. I slept in a tent for two nights and woke refreshed. I ate the delicious food that was provided for us while sitting outside in a beautiful place. Meals were enjoyed with warm and kind people over inspiring discussions. I felt such gratitude at each meal for the food and the sense of community. Between the meals and the discussions and lectures, I walked in the forest. And this is what I noticed. My digestion improved dramatically for those two days.

Then I went back to the city and my normal schedule, and while I was still eating healthy food, I found myself eating more snacks during moments of boredom while doing things like filling out paperwork. I ate two out of three meals alone most days since I work from home when not seeing patients and my partner leaves early for work. I was indoors most of the time, and though I try to avoid this, I would sometimes check email or read while eating. And instantly my digestion became somewhat disturbed again. Nothing serious, but food didn’t sit quite right. I felt a little bloated after meals.

This is such a common pattern that I have observed countless times in my patients and myself. In many ways, how we eat is as important as what we eat. When we eat hurriedly, or while distracted, inside, alone; when we don’t chew thoroughly; when we don’t stop to appreciate our food. When these things are true, we don’t fully digest the food we eat. This means that we extract less nutrition from it, and our friendly gut bacteria get ahold whatever is left and ferment it causing gas and bloating. 

It’s not always possible to eat with friends or family, or eat outside. When that is the case, I encourage you to pause before you start eating, take 10 belly breaths and spend a moment seeing if you can feel some authentic gratitude for the food you are about to eat. This actually helps flip the switch in your nervous system to “rest and digest” mode, which allows you to more completely digest the food you eat. But more foundationally, I encourage you to consider the way you structure your life, and whether it allows you to regularly eat meals with friends and family or eat outside. Where could you potentially simplify your life and make more space for these types of essential acts? And what do you notice about your digestion when you are distracted and hurried during meals versus when you are relaxed, grateful and surrounded by loved ones?

Wishing you health,

Dr. Jennea

 

Want more articles like this delivered to your inbox monthly? Sign up below.

Claim Your Gift: 21 Days to Better Health Without Changing Your Diet or Exercise

You'll also receive monthly health tips, info about upcoming events, and updates on products and services.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

A Naturopathic Doctor’s Thoughts on Sugar (And a Delicious Granola Recipe)

Sugar is delicious, but don’t kid yourself, it’s incredibly addictive. We’re evolutionarily programmed to think so. Sugar isn’t intrinsically good or bad, but human beings’ genetically mandated love of the stuff combined with the fact that it is incredibly cheap and ubiquitous spells trouble.

On a personal note, I discovered some time last year via a dietary evaluation and elimination diet that I react very poorly to cane sugar (aka table sugar, made out of sugar cane). I actually get an earache within moments of eating something with cane sugar in it, and if I keep eating more, I catch a cold. It’s like clockwork. Following this discovery my subsequent adventures in removing cane sugar from my diet have been enlightening.

Here are some of the things that I have learned:

  • Suffering is quite motivating. Knowing that if I cheat, I’ll feel terrible makes it much easier to stay away.
  • My sweet tooth has become much more manageable since giving up cane sugar. I still enjoy occasional treats sweetened with maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, agave, etc., but I don’t feel controlled by those sugar cravings the way I used to.
  • For the most part I don’t really miss it (seriously).
  • I do sometimes feel awkward saying no to sugary sweets when spending time with friends and family. Not because I want to eat the offered treat (My body actually doesn’t want it), but because it’s just hard on a social level to say no sometimes.
  • There are many completely delicious desert options that don’t contain cane sugar.
  • Without trying to count calories or lose weight (Though I certainly pay attention to eating a healthy, whole food diet), my weight naturally rests at about 5 lbs less than it did when I was eating cane sugar.

How does sugar affect your body?

Well I'm glad you asked!

For the purposes of this next section, when I say sugar, I mean added sweeteners of any kind, because any sweetener causes the same host of problems when eaten in excess. A few of the names you might find on labels include cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, maple syrup, honey, rice syrup, agave, coconut sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, high fructose corn syrup etc. Sugar naturally found in whole fruit, vegetables or milk doesn’t count. Calorie free sweeteners also don't count, though I beg you to steer clear of NutraSweet (aspartame), Splenda (sucralose) and saccharine (Sweet N' Low). They are toxic. Stevia is generally fine in small amounts, and xylitol is well tolerated by some while others get some digestive upset from it as it is not absorbed. Be aware though, that even non-calorie sweeteners contribute to an addiction to excessively sweet foods. 

I talk to all of my patients about limiting sugar. It may not be necessary for everyone to avoid cane sugar entirely like I do, but most people could benefit from eating less of it.

Here’s why:

Table sugar is made up of half glucose and half fructose. All the other sweeteners I listed above contain some ratio of these two sugars. Glucose and fructose are processed very differently by the body. Glucose is mainly what the body needs to function (though you don’t have to eat sweet things to get enough of it because your body gets plenty from complex carbs found in whole grains, legumes and vegetables, and can even make its own out of fat and protein). Fructose, while fine in moderate amounts found in fruit is very taxing to the liver in high amounts. I encourage you to watch Sugar: The bitter truth for more on how your body processes glucose and fructose.

The body’s goal is to maintain the level of glucose in the blood at a very specific level because that is what the brain needs to be happy. When blood glucose drops too low, you feel terrible. Foggy thinking, irritability, nausea, and fatigue: these are all common feelings when your blood sugar drops too low and your brain is expressing its displeasure. On the other hand, the brain doesn’t protest when blood sugar is too high. If it did, we likely wouldn’t have such high rates of diabetes in this country because people would receive consistent negative feedback from their bodies when they overindulged.

The pancreas produces two hormones that are responsible for keeping your blood sugar in the perfect middle range:

  • When blood sugar levels are too high, Insulin tells your cells to remove sugar from the blood and store it as glycogen in the liver, and as fat all over the body, but especially around the midsection.
  • When blood sugar levels are too low, Glucagon tells your cells to add sugar to the blood.

But what if blood sugar levels are bumped up over and over again throughout the day because you regularly eat sugary meals or snacks, and this continues for days, months or years on end? Over time your cells stop listening when insulin tells them to remove sugar from the blood. Like a child who no longer listens to her mom nagging her to clean her room, cells all over the body quit listening to insulin telling them to clean up the sugar. When this happens, sugar levels remain high, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes. High sugar levels in the blood begin to gum up the blood vessels as well other cells in the body. This leads to heart disease and speeds up the aging process. If you’re interesting in slowing or reversing the aging process, listen up. The first and best way is to keep your blood sugar levels in the normal range. All of that excess sugar floating around directly causes wrinkles and sagging skin.

So what are some basic guidelines to aim for around eating sugar?

I generally have people focus on sticking to the American Heart Association’s recommendations, which say that:

Women should aim to consume no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of added sugar per day

Men should aim to consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar per day

Children up to age 8 should consume no more than 3-4 teaspoons (12-16 grams) per day

Children age 8 to 18 should consume no more than 5-6 teaspoons (20-24 grams) per day

An important conversion to keep in mind is that there are 4 grams of table sugar in 1 teaspoon. Most nutrition labels list sugar in grams, so this helps with label reading.

The US Food and Drug Administration recommends that people not exceed 10% of their daily calories from added sugar. That works out to about 50 grams of sugar per day or 12.5 teaspoons of table sugar. That’s over double the American Heart Association’s recommendations for women and much too high in my opinion.

My Favorite Granola

I recently made my own granola, modifying a recipe from Food 25 to reduce the sweetener and only use maple syrup. I ended up with a completely delicious crunchy, mildly sweet and ever so slightly salty granola that I absolutely love. I love that this recipe contains a ton of nuts and seeds lending it a relatively high protein content. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are some of my favorite super foods as they’re packed with minerals. This granola is also high in healthy fats from the coconut flakes, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. I enjoy it with some whole fat yogurt and fresh berries to increase the antioxidant punch. I’ve listed the nutrition facts below the recipe.

An important thing to note is that even though it has relatively low sugar, I still consider this granola a treat and don’t eat it every day. My goal is to make the majority of my diet veggies, fruits, legumes, whole grains and occasional meat. In order to eat enough veggies each day, it takes eating vegetables with most meals, and having granola for a meal usually means I don’t eat vegetables. So I reserve it for special occasions or times when I’m in a bit of a hurry.

Here’s the recipe

Ingredients:

3 cups gluten free rolled oats

1 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds

1 cup unsweetened coconut chips

1 cup raw pecans, left whole or coarsely chopped

½ cup pure maple syrup

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 scant teaspoon coarse salt

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Place oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, pecans, syrup, olive oil, and 1 scant teaspoon salt in a large bowl and mix until well combined. Spread granola mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until granola is toasted, about 45 minutes
  3. Remove granola from oven and season with more salt to taste. Let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Serving size: ½ cup

Makes about 14 servings

Per serving (approximate):

Total fat: 29g

Omega-3 fats: 257mg

Potassium: 369mg

Total carbohydrate: 33g

Dietary fiber: 6.5g

Added sugar: 5g

Protein: 11g

Vitamin A: 47IU

Calcium: 42mg

Iron: 4mg

Magnesium: 151mg

Selenium: 7mcg

Zinc: 3.6mg

Looking at these stats, I’m impressed with the protein content. One of my main problems with having granola or oatmeal for breakfast (besides that it usually means skipping vegetables) is that it has fairly low protein content unless you’re adding protein rich toppings. 11 grams of protein is great! The fiber content and omega 3 fats are good too. I’m very impressed with the amount of potassium, iron, magnesium and zinc in this granola. It is loaded with minerals! Though it is true that minerals are less well absorbed with eaten with grains. The added sugar of 5 grams per serving is nice and low, and it still tastes amazing, especially with added berries or other fresh fruit. The fat content of 29g is pretty high, but as I am always trying to convince my patients, added sugar is the main culprit for weight gain, not fat. The fats in this recipe are all very healthy, and a higher fat content means you don’t crave added sugar as much. You’ll likely feel more satisfied by this granola than a lower fat variety, meaning you won’t be craving additional snack foods after eating it.

What questions do you have about eating healthy?

Crunchily,

Dr. Jennea

 

p.s. Ready to start getting down to the nitty gritty root causes of your health concerns? Schedule a free 15 minute consult to chat about your story and how I can help. 

Want more articles like this one, deposited in your inbox once a month? Sign up for my newsletter below.

Claim Your Gift: 8 Immune Boosting Tips To “Weatherize” Yourself For Fall & Winter

You'll also receive health tips, info about upcoming events, and updates on products and services.
* indicates required
I hate spam too! Your email is safe with me

Why I hate Prilosec, Tums and Zantac

By Dr. Jennea Wood

Have you ever seen a piece of false information being spread around and wished you could reach out to everyone receiving that information and tell them “That’s not true! Don’t believe it!” That’s how I feel about the standard medical explanation of and treatment for acid reflux and heartburn, known in the medical world as gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD).

The conventional wisdom is that acid reflux is caused when your stomach produces too much acid. Therefore, the reasoning goes, decreasing the acid is the solution. Some of the common medications used to suppress stomach acid production include proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and pantoprazole (Protonix) and H2 blockers like ranitidine (Zantac), cimetidine (Tagamet) and famotidine (Pepcid). Alternatively or in addition, antacids like Tums which contain calcium carbonate are used to neutralize the acid that’s already there. There are many problems with these medicines, but the biggest is that the reason for prescribing them is faulty in the vast majority of cases.

 Many people do experience relief from their symptoms with these drugs, but the costs are high. The main issue is this: For most people, acid reflux is actually caused by NOT ENOUGH stomach acid. Sounds crazy, right?

 What causes acid reflux and heartburn?

 There is a little band of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This band remains contracted most of the time, preventing acid from the stomach from splashing up to touch the sensitive tissue of the esophagus. The sphincter opens when you swallow to allow food or water to pass into your stomach, and then closes again. But there is an important chemical signal that reminds that sphincter to remain closed except during swallowing. That signal is the acidity of the stomach. In an ideal state, the stomach maintains a pH of 2 by manufacturing hydrochloric acid as needed. So when there is too little acid present, the sphincter becomes floppy and remains partially open. Now the contents of the stomach (which are still relatively acidic and caustic) are allowed to reflux backwards into the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation to the lower esophagus, not to mention that horrible burning feeling. If this process is allowed to continue long term, it can even cause pre-cancerous and then cancerous changes to the esophagus, which is not designed to be constantly bathed in stomach acid.

 So unfortunately, taking Prilosec or Tums for acid reflux covers up the symptoms while worsening the cause. You may not feel that burning sensation anymore because the acid levels in the stomach are so low that the esophagus is no longer irritated by coming into contact with stomach contents, but the esophagus is still hanging open and allowing reflux. And if you try to stop taking the drug, those symptoms usually return just as bad or worse. It’s a vicious cycle.

 The cost

 Proton pump inhibitors were never designed to be taken for more than two weeks at a time, but for the reasons discussed above, people are routinely instructed to keep taking them for years or even decades.  As a naturopathic doctor, I was trained to understand that the body has very good reasons for the things that it does. It is not an accident that the stomach makes acid. That acid serves a number of vital roles including:

  • Killing off bacteria in your food
  • Prevent colonization of bacteria in the small intestine
  • Triggering release of pepsin, an enzyme that helps you digest protein
  • Helping you absorb minerals from your food such as magnesium and iron
  • The same cells that make stomach acid also make a protein called intrinsic factor that is needed to absorb B12

 Therefore, long term use of common heartburn medications can predispose you to:

  • Food poisoning
  • Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Bloating and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Malnutrition due to poor protein digestion and decreased absorption of minerals
  • B12 deficiency

 Long-term nutritional deficiencies caused by use of these drugs can cause or contribute to all manner of uncomfortable and seemingly unrelated problems like:

  • Anemia and fatigue
  • Osteoporosis
  • Skin problems including rosacea
  • Slow/ impaired wound or injury healing
  • Depression, brain fog and poor memory
  • Numbness and tingling in the arms and legs
  • Dementia

 What to do instead

 By working with your naturopathic doctor, it is possible to address the root cause of acid reflux so you won’t need those pills anymore. This is done by strengthening and activating the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), optimizing stomach acid production, and looking for any other underlying causes and triggers.  Stay tuned for my next blog post on safe and effective strategies to get over acid reflux.

What is with all the Anti-ND press lately?

There have been a number of opinion pieces in popular blogs and online news sources lately that speak poorly of naturopathic medicine. In case you’ve seen one of them and wondered what to make of it, I thought I’d weigh in.

These articles pretty much all say something along the lines of: “NDs aren’t real doctors”,  “NDs practice woo woo pseudoscience”, and “NDs are hurting people.” While I’ve pretty much stopped reading these types of articles because they all use the same tired, opinion-based, fact-light formula, what I see is really going on here is this:

NDs are gaining traction as a serious force in healthcare. We are licensed to practice medicine in 18 states and counting. We practice safer and more effective medicine for most chronic diseases and it scares the hell out of some in the conventional world who are witnessing the beginning of the end of the conventional way of practicing medicine: i.e. a corrupt, prescription mill bought by pharmaceutical companies whose best offering is managing symptoms, not preventing or healing diseases. A recent study out of Johns Hopkins University medical school reported that, after heart disease and cancer, medical error is the third leading cause of death in this country. People want better, safer healthcare. NDs are taught to understand the limits of our medicine and when to refer, but when treating non-life threatening chronic diseases, what we do is incredibly safe. The cost of our malpractice insurance (much, much less than MDs) reflects this.

To be clear, there are plenty of MDs and DOs who know how much the medical system in this country needs an upgrade, and are changing with the times, or have been quietly practicing similarly to NDs for years. Those are not the people writing these articles.

There is more and more high quality evidence supporting the efficacy of what NDs do, and the body of research will continue to grow. And the biggest reason of all that our numbers are growing and more states are licensing NDs is this: Our patients are so happy to have access to safe, effective, cause-resolution healthcare.

So…

In conclusion, haters will hate, and the best evidence that a movement is taking off is increased fussing from those entrenched in the old way of thinking.

 

Yours in health,

Dr. Jennea Wood, ND

Leaky Gut: What’s really going on there?

My last blog post was on allergies, and delved briefly into the connection of that condition with leaky gut, and I promised to go into more detail in my next blog post. The truth is that leaky gut (in medical-ese it’s called intestinal permeability) is part of the root cause of most, if not all chronic diseases that have some component of inflammation.

So, what is happening when someone has leaky gut?  First let's start with what is supposed to be happening.

One of the many important roles of the gut

Your digestive tract is one of the most important places where your body interfaces with the outside world and develops its understanding of what is you (your cells) and what is not you (bacteria, food, pollen, etc) as well as what is safe (healthy probiotics, pollen) and what is not safe (disease-causing bacteria and viruses).

Side note: Things such as foods and healthy bacteria that your body considers safe when found in your gut are not considered safe when found in your bloodstream or elsewhere in your body.

A large portion of your immune system resides along your intestinal passageway and immune cells send out feelers to “taste” items passing through and convey to your body “this is safe” or “this is not safe”. Foods found in your gut are generally labeled as “safe”, but “not you” until they are broken down into their component parts, which are no longer recognizable as individual foods: Carbohydrates into glucose or fructose, protein into amino acids and fats into tiny fat droplets. These are absorbed through special mechanisms into the blood stream and used to build the structures in your body, burned for energy, or stored for later.

The lining of the digestive tract in an ideal state is a tightly controlled barrier that only permits fully digested nutrients though into the blood stream. This barrier is important because your immune system really doesn’t like to find unexpected things in your blood stream.

So what happens when things go awry in your digestive tract?

There are a lot of things that can cause the barrier to become leaky:

  • Stress
  • Consuming highly processed foods
  •  Food additives including added salt, refined sugar, emulsifiers, etc.
  • Consuming foods that you are allergic or intolerant to (for example: a lactose intolerant person drinking milk)
  • Excessive or chronic alcohol use
  • Maldigestion or malabsorption (pancreatic insufficiency, low stomach acid)
  • Antibiotics
  • NSAID pain medications like Ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve
  • Parasitic infection or fungal overgrowth (candida) in the intestinal tract
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO)
  • High intensity exercise

All of these things can wreak havoc and disrupt the intestinal barrier that keeps unwanted things out of your blood stream. And once that intestinal barrier is compromised, small particles of the foods you eat make it into your blood stream still recognizable to your immune system as foods. This is called leaky gut. Now your immune system is finding recognizable food particles in your blood and labeling them as foreign invaders. (I’m not talking about whole pieces of corn here, but for instance tiny pieces of protein from corn that haven’t been deconstructed into amino acids yet.) So now when you eat those foods in the future, your body mounts an immune attack on them. This is how food allergies happen. Along with foods, bacteria get introduced into your blood stream as well, stirring up a significant immune reaction where your body produces inflammation in response to these invaders. This whole process increases systemic inflammation and contributes to basically any chronic disease. Additionally, the liver gets the job of cleaning up the additional toxins that make it into the blood stream and rapidly becomes overloaded, potentially leading to further symptoms such as brain fog, anxiety, acne and more.

Seasonal allergies are just one manifestation of excessive inflammation. Others include asthma, heart disease, arthritis and autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Sjogren’s disease, and eczema. So why does one person develop seasonal allergies while another develops rheumatoid arthritis? We don’t know all the details yet, but it has to do with your unique genetic susceptibilities combined with your environment.

But we do know that the common factor between all these diseases is inflammation triggered by an immune reaction to leaky gut.

But there’s good news!

Your gut lining begins to heal immediately once the irritants are removed. That means that if you can give your digestive tract a break from irritants for a while, it can and will heal. The trick is to remove the irritants and support the healing process. I generally recommend spending one to three months doing a gut-healing program. Once you’re finished with the focused healing phase, it’s important to avoid falling back into bad habits. Stick to a diet of whole foods with plenty of variety, but don’t slide back into eating processed junk foods or foods you know you’re intolerant to. See my last blog post on allergies for details on the 4R gut healing protocol.

Testing

One useful test to determine if you have intestinal permeability is called the lactulose/mannitol ratio. This particular lab company has renamed it the Intestinal Permeability Assessment. Leaky gut is incredibly common due to the prevalence of highly processed diets and use of NSAID pain relievers and antibiotics. In those who have an inflammatory disease of some sort, it’s almost guaranteed that the test will come back positive. On the other hand, it can provide a great way to track whether treatment is working. It’s up to you and your doctor whether and when to test.

So there you have it. What questions do you have about leaky gut?

As always, if you feel you would like some individually tailored support, schedule a visit to work one on one with me. 

 

To your health,

Dr. Jennea

 

References:

Chen, T. (2014). Food allergens affect the intestinal tight junction permeability in inducing intestinal food allergy in rats. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology, 32, 345-353. doi:10.12932/ap0443.32.4.2014

Fasano, A. (2012). Intestinal Permeability and Its Regulation by Zonulin: Diagnostic and Therapeutic Implications. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 10(10), 1096-1100. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2012.08.012

Fasano, A. (2012). Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1258(1), 25-33. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06538.x

Lerner, A., & Matthias, T. (2015). Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease. Autoimmunity Reviews, 14(6), 479-489. doi:10.1016/j.autrev.2015.01.00