What to Do with Food Intolerances | Addressing Food Intolerances

If we are allergic to something, we react almost instantaneously. Our skin breaks out in hives, airways close, and we might be running to the bathroom rather quickly.

These are the defining characteristics of a true food allergy. To make matters worse, the reaction can be so severe, it can actually be life-threatening due to anaphylactic shock.

Many children who have true food allergies now carry around an EpiPen here in the United States. This is to provide temporary support before the Emergency Medical Technicians arrive.

The most common foods people have allergies to are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, and fish/shellfish. It is rare to see someone with more than one or two food allergies.

Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are much subtler. These reactions are mediated by IgG antibodies, which are different from the ones found in true allergies (IgE).

They are generally delayed reactions, with symptoms that can occur up to 72 hours after consuming the food (or foods) in question (which is a great reason to keep a log of what you eat).

In their own right, they are not deadly, but they can contribute to a variety of vague symptoms many experience.

These can include, but are not limited to, joint pain, IBS, bloating, flatulence, weight gain, headaches, lethargy, eczema/skin rashes, fatigue, and depression/anxiety.

Today we go over what you can do about food intolerances!

Enjoy!

How Sleep and Stress Affect Your Health

In this episode, we discuss the second Pillar of Health, stress management. Stress can come in many different forms. Yes, there are the obvious forms of stress. Being fired from a job, divorce, a cancer diagnosis, and death of a family member are obviously incredibly stressful events. However, positive events, like a wedding, promotion, or a birth of a child can be stressful, too.

There is a large spectrum in which stress can lie. We all have our own ways of dealing with stress. It could be a spa day, a long, quiet walk in nature, or playing with your kids. We need these things because, whether we know it or not, stress has a negative impact on our health. Added stress can play a role in many chronic disease processes.

There are studies that suggest continuous stress can play a role in the development and proliferation of disease. It is almost impossible to eliminate all stress for good, but there are a variety of strategies that can put into place to help minimize the stress in our lives and improve our ability to cope with it.

Believe it or not, sleep plays a crucial role in your overall health. Getting the right amount of sleep can improve your mental and physical health, as well as your overall quality of life. When you sleep, your body works to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. For children and teenagers, sleep is vital to support growth and development. A lack of sleep can have negative effects on your health in a variety of ways. In this video, we will go over how to improve both sleep quality and quantity going forward!

Getting enough good-quality sleep will improve your overall function through the day.  If you are losing even 1 to 2 hours of sleep a night, after a few nights your body will begin to function as if you have not slept in the past couple of days.

Sleep deficiency is not just harmful on a personal level; it can also cause large-scale damage.  Sleep deficiency has been linked to car accidents, among other potential dangerous situations.

Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney disease.  In fact, one study found that sleep deprived children increased their risk of developing obesity by 89%, while adults’ risk increases 55%.

Sleep helps maintain healthy balance of the major hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin.  Ghrelin is released to trigger hunger, while leptin is released to signal the sensation of fullness.  Without enough sleep, ghrelin levels rise, while leptin levels fall, meaning that you will feel hungrier when you lack sleep versus being well-rested. 

Immune system function is affected by sleep as well.  Without proper amounts of sleep, the body will find it more difficult to fight infections. 

Some studies show that a lack of sleep can alter brain activity in particular areas.  Sleep is important for staying attentive and learning. 

Those who are sleep deprived showed more trouble with decision-making, problem solving, controlling emotions and behavior, as well as coping with change.  Additionally, sleep deprivation has been linked to risk-taking behavior, depression, and suicide.

Natural Strategies for ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children.

42% increase in the rate of diagnosis between 2003 and 2011. A 2007 study estimates the cost of illness in one individual is $14,576/year.

Treatments for ADHD cost Americans a (conservative) estimate of $42.5 billion/year.

With all the pressure that comes with an ADHD diagnosis, it is becoming more important than ever to find viable natural ADHD treatments.

With all that, let’s explore options that include alterations to nutrition, sleep, and activity levels. Check out the video above for more details.

How to Live Longer and Healthier: The 5 Pillars of Health

In this episode, we discuss the foundation for longevity, which consists of five basic pillars of health.

The five pillars consist of Nutrition, Stress, Sleep, Physical Activity, and Psychosocial Health.

In order to live optimally and function at our best as we age, we should aim to address and improve each of the of these pillars going forward.

If these seems overwhelming, don’t worry! This is a lifelong journey. It is impossible to make all these changes today.

Instead, use this time to simply identify which pillars can be improved upon and start there.

In the upcoming videos, we will break down each of these pillars specifically, and highlight ways to improve upon them.

The first step is identifying what can be improved upon, and that is half the battle! So stay tuned! I’m excited to be a part of your health journey!

The HPA Axis and the Stress Response

Stress can come in many different forms.  Yes, there are some obvious forms of stress: being fired from a job, divorce, a cancer diagnosis, and death of a family member are obviously incredibly stressful events.  However, positive events, like a wedding, promotion, or a birth of a child can be stressful too.  There is a large spectrum in which stress can lie. 

Physical or emotional stress can threaten homeostasis.  Homeostasis is the body’s ability to maintain or reach equilibrium, or balance.  Whether we know it or not, the body is constantly responding to external and internal stimuli, including stress, to reach and eventually maintain homeostasis.  Reaching this balance allows us to function at our best, increasing our chances of survival.

Luckily, we each have a variety of mechanisms in place to help manage and respond to stressors. All our systems, from cardiovascular, to endocrine, to neurological, to immune, to digestive, so on and so forth, help us maintain this balance known as homeostasis.  These mechanisms collectively are known as the “stress response.”

Stress helps us deal with acute situations, like meeting a deadline or running from a sabertooth tiger, more effectively.  However, it can become dangerous when we expose ourselves to constant acute stressors, or chronic stress.  These can cause an overload, and it compromises both our ability to handle stress and our overall health.

Added stress can play a role in many chronic disease processes.  There are studies that suggest continuous stress can play a role in the development and proliferation of disease

Increased stress on the body means increased levels of cortisol.  Cortisol is the main stress hormone in the body, which is necessary in certain situations.  However, problems can arise when there is too much cortisol!  Excess cortisol can lead to carbohydrate cravings, particularly high-sugar carbohydrates, and can turn into storing fat around the midsection.  In other words, you can gain weight due to stress even if you are eating the same amount of food!

Some stressors that can lead to a chronically elevated stress response include:

  • Poor sleep
  • Poor nutrition (including crash dieting)
  • Stressful experiences
  • Environmental toxins
  • Toxin exposure (fragrances, makeup, pesticide usage, molds, etc.)
  • Surgery
  • Adverse childhood events
  • Reliance on stimulants, like energy drinks or caffeine
  • Negative attitude/mood
  • Pain
  • Food sensitivities
  • Prolonged exposure to stressors (poor relationships, financial stress, etc.)

In order to help improve stress-related concerns, it is important to understand how the body regulates the stress response with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or the HPA axis.

https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php%3Ftitle%3DFile:HPA_axis.jpg&rct

The HPA axis is responsible for the production of cortisol, and other steroid hormones.  It consists of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland (the anterior portion), and the adrenal gland.  Proper function of the HPA axis relies on all the components of the axis working and communicating effectively.  This allows us to reach and maintain homeostasis and regulate cortisol levels.  They are managed by a series of feedback loops.

The mechanisms that make the HPA axis work are the same for everyone, but how they function can vary.  A variety of factors can affect how well the HPA axis functions, including neurotransmitter activity, environmental factors, genetic variations, stressful events early in childhood, and overall day-to-day stress levels.

When we are exposed to a stressor, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF, also known as corticotropin-releasing hormone, CRH).  When CRF binds to the anterior pituitary gland, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is released.  When ACTH binds to the adrenal cortex (part of the adrenal glands), it releases cortisol into the bloodstream. 

Once the bloodstream is concentrated with enough cortisol, cortisol exerts a negative feedback effect on both the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, slowing the release of CRF and ACTH respectively.  This is how the body maintains homeostasis via the stress response.

Normally, exposure to cortisol is short and effective, as the stress response is able to do its job and regulate itself.

However, when we are repeatedly exposed to stressors, the negative feedback loops begin to malfunction, meaning cortisol levels can become chronically high.  Therefore, it is crucial to support healthy cortisol release and maintain the sensitivity of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. 

In terms of supplements, there are a few options that can be helpful in addressing stress and sleep issues, including lavender, kava, passionflower, and valerian.   Adaptogenic herbs, like ashwaganda, holy basil, and rhodiola are great for addressing the stress response overall.  These are all slightly different, and have different side effects, so try them and see which one works best for you.

In addition, there are other practices you can employ to help regulate the stress response:

Practice meditation. Try to recall times you felt loved and appreciated.  Reflect on them.  Recall how you felt when you were loved and appreciated at that time.  Look back on this at least once a week, and cherish the times you were happy with others.  Reflecting will help you appreciate all the great people and moments you have had in your life.

Relax and let go.  Life is hectic nowadays, and there’s not much you can do to avoid all the commotion.  Even when you might think you are relaxed, other things might be on your mind.  Things like work, family, friends, and other commitments tend to creep back in.  Do yourself a favor and allow yourself some time to really unplug.  Ditch the cellphone, computer, and TV completely for a bit.  Even if it just for five minutes a day, make sure you spend it completely free of distractions. 

Find your creative side.  Having a creative outlet gives you a method of self-expression you would not otherwise have.  Find something you truly enjoy, and explore your own methods of creativity. 

Focus on your breathing.  Try breathing only through your nose slowly and steadily into your abdomen.  Monitor if you snore, yawn, or mouth-breathe, and make an effort to consciously change this.  When people are stressed out, they tend to breathe at a faster and more shallow rate.  You should be taking slow, deep breaths into your belly.  This is a fantastic way to relieve stress and can help you think more clearly.

Monitor your sex life.  Believe it or not, your libido can be affected by your overall health.  There are many studies out there that point to the correlation between heart disease and diabetes with erectile dysfunction (ED) in men, for example.  Research indicates oxytocin, which is a hormone that is released after orgasm and other intimate acts (cuddling, holding hands, simple touch), has soothing qualities and can uplift your mood.

Reduce your usage of social media.  While it may not seem like it, social media is more likely stressing you out than calming you down.  Stress levels go up when you are on social media for a few reasons. 

First off is the blue light exposure, which is more of an issue when scrolling through social media or favorite news outlets at night.  Secondly, you may get into arguments, fights, or read upsetting posts without another means to process your information.  It is fine to go on your social media once or twice per day. 

Use this time instead to actually spend time your friends and family in real life.  This is a great way to reduce stress levels, as you will gain a sense of security and connectedness with people in the real world. 

Environmental stresses are a major issue as well.  From the air we breathe to the water we drink, there is simply no way to avoid all the toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis.  However, we can take steps to minimize our exposure and lessen the burden on the liver and our detoxification pathways.  Here are some simple changes you can make to lessen this burden:

Use a water filter.  Bottled water is harmful for the environment and is usually of poor quality following the packaging and shipping process.  Bottled water companies do not have disclose where their water comes from, or what materials are used in making the bottles themselves!  Additionally, a shower water filter can also be helpful.  Shower filters will remove all the chlorine from your water.  Chlorine can be harmful to your skin, lungs, and hair.  You will be surprised how quickly you will feel the difference in your skin and hair once you install one of these filters.  You can find out what is in your tap water by going to https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/ and plugging in your zip code.

Clean your air ducts and furnace filters.  These should be cleaned at least every two years, as build up can lead to toxins in your air supply. 

Avoid herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides.  These products kill soils, deplete nutrient stores, and are everywhere nowadays.  They are in our food, workplaces, schools, backyards, parks, the list goes on.  You can begin by making changes in your own home.  Weeds and other lawn invaders can be killed with a vinegar-water solution.  Healthier soils lead to healthier plants. 

It is almost impossible to eliminate all stress for good, but there are a variety of strategies that can put into place to help minimize the stress in our lives and improve our ability to cope with it.  Stressors in our life trigger stress responses in the body, and these can disrupt normal balances.  By employing some of the strategies outlined above, you can help normalize the HPA access and the stress response overall.

Disclaimer

Though based in research, personal, and clinical experience, the opinions in this article should not be taken as medical advice. The information is designed for educational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose, treat, or cure disease.  Botanical medicine and nutraceuticals should be treated with the same caution and care as pharmaceuticals, as both have the potential for strong, potentially adverse effects and allergic reactions. Please consult a trained, licensed health care practitioner before proceeding.  Neither the publisher nor the author takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person reading or following the information in this book. All readers, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition or supplement program.

#stress #HPA #HPAaxis #stressresponse #chronic #acute #chronicstress #acutestress #life #lifestyle #health #healthier #wellness #holsitic #nutrition #food #goodfood #wellness #CRH #cortisol #adrenalfatigue #adrenals #adrenalglands #pituitary #hypothalamus #healthyfood #homecook #healthycook

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that eventually leads to a poorly functioning thyroid gland.  Hashimoto’s can affect people of all ages and genders, but most commonly occurs in middle-aged women.  It is the most common hypothyroid disorder, and therefore it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms early to get ahead of more damaging symptoms.

Autoimmune disorders are a collection of conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy body tissue.  This can lead to a variety of different conditions in different parts of the body, including eczema, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and others.  Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland.

 The thyroid is a crucial component of the endocrine system, the system responsible for producing hormones that coordinate the execution of bodily functions.  Thyroid hormones affect how the body utilizes energy, and therefore can affect every organ. 

In the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the thyroid gland becomes enflamed, and eventually is unable to make enough thyroid hormones.  If inadequate amounts of thyroid hormones are present, then many bodily functions happen at a slower rate, and this has negative effects on our health overall.

Hashimoto’s can be difficult to diagnose because initially you may not have any symptoms at all.  Some of those symptoms include:

  • Tiredness, fatigue, and sluggishness
  • Loss of lateral 3rd of the eyebrow
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Constipation
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Dry and thinning hair
  • Brittle nails
  • Puffy face
  • Goiter
  • Enlarged tongue
  • Decreased libido
  • Fluid retention
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Memory problems
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Brain problems
  • Depression
  • Heavy or irregular periods/ trouble becoming pregnant

The causes of Hashimoto’s (and autoimmune disorders in general) are not completely understood.  However, based on the available evidence, multiple factors may play a role, including poor nutrition, infections, poor lifestyle choices (regarding sleep, exercise, and stress levels), infections, and an overabundance of toxins all play roles.

Get Tested!

If you think you may have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it is especially important to get the proper testing so you can come up with a viable treatment plan.  If you want to get a full picture of your thyroid health overall, it is important to complete a full thyroid panel, including TSH, free T4, free T3, thyroid antibody, and reverse T3 levels.

If TSH levels are high, it could mean your thyroid gland is not functioning properly, and this is usually due to hypothyroidism.  On the other hand, if TSH levels are low, your thyroid could be overactive, and you could be dealing with too many thyroid hormones.  Low TSH levels could also mean there is a problem with your pituitary gland.  Generally, if TSH levels are normal, it means the thyroid gland is functioning properly.

In the case of Free T4, elevated levels tend to be consistent with hyperthyroidism, and low in hypothyroidism.

Free T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone, also known as triiodothyronine. Reverse T3 binds to free T3 receptors when it wants to slow metabolic processes down.  When you need more energy the body converts T4 into free T3 to boost the speed of important metabolic processes.  If this conversion processed is hindered, it can lead to hypothyroidism.  Additionally, high levels of reverse T3 can lead to hypothyroid symptoms.

Finally, it is crucial to test for the two main classes of thyroid antibodies: thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb) and thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb).  TPOAb targets enzymes that are responsible for creating thyroid hormones.  TGAb attacks thyroglobulin, which the body needs to produce thyroid hormones.  When it comes to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, TPOAb, TGAb, or both are typically elevated.

There are other tests that can be helpful in determining thyroid function as well.  For example, low magnesium levels are associated with poor thyroid function.  Homocysteine and/or C-Reactive Protein (CRP-hs) are elevated when inflammatory processes are taking place, including autoimmune conditions.  Additionally, low vitamin D3 levels are commonly found in those with hypothyroidism.

Dealing with Hashimoto’s

First and foremost, address what you eat is key, and considering an autoimmune diet is key.  In a nutshell, an autoimmune diet consists of eliminating all food allergens and inflammatory foods (like fried foods, processed carbohydrates and grains, conventionally-raised meats, vegetables, oils, and fast foods), while increasing anti-inflammatory foods.  Some foods to focus on include organic vegetables and fruits, grass-fed, pasture-raised animal products, avocados (and oil), berries, green tea, non-starchy vegetables, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, onions, bone broth, vegetable broth, fermented vegetables, coconut oil and other coconut products, healing herbs, and olive oil.

Mindful Eating

When it comes to food, the gut plays a crucial a role in all autoimmune disorders, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  If your gut is in bad shape, and there is a microbiome imbalance, it can lead to an inflammatory response, triggering the immune system.  In fact, those with autoimmune conditions tend to have more food sensitivities than those who do not.  The most common food sensitivities include gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, and corn, to name a few.  Additionally, food additives and preservatives can have negative effects as well.  Avoiding these foods can lessen the inflammatory response, and decrease the symptoms when eliminated.

In order to achieve optimal thyroid health, and health overall, it is important consume enough nutrient dense foods.  There are certain micronutrients that play key role in the inflammation process, and insufficient amounts of them can promote chronic inflammation.  Again, this can have far-reaching consequences, affecting everything from hormone balance, to immune system function, to properly managing stress.  Deficiencies in antioxidants (like zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E), vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and certain B vitamins most common.

In fact, leaky gut plays a role in all autoimmune conditions.  Leaky gut can occur when the gap junctions that connect the intestinal cells to each other widen, which allows larger particles to slip through and enter the bloodstream.  These include undigested food particles and toxins that would not be able to pass under normal conditions.  Once in the bloodstream, the immune system creates antibodies to attack these foreign invaders, triggering an immune response.  This is how the body tries to fend off chronic inflammation.

Addressing Toxin Overload

We live in a world where it is virtually impossible to avoid toxins completely.  They can be found in the food we eat, air we breathe, skin care products, shampoos, conditioners, makeup, lotions, and even our water.  Heavy metals, plastics, molds, and glyphosates can all add drops to our “stress bucket,” and once that bucket is full, disorders can manifest in different ways.  A toxic overload is one of the major reasons autoimmune disorders can develop in the first place.

Infections can play a role as well.  Epstein Barr virus, H. pylori, and Blastocystis hominis infections can trigger autoimmune reactions.  These all can increase the toxic burden on the body.

Address Stress

Poor sleep and high-stress levels have been linked to thyroid dysfunction.  Increases in cortisol, the main stress hormone, can interfere with thyroid hormone production, leading to altered thyroid health.  If you are not getting enough sleep, you are depriving your body of crucial time it needs to repair itself for the next day.  Diminished cell health can lead to poor cell function not only in the thyroid, but other parts of the body as well.

Addressing stress levels is crucial as well.

Emotional stress is key.  In fact, a 2014 study found that “pro-inflammatory cytokines, can in turn elicit profound changes in behavior, which include the initiation of depressive symptoms such as sad mood, anhedonia, fatigue, psychomotor retardation, and social-behavioral withdrawal.”

Stress can trigger autoimmune reactions and alter immune system function negatively.  Therefore, if you want to address chronic inflammation, you need to be at peace with yourself as well.  You can find that inner peace a number of different ways.  Here are just a few things you can do at home:

Practice meditation. Try to recall times you felt loved and appreciated.  Reflect on them.  Recall how you felt when you were loved and appreciated at that time.  Look back on this at least once a week, and cherish the times you were happy with others.  Reflecting will help you appreciate all the great people and moments you have had in your life.

Relax and let go.  Life is hectic nowadays, and there’s not much you can do to avoid all the commotion.  Even when you might think you are relaxed, other things might be on your mind.  Things like work, family, friends, and other commitments tend to creep back in.  Do yourself a favor and allow yourself some time to really unplug.  Ditch the cellphone, computer, and TV completely for a bit.  Even if it just for five minutes a day, make sure you spend it completely free of distractions. 

Spend time outside.  Whether it is going for a walk, meeting up with friends, playing sports, exercising, or taking a break from work, just get outside.  Also, spending time out in the sun for fifteen minutes a day with exposed arms and legs in warm weather environments will help you get vitamin D, which is crucial to your health. 

Try stretching in the morning and at night.  Staying limber and loose will allow you to maintain proper range of motion in your joints and muscles.  It also is a great way to wind down and relax before bed.

Reduce your usage of social media.  While it may not seem like it, social media is more likely stressing you out than calming you down.  Stress levels go up when you are on social media for a few reasons. 

First off is the blue light exposure, which is more of an issue when scrolling through social media or favorite news outlets at night.  Secondly, you may get into arguments, fights, or read upsetting posts without another means to process your information.  It is fine to go on your social media once or twice per day.    Use this time instead to actually spend time your friends and family in real life.  This is a great way to reduce stress levels, as you will gain a sense of security and connectedness with people in the real world. 

Proper Supplementation

There are certain micronutrients that play key role in the inflammation process, and insufficient amounts of them can promote chronic inflammation.  Again, this can have far-reaching consequences, affecting everything from hormone balance, to immune system function, to properly managing stress.  Deficiencies in antioxidants (like zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E), vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and certain B vitamins most common.

Antioxidant vitamins and minerals include vitamins A (and carotenoids), C, and E, as well as selenium, manganese, zinc, glutathione, and phytochemicals like lutein, quercetin, and lycopene.  These antioxidants might be found in many of the foods you are already eating.  The best sources of antioxidants are found in plant-based foods.  Foods high in antioxidants include: apples, blueberries, broccoli, spinach, lentils, and big leafy greens, just to name a few.  Other anti-inflammatory compounds like curcumin (found in turmeric), can combat chronic inflammation.

We know vitamin D supports immune function because deficiencies lead to increased rates of the flu and colds.  It also regulates inflammation, decreases the rates autoimmune diseases and cancer, and promotes cellular maturation.  There is a large (and growing amount of evidence) showing vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common, affecting at least 50% of adults and up to 80% of all infants.  The optimal range is between 50-80ng/mL (125-200nmol/L).  Most practitioners agree somewhere between 1,200 IU and 2,000 IU is the optimal range to increase vitamin D levels to normal levels long-term.  Doses up to 2,000 IU have been researched to be safe for long-term use.

Many Americans consume too many omega-6 fatty acids, which can result in a relative omega-3 deficiency.  Omega-6s can be found in many vegetables oils and meats.  Consuming high amount of Omega-6 fatty acids (and not enough omega-3 fatty acids) is associated with an increased risk of over 60 different conditions, included heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, stoke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, skin diseases, and other chronic illnesses.    An imbalanced omega-3:6 ratios can lead to increased inflammation, altered immune function, increased insulin resistance, and increases susceptibility to cellular damage via free radicals.  When this ratio is corrected (and the correct ratio ranges from 1:1, which is ideal, to about 1:3), the opposite effects occur.

With proper testing, you can identify and effectively manage Hashimoto’s.  It is possible to even put the disease into remission, as we discuss on our podcast episode with here.

Disclaimer

Though based in research, personal, and clinical experience, the opinions in this article should not be taken as medical advice. The information is designed for educational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose, treat, or cure disease.  Botanical medicine and nutraceuticals should be treated with the same caution and care as pharmaceuticals, as both have the potential for strong, potentially adverse effects and allergic reactions. Please consult a trained, licensed health care practitioner before proceeding.

How to Combat Chronic Inflammation

The funny thing with chronic inflammation is you might not feel anything developing until it becomes a full-blown, obvious disease. Chronic inflammation is a major contributor to a variety of major diseases we see today, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.


The reason chronic inflammation is not too obvious initially is because individual cells are damaged in the process. When healthy, properly-functioning cells become dysfunctional, it leads to inflammation.

The term “inflammation” is often generalized, and refers to an immune system reaction to a stimulus. Our immune systems tag foreign invaders as “non-self” bodies. The cells responsible for tagging these foreign bodies are the “scouts” of the immune system, known as macrophages and dendritic cells. They are responsible for identifying antigens (foreign bodies), and sending messages back to the rest of the immune system, informing them about what is going on. This promotes activity within the immune system allowing for a planned, organized attack.


When we are injured, say a cut for example, the local area becomes inflamed for a short period of time to prevent excess loss of blood. This then activates a cascade to form a clot to protect the area from the outside world and loss of more blood. Inflammation is useful as a reaction to an infection to either destroy the pathogen or flush it out. In acute situations, inflammation is a useful tool in response to invaders or wounds.


The immune system isn’t involved in acute situations exclusively. When chronically low levels of inflammation are present, it leads to a variety of issues. These can include diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, heart disease, hypertension, and more.


A state of chronic inflammation lessens our ability to function properly at the cellular level. This is precisely why chronic inflammation can affect so many different body systems and organs. Therefore, when it comes to alleviating any of these conditions, addressing inflammation is the pivotal first step.


Consume Healing, Anti-Inflammatory Foods

The best place to start is with what you are eating. Unfortunately, today we live in a world where there is no shortage of food options, but many of them happen to be questionable or even detrimental to our health. Instead, the goal to should be to consume minimally processed, organic foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. These basics give you these baseline of where to get started: https://youtu.be/D3KDJ20yBls


Unfortunately, with the widespread use of pesticides, genetically-modified (GMO) crops, and runoff, our food supply can contain a great deal of toxic compounds. While it is almost impossible to eliminate toxin exposure completely, there are definitely things you can do to limit your exposure and take some of the toxic burden off your body.


Food sensitivities play a key role as well. Please note that these are different from food allergies. Food allergies are obvious, outright negative reactions to certain foods, like peanuts or gluten, that can be life-threatening. Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are much subtler, but mediate inflammatory reaction in the gut and body. Regularly consuming these foods can harm the gut lining and trigger immune responses that can affect other areas. Food sensitivities are incredibly common in those who suffer from an autoimmune disorder, have leaky gut syndrome, IBS, or other inflammatory disorders.


Limit Toxic Exposure from Other Sources

Focusing on the list outlined above is a great place to start when it comes to food. It is really important to stress the focus on organic produce, pasture-raised meats, and healthy fats. These foods will be the most nutrient-dense and contain the most anti-inflammatory compounds. By contrast, for example, congenitally raised animal products are usually loaded with pro-inflammatory compounds like omega-6 fatty acids and can even contain pesticide and antibiotic residues.

Additionally, you could do yourself a great service by checking your water supply. Depending on where you are getting your water from, your drinking water might also contain toxic chemicals, chlorine, fluoride, radioactive substances, heavy metals (like lead), and/or a diverse cocktail of synthetic chemicals. Some city water supplies might even contain trace amounts of prescription medications!


The skin is the largest organ of the human body, yet many of us pay little attention to the things we come into contact with on a daily basis. We knowingly or unknowingly expose ourselves to a variety of toxins on a daily basis. Why is this a problem? For starters, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified over 5,000 different chemicals found in cosmetic products. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a database, known as Skin Deep. You can check the safety of over 78,000 products and their ingredient lists, which can be a valuable tool going forward. They constantly update their lists, so be sure to check back from time to time.


We are exposed to toxins from a variety of different sources, as you can see. Once toxins enter our bodies, there are generally two different routes they can go, and which route they take is dependent on our ability to process and eliminate them effectively or not. The more toxins we exposure ourselves to, the less likely we are to process them effectively. When toxins are not eliminated, they end up getting stored in body tissues. The primary destination for storage tends to be body fat.


Along with choosing the right foods and limiting toxic exposure, there are some other things to keep in throughout this process.


Drink Enough Water

The first thing to address is water intake. Consuming adequate amounts of water is crucial in aiding in the body’s ability to flush toxins out. Urine, after all, is one of the primary ways we get rid of waste products. Sources go as far as to recommend the amount of water needed per day is equal to half your body weight in fluid ounces. In other words, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 fluid ounces of water daily. This is the goal you should be shooting for.


Move Around Often

Being physically active and getting regular exercise is important when addressing chronic inflammation. The lymphatic system, the body’s sewage system, actually requires movement (muscle contraction) to pump lymph through the body. Physical activity improves lymph flow, cardiovascular health, respiratory health, and allows us to expel more toxins via sweat. Moving often also releases endorphins- or chemicals in the brain- responsible for a happier mood, and promotes creation of new blood vessels in the brain (especially the part responsible for memory and coordination).


Address Emotional Stress

While it might not be (and usually is not) the first thing addressed when we talk about oxidative stress and inflammation, emotional and mental stress can have a massive impact. You can find out more information on how you can improve sleep habits and stress levels here: https://insideouthealthwellness.com/pillar-3-addressing-sleep-deprivation-how-to-sleep-better/ .


Targeted Supplementation

If you incorporate the lifestyle strategies outlined above, you can effectively lighten the toxic load o the body, and keep it away over time. Sometimes, support is needed, and certain supplements can be incredibly effective in enhancing the process.

For more information on what options might be best for you, check out this video:

https://youtu.be/Q3GxtDFRpdM


Sources:


Aggarwal BB, Van Kuiken EE, Iyer EI, Harikumar KB, Sung B. “Molecular Targets of Nutraceuticals Derived from Dietary Spices: Potential Role in Suppression of Inflammation and Tumorigenesis.” Experimental Biology and Medicine. 2009. 234(8):825–49.

Blum C et al. “Low-Grade Inflammation and Estimates of Insulin Resistance During the Menstrual Cycle in Lean and Overweight Women.” Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2005. 90(6):3230-35.


Carvalho BM, Saad MJ. “Influence of Gut Microbiota on Subclinical Inflammation and Insulin Resistance.” Mediators Inflamm. 2013. 2013: 986734.


Fasano, A. (2012). Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, 42(1), 71–78. PMID: 22109896
Jin C Flavell RA. “Innate Sensors of Pathogen and Stress: Linking Inflammation to Obesity.” J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013. 132(2):287–294.


Teodorczyk-Injeyan, J. A., Injeyan, H. S., & Ruegg, R. (2006). Spinal manipulative therapy reduces inflammatory cytokines but not substance P production in normal subjects. In Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (Vol. 29, pp. 14–21). PMID: 16396725 Ross MR. “Chronic Inflammation: Rocking the Medical World.” Health Matters Monthly Supplemental Report, fall issue. 2004.


Semba RD, Houston DK, Ferrucci L, et al. “Low Serum Hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations Are Associated with Greater All-Cause Mortality in Older Community-Dwelling Women.” Nutrition Research. 2009. 29(8):525-535.


Slavich, G. M., & Irwin, M. R. (2014). From stress to inflammation and major depressive disorder: A social signal transduction theory of depression. Psychological Bulletin, 140(3), 774–815.


Disclaimer

Though based in research, personal, and clinical experience, the opinions in this article should not be taken as medical advice. The information is designed for educational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose, treat, or cure disease.Botanical medicine and nutraceuticals should be treated with the same caution and care as pharmaceuticals, as both have the potential for strong, potentially adverse effects and allergic reactions. Please consult a trained, licensed health care practitioner before proceeding.

How to Address GERD/ Acid Reflux

It is estimated somewhere between 15-30% of all Americans experience GERD, more commonly called heartburn, daily or weekly. Glancing at that quickly, that might seem pretty high!

Some of the most common causes of GERD are poor eating habits, pregnancy, hiatal hernias, and low stomach acid levels.

There are a variety of symptoms associated with low stomach acid levels, including:

  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Heartburn
  • Acne
  • Auto-Immune issues
  • Allergies/sensitivities
  • Acne
  • Iron deficiency
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Itching

In GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter, which opens up into the stomach, does not close properly, and food and stomach acid get regurgitated into the esophagus, causing the heartburn, bad breath, gum irritation, and other symptoms that come along with it.  If this is not addressed over a long period of time, it can cause some serious damage, including Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.

Ironically, the conventional medications and over-the-counter drugs for GERD do provide temporary relief of many of these symptoms, but could cause new or more heightened symptoms long-term. It is quite possible you may notice these yourself.

Generally, there are three common types of medications you might take if you experience GERD: antacids, histamine type-2 receptor antagonists (H2 blockers) and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

Antacids (like TUMS) are usually the first choice in conventional medicine. These are meant to reduce stomach acidity quickly, giving you short-term relief (usually within minutes), but not getting to the root cause of the problem.

H2 blockers are not as fast-acting as antacids, but their effects tend to last longer. H2 blockers have common names like Pepcid/Pepcid AC, Axid, Tagamet, and Zantac. They work by blocking a substance in the body that encourages acid production in the stomach.

PPIs are the third major class of drugs (commonly seen as Nexium, Aciphex, Prevacid, and Prilosec). They function by permanently blocking an enzyme that tells your stomach to produce acid, H+/K+ ATPase, in the cells that line the stomach wall. One side note here: “permanently” means for the lifespan of the cells that line the stomach wall, which is only a few (3–5) days.

Under normal circumstances, the stomach pH is very low (meaning a high-acid environment), between 1.5 and 2.5. These drugs can raise the stomach’s pH (creating a less acidic environment) by as much as two points.  The lower esophageal sphincter is actually pH sensitive, and initiates closing when the stomach pH is below 3.0.  If the pH value is chronically high, the sphincter will not close properly.

One of the biggest issues is that these medications do not address the root issue, they are only a Band-Aid. Every time you take antacids, the stomach has to work harder to create more acid to bring the environment back to its normal range (1.5–2.5). What makes this particularly dangerous is when we become reliant on these medications, and only make the problem worse in the long-run.

It could become a harmful downward spiral.  Long-term use of these medications can lead to a state of hypochlorhydria (low-stomach acid), and is associated with vitamin B-12 deficiency, autoimmune conditions, SIBO, asthma, diabetes, chronic fatigue, and others.

Along with the overuse of antibiotics, PPIS, and H2 blockers, other causes can include:

  • H. pylori infections
  • Poor nutrition
  • Chronic stress
  • Eating to quickly or while moving
  • NSAID overuse
  • SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)
  • Food sensitivities
  • The aging process

When stomach acid levels are low, you will not be able to properly breakdown protein in the stomach.  Large proteins make their way into the small intestine, and this places a great deal stress on the pancreas to produce enough enzymes to metabolize the ingested food.

Over time, the pancreas wears down, and enzyme stores run thin.  This can lead to gut irritation, malabsorption, and maldigestion.  Maldigestion refers to our inability to properly break down the food we eat, while malabsorption is our inability to absorb the nutrients we need efficiently.  If pancreatic enzymes are not released in sufficient amounts, it can lead to fat and protein malabsorption and maldigestion.  When proteins are not broken down properly, then we are unable to breakdown and utilize important amino acids efficiently. 

Incomplete digestion can lead to leaky gut syndrome and trigger auto-immune activity in different regions of the body.  It can also lead to SIBO and other bacterial overgrowths and mineral depletion throughout the body.  A lack of certain minerals inhibits our ability to make stomach acid in the first place, further perpetuating the cycle.

Now… how do we fix it?

Well, first and foremost, we have to address what we are eating. At minimum, you should look into reducing and (ideally) eliminating refined carbohydrates and simple sugars. At the same time, we need to start incorporating more whole foods in their natural, unprocessed forms. These should be mainly vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Today we live in a world where there is no shortage of food options, but many of them happen to be questionable or even detrimental to our health.  Instead, the goal to should be to consume minimally processed, organic foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.  These basics give you these baseline of where to get started:

  • Eat real foods, withat least 50% of each plate being vegetables.
  • Eat a diet primarily of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
  • Choose pasture-raised, organic, grass-fed, and/or wild animal meats and fish.
  • Eat and assortment of different-colored vegetables and fruits (eat the rainbow).
  • Drink clean water.
  • Eat fermented foods to balance your gut flora, like kimchi and sauerkraut.
  • Cut out inflammatory foods, like simple carbohydrates, sugars, processed foods, and candies.
  • 80% of the time eat right, allowing yourself 20% “wiggle room.”
  • Drink lemon water in the morning, it helps boost metabolism and liver function.
  • Look for foods that are high in fiber (whole foods) and low in sugar.
  • Eliminate all packaged foods, if possible. 
  • Be sure to read ALL ingredient labels.
  • Never eat out of a box or bag.
  • Eat greens at least twice per day.
  • Choose organic foods as often as possible.
  • Listen to your body!

To take this a step further, it is important to focus on non-GMO organic products, and increase fiber intake and prebiotic foods. Supporting the healthy gut bacteria will help further complicate issues that could potentially lead to SIBO or other gut-related problems. Additionally, it is important to eliminate these foods while going through the healing process:

  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated beverages, sugary drinks or energy drinks
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Fried foods
  • Vegetable oils, including canola oil
  • Spicy foods
  • Processed foods

Secondly, we need to address the low stomach acid levels, and bring those levels back up to normal. Personally, I have seen fantastic improvement with Beatine HCl (with pepsin) and digestive enzyme supplementation.

HCl and pepsin will aid the stomach in its role in digestion.  Adding HCl to your meal will help reduce the load on the dysfunctional stomach.  In terms of dosage, it is going to depend a lot on the individual. Generally, you can start with 1 tablet per meal. If you still experience heartburn, up it to 2, then 3, etc. until you find a dose that is right for you. You are going to monitor this over time. As you stomach begins to heal, you will notice you will have to reduce the dosage.

Additionally, you can try a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 4-8oz. of water prior to a meal.

Digestive enzymes help you break down and absorb your food properly. You ever hear the phrase, “you are what you eat?” Well technically, we are only what we are able to absorb. You can start with one pill at the start of meal.

There are certain micronutrients that play key role in the inflammation process, and insufficient amounts of them can promote chronic inflammation.  Again, this can have far-reaching consequences, affecting everything from hormone balance, to immune system function, to properly managing stress.  Deficiencies in antioxidants (like zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E), vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and certain B vitamins most common.  In the case of GERD, certain nutrients like B12 and important amino acids.

Along these same lines, consuming fermented foods frequently can be of benefit.  Foods like organic sauerkraut, coconut yogurt, kefir, kombucha, grass-fed raw dairy fermented products, and pickles are great options. Probiotics and enzymes within these foods help to improve your microbiome and enhance HCL production.

Hope this helps!

Disclaimer

Though based in research, personal, and clinical experience, the opinions in this article should not be taken as medical advice. Botanical medicine and nutraceuticals should be treated with the same caution and care as pharmaceuticals, as both have the potential for strong, potentially adverse effects and allergic reactions. Please consult a trained, licensed health care practitioner before proceeding.