6 Reasons for your Stubborn Belly Fat

Like many of my patients, I suffered from stubborn belly fat which continues to haunt me to this day. I tried many different diets and trends to help eliminate this spare tire. It stuck around with me until I was able to find the underlying reason for why it was present in the first place. If you want to get rid of that stubborn weight, it’s absolutely essential to find out the underlying reason it is there in the first place.

  • Poor Fatty Acid Metabolism

Fats don’t make you fat. However if your body is not able to use the fats as a fuel source (burning fat that gets into the cell), then it will have no choice but to store it away. If your cells lack a couple important nutrients, then the process of burning fats to produce energy will not be effective. In order to burn fatty acids, our cells require Carnitine and Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin).

There are 2 things you can do to determine if fatty acid metabolism is the cause of excess fat storage. The first is to get tested by a Functional Medicine doctor to determine if you are able to burn fats correctly. The second is to change the fats that you are eating from bad, inflammatory fats to good sources of fat. Good fats do not promote inflammation, and can be found in wild fish, organic coconut oil, avocado, cold-pressed olive oil and clarified grass-fed butter.

  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Many people who are overweight and dealing with stubborn belly fat, are often also dealing with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome including bloating, constipation, diarrhea. All of these symptoms along with many more can be a sign of overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine.

Humans normally have a population of bacteria present in their digestive tracts, located in their mouths and large intestine. Sometimes these bacteria can be overfed and expand into the stomach and small intestine due to poor dietary choices and low stomach acid. While in the small intestine, these bacteria can steal the important nutrients in our foods leading to a reduced level of nutrition entering our bloodstream. If you are eating well and still not losing weight, you may be dealing with a bacterial overgrowth leading to a lack of nutrients getting into your cells.

There are tests that can be completed by a functional medicine practitioner to determine if this is the underlying cause of inability to burn fat and lose that body weight.

  • Hormonal Imbalances

There are countless people all around North America, who are dealing with some sort of hormonal imbalance. This can include imbalance in insulin levels, adrenal hormones, sex hormones and brain based hormones. Chances are you know someone who is dealing with Diabetes, Thyroid dysfunction, Infertility, Polycystic ovaries or Adrenal fatigue.

Our hormones control the metabolic processes of our cells, their reaction to stimuli, their ability and rate of energy production, mood and storage or usage of fat and carbohydrates. A single hormonal imbalance can NEVER occur in isolation as all hormones interact with each other and determine the effects that each other have.

People dealing with any hormonal condition will invariably have issues with their weight. From obesity and diabetes to thyroid dysfunction and infertility, the inability to lose weight are universal and must be dealt with correctly, from the root cause. A functional medicine doctor can help you to completed the testing and determine if a hormonal imbalance is at the root of your persistent weight gain.

  • Not eating Organic food

Crops are often sprayed with pesticides and herbicides so that farmers can reach and surpass quotas set forth by distributors. These chemicals affect the bacteria, viruses, fungi, insects and the rest of the biome in a negative way. Recently it has been theorized that some of the chemicals that are used can potentially replace certain amino acids and cause our proteins to form as non-functioning entities.

Glyphosate, a herbicide used by the agricultural industry under the trade name RoundUp, has been theorized to replace Glycine, an important amino acid building block in many hormones, causing these hormones to become far less functional. There are 4 Glycine amino acid spots in the Insulin protein molecule, and if even one Glyphosate molecule is entered into this molecule, its structure can be significantly altered, causing Insulin to become unrecognizable and even non-functional.

It is important to try to keep these chemicals from entering your body, so choosing to eat organic can help you to lose weight that you are having trouble getting rid of. As soon as I started to choose organic vegetables and fruits, I noticed a significant decrease in my own weight, and have not looked back.

  • Diet High in Sugar and Carbs

It’s no secret that processed foods contain high levels of sugar and refined carbohydrates. These “foods” cause spikes in insulin levels, leading to fat storage if the sugars are kept in the bloodstream and not used for energy production immediately. We now live relatively sedentary lives, sitting in front of our computers and TVs for hours on end, while consuming high levels of carbohydrates in our diets.

This is one of the most basic changes that you can make. Choose unprocessed foods and foods higher in protein and good quality fat content rather than high carbohydrate options.

  • High Intake of Low Quality Fats

There is a lot of confusion out there about good vs. bad fats so let’s get to the root of it.

Good fats contain Omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory and help in the development of our cells. Natural, minimally processed organic choices are best. Choose coconut oil, ghee, grass-fed butter, cold-pressed olive oil, wild fish, avocado, raw nuts and seeds.

Bad fats contain Omega-6 fatty acids which are inflammatory and cause increased immune responses to stimuli. Bad fats are highly processed and should be rigorously avoided. These include vegetable oils, canola oil, sunflower/safflower oil, rapeseed oil, “pure” olive oil and margarine. Consuming inflammatory oils can keep you from losing weight due to the constant energy requirements of your immune system rather than muscle cells that burn stored and consumed fat.

Health Benefits of Hydration

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: Benefits of Hydration

We have all heard the rule – Eight glasses of water per day. Why is it so important that our bodies have enough water? What functions does water perform to help us survive and thrive?

Without water, nothing lives. This is why when NASA recently found potential traces of water on Mars, they were ecstatic as it meant that with the presence of water, life is possible. Back on earth, we are lucky to have an abundance of this resource which we are clearly taking for granted.

1. Water gives our cells their structure

Water is the main bonding adhesive component of in the structure of the cells. The cellular membrane is aligned around the presence of a specific amount of water. Too much or too little water will cause the membranes of cells to collapse or burst, therefore making them useless.

2. Water transports Energy, Nutrients and Waste

H2O is a major component of our blood. Blood is the bodies chosen transportation method for energy (from the breakdown of food) and nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) to reach all of the cells of the body. Once the energy and nutrients are sent to all of these cells, the blood then transports any cellular waste to the kidneys, liver and spleen for detoxification and removal from the body. A proper balance of water is required in order to allow for nutrients, and waste to dissolve into it, so that it can be moved from organ to organ, allowing our entire body system to function optimally.

3. Water is required for signalling between cells

Signals can be sent between cells in our body, in multiple different ways. The cells that make up our Nerves (Neurons) signal between each other and with other organs (muscles, heart, lungs, digestive organs) using Neurotransmitters, which are small proteins formed with the direct input of water. Another method of cellular signalling is by Hormones. Hormones are formed in various glands and organs of the body (hypothalamus, thyroid, adrenal glands etc.) and are transported through the bloodstream to their target cells. Without water, cellular signalling and communication would be impossible.

4. Water is required for proper Digestion

Without a correct amount of water in our diet, the foods that we eat cannot be moved through the digestive tract at the correct pace. If there is too much water, often the foods that we eat will travel too quickly through the tract, and not be absorbed correctly. This can also lead to Diarrhea. If there is not enough water, food will move very slowly and can become dry and clumpy, leading to potential Constipation. A proper balance of intake and absorption of water through our intestines is required to make food move through the digestive tract.

Great, so now that we know that we need a proper balance of water in our bodies, how can we achieve it?

Water is absorbed into the body in the large intestine, however much of our food intake has a high composition of water. Those who eat a diet higher in fruits and vegetables do not need to drink as much water daily as people who have a diet higher in fat, protein and processed carbohydrates.

Fruits and Vegetables with high water content by volume

  • 96% = Lettuce, Cucumber
  • 95% = Zucchini, Radish, Celery
  • 94% = Tomato
  • 93% = Green Cabbage
  • 92% = Watermelon, Strawberries, Cauliflower, Eggplant, red cabbage, peppers, spinach
  • 91% = Grapefuit, Broccoli

Dehydration and overhydration are not issues to take lightly as the effects can be far reaching. It is important to consume a safe amount of water daily of between 6-8 glasses per day – and ideally that water comes from a filtered source. Plastic bottles are not good for the environment, nor are the contents of the bottles safe for repeated use by humans. Much of our water has been contaminated with herbicides, pesticides and chemicals that are used in various industries around the world. Many of these chemicals can have negative effects on our body function. Our municipal water treatment plants are good, but definitely are not getting 100% of the potentially harmful substances out of our water so it is important to filter your water before you drink it.

Most people should drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water, in a glass or metal (bpa free) container daily. If you are highly active or work in higher temperatures, more water is needed to keep you cool and functioning correctly. If you eat a cleaner, greener diet, you may not need to drink as much water as others. If you suffer from a medical condition or are taking any medications, please speak to your physician or pharmacist before changing your water intake.

References:

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/list-fruits-vegetable-high-water-content-8958.html
http://www.moreplant.com/health/functions-of-water.php

Become Mindful of your Habits

One of the most important things I learned through my transformation, is that you need to become mindful of your routines. I was very bad at mindlessly wasting time daily, without actually noticing, or being completely aware that I was actually doing it. I would come home from school or work, warm up my unhealthy high carb and fatty dinner and sit down on the couch for 3-4 hours of mindless television watching. I had formed an unhealthy habit and didn’t even know it.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of being aware of what is actually going on around you and what your mind is actually doing. Human beings are very good at falling into habitual mindless behaviours, simply because they are easy. The formation of habits can be quite good and should not require significant decision making powers. Deciding what clothes to wear each morning, or knowing how to drive your car without actually having to think about it are good habits to have as we do not need to dedicate much brain-power to these choices. The problem occurs when these habitual behaviours are toxic or unhealthy.

Mindfulness is opening your mind and realizing that your actions are taking place out of mindless habit rather than out of the utilization of actual conscious brain power.

Humans are habitual creatures

As a human myself, I am no different. Neither are any of you. We all have our habits that we know exist, we are just not conscious of them. The trick is to become conscious of the triggers that lead to our unhealthy behaviours.

Let’s take driving as an example. This morning, when you left home and drove to work (unless you are lucky and live walking distance away), you got in your car, turned on the ignition, put on your seatbelt (hopefully), put the car in drive and pushed the accelerator to drive away. You learned this behaviour when you were a teenager and have repeated these actions countless numbers of times to make it into a habit. When you first started driving, you likely hit the brake too hard, accelerated too slowly (or quickly in my case) and exaggerated turning the wheel when making a left turn. Over time, your driving became habitual and thus quite smooth and not as jerky.

Now imagine that the next time you got in your car, the accelerator was on the left side, the brake was under your right hand and you had to drive on the left side of the road, rather than the right side (I clearly live in North America). You would be entirely flustered. All of the habits that you had learned over time would not be working and you would have to actively engage your mind in order to RE-LEARN how to drive the new car. The really cool thing is that over time you would learn how to drive this new car and it would eventually become habitual as well. This is called Neuroplasticity.

We can break the old and LEARN NEW HABITS

Neuroscience research has shown that humans amongst all other living things can learn new habits. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to create new connections between different cells or places in our cerebrum to learn new habits. It is for this reason that I no longer believe people if they tell that they can’t learn anything new. It’s not that they can’t, it’s that they DON’T WANT TO.

I still have many habits that are less than ideal. In order to live the daily life that I want to live, I need to continue to become mindful of the triggers that start the bad habits, then use my Brain power to CONSCIOUSLY form newer healthier habits.

Honestly, anyone can do this. The WILL to change and grow is all you need. If you are frustrated with how things are going in your life, your health, your relationships, your business etc. look inside yourself and determine what the habitual root cause of your unhealthy habits are.

My daily food habits used to be incredibly unhealthy – I became frustrated with how things were going and decided to change. I tried many different avenues to improve my eating habits. Once I became mindful and aware of the triggers, I was able to make a conscious choice to break the old habits and form new healthy habits. I used Mindfulness Meditation and deep breathing exercises to improve my awareness of the bad habits that I had accumulated. I am not a meditation instructor, so for more information on Meditation techniques, you can Google Mindfulness Meditation or use an app such as Headspace or YouTube videos for guided meditation.

Now it’s your turn.

What is it in your life that is frustrating you? What do you want to change?

There is no better time than the present – Right now – to decide to make a change. I used to have a really bad habit of saying “I’ll do it tomorrow”. My mom always replies to me “tomorrow never comes”. I finally understand what she means.

There is no better time than right now to look inside yourself and determine the habits that are holding you back.

Decide to do it NOW! Find a way and make it happen!

I Did It For My (Future) Children

What motivates you? What reason do you have to work hard or to change yourself?

Based on the lens through which we each see the world, we will each have our own motivations. Some of these may be similar between people, while others motivations may be radically different.

Regardless, if you feel the need or desire to change, you must have a reason to do so.

Your change may not have anything to do with your health – maybe it’s a career decision, or a financial decision. All of the choices that we make have a motivation. If that motivation is strong enough, then change is enabled and is more likely to occur.

My motivation towards the positive change in my health was deeply rooted in the idea that I never wanted my (future) children to go through the health challenges that I had to deal with. It is my deepest desire that my kids will be given the absolute best chance to succeed in their lives (as all parents want). I want to ensure that they get off on the right foot, in terms of their biochemical development.

The only thing that we can truly control in our lives are the actions that we take. Our actions are based on our circumstances, and deciding that we are either willing to continue living in those circumstances, or that we are not willing to remain on our current trajectory. Beyond our decisions and actions, the world is largely outside of our control.

What has made me successful in my transformation was the fact that my decision to change was rooted in the deep desire to give my kids a leg up so that, ideally they will never have to deal with preventable health challenges. I was unhappy with my current circumstance and my trajectory and so the decision was made to change it.

All of my actions during the active phase of my transformation were made with this motivation as their root.

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether you are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. If you know that the circumstance you are currently in, is ultimately not where you want to be, then it is time to change. This is where clarity on your ultimate goals comes in to play.

I am absolutely clear on what I want for my children in terms of their health. I know that making this change before I even have children will give me the greatest opportunity to pass this message along to them and ideally for generations to come. I decided to be proactive and make this happen before it was too late.

One of my favourite quotes by Warren Buffett is “The chains of habit are too light to be felt, until they are too heavy to be broken.” What this means to me is that we are aware of the habits that we have – the choices that we make, and yet we simply choose not to do anything about it until it is finally too late. We are blind to it, until we finally get a wake-up call, one that is generally quite rude.

Case in point – We all know someone (or many people) who has a horrible diet, makes terrible food and lifestyle decisions and is absolutely not willing to accept that the issues exist, until it is too late – they suffer a major health event – Heart Disease, Cancer, Stroke, Autoimmune Disease. Once they are diagnosed, the chance of complete recovery is significantly lower than if they had acted proactively – they are placed on a myriad of medications to manage their symptoms and become yet another statistic.

How long are you willing to wait before you make the changes you know you need to make?

Are you willing to wait until it’s too late?

Many of my past decisions were REACTIVE decisions. They placed me into a certain circumstance which I did not fully accept. Then something changed – the AH-HA moments.

The day I stepped on the scale and saw the number 250. The day a close family member younger than me, was diagnosed with a largely PREVENTABLE CHRONIC DISEASE in his 20’s, I knew something needed to change. When my 40-something year-old uncle who I look up to immensely was hospitalized in need of a QUADRUPLE BYPASS – In his 40’s!

The chains used to be too light to be felt. Then I accepted that I had put myself on a trajectory to have to deal with health challenges… and yet it was early enough to change that trajectory – that is was truly possible to break the chains of habit, once I finally accepted that they existed. I was digging my own grave, but there was still time to climb out.

I decided that my kids will not go through the crap that I have gone through.

I did it for my (future) kids.

What motivates you?

Signs of a Zinc Deficiency

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Signs of Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is an incredibly important micronutrient to the proper function of our cells, regardless of the type of cell it is. For this reason, Zinc deficiency can have a very wide range of symptoms, regardless of the extent of deficiency – severe or marginal. It is estimated that 2 billion people around the world are affected by a dietary Zinc deficiency.

So what makes Zinc so important in our diet?

  • This micronutrient plays an important role in the formation of structural proteins like Antioxidants and in the outer membrane of each cell. This means that if we don’t have enough Zinc in our cells, the proteins that our cells form will not be able to function correctly, leading to increased risk of oxidative damage and impaired cellular function
  • Very important in the development and function of Immune cells, specifically T-cell growth and differentiation into White Blood Cells to ward off infection and disease
  • Zinc is also important in the role of cell signalling as it plays an important role in the release of hormones and neurotransmitter release from nerve cells. Without Zinc, our hormones and nerves would not function properly
  • Zinc plays an important part in the programmed cell death of cells that are no longer functioning correctly, thus regulating cellular growth and development. If there is a lack of Zinc in these cells, they will not undergo their regulatory process of cellular death and could potentially be a source of Cancer and other chronic diseases

Who is at risk of being deficient in Zinc levels?

People that suffer from the following conditions are at higher risk of being deficient in Zinc levels:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Nutrient absorption syndromes
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s, Ulcerative Collitis)
  • Alcoholism
  • Hemodialysis patients
  • Strict Vegetarians (mild risk)

How to find out if you suffer from Zinc Deficiency?

Those who suffer from Zinc deficiency tend to have the following symptoms:

  • Poor Neurological function
    • Attention and motor disorders in infants, that continues into adulthood
  • Weak Immune System function
    • Those who suffer from persistent colds, infections and hormonal issues
  • Diarrhea
    • Most likely caused by impaired immune system function
  • Food and Environmental Allergies
    • Low Zinc levels lead to increased release of Histamines causing increased allergy symptoms and increasing sensitivity to allergic reactions
  • Thinning Hair
    • Thyroid hormones are essential for Zinc absorption as is thinning hair, and it has been shown that supplementation of Zinc and Thyroid hormone together can improve hair loss caused by hypothyroidism
  • Intestinal Permeability (Leaky Gut)
    • In the digestive tracts of patients with Leaky Gut and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Zinc has been shown to “tighten” or decrease the leakiness of the intestinal barrier, in patients suffering from Crohn’s disease
  • Acne, Rashes, White Spots on Nails
    • Some people can develop skin issues, rashes and even acne due to insufficient levels of Zinc

What foods can you eat to help raise Zinc levels?

There are many whole foods that are high in Zinc but if you require treatment for deficiency, speak to your doctor or natural health specialist before beginning any regimen of Zinc supplementation. Some of the best foods are:

  • Grass-Fed Beef and Lamb
  • Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) and Mung Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Chicken
  • Cooked Oysters
  • Kefir or Yogurt
  • Spinach
  • Cocoa Powder

Please speak to a natural health specialist or functional medicine doctor before beginning any treatment for Zinc Deficiency.

References

Higdon J, D. V. (2013, June). Zinc Deficiency. Retrieved from Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc#deficiency

J, A. (2015). 7 Signs of Zinc Deficiency & the Best Foods to Cure it! Retrieved from Dr. Axe: http://draxe.com/zinc-deficiency/

Mayo Clinic. (2013, November 1). Zinc: Drugs and Supplementation. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/zinc/evidence/hrb-20060638

Nutri-facts. (2012, February 26). Zinc. Retrieved from Nutri-facts: Understanding Vitamins & More: http://www.nutri-facts.org/eng/trace-elements/zinc/health-functions/

Dr. Navaz Habib

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Signs of Zinc Deficiency

Fungus causes Chronic Sinusitis

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul: Fungal Allergy Symptoms

Every spring, people with seasonal allergies to pollen and other allergens have to make a choice – either take an anti-histamine and enjoy the outdoors, or sit indoors watching others bask in the glory of the beautiful weather that has recently arrived. Well, I’d like to add a new option for all the chronic seasonal allergy sufferers out there – Get rid of the fungus that is making your allergies more severe.

It has been known for many years that our sinuses are home to a host of bacteria and fungi, both in people who suffer from chronic sinusitis and those who don’t, but a distinction has recently been found.  People who suffer from Chronic Rhinosinusitis are HYPERSENSITIVE to the fungus. This means that allergy sufferers tend to have a stronger response to the presence of fungi that is present in the mucus.

In hypersensitive people, one type of white blood cell (called an Eosinophil) tends to react more strongly to the presence of fungi in the sinuses following acute reactions to pollen and other allergens.  These Eosinophils release granules that are highly toxic to the fungi, but area also toxic to the top layer of our cells (epithelium) on the sinus walls.  Studies conducted at the Mayo Clinic have shown that patients with chronic sinusitis showed exaggerated responses to common airborne fungi such as Alternaria and Alternata, but these same fungi elicit no response from healthy normal individuals.

2 important questions to ask yourself are: “What is causing my White Blood Cells to be Hypersensitive?” and “What other sources of allergic triggers am I exposed to?”

There are many sources of hypersensitivity reactions from our immune systems, and breathing air through our airways is just one path for potential allergens to enter our bodies.  The food and drinks that enter our gut are also potential sources of hypersensitivity.  If you are eating foods that you have a sensitivity to, your immune system will constantly be on high alert and could be a cause of hypersensitivity, even in your sinuses.

It is important to note that a food sensitivity is different from a food allergy, as an allergy causes a fast-acting, localized reaction (for example, a Peanut allergy) while a sensitivity causes a delayed-onset, prolonged, diffuse reaction (for example, Gluten sensitivity).  These reactions are triggered by different types of antibodies released by our white blood cells.  Chronic sinusitis could very well be caused by hypersensitive white blood cells reacting to fungi, after being exposed to a trigger in the gut.

So what can allergy sufferers do for their chronic sinus inflammation?

  1. Breathe IN through your NOSE

People who inhale through their nose tend to have decreased risk of sinusitis or allergic triggers.  This is due to the hairs in our noses that filter out the air, blocking potential allergens from entering the airways and sinuses.

 

  1. Identify Allergic and Sensitivity Triggers

Using an elimination diet can help to stop food triggers from putting your immune system on high alert.  Eliminate foods that have a higher risk of sensitivity such as Gluten, Fermented cheeses, Chocolate and Beer.  An elimination diet should only be performed under supervision of your health care provider.

 

  1. Allergy and Food Sensitivity Testing

Visit a Functional Medicine doctor to get IgG Food Sensitivity testing done.  This can identify foods that you have specific sensitivities too and thus should avoid or eliminate from your diet immediately.

 

  1. Get a Comprehensive Stool Test Done

If you have been prescribed antibiotics in the past for issues relating to your sinuses, you may have a disproportionate balance of gut bacteria remaining.  Stool testing can determine if you need to take a probiotic to help heal your gut and help with digestion of meals.

References

Kita, H. (2015, June 9). Mechanisms of Chronic Rhinosinusitis. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic Research: http://www.mayo.edu/research/labs/allergic-diseases/mechanisms-chronic-rhinosinusitis

Myers, A. (2015, 06 09). Cure Your Seasonal Allergies Naturally. Retrieved from Amy Myers MD: www.amymyersmd.com/2015/04/cure-your-seasonal-allergies-naturally/

Ponikau, J. e. (2000). Role of Fungi in Allergic Fungal Sinusitis and Chronic Rhinosinusitis. Mayo ClinProc, Vol 75.

 

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul: Fungal Allergy Symptoms

Hormonal Acne – Treatment

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Hormonal Acne Treatment

Why is it that we always seem to get the largest pimple of our lives on our wedding day, prom night or right before that important business meeting?  Wouldn’t it be great if there were strategies to prevent this embarrassment from happening in the future?

Acne is a process driven by hormones which occurs on our skin following a few steps inside our bodies:

Increased production of Sebum (oil) which is released from glands attached to hair follicles

Excess Keratin production in hair follicles causing follicular plugging

Increased activity and growth of P. acnes bacteria leading to…

Increased inflammation in the hair follicles and surrounding lower layers of the skin (dermis) (Dreno B, 2003)

All humans have P. acnes bacteria on our skin surface.  These bacteria are promoted to grow when given certain environmental conditions.

  1. Hormones that affect Sebum forming glands
    • Androgens (found in both males and females) are the hormones responsible for causing cell changes in our skin
    • High levels of these hormones cause formation of non-inflammatory pre-acne lesions called Microcomedones
    • These hormones also cause an increase in Sebum (oil) production (Gollnick H, 2003)
  2. Sebum composition
    • Human sebum consists of squalene, esters of glycerol, wax and cholesterol, as well as free cholesterol and fatty acids
    • High levels of sebum production tend to allow bacteria to grow more readily in hair follicles
    • Limiting the amount of cholesterol, triglycerides and free fatty acids can help to reduce the risk of forming acne lesions(Picardo M, 2009)
  3. Inflammation
    • As the bacteria grows, the immune system reacts and sends white blood cells and Inflammation to the site of the bacterial growth, causing the formation of an acne lesion

There are a few things that we can do to prevent the bacteria from colonising and forming acne, specifically at the source of bacterial proliferation.

  1. Cut out Processed foods
    • Traditional indigenous cultures tend to have little acne, but as soon as they adopt a Standard American Diet (SAD) high in processed foods, they tend to see increased levels of acne.
  2. Decrease Sugar Intake
    • Consuming sugar leads to increased levels of Insulin which in turn increases levels of androgens (like Testosterone) in women, as well as increasing overall inflammation which can cause acne
  3. Avoid Saturated and Processed Fats
    • These fats increase levels of arachidonic acid, competing with the good Omega-3 fats which lead to more inflammation and acne.
  4. Decrease Dairy Intake
    • As well as being high in sugar content, milk and dairy (including milk chocolate) often have added growth hormone which can lead to acne and other skin problems
  5. Increase Antioxidants
    • Vitamins A and E are very important for skin health and help to combat oxidative stress and inflammation
    • Eat more Vegetables and Fruits which contain anti-oxidants
  6. The following foods have been linked improvements in acne:
    • Fish oil, turmeric, ginger, green tea, nuts, dark purple and red foods (like berries), dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.) and Eggs
  7. Manage Stress Levels
    • Stress increases your cortisol and other hormone levels, disturbing the hormonal balance and depletes certain nutrients which help to control acne
    • Manage your stress levels using meditation, yoga, massage, aromatherapy and exercise.(Hyman, 2015)

Eating a balanced diet low in processed and high sugar foods, high in antioxidants and clean, green foods and ensuring that your stress levels are managed can help to manage hormonal acne breakouts.

Dr. Navaz Habib

References

Dreno B, P. F. (2003). Epidemiology of Acne. Dermatology, 7-10.

Gollnick H, C. W. (2003). Management of acne: a report from a global alliance to improve outcomes in acne. J Am Acad Dermatol, S1-S37.

Hyman. (2015, May 31). How to Get Rid of Acne, Pimples, and Other Skin Problems. Retrieved from Dr. Mark Hyman: http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/05/19/how-to-get-rid-of-acne-pimples-and-other-skin-problems/

Picardo M, O. M. (2009). Sebaceous gland lipids. Dermatoendocrinology, 68-71.

 

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Hormonal Acne Treatment

Gut Bacteria linked to Rheumatoid Arthritis

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Gut Bacteria and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Recent research has come to the attention of the scientific community linking Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) to the type of bacteria that exists in your gut.  RA is an autoimmune condition experienced more commonly by females than males and is thought to occur or result from a combination of factors including genetic, environment and other unknown events that occur within our bodies (Pollard 2012).  These epigenetic factors can cause individuals to experience multiple hot, swollen, inflamed and painful joints at multiple sites throughout their body, most commonly in the hands, wrists, ankles and feet.  Current medical management of RA and other autoimmune diseases involves the use of medications to manage the disease but we have yet to find a cure at this time.

Some new research is pointing to the possibility that the normal bacteria in your gut (microbiome) may contribute to your risk of RA as well as active inflammation in the joints.  This is possible as the type of bacteria that make up our individual microbiome is different, and some specific types of bacteria can lead to issues in the gut as well as other areas throughout the body including joints. The specific bacteria in your gut is associated with the foods that you eat and can be involved in causing Leaky Gut Syndrome (aka. intestinal hyperpermeability) as well as loss of immune tolerance to the normal bacteria of the gut (Yeoh and al 2013). Specific locations in the body with a high load of bad, opportunistic bacteria (for example, the gut) may represent the source by which immune cells begin attacking body parts as they increase the amount of inflammation circulating in the bloodstream (Brusca and al 2014). This led scientists to the idea that if the types of bacteria in the gut could possibly be changed, it could allow your immune system to recover and potentially stop attacking the joints.

In a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial study, patients with RA were given either a probiotic capsule daily for 8 weeks, or a placebo sugar pill for 8 weeks.  At the 8 week mark, RA disease activity was significantly improved in the group which received probiotic treatment when compared with the group that was given the placebo pill (Vaghef-Mehrabany and al 2014). The researchers found a significant decrease in specific markers of inflammation and a significant increase in good regulatory markers.  These researchers also found a lower Disease Activity Score in patients that were given the probiotic treatment as well as a lower number of active swollen joints.  It is also important to note that there were no new problems noted in patients after taking probiotics in the study (Alipour and al 2014).

There is also the issue of underlying Leaky Gut Syndrome (aka intestinal permeability).  Tight junctions are proteins that bind together cells side by side in the walls of the intestines to create a physical barrier to bacteria and particles that are within the digestive tract.  It has been shown in many studies that specific foods and food additives can lead to changes in the tight junctions between the cells of the gut, leading to holes, or ‘leaks’ in the gut wall, thus Leaky Gut syndrome. These foods and additives include sugars, salt, emulsifiers, organic solvents, gluten and even nanoparticles. As well, all of these food additives are shown to be used in greater quantities in countries with a higher rate of RA and other autoimmune conditions (Lerner and Torsten 2015).

So what does all of this mean for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

  1. Reduce your intake of Food Additives

These food additives include added sugars and salt in foods and beverages such as soda, juice, milk, chips, crackers, milk and other highly processed foods.

  1. Reduce your intake of Gluten – Avoid it completely if you can

Gluten has been shown to cause Leaky Gut and even Celiac Disease (Lerner and Torsten 2015). Cut down on or even eliminate your intake of breads, chips, tortillas and wheat-based highly processed cereals.

  1. Start taking Probiotics (after consulting with your doctor)

Probiotic supplements have been shown to reduce active inflammation in joints of people suffering with RA as well as other autoimmune conditions.  L. casei was the specific probiotic that was used in the studies outlined earlier in this article. Consult with your doctor before taking any probiotics.

  1. Consult a Functional Medicine Doctor

If your current course of therapy is not effectively managing your disease, consult with a doctor who practices Functional Medicine. These doctors will help you find the root cause of your disease process and give you a course of treatment to heal the source of your condition.

 

References

Alipour, B, and et al. 2014. “Effects of Lactobacillus casei supplementation on disease activity and inflammatory cytokines in rheumatoid arthritis patients: a randomized double-blind clinical trial.” International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases 519-27.

Bedaiwi MK, Inman RD. 2014. “Microbiome and probiotics: link to arthritis.” Current Opinions in Rheumatology 410-5.

Brusca, SB, and et al. 2014. “Microbiome and mucosal inflammation as extra-articular triggers for rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmunity.” Current Opinions in Rheumatology 101-7.

Lerner, A, and M Torsten. 2015. “Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease.” Autoimmunity Reviews 14: 479-489.

Pollard, KM. 2012. “Gender differences in autoimmunity associated with exposure to environmental factors.” Journal of Autoimmunity J177-86.

Vaghef-Mehrabany, E, and et al. 2014. “Probiotic supplementation improves inflammatory status in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.” Nutrition 430-5.

Yeoh, N, and et al. 2013. “The role of the microbiome in rheumatic diseases.” Current Rheumatology Reports 314.

 

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Gut Bacteria and Rheumatoid Arthritis