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8 Signs that your Gut Bacteria are Out of Whack!

Every day, there are new studies coming out exploring the connection between human gut bacterial populations, and practically every other aspect of human health. Most people don’t realize it yet, but what you eat and how you live will change the makeup of your gut bacteria. This also means that if you can change your gut, you can change your life.

The first step is realizing that something is wrong with your gut bacteria in the first place. So what can you do to determine if there might be an issue with the population of bacteria in your gut.

There are more than 100 trillion bacterial cells in the average human gut, and they have a greater impact on our health than medical experts and researchers previously realized. There are GOOD gut bacteria and BAD gut bacterial species. Good gut bacterial species help to improve our digestion, strengthen the immune system and aid in the manufacture of vitamins that our body needs. Bad gut bacteria can cause skin conditions, nightmares, brain symptoms, autoimmune conditions, detoxification problems and a whole host of functional issues that could eventually lead to chronic diseases.

Here are 8 signs to watch for to determine if your gut bacteria are imbalanced.

  1. Digestive Issues

The first and most likely symptom that we find in patients with gut bacterial imbalances are digestive problems. Our gut bacteria are very important to our ability to break down and digest foods, in order to get our required nutrients. The issue is that an imbalance can lead to slowing or quickening of the digestive sequence. These can lead to digestive symptoms such as:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis)
  • Heartburn/ ”acid reflux”
  1. Inability to Lose weight

Certain gut bacteria have been shown to exist in patients that have more trouble losing weight. I personally went through this issue as my imbalanced gut flora was contributing to unhealthy food cravings, fatigue, and tiredness. Through laboratory testing, it was determined that the balance of my bacterial populations was a contributing cause to my weight gain and my inability to lose weight. Once I was able to rebalance my flora, the weight fell off and I burned off a total of 75 lbs while improving so many other aspects of my life.

  1. Mental Issues

Did you know that imbalances in your gut can affect the health and function of your brain? Your gut bacteria actually produce a significant amount of neurotransmitters, the chemicals used by your brain to communicate between cells. There is a new trend being researched currently, that people with certain patterns of mental dysfunction also tend to have disturbances in their gut bacteria. These mental symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Brain Fog
  • Autism
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  1. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

We absorb most of our vitamins and minerals through our gut, and these important molecules then travel to our cells through our bloodstream. An imbalance in gut bacteria means that your body will actually have a harder time absorbing these essential vitamins and minerals such as:

  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  1. Excessive Antibiotic Use

When they are used correctly, antibiotics are one of the greatest innovations in modern medicine, however, in our current circumstances, we are being prescribed antibiotics at an irresponsible rate. They are being used indiscriminately on factory-farmed animals and some doctors even prescribe them for viral infections (which is quite useless). Antibiotics are great for wiping out bad bacterial species, but they are also good at eliminating good bacteria in the gut which we now know are essential for our health. It is important to intervene on your own to help replenish good bacterial species if you have had recent or longer-term antibiotic use.

  1. Inability to Deal with Stress

Stress can be good and bad. It can build you up or tear you down. If you are the type of person that has trouble dealing with stress, meaning that you become more anxious and have increased blood pressure, then that negative stress can have profound effects on your gut bacteria. Unmanaged stress raises our Cortisol stress hormone levels, which tells our gut not to work correctly. Under stress, our bodies send more energy to our muscles, and less blood to our internal organs. Digestion is not considered an important issue when you are running away from a lion or dealing with an annoying client at the end of your work day. If you have not taken steps to manage your internal stress levels, you are far more likely to have an unhealthy gut flora.

  1. Skin Conditions

Your gut is an extension of your skin, or depending on your perspective, your skin is an extension of your gut. There is a misguided but common idea that the symptoms of a condition must appear in the same spot as the problem itself. This is not true as we now know that an issue in your gut will often appear on your skin as a sign that something is not right inside. Unbalanced gut flora have been implicated and proven to be contributing to multiple skin conditions including:

  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Dry, scaly skin
  1. Autoimmune Diseases

There is more and more research coming out each week showing that our gut is ground zero for immune system balance. We have immune cells present in every millimeter of our gut, protecting us from negative outside influence. As we continue to expose these cells to environmental toxins, herbicides, pesticides, plastics and other harmful food-based proteins, we are over-stimulating our immune cells to the point that they can’t keep up. Eventually, they start attacking anything that looks similar to these toxins, which often leads to autoimmune diseases. These conditions can include:

  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Ulcerative Colit
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Dementia
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Asthma
  • Vasculitis
  • Type 1 Diabetes

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

So now that we know how to spot potential issues with gut flora balance, what can we do about it? There are a few easy steps that we can all take to help balance your gut bacteria.

  1. Avoid Chemical and Environmental Toxins

Throw away your plastic food containers and recycle your plastic water bottles. Plastics are a major source of environmental and chemical toxins including BPA. Eating organic foods will also help to eliminate the ingestion of herbicide and pesticide residues like Glyphosate, which has recently been linked to cancer. Eat a clean, whole food, organic diet and use glass containers and glass bottles to avoid chemicals that are constantly around us.

  1. Eliminate Toxic Foods and Medications

Certain foods tend to lead to increased inflammation in the gut and can produce imbalances in gut bacteria. In fact, having these foods can lead to cravings for unhealthy food on an ongoing basis. The foods to avoid include grains, conventional, grain-fed dairy, sugars and unhealthy oils. Its also a good idea to avoid other modern toxins that are always available such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen and Antibiotics.

  1. Eat Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are a proactive way to encourage good gut bacteria to grow. These foods were very common in our ancestors’ diets and are full of good gut bacteria. Great options include:

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables
  • Non-pasteurized yogurt, cheese, and kefir
  1. Take a GOOD QUALITY Probiotic Supplement

Our ancestors were not as concerned with hygiene as we are. They used to play in the soil and other “dirty” things that they encountered. A good probiotic can help make up for the hygienic practices that we use on a daily basis. There are a wide range of probiotic supplements available and here are some guidelines to use when choosing a good probiotic:

  • Stay away from the cheapo bins – you get what you pay for
  • Make sure they are potent, a minimum of 10 Billion cultures per dose for regular probiotics and a minimum of 3 Billion cultures per dose for spore-based probiotics
  • Look into supplements that contain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
  1. Manage your Stress

One of the most powerful things you can do besides changing your diet and taking probiotics is to take time and learn how to handle daily stressors that will inevitably come up. There is certainly no one-size-fits-all method to this, but the key is to find something you enjoy and stick with it. Some great options include:

  • Getting a weekly massage
  • Yoga
  • Weight-lifting
  • Meditation
  • Taking a bath
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Going for a run or a bike ride
  • Watching the sunrise
  • Periodic vacations
  • Getting a good night’s rest

These practices can all help you reduce inflammation, lower cortisol levels and lead to an overall improvement in gut function. Taking time for yourself is essential not only for your mind to recharge but for your body to recover from the constant stress we place on it.

Making these changes are the first step in re-balancing your gut bacteria. Some people may need further assistance and testing to determine why issues can exist or persist. If you would like to find out more about our Functional Medicine Program at The Living Proof Institute you can visit www.becomeproof.com or book a free 15-minute phone consultation at www.iamproof.com.

Wishing you great gut health,

Dr. Navaz Habib

www.drhabib.ca

19 Ways to Activate your Vagus Nerve

Living a life of stress and constant mental stimulation can lead us down a path of symptoms and medical conditions related to high stress. These people are often dealing with fatigue, food sensitivities, anxiety, poor digestion, brain fog and poor sleep quality. Those who suffer with these symptoms often suffer from lower Vagal Tone, meaning that they have a lower ability of the vagus nerve to be activated and perform its functions. So what is the Vagus Nerve?

The Vagus Nerve is the brain’s method of controlling the parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and digest system. It is not the only nerve controlling our ability to decrease stressors, but it is by far the single most important nerve due to its far reaching effects. The word “vagus” means wanderer, as this nerve wanders throughout the body to many important organs and imparts signals from the brain regarding their level of function.

This nerve connects the brain to the gut (intestines and stomach), heart, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney, ureter, spleen, lungs, sex organs (in females), neck (pharynx, larynx and esophagus), ears and the tongue. No other nerve in the body has such a broad and far reaching effect as the Vagus Nerve.

The function that it imparts is extensive.

  • In the brain itself, it helps control anxiety and mood.
  • In the gut, it increases stomach acidity, gut flow/motility and other digestive enzyme production.
    • Low stomach acid is a major source of gut-related health conditions so an underactive vagus nerve is correlated to the root cause of many health conditions.
  • In the heart, it controls heart rate variability, heart rate and blood pressure.
  • In the pancreas it controls blood sugar balance and digestive enzymes.
  • In the liver it controls bile production and detoxification through hepatic phase 1 and phase 2 conjugation.
  • In the gall bladder it controls bile release to help break down fats.
  • In the kidneys, it promotes general function including water balance, glucose control and sodium excretion which helps control blood pressure.
  • In the bladder it controls voiding of urine.
  • In the spleen it helps to reduce inflammation.
  • In the sex organs it helps to control fertility and sexual pleasure including orgasms.
  • In the mouth and tongue, it helps to control ability to taste and saliva production through salivary gland control.
  • In the eyes, it activates tear production through the lacrimal glands.

Vagus nerve stimulation has the potential to help those suffering from various health conditions, including but certainly not limited to anxiety disorders, heart disease, some forms of cancer, poor circulation, leaky gut syndrome, alzheimer’s, memory and mood disorders, migraine’s and headaches, fibromyalgia, obesity, tinnitus, addiction, autism and autoimmune conditions.

So how can we stimulate this nerve to ensure that this nerve is functioning optimally? Here are 19 ways you can exercise and stimulate your vagus nerve:

 

1. Cold Showers

Any acute cold exposure will increase vagus nerve stimulation. Studies have shown that when your body adjusts to cold, your fight or flight (sympathetic) system declines and your rest and digest (parasympathetic) system increases, which is mediated by the vagus nerve. Other options are to dip your face in cold water, drink colder fluids and you can even graduate to using a cryohelmet and cold vest. Cold showers are accessible and very effective.

 

2. Singing or chanting

Singing, humming, mantra chanting, hymn singing and upbeat energetic singing all increase heart rate variability (HRV) in slightly different ways. Singing at the top of your lungs (like you mean it) makes you work the muscles at the back of your throat, which helps activate the vagus nerve. The next time someone catches you singing along to the radio while driving your car, tell them you are just exercising and activating your Vagus nerve.

 

3. Gargling

Gargling with a glass of water each morning will help to contract the muscles in the back of your throat. This in turn helps to activate the Vagus nerve and also stimulates the digestive tract. Keep a glass next to your sink in the washroom as a daily reminder to perform this exercise. You will know you are doing it properly if you gargle to the point of tearing in the eyes (another vagus nerve response). This exercise has been found to be the most readily accessible and easiest to implement in daily life.

 

4. Yoga

Yoga is a parasympathetic activation exercise that improves digestion, blood flow, lung capacity and function. A 12 week yoga intervention showed significantly improved mood and anxiety levels when compared with a control group that performed simple walking exercises. This study showed that levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter associated with mood and anxiety, were increased in those that performed these exercises. Lower mood and higher anxiety is associated with low GABA levels, while an increase in these levels improves mood and decreases anxiety and stress levels. (Reference)

 

5. Meditation

There are two different types of meditation that have been shown to increase vagal tone including Loving-Kindness meditation as well as Guided Mindfulness Meditation. These have been measured by heart rate variability (Reference). It has also been shown that the chanting of “Om” stimulates the vagus nerve.

 

6. Deep Breathing Exercises

Slow and deep breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve. The baroreceptors, or pressure receptors in your neck and heart detect blood pressure and transmit the signal to your brain. This signal then in turn activates the vagus nerve, to help lower blood pressure and heart rate. This results in a lower sympathetic “fight or flight” response, as well as a higher parasympathetic “rest and digest” response. Slow breathing helps to increase the sensitivity of these receptors, increasing vagal activation.

Here’s an important tip: Breathe slowly, having your belly rise and fall. This is the intended action of your Diaphragm muscle. Your shoulders and Traps should not be moving much at all with each breath as these actions are controlled by secondary respiratory muscles. The more your belly expands and contracts, the deeper you are breathing.

 

7. Laughter

Laughter is the best medicine. This can actually be true in the case of increased vagus nerve activity as laughter has been shown to increase heart rate variability in a study comparing a laughter yoga participants (Reference).

Laughter has also been found to be beneficial for cognitive function and protects against heart disease. It increases beta endorphins, nitric oxide levels and benefits the vascular system. It has also been shown that people put in humorous situations show a lower cortisol stress level overall.

 

8. Probiotics

Your gut is connected to your brain, and one of the most clear connections is through the Vagus nerve. Within our gut, we have a population of normal and good bacteria and yeast called the Microbiome. These organisms have a direct effect on our brains as a significant percentage of our neurotransmitters including Serotonin, GABA and Dopamine are produced through actions of these bacteria helping to break down our foods. Often times we have less good bacteria and more bad bacteria within this population leading to poor neurochemistry and decreased vagal tone.

Probiotics are a good option to help promote the good bacteria and other organisms while helping to crowd out the bad bacteria, parasites and yeast.

 

9. Light Exercise

Mild exercise has been shown to stimulate gut flow and gastric motility (peristalsis) which is mediated by the vagus nerve. This in turn means that mild low level exercise can stimulate the vagus nerve (Reference)

 

10. Fasting

Intermittent fasting helps to increase high frequency heart rate variability in animals, which is a marker of vagal tone. When you fast, part of the decrease in metabolism is mediated by the vagus nerve as it detects a decline in blood glucose levels and a decrease of mechanical and chemical stimuli from the gut (Reference).

 

11. Massages

Pressure massages can activate the vagus nerve. These massages are used to help infants to gain weight by stimulating gut function, which is largely mediated by activating the vagus nerve. Foot Massages can also increase vagus nerve activity, heart rate variability and lower your heart rate and blood pressure, all of which decrease risk of heart disease.

 

12. Tai Chi

Tai Chi has been shown to increase heart rate variability in patients suffering from coronary artery disease which again is mediated through vagus nerve activation (Reference).

 

13. Fish Oil – Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish Oils – EPA and DHA are capable of increasing heart rate variability as well as lowering heart rate.

 

14. Tongue depressors

Tongue depressors stimulate the gag reflex. These function in a similar mechanism to gargling or singing loudly as they exercise the reflexes that are mediated by the vagus nerve.

 

15. Acupuncture

Traditional acupuncture treatment as well as auricular acupuncture (of the ear) stimulate vagus nerve activity. The effects of acupuncture are becoming increasingly well known and you can ask most patients who have had this treatment about the calming effect and restful feelings that they have following an acupuncture treatment. I know many of my patients absolutely love it.

 

16. Serotonin

Serotonin, the mood and happiness neurotransmitter, is capable of activating the vagus nerve through various receptors, which are mediated by 5HT1A, 5-HT2, 5-HT3, 5-HT-4 and possibly 5-HT6 receptors. If you have been found to be deficient in serotonin levels, 5-HTP is a good supplement to help increase them.

 

17. Tensing stomach muscles

Bearing down as if to make a bowel movement requires your body to be in a rest and digest state. This is why many people feel much more relaxed following a bowel movement. Tensing the core muscles by performing abdominal bracing exercises can help to promote a rest and digest state by activating the vagus nerve.

 

18. Eating in a relaxed state

Don’t eat breakfast in a rush, lunches at your desk, or dinner in front of the computer. Having a meal in a stressful environment when you are running late, working or not focussing on the meal can have long-lasting and damaging effects. It is important to eat in a relaxed state, in a calm and peaceful environment. Remember – Choose good food, Chew your food well, and Chill. Choose, Chew, Chill.

 

19. Chewing your food well

The simple act of chewing your food, activates the stomach to release acid, tastebuds to taste the foods well, bile production in the liver and release from the gall bladder, digestive enzyme release from the pancreas and gut motility which are all mediated by the vagus nerve. It is important to sequence your digestion correctly and your body will do this automatically IF you start the process correctly. You must take the time to chew your food to the point that it is soft and mushy in your mouth, before your swallow. Doing this will set the correct sequence of digestion in motion and allow the vagus nerve to perform its functions correctly.

Your state of digestion, rest and recovery are all mediated by the vagus nerve. Following these exercises and habits will not only make you feel better, it will allow you to experience the world in a relaxed, calm and enjoyable state. Happy gargling!!

Should I Eat Organic?

“Organic food is expensive.” I hear this comment daily when I speak with patients, colleagues and friends. Is it even possible to always eat completely organic?

In our daily lives, it is not always possible to make the best choices in terms of food. Nobody understands this better than an entrepreneur, chiropractor and owner of multiple businesses. We have hectic lives and if you have kids and parents to take care of, we can often feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to make great food at home on a daily basis. Choosing high quality foods when you grocery shop is also not easy, but it is possible if you know what to look for.

What does Organic even mean?

I’m sure we have all heard about the use of pesticides and genetically modified organism (GMO) crops that are growing in usage throughout North America especially.

Organic foods generally are foods that have not been genetically modified to withstand the effect of herbicide and pesticide sprays. Organic foods are those that have not been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. The most commonly known example of this practice is the company Monsanto, which uses genetically modified seeds of corn, soybean and other crops, and sprays them with their own herbicide product called Roundup.

The main ingredient in Roundup is a chemical called Glyphosate. Glyphosate actively is used to kill weeds and grasses that compete for soil usage with crops that are being grown by farmers.

Glyphosate has been linked to many health conditions since its usage started in 1996 when glyphosate resistant crops were introduced in the US. The health conditions implicated include a nearly exact correlation with Autism, Alzheimer’s, Obesity, Diabetes and Autoimmune diseases. It is not unreasonable to assume that these chemicals could potentially be a significant source of chronic health conditions. For this reason, it would be best to purchase organic produce when you are shopping for groceries.

Do I need to buy everything Organic?

Some vegetables and crops have been found to contain more pesticide and herbicide than others. The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has created a list of foods that are highest and lowest in pesticide and herbicide residues. They have called these lists the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”.

Dirty Dozen:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries
  • Potatoes

Clean Fifteen:

  • Onions
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Watermelon
  • Mushrooms

Use this list as a resource to direct you when you are buying your groceries. This is an easy way to keep your expenses down and to ensure that you are feeding your families the cleanest foods possible. Ideally, most of your foods should be purchased organic, but this list is a great resource to use if you are not ready to go all the way just yet.

If you think organic food is expensive, just think of it as an investment, so you don’t need to spend money on huge healthcare bills when you are older.

Happy Grocery Shopping!

Natural Methods to reduce Anxiety following an Autoimmune Diagnosis

When your doctor diagnoses you with an autoimmune condition, you remember that day. In fact, time just seems to stand still for a moment as you try to comprehend and understand what is happening. There are many different autoimmune conditions that are commonly diagnosed in North America, including one that seems to directly target the Thyroid Gland – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

It is estimated that 80-90% of all cases of Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) are due to this condition, and nearly 50% of those diagnosed autoimmune disease, actually suffer with more than one condition. The emotional and mental stress of being diagnosed with this, or any other autoimmune condition, can lead to increased levels of anxiety and can make the symptoms even worse than they initially presented. In fact, the worry and stress that we put on ourselves actually reduces our ability to deal with the condition and the environmental factors head on. Acute Thyroid events such as transient hyperthyroidism (high thyroid function) can also lead to surges of active Thyroid hormones which leads to increased hormone induced anxiety.

I recently heard a great quote by Vance Havner regarding worry, and why we should not do it:

Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.

It’s time to stop worrying about the condition, and actually do something about it… get off the rocking chair.

So what can we do to address the anxiety related to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? Below are some great tips to help you address the underlying causes of symptoms and the condition itself.

1. Balance your Blood Sugar Levels

Each of our hormone systems are connected. This means that Thyroid hormone levels are associated with Insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas to help us balance our blood sugar levels, promoting glucose to leave the bloodstream and enter the cells as our cellular source of fuel to produce energy. It is very common for sufferers of Hashimoto’s to also have imbalanced blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance.

One important step to take is to reduce the amount of simple carbohydrate foods that we eat, including breads, rice, low fat milk, simple sugars, candy, chocolate and even fruit. Too much sugar in our diets leads to spikes in our blood sugar levels, causing our pancreas to produce lots of insulin in surges. This can cause our cells to become less sensitive to the insulin in our bloodstream (insulin resistance) and can cause our pancreas to get tired of producing so much insulin (type 2 Diabetes).

It is incredibly important to balance your blood sugar levels. For a more in-depth understanding of this mechanism, watch the video at this link: http://drhabib.ca/2016/03/blood-sugar-control/

2. Support Adrenal Gland Function

Your adrenal glands are very important in the production of stress and sex hormones. Low Thyroid function can lead to severe imbalances in Adrenal gland function, leading to elevated stress levels and reduced ability to deal with stress. Our adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol which is the main hormonal stress response in the body. There is a direct correlation between low thyroid hormone levels and imbalanced cortisol levels.

To support your adrenal glands, ensure that your diet is high in vitamins and minerals, chosen from real food sources. Also, begin practicing stress management by doing deep breathing exercises, going for walks outside, getting regular exercise and even performing yoga or meditation. Each individual will have a different pattern of adrenal gland function so see a functional medicine provider in your area to help address your individual case with specific supplements and treatments for the root cause of your condition.

3. Get Tested for Nutrient Deficiencies

There are some very common nutrient deficiencies related to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis including Selenium and Magnesium. Have your doctor test you for your levels of these nutrients as well as your Vitamin D and B vitamins. Supplementation with these vitamins must occur on an individual basis and should only occur once you have been tested. There are many studies showing a significant improvement in symptoms of autoimmune conditions when patients are treated for underlying nutrient deficiencies.

4. Drink Herbal Teas

There are some great natural remedies for anxiety such as herbal teas. Some of the best types of herbal tea have been shown to be as effective as medications like benzodiazepines in helping to reduce anxiety levels. Some of the best herbal teas include: Passionflower, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Ashwagandha and L-theanine. Click here for some great tea recipes: http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/5-herbs-to-calm-anxiety-without-being-drowsy

5. Use Essential Oils to help with Autonomic Nervous System Balance

Essential oils can be a very helpful natural tool in helping to reduce anxiety and stress in all sorts of conditions. Use an essential oil diffuser to spread the oil in a room or home when you are feeling stressed. Here are some of the best essential oils shown to be effective in many different research studies: Lavender Oil, Rose, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Chamomile and Frankincense.

6. Heal your Gut

The Root Cause of Autoimmune disease occurs in the Gut. Often times, we have food intolerances, chemical sensitivities, parasites, yeast and bacterial buildup in certain areas of our intestinal tract, that can lead to a condition called leaky gut syndrome. When your gut lining is compromised by one of these issues, it leads to overactivation of immune cells in the gut lining, which can lead to autoimmune activation through a process known as molecular mimicry. When antibodies are produced to attack the proteins that should not enter our bloodstream, these molecules look very similar to proteins on the surface of thyroid cells, leading to autoimmune disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

It is very important to get tested with a comprehensive stool panel and parasitology to determine the population of bacteria and parasites that are residing in your gut. These can be the root cause of why many people have autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Probiotics can be an effective form of treatment depending on your individual testing.

10 Easy Ways to Cut Out Sugar

We all know that sugar is a major negative player in our health, regardless of how specific our knowledge is. It should come as no surprise that high sugar intake has been linked to a vast number of medical conditions including, but certainly not limited to: Diabetes and insulin resistance, some cancers, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases and immune dysregulation, obesity and of course weight gain.

Not all sugars are created equal. In fact, naturally occurring sugars like those found in fruit, honey and maple syrup (unprocessed) are not as bad as processed sugars and high fructose corn syrup, and they also contain important antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Here are some practical tips that you can use to help cut avoidable sugars out of your diet.

  1. Stop Buying Processed Foods

This is the biggest change that you can make in your diet when cutting down on sugar. Here’s an easy rule to remember – if it comes in a box, bag or can, it contains added sugars. It’s not uncommon for a single food item to actually have four to five types of sugar added.

  1. Choose whole, fresh fruit

Dehydrated fruit, juice and our childhood favourite Fruit Roll-ups are all made up of almost pure sugar, and have been stripped of their all important phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber. Buy whole fruits and have them cut and ready to eat any time you crave a snack or for dessert. Choose berries, cherries, oranges, lemon and lime over denser fruits like apples and bananas.fruit

 

  1. Make Homemade Tomato Sauce

You would be surprised how much sugar goes into a can/bottle of tomato sauce. Next time you are at the grocery store, read the ingredient list on a can of any brand, noting how high sugar is on the list. Its amazing how good tomatoes taste when they simmer in a pot with some fresh herbs and spices. Here is a great recipe for Homemade Tomato Sauce.

  1. Make Your own Salad Dressing

Sugar are very commonly hidden in store bought salad dressings. I find that these store bought dressings actually don’t taste nearly as good as my basic, easy homemade dressings, where I mix up 2-3 ingredients at room temperature:

Choose 1 oil (Extra Virgin Olive, Avocado or Walnut are quite good)

Choose 1 vinegar (Balsamic is my favourite but plain white or cider also work)

Optional ingredients include sea salt, pepper, dried herbs, fresh squeezed lemon juice (just a bit), but my favourite is mustard seeds which gives the dressing a kick.olive vinegar bottles

 

  1. Don’t keep “treats” in the house

It’s as simple as out of sight, out of mind. If it’s not in the house, you can’tpassively snack on it while binging Netflix on a Sunday in your pyjamas. If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it! In fact, stop calling them “TREATS”… it’s a trick 😉

  1. Cut out Soda

This one is a no brainer. Trade in soda for water with lemon, lime, cucumber or frozen berries. If you still need something bubbly, drink soda water, either plain or with lime or lemon.

  1. Avoid Flavoured Yogurt

Most commercial yogurts contain as much sugar as a candy bar. Don’t eat it! Instead, buy or make your own plain yogurt and add fresh fruit, and maybe some honey if you still need some sweetness.

  1. Read the Ingredients on all sauces in your fridge

You would be surprised to find that many of the sauces located in your refrigerator contain more sugar (and sugars with other names to trick you like high fructose corn syrup) than you expect. It is readily found in barbecue sauce, ketchup, relish, hot sauce, chutneys, jam and jellies, in relatively high quantities.

condiments ketchup ingredients

  1. Give yourself rules about Dessert

Sometimes you give in to temptation, and that is completely understandable. We are all social creatures and eat foods to fit in to the crowd. Its tough to attend a birthday party or holiday dinner where there isn’t cake or pie being served. Two options include setting a rule of only eating these desserts on special occasions, or the three-bite rule – limit yourself to three very mindful bites of dessert and often times you won’t even want any more.

  1. Try Dark Chocolate

This has become a go-to option of mine personally. Choosing a dessert option that has significantly less sugar, but contains the positive benefits of cacao. You probably won’t be able to eat a full bar of dark chocolate, like you can with milk chocolate.

Cajun Oven “Fried” Chicken Wings

Cajun Oven ‘Fried’ Chicken Wings

By: Noureen Habib

I love chicken wings – anyone who knows me, knows just how much, so I thought it’d be best to learn how to make them myself without the deep-frying or breading. The trick to getting them just as good and crispy is baking them on a wire rack. That way, the fat renders evenly and consistently making them just as tasty as fried wings.

A sauce is optional; however we found we didn’t need a sauce because they turned out so moist inside and crispy on the outside!

Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2lbs of chicken wings (skin on)
  • 4 Tablespoons of my HOMEMADE CAJUN SPICE (click the link for the recipe)

Directions

  1. Marinate the chicken wings with 3 tablespoons of the Cajun spice, leave overnight
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F
  3. Line a baking tray with foil and place the wire rack on top, spread out the wings on the rack in a single layer
  4. Bake wings until they are cooked through and crispy, about 40-45 minutes
  5. Serve immediately!


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Choosing Healthy Fats for Cooking

Fat has been wrongly accused. We have associated the name “fats” with unwanted body fat, but it has been proven time and time again that dietary fat doesn’t make you fat! Even more importantly, these molecules such as Omega-3 Fatty Acids are ESSENTIAL to the growth, development and maintenance of our brain, liver, heart and kidneys as an important source of nutrients.

When you are walking the aisle in the grocery store with all the oils… are you choosing the healthiest oils to cook with? Most people are misinformed as to the type of oils they should be using for different types of cooking. Let’s cut through the mess and choose correctly from now on…


Cooking on High Heat

Choose oils that are stable, that don’t oxidize or go burn easily. When oils oxidize, they form free radicals which are harmful to your cells and can damage your DNA.

COCONUT OILcoconut oil

Best for cooking at high heat.

90% of Fatty Acids in Coconut Oil are saturated, making it very resistant to high heat. It is also particularly high in Lauric Acid, a fatty acid which can improve Cholesterol and help your body to eliminate unwanted bacteria and pathogens. The fats in coconut oil can also boost your metabolism slightly and increase the feeling of fullness relative to other fats.

When choosing Coconut Oil, Virgin Coconut Oil is organic, tastes good and has powerful health benefits.


BUTTER and GHEEbutter

In the past, butter has been demonized for its high saturated fat content, but butter is actually good for you!

Margarine on the other hand, is truly awful.

REAL butter, ideally from Grass-Fed Cows contains Vitamin A, E and K2, and is rich in CLA and Butyrate fatty acids, which have powerful health benefits. CLA can lower body fat percentage in humans and Butyrate can fight inflammation, improve gut hgheeealth and has been shown to make rats completely resistant to becoming obese.

There is one caveat when cooking with butter – Regular butter DOES contain tiny amounts of Lactose and Milk Proteins that have not been clarified during the churning process. For this reason, it can burn during high heat cooking like frying… but there is a solution.

Clarified Butter or Ghee is a great option for removing all lactose sugar and proteins, leaving you with pure butterfat. Here is a great tutorial on making your own Ghee at home! DIY Ghee


 

Cooking on Lower Heat

These oils can burn when exposed to high heat, however they are quite nutritious and are not a cause for concern when cooked on lower heat levels.

OLIVE OILolive oil

Olive oil is well known for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.

It has been shown to raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower the amount of oxidized bad cholesterol (LDL) that circulate in our bloodstream.

Olive oil does contain fatty acids with double bonds (more sensitive to heat), however it has been shown to be relatively resistant to lower heat levels.

Make sure to choose high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil which contains more nutrients and antioxidants than the refined types… and it tastes so much better. A drizzle of cold Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar is often all the salad dressing you will need!

AVOCADO OILAvocado_1

The composition of Avocado Oil has been found to be very similar to Olive Oil. It can be used for many of the same purposes as Olive Oil. It can be used to cook on lower heat, or can be used cold.

 


 

 

Fats and Oils to Avoid!

CANOLA OIL

The components of Canola Oil is actually quite good overall, however theissue is that Canola Oil has a very harsh processing method to ensure the removal of Toxic Euric Acid from the Rapeseeds.

The following oils should be avoided at all costs – their processing methods are incredibly harsh, the final products are highly processed and refined and contain very high levels of inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids. New data has been shown to link these oils with serious diseases including heart disease and cancer.

canola oilThese oils include:

  • Soybean Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Rapeseed Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Sesame Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Rice Bran Oil

Common Vegetable Oils have also been found to contain 0.56-4.2% Trans Fats which are highly toxic. It is important to read the labels of food products and avoid these seed and industrial oils altogether.

Insulin – King of the Hormones

There is a single important chemical in the body which manages a variety of processes and levels in the blood and the entire body.  This single master control – the king in your hand – is called Insulin, and controlling your Insulin is the key to your health.

When I was 75 pounds heavier, I was not in control of my Insulin levels. I was significantly heavier. I always feeling tired and run down. I was snoring and even stopped breathing at multiple times during the night (a condition called Sleep Apnea). I felt like I needed high calorie, high sugar and caffeinated foods to give me an energy boost at every meal and even between meals. I was not in control of my Insulin, and this was messing with the rest of my bodily functions.

Hormones are chemical messengers produced by certain organs and cells in our body. They are stimulated and secreted in order to maintain a balance of many factors related to metabolism, stress and energy production. This balance is called “Homeostasis”.

Insulin is considered the “master hormone” of the body. It is a chemical messenger which is produced and secreted by cells of the Pancreas (Beta-cells) in response to eating food, but most notably, in response to carbohydrates. Insulin facilitates the movement of all macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) out of the bloodstream and into our cells for use either immediately, or in the future.

When we eat a meal high in carbohydrates (sugar, cereal, pasta, breads, rice), our body responds to the elevated level of sugar in our blood by releasing a wave of Insulin in the bloodstream, telling the cells to remove all this sugar from the blood and take it into the cells for energy production and/or storage. If this happens occasionally in the body, the response will occur properly. When we are eating high carb meals multiple times per day, our blood sugar levels remain chronically high and insulin needs to be produced constantly in order to keep levels within the normal range. When our insulin levels are constantly high, the constant knocking at the door by Insulin annoys our cells.

If a friend rings your doorbell or knocks on your door asking for a favour, you generally have no problem and will help them out. Now imagine that same friend constantly knocking at your door, 3-4 times per day, asking you to help them with this or that. Initially you would get annoyed. Soon, you may not even answer the knock at the door because this friend is asking for too much and is being incredibly annoying, and so you become less friendly and the favour doesn’t get completed.

The same thing happens in our cells when Insulin is constantly knocking at the door, asking for our cells to do them a favour by taking in some sugar from the bloodstream. Our cells eventually stop answering the knock at the door (Insulin Resistance). This can eventually lead to chronically high blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia), which is harmful to our long-term health. The pancreas eventually stops producing insulin because our body stops reacting to it. We have lost our master hormone so our body’s hormone system. Our body reacts by many other hormones going out of balance including Glucagon, Cortisol, Thyroid, Testosterone, Progesterone, Estrogen and Leptin as well as their controlling hormones.

Chronically high blood sugar is a major cause of health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, brain and memory conditions (read the book “Grain Brain”), Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and low sex drive.

Overcome these issues by eating meals higher in natural sources of carbohydrate and other micronutrients like dark, leafy green vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Your diet should also be higher in good quality protein like free-run eggs, chicken and wild-caught fish as well as good quality fats like avocado, nuts and seeds. Cook in coconut oil, ghee or butter and avoid low quality industrial oils. Feel free to sprinkle your salads with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar as well rather than packaged dressings.

Stack your deck by treating the King of the Hormones well. Keep insulin working correctly and cells responding to that friendly neighbour. If you treat it will, your outlook will improve immensely as health will no longer limit you.

No More Lunches at Your Desk!!!

We are all aware of the importance of choosing proper foods to eat. It has been drilled into our brains that we need to eat real foods and avoid the cheap, processed, high sugar “foods” that are constantly being advertised to us. Once we make this choice correctly, it is important to learn how to ensure your body can use these vital nutrients.

  1. Choose Foods Wisely

These are common sense tools that most of us know. Pick lots of vegetables, some fruits, some protein (animal or plant sources, depending on your preference) and a little unprocessed carbohydrate (vegetables often do the trick) at each meal. Once you create the meal that is real and made by you, you will truly know what has gone into it and if you are comfortable eating it. However, choosing a chicken salad over a burger and fries is only going to work if your unconscious mind is digesting the foods correctly.

  1. Be Present

One of the greatest tools that I found in my path towards optimal health, is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be present in a situation by fully experiencing the moment that you are in. It is simply the act of blocking out external stimuli and focusing deeply on the present moment and how your body is feeling and reacting in the moment.

When you bring your healthy, prepared lunch to work, many people tend to simply plop it down in front of them at their desk and quickly scarf it down while sitting in front of their computer. Others even have their dinner in front of the television while binge-watching shows on Netflix – I am guilty of this as well. By doing this, we are setting up our bodies for failure in terms of optimal digestion of our foods.

Once we give the meal our true undivided attention, it will actually taste better as we can truly experience our food – the texture, the temperature, the flavors and all the other components that make real food taste truly amazing. This allows us to enter a parasympathetic, or relaxed state of mind, a state which is essential for the body to digest foods into the bloodstream correctly.

  1. Chew Properly

When we sit down in front of the computer or with our cell phone in front of us, our attention is divided – often times we pay more attention to the screen than the food and that means that we are not chewing our food enough. When we chew our food and give it the attention in requires, we can consciously do so until the food becomes soft, and moist. This will allow our tastebuds to be correctly activated and inform the brain of the specific types of food and the taste that we are experiencing. The brain then in turn will signal the correct processes to occur – for example if our food is sweet, the brain will signal the beta cells in our pancreas to secrete Insulin, while if the food is fattier, the brain signals the liver to produce and release bile to aid in its digestion.

It is also important to chew your food sufficiently so that the acid in your stomach can properly break down food into digestible nutrients. If food is still in big chunks, your stomach will not be able to break it down sufficiently, causing decreased digestion of required vitamins, minerals and micronutrients.

One trick my wife and I have started to use, is by putting our fork down between bites and only picking it up once we have finished chewing the previous bite. Chewing your food properly not only signals to your brain the kind of food you are eating but also ensures your stomach is able to absorb the most amount of nutrients.

  1. Take your Time

Eating in a rush causes our bodies to re-enter a sympathetic fight-or-flight state, a state in which digestion is not considered an important process in the moment. It is incredibly important to take your time and chill out while having your meal.

Think of your digestion like a carwash. First you choose a reputable carwash station – someone you know and trust to do a good job. Next, when you pull up to the carwash and get your car in the proper position, you need to put your car into neutral and take your foot off the pedals. Lastly, you should take your time and enjoy the ride – like a child mesmerized by the process going on outside of the car, be present and enjoy the ride.

My mentor Dr. Sachin Patel of The Living Proof Institute has a great saying in order to optimize digestion – Choose, Chew, Chill. Choose the correct foods, chew them properly and chill while eating. Some great tips to promote your optimal health!