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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

Overcoming B12 Deficiency

Many people suffer from fatigue, low mood, brain fog and lack of motivation. One of the most common reasons for these symptoms is a deficiency in Vitamin B12. This vitamin is an essential nutrient for humans, meaning that we cannot produce it in our own bodies, thus we are required to take it in through a dietary source. It is estimated that up to 40% of North Americans are deficient in vitamin B12, and it is incredibly common in those people who have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

The most common symptoms of B12 deficiency are fatigue, mental and brain fog, depression, anemia (red blood cell, white blood cell and platelet) and neuropathy. There are some simple tests that your doctor can do to determine if you have a cellular B12 deficiency. Serum B12 is not a good enough marker of B12 function as the effect of B12 occurs in the cells. Ask your doctor for an Intracellular B12 test. If your doctor is unable to perform this test, then Methylmalonic Acid and Homocysteine are other indirect measures of B12. They are not as accurate but these are other options that exist.

Vitamin B12 is most bioavailable (meaning the most usable form of this vitamin is) from dietary meat sources. One of the most important things we need meat for is Vitamin B12. Vegetarian sources of B12 are very rare and not readily available around the world.

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can be caused by any of the following:

Pernicious Anemia

This is an autoimmune condition in which our immune system attacks the cells in our stomach that produce stomach acid and an important protein called Intrinsic Factor (IF). If these cells (called Parietal cells) are being attacked by immune cells, they cannot readily produce Hydrochloric Acid  thus our body cannot separate the vitamin B12 molecule from other dietary molecules. IF is used to transport vitamin B12 across the intestinal cells into the bloodstream but if these cells cannot produce enough IF, then we are unable to absorb the B12, leading to cellular deficiency. This is a very common condition in vegetarians who are not supplementing with good quality B12 supplements.

Autoimmune conditions most commonly begin in the gut through Intestinal Hyperpermeability, or Leaky Gut syndrome.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

There are multiple causes of Intestinal Hyperpermeability, aka Leaky Gut Syndrome. Some of the most common are gluten sensitivity, dairy protein sensitivity, parasitic infection, H. pylori and other small intestinal bacterial infections. These issues produce proteins that break down the walls of our gut lining, thus allowing toxins and other molecules to enter our bloodstream, leading to overactivation of our immune systems. It also leads to the decreased ability to properly absorb vitamin B12 from the gut.

Getting tested to determine your gut health is a great way to determine if you are suffering from this condition, however you can also simply cut out the grain, dairy, processed and high sugar foods from your diet to help improve your gut health.

Poor Gut Microbiome

The good bacteria in our intestinal tract help us to break down foods and absorb important nutrients into our bloodstream. If the population of our gut bacteria is imbalanced (too much bad bacteria, too much or too little good bacteria), then this can lead to improper absorption of important nutrients including Vitamin B12. Your microbiome population is determined by the amount of sugar and probiotic rich foods you eat. It is important to reduce the amount of sugar and increase vegetables to help combat bad bacterial growth.

Heartburn Medication

One of the most common symptoms of gluten sensitivity and digestive issues is heartburn. Prescribed and OTC heartburn medications can cause a reduction in Parietal Cell activity, thus decreasing stomach acid and intrinsic factor levels.

It is far more important to determine the cause of the heartburn rather than simply masking the symptoms with a medication.

Chemotherapy Treatment

One of the most common side-effects of chemotherapy is a vitamin deficiency, specifically of B12 and Folic Acid. Chemotherapeutic medications cause an irritation of gut and stomach cells and can have effects very similar to those listed above. It can be very effective for those undergoing chemotherapy treatment to supplement with higher doses of B12 and Folic Acid to help battle this deficiency.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

This is all good to know, now what steps can you take if you are deficient in Vitamin B12?

  • Eat more meat

The best sources are wild caught fish, free range chicken, lamb and sheep meat. Other good options include chicken liver, beef liver, grass fed beef and some raw dairy products like Kefir.

  • Supplements

The best supplement source of Vitamin B12 is Methylcobalamin, however Cyanocobalamin is another good option. Please speak with your doctor or a functional medicine practitioner before starting a supplement routine. These are also a great option for vegetarians who do not want to deal with B12 deficiency symptoms.

  • Good Quality Probiotics

It is important to have a good microbiome population as it helps you to absorb Vitamin B12 as necessary. Try eating good probiotic foods such as Kefir, cultured vegetables like Sauerkraut and Kimchi, Kombucha, Coconut Kefir (dairy free option), pickles and dark chocolate. A high quality probiotic supplement can also be very effective.

  • Reduce Inflammatory Foods

Cut down on foods that increase gut and cellular inflammation, including processed, packaged and prepared foods, margarine, fried foods, low quality meats, sugars, food additives, synthetic sweeteners, iodized salt, dairy and wheat and other grains.

  • Desiccated Liver Supplement

For those of you who don’t like the taste of liver, supplementing with a desiccated liver supplement is a good option for food sources of liver.

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.

Super Easy Paleo Blondie Brownies

Anyone that knows me, knows that anything related to cake is my absolute weakness. However, cake is a great source of white carbs and processed sugars. So, I found an alternative to satisfy my sweet tooth!

These brownies are paleo, gluten free, dairy free and loaded with coconut and dark chocolate. They are made with coconut flour which is lower in carbs and has more fibre than regular white flour. Most important factor – from start to finish they took 30 minutes!

I can’t take all the credit for these, I adapted the recipe from Ambitious Kitchen!

Enjoy!

Noureen

Paleo Blondie Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup of maple syrup – the real stuff, nothing with corn syrup
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (I used the almond/coconut version)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5oz of dairy free chocolate, feel free to add/subtract based on your preference (Whole Foods has a few options, Bulk Barn has a chocolate compound)
  • 1/4 cup of coconut flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Grease a non-stick baking pan with coconut oil, I used a 7 x 11 inch baking pan
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, eggs, and almond milk
  4. In a smaller bowl add the dry ingredients, coconut flour, baking soda and salt
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until its combined and the batter is smooth. Coconut flour is super absorbent, so this step won’t take too long
  6. Fold in chocolate – I used compound chocolate chips from Whole Foods
  7. Pour into baking pan
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. The batter may look like its not done, because it will still be gooey, but trust it is! Coconut flour over bakes pretty easily, so ensure you take it out on time.
  9. Wait a few minutes and then score the bars into 2 x 2 pieces and take them out onto a cooling rack
  10. Use a double boiler method to melt some chocolate – drizzle this onto the bars and add the shredded coconut
  11. Cool for a few minutes or enjoy them warm – perhaps with a scoop of dairy free coconut ice cream!

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!

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

Candida Overgrowth

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Candida Article

We have all heard the word ‘Candida’, but many people don’t quite understand what it is. Candida is the genus name for a specific type of Fungus, which is a form of Yeast. Candida fungus, most commonly Candida albicans is present normally in small amounts in our mouth and intestines. It normally functions to help our body to digest food and absorb nutrients.

Occasionally under the right circumstances, Candida can grow to unsafe levels causing gastrointestinal issues. This problem arises when the microbiome is out of balance – called Dysbiosis (less good bacteria and yeast, more bad bacteria, parasites etc.) giving Candida the opportunity to grow to excessive levels.

There are certain food and environmental triggers that cause Dysbiosis:

  • Diet high in refined Carbs and Sugar
    • Diabetics have a higher level of oral Candida than the general population
  • Diet too high in good Fermented Foods (Pickles, Sauerkraut, Kombucha etc,)
  • High Alcohol Consumption
  • Taking Oral Contraceptives or Estrogen replacement (hormonal imbalance)
  • A round of antibiotics can kill off too many
  • High stress lifestyle
  • Autoimmune conditions and weak immune systems

As the delicate balance of the microbiome is negatively affected by any of these triggers, Candida has the opportunity to grow to unsafe levels causing issues in our gut. The fungal yeast will then begin to wreak havoc on your intestinal barrier, causing Intestinal Permeability or Leaky Gut. Any allergens or toxins that are in our gut from our diet can then enter our blood stream leading to many symptoms that may lead to Chronic health conditions such as:

  • Digestive issues – bloating, constipation or diarrhea (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Feeling tired and worn down – Chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia
  • Skin and Nail infections
  • Autoimmune conditions – Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis etc.
  • Brain Fog, Poor memory, lack of focus
  • Mood Swings, irritability
  • Vaginal or Urinary tract infections
  • Strong cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates

Many of these conditions have various sources, so it’s important to confirm that Candida is the source of these symptoms. To do this, see a Functional Medicine or Natural Health Doctor to perform in-depth testing like Stool testing, Urinary Organic Acid and Blood testing and determine the root cause of your symptoms.

If Candida is the source of these issues, how can we restore a normal balance to your microbiome and decrease the levels of Candida in your body? There are a few important steps that you need to go through to ensure that you can restore balance to your gut:

Step 1: Stop Feeding the Yeast

Candida is fed by Sugar, so step 1 is to eliminate refined sugars and carbs. Stop eating candy, high sugar deserts, carbonated soda, alcohol and flour. We also need to decreased intake of complex carbohydrates like grains, beans, fruit, bread, pasta and potatoes. If we don’t feed the Candida, it can’t grow and eventually the excessive levels will die off.

Step 2: Build up levels of good bacteria

Once the Candida levels are decreasing, it is important to re-establish the levels of good bacteria. After consulting with a health care professional, you may want to begin a course of probiotics. These will help to increase the levels of friendly bacteria in the gut that helps with our normal digestion.

Step 3: Heal your Gut

If your intestinal wall has been damaged by the high levels of Candida and bad bacteria, there are certainly high levels of inflammation which need to be reduced. To do this, we need to eliminate inflammatory foods from our diet – foods that promote high levels of inflammation. Choose real foods and focus on green and colourful vegetables, grass-fed beef, free-run chicken and good fats like nuts and seeds. All of these foods will promote healing of the gut while eliminating the high levels of inflammation.

Candida is common and needs to be addressed before it causes serious chronic conditions. If you think you may have Candida overgrowth, speak to a Functional Medicine Doctor in your area for more information.

 

References

Cole, W. (2015, June 12). Dr. Will Cole. Retrieved from How Candida Overgrowth Can Wreck Your Health + What To Do About It: http://drwillcole.com/how-candida-overgrowth-can-wreck-your-health-what-to-do-about-it/

Li, Q., Wang, C., Tang, C., He, Q., Li, N., & Li, J. (2014). Dysbiosis of Gut Fungal Microbiota is Associated with Mucosal Inflammation in Crohn’s Disease. J Clin Gastroenterol, 48:513-523.

Myers, A. (2013, April 4). Mind Body Green. Retrieved from 10 Signs You Have Candida Overgrowth & What To Do About It: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8376/10-signs-you-have-candida-overgrowth-what-to-do-about-it.html

Pallavan, B., Ramesh, V., Dhanasekaran, B. P., Oza, N., Indu, S., & Govindarajan, V. (2014). Comparison and correlation of candidal colonization in diabetic patients and normal individuals. J Diabetes and Metabolic Dis, 13:66.

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Candida Article

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

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