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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.

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!

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.

Foods to Avoid if you suffer from Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a common diagnostic label given to patients by their physicians. Often times, this diagnosis is made based on the inability of medications to manage the symptoms of this condition. It has been reported in the literature, that the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia is often made incorrectly, as many patients have underlying subclinical conditions that are not apparent on basic blood testing.

Fibromyalgia is generally diagnosed based on symptoms including chronic muscle and joint pain, anxiety, concentration issues, memory problems, depression, moderate to severe fatigue, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, decreased energy, sleep problems and morning stiffness.

A significant proportion of these symptoms occur because many cells in the body cannot handle the physical, chemical and emotional stressors of daily life due to a poor diet, lack of exercise and an emotionally burdened lifestyle. Some common specific causes of these symptoms are listed below.

  1. Food Additives like Aspartame, MSG and Nitrates

Aspartame and MSG are food additives for sweetness and umami flavour found in many different cuisines. Both of these additives are called Excitotoxins which have an excitatory effect on the NMDA pain receptors, causing acute pains to become chronic and more severe. Fibromyalgia symptoms are often exacerbated when patients eat foods containing these additives.

Aspartame is found in more than 6,000 products including diet soda, confections, chewing gum, gelatins, dessert mixtures, yogurt and some pharmaceuticals. It is consumed by over 200 million people around the world according to www.aspartame.org.

MSG is found in many frozen and processed foods, as well as some asian style cuisines.

Nitrates are found commonly in lunch meats like ham, bologna, pastrami and even bacon.

  1. Diet High in Sugar and simple carbohydrates

Cutting down simple carbs like bread, sugar and cake can reduce symptoms of underlying chronic yeast infections, present subclinically, that can often cause Fibromyalgia symptoms. Yeast is a type of fungus that thrives on sugars and is often an underlying cause of this condition. These sugars also result in a spike in blood glucose and the subsequent immediate drop of this level, which exacerbates the fatigue experienced by patients

For overall health and to help fix your gut bacteria, it is important to cut out sugary foods, particularly high fructose corn syrup. Cutting out simple sugars is also incredibly effective to aid in loss of excessive weight – I am living proof of this.

  1. Caffeine including Coffee, Tea and Chocolate

Due to the stimulant effects of caffeine, many sufferers use high-caffeine beverages as a source of energy. The energy boost you get from caffeine is false and can quickly worsen fatigue symptoms. Fatigue symptoms are often much deeper and longer lasting due to the sedative effects of caffeine, which follow the immediate energy boost.

Cutting out caffeine can have amazing positive benefits on energy levels within less than a week, with most patients noticing a difference almost immediately.

  1. Yeast and Gluten

These 2 very different substances are frequently found together, particularly in baked goods like cake, donuts and bread. Yeast in the diet can foster overgrowth of yeast fungus in the body leading to more joint and muscle pain. Gluten on the other hand, has been linked to impaired digestion and many autoimmune conditions which are present subclinically in Fibromyalgia patients. Gluten has been found to break down the tight junctions between cells of the intestine – a condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome – leading to foods and chemical toxins entering the bloodstream when they normally would not.

Many chronic pain and autoimmune disease sufferers will also benefit from incredibly positive changes in their health by simply cutting out gluten from their diet.

  1. Dairy

Dairy products have also been linked to various digestive issues, similar to Gluten. Subclinical dairy intolerance is common, and dark green vegetables are a natural (and better) source of Calcium than milk.

Fyi – Humans are the only mammal that continues to drink and eat milk products beyond age 2 (and its equivalent in the age of other mammals).

  1. Nightshade Vegetables

Some vegetables, referred to as nightshade plants, have been found to trigger flares in arthritis and fibromyalgia symptoms. These vegetables include Tomatoes, chili and bell peppers, potatoes and eggplant. For the most part, these are nutritious vegetables so if they do not trigger symptoms, don’t ban them from your diet.

What is Functional and Lifestyle Medicine?

What is Functional and Lifestyle Medicine?

I am often asked this question and have decided that I will write about to help clarify what I do.

Functional Medicine is a holistic branch of health care which creates an objective view of all correctly and incorrectly functioning bodily processes. Functional medicine (FM) doctors use a comprehensive history taking and functional lab testing to determine specific lifestyle factors which are causing symptoms of chronic disease in our patients. We use these tools to timeline the important and stressful physical and emotional events in our patients lives and correlate them with triggers to health conditions.

This approach enables FM doctors to accurately find the single or multiple root causes of Chronic health conditions that are related to lifestyle choices that we all make.

Modern medicine and health care practice is spectacular and necessary in the treatment of acute onset and emergency issues. During the era of growth of our modern health care system, the mindset of patients went from being responsible for our own health, to placing the responsibility in the hands of our family doctors and specialists.

As the population grew, family doctors and specialists were under significant pressure to improve the health of a very high number of patients from largely varying backgrounds and living a vast variety of lifestyles. As acute care improved, so did our life expectancy. There are so many of us living longer and we all need to be given the best care. Pharmaceutical companies stepped in and created medications to help alleviate symptoms and manage conditions, and our family doctors happily obliged as this allowed them to help manage symptoms of many patients in a cost-effective and time-effective way.

This unfortunately led to an increase in medications prescribed for medical conditions where lifestyle issues are often the root cause. Type 2 Diabetes is not caused by a lack of Metformin. Hypothyroidism is not caused by a lack of Synthroid. These medications simply help manage our symptoms, but we have failed to find the root cause.

At the same time, modern agricultural methods changed and foods were increasingly processed. Our lifestyles became significantly faster paced and higher in daily stress levels. Our jobs and work became 9-5 days including 8 hours of sitting in front of a computer with increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Television and technology became readily available and affordable – enough that our normal lifestyles have become waking up, running to get breakfast, driving to work, sitting for 4 hours, buying processed food lunches and eating as quickly as possible at our desks, sitting for another 4 hours, driving home, eating processed foods at home for dinner, then sitting in front of the television watching 3 hours of sports or binge-watching shows on Netflix, then checking Facebook and Instagram on our phones while falling asleep for a short and rushed sleep, just to wake up and do it all again tomorrow. If reading this paragraph is exhausting, then imagine living this life on a daily basis.

Our bodies are exhausted and are not being used the way we have evolved to live. Thus our health is suffering and we are becoming increasingly overrun by our lifestyle issues leading to chronic diseases – and then we go to the doctor so they can give us a medication, just so we can function on a daily basis with minimal symptoms.

So Why Functional Medicine?

Functional and Lifestyle medicine allows doctors to look objectively at the potential triggers and lifestyle factors that are affecting the health of our patients. We put all the factors together to determine where patients have blind spots and can make small changes with significant results. We then work with our patients on a long term strategy to improve all aspects of their lifestyle, and thus improve their overall health.

My goal as a Functional Medicine Doctor is to help my patients bodies function correctly so that they can pursue and achieve their dreams. I do so by providing services in conjunction with your family doctor, spending the time necessary to determine what dietary, digestive, hormonal, emotional, environmental and biochemical processes are not functioning optimally.

I believe that a poor lifestyle – one in which any of the pillars of your health (more on this later) are not functioning optimally – can lead to any number of chronic health conditions, and as such, I want to use positive energy, education, accountability and a personalized plan to help my patients reach their life goals. Once my patients take responsibility for their health, the results are amazing!

Your health shouldn’t impede your pursuit to live.

Don’t let your lifestyle hold you back. Take responsibility for your health and live the life you have always wanted to live!

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

Signs of a Zinc Deficiency

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

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

So what makes Zinc so important in our diet?

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

Who is at risk of being deficient in Zinc levels?

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

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

How to find out if you suffer from Zinc Deficiency?

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

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

What foods can you eat to help raise Zinc levels?

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

Dr. Navaz Habib

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

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