Foggy Brain – What you need to know?

Brain fog is one of the more common symptoms we see in practice, as well as being one of the most elusive and hard to pin down. A sudden onset of poor concentration, mental fatigue, inability to focus, confusion, and memory issues make even the simplest tasks seem overwhelming and can negatively affect all aspects of life. Let’s take a look at the various causes of brain fog, and what you can do to clear things up.

What Causes Brain Fog?

It may surprise you to read that brain fog is a well-documented symptom of a number of chronic conditions. It is particularly prevalent in diseases involving inflammation, fatigue, and blood sugar imbalance such as diabetes, depression, and autoimmune diseases, as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), and Fibromyalgia.
Research into the factors that contribute to brain fog identify the following triggers:

Hormone Imbalance

Brain fog is perhaps most commonly reported by women going through hormonal changes, such as in pregnancy and perimenopause. Why is that? The brain is sensitive to the fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone that occur during both of these life events, contributing to ‘mommy brain’ and the memory issues that are often attributed to menopause.

Menopause-Related Cognitive Impairment

Perimenopausal women report that brain fog significantly impacts their quality of life, overall health, and productivity. The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) has observed over 3,300 women throughout the menopausal transition, measuring cognitive abilities before, during, and after menopause.

The good news is that while the results showed that cognitive performance was impaired during the transition to menopause (aka perimenopause), it did go back up to pre-perimenopause levels once menopause had been reached.

Stress and Anxiety

When faced with chronic stress and anxiety, our fight or flight response gets stuck in overdrive. This means our adrenal glands, designed to pump out stress hormones in short bursts, end up releasing continued high levels of cortisol and adrenaline which can contribute to cloudy thinking.

During the stress response, the part of your brain that thinks deeply and stores memories is put on the back burner while the part that allows you to respond immediately to protect you from danger is prioritized. This works well in a real emergency, but not so well when you need to dig into that work report or solve a complex problem.

Yeast Infections
Candida albicans is a yeast naturally present in our bodies, which when unbalanced is the biggest cause of human fungal infections in the world. Under the right conditions, candida populations can quickly overgrow, displacing good microbes and colonizing the gut, urinary tract, genitals, mouth and skin.

Brain fog is a classic sign of Candida overgrowth. A ground-breaking 2019 study showed that Candida can actually enter the brain and cause neuroinflammation, contributing to brain fog. When the Candida infection was cleared out, memory improved.

Food Sensitivities

If you can’t think clearly after eating certain foods, you may have a food sensitivity. Brain fog is a hallmark symptom. Food sensitivities are very individual, but common offenders include dairy, wheat, nuts and food additives like red food colouring, MSG and aspartame.

Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease sufferers commonly report attention difficulties and unclear thinking. In a 2014 study, 11 Celiac Disease patients were given a gluten-free diet for a year. As their intestinal lining healed, their cognitive measurements improved.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Research has linked low levels of iron, vitamin D and folate (vitamin B9) with brain fog. B12 is the best-known deficiency associated with foggy thinking and memory issues. Studies have demonstrated that B12 supplementation can improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s and as well as minor cognitive impairments.

One study involving over 2,500 participants demonstrated that supplementation with vitamin B12 improved cognitive performance, especially when combined with vitamins B6 and B9 (folate).

Chronic Infections

Chronic infections such as Hepatitis C, Epstein Barr Virus and HPV have all been connected to the symptom of brain fog. If your immune system isn’t functioning optimally, these infections can infiltrate your cells. Chronic Hepatitis C sufferers report that frequent problems with focus and memory recall significantly interfere with their ability to perform daily activities. And these symptoms often stick around long after the initial infection is gone.

Chemotherapy

Many patients receiving chemotherapy for breast or prostate cancer experience a degree of cognitive dysfunction affecting their working memory, concentration, information processing speed, reaction time, visuospatial ability, and executive function. Often Labelled as “chemo brain”, these symptoms typically persist for approximately 6 months after the end of treatment.

How to Banish Brain Fog

1 – Drink Plenty of Water

Even mild dehydration can make it hard to concentrate. Space out the recommended 8 glasses per day and sip slowly. This will allow your body to properly absorb and use the water.

2 – Keep a Food Journal to Identify Food Sensitivities

Try keeping a food journal for a month, noting what you eat and when you feel cloudy thinking coming on. Chances are that you will find a pattern that points to the culprit foods. The ultimate test? Eliminate those foods entirely for 2 weeks and see if your thinking comes into focus.

3 – Eat Good Protein, Fat and Sugar

Your brain needs high-quality protein, fat and sugar to function at its best.
Eat less sugar and processed foods to avoid feeding Candida. Did you hear that Ireland recently declared that Subway bread could not legally be called ‘bread’ because of its high sugar content? Sugar lurks where you least suspect it – read food labels or ask for ingredient lists.
Fresh fruit is your best sugar source. Include antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries, strawberries, goji berries and raspberries and your brain will thank you!

Get both fat and protein with cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring. Healthy fat sources include virgin olive oil, walnuts, avocado and coconut oil.

4 – Improve Sleep Quality and Quantity

Weekend sleep catch up doesn’t work. Implement a predictable night-time routine so your body knows when to get into sleep mode. Make sure your bedroom is completely dark, which ramps up melatonin (the ‘sleep hormone’) production to bring on sleepiness.

5 – Reduce Stress by Focusing on the Now

Anxiety and stress often involve constant worry. Listen to your thoughts – what are you worrying about? Are you caught in a thought loop about a past conversation or a worry about the future?
As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says: “The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” Next time you catch yourself ruminating, do something physical that will bring your focus back to the present moment. Go for a walk, take a bath – anything that connects you with the here and now.

With so many potential causes of brain fog, where do you start? Let’s get to the root of what’s really going on. We can do testing for food sensitivities, Candida and nutritional deficiencies. We can check your hormone status. Let’s work together on a solid treatment plan involving brain-nourishing nutrients, foods and lifestyle changes. Isn’t it time to clear the fog and get back to a life lived with clarity, vision and joy?

References:

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Are You Chronically Inflamed? Here’s What to Do

Inflammation has become a bit of a buzzword recently, and rightly so. Did you know that systemic inflammation plays a role in the development of many chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease? With 2 out of every 3 deaths in North America attributed to these lifestyle diseases, it makes sense to nip inflammation in the bud.

As we get older, we tend to think of chronic inflammation as par for the course. Aches and pains, digestive issues, mood or memory issues and weight gain are all among the symptoms of system-wide inflammation that tends to be ignored. But is chronic inflammation really an inevitable part of aging? Let’s take a look at what’s happening inside the body as we get older, factors contributing to aging, and what you can do to age gracefully and inflammation-free!

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation plays a central role in the body’s healing process – it is an essential part of our immune response. Short term inflammation protects us against invaders like viruses and bacteria by triggering heat and swelling after an injury. But when the immune system is overactive or dysfunctional, it mobilizes a defence against harmless substances, and can even damage its own cells. That is when inflammation becomes chronic. In fact, uncontrolled chronic inflammation plays a role in almost every major disease.

The Inflammatory Mechanism

One example of inflammation at play is the development of atherosclerosis in the arteries. When there is arterial wear and tear caused by high blood pressure or irritation, inflammation triggers a protective band-aid to be built over the injured area, in the form of a cholesterol-rich plaque build-up. However, as this plaque grows it causes a hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels that increases blood pressure. Furthermore, if the plaque ruptures, its contents mingle with blood, forming dangerous blood clots.

Why does Inflammation Become Chronic?

Inflammation can become chronic for a variety of reasons, and sometimes the reason isn’t apparent at all. It may be brought on by a condition such as obesity, an abnormal immune reaction, environmental toxin exposure, or an infection that doesn’t go away. Or it may stem from a disease that is characterized by inflammation such as colitis, pancreatitis, or hepatitis. As time goes on, this inflammation can damage the body’s tissues and even DNA, leading to conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer.

Genetics are also believed to play a strong role in our susceptibility to chronic inflammation. Research has identified a number of genetic SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that cause some individuals to quickly produce large numbers of inflammatory cytokines, making a preventive lifestyle particularly important.

Lifestyle Factors Can Contribute to Inflammation

A lot of research has been carried out in regards to the lifestyle factors that can lead to inflammation. Far from being passive within the body, recent research shows that fat is a major player in systemic inflammation. The more fat we have, the higher the risk of chronic inflammation. And because we tend to put on weight as we age, this further increase inflammation risk. Understanding these relationships allows us to make the changes necessary to live a lifestyle that is preventive in nature, reducing our chances of developing chronic disease.

9 Ways to Prevent and Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation does not need to be a part of ageing, there is a lot that can be done to quell the fire so that you can live the healthy, active life you want. The good news is that daily lifestyle habits are the key, and results can happen fast. It’s never too late to take action against inflammation. Here are 9 ways to do just that!

1 – Exercise

Research points to exercise as the single most effective step you can take to reduce systemic inflammation. Our current sedentary pandemic lifestyle is not making us any healthier – in fact one 2019 study coined the term ‘inflamm-inactivity’ to reflect that lack of exercise and the resulting fat accumulation may be the main drivers behind inflammation.
Here are some tips for getting back into a strong exercise routine with the goal of reducing inflammation:

Mix Up Exercise Intensity

Don’t put all your eggs in one exercise basket. Research shows the strongest anti-inflammatory effects come from including both high intensity (sprinting, jumping rope) and low-intensity (swimming, walking yoga, Tai Chi) exercises.
Some exercises are naturally high or low intensity. But many exercises can go either way – you have control over the intensity. Walking can be a gentle stroll or an invigorating speed walk. Swimming can be leisurely, or an intense lap swim.
Mixing things up will prevent boredom, and keep you motivated to stick with your routine.

Include Resistance Training

Weight training is a vital part of an anti-inflammatory exercise regime, perfectly complementing aerobic exercise. Ironically, the muscle damage that happens when we lift weights actually spurs our immune system to remove inflammatory cellular waste products faster.

Try Endurance Exercise

Research shows that endurance athletes usually live much longer than the general population, and have lower levels of inflammation.
You don’t have to be training for a marathon or the Tour de France to partake. Brisk walking is a great way to hit that happy medium between strolling and sprinting.

Exercise Regularly

Regular, long term exercise strategies are optimal, with the best results being seen at the 12 – 24 week mark. For most kinds of exercise 8 weeks is the minimum to see reductions in inflammation, with the exception is HIIT (high-intensity interval training), where even 6 weeks can effectively lower it.
7 hours per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise is associated with longer life expectancy. Not currently exercising? Avoid injury by slowly working up to one hour a day. Start with 10 or 15-minute exercise increments and gradually increase as your body gets comfortable with your new routine.

Some Exercise is Better Than None

With many gyms being closed, it may be harder to get regular exercise. The good news? Even one exercise session has a positive impact. A 2018 study showed that just one bout of resistance training increased removal of senescent cells for up to 48 hours afterwards.

2 – Drink Enough Water

Inflammation is the body’s natural response attempting to eliminate irritants, so it makes sense that providing the transport needed to escort these irritants out of the body can help. Our bodies are made up of 70% water, and it is absolutely crucial for cell-to-cell communication; the formation of gastric juices and enzymes; helping the muscles of the digestive system to function properly, and off course as the vehicle that provides mobility to the toxins and cellular refuse that needs to leave the body.

The recommendation is to make sure to drink at least 8 glasses of clear, filtered water per day. This shouldn’t include any other beverages, although it is a good idea to add herbal teas, such as rooibos or green tea, on top of that.

3 – Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Let food be your medicine! The right diet can increase your lifespan and improve markers of inflammation. Dairy and gluten are not usually inflammatory in healthy individuals (unless you have an allergy, intolerance, or celiac disease), but they can irritate inflammation that is already present in the body. Some people may find it beneficial to cut out dairy, gluten, or both for a few weeks while eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods to give the body time to “calm down.” After those two weeks, start to incorporate dairy or gluten-containing foods slowly and watch out for any symptoms of irritation.

Consume Less of These Inflammatory Foods
Sugar
Saturated fat
Alcohol
Red meat
Processed meats
Sugar-sweetened beverages

Consume More of These Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Leafy green vegetables
Seaweed
Fiber
Beans
Nuts & seeds
Berries
Fish
Olive oil
The occasional glass of red wine

4 – Take Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice which has long been used in traditional medicine. Its active component, Curcumin, has been heavily researched of late for its ability to reduce acute and chronic inflammation, and is recommended as a food-based supplement to patients with arthritis, metabolic syndrome and cancer.

Turmeric powder can be taken as a capsule, tea, or whipped into a chai latte. You can also buy the fresh root and blend it into any smoothie, or add it to salad dressings and hummus.

5 – Practice Intermittent Fasting

Did you know that digestion takes up 80% of the body’s energy? That’s why intermittent fasting (eating for only a set number of hours per day) so effectively frees up the body’s energy to focus on tasks like removing senescent cells.

When combined with a healthy diet, this fasting style has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve mitochondrial health and reduce fat levels. Start easily by eating an early dinner so that you are naturally fasting for 12 hours a day, and slowly increase the time to 14-16 hours a day. Remember to drink your water during the fasting time!

6 – Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Inadequate rest may make you more sensitive to stress, which in turn causes inflammation. Remember the basics of sleep hygiene:

Eat an earlier dinner to avoid going to bed on a full stomach
Do some mild exercise, such as a walk, after dinner
Switch off all technology 1 hour before bed
Sleep in a cool, dark room.

7 – Get a Massage

A massage isn’t just a treat. It can play an integral part in staying healthy. Receiving a 45-minute Swedish massage can greatly lower levels of two key inflammation-promoting hormones, according to a study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. “Massage may decrease inflammatory substances by [appropriately] increasing the amount of disease-fighting white blood cells in the body,” says Mark Hyman Rapaport, M.D., co-author of the study. “It may also lower stress hormones. Either way, these results can be seen after just one massage.”

8 – Reduce Stress

If you have an inflammatory condition such as Crohn’s disease, you know very well the effect that stress has – any stressful event can bring on a flare-up. The high cortisol levels that stress triggers increase inflammation throughout the body. Stress also increases blood pressure and heart rate, making your blood vessels work harder and creating damage. If that damage happens over and over, inflammation persists.

The key to stress management is breaking the cycle of stress chemicals in the body. A daily relaxation, meditation or yoga practice is key. Take 10-30 minutes daily to be with yourself and bring your cortisol levels back to neutral – this will allow you to approach each day anew.

9 – Look After Your Gut Microbiome

A good quality probiotic supplement is soothing to the gut. Researchers have found that taking probiotics for 8 weeks helped to reduce markers of inflammation in arthritis patients. Try to find a high-quality professional supplement, or if you prefer you can take your daily probiotics in food form such as kefir, kombucha or kimchi.

If you are ready to make a positive change in your lifestyle to reduce inflammation and reduce future disease risk, give us a call. We can run lab tests that will show you your current inflammatory status, and help fast-track your journey to a healthier future.

References:

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Baker DJ, Childs BG, Durik M, Wijers ME, Sieben CJ, Zhong J, Saltness RA, Jeganathan KB, Verzosa GC, Pezeshki A, Khazaie K, Miller JD, van Deursen JM. Naturally occurring p16(Ink4a)-positive cells shorten healthy lifespan. Nature. 2016 Feb 11;530(7589):184-9. doi: 10.1038/nature16932. Epub 2016 Feb 3. PMID: 26840489; PMCID: PMC4845101.

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Baylis D, Bartlett DB, Patel HP, Roberts HC. Understanding how we age: insights into inflammaging. Longev Healthspan. 2013;2:8. doi: 10.1186/2046-2395-2-8
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How to Manage Stress and Anxiety in Uncertain Times

The pandemic has brought us six solid months of stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown. This Fall things are ramping up again, with increased COVID infection rates and back to school worries. Hundreds of studies have been published on the negative health effects of the pandemic worldwide, and what tops the list? Skyrocketing levels of stress and anxiety.
Whether you’re stressed about contracting COVID-19 or dealing with the many “pivots” brought on by recurring lockdowns and decreased socialization, such high stress levels are simply not sustainable. Now is the time to work on demystifying stress and anxiety so that you can disarm it and reclaim your inner peace this fall.

Stress, Decoded

Stress and anxiety have deep roots in the body, involving your brain, gut, hormones and nervous system. Let’s see what science has to say about it:

Fight or Flight Mode, aka the HPA Axis

When a stressor hits, your body goes into emergency mode by activating the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) Axis. The adrenal glands receive the ‘danger’ message from the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain, triggering them to produce adrenaline which then spurs your entire body into action to either fight or flee from the situation.
The problem? A system that was designed to be used for just a few minutes at a time also has the ability to be active most of the time. This means that chronic stress forces your adrenals to work overtime. Becoming stuck in “fight or flight mode” due to constant stress leads to overwhelm and, inevitably, exhaustion.

Your Microbiome Affects Your Stress Levels

Your microbiome is made up of the diverse community of microbes that reside in your gut. What many people ignore when discussing the microbiome is the fact that it is not only involved in digestion – in fact, gut bacteria are also strongly linked to your brain.

A 2019 study looking at the effects of a Mediterranean diet high in fresh fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, polyphenols (i.e. dark chocolate and berries) and fermented foods (i.e. kimchi or sauerkraut) helped participants to be more stress resilient. Researchers noted the role of the microbiota in producing serotonin (the ‘feel good hormone).

Another 2019 study showed that both probiotics and prebiotics increase our ability to handle stress by supporting gut microbes, and can actually reverse some of the negative effects of stress.
Many studies have shown that stress changes our microbiome, which further reduces our ability to handle stress. A 2017 study concluded that even short-term stress exposure (especially in early life) reduces microbiome diversity and increases anxiety.

The Blood Sugar Rollercoaster

Finding comfort in carbs? A 2020 study showed that high consumption of processed carbs can increase anxiety and irritability by taking you on a blood sugar rollercoaster. Your body considers low blood sugar an emergency, which puts you back into fight or flight mode.

Inflammation, Anxiety and Leaky Gut

The strong links between the gut-brain axis and inflammation are well established. One 2017 study showed that microbiome imbalance can promote chronic inflammation, which then makes us more responsive to stress and increases anxiety. The study notes the important role of Leaky Gut Syndrome, in which stress caused by microbial imbalance causes holes in the mucus lining of the GI tract, allowing bacteria to escape into the body. Our body’s immune response to these “invaders” is linked to systemic inflammation.

How to Balance, Manage and Reduce Anxiety

You can’t control what life throws at you, but you can control how you respond to it. Here are our top tips to help you cope with anxiety both in the moment, and build long term stress resilience.

1 – Breathing Exercises
Do you experience panic attacks? Deep breathing can help reduce panic and overwhelm in the moment, and help you cope in the long term. Try these two exercises, backed by scientific research.

Deep Breathing for Vagal Nerve Tone

The vagus nerve is the main line of communication between your gut and your brain. Certain breathing exercises can improve vagal nerve tone to get you out of ‘fight or flight’ and into ‘rest and digest’ mode.
A 2018 study reported decreased stress and anxiety, and increased sense of well-being after doing breathing exercises. Effective techniques include slow breathing, longer exhales than inhales and breathing from the diaphragm. Learn how in this short video!

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This ancient practice has been used in yoga for centuries. Recent research suggests that this technique can bring the mind and body to a state of balanced calm, and reduce both stress and anxiety.
Learn this technique in this short video!

2 – Smartphone Apps

Is constant social media scrolling making you more anxious? How can you harness the power of technology to reduce feelings of overwhelm and anxiety? These 3 apps use evidence-based scientific research.

MindshiftTM

MindshiftTM uses evidence-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques to help you manage feelings of stress, anxiety, worry and panic. When a stressor hits, try features like Coping Cards and the Chill Zone to ground yourself and cope in the moment. Features like the Thought Journal, Goal Setting and Expanding Your Comfort Zone will help shift your mindset to make positive change that lasts.

Headspace

Have you tried to meditate without success? Headspace features hundreds of guided meditation sessions for beginners. Choose a topic (like anxiety or sleep) and the app will suggest the best sessions for you. From bite-sized mini meditations to more in-depth sessions, the app will help train your mind so you can gain solid benefits from your meditation practice.

Muse

Muse goes one step further by pairing a brain-sensing headband with an app to give you real-time feedback on your brain activity during meditation and sleep. Mind wandering during meditation? Stormy weather sounds will cue you to refocus. Peaceful weather sounds confirm you’re in the calm zone.

3 – Nutritional & Herbal Supplements

L-Theanine

This amino acid found in green tea is well known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. By interacting with both dopamine and GABA receptors in the brain, it brings a sense of calm and well-being. If green tea isn’t for you, supplementing with L-Theanine means you get all the stress-busting benefits with none of the jittery caffeine drawbacks. A 2019 study of stressed, healthy adults showed that just one month of supplementation with L-Theanine significantly reduced anxiety and stress, and improved cognitive function.

Ashwagandha

This herb has been used for 3,000 years in Indian Ayurvedic Medicine as a whole-body tonic. Classed as an adaptogen, Ashwagandha supports your adrenal glands and HPA axis to help you stay calm and resilient in the face of stress. A 2019 study of healthy, anxious adults showed that ashwagandha supplementation significantly reduced anxiety and improved mood.

Are you ready to face whatever this Fall has in store for you, anxiety-free? Let’s meet to discuss and assess your current stress and anxiety levels. Together, we can come up with a solid treatment plan including supplements, diet and lifestyle strategies to dial back anxiety and increase your stress resilience. Isn’t it time you focussed on yourself? Call us today to get started!

References:

Adan RAH, van der Beek EM, Buitelaar JK, et al. Nutritional psychiatry: Towards improving mental health by what you eat. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2019;29(12):1321-1332. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2019.10.011

Alternate Nostril Breathing. Lotus Flower Yoga. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMdTmYMEG-c Accessed on September 18, 2020.

Anxiety Canada. MindshiftTM CBT App. https://www.anxietycanada.com/resources/mindshift-cbt/?_ga=2.127928524.1122230185.1600531245-1709723190.1600531245. Accessed on September 18, 2020.

Anxiety Canada. How to Tolerate Uncertainty.https://www.anxietycanada.com/sites/default/files/ToleratingUncertainty.pdf. Accessed on September 18, 2020.

Bharwani A, Mian MF, Foster JA, Surette MG, Bienenstock J, Forsythe P. Structural & functional consequences of chronic psychosocial stress on the microbiome & host. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016; 63:217-227. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.10.001

Burokas A, Arboleya S, Moloney RD, et al. Targeting the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Prebiotics Have Anxiolytic and Antidepressant-like Effects and Reverse the Impact of Chronic Stress in Mice. Biol Psychiatry. 2017;82(7):472-487. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.12.031

Firth J, Gangwisch JE, Borisini A, Wootton RE, Mayer EA. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing?. BMJ. 2020;369:m2382. Published 2020 Jun 29. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2382

Foster JA, Rinaman L, Cryan JF. Stress & the gut-brain axis: Regulation by the microbiome. Neurobiol Stress. 2017; 7:124-136. Published 2017 Mar 19. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2017.03.001

Gerritsen RJS, Band GPH. Breath of Life: The Respiratory Vagal Stimulation Model of Contemplative Activity. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018; 12:397. Published 2018 Oct 9. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00397

Headspace.https://www.headspace.com/science/meditation-research . Accessed September 18, 2020.

Hidese S, Ogawa S, Ota M, et al. Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2362. Published 2019 Oct 3. doi:10.3390/nu11102362

Kamath A, Urval RP, Shenoy AK. Effect of Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercise on Experimentally Induced Anxiety in Healthy Volunteers Using the Simulated Public Speaking Model: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. Biomed Res Int. 2017; 2017:2450670. doi:10.1155/2017/2450670

Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(37): e17186. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000017186

Muse. https://www.mendeley.com/profiles/muse-research-team/publications/# . Accessed September 18, 2020.

Pratte MA, Nanavati KB, Young V, Morley CP. An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(12):901-908. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0177

Telles S, Gupta RK, Yadav A, Pathak S, Balkrishna A. Hemisphere specific EEG related to alternate nostril yoga breathing. BMC Res Notes. 2017;10(1):306. Published 2017 Jul 24. doi:10.1186/s13104-017-2625-6

Thomaz F S Bastiaanssen, Caitlin S M Cowan, Marcus J Claesson, Timothy G Dinan, John F Cryan, Making Sense of … the Microbiome in Psychiatry, International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, Volume 22, Issue 1, January 2019, Pages 37–52, https://doi.org/10.1093/ijnp/pyy067

Vagus Nerve: Breathing for Relaxation. Tune Up Fitness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkJDrfL90rU Accessed on September 18, 2020.

White DJ, de Klerk S, Woods W, Gondalia S, Noonan C, Scholey AB. Anti-Stress, Behavioural and Magnetoencephalography Effects of an L-Theanine-Based Nutrient Drink: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(1):53. doi:10.3390/nu8010053

Yoto A, Motoki M, Murao S, Yokogoshi H. Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. J Physiol Anthropol. 2012;31(1):28. doi:10.1186/1880-6805-31-28

Alternate Nostril Breathing technique video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMdTmYMEG-c

Why Detoxification is at the Root of Good Health

What does going on a ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’ mean to you? Fasting? Following a boxed detox kit? Going on a lemon juice cleanse?
Messaging from the growing detox industry implies that without such measures, detoxification won’t occur. The truth? Our bodies detox 365 days a year, sweeping our cells clean of toxins and removing them from our bodies.
But that doesn’t mean we should ignore these detoxification pathways. Let’s look at why detoxification is so important to overall health, and what you can do to support your body’s natural detox efforts.

Why We Need to Detox

Toxins are now omnipresent in our environment. An Environmental Working Group study found an average of 200 toxins in newborns. If our babies are starting life so heavily laden already, Imagine the toxic burden the average adult carries!

Where Do These Toxins Come From?

These days, sources of environmental toxins that can negatively affect our body go beyond air and water pollution to include:
● Non-organic foods (pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones and additives)
● Personal care products
● Home cleaning products
● Home building materials and furnishings

Internal Toxins

Our normal metabolic processes also produce toxins. These are the natural by-products of life that when healthy, are quickly and efficiently removed from the body through natural detoxification channels such as the bowels, urinary system, lungs and skin. But there are more toxins in our environment today than our system was designed to handle.

What happens when toxins accumulate in our cells and organs?

Toxic buildup can have serious effects on overall health. An overload of bodily toxins has been linked to several types of cancer, cognitive dysfunction, fatigue, neurodegenerative diseases and a variety of chronic diseases.
Imagine if you didn’t take out the garbage for a month. Mold and other dangerous microorganisms would develop, putting your entire household at risk of disease. It’s the same within our bodies – not taking out the cellular trash regularly means those toxins can be reabsorbed and cause damage. Let’s look at a few health impacts of high toxic load.

Weight Gain

If we can’t get rid of toxins fast enough, our body locks them away in fat cells. Like jail cells, these ‘toxin prisons’ prevent them from escaping into the rest of the body and causing damage. The more toxins you have, the more fat is needed to imprison them. This is why undergoing a weight loss program without the right support can sometimes be dangerous: fat loss means stored toxins get released into your bloodstream, and need to be removed quickly before they are reabsorbed.
Toxins can also be a causative factor in insulin dysfunction, contributing to obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic issues.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Many neurodegenerative illnesses such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s have been linked to a high toxin load. Prenatal exposure to bodily toxins is thought to contribute to ADHD in children, with heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium being considered the worst offenders. Toxins are likely to enter the abundant fat in neurological cells. Unlike some other fat stores in the body, this is where they can cause real damage to neurotransmitter function and communication.

Reproductive Issues and Cancer

Endocrine disrupting chemicals which include solvents, BPA and phthalates from plastics, can cause serious hormone dysfunction, unbalancing key hormones like estrogen and testosterone. This contributes to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, breast and prostate cancer. It can even decrease fertility in both men and women. This effect is so strong, that prenatal exposure can reduce adult fertility.

How Does Detoxification Work?

Detoxification is a real team effort, featuring the hard-working liver and kidneys. Working closely with the colon, urinary tract and skin, they release enzymes that break down toxins, then filter and excrete them from the body. Some toxins are eliminated as stool, while some are sent to the liver for conversion to safer, water-soluble forms. The liver sends them into the bloodstream, where the kidney escorts them out of the body as urine. Toxins can also be excreted through sweat.

Detox Pathway Dysfunction

Like any team process, success depends on everyone doing their part. If liver function is weakened, toxins may not be properly neutralized. If the kidneys are not at their best, they may not be able to remove toxins through urine. And if colon function is compromised, toxins may remain for too long in the body before removal. In this delicate balance, any detoxification pathway dysfunction can result in toxins sticking around long enough to damage organs, cells and DNA.

Genetics Impact Detoxification

Genetics play a strong role in how well our bodies detoxify. Detoxification involves three main stages, and genes that impact each stage have been identified. Depending on your genetic profile, you could be great at neutralizing toxins, but less efficient at excreting them from the body. Or vice versa.

7 Ways You Can Support Your Body’s Detoxification
When we give our body the tools and resources it needs to do the job. Here’s how!

1 – Reduce Your Exposure to Toxins

The fewer toxins you absorb into your body, the easier detoxification will be. Try these strategies to stay toxin-free:

Eat Organic As Often As Possible

If you can’t afford to go 100% organic, prioritize meats, fish and dairy products as the conventional, non-organic forms may contain pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. Learn which conventional fruits and veggies are highest and lowest in pesticides with the Environmental Working Group’s 2020 Dirty Dozen List and Clean Fifteen List.

Reduce Your Use of Plastics

Eliminating or reducing the use of plastic wraps and containers for food and drink storage is a great way to drastically reduce your exposure to BPA, phthalates and other toxins that plastic products off-gas. Opt for glass or stainless steel containers and beeswax wraps instead.

Use Natural Personal Care Products

The skin is our largest organ. Show it some love! The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database has hazard ratings for over 80,000 personal care products.

Use Natural Cleaning Products

Did you know that conventional home cleaning products are chock-full of toxins? The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning rates over 2,500 products.

Clean Up Your Air

Did you know that indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air? More time at home means it’s more important than ever to assess your home and furniture for toxins like flame retardants and PVC. The Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Home Guide lists potential home toxin sources and how to find healthier alternatives.

2 – Eat Daily Detox Foods

Your body detoxes daily – why not provide daily detox support through your diet? The following foods can help support your liver, increase antioxidant levels and bind toxins for quick removal:
● Berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries
● Green tea
● Turmeric
● Pomegranate
● Flax seeds
● Brassicaceae family greens like broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale.
● Broccoli sprouts

3 – Take Antioxidant Supplements

Glutathione

Glutathione is called the ‘master antioxidant’ with good reason, it neutralizes free radicals and toxins produced within the body. It is also known for its ability to remove environmental toxins from the body, and low Glutathione levels have been linked to many chronic and autoimmune diseases. Our bodies produce glutathione naturally, but additional supplementation in oral, inhalant, topical or IV form can help to improve the function of the body’s detox pathways.

Resveratrol

Known as the compound in red wine that’s good for heart health, Resveratrol’s powerful antioxidant action helps to rid the body of free radicals and supports other antioxidant enzymes. It can decrease the volume of toxins our body creates during metabolic processes, and increase the excretion of toxins. This also reduces cancer risk by slowing the reproduction of cancer cells including breast, prostate and colon cancer.

4 – Reboot with a Seasonal Cleanse

For centuries, many cultures have integrated seasonal fasting into their traditions. Here in North America, seasonal cleansing has become a ritual for many interested in maintaining overall health.
It can be as easy as eating clean, light foods that are easily digested for 1-2 weeks a few times a year. Avoid all sugar, alcohol, gluten and dairy. Get lots of sleep, drink lots of filtered water and reduce stress during this period.

5 – Get Into Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting means restricting the times you eat during the day to 8 – 10 hours. This gives your body a break from heavy digestive activities, and frees up energy for the body to focus on detox functions. Different intermittent fasting schedules work best for different people, so be sure to connect with your healthcare practitioner to determine the schedule that is best for your body.

6 – Enhance Elimination

How can off-the-shelf detox kits turn you into a hot mess of irritability, headaches and brain fog? They may help you get toxins out of your cells, but not help you excrete it. Here’s how to encourage toxins to leave the body quickly.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of fresh water to keep toxins moving towards the exit. Water helps bulk up fibre to sweep your colon clean, and supports kidney function to excrete toxins through the urine.

Increase Your Fibre Intake

Some types of fibre such as freshly ground flax seeds can bind toxins. This means that when the flax seeds leave your body via stool, so do the toxins. Be sure to increase your fibre intake slowly.

Try Skin Brushing

Like the circulatory system, the lymphatic system plays a fundamental role in removing metabolic waste and toxins. But without a pump and valve system, the lymphatic system sometimes needs some help to move lymphatic fluid to the lymph nodes, where immune cells can filter out the toxins.
Using a natural bristle long-handled brush, start at your feet and brush your skin in a sweeping motion up your legs. Continue brushing the skin of your legs, arms and torso, always sweeping towards the heart.

Sweat More

Put on your favorite high-energy music and move those toxins out through sweat. Studies show that more heavy metals are excreted through sweat than urine, making sweating one of the best methods of detoxing available to us. Cardio exercise such as jogging or jumping rope work well for building up a sweat, but be sure to stay within your optimal range. If you’re under stress this may include doing less heavy cardio. Try an infrared sauna if cardio isn’t for you.

Get Proper Sleep

Many of the body’s regular detoxification functions take place while we’re sleeping, from liver and kidney activities, to brain chemical clean-up processes that can affect your mood. These natural detox processes need to happen while you sleep, so even if you’re genetically set up for efficient detox and are living a clean lifestyle, good quality sleep is key. Chronic poor sleep means chronic poor detoxification.

7 – Seek Out Professional Detox Support

If your detox pathways are particularly sluggish, a gentle DIY seasonal cleanse won’t be enough (such cleanses are better seen as good maintenance habits). Working with a skilled healthcare practitioner means undergoing a complete health history and functional testing that will allow you to target the organs and systems that need the most support. Your practitioner may recommend a targeted detox focusing on your liver, kidney or colon, or a substance-specific detox focussing on heavy metals like lead and mercury. Professional detox support options can include IV infusions, acupuncture, colon cleansing, herbal or homeopathic medicine, or professional grade supplements.

Are you ready to get toxins out of your life safely and effectively? We can help! Let’s meet to do some testing, and see how well your detox pathways are functioning. Together, we can come up with a treatment plan including key supplements and lifestyle recommendations. Let’s meet and discuss how we can help you be your best, toxin-free self.

References

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Ballatori N, Krance SM, Notenboom S, Shi S, Tieu K, Hammond CL. Glutathione dysregulation and the etiology and progression of human diseases. Biol Chem. 2009 Mar; 390(3):191–214.
Chaix, A. et al. Time-Restricted Feeding Is a Preventative and Therapeutic Intervention against Diverse Nutritional Challenges. Cell Metabolism. 2014 Dec; 2(6):991–1005
Chen ZH, Hurh YJ, Na HK, et al. Resveratrol inhibits TCDD-induced expression of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 and catechol estrogen-mediated oxidative DNA damage in cultured human mammary epithelial cells. Carcinogenesis. 2004;25(10):2005-2013.
Chen JG, Johnson J, Egner P, et al. Dose-dependent detoxication of the airborne pollutant benzene in a randomized trial of broccoli sprout beverage in Qidong, China. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019;110(3):675-684. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqz122
Cline JC. Nutritional aspects of detoxification in clinical practice. Altern Ther Health Med. 2015;21(3):54-62.
Crinnion WJ. Do environmental toxicants contribute to allergy and asthma?. Altern Med Rev. 2012;17(1):6-18.
Environmental Working Group Consumer Guides:https://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides. Accessed September 12, 2020.
Harvie M and, Howell A. Energy restriction and the prevention of breast cancer. Proc Nutr. Soc. 2012 May;71(2):263-75
Holtcamp W. Obesogens: an environmental link to obesity. Environ Health Perspect. 2012;120: a62-a68.
Jandacek RJ, Tso P. Factors affecting storage and excretion of toxic lipophilic xenobiotics. Lipids. 2001;36(12):1289-1305
Kahn LG, Philippat C, Nakayama SF, Slama R, Trasande L. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: implications for human health. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2020;8(8):703-718. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(20)30129-7
Leonard SS, Xia C, Jiang BH, et al. Resveratrol scavenges reactive oxygen species and effects radical-induced cellular responses. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2003;309(4):1017-1026
Liska DJ, Rountree R. The role of detoxification in the prevention of chronic degenerative diseases: a summary. Adv Nutr Publications. 2002.
Michelle N. et al. The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomised trial in young overweight women. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011 May; 35(5): 714–727.
Perricone C, De Carolis C, Perricone R. Glutathione: a key player in autoimmunity. Autoimmun Rev. 2009;8(8):697-701. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2009.02.020
Pillon Barcelos R, Freire Royes LF, Gonzalez-Gallego J, Bresciani G. Oxidative stress and inflammation: liver responses and adaptations to acute and regular exercise. Free Radic Res. 2017;51(2):222-236. doi:10.1080/10715762.2017.1291942
Pizzorno, J. Glutathione! Integre Med (Encinitas). 2014 Feb; 13(1): 8-12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684116/
Richie JP Jr, Nichenametla S, Neidig W, et al. Randomized controlled trial of oral glutathione supplementation on body stores of glutathione. Eur J Nutr. 2015;54(2):251-263. doi:10.1007/s00394-014-0706-z
Ristoff E, Larsson A. Inborn errors in the metabolism of glutathione. Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2007; 2:16. Published 2007 Mar 30. doi:10.1186/1750-1172-2-16
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Should You Be Avoiding Dairy? What the Science Says

Did you drink milk with lunch as a child? For decades, milk was considered an essential part of a healthy diet. Depending on where you grew up, you may have been encouraged to drink a glass of milk with each meal. But milk has fallen out of favour with many health professionals in recent years.

Do You Really Need Dairy? The Top 3 Myths Busted

Decades of catchy dairy industry slogans like “Got Milk?” have kept dairy at the forefront in many households. But does dairy really live up to the hype?

Myth 1 – Dairy is Needed for Bone Health & Prevents Fractures
False! For years, popular nutritional guidelines have promoted the idea that we need to consume a lot of calcium to build up strong bones during our teenage years in order to protect against fractures late in life. However, science doesn’t necessarily agree.

A long-term study following 96 000 men and women (the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study) indicated that milk intake during the purported bone-building phase did not reduce the risk of hip fractures later in life. In fact, for every glass of milk per day in their teenage years, men had a 9% higher risk of fracturing a hip later in life. (the same risk was not seen in women)

Myth 2 – Low-Fat Dairy Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you think that choosing low-fat dairy products is a good weight control strategy, you may be surprised to find out that research shows full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese to be more helpful in preventing weight gain. That is likely because the full-fat versions are more satisfying and keep you fuller for longer.
Interestingly, drinking skim milk has been positively associated with increased acne over the full fat milk.

Myth 3 – Milk is the Only Good Source of Calcium
It is true that milk contains high levels of calcium. And it’s a fact that our bodies benefit from dietary calcium in a number of ways, such as better heart health and lower blood pressure. However, milk is not the only calcium game in town. In fact, one of the few studies done on non-dairy dietary calcium intake found that plant-based calcium sources significantly reduced blood pressure.

Why Are So Many People Low in Calcium?

What we eat isn’t the only factor for proper calcium intake. We also have to look at what increases the absorption of calcium and what causes us to excrete it. Let’s look at which factors can put you at risk for reduced calcium absorption even if you eat a calcium-rich diet.

Low Vitamin D Levels
Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium properly. When blood calcium levels drop, Vitamin D helps increase calcium absorption and decrease calcium loss through the urine. If Vitamin D levels are low, it no longer matters that we eat calcium-rich foods, as they won’t translate to bioavailable calcium that our bodies can use.

High Salt Intake
If your diet is high in salty foods, you could be at risk of low calcium. High sodium levels make the kidneys work harder to flush out the excess sodium and prevent mineral imbalance issues in the blood. Unfortunately, this process flushes out more than just sodium, resulting in a net loss of calcium from our bones.

Too Much Caffeine
Excessive consumption of coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas also has a leaching effect on the body’s calcium levels. Caffeine is a mild diuretic, which encourages calcium loss through the urine. This means your body may excrete calcium before it has a chance to use it – what a waste!

High Alcohol Intake
Alcohol is another culprit of reducing calcium absorption because of its diuretic action. Furthermore, it reduces the activity of liver enzymes that help convert vitamin D to its active form. As we saw above, this means even less calcium will be absorbed.

Gut Health Issues
Much of our body’s calcium is absorbed in the small intestine. If you have digestive concerns such as celiac disease, Leaky Gut Syndrome, SIBO or IBS, you may be absorbing less calcium from your food than you would if your gut was functioning at its best.

Foods That Can Reduce The Absorption of Calcium
Foods High in Oxalic and Phytic Acid bind to calcium and reduce its absorption into the bloodstream. Many of these foods are otherwise very healthy – should you give them up? No, however, a good compromise is to avoid eating these foods in the same meal as calcium-rich foods. For example, research shows that eating spinach and milk together reduces how much calcium is absorbed.

Foods High in Oxalic Acid:
Spinach
Collard greens
Sweet potatoes
Rhubarb
Beans

Foods High in Phytic Acid:
Whole grains
Wheat bran
Beans
Seeds
Nuts

Beyond Calcium, How Does Dairy Affect Health?
Milk is often associated with wholesome eating patterns – but is it really such a natural beverage choice? Let’s look at the more complex side of dairy.

Hormones in Milk May Lead to Cancer
Current research shows possible links between the hormones in dairy and certain cancers. Some evidence points to Estrogen, steroid hormones and growth hormones as the main culprits. Excessive dairy consumption can thus lead to hormonal imbalances causing mood swings, anxiety and a host of unpleasant symptoms.

Reducing Dairy May Improve PCOS Symptoms
In Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) too many male hormones are produced, resulting in weight gain, excessive hair growth and acne. High blood sugar is thought to make this condition worse. Studies show that a low dairy diet can help women with PCOS lose weight, lower insulin levels, and reduce testosterone.

Lactose Intolerance: Dairy is Well Tolerated by Some, but Not by Others
Many people simply can’t tolerate milk. In fact, research shows that the majority of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant: up to 70%. That means they don’t create enough of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest the sugar (lactose) found in milk. As a result, lactose goes through the gut without being digested, leading to uncomfortable symptoms such as cramps, bloating, and diarrhoea.

Why is Lactose Intolerance so prevalent?

The Type of Milk Protein Makes a Difference

The dominant type of protein in milk depends on the animal it comes from. Cow’s milk is high in A1 B-casein, while milk from sheep, goats and buffalo contains mainly A2 B-casein. Many people who cannot tolerate cow’s milk find that A2 B-casein dairy products are much more easily digested.

Genetic Differences in Human Populations

We are what our ancestors have eaten. If you have a Northern Eastern European background, for example, you are much less likely to be lactose intolerant than someone with an Asian background. There is evidence that as far back as 500 BC, European babies were given animal milk. Historical genetic research shows that as dairy-loving cultures spread across the world, so did their dairy-tolerant genes.

Loss of Diversity in the Microbiome

Cultures that have been eating dairy for centuries have a diverse gut microbiome well-designed to handle it. But the microbiome is easily affected by dietary changes. With Western junk foods now available worldwide, our microbiomes are nutrient-starved and getting less diverse. Researchers speculate that this increasing lack of diversity in our microbiome contributes to rising rates of lactose intolerance.

Milk is for Babies

Every mammal’s milk is designed for babies of that species. That’s why it’s so full of the perfect proportions of fat, minerals and immune-strengthening compounds for those babies. Humans are the only ones that drink the milk of another species.

Cow’s milk is designed for baby cows. This is part of the reason for high global levels of lactose intolerance: mammals aren’t meant to drink milk (human or otherwise) after the age of five. That’s when abundant lactase enzyme levels naturally decrease, which means we can no longer digest lactose.

What to Try When You Simply Can’t Give up Dairy:What You Need to Know About Supplementing Calcium

If you are a menopausal woman or at risk of osteoarthritis, you may be considering taking a calcium supplement. The two main forms of calcium you will see on the detail panel of your supplement are carbonate and citrate. For most people, calcium carbonate is the best choice as it is more bioavailable and less expensive. In addition, you might have noticed that many Calcium supplements contain Vitamin D. The perfect partner, Vitamin D significantly increases calcium absorption.

However, taking too much supplemental calcium increases the risk of muscle tension, constipation, kidney stones and cardiovascular disease, as well as affecting the absorption of iron and zinc. Sky-high calcium levels can be just as detrimental as low levels, so it is important to work with your healthcare practitioner when supplementing.

Thinking of reducing or giving up dairy? Wondering if you’re lactose intolerant or worried about calcium? Let’s work together to do the right testing to uncover your unique situation. We’ll create a personalized plan including delicious dairy alternatives and the right supplements. Give us a call and let’s get started!

References:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1014296
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25159495
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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7302802/

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner B, Willett WC. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. Hum Reprod. 2007;22(5):1340-1347. doi:10.1093/humrep/dem019 (full fat dairy reduces acne and improved fertility where low-fat dairy does the opposite)

Deth R, et al. Clinical evaluation of glutathione concentrations after consumption of milk containing different subtypes of β-casein: results from a randomized, cross-over clinical trial.Nutr J. 2016 Sep 29;15(1):82. – type of milk protein casein affects dairy tolerance

Strengthen Your Immune Army This Fall

Are you having a Surreal September? Our traditional season of going back to school and starting new work projects definitely has a few twists this year. We face many unknowns, but here’s what we do know: our immune system is always more vulnerable in fall. And the stress of the constant pivoting of the last several months has inevitably taken its toll.

This year more than ever we must support our immune army – and September is the perfect time to get started. Let’s take a look at why our immune system is more vulnerable in fall, who is most at risk, and what you can do to get your immune army strong and ready to ward off invaders.

Why You’re More Likely to Get Sick in Fall

Viruses are stronger in the fall because of ideal weather conditions. Unfortunately, many of the same conditions viruses love can negatively impact our immune system.

Hot, Dry Indoor Air
Cold weather + low humidity = the ideal virus environment. And while the weather cools down outside, things heat up inside. Indoor heating can make the air hot and dry, which can irritate the delicate skin of the nasal, sinus and throat passages. The resulting small cracks act like open doors, allowing bacteria and viruses to enter the body. Did you know that most viruses can reproduce as much as 100 times faster in heated, low humidity air?

Less Sunlight
Our skin produces vitamin D readily when it’s exposed to sunlight, but lower levels of sunlight in the fall mean less Vitamin D for us. Research shows that Vitamin D (a.k.a. the Sunshine Vitamin) is a key nutrient needed to support a healthy immune system.

Fluctuating Weather
Fall means frequent changes in temperature, humidity, wind levels and barometric pressure. This transition can be hard on the body, causing stress as it constantly tries to adapt to this roller coaster of seasonal changes.

What are the Risk Factors for Weakened Immunity?

When a virus gets past our body’s first line of defence: our skin and mucous membranes, it will encounter our immune army. But will it meet a big, powerful army or a small, ineffective one? Let’s take a look at the factors that may weaken our immune defence.

Existing Health Issues
When a virus invades, your immune soldiers are designed to work fast to locate and deactivate the invader. But if they are already fighting battles against viruses, bacteria or any illness that impacts the immune system, there may not be enough soldiers available to wage war against the new virus.
As a result, the new virus can slip past the soldiers, (aka our white blood cells working via our lymphatic system) and cause unfettered damage.

The Potential Impact of Medication
In some cases, both the illness itself and the treatment may weaken your immune system. Some drugs (such as those used in chemotherapy or to treat autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis) work by deliberately suppressing the immune system.

Health Conditions Carrying High Risk of Impacting the Immune System:
● Respiratory illnesses like asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
● Organ or bone marrow transplant
● Autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes or Psoriasis.
● Cancer
● Digestive illness like SIBO, IBS or Leaky Gut Syndrome

Chronic Stress
Several months of sky-high stress levels have resulted in increased anxiety and general overwhelm across the globe. Research shows that chronically being in fight or flight mode can significantly weaken the immune response.

Lack of Sleep
If Netflix has become your new late-night BFF consider this: sleep is when your immune system takes note of the day’s invaders. Every night, our immune system gathers everything it has learned about viruses and bacteria it encountered that day. It notes the invader characteristics and methods of attack and creates antibodies to fight off that invader in the future. Research shows that this process of ‘immune memory’ creation can ONLY happen during sleep.

A High Sugar Diet
Eating sugar feeds the bad microbes in our gut so that they multiply. If these bad microbes become too numerous, our good bacteria may be crowded out. Since the majority of our immune system resides there, the state of our gut is a vital part of the immune response.

What You Can Do to Support Your Immune System

1 – A Healthy Diet
Did you know that 80% of our immune system resides in our gut? Starve out bad microbes, reduce mucus production and nourish your good gut microbes by eating an organic, gut-friendly diet rich in nutrient-dense vegetables. Here are some choices to consider:

Reduce These Foods:
Alcohol
Sugar
Simple carbs like bread and pasta
Processed foods
Dairy
High-fat foods

Embrace These Nutrient-Dense Immune System Friendly Foods:
Proteins
Oysters
Sardines
Eggs
Salmon
Beans
Legumes
Tofu

Vegetables:
Carrots
Button mushrooms
Spinach
Sweet potatoes
Broccoli
Red peppers
Fermented cabbage (sauerkraut or kimchi)

Fruit:
Orange
Grapefruit
Watermelon
Pomegranates
Blueberries
Strawberries
Mangoes
Lemon

Nuts and Seeds:
Sunflower seeds
Brazil nuts
Pumpkin seeds
Walnuts
Sesame seeds

Spices and Soups:
Onions
Garlic
Turmeric
Ginger
Miso soup with seaweed
Bone broth

Beverages:
Green tea
Smoothies including fruits and veggies above
Kombucha
Plenty of filtered water

2 – Install a Humidifier
Make things uncomfortable for viruses by increasing the humidity of your indoor air. If you only have one humidifier, put it in the bedroom to treat the air while you sleep.

3 – Get Better Sleep
Regularly having 7 – 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is a fast track to optimal immune function. In addition to forming ‘immune memories’ our bodies detox and produce hormones at night. These tasks can only happen while you’re asleep. Research shows that lack of sleep significantly weakens the immune system, and sets the stage for further illness.

4 – Set Boundaries
For a two-letter word, ‘no’ can be very difficult to say. But think about it this way: you’re not saying no to someone else. You’re saying yes to yourself. With so many unknowns this fall, make sure you don’t overcommit. Each week carve out some time for yourself and don’t book anyone else in, no matter how tempting it may be to say yes. Practice makes perfect – just say no!

5 – Get More Exercise
If you’ve fallen off the exercise bandwagon (and who hasn’t this year?), the cooler temperatures of fall make this a great time to kick-start your routine. Exercise increases circulation, making sure that your immune army cells can quickly get to where they are most needed. Avoid injury by easing back in with gentle exercises like tai chi, yoga or walking.
Ready for some cardio? It turns out that strenuous exercise doesn’t have the immune-lowering action we once thought, so go for it! Recent research shows that strenuous exercise increases natural Killer cells – a key type of soldier in our immune army.

Supplements to Support a Strong Immune System

Keeping your body fully nourished and topped up in these key vitamins can help it to be ready should the battle arrive at your door:

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that’s essential to the body. It contributes to our immune defence, among many other roles, by supporting various immune system functions. It is actively transported to the skin where it helps to create a strong initial barrier against pathogens, and it encourages the production and function of white blood cells for internal defence.

Vitamin D
The Sunshine Vitamin is now recognized as a key part of immune support by the medical community as a whole. Research shows that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with higher rates of infection and longer recovery times, and supplement is recommended in the winter months.

Zinc
Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system. It is crucial for the normal development and function of immune cells, and has a crucial role in moderating the body’s inflammatory response.

Elderberry
Elderberries have long been used in herbal medicine to support the immune system during an illness or infection and reduce the symptoms of illnesses such as colds and flu. Packed with antioxidants, elderberry has a direct antiviral effect, blocking viral proteins and inhibiting the early stages of an infection. Try it in a delicious syrup that even kids will love!

Do you feel ready for fall? Let’s make sure your immune system is fully supported to work at its best. We can do food sensitivity testing to make sure your diet is right for you, assess your immune response, and work to reduce stress. Together we can design a personalized plan to make sure your immune army is ready to protect you against whatever this September throws at you!

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277319/#:~:text=Zinc%20affects%20multiple%20aspects%20of,are%20affected%20by%20zinc%20deficiency.
Besedovsky L, Lange T, Haack M. The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Physiol Rev. 2019;99(3):1325-1380. doi:10.1152/physrev.00010.2018
Calder PC, Carr AC, Gombart AF, Eggersdorfer M. Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System Is an Important Factor to Protect against Viral Infections. Nutrients. 2020;12(4):1181. Published 2020 Apr 23. doi:10.3390/nu12041181
Campbell JP, Turner JE.Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan. Front. Immunol., 16 April 2018
https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00648
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/
Charoenngam N, Holick MF. Immunologic Effects of Vitamin D on Human Health and Disease. Nutrients. 2020;12(7):2097. Published 2020 Jul 15. doi:10.3390/nu12072097
Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne E. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019;42:361-365. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.004

Dreaming of A More Restful Sleep?

Tossing and turning? Watching the hours crawl by? Even one night of poor sleep can make you an exhausted, irritable, sugar-craving beast the next day. We all have the odd sleepless night, but if sleep loss goes on long enough more serious problems like hormone imbalance, immune dysfunction and weight gain can result.

Let’s look at the latest research to see what’s going on when you’re asleep, the relationship between sleep loss and other health conditions, and how you can increase your dose of healing ZZZs.

Why Your Body Needs to Sleep

Imagine a city at night. Offices are being cleaned, roadways and transit lines are being repaired, garbage and recycling is being picked up…

If these activities took place during the day, they would get in the way. Office workers couldn’t work effectively, traffic would become gridlocked. When morning comes, the city has been cleaned and repaired, and is ready for another full day of operations.

Night-time Functions

It’s the same with your body. It is vital to your daytime functioning that your body has a chance to perform these functions every night:
– Repair damage to muscles, organs and DNA
– Hormone production and release
– Process toxins for removal
– Process the day’s events emotionally
– Store long-term emotional and immune memories

The Physical Toll of Not Sleeping Well

What happens if these functions aren’t carried out properly and regularly? Cellular repairs fall behind, hormones fall out of balance, toxins build up, emotions aren’t processed, and long-term immune memories aren’t stored for the future.

A Vicious Cycle: Sleep Loss Worsens Existing Health Conditions

We’ve all experienced the 2-way relationship between poor sleep and stress. Up all night stressing about a work project? The next day you’ll feel even more stressed about it, leading you into a cycle of stress and poor sleep. And the negative effects go deeper if you already suffer from an imbalance in your health.

Sleep Loss Affects Immune Health

Sleep loss can impact your immune system’s lines of defence, the various stages of immune response that are designed to protect the body from infection and disease.

Research points to sleep loss having the strongest impact on targeted antibody resistance. The immune system’s learning and remembering only happen while you sleep. If you’re not getting good quality sleep on a regular basis, your immune system won’t be able to produce the antibodies. This means you could be more
susceptible if that pathogen visits you again in the future. Several studies show that sleep loss increases the risk of an infection taking hold.

Sleep Loss Affects Menopause

Studies show that almost 70% of women in perimenopause and menopause regularly experience sleep loss. Why is that?

Waking up restless and dripping with sweat in the middle of night doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep. And the less sleep you get, the worse the menopause-induced night sweats may get.

Research also shows that the increased anxiety and depression that often accompanies menopause contributes significantly to many aspects of poor sleep including waking up often during the night, less time spent asleep and waking due to troubling dreams.

Sleep Loss Affects Inflammation

Research shows that too little sleep, or a lack of quality sleep, results in increased levels of inflammatory markers and signs of cellular aging. Poor quality sleep can trigger low-grade, chronic inflammation that is characteristic of a wide range of diseases such as heart disease, metabolism disorders, chronic pain, some cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

Sleep Loss Affects Excess Weight

Have you ever noticed looking slimmer after a period of regularly getting proper sleep? It seems too good to be true – lose weight by spending more time being sedentary? There are several reasons for this phenomenon.

Did you know that fat stores toxins? When your body is having trouble getting dangerous toxins out of your system, it does the next best thing it can to protect our cells: it imprisons them in fat so the toxins can’t damage the rest of your cells.

Also, many hormones are produced and distributed through the body during sleep.
Those strong sugar and carb cravings after a night of tossing and turning might come down to your sleep quality. When these hormones aren’t functioning properly, you’re more likely to eat more and make poor food choices and when you are tired, you are likely to exercise less due to a lack of energy.

9 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Sleep Success

Sleep hygiene isn’t just about a clean bedroom. It’s all the little things you can do to make your bedroom a restful place and set yourself up for sleep success every night.

1 – Create a Consistent Sleep Routine
Our bodies love routine. Get up at the same time every morning, and your body will find it easier to wake up. With practice, you may find that you’re feeling sleepy even before you hit the sheets!

2 – Limit Screen Time Before Bed
Research shows that blue light from digital screens can negatively impact sleep. Try not to use your smartphone, TV, laptop or tablet for one hour before bed. Skip the social media in bed, and save that late-night show that you like for tomorrow.

3 – Keep Your Bedroom Quiet
Sound is one of the biggest obstacles to sleep. Unless a key part of your sleep routine involves listening to relaxing music, keep your bedroom as quiet as possible. If you can’t control the noise around you, invest in some ear plugs.

4 – Limit Bedroom Light
Darkness is one of the cues your brain is looking for to get into sleep mode. Bedside lamps, night lights and light coming in through your bedroom window can all interfere. A sleep mask can help if you are sharing a room with a night owl. If you work nights, consider installing blackout curtains for deep darkness.

5 – Stay Cool
Research indicates that it’s much easier to get good quality sleep in a cool room. Experiment with different temperatures to see what feels right for you by pre-programming your thermostat to dip at bedtime. If your bed mate has different sleep temperature needs, keep the room cool and go European with individual blankets.

6 – Wear Breathable Nightwear
Polyester and other synthetic fibres are not very breathable, making it more likely you’ll heat up overnight. Opt for natural fibres such as cotton and bamboo to encourage airflow and allow your body to comfortably regulate its temperature.

7 – Don’t Eat Too Late
Digesting food is a huge task, using over 80% of the body’s energy. Ask your body to do this while you’re sleeping, and it won’t have the energy left to carry out that long list of overnight cleansing and healing functions. Even worse, digestion slows down at night, so it is best all round to avoid eating meals after 8pm.

8 – Work Out in the Morning, Yoga at Night
Strenuous exercise does contribute to great sleep at night, but not when it’s done within an hour or two of bedtime. Doing gentler forms of exercise (like yoga) right before bed promotes longer, deeper sleep.

9 – Use a Weighted Blanket
Recent research shows that using a weighted blanket can soothe your nervous system and result in deeper, more restful sleep.

Not Sleeping Properly? We Can Help!

As you can see, the one-third of your life spent asleep directly sets you up for success in the other two-thirds of your life. If you are not feeling your best and suspect sleep is the issue, it’s important to address the root causes.

Let’s work together to design a personalized treatment plan with calming nutrients and effective lifestyle changes that will work for you. We can run tests to check your hormone and immune system function, and see if chronic inflammation is present.
Please give us a call to get started.

References:

Besedovsky L, Lange T, Haack M. The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Physiol Rev.
2019;99(3):1325-1380. doi:10.1152/physrev.00010.2018

Kravitz HM, Kazlauskaite R, Joffe H. Sleep, Health, and Metabolism in Midlife Women and Menopause:
Food for Thought. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2018;45(4):679-694. doi:10.1016/j.ogc.2018.07.008

Li J, Vitiello MV, Gooneratne NS. Sleep in Normal Aging. Sleep Med Clin. 2018;13(1):1-11.
doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2017.09.001

Lima AM, Rocha JSB, Reis VMCP, et al. Perda de qualidade do sono e fatores associados em mulheres
climatéricas [Loss of quality of sleep and associated factors among menopausal women]. Cien Saude
Colet. 2019;24(7):2667-2678. Published 2019 Jul 22. doi:10.1590/1413-81232018247.19522017

Pichard LE, Simonelli G, Schwartz L, Balkin TJ, Hursh S. Precision Medicine for Sleep Loss and Fatigue
Management. Sleep Med Clin. 2019;14(3):399-406. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2019.05.006

Sleep Foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/

St-Onge MP. Sleep-obesity relation: underlying mechanisms and consequences for treatment. Obes Rev.
2017;18 Suppl 1:34-39. doi:10.1111/obr.12499

Tempesta D, Socci V, De Gennaro L, Ferrara M. Sleep and emotional processing. Sleep Med Rev.
2018;40:183-195. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2017.12.005

Watling J, Pawlik B, Scott K, Booth S, Short MA. Sleep Loss and Affective Functioning: More Than Just
Mood. Behav Sleep Med. 2017;15(5):394-409. doi:10.1080/15402002.2016.1141770

Is Your Gut Calling All The Shots?

Are your sugar cravings impossible to ignore? Is bloating, gas and foggy thinking part of your every day? If so, your “bad” bacteria may be calling the shots!

The field of microbiome research has exploded recently. Every day new studies are revealing how the various colonies of gut bacteria and yeasts influence every major system and process in the body, and a sweet tooth may be part of that picture.

Research tells us that a diet high in sugar changes the makeup of the microbiome, helping bad bacteria thrive, suppressing good bacteria, and creating an imbalance that wreaks havoc on your digestive system.

Why is Sugar Bad for Your Microbiome?

With trillions of bacteria and yeasts representing hundreds of species in our gut, this microbial community is more influential than we think. Like any diverse community, there are great differences between members. Different species like different foods, have different jobs, and perhaps view life differently.

A Balanced Microbiome

In a healthy, balanced microbiome the various strains of yeasts and bacteria can co-exist happily. But unhealthy microbes, which often feed on sugar, can quickly overwhelm the friendly strains in your gut. Just as a pregnant woman is ‘eating for two’, every day we are ‘eating for trillions’. When sugar supplies in your gut are running low these bad strains send signals for you to ‘crave’ something sweet.

Candida & Cravings

Ask anyone who has experienced an overgrowth of Candida yeast in their gut will tell you that the sugar cravings are powerful and sneaky. They can influence your thoughts and decision-making strategies, manipulating you into eating sugar.

The Worst Dietary Sugars For Your Gut

Many healthy whole foods, especially fruit, are high in natural sugars and can exacerbate an imbalance, but the most damaging sugar is sucrose – plain old table sugar. Sucrose is a combination of fructose and glucose, and research shows that this combination changes the microbiome the most.

4 Ways an Unbalanced Microbiome can Affect Your Health

1 – Leaky Gut Syndrome

If left untreated, an overgrowth of unfriendly microbes can irritate the intestinal wall until it starts to break down, with yeasts such as candida taking the opportunity to bore holes in the soft mucosal lining – this is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Entire protein molecules, bacteria and food particles may escape from the intestinal tract directly into the bloodstream, undigested.

Once in the blood, these undigested molecules are sometimes seen as foreign invaders, causing what should be a normal, healthy inflammatory response to go out of control, potentially leading to a host of issues from sensitivities to allergies and even autoimmune conditions.

2 – Autoimmune Conditions

When your immune system is working overtime and inflammation becomes chronic throughout your body, the stage is set for autoimmunity. Many studies have shown that increased sugar consumption increases the risk of developing autoimmune diseases, as well as increasing flare-ups of existing issues such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohn’s disease and fibromyalgia.

3 – Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities are often considered early evidence of potential autoimmune issues. Remember that overactive immune system? If it identifies food as a foreign invader, it won’t just try to fight it off. It will ‘remember’ the food and create antibodies against it. Next time you have this food your body will put its defense system into action, and you may experience bloating, gas, abdominal pain, rashes, and other symptoms. Before you know it, you could develop sensitivities to foods you’ve been eating all your life.

4 – Depression & Low Mood

Recent studies show that depressed individuals have a less diverse microbiome with fewer species of bacteria. Some bacterial species found in healthy individuals can be missing entirely, while other bad bacteria is found in much higher numbers.

Did you know that gut bacteria make many of the neurotransmitters that affect mood? The majority of our natural supplies of GABA (gamma-amino butyrate), norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine are made in the gut – this is why the gut is often referred to as the “second brain”. When those good bacteria aren’t functioning well, or have been wiped out altogether it can have a significant effect on moods and feelings of depression.

How to Bring a Sugar-Influenced Microbiome Back into Balance

As socially acceptable as it may be, sugar is both a microbiome-damaging toxin and an addictive drug. Here’s what you can do to release yourself from sugar’s grip and bring back balance:

Fight Back Against Sugar Cravings

Say No to Your Little Friends

When a strong sugar craving hits, trying to ignore it will only get you so far. Take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself: is this my craving? Or are the bad microbes manipulating me to get their own sugar fix? When you reduce your sugar intake, these microbes go into starvation mode and up the ante. Your sugar cravings become more powerful, and you may find you’re ‘talking yourself into’ getting that
chocolate bar or pastry. Realizing that the microbes are only using you to be fed is a good first step in regaining control over your eating habits.

Identify Sugar Triggers

Perhaps you crave sugar under specific circumstances. Think about the last time you had a sugary treat. Were you feeling stressed? Fatigued? Depressed? Anxious? Knowing your own sugar triggers will help you ride out that craving when it arrives. Bringing conscious attention to your cravings is a powerful way to lessen their power over you.

Feed Your Healthy Gut Bacteria

The best rule of thumb is to eat more real food, and incorporate more plants into your diet. Prebiotics from plants are what our microbiome was built to eat!

Prebiotics

Unlike probiotics, which are themselves beneficial microbial community members, prebiotics are complex carbohydrates that these microbes love to eat. In fact, the reason that many foods are ‘good for us’ is actually because they’re good for beneficial microbes. A well-fed microbe is a happy, active microbe that will keep the bad bacteria at bay and your microbiome healthy and thriving.

The Best Prebiotic Foods
● Chicory
● Jerusalem artichokes
● Dandelion greens
● Asparagus
● Garlic
● Onions
● Bone broth

Add Probiotic Foods To Your Diet

When your microbiome is unbalanced, adding more healthy bacteria can help to temporarily crowd out the bad bacteria, giving your friendly strains a chance to thrive. The easiest way to do this is regularly eating fermented foods which are rich in a variety of strains of soothing, helpful bacteria.
It’s important to note that prebiotics cause bloating and irritation in some individuals, especially if you suffer from SIBO or IBS. If you increase your veggie intake and the bloating continues to make your life a misery, be sure to contact your health practitioner for testing and the right support.

The Best Probiotic Foods
● Kefir
● Yoghurt (read the label to ensure it contains good bacteria as not all do)
● Sauerkraut
● Kimchi
● Miso
● Kombucha
● Lacto-Fermented Pickles (Not those made with vinegar)

Starve the Bad Bacteria

While increasing foods that help feed and nurture the good bacteria and yeasts in your microbiome is important, reducing the foods that feed bad bacteria is just as much a part of the big picture. Removing hidden and not-so-hidden sources of sugar can pave the road to success when it comes to easing your digestive troubles.

Foods to Avoid to Starve Bad Bacteria
● Processed and packaged foods
● Sugary treats (especially those containing sucrose)
● Alcohol
● High sugar fruits like mangoes, grapes, figs, watermelon and pears

Eat Mindfully

Eating isn’t the best time to multitask. If you’re watching TV or scrolling through your social media feed during meals, research shows that you’re likely to be eating faster, chewing less and eating more food that you would otherwise.

At your next meal, try putting your phone away and keeping the TV off. Consciously chew every bite thoroughly before swallowing, and really taste the flavours. Not only will this result in better digestion, you will naturally eat less and enjoy your meal more. And don’t miss out on one of the great joys of life – catching up with friends and family over a good meal.

Reduce Mealtime Stress

If stress has you in frequent “fight or flight” mode at mealtime, you won’t digest your food very well. In this mode your body’s resources are focussed on either fighting an attacker or running away from them.

Resources are actively removed from digestive function to focus on these tasks. So if you sit down to dinner feeling stressed about something you read in the news or a work assignment that’s due tomorrow, you won’t be able to extract or absorb many nutrients from your meal. The opposite of the fight or flight mode (‘rest and digest’ mode) is the goal. Before you sit down to any meal, try some deep breathing to calm you down.

Are you ready to take control back from those bossy bad bacteria, reduce bloating and feel energized by the food you eat?

Let’s work together to kick the sugar habit for good! If you want to delve deeper and find out what’s really going on in your microbial community, we can run a range of tests from stool analysis to food sensitivity, leaky gut and more and guide you through a healing plan that’s uniquely tailored for you.

References:

Azpiroz, F., Dubray, C., Bernalier-Donadille, A., Cardot, J.M., Accarino, A., Serra, J., … Dapoigny, M.
(2017). Effects of scFOS on the composition of fecal microbiota and anxiety in patients with irritable
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Acids. Cell Metab. 2018;27(2):351-361.e3. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2017.12.016

Martin AM, Yabut JM, Choo JM, et al. The gut microbiome regulates host glucose homeostasis via
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Townsend GE 2nd, Han W, Schwalm ND 3rd, et al. Dietary sugar silences a colonization factor in a
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Wölnerhanssen BK, Meyer-Gerspach AC. Effekte von Zuckerkonsum auf die Gesundheit und mögliche
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2019;76(3):111-116. doi:10.1024/0040-5930/a001070

Is Rosacea Stopping Your From Putting Your Best Face Forward?

Rosacea is a chronic skin inflammation that can make you run for cover at a time when spending time outside with friends is all you want to do. Even indoors, it’s hard to ignore your red, bumpy face when you’re staring at your own reflection on every video call!

Are you tired of rosacea running your life? Let’s discuss what causes rosacea, who is most at risk, and how you can avoid the main triggers.

What Does Rosacea Look Like?

There are four main rosacea subtypes, and each affects a different part of the face with different tell-tale symptoms. You might find your symptoms switch from one subtype to another, or experience more than one at a time.

To further complicate matters, some subtypes look a lot like acne, although the best way to treat this skin condition is almost the opposite of conventional acne treatments.

The 4 Types of Rosacea:

Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR)

This type of rosacea shows up as redness in the centre of your face. You may see broken blood vessels, experience a stinging sensation, and your skin may be swollen and sensitive.

Papulopustular rosacea

With a look similar to a typical acne breakout, Papulopustular rosacea gives you pus-filled bumps and a bonus of red, oily skin with visible broken blood vessels. Women in their late 40’s and 50’s are the most often affected by this type.

Rhinophyma rosacea

Often wrongly associated with excessive alcohol consumption, Rhinophyma rosacea primarily affects the nose. It causes the skin on your nose to become thickened and bumpy, with visible pores and broken blood vessels. This subtype usually occurs alongside at least one other subtype and affects more men than women.

Ocular rosacea

Ocular rosacea affects the eyes of up to 60% of rosacea sufferers, often going undiagnosed as it mimics seasonal allergy symptoms (although the symptoms are experienced year-round). It irritates the eyes, making them bloodshot and watery, often accompanied by burning or stinging. If you suspect you may be suffering from ocular rosacea, it is important to visit your health practitioner to check it out, as this type can cause corneal damage if left to run rampant.

What Causes Rosacea?

Although there is no single cause of rosacea, genetics and environmental factors play a strong role among other factors.

The Role of Genetics in Rosacea

Women are more likely to get rosacea in general, while men might be less likely to have it, but the risk of rosacea symptoms being severe is higher.

Studies show that you may be four times more likely to have rosacea if it runs in your family, with genetics being a factor most often in middle-aged women of Celtic or Scandinavian ancestry, in particular if they have a personal history with acne.

Recent genetic research has identified a number of genes that affect the immune system, inflammation, protein metabolism and how stress affects the cells. However it is important to remember that your genes only indicate what you are predisposed to, and do not indicate how that predisposition will play out. Environmental factors such as pollution, stress and lifestyle all play a role in gene expression.

Immune System

Research has identified that those with rosacea are more likely to have an overactive immune system. The body’s immune system is designed to protect you from threats, but if it becomes overactive, your body will respond to its own tissues as if it were a foreign invader.
Inflammation is the body’s way of ‘smoking out’ the invaders with heat. But when inflammation gets out of hand internally, it may show up externally on your face.

The Microbiome & Rosacea

Good & Bad Bacteria

The number of microbes in our bodies outnumber our own cells 10 to 1. Most of the time the various “good” and “bad“ strains play well together, the good bacteria balancing out the bad, and forming symbiotic microbial ecosystems. But when things get out of balance, the bad bacteria can take over.

You may have heard about the microbiome in reference to the communities of bacteria in our intestinal tract, but we have a whole other microbial community on our skin as well. It is the largest organ after all, and there’s room for a thriving skin microbiome.

H. Pylori

Studies also show that the parasitic bacteria H pylori, known to cause stomach ulcers, is seen much more frequently in those with rosacea.

Demodex Skin Mites

A microscopic skin mite called demodex has also been implicated in rosacea. We all host these mites, which like to hang out on our facial skin and in our eyelashes and eyebrows. If you’ve ever wondered why your eye makeup naturally fades, these mites are the reason!

Studies show that those with rosacea have large numbers of these mites on their skin, but they are not actually to blame. The real culprits are the bacteria they carry (bacillus oleronius).

Top 5 Rosacea Triggers and How To Avoid Them

You may find that you remain free of rosacea symptoms for long periods of time, only to have them flare up suddenly. Something is triggering the reaction – but what?

Each person’s rosacea triggers are different, but let’s take a closer look at the most common ones.

1 – Foods and Beverages

Fried and spicy foods, drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine, hot soups and drinks, and foods that contain cinnamaldehyde (like cinnamon, citrus fruit, chocolate and tomatoes) are all high on the list of foods to avoid if you have rosacea.

Pass on the hot sauce, and instead sprinkle some fresh herbs or lemon juice on your meal to punch up the flavour. Try iced decaf versions of your favourite teas and coffees – lavender and mint make calming and delicious iced teas for example!

2 – Sun and Weather Conditions

Do you get rosacea flare-ups in the summer? Basking in the sun may be relaxing, but the sun is a known rosacea trigger.

Sun
Avoid direct sunlight on your face during the hottest parts of the afternoon, and when you do venture out into the sunshine, wear a broad-brimmed hat for extra protection.

Sunscreen
Sunscreen with a 30 SPF or higher is a great way to protect your face from strong summer rays. But did you know that the wrong sunscreen can make your rosacea worse? Opt for water-based, fragrance-free sunscreens that won’t irritate your sensitive skin.

The Environmental Working Group’s 2020 Guide to Sunscreens is a great resource to find a safe, effective sunscreen, and other facial products that contain SPF.

Heat & Extreme Weather
Heat is an important trigger, but it’s really about avoiding all extreme weather conditions. Very cold or windy weather can also aggravate rosacea. Reduce the impact by wearing light-coloured, breathable clothing in hot summer months. Don’t forget a cardigan for those sudden temperature drops when you enter arctic a/c conditions!

3 – Exercise

If you’ve ever had a rosacea flare-up after an intense cardio workout, you’re not alone. If you’re a runner, it’s important to keep your runs to the early mornings or evenings when the weather is cooler. Or change up your routine and try slower, more gentle exercise such as walking or yoga. Skip the Hot Yoga if you have rosacea as heat is an aggravating factor.

4 – Stress

How was your day going the last time you had a flare-up? How about the last five times? Stress is the most common rosacea trigger and you may find that flare-ups are closely linked to those tough days.

Stress-Busting Supplements
Taking supplements such as Vitamin B Complex and Magnesium can soothe your nervous system and help your body to handle stress a little better.

Self-Care
If you know a stressful period is coming up (like a looming project deadline), take extra self-care measures to side-step them and avoid flare-ups. Practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed at the same time every night, and avoiding screens an hour before bed. Stay hydrated and make time daily for activities that bring you joy.

5 – Environmental Toxins & Chemicals

Rosacea is all about inflammation, both inside and out. Exposure to toxins and environmental chemicals increases inflammatory markers in the body, potentially leading to chronic inflammation concerns, such as rosacea.

Major sources of environmental toxins include pesticides in produce, preservatives and other chemicals in personal care products (like makeup, nail polish and perfume) as well as those in household cleaning products.

Read the Ingredients
Look at the ingredient lists – how many of your products contain chemical names so long that even a spelling bee champ would be stumped? Check out the Environmental Working Group’s extensive list of Consumer Guides to find chemical-free home and body care products that are good for you, and the environment.

Keeping Track of Your Rosacea Triggers Can Help Manage Symptoms

Confirm your personal rosacea triggers by tracking what’s going on when you experience flare-ups. Do flare-ups occur when you eat certain foods? Experience certain stressors? A combination? A Rosacea Diary can reveal your trigger patterns, and help you take action to avoid them.

Rosacea and Self-Esteem

As unpleasant as a red face may be, the psychological impact of rosacea is harder still. It’s a condition that you literally carry on your face. Many rosacea sufferers fear that people may suspect an alcohol problem or poor hygiene, even though these are not the cause.

The results of a National Rosacea Society survey demonstrates how profoundly rosacea impacts quality of life. 90 percent of rosacea patients reported low self-esteem, while 52 percent avoided face-to-face contact out of embarrassment. Another survey showed that an astonishing 51 percent of patients with severe rosacea symptoms had missed days at work because of their condition.

What Can You Do To Reduce Rosacea Symptoms?

2 Supplements Can Help Reduce Rosacea Symptoms
What nutrients can you take to reduce your rosacea flare-ups?

1 – Zinc
Research shows that taking a zinc supplement regularly can reduce rosacea symptoms by up to 75%, likely by providing immune system support.

2 – Probiotics
Probiotic supplementation also shows great promise, by rebalancing our microbiome so that potentially damaging bacterial strains are kept in check by the good microbes.

Facial Skincare For Rosacea

Proper facial care is vital. Studies indicate that washing your face morning and evening with an alcohol-free cleanser and using an oil-free moisturizer will improve your facial appearance. However you need to monitor your skin’s needs and respond accordingly. If your skin is dry and irritated, washing it less often can help. If your skin is oily, less moisturizing may be useful.

Are you ready to get to the root of your rosacea? We can help identify your triggers with Food Sensitivity Testing, check the status of your immune system, test your toxin levels and see what’s going on with your microbiome.

Get in touch and let’s get to work on creating a personalized treatment plan with key nutrients that will have you putting your best face forward.

References:

https://www.rosacea.org/
https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/
https://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides

Akdogan N, Alli N, Incel Uysal P, Candar T. Role of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and vitamin D receptor gene polymorphisms in patients with rosacea: a case-control study. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2019;44(4):397-403. doi:10.1111/ced.13769

Hoffmann J, Gendrisch F, Schempp CM, Wölfle U. New Herbal Biomedicines for the Topical Treatment of Dermatological Disorders. Biomedicines. 2020;8(2):27. Published 2020 Feb 8. doi:10.3390/biomedicines8020027

Kallis PJ, Price A, Dosal JR, Nichols AJ, Keri J. A Biologically Based Approach to Acne and Rosacea. J Drugs Dermatol. 2018;17(6):611-617.

Park BW, Ha JM, Cho EB, et al. A Study on Vitamin D and Cathelicidin Status in Patients with Rosacea: Serum Level and Tissue Expression. Ann Dermatol. 2018;30(2):136-142. doi:10.5021/ad.2018.30.2.136

Rainer BM, Thompson KG. Characterization and analysis of the skin microbiota in rosacea: a case-control study. Am J Clin Dermatol 2020;21(1):139–147. doi:10.1007/s40257-019-00471-5

Szántó M, Dózsa A, Antal D, Szabó K, Kemény L, Bai P. Targeting the gut-skin axis-Probiotics as new tools for skin disorder management?. Exp Dermatol. 2019;28(11):1210-1218. doi:10.1111/exd.14016

Two AM, Wu W, et al. “Rosacea: part II. Topical and systemic therapies in the treatment of rosacea.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015;72(5):761-70.
Vaughn AR, Pourang A, Clark AK, Burney W, Sivamani RK. Dietary supplementation with turmeric polyherbal formulation decreases facial redness: a randomized double-blind controlled pilot study. J Integr Med. 2019;17(1):20-23. doi:10.1016/j.joim.2018.11.004

Yuan X, Huang X, Wang B, et al. Relationship between rosacea and dietary factors: A multicenter retrospective case-control survey. J Dermatol 2019;46(3):219–225. doi:10.1111/1346-8138.14771

Zip C. “The role of skin care in optimizing treatment of acne and rosacea.” Skin Therapy Lett. 2017;22(3):5-7.
National Rosacea Society: https://www.rosacea.org/
American Academy of Dermatology Association:
https://www.aad.org/

The Heart Disease Gender Gap

What does someone with heart disease look like? A stressed out CEO? A smoker over 50? Whatever image came to your mind, chances are it was of a male. We think of heart disease as a male problem, but did you know that more women die of heart disease than men? It’s now the leading cause of female deaths worldwide. Yet up until recently, two-thirds of all heart health research has focussed exclusively on men. What’s wrong with this picture?

If you’re a woman at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) there is good news – researchers are now stepping up to close the gender gap and prioritize female-based cardiac research. Let’s see what the latest research is saying about female-specific heart disease factors and how you can reduce your risk.

What the Gender Gap Means for Women’s Heart Health

Women’s Bodies Are Different

We may think of women’s ‘hearts’ as different than men when it comes to relationships, but what about literally? It turns out that women’s hearts and arteries tend to be physically smaller than men’s. Plaque build-up in our arteries is a key factor in all heart disease, and smaller arteries mean they can get clogged faster in women.

Different Plaque Deposits

It’s not just anatomical differences – the way that arterial plaques and injuries show up in women can be very different from men, delaying a heart disease diagnosis, or even misdiagnosing it. This may be why more women die from heart attacks than men, and why women are more likely to have second heart attacks.

Dismissive Diagnosis

Heart attack symptoms often look different in women. For example, the sharp chest pains of angina precede a heart attack in everyone, but women may have additional symptoms such as extreme fatigue, trouble breathing, and pain across the stomach and upper back. Not recognizing these red flags can also lead to a dangerously delayed or incorrect diagnosis.

The research tells a troubling story. When female patients report stress alongside recognized heart disease symptoms, they are significantly more likely than men to be given an anxiety diagnosis. Even when the same heart-related symptoms were reported.

Less Risk Factor Screening

But it doesn’t end there. After receiving a heart disease diagnosis, women are not screened as often as men for depression. Research shows that depression is a key heart disease risk factor, and strikes almost twice as many female heart disease sufferers than men. This crucial gap can increase women’s risk for subsequent fatal heart attacks, and slow down recovery.

Different Hearts, Different Diseases

The term ‘heart disease’ or ‘cardiovascular disease’ goes way beyond heart attacks, and includes a host of different issues affecting the heart, blood vessels and arteries. Not surprisingly, some heart conditions affect more women than men. For example, 90% of all
Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) patients are women, and it accounts for 25% of all heart attacks in women under the age of 60.

What happens when your health care practitioner is only looking for the heart diseases that mainly affect men? You guessed it – potential late or incorrect diagnosis for female patients.

What Special Risks Factor Do Women Have?

Many heart disease risk factors are the same for men and women – it’s the strength of the risk that matters.

Obesity & Smoking

Of the many shared factors, obesity and smoking are the ones that most often impact women more than men. In one study, obesity increased the risk of heart disease by 64% in women, compared to 46% in men. In another study, female smokers had a 25% higher risk of heart disease when compared with men.

Breast Cancer Treatment

Women receiving radiation for breast cancer are particularly vulnerable, with studies showing higher rates of fatal heart disease.

Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a factor too. Recent research shows that women who have inflammation-related health conditions are at a higher risk of heart disease.

Hormones, in Particular Estrogen

Hormones also come into play. We think of estrogen as the quintessential ‘female’ hormone that affects our periods, pregnancy, and menopause. But did you know that there is a key link between estrogen and female heart disease risk?

Pregnancy

In pregnancy there are big changes in heart rate and blood pressure, which can increase heart attack risk. Diabetes is also a key risk factor, and if Gestational Diabetes appears during pregnancy, the heart attack risk is increased further.

Menopause

Research shows that heart disease risk for women increases significantly after menopause. It is thought that higher estrogen levels pre-menopause provide a protective heart effect. Studies show that cholesterol levels tend to increase after menopause. Remember those small female arteries that can clog faster than men’s? More cholesterol means more heart disease risk.

BHRT

Many women undergo Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy during or after menopause to mitigate risks and reduce symptoms, however research shows that for some women, these changing hormone levels can increase heart disease risk. This underlines the importance of working with a professional who is able to properly follow you and test for risk factors.

How You can Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

In addition to quitting smoking and reducing stress, weight management is the most effective way for women to reduce heart disease risk. Excess weight is hard on the heart, and is a stronger heart disease risk factor for women than men. Let’s look at a few easy ways to get on the path to heart health:

Get Moving

Current medical guidelines suggest that women should engage in a minimum of 2.5 to 3 hours per week of vigorous physical exercise. If that sounds like a lot, try breaking it up into exercise bites of 10 – 15 minutes each. Take a walk during work breaks, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or have a personal dance party!

Eat More Plants

You don’t have to become a vegetarian or vegan to welcome more plant foods into your life. The key is to make it enjoyable by choosing fruits and veggies that you like, and get lots of variety. Think of veggies as the main course instead of the side dish – aim to have at least 60% of your lunch and dinner plates covered with veggies. Summer is a great time to get gorgeous local produce. See what’s in season and don’t be afraid to try something new!

Eat Good Fats

When your body craves fat, it’s not asking for more chips. It really wants ‘good fats’ like those found in salmon, eggs and walnuts. But if you don’t have these foods often, they’re not on your body’s radar. Try adding these foods to your diet, and see if you notice a change in your fat cravings. Once your body gets to know these nutrient-dense foods it will request them more often!

Nutrients to Support Good Heart Health

Essential Fatty Acids

These ‘good fats’ are called Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), and have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing heart disease. This supplement is especially important for women, as EFAs also balance hormones.

Since estrogen levels are a key factor in women’s heart health, EFA supplementation can play double duty! Ever wonder what’s so ‘essential’ about them? Our bodies can’t make them on our own, so we need to eat EFA-rich foods, or supplement with high-quality oils.

Selenium

Studies show that low selenium levels are strongly linked to heart disease risk. Selenium is one of the most effective antioxidant supplements, protecting your heart, blood vessels and arteries from damaging free radicals. Brazil nuts are by far the best food source of selenium, with a handful providing a thousand percent of the recommended daily minimum!

It’s time to prioritize your heart health.

As a naturopathic health care practitioner, I treat the patient, not the disease. Get in touch and let’s discuss your health history and risk factors, run some targeted labs for a clear picture of what’s happening inside your body and design a personalized treatment plan. Women lead with the heart, make sure yours stays healthy.

References:
Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre: http://cwhhc.ottawaheart.ca/

Barish R, Lynce F, Unger K, Barac A. Management of Cardiovascular Disease in Women With Breast Cancer. Circulation. 2019;139(8):1110-1120. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.039371

Garcia M, Mulvagh SL, Merz CN, Buring JE, Manson JE. Cardiovascular Disease in Women: Clinical Perspectives. Circ Res. 2016;118(8):1273-1293. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.116.307547

Kane AE, Howlett SE. Differences in Cardiovascular Aging in Men and Women. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018;1065:389-411. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-77932-4_25

Karvinen, S. et al. (2019) Menopausal Status and Physical Activity Are Independently Associated With Cardiovascular Risk Factors of Healthy Middle-Aged Women: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Evidence. Front. Endocrinol. doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2019.00589.

Leonard EA, Marshall RJ. Cardiovascular Disease in Women. Prim Care. 2018;45(1):131-141. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2017.10.004

Mattina GF, Van Lieshout RJ, Steiner M. Inflammation, depression and cardiovascular disease in women: the role of the immune system across critical reproductive events. Ther Adv Cardiovasc Dis. 2019;13:1753944719851950. doi:10.1177/1753944719851950

Patel H, Chandra S, Alexander S, Soble J, Williams KA Sr. Plant-Based Nutrition: An Essential Component of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Management. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2017;19(10):104. Published 2017 Sep 8. doi:10.1007/s11886-017-0909-z

Rosano GM, Spoletini I, Vitale C. Cardiovascular disease in women, is it different to men? The role of sex hormones [published correction appears in Climacteric. 2018 Feb;21(1):92]. Climacteric. 2017;20(2):125-128. doi:10.1080/13697137.2017.1291780

Saeed A, Kampangkaew J, Nambi V. Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Women. Methodist Debakey Cardiovasc J. 2017;13(4):185-192. doi:10.14797/mdcj-13-4-185

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada:https://www.heartandstroke.ca/

World Health Organization:https://www.who.int/gho/women_and_health/mortality/situation_trends_causes_death/en/