Hypothyroid? You May Want to Check for Food Sensitivities

By now, you’ve likely heard about gluten intolerance. The buzz word “gluten-free” is everywhere in the health world. But how impactful is gluten? For those with thyroid issues, it may be affecting you more than you realize.

Thyroid Conditions Are Fairly Common

About 20 million Americans are currently suffering from a form of thyroid disease. And roughly 60% don’t know it. Thyroid disorders are particularly common in women with one in eight females going on to develop a thyroid condition within her lifespan, and women are five to eight times more likely to have thyroid issues than men.

Your Thyroid Can Be Under or Over Performing

A malfunctioning thyroid can lead to either over or under-production of thyroid hormones. These hormones — called T3 and T4 — affect every organ system in your body.

Your heart, central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, bone, gastro-intestinal tract and metabolism all obey the orders of our thyroid hormones.

A Holistic Approach

Whether the issue is hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Grave’s disease, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the symptoms of thyroid issues can vary in severity from moderate to life-changing. That’s why naturopathic practitioners take a holistic approach to tackle thyroid issues from all angles – and that includes nutrition.

The Gluten Intolerance Link

Recent research links gluten intolerance and auto-immune issues, meaning if an auto-immune condition is the underlying cause of your thyroid disorder, your relationship with gluten may be an exacerbating factor. This connection happens so often that some studies suggest gluten intolerance screening for anyone with auto-immune thyroid issues.

Auto-Immune Thyroid Issues

If you have an auto-immune thyroid issue, eliminating gluten entirely is critical to fully understanding your condition. Even eating small amounts can cause immune reactions lasting up to six months, so complete elimination is needed in order to notice any difference in your symptoms.

Gluten-free diets can be tricky to maintain, but the results are worth the trouble. Your gluten intake may be the critical factor affecting the function (or auto-destruction) of your thyroid.

How Does Gluten Lead to Autoimmunity?

When you ignore food sensitivities, your gut often pays the price in inflammation. Over time, inflammatory foods (like gluten) can degrade the delicate lining of your small intestine, leading to permeability or “leaky gut”. When this happens, food particles are able to slip past the protective mucosal layer, between the cells lining the intestinal wall, and reach your bloodstream. The protein portion of gluten — called gliadin — is a common culprit.

Mistaken Identity

The immune system targets these proteins as foreign particles and begins to attack them. Unfortunately, gliadin protein molecules are strikingly similar to the molecules that make up the thyroid gland. Once antibodies to gliadin are created, they can mistakenly attack thyroid tissue. From that point on, you have an auto-immune response to gluten.

A Gluten Intolerance Can Be Hidden

Many people misinterpret gluten intolerance as a “digestive” issue only. But it can affect far more than just the digestive system. Antibodies triggered by this kind of gluten intolerance travel throughout the whole body: the joints, skin, respiratory tract and brain can all be affected. In fact, for some people affected, no digestive symptoms are seen at all. With a wide variety of possible symptoms, gluten sensitivity may take a lot of effort to uncover.

Other Grains Can Mimic Gluten

As if the situation wasn’t complex enough, once the antibodies for gluten have been created, they can mistakenly attack other proteins too. Certain grains, such as corn, oats and rice, are naturally gluten-free yet their proteins are so similar to gluten that they occasionally still elicit an immune response. A naturopathic doctor can help you identify which foods may trigger your gluten sensitivity.

Casein Sensitivity May Also be an Issue

Lactose intolerance is much more common than gluten intolerance. However, the two often overlap. In one study in Italy, roughly 25% of people with lactose intolerance also had celiac disease, a digestive condition that is linked to gluten-related autoimmunity.

This means that for many people, going gluten-free won’t be enough to get to the root of their auto-immune symptoms. If an intolerance to casein (the main protein in dairy) may be at play, patients are often advised to adopt both a dairy-free and gluten-free diet during the elimination phase, with dairy being added back separately to assess casein sensitivity.

How We Test for Gluten Intolerance

There are multiple ways to test for food sensitivities and ascertain whether gluten intolerance may be playing a part in your thyroid issues.

Testing for Antibodies in the Blood

Running a food sensitivity panel is one way to start learning what is going on. Although they are expensive to run, and do not always lead to a clear path of action other than the complete avoidance of the foods in question, these blood tests can be vital guideposts in the dark for tricky cases.

IgA and IgG

Both IgA and IgG antibodies are tested. These antibodies are created in response to gluten particles in the bloodstream. IgA and IgG are delayed-response antibodies — they aren’t created immediately, making them a good indicator of a long term sensitivity to gluten. However, a milder case of gluten sensitivity (when antibodies haven’t been created) may be missed, and false negatives can occur if a patient is currently avoiding gluten.

Creating a Benchmark

Your naturopathic doctor may advise running a food sensitivity panel before you begin an elimination diet so that you have a benchmark to work with. While eliminating gluten and dairy are the most common requests, you may be asked to remove one or more other foods based on the results of your food sensitivity panel so that other potential problem foods don’t interfere with the success of your elimination phase.

The Gluten Challenge

Hypo-allergenic diets may be the most powerful tool a naturopathic doctor can prescribe, but no bones about it: these diets can be very difficult and take a long time. The hidden benefit is that the diet you are on during the investigation eliminates your possible triggers, so you should start to feel better right away, even as you uncover the details of your sensitivity.

Luckily, when it comes to auto-immune conditions, removing dairy and gluten are often the main dietary requirements and there are many alternative foods available.

The Elimination Phase

For anywhere from two to six weeks, depending on your individual situation, you’ll remove all dairy and gluten from your diet. During this time, you’ll keep a close eye on your symptoms to see if they resolve or reduce dramatically. If symptoms don’t resolve, you may be asked to remove additional foods: like eggs or soy.

The Challenge Phase

Once your symptoms resolve, you’ll reintroduce each food one at a time. Let’s say dairy first. You’ll have dairy in every meal for three or four days while keeping note of any symptoms or sensitivity reactions. Then you’ll be instructed to stop eating dairy for three days.

If there are no reactions during elimination or in the final phase, a dairy sensitivity can be ruled out. At that point, you can safely add dairy back into your diet.

A Positive Result

Next, you will begin the challenge phase for gluten. Let’s say you did have a symptom response to gluten. At that point, you would be instructed to eliminate gluten from your diet for another three to six months before attempting the challenge again. After a longer break, some food sensitivities are no longer as offensive.

If – on the other hand – your symptoms did return when you reintroduced gluten, your naturopathic doctor may diagnose you with gluten intolerance.

The health of your thyroid affects every cell in your body. If you suspect an autoimmune condition may be affecting how well you feel, please give us a call. As naturopathic doctors we have access to a wide array of investigative tools and lab tests to help you uncover what’s really going on – and come up with a tailored plan to help you feel like yourself again.

Resources:
Fatourechi V. Subclinical hypothyroidism: an update for primary care physicians. Mayo Clinic proceedings.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664572/ . Published 2009.

General Information/Press Room. Published 2014. American Thyroid Association. https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/press-room/

Ojetti V; Nucera G;Migneco A; Gabrielli M; Lauritano C; Danese S; Zocco MA; Nista EC;Cammarota G;De Lorenzo A;Gasbarrini G;Gasbarrini A; High prevalence of celiac disease in patients with lactose intolerance. Digestion.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15775678/ . Published 2005.

Shahid MA. Physiology, Thyroid Hormone. StatPearls.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK500006/ . Published May 18, 2020.

Bad Breath: What You Need to Know

Been smelling your own breath lately with all the mask-wearing? The harsh realities of the odors coming from our mouths have come front and center these days. Tic Tacs, mints and chewing gum… can’t fix a true breath problem.

While bad breath (also known as halitosis) isn’t often a symptom of disease per se, it can affect our overall well-being as well as our psychology, work life and relationships. So let’s look into why you (or someone you know) may be dealing with halitosis — and how to fix it!

6 Reasons You Might Have Bad Breath

There are several potential causes of bad breath. Commonly, it’s very simply down to a lack of oral hygiene which may be easy enough to fix. But sometimes there are deeper issues at play. We’ll start by exploring the more benign reasons for bad breath, then cover how and when it may be a red flag for more serious issues.

1 – You May Be Eating Pungent Foods

This will not come as a surprise, but certain foods are linked to transient oral malodor (or temporary bad breath). Garlic, onions and spicy food are common culprits. Sulphur compounds in these foods are particularly high, and when chewing, the bacteria in your saliva release these sulphur compounds from your food.

Volatile Sulphur Compounds (VSC)

Released by the mechanics of chewing and chemically by digestive enzymes, and no longer bound up in the food you ate, these volatile sulphur compounds quickly turn gaseous. Once able to mix with the air, volatile sulphur compounds (VSC) can exit your mouth via the breath.

Tobacco, coffee and alcohol may also perform this foul-smelling trick. It varies, but you may notice a change in breath odour for several hours. (And likely so will your family members, friends and co-workers…)

2 – You May Have Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities can also contribute to halitosis – and lactose intolerance is a perfect example of this. When the body can’t digest the sugars in milk, the microbes that feast on those particular undigested sugars put off a sulphurous pungent odor that can be smelled on the breath.

Leaky Gut

Further down the system, improperly broken down food can make its way into your bloodstream. Normally, the gut lining works to prevent this. But in situations of chronic food sensitivity and ongoing inflammation, the protective mucosal lining of the digestive system becomes permeable.

Toxins in the bloodstream

Escaped food particles act as toxins in our blood. As the accumulation of toxins builds, we may start to notice symptoms that include bad breath. Your naturopathic doctor can help you identify any existing food sensitivities, work with you to restore your gut lining, and (as a welcome side effect) get rid of chronic bad breath.

3 – The Bacteria in Your Mouth May be Out of Balance

The mouth is an area rife with microbes and bacteria. Many of them play important roles in the first step of the digestive process. Others, such as gram-negative bacteria (like Enterobacteriaceae) take up residence under the tongue, in plaque and in the deep creases between our teeth and gums where they interact with each other, giving rise to halitosis.

No single bacterial species is to blame for bad breath, but together these bacteria cause Volatile Sulphur Compounds to be released. Some of the bacteria that thrive in the depths of the gum line can cause gum diseases such as pericoronitis or periodontal abscess, which can increase the volume of Volatile Sulphur Compounds released even more.

The Diamine Difference & Gum Disease

As we dive deeper under the gums, we see less oxygen and a lower (i.e. more acidic) pH. This acidic pH creates those smelly diamines. When food-trapping gum pockets arise due to gum disease, regular amino acids from the trapped food are converted into diamines.

When that happens, we (and those close to us) smell the difference.

4 – Your Mouth May Be Chronically Dry

Having a dry mouth, no matter the cause, is a serious issue. It’s not only uncomfortable but if the condition is ongoing it prevents the important cleansing function whereby saliva flushes bacteria out of the mouth.

Why We Get A Dry Mouth

Oral dryness can cause discomfort for a number of reasons beyond the obvious (and easy to rectify) dehydration. Mouth breathing is a common culprit, often arising from an obstruction of the sinuses and nasal cavity, and causing increased airflow and subsequent dryness in the mouth. Salivary glands may be infected, blocked or malfunctioning. And many medications also have a dry mouth listed among their side effects.

The Role of Saliva

Saliva is your mouth’s best friend. It helps wash out the mouth, reducing bacteria and preventing tooth decay, gum disease and plaque formation in the mouth. As oral bacteria have been found to have made their way to the arterial plaque of heart disease patients as well as causing issues in the mouth, we know that avoiding a chronically dry mouth is a whole-body problem – with bad breath acting as a red flag.

5 – You May Have a Yeast Overgrowth

If a candida yeast overgrowth appears in the mouth, deeper factors are often at play in the body. A healthy immune system prevents this fungus from taking root and growing. The candida species is commonly found in and on your body, but it seizes the opportunity to grow when the immunity is vulnerable.

In the case of bad breath, this underlying immune dysfunction alters the balance between your immune system and oral microbes. Candida and other microbes proliferate. Volatile Sulphur Compounds and methyl mercaptan (another player in the malodour scene) are then produced and released.

6 – You May have Ear, Nose and Throat Problems

While 90% of halitosis cases arise from the mouth alone, other systems can also be involved: Calcium deposits in the tonsils can cause a 10-fold increase in Volatile Sulphur Compound levels if they are overloaded; foreign bodies in the nose (often seen in children) are slowly dismantled by bacteria, resulting in breath odour; and infected sinuses can leak pus on the back of the tongue.

While bad breath is typically transient (think: morning breath) it can linger. For those dealing with chronic halitosis, you know just how impactful it can be.

But don’t worry. Your naturopathic doctor can help you battle your bad breath.

The Importance of Oral Hygiene

Oral hygiene is paramount when treating halitosis. Brushing, flossing, and regular dental check-ups are the foundation of good oral health. Unchecked cavities, gum disease and other dental pathologies must be addressed if you want to achieve better-smelling breath and the health benefits that come with it.

But it is important to remember that the mouth is a delicate area, it is the starting point of a carefully balanced digestive system which requires a fine balance of moisture and bacteria to work optimally.

Mouthwash

Gurgling with mouthwash is a powerful tool in your halitosis arsenal. Anti-bacterial agents flush unwanted microbes from the crevices of your teeth, tongue and gums. However, conventional products typically include an array of irritating ingredients as well.

Irritating Ingredients in Conventional Mouthwash

Artificial food dyes make mouthwash look good on a shelf, but these components can be detrimental to your mouth (and body). All nine FDA- approved artificial food dyes are linked to various health concerns. These range from sensitivities all the way to cancer.

Meanwhile, acidic stabilizing agents and alcohol can strip your teeth of and temporarily soften the enamel (make sure to brush before using mouthwash and not after for this reason).

A Better Way to Rinse

Herbal mouthwash is a safer (yet effective) approach. The right combination of botanicals can deliver multiple beneficial medicinal actions. Peppermint, for instance, is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and helps to increase salvation. A handful of herbs and essential oils can combat bad breath on multiple fronts.

Additionally, unlike the antibacterial agents found in conventional mouthwash, these herbal ingredients don’t kill as many of the good bacteria, preserving a balance.

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling – a traditional remedy originating in India – has many therapeutic benefits. An organic oil, such as coconut or sesame, is swished around in the mouth for about 20 minutes. During this period, antioxidants in the oil break down the cell walls of harmful bacteria, effectively killing them. These bacteria stick to the oil and are “pulled” out of your mouth.

There are many benefits to oil pulling. By reducing the formation of plaque, this technique can help prevent dental cavities, gingivitis, periodontitis and, of course, bad breath.

Tongue Hygiene

While odorous bacteria are often in the gums, poor tongue hygiene also poses a problem.

The back of the tongue in particular is a source of concern. Large papillae (bumps on the tongue often containing multiple taste buds) trap particles and microorganisms that lead to bad breath. A backlog of white blood cells, saliva constituents and flakes of dead cells may all be found here – even in those with otherwise good oral hygiene.

While tongue scraping gives some short term relief, recent studies show the benefit over time is minor. Cleansing your tongue (gently and regularly) won’t cause any harm. If you’re struggling with bad breath, it may be worth a shot. But remember: there are other options.

Healthy Habits To Reduce Bad Breath

For many cases of chronic bad breath, sticking to a few simple lifestyle habits can achieve great benefits:

● Reduce your sugar intake
● Check for food sensitivities (especially dairy and wheat)
● Drink plenty of water
● Practice good oral hygiene
● Eat an alkalizing diet (including raw apples and spinach)
● Increase your intake of probiotic foods
● Drink more green tea

In some cases, further investigation may be warranted. Underlying medical conditions — like sinus infections, acid reflux and diabetes — may be contributing factors to halitosis, so it is important to check in with your naturopathic doctor for the right testing and to tailor a health plan specifically for you.

Let’s face it. Chronic bad breath can put a damper on social life without you even knowing it!

Resources:

Kapoor U, Sharma G, Juneja M, Nagpal A. Halitosis: Current concepts on etiology, diagnosis and management. Eur J Dent. 2016;10(2):292-300. doi:10.4103/1305-7456.178294

Kobylewski S, Jacobson MF. Toxicology of food dyes. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2012 Jul-Sep;18(3):220-46. doi: 10.1179/1077352512Z.00000000034. PMID: 23026007.

Koga, Chihiro & Yoneda, Masahiro & Nakayama, Keisuke & Yokoue, Satoru & Haraga, Mariko & Oie, Tomoko & Suga, Arisa & Okada, Fumiko & Matsuura, Hiroshi & Tsue, Fumitake & Taniguchi, Nao & Hirofuji, Takao. (2014). The Detection of Candida Species in Patients with Halitosis. International journal of dentistry. 2014. 857647. 10.1155/2014/857647.

Munch R, Barringer SA. Deodorization of garlic breath volatiles by food and food components. J Food Sci. 2014 Apr;79(4):C526-33. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12394. Epub 2014 Mar 4. PMID: 24592995.

Porter SR, Scully C. Oral malodour (halitosis). BMJ (Clinical research ed.).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1570844/ . Published September 23, 2006.

Shanbhag VKL. Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198813/ . Published June 6, 2016.

Your Stomach Issues May Be Due to This Tiny Parasite

Have you heard of Helicobacter Pylori? Research tells us that this ancient bacteria may actually be beneficial for some, but for others, it causes digestive symptoms that range from miserable to lethal.

An active H. Pylori infection can go unnoticed for years, so uncovering this crafty bacteria early is the key to avoiding complications down the road. The good news is that H. Pylori is relatively simple to treat once it has been diagnosed. With the help of your doctor, you can combat this tricky bug and restore your gut to ideal functioning.

What Is H. Pylori?

Helicobacter Pylori is a small, spiral-shaped bacteria often seen in the gut. This unassuming bug is quite common and often asymptomatic. It can even be considered a “normal” member of the gut flora. However, when your gut balance is off and H.Pylori proliferate unchecked, it can lead to disastrous results such as ulcers and even cancer.

A Very Common Bacteria
While widespread, many people aren’t aware they have Helicobacter Pylori. Its asymptomatic nature makes it very easy for it to hide. Many times the infection occurs in childhood and persists untreated. It is estimated that up to 50% of people have H. Pylori in their gut. In developing countries, this number jumps even higher — up to 70%.

What Damage can H. Pylori Cause?

Beneath the surface, H. Pylori causes chronic low-grade inflammation in the lining of the digestive system it inhabits. Eventually, this inflammation (called gastritis) starts causing symptoms such as an upset stomach, pain, hiccups, or belching.

Peptic Ulcer
In 10-15% of cases, an H. Pylori infection can develop into a gastric (aka peptic) ulcer. Symptoms of a gastric ulcer include:

● Dull, sharp, or burning pain in the abdomen
● Nausea and vomiting
● Weight loss

Stomach Cancer
This pervasive bacteria is uniquely capable of causing cancer growth. Infections of H. Pylori are the single greatest risk factor for developing gastric cancer. MALT lymphoma (a lymphatic cancer associated with the mucous membrane of the stomach) is also a major concern.

Long Term Health Consequences of H. Pylori
Our bodies respond to an H. Pylori attack by creating inflammation. In some cases, this inflammatory response can lead to insulin resistance, iron-deficiency anemia, or heart disease.

Through this inflammatory process, H. Pylori has also been linked to leaky gut, skin diseases, obesity, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

How Do You Get H. Pylori?

Kissing
For many, H. Pylori transmission occurs orally. The infection is transferred by sharing unwashed utensils or kissing (called an “oral-oral route of transmission”). Sexual transmission is also possible.

Contaminated Water
Another method of transmission is water that has been contaminated with fecal matter and is unknowingly swallowed – this can happen when swimming in lakes or streams.

Animals
Interestingly, H. Pylori is a zoonotic bacteria; it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Sheep, goats, cows, and cats can transfer the infection via both milk and feces.

No matter the cause, it’s important to resolve an H. Pylori infection to avoid further complications. If you’re concerned you may have H. Pylori, reach out to your doctor for testing.

Testing for H. Pylori

There are several ways to test for H. Pylori:
● Urea breath test
● Stool antigen test
● Scope test and biopsy
● Blood testing

Breath Testing
The urea breath test is the most common method of diagnosing an H. Pylori infection. Carbon molecules are placed in a liquid, pill, or pudding solution and ingested by the patient. If Helicobacter pylori are present, the tagged carbon is released by the bacteria’s urease enzymes during digestion. The carbon is then detectable in your breath.

Stool Testing
A stool antigen test can determine if H. Pylori antigens are present in your digestive tract. (An antigen is a foreign particle that stimulates our immune system.) There are numerous types of stool tests, but it is important to make sure that your antigen test specifically confirms the presence of H. Pylori bacteria.

While a urea breath test or stool antigen test are preferred for detecting H. Pylori, there are other methods:

Biopsy
Your doctor can take a biopsy after placing a scope into your digestive tract. This small sample of tissue is then sent to a lab for investigation. While invasive, a biopsy can definitively diagnose H. Pylori.

Blood
Blood testing is the least effective method of uncovering or keeping track of an ongoing H. Pylori infection. This is because our immune system develops antibodies to fight antigens that remain in the blood long after the infection clears.

So a blood sample can’t distinguish between previous infections or a current case of H. Pylori.

How Does H. Pylori Survive?

H. Pylori Alters Stomach Acidity
H. Pylori is a hardy bacteria that has adapted to survive by changing the high acidity of the stomach. The urease enzyme released by H. Pylori (mentioned above) alters your stomach acid to create a more favorable environment. By reducing this acidity, thereby reducing how effective the stomach is at initiating the digestive process, the bacteria can survive comfortably in your gut.

H. Pylori Burrows Into the Gut Lining
H. Pylori is also mobile. A long whip-like tail — called a flagellate — helps the bacteria careen toward the gut lining. Once it lands, this acidophilic (acid-loving) bacteria burrows deep into the lining of the stomach and locks in place, quickly colonizing the gut lining.

How Does H. Pylori Spread In the Body?

From the safety of the gut lining, H. Pylori releases toxins. These toxins attack and kill stomach cells. But the bacteria doesn’t stop there. It detaches from its previous position and migrates forward to kill more cells. One by one, holes begin to form in the gut lining.

Our immune system notices and fights back. This leads to more inflammation and gut damage.

While H. Pylori largely inhabits the lower portion of the stomach (the antrum), it can also make its way to the intestines. The duodenum, the first portion of the small intestine that is closest to the stomach, is often affected.

How Do You Treat H. Pylori?

Step 1: See Your MD
It can be tricky to treat an H. Pylori infection as this bacteria is very adaptable. To combat the potential for resistance, a cocktail of multiple antibiotics under the supervision of your medical doctor is usually necessary. Treatment varies considerably depending on whether the infection has progressed to peptic ulcers or other gastric issues.

Step 2: Once H. Pylori is Gone, the Healing Starts
Once you have successfully eradicated the problem, it is vital to do the necessary work to bring your body back into balance. A Naturopathic Doctor can help you to replenish your gut microbiome after the heavy antibiotic treatment.

Your practitioner is also well equipped to help soothe and heal the damage H. Pylori may have caused to the lining of your stomach and small intestine, as well as uncovering and addressing any auto-immune issues that may have developed.

If you suspect you have H. Pylori, don’t hesitate to contact your health care professional. Working in conjunction with your medical doctor and naturopathic doctor is your best line of defence for eradicating the bacteria and preventing serious damage.

References:

Bravo D, Hoare A, Soto C, Valenzuela MA, Quest AF. Helicobacter pylori in human health and disease: Mechanisms for local gastric and systemic effects. World J Gastroenterol. 2018;24(28):3071-3089. doi:10.3748/wjg.v24.i28.3071

Diaconu S, Predescu A, Moldoveanu A, Pop CS, Fierbințeanu-Braticevici C. Helicobacter pylori infection: old and new. J Med Life. 2017;10(2):112-117.

Ghasemian Safaei, Hajieh & Rahimi, Ebrahim & Zandi, Ashkan & Rashidipour, Alireza. (2011). Helicobacter pylori as a zoonotic infection: The detection of H. pylori antigens in the milk and faeces of cows. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. 16. 184-7.

Parikh NS, Ahlawat R. Helicobacter Pylori. [Updated 2020 Aug 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan.

Naturopathic Support for Arthritis

If you’ve ever suffered from joint pain, you know how much of a headache it is. All the aches and pains of arthritis make moving your joints unnecessarily difficult, and the prospect of your symptoms worsening over time is daunting, to say the least.

What if I told you there are therapies available that are both natural and effective?

In this article, we’ll take a look at what the latest research says about supporting arthritis naturally.

What is Arthritis?

There are a number of reasons arthritis can develop: from autoimmunity to gout, infectious bacteria, and even Lyme disease… the list goes on, and there are as many varying symptoms as there are causes.

Today, we’ll focus on the two main categories of arthritic pain:
● Autoimmune
● Degenerative

Autoimmune Arthritis

Autoimmune arthritis is what we see in Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, and Lupus.

These conditions are systemic — meaning the entire body is affected. Inflammation courses throughout the body and disturbs the delicate joint cavity. Often, the body’s own immune system malfunctions and directs excessive inflammation to the joints.

Antibodies Attack Your Own Tissues

In rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-antibody (called rheumatoid factor) is created which mistakenly attacks one of the body’s natural antibodies: IgG. Only a portion of IgG is targeted, but it leads to a larger problem: cross-reactivity – an antibody attack on your own tissues.

Once this auto-antibody attack has occurred in the body once, rheumatoid factor can no longer distinguish between IgG and the synovial membrane of the joint. As a result, the joint itself will be slowly destroyed.

How Autoimmune Arthritis Progresses

Autoimmune types of arthritis often affect joints symmetrically (meaning both sides of the body are equally affected). This chronic disease leads to pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited range-of-motion in multiple joints. But it may start slowly with just a few small joints – stiffness in the hands is a typical early symptom.

If you have autoimmune arthritis, it’s important to work closely with your healthcare team to obtain a diagnosis and develop an ongoing maintenance and prevention plan. Some arthritic conditions, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), can be life-threatening.

Degenerative Arthritis (aka Osteoarthritis)

Degenerative joint disease — or osteoarthritis — is the most common disorder of the joints, occurring in about 10% of people over the age of 60.

Why Do Some People Develop Osteoarthritis?

Previous Joint Issues
Often considered an “inevitable” part of aging, osteoarthritis is a bit of a misnomer. While there is inflammation (hence the “-itis”), the inflammation occurs after joint damage or in a naturally malformed joint.

Metabolic Conditions
Most people suffering from osteoarthritis typically have no precursing conditions. It can, however, develop as a result of metabolic disorders (such as diabetes).

How Does OA Attack the Joints?
The wear and tear seen in degenerative joint disease targets the “hyaline cartilage”, which is there to ensure friction-free movement and proper dispersal of weight across the bone.

Protective chondrocytes
For years, this damage is mitigated by chondrocytes. These helpful little cells replace the worn-out cartilage with fresh, strong hyaline cartilage. As we age, however, it’s hard for them to keep up.

Conventional Treatments for Osteoarthritis Increase Degeneration
It’s common for doctors to prescribe NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for arthritic pain. Unfortunately, these NSAIDS prevent chondrocyte formation — this only exacerbates the loss of cartilage.

So what other therapies are there to treat arthritis?

We’re glad you asked!

Supporting Arthritis with Naturopathic Medicine

While conventional treatment options for your arthritis may differ depending on whether it’s autoimmune or degenerative, some natural therapies prove helpful regardless of the type of arthritis causing the pain. We’ll go over a few of these today.

Arthritis is different for everybody, and every body is unique, so make sure you talk to your naturopathic doctor to determine which options are best for you.

Herbal Support for Arthritis

Anti-inflammatory Herbs

We can’t emphasize the impact inflammation has on arthritis enough. So how do we prevent further joint degeneration by inflammation? One of the most well-researched anti-inflammatory herbs is… (drum-roll please) — Turmeric!

Turmeric
Turmeric, or Curcuma longa, has a well-established track record for fighting inflammation in the body. But the bioavailability of turmeric (how much enters the circulation and thus affects the body) is often poor.

Fortunately, recent research indicates how to get the biggest bang for your buck. You’ll want to take a nano-particle turmeric supplement. Your naturopathic doctor can help you find the right version.

Analgesic Herbs

Analgesic medications relieve pain. The same is true of botanical analgesics which come in all shapes and sizes.

Cayenne Pepper
Topical analgesics can be extremely helpful for your arthritic pain. One prominent botanical is cayenne pepper. Often delivered as a salve, cayenne pepper can be rubbed onto the skin over sore joints.

Essential Oils
Wintergreen, camphor, and eucalyptus also make excellent topical analgesics. The volatile oils in these herbs absorb easily through the skin and have been researched for their effectiveness in reducing pain.

CBD
One increasingly popular analgesic botanical is cannabidiol (or CBD). This non-psychoactive compound is a close cousin of THC. Found in cannabis and hemp, CBD is particularly effective as a topical analgesic for joint pain (especially in rheumatoid arthritis).

Navigating the new world of CBD products can be daunting for some. Feel free to reach out to your naturopathic doctor for help.

While pain relief doesn’t address the underlying cause of your arthritis, it can help you get back on your feet and into the world you love.

Hydrotherapy

Speaking of pain relief, one fast-tracked route to happier joints is hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy uses contrasting water temperatures to circulate blood and lymph throughout the body. Warm water is a vasodilator: it relaxes blood vessels (which lowers blood pressure). Cold water, on the other hand, is a vasoconstrictor: the blood vessels narrow and pressure jumps.

By alternating the water temperature, the blood vessels around your joint first relax and dilate, and then quickly (under cold water) tighten and constrict. By repeating this back-and-forth, you can effectively flush the blood, lymph, and inflammation that has accumulated around the joint.

How to Get Started with Hydrotherapy at Home
The technique is very simple.

Place your painful joint under the faucet or showerhead. Start with warm water (enough heat to make your skin pink). Once the skin shows a flushed tone, switch the temperature to cold — as cold as you can handle. Blast the chilly water for 20-30 seconds.

That’s all there is to it!

Repeat the warm-cold sequence for about two minutes. You may find yourself at the faucet several times a day. It’s quick, free, and easy to do when you’re in pain.

Lifestyle Factors That Can Support Arthritis

More than ever before, researchers are uncovering direct links between auto-immune conditions and gut health.

Gut Health

Recent studies on rheumatoid arthritis reveal changes in the gut microbiome (the diverse bacteria in our GI tract). Two species in particular show specific alterations in RA. The Haemophilus species are depleted, while the lactobacillus salivarius species are over-represented.

What do these changes mean?

In cases of auto-immune arthritis, it means that the gut microbiome may be involved in the development of the condition. This can translate into actionable therapeutic options in light of other recent studies.

Probiotics & the Microbiome
The use of probiotics to alter the gut microbiome, for example, is a hot topic in the health community.

Probiotics have shown therapeutic benefits for rheumatoid arthritis. Comprised of tiny exogenous bacteria, probiotics have immune-modulating effects (helping the immune system function appropriately) and can help decrease inflammation. Talk to your ND to see if probiotics are a sensible option for you.

Reducing Arthritis Triggers With an Elimination Diet

Along a similar vein, let’s examine elimination diets.

If you have autoimmune conditions, your food sensitivities can affect the overall reactivity of your immune system. The idea is that by identifying and removing food triggers, your immune reaction (read: inflammation) may decrease.

You can start an elimination diet with the help of your naturopathic doctor. Your ND can give you a list of foods that are potential triggers. You’ll stop eating these for a while, and then (one by one) re-introduce each food. Any sensitivity or reaction is noted and addressed.

Food Sensitivity Testing
Your naturopathic doctor may decide to order food-sensitivity tests as well, which can provide you with a list of potential suspects unique to you which may not be on the list of typical trigger foods.

Some foods are easier to avoid than others. A diet plan can help you find the right recipes and natural ingredients to help you enjoy your meals while reducing the risk of an overactive immune response.

The Role of Exercise In Arthritis

When you suffer from joint pain, exercise and physical movement can be rather difficult. But remaining physically active is an important component for your overall health. It is important to try and stay active even with arthritis.

If you experience a flare-up of your arthritic pain, scale back your daily exercises. No harm, no foul.

Functional Movement
Functional exercise trains the body for the everyday movement and activities performed in real life and boasts many benefits for arthritis. It can delay Rheumatoid Arthritis disease development, according to recent studies. These exercises also enhance joint function and reduce painful joints, including morning stiffness.

Rest
In general, rest helps swollen and inflamed joints. If you feel fatigued, it’s also important to rest and recuperate. However, during these times, gentle range-of-motion (ROM) exercises help keep your joints flexible.

Final Takeaway

As you can see, there are many natural ways to support your body when suffering from arthritis. You have options! Naturopathic and lifestyle therapies have been shown to offer significant, medication-free relief for those dealing with arthritis. Use caution when starting a new regimen even with natural therapies, it’s always best to work with a professional for guidance specific to your unique body and health issues.

Your Naturopathic doctor can help you find solutions for your arthritis. Acupuncture, laser therapy, and even liver support may all play a role in your individualized treatment plan. Reach out for more details today!

References:

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What the Research Tells us About CBD

CBD, or Cannabidiol, is an extract of the cannabis plant that has gained a powerful following amongst healthcare practitioners since becoming legal in recent years. As its use becomes more widespread, it is emerging as an effective alternative to medications for anxiety, depression, inflammation, Crohn’s and more. And that is without the side effects that come with many medications.

But are the health claims surrounding CBD warranted?

As a non-psychoactive extract, CBD is touted to provide all the health benefits of the cannabis plant, without the high. Let’s take a look at 7 research-based ways that CBD has been shown to support or improve health.

1. Pain Management

CBD is well known for its ability to decrease chronic pain, greatly improving quality of life in conditions such as fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It has a particular affinity for arthritis, effectively reducing pain, inflammation and swelling. With pain comes anxiety, and CBD can bring that right down too. Try CBD in a topical oil, cream or gel for maximum absorption and pain reduction.

2. Supportive Cancer Care

CBD is a major player in adjunctive cancer care, supporting conventional cancer treatments and reducing side effects. CBD has been shown to significantly reduce common cancer treatment side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite, and neuropathic pain. CBD actively supports conventional cancer treatments by increasing the effectiveness of common cancer drugs and chemotherapy.

3: Mood and Mental Health

Anxiety

CBD has a powerful impact on mood, effectively reducing anxiety and depression. Whether you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder or are simply feeling more stressed lately, research indicates that CBD acts quickly to tone down anxiety.

Mental Disorders

Anxiety is a common symptom of many mental health conditions, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for example, driving unhealthy behaviour patterns. Cannabis with a higher CBD content has been shown to reduce compulsive behaviours by an astonishing 60%.

CBD even has a role to play in mental health conditions such as Schizophrenia, having been shown to help reduce psychotic symptoms.

With mental health concerns increasing across the globe, CBD has two big advantages over other treatments. First, CBD helps you get deep, solid sleep. Better sleep is strongly linked to improvements in all mental health conditions. Second, CBD does not have the addictive properties or side effects that come with many anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs.

4. Inflammation

CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory, effectively reducing both chronic and acute inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is a key driver of classic inflammatory diseases like arthritis. But it also increases the risk of developing a variety of chronic diseases including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, cancer and asthma (just to name a few).

Recent research demonstrates that it is particularly helpful for gut inflammation. In inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, CBD can reduce pain and discomfort, drastically improving quality of life. CBD also protects against intestinal inflammation. This is important because inflammatory conditions such as Leaky Gut Syndrome can increase the risk of chronic disease development.

5. Skin Health

Natural beauty brands are increasingly using CBD in skin formulations – with good reason.

CBD is a powerful anti-acne agent, reducing inflammation and bacteria levels. CBD is easily absorbed through the skin and has been shown to accumulate in oil glands, fighting excess oil production.

CBD is also effective against common skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. CBD ointments applied directly to the skin of those suffering from these conditions can significantly improve symptoms like dry, scaly skin, fluid-filled blisters and red, itchy bumps. It is particularly effective to reduce the thickness and size of scars.

6. Neurological Function

CBD protects our valuable nervous system from damage and improves neurological function. Its effect is most marked in those with neurodegenerative diseases.

In Parkinson’s patients, CBD can help increase mobility, emotional well-being, cognition and communication as well as decreasing body discomfort. CBD is especially effective for improving sleep, psychosis and helping those with Parkinson’s more fully engage in daily activities.

CBD’s impact on epilepsy is perhaps the most well-known and well-documented use. In fact, it is the plight and activism of the late American teenager Charlotte Figi that inspired the movement to legalise CBD, and CBD has subsequently become an FDA-approved epilepsy treatment. CBD can reduce the severity of seizures by a whopping 82%, even in children.

7. Addictions

CBD is not addictive. In fact, it can help break the chains of addiction.

How does it work? Addictions work via our reward pathways, causing us to keep chasing that high by taking larger amounts of the chosen drug. CBD directly impacts these pathways, reducing the strong effect of a drug reward.

High-dose CBD can help reduce cocaine, methamphetamine and alcohol use. In heroin users, CBD quickly reduces cravings and anxiety. CBD also shows great promise in reducing the risk of a relapse.
Stress is a strong relapse trigger, and CBD’s anti-stress action may be a key to helping reduce drug-seeking behaviours.

Cocaine abuse can lead to serious health effects such as liver damage and seizures. CBD offers additional benefits in addiction by protecting the liver and nerves from such toxic effects.

References:

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Dakota Mauzay, Emily M. LaFrance, Carrie Cuttler. Acute Effects of Cannabis on Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.09.124

Hinz B, Ramer R. Anti-tumour actions of cannabinoids. Br J Pharmacol. 2019 May;176(10):1384-1394. doi: 10.1111/bph.14426. Epub 2018 Aug 7. PMID: 30019449; PMCID: PMC6487602.

Kienzl M, Storr M, Schicho R. Cannabinoids and Opioids in the Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2020 Jan;11(1):e00120. doi: 10.14309/ctg.0000000000000120. PMID: 31899693; PMCID: PMC7056045.

Kisková T, Mungenast F, Suváková M, Jäger W, Thalhammer T. Future Aspects for Cannabinoids in Breast Cancer Therapy. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Apr 3;20(7):1673. doi: 10.3390/ijms20071673. PMID: 30987191; PMCID: PMC6479799.

Mitelpunkt A, Kramer U, Hausman Kedem M, Zilbershot Fink E, Orbach R, Chernuha V, Fattal-Valevski A, Deutsch L, Heffetz D, Sacks H. The safety, tolerability, and effectiveness of PTL-101, an oral cannabidiol formulation, in pediatric intractable epilepsy: A phase II, open-label, single-center study. Epilepsy Behav. 2019 Sep;98(Pt A):233-237. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2019.07.007. Epub 2019 Aug 5. PMID: 31394352.

Palmieri B, Laurino C, Vadalà M. A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars. Clin Ter. 2019 Mar-Apr;170(2):e93-e99. doi: 10.7417/CT.2019.2116. PMID: 30993303.

Śledziński P, Zeyland J, Słomski R, Nowak A. The current state and future perspectives of cannabinoids in cancer biology. Cancer Med. 2018 Mar;7(3):765-775. doi: 10.1002/cam4.1312. Epub 2018 Feb 23. Erratum in: Cancer Med. 2018 Nov;7(11):5859. PMID: 29473338; PMCID: PMC5852356.

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4 Surprising Factors that Contribute to Stubborn Weight Gain

Eat less, exercise more. Is it really that easy? You may not be surprised to hear that losing excess weight and keeping it off goes way beyond such one-dimensional recommendations. In fact, the concept of calories in and calories out may be the biggest misunderstanding people have about weight. It turns out that weight gain and shedding extra pounds are not as black and white as many seem to think.

Let’s look beyond fad diets at a functional approach to weight loss. We’ll explore some lesser-known factors affecting weight and metabolism that you need to know if you want to lose weight and keep it off.

The Top 4 Factors That Contribute to Stubborn Weight Gain

1. Insulin Resistance

Insulin’s job is to help us transform food sugars into energy. But when we consume too many sugary foods and drinks, our body starts to lose its ability to respond to the insulin in our system. The pancreas tries to bring down blood sugar levels by pumping out more insulin, and as insulin resistance goes up a vicious cycle is created which over time can raise blood sugar and blood insulin to dangerous levels.

That extra sugar in the bloodstream that cannot be converted into energy is stored as abdominal fat and creates an addiction to sugar. This is called insulin resistance and it is widespread, affecting 1 in 3 Americans and in many cases leading to Type 2 Diabetes.

2. Hormones

Do You Feel Full after eating?

The hormones leptin and ghrelin control how full we feel after a meal, and the strength of our food cravings. When you are overweight, your fat cells produce excess leptin signaling your body to eat more as you aren’t feeling full. It’s a vicious cycle!

How is Your Thyroid?

Your thyroid regulates your metabolism, managing the speed at which you burn calories. When the thyroid is underperforming, it can cause fluid retention, weight gain, constipation, among other issues, making it nearly impossible; to manage your weight. The stats are shocking as 5 out of every 100 people have a low functioning thyroid in the US.

Estrogen Dominance

When your estrogen and progesterone hormones are out of balance, that is called Estrogen Dominance, even if levels of both hormones are low. Having too much estrogen in the body relative to progesterone causes a myriad of symptoms, including weight loss resistance, bloating, mood swings, PMS and heavy periods.

Adrenal Stress

Our adrenal glands rule how we respond to stress by regulating the body’s stress hormones. Chronic stress leads to wildly fluctuating cortisol levels, which means more weight gain and water retention.

3. Genetics

Genetic testing can tell us a great deal about how and why we gain weight, and can be the game-changer for people who have tried everything.

The FTO Gene Variant

One gene that is particularly well documented, the FTO gene, is also known as the human fat-mass and obesity associated gene. It controls leptin, ghrelin (the satiation hormones mentioned above) and adiponectin (which regulates glucose levels). Several other genes affect how we metabolize fats, carbs and proteins.

Genes that impact stress play a big role in weight management too, especially if you’re a stress eater. These genes impact reward pathways, which can affect how you use food to reward yourself.

4. Toxins

Toxins that are present in our environment can be so dangerous that our body needs to protect us by “walling them off” in a casing of fat. The more toxins we have, the more fat cells we need to imprison them. Get rid of the toxins, and the excess weight may very well follow.

Lifelong Sources of Toxicity

Current exposure to toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides aren’t the only concern. Research shows that even early-life exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) can increase fat levels, and with microplastics having recently been found in the placentas of some women, the concern is legitimate.

Many toxins are major contributors to thyroid dysfunction, potentially leading to hormonal weight gain.

7 Easy Ways to Maintain a Healthy Weight

1. Cut Down on Natural and Artificial Sugars

Are you replacing real sugar with artificial sweeteners? Sugar causes weight gain, and this is the case for both natural and artificial sugar since anything our body doesn’t recognize as a natural substance is treated as a toxin – including aspartame. Monk fruit and Stevia are two much healthier sugar free sweeteners.

2. Eat more Fiber

One of the biggest benefits of eating more fiber when you are trying to lose weight is its ability to satiate. Soluble fiber such as that found in beans, flaxseeds, oatmeal and sweet potatoes helps you to feel full longer and slow down the release of sugars into the bloodstream. Soluble fibre cannot be broken down by your own enzymes, so it reaches the gut undigested where it feeds the good bacteria and helps them to flourish. One important aspect of soluble fiber is that it needs water to reach its potential, so staying hydrated is a must.

3. Green Coffee Extract

Don’t like the taste of coffee but want to take advantage of its weight loss benefits? Green coffee extract (GCE) helps maintain a healthy weight and reduce BMI and waist size – in fact it has been proposed as a low-cost and safe obesity treatment.

4. Eat Real Food

Much of what we eat isn’t actually “real” food. Make sure you fuel your body properly by avoiding pre-packaged and processed foods that are chock-full of preservatives, dyes and other chemicals. Focus on fruits, veggies, organic meats and healthy fats. Remember the more toxic your food, the more those toxins will get encased in fat cells.

5. Aim for 10,000 Steps Per Day

Getting those steps in can be hard when you’re spending more time at home. But where there is a will, there is a way! A combination of dietary changes and walking 10,000 steps per day was shown to help significantly reduce total weight, BMI and hip size. Bonus: lower anxiety levels are a natural outcome of making these changes as well.

6. Meditation

Did you know that calming your mind can be a powerful weight loss tool? Adding meditation to standard weight loss treatments can result in additional weight loss in as little as two months. Managing your stress will help your adrenals and can positively affect your weight loss goals.

7. Intermittent Fasting (IF)

One of the most effective ways to get rid of toxins and their corresponding fat prisons is intermittent fasting. How does it work? Designate several hours per day as your ‘eating hours’ and stick to it. This gives your glucose and insulin levels a chance to even out, gives your body a break from the hard job of digestion, and puts the focus on getting toxins out of your body. However, IF is not for everyone, so be sure to check in with your healthcare practitioner before you begin.

Are you ready to step out of the diet roller coaster? Give us a call! We can assess your insulin, stress response, thyroid, genes and toxin load. Together we can design a custom-made treatment plan with targeted supplementation, metabolism-supporting nutrients and nourishing foods. We can’t wait to join you on your health care journey!

References:
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Appreciating What You Have Instead of What You Want

With everything 2020 has thrown at us, you may feel like everything has gone a bit (make that a lot!) sideways. And in many ways it has. But this year has also turned out to be more about appreciating what we have instead of wanting for more – hasn’t it?

While there have been ups and downs, a lot has happened at the community and personal level that we can be grateful for, and we have all become a little more aware of the importance of the little things; the moments of connection and our individual ability to infuse joy into each day.

Let’s look at some simple ways in which we can focus on what truly matters most and bring joy into every day.

Focus on Your Community

The better part of this year has shone a spotlight on the importance of community support. Many have turned to their neighbours for practical help, but also for social and emotional support. Some communities have combined all three with initiatives like neighbourhood food banks, clothing drives, errand support and job search help. As well, shopping local and supporting local business has become a huge desire across the country.

Create The Community You Want

Sometimes it’s simply about getting together safely to share a joyful moment and blow off some steam. Some neighbourhoods have created weekly outdoor parties featuring a wide range of engaging activities. Painting neighbourhood murals and making a joyful noise by singing or having an impromptu music jam are just some of the ways that communities are stepping up to spread joy.

Safe Santa Visits

Wondering how your kids will get their wish list to Santa safely? While some malls are implementing social distancing measures for in-person visits, many Santa’s are going virtual and offering Zoom calls.

One such Virtual Santa notes that Zoom calls are twice as long as the usual mall visit. Your kids may get more Santa joy with a personal video call than in a crowded mall.

Helping your kids feel supported and safe is important. Find ways to keep normalcy in an otherwise abnormal time while keeping in mind kids are really just living in the moment!

Get Serious About What You Can Control

How many times have you told yourself that when a certain thing happens, you will finally be happy? Perhaps when you finish that big work project, get that promotion, pay off the mortgage, or meet that special someone?

You Are In The Driver’s Seat

Reality check: you are in control. Joy does not depend on outside influences. Joy need not wait for a moment in the future that may never arrive. Joy resides within and is available to you 24/7 – if you are conscious of it and take action.

Where is Your Locus of Control?

Psychologists use the term locus of control to describe how much control we feel over our lives. An internal locus of control can also be called “agency.” Overall, it incorporates the ability to take action, be effective, influence your own life, assume responsibility for your behaviors and attribute our successes to our own abilities and efforts.

Those with an external locus of control do not feel they have much control over their lives, and attribute success to external factors. It’s time to take back the power of your level of happiness by getting back to what’s really important. Family, health, nature, laughter and love.

The Power of Positivity

Our consumer culture tells us: buy more, do more, be more. But what about the little things? Isn’t it time to get back to basics? That brilliant yellow leaf, glinting in the sun. Your children’s happy smiles when you take them out in nature. Joy is captured in moments (and they don’t need to all end up on social media). But your heart must be open to joy, or those precious moments may just pass you by.

Meditation

Instead of looking for more outside of yourself, try looking within. Meditation can bring us to a place of stillness where we can truly hear ourselves. Without the roar of constant seeking and doing, we are finally free to hear our inner guidance.

You Have All You Need

From a spiritual perspective, you already have everything that you need. As Buddhist philosopher Pema Chodron says: “How do we cultivate the conditions for joy to expand? We train in staying present.”

Bring Back the 80’s

The 80’s was about more than acid-washed jeans, neon sweaters and feathered hair. Without the internet it was a slower, more social time. Is it time to ease up on our beloved tech and slow things down – 80’s style?

Family walk

Walking is the original exercise. There is something about walking in the forest – the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. The crunch of leaves and running water. The fresh smell of cedar and pine. Try taking your family (or just yourself) for a long forest walk. Nature has a way of bringing out the best in us, and you may find that you feel more abundant after time spent outdoors.

Games Night

Board games were a staple part of the 80’s. Why not get your family together and kick it old school with Monopoly, Risk or Scrabble? For a modern twist, try these 6 board games you can play over Zoom.

Block Party

Block parties are a great way to get to know your community. Try organizing an outdoor sing-along with your neighbours – BYOHC (Bring Your Own Hot Chocolate).

Live to Give

We can get so caught up with our day-to-day lives that it’s easy to forget the joy of giving. Giving back takes us out of ourselves and shifts the focus to someone else.

Giving Makes You Happier

In a 2020 study, participants were asked to play a multiple-choice video game. Only half were told that a donation to the United Nations World Food Programme would be made for every answer they got right. In the post-game assessment, the first group was significantly happier. Giving makes you happier, which leads to more giving, which further increases happiness. As the authors concluded, people feel good when they do good.

Small Gestures Make A Difference

Giving doesn’t have to be a grand or expensive gesture. Drop off a fresh batch of cookies to your neighbour with a new baby. Donate some warm socks to a women’s shelter. Use your loyalty points to buy goods for those in need, every little bit helps. The key is to choose an activity that you enjoy doing, for a community that you love.

Plan Ahead

Do you plan for joy? It’s important to make sure you have something to look forward to. Not just for the holidays, but more importantly for the weeks and months that follow.

Something To Look Forward To

Write down one activity that you will engage in over the next week. This can be as simple as watching a movie you are excited to see or calling a friend to chat. It can be anything that you find enjoyable, as long as it is not unhealthy (i.e., eating a whole cake in one sitting).

Something You’re Good At

You can give your happiness an added boost by scheduling an activity for each day that provides you with a sense of accomplishment. Learning a tune on a musical instrument, fixing something in the house, some DIY projects, re-organizing your spice shelf or even donating a pair of socks to a local charity. These are all activities that can help to bring your “Locus of Control” back to centre.

Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude journals are great for some, but they’re not for everyone. Here are 3 simple ways to up your gratitude quotient:

Gratitude Break

Set an alarm on your phone for a quick gratitude break. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, stop for a moment and think of something you’re grateful for, then resume what you were doing.

Bring The Positivity

When planning social video calls (aka Online Happy Hour), set a small homework task for everyone who will be participating in the call: To show up with one positive thing to share so that the conversation stays fun, positive and fulfilling.

Say Thank You

Take the time to bring a little more positivity into your home by saying thank you for the little things your loved ones do for you, things you normally take for granted.

Set Up an Ironclad Bedtime Routine

We all know the fuzzy thinking and irritability that comes from lack of sleep. But what about happiness? A 2019 study found that short sleepers had the lowest levels of happiness.

Routine & Habit Make The Difference

Set yourself up for sleep success by creating an ironclad bedtime routine. This will let your body know that it’s time to get into sleep mode. If you’re waking up in the middle of the night to scroll on social media, it’s time to remove your phone from your bedroom. Not only will this prevent notifications from waking you up, it will keep your room nice and dark to increase production of melatonin (the sleep hormone).

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the changes happening all around us? Anxiety kicking into high gear and you are having trouble enjoying the things that matter. Sometimes those feelings go deeper and your system could very well be out of balance. It’s not your fault but you can certainly give your body some help to get things rebalanced. In fact we see patients everyday that just don’t feel well anymore and this year has thrown that into overdrive!

We can help! Let’s meet to check your hormone levels, see how your nervous system is doing, and work on building up your physical resilience while finding your inner joy.

Book a call. Let’s do this together!

References:
Ackerman, C.E. 25 CBT Techniques and Worksheets for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/cbt-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-techniques-worksheets/

Chodron, Pema. 2002. The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times. Shambhala Publications.

Lai W, Yang Z, Mao Y, Zhang Q, Chen H, Ma J. When Do Good Deeds Lead to Good Feelings? Eudaimonic Orientation Moderates the Happiness Benefits of Prosocial Behavior. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun 6;17(11):4053. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17114053. PMID: 32517165; PMCID: PMC7312963.

Locus of Control: How do we determine our successes and failures? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/moments-matter/201708/locus-control

https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/cbt-behavioral-interventions.htm

Zhao SZ, Wang MP, Viswanath K, Lai A, Fong DYT, Lin CC, Chan SS, Lam TH. Short Sleep Duration and Insomnia Symptoms were Associated with Lower Happiness Levels in Chinese Adults in Hong Kong. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jun 12;16(12):2079. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16122079. PMID: 31212815; PMCID: PMC6616396.

You Might Have High Blood Pressure And Not Even Know It

Did you know your blood pressure could be out of control without you even knowing? High blood pressure is a major contributor to heart disease, and the months of stress, uncertainty, poor diet and immobility we have all been going through are not helping matters.

When the way your blood flows through your body is affected by your habits, vital nutrients and oxygen can’t get to where they are needed in the body. And as the pressure continues to mount, we start to see physical damage in the arteries and organs that can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Heart Disease is Killing Women

Heart disease is the biggest contributor to deaths worldwide, and in spite of what many believe, it’s not only men who are affected. In fact, men represent 49% of deaths from heart disease, whereas women represent 51%. Here are some more jaw dropping facts on women and heart disease:

● A woman dies of heart disease in Canada every 20 minutes.
● Early signs of an impending heart attack were missed in 78% of women, according to a retrospective study published in Circulation.
● Two-thirds of heart disease clinical research still focuses on men.
● Women are five times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer.
● Among women, the risk of having a heart attack greatly increases during the 10 years after menopause

1 in every 5 female deaths in the US is attributed to heart disease. Approximately 1 in every 16 women age 20 and older has coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease.

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to bring down your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing more serious issues in the future.

The 2 Types of High Blood Pressure

Primary hypertension

Primary hypertension is the most common type. It is a long term, chronic condition that develops over time due to factors such as a lack of exercise, poor diet, or a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure. A 2020 study showed that variations in the CYP24A1 gene can have a strong impact on a person’s risk of developing chronic high blood pressure.

Secondary hypertension

Secondary hypertension is acute, and not as common. It is the direct result of other conditions such as thyroid or adrenal gland issues, kidney disease or alcohol dependence.

What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure can develop slowly, with no symptoms. Meanwhile, it may be quietly damaging your arteries, contributing to heart disease and a range of chronic diseases.

If it goes undiagnosed and untreated for too long, it may start to cause serious issues such as:
● Trouble breathing
● Vision disturbances
● Dizziness
● Headaches
● Nosebleeds

High Blood Pressure Leads to Other Health Conditions

The effects high blood pressure has, are determined by which major arteries are affected.

1 – Heart Disease and Heart Attacks
High blood pressure affects the body in many ways that increase the risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.

– Atherosclerosis
High blood pressure damages blood vessel walls. They respond by putting down fatty deposits (plaques), which act like band-aids over damaged areas but over time make the artery walls hard and inflexible. Arteries become narrower due to the plaque build-up, preventing them from delivering vital oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. And if the plaque breaks apart it can result in a blood clot that could block arteries entirely.
If the heart arteries are affected, Atherosclerosis can lead to coronary heart disease, chest pain and increased heart attack risk.

– Enlarged Heart
High blood pressure means that the heart needs to work overtime to pump out a higher volume of blood. This increases risk of heart thickening (hypertrophy) especially of the main pumping chamber of the heart, which makes the heart enlarged and less efficient. As the size of the heart increases, so does the risk of a heart attack.

2 – Cognitive Impairment and Stroke
When atherosclerosis affects the neck instead of the heart arteries, the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen and nutrients which can cause an entirely different set of symptoms.

– Vascular Cognitive Impairment
Over time, reduced oxygen flow to the brain can impact our cognitive and problem-solving ability. The most severe form of Vascular Cognitive Impairment is called Vascular Dementia, but milder symptoms can happen much earlier and heart issues should be considered and investigated if problems with multitasking and memory arise.

– Stroke
If a blood clot or severely narrowed arteries prevent blood flow to the brain for even a short time, it can result in a stroke. The impact of a stroke depends on which part of the brain has been deprived of blood flow.

An Ischemic Stroke happens when the artery is fully blocked, and is the most common type of stroke. Mini strokes happen when an artery is temporarily blocked, then clears up causing what is sometimes called a ‘warning stroke’.

Because high blood pressure weakens artery walls over time, the weakened wall may finally give way leading to a hemorrhagic stroke – when a brain artery bursts entirely.

Any stroke is a dangerous medical emergency.

Lifestyle Factors to Help Lower High Blood Pressure

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you should continue to take the medication prescribed and have regular check-ups. The following factors are an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle:

1 – Diet

Fat, sugar and salt are classic comfort foods, but they can wreak havoc on blood pressure and heart health. When do you crave these foods? Is it when you’re sad? Lonely? Anxious? One way to stop negative dietary habits in their tracks is by recognizing when you’re triggered into emotional eating.

Reduce Saturated and Trans Fats

Fats play a vital role in the body, such as helping us absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D and K, and providing energy, but not all fats are healthy fats. Here’s how to reduce saturated and trans fats and increase intake of healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats.

Eat Less of These Fats:
● Fried foods (chips, French fries)
● Processed meats (deli meats, burgers, hot dogs)
● Fatty meats
● Grain-based desserts (cakes, cookies, donuts)
● Plant oils (palm and palm kernel)
● Dairy

Replace With These Fats:
● Nuts (walnuts, peanut butter)
● Seeds (sunflower, flax)
● Tofu
● Fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
● Avocados
● Plant oils (olive, safflower, sesame)
● Beans and Legumes

Reduce Your Sugar Consumption

Although sugar provides the body with valuable energy, too much can raise blood pressure. Even ‘healthy’ sugars such as coconut sugar and honey should be reduced.

– Read Product Labels
Sugar goes by several names, making it hard to recognize on product labels. The worst offender is high fructose corn syrup, but anything that ends with ‘ose’ is a sugar. The surprising biggest culprit? Sugar-sweetened beverages.

Consume less:
● Alcohol
● Soft drinks
● Sports drinks
● Canned fruit in syrup
● Processed desserts (candy, chocolate bars)

Replace With:
● Water
● Green tea
● Pure fruit juices without added sugar
● Low sugar fruits: berries, kiwis, citrus and melons
● fresh herbs to boost flavour

Reduce Your Sodium Intake

We need salt to maintain electrolyte and fluid balance, but in moderation only. Salt is frequently added to processed foods to extend shelf life and enhance taste. Here’s how to cut back:

Reduce Intake:
● Less processed, pre-packaged and fast foods
● Rinse canned goods before eating
● Remove the salt shaker from your table
● Taste food before adding salt
● Crackers, chips and salted nuts

Replace With:
● Herbs, spices or lemon to enhance flavour
● Cooking more at home, where you can control salt levels
● Raw nuts, homemade crackers, homemade sweet potato chips or kale chips
● cut-up veggie sticks

2 – Exercise

Exercise can effectively reduce high blood pressure by improving artery health and managing weight. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for adults, and one hour per day for children and youth.

Tips to Increase How Much You Exercise

1. Mix it up: do weight-bearing exercise two days per week and cardio 3 days per week
2. Set daily hour limits on sedentary activities like watching TV
3. Use active transportation like walking or biking for short trips
4. Plan active family outings like hiking or going for a swim
5. Do active household tasks as a family like shovelling snow and dog-walking
6. Embrace outdoor winter activities like ice skating, tobogganing and skiing
7. Try indoor cardio like an online aerobic class or put on your favorite tunes and dance like nobody’s watching

3 – Reduce Your Stress Levels

Stress has a strong blood pressure-raising effect. Here’s how to lower your stress response, and improve stress resilience:

Mindfulness and Meditation
A 2020 review examining behavioural strategies found that mindfulness training had the greatest blood pressure-lowering effect. How does it work? Participants in a 2020 study reported that increased self-awareness, attention control, and emotion regulation helped them make better health choices, and improved their ability to handle stress.

Another 2020 study found that after 12 months of using a breathing meditation app, participants’ blood pressure was significantly reduced.

Simple Activities That Help Increase Mindfulness

● Meditation. The key is to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all else. Try one of the many free meditation apps (like Headspace). Try fixing your mind on a single candle, or close your eyes and visualize a peaceful spot.
● Deep Breathing. Breathwork can quickly bring you back to a calm state, and can be done anywhere, anytime. Try the simple but effective box breathing technique: breathe in for four counts; hold for four; breathe out for four, hold for four.
● Yoga. Combining breathing, focus and exercise, yoga is one-stop shopping for stress relief. Include forward bends but avoid poses that compress the diaphragm. Try these 5 blood pressure-reducing poses from Yoga International.

4 – Blood Pressure-Friendly Food Based Supplements

While supplements are not a substitute for maintaining close contact with your physician and following their advice, certain everyday nutrients have shown positive results in research studies.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C does more than support our immune systems. A 2020 review concluded that Vitamin C supplementation resulted in significant reduction of blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension. Another 2020 review found that low vitamin C levels were strongly associated with high blood pressure.

Garlic
What kitchen staple can reduce blood pressure? The allicin in garlic supplements have been shown to lower blood pressure by widening blood vessels, increasing nitric oxide production and relaxing the smooth muscles found in blood vessels.

Are you at risk of high blood pressure? It’s never too early to talk about prevention. Naturopathic Medicine can help put you on a path to a healthy lifestyle designed to work for you. Prevention and management require changing lifestyle habits but going at it alone can be challenging. Let’s work together to ensure your heart health and overall health is maximized!
Give us a call today 416-234-1888.

References:

Nardi WR, Harrison A, Saadeh FB, Webb J, Wentz AE, Loucks EB. Mindfulness and cardiovascular health: Qualitative findings on mechanisms from the mindfulness-based blood pressure reduction (MB-BP) study. PLoS One. 2020 Sep 23;15(9):e0239533. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239533. PMID: 32966308; PMCID: PMC7510988.

Ran L, Zhao W, Tan X, Wang H, Mizuno K, Takagi K, Zhao Y, Bu H. Association between Serum Vitamin C and the Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies.

Cardiovasc Ther. 2020 Apr 29;2020:4940673. doi: 10.1155/2020/4940673. PMID: 32426036; PMCID: PMC7211237.

Tabassum N, Ahmad F. Role of natural herbs in the treatment of hypertension. Pharmacogn Rev. 2011 Jan;5(9):30-40. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.79097. PMID: 22096316; PMCID: PMC3210006.

Benjamin, E.J., Muntner, P., Alonso, A. Bittencourt, M.S., Callaway, C.W., Carson, A.P., … & Virani, S.S. (2019). Heart disease and stroke statistics – 2019 update: A report from the American Heart
Association. Circulation,139, 56-528.

Heron, M. (2018). Death: Leading Causes for 2016. National Vital Statistics Report, 67(6), 1-76.

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:

About Candida albicans: Natural yeast and problematic infections. Medical News Today. Accessed October 10, 2020
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Adinolfi LE, Nevola R, Lus G, Restivo L, Guerrera B, Romano C, Zampino R, Rinaldi L, Sellitto A, Giordano M, Marrone A. Chronic hepatitis C virus infection and neurological and psychiatric disorders: an overview. World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Feb 28;21(8):2269-80. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i8.2269. PMID: 25741133; PMCID: PMC4342902.

An Y, Feng L, Zhang X, Wang Y, Wang Y, Tao L, Qin Z, Xiao R. Dietary intakes and biomarker patterns of folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 can be associated with cognitive impairment by hypermethylation of redox-related genes NUDT15 and TXNRD1. Clin Epigenetics. 2019 Oct 11;11(1):139. doi: 10.1186/s13148-019-0741-y. PMID: 31601260; PMCID: PMC6787977.

Brain Fog, Foggy Head Anxiety Symptoms. Anxiety Centre. Accessed on October 10, 2020. https://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-symptoms/brain-fog.shtml

Candida infection can reach brain and impair memory. Medical News Today. Accessed on October 10, 2020.https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324106#Why-study-C.-albicans-and-the-brain?

Carnitine Health Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed October 10, 2020. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Carnitine-HealthProfessional/

Gava G, Orsili I, Alvisi S, Mancini I, Seracchioli R, Meriggiola MC. Cognition, Mood and Sleep in Menopausal Transition: The Role of Menopause Hormone Therapy. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 Oct 1;55(10):668. doi: 10.3390/medicina55100668. PMID: 31581598; PMCID: PMC6843314.

Lanza G, Bella R, Cantone M, Pennisi G, Ferri R, Pennisi M. Cognitive Impairment and Celiac Disease: Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation a Trait d’Union between Gut and Brain? Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jul 31;19(8):2243. doi: 10.3390/ijms19082243. PMID: 30065211; PMCID: PMC6121508.

Lichtwark IT, Newnham ED, Robinson SR, Shepherd SJ, Hosking P, Gibson PR, Yelland GW. Cognitive impairment in coeliac disease improves on a gluten-free diet and correlates with histological and serological indices of disease severity. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Jul;40(2):160-70. doi: 10.1111/apt.12809. Epub 2014 May 28. PMID: 24889390.

Matza LS, Deger KA, Vo P, Maniyar F, Goadsby PJ. Health state utilities associated with attributes of migraine preventive treatments based on patient and general population preferences. Qual Life Res. 2019 Sep;28(9):2359-2372. doi: 10.1007/s11136-019-02163-3. Epub 2019 Mar 28. PMID: 30924071; PMCID: PMC6698266.

Senzolo M, Schiff S, D’Aloiso CM, Crivellin C, Cholongitas E, Burra P, Montagnese S. Neuropsychological alterations in hepatitis C infection: the role of inflammation. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Aug 7;17(29):3369-74. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v17.i29.3369. PMID: 21876628; PMCID: PMC3160562.

Traina G. The neurobiology of acetyl-L-carnitine. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2016 Jun 1;21:1314-29. doi: 10.2741/4459. PMID: 27100509.

Vitamin B12 Health Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed October 10, 2020. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/

Wu, Y., Du, S., Johnson, J.L. et al. Microglia and amyloid precursor protein coordinate control of transient Candida cerebritis with memory deficits. Nat Commun 10, 58 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-07991-4

Xu J, Zhu XY, Sun H, Xu XQ, Xu SA, Suo Y, Cao LJ, Zhou Q, Yu HJ, Cao WZ. Low vitamin D levels are associated with cognitive impairment in patients with Hashimoto thyroiditis. BMC Endocr Disord. 2018 Nov 26;18(1):87. doi: 10.1186/s12902-018-0314-7. PMID: 30477467; PMCID: PMC6260768.

6 Possible Causes of Brain Fog. Healthline. Accessed on October 10, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/brain-fog

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.

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