Protective Measures for Brain Health

We tend not to think very much about our brain when we’re young. That might be a bit of a philosophical conundrum (can a brain think about itself?), but it also can carry unfortunate repercussions down the road. It’s important to build a strong foundation of brain health for better aging, both physically and mentally. As we age, the mind-body connection becomes even more pronounced, and our physical health profoundly impacts our mental health – and vice versa.

Although it’s often taken for granted, your brain plays a vital role in your quality of life. As the command control center of your nervous system, functions regulated by your brain include memory, moods, energy, and mobility. Each of these functions are complex and tightly interconnected. In fact, it’s difficult to define brain health, since so many different processes are involved.

Why is taking care of our brain health so important?

One thing is certain: As we age, risks to brain health increase. One in four adults will experience a stroke in their lifetime, every five years after the age of 65, risk of Alzheimer’s doubles and other neurological conditions go up.
Perhaps the most shocking statistic out of the CDC shows that 77.4 % of adults aged 45 – 65+ with at least 1 chronic disease show significant cognitive decline compared to just 22.6 % with no chronic disease (88.3 % being female)

However, there are many things we can do to protect our brain health. Although there is a genetic risk in Alzheimer’s, deterministic genes (genes that directly cause a disease, as opposed to risk genes which increase the risk) are tied to less than one percent of Alzheimer’s cases. By looking after our physical body before we experience problems, we can reduce our risk.

Let’s take a deep dive into some protective measures we can take for brain health.

Eat for brain health.

A diet high in antioxidants minimizes the oxidative damage that can lead to impaired cognitive functioning, particularly with regards to memory. Foods high in antioxidants include brightly colored produce, spices like turmeric and curry, and many beans. Many foods high in Vitamin C are antioxidants, and studies show a link between low intake of Vitamin C and the development of dementia. As well, choose foods high in omega-3 fatty acids whenever possible. Your brain cells contain the fatty acids DPA and EHA, and a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids helps your brain build new cells. Good sources include nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and plant oils like flaxseed oil.

Coffee has also been linked to a reduced risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s, perhaps because of its antioxidant qualities. If you don’t like coffee, green tea may have even stronger brain-health benefits, in part because of its high levels of the amino acid L-theanine, which can trigger a relaxation response in the brain that balances the stimulating effects of caffeine.

To counteract oxidative stress and damage to the brain, avoid excess alcohol, sugar, and processed foods.

Keep your blood sugar in check.

High blood sugar is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment, even if a person doesn’t develop diabetes. You may start to hear Alzheimer’s being referred to as “Type 3 diabetes” more and more as research has shown clear links between insulin dysregulation and cognitive impairment leading to Alzheimer’s disease. A balanced diet, including fats and protein with each meal and eating plenty of fiber can help keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Control your blood pressure and exercise regularly.

Not only does high blood pressure increase the risk of stroke, it can also impair blood flow to the brain. This can raise the risk of vascular dementia. One study found that a 10-mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure raised the risk of cognitive problems by 9%. One way to improve blood pressure is to maintain a regular exercise routine. Numerous studies show a clear link between even modest exercise and improved metabolism in the parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory function as well.

Be cautious with medications.

Certain kinds of commonly prescribed medication can impair brain function, including many medications for anxiety, sleep problems,and allergy symptoms. It’s always important to review the side effects of any medications with a healthcare practitioner and discuss alternative treatments.

Keep your brain active.

“Use it or lose it” doesn’t just apply to your physical health. Activities that stimulate your brain and help develop new neural connections include puzzles, vocabulary exercises, crossword puzzles, learning a new language, and listening to (or playing) music.

Physical activities that require some mental concentration have similar benefits. The practice of tai chi has been found to increase brain volume, and dancing improves spatial memory and overall cognitive health – not to mention its numerous social and physical benefits.

Research supplements.

If you can’t get all your nutrients from diet or have trouble with absorption, supplementation of certain brain healthy supplements can be beneficial. Some supplements that may be beneficial for brain health include:

● Fish oil, which contains high levels of Omega-3 fatty acid.
● B vitamins and folic acid, which help with the production of neurotransmitters.
● VItamin D, which is particularly important during the dark winter months. One study found that people with low levels of Vitamin D have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before including any new supplements to see if they are right for you – we would be happy to help!

Attitude is everything.

One of the most important things you can do to protect your brain health is to simply commit to protecting it. Studies show that feeling that you are in control of your own aging process, which includes your brain health, leads to healthier outcomes. One study found that among people with a genetic predisposition to dementia, a positive attitude to aging led to an almost 50% reduction in developing any form of dementia.

Taking steps towards an overall healthier lifestyle will help you gain that sense of control. Talk to us about the changes you can make to protect your brain.

References:

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: Positive age beliefs protect against dementia even among elders with high-risk gene
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Food Additives: Look Beyond the Label

Think about any item in your kitchen pantry, flip over to the ingredients list and odds are…you’re going to find some kind of food additive!

Food additives are typically added to enhance the flavor, appearance or texture of a product, or to extend its shelf life. Although generally tested for their safety, studies show that some of these substances have been associated with adverse health effects and should be avoided, while others are safe and can be consumed with minimal risk.
Even the healthiest eaters and most careful label-readers find it difficult to completely avoid food additives. Many foods that are considered healthy choices, such as many paleo-friendly or gluten free foods, contain some kind of additives.

This can create a lot of confusion, such as: If cow’s milk contains no additives, is it a better choice than something like almond milk, which often contains the additive carrageenan? Or, is a dietary supplement with soy lecithin actually harming your health?
In this blog entry, we’ll take a look at some of the common food additives you can run into, and consider the pros and cons for each.

Emulsifiers

Soy lecithin
Soy lecithin is commonly found in dietary supplements, chocolate, ice cream, and some breads. It’s purpose is to act as an emulsifier helping ingredients that don’t typically blend, such as oil and water, to combine together. Emulsifiers also reduce stickiness, control crystallization and prevent separation.
Soy lecithin is extracted from raw soybeans, and many people choose to avoid soy products. One reason for this is that soy is a common allergen, which is triggered by soy protein. However, the amount of soy lecithin in foods is typically very small, and the amount of soy protein is even smaller, so people with soy allergies don’t usually experience adverse effects. Of course, any reaction will depend on the severity of your allergy, so always proceed with caution if you have a soy allergy, and discuss the use of soy lecithin with a healthcare practitioner. Many people also chose to avoid soy products because they contain phytoestrogens, which can increase estrogen levels. Studies confirm that soy lecithin does contain high amounts of phytoestrogens, but, again, the amounts of soy lecithin used are extremely small, so the possible impact is low.
There are some possible health benefits to soy lecithin, as studies have found that it can reduce cholesterol levels. It’s also a source of choline, a nutrient that supports brain and liver function and heart health.

People with extreme soy allergies may want to avoid soy lecithin, but, for the rest of us, the amounts are so small that any risk is low. Anyone who has concerns about genetically modified soy may want to look for organic soy lecithin, but keep in mind that the amount – and any risk – is low.

Carrageenan
Carrageenan is typically found in almond milk, coconut milk, some meats, and some yogurts. Carrageenan acts as an emulsifier and thickening agent.
Some studies on animals found a connection between carrageenan intake and gastrointestinal issues, including cancerous colon lesions. More studies need to be done regarding any impact on human health, particularly since the levels of the additive used in the animal studies didn’t mirror typical human consumption. However, some in-vitro studies did find a link between certain kinds of intestinal inflammation and carrageenan consumption. These studies raised enough concern that the National Organic Standards Board has removed carrageenan from its list of approved ingredients.

Until more thorough research is completed, this is one additive to limit when possible. Fortunately, it’s possible to buy almond milk, coconut milk, and yogurt that doesn’t contain carrageenan. You can also make your own!

Flavor and Color Enhancers

Monosodium glutamate
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is added to enhance the flavor of many processed foods, canned soups, frozen meals and is commonly found in fast food and prepared meals at restaurants. MSG has been a subject of controversy for many years – from its effects on brain health to weight gain and metabolic syndrome – studies have shown it to have some negative effects on those that are sensitive to the additive. It has also been linked to headaches and sweating when consumed in large amounts.

Although research is still ongoing on the definitive effects of MSG on the body, if you experience any of the negative side effects mentioned it’s best to avoid MSG whenever possible.

Artificial food colouring
Artificial food colouring is used to brighten the appearance of everything from candy to condiments. There have been concerns about the negative effects of food colouring in recent years, specifically Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. These dyes have been associated with allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. In recent studies, Red 3 has been associated with increased risk of thyroid tumours in mice.

More and more studies show that food dyes may have negative effects on health so it’s best to avoid them as much as possible.

Artificial sweeteners
Common artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin and acesulfame potassium. These sweeteners can be found in many diet or low calorie foods as a flavour enhancer with little to no caloric content.
While this might sound great in theory and may benefit those who need to monitor blood sugar levels, artificial sweeteners have been linked in animal studies to cause weight gain, brain tumours, bladder cancer and many other health hazards. Those that are sensitive to artificial sweeteners typically experience headaches.

Although everyone has their unique individual needs, avoiding artificial sweeteners in favour of natural sweeteners such as raw honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar may be a better option.

Gums and Thickening Agents

Xanthan gum
Xanthan gum is commonly found in gluten-free baked goods. Xanthan gum acts as a thickener, stabilizer, or emulsifying agent.
Xanthan gum is produced when the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium ferments on a sugar, which creates a substance that can be dried and ground into a powder. Studies on humans have found that larger amounts (more than a typical diet would contain) of xanthan gum have a noted laxative effect, and can produce gas and other digestive activity. Other studies show a possible link between lower blood sugar levels and xanthan consumption, possibly because it slows sugar absorption.

People with sensitive digestive systems may want to limit their xanthan gum consumption. As well, anyone with severe corn, soy, wheat, or dairy allergies should confirm the product they use is free of any allergens, as those elements can be used in the fermentation process. Overall, however, this additive is largely safe for adults.

Guar gum
Guar gum is added to many processed foods, including salad dressings, sauces, some baked goods, and soups as a thickening agent.
Guar gum is a soluble fiber, and can increase the number of gut bacteria, with positive effects on constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. However, it can also lead to some digestive upset for people with sensitive systems. Guar gum can also lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and some studies show a potential positive effect on weight loss.

Anyone with digestive issues should monitor the effect guar gum has on their symptoms, since some people report an improvement after removing it from their diet. For most people, however, it’s a safe additive to consume.

Locust bean gum
Locust bean gum is a thickening agent added to many foods including dairy products such as ice cream, yogurt, and cheese.
Despite its name, this additive is actually derived from the carob tree. Studies haven’t found a lot of risk associated with locust bean gum consumption, and some evidence shows a positive effect on cholesterol levels.

As with guar gum, people with digestive issues might want to monitor their symptoms, since some people report increased gas and sensitivity, but this additive is considered safe

The Takeaway

Of course it’s ideal to avoid food additives altogether, but it may not always be realistic for everyone to prepare all food from scratch. The overall quality of your diet is far more important than how well you avoid these additives. Eating fewer packaged and processed foods, more whole foods and cooking as much as possible is always recommended.
Try batch cooking and freezing meals so you always have options on hand, plan out your meals so that you head to the store with a list and spend a bit of time reading multiple labels of various products before you purchase.

Remember, your health and longevity are an investment! If you’d like to learn more about the foundations of a healthy diet and what to include and what to avoid, call us – we can create a health plan tailored to you and your individual needs!

References:

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Thyroid Problems are Hard to Diagnose: Here’s Why.

Your thyroid is a small organ with a huge impact on all aspects of your health. Thyroid hormone impacts every cell in your body, so even a small disturbance in thyroid hormone levels affects your digestive tract, brain, heart, metabolism, glucose and cholesterol levels, and much more.

Yet, despite its importance, thyroid problems are one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in the world. As many as 60% of people with thyroid problems aren’t aware. By some estimates, up to one in 10 North Americans have a thyroid problem, and that number rises to one in eight for women. That’s a lot of people experiencing unnecessary health issues!

For many people, thyroid issues are the result of low levels of thyroid hormone, a condition referred to as hypothyroidism. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:

● Weight gain
● Fuzzy thinking
● Depression
● Constipation
● Chronic fatigue
● Always feeling cold
● Infertility
● Dry skin

To further complicate matters, many thyroid treatments fall spectacularly short when it comes to improving a patient’s quality of life. At the root of the problem lie inadequate diagnostic tools. Traditionally, conventional medical practitioners run two tests for thyroid hormone levels: one for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels and one for the hormone thyroxine (T4). Then they place patients on thyroid hormones or iodine in hopes of restoring balance. In effect, this is a Band-Aid solution that doesn’t get to the root of the problem.

By prescribing thyroid hormone without a full investigation, medical practitioners may run the risk of harming their patients’ health. Growing evidence suggests thyroid hormone is over-prescribed, and may even increase a patient’s risk of mortality.

When blood tests show a dip in thyroid hormone levels, thyroid hormone replacement therapy drugs such as levothyroxine, are very commonly prescribed.
Those that have clear low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism) benefit from this medical treatment, however the problem may lie in those who may have only a few, mild symptoms of hypothyroidism and come back with borderline test results, known as subclinical hypothyroidism, and older adults in particular.

Studies show those aged 65 and over who have been given thyroid replacement therapy have an increased risk of death. Due to the many hormonal changes that naturally begin to occur in older adults such as sleep changes and increased inflammation, natural dips in thyroid levels may occur. Thyroid replacement medication in these cases may not be necessary and if taken may be causing an override of said changes, therefore causing further complications.

Why traditional approaches may fall short.

Focusing solely on levels of TSH and T4, and then applying a quick fix, ignores the fact that the most common cause of hypothyroidism is actually an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. When someone experiences Hashimoto’s, their white blood cells and antibodies erroneously attack the thyroid, leading to a reduction in thyroid hormone secretion.

We haven’t yet determined the cause of autoimmune diseases, although evidence suggests genetic factors, inflammation, certain medications, and stress can all contribute. As well, studies have found possible connections between “leaky gut” syndrome, or increased permeability, and the autoimmune system.

Because of the vague causes for autoimmune disorders, traditional medicine tends to treat just the symptoms, without taking a holistic approach to address overall health. This is particularly true for Hashimoto’s, which is problematic. Without proper treatment, the immune system will continue to attack the thyroid gland, making it increasingly difficult to treat without addressing the autoimmune response.

The problem with traditional lab tests.

As you can see, thyroid problems and treatments are more complex than simply trying to fix a shortage of hormones as determined from testing TSH and T4. For better results, and a more holistic treatment plan, patients need more comprehensive assessments. Below are five causes of thyroid problems that won’t be detected by standard tests.

Pituitary problems.
The production of thyroid hormone is controlled by a gland at the base of the brain called the pituitary gland, which releases TSH. Elevated cortisol levels can damage the pituitary gland, which in turn reduces the amount of TSH, and consequently the amount of thyroid hormone.

Inefficient conversion of T4 to T3.
In order to be used by your body, T4 must be converted to another hormone, triiodothyronine, more commonly called T3. If this process doesn’t run smoothly, your body won’t have its optimum amount of T3, even if your T4 test results look good. An excess of the stress hormone cortisol in your body can impact this process.

High TBG levels.
Thyroid hormone travels through the bloodstream thanks to a protein called thyroid binding globulin (TBG). High TBG levels can lower the amount of active thyroid hormone, since it is inactive when bound to TBG. Excess estrogen can result in elevated TBG levels, which can lead to hypothyroidism, even if the results of the traditional tests are within normal range.

Low TBG levels.
Paradoxically, low TBG levels can also lead to hypothyroidism. That’s because low levels result in an excess of free thyroid hormone in the blood, which causes cells to develop resistance. The result is hypothyroidism, since although there is enough thyroid hormone in the blood, the body’s cells aren’t receptive to it. Common causes of low TBG levels include high testosterone levels and insulin resistance.

Thyroid resistance.
The receptors in your cells can be damaged by high levels of T4 or T3, or high levels of cortisol. As well, chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, which is also harmful.

Optimum thyroid performance depends on a tightly woven interplay of processes, and, as shown above, just one imbalance can throw the whole thing off.
Traditional tests aren’t always going to recognize the various factors that contribute to thyroid problems. If you want to take a deeper dive into your thyroid health, please give us a call!

References:

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Bernadette Biondi, David S. Cooper, The Clinical Significance of Subclinical Thyroid Dysfunction, Endocrine Reviews, Volume 29, Issue 1, 1 February 2008, Pages 76–131, https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2006-0043

Enoch Joseph Abbey, MD, MPH, Eleanor M Simonsick, PhD, John McGready, PhD, Jennifer Sophie Mammen, MD,PHD, OR18-05 Thyroid Hormone Use and Survival among Older Adults – Longitudinal Analysis of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), Journal of the Endocrine Society, Volume 4, Issue Supplement_1, April-May 2020, OR18–05, https://doi.org/10.1210/jendso/bvaa046.235

Why It’s More Important than Ever to Support Your Immune System

We have weathered some serious concerns about our health and how to protect ourselves from viruses over the last year and a half. We know the fight is not over and that having a strong and healthy immune system is your first defense in preventing invaders from taking over. As we enter into the cold and flu season (yes these germs still exist) and as we continue to battle new variants of viruses…our best foot forward is knowing what we can do ourselves to support our bodies innate ability to heal.

Why Your Immune System Needs Some Extra Love Right Now

The world has learned a lot about practicing good hygiene since the onset of the pandemic. Hand sanitizer sales jumped an astonishing 600% in 2020, we all wore masks in public, and “social distancing” entered into our regular vocabulary. This all contributed to our collective efforts to control viruses, but, somewhat ironically, scientists are now raising concerns about the long-term effects on our immune systems.

One concern is that the emphasis on sanitizing everything weakens immunity. According to the “hygiene hypothesis,” exposure to microbes like bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi helps to build our immune response. By limiting our exposure to the microbial world while trying to avoid viruses, have we disturbed this process? Research still needs to be done, as it’s obviously too early to know the long-term effects.

However, the isolation of the last year may have affected our immune systems in a more subtle fashion. Emotions have a profound impact on immunity. In particular, loneliness can lower our resilience. One study found that it triggers cellular changes that may reduce immunity as much as other, more physical risk factors for illness, like obesity. Similarly, stress reduces immunity. You’ve likely noticed you’re more likely to get sick during tough times, and research confirms that stress – particularly chronic stress – can alter your immune response. For many people, isolation and what sometimes feels like an endless stream of bad news have resulted in more intense feelings of loneliness and stress, and the resulting impact on immunity should be front of mind as we enter into the season where exposure to cold and flu viruses become more impactful.

Cases of the flu decreased dramatically during lockdowns, in part because hygiene practices were followed more conscientiously due to fear of contracting a virus. Continuing to do things like frequent hand washing will help you stay healthy. So will proactive efforts at supporting your immune system.

Another reason for building up immunity is the hard truth that viruses are likely here to stay. New evidence shows that even if you’re double-vaccinated, you could still be at risk (although the data has shown vaccination drastically reduces the odds of serious illness, now we are learning about how long those antibodies last and that immunity may be waning for the vaccinated). Being in top shape with your health is what we can personally control and feeling empowered with what you need to know is the first step.

Support Your Immune System: Proven Strategies

Being resilient is what we need to aim for. We know we can’t control everything but ensuring you do what you can to keep your body strong may help support your immune system for months ahead (and for the long term).

Focus on fiber
A diet rich in high-fiber foods encourages the development and maintenance of the gut microbiome, which stimulates your immune cells. A diet centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes is one of the best ways to develop stronger immunity.

Choose probiotics
Probiotic supplements and fermented foods also contribute to your gut bacteria. Good choices include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir.

Limit sugar
Reducing sugar intake may lower the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, both of which are risk factors for a weaker immune system. In one study, obese patients were twice as likely to get the flu following a flu shot, and eliminating sweets can go far in any weight loss strategy.

Favor healthy fats
Certain fats can reduce inflammation, which is stressful for your immune system. Research shows that extra virgin olive oil and foods with high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flax seeds, are beneficial.

Find time for moderate exercise
Even a single session of moderate exercise improves immune response. Of course, everyone has a different definition of “moderate,” so pay careful attention to your body. You should feel refreshed and energized afterwards, not exhausted.

Stay rested
It’s always been a commonly held belief that getting enough sleep helps prevent illness, but new research suggests the relationship is even stronger than previously assumed. According to one study, a difference of less than one hour in the amount of sleep a person gets can significantly affect their susceptibility to colds. In particular, sleep helps strengthen T cells, a type of immune cell. It also slows production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that compromise immunity. If you find yourself hitting the snooze alarm every morning or you frequently feel exhausted, it’s time to take a look at your sleep hygiene and perhaps make scheduling more time to sleep a priority.

Add supplements if needed
Daily supplementation with certain immune supportive supplements may be beneficial. Some supplements that have been proven to help immune response include vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before including any new supplements. Feel free to get in touch with us and we can help find the right ones for you!

Avoid toxins
Don’t undermine your efforts to support your immune system by exposing your body to harmful toxins like cigarette smoke, excessive amounts of alcohol, or harmful pesticides. Be mindful of hidden toxins in household cleaning products, detergents and cosmetics too! Read labels and choose all natural products when possible – check out the Environmental Working Group website for more information on what could be hiding in typical household products, cosmetics and more! https://www.ewg.org

Remember – You’re in Control

We’ve all experienced a lot of stressful changes over the last year and a half. By taking proactive steps to support your immune system, you can ensure you’re ready for whatever the next few months hold and celebrate the world’s gradual re-opening.
If you’d like some help creating a health plan that fits your goals and lifestyle, give us a call – we are here to help!


References:

Finlay BB, Amato KR, Azad M, Blaser MJ, Bosch TCG, Chu H, Dominguez-Bello MG, Ehrlich SD, Elinav E, Geva-Zatorsky N, Gros P, Guillemin K, Keck F, Korem T, McFall-Ngai MJ, Melby MK, Nichter M, Pettersson S, Poinar H, Rees T, Tropini C, Zhao L, Giles-Vernick T. The hygiene hypothesis, the COVID pandemic, and consequences for the human microbiome. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Feb 9;118(6):e2010217118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2010217118. Erratum in: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Mar 16;118(11): PMID: 33472859; PMCID: PMC8017729.

The Wall Street Journal, Hand Sanitizer Sales Jumped 600% in 2020. Purell Maker Bets Against a Post-Pandemic Collapse, January 22, 2021,

The hygiene hypothesis, the COVID pandemic, and consequences for the human microbiome
B. Brett Finlay, Katherine R. Amato, Meghan Azad, Martin J. Blaser, Thomas C. G. Bosch, Hiutung Chu, Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, Stanislav Dusko Ehrlich, Eran Elinav, Naama Geva-Zatorsky, Philippe Gros, Karen Guillemin, Frédéric Keck, Tal Korem, Margaret J. McFall-Ngai, Melissa K. Melby, Mark Nichter, Sven Pettersson, Hendrik Poinar, Tobias Rees, Carolina Tropini, Liping Zhao, Tamara Giles-Vernick
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Feb 2021, 118 (6) e2010217118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2010217118

Myeloid differentiation in social isolation, Steven W. Cole, John P. Capitanio, Katie Chun, Jesusa M. G. Arevalo, Jeffrey Ma, John T. Cacioppo, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Dec 2015, 112 (49) 15142-15147; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1514249112

CBC News, Flu cases in Canada ‘exceptionally low’ so far, public health says, November 17, 2020,

Public Health Ontario, Risk of COVID-19 Transmission from Vaccinated Cases

Global News, Half of Canadians are anxious about reopening amid COVID-19. Here’s how to cope, June 19, 2021, https://globalnews.ca/news/7962380/covid-reopening-social-anxiety/

Schley PD, Field CJ. The immune-enhancing effects of dietary fibres and prebiotics. Br J Nutr. 2002 May;87 Suppl 2:S221-30. doi: 10.1079/BJNBJN/2002541. PMID: 12088522

Gambino CM, Accardi G, Aiello A, Candore G, Dara-Guccione G, Mirisola M, Procopio A, Taormina G, Caruso C. Effect of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Table Olives on the ImmuneInflammatory Responses: Potential Clinical Applications. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2018;18(1):14-22. doi: 10.2174/1871530317666171114113822. PMID: 29141570.

Simpson RJ, Kunz H, Agha N, Graff R. Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015;135:355-80. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2015.08.001. Epub 2015 Sep 5. PMID: 26477922.

Prietl B, Treiber G, Pieber TR, Amrein K. Vitamin D and immune function. Nutrients. 2013;5(7):2502-2521. Published 2013 Jul 5. doi:10.3390/nu5072502

Saper RB, Rash R. Zinc: an essential micronutrient. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(9):768-772

Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. Published 2017 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/nu9111211

Hudson J, Vimalanathan S. Echinacea—A Source of Potent Antivirals for Respiratory Virus Infections. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2011;4(7):1019-1031. Published 2011 Jul 13. doi:10.3390/ph4071019

Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Alper CM, Janicki-Deverts D, Turner RB. Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(1):62–67. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2008.505

Breast Implant Illness: What We Know So Far

The choice to get breast implants is highly personal, and most women don’t make the decision lightly. Whether it’s cosmetic or reconstructive, implant surgery is a major procedure, with important health implications. Women who have implants, and women considering the surgery, should be aware of the possible side effects and arm themselves with science-backed information.

Researchers and practitioners are signaling a rise in what is now being referred to as Breast Implant Illness (BII) – a potential complication of silicone breast implants. Unfortunately, the symptoms are quite diverse, and most medical practitioners don’t always connect the dots to breast implants as a possible cause.

Signs and Symptoms of BII

The medical community does not yet fully understand BII, and it can be difficult to diagnose in traditional medical practices.

The hallmark signs include a cluster of symptoms such as joint pain, unexplained fatigue, and memory loss. These symptoms are similar to many autoimmune disorders, but not all women who show signs of BII are diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. That’s one factor that makes BII difficult to confirm. Many autoimmune disorders are difficult enough to diagnose on their own, and BII symptoms don’t follow clear patterns. Women can experience a mix of symptoms that could be due to disorders such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, or lupus.

More symptoms of BII may include:

● Muscle pain
● Headaches
● Hair loss
● Sleep problems
● Vertigo
● Dry skin
● Anxiety
● Depression
● Cognitive impairment (“fuzzy thinking”)
● Dry eyes

These symptoms may be linked to many health problems, and even simply everyday stress. As a result, healthcare practitioners may not make the link between implants and a patient’s concerns, and instead treat each symptom separately.

What causes BII?

More research needs to be done on the link between autoimmune disorders and silicone breast implants, but current findings suggest silicone leaks from the implants to trigger an inflammatory response in the body.
Silicone implants are most likely to rupture after about six to eight years, and ruptures aren’t always noticed. Women who have previous autoimmune disorders, or a family history of them, seem to be more prone to developing BII.

Treatments for BII

Removing silicone implants and any surrounding scar tissue results in an improvement for between 60 to 80 percent of women with BII. Women experiencing symptoms of BII could consult with their healthcare provider about alternatives, such as autologous implants (implants composed of a woman’s own bodily tissue) following a mastectomy. BII has appeared in women with saline implants, but it appears to be much less common. Also, because a saline implant “deflates” faster than a silicone one, a rupture is more noticeable and therefore more likely to be addressed right away.

Lifestyle changes that reduce inflammation can help improve outcomes after implant removal. Reducing stress, following a natural-foods diet, and avoiding triggers like alcohol and excess sugar are all suggested following removal of the implant.

A Link to Autoimmune Disorders

More research needs to be done with regards to the link between specific autoimmune disorders and breast implants. However, initial findings do suggest a possible link. One study found that up to 26 percent of women with implants develop an autoimmune disorder. Other women, however, experience many of the symptoms without a formal diagnosis, and researchers haven’t confirmed that the implants cause the disorders or the symptoms. Nonetheless, a woman with silicone implants is eight times more likely to be diagnosed with Sjögren syndrome and six times more likely to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Many women have compelling reasons to have breast implant surgery, but it’s important to be armed with information on possible complications. It’s also important before you undergo any surgery to enhance your immune system for faster recovery.

Need help or have questions? Give us a call, we are always here to help. 416-234-1888.

References:

Cohen Tervaert JW, Colaris MJ, van der Hulst RR. Silicone breast implants and autoimmune rheumatic diseases: myth or reality. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2017 Jul;29(4):348-354. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000391. PMID: 28379860.

Abdulla Watad, Vered Rosenberg, Shmuel Tiosano, Jan Willem Cohen Tervaert, Yarden Yavne, Yehuda Shoenfeld, Varda Shalev, Gabriel Chodick, Howard Amital, Silicone breast implants and the risk of autoimmune/rheumatic disorders: a real-world analysis, International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 47, Issue 6, December 2018, Pages 1846–1854, https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyy217

Hillard C, Fowler JD, Barta R, Cunningham B. Silicone breast implant rupture: a review. Gland Surg. 2017;6(2):163-168. doi:10.21037/gs.2016.09.12

Coroneos, Christopher J. MD, MSc; Selber, Jesse C. MD, MPH; Offodile, Anaeze C. II MD, MPH; Butler, Charles E. MD; Clemens, Mark W. MD US FDA Breast Implant Postapproval Studies, Annals of Surgery: January 2019 – Volume 269 – Issue 1 – p 30-36 doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000002990

These 10 Common Symptoms May Mean Your Hormones Are Out of Balance

Hormones affect every aspect of your wellbeing, from your appetite to your zest for life. Despite their large impact on overall health, hormonal imbalances can be frustratingly difficult to recognize. That’s partly because our hormones must maintain a delicate balance and even a slight shift can have negative repercussions.

Key Players in Hormone Balance

Think of your hormones as messengers delivering instructions to the rest of your body in order to regulate many things, including mood, appetite, stress levels, metabolism, sleep, sexual functions, blood sugar and more!

Many organs are involved in maintaining hormone balance. The hypothalamus, a small region in your brain, sends signals to your endocrine system, which controls the secretion of hormones. The endocrine system contains the adrenals, hypothalamus, ovaries, testes, parathyroid, pineal and pituitary glands.

When these glands receive a signal from the hypothalamus, they react by releasing hormones. For example, if your brain perceives a threat, your hypothalamus tells your adrenal and pituitary glands to secrete the “stress hormones” adrenaline and cortisol. This dynamic is sometimes called the HPA axis and it has far-reaching effects on your body. Those hormones tell your heart to speed up, your muscles to tense, your breathing to quicken, and your liver to release more glucose for extra energy. Those responses likely served us well way back in history, when we were more likely to be under an actual attack, because they primed our “flight or fight” response. Today, however, stress is often more chronic, and we’re not typically able to flee or fight the stressors. Instead, the long-term effects continue to take a toll.

Who Is at Risk and Why?

We all experience some hormonal imbalances over the course of a lifetime, but certain developmental stages raise the risk. Puberty is one obvious stage when hormones are sometimes wildly out of balance because the ovaries and testes receive signals to start producing more hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and growth hormone. Middle age ushers in a new era of hormonal changes. For women, the production of estrogen starts to slow with the transition to menopause. For many women, however, this isn’t a smooth decrease in hormone production, but rather, something that occurs in fits and starts, which can make symptoms harder to manage.

Men aren’t immune from midlife hormone imbalances. Around the age of 40, men’s level of androgens (“male” hormones like testosterone) starts to decline by about one percent a year.

Outside of age-related hormonal changes, other factors can lead to hormone imbalance, including stress, disordered eating, nutritional deficiencies, medication, exposure to toxins, birth control pills, and many medical conditions.

Top 10 Signs of Hormone Imbalance

1- Bad PMS
Wild mood swings. Unexplained sadness. Disabling irritability. Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, isn’t much fun, and hormones are to blame. PMS is caused by the drop in estrogen and progesterone that occurs in the second half of the menstrual cycle. Low estrogen and progesterone levels can lead to a decrease in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in mood stabilization.

2 – Mood swings
Many hormones influence our moods, including norepinephrine and epinephrine, testosterone, and oxytocin, so it is not surprising that fluctuating hormones can lead to an emotional rollercoaster, for all genders.

3 – Fatigue
Hormones play an important role in energy levels, so an imbalance often leads to unexplained fatigue. A decrease in thyroid hormone in particular can lead to extreme tiredness. And decreases in another hormone, progesterone, can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

4 – Low sex drive
Lower levels of estrogen in women and testosterone in men often lead to a loss of libido.

5 – Irregular periods
Low levels of estrogen and difficulties with thyroid hormone levels can lead to periods that don’t follow a regular 28-day cycle. As women enter the perimenopause stage, this often becomes more pronounced, and the timing of their periods becomes difficult to predict.

6 – Weight fluctuations
Anyone who struggles to control their weight, despite conscientious exercise and careful calorie control, should have their hormone levels checked. The impact of hormones on weight is complex, and can involve ghrelin, cortisol, insulin, thyroid hormone, and leptin. Imbalances with just one of these can easily derail weight-control.

7 – Food cravings
Studies (and plenty of anecdotal evidence) suggest that hormonal fluctuations, particularly those tied to the menstrual cycle, lead to cravings for sweet and high-carb foods. Stress hormones can also play a role, as they send signals to your body that it needs more energy to fight the perceived stress. The “pleasure” hormones like dopamine can also contribute, as your body seeks to repeat the temporary feelings of satisfaction from eating certain foods.

8 – Brain fog
That feeling of not being able to think clearly can be influenced by many hormones, including cortisol, insulin, estrogen and testosterone.

9 – Headaches
For women, low levels of estrogen can lead to an increase in headaches. Imbalances in other hormones, such as cortisol and thyroid hormone, can also contribute.

10 – Sleep problems
Disruptions in levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin lead to issues with your circadian rhythm, but other hormones also play a role in a good night of sleep.

Restoring Balance

As you can see from the above list, hormonal imbalances can lead to many health issues. It’s important to note their connectivity: Hormones influence each other in a complex chain. For example, a disruption in melatonin levels can lead to less sleep. In turn, not getting enough sleep can inhibit testosterone production, even in young men. It’s all connected!

These intertwined relationships point to the importance of taking a holistic approach to hormonal balance. Here are just some proven strategies that we use in our practice:

Maintain a healthy body weight.

Yes, this can feel like a Catch-22 when your hormones aren’t cooperating. Focus on whole, natural foods, centered around organic produce and high-quality protein sources, healthy fats, and whole grains. Avoid drastically reducing calories, as that can be counterproductive. Eliminate, or reduce, alcohol and caffeine, and processed foods.

Practice stress reduction.

Stress reduction helps stabilize hormones by minimizing the flight or fight response and its impact on hormones. Studies point to the success of meditation and other stress-reduction activities such as yoga or tai chi.

Incorporate exercise into your life.

Even simple walking can regulate hormone levels. Work with a knowledgeable professional to figure out what’s the best approach for you.

Minimize the use of hormone disruptors.

We’re growing increasingly aware of the impact of certain chemicals on our hormones. Some chemicals, for example, “mimic” certain hormones, which confuses the body’s response. Others change the way we process hormones, or change our sensitivity to them. These chemicals can be found in pesticides, many kinds of packaging, household cleaners, cosmetics and toiletry items, and more. It all points to the importance of becoming an informed consumer.

Investigate natural supplements.

More research needs to be done on the effectiveness of natural supplements to balance hormones, but historically, people have turned to supplements such as ginseng, black cohosh, evening primrose oil, and red clover.

Get tested and get balanced.

Your hormones have a profound impact on your health. Maintaining balanced hormone levels is one of the most important things you can do to enjoy a healthy life. If you’d like more information on testing and a tailored health plan to gain control of your hormones, reach out to us – we may be able to help!

References:

Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Effect of 1 week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men. JAMA. 2011;305(21):2173-2174. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.7109/

Bae, J., Park, S. & Kwon, JW. Factors associated with menstrual cycle irregularity and menopause. BMC Women’s Health 18, 36 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-018-0528-

Schwarz NA, Rigby BR, La Bounty P, Shelmadine B, Bowden RG. A review of weight control strategies and their effects on the regulation of hormonal balance. J Nutr Metab. 2011;2011:237932. doi:10.1155/2011/237932

Benton D, Young HA. Reducing Calorie Intake May Not Help You Lose Body Weight. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2017;12(5):703-714. doi:10.1177/1745691617690878

Sudsuang R, Chentanez V, Veluvan K. Effect of Buddhist meditation on serum cortisol and total protein levels, blood pressure, pulse rate, lung volume and reaction time. Physiol Behav. 1991 Sep;50(3):543-8. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(91)90543-w. PMID: 1801007.

Menstrual cycle hormones, food intake, and cravingsSridevi Krishnan, Rebecca Tryon, Lucas C Welch, William F Horn, Nancy L KeimFirst published: 01 April 2016 https://doi.org/10.1096/fasebj.30.1_supplement.418.6

Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Bourguignon JP, Giudice LC, et al. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: an Endocrine Society scientific statement. Endocr Rev. 2009;30(4):293-342. doi:10.1210/er.2009-0002

Mail-Based Intervention for Sarcopenia Prevention Increased Anabolic Hormone and Skeletal Muscle Mass in Community-Dwelling Japanese Older Adults: The INE (Intervention by Nutrition and Exercise) Study, Minoru Yamada 1, Shu Nishiguchi 2, Naoto Fukutani 2, Tomoki Aoyama 2, Hidenori Arai DOI: 10.1016/j.jamda.2015.02.017

What is a Blood Sugar Imbalance Doing to Your Health?

Are you noticing more stubborn belly fat? Experiencing wild sugar cravings? Constant fatigue and sudden crashes in energy? It could be because of a blood sugar imbalance!

Our dietary choices and lifestyle practices play a huge role in either maintaining balance or spiking blood sugar levels. The number of people with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes is also rising rapidly in North America and it’s something we see in our practice more often than we’d like!

How Does Blood Sugar Fluctuate?

Carbohydrates we eat are broken down by the body into sugar, or glucose. This sugar is then absorbed into the bloodstream (blood sugar) to be used for energy. This process is regulated by the hormone insulin, which is released by the pancreas. Any excess blood sugar unused by the body for energy is stored in your liver.

It’s all smoothly orchestrated so that you have energy when you need it – as long as your insulin levels are properly balanced! But what if they’re not? That’s when we encounter blood sugar dysregulation and diabetes.

Signs Your Body is Crying for Help

A blood sugar imbalance can result in a list of symptoms that are often easy to blame on stress or aging. These include:

Excess belly fat: When your body senses high glucose levels, it secretes more insulin in an attempt to trigger your cells to absorb the excess glucose. Insulin also encourages fat storage, especially around the belly. Unfortunately, this can create a vicious cycle, since belly fat increases insulin resistance, so your pancreas then responds by releasing even more insulin.

Mood changes: Do you regularly “crash” after a carb-heavy meal? Or do you feel shaky, irritable or “hangry” when you haven’t eaten in a while? Mood swings, including bursts of manic energy followed by rapidly depleted energy, are often in response to fluctuations in blood sugar and a diet that is rapidly spiking blood sugar.

Cravings: Another frustrating irony is that excess blood sugar leads to cravings for more carb-heavy and sugary foods, further adding to the cycle of insulin production. This tells us that not only are blood sugar levels imbalanced but there may be an underlying gut issue as well.

Difficulty concentrating: Without the energy supplied by glucose, your brain cells don’t function optimally. As a result, concentration and focus suffer – but eating something that causes glucose levels to spike isn’t the solution, since you’ll be headed for a crash.

Thyroid trouble: The link between insulin and thyroid health is complex. Excess insulin can harm the thyroid. At the same time, a healthy thyroid helps control insulin.

Female hormone imbalance: Healthy female hormones depend upon balanced blood sugar. In short, excess insulin produces increased amounts of testosterone and belly fat tissue converts excess testosterone into estrogen. This produces increased estrogen in the body which results in too little progesterone. Since progesterone is a calming hormone, too little of it means women often experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, fertility issues, and more.

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

People with diabetes experience problems with the production of insulin and the subsequent rise in their blood sugar.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition which prevents the pancreas from producing adequate amounts of insulin, resulting in low blood sugar levels which need to be monitored closely.

Type 2 diabetes is considered to be a “lifestyle disease”. After several years of imbalanced blood sugar levels, the body develops insulin resistance where cells don’t respond well to the insulin being released.

How to Manage Your Blood Sugar Levels for Optimal Health

As mentioned, blood sugar dysregulation and type 2 diabetes is very much a lifestyle disease and certain lifestyle factors can greatly impact how well your body manages blood sugar levels. Here are our top tips for managing blood sugar for optimal health.

Avoid Spiking Blood Sugar with a Balanced Diet

The most important step for stabilizing blood sugar is to avoid food and eating patterns that can lead to a sudden spike in blood sugar. Different types of carbohydrates are digested and absorbed at different rates, based on a number of factors, including fat and fiber content, and the type of sugar the food contains.

Fiber slows the absorption of glucose, so including foods with high fiber content with meals helps stabilize blood sugar. Soluble fiber, which is found in foods like oats, citrus and many berries, is the most effective. Similarly, including protein with each meal helps slow down blood sugar spikes.

The glycemic index (GI) was developed to measure food’s impact on blood sugar. The higher the food is found on the index the faster it spikes blood sugar, while the foods found on the lower end of the glycemic index are more slowly digested and absorbed. Note that the glycemic index only applies to foods that contain carbohydrates.

A number of studies have found that following a low glycemic diet can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Following a low glycemic diet doesn’t have to be difficult. Along with including fiber and protein in each meal, it’s simply a matter of swapping a high-GI food for a lower-GI choice.

Be Mindful of Your Beverages

The drinks we consume have a big impact on blood sugar. That’s because drinks are easily digested, resulting in a quick shot of glucose. One study found that people who drink at least one sweet drink a day have a 26 percent higher chance of developing diabetes!

Choosing an alternative isn’t always straightforward, however. Be careful with artificially sweetened drinks, as studies have linked some artificial sweeteners with an increased risk of diabetes.

Fruit juices should also be limited because of its high natural sugar content — the glycemic index for fruit juice is very high, because it lacks the fiber found in fruit.
Instead, blend up whole fruit so that you get the fiber content, and be sure to add a source of protein and fat like nut butter or avocado.

Water is always a good beverage choice for managing blood sugar, since it’s important to stay hydrated so you can eliminate excess glucose through urination. Plus, when your body is aware of extra glucose, it pulls water from the rest of your body, increasing your risk of dehydration.

A Variety of Exercise and Good Sleep

Exercise helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity and making your muscles more efficient in their absorption of glucose that it needs for energy. Studies suggest high-intensity interval training is the most effective, but many people find it difficult to keep up that level of intensity on a regular basis. A combination of a form of cardio that you can maintain over the long haul, plus resistance training, is an excellent and sustainable approach.

Getting enough sleep is important to stabilize blood sugar, since regular sleep helps maintain hormonal balance and a healthy weight. Frustratingly, high blood sugar can interfere with getting restful sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene, including sleeping in a cool, dark room and limiting drinks of any kind before bedtime.

Helpful Supplements

Herbal supplements can also complement other treatments for blood sugar management. Cinnamon is particularly promising – plus, it has the added benefit of adding a bit of sweetness without sugar. Ginger is another supplement that is easy to incorporate into your diet. Other promising supplements include ginseng, probiotics, and aloe vera.
Always work with a healthcare practitioner, since many factors must be considered to determine the best form of supplementation.

The complications of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes are serious, and can include heart and nerve damage, kidney disease, and eye damage. Take steps now to understand and control your blood sugar levels – your body will thank you! Contact us to learn more.

References:

Stanhope KL. Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2016;53(1):52-67. doi: 10.3109/10408363.2015.1084990. Epub 2015 Sep 17. PMID: 26376619; PMCID: PMC4822166.

Adams OP. The impact of brief high-intensity exercise on blood glucose levels. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2013;6:113-122. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S29222

Colberg SR, Sigal RJ, Fernhall B, et al. Exercise and type 2 diabetes: the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement. Diabetes Care. 2010;33(12):e147-e167. doi:10.2337/dc10-9990
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Chen C, Zeng Y, Xu J, et al. Therapeutic effects of soluble dietary fiber consumption on type 2 diabetes mellitus. Exp Ther Med. 2016;12(2):1232-1242. doi:10.3892/etm.2016.3377

Vega-López S, Venn BJ, Slavin JL. Relevance of the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for Body Weight, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1361. Published 2018 Sep 22. doi:10.3390/nu10101361

Bhupathiraju SN, Tobias DK, Malik VS, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from 3 large US cohorts and an updated meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(1):218-232. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.079533

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes, A meta-analysis Vasanti S. Malik, SCD, Barry M. Popkin, PHD, George A. Bray, MD,, Jean-Pierre Després, PHD, Walter C. Willett, MD, DRPH, and Frank B. Hu, MD, PHD, Diabetes Care 2010 Nov; 33(11): 2477-2483. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc10-1079

The InterAct consortium. Consumption of sweet beverages and type 2 diabetes incidence in European adults: results from EPIC-InterAct. Diabetologia 56, 1520–1530 (2013).
Cinnamon Use in Type 2 Diabetes: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-AnalysisRobert W. Allen, Emmanuelle Schwartzman, William L. Baker, Craig I. Coleman and Olivia J. Phung, The Annals of Family Medicine September 2013, 11 (5) 452-459; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1370/afm.1517
James W. Daily, Mini Yang, Da Sol Kim, Sunmin Park, Efficacy of ginger for treating Type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials,
Journal of Ethnic Foods, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2015, Pages 36-43, ISSN 2352-6181,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jef.2015.02.007.

Ticks and Lyme Disease: What you need to know!

The warmer weather encourages everyone to get outside and enjoy the sun on their face but there is one creature who is waiting in the wings to greet us and our pets…the tick. Few pests inspire the level of paranoia and anxiety as ticks. They are small, making it difficult to feel them crawling on you and if not discovered quickly they latch onto your skin and suck your blood. Even worse…they also transmit diseases!

Thankfully, there are ways to minimize your contact with these pesky pests and natural repellents to ward them off.

When & Where Ticks Are Most Active

Ticks are found across all of North America and can be active year-round especially in areas with mild winters. However, they are most active in the spring and summer months and often well into the fall (April-September) as they prefer warm humid temperatures.

Although most common in wooded and tall grassy areas, ticks can also be found in your own backyard as they hitch rides on migrating birds in the spring making their way into city landscapes. However, you can breathe a small sigh of relief knowing that only a few of the 700 known species are found to bite and transmit diseases to humans.

Signs & Symptoms of a Tick Bite

Ticks can carry a host of pathogens that can cause human disease. Lyme disease is the most well-known, however ticks can also carry STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), and more.

Should you discover a tick attached to you, remove it immediately and if possible save the tick in a sealable plastic bag and store it in the freezer. This will preserve the tick and allow you to present it to your physician should you develop symptoms at a later date.

A small bump or redness at the site of a tick bite that occurs immediately and resembles a mosquito bite is common. This irritation generally goes away in 1-2 days and is not a sign of Lyme disease or STARI.

Should you be bitten or suspect you have been bitten by a tick, the following are signs and symptoms to watch for.

● Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes may occur in the absence of rash
● Rash
● The area may feel warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful
● The rash sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or “bull’s-eye” appearance

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, consult your doctor or health physician and inform them that you suspect you have been bitten by a tick.

What to Expect if You Have Been Bitten by a Possible Lyme Disease Carrying Tick

Although not every bite from a tick transmits this infection, bites should be evaluated carefully since early detection and appropriate treatment are critical in effectively treating Lyme disease and preventing the potentially serious medical complications caused by this infection.

Blacklegged ticks are hard ticks identifiable by their black legs, red-orange body, and black scutum, which looks like a dot on the upper half of its shield. Should you be bitten by this tick or any other tick and develop symptoms, your physician will perform a blood test to look for antibodies associated with Lyme disease.

Untreated Lyme disease can cause:

● Chronic joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis), particularly of the knee
● Neurological symptoms, such as facial palsy and neuropathy
● Cognitive defects, such as impaired memory
● Heart rhythm irregularities

Antibodies can take weeks to develop after a bite and can persist in the blood for months or even years after the infection is gone, however, not all blacklegged ticks carry Lyme disease so it is vital to watch for any signs or symptoms of illness such as flu-like symptoms (chills, headaches, fever, fatigue), redness and swelling around the bite, a bulls eye rash, muscle and joint aches – consult your physician immediately should they appear.

Treatments for Lyme Disease

The most common treatment for Lyme disease is a course of antibiotics, however, you can support your recovery with the addition of natural supplements and foods that may boost the immune system.

Immune Supportive Foods:

● Garlic – contains compounds, like allicin, that the body can metabolically transform to antioxidants
● Spinach – high in both Vitamin C, zinc, and is a good source of fibre which supports gut health
● Fish – salmon and other fatty fish contain high level of Omega-3 fatty acids and are rich in Vitamin E and astaxanthin (a powerful antioxidant)
● Berries – excellent source of antioxidants to help boost immune health
● Selenium-rich foods – tuna, halibut, sardines, turkey, chicken, or cottage cheese
● Vitamin C-rich foods – bell peppers, kiwifruit, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, mango, and citrus fruits
● Vitamin E-rich foods – including almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds

It is important to consume a fibre rich diet to ensure optimal gut health as approximately 70% of our immune system is in our gut. This allows your body to absorb the nutrient rich food you are consuming and allows for proper extraction which is your body’s natural detoxifier.

Try to avoid foods high in sugar, processed foods, foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids/hydrogenated fats, and any foods that cause you to feel unwell. This may also include allergen promoting foods such as gluten, dairy, nuts, etc.

To develop your individualized nutritional plan, contact us today!

Before and After You Go Outdoors

Before heading outside, there are four simple precautions and preventative measures you can take to protect yourself from ticks in your area.

Avoid areas where ticks are likely to hang out.

Ticks do not jump or fly, they simply hang out on a branch or long piece of vegetation waiting for a host to walk by. When walking or hiking in wooded areas, stick to the middle of the path to avoid brushing against long grasses. Avoid leaf litter and heavily bushed areas and when participating in outdoor activities such as picnics and sports, try to choose areas with lots of sunshine and low-cut grass.

Dress appropriately in bushy areas.

Wear light-coloured clothing such as long pants tucked into your socks and a long-sleeved shirt. This will allow you to see the darker-coloured ticks on your clothing before it makes its way to your skin. You may also choose to wear a hat and boots to ensure most of your skin is fully covered.

Use repellents on your skin and clothing.

Deet has long been used as a tick repellent along with Permethrin, however, both can be toxic to humans and pets so you may want to choose from the natural repellents listed below.

● 2-undecanone, which comes from the leaves and stems of wild tomato plants, bananas, cloves, ginger, guava, strawberries, and the perennial leaf vegetable Houttuynia cordata. 2-undecanone comes in both synthetic and natural forms and can be used on both skin and clothing.
● Essential Oils from rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, clove bud, thyme, neem seed, blue tansy, and geraniol. Essential oils can be used directly on the skin, and it is recommended to try a mixture of different oils to find which work best for you.

After returning from outside, inspect both yourself and your pets for any ticks that may still be looking for a free meal. Remove and wash all clothing followed by a cycle in a hot clothes dryer.

Stay Informed

The best way to enjoy your time outdoors is to use the above precautions and to stay informed on the level of tick-borne illness, populations in your area, and the types of ticks in your zone so that you can avoid heavily infested areas.

The following apps are available for public use to help track and identify ticks that may be present where you live.

● e-Tick: A public platform for image-based identification and population monitoring of ticks in Canada
● The Tick App – Your on-the-go tick expert monitoring tick populations within the USA.

Although ticks can strike fear in the most courageous of people, you can still enjoy the outdoors safely all year long by being prepared, avoiding long grass, heavily wooded areas, and leaf debris, and by being diligent on checking for ticks after your time outside.

If you have any questions about ticks, tick bites or Lyme disease, we are here to help – give us a call!

References:

Jordan RA, et al. (2012). Efficacy of plant-derived and synthetic compounds on clothing as repellents against Ixodes scapularis and Amblyomma americanum (Acari: Ixodidae) [Abstract]

Christina A. Nelson, Catherine M. Hayes, Molly A. Markowitz, Jacqueline J. Flynn, Alan C. Graham, Mark J. Delorey, Paul S. Mead, Marc C. Dolan, The heat is on: Killing blacklegged ticks in residential washers and dryers to prevent tick borne diseases, Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, Volume 7, Issue 5, 2016, Pages 958-963, ISSN 1877-959X,

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID), Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) – Tick Removal – https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID), Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) – Signs and Symptoms of Untreated Lyme Disease – https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms/index.html

Adapting to a Post-Pandemic World

Since the beginning of 2020, whenever we turned on the TV, listened to the radio, browsed social media, or even while speaking with our friends and co-workers we have been bombarded with COVID-19 information. Numbers of infected, numbers of deaths around the world, constantly changing restrictions, and more have flooded our minds daily. The once normal social activities we enjoyed participating in, were now considered unsafe and many of us were also required to work from home or lost our jobs completely.

A new collective experience of social anxiety has been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether you suffered from social anxiety before or you’ve slowly developed social anxiety since being isolated and distanced from others, returning to post-pandemic “normal” life can seem more daunting than the onset of the pandemic itself.

You are not alone in your concerns. Studies show that symptoms of social anxiety have increased significantly since 2020. The good news is, there are natural and effective ways that may help to manage and cope with anxiety that may allow you to make a smoother, at-ease transition back into society.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

To manage and cope with anxiety you must first understand the symptoms associated with it. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following symptoms, consult your healthcare provider or physician for clarification.

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, the signs and symptoms of anxiety can include:

● Feeling nervous, irritable, or on edge
● Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
● Having an increased heart rate
● Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
● Feeling weak or tired
● Difficulty concentrating
● Having trouble sleeping
● Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems

Over the last year, social anxiety has been front row-center as we have trained our brains to perceive people themselves as a threat due to the risk of contracting the virus. Fear of going outdoors, interacting with strangers and even fear of the air we breathe in proximity to others has been a concern for many!

As more and more have either already contracted the virus and built up an immunity to it or have become vaccinated, the threat ratio has lowered, however, our brain may not recognize the change and continue to ignite our fight or flight response.

Get Ready to Face Society Once Again

Before the pandemic, you may not have had to deal with anxiety and fear of social settings as you are now. You may also be feeling the pressure from work responsibilities, friends, and/or family to return to your normal routines.

If the idea of re-engaging with society is causing you worry, here are some tips to help:

● Get outside of the house every day. Go for a walk, go to the pharmacy, do the groceries rather than store pick up.

● If your workplace will soon require you to return back to the office, head to your place of work and walk around to regain that comfort and routine. The same goes for those attending college/university or children who attend school and fear going back to the classroom.

● Start socializing with others on the phone, video calls and gradually return to seeing them in person one at a time when you can.

Start off slow and steadily work towards the more challenging activities until you can feel comfortable engaging with others in society again.

Coping Strategies to Help Reduce Anxiety

There are many safe, effective, and natural ways to help cope with anxiety, whether you have been dealing with social anxiety for some time or if this a new onset of the pandemic. Psychologists note that avoiding these issues can have the opposite effect than what you would want and only provide a temporary sense of relief while in the long run actually lead to an increase in anxiety. So getting clear on what you can do to ease your anxiety and taking action right now is important.

Exercise

Exercise has long been known to benefit our overall health and no matter your age, current physical activity, weight, abilities, or size, even small amounts of exercise have been shown to reduce anxiety, improve sleep, reduce tension, and boost overall mood.

If you are unsure how to begin to increase your physical activity and are anxious about going too far from home, try these simple changes to your daily routine so you too can reap the benefits of physical activity.

● Engage in active family playtime. Any game that gets everyone up and moving counts!
● Catch up on household chores such as cleaning out the closet. Vacuuming is also physical activity.
● Mow the grass, go for a walk, or take a bike ride.
● Make television watching more active by doing jumping jacks or push-ups during the commercials.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation is a form of calming your mind to increase focus, reduce stress, ease tension, and reduce anxiety levels. It has been scientifically shown to help alleviate the chaos that can crowd our minds, especially when faced with a fearful or anxious situation.

Using meditation to ease anxiety takes practice as in the beginning it may be difficult to calm our racing minds while diving deeper into our inner selves.

Try these mindfulness techniques that can help ground you when feeling anxious and out of control:

● Deep breathing exercises. Breathe in for five seconds, hold, breathe out for five seconds. Repeat 5 times or until you feel more calm.
● Visualize calming places like a beach, the lake or somewhere you have fond memories.
● Keep a gratitude journal. Each morning or evening, write down 3 things you are grateful for. Reach for this and read back on your thoughts to stay positive.

Supplements and Natural Therapies

Many people turn to medication in an effort to manage anxiety but the reality is the side effects from medications can have their own impact on overall health. Natural supplements like adaptogens may help you cope, reduce depression, may help with sleep and keep your system balanced while you are working through new and past anxieties. Speak with your natural health practitioner to find out what supplements will work best for your unique body.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a derivative of the cannabis, or marijuana, plant and has been used as a treatment for a range of neuropsychiatric disorders including anxiety with positive results.

Unlike other forms of cannabis, CBD oil does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the ‘high’ causing substance of marijuana, therefore, it is an effective anxiety reducer without affecting mental function.

Smells and aromas have a way of triggering memories and many plant oils have a calming effect on our body and mind. Lavender for example has been shown to reduce heart rate in the short term and help to ease sleep issues in the long term.

Do Things That Bring You Joy

Remind yourself of all the things that bring you joy and can help soothe your feelings of anxiety. Watch a funny movie or TV show, read a good book, or learn a new skill.

If you have pets, they can be a great comfort and you can rely on them for emotional support and calm your anxious feelings. Plus, walking a dog routinely outside can help ease you back into socializing with others.

Set Boundaries & Goals

How you choose to reintegrate into ‘normal’ life is your own personal choice. You may be comfortable visiting friends in an open area such as a park, but uncomfortable socializing indoors. Make a list of what you feel comfortable doing and express your fears and concerns with your loved ones so they can clearly understand your needs.

Go a step further and record your feelings, emotions, fears, goals, and expectations in a journal or diary. Often when we see our thoughts on paper, they are easier to face and approach with a calm mindset.

Lastly, be open minded and allow yourself to be friendly (you never know if others are feeling the same way as you). While you need to have empathy for yourself and validate how you feel it’s important to understand that many people are dealing with this reemergence too and are equally anxious about what it all entails.

Can You Achieve an Anxiety-Free Return to Society?

Peer pressure exists in all stages of life so always remember you have the choice to say “no” when a situation makes you uncomfortable. Your optimal health and mindfulness are vital to reengaging with society, therefore, when feeling anxious or stressed, try the methods above to calm your mind and release your body from the fight or flight mode.

There are, and always will be, stressors in your life. Reengaging your inner peace by actively recognizing your anxiety triggers will allow you to focus on moving past them. Knowing your own values, fears, hopes, and future goals will help to set your mind on a new course allowing you to act on resolving your anxiety.

If you are finding your anxiety is increasing affecting your relationships with others, or controlling your life, don’t hesitate to give us a call to schedule a consult. There are natural ways to help manage your stress and keep your body balanced so these new stressors are not taking control.

References:

Bohlmeijer E, Prenger R, Taal E, Cuijpers P. The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic medical disease: a meta-analysis. J Psychosom Res. 2010;68(6):539-544.

Hofmann SG, Sawyer AT, Witt AA, Oh D. The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: a meta-analytic review. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2010;78(2):169-183.

Blessing, E.M., Steenkamp, M.M., Manzanares, J. et al. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics 12, 825–836 (2015).

Li-Wei Chien, Su Li Cheng, Chi Feng Liu, “The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Autonomic Nervous System in Midlife Women with Insomnia”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 740813, 8 pages, 2012.

Claire Thompson, Maria C. Mancebo, Ethan Moitra,
Changes in social anxiety symptoms and loneliness after increased isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Psychiatry Research, Volume 298, 2021, 113834, ISSN 0165-1781.

The Secrets Of Aging And Longevity

The search for the fountain of youth is as old as time. Here’s an idea. What if the fountain of youth is simply the sum of our decisions? If that’s the case, then the power to live long and well is (somewhat) in our hands! We can influence our longevity by making a daily commitment to healthy, longevity-based lifestyle choices. Research shows that only about 25 percent of our longevity is inherited and the remaining 75 percent is determined by the way we live. If the factors that influence the aging process are few enough to control through healthy living, we stand a chance at increasing our longevity by making the right choices.

Thankfully, evidence suggests there are a finite number of ways to influence aging. This means we’re not doomed by bad genes, nor can we rely solely on good genes to carry us through long and healthy lives all the way into our 90’s. We can, however, do certain things to increase our chances of getting there. So let’s get down to the conditions for living a long and healthy life. After all, what good is living a long life if we’re not disease and disability-free in old age? That’s the goal!

Why Do We Age?

There are many compelling theories on the subject of how and why we age dating back to antiquity. Some ancient philosophers believed in a version of the “rate of living” theory, which suggests each person possesses a mysterious “vital substance” that keeps them alive. This elusive life-giving ingredient was thought of as a predetermined, finite amount of heartbeats and breaths awarded to each person at birth to last throughout their lifetime. Luckily for us, this isn’t the case! However, the mystery of exactly how and why we age has yet to be fully solved.

Aging Occurs At The Cellular LevelFree Radicals

Evidence also suggests aging can be caused by free-radicals causing oxidative damage to cells. Free-radicals are the toxic byproducts of normal cellular metabolism. This creates a vicious cycle in which free radicals cause oxidative damage to cells, which in turn produces more free-radicals. This unavoidable side-effect of cell production leads to cell death, the result of which are the signs of aging.

Stress Is The Killer

All of the most compelling modern theories on aging point to cellular damage as the main cause for the deterioration of our bodies as we grow older. Both physical and emotional stress cause free-radicals, oxidation, and damage to DNA–all factors that cause cell death and aging. Stress has the power to lower our immune system, increase inflammation, and destroy the brain cells that are responsible for memory. This is because when we’re stressed our bodies produce cortisol, a hormone directly linked to causing cell damage.

It only makes sense that finding ways to lower stress is the best overall anti-aging remedy. Besides, why all the concern with living a long time if we’re always stressed out beyond belief? Incorporating stress-reducing tools day to day increases our quality of life, and that’s a top priority!

Physical And Psychological Stress

Both environmental as well as lifestyle choices can impact stress levels in the body. Heavy metals from polluted water, EMFs, chemicals, alcohol, cigarettes, and poor diet all contribute to the production of cortisol which means more stress.

People who suffer from chronic stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, and social isolation have similar damage in common at the cellular level. Studies show that stress shortens the length of a part of cells called telomeres. Shortened telomeres are a leading cause of cell death and aging.

The good news is we have some control over how we deal with stress. All we need is the awareness and the willingness to confront stress, and the right tools available to help us do so.

Holistic Stress Reducers

Living a stress-free lifestyle is the key to a long, happy, healthy life. The challenge, should we choose to accept it, is committing ourselves to reducing stress in our lives. Afterall, we can’t show up for life effectively if our minds are always clouded by stress. So what are some tools we can use to manage and eliminate stress, one day at a time?

● Meditation. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress by creating new neurological pathways in the brain. This makes new thoughts possible and helps shake us out of old habits. Taking a moment to quiet the endless stream of thoughts running through our minds allows us to take a piece of that tranquility with us throughout the rest of the day. Meditation makes a world of difference and doesn’t have to be intimidating! Even taking 5 to 10 minutes to center yourself before starting your day can be life-changing.

● Healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet full of fresh organic vegetables, whole grains, and nutrient-rich proteins is key to longevity. Eliminating sugar and processed foods is a must for anyone concerned with living long and well.

● Physical activity. Implementing an exercise routine is essential to mental and physical wellness. Physical activity releases powerful stress-reducing endorphins in the brain. Yoga is especially helpful, as it combines meditation with exercise, naturally relaxing the body and mind.

● Good sleep. Sleep facilitates the function of the lymphatic system, which can be thought of as the brain’s garbage disposer. While we’re asleep, the brain works 10 times as hard to remove toxins, like the protein build-up responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

● Limiting exposure to toxins. The effects of environmental toxins such as polluted water and poor air quality can seriously impact longevity over time. It’s been proven that people who live in places with cleaner air and access to fresh, clean water are known to live longer. Avoiding toxic materials, such as using plastic for food storage, is an easy way to start reducing toxicity in the body.

● Purposeful living. Living a purposeful life is the most important thing we can do to extend our longevity. One thing centenarians all have in common is feeling they have lived a life worth living. Studies show that people who live with a greater sense of purpose experience better quality sleep along with receiving the regenerative benefits of being well-rested.

● Gratitude. Practicing an attitude of gratitude is one way to ensure we live long and prosper.

A Note on Blue Zones

The places on earth with the greatest longevity are known as “Blue Zones,” and people who live there all have some major things in common. They tend to live with a greater sense of purpose and value healthy eating, exercise, and maintaining positive relationships with themselves and others.

Japan is the country with the greatest longevity on the planet, one out of fifteen-hundred Japanese citizens are over one hundred years old!
The answer is in the culture. Obesity rates are low, as the common Japanese diet consists mainly of plant food, fish, and non-sugar sweetened beverages. The Japanese value purposeful living and meditation is a regular practice among common people. Managing stress and living with purpose are the most important things we can do to increase longevity. The Japanese culture supports both, and the proof is in the population.

You Only Live Once!

As far as we know, this is our one and only life in this form. It’s up to the individual to tend their own garden by implementing life-affirming, longevity-boosting lifestyles to ensure this life is meaningful, enjoyable, and lasts a good long time!

The good news is we’re definitely not alone on the journey. If you’re curious about ways to increase your longevity and overall quality of life, give us a call. We may be able to help!

Sources:

Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, Gould NF, Rowland-Seymour A, Sharma R, Berger Z, Sleicher D, Maron DD, Shihab HM, Ranasinghe PD, Linn S, Saha S, Bass EB, Haythornthwaite JA. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Mar;174(3):357-68. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018. PMID: 24395196; PMCID: PMC4142584.

Schultchen D, Reichenberger J, Mittl T, Weh TRM, Smyth JM, Blechert J, Pollatos O. Bidirectional relationship of stress and affect with physical activity and healthy eating. Br J Health Psychol. 2019 May;24(2):315-333. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12355. Epub 2019 Jan 22. PMID: 30672069; PMCID: PMC6767465.

Tsugane, S. Why has Japan become the world’s most long-lived country: insights from a food and nutrition perspective. Eur J Clin Nutr (2020).

Alimujiang A, Wiensch A, Boss J, et al. Association Between Life Purpose and Mortality Among US Adults Older Than 50 Years. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(5):e194270. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.4270

Diggs J. (2008) The Cross‐Linkage Theory of Aging. In: Loue S.J., Sajatovic M. (eds) Encyclopedia of Aging and Public Health. Springer, Boston, MA.

Lints FA. The rate of living theory revisited. Gerontology. 1989;35(1):36-57. doi: 10.1159/000212998. PMID: 2656413.