Should You Be Avoiding Dairy? What the Science Says

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

Do You Really Need Dairy? The Top 3 Myths Busted

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

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

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

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

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

Why Are So Many People Low in Calcium?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is Lactose Intolerance so prevalent?

The Type of Milk Protein Makes a Difference

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

Genetic Differences in Human Populations

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

Loss of Diversity in the Microbiome

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

Milk is for Babies

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1014296
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25159495
https://asbmr.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jbmr.279
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/1769138
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524299/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962216301311
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28421381
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516387/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7302802/

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

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

Strengthen Your Immune Army This Fall

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

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

Why You’re More Likely to Get Sick in Fall

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

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

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

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

What are the Risk Factors for Weakened Immunity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What You Can Do to Support Your Immune System

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

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

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

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

Fruit:
Orange
Grapefruit
Watermelon
Pomegranates
Blueberries
Strawberries
Mangoes
Lemon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supplements to Support a Strong Immune System

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

Dreaming of A More Restful Sleep?

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

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

Why Your Body Needs to Sleep

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

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

Night-time Functions

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

The Physical Toll of Not Sleeping Well

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

A Vicious Cycle: Sleep Loss Worsens Existing Health Conditions

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

Sleep Loss Affects Immune Health

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

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

Sleep Loss Affects Menopause

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

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

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

Sleep Loss Affects Inflammation

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

Sleep Loss Affects Excess Weight

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

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

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

9 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Sleep Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Sleeping Properly? We Can Help!

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Your Gut Calling All The Shots?

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

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

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

Why is Sugar Bad for Your Microbiome?

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

A Balanced Microbiome

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

Candida & Cravings

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

The Worst Dietary Sugars For Your Gut

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

4 Ways an Unbalanced Microbiome can Affect Your Health

1 – Leaky Gut Syndrome

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

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

2 – Autoimmune Conditions

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

3 – Food Sensitivities

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

4 – Depression & Low Mood

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

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

How to Bring a Sugar-Influenced Microbiome Back into Balance

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

Fight Back Against Sugar Cravings

Say No to Your Little Friends

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

Identify Sugar Triggers

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

Feed Your Healthy Gut Bacteria

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

Prebiotics

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

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

Add Probiotic Foods To Your Diet

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

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

Starve the Bad Bacteria

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

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

Eat Mindfully

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

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

Reduce Mealtime Stress

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

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

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

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

References:

Azpiroz, F., Dubray, C., Bernalier-Donadille, A., Cardot, J.M., Accarino, A., Serra, J., … Dapoigny, M.
(2017). Effects of scFOS on the composition of fecal microbiota and anxiety in patients with irritable
bowel syndrome: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study. Neurogastroenterology &
Motility, 29(2).

Gibson PR. Use of the low-FODMAP diet in inflammatory bowel disease. J Gastroenterol Hepatol.
2017;32 Suppl 1:40-42. doi:10.1111/jgh.13695

Jang C, Hui S, Lu W, et al. The Small Intestine Converts Dietary Fructose into Glucose and Organic
Acids. Cell Metab. 2018;27(2):351-361.e3. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2017.12.016

Martin AM, Yabut JM, Choo JM, et al. The gut microbiome regulates host glucose homeostasis via
peripheral serotonin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019;116(40):19802-19804.
doi:10.1073/pnas.1909311116

Martinez KB, Leone V, Chang EB. Western diets, gut dysbiosis, and metabolic diseases: Are they
linked?. Gut Microbes. 2017;8(2):130-142. doi:10.1080/19490976.2016.1270811

Proctor C, Thiennimitr P, Chattipakorn N, Chattipakorn SC. Diet, gut microbiota and cognition. Metab
Brain Dis. 2017;32(1):1-17. doi:10.1007/s11011-016-9917-8

Rothschild D, Weissbrod O, Barkan E, et al. Environment dominates over host genetics in shaping human
gut microbiota. Nature. 2018;555(7695):210-215. doi:10.1038/nature25973

Townsend GE 2nd, Han W, Schwalm ND 3rd, et al. Dietary sugar silences a colonization factor in a
mammalian gut symbiont [published correction appears in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Mar
19;116(12):5831]. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019;116(1):233-238. doi:10.1073/pnas.1813780115

Wölnerhanssen BK, Meyer-Gerspach AC. Effekte von Zuckerkonsum auf die Gesundheit und mögliche
Alternativen [Health effects of sugar consumption and possible alternatives]. Ther Umsch.
2019;76(3):111-116. doi:10.1024/0040-5930/a001070

Is Rosacea Stopping Your From Putting Your Best Face Forward?

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

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

What Does Rosacea Look Like?

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

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

The 4 Types of Rosacea:

Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR)

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

Papulopustular rosacea

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

Rhinophyma rosacea

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

Ocular rosacea

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

What Causes Rosacea?

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

The Role of Genetics in Rosacea

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

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

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

Immune System

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

The Microbiome & Rosacea

Good & Bad Bacteria

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

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

H. Pylori

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

Demodex Skin Mites

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

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

Top 5 Rosacea Triggers and How To Avoid Them

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

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

1 – Foods and Beverages

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

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

2 – Sun and Weather Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

3 – Exercise

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

4 – Stress

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

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

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

5 – Environmental Toxins & Chemicals

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

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

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

Keeping Track of Your Rosacea Triggers Can Help Manage Symptoms

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

Rosacea and Self-Esteem

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

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

What Can You Do To Reduce Rosacea Symptoms?

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

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

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

Facial Skincare For Rosacea

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Heart Disease Gender Gap

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

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

What the Gender Gap Means for Women’s Heart Health

Women’s Bodies Are Different

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

Different Plaque Deposits

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

Dismissive Diagnosis

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

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

Less Risk Factor Screening

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

Different Hearts, Different Diseases

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

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

What Special Risks Factor Do Women Have?

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

Obesity & Smoking

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

Breast Cancer Treatment

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

Inflammation

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

Hormones, in Particular Estrogen

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

Pregnancy

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

Menopause

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

BHRT

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

How You can Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

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

Get Moving

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

Eat More Plants

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

Eat Good Fats

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

Nutrients to Support Good Heart Health

Essential Fatty Acids

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

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

Selenium

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

It’s time to prioritize your heart health.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Migraines Making You Miserable?

Migraines are more than really bad headaches. In addition to throbbing head pain, migraine symptoms include sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, dizziness and sudden mood changes. They can cause agonizing pain that leaves you huddled in a dark room with a cold cloth on your forehead for hours or even days.

Are you tired of unpredictable migraines derailing all your plans? Let’s take a look at what triggers migraines and key lifestyle changes and supplements that can help.

Who is at Higher Risk of Migraines?

Genetics play a big role in who gets migraines. According to research, migraine tendencies are hereditary – but your genes only speak to your risk of getting migraines. Lifestyle and environmental factors can determine which gene expressions are turned on and off.
So even if migraines run in your family, you may never typically experience one. But if you go through a period (and who doesn’t?) of high stress, bad food choices and too little sleep, a migraine may strike out of the blue.

Women Are More Likely Than Men To Get Migraines

Women are three times as likely than men to get migraines. Changes in estrogen levels are a key migraine trigger factor, so the fluctuation of a monthly cycle, the onset of menopause, or a hormonal imbalance that is difficult to predict can all lead to issues. It’s not surprising men are at a much lower migraine risk.

Common Migraine Triggers and How to Avoid Them

Migraines truly demonstrate the importance of personalized medicine. What triggers a migraine for one person, has no effect on another. Individual triggers are important to identify, but it’s usually a combination of triggers that bring on a migraine. Migraine-sensitive individuals have a ‘migraine threshold’ that can be met by numerous combinations and permutations of triggers. Once that threshold is crossed, the migraine is on its way.

Let’s take a look at some key triggers- see if any of these ring a bell!

Hormonal Changes

Changes in estrogen levels are key migraine triggers. Key life events that feature estrogen such as your period, pregnancy and menopause are all times when migraines are more likely to strike.

Low Estrogen

Low estrogen levels often go hand in hand with low serotonin levels, which can further contribute to a migraine by encouraging release of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Not to mention the wild mood swings.

Stress Related Hormone Fluctuations

Stress interplays with our hormone pathways as well, creating the imbalance that triggers the migraine. Have you noticed that you get migraines more often after a difficult day? You’re not alone!

Foods and Beverages

Migraine food triggers are as individual as people. Food Sensitivity Testing can identify your personal food triggers, so you can avoid them. Here are the biggest migraine offenders:

● Alcohol (especially red wine), coffee
● Processed foods
● Gluten
● Dairy
● Sugar
● Aged cheese
● Additives like MSG, nitrates or aspartame

Sensory and Toxin Overload

Avoid situations that involve bright lights, loud sounds and exposure to chemical smells. Paint, perfume and cleaning products are the worst triggers, as they contain hormone-disrupting environmental toxins.

Check Your Personal Care Products

Avoid chemical-laden personal care products and cleaners, and opt for more natural choices. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great resource for toxin-free living. Their Guide to Healthy Cleaning rates more than 2,500 cleaning products and their Skin-Deep Cosmetics Database rates over 87,000 products for toxicity risk. Don’t forget about sunscreen! Their 2020 Guide to Sunscreens is now out, featuring the safest sunscreens for sports, children, and moisturizers with SPF.

Weather Changes

You may notice you get migraines when it’s very humid, or on rainy days. Barometric pressure is the most common weather trigger, but you might also be reacting to changes in humidity, temperature, wind and sun conditions.

Limit Your Migraine Triggers At Any One Time

You can’t control the weather, but you can control how many triggers you’re exposed to at the same time if you know the weather is about to change. Some weather apps include ‘migraine forecasts’. Barometric pressure can change hours or even days before we actually see a storm. So, if a migraine strikes on a clear, sunny day, chances are a storm is brewing. Consider yourself an early-warning storm system!

Daily Routine Changes

Our bodies function best with a consistent food and sleep routine. Skipping lunch to finish that work project? Staying up late to do laundry? Skimping on your water intake?

Too much disruption to your ideal routine and migraines could result. Try to keep at least one routine consistent, and not change too much at a time. Add alarms to your phone to keep sleep and meals on track. Your body will thank you by not going in migraine mode!

Medications

When a migraine hits, you’ll do almost anything to make the pain stop. Pain medications are a common solution, but over time they can make your migraines appear more often, cause more pain, and last longer. The same goes for medications for other migraine symptoms like nausea and vertigo, and high blood pressure meds.

Preventing Or Reducing Migraines

Did you see any familiar triggers in this list? The tricky thing is that what triggered you last week may not trigger you this week. Here are some tips that may help you prevent your next migraine, or reduce its severity:

Keep A Migraine Diary

Keeping a migraine diary for one to three months will reveal your migraine trigger patterns. With so many potential triggers, it’s vital to know what combination of circumstances will push you over your personal migraine threshold. Apps such as Canadian Migraine Tracker, Migraine Buddy and Migraine Monitor make it easy to track your triggers. Paper diary templates are available too.

Yoga & Relaxation

As stress and migraines are closely linked, any relaxation practice like mediation, Tai Chi or breathing exercises will reduce your migraine risk. Regular yoga practice can help by reducing anxiety and upper body tension, improving circulation and promoting relaxation. A May 2020 study concluded that “Yoga as an add-on therapy in migraine is superior to medical therapy alone.”

A Nutrient Rich Diet

Which nutrients are effective for migraine treatment? Research shows that magnesium (a.k.a. the relaxation mineral) and CoQ10 supplementation can significantly decrease migraine frequency, duration and severity.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine also has much to offer migraine sufferers. Feverfew and ginger are both ancient herbal migraine remedies, and modern clinical research now supports their efficacy. Ginger also makes a delicious after dinner tea to help you relax and digest!

Don’t Let Your Migraines Linger Untreated

The longer migraines disrupt your life, the more likely that additional issues like depression and anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, constipation and chronic pain in other areas of the body may appear.

We can look at genetic testing to see if you’re at higher migraine risk, Food Sensitivity Testing to find your food triggers, and check your hormone levels to get the full picture. Get in touch with us and let’s work together on a personalized treatment plan with nourishing nutrients that will get you out of non-functioning migraine mode, and ready to face all life’s challenges pain-free.

References:
Migraine Canada
American Migraine Foundation
Migraine Research Foundation
Association of Migraine Disorders
Migraine Trust

Aggarwal M, Puri V, Puri S. Serotonin and CGRP in migraine. Ann Neurosci. 2012;19(2):88‐94. doi:10.5214/ans.0972.7531.12190210

Anttila V, Wessman M, Kallela M, Palotie A. Genetics of migraine. Handb Clin Neurol. 2018;148:493‐503. doi:10.1016/B978-0-444-64076-5.00031-4

D’Onofrio, F., Raimo, S., Spitaleri, D. et al. Usefulness of nutraceuticals in migraine prophylaxis. Neurol Sci 38, 117–120 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10072-017-2901-1

de Boer I, van den Maagdenberg AMJM, Terwindt GM. Advance in genetics of migraine. Curr Opin Neurol. 2019;32(3):413‐421. doi:10.1097/WCO.0000000000000687

Edvinsson L. Role of CGRP in Migraine. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2019;255:121‐130. doi:10.1007/164_2018_201

Ferroni P, Barbanti P, Spila A, et al. Circulating Biomarkers in Migraine: New Opportunities for Precision Medicine. Curr Med Chem. 2019;26(34):6191‐6206.
doi:10.2174/0929867325666180622122938

Ghorbani Z, Togha M, Rafiee P, et al. Vitamin D in migraine headache: a comprehensive review on literature. Neurol Sci. 2019;40(12):2459‐2477. doi:10.1007/s10072-019-04021-z

Gormley P, Anttila V, Winsvold BS, et al. Corrigendum: Meta-analysis of 375,000 individuals identifies 38 susceptibility loci for migraine. Nat Genet. 2016;48(10):1296. doi:10.1038/ng1016-1296c

Kumar A, Bhatia R, Sharma G, et al. Effect of yoga as add-on therapy in migraine (CONTAIN): A randomized clinical trial [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 6]. Neurology. 2020;10.1212/WNL.0000000000009473. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000009473

Maghbooli M, Golipour F, Esfandabadi A, Yousefi M. Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine. Phytotherapy Res. 2014;28:412-415.

Mauskop A, Varughese J. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2012;119(5):575‐579. doi:10.1007/s00702-012-0790-2

Nattagh-Eshtivani E, Sani MA, Dahri M, et al. The role of nutrients in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine headaches: Review. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018;102:317‐325. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2018.03.059

Pareek A, Suthar M, Rathore GS, Bansal V. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): A systematic review. Pharmacogn Rev. 2011;5(9):103‐110. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.79105

Wells RE, Beuthin J, Granetzke L. Complementary and Integrative Medicine for Episodic Migraine: an Update of Evidence from the Last 3 Years. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2019;23(2):10. Published 2019 Feb 21. doi:10.1007/s11916-019-0750-8

Zeng Z, Li Y, Lu S, Huang W, Di W. Efficacy of CoQ10 as supplementation for migraine: A meta-analysis. Acta Neurol Scand. 2019;139(3):284‐293. doi:10.1111/ane.13051

Are Your Adrenals Fatigued?

Carving out a home workspace, becoming a home-school teacher overnight – pandemic pivoting is tough. If you feel unsettled and exhausted, you’re not alone. But what if you were already feeling tired, stressed and overwhelmed before? Could your adrenal glands be part of the problem? While there is some debate about the term ‘adrenal fatigue’, we can all agree that stress levels are at an all-time high. People are burning out, and the adrenal glands are major players in the stress response.

Symptoms of Adrenal Overload

Does this sound familiar?

You wake up tired. Even after a full 8 hours of sleep.
You can’t concentrate at work, and rely on coffee and sugary treats to get through the day.
You can’t relax with your family in the evenings, feeling irritable, anxious and stressed.
You have trouble getting to sleep, and often wake up sweating during the night.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Whether we call it adrenal fatigue, adrenal dysregulation or increased allostatic load, what do labels matter when your life looks like this?

Let’s get to know your adrenal glands – what’s actually happening during adrenal fatigue and what can you do about it?

Our Bodies are Old School

What’s the key to understanding where our adrenals fit into the stress response? Evolution.

Our bodies are old-school, designed for a world that no longer exists. Back in the prehistoric day, humans were very vulnerable to predators. When we saw a sabre-toothed tiger coming our way, we had to be ready to either fight it off or run away. Immediately. This ‘fight or flight’ response is literally designed to save our lives.

These days there may be fewer predators to run from, but we feel more threatened than ever. And because evolution hasn’t caught up to our modern lifestyle, our body treats physical and ‘emotional’ threats equally. In other words, the same stress response is initiated whether you’re running from a tiger, or reading an unpleasant email.

The Adrenal Glands in Action

So what actually happens in your body when a stressor hits, and how do your adrenal glands respond?

Let’s say you have a big work project due next week, and all is going well. Suddenly an email comes in from your boss – your deadline just got moved up. You now have 3 days to finish a project you thought you had 7 days to complete. Even before you finish reading the email you notice:

Your heart is pounding
Your breathing speeds up
Your muscles are tense

The HPA Axis: What Happens in the Body When Stress Hits

How did this happen in mere seconds? Let’s look at that scenario again.

Within seconds of opening the email, your brain identified it as a threat and sent the ‘get ready to fight or flee’ instructions to the hypothalamus gland.

The hypothalamus sent the super urgent messages directly to the adrenal glands – that’s why you became a heart-pounding anxious mess in seconds.

The hypothalamus also sent less urgent messages to the pituitary gland, which in turn relayed it to the adrenal glands.

These three glands form a stress-response team you may have heard of: the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis.

The Role Of The Adrenals

What messages did the adrenal glands receive?

– Produce hormones (adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol amongst others)
– Release them into the bloodstream to get to the muscles and organs that can take action.

The Body’s Response to Adrenal Hormones

And what actions do these target muscles and organs take when they get their hormonal instructions from the adrenals?

– Increase heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar
– Dilate pupils
– Expand lung airways
– Redirect blood to the heart, limbs and organs

Makes sense, right? This lightning fast process gives us the immediate energy, oxygen and blood flow needed to fight or flee, and more peripheral vision to see threats.

We Are Over-Taxing The System

Here’s the thing: this system is built for infrequent, physical emergencies. Now we mostly use it for frequent, emotional emergencies. Or put another way: stress. What happens when stress is the rule rather than the exception and your adrenals are working overtime?

What Goes Up Must Come Down

When we keep asking the adrenals to produce and secrete their hormones repeatedly over long periods of time, the result is predictable: things start to break down. If we feel threatened or unsafe more often than not, the system that was designed to help us starts working against us.

Does Modern Stress Ever Go Away?

Herein lies the modern-day problem: when does the threat pass? Or does it pass? Many of us are living under nearly constant low-grade stress. The signs your body is looking for to dial things back may never truly arrive, so the adrenals are working much more than they were designed to.

This leads to exhaustion, weight gain, brain fog, digestive issues, low sex drive and a suite of other unpleasant adrenal fatigue symptoms.

Time To Step Out Of Fight Or Flight Mode

So what can you do to help your body get out of the flight or fight cycle and get back on track?

Find Your Threat Triggers

The best way to help your adrenals help you, is to figure out what you’re threatened by. This is a deceptively simple question, but an important one. We may think that we’re only threatened by truly life or death situations, but our physical reality says something quite different.

Keep a Stress Diary

Try this simple practice: observe yourself for a week to see when you exhibit the immediate stress response, and note these incidents in your journal (or the Notes app on your phone).
Because this complex response happens before you even think about it, it’s a very accurate indicator of what stresses you out. Do you get stressed when talking finances with your significant other? Getting a snarky email from a colleague? Talking to your child’s teacher?

It may not be an action – it’s just as likely to be a fearful thought. How many fearful thoughts do you have in a day? An hour? While reading this article?

Learn What Triggers You & Dial It Back

When you really watch yourself, you may be shocked to see just how many times a day you’re unknowingly putting yourself into fight or flight mode. The goal is to learn which situations trigger you, identify the stress response, and learn to dial it back once you recognise it happening.

Supporting Your Adrenals With Nutrition

If stress tends to get the better of you, what you eat can help. Focus on eating a diet full of vegetables and healthy fats, and low in stimulants like sugar and caffeine.

Supplements That Support The Adrenals
Certain natural supplements may help as well, such as:

Turmeric

Curcumin, the active element in Turmeric, is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, but has also been researched for its ability to support mood and depression.

Licorice Root

Licorice has been studied for its role in helping to regulate cortisol and improve energy levels. It’s important to note that licorice can increase blood pressure, so it should not be taken if yours is already high or you take blood pressure medication.

Vitamin D

Often taken for its role in supporting a healthy immune system, low levels of vitamin D have been linked to the overproduction of cortisol.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb which has been shown to lower cortisol levels when taken twice a day. Make sure that the tea, tincture or capsule you chose specifies Rosea, as other types of Rhodiola may not have the same research backing.

Get to The Root Cause

These mindfulness-based strategies can help you bring your stress response back into balance – but the reasons why you are feeling reactive may run deeper. Remember all those hormones that the adrenal glands work so hard to produce?

A naturopathic doctor specializing in hormonal balance can run the right lab tests to check your hormone levels, and work with you to create a personalized adrenal fatigue treatment plan that will move you from a habitual stress response to a more relaxed frame of mind. We can also help you understand how to support your adrenal glands with the nutrients they need to promote your body’s ability to handle stress.

Time to get calm, strong, and capable of handling whatever problems your day, or the world, brings!

References:
Dunlop BW, Wong A. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in PTSD: Pathophysiology and treatment interventions. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2019;89:361-379.

Dmitrieva NO, Almeida DM, Dmitrieva J, et al. A day-centered approach to modeling cortisol: diurnal cortisol profiles and their associations among U.S. adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013;38(10):2354-2365.

Liao J, Brunner EJ, Kumari M. Is there an association between work stress and diurnal cortisol patterns? Findings from the Whitehall II study. PLoS One. 2013;8(12):e81020.

Heim C, Ehlert, U, Hellhammer DH. The potential role of hypocortisolism in the pathophysiology of stress-related bodily disorders. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2000;25(1):1-35.

Buric I, Farias M, Jong J, et al. What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind-Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Front Immunol. 2017;8:670.

Panossian A, Wikman G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009;4(3):198-219.

Orban BO, Routh VH, Levin BE, Berlin JR. Direct effects of recurrent hypoglycaemia on adrenal catecholamine release. Diab Vasc Dis Res. 2015;12(1):2‐12. doi:10.1177/1479164114549755

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23832433/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21184804/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25723858/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19016404/

Strengthen Your Lungs to Improve Your Respiratory Health

It’s hard not to think about our lungs and how we can keep them healthy amidst all the uncertainty of this pandemic. Seeing our economies shut down and a global health crisis is something almost none of us have had to contend with at this level in our lives.

Best Practices For Lung Health

Understanding what you can do to help your lungs function at their best will help you in more ways than one so we are sharing some top tips you can do at home.

1. Practice Deep Breathing

Did you know that we normally only use about 50 percent of our lung capacity? Increasing the involvement of your entire lungs can help keep them healthy.

How Breathing Works
Let’s take a moment to really examine how our breathing works – and how we can improve it. When you take a deep breath, your diaphragm, muscles and lungs work in harmony to draw in oxygen. When you exhale, you expel carbon dioxide. You’ve probably noticed that taking deeper breaths has a different effect on your body than taking short, shallow breaths. You may also notice that stress tends to make your breathing more shallow and that taking deep breaths can be relaxing.

Involve The Whole Lung
Deeper breaths require greater involvement from more parts of your lungs. That means that the lower sections (where mucus can tend to collect) are activated and mucus is dislodged. Deep breathing has shown to be an effective way to support good lung function for patients with asthma and other respiratory disorders.

Diaphragmatic Breathing
What exactly does deep breathing mean? Try paying attention to the role your diaphragm plays as you inhale and exhale. It might help if you place a hand on your rib cage or at the top of your belly. You should feel your diaphragm rise as you inhale, and lower as you exhale. That simple awareness can help you to consciously expand your lungs.

Maintaining good posture with a straight spine will also help you do this – you want to give your ribs space to expand. As well, count slowly with each breath. It should take just as long to exhale as it does to inhale.

As an added bonus, this breathing exercise can help you to relax – and we all need more of that right now. Deep breathing can lower the production of stress hormones such as cortisol.

2. Exercise

Moving your body requires effort, oxygen and therefore deeper breaths, which can improve your lung capacity as well as supporting your physical health. Do whatever exercise feels good to you while, of course, ensuring that you are still practising appropriate social distancing.

Interval Training For Lung Health
Some evidence suggests that interval training can be a particularly good way to boost lung function, because alternating periods of exercise with periods of rest can help your lungs recover from the exertion as you continue to work out. As always, listen to your body.

3. Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water can help thin the mucus in your lungs. As well, proper hydration is necessary for maintaining good health overall so it should always be a priority.

4. Breathe Through Your Nose

Protect Your Lungs From Particles
Those little hairs in your nostrils are there for a reason, they act as filters to keep the air you breathe clean, and they warm the air to minimize the shock to your lungs on a cold day. Breathing through your nose provides a buffer which helps to reduce the amount of extra “cleaning” work your lungs need to carry out.

5. Laugh More

Yes, it seems simple, but laughing truly is a great exercise to work the abdominal muscles, increase lung capacity and oxygenate the blood. And let’s face it…comedy moments are the best exercise ever!

6. Clean Cleaning

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. If you’re not sure which products you should be using to clean your home, focus on not adding toxins into your environment but rather seeking out healthy cleaning supplies.

Natural Cleaning Products
Baking soda, vinegar and water have always been a tried and true cleaner, and there are plenty of more eco-friendly cleaning products available which use essential oils and natural ingredients. As much as possible, eliminate aerosol sprays and synthetic air fresheners which can be particularly irritating to the lungs.

7. Fresh Air Indoors

As the weather warms up, remember to open up your windows and let the fresh air in. If you live in an area that is busy with traffic, try waiting until night time to freshen up your house. Indoor air filters are another way to ensure the air quality in your home is optimal.

8. If You Smoke, Stop

Having healthy lung function is always important, but now more than ever we need to make sure our lungs and lung capacity are working at peak levels. Research shows that your lung function can start to improve as early as 2 weeks after quitting smoking.

We are living with a lot of uncertainty right now. Taking proactive steps to optimize your health is important and there are many things you can do to help improve your body’s resilience.

Wellness is achieved when the body is able to protect itself against imbalances, breakdowns, and foreign invaders. The human body has evolved powerful defense systems that help it to maintain optimal physical, mental and emotional states. Our lifestyle, past and current health issues as well as our ability to manage stress and trauma all play a role in our state of health.

Supporting our body’s innate ability to heal is not a short-term solution to a problem but rather a daily plan to stay strong and resilient.

If you are looking for help to get your health optimized and work towards your unique version of resilience and wellbeing, give us a call at 416-234-1888. We are here to help you.

References
Breathing study on adults with asthma: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32212422

Diaphragm breathing and stress: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/

Benefits of deep breathing exercises: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24937500

Hydration and pulmonary problems: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14681718/

Exercise and coronavirus: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200331162314.htm

Smoking and COVID-19: https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-covid-19-risk-and-smoking.html

Effects of quitting smoking: https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/benefits-of-quitting-smoking-over-time.html

Quarantine Cuisine: Eating to Stay Healthy in Isolation

Let’s start with the good news: If you’re self-isolating, you should have more time to devote to creating a healthy diet for yourself. At least, that’s the fantasy that many of us started out with a few weeks ago. However, terms like the “quarantine 15” and “isolation constipation” are starting to appear on social media.

It turns out that eating healthily and avoiding overindulging during a pandemic isn’t always easy, even if we have the best intentions.

How Emotions Affect Food Choices

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that we’re all human. It’s perfectly normal to be feeling a wide range of emotions right now, from hope to boredom, uncertainty to terror and even contentment – sometimes all within the same hour!

Many people turn to food when they’re stressed, whereas others can’t seem to stomach a bite when upset. All of these are perfectly normal reactions to a very unique situation.

The Role Of Cortisol In Comfort Eating

On the surface, it may seem that your motivation to dive into a plate of freshly baked cookies is that they are one of life’s few remaining pleasures.

But there are innate physiological reasons we reach for sweets when we’re stressed. When the body senses that it’s under threat, it releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. And cortisol has been tied to an increase in appetite. Some studies have found that the hormonal cycle (aka sugar high and sugar crash) created when we turn to sweets is actually addictive.

Sweet Seduction

On top of that, many people are turning to baking, both to avoid going to the grocery store and to stay busy. And if you’ve recently drooled over a photo of a friend’s perfect loaf of freshly baked bread you know that the seductive power of social media may also play a role.

Uneven Purchasing

In addition, having to limit our trips to the store can lead to an abundance of non-perishable foods like pasta in the cupboard, in contrast with a shortage of fresh produce in the fridge.

7 Ways To Avoid The “Quarantine Fifteen”

So, what’s a socially isolating person to eat in order to stay healthy? The most important thing is that you take it easy on yourself. Being overly self-critical can escalate the cycle of stress and overeating. Always keep in mind that we’re living through unprecedented developments. There is no “right” way to deal with these changes.

1 – Be Conscious Of Why You Are Grazing
It’s also useful to examine the causes behind any overeating. Do you walk through the kitchen every time you’re bored? Eat chips during your Netflix binge nights?

2 – Practice Mindfulness
Some interesting studies have found that developing a mindfulness practise through yoga or meditation can lead to better food choices. With its positive effect on overall wellbeing, there has never been a better time to take up mindfulness. One unexpected result could be healthier eating habits.

3 – Develop Soul-Nurturing Activities
Delving into activities that give you a sense of satisfaction can help replace the sense of boredom and want that leads to overeating. Look into rewarding pastimes such as fixing things in your home that have been on your to-do list, decluttering that long-ignored hidden shelf, sewing, knitting, felting, teaching your pet a new trick, or even building a raised planter to grow a unique mix of salad greens in the smallest of sunny spots.

Feed the need with self-pride instead of cookies.

4 – Shop Smart
Of course, you can’t eat food that isn’t in the house. So being more mindful of what you buy in the store or order online is also important. If you’re finding it difficult to stay stocked up on fresh produce, investigate produce delivery services in your area.

5 – Vary Your Sources
Local organic farms are a good place to source regular veggie boxes, or if those are not available look into new produce services that many local restaurants are running as a way to stay afloat. If you manage to stagger your shopping from different sources, you can improve your odds of having fresh produce when you need a snack.

6 – Plan For Nutrition
Becoming more conscious of your choices when you’re shopping will also help you make good food choices. Look for easy ways to add more nutrient-dense foods, such as:

● Greens to add to smoothies
● Alternatives to pasta such as zoodles (noodles made from zucchini squash)
● Roasting root vegetables and keeping some on hand (these tasty veggies have the advantage of a long shelf life)
● Try fermentation instead of baking (kimchi and kombucha are much better for your digestion than bread!)

If you’d like to continue baking, that’s great! Just keep in mind that you can find many gluten-free or health-oriented recipes online. You might discover some new favourites.

Keeping specific healthy meals and snacks in mind as you shop can help you ignore the less nutritious choices.

7 – Focus On Health Attributes
Knowing the physiological needs your food is meeting is another angle that can help you make good choices:

Foods That Support Your Digestion

Avoid “isolation constipation” by ensuring you’re consuming enough fibre. This is a great time to try new recipes with beans for example, which happen to also be cheap and easy to store. Here are some good recipes to start with!

Foods That Support A Healthy Immune System

Nutrients such as zinc and vitamins A and D can help support a healthy immune system. Foods rich in zinc include most seeds and nuts. Good sources of vitamin A include orange and yellow fruits and veggies as well as dark green leafy vegetables.

And of course, while we’re talking about immune supportive vitamins, remember to catch a few rays of sunshine to top up your vitamin D. You need skin exposure at the sun’s peak times to get your daily dose, that’s why most of us supplement this essential vitamin.

Aside from your diet, how are you holding up? It’s important to check in with others to maintain your wellbeing. If you would like to talk about ways to stay healthy while in isolation, give the office a call!

References:
Curbing weight gain from emotional eating: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137864/

Why we overeat when we’re stressed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214609/

Yoga and mindful eating: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5932774/