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Thursday, March 17, 2016

What’s with the Craving?

The ultimate: donuts with ice cream and chocolate chips.
There’s not a single person in the world who hasn’t experienced a food craving. 

If cravings weren’t on the brain, advertisements full of tasty treats wouldn’t be plastered all over billboards, magazine covers, and t.v. screens. We wouldn’t base our next meal on “what we’re hungry for,” wouldn’t eat when we’re not really hungry, and where we’re going to eat and what we’re going to eat wouldn’t be part of the daily round and round.

Cravings can derail even the hardest efforts to eat healthy, lose weight, and live whole. They can make us feel defeated, overwhelmed, and at the bottom of the bottomless pit we sometimes turn into. But the truth is, there’s a reason and a purpose for that craving and if you know what a craving really is, why you have it, and how to satisfy it properly, you can control your cravings instead of letting them control you. 

What is a craving anyway?

A craving is simply an overwhelming desire to consume a certain food (and sometimes non-food) item. It’s your body’s way of telling you it needs something…a vitamin, mineral, protein, or nutrient to function properly. A craving can also have a chemical component to it which is why cravings are more common when someone is depressed or emotionally upset.

Your body stores an impression of everything you’ve ever eaten – every flavor, texture, and chemical make-up of what’s gone into your mouth. If your diet isn’t full of a wide variety of nutrients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and quality protein, and flavors (beyond salty and sweet), it will crave the only source it knows of to obtain what it needs…brownies, cookies, chips, anything fried, and everything bad. 
Because these foods only contain a trace amount of what your body really needs, you have to consume more to satisfy it. For example, one serving of butternut squash might supply you with your entire day’s need of magnesium but it would take an entire box of chocolate brownies to give you a fraction of the daily requirement. 
This is why you go through a whole bag of chips before you feel “satisfied” and why that craving comes back the next day. This is why you’re told to satisfy your craving with something “healthy” because it will take less of that healthy food to make you feel full and turn that craving off. 

What’s really causing my craving?

Now that you know a craving means you’re lacking something in your diet, how do you figure out what you’re lacking? Good question and it’s one your regular doctor can’t answer for you unless you have a deficiency big enough to come up on a lab test. So we’ll spell this out naturopath style. 
Below is a list of the biggest craving causes and how to satisfy them with healthy options you can choose to kick a craving so you don’t demolish a bag of chips or batch of cookies. And your waistline? Let’s just say it won’t be expanding any time soon.
  • Craving chocolate? Chocolate cravings are associated with deficiencies in magnesium and copper. Around “that time of the month,” the body uses up more magnesium which is why many women experience PMS and chocolate cravings.To curb the craving, try a magnesium supplement, eat more yellow foods like butternut squash, (Non-GMO corn if you’re into that sort of thing), apples, apricots, bananas, and nuts (especially around “that time of the month” where your body requires extra magnesium). Still want some chocolate? Substitute with carob or add a teaspoon of raw cacao to a smoothie.
  • Craving tortilla chips? Your might be deficient in magnesium.
  • Craving all thing dairy like, milk, cheese, ice cream, or pizza? Your body is telling you it needs calcium.
  • Craving nuts? Your might need more essential fatty acids, protein, or healthy sodium.
  • Craving salt? Your body is craving healthy sodium (which is naturally rich in iodine) and attempting to restore balance within your body. Avoid table salt and opt for Himalayan salt or celery juice, which is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to satisfy a salt craving.
  • Sweet and sour cravings? We’re talking pickles, lemons, limes, or a combination of sour on sweet. These cravings are associated with liver congestion. The simple fix is to add lemon to your water on a regular basis.
  • Craving sugar and starches? These cravings can be caused by any number of things, the most common being a candida (yeast) overgrowth, a neurotransmitter (often serotonin) imbalance, and a lack of glucose from good complex carbs. If you crave sugar while studying, it’s because the brain burns glucose for energy. If you crave sugar after chow’n down on some chips, it’s because you ate too much salt.
    Instead of grabbing the sugar, try eating carrots or a piece of fruit and wait 15 minutes to see if the craving goes away. Invest in a good probiotic. Up the fiber. Do a candida cleanse. Make sure your diet contains adequate amounts of protein. Exercise to properly regulate your neurotransmitters, and incorporate healthy carbohydrates into your diet so you’re less likely to binge on the empty ones.
  • Craving dirt? A dirt craving is often associated with a deficiency in trace minerals and is very common during the third trimester of pregnancy. Make sure you’re getting adequate fruits and vegetables and invest in a trace mineral supplement. If you have your own organic garden, pull a carrot up from the soil and eat it without washing.
  • Craving fried foods? This is a sheer sign your diet is lacking good fats. Ditch the “taste good but bad for you” fried foods and up the olives, avocado, coconut, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils.
  •  Craving spicy foods? A spicy food craving is associated with a thyroid imbalance or sulfur deficiency. Eat garlic, horse-radish, curry, cayenne, etc. and make sure you source organic.
  • Craving chalk? A craving for chalk is another common third trimester pregnancy craving and is associated with an iron, calcium, or trace mineral deficiency.
  • Craving caffeine? Your adrenals are exhausted or you have a neurotransmitter imbalance. Cut out the stress in your life and try licorice rootvitamin B5, and vitamin C.
  • Craving nicotine? People who crave nicotine often have unresolved emotional issues and a b vitamin deficiency.
  • Craving alcohol? You might have an L-glutamine deficiency (especially if alcoholism is genetic) and a neurotransmitter imbalance.
  • Craving meat? You might have a deficiency in protein (rare in this country), iron, amino acids, or phosphorus.
  • Craving ice? An ice craving is most commonly associated with an iron deficiency. Try to incorporate more iron rich foods into your diet, more leafy greens, or try a chelated iron or supplement that increases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen (required for iron absorption), like I-X or liquid chlorophyll.
  • Craving tuna? You might be deficient in essential fatty acids or protein.
  • Craving carbs after a hard day’s work? People crave carbohydrates and magnesium at the end of a busy day to calm their nerves. Take magnesium right before you leave work so you won’t attack the junk food and tortilla chips when you walk in the door.
Clearly, cravings are a big deal. We have drugs to chemically curb our willpower, eating support groups, constant struggles with our waistlines, obsessions with dieting, and we struggle to eat the way we should eat, even when a health crisis slaps us in the face. Hopefully this list will give you some direction on where you can turn (and what you can turn away from) the next time the monster cravings hit.

Friday, February 19, 2016

You can't be allergic to cucumber. Can you?

It’s just made of water and little bit of fibre, isn’t it? 
Cucumbers are actually made up of about 96% water, have only 5 calories per ounce and a small amount of vitamin C and trace minerals. 
Cucumbers are a healthy fruit from the marrow family which also includes pumpkin, courgette and other squashes which are also called gourds. They are creeping vines and grow low along the ground.
100 grams of cucumber contains:
  • Vitamin A        180 I.U.
  • Niacin             Trace
  • Vitamin C        9 mg.
  • Calcium           32 mg.
  • Iron                1.8 mg.
  • Phosphorus      27 mg.
  • Potassium        80 mg.
  • Carbohydrates 17 gm.
  • Calories           70
Bet you weren’t expecting the humble cuke to contain all that now were you?
Some of the reported health benefits include:
  • Cucumber is best natural diuretic known, secreting and promoting the flow of urine
  • Helps in kidney and urinary bladder disease, Liver disease and Pancreatic disease
  • The potassium content of cucumber makes it highly useful for conditions of high and low blood pressure.
  • Cucumber contains erepsin, the enzyme that helps to digest protein
  • The high silicon and sulphur content of the cucumber is said to promote the growth of hair, especially when the juice of the cucumber is added to the juice of carrot, lettuce and spinach.
  • A mixture of cucumber juice with carrot juice is said to be beneficial for rheumatic conditions resulting from excessive uric acid in the body.
  • Cucumber juice is also valuable for helping diseases of the teeth, gums, especially in cases of pyorrhea.
  • The high mineral content of this vegetable also helps to prevent splitting of nails of the fingers and toes.
  • Cucumber, radish and bitter gourd are beneficial in diabetes.
So what is it about cucumber that might cause an allergic reaction?

What is oral allergy syndrome?

Oral Allergy Sydrome (OAS) is an IgE-mediated immune response, which is sometimes called a “true allergy”. The body’s immune system produces IgE antibodies against pollen; in OAS, these antibodies also bind to (or cross-react with) other structurally similar proteins found in botanically related plants.
So basically, somebody with hay fever to certain pollen may also react to one or more fruits, herbs or vegetables which have a similar protein structure. The body recognises the food as an allergen and can cause tingling around the mouth, lips and tongue.
People with hay fever to ragweed pollen may also cross react with: banana, cantaloupe, cucumber, green pepper, paprika, sunflower seeds/oil, honeydew, watermelon, zucchini, echinacea, artichoke, dandelions, honey (if bees pollinate from wild flowers), hibiscus or chamomile tea.
This reaction may come and go and be more severe during the hay fever season.
So, basically, yes you can have an allergy type reaction to cucumber but it’s likely to be caused by oral allergy syndrome and not be a true, life threatening allergy.
However, it is possible for someone to be allergic to just about anything, so whilst it’s very rare, someone could be allergic to cucumber. It’s far more common in Far Eastern countries.

Salicylate in cucumber

Cucumbers also come under the umbrella of foods containing salicylates which are chemicals which occur naturally in many foods, the skin of some fruit, tea and aspirin. If you are sensitive to salicylate you may experience wheezing and urticaria. Different foods contain different levels of the chemical. Visit the Anaphylaxis Campaign website for a full list of foods that contain high levels of salicylates.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Diet and Detoxification

Diet and Detoxification                                             RePublished By Juliann Schaeffer
This is a great article on the benefit of how clinical, functional medicine can have a positive affect on the body, in regards to detoxification. I wanted to republish this from the Registered Dietician's magazine to add validity to this practice, when done with an experienced nutritionist.

Detox: For one small word, it has a whole host of meanings, depending on who’s talking—and possibly what they’re selling. When a client reaches out for nutritional guidance with “detoxing,” he or she may reference a weight-loss cleanse marketed by a celebrity or maybe some simple information on juicing. Or a client may come to an RD complaining of general malaise or illness and wonder whether detoxing can alleviate the symptoms.

Whatever images of detoxing clients bring with them to a consult, likely they have questions about how a diet may work or how it may help them, and they’re looking to you for answers. Yet the topic of detoxification is a contentious one, not just among consumers, but among the RD community as well.

While debate may linger among dietitians as a whole, there are many RDs within the integrative and functional medicine community who believe today’s highly toxic environment necessitates a form of detox diet as medical nutrition therapy (MNT) that could benefit many individuals based on their exposure level, diet and lifestyle habits, and genetics. Dietitians refer to previous and emerging research that suggests specific nutrients play an integral role in the detoxification process, noting that many tenets of a clinical detox diet contain guidance quite similar to what most dietitians already provide each day.

The Debate
Some dietitians, skeptical of what they perceive to be fad diets, steer clients away from over-the-counter detox plans and toward whole-food prescriptions. Other RDs, many specializing in integrative and functional medicine, point out that proper detoxification protocols can help clients conquer any number of ills. 

Much of the debate surrounding detox centers on whether the body needs help flushing from its system any toxins (also known as xenobiotics, which refers to any chemical substance foreign to the human body), since detoxification is a natural human bodily process.

According to Marjorie Nolan Cohn, MS, RD, CDN, ACSM-HFS, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy) and the author of The Belly Fat Fix, the human body can eliminate any toxins it comes into contact with just fine and says RDs should warn consumers of the risks involved with such fad diets. “Detox diets are illusive and popular, but they aren't proven to do what they say they'll do—ie, flush toxins out of your system,” she says. “Organs and the immune system can handle detoxification on their own, no matter what you eat. The best detox is an overall healthful eating plan along with plenty of fluid that promotes regular trips to the bathroom.”

Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, HHC, an integrative medicine nutritionist who’s given presentations on the subject of detoxing, is a big proponent of assisting the detoxification process with diet and supplements, though she may agree with Cohn’s second point. According to Foroutan, while RDs may reject detox on the above principle, she says a proper detoxification regimen can look similar to an overall healthful eating plan, and that research exists supporting nutrition’s role in the detoxification process. 

In Foroutan’s eyes, the detoxification debate largely is an issue of semantics. “The term ‘detoxification’ has been co-opted and overused by nonscientific practitioners, self-educated consumers, and the media, resulting in the large-scale rejection of the term detoxification by scientific practitioners, including RDs who are weary of the term and the practice,” she says. “The problem is, when many RDs hear the word detoxification, they instantly think of the pop-culture version of detox rather than the systemic support of this critical physiological process.

“On the one hand, we have untrained health ‘experts’ talking about cleansing and detoxification in nonscientific terms, often in the context of products that make exaggerated claims,” she continues. “In response, practitioners meet these claims with appropriate skepticism, especially since detoxification pathways aren’t typically included as part of our RD training.”
But the insistence that there’s no evidence in support of detoxification simply is untrue, she emphasizes. “RDs need to better understand what detoxification actually is from a physiological perspective to be able to evaluate the research and understand the whys and hows of a medical detoxification protocol. Detoxification in medical terms isn’t synonymous with popular cleanses, juice fasts, or water fasts, though a medical nutrition therapy detox may include an elimination diet.”
Sheila Dean, DSc, RD, LD, CCN, CDE, an integrative medicine nutritionist and adjunct professor at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, agrees: “The words ‘toxin’ and ‘detox’ mean different things to different people. It means different things to the layperson and even among the scientific community, even within the field of dietetics. I don’t believe that there’s consensus and, in my opinion, it’s more about a lack of understanding than a lack of scientific research.”
Foroutan says that integrative and functional medicine RDs, and even the integrative and functional medicine community as a whole, largely agree about the benefits of assisting the detoxification process through diet, supplements, and lifestyle protocols. She even sees the beginnings of a paradigm shift in the general dietetics community. Whereas five years ago educational sessions at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) were devoted to debunking the myth of detoxification, now sessions on the topic address the specifics of “what is it, why is it important, and who needs it,” she says.

“While detoxification is still controversial within the medical mainstream, we’re seeing more sessions at FNCE aimed at the research to support detoxification protocols, so I think more and more practitioners will be looking at detoxification with less suspicion and skepticism, and more from a perspective of scientific curiosity,” Foroutan adds. 

Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RDN, LDN, an integrative medicine nutritionist and the author of The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health, who gave a presentation on detoxification at FNCE 2013, notes the importance of debate itself and appreciates the fact that RDs aren’t quick to accept any nutritional therapy without science-driven evidence. “Scientific debate is good, and I think there should always be debate whether it’s about detoxification or diabetes,” she says, adding that she believes more education is needed across the RD community on the specifics behind the detoxification process and the role nutrition plays.

“There’s absolutely research to support the use of detoxification protocols,” Foroutan says, noting that the human body is constantly in some state of detox every minute of every day. “Without being able to detox, you would die. So this debate isn’t a question of if detoxification happens or matters; this is a question of who needs additional detoxification support and who may benefit from it.” 

And this debate, as Foroutan and others concede, still is ongoing, as researchers evaluate how particular foods may speed up the detoxification process and test specific clinical detoxification protocols in clinical trials. There still are many unknowns, but that isn’t stopping integrative nutrition and other health experts from perusing what Foroutan says is promising research to date and translating it into nutrition counseling advice that could help many clients dealing with the myriad toxins they’re exposed to every day.

The Process
So what does the detoxification process entail? Spanning professional organizations and textbooks, the actual definition of detoxification varies slightly. But in general terms, detoxification is a natural process by which the human body rids itself of xenobiotics and endotoxins. “Physiologically speaking, detoxification is the primary biochemical process for removing toxins by converting non–water-soluble toxic compounds into water-soluble compounds that can be eliminated through urine, sweat, bile, or feces,” Foroutan explains, noting that these processes primarily occur in the liver and are influenced by genetics and the environment, including diet.  

In general terms, the detoxification process involves two, potentially three, phases. “Phase 1 enzyme activities include oxidation, reduction, and hydrolysis reactions during which the chemical [or toxin] is ‘activated’ to a more unstable, reactive form,” Foroutan says, adding that the cytochrome P450 is the family of enzymes responsible for phase 1.1,2
“Most pharmaceutical drugs are metabolized via phase 1 detoxification as well as endogenous toxins like steroids,” she says. More is known about phase 1 enzyme systems through research conducted on the metabolism of pharmaceutical drugs, she adds. This process creates an unstable intermediary metabolite (free radical) that’s further metabolized in phase 2, becoming a water-soluble molecule that can then can be excreted through urine or bile.1,2
In research that’s still under way, Foroutan says a third step of detoxification has been suggested “in which an energy-dependent ‘antiporter’ pumps xenobiotics out of the enterocytes, which would decrease the intracellular concentration of that toxin.”2 She says this is thought to provide additional opportunities for phase 1 detoxification to occur before a toxin reenters circulation via the portal vein.1

“It’s hypothesized that when xenobiotics enter the intestinal enterocyte, some get ‘effluxed’ or pumped back into the intestinal lumen by an ‘efflux’ protein, p-glycoprotein,” Foroutan explains. “Glutathione is a required cofactor, and the purpose is thought to provide additional opportunities for phase 1 detoxification to occur before the toxin reenters circulation via the portal vein.”1,2

“When the body detects high xenobiotic loads, phase 1 and phase 2 enzymes normally are induced so that more enzymes are present and detoxification occurs at an increased rate,” she continues. “However, some toxic compounds, like those in cigarette smoke and charbroiled meats, increase phase 1 but not phase 2 enzymes, resulting in high levels of unstable intermediate molecules that can trigger free radical damage. This increase in circulating free radicals may be part of the mechanism linking the cancer-promoting toxins in cigarette smoke and charbroiled meats to increased cancer risk.”3
Dean notes that it’s important to understand that xenobiotics include much more than just the obvious toxic offenders, such as cigarette smoke and lead. In fact, the past 50 years have seen tens of thousands of new synthetic compounds introduced into the environment.3 A simple look at a person’s morning routine shows the potential for being exposed to chemical compounds in deodorant, shampoo, and makeup, not to mention artificial substances and heavy metals ingested through food or chemicals inhaled through air-sanitizing products or air pollutants.

Much of the details of just how these toxins affect the human body still is to come, but in a January 2011 article in Human and Experimental Toxicology, Stephen Genuis, MD, a clinical professor at the University of Alberta and a key researcher of toxins and detoxification explains the potential health implications: “There is compelling evidence that various chemical agents are important determinants of myriad health afflictions—several xenobiotics have the potential to disrupt reproductive, developmental, and neurological processes, and some agents in common use have carcinogenic, epigenetic, endocrine-disrupting, and immune-altering action. Some toxicants appear to have biological effects at miniscule levels, and certain chemical compounds are persistent and bioaccumulative within the human body.”4

This highly toxic environment, argues Mary Purdy, MS, RDN, an integrative medicine nutritionist, is in large part why the human body needs assistance with a natural process it’s been performing on its own for centuries. “I am well aware that our bodies are equipped with a system to eliminate the daily toxins we produce as well as some outside toxic compounds to which we are exposed daily,” she says, “but in this day and age, we are overloaded with toxic compounds—from pollution to pesticides to the myriad of chemicals in our household and personal care products as well as the plasticizers used in everyday food and nonfood items, the dozens of additives, preservatives, and other chemicals in our food.
“We have a significant body burden going on here, and I imagine a sort of traffic jam going on in our livers,” she adds, noting that a person’s genetic makeup (having genetic variations in liver enzymes that can decrease the body’s ability to detoxify substances) also may cause someone to have impaired detox capabilities through no fault of their own.5 

Nutrition’s Role
So the question is can diet be used to aid the body’s natural detoxification process? As Dean explains, the detoxification system already depends on specific nutrients from the diet, and although research on using specific foods in clinical practice to aid detoxification still is in its infancy, certain foods and nutrients have been found to be associated with the upregulation, or inducing, of detoxification enzymes, leading to more enzymes being present and a faster rate of xenobiotic detoxification.2 

“When something is upregulated, it's ‘turned on’ or activity is enhanced,” Foroutan explains. “And when it's downregulated, it's ‘turned off’ or blunted. So, in this case, upregulation of an enzyme pathway by a gene would mean more of that enzyme will be produced and secreted, assuming the proper cofactors are present in adequate amounts.” So eating certain foods has great potential to help facilitate or speed up the detoxification process, she says.
In general, B vitamins, glutathione (the body’s main detoxifying antioxidant), and flavonoids have been shown to assist phase 1 detoxification, whereas all major conjugation reactions in phase 2 require micronutrient coenzymes, including glycine, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), and B vitamins.6,7 “Phase 2 detox is dependent on nutritional status and genetic variability,” Foroutan says.

While a typical detoxification protocol recommended by integrative medicine nutritionists as MNT is based on whole foods, it takes into account the emerging and past research on how certain foods could help the detoxification process along, whether by speeding it up or making it more efficient. “Some foods upregulate CYP450 enzymes that regulate phase 1 detoxification; others provide fiber to bind to toxins within the intestine for elimination in stool,” Dean says.
For example, the phytochemicals that induce phase 2 enzymes can be found in cruciferous vegetables, onions, and garlic.8 Fiber intake supports regular elimination, which is crucial for excreting toxins through the bile and stool, Foroutan says, noting that brown rice fiber may be particularly beneficial in eliminating fat-soluble toxins. Turmeric/curcumin has shown promise in protecting the gallbladder and promoting bile flow,9 and research has shown the potential for pomegranate/ellagic acid in assisting detoxification pathways.10

Much research has focused on green tea’s potential benefits in detoxification, according to Purdy, and one study showed its particular promise in promoting the induction of phase 2 detox enzymes.11,12 Foroutan notes that research has shown promise for various other foods in assisting the detoxification process, including high-quality proteins, artichokes, watercress, cilantro, and apples.12

In addition, laboratory and animal studies have shown how supplementation may aid the detoxification process, such as with NAC and glutathione.13-15 “The former is the precursor to glutathione, and glutathione is the master detoxifier in the body,” Foroutan says. “Since it’s thought that glutathione doesn’t ‘survive’ digestion, NAC is recommended to increase glutathione stores.” She also says research has shown that milk thistle may support glutathione production and, as such, research has looked into its potential application in ameliorating long-term hepatic and cardiovascular effects of cancer treatment.16-18

Admitting that research on clinical detoxification methods, especially related to diet, still is in its infancy, Genuis says he believes nutrition is “absolutely essential for proper detoxification and optimal health. Endogenous mechanisms of detoxification are totally dependent on nutrient sufficiency to allow the body to carry out various requisite functions such as conjugation in the liver—requiring glutathione—and glycine to facilitate water solubility of various compounds.”
Even though nutrition’s role in detoxification is an emerging science and the specifics of what foods aid detoxification most (and how) still is under way, Genuis urges nutrition professionals, including RDs, to stay abreast of the research on this subject and use their nutrition expertise in a clinical health care team approach to address the complete picture of patients’ health, which he says includes assessing toxin exposure and aiding efficient detoxification processes.
“Sadly, medical graduates are not adequately trained to address the nutritional needs of patients, including those biochemical nutrients required for detoxification,” he says. “Accordingly, the role of nutrition professionals as part of the contemporary health care team to assess and advise with various matters, including detoxification, is paramount.”

Detox in Clinical Practice
When determining whether a detoxification protocol may benefit a client, qualified RDs often will assess a person’s toxic exposure and genetic profile with one or more of a variety of tools and tests. While an in-depth discussion of these testing methods is beyond the scope of this article, Swift says the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI), a validated evidence-based questionnaire,19 developed by Claudia Miller, MD, MS, as well as genomic profiles, heavy metal panels, and organic acid tests are some of the more common and useful screening and assessment tools used today. “A practitioner can request blood or urine profiles to test for specific toxic accumulation in the body, and gene panels can be done via blood testing or cheek swab tests,” Foroutan says.
However, Swift notes that the search for reliable biomarkers to accurately assess toxicity and chemical and environmental sensitivities continues.20

Encouraged by the research conducted so far, many integrative medicine nutritionists and other health professionals are including detoxification protocols in their clinical practice.21 Because research still is under way regarding the details of how food can be used as a clinical detoxification tool, no one detoxification protocol currently exists, leaving health practitioners to review the research and interpret how that translates to clinical practice. 

According to Foroutan, she believes there are many different ways to think of detoxification in terms of MNT. “There is the general advice for supporting detoxification pathways that can and should be done year-round, such as eating more cruciferous vegetables and high-antioxidant foods, choosing organic foods [to minimize pesticides and other toxins], drinking green tea and more water, establishing optimal bowel habits, working up a sweat regularly, and reducing contact with external toxins,” she says, adding that she believes this advice could benefit many clients.

For people who might have tested high for a particular metal, for example, she says a formal, short-term detoxification plan could be an intervention to systematically help the body release and excrete toxins. “For healthy people with moderate exposure to toxins, I typically recommend a targeted detoxification protocol once to twice a year during seasonal shifts—spring and fall,” Forouton says. “For someone who's tested for bioaccumulation of specific toxins, like mercury, lead, parabens, plastics, or other kinds of industrial products, or when there's evidence of hormonal disruption, the intervention may last for a longer period of time and would involve retesting.”

Certainly, detoxification regimens are highly individualized and should be customized to the client based on the person’s habits, lifestyle, environmental exposure, and genetic makeup. But at its core, detoxification is a straightforward prescription: “It’s as simple as R and R: remove and replace,” Swift says. “You look at what do we need to think about removing from this person’s diet, which are the foods that precipitate metabolic endotoxemia and adverse reactions [foods related to the Western diet such as refined sugars, trans fats, and saturated fats], and then what do we need to think about replacing those foods with [such as foods with fiber, flavonoids, and antioxidants along with lifestyle modalities that support the body’s healing potential].” Metabolic endotoxemia, as Foroutan describes, is a subclinical increase in circulating “endotoxins” that triggers an inflammatory cascade that has been linked to chronic disease, including diabetes.22
“There’s no doubt in my mind that certain foods can both impair and enhance liver function,” Purdy says, adding that her vision of a detox diet is “short term—about one to three weeks—based on eating healthful whole foods—eg, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, herbs and spices—as well as eliminating foods that may add to the traffic jam or cause additional inflammation for some people such as refined sugar and certain food additives or preservatives.” 
Based on the research to date, integrative nutrition professionals acknowledge there’s still much to learn about what an effective clinical detoxification protocol looks like as well as how best to determine which clients are in need of such. For now, health professionals interested in learning more about past and ongoing research are encouraged to seek further information from the Academy’s Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietetic Practice Group or the Institute for Functional Medicine (see Resources).

Safety Considerations
Foroutan says that eating detoxifying foods, beverages, and spices almost always is beneficial, but because of the lack of evidence-based, peer-reviewed clinical trials evaluating specific detoxification protocols, she says certain patient populations, such as pregnant and breast-feeding women, shouldn’t follow any vigorous detox program due to the potential for toxins to be released to the fetus or through breast milk. 

Purdy says this caution applies to young children as well and says nutrition professionals also should exercise caution when working with clients taking medication because this requires specific knowledge of drug metabolism. In general, further research is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of using specific clinical detoxification therapies among specific patient populations.21

Overall, however, the basics of a detoxification program are safe and can benefit almost anyone, Foroutan says. “I believe that anyone can do a detox if it’s just about increasing and focusing solely on eating whole foods and eliminating processed foods. That kind of diet will benefit everyone,” she says.
“I think it’s really important that dietitians not be turned off by the word detoxification but start embracing it, understanding that their programs likely are already supporting detoxification for people,” she continues. “It’s just a different way of looking at a healthful lifestyle. We always recommend whole foods and exercise, and so much of what we’re already doing can be considered detoxifying. 

“Detoxification is an important part of health and healing, and it can be supported by diet and lifestyle,” she notes. “The question for practitioners will always be: How can I help my patients feel better and be healthier? Detoxification surely has a role to play there because so many steps in the detoxification pathway are dependent on nutrient status.”

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Toxicology and Risk Assessment Conference:
• Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine:
• Environmental Working Group:
• Institute for Functional Medicine:
• University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine Program Detox handout:

1. Jeffer EH. Detoxification basics. The Proceedings from the 13th International Symposium of the Institute for Functional Medicine, Managing Biotransformation: The Metabolic, Genomic, and Detoxification Balance Points. Altern Thera Health Med. 2007;13(2):S96-S97.
2. Liska DJ. The detoxification enzyme systems. Altern Med Rev. 1998;3(3):187-198.
3. Nebert DW, Petersen DD, Puga A. Human AH locus polymorphism and cancer: inducibility of CYP1A1 and other genes by combustion products and dioxin. Pharmacogenetics. 1991;1(2):68-78.
4. Genuis SJ. Elimination of persistent toxicants from the human body. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2011;30(1):3-18. 
5. West WL, Knight EM, Pradhan S, Hinds TS. Interpatient variability: genetic predisposition and other genetic factors. J Clin Pharmacol. 1997;37(7):635-648.
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Monday, October 26, 2015

What's the difference between nitrates and nitrites?

Either kind of preservative can be added to meat to keep bacteria from growing on it, but once we consume them, nitrates are converted to nitrites in our digestive system. And what’s the harm in nitrites, you might ask?
In the human body, nitrites form nitrosamines, which have been associated with various cancers. In 2005, a study at the University of Hawaii linked consumption of processed meats to a 67 percent increase in the risk for pancreatic cancer. Yet another more recent study links eating too much processed meats to heart disease and diabetes. Interestingly enough, the researchers did not find that eating unprocessed meat at the same rate led to nearly the same risk. What’s the difference in the meats that contain similar amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol? The processed meats had four times the amount of sodium and 50 percent more sodium nitrite.
There are hot dog brands that claim that no nitrates have been added to the meat. A closer look at the label reveals that most of these hot dogs actually contain celery powder, which contains nitrates that occur naturally in said vegetable. There are, in fact, many vegetables that contain nitrates — beets, for example, as well as a variety of leafy greens. So are these nitrates any better for us than the ones put in artificially?
A 2008 report by the European Food Safety Authority states that there is no reported risk of eating high amounts of nitrates in vegetables. As a matter of fact, the benefits of eating those vegetables far outweigh the risks. The nitrates in those vegetables don’t have the same effect on our bodies as the ones that are artificially added to meats ­­because these veggies also contain vitamins C and D, which inhibit the formation of those N-nitroso compounds. On the other hand, some data suggests that very high levels of nitrate consumption can cause gastric problems.
So what to do when it comes to nitrate-containing food? Moderation is the key to success.
I also want to mention the rare but dangerous scenario of excess nitrates in food or water fed to infants, particularly infants who are younger than 3 months old. Excess nitrates can lead to nitrate poisoning, known as “blue baby syndrome,” where the nitrates in the baby’s blood build up so much that it prevents the hemoglobin from carrying oxygen to where it needs to go.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if you feed your newborn well water (as is the case in some municipalities if you formula feed and mix your formula with water from the tap), you should have your water tested for nitrate content, since the greatest risk of nitrate poisoning occurs in infants fed well water contaminated with high nitrate levels. (Nitrate poisoning is also possible when babies younger than 3 months are fed homemade baby food from nitrate-containing vegetables, but is less of a problem since you really shouldn’t be feeding a baby that young anything but formula or breast milk anyway.) The nitrate concentration of the water should be less than 10 parts per million.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

5 Signs of Hormonal Imbalance

Do you feel like something is just not right? You’re not sick, you’re not in physical pain. But something just isn’t quite letting you feel 100%? It could be your hormones!

If you’re eating more, sleeping less, and feeling frazzled and stressed out are your default emotions, even when things are going pretty good for you. It’s likely you’ve got a hormone imbalance. 

Symptoms do vary, and it’s best to check that everything is A-OK with your health professional before making assumptions, but if you’re saying yes to some or all of these five signs below, then it’s time to check your hormones:

1. You Feel Constantly Tired

Chronic stress tends to leave us feeling fat, frazzled and frumpy thanks to high levels of cortisol taxing our adrenals and fluctuating our feelings from being highly stressed to totally exhausted and no real in-between. When your adrenals are pushed to their limits, they start to protest and not function optimally, resulting in lethargy, low mood and a foggy head.  

2. Your Cravings Are Intense

If you’re finding yourself feeling addicted to chocolate, or constantly ravenous for all kinds of food (and drinks!), then your hormones may be playing up. High cortisol or insulin can cause intense urges for wine or sugar, whilst electrolyte imbalances caused by adrenal dysregulation may have you reaching for the salty snacks. 

3. You’re Putting On Weight Or Can’t Shift Those Pesky Pounds

You may be exercising regularly and eating really well, but the weight just doesn’t budge. Then perhaps you tried to overcompensate by exercises for longer and harder, and eating even less. But still nothing changed! Sound familiar? Your hormones play a key role in your metabolism and how much weight you hold onto. No matter how hard you workout, if you’ve got a hormonal imbalance, you’ll have extreme difficulty dropping those last few pounds. Balance your hormones first by getting the all clear from your health professional, then adopt appropriate lifestyle and dietary choices for your body’s needs. You may even need to exercise less!

4. You’ve Lost Your Sex Drive

Despite the media portraying women’s interest in sex as a psychological issue, estrogen is a woman’s main controller of libido. A dominance or low level of estrogen can result in a lack of sex drive. The same goes for low testosterone levels for men. Plus, if you’re stressed and not getting much sleep, it’s likely high cortisol levels are playing a role in this too! It’s no wonder sex is the last thing on your mind!

5. Your Mood Is Unpredictable

Moodiness is often labelled as PMS in women and seen as something we just have to put up with. Whilst we can’t always control nature, women who have balanced hormones tend to not have such extreme mood swings throughout their cycle. If you’ve cleaned up your diet and lead a healthy lifestyle, yet still find yourself swinging from high to low moods quite severely, then it may be time to check your hormones. 

There are many things we can do to keep our hormones happy such as meditation, yoga, reconnecting with nature, limiting caffeine, having less ‘screen’ time, eating healthy fats, reducing our intake of sugar, and getting adequate sleep. These changes take time so if you’re feeling overwhelmed with the thought of changing your lifestyle cold-turkey, try one or a few changes that you can implement initially and build on the hormone-healthy habits over time.

Reposted from:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Adrenal insufficiency and Hypothyroidism, interlinked.

Anyone who has seen ballroom dancing would notice how well they are choreographed, one person leading the other into an endless motion of grace. Your body works in this same synchronistic fashion, a dance that leads from step to step. When one step is misplaced the motion that was once graceful and elegant becomes horsey and clumsy into a free fall. Same thing happens to your hormones, a cascade effect from one hormone creates health, but when one is out of step with another it lead to long-term health issues. Issues that you may think are associated with one organ when really it's dependency of function is from all hormones. 

Same goes for the thyroid hormone and adrenal stress or insufficiency. The adrenals are little organs that sit atop your kidneys. They introduce the "fight or flight" or what we experience today, chronic cortisol release, that leads to a host of health related issues: including hypothyroidism, diabetes type II, cancer, heart disease.... the list goes on.

To understand the correlation between the thyroid and adrenals here's a study from 2006 that states that thyroid hormone replacement therapy is unwarranted if adrenal insufficiency is in action. Oddly enough I don't see enough of this correlation in treatment with the patients I see, they are automatically put on a thyroid hormone, based on test thyroid hormone results, without looking at the whole endocrine function and where it misplaced it's step. 

Reversible subclinical hypothyroidism in the presence of adrenal insufficiency.

To describe 3 different scenarios of reversible hypothyroidism in young patients with adrenal insufficiency.
We present 3 case reports of patients with adrenal insufficiency--one with delayed puberty, the second with type 1 diabetes and poor weight gain, and the third with hypoglycemia-related seizures and glucocorticoid deficiency--who had biochemical evidence of hypothyroidism.
Our first patient (case 1) initially had a mildly elevated thyrotropin (thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH) level and a normal free thyroxine (FT4) level that, on follow-up assessment, had progressed to persistent mild elevation of TSH and low FT4 concentration. The other 2 patients (cases 2 and 3) had low FT4 and mildly elevated TSH values at the time of diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency. In all 3 patients, the results of thyroid function tests normalized with use of physiologic doses of adrenal hormone replacement therapy, without thyroid hormone replacement. All 3 patients remained euthyroid after 4, 3, and 1 year of follow-up, respectively.
These observations add insights into the complexities of the thyroadrenal interactions. These examples are important because thyroid hormone replacement in the setting of adrenal insufficiency could be unwarranted.
When it comes to hormones, it's all about the big picture, this is where modern medicine falls down, hard on a cement floor. They look to solve the issue not deal with the underlying problem, solve the symptoms does not solve the problem it masks it, adding pills can create a host of other issues and side effects that lead to more pills and more side effects. 

For those that are on hormone therapy I would get your panel tested again WITH additional cortisol levels so that you can accurately see where the endocrine cascade has gone awry. 

For those who would like a little more holistic at the dinner table. Here's some good and not so great foods that you can intake to help with your hypothyroidism. I don't agree with adding more dairy but more Vitamin D supplements and foods, would be better option.

9 Foods to Avoid With Hypothyroidism

Foods to Avoid
Hypothyroidism can be a tricky condition to manage, and what you eat can interfere with your treatment. Some nutrients heavily influence the function of the thyroid gland, and certain foods can inhibit your body's ability to absorb the replacement hormones you may take as part of your thyroid treatment. There's no such thing as a "hypothyroidism diet" that will make you well, but eating smart can help you feel better despite the condition. Here are nine foods to limit or avoid as you manage hypothyroidism:

The hormone estrogen can interfere with your body's ability to use thyroid hormone, says Stephanie Lee, MD, PhD associate chief of endocrinology, nutrition, and diabetes at Boston Medical Center and an associate professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. Soy is loaded with plant-based phytoestrogen, and some researchers believe too much soy may increase a person's risk for hypothyroidism. People with hypothyroidism should moderate their intake of soy. However, because soy hasn't been definitively linked to hypothyroidism, there are no specific dietary guidelines.

Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, can interfere with the production of thyroid hormone, particularly people who have an iodine deficiency. Digesting these vegetables can block the thyroid's ability to absorb iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function. People with hypothyroidism may want to limit their intake of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, and bok choy. Cooking the vegetables can reduce the effect that cruciferous vegetables have on the thyroid gland. Limiting your intake to 5 ounces a day appears to have no adverse effect on thyroid function.

People with hypothyroidism may want to consider minimizing their intake of gluten, a protein found in foods processed from wheat, barley, rye, and other grains, says Ruth Frechman, RDN, a dietitian and nutritionist in the Los Angeles area and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Gluten can irritate the small intestine and may hamper absorption of thyroid hormone replacement medication.

However, if you do choose to eat gluten, be sure to choose whole-grains varieties of bread, pasta, and rice, which are high in fiber and other nutrients and can help improve bowel irregularity, a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Also be sure to take your hypothyroidism medication several hours before or after eating high-fiber foods to prevent them from interfering with the absorption of your synthetic thyroid hormone.

Fatty Foods
Fats have been found to disrupt the body's ability to absorb thyroid hormone replacement medicines, Dr. Lee says. Fats may also interfere with the thyroid's ability to produce hormone as well. Some health care professionals recommend that you cut out all fried foods and reduce your intake of fats from sources such as butter, mayonnaise, margarine, and fatty cuts of meat.

Sugary Foods
Hypothyroidism can cause the body's metabolism to slow down, Frechman says. That means it's easy to put on pounds if you aren't careful. "You want to avoid the foods with excess amounts of sugar because it's a lot of calories with no nutrients," she says. It's best to reduce the amount of sugar you eat or try to eliminate it completely from your diet.

Processed Foods
"Processed foods tend to have a lot of sodium, and people with hypothyroidism should avoid sodium," Frechman says. Having an underactive thyroid increases a person's risk for high blood pressure, and too much sodium further increases this risk. Read the Nutrition Facts label on the packaging of processed foods to find options lowest in sodium. People with an increased risk for high blood pressure should restrict their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Excess Fiber
Getting enough fiber is good for you, but too much can complicate your hypothyroidism treatment. Guidelines currently recommend that older adults take in 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Amounts of dietary fiber from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and legumes that go above that level affect your digestive system and can interfere with absorption of thyroid hormone replacement drugs. If you're on a high-fiber diet, ask your doctor if you need a higher dose of thyroid medication. Your maintenance dose may need to be increased if you aren't absorbing enough medication.

Caffeine has been found to block absorption of thyroid hormone replacement, Lee says. "People who were taking their thyroid medication with their morning coffee had uncontrollable thyroid levels, and we couldn't figure it out," she says. "I now have to be very careful to tell people, 'Only take your medication with water.'" You should wait at least 30 minutes after taking your medication before having a cup of joe.

Alcohol consumption can wreak havoc on both thyroid hormone levels in the body and the ability of the thyroid to produce hormone. Alcohol appears to have a toxic effect on the thyroid gland and suppresses the ability of the body to use thyroid hormone. Ideally, people with hypothyroidism should cut out alcohol completely or drink in careful moderation.

7 Hypothyroidism-Friendly Foods to Add to Your Diet

Eat Right to Support Thyroid Function
When you have hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, symptoms can include fatigue, depression, constipation, and other more serious health concerns. Fortunately, eating certain foods can help boost the effectiveness of your thyroid — a little butterfly-shaped gland in your neck with a big role in how well your body works.
The thyroid produces hormones that regulate mood, metabolism, energy levels, body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Hypothyroidism occurs when this gland isn't producing enough hormones. Along with taking your thyroid medication, you can bolster thyroid function with a well-balanced diet that includes lots of produce and protein, among other healthy foods, says Gregory B. Dodell, MD, an endocrinologist in New York City. The next time you're at the grocery store, look for these seven nutrient-rich foods.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish such as wild salmon, trout, tuna, or sardines make this food an excellent choice for lunch or dinner, says Virginia Turner, MS, RD, LDN, clinical nutrition manager at The University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. Unmanaged hypothyroidism can increase the risk for heart disease as a result of higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol. "Omega-3s are known to decrease inflammation, help with immunity, and lower the risk for heart disease," she adds. Fish is also a good source of the nutrient selenium, which is most concentrated in the thyroid. Selenium also helps decrease inflammation.

Another great source of selenium, nuts make a handy snack that you can take anywhere. They also go well in salads or stir-fries. Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts are all particularly high in selenium, which helps the thyroid function properly. With Brazil nuts, you only need to eat one or two; with other nuts, a small handful is enough to get your daily nutrients — and be sure to keep an eye on portion size, as nuts are also very high fat.

Whole Grains
Constipation is a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Whole-grain foods such as cereal, bread, pasta, and rice are high in nutrients in addition to fiber, which can help with bowel regularity. However, fiber can interfere with synthetic thyroid hormones, cautions Turner. Some people with hypothyroidism choose to avoid whole-grains altogether, but if you do choose to eat them, "the recommendation is to take your thyroid medication several hours before or after eating foods rich in dietary fiber," she says.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
An early symptom of hypothyroidism is weight gain. Low-calorie, high-density foods such as fresh produce are the cornerstone of every successful weight loss program. Include either fresh fruits or veggies at each meal, if possible. Specific foods such as blueberries, cherries, sweet potatoes, and green peppers are also rich in antioxidants, nutrients that are known to lower risk for heart disease.
However, people with hypothyroidism may want to limit their intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, to 5 ounces a day, as they can block the thyroid's ability to absorb iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function.

Seaweed has a high concentration of iodine, an essential nutrient for thyroid function. "Iodine is the precursor for the production of thyroid hormone," Dr. Dodell explains. Seaweed, packaged as nori, wakame, and dulse, can be used in sushi, soups, and salads. Another plus: Seaweed offers nutritional benefits of fiber, calcium, and vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.
It is possible to have too much iodine, which can worsen thyroid disease, Dodell cautions. However, according to the American Thyroid Association the likelihood of this is greater if you're taking supplements that contain iodine. Be sure to talk with your physician before increasing your iodine intake.

There is an association between vitamin D deficiency and Hashimoto's disease, the most common cause of hypothyroidism, according to a study in the issue of August 2011 issue of the journal "Thyroid". Fortified milk not only has added vitamin D, but also significant amounts of calcium, protein, and iodine. Because Hashimoto's may also lead to changes that contribute to gut issues like heartburn, foods such as yogurt with good bacteria may help regulate other bacteria, Dodell says.


An inexpensive and versatile food, beans are a great source for sustained energy, which can be helpful if hypothyroidism leaves you feeling drained. Beans contain protein, antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, and loads of vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fiber, which can be beneficial if you suffer with constipation, a common side effect of hypothyroidism. If you're new to beans, there are many varieties to try, all of which can be used as the base for entrées, as side dishes, and to enhance soups, salads, and stews. Just be sure not to overdo it — guidelines recommend that adults get 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day, but excess fiber can interfere with your hypothyroidism treatment.