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arsenic levels in GF foods copy

Recent studies have shown rice can be dangerously high in inorganic arsenic, particularly rice grown in the southern United States. This is bad news for gluten-free people who eat rice-based products — one study showed people on a gluten-free diet have twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to controls (and 70 percent more mercury).

Although guidelines exist to minimize arsenic exposure (buy rice from California, eat white rice, wash rice thoroughly before cooking, and cook rice like pasta in a ratio of about 6 to 1 water to rice), what about rice-based gluten-free foods? It’s nearly impossible to know where their rice comes from, how it’s processed, and what the arsenic levels are.

Arsenic levels in popular gluten-free foods

Until now. The Gluten-Free Watchddog has begun testing arsenic levels in popular brands of gluten-free foods  which you can view with a subscription.

Keep in mind that what is considered an acceptable amount of arsenic varies. Codex, an international collection of safety standards, proposes a maximum of 200 parts per billion in white rice. The European Union proposes 100 parts per billion.

However, arsenic expert Dr. Andrew Meharg proposes a maximum of 50 parts per billion for children, who carry a heavier toxic body burden, and a maximum of 100 parts per billion for adults.

Arsenic levels in rice-based gluten-free foods

For results of inorganic arsenic testing on various brands of gluten-free foods that you can browse by category, visit Gluten-Free Watchdog  A paid subscription is required to access the reports. However, below are examples of arsenic level ranges in some categories of popular gluten-free foods.*

Inorganic arsenic in gluten-free breads

Inorganic arsenic in popular gluten-free breads ranged from 10 parts per billion to 40 parts per billion.

Pastas

Inorganic arsenic in popular gluten-free pastas ranged from 20 parts per billion to 150 parts per billion.

Cereals

Inorganic arsenic in popular gluten-free cereals ranged from 70 parts per billion to 280 parts per billion.

Miscellaneous rice products (rice bran, rice milk, rice syrup, rice cakes)

Inorganic arsenic in miscellaneous rice products ranged from 20 parts per billion to 540 parts per billion.

Rice

Inorganic arsenic in several rice brands ranged from 80 parts per billion to 140 parts per billion. (Brown rice has more than white rice. Gluten-Free Watchdog reports a brand called Mighty Rice grown on the island of Mauritius shows very low levels of inorganic arsenic in their tests.)

Factor in frequency and amount of consumption

It’s important to understand these numbers tell us the concentration of inorganic arsenic in each product. The frequency and amount of any item eaten and whether the eater is an adult or a developing child are also very important factors in the equation. For example, at 540 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic, one rice bran product looks pretty bad. But consumed in very small quantities as brans typically are, it may not pose as much a problem, relative to the other foods listed, as it first may seem.

It would be better if rice were not high in inorganic arsenic. Thankfully groups such as Gluten Free Watchdog are around to help us reduce exposures. Also, there is a group based at Cornell University working to shift the world to a rice farming method that uses up to 50 percent less water while increasing yields, thus saving precious water while reducing the amount of arsenic in the rice produced.

*Ranges included with permission from Gluten-Free Watchdog LLC.

By jules / stonesoup - par cooked brown rice, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10754808

Gluten-free folks accustomed to eating rice-based gluten-free breads, pastas, cereals, and other substitutes may be consuming dangerously high levels of arsenic.

In fact, a 2017 study showed people on a gluten-free diet consuming rice-based products on a regular basis showed almost twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to those who did not (and 70 percent more mercury, another troublesome finding.)

Why arsenic is harmful

Arsenic is a naturally occurring heavy metal. It is the inorganic arsenic (not bound to carbon) that is toxic to humans if levels ingested are too high.

Although inorganic arsenic occurs naturally, it also accumulates in soil and water due to pesticides and fertilizers. Because rice grows in water, it is the grain highest in arsenic.

Consistent exposure to small amounts of arsenic increases the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurological disorders. Consuming arsenic during pregnancy may affect the baby’s immune system.

Consumer Reports found one serving of rice pasta, rice cereal, and rice milk exceeded a safe amount of arsenic for one week while one serving of rice cakes came close.

The FDA recently proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal. However, it’s impossible to know how much arsenic is safe to consume as risk is dose dependent; the more you consume the higher the risk.

How to minimize arsenic exposure from rice

These troubling truths about arsenic exposure through rice don’t have to spell doom for gluten-free folks who depend on rice-based substitutes.

For starters, look for products made from other grains besides rice. Thankfully, there are many more on the market these days.

Look at where your rice comes from. In 2014 Consumer Reports found that rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas had the highest concentrations of inorganic arsenic while California rice has almost 40 percent less arsenic. Brown basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan has a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices. 

Unfortunately, because the arsenic comes from the water, organic rice may not be lower in arsenic.

Eat white rice (sorry!). Since arsenic tends to accumulate in the outer layers that are removed to turn brown rice into white, white rice contains less of the toxin than the whole grain.

Rinse your rice thoroughly and cook in excess water. Wash your rice thoroughly before cooking and then cook your rice in a ratio of about six cups of water to one cup of rice and drain the excess water after. This cuts down arsenic levels by about one third compared to letting rice absorb all the water during cooking.

Consider a grain-free diet. Many people feel and function significantly better on a grain-free diet. If you don’t eat rice-based products, excessive arsenic exposure is one less thing to worry about in a world where we are constantly at battle with toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

Ask my office for more ways to protect yourself from toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

By WikipedianProlific ([1]) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s an embarrassing subject we like to put behind us, but hemorrhoids can be a real bummer, with the pain of sitting butting into everyday tasks. Although hemorrhoids tend to run in families, certain measures can prevent your backside from continually taking front and center.

Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and rectum that cause pain from sitting, squatting, going to the bathroom, and other ordinary things. In addition to pain, other symptoms include bleeding, the urge for a bowel movement, itching, and irritation.

Common root causes of hemorrhoids

Fortunately, the most common cause of hemorrhoids is also the most preventable — a diet low in fiber. Most Americans eat less than half the daily recommended amount of fiber. And that recommendation has gone up — from 5–7 servings a day to 7–10. (A serving is a half cup of vegetables and fruits or a cup of leafy greens.)

Upping your fiber intake may be all that’s required for relief. Ideas to make eating more veggies easier include:

  • Prepping and storing veggies to add to meals
  • Ordering salads with meals when eating out
  • Making big batches of veggies soups and stews
  • Keeping a container “salad bar” in your fridge
  • Veggie smoothies
  • Snacking on raw veggies

Make sure to drink plenty of water and exercise regularly, both which are important for constipation prevention.

If eating lots of vegetables causes gastric discomfort, you may need to take digestive enzymes with your meals. Or you may have compromised digestion that require gut healing. Ask my office about ways to help repair your gut function.

Still constipated?

If you eat plenty of fiber and are still constipated, then you may have to investigate other possible root causes.

Thyroid. For instance, the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is known to cause constipation. Properly managing Hashimoto’s by addressing immune imbalances is fundamental to relieving constipation and hemorrhoids.

Brain. Poor brain function can cause constipation and hemorrhoids. If your brain is aging too fast or under functions, the vagus nerve  which runs between the brain and the gut, does not receive sufficient activation. An active vagus nerve signals the intestines to rhythmically contract and move food along in a timely manner. In fact, irresolvable constipation is an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease (although constipation does not always predict Parkinson’s).

Also, poor vagus nerve and brain function inhibit secretion of digestive juices and enzymes, which lead to constipation, as well as fail to keep the tissues and blood vessels of the rectum and anus healthy so as to avoid hemorrhoids.

Fortunately, we can jumpstart the vagus nerve with exercises such as gargling vigorously and frequently, singing loudly, or stimulating the gag reflex.

Gut. An inflamed, leaky gut with too much bad gut bacteria contributes to constipation. The gut has its own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system. When gut health is bad, the enteric nervous system does not function properly and constipation can result.

Additionally, poor gut health and bad gut bacteria impact brain health in a way that can, thanks to the communication highway of the vagus nerve, set the stage for constipation and hemorrhoids due to faulty brain-gut interaction.

Toilet pedestals and non-surgical treatments

If you haven’t caught wind of the “Squatty Potty” movement yet, take notice. Elevating your feet when you’re on the toilet so that you’re closer to a squatting position is said to help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. Also, be aware of non-surgical solutions for hemorrhoids, such as in-office treatments that use an electrical current.

A variety of factors can cause hemorrhoids, however it’s always important to address diet and health of the digestive tract, brain, and immune system when looking to manage the underlying cause. Ask my office for more advice.

It’s nice to think eating organic food and using “green” household and body products keeps us toxin-free. While those measures certainly help, the sad truth is we are nevertheless inundated with unprecedented levels of toxins in our air, water, food, and everyday environment.

Numerous studies link toxins with myriad health disorders, including autoimmunity, cancer, brain disorders, obesity, hormonal imbalances, and more.

Studies show humans carry hundreds of toxins in their bodies. The only reason it isn’t more is because of limits as to how many are tested. Children contain a higher body burden of toxins and toxins are found in umbilical cord blood and breast milk.

Though this is depressing, understanding the situation can help you better protect your body from the tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals in our environment.

Be aware of chemical sensitivity

Of course, we’d like our toxin levels to be as low as possible. However, it’s even more important that you do not react to toxins. People develop sensitivities to toxins the same way they do to gluten, dairy, or other foods.

A sensitivity to a chemical or heavy metal contributes to autoimmune disease, food sensitivities, and and an overall decline in health. Plus, since it’s difficult to impossible to avoid toxins, a sensitivity to them will leave you with an ongoing immune battle.

Weathering a toxic environment

Studies have turned up ample disturbing evidence on the effects of toxins on human health, and tens of thousands have not yet been studied. Nor do we understand how these toxins may work in combination.

Although there is no way to completely escape (the deepest parts of the ocean contain high levels of toxins), there are ways you can protect your body from toxins and prevent chemical sensitivities.

How to protect yourself as best you can from toxins

Start with your diet. Foods and beverages, even organic ones, contain toxins because of how prevalent they are in the environment. So avoid the obvious offenders of artificial additives and foods that contain pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.

Beyond that, the goal is a balanced immune system. This requires eating a diet that stabilizes blood sugar (no sugars or sweeteners, not too high on carbohydrates, and avoid skipping meals, over eating, or under eating.)

It also requires avoiding foods that trigger an immune response. This is different for everyone although gluten and dairy are common offenders.

Resveratrol and curcumin

Toxins trigger inflammation and damage cells. Studies show high doses of resveratrol and curcumin can help buffer the body from the damage of toxins, especially if you take them together in a liposomal form.

Glutathione

Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant that protects the cells from damage. Low glutathione raises your risk of chemical sensitivities and suffering damage from toxins. Nutrients that boost glutathione levels include n-acetyl-cysteine, cordyceps, Gotu Kola, milk thistle, L-glutamine, and alpha lipoic acid. Straight oral glutathione doesn’t work well, but liposomal, reduced, and s-acetyl glutathione are absorbed. Glutathione can also be delivered via IV, suppositories, or a nebulizer.

Boost detoxification

Another strategy against toxins is to improve your body’s detoxification. This can mean supporting the liver, lymph glands, kidneys, and bowel motility (so you’re not constipated). An inability to excrete toxins makes you more inflamed and raises your overall body burden.

Nutrients that support the liver pathways include methyl B12, selenium, molybdenum, dandelion root, milk thistle, trimethylglycine, Panax ginseng, and MSM.

Ask my office about how best to protect yourself from environmental toxins.

feel worse AIP diet copy

Although the autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet is a well known foundation for managing chronic health issues, some people are dismayed to find embarking on it makes them feel worse. What gives? The sudden change in diet can temporarily upset your chemistry and reveal hidden health problems.

If you have been accustomed to eating gluten, dairy, grains, sugars, and processed foods, going cold turkey off those foods is a radical shift. Likewise, adding in lots of vegetables can also shock a digestive system unaccustomed to ample plant fiber.

Most people feel significantly better on the AIP diet. If you’re not one of them, however, don’t give up on the diet. Instead, look for the underlying reason why.

Feeling temporarily worse on the AIP diet

Following are common adverse reactions to the autoimmune paleo diet. Knowing why you react negatively can further help you on your wellness journey.

Low blood sugar. Symptoms of low blood sugar and adrenal fatigue can worsen on this diet. This is usually caused by not eating enough or frequently enough. The general recommendation is to eat every two to three hours, however, some people may initially need a bite or two every hour until blood sugar stabilizes and they can go longer without eating. Avoid sugary fruits and investigate what else may be taxing your adrenal function, such as brain-based issues, autoimmunity, or chronic infection.

New food sensitivities. When gut damage is bad and inflammation high, it’s possible to develop food sensitivities to new foods on the autoimmune diet. This is very frustrating for people as the diet is already so limited. This can be a complex situation that requires concerted effort to tame inflammation and repair the gut.

Opioid withdrawal reactions. Opioids are morphine-like chemicals made by the body that reduce pain and create a feeling of euphoria and well-being. Some people become dependent on foods that release opioids in the brain, namely gluten and dairy. They can initially experience depression, anger, lethargy, and agitation on the autoimmune diet. For those with serious opioid addictions to gluten and dairy, withdrawal can be intense.

Brain chemical imbalance. A diet high in processed carbohydrates affects brain chemicals that influence our mood, particularly serotonin and dopamine. Suddenly switching to a lower carbohydrate diet can disrupt the balance of brain chemicals and cause temporary changes in mood, behavior, and personality. You may need to gradually lower carbohydrate consumption if so.

Insomnia and anxiety. Some people report irresolvable insomnia and anxiety if carbohydrate consumption is too low. If these symptoms persist long after an adjustment period, you may simply need to use trial and error to find the carbohydrate “sweet spot” that lets you sleep but also keeps blood sugar in check.

Difficulty digesting fiber. The AIP diet is heavy on vegetables. For those with compromised digestive function, this can overwhelm the gut. Concerted gut repair nutritional therapy can ease you into a higher fiber diet.

Histamine intolerance. This is a reaction to aged or fermented foods that causes myriad symptoms, including rashes, runny nose, or headaches. Avoiding these foods for a while can help the gut heal so you can eat them later.

Yeast and bacteria die-off reactions. Going cold turkey off processed carbs, gluten, and dairy can cause a sudden and uncomfortable die off of harmful yeast and bacteria in your gut. This is especially true in the case of poor liver detoxification and constipation. Supporting the body’s pathways of elimination can help.

These are a few of the issues that can arise when you switch to the autoimmune paleo diet. Don’t forget to consider the grief and anger you may feel about missing your favorite foods. However, if you weather the transition and ferret out sources of discomfort, your newfound health will more than make up for the rough legs of the journey.

daylight saving blues copy

If you’re still feeling knackered from the time change with daylight saving  you’re not alone. Changing the time throws a kink in the fragile and sensitive human biological clock, leaving many people feeling continuously jet lagged for a few weeks.

An hour of lost sleep might not sound like a big deal, but if you or your friends and coworkers are any indication, it makes for some groggy and grumpy days, bouts of insomnia, and feeling generally off.

It’s not just a hunch — scientific studies have demonstrated various ways in which the bi-annual time change messes with our health.

The body has genes that flip on and off to keep us in a steady rhythm of sleeping and waking. When we throw those genes off beat by artificially changing the time, the effect extends into the rest of the body, including muscles, the skeleton, the pancreas, etc. The disruption is felt body-wide.

How daylight saving time can impact health

This disruption dulls the brain and throws the body’s systems off, resulting in serious and even fatal consequences for some people.

For instance, past studies have shown driving fatalities, workplace injuries, and heart attacks go up after the spring-forward change in time. An Australian study found that even suicides increase after the time change.

Unsurprisingly, work productivity goes down as well, causing losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Night owls, people who naturally are more inclined to stay up late and sleep later in the morning take the longest to recover.

Worst of all, some studies suggest our bodies never really adjust to time changes. We’re designed to sync with natural changes in light throughout the year, not artificially inflicted ones.

How to recover from daylight saving time

Although people complain and we see a spate of news stories every spring bemoaning the change in time, we’re nevertheless stuck with it until politicians add it to their to-do list.

Understanding the effect of the time change on your body can help you better know how to ease the transition into suddenly waking up an hour earlier.

Avoid overdoing it for a while. Because you know your whole body is struggling to adjust to being thrown out of whack, don’t expect too much from yourself. Avoid scheduling high-risk or energy demanding activities the week after the time change. And be extra careful driving.

Schedule in some naps and restful mornings. If you’re like most people, you’ll be sleep-deprived for a week or two. Take a lunch nap in your car at work, let yourself rest on a weekend morning, and be extra disciplined about getting to bed early enough.

Wear orange glasses at night. Wear some orange safety glasses a couple of hours before bed to shield your eyes from artificial blue light from light bulbs, the TV, and computer and phone screens. This facilitates production of sleep hormones and will help ease you into the new schedule.

Get some sunshine during the day. Our bodies were designed to wake and sleep according to the light of the seasons, not an industrialized schedule. Get as much natural light as you can during the day and avoid artificial sources of blue light (computer, TV, smart phones) in the evening.

gluten and thyroid copy

Hypothyroidism has received a lot of attention online since the publication of Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Datis Kharrazian in 2009. While many facets should be addressed in managing hypothyroidism, one of the most important continues to be a gluten-free diet.

Research shows ninety percent of hypothyroidism cases are due to an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. This disease is called Hashimoto’s.

Most doctors do not test for Hashimoto’s because it does not change treatment, which is thyroid medication. Also, many cases of hypothyroidism go undiagnosed because Hashimoto’s can cause the lab marker TSH to fluctuate.

Where does gluten fit in with this? Numerous studies have linked an immune reaction to gluten with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Whether it’s a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, gluten triggers an autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland in many people. Most of these people do not even know they are sensitive to gluten.

Going off gluten is the first step with Hashimoto’s

Studies, clinical observation, and patient stories make a very strong case for the benefits of going gluten-free to better manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism symptoms.

A number of studies for several countries show a link between Hashimoto’s and gluten. This is because the protein structure of gluten closely resembles that of thyroid tissue. When your immune system reacts to gluten, it may start erroneously reacting to thyroid tissue as well. This will cause the immune system to attack and destroy thyroid tissue in a case of mistaken identity.

Studies also show patients improve on a strict gluten-free diet. One study showed as many as 71 percent of subjects resolved their hypothyroid symptoms after following a strict gluten-free diet for one year.

Why you may need to stop eating other foods too

Sorry to say, going gluten-free alone doesn’t always work. Many people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism also need to go dairy-free. Dairy, whether it’s cow, goat, or sheep, is the second biggest problem food for people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Many people simply have an immune intolerance to dairy and aren’t aware of it until they stop consuming it. However, in an immune sensitive individual, the body may also mistake dairy for gluten and trigger an immune reaction that ultimately ends up targeting the thyroid.

For those serious about managing their Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, a gluten-free and dairy-free diet frequently results in profound alleviation of symptoms, if not total remission.

Many find they may need to eliminate additional foods, such as certain grains, eggs, or soy. An elimination/provocation diet can help you figure out what your immune system reacts to, or a comprehensive food sensitivity test from Cyrex Labs.

What is there left to eat?

If you’re used to eating without restrictions, eliminating gluten, dairy, and possibly other foods to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroid symptoms may seem overwhelming and too restrictive. Many people are left wondering, what is left to eat?

Rest assured there is more than enough to eat. Most people fare well on a paleo diet that is primarily vegetables (a diverse array of plenty of vegetables helps create the healthy gut bacteria that improve immunity.)

More importantly, symptoms and general health improves so dramatically that people come to love their new diet and despise the way they feel after they cheat.

Ask my office for more information about implementing a gluten- and dairy-free diet.