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Archive for March, 2012

gluten-free grain-free autoimmune

For many people, a gluten-free diet erases all their chronic health problems like a magic wand. For others, it doesn’t make a dent, despite a proven gluten intolerance. What gives? A diet that also eliminates dairy, grains, and other foods may be necessary, along with nutritional compounds to restore gut health.

Gluten damages the small intestines and causes chronic inflammation. This inflammation extends to other parts of the body and helps explain why gluten triggers so many disorders, including joint pain, skin disorders (eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, etc.), fatigue, depression, or mood disorders from inflammation in the brain. It even increases the risk of death for people with celiac disease.

A gluten-free diet reduces inflammation and allows the gut to recover, which often alleviates symptoms elsewhere in the body.

However, newer research showed that the small intestines of up to 60 percent of adults in one study never completely healed on a gluten-free diet, especially in those who didn’t adhere to the diet fully.

In another study, only 8 percent of subjects fully recovered gut health on a gluten-free diet for 16 months, and only 34 percent recovered after a gluten-free diet for two years in yet another study.

These are pretty grim numbers for a diet that has taken the natural health world by storm. Does this mean a gluten-free diet is not worth the effort?

Absolutely not.

Going beyond a gluten-free diet for gut healing

These studies shed light on the fact that a gluten-free diet often is not enough to recover gut health. One may still suffer from gut inflammation, poor absorption of nutrients due to damage of the intestinal lining, and leaky gut (leaky gut allows undigested food and pathogens to escape into the bloodstream, where they cause more inflammation).

This explains why some continue to suffer from chronic inflammatory disorders and autoimmune disease despite a gluten-free diet.

So what’s the solution? One is to look for other food intolerances. Because gluten causes leaky gut, undigested food escapes into the bloodstream and provoke an immune reaction. This leads to allergies and sensitivities to many other foods. Ferreting out these foods with a strict anti-inflammatory elimination diet is an important first step. Many people find they feel and function better eliminating all grains, as well as dairy and even legumes.

Using nutritional therapy to unwind gut inflammation

In functional medicine we have also identified nutritional and botanical compounds that can help unwind the chronic inflammation in the gut and, thus, elsewhere in the body. These include nutrients to support glutathione, the body’s main antioxidant, as well as nutrients that dampen inflammation through nitric oxide modulation. Glutathione in particular is essential to repairing and protecting intestinal health.

The botanical compounds resveratrol and curcumin have also been shown to dampen inflammation. Resveratrol is a compound derived from Japanese knotweed, and curcumin is derived from the popular curry spice turmeric. Both are well known for their antioxidant qualities.

Research shows that taking them together creates a synergistic effect, making them potent tools for quenching the inflammation and damage in the small intestines and elsewhere in the body.

Enhancing the gluten-free diet goes the distance

Although a gluten-free diet is vital to restoring health for people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, it might not go the whole distance. Removing other foods and using nutritional therapy to quench inflammation are also important steps to restoring gut health.

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glutathone autoimmune hashimoto's hypothryoidism leaky gut

The term “antioxidant” has become popular in a multitude of products from acai to dark chocolate, but the most important antioxidant is the one made by your body: glutathione. Sufficient glutathione is vital for good health.

Glutathione is a molecule that protects the body in many ways. It shields cells from damage caused by oxidation and inflammation, it aids in detoxification, and it helps the immune system function at its best.

When glutathione production drops, you are more vulnerable to:

  • autoimmune disease
  • chemical sensitivities
  • heavy metal sensitivities
  • inflammatory disorders
  • intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
  • other immune issues

Chronic stress depletes glutathione

When we are healthy, our bodies make enough glutathione to protect us. However, chronic stress, whether it is from toxins, poor diet, sleep deprivation, smoking, excess sugar, or other stressors, eventually exhausts glutathione levels. Glutathione levels also decrease gradually as a result of aging.

A glutathione supplement is not effective taken orally. Instead, people can boost glutathione levels through a liposomal cream, nebulizer, suppository, or IV drip. These methods will help raise glutathione levels and your general antioxidant status, which can reduce inflammation and improve health. However, they do not raise glutathione inside the cells.

Glutathione recycling raises levels inside cells

To raise glutathione levels inside the cells, where it can protect the cells’ energy-producing factories called “mitochondria,” you must enhance your body’s ability to recycle glutathione. Recycling glutathione means taking glutathione that has already been used to protect the cells, and rebuilding it so it’s ready for action again.

Studies show a correlation between the inability to recycle glutathione and increased autoimmune disease. Glutathione recycling helps balance the immune system, protect body tissue from damage caused by inflammation, and also helps repair damage. Good glutathione recycling is an important tool in managing autoimmune disease.

Glutathione recycling helps repair leaky gut

Glutathione recycling also helps protect and repair the gut. It’s common for people with autoimmune disease and inflammatory disorders to have leaky gut, which exacerbates their immune condition. Poor glutathione recycling weakens gut integrity, making a person more prone to multiple food sensitivities and chronic gut issues. Good glutathione recycling is a vital part of restoring and protecting gut health.

Boosting glutathione recycling

One of the most important steps to enhance glutathione recycling is to remove stressors depleting glutathione levels. These may include lack of sleep, smoking, food intolerances, diets high in sugars and processed foods, excess alcohol intake, and metabolic imbalances, such as with the hormones or immune system.

Beyond that, a variety of nutritional and botanical compounds have been shown to support glutathione recycling. They include:

  • N-acetyl-cysteine
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • L-glutamine
  • Selenium
  • Cordyceps
  • Gotu kola
  • Milk thistle

Booting your glutathione levels with a glutathione liposomal cream and then supporting glutathione recycling can profoundly enhance the management of autoimmune disease, inflammatory disorders, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, and more.

Contact my office for advice on how you can support your glutathione recycling system.

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trans fats shrink brain

A recent study found a diet high in trans fats shrinks the brain and increases the risk of dementia. Trans fats are found in fast foods, processed foods, margarine, shortening, chips, flaky pastries, many fried foods, and many popular convenience foods. They can be identified in a list of ingredients as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.

Diet high in vitamins, omega 3s protect brain

On the other hand, study participants who ate diets high in vitamins B, C, D, and E and omega 3 fatty acids were found to have larger, healthier brains than their junk-food eating counterparts. These nutrients are found in a diet high in vegetables, fruits, fish, and raw nuts and seeds.

Even small amounts of trans fats damaging

Although a few studies in the past have examined the link between brain health and trans fats, this study by Oregon Health and Science University in Portland was the first to measure blood levels of trans fats in relation to brain volume using MRI brain scans.

The most sobering observation was that blood levels of trans fat levels were not that high, a testament to the damage they cause even in small amounts.

Researchers suggest that trans fats in the diet replace healthy fats in the brain’s cell membranes, which affects the ability of the brain to function properly.

Brain is made of mostly fat

Cell membranes communicate with other cells and determine what is allowed to enter and exit the cell. Fatty acids make up a significant portion of cell membranes, brain tissue, and myelin sheaths, which protect neurons that communicate with one another. In fact, about 60 percent of the brain is made up of fat, coming from fats in the diet.

Trans fats replace good fats in brain

When trans fats become part of the cells and nerve sheaths they replace vital brain fats, such as DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid. As a result, cellular communication suffers, the cells degenerate, brain volume shrinks, and memory and cognition suffer.

Trans fats restrict blood flow to brain

Trans fats also contribute to the clogging of veins and arteries, which inhibits blood flow to the brain. Constricting blood flow to the brain robs the brain of oxygen and vital nutrients, another factor that degenerates, or shrinks, the brain and affects function.

The good news is that a diet high in vitamins B, C, D, and E, and omega 3 fatty acids protects the brain from shrinkage and decline. The study subjects who ate a diet abundant in these nutrients consistently scored better on mental performance tests and showed less brain shrinkage.

Eating to protect brain health

Trans fats are closer to plastic than food, significantly impacting brain health, and it’s best to strictly avoid them.

Instead, aim for a brain-friendly diet that includes leafy green vegetables, seafood, eggs, olive oil, nuts, avocadoes, colorful fruits, nuts, and meats.

Also, eliminating all sweets and sodas, minimizing starchy foods (grains, potatoes, legumes, etc.), and eliminating foods to which you are intolerant (gluten and dairy, for example) will reduce inflammation, another factor that shrinks the brain and steals memory. An allergy-elimination diet is a good way to ferret out which foods may be causing inflammation.

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resveratrol curcumin autoimmune inflammatory

Thanks to exciting new research, we can more effectively manage autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammatory disorders that plague so many people today. This new approach involves the use of two natural compounds, resveratrol and curcumin, which have been found to work better when taken together than separately.

Synergy between resveratrol and curcumin

Resveratrol is a compound derived from Japanese knotweed, and curcumin is derived from the popular curry spice turmeric. Both are well known for their antioxidant qualities.

However, newer research shows that taking them together creates a synergistic effect, making them potent tools for quenching the inflammation and damage associated with autoimmune flare-ups and chronic inflammation.

Successful for many autoimmune, inflammatory disorders

Examples of these disorders include autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s), arthritis, brain fog, gut pain and inflammation, multiple food and chemical sensitivities, fibromyalgia, asthma, eczema and psoriasis, and other conditions related to inflammation or autoimmune disease.

Going beyond TH-1 and TH-2

When we manage an autoimmune disease in functional medicine, we identify why the immune system is imbalanced, and work to restore that balance.

In simplest terms, the immune system can be divided into two parts. The pro-inflammatory side of the immune system (also called “TH-1”) responds immediately to an invader in the body, such as by surrounding a splinter with pus.

The anti-inflammatory side of the immune system (“TH-2”) has a delayed response and produces antibodies to an invader. These antibodies tag the invader so that if it shows up again, the immune system can respond more quickly.

In a healthy person, these two systems work in balance. However, in the person with an autoimmune disease, one of these systems has become overly dominant.

This polarity between TH-1 and TH-2 underlies autoimmune conditions, and we use nutritional therapies to help restore balance. This helps tame inflammation and autoimmune disease.

TH-17: The new immune player

Studies have increasingly spotlighted another important player in the immune system called TH-17. While appropriate expression of TH-17 is important for immune defense, overactivation of TH-17 plays a key role in autoimmune disease and chronic inflammatory disease. When it comes to quenching flare-ups, TH-17 is our newest target.

This is where the synergy between resveratrol and curcumin come in. Working together, resveratrol and curcumin have been shown to dampen the pathways that activate TH-17, thus protecting tissue from inflammation and damage.

Inflammation and excess body fat

An interesting study on the anti-inflammatory effects of resveratrol and curcumin also looked at obesity. One of the most unfortunate aspects of excess body fat is that it creates low-level, chronic inflammation.

This chronic inflammation feeds autoimmune disease or chronic inflammatory disorders. This is a double whammy for the person struggling with weight gain due to Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, an autoimmune thyroid disease. This study found that working together, resveratrol and curcumin significantly reduced inflammation caused by excess fat tissue.

As a side note, the resveratrol curcumin combination is also being studied for its effectiveness in fighting hair loss, psoriasis, joint disease, and other inflammatory disorders.

Immune regulation

Resveratrol and curcumin also work by supporting “regulatory T cells.” These cells do what they say—they regulate the activity of TH-17, TH-1, and TH-2, keeping all the facets of the immune system in check. When they don’t work efficiently, the immune system can tip out of balance, thus promoting inflammation and autoimmunity.

Other compounds that successfully support this regulation system include vitamin D3, vitamin A, fish oil or krill oil, specific probioitic strains, nutrients that boost activity of glutathione, our master antioxidant, and nutrients that act on nitric oxide pathways.

Resveratrol curcumin combo is exciting breakthrough

The exciting new research on TH-17 gives functional medicine practitioners new tools with which to approach autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammatory disorders. By unwinding vicious cycles of inflammation, they help protect the body, whether it is your knees or your brain, from the damage and degeneration caused by inflammation.

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