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Archive for May, 2012

child-food-allergies-left-out

Your gluten-free third-grader walks in the door and immediately bursts into tears. Someone brought cupcakes to celebrate a birthday at school and everyone got one but her. “No one will want to be my friend because I can’t eat gluten,” she says between sobs.

Moments like these can test the strongest resolve. You’re in growing company, however. Eight percent of children have food allergies, a figure that has risen 20 percent in the last 10 years. Many children today also have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, which tends to run in the family.

Some children must be on a special diet, such as the GAPS or ketogenic diet, that eliminates all sugar, grains, processed foods, and other staples of the American diet. While the health reasons for the diet may be obvious, a child’s emotional reaction can muddy the waters. Children may feel left out, angry, anxious, sad, or embarrassed, which can distress parents.

The solution? Model the attitude you wish to see in your child. Self-confidence, calmness, and a positive attitude are the approaches recommended by child psychologists.

The real experts, of course, are moms raising children with food allergies or intolerances. What follows are some of their tips.

What to do when your child with food intolerances feels left out

  • Validate. If your child feels the diet is unfair, or if she is sad, angry, or embarrassed, repeat back to her what she says and commiserate.
  • Educate. Help your child make the connection between the offending food and the reaction. For some children, it’s easy because the reaction is swift and severe. For others, the reaction is delayed or not as clear, such as bedwetting, anxiety, or a rash that appears several days later. Education can help your child to see the consequences for himself.
  • Praise. One mom whose daughter must be on a ketogenic (low-carb, high-fat) diet to control seizures frequently tells her daughter how she proud she is of her for following a diet most adults couldn’t.
  • Treat. Making snacks for your child to bring to birthday parties and social gatherings is a fact of life. One mom buoyed the situation her child faced by making food that looked better than what the other children had.
  • Model. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, obesity, or other chronic health disorder due to your previous poor diet, use yourself as an example of the consequences of poor choices, and demonstrate how you can work your way back to good health eating the same diet as your child.
  • Offer perspective. Most everyone struggles with something that makes them feel different. For some, it’s a food intolerance. For others, it may be asthma, behavioral issues, or another struggle your child doesn’t have. Perspective can help your child feel less different.

Hardships and the occasional meltdowns aside, managing food intolerances can teach children how their diet affects their health and how to better care for themselves, lessons that will serve them well as they become more independent in their teens.

And for children of a parent with an autoimmune disease or other chronic disorder, an immune-friendly diet can help prevent the development of autoimmune disease or an inflammatory disorder.

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sitting-disease

Do you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly but sit long hours each day at work? If so, you could be undoing all your good work.

Sitting, even if you otherwise practice healthy habits, is associated with poor cardiovascular health, higher inflammation, and more belly fat, according to a 2011 Australian study. This is bad news for the millions of Americans who must work at a desk. In fact, it can feel downright insulting to learn that all our healthful efforts are being thwarted by our jobs.

Studies link prolonged sitting with compromised metabolic health, higher risk of disease, and shorter life span. Witness this cascade of ill effects:

  • Electrical activity in muscles goes silent
  • Calorie burning plummets
  • Insulin sensitivity drops, raising the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes
  • Enzymes responsible for clearing fat and triglycerides from the bloodstream plunge, lowering the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol

Sadly, these risks remain regardless of our physical activity level outside of work. Worst of all, these metabolic changes don’t happen gradually, but instead swiftly, within 24 hours.

Antidotes to sitting long hours

The results of your good exercise and diet habits needn’t be lost to your office chair. Sitting disease antidotes can be as simple as moving around more or working while standing.

Create a treadmill desk

A treadmill desk is just what it sounds like, a desktop built over a treadmill. Users walk very slowly on the treadmill and can easily talk, type, and perform other desk work while burning 100 calories an hour and staving off metabolic risks. Treadmill desks can be homemade, purchased to fit over an existing treadmill, or ordered, all inclusive, for up to $4,400.

Stand at your desk

A quicker and less cumbersome fix is a standing desk. To make one, try stacking something tall on your desk on which to set your computer. If you work at home, you might choose to work on your laptop while standing at the kitchen counter. Standing burns more calories than sitting and engages more muscles, enhancing metabolic activity.

Frequent breaks are key

If you do choose to sit, you can mitigate the effects of sitting disease with frequent breaks and lots of movement throughout the day. Australian researchers found those who took frequent breaks had lower levels of C-reactive protein, an important marker of inflammation, and smaller waists as well. Waist size, like excess belly fat, is a marker for increased risk for heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other inflammation-related disorders. High-risk waist circumference is over 40 inches for men and over 35 inches for women.

Take a stand against excessive sitting. Get up every half hour. Move about in your chair. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the outer reaches of the parking lot. Go ahead and fidget and bustle, and trot between the computer and the printer, or to the bathroom. Research shows not only will you combat sitting disease, but you’ll also be less likely to gain weight compared to your more sedentary coworkers.

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adrenal-exhaustion-chronic-stress-adrenal-saliva-test

It’s a constant refrain: We’re too stressed out. But how stressed out are we really? An adrenal saliva test can tell you whether your cortisol (the stress hormone) is too high or too low, whether your circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle) is normal, and also pin point the cause of your symptoms: adrenal fatigue or high adrenal hormones.

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue

  • Fatigue
  • Slow to get going in the morning
  • Energy crash in the afternoon
  • Craving sweets, caffeine, or nicotine
  • Unstable behavior; moodiness
  • Shaky, light-headed, or irritable if meals are delayed
  • Inability to stay asleep
  • Dizziness when moving from sitting to standing

Symptoms of high adrenal hormones

  • Excess belly fat
  • Insulin resistance (high blood sugar)
  • Insomnia
  • Not feeling rested in the morning
  • Women grow facial hair; men grow breasts
  • PCOS in women (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

How to do the adrenal saliva test

The adrenal saliva test requires you to collect a small vial of saliva several times throughout the day. Adrenal stress is always caused by something else, such as unstable blood sugar, a chronic infection, or an autoimmune disease. So the importance of the adrenal saliva test is that it allows us to track the progress of a protocol.

One test is a good place to start, but the second and third tests tell us if we’re on the right track with a protocol; adrenal health should improve as conditions resolve. If things do not improve, it means we must dig deeper to find out what is taxing the body.

Measuring the circadian rhythm

An abnormal sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is one symptom of adrenal stress. A normal circadian rhythm shows high cortisol in the morning and low cortisol at night. This makes us alert when we wake up and tired before bed. For many, this rhythm is backwards, causing fatigue in the morning and insomnia at night. In addition, instead of the usual gradual decline throughout the day, cortisol may suddenly drop in the afternoon, causing an energy crash.

The stages of stress

By measuring circadian rhythm, precursor hormones (DHEA and 17 hydroxyprogesterone), and cortisol levels, the adrenal saliva test can tell you whether you are in the “alarm reaction” of high adrenal hormones, in adrenal exhaustion, or somewhere in between. Contrary to popular belief, one does not necessarily progress from alarm reaction to adrenal fatigue; adrenal function can jump around between phases, or stay in one phase for years.

The adrenal saliva test also measures total SIgA (secretory antibodies). SIgA levels measure the impact of stress on the immune system. When SIgA is low, it means a person is more susceptible to food intolerances, infections, and other assaults on the immune system.

A variety of herbal and nutritional compounds can profoundly influence adrenal function, but they are not the first line of defense. You and your doctor must first ferret out what is causing your adrenal stress and make addressing that a priority. Only then is adrenal support appropriate.

Ask my office how you can support your adrenal health.

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2 1 protect yourself from toxins

Do you feel toxic chemicals are out to get you? Studies link many chronic illnesses with toxic chemicals in our everyday environment. Man-made chemicals, pesticides, pollution, plastics, heavy metals, and artificial food additives are a normal part of life now. Even radiation fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is now on the list of health concerns for many Americans.

Toxic chemicals are associated with such conditions as autoimmune disease, obesity and insulin resistance, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, cancer, migraines, depression, and hormonal imbalances.

Although we can minimize our exposure to toxic chemicals, we cannot completely escape them. So, short of wearing a non-toxic spacesuit (living in a plastic bubble is out because it will off-gas toxic chemicals), how can we protect ourselves?

Good toxic chemical defense starts with the diet

A variety of herbs and nutrients have been shown to protect the body from toxic chemicals and boost the liver’s detoxification abilities. However, those compounds can’t do their job if your diet is even more toxic than your environment. You can kick-start your defense system with an anti-inflammatory diet that cuts out sweet, starchy, and pro-inflammatory foods.

Also, ditching food intolerances is vital for boosting your defenses against toxic chemicals, so take this issue seriously. Going gluten-free is necessary for many, and you may find you need to eliminate other foods as well.

Beyond that, studies have found a number of natural compounds that buffer the damage caused by environmental chemicals. These compounds work to tame inflammation, boost our antioxidant status, and support liver detoxification.

Resveratrol and curcumin for toxic inflammation

Toxins do their damage by setting off inflammatory cascades throughout the body that can be difficult to unwind. Studies have shown high doses of trans-resveratrol and curcumin, especially when taken together, can put the brakes on toxin-induced inflammation. Ask my office about a high-dose, liposomal form of these compounds, which have been shown to be highly effective.

Boost your body’s defenses against toxic chemicals

Glutathione is our master antioxidant, taking the bullet from toxins to protect cells from damage. When your glutathione levels drop, you open yourself up to toxin-induced health problems. Nutrients that boost glutathione levels in your cells include n-acetyl-cysteine, cordyceps, Gotu Kola, milk thistle, L-glutamine, and alpha lipoic acid.

Turn your body into a detox machine

Another defense is to turn your body into an efficient detoxing machine. Although the liver was not designed to process many man-made chemicals, it still needs support in the face of toxic chemicals. When toxic chemicals overburden the body, they create inflammation and damage, which taxes the liver. As a result, it may not be able to properly metabolize many compounds from both inside and outside the body. This adds to the body’s toxic load and makes it more vulnerable to environmental chemicals.

In addition to taming inflammation and boosting your antioxidant status, you may also need to support the different detoxification pathways in your liver. Nutrients that support these pathways include methyl B12, selenium, molybdenum, dandelion root, milk thistle, trimethylglycine, Panax ginseng, and MSM. Be sure to also ask my office about effective liver support.

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seasonal-allergies-leaky-gut

Do beautiful spring days have you cooped up inside, sneezing and sniffing miserably? Before reaching for the antihistamines, consider the role your gut health plays in allergy symptoms.

Allergies actually begin long before the hallmark symptoms of sniffling, sneezing, and itchy eyes manifest. How?

An estimated 80 percent of the immune system resides in the gut, and when digestive problems set in, immune problems are sure to follow. A chronically inflamed gut—which causes indigestion, heartburn, bloating, pain, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel disorders, and more—sends the immune system into overdrive.

As a result, the body becomes hypersensitive and overreacts to stuff it shouldn’t, including pollen, grass, and other triggers associated with spring.

Because allergy symptoms frequently start with poor digestive function, the gut is a great place to start for relief.

What causes allergy symptoms?

Several factors contribute to the digestive problems that give rise to allergy symptoms, including:

  • Dysbiosis: This is a very common scenario in which bad bacteria in the gut overwhelm the beneficial bacteria. Processed foods, a diet lacking in cultured and fermented foods, and antibiotic use contribute to dysbiosis.
  • Gluten and other food intolerances: Gluten has been shown to damage the lining of the intestines. Also, many people have an immune reaction to gluten and other foods, such as dairy or soy. Eating these foods constantly provokes the immune system and damages the lining of the intestines.
  • Low stomach acid: This may seem counter-intuitive as so many people complain of an acidic stomach, but, in fact, low stomach acid often underlies heartburn and acid reflux. When stomach acid is low, undigested food backwashes into the esophagus (heartburn), opportunistic bacteria overtake the stomach, improperly digested food degrades the intestinal lining, and bacteria and other pathogens are able enter into the intestines. Sufficient stomach acid is also necessary to trigger the gallbladder to release bile and the pancreas to release enzymes, two important processes for digestion.
  • Poor liver detoxification: Gut damage causes chronic inflammation, which keeps the immune system on red alert and overburdens the liver. As a result, the liver can’t adequately detoxify pathogens that escaped through the damaged intestinal lining into the bloodstream. This is another factor that triggers the immune system and leads to allergies.

Fix the gut to fix allergies

Repairing gut health involves addressing the various factors above. The exact protocol may vary from person to person depending on his or her individual needs. However, a great place to start is with an anti-inflammatory diet that removes food intolerances and calms inflammation, helping to restore balance to an overactive immune system. We can also use lab tests to gain insight into the specific nature of your intestinal problems. Probiotics, and nutritional compounds to improve digestion, support detoxification, and tame an overstimulated immune system can also help repair the gut and hence the immune system.

Ask my office for ideas on how you can get to the root of your seasonal allergy symptoms this year.

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