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Archive for January, 2014

How gut bacteria make you thin or fat

thin and fat bacteria

Obesity has long been blamed on laziness and lack of will power, but exciting new research shows the composition of your gut bacteria, which may have been set since birth, can play a deciding role in whether you’re thin or fat. In mice studies, mice that received bacteria from an obese person became obese. What’s more exciting is mice studies show that transplanting bacteria from thin humans into obese mice causes the obese mice to lose weight. This is a promising discovery for those who cannot lose weight despite diet and exercise.

It appears these bacteria affect the mechanisms that promote leanness, one of the more notable being insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is typical in obese people. The most common culprit is a diet high in sweets, soda, and starches (breads, pasta, rice, corn, potatoes, etc.) This diet consistently raises blood sugar levels, which in turn requires the body to secrete high levels of insulin to lower blood sugar. Eventually these insulin surges exhaust the body’s cells and they refuse entry to insulin. Insulin resistance promotes chronic hunger, obesity, inflammation, and a host of other health disorders.

It also appears the gut bacteria in obese people are more efficient at breaking down and absorbing food, particularly fat, so that obese people obtain more calories from their food and put on fat more easily. Likewise, eating more calories promotes the growth of these particular bacteria. Obese people also have fewer bacteria that promote an anti-inflammatory effect than do thin people.

Compared to lean people, obese people show fewer bacteria from the Bacteroidetes group and more from the Actinobacteria group. Studies show Bacteroidetes numbers rise in obese people who lose weight. Obese people also show less diversity in gut bacteria than thin people.

In studies the bacterial switcheroo is performed through fecal transplants, an approach that has also proven beneficial in treating Clostridium difficile infections. However, scientists are working to identify and isolate the specific bacteria that affect weight so that fecal transplants, the idea of which makes most people squeamish, are not necessary.

The weight-loss effect of transplanting thin bacteria was shown to work only when accompanied by a high-fiber, lower-fat diet  which affects bacterial composition in the gut. It has also been shown a healthy, whole foods diet based on plant fiber—vegetables primarily—can help promote the growth of “thin” bacteria in humans as well.

Eating a plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables not only provides more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but these studies show it also fosters the composition of gut bacteria to promote leanness and prevent obesity.

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337 loss of chemical tolerance

Have you noticed signs banning the wearing of perfumes or heavy fragrance in some places? Or perhaps you yourself experience unpleasant or even debilitating symptoms when exposed to perfumes, scented products, gasoline fumes, car exhaust, or other chemical odors. A growing number of people suffer migraines, rashes, fatigue, mood changes, autoimmune flare ups, or more when exposed to chemical-based scents or fumes. Even formerly pleasurable products, such as scented dryer sheets, can tip some people into a tailspin.

Multiple chemical sensitivities is now called TILT

Although these synthetic scents and fumes are unhealthy for both people and the environment, those who react negatively to them are experiencing TILT, or toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, a condition in which the body loses the ability to tolerate these environmental compounds. Once referred to as multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), TILT can affect anyone, including children.

For those with TILT, even minimal exposures can be a nightmare.

Almost any chemical or artificial compound can trigger reactions. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Artificial chemicals and preservatives in food
  • Manufactured scents such as gas fumes/exhaust, scented body products, industrial and residential cleaners, laundry products, new carpeting, the new car smell, pesticides and fertilizers
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Heavy metal exposure, including even the wearing of jewelry.

TILT chemical sensitivity reactions can be debilitating

The list of possible reactions is a varied as the triggers and includes asthma, migraines, depression, fibromyalgia, fatigue, Gulf War syndrome, brain fog, memory loss, incontinence, neurological dysfunction, rashes, and such emotional issues as depression, anxiety, and lethargy.

When reactions are severe, those afflicted are often forced into a complete overhaul of their lifestyle, which in some cases can destroy relationships and careers as they must relocate to a less toxic location and often go on disability.

TILT chemical sensitivity reactions depends on your body’s antioxidant system

Why are some people affected by TILT and others not, and what can be done to prevent TILT?

According to more recent studies, TILT is not necessarily related to the amount of chemicals in your body as once thought, but rather how well your body can buffer itself from those chemicals and eliminate them.

Research shows a primary cause for the development of TILT is the depletion or poor absorption of a particular antioxidant: glutathione, also known as the “mother of all antioxidants.” Everyday levels of an environmental compound do not necessarily trigger symptoms if the body’s glutathione levels are at healthy levels.

Other factors associated with loss of chemical tolerance include:

  • Poor diet
  • Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid deficiency
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Constant and/or sudden influx of high amounts of stress

Keeping glutathione levels sufficient is easier than you think, and you can start at your next meal. Foods that improve levels are those rich in sulfur, such as broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, garlic, onions, and scallions.

Safeguard glutathione levels to prevent TILT

Two other important safeguards are vigorous exercise (although not too vigorous as the stress of overtraining will deplete glutathione) and supplementation. Nutrients that support glutathione activity include N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha lipoic acid, selenium, milk thistle (silymarin), cordyceps, gotu kola, and S-acetyl-glutathione (a stabilized, more absorbable form of glutathione). You cannot gain much from taking straight glutathione as it is not absorbed well when taken orally.

We live in a sea of synthetic chemicals these days—they’re in our air, water, food, dwellings, daily products, etc.—and an increasing number of studies links many of these compounds to a laundry list of diseases and disorders, including TILT. Keeping your immune system strong and fortified with an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet and glutathione support can keep that obnoxious cologne in the “unpleasant smell” category versus throwing you into full TILT.

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Medications that cause leaky gut

drugs that cause leaky gut

Although diet obviously plays a role in leaky gut, so do other factors, such as high blood sugar, chronic stress, and hormonal imbalances. However, it’s important not to overlook the impact of seemingly innocuous over-the-counter (OTC) medications, as well as some prescription ones.

Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, is a condition in which the walls of the small intestine become inflamed, damaged, and porous, allowing undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream. Once these pathogens escape the confines of the intestines and hit the bloodstream, they trigger inflammation in the body and brain. Leaky gut is associated with chronic disease, autoimmunity, depression, and more. Common symptoms include joint pain, skin conditions, gut problems, fatigue, and depression and other brain-based disorders.

In addition to following a leaky gut diet, you can repair your gut and lower inflammation by eating a diet that stabilizes your blood sugar, taking measures to reduce physical and mental stress, and being aware of which medications could be making your leaky gut worse.

Medications that can cause leaky gut

Corticosteroids: Steroid drugs such as prednisone suppress the immune system and dampen inflammation. While they may be life saving or necessary, they also can contribute to leaky gut. This is because they raise cortisol, which in high doses breaks down the gut lining. This is why chronic stress, which also raises cortisol, contributes to leaky gut as well.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin have been shown to increase intestinal permeability within 24 hours of use and long-term use can contribute to a leaky gut condition.

Antibiotics: Antibiotics wipe out the beneficial gut flora, which can lead to leaky gut. It’s important to always follow up antibiotic use with probiotics to reinoculate the gut.

Chemotherapy drugs: Chemotherapy drugs can lead to leaky gut by degrading the intestinal barrier.

All of these drugs have their purpose and you should not put yourself or a child in danger by avoiding a lifesaving drug in order to prevent leaky gut. However, if they’re necessary, you may want to consider following their use with a leaky gut protocol to restore the intestinal lining and prevent a worsening of your health.

Ask my office for more information on how to repair leaky gut. 

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how avoid using health insurance

With the cost of health care, health insurance, deductibles, and copays going through the roof, getting sick has become financially hazardous. Although we can’t fully control our fate, we can sway the odds in our favor so that we need the health care system as little as possible—more than 75 percent of health care costs are devoted to chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) boils down the sorry state of American health and the burden on our health care system into some startling statistics:

  • Chronic diseases cause 7 in 10 deaths each year in the United States.
  • Almost half of all adults live with at least one chronic illness, significantly limiting daily activities in some.
  • The numbers of youth with a chronic health condition has more than tripled since the 1960s.
  • Less than a quarter of Americans eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • More than one-third of Americans fail to meet minimum recommendations for physical activity.

Many chronic conditions can be prevented or managed through diet and lifestyle changes and  functional medicine approaches. It’s better to invest a little up front in preventive medicine approaches than a whole lot later when a health problem has passed the point of no return.

Your diet determines your health. The most profound and fundamental way to avoid needing health care is to pay attention to your diet. Although we are surrounded by convenient, affordable, and tasty fast-food choices, indulging in them regularly paves a path to developing a chronic disease. Focusing on a whole foods, plant-based diet that is free of processed foods and sweets is a good beginning.

Determine your food sensitivities and eliminate those foods. Many people unknowingly eat foods daily that cause inflammation in their body and brain. Inflammation underlies today’s most common chronic diseases: heart disease, obesity, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more. The most common inflammatory foods are gluten, dairy, various grains, soy, eggs, night shades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, etc.). Cyrex Labs offers the most cutting-edge and complete food sensitivity testing today.

Heal your gut. Hippocrates said all disease begins in the gut and modern research is increasingly proving that to be true. Many people unknowingly have inflamed and permeable, or leaky, guts. A leaky gut means undigested foods and pathogens can escape into the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation in the body and brain. Studies have shown links between poor gut health and mood and mental disorders, systemic inflammatory diseases, autoimmune disease, and other chronic disorders.

Identify and manage your autoimmunity. Autoimmunity means the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys body tissue. This is a chaotic inflammatory scenario that often causes troubling or debilitating chronic symptoms and can progressively worsen until it becomes a serious disease. The health care system will not diagnose or treat an autoimmune condition until it has reached the end stages. This is because they do not have a model of treatment for managing autoimmunity, only for suppressing symptoms. Fortunately, today you can run a test that screens for two dozen of the most common autoimmune reactions and learn how to manage your autoimmunity and prevent it from progressing through functional medicine approaches.

Exercise regularly. Exercise has been shown to be a magic bullet when it comes to preventing chronic disease. It’s ideal if you can work in both aerobic and strength training, but just do whatever it takes to move your body regularly.

For more advice on how to avoid needing conventional health care, contact my office.

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DHA versus EPA in fish oil

EPA and DHA in fish oil

When you buy fish oil you will notice different companies tout how much DHA or EPA their product has. While both are beneficial, you may want to consider the unique properties of each to address different aspects of health. EPA has anti-inflammatory effects while DHA is known for boosting brain health.

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid and EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid. Both are omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish. A vegetarian source of omega 3 is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body may convert to EPA and DHA. Dietary sources include walnuts and flax seed. However, some people have trouble converting ALAs to beneficial forms of omega 3, particularly if insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) is an issue. Eating a diet high in omega-6 fats, those found in chips, fried foods, processed foods, and restaurant foods, may also hinder this conversion.

DHA supports brain health

Most fish oil supplements have a one to one ratio of DHA to EPA. If your goal is to dampen or prevent inflammation—aches, pain, swelling—then standard fish oils or a fish oil with more EPA may be desirable. However, if you want to improve brain function, then consider a fish oil with a higher concentration of DHA. A higher DHA ratio can support issues such as depression, mood swings, bipolar symptoms, or poor memory. Although some fish oils offer a 4 to 1 ratio of EPA to DHA, some products go as high as 10 to 1 or even 24 to 1. Ask my office for a good source of DHA-rich oil.

How DHA helps the brain

DHA is an important building block in the brain. It improves how fluid and flexible neurons are and enhances communication between neurons. When neurons are healthier and communicate better with each other, overall brain function improves. DHA has been shown to reduce brain degeneration, improve short and long term memory, reduce brain inflammation (which can cause brain fog), and improve quality of life.

How much fish oil should you take

Dosage recommendations seem to increase with each new study, perhaps because Americans continue to eat so poorly and are becoming less healthy.

One study recommends 3,500 mg for a person eating 2,000 calories per day. So if you eat 3,000 calories then you should take at least 5,250 mg of omega-3 oils daily.

This is important to realize because the average EFA capsule is only 1,000 mg, meaning many people should take at least 5 to 6 capsules of fish oil a day, versus the standard two to three. If you are on a blood-thinning medication talk to your doctor first as fish oil helps thin the blood.

Reduce consumption of omega 6 fatty acids to boost effects of DHA and EPA

To maximize the effect of your fish oil supplement, limit your intake of omega 6 fatty acids. Although we need omega 6 fatty acids, the average American eats far too much in relation to omega 3 oils. Foods high in omega 6 include fried foods, partially hydrogenated fats, and processed vegetable oils. Healthier fats can be found in cold water fish, olive oil, avocados, and raw nuts and seeds.

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