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Archive for October, 2014

stress derailed health habits

It seems the times when we most need to support ourselves with healthy habits is when we are most apt to fall off the wagon. It can happen during major life changes or stressors, such as a move, the end of a relationship, or change in job status. Although the desire to comfort ourselves with sweets, junk foods, and too many days off from the gym are powerful, in the long run slacking off just adds to the stress. Instead of beating yourself up (which just causes even more stress), honor the fact that you’re in a tough spot and take small measures to slowly work your way back into a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Once you see how even the smallest changes transform into more energy and peace of mind it will motivate you to increasingly expand what you include in your healthy habits routine.

With that in mind, here are some gentle and easy steps to keep you from getting sucked into the abyss of destructive habits during stressful times.

Go for a walk. Have you stopped working out? Then walking is a gentle, pleasurable way to reawaken your physical body while settling the mind. Exercise is a magic bullet when it comes to health, but too much exercise stresses the body and causes inflammation. If a major life stressor has you feeling weaker and more tired than normal, that may be your body’s way of telling you it needs extra rest to cope. Walking’s physical benefits are only part of the story; research shows walking, especially in a natural environment, lowers stress, anxiety, and depression while boosting energy.

Make veggie smoothies. When we’re beset by stress, healthy cooking can seem overwhelming. Frozen pizza or bowls of cereal may feel comforting at first, but their effects on your blood sugar stability and brain chemistry will soon spike stress levels. One way to outsmart comfort-food cravings is to make veggie smoothies. Simply combine a few different vegetables, such as carrots, celery, beet, some salad or leafy greens, cucumber, avocado, ginger, etc. with filtered water, a small bit of fruit for taste and, if desired, some lemon juice and salt. People with hypothyroidism should be careful not to overuse raw cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, or broccoli as it can inhibit thyroid function. Also, avoid the temptation to rely on all fruit smoothies or the use of super-sweet additions such as pineapple or fruit juice. The high sugar content creates stress for the body, something you don’t need more of.

Eating lots of veggies also improves the balance of your gut bacteria, which play a profound role in mood, stress, weight, and immunity.

Don’t be a hermit. When stress is high it’s tempting to retreat under a rock, but isolation can compound your troubles. Ample research has shown the stress-lowering and health-boosting benefits of healthy socialization. Get together with friends, join meetup.com groups, take classes, go to church…being around other people boosts feel-good brain chemicals and is a reminder you’re not the only one with big life struggles.

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423 resvero curcumin

When it comes to battling inflammation and autoimmunity, research shows resveratrol and curcumin work better when taken together than separately.

Supplemental resveratrol is derived from Japanese knotweed and the compound is also found in the skin of red grapes. Curcumin is derived from the curry spice turmeric. Both are well known for their antioxidant, inflammation-quenching qualities when taken in therapeutic doses — simply eating curry or drinking wine are not going to impart much beneficial effect. Studies of the compounds look at large doses that can only come from supplementation.

Although each is a powerful anti-inflammatory alone, research shows that taking resveratrol and curcumin together creates a synergistic effect, making them potent tools for quenching the inflammation and damage associated with autoimmune flare-ups and chronic inflammation.

Resveratrol and curcumin combined battle autoimmune, inflammatory disorders

Examples of these disorders include autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, 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.

Studies have increasingly spotlighted an important immune pathway in autoimmunity and inflammation called TH-17. While TH-17 helps defend us from viruses and bacteria, over activation of TH-17 triggers autoimmune flare-ups and chronic inflammation. When it comes to quenching these flare-ups, TH-17 is the target.

This is where resveratrol and curcumin come in, working together to dampen the activation of TH-17, thus protecting tissue from inflammation and damage.

Resveratrol and curcumin combat inflammation from excess body fat

One of the more unhealthy aspects of excess body fat is that it causes chronic inflammation that feeds autoimmune or inflammatory disorders. This is a double whammy for the person struggling with weight gain due to Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Research shows that resveratrol and curcumin in combination significantly reduce the inflammation caused by excess fat.

These two compounds have also been shown to help manage hair losspsoriasisjoint disease, and other inflammatory disorders.

Immune regulation

Resveratrol and curcumin also support “regulatory T cells,” cells that regulate the immune system. When regulatory T cells don’t work efficiently, the immune system can become overzealous and promote inflammation and autoimmunity.

Other compounds that support regulatory T cells include vitamin D3, vitamin A, fish oil or krill oil, specific probiotic strains, nutrients that boost activity of glutathione  our master antioxidant, and nutrients that act on nitric oxide pathways.

Resveratrol curcumin combo is inflammation-quenching breakthrough

The research on TH-17 gives functional medicine practitioners new tools with which to better manage autoimmunity and chronic inflammation. Ask my office for advice on highly absorbable forms of curcumin and resveratrol in therapeutic amounts.

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memory loss reversed copy

Alzheimer’s and memory loss can seem like a sort of death sentence that strikes out of the blue and has no cure. Although genetics play a role, so does your diet and lifestyle, which means you can do something about Alzheimer’s and memory loss before the damage is too great.

In the first study of its kind, nine out of 10 patients reversed their memory loss and showed considerable long-term improvement following a program that included dietary changes, exercise, supplementation, sleep improvements, and brain stimulation. Some were able to return to jobs they had to quit due to declining memory. Only the patient with late-stage Alzheimer’s did not improve. It’s the first study to suggest that memory loss can be reversed and the improvement sustained.

The research was inspired by studies that looked at the effect of diet and lifestyle changes on other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and HIV.

In the study, subjects reversed their memory loss through approaches that included:

  • Eliminating all simple carbohydrates, which led to weight loss
  • Eliminating gluten and processed foods
  • Increasing consumption of produce and non-farmed fish
  • Yoga and other stress-reducing activities
  • Increasing sleep from 4-5 hours to 7-8
  • Taking methyl B12, vitamin D3, fish oil, CoQ10, curcumin, resveratrol, ashwagandha, and coconut oil
  • A minimum of 30 minutes of exercise 4-6 times a week
  • Cut out snacking
  • Hormone therapy when necessary

The biggest obstacle in the program was the study subjects’ complaints about making so many changes. However, all but one experienced notable improvement without the side effects that drugs bring.

Factors that affect memory

It’s important to note the reduced consumption of carbohydrates in the study –- some researchers have called Alzheimer’s type 3 diabetes due to the deleterious effects of excess sugar and carbohydrates on the brain.

Exercise is also a fairly potent magic bullet when it comes to brain health and regular exercise has been shown to positively affect memory and help reverse memory loss.

Sufficient sleep is necessary to protect a healthy memory. The brain waves produced during sleep help us store memories. These brain waves transfer memories from the hippocampus, an area of short term memory, to the prefrontal cortex, where long term memories are stored. Lack of sleep and poor quality sleep disrupts this process and leads to memory loss.

Gluten and other foods to which you may have an immune reaction can cause memory loss by inflaming the brain. Although most people associate a gluten intolerance with digestive symptoms, the truth is gluten most often affects neurological tissue. Sometimes simply going gluten free can significantly improve brain function.

Ask my office for more ways you can support your memory, and also for which supplements can help support your brain health.

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stick to autoimmune diet copy

So you’ve either just gotten the results back from your food sensitivity test or your practitioner says you need to follow the autoimmune diet, also called the leaky gut diet, to manage your autoimmunity. The autoimmune diet comes as a shock to many due its strict limitations and compliance can be tough. The trick to sticking to the autoimmune diet is understanding how to work with your mind to establish new habits.

Although a goal is important — say someone wants to manage her Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland — research shows a goal alone is not enough to change your habits. We’ve all made promises to reform only to quickly succumb to the spell of temptation. Research shows we are more motivated by the daily habits toward that goal than the goal itself. The key is not in the big sweeping gesture fueled by fantasy, but instead the small, tangible things we do each day to move us toward our goal.

How to create new habits to stick to the autoimmune diet

It takes 66 days to create a new habit, so commit to a plan of supporting yourself and your new way of life.

Create a vision board of your healthier life. Create a vision board, a collage of images that represent what life will look at when you reach your goal of more successfully managing your autoimmune disease. For instance, your vision board can feature images of feeling energetic, having fun with your kids, doing a sport or activity you love, a place you’ve always wanted to visit, romance, and other images that capture the life you will lead when freed from your symptoms. Put it where you see it every day so that the images seep into your subconscious mind.

Schedule time for your diet. Schedule time each week to chop veggies, cook meats, put together crockpot meals, and make snacks. You’re most likely to cave when hungry, so create the convenience and accessibility ahead of time to ensure your success.

Check in with your habit building and stress levels. Big life changes are an eternal work in progress  not a destination. You will bring down your health if you make the diet stressful. So check in with yourself regularly to see how it’s working for you and whether it’s stressing you out, and tweak and modify as needed.

Get support from others. Social support is not only healthy in itself, but it’s also vital to your success. Join online groups of others on a similar path, enlist friends or family to encourage you, and don’t engage those who try to ridicule or sabotage you.

Change your subconscious beliefs. Our subconscious mind plays a significant role in our daily habits, good or bad. You may have unidentified belief systems that are working against your success. There are many methods and books available these days to help you, including EFTEMDRhypnotherapy  prayer, and books such as those by Joe Dispenza.

Practice positivity. Yes, the autoimmune diet can be challenging. But having a sour attitude will only set you up for failure. Studies show subjects who spend a little time regularly practicing positivity and gratitude have far better outcomes than those who don’t. It’s no different than learning a new skill — investing just a few minutes a day thinking about something that makes you feel good or about things for which you are grateful pays you back amply.

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food allergies copy

Remember how food allergies were a rarity when you were a kid? Those days are over — food allergies have risen 50 percent between 1997 and 2007. Sales of the EpiPen, an epinephrine injection in the event of a life-threatening allergic reaction, rose 76 percent in one year recently.

The reasons for peanut-free flights and nut-free lunch tables at schools have been considered a mystery, but researchers are beginning to find clues as to what may be causing the explosive rise in food allergies.

One study linked food allergies to gut bacteria — scientists gave mice with peanut allergies the gut bacteria Clostridia, which is commonly found in humans, and the mice’s peanut allergies resolved. The Clostridia acted as a barrier that prevented the allergens in peanuts from entering the bloodstream, where they trigger an allergic reaction.

A previous study by the same researchers also found that removing certain gut bacteria — through administering antibiotics — from the guts of mice resulted in their developing food allergies. 

Overuse of antibiotics

The results from both studies has researchers raising the question as to whether it is the overuse of antibiotics that has contributed to the sharp rise in food allergies. Most children in the United States receive two or three courses of antibiotics in infancy, with many more courses throughout childhood. Children often receive antibiotics for viral infections, something for which antibiotics are ineffective. This unnecessarily kills off beneficial bacteria in the gut.

As researchers link gut bacteria imbalances with an increasing number of disorders — depression, anxiety, autoimmunity, MRSA, autism, asthma, obesity, irritable bowel disorders, and now food allergies — it’s important to avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics and to work toward preserving and nurturing healthy gut flora.

It’s no surprise that studies show children with food allergies are two to four times more likely to suffer from other disorders, such as asthma, other allergies, or autoimmune disorders.

Nurture your healthy gut bacteria

The average person carries three to four pounds of bacteria in the intestines. We have trillions of bacteria of many different varieties. In fact, bacterial DNA outnumbers human DNA ten to one in the human body. A healthy, whole foods diet with plenty of plant fiber and cultured vegetables helps maintain and grow the beneficial bacteria. Things that can encourage the overgrowth of harmful bacteria include antibiotic use, insufficient consumption of vegetables and fruits, too many processed foods, and excess sugar — in other words, the American diet.

Ask my office about how to create a healthy bacteria-friendly diet and which probiotics (supplements that reinoculate your gut with good bacteria) would be best for you.

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