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Archive for November, 2015

mass extinction gut bacteria copy

You probably already know the planet is experiencing an extinction crisis; scientists estimate we’ll lose up to 50 percent of current species during the next 20 years. But did you know there’s also an extinction crisis of gut bacteria happening among civilized humans?

The modern diet, which is high in processed foods, meats and sugars but pitifully low in plant fiber appears to have killed off a rich diversity of gut bacteria on which our health depends. The result? Inflammation and chronic disease.

Low fiber kills bacteria and increases inflammation

To prove the point, one study changed the diets of African Americans, who have a high risk of colon cancer, and native Africans in South Africa. They put the African Americans on a native diet high in plant fiber and the native Africans on a typical American diet high in processed foods and meats.

The researchers quickly saw a decrease in colon inflammation in the Americans eating increased fiber, and an increase in colon inflammation in the South Africans on a standard American diet.

In fact, studies of the few remaining indigenous cultures on the planet show humans once served as host to significantly more gut bacteria than is found in Westerners today. These cultures eat about 10 times more plant fiber than the average American. Those bacteria organize themselves in colonies to digest plant fiber, support immunity, and curb inflammation.

People around the world even have different strains of the same bacterium that is native to their area and genetics. Human migration over the years has wiped out some strains, increasing the risk of certain diseases as a result, such as gastric cancer.

How a diversity of gut bacteria protect your health

Just how do bacteria protect us from chronic disease?

For one thing, when they work at breaking down plant fibers, they create compounds called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that stimulate the anti-inflammatory arm of the immune system.

Although it’s possible to supplement with SCFAs, unfortunately they won’t be as beneficial as when your own gut bacteria produce them. This is because the bacteria colonize themselves with similar bacteria in an internal ecosystem that protects the lining of the gut.

Starved bacteria eat the gut lining

One startling revelation researchers found is that gut bacteria starved of the plant fiber they need for fuel instead appear to feed on the protective mucus layer that lines the intestines. Studies of mice fed high-fiber diets showed this mucosal layer was as twice as thick as that of mice on a low-fiber diet.

A too-thin layer of protective mucus allows dangerous bacteria, undigested foods, and other pathogens into the bloodstream, where they trigger system-wide inflammation. This is known as leaky gut.

How to beef up your own gut bacteria

It’s quite possible that many of us today lack the diversity of gut bacteria our ancestors had, and our health suffers as a result. Researchers believe those who grow up on farms, with animals, and exposed to other sources of more diverse bacteria may fare better in terms of microbial diversity.

Nevertheless, a diet high in plant fiber can increase the diversity and population of your gut bacteria, thus helping you balance digestion and tame inflammation. If you find it difficult to tolerate a high-fiber diet, you may have a severe imbalance in your gut bacteria that needs attention. Ask my office for more information.

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5 things that cause depression copy

Do you suffer from depression? People succumb to depression for different reasons. It’s important to look for the underlying cause of your depression. Consider these five:

1. Poor communication between brain cells

Depression happens when neurons in certain areas of the brain don’t communicate well with each other, or “fire.” This causes poor brain function and symptoms of depression.

Many factors cause poor firing in the brain, which I’ll talk about more in this article.

The primary question when you have symptoms of depression is, “What is causing neurons not to fire in areas of the brain associated with mood?”

2. Unstable blood sugar and depression

Blood sugar that is too low or too high can cause depression. Symptoms of low blood sugar include irritability or lightheadedness between meals, cravings for sweets, waking up at 3 or 4 a.m., dependence on coffee or sugar for energy, becoming upset easily, and forgetfulness.

Symptoms of high blood sugar (insulin resistance) include fatigue after meals, constant hunger, cravings for sweets not relieved by eating them, constant thirst, frequent urination, difficulty falling asleep, and a big belly.

Both low and high blood sugar compromise the brain’s ability to stay fueled, with symptoms of depression often resulting.

The most common causes of unstable blood sugar are eating too many processed carbohydrates and sugar, skipping meals, and chronic overeating.

Sometimes relieving depression can be as easy stabilizing your blood sugar with a whole foods diet that consists primarily of produce and healthy fats and proteins, avoiding sweets and processed foods, and eating an appropriate amount of carbohydrates for your body.

3. Unhealthy gut

When gut health is bad, brain health suffers, often causing depression. If you have digestive problems, your gut may be playing a role in your depression.

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestine becomes overly porous, allows undigested food particles, yeast, bacteria, and other undesirable compounds to enter the sterile environment of the bloodstream.

Leaky gut triggers chronic inflammation in the gut, body, and brain, along with other health problems, such as food intolerances, pain, autoimmune disorders, skin issues, joint problems, and, of course, depression.

Also, too much bad gut bacteria (dysbiosis) has been directly linked with depression in studies. Many factors contribute to leaky gut and dysbiosis, including poor diet, alcohol, and chronic stress. Knowing what caused your gut problems will help you resolve them.

4. Poor circulation

If your fingers, toes, and nose are cold to the touch your brain may not be receiving enough oxygen due to poor circulation.

Other symptoms of poor circulation include weak nails, fungal nail infections, low brain endurance, and cramping in the hands and feet.

Low circulation deprives the brain of blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients. Factors that cause low circulation include anemia, chronic stress, hypothyroidism, low blood pressure, smoking, and blood sugar imbalances.

5. Autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation

Autoimmune diseases — when the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue — can cause depression. Examples include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Chronic inflammation, such as in chronic joint pain, gut problems, or skin rashes, is also linked with depression.

These disorders inflame the brain, which hampers function and can cause depression.

The brain is also a surprisingly common place for an autoimmune reaction to take place, causing myriad symptoms including depression.

Don’t assume your depression is caused by an antidepressant deficiency. It’s best to discover the underlying causes and address those first. Ask my office for more information.

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gluten sensitivity testing

If you tested for whether gluten might be behind your chronic health issues but a blood test came back negative, are you wondering, “Now what?”

Although it’s possible gluten may not be a problem for you, there’s a high probability that test result was inaccurate. Conventional testing for gluten sensitivity misses many important markers and can give you a false negative result. As a result, you may be told gluten is not an issue when in fact it is provoking your autoimmune disease or chronic health condition. Gluten has been linked in the literature to 55 diseases so far, most of them autoimmune.

Fortunately, newer testing has been developed by Cyrex Labs to catch the cases of gluten sensitivity that conventional testing misses.

Why standard blood tests often fail at diagnosing gluten sensitivity

Standard blood tests for gluten sensitivity have a less than 30 percent accuracy rate. Gluten has to have significantly destroyed the gut wall for blood testing to be effective. In many people, gluten damages other tissues in the body, such as neurological tissue.

Current tests only screen for one component of wheat, alpha gliadin. Yet people can react to at least 12 different portions of the wheat protein.

In some people, other foods such as dairy can trigger a gluten-like immune response because the body sees them as one in the same. This is called cross-reactivity. Conventional doctor’s offices do not screen for this.

Standard testing only looks at the response of one set of immune cells. If those cells are depressed due to immune exhaustion, results could be inaccurate. More thorough testing compensates for immune depression by testing a variety of immune cells.

Gluten damages more than the gut

Standard testing also only looks at whether gluten sensitivity is destroying gut tissue. However, in many people, gluten does not cause an immune reaction in the digestive tract to the same degree it does in the brain or in the skin. In fact, most people are affected neurologically by a gluten intolerance. Fortunately, we now have ways to screen for that.

Which part of wheat do you react to?

Gluten sensitivity isn’t as cut-and-dry as once thought. (Also, the word “gluten” is technically incorrect as “gliadin” is the portion of wheat that triggers an immune response.)

Wheat is made up of more than 100 different components that can cause a reaction, not just the alpha gliadin component most tests use.

Other parts of wheat that can cause gluten sensitivity include different forms of gliadin besides alpha gliadin, the portion of wheat found in whole wheat, the sticky portion of gluten, wheat that has been altered through industrial processing, and wheat opioids — substances produced during the digestion of wheat that have addictive properties similar to opiates. People with a wheat opioid sensitivity may go through severe withdrawals on a gluten-free diet.

In addition to comprehensive gluten sensitivity testing, Cyrex also tests for the following: foods that cross react with gluten, damage that gluten can cause to your gut and your brain, and autoimmune reactions (when your immune system attacks and destroys body tissue) that may have gone undiagnosed yet cause chronic symptoms. For more information about advanced immune testing, contact my office.

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five things that cause insomnia copy

It seems almost everyone has insomnia these days, including, possibly, you. People either can’t fall asleep, they wake up after a few hours of sleep and can’t go back asleep, or they aren’t able to sleep deeply. The reasons for insomnia vary from person to person, but it’s typically not due to a sleeping pill deficiency.

Instead, the reasons behind insomnia or poor sleep can be startlingly straightforward, although addressing them may take some diet and lifestyle changes.

In this article I’ll go over often overlooked issues that cause insomnia and poor sleep. Don’t assume a powerful sleeping pill is your only answer. Look at the underlying causes first and address those.

Five things that can cause insomnia

Low blood sugar. Do you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m., racked with anxiety and unable to fall back asleep? That could be caused by a blood sugar crash, which raises stress hormones (hence the anxious wake up). Eating small but frequent meals, never skipping meals, and avoid sugary and starchy foods are important to keep blood sugar stable. Additionally, eating a little bit of protein before bed and at night if you wake up may help.

High blood sugar (insulin resistance or pre-diabetes). Do you fall asleep after meals yet struggle to fall asleep at night? Do you wake up feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck, but are wide awake at bedtime? It could be high blood sugar, a precursor to diabetes, is driving your primary stress hormone cortisol and keeping you up. A telltale symptom of high blood sugar is falling asleep after meals, especially starchy meals. Minimizing sugary and starchy foods, not overeating, and exercising regularly can help you rewind insulin resistance and sleep better at night.

Too much blue light. Are you staring into a computer, phone, tablet, or TV screen right before bed? If so, you’re confusing your body’s sleep hormone production. The body recognizes blue light as daylight, which suppresses the production of melatonin, our main sleep hormone. Limiting your exposure to blue light at night can help boost your body’s production of sleep hormones. Wear orange glasses two hours before bed, use orange bulbs in your nighttime lamps, and limit your evening screen time to boost melatonin.

Inflammation. If you are chronically inflamed it drives up your stress hormones, which can keep you awake. This is particularly true if you’re experiencing inflammation in your brain, which can cause anxiety. One of the most common causes of chronic inflammation is an immune reaction to foods, especially gluten, dairy, eggs, and various grains. Screening for undiagnosed food sensitivities and an anti-inflammatory diet can help you hone in on what’s causing your insomnia or poor sleep.

Hormone imbalances. Hormone imbalances can significantly impact sleep. Low progesterone, which is a common symptom of chronic stress, heightens anxiety and sleeplessness. An estrogen deficiency in perimenopause and menopause has been shown to increase anxiety, insomnia  and sleep apnea. In men, low testosterone is linked with poor sleep and sleep apnea. Also, low hormone levels can be inflammatory to the brain, increasing anxiety and insomnia.

Many things can cause insomnia and poor sleep, however these are some of the more common. While you are addressing the underlying factors of your sleep issue, you can aid your ability to sleep with safe and natural compounds, depending on the mechanism. Ask my office for more advice.

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