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Archive for April, 2017

intermittent fasting copy

Humans have been fasting for millennia, either for religious or spiritual reasons or simply due to lack of food. Today, a new form of fasting called intermittent fasting is increasingly popular among those seeking it’s anti-aging and health benefits.

Intermittent fasting, or IF, makes fasting an everyday part of life versus something you do once or twice a year. Many people use it successfully for weight loss and inflammation as well as to improve brain function and insulin sensitivity. The promise of increased longevity is another reason people choose to fast regularly.

Different forms of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can be done in a number of ways:

  • 5:2 diet — In this plan you eat normally five days per week, and either fast completely, or severely restrict calories (500-600 calories) the other two days.
  • Alternate day fasting — This plan includes normal eating for 24 hours and zero, or very low calories (500-600) for the next 24-hour period, alternating every other day. These 24-hour periods typically begin at dinnertime so that in any one day you may miss one or two meals, but not all three.
  • 16:8 or 14:10 — Also known as the “eating window plan,” this plan has you eat during an 8- or 10-hour window and fast the remaining 16 or 14 hours of each 24-hour period. For example, you stop eating at 7 p.m and do not eat again until 14 hours later at 9 a.m. the next morning.

Intermittent fasting for weight loss

Restricting caloric intake can lead to weight loss, but intermittent fasting seems to help with weight loss in more ways than that. For one thing, studies show intermittent fasters have better insulin sensitivity and glucose regulation. Among other things, this makes a person crave less sugar and use glucose more efficiently for energy production instead of being stored as fat. Intermittent fasting also causes your body to burn more fat. Because it depletes glycogen, the storage form of glucose, your body switches over to burning stored fat for energy.

Intermittent fasting for brain function

Studies show intermittent fasting can benefit brain function and potentially even stave off Alzheimer’s disease and depression. This is likely due to better glucose and insulin control (Alzheimer’s disease is often called type 3 diabetes), as well as production of ketone bodies for fuel. Ketones provide a ready source of clean-burning fuel for the brain that leave behind fewer free radicals than glucose does. High-fat ketogenic diets have long been used to help prevent seizures.

Other benefits

Intermittent fasting has been shown in trials to reduce blood pressure, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and insulin-like growth factor, a hormone that is linked to cancer and diabetes. There is still much to learn about the benefits and pitfalls of intermittent fasting. Fortunately, it is an area of great scientific interest and research is happening at a rapid pace.

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone

Children and teens, pregnant women, people with eating disorders, as well as those with hypoglycemia should not fast. Also, diabetics taking insulin should only attempt this diet under supervision of a doctor.

Women often find less stringent forms of intermittent fasting are more suitable for them. For example, a woman might start by trying a 12:12 eating window plan and potentially lengthen her fasting time gradually, or not, as it suits her.

As always, it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all remedy to any health concern. Contact my office to discuss if intermittent fasting might be right for you.

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Recent studies have shown rice can be dangerously high in inorganic arsenic, particularly rice grown in the southern United States. This is bad news for gluten-free people who eat rice-based products — one study showed people on a gluten-free diet have twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to controls (and 70 percent more mercury).

Although guidelines exist to minimize arsenic exposure (buy rice from California, eat white rice, wash rice thoroughly before cooking, and cook rice like pasta in a ratio of about 6 to 1 water to rice), what about rice-based gluten-free foods? It’s nearly impossible to know where their rice comes from, how it’s processed, and what the arsenic levels are.

Arsenic levels in popular gluten-free foods

Until now. The Gluten-Free Watchddog has begun testing arsenic levels in popular brands of gluten-free foods  which you can view with a subscription.

Keep in mind that what is considered an acceptable amount of arsenic varies. Codex, an international collection of safety standards, proposes a maximum of 200 parts per billion in white rice. The European Union proposes 100 parts per billion.

However, arsenic expert Dr. Andrew Meharg proposes a maximum of 50 parts per billion for children, who carry a heavier toxic body burden, and a maximum of 100 parts per billion for adults.

Arsenic levels in rice-based gluten-free foods

For results of inorganic arsenic testing on various brands of gluten-free foods that you can browse by category, visit Gluten-Free Watchdog  A paid subscription is required to access the reports. However, below are examples of arsenic level ranges in some categories of popular gluten-free foods.*

Inorganic arsenic in gluten-free breads

Inorganic arsenic in popular gluten-free breads ranged from 10 parts per billion to 40 parts per billion.

Pastas

Inorganic arsenic in popular gluten-free pastas ranged from 20 parts per billion to 150 parts per billion.

Cereals

Inorganic arsenic in popular gluten-free cereals ranged from 70 parts per billion to 280 parts per billion.

Miscellaneous rice products (rice bran, rice milk, rice syrup, rice cakes)

Inorganic arsenic in miscellaneous rice products ranged from 20 parts per billion to 540 parts per billion.

Rice

Inorganic arsenic in several rice brands ranged from 80 parts per billion to 140 parts per billion. (Brown rice has more than white rice. Gluten-Free Watchdog reports a brand called Mighty Rice grown on the island of Mauritius shows very low levels of inorganic arsenic in their tests.)

Factor in frequency and amount of consumption

It’s important to understand these numbers tell us the concentration of inorganic arsenic in each product. The frequency and amount of any item eaten and whether the eater is an adult or a developing child are also very important factors in the equation. For example, at 540 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic, one rice bran product looks pretty bad. But consumed in very small quantities as brans typically are, it may not pose as much a problem, relative to the other foods listed, as it first may seem.

It would be better if rice were not high in inorganic arsenic. Thankfully groups such as Gluten Free Watchdog are around to help us reduce exposures. Also, there is a group based at Cornell University working to shift the world to a rice farming method that uses up to 50 percent less water while increasing yields, thus saving precious water while reducing the amount of arsenic in the rice produced.

*Ranges included with permission from Gluten-Free Watchdog LLC.

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By jules / stonesoup - par cooked brown rice, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10754808

Gluten-free folks accustomed to eating rice-based gluten-free breads, pastas, cereals, and other substitutes may be consuming dangerously high levels of arsenic.

In fact, a 2017 study showed people on a gluten-free diet consuming rice-based products on a regular basis showed almost twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to those who did not (and 70 percent more mercury, another troublesome finding.)

Why arsenic is harmful

Arsenic is a naturally occurring heavy metal. It is the inorganic arsenic (not bound to carbon) that is toxic to humans if levels ingested are too high.

Although inorganic arsenic occurs naturally, it also accumulates in soil and water due to pesticides and fertilizers. Because rice grows in water, it is the grain highest in arsenic.

Consistent exposure to small amounts of arsenic increases the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurological disorders. Consuming arsenic during pregnancy may affect the baby’s immune system.

Consumer Reports found one serving of rice pasta, rice cereal, and rice milk exceeded a safe amount of arsenic for one week while one serving of rice cakes came close.

The FDA recently proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal. However, it’s impossible to know how much arsenic is safe to consume as risk is dose dependent; the more you consume the higher the risk.

How to minimize arsenic exposure from rice

These troubling truths about arsenic exposure through rice don’t have to spell doom for gluten-free folks who depend on rice-based substitutes.

For starters, look for products made from other grains besides rice. Thankfully, there are many more on the market these days.

Look at where your rice comes from. In 2014 Consumer Reports found that rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas had the highest concentrations of inorganic arsenic while California rice has almost 40 percent less arsenic. Brown basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan has a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices. 

Unfortunately, because the arsenic comes from the water, organic rice may not be lower in arsenic.

Eat white rice (sorry!). Since arsenic tends to accumulate in the outer layers that are removed to turn brown rice into white, white rice contains less of the toxin than the whole grain.

Rinse your rice thoroughly and cook in excess water. Wash your rice thoroughly before cooking and then cook your rice in a ratio of about six cups of water to one cup of rice and drain the excess water after. This cuts down arsenic levels by about one third compared to letting rice absorb all the water during cooking.

Consider a grain-free diet. Many people feel and function significantly better on a grain-free diet. If you don’t eat rice-based products, excessive arsenic exposure is one less thing to worry about in a world where we are constantly at battle with toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

Ask my office for more ways to protect yourself from toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

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By WikipedianProlific ([1]) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s an embarrassing subject we like to put behind us, but hemorrhoids can be a real bummer, with the pain of sitting butting into everyday tasks. Although hemorrhoids tend to run in families, certain measures can prevent your backside from continually taking front and center.

Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and rectum that cause pain from sitting, squatting, going to the bathroom, and other ordinary things. In addition to pain, other symptoms include bleeding, the urge for a bowel movement, itching, and irritation.

Common root causes of hemorrhoids

Fortunately, the most common cause of hemorrhoids is also the most preventable — a diet low in fiber. Most Americans eat less than half the daily recommended amount of fiber. And that recommendation has gone up — from 5–7 servings a day to 7–10. (A serving is a half cup of vegetables and fruits or a cup of leafy greens.)

Upping your fiber intake may be all that’s required for relief. Ideas to make eating more veggies easier include:

  • Prepping and storing veggies to add to meals
  • Ordering salads with meals when eating out
  • Making big batches of veggies soups and stews
  • Keeping a container “salad bar” in your fridge
  • Veggie smoothies
  • Snacking on raw veggies

Make sure to drink plenty of water and exercise regularly, both which are important for constipation prevention.

If eating lots of vegetables causes gastric discomfort, you may need to take digestive enzymes with your meals. Or you may have compromised digestion that require gut healing. Ask my office about ways to help repair your gut function.

Still constipated?

If you eat plenty of fiber and are still constipated, then you may have to investigate other possible root causes.

Thyroid. For instance, the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is known to cause constipation. Properly managing Hashimoto’s by addressing immune imbalances is fundamental to relieving constipation and hemorrhoids.

Brain. Poor brain function can cause constipation and hemorrhoids. If your brain is aging too fast or under functions, the vagus nerve  which runs between the brain and the gut, does not receive sufficient activation. An active vagus nerve signals the intestines to rhythmically contract and move food along in a timely manner. In fact, irresolvable constipation is an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease (although constipation does not always predict Parkinson’s).

Also, poor vagus nerve and brain function inhibit secretion of digestive juices and enzymes, which lead to constipation, as well as fail to keep the tissues and blood vessels of the rectum and anus healthy so as to avoid hemorrhoids.

Fortunately, we can jumpstart the vagus nerve with exercises such as gargling vigorously and frequently, singing loudly, or stimulating the gag reflex.

Gut. An inflamed, leaky gut with too much bad gut bacteria contributes to constipation. The gut has its own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system. When gut health is bad, the enteric nervous system does not function properly and constipation can result.

Additionally, poor gut health and bad gut bacteria impact brain health in a way that can, thanks to the communication highway of the vagus nerve, set the stage for constipation and hemorrhoids due to faulty brain-gut interaction.

Toilet pedestals and non-surgical treatments

If you haven’t caught wind of the “Squatty Potty” movement yet, take notice. Elevating your feet when you’re on the toilet so that you’re closer to a squatting position is said to help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. Also, be aware of non-surgical solutions for hemorrhoids, such as in-office treatments that use an electrical current.

A variety of factors can cause hemorrhoids, however it’s always important to address diet and health of the digestive tract, brain, and immune system when looking to manage the underlying cause. Ask my office for more advice.

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