3 Ways to Avoid Overeating

It’s common to indulge on special occasions. But it doesn’t always stop there, does it? Buffets, potlucks, or at-home meals you can’t get enough of!

Sometimes we overeat on regular days, during regular meals or with non-stop snacking.  

Whether you’re a frequent or an occasional overeater, the after-effects are real and bothersome. Digestive distress, extra pounds, guilt, or fatigue…so many consequences!

Read on if you’d like three simple tips to help you avoid all of this. Psst, turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!

Tip #1: Start with some water

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten. My caveat here is to drink 20 – 30 minutes before eating, as drinking liquids with meals can interfere with the digestive process. (Don’t worry about taking just a few sips with your meal though).  

This will also help ensure you’re getting enough water to stay hydrated, which is important for many reasons. As an aside, drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism! Win-win!

And did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger? Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Tip #2: Salad Comes Next!

After water but before that rich, creamy main dish, insert a salad.

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they contain two secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water help fill you up and make you feel fuller. They’re “satiating”.

And since it takes twenty minutes for your brain to catch up with your tummy, you won’t need to eat as much of your main dish if you have a salad first.

Tip #3: Plate Your Food On Smaller Dishes

While studies on food intake relative to plate size have been contradictory, one cannot dispute that there is less room on a smaller plate for the foods you love to eat, which don’t love you back!

And if you actually follow my first two tips, you’ll have less room for a second helping.

Bonus: Take Water to the Next Level!

Find plain water boring? Here are six ideas to up the flavor and aesthetic appeal to your water. The longer they sit, the better the flavor, so make up a jug and sip throughout the day!

  • Slices of lemon & ginger
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
  • Chopped pineapple & mango
  • Blueberries & raspberries
  • Cucumber slices and fresh mint

Best Tip Yet: buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning.  They’re already washed and cut, and will keep your water colder longer!

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/

Robinson E, Nolan S, Tudur‐Smith C, et al. Will smaller plates lead to smaller waists? A systematic review and meta‐analysis of the effect that experimental manipulation of dishware size has on energy consumption. Obesity Reviews 2014; 15: 812–821. [PubMed]

Coffee – Who Should Drink It and Who Should Avoid It

Doesn’t it drive you crazy…one day you hear coffee is good for you, and the next day you should avoid it! In this blog we’ll explore some of the positives and negatives of coffee consumption, so you can make an informed decision about it.

Just like any food, coffee can affect people differently. There is actual science behind why this is so.

A 2018 study notes that the compounds in your coffee depend on a host of factors;

“Coffee is a complex mixture of chemical compounds, and its composition varies according to the coffee bean species, the roasting process (speed, time, and temperature), and the grinding and brewing process (water/coffee grounds ratio, coffee grind size, water temperature, duration, and methods).”(1)

This may explain why my husband can drink all coffee brands except for Tim Hortons, because it gives him heartburn! It also explains why coffee contains anywhere from 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup.

Second, your genetics and your bio-chemical individuality will determine how your mind and body reacts to coffee.

It also has to do with your body becoming more tolerant to long-term caffeine use. Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.

Let’s look at caffeine metabolism, effects of coffee on the mind and body, and then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.

Caffeine metabolism

Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others!

About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half is “fast” metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.

This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much – because we’re all different!

The effects of coffee on mind and body

There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.

NOTE: A 2018 meta analysis of 29 studies looking at coffee’s impact to our health noted that its effects apply to both regular and decaffeinated coffee. So while caffeine itself provides some of the benefits (i.e. stimulating our brain and bodies, thereby improving mental and physical performance), the multitude of other compounds in coffee also play a role.

The Pros

Here’s some of the benefits of regular coffee consumption:

  • Stimulates the brain, increasing alertness
  • Boosts metabolism (therefore helpful for weight woes)
  • Boosts energy and exercise performance
  • Decreases inflammatory biomarkers.
  • Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its co-morbidities (obesity/excess weight and metabolic issues)
  • Modulates gut flora in a favorable way
  • Contains high amounts of antioxidants

I should also point out that coffee consumption has been associated with lower risk of some diseases. However, coffee intake is certainly not the biggest factor that will protect you from any particular condition or disease. Eating a nutrient-rich diet low in processed foods, reducing stress, adequate sleep and regular exercise is far better insurance!

The Cons

As with any food topic, there’s two sides to it!

  • Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)
  • Potential for sleep disruption
  • Increases your stress hormone, cortisol
  • Being a diuretic, too much coffee can dehydrate

As a holistic health practitioner, the biggest concern for me is the increase in cortisol. Most of us are already over-stressed, meaning our cortisol levels are already higher than is helpful. High cortisol leads to poor sleep and, if prolonged, interferes with cortisol’s other important functions of hormone regulation….hello blood sugar issues, under-functioning thyroid (and adrenals), and it can even block progesterone receptors!    

Should you drink coffee or not?

There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:

  • People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
  • People who often feel anxious
  • People who have trouble sleeping
  • Pregnancy
  • Children and teens
  • Anyone with diarrhea (coffee stimulates peristalsis)

On the other hand, if you suffer from constipation, coffee may help because of its stimulation of your intestines. If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, talk to your nutritionist or dietician, as coffee can be a trigger food.

It can also trigger acid reflux/heartburn in susceptible individuals. If this is you, I suggest weaning yourself off coffee over the course of one week, then strictly avoiding it for the next two weeks. You can then reintroduce it and see how your body responds.

Caffeine can take up to ten hours to leave our system. So if you’re a problem sleeper, limit caffeine to morning consumption, and consider switching to decaf – which still has small amounts of caffeine.  

If any of this caused you to wonder whether coffee might be contributing to a particular issue you have, try eliminating it for two weeks and observing how your body and mind respond. Don’t just quit caffeine cold turkey though. It’s an easier transition to wean yourself off over one week by combining half regular with half decaf, then move to decaf, and then avoid completely.   

For those of you who already know coffee is staying in your diet, check out my dressed up version, Pumpkin Spice Latte, here.

 

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/coffee-good-or-bad/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-coffee

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/a-wake-up-call-on-coffee

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-your-coffee-habit-help-you-live-longer-201601068938

http://suppversity.blogspot.ca/2014/05/caffeine-resistance-genetic.html

https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-coffee-should-you-drink/

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mattias_Carlstroem/publication/327600659_Long-term_effects_of_coffee_and_caffeine_intake_on_the_risk_of_pre-diabetes_and_type_2_diabetes_Findings_from_a_population_with_low_coffee_consumption/links/5ba8aa8045851574f7e1fe25/Long-term-effects-of-coffee-and-caffeine-intake-on-the-risk-of-pre-diabetes-and-type-2-diabetes-Findings-from-a-population-with-low-coffee-consumption.pdf

The Truth About Hormones and Your Weight

Most of us associate the term “hormones” with reproductive hormones like estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone, or thyroid. These usually get the blame for our weight woes, especially as we enter the menopausal years. While one or more of them may or may not be a factor for you, did you know you have hormones which dictate your eating habits and fat storage?!

Hormones are chemical messengers which regulate many functions in our bodies including appetite, metabolism, blood sugar control (fat storage), sleep, stress, and cravings.

So feel free to let go the self-blame and guilt game, because willpower is no match for The Hormone Gang!

Keep reading to learn just how powerful these guys are, and how to ensure they work for you, instead of against you!

4 Hormones Which Control Your Weight:


Insulin:

Consider this your fat-storing hormone. When you eat carbohydrates, your body converts them into glucose, which we use as fuel.

Insulin’s job is to regulate the amount of glucose in your blood. It helps the body store excess glucose as fat for later use by the body.

So, a high carb diet leads to high glucose/blood sugar, which leads to higher levels of fat storage. You follow?

The average diet is indeed high carb, especially of the processed variety (sugar and/or grain-heavy). So if you’re scale-stuck, assess your diet first. If you’ve already “cleaned up” your carbs and still can’t shed fat, insulin resistance may be the reason.

Studies of obese subjects reveal their cells no longer respond to insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance. Since glucose is not being taken up into the cells, the body produces more insulin to try and deal with it. Now you’re stuck with high levels of insulin.

And high levels of insulin is associated with being overweight or obese.


A 2013 study found that 75 percent of the weight-loss response in obesity is predicted by insulin levels and levels of inflammation. Seventy five percent!!

Not willpower, nor caloric intake, nor exercise. Just insulin and subtle inflammation we all produce naturally, both of which are higher in those with more body fat.


For a thorough, evidence-based review of the role of insulin and insulin resistance in obesity and excess weight, check out this book, The Obesity Code, by Dr. Jason Fung.

While insulin is a primary determinant of weight, cortisol comes a close second.

Cortisol:

Known as the stress hormone, cortisol is released in response to emotional or physical stress.

It prepares the body for “fight-or-flight” by raising blood pressure and blood sugar in those rare emergency situations.

But….when cortisol is elevated for a prolonged period, it sets the stage for metabolic issues, insulin resistance and associated weight gain, especially around the abdomen. Worth noting, as abdominal obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.


Prolonged stress > chronically elevated cortisol > insulin resistance > fat storage, especially in the abdomen area.


Leptin:

Secreted in fat cells, leptin makes its way to the hypothalamus, causing the brain to send out signals to reduce food intake. Obese folks are found to have high levels of leptin. But research has found their brains no longer respond to leptin; a state known as leptin resistance.

Insulin resistance and leptin resistance go hand in hand, but the finer details of their cross-talk are not yet well understood. Regardless, it’s a Double Whammy!


Oh, and more bad news… Leptin also plays an important role in the regulation of the reproductive system, thyroid gland, adrenal glands and growth hormone production. As I say often, everything in the body is connected!


Ghrelin:

Ghrelin stimulates hunger. It increases before meals to stimulate hunger and is supposed to decrease after meals. When leptin resistant, insulin resistant and stressed out (high cortisol), ghrelin doesn’t shut off, constantly telling your body you are starving.

These hormones are impacted during a calorie restricted diet and remain so for up to one year! This explains why people gain back the weight they lost and then some.

Now you see why you’re giving in to temptation more than you like! Told you it wasn’t your fault!

When your hormones are out of whack, you crave sugary or starchy carbs. You might feel hungry more than you should and/or never quite feel full and satisfied. You might have a hard time sleeping – thanks Stress and Cortisol!, which then sets you up for eating the foods which supply a quick energy boost (sugary, starchy foods and/or caffeine. PS – chocolate has caffeine). After which comes the energy crash. And the cycle is vicious.

Fret not, finding balance in these four hormones is easier than you think! Don’t forget that they are all connected.

Here are some tips to settle down The Hormone Gang and encourage weight loss.


I call it the 4S approach (Sugar/starch control, Supplement, Stress reduction, Sleep).

Sugar/starch Control: Minimize sugar in all its forms, but especially table sugar. Sugar provokes insulin secretion. White sugar has the added disadvantage of being highly refined and is known to provoke inflammation.

If you need help getting off sugar or choosing the best sweeteners, be sure to sign up for my FREE 6-Day Break Up With Sugar Challenge!

Cut back on grains, even whole wheat and whole grains. Most of my clients find they’re eating far more grains than they think when I ask them to do a food journal.

Think breads, cereals, pastas, granola bars, many canned and bottled foods, pizza, hamburgers etc. What are your typical breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners?

These commercially made products are almost always made with standard wheat, which contains more insulin-provoking starch. This applies to whole wheat products as well.

And most grain products, even “whole grains” promote inflammation, because they are not prepared as traditional grain products used to be.

You can read my blog about wheat here, for my recommendations on which grains will keep you off the blood sugar/insulin roller coaster.

Keep your insulin levels in check by avoiding carb-heavy meals. Look for balance on your plate; a combination of some quality protein, quality fat, and complex carbohydrates (non starchy vegetables and whole grains I recommend). Eating in this way will allow you to keep insulin, leptin, and ghrelin in check.

Add in those healthy fats! They support the manufacturing of hormones and keep you fuller, longer. This makes them a perfect swap for those refined carbohydrates you’ll be cutting back on. You can grab a printable cheatsheet of the best healthy fats here.

Supplement: My go-to supplement for efficient resolution of hormonal symptoms such as cravings/appetite, low energy, irritability, and poor sleep is Balance, by EVOLV Health.

 

Balance contains standardized levels of the most scientifically validated natural molecules for supporting the body’s ability to cope with whatever hormonal distress is going on. It positively interacts with our reproductive hormones AND insulin AND has been shown to decrease inflammation. Check out the details here.

Stress Reduction: Actively manage your stress! Remember, high cortisol causes weight gain and interferes with sleep. This sets you up for cravings and high insulin levels. Choose whatever form of stress relief works for you, just do it EVERY. DAMN. DAY! (PS, this is not a license to drink alcohol every day! Keep it clean and productive people!!). Even if you’re not feeling overly stressed, life is full of mini-stressors. You’d be amazed at how a few moments of conscious breath can instill a sense of calm.

Sleep: Make sleep a priority. The good news is, when we manage our stress effectively, sleep can improve alot! Sleep experts recommend between 7-9 hours each night. If you need help with sleep hygiene and how to set yourself up for a good night sleep, check out this article.

Seriously, without proper rest your hormones cannot be happy.


Bottom line: Do some “hormone math”! Sugar intake + Grain intake + Stress level + Sleep quality =

HORMONAL HEALTH


Work on one small thing at a time, rather than trying to do a 360 turn. Taking a quality hormone balancing supplement while you’re working on the other areas can provide some immediate support.

Ultimate Guide to Buying Yogurt

Yogurt…a staple of many daily diets here in Canada and abroad. It is considered a nutritious food choice, and it is, if you know what to look for and what to avoid.

Most commercially made yogurts today are little more than liquid candy; full of sugar (or just as bad, artificial sweeteners), artificial colors and flavors, thickeners, and more; essentially a chemical sh$t storm… While they’re supposed to contribute healthy bacteria to your gut flora, these nasty ingredients can actually have the opposite effect.(1, 2, 3)

Adding to the confusion is a mind-boggling array of yogurt styles to choose from; low-fat, low calorie, Greek, Skyr, Balkan, probiotic, and more.

I promise, by the end of this blog you’ll be navigating the yogurt aisle like a nutritionist! It’s not as complicated as it seems.

What is Real Yogurt?

The only ingredients required to make yogurt are milk (or cream, or both) and live bacterial culture. That’s it, that’s all! These are left to ferment for different periods of time, from 4 – 24 hours, depending on the type of yogurt being made and the ethics of the food manufacturer…some choose profit over integrity…gasp!! 

During the fermentation period, the bacterial culture breaks down the naturally occurring sugar in milk (lactose) into lactic acid, which causes the yogurt to taste sour. The breakdown of lactose explains why some folks with lactose intolerance can tolerate yogurt, particularly those which have been fermented longer.  

Since this is a long blog (there’s ALOT to say about yogurt!),  I’m unveiling my top picks for best yogurts, rank-ordered, right at the outset:

  1. Grass-fed, organic, whole-milk yogurt,
  2. Organic, whole-milk yogurt,
  3. Conventional whole-milk yogurt     

But I encourage you to read through for the why; why grass-fed, why organic, and why/what the heck is whole milk. 

Plus, you’ll find a mini-checklist and a yummy recommendation! If you’re dairy-free, my Mini-Checklist for Buying Yogurt will still be helpful for you. 

Types of Yogurt

Standard/regular Yogurt – the vast majority of yogurts in the grocery stores today will fall here, in the category of “Junk Food Disguised as Health Food”. Now that you know the only 2 ingredients required to make yogurt, check out the ingredient list from this peach flavoured yogurt from Yoplait:

Pasteurized Grade A Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch. Contains 1% or less of: Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Potassium Sorbate Added to Maintain Freshness, Annatto Extract (for color), Yogurt Cultures (L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, L. acidophilus), Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.

It’s labeled as “Low Fat” (as if that’s a good thing!), but I guess that kind of makes up for the whopping 30 grams of sugar per serving!! For reference, 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. You do the math.

In addition to standard yogurt products, there are “specialty” yogurts. As you’ll see, it doesn’t mean they’re any better.

Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt differs from standard yogurt in that it is strained. Straining  removes the liquid whey, as well as some of the lactose, salt and water, leaving behind a thicker yogurt which is higher in protein and also usually lower in sugar (and therefore, carbohydrates). Sounds like a great option, but scanning the nutritional label is vital. Remember my point about food companies chasing profit first?

As a side note, if you are eco and/or agri-conscious, you might like to know that every cup of Greek yogurt takes up to three cups of milk to make, which results in a lot of wasted product, which then needs to then be disposed of. Compare this to standard yogurt, where the ratio of milk to yogurt is 1:1. (4)

Icelandic/Skyr Yogurt: As its name implies, this is Iceland’s traditional way to ferment milk. Like greek yogurt, skyr is strained (whey is removed), so the protein content is, again, higher than standard yogurts and it’s consistency is thick and curdy. It is naturally a non-fat yogurt made with skim milk and active bacterial cultures. Some skyr producers add cream back into the product to up the fat content (due to consumer demand or different taste…not sure…).

Like greek yogurt, it takes 4 times as much milk to make one cup of skyr as compared to regular yogurt. (5)

Balkan-Style: Balkan-style yogurt is made in small individual batches rather than in large vats. Warm cultured milk is poured into containers then incubated without any further stirring, giving it it’s characteristically thick texture.

Probiotic Yogurt: The sheer numbers of friendly bacteria within the human body and their central role in virtually all aspects of our well-being is the talk in all health circles today, as the science keeps stacking up. (7) Along with being a balanced source of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals (especially calcium), yogurt offer us a tasty, convenient way to replenish our gut microbes.

Culturing (fermentation) time, temperature, and microorganisms added to the milk all play a part in determining probiotic outcomes in a yogurt.

These will differ between food companies, so to keep things simple for you:

  •  Search out a yogurt that contains “live” or “active” cultures, because some yogurts can be heat-treated after the bacteria has been added.
  • The higher the probiotic count (expressed as CFU’s), the better (provided it’s without added sugar and other junk ingredients)!

In Canada, all yogurts must be made with the strains; lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus. Some manufacturers add in additional strains.

Most commercially made yogurts are estimated to provide up to 300,000 live bacteria per serving, an amount too low to provide health benefits. (6A, 6B)

Commercial yogurt brands whose products offer greater numbers of bacteria will typically promote this on their labels. I commonly see labels stating the product contains one billion CFUs.  A select few have tested consumer interest in a higher CFU containing yogurt. For example, DanActive (Danone) and BioBest Maximmunité (Astro) offer up 10 billion live bacteria per serving. This may sound like alot but in my practice that is the minimum I look for in a probiotic supplement. 

Theoretically, these would be a great choice. But remember to check that ingredient list – it’s a better indicator of how nourishing a food is. What good will those extra probiotics do for you if they come with massive amounts of sugar and other non nutrients which disrupt the balance of your gut flora and your metabolic health?!

Besides, if probiotic benefit is the main reason you eat yogurt, look to kefir my friends! You’ll get a greater variety of strains (as high as 32!!) to complement your existing tribe of microbes, and a longer fermentation period allows those good guys to keep on multiplying.

Low-Fat / Low-Calorie: I’ll lump these into one since they’re both targeting dieters, and they’re both so very problematic! First, any yogurt that is missing fat and/or carbohydrates typically has a long list of junk ingredients to make up for those missing macronutrients, and the unbeatable taste and texture they provide.

Second, observational studies have concluded that “diet yogurts” are not associated with a reduced risk of obesity. (8)

Did you know that fat and sugar substitutes, including artificial sweeteners, may actually diminish weight-loss efforts?

The artificial sweetness present in these yogurts may confuse your taste buds and contribute to more sweet cravings. Also, human and animal studies have demonstrated that some artificial sweeteners can raise your blood sugar levels even more than if you consumed table sugar! Bad news, since insulin dysregulation is a big factor in overweight/obesity crisis. (9A, 9B)

You need to eat fat in order to lose fat. If you haven’t heard it already, going fat-free is downright detrimental to your health – read more about that here. If you’re someone who eats factory farmed animal products daily, including meats, eggs, and dairy from conventionally raised animals, consider that the saturated fat present in these products encourages inflammation in the body, so yes, cut back. But why not swap some of your meat-based meals for plant-based meals, and enjoy yogurt in it’s natural state, fat and all.

Frozen Yogurt: Unlike yogurt, frozen yogurts do not need to meet any specific government standards to be called frozen yogurt. Therefore, companies may skip the actual fermentation process, or not use live bacterial cultures at all. Even if they do, the number of live bacteria remaining after freezing is so minute after the freezing that it’s irrelevant. Basically, there is virtually no probiotic benefit in this style of yogurt, and a whole lot of sugar. Best to consider this one dessert. (10)

Ultimate Guide to Buying Healthy Yogurt

In Canada, all commercially made yogurts are made from milk that has been pasteurized (and many have also been homogenized), which alters its natural state, dramatically affects it’s nutrient profile, and creates issues in the digestive tract. (11)

In a perfect world, you would be able to benefit from yogurt made with raw milk, which is far better tolerated and more nutrient-dense. Sadly, raw milk is outlawed in Canada despite being deemed safe, health-promoting, and therefore legal in Europe and many US states. (12, 13) As an aside, I believe the mass consumption of altered milk may be a factor behind dairy being the most common food allergen. It’s also a very common food sensitivity.  

So, what’s the next best option, you ask? In 2014, the Cornucopia Institute concluded that yogurt which was grass-fed, organic, and whole-milk (meaning unmodified milk, so no “modified milk ingredients” such as skim milk powder) was the best option of all commercial yogurts. (14)

There are several reasons for this;

1. You avoid chemical defoamers permitted in conventional yogurt production,

2. You receive greater nutrition from organic, grass-fed dairy. Most notably, there is a better ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids, which is useful in fighting inflammation, the main suspect in an ever-growing list of chronic diseases.

3. Whole milk has naturally occurring fat. The presence of fat ensure that fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) will be absorbed into the body. This study found that calcium may be more readily absorbed in the presence of fat. So when non-fat or skim milk is used to make yogurt, the benefits of these fat-soluble nutrients are lost.

Be sure to buy plain; you can flavour it yourself using a little jam, honey, stevia, berries, vanilla, granola, etc. Most yogurts contain far too much sugar, which actually feeds disease-causing bacteria, yeast, and fungi in your gut.

If grass-fed dairy is not within your reach, but organic is, that’s still good. You’re avoiding the toxic residues known to be present in the products of factory farmed animals which can interfere with our delicate gut flora.

Third place goes to a plain, whole milk yogurt, which still supplies you with decent nutrition including Omega 3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin K2, enzymes and probiotics.

To recap, my top picks for best yogurts, rank-ordered:

  1. Grass-fed, organic, whole-milk yogurt: if you’re in Ottawa or Montreal, here’s a local producer, Upper Canada Creamery, whose products are in mainstream grocery stores! I can personally vouch for their yogurt, it’s outstanding! While they’re required to pasteurize their milk by law, they don’t homogenize it, so the naturally occurring fat globules are left unaltered. 
  2. Organic, whole-milk yogurt,
  3. Conventional whole-milk yogurt     

**For those who are dairy-free, the criteria below also apply to dairy-free yogurt shopping.


Mini-Checklist for Buying Yogurt

  • Minimum number of ingredients: Remember, real yogurt should only contain milk (ideally whole, not skim), maybe cream, and active bacterial cultures.
  • Active Cultures: Real yogurt should contain whole milk and live or active bacterial cultures on the ingredients list, this will ensure that you are getting true fermented yogurt and the probiotic benefit.
  • Fat Content: If you’re buying grass-fed, grab the highest fat yogurt (typically 3.25% to 4%) so you can benefit from the higher amounts of Omega 3 fats. All yogurt is a source of another helpful fatty acid, known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA has been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease, reduce belly fat, lower cholesterol, increase metabolism and more. (15) Don’t forget the other benefits of fat as mentioned above, absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
  • No Added Sugars: Milk contains natural sugar (lactose). While the live cultures break some of it down, all yogurt- even plain- will have some sugar content. Natural plain yogurt contains about 7 grams of sugar per serving, but sugar should not be found on the ingredient list.

Transitioning to plain yogurt can be a little rough on the palate for some, but if you’re wanting to eat foods that nourish instead of foods that rob you of your health, you’ll make it happen!


Since yogurt is a healthier option than milk, why not swap your usual chocolate pudding for the easiest, healthiest chocolate pudding ever?!

One Minute Chocolate Pudding

Mix 1 cup of yogurt with raw honey or stevia, and 2 teaspoons of pure cocoa. Mix well and refrigerate for 2 hours before enjoying.

Like this article? Please help me to spread the word! Thanks so much!

Are Your Gut Bacteria Behind Your Excess Weight?

According to Statistics Canada, an alarming 61 per cent of all adult Canadians are either overweight or obese. In fact, with almost 26% per cent of the Canadian population aged 15 and over considered obese, Canada is among the most overweight countries worldwide.(1)

Those numbers are only expected to rise, so it’s clear that what we’re doing isn’t working. Despite having access to gyms, online workouts and diets of all kinds, we are the sickest, most overweight generation in our history.

We’ve all heard the main causes of excess weight are the wrong diet, a sedentary lifestyle and perhaps some unlucky genes. In recent years, however, researchers have become increasingly convinced that the trillions of microbes which reside in our digestive tracts play a hidden role.

This makes perfect sense when you understand that the health of your gut flora is dependent upon…you guessed it…diet and lifestyle (think eating habits, stress, toxic load, sleep habits, use of certain medicines, and even mindset).

The microbiome does not replace or contradict other long-understood causes of obesity…it is thoroughly entangled with them!

In a nutshell, here’s what John Hopkins University researchers concluded in a meta-analysis of 21 studies, published in March 2018,

“Dietary agents for the modulation of the gut microbiome are essential tools in the treatment of obesity and can lead to significant decreases in BMI, weight and fat mass.” (2A)

Gut microbiota has been found to impact weight in various ways. It is often underscored as playing a major role in the development of insulin resistance and inflammation that is directly associated with excess weight gain.(2)

Scientists are also studying how gut flora regulate genes responsible for energy/caloric expenditure and storage, and their interaction with hormones that make us feel hungry or full.

Here’s a startling finding; transfer of intestinal bacteria from fat mice transforms thin mice into obese ones! (3)

In human studies of twins who were both lean or both obese, it was found that the gut community in lean people was like a rainforest brimming with many species. In contrast, the microbial community in the obese was less diverse, with fewer species. For example, lean individuals tend to have a wider variety of Bacteroidetes, a large tribe of microbes that specialize in breaking down bulky plant starches and fibers into shorter molecules that the body can use as a source of energy.(4)

In keeping with the theory of less microbial diversity as a factor in obesity, Professor Martin Blaser, New York University, has flagged the absence of a particular bacterium, H. pylori, as important. H. pylori has long been vilified as the cause of peptic ulcers. But Blaser asserts that this bacterium isn’t fully understood, as his team has found it helps to regulate appetite by modulating levels of ghrelin—a hunger-stimulating hormone.

The less ghrelin in your bloodstream, the less hungry you feel, so the less likely you are to overeat. Blaser and his team have shown that those with H pylori in their stomachs have less ghrelin circulating. But H pylori, once abundant in our digestive tracts, now rarely makes an appearance. Blaser asserts this reduction is due to hyper-vigilance around germ control (i.e. the overuse of hand sanitizers and antibiotics). (5)

Diet is critical in shaping the gut ecosystem.

A diet of highly processed foods, for example, has been linked to a less diverse gut community in people. As mentioned already, less gut diversity is associated to excess weight.(6)

A Washington University team demonstrated the complex interaction among food, microbes and body weight by feeding their so-called humanized mice a specially prepared unhealthy chow reflective of the Western diet, (high in “bad” fats, low fibre). Mice with microbes linked to obesity grew fat.(7)

Blaser ‘s NYU team conducted another study whereby young mice were given low doses of antibiotics, similar to what farmers give livestock. Interestingly, the mice developed about 15 percent more body fat than the control group. The mice were then given a high-fat diet along with antibiotics. The outcome? They became obese!

These findings seem to reflect the Canadian reality. Most Canadians are eating a “Western diet” and are regularly being exposed to antibiotics, either through medical use or simply through the daily consumption of factory farmed animal products. Could this explain why over two-thirds of us are overweight or obese? Food for thought!

Another interesting tidbit, from our friends to the South. Professor Blaser found that states with the highest rates of antibiotic use also have the highest rates of obesity.

A 2016 article published in the journal, Frontiers in Microbiology, reviewed the negative impact antibiotic over-exposure is having on the human microbiome and our health. In a nutshell, our immune and metabolic homeostasis is disrupted, and that’s bad news for weight management.(8)

Fact: the interaction between diet and gut bacteria can predispose us to obesity from the day we are born! Studies have shown that both formula-fed babies, and infants delivered by cesarean section, have a higher risk for obesity and diabetes than those who are breast-fed or delivered vaginally. Babies who pass through their mother’s birth canal (another bacteria rich part of the human body), and those who are breast-fed, end up leaner and healthier overall. (9)

We’re still light years away from being able to pop a probiotic with the precise strain which will enable you to shed the weight while still enjoying those 3 cans of Coke each day and running around at Mach 3 speed much of the time. Okay, a bit tongue in cheek…

I hope you can appreciate that obesity (or any disease state for that matter) is not that simple. Remember, everything in the body is connected, and it is no coincidence that my clients are not able to lose weight until they deal with their underlying gut weaknesses, which may or may not be evident to them.

So my goal is to get clients healthy to lose weight rather than lose weight to get healthy. Consider trying to grow a lush green garden in a dump. To grow a thriving garden, you need the right foundation. The same principle applies to your gut garden.

How do you grow a healthy gut garden? It starts with diet and lifestyle of course!

  • Diversify your diet. Eating a wide range of foods will encourage microbial diversity.(10We’ve significantly lost dietary diversity over the past 50 years. If you compare the ingredients of the countless packaged foods which line grocery store shelves, you’ll notice lots of repetition. Food scientists create processed foods with the primary goal of creating something you’ll repeatedly buy for the lowest cost possible. Because of this, the ingredients they are using are not diverse at all. Various forms of wheat, milk, corn, and soy dominate.

I often tell clients to mostly shop the perimeter of the grocery store, as most processed, dead, extended shelf-life food is in the aisles.

To keep it simple, Eat Real Food! Stay away from packaged, convenience foods as much as possible.

  • Eat fermented food daily, which are full of probiotics (the good microbes). Here is a blog I wrote which lists common fermented foods available to you.
  • Eat prebiotic foods daily, which act like food for our resident microbes. Here is a list of prebiotic foods.
  • On the lifestyle side of things, consider what parts of your life need your attention. Develop a routine to counter stress. There are so many ways; walking in nature, exercise, prayer or meditation, or anything else that leaves you feeling refreshed and emotionally lighter. Lessen your toxic load. Choose less toxic toiletries, cleaning supplies, and opt for essential oil diffusers rather than artificially scented candles and air fresheners. Finally, get proper and adequate sleep! Enough said. 

3 Ways Wheat Can Hijack Your Weight

It is estimated that 99% of all wheat grown worldwide is either dwarf or semi-dwarf variety. (1) This higher-yield wheat was developed in the 1950s to address concerns with the world’s overpopulation and food shortages.

Since wheat became the global commodity of choice, it has been hybridized (crossbred with other grains and species), and traditional preparation methods have been lost in our industrialization of food.

[box] Make no mistake, the standard wheat products we eat today are vastly different from that which our great grandparents consumed:

~ Wheat flour is bleached (unless indicated otherwise).

~ The “whole grain” (germ, bran, and endosperm) is often stripped away, along with valuable nutrients.

~ Fast rise packs of yeast are used instead of a traditional ferment of several hours with a starter culture (aka sourdough bread), but fermentation is what makes grains digestible!

~ Gluten, a naturally occurring protein in wheats, barley, and rye which gives bread its spongy texture, is now often on the ingredient list. Ah yes, the “if some is good, more is better” mentality!  Except it isn’t better…[/box]

Today’s wheat contains more starch, more gluten, and it alters our intestinal health…all bad news for regulating body fat! (2) This applies to whole wheat products as well.

Let’s look at how each of these hijacks your health in more detail.

1. Starchy Carbohydrates

Grain products contain a particular starch known as amylopectin A. This is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, quickly raising blood sugars and consequently, insulin levels. And insulin is a key driver in weight management. (1, 2, 3)

In his book “The Obesity Code – Unlocking the Secrets to Weight Loss”, Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist who specializes in treating obesity, writes “wheat is converted to glucose more efficiently than virtually any other starch….Whole wheat and whole grain flours retain some of the bran and germ, but suffer from the same problem of rapid absorption.” 

This makes sense, since they all contain amylopectin A. Moreover, any food which is pulverized into fine dust will be quicker to digest and enter the bloodstream, creating blood sugar and insulin spikes. Translation: metabolic mayhem and subsequent weight gain.

2. Gluten Galore!

Gluten is the main protein found in wheat and a few other grains like rye, spelt, kamut and barley. This protein gives bread its sponginess, it’s what makes bread soft and pliable.

Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, founder of The UltraWellness Center, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in the field of Functional Medicine asserts, “ The new dwarf wheat contains twenty-eight, or twice as many chromosomes, and produces a large variety of gluten proteins, including the ones most likely to cause celiac disease.” (4)

On top of dwarf wheat inherently containing more gluten, many commercially made breads and bread products add gluten as an ingredient! So your digestive tract is contending not only with higher gluten content naturally present in the wheat flour itself, but with extra doses the bakeries add into their products!

Think gluten is only an issue for celiacs? Think again! Research has revealed that gluten causes increased intestinal permeability in all individuals, not just those with celiac disease. (2, 5, 6, 7)

Bear with me for one paragraph, while I explain what happens physiologically when you eat wheat…After chowing down that footlong sub – or any wheat product – gliadin, a component of gluten which doesn’t get fully broken down in the body, provokes increased production of zonulin. Zonulin is the substance known to act as a gatekeeper – regulating the opening and closing of the junctions between the cells of the small intestine, which is where food enters into the bloodstream. The more zonulin there is, the more open your intestinal gate.

This means food particles can escape from the digestive tract into the bloodstream before they’re fully broken down, inviting an immune response. (2, 5, 6, 7)

So if you’re regularly eating white or whole wheat products, you may be unknowingly creating chronic inflammation, either overt or lurking below your pain threshold. Although the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, we do know that chronic low-grade inflammation is directly tied to obesity. (8)   

Gluten sensitivity has become a recognized clinical diagnosis in recent years; officially known as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). It outnumbers gluten allergy (celiac disease) by six to one, according to current estimates. (9) One study found that adult females are especially susceptible. (10)

Gluten sensitive persons can experience a seemingly endless number of symptoms throughout the body, not just digestive issues. Everything from chronic pain, weight loss or gain, headaches, depression, anxiety, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, and more. (11, 12, 13). In fact, a 2002 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 different clinical manifestations associated with gluten reactivity (14).

3. Altered Gut Microbiota

Being gut health focused, this blog got me wondering whether any study has looked specifically at the impact to gut microbiota (the trillions of micro-organisms that live in your digestive tract) from gluten. Sure enough, a human-based, randomized, crossover trial published in 2014 confirmed that gluten consumption alters the microbiome. (15)

This is not surprising when you consider that most gluten we eat comes in the form of bread and packaged foods made from dwarf wheat and too much sugar. Both bread and packaged foods are highly refined. They are quickly broken down in your body and cause a rapid rise in blood sugars. Highly refined, simple carbs are the food choice of a pathogenic microbe present in your intestines, known as candida.

Candida is a term that refers to yeasts, or one-celled fungi, which harmlessly inhabit your microbiome – provided there is a preponderance of beneficial bacteria to keep them in check.

Eating a lot of simple carbs encourages dysbiosis, an overgrowth of pathogenic microbes, like candida, in your gut. Again, bad news for your health, especially if you’re wanting to shed some weight. But that’s another blog post.

There’s so many research findings about common wheat’s negative effects on the body, I was forced to abbreviate this post and stick to a few highlights.


Bottom Line: First, everyone would do well cutting back on refined carbs – which includes any grain-based flours; wheat, gluten-free, or otherwise – in favour of whole foods. Second, wheat is proven to create metabolic dysfunction, mess with intestinal function, and disrupt gut flora. Consider swapping some of your wheat-based dietary staples for alternative grains.


Why not cut back on common wheat (white, whole wheat, in pasta it’s labeled as “durum semolina”) and try other alternatives? There are so many options available to you! Common wheat has some cousins (i.e. spelt, kamut, red fife, and einkorn). There are also a multitude of gluten-free grains and grain-like seeds such as teff, millet, quinoa, brown rice, wheat-free oats, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat (wheat and gluten-free) to name a few.

Look for sprouted or sourdough versions of those breads, which allows for easier digestion. For those who consider glycemic impact of their meals, sprouted breads have the lowest glycemic response. (16)

Before grabbing the first loaf of sprouted bread you see, be sure to read the ingredient list! Store-bought breads that claim to be sprouted or sourdough will most likely contain a number of other undesirable additions. All you really need in a bread is the flour, some water, and a leavening agent (sourdough or yeast). Local bakers are your best bet.

If you’d like to read further on how wheat is thought to be addictive, it’s impact on the brain, and on LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind of cholesterol), head over to Healthline’s blog.

Like this post? Please share it – let’s ALL be well! 

References

1. Dr J Fung, “The Obesity Code – Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss.”, Greystone Books, 2016.

2. Dr J Axe, “Eat Dirt – Why Leaky Gut May be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It.” Harper Wave, 2016

3. Dr M Hyman, “The Blood Sugar Solution: The Bestselling Programme for Preventing Diabetes, Losing Weight and Feeling Great.” Hodder & Stoughton, May 24, 2012

4. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/wheat-gluten_b_1274872.html

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16635908

6. http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/3/1565/htm

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3384703/

8.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2952901/

9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3292448/?report=classic

10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24885375/

11. drhyman.com/blog/2012/02/22/how-hidden-food-sensitivities-make-you-fat/

12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24885375/

13. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-gluten

14. Farrell, RJ, and CP Kelly. 2002. Celiac sprue, New England Journal of Medicine 346 (3): 180-88 Review

15. https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/two-randomized-crossover-trials-assessing-the-impact-of-dietary-gluten-or-wholegrain-on-the-gut-microbiome-and-host-metabolic-health-2167-0870.1000178.php?aid=30184

Survive Holiday Indulgences – 6 Tips!

Tis the season for overindulgence! Without even realizing it, most of us tend to take in far more calories, in the form of sugar, alcoholic beverages, and other simple carbohydrates, this time of year. This translates into digestive distress, energy deficits, extra weight, imbalanced gut flora, extra aches and pains etc. No wonder we all feel so drained come January 1!

Below are some pointers for surviving holiday festivities:

  1. Eat pre-event! A meal with fibre, healthy fat and protein will fill keep you fuller, longer so you’ll have less room to sample too many treats.
  2. Drink an elixir of raw apple cider vinegar and water (up to 1 tablespoon to 1 cup water) a few minutes before heading out to the event. This helps wake up your stomach’s own gastric secretions, to help you digest better. It has also been shown to prevent the typical spike in blood sugar that happens after we eat refined carbs such as breads, crackers, and cookies. That is, it helps offset the negative metabolic consequences of refined carbs! (Avoid if you are diagnosed with hyperchlorhydria, or high stomach acidity)
  3. For your biggest holiday meals, consider using digestive enzymes. Our bodies naturally release enzymes to help us digest our food. But any big meal will be too much for your system to handle. Find a good quality brand of digestive enzymes at your local health food store to help you in digesting protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
  4. Sip on ginger or peppermint tea post-meal (or anytime, they are caffeine-free). Both are powerful digestive tonics.
  5. Eat naturally fermented foods at least twice daily – Start the day with a banana and berry smoothie, adding flaxseed (there’s your fibre!) and using organic, plain greek yogurt or organic, plain coconut yogurt. Throw in a handful of spinach for a festive flair, plus bonus B vitamins for an energy boost. Add a side of naturally fermented sauerkraut or kimchi to your holiday meals. If this doesn’t excite your tastebuds, try drinking kombucha tea, a fermented tea beverage which is loaded with enzymes and probiotics. Find this at many grocery stores, farmers markets, or certainly at your health food store.
  6. Set your mindset to “moderation” before you go! If you wait until January to think about what you’ve eaten and drank for the month of December, it’s a bigger hole to crawl out of.

Allow yourself some indulgence this season (I sure do!). But these tips will help you offset the damage so your body doesn’t take a beating.

Wishing you a beautiful Christmas filled with peace, happiness, and of course, vibrant health! 

Healthy Fats – Eat These Every Day!

Fats are absolutely critical to well-being. They are one of three “macro-nutrients” we need to function, alongside protein and carbohydrates.

In fact, the right fats can

  • Help with weight loss, by speeding up your metabolism and keeping you full.
  • Help balance your hormones. Fats are required in the synthesis of several hormones.
  • Support gut and skin health and stronger immunity – because certain vitamins can only be absorbed in the presence of fat (vitamins A,D,E, and K).
  • Make your brain work better; the brain is composed of about 60% fat.
  • Provide energy

For the last half a decade or so, the medical community advocated low fat diets in response to rising rates of heart disease that had been occurring since the 40’s or 50’s. (I guess nobody figured out that the disease epidemic coincided with the rise of TV dinners, Twinkies and mass industrial agriculture).

The low fat craze gave birth to margarine – made with highly processed and highly sensitive vegetable oils prone to oxidation and rancidity, and highly refined egg substitutes. Add to this our undying love for sugar and chemical-laden convenience foods laced with trans fats and it’s not surprising, then, that heart disease and other chronic degenerative disease continued to increase!

Thankfully, the big hitters in the world of nutrition policy acknowledged the unequivocal evidence that low fat diets are harmful, not healthy, and more attention is now being paid to the type of fats humans should be consuming, as not all fats are created equal!

[box] Dr Mark Hyman, MD and Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author, notes: “Some fats are unhealthy. They include trans fat and inflammatory vegetable oils. Unfortunately, these fats have increased in our diet as they make us fatter and contribute to inflammation, which plays a role in nearly every chronic disease on the planet.”(1)[/box]

Sadly, low fat products, highly refined vegetable oils, and convenience foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (end result: trans fats!) still line grocery store shelves. These choices set us on a course of digestive, metabolic, hormonal, skin, mental, and other disorders.

This week I did a Facebook Live Video, discussing healthy fat basics and which fats help to keep your brain and body humming along like a well-oiled machine (pun intended!)! In actuality, fats are a complex topic, but I did my best to distill the need-to-know for you right here. Please like, share, and/or comment – and spread the love!

Short on time? I’ve created a short, printable guide to help steer you away from the bad fats and on to the good! CLICK HERE to grab it!

References

Haas, E, with B. Levin. “Staying healthy with nutrition : the complete guide to diet & nutritional medicine.” Ten Speed Press, 2006. pp 64-82

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/types-of-fat/

 http://drhyman.com/blog/2015/12/27/separating-fat-from-fiction-10-fat-facts-you-need-to-know/

 http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm

 https://kresserinstitute.com/functional-perspective-diet-cholesterol/

 http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/frequently-asked-questions/general-nutrition/nuts-and-health

 http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=faq&dbid=7#saturated

Dr Axe FB Live: Healthy Fats to Heal Your Hormones and Boost Metabolism. December 9, 2016

(https://www.facebook.com/DrJoshAxe/videos/vl.308606856143716/10154981507551178/?type=1)

Hidden Food Sensitivities – The Fire Within

Chances are you know someone with a food allergy or food sensitivity. In general, food allergy is obvious while food sensitivity is usually hidden. Topping the list of common food allergens in Canada are wheat and milk. Alternative health practitioners also report these to be very common sensitivities.

I’m sensitive to both, as many people are. But don’t feel pity for me! I’m lucky for having discovered this. First of all, avoiding foods you react to will result in less inflammation in your body. Secondly, food reaction is a sign of weakened intestinal function. Discovering my food sensitivities spurred me into working on my gut health, which ultimately freed me of the need for pain medication.

They say knowledge is power, and discovering I had food sensitivities literally changed my life! So this blog lays out everything you need to now about discovering and addressing hidden food sensitivities. My hope is it will help you or your loved one turn their health around too!

Aside from wheat and dairy, other top food allergens include:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts/filberts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts/pignolias, pistachio nuts, and walnuts)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Eggs
  • Seafood (including fish, shellfish and crustaceans)
  • Soy
  • Sulphites
  • Mustard

Statistics on food sensitivity and intolerance are scant, probably because this issue is foreign to many physicians, leading to under-diagnosis. Yet, anecdotally, people of all ages are discovering they are sensitive to certain foods.

Acclaimed author and physician, Kenneth Bock, M.D. states there is overlap between milder IgE (food allergy) and IgG (food sensitivity) mediated reactions to food, and both kinds of food reactions have “exploded” in the last twenty years.(1)

What accounts for the upward trend?

[box] A number of factors have been identified, including (but not limited to) the thousands of chemicals in our food supply, compromised digestive function (which accompanies aging), dysfunctional immune systems, and an imbalanced microbiome. [/box]

To help you better understand the food – reaction continuum, I’ll use the analogy of the public safety paradigm in Canada. Our federal police force (the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) deals with higher level criminality, like trans-national organized crime and terrorism. Provincial and municipal police officers investigate criminal activities at the local level. Then there are a host of other agencies that contribute to public safety, like Transport Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency, local parking enforcement etc. (Note, I’ve over-simplified the paradigm for the sake of making my point. It’s actually more convoluted than this). So these agencies all work under the realm of public safety and law-enforcement, but they react to different threats. In a similar vain, our bodies contain different players that react to different levels of threats, all in an attempt to maintain harmony throughout our bodies. A subset of these players are active in food allergy and sensitivity; and they are called immunoglobulins.

Food Allergy: IgE-Mediated (akin to the federal authorities)

Food allergies refer to a person’s immune system mistaking a food protein for something harmful, and creating immunoglobulins, known as IgE antibodies, in response.

True food or IgE allergies create an immediate response; which can range from mild to severe. Examples of mild symptoms include headaches, hives, shortness of breath, and digestive upset. A severe reaction would be anaphylaxis. Reaction can also be brief or last for hours.

Food Sensitivity: IgG-Mediated (akin to provincial and municipal authorities)

IgG antibodies are less aggressive than their IgE counterparts, so the physical response is more muted. Further, a food sensitivity typically results in a delayed response that might not appear for hours or even days after you consume an offending food. This type of food reactivity is worrisome because the slowness and less severe nature of the reaction allows it to remain undetected more often than not, causing needless suffering.

Common signs of food sensitivity extend beyond gastrointestinal distress. Multiple body systems are affected by inflammatory responses, and symptoms can include:

  • fatigue
  • gastrointestinal problems, including bloating and gas
  • stubborn weight
  • itchy skin and skin rashes like eczema
  • brain fog
  • irritability, behavioral issues
  • muscle or joint aches
  • headache
  • sleeplessness and sleep disorders
  • chronic rhinitis (runny nose), congestion, and post-nasal drip

Most people are well aware of a food allergy due to the immediate response after eating the food. They can simply avoid the food in order to avoid symptoms. In contrast, with food sensitivity, you unknowingly eat foods which are slowly and insidiously depleting your health. The muted and delayed response to those problem foods makes it difficult to draw links between the food and health symptoms.

So if you’re eating problem foods consistently, your immune system gets stuck in overdrive, spitting out immune complexes which lodge themselves anywhere in your body and create inflammation. And as Dr Christiane Northrup, MD, points out, inflammation is behind so much chronic disease and countless ailments(2).

Non-Immune-Mediated Food Reactivity (akin to the various other agencies falling under the public safety realm)

Adverse reactions to food can also occur without the immune system involvement. Examples include chemical sensitivity (things like food dyes and MSG added to our foods) or food reactions due to enzymatic deficiency (i.e lactose intolerance).

How to Identify Food Allergies and Sensitivities

True food allergies are easiest to identify, as symptoms occur shortly after the offending food is ingested. If in doubt, your physician can help you confirm a food allergy. Food allergy testing (which looks for IgE antibodies) is covered by provincial health plans.

To my knowledge, food allergy testing here in Canada only uncovers IgE antibodies. If you are curious whether one or more food sensitivities (i.e. IgG antibodies) are interfering with your health, food sensitivity testing is available through a Holistic Nutritionist or other alternative health care provider.

A cheaper alternative to food sensitivity testing is to eliminate the most common food allergens for three weeks, followed by a methodical re-introduction of those same foods with close observation of resulting symptoms. This is known as an elimination diet, and it can dramatically demonstrate that a particular food you’ve always believed was harmless is actually behind your symptoms.

I personally found the elimination diet to be incredibly daunting. Finding suitable replacements for the staple foods in my diet was toughest. Also, I unknowingly ingested problematic food during the elimination phase because foods are disguised under different labels. For example, maltodextrin, a common ingredient in packaged foods, is often wheat-based. And some people fail to properly re-introduce the foods back into their diets, which is critical to an accurate assessment. For these reasons I recommend working with a Holistic Nutritionist or other qualified health professional if you go this route.

How to Address Food Sensitivity

If you do discover foods to which you are sensitive, your life is not over! In fact, relief would be a fantastic first reaction; as this information just might be the key to solving your health puzzle!

[box] Food sensitivities indicate a/ some level of compromise within the gastrointestinal system which needs your attention and b/ the necessity to be mindful of the frequency with which you consume that food in the future. [/box]

By avoiding problem foods for at least three months, while simultaneously supporting gut health (with help from a qualified health professional), you create the opportunity for your digestive system to heal and hopefully decrease reactivity to those foods.


Bottom Line: It is imperative to identify food sensitivities, as they promote inflammation throughout the body. Temporary avoidance of problem foods, while simultaneously working on intestinal health, is the best strategy to minimize food reactivity.


Dr Ann Wigmore, world renowned Naturopathic Doctor and pioneer of the natural health movement, said: “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”

I know this to be true, and I love helping people discover it for themselves. I invite you to book a FREE consultation with me here, to begin your journey to optimal health. This is a limited time offer, book today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

1.Robyn O’Brien, The Unhealthy Truth – How Our Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It, 27, Broadway Books, 2009.

2. Dr Sara Gottfried, The Hormone Cure, Foreword by Dr C Northrup, Scribner Press, 2013

References

https://www.bewell.com/blog/food-allergy-versus-food-sensitivity-what-you-need-to-know

http://www.joshgitalis.com/what-are-food-allergies-and-sensitivities/

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-allergies-intolerances/food-intolerances/food-sensitivities-intolerances.html

Cheers to Red Wine!

We have all heard news headlines pertaining to the positive aspects of drinking red wine. Among its purported health benefits, studies have found it may improve heart health, reduce the risk of certain cancers, reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and reduce the risk of depression(1) (though I’m going to go out on a limb here and hypothesize that red wine’s mental health benefits also relate to alcohol consumption being a social affair).

Research has also found that red wine consumption can benefit our microbiome! A small 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that moderate red wine consumption actually increases levels of Bifidobacterium and Prevotella (2), both considered critical ‘friendly” inhabitants of the human digestive tract. (3, 4)

In this study, researchers evaluated the effect of red wine consumption versus control in 10 middle-aged male volunteers. The two parameters measured were levels of lipopolysaccharides (LPS), and levels of certain bacteria in the gut.

LPS is a gut-related bacterial marker of inflammation; higher levels of LPS correlate with higher levels of inflammation. And inflammation is the root of many modern chronic diseases (5).

Gut bacteria – collectively known as microbiota, or our microbiome – is the hottest health topic now for good reason. It is showing to be directly or indirectly impacting virtually every aspect of our health. Don’t believe me? Simply google your particular health concern and “microbiome” and get lost in the plethora of studies.

Anyway, back to the red wine study. Red wine consumption was found to significantly increase levels of bifidobacteria.

This is good news because bifidobacteria has been found to reduce gut wall permeability and as such, helps lower levels of inflammation (as measured by lower LPS concentration). And we all have some degree of inflammation, be it overt or silent.


BOTTOM LINE: Red wine improves the gut flora, specifically the bifidobacteria species, which supports gut health and inflammation.


I’m not advocating buying out the local liquor store’s supply of red wine! But we now know that moderate consumption has some gut health benefit.

While there is no set definition for “moderate consumption”, Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines suggests no more than 2 standard drinks per day for women, up to 10 drinks per week, and no more than 3 standard drinks per day for men, and no more than 15 standard drinks per week. Of course, depending on what your health goals or concerns are, you may need to lower these numbers or strictly avoid alcohol.

I don’t drink anywhere near 2 standard drinks per day; but I do love a good glass of red wine! Cheers…and here’s to a healthy gut!