Breathe, Stretch, and Digest Better!

Today marks the UN’s “International Day of Yoga”. Millions upon millions of yoga enthusiasts from 150 countries will come together for some fun, some challenging, and some quirky asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathwork).

How did the ancient practice of yoga move out of India and across the globe? I think people here in the Western hemisphere are drawn to yoga initially for it’s physical benefits, and then discover it provides them with much more. From a holistic wellness standpoint, yoga is truly remarkable. Not only does it fulfill our physical need to move…it calms the mind and connects us to our deeper selves and the universe in which we exist.

The Indian government, in consultation with India’s leading yoga experts, has this to say about the science of yoga:

“…medical research in recent years has uncovered many physical and mental benefits that Yoga offers, corroborating the experiences of millions of practitioners. A small sampling of research shows that:

  • Yoga is beneficial for physical fitness, musculoskeletal functioning and cardio-vascular health.
  • It is beneficial in the management of diabetes, respiratory disorders, hypertension, hypotension and many lifestyle- related disorders.
  • Yoga helps to reduce depression, fatigue, anxiety disorders and stress.
  • Yoga regulates menopausal symptoms. “(1)

The Gut Connection

We’ve established that a regular yoga practice can reduce stress and improve mood.

And less stress, be it physical or mental, is good news for your digestive system. Remember the gut-brain axis? The gut and brain share an intricate communication network via the nervous system, hormones, and the immune system.

No surprise, then, that research has confirmed yoga to be useful as a form of complementary therapy in those with digestive dysfunction.

In 2015, a randomized controlled study of patients with inflammatory bowel disease found that, “A simplified yoga-based regimen is a safe and effective complementary clinical treatment modality for patients with inflammatory bowel disease during the clinical remission phase” (meaning when the symptoms are under control). (2)

Also in 2015, the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology published a qualitative analysis of six randomized controlled trials, involving a total of 273 patients, which concluded that yoga might be a feasible and safe adjunctive treatment for people with IBS.

Personally, I began my yoga journey over 16 years ago. It has greatly helped me with everything from chronic pain and inflammation to constipation to improved sleep, energy, and mood. So convinced was I of yoga’s profound impacts to the body, mind, and spirit that I became certified to teach yoga in 2009. And, I’ll remind you again that yoga has so impressed the United Nations that it gave it it’s own International Day!

So, if you haven’t yet discovered the gifts of yoga, what are you waiting for?! Find a yoga studio through a simple google search and let the good vibes flow!

Leaky Gut – A Hidden Epidemic

Anyone who has researched anything digestion or autoimmune-related has probably come across the term “leaky gut.” You may not be so familiar with the term if you’ve been looking to shed some flab, boost energy, or have a better functioning brain, but rest assured, you too need to read this blog!

The clinical term for leaky gut is intestinal hyperpermeability, and it refers to an increase in permeability of the small intestine.

The small intestine has two critical roles; the first being to digest and absorb nutrients, and the second being immunity – by acting as a physical barrier against excessive pathogenic bacteria, food antigens and other macromolecules.

 What is leaky gut?

The inner lining of the intestines is a porous membrane, comparable to fine mesh or cheesecloth. Under normal circumstances fat, protein, and carbohydrates are broken down, absorbed through the tiny holes in the membrane into the bloodstream, and used by the body’s cells. This same membrane also keeps pathogens and other threats out.

With leaky gut, the mesh or cheesecloth develops large holes. Larger, incompletely digested food particles then find their way into the bloodstream, provoking an immune response because the body doesn’t recognize these particles (say hello to multiple food sensitivities and allergies).

Pathogenic organisms and other threatening substances, normally kept in the gut and excreted in the stool, can also sneak through the intestinal membrane and enter the bloodstream.

The end result of leaky gut is chronic activation of the immune system, which creates chronic inflammation that can show up anywhere in the body.

It is this inflammation which jumpstarts a broad array of ailments, chronic disease, and zaps you of energy. Dr. Sara Gottfried, MD, has this to say about the condition:

“More and more people are affected by leaky gut… and many of them don’t realize that this sneaky disease is what’s making them suffer. Leaky gut can masquerade as fatigue, anxiety, depression, digestive symptoms, weight problems, and other serious conditions. It’s been linked to asthma, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel, kidney disease, psoriasis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and heart failure.”(1)

What causes intestinal hyperpermeability?

Top leaky gut triggers include:

  • GLUTEN: Research has clearly shown gluten to trigger intestinal hyperpermeability across the population, not just those with celiac disease.
  • PILLS: Certain medications such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti inflammatories (NSAIDs), antacids, steroids, and antibiotics.
  • STRESS: Chronic stress
  • Other common risk factors include dysbiosis (an imbalance between beneficial and harmful species of bacteria in your digestive tract), undiagnosed food intolerances, and regular consumption of refined sugar, processed foods, and/or alcohol.

Diagnosis

Donald Kirby, MD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic, refers to leaky gut syndrome as a gray area for medical doctors, because it isn’t a diagnosis taught in medical school and its symptoms span other health problems.(2)

For these reasons, most physicians are not well informed when it comes to leaky gut syndrome, which continues to be under-diagnosed. The following are some common signs:

  • chronic pain/inflammation
  • multiple food sensitivities
  • regular fatigue
  • brain fog
  • chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • chronic nutrient deficiencies
  • chronic seasonal allergies
  • yeast overgrowth or intestinal infection
  • autoimmune disease of any kind
  • skin conditions
  • immune deficiencies

Bottom Line: Leaky gut is a gray area for most physicians, so awareness of common signs and symptoms (listed above) is important. If you eat gluten, take certain meds, are under stress, or have dysbiosis, leaky gut may be the root cause of your symptoms.


 Treating Leaky Gut

Linda A. Lee, MD, gastroenterologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center, says that lifestyle modifications such as stress reduction and dietary changes may be among the best ways to treat leaky gut, particularly when no underlying condition is identified.(3)

Along with stress reduction techniques, the steps I use to address leaky gut include:

  1. Removing foods that damage the gut
  2. Replacing these with anti-inflammatory, gut-healing foods
  3. Rebuilding the intestines and gut flora with specific foods and supplements

Check out my free e-book, “The Digestion Inflammation Nexus – Simple Strategies to Age-proof Yourself” for simple ways to enhance your digestive health starting today.

 

References

  • http://www.digestivecenterforwellness.com/service-boxes/leaky-gut-intestinal-permeability/
  • Fasano A. Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer. Physiol Rev. 2011 Jan;91(1):151-75.
  • Drago S, et al. Gliadin, zonulin and gut permeability: Effects on celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa and intestinal cell lines. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2006 Apr;41(4):408-19
  • Hollander D. Intestinal permeability, leaky gut, and intestinal disorders. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 1999 Oct;1(5):410-6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Clean Yourself – With These 3 Foods!

Spring has sprung! This is nature’s season of renewal. Just like we give our homes a spring cleaning each year, it’s a good idea to give our bodies a little internal scrub as well.

Let me give you my top 3 foods for kicking your body’s built-in detoxification mechanisms into high gear. And at the end, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite smoothie recipes to help this process along.

Our bodies are equipped to deal with toxins. The liver is our primary organ of detoxification, or cleansing. However, we live in a very toxic world; between air pollution, soil pollution, toxic agents in everyday household products, and the list goes on.

I compare the liver to a vehicle’s engine. Without regular maintenance, things can really get gummed up!

Thankfully, supporting your body’s natural detoxification process doesn’t come with a huge bill. Reach for these foods to give yourself an internal spring clean:

LIVER – As ironic as it is, animal liver contain a host of nutrients required by the human body for the purposes of detoxification. Personally, I’ve not eaten liver as an adult, because I was forced to eat it as a child. I couldn’t stand the taste of liver then, and I’m not confident that will ever change. So I assure you today’s recipe does not contain liver!

CRUCIFEROUS VEGGIES – Most of us are well acquainted with broccoli and cauliflower. This group of vegetables also includes hearty leafy greens, like kale, bok choy, cabbage, and collard greens.

BEETS – When was the last time you ate a beet? I grew up in Newfoundland, where the only form of beet consumption was pickled beets. While I admit they are quite tasty this way, boiling the crap out of them effectively removes most of the valuable nutritive properties.

I’ve since discovered there are many ways to enjoy beets, either raw or lightly cooked. The bodacious beet is a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains, which have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.

To get you onto the beet-loving wagon, I’ve provided a quick and easy smoothie recipe below.

R-awesome Red Smoothie

Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains, which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. Betalains are especially relevant to glutathione, a key protein molecule used in detoxification. Red cabbage belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables, which also assists methylation & detoxification. It contains low amounts of pesticide residues as compared to the more popular vegetables. Flaxseed contains lignans, which help to escort excess estrogen out of the body, as well as fibre, to keep the bowels moving and the body’s toxic load in check. Apple cider vinegar is a liver and lymphatic tonic which can help detox your body via bowel motility and lymphatic drainage.

Ingredients: (1 serving)

  • 1 small red beet, peeled and shredded or finely chopped
  • 1 red apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup red cabbage, finely chopped or shredded
  • 3/4 cup water, plus 3 or more ice cubes, (adjust to suit preference for smoothie thickness)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • ½” slice of ginger, or more, to taste (the ginger helps the overall flavor)
  • Optional: apple cider vinegar, frozen cranberries (to taste)
  • Stevia, or raw honey, to taste

Directions

If using a regular blender, consider shredding and soaking the red beet and cabbage with the water overnight, to soften. In the morning, add a few ice cubes and blend well. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend again! If using a high speed blender, the soaking is not necessary.

 

 

The Deal With Dairy

Did you know milk is the most common food allergen and a very common food sensitivity as well?

There are two main proteins in cow’s milk that can cause an allergic reaction:
Casein, found in the solid part (curd) of milk that curdles
Whey, found in the liquid part of milk that remains after milk curdles

You may be allergic to only one or both. Many people who react to cow’s milk react to milk from other animals, like sheep or goat. Another common issue with milk is lactose intolerance, meaning an inability to produce sufficient lactase, the enzyme which breaks down the lactose (the naturally occurring sugar molecules in the milk product). Fifty to seventy-five percent of the world’s population cannot digest lactose.

Along with its propensity for allergic and sensitive reactions, dairy has a number of other dubious distinctions. First, it encourages the production of mucus in the intestinal barrier. Mucus is protective in the right amount, but having too much can create a hospitable environment for the unfriendly bacteria which reside in your gut to flourish. This sets you up for intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut, and a laundry list of ailments that may or may not end in chronic disease.

Second, dairy is linked to prostate cancer and heart disease due to the high levels of unhealthy saturated fats.

Third, strong bones do not require dairy after all. Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis! For better bones, strengthening exercise and Vitamin D supplementation is recommended. Good sources of calcium from non-dairy foods include dark green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds/tahini, chia seeds, sea vegetables, and sardines or salmon (with the bones). Of the nut family, almonds are higher in calcium content.

Fourth, there are concerns with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics making their way into commercially raised cow milk, which humans then consume.

Perhaps the biggest issue with conventional dairy is pasteurization and homogenization. Pasteurization of milk destroys the naturally occurring enzymes and probiotics that help us digest them. This may very well explain the lactose intolerance epidemic, as well as the allergenic potential of dairy. Homogenization is a process that oxidizes fats and creates free radicals. We know free radicals are bad news; these unstable oxygen molecules can provoke intestinal inflammation. Intestinal inflammation can lead to a leaky gut, and systemic chronic low-grade inflammation.

I’m not advocating everyone ditching dairy, no questions asked. What I am saying is, if you have nagging health struggles, and you eat or drink dairy regularly, consider ruling out food sensitivity (remember, milk is the most common). If you determine you are fine with dairy, and you have carefully considered the other health risks associated to dairy consumption, then certain kinds of dairy (in moderation of course); are quite beneficial.

I will never advocate drinking milk, because it has been both pasteurized and homogenized, therefore creating a host of challenges for our bodies. It is illegal to sell raw milk in this country, meaning you will only find pasteurized milk in the grocery or health food stores. There are some really good non-dairy milk alternatives available (such as coconut, hemp, or nut milks).

Unfortunately, commercially made yogurts are made from milk which has been pasteurized and homogenized. As well, they are chockfull of artificial colors, flavors, additives, and sugar, which actually feeds disease-causing bacteria, yeast, and fungi in your gut. Finally, many commercial yogurts have not been fermented as long as homemade yogurt (which can be easily made from nut or coconut milk – read on for a great recipe below). This means the probiotic benefit is far less than what you would get if making it yourself. If you do choose to buy yogurt, opt for plain, organic whole milk yogurt.

In 2014, the Cornucopia Institute completed an in-depth study of the yogurt industry and concluded:

“Only organic yogurt assures that the milk used to produce the yogurt came from cows that grazed on pasture, were given a non-GMO organic feed and were not treated with antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. Conventional yogurt can be processed with chemical defoamers, which is prohibited in the manufacturing of organic yogurt…there are also nutritional benefits to eating whole-milk organic yogurt: better ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids and higher levels of other beneficial fats…”(1)

Maintaining good ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is a fantastic way to reduce inflammation. Whole milk means not reaching for the 0%, fat-free versions. Low-fat foods are processed foods. They had to be chemically altered and are no longer a “whole food”, that which is as close to its natural state as possible. Ultimately that means they’re more difficult for your body to break down.

You can flavour yogurt yourself using a little jam, honey, stevia, berries, vanilla, granola, etc.

The best dairy product to consume, in my professional opinion? Yogurt or kefir from raw grass-fed milk, if you know a farmer from whom you can obtain raw milk products. Secondly, raw, organic cheese, which you CAN find at grocery stores, or health food stores. Raw milk/cream from which the cheese is made is nutrient and enzyme rich, to help you better digest it. Additionally, the fermentation process creates probiotics to keep your intestines healthy.


Bottom Line: Raw, organic milk products have some great health benefits, for those who can tolerate dairy. If you’re unsure or you suspect a milk sensitivity, you may actually be creating an inflammatory response each time you eat dairy products, which trumps any benefit offered by the product.


As I tell my clients, consider not just the food itself, but what your body does with that food. As an example, I used to eat commercially made yogurt as a way of obtaining probiotics despite knowing that I was sensitive to dairy products. My thinking was that I needed the friendly bacteria from the yogurt and my body could handle the slight irritation. It was only during my professional training in holistic nutrition that I realized there were cumulative effects to the inflammatory response that were interfering with my health in many ways. You can’t stay in a house that is on fire, even if that fire is smouldering!

If you would like to confirm whether or not you have a dairy sensitivity, you can try a properly structured Elimination Diet, or get tested. You’re invited to set up a free consultation with me here, where we can discuss your health goals, the importance of revealing hidden food sensitivity, and how to do it.

Here is an easy recipe for a non-dairy yogurt you can make in a few minutes, from Replenish pdx:

Coconut Cheater Yogurt
Remember that yogurt is made by adding bacterial cultures to milk. The cultures are what create the tart flavor and thick, pudding-like consistency. Foods with live cultures have been proven to boost the immune system and aid in longevity. Here are instructions for creating your easy- to-culture yogurt from coconut milk, right on your counter-top!

To make coconut yogurt:
1 Open a can of full-fat organic coconut milk and pour into a mason jar. (My favorite brand is Native Forest as they don’t use BPA in their can lining and the consistency is great for the yogurt.)
2 Blend the coconut milk if necessary, to mix the cream at the top and the water at the bottom.
3 Add about 5 or 6 opened probiotic capsules* into the mason jar.
4 Put the lid on and give it a good shake to combine.
5 Leave in a cool dark place on your countertop for three to four days, shaking the jar about two times per day.
6 On the final day, the mixture should feel thick when you shake it. At that point, stick the jar in the fridge, where the “yogurt” will harden.
Note: There may be a sulfur smell when you open your jar. Don’t be scared. It could have to do with the strains in your probiotic. Taste. It may not taste as it smells.
Sweeten with fruit or raw honey, if sweetness is needed. I like to eat mine plain or with a spoonful of carob, maca and a few drops of stevia. Divine!
* At Replenish, we successfully use GutPro probiotic (either 5- 6 capsules as noted above) or if using the GutPro powder, use 1 pinch or 1 dash. If using another brand of probiotic, you’ll need to test it and experiment with the amount. Some probiotics don’t culture (which likely isn’t a good sign for the viability of that probiotic!)
(http://www.replenishpdx.com/2016/10/yogurt-for-everyone-really/)

References

1.Cornucopia Institute, “Culture Wars – How the Food Giants Turned Yogurt, a Health Food, Into Junk Food.” November, 2014.
2. Dr. Elson Haas, MD & Buck Levin, PhD, RD, Staying Healthy With Nutrition – The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, pg. 340
3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/milk-allergy/basics/causes/con-20032147
4. Clean – The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself. Dr Alejandro JUNGER, MD. (pg 72)
5. http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/06/24/dairy-6-reasons-you-should-avoid-it-at-all-costs-2/

Mind Your Microbiome!

Research on the microbiome – the tens of trillions of synergistic and pathogenic bacteria and other microorganisms which reside along our gastrointestinal tracts – is a rapidly emerging science, with universities opening dedicated research centres and logging thousands of studies each year. Scientists already have made tremendous progress in understanding our microbial landscape and in associating microbiome diversity with human disease.

Along with diseases and conditions one might expect – food allergies, colon cancer, and bowel disease, we now know that an imbalance in your microbiome can also contribute to a seemingly endless number of non-digestive symptoms; everything from obesity, brain fog, and food cravings to chronic pain, low immunity, autoimmunity, skin issues, and the list goes on.

For example, a series of mice and human studies within the past decade have affirmed that the human ability to extract and store calories from food as fat is at least partially impacted by gut microbes. Differences in gut microbe populations were noted between obese and lean subjects.

Far from the passive guests they were once thought to be, microbes help us digest and process nutrients. They are also constantly interact with our nervous system and help shape our immune systems. In a nutshell, our microbiomes help make us who we are, in sickness and in health.

Poor diet, stress, toxic chemicals in our food/water/environment, alcohol consumption, and antibiotics all deplete our healthy supply of bacteria, setting us up for “dis-ease”.


Bottom Line: We are all vulnerable to a microbiome imbalance – particularly as we age, and we constantly lose bacteria through excrement. So a daily dose of gut-friendly bacteria is advisable to ensure our microbiome is balanced (estimates place the ratio of friendly to unfriendly microbes within our GI tract at 85% / 15% ).


The two ways to reseed your “gut garden” with probiotics – friendly bacteria – are through fermented foods and beverages, or supplements.

Here’s a handy list of fermented foods to try. Step outside your tastebuds’ comfort zone and try them all! *Just be sure they are naturally fermented and unpasteurized:

• Sauerkraut or other cultured vegetables (just vegetable, salt and water)
• Kombucha tea
• Beet kvass (traditional Ukranian beverage)
• Sourdough bread
• Coconut kefir or water kefir
• Organic homemade yoghurt (commercial alternative: plain greek yogurt, which has less sugar, higher protein, nothing artificial – always check the ingredient list to be sure – and is fermented longer, providing more probiotic benefit. You can flavor it with vanilla, honey or stevia, cinnamon, a little jam, etc)
• Apple cider vinegar
• Kimchi (spicy Korean condiment)
• Unpasteurized beer (Keep your celebration to a dull roar, my friends, the key to this option is moderation!)

Here is a simple salad dressing with apple cider vinegar to make it easy for you to get started on your probiotic journey:

Master Vinaigrette
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar (*unpasteurized, with mother.)
1 tablespoon tamari sauce (or gluten free soy sauce)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon dijon mustard, or to liking
½ fresh garlic clove

Place all ingredients in a sealable glass jar and shake until combined. If you place in the fridge, it may solidify, so you would just need to leave out at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before shaking and using. I leave mine in a cool, dry cupboard for up to 1 week.
(recipe credit: Alive magazine)
References

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3463487/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2792171/#!po=1.42857
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0148607111413772
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK154098/
http://jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/microbiome/about.shtml
Dr. J. Axe, “Eat Dirt – Why Leaky Gut May be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It.” HarperCollins Publishers, 2016.

Conquer Food Cravings!

Most of us can identify with giving in to that mid afternoon craving for…well, anything sweet! Or maybe salt is your thing? Either way, we then get angry with ourselves for lacking willpower. As it turns out, cravings are not just about mental fortitude; there is a physiological basis to them. Let’s look at a few of the physiological factors which may be fueling your cravings, and some easy habits and whole foods which can help.

1. Circadian Rhythm – Our natural built-in clock helps sets us up for cravings as we experience a natural lull in energy mid-afternoon. To wake ourselves up, our brains tell us to eat sugar, or drink caffeine, or both!

The Fix: Keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day by eating every few hours. Ensure each meal you eat has a combination of some quality protein, quality fat (i.e. organic grass-fed butter, organic extra virgin coconut oil, and avocado or avocado oil), and complex carbohydrates (non starchy vegetables and whole grains). Eating in this way will minimize the effect of the natural energy lull, and keep you from getting hungry, which is exactly the point your cravings are too intense to resist!

Whole Food Hack: Instead of coffee, try a green tea with a little raw honey. You’ll get a lot less caffeine, which can stress the body with its temporary, artificial energy highs. What you will get is a milder caffeine effect, along with anti-obesity, microbiome-friendly compounds present in the green tea. The honey will help satisfy your sweet craving, while adding some beneficial microbes to your digestive tract. If you really need something sweet, opt for some strawberries or grapes, which contribute to the release of endorphins, as I explain below.

As your body begins to function on quality, whole foods delivered consistently throughout the day, your cravings will ease up. And in the absence of food cravings it becomes easier to make good food choices. Hooray for positive reinforcement!

2. Endorphins – Endorphins are neurochemicals which decrease the sensation of pain and increase feelings of pleasure. Sugary and salty foods increase the production of endorphins. It’s no wonder we crave cookies and potato chips! Sadly, those same foods come with a host of negative health effects if eaten regularly.

The Fix: A natural endorphin booster is exercise. As an added bonus, exercise helps counter stress – which we know powerfully influences our food choices. When under stress, that carton of Ben and Jerry’s practically begs for you to devour it! Researchers at the University of Exeter found that a walk allayed cravings in chocoholics! So consider swapping your afternoon coffee break with a brisk 10 – 15 walk around your office building!

Whole Food Hack: Strawberries and grapes are rich sources of endorphin-producing Vitamin C.

3. Microbiome – An emerging body of research suggests that our food cravings may actually be significantly shaped by the bacteria that we have inside our gut (known collectively as our microbiome).

When microbes break down (metabolize) dietary substrates, they produce by-products called metabolites. Studies have found that microbial metabolites in the urine of chocolate cravers are different than those of “chocolate indifferent” folks, even when eating identical diets!

In 2014, a medical research team in the United States published an article looking at the role of gastrointestinal microbiota and eating behavior. They posited the following, “Like microscopic puppetmasters, microbes may control the eating behavior of hosts through a number of potential mechanisms including microbial manipulation of reward pathways, production of toxins that alter mood…changes to receptors including taste receptors, and hijacking of neurotransmission via the vagus nerve…which is the main neural axis between the gut and the brain.”(1)

Fitting nicely with Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest”, researchers believe microbes in your gut send signals to your brain about food they need to survive and flourish. It appears the bacteria in our digestive tract don’t just hang out and hope to survive; they manipulate our food preferences based on their food preferences!

As an example, candida albicans, one of the best known not-so-friendly bacterial species in our gut, is known to thrive on sugar. And we know those with candida albicans overgrowth – which poses several health challenges – tend to crave sugar or starchy food, which quickly breaks down into sugar molecules in the body.

The Fix: Mind your microbiome, to ensure the maximum amount of friendly bacteria. Remember the gut-brain axis? Mental stress is also digestive stress! So make it a priority to regularly practice mindfulness or other stress reduction techniques.

Whole Food Hack: Prebiotic foods help feed the bacteria in your GI tract, and include things like artichoke, sweet potato, onion, garlic, and oat bran. Fermented foods contain large amounts of probiotics, or good bacteria, and include foods such as homemade yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, and kombucha tea.


Bottom Line: Eating a balanced meal of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fats every few hours, exercising, and stress reduction or mindfulness practices can all help get your cravings under control. Foods which can help you along include green tea, strawberries, grapes, sweet potato, onion, garlic, and your preferred fermented food (eaten daily).


1. J. Alcock, C. Maley, and C Athena Aktipis. Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms. Bioessays. 2014 Oct; 36(10): 940-949.

 

References

http://advances.nutrition.org/content/5/3/312S.full#sec-8

http://www.road-to-health.com/64/What_are_Endorphins_.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3161588/

Top 4 Endorphin Releasing Foods

https://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/archive/2008/november/title_1709_en.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25103109

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17929959

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23163751

Rezzi S, Ramadan Z, Martin FP, Fay LB, et al. Human metabolic phenotypes link directly to specific dietary preferences in healthy individuals. J Proteome Res. 2007;6:4469–77

Breaking News in IBS Research!

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional problem, which means that when doctors examine the lining of your intestine, it looks “normal”. Up to 20% of North Americans who live with IBS will tell you they don’t feel “normal”.

Some symptoms of IBS include:

– abdominal pain relieved by a bowel movement
– abdominal distention (bloating)
– constipation and/or
– frequent loose stools
– feeling of incomplete evacuation

Typically, an IBS diagnosis involves symptoms which have been present for at least 3 days per month in the last 3 months, with symptoms starting at least 6 months prior to diagnosis. The diagnosis should only be reached after other causes have been ruled out.

A very recent study, published in January 2017, concluded that the unifying factor in the development of IBS is altered gut microbiota (the bacteria and other micro-organisms which line your digestive tract). The Mayo Clinic research team found the following influences the makeup of the gut microbiota:
• Diet
• Antibiotic use
• Stress

Other contributing factors in IBS, according to the vast body of IBS-related research, include:
¥ Food intolerances / sensitivities
¥ Infection or inflammation
¥ Psychological stresses
¥ Brain-gut relationships affecting bowel motility and sensitivity

It is no coincidence that the first list directly corresponds to the latter. There is interplay between diet and food intolerances/sensitivities, infection or inflammation and antibiotic use, and stress and strained digestive function.


Bottom line: Changes in the gut microbiota can impair communication between the digestive, immune, nervous and endocrine systems, predisposing you to IBS symptoms.


For anti-inflammatory, gut nourishing strategies you can implement now to start feeling better, download my Tackling IBS Naturally Cheatsheet here.

REFERENCES:

1. http://ajpgi.physiology.org/content/312/1/G52
2. Ibid.
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28110300
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14711602
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20687933
6. http://gut.bmj.com/content/65/1/169.long
7. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

Organic Versus Non-Organic Foods

Conventional farming methods involve the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. Strictly from a natural health perspective, why put these toxins in our already overburdened bodies when we have the choice not to? If you’re someone trying to improve your digestive health, consider that the liver must work to filter out these substances – which serve no purpose in the body, and consider the negative impact to your gut flora.

Yes, organic food costs more (though savvy shoppers will find that fresh produce items are sometimes the same price or even cheaper as their non-organic counterparts). Here’s some food for thought, said with so much kindness… you can pay farmers who grow nourishing food for you and your family, or the pharmaceutical companies who benefit from the toxic farming practices of modern industrial agriculture!

Here is a tiny sampling of research related to the dangers of industrial farming. One study labeled a large number of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides as endocrine (hormone) disruptors.1 Further, epidemiological studies link pesticides to hormone-dependent cancers (i.e. breast cancer).2  A January, 2017 study found gut microbiota (the microbial landscape of the intestines) were negatively impacted by environmental pollutants, including pesticides and antibiotics.3 ,4

The same concerns about produce apply to meat consumption too. In addition to conventionally farmed animals grazing on plants contaminated with the same chemical cocktails used on our food, there is also the use of hormones and antibiotics.

There are proven benefits to opting for pasture-raised meats. Sustainable Table has a great evidence-based article, from which I took the following:

A growing body of research indicates that pasture-raised meat, eggs, and dairy products are better for consumers health than conventionally-raised, grain-fed foods. In addition to being lower in calories and total fat, pasture-raised foods have higher levels of vitamins, and a healthier balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats than conventional meat and dairy products.

Studies have shown that milk from pasture-fed cows has as much as five times the CLA (a type of fatty acid) as milk from grain-fed cows. iii And meat from pasture-fed cows has from 200 to 500 percent more CLA as a proportion of total fatty acids than meat from cows that eat a primarily grain-based diet. iv

Free-range chickens have 21% less total fat, 30% less saturated fat and 28% fewer calories than their factory-farmed counterparts. v Eggs from poultry raised on pasture have 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A and 400% more omega-3’s. vi”  (Read the full article here)

Here are two helpful links to guide you in your organic purchases :

This is the Environmental Working Group’s List of the “Dirty Dozen”. If you can stick to buying these fruits and vegetables organically, you are greatly reducing your food induced toxic load. A helpful way to remember this list is to buy any thin-skinned fruits and veggies as organic (the ones whose skin you normally eat).

And an article for the budget-conscious (and who isn’t?!) – “Budget-Conscious Ways to Purchase Organic Foods

There is competing research concerning the nutrient profiles of organic versus conventionally grown produce. That said, the taste of fresh, organic produce is far superior to that of its conventionally farmed counterpart!


Bottom Line: Protect your microbiome and preserve your liver, buy organic!


1: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138025/

2: Ibid

3: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749116322321

4: http://lactobacto.com/2017/01/27/environmental-pollutants-and-gut-microbes/