Education

Man in need of heartburn help

Heartburn Relief

You might need heartburn relief if you have pain in your chest after a meal, have sour burps that contain food or liquid, have a lingering bitter taste in your mouth, or feel like there’s a lump in your throat. An estimated 15 million Americans seek heartburn relief daily! But before you pop a pill, consider these strategies.

Remove Foods Known to Weaken your Sphincter

Above your stomach and below your esophagus is a muscle called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter or LES. Keeping it toned is important for heartburn relief. If you went jogging with a bag of gold, you would want to make sure that you had a tight drawstring to prevent the coins from escaping. Similarly, you want your LES to remain closed when your churning stomach is filled with food. Your throat is not coated with an acid-resistant lining like your stomach is.  So contact with stomach contents hurts!

Studies have shown that the following foods relax the LES. Then it does not remain securely shut.

Chart of foods to avoid for heartburn relief

The most common acidic food to bother Americans is cooked tomatoes (e.g. tomato sauce or tomato paste).

Don’t Overfill the Washer

Just like a washing machine, your stomach needs to be able to agitate freely. If you stuff it to the brim, it’s most likely going to slosh some of the contents where they don’t belong. Sometimes more is less. In this case, effective digestion means stopping when you are satisfied. Because if digestion doesn’t occur efficiently, gas and pressure will build up. Your body is elegantly designed to blow the LES in a case like this instead of letting the inadequately-liquified food move into the small intestines, where if would create further digestive distress.

Chew on This

Did you know that there are digestive enzymes in your saliva? The more you chew your food, the less your stomach has to. Further, the mechanical action of your teeth helps convert food to a fluid form for absorption. Food that has been very well chewed is less likely to spend long periods in the stomach. That means it is less likely to go sour and gas off, putting undue pressure on your LES.

Try this experiment: Start with a bite of food half the size or your normal bite and chew until the food is the consistency of applesauce or pudding. Do your notice a flavor change? Many foods, especially carbohydrates, will increase in sweetness the more you chew.

Augment Digestive Secretions

Breaking down proteins and dissolving minerals so that you can absorb them into your bloodstream requires more, not less, stomach acid. When the pH of your stomach is similar to a battery, the digestive process runs smoothly, as designed. But as a culture, many things we do curtail the stomach acid production. You can support more effective digestion for heartburn relief by practicing the following techniques consistently.

  • Stay hydrated. Stomach acid is, after all, a fluid. The body cannot make fluids out of thin air. Since your body is eloquently intelligent, it will prioritize blood manufacture over stomach acid synthesis. That make sense, because blood is more critical in the short run to your survival.
  • Engage in regular practices to dissipate stress throughout the day. You cannot be in two nervous system modes simultaneously. Rest-and-digest simply is not compatible with fight-or-flight. If you are uptight, deadline-focused, task-oriented, and performance-driven, your body will divert resources away from digestion on purpose! You must breathe deeply, be present, and calm yourself if you hope to have adequate digestive secretions.
  • Don’t dilute your meals. Sure, it’s fine to have a sip of water with your food. But don’t depend on your beverage to moisten your food and wash it down. That’s what saliva is for! It is best to drink most of your water between meals. If your food seems too dry, chew it more!

Use Caution with Commercial Heartburn Relief

You’re not likely to find a long-term solution to a chronic heartburn problem by buying an over-the-counter product. After all, heartburn is not a deficiency of Prilosec! There are several issues with reducing your stomach acid regularly for a chronic reflux problem.

First, as mentioned above, you require good acidity to break down, or denature, proteins. Imagine that you have a big ball of yarn that you need to snip into little pieces. It would make sense for you to unravel the ball before trying to cut it.  Preparing proteins for your use works similarly. First, your body has to unravel, or denature, the strand. Then it breaks that strand into amino acids that can be used to build bones and muscles, make blood cells, create antibodies, or synthesize hormones. Denaturing occurs in a high acid environment.

Second, you need adequate stomach acid to absorb vitamin B12. This vitamin is important to sustain your energy, boost your mood, prevent memory loss, and maintain heart health. The cells that release stomach acid also release Intrinsic Factor, an essential component that binds to B12 so that you can absorb it. Suppress stomach acid and you suppress Intrinsic Factor.

Third, “it takes a lot of acid to dissolve a rock.” Minerals just are not bioavailable to you in a low-acid environment. The calcium for bones & teeth, potassium for heart health, magnesium for anxiety, iron for red blood cells, and zinc for immunity require that you not block stomach acid long-term.

Finally, bile and enzyme secretion depend on high acidity. Good digestion isn’t just about the stomach. You also need enzymes from the pancreas and brush border of the intestines, and bile from the liver. But these are triggered by a very acid pH when the stomach dumps its contents into the duodenum.

So, using a product that you have seen advertised may bring short-term symptomatic heartburn relief, but may create further health problems downstream.

Still Need Help?

Sometimes there are food sensitivities, anatomical abnormalities, or nutrient deficiencies at play that prevent you from getting heartburn relief. I have tools to do the detective work, so you can get the the bottom of your problem. Reach out today if you want a more detailed work up to figure out your unique triggers.

January Lecture: Help! I'm Hangry!

Stop Being Hangry 5 Ways

Want to stop being hangry? Do you feel like a dragon when you get hungry. Help is here for the snarky creature you become. Your irritability happens because your blood sugars drop too far. But that doesn’t mean you should grab a candy bar or eat every 2-3 hours. On the contrary, fueling yourself with well-spaced traditional meals may be more effective to help you stop being hangry.

Eat a Balanced Breakfast

When you break your fast is not as important as how your break your fast. It is true that eating sooner than later definitely brings relief if you want to stop being hangry. But having a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for your first meal of the day weighs in more heavily to maintain your blood sugar balance. Your mocha and muffin actually exacerbate your grouchy crankiness. They drive your blood sugars abnormally high and set you up for an even greater crash. This starts of cycle of alternating highs and lows for the day.

So, for breakfast, consider a combination carbs, fats, and proteins to keep you running smoothing for hours. For example, you might try one of these combinations:

  • Oats, protein powder, and chia seeds, with (nut) butter, cream, or coconut milk
  • Whole grain sprouted toast with ham, swiss, and poached egg
  • Cottage cheese, strawberries, hemp seed & pistachios on whole grain toast
  • Scrambled egg, black beans, cheese and salsa in a corn tortilla
  • Fried egg, smoked salmon & avocado on a sweet potato half
  • Greek yogurt, ricotta, lemon zest, almonds, berries, and chia seeds
  • Sausage patty, pineapple ring, and cheese in a lettuce wrap

Stop Being Hangry with Smart Snacking

When the hunger dragon strikes, your urge might be to snarf a bag of cookies or chips. However, combining an unrefined fat (such as nuts or seeds) with a slow-burning carbohydrate (such as a vegetable) will stabilize your blood sugars and keep you fueled longer. Therefore, wise combinations of whole foods stop you from being hangry. Here are some suggestions:

  • Strawberries & pistachios
  • Pico de gallo & boiled egg
  • Baby carrots & hummus
  • Celery & sunflower seed butter
  • Snap peas & tahini
  • Mandarin oranges & guacamole
  • Cherry tomatoes & olives
  • Banana & walnuts
  • Whole grain cracker & smoked salmon
  • Blueberries & Greek yogurt (Fage Total)
  • Dates & goat cheese

Count Quality as Much as Quantity

Many people think they must eat a low-carbohydrate diet in order to stop being hangry. Rather than reducing your carbohydrates, consider changing the type of carbohydrates you eat. Grab a handful of berries instead of a glass of juice in the morning. Build your pasta with squash or sweet potato instead of noodles. Choose a whole fruit instead of pastries when you want something sweet. Maximize your vegetable intake. Avoid sugary, sweetened beverages, products made with refined flour, and commercial snack foods. Instead, choose plant foods in their natural form that don’t come with a nutrition label: whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and especially vegetables.

Don’t Skimp on Natural Fats

You may have been taught to eat a low-fat diet. Unfortunately, to satiate your hunger, you have tried to fill up on crackers, chips, sodas, and other processed foods. These are like kindling on your metabolic fire. They flare up in a burst of energy, then fade away quickly into ashes. On the other hand, fats are like logs. They burn long and slow. That doesn’t mean you should eat fries and fry sauce to stop being hangry. Nature’s foods are naturally balanced with fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Milk, eggs, meat, nuts, and seeds all have fats that work in harmony with your body. So capitalize on foods such as olives, avocados, butter, pastured and wild-caught meats, and other traditional foods to keep your blood sugars balanced.

Lower Your Stress to Stop Being Hangry

Did you know that stress can wreak more havoc on blood sugars than a poor diet? When you are under pressure, you need a ready source of energy to fight your dragons. Of course, this sets up cravings for fast fuel: empty carbohydrates. So, if you want to stop being hangry, you might need to take a few deep breaths and get back in control of your stress.

watermelon & lemon are foods that cool

Foods That Cool

Foods that cool the body are more vital in the summer than foods that keep the kitchen cool. Just as you need coolant in your car to drive across the desert mid-day, you must also have “coolant” in your body to keep from overheating. Below are three tips to for finding and eating foods that cool the body in the heat.

Don’t Put a Match in the Tank

While it is true that you probably don’t feel like cooking when the temperatures outside skyrocket, running through the drive-up window for a meal may be even worse. We could compare that meal to a match inside your car’s gas tank.

Fast foods and processed foods have two strikes against them. First, they are inflammatory – they create more fire in your body. Partly this is because they alter the microbes in your gut. Dr. Edwin McDonald of the University of Chicago Department of Medicine suggests that you avoid foods you couldn’t make at home, such as corn chips.

Second, processed foods are dehydrating. Did you know that most products made with flour have a moisture content of less than 10%? Therefore, they rob your body of water in order to digest them. When you become dehydrated, you have more difficulty regulating your temperature and staying cool enough. In this post about fast foods that don’t rot, Serious Eats posits that it is the dryness of certain fast food burgers that inhibits mold growth.

By contrast, foods that cool have high water content and are anti-inflammatory. But just eating a cooling food here or there will not do the trick. Cooling foods must be part of a long-term lifestyle.

Start with Coolant

To regulate its temperature, your body’s primary need is for water. But perhaps drinking plain water is boring or unsatisfying to you. Do you like fizz and flavor? I suggest that you grab sparkling water if you like carbonation, add an herbal tea bag for flavor (and electrolytes), and sprinkle in some powdered glycine (an amino acid) if you you need a sweetener.  But you don’t just have to drink your water. You can slurp it, crunch it, and swap it!

  • Slurp your water: Bone broths are very hydrating. Not only are they mostly water, they also contain many electrolytes to help you hold onto your hydration. There’s no sense in gulping down lots of fluids, just to end up urinating them off. If a tall mug of broth sounds unappetizing for your summer picnic, consider a broth-based cold soup, such as this refreshing gazpacho.
  • Crunch your water: High water content foods, such as melons, leafy greens, and cucumbers are perfect for slaking your thirst and hydrating your body. As a bonus, they require no cooking! An entree such as this roasted peach and arugula salad might be just perfect for a hot summer evening. Another tip is to blend frozen watermelon into your beverage. Pink lemonade, anyone?
  • Swap your water: Exchange flour products for vegetables. For example, you can replace commercial chips with thin-sliced jicama, and trade out conventional noodles for spiralized vegetables, which are much more hydrating and much less inflammatory. A great weeknight dinner could be butternut squash pasta smothered in pesto and topped with rotisserie chicken.

Remember Foods That Cool

Yes, melons and cucumbers are hydrating. But other foods can help cool the body, too.

  • Anti-inflammatory foods will take down some of your fire: Pineapple and papaya have proteolytic enzymes that help “digest” inflammation. Why not sip a pineapple-cucumber-basil smoothie and get the best of both anti-inflammatory and hydrating foods?
  • Foods with cooling properties quell your heat from the inside out: Mint has a reputation for being able to lower body heat. I like these suggestions from blogger Elizabeth Rider to add more mint to your repertoire.
  • Citrus fruits help break down fats that warm the body: Especially use lemons and limes abundantly. Mix fresh-squeezed lemon juice with olive oil for an easy salad dressing, stir some orange zest into your morning oatmeal, blend limes into your morning smoothie, sip a lemon-ginger tea with your meal, or juice limes into marinades for grilled meats. My favorite use is to squeeze the juice of 1 lime into a fruity sorbet made from 1 avocado and 1 cup of ripe frozen berries.
  • High-electrolyte foods retain the water that keeps you cool: coconut water is particularly high in electrolytes. I like to add a splash of coconut water to my water bottle, or blend it into a smoothie.
Which diet is right to lose weight?

Which Diet is Right For You?

With so many diets to choose from, how do you know which diet is right for you? Is there one diet that is better than all the others? Which diet guarantees the most weight loss? Which diet insures that you will be your healthiest? Let me give you some straight talk so that you can cut through all the marketing to discern what you really need.

It’s Not About the Weight.

The answer doesn’t matter if you’re asking the wrong question. Is “Which diet is right?”  even a productive question? Perhaps, first, you should ask, “Do I really need to go on a diet? Why do I need to go on a diet?”

Chances are you feel like you need to lose some weight. There is an assumption here: “If I lose some weight, I’ll be healthier.” But I’m telling you, that’s backward! In reality, if you get healthy first, then you’ll lose some weight! We tend to think that we carry around those excess pounds simply because we haven’t exercised enough yet to compensate for all the calories we ate. But if that simple calorie-in, calorie-out math were correct, there wouldn’t be a glut weight loss and exercise programs on the market, because we’d all be skinny!

There is an assumption here: “If I lose some weight, I’ll be healthier.” But I’m telling you, that’s backward! In reality, if you get healthy first, then you’ll lose some weight!

Which Diet is Right for You? It Depends

The reason that you diet and workout like crazy and still can’t get those pounds off is because there’s an imbalance, impairment, or blockage somewhere in your body. Your body is not stupid. In fact, your body is absolutely brilliant! It compensates precisely and marvelously to all the conditions under which you ask it to live, keeping you alive and functioning in spite of whatever stresses, toxins, illnesses, and food-like substances you encounter. It may be working around inflammation, or poor digestion, or skewed hormones. But it adjusts and optimizes what is available to keep you as resilient as possible.

Therefore, in order to understand which diet is right for you, it’s imperative to understand what unique dynamics are going on inside of your body. Just because your friend lost weight on a keto diet doesn’t mean that your gall bladder is strong enough for you to process that many fats. Even though your mom is a vegan doesn’t mean that you will make enough hemoglobin, antibodies, enzymes or hormones without animal protein in your diet. And while your wife eats low carb, it doesn’t mean you can compete in sports without a few more starches to burn.

Four Hormones Are Key

Truthfully, you are not really in control of your weight. Your hormones are. If you are fighting stubborn weight loss, chances are that at least one of these four hormones is out of kilter. So, which diet is right for you will depend on your levels of thyroid, estrogen, insulin, and cortisol. If you focus on bringing the hormones into harmony, you will not only settle at a better weight, you will feel stronger and more vibrant, too.

Truthfully, you are not in charge of your weight. Your hormones are.

The Right Diet for Poor Thyroid Function

If your thyroid is sluggish, so is your metabolism…and your digestion…and everything else. Of course your body holds on to your energy stores! It’s an insurance policy against loss of fuel. For that reason, you need MORE nutrition, not less if your thyroid hormones are out of balance. Low calorie diets are stressful to the body, and stress is very damaging to thyroid function. So is hard-core, extreme exercise. Consequently, it’s time to stop dieting and exercising if you need to support your thyroid.

Six top nutrients for thyroid health are iron, selenium, zinc, iodine, protein, and Vitamin A. Incidentally, these nutrient require robust digestion. Minerals are hard to absorb, and protein is tough to break down. If you have wimpy digestion, dieting is not going to augment your thyroid function. Work with a practitioner to prime digestion first!

Eat for Estrogen Balance

Did you know that fat tissue is endocrine tissue? In other words, fat tissue makes hormones! So, if you are more than 20 or 30 pounds overweight, there’s a likelihood that you are making more estrogen than your body needs. Estrogen tends to increase weight gain. Therefore, the more weight you gain, the more you’re likely to gain. Dieting is not going to fix that.

The right diet for estrogen dominance is one that supports the liver. It’s your liver that has to break down all the estrogen for elimination. Super foods here would be cruciferous vegetables, high-fiber foods, and B vitamins, especially the active form of vitamin B6, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P). Most detrimental to estrogen excess would be foods that contain “xenoestrogens,” sustances that either mimic or stimulate estrogen in the body. You can find a list of xenoestrogens here.

The Right Diet For High Insulin Levels

You don’t have to be diabetic in order to have high fasting insulin. In fact, insulin may be elevated decades before rising glucose shows up on your bloodwork, even at pre-diabetic stages. You can have chronically high insulin because of ongoing stress in your life, excess calories, or simply too many refined carbohydrates in your lifestyle. Ask for an insulin test the next time you have annual blood samples drawn for lab testing. Functional practitioners consider any result in the upper two-thirds of the reference range to be unhealthy.

An appropriate dietary approach for correcting hyper insulin production is a low-glycemic, high fiber one. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s high or low fat, or even high or low carb, so much as it matters the type of carbs you eat. Focus on vegetables! Stay away from foods made with flour, eliminate all sweeteners, and implement some kind of intermittent fasting or restricted time window eating if you are able. You must make dramatic and sustainable changes for about six months to give your organs an abrupt and extended holiday from this deadly metabolic process.

You must make dramatic and sustainable changes for about six months to give your organs an abrupt and extended holiday from this deadly metabolic process.

Correcting Abnormal Cortisol Hormone

Stress is a killer for normal cortisol production. If you feel that you are wired all the time, or tired all the time, you may need to investigate your cortisol levels. But stress is not just emotional! You can be stressed by a hidden food sensitivity, heavy metal toxicity, an imbalance of gut microbes, or a simmering infection, such as gingivitis.

For that reason, the best diet for cortisol health is the one that resolves your unique physiological needs. It may be a high fiber diet, or a dairy-free, gluten-free one. For someone else, it could be a low-starch diet, or one high in polyphenols. There is no one-size-fits-all diet! A functional approach to your needs is best in order to customize a program that works for you.

 

Do I Need to Quit Sugar?

Should you quit sugar? There is evidence that sugar is detrimental to health. But are sweeteners really harming you? Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who can eat treats without it impacting your well being. Or maybe you think sugar is okay in moderation. My 3-part quiz can help you evaluate whether you should quit sugar.

Sugar is the Perfect Lover

Americans are having an affair with sugar. And why not? It looks good, tastes good, smells good, never criticizes you, and keeps you company when you are lonely. But data from the market research firm Euromonitor – reported in the Washington Post – suggest that the love may border on lunacy. The United States consumes more caloric sweeteners (including cane and beet sugar, corn syrup, agave, maple syrup, and honey) than any other nation! This statistic does not included naturally occuring sugars, such as those in whole fruit or milk.

The Unites States leads the nations needing to quit sugar

So, if the nation is adding almost twice as much sugar to its food as France, is your personal intake as moderate as you deem? The Diabetes Council reports that sugar consumption rose more than 130 pounds per person per year in over the last century (1915 to 2011). That means per capita, we are eating more than 500 calories per day from our sweeteners – not including artificial ones!

 

Sugar consumption is up 130 pounds per capita

Part 1: Quit Sugar if Your Appetite is Unsatisfied

Do you feel the need to snack between meals? When you finish a meal, do you feel that something was missing? Are you plagued with cravings, in spite of regular meals and high caloric intake? Do you sometimes binge, or feel your appetite is out of control.

These signs tell you to quit sugar for two reasons:

  • Your blood sugars are crashing in response to an earlier spike, leaving you desperate to stoke up your metabolic fire once again. In other words, instead of a warm, lasting burn of energy, you are having a hot blast of kindling, followed by ashes.
  • Hundreds of nutrients you need to thrive – from essential fatty acids and amino acids, to minerals and antioxidants are missing, so your hunger spirals to greater and greater heights. Not only does sugar lack the essential “food” for your health, it robs you of those nutrients in order to metabolize it.

Part 2: Quit Sugar if Your Energy is Unstable

Are you exhausted, but you can’t sleep? Do your reserves run out and leave you shaky or jittery between meals? Are you drowsy after eating? Do you feel sluggish when you wake up or lethargic through the day. Does it seem that you just can’t muster the energy to get through the day, but then you’re wired at night?

Having adequate and level energy is a factor of blood sugar balance. Therefore, roller coaster energy can be a reflection of drastically fluctuating blood sugars. What you need is not more sugar! When you quit sugar, you allow your body to burn fat instead.

Part 3: Quit Sugar if Your Moods are Imbalanced

“Who are you when you’re hungry?” Adjectives such as ornery, snippy, grouchy, feisty, whiny, loopy, dramatic, and impatient are more than just a Snickers campaign! Do you feel irritable, depressed, anxious, angry, apathetic, or nervous almost every day? Yes, everyone has a bad day now and then. But are these negative moods pervasive in your life?

Being “hangry” happens when blood sugars drop too low. You have to ask yourself, “Why are they dropping?” A bowling ball rolling down the alley continues on a smooth path. But if you lob it in the air, it will stike the floor with intensity! The higher the launch, the greater the fall. As for apathy, that occurs when your cells block sugar because of a condition called insulin resistance where you are flooded with too much sugar all the time. Quit sugar to regain a more even temperament.

"Hangry" is an extreme drop in blood sugars

Bonus Question: Do You Struggle With Weight?

Often, weight is a sign of inflammation in the body. Sugar is inflammatory! So if you quit sugar, not only will you immediately remove excess calories from your diet, you will also take away some of the gasoline you’ve been pouring on the “match.” In my experience, clients can often easily drop 10 to 20 pounds just by removing all sweeteners from their diet.

Do you need help overcoming your love affair with sugar? I can help!

Tuning Immunity helps prevent virus transmission

Tune Immunity 10 Ways

It’s vital to tune immunity so that you are not susceptible to pathogens. But you also need to regulate your immune system so it doesn’t over-react when it faces a challenge. You want it neither weak nor aggressive. For example, you want to be fit enough to fight off COVID-19, yet not have such an antagonistic response that it precipitates a cytokine storm. In other words, you don’t just want to boost immunity, you want to balance it.

Hydration is Your First Defense

#1 Drink plenty of pure, clean water. No, I don’t mean start drinking water when you get a sore throat. I mean keep your mucus membranes hydrated all the time. Before you even activate that part of your immune system that creates antibodies, a germ first has to get past the nasal passages, the throat, the lungs, and the gut. These are all lined with special membranes designed to provide you protection at the site of first contact with pathogens. Your mucosa is the largest component of your immune system. If you are drinking more soda, juice, coffee, tea, and alcohol than pure water, you are compromising your protection!

Immune-Tuning Triad

The pillars of restorative sleep, frequent movement, and copious amounts of fresh air are foundational for immune balance. However, they are also the most-compromised health tenets in our society today.

#2 Sleep: You know high-quality sleep is vital to wellness. While your body is lying still on the outside, inside it is processing toxins, repairing damaged tissue, generating white blood cells for immunity, and eliminating the effects of stress. Unfortunately you may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking too early. The best advice I can give is to make bedtime earlier! That includes an hour for switching gears by turning down lights, dampening the stresses of the day, and stopping stimulating screen time. Aim for hours (plural!) of sleep before midnight.

#3 Movement: Your lymph system requires muscle contractions for good flow. Of course, you need good lymphatic function to release immune cell “soldiers” that monitor and destroy invaders. It stands to reason that more consistent movement throughout the day is better than working out for an hour, then sitting the rest of the day. Such a pattern amounts to movement only 6% of your waking hours. Make a point to walk more, bend more and stretch more throughout the day.

#4 Fresh air: Indoor air can become quite toxic due to outgassing from textiles and chemicals and building materials.  This is especially true during the cold months, even in our own homes! Taking away unnecessary burdens from your body helps it maintain an appropriate response to true threats.

Tune Immunity with Vitamins

#5 Take your vitamins. I’m not talking about Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E. Those are secondary nutrients. Nourish yourself with a full spectrum of these primary nutrients: Vitamin J (joy), Vitamin P (play), Vitamin Q (quiet) and Vitamin T (touch). Without them, we stay predominantly in a sympathetic nervous system mode of fight-or-flight, which suppresses immunity. How can you thrive if you are surrounded by drudgery, stress, noise, and isolation. While I don’t suggest a hedonistic lifestyle, there must be a balance of recreation and pleasure to rejuvenate you from the necessities of providing for yourself.

Tune Immunity with Breath

#6 Mindful breathing. The fastest way to increase immune cells is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Mindful breathing is the key to accessing the this nervous system mode. While you may not be able to meditate or do yoga every time you trigger your fight-or-flight nervous system response, you can always deepen your inhales and lengthen your exhales. That simple act of mindfully shifting away from short, shallow breaths brings you back into a more calm, restorative nervous system state. The more time you spend in parasympathetic mode, the healthier your immune system will be. So, make a point to check and adjust your breath frequently throughout the day.

HRV Reflects Immune Balance

#7 Increase your Heart Rate Variability. What’s that? Heart Rate Variability, or HRV, is how much change in time there is between all the heart beats in any given minute or hour. For example, 0.9 seconds might elapse between two beats, then 1.15 seconds between two other beats. This is a great way to measure your ability to switch out of fight-or-flight into “rest-and-digest.” That’s because your heart rate variability will not increase if your body does not feel safe enough relax.

Dr. Marcelo Campos explains, “If a person’s system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high. In other words, the healthier the autonomic nervous system the faster you are able to switch gears, showing more resilience….A low HRV is  associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease.”

So, how do you tap into a higher HRV? Stimulate your vagus nerve regularly! This wandering nerve that connects brain to larynx, heart, lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines, is the messenger that tells your organs whether to gear up for battle or gear down for healing. You can stimulate it by singing, gargling, laughing, snuggling, praying, getting a massage, expressing gratitude, or engaging in other health-supporting activities outlined in this post.

(If you want to know what your HRV measures, you can wear a heart monitor with a blue tooth function that connects to an HRV measuring app.)

Tune Immunity with Supplements

#8 Supplement with zinc and omega-3 fats. There’s been much debate about the efficacy of Vitamin D. But no one is debating that your immune system needs zinc to function optimally. Yet, zinc continues to be one of the top nutrient needs in America, along with omega-3 fats, which are vital to having anti-inflammatory action in the body. Additionally, scientists have found that these essential fatty acids actually signal immune cells to behave in certain ways. With a deficiency of these two imperative nutrients, you are much more likely to have an out-of-control response to a pathogen.

Contact me to learn what forms and doses of these supplements to use.

Tune-up Systemic Imbalances

#9 Address your body’s imbalances. No system in the body works in a vacuum. Digestion, immunity, neurotransmission, detoxification, metabolism, and hormone balance all impact each other. When one system is skewed, the other systems have to compensate. So if your blood sugars aren’t balanced, if your thyroid function runs on the low side, if you don’t have a smooth bowel movement once a day, if you function under stress all the time without appropriate breaks, then you are “going into battle wounded.” I suggest you work with a functional practitioner to assess and normalize these functions so that your immune function isn’t pulled out of kilter.

Don’t Forget Your Produce

#10 Your immune system is a nutrient hog! It needs much more than carbs, fats, and proteins. It depends on micronutrients, especially polyphenols. These are a family of more than 8,000 plant chemicals that offer their protective qualities not only to the seeds, fruits, shoots, and roots they are found in, but to you as well! Make sure that you are getting a diverse, copious intake of fruits and vegetables. Challenge yourself to eat a rainbow of natural colors every day. From personal experience, I feel my very best when I get 3 servings of vegetables at every meal.

Of course, we are all at different points in our health journey. You may already be implementing some of these 10 tips. You may feel overwhelmed at implementing others. No one is perfect at doing all of them all of the time, and no one can change all of their weaknesses at once. Start where you are, pick the most attainable or most needful area, and work on that. Any improvement to one area will bring greater resiliency to your immunity and your other body systems as well.

 

woman with mask

COVID-19 Considerations

Consider how resilient you are to COVID-19 or any viral infection. Whether or not you have had the SARS-COV-2 virus infect you, you need strong immune function. Regardless of whether you choose the vaccine or not, you want your body to respond well to threats. Even if you are not concerned about Post-COVID Syndrome, you want to be resilient when germs attack your body.

Consider Your Innate Immune Response to COVID-19

Your innate immune system is on the front lines for any viral battle. The key components of this system include your body’s natural barriers: your skin, and the mucous linings of your gut, lungs, and nasal passages. Even the membrane that surrounds your brain is part of this innate system.

If you have enhanced intestinal permeability (EIP), your barriers are compromised. You likely already have increased levels of the cytokine Interleukin-6 (IL-6). Therefore, you are more susceptible to the inflammation of a high viral load causing a cytokine storm. EIP is common where many food sensitivities are present and is an underlying condition of autoimmunity.

To be strong for either a vaccination or an infection of COVID-19, consider changes you can make to strengthen your body’s barriers.

Heal Barrier Function

Looking at Vitamin D as a consideration for COVID-19 immunity, sufficient levels of this vitamin DO enhance the tight junctions in our skin, gut lining, and blood-brain barrier. One of the issues with Vitamin D supplements is that individuals take high doses. Taking too much at once can deplete magnesium and Vitamin A. Always, you must strive for balance in the body. Too much of one substance compromises others.

Also, too high of levels of vitamin D can suppress immunity. So, while low Vitamin D levels threaten barrier function, too much is just as dangerous. Work with a qualified practitioner to asses your need, and don’t just supplement indiscriminately.

Also, be mindful to hydrate, manage stress, and avoid unnecessary medication to maintain your body’s barriers. Eat whole, natural foods, and skirt the refined, processed oils. Be wary of sugars and foods that increase Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).

Consider Minerals for COVID-19 Resiliency

It is no secret that you need zinc to heal wounds. When you are fighting any virus, the tissues in your body are “wounded.” Further, when you are under stress chronically, your body allows more copper in place of zinc on purpose so that your can fight or flee better. But you need adequate zinc to maintain your immune function. So, whether or not you have been infected or vaccinated, you may want to test your zinc sufficiency. You can ask your practitioner to check your zinc levels.

Are you feeling anemic? When you have inflammation, your body upregulates a substance called hepcidin on purpose. Hepcidin keeps you from absorbing iron well. Your body knows that iron fuels microbial growth, so it wisely prohibits high iron levels. Insufficient iron in the presence of higher hepcidin could be a clue that you already have too many cytokines on the loose. Working to get to the root of chronic inflammation empowers you to be safer when threatened with a virus.

Your practitioner will want to compare serum iron, ferritin, and hemoglobin levels to ascertain your iron status.

Restorative Sleep for Resiliency

You need to sleep to heal. Your sleep hormone, melatonin, is also a powerful antioxidant that repairs damage from a viral battle. When you find yourself on the “long-haul” recovering from a viral infection, your body may commandeer tryptophan (an amino acid) to make more macrophages (white blood cells that devour viruses). Since you need tryptophan to make melatonin, you may find you can’t sleep well. While making more macrophages promotes your survival, it does not support your healing. Thus, you enter a downward spiral that is difficult to recover from.

For the short term, you may need additional protein (and the tryptophan precursor Vitamin B6) so that you can make both macrophages and melatonin. Your practitioner can give you appropriate supplementation guidelines. But to insure your resiliency before and after an infection, make sure you don’t short-change your sleep. Less than 8 hours per night puts you into a sleep deficit. Prioritize a restful night to support your health.

 

Toilet paper

Relieve Constipation

You can relieve constipation with diet and lifestyle choices. The Constipation Club includes roughly 1 of every 5 Americans. Constipation is a serious symptom that contributes to disease. While it is not true that diet, exercise, and hydration are the only factors contributing to constipation, they are they ones you can control.

Relieve Constipation with Good Eating Hygiene

One of the most important everyday choices you make to sustain bowel regularity is how you eat. If your eating hygiene is sloppy, it will decrease your digestive secretions (stomach acid, bile, digestive enzymes). These secretions are key to ensuring that you have a healthy bowel movement.

What does good eating hygiene consist of? Here are 7 key aspects:

  1. Imagine and create a relaxed setting, where you can truly be in the moment. Candles or nature, anyone?
  2. Focus on the smells, tastes, & textures of the meal. Truly savor your food.
  3. Chew more! If that means taking smaller bites, then use toddler silverware or cut every bite into fourths, but make sure your food is nearly liquid before you swallow.
  4. Yes, hydrate. But do so mainly between meals. If you need to moisten your food, see #3. More than 8 ounces of liquid with your meal will dilute digestive function.
  5. Don’t overfill the “washing machine.” Your stomach needs room to agitate its contents. Leave overstuffing to padded furniture.
  6. Deepen your inhales and lengthen your exhales, especially when you sit down to your meal. This helps switch you out of “fight-or-flight” into “rest-and-digest”.
  7. Take your time. Approximately 20 minutes after you start eating, your body produces cholecystokinin (CCK) to stimulate both bile and enzymes to help break down your food. So, avoid rushing in order to let these substances have optimal effect.

Moving Beyond Eating Hygiene

If you have mastered eating hygiene and are still struggling to relieve constipation, consider the 3 M’s and the 3 F’s.

  • Magnesium helps relax the colon. The best form to take for constipation relief is magnesium citrate. Check with your functional practitioner to know how much magnesium is appropriate for you.
  • Movement stimulates peristalsis. Are you sitting too much? Counting steps with an pedometer lets you know how much movement you engage in per day. For example, 5,000 steps in a 16-hour waking period means you are moving approximately 5% of the time. You need to have roughly 24,000 steps in 16 hours to be moving 25% of the time.
  • Medicines may impair motility (especially opiods, antacids and iron supplements). When you take prescriptions sporadically, you can relieve constipation with prune juice. But when you use constipating drugs regularly, you may need to work with a practitioner to resolve your need for these pills.
  • Fat helps “grease the skids” if it is unrefined & natural. Avoid processed vegetable oil. Stick with olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, coconut oil, and butter for the most part. A low-fat diet can impair your ability to relieve constipation.
  • Fiber can both bulk up and soften the stool for it to pass more readily. You should strive to eat more than 25 grams of fiber each day. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains fills this requirement.
  • Food intolerances or sensitivities interfere with normal bowel function. If you have a food intolerance, you lack enzymes to digest your food well. In contrast, a food sensitivity invokes an immune response and you experience inflammation. Both of these scenarios can contribute to constipation. You can order a blood test to check for food sensitivities.

Constipation Relief Requires Good Cellular Communication

Another cause of constipation is poor communication between the brain and the gut, or between the cells of the gut. Since hormones and neurotransmitters are the messengers of this communication, functional practitioners look at those chemicals for imbalance.

Too little thyroid hormone, can cause your system to back up because it slows down all metabolism, including digestive functions. Be sure to let a functional practitioner test your hormone levels before adjusting any medication. One of your most important levels to know is your Free T3, which is the active form of thyroid hormone. Many individuals have sufficient T4 thyroid hormone, but don’t convert it well to the active form.

Cortisol primes cell receptors for other hormones to enter. Both hyper- and hypo-cortisol states influence thyroid hormone action. Again, “test, don’t guess” is the rule for balancing your hormones correctly.

Neurotransmitter Action Matters

You synthesize serotonin, one of your most prominent neurotransmitters, chiefly in your gut, not your brain. Taking an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) for anxiety or depression is a common cause of constipation. These medications tell the body to recycle the serotonin you have, so the brain assumes you have enough. Over time, your brain directs your body to slow down production. Too little serotonin provokes constipation, while too much serotonin triggers diarrhea. If you struggle with neurotransmitter balance, you will want to work with a functional practitioner to help you re-establish healthy levels.

As you can see, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to solving constipation. Factors can be varied and individual.

Passing a stool should be an effortless, everyday occurrence. Just as you would not want to use the dirty dishwater to cook a meal, your body does not want to re-circulate waste products to sustain your health. Please avail yourself of tools and resources to make sure that your “garbage” doesn’t pile up.

 

 

 

Is a resolve to lose weight harming you?

Don’t Resolve to Lose Weight in 2021

Don’t resolve to lose weight in 2021. Rather, resolve to be healthier than ever before. Then, when you have optimized your digestion, blood sugars, metabolism, and hormones, your weight will take care of itself.

Prime Indicators of Health

Americans have been conditioned to believe that the scale accurately reflects their health. There are plenty of skinny diabetics, stocky athletes, and beautiful but fatigued models to disprove the weight-health connection. Yet, we continue to look at weight as an end-goal.

For example, if you were to visit your physician with tension headaches, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight gain, you would likely receive a prescription for weight loss, along with a diuretic and a statin. But this would not address the reason for your symptoms. Weight gain is after all, only a reflection of your body’s function. It would not be accurate to say that excess weight is the cause of your headaches, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In this case, a resolve to lose weight would treat one of your symptoms. It would not necessarily make your a healthier person.

We can use many lab tests to assess whether you are thriving. Perhaps one of the greatest indicators, though is how you feel. Are you sluggish or energetic? Do you have plaguing cravings, or do your meals leave you feeling fueled and satisfied? Do do you feel bloated, and swollen. or do you move freely and easily? Is your mind foggy or clear? Are your moods unpredictable, or stable?

Roadblocks to Weight Loss

If dieting really worked, we would not have an epidemic of obesity. The CDC reports that the number of Americans on diets has risen 14% over the last decade, and yet, the rate of obesity also continues to rise. Estimates are that roughly 2/3 of the American population is now overweight or obese.

Here are some reasons why your body might be hanging on to those extra pounds:

  • Dieting – Calorie restriction lowers your basal metabolic rate and convinces your body to hoard! It’s better to have an abundance of nutrient-dense foods for your body to run optimally. Then it can discard what it doesn’t need.
  • Toxicity – Adipose tissue is the storage depot for toxins that your body cannot fully eliminate. Your body hangs onto the fat on purpose to protect you from organ damage. If you resolve to lose weight by drastic caloric reductions and extreme exercise plans, you put those toxins back into circulation. Unless your liver is a superhero and all your elimination routes are fully clear, you increase inflammation and stress in your body.
  • Hormone Imbalance – Guess what! Your hormones are in control! Thyroid hormone determines how fast or slow your metabolism is. Insulin commands whether you store or burn your meal. Cortisol is the gatekeeper that admits other hormones into the cell. It’s all a symphony. If one is “out of tune,” it spoils the whole performance.
  • Stress – When your are under constant strain, without regular breaks for relief, your body chooses to “stockpile” energy in the form of fat tissue to insure survival. It doesn’t know how long the threat will last, or if you will be required to flea at any moment. It does know, though, that if you are starved and depleted, you will not effectively make your escape. Thus, stress can increase weight even more than poor nutrition and empty calories.

Resolve to Lose Inflammation, Not Weight

What do toxicity, hormone imbalances and stress have in common? Inflammation! So, you will be most successful in your resolve for better health if you shed inflammation and stop worrying about weight. As noted in this post, sleep deprivation is one factor that increases inflammation. Therefore, getting a good night’s sleep is a primary tool for thriving health. Another tool is insuring good blood sugar balance. If you experience blood sugar crashes, you may want to enroll in our newest class for 2021, “Help! I’m Hangry!”

Baby steps are okay! Start where you are, and resolve to do a little better each day. If you are having digestive distress, or feel that your hormones are skewed, I can help.

Sneezing is one type of food reaction.

Food Reactions 101

If you have a food reaction, are you allergic to a particular food? Not necessarily. There are a lot of reasons to react poorly to something you ate. You may be sensitive, or intolerant, but not allergic. Perhaps you lack digestive enzymes or free-flowing bile. Let’s explore different types of food reactions.

What kinds of food reactions are there?

Beyond food intolerances, sensitivities, and allergies, there are physiological reasons to have trouble with food. For example, spicy food can irritate and inflame your esophagus. Foods containing certain starches that are difficult to digest can give you bloat, gas, and cramps. High fat foods can make you nauseated if your gall bladder is congested or even missing. Further, foods contaminated with chemicals can give you a headache. If your detoxification pathways are blocked, you may feel your heart racing when too much of a substance, such as caffeine, builds up in your body. Lastly, sustained stress can  impair your ability to digest.

It can be very helpful to keep a food journal. Note what you ate and when, and record what symptoms you are having and when they occur. You may be able to see certain patterns, such as waking up with joint pain after a binge of cookies, or getting a stomach ache every time you eat fast food in the car. Perhaps you notice post-nasal drip at night that it goes away when you eliminate yogurt or peanuts. The expert on your food reactions is YOU!

What is the difference between a food allergy, a sensitivity, and an intolerance?

Most likely, you know if you are allergic to something. Your reaction occurs sometimes within minutes, but certainly within a few hours. The symptoms are classic: itchiness, swelling, rashes, sinus congestion, and/or airway constriction. It only takes a drop or a crumb to set you off.

However, a food sensitivity may take up to 3 days to manifest. You may not realize you are reacting to something you ate yesterday or the day before. In addition, you may eat it this week and not have any symptoms. But when you eat it next week, you have an attack of diarrhea.

With the first exposure to a food you are sensitive to, your body flags the item as a possible problem. When you eat it again, the antibodies are ready and your immune system reacts aggressively. You may feel that you are inflamed in some way.

Yet, perhaps you only eat a few bites. So you don’t notice much. Next time, you may feel it’s harmless, and may have a cup of it. Over the next day or two, you feel cranky, sluggish or achy. This is typical of a food sensitivity.

An intolerance does not involve an immune reaction. Nevertheless, you are incapable of breaking down and absorbing the food. Usually, this is because you lack the enzymes to digest it. A case in point is lactose intolerance. This simply means your body doesn’t make lactase. Therefore, you cannot degrade lactose. If you eat it, you will have a stomach ache.

How do I know if I’m having a food reaction?

The simple answer is to take the food out of your diet cold turkey for 30 days. (Watch labels to make sure you are not accidentally being exposed.) Then on the 31st and 32nd days, eat two full servings of it each day. Record any symptoms that crop up, especially if you have not been experiencing them over the past month.

Common symptoms of food reactions include joint pain, muscle aches, sinus congestion or post-nasal drip, headache, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, depression, anxiety, lethargy, fatigue, rashes, itching, bloat, brain fog, forgetfulness, sudden mood changes, and irritability.

If you are having difficulty sleuthing out which foods to remove from your diet, you may want to use a blood-based food sensitivity test. The lab technicians will determine if you have antibodies and an inflammatory reaction to the foods on the test. Although the test can give false positives or negatives, you will have a set of likely foods to begin removing in a methodical way.

You can order an at-home blood sample kit through Inner Connected Wellness that tests 22 foods, 132 foods, or 176 foods, depending on your need.

Will I ever be able to eat that food again?

Unfortunately, food allergies are unlikely to go away. But many people are able to heal food sensitivities by avoiding their triggers for 3-4 months (it takes that long for antibodies to die) and engaging in a gut healing protocol to repair the problem that caused the sensitivity in the first place. You can work with a functional nutritionist to make sure you have adequate nutrition and digestive secretions to break down your food optimally. That way, your immune system will not freak out over a particle of partially-digested gluten or casein.

If your food reaction is because of an intolerance, digestive enzymes will most likely help you assimilate that food. When other imbalances, irritants, or blockages are at play, addressing the root cause removes that impairment. Then you can eat troublesome foods once again without an adverse reaction.