Category Archives: Digestion

Syncing meals with your body clock for better health

811 circadian rhythm eating

Many of us start the day with a small breakfast as we run out the door, followed by a medium sized lunch and a large dinner. We also tend to snack throughout the day and even grab a bite before bed. However, while what we eat is important, a growing body of research suggests when we eat matters too.

The digestive system’s circadian rhythm

While you have likely heard of the circadian rhythm, the master “clock” in the brain that governs our sleep-wake cycle, we actually have a variety of circadian clocks that govern the daily cycle of activity for every organ.

These rhythms exist because every organ needs downtime for repair and regeneration.

The digestive system is no exception. During the day, the pancreas increases production of insulin, which controls blood sugar levels, and then ramps it down at night.

The gut has a clock that regulates the daily enzyme levels, absorption of nutrients and waste removal. Even our gut microbiome operates on a daily rhythm.

Circadian clocks optimize our health by aligning our biological functions with regular and predictable environmental patterns. Disrupting our circadian clocks — such as by skipping breakfast or eating at midnight — can result in health issues such as weight gain, metabolic syndrome, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more.

Eat breakfast daily

About 20 to 30 percent of American adults skip breakfast. Some do it to save time, many do it in an effort to lose weight. However, studies show that people who eat breakfast daily are less likely to be obese, malnourished, suffer from impaired blood sugar metabolism, or be diagnosed with diabetes.

They are also less likely to have the heart disease risk factors of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Even the American Heart Association recently endorsed biologically appropriate meal timing to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Just eating breakfast isn’t the only important thing however. It’s critical to start the day with a breakfast that provides plenty of protein and healthy fats, and a minimum of sugars. This helps support blood sugar balance and proper brain function throughout the day.

Make breakfast the largest meal for weight control and fat loss

The timing in relation to the size of our meals is also important.

Research shows having the largest meal in the morning appears to help with weight control compared to having a large meal in the evening.

In fact, a person eating the identical meal at different times of day might deposit more fat after an evening meal than a morning meal.

This is partly because insulin, a hormone that helps with blood sugar control, appears to be most efficient in the morning. In addition, we burn more calories and digest food more efficiently in the morning than later in the day when most of us eat our largest meal.

In one study, a group of overweight women with metabolic problems were put on a 1400 calorie-per-day diet. Half consumed 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch, and 200 calories at supper. The other half reversed that pattern.

Women in both groups lost weight and experienced reduction in fasting glucose, insulin, and ghrelin (a hunger hormone), but in the same time frame the large-breakfast group experienced added benefits:

  • They lost 2.5 times the weight compared to those who ate the largest meal at dinner.
  • They had a significantly greater decrease in fasting glucose, insulin, and triglyceride levels.
  • Their satiety (sense of fullness) scores were significantly higher.
  • They also lost more body fat, especially in the belly.

According to the researchers, a high‐calorie breakfast and a reduced calorie dinner is beneficial and might be a useful alternative for managing obesity and metabolic syndrome.

The body needs fasting periods for optimum health

Fasting signals to the body to start burning stores of fat for fuel. Most of us eat meals and snack from the time we wake up until shortly before bed — or even in the middle of the night. In fact, studies show the average person eats over a 15-hour period during the day. This short fasting time period may interfere with optimal metabolism and increase weight gain.

Researchers put a group of prediabetic men through two eating cycles. In one phase, they ate meals within a 12-hour window for five weeks.

Then in another phase, they ate the same meals in a time-restricted six-hour window starting in the morning.

They ate enough to maintain their weight, so they could assess whether the time-restricted regimen had benefits unrelated to weight loss.

The six-hour meal schedule improved insulin sensitivity, insulin beta cell responsiveness, reduced oxidative stress, decreased appetite, and significantly lowered blood pressure.

In addition, the men who ate only one or two meals per day fared better than those who ate three meals.

A recent review of the dietary patterns of 50,000 adults over seven years provides added evidence that we should ingest most of our calories early in the day, including a plentiful breakfast, a smaller lunch, and a light supper.

The researchers said that eating breakfast and lunch five to six hours apart and making the overnight fast last 18 to 19 hours may be an effective method for preventing long-term weight gain.

Another recent study found that subjects who added snacks to their daily meals tended to gain weight over time, while those who had no snacks tended to lose weight.

Light exposure is key for proper metabolism

Sufficient exposure to natural light and darkness also play an important role in how we metabolize food for either energy production or fat gain.

At night, the lack of sunlight signals our brain to release melatonin, the hormone that prepares us for sleep. In the morning, the light stops melatonin production and we wake up.

When we change that signaling — whether from a late-night meal, artificial lighting at night (especially blue screen light), shift work, flying and travel, or changing our eating patterns — it confuses our bodies’ circadian clocks. Eating at the wrong time of day strains the digestive organs, forcing them to work when they are supposed to rest.

Shift workers, who account for about 20 percent of the country’s work force, have a particular problem with disturbed circadian clocks. Many frequently work overnight shifts, forcing them to eat and sleep at odd times. Nighttime shift work has been linked to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer.

Studies have linked poor melatonin activity and disrupted sleep-wake cycles with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, cancer, autoimmune flare-ups, obesity, and more.

Low blood sugar may require a before-bed snack

One important exception to the “don’t eat right before bed” rule is for those who have chronic low blood sugar. For these people, keeping blood sugar stable throughout the day — and night — is critical for brain health, energy level, and more.

If you suffer from the following chronic low blood sugar symptoms, it may be best to take a small, high-protein low sugar snack just before bed:

  • Constant sugar cravings
  • Nausea or lack of appetite in the morning
  • Irritability, light-headedness, dizziness, or brain fog if meals are missed
  • Craving caffeine for energy
  • Eating to relieve fatigue
  • Afternoon energy crashes
  • Waking around 3 a.m.

Daily habits to maximize your dietary rhythm

To help maximize your meal timing and metabolism, incorporate the following habits into your day:

Make breakfast your largest meal and make dinner your smallest. While this may prove difficult for those with a busy social life or family that sits down to a big dinner every evening, make the evening meal smaller whenever possible.

Prioritize protein and healthy fats with breakfast, and minimize sugar and caffeine intake especially before lunch, to stabilize blood sugar and regulate metabolism.

Avoid between-meal snacks and bedtime goodies. The exception is for those who have chronic low blood sugar as mentioned above.

Try time-restricted eating pattern, or intermittent fasting, to maximize weight management.

Manage exposure to blue light at night:

  • Avoid screen light in the evening
  • Install the f.lux app on your phone and computer
  • Read a book
  • Wear blue-blocker glasses at night
  • Install amber or red light bulbs for evening use

If you have chronic low blood sugar, a small before-bed snack with plenty of protein may be a good idea to keep your blood sugar stable all night and prevent that 3 a.m. wake-up.

While studies suggest that prioritizing larger meals early in the day helps support metabolic health, it does not necessarily mean that you should skip dinner. Instead, have your dinners earlier and make them relatively light.

The take-home message here is like the old proverb, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”

Try new veggies and fruit to boost healthy gut bacteria

744 diversity gut bacteria with veggies

Want to improve your mood, health, and brain function? An ample and diverse supply of healthy gut bacteria has been shown to be essential, and that is best obtained through eating lots of different kinds of produce. Try going out of your comfort zone in the produce aisle and incorporating some new varieties of vegetables and fruits.

The digestive system is host to nearly four pounds of bacteria — some considered “good,” some considered “bad” — and while both have roles to play, it’s critical to actively support the good bacteria to avoid leaky gut, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), and systemic inflammation, all of which contribute to autoimmunity and other chronic illnesses.

Gut bacteria rely on the fiber from fruits and vegetables as a source of energy. When bacteria metabolize fiber, they produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), vital compounds that regulate immune function, reduce inflammation, and boost brain health.

Support gut bacteria with plentiful and varied produce

Simply eating plentiful — and diverse — fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to support a diverse population of bacteria in your gut. Also, probiotics work best in a gut environment that’s already being supported with plenty of fiber – from the fruits and vegetables on your plate.

The recommended produce consumption is seven to 10 servings a day. That may sound like a lot, but one serving is only a half cup of chopped produce, or a cup of leafy greens. Aim for produce low on the glycemic scale — sugary fruits may create problems for those with unstable blood sugar.

Expand your options with new and unusual produce

If you are looking to expand your consumption of produce and need some inspiration, seek out some of these fresh fruits and vegetables at international or health food stores that bring in varieties of produce lesser known in the west:

Ayote is a tropical squash used similarly to summer squash or pumpkin. It can be eaten whole when tender, or when mature, made into a stew, creamy soup, or sweet dessert or pie.

Bitter melon (balsam pear, bitter gourd, bitter cucumber) is a tropical green melon native to Asia, Africa and parts of the Caribbean. Unripe it is bitter, but allowed to ripen, the interior turns a reddish hue and has a sweeter flavor. Cooked like zucchini, bitter melon has cancer-fighting properties, is reported to help cure diabetes, and can help cleanse the body of toxins.

Camote: A starchy white sweet potato that can be prepared and eaten in the same way as the sweet potato. In Costa Rica camotes are used in soups or mashed into puree and served with a bit of milk, butter, and sugar. Camote can also sub for sweet potato in casseroles.

Cherimoya (cherimolia, chirimolla, anone): Native to southern Ecuador and northern Peru cherimoya is the size of a large apple or grapefruit, with a green dimpled skin and a creamy white, sweet-tart flesh. The flavor is a blend of pineapple and banana. Eat cherimoya like an apple, cubed, scooped out with a spoon, or cut in half and peeled. It can also be pureed and used as mousse or pie filling.

Choy Sum (bok choy sum, yu choy sum, flowering Chinese cabbage) looks much like baby bok choy, but its yellow flowers set it apart. The leaves are more bitter than the stems, and the entire plant is edible. Steam or saute, or try blanching and then cooking in oyster sauce.

Daikon Radish (Asian or Oriental radish, mooli, lo bok) is a large white radish with a lighter flavor than small red radishes. Used in kimchi, as a palate cleanser, and as an accompaniment to sashimi, it’s also great in light salads where its flavor isn’t overwhelmed by other ingredients.

Galangal (galanga root, Thai ginger, blue ginger) resembles ginger in appearance, but has a distinct waxy skin ringed with reddish-brown skin. The flesh is white but turns brown when exposed to air. Used in the same way as ginger root, galangal is more spicy and pungent.

Guava: A common tropical fruit, guava can have white, pink, or red flesh. It is eaten fresh, juiced, made into jam or preserves, and used in desserts.

Lemongrass (citronella grass, fever grass, hierba de limón) is a native Southeast Asian plant with a thick woody stem used to flavor dishes. To impart its lemony flavor, bruise the stalks, simmer or saute in the dish, then remove before serving. Lemongrass also makes a nice herbal tea infusion.

Plantain: A staple crop throughout West and Central Africa, India, the Caribbean and Latin America, plantains are used both green and starchy like a vegetable, as well as yellow and sweeter like fruit. Plantains must be cooked. A green plantain can substitute for potato, and ripe yellow plantains are commonly baked, boiled, or fried in coconut oil and served with salt.

Rambutan: Very similar to lychee and longan fruit, rambutan are common in Costa Rican markets. Great for snacks, with a sweet and sour taste somewhat like grapes.

Taro Root (cocoyam, arrow root, kalo, dasheen): A tuber native to Malaysia, its somewhat plain flavor makes it a good host for stronger flavors. In Hawaii, taro is used to make poi; in Indian cooking, slices of taro root are seasoned and fried; it’s also used in China as taro cakes and moon cakes. In the U.S. it’s common to find snack chips made from taro.

Yacón: Also known as Peruvian ground apple, this tuber consists mostly of water and contains inulin, a low-calorie, high-fiber sweetener that aids digestion while inhibiting toxic bacteria.

Yuca (cassava, manioc): Different from yucca, yuca is a starchy tropical tuber that is made into flour for bread and cakes, and can be cooked just like a potato to make chips or mash.

Leaky gut raises risk of artery plaque and heart disease

741 leaky gut equals artery plaque

Many people think the main keys to avoiding arterial plaque and heart disease are to watch cholesterol, avoid smoking, and exercise. But what is less known is how dependent your heart health is on your gut. If you have digestive problems, multiple food sensitivities, or chronic inflammation, these could be signs your gut health is putting your heart health at risk.

If you have digestive problems, chronic pain or inflammation, multiple food sensitivities, or an autoimmune condition you aren’t managing, chances are you have a leaky gut.

Leaky gut is also referred to as intestinal permeability. It means the lining of the small intestine has become inflamed, damaged, and overly porous. This allows undigested foods, bacteria, molds, and other antigens to enter into the bloodstream. Because these compounds don’t belong in the sterile environment of the bloodstream, the immune system views them as toxic and attacks them, causing inflammation. This chronic inflammation plays a role in many health conditions, which can include artery blockages and heart disease.

Inflammation from leaky gut clogs arteries

Inflammation from leaky gut can be a primary factor in causing arterial plaque and blockages. In fact, patients with heart disease show higher incidences of leaky gut compared to those who don’t have heart disease.

Inflammation creates lesions on arterial walls. The body “bandages” them up with cholesterol, which becomes plaque. This process is known as atherosclerosis.

Inflammation not only promotes plaque in the arteries, it also weakens the stability of this plaque. Plaque stability is important to prevent heart attacks. Rupturing of plaque causes it come loose and block the artery, starving the heart of blood and leading to a heart attack.

Leaky gut is recognized as a primary factor in causing chronic inflammation that not only can clog your arteries, but also inflame your joints, cause skin issues, inflame your brain with symptoms of brain fog, depression, or memory loss, or trigger autoimmunity. Inflammation affects each of us differently depending on our genetics and environment.

Pathogens from leaky gut damage arteries

Leaky gut also promotes arterial plaque and heart disease in another way — by allowing infectious bacteria and other pathogens into the bloodstream.

Our guts are home to several pounds of a diverse array of gut bacteria. New research shows how vital these gut bacteria, called the microbiome, are to all facets of our health. The microbiome produces vital nutrients, activates anti-inflammatory plant compounds, regulates metabolism and immune function, and influences brain health and function.

Unfortunately, Americans have by far the unhealthiest microbiomes of the populations studied. Many Americans not only lack diversity in their healthy gut bacteria, but they also have too much bad, inflammatory bacteria in their guts.

Gut bacteria have also been linked to obesity, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol levels. People with healthy blood lipid levels also showed more diversity of gut bacteria.

Many people develop leaky gut in part because of poor stomach health and infection from h. pylori, the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. H. pylori has been linked with irregular heart rhythms (atrial fibrillation), which increases the risk of heart failure.

Don’t let your gut sabotage your heart. Ask me how we can work together to shore up the health of both with proven functional nutrition strategies.

Spore probiotics: The latest innovation in probiotics

732 spore probiotics

As we continue to learn how important healthy gut bacteria is for the brain and immune system, interest in cultivating a rich and diverse “gut microbiome” grows. One important tool in this quest are spore-based probiotic supplements. “Spore” is derived from the word “seed,” and spore-based probiotics are a hardy delivery system that germinate in the small intestine and help you colonize your gut with more healthy bacteria.

Modern humans face many challenges to developing and maintaining healthy gut bacteria. In fact, studies of primitive people who live much like our hunter gatherer ancestors did show their guts have about 50 percent more diversity in gut bacteria than the average American. Researchers are finding this lack of microbiome diversity plays a role in many chronic health and brain disorders, including depression and autoimmunity.

Low-fiber, junk food diets, antibiotic overuse, chlorinated water, heavy environmental toxin and pollution loads, chronic stress, alcohol, and various medications all play a role in reducing the diversity and amount of beneficial gut bacteria. As a result, opportunistic and infectious “bad” gut bacteria are able to more easily conquer the gut. This weakens the gut lining, increases inflammation, and promotes brain and mood disorders.

There are many ways we can build a healthy and diverse population of gut bacteria. The most important is to eat a whole foods diet that is predominantly vegetables and fruits. It’s important to vary the kind of produce you eat regularly. It’s also helpful to include cultured and fermented foods and take probiotics. Also, avoid drugs such as antibiotics, NSAIDs, and heartburn medication as much as possible.

Given the challenges the modern gut faces, it’s not a bad idea to make probiotics a part of your routine. This is where spore-based probiotics come in. What makes spore-based probiotics special?

  • They survive the acidic environment of the stomach on their way to the intestines.
  • They resist breakdown by digestive enzymes.
  • They are heat stable and don’t need to be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Some spores are antibiotic-resistant, which means they’re equally beneficial while taking antibiotics.

Once in the small intestine, spore-based probiotics can germinate if you provide the right environment with plenty of plant fiber.

Spore probiotics, and healthy gut bacteria in general, can help improve your health in several ways. They improve the health and integrity of the lining of the small intestine. This lining contains not only bacteria but also plenty of immune cells to defend against bad bacteria, yeast, toxins, undigested foods, and other pathogens that can trigger inflammation if they make their way through the gut lining into the bloodstream.

One strain of spore-based probiotic, bacillus coagulans, has been well studied for its beneficial effect on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease. Bacillus coagulans produces lactic acid, which has been shown to help protect the gut and boost immune resistance to viruses. It has also been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

Ask me for more information on how to support healthy gut bacteria and help eradicate bad bacteria to improve immune health.

Antacids raise stomach cancer risk; address the root cause

Antacids stomach cancer

A recent study found regular use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for acid reflux raises the risk of stomach cancer. PPI users (Prilosec, Prevacid) in the study had twice the risk for stomach cancer compared to those who used H2-receptor acid reducing drugs (Tagamet, Pepcid).

About 20 percent of Americans suffer with acid reflux and heartburn. Most people attribute acid reflux to excess stomach acid. However, the problem is too little stomach acid. How does low stomach acid cause acid reflux?

The stomach is highly acidic by design so that it can quickly break down foods and kill bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens. Good stomach acidity also helps absorb minerals and signal the rest of the digestive tract to release the right hormones, enzymes, and emulsifiers. Sufficient stomach acid is an important first step in ensuring overall digestion runs smoothly and that you are less susceptible to heartburn, indigestion, belching, gas, food allergies, bacterial infection, and abdominal pain.

What causes low stomach acid?

Common factors that cause low stomach acid include stress, bacterial infection, poor diet, and nutritional deficiencies. However, an H. pylori infection, which is linked to stomach ulcers, is the most common cause of low stomach acid.

Other factors that play a role in low stomach acid include hypothyroidism, pernicious anemia, and deficiencies in zinc, B12, magnesium, or chloride. People who have been vegetarians or vegans for a long time may be deficient in zinc and B12, which are abundant in meats.

How low stomach acid causes acid reflux

In order for the small intestine to receive food from the stomach, the contents must be acidic enough to trigger that passage. When this fails to happen, the food shoots back up into the esophagus.

Although the food is not acidic enough for the small intestine, it is too acidic for esophageal tissue. This is what causes the burning of acid reflux, or heartburn.

Why antacids worsen acid reflux in the long run

Antacids or acid blockers bring temporary relief but can cause bigger problems in the long run. Without stomach acid to trigger the release of enzymes, digestive hormones, and emulsifiers; nutrient absorption suffers and the digestive tract is more prone to infection, inflammation, and damage.

How to improve low stomach acid

The first thing to do with low stomach acid is address the root cause. As we age, stomach acid naturally decreases. You can boost stomach acid by taking a supplement that contains betaine hydrochloric acid (HCl). However, if you have stomach ulcers or stomach autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks and destroys tissue), supplementing with HCl could make you worse. In these situations you need to address the existing condition first.

Ask me how to correct low stomach acid, safely supplement with HCl, and improve overall gut health.

Hydrochloric acid (HCl) and digestive enzymes for digestion

hydrocholic acid digestive enzymes

Do you suffer from acid reflux, indigestion, slow gut transit time, or feeling like there’s a brick in your stomach after eating? Or perhaps you’re on a restricted diet for a chronic health condition but still react to an ever shrinking list of foods. If so, you need to work on restoring digestion.

Many factors affect digestion, including aging, poor brain function that affects gut function, poor diet, and more. Often the problem often isn’t the food itself, but a hyper sensitive immune system reacting to food proteins that are not broken down properly. Thankfully, you can improve your symptoms greatly with proper supplementation.

Breakdown of food proteins is key for good digestion

For good digestion, you need sufficient hydrochloric acid (HCl) and digestive enzyme activity in the gut. These both serve the important function of breaking down food proteins, which prevents the immune system from targeting them and causing symptoms.

HCl is naturally present in the stomach and is vital for digestion of proteins. Low HCl symptoms include:

  • Not feeling well after eating meat
  • Feeling like meat sits in their stomach too long
  • Feeling like they ate a brick
  • Acid reflux
  • Constipation

It may sound contrary that low stomach acid can cause acid reflux. In fact, many people with acid reflux-like symptoms are mistakenly prescribed acid-blockers intended to cut stomach acid, when in fact it’s low stomach acid causing the problem — the low stomach acid results in undigested food becoming rancid and moving back up the esophagus to cause the pain and burning sensation. What these people need is additional HCl to improve digestion.

Many people with poor digestion also have poor pancreatic enzyme output. Similar to stomach acid, these enzymes are critical to break apart food proteins so the immune system doesn’t react to them, causing inflammation.

Supplement with HCl and digestive enzymes for healthy digestion

Supplementing with HCl and digestive enzymes can go a long way toward improving your digestion by supporting breakdown of food proteins as well as relieving symptoms.

Follow this advice when supplementing with HCl and digestive enzymes:

  • HCl: Supplement with HCl when you eat meats to help break down the proteins better. This will not only improve your digestion but also bring you relief from uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Digestive enzymes: Take these with all meals; include pepsin, bromelain and proteases. Look for a high-quality, broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement with a minimum of fillers.

Oral tolerance and digestive function

It’s particularly important for people with food sensitivities to support food protein breakdown with proper levels of HCl and digestive enzymes. At the root of this is the concept of oral tolerance Oral tolerance is how well a person’s immune system can tolerate acceptable foods while responding appropriately to bacteria or other harmful compounds.

While there are other factors that affect oral tolerance, it’s important for food proteins to be broken down small enough that the body accepts them and doesn’t mount an immune reaction causing symptoms.

You’ve heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” When we can’t digest food properly, it means our bodies aren’t getting the fuel to function at their best. If you suffer from symptoms of poor digestion or food sensitivities, contact my office.

Gluten sensitivity can raise your risk for gallbladder surgery

627-gallbladder-and-gluten-copyGallbladder surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries today. Did you know simply going gluten-free may lower the risk of needing gallbladder surgery?

For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers a wide range of adverse reactions, from joint pain to poor brain function. In the last several years, research has also linked gluten with gallbladder disease in gluten-sensitive individuals.

Gluten sensitivity largely undiagnosed

An astonishing number of people are gluten intolerant but do not know it. Undiagnosed gluten sensitivity can cause leaky gut, chronic pain, inflammation, neurological damage, and autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue). Gluten sensitivity is estimated to affect between 20 and 40 percent of the general population, and is less frequently identified than celiac disease, though this is changing.

How gluten can raise the risk of gallbladder surgery

So how can gluten raise the risk of requiring gallbladder surgery? The process begins with damage to the small intestine. This damage inhibits its ability to properly secrete a hormone called cholecystokinin. Cholecystokinin is the hormone that signals the gallbladder when it’s time to release bile, which aids in the digestion and absorption of fat. As a result, bile builds up in the gallbladder, causing inflammation and raising the risk of gallbladder disease and subsequent gallbladder surgery.

Approximately 60 percent of people with celiac disease — an autoimmune reaction to gluten — also have gallbladder, liver, or pancreatic conditions, and this is apparently one reason why.

Why you need a gallbladder

Although you can live without your gallbladder, it is essential to overall health. The bile stored and secreted by the gallbladder enables you to digest fats. Without a gallbladder, your liver still produces bile, but the bile just “leaks” continually into the small intestine. This means there are no adequate reserves of bile to break down fats when needed.

These fats then become rancid and inflame the digestive tract while fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids are not properly absorbed. Ultimately, this compromises the function of your entire digestive tract. In fact, studies have linked gallbladder removal with an elevated risk of colon cancer.

Also, if the gallbladder is not removed but isn’t doing its job well, this can be detrimental to liver function.

It is worth caring for your gallbladder to preserve the health of your digestive system, and hence your immune system. If you are sensitive to gluten, it’s important to go gluten-free to maintain gallbladder health and lower your risk of needing gallbladder surgery.

Additionally, your gallbladder appreciates a diet high in omega 3 essential fatty acids, and free of processed oils and hydrogenated fats. And in general, it is safest to keep starchy carbs (cake, potatoes, white flour, refined sugar, etc.) to a minimum.

Various botanicals and nutrients can support liver and gallbladder health. They include milk thistle seed extract, dandelion root, ginger root, and phosphatidyl choline.

If you have already had your gallbladder removed, don’t despair. Taking ox bile with your meals can help you emulsify and absorb your fats, which are vital for many aspects of health including brain function. For more information, contact me.

Scientists confirm gluten sensitivity is a real thing

gluten wordResearch has confirmed what many people have long known: Gluten sensitivity is a real thing.

A Columbia University Medical Center study found gluten sensitivity is not an imagined condition, as many seem to think these days, and that celiac disease or a wheat allergy are not required to react to gluten.

Although people with gluten sensitivity may not demonstrate classic symptoms or lab markers of celiac disease, gluten nevertheless causes an acute immune response in gluten sensitive people.

Symptoms of gluten sensitivity vary widely and often include fatigue, brain fog, memory problems, mood imbalances, joint pain, skin eruptions, respiratory issues, and worsening of existing health conditions.

Gluten sensitivity different than celiac disease

In celiac disease, the immune response to gluten happens primarily in the small intestine.

With gluten sensitivity, however, the immune response is systemic, meaning the inflammatory cells travel in the bloodstream throughout the body. This explains why symptoms vary so widely.

Researchers found that six months on a gluten-free diet normalized the immune response and significantly improved patient symptoms.

Gluten sensitivity awareness crucial for patients

Studies like this are important to help educate doctors that gluten sensitivity can cause chronic health problems.

Many doctors still believe that only celiac disease is to blame for a reaction to gluten. Because gluten sensitivity is largely dismissed and conventional testing for it is so inadequate, many patients unnecessarily suffer from undiagnosed gluten sensitivity.

Gluten linked to autoimmunity and brain disorders

What’s worse, gluten is linked to many autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys tissue in the body. Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.

However, the tissue most commonly attacked in response to gluten sensitivity is neurological tissue.

In other words, your undiagnosed gluten sensitivity could be destroying your brain. This is why gluten causes brain-based disorders in many people.

Gluten sensitivity more common than celiac

Celiac disease was long thought to affect about 1 percent of the population, but newer research shows rates have gone up 700 percent in the last 50 years.

Also, numbers are likely even higher because testing for celiac disease is extremely stringent and outdated. (Diagnostic criteria were developed in Europe, where a celiac diagnosis qualifies one for disability payments.)

Estimates for the rate of gluten sensitivity range from 6 percent of the population to considerably higher—a randomized population sample of 500 people conducted by immunologist Aristo Vojdani, PhD found one in three people had gluten sensitivity.

Proper testing and strict gluten-free diet are vital

Most testing for gluten sensitivity is inaccurate as people can react to at least 12 different compounds in gluten. Standard tests only screen for one, alpha gliadin.

Also, many people have cross reactions to gluten, meaning they respond to other foods they eat as if it were gluten. Dairy is one of the most common of these. It’s important to test for cross-reactive foods and remove them from the diet along with gluten.

It’s also vital to strictly adhere to a gluten-free diet as the occasional cheat can keep inflammation high and chances at symptom recovery low.

Ask me for information and advice on the latest in testing for gluten sensitivity.

10 things that can cause leaky gut and wreck your health

10 things that cause leaky gut copy

If you’ve been googling how to manage your chronic health condition, chances are you’re heard of leaky gut. Leaky gut is what it sounds like — the lining of the intestines have become “leaky,” allowing undigested foods, bacteria, and other undesirables into the sterile bloodstream.

This causes system-wide inflammation that becomes chronic health issues: autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, chronic pain, brain fog, food allergies and sensitivities, depression, eczema, asthma, and myriad other complaints.

It makes sense, then, that people want to heal leaky gut.

However, it’s best to know why you have leaky gut first. That way you’re not chasing down the wrong remedies.

Ten causes of leaky gut

Although we understand the role of leaky gut in chronic health disorders, the underlying causes of leaky gut itself can be harder to pin down.

Here are the causes we know about:

1. Many inflammatory foods damage the intestinal walls, leading to leaky gut. Gluten in particular is associated with leaky gut. Dairy, processed foods, excess sugar, and fast foods are other culprits.

2. Excess alcohol is another common cause of leaky gut.

3. Some medications cause leaky gut, including corticosteroids, antibiotics, antacids, and some medications for arthritis  It’s important to note some drugs have inflammatory fillers such as gluten.

4. Certain infections, such H. pylori overgrowth (the bacteria that causes ulcers) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can cause leaky gut. Yeast, parasites, and viruses are other possibilities.

5. Chronic stress raises stress hormones, which damages the gut lining over time.

6. Hormone imbalances can cause leaky gut as the intestines depend on proper hormone levels for good function. Imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid hormones, and stress hormones all contribute to leaky gut.

7. Autoimmune conditions can lead to leaky gut. We often think in terms of leaky gut causing autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis. However, sometimes it’s the other way around. The constant inflammation of autoimmune disease can make the gut leaky. Or autoimmunity in the digestive tract can sabotage gut health. In these cases, managing autoimmunity is a strategy to improve leaky gut.

8. Food processing changes the natural structure of foods in a way that makes them inflammatory to the gut. Examples include deamidating wheat to make it water soluble and the high-heat processing (glycation) of sugars. Additives such as gums (xanthan gum, carrageenan, etc.), food colorings, and artificial flavors are inflammatory for some people, too.

9. Our environment surrounds us with toxins, some of which have been shown to degrade the gut lining. Regularly taking glutathione, the body’s primary antioxidant, helps protect the body from toxins.

10. Sufficient vitamin D is vital to protecting the gut lining and a vitamin D deficiency can make the intestinal lining more vulnerable to damage.

These are some of the factors known to contribute to leaky gut. By understanding the cause of your leaky gut, you will have more success restoring health to your gut and managing your chronic health or autoimmune condition.

For more information on how to support leaky gut and autoimmune management, schedule a visit with me.

How to keep your gut healthy while traveling abroad

stay healthy traveling copy

Nothing refreshes the mental landscape better than an exciting trip to a foreign land. However, nothing can have you regretting that adventure more than being glued to the toilet with traveler’s diarrhea or vomiting instead of traipsing through temples and markets.

With some advance planning and knowledge about gut health, stomach bugs, and supplements that can protect your gut, you may be able to breeze through your trip without days-long sessions in the hotel bathroom.

Nix stomach bugs with hydrochloric acid

Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is the acid in the stomach. You can also obtain it in a supplement. Why would you want to take an acid when it seems everyone is taking antacids? Because it’s our first line of defense against stomach bugs and can help prevent traveler’s diarrhea.

It may surprise you to know that many adults are deficient in HCl, especially the ones who suffer from acid reflux and pop antacids. This is because if stomach acid is low, food in the stomach is improperly digested. This lack of acidity also fails to trigger the valves that usher the food into the intestines. As a result, it ferments in the stomach, causing that burning feeling, and then shoots back up into the esophagus, scalding its delicate tissue. Although antacids bring relief, they fail to address the problem of low stomach acid.

HCl is vital to not only digest food, but also to kill bacteria, yeast, and other harmful pathogens. When stomach acid is low, you are more vulnerable to stomach bugs. Throw in strange, new cuisine of questionable hygiene in a developing country and you’ve got yourself an impending date with the porcelain god. Or the hole in the bathroom floor.

The best way to avoid this is to take HCl supplements with your meals. It’s best to begin this regimen before your trip so you can acclimate your digestive system to the change in chemistry and dial in your dose. Keep upping the dose with each meal until you feel burning. Then go back to the previous dose. As your natural acidity improves, you may find you need less over time. However, while traveling, it’s a good idea to take HCl prophylactically to lower the risk of traveler’s diarrhea.

Probiotics outwit bad bugs by beefing up the good bugs

Another great digestive force to support is your own colony of beneficial gut bacteria. Recent research has established how vital the three to four pounds of gut bacteria in our intestines are to our mental, immune, and digestive health.

It’s hard to say whether popping probiotics only during your travels will prevent traveler’s diarrhea. But if you start beefing up the good bugs several months prior, you’ll head into uncharted culinary territory better fortified.

One of the best ways to nourish your good bacteria is to make vegetables a primary part of every meal, even breakfast. Add cultured foods and drinks to your diet (such as kefir and kimchi), and supplement with probiotics. You may also need an herbal cleanse of the harmful bacteria to “weed the inner garden.” Ask me for advice.

Best prevention to traveler’s diarrhea is a healthy gut

The best way to lower your risk of traveler’s diarrhea is to start your travels with a healthy intestinal environment. This includes making sure you have sufficient stomach acid, repairing leaky gut, cleansing out overgrowths of bad bacteria and yeasts, and eating a whole foods diet that is primarily vegetables while avoiding sweets, processed foods, and restaurant foods. Ask me for more info on preventing traveler’s diarrhea.