Category Archives: Nutrition

Busting the low-fat myth: Cholesterol is good for you

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If you’re one of the many people with high cholesterol, you may have been prescribed statin drugs and told to eat a low-fat diet — the standard advice for decades. However, experts have now reviewed the research and found there is no link between heart disease and total fat, saturated fat, or dietary cholesterol.

Statins made me forget where I parked the car

Cholesterol-lowering statins are among the most commonly prescribed and profitable medications in the world, taken by 25 percent of people over age 45. Touted to keep heart disease at bay, statin drugs are now known to be a cause of serious memory loss  fuzzy thinking, learning difficulties, fatigue, muscle damage, and even diabetes.

Why do statins cause memory loss? The human brain is made up of 60 percent fat, much of that cholesterol. The brain uses cholesterol to build brain chemicals that allow neurons to communicate with one another. Without cholesterol, the brain’s cells eventually die from inactivity. Over time, this results in memory loss and other brain disorders. In studies of the elderly  those with high total cholesterol actually have reduced risk of dementia – likely due to their body’s plentiful supply of this brain-supporting substance.

Cholesterol and heart attack risk

In a review of 72 studies  researchers found that most heart attack patients’ cholesterol levels did not indicate cardiac risk; in fact, 75 percent of them had normal, not high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Even more surprising, 90 percent of them had HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels under 60. Additionally, low HDL is a warning sign for pre-diabetes, and most of these patients had pre-diabetes, or “metabolic syndrome.” We now know that low HDL, not high LDL, is the real driver behind most heart attacks and heart disease, which changes the game on cholesterol management.

What about dietary fat?

Consider the following regarding low-fat diets. (Keep in mind this refers to intake of healthy fats):

  • High-fat diets lower triglycerides  normalize LDL (bad cholesterol), and increase LDL particle size. LDL cholesterol comes in two sizes; large particles that move freely, causing no harm, and small particles that embed in artery walls, causing inflammation the buildup of plaque. You want fluffy large particles.
  • The National Institutes of Health reported that increasing fat intake to 50 percent of calories improved the nutritional status of heart study participants, and didn’t negatively affect heart disease risk factors.
  • The 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reviewed all the research over 40 years and told us to stop worrying about dietary cholesterol, arguing it is “not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”
  • People who consume low-fat diets are at increased risk for depression and suicide (remember how the brain is made from 60 percent fat).
  • And here’s the clincher: Harvard School of Public Health recently admitted that when it comes to disease prevention, low-fat diets don’t appear to offer any special benefits. It’s sugar and refined carbohydrates that contribute to obesity, pre-diabetes, heart disease, and many other health issues.

If not fat, what causes heart disease?

Here are five important factors in heart disease risk:

  • Inflammation in the body.
  • Free radicals that attack LDL and turn it from large (unharmful) into small (harmful) particles.
  • Trans fats that increase inflammation and raise triglycerides.
  • Sugar, which is inflammatory, promotes plaque formation in arteries, and raises stress hormones.
  • Stress, which increases blood pressure and causes other heath issues.

Contact me when you’re ready to create a nutrition plan for your better heart health.

Loneliness is bad for your health

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Everyone feels lonely from time to time. Maybe you miss a party, move to a new city, or lack a close circle of friends. Ideally, loneliness is temporary, but when it becomes chronic, it can have far-reaching consequences for our health. While we’ve known for decades that perceived social isolation, or loneliness, is a major risk factor for chronic illness and death, only more recently have we gained deeper clues into why loneliness is such a health risk.

Studies show loneliness affects immunity

In a study of overweight but otherwise healthy people, those with loneliness showed higher levels of inflammation when faced with stressful activities; another set of subjects experienced more inflammation, pain, depression and fatigue than normal, plus a reactivation of dormant viruses in the body. More recently, it was shown that loneliness reduced the ability to fight off viruses and bacteria.

Researchers say the body perceives loneliness as a stressor, causing it to go into a “fight or flight” response and release adrenal hormones. Over time this chronic stress response leads to chronic inflammation, setting the stage for numerous disorders, including depression, coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.

This explains why lonely people have been shown to be at increased risk for cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and viral infections.

Compounding the problem is the fact that chronic inflammation is linked with depression and other mental health issues, which may cause a lonely person to further isolate themselves in a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.

The remedy for loneliness

Clearly, healthy social relationships are the best antidote to loneliness. Relationships don’t just happen – you have to make them happen.

Ideas to remedy loneliness include: Join Meetup.com groups, or start one; schedule time with friends or acquaintances; attend local events; sign up for classes to learn something new with other people; join a volunteer organization; join a church or spiritual community. If you look outside yourself you will find a cornucopia of healthy social opportunities.

Humans are designed to commune. It’s vital to health because in our history it was vital to survival. The stress response to loneliness and isolation is a red flag that you need the feeling of protection and inclusion socialization brings.

If you feel depression and lack of motivation are holding you back from reaching out to form a healthy social community, I can help you with diet and specific supplementation that can help boost your desire to socialize.

Don’t let travel derail your autoimmune management

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Managing an autoimmune condition is hard enough. Throw in holiday travel, staying with relatives, meals out, and exhaustion, and autoimmune management goes to a new level of difficulty. However, failing to follow your plan can wreck the holidays with symptom flares or an energy crash.

What to do? First, take a deep breath and adopt a no-stress, can-do attitude. Just as at home, good autoimmune management simply requires some advance planning and strategic thinking.

Here are some tips to help you manage your autoimmune condition while traveling.

Map out meals and snacks so you don’t go hungry or trigger a flare. The functional medicine approach to managing an autoimmune disease requires following some variation of the autoimmune diet  This diet is usually a strict Paleo diet of ample produce and healthy meats and fats, and no grains, dairy, soy, sugar, or processed foods. Continue reading

Why your negative gluten test may have been wrong

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If you tested for whether gluten might be behind your chronic health issues but a blood test came back negative, are you wondering, “Now what?”

Although it’s possible gluten may not be a problem for you, there’s a high probability that test result was inaccurate. Conventional testing for gluten sensitivity misses many important markers and can give you a false negative result. As a result, you may be told gluten is not an issue when in fact it is provoking your autoimmune disease or chronic health condition. Gluten has been linked in the literature to 55 diseases so far, most of them autoimmune.

Fortunately, newer testing has been developed by Cyrex Labs to catch the cases of gluten sensitivity that conventional testing misses.

Why standard blood tests often fail at diagnosing gluten sensitivity

Standard blood tests for gluten sensitivity have a less than 30 percent accuracy rate. Gluten has to have significantly destroyed the gut wall for blood testing to be effective. In many people, gluten damages other tissues in the body, such as neurological tissue. Continue reading

Why high blood sugar can give you deadly diseases

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It’s not easy being a healthy American. We are constantly besieged by the lure of sugary, starchy treats (salted caramel latte and a scone anyone?). Yet behind the innocent disguise of these lures is the threat of chronic disease, the leading cause of death.

Heart diseasestroke  diabetes, arthritis  and Alzheimer’s are among the most common and expensive health problems in the United States. In most cases their origins spiral back around to those small daily decisions — the fries instead of a salad, the syrupy hot drink with whipped cream instead of a simple cup of coffee or tea, or the ice cream or pie for dessert instead of a little fruit (or, gasp, no dessert).

What is it about these seemingly innocuous indulgences that add up to deadly diseases? Sugar and refined carbohydrates. (Although the hydrogenated fats, lack of fiber, industrialized salt, and artificial chemicals play their roles, too.) Continue reading

Overwhelmed by cooking healthy? Try batch cooking!

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Does a demanding schedule prevent you from cooking healthy? Are you that overworked parent who’s too tired to feed your family well? Busy lifestyles can send our eating habits down the drain, with our health and nutrition following right behind it. Many common health issues can arise as a result.

The solution? Batch cooking! Batch cooking is preparing multiple meals at once and storing them for later consumption. It’s an organized system to plan, create, and utilize meals, saving you an incredible amount of time, energy and effort.

In two- to three-hour sessions twice a week, you can prepare an entire week’s worth of meals for a family and simply pull them from the fridge or freezer. It takes some organization and planning, but the payoff is well worth it. People report reducing 20 to 30 hours of cooking and cleanup per week down to four or five!

When you come home from a busy day at work, or you just don’t have the pizzazz to make a meal for hungry kids, batch cooking can be your saving grace and save your family’s health and well being.

This set of simple guidelines will help you get started:

Planning your batch cooking menu

Pick simple, nutrient-dense recipes and save unfamiliar, complicated ones for their own special time, and follow these tips.

  • Choose one-pot/skillet/casserole recipes, with a minimum of side dishes.
  • If you’re making a meal that uses protein such as a roast or chicken, make extra to use in simple meals later in the week, such as salads or soups. Plan for every meal of the week, not just dinners.
  • Make a written menu (and grocery list) so that when you pull a meal from the freezer on Tuesday night, you know which side dish goes with it on Wednesday. Also, write down timing for when a meal needs to be pulled from the freezer.
  • Write down all the parts that need preparing so you stay organized.
  • If making all oven dishes, make sure they use the same oven temperature so you can do them all at once and save time.
  • Another option: Choose a variety of meals that use either stove top or oven, so you don’t over crowd either location.

Kitchen logistics for batch cooking

Know what kitchen tools you’ll need and don’t double up on recipes that need them. For example, if you need the food processor for three dishes in one session, it will take more time.

Do you have the amount and type of storage containers that you’ll need? Plan your dishes with fridge/freezer space in mind. Look at which dishes can be frozen for later and which must go in the fridge and be consumed within two days. Coordinate the menu so you prepare some of both.

Putting your apron on

Choose one to two days a week for batch cooking, and dedicate two to three hours for each session. It may take you less time once you develop your own rhythm and familiar recipes. These tips will keep things running efficiently and quickly:

  • If you have young children who demand a lot of attention, try to plan it for while they are out of the house.
  • Start with a clean kitchen; you’ll have what you need at your fingertips, and it’s easier to keep a clear head.
  • To save time, do all the prep work at the beginning, not between dishes.
  • Use a timer; you’re multi-tasking and could forget something.
  • Clean as you go to save time.
  • Package the food in serving-size portions that are easy to defrost or serve from the fridge.
  • Always label each meal with masking tape and a Sharpie marker. You might not recognize a dish once it’s covered in frost!
  • Make sure you’re well fed and hydrated before and during your batch-cook session to help keep your brain sharp and your energy level stable.

Special tips for batch cooking:

Always have a couple extra meals stashed away in the freezer as last-ditch emergency meals to use only when you truly need them – such as when you get back from vacation.

Enlist your kids’ help – it’s a great opportunity for them to learn about nutrition and food prep.

For people who feel overwhelmed in general, batch cooking can seem daunting. However, everyone who batch cooks develops their own rhythm and system with practice, and this set of simple guidelines will help you get started.

Remember, the time you dedicate to planning your menu and making the food for each week will be more than paid off in saving time and energy when you hit the fridge or freezer to rustle up a meal. Most of the effort is in the planning; once you put on that apron, it’s easy to just keep rolling!

If you love the idea of batch cooking but want more information, check out this resource.

Worried about losing your memory? Eat your greens

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Memory loss and dementia are valid concerns for everyone these days: one in three seniors dies of Alzheimer’s or dementia and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, dementia is largely preventable with many lifestyle and dietary adjustments, one of which is including plenty of greens in your diet.

New research shows eating plenty of spinach, kale, collards, and mustard greens can help slow cognitive decline. Researchers believe the high vitamin K content in these vegetables plays a role in preserving brain health.

The study tracked almost 1,000 older adults during five years and saw significantly less cognitive decline in participants who ate leafy green vegetables.

In fact, the elders who ate one to two servings a day of leafy greens had the cognitive ability of someone 11 years younger.

Researchers credited not only the vitamin K in leafy greens for slowing cognitive decline, but also lutein and beta-carotene. Other brightly colored fruits and vegetables are also high in these vitamins.

Vitamins aren’t the only brain benefits of leafy greens — greens promote healthy gut bacteria

The vitamins in leafy greens aren’t their only benefits.

For one, leafy greens are also rich in fiber, which are good for the gut. Plenty of dietary fiber not only prevents constipation, but it also supports the healthy bacteria in your gut. People who eat diets high in plant fiber show a more beneficial composition of gut bacteria compared to those who eat a typical western diet.

Scientists have increasingly been discovering how vital beneficial gut bacteria are to brain health. For instance, healthy gut bacteria promote the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, the lining that protects the brain.

Gut bacteria have also been shown to influence depression, anxiety, learning, and memory. This is because the gut and the brain communicate closely with one another through the vagus nerve, a large nerve that runs between the brain and the organs.

Eating greens is usually part of a healthy brain lifestyle

Another factor to consider with this study is that people who eat greens every day are typically more conscious of their health. Someone who is taking the time to shop for and prepare greens every day is probably eating a healthier, whole foods diet and avoiding dementia-promoting junk foods, sodas, and sugars.

Exercise is the golden bullet to lasting brain health

People who eat healthier also tend to exercise more regularly, whether it’s just taking a daily walk or hitting the gym every day. Both strength training and aerobic exercise have been shown protect neuron health, ensure better blood flow to the brain, and protect the brain from the damaging proteins that cause Alzheimer’s.

One study that followed more than 600 people ages 70 and older found those who engaged in the most physical activity showed the least amount of brain shrinkage.

Another study found that older adults who walked as little as 30 to 45 minutes three days a week increased the volume of the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

So although eating your greens is a great way to boost brain health (and gut health), if you eat your greens AND exercise every day, you drastically reduce your chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. Considering there is no cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s — the neurons that die in these conditions cannot be recovered — the best approach is a preventive one.

Ask my office for more details on lowering your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Fight underlying causes of allergies for lasting relief

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The end of winter seems like a good thing until your allergies go haywire. If you’re tired of allergy meds and always feeling stuffed up and zonked out, consider lasting relief by healing your gut to balance your immune system.

It’s hard to believe your digestive tract can affect your sinuses, but both systems are similar as they serve as the body’s defense from the outside world. Plus, the digestive tract serves as a hub for the immune system. When you’ve got allergies, it’s worth investigating gut health.

One of the most common links to allergies is leaky gut  also known as intestinal permeability. Leaky gut is like it sounds — the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed, damaged, and leaky, allowing undigested foods, bacteria, yeasts, and other toxins into the bloodstream.

Whenever this happens, which can be with every meal, the immune system attacks these invaders. This causes inflammation and an over zealous immune state that plays a role in triggering or exacerbating seasonal allergies.

Some people get seasonal allergies, but others get other inflammatory disorders, such as joint pain, skin problems, digestive complaints  autoimmune disease, issues with brain function, fatigue, chronic pain, and more.

How do you know if you have leaky gut? Sometimes you don’t, as you may not have any digestive complaints.

For some, leaky gut can cause bloating, heartburn, gas, constipation, diarrhea, or pain. Others see a link between leaky gut and skin problems, joint pain, brain fog, or sinus symptoms and allergies. For instance, some people notice when they eat certain foods they get brain fog, a runny nose, aching joints, or other immune issues.

Causes of leaky gut

Chronic stress, certain medications, and excessive alcohol consumption can cause leaky gut.

One of the most common causes of leaky gut is gluten  For some people, a gluten-free diet allows the gut to heal, thus profoundly relieving allergy symptoms.

Because leaky gut leads to food intolerances and food allergies  many people need to eliminate other foods, such as dairy, eggs, soy, or other grains. Many allergy sufferers have found significant relief following an anti-inflammatory diet  You can also ask my office about a lab test to screen for food sensitivities.

Imbalanced gut bacteria and seasonal allergies

We all have three to four pounds of bacteria in our digestive tract. These bacteria profoundly influence immune health, digestive health, and even respiratory and sinus health. After all, the sinuses and respiratory tract are lined with bacteria, too. Poor diet and lifestyle stressors can cause too many bad bacteria to grow, crowding out the good bacteria and setting the stage for infection, leaky gut, and poor immune health. Probiotics and fermented foods can help populate your system with healthy bacteria.

Fix your allergies by fixing your gut

Leaky gut repair is based primarily on diet and lifestyle changes. Avoid processed foods, junk foods, sugars, and other industrialized foods. In other words, stick to a simple whole foods diet with plenty of vegetables (they nourish your good gut bacteria).

Certain supplements and nutritional compounds can help soothe and repair the lining of the digestive tract and calm inflammation in the sinuses and respiratory system.

Seasonal allergies are a red flag that your body needs care and attention. By addressing the underlying causes of your seasonal allergies you may also prevent the development of more serious conditions, such as autoimmune disease, depression, anxiety, or neurological disease.

Ask my office for more information on addressing the underlying causes of your seasonal allergies.

SIBO common cause of wasting away in elderly

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Do you have an older loved one in your life who seems to be wasting away no matter what you do to keep them nourished and healthy? This may be due to a condition called SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. SIBO happens when bacteria that normally belong in the large intestine travel backwards to colonize the small intestine. The small intestine is where we absorb the majority of our nutrients. Because SIBO inflames and damages the small intestine, this prevents these vital nutrients from being absorbed. As a result, the body and brain cannot function efficiently and it is difficult to maintain weight.

Symptoms of SIBO

For most people, symptoms of SIBO are straightforward. One of the most common symptoms is bloating after eating, particularly after eating grains, desserts, or other starchy foods. Other SIBO symptoms include gas, belching, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, abdominal pain and cramping, and either constipation, diarrhea, or both.

Doctors often misdiagnose SIBO as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as the symptoms are so similar. In fact, SIBO has been found in more than 80 percent of patients diagnosed with IBS.

Wasting away in elderly is usually SIBO symptom

Most doctors and patients haven’t heard of SIBO and blame such a rapid decline in the elderly on aging. However, researchers have identified SIBO, which is treatable, as the leading cause of malabsorption, and thus wasting away, in older adults.

SIBO doesn’t always result in malabsorption and wasting away. People can fall anywhere along a range of symptoms, from asymptomatic to the severe. But those who fall in the middle of the spectrum can become progressively worse. That’s why complaints of bloating and gas after meals should be taken seriously and not thought of as normal.

As SIBO and malabsorption worsen, nutrition status can plummet. Levels of B vitamins drop, which impacts many functions in the body, including brain function. Inflammation may also increase as the body’s ability to regulate immune function deteriorates. Also, it seems no matter how much older adults suffering from SIBO supplement, they cannot improve their low vitamin D status or persistent anemia.

The most devastating consequence of untreated SIBO and malabsorption is that it profoundly affects brain health and function, increasing the risk of dementia. It also saps energy and vitality. When an older person complains of bloating and distention after meals, it should not be dismissed as a minor complaint but rather regarded as a red flag indicating a potential for more serious problems down the road.

The cause and treatment of SIBO

A variety of things can cause SIBO, including antibiotic use, poor diet, and digestive damage, such as from a long-standing undiagnosed celiac condition.

In older adults (and in those who have sustained a concussion or brain injury), another cause to watch out for is declining brain function. The digestive tract depends on healthy brain function to work properly. When signals from the brain to the gut are inadequate, the ileocecal valve  which separates the large intestine from the small intestine, may weaken and allow contents from the large intestine to travel backward into the small intestine, where they colonize. It is not the bacteria themselves that cause SIBO symptoms, but the byproducts they produce. These bacteria also compete with the host for protein from food.

Treatment for SIBO includes a strict diet to starve the bacteria, as well as targeted botanicals to kill them. Doing specific exercises to improve communication between the brain and the gut can also help prevent SIBO from perpetuating.

Check out the apps for iPhone or Android to help you follow a SIBO diet. And feel free to ask me for more information.