29 September 2012

Constipation Trouble? Here's 5 Tips to Get You Going...

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Here's 5 Simple Tips to Keep You Going...

Constipation is one of those topics few like to talk about. If you've suffered from this problem, though, you know it can be both painful and frustrating.

Almost everyone gets constipated at some time during his or her life. It affects approximately 2% of the population.  Women and the elderly are more commonly affected.

You are considered constipated if you have two or more of the following for at least 3 months:
  • Straining during a bowel movement more than one-quarter of the time
  • Hard stools more than one-quarter of the time
  • Incomplete evacuation more than one-quarter of the time
  • Averaging less than one normal formed, but soft stool daily
Common causes of constipation include:
  • Inadequate water intake
  • Inadequate fiber in the diet
  • Disruption of regular diet or routine
  • Traveling
  • Inadequate exercise or immobility
  • Eating large amounts of dairy products
  • Stress
  • Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement too frequently
  • Overuse of laxatives (stool softeners) 
  • Low thyroid hormone
  • Neurological conditions, like Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis
  • Too much calcium in supplements or antacids
  • Certain medications, anti-depressants, pain killers, and iron supplements
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Colon Cancer
If you simply treat the causes and the symptoms go away!

Here are five simple natural suggestions to "keep you going":
  1. Probiotics - When the wrong bacteria or yeast gain control of the bowels, they slow things down to ferment foods just how they like them. A good quality probiotic like, lactobaccilus or bifidobacter can help change that. You'll want to take a dairy-free brand with at least 25 billion cfu's per capsule daily
  2. Dehydration - Without enough fluids to move things through the intestinal tract, the feces becomes hard and your digestion slows way down. Drinking a large glass of water upon waking improves bowel movements in most cases. Drinking a large glass of water few hours of the day can also alleviate IBS symptoms.
  3. Fiber - For both constipation and IBS, dietary fiber is the first line of intervention for symptom relief. I usually recommend patients add 2 TBSP of ground flax seed or chia to their breakfast or smoothie.  Another way is to use psyllium caps or powder. 
  4. Vitamin C - One symptom of vitamin C deficiency is constipation. Taking vitamin C in amounts just below bowel tolerance (gas, bloating or diarrhea) can definitely improve bowel movements and regularity. Start slow with 3000 mg spread throughout the day and every 2-3 days add another 1,000 mg to the regimen. When you reach bowel tolerance and stools loosen up, back off a little and maintain the dose that works for you
  5. Magnesium - if patients I see are complaining of difficulty with constipation, the first thing I usually recommend is adding magnesium citrate at bedtime.  Many patients sleep better, have less muscle pain and bowel function dramatically improves with a little magnesium.  Doses typically range from 300-600mg but may go upwards of 1000mg daily.  

Still no relief?!  If the five suggestions above don't relieve your constipation, then you might have food sensitivities...  A common symptom of food sensitivity is constipation. Studies show that milk can cause constipation and a more recent study also implicates gluten. Constipation is more likely to occur in children fed gluten at at less than six months of age with a 35% increased risk of constipation.  You might try doing a three week elimination diet avoiding the common culprits:  gluten, dairy, sugar, and soy. 
If you have slow moving bowels, bowel pain or both, find the cause and fix it! Treating the symptoms only hides the causes, allowing your problems to grow into bigger problems.

15 September 2012

Is Leaky Gut Causing Your Eczema or Psoriasis?

How Leaky Gut is linked to Skin Conditions, like Eczema & Psoriasis...

First a little background ... When the body doesn’t tolerate a food or has created antibodies to that food, ingesting it creates a chronic, low-level irritation or inflammation in the gut. Over time, with regular exposure, the irritation worsens and creates spaces between the cells. (Picture the walls of the gut, once tightly knitted together, looking more like swiss cheese!)   This is what is commonly known as, Leaky Gut.  These holes allow bacteria and their toxins, as well as incompletely digested proteins and fats, to “leak” out of the gut and into the bloodstream. Leaky gut syndrome (or increased intestinal permeability), sets the stage for myriad health problems, including rashes and skin problems, like eczema and psoriasis.  The skin is the body’s largest elimination organ so it’s not surprising that it comes under assault when toxins careen through the bloodstream.   A skin rash or eczema is a sign that the body is trying to slough out these toxins.  Some people will also experience increase in acne or be told they have "rosacea".   The body is trying to eliminate the problem the best way it knows how, and unfortunately you may see the nasty effects of leaky gut manifest in skin problems.  In addition, you might also experience gas, bloating, fatigue, sinus congestion, or foggy thinking.  Many other autoimmune conditions are also linked to the underlying problem of leaky gut.

An Elimination Diet Can Heal Your Skin Conditions

An elimination diet is the best way to pinpoint the offending food.   Here's some practical tips and recipes on how to get started.

Don’t know where to start? Foods that are most likely to wreak havoc on the gut include wheat and gluten, dairy products, sugar, soy, eggs, corn and yeast. If you’re highly motivated go off “the big five” for at least 3 weeks: wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

Although this isn't easy, you're guaranteed to notice the foods you are reacting to and 90% of patients feel dramatically better after a 3 week elimination plan. You might also consider keeping a food journal. Spend a week or two writing down what you eat and how your body feels in the minutes, hours and days afterward (e.g., an hour after you eat dairy, you feel bloated). It’s about pattern and symptom recognition and connecting the dots which in turn helps you decide which foods to eliminate first.

If you are a "show-me the data" type of person, there are labs that will test the blood for levels of IgG4 against certain foods and may be a predictor of what foods you are the most sensitive to.  In addition, if you have many reactions to a variety of foods, this is almost diagnostic for leaky gut syndrome and you should consult with a functional medicine doctor to start the healing process.

08 September 2012

Low SIgA and why it matters to your gut health!

What is SIgA?

IgA is a type of antibody that protects against infections of the mucous membranes lining the mouth, airways, and digestive tract... it is your first line of defense on the mucosal lining and it makes up a majority of your entire immune system.

Some people have a genetic deficiency and present with low levels of SIgA and frequent infections.  Others acquire a low level after their intestinal tract becomes over-run with abnormal microbes.

SIgA helps to shape the composition of the microbes in your gut!

Extraordinary amounts of immunoglobulin A (IgA) are produced in your intestinal mucosa daily, it is known as SIgA and is secreted into the human gastrointestinal tract. SIgA production is driven largely in response to mucosal antigens (bugs or food) encountered by gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT).  It is clear that secretory antibodies are directed against at least two broad classes of antigens. The first is associated with enteric pathogens (the "bad guys" or infections) and their virulence factors, or things that the bugs secrete, like toxins.

The second broad class of antigens recognized by SIgA is associated with the intestinal microbes or commensal microflora (the "good" guys, like probiotics). In experimental animal models commensal bacteria are potent inducers of secretory antibodies; in humans, it is estimated that between 25 and 75% of intestinal bacteria are coated with SIgA.  This could explain why one of the most basic ways to improve levels of SIgA is to give a patient probiotics and saccromyces boulardii. 

There is also evidence from mice that secretory antibodies play an important role in shaping the composition of the intestinal microbiota, which in turn can influence your gut's defense against invaders and enhance resistance to the intestinal infections.

Profound Role in Intestinal Balance and Your Health

So because SIgA can neutralize the "bad guys" and shape the "good guys" SIgA plays a profound role in intestinal balance and health.  SIgA is the main immunoglobulin in mucus secretions. The intestinal cells produce about 2-3grams of SIgA every day!  And production tends to peak in childhood and start to decline after about sixty years old.

This is our first-line defense against gut pathogens like bacteria, food proteins, parasites, fungi, toxins and viruses. SIgA antibodies prevent micro-organisms, food proteins and cancer-causing substances from binding to the surface of absorptive cells. Effectively, they attach themselves to invading bugs and trap them in mucus to prevent them from going anywhere!

The antibodies also 'tag' foods as acceptable to the body and this suggests why low SIgA levels can be a factor in developing and progressive food allergy and intolerance. Intestinal permeability is also related since, if levels are low, repair of mucosal tissues can be compromised.  This is often referred to as Leaky Gut and can coexsist with low levels of SIgA.

Certain SIgA antibodies have been shown to directly quench bacterial virulence, whereas others help with uptake of SIgA–immune complexes by mucosal dendritic cells and result in down regulation of pro-inflammatory responses normally associated with pathogens and allergic antigens.

In fact it is becoming increasingly evident that human health is inextricably linked to the gut microbiota, intestinal homeostasis, and mucosal immunity. IgA is at the centre of this dynamic. 

Testing your SIgA

Secretory IgA is quite independent of blood IgA levels so just because one is normal, doesn’t mean the other is.   SIgA can be measured in different ways, including stool and saliva. Levels can turn out to be low or high. Stool measurements have traditionally been based on sample extractions from animal models – it is hard to ask a mouse to spit! Salivary samples provide a systemic overview of circulating SIgA.

Ongoing low levels can help to explain why people can’t shift an immune problem like allergies, chronic skin conditions or infections. It can also explain why they find it hard to get rid of a microbial infection, too. Celiacs and those with IBD can have low levels and chronic stress has a major effect on SIgA levels. Certain medications can lower levels – including anti-inflammatories.   Other factors  includeviral infections (like Epstein Barr viruses), poor nutritional status, food allergies, ongoing stress. Interestingly some studies have shown variations in levels with gender and age – male patients often have lower levels.

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