03 December 2013

Quick Tips to Decrease Allergen Exposure at Home

Photo Courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

  1. Houseplants – Keep slightly dry to decrease mold growth.  Avoid placing them in the bedroom due to mold sensitizing
  2. Christmas trees - Unfortunately they grow mold quickly.  Use artificial instead of live trees if you have allergies.
  3. Nickel Allergy?  Use clear nail polish on the back of blue jean buttons to keep from skin exposure to nickel.  You may also paint the backs of jewelry such as earrings to protect your skin.
  4. Perfume – Avoid using commercial perfumes...many contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful ingredients.  Instead try applying essential oils to your neck & wrists.
  5. Candles & air fresheners – These may be as allergenic as cigarettes and they pollute the indoor air.  Try using natural essential oils, like peppermint, eucalyptus, or cinnamon or burn soy-based candles instead.
  6. Spices – Use caution with key offenders: coriander, poppy seeds, pepper, paprika, cumin, saffron
  7. Soaps and detergents – Choose those without phthalates, parabens and sodium laureate sulfate (SLS).  Check out EWG's guide to healthy cleaning products.
  8. Carpeting – Install hardwood flooring wherever possible and get rid of the carpet due to build up of dust mites and other allergens.
  9. Wall paint – Avoid volatile organic compounds in your air by using low VOC emitting paints
  10. Declutter  – Take a good look around the house and eliminate “dust catchers" like silk flowers, stuffed animals & knick-knacks. 
  11. Dry-cleaned clothes – Air them out outside with plastic off before bringing inside to let the chemicals off-gas.  Better yet use a green dry-cleaner, like Revolutionary Cleaners.
  12. HVAC filters – Change filters every 1-2 months minimum.  Install HEPA filters with higher allergen rating.  Switching frequently allows the filter to catch more allergens and prevent them from re-circulating.
Final word?  Love your pets but don't sleep with them if you have allergies...

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29 October 2013

Saturated Fat Is NOT The Enemy

Nutrition advice has performed some pretty spectacular flip-flops over the past few decades. First nuts were thought to cause heart disease, then eggs were banished from the breakfast table only to be welcomed back later. Margarine was first deemed healthier than butter—until researchers determined that the trans fats were much harder on the arteries.

Saturated Fats De-Villainized

Yes you heard me right... the time has come for saturated fats to be de-villainized as cause of all heart disease. 
 "The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades," says Dr Aseem Malhotra author of a recent editorial in BMJ.  And it's time for that to change!
Scientists universally accept that trans fats—found in many fast foods, bakery products, and margarines—increase the risk of cardiovascular disease through inflammatory processes. But “saturated fat” is another story. The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades. Yet scientific evidence shows that this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risks. Furthermore, the obsession with levels of total cholesterol, which has led to the overmedication of millions of people with statins, has diverted our attention from the more egregious risk factor of atherogenic dyslipidemia.

Saturated fats, like butter, provide essential nutrients

Recent studies have not supported any significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. Instead, it has been found to be protective. The source of the saturated fat may be important. Organic butter is a great provider of vitamins A and D and there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.
Butter is a key source of the most easily utilized form of Vitamin A, required for support of skin and organs, including endocrine glands, the immune system and the brain. And butter is loaded with antioxidants! It contains vitamin E, good cholesterol (the type that is not oxidized) and is important for brain function. It is a natural source of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), which show promise in research for holding weight to a normal range and preventing diabetes.

Processed meats, not organic, pasture-raised dairy and beef, are dangerous...

One study showed that higher concentrations of plasma palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid mainly found in dairy foods, was associated with higher concentrations of high density lipoprotein, lower concentrations of triglycerides and C reactive protein, reduced insulin resistance, and a lower incidence of diabetes in adults.  Red meat is a major source of saturated fat. Consumption of processed meats, but not red meat, has been associated with coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus, which may be explained by nitrates and sodium as preservatives.

Carbohydrates, especially processed ones may be a bigger risk factor for inflammation & heart disease.

Saturated fat may raise LDL cholesterol. But compared to carbohydrates, it also raises HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. If we looked just at LDL, we would predict that saturated fat raises heart disease risk. If we looked at the effect of saturated fat on HDL and triglycerides, we would suppose that saturated fat lowers that risk. If we looked at the combination, we would predict that saturated fat is relatively neutral for heart disease risk compared to carbohydrates.

Dr. Malhotra's editorial suggests the following: 

  • Low-saturated-fat diets cut levels of lower-risk large, buoyant LDL particles rather than the small, dense LDL particles thought to worsen cardiovascular disease. 
  • Dietary saturated fat may actually protect against cardiovascular risk. 
  • Low-fat diets promote an atherogenic pattern of blood lipids and worsen insulin resistance. 
  • Low total-cholesterol levels are "associated with cardiovascular death, indicating that high total cholesterol is not a risk factor in a healthy population."
  • Even in secondary prevention, no cholesterol-lowering drug besides statins has shown survival benefit, supporting the hypothesis that the benefits of statins are independent of their effects on cholesterol. 
  • The "Mediterranean diet" confers three times the survival benefit in secondary prevention, compared with statins; it led to a 30% improvement compared with a "low-fat" diet in the PREDIMED study.

So here's my list of the Top Ten Saturated Fats you can enjoy guilt-free!

  1. Coconut oil 
  2. Egg yolks
  3. Avocado
  4. Organic pastured, cultured butter or Ghee
  5. Organic dark chocolate
  6. Sardines
  7. Raw organic cheese
  8. Brazil nuts
  9. Macademia nuts
  10. Cashews

22 October 2013

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

If you're looking for a sweet but guilt-free treat, this is it!
You will adore this recipe for a delicious but healthier version of your favorite chocolate pudding.   It only takes a few minutes with a blender to put together.

The avocados are full of vitamins and healthy fat plus it gives it the smooth, thick consistency.  Topped off with favorites like sliced bananas, chopped walnuts, toasted almond slices, or perhaps fresh raspberries and mint leaves you'll devour this divine dessert!

Serves 2


  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled + quartered
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup raw organic honey (Use less or substitute stevia if you are on a Candida Diet)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk (more or less depending on desired thickness)
  • Optional 1-2 tsp melted organic coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure organic vanilla extract


Put all the ingredients in blender or food processor + blend until smooth. Refrigerate before eating for optimal consistency.
Top with your favorite topping & Enjoy!

05 October 2013

What's the Big Deal about Methylation?! Update of the popular MTHFR blog post...


Do you have a genetic defect in the MTHFR gene??

Maybe you've have a family history of heart attack or stroke... maybe you've suffered through multiple miscarriages.  Or maybe you struggle with chronic migraine headaches or irritible bowel syndrome or depression.  Perhaps your child or a sibling has autism.  What do all these things have in common?  Well, these are just some of the conditions liked to a faulty enzyme called MTHFR.

What's up with MTHFR?

MTHFR stands for methyl-tetrahydrofolate reductase, an enzyme that is responsible for the process of methylation in every cell in your body.  MTHFR is a common genetic variant that causes this key enzyme in the body to function at a lower than normal rate.  This can lead to a variety of medical problems.  Although there are over fifty known MTHFR variants, the two primary ones are called C677T and A1298.  Your doctor can order a blood test to determine if you have these genetic variants. Better yet, you can order a complete genetic profile yourself through 23andMe.

What's the big deal about methylation?

Methylation is a core process that occurs in all cells to help your body make biochemical conversions.  When people with genetic mutations is MTHFR are exposed to toxins, they have a harder time getting rid of them which can cause some very serious illnesses.  The methylation process is responsible for:
  • Cellular Repair: synthesis of nucleic acids, production and repair of DNA and mRNA
  • Detoxification and Neurotransmistter  Production:  interconversion of amino acids
  • Healthy Immune System Function:  formation and maturation of red blood cells, white blood cells & platelet production
The 677T variant is most commonly associated  with early heart disease and stroke and the 1298C variant with a variety chronic illnesses, but either anomaly can cause a wide variety of health problems.  The MTHFR anomaly is reported out as heterozygous or homozygous.  If you are heterozygous that means you have one affected gene and one normal gene.  Your enzyme activity will run at about 60% efficiency compared to a normal.

If you are homozygous or have 2 abnormal copies, then enzyme efficiency drops down to 10% to 20% of normal, which can be very serious.   The worst combination is 677T/1298C in which you are heterozygous to both anomalies.  Many chronic illnesses are linked to this anomaly.   Fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, chemical sensitivity, frequent miscarriage and frequent blood clots are all conditions associated with MTHFR anomaly.  For a great diagram of more methylation related health problems, check this out:

MTHFR Related Health Problems 

Glutathione is the body's primary antioxidant and detoxifier.  One of the ways that MTHFR gene mutation can make you susceptible to illness is by lowering your ability to make glutathione.    People with MTHFR anomalies usually have low glutathione, which makes them more susceptible to stress and less tolerant to toxic exposures.  Accumulation of toxins in the body and increased oxidative stress, which also leads to premature aging.

Some conditions that may be associated with MTHFR gene mutations

  • Autism
  • Addictions: smoking, drugs, alcohol
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Frequent miscarriages
  • Male and female infertility
  • Pulmonary embolism and other blood clots
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Chemical Sensitivity
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome  
  • Stroke
  • Spina bifida
  • Migraines
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia
  • Breast cancer
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
  • Methotrexate Toxicity
  • Nitrous Oxide Toxicity


Treatment for MTHFR

Fortunately, you can easily be tested for the MTHFR mutation.  If you find out that you have one or more of the gene mutations, you can supplement with methyl-folate  and methyl B12, the active forms of these B vitamins.   You can also supplement with liposomal or acetyl-glutathione, the end product of the pathway.  Glutathione is poorly absorbed so either the liposomal form or a precursor, called n-acetylcysteine (NAC) may be used. Some of my favorites are Thorne Research Methyl Guard Plus and 5-MTHF 1mg and 5mg.

There are prescription medicines, that also contain methyl-folate: Deplin, MetanX, CerefolinNAC are a few.   Methyl B12 can also be given as shots, nasal sprays, and sublingually.  The intramuscular shots are by far the most effective method and must be prescribed by your physician.  The choice of nutrients will vary from patient to patient and should be done under a doctor's supervision.  There is a bell-shaped optimal curve so you may not feel well with too much or too little of the appropriate supplements.   Other B vitamins, such as riboflavin and vitamin B6 also play an important role.  As you may have surmised, this can be quite complex and I suggest you find a functional medicine trained physician to help you sort through your needs for the different nutrients if you have a chronic health condition related to the gene mutations.  It is not uncommon for patients with these genetic polymorphism's to be very sensitive to supplementation.

Patients who I recommend be screened for MTHFR mutations:

  • Mood disorders: depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, bipolar
  • Infants and children of parents with MTHFR mutations
  • Family members related to someone with MTHFR mutations
  • Infertility and Pre-conception care: test both man and woman
  • Elevated folate (not processing to active 5-MTHF due to inability to methylate)
  • Elevated homocysteine (due to low active 5-MTHF and methylcobalamin)
  • Elevated s-adenosylhomocysteine (due to low active 5-MTHF and methylcobalamin)
  • Elevated serum cobalamin (due to inability to methylate cyanocobalamin to methylcobalamin)
  • Elevated methylmalonic acid (due to methylcobalamin deficiency)
  • Patients with syndromes: IBS, multiple chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia, Down syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Neurological disorders: Multiple sclerosis, Autism, Alzheimer’s, Epilepsy, Parkinson's
  • Cancer: family history of cancer or undergoing cancer treatment
  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Cardiovascular risk: family history of strokes, embolisms, heart attacks, clots, hypertension
  • Birth defects: cleft palate, tetralogy of Fallot, spinal bifida, midline defects
  • Drug sensitivities: methotrexate, anti-seizure meds, nitrous oxide, anesthesia

If you are interested in knowing more about your genes, the 23andme gene test will be the best $99 investment you've ever spent !

More reading

23andMe Gene Test
Holistic Primary Care 
Genetics Home Reference
Molecular Biology of MTHFR
Genetics of Homocysteine Metabolism
Homocysteine and MTHFR mutation
LiveWello Gene app

22 September 2013

Paleo Guide to Natural Sweeteners: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Inflammation is an essential part of the body's healing system. Without it, injuries would fester and simple infections could be deadly. Too much of a good thing, however, is downright deadly.

Chronic low-grade inflammation is intimately involved most chronic disease, including Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease.  One of the underlying factors causing this increase in inflammation is our love affair with sugar.  We have been led to believe that if we switch to alternatives, we can go on with our sweet addiction and pay no health penalties down the road.  One of the very first things I teach patients to do is KICK THE SWEET HABIT!  If you go off sugar and all sweeteners for just 30 days, I promise you.... your body will adjust it's taste-meter so that a piece of fruit with have more flavor and sweetness than you've ever dreamed possible.  And if you do indulge in a glass of soda or something full of sugar, you just might spit it back out due to the sickening sweetness that your body had become accustomed to prior to your sugar detox.

But I do get questions all the time from patients... "If I do need to use a sweetener occasionally and sparingly... what are my best options?"  

Glad you asked!  So here's a Guide to Natural Sweeteners just for you...

The Good:  Natural - Use sparingly

  • Stevia (organic green leaf or pure extract)
  • Organic Local Raw Honey

The Fair: Natural - Use sparingly

  • Dates
  • Date sugar
  • Coconut nectar
  • Coconut sugar/crystals
  • Fruit juice (only fresh squeezed, real, organic)
  • Maple syrup 
  • Palm sugar

The Bad:  Natural but recommend avoidance

  • Agave
  • Barley Malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar/light brown sugar/muscovado
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Cane sugar or juice
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Corn syrup or solids
  • Dextran
  • Dextrose
  • Ethyl Maltol
  • Fructose
  • Glucose/glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Grape sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Lactose
  • Levulose
  • Maltitol
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Mannitol
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner's syrup
  • Sorbitol
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Xylitol (or other sugar alcohols, end in "-tol or -ose"

The Ugly:  Artificial - never consume

  • Acesulfame K (Sweet One)
  • Aspartame (Nutra-Sweet, Equal)
  • Saccarin (Sweet'N Low)
  • Stevia - white/bleached (Truvia, Sun Crystals)
  • Sucralose (Spenda)
  • Tagatose (PreSweet)

More on Truvia... the one you THOUGHT was ok

Is Truvia made from a leaf?  Well the answer is kinda, sorta.  Truvia has three ingredients:  erythritol, rebiana, and natural flavors.  Rebiana is made from the stevia leaf by soaking it in water.  Although Cargill whitewashes the process as similar to making tea, the truth is revealed in Coca Cola's patent where it outlines a 40+ step process that includes the use of acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol.  I don’t know about you, but when I make a cup of tea, I’ve never used any of those ingredients.

The second fallacy of Truvia’s “guilt-free” naturalness is it’s main ingredient, erythritol.  Now while erythritol is a naturally-occurring sweetener found in many fruits, in nature it is present in such small amounts that Cargill manufacturers Truvia’s erythritol by chemically converting genetically modified corn into a food grade starch which it ferments to create glucose and then processes further to create erythritol.   All Natural?  Truvia sounds more like a GMO lab experiment than a sweetener straight from nature.  

But Dr. Jill, I need more carbs!

If you've gone Paleo and removed grains, legumes and refined foods from your diet, you don't have to let go of carbs altogether.   Here are some high carb delicious healthy veggie alternatives for you to munch on that are packed with nutrients...
  1. Yam
  2. Sweet potato
  3. Parsnips
  4. Cassava
  5. Taro root
  6. Plantain
  7. Winter Squash
  8. Onion
  9. Beets
  10. Carrots
  11. Butternut squash
  12. Rutabaga
  13. Jicama
  14. Kohlrabi or Purple kohlrabi (pictured)
  15. Spaghetti squash
  16. Turnips
  17. Pumpkin
  18. Zucchini
More references:

10 September 2013

Are Your Gut Microbes Making You Fat!?

Are Your Gut Microbes Making You Fat!?

There are trillions if bacteria living in your gut, that we know.  But did you know that the population of your microbes may determine if you are likely to be fat or thin?! As we study this amazing microbe machine inside of us, we are discovering the many and far reaching implications of having a healthy population of bugs in your gut.

Researchers recently found pairs of human twins in which one was obese and the other lean. They transferred gut bacteria from these twins into mice and watched what happened. The mice with bacteria from fat twins grew fat; those that got bacteria from lean twins stayed lean. The study published in Science on September 6, 2013, describes the details.

It is becoming more clear that our microbial colonies play critical roles in health, with doctors now curing people by transferring microbe-rich tissues from healthy people into sick ones. Where the term "fecal transplant" used to sound like science fiction, there is now strong enough evidence of potential benefits that there are major medical centers performing this procedure to treat resistant clostridium difficile colitis infections.  Could they be transplanting gut bugs in the future to cure obesity? Sounds crazy but perhaps not too far fetched...

I don't know about you... but I'd rather change my diet than exchange fecal matter! Keep reading on for how diet can change your microbes, too...

There is a caveat: Microbes associated with leanness can’t take up residence in mice with “obese” gut microbes unless the animals eat a healthy diet.

As part of the study, the twins’ gut microbes were transferred into mice that had been raised in a previously microbe-free environment. The researchers had a chance to observe what happens when a mouse carrying a collection of gut microbes from an obese twin is housed with another mouse carrying gut microbes from the lean twin.
Eating a healthy diet encourages microbes associated with leanness to quickly become incorporated into the gut,” said senior author Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, director of the Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology at Washington University. “But a diet high in saturated fat and low in fruits and vegetables thwarts the invasion of microbes associated with leanness. This is important as we look to develop next-generation probiotics as a treatment for obesity.”
In 2009, Gordon found that the microbes in obese individuals also lack diversity and contain more pathogenic species. Individuals with healthy microbes contain a larger variety and include species such as provatella and bifidobacter. Earlier research showed that obese individuals had a shift from more Bacteroidetes to greater proportion of Firmicutes. Those that remained lean continued to have high levels of bacteroidetes. There is also evidence showing that these gut bug populations also change as we age.  Perhaps the most important idea from that past decade of research is that the diet we consume has the ability to change our internal mileau!  More industrialized nations tend to have gut populations that favor Firmicutes while less industrialized societies that still rely heavily on unprocessed food sources have guts that remain high in Bacteroidetes.

These observations were confirmed by a recent Danish clinical study that linked the risk for metabolic disorders – obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes – to a shortage of friendly intestinal.  The microbiome of bacteria-poor people were dominated by species that cause chronic inflammation in the body.

The "good" guys vs. the "bad" guys ... 

The Firmicutes ("bad" guys) and the Bacteroidetes ("good" guys)  are divisions of gut bacteria. The microbiota of the human gut is dominated by these two species, most of which are benign although a few are pathogenic.

The Firmicutes is the largest bacterial class, containing more than 250 types, including Lactobacillus, Mycoplasma, Bacillus and Clostridium.  They are a very diverse class and Clostridium species are obligate anaerobes whereas members of Bacillus form spores and many of them are obligate aerobes. Streptococcus pyogenes, the well-known cause of 'Strep throat', is also a member of the Firmicutes.

The Bacteroidetes include about 20 types. In the human gut, Bacteroidetes is probably the most abundant single genus. Species of Bacteroidetes are obligate anaerobes that are benign inhabitants of the gut. However, they are opportunistic pathogens that can cause disease if they gain access to the peritoneal cavity outside the gut, for example in bowel perforation or surgery. In addition research raises the question of how consumption of increasingly hygienic and processed food deprives our microbiota from useful environmental genes and possibly affects our health.

Could Probiotics Help?

Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain a healthful balance of microbes in the intestines, and generally benefit their host.  The average person’s digestive tract hosts about 400 kinds of probiotic bacteria, which help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and promote healthy digestion.  Now we know they may also affect our disposition towards being thin or obese!

Lactobacillus are often given to patients following a course of antibiotics, and are also found in yogurt and most other cultured/fermented foods.  Probiotics may be used in infants to populate the gut after c-section and may benefit babies with colic.  For more on probiotics and how they can benefit your health, read this!  I believe we are just on the edge of understanding how these healthy bugs and supplementation of different strains may affect health and disease and weight.  Stay tuned for the coming research and blog articles...

So What Should I Eat?

The Paleo Diet may be beneficial in reducing your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. I frequently use the basic principles of the paleo diet to help patients re-learn how to eat healthy, maintain ideal weight, and feel fabulous! Perhaps the most important thing about it is that it encourages you to get back to whole delicious real food.  It will allow you to feel better, lose weight easily and maintain muscle at any age. I challenge you to give it a try for yourself for 30 days and see if it doesn't change your life!

21 August 2013

Healthy Snack Attack! Paleo Safe Options on the go...

You've been asking for healthy snack ideas that are loaded with protein and low glycemic so this week I put together a bunch of my favorites, including travel and to-go ideas...Check it out!

Dr. Jill’s Favorite Healthy Snack Options...

  • Apple slices with 2 tablespoons of almond butter or sunflower butter 
  • ½ cup hummus with fresh veggies (cucumber, celery, carrot, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, etc…) 
  • Make your own trail mix with combination of raw nuts, seeds (pumpkin, chia, sesame, sunflower), shredded coconut, raw cocoa nibs – serving ½ cup 
  • Baggie of your favorite raw nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, macadamia nuts with ½ cup freeze dried berries 
  • ½ baked green apple with cinnamon and ¼ cup coconut milk Organic Nitrate-free Turkey (Boar’s Head or Applegate) and guacamole role ups (2 slices turkey with 2 tablespoons fresh guacamole) 
  • Tin or packet of wild salmon, sardines, or paté 
  • Sliced avocado eaten with sea salt & spoon 
  • 2 nori veggie wraps with shredded carrot, leafy greens, hummus & ½ avocado 
  • 2 tablespoons of unsweetened sunflower nut butter sprinkled with cinnamon and/or raw cocoa nibs 
  • 1 or 2 squares TCHO 99% dark chocolate with corner dipped in organic coconut butter 
  • Protein “latte” = 1 serving espresso with 8 oz. of coconut/almond milk and scoop of chocolate or vanilla Thorne Vegalite powder 
  • Homemade kale chips with 2 tablespoons of hummus or 2 sticks of gluten-free jerky (no yeast extract, please) 
  • ½ cup sliced almonds and fresh berries in bowl with ½ cup of pure organic coconut milk (full fat version in can) - optional add organic cinnamon or raw cocoa powder. 
  • Chocolate protein smoothie – 1 scoop chocolate or vanilla Thorne Vegalite blended with ice and coconut/almond milk (optional ½ frozen banana) and 1-2 teaspoons of raw cocoa powder 
  • Chia cereal = 2 tablespoons chia + 1 tablespoon hemp seed mixed soaked in 4 oz of coconut milk or water.  May add few drops of stevia to desired sweetness or fresh blueberries!
  • To-go packets of organic nut butter or coconut butter – Easy squeeze instant snack for purse or travel. (My picks= Artisana coconut butter or sunflower nut butter packets)


13 August 2013

Is this gland taking you down? Sixteen Signs You Might Be Hypothyroid...

Photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Your thyroid plays a part in nearly every metabolic process and when the thyroid isn't working you won't feel well!  This small gland has an average weight of 16.4 grams in the adult. Shaped like a butterfly, it lies low on the front of the neck and below your Adam’s apple and in front of the windpipe. When the thyroid is its normal size, you can’t even feel it.

The thyroid secretes several hormones, collectively called thyroid hormones. The main hormone is thyroxine, also called T4, but there are others, including T3 and even lesser known T1 and T2.   It requires adequate selenium, iodine, zinc, B vitamins and antioxidants for optimal function.  Thyroid hormones act throughout the body, influencing metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature. During infancy and childhood, adequate thyroid hormone is crucial for brain development.  Unfortunately, the thyroid gland is uniquely sensitive to drugs and environmental chemicals which may affect proper function.

More than 10 percent of the general population in the United States, and 20 percent of women over the age of 60, have subclinical hypothyroidism. But only a small percentage of these people are being treated.  It is important to ask your doctor to check you thyroid function if you feel that you are having symptoms.

Often, at first, you barely notice the symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and weight gain.  You might simply attribute them to getting older. But as your metabolism continues to slow, you may develop more obvious signs and symptoms.

Top Sixteen Symptoms of Hypothyroid

  1. Fatigue
  2. Increased sensitivity to cold
  3. Constipation
  4. Dry skin
  5. Unexplained weight gain
  6. Puffy face
  7. Hoarseness
  8. Muscle weakness
  9. Elevated blood cholesterol level
  10. Muscle aches and pain
  11. Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  12. Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  13. Thinning hair
  14. Slower heart rate
  15. Depressed mood
  16. Impaired memory

Here is a simple checklist of symptoms that may indicate abnormal thyroid function:

____ My facial skin looks or feels thinner
____ My muscles feel weak, particularly the upper arms and thighs
____ I am having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
____ I feel fatigued, exhausted all the time
____ I frequently require more than 8 hours of sleep at night
____ I feel better if I am able to take an afternoon nap every day
____ I am unable to tolerate exercise
____ I have less stamina or energy than others
____ My hair is coarse and dry, breaking, brittle, falling out
____ My skin is coarse, dry, scaly, thin 
____ My eyebrows are thinning, especially the outer 1/3
____ I frequently struggle with constipation or hard stools
____ I am always colder than others around me
____ I typically wear a sweater, even in the summer
____ I am having more breakouts or acne
____ I have pains, aches in joints, hands and feet 
____ I experience numbness or tingling in my hands & fingers
____ I am having irregular periods (women)
____ I am having trouble maintaining erection (men)
____ I am having trouble conceiving a baby
____ I have had one or more miscarriages
____ I feel depressed most of the time
____ I feel restless, or anxious 
____ I have puffiness and swelling around the eyes and face
____ My moods change easily 
____ I have difficulty concentrating or focusing
____ I have more feelings of sadness
____ I seem to be losing interest in normal daily activities
____ I'm more forgetful lately
____ My hair is falling out
____ I can't seem to remember things
____ I have no sex drive
____ I am getting more frequent infections, that last longer
____ My eyes feel gritty and dry
____ My eyes feel sensitive to light 
____ I am having difficulty swallowing or feeling a lump in my throat
____ I have a hoarse or gravely voice
____ I have tinnitus (ringing in ears)
____ I feel some lightheadedness or dizziness
____ I have severe menstrual cramps

Other conditions that may be associated with thyroid dysfunction:

  • Infertility or frequent miscarriage
  • Acne 
  • High cholesterol 
  • Irregular periods 
  • Low libido 
  • Fluid retention 
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Iron-deficiency
  • Glaucoma
  • Frequent headaches

Family history that suggests you could have a higher risk for hypothyroidism:

Ten Tips To Support a Healthy Thyroid:

  1. Eliminate gluten from your diet!  One in three patient's with Hashimoto's thyroiditis are sensitive to gluten.
  2. Selenium is essential to a healthy thyroid and the first thing I recommend for those with autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto's.  You can get 200mcg of selenium by eating 2-3 organic brazil nuts daily! 
  3. Wild caught fish, like salmon, supple ample omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for optimal thyroid function.  If you don't eat fish frequently, you can supplement with a high quality Omega3 supplement, like Thorne OmegaPlus 2-3 caps daily.
  4. Get plenty of sunlight to optimize your vitamin D levels and take 1000-2000IU daily of Vitamin D3.
  5. Herbs that support thyroid function include ashwaganda, eleuthero and other adrenal adaptogens. One of my favorite formulas is Gaia Herbs Thyroid Support
  6. Dandelion greens, carrots, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, and sweet potatoes are all rich sources of essential Vitamin A 
  7. Use organic coconut oil in your cooking -- it's great for high heat cooking and sautéing many different meats and vegetables. 
  8. Filter your drinking water from chlorine and other harmful chemicals which suppress the thyroid and block iodine
  9. Find daily ways to detox, like using a sauna, taking epsom salt baths, adding chlorella, parsley, or cilantro to your daily smoothie to help your body detoxify from chemical exposures (petrochemicals, PCBs, pesticides, and mercury)
  10. Work on lowering stress levels through daily gratitude, prayer, meditation, yoga, deep breathing!

Environmental Toxins May be Poisoning Your Thyroid

Many environmental factors have the potential to impact thyroid function.  Some of these factors include:
  • Potassium perchlorate, which inhibits iodine uptake by the thyroid, is used in rocket propellant, fireworks, and automobile airbags. Potassium perchlorate is stable in the environment and contaminates water throughout the United States. Newborns and infants are most susceptible to this inhibitory effect on iodine transport. The thiocyanates in cigarette smoke can have effects similar to potassium perchlorate.
  • Isoflavones (phytoestrogens), found in soy proteins, are thyroid peroxidase inhibitors.
  • Pesticides induce glucuronidation of T4 and reduce T4 half-life.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls are industrial chemicals that were banned in 1975 but still are routinely detected in the environment. They have been shown to reduce T4 levels in animals and are neurotoxic. Their effect varies because of partial agonist effect at the thyroid hormone receptor and their varied chemical structure.
  • Bisphenol A—used in plastics, as resins for coating food cans, and as dental sealants—antagonizes T3 activation of the thyroid hormone b-receptor in rats, causing a thyroid hormone resistance–like syndrome.
  • Keep your home free from these and other toxic chemicals
  • And read the blog on MTHFR for how your genes can also make you more susceptible to thyroid dysfunction and poor detox!

A Prescription for Hypothyroid

If you are truly suffering from hypothryoid, no amount of nutritional supplementation will replace your abnormally low levels of thyroid hormone.  Ask your doctor to do comprehensive thyroid lab testing including:  TSH, free T4, free T3, total T4, total T3, reverse T3, thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOs), and thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb).  An ultrasound to evaluate the appearance of the thyroid is necessary if you are experiencing symptoms of enlarged thyroid or nodules.

Common drug options for thyroid replacement include:
  • T4 preparations
    • Synthroid
    • Levothroid
    • Levoxyl
    • levothyroxine
    • Tyrosint
  • T4/T3 preparations
    • NaturThroid
    • Armour Thyroid
    • ERFA thyroid
    • dessicated thyroid
    • Westthroid
    • Thyrolar
  • T3 only preparations
    • Cytomel

Could Thyroid Dysfunction Be Causing My Symptoms?
Drugs and Environmental Toxins take on the Thyroid
NEJM: Drugs that Influence Thyroid Function

14 July 2013

Zonulin & Leaky Gut: A discovery that changed the way we view inflammation, autoimmune disease and cancer!

An amazing discovery a few years ago revolutionized our ability to understand the gut and permeability and how this impacts a wide range of health conditions from cancer to autoimmune disease to inflammation and food sensitivities. 

This little molecule, zonulin, has quite a story...

Zonulin is the "doorway" to leaky gut

Zonulin opens up the spaces between the cells of the intestinal lining. That normally occurs, in order for nutrient and other molecules to get in and out of the intestine. However, when leaky gut is present, the spaces between the cells open up too much allowing larger protein molecules to get into the bloodstream where an immunologic reaction can take place. Once that happens, the body is primed to react to those proteins each and every time they appear.  It can also cause leakage of intestinal contents, like bacteria into the immune system creating inflammation and overloading the liver's ability to filter out this garbage.

Triggers that open the zonulin doorway

Based on Dr. Fasano's research, we know that the two most powerful triggers to open the zonulin door are gluten and gut bacteria in the small intestine.  Gliadin causes zonulin levels to increase both in those people who have celiac disease and those who do not.  As the zonulin level rises, the seal  between the intestinal cells diminishes, opening up spaces between cells that allow all sorts of things to pass right through.  This is called "leaky gut".  Its as if the security guard that keeps the bad guys out is taking a nap! Sometimes large food molecules will pass through to the immune system.  The immune system thinks they are foreign invaders and will mount an immune response leading to food sensitivities.  In addition this immune activation leads to more damage to the intestinal cells (called enterocytes) and the gut becomes more inflamed and more permeable or "leaky".  As the damage continues, the microvilli that line the intestines and absorb nutrients become damaged, leading to other nutrient deficiencies.  

Top causes of increased zonulin and development of leaky gut:

  1. Overgrowth of harmful organisms, like bacteria or yeast in the intestine 
    1. SIBO = small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
    2. Fungal dysbiosis or candida overgrowth
    3. Parasite infections
  2. Gliadin in the diet (gluten containing foods)
Gliadin is a protein in wheat, that like gluten, is a trigger for people with celiac disease. However, a study published in the Scandiavian Journal of Gastroenterology in 2006 clearly showed that gliadin can affect zonulin even in people without the gene for celiac. The researchers concluded that
Based on our results, we concluded that gliadin activates zonulin signaling irrespective of the genetic expression of autoimmunity, leading to increased intestinal permeability to macromolecules.
The significance of this is that gluten affects intestinal permeability in all persons to different extents.  It also means that 100% of patients with autoimmune disease or leaky gut could potentially benefit from a gluten-free diet.

Elevated zonulin levels and leaky gut are also associated with the following:

  1. Crohn's disease
  2. Type 1 Diabetes
  3. Multiple Sclerosis
  4. Asthma
  5. Glioma
  6. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
In conclusion the article states: 
Genetic predisposition, miscommunication between innate and adaptive immunity, exposure to environmental triggers, and loss of intestinal barrier function secondary to the activation of the zonulin pathway by food-derived environmental triggers or changes in gut microbiota all seem to be key ingredients involved in the pathogenesis of inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer. This new theory implies that [once this path is activated] it can be... reversed by preventing the continuous interplay between genes and the environment.

Zonulin and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function: The Biological Door to Inflammation, Autoimmunity, and Cancer

Alessio Fasano

The primary functions of the gastrointestinal tract have traditionally been perceived to be limited to the digestion and absorption of nutrients and to electrolytes and water homeostasis. A more attentive analysis of the anatomic and functional arrangement of the gastrointestinal tract, however, suggests that another extremely important function of this organ is its ability to regulate the trafficking of macromolecules between the environment and the host through a barrier mechanism. Together with the gut-associated lymphoid tissue and the neuroendocrine network, the intestinal epithelial barrier, with its intercellular tight junctions, controls the equilibrium between tolerance and immunity to non-self antigens. Zonulin is the only physiological modulator of intercellular tight junctions described so far that is involved in trafficking of macromolecules and, therefore, in tolerance/immune response balance. When the finely tuned zonulin pathway is deregulated in genetically susceptible individuals, both intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune, inflammatory, and neoplastic disorders can occur. This new paradigm subverts traditional theories underlying the development of these diseases and suggests that these processes can be arrested if the interplay between genes and environmental triggers is prevented by reestablishing the zonulin-dependent intestinal barrier function. This review is timely given the increased interest in the role of a “leaky gut” in the pathogenesis of several pathological conditions targeting both the intestine and extraintestinal organs.

23 June 2013

Twelve Tips for a Healthy Brain... (How YOU can Prevent Dementia!)

Photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Twelve Tips for a Healthy Brain

Declining memory and dementia are not a normal part of aging.  There are many things you can do now to prevent or reverse inflammation of the brain!

  1. Add coconut oil to your diet.  There is growing evidence that regular consumption of coconut oil may offer profound benefits in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. One of the primary fuels your brain uses is glucose. When your brain becomes insulin resistant, atrophy due to starvation can occur. But if you choose to limit sugar and eat healthy fats instead, ketones can feed your brain even BETTER than sugar and prevent wasting of brain tissue. Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat to energy.  One of the best sources of ketone bodies are the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil.
  2. Limit sugar in your diet, especially fructose. Low-fat is the WRONG way to go because limiting fat in foods has caused the food industry to add sugar instead to preserve flavor.  We are now finding that eating a diet high in sugar & fructose could be the most damaging thing you do to your heart & brain.
  3. Optimize your Vitamin D.  Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer's through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer's. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.
  4. Keep your fasting insulin levels below 3. This is indirectly related to fructose, as it will clearly lead to insulin resistance.  Exercise increases insulin sensitivity more than drugs!  SO make sure you commit to a regular routine of exercise at least 30min 5X weekly.
  5. Take your high quality fish oil supplement.  High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA helps by decreasing inflammation and preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, thereby slowing down its progression and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.  I recommend Thorne Super EPA or Nordic Naturals ProOmega.
  6. Vitamin B12 - Useful to prevent brain shrinkage and may even treat Alzheimer's and memory loss.  As we age, we are less and less able to absorb adequate vitamin B12 from the diet.  I suggest adding a sublingual or liquid B12 at least 1000mcg daily to your regimen.
  7. Get your folate, too!  B12 an folate work together to keep your brain and nervous system healthy.  My favorite way to do this is add raw kale or spinach to a morning smoothie!
  8. Avoid mercury and aluminum.  Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50% mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity. However you should be healthy prior to having them removed. Avoid aluminum, such as in antiperspirants, non-stick cookware, or in vaccines as preservative.
  9. Gingko biloba: Several studies have found that ginkgo biloba has positive effects for dementia, including improving cognitive performance and social functioning for those suffering from dementia.
  10. Eat your blues! Wild blueberries contain anthocyanin and other antioxidants known to guard against Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases.
  11. Challenge your mind daily. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.
  12. Avoid anticholinergic or statin drugs Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.  Use of statins have been shown to correlate with increase risk of developing dementia.

27 May 2013

Safe Summer Sun! Nine Surprising Facts About Sunscreens...

Photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Are the sunscreens you are using this summer safe? 

Nine Surprising Facts About Sunscreens

Do you depend on sunscreen for skin protection? Millions of Americans do, but they shouldn’t. Melanoma rates are increasing. The consensus among scientists is that sunscreens alone cannot reverse this trend. Yet a good sunscreen can play role in preventing sunburns that are a major risk factor for melanoma – provided you use it correctly.

1. FDA’s sunscreen rules have changed but products haven’t improved.

The federal Food and Drug Administration put new sunscreen rules into effect last December, but they have had little impact on the sunscreen market and could actually make things worse for consumers. FDA’s rules allow most sunscreens to claim they offer “broad spectrum” skin protection and also that they can reduce skin cancer risk. However, EWG’s assessment of 750 beach and sport sunscreens on the market this year spotted significant problems.

2. There’s no proof that sunscreens prevent most skin cancer.

Rates of melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer – have tripled over the past 35 years. Most scientists and public health agencies – including the FDA itself – have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer.

3. Don’t be fooled by high SPF

High-SPF products tempt people to apply too little sunscreen and stay in the sun too long. The FDA has proposed prohibiting the sale of sunscreens with SPF values greater than 50+, calling higher SPF values “inherently misleading,” but it has not issued a regulation that carries the force of law. One in seven sunscreens advertises SPF values greater than 50+, so get the most bang for your hard-earned buck. 

4. The common sunscreen additive vitamin A may speed development of skin cancer.

The sunscreen industry adds a form of vitamin A to nearly one-quarter of all sunscreens.
Retinyl palmitate is an anti-oxidant that slows skin aging. But federal studies indicate that it may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight. EWG recommends that consumers avoid sunscreens, lip products and skin lotions containing vitamin A, often labeled “retinyl palmitate” or “retinol.”

5. European consumers can get better sunscreens.

European sunscreens offer superior protection from skin-damaging UVA rays. In Europe, sunscreen makers can formulate their products with any of seven chemicals that filter UVA rays. American manufacturers can use only three UVA-filtering ingredients. They have been waiting seven years for FDA approval to use Europe’s better filters. Until the FDA approves these ingredients and lifts restrictions on combining certain active ingredients, American consumers will be hard-pressed to find sunscreens with the strongest level of UVA protection.

6. Sunscreen does not protect skin from all types of sun damage.

The sun’s ultraviolet radiation generates free radicals that damage DNA and skin cells, accelerate skin aging and may cause skin cancer. American sunscreens can reduce these damages, but not as effectively as they prevent sunburn. Consumers can run into problems if they pick a sunscreen with poor UVA protection, apply too little or reapply it infrequently. The FDA should strengthen its regulations to ensure that sunscreens offer better protection from skin damage.

7. Some sunscreen ingredients disrupt hormones and cause skin allergies.

The ideal sunscreen would completely block UV rays that cause sunburn, immune suppression and damaging free radicals. It would remain effective on the skin for several hours. It would not form harmful ingredients when degraded by sunlight. It would smell and feel pleasant so that people would use more of it.  No sunscreen meets these goals. Americans must choose between “chemical” sunscreens, which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body’s hormone system, and “mineral” sunscreens, made with zinc and titanium, often “micronized” or containing nano-particles.

8. Mineral sunscreens contain nano-particles.

Most zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-based sunscreens contain nano-particles a twentieth the width of a human hair. These help reduce or eliminate the chalky white tint that these minerals used to leave on the skin. Based on the available information, EWG gives a favorable rating to mineral sunscreens, but the FDA should restrict the use of unstable or UV-reactive forms of minerals that would lessen skin protection.

9. If you avoid sun, check your vitamin D levels.

Sunshine serves a critical function in the body that sunscreen appears to inhibit — producing vitamin D. The hormone is enormously important. It strengthens bones and the immune system and reduces the risk of breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancers, and perhaps other disorders.

About one-fourth of Americans have borderline low levels of vitamin D, and 8 percent have a serious deficiency. Breast-fed infants, people with darker skin and people who have limited sun exposure are at greatest risk. Many people can’t or shouldn’t rely on the sun for vitamin D. Check with your doctor to see if you should get a vitamin D test or take seasonal or year-round supplements.

Whatever you do, please avoid the ingredient oxybenzone.

Commonly used in sunscreens, the chemical oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can also trigger allergic reactions.  Please take my advice and don't use any sunscreen with this ingredient.

Here's how to make your own:

Many common oils offer a natural source of SPF protection without the harmful toxins. These include red raspberry seed oil (SPF28-50), carrot seed oil (SPF38-40), wheat germ oil (SPF20), soybean oil (SPF10), macadamia oil (SPF6), and jojoba oil (SPF4). Other oils, such as coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil, hempseed oil, and shea butter offer low SPF protection but are still valuable additions in your homemade sunscreen, as they are moisturizing and fragrant.

This recipe allows you to enjoy the sun without toxic chemicals.

  • 1 ounce oil with SPF listed above (or any combination of them)
  • 1 ounce coconut oil, cocoa butter, or shea butter
  • 1 ounce beeswax (offers waterproof protection)
  • 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oils
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar. Fill a saucepan a couple inches high with water and turn the heat to medium. Put a cap on the glass jar without sealing it closed, and place the jar in the pan filled with water. As the ingredients in the jar get warm and soften, mix until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Apply as a sunscreen throughout the summer.

Checkout the  2013 Guide to Safe Sunscreens from EWG if you want to pick a safe brand!