Research-Supported Immune Boosting Strategies for Fall and Winter

Research-Supported Immune Boosting Strategies for Fall and Winter

Part 2: Proven Supplements to Support Your Immune System

Research-Supported Immune Boosting Strategies for Fall and Winter

Immune-enhancing supplements are not magic bullets, but many have solid scientific evidence backing their use. As part of a holistic immune health strategy, targeted, proven supplements can help you prevent, shorten and recover more quickly from viral illnesses like influenza and possibly COVID-19.

In part 1 of this immune health series, I talked about the role of vitamin D in optimizing immune function. I focused especially on its potential to reduce the incidence and severity of COVID-19 infections — a promise that is being increasingly studied, but that hasn’t necessarily made its way into mainstream medicine’s recommendations…yet!

Today I’d like to dig deeper into the trove of vitamins, herbs and other supplements known to improve immune function and help fight off the flu and other viruses. From familiar favorites like vitamin C to more surprising supports like the leaves of the olive tree, there are dozens of demonstrated natural immune enhancers which you can consider building into your seasonal wellness plan while working with a qualified professional.  

First, it’s vital for me to stress that supplements are just one small part of your ideal strategy to increase your resistance to infection. When I meet with my clients, we focus on immune health. This involves a comprehensive approach that builds on supporting optimal nutrition, healthy gut function, regular movement, quality sleep, stress management, and supportive practices like prayer or meditation. There is no one herb, formula or magic bullet that will give you iron-clad protection against illness, and each person is unique as to what may be best for their situation. However, there are SO many supportive nutrients and practices that can work together to help you build a more robust and resilient immune system. 

In this time where many are fearful and overwhelmed in the face of the pandemic, I want to share scientifically-backed information that can help you take positive action. Hope and empowerment are strong antidotes to fear and paralysis, and I believe both are powerful agents in their own right for building or maintaining optimal wellness. So let’s take a look!

 

Julie’s Favorite Immune Support Supplements

The list of evidence-based supplements for immunity is long, so I’d like to break my favorites down into seven categories and give brief info on each. 

If you’re a clinician or nutrition wonk, I offer more in-depth information and detailed references on nutrition, supplementation and immunity in this article I wrote for the Association of Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders (AGMD) this summer.

Key Vitamins & Minerals

  • Vitamin D. This powerful vitamin derived from sun exposure has been shown to improve immune function, prevent infection and reduce the severity of viral illnesses. In new studies conducted since spring 2020, it’s showing promise as both a preventive and treatment option for COVID-19 — an exciting and important development you can learn more about in part 1 of this series. I often recommend Hi-PO Emulsi D Liquid (Designs for Health) for those who need to supplement. (Be sure to get your levels checked annually to determine need for supplementation.)
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruit and other fruits and vegetables, and is a key antioxidant that protects against cellular damage, infections and cancer. It’s been shown to help prevent cold and flu symptoms and reverse the course of these illnesses, and it’s increasingly being used in high-dose IV protocols to help address antibiotic-resistant infections. I usually recommend 2000-4000 mg/day using a buffered formula in divided doses, taken with food to prevent stomach upset.
  • Zinc. Research on zinc has found strong antiviral properties against many viruses. Zinc enhances the immune system while also reducing symptoms and spread of viruses. It has also been used in some protocols throughout the country to treat COVID-19. Note: while lower doses of zinc on a daily basis may be quite safe, if you are taking larger doses above 30mg/day for longer than several weeks, copper levels may be compromised and copper rich foods or supplementation may be needed. Over time, high dose zinc can depress the immune system. It is important to work with a practitioner trained in supplements.
  • Key minerals. The immune system relies on a number of key minerals such as magnesium, selenium, and chromium for healthy functions that include producing virus-fighting cells and antibodies and helping to regulate inflammation. Including a  mineral formula as part of your multivitamin-mineral or as a stand-alone can help ensure you’re not deficient and that you have these minerals in a healthy balance. 

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are your body’s key defense against cellular and DNA damage from free radicals — molecules that wreak havoc by stealing electrons from others. When free radicals outnumber antioxidants, you can get an inflammatory condition called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress plays an important role in influenza and other viral illnesses and has been proposed to be critical in the lung and organ damage caused by severe COVID-19 illnesses. One way to bolster your immune system, lower inflammation and repair cellular damage is through eating antioxidant foods and supporting your body with nutraceuticals.

Glutathione is often called your “master antioxidant” and can be found in foods such as asparagus, walnuts, spinach, and avocados. Also, taking a glutathione supplement OR a supplement that supports glutathione levels such as NAC, n-acetyl-cysteine, which is a precursor, to support tissue levels of glutathione may be helpful. NAC is one of the major antioxidants in lung tissue. There is evidence that oxidative stress contributes to the pulmonary damage that may result from influenza. Studies have shown that supplements that boost glutathione have reduced the frequency and severity of influenza episodes. 

Vitamin C and E are both powerful antioxidants you can obtain through a healthy whole foods diet and supplementation if needed. They also support healthy glutathione levels. Three antioxidant support formulas I often recommend are NAC (Pure), Liposomal Glutathione (Pure or QuickSilver) and Antioxidant Formula (Pure). 

Herbals

  • Elderberry. This gorgeous and delicious berry could win an award for my clients’ favorite formula to take (and mine!). Its power lies in its proven ability to lessen the severity of colds, flu and other respiratory illnesses. You can take 600–900 mg/day of an extract standardized to contain 22% polyphenols and 15% anthocyanins. It would be wise to discontinue during an active COVID infection. It has been highly debated that it may or may not stimulate a cytokine storm, an increased and harmful inflammatory response.
  • Olive Leaf Extract. Extract of olive leaf has demonstrated broad spectrum antimicrobial and antiviral properties, including against influenza. A product I use often during flu season is Olivirex (Bio-Botanical Research).
  • Green Tea/EGCG. There is accumulating evidence of immune benefits from consuming green tea or its active ingredient EGCG. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of EGCG are thought to be one of the main reasons for its role in disease prevention. A double-blind trial used the combination of green tea catechins and theanine (a compound present in green and black tea) and found a decrease in the incidence of influenza in healthcare workers.

Probiotics

Probiotics support your immune system by helping to populate more healthy bacteria in your intestines. They also help your mucosal lining secrete protective immunoglobulin, which is foundational to a healthy gut lining and barrier protection, helps prevent overgrowth of bad bacteria, and optimizes your immune system. A healthy balanced gut and strong barrier lining will help reduce inflammation as well. There are quite a few quality products I recommend, but, by far, the most effective in my practice has been Megasporebiotic (Microbiome Labs) and another new favorite is Ther-biotic Synbiotic (Klaire labs).

Beta-Glucans

Beta-glucans are another place where you can get powerful immune-supportive properties from something delicious: specific mushrooms and the cell wall of oats! Beta-glucans that boost your defenses against both cancer and infectious diseases are found in the highest concentrations in the more exotic reishi, shiitake, and maitake mushroom varieties. You can also get a fair amount from oatmeal, barley and seaweed. For those of you who shudder at the thought of more oats, or mushrooms or mushroom tea, supplements are a great choice. Two good options are Beta 1,3/1,6- D–Glucan (NOW) and ImmunotiX 250 (Xymogen).

Immunoglobulins

Immunoglobulins are one of the top supporters for immune and gut healing that I use in practice.  They help the intestinal immune system by binding a broad range of microbes and toxins within the gut and strengthen gut barrier function. Immunoglobulins have been shown to bind microbes and toxins in the GI tract and eliminate them before the immune system is activated. As these unwanted triggers are removed, it resets healthy immune tolerance and builds a stronger gut lining barrier to help protect you.  Immunoglobulins, as compared to colostrum, which contains dairy, are dairy free and lactose free making them ideal for those who are sensitive. Top products that I highly recommend:  SBI Protect (Orthomolecular), MEGAIgG2000 (Microbiome Labs), and MegaMucosa (Microbiome Labs).

Immune Support Formulas

Many reputable manufacturers offer formulas with ingredient combinations that work synergistically to support the immune system. Three great options I use in my practice are OliveDefense (Xymogen), Immun-Zyme (Apex), and Viracid (Orthomolecular). If your head is spinning from all of the info above and you’re looking for a single, balanced supplement, one of these may be right for you. It’s nice to have one of these on hand to take at the first sign if you feel you have a cold or the flu coming on.

I’ve shared a lot of information with you and my intention is not to overwhelm you, but to help you take steps to be informed and support your health in ways that are right for you. This is the perfect time to commit to focusing on our health and resiliency. 

In combination with a whole, plant-based, and varied diet; a healthy gut; and a supportive lifestyle, one or more of the above immune supports may help offer protection against COVID and this winter’s flu season. Regardless, the evidence is strong that it will increase your resistance to many diseases, both infectious and chronic, and, in my experience, offer you greater energy, vitality, and wellness.

 

If you’d like a short handout of my top immune support supplement recommendations, here is everything in one simple chart.

 

Download Julie’s Favorite Immune Support Supplements

 

Next up in my immune health series: HCL, PPIs and immune health. Stay tuned!

If you are looking for guidance on how to support your immunity through a personalized program that improves gut health and lowers inflammation and autoimmunity, consider connecting with me on a free 15-minute consultation.

Research-Supported Immune Boosting Strategies for Fall and Winter

Vitamin D, Immune Health and COVID-19 Risk

Vitamin D, Immune Health and COVID-19 Risk

Vitamin D, Immune Health and COVID-19 RiskBeyond cautionary measures like proper hand washing, masks and social distancing, your best defense against COVID-19 and influenza is a well-supported immune system. Learn how to keep it in fighting shape this season with my ongoing immune health series.

A recent comment on the national news got me so revved up it has brought me back into the blogosphere to set the record straight. Admittedly, I don’t watch much news lately, but my ears perked up when a national reporter asked a prominent MD:

“Other than following the CDC guidelines for diligent handwashing, wearing a mask, staying hydrated, and eating our veggies, is there anything else the American public can do to support their immune system?”

This was it … a great question! I was on the edge of my seat hoping this MD would come through and provide solid recent research and empowering strategies for an American public trying to weather a major pandemic.

But the MD’s response was a major missed opportunity. I was beyond disappointed by her answer, which I must respectfully call uninformed. She stated that eating a well-balanced diet and getting enough sleep was important … which I wholeheartedly endorse. But she followed by saying there was little research at this time that supplements or other interventions are helpful to support the immune system. She added there is some inconclusive evidence about vitamin D and that medical professionals don’t recommend people necessarily supplement.

My jaw was on the floor. This interview took place just last week, after over a dozen studies on vitamin D have been released in the past 6 months examining its possible preventive role against COVID-19. These studies are, of course, limited by the challenge of gathering data in the middle of an emerging and evolving pandemic. But several of these studies demonstrate a clear connection between low vitamin-D levels and the risk of COVID-19 infection. Further, the authors of these initial studies also connect their findings with solid prior evidence on vitamin D’s function in preventing and reducing the severity of influenza and other respiratory illnesses, as well as its ability to enhance and modulate the immune system in general.

Here are a couple of examples:

I continue to struggle with understanding why ALL medical doctors are not checking vitamin D levels on their patients and why research-based supplementation guidelines are not being offered to help people have greater control over their health.  Individualized and monitored supplementation is necessary to promote the most favorable outcomes.

A robust immune system is the heart of both preventing COVID and minimizing its impact should you catch it. Since we know vitamin D and other supplements can support the immune system, it seems irresponsible to me not to recommend their use in the face of a deadly global infection.

And the same is true for other interventions. Research is clear that lifestyle, environmental factors, and the health of your gut are vital to optimal immune health. That is why over the coming months I will be reporting on solid evidence-based research and strategies that I have been providing to my own clients and followers. I want you to find freedom from the paralysis of fear and give you effective tools that can support your immune system in the fall and winter months, and beyond.

So, keep your eye on this blog as I dive into your many options for optimizing your immunity: including diet, supplements, lifestyle practices, and how to support your immune system’s key regulator — your gut.

Before I sign off for today, let’s get back to the question of vitamin D.
Making the Vitamin D Decision
Are you getting enough vitamin D? Should you supplement?

Your skin produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun, and you need between 10-20 minutes of exposure on your arms and legs a few days per week, typically between the hours of 12-3pm to provide a baseline level. But this is greatly affected by cloud cover, skin color, elevation, use of sunscreen and, especially latitude. I live in Florida, where the sun is strong enough all year to trigger vitamin D production. However, most people in the US live above the 37th parallel, and this means they can’t make vitamin D from the sun November through March each year, and they must rely on whatever stores they’ve built up in the summer months. This is one reason why vitamin D levels plummet in the winter and seasonal infections like the flu rise at the same time.

You can get a small amount of vitamin D from foods, especially fatty fish like tuna and salmon, and some from liver, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified foods like dairy, dairy substitutes and cereals. The recommended amount for an adult daily is 600 – 800 IU. Three oz of cooked salmon has 450 IU; an egg yolk has 37 IU, and a serving of milk offers 2 IU. As you can see, supplementing in the winter in northern states may be your only easy option to ensure adequate vitamin D levels unless you really, really like sardines.

If you choose to supplement, it’s important to use high quality products from professional supplement lines and know that proper dosing can be affected by supplement quality, concentration of active ingredients and other factors. For the highest safety and greatest benefit, it’s best to consult a qualified clinician for testing and recommendations. The typical recommended dose is 800-2000 IU/day of Vitamin D3. Those with certain genetic variations or other conditions can require up to 5000 IU/day and in some cases 10,000 IU/day may be indicated for a short time span. Supplementation should always be done in conjunction with a licensed qualified practitioner.

With the correct supplement and dosing schedule, it’s possible to restore inadequate vitamin D to a healthy level, often in a few weeks to a few months. If you have low vitamin D levels and you supplement, it is important to recheck your levels in 3-4 months.

 

2020 has taught us that our health can easily be taken for granted … But I feel it may offer a needed wake-up call! There is so much we can do. Instead of just hunkering down and surviving this pandemic, let’s all commit to emerging stronger and wiser than ever. It is my hope that, individually and collectively, we learn to take steps to prioritize our health. It is not selfish or indulgent, it is necessary. Optimal health not only helps us to thrive, but it gives us the power to care for our loved ones, our communities, and the world.

Coming soon — more research-supported supplements for immune health

SIBO – Could it Be the Cause of Your Gut Distress?

Could SIBO bet the cause of your gut distress?

The 5-R Gut Restoration ProgramDo you suffer from gut-related symptoms like bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, reflux and more?  If so, you have plenty of company. And, no, it’s not always IBS. At least not at the root…

Let me explain:
Millions of Americans suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms.  The diagnosis of GERD, gastroparesis, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s, and celiac disease continues to grow each year. In my practice, we seek to get to the root of what may be driving these illnesses. (Sometimes gut issues can often show up in other ways such as rashes, anxiety, joint pain, weight loss, and more). Food, environment, genetics, medication use, stress, and lack of sleep can be part of the problem. However, it is important to determine the state of the digestive tract to know how to provide the best intervention. You could be eating the “perfect” diet but if your gut and body are out of balance, it will not heal until this imbalance is corrected.

Recently, research has revealed there is a digestive disorder that is much more prevalent than previously believed, and it is suspected to be the possible cause of many gut symptoms…especially IBS (1). According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology 30-85% of IBS may be related to SIBO, and researchers suggest physicians give consideration of excluding SIBO before giving a definitive diagnosis of IBS. (2)

The Latest Info on SIBO

AGMD Beacon of Hope Journal: SIBO- Is it causing your IBS or gut-related disorder? by Julie Bender SibbioI recently discussed SIBO and its implications for GI patients in the Summer/Fall edition of the Association of Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders (AGMD) Beacon of Hope Journal.

If you have any of the above symptoms, I’d highly recommend checking out the full article to learn all about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for SIBO (yes, this is treatable, and you don’t have to live with it!).

Listen to Learn More

I also had an in-depth conversation with AMGD on their Hope Podcast about SIBO and gut-related disorders, which I hope may help you find more information about this common, but overlooked issue.

A Brief Overview of SIBO

Pressed for time? Here is a short introduction to SIBO, how it comes about, and what can be done to address it.

What is SIBO & What Causes it?

SIBO stands for “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth” and is a condition in which there is an excessive amount of bacteria in the small intestine. SIBO is associated with a number of conditions including: motility disorders of the intestine (IBS, gastroparesis), dysfunction of intestinal nerves/muscles (related to food poisoning), autoimmune diseases, blind loop syndrome, untreated celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and more.

Normally the muscles in the stomach and the small intestine move food through the intestine in a synchronized fashion.  These series of contractions are called peristalsis.  The migrating motor complex (MMC), a small intestine cleaning wave, occurs only when food is not present, about every 90-120 minutes or when fasting.  If the intestinal motility is altered, such as in IBS, the MMC waves occur less frequently.  These movements help clear bacteria out of the small intestines, so when the action is disrupted, bacteria and food may remain in the small bowel leading to overgrowth of microbes.

There are a number of underlying conditions believed to be associated with SIBO, such as systemic disorders (diabetes, hypothyroidism, immune dysfunction); motility disorders (IBS, gastroparesis); celiac and Crohn’s disease; gastroenteritis from food poisoning; surgical alterations of GI tract; or prior bowel obstruction with scaring.  Also the use of medications, especially proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s), stress, hormonal imbalance, age, and diet can be a factor in why someone may develop SIBO.

Low stomach acid production is one of the main contributing factors to SIBO that I see in my practice.  This is because stomach acid is protective and helps kill any pathogen or bacteria that enters the upper GI region.  Stomach acid is necessary for optimal digestion, especially protein.  Long-term use of acid suppressors such as omeprozole, prevacid, protonix, etc is a risk factor for SIBO and for less-than-optimal gut function.

How to Test for SIBO?

Testing accuracy can be limited, as there is a lack of standardization regarding the normal bowel flora.  However, the best option we currently have is the lactulose or glucose breath test.  The bacteria in the gut will produce either hydrogen or methane gas, and the breath test can detect this, helping to diagnose SIBO.  There is also a third gas that these bacteria can emit called hydrogen sulfide, and testing for this gas is still in the works. Consequently, those individuals that present with this gas will have inaccurate or false negative results.

Treatment for SIBO?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is most often treated with antibiotics. Both prescription drugs, such as Xifaxin, or antimicrobial herbs may be used to treat the bacterial overgrowth.  Treatment regimens will vary depending on the type of SIBO- hydrogen or methane gas predominant.  Elemental diets are another option for treating SIBO.  In my practice working with SIBO clients on a weekly basis, I’ve learned to tailor interventions for the individual case. This will involve key foods, supplements, probiotics, and lifestyle interventions to help kill the bad bugs and repopulate the good bacteria.

SIBO can be very challenging to treat and often individuals may experience a reoccurrence.   That is why is it important to identify the underlying cause and any factors that increase the risk of developing it again such as poor gut motility, nutrient deficiencies, autoimmune dysfunction, stress, medications, and eating habits.

Can Diet Alone Treat SIBO?

No, there is no evidenced-based diet therapy for SIBO treatment or prevention.  Diet alone cannot reverse SIBO… you must work with your MD or provider to find the best treatment plan for you. However, it is important to also realize that just taking the medication is often not enough to clear the bad bugs…and a comprehensive approach and intervention is key to long-term success! So, what you eat is an essential part of the intervention plan to help eradicate SIBO. Often diets like the FODMAP diet or SCD (Specific Carbohdyrate Diet), or GAPS may be used. In my practice, I have had very good success with the SIBO Specific Diet.

What can I do if I think I might have SIBO?

If you think you may have SIBO, talk to your GI doctor to be tested!  It is important to get to the root cause of your symptoms and not suffer.  My practice also offers testing for SIBO if your doctor does not currently make this available to you.  Remember, when treating SIBO it takes a comprehensive approach and often a team to help support you in your healing process.  It is important to give your body time to repair and heal while fighting the bacterial overgrowth and to nourish it well after.

I have worked with many client’s who suffered and are now FREE from SIBO. Check out some of their success stories.  I would love to help you heal from within and find a PEACEFUL Gut!

What are the 5 R’s of Gut Restoration?

The 5-R Gut Restoration Program

The 5-R Gut Restoration Program

A properly functioning digestive system is critical to good health. Research is clear that the primary place inflammation occurs is in the gut.Inflammation can lead to both gut dysfunction as well as systemic inflammation — this may lead to fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, weight gain/loss, headaches, sinus issues, as well as serious medical conditions such as autoimmune disease (such as Irritable Bowel Disease, Crohn’s, MS, Hashimoto’s, Sjogren’s, etc), brain inflammation, allergies, asthma, autism, ADHD, and chronic skin conditions.

In functional nutrition, which views the body as a whole and seeks to uncover root cause solutions, we use a system to restore digestive and whole body health that goes by the simple acronym of the ‘5Rs’: remove, replace, repair, reinoculate, and rebalance. It is the deep association between GI function and ill health that the 5-R Program is intended to address. When applied to various chronic problems, the 5R program can cause a dramatic improvement in symptoms, and often a complete resolution of the health issue.

5-R Program Goal

The goal of the 5-R Program for digestive health is to accomplish the following: 

  1. To identify the timeline of health events that have lead to current health concerns and address nutrition and lifestyle factors through education and appropriate interventions.
  2. To normalize digestion, absorption, and assimilation of nutrients, while promoting effective detoxification.
  3. To normalize the balance of gastrointestinal bacteria and eradicate any pathogens.
  4. To promote diversity within the gut microbiota.
  5. To promote gastrointestinal healing through diet, appropriate supplementation, and lifestyle intervention.

A full 5-R Program takes approximately 6-8 months to complete. It is very important that you are prepared to implement somewhat significant nutrition changes to your diet, add critical supplements, make changes or additions to your lifestyle practices, and perhaps think “outside the box” when it comes to supporting your health.  Without these components, you will be unable to achieve the maximum therapeutic benefit. 

5-R Program Elements

Here is a brief description of the elements of the 5R program for digestive health.

  1. Remove: Remove stressors. Get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract including allergenic foods, parasites or other bad bugs such as bacteria or yeast. This might involve using an allergy “elimination diet” to find out what foods are causing GI symptoms or it may involve taking drugs or herbs to eradicate a particular bug. Stressors may also be emotional, related to environment, trauma, or interpersonal stress and that is why a collaborative approach is encouraged.  
  2. Replace: Replace digestive secretions by adding back things like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids that are required for proper digestion.  These may be compromised by diet, drugs, diseases, aging, or other factors.
  3. Reinoculate: Help beneficial bacteria flourish by taking in probiotic foods or supplements and by consuming the high soluble fiber foods that good bugs like to eat, called “prebiotics.”  Foods rich in prebiotics can be helpful and harmful to the gut, depending on your stage of gut healing. 
  4. Repair: Help the lining of the GI tract repair itself by supplying key nutrients often in short supply in a disease state, such as zinc, antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A, C, and E), fish oil, and the amino acid glutamine.  
  5. Rebalance: Pay attention to lifestyle choices. Sleep, the way you approach and eat food, your emotions, exercise and stress can all affect the GI tract. Also activating your vagus nerve for digestive and optimal health is key!

THE FUNCTIONS OF THE GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT

You have heard it said,  “you are what you eat.”  In Functional Nutrition, we take it a step further in our belief that “you are what you eat, and then absorb, and then what you do or do not detoxify.” The GI tract performs many functions key to your overall health and well-being.

  • DIGESTION– This is the process whereby our food is broken down into smaller portions that are more easily absorbed by the intestines.
  • ABSORPTION– This is the process whereby the digested food is taken up by the intestine and delivered to the body for utilization as energy, nutrition, and other cellular functions.
  • EXCLUSION– This refers to the barrier function performed by the GI tract as it appropriately excludes substances from entering the body.
  • DETOXIFICATION– This is the complex process involving the liver and GI tract whereby toxins are metabolized for elimination from the body. Toxins include such things as medications we take that must be metabolized; the pesticides, preservatives, dyes, and flavor-enhancers we ingest knowingly in our food; and the over 4 million chemicals present in our environment not intended for use in our bodies.
  • ELIMINATION– After digestion has occurred and the metabolic phase of detoxification is complete, the GI tract must then eliminate the digestive and metabolic wastes of these processes. Some refer to this as excretion.

Reclaim a Peaceful Gut with the
6-Month JBS Gut Restoration Program

The 5 R’s are the foundation of my individualized, comprehensive Gut Restoration Program — designed to get to the root causes of your digestive symptoms and chronic illness. This is the process I used to help myself and clients just like you to recover.  In just 6 months you could be free of the pain and dysfunction that have kept you sidelined from life.

7 Attainable NEW YEAR’s Goals That Will Improve Your Health…Mind, Body, and Spirit!

January is almost over…. how are you doing with your New Year’s goals?  I personally stopped setting “resolutions” years ago and now focus on specific goals for each area of my life and/or set a specific word or mantra to help me focus on what I wish to achieve.

New Year’s resolutions/goals don’t need to happen on New Year’s Day, they can happen any day! When you take control of your health and your life, you feel empowered. Choose to feel empowered any day and don’t let the calendar dictate when you establish them… let it be on your time and in your style.

Here are 7 “fast” strategies that you can begin to incorporate into your life to help balance mind, body, and spirit.  The best thing…you can start them any day of the year.  Consider choosing 1-3 that are most important to help you get closer to your Wellness Vision for a spectacular 2018!

  1. Fill your Plate with 75% Non-Starchy Veggies. Yes, this means those with LOTS of color and ideally at least 3 different colors at one time to provide an array of nutrients. Unfortunately, carbs get a bad rap. Carrots and ice cream both fall into the carbs category, but we all know one is healthy and the other isn’t. Ideally, about 75 percent of your carb intake should come from mostly non-starchy veggies with a little addition of fruit. So decide to add as much COLOR and VARIETY as possible this year.  (Both are the “spice of life” :))
  2. Go All-Out with 7 Minutes of Intense Exercise. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves working at the very top end of your capacity for 45 – 60 seconds, then recovering for 3 minutes by walking or a slow jog, then returning to very high intensity for another 45 – 60 seconds. Don’t let the short time fool you! You’ll see significant fitness gains very quickly. You can do it walking, running, biking, jumping rope, dancing, or even swimming. Just focus on getting your intensity up to a 8 or 9 on a 1-to-10 scale during the intense intervals, and then allowing your system to recover as much as possible during the rest cycles. Be prepares to work up a sweat!
  3. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene. Going to sleep and waking at the same time each day creates a rhythm for your body. Only use your bed for sleep or romance. Don’t keep a television in your bedroom! Studies show the artificial, bright light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones like melatonin. (This is a hormone that can also impact your gut!) Consider an hour before bed…turn off your phone, all electronics, and find a relaxation technique (such as a hot bath, reading a book, meditation, etc.) that helps you drift into deep sleep.
  4. Spend 2-Minutes Meditating – Morning and Evening. What a great way to begin and end your day. The effects of chronic high cortisol and other stress hormones on our brains deplete brain power and leave us tired and often overweight. You don’t need 30 minutes of meditation or an hour-long yoga class to lower stress hormones. A 2-minute breathing practice, yoga, or meditation exercise can do wonders for your mind and body.   Here’s a breathing exercise called “Take 5” you can do several times each day. Sit on a chair, or propped up on pillows in your bed, or cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. Close your eyes and your mouth. Breath in slowly through your nose to the count of five. Hold to the count of five and then slowly breathe out to the count of five.
  5. Cultivate a Healthy Community. Friend power, not willpower, is the key to success with your health goals. When you shift focus and prioritize your friends, family, and coworkers, you deepen your connection with them and feel more fulfilled. Sometimes those connections might feel uncomfortable, but they’re worth it. Social media has its place, but most of us spend far more time there than we do interacting in real life, which new research shows it impacts our health and happiness. Instead, be sure to spend an intentional 5 minutes a day connecting with a loved one.
  6. Use a Gratitude Journal. There is great research that gratitude can transform your life by helping to develop greater positivity and happiness. A little reflection on your life and what you are most grateful for each day can help set your day (and perspective) up for success.  One of my favorite little finds this year that I have been using is the 5-Minute Gratitude Journal.  I love that it asks the questions and you journal your reflections both in the morning and the evening…all in 5 minutes tops!
  7. Capture Your “Mantra or Word” for the Year. What is it that you want to improve, achieve, give back, and/or strive toward in the New Year…how can you put that into one word to help you refocus and connect with your priorities for the year? Spend some time reflecting on what is most important to you. For example: “Balance”, “Authenticity”, “Fitness”, “Family” – could help you stay grounded and focused.   

Incorporate these fast, effective strategies and watch your life improve!

  Your resolutions and goals can happen any day.

Get started today  🙂

Could Hypochlorydria be at the Root of Your Digestive Problem?

Does this sound like you?

  • You get the dreaded belly bloat with cramps, pain, and feel like food is sitting in your gut after eating.
  • After eating a healthy normal sized meal you feel exhausted,  hungry, or anxious.
  • You have peeling nails, low iron or B12 levels, acne, or chronic fatigue.
  • Soon after eating you have heartburn or belch repeatedly.

If so, you may be experiencing hypochlorhydria (or low stomach acid).

  This very common condition is widely misunderstood. Hypochlorydria, (Hypo =  low; chlorydria = hydrochloric acid (or HCl)), refers to low stomach acid production. The stomach is highly acidic – with an optimal pH of 1.5-3 – which would burn you to touch it.  This acid is essential to activate a little enzyme called pepsin that begins to break down food.  Without an acidic environment it becomes difficult to  begin the process of digesting protein, thus impacting effective absorption of key nutrients from food.

Why Acid Is Important

Acid in the gut is the body’s first line of defense to kill any bacteria, virus, or harmful substance that enters the body through the mouth!  The secretion of HCL is an essential part of the digestive process and protects the body from all the many pathogens that we come in contact with on a daily basis.

Perhaps you are thinking…. what about all the people (perhaps including you) that take antacids and proton-pump inhibitors (acid blockers)?  It seems as if the general public all suffer from heartburn or reflux these days…and the media overrun by advertisements suggesting we need these pills for relief of our symptoms.

It may be hard to believe, but it is all too common that those with “ heartburn like symptoms” are actually experiencing LOW stomach acid… not too much!  I see this in my practice on a regular basis.  Originally antacids and PPI’s (proton-pump inhibitors) were only prescribed for short term use if a patient was found to have a stomach ulcer or gastritis.  Next to statin (cholesterol lowering drugs) anacids are the the most over – prescribed medication in our country.

How to Test?

Testing for stomach acid is done through something called a Heidelberg test which is rarely done, but a great option to determine the balance of acid essential for your gut.

 Keep In Mind:   If you have ANY kind of digestive dysfunction, it is important to rule out hypochlorhydria.  And if you are taking PPI’s or antacids, consider discussing with your MD about weaning down on the dose and eventually eliminate them unless you have gastritis or an ulcer.  This could hold you back from healing your gut and absorbing key nutrients and could be one of the root causes behind many digestive issues such as chronic GERD/reflux, IBS, SIBO, parasites, food sensitivities, and more.

 10 Signs that You May Have Hypochlorydria:

  1. You feel like you are unable to digest meat and/or have lost your taste for it. Most often I find that clients who are hypochlorhydric don’t enjoy meat or protein sources since they can’t digest it well!  With a little HCL support, they regain the ability to digest protein
  2. Your fingernails chip, peel, or break easily.  If you’re fingernails chip, peel, or break easily, it’s typically a clear sign of deficiencies in protein, minerals, and often also essential fatty acids. By now you’re well aware that deficiencies in protein and minerals are often due, in part, to low stomach acid production.
  3. You have anemia that doesn’t respond to iron supplementation.  Iron deficient anemia is so often a gut issue since it is typically an absorption issue.  This is a very specific example of a mineral deficiency that is exacerbated by low stomach acid. Sufficient HCL is needed for iron absorption and iron regulation. This may help you understand why it is so critical to have optimal digestion in order to absorb nutrients from food and supplements.
  4. You eat (or ate) a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Vegetarians eat very little animal protein; vegans eat none. Therefore, the body slows down production of HCL accordingly and is one of the core reasons that a vegetarian diet can be challenging for digestion.  Vegans are often challenged to absorb minerals from their food, properly triggering the production of pancreatic enzymes.  In addition, the secretion of HCL triggers release of intrinsic factor, essential to the absorption of vitamin B12.
  5. You experience belching or gas about an hour after a meal.  One of stomach acid’s important roles is to trigger the opening of the pyloric valve, the little valve that connects the stomach to the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). That little valve is very smart, and it knows not to open until the contents of the stomach are at the proper state of digestion. This includes a sufficiently acidic stomach environment. If the pyloric valve is waiting for a level of stomach acidity that isn’t achievable due to low acid production, the contents of the stomach start to ferment. Fermentation creates gas. Whether it goes up or down depends on your constitution, but it will be released one way or the other.
  6. You get heartburn.  Contrary to popular opinion, acid reflux isn’t always too much stomach acid…it may be just in the wrong place. Your esophagus has a pH of about 7, which is very neutral. Your stomach a pH of 1.5-3, very acidic.  The stomach secretes mucous to protect its lining but the esophagus has no such protective coating. If you’re not secreting enough acid, the pyloric valve doesn’t open, and the contents of your stomach start to ferment.  The gas it creates can build up and cause belching which may open the esophageal valve – the valve that connects the esophagus to the stomach – to allow the gas to travel up. Sometimes, along with the gas, a little bit of stomach juices may also come up into the esophagus. The delicate lining of the esophagus is not equipped to handle such acidity…and you experience “heartburn”.
  7. You have really bad breath even though you brush your teeth.  Ruling out poor dental hygiene, it makes perfect sense that bad breathwould be the result of digestive dysfunction. If you’re not digesting the food in your stomach properly, it’s going to create toxic byproducts, which can quickly overload our body’s detoxification abilities. Let’s face it, we live in a very toxic world and our detoxification functions are significantly overworked. Our liver has enough to do without dealing with the by-products of a poor digestive system. Have bad breath even with excellent oral hygiene?… hypochlorhydria may be the root of the problem.  (Check out my 10-day detox program – great to do 1-2x/year to support the liver and gut!)
  8. You’re not hungry for breakfast.  I see this scenario often!  Do you find yourself eating a really large dinner, late in the evening, and then don’t feel hungry for breakfast? You may not be hungry because it’s likely dinner is still processing and digesting upon waking in the morning due to low acid.
  9. You get sleepy after meals.  Becoming sleepy after meals can mean a number of things: blood sugar dysregulation, poor sleep, improper macronutrient balance, or inadequate digestion. It takes a lot of energy to digest, so if digestion is not optimal it will put more responsibility on other body systems.  Feeling energized after eating is normal if good digestion is occurring.
  10.  You have undigested food in your stools.  HCL triggers the release of pancreatic enzymes that help to finish the breakdown of food once it gets into the small intestine. If not enough enzymes are secreted, you won’t finish breaking down your food and will see undigested food in your stool.

If you suspect you have hypochlorydria,  minor tweaks are often all that’s needed to boost HCL levels naturally. For others, more targeted support is required. You should only supplement HCL under the supervision of a health practitioner, and should never do so if you have an ulcer, gastritis, or take prescription antacids.

Action steps you can take at home:

  • Drink a small glass of room temperature water with ½- 1 Tbsp raw organic apple cider vinegar before meals. This stimulates the digestive process and encourages your stomach to secrete stomach acid. (note: if doing this produces a burning sensation in your gut, stop…this is not for you.)
  • Try taking Swedish Bitters before meals, just like your great grandma did. This works along the same lines as the apple cider vinegar – the bitter taste stimulates the digestive process.
  • Eat sitting down, slowly, in a relaxed state. Digestion involves your parasympathetic nervous system connected to your gut, meaning that it only happens when you’re in a relaxed state. If you’re under stress, your digestion is compromised. Digestion actually begins in our brains!
  • Give yourself some time to digest and take a light walk, don’t rush right into the next activity. It’s no coincidence that many cultures (with the exception of the US) enjoy relaxation after a meal. You don’t need a whole afternoon siesta, but a nice 10-15-minute stroll after lunch would be a nice gift to your gut.
  • Eat your last meal of the day at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed. This gives your body time to digest before lying down.

It is important to remember that each of us are unique.  It is all too easy to pin our symptoms on just one thing…like low stomach acid or a food sensitivity.  Often it may be more complex, and that is why I am here to help you address hypochlorhydria in a way that is best for you …or partner with you to get to the ‘root cause’ of your struggle so you can thrive in life  🙂 . 

Gut Dysbiosis – What It Is and What You Can Do About It!

The words, gut microbiome and dysbiosis, are practically household terms as research and information about the gut grows.  Just the other day I overheard two women in a local coffee shop discussing tips on how to “get their gut balanced”.  Despite increasing information there is also much confusion and oversimplification…the gut is complex!  To help you stay well-informed let’s define – gut dysbiosis – and how it may apply to you.

Within your gastrointestinal tract lies trillions of microbes – bacteria, fungi, viruses, even parasites.  This unique collection of microbes is known as your microflora…or your “inner garden”.  As with most gardens, the climate, temperature, and soil all impact its well-being.  The garden can easily shift out of balance compromising the health of the crop…not to mention becoming overrun with weeds if not well cared for.  You can think of this as dysbiosis…an imbalance and/or an overgrowth of the weeds or “bad stuff”.

Three Ways Dysbiosis Can Impact Your Gut

  1. The most basic imbalance is too many unhealthy microbes in the gut. An overabundance of “bad” inflammatory bacteria, too much yeast (such as candida albicans), or an unwelcomed virus or parasite lead to dysbiosis. To treat this type of dysbiosis, medications, broad-spectrum anti-microbial herbs, lifestyle and dietary changes such as including fiber-rich foods, probiotics, and supplements are very effective. The key is identifying and appropriately correcting the imbalance with the correct intervention!
  2. Poor diversity or not enough microbes can be the culprit. It may not be as common as an overgrowth but lack of or under-abundance of bacteria…even the good…can be problematic! An under-abundance may indicate that the lining of the gut where the microflora lives may be compromised and needs repair. Improvement may be achieved with appropriate probiotics, prebiotics, gut lining supportive supplements (like glutamine), and healthy bacteria-friendly foods.
  3. Your bacteria settle in the wrong place. Microbes live all along the lining of your gastrointestinal tract…from mouth to anus. It is important they live and thrive where they belong… which is primarily in the large intestines (or colon).  When they begin to overpopulate and take up residence in places where they don’t belong, such as the mouth or small intestines, that is when they begin to create problems. One of the most common disturbances is SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).  SIBO occurs when the gastrointestinal microbiome has shifted and the growing and thriving bacteria migrate from the colon to the small intestines. Antibiotics, herbs, diet, lifestyle changes, and even ensuring optimal thyroid and hormonal balance are important for correcting this imbalance…and avoiding reoccurrence.

How does dysbiosis happen?

There are many different reasons why we harbor the microbes we do…and often, your “story” related to your life and health history can be valuable in understanding how or why the gut has been impacted. Birth history, childhood, food choices, antibiotics, medications (prescription and over the counter), life circumstances, stress, environmental toxins, and food poisoning…all can impact our microbiome.

Could YOU have dysbiosis?

Digestive struggle of any kind suggests an imbalance or dysbiosis of the microbes in the gut. If you have stomach upset after eating, indigestion, GERD (reflux), heartburn, slow digestion, or bloating, it is important to address dysbiosis.  If you have bowel problems, like excessive gas, lower belly pains, constipation, or diarrhea – then dysbiosis is the prime suspect.

Dysbiosis can be the “root cause” of seemingly unrelated disorders

I work with gut dysbiosis daily in my practice.  Many of my clients are surprised when I suggest dybiosis as a possible underlying cause when they are not complaining of problems they associate with their gut.   As research grows, it is obvious how much the gut is involved with overall health and its influence on our body systems and disease process.   Dysbiosis may be silent gut-wise, while still causing trouble in other areas of your body.  That is why universally I am typically recommending a probiotic that fits the client’s unique needs as we begin to work on diet and lifestyle habits to promote a diverse, healthy, and a PEACEFUL gut.

Here are a few examples that could be linked to dysbiosis:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Autoimmune disease/disorder.
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Neurological and psychiatric disease
  • Eczema, weight loss, and chronic fatigue
  • Weight loss resistance

Basically, any inflammatory process can be traced back to the gut.  To get to the root cause quickly, additional testing is often needed and valuable:  Stool, breath, and urine testing – all of which can provide a snapshot of your personal microbiome. Results and information from testing offer a better “road map” on how to effectively address the dysbiosis with a highly personalized nutrition and lifestyle plan.

What to do if you suspect you have dysbiosis:

  • Talk to your doctor for a referral to a good gastroenterologist who is willing to work with you.  Also find a nutrition expert who is knowledgeable in gut health to partner with.
  • If you suspect SIBO…ask to be tested by your MD with a specific 3 hr. lactulose breath test.  (Did you know that it is estimated that 60-80% of IBS suffers have SIBO!) 
  • Take the FREE JBS Gut Assessment to see how healthy YOUR gut is.
  • Check out my 6-month Gut Restoration Program  which utilizing specific advanced testing to help get to the root cause by providing a roadmap toward restoring the gut to good health. A blood test is used to evaluate the gut barrier and stool culture to determine potential pathogens and balance of microbiome.  In addition, a highly specialized, tailored, and progressive approach is taken which involves evidenced based protocols and guidelines as well as regular visits to keep you on track toward optimal health.

Take good care of your ‘Inner Garden’ so you can enjoy good health – the ultimate fruit of your labor!

Your Partner for a Peaceful Gut!  🙂

Julie

ps.  Want to take a deep dive to learn more about your gut?

Check out my recorded  Webinar: The Gut: The Gateway to Good Health

for Free until January 1st!

Is a Food Sensitivity Making You Miserable? Find out how one client reclaimed her health AND love for cooking!

Food Sensitivities

Do you struggle with gut issues, acne, psoriasis, brain fog, or migraines?

 Have you been told you have leaky gut or IBS?

Food sensitivity testing may be something you should consider!  Helping clients get to the ROOT cause of their symptoms and health struggle is my passion.  This is just one test that I often use to get to the core of the issue…literally!

As you may know, the gut is truly the “gateway to good health”.  This is because approximately 80% of the immune system is in the gut… which is the largest area of contact with the environment.  When the integrity of our gut begins to break down due to poor health, nutritional imbalances, stress, illness, etc., the lining of our gut can become compromised.  When this happens it may activate the inflammatory response in your body in response to certain foods.  The purpose of the testing is to show which foods and/or environmental triggers are creating a chronic inflammatory response.

Acute inflammation is critical and helpful short-term for the defense of infection or injury.  However, with a food sensitivity… the immune system perceives food in the same way it perceived something that is harmful which results in chronic inflammation. By unknowingly eating foods on a regular basis that your body is reacting to, you set off this immune response. The body is reeved up- ready for a fight!  It is chronically activated, never giving the body a break. When this occurs white blood cells can release harmful chemicals and generate damaging free radicals (inflammatory agents) as they encounter  foods and chemicals that they are perceiving as “foreign invaders”.

It is often impossible to determine what food is causing a reaction, since reactions that work on the innate immune system can be delayed for several hours, even as much as a few days.  For example, you may have bloating, irritability, rash, or fatigue in the afternoon but may be reacting to something you ate at breakfast or for dinner the night before!

Food Sensitivity vs. Allergy

An allergy is a reaction that triggers the release of antibodies that results in immediate symptom onset. A true food allergy causes an immune response that can affect multiple organs and in some cases be severe or even life threatening. For example, if you have a shellfish allergy, you will know immediately after you eat shellfish!  Food sensitivity symptoms are delayed and are typically limited to digestive problems, but they can lead to chronic inflammatory health issues as well.


What Company Is Best for Food Sensitivity Testing?

In my practice I use what I consider one of the most accurate and well respected tests available today.  The Alcat Test is provided by Cell Sciences Systems Limited, Corporation,  a licensed  and  FDA complaint laboratory. The Alcat Test is the only test of its kind to have been awarded 3 patents.

The Alcat Test is an immunobiological blood test to analyze the inflammatory response of white blood cells to foods and environmental factors.  The test uses pure whole food organic extracts and all test substances are manufactured in a strictly controlled production process.  The facility is a registered FDA medical device manufacturer and ISO 13485 certified.

Clinical assessments of the Alcat Test used to guide dietary modification have shown significant improvement in many common symptoms.  The efficacy of the Alcat Test has been documented in more than 30 studies implementing rigorous double blind and often placebo controlled study designs.

References found: www.cellsciencesystems.com and I included some study referenced below!


The Alcat Test is designed to assess sensitivities to over 450 food, chemical and environmental substances. These sensitivities are shown to be associated with both acute and chronic conditions.

Chronic activation of the immune system has been linked to:

  •       IBS/ Bloating / Ulcerative Colitis/ Constipation/ Crohn’s Disease
  •       Fatigue/ Brain Fog
  •       Weight Gain
  •       Migraine/Tension headaches
  •       Eczema/ Psoriasis
  •       Arthritis/Rheumatoid Arthritis
  •       Anxiety/Restlessness
  •       Cognitive Impairment
  •       Attention Deficit Disorders
  •       Fibromyalgia/Joint and Muscle Pain
  •       Allergies
  •       And more……

By identifying your particular list of “trigger” foods and avoiding them for 3-6 months can help heal the gut and reduce and/or elminate symptoms.  One of the biggest misconceptions is that ALL food sensitivities have to be avoided forever!  This is NOT the case, nor is this healthy in may cases.  The key is to rest the gut and calm the chronic inflammation response.   This test can provide clarity and freedom to help you know precisely which foods are friendly or unfriendly to your body.  Together we take steps to be creative and find delicious meals and snacks to enjoy… while avoiding these foods for a time.  At the same time we are always working on healing the gut in our efforts to help you reclaim your health and achieve optimal wellness!.


JUST A FEW STUDIES….

Investigators Berardi L, De Amici M, Castello C, Torre, Giunta, Legoratto, and Vignini studied 48 patients who participated in an elimination diet based on Alcat Test results. They found that the Alcat Test-based diet improved symptoms in 71% of patients. In particular, symptom improvements were most evident in patients with higher symptom scores, dietary changes and everyday conditions. Presented at 30th Congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Cellular Responses to Food in Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

Investigators Fell PJ, Soulsby S, and Brostoff J conducted a double blind, placebo controlled study on 20 patients which demonstrated that an Alcat Test based elimination diet dramatically improved symptoms of IBS and had a statistically significant correlation between an Alcat score and symptom provocation. Published in Journal of Nutritional Medicine, Volume 2, Number 2, 1991.

For MORE details on the ALCAT Testing – click HERE

Be sure to watch the Video and take a “Tour” through the Lab!


Inspiration…..meet Donna!

NO DOUBT…  it can be overwhelming when you find out you not only have more than one food allergy, but also food sensitivities and intolerances!  Such was the case for one of my clients.  Donna was one of those lovely southern women who always wore a beautiful smile, was ready with a hug, always looked put together, and just embraced LIFE.  However, sitting in my office many years ago, her world was flipped upside down.  Despite the cherry smile, tears took over as she admitted that she had a “love affair” with cooking and eating and felt her life would never be the same.  We worked through meal planning, how to modify recipes, and strategies for eating out.  I only saw Donna a couple times and I always wondered if she had found improvement and full recovery.  (Looking back, I certainly wish I could have delivered the expertise and the more individualized care that I now offer at my own practice!)

Guess what…. Donna reappeared in my life with a friendly phone call not long ago.   I immediately recognized the voice!  She had been looking for me (since I had gone into private practice after we met) and wanted to drop something off!  Well, I found out Donna not only reclaimed amazing health… but also reclaimed her LOVE AFFAIR with cooking…and wrote her own cookbook!  Four years of culinary creations in her kitchen and she released “LICIOUS” – Floribbean Recipes for those with Multiple Food Allergies that Just Love Delicious Food .

This is one women who when….

 “Life handed her Lemons ….so she made Lemon Quinoa!”  

(yes she did! – page 28 of her cookbook and it is delicious!)

For more about Donna, her story…and cook book.  Click HERE


 

Think Food Sensitivity and/or Environmental Testing may be Right for YOU?

Contact me today and let’s find out if this may help YOU get to the root of your health struggle!

Cheers to Your Health!

Julie

ps. I also offer many diverse testing options based on your unique situation and case.

A full listing will be available soon once the new website goes LIVE in July!  

 

Are You Taking Care Of Your Gut Microbiome?

The ‘gut microbiome’ is a hot topic of conversation these days.  But do you really know what it is and important steps you can take to care for it?   The health of your gut goes much deeper than merely popping a probiotic.   Let’s give you a little insight to take back to your circles of influence who are buzzing on the topic!

Did you know right now you are harboring within you an entire ecosystem?! There are literally trillions of bacteria in the digestive tract. They make up what is called the microflora, because under a microscope they look like little (micro) flowers (flora). We refer to it collectively as our microbiome which play an unbelievable role in synthesizing vitamins, producing natural antibiotics and degrading and eliminating toxins.  You are truly made up of MORE bacteria than human cells!

Recent science (that is ever evolving) has taught us that the microbiome also dictates aspects of who we are – our personalities, our susceptibility to certain diseases, our mood, and even the size of our waistband. Most people are oblivious to it, paying no attention to it at all….until it begins to let us know it is hurting!

It is not just the stomach, intestines, or colon that make up the microbiome.  It is the entire tube (GI tract) that runs through us which is 30 feet long has an opening on each end…the mouth to the anus. If we were to stretch this out it would equal the side of a telephone pole! The GI tract (or internal tube) maintains at 98.6 degrees and is a very moist environment, making it the perfect breeding ground for microbes – both good and bad bugs.

Outside, external influences often upset the balance…this unbalance is called dysbiosis. How we choose to control the external influences determines the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria.  It is up to us – we must care for them and understand what can influence them. It is crucial to good health and requires more than a probiotic…which can help or harm your unique microflora depending on the situation.

Factors That Affect the Microbiome:

Food we eat, medications, stress, anxiety, genetics, time spent outdoors, exposure to animals, toxin and chemical exposure, antibiotic use throughout our lives, how we were born — C-section or vaginally — whether we were breast-fed, how much we sleep, and more…impact the microbiome.

For most of us, our guts are a mess…whether we know it or not. An unbalanced gut doesn’t always show up in symptoms of the gut…it can influence development of other illnesses (check out the connection to thyroid), show up in symptoms of the skin, sinuses, weight issues, fatigue, and much more.  Our current culture has created a microbiome that looks very different from what nature intended for each of us. So how do we intentionally nourish our gut?

Increase These Foods to Support your Microbiome :

  1. Eat organic, non-GMO....when possible support and buy from your local organic farmers.   These foods are low in pesticides and have not been genetically modified which can alter your flora and damage your intestinal lining, causing leaky gut.
  2. Mindfully select a rainbow of colorful vegetables and some fruit every day. They will provide fermentable fibers that feed our healthy flora.   Aim for at least 1 or more cups with each meal and 3 or more colors per meal!
  3. Include coconut products like coconut oil, milk, yogurt and kefir. Coconut is filled with medium chain triglycerides which feed the cells lining our intestines and has yeast-killing properties.  New to coconut oil?  Coat your pan before cooking your eggs or check out my Cauliflower Sweet Potato Mash recipe!
  4. Incorporate Ghee, which is clarified butter…and dairy free. Ghee is filled with butyrate, a critically-important fatty acid for the care and feeding of cells in our colon.
  5. Include healthy anti-inflammatory oils and fats.  Such as fish, flax, avocado, grapeseed, and olive oil. Look for cold-first pressed organic non GMO oils.  For more on choosing quality oils see my blog post.  Also include raw nut butters like almond and cashew as well as raw nuts…see my blog on nuts.
  6. Choose grass-fed, pasture-raised, or free-range organic animals when possible. This will limit the hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides that we are expose our microbes to when eating animals raised in typical feed lots. Also, the meat from grass fed animals have higher quality, anti-inflammatory fats than corn fed animals.

Additional Considerations:

In addition to food, supplements may be needed to support the gut such as digestive enzymes, natural motility agents,  pre and probiotics, zinc carnosine, glutamine, magnesium, HCL and betaine…especially those with low stomach acid.  Each person is different and has unique and specific needs.  You should never start supplements without guidance from a qualified practitioner who can help you use food to work synergistically and ensure there is no contraindication with your medicine or health issues when taking supplements or herbals.

Testing may also be important to consider…whether it be traditional labs, stool cultures, food  and environmental sensitivity testing, to help determine root cause to an imbalanced microbiome and provide a roadmap for recovery!

It is Equally Important to Remove These Foods:

  1. Processed food high in sugar, white flour, baked goods, food dyes and preservatives. These foods and chemicals promote the growth of the wrong kind of bacteria in our gut.  This includes fruit juices, dried fruit, and all added sugar or artificial sweeteners except stevia.
  2. Gluten, dairy, soy, corn (and for some eggs and peanuts). These foods are the most common triggers for reflux, constipation and abdominal discomfort, as well as other non-gut related symptoms.
  3. Foods high in histamines. Shellfish, processed or smoked meats and sausages, wine. Many people are affected by histamine intolerance caused by the body’s inability to break down histamine in the gut causing crazy allergy reactions. Reactions to histamines can look like allergic reactions, including nasal congestion as well as headaches, dizziness and digestive discomfort.

Since 70-80% of your immune system is in the gut, this makes taking care of the microbiome essential to good health.

Are you struggling with IBS, gastroparesis, GERD, SIBO, chronic constipation, skin issues, sinus troubles, autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s or Ulcerative Colitis?  Then it is time to take action to optimize your microbiome and immune function!

“Everyone has a doctor in him or her: we just have to help it in its work.  The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well” -Hippocrates

I would love to partner with you on your  journey to heal your gut and care for your microbiome!

Julie

 

Go NUTS- the BEST to choose and why!

Top nuts

Pop as a snack, toss in a salad, swirl into a smoothie, whip to make a cream sauce, or spread on a a cracker….whatever you do, go NUTS!  

Nuts are a trendy staple in most diets.  Clearly the message is out….nuts are good for us!  A frequent question among clients is…which are BEST?  Let me be clear, we are not talking about the nuts covered in chocolate, sugar, and salt, but instead raw or soaked :).  All nuts do have benefits due to fiber, magnesium, and healthy fats, however, some do have a little advantage.  Most of us should be mindful to enjoy a variety of nuts and seeds in order to capitalize on the health benefits and versatility.   If you haven’t joined the nut craze…it is time to go NUTS!  (ps. If you can’t tolerate whole nuts, ALL can be made into “nut butter”!) 

Top Nuts To Include For Ultimate Benefits!

Here is my basic ranking of nuts if I had to put them in order.  One thing to consider… avoid eating only one type of nut (like almonds), or you will miss out on the essential nutrients and balance the other nuts provide.  Branch out and explore a variety of options for your daily intake.  Let your creativity shine!

  1. Walnuts: In folk medicine, walnuts were thought to be the best brain food because of their distinctively brain-like appearance. They are an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). One of the few plant sources of omega 3’s to help keep our ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 stay in check.  Both 3’s and 6’s are important but we want more of the Omega 3’s!  Walnuts are rich in antioxidants, a very good source of manganese, copper, molybdenum, and the B vitamin biotin. Toss in oatmeal, roast them with a bit of sea salt and maple syrup.  If you don’t like the taste whirl into your smoothie. Check out my favorite nut mix below.
  2. Pistachios:   You may be surprised by pick #2. Aside from being a great source of protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats…pistachios are excellent if you are prone to stress eating. Shelling them gives your hands something to do which can have a very soothing, calming effect on the mind—and the appetite! Also, you can enjoy the greatest amount of nuts per serving (about 49 nuts) with pistachios than any other nut.  Check out these amazingly fun and delicious pistachio recipes!
  3. Brazil nuts:  Often these are the unsung hero of the nut bowl since Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, a mineral rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  This nut contains more selenium than any other food in a small amount. It is important for reproductive health, thyroid function, and has been shown to improve mood, and decrease anxiety. Brazil nuts are commonly eaten raw or blanched and are also high in protein, fiber, thiamine, copper and magnesium. Two a day is like a superfood supplement, but you can overdo it!  So let this nut complement the nut bowl, not overshadow it!  Keep in mind that the amount of selenium in Brazil nuts differs greatly depending where they are grown.
  4. Cashews: Particularly rich in copper and magnesium.  Copper plays a role in iron utilization in the body and magnesium is important for regulating muscle and nerve function, along with blood sugar control.  They are also super versatile and are able to be used as a cheese (for those that can’t tolerate dairy), cream sauce, milk, and so much more.  Cashews offer people trying to kick dairy a delicious alternative.  Think outside the box and check out this delicious Cashew Garlic and Herb Cheese!
  5. Almonds:  Most clients expect me to name this as the top nut since it seems we have gone almond crazed these days between almond butter, almond milk, almond creamer, almond flour, almond tea….do I need to go on?  Some of us may need a break from this nut.  However, it has wonderful qualities besides taste…almonds contain vitamin E which assists in achieving healthy, glowy skin, improves immune function, and protects the body from oxidative damage. Almonds also contain magnesium, calcium, and folate.  Like most nuts, they are also high in monounsaturated fat which reduces inflammation and lowers risk of heart disease. Try them raw or roasted, processed into a nut butter, pulsed into a flour, or rough chopped and tossed in a salad.
  6. Pecans: I find it interesting how few client eat pecans and perceive them as unhealthy.  Perhaps it it because we associate pecans with pie and ice-cream;)!  However, this nut contains about 19 different vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants!  The monounsaturated fats in pecans may help improve your cholesterol profile, and they actually contain three times the flavonoids (a type of antioxidants) of almonds and 10 times that of walnuts! Toast and toss in a green salad or quinoa salad.  Check out these recipes for a twist on some of your favorites!

If you are stuck on only eating almonds or walnuts….GO NUTS and get out there and explore the vast world of nuts.  Be sure to chew well to get all the health benefits.  Nuts may be hard to digest and full of insoluble fiber…so if YOU don’t break them down yourself (chew, chew,chew) , they will go through you partially digested and you will not get the full benefit of nutrients to absorb!

Remember…it is not what you EAT but what you ABSORB!

Leave a comment and let me know YOUR best way to include nuts….

….share a recipe or best “nutty secret”.

Here is my favorite snack to get my anti-inflammatory, fiber and magnesium punch for the day!

Till next time!  Julie


Julie’s Favorite Snack Mix:

  •  Mix together 1/4 cup raw almonds, 1/4 cup walnuts, 1/4 pumpkin seeds + 1/3 cup goji berries.  Mix together in bowl and toss into mini mason jars for a snack on the go!  

(Add in’s: raisins, dark chocolate chips, sesame seeds, cereal, or whatever you love)