TURN YOUR FAVOURITE TEA INTO A FAT BOMB

Heard of intermittent fasting?  It’s one of the latest dietary trends that has some good research to support it. There are some great benefits to intermittent fasting including balancing of blood sugars (1), decrease cardiovascular risk (2), and improved brain health (3)… and it can be an easier way to reap these benefits, than a more restricted diet such as ketogenic diet or calorie counting.  Turning your favorite teas into a Fat Bomb, can be a great way to support intermittent fasting.

The goal with intermittent fasting is to extend your nightly fast.  As you sleep your body uses up glucose stores in your body, and by the time you wake up your body is starting to metabolize fat stores.  Your body will use the fat on your body, and convert it to ketones, which are an alternative fuel source for your cells.  The goal is to keep using energy from your own fat cells, which is one of the reasons this approach is so great for weight loss.  By waking up, and continuing to fast (not eat), you encourage the continual burning of stored fat into ketones as a source of energy for your body.  As it happens, your brain cells really like ketones too, so even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, intermittent fasting will do a great job of fueling your brain, and it’s a great way to support neurological health.

 Here’s my favourite Herbal Chai Fat Bomb, straight out of the blender.

Here’s my favourite Herbal Chai Fat Bomb, straight out of the blender.

One of the favorite drinks amongst intermittent fasters is Bulletproof coffee.  This drink was popularized by Dave Asprey, who has created the Bulletproof brand.  Many people refer to the blend of ingredients in this coffee as Bulletproof coffee, even if they aren’t using the Bulletproof brand.  The formula is pretty simple.  Good quality brewed coffee + MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil + grass-fed butter.  You put your hot coffee into a blender with the oil and butter, and blend on high speed to emulsify the ingredients into a creamy beverage.  This beverage is consumed in the morning as breakfast. The MCT oil rapidly converts to ketones in the liver, which supports the body’s continuation of using ketones to fuel your cells.  Typically people will try to fast for 14-16 hours (or longer), and not eat a meal until mid-morning, noon, or even later.  Bulletproof coffee can help sustain your energy until your first meal of the day. Typically intermittent fasting is done in conjunction with a low carb diet such as a Paleo or gut-healthy diet that removes grains and legumes.

But what if you are on a dietary protocol that doesn’t recommend coffee, such as an AIP diet, GAPS diet or other protocol focusing on gut health.  While coffee is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, it can be problematic for many people.  For a detailed look at the complexity of coffee’s affects on the body read Sarah Ballantyne’s recent blog article Coffee and Autoimmune Disease.  If you don’t know how coffee is impacting your health condition, it is always a good idea to remove it for a period of time.

The good news is that tea can be the perfect replacement, or if you are like me and dislike coffee, then tea can provide a morning beverage to support your intermittent fasting.

Tips Before Starting

You’ll need to make a strong tea. I recommend using 3 times the amount of tea you usually use, otherwise the flavour of the tea will get lost when you add your choice of fat.

If you are new to this type of drink, then make sure you start with a small amount of the fats, and slowly work your way up. If you get diarrhea, or start to experience stomach upset, then you have more fat than your system can handle. Use the amount that works for you. You may find that later you are able to tolerate greater amounts of fat, but you need to listen to what your body can handle now. Remember: start small and slowly build up (trust me on this!)

If you have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy, you may be able to use grass-fed ghee instead of butter, but you know your body best. If you know you react, then don’t use dairy fat.

Initially you may only be able to extend your fasting period for an hour or two, but as you slowly increase your fat intake, and your body gets used to using ketones as a fuel source, you’ll be able to go for longer periods of time without a solid meal.

You cannot add any kind of sugar, including honey to your drink. If you do, then your body will preferentially start using the glucose, and it won’t continue using ketones. If you need a bit of sweetness for your Tea Fat Bomb then try mixing in a bit of monk fruit.

3 Ways to Create Tasty Tea Fat Bombs

1.    Follow the same formula as a Bulletproof coffee.  Start by adding 1 teaspoon each of MCT oil, and grass-fed butter or ghee to your strong tea and remember to blend at high speed to emulsify those fats into a creamy drink. You can gradually build up the amount of oil and butter to 1 tablespoon each, but doing so too quickly can cause diarrhea, so it’s important to start slowly and gradually build up the amount (I can’t emphasis this point enough!)

2.    Blend full-fat coconut milk or coconut oil into your tea.  Coconut milk and coconut oil are rich sources of MCTs.  Try a spoonful of coconut oil blended into your favorite tea, or try blending in some full-fat coconut milk.  If you like the milk, look for a brand that is carrageenan free (I like Natural Value, which is available at health food stores.)  As with the previous formula, slowly build up the fat content to avoid diarrhea. 1/3 cup of full-fat coconut milk is roughly the equivalent of 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil. Start small! You can also add the grass-fed butter or ghee to this if you want.

3.    If you tolerate dairy, and know you don’t have a food sensitivity toward it (word of caution – many people have a hidden sensitivity), then you can add heavy cream or whipping cream.  The nice thing about this option is that it doesn’t require blending, but the fats in dairy also won’t convert to ketones as easily as MCT oil, so you may not get the rapid energy that you need to support your fasting.

Best Teas

Black teas are good choices if you have troubles stopping caffeine consumption.  Since black teas are traditionally consumed with milk or cream, this can be a comforting, familiar beverage.  Try an Earl Gray, English Breakfast, or other traditional flavour. There is evidence that caffeine supports the production of ketones (4), so you might find black tea works well for you with intermittent fasting.

Chai teas are also excellent choices, and there are a wide variety of these teas.  Some include black tea, but there are herbal varieties as well for those trying to avoid caffeine.

Rooibos teas can also be great options depending on the flavours.  Try a plain rooibos, or something like a vanilla or Earl Grey rooibos.

If you love herbal teas, there are some great possibilities.  One of my favorite tea shops in Calgary is The Naked Leaf.  I love the Herbal Chai, and am excited to try creating a Fat Bomb with their new Powerhouse Tea, which has some medicinal mushrooms.

Have you tried turning your favourite hot drink into a Fat Bomb? Try this with your favourite tea, and let me know how it works out for you.

Happy, Healthy Drinking!
Tracey

 

3 DIETARY MYTHS BUSTED

MYTH #1 -  I SHOULD EAT A LOT OF FIBRE!
There is a lot of truth to this statement, but not everyone should be eating a lot of fibre.  The benefits of fibre are well documented and include pooping regularly, feeding your gut microbiome, and helping to clear debris and toxins out of your digestive tract.  But fibre can be very irritating to a damaged gut, especially insoluble fibre like that found in bran, whole grains, flax seed and legumes.

There are people who should actually be aiming for a low fibre diet.  If you struggle with frequent diarrhea, then you should be eating a low fibre diet.  Some conditions that can involve diarrhea include Celiac disease, diarrhea-dominant IBS, diarrhea-dominant SIBO, Crohn's, or colitis.  Other reasons might include the removal of your gallbladder, a parasitic infection, lactose intolerance, or colon cancer.

If you have ongoing problems with diarrhea, then it is important that you visit your healthcare practitioner to dig into the root cause.

A dietary approach to address diarrhea includes eating low fibre foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and a lot of meat stock or bone broth.  Fermented dairy or coconut products like yogurt and kefir are also good choices.  Low fibre vegetables include squash, carrots, beets, and turnips.  You can make other vegetables like broccoli, lower in fibre by removing fibrous stems. 

Once diarrhea subsides, then you can slowly add fibre back into your diet, and reap all of its benefits!

MYTH #2 - RAW FOODS ARE BEST!
Raw foods can be great, because they contain a lot of enzymes that can facilitate metabolic processes in the body.  Nutrients can be hard to extract from raw foods though, especially when your gut health is compromised.  You need optimal digestive function for the nutrients to be extracted from foods, and you need a healthy gut lining to absorb those nutrients.

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Leaky gut has been correlated to numerous chronic health conditions such as autoimmune conditions and systemic inflammation (Source), as well as many neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease (Source).  When your gut is leaky, then the function of your intestinal cells becomes compromised, altering their ability to digest and absorb nutrients.  Given that leaky gut is correlated to many chronic health conditions, it becomes important to consume foods in an easily digestible format, and cooked foods allow for easier digestibility.

Cooking vegetables can break down cell walls making it easier for your body to extract many nutrients.  While some nutritional value is lost during cooking, it is important to consider the state of digestive function overall.  When digestive function is compromised, such as when leaky gut is present, then cooking foods ensures that nutrients can be extracted from foods.

Raw foods that are still easy to digest include soaked or sprouted nuts and seeds, fermented vegetables, and fermented raw dairy.

Once a leaky gut is repaired, and digestive function is optimal, then slowly adding raw vegetables and fruit back into your diet will allow you to benefit from all those great enzymes!

MYTH #3 - A VEGAN DIET IS THE HEALTHIEST DIET!
A vegan or vegetarian diet is a great way to detoxify your body, and to bring down inflammation.  It can work well for some people, but not if you are dealing with a microbial imbalance in your gut, or if you have leaky gut.

Vegan diets rely on a combination of grains with legumes, nuts or seeds to meet protein requirements.  The problem with grains and legumes is that they are also high in carbohydrates that will feed pathogenic species in your gut microbiome, and can perpetuate dysbiosis (an imbalanced microbiome).  In my clinical practice, I have seen the vast majority of my clients having IgG food sensitivity reactions to a variety of grains, which indicates that the proteins in them aren't being digested properly and are leaking through the gut barrier (leaky gut).  

Additionally, phytates in grains (Source) and legumes (Source) bind to minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium making them unavailable for absorption, so a vegan diet will not optimize mineral intake into your body.  Soaking, sprouting or fermentation will make minerals more available, but you will still be left with the high carbohydrate content.

You can still have a plant-strong diet that is low in carbohydrates, and that includes animal proteins.  Think plant-strong instead of plant-based.  If you are vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons, but suffer from chronic health conditions, then it might be time to switch to an ethically sourced plant-strong diet without grains and legumes.

MYTHS BUSTED
I hope that you are starting to recognize that some of our commonly held ideas about food don't apply to everyone, and may not be right for you.  Availability of nutrients is largely dependent on a food's matrix, which is a combination of a food's nutrients, and non-nutrients, along with their molecular relationship to one another (such as the way phytates bind to minerals). This is a growing area of study, and is helping us to bust common food myths.  It's important that you eat in a way that supports your health and that is customized to what is going on in your body, especially your digestive function and gut health.

Happy Healthy (and customized) Eating!
Tracey

 

 

BEER FOR YOUR GUT AND BRAIN???

Is beer your perfect drink?  Ever wondered if it could be part of a gut-healthy lifestyle?  Or what about for your brain health?  The effects of alcohol on the microbiome and the brain are well recognized to be detrimental, but here are some reasons to drink beer to support them both.    

BRAINY REASONS TO DRINK BEER

Beer is made from barley, hops, water and yeast.  The hops used to make beer contain a protective polyphenol called xanthohumol, which has been shown to be neuroprotective (Source). 

Beer is rich in B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, B6 and B12.  B vitamins are important to brain health in several ways.  Deficiencies in B vitamins can lead to high homocysteine levels, which are associated with cognitive decline, so ensuring adequate intake is important to maintain a healthy brain.  Additionally, B vitamins are involved in brain function, and in the development of the brain, nerves, and myelin sheath (the protective sheath on nerves).

 HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY

GUTSY REASONS TO DRINK BEER

Beer is a fermented beverage, which typically means it has probiotics.  The problem with commercial beers is that they have been pasteurized, which destroys any living probiotics.  Probiotics need to be living for us to confer their health benefits.  If you make your own beer, or have access to craft beer, then the luck of St. Patty is with you, and you’ll be getting those beneficial organisms.  These beers are sometimes referred to as “bottle-conditioned” or “non pasteurized”.  Probiotic organisms interact with the brain through the microbiota-gut-brain axis, so eating foods rich in probiotics can have a beneficial impact not just on your gut, but on your brain health too.

Some of Calgary’s unpasteurized, live beers include The Dandy Brewing Company, Big Rock,  and High Line Brewing.

Last year a research team at the National University of Singapore, created a probiotic beer using a strain of probiotic that regulates the human immune system, so keep your eyes open for it to appear on the consumer market.  

Another good option is a gluten-free beer.  Gluten-free beers can include rice, millet, or buckwheat instead of barley and wheat. Gluten causes the protein zonulin to be produced in the intestine, which directly causes leaky gut.  Once the intestines become leaky, then a cascade of events happens that have an effect on the blood-brain barrier and neurological health.  In the same way that consuming probiotics can help the brain, gluten can have a negative impact through the same gut-brain axis.

The number of gluten-free beers is growing as more and more people recognize that gluten is a problem for them, whether it’s celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

So, if you know you'll be indulging in beer this St. Patrick's Day, then enjoy an unpasteurized or gluten-free beer!  And remember to drink responsibly. Regular beer consumption remains questionable for gut and brain health, but we all need to indulge in things we enjoy sometimes, so hopefully this article will help you make better gut and brain beer choices.

Do you have a favourite unpasteurized or gluten-free beer?  If you find a beer that is both, let me know.  If beer isn't your thing, then toast St. Patty's with a glass of kombucha instead!  It can be a great beer replacement.

Happy, Healthy Drinking!
Tracey

Further Reading:  to find out more about gluten and conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s read Is Gluten Killing Your Brain 

 

 

 

 

BECAUSE YOUR BRAIN MATTERS: THE 9 POINT BRAIN PLASTICITY CHECKLIST

You know your brain is important, but do you know how to take care of it?

There are some simple steps you can take to ensure your brain stays healthy and to make sure your brain plasticity isn’t compromised.

WHAT IS BRAIN PLASTICITY?

Plasticity is defined as changes in neural (brain) pathways and synapses due to changes in the environment, which allows for changes in mental and motor function to occur.  A simple definition of plasticity is that it is the brain's ability to change itself.  Whether you know it or not, you want good plasticity, and there is a lot you can do to support it.

WHY YOUR BRAIN MATTERS?

If you want to develop a new skill, prevent mental decline as you age, or keep learning throughout your life, then you want a plastic brain.  Learning requires brain plasticity.

Brain plasticity has far reaching implications.  There are a growing number of fascinating therapies that utilize brain plasticity.  These therapies challenge the brain in areas where there are weaknesses, such as with learning disorders, or developmental delays.  There are therapies to help stroke victims regain the function lost in the damaged area of the brain such as movement, vision or speech.  People with Alzheimer’s can gain lost cognitive function using specialized computer games.  Plasticity is being utilized increasingly in neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis where movement may be compromised, and there are even applications for regaining movement after a spinal cord injury. 

If you want to find out more about some of the therapies that can help your brain regain lost or missing skills, then I would highly recommend Norman Doidge’s books The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.

WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW!

Here’s a 9 point checklist you can use to make sure your brain has everything it needs to be primed for learning or to get the most out of rehab therapies.

1.  Vitamin D:  Make sure your vitamin D levels are good.  Ask your doctor to do a blood test to check your levels.  Supplement if your levels are low.  Get plenty of sunshine too – when the sunshine hits your skin, your body makes vitamin D.

2.  Omega 3:  Like vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids are an important nutrient for brain plasticity.  Eat wild, cold-water fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines regularly, or supplement with a fish oil.  My favorite is cod liver oil, because it contains vitamin D as well.

3.  Biomarkers:  Go to your doctor and request blood tests for homocysteine, fasting insulin and CRP (c-reactive protein).  If these aren’t in the normal range it could be affecting your brain.  Diet, exercise and supplementation can help improve these biomarkers.

4.  Hormones:  Hormonal balance is important to brain health, so while you are getting other biomarkers tested, you might as well ask your doc for a full hormone panel that includes estradiol and testosterone. There are different ways to bring your hormones back into balance.  If you have eliminated toxins, are eating organic food, managing your stress and exercising (see below) and your hormones are still out of balance you can talk to your doctor or naturopathic doctor about options.

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5.  Exercise:  Do whatever you enjoy to get yourself moving.  Exercise promotes BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which is a necessary protein in the body that stimulates brain growth, and is necessary to support plasticity.

6.  Sleep: Most people don’t get adequate sleep. If you don’t wake up feeling refreshed then it could be a sign that you are getting too little sleep or your sleep is interrupted.  Your brain takes a “bath” when you are asleep to clear out metabolic debris and detox itself.

7.  Stress:  Finding ways to reduce or manage stress can be challenging for many people, but it is extremely important.  Ask yourself if you have enough time to do the things you love, spend time with the people who make you happy or to just be lazy.  If not, then it’s time to simplify life or start implementing some strategies to manage stress such as restorative exercise such as yoga, deep breathing or whatever works to calm you.  Sometimes counseling or additional support may be needed.

8.  Toxins:  Your brain is very susceptible to toxins, so take a look at some of the toxins you expose yourself to daily and try to reduce them.  Start with your body care products (shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant etc) and look for a natural ingredient list free of chemicals.  Do the same thing for your household cleaners and laundry products.  Health food stores are great places to find natural body care and cleaning products.  Is the air you are breathing clean?  If not get an air filter.  Is the food you eat clean or is it sprayed with chemical pesticides and herbicides?  Start eating more organically grown foods.

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9.  Good nutrition:  Eating to support your brain goes a little deeper than just healthy eating.  If your biomarkers showed problems with homocysteine, blood sugar levels or inflammation, then diet can be customized to help bring test results back into a healthy range.  Eating to support plasticity also involves getting the nutrients the brain needs, as well as providing the building blocks for nerves and neurotransmitter production.  Eating to feed your gut microbiome is also important.  The organisms that live in your gut communicate a lot of information to your brain via the microbiota-gut-brain axis.

Wondering how your brain is doing?  Visit  Food For the Brain  and do their Cognitive Function Test.  Whether your score isn't as high as you'd like, or you just want to do everything you can to keep your brain at its best, then follow these 9 points.
Start by scheduling a doctor's appointment to get biomarkers tested, including vitamin D and hormones.  Then decide what your next step will be.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

I HAVE THE GENETIC MARKER FOR ALZHEIMER'S! HERE'S WHY I'M NOT WORRIED.

Ever wonder if you are going to get a dreaded disease that you have a family history of?  That was the case for me with Parkinson's disease.  My grandfather had Parkinson's, and sometimes I wondered if I had the same genetic markers that predisposed my grandpa to getting the disease. About a month ago I got an email from 23andme letting me know that they were going to be changing their website, and that if I wanted access to locked genetic information, I would have to access it before those changes came.  The locked information included genetic markers for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and breast cancer.  I had previously decided to keep that information locked, because I know that diet, exercise and stress management are key factors involved in gene expression.  As a nutritional consultant I'm pretty confident that my diet is good, I exercise regularly, and while my life can be pretty stressful, I do have regular practices that I use to manage it.  

I changed my mind though when I realized I would lose access to that information.  I gave a huge sigh of relief when I found out that I don't have any of the known Parkinson's markers, but was surprised to find that I have the APOE 4 gene.  APOE 4 carriers are prone to high LDL cholesterol and Alzheimer's.  The reason the E4 variation is associated with higher risk for high LDL is because the Apolipoprotein E (the protein produced by the gene) binds with VLDL, which reduces the clearance of LDL from the blood, resulting in higher blood levels of LDL.  Ideally you want low LDL, so having a genetic variation that predisposes you to higher LDL increases your risk for certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease.  The connection between APOE 4 and Alzheimer's is not well understood at this time.

WHY I'M NOT WORRIED

1. Known risk factors:
There are many known risk factors for Alzheimer's including family history, having the APOE 4 gene, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, stroke, depression, smoking and traumatic brain injury (Source).  
Besides the genetic marker, I have no other risk factors for Alzheimer's.  A good reason not to worry.

2.  A healthy gut microbiome:
Research into the area of the microbiota-gut-brain axis has exploded in recent years, and includes the effects of the microbiome on Alzheimer's (Source).  Since my area of specialization as a nutritional consultant is teaching people how to eat to support a healthy microbiome, I feel pretty confident that I'm addressing my microbiome.  I eat a Paleo, gut-healthy diet that includes animal proteins, lots of vegetables, some fruit, healthy fats like fats from grass-fed animals, coconut oil and olive oil, as well as some nuts and seeds, and fermented foods.  

3.  Occasional ketosis as prevention:
A 2008 study showed that glucose transport across the blood brain barrier is impaired in an Alzheimer's brain (Source).  When brain cells are deprived of glucose they need another fuel source, which can be obtained from ketone bodies.  There are different ways for the brain to get ketones.  One is to eat a very low carbohydrate, moderate protein, high fat diet (also known as a ketogenic diet), which will cause your body to shift from glucose metabolism to fat metabolism.  When you metabolize fat, you start producing ketones, which are a great fuel for brain cells.  The other way is to supplement with medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which rapidly get metabolized into ketones. A double blind, placebo controlled study has shown that MCT supplementation improves memory in Alzheimer's patients (Source).  It's important to note that no dietary changes were made in the study, but that the changes happened with supplementation alone.

A ketogenic diet that is high in saturated fat could be problematic for someone like me who has the APOE 4 gene variation.  I never recommend a diet low in fats, but at the same time I don't necessarily want to eat a high fat diet if I can't metabolize fats well. I decided on a modified ketogenic diet with MCT supplementation.  Right now I'm eating a very low-carbohydrate diet, moderate protein, moderate fat with the addition of MCT oil supplementation daily.

My long-term plan is to go back to a Paleo, gut-healthy diet, with occasional periods of ketosis.  Some of those periods might look like the one I'm in right now that uses a modified ketogenic diet, but some of those periods might be a 3-4 day fast, which also induces ketosis.

Have you considered a preventative approach to your brain health?  Have you reversed symptoms of a neurological condition using diet?  What has worked for you? Or what hasn't?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey


 

FAT BOMB LATTES - A GREAT WAY TO START THE DAY

As I write this, I'm about a week into a ketogenic diet (I'll explain why in next week's blog).  I'm doing a modified or low-ketogenic version of the diet, because it allows me to keep the nutrient density high in terms of micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.  Historically a ketogenic diet has been used to manage epilepsy, but now studies are revealing a significant reduction in symptoms of Alzheimer's (on a modified ketogenic diet), and David Perlmutter recently discussed promising new research showing a reduction in Parkinson's symptoms (watch here).  The use of a ketogenic diet or a modified version of the diet has significant implications for neurological conditions.

Here's a brief outline of what my meals look like:

Water with electrolytes:  I drink a huge glass of warm water with some added electrolytes when I wake up.  The added electrolytes help me transition into a ketogenic diet without common side effects.  I also drink this between meals.  I like to use ConcenTrace, a liquid ionic mineral supplement.  I won't always need to add electrolytes - it's just to help get my body through the transition of using glucose, to using ketones as my primary fuel source.

Fat Bomb Latte:  I drink a large Fat Bomb Latte an hour or two after waking. (see recipe below)

Lunch:  A combination of 3 cups of vegetables like leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts...) or other low-carb vegetables, like celery, cucumber, asparagus, or zucchini.  Grass-fed animal protein like a chicken drumstick, a hamburger patty, a couple of eggs or any other meat (I love liver, so often have it at lunch).  Then I add a few tablespoons of fat that include MCT or coconut oil.  My current favourite is asparagus (which is seasonal right now) drenched in grass-fed butter.

Dinner:  Very similar to lunch except that I have a carb-up, which means that I have a small serving of a carb-rich vegetable like beets, carrots or winter squash, or some berries.  These foods provide a small amount of carbs, but also allow me to get a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that might otherwise be lacking in a ketogenic diet.  An evening carb-up can also help mitigate some of the side effects that some people experience on a ketogenic diet, and many people find they sleep better with the addition of a carb-up.

MCT Oil:  Since I am doing a modified or low-ketogenic diet I make sure to include some medium-chain triglyceride oil (MCT oil) with each meal.  MCTs are able to enhance ketone production.  MCT oil is easily absorbed and doesn't require bile or pancreatic enzymes, so anyone suffering from digestive issues or compromised digestion can still absorb MCTs.  Once absorbed, these fatty acids easily cross into cell mitochondria where they are metabolized and form ketones.  The best food sources of ketones are coconut and palm oils.  Grass-fed butter also has some MCTs but lower amounts than the coconut and palm oils.  You can also purchase a supplemental version of MCT oil, which is what I use in my Fat Bomb Lattes.

The two main meals above don't look that different from a gut-healthy, Paleo diet except that they are higher in fat.  The main difference is that I've replaced breakfast with a Fat Bomb Latte.  It's possible to skip breakfast completely, so that you have a longer fasting period (through the night and later into the day), but I like to spread my fat consumption out a bit, and it's nice to start the morning with a hot, comforting drink.  If you are familiar with Dave Asprey's Bulletproof coffee (coffee with grass-fed butter and MCT oil), then these lattes are a bit like that.

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SPICED FAT BOMB LATTE

I love cacao butter, because it provides a rich creaminess that has the flavour of white chocolate, so this latte recipe uses cacao butter.  

2 cups almond or coconut milk
2-3 tbsp raw cacao butter (approximate)
1 tbsp MCT oil
2 teaspoons Spice Blend such as Smooth-y-Golden Milk Spice Blend or Sweet Delight Spice Blend
1 scoop of collagen powder (about 1 1/2 tbsp)
1-2 teaspoons of monk fruit (low-carb sweetener)

Put the almond or coconut milk, raw cacao butter and spice blend into a small saucepan and heat until the cacao butter has melted.  Pour the mixture into a high-speed blender and add the remaining ingredients.  Blend on high speed until the mixture is frothy.  Pour into a large mug and enjoy.  The monk fruit is optional, but I find adding it helps bring the flavour of the spices out.

What is your favourite fat bomb drink?
Add cacao butter, and MCT or coconut oil to your shopping list.  Buy or make your own Spice Blend.  Start experimenting, and then let me know if you come up with a good recipe.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

HEALTHY FOODS HIGH IN HEAVY METALS

Do you try to eat the best you can?  Maybe you add a green supplement or a rice protein powder to your smoothie in the morning?  You want the best for you body, so you try to fill it with the healthiest choices you can!

What if I told you that some of those choices might not be as good as you think.

Just last week I was talking to the Calgary Gut Health = Good Health Support Group members about heavy metals, some of the sources of these metals and the health implications of these metals on the human body.  Heavy metals include things like lead, mercury, aluminum and cadmium.  The accumulation of these metals in the body can be a contributing factor to autoimmune conditions, neurological conditions, thyroid problems, kidney problems, as well as many other health conditions.  Common sources include things like silver mercury amalgam dental fillings, consumption of predatory fish like tuna or shark, vaccinations, antiperspirant use and wearing makeup.  There are a variety of industrial sources of exposure as well, such as mining and pulp and paper.

I was recently surprised to learn that there are many food sources that I had previously not known about, so I am excited to be able to share them now.

Food Forensics

Food Forensics is a book written by Mike Adams, "The Health Ranger" and founder of NaturalNews.com.  In this well-researched book, he looks at ingredients that are used in our food supply that are harmful to our health, as well as chemical contamination and heavy metal contamination.  While I was familiar with many of the additives and chemicals that are used in processed and packaged foods, I was surprised at the extent of heavy metal toxicity present in commonly eaten foods

Here is a brief summary of some of the heavy metals and the food sources they are especially high in:

Arsenic:  apple juice, rice, poultry and swine

Mercury:  high-fructose corn syrup

Lead:  chlorella from China, calcium supplements, pet treats made in China, chopped clams, sea vegetable superfoods, cacao superfoods, organic rice protein, cooking spices, fish treats for cats, sunflower seeds

Aluminum:  seaweed superfood granules, gingko supplements, a popular children's multivitamin, calcium supplements, baking powder

Copper:  children's multivitamin, line of "raw" multivitamins, popular mineral supplement

Steps to Take

1.  If you drink apple juice, then buy juice that is locally grown and produced.  Don't be fooled by the "made in Canada" label.  Many of the apples are imported from China.

2.  Replace items that use high-fructose corn syrup with items using natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.  High-fructose corn syrup is bad for your health for so many reasons, so this is just one more to add to the list.

3.  Replace "green" blends with fresh greens.  Add  spinach, kale, shoots or your favourite leafy greens to smoothies.  If you use chlorella then choose from outside China.  I like Giddy Yoyo's chlorella, which is sourced from Taiwan, and Mike Adams produces Clean Chlorella, which is grown in a controlled environment.

4.  Research where your supplements are sourced from.  Talk to staff in health food and supplement stores, or contact a company directly and ask what country the ingredients come from.  

5.  Replace rice protein powder with an alternative protein.  My favourite is hydrolyzed collagen such as Vital Proteins or Bulletproof.

6.  Buy an aluminum free baking powder.  These can be found in health food stores.

7.  Make your own pet treats, or visit a local farmer's market for treats, so you know exactly what is going into your pet.

8.  Buy as much locally grown and raised food as you can and prepare meals yourself.  Take a couple of hours on a weekend to do some batch cooking to last you through the week.  Casseroles, stews and soups are great things to make in large batches to get you through the week.

As a general rule, ingredients imported from China, India or Thailand tend to have much higher risk of heavy metal contamination that foods grown in North America, Europe, New Zealand or many South American countries.

For a much more detailed look at all the foods that are contaminated, and the health implications of specific heavy metal toxicity read Food Forensics by Mike Adams.  It's an easy read.

Were you as surprised as I was about the heavy metal contamination of certain foods?
What is the first change you will make?

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

COULD A PAST HEAD INJURY BE THE ROOT CAUSE OF CONSTIPATION?

Are you struggling to figure out why you are still constipated?  Maybe you've tried every approach known to man and nothing has worked.  You exercise, eat well, and your docs have examined your insides for possible reasons, and you still suffer from constipation.

I spend a lot of time talking about the gut-brain axis, and how poor gut health contributes to brain dysfunction.  Recently I was listening to a talk about SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and was reminded, that the gut-brain axis is bi-directional.  The brain has a huge role in the health of the gut as well.

Traumatic brain injury is known to negatively affect intestinal function.  Shortly after the onset of brain injury, intestinal permeability is increased (Source). Dr. Kharrazian is a well known functional neurologist who published an article outlining the complex pathways that traumatic brain injury has on the gut.  A summarized article can be found in his newsletter (Source).  He breaks down the various routes that show how traumatic brain injury affect not just intestinal permeability, but overall gut health and function.

Have you Had a Head Injury?

Were you ever hit on the head?  Had a concussion?  Car accident?  Played an impact sport?  Anything that could have caused your brain to have contact with the inside of your skull could result in traumatic brain injury, so even if your head didn't directly impact anything, it's still possible that your brain was injured through impact inside your skull.

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, and you have ruled out things like low thyroid function, dysbiosis, poor diet, lack of exercise or intestinal strictures, then past head injury may provide the answer you are looking for when it comes to your constipation.

If communication has become impaired from the brain to the gut, then the end result can be constipation and other digestive problems.  In these situations, reestablishing the brain-gut communication is an important step to relieve constipation, and to reset regular gut motility.

Resetting Brain-Gut Communication

 Try singing loudly several times a day!

Try singing loudly several times a day!

In his book Why Isn't My Brain Working?, Dr. Kharrazian outlines gargling and singing techniques that help to stimulate the vagus nerve to reset brain-gut communication.  These are simple and have no cost associated with them, so are worth a try.  These techniques work by directly stimulating the vagus nerve.

Another option are prokinetics.  Prokinetics are substances that enhance gut motility by increasing the frequency of contractions or by making them stronger.  Natural prokinetics work by stimulating the enteric nervous system and the brain stem, and include ginger root, L-acetyl-carnitine and 5-HTP, and there are supplements on the market that include a combination of these such as Pure Encapsulations Motilpro.

Have you suffered a head injury and are constipated?
Maybe it's time to start singing in the shower!

Happy, Healthy Singing!

Tracey

COFFEE ENEMAS FOR CONSTIPATION

Do you have to add bran, flax seed, psyllium or take a supplement to help you poop?  Do you have to strain to initiate a bowel movement?  Do you have less than one bowel movement a day?  If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are amongst the many people who suffer from constipation.  Many people don't think too much about their regularity unless it gets to the stage where it becomes uncomfortable to pass stool or unless hemorrhoids develop from straining.

Constipation and Neurological Conditions

Constipation needs to be taken seriously!  Did you know that constipation occurs in people with Parkinson's before the Parkinson's symptoms show up.  It is an early indication that communication between the gut and the brain is compromised.  It is not uncommon for children with autism to only have one bowel movement per week.  Poor bowel function is associated with a number of other neurological conditions as well including Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Constipation is both a sign and a complication of neurological conditions.  Changes in the gut are one of the root causes of neurological conditions, and once neurological symptoms appear communication between the brain and the gut can become impaired which further complicates the issue.

Constipation and Autoimmune Conditions

Constipation is also associated with autoimmune conditions.  As with neurological conditions, a change in gut health is one of the root causes of autoimmunity.  In autoimmune conditions the body is attacking its own tissue, and there are many conditions in which the gut tissue is under attack.  The most well known are celiac, Crohn's and colitis, but there are many other autoimmune conditions that are systemic and can affect the whole body such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. So similarly to neurological conditions, a cycle can occur where poor gut health contributes to autoimmunity, and then the autoimmune response in the body further worsens the gut condition.

Enemas

Enemas are a fast way to resolve constipation, and they have been used for thousands of years.  Doing an enema involves purchasing an enema kit from a pharmacy.  A kit will have a bag or bucket with a hose and nozzle attached to it.  The nozzle needs to have a tap.  The bag or bucket gets filled with a solution, the nozzle gets inserted into the rectum, and the tap is opened to allow the contents to fill the colon.  Once the contents are in the colon, the tap is closed, the nozzle removed and the individual sits on a toilet to evacuate the contents.  This is a simplified description, so if you decide to do this yourself, make sure to get detailed instructions from a qualified practitioner.  

According to Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of The Gut and Psychology Syndrome, enemas are completely safe if done correctly, and are useful for relieving constipation, reducing the toxic load in the body, healing hemorrhoids and for removing fecal compactions from the colon.

Coffee Enemas

Coffee enemas are done with coffee as the solution that fills the colon.  They are used extensively in the Gerson Protocol, which is a cancer treatment program, as well as for people seeking pain relief or relief from constipation.  Coffee enemas can be particularly useful in restoring normal bowel function.  According to Datis Kharraziac, DHSc, DC, MS, author of Why Isn't My Brain Working?, "distending the intestines with an enema activates the vagus.  The caffeine stimulates intestinal motility by acting on the cholinergic receptors."  He also states that "...enemas help develop positive plastic change in their vagal system pathways."  In layman's terms this means that coffee enemas can help you overcome chronic constipation by changing the signals your intestines receive from your brain.  Once your brain begins communicating normal bowel motility again, then changes start to occur towards more frequent bowel movements.

 This is one example of an enema kit.  They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The bag or bucket style is appropriate for adult use only.  Coffee enemas should not be performed on children.

This is one example of an enema kit.  They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The bag or bucket style is appropriate for adult use only.  Coffee enemas should not be performed on children.

If you or someone you know suffers from constipation that hasn't been resolved through conventional approaches, then coffee enemas may offer a solution.  If neurological or autoimmune conditions are present, then performing enemas under medical supervision is advisable.  Discuss your wishes with your MD or ND to find out if there is any reason you shouldn't try coffee enemas.

Thinking this might be an option for you or a loved one?  Talk to your doctor.

Have you ever tried any kind of enema?  What were your results?

Happy, Healthy Pooping!

Tracey

 

 

 

CREATINE - A BRAIN BUILDING SUPPLEMENT

Did you know that creatine can help your brain? Creatine is best known as a body building supplement, but taking this amino acid can also have huge implications for brain health.  Creatine is used in the body for energy production, and the highest concentrations are found in muscles and the brain.  Since it is highest in the muscles, it makes sense that body builders use creatine to support recovery from intense exercise and to build muscle mass.  It can be an important supplement for many brain conditions too.

Research has been done looking at creatine supplementation for a wide variety of neurological conditions, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy.  Much of the research has been done on mouse models, but one practitioner who translated those mouse model dosages to human doses is Terry Wahls, MD.  Dr Wahls is best known for The Wahls Protocol, which she developed to reverse her multiple sclerosis.  In the initial stages of experimenting on herself, she started taking creatine along with other supplements including carnitine and CoQ10.  It is important to note, she did this under medical supervision.  As her protocol evolved she moved towards food sources of these nutrients.  Two of the best sources of these nutrients are liver and heart.

Who Should Consider Creatine Supplementation?

Food sources will always be better utilized by the body, so if you have any kind of neurological condition then consider adding liver or heart to your diet.  Pasture-raised versions of these can be found at health food stores, or you can talk to local farmers about sources.  Don't like liver or heart?  I hide them in meat loaf at a ratio of 3 parts ground meat to 1 part ground liver or heart.  You can also put the liver into a blender and liquify it and mix it into soups.

In acute stages of a disease, or where muscle wasting or muscle function is a concern, therapeutic supplementation might also be beneficial.  If you absolutely can't stomach the idea of consuming organ meats, then supplementation can offer an alternative.

If you think creatine supplementation might be of benefit to you then consult your doctor.  If you have any kidney problems, then this supplement may not be appropriate for you.  Any type of therapeutic supplementation should be medically supervised, whether it's with your GP or an ND.

Creatine Deficiency

Our bodies produce creatine from other amino acids, but there are genetic conditions that hinder the body's ability to use creatine.  These conditions are called cerebral creatine deficiency syndromes, and there are several different conditions that fall under this category: guanidinoacetate methyltranferase (GAMT) deficiency, and l-arginine:glycine amidinotransferase (AGAT) deficiency, and creatine transporter (CRTR) deficiency.

Who Do These Conditions Affect?

Since these disorders are genetic, a diagnosis can be made at any age, but males tend to be affected more due to the fact that it is an x-linked disorder.  These disorders primarily affect the brain including mild to severe cognitive impairment, and speech delays.  People with diagnosis such as autism, ADHD or developmental coordination disorder may have a creatine deficiency syndrome.  Other symptoms can include seizures, slow growth, and delayed motor skills.  A small number of individuals will also have microcephaly,  and/or unusual heart rhythms.

What Do I Do If I Suspect A Creatine Deficiency Syndrome?

If your child or loved one has the symptoms above then it might be worth exploring a creatine deficiency syndrome.  Talk to your doctor to see if it has already been ruled out, and if not, then a urine test can be done to measure creatine levels.  If levels are high, then it means that the body hasn't been able to use the creatine, and is excreting it instead.  If urine tests come back high, then the next step will likely be genetic testing.  Once a creatine deficiency syndrome is confirmed, then a supplement protocol will be suggested.  Supplementation may or may not be beneficial for individuals with these diagnosis, and it is not yet understood why some people benefit and others don't.

Creatine as a Brain Building Supplement

If you suffer from a neurological condition, then getting more creatine into your body is an important dietary step.  Adding liver and/or heart to your meals might just be what your brain craves.  Or talk to your doc about supplementing.

If a creatine deficiency syndrome is present, then testing might provide you with some answers to why symptoms are occurring. 

Start adding liver or heart to your diet today.  A homemade liver pate is hard to resist.  http://paleoleap.com/simple-and-delicious-liver-pate-recipes/

Have you ever supplemented with creatine?  What was your experience?

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

 

 

THE PARKINSON'S-GUT CONNECTION

I watched my grandfather suffer from Parkinson’s disease.  It was difficult to watch.  Before he died, my grandfather was a shell of his previous self.  The man everyone knew and loved had disappeared long before death took him.  His last years were spent in a wheel chair, and he was completely dependent on caregivers to feed, bathe and dress him. 

Parkinson’s is a neurological condition that primarily affects the motor system.  By the time people are diagnosed they are usually experiencing tremors or shaking, problems with balance, slow movements and rigidity that can impair their ability to move.  Less noticeable symptoms include constipation (the bowels have troubles moving too!), trouble swallowing, sleep problems, depression and dementia.   These symptoms result from reduced activity of dopamine-secreting cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain.

Traditional treatment options include pharmaceuticals and deep brain stimulation.  Drugs such as L-DOPA (levodopa) are commonly used, along with COMP inhibitors, but some people experience side effects from these.  For people who don’t tolerate drugs, deep brain stimulation is an option, where neurostimulators are implanted in the brain.  These stimulators send electrical signals to parts of the brain to help regulate motor function.  Implanting these devices requires surgery.  Brain surgery comes with risks as well.

Our understanding of Parkinson’s is starting to shift.  In neurology, the focus is always on the brain, but now our understanding of Parkinson’s is moving into the field of gastroenterology.  Recent research is showing us that the microbiome in people with Parkinson’s disease is different than that of healthy controls (Source).  The microbiome refers to the trillions of organisms that live in our guts.  As the progression of the disease has become better understood, the role of the gut and the organisms that live in it is being recognized.  It is now theorized that the disease may have its beginnings in the gut.  It’s speculated that organisms in the gut are either directly involved in the creation of Lewy bodies, or that inflammation generated by an unhealthy microbiome has a role in the creation of Lewy bodies.  Lewy bodies are thought to play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease, and there is growing evidence that the disease spreads from the gut to the brain (Source). 

This is exciting news from a nutritional perspective, because we know how to eat to support a healthy microbiome.  It just so happens, that the best way to eat to bring your microbiome back to health, is the same way to eat to best nourish the brain.  Restoring the gut microbiome helps to manage symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. 

Regardless of your Parkinson’s treatment(s), dietary change is an important addition.

Unfortunately for my grandfather, he died before any of this information was known.  I wish I had been able to help him.  To honor his memory, my goal now is to help others suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Diet can also be used preventatively for those with a family history.

You can help me with that goal, by letting others know that a change in diet can make a difference.

Do you have a family member who suffers from Parkinson's?  Are you worried it might be in your future?

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

 

 

THE MS-GUT CONNECTION

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is debilitating.  The symptoms look like you’ve taken multiple diseases and thrown them all together into one awful mix.  Common symptoms include pain, pins and needles, and muscle cramping in any part of the body.  The pain can be constant and intense.  Frequently bowel and bladder problems exist, which are problematic and can lead to embarrassing situations.  Muscle weakness can cause breathing problems and extreme fatigue.  I could go on, but I won’t.  If you have MS then you are well aware of what you are dealing with.

All of this happens because myelin is destroyed.  Myelin is the fatty sheath that protects nerve fibers.  MS is a neurological autoimmune disease.  In autoimmunity the immune system attacks body tissue, and in the case of MS the immune system is attacking part of the central nervous system (that’s the neurological part).

Thanks to the work of Alessio Fasano MD, our understanding of autoimmunity has changed.  If autoimmunity were a mathematical equation here’s what it used to look like:

genetic susceptibility + environmental trigger = autoimmunity

With new insights we now know it looks like this:

genetic susceptibility + environmental trigger + poor gut health = autoimmunity

We now know that there are conditions in our guts that have to be present for an autoimmune reaction to occur.  There are in fact two aspects that I like to think of as two sides of the same coin.  The first of these is dysbiosis and the second is intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut). 

1.  Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the species of organisms that live in our digestive tracts.  These organisms are often referred to as the gut microbiome.

In fact, research has identified a depletion of species from Clostridia clusters XIVa and IV, as well as a reduction in Bacteriodetes (Source).

Clostridium perfringens type B may also play a role in multiple sclerosis, but research is still in the early stages. (Source

2.  Intestinal permeability means that substances that would normally only be present in your gut are able to leak out of the gut.  The wall of the small intestine has a barrier that is only 1 cell thick.  These cells are normally connected to each other to create the barrier, but when those connections break down, then substances can go between the cells and leak out.  The leaking of these substances initiates the immune processes that are part of an autoimmune condition.

GOOD NEWS!  We can change the gut health part of the equation.  A gut healthy diet involves eating to bring the microbiome back to a healthy state, and eating to restore the intestinal barrier. 

Whether you are using MS treatments or not, a nutritional approach that addresses gut health is an important step to managing your symptoms.  It’s the one aspect of your condition that you can change.  Change your autoimmune equation today, by taking poor gut health out of the equation!

You can do this!

Have you or someone you know used diet to help manage their MS?

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

THE SUNSHINE CONTROVERSY

We are well into summer now, so you have likely pulled out your sunscreen, or gone shopping for some so that you are ready for spending time outdoors.  Is sunscreen really a good idea?  As each summer approaches the media reminds us to wear sunscreen.  At the same time we are told Canadian's are deficient in vitamin D.  The sun is the best source of vitamin D, and wearing sunscreen inhibits the formation of vitamin D.  What is a person to do?

BENEFITS OF VITAMIN D

Vitamin D is an incredibly important nutrient with hundreds of functions in our bodies.  Some of its functions include bone health, calcium metabolism, gut health, immune function, muscle function (including the heart), brain development and research has shown that it has anti-cancer properties.  

For people who suffer from skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis the sun can help to alleviate symptoms.  (for a long-term solution, gut health needs to be addressed)

HOW SUNSHINE MAKES VITAMIN D

When UVB rays from the sun hit your skin, it converts 7-dehydrocholesterol (an oil in your skin) to vitamin D3.  D3 then has to journey to the liver where it gets converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D.  Then it continues on its journey to the kidneys where it undergoes another conversion and becomes 1, 25 dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D), which is the active form that our bodies are able to utilize.  Pretty complicated!

It is possible to get vitamin D from some foods, such as egg yolks, butter and liver, but these are typically present in small amounts.  The sun is the best source of vitamin D. 

THE PROBLEM WITH SUN

The biggest problem with sun is that increased exposure increases the risk of skin cancers.

For sufferers of rosacea or cold sores, the sun can trigger a flare up, so it can be problematic for some skin conditions as well.

SAFE SUN EXPOSURE

The reality is that we need to find a balance between getting enough sun exposure to get adequate vitamin D, without risking sunburn or overexposure.  A good way to do this is to start by exposing a significant portion of your skin (aka wear a bathing suit or shorts and short-sleeves) for a short period of time such as 5 minutes.  Err on the side of caution if you are very fair skinned.  The darker your skin is, the greater the amount of time you can be in the sun.  Slowly build up the time you spend in the sun.  As you develop a tan, you will be able to spend longer periods of time in the sun without burning.  Build up slowly by adding a minute or two each day.  15-30 minutes will provide adequate vitamin D levels for most people.  You want to avoid burning, so starting with a short time and slowly building up is the best way to get safe sun exposure.

Keep your face covered with a hat.  The skin on your face in thinner than elsewhere on your body, so warrants more protection.

Other than your designated exposure to get vitamin D, keep yourself covered with clothing or use a sunscreen that isn't full of chemicals.  Check out the sunscreen guide  that the Environmental Working Group puts out to find safe sunscreens.

Living in Canada means that we have a short summer, and suffer from vitamin D deficiencies during the winter months.  Everyone wants to take advantage of our short summers by being outdoors, but after months spent indoors, skin needs to be gently reintroduced to the sun.  It's important to get safe sun exposure so that you can maximize the vitamin D your body produces without risk of burns or health concerns.

Happy, Healthy Tanning!

Tracey

 

VEGETARIAN VS PALEO WARS

What is the best kind of diet for optimal health?  For several decades there has been a large vegetarian movement, but more recently the Paleo movement has been gaining momentum.  These two movements have some significant differences, yet there are strong advocates for both sides.  So how is a person to know which way of eating is the best?  

Before looking at each type of approach, it's important to note that there are ideal versions of both of these dietary approaches, and that both of them can also be done poorly.  I'll be addressing the best of both of these, which includes organic, whole foods choices.  Ideally neither  way of eating should include processed foods, or the addition of chemicals or additives.

VEGETARIAN DIET

One of the main reasons that vegetarian diets are popular is for the ethical considerations.  Many vegetarians choose to eat this way to avoid unnecessary suffering to animals, and to support farming practices that are sustainable and do the least amount of damage to our planet.  Another reason is to achieve optimal health.  A vegetarian diet eliminates meat, and a vegan diet goes one step further and eliminates all animal products including dairy, eggs and honey.  Food sources include vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, plant-based sweeteners and fats, and dairy and eggs for those that choose to consume them.  Pescetarians include fish and seafood, but otherwise adhere to vegetarian principles.

There are many well-known advocates for eating a vegetarian diet, including Dr. Dean Ornish, Brendan Brazier (co-founder of Vega), Dr. Joel Furhman, T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Neil Barnard.  There are also many athletes that have followed a vegetarian diet throughout their successful athletic careers.  Athletes place huge demands on their bodies, so the fact that they are able to accomplish what they do on a well thought-out vegetarian diet speaks well of this type of diet.

PALEO DIET

Many people turn to a Paleo diet to improve their health.  These individuals may have tried a vegetarian diet in the past, but many have not.  Food sources include pasture-raised meats, wild fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, fats, minimally processed sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup, and some people include fermented dairy in their diets.

Advocates for this type of diet include Dr. Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Dr. Terry Wahls (the Wahls Protocol), Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (GAPS diet), Chris Kresser and Sarah Ballantyne.

COMMON GROUND

Here are some common aspects of good quality vegetarian and Paleo diets:
- they are plant-strong.  A common misconception about a Paleo way of eating is that it includes large quantities of meat.  Both diets when done well, involve large quantities of vegetables.
- nuts, seeds and fruit consumption.  Both diets allow for moderate amounts of these foods.
- fats.  Both diets can include coconut fat, avocado oil, olive oil and nut or seed oils.  Paleo diets allow animal fats from pasture-raised animals as well.
- minimal use of added sweeteners.  Whether coconut sugar, maple syrup or honey are used, any good quality diet keeps added sweeteners to a minimum, and focuses on sweeteners that still have some nutritional value.
- ferments.  Fermented foods such as cultured vegetables, kombucha, and kvass are great additions to either type of diet.  For some vegetarian and Paleo dieters, fermented dairy such as kefir, yogurt and aged-cheeses are added as well.

HOW TO CHOOSE

I should start by saying that I am on the Paleo side of this debate, so I have my personal bias.  I was a vegetarian for 10 years, believing that it was the best choice for my body.  I went through periods of veganism during that time as well.  Despite the fact that I continued to improve the quality of the food I was consuming, and continued to seek help from a variety of health practitioners during those 10 years, my health continued to decline.  Finally I saw a doctor who told me to start eating meat again, and who recognized that my gut health was compromised.  Reintroducing meat was the beginning of my recovery.  Before reintroducing meat I was spending several days in bed each month with extreme fatigue and nausea.  I had severe seasonal allergies, eczema and multiple chemical sensitivities that were very debilitating at times.  Paleo changed all that for me.  

As a practitioner I also work exclusively with Paleo-type diets including  SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) and AIP (autoimmune protocols).  Why?  Because any condition that has leaky gut as a contributing factor (including neurological and autoimmune conditions) requires this type of approach.  A vegetarian diet will not repair leaky gut!  Grains and legumes, which make up a significant part of a vegetarian diet are problematic for the gut in two ways:  
1.  They are rich in lectins, which can be problematic for a damaged gut.  
2. They are high in carbohydrates.  When the intestinal wall is damaged, it can't produce the enzymes needed to complete carbohydrate digestion, and when carbohydrates aren't completely digested, they continue to feed the state of dysbiosis that exists in the gut.

If you are a vegetarian in optimal health, then keep it up.  Continue on your path, making sure to choose organic, whole foods, and to include legumes, nuts and seeds in your diet.

If you suffer from a neurological condition, autoimmune condition, IBS, allergies, asthma, eczema or any other chronic health condition, then Paleo is likely the best choice for you.  If you have tested positive for leaky gut, then a Paleo diet is definitely for you.

Not sure yet?  Try each one for yourself.  Spend a month on each and see how your body reacts.  Monitor your bowel movements, sleep patterns, mood and energy, and pay particular attention to symptoms of your health condition.  I'm still on my journey of recovery, but seasonal allergies are gone, and eczema and chemical sensitivities continue to improve.  Better yet, all those days where I couldn't get out of bed are long gone.  I've tried both dietary approaches, and know that Paleo works best for me.

Besides my personal experience, as a nutritionist I've gone digging and done my research.  When I read the books promoting vegetarian diets, I find all kinds of flaws in research and the way it is interpreted.  Researching dietary approaches is difficult and expensive, so good research is hard to find.  Most of the research I look at is not actually about any specific kind of diet, but rather looks at how foods are supporting our bodies at a metabolic level.  When we look at how food is digested and absorbed, and how it is utilized by the body, then I can't help but support a Paleo way of eating.

What approach works for you?  
Does anyone know why Paleo is capitalized?  It seems to be used this way in all the literature, so I am following the trend.

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

 

 

MICROBIAL DIVERSITY FOR GOOD HEALTH

Did you know that good health depends on microbial diversity in your gut?  The microbes that make your digestive tract their home play a key role in every aspect of your health.  Your relationship with those organisms is a codependent one - you provide a dark, temperature-regulated home that has a constant food supply, and in exchange the microbes regulate every metabolic process in your body including things like immune function, blood pressure, fat storage, hormone function and blood sugar regulation.

Given that your microbes have such an important role, understanding microbial diversity in relationship to disease has been an area of focus in research in recent years.  One area of research has looked at mapping the diversity of traditional societies, and comparing that to modern societies.  Traditional hunter-gatherer societies have been shown to have a greater diversity than city dwellers.  Sadly, with urbanization, we have lost some of that diversity (Source).

Many researchers have speculated that this loss of diversity plays a role in our modern health problems. When we start to compare the gut microbial community of healthy individuals with those of people suffering from chronic conditions such as autoimmune and neurological conditions, we see clear measurable differences.  If you suffer from multiple sclerosis then you likely have reduced Clostridia clusters XIVa and IV (Source), or if you have been diagnosed with Parkinson's then we know that your gut microbes differ from those of healthy individuals (Source).  To find out if your health condition has been researched, do a search with the name of your diagnosis and the word microbiome.

Unfortunately these studies only show us the imbalances that exist in gut microbes with disease, but don't give us any indication as to whether or not a loss of diversity has contributed to the disease.  In order to understand how loss of diversity has affected us, all we can do is go back to the few remaining societies that still have diversity, and look at the kinds of health conditions these groups of people suffer from, and compare them to Westernized  or urbanized societies.  Research into this area, is still in the early stages, but warrants further exploration.

How To Get Gut Microbial Diversity

Jeff Leach, who cofounded the American Gut Project,  has studied the Hadza population in Africa, specifically in relation to their gut microbiomes.  Jeff believes that high fiber content is one of the contributing factors to the Hadza's microbial diversity (Source).

Another of the biggest contributing factors to diversity is your environment.  The greater the diversity of organisms in your environment, the greater the diversity in your gut.  Modern homes and buildings don't provide ideal environments for diversity (Source).

So these factors can provide two important steps to increasing your gut microbial diversity:
1)  Eat a diet rich in plant-based fiber.  Follow the Hudza example and eat a diet that consists mostly of vegetables and fruit.  I usually recommend that 3/4 of any meal should be vegetables or fruit.
2)  Spend time outdoors in a variety of settings.  Here in Calgary we have the mountains at our doorstep.  Closer to home, we have great city parks.  Even closer is your own backyard.  Being outdoors exposes you to a greater variety of microbes.  Open your windows regularly!  It's a simple step that will change the diversity inside your home.

Happy, Healthy Eating (and diversifying)!

Tracey

 

SHOULD WE BE CONSIDERING VACCINES IN THE HEALTH OF OUR MICROBIOME?

I’m going to start by telling you about my typical client.  The type of person who typically comes to see me is incredibly educated, has done a lot of research, and usually is already eating an organic, whole foods diet, and living a clean lifestyle.

So today I visited with good friends that embody my typical client, but wanted to talk to me about vaccinations for their beautiful baby girl.  As I said, my clients are educated and do a lot of research, and this couple was no exception.  They had scheduled their first appointment for the 2-month vaccinations, were in the car getting ready to go when they suddenly had doubts.  They decided to listen to their gut instinct, went back inside and cancelled their appointment.

Why did they have doubts?  They had doubts because in doing their research they got caught up in the web of controversy over vaccinations.  The controversy is there for good reason, as any controversy is.  Do the benefits of vaccinations outweigh the risks?  The benefits include immunization to life-threatening illnesses.  The risks involve injury and sometimes death.  The website www.vaccinechoicecanada.com  outlines the risks of vaccines and contraindications.  It’s important to know the contraindications, because there are infants who should never be receiving vaccinations.  Most doctors will tell you the risks associated with vaccines are rare, but what if it’s your child that happens to be that rare individual?  Is the risk of death, epilepsy or neurological problems worth it?

As usual, I look at things through a Gut-biased lens, so the question for me is how do vaccinations tie in to gut health?   Researchers have considered the relationship between the microbiome and vaccinations, but from the opposite angle that I’m interested in.  Research has focused on how effective vaccinations are in populations with healthy microbiomes verses populations with unhealthy microbiomes.  I want to know if the vaccinations are altering our microbiomes. Since the health of the microbiome is instrumental to the development of an infant’s immune system, we need to be asking ourselves if vaccinating our children before the microbiome is fully established is wise. 

To date there is little research available.  One study demonstrates that oral rotavirus vaccination did not change the microbiome, but the sample size of the study was 3 infants (Source), which is too small to be conclusive.  Other people are asking the same question though (Source), so hopefully in time more researchers will delve into this area.

So what advice did I give these new parents that want the best for their amazing little baby girl?  I had to tell them the choice is theirs.  It’s important for people to realize this.  Vaccination isn’t mandatory.  I suggested they delay vaccinations until their daughter’s immune and detoxification systems are more mature, around age 2, but again, the choice is theirs.  If they begin vaccinations, then they should separate them as much as possible, and allow 6 months between vaccinations to allow their daughter’s body to detoxify the additives (aluminum and formaldehyde) that are in the vaccines.

In the end I’m not sure I added any new information to the research this couple had done, but they found comfort in being able to discuss their concerns.  The comforting went both ways.  While I’ll never know if vaccinations were a contributing factor for my adopted son, I do know what it’s like to live with a child that suffers from severe neurological problems, so I get a bit emotional when discussing the possible neurological risks associated with vaccinations.

I’d like to be able to end this post with something more conclusive about whether or not vaccines affect our microbiome, but the information isn’t available yet.

All I can suggest is be like my typical clients:  do your research, delve into your family history, look at the contraindications and risks, and make the best choice for your child.

Happy, Healthy Researching!

Tracey