Category Archives: Wellness

Food Allergy? or Food Reaction? How to tell!

Most people have heard (or suffer from) “food allergies”. But sometimes it isn’t a true allergy that they are experiencing. They don’t have a food “allergy” they have a “sensitivity” or “intolerance”. These distinctions are possibly insignificant in the casual conversations with a friend. But as a medical health professional, they are very significant to me. They mean very different things about what’s going on in a person’s body and more importantly how I can fix it!

So, let’s flesh out the differences between these terms:

• Food allergy
• Food intolerance
• Food sensitivity

Food allergies

Food allergies cause an immune response by the body that occurs immediately after any amount of the food is ingested and can be serious and potentially life threatening. The key here is that it is ANY AMOUNT (think peanut breath from one person causing a reaction in another person across an airplane). An allergic response might be itching, hives, stomach cramps, diarrhea, swelling, anaphylaxis, and even death.

Food intolerance

Food intolerance is when digestive symptoms occur after a certain food is eaten and the response time can vary. The amount of food ingested can have an effect on the severity of symptoms. There is a threshold, where you can tolerate a small amount of the food but not a large amount. For example, some people with lactose intolerance are able to consume a small amount of dairy but if eaten in large quantities may experience symptoms. Yogurt and hard cheese are easier to digest because they contain low amounts of lactose. The key distinction here is that this is entirely a DIGESTIVE issue. There is no immune response going on. There are no symptoms outside the digestive tract. A food intolerance may result in nausea, stomach pains, bloating, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Food sensitivities

Food sensitivities are an immune response but a different type of immune reaction from an allergy. They can originate from the systemic immune or digestive immune system and the response can be delayed (up to 3 days!) or even undetectable. The amount of food that causes a response varies (again, a threshold) and symptoms include nausea, stomach pains, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, headache, irritability, joint pain, eczema, lack of energy, and more.

There are tests for each of these. IgE blood tests, test for allergies (although the accuracy isn’t great). These can be done through an allergist. Breath tests can detect intolerances and are done through a gastroenterologist. There are a few tests for sensitivities but there is a lot of controversy about their validity. Blood tests can be done for IgG, IgA or MRT reactions. The results have been known to help some, but not others. These tests can only be done through properly trained nutritionists, dietitians, functional medicine doctors and the like.

So when someone comes to me and says they have an allergy to dairy because ingesting it causes eczema, I explain that actually that’s a sensitivity : )

Feeding the Brain: How to Protect the Brain Through Proper Nutrition

According to the National Institute of Health, as many as 5 million Americans age 65 and older may have Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to double for every 5-year interval beyond age 65. But Alzheimer’s is only one of many dementia disorders; an estimated 20 to 40 percent of people with dementia have some other form of the disorder. Part of the aging process will always include memory loss for older American men and women. Not every older American will be at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. A healthy lifestyle can play a part in improving your memory.

Foods That Induce Memory Loss

The foods that hinder memory are common staples in the American diet. White breads, pasta, processed meats and cheeses. Research has linked all of these foods to memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
There is a long list of food that may minimize memory function throughout life:

Processed cheese: American cheese, mozzarella sticks, Cheez Whiz and Laughing Cow- build up proteins in the body that are related to memory loss.
Processed meats: bacon, smoked turkey from the deli counter and ham- smoked meats like these contain nitrosamines- cause the liver to produce fats that are toxic to the brain
Beer: Most beers contain nitrites- linked to Alzheimer’s
White Foods: pasta, cakes, white sugar, white rice and white bread- higher consumption could send toxins to the brain
Microwave popcorn: contain diacetyl- a chemical that may increase amyloid plaques in the brain

Dietary modifications are not easy to make, but both DASH diet and Mediterranean diet are both beneficial to brain health and memory power. What are best ways to describe these diets? DASH diet means Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which makes it lower in sodium. The Mediterranean diet has the incorporation of healthy fats and supper foods.

DASH Diet

The DASH diet may assist dieters to reduce blood pressure by a few points in two weeks. A person’s systolic blood pressure could be lowered by eight to fourteen points, to make a substantial modification in possible health risks. The DASH diet has a focus in veggies, fruits, low-fat dairy foods, as well as modest amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts.

Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day
Veggies: 4 to 5 servings
Fruits: 4 to 5 servings
Dairy: 2 to 3 servings
Lean Meat, Poultry and Fish: 6 servings or fewer in a day
Nuts, Seeds and Legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week
Fats and Oils: 2 to 3 servings a day
Sweets: 5 Servings or fewer in a week

The goal should be to make healthier choices with a wide variety of picks in different food categories. The variety of food choices keeps the daily diet nutritious and to avoid boredom or extremes.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has a focus of fish, fruits, veggies, beans, high fiber breads and whole grains, nuts, as well as olive oil. Meat, cheese, and sweets are very limited. The Mediterranean diet, an average of 35% to 40% of calories comes from fat. The fats allowed in the Mediterranean diet are mainly from unsaturated oils such as fish oils, olive oil, and certain nut or seed oils (canola, soybean or flaxseed oil) and from nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds), which can be protective to the human heart.
A Mediterranean diet may:

• Prevent heart disease
• Lower the risk of a heart attack
• Lower cholesterol
• Prevent type II diabetes
• Prevent metabolic syndrome
• Stroke
• Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia
• Depression
• Parkinson’s disease

The customary Mediterranean diet calls for:

• Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables: grapes, blueberries, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, figs, olives, spinach, eggplant, beans, lentils and chickpeas
• Eating a variety of whole grains: oats, brown rice, and whole wheat bread, pasta, and couscous
• Choosing healthy fats: nuts, olive oils, and certain nut or seed oils like canola, soybean, and flaxseed.
• Limit unhealthy fats: butter, palm oil, and coconut oil. Limit fats found in animal products, such as meat and dairy products made with whole milk.
• Eating mostly vegetarian meals: whole grains, beans, lentils, and veggies
• Eating fish: tuna, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, or sardines
• Eating moderate amounts of low-fat dairy: milk, cheese or yogurt
• Eating moderate amounts on poultry and eggs
• Limiting red meat: a few times a month
• Limiting sweets and desserts: few times a week

A healthy lifestyle can play a part in improving your memory. The human brain needs healthy fats, fruits, veggies, lean protein, and sufficient vitamins and minerals. Food choices will always play a role in healthy brains.


This blog was written by guest blogger: Tracy Williams. She has her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Dominican University. She enjoys freelance writing and public speaking related to nutrition topics. Please feel free to connect with her at www.tracysplate.com.

Is Chronic Fatigue “all in your head?”

Chronic Fatigue SyndromeFor years conventional doctors told people that their chronic fatigue was all in their head. Finally two years ago an official diagnosis (with criteria) was created in the US. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is debilitating exhaustion, for no ‘apparent’ reason. The validation of this diagnosis is a huge step in the right direction, yet there is still no test or official treatment for CFS.

Those of us in the functional nutrition world have been successfully treating fatigue with diet and supplements. By targeting the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, we are able to boost a patient’s energy levels. Other treatments include improving the function of the gut and boosting the immune system, also by using diet and supplements. These approaches work wonders for most people with fatigue.

Now, new research is emerging that shows the people with CFS have a dysfunction in a certain cell receptor. There is a genetic alteration in the code for the TRPM3 receptor. This receptor facilitates the transfer of calcium through the cell wall. According to preliminary research, people with CFS have fewer functioning TRPM3 receptors preventing sufficient amounts of calcium from entering the cell causing depressed cell function. This discovery is in the early stages, and more research is needed, but this is a big relief to those who have been previously dismissed by conventional doctors and who are in desperate need of a new solution.

You won’t believe what this mineral can do

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Magnesium is one of the most powerful minerals, responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. Magnesium is a vital electrolyte, and among the biochemical reactions it regulates are protein synthesis, blood-glucose control, and blood pressure, insulin regulation, vitamin D metabolism, bone health, and detoxing. Magnesium also greatly affects heart function, digestion, and sleep.

But that’s all boring, right? What about the fact that Magnesium is a treatment for anxiety? insomnia? constipation? fatigue?

Just a few of the effects of Magnesium:

  • Calm:
    • Magnesium slows nerve signals leading to a calming and relaxing feeling in the body and brain. This makes magnesium a wonderful natural treatment for those with anxiety, insomnia, and ADHD.
  • Energy:
    • Magnesium is needed to make ATP. ATP is the energy molecule in the body (that we produce from calories, with the help of Magnesium).
  • Bowel Motility
    • Magnesium relaxes the muscles of the GI tract making it easier to go to the bathroom
    • Magnesium also draws water into the intestine, making it the most natural treatment for constipation
  • Detoxing
    • Your body needs magnesium to run the many detoxification pathways that your body uses to get rid of metals and free radicals (from normal metabolic processes, as well as pollutants in our environment)
    • Heavy metals compete with magnesium for entry into the brain cells and for absorption in the gut. If we have enough magnesium and vitamins/minerals, healthy metals such as aluminum won’t be absorbed as readily.
  • Sleep
    • Studies show that Magnesium combats insomnia. People take it to promote getting to sleep and staying asleep.
  • Reflux and/or that full indigestion feeling
    • Magnesium relaxes the sphincter at the bottom of the stomach. This promotes stomach emptying, so food won’t sit like a rock in your stomach (which can lead to reflux).

Deficiency Symptoms:

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you might be deficient in magnesium:

  • Muscles cramps or twitching
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Sensitive to loud noises
  • Anxiety
  • Palpitations
  • Angina
  • Constipation
  • Headaches, Migraines
  • Asthma
  • Kidney Stones
  • Reflux
  • Trouble Swallowing

Additionally, research shows magnesium deficiency is common in those with these conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • IBS
  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Depression/Anxiety

In the United States, magnesium deficiency is a serious concern. The reason is simple: many of us eat a diet that contains very little magnesium. The Western-American diet is filled with highly processed, refined foods, white flour, meat, and processed dairy. None of these foods contain magnesium. In addition magnesium is decreased with the intake of alcohol, salt, coffee, profuse sweating, chronic stress, chronic diarrhea, diuretics, antibiotics, and other drugs. It is no wonder everyone needs more magnesium!

Foods high in magnesium include: Wheat bran, wheat germ, brown rice, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, rye, soy beans, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, dark leafy greens, and garlic.

But it is often a good idea to supplement. Magnesium glycinate is the best form of magnesium to get past your gut and into your brain and muscles. But if constipation is your challenge, than magnesium citrate or oxide is best.

 

 

What You Need to Know About Functional Nutrition

Human body with internal organs, composite by stomach, Great to be used in medicine works and health.

Conventional medicine is very effective if you have an acute problem, which needs immediate treatment. Despite all the advances in science and medicines, chronic diseases are on the rise. Most people suffer from some form of chronic problem (such as IBS, high cholesterol, Diabetes, insomnia, chronic fatigue, anxiety, ADHD, etc). Conventional medicine doesn’t seem to be able to treat these problems successfully. At best, conventional medicine doles out prescriptions to dampen the symptoms. That isn’t ‘treatment,’ and it certainly isn’t prevention. The problem? Neither the individual nor the root cause of the illness is treated.

Functional Medicine and Nutrition is an entirely different approach.

Functional Medicine Nutrition Therapy is a personalized method for getting to the root of your symptoms and restoring balance to your system. It is about promoting health, not just treating illness.

Personalized:

Everybody’s different. We each have different genes, different microbiomes (which influence everything), and different lifestyles. In Functional Nutrition, all information is taken into account: sleep, diet, stress level, activity level, energy level, mood, sunlight exposure, time in nature, and other data. Additionally, using tests that actually reveal what’s going on inside your body down to the cellular level and tests for genetic influences, diet and supplementation can be very targeted.

As the Institute of Functional Medicine explains: “The current healthcare system fails to take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual and the ability of food, toxins and other environmental factors to influence gene expression.”

Treating the problem, not just the symptom:

If you throw drugs at a symptom, without addressing the root cause of the symptom, you are clearing the smoke but not putting out the fire. Left resolved, the cause will continue to persist, and therefore so with the symptoms. The drug will continue to be needed indefinitely (and possibly at greater and greater doses) to treat this symptom.

Chris Kresser articulates this: “In conventional medicine…they mostly focus on symptoms and diseases. If you go to a doctor and you have high cholesterol, you get a drug to lower your cholesterol…and there’s often little investigation into why your cholesterol is high in the first place. The intent is to just bring it down, and that’s generally the end of the story. In functional medicine… Symptoms are important in as much as they can give us clues as to what the underlying mechanisms might be that are contributing to the problem, but they’re not as important because when you focus on the underlying mechanisms and causes and you address those, the symptoms tend to resolve on their own, so you don’t have to worry about going after each and every symptom individually. You just address the root causes and the symptoms resolve.”

Dr. Mark Hyman, one of the leaders in Functional Medicine, articulates this point very well in the foreword he wrote for The Disease Delusion (a book written by Dr. Jeffery Bland, the father of Functional Medicine):     “Depression is not the cause of misery, it is merely the name we give to a constellation of symptoms. The actual cause of depression may vary greatly from patient to patient…knowing the name of a disease tells us nothing about its true cause; nor does it lead us to the right treatment”

Final thoughts:

Conventional medicine has its place. It has saved my life more than once. However, in other instances, it also left me disappointed. I know my clients have felt the same way before coming to see me.

Dr. Fitzgerald, another leader in the field, sums it up: “Simply, functional medicine is an individualized, systems-based, patient-centered approach to care. We look at the whole person, their environment, diet & lifestyle and genetics/epigenetics. An individual’s history is carefully mapped to a timeline, which we use to gather clues to the cause(s) and promoter(s) of disease/imbalance. Sensitive laboratory assessments help us “look under the metabolic hood” for contributing biochemical/genetic/microbial/nutrient/inflammatory/toxicity issues.”

For all these reasons, I am very excited about Functional Medical Nutrition Therapy. I am a Certified Integrative and Functional Nutrition Practitioner and have been practicing it with my clients (and on my own health) for several years.

Because patients are unique. Symptoms are not.

 

The Powers of Turmeric

gorgeous setting with cooking spices and herbs (bay leaves, cumin, coriander, chili powder, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, paprika, piri piri, salt, turmeric) on a wooden mat (shallow DOF)

Turmeric (that bright orange spice that turns your cutting boards and dishes yellow) is amazing.

Curcumin is one of the phytochemicals (natural healthful plant chemicals) that is in turmeric, and curcumin is thought to be the reason for turmeric’s healthful benefits (see below). But don’t get too bogged down in this; the benefits of turmeric, which contains 300 phytochemicals, come from all the phytochemicals working together synergistically. Not only that but curcumin is not very bioavailable and turmeric is. Another example of that a whole food is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

You can buy turmeric in its whole form (it looks a little like a ginger root and can be found in that same section of the store) and then cut it or grate it. Or you can save your fingers, cutting boards, graters and plates, and buy it as a spice in a container in the spice section. You can also get it as a supplement, in pill form. This last option is particularly good if you want to use turmeric for health reasons and need a higher amount than just a few sprinkles on your chicken.

Why is turmeric so great?

  • Research has showed that turmeric is beneficial in the prevention and management of over 600 health conditions.
    • And turmeric has no adverse side effects (at normal doses), like most drugs that treat conditions.
  •  Anti-inflammatory
    • Chronic inflammation is the reason for almost all disease states including heart disease, Diabetes, Crohn’s and Colitis, Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Inflammation is also what causes or contributes to those un-well diagnoses of IBS and Fibromyalgia.
  • Anti-oxidant
    • Seeking out cell-damaging free-radicals and neutralizing them, helps prevent or treat cell damage, fatigue, aging, Alzheimer’s Disease and Cancer.
  • Anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal

Not convinced? Give me a call and I’ll tell you more 🙂

 

The Answer is within Your Cells

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Do you suffer from any of these symptoms: fatigue, brain fog, pain, anxiety, insomnia, and don’t know why?

Inside every cell in your body, a complicated seven-cycle chemical reaction takes place billions of times per second. You need 20 enzymes for each step of this reaction to occur. You need the right genes in order to make those 20 enzymes. You also need co-factors, namely: vitamins and minerals, in order to enable those enzymes.

There are genetic variants, routinely called SNPs (snips) that influence our genes. One variant is MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reducatase). About 50% of the population has this genetic variant or chromosomal mutation. This enzyme is needed for methylation. Like all 20 other enzymes, MTHFR is needed or those 7-cycles get clogged up.

Why is methylation important? It is an essential process for optimal functioning of your body and your mind. Some processes it is involved in:

  • cell regulation
  • detoxification
  • neurotransmitter formation
  • metabolizing hormones
  • DNA repair and synthesis
  • keeping inflammation in check
  • energy
  • nerve myelination

Some symptoms of impaired methylation include:

  • fatigue
  • brain fog
  • pain and inflammation
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • insomnia
  • infertility and miscarriage
  • intolerance to exercise

Unfortunately, the list of symptoms associated with poor methylation is somewhat nonspecific, in that the same list of symptoms could be explained by several other causes. In fact, most of those symptoms could be tied to one’s gut health!

But methylation and whether you have the MTHFR variant is a very important piece of the puzzle; one that is worth knowing, for there is no way to deal with this problem other than with proper specific supplementation. It is important to supplement yourself with proper guidance, because it is possible to overmethylate, which can lead to other problems.

And don’t forget about those co-factors, the vitamins and minerals. Different ones are needed for different cycles, and there is also a test to see if you are deficient in any vitamins and minerals.

There is a simple blood test, that I offer through Spectracell to find out if you have the MTHFR SNP. And there is a saliva mail-in test through 23andme to find out all your other SNPs.

For more information on MTHFR visit here, and here.

It is important to note that this is new science and while it is widely accepted in the functional medicine world, conventional medicine doctors are either unaware of MTHFR or skeptical of its importance. This area does indeed need more research. Hopefully that research will happen in time.

Tired of being tired?

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Feeling tired but doc says nothing is wrong? Might be adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is a diagnosis used in functional medicine.  Most conventional doctors only deal with adrenal problems if your adrenals are down to zero. But what if they are not at zero but are very depleted and you are not bouncing back? That’s a problem that deserves attention too.

Adrenal fatigue is caused by stress. Stress can be physical (infection, surgery), emotional (divorce, death), or environmental (poor diet, toxins). The adrenal glands respond to every kind of stress the same way.

Adrenal fatigue can be sudden, as in a terrible car accident or gradual, with smaller stresses that accumulate or come so close to one another that your body has no time to recover. I’m sure we can all imagine a time where a root canal, major job stress, family member major illness, and a month of binging on holiday candy and egg nog, all can happen at the same time.

Basically adrenal fatigue occurs when the amount of stress is more than the body’s adrenals can cope with.

A short (not complete) list of symptoms:
-Continuing fatigue not relieved by sleep
-Increased effort to do everyday tasks
-Craving for salty foods
-Increased time to recover from illness, injury or trauma
-Skipping a meal causes tons of problems such as worse fatigue and irritability

Conditions associated with adrenal fatigue:
-Chronic diseases
-Use of corticosteroids
-Chronic fatigue syndrome
-Fibromyalgia
-Hypoglycemia
-Respiratory infections

Eating habits are very important in treating adrenal fatigue. Some tips:
-Eat at frequent intervals. The adrenal hormone cortisol is responsible for keeping our blood sugar at normal levels. You need to eat to keep your blood sugar up because your body can’t do it on its own.
-Avoid caffeine, it depletes the adrenals too, making matters worse not better
-Eat breakfast.
-Snack between lunch and dinner and snack before bed.
-Eat good quality whole food.
-Go ahead and eat salt. You need it.

Food sensitivities also play a key role as the offending food causes histamine and other inflammatory substances to be released. It takes cortisol to reduce that inflammation.  That’s taxing on the already drained adrenals.

If you suspect you have adrenal fatigue you should get assessed by a functional doctor or nutritionist and get a personalized plan. Click on this website for more resources and information.

Micronutrient Testing

ID-100315316Are you struggling with IBS and pulling your hair out because no matter how careful you are about what you eat, you still have diarrhea? You might be deficient in vitamin B12. Did you know that zinc helps you concentrate and studies show that zinc deficiency is very common in people with ADHD? Did you know that being tired might not be a sign of needing a nap, but rather magnesium deficiency?

Do you

  • feel tired?
  • feel anxious?
  • have muscle cramps?
  • have skin conditions?
  • have digestive problems?
  • have low libido?

These are all signs of micronutrient deficiencies. And they all have a simple easy solution-supplementation of the nutrient you are deficient in. But you don’t want to just wildly take supplements. Perhaps you do just need a nap. Additionally, too much of a good thing is dangerous. You want to discover what your unique deficiencies are and how much of specific nutrients you would need to reestablish a healthy level.

How? How to figure out what’s going on in your body without all the guess work? Through a simple micronutrient blood test. Keep reading for more details.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are extremely common in people who have chronic health problems. Do you suffer from:

  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Celiac
  • Crohn’s or Colitis
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Auto-immune diseases

Micronutrient deficiencies are also very common in people who are on medications such as:

  • Antacids
  • Antibiotics
  • Cholesterol lowering drugs
  • Anti-depressants
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Diuretics

I am pleased to offer micronutrient testing to my clients through Spectracell. Their exclusive and comprehensive micronutrient test measures 35 essential nutrients INSIDE your cells (not just in your blood serum). This will give a much more accurate and long term picture of your health (compared to conventional blood testing you can get at your doctor’s office). Vitamins and minerals are so crucial to your health and the symptoms of deficiency (some are listed above) can be easily overlooked or worse, mistaken for other health problems. Imagine getting a slew of tests and medical treatments (to no avail) when the solution is supplementing a specific nutrient you are missing.

So many of us go along with our lives, taking a multivitamin and assuming that everything is fine. But wouldn’t it better to be aware of what’s going on in your body?

Please contact Dianne with any questions or for more information. Check out my tests page for this and other tests I offer.

Image courtesy of KEKO64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Eat, Drink and Be Calm

ID-100306682Most of us are rushing around all day. Squeezing in eating and checking it off the schedule. If you have kids, meals can be even more rushed. The kids are hungry and want the food now, and then you all have to zoom off to school or an activity afterward.

Here’s the problem: when we are in stressed-out-rushing mode our digestive systems are too. This means we digest and absorb less of our food and our body doesn’t receive all that it needs to function well. (And the kids don’t get all they need to grow!)

The cortisol that is released when you are stressed (any time you are not relaxed, you are stressed) causes all kinds of damage to your body.

But what it does to your digestion? It basically switches it off. Less stomach acid and digestive enzymes (necessary for digestion), and less absorption of vital nutrients.

So, here’s what I suggest. Before each meal: REST, For 20 seconds. What you do in that 20 seconds is up to you. Breathe and meditate. Say Grace. Doesn’t matter, as long as you are STILL. Set your body into relaxed-mode and you will get tons more nutrition out of your meal.

Image courtesy of khongkitwiriyachan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As always, share this with your friends!