Candida, Depression, Brain Fog, Weight Gain and More

Candida and Its Impact on Your Health

sugar

Most people are unaware that they have a candida issue.  Candida normally lives in harmony with other gut bacteria but if this balance gets disturbed this is when problems can occur and the candida yeast can proliferate.  It normally resides in the intestinal tract, mouth, esophagus, and genitals. However, it can lead to leaky gut and then it will enter the blood stream and make its way to any organ in the body. Thus, every organ in your body is at risk of damage. To make matters worse, candida emits over 70 different toxins into the body. 

Yeast prefers dark, warm places to grow and thrive such as in your nose, throat, mouth, and intestinal tract and genital area.  It thrives on sugar for growth and development. 

The body will always have some yeast but the goal is to rebalance the body and recolonize the good bacteria in our gut so that there is less of the candida yeast.  At normal levels, candida is harmless.

How an Overgrowth of Yeast Can Lead to Problems

Candida can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome, impacting gut health.  The overgrowth of yeast can take over, dominate the good bacteria in the gut and thus fungal dysbiosis occurs.  This yeast can change into a more invasive form that will secrete enzymes that break down the cell membrane thus causing a leaky gut.  To learn more about Leaky gut syndrome click http://trufoodsnutrition.com/5157-2/

Now that the gut is more permeable, toxins, can leak into the blood stream causing symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue and depression.  In addition to this, partially digested food particles can now leak into the blood stream, creating inflammation and possibly food sensitivities.  When the yeast crosses into the blood stream, an area that it does not belong in, the body can trigger the creation of antibodies by the immune system, leading to an autoimmune disease such as celiac disease or Hashimotos since these antibodies can cross react with the skin (psoriasis), joint tissue (rheumatoid arthritis) or even the brain (MS, Parkinson’s disease). While most people would never associate an overgrowth of yeast with an autoimmune disorder, it is something that does need to be taken into consideration. 

While yeast may have been your original issue, now you are faced with a host of ailments, many which your health professional cannot figure out or just gives you a medication for. 

Common Causes of Yeast Overgrowth

fast food burger

(for more information see my article on Candida and ADHD here )

  • Standard American Diet. This refined, highly processed and high sugar diet contributes to yeast overgrowth
  • Antibiotic usage. Even just one round of antibiotics can upset the balance in the gut. Don’t forget the added antibiotics from CAFO (confined animal factory operations) meat. 
  • Elevated hormone levels. This can be caused by medications such as prednisone, birth control pill, pregnancy and chronic stress.
  • Acid Suppressing medications such as Prilosec and Prevacid.
  • Alcohol: If you are a heavy drinker, you automatically consume too much sugar. While the alcohol excess is an issue in and of itself, the candida from the alcohol can make a bad situation worse.

Some of the More Common Candida Symptoms

Please note that many of these symptoms can also be symptoms due to other health issues. Always work with your holistic health professional to get to your root cause.

  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Brain fog, forgetfulness
  • Bloating, gas
  • Diarrhea, constipation
  • Urinary frequency
  • Itchy bottom
  • Sore throat
  • Athletes foot
  • White coating on tongue
  • Cravings for sugar, refined high carb processed snacks
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Painful cracks at corners of mouth
  • Acne
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic sinus infections

Restoring Balance in the Gut

gut

When addressing gut health and restoring balance, take into consideration other systems that have been affected due to the overgrowth of the candida. This includes (but not limited to) the adrenals, liver, blood sugar and immune system. 

  • Vitamin C: Add in foods rich in this vitamin as it is critical for the immune system. It also assists with the detox process. Foods to include would include broccoli, cabbage, watercress, and citrus fruits to name a few. 
  • Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s): Essential fatty acids are used in every cell in the human body. Because candida overgrowth leads to leaky gut syndrome and systemic inflammation, it is important to add in foods that are rich in Omega 3’s since they have been shown to reduce inflammation.  They can reduce the cause of the inflammation and reduce the inflammation that exists. Food sources include wild caught Alaskan Salmon, pasture raised eggs and grass- fed beef.
  • Probiotics: These are the friendly bacteria that live in your gut and help to break down your food. They are vital for a strong immune system. There is constantly new research on the importance of various healthy strains that reside in our gut. Healthy bacteria strains have been associated with maintaining a healthy weight, reduces risk of allergies, asthma, depression, anxiety and much more.  Thus, having a healthy gut is vital to all aspects of your health! Add fermented foods to your diet. These are rich in the good bacteria. Fermented foods include raw fermented sauerkraut and other vegetables, kimchee, miso, kombucha, kefir and raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar. 
  • Prebiotics: Think of these as the food for your probiotics. For your probiotics to thrive in the gut, they too need their healthy food! This comes from foods that contain resistant starch.  Resistant starches go through the stomach and the small intestine undigested and reach the colon where it feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut.  Think of resistant starches as food for your gut to keep it healthy.  Resistant starches, also called prebiotics, can come from foods such as raw garlic, raw onion, leeks and chicory root. You can also supplement with products such as FOS or inulin.  These can cause stomach upset, gas and bloating for some.  Another option is to purchase acacia gum which is the resin from the acacia tree.  It comes in a powder.  This is a powerful prebiotic source and one that typically does not cause any digestive complaints. 
  • Caprylic Acid: This is a very effective antifungal. It is one of three fatty acids that are found in coconut oil.  It can kill candida cells and can restore stomach acidity to normal levels.  It is best to combine Caprylic acid with other antifungals during your candida cleanse.  Add in unrefined organic coconut oil into your diet. 
  • Antifungal Herbs: Herbs that have antifungal properties include olive leaf, oregano, Pau D’Arco, allicin from garlic, and grape fruit seed extract. You can start off by adding in raw garlic to your diet. Chop your garlic and let it sit for several minutes to activate the allicin.  Then use it raw such as in your salad dressing.
  • Enzymes: Once candida enters the blood stream and reaches into other parts of the body, such as your sinus cavity, or worse your brain, it can be difficult to eradicate. The candida has a sticky biofilm to protect it from antifungal herbs and medications. Because of the biofilm, the candida can continue to grow and flourish and the biofilm protects the candida from your immune system.  There are enzymes that can break down the cell wall, degrading the biofilm.  These enzymes include cellulase and hemicellulase. Thus, the body can now activate an immune response against the candida overgrowth. 
  • Foods to Avoid: the white stuff-think stuff made with flour and sugar. High simple carb foods convert to sugar in the blood stream, so not only do you need to remove the donuts and cookies but the pasta and the bread too.  While beans and legumes and non- gluten grains are a healthy addition to the diet, it is best to avoid them early on when eliminating candida.  They are high in carbs and should kept to a minimum at the very least.  Avoid and limit foods and meals such as beans and rice, quinoa bowls and non- gluten pastas and breads too.  Keep dairy and gluten out of the candida diet
  • Foods to Add in: Think whole foods! Add in more vegetables and proteins and fats. Limit starchy carbs such as potatoes and squash.  Meals could look like chicken, beef or salmon with a large salad with avocado slices with roasted asparagus or sautéed broccoli or steamed carrots with grass fed butter or ghee with a spoonful of fermented sauerkraut. 

 

Add in nutritional yeast to make cheesy recipes. Add in lemons and limes for more flavor.  Use spices and herbs. Try nuts and seeds in recipes and use them as a great snack. 

 

If you need to sweeten things up a bit, try stevia or pure monk fruit (read label as many monk fruit products are mixed with other ingredients)

 

Bottom Line: If you think you have candida, a health professional can order tests, use assessment and questionnaires and do a thorough health intake to determine if candida is causing your symptoms.  You don’t need to suffer with candida. It does take some time to eradicate, so be patient! Hopefully within a few months you will start to see improvements.

Sources

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2015-12-23/5-signs-youre-suffering-from-candida-overgrowth-and-what-you-can-do-about-it

Bauman, E., & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition. CA: Bauman College

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism. The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. VT: Healing

   Arts Press.

Levin, W & Gare, F. (2013) Beyond the Yeast Connection. CA: Basic Health Pub., Inc.

Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine. CA: Basic Health Pub., Inc

Murray, M, Pizzorno, J, & Pizzorno, L. (2005) The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. NY: Atria Books. 

Nichols, T. & Faas, N. (2005) Optimal Digestive Health. VT: Healing Arts Press.

 

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and If Life is So Good, Then Why AM I Still Depressed? Discover the root cause for your depression and learn what to do to feel better and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Probiotics Can Reduce Depression

Probiotics and Depression

woman-holding-face-in-hands

Gut health is a popular subject lately and for good reason.  As Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the Gut”.  We are only now beginning to understand how true this is, for our physical and mental health. 

Your gut is made up of bacteria.  We need to have a balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria.  Research is indicating that having more good bacteria in our gut can impact our overall mood.  Using probiotics for depression remains controversial but data is showing that this can have a positive impact on our well-being. 

A study (1) done in 2016 showed that probiotic supplementation had a positive impact on those with depression who were under the age of 60.  (It did not show improvement in those over 65).  We need to face the fact that our brain and our gut is linked and if one is not working properly, the other is most likely not either.  A small study done in 2017 showed that probiotics reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.  (2)

Probiotic’s may also be helpful for depression associated with bipolar. In a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, they looked at the microbiome of those with bipolar and those without bipolar.  They found that those with bipolar had significantly different microbiomes than those without bipolar.  They had low levels of two strains that have been associated with overall health.  (4)

Studies show that probiotics should be considered an adjuvant to standard care for depression since it may reduce oxidative stress and thus may also lead to an increase in brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). (5) BDNF, a protein, is found abundantly in the brain and is found in both human serum and plasma.  Stress can reduce BDNF expression in the hippocampus. Recently BDNF has been shown to play a vital role in depression. This topic is still quite controversial and some research in this area differs. (6) There is a connection between low BDNF and depression but the verdict is still not in as to whether low BDNF is a contributing factor for depression.  At this time, we know we need to know more about BDNF and its role in depression. 

What to Take/What to Eat

kefir

Don’t stress out about the specific strains in your probiotics.  While we may see in the future, specific probiotic products made specifically for certain health issues such as depression, IBS, bipolar, anxiety or IBD, right now it is good to get a probiotic that contains a variety of strains.  You want diversity in your gut. 

While you may think you can swap out your antidepressant for a probiotic, this may not be the case.  Just taking a probiotic may not be enough to bring balance to the microbiome. (and please just don’t go off your medications. See my article on medication tapering here )

Just taking a supplement is usually not enough. It can be a good start but odds are, if you have depression, there is more you must do, including finding an individualized diet that is right for your body.

 The simplest way of doing this, is to slowly remove junk food categories from your diet. For instance, start by removing candy, and junk food that contains sugar such as donuts, pastries, and cookies.  Swap these out for healthier options such as avocado pudding, chia seed pudding, or nut butter with dark chocolate.  Then move on to another category such as salty snacks such as all the different chips and processed snacks.  Try not to replace with what may seem like healthier options (for instance, while Non-GMO corn chips are a better option, they still typically contain canola oil which is a refined, oxidized oil that contributes to systemic inflammation.  (depression can have inflammation as a root cause)

By removing the processed junk food from your diet, you will also be removing a bulk of GMO foods from your diet.  Glyphosate, the chemical that is sprayed on GMO crops has been shown to disrupt the gut and cause inflammation. By reducing the amount in your diet, you are improving gut health and reducing inflammation, both which are implicated in depression.  (3)

Probiotic Rich Foods

sauerkraut

Adding in a variety of probiotic rich foods will be very supportive for your gut health.  Any type of food sensitivity should be addressed first by working with a nutrition professional and removing these foods since these will disrupt the gut causing leaky gut syndrome. 

Fermented foods will be rich in probiotics.  You can look up easy recipes to make your own but there are so many fermented products on the market now, that you don’t have to do this.  Look for raw fermented sauerkraut, Bubbies pickles, other fermented vegetables, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar such as Braggs, kombucha, goat milk kefir, goat milk yogurt, kimchee, miso, tempeh.  Click here  for more information of fermented foods.

Supplementation

 

Look for a product that has a variety of strains. You can find most probiotics in the refrigerator section of your health food store. There are now also soil based and spore probiotics.  I personally use (and recommend for many of my clients) a spore based one such as megaspore.  You can mix and match. For instance, have some days with fermented foods and then days with supplementation.  You may need to work up to the probiotic dose as for some it can cause at first some digestive distress.  Even for those with sensitive stomachs, you may need to start off with fermented foods very slowly. You typically do not need a lot.  A dose of megaspore is typically 2 capsules per day and with probiotic foods, for most, 1-2 tablespoons per day of fermented veggies will suffice. 

Bottom Line

Adding in a quality probiotic supplement and probiotic rich foods is a good idea if you have depression. It is best to get tested for any food sensitivities first and to remove these foods from the diet.  Either way, dietary changes should be made instead of just adding in a couple of capsule of a probiotic daily If you want results.

 

 

Sources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27509521
  2. https://fhs.mcmaster.ca/main/news/news_2017/tie_between_probiotic_and_depression.html
  3. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/06/22/probiotics-depression-aspx?
  4. https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/bacteria-mental-health-gut-bacteria-linked-bipolar-disorder/
  5. http://sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987704004967
  6. https://www.nature.com/aps/journal/v32/n1/aps2010184a.html

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and If Life is So Good, Then Why AM I Still Depressed? Discover the root cause for your depression and learn what to do to feel better and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Medication Tapering What you Need to Do First

Tapering off Your Medications

What you Need to Do First

pills

Many people are anxious to get off their cocktail of medications as they end up not liking the side effects and/or they don’t like the way the medications make them feel.  I have heard numerous times “I tried to come off my meds and I felt worse.  I guess I just need them.” 

As a nutrition professional, I cannot tell you to go on or off medications since I do not diagnose, treat or cure. But that does not mean I cannot help you with your goal to go off or reduce your medications. 

Here is What You Need to Know Before You Taper Off Any Medication

basket of veggies

 You need to address root health causes first, not after you go off your medications. If you attempt to taper and still don’t know why you have the mental health symptoms that you do, then once you go off your meds you are left with not only the same feelings you had prior and the same unaddressed root causes, but may also now have nutrition deficiencies (some meds can cause nutrient depletion of certain vitamins or minerals) that can exacerbate your condition.

 

You need to support your body with a healthy diet (one that is best for you) first. This does not mean change your diet one week and then attempt to taper off medications the next week.  This does not mean to follow a generalized diet in some book.  Depending on your health issues and how long you have had them, you may need to restore balance to your body and be on a whole food, supportive diet for 6 months to a year before you should consider the taper process.  Your diet (and supplement) plan should be individualized based on your needs. 

 

You need to taper very, very slowly. By this I mean, you may need to use a razor blade to shave off portions of your medication instead of cutting it, so that you do the process gradually and slowly under the guidance of your prescribing doctor.  Yes, it does mean the taper process will take longer, but your odds of remaining off the medication instead of going back on will be greater.

 

When you are ready to taper under your doctor’s supervision, let your nutritional professional know ahead of time-she can create a supportive protocol for you during the taper process to help ease into the transition.

Why Changing the Diet First Is So Important in the Taper Process

Look at the chart below to see what the Standard American Diet is doing to your moods and what effect it has on your neurotransmitters.

fast food burger

Food/Substance

What it Does
Skipping meals Lowers serotonin
Refined carbs Lowers serotonin and dopamine
Low protein diet Lowers all amino acids neurotransmitters (NT’s)
Low B complex status Lowers most NT’s
Low EFA status Lowers serotonin
Stimulant use Lowers serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine
Alcohol, metals, other toxins Lowers most NT’s
Artificial sweeteners Blocks production of serotonin
Glyphosate (Roundup sprayed on plants you eat) Disrupts gut microbiome (thus will affect serotonin production since over 80% made in gut)
Cigarettes

The paper contains cadmium which damages the brain, also raises free radical status in body which is significant risk factor for dementia

 

Medications and Nutrient Depletion

pills in hand

Do your homework on the medications that you are taking. If the drug depletes certain nutrients make sure you are getting it from food and/or supplementation. Don’t forget to include the other medications that you are on such as antibiotics, acid blockers or cholesterol lowering drugs as all of these can effect nutrient status as well. 

For instance

Lithium (used to treat Bi-polar): Depletes folate and inositol

Prozac, and some other antidepressants such as Paxil and Zoloft (used to treat depression and anxiety): Depletes magnesium, CoQ10, B vitamins and melatonin. (These drugs may not deplete B vitamins but B’s are needed to make serotonin and dopamine and thus you should make sure you are getting adequate amounts)

Benzodiazepines (used for anxiety): Deplete melatonin, B12, Folate,

Antipsychotics: Some can deplete CoQ10, melatonin, B2, B6, B12, Folate,

Bottom Line: Work with a holistic nutrition professional to get to your root causes, address them, support your body and get it to a “good” place for you. Then have the taper discussing with your doctor.  Be patient.  Depending on how long you have been suffering, how long you have been on medications and how many you are on, this process can take months to years.  Be kind to yourself, give your body the time it needs to get through this process. 

 

 

Sources

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Bauman, E & Friedlander, J (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Gaby, A.(2006) A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions. NY: Three Rivers Press

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9155210

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10896698

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and If Life is So Good, Then Why AM I Still Depressed? Discover the root cause for your depression and learn what to do to feel better and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

 

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Zinc Deficiency Signs and Symptoms and What to Take

Zinc deficiency and its Role in Mental Health

steak-1445122_640-1

By now you are familiar with a deficiency in B12 here, Vitamin D here  or  low magnesium and how it can have an impact on mood and behavior such as its role in depression, anxiety and ADHD.  But you may not realize that over 2 people billion worldwide are deficient in zinc and this mineral deficiency also plays a role in your mental health. 

It has been shown that a zinc deficiency leads to changes in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex of the brain.  A zinc deficiency also leads to excessive amounts of glutamate activity in the brain.  This leads to brain inflammation and excessive free radicals and oxidative stress. 

View the symptoms below to see if this sounds like you. With a zinc deficiency, you may not only exhibit anxiety or depression but there are other tell-tale signs such as lack of taste or a skin issue.  

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms

woman-with-acne

I did not go into detail on each of the symptoms but I did address some of the mental health issues associated with a zinc deficiency in more detail. 

  • Weak immune system: When you first come down with a cold, take zinc acetate lozenges to reduce the duration of the illness. I like and use Enhanced Zinc lozenges by Life Extension.
  • Acne/adult acne: Zinc has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Research has shown that those with acne have lower zinc levels. 
  • Eczema, psoriasis: Rats and mice deficient in zinc develop a skin condition that is similar to psoriasis.
  • Hypothyroidism: Zinc is a cofactor mineral needed for thyroid hormone function. With decreased zinc levels, the thyroid can become underactive.  It also plays a role in converting T4 to T3 and is needed to bind active thyroid hormone to DNA cells. 
  • Depression: While it is known that B vitamins can make an impact for those with depression, it is not as well known that a zinc deficiency can also affect one’s mental health. A study found that rats fed a zinc restricted diet had depression, poor motivation and withdrew from social behavior. Zinc is also involved in the pathway for the body’s production of neurotransmitters.  Zinc is also necessary for B6 to be converted into its active form which in turn plays a role in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.   
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of taste/impaired sense of taste: This along with the decrease in appetite can often be the first clue that brain inflammation related to a zinc deficiency is present.
  • ADHD: Zinc assists with the production and regulation of melatonin. Melatonin is an important factor in the pathophysiology of ADHD due to its modulation of dopamine. There have been numerous studies looking at zinc levels and the relationship to ADHD.  These studies have shown that those with ADHD have significantly lower zinc levels.  Four studies have shown positive results for zinc in the treatment of ADHD. 
  • Aggression issues
  • Brittle nails, white spots on nails
  • Body odor
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Slow wound healing
  • Sensitive to strong smells/strong odors
  • Anxiety: too much copper and too little zinc
  • Adrenal fatigue: uses up a lot of zinc
  • Psychiatric disorders in the elderly (65 and older) such as dementia, psychotic disorders, bipolar. One study found a high prevalence of zinc deficiency in the patient group versus the Control group.

Who is at Risk

  • Vegans/vegetarians: These diets tend to be high in copper and low in zinc.
  • Elderly
  • Athletes who sweat a lot
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with chronic digestive disorders (i.e.: low HCL, Acid reflux, GERD, IBD, IBS)
  • Chronic stress
  • During trauma, surgery, burns (to aid in healing)
  • Those with cataracts, macular degeneration
  • Those with celiac disease
  • Those who consume a lot of grains (the Phytates content blocks zinc absorption)
  • Those who eat the SAD and don’t get enough of zinc rich foods.

What Causes you to Lose Zinc

person smoking

  • Those who sweat a lot/athlete
  • Sugar/SAD
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Too much copper in the diet
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Infection
  • Puberty
  • Nutrient deficient diet/vegetarian or vegan diet

Foods that Contain Zinc

eggs

Many of your vegetarian sources of zinc are only as nutrient rich as the soil that it is grown in.  Our soil is depleted which means your food has less nutrients.  Plants sources due to the phytic acid may also not be bioavailable as zinc sourced from non -vegetarian sources such as seafood and beef. 

  • Beef/red meats
  • Eggs
  • Seafood (crab, shrimp)
  • Legumes
  • Spinach
  • Oysters
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Cooked split peas
  • Sesame butter
  • Lima beans
  • Pecans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts

*Phytates in legumes and nuts may inhibit absorption. For this reason, soaking is always a good idea!

What to look for in a Supplement

Vegetarians may want to consider zinc supplementation due to the difficulty absorbing zinc from non- meat sources such as from plants, legumes, nuts and seeds.  According to the Institute of Medicine’s report, vegetarians require 50% greater intake of zinc given that the major source in the diet is grains and legumes which contain high amounts of phytic acid. 

It is best to choose a high- quality supplement that says zinc glycinate, zinc picolinate or amino acid chelated zinc.  For general health, take 15-20 mg of zinc per day and take it with food as otherwise it will cause an upset stomach.  Therapeutic doses are higher and depending on the need, range from 30-75 mg. per day.  This range is typically safe for several months or longer but use therapeutic dosing under the guidance of a professional. 

If you are using zinc for general health, it is best to take it within your multivitamin/mineral supplement since minerals are interconnected and balance amongst them is important.  If you are taking zinc for therapeutic reasons, be sure to look at how much is in your multi (and what form it is in) and then add in a supplement to get into the therapeutic range.

Zinc must be in balance with copper due to competition for receptor sites.  The ratio should be 15:1 of zinc to copper. The foods that contain more zinc in a bioavailable form and less copper are oysters, beef, lamb, crab, shrimp, sesame seeds and macadamia nuts.  Copper is much easier to get from the diet than zinc and you can find some supplements that are copper free. 

Many Americans are too high in copper and too low in zinc.  For instance, this unbalanced ratio has been linked to schizophrenia, anxiety, learning disabilities and autism.  Copper can come from copper IUD, copper pots, copper pipes, dental amalgams, pesticides and medications such as oral contraceptives. 

Copper is also stored in the liver so it is also beneficial to provide liver support such as with dark bitter greens, beets and lemon water. 

Bottom Line: If you are struggling with a mental health issue, hypothyroidism or a skin concern, look at your diet to see how much zinc you are getting from your foods. If you have digestive issues, take into consideration that this impacts the assimilation of your nutrients, including zinc.  In the end, zinc may help you but most likely your issue is multifaceted and zinc is playing a role but is not the only component of your health issue.  For instance, if you are a vegetarian, zinc may not be the only nutrient that you are deficient in. 

Sources

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Hoffer, A, Walker, M. (1978) Orthomolecular Nutrition. Keats Publishing. 156-7.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25290638

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25940914

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0082793

https://www.ncbi.mlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3796297

http://www.mdpi.com/2227-9067/1/3/261/htm

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/15569527.2013.808656

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and If Life is So Good, Then Why AM I Still Depressed? Discover the root cause for your depression and learn what to do to feel better and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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How to Know if You Have Hypothyroidism

Your Thyroid: Did your Test Results Come Back Normal?

(But you still feel like crap)stressed person

 

 

An underactive thyroid is not always the easiest thing to pinpoint when you have so many symptoms that seem random to you.  And only more recently are doctors starting to recognize that an unbalanced thyroid can have an impact not only on your physical health but your mental health as well.  The symptoms of hypothyroidism can also look like symptoms of other health issues, thus getting the proper diagnosis can take a long time.  If you see your doctor and share your symptoms of stress, fatigue, anxiety or depression, she may place you on antidepressants.

This may occur even after the blood work with the TSH test done. 

Stress, depression, anxiety, tiredness, and other emotional and mental states can mask a thyroid imbalance.  Depression is now the number one mental illness (it used to be anxiety) but are we not looking deep enough to find out what may be causing the high rate of these mental health issues?  Not to say that hypothyroidism is at the root of all mental health issues but it should be looked at thoroughly and from a functional range standpoint before  it can be ruled out.

 If you had your thyroid tested you ideally want your TSH levels to be in the range from 1.8-2.8 mIU/L.  (others state that most feel better when their TSH is in the range of .8-2.5) 

Normal TSH lab results are considered in the range of .50-5.00. Some labs have updated this and set the upper limit to 3.0 mIU/L.  What if your levels fall into this range yet you have many of the low thyroid symptoms?  Hopefully your doctor did a complete panel to look also at your T4 and T3 ranges.  It is possible to have signs of hypothyroidism when your TSH  levels are within what is considered the “normal range”. 

The issue most often arises when your doctor only tests TSH and this is in the “normal” range. The worst part is when you hear the doctor say “Your blood work is great.  You are fine”.  Yet, you don’t feel fine.  Instead they tell you it is in your head and prescribe an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Reference ranges on lab work may differ from one lab to the next and from one geographic location to the next. Experts recommend testing 120-200 patient samples for establishment of a statistically significant reference interval.  What I don’t like about these ranges provided on standard blood work is that it is there to diagnose disease for the most part, not to prevent disease. The other issue I have is that these ranges are based on the patient samples. Look at the average American nowadays. Does the image of health come to your mind or one of an unhealthy overweight person?

Functional ranges look at a smaller range so that health issues can be addressed before it turns into a full -blown disease.  

Make sure all parts of the thyroid get tested. You can have normal TSH and still have low thyroid.  Your T4 converts into T3 which is the active form of thyroid hormone and this conversion happens in the liver and needs an enzyme group  and selenium to make this conversion. Some doctors test TSH and T4 and still all looks good. You want to see the T3 test results too!  Essentially you want all the pieces to the puzzle not just a few. 

 

Functions of the Thyroid

  • Supports hair and skin health
  • Supports bone density
  • Controls respiration rate
  • Supports conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A
  • Maintains body temperature and tolerance to extreme heat or cold
  • Helps maintain muscle tautness
  • Controls metabolism-it controls the speed of every chemical reaction in all cells
  • Controls the rate at which cells burn fuel for energy
  • Supports mental acuity and memory
  • Supports serotonin synthesis
  • Sets heart rate tempo
  • Regulates cholesterol

 

  What Causes Hypothyroidism?

millet stalks

  • Most common cause is auto-antibodies such as in Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune condition)

o   Hashimoto’s is 7x more common in women, age of onset is usually 40-60 but 1-2% of school age children can be affected.

  • Genetics can play a role in autoimmune hypothyroid
  • Those with Hashimoto’s also have a prevalence for celiac disease
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Medications such as lithium, excess estrogen (i.e.: birth control pills), estrogen dominance
  • Cofactor deficiencies such as iodine, zinc, c, selenium, iron, vitamins A and B complex (can be caused from excessive dieting, anorexia)
  • Stress/elevated cortisol
  • Excess halogens (i.e.: chlorine/chloride, bromide, fluoride)
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Food sensitivity
  • Candida

The Difference Between Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that effects the thyroid gland. The antibodies react against the proteins in your thyroid gland causing gradual destruction of the gland itself.  This makes it unable to produce the thyroid hormones your body needs.  It is essentially attacking self and seeing self wrongly as an invader. If your thyroid issue turns out to be Hashimotos than you have an autoimmune disease (AI).  All AI diseases need immune and gut support from a holistic perspective. 

With Hashimotos disease, you can have periods where your thyroid is functioning properly or even over active and you may have temporary hyperthyroid symptoms and then you return to hypothyroidism symptoms.  This cycling back and forth is common with Hashimotos. For instance, you may feel for a period, anxious, can’t sleep, have diarrhea, and weight loss and then followed by a period of depression, fatigue, constipation and weight gain.  Eventually, as the attack continues, the gland will over time have less ability to function.

Hypothyroidism is not a disease but is a condition.  It is a state of a sluggish thyroid.  With hypothyroidism, you have a problem with your gland. With Hashimotos you have a problem with your immune function. 

How Do I Know if I Have Low Thyroid/Hypothyroidism?

person sleeping

Symptoms Include:

  • Loss out outer 1/3 of eyebrow
  • Yellow bumps on eyelid
  • Chronic constipation
  • Depression, moodiness
  • Fatigue/chronic
  • Excess hair loss/thinning hair
  • Weight gain/slow metabolism
  • Cold hands and feet
  • PMS
  • Cry easily
  • Dry flaky skin
  • Nervousness
  • Slow heart rate and/or heart palpitations
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feel better post exercise
  • Can’t breathe deeply enough
  • Poor memory/brain fog
  • Low body temperature
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Trouble getting up in the morning
  • Increased number of infections
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Lack of sweating when exercising
  • High cholesterol
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Digestive issues (GERD, acid reflux, upset stomach, bloat, gas )

If you suspect low thyroid, see you doctor and ask for a hormone panel that looks at not just your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) but your T4 and Free T3 and an antibody test as well to look for autoimmune hypothyroid. If your doctor does not want to do a complete thyroid panel you can get the test done yourself from  www.directlabs.com. Here you can order the free T’s, TSH and antibody panel for $159.  Most holistic nutritionists and ND’s can interpret and explain the results to you.  (note: testing is available in most states but not all)

                                             

Thyroid Dysfunction Causes

glass of water

Insulin imbalance: This can happen when you are eating a diet filled with processed, refined carbs and sugar along with weight gain.  This poor blood sugar control can also contribute to dysbiosis which is when the gut microbiome is out of balance.  This impaired gut health can lead to poor immune function, can stress the adrenals, slows your body’s natural detox process and can lead to hormonal imbalances.  These health issues can also contribute to poor thyroid function.

Stress: Not just one stressful event, but the daily chronic stress can place a burden on the adrenal glands and can alter the brains communication with the thyroid.  Stress can slow the conversion of T4 to the active form, T3, can slow the detox process of the liver, and can contribute to leaky gut syndrome.  This can lead to immune dysfunction which contributes to an increased risk of Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid condition. 

If you have adrenal fatigue, your thyroid gland can eventually wear out and lead to sluggish thyroid function. 

Gut infection: It is possible that correcting a gut infection such as H pylori can have a positive impact on the thyroid, especially for those with Hashimotos.  There is not a lot of research in this area but a study of ten patients did show this to be effective.  In order to heal a gut infection one must support gut health first with diet and nutrition and then address the gut infection.  If you address the infection first without supporting your body it is possible that it will be difficult to rid the body of the infection. 

Toxins: Research is showing that toxins may be responsible for changes in thyroid function.  This research focused on flame retardant chemicals.  Living in a home with a high amount of flame retardant chemicals has been shown to be linked to an increased rate of thyroid cancer.

Fluoride: A British study found a strong correlation between the areas where fluoride content was highest with a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism.  It was found that areas that had fluoride levels above .3 milligrams per liter (mg/L), the risk rose by 30%.  In the US the minimum standards for drinking water fluoridation are set at .7 mg/L. This means that if you live in the US your risk of hypothyroidism may be even greater.  If you want to know if fluoride has been added to your water, get a water report at http://www.ofmpub.epa.gov

Support Your Thyroid with Nutrition

balanced meal

  • Go gluten free: based on surveys many have found that a gluten free diet is one of most helpful interventions when dealing with hypothyroidism. Check your thyroid medications to make sure they are gluten free as most are but some are not! Visit glutenfreedrugs.com to check your medications.
  • Go Casein Free: Some people also find they do better without dairy in the diet as well. Dairy sensitivity testing is an option or remove dairy for several weeks and note how you feel.  Check packaging for hidden dairy.  Go to enterolab.com for stool testing 
  • Check your gut health: gut disorders such as celiac and h-pylori can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medications. If you want to know more about the gut and thyroid connection read “Hashimoto’s- the root cause” by Dr. Wentz.
  • Balance your blood sugar: Include protein and fat with every meal, eat every two to three hours at first and then as blood sugar balances you can go longer without eating; avoid fruit juice and processed foods; eat within one hour of wakening; don’t fast and if you eat carbs add some protein and fat to them.
  • Get your adrenals checked for adrenal fatigue: Questionnaires are available online, read Adrenal Fatigue by Dr. Wilson or take an adrenal salivary index test from direct labs. (Most doctors will mention this saliva at home test) Support your adrenals by reducing caffeine, add in relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, include Adaptogenic herbs, get plenty of rest and balance blood sugar!
  • Include iodine rich foods for thyroid support such as sea vegetables and sea food, shellfish, iodized salt (switch out table salt for Himalayan or Celtic sea salt). Iodine’s main function is the synthesis of thyroid hormones. (note: test first, if you have Hashimoto’s you may not need iodine and may want to avoid iodine supplementation)
  • Water Filtration System: Fluoride in the water can block the uptake of iodine. Purchase one that also removes chlorine. The one that I use is the Berkey (www.berkeyfilters.com)
  • Tyrosine which can be found in cottage cheese, beef top sirloin, turkey and eggs
  • B complex: to get more of your B’s in the diet include nutritional yeast, organ meats, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts seeds, mushrooms and avocado and leafy greens (animal products are the only natural source of B12)
  • Selenium: low selenium correlates with low thyroid. Add in brazil nuts, crimini mushrooms, garlic, beef, fish, seafood, turkey and chicken (celiac malabsorption can cause selenium deficiency)
  • Zinc: pumpkin seeds, seafood, meat, eggs, lamb, peas,
  • Essential Fatty Acids: salmon, sardines, mackerel, canned white tuna, chia seeds, walnuts, pastured eggs, flax oil,
  • Ashwagandha: This Adaptogenic herb is known to help you adapt to stress and can help to balance hormones, including the thyroid. It can be useful to balance cortisol, promote insulin sensitivity, and stabilize your mood.
  • Guggul: This herb may enhance the conversion of T4 to T3.  
  • Vitamin A: butter, egg yolk, whole milk, shrimp
  • Vitamin D3: cod liver oil, seafood, eggs, liver, shiitake mushrooms, oysters, salmon, sardines, herring,
  • Vitamin C: yellow bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, limes, broccoli, kale, snow peas, watermelon, cabbage and white potato
  • Iron: iron supplementation is not recommended for postmenopausal women or adult males as too much iron can be toxic. Iron is a competitive nutrient competing with 10 other vitamins and minerals and thus iron should be taken away from your multivitamin/mineral.  Iron rich foods include liver, oysters, mussels, beef, fish, poultry, kidney beans, lentils, potato with the skin on, cashew nuts and tofu.
  • Thyroid Supplementation: use natural whole thyroid products as you need all parts of the thyroid, not just T4 and/or T3. If you have Hashimoto’s then start with a T3/T4 medication and then while supporting the body,  switch to a natural whole thyroid supplement-the reason being that for some the whole thyroid product may initially cause more antibody production. 
  • Eat balanced meals throughout the day, add color, variety to your plate, eat whole living foods!
  • AVOID: Bromine. This is found in pesticides, plastics, commercial baked goods, soft drinks and fire retardants. Bromine may play a role in poor iodine uptake and may lead to iodine insufficiency.
  • AVOID: processed soy products. Avoid sulfa drugs or antihistamines unless necessary. 

A Word of Caution: Please note that a holistic nutritionist will address hypothyroidism and Hashimotos differently. For instance, you may need to reduce goitrogenic foods in the raw state for hypothyroidism but not for Hashimoto’s. For AI, you will need to support the immune system.  Work with a professional who can help you feel better.  If your test results do determine low thyroid, it is still very important to rule out an AI thyroid condition! 

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

Sources:

Arem, R. (1999) The Thyroid Solution. NY: Ballantine Books

Balch, P.  (2012) Prescription for Herbal Healing. NY: Penguin Group

Bauman, E., & Friedlander, J. Therapeutic Nutrition. Part 1.  Pengrove, CA: Bauman    

   College. 

Gaby, A. (2006) The Natural Pharmacy. NY: Three Rivers Press

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism. The Science and Practie of Herbal Medicine. VT: Healing Arts Press

Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine. CA: Basic Health Publications

Marz, F. (1999) Medical Nutrition. OR: Omni Press

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/05/31/screening-thryoid-drugs-often-fail-to-relieve-symptoms.aspx?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23378454

http://fluoridealalert.org/issues/health/thyroid/

https://news.kent.ac.uk/app/uploads/2015/02/Flouride-research.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics.htm

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What is Leaky Gut Syndrome and Your Mental Health

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome and Why You Should Know About it

gut

This is a buzz word lately along with gut health and the microbiome. Why is this such as big deal?  Should you even be concerned, especially if you do not have any stomach digestive issues? 

The answer is yes, you should know how your gut health impacts many aspects of your health, not just physical but your mental health as well. It is a very common health issue today yet many people are unaware of it and traditional medical professionals do not address it typically, most likely because they have never been taught about it in medical school

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome? (LGS)

Leaky gut syndrome (LGS) and intestinal permeability mean the same thing.  When you have LGS, food particles that should normally be broken down into their parts (usually these are proteins) are instead passed through the gut lining in their unbroken down state.  They then travel through the blood stream and can wreak havoc in your body. While there they trigger an over stimulation of the immune system and allergic reactions. 

In a healthy gut, you would have tight junctions along the gut wall so that food gets digested and absorbed via the normal digestion process.  This gut lining can become inflamed (for many reasons-see list below) and these tight junctions can separate creating holes in this protective barrier.  The toxins are now passing through these tears in the intestinal wall.  Once they enter the blood stream they can trigger an immune response which is protective rather than a healing response. 

Think of LGS as intruders invading your home.  If the door stays open (LGS) the intruders will constantly enter with nothing to stop them. Thus, if your root causes for LGS are not addressed, that door will continue to stay open and more damage will be done to your home.  Over time then the issue become chronic. 

Once the issue becomes chronic, it places stress upon the liver. The liver attempts to clean up this toxic overload but the liver may now be overburdened and cannot keep up.  This burden will lead to even more consequences over time. 

Over time this leads to low grade infections within the body and can affect your gut health but can also affect your brain and your liver.  It can contribute to autoimmune disease, autism and allergies. It has been linked to MS, chronic fatigue syndrome, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and IBS to name a few. 

LGS Symptoms

  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation
  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Autism
  • Bipolar
  • GERD
  • Poor immune functioning (get every cold that comes around or take a long time to recover form illness)
  • Brain fog, memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Nutritional deficiencies (not absorbing your nutrients)
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Skin issues (eczema, psoriasis, acne)
  • IBS
  • IBD
  • Other autoimmune conditions such as Hashimotos, celiac disease, fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis, inflamed joints, chronic pain
  • Changes in mood, weight, and appetite

What to Do if Have a Leaky Gut

The first thing to do if you know you have leaky gut is to identify what is causing it.

 Some causes of leaky gut include (not an exhaustible list):

GMO

  • NSAIDS
  • Anorexia
  • Candida
  • Old age
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Chemo and radiation
  • Parasitic infection
  • GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides, glyphosate
  • Antibiotic use
  • Food allergies/food sensitivities
  • Standard American Diet
  • Diet high in refined sugar and processed, refined carbs
  • Gluten (today’s gluten is sprayed)
  • Pasteurized dairy
  • Meats from CAFO (confined animal factory operations)
  • Chronic elevated cortisol levels

 

 

When you Have Identified your Causes (often there is more than one) Then Follow a Step by Step Protocol:

  1. Remove the identifying causes from your diet (if you need to, work with a nutritional professional who can help you identify your root causes and possibly order testing such as IgG food allergy testing, Stool testing, Organic Acid tests, zonulin or lactulose tests ).
  2. Add in supportive foods for your body, such as leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, quality fats and proteins. Eat whole foods as much as possible. Hydrate with filtered water and organic herbal teas. 
  3. Add in herbs and supportive supplements to promote gut healing and liver detox (it is best to work under the guidance of a professional at this point as some herbs and supplements can interact with meds or may not be suitable for some health conditions)
  4. Add in prebiotic and probiotic rich foods such as kefir, kimchi, fermented vegetables, miso and tempeh, raw onions and garlic, asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke.

How to Avoid LGS

The best way to avoid LGS is to avoid the list of roots causes above. In addition to that, supporting your gut health and your immune health is key with prebiotic and probiotic rich foods daily and stick to a whole foods diet as much as you can (I like an 80/20 plan).

Uses herbs and supplements as needed on an individualized basis.  I don’t recommend specifics here because everyone has different needs and a different constitution and thus each plan should be targeted for your health needs instead of generalized. 

Sources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25734566
  2. https://chriskresser.com/how-stress-wreaks-havoc-on-your-gut/
  3. Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutics in Nutrition. CA: Bauman College
  4. Nichols, T. & Faas, N. (2005) Optimal Digestive Health. VT: Healing Arts Press.
  5. http://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com/public/leaky-gut.cfm

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Food Coloring and Dye Sensitivity in Your Child and the Association with Behavioral and Mental Health Issues

Food Coloring Sensitivity Symptoms: Could This Be Your Child?

cupcake

Could your child’s physical, mental, behavioral and emotional symptoms be connected to food colorings and dyes added to processed foods that are a part of your diet.  Typically, these children start showing symptoms around age 1 when foods are being introduced into the diet. 

Years later and many medications later parents are struggling to figure out what is causing all these issues.

Food dyes and colorings has been a controversial subject since pediatrician, Dr. Benjamin Feingold published his findings in the 19070’s and noted the link between hyperactive behavior and dyes.  But scientists and the government are not in consensus. Some studies do not state that these dyes cause behavioral issues but do state that dyes may contribute to making ADHD symptoms worse.

In 2004, the results from 15 studies concluded there was a modest worsening of behavior when children with ADHD consumed foods with synthetic dyes.  Since then the European Union commissioned 2 studies to clarify the situation.  The results were convincing enough that the European Union passed a law requiring a warning on foods that contain one or more of the suspicious dyes. 

What did the U.S. do? They decided it is up to our government to decide when these dyes cause harmful effects.  Thus, our products carry no warning label for parents.  For some children, they may be extra sensitive to even very small amounts of dyes and colorings. 

As a parent, you know your child best. If 8 or more symptoms below sound like your child, try a 2- week elimination of all dyes and colorings from your child’s diet.  The worst thing that can happen is that your child will eat a healthy nutritious diet for 2 whole weeks minus many of the processed junk food on today’s shelves. 

Food Dyes

cereal fruit loop type

  • Red 40 (this has been associated with aggressiveness and impulsive behavior in children, hitting, biting, kicking, tantrums)
  • Yellow 5 (most often associated with insomnia, hyperactivity and learning disabilities)
  • Yellow 6
  • Red 3
  • Blue 1
  • Blue 2
  • Green 3
  • Annatto (a natural food coloring)
  • Carmine (a natural food coloring)

Signs Your Child’s Behavior Could Be Related to Dyes/Colorings

child holding ears

  • Hyperactivity (the H in ADHD)
  • ADD symptoms (inability to focus, inattention)
  • Sleep issues
  • Mood swings (can be in a span of one day, several hours…)
  • Violence, aggression (i.e.: in kids; spitting, biting, kicking, growling, tantrums that can last an hour or longer)
  • Lack of impulse control (disruptive, interrupts when someone is speaking, excessive talking, difficulty in transitioning from one task, one activity to another)
  • Headaches, stomachaches, vomiting
  • Bed wetting, well past toilet trained age
  • Skin ailments such as eczema, hives, unexplained rashes
  • Breathing issues such as asthma
  • Compulsive: picks at his or her skin, repeats certain actions, pulls out his or her own hair, or eyebrows.
  • Not consistent: for instance, you think it could be due to sugar, but one day he eats sugar and he is fine and another day he eats a sugary food and he is off the wall with his behavior. In this case, it may not be the sugar!
  • Headbanging as a toddler, typically started when foods were introduced into the diet when an infant or toddler. Headbanging typically stops around age 3 once the child is larger with more weight on his body to “handle” the amounts of dyes in foods.
  • Has a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Sensitive to bright lights, loud noises.
  • Frequent bouts of crying
  • Sensitivity can continue into adulthood and can be a cause for anger, depression and aggression

If you identify with one to three or four items on this list, it may not be a dye/coloring root cause.  Still it cannot hurt to remove dyes and colorings from the diet for 2 weeks to note any changes.  Most children that have a dye/coloring reaction identify with 8 or more on this list. 

The Good News

Manufacturers are listening to parents. Many have removed or are in the planning stages of removing dyes from their products.  Kraft has removed dyes from some, not all, of their products.  General Mills has removed dyes from Trix and Yoplait go-gurts.  Chick-fil-A removed yellow #5 from its chicken soup, Frito lay has removed dyes from Lay’s seasoned and kettle cooked chips, Sun Chips and Tostitos, and Pepperidge Farm removed dyes from Goldfish Crackers.  Please note that Goldfish contain annatto which is a natural food coloring and some children are sensitive to this. 

What to Do If You Suspect a Food Dye/Coloring Reaction in Your Child?

The first thing to do is to start clearing out your home of all foods that contain dyes and colors. This is a big task as it will require you to read labels on everything. Dyes and coloring are added to foods you would not think of such as your jar of pickles.  Some more obvious foods include cereals, processed American cheese and colored beverages. It is not just in that rainbow-colored cupcake icing, m and m’s, skittles or starbursts but it can be hidden in salad dressings, crackers, chips, soups and much more.

Once you have cleaned out your pantry, then it is time to shop.  Go when you know you have the time to read labels and plan for more than an hour in the store. Once you get the hang of products that are safe and your child likes, the process will become easier. 

Your child can also react to food dyes in toothpaste, vitamins and medications!  Don’t forget to check these products too.

What ends up happening is that these children exceed the safety limit due to overconsumption of foods with dyes and colorings.

If you do not see any significant positive changes within the 2 weeks, this may not be the root cause.  If this symptom list still sounds like your child, you may want to then explore a preservative free diet and look for labels that contain sodium benzoate (to start) which has been linked to hyperactivity in children. 

Is It Impacting Your Child’s Gut Health?

Unfortunately, I cannot find any direct links or studies showing that a sensitivity to artificial dyes and colorings could impact gut health.  However, just because the information is not out there, does not mean it does not exist.  If food sensitivities, such as one to dairy or gluten can cause leaky gut syndrome then at this point I must believe that a dye sensitivity can do the same. 

What this means is that once you remove these suspected foods and have a routine with your new diet, the next step is to address gut healing.  I like to do this with a product called Restore along with fermented foods and other targeted supplements if necessary. 

What to Do Next

If removing artificial and natural colorings did not help, don’t give up. Slowly remove other additives, removing only one at a time such as:

  1. Benzoates (in juices, soft drinks, syrups, meds)
  2. Sorbates (in margarine, dips, cakes, fruit products)
  3. Sulphites (in dried fruits, fruit drinks, sausages and more)
  4. Nitrates (processed meat products)
  5. Propionates
  6. Flavor enhancers (MSG 621 and others in the 600 range)

For a more complete list of possible additives that your child may be reacting to, go to fedup.com.au and use that as a good resource to guide you. 

Bottom Line: Your child does not have to suffer. Work with a holistic nutrition professional to help you figure out the root cause for your child’s behavioral, mental and emotional issues. 

Did removing dyes from your child’s diet make a difference? If so I would love to hear from you!

 

Sources

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/articles/does-artificial-food-coloring-contribute-to-adhd-in-children/
  2. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/22/artificial-food-dyes.aspx
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3441937/
  4. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-david/post_1891_b_843577.html
  5. http://www.fedup.com.au/factsheets/symptom-factsheets/head-banging
  6. http://www.happymothering.com/02/health-2/nutrition-health-2/beyond-allergies-why-food-dyes-may-cause-child-behavioral-problems/
  7. https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/ingredients-concern/food-dyes/testimonies
  8. Dorfman, K. (2013) Cure Your Child with Food. NY: Workman Publishing Group

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Blood Sugar and your Mental Health

Blood Sugar Imbalance and its Impact on your Mental Health

roller coaster

Riding the blood sugar roller coaster day after day can impact your mental health.  The highs followed by crashes may accentuate the symptoms of a mood disorder.  Research has tied processed, refined sugar consumption to an increased risk of depression and can worsen the outcomes of schizophrenia. 

Blood sugar in the form of glucose is the basic fuel for all brain operation and activity.  If it is inadequate, mental health systems can start to shut down.  Glandular imbalances will result as the glands struggle to regulate the sugar level. This can cause symptoms such as high adrenaline which can look like anxiety, panic attacks or violence. 

Just by making tweaks to your diet you can improve your blood sugar regulation and your mental health.

The Impact of Blood Sugar Dysregulation on our Mental Health

By now, most of know that sugar and processed foods are bad for our heart, cholesterol and waistline.  But not as much attention is giving to what it does to our brain. 

Here is what Happens

bread pasta rice

  1. You eat a meal or have a drink with excess sugar. Say you start your day with a bagel, muffin or donut, or have cereal with milk, banana and some OJ.
  2. The pancreas releases insulin to bring glucose to the cells but because of the high amount of sugar, the insulin response is excessive
  3. About 2 hours later so much sugar has been put into storage that you now have low blood sugar and are feeling weak, shaky, brain fog, fatigue, change in mood (depression) and cravings
  4. The body responds to this as an emergency so it dumps adrenaline into the system. This causes anxiety, racing heart, irritability, anxiousness, panic, outbursts and more
  5. You reach for a processed carb or sugar product to get your sugar levels back up. Thus, the cycle begins again.

This cycle contributes to chronic inflammation in the body.  Chronic inflammation is not only associated with physical health conditions such as heart disease but also with brain function such as depression and brain fog. 

A surge of adrenaline is not always a bad thing. In prehistoric times if you were being chased by a wild animal you got a surge of adrenaline to run away.  Adrenaline prepares you for vigorous muscular activity.  It raises your heart rate and turns off digestion so now you are prepared for fight or flight.  In modern society it is not the wild animal that raises our adrenaline but instead the constant demands we put on our body such as stress from our processed, nutrient deficient, highly processed diet.

   Symptoms of Imbalanced Blood Sugar (highs and lows)

  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Abnormal weight (too high or too low)
  • waking after 2-3 hours of sleep at night and cannot fall right back to sleep
  • Dizziness
  • headaches
  • irritability if meals are missed
  • nervous habits
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • phobias
  • violent outbursts
  • Unable to concentrate (ADD)
  • Anti-social behavior
  • Crying spells
  • Nightmares
  • confusion
  • tightness in chest
  • constant hunger
  • tremors
  • obsessive compulsive behavior
  • poor word finding ability
  • brain fog
  • blurred vision
  • insomnia
  • cravings for sugar, sweets, soda, coffee, alcohol, refined carbs
  • fainting
  • cannot tolerate bright lights or loud sounds
  • joint pain
  • no appetite at breakfast, may wakeup feeling nauseous, skip breakfast
  • highs and lows/mood swings within a one day period

 

What Causes Blood Sugar Dysregulation (in addition to diet)

fast food burger

  • Standard American diet
  • Inadequate physical activity
  • Irregular eating patterns
  • Skipping meals
  • Eating imbalanced meals (meals with mostly refined carbs and little in the way of quality protein/fats)
  • Refined carbs (bagels, pasta, muffins, cookies, pastries, donuts, bread, rolls, etc.)
  • Gluten intolerance and other food allergies/insensitivities
  • Excess caffeine intake
  • Alcoholism
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Stress
  • Excess blood sugar lowering medication
  • Insulin resistance
  • Birth control pills
  • Fructose

Physical Symptoms of Blood Sugar Imbalance

  • Darkened skin along jawline or neck (this occurs due to elevated insulin levels present with elevated blood sugar)
  • Extra abdominal fat-this can include fat on back, chest, sides of waist and shoulder blade area
  • Base of neck fat pad-this fat tends to be very inflammatory
  • Enlarged breasts in men (elevated blood sugar in men stimulates activity of enzymes that shifts testosterone to estrogen which promotes growth of breast tissue)
  • Note: you may not always see these physical signs

How to Balance Blood Sugar

balanced meal

Some foods that will help to balance blood sugar include almonds (very filling), quinoa (great substitute for rice), millet (it has a combination of fiber and phytonutrients), hummus (protein packed), avocado (filled with healthy fat), lentils (good source of protein) and walnuts (make a great snack with omega 3’s).

Consume foods that release energy slowly into the blood stream such as vegetables, berries, and nuts and seeds.

 

Treatment of blood sugar imbalances involves a combination of dietary and lifestyle measures that minimize the shock to the pancreas and the adrenal glands and stabilize carbohydrate metabolism.  It is better to address it now because highs and lows in blood sugar will eventually lead to highs only (meaning diabetes and insulin resistance)

  • Decrease the consumption of simple carbs and sugars, caffeine, alcohol,
  • Eat three meals per day and at least 2 additional snacks. DO NOT SKIP MEALS (once you have balance blood sugar then you can try intermittent fasting)
  • Provide a balance at each meal/snack of protein, complex carbs, healthy fats and fiber.
  • Eat foods closer to the form they are found in nature.
  • This can look like:

o   a protein smoothie with avocado and greens included for breakfast (skip the fruit or add in berries or ½ a banana)

o   snack on handful of almonds mid-morning

o   for lunch have chicken salad on a bed of lettuce (if you must have bread, opt for one slice only) with a Bubbies pickle and a side salad

o   mid-day snack on raw vegetables and hummus

o   for dinner have salmon, roasted sweet potato and a vegetable such as asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower. 

o   AVOID packages foods, sugary foods, artificially sweetened foods and drinks, refined carbs such as pasta and bread, white rice, dried fruits such as banana or apple chips and processed corn products

 

 

  Beneficial Nutrients

  • Protein: it is used to mitigate the symptoms of hypoglycemia because it can keep sugar stable while keeping metabolism high. Protein takes longer to be digested than simple carbs and this will prevent sudden drops and spikes in blood sugar levels.  The glucose from digested protein (and from complex carbs is released into the bloodstream gradually which helps to regulate blood glucose levels.)  Consume 2-4 ounces of animal protein or 4-6 ounces of plant protein at each meal. For snacks reduce the amount to half.  Protein amounts at breakfast can be slightly increased.  High quality sources of protein include grass fed meats, wild caught fish, bean/legumes and raw dairy. 
  • Cobalamin (B12): along with other B vitamins helps to convert consumed foods into glucose that can be utilized by the body.  Thus, a B12 deficiency can result in low blood sugar levels. Eating foods rich in B12 will help to increase energy levels by converting food into glucose.  In supplement form take 300 mcg. 3 times daily on an empty stomach.  Best forms include methylcobalamin, adenosycobalamin and hydroxocobalamin.  Most B complexes do not contain enough B12 so it is best to take an additional B12 supplement. Food sources include grass fed beef, lamb, chicken, wild game, organ meats, grass fed milk, cottage cheese and fish/shellfish.
  • Niacin (B3): It is needed to produce insulin.  It helps to promote proper digestion by helping with the production of stomach acid used in the metabolism of carbs.  It can also be useful for treating depression and anxiety associated with hypoglycemia.  Niacin will cause a “flush” within minutes of ingesting.  Food sources include fish, meats, peanuts, whole grains mushrooms, seeds, eggs and almonds. Supplement form take 100 mg. 2 timers per day with meals.  Check with your doctor. before taking, as it can interact with some medications.

 

Bottom Line:

just because you do not have diabetes does not mean you are safe from blood sugar ups and downs.  Balance your blood sugar by eating protein and fat along with your complex carbs.  Don’t skip meals and opt for a diet of 80% whole foods and 20% of your processed, junk food.  If you are suffering from any mental health disorder, this is a simple step to take. 

 

References

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201309/4-ways-sugar-could-be-harming-your-mental-health
  2. http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/conquering-anxiety-depression-and-fatigue-without-drugs-the-role-of-hypoglycemia-2/
  3. http://diabeteslibrary.org
  4. http://www.askdrmaxwell.com/hypoglycemia-causes-and-natural-treatments/
  5. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/12/22/how-eating-sugar-can-cause-mental-illness.aspx
  6. Golan, R. (1995) Optimal Wellness. New York: Ballantine Books.

 

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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What to look for in a Omega 3 Supplement

What to look for in an Omega 3 Supplement

fish oil supplement

Fish oil is a rich source of EPA and DHA which are needed for our health for many reasons that will be listed in this article.  These needed nutrients are found in the fatty tissue of cold water, oily fish. These are essential fatty acids and the body cannot make them thus we need to get them from food or supplement (1)

It has only been in the past 15 years that the actions of EPA and DHA have come to be understood. (3)   Until now there is still more research on DHA than there is on EPA (2). Because of research we have a better understanding of how these fatty acids work in isolation and in combination. 

This article will discuss the benefits of both EPA and DHA and ways to get them in your diet including vegan sources. 

Do You Need More Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids in Your Diet?

Most Americans are deficient in omega 3’s and instead consume an abundance of omega 6’s. While we need some omega 6’s in our diet, the current ratio contributes to inflammation and chronic disease. Add to that they most Americans are consuming their omega 6’s from processed, rancid oils instead of oils such as evening primrose. 

 

Signs you May Be Deficient in Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

  • Growth retardation
  • Behavioral changes
  • ADD
  • Poor motor coordination
  • Poor vision
  • Poor learning ability
  • Excessive blood coagulation
  • Edema
  • Weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Inflammation
  • Tingling in the arms and legs
  • Low metabolic rate
(8)

Why You Need Both EPA and DHA

mom with baby

  • EPA

o   Products that contain more EPA than DHA have been shown to be beneficial for depression. Supplements that had a lower ratio or EPA to DHA were judged to be ineffective.  Studies that showed promise had used 1 gram of EPA daily. (2)

o   EPA may also be helpful for heart disease and may aid to lower triglyceride levels due to its anti-inflammatory effects. (2)

o   Children with development problems may benefit from a product containing only high amounts of pure EPA (3)

o   After the age of 5 the development of the brain and the central nervous system starts to reduce the body’s need for DHA and the need for EPA increases (3).

o   EPA has been shown to help children with academic performance, focus, attention and reducing aggression.  (3)

o   Dry skin, allergies and eczema can also benefit from EPA use as it will help to reduce inflammation.

o   EPA has been shown to reduce cognitive decline and dementia

o   Aids in joint health (4)

o   Regulates insulin levels (4)

o   In one study, those with increased anxiety were given 2 grams of EPA daily and there was a statistically significant reduction in anxiety compared to those in the placebo group.  (11)

o   Increased EPA may help you to handle stress and may improve mood in the general population.  (11)

 

  • DHA

o   DHA is needed for healthy brain development and for the aging brain.  Low levels of DHA have been associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease (6)

o   Children require DHA for growth and development

o   Once dementia has set in and there is brain damage, at this point DHA becomes important again.  Look for a product that contains 250 mg. of DHA. (3)

o   A 12- week study of DHA supplementation was found to improve blood flow to the brains of healthy young adults during cognitive tasks.  (6)

o   For women, low DHA is thought to be responsible in many cases of postpartum depression. (6)

 

  • EPA and DHA

o   Both are needed for pregnant women to ensure optimal brain and nervous system development of the fetus (1)

o   The average adult should look for a fish oil supplement containing 700-1,000 mg. of EPA and 200-500 mg. of DHA (1)

o   ADHD: children may benefit from one gram total

o   These long chain omega 3 fatty acids can affect metabolism of mood related neurotransmitters such as your serotonin and your dopamine.  Since both EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory effects both can contribute to reducing depressive symptoms (6)

o   Both EPA and DHA have been shown to improve symptoms of Bipolar. (9) One study showed that omega 3 supplementations reduced mania and depression in youths with bipolar.  The dose in the study was 360 mg. EPA and 1560 DHA for 6 weeks. (10)

  • Bottom Line: for your health, you need to opt for a product that contains both EPA and DHA or eat fatty fish.

Food Sources

abstract-1238248_1280 (1)

If you want to avoid consuming fish oil, consume 3 ounces of fatty fish 3 times per week for general health.  Check your sources when buying fish as fish can be very contaminated.  A good place to look is www.seafoodwatch.org (for you sushi lovers, they also have a great list of which sushi options are the best and which to avoid)

 If I know I am going to eat, say salmon for dinner that night, I will skip taking my fish oil on that day. 

  • Wild caught Alaskan Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines (I like Wild Planet Brand)
  • Herring
  • Black Cod
  • Omega-3 enriched eggs
  • Anchovies
  • Cod liver oil

What If I have a Seafood Allergy?

If you have an allergy to shellfish, you may be able to still consume fish oil.  Fish allergies are typically a reaction to the proteins and thus a purified true fish oil should still be safe. (7)  But if you have a serious allergic reaction to fish such as anaphylactic shock, I would avoid fish oil to be safe and use non-fish sources instead. 

Plant sources

flax seeds

If you are a vegan or vegetarian (or have a fish allergy) and do not eat fish or take a fish oil supplement, you can take an algae supplement for your DHA.  But you will still need a source for your EPA. (4) 

You can get ALA from plant sources such as flax seeds and flax seed oil, walnuts, hemp, purslane and chia seeds but the conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA is small.  The conversion of ALA to EPA is anywhere from 3% to 20%. The proportion of ALA converted to DHA is small. (5) 

A study measuring blood EPA and DHA in a vegan population showed that 64 % had insufficient amounts and some were severely deficient.  This population’s intake of ALA was above the recommended intake as well.  (6)

We need an enzyme called Delta 6 Desaturase to make the conversion from ALA to EPA and DHA.  This conversion process can be blocked by alcohol, caffeine, high refined carb diet, trans fats and poor quality oils such as canola and vegetable oil, meds and street drugs, deficiencies of B6, B3, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc; toxins and certain conditions such as diabetes and aging.  (8)

A newer plant oil called Ahiflower oil from Buglossoides arvensis, has reportedly the highest level of non-GM omega-3 essential fatty acids.  The plant oil combines ALA with stearidonic acid.  The stearidonic acid converts EPA at a ratio of 30-35%.  This may be a good option to consider if you are a vegan or vegetarian.  (5). However, keep in mind what can block the conversion from plant oils into essential fatty acids. 

 

When to Use Caution

  • If you are going in for surgery stop taking fish oil supplements and tell your doctor of your supplements
  • If you have a fish allergy avoid all fish oil products to be safe
  • Fish oil supplements can affect blood clotting so if you are on a blood thinner, talk to your doctor first before supplementing.
  • If you are pregnant or breast feeding, research brands and where your fish is from to avoid contaminants.
  • Go slow when using fish oil as starting out on a high dose may cause stomach and digestive issues.  Start low and work your way up slowly
  • Always take fish oil with a meal that contains fat. It is best to take fish oil with your biggest meal of the day.  Since it is a fat soluble nutrient it needs fat in order for you to absorb and utilize it.

Bottom line

When choosing an essential fatty acid supplement, choose one that contains both EPA and DHA as you will benefit from having both.  Much of your brain is made up of DHA fats and EPA fats are found in every cell in your body. 

 

 

Resources

  1. https://ww.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/vitamins/fish-oil-and-omega-3/
  2. http://ww.nutraingredients-usa-com/Researach/EPA-stands-alone-as-a-depression-fighter
  3. https://igennus.com/nutrition/omega-3-science/epa-vs-dha/
  4. https://www.totalwellnesschoices.com/algae-vs-fish-oil-supplements/
  5. https://www.nutraingredients-usa-com/Markets/Powerful-PUFAs-The-many-health-benefits-of-omega-3s/?
  6. https://uintacountyherald.com/article/omega-3-fatty-acid-good-for-adult-elderly-brain-health
  7. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fish-allergies-omega-3/
  8. Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations of Nutrition. CA: Bauman College   
  9. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/there-strong-evidence-omega-3-fatty-acids-have-beneficial-effect-bipolar-disorder
  10.   http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/omega-3-polyunsaturated-fatty-acid-supplementation-associated-reduced-mania
  11. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-zone/201201/anxiety-and-omega-3-fatty-acids

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Digestive Issues and How to Tell if it is an Issue with Casein or Lactose

Is Casein Or lactose Causing Your Digestive Problems?

milk

Many people assume that if they experience gas or bloating and pain after consuming dairy that they are lactose intolerant. This may not always be the case.  This can occur for other reasons as well. 

A lactose intolerance usually affects just the digestive system while a casein sensitivity can have an impact in other areas of health as well. 

How to Know if you are Lactose Intolerant

If you are lactose intolerant, this means that you lack the enzyme, lactase, to break down the sugar, lactose in your dairy products. 

  • Signs and symptoms typically occur about 30 minutes after ingesting the food containing dairy. (but can occur up to 2 hours later)
  • You may experience gas, bloating, loose bowels, sinus congestion, cramps and nausea.
  • Typically, those who are lactose intolerant can still eat most cheeses and not experience symptoms. This is because in the process of making cheese, lactose is converted into lactic acid which is easy to digest. 
  • Cream, butter and yogurt have little to no lactose (full fat heavy whipping cream has none) so these are still okay for those with lactose intolerance. Heavy whipping cream also does not contain casein.
  • Skim milk does contain lactose.
  • Fermented dairy such as kefir has less lactose so you may be able to tolerate it.
  • Even if you are lactose intolerant you may be able to digest small amounts in a single meal.
  • Yogurt contains less lactose than milk.
  • Raw cheese has only small amounts of lactose and casein.

Pay attention to which dairy foods give you trouble.  Is it just milk?  Is it only when you consume large amount of dairy?  This may help you to figure out if your issue is with lactose.  If it is an issue with lactose then taking a digestive enzyme that contains lactase 30 minutes prior to the meal may help, along with consuming smaller amount of dairy at your meals or eliminating it from your diet (you don’t need dairy to meet your calcium needs-see more information below). 

The brand of digestive enzyme I like is Enzymedica. 

Which Cheeses have less lactose?

cheese

If you aren’t ready to give up dairy, here are some cheeses you can still eat if you are lactose intolerant

  • The fresher the cheese the more lactose it will have; aged cheeses are a better choice.
  • You want to opt for cheeses that have less than 3% lactose range. (whole milk has 3.7-4.8%)
  • Muenster, camembert, brie, cheddar, provolone, gouda, blue, parmesan and swiss are all good choices.
  • AVOID: Feta, ricotta, Colby, American and Velveeta (why would you eat these last two processed cheeses anyway?).
  • Opt for organic, raw and grass fed cheeses if you can. (see below for more information as to why)

Signs It May Be the Casein and Not the lactose in your Dairy

Casein is the main protein in dairy and is also added to other foods used as a binding agent.  Casein is found in milk and in lactose free dairy products.  So, if you consume lactose free products and still experience symptoms it may be the casein and not lactose that is causing your issues. 

In addition to gut and digestive symptoms, a casein sensitivity has been linked to ADHD, autism, brain fog, asthma, aggression, anger and excess mucus production.  It can also cause headaches, ear infections, eczema and skin allergies. 

Ask yourself, in addition to your digestive issues are you suffering from any of the issues mentioned above?  If so, it may be the protein in the dairy.  If you are still unsure you may want to do food allergy testing.  Tests range from stool samples to blood tests.  Butter contains very little casein and heavy cream does not contain casein.  The dairy foods that have the most protein will contain more casein. 

If it is casein and not lactose that is an issue for you, removing casein from the diet is a good first step.  However, if you have been reacting to it for a long time there may be other issues that will need to be addressed such as possible intestinal permeability and systemic inflammation. 

What You Need to Know About Your Dairy

milk jug and glass

Pasteurization is a process that heats the milk to kill off bacteria, microbes and pathogens.  However, the process also kills off the good bugs.  It also destroys enzymes that are needed to break down fats, and proteins and to deliver vitamins and minerals. 

Ultra- Pasteurized milk is heated to 275 degrees and destroys everything!  It is best to avoid this type of milk. 

Pasteurized milk is heated to 160 degrees and preserves some of the good bacteria. 

Vat-Pasteurized is heated to 135 degrees and preserves the good bacteria and many of the enzymes.  This is the best commercial choice.  Organic Valley brand has a whole milk that is vat pasteurized.  Kalona Farms brand offers vat pasteurized products as well which can be found at Whole Foods. 

Opt for organic milk to avoid antibiotics, growth hormones and pesticides that are carried in the fatty portion of the milk.  While I don’t recommend skim milk, if you don’t buy organic this would be your safer bet since it does not contain the fat and thus will not be contaminated with the hormones, antibiotics and pesticides that milk with fat would contain.  But skim milk is also harder to digest and lacks beneficial fats. 

If you consume large amounts of milk, you may want to consider raw milk shares.  Go to realmilk.com to find a local farm.  If you have a casein sensitivity, even raw milk may not be for you.  There is a brand called A2 which many with a casein sensitivity can tolerate. The downside however is that it is not organic.  If you are lactose intolerant you may want to opt for milk alternatives such as nut milks, hemp milk or coconut milk. 

Keep in mind that “You are what your food eats”.  If you consume dairy products from a CAFO (confined animal factory operation), you will be consuming some of the hormones, antibiotics, GMO feed etc. that is given to these cows that may never see the light of day and never leave their confined very small indoor space. 

There are many small local farms that you can support. They may not have the organic label but do follow organic and humane practices.  Visit your local farmers market in the summer and stop and talk to those at the booths to find out how you can get their products year-round. 

Non-Dairy Calcium Sources

Nutrition

Many people still think that the only way to get their calcium is via dairy products.  This is just not true!  There are many non-dairy calcium sources.  And in fact, there are numerous cultures around the world that do not eat dairy and yet still have healthy bone density.  To absorb your calcium, you need adequate amounts of vitamin D3.  Most dairy products are fortified with vitamin D2 which is synthetic and not as easy to absorb and assimilate.  Take a vitamin D3 supplement or get some sunshine if your blood work shows that you are low. 

Non-dairy Calcium Sources

  • Dark leafy greens such as collard greens, spinach and kale
  • Dark green vegetables such as broccoli
  • Legumes
  • Sesame seeds
  • Almonds
  • Canned salmon with bones
  • Sardines
  • Rhubarb
  • Okra
  • Edamame
  • Black eyed peas

Is It Better to Consume Fermented Dairy (kefir) and Goat Dairy?

 

Kefir fermentation breaks down proteins in the dairy and thus those with a casein sensitivity may be able to tolerate kefir.   The kefir microorganisms ferment milk lactose.  Kefir contains a lot of bacteria that aid lactose digestion.  These bacteria may help to digest lactose.  The plus is that kefir also has a broad range of nutrients and due to its probiotic content is supportive for gut an immune health. 

Lifeway kefir states that their kefir is 99% lactose free and this is due to the fermentation process.  The cultures break down the lactose.  Lifeway states that not all kefirs are 99% lactose free so you may want to contact the company before you trying other brands. 

Kefir may be a good option if you cannot tolerate casein or are lactose intolerant.  Better yet, opt for goat milk kefir since goat milk is known to be easier to digest. 

 

Bottom Line: Experiment with various dairy foods to see which you can tolerate and which that you cannot. If you have any mood or skin issues in addition to the digestive issues, it may be best to work a professional to work on gut healing, addressing possible leaky gut and nutrient deficiencies.  A nutrition professional can guide you as to which foods you can safely tolerate.  While Americans love their dairy, it is not a necessary food group to maintain optimum health and in reality, may be causing some of your chronic health issues. 

 

Sources

http://bodyecology.com/articles/2-signs-of-enzyme-deficiency-that-you-can%E2%80%99t-miss

http://www.stevecarper.com/li/list_of_lactose_percentages.htm

http://milkgenomics.org/article/kefir-microorganisms-break-down-milk-proteins/

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/how-consuming-dairy-can-impact-your-mood

www.lifewaykefir.com

www.kefir.net

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/03/26/pastuerized-milk-part-one.aspx

http://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2013/10/whats-the-difference-between-all-those-types-of-milk-in-the-grocery-store/

www.safeharbor.com

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations of Nutrition. CA: Bauman College.

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

 

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