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Hashimoto’s and Gluten

Gluten. It seems like everyone is talking about it. Books are lining shelves declaring the evils of this grain-based protein most of us have been eating for years. The grocery stores are full of “gluten-free” labels and gluten free bakeries are popping up in cities all across the country.

Gluten Free LogoWhy are we suddenly so aware of this protein? And what does it mean for people who have Hashimoto’s? Let me take you through some of the basics.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in several different grains – wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut and triticale. It is a combination of two different proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Not all grains contain gluten and a gluten-free diet can still provide the essential nutrients found in these grains.

Autoimmunity

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. It is, in essence, an immune condition with the thyroid being the unfortunate victim.

Autoimmune conditions are thought to develop when there are a combination of different factors. The three most commonly suggested factors are:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • A triggering event – this can be a nutrient deficiency, acute illness, chronic infection, dysbiosis, excess stress, food sensitivities or impaired detoxification
  • Increased intestinal hyperpermeability or “leaky gut”

The increased intestinal hyperpermeability, or “leaky gut” is where gluten becomes a major issue.

Leaky Gut

Keep outThe cells that line our digestive tract are joined at tight junctions – these close connections allow only the smallest particles of digested food to present to our immune system. Certain foods, like gluten, are more difficult for our enzymes to completely digest. These partially digested proteins, called peptides, can cause inflammation at the lining of the digestive tract, leading to damage of the tight junctions. When these tight junctions are compromised they become more permeable, or leaky, allowing larger molecules (peptides) to present to our immune system.

Once the immune system has been exposed to these large peptide molecules it may begin to produce antibodies against the peptides – an attempt to protect us from this foreign molecule.

The issue of autoimmunity, especially Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, occurs when the immune antibodies begin to circulate through our body, searching for the sequence of amino acids that make up the gluten peptide. The surface of the thyroid gland is made up of fats and proteins – and unfortunately the amino acid sequence of proteins on the surface of the thyroid is the same as the gliadin peptide in gluten. This results in the immune system destroying the thyroid gland, mistaking it for the component of gluten that triggered the response in the digestive tract.

Gluten and Food Sensitivities

wheat is a common food allergenIn my practice I recommend that all people diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis eliminate gluten from their diet. However, leaky gut can be caused by, or lead to many other food sensitivities which can also have the same devastating effect on the thyroid gland, and other tissues in the body.

Every person with an autoimmune condition, including Hashimoto’s should seriously consider having an IgG based food sensitivity panel done to identify their own sensitivities. Understanding the action of your immune system in your body is imperative to decreasing the overactivity of the immune system and preventing further damage to your body.

For more information on Naturopathic Medicine and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, please read the other articles on this website written by Dr. Lisa Watson, ND: Understanding Hashimoto’s, Hashimoto’s and Fertility, Naturopathic Treatments for Hashimoto’s. If you are ready to start on your path to healing your Hashimoto’s you can book an appointment with Dr. Lisa by following the links here.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Select references

Carrocio A, D’Alcam A, Cavataio F, et al. Gastroenterology. High Proportions of People With Nonceliac Wheat Sensitivity Have Autoimmune Disease or Antinuclear Antibodies.2015 Sep;149(3):596-603.e1.

Fasano A, Shea-Donohue T. Mechanisms of Disease: the role of intestinal barrier function in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal autoimmune diseases. Nature Clinical Practices. 2005 Sep:2(9):416-422.

 

Food Sensitivity Testing

Food sensitivity testing is one of the tools Naturopathic Doctors use to assess health in our patients.  In Naturopathic Medicine our goal is to find the cause of symptoms of illness and disease.  In a previous article, Understanding Food Sensitivities, I discussed what food sensitivities are and the importance of testing. In this article we will look at the options for food sensitivity testing.

Testing for Food Sensitivities

There are several methods of testing for food sensitivities.

  1. Elimination Diet

wheat is a common food allergenMost people attempt a food elimination diet as an initial way of self-diagnosing food sensitivities.  A hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory diet is consumed for a set period of time (usually 6-12 weeks).  All the most common allergenic foods are eliminated and the patient self-monitors for improvements in symptoms.  Foods are re-introduced one at a time after the initial period of restriction.  If symptoms arise on reintroducing the food then a food sensitivity is suspected.

Advantages: Promotes a general sense of well-being, high level of patient involvement in their health.

Disadvantages: Does not eliminate all potential sources of sensitizing foods.  Requires compliance with a restricted diet for a period of time.  Can be expensive (the cost of egg-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, organic food adds up quickly).

  1.    Electrodermal Food Allergy Testing

A machine is held by the patient and the electrical frequencies of food are tested against the body’s reaction to those foods (the brain interprets the electrical signal and elicits a skin resistance response which is read by the machine).

Advantages: Painless.  Children can be tested easily.   A clear outline of food sensitivities and the severity of sensitivities is given.  Foods do not have to have been consumed recently for valid results (although accuracy is increased if they have been consumed recently or are consumed frequently).

Disadvantages: Moderately expensive.  Some practitioners do not accept the validity of the testing method.  Test accuracy relies on technician proficiency.

  1. IgG Food Sensitivity Testing

A blood test is analyzed by a specialized laboratory to assess for IgG (immunoglobulin G – one of two antibodies produced during an sensitivity response). IgG antibodies are produced for several hours or days after exposure to an allergen (which is one of the reasons why some symptoms of food sensitivity don’t occur immediately after eating a food).

Advantages: Gives a clear outline of food sensitivities and the severity of the sensitivity.  Tests for a wide variety of commonly consumed foods (from 120 to 300 foods).  Only a small amount of blood is required for the test and it can be done in office or at home.  Antihistamine use is permitted during the test.

Disadvantages: Can be expensive.  Food must be consumed within 3 weeks prior to the test for an accurate reading.  Immunosuppressant drugs (prednisone, chloroquine and azothioprine) must not be used during the testing.

In my Toronto clinic I most commonly use the IgG food sensitivity blood test to assess for food sensitivities.  Clinically I have found this test to accurately identify sensitivities and result a corresponding improvement in patient symptoms. I support my patient’s ability to choose whatever testing they find to be ideal and can support that decision making process and help to develop a treatment plan, whatever the testing method selected.

Why is this testing different than that provided by my MD or allergist?

milk is a common food allergyMost severe, immediate allergy symptoms are a result of IgE (immunoglobulin E) – responsible for Type I hypersensitivity reactions in which a food antigen attaches to an IgE antibody and results in an immediate, and potentially life-threatening, hypersensitivity reaction.  Because of this many MDs have limited their testing to this class of immunoglobulins.

There is considerable evidence for IgE testing, but there is also abundant evidence that IgG(immunoglobulin G) is an important marker for food sensitivity testing.  IgG and IgG-complexes are involved in 80% of all food allergy or sensitivity reactions.  IgG is involved in delayed immune responses which are more common in food intolerance.

How can I learn more about food allergy testing?

At my Toronto clinics, I offer Rocky Mountain Analytical’s IgG Food Allergy test.  They offer more information here.  You can also book a complimentary 15 minute consult with me to discuss whether or not food sensitivity testing can help you achieve your goals for a vibrant, healthy life.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

 

Naturopathic Treatment of Eosinophilic Esophagitis

What is Eosinophilic Esophagitis?

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE) is inflammation of the esophagus that results in difficulty swallowing food.  The inflammation occurs when eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, increase in numbers in the esophagus.  This influx of eosinophils stiffens the esophagus making it difficult to swallow foods.  Eosinophilic esophagitis can happen in children and adults.

What causes Eosinophilic Esophagitis?

Eosinophilic esophagitis is caused by an allergy, typically to a food (or possibly an inhaled allergen).  When an allergenic food is consumed the immune system produces high numbers of eosinophils which accumulate in the tissue just beneath the lining of the esophagus.

Symptoms of Eosinophilic Esophagitis

The main symptom is difficulty swallowing food.  People with EOE describe a sensation of food becoming stuck in the esophagus.  Some people also experience heartburn and chest pain.  Children can also experience nausea, vomiting, coughing and abdominal pain.

The difficulty swallowing occurs when the high number of eosinophils stiffen the esophagus and prevent it from stretching appropriately to allow food to pass.  Certain foods are more likely to cause difficult swallowing, especially meats and breads.

Diagnosis of Eosinophilic EsophagitisEosinophilic esophagitis

If you have difficulty swallowing your doctor will refer you for an endoscopy in order to take a look at your esophagus.  During the endoscopy a biopsy will be taken to confirm the presence of eosinophils in the tissue of the esophagus.

The incidence of EOE is increasing in North America.  This may be due to a general increase in allergic conditions, or increased awareness and diagnosis of EOE.

Mainstream Treatment of Eosinophilic Esophagitis

The mainstream treatments of eosinophil esophagitis include esophageal dilation (using a tube to gently stretch the esophagus to allow the passage of food), inhaled corticosteroids (i.e. Flovent) and proton pump inhibitors.  None of these treatments are without potential side effects and possible negative impacts on overall health.  This is why many people are exploring Naturopathic Medicine for the management of EOE.

Naturopathic Treatment of Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Treatment with Naturopathic Medicine is individualized for each patient.  However, there are some common treatment goals which are applied in most cases of eosinophilic esophagitis.

Eosinophilic esophagitis

1.  Identify food allergies and sensitivities

Only by identifying and eliminating the cause of disease can we expect to overcome the symptoms of disease.  The cause of eosinophilic esophagitis is allergy – in most cases to an ingested food.  In addition to skin prick allergy testing done with an allergist, Naturopathic Doctors will also perform a food sensitivity test which looks for a different type of immunoglobulin (IgG) that can also result in accumulation of eosinophils in the esophagus.

 While IgG based food sensitivities are not “allergies” per se, they still result in activation of the immune system that can lead to the symptoms of EOE.  The food sensitivity panel allows you to identify the most likely food sensitivities that can be contributing to your symptoms and eliminate them from your diet.  For more information read the article on Identifying Food Sensitivities.

2. Normalize function of the immune system

Allergies result from an over-activation of the immune system.  By modulating your immune system – decreasing over-production of eosinophils without compromising your body’s ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, you can decrease symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis without the negative side effects seen with pharmaceutical treatments.

The approach to normalizing the function of the immune system is different for every individual.  Your Naturopathic Doctor will take a complete history and look at all the different systems of your body to determine the best treatment options for you.

3.    Decrease inflammation in the esophagus

The inflammation of the esophagus due to the presence of eosinophils results in the difficulty swallowing seen in EOE.  While you are identifying the underlying allergies and normalizing function of your immune system, your Naturopathic Doctor can help to decrease inflammation in the esophagus and improve symptoms.  Natural supplements like omega-3 rich fish oil, slippery elm powder, marshmallow root and curcumin (turmeric) are all well-tolerated anti-inflammatories which may be used short term (or long term) to support the esophagus and allow you to be symptom free sooner.

Naturopathic Medicine can help you overcome your eosinophilic esophagitis.  Book an appointment now with a Naturopathic Doctor experienced in the treatment of EOE and start the journey towards optimal health.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Getting Under Your Skin – Ten Natural Treatments for Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common condition, affecting more than 50 000 people in Toronto alone.  Both men and women are equally impacted by psoriasis and more than one-third of people with psoriasis have a family member who also has it.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic, immune-mediated inflammatory condition that manifests as red, scaly skin rashes (known as “plaques”) that occur on the knees, elbows, scalp and other areas of the body.  The underlying issue that leads to psoriasis is immune activation of T-cells leading to release of inflammatory mediators and hyper-proliferation of keratinocytes.

Naturopathic Treatment of Psoriasis

Naturopathic treatment of psoriasis works to address the underlying causes of psoriasis – immune dysfunction and inflammation.  Correcting the imbalances that lead to psoriasis plaques and arthritis can significantly improve outcomes and promote optimal health.  Listed below are ten natural treatment options for psoriasis.

Ten Natural Treatment Options for Psoriasis

1. Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Food is a major source of inflammatory particles for our body.  Some foods promote inflammation, while other foods inhibit inflammation.  Foods that cause inflammation include: dairy, red meats, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, safflower oil, canola oil and trans-fats.  These foods should be reduced or eliminated in the diet.

 Foods that reduce inflammation include the omega 3 fatty acids, many spices, and most fruits and vegetables.  A vegetarian diet, or diet rich in fruits and vegetables can decrease inflammation and symptoms of psoriasis.

 2. Identification and Elimination of Food Allergies and Sensitivities

In addition to foods that contain compounds known to lead to inflammation, individual food sensitivities or allergies can also cause inflammation.  Consuming foods that we have a sensitivity to leads to an immune response in our body, ultimately leading to inflammation.  Determining your food sensitivities and eliminating them can profoundly decrease the symptoms of psoriasis.  The most common food sensitivities found in people with psoriasis include gluten (wheat), eggs and dairy.

3. Healthy Weight LossBalance scale

People who are overweight tend to have worse symptoms of psoriasis, likely due to the increase in inflammation from insulin imbalance and the metabolic effects of being overweight.  Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is an important lifestyle goal for all people with psoriasis and something your Naturopathic Doctor can help you do in a healthy and long-lasting way.

 4. Manage Stress

Long term stress can deplete our body’s ability to produce cortisol, one of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatories in our body.  Psoriasis tends to worsen during times of stress – whether it is mental, emotional or physical stress.  Learning appropriate stress management skills, and using appropriate natural supplements to decrease the physical impacts of stress can be an effective way of managing psoriasis across your lifespan.

 5. Spice Up Your Life!

Literally! Many spices can be used to decrease inflammation and act as strong antioxidants, promoting healing of skin.  Specific spices that can decrease inflammation and help treat psoriasis include: turmeric, capsaicin (red pepper), cloves, ginger, cumin, anise, fennel, basil, rosemary and garlic.

6. Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids

Essential Fatty AcidsOne of the most powerful treatments for all forms of inflammation, including psoriasis, is omega 3 fatty acids.  Omega 3s are essential fatty acids, our body can’t produce them and needs to get them from food.  Unfortunately our diets are rich in omega 6s (pro-inflammatory) and deficient in omega 3s (anti-inflammatory).

 Omega 3s have many impacts on the development of psoriasis.  They change the function of cell membranes, modify immune function decreasing overactivation, prevent blood supply from developing in psoriatic plaques and decrease inflammation throughout the body.

 Dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids include cold water fish (mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines, albacore tuna), flaxseeds, walnuts, algae and hemp seeds.  Supplementing with higher doses of omega 3s is recommended for people with active psoriasis.

7. Vitamin D

People with psoriasis have lower levels of the active form of vitamin D in their blood streams.  At this point it’s not clear if this finding is a cause of psoriasis or a consequence.  It is known that psoriasis is much less common in areas of the world with higher vitamin D production – sunny and warm climates have a much lower incidence than cold climates.  UV phototherapy is another effective treatment for psoriasis that increases vitamin D levels but can have unwanted side effects.

 Supplementing with vitamin D, and using it topically is safe for most people with psoriasis.  A simple blood test is available that will tell you whether this treatment is right for you, talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about it today.

8. Bioactive Whey Protein

Emerging research has shown bioactive whey protein isolate to be a promising treatment for psoriasis.  Whey isolate has immune regulating effects due to the presence of growth factors, immunoglobulin’s and active peptides.  Taking this supplement twice daily showed significiant improvements in psoriasis skin plaques after just two months of use.

9. Curcumin Gel

While much of the healing for psoriasis depends on healing from the inside out, topical use of curcumin gel has been shown to be more effective than calcipotriol cream, one of the most common prescription medications for psoriasis.  After 2-6 weeks of daily use all patients had at least a 50% improvement in psoriasis plaques with half of patients having a 90% improvement.

aloe vera
Aloe vera gel

Curcumin gel works by reducing inflammation locally and in combination with other Naturopathic treatments can be an amazing treatment option for psoriasis.

10. Aloe Vera Gel

Another topical option for healing psoriasis, aloe vera gel is an incredibly gentle and safe treatment with good clinical results.  Not only is aloe vera calming to inflamed skin but it also promotes healthy regrowth of normal skin cells.  One study found an 82% improvement compared to placebo.

Psoriasis is a multi-faceted condition that stems from an imbalance in the immune system leading to inflammation and characteristic skin plaques.  Naturopathic Medicine offers treatment options that address the underlying imbalances and can result in profound improvements in overall health and lead to healthy, clear skin.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Selected References

Calder PC. n-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:1505S-1519S.

Chalmers RJ, Kirby B. Gluten and psoriasis. Br J Dermatol 2000;142:5-7.

Heng MC, Song MK, Harker J, Heng MK. Drug- induced suppression of phosphorylase kinase activity correlates with resolution of psoriasis as assessed by clinical, histological and immunohistochemical parameters. Br J Dermatol 2000;143:937-949.

Perez A, Raab R, Chen TC, et al. Safety and efficacy of oral calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3) for the treatment of psoriasis. Br J Dermatol 1996;134:1070- 1078.

Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone; 2006.

Poulin Y, Bissonnette R, Juneau C, et al. XP-828L in the treatment of mild to moderate psoriasis: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Cutan Med Surg 2006;10:241-248.

Syed TA, Ahmad SA, Holt AH, et al. Management of psoriasis with Aloe vera extract in a hydrophilic cream: a placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Trop Med Int Health 1996;1:505-509.

Traub M, Marshall K. Psoriasis – Pathophysiology, Conventional and Alternative Approaches to Treatment. Alt Med Review. 2007;12(4).

Wolters M. Diet and psoriasis: experimental data and clinical evidence. Br J Dermatol 2005;153:706-714.

Matcha – Super’powdered’ Green Tea

The tea shop can be a daunting place!  Sencha, oolong, pu-erh, ceylon, Darjeeling, matcha – exotic words that can intimidate or inspire new and experienced tea drinkers alike.

One type of tea stands out from the crowd – a jade-green powder that looks out of place amongst the leafy green, black and white teas.  This is matcha –  Japanese for “powdered tea”.

What is matcha?

Matcha is a special kind of green tea.  It is the tea prepared in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies (Chanoyu) and has been used by Zen monks during meditation for over 800 years.  Matcha is also unique because it is the only green tea where the leaves are powdered and drank – so that you are actually consuming the whole leaf.

Why drink matcha?  The many health benefits of matcha.

Matcha, green tea powder, in a chawan vessel with a chasen. Shallow dof.Because matcha is a powdered green tea you get all the benefits of green tea, but to a higher degree.  Drinking one cup of matcha tea gives you the equivalent of ten cups of green tea in terms of antioxidant and health-promoting benefits.

Matcha is also grown in a special way.  The earliest spring leaves are covered for two to three weeks (‘shade grown’) which causes health-promoting nutrients to concentrate in the leaf of the tea plant.  Shade growing also increases the amount of the amino acid L-theanine in the tea leaf.

The L-theanine in matcha relaxes the brain, muscles and blood vessels.  It can help lower blood pressure, enhances mood and promotes a sense of wellness by enhancing alpha waves in the brain (associated with a feeling of happiness, relaxation, and alertness) and increasing dopamine (and possibly serotonin) production – two of the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals.

The combination of L-theanine and caffeine (matcha does contain caffeine, but it has less caffeine than other green and black teas) gives matcha the unique ability to result in a “calm alertness” or what has been termed “zest and zen” by matcha aficionados.  The caffeine gives an sense of alertness while the L-theanine results in relaxation and a sense of well-being.

Matcha is also an antioxidant powerhouse.  The ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity – a measure of the antioxidant capacity of a food) rating of matcha is 1348 units/g, compared to 105 units/g for pomegranates and 91 units/g for blueberries. A single cup of matcha contains 70 times the antioxidants of a cup of orange juice and nine times the beta carotene of two cups of spinach.  The antioxidants in matcha – catechin polyphenols – offer protection against many kinds of cancer, help prevent heart disease, reduce cholesterol and can slow the aging process.  The most important and abundant polyphenol in matcha is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) – the same polyphenol found in all green teas.  Sixty percent of the catechin content in matcha is EGCG.

Matcha also contains trace minerals and vitamins (A, B-complex, C, E, and K), chlorophyll, and is a source of dietary fiber (remember – you’re drinking the whole leaf in a powdered form) and has very few calories

Matcha has many positive impacts on diseases:

  • it may lower your risk of cancer – the antioxidants in matcha (and other green teas) protect against breast, skin, lung, stomach, prostate, ovarian, and colon cancers
  • it prevents heart disease – the flavonoids in tea help prevent the arterial blockage that leads to heart attack and strokes
  • it supports joint health – green tea reduces inflammation and prevents cartilage breakdown – both of which can contribute to improved joint mobility

How to make matcha

Making a cup of matcha is simple and can be a wonderful ritual in the morning or at any time of the day.

  1. Use a tea bowl (or wide mouthed mug).  Place the bamboo tea whisk (a chawan – available wherever you buy matcha tea) into the tea bowl and pour some warm water in to soften the whisk and warm the bowl.  Pour out the water and dry the bowl.
  2. Using a bamboo scoop (chashaku) place three scoops of matcha into the bowl (equivalent to approximately ½ to 1 tsp of matcha)
  3. Pour one quarter of a cup of hot, but not boiling (85 to 90°C) water over the matcha
  4. Whisk the mixture with the bamboo whisk to completely disperse the matcha.  This should take between 20 to 30 seconds (less time is needed if the matcha is sifted prior to use)
  5. Drink the matcha

Tips:

  • sift matcha prior to use to ensure a nice frothy cup of tea
  • store matcha in the freezer to maintain freshness
  • matcha can be made thick (Koicha) or thin (Usucha) by altering the amounts of matcha and water
  • a matcha latte can be made by adding prepared matcha tea to 3/4 cup of steamed soy milk (or other milks)
  • matcha can be used in baking – cookies, cupcakes, ice creams, and more can all be made with matcha

I hope you are all inspired to give matcha tea a try.  It is truly a “superpowdered” green tea.  Full of health-promoting benefits and gives you an immediate sense of calm alertness.  It is the favourite part of my morning ritual.  I encourage you to incorporate it into your morning, or any time you want a healthy boost to your day.

Nutritional Profile of Matcha Tea

Nutrient Per 1g Matcha
Total Catechins 105mg
EGCg 61 mg
Total Amino Acids 34 mg
L-theanine 14.26 mg
Caffeine 35mg
Fiber 318mg
Carbs 447mg
Vitamin C 1.75mg
Vitamin A 291 units
Potassium 26.6mg
Calories 3

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Sources and Further Reading

ORAC Analysis on Ceremonial Matcha Green Tea ME17916 Lot#D1805: Brunswick Laboratories

G Cao, SL Booth, JA Sadowski, and RL Prior.  Increases in human plasma antioxidant capacity after consumption of controlled diets high in fruit and vegetables .  Am J Clin Nutr 1998 68: 1081-1087.

Dr. Weil, MD.  Matcha Tea

Matcha Source, Matcha Tea Health Benefits

Health Benefits of Green Tea

Ten Tips to Treat Allergies

Spring has sprung!  And with it comes… allergies.  The sniffling, sneezing, burning and redness can put a damper on this beautiful time of year.  But there is hope.  Here are ten tips to try this allergy season.

1. An Apple a Day…

The oldest medical cliché in the book – but it’s true.  A study of 1500 people found that eating apples lowers the incidence of allergy and asthma symptoms.

2. Eat Citrus Fruits Daily

Eating citrus regularly can decrease the symptoms of allergies and asthma.  This is likely due to the vitamin C and bioflavonoids that are abundant in citrus fruit.  Eat at least one citrus fruit daily – organic lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, clementines, kumquats and grapefruits are good choices.

3. Eat Lots of Berries

Berries truly are a ‘superfruit.’  They are rich in vitamin C, bioflavonoids, anthocyandins and antioxidants.  A high intake of antioxidants has been shown to have a positive impact on allergy symptoms.  Eat one handful of blueberries, blackberries or raspberries daily to get the benefit from these sweet superfoods.

4. Determine Food Allergies and Avoid Them

Food allergies and sensitivities can cause a lot more than just digestive symptoms.  Consider having a food allergy test to determine your individual food reactions.  Or try the elimination diet with your Naturopathic Doctor to see how food allergies and sensitivities are impacting your allergies.

5. Eliminate Margarine From Your Diet

Margarine is high in poly-unsaturated omega-6 fatty acids which can result in inflammation in the body (the symptoms of allergy – runny nose, itchy red eyes – are due to inflammation of mucous membranes).

Adults and children with allergies should remove all margarine from their diet.  A 2003 study found that eating margarine led to more symptoms of wheezing and runny nose (allergic rhinitis) in children with allergies.

6. Try the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

There are foods that we eat that can decrease inflammation and there are other foods that can promote inflammation in our bodies.  The Anti-Inflammatory diet can teach you how to boost anti-inflammatory foods (like flax seed oil, citrus fruits and various vegetables) and decrease pro-inflammatory foods (like margarine, dairy products and red meat).

7. Increase Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids are the heavy-hitters of the natural anti-inflammatory world.  Omega 3 fatty acids found in flaxseed and cold water fish are the most effective in the treatment of allergy symptoms.  Increasing omega 3 fatty acids in your diet (or through use of supplements) results in decreased production of inflammatory chemicals and fewer allergy symptoms.

8. Quercetin

Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that is found in a wide variety of foods (including apples, citrus fruits, onions and buckwheat).  It is nature’s anti-histamine, reducing the release of histamine from mast cells.  It should be taken preventatively – year-round for chronic allergies and seasonally for seasonal allergies.

9. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)

This local medicinal plant has a long history of use in the treatment of allergies.  It has been rigorously studied and has been shown to be as effective, or more effective, than popular allergy medications.  It is available as a tea or in freeze-dried extracts.  It should be taken daily throughout allergy season.

10. Acupuncture

Acupuncture can be a useful addition to the management of chronic or seasonal allergies.  Between 6-10 sessions are needed to tonify the detoxification systems of the body and balance the organ systems (skin, liver, kidneys, and adrenals) that are commonly involved in allergy symptoms.

Book an appointment with your Naturopathic Doctor now to customize your comprehensive plan for the upcoming allergy season.  It may turn out to be your best season yet!

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Fighting Back Against Sugar Addiction

3pm.  You hear a sweet voice in your head, calling you towards the snack machine or the fridge, urging you to indulge in a sugary treat.  Sound familiar?  You aren’t alone.

Sugar addiction is on the rise in North America and the impact it has on our health is anything but sweet.

The Bitter Truth about Sugar and Health

Sugar is an important biochemical that is involved in numerous processes in our bodies.  We need some sugar for survival (glucose is the main energy source for the brain).  However, our bodies are not equipped to handle the large quantity and poor quality of sugar that we currently ingest.

You may also be suffering from sugar-related illness and not realize it.  Symptoms associated with sugar addiction include:

  • Allergies

    Sugar has many negative effects in the body
  • Anxiety
  • Boils
  • Cancer
  • Canker sores
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent colds and/or flu
  • Gas and/or bloating
  • Headaches
  • Hyperactivity
  • Immune suppression
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Mood swings
  • Obesity
  • PMS
  • Sugar cravings
  • Tooth decay
  • Yeast infections

Sugar Addiction

There is no doubt that sugar can be addictive.  Like any addiction people crave sugar, have withdrawal symptoms when they don’t have sugar and may feel better for a brief period of time after eating sugar.  Sugar feels good in the moment, but it can cause serious long term problems for your health.

Like other addictions, many people may not realize they have a problem with sugar.  The following questions may help you recognize if you, or someone you know, has a sugar addiction.

Sugar Addiction Questionnaire

Yes

No

Do you eat refined sugar (white sugar, candies, chocolate, baked goods) every day?

o

o

Do you find it difficult to go for more than one day without eating a sugar containing food or drink?

o

o

Are there always sugar containing foods in your home?

o

o

Do you find it difficult to have candy or other sweet foods in your home and not eat them? o

o

Do you experience cravings for sugar, coffee, chocolate, peanut butter or alcohol?

o

o

Have you ever hidden candy or other sweet foods around the house in order to eat them later?

o

o

Do you get fatigue, perspiration, irritability, depression, or anxiety if you go three or more hours without eating?

o

o

Do you eat something sweet after every meal?

o

o

Do you find it difficult to go more than one hour after waking up in the morning without eating?

o

o

Do you find it difficult to stop after eating one piece of candy or one bite of baked goods?

o

o

0-3 ‘yes’: Probably not sugar sensitive
4-6 ‘yes’: Sugar sensitive
7-10 ‘yes’: Definite sugar addiction

Now What? – How to Overcome a Sugar Addiction

There are many ways to go about battling an addiction.  Sugar addiction is no different.  Some schools of thought say you should quit cold turkey and never consume sugar again, others suggest cutting back slowly and allowing it back into your diet only in moderation.

My philosophy is a combination of those two schools.  You should quit sugar cold turkey, with proper nutritional support throughout the withdrawal phase, but you can have sugar again – provided it is done properly and in strict moderation.

The best way to beat a sugar addiction is to change the way you eat and think about food.  Learning how to eat a healthy diet composed of whole foods, incorporating regular exercise, and dietary supplements (as needed) is by far the best strategy to overcome a sugar addiction.

Curbing the Cravings

Here are some tips for curbing sugar cravings when they hit:

  1. Choose fruit – fruits are a fantastic snack to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Choose fruits that are lower on the glycemic index – that means they cause less of a blood sugar spike after eating (usually because they are higher in fiber and lower in sugar).  Examples include: apples, apricots, oranges, mango, dates, peaches, and pears.
  2. Drink More Water – We often confuse sensations of hunger and thirst.  When a craving for sugar hits you, try drinking a glass of water first.
  3. Exercise – Food cravings can be stopped in their tracks by engaging in some mild exercise.  The next time you get a craving, take a 10 minute walk.  You’ll benefit from the fresh air, the exercise and your cravings will disappear.
  4. Eat Nuts – Nuts are one of nature’s perfect snacks.  They are high in protein and healthy fats.  They are also filling and can quickly wipe out hunger and food cravings.  Try pecans, walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts.  Nut butters are also a delicious way to include nuts in your diet.  Try some nut butter spread on a piece of spelt bread or a Ryvita cracker.
  5. Nutritional Supplements – There are a number of supplements that can support you as you conquer your sugar addiction.  Supplements that help control blood sugar – such as chromium, B vitamins (especially biotin and niacin), vanadium, amino acids, alpha lipoic acid and gymnema sylvestre (an Ayurvedic plant medicine) can all help manage cravings.  Supplements should only be used under the care of a qualified Naturopathic Doctor.
  6. Acupuncture – the use of ear acupuncture or body acupuncture in the treatment of addiction has a long history of success.  A series of 5-10 acupuncture sessions can assist the body in detoxifying while decreasing cravings, relieving stress and anxiety and promoting overall wellness.

Conquering a sugar addiction is not easy.  But with appropriate support it can be done.

For more reading on this topic, Dr. Nancy Appleton’s book “Lick the Sugar Habit” is a great read with more information on sugar addiction.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Warming Socks

In my first year of Naturopathic medical school we learned a hydrotherapy technique that was lovingly referred to as “cold, wet socks”.  Sounds appealing doesn’t it?  Despite the name, the warming socks (as I prefer to call it) treatment is cheap, simple and effective.  And not nearly as unpleasant as the name would lead you to believe.

Why do Warming Socks?

Warming socks is a technique used to treat the common cold, influenza, sore throats, sinus infections, upper respiratory tract infections, headaches, head and chest congestion.

The treatment works by stimulating the body’s natural defences.  Warming socks is a type of “heating compress” – a hydrotherapy technique that causes the body to increase blood circulation in order to heat up the cold, wet socks.

This increase in blood circulation helps to relieve congestion and stimulates greater action of the immune system so that it is better able to fight the virus or bacteria causing the illness.

This treatment can also have a sedating effect, and many people report sleeping much better during the treatment.

It is best to start the warming socks treatment on the first day of an illness and repeat it for three nights in a row.  It is most effective as part of an integrated treatment plan including rest, hydration, proper nutrition and immune-boosting botanicals or supplements.

How to do Warming Socks

Equipment

One pair of thin cotton socks

One pair of thick wool socks

Sink or bucket filled with very cold (or iced) water

Tub or bucket filled with very warm water

A warm bed

Procedure

Step 1: Get ready for bed

Step 2: Put cotton socks in a sink of very cold, or iced, water.  Soak for a minute to saturate the socks then wring them out so that they do not drip.

Step 3: Place your bare feet into a tub or bucket of very warm water.
Soak your feet as long as you want, but make sure the water stays warm and so do your feet.

Step 4: Dry your feet with a towel and put the wet cotton socks on your feet.

Step 5: Immediately pull the dry wool socks over the wet socks.  You want the wool socks to completely cover the cotton socks.

Step 6: Go to bed right away.  Make sure your feet stay warm.

In the morning your feet will be warm and dry.  Symptoms of your cold and head or chest congestion will be diminished or gone.

Repeat the warming socks treatment for three nights in a row.  It can be used on adults and children but people with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems should consult with a Naturopathic Doctor before starting the warming socks treatment.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

10 Things You Need to Know About Vitamin D

The importance of Vitamin D to health can not be underestimated.  It is the only vitamin that our body makes from exposure to sunlight.  Learn 10 important things about the “sunshine vitamin” and discover the impact Vitamin D can have on your health.

1. Vitamin D is made from sunlight

Vitamin D SunriseVitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because our skin produces vitamin D from the sun’s ultraviolet light (UVB).  Our skin can make enough vitamin D in 30 minutes with just our face, hands and feet exposed.  Full body exposure for 15 minutes can produce between 10 000 – 20 000IU (international units) of vitamin D3.  However, many factors influence our body’s ability to produce vitamin D: complexion, use of sunscreen, cloud cover, smog, time of day, latitude and season.

Individuals with darker complexions make less vitamin D than fair-skinned people.  Studies estimate that half of all women of African descent living in northern latitudes are vitamin D deficient.

Sunscreen use is important for the prevention of skin cancer but it has the unfortunate effect of blocking vitamin D production by blocking UVB rays from reaching our skin.

Cloud cover can reduce UVB energy by 50%, shade reduces it by 60%.  UVB rays do not penetrate glass, so exposure to sunshine indoors does not promote vitamin D production.

2. Vitamin D deficiency is a major concern during Canadian autumns and winters

Latitude has a lot to do with vitamin D status.  Due to our northern latitude the majority of Canadians have insufficient vitamin D levels during the fall and winter months.  One study demonstrated that in Canada from November through February UVB rays aren’t strong enough for our bodies to produce enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D stores in our bodies are quickly depleted during the early autumn months leading to insufficient levels during the late autumn and winter.  Vitamin D is stored in the blood for a few weeks and in fat tissue for a few months.

The average vitamin D level in late winter for American and Canadians is approximately 15-18ng/ml – levels below 20ng/ml are considered seriously deficient.

3. Vitamin D can help prevent Influenza and the Common Cold

Pediatric Naturopathic MedicineEach year more studies are showing a relationship between low vitamin D levels and incidence of colds, influenza and other respiratory tract infections.

People with higher vitamin D levels experience fewer respiratory illnesses and when they do get sick the illness is milder and shorter.  The Public Health Agency of Canada is currently investigating the role of vitamin D in the protection against season influenza and the H1N1 (swine flu) strain.

Vitamin D levels in your blood are at their lowest point during flu season.  Your body uses vitamin D to make antimicrobial peptides – the body’s natural antibiotics.  When vitamin D is deficient you make fewer peptides and are more vulnerable to illness.

Infants and children are a population where respiratory tract infections can have serious health implications.  Infants and children with lower levels of vitamin D are more susceptible to viral infections.

Vitamin D supplementation may be used to prevent or treat influenza.  To treat influenza larger doses of vitamin D3 may be needed.  It is best to consult with a Naturopathic Doctor if you are considering taking high doses of vitamin D as it can be toxic in high doses.

4. Vitamin D may prevent Cancer

You might not know it, but the connection between vitamin D status and cancer is well established in the scientific community.  Adequate levels of vitamin D have been shown to decrease the risk of developing over 16 different types of cancer including breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, colon, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and lung cancer. It is also an important part of integrative cancer treatment protocols.

A study by Dr. W. Grant, vitamin D expert, found that about 30 percent of all cancer deaths (2 million worldwide) could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D can protect against cancer in several ways, including:

  • Increased self-destruction (apoptosis) of mutated cells
  • Reduced spread (metastasis) and reproduction (proliferation) of cancer cells
  • Increased differentiation of cells (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
  • Reduced growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous

Other studies have estimated that you can decrease your risk of developing cancer by more than half by optimizing vitamin D levels.

5. Vitamin D is essential for bone health

Vitamin D is necessary for healthy bonesVitamin D deficiency results in childhood rickets and in osteomalacia (under-mineralized bone) in adults.  Without sufficient vitamin D bones become thin, brittle or misshapen.

Osteoporosis is a very common disease in North America.  It is characterized by fragile bones that significantly increase the risk of fracture.  Long term vitamin D insufficiency is associated with the development of osteoporosis.  Supplementing calcium and vitamin D can help protect adults from developing osteoporosis.  Vitamin D is necessary to allow the body to absorb calcium, either from dietary or supplemental sources.  Vitamin D also lowers the risk of fractures in people with osteoporosis.

6. Vitamin D can decrease the risk of Auto-Immune diseases

Vitamin D is one hard working vitamin!  Not only can it decrease the risk of cancer, common cold, influenza and osteoporosis, but it can also decrease the risk of developing several auto-immune diseases.  Conditions such as autism, type I diabetes mellitus, schizophrenia and rheumatoid arthritis all have been correlated with low levels of vitamin D.

One auto-immune condition has been studied extensively with relation to vitamin D status.  Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic auto-immune disease that occurs almost exclusively in extreme latitudes and rarely near the equator.  In MS the immune system attacks the body’s own cells as “foreign”, causes vision changes and muscle weakness.  Adequate vitamin D levels may decrease the incidence of MS.  It is also an important integrative treatment for people with MS.

7. Vitamin D is essential for children and breastfed infants

Levels of vitamin D in breast milk have been found to be lower than needed for proper growth and development in infants (breast milk contains about 25IU/litre).  Because of this finding breastfed infants are recommended to be supplemented with 400IU of vitamin D daily (formula is also supplemented with vitamin D).  Supplementing at this young age could have life-long benefits.

Older children and adolescents also benefit from vitamin D supplements.  The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests supplementing all children to ensure adequate vitamin D levels.

8. Vitamin D can help prevent Type I and Type II Diabetes

More obese adults are deficient in vitamin D than same-age adults with normal weights.   A large percentage of adults with type II diabetes are also obese.  60% of people with type II diabetes have inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood.  If you are obese, supplementing with vitamin D may help decrease your risk of developing type II diabetes.  If you already have type II diabetes supplementing with vitamin D can help improve insulin sensitivity.

Scientific studies have also established a link between type I diabetes and vitamin D levels.  Deficient levels of vitamin D are frequently found in patients diagnosed with type I diabetes and some research supports supplementation of vitamin D to decrease the risk of type I diabetes.  Children supplemented with vitamin D were also found to be less likely to develop type I diabetes.

9. Vitamin D levels can be tested – and should be!

The only way to determine the correct dose of vitamin D for you to take is to get your blood levels tested.  There are currently 2 different vitamin D tests available.  The best one is 25-hydroxyvitamin D.  This is a better marker of overall vitamin D status than 1,25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Vitamin D levels should be tested for three reasons.

  1. Vitamin D requirements are different for everyone. Depending on your age, colour of your skin, weight, and latitude of the town you live in, you could need anywhere from 400IU to over 10 000IU per day!
  2. Vitamin D can be toxic in excessive doses. Vitamin D accumulates in fat tissues where it is stored for a few months.  Vitamin D overdose causes hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood), dehydration and tissue calcification.  Blood tests showing levels of greater than 200nmol/L of vitamin D are toxic.  It is very difficult to reach this level through sunlight exposure or nutritional sources of vitamin D.  Toxicity has been seen with long term supplementation of excessive levels of vitamin D.  Having your blood levels tested will ensure you are not taking excessive dosages of vitamin D.
  3. Vitamin D insufficiency is often asymptomatic. It is possible to have low levels of vitamin D in your body and not be aware of it.  The only way to know you have optimal levels of vitamin D is to test for it.

Vitamin D Levels (25-hydroxyvitamin D)

Deficient Insufficient Optimal Cancer therapy Excess
<25ng/ml <35ng/ml 50-65ng/ml 65-90ng/ml >100ng/ml
<20nmol/L <40-80nmol/L 80-120nmol/L 120-160nmol/L >200nmol/L

10. Not all Vitamin D supplements are created equal

gel cap skyThere are two types of vitamin D available; Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).  Only Vitamin D3 should be used for supplementation.  Vitamin D2 is a synthetic form of Vitamin D and does not impact vitamin D stores in our bodies in the way Vitamin D3 does.  Vitamin D3 is the natural form, the same form our bodies create from sun exposure.

Vitamin D3 is better absorbed in a liquid form.  Several companies make liquid Vitamin D3.

Food sources of Vitamin D3 (fortified milk, fish, cod liver oil, egg yolk, mushrooms) are often insufficient to maintain optimal levels of Vitamin D3.  Especially during the winter months in Canada, supplementation is necessary.

As of 2012, the conventional RDAs (recommended daily allowances) in Canada are only:

  • 400 IU for infants and children
  • 600 IU for adolescents and adults aged 9-70
  • 800 IU for adults over 70
  • 600 IU for pregnant and breastfeeding women

These levels are completely inadequate for maintaining optimal health, especially in the autumn and winter months in Canada.  The only way to determine an adequate (and safe) dosage of Vitamin D is with a blood test.  However, general guidelines from the scientific literature suggest a dosage of:

Vitamin D3 Dosage Guidelines

35IUs of Vitamin D3 per pound of body weight

For a child weighing 40 pounds, a dosage of approximately 1400 IU would be reasonable and for a 160 pound adult the dose would be approximately 5600 IU’s.  This dosage is for a fair skinned healthy young adult.  It is a guideline only and does not suggest that all adults and children should be taking these doses.

Conclusion

Achieving adequate levels of vitamin D is important!  Reduce your risk of cancer, influenza, respiratory tract infections, diabetes, auto-immune diseases and improve your bone health and overall health with just one vitamin supplement daily.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Amodeo. www.flickr.com/jamieamodeo

Photo Credit: ellesmere FNC via Compfight cc

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Aloia JF, Patel M, Dimaano R, Li-Ng M, et al.  Vitamin D intake to attain a desired serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration.  Am J Clin Nutr.  2008 Jun;87(6): 1952-8.

Autier P, Gandini S.  Vitamin D Supplementation and Total Mortality: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.  Arch Intern Med.  2007 Sep 10;167(16):1730-7.

Cannell JJ, Vieth R, Umhau JC, et al.  Epidemic influenza and vitamin D.  Epidemiol Infect.  2006 Dec;134(6):1129-40.

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Ginde AA, et al.  Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  Arch Intern Med.  2009 Feb 23;169(4):384-90.

Grant WB. An estimate of premature cancer mortality in the United States due to inadequate doses of solar ultraviolet-B radiation, Cancer, 2002b;94:1867-75

Grant WB.  Geographic variation of prostate cancer mortality rates in the USA; implications for prostate cancer risk related to vitamin D; Int. J. Cancer, 2004 Sep 1;111(3):470-1

Grant WB. Lower vitamin-D production from solar ultraviolet-B irradiance may explain some differences in cancer survival rates.  J Natl Med Assoc.  2006 Mar;98(3):357-64.

Gordon CM, Feldman HA, Sinclair L, et al.  Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency Among Healthy Infants and Toddlers.  Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med.  2008;162[6]:505-512.

Health Canada, Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/vitamin/vita-d-eng.php

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Holick MF. High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006

Mar;81(3):353-73

Hypponen E, Laara E, Reunana A, Jarvelin MR, Virtanen SM.  Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study.  Lancet.  2001;358:1500-3.

Ingraham BA, Bragdon B, Nohe A.  Molecular basis of the potential of vitamin D to prevent cancer.  Curr Med Res Opin.  2008;24:139-49.

Laaksi I, et al.  An association of serum vitamin D concentrations <40nmol/L with acute respiratory tract infection in young Finnish men.  Am J Clin. Nutr.  2007 Sep;86(3):714-7.

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Merlino LA, Curtis J, Mikuls TR, et al.  Vitamin D intake is inversely associated with rheumatoid arthritis: results from the Iowa Women’s Health Study.  Arthritis Rheum.  2004;50:72-7.

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