Monthly Archives: May 2019

Can My Symptoms Actually Be A Food Intolerance?

white and brown cooked dish on white ceramic bowls
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Do you have symptoms that just don’t seem to go away?

One of the trickiest things to figure out is whether a random symptom could be due to a food intolerance. That’s because symptoms can be delayed, or ongoing, and not even resemble a gastrointestinal symptom at all.

In this post, I go over a few of the common symptoms, and two (very) common foods that you may be reacting to, but don’t even know it.

Food intolerance or “sensitivities” can affect you in so many ways.

And they’re a lot more common than most people think.

I’m not talking about anaphylaxis or immediate allergic reactions that involve an immune response. Those can be serious and life-threatening.  If you have any allergies, you need to steer clear of any traces of foods you are allergic to, and speak with your doctor or pharmacist about emergency medication, if necessary.

What I’m talking about, is an intolerance, meaning you do not tolerate a specific food very well and it causes immediate or chronic symptoms anywhere in the body. Symptoms can take hours or even days to show themselves. And symptoms can be located just about anywhere in the body.

This is what makes them so tricky to identify.

The Metabolic Balance® program takes into consideration individual food allergies and food sensitivities when developing a personalized nutrition plan.  You can read more on the program here.

Symptoms of food intolerance

There are some common food intolerances that have immediate and terribly painful gastrointestinal symptoms, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease. These can cause stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea;  symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose or gluten.

On the other hand, other more insidious symptoms may not be linked to foods in an obvious way.

Symptoms like:

  • Chronic muscle or joint pain
  • Sweating, or increased heart rate or blood pressure
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Exhaustion after a good night’s sleep
  • Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rashes or eczema
  • Inability to concentrate or feeling like your brain is “foggy”
  • Shortness of breath

If your body has trouble digesting specific foods, it can affect your hormones, metabolism, or even cause inflammation and result in any of the symptoms listed above. And these can affect any (or all) parts of the body, not just your gastrointestinal system.

How to restrain these intolerances

The main thing you can do is to figure out which foods or drinks you may be reacting to and stop ingesting them.

I know, I know…this sounds so simple, and yet it can be SO HARD.

The best way to identify your food/drink triggers is to eliminate them.

Yup, get rid of those offending foods/drinks. All traces of them, for three full weeks and monitor your symptoms.

If things get better, then you need to decide whether it’s worth it to stop ingesting them, or if you want to slowly introduce them back one at a time while still looking out to see if/when symptoms return.

Start Here: Two common food intolerances

Here are two of the most common triggers of food intolerance:

  • Lactose (in dairy – eliminate altogether, or look for a “lactose-free” label – try nut or coconut milk instead).
  • Gluten (in wheat, rye, and other common grains – look for a “gluten-free” label – try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa & gluten-free oats).

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good place to start because lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” can affect up to 13% of people.

So, if you can eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for three weeks, it can confirm whether either or both of these, are a source of your symptoms.

Yes, dairy and grains are a part of many government-recommended food guidelines, but you absolutely can get all of the nutrients you need if you focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods.

A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is to track it. After every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends.

If you are interested in receiving a free copy of my weekly Diet Diary/Food Journal to help you keep track, email me tessanp@shaw.ca and I will send it along.

And, as mentioned earlier, symptoms may not start immediately following a meal. You may find, for example, that you wake up with a headache the morning after eating bananas.

You might be surprised what links you can find if you track your food and symptoms well!

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you eliminate something, you need to make sure it’s not hiding in other foods, or the whole point of eliminating it for a few weeks is lost. Restaurant food, packaged foods, and sauces or dressings are notorious for adding ingredients that you’d never think are there. You know that sugar hides in almost everything, but did you also know that wheat is often added to processed meats and soy sauce, and lactose can even be found in some medications or supplements?

When in doubt you HAVE to ask the server in a restaurant about hidden ingredients, read labels, and consider cooking from scratch.

What if it doesn’t work?

If eliminating these two common food intolerances doesn’t work, then you can go one step further to eliminate all dairy (even lactose-free) and all grains (even gluten-free) for three weeks.

You may need to see a qualified healthcare practitioner for help, and that’s OK. I don’t want you to continue suffering if you don’t need to!

References available on request
Yep, you gotta read the small print, its important:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

The Hormone Effect

aromatherapy bamboo basket candlelight

It doesn’t matter what health issue you want to address, hormones are playing a role.  It does not matter if you are suffering from fatigue, irritability, sleep deprivation, reproductive issues, anxiety, depression, blood sugar problems, headaches, or just about anything you can think of – hormones are playing a role. This can be an intimidating thought. Let’s face it – hormones seem to have a mind of their own.

So let’s talk about stress.  Why? Stress is everywhere these days.  Would you agree?

Stress is chronic.  And it’s not awesome for your health.

We feel it when we wake up, when things happen during the day, and we even take it to bed with us.

When we’re stressed our body reacts in a couple of ways, one is by releasing the stress hormone cortisol. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

And you can imagine that there are natural ways you can lower it.

So check out my list of recommendations to reduce cortisol.

How to Naturally Lower Stress Hormone (Cortisol)

 Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?

Do you experience any of these? Well, read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!

Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.

Of particular focus are those foods high in the B vitamins, which are considered the anti-stress nutrients, and magnesium known as the ‘relaxing’ mineral.

Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.

Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.

Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.

Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.

Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.

Conclusion

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. Include foods high in B Vitamins and Magnesium.  And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.

In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/ways-to-lower-cortisol/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cortisol

https://authoritynutrition.com/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

 

 

 

 

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heart Rhythms

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This is Part 3 of Omega-3s The Fats We love.

Omega-3s and heart health.

Omega-3s started getting famous for heart health because of research dating back to the 1970s. At that time, researchers found that Greenland Inuit, despite eating a lot of fat, had a lower rate of heart disease and fewer risk factors too. So, they thought that it wasn’t the amount of fat eaten that was unhealthy for the heart, but rather the type of fat eaten.

Many early studies of fish consumption and omega-3 supplementation found a lot of evidence of a heart-healthy effect. They found that people who ate fatty fish several times each week had lower risks of heart disease than people who didn’t eat any fish.

In terms of supplements, a large study found that people with heart disease who took ALA or fish oil capsules every day had reduced risk for death, heart attack, and stroke compared with those taking a placebo.

Other studies show that higher levels of EPA and DHA in your blood are associated with lower risk factors for heart issues.

Many more studies showed that fish oil helped to improve blood lipids and cholesterol, reduced blood pressure, improved heart rate and rhythm, “thinned” the blood, had beneficial effects on blood vessels, and stabilized atherosclerotic plaques.

Lately, there seems to be a growing body of evidence that the improved heart health effects of omega-3s may be smaller than we originally thought. Some researchers think these conflicting results may be due to the fact that fewer people smoke now, and also that the standard of care for people with heart disease has been improving over the decades.

The bottom line when it comes to omega-3s and heart health is there is evidence that omega-3 supplements lower some risk factors of heart disease – the evidence is just not as overwhelmingly strong as we first thought. Plus, since these supplements tend to be quite safe, many expert medical associations still recommend them for heart health.

NOTE: Talk to your health care professional before starting any supplement regimen, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medications.

How to get enough omega-3s from food

Note: This was covered in my first Omega-3s-The Fats We Love.  As it’s been a while since that post I thought it worth repeating below.  Read the full post here if you like.

In order to get the health benefits you have to regularly eat enough foods that are high in omega-3s.

It’s thought that our ancestral diets included approximately equal amounts of omega-3s and omega-6s. Now, our intake of omega-6s is up to 20x higher than our intake of omega-3s. This is why there is such an emphasis on getting enough omega-3s.

When it comes to plant-based sources of omega-3s, flax is the winner! Up to half of flax’s total fatty acids are the essential omega-3 ALA. Flax oil is one of the keys oils recommended by the Metabolic Balance® nutrition plan. 

Canola, walnuts, and soy, are less concentrated sources of ALA, with about 10% of their fatty acids as ALA.

To eat the recommended amount of omega-3s have at least two servings of fatty fish each week. Fatty fish include salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. This is a recommendation from the World Health Organization, as well as other health authorities.

In the US, there have been consistent recommendations to increase fish intake for almost 20 years. Despite this the average American still only eats about 1.3 servings of fish per week.

Eating fish and seafood gives you a lot more nutrition than simply taking a supplement. They contain protein, vitamins D and B12, as well as the minerals iodine, selenium, potassium, and magnesium, to name a few.

When it comes to choosing fish, bigger is not better! Large fish that feed on smaller fish have higher concentrations of toxins in their fat. To reduce your intake of things like methyl mercury and organic pollutants, limit your intake of tilefish, king mackerel, shark, and swordfish. And anyone who is pregnant, breastfeeding, or a child, should avoid these types of fish altogether.

There are also non-fish sources of omega-3s! Some foods are fortified with omega-3 oils. Some baked goods, pastas, dairy, eggs, dressings, and spreads may contain added flax, algal, or fish oils. Omega-3 eggs are produced by hens who’ve had flax seeds, chia seeds, and/or fish oil added to their feed. In fact, hens fed the plant-based ALA produce eggs with ALA, and those fed fish oil produced eggs with EPA & DHA.

Check your labels!

Omega-3 supplements

I made mention of this in my post,  Your Brain on Omega 3 Fats.  So if you feel like you’ve read it before your memory is not playing tricks on you!  If you want to read it again it’s right here. 

NOTE: Omega-3 supplements are by no means a “treatment,” but can help in cases of insufficiency. In terms of safety, fish oil supplements have a long history of safety. However, be cautious if you’re planning or recently had surgery, or have a compromised immune system. Speak with your physician or pharmacist if you take pain, anti-inflammatory, or blood-clotting, or blood lipid/cholesterol medications. Speak with your health care professional before changing your supplement regimen.

For those who don’t eat fish, supplements can be an option. Omega-3 supplements are one of the most popular supplements taken.

It’s recommended that most adults get at least 0.5-1.6 g per day of combined EPA and DHA, preferably from food. In terms of ALA, 1.5-3 g per day is beneficial, and that can be from plant-based foods or supplements.

Fish liver oil, is from the livers of the fish, and also contains fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A and D.

PRO TIP: Refrigerating your fish oil supplements can help prevent the delicate fats from going rancid.

Conclusion

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good health!

Some of the health benefits include reduced inflammation and pain of rheumatoid arthritis; improved brain function and mental health; and reduced risk of heart disease.

Flax is the best plant-based source of the essential omega-3, ALA. The two biologically active omega-3s, EPA and DHA, are from fish or algae. It’s always recommended to get your nutrients from food as much as possible. At least two servings of fatty fish each week is recommended.

If you consider supplementing, make sure to follow direction on the label and keep them refrigerated. If you have any medical conditions or are taking medications, make sure to speak with your health care professional.

 References available upon request
 

 

 

 

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

 

Your Brain on Omega 3 Fats

brain

This is part 2 of Omega 3s-The Fats We love

Omega-3s and the brain

In my last post about Omega-3s I focused on the anti-inflammatory aspects of Omega-3 fats and how to get our Omega-3 fats from food.

Want a refresher on exactly what Omega-3s are and why they are so good for our health?  It’s explained right here.

This post is about Omega-3 fats and brain health.  I will also cover how to choose a supplement if you feel that you do not get sufficient Omega-3s in your diet.

The shelves at your favourite health food store are groaning under the weight of so many options. The link to choosing supplements wisely is toward the end of this post.

And, it’s a good idea to consult a supplement specialist to help you choose the one that’s right for you.

Omega-3s and the brain

If you take away the water weight, your brain is about 60% fat. DHA is the main fatty acid in the brain’s grey matter, while EPA makes up about 1% of the total brain fatty acids.

DHA is the most important polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) in the central nervous system. It’s the most abundant component of the membranes of nerve cells and plays important roles in both structure and function. DHA helps nerve cells insulate their electrical signals, stabilize their membranes, and reduce inflammation.

It’s important to ensure enough omega-3s for optimal brain health, as well as baby’s brain development during pregnancy and beyond.

The last trimester of pregnancy sees the greatest need for DHA for the baby. This is when the brain and eyes are maturing. More DHA is transported to the infant during this last trimester compared to the first two.

Children born preterm are more vulnerable to deficiency, and studies show they have lower levels of omega-3s in their blood compared to infants born at full term.

Preterm infants given a formula that includes omega-3s show a small improvement in neurodevelopmental outcomes compared to preterm infants given formula without omega-3s. This does not seem to affect full term infants.

DHA is found in breast milk. If mothers reduce the amount of omega-3s they eat, there is a reduction in the amount of omega-3s in their breast milk.

Recent studies found positive effects in cognition (ability to think) and brain connectivity in young children who had higher DHA intake during infancy.

On the other side of the spectrum, in terms of neurodegeneration, age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). There’s been a lot of research on the effects of omega-3s and AD. People with higher omega-3 intakes have a lower risk of AD; and people with AD tend to have lower levels of DHA in their blood.

Because of DHA’s effect on certain brain cells (glial cells), it was thought that supplementing with DHA may help with AD. This was tried in animal models and was shown to boost an enzyme that helps to clear the detrimental Aβ plaques that are common in AD. Also, animals given an omega-6 enriched diet had higher levels of plasma Aβ as well as more mood issues.

A recent review of several high-quality clinical studies looked at the use of omega-3 supplements to try to help with mild to moderate AD. After combining the results of those trials, researchers found that after six months, there was no consistent benefit in quality of life, cognition (ability to think), or mental health. One study showed a small improvement in activities of daily living amongst those who had the omega-3 supplements.

A more recent larger study showed that omega-3 supplements may have a small benefit if taken early in the development of AD, but other studies don’t show the same benefit.

More research is needed to understand the role omega-3s have for people with AD.

FUN FACT: One symptom of deficiency of the essential omega-3 (ALA) is visual dysfunction. This is because of how important DHA is, not only for the brain, but also for the retina of the eye.

Omega-3s and mental health

People who regularly eat and/or have higher blood levels of omega-3s are less likely to feel depressed or anxious.

One randomized double-blind study looked at depressed undergraduate students. They found a significant reduction in symptoms in those who took omega-3 supplements, compared to those who took placebo.

Studies have also shown a mild to moderate benefit in symptoms for those taking omega-3s versus placebos. Some of those studies also showed a comparable result to certain antidepressant medications. These studies also concluded that the evidence was not very strong yet, and more research with higher-quality studies is needed.

In terms of aggression, a recently published double-blind randomized study tested whether omega-3 supplements could help reduce aggression. They gave one group a supplement with EPA and DHA, and another got a placebo. The participants taking the omega-3s found that after 6-weeks they felt that their aggressiveness significantly decreased.

The links between mental health and inflammation are many. For one, certain medications that cause inflammation can induce mental health symptoms. At the same time, some antidepressant medications are anti-inflammatory. In fact, taking omega-3s along with antidepressant medications has an improved effect over antidepressant medications alone.

The role of omega-3s in mental health are not just due to their anti-inflammatory abilities. There is also evidence that omega-3 deficiency can lead to impaired function of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, and these can result in some mental health issues.

There is also the connection with stress hormones. People who feel depressed tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood. The omega-3 EPA may reduce the production and release of stress hormones.

Omega-3 supplements

NOTE: Omega-3 supplements are by no means a “treatment,” but can help in cases of insufficiency. In terms of safety, fish oil supplements have a long history of safety. However, be cautious if you’re planning or recently had surgery, or have a compromised immune system. Speak with your physician or pharmacist if you take pain, anti-inflammatory, or blood-clotting, or blood lipid/cholesterol medications. Speak with your health care professional before changing your supplement regimen.

For those who don’t eat fish, supplements can be an option. Omega-3 supplements are one of the most popular supplements taken.

It’s recommended that most adults get at least 0.5-1.6 g per day of combined EPA and DHA, preferably from food. In terms of ALA, 1.5-3 g per day is beneficial, and that can be from plant-based foods or supplements.

Fish liver oil, is from the livers of the fish, and also contains fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A and D.

How can I get enough Omega-3s from food?  No need to fret, I have the answers for you right here. 

PRO TIP: Refrigerating your fish oil supplements can help prevent the delicate fats from going rancid.

Conclusion

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good health!

Some of the health benefits include reduced inflammation and pain of rheumatoid arthritis; improved brain function and mental health; and reduced risk of heart disease which I will discuss in more detail in my next post.

Flax is the best plant-based source of the essential omega-3, ALA. The two biologically active omega-3s, EPA and DHA, are from fish or algae. It’s always recommended to get your nutrients from food as much as possible. At least two servings of fatty fish each week is recommended.

If you consider supplementing, make sure to follow direction on the label and keep them refrigerated. Look here for answers on how to choose supplements wisely.

If you have any medical conditions or are taking medications, make sure to speak with your health care professional.

References available upon request
Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.