Low Fiber Diets = Poor Gut Health

There’s no question that gut health has a direct impact on overall health, including everything from the strength of our immune systems to the condition of our skin. But now a scientific study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, conducted in mice has shown that a diet low in natural fiber not only causes certain healthy bacteria to die off, it also causes starved gut microbes to eat the soft mucosal lining of the intestinal tract. This not only negatively impacts gut health since the mucosal barrier becomes weakened, but, as the study indicates, the loss of these species of bacteria is permanent and carries forward to next generations of offspring.

Gut microbes rely on fiber as their natural food source, and when they don’t get it, some turn to the lining of the gut for sustenance, eroding it and leaving it prone to infection. This happens because as the microbes dine on the protective mucus along the digestive tract, the lining thins and becomes patchy, allowing bad bacteria, such as E. coli, to penetrate it and pass through to cells in the colon. The resulting gut infections can cause diarrhea, inflammation, irritation and other uncomfortable symptoms. In a healthy gut, the mucus layer is thick and can help to prevent infections from settling in.

Less adventurous microbes starve to death. The loss of these microbes is irreversible and the study found that these important bacterial species are also missing in subsequent offspring and going extinct. Much like genetic heritage, the main source of intestinal bacteria is passed down from parents to their children. Each generation after those with depleted microbiomes showed less bacterial diversity than the one before it; by the fourth generation, only twenty-five percent of the original bacterial species existed – a full seventy-five percent were gone forever. Besides thinning the lining of the colon, low bacterial diversity has been shown in humans to relate to increasingly common chronic conditions such as asthma, obesity, diabetes and allergies.

Diets that rely heavily on processed and prepared foods, white bread, white rice and refined cereals, among other such things, including soda and junk foods, don’t provide the fiber necessary for microbial communities to thrive. You can feed those all-important microbes the nutrients they need while keeping your overall digestive tract healthy by including a variety of natural fiber-rich foods (organic is preferable) in your diet. Think of whole foods such as raspberries, apples and pears with their skin, flax seeds, brown rice, certain beans, almonds, pecans, carrots, broccoli and so forth.

Additional studies are being planned to determine whether low fiber diets also contribute to other chronic gut problems like inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). It’s almost certain that they do. Bacterial colonies in the gut have been under fire for a number of years as a result of the use and/or overuse of antibiotics, NSAIDs, antacids, aspirin, laxatives, pesticides, chlorinated water, some medical procedures – the list goes on. By supplementing the microbiome with probiotics and fermented foods as well as following a diet high in natural fiber-rich foods, we can keep our gut bacteria healthy and plentiful.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

7 Strategies to Minimize Cravings and Boost Health

Cravings can be difficult to deal with and often lead to bad dietary decisions. By implementing these seven strategies, you can help conquer cravings while improving your health at the same time.

  1. Stabilize your blood sugar.
    Create a morning ritual that includes alkalizing your body upon waking with a green drink, a morning tonic, or ginger tea (or similar). Follow that (within a half hour) with a small amount of protein. Lack of adequate protein creates both an insulin surge and a reactive glycemic state that contribute to further fluctuations throughout the day that are difficult to overcome. Lack of focus, “brain hunger,” poor decision making, and so on, ensue. Even for people with no appetite, a bone broth or similar can be sufficient. Throughout the day small regular meals at two to three hour intervals are required. When your last meal of the day is at 6pm and you don’t eat again till 10am (or later), your brain and your body suffer.
  2. Eliminate pro-inflammatory foods.
    For at least thirty days, eat only animal protein, including fish and shellfish, vegetables, herbs and spices, a handful of nuts and seeds (preferably soaked and sprouted), healthy saturated fats, including pastured eggs, citrus, and berries. These should be whole, live foods prepared mostly by you. To restate this, you want to eliminate processed foods and foods that contain harmful components that are inflammatory to your system. To the greatest extent practicable you want your vegetables to be free of genetically modified organisms and pesticide residues (buy organic), your protein sources to be free of antibiotics and growth hormones. One hundred percent grass fed is preferred, and you want to forever eliminate food additives like sweeteners, food dyes, and other additives that are neurotoxic to the brain.
  3. Increase essential fatty acids and healthy fats.
    Healthy fats include coconuts and their by-products like coconut manna, as well as avocados, oils that are from tree nuts (e.g. macadamia oil), tree fruits (e.g. coconut, olive, avocado oils), clarified butter (called ghee) and 100% grassfed or pastured butter, and nut or seed butters (e.g. flax seed and cashew butters). Essential fatty acids like omega oils are also readily available from oysters and other shellfish that feed on algae, and micro-greens that convert the sun’s energy directly into food. All these help reduce inflammation by supplying the cells in your body, which are a self-contained life form themselves, with much needed nutrients.
  4. Increase prebiotic and probiotic foods, particularly those that are lacto-fermented or cultured.
    These are foods that utilize a culture starter or fermentation process that predigests the naturally occurring sugars and also create a thriving environment for healthy bacteria to flourish. These foods include sauerkraut and kimchi, pickled ginger, and chutneys. Also included are kefirs, buttermilk, and crafted yogurts (that are from 100% grassfed cows, sheep, or goats). Prebiotic foods are bitter leafy greens like dandelion greens, watercress, and asparagus.
  5. Minimize legumes.
    These include beans, lentils, and peanuts and are naturally difficult to digest. For many they contribute to gassiness and bloating. Now, a few beans in an otherwise well-prepared meal are fine for most people. That said, most cooks do not take time to adequately soak, sprout, and slowly cook their beans which will easily convert to a starch and lose the quality protein that is otherwise available. If you are relying solely on beans (and nuts, seeds, and plant proteins) for your nutrients, careful preparation is a must!
  6. Eat more raw dietary fiber, particularly in the form of leafy green plants.
    There is a myth that abounds that leafy green plants, particularly the cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, arugula, broccoli, and kale will somehow steal away precious iodine from your body, especially the thyroid gland. Or that high-oxalate content foods like spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens should be avoided because of the risk of kidney stones. If these cases exist at all, the probability is so incredibly rare that I can safely advise my patients to eat these at every meal.
  7. Hydrate!
    Not only is good water a primary source for trace minerals and nutrients, it’s essential for ridding the body of unwanted wastes. Very often, even though my patients are drinking lots of water, the water is not making it inside the cells. One of my suggestions is to always add a pinch of sea salt. Make sure the one you have on hand for this purpose is produced by the process of evaporation of saltwater bodies only.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Cultivating a Healthy Immune System

The immune system is your body’s defense mechanism for fighting colds, staving off infection and remaining healthy. If you suffer with common chronic ailments including asthma, allergies and eczema, or if you are frequently sick, then your immune system is wearing out.

Think about this fact: The human gastrointestinal tract (also commonly referred to as the ‘gut’) houses most of the immune system – about 70%. If you take a bite of food and follow its entire journey, the whole long pathway from your mouth at one end to the other end where you discard your wastes, then you have an idea of how lengthy and complex the gut is.

Your adaptive immunity is the portion that begins to recognize and alter its response so that you build up immunity. When a virus flares and you develop a common cold or the flu, it is your body’s way of developing immunity. You also have innate immunity, which is the one passed down through generations.

The remaining portion is your basic line of defense: primarily your skin. Skin, along with mucus membranes and other physical responses like sweat, tears and salivation, protect against the intrusion of foreign bodies and antigens.

Support your gut microbiome.
Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, increase energy levels or just generally look and feel healthier, then you need to maintain a healthy gut flora. Did you know that 90% of the cells in the human body are microbial? Your microbiome is teeming with life. Keep it alive and well and free of antigens and foreign bodies by increasing your pre- and probiotics, maintaining adequate stomach acid (toss out those acid reflux pills and start working on the root cause!) and repairing any nutrient deficiencies in the gut barrier.

Eliminate antibiotics altogether.
It goes without saying that if you have a bacterial infection, you need an antibiotic. Since fewer than 1% of bacteria cause diseases in people, requiring an antibiotic should be extremely rare. An example of a bacterial infection is the bubonic plague or MRSA, a hospital acquired infection.

Most bacteria are harmless and some actually help by digesting food, destroying disease-causing microbes, fighting cancer cells, and providing essential nutrients. Each time you take antibiotics (or eat them in your food supply) you are destroying your gut flora and making yourself susceptible to a host of ailments.

Welcome fat back to the table.

It’s good for the heart, brain, immune system and just about every aspect of human physiology you consider. Every cell in your body is comprised of a “phospholipid” bilayer that wants to remain young, soft and supple. Nutrients can easily pass in, bypassing wastes that are on their way out. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) need dietary fats to become absorbed. Think of it. In a single generation we have somehow become convinced that dietary fat represented a threat to our health. Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Weight Loss Myths

Over and over again, I hear these basic tenets of weight loss:

  1. Consume fewer calories than you expend, and you will magically lose weight.
  2. Follow a high-carbohydrate, low fat diet and you will magically lose weight.
  3. Eat whatever you want, in moderation, and you will magically lose weight.
  4. Stop choosing to be fat and you will magically lose weight.

Obviously these basic tenets are wrong.

Myth #1:

Consume fewer calories than you expend, and you will magically lose weight.

The premise of a calorie-restricted diet is that by “starving” the body with fewer than 800-1200 calories per day, it will turn to the excessive, existing fat stores and utilize those for fuel. …well, that’s not quite true. You can’t just eat 800 calories worth of donuts and expect to lose weight.

The kinds of calories you eat are important, if you’re actually going to lose weight rather than just continue to store fat. You will require a special formula for suppressing your raging appetite, and this kind of rapid weight loss needs to be supervised by a physician so that you can be monitored for the development of gallstones and other side effects. The detoxification of your waste elimination pathways, including organ systems and cells, and supporting a healthy gut terrain is crucial. So is hunting down parasites, controlling viral infections and nutritional deficiencies. But perhaps most importantly, addressing your emotional issues related to food, body image and weight has to be a part of your plan, or it will fail.

Myth #2:

Follow a high-carbohydrate, low fat diet and you will magically lose weight.

No other dietary advice has so singularly contributed to soaring obesity rates. The dependence on wheat and other packaged grains (and the corresponding decrease in healthy fats) has led to never-before-seen levels of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as a few silent killers such as celiac disease and candida, and a host of neurotoxic illnesses from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to childhood ADHD and autism.

Why? The simple answer is sugar. Not only are low-fat products drenched in sugar as a method for making up for lack of flavor, but refined carbohydrates quickly convert to sugar in the bloodstream, causing all manner of metabolic processes to go defunct.

Humans are simply not designed to ingest today’s modern, overly-processed and manufactured grains. If your diet begins with cereal in the morning and continues throughout the day with breads, sandwiches and burgers, pasta, cakes, cookies, pizza and so on, chances are you have one of the aforementioned side effects of a high-carb diet.

You certainly will not lose weight.

Myth #3:

Eat whatever you want, in moderation, and you will magically lose weight.

How could such a benign statement be so far from the truth?

While not so devastating in its consequence as Myth #2, the proposition of Myth #3 to eat whatever you want in moderation fails to acknowledge that No! Some foods should not ever be consumed at all!

The “moderation is key” approach leads to completely destructive and undermining habits—because moderation means something different for everyone. If moderation for you means that you can have soda once a year on your birthday, fine. But for most people, moderation means “once a day,” as in every day, or “only when I’m stressed,” which is almost every day too. In addition to soda, there’s no place in your diet for foods that are rich in trans fats, HFCS, chemical dyes, artificial ingredients, endless amounts of packaging…in short, junk food.

Myth #4:

Stop choosing to be fat and you will magically lose weight.

There is no doubt that you have to want to reclaim your weight and your health. It is an uphill battle and the odds are against you if you don’t have a good measure of personal responsibility and a supportive team. People who achieve their goals have a realistic assessment of what can be done and how quickly.

But the point is: No one chooses to be fat. In other words, it’s not a simple matter of pushing away from the table using only self-discipline. Rather, it’s a matter of regaining your health and discovering what’s been contributing to weight gain.

The message is simple. You have to understand why you are overweight. Is it because you have a parasite, an underactive thyroid, an immune problem, toxic build-up, a food sensitivity, poor gut health, or all of the above?

The truth is, there is no magic bullet diet. Losing weight, learning how to keep it off and remaining healthy requires a safe, physician-supervised program.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Is It Safe To Self-Prescribe Nutritional Supplements?

We’ve all seen countless ads touting nutritional supplements that will work wonders for our weight, pain, tinnitus, energy level – you name it, there’s a supplement for it. So if you match the supplement’s claims to your particular complaint, you should be fine in just a few weeks, right?

The truth is that you can’t “supplement your way back to good health.” Many other factors need to be evaluated and taken into consideration, such as metal and toxin levels in the body; these impurities have to be eliminated, which can’t be achieved with supplements. Along with metals and toxins, a number of other things can cause or contribute to a wide variety of health issues, which must be identified before a course of corrective action can be taken.

Nutritional supplements, when taken properly and safely, can help to fill the gap of deficiencies you may have, but they’re not cure-alls. For example, if your vitamin D level is low, taking a good vitamin D supplement can bring your level back to where it should be. Being deficient in any nutrient can open you up to a host of chronic issues.

Self-managing your supplements can backfire or you may not be using the correct dosages without complete information as to what your body needs. A product may be good, but it may not be the right one for you; in fact, you may not need that vitamin or mineral at all. Everyone is different and has their own unique chemistry; to take that one step further, each person’s chemistry reacts differently to their environment and circumstances.

In the practice of medicine, for example, a doctor may have several patients with diabetes, but the same prescription medications may not work for all of them. That’s because each patient may have diabetes for a different reason, and therefore different approaches must be taken both as to the medication they’re prescribed and the dosages they receive.
The same goes for nutritional supplements – there are no cookie cutter answers and every person’s needs for supplements should be considered on an individual basis after a thorough evaluation.

You’ve probably seen plenty of magazine articles praising the benefits of a supplement put out by a specific company. The articles also usually try to convince you why it’s so important to your health to take this particular supplement; however, these articles are talking in generalities to the overall public, but not everyone fits into the same mold. Most times, these are nothing more than advertorials – advertising in the form of an article published by the magazine when a company advertises with them. Look elsewhere in the magazine and you’ll probably find an ad selling the product.

There are also products that use words like “natural” and “healthy,” but as we all know, those words can have very loose definitions and sometimes only minimal requirements need to be met. The quality of your nutritional supplements is important; some contain fillers, artificial sweeteners, colors, or other unnecessary and potentially damaging ingredients, especially if you have an undiagnosed allergy or sensitivity to at least one.

The best way to know what supplements you need for your particular lifestyle and health issues is to have a full evaluation done that goes beyond standard blood tests. A comprehensive, in-depth assessment of your medical history, dietary habits, overall lifestyle and lab work coupled with any symptoms and current diagnoses done by a doctor who asks questions and listens to you will lead to the right recommended supplement choices for you.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.