Wednesday, July 17, 2019

10 Reasons to Love Avocados

Hippocrates Health Institute posted about the health value of avocados, one of the most nutrient-rich and versatile fruits that can be eaten daily to enhance a person's health. Originally native to Central America, for hundreds of years avocados have been cultivated. Now they are used in numerous recipes: appetizers, salads, desserts, and even eaten alone. This fruit versatile in meal presentation can play a big part in the health journey by providing the body with nutrients and other healing properties. Externally used, the natural oils in avocados can also penetrate deep into the skin, making it a great addition to skin and hair care routines.

Book title "An Avocado a Day" as posted on Amazon
Here are 10 reasons why a person should love avocado: 
Regulates blood pressure
High source of fiber
Helps absorb nutrients from other foods
Contains more potassium than a banana
Loaded with heart-healthy, mono-unsaturated fatty acids
Can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Helps promote weight loss
Repairs damaged hair
Moisturizes skin
Treats sunburn
These are certainly some beneficial reasons to introduce avocado to the diet or as an addition to body care products.

Just an aside for those struggling with severe systemic candida. During the early days of my hell-fight with severe systemic candida, I couldn't eat avocados ... maybe because I was having a hard time digesting fat, but those early days I was close to starving and could basically only eat chlorophyll-rich foods. Bone thin but after starting to feel better, I found that avocados were the go-to food for helping to regulate my weight, mood and energy. Without organic cold-pressed coconut oil and then avocados in those early days of acute sickness, I think I probably would have melted away. 

One more important point, after I started eating avocados regularly, I noticed that my vitamin A issues were being alleviated. Although I was eating as many vitamin A-rich foods as I could, my vitamin A was extremely low, causing all kinds of problems with my eyes, cartilage and throat. For the body to absorb vitamin A into the blood and gain benefit from the vitamin, fat is necessary. I very much believe it was the fat from avocado much more than the coconut oil, which was good to prevent acute weight loss and heal the GI tract, that helped reach a more stable health plateau. 

That said, I also noticed that if I ate avocados after 4pm, I couldn't fall easily to sleep that night. I usually eat a whole one in guacamole form: avocado, fresh squeezed lemon juice, Himalayan salt, maybe black pepper. Hmm, never heard of that before, but I do know that foods have different effects on the body. Would be nice to know if anyone else has experienced this strange phenomenon.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Support Your Second Brain: The GI Tract

Did you know you have two brains? Our gastrointestinal tract has been dubbed our "second brain" because it contains 500 million nerve cells! Find out how to keep our amazing gut healthy.

Modern gastroenterology suggests our “gut instinct” stems from the 500 million neurons contained in the gastrointestinal tract, in the network of nerves contained in the walls of everything from our esophagus to our stomach and intestines.

That network—the enteric nervous system (ENS)—is what’s known as the “second brain.” And for good reason. The ENS is the body’s second-largest concentration of nerves behind only the brain (and ahead of the spinal column). In fact, there are 30 to 40 percent as many neurotransmitters identified in the gastrointestinal tract as there are in the brain.

The Body’s Prime Source of Serotonin

The ENS controls digestion, including everything from the biomechanics of the stomach and intestines to the alkalinity that allows digestive enzymes to work effectively. By producing 95 percent of the serotonin found in the body, this “second brain” does much to govern how we react to environmental stress. As a regulator of aging, learning, and memory, along with many organ functions and growth factors, serotonin affects our overall physical and mental well-being.

The ENS also produces as much dopamine as the brain—important for everything from motivation to motor control and the production of other key hormones. Working with the brain or independently, the ENS plays a strong role in supporting the healthy functioning of the body.

Protecting the Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract

The connection between the ENS and the brain is yet another reason why nutrition is so important: the healthier the digestive system, the healthier the body. More specifically, the healthier the epithelial tissue in the walls of the GI tract, the better it will protect the nervous and circulatory systems from bacteria and viruses. The healthier the digestive system, the more likely the ENS will function optimally.

Nutrition, Hydration, and Supplements

Consuming fewer processed foods and eating more plant-based foods reduces the stress on our digestive system (and, by extension, the ENS). Hydration is also important, as is relaxation prior to and during meals.

The medicinal mushroom lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus)—associated with optimal nerve health—may also assist in the proper functioning of the ENS and the way it communicates with the brain.

Nutritional supplements known to enhance tissue health are another avenue toward good digestion: by optimizing the integrity of the epithelial lining of the GI tract.

Everything from mood to decision-making can be affected when the GI tract is inflamed or otherwise under duress. Making the right decisions around healthy eating is one of the surest ways to sustain balance and good choices in every other facet of our lives.


This article was copied from Support Your Second Brain: Pay attention to your gut instincts published on December 1, 2015 and written by Tawnya Ritco, RHN

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Sensitive Stomach

What’s a sensitive stomach?

The term “sensitive stomach” is a non-medical way to describe a stomach that’s easily upset. People with a sensitive stomach may experience recurring gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea.

Someone who has a sensitive stomach might connect their sensitivity to certain foods or situations. Others might experience discomfort or digestive disruptions without being sure of the cause.

At some point, everyone experiences stomach upset. But if you regularly deal with discomfort, indigestion, or changing bowel habits, you may have a sensitive stomach.

What causes a sensitive stomach?

Some people with chronic stomach discomfort are more sensitive to certain foods — like dairy, spicy foods, alcohol, or fried foods. Others may find that they have food intolerances which, unlike food allergies, are not life-threatening sensitivities.

Unlike those with food allergies, people with food intolerances may be able to tolerate small amounts of the foods in question. People with a dairy sensitivity can take enzymes that help them digest lactose.

Irritable bowel syndrome

Sometimes, people who experience frequent stomach issues have something more going on than just sensitivity. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one common culprit behind ongoing stomach trouble.

While its signature symptoms are similar to those of a sensitive stomach, chronic bowel pain is usually involved with IBS. This is due to inflammation in the intestines that tends to be made worse by certain foods.

IBS prevents your stomach and intestines from functioning optimally. Some people with IBS have chronic constipation, while others experience ongoing diarrhea. IBS affects the mobility of the contents of your intestines. This causes:
  • changes in bowel habits
  • trapped gas
  • abdominal pain
Women tend to be diagnosed with IBS more often than men. Women who have had surgeries like C-sections or hysterectomies may be more prone to IBS than others.

Inflammatory bowel disease

If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may perform tests to diagnose you with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, severe conditions that require prescription anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs.

These therapies may also be supplemented with medications to regulate bowel movements, stop diarrhea, prevent infection, and manage pain. Iron supplements might also be prescribed if you have chronic intestinal bleeding.

Further reading: "If Digestion Takes So Long, Why Does Diarrhea Travel So Quickly Through The Body?"

What are the symptoms of a sensitive stomach?

Most symptoms of a sensitive stomach can easily be treated at home. These include:
  • intestinal gas
  • bloating
  • indigestion
  • heartburn
  • acid reflux
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • occasional abdominal pain
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
But if you have the following severe symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:
  • chronic or severe abdominal pain that makes it difficult for you to do your normal activities
  • blood or pus in your stool
  • severe, ongoing diarrhea that lasts for more than two days
  • nighttime diarrhea that keeps you from sleeping
  • unexplained fever
  • allergic reaction (hives, swelling, itching, etc.)
These symptoms may signal a serious condition. Your doctor will perform testing to determine the cause of your symptoms and diagnose the issue.

How to treat a sensitive stomach

Because there are many things that can upset a sensitive stomach, it can take time to pinpoint and solve the problem. Here are some remedies you can try at home to alleviate your discomfort.

Eat smaller portions
  • Filling your stomach too much can make you gassy and give you indigestion. Try reducing the amount of food you put on your plate at each meal.
  • Eating five or six small meals per day may also be more comfortable for your stomach than eating three large meals.
Eat more slowly
  • Eating too quickly can also give you unpleasant trapped gas and indigestion. Make sure your food is well-chewed before you swallow, since digestion starts long before the food reaches your stomach.
Eliminate potentially irritating foods
Foods that can irritate a sensitive stomach include:
  • dairy
  • spicy foods
  • processed foods
  • oily or fried foods
  • alcohol
  • gluten
It might take a little trial and error, but identifying and eliminating foods you’re sensitive to will go a long way. If you already suspect what foods might be triggers for your sensitivity, it can be helpful to find substitute foods or foods that are similar in texture or taste. 
And if your stomach is especially sensitive, you might decide to eliminate all possible triggers to begin with to relieve your symptoms. If you choose to reintroduce these triggers one at a time later, you’ll be able to identify the problematic food.
Drink more water
If you don’t drink enough water every day, you might be chronically dehydrated without realizing it. Inadequate water intake can cause problems with digestion and elimination. 
If you don’t have enough water in your body, your colon can’t pull enough water in for proper bowel movements. In other words, if you don’t drink enough, you could end up constipated.
Lower your caffeine intake
Caffeine can be a stomach irritant. If you consume high amounts every day, lowering your caffeine intake could soothe your stomach. 
You might also consider changing the time of day when you drink caffeine to see if that helps. If caffeine is the main culprit, you may want to gradually eliminate it from your diet.
Reduce your stress
Chronic stress can lead to an upset stomach. If you aren’t able to pinpoint irritating foods, it might be that stress is triggering your discomfort. Consider adding a stress-relieving practice to your routine, like meditation or yoga.

Tips and Treatments 

Foods that tend to be soothing to people with sensitive stomachs include:
  • cooked fruits and vegetables
  • lean protein
  • easily digestible grains
  • fat-free or low-fat dairy
Your doctor may also recommend a short-term, low-fiber diet to ease your discomfort.
If you’re diagnosed with one or more food intolerances, your doctor will recommend you eliminate the food or foods in question. If you are diagnosed with an autoimmune condition like celiac disease, you’ll have to go on a gluten-free diet to manage your symptoms. 
If your doctor diagnoses you with a food allergy, you may be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector. You’ll need to strictly avoid your allergens, as even a small exposure could cause you to have a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction
Even if you’ve only had small allergic reactions in the past, the next one could be severe or deadly.

What’s the outlook for a sensitive stomach?

Most people with sensitive stomachs can successfully manage their symptoms at home through dietary and lifestyle adjustments.

Sometimes, though, stomach discomfort can indicate a more serious condition like IBS, IBD, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.

If you are concerned about any of the symptoms you’re experiencing, contact your doctor.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Benefits of Kelp

Kelp isn’t a new commodity. People have been harvesting and gathering seaweed for centuries. Some people groups are just becoming aware of its incredible value for our health while others have harvested it for centuries and have made it a part of their typical diet.

One tablespoon of dried kelp contains between one-half milligram and 35 mg of iron! This iron also has a measurable amount of vitamin C that increases the bioavailability of the iron. Kelp contains alginic acid, which protects the plants from bacteria where it grows, and in the body it can reduce radiation exposure and help with the prevention of heavy metals being absorbed in our bodies.

Key point here, kelp is the largest source of iodine, and iodine is critical in supporting our hormones that are made in our thyroid gland. It is also a key component in regulating the thyroid to produce healthy hair, skin and nails. It is essential for bone health, brain metabolism and our energy levels. Kelp has high amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium along with antioxidants and phytonutrients, amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids too. 

You already know to eat your daily servings of vegetables, but when is the last time you gave any thought to your sea vegetables? Kelp, a type of seaweed, is chock full of good-for-you nutrients that can benefit your health and possibly even prevent disease.

Already a staple in many Asian cuisines, this type of sea algae is a natural source of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

What Is Kelp?

You may have seen this marine plant at the beach. Kelp is a type of large brown seaweed that grows in shallow, nutrient-rich saltwater, near coastal fronts around the world. It differs slightly in color, flavor, and nutrient profile from the type you may see in sushi rolls.

Kelp also produces a compound called sodium alginate. This is used as a thickener in many foods you may eat, including ice cream and salad dressing. But you can eat natural kelp in many different forms, including:
  • raw
  • cooked
  • powdered
  • in supplements
Nutritional Benefits

Because it absorbs the nutrients from its surrounding marine environment, kelp is rich in:
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • trace elements
  • enzymes
According to nutritionist Vanessa Stasio Costa, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., kelp “is often considered a ‘superfood’ due to its significant mineral content. It’s especially concentrated in iodine, which is important for optimal thyroid function and metabolism.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) say that seaweed such as kelp is one of the best natural food sources of iodine, an essential component in thyroid hormone production. A deficiency in iodine leads to metabolism disruption and can also lead to an enlargement of the thyroid gland known as goiter.

But beware of too much iodine. Overconsumption can create health issues, too. The key is to get a moderate amount to raise energy levels and brain functioning. It is difficult to get too much iodine in natural kelp but this could be an issue with supplements.

Stasio Costa also notes that kelp contains notable amounts of:
  • iron
  • manganese
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • copper
  • zinc
  • riboflavin
  • niacin
  • thiamin
  • vitamins A, B-12, B-6, and C
The benefits of these vitamins and nutrients are substantial. B vitamins in particular are essential for cellular metabolism and providing your body with energy. According to UCSF Medical Center, kelp has more calcium than many vegetables, including kale and collard greens. Calcium is important to maintain strong bones and optimal muscle function.

Disease-Fighting Abilities

Since inflammation and stress are considered risk factors for many chronic diseases, Stasio Costa says including kelp in one's diet could have numerous health benefits. Kelp is naturally high in antioxidants, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids, which help to fight against disease-causing free radicals.

Antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C, and minerals like manganese and zinc, help to combat oxidative stress and may offer benefits to cardiovascular health. There have been many claims regarding kelp’s abilities to fight chronic disease, including cancer.

Recent studies have explored the role of sea vegetables in estrogen-related and colon cancers, osteoarthritis, and other conditions. Researchers found that kelp can slow the spread of colon and breast cancers. A compound found in kelp called fucoidan may also prevent the spread of lung cancer and prostate cancer. This doesn’t mean that kelp should be used to cure any diseases or be considered a guaranteed protection against disease.

Weight Loss Claims

In recent years, researchers have looked into kelp’s potential fat blocking properties. Because kelp contains a natural fiber called alginate, studies suggest that it may halt the absorption of fat in the gut. A study published in Food Chemistry found that alginate could help block fat absorption in the intestines by 75 percent. In order to reap the benefits of alginate, the research team plans to add the thickening compound to common foods such as yogurt and bread.

Kelp may have great potential for diabetes and obesity, although research is still preliminary. A study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism found that a compound in the chloroplasts of brown seaweed called fucoxanthin may promote weight loss in obese patients when combined with pomegranate oil. Studies also suggest that brown seaweed may influence glycemic control and reduce blood glucose levels, benefitting people with type 2 diabetes.

In addition to its potential to slow down fat absorption in the gut, kelp is low in fat and calories.

How to Eat Kelp

Thankfully, you don’t need to go diving in the ocean to reap the benefits. Kelp is available in a variety of forms.

Nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., C.D.N., C.P.T., recommends that you try to eat your nutrients, versus taking them in supplement form. She suggests including kelp in a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, from both the land and sea. Kelp can be one small part of a broader healthy diet that includes a variety of unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods.

Moskovitz says that one of the easiest ways to incorporate kelp into your diet is to add an organic, dried variety into soups. You could also use raw kelp noodles in salads and main dishes or add some dried kelp flakes as seasoning. It is usually found in Japanese or Korean restaurants or grocery stores and can be enjoyed cold with oil and sesame seeds, hot in a soup or stew, or even blended into a vegetable juice.

Too Much of the Good Stuff?

Health advisers warn that ingesting concentrated amounts of kelp can introduce excessive amounts of iodine to the body. This can overstimulate the thyroid and cause harm. There are significant health risks to consuming excessive iodine. It’s important to only eat kelp in moderation, and it should be avoided by those suffering from hyperthyroidism.

Nutritionist Stasio Costa notes that because kelp and other sea vegetables take up minerals from the waters they inhabit, they can also absorb dangerous heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead. She recommends seeking out certified organic versions of sea vegetables and to look for packages that mention that the product has been tested for arsenic.

Always consult a health professional before beginning any supplementation regime.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Herbal Tea Guide

If you are like most people, reaching for that hot cup to sip in the morning is a top priority to getting the day started. While most drinks like coffee and black teas are popular for the morning jumpstart, switching out the caffeinated beverages with an herbal tea can be soothing and comforting, while also providing your body with antioxidants and other medicinal properties that promote health. The simple aroma from a freshly brewed cup of herbal tea invokes in us a calm and warmth, and helps provide a feeling of peace and relaxation. Aside from the pleasure herbal teas provide, they also offer healing properties, and because they are naturally caffeine-free, they are suitable for drinking any time of the day. 

One of the easiest and most nutritious ways to drink herbal teas is by infusing the herbs in hot water for at least 10 minutes, and up to 8 hours maximum. Studies have shown that it takes at least four hours for a significant amount of minerals to extract into the water, releasing the medicinal constituents. These long herbal infusions draw out the most significant amounts of vitamins, enzymes and essential oils. Depending on how much time and preparation needed, at least 10 minutes of steeping is necessary to extract any medicinal properties, and allowing the herb to steep at least 8 hours will extract the most nutrients.
Picture borrowed from Everyday Health, The Best Teas for Your Health
There are many beneficial herbs that provide medicinal properties for different ailments and different herbs are better suited for steeping for longer periods of time. 

If you are looking for a quick and easy herbal tea, the following herbs are simple and effective with at least 10 minutes of steeping time: 
  • Peppermint: improves digestion, prevents nausea and vomiting, boosts immunity 
  • Ginger: supports digestions, eases pain, increases weight loss, enhances immunity 
  • Echinacea: boosts the immune system, reduces redness and swelling, promotes cell health 
  • Rooibos: lowers blood pressure, improves bone & heart health, balances blood sugar 
  • Chamomile: induces sleep, antispasmodic & anti-inflammatory, relieves stress & anxiety 
When you start steeping the herbs for four hours or longer, the medicinal constituents (phytochemicals) become primarily nutritive rather than stimulating/sedating. This also gives these nourishing long infusions their characteristic tastes: bland, sweet or earthy. These types of herbal infusions can be used on a regular basis. The following herbs are popular to use for long herbal infusions: 
  • Oatstraw: relieves insomnia, anxiety and ADHD; helps combat obesity, varicose veins and irritations to the digestive tract 
  • Nettle: treats arthritis and joint pain, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory qualities, used to treat bladder infections 
  • Comfrey: strengthens and heals bones, reduces pain, anti-inflammatory, boosts immune system 
  • Red Clover: eases anxiety, relieves muscle and joint pain, prevents osteoporosis and strokes 
These are just a few of the more popular herbs that are used to make herbal teas and infusions and by experimenting and trying new ones, you are sure to find a few favorites that you enjoy. Tea drinking has been around for thousands of years and is not only used for its medicinal properties, but is valued for everyday pleasure and refreshment. Incorporating a time in your day to savor a cup of herbal tea is a great way to improve your overall health and wellbeing. This daily ritual will help you feel rooted in mindfulness, respect and living in the moment while also reducing stress. 

Article by Andrea Nison

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Insights on the Ketogenic Diet

From what I'm seeing on the Internet the ketogenic diet is a raging buzz word. It certainly was not so nine years ago when I first got so sick that almost everything I ate made me feel unspeakably ill. I can only say that the diet I undertook to deal with my symptoms was a desperate avoidance of almost every kind of reactionary food. Basically I became a grass grazer (lots of green leafies, coconut oil (which I discovered gave me energy and kept me from being too much of a skeleton) and just a few other simple foods -- See my horrendously constrained, but wonderfully restoring diet. Yes, call it strict, but it helped me tremendously!)

Later a friend whose son has Doose Syndrome, a very rare form of epilepsy, looked at this blog and wrote back commenting on my keto diet. Never heard of a keto diet before so looked it up, and looked up the treatment for people with Doose. It was a bit hard to understand, eating to feed the brain ketones to burn instead of glucose that most people's brains are fired off of. Found a based-on-real-life movie "First Do No Harm" starring with Meryl Streep on the keto diet. In it Meryl's son had the rare form of epilepsy and the movie was her fight to save her son with the virtually unknown tightly regulated keto diet. A very moving movie and also one that gave me a deeper understanding of the practical application and importance of rigid adherence to a program known to be beneficial for a specific body type-body requirement.

So now there are tons of materials on the web for the ketogenic diet. I don't really support the direction the keto diet is going because most people, as far as I can tell, aren't informing themselves of long-term dietary issues that the diet can create. Nor do I feel that most people are really in tuned their bodies to know if the diet is really benefitting them or if they should tweak the diet to make it more beneficial for their own body types and nutritional needs. Anyway, I found this website more informative than others on the specificity of the keto diet and hope that others can get some more specific answers on it if they're choosing to try the diet. 

BTW, this isn't a diet that you try for a couple of weeks but is a lifestyle change diet. Just something to keep in mind, especially as the brain is burning ketones and needs an adjustment from burning glucose, so I'm thinking the one week of a keto diet and the next of a glucose-brain-fueling diet wouldn't be particularly beneficial for the body. 


For more on the diet, reference: The Ketogenic Diet Resource