Wellness Blog

Allergy shots: Beneficial or a waste of time?

Posted on March 30, 2016 at 2:10 AM

 Allergy season is upon us! Seasonal allergies cause a tremendous amount of discomfort for millions of people each spring. For others, outdoor allergies have become a personal challenge beginning with the first warm weather and lasting to the first killing frost in the fall. Why are some people affected while others are not? Are allergy shots the answer to improving physical responses to outdoor allergy triggers?


The answer to both of these questions depends on the individual. Each person’s immune system differs from the next. An allergy is your immune system is over responding to what it perceives as a foreign invader. Pathogens the immune system is designed to respond to are bacteria, virus, fungus, or toxins. Allergens (pollen, dander, etc.) are not pathogens. Yet, allergies can become as life threatening as a bacterial or viral attack on the body. Why?


When a person with an allergy comes into contact with an allergen, the allergic reaction is not immediate. The immune system gradually builds up sensitivity to the substance before overreacting to it. The immune system needs time to recognize and remember the allergen. As it becomes sensitive to it, it starts making antibodies to attack it. Sensitization can take from a few days to several years. In many cases the sensitization process is not completed and the person experiences some symptoms but never a full allergy.


When the immune system reacts to an allergen, it releases immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of antibody. IgE is released to destroy the allergen. IgE causes chemicals in the body to be produced. These chemicals cause the allergic reaction. Allergic reactions may occur in the gut (digestive system), skin, sinuses, airways, eyes, and nasal passages. People with allergies blame the allergen for their symptoms. However, the allergens are not harmful. The problem is not the allergen but the allergic person's immune system that mistakes harmless substances for harmful ones.


In general, allergy medications relieve the symptoms of the immune system overreactions. However, for some people the allergic response is too great and symptoms are not overcome by medication. Many will look to allergy shots for an answer.


If you are suffering life-threatening allergies that trigger responses such as allergy induced asthma or anaphylaxis, your doctor may recommend allergy shots to avoid potential fatal harm. An allergy shot is simply injecting small amounts of the offending allergen into the body to stimulate the body to build immunity to these substances. Keep in mind allergy shots are designed to be a long-term approach. Typically, it takes one to five years for effectiveness to be experienced. Most importantly, this is not a cure for allergies. If the shots are effective, they are reducing your symptoms to a manageable level. What happens when the shots are stopped? For many people the allergy responses start increasing until they again reach the original level or even intensify.


Allergy shots are similar to the basis of homeopathic medicine. In homeopathy, “like cures like” is the approach taken. You literally take very diluted amounts of what is causing your dis-ease to cure your dis-ease. Your immune system is allowed to respond and correct the imbalance. Does this fully apply to allergy shots? In reality it is a person-by-person answer. Some people find allergy shots beneficial while others find no improvement.


Before engaging in allergy shots make sure you fully understand the risks and weigh them against potential benefits. Your doctor should be aware of the severity of your reactions and be able to guide you through the cautions should you choose this route.

Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Posted on March 30, 2016 at 2:05 AM

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth New research into Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is revealing root cause for many digestive tract issues. Connections have been made showing bacterial overgrowth can be linked to chronic constipation. While we already know pathogenic bacteria can cause diarrhea, we now have proof the simple overgrowth of normal bacteria found in the small intestine may also cause diarrhea. SIBO is being considered the actual cause of IBS, and a major contributor to fibromyalgia (via “auto-intoxication” of bacterial endotoxins) as well as many other conditions as would be expected from any serious disturbance of small intestine structure or function.


In the small intestine bacteria are normally kept at low levels (<100 thousand/mL) by bactericidal GI secretions, the migrating motor complex (MMC) which sweeps it clean between meals and at night, as well as the ileocecal valve, which prevents backflow. The lower intestine is meant to have larger bacterial population (100 billion/ mL) needed to perform helpful activities. Several factors can cause SIBO through compromising normal small intestine protections. These include chronic stress, gastrointestinal infection, GI surgery, and other diseases. Common GI symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation (or both), heartburn and nausea.


Common systemic symptoms include food sensitivities, headache, joint pain, and respiratory, skin, brain and mood symptoms. Malabsorption signs include steatorrhea (abnormal amounts of fat in feces) and anemia. SIBO wreaks havoc in the digestive system. It causes mucosal damage, increased permeability (leaky gut), deconjugation of bile, bacterial consumption of nutrients, and accumulation of bacterial acids and gas.


Is there treatment to rebalance the gut and resolve SIBO? Yes. However, this must be a personalized approach, as several factors must be evaluated to completely resolve this issue. SIBO should not be ignored. The long-term damage to the gut will affect overall health. If you suspect SIBO, discussion with a health practitioner should be arranged as quickly as possible.


This post is not meant to diagnose or treat SIBO, but to bring awareness to the condition. If you are concerned you may be suffering this condition, please contact the Center to make an appointment for more extensive investigation into the possibility.

An Avocado a Day may keep the Cardiologist Away!

Posted on March 13, 2016 at 1:40 AM

Okay we have all heard about eating our “greens” for a variety of health reasons. While kale and spinach seem to be in the spotlight, there is a new contender in the healthy green group—avocados!


Eating avocados regularly may help your heart. Researchers compared three diets that differed only in their fat contents: One was low-fat, one had a moderate amount of fat but no avocados, and one had a moderate amount of fat, including an avocado a day. Compared with the first two, the “avocado diet” was shown to lower LDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides and total cholesterol. It is unknown for sure whether these benefits come from avocado’s phytonutrients, fiber or fat composition. Any way you look at it, adding some avocado may boost your heart health.


Think outside guacamole (but it is good too). Avocado can be sliced and added to salads, serve as a garnish for rice or pasta dishes, and is a great addition to fish or chicken dishes. Not a fan of the avocado? Then consider adding it to smoothies. It creates a creamy texture but no added taste. Oh that guacamole, substitute some veggies for chips and increase health benefits even further!

Wellness Tip

Posted on March 13, 2016 at 1:25 AM

Daily challenges to maintaining your highest level of wellness can cause many levels of unhealthy results. Our heath is multifaceted being affected by internal and external influences. Years ago the term holistic health was created to described the integrated workings of the mind, body, and spirit. Later, environmental was added to round out potential influences on health. With daily stressors, nutritional challenges, and environmental exposures sometimes maintaining wellness is difficult. Here are a few tips to offset the negative influences that affect wellbeing.


1. Increase mindfulness. There are many ways to increase mindfulness and reduce stress that affects you physical, mental, and emotional states. A current trend that is very beneficial is adult coloring. Don’t laugh it off just yet! When you color, paint, or engage in any other artistic activity you pull yourself away from the daily tangle of thoughts and pressures. Instead mindfulness is established (being aware of the present moment with intention and without judging). The focus is not on the end result or creating a perfect replica of something else. It is simply clearing the mind and giving way to the simplistic beauty of color and shape. Bonus to this activity is it may reduce anxiety, depression, and improve coping mechanisms.


2. Play. Remember being a carefree kid? The art of play is forgotten when we become adults. Play gives way to work and emphasis is placed on responsibilities. This can cause imbalances from a wellness perspective. Giving yourself permission to play is giving permission to relax and enjoy life through the eyes of a child again. This “time-out” is beneficial to the body (improves immunity), mind/emotional (steps away from pressures momentarily) and spirit (awakes appreciation).


3. Workplace wellness. At work you can continue the benefits of mindful wellness by taking short breaks between tasks. Breaking the focus of, “I have to…” even for a few moments will make a big difference in the felt pressures of the day. If you are in a position to do so, consider a 15 minute power nap to revive you when the day becomes overwhelming. Research has shown 15 minutes is just enough to reset your mental state. Reaction time, critical thinking skills, and a rejuvenated you are the result of a quick power nap. No opportunity for napping? Then try a different approach. Try a short burst of activity instead. Research has shown short bursts of activity clear the mind, and invigorates the body.


Finally, don’t forget the power of a good nights sleep! Sleep is time for the mind to wind down and the body to rebuild. Without adequate rest your mental and emotional states will compound physical tiredness. Likewise, the body will not have the natural pathways to revive, rejuvenate, and maintain optimal wellbeing.

Stress & Sugar Cravings

Posted on February 20, 2016 at 1:45 AM

Have you ever been overwhelmed by the desire to eat sugar laden foods? I mean almost driven to eat those sweets? If so, you might want to check your stress levels. While severe, acute stress can cause you to lose your appetite, the day-in-and-out variety of low-grade stress can do the opposite. Over time, low-level stress gradually becomes part of daily life. This could be as simple as ongoing daily living struggles. The body responds to stress be releasing cortisol. Chronic stress quickly elevates levels of a hormone called cortisol— which supercharges your appetite for sugar, other simple carbohydrates, and fats!


How to fight back? Research suggests that the practice of relaxation-based strategies, including mindfulness meditation, can reduce emotional eating. Incorporate a practice that works for you, whether that’s a sitting meditation, yoga, tai chi, prayer or breathing exercises.


Also, keep in mind that many packaged desserts and snacks are designed to be irresistible (those food scientists and marketing specialists know exactly what they’re doing!) Replace high sugar packaged goods with vegetables (especially fresh or frozen), fruit (especially fresh or dried), legumes, nuts & seeds, whole grains, fish and other nourishing whole foods. Besides that they are brimming with nutrients, whole foods help to balance your blood sugar, which in turn helps to reduce cravings. Removing temptations may help manage those cortisol level related binges!

Sage: Nature's Metformin

Posted on February 20, 2016 at 1:45 AM

Sage is nature’s metaformin. Metaformin being a drug designed to help Type-2 diabetics boost insulin response and lower blood sugar. In addition, research has shown memory enhancing properties along with protective agents to guard against changes leading to Alzheimer’s disease. The high concentration of antioxidants, such as rosmarinic acid, in the aromatic leaves can help reduce DNA oxidative damage, thereby improving brain function. Sage has the ability to improve mood, increase alertness, and create a calm, contented state.

As with many other herbs and spices, sage contains constituents acting as anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. Naturally occurring chemicals in sage (such as oleanolic and ursolic acids) also have strong antibacterial qualities, potentially helping to reduce numbers of food-borne pathogens, including E. coli. Sage has also been indicated as beneficial with some cancers. Sage is a great addition to chicken and pork recipes. Also try adding a little sage to bean casseroles, cooked grains, roasted vegetables, and marinades to reap the health benefits of the spice. Surprisingly, simmering sage, as you would in soups and stews, has been found to increase its antioxidant capacity.

Soy to Fight Cancer: Yes Fight It!

Posted on February 2, 2016 at 2:55 AM

Tofu, tempeh, edamame, soymilk and miso are a few of the soy foods people around the world enjoy every day. Soy is one of the few plant foods with all the amino acids your body needs to make protein. Because soy contains estrogen-like compounds, there was fear that soy may raise risk of hormone-related cancers. Evidence shows this is NOT true. Soy’s possible effects on health are an active area of research. Soy foods contain several key nutrients and phytochemicals studied for their cancer prevention properties. Many soy foods also contain dietary fiber, which links to lower risk of colorectal cancer.


Soy foods contain isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens that in some ways mimic the action of estrogen. Because high levels of estrogen link to increased breast cancer risk, there was a fear that soy foods – and its isoflavones – may increase risk. Yet overall, human studies* show soy foods do not increase risk and in some cases, research suggests they may lower it.


Studies involving genistein, daidzein and other soy compounds have slowed cancer cell growth and prevented tumor formation. In lab studies, soy and genistein have decreased tumor growth and increase self-destruction of prostate cancer. Soy and its phytochemicals appear to prevent cancer development by reducing inflammation, and inhibiting activation of proteins that promote cell growth.


Breast cancer

Recent research shows that soy isoflavones such as genistein are much more likely to bind to a particular type of estrogen receptor in humans called ER-beta, rather than to ER-alpha. When activated, ER-alpha receptors appear to promote cell growth. Emerging evidence suggests ER-beta receptors act as a potential tumor suppressor that inhibits cell growth. ER-beta receptors are found in the breast and other tissues throughout the body. In some tissues, such as bone, ER-beta receptors may stimulate healthful non-reproductive effects. Translation…soy compounds bind to helpful receptors not harmful in helping to fight hormonal cancers. In addition to helping fight breast cancer, soy is also shown to help in the fight against prostate cancer.


Soy foods are good sources of protein, and many are also good sources of fiber, potassium, magnesium, copper and manganese. Soy foods contain significant iron, but it's not clear how well our bodies absorb it. Soymilk, tofu made with calcium, and soybeans are good sources of calcium. Soy is also a good source of polyunsaturated fat, both the omega-6 (linoleic acid) and omega-3 (alpha-linolenic) types.

Soy contains a variety of phytochemicals and active compounds:


Isoflavones: a group of phytoestrogens that includes genistein, daidzein and glycitein


Saponins: studies suggest these compounds may lower blood cholesterol, protect against cancer and affect blood glucose levels Phenolic Acids: this group of phytochemicals is being studied for their potential to stop cancer cells from spreading


Phytic Acid: commonly found in cereals and legumes, it can act as an antioxidant Enzyme-regulating proteins: these include protease inhibitors and protein kinase inhibitors Sphingolipids: they seem to play a role in regulating cell growth, self-destruction of abnormal cells and progression of tumors


What's a serving? (Please note: soy referred to in this article is non-processed forms—not “meat look alikes.”)

1. 1 cup soy milk

2. 1/2 cup cooked soy beans

3. 1/3 cup or 1 oz. soy nuts


*Studies that had suggested increased cancer risk were performed with rats. While rat studies indicated potential cancer risk, multiple human studies do NOT show the same cancer response in humans. Studies show that rats and mice metabolize phytoestrogens such as genistein differently than humans (and other non-human primates). Rodent metabolism leads to much higher levels of the active form of isoflavones compared to humans. Therefore, many researchers now say that the effects on breast cancer growth seen in rodent studies may be linked to their far higher blood levels of isoflavones in active form, and would not be expected to occur in humans.


References: Hsu, A., T.M. Bray, and E. Ho, Anti-inflammatory activity of soy and tea in prostate cancer prevention. Experimental biology and medicine, 2010. 235(6): p. 659-67.


Szliszka, E. and W. Krol, Soy isoflavones augment the effect of TRAIL-mediated apoptotic death in prostate cancer cells. Oncology reports, 2011. 26(3): p. 533-41.


Setchell, K.D., et al., Soy isoflavone phase II metabolism differs between rodents and humans: implications for the effect on breast cancer risk. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 2011. 94(5): p. 1284-94.


Gu, L., et al., Metabolic Phenotype of Isoflavones Differ among Female Rats, Pigs, Monkeys, and Women. The Journal of nutrition, 2006. 136: p. 1215-1221.


Hilakivi-Clarke, L., J.E. Andrade, and W. Helferich, Is soy consumption good or bad for the breast? The Journal of nutrition, 2010. 140(12): p. 2326S-2334S.


Nagata, C., Factors to consider in the association between soy isoflavone intake and breast cancer risk. Journal of epidemiology / Japan Epidemiological Association, 2010. 20(2): p. 83-9.


Shu, X.O., et al., Soy food intake and breast cancer survival. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 2009. 302(22): p. 2437-43.


Nechuta SJ, Caan BJ, Chen WY, Lu W, Chen Z, Kwan ML, Flatt SW, Zheng Y, Zheng W, Pierce JP, Shu XO. Soy food intake after diagnosis of breast cancer and survival: an in-depth analysis of combined evidence from cohort studies of US and Chinese women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jul;96(1):123-32.


Woo HD, Park KS, Ro J, Kim J. Differential influence of dietary soy intake on the risk of breast cancer recurrence related to HER2 status. Nutr Cancer 2012;64(2):198-205.


Zhang YF, Kang HB, Li BL, Zhang RM. Positive effects of soy isoflavone food on survival of breast cancer patients in china. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2012;13(2):479-82.

Role of Vitamin B-6

Posted on February 2, 2016 at 2:50 AM

Like the other B-vitamins, B-6 is water soluble meaning it is not stored in the body and must be replaced daily. As always, the first choice for vitamins should came from foods we eat. Food sources remain the most absorbable source for nutrients. However, if disease inhibits the absorption from foods supplementation in another form may be needed. Why is B-6 important?


1.) Production of Red Blood Cells—hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells. It is best known for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Heme is a key part of the hemoglobin molecule. B-6 is needed for the production of heme. Certain anemias are are due to lack of B-6 in the body.


2.) Vitamin B6 is involved at several steps in the metabolism of carbohydrates. In particular, the enzyme that pulls carbohydrates out of storage in the cell (in the form of a molecule called glycogen) requires vitamin B6 for its activity.


3.) Vitamin B6 is one of several B vitamins required for proper production of messaging molecules in our nervous system and brain (called neurotransmitters). Three key neurotransmitters—namely GABA, dopamine, and serotonin—all require vitamin B6 for synthesis.


4.) Deficieny of B-6 has been indicated in ADHD, adrenal fatigue, certain skin issues, certain types of seizures, chronic inflammation, depression, amino acid metabolism, and circulatory issues. Mild deficiency is common.


5.) Vitamin B-6 is also important in lowering homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease.


6.) Major sources of vitamin B6 include cereal grains, legumes, vegetables (green leafy, carrots, cauliflower, peas, and potatoes—white & sweet), bananas, cantaloupe, avocado, milk, cheese, eggs, fish (especially tuna), liver, meat, and flour.

Constipation...Real Answers

Posted on February 2, 2016 at 2:40 AM

Constipation…Real Answers

Beyond being an uncomfortable problem, lack of adequate elimination also offers opportunities to negatively impact health. Bowel toxemia is a phrase associated with infrequent elimination. When waste debris remains in the bowel, increased risk of reabsorption of toxins becomes a concern. Basically, the body will start to reabsorb that same materials it is trying to evacuate. Having compromised liver function compounds probabilities of toxic waste being found in higher amounts in the colon.


Several toxins are produced in the colon. These include byproducts of amino acid metabolism, such as histamine, tryptamine, cadavarine, phenol, indole, skatole and hydrogen sulphide. Methylmercury is formed during the liver’s attempt to detoxify mercury, and also ends up in the colon. Ammonia is produced from every cell in the body as the result of normal metabolism processes. A healthy person efficiently excretes this toxin normally found in the body.


Picture the bowel system as a flowing river. When things are moving at a normal flowing pace elimination of toxins is easily completed. Proper pH and a healthy balance of gut flora (good bacteria) are essential to maintaining a healthy large intestine. Diets high in animal protein cause an alkaline environment in the colon, making it sluggish. Most importantly, this alkaline environment suppresses growth of important gut friendly bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus. This in turn encourages increased production of “bad” bacteria connected to poor gut health and numerous chronic health conditions. These conditions include arthritis, autoimmune diseases, colon and breast cancer, psoriasis, eczema, cystic acne and chronic fatigue.


We should strive for a slightly acidic colon environment. Diet rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates create a slightly acidic pH, encouraging the growth of L. acidophilus. Besides the connection between Lactobacilli and anti-cancer activity, good bacteria (L. acidophilus and Bifidobacteria) have the ability to synthesize antimicrobial substances, such as lactic acid, acetic acid, benzoic acid, hydrogen peroxide and natural antibiotics.


A first step in creating a healthy bowel is to eliminate any food allergens. Dairy products are often the constipation catalyst for those suffering life-long constipation. Refined grains also pose issues, as the important fiber has been removed. For those with IBS with constipation, only pseudo-grains and sprouted grains should be consumed. However, dairy and coffee remain the two most frequent causes of chronic constipation.


The two most important factors in moving things along through the bowel are water and fiber. Water intakes should be high enough to translate into a bathroom break every 1 to 1.5 hours. The actual amount of water intake to meet this goal will vary from person to person depending on their physical activity, size, weight, and even the season of the year.


Fiber is easily increased in the diet by including brown rice, oat bran, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried figs and prunes, raw nuts and seeds (including flax seeds), lentils, peas and dried beans. While lentils do not require soaking, beans should be soaked (overnight), water discarded, and fresh water used in cooking. Pectin fiber will bind to eliminating heavy metals, toxins, cholesterol and bile acids helping to eliminate them from the bowel system. Foods providing a good source of pectin include apples, carrots, beets, bananas, cabbage, citrus fruits, dried peas and okra.


For some people dietary fiber is not enough to avoid chronic constipation. Typically in these cases not enough high fiber foods are eaten or tolerated. Then it may be necessary to add a fiber supplement. There are a variety of types available and experimentation may be needed to find the best one for your system. Fiber types include mucilages (such as psyllium), pectins, hemicellulose (like oat bran) and lignans (as found in flax seeds). PLEASE NOTE: people suffering chronic constipation may worsen their condition by using psyllium.


Quick tips:

Lack of adequate exercise, poor diet and low water intake play roles in constipation.


In the morning, before getting out of bed, gently massage the abdomen in a clockwise motion. This encourages the normal flow of stool toward the rectum. After rising, drink at least eight ounces of warm (not tepid) water to stimulate the gastrocolic reflex. This reflex triggers signals which then stimulates mass peristaltic movements (large intestine flexes needed for movement of contents).


Walking for 15-20 minutes after each meal will also stimulate a healthy bowel movement time.


References:

Donovan P: Bowel toxemia permeability and disease: new information to support an old concept. In Pizzorno J, Murray M (eds): Textbook of Natural Medicine (ed 1), Seattle, 1985, John Bastyr College Publications.


Pizzorno LU, Pizzorno Jr JE, Murray MT: Irritable bowel syndrome, Textbook of Natural Medicine (ed 3), 2006, Churchill Livingston.


Yarnell E: Constipation. Naturopathic Gastroenterology, Arizona, 2000, Naturopathic Medical Press, p281

Pass the Tea, Please!

Posted on January 1, 2016 at 2:10 AM

Pass the Tea, Please Did you know January serves as National Hot Tea Month? Tea is considered the most popular beverage consumed worldwide (next to water). Statistically, tea is found in 80% of U.S. households. Offering a less caffeinated beverage choice, tea is gaining popularity for drinking hot or cold. It is not surprising with January being a month of fresh beginnings, tea is acknowledged as a potential healthier option to start the new year.


In recent decades, the health benefits to drinking tea have become well documented. Both green teas and black teas contain less than half the caffeine found in a cup of coffee. For a completely caffeine free option, choose herbal teas and tea blends. This is important for those required to reduce caffeine intakes for health reasons or just to avoid the nervous jitters. The relaxation benefits of enjoying a warm beverage makes choosing tea an easy choice.


If you go to the store or specialty shop, the wide array of tea options can be overwhelming. Even grocery store isles are lined with numerous tea options. So what are the differences? Black, green, white, and oolong teas are all from the “true tea” plant Camellia sinensis. The differences between the teas are due to processing differences.


Black, green, oolong, white and most herbal teas are calorie free (until you add sweetener). There is about 47-90 mg of caffeine in a cup compared to 150-200 mg in a cup of coffee. Green tea contains 30-70 mg, oolong 50-70 mg and white tea 30-55 mg. The ranges take into consideration different varieties within each tea group.


Herbal teas are caffeine free and not from the Camellia sinensis plant. Instead, these teas are the fruits, flowers, roots, or twigs from a variety of plants not related to tea. The name comes from the fact you use the dried (or fresh) plant and steep it in water similar to making a cup of tea. Some caution should be used in choosing herbal tea blends. Blends offer a combination of plant materials. For people with plant allergies it is important to check the ingredients before purchasing.


Research is documenting health benefits for tea drinkers. Oolong (blend of green and black teas) has been shown to improve cardiovascular condition including lowering cholesterol, lower blood sugar in diabetics, and aide in weight management. Green tea has shown to contain the highest amount of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants. In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties may be beneficial to those suffering IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). It is also indicated in lowering risks for heart disease by lowering total cholesterol, raising HDL and lowering triglycerides. Black tea also showed similar research results. Other health benefits may also be linked to drinking tea.


Whether you enjoy the relaxation that accompanies a good cup of tea or are making beverage changes to improve health, a wide variety of blends to tantalize the taste buds are available!