Chemical Chaos: What’s in your cookware?

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Our environments are full of toxins. Exposure to these toxins is bad for our health. Though certain chemicals are disease causing, they continue to be used and distributed.

Below I highlight the most common cookware and their safety profile. I went through my pot and pan collection, and I too, have chemical-laden cookware that I will be exchanging out. My hope is that you will be inspired to make healthy choices for your own kitchen.

Avoid non-stick pans

Non-stick pans are everywhere in our kitchens despite being coated in chemicals like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE); commonly referred to as Teflon. An estimated 98 percent of Americans have PFOA in their blood. There is a connection between PFOA and kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and pregnancy-induced hypertension (1).  

When heated, cookware with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces emits fumes that can kill birds and sicken people (2). Unfortunately, in 2001 90 percent of all aluminum cookware sold in the US was coated with non-stick chemicals like Teflon (3). If you can afford to replace your non-stick cookware, do so. But if you cannot replace them right away, you can reduce the possibility of toxic fumes by never heating an empty non-stick pan, avoiding ovens hotter than 500 degrees F and using an exhaust fan.

Avoid aluminum cookware

Aluminum is the most abundant metal on Earth that is toxic to our nervous system and it has been proposed to be a player in Alzheimer’s disease; the most prevalent neurodegenerative disease of the elderly (4). Food cooked in aluminum pans have been shown to contain the toxic metal from leakage into the food (5).

Use cast iron

This is the safest cooking option available because it is free of PFOA and PTFE. Iron does get into your food, and unless you have excess iron, this is actually a health benefit. These pans can last generations and get better with usage.

Buy high quality stainless-steel

Stainless-steel is made from a mix of metals such as iron, chromium, nickel, manganese and/or carbon. Make sure that you are buying food-grade stainless-steel designated: 304, 316 and 430. There is also the specifications: 18/8, 18/10, or 18/0 stainless-steel. The first number is the percentage of chromium and the second is the amount of nickel. Nickel is implicated in numerous health problems, notably allergic contact dermatitis and should be avoided by nickel-sensitive patients (6). Avoid cleaning with abrasive materials to avoid damage to the pan. The pan is no longer safe once it is damaged.

Take a moment and look through your cookware. Dispose of any damaged, non-stick and aluminum items and cook with caution to not overheat or scrape the surface. Don’t be cheap when it comes to cookware and stock your kitchen with cast iron, food grade stainless-steel and glass. There ARE other safe cookware options out there; connect with the manufacturer if you have any questions regarding the contents of their products

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3855507/

  2. https://www.ewg.org/research/canaries-kitchen#.W3Bx82RKj-Y

  3. https://www.ewg.org/research/canaries-kitchen/tips-safe-cookware#.W3Bog2RKj-Y

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21157018

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1397396

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1514841

No Way, BPA!

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Hello all and thanks for tuning in. This week, I am highlighting a chemical that is ubiquitous in our homes, works and even refrigerators. This chemical is found on store receipts, so I avoid touching them, and I especially don’t want it put in my grocery bag atop the produce. Even La Croix cans are not spared, which was news to me. Prior to learning this, I drank cans of La Croix more than I want to admit, and even let my baby drink from them. Read on to learn about Bisphenol A and why you should never microwave plastic.

What is BPA?

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical that is commonly used to make hard clear plastics called polycarbonate, some sealants, and thermal paper which is used to print receipts.

A study conducted by National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found detectable levels of BPA in 93 percent of Americans six years and older (1).

Why should we avoid BPA?

BPA is metabolized by the liver and due to its chemical structure, BPA can interact with estrogen receptors in the body.  This interaction has been shown to play a role in diseases that involve the endocrine, or hormonal systems. Some of these pathologies include: male and female infertility, early puberty, cancers and metabolic disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) (2).

Despite the fact that BPA has been linked to deleterious health effects, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes the stand that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods (3).

Where is BPA found?

This chemical enters our bodies through food and beverages that have been in contact with the polycarbonate plastics made with BPA. Here are some examples of where BPA can be found:

  • Canned foods because most metals are lines with BPA
  • Sports water bottles made prior to July 2012
  • Baby bottles, sippy cups and other containers made for children may contain BPA if bought before July 2011
  • Other hard, clear plastic food or beverage containers
  • Cash register receipts
  • On plastics with the #7 on the bottom

How to limit or avoid BPA exposure (4):

  •  Choose fresh, frozen, or dried foods instead of canned
  • Limit your consumption of packaged foods
  • If you cannot avoid metal cans, rinse the foods with water before consumption because this can help lower BPA level in the food
  • Transfer foods that are in plastic or metal cans to a stainless steel pot or pan for stovetop cooking, or microwave in glass
  • Search for your favorite foods and beverages in the Environmental Working Groups BPA product list
  • Use BPA-free products especially when buying bottles and toys
  • Avoid plastic containers with #7 on the bottom
  1. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/bisphenol_a_bpa_508.pdf

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25813067

  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/bpa/faq-20058331

  4. https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2018/02/5-ways-reduce-your-exposure-toxic-bpa#.W2tC7thKinR

Guest Recipe: Bone Broth by Chef Anh Luu

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Last week, I wrote on the benefits of bone broth. This age-old remedy is full of minerals, amino acids and collagen that benefits your body from the brain to the gut. My dear friend Anh Luu, celebrity chef and owner of Tapalaya in Portland, was kind enough to share her recipe. I’ve had her broth, and let me tell you, it’s out of this world! I recommend adding a splash of vinegar when you begin to boil the broth to enhance the nutrient extraction from bones.

By Chef Anh Luu:

Bone broth is one of my favorite recipes to make. Growing up in a Vietnamese family and eating tons of pho made me extremely connected to this dish. A good and rich bone broth takes time and patience to make. Here are my tips for making the best bone broth you’ll ever taste!

  • The perfect ratio for all types of broth is 1 pound of bone for every 3 quarts of water.

  • Use chicken bones with some meat still on them in combination with other bones like beef or pork to get the most flavorful and collagen rich broth. Chickens tend to have the most collagen because they are usually younger when butchered. Younger animals have higher levels of collagen which will result in a gelatin-looking broth when cooled (this is what you want!)

  • Roast the bones before making your broth because it will help develop the flavor and color of the broth. Crank your oven up to 425 F and roast the bones for 30-45 minutes. You want them to be brown and caramelized. If you’re using beef bones, I would boil them in water before roasting to get all the scummy impurities out for a clearer broth.

  • Keeping the aromatics simple is key. Aromatics are things like onions, ginger, bay leaf, black peppercorns, garlic, thyme etc. All these things enhance the flavor of the bones.

  • I like to make my bone broth taste reminiscent of Pho, so during the bone roasting stage, I add 1 sliced in half knob of ginger and 1 onion cut in half, skin on (per pound of bones) to be roasted with the bones. Then once I assemble my broth, I’ll add 1 dried star anise to the pot and use fish sauce instead of salt to season my broth at the end.

  • Assembling your broth: Put all roasted bones and aromatics in a large pot. Cover bones & aromatics with *cold* water. Cold water extracts the flavor from the bones better than hot water.

  • Turn your heat to high and let the broth come to a rolling boil. Then, turn your heat to medium-low and let simmer for at least 6-8 hours. The longer you cook your broth the better the flavor will get. 6-8 hours is the bare minimum for bone broths. Ideally you want to let it simmer for 24-48 hours on the stove for the best results.  

  • Don’t add any salt until the very end of cooking. If you let something salty boil and then reduce it, then it will only get saltier.

Breaking Down Bone Broth

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Bone broth is a traditional kitchen remedy that has been used across the globe. In general, bone broth is made by boiling bones in water with a splash of acid (like vinegar) and time. Through this process, the nutrients are extracted from the bones and into the liquid. There is limited research supporting the health benefits of bone broth, likely because it is difficult to standardize, however I continue to stand behind its benefits and regular use.

The nutritional content of bone broth derives from the nutrients present in bone itself and the cartilage that covers the ends of bones to form joints. Bone and cartilage contain an array of minerals and collagen fibers that are broken down and extracted into the liquid during bone broth preparation. Bones contain bone marrow, which add to its blood building and energizing qualities. Red bone marrow is where red and white blood cells are born. Red blood cells carry oxygen to our tissues, giving us life force, or prana. White blood cells make up our immunity that is responsible for keeping us safe from pathogens. It is these minerals and collagen products that give bone broth its nutritive powers.  

Collagen and Gelatin

Collagen functions to hold the body together and it is the most abundant protein in the body, accounting for ¼ of our total protein (1). Among its many functions, it gives strength to our tendons, ligaments, bones and wound healing while improving the laxity of the skin (2). While collagen refers to a particular protein in the body, gelatin is the food term. Gelatin describes the collagen extracted in bone broth. When done properly, this is the Jell-O quality to cooled bone broth. Gelatin decreases inflammation of the gut by healing the mucus layer and supporting a healthy microbiota (3). It also aids in digestion, particularly of beans, meat and grains.

Minerals

Calcium and phosphorus are the most abundant minerals with some small amounts of magnesium, sodium and bicarbonate (4). An optimal diet provides the minerals important for maintaining bone strength. Collagen, the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom, is made up of amino acids, with the most abundant being: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline (5).

Glycine

This is the most important amino acid found in animals. Glycine acts as a neurotransmitter in the nervous system and it defends the body against injury and disease (6). Glycine supplementation is a safe approach to improving sleep quality (7) and works by inhibiting the nervous system transmission thus having a calming/sedating effect. There are studies showing that glycine supplementation is associated with reduced risk of asthma, better wound healing, improved digestion and improved liver function (8).

Proline plays an important role in protein production. It makes up about 17 percent of collagen therefore is important for supporting tissues abundant in collagen like muscles, bones, skin and tendons (9).  

Glycosaminoglycans (GAG’s)

These substances are naturally jelly-like and you may be familiar with some of these compounds like hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate. GAGs are found in the extracellular matrix of cartilage and play critical roles in the development, normal function and damage-response of the central nervous system (10).

Bones and cartilage contain a lot of nutrients that support multiple systems. I broke it down and highlighted some of the key players in bone broth, hoping to inspire this into your kitchen.

Stay tuned for next week where I share THE recipe for bone broth recipe that will knock your socks off.  

Summary of health benefits

  • Minerals in bone broth help maintain bone strength.  
  • Can improve sleep quality
  • Reduce asthma risk
  • Promote wound healing
  • Improve gastric acid secretion
  • Support detox
  • Supports muscles, bones, skin, and tendon
  • Heals the gut
  • Modulates intestinal microbiota
  • Aids digestion
  • Supports nervous system development, function and damage-response

Resources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0022811/          

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707681/          

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4040816/         

  4. https://depts.washington.edu/bonebio/ASBMRed/structure.html#mineral          

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/          

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5350494/       

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25533534       

  8. http://www.townsendletter.com/FebMarch2005/broth0205.htm         

  9. https://chriskresser.com/the-bountiful-benefits-of-bone-broth-a-comprehensive-guide/      

  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014488615300650   

Integrating Intermittent Fasting

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Last week I made a case for why you should consider intermittent fasting (IF).  

Check that out HERE.

In short, intermittent fasting can make you healthier, and who doesn’t want that?  

Let’s begin with defining health. According to Dr. Satchidananda Panda, of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the definition of health changes throughout the day.

In the morning, health can be defined as waking up, feeling rested, energetic and having a bowel movement. We proceed with our day, void of hunger after taking some food and feeling productive. In the evening, we move our bodies, feeling sleepy and tired. Ready for bed, with a feeling of lightness in our stomach. We all deserve to feel healthy, and IF is a tool that can help you achieve your best.

So where to start?  I want to begin by saying that these guidelines are intended for otherwise healthy individuals looking to optimize their well-being. As always, consult your physician if there are any concerns.

When beginning this process, we aim to go without food for a 10-12 hour window. Take your last meal of the day 2-3 hours before bedtime. This allows your digestion to complete its job with dinner.

During the digestive process, blood is flowing towards your center, however, this can interrupt sleep. By stopping your last meal 2-3 hours prior to bedtime, blood can flow to our brain and support a deep and sound sleep.

Upon waking, it is recommended that you wait 1-2 hours before taking anything other than water (yes, this includes coffee). For example, stop eating dinner at 7:00 p.m. and wait to take breakfast until 7 a.m.- 9 a.m. How simple is that?  

When implementing this 10-12 hour fasting window, you can expect to feel hunger in the evening for about 2-3 weeks. Try and choose foods that are more sustainable such as foods high in fiber, protein, and fats will help you stay satiated. After some time, IF regulates the hunger hormones, so stick with it!  

You can be flexible with the timing. You can move dinner 30 minutes to an hour later or earlier and breakfast accordingly (to keep the 10-12 hour fast). It’s important to note that you can deviate from this schedule 1-2 times during the week. This is cool because it allows you to engage in social activities on the weekends. I recommend keeping this fasting regimen during your workweek and allowing flexibility on your days off to allow for living without strict regimen.  

If you’re committed to trying this out, I recommend you use an app called MyCircadianClock, by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. It helps you understand your body’s rhythms while contributing to research. I have downloaded my app and am excited to participate!

In summary:

  • Allow yourself 10-12 hours of fasting. You are allowed to drink as much water as you like.
  • Pick a time in the evening to stop taking food and drink other than water.
  • This time should be 2-3 hours before bed.
  • Wait 1-2 hours upon waking to take food or drink (This includes coffee and tea).
  • Adhere to this schedule 5-6 days out of the week.
  • Consider using MyCircadianClock app to help you through this process and contribute to research.

5 Reasons to Intermittent Fast

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Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It’s not about what you eat, but rather when you eat. Most of us fast every day when we sleep, and intermittent fasting can be as simple as extending this time a few hours. I’m going to highlight 5 evidence-based reasons why you should consider intermittent fasting.

#1: LIVE LONGER  

By restricting your calories, you can potentially extend your lifespan and reduce the incidence of age-related disorders (1) like cardiovascular disease and diabetes!  Limiting your calories without malnutrition, is the only experimental approach consistently shown to prolong survival in animal models (2). It’s important to maintain proper nutrition when we restrict our calories, because malnutrition is associated with increased disease. IF works by changing our gene expression and through the release of growth factors like growth hormone, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). These growth factors, when elevated, are associated with aging and increased death in many animals (3).

#2: LOSE WEIGHT

There are several studies done in humans that show intermittent fasting leads to weight loss (4). By just changing the time you take your calories, without changing the amount of calories, you can lose weight, especially if you are overweight. When overweight participants took food between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. as compared to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., there were less hunger swings and their bodies were better able to burn fat (5). Most studies show a trend towards a significant decrease in weight and risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancers.

#3: SUPPORT HEALTHY MICROBIOME

I’ve talked a lot about the microbiome’s role in health and longevity. Our gut microbes have the capacity to effect the expressions of genes associated with longevity (6) and influence our cell’s mitochondrial function (7). Each of our cells contain a mitochondria within it where energy is produced, and a decline in mitochondrial quality and activity is associated with aging and age-related diseases. Through IF, you will increase gut bacteria richness, and this has so many health benefits (8).

#4: LOWER INFLAMMATION

Fasting has the capacity to lower inflammation in your body (9). This is significant because elevated inflammation is associated with a myriad of diseases including cardiovascular disease, autoimmunity, and depression.  

#5: ENHANCE IMMUNITY

There is evidence that IF interacts with your immune system by stimulating immune cells8. It also has the potential, when used in conjunction with cancer treatments, to make chemotherapy and radiation therapies more effective (10).

Stay tuned for next week’s blog when I discuss strategies for integrating IF SAFELY into your lives.  

References

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature07583   

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20733612

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3607354/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516560/

  5. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20170106/Early-time-restricted-feeding-strategyc2a0may-help-with-losing-weight.aspx

  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568163716302653

  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867417306414

  8. https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(18)30313-9

  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23244540

  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28539118       

Eat to Beat Depression

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All of us have been affected by depression in some way. In fact, about 16.2 million adults in the US have suffered from depression (1). If you go to the doctor, you will likely be given a medication called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). These medications, no doubt, help a lot of people, particularly with severe depression, however the evidence is not so convincing when it comes to mild/moderate depression.

In my clinical experience, there are more of us walking around with mild/moderate depression as compared to severe, yet the treatments remain the same. Looking at data from 1985 to 1997, SSRI’s had a 40% reduction in symptoms as compared to placebo’s 30% (2). This is not convincing enough data for me. Most of us don’t need these medications, but rather we need to make changes in our lifestyle, habits, and environments.

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Your body is an amazing organism with the capacity to heal itself under the right influences.

As a functional medicine physician, I work with you to heal the underlying cause of disease. Each patient of mine undergoes a thorough evaluation to address underlying pathology. I look extensively at the thyroid gland, because patients with thyroid disorders are more prone to depression (3). We evaluate your sugar metabolism, because depression is 2-3 times higher in diabetics (4). And we look at your ability to adapt to stress, because increased cortisol levels can alter your brain’s chemistry (5). Lastly, we assess your levels of inflammation because inflammatory chemicals can affect neurotransmitters (which are our brain chemicals) (6).

You don’t have to wait to get started to begin your healing journey. Let me show you why  the digestive tract is so important when dealing with depression.

Did you know that your digestive tract communicates directly with your brain? The microbiota, or the trillions of bacteria that live inside your colon, influence your brain function! (7). Having a healthy and diverse microbiome is foundational to solid mental health.  

So what makes a healthy bacterial make-up, and what can you do about it?  With these simple dietary strategies, you can begin to take your health in your own hands.  

  1. Eliminate processed foods and sugars: The environment created in the gut by eating processed foods, a hallmark of the Western diet, basically feeds the microbes that promote inflammatory disease (8)
  2. Eat probiotic foods: These include fermented soy like tempeh and natto, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurts, kefirs, etc. These foods, which were so often included in traditional dietary practices, have the potential to influence brain health by influencing our microbiota (9).
  3. Eat fiber rich foods: They include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Our bacteria need fiber to survive and proliferate and from what we know by now, this is a wonderful thing!

So, my friends, thanks for reading. I hope this gives you a little more insight into the big bad world of depression. It’s a complex disease with a lot of factors to consider.  Take care of yourselves and eat your veggies.

1..  https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml

2.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4592645/

3.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3246784/

4.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4375817/

5.  https://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(05)00083-1/abstract

6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5542678/

7.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/   

8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872783/

9.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904694/

Dr. Heather’s Top 5 Summer Snacks

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I talk diet a lot during my days and I’m often getting asked about what I eat and what I feed my family. I have studied and worked in the field of nutrition for some time now, and I make an effort to eat and feed my family according to what I recommend clinically. I adhere to a whole foods diet abundant in: veggies, fruits, fermented foods, proteins, and a reasonable amount of wiggle room. I believe that it’s what you eat MOST of the time that matters.

I’m going to break down my 5 favorite snacks. They are relatively easy to prepare, are super yummy, and nutritionally dense. Food is medicine and snack time is a perfect opportunity to get those nutrients in.

1. Smoothies

Smoothies are the best summer snack!  The fruit is going off this time of year - add an avocado and a handful of greens and you’re good to go. I have been inspired by Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s micronutrient smoothie recipe and I have not been shy in recommending this to my patients. It does take some effort, but it’s worth it! I make a big mason jar’s worth, bring it to work with me, and I stay fed with a NUTRIENT PACKED snack all day.
 

  • 6 leaves of greens: kale, chard, spinach, and/or lettuce
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 apple
  • 1 banana
  • 1 generous cup of blueberries fresh or frozen
  • 1 handful of parsley
  • Blend with 6 cups of liquid in a high powered blender and enjoy.

Of course smoothies don’t need so many ingredients. Try a banana, cup of blueberries, and a handful of spinach topped with water for an on-the-go version.

2. Ants on a log

We all remember this classic snack of peanut butter on a stalk of celery, topped with raisins. I like to sub out the peanut butter for alternative nut/seed butter such as almond, macadamia, sunflower, etc. Don’t limit yourself to raisins, my friends. Top this log with chopped figs, apricots, or dates. Celery is high in antioxidants, enzymes, and vitamins while the nut butters provide good fat and proteins. Dried fruits are an excellent source of fiber.

3. Chia seed pudding

Talk about yummy!  My baby loves this stuff and I love her eating it!  Chia seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and proteins (1). The hardest thing about this snack is the waiting period.
2 cups of coconut milk (or any milk alternative)
½ cup of chia seeds
1 cup of fruit
Blend the ingredients together, pour in a glass jar, and set it in the refrigerator for 4 hours before serving.

4. Nori wrapped avocado and cucumber with Himalayan salt

Edible seaweeds collect iodine from the seawater and are, therefore, a good dietary source of iodine. Seaweeds also are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (2). Avocados are also rich in nutrients with studies supporting cardiovascular health (3). Place the ingredients on one end of the nori sheet and roll. Dab the end with water to help the nori stick.

5. Roasted kale

For those who know me, know this is true. I’ve definitely gone through periods of eating a head of kale a day. This stuff is so good. The kale comes out oily and salty and delicious. Kale is no doubt a fibrous super food rich in vitamins A, K, C, folate, and in minerals potassium, calcium, and magnesium (4). Set your oven to 400 degrees, wash, dry, and devein the kale, add a couple tablespoons of coconut oil and salt to taste. Place in the oven for 2 minutes. Take it out and evenly coat the melted oil on the kale, and place back into the oven, about 10 minutes. I like the leaves to be just a bit crispy. If you have some nutritional yeast, sprinkle it on for added flavor and B vitamins (5).

There you have it, my five favorite snacks. I would like to point out that every single ingredient, save the salt, is from a plant. The more plants we eat, the more nutrients we are getting. I hope this offers some inspiration in getting more plants in that beautiful body of yours.

References:
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4926888/
2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1021949814000155
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23638933
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4663599/
5. https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/abcs-of-nutrition/nutritional-yeast/

Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)

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If you suffer from an autoimmune condition, a central nervous system disorder, or cancer, you may want to explore the option of LDN for treatment. I am particularly fond of LDN because of its low side effect profile and affordability.

What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone was originally approved in 1984 for the purpose of helping heroin or opium addicts. By blocking the opioid receptors, the person cannot get high when they take heroin or opium. Dosages for this effect is prescribed in the 50-300 mg range. 

LDN for Autoimmunity:

In 1985, Dr. Bernard Bihari discovered the effects of much smaller doses, around 3 mg per day, on the immune system; hence Low Dose Naltrexone. He found that this low dose, taken at bedtime, enhanced a patient’s response to infection by HIV. Over the next decade, Dr Bihari found benefits in autoimmune patients as well. LDN has been useful for a myriad of autoimmune conditions and cancers (please see lowdosenaltrexone.org for a more exhaustive list):

  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Celiac
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Crohn’s
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hashimoto’s
  • IBS
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • SLE
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • ALS
  • Autism
  • MS
  • Parkinson’s
  • PTSD

As you can see, LDN treats a wide range of diseases, with a particular benefit seen with autoimmune conditions. LDN works by temporarily blocking endorphin receptors in the brain. Endorphins can be thought of as a natural pain killer, with a ‘feel good’ effect. Because the endorphin receptors are being blocked by LDN, your body reacts by producing more endorphins, and this reduces painful symptoms and produces an increased sense of well being. While the mechanism of use in autoimmune conditions is not fully understood, increased levels of endorphins stimulate the immune system and are anti-inflammatory.

How to Take LDN:

I like to begin on an ultra-low dose and gradually increase over a period of weeks until you are stable and side effect free. I tend towards a more conservative titrating schedule, and we can use a faster protocol on an individualized basis.

Side Effects:

Many patients who start LDN do not experience side effects. Occasionally, during the first week of use, you may have difficulty sleeping or experience vivid dreaming. If this is the case, we can titrate up slower, or back down on dosage. Initially your symptoms may become worse before they improve. Please note that if you are taking opioid medications, LDN can interfere with its efficacy.

When I use LDN:

I like to prescribe LDN in patients who need immediate symptom relief. These patients will typically have an autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Crohn’s. LDN is typically part of a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan targeted to address the underlying cause of your disease.

References

  1. https://www.ldnresearchtrust.org

  2. http://www.lowdosenaltrexone.org/index.htm#What_is_low_dose_naltrexone

 

 

Skip The Scars: Holistic Acne prevention and Treatment

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Acne is the most common skin disorder affecting adolescents and young adults(1). Acne can cause significant anxiety and psychological stress, and may lead to disfiguring scars that are life long. Acne occurs when cells produce too much keratin (a protein), too much oil, unwanted bacterial buildup, and inflammation.

Conventional treatments include: topical retinoids, peroxides, and antibiotics that can leave the skin dry, red, and peeling. Oral medications like retinoids are teratagenic (cause fetal deformity) and can cause liver damage. Oral antibiotics can lead to dysbiosis and drug resistance. There are various diet and lifestyle recommendations that are supported by evidence to have a positive effect on acne, and with better side effect profiles.

Let’s begin with the diet. Inflammation plays a role in acne, and our diets contribute our overall inflammatory load. There is convincing evidence that dairy consumption is linked to acne. First of all, dairy consumption stimulates the hormone insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), and just as its name implies, this hormone makes things grow; like acne. IGF-1 also stimulates androgenic hormones, and these hormones stimulate oil production, which is one of the factors associated with acne production. The dairy itself contains hormones known to stimulate oil production and acne formation (2). The mechanisms connecting dairy and acne are convincing enough to recommend the elimination of dairy in acne treatment.

Acne treatment should include a diet that has a low glycemic load and glycemic index. This means that you need avoid sugary, starchy, white colored foods. When we eat foods that raise our blood sugars, our pancreas releases insulin and elevated blood levels of insulin stimulate androgenic hormones. Androgenic hormones stimulate acne. Elevated insulin also stimulates IGF-1, which we already know is involved in the process of acne formation (3). Work by Cordain et al, supports the notion that high glycemic diets contribute to acne production. Looking at 1,315 people of non-western societies in Papua New Guinea and Paraguay, NOT ONE single case of acne was observed! Compare this to 79-95% of westernized teenagers suffering from acne! This dramatic difference cannot be contributed to genetics alone, and it is reasonable to attribute, at least in part, this outrageous acne occurrence to the western diet, high in cereals, packaged, and starchy foods.  

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Now let's talk nutrients. Zinc is a micronutrient that been shown to be an effective acne treatment in several trials(4). In a double blind study, 91 participants were given either 400 mg of oral zinc sulphate or placebo for 12 weeks. Significantly better results were demonstrated in favor of the zinc group (5). Zinc is an essential nutrient for the development and function of human skin and it has been shown to be effective at killing the bacteria associated with acne (2). Consider zinc in your acne plan, and keep in mind that zinc should be taken with food to avoid nausea. When we are exposed to toxins and stress our cells undergo oxidative stress and this plays a key role in acne progress (6). Exposure to free radicals happens from eating too much sugar/refined carbohydrates, exercising too little or much, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, air pollution, stress, etc. Since oxidative stress is implicated in acne, then treatment of acne warrants anti oxidants. And in fact, when given vitamin E and selenium for 12 weeks, both of which are antioxidants, skin improved (7).

Fish oil is abundant in essential fatty acids and benefits acne, especially mild to severe types (8).  Consuming a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, as found in fish oil, can stop inflammation, and inflammation is foundational in acne production.

Acne sucks, and the majority of us have, at least at some time in our lives, experienced it. Eating a dairy-free, whole foods diet that consists mainly of veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and quality-sourced proteins and excludes packaged, sugary, and starchy foods are key to regulating the hormones involved in acne. Several nutrients are worth trying, such as zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, and antioxidants before using antibiotics, hormones, or Accutane.

For a customized plan that includes a comprehensive gut cleanse to address your acne, schedule now for a new patient visit. I take most insurance plans!

Reference:

  1. https://www-uptodate-com.nunm.idm.oclc.org/contents/pathogenesis-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis-of-acne-vulgaris?search=acne&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884775/#CIT0024

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12472346

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4120804/#B23

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/146511

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24795060

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884775/

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3543297/

Preventing Cellular Aging: Tips, Recipes, & Maximizing Food Nutrition

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For the past month or so, I’ve been speaking around the Portland area on preventing cellular aging.  Below is a compilation of the presented material. Each recommendation has been substantiated through research to support the aging process through cancer prevention, neurological preservation, and/or cardiovascular protection.

Sulforaphane (SFN) is a chemical found in cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous veggies: broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, green and red cabbage, collard greens, mustard greens, kale, bok choy, swiss chard, watercress, turnips, rutabaga, and radishes.

There is a lot of research that supports the use of SFN in supporting healthy aging.

  • SFN has been shown to reduce cancerous activity in mice (1)

  • Slowed the doubling rate of CA biomarker (PSA) by 86% (2)!

  • SFN reduced extent of brain damage post epilepsy by protecting brain mitochondria

  • SFN given daily x 10 weeks lowered inflammation (4). These markers IL-6 and CRP are predictors of physical and cognitive performance (5)

  • SFN helps us excrete toxins, therefore preventing the buildup and potential DNA damage (6)

 

Instructions for growing broccoli sprouts (7):

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  1. Add 2 tablespoons of broccoli sprouting seeds to a wide mouthed quart jar.

  2. Cover with a few inches of filtered water and cap with the sprouting lid.

  3. Store in a warm, dark place overnight. I use a kitchen cabinet for this.

  4. The next morning, drain the liquid off and rinse with fresh water. Be sure to drain all the water off.

  5. Repeat this 3-4 times a day. Continue to store your seeds in a warm, dark place. After a few days, the seeds will start to break open and grow.

  6. Eventually, the sprouts will be an inch or so long and have yellow leaves. Now you can move the sprouts out into the sunlight.

  7. Continue to rinse them 3-4 times a day until the leaves are dark green. Now they are ready to eat!

  8. This whole process will take about a week. Patience is key!

  9. Once they are ready, replace the sprouting lid with a standard mason-jar lid and store in fridge.

Serve on top of salads, stirred into soups, or however strikes your fancy!

Vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone that controls the expression of over 1000 genes. Vitamin D levels that are too low and too high are associated with increased incident of death from all disease (8).

  • Low levels of vitamin D reduced the risk of cancer by 67% (9)

  • Mice with both deficient and excess vitamin D levels exhibited shortened lifespan and premature aging (10)

  • Vitamin D effects brain cells by modulating brain inflammation that is associated with neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases with an inflammatory component (11)

Vitamin D comes from UVB radiation from the sun. Factors that reduce our levels of vitamin D include: wearing sunscreen, darker skin color, aging, and obesity. Get your levels tested! This is a simple blood test that your doctor can order. In the meantime, get outside in the sun let your skin be exposed. Food sources of D include mushrooms that have had sun exposure and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring.

Folate: required B vitamin to replicate DNA when a cell replicates itself. Also required in a pathway that inhibits the buildup of homocysteine. Elevated homocysteine levels are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

  • Folic acid affects mood and cognitive function, especially in older people. Adult patients with anemia due to folate deficiency, approximately 2/3 have neuropsychiatric disorders (12)

  • A study using mice showed that a diet sufficient in folate resulted in less cancer expression as compared to a diet deficient in folate (13)

Top 10 Folate Rich Foods (14)

  1. Garbanzo beans, ½ cup: 557 mcg

  2. Liver, 3 oz, 221 mcg

  3. Pinto Beans, ½ cup, 146 mcg

  4. Lentils, ½ cup, 179 mcg

  5. Spinach, 1 cup, 56 mcg

  6. Asparagus, ½ cup, 134 mcg

  7. Avocado, ½ cup, 61 mcg

  8. Beets, ½ cup, 68 mcg

  9. Black eyed peas, ½ cup, 112 mcg

  10. Broccoli, 1 cup, 57 mcg

Magnesium: an abundant mineral in the body that is a cofactor or more than 300 enzyme reactions. Magnesium involved in everything from protein and energy production to cell replication. Low Mg is associated with a decline in memory, poorer muscle and bone integrity, and some forms of cancer (15). Recommended intake is about 400 mg for an adult and increases as we age.

Here are the top 10 Magnesium-rich foods (taken from the USDA) (16)

  1. Spinach, cooked – 1 cups: 157 mg

  2. Swiss chard, cooked – 1 cup, 150 mg

  3. Dark chocolate – 1 square, 95 mg.

  4. Pumpkin seeds, dried – 1/8 cup, 92 mg

  5. Almonds – 1 oz, 75 mg

  6. Black beans – ½ cup, 60 mg

  7. Avocado – 1 med., 58 mg

  8. Figs, dried – ½ cu, 50 mg

  9. Yogurt or kefir – 1 cup, 46.5 mg

  10. Banana – 1 med., 32 mg

Microbiota and Microbiome: there are more bugs than there are cells in the human body, and the microorganisms in our gut encode genes and are involved in metabolic reactions. Having a robust and diverse microbial makeup is associated with decreased levels of inflammation (17). This is important, because most age related diseases are associated with increased inflammation. Incorporate foods that have probiotics such as kimchi, kombucha, sourkraut, natto, pickles, yogurt, kefir, tempeh, etc. These foods add bugs to our environments. In order to keep these bugs alive, we need to eat foods that are high in fiber. It is the fiber that feeds the bugs. Foods high in fiber include: vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.

Sauna Use: regular use of the sauna has been shown to benefit the aging process. Moderate to high frequency (4-7 days per week) is associated with lowered risks for dementia and Alzheimer’s (18). Frequent sauna use is associated with lower systemic inflammation (19). And the more you use the sauna the better!  In one study, the rate of death from cardiovascular disease and stroke decreased as sauna frequency increased (20).

Fasting: Prolong caloric restriction,that is reducing your calories while maintaining proper nutrition, has been found to extend life span. Rodents whose calories were restricted by 55-65% had a 36-65% greater mean lifespan and results were also seen with a 20-40% reduction in calories (21).
 

References:

  1. https://www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/10.1096/fj.05-4785fje

  2. http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/8/8/712

  3. https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.nunm.idm.oclc.org/pubmed/26365487

  4. https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.nunm.idm.oclc.org/pubmed/29573889

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4891873/

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4125483/

  7. http://www.urbanorganicgardener.com/2015/11/how-to-grow-broccoli-sprouts-at-home-super-healthy/

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/

  9. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160406165254.htm

  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19444937

  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24934545

  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1123448/

  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29546304

  14. https://draxe.com/top-10-vitamin-b9-folate-foods/

  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2790427/

  16. https://draxe.com/magnesium-deficient-top-10-magnesium-rich-foods-must-eating/

  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257741/

  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27932366

  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29209938

  20. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sauna-use-linked-longer-life-fewer-fatal-heart-problems-201502257755

  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3919445/

Everything you need to know about Sunscreen: A Full Spectrum Guide

Summer is here!

Summer is quickly approaching and so is our exposure to the sun. While sunlight is essential for vitamin D production, it’s also responsible for sunburn, photoaging, and skin cancer. There are two types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that reach the earth’s surface: UVB and UVA. UVB is responsible for sunburn, freckles, and cancers, while UVA is responsible for photoaging, tanning, and skin cancers as well.  Protecting yourself against UVA and UVB radiation includes: avoiding the sun during peak hours, wearing sun-protective clothing, and sunscreen(1).

When it comes to sun exposure, smart, common sense knowledge can be used here.  To avoid skin damage and sunburn, avoid spending extended time in the sun and seek shade, avoid tanning beds, and tan gradually, without burning.  Wear brimmed hats, protective clothing, and use extra caution near water, snow, and sand. We want to avoid sunburns because history of severe sunburns is associated with an increased risk of melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer(2).  UV exposure may account for up to 80% of visible signs of aging of the skin(3).  

What to Look For in Sunscreen

When extended sun exposure is unavoidable, it is recommended that you protect yourself with sunscreen(4).  There are a few details to look out for when purchasing a sunscreen:

  • Broad-spectrum protection: protects us against both UVA and UVB rays.  

  • Look for a mineral based product with ingredients such as zinc oxide, avobenzone(5), or Mexoryl SX because these are the only ingredients that provide true broad-spectrum protection.  AVOID products containing oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.

  • SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher.

  • Water-Resistant

  • Sunscreen Cream is superior to spray because they do not pose an inhalation risk and are more likely to provide a thick and even coating on the skin.

How to Appropriately Apply Sunscreen

Studies show that you are likely not applying sunscreen sufficiently7.  According to the American Academy of Dermatology(8):

  • Use enough sunscreen to generously coat exposed skin

  • Mantra “1 ounce, enough to fill a shot glass,” which is considered the amount needed to cover exposed areas of the body.  Adjust according to your size.

  • Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes BEFORE going outdoors.

  • Skin cancer can also form on the lips to protect your lips with a lip balm of 30 SPF or higher.

  • Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Avoiding Oxybenzone and Retinyl Palmitate

According to the Environmental Working Group, 2/3 of sunscreen products contain worrisome ingredients such as oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor, or retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may harm skin(9).  In fact, government data shows more skin tumor and lesions on animals treated with vitamin A and then exposed to sunlight10.  We want to avoid use of oxybenzone because it has been shown to cause damage and deformation of coral by acting as a hormone disruptor and damaging DNA of coral larvae.  It has also been shown to cause coral bleaching and even coral death. Oxybenzone is widely used in non-mineral sunscreens despite these findings. I do not recommend using any type of hormone disruptor on your skin, and especially not on the skin or your baby.  

A Word on Vitamin D

To ensure that you are getting proper vitamin D levels (because sunscreen blocks vitamin D synthesis), I recommend that you know your levels!  In the meantime, enjoy about 20 minutes of sun exposure without the sunscreen, integrate fish into your diet, and supplement appropriately. Please note that too much vitamin D is just as bad as too little.  

Thank you for reading!

References:

  1. UpToDate: Selection of Sunscreen and sun-protective measures by Elma D Baron MD.  Last updated 4.10.2018

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27045074

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4344124/

  4. https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20806994

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18717957

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24313722

  8. https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs

  9. https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/executive-summary/

  10. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/18/vitamin-a-for-skin_n_927450.html

The Benefits of Sauna Use

Sauna Bathing Benefits

Sauna bathing has been used throughout the world and for thousands of years, with a substantial amount of supporting evidence.  Using the sauna can enhance your physical performance; while reducing your risk of cardiac, all-cause mortality, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.  

In a crossover study, six male long-distance runners completed three weeks of sauna use after exercise, three weeks without, and with a three week washout period.  Relative to the control weeks, sauna bathing increased run time to exhaustion by 32%. Plasma and red cell volumes increased by 7.1% and 3.5% respectively. The authors concluded that three weeks of post-exercise sauna use produced a worthwhile improvement in endurance, likely by increasing blood volume. Having more blood cells is advantageous because more oxygen gets to the tissues.

Men who engaged in frequent sauna use had reduced risks of fatal cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality!  2,315 middle-aged men living in eastern Finland over a 21 year period were put into one of 3 categories: those that used the sauna 1 time per week, 2-3 times per week, or 4-7 times per week.  The risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, and all-cause mortality was greater in the group that used the sauna one time per week as compared to the group who went 4-7 times per week.  The more the men used the sauna, the greater the protection.

Sauna use is also protective against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Using the population above, after follow up at 20 years, 204 men were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and 123 were diagnosed with dementia.  After adjusting for compounding factors (like age, diabetes status, smoking, etc.) compared with men who only used the sauna once a week, the men who used the sauna 2-3 times per week had a lower rate of these neurodegenerative diseases and the men who used it 4-7 times had an even lower rate of these diseases. Using the sauna in this Finnish population lowered the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

As for the amount of time needed to achieve benefit, it looks like a good estimation is to stay in for at least 20 minutes.  The temperature used in the endurance enhancement study was about 195 degrees F. We are all individual though, so use common sense and listen to your body.  


References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16877041

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3824146/

  3. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150223122602.htm\

  4. https://academic.oup.com/ageing/article/46/2/245/2654230

Male Pattern Baldness and the PRP Solution

The most common form of hair loss in men is termed androgenic alopecia, affecting 30-40% of men by the age of 50 (1).  The pattern typically affects the temples, top of the head, and the frontal hairline. While this is considered a minor condition, hair loss can impact self-image and cause anxiety and depression in some men.  Heredity plays a huge role in male pattern hair loss.

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Hair growth occurs in a cycle and broken into 3 different phases: growth, regression, and resting. These phases are regulated by internal and external factors throughout ones life.  Baldness occurs when the resting phase of the hair follicle gets longer and the growth phase of the hair follicle gets shorter. Before a growth phase is initiated, stem cells surrounding the hair follicle become active.  When hair follicle cells regress, or return to their less developed state, cells surrounding the follicle are seen dying. And during the resting phase, hair follicle cells are basically in a state of inactivity (2).

Platelet-rich plasma has shown remarkable beneficial effects to treating hair loss in men without any major adverse reactions.  The patient’s blood is used to extract their own platelets and then the platelets are injected into the area of baldness. The basic idea behind PRP injections is to deliver a high concentration of growth factors to the scalp, with the hope of stimulating hair growth and improving the function of the hair follicle (3).  Under microscopic evaluation, the hair follicles increase in numbers, more blood flows to the follicle, and there is increased cellular activity (4).

In a review of literature looking at twelve studies conducted from 2011-2017, and using a total of 295 subjects, most of the studies reviewed showed effectiveness of PRP in increasing hair density and diameter (5).  Another study, using 20 people, revealed a mean increase of 33.6 hairs in the target area and a mean increase in total hair density of 45.9 hairs per cm2,5.  Using PRP therapy for male pattern baldness has been proven to be effective. Many products like Rogaine must be used continually throughout one’s life, and when treatment stops, the hair falls out again. With just a few treatments of PRP, you’ll see more lasting results without any major side effects.

For more info on how PRP can help, contact my office.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278957/

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5762894/

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562137/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4622412/

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29457005

Female Pattern Hair Loss: What it is And what to do about it

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Female pattern hair loss is a condition that is characterized by the loss of the thick, long, and dark hairs mainly on the top and frontal parts of the head, resulting in a visible reduction in hair density. This process of the thick hair being replaced by thinner hair is called follicular miniaturization. Hair loss among women is common, with some studies finding a prevalence of 19% (1) - about 20 women for every 100! This occurs in adult women of all ages, but mostly to those postmenopausal. Why this occurs is not fully understood and may be from genetics, a hormone imbalance, or both. Female pattern hair loss does not cause discomfort or disability, but can contribute to significant psychological distress.

If you are experiencing hair loss, go see your doctor! There are a few conditions that should be evaluated for like iron deficiency anemia, thyroid disease, and sex hormone imbalance. In a series of 109 women with moderate to severe hair loss, there was evidence for elevated male sex hormones in 39% of the women (2).

Left untreated, female pattern hair loss results in a slow, progressive decline in the density of scalp hair. Traditional first line therapy includes topical minoxidil for one year, however this does not work for everyone. Shedding of the hair commonly occurs during the first 2-8 weeks of treatment with minoxidil with other potential side effects of scalp itching, flaking, and facial hair growth.

I’m excited to be offering a treatment for female pattern hair loss that utilizes your own body’s growth factors to stimulate hair growth. Platelet rich plasma (PRP) has been used for the treatment of hair loss in both men and women. A placebo-controlled, randomized, half-headed trial that included 12 men and 13 women with androgenetic alopecia (hair loss) found greater increase in hair density in sites treated with PRP compared with control sites six months after the first of three monthly PRP treatments (3). Another study looked at 10 people who were not responding to topical minoxidil or antiandrogens and concluded that PRP had a positive therapeutic effect on hair density and diameter with no adverse events reported (4).

 (a) A 51-year-old female with female androgenetic alopecia Ebling III, (b) excellent improvement at 3 months using PRP and (c) further improvement after 6 months, with a decrease of one grade in Ebling's scale (Ebling II). See  more pictures. 

(a) A 51-year-old female with female androgenetic alopecia Ebling III, (b) excellent improvement at 3 months using PRP and (c) further improvement after 6 months, with a decrease of one grade in Ebling's scale (Ebling II). See more pictures. 

This is an in-office procedure that involves taking a sample of your blood, spinning it down in a specialized centrifuge, activating your platelets with specific nutrients, and injecting this into the scalp. The solution contains your very own growth factors that act to stimulate the hair follicles for hair production. A complete treatment includes one treatment per month for a total of six months.  

Stay tuned for next week's blog post where we'll be discussing how PRP can help with hair loss in men. For the month of May only, all PRP services will be 20% off. Contact my office for full pricing details.

1.  https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.nunm.idm.oclc.org/pubmed?myncbishare=ncnm&holding=ncnmlib&term=11231244

2.  https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.nunm.idm.oclc.org/pubmed?myncbishare=ncnm&holding=ncnmlib&term=3192772

3.  https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.nunm.idm.oclc.org/pubmed?myncbishare=ncnm&holding=ncnmlib&term=27035501

4.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29707872

5.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5655625/

 

The Magic of Sulforaphane

Sulforaphane (SFN) is a compound found in cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.  It has been shown to stop tumors from growing in mice (1), it helps our bodies defend itself against reactive oxygen species (2), and has anticonvulsant/epileptic effects by protecting the brain.  SFN has been shown to enhance mitochondrial (the energy making part of the cell) function and it significantly decreases inflammation(3), both of which are linked to the aging process.

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SFN and Tumor Suppression

When mice were fed SFN, within 6 hours, there was a positive genetic change in the colon tumor cells.  There was a 50% reduction in the cancer cells ability to replicate itself. Further, dietary SFN in mice for 10 weeks resulted in suppressed tumor multiplicity as compared to mice fed a control diet.  After the 10 weeks, the average tumor yield was lowered by 50% in all regions of the intestine. Based on this data, it is reasonable to say the SFN rich foods, namely cruciferous vegetables, have anti cancer effects.

SFN as an Anticonvulsant and Mitochondrial Supporter

SFN has been shown to active nuclear factor erythroid-2 (Nrf2).  This is worthy because NrF2 proteins regulate the cell’s capacity to defend its DNA from oxidative damage. NrF2 activation can occur in brain tissue, where oxidative damage occurs, thereby protecting the tissue.  SFN treatment reduced the extent of brain damage in post-epileptic state 24 hours after the epileptic episode and protected the brain’s mitochondria. SFN has been shown to protect our mitochondria! Mitochondria decline is associated with normal aging and is correlated with the development of a wide range of age-related disease (4).

SFN and Inflammation

40 healthy overweight people were given 30 g of SFN everyday for 10 weeks with a follow up phase of 10 weeks without SFN.  There was a significant decrease in inflammatory markers IL-6 and CRP. Elevated IL-6 and CRP are indicators of inflammation, and chronic, low-grade inflammation is a risk factor for the development of age-related diseases\ and frailty (5).

Yet another reason, or many reasons,  to include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, mustard greens, watercress, and all the other cruciferous veggies into your diet.  The research speaks for itself.

 

Reference Links:

  1. https://www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/10.1096/fj.05-4785fje

  2. https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.nunm.idm.oclc.org/pubmed/26365487

  3. https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.nunm.idm.oclc.org/pubmed/29573889

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4779179/

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4891873/

Vitamin D: A Requirement for Healthy Living and Longevity

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as a steroid hormone and controls the expression of many genes. Our primary source of vitamin D occurs through UVB radiation by the sun onto our skin. To note, mushrooms that have been in the sun also have the capacity to make vitamin D with sun exposure.

Several factors predispose us to vitamin D deficiency and these include: skin pigmentation, aging, obesity and sunscreen use (1). In fact, using sunblock with SPF 15 or higher blocks 100% of vitamin D production in the skin. And if you have more skin pigmentation, then you require 3-5 times longer exposure to make the same amount of vitamin D as a person with white skin tone because melanin is a natural sunscreen. A 70 year old produces 4 times less than a 20 year old. And lastly, it is possible that deficiency in this vitamin is more prevalent among obese individuals because the vitamin gets diluted throughout the body (2). Other sources include oil-rich fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring and mushrooms that have been in the sun.

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Having adequate levels of vitamin D is very important because it regulates calcium, phosphorous, and bone metabolism. vitamin D deficiency is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, cognitive impairment, and cancer. Actually, there is an increase in all-cause mortality associated with D deficiency (1). There is a lot of research emerging in this field supporting the optimization of D levels. For example, high-dose vitamin D supplementation improves visual memory (3), vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to autism (4), and vitamin D supplementation (along with Calcium) is shown to prevent colon cancer, to name a few (5).

When it comes to longevity, vitamin D plays a critical role. In one study, vitamin D extended the median lifespan of a nematode by 33% by engaging in known longevity genes (6). In another study looking at stress, mood, and longevity, vitamin D (along with other compounds) may act on certain genes and promote longevity (7). Telomeres are a way to measure our cellular age. They exist at the ends of chromosomes and function to protect DNA.  Each year we age, our telomeres shorten until the cell dies (8). Individuals in the highest quartile between 40-60 nmol/L had longer lifespans (9). Further, mice that had both too little and too much vitamin D experienced premature aging (10).

Everyone should have his or her vitamin D levels checked at least once per year. Don’t just supplement blindly because too much vitamin D can be just as bad as not enough! Aim for levels between 30 and 80 ng/ml and keep in mind that vitamin D deficiency is VERY COMMON, especially to us living in the good ol’ Pacific Northwest where the sun don’t like to shine.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/
  2. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/link-between-obesity-and-vitamin-d-clarified
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28167237
  4. https://newatlas.com/vitamin-d-autism-pregnancy/46956/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3466388/
  6. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-10/bifr-anl101716.php
  7. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160524085357.html
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2196219/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19444937
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19500727
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2912737/

All May Long: Detox Your Body

It’s become clear that our bodies are toxic. We expose ourselves every day through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the products we clean with and put on our skin. In fact, at present, there are 80,000 chemicals in the US and it is estimated that 2000 new chemicals are created each year without Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation! Since we’re exposed to toxins daily, our bodies have to work hard to clear them. It’s therefore important to strengthen our ability to detoxify, and lower our toxic load. Check out the symptoms list on the right to see if you may be experiencing toxic buildup.

 Nettles are incredible at eliminating toxins in the body. Be aware that small spikes on the plant require careful handling and preparation. 

Nettles are incredible at eliminating toxins in the body. Be aware that small spikes on the plant require careful handling and preparation. 

For most of us, it’s the small exposures each day that can accumulate in our tissues and cause us to become toxic. In order to keep from building up this toxic burden, our body has to effectively break them down and eliminate them. This is why it’s important for us to undertake a specialized detoxification program to strengthen our ability to to clear these toxins.  By doing so we take the stress off our energy system.

Starting May 1st, I'll be running a detox program for the entire month of May. This program comes with all that you'll need to get your holistic detox underway, including a 30-day supply of all of the supplements you'll need, educational material, meal plans, recipes and four in-person group meetings facilitated by myself and Dr. Sage Dillon at The Bodhi Tree.

If you have always wanted to do a detox program, this is the one! I invite you to experience a program that will take you to your next level of health.  Whether you have a chronic health condition, want to clear toxins and feel good, or just want to lose weight, this is a great way to experience renewed vitality and start a new, healthy detox lifestyle.

 

About the program:

The cost of the full detox program is $450, but it's $399 if you sign up by Monday, 4/16. Sign up here or contact my office for more details! 

I'm looking forward to helping you on your journey to detoxification this May. I hope you'll join me. 

-Dr. Heather

 

Official flier: 

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Symptoms of Toxicity Include:

  • Runny nose
  • Nervousness
  • Sleepiness/Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rashes
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Bad breath
  • Immune weakness
  • Allergies
  • Headaches
  • Joint pains
  • Cough/Wheezing
  • Sore throat
  • Tight or stiff neck
  • High blood fats
  • Backaches
  • Itchy nose
  • Frequent colds
  • Irritated eyes
  • Environmental sensitivity
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain

Problems Related to Toxicity Include:

  • Acne/Eczema
  • Asthma
  • Colitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Hepatitis
  • Heart disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Parasites, bacteria, yeast worms, and fungus
  • PMS
  • Bronchitis
  • Drug addiction
  • Smoking
  • Neurological issues
  • Kidney Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Migraines/Headaches
  • Gallstones
  • Gout
  • Ulcers
  • Varicose veins
  • Fibroids
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Brain fog
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Eye problems
  • Stroke

The Power of Folic Acid

Folic Acid is a water-soluble vitamin, AKA vitamin B9, and is found naturally in plants such as dark leafy green vegetables.  Humans cannot make folic acid therefore we must get it through our diet or with supplements.  Why do we need folate? According to Dr. Rhonda Patrick, we need folate because it serves as a precursor to DNA nucleotide thymine, which we need to make new cells.  Without thymine production, uracil builds up and can cause mutations.  Translation: folate is needed to make new cells and to prevent cancer.  We also need folate because it serves as a precursor to create methyl groups which are used as an OFF (or sometimes on) switch for genes. This is important because it allows cells to adapt to their environments. Methyl groups created from folate can also convert homocysteine, which plays a role in stroke, vascular dementia, and cardiovascular disease, back into methionine.  Folate deficiency therefore increases our risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia.

The recommended daily intake in adults is 400 mcg of folate per day.  If you are pregnant or nursing, make sure you are getting at least 600 mcg per day.  Below is a table with common foods and their folic acid content:

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There are a couple ways to assess your folate levels. If you are interested in knowing your folate status ask your doctor to test.  You can ask for a red blood cell folate concentration and this will give you your long term folate status.  You can also have your homocysteine levels checked as a way to asses folate levels as well.  This is a common amino acid that is used to screen for cardiovascular risk.  Lastly, we can look at your genetics to see if you have the capacity to metabolically use folate efficiently.   As a patient of mine, I walk you through the various testing options and together we choose the best option for you.

Resources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27008500

  2. https://thecompleteherbalguide.com/entries/vitamins-minerals/folic-acid-and-what-does-it-do/

  3. Dr. Rhonda Patrick <https://www.foundmyfitness.com>

Staying Healthy for Spring

Chinese medicine dates back over 2000 years.  This is ancient knowledge from classic texts and wisdom passed down through lineages.  

My goal for you is to be inspired to make healthy choices and have a basic understanding of Chinese Dietetics and recommendations for spring. Chinese medicine includes: acupuncture, cupping, moxabustion, exercise, and dietary therapy.

Chinese culture believes that we are a part of Nature and not separate from it.  We are subject to, and dependent on its processes. For example, in the winter months we see nature go inwards.  The trees lose their leaves and days are darker. Following the processes of nature, we go inwards too, taking time to reflect, sleep, and make stews around the stove.

As we enter spring, we notice that nature is coming alive.  There is movement upwards. The bulbs come to flower and buds double in size everyday.  Ancient texts tell us to ‘rise early’ and ‘take brisk walks.’ We spring into action with activities that mirror the ascending qualities of nature.  This is the time to start those projects you have been reflecting upon this past winter. Push the boundaries of comfort and grow as a human being.

In Chinese medicine, each season has an associated organ system.  In the summer it’s heart/fire, fall is lung/metal, winter is kidney/water, and spring is represented by liver/wood.  We are in the wood part of the year represented by the liver and the gallbladder organ systems. These are the executive organs, the organs that make decisions and make things happen.  

 Herbs like basil, oregano, mint &amp; rosemary can help stimulate blood circulation, and are pungent foods recommended for springtime by Chinese Dietetics.

Herbs like basil, oregano, mint & rosemary can help stimulate blood circulation, and are pungent foods recommended for springtime by Chinese Dietetics.

There are five flavors in Chinese medicine.  These include: bitter, sweet, pungent, salty, and sour.  In Chinese medicine, the energetics of foods in considered.  Some foods have an upward energy while other downward. Salty has a downward motion and pungent and sweet upwards.  Just as nature during the spring has an upward motion ie the bulbs flower and trees bud, so should we eat upward moving foods.  

During the spring we eat sweet and pungent foods.  Most vegetables are sweet: carrots, cabbage, cucumber, squash, and pumpkin.  As are most fruits, nuts, grains, meats, and seafood. Herbs exemplify the pungent flavor: basil, rosemary, mint, oregano, etc.  Mother foods like garlic and celery are both pungent and sweet!

There are a few rules indicated in Chinese texts regarding eating to stay healthy in the spring.  The first is to eat less. During the spring months, we eat the least amount of food as compared to any season.  This is cleansing time and a time for mental clarity. Next, we eat pungent and sweet foods such as young veggies (thinned from our spring gardens).  Lastly, food is cooked at high temperature and for short amount of time so that the veggies remain raw on the inside.

Being the liver time in Chinese culture, it makes sense to focus on detoxifying and cleansing.  The liver bears the burden when it comes to staying healthy. Any herbicide, pesticide, formaldehyde, and plastic have to be processed through the liver, not to mention medications as well.  The liver functions as a detoxifier and its cellular processes are dependent on nutrients retrieved from the food we eat. This is why it is so important to eat REAL food and avoid processed and packaged food because these foods contribute to the liver’s burden.  Vegetables and whole foods help the liver. Vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants which scavenge for toxic chemicals that damage our cells. The liver also is responsible for digesting fats and this process is dependent on nutrients such as carnitine, choline, and inositol.  Some examples of these foods: fish, avocado, eggs, cauliflower, lentils, cabbage, molasses, nutritional yeast, and brown rice to name a few. Integrating a variety of herbs and spices such as ginger, turmeric and dandelion all aid in liver support.

MORE ON DETOXIFYING:

Just as nature is moving, so too should we.  The emunctaries are our organs of elimination.  We eliminate by sweating through the skin, movement through the colon, urine through the kidneys, breath through the lung.  There are a few detoxification activities that aid the emunctaries.

  • Dry skin brushing: using a loofah or washcloth gently rub your dry skin with the dry sponge.  Start at your hands and work towards your chest. Then rub from your feet, up your legs, abdomen, and work towards your heart.   This moves the lymph and exfoliates your skin.

  • Castor oil packs: Place a dime size amount of castor oil in your hand and over your liver.  Put on an old t-shirt followed by a hot water bottle. Let this be for 30 minutes,

 

References:

Maciocia, Giovanni.  The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists.  Elsevier, Churchill, Livingston. London 2005.

Kasner, Joerg.  Chinese Nutrition Therapy: Dietetics in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Georg Thieme Verlag. Germany 2004.

Pitchford, Paul.  Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition.  North Atlantic Books. Berkeley, CA. 2002.