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:

folic-acid.jpg

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.

Small Daily Changes to Improve Stress Response

We now know that the adrenal glands, which sit atop our kidneys, are responsible for responding to stressful situations by releasing cortisol into the bloodstream. Over time, this system can be become tired and our stress response suffers. A maladaptive stress response may be an underlying cause of your health concerns. If you answered yes to at least 3 of the questions on the quiz at the bottom, I highly recommend the following lifestyle recommendations. You can refer back to last week’s blog for insight into testing options. I find better outcomes in-clinic when we have the information from labs to work with.

1.  Increase your exposure to light. After moving from a dark room into a room full of daylight, individual cortisol levels increased by 50% or more within minutes!

Try getting outside in the first hour of waking, as this can potentiate your Cortisol Awakening Response, and that is important in setting your daily clock. Our bodies thrive on rhythm.

2.  Avoid exposure to toxins. Among the endocrine (hormone producing) organs, the adrenal cortex appears to be the most vulnerable to chemically induced injury. Here are a few strategies to mitigate toxic exposure:

  • Eat organic. Especially when it comes to meat and dairy because toxins are stored in fat, and these foods have the most fat. According to the environmental working group, the most heavily sprayed produce in the US includes: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomato, and sweet bell peppers. Be sure to buy these foods organic!

  • Use ‘Green’ cleaning products.

  • Avoid plastic water bottles, use glass whenever possible, and avoid consuming products that have been exposed to heat in plastic.  

3. Consume high quality protein and fat in your diet! A few studies have shown that cortisol levels are elevated by a protein rich meal. For the average person, with moderate physical activity, I recommend around 60 g of protein per day. Aim for 20 mg at breakfast.

4. Move your body. Exercise has positive effect on health. If your cortisol levels are low, then it is not recommended to use high intensity exercise on a daily basis because this can further potentiate the dysfunction. Instead, use moderate exercise like long walks, yoga, swimming, etc. It is not advisable to chronically over exercise, as this can lead to negative health outcomes such as chronic fatigue.

Find out if you may have low cortisol: 

  • Fatigue or Burnout
  • Loss of stamina
  • Typical negative point of view
  • Crying for no reason
  • Can’t problem solve like you used to
  • Feel stressed all the time
  • Insomnia, or difficulty staying asleep
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizzy when you stand
  • Difficulty fighting infection
  • Allergies/Asthma
  • Low blood sugars
  • Excess sweating
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Hemorrhoids or varicose veins
  • Easy Bruising
  • Thyroid problems and heart palpitations

If you answered yes to at least 3 of the items above, you may be experiencing low cortisol levels. If you're concerned about your health, schedule an appointment for further consultation.

Sources: 1) Leproult, R et al. Transition From Dim to Bright Light in the Morning Induces an Immediate Elevation of Cortisol Levels. January 1, 2001. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2) Colby, H.  Adrenal Gland Toxicity: Chemically Induced Dysfunction. January 1, 1988. Sage Journal. 3) Anderson, K, et al. Diet-Hormone interactions: Protein/Carbohydrate ratio alters reciprocally the plasma levels of testosterone and cortisol and their respective binding globulins in man. Elsevier. May 4 1987. 4) Brooks, K et al.  Overtraining, Exercise, and Adrenal Insufficiency. Novel 3/1/2013. Physiotherapies.

What are your Cortisol Levels?

Last week I took a deep dive into the physiology of our stress response. In short, when our bodies experience stress, there is a cascade of events that begin in the brain and ultimately lead to the release of cortisol from our adrenal glands. This system is an evolutionary tool that has allowed the human species to survive. Back in the day, this cortisol response is what allowed us to run from bears in the wild. Fast forward to modern times where we’re under constant stress; there are bears everywhere: sitting in traffic, listening to the news, at the office, in our relationships. Our bodies are not designed to have this constant cortisol exposure and so disease ensues. Our blood sugars are uncontrolled, we have high blood pressures, fat around our bellies, and we crave sugar. Even more, constant stress can cause communication between the brain and the adrenals to go haywire; some of us have too much cortisol and some of us not enough.

No need to wonder if this is a factor in your health, because testing your cortisol levels is easy. There are four ways that we can evaluate your cortisol levels. These include: blood, saliva, urine, and hair. Each of these methods have proven efficacy and the method of testing is based on your individual needs.

   Cortisol levels should be highest upon waking and slowly decline throughout the day.

Cortisol levels should be highest upon waking and slowly decline throughout the day.

Salivary: I use this method the most in practice. Cortisol is a diurnal hormone, meaning there are fluctuations throughout the day. With this method, it’s easy to collect samples of your cortisol levels throughout the day. Ideally cortisol levels should be highest in the morning and lowest in the evening, but it’s common to see dysfunctional cortisol levels at night. Even more reason to get tested! For more about this method, check out this study.

Blood assessment: This is the second most common method I use in my clinic. If blood draws are a stressful event for you, I would recommend other testing methods, as cortisol could be falsely elevated because of the perceived stressful event. I use blood to measure cortisol when my patient has excellent lab coverage, otherwise I prefer salivary or urinary testing because we can gather the cortisol levels throughout the day.

Urine Analysis: I have yet to employ this method in my clinic, however my research in this area leads me wanting to offer this ASAP. In fact, at the time of this writing, I have joined forces with Precision Labs and am proud to be offering DUTCH (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones). I like this method because it is easy to collect and we actually get more valuable information as compared to the salivary testing alone.

Hair: I do not currently offer this testing method in my practice, however there are studies exhibiting its efficacy.

If you haven't yet taken the short quiz to see if you should get your levels checked, head on over to last week's blog post.

~Dr. Heather

Welcome to my first blog post! This week: Could It Be Your Adrenals?

As a naturopathic physician and practitioner of functional medicine, it is my intention to identify the root cause of your symptoms.  Evaluating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA-axis, is fundamental in my approach to your care. Let me tell you why:

When our bodies experience a stressful event, there is a cascade of biochemical processes beginning in the brain and ultimately leading to the stimulation of your adrenal glands. Stress can take the form of pain, trauma, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, exercise, fear, loss, anger, bereavement; all of these stimulate the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

Cortisol raises blood sugar and retains water. Keeping our blood sugar elevated ensures that our brains remain fueled and retaining water ensures our organs maintain blood perfusion during times of stress.

Under normal circumstances, our bodies have an innate feedback system that ‘turns off’ the cortisol switch. However, chronic stress causes the ‘switch’ to remain on and cortisol levels to remain elevated. This leads to health problems: blood sugars remain high, fat gets distributed to the belly, we become resistant to insulin, retain fluid, have high blood pressure, proteins break down, hormone production is inhibited, and the immune system is suppressed! Not good.    

Take this quick quiz to assess your adrenal function:

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  • Cannot Fall Asleep?

  • Cannot stay asleep?

  • Crave salt?

  • Slow starter in the morning?

  • Afternoon fatigue?

  • Dizziness when standing up quickly?

  • Afternoon headaches?

  • Headaches with exertion or stress?

  • Weak nails?

  • Perspire easily?

  • Excessive perspiration or perspiration with little or no activity?

  • Under a high amount of stress?

  • Weight gain when under stress?

  • Wake up tired even after 6 or more hours of sleep?

If you said ‘yes’ to more than three questions, HPA-axis dysfunction may be an underlying imbalance. Schedule an appointment if you are interested in assessing your adrenal gland function, and stay tuned! Next week I’ll be discussing our available testing options.

~Dr. Heather