Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

What about Ginger?

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Did you know…as one of the oldest spices known in Asia and Europe, ginger has a long history as a seasoning and was once as common as salt and pepper. People would add ginger to everything, including teas and beers leading to modern drinks like ginger ale and ginger beers.

Ginger is one of the world’s favorite spices and has been acclaimed for its medicinal benefits since ancient times. A perennial herb native to southern China, ginger was imported early on to India, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Europe. Ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale).The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. Aromatic, pungent and spicy, ginger adds a special flavor and zest to stir fries and many fruit and vegetable dishes. Due to its various medicinal benefits, ginger is considered a herbal remedy in many cultures. Over the years, it has been used to reduce inflammation, help with digestion, improve cardiovascular health and even historically to even ward off diseases like the plague.

In the Ayurvedic tradition, ginger is highly regarded as having many diverse healing properties, and is used prominently in treating disorders of the digestive tract. In the Asian medicine tradition, ginger is considered to possess hot or warming attributes. It is also favored as a remedy for digestive conditions ranging from upset stomach to diarrhea to abdominal bloating.

Ginger is still widely used for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. The gingerols found in ginger are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that inhibit the production of nitric oxide, which helps relieve joint pain that is associated with arthritis. It also provides substantial pain relief from gout, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and also decreases swelling and helps with morning stiffness. In a research study published in 2005, investigators found that ginger may reduce inflammation more effectively than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin.

Ginger is an excellent herb to use for strengthening and healing the respiratory system, as well as for fighting off colds and flu. It removes congestion, soothes sore throats, and relieves headaches and body aches. Ginger is loaded with antioxidants, which have immune-boosting properties. By strengthening the immune system, it protects you against all sorts of infections and diseases.

Although scientific research into the health benefits of ginger is really just beginning, over 2500 years of herbal wisdom, plus some recent scientific studies strongly support the use of ginger as an effective digestion aid. Ginger root has a great reputation for controlling nausea of all types. Several studies have found that ginger is more effective than placebo in relieving morning sickness. In a small study of 30 pregnant women with severe vomiting, those who ingested 1 gram of ginger every day for 4 days reported more relief from vomiting than those who received placebo. In a double-blind, comparative test at Brigham Young University, Utah, researchers found ginger root to be more effective in coping with motion sickness than the popular, over-the-counter drug, Dramamine.

Fresh ginger roots can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Ginger is also available in other forms including dried root, capsules, tablets, tea, extracts and tinctures. A simple ginger tea can be made by pouring hot water over one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and allowing it to infuse for 10 minutes before straining. Lemon juice and a little honey can be added to it if desired.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

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Can Sugar Speed Up Aging?

Aging is a complex process that affects every organ, cell, molecule and body function. Consuming high amounts of sugar will most definitely accelerate this process. When sugar gets into your circulation, it goes through a process called glycation in which the sugar binds to proteins, creating molecules called advanced glycation end products also known as AGEs-a fitting acronym for the topic at hand.

AGEs are harmful in that they are damaging to different proteins throughout the body. One of the main functions of proteins is to provide structure for the body. Approximately one third of the body’s protein is collagen. Collagen is found in areas such as muscles, bones, blood vessels, ligaments and the skin. Among collagen, your skin also contains another protein fiber called elastin, making the skin the perfect target for the AGEs. Elastin and collagen are the building blocks that keep your skin firm, smooth and help maintain its elasticity. When these protein fibers are damaged and their structures are weakened, the skin starts to lose its resiliency and the skin begins to sag and form wrinkles.  To add to the insult, AGEs also turn off some of your body’s antioxidant enzymes, further reducing your protective mechanisms against aging.

The negative effects of AGEs are very pronounced in individuals with delayed diagnosis of diabetes or poorly controlled diabetes. The chronic high blood sugar levels in diabetic individuals leads to the accumulations of AGEs which in turn not only reflect as premature signs of aging as the skin’s elasticity becomes compromised but can also damage the blood vessels of the heart, eyes, kidneys and the extremities. The blood test HbA1c (hemoglobin A1c) is used to measure the amount of glycation on red blood cells, making this test a very important tool to assess how well blood sugar levels are kept under control. The higher the HbA1c levels, the higher the glycation and the more accelerated the process of aging and damage to the body.

The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to minimize AGE formation. One way to do this is to reduce your intake of sugar since a rise in blood sugar levels is one of the main driving forces behind glycation. According to a 2011 report released by Statistics Canada, Canadians consume an average of 26 teaspoons of sugar a day, which amounts to about 88 pounds per year.  35% of this intake comes from added sugar. This is an area that we can definitely improve on.

Always read labels for hidden sources of sugar. For instance, many store bought sauces, salad dressings, dried fruit, canned foods and breads contain added sugar. Other high sugar ingredients to look for and avoid include corn syrup, malt, molasses, fructose, turbinado, dextrose, glucose and fruit juice concentrate.  And simply avoid adding sugar to your food and drinks. For instance, if you are used to adding sugar to your tea, next time try adding a dash of cinnamon instead. It gives it a mild, sweet flavor and has the added benefit of supporting healthy blood sugar levels. Eliminate poor quality carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta as these products quickly break down to sugar and spike up the blood sugar levels.  Also avoid “sugar-free” products as most of these are made with artificial sweeteners that among other side effects can trigger sugar cravings.

Another way to reduce the effects of glycation is to consume more antioxidants. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals that would otherwise be damaging to your skin. Many antioxidants inhibit AGE formation. Blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes are all excellent sources of antioxidants. Drinking green or white tea on a regular basis will further deliver potent antioxidants into your system. Supplementing with vitamin C and E also helps enhance your antioxidant levels.

More sugar does in fact amount to more wrinkles. But the skin is just an external indicator of internal health and eating sugar will actively age you inside and out. Making a conscious effort to reduce your daily intake of sugar and increasing your antioxidant intake will have a great impact not only on your skin but also on your overall health and in prevention of many diseases.

Always consult your naturopathic doctor before initiating a new regimen.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

The Role of Digestive Enzymes in Gut Health and Overall Health

Proper digestion is one of the body’s most important physiological functions in maintaining overall health. The digestive system transforms food into energy for the body’s use by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates into smaller, simpler, and more usable forms. Without this transformation, digestion and assimilation of nutrients is difficult if not impossible.

Digestive enzymes are extremely important in everyone’s diet, since they are responsible for the proper breakdown of major food groups, and eventually the absorption of vital nutrients through the intestinal wall. Fresh fruits such as pineapple and papaya are particularly rich in these enzymes. Pineapples provide the body with bromelain which helps in the digestion of proteins, and papayas contain papain, another enzyme involved in breaking down proteins.

Every day the pancreas secretes about 1.5 litres of pancreatic juice in the small intestine. This juice contains digestive enzymes which are essential for the proper digestion and absorption of food. These digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas include lipases which help in the digestion of fats, proteases which digest proteins, and amylases which help in the digestion of starch molecules.

While healthy foods provide the foundation for optimal health and vitality, even the healthiest foods are of little use if they are not properly digested. When the pancreas is not producing enough digestive enzymes, the essential nutrients from food are not properly digested and absorbed leading to nutrient deficiencies and symptoms such as bloating and abdominal discomfort. For instance, insufficient amounts of lipase (responsible to break down fats) may cause diarrhea, fatty/floating stools or fat-soluble vitamin deficiency. Incomplete breakdown of carbohydrates can exhibit as gas, bloating, diarrhea and cramps. Other problems with incomplete digestion of food include the development of food allergies. In simple terms, an allergy is a hyperactive response of the immune system to certain substances which are foreign to our bodies. These substances are called allergens. Incomplete/partially digested protein particles may be considered by the body as allergens and thus can trigger some type of immune response. This is one of the reasons why supplementation with digestive enzymes can reduce and improve the allergy symptoms in patients with food sensitivities. Digestive enzymes can help with food allergies by improving digestion. Digestive enzymes taken with meals will supplement the body’s digestive enzymes to ensure a more complete breakdown of the foods.

If the body cannot extract all the nutrients from food, the overall health is at risk, and this can result in a wide range of diseases. That is why proper digestion is so important for the proper functioning of the body, and digestive enzymes become vital for overall health.

How Does Weight Affect Fertility? Looking at Both Sides of the Scale

A healthy body weight plays an important role in fertility. Being overweight or underweight can make achieving pregnancy more difficult mainly because of its effect on ovulation.

Excess weight can lead to anovulation (absence of ovulation) which often manifests as irregular menstruation. The good news is that losing weight can restore regular menstruation and bring about healthy ovulation whereby increasing the likelihood of pregnancy.

The same goes for those who are underweight. In this case, either anovulation or irregular ovulation can be an issue. With irregular ovulation, the uterine lining may not become thick enough for the fertilized egg to sufficiently implant and grow and even if it does implant, sustaining the pregnancy under such circumstances is difficult, making miscarriage a likely occurrence. In a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, women whose body mass indexes were below 18.5 were 72% more likely to miscarry in their first trimester.

The bottom line is that too much or too little body fat will disturb the normal hormonal balance and subsequently affect menstruation and ovulation. Reaching a healthy weight can help reverse these issues and create a healthy environment for conception to occur.

With a proper daily diet plan and lifestyle modifications, both these issues can be resolved. To lose the excess weight, following a tailored weight loss dietary plan with a focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods and regular exercise can make a big difference. A 5 to 10 % weight loss can greatly impact ovulation. For those individuals who continue to have a difficult time losing weight despite all efforts, further investigation is warranted as other conditions may be involved such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which may be the cause of infertility and the difficulty behind losing the excess weight.

For those who are underweight, a healthy nutrient rich weight gain program will help bring about a healthier weight that supports fertility. Making healthy fats such as nuts and seeds, olive oil, and flaxseed oil part of every meal is an important part of this process.

Although weight is only one of the factors affecting fertility, it is an important one which should not be overlooked. Aside from optimizing the chances of pregnancy, having a healthy weight will also mean an advantage in all facets of overall wellbeing: more energy, better mood and less likelihood of pregnancy-related complications such as gestational diabetes, miscarriage as well as low birth weight.

The Most Important Meal of the Day

“Eat breakfast like a king lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”. There’s good reason for this saying. Many of my patients admit to skipping breakfast or even worse replace it with a cup of coffee instead so we always have a discussion around this topic. Breakfast allows your body to refuel for the day ahead; in essence you are “breaking your fast”. Some of the effects of skipping breakfast include fatigue, irritability, weight gain, low mood, and midmorning cravings for carbohydrates and sugar-your body has not been replenished with the fuels it needs to keep your blood sugar stable hence the cravings. Focus and concentration are also affected by skipping breakfast. This is especially seen in kids and students. Studies show that school children who eat breakfast are more alert, attentive and creative than those who don’t eat breakfast.

And for those who skip breakfast as an attempt to cut down on calories and help with their weight loss, not such a good idea. Eating breakfast actually kickstarts your metabolism for the day and skipping it makes losing weight more difficult.

If you are short on time to cook a big breakfast, simplify and plan ahead. Have a couple of boiled eggs, make a protein smoothie or prepare some oatmeal the night before, warm it up in the morning, sprinkle with some nuts and berries and that makes for a healthy quick breakfast. Having some form of protein in your breakfast is vital as this will ensure your blood sugar levels remain stable, you stay satiated for a longer period of time and you are less likely to be cave in to that midmorning cookie temptation!

Pass the Sea Salt Please

Sea salt and table salt have a similar chemical composition, mainly consisting of the two minerals – sodium and chloride. The significant difference however, is that table salt contains 99.9% sodium chloride, whereas sea salt contains 98% sodium chloride, the remaining 2% consisting of trace minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine. These minerals make sea salt a healthier, tastier and more nutritious alternative to regular table salt.

Sea salt refers to the unrefined salt that is obtained by evaporating sea water. Due to its little processing, the trace minerals in its composition remain intact, and may differ according to the water source. Usually sea salt comes from the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea. Unlike many table salts, natural sea salt does not contain added anti-caking ingredients or potassium iodide. Sea salt is known for its diverse health benefits. Due to its mineral richness, sea salt helps clear toxins from the body, enhance energy levels, strengthen the immune system, and balance the body’s electrolytes.

Whereas sea salt is obtained from sea water, table salt is obtained from the rock salt found in mineral deposits. In its natural form it contains sodium chloride and other beneficial minerals, but due to its complex refining process, these healthy minerals are lost. Table salt may also chemical additives in order to prevent clumping.

Chemically processed table salt is found in considerable amounts in almost every processed food available. Health Canada recommends that adults consume between 1,500 mg and 2,300 mg of sodium per day. However, recent data from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey on Nutrition shows that Canadian adults consume an average of 3.092 mg of sodium per day, more than double the recommended level.

Salt has gotten a bad reputation over the years mainly because of its over consumption and being over processed, striped off of the its valuable minerals. In the old days, salt was so precious that in some cultures it was used as payment for wages hence the word “salary”. For optimum health, make sure your diet is balanced and your consumption of sodium is within the recommended levels. Salt in moderation is a good thing, just be sure to choose the sea salt as a healthier alternative to regular table salt.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

Celiac Disease and Naturopathic Treatment Support

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged due to reaction to consumption of gluten. Because of this damage, absorption becomes compromised. Gluten is the protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, spelt and rye. There are many different signs and symptoms of varying intensities associated with celiac disease. These include fatigue, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, weight loss, diarrhea, delayed growth, skin rash, depression and more. Many of these signs and symptoms can also be seen in other disorders, which can make celiac disease go undiagnosed in many cases including some cases of unexplained infertility. There are tests that can be done to diagnose this condition. In fact, in Italy where celiac disease is common, all children under 6 are screened for this condition as early detection is vital.

How common is celiac disease?

According to Celiac Association of Canada, it is estimated that 1 in 133 Canadians are affected by celiac disease.

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

Blood tests such as anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody, anti-endomysial antibody, IgA and IgG anti-gliadin antibody are some of the tests that are recommended.

The definitive diagnosis is a biopsy of the small bowel. It is only after a definitive diagnosis through this procedure has been made, that a strict gluten-free diet is initiated.

What are some possible complications associated with celiac disease?

Osteoporosis, anemia, neurological problems, depression, greater  likelihood of miscarriage, difficulty with fertility, stunted growth in children and lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance has to do with inability to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. The enzyme lactase is needed for digestion of dairy. Since in celiac, the lining of the small intestine is damaged, the brush border enzymes which include lactases are reduced, hence some celiac patients experience lactose intolerance.

Most of these complications are resolved or improve over time once celiac disease has been diagnosed, a strict gluten-free diet is followed, the body is replenished with the needed nutrients, the gut has healed and malabsorption has been resolved.

What are the treatments?

The treatment is following a strict gluten-free diet. This means reading ingredient labels and eliminating any foods/products that contain gluten, even trace amounts of gluten.

Being on a good naturopathic nutritional plan is paramount in celiac disease for three main reasons.

Reason One

Often in an attempt to avoid gluten, many patients resort to one or two alternatives to gluten such as rice or potato. Eating the same foods repeatedly has a couple of downfalls. One is that variety in diet is needed in order for us to get the different nutrients required by our bodies. The other problem is that eating the same foods repeatedly can trigger food sensitivities to those foods in the long run so you could end up for example with a sensitivity to rice if that has become your food staple.

Reason Two

This has to do with absorption. There are some foods that are more easily digestible hence making their absorption easier. There are also specific foods that are healing to the gut and help repair some of the damage in the intestines. Healing of the gut is essential component of a treatment approach to celiac disease. The gut must be healed in order for the absorption issues to be resolved. As long malabsorption (poor absorption) persists, there will be problems on a systemic level because essential nutrients are not being extracted from the foods eaten and as a result the organs are not being properly nourished.

Reason Three

The body needs to be replenished with the proper nutrients, this is both through diet, supplements and/or intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy. In my practice, I frequently use intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy for my celiac patients. Since this therapy gets the nutrients directly into the blood circulation (not having to go through the digestive system), I know for sure the nutrients are being taken up by the different body systems. This therapy also allows me to introduce higher doses of nutrients into the body that would otherwise not be possible orally. The result is that patients get quickly replenished with important nutrients, positively impacting their energy, mood and overall wellbeing.

If you suspect you may have celiac disease especially if you have a family member that has this condition, don’t delay, see your healthcare provider and get the appropriate tests for a proper diagnosis.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.