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.

What is Bach Flower Therapy and How Can It Benefit You?

What are Bach flower remedies?

Bach flowers remedies/essences originate back to the 1930’s and were discovered by British physician and bacteriologist Dr. Edward Bach. In his pursue to treat the person rather than the disease, he researched and discovered 38 flower remedies to address and remove the emotional roots that give rise to physical manifestations of disease. The mind-body connection was of utmost importance in his treatment approach. In essence his belief was that the physical symptoms and discomforts are always preceded by emotional imbalances and worries. This belief very much resonates with what we see today as the root of different diseases. Studies after studies have linked different stress factors and traumas as the origin to many diseases. For instance, irritable bowel disease is strongly linked to anxiety and stress and often when these emotional disturbances have been treated, the disease itself also dissipates.

How do Bach flower remedies work?

The remedies are made from infusion of different wild flowers and plants. These essences help to restore the balance in the system and treat the individual on a holistic level. They gently remove negative emotional patterns and feelings of fear, worry, anxiety and sadness. This allows the body to revert to its natural state of peace and stillness which allows the body to heal itself of any physical symptoms/dis-ease.

Is it just a placebo effect?

No. The effectiveness of Bach flower therapy has been seen in both animals and children who are not susceptible to placebo effect.

What conditions would benefit from Bach flower therapy?

Both physical and emotional conditions would benefit from flower essences. Bach flower remedies are prescribed based on emotional disharmonies which often manifest as physical conditions. When these emotional states are harmonized, the physical components also heal. Some of the conditions treated with this therapy include anxiety, insomnia, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, headache, panic attack, menstrual problems, chronic fatigue and more.

How do I know which Bach flower remedy is right for me?

The remedies are chosen based on your current emotional state as well as temperament and personality traits. Each remedy is specific to a pattern emotions and personality characteristics; making Bach flower therapy a very individualized treatment. The correct remedy is determined through a consultation with a naturopathic doctor/other health care provider that is trained in prescribing Bach flower remedies.

Do Bach flower remedies have any side effects?

The remedies are gentle and safe for adults, children and pregnant women. In fact, Bach flowers work very well for pregnant women who experience any irritability, mood changes, or tension during their pregnancy or have anxiety and worrying around birthing. And since many herbs are contraindicated during pregnancy, Bach flower remedies are one of the treatments of choice during this time.

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.

How Do I Know if I Have A Cold Or if It Is Seasonal Allergies?

If you have had seasonal allergies for a number of years now, chances are you know it is related to change of season and exposure to seasonal allergens and that it has nothing to do with having a cold. But for some people, it may be a new phenomenon and seasonal allergies may be mistaken as a cold as there are some symptoms that overlap. Here are some ways to differentiate between the two.

Onset

Cold: any time of year, more common in winter time

Allergies:  during specific seasons usually spring, summer or fall, though it can be during any season or experienced all year around

Duration

Cold: up to 2 weeks

Allergies: months or as long as exposed to the seasonal allergens

Symptoms

Note some of these symptoms may overlap. The most common symptoms pertaining to each is listed.

Cold: mucous usually has a yellow tinge to it, sore throat (often), aches and pains (sometimes)

Allergies: itchy watery eyes, itchy/irritation in nose, clear and often copious amounts of mucous, sneezing usually repeatedly within a short time, tickle sensation in throat or nasal passages

Fever

Cold: sometimes

Allergies: never (unless have a secondary infection)

Family history

Individuals with seasonal allergies may have other family members with seasonal allergies/allergic tendencies

Knowing if you have the cold or seasonal allergies is important because the treatment for each is different.  Sometimes too, cold and allergies can occur at the same time. Severe seasonal allergies and subsequent mucous formation can be a breeding environment for bacteria to grow and lead to a cold.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC

http://www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

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

 

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

http://www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for education 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

http://www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

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

 

Five Simple Steps to a Healthier Weight

Any change in life comes about by making small adjustments everyday and staying focused on your goal; losing weight is no different. Today is a new day. You can set your ideal weight goal and start making some simple changes to your daily routines which are guaranteed to give you results in the long run.

  • Cut out processed foods and empty carbohydrates. These include candies, pop, refined breads and pasta, processed cheeses, meats, canned foods, frozen dinners and so on.
  • Eat lots of fiber and vegetables to fill you up and reduce cravings.
  • Read the labels on the foods you buy. That “healthy” granola bar you snack on everyday may have more sugar and additives in it than you think. Stay away from foods that have added sugar which may be labeled as corn syrup or glucose-fructose. And just because a product is organic does not mean it has no added sugar, organic cane sugar is still sugar.
  • Be sure to include some healthy fats in your diet. These include nuts, seeds, fatty fish like salmon, avocados, and flaxseed oil. Healthy fats help stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce cravings and keep you satiated for longer periods of time.
  • Make it a habit to engage in at least one type of exercise daily. If you are not one to hit the gym every day then just do some other form of activity-run up and down the stairs 10 times or do 50 jumping jacks or go for a brisk 15 minute walk. The most important thing is setting a goal that’s realistic for you and sticking to it!

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC

http://www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

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

Know Your Dirty Dozen

Knowledge is power. Pesticides are substances commonly sprayed on fruits and vegetables for a better crop but this does not come without a price. Pesticides contain toxins that have adverse effects on health. Some pesticides are known to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing), others can disturb the hormone system and nervous system. Buying organic fruits and vegetables is ideal. But when it’s not possible to buy all organic, and you only have a certain budget for organics, knowing which ones are most contaminated can help you in your selection.

The Environmental Working Group has provided a shopper’s guide 2011, pointing out the 12 most pesticide loaded produce, also known as the “dirty dozen” as well as the “clean fifteen” that is considered the least pesticide contaminated produce.

Here’s the dirty dozen list: apples, strawberries, peaches, domestic nectarines, imported grapes, domestic blueberries, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, lettuce, and kale/collard greens. The clean fifteen list includes onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms.

According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), having 5 daily servings from the dirty dozen list, would mean consuming 14 different pesticides per day. Having 5 daily servings from the clean fifteen would mean consuming less than 2 pesticides per day.

Take the list with you on your next grocery trip, and if organic is not affordable or available to you, aim for locally grown produce. Locally grown produce are more fresh and better on the environment because they don’t have to travel as much to get to your dinner table and they are more seasonal which is generally healthier and more in tune with your body. It also supports your local economy and community and of course tastes better!

For more information: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC

http://www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

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


Leaky Gut Syndrome and Early Detection

Leaky gut syndrome also known as increased intestinal permeability a condition in which the intestines become increasingly permeable to toxic wastes, microbes, undigested food particles and other noxious substances which do not usually cross the intestinal lining; in essence the selective permeability of the intestine is compromised. Once these substances cross the small intestine, they gain access into systemic circulation which leads to all sorts of health concerns.

The normal functions of the small intestine involve proper absorption of digested nutrients such as sugars, amino acids, and fatty acids as well as blocking the absorption of noxious substances and microbes. But in the case of increased intestinal permeability, the tight junctions between the intestinal cells that normally form the barrier of the intestinal lining have been damaged and hence the barrier is now “leaky”. In the case of elevated intestinal permeability, substances such as food particles get absorbed into the blood stream before they are completely digested. Having gained “unauthorized” access to the systemic circulation, these undigested food particles can now trigger an immune response whereby the immune system attacks these particles, eventually leading to inflammation. Chronic inflammation is the basis of many of today’s diseases.

The symptoms of increased intestinal permeability can vary from allergies, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, foggy thinking, and anxiety to more serious health concerns such as metabolic disturbances. Leaky gut syndrome has been associated with conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, asthma, chronic fatigue, and chronic skin conditions.

There is a noninvasive lab test that helps identify increased intestinal permeability. This test involves two non-metabolized sugars: Mannitol and Lactulose. The patient drinks a pre-measured amount of mannitol and lactulose. The degree of permeability becomes evident based on the levels of each sugar that is recovered in the urine over a six hour collection.

The early detection of this condition is critical in both prevention of further damage to the intestinal lining as well as proper treatment of the existing damaged areas that can otherwise lead to serious health consequences.

Ask your naturopathic doctor for more information.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC

http://www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

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