Posts Tagged ‘diabetes’

Vitamin D and Its Impact on Your Health

 Vitamin D also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is a fat-soluble vitamin required for normal growth of teeth and bones, and many other systems. It is found in foods such as fish, eggs and fortified drinks. Skin production of vitamin D depends on exposure to sunlight. Active people living in sunny regions produce most of the vitamin D they need from their skin. In less sunny regions, the skin production of vitamin D is greatly diminished especially during the winter months, during which time vitamin D supplementation becomes vital.

Vitamin D is activated in the kidneys and it works as a hormone, regulating, among other things, the concentration of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream, and promoting normal growth and strength of bones. Vitamin D deficiency can result in thin, brittle or misshapen bones, while enough vitamin D helps prevent rickets (softening of bones in children potentially leading to fractures and deformity) and osteomalacia (milder form of the same disease) in adults. These are extreme cases of vitamin D deficiency, but today, the impact of vitamin D deficiency is evident in every system of the body, from the immune to the nervous system.

It is very important to have your vitamin D levels tested so that you know if your current lifestyle, nutritional intake, and overall health are providing you with the adequate levels of this vital nutrient. First you need to know how low you are, which will determine how much you need to take, and then you need to be retested after a few months so that you know when to reduce the amount you are taking.

Vitamin D and Infection

The role of vitamin D as an infection fighting nutrient is now obvious. Researchers have shown that vitamin D plays an essential role for activating immune defenses from T cells in the body. A study published in 2009, by the researchers at the EMNet Coordinating Center in Boston, linked vitamin D deficiency with increased risk of respiratory infections and asthma. Another study done in 2006 by the UCLA researchers showed that vitamin D deficiency is connected with higher susceptibility of tuberculosis. Vitamin D increases the body’s production of naturally occurring antibiotics, namely the antimicrobial peptides. Antimicrobial peptides are produced in numerous cells in the human body where they directly and rapidly destroy the cell walls of viruses and bacteria.

Researchers have found a link between vitamin D deficiency and the flu. Most vitamin D is created from exposure to sunshine, therefore vitamin D deficiency is more common in winter exactly when cold and flu levels reach their peak. A large study appearing in the February 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine found that people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having more recent colds or flu. Vitamin D plays an important role in the prevention of common respiratory infections such as colds and the flu.

Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention

A study published by the Journal of American Dietetic Association in 2010, showed that the role of Vitamin D in overall health including cancer prevention is undeniable. There is a lot of scientific evidence showing that the risk of colorectal cancer is reduced with adequate Vitamin D status. The sunshine vitamin has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Vitamin D may help prevent cancer in several ways, including maintaining healthy cells with normal life spans, discouraging out-of-control cell reproduction, and hindering the formation of new blood vessels for tumors.

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged by one’s own immune system, resulting in loss of muscle control and sensation. One environmental factor influencing the risk for developing MS is sunshine, and in particular a vitamin D deficiency, therefore people in parts of the world that get less sunlight (such as Canada) are more likely than others to get multiple sclerosis. Studies showing the involvement of vitamin D in immune and nervous system functioning bring evidence to support this. It has also been shown that Vitamin D helps control a gene known to increase the risk of multiple sclerosis. Thus adequate levels of vitamin D taken during pregnancy and early in life may help prevent the disease in those predisposed to MS.

Vitamin D and Lung Function

A study published in August 2010 by researchers from the University of Cincinnati, showed a high occurrence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with interstitial lung disease and connective tissue disease, and thus vitamin D deficiency has been connected with reduced lung function. Another study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado in April 2010 showed that in asthmatics, reduced vitamin D levels are associated with weaker lung function, suggesting that supplementation with vitamin D may improve the severity of asthma symptoms. Vitamin D has potent anti-inflammatory properties, one more reason why vitamin D is useful for asthmatics.

Vitamin D and Diabetes

Recent studies show that vitamin D supplementation is beneficial for people with diabetes or insulin resistance and may prevent or delay symptoms of diabetes. While increasing vitamin D levels is not considered a cure for diabetes, vitamin D supplementation have been shown to be helpful in treating diabetes, improving insulin secretion and reducing insulin sensitivity.

Vitamin D and Mood

Vitamin D may help increase the brain’s serotonin levels, having a positive impact on depressive symptoms. In June, 2010, the researchers from the Loyola University in Chicago found that the effective detection and treatment of low vitamin D levels in depressive patients may be an easy and cost-effective therapy which could improve patients’ long-term health as well as their quality of life.

A recent study conducted by VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam showed that vitamin D may be an effective and intriguing possibility for the treatment of depression, especially in older patients. The study indicated that low levels of vitamin D may be linked to depression symptoms.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a situational mood disorder caused by decreasing daylight in the winter months. High doses of vitamin D during winter have been proven to be a very effective natural remedy for SAD.

Vitamin D and Pregnancy

In a very recent study, published in September 2010, researchers from the CHA University, School of Medicine in Seoul stated that an adequate vitamin D intake is essential for the health of the mother and child during pregnancy, and there is sufficient evidence that many pregnant women have low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus and an increased risk for C-section delivery. Vitamin D has also been proved to decrease the risk of infection and improve the length of gestation, and infant bone mineralization.

Vitamin D and Kids

Vitamin D plays an incredibly important role when it comes to the growth and development of children. In an extreme case, vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a disease that results in soft, weak bones in children. But there are other cases such as impaired brain function and asthma in kids that have been linked to vitamin D deficiency.

A study published in April 2008 by the researchers from the Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, showed that vitamin D is vital for the brain development of children because of the wide distribution of vitamin D receptors throughout the brain. Hence, adequate levels of vitamin D have been shown to improve memory, learning ability and concentration.

A recent study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that asthma symptoms may be worse for children who had low vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D plays a critical role in all body functions, helping many systems including the immune, nervous and respiratory system. In order to enjoy the wonderful benefits of Vitamin D, such as healthy bones, lower cancer risks and better mood, make sure you get your vitamin D levels checked, take the appropriate dosage for your specific needs and also enjoy moderate sun exposure several times a week, weather permitting.

Vitamin D testing is available at the Wellness Naturopathic Centre.

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.

Cinnamon Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Cinnamon is a delectable spice and much more. It has a long history of therapeutic use. In ancient times cinnamon was even considered more precious than gold. Some cultures used it in meat preservation, recognizing its ability to stop bacterial growth. Besides its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, new research reveals that cinnamon is very effective in lowering blood sugar levels.
The effect of cinnamon on blood sugar levels was discovered by accident by USDA researchers in Maryland. While testing the effects of various foods on blood glucose levels, the researchers found out that the classic apple pie which is traditionally flavored with cinnamon paradoxically helped lower blood glucose levels instead of increasing it. Encouraged by these findings, further studies on cinnamon were done.
In a 2007 study conducted at Malmö University Hospital in Sweden, the effects of cinnamon on gastric emptying rate and blood sugar levels in healthy subjects were revealed. Researchers measured how quickly the stomach emptied after 14 volunteers ate 300 grams of rice pudding alone or seasoned with 6 grams of cinnamon. The cinnamon appeared to slow down stomach emptying  and blood glucose levels were notably lower in those who ate the pudding with the added cinnamon.
In another study in Pakistan, researchers demonstrated the effects of cinnamon on patients with type 2 diabetes. Subjects with type 2 diabetes were given cinnamon supplements in different dosages: one, three or six grams per day. Within weeks the results revealed that that cinnamon supplementation considerably reduced the level of blood glucose and cholesterol levels in subjects as compared to the placebo group. This led to the conclusion that cinnamon is beneficial in the treatment of patients with type 2 diabetes as well as reducing the risk factors associated with diabetes including the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Another double-blind study conducted by French researchers in 2009 revealed that in the case of overweight people with impaired fasting glucose, cinnamon supplementation could reduce the risk factors associated with diabetes. Cinnamon also helps to improve the diabetic patients’ ability to respond to insulin and normalize their blood glucose levels. By helping reduce insulin resistance, cinnamon can also aid in weight loss.
More studies are under way to show the powerful effect of cinnamon on blood sugar. In the meantime, go ahead sprinkle some of this aromatic spice on your toast, porridge, stir fries, hot cocoa or simply drink it as a nice warming tea!
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.