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Is Your Digestive System Working Properly?

Digestion 101
There's so much that can go wrong with our digestion these days. Millions of prescriptions are written for proton pump inhibitors, acid blockers, antibiotics and more. Plus, more than 500,000 gallbladders are removed every year (mostly unnecessarily!). There are a few simple measures you can take to improve your digestion. Let's work through them. 

Digestion 101

How Digestion Works

Digestion begins in the brain when we smell food. This triggers salivary enzymes. Then, we slowly (hopefully) chew our food, and the stomach breaks it down with ample amounts of hydrochloric acid (HCl). Proper amounts of HCl break down the food, kill pathogens, parasites, bacteria and breaks down proteins. Then, the food moves into the small intestine where fats are broken down and absorbed, the pancreas sends out enzymes and bicarbonate, then it moves into the large intestine where bile and saliva are reabsorbed, feces are formed and peristalsis moves the bowels. This is how it's supposed to happen.

What Can Go Wrong?

If you are not in a state of relaxation when eating (or parasympathetic mode), you simply can not digest food properly. We need to be in Rest & Digest mode first. This means, no more eating on the run, in the car, while working, watching the news, or doing ANYTHING that stimulates the nervous system. Take a deep breath or take a moment to be grateful for your meal. Put down your fork in between bites and chew your food a minimum of 20-30 times until you swallow. If you don't have enough stomach acid (and it declines as we age), your food will sit in your stomach and ferment or off gas. This creates pressure on the lower esophageal valve and causes the small amounts of acid that is in the stomach to be expelled into the esophagus creating heartburn or reflux. The conventional notion is to take antacids, which can provide temporary relief, but it doesn't fix the problem of low stomach acid and prevents your food from being broken down for digestion. Some acid blockers and PPI's work for up to 24 hours - suppressing acid for each and every meal! You can take HCl acid supplements slowly to build up the acid in your stomach. (See a Health Practitioner for help with this) But do realize that taking acid blockers and antacids are for short-term relief and were never meant for long-term use. Without proper pH levels in the stomach, pathogenic organisms can thrive and wreak havoc on the GI tract!
The next concern is that when undigested food enters the small intestine, it can impact the microvilli. The lining becomes "leaky" and allows proteins and fat to pass through the gut in larger sizes, which overwhelms the immune system. The body views these as invaders and develops antigens to them - triggering autoimmunity and food allergies! Another concern is a low-fat diet. This creates atrophy in the gallbladder. (Remember the fat-free mantra of the 80's and 90's?) It's time to add some healthy fat back into our diets. Maldigested foods, fats, and parasites can be jammed into the large intestine now and disrupt the gut flora - our microbiome of 700 million pets! This can weaken the cells of the colon, cause diverticulitis, IBS, Crohn's, IBD, Celiac, and/or colitis - all exacerbated by gut dysfunction.

What Can You Do?

There are so many avenues of dysfunction in the gut, but there are many simple things you can do to repair it. Chewing slowly, being present for your meals, and making sure you have enough HCl acid in your stomach is a good start. Drinking beet juice can thin bile fluid if you've been eating low-fat or have trouble breaking down fats in your diet (you would notice fatty stools and/or have an autoimmune disease). Simple supplements like digestive enzymes, HCl, and certain foods can help repair a dysfunctional gut.

If you're suffering from gut issues, set up a Nutrition Therapy Consultation - a 90-minute consultation with a 30-minute follow up or the Leaky Gut Program - to discuss methods of repairing your digestive tract.

10 Things You Can Do To Reduce Your Cancer Risk

10 Things You Can Do Now To Reduce Your Cancer Risk

10 Things to Reduce Your Cancer Risk

October means fall and usually cool weather and shades of orange, brown and gold leaves litter the ground.  But, look around and you'll see magazines, retail stores, sports teams, and Facebook pages are laden with pink ribbons as this month is known as Breast Cancer Awareness month. We are all pretty darn aware of this nasty, prevalent disease. Cancer is expected to affect 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in their lifetime, and every day, nearly 1,600 Americans die from cancer. 1.6 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year!
I think a few of the charities may be worthy causes, but I would prefer to see more money being spent on prevention and not poisonous "cures."

I wanted to share some tips that can help reduce your exposure to toxins that may be contributing to your exposure. If we can mitigate our risk, we can turn off the genes you may be carrying that can "express" themselves as cancerous. Of course, there are no guarantees, but I'm going to do everything in my power to decrease my risk. With a family history of cancer stacked against me, you can bet I'm going to be as proactive as possible to fight this disease.

As you'll surely be asked to donate this month to "race for a cure" or slap on a pink ribbon, there are better, more powerful things we can do for our health. We need to ask our government for stricter regulations on our food, our personal care products, cleaning products, access to cleaner water, and decrease the amount of chemicals in our environment. If we can work more to reduce the CAUSE, we can work to reduce the number of deaths.

 10 Things You Can Do To Reduce Your Cancer Risk:

  1. Reduce your sugar intake. Cancer feeds on sugar and it promotes cancer cell growth. Look at food ingredient labels and reduce consuming products made with High Fructose Corn Syrup, sugar, dextrose, maltodextrin, malitol, fructose, sucrose, sorbitol, Splenda, Equal and simple carbohydrate foods (like white bread and pasta) that can spike insulin levels. Try to keep sugar levels below 25 grams a day, which includes fruit. Add in a glass of water with a lemon or lime instead of that sugar-laden soda.
  2. Eat more Veggies! Specifically, dark leafy greens like kale, collards, broccoli, and spinach. Aim for a serving at each meal. (Read my post on incorporating more veggies here.)

  3. Eat more berries, onions, mushrooms, seeds. Berries have loads of antioxidants and prevent DNA damage that leads to cancer. Eating more beans increases your fiber intake, which can lowers colon cancer risk and more fiber lowers breast cancer risks. Eating onions, garlic, shallots and leeks result in lower digestive cancers. Mushrooms contain substances that have anti-cancer properties and compounds that block estrogen production. Some seeds — sesame, chia and flax in particular — are rich in lignans, plant estrogens that protect against breast cancer; in one fascinating study, women were given flaxseeds daily after being diagnosed with breast cancer and reduced growth and increased death of their tumor cells was found after just 4-5 weeks.

  4. Smoking and alcohol use increase your risk for certain cancers, including second-hand smoke. Take steps to quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake. One drink per day increases your cancer risk by 7-10%!

  5. Reduce the amount of meat you eat. Consuming more animal protein and especially dairy products raises blood levels of IGF-1, and elevated IGF-1 levels have been associated with increased in breast cancer risk in many studies. Choose grass-fed, pastured meats if you're going to eat meat.
  6. Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins. Look beyond air pollution and start reading the labels of products you put on your body. Many personal care products contain harmful parabens, neurotoxins and chemicals that cause cancer. Inspect your kitchen for BPA-containing plastics and stop using non-stick coated cookware (which contains PFOA). Stop using chemicals to treat your lawn and pesticides to kill bugs and find more natural ways to address these issues. Household cleaners are also full of cancer-causing chemicals. Use baking soda, vinegar or plant-based enzyme cleaners to clean your house.

  7. Choose Organic when possible. Buy organic versions of produce listed on the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. Source local farms for hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat. Visit www.localharvest.org for farmer's markets and www.eatwild.com to find a grass-fed farm near you. Conventional beef contains industrial carcinogens, such as dioxins, which accumulate in fatty tissues of beef and chicken.

  8. Reduce exposure to excess estrogen. Don't take hormone replacement therapy, reduce your consumption of soy products, and consider breastfeeding for two years (which lowers estrogen levels).

  9. Maintain a healthy body weight. Higher weight levels means more estrogen, which means a higher increase in breast cancer risk. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.

  10. Consider adding in superfoods and superherbs to your daily regimen. Along with Vitamin D and Omega 3's, superfoods such as spirulina, gogi berries, aloe vera, hemp seed, raw cacao, bee products, maca and medicinal herbs can promote nutritional health.

When all else fails and you don't know what to eat or how to incorporate spirulina into your diet, give me a call and let's set up a time to have a Health Strategy Session! I'd love to support you in reaching your health goals!