Importance of Limiting Pesticide Exposure by Eating Organic

Eating fresh vegetables and fruits is all well and good, but there’s a catch. Most of us are not aware of the pesticides and chemicals that go into our food production process. Chances are that what you consider to be healthy might just be killing you. Commonly used pesticides like organophosphates are neurotoxins that can be terribly harmful to your body. Other chemicals like phthalates are endocrine disruptors that can also cause severe harm to your reproductive, nervous, and other body systems.

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to eat whole food that has zero exposure to these chemicals in today’s food supply, but a little is much better than a LOT.  Researchers have found that eating a completely organic diet can reduce your pesticide exposure by 90%. These pesticides have ghastly effects on your body. Some of which can be hard to shake while others can be managed by an altered diet.

Eating fresh vegetables and fruits is all well and good, but there’s a catch. Most of us are not aware of the pesticides and chemicals that go into our food production process. Chances are that what you consider to be healthy might just be killing you. Commonly used pesticides like organophosphates are neurotoxins can be terribly harmful to your body. Other chemicals like phthalates are endocrine disruptors can also cause severe harm to your reproductive, nervous, and other body systems.

Here are some frequently used pesticides and what they might be doing to your body:

Organophosphates and Carbamates

Exposure to these pesticides causes increased salivation and perspiration. It can also cause narrowing of the pupils, nausea, diarrhea, decrease in blood pressure, muscle weakness and fatigue. The symptoms fade after the exposure to these chemicals decreases. Some pesticides of this variety also have a delayed neurological reaction which causes weakness in muscles and arms.

Chlorpyrifos

Created in the 1960s, this pesticide has been around for a while. Once used in home gardening they have now found their way into cotton, almonds, oranges, and even corn crops. This pesticide can cause a number of ill effects in the body. From a mild headache to an increased risk for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to much more serious conditions like respiratory paralysis.

Pyrethyroids

Exposure to these chemicals can cause aggression, uncoordinated behavior, whole-body tremors, and seizures. Skin exposure can also cause allergic responses, cancer or even developmental defects.

Glyphosate

The active ingredient in the popular weed killer called RoundUp, glyphosate is designed by the seed makers for use on genetically modified soy, corn, canola, cotton and in parks. Its residue has become ubiquitous and has even been discovered in the Mississippi basin. Its ill-effects include neurological disorders, birth defects, infertility, and is a known carcinogen. There are some serious issues that one should be worried about when eating foods laden with pesticides. You should be aware of the following:

Memory Loss

A review from the University College London concluded that low levels of pesticide exposure can cause cognitive impairment. It can affect memory, the speed with which you process information, and higher brain functions like long-term planning.

Diabetes

Tolyfluanid, a fungicide used on crops, can increase insulin resistance in cells. This can accelerate the development of diabetes and may be contributing to the national epidemic that is happening right now.  It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2020.

Cancer

There are more than 260 studies linking pesticides with cancer like lymphoma, leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma in a wide-range of tissues including breast, brain, prostate, bone cancers among others.  There are many resources explaining these risks and all of the package inserts of these pesticides have warnings about the potential of cancer from exposure to these chemicals.

Parkinson’s Disease

Over 60 studies have identified a strong correlation between long-term exposure to herbicides and pesticides with Parkinson’s disease. The only way to avoid this is to eat food that has no traces of pesticides in them at all.

Developmental Diseases

Leading autism researchers believe that there is a link between pollutants and genes causing autism. Insecticides usually kill bugs by disrupting their neurological functioning. The same thing seems to be happening in children. A 2010 Harvard study found that children with organophosphate pesticide breakdown materials are more likely to have ADHD.

How is Organic Food Different?

Organically grown vegetables, fruits, and grains do not use pesticides, chemical fertilizers or any other chemicals to support their growth. This means the growing food process utilizes natural fertilizers such as manure and compost. It is important that animal products are also organic as these animals should be reared on organic feed (not treated with growth hormones) and allowed regular access to the outdoors. Organic produce is clearly labeled, and this is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture.

There is emerging research that organic food has a higher percentage of antioxidants. This is because plants produce a large percentage of their antioxidant compounds to fight against pest attacks. Supplementing their growth with chemical pesticides only inhibits their ability to grow the compounds we eat these food items for. Moreover, food grown this way is far safer for the environment while also being safer to consume. Be it plants or animals, organically reared food is undeniably better for the body and keeps you safe from ingesting harmful chemicals. Most would argue that it tastes much better as well.

Summary

Eating organic food is the best way for you to limit your exposure to pesticides and dangerous chemicals. While it may seem more costly, it is definitely a cheaper option to the health risks of ingesting chemical-laced food. There are a number of health risks that have been identified as being associated with pesticides as mentioned above. Many Americans are realizing the value of prevention being better than cure and shifting to an organic lifestyle in droves.

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to eat whole food that has zero exposure to these chemicals in today’s food supply, but a little is much better than a LOT.  Researchers have found that eating a completely organic diet can reduce your pesticide exposure by 90%. These pesticides have ghastly effects on your body. Some of which can be hard to shake while others can be managed by an altered diet.

Here are some frequently used pesticides and what they might be doing to your body:

Organophosphates and Carbamates

Exposure to these pesticides causes increased salivation and perspiration. It can also cause narrowing of the pupils, nausea, diarrhea, decrease in blood pressure, muscle weakness and fatigue. The symptoms fade after the exposure to these chemicals decreases. Some pesticides of this variety also have a delayed neurological reaction which causes weakness in muscles and arms.

Chlorpyrifos

Created in the 1960s, this pesticide has been around for a while. Once used in home gardening they have now found their way into cotton, almonds, oranges, and even corn crops. This pesticide can cause a number of ill effects in the body. From a mild headache to an increased risk for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to much more serious conditions like respiratory paralysis.

Pyrethyroids

Exposure to these chemicals can cause aggression, uncoordinated behavior, whole-body tremors, and seizures. Skin exposure can also cause allergic responses, cancer or even developmental defects.

Glyphosate

The active ingredient in the popular weed killer called RoundUp, glyphosphate is designed by the seed makers for use on genetically modified soy, corn, canola, cotton and in parks. Its residue has become ubiquitous and has even been discovered in the Mississippi basin. Its ill-effects include neurological disorders, birth defects, infertility, and is a known carcinogen. There are some serious issues that one should be worried about when eating foods laden with pesticides. You should be aware of the following:

Memory Loss

A review from the University College London concluded that low level of pesticide exposure can cause cognitive impairment. It can affect memory, the speed with which you process information, and higher brain functions like long-term planning.

Diabetes

Tolyfluanid, a fungicide used on crops, can increase insulin resistance in cells. This can accelerate the development of diabetes and may be contributing to the national epidemic that is happening right now.  It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2020.

Cancer

There are more than 260 studies linking pesticides with cancer like lymphoma, leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma in a wide-range of tissues including breast, brain, prostate, bone cancers among others.  There are many resources explaining these risks and all of the package inserts of these pesticides have warnings about the potential of cancer from exposure to these chemicals.

Parkinson’s Disease

Over 60 studies have identified a strong correlation between long-term exposure to herbicides and pesticides with Parkinson’s disease. The only way to avoid this is to eat food that has no traces of pesticides in them at all.

Developmental Diseases

Leading autism researchers believe that there is link between pollutants and genes causing autism. Insecticides usually kill bugs by disrupting their neurological functioning. The same thing seems to be happening in children. A 2010 Harvard study found that children with organophosphate pesticide breakdown materials are more likely to have ADHD.

How is Organic Food Different?

Organically grown vegetables, fruits, and grains do not use pesticides, chemical fertilizers or any other chemicals to support their growth. This means the growing food process utilizes natural fertilizers such as manure and compost. It is important that animal products are also organic as these animals should be reared on organic feed (not treated with growth hormones) and allowed regular access to the outdoors. Organic produce is clearly labeled, and this is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture.

There is emerging research that organic food has a higher percentage of antioxidants. This is because plants produce a large percentage of their antioxidant compounds to fight against pest attacks. Supplementing their growth with chemical pesticides only inhibits their ability to grow the compounds we eat these food items for. Moreover, food grown this way is far safer for the environment while also being safer to consume. Be it plants or animals, organically reared food is undeniably better for the body and keeps you safe from ingesting harmful chemicals. Most would argue that it tastes much better as well.

Summary

Eating organic food is the best way for you to limit your exposure to pesticides and dangerous chemicals. While it may seem more costly, it is definitely a cheaper option to the health risks of ingesting chemical-laced food. There are a number of health risks that have been identified as being associated with pesticides as mentioned above. Many Americans are realizing the value of prevention being better than cure and shifting to an organic lifestyle in droves.

13 health benefits of a plant-based diet

A plant-based diet is primarily one that is based on plant products, which includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, legumes, nuts, with minimal or no inclusions of animal products. There are many different types of plant-based diets but they all feature foods with great health benefits.

A plant-based diet is primarily one that is based on plant products, which includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, legumes, nuts, with minimal or no inclusions of animal products. There are many different types of plant-based diets but they all feature foods with great health benefits.

Those who follow this type of diet also avoid plant fragments such as refined flour, sugar, oil or junk food and focus on consuming the whole plant or only minimally processed versions thereof.

Major health benefits

Lowers blood pressure

People following a plant-based diet have better control on their blood pressure as their diet consists of mostly potassium-rich foods. Potassium is an excellent nutrient for good blood pressure health.  Almost all whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and all fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of potassium and Vitamin B6, which help lower blood pressure. On the contrary, meat and most animal foods contain little to no potassium and actually raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels when consumed regularly.

Euglycemia- control of blood sugar levels

A plant-based diet incorporates ingredients that are rich in fiber content, and the best and easiest way to fight high blood sugar is to consume more fiber. Fiber in your diet slows down the absorption of sugars in the bloodstream, which in turn helps to control blood sugar. Many dieticians are correct when they counsel patients not to drink fruit juices. However people that make their own fruit juices that include the fibrous portion of the fruit with no added sugar should be encouraged to continue doing so.

Lowers Cholesterol

Since “bad” cholesterol is primarily due to animal proteins, embracing plant-based foods is the simplest way to control cholesterol levels. Plants contain no cholesterol; not even the saturated sources such as coconut and cacao. If you don’t put it in, you don’t have to control it.

Weight management

Conventional approaches to weight loss like formal exercise programs and calorie counting are flawed in many ways- they don’t address the root causes of the weight problem. For people that can follow a plant-based diet, losing and managing weight is a cinch. Weight loss occurs naturally when you consume most of your calories more from fiber, vitamins, and minerals than animal fats and proteins. People that follow a plant-based diet can easily lose weight without depriving or starving themselves and don’t have to worry about taking on formal exercising programs if their existing activity level is vigorous enough. As the number of meat-substitutes increase and get tastier, our nation of meat-loving sick people will naturally become plant-loving healthy people!!

Improves heart health

Several studies and emerging research has shown that higher intake of plant-based foods lowers the chances of cardiovascular diseases. For those who are already suffering from heart diseases, switching to a plant-based diet can help reverse or get rid of heart disease completely. Atherosclerotic diseases are most common and there is no more effective treatment than a plant-based diet. Don’t want to take expensive pills anymore? Use the money you’ll save on prescriptions to buy good, clean, organic whole foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts) and watch your coronary artery disease melt away.

Good for your gut

If you follow a fiber-rich plant-based diet, and choose foods high in resistant-starches, which come mostly from whole foods like grains, seeds, and legumes, it facilitates the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, thus helping you reap the benefits of a harmonious microbiome. If you’re not making nice fluffy, voluminous stool, your gut health is in serious trouble.

Healthy vision

It is a well-known fact that the vitamin A in carrots aids vision. Your eyes will definitely thank you for a plant-based diet rich in spinach, kale, corn, squash, kiwi and grapes. The lutein and zeaxanthin pigments present in these foods help to prevent cataract and macular degeneration. In fact, even colorful fruits and vegetables as well as leafy greens are packed with antioxidants that are vital for good eye health.

Excellent skin health

95% of common acne is due to your diet. When you cut back on chemical-rich foods and animal products, you stop clogging the pores that lead to acne. The vitamins, pigments, and phytochemicals present in fruits and vegetables in a plant-based diet leave you no choice but to have healthy skin. For example, the lycopene in tomatoes protects your skin from sun damage and the vitamin C in sweet potatoes helps smoothen wrinkles by stimulating collagen production. Your favorite skin-care companies cannot patent naturally occurring elements that are contained in whole fruits and vegetables.

Helps in cancer treatment

There is strong evidence that whole food and plant-based eating is the best protection and one of the best dietary choices complementing conventional cancer treatment. Your doctors should be strongly recommending plant-based diets as part of your cancer treatment.  Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet will give you the best chance to recover from even the rarest cancers.

Improves brain health

Emerging evidence is overwhelmingly showing that diets based on legumes, grains, and healthy oils are associated with better brain health in older adults.  Those who favored fruits and vegetables had less brain shrinkage, linked with a reduced risk of cognitive decline. We don’t commonly come across vibrant people in their geriatric years, but the next time you do, ask them what type of food they’ve been eating throughout their life.

Lowers risks of hypothyroidism

Plant-based diets can help lower the risks of hypothyroidism. Depending on the root cause of your condition, a plant-based diet can help control and even CURE this condition while also offering all of the other benefits listed here.

Improves hormone health

A plant-based diet helps improve hormone health and relieves symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This diet is also known to treat infertility naturally and help heal polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Trying to have a baby? Make sure your doctors are giving you proper nutritional counseling.

Protects the environment

What is the most common source of dangerous greenhouse gases that deplete our ozone layer? It’s NOT trains, planes, and automobiles… It’s cattle!!! Furthermore, it takes an incredible 660 gallons of water to produce one hamburger!! We are currently on an unsustainable path to permanently damage our ozone layer and water supply. If you love Earth as much as we do, please reconsider your fast food choices and give veggie burgers and black-bean burgers a try- they’re delicious!!

Conclusion

A plant-based diet presents a host of health and environmental benefits.  It also comes packed with nutrients. It can be the most powerful asset in your overall well being and can even help reverse any chronic health issues that may have been troubling you for long. So, reduce your meat intake and choose a delicious plant-based food at your next meal for a healthier you!

We salute Dr. Michael Greger for his tireless work in promoting the medical benefits of a plant-based diet. His non-profit website, nutritionfacts.org, is easily the most plentiful resource on the topic and we encourage you to check out his tremendous entertaining and informative videos on the latest evidence for great nutrition.

Those who follow this type of diet also avoid plant fragments such as refined flour, sugar, oil or junk food and focus on consuming the whole plant or only minimally processed versions thereof.

Major health benefits

Lowers blood pressure

People following a plant-based diet have better control on their blood pressure as their diet consists of mostly potassium-rich foods. Potassium is an excellent nutrient for good blood pressure health.  Almost all whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and all fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of potassium and Vitamin B6, which help lower blood pressure. On the contrary, meat and most animal foods contain little to no potassium and actually raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels when consumed regularly.

Euglycemia- control of blood sugar levels

A plant-based diet incorporates ingredients that are rich in fiber content, and the best and easiest way to fight high blood sugar is to consume more fiber. Fiber in your diet slows down the absorption of sugars in the bloodstream, which in turn helps to control blood sugar. Many dieticians are correct when they counsel patients not to drink fruit juices. However people that make their own fruit juices that include the fibrous portion of the fruit with no added sugar should be encouraged to continue doing so.

Lowers Cholesterol

Since “bad” cholesterol is primarily due to animal proteins, embracing plant-based foods is the simplest way to control cholesterol levels. Plants contain no cholesterol; not even the saturated sources such as coconut and cacao. If you don’t put it in, you don’t have to control it.

Weight management

Conventional approaches to weight loss like formal exercise programs and calorie counting are flawed in many ways- they don’t address the root causes of the weight problem. For people that can follow a plant-based diet, losing and managing weight is a cinch. Weight loss occurs naturally when you consume most of your calories more from fiber, vitamins, and minerals than animal fats and proteins. People that follow a plant-based diet can easily lose weight without depriving or starving themselves and don’t have to worry about taking on formal exercising programs if their existing activity level is vigorous enough. As the number of meat-substitutes increase and get tastier, our nation of meat-loving sick people will naturally become plant-loving healthy people!!

Improves heart health

Several studies and emerging research has shown that higher intake of plant-based foods lowers the chances of cardiovascular diseases. For those who are already suffering from heart diseases, switching to a plant-based diet can help reverse or get rid of heart disease completely. Atherosclerotic diseases are most common and there is no more effective treatment than a plant-based diet. Don’t want to take expensive pills anymore? Use the money you’ll save on prescriptions to buy good, clean, organic whole foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts) and watch your coronary artery disease melt away.

Good for your gut

If you follow a fiber-rich plant-based diet, and choose foods high in resistant-starches, which come mostly from whole foods like grains, seeds, and legumes, it facilitates the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, thus helping you reap the benefits of a harmonious microbiome. If you’re not making nice fluffy, voluminous stool, your gut health is in serious trouble.

Healthy vision

It is a well-known fact that the vitamin A in carrots aids vision. Your eyes will definitely thank you for a plant-based diet rich in spinach, kale, corn, squash, kiwi and grapes. The lutein and zeaxanthin pigments present in these foods help to prevent cataract and macular degeneration. In fact, even colorful fruits and vegetables as well as leafy greens are packed with antioxidants that are vital for good eye health.

Excellent skin health

95% of common acne is due to your diet. When you cut back on chemical-rich foods and animal products, you stop clogging the pores that lead to acne. The vitamins, pigments, and phytochemicals present in fruits and vegetables in a plant-based diet leave you no choice but to have healthy skin. For example, the lycopene in tomatoes protects your skin from sun damage and the vitamin C in sweet potatoes helps smoothen wrinkles by stimulating collagen production. Your favorite skin-care companies cannot patent naturally occuring elements that are contained in whole fruits and vegetables.

Helps in cancer treatment

There is strong evidence that whole food and plant-based eating is the best protection and one of the best dietary choices complementing conventional cancer treatment. Your doctors should be strongly recommending plant-based diets as part of your cancer treatment.  Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet will give you the best chance to recover from even the rarest cancers.

Improves brain health

Emerging evidence is overwhelmingly showing that diets based on legumes, grains, and healthy oils are associated with better brain health in older adults.  Those who favored fruits and vegetables had less brain shrinkage, linked with a reduced risk of cognitive decline. We don’t commonly come across vibrant people in their geriatric years, but the next time you do, ask them what type of food they’ve been eating throughout their life.

Lowers risks of hypothyroidism

Plant-based diets can help lower the risks of hypothyroidism. Depending on the root cause of your condition, a plant-based diet can help control and even CURE this condition while also offering all of the other benefits listed here.

Improves hormone health

A plant-based diet helps improve hormone health and relieves symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This diet is also known to treat infertility naturally and help heal polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Trying to have a baby? Make sure your doctors are giving you proper nutritional counseling.

Protects the environment

What is the most common source of dangerous greenhouse gases that deplete our ozone layer? It’s NOT trains, planes, and automobiles… It’s cattle!!! Furthermore, it takes an incredible 660 gallons of water to produce one hamburger!! We are currently on an unsustainable path to permanently damage our ozone layer and water supply. If you love Earth as much as we do, please reconsider your fast food choices and give veggie burgers and black-bean burgers a try- they’re delicious!!

Conclusion

A plant-based diet presents a host of health and environmental benefits.  It also comes packed with nutrients. It can be the most powerful asset in your overall wellbeing and can even help reverse any chronic health issues that may have been troubling you for long. So, reduce your meat intake and choose a delicious plant-based food at your next meal for a healthier you!

We salute Dr. Michael Greger for his tireless work in promoting the medical benefits of a plant-based diet. His non-profit website, nutritionfacts.org, is easily the most plentiful resource on the topic and we encourage you to check out his tremendous entertaining and informative videos on the latest evidence for great nutrition.

9 Evidence-based Reasons Why Transcendental Meditation Is Great for You

Stress is something that nearly everyone is struggling with. Too many people complain of being stressed out, be it at work, in relationships, or with their own health issues. Transcendental meditation (TM) has been found to be one of the most effective ways to relieve stress and calm the mind. It has a myriad of benefits, including enhanced clarity of mind, better concentration and improved communication skills. With regular practice, it is believed that the physiology of our body changes and each cell is filled with more energy.  Here are some key benefits of doing TM regularly:

Boosts immunity

Our immune system is directly related to our brain. This means that the brain transmits our thoughts and moods to the immune system. So, the more positive your brain is, the stronger your immunity. This is helpful for patients dealing with major illnesses like cancer, who are struggling with compromised immunity. Regular TM enhances the body’s ability to fight against disease before it can make you sick.

Lowers blood pressure levels

The two most common stress-related diseases gripping our current generations are high blood pressure and diabetes. TM reduces blood pressure and blood sugar levels among many other beneficial effects not-to-mention it also increases the threshold for anxiety attacks. If not treated properly, high BP and sugar levels can lead to major health issues. It is therefore best to make TM a daily habit to help keep your body in its best state of balance through regular practice. The American Heart Association recommends TM as first-line therapy in controlling pre-hypertension and Stage 1 hypertension (pharmaceuticals should be considered for Stage 2). Very few primary care practitioners and cardiologists are aware of these recommendations, (Hypertension, Beyond Medications and Diet: Alternative Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure, volume 61, number 6).

Increases fertility

Increased stress is known to decrease sperm count and motility. Women who are under intermittent duress are said to produce hormones like cortisol and prolactin, both of which interfere with regular ovulation. Since TM helps alleviate stress, it is beneficial for couples who are looking to conceive.

Fights depression

The incidence of depression is rising higher than ever before American society. Many studies show that TM increases the serotonin levels in the body, which in turn helps to improve mood and behavior. Modern mental health practitioners are using a mindful meditation as treatment for their depressed patients with outstanding results. With the complicated side-effect profiles of conventional pharmaceutical therapy, TM is being recognized as increasingly effective in treating mental illnesses without any side effects. How often can your doctor prescribe a pharmaceutical drug without side effects?

Relieves tension-related aches

TM also helps patients deal with stress-related pain including migraine headaches, ulcers, muscles and joint problems. These conditions can even be cured in many cases by using TM. Emerging research shows that TM improves pain by modulating the parts of the brain that are responsible for pain processing.

Improves sleep patterns

Insomnia has gripped half the population and so many people out there struggle to sleep peacefully. Regular TM helps subside thought waves, which are responsible for sleeplessness. In addition to this, it also helps to relax the body and release tension, thus ensuring a peaceful state of mind in which sleep comes effortlessly.

Helps with inflammation

Stress leads the way to inflammation, a condition associated with heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin disorders such as psoriasis. Evidence shows that TM can prevent and treat these symptoms by reducing stress. As crazy as it may sound, TM has been shown to reduce inflammation!

Relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

If patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome start to practice TM, their symptoms of diarrhea, bloating, and constipation can improve considerably. Studies show that relaxing the body with the help of meditation is an easy, inexpensive way to improve the clinical outcomes and general well-being of patients suffering from IBS.

Enhances focus and concentration

TM sharpens the mind by improving focus and attention. It is particularly beneficial for school and college-going students. Improvement in concentration and focus helps in reducing age-related memory loss, thereby making it important for the older ones of the population too.

Start today!

To experience the benefits of transcendental meditation, training and regular practice is a must. Remember, even a few minutes of deep relaxation daily can work wonders for your overall well-being.  It’s time to ditch the excuses and get meditating for a healthier and happier you! Visit http://tm.org for more information and to learn about certified training centers near you.

Eat POOP and Live!! The Human Microbiome

Microbial Minions

When you think of the most important organ in your body, what comes to your mind? Probably the brain, or maybe the heart and lungs. If damaged, these are, after all, the ultra-sensitive organs that allow us to survive not even a few moments without. But what if there was an organ that affected our body in an even more systemic capacity, from the moment you’re born, throughout your life. This organ can change the course of your future health, affect the way you develop acute or chronic diseases, and help or hinder the digestion of every morsel of food you ever eat. And perhaps the most amazing thing about this organ is that it isn’t even human. It is the human microbiome, and it’s made up of the more than 30 trillion bacterial cells living in and on every surface of your body. Your excrement is a by-product of your microbiome and pretty much every time we take a breath or put anything else into our body, we are inserting more bacteria into it. An American’s greatest challenge is to eat healthy bacteria that can strengthen the microbiome.

Functions of the Microbiome

Germaphobic readers might be squirming in their seats right now, but the truth is, your microbiome or natural flora, is incredibly vital to the way your body works. Not only do they synthesize vitamins and break down complex carbohydrates in your gut, they also help train your immune system to recognize pathogens. They take up prime real estate in mucous membranes like your mouth, airways, and even your eyes to help prevent pathogenic bacteria from gaining a foothold and causing infection. A lot of research is now being done to look at the effects that the microbiome can have on our genetics. Increasing evidence is demonstrating that different populations of bacteria can toggle the genes and metabolic pathways that can raise or lower your risk for different diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even more mundane conditions like allergies and heartburn.

One of the things that makes the study of the microbiome very difficult is how individual each person’s microbiome is. The variances in populations and amount of the different species of bacteria from person to person are immense, and beyond the individual variances, the diversity in species varies greatly based on anatomy. This would be expected if you were looking at, say skin vs gut microbes, but studies have shown that even the difference between the microbes colonizing the forearm and elbow is significant. All of this complexity can make setting up experiments and studies extremely difficult. Fortunately, the recent advent of big data processing is helping scientists keep things straight and even the most nascent results of this work are revolutionizing our approach to managing health.

So What is Poop Anyway?

Poop, also known as stool, feces, defecate, manure, muck, poo, kaka and many more colorful names, has a vital role in your body’s function. It is produced primarily from the microbiome of the lower intestinal tract. When normal and healthy it is about 90%+ bacteria with the remainder being partially digested food suspended by water and soluble fibers.* It is an excellent marker of overall health and there are entire professions dedicated to the study of it. Understanding the Bristol Stool Scale can help you keep an eye on your stool health. Problems with defecation can lead to significant discomfort, pain, and even death. Simply stated, the flow of your poop is directly proportional to your very ability to stay alive and healthy, so don’t be too shy to take a look at it every time you go.

Microbiome from Birth

Research is being done, and although we’re only scratching the surface, what has been discovered so far about the effect that the microbiome has on our health and the health of our children, is nothing short of incredible. Starting with our mother’s microbiome this non-human organ has a huge impact on our health. Studies have shown that mothers with a healthier, more robust gut microbiome will pass some of this diversity on to their baby in utero. These children tend to have activation of metabolic pathways in the gut that lead to a healthier life with a lower risk of diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic diseases – this is of course ignoring any future lifestyle choices. Even the method of delivery of a child (C-section vs vaginal) can also have a tremendous impact on this.

A study conducted in Venezuela looked at the microbial populations of newborn babies who were born vaginally vs those born via C-section. The naturally born babies had larger proportions of microbes commonly found in the gut, which they had acquired while moving through their mother’s vaginal tract. The C-section babies were found to have mostly skin associated bacteria on them, since they were removed directly from the uterus and did not get to pass through their mothers’ microbial population. A later study followed children to adulthood and found that the babies born via C-section were more likely to suffer from childhood obesity, Celiac disease (gluten sensitivity), asthma, and allergies. While there are certainly many factors that contribute to this, the study was controlled enough that researchers believe the initial colonization of microbes is a significant part. A great TED talk by Robert Knight elaborates further on this and can be found here.

The Microbiome and Immunity

Not only does the microbiome play a role in chronic illnesses, it’s also essential during acute periods of infection as well. Clostridium difficile (C. diff) has become one of news television’s superstars in recent years. It is a particularly nasty bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics and take up residence in the gut. When the normal microbiome has been disrupted enough (by antibiotics), they have a huge party in the gut overtaking a chunk of of it and eventually growing out of control. These infections are particularly difficult to eradicate, causing severe diarrhea, fever, nausea, and in severe cases kidney failure and even death. Even after the infection has been treated, it has a high recurrence rate (1 out of every 5 infected patients). For decades, standard treatment for C. diff infection has been antibiotics, however, fecal transplant is becoming increasingly common in the treatment of particularly stubborn infections. Yes, this is pretty much what it sounds like: fecal material is collected from a healthy patient (often a relative of the patient since microbiomes of those who live together tend to share more similarities) and transplanted to the affected patients GI tract by one of several methods (don’t ask). These treatments have had much more dramatic results than standard antibiotic treatment in many patients, relieving months of almost constant diarrhea in days or even hours. This relief is due to the reestablishment of a healthier microbiome, which can bring the out of control C. diff back in check. You should never underestimate the value of poop.

Steps for Good Poop Health

There are tons of articles on the web supporting this topic, but here is our “quick list” of recommendations:

  1. Water- stay hydrated
  2. Fiber- eat whole foods, stay away from processed foods
  3. Activity- ideally exercise, but even simply walking 40 minutes a day and moving around during your routine activities is better than being dormant
  4. Probiotics- are actually good bacteria: yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables
  5. Prebiotics- support the growth of bacteria: kimchi, raw garlic, raw onions, green tea
  6. Organic – eat organic food sources as much as possible and avoid all GMO (genetically modified organisms) products, hormones, and antibiotic-laden food
  7. Magnesium- promotes muscle activity
  8. Take your time- don’t be hasty when defecating, give your body a chance to do it’s business
  9. Position- squatting turns out to be the best position for defecation. Check out the Squatty Potty.
  10. Anxiety and other emotional stress can reduce the nervous function of your gastrointestinal tract
  11. When necessary, use natural laxatives and not chemicals- flaxseeds, whole foods, prunes, psyllium husk, aloe vera, and many, many, many others. Most of which are significantly cheaper than the over-the-counter aisle in the grocery store.
  12. AVOID ANTIBIOTICS!!! Both from your doctor and in the food that you eat (see #6)
How to Help Your Microbes

So since it is apparent that having a healthy microbiome is so incredibly important, what are some of the things we can do to help support it? Good nutrition certainly seems to be a large piece of the puzzle. You’ve probably seen products in the store such as yogurts labeled “probiotic”. These foods contain either cultures of gut microbes, or compounds that help those microbes to grow and flourish in the gut, and are commonly found in fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, or increasingly popular kombucha and other fermented drinks. The biggest enemy of the microbiome is antibiotics. This is NOT to say that if you have a bacterial infection you should not take antibiotics that are prescribed to you. However, inappropriate use of antibiotics is impacting our microbiomes as a whole. Even in a non-medical sense, livestock are often fed antibiotics, not only to treat illnesses that crop up in populations, but also at very low levels to help fatten them up. Since the antibiotics keep the populations of microbes in the animals guts low, they are competing with less organisms for the nutrients they eat and are able to grow fatter more quickly. Despite guidelines from the FDA about the amount of antibiotics allowed in our food by the time it gets to us, the meat and dairy products we buy in the supermarket often have more than the allowable amounts, exposing us to more antibiotics without our even realizing. Yes antibiotics have been linked to increased obesity in humans too!!

Being cognizant of the effects that the foods we eat have on our microbiome is essential to preserving its function. The bacteria of the microbiome are far more than just a group of hitchhikers, they are an essential component of our body, without which we literally could not survive. We are already beginning to see the effects of the stresses being put on the microbiome in the form of rapidly elevating numbers of people with diabetes, obesity, allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. As physicians, we often focus on the human factors that contribute to disease, but we have to make sure we don’t ignore the 50 trillion non-human factors as well. Help your doctor remember the importance of the microbiome in your care.

Only 1% of all the DNA in your body is actually yours. So the next time you’re standing at the mirror, take a really close look realize that you may not be who you always thought you were…

* Incidentally, insoluble fibers are not easily digested and often show up whole in your stool.

References

  1. Avril, Tom. “Hospitals Struggling against ‘C. Diff’ Bacteria.” Philly.com. N.p., 07 Oct. 2016. Web.
  2. Blaser, Martin J. Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues. New York City: Henry Holt & LLC, 2014. Print.
  3. Burling, Stacey. “Treatment of Last Resort for C. Difficile Infection.” Philly-archives. N.p., 07 Apr. 2014. Web.
  4. Enriquez, Juan, and Steve Gullans. Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation Are Changing Life on Earth. London: Oneworld Publications, 2016. Print.
  5. Turnbaugh, Peter J., Ruth E. Ley, Michael A. Mahowald, Vincent Magrini, Elaine R. Mardis, and Jeffrey I. Gordon. “An Obesity-associated Gut Microbiome with Increased Capacity for Energy Harvest.” Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 21 Dec. 2006. Web.

We’re Spilling our Guts on the Leaky Gut Syndrome

by Sara Emslie
Rashida Ghauri, MD, ABIHM
Baber Ghauri, MD, ABIHM

The number of food allergies and sensitivities has been on the rise in recent years. Everywhere products are advertised as “Soy Free”, “Nut Free”, “Dairy Free”, “Gluten Free”, and the list goes on and on. While some of these allergies are related to inappropriate immune responses or recognized conditions like Celiac or Crohn’s disease, some have a more under-recognized pathophysiology known as Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS).

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

 The human intestinal wall showing the impact of LGS on health.

Leaky Gut Syndrome has to do with the cells in your small intestine. The job of this tissue is to selectively absorb food particles that are of an appropriate size and nutritional value for circulation in your bloodstream. These particles are absorbed through spaces called tight junctions which are lined with immune cells designed to deal with substances that shouldn’t make it into your body. In individuals with LGS, these tight junctions are not as “tight” as they are supposed to be causing larger food particles to sneak through into the bloodstream. While these particles are innocuous enough on their own, they are seen as invaders by your immune system, which will then launch an assault on them. This causes the hallmark inflammation in your tissues causing the wide array of symptoms ranging from headaches and fatigue, to skin rashes, gas, bloating, and nutritional deficiencies.

Pathophysiology of Leaky Gut Syndrome

So now that you know the basics, you should also know that there isn’t one cut and dry explanation for why people get LGS. Research has shown that upregulation of certain genes in the gut can produce proteins that increase the permeability of these cells, causing the gaps in the tight junctions that can allow foreign particles into the bloodstream. This increase in protein production can be caused by a variety of factors, influenced by an individual’s diet, gut microbiome, lifestyle, and family history among others.

Microbial Neighbors

We’re taught from a young age that bacteria are bad. However, bacteria are a necessary part of human (and animal) life. Every surface in our body is covered with different species of commensal bacteria and they can outnumber our cells by about 10 to 1.  All the bacteria of a certain area together are called the microbiome and perhaps one of the most important microbiomes is in our gut. Not only do these microbes help us break down our food, produce necessary vitamins, and prevent other pathogenic bacteria from taking up residence, there is also evidence that they can help turn genes in our body on and off. Some of these genes activate metabolic pathways that can predispose an individual to be obese or healthy weight, diabetic or non-diabetic, and among many other factors, they can also influence whether an individual will develop leaky gut. Since diet, lifestyle, and any antibiotics or medications an individual may be on can greatly influence their gut microbiome populations, you can see how quickly changes to these factors can snowball into more helpful or harmful gut microbes.

I don’t want it- what’s up Doc?

Probably the most important way to prevent leaky gut is through a proper diet. Taking common-sense measures like avoiding processed sugars, dyes, and preservatives and trying to incorporate more fiber, fruits, and vegetables into your diet can help promote the growth of a healthy gut microbiome and keep your tight junctions closed. Avoiding meat that is processed or injected with hormones and antibiotics can also prevent irritation of the lining of the intestine that creates ideal circumstances for LGS to progress. Glutamine has also been shown to help promote good gut health, but always be careful when incorporating new supplements into your diet.  Increasingly, there are options for intravenous (IV) infusion of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements that can help fortify the various microbiomes of your body.

Leaky Gut, Autoimmune Disease, and Common Pain

Leaky Gut can be a major contributing factor in many autoimmune conditions. For individuals who have these conditions and are struggling to keep their symptoms under control using pharmaceuticals, those who are just having gastrointestinal symptoms, or even just those who want to prevent future problems, careful monitoring of diet, and how different food types make your body respond can make a huge difference in managing and even eventually reversing leaky gut. Most people look to corticosteroids to treat and manage autoimmune diseases, but what if we’ve been looking in the wrong place for the perpatrators of the inappropriate immune response all this time? What if instead of coming from the air, or the joints, or the tissues, it is coming from silent invaders through a leaky gut? And what if these disorders could be not only controlled but reversed? While each individual’s case will be different, more and more evidence is beginning to point to leaky gut as a trigger for autoimmune diseases, and just being aware of this fact is key in the prevention and management of these conditions.  Talk to your doctor about LGS.

Summary

Leaky Gut Syndrome is an under-recognized condition of the gastrointestinal tract that can cause a wide-range of symptoms including “stomach” pain, discomfort, skin rashes, headache, and even arthritis.  The pathophysiology is very interesting and only now being studied and treated by the conventional medical community.  If you believe you may be suffering from this condition, eliminate your consumption of meat, dairy, gluten, and processed foods as a trial and/or check in with your doctor to be tested.  The good news is that no one has to suffer from Leaky Gut Syndrome as it can be cured with proper nutrition.

References

  1. Drake, Daniela. “New Research Shows Poorly Understood “Leaky Gut Syndrome” Is Real, May Be the Cause of Several Diseases.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 27 Mar. 2014. Web.
  2. Elkaim, Yuri. “Leaky Gut: What It Is and How to Heal It.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 6 Mar. 2014. Web.
  3. Galland, Leo. “Leaky Gut Syndromes: Breaking the Vicious Cycle.” Foundation for Integrated Medicine. Foundation for Integrated Medicine, n.d. Web.
  4. Michielan, Andrea, and Renata D’Incà. “Intestinal Permeability in Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Pathogenesis, Clinical Evaluation, and Therapy of Leaky Gut.” Mediators of Inflammation. Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 25 Oct. 2015. Web.
  5. Mullin, Gerry. “Glutamine Helps You Lose Weight.” The Food MD. Dr. Gerry Mullin, 27 May 2015. Web.
  6. Reasoner, Jordan. “Leaky Gut Syndrome in Plain English – and How to Fix It.”SCD Lifestyle RSS. SCD Lifestyle, 11 May 2016. Web.

The Truth about them French Fried’ Potaters?

by
Sarah Emslie
Rashida Ghauri, MD, ABIHM
Baber Ghauri, MD, ABIHM

How Healthy are Potatoes?

Russet Potatoes

Potatoes are the most commonly eaten vegetable in America with the average American eating over 50 lbs a year! We use them in hundreds of dishes and prepare them in dozens of different ways, from chips and fries to baked, mashed, and roasted, and the list goes on. As a result, the potato industry is a multi-billion dollar business, with the value of potato crops grown in the US valued at around $3.73 billion dollars in 2013 alone. As with any other industry this results in a push to produce more and bigger potatoes, which as discussed in our Nutritional Inflation post, often leads to potatoes that have less nutritional value. Although inexpensive, commonly eaten, and with wide variety of recipes, potatoes contain much less nutritional value than many other vegetables in your produce isle, and even less than their ancient ancestors. We’ll tell you how to squeeze the most value out of your favorite spuds!!

A Brief History of Potatoes

The Incas and other native tribes have grown potatoes in South America for thousands of years. They served a wide variety of uses, ranging from healing broken bones to measures of time. Another wild ancestor of potatoes in North America known as an apio contained high levels of cancer fighting compounds and was used as a paste to treat skin tumors by the Sioux. The potatoes that were discovered by the Spanish explorers and were brought back to Europe, however, did not retain many of these medicinal uses and quickly became one of the most important staple crops in the Old World, so much so that countries like Ireland became primarily dependent on them for food. Heck, we’ve even seen potatoes powering small lights at the local science fair- potatoes can do almost anything!

Pot-uh-oh: Glycemic Index

Nowadays potatoes are commonly associated with the starch family of foods than as a vegetable, partially because we have bred them for their starch. Compared to their ancestors, which were much higher in protein and cancer fighting compounds, modern varieties of potato can contain over 28 times less phytonutrients. In addition, starchy foods like potatoes are rapidly becoming a contributing factor in the exponentially rising incidence of type 2 diabetes. This trend has to do with how quickly a food releases sugar into the blood stream, also known as the glycemic index.

Some foods release small amounts of sugar over a longer period of time, these are low-glycemic index foods. These foods more closely resemble the diet that our ancestors ate, and the diet that our bodies have evolved to handle. With the increases in sugar and starch content in modern foods, and larger amounts of processing that go into creating pre-made food products, a large majority of foods in the typical American diet are high-glycemic index foods. The largest common contributor to high-glycemic index foods is the now infamous high fructose corn syrup (HCFS). The sugars in these foods are released very quickly in a shorter amount of time into the bloodstream. Because of this overload of sugar, the body (particularly the pancreas) has to quickly produce larger amounts of insulin to deal with it and the brain has a very hard time determining how to counteract the effects of HFCS. If this cycle of massive dumps of sugar into the bloodstream triggering a corresponding response of insulin release can eventually desensitize muscle and fat cells against insulin, putting even more strain on the pancreas to produce yet more insulin. This quickly turns into a vicious cycle that is the pathogenesis of Type II diabetes. This wouldn’t be so bad if insulin was not an anabolic hormone that in excess will lead to deposition of fat into your body starting with the midsection (trunk) and rapidly spreading throughout.

High-glycemic index foods raise blood sugar much more than low- glycemic index foods. This requires the pancreas to work harder to produce enough insulin to counteract the effects of these foods.

Fixing the Phytonutrient Problem

There are ways to combat the loss of phytonutrients and the high-glycemic nature of potatoes.

Bring Down the Index!

Not all potatoes have high-glycemic index, but for those that do, with a little planning, you can take matters into your own hands and reduce your intake of high-glycemic potatoes. The smaller potatoes in grocery stores with smoother skin, which are often billed as boiling potatoes or new potatoes are actually have low-glycemic index because of their immature composition makes the sugars less available to those that eat them. These potatoes are harvested earlier in the season and have a blunted rise in blood sugar than their larger more mature counterparts, which are often advertised as baking potatoes.
But what if you or your loved ones are really craving baked potatoes, but still want to avoid the blood sugar spike that comes with them? This is where the planning comes in. By cooking the potatoes a day ahead of time and chilling them for a day, the blood sugar response to the potatoes can be decreased by up to 25%. The heating of the potatoes followed by chilling modifies the sugars in the potato into a form that is released more slowly into your bloodstream, turning it into a food that your body and pancreas are much more equipped to handle and lowering your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease for the long-term.

Go Purple

Purple Potatoes

You may have noticed some strange looking purple potatoes in the corner of the potato display in your local supermarket, maybe you even tried them one time as a novelty. As it turns out, despite their strange appearance and compared to their more conventional brown, red, and white cousins, these colored tubers contain 28 times more phytonutrients than our usual Russet potatoes, and an incredible 166 times more phytonutrients than some varieties of white potato! This is not a small number by any means, so while purple mashed potatoes or purple hash browns would certainly take some getting used to, they are more than worth their weight nutritionally. 

NOTE: Your smaller eaters may require a special sales pitch- it can be done…

Choose Brightly and Cook Wisely

Another trick, which can be applied equally to all varieties of potatoes, is choosing the brightest colors possible and eating the skins of the potatoes. Using both of these parameters to buy and eat your potatoes will ensure the greatest phytonutrient content possible, and preparing or eating them with a healthy fat like olive oil will make these nutrients more accessible to your body.

Never GMO!

As potatoes are stem tubers that come out of the ground, they are very susceptible to carry pesticides and other chemicals that can concentrate in the soil. Fortunately, the cost of organic potatoes is not that much more than their mutated friends due to their ubiquity.

Conclusion

While potatoes can only dream to be as nutritious as vegetables like kale or brussel sprouts, their low cost and versatility will keep them as a superstar among Americans. Luckily, you can take some simple steps at the grocery store and in their preparation at home to enhance their nutritional value and lower any long-term risks associated with their high-glycemic index. Following these simple guidelines will help you and your loved ones get more nutritional value out of your favorite foods!

References

  1. Allan, Barbara J. “What Is the Glycemic Index? – Nutrition to You.” Nutrition to You. Nutrition to You, 08 Apr. 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
  2. Bosse, Alena, and Michael Boland. “Potato Profile.” Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. USDA Rural Development, Apr. 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
  3. Khazan, Olga. “The Most-Eaten Vegetable in the U.S. Is the Potato.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 11 June 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
  4. “Potatoes.” Washington State Potatoes. Washington State Potato Commission, n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
  5. Robinson, Jo. Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health. New York: Little Brown, 2013. Print.