Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nutrient Deficiencies In Migraine Sufferers?

Most migraine sufferers would do just about anything to avoid the ensuing pain, hassle and sensitivities that come from dealing with that type of headache. They can often be debilitating, leaving the victim in bed in a darkened room with an ice pack on the head or spurring a trip to the urgent care for strong medication in an injection or IV. If there would be anything that could be done to help in the prevention of them without added risks or side effects, it would most likely be welcomed by many. Diet could always be a possible source of concern, and a recent study explored a possible link that showed many young people who suffer from migraines also have vitamin deficiencies.

The study included children, teens and young adult migraine patients who were treated at Cincinnati Children's Headache Center. Researchers found that a high percentage of them had mild deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 (a vitamin-like substance used to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance). There were also some trends that emerged along a gender predisposition. Girls and young women were more likely than boys and young men to have coenzyme Q10 deficiencies, but boys and young men were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency. There was also the broad finding that patients with chronic migraines were more likely to have coenzyme Q10 and riboflavin deficiencies than patients with episodic migraines.

Many of the patients were prescribed preventive migraine medications and received vitamin supplementation if their levels were low. Unfortunately, outcome measures of how the migraines were affected were not recorded for this study because too few patients received vitamins alone. Further research would be needed to determine if vitamin supplementation of these nutrients could help prevent migraines. Previous research has suggested that certain vitamins and vitamin deficiencies may be important in migraine, but studies using vitamins to prevent migraines have yielded mixed results, according to the researchers.

Whether they may actually be considered a preventative for migraines or not, all of the aforementioned nutrients should be maintained at normal levels for proper health. Riboflavin helps in energy production and is important for iron metabolism. Vitamin D helps regulate your immune system and is necessary for calcium absorption and bone growth. CoQ10 is essential for heart muscle health and helps protect various aspects the circulatory system. If you are a migraine sufferer, make sure you are maintaining proper levels of these nutrients.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Avoiding Medications In Our Food

As people age, one of the common misconceptions is that they will naturally be on (more) medications to combat the effects of aging as the “mileage” on the body accumulates. This could not be further from the truth if one takes the steps necessary throughout their life to maintain an optimal level of health by making the proper lifestyle choices. While it is never a guarantee as health issues can arise due to factors outside of their control, most people can decrease the likelihood of needing medications by controlling what they put into their bodies, be it food or medications. Everyone should know by now that certain foods such as fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants and other protective phytochemicals, should constitute a majority of our diet. Healthy oils, lean proteins and other foods like nuts, seeds and beans are also supportive and highly beneficial. However, in some of the cases, such as with the proteins and animal-based products, there is the risk of taking in unwanted pharmaceuticals second-hand as a result of what is fed or administered to the animals that supply our food.

A report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2010 called into question the national Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) ability to adequately monitor the safety of U.S. meat for potentially toxic residues, after revealing that drug residues and heavy metals are common in U.S. meat. Residues of veterinary drugs, pesticides and heavy metals enter the food system when producers bring animals to slaughter that still have these toxins in their system. This occurs more often than you might think. For instance, in the dairy industry if a farmer determines a sick cow is going to die, he will sell the animal as quickly as possible, even if it still has veterinary drugs in its system. This ensures he will get some return on his investment, at the expense of the Americans' health who end up eating the medicated meat. So-called "waste milk," which is produced by medicated dairy cows and banned for human consumption, is also fed to veal calves, which then pass the meds on to the consumers that eat them.

About one-third of the dairy cows in the United States are injected with a synthetic, genetically engineered growth hormone called rBGH. RBGH, or recombinant bovine growth hormone, is a synthetic version of natural bovine somatotropin (BST), a hormone produced in cows' pituitary glands. Cows are injected with it to boost their milk production. Monsanto developed the recombinant version from genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, and though it is banned in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and in the 27 countries of the European Union because of its dangers to human health, it is the largest selling dairy animal drug in America. RBGH milk differs from natural milk nutritionally, pharmacologically, immunologically, and hormonally, and one of the most glaring examples of this is its IGF-1 levels. IGF-1 is a potent hormone that acts on your pituitary gland to induce powerful metabolic and endocrine effects, including cell growth and replication. Elevated IGF-1 levels are associated with breast and other cancers. When cows are injected with rBGH, their levels of IGF-1 increase up to 20-fold, and this IGF-1 is excreted in the milk. You very well may be drinking rBGH milk, or eating rBGH cheese or yogurt, as no labeling is required. The good news is, as increasing numbers of consumers and dairies choose to avoid rBGH, you can find labels that say "rBGH-free" or a similar variation. Organic milk is also rBGH-free.

About 80 percent of all the antibiotics produced are used in agriculture -- not only to fight infection, but to promote unhealthy (though profitable) weight gain. Feeding livestock continuous, low-dose antibiotics creates a perfect storm for widespread disease proliferation – and, worse yet, antibiotic-resistant disease. This link is so clear-cut that the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed has been banned in Europe since 2006! Antibiotics are not only embedded in your meats, they have made their way into your produce as well, as slow-to-biodegrade antibiotics are transferred, via the manure used as fertilizer, into your corn, lettuce, potatoes, and other crops. Sadly, even eating organically may not entirely alleviate this problem, since organic crops, which cannot be fertilized with synthetic fertilizers, are the ones most often fertilized with manure. As it stands, conventional, factory-farmed animal manure containing antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria is still allowed under the USDA organic label.

Just as important as the choices you make of what foods you eat is knowing what is going into the food that goes into your body. While it may not be entirely possible to avoid every instance of contamination, eating locally grown, organic, sustainably raised foods free from drugs and chemicals will help you decrease the risk of being exposed to unnecessary medications from secondhand sources.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Are Reflux Meds Worth The Risks?

Many people today deal with reflux on a regular or daily basis. Evidence of that can be supported by the fact that proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, were the ninth most commonly prescribed kinds of drugs in 2015, ahead of thyroid medications. Proton pump inhibitors dramatically diminish the amount of acid made by glands that line the inside of the stomach. They can provide big relief for people who have reflux, where stomach acid splashes into the esophagus, causing the pain commonly referred to as heartburn. The drug was intended to be used only for short term intervals (four to eight weeks to help heal ulcers or control heartburn), yet many people have been taking it for years as PPIs can be tough to quit. Stopping the meds often leads to a phenomenon called PPI rebound, which causes people to make even more stomach acid than they were before. Therefore, without proper modification of other factors that may be driving the reflux such as poor dietary choices, the symptoms will typically not change and may get worse.

The problem that is theorized with PPI’s is that they don't just turn off acid pumps in the stomach. Instead, the researchers say, PPIs also block the production of acid in every cell in our bodies, which can affect tiny cellular parts called lysosomes. Certain enzymes in the lysosome only work under acidic conditions. Those enzymes break down proteins that have become damaged. Less acidity would trigger an effect that hampers the body's ability to rid itself of damaged proteins -- the "garbage" that builds up as we age. When the lysosomes don't work properly in cells, waste builds up and cells age more quickly than normal. As an example, there was a recent study that tied PPIs to dementia. Dementia has been linked to factors such as amyloid deposits accumulating in the brain. If the brain cannot detoxify and get rid of these proteins due to lower acidity, the risk of dementia may increase. In the study, there was an association with PPI usage and a slightly increased chance of dementia.

Other studies have shown risk factors for other conditions with PPI usage as well. A 2014 study of 10,000 people diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus in Denmark found that people who took PPIs were actually more likely to get cancer. The risk was highest for "high-adherence" users -- those who took their pills most faithfully. (The study was observational, though, and it couldn't show cause and effect.) Another study published in February found that PPI use was tied to a higher risk for chronic kidney disease while the use of a different kind of acid-blocking drug, called an H2 blocker, was not. While none of the studies could be construed as direct cause and effect of the various conditions, when trends start emerging on multiple fronts from one medication, it should give one pause to wonder if that may be the best method of treatment.

While many factors may affect the state of someone’s digestive capabilities, diet will almost always dictate whether someone lives with or without problems. Identifying triggers for reflux or upset stomach will be first line defense as eliminating them will keep the digestive tract from staying in a constant state of irritation. If the diet has become filled with less than desirable food choices, we also need to focus on replacing them with foods that supply quality nutrition and supportive elements. Adding good bacteria to help break down fiber and assist in digestion is also necessary as they are typically lacking in a diet comprised of processed and poor quality foods. Finally, including specific supplements to assist in healing a damaged, irritated or inflamed gastrointestinal tract may also be necessary. If all this sounds a little overwhelming, then finding a doctor who can help guide you through this process will be well worth your time and offer more benefits to your health than just fixing a reflux problem. Need help? Give us a call 210-468-1891 or visit our website

Friday, July 22, 2016

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) & Wheat Allergy

Previously we discussed that when someone has symptoms of a gluten intolerance, the first order of business would be to either rule in or rule out celiac disease, which is diagnosed by specific conditions and lab results. If celiac disease can be ruled out, non-celiac gluten sensitivity would be a likely next suspect as their presentations are very similar. Many people may have actually been previously diagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome because the symptoms (abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, depression, etc.) present similarly, but knowing the difference is key to achieving the proper health outcome. And remember, celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks and destroys the intestinal cells; NCGS does not. However, caution is advised as long term NCGS irritation in the body can lead to the development of an autoimmune condition.

NCDS is defined as a condition in which the ingestion of gluten-containing foods (like wheat, barley and rye) leads to one or more of a variety of immunological, morphological or symptomatic manifestations in people in whom celiac disease has been excluded. Then, if gluten sensitivity is suspected and there is noticeable improvement or disappearance of symptoms when gluten is eliminated from the diet, NCGS is more likely. So what makes a person sensitive to gluten? As was mentioned in a previous post, leaky gut syndrome can lead to it when undigested pieces of the gluten are allowed to pass into the bloodstream. Along this line is the implication of the “standard American diet” where the overconsumption of processed foods that are loaded with chemicals and additives and lacking in vital nutrients are destroying the proper bacterial environment that is needed to help us properly break down what we eat. Genetic modification of our foods has also been implicated as some varieties have been shown to have higher gluten content than others which further increases the difficulty of proper breakdown.

There is also the concern with increased exposure (contamination?) from glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup which is applied to wheat and other grains just before harvest. In the human body it has been shown to destroy beneficial digestive flora while allowing pathogenic strains to flourish. It is also a known chelator that binds and immobilizes minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium and cobalt which can lead to nutritional deficiencies in these important components. There are also implications that it can negatively affect certain liver enzymes which are involved in detoxification, activating vitamin D3, breaking down vitamin A and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supplies to the gut. Beyond that, straight overconsumption of wheat products is also a likely factor.

Lastly in the diagnosis spectrum is the wheat allergy which can be triggered when any part of the wheat kernel is consumed, not just the gluten. This can be identified by a more immediate response than what is seen with CD or NCGS, showing signs within seconds to minutes. These are less often GI symptoms and will generally be more respiratory/skin-related in nature, such as hives, skin rash, sneezing, watery eyes, swelling of the lips and tongue or even respiratory distress. These are histamine-based reactions and are caused by stimulation of an overly sensitive immune system which leads to a hypersensitive immune response. An immune system that is out of balance will treat harmless substances as hostile irritants and attempt to expel them through the body. In all of these cases, it is best to keep gluten and wheat-containing foods out of the diet. In some cases, if the body is able to heal enough, small amounts of gluten may be able to be ingested without experiencing symptomatology. However, the underlying key in all of the above conditions is to keep the immune system balanced and the stress levels low. Diet is a major contributing factor in this process so speak to a doctor who can help you first learn how to eliminate possible irritants and heal the gastrointestinal tract, and then build a healthy diet that will support optimal function and minimize the risk of flare-ups and reoccurrences.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Food Nutrition Labels Changing!

We are always emphasizing to patients the importance of being aware of what they are putting into their bodies. With whole foods that is less of a concern, but most foods other than produce and meats will have multiple ingredients and the need for a nutrition label. This is where some basic information can be gained if someone is trying to improve their health or lose weight and change their body composition. Many people “just eat” day by day without regard to knowing exactly what or how much they are putting in their bodies and this is where the food labels can add some benefit. And thankfully, the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods in the United States is about to get a long-awaited facelift, with a redesign emphasizing realistic portion sizes and added sugars.

The updated design will highlight "calories" and "servings," and show how many grams of sugar have been added to a food, along with the percent daily value (%DV) for "added" sugars. Serving sizes will better reflect how much people really eat and drink. For instance, foods that can be eaten as either multiple servings separately or all at once (whether they should be or not…) - such as a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream -- will contain both "per serving" and "per package" calorie and nutrition information. Hopefully this will help people better understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package or container at one time!

Other changes include updated daily values for salt, dietary fiber and vitamin D. Fiber is important for proper gastrointestinal health and many people do not consume the minimum recommended 25 grams per day. Vitamin D and potassium content will include both total grams and the percent daily value. Some people are deficient in these nutrients, putting them at higher risk for chronic disease, the FDA said. The new label must be used by July 26, 2018, by most manufacturers. However, food makers with less than $10 million a year in sales will have until 2019 to comply.

The inclusion of identifying “added sugars” is a major step forward in helping combat the ever-present issue of obesity. Many foods have added sweeteners in the form of corn syrup, rice syrup, barley malt and others that add to the overall calorie content of the food but do not add anything else beneficial from a nutrient standpoint. Many foods that have been changed to proclaim lower or reduced fat content have frequently substituted sugar in some form to maintain a level of texture or palatability at the expense of being concerned with overall calorie content. And since sugar is a major source of inflammation, the less of it in our bodies the better. While it will still be some time before these new changes roll out, they will be a welcome addition in helping people take better control of their health.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Eating A Late Dinner Not The Worst Offense

According to a study published recently in the British Journal of Nutrition, eating late suppers may not be a recipe for childhood obesity. Previous thinking had suggested that eating meals later in the evening, when activity levels tend to be lower, would make one more prone to gaining unwanted weight. Busy schedules of parents and multiple activities for children can sometimes tend to push dinner to later hours than what is commonly practiced. However, many other factors could also affect weight gain such as the particular food choices and the amount of calories consumed, but the study was only evaluating the one parameter of timing of the evening meal.
British researchers looked at data from more than 1,600 children, aged 4 to 18. They found that the risk of being overweight or obesity was no higher among those who had meals between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. than among those who ate between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Expectations were that there would be an association between eating later and being more likely to be overweight, but it was found that this was not the case. This may also have been due to the limited number of children consuming their evening meal after 8 p.m.

As always, food choices will have a direct impact on weight irrespective of calorie content or timing alone. Diets or meals that are heavy in carbohydrates, processed ingredients, sugars and unhealthy fats will always be detrimental regardless of timing of when they are consumed. Focusing on providing lean, healthy proteins, an abundance of vegetables, moderate amounts of carbohydrates and fruits and plenty of water will help ensure the children are getting the best nutrition to support their bodies without an excess of unneeded calories.

Activity levels of children will also have an impact. A child that is coming home from an hour or two of soccer practice will be more likely to better utilize the calories consumed than a child who has been sitting in front of the television or computer since they got home from school. Encouraging activity will also help stimulate metabolism and help build healthy habits to lead them away from the daily routines that promote a sedentary lifestyle. And if meals do need to be consumed later, it is advisable to try and have them at least 2-3 hours before bed time to allow the body to properly digest the food consumed so that sleep time can be devoted to healing, repair and relaxation for the body.