Three Reasons To Go Easy On Gluten
Gluten has been the topic of hot debate by a growing number of healthcare providers.
The literature is overflowing with the detrimental impact gluten has on the intestinal wall.
When you eat gluten, your body produces a molecule called zonulin. The increase in zonulin is linked to increased intestinal permeability aka: leaky gut.
Leaky gut can create a cascade of damaging health issues including autoimmune disease and many inflammatory diseases.
To read the full article from Functional Medicine University, click here.
Compliments from Functional Medicine University.
It is never just one thing that causes your thyroid dysfunction. When I first started on this journey to heal my thyroid, when I found something on a lab test such as SIBO or gluten sensitivity, I was like, "This is it! I will just do x, y, and z to address whatever it was that had showed up and I would be fixed." I thought I would finally be able to be past all of this. While I greatly improved my health, it was never enough to fully move past all of the symptoms I was dealing with.
Thyroid issues are very complex. Prolonged stress, whether be it emotional, physical or environmental, is often the catalyst for someone to go on and develop some sort of chronic symptom that's stemmed from a dysfunctional thyroid gland. Emotional stress could be coming from your career or your family situation and an environmental stress could be from chronic mold exposure or from a chemical such as glyphosate. Physical stress could be due to the increased demands for thyroid hormone during pregnancy. Although these are just a few examples of stressors/triggers in the body, there are so many that it can become very overwhelming at times to try and pinpoint. Some very common symptoms of early thyroid damage could be anything from frequent headaches, muscles aches, fatigue, weight gain, skin issues, depression, and constipation and are often ignored because they’re not severe enough for you to fully pay attention and investigate. It’s not until these symptoms become a little louder that you may be called to visit your doctor. Unfortunately, many leave empty handed with no explanation to the cause of their symptoms and are told everything is normal. And there is a good chance they were given an antidepressant because their doctor believes they're just depressed. Yea, I've heard this too many times to count.
Once the body has been under a significant amount of stress for a prolonged period of time, our immune defenses get weakened, mitochondria get damaged, inflammation takes over from all of the oxidative stress, and we pick up things like bacterial, pathogenic, and viral pathogens if we haven't already that further weaken our immune defenses and create even more inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle. We may start having reactions to foods that we never had before and begin to develop more symptoms before enough damage is done to fully reflect it in the labs. I say this because thyroid dysfunction happens years before it’s reflected in the TSH, the most common thyroid marker that conventional medicine doctors use to check the function of the thyroid gland. It’s for this reason that many cases of thyroid dysfunction get missed. If you want to learn more on this, you can click here. The stress bucket of that individual is now overflowing, and you have someone for example who has multiple chemical toxicities, a gluten intolerance, parasites, multiple nutrient deficiencies, and H. pylori. Removing just one of the above problems will likely not be enough to reverse your thyroid symptoms and optimize your thyroid function. This is why a holistic approach is needed almost every time.
True healing is a journey. The journey is not always easy, but I promise it's very much worth it! If you are determined to heal your thyroid dysfunction at the root cause, please schedule a discovery call to learn more.
TSH: What Your Doctor Needs to Know
One common lab that gets checked by physician’s, but also gets passed off as normal when it is far from normal is thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This not only prevents a lot of people from getting properly diagnosed so proper treatment can be provided, but it also prevents those who would prefer to take a holistic approach to reversing their condition in the early stages before it progresses to full-blown thyroid failure.
Many physicians are using outdated normal ranges for TSH that are present on the lab, so please be sure to ask for a copy of your results and review them yourself now that you have this information available to you. I have a handful of clients who I have retested their thyroid using a full panel along with using the optimal range for TSH, which is a TSH between 0.5-2.0 ulU/mL, and was able to pick up Hashimoto’s or thyroid disease, which was not long after their physician missed it on their lab.
To read the full article from Functional Medicine University, click here.
Compliments from Functional Medicine University.
Food Sensitivity Testing (Part 3)
I’m back for part three of my series on elimination diets! In Part 1 I explained what an elimination diet is and why it can be so effective at getting closer to the root cause of your symptoms, and in Part 2 I reviewed the top foods that should be eliminated and where to start based on your current health. The topic of food sensitivity testing gets brought up a lot when working with clients. Here are a few key points to consider when it comes to testing that can help you decide if it’s right for you in your health journey, when it’s suggested to test, and my preferred labs for testing.
What exactly is a food sensitivity and how can you test for it?
A food sensitivity is very different from a food allergy. Food allergies can be grouped into two general categories: IgE-mediated and non-IgE-mediated. The IgE-mediated reactions trigger an immediate response and arise up to 2 hours of ingesting the food. 1 Symptoms are extreme and sometimes life-threatening and can include tingling of extremities, wheezing, coughing, tightening of the throat, nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. 2 Food allergies are often easy to identify and can be confirmed with the use of a skin prick test or measuring IgE antibodies to that particular food. These results are very often reproducible when tested.
Non-IgE-mediated reactions are delayed food reactions. These type of food reactions are what food sensitivities fall under. They are more difficult to diagnose because symptoms are often vague and can appear up to 3 days after ingestion of the offending food. For example, you may eat eggs on Saturday and experience joint pain on Tuesday. There are many symptoms of a food sensitivity, which I reviewed in part 1 of the series. Since there are no confirmatory diagnostic tests to diagnose these type of reactions, diagnosis is often based off history and resolution of symptoms with food avoidance. A delayed reaction can trigger IgG, IgA, and IgM reactions in your system. 3 Labs that do food sensitivity testing commonly use IgG and IgA antibodies.
Food Sensitivity Testing
No food sensitivity test is perfect. This is why the gold standard for identifying food sensitivities is not actually through any specific lab, it’s by doing a very strict elimination diet as it is the most accurate way to test your tolerance against a food. However, that's not to say that you shouldn't consider testing for food sensitivities.
Here are a few things to consider when looking for a lab to test.
Foods in their raw form can have a different effect on someone vs if that food had been cooked. Researchers have demonstrated that during food preparation, cooking and processing, chemical/molecular changes occur. 4 Many food sensitivity tests use IgG antibodies tested against raw food antigens only. So it’s quite possible that you could get a false negative test if the lab is not testing both raw and cooked foods.
For a test to be accurate, you want it to be consistent and be able to have reproducible results. Does the lab run samples twice to ensure results are consistent and reproducible?
The lab that meets the above criteria that I am confident to use in practice is Cyrex Labs.
When should you test?
I suggest testing after you have already done an elimination trial of some of the top foods known to cause a reaction like gluten, dairy, and eggs and if you continue to experience symptoms.
Further, just because testing can be helpful in narrowing down other potential trigger foods doesn’t mean you should jump to testing right away. In fact, if you do a food sensitivity test that is measuring against a large list of foods while you have many symptoms and/or a chronic illness like an autoimmune disease, there is a greater chance for the results to not be as accurate. For instance, you test against 80 food antigens and 20 or more of those foods come back positive. Do I suggest you eliminate all of them? Not necessarily. This could be reflective of leaky gut, so it may not be necessary to remove all 20, just the top ones that you know you likely are reacting to along with the top offenders like gluten and dairy and begin a protocol to start healing your gut.
Studies have demonstrated an association between increased intestinal permeability and the development of new-onset food allergies. In one study, this was observed in patients following liver and heart transplantation. Transplant patients that were on the immunosuppressant tacrolimus have been shown to have increased intestinal permeability and elevated levels of food antigen-specific IgE. Interestingly, some of these patients developed new-onset food allergies. 5
I never consider testing for food sensitivities in my client at the beginning because this is when they’re the most inflamed and symptomatic. I will typically reserve food sensitivity testing towards the end after we have explored other causes into their symptoms, such as pathogens, worked on healing their gut, and ruled out the top offending foods.
Is food sensitivity testing necessary? Not necessarily. However, here are a few cases where it can be very helpful:
Further, many foods cross-react with gluten, and it can sometimes be very difficult for someone to eliminate all of these foods and then introduce each one back separately over a period of time. Cyrex, Array 4 not only tests for cross-reactive foods, but they also test for foods that are typically newly introduced on a gluten-free diet. For example, teff, sorghum, and buckwheat may cause some people’s immune system to react against the new food as if it were a foreign invader or due to overconsumption of these gluten-free foods. In either case, it’s not uncommon for someone to have additional sensitivities to foods when they have gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease and testing can be very helpful in getting these patient’s better.
You can gain a ton of insight into the causes of symptoms if you tune into the messages your body is sending out when you experiment with food. Symptoms manifest long before a disease does, so this is why it’s so important to pay attention to the warning signs your body is giving you rather than masking symptoms with drugs. Further, some of these foods are causing damage to different parts of your tissues, so once identified, you can potentially prevent an autoimmune attack on your body or even reverse the damage done by autoimmunity. In my first post, What is an Elimination Diet and What You Should Know Before Starting, I review the common symptoms of food sensitivities and explain how to do an elimination diet correctly so that you can get the most out of what it can offer. In this post, I’m going to explain the why behind the foods that should be eliminated, where to start based on your current health, and what foods you should add into your diet to help repair your gastrointestinal lining and to nourish you in the process.
Foods to Eliminate
To keep it simple, you can do it one of two ways: basic elimination or advanced. If you’re someone who feels overwhelmed with the idea of doing a food elimination diet, want to test the water first without diving in, or are dealing with some mild, but annoying chronic symptoms, then starting with the basic food elimination is the route I would suggest going. Most of my clients who start with this elimination notice huge gains in their health pretty quickly. Now, if you have already done a food elimination diet and have not had results, are suffering greatly with digestive issues, or have a full-blown autoimmune attack, then it’s recommended to start with the advanced elimination. There is no right or wrong way to do it; just get started somewhere and build from there if you need to.
Basic Elimination (The top offenders)
The top two foods that should be eliminated include gluten and dairy. They are by far the two foods that cause the most issues in people. I have personally seen this in practice, and just with the elimination of these two foods, my clients have had profound improvements in their health. The most common association to gluten sensitivity is with Celiac disease. However, what is thought to be more common than Celiac disease is Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). NCGS is characterized by both intestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms related to ingesting gluten-containing foods. 1 Symptoms of NCGS includes many, but some common ones are bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, epigastric pain, lack of well-being, tiredness, headache, foggy mind, and anxiety. Neurological symptoms from a gluten sensitivity are also common and can include peripheral neuropathy and cerebellar ataxia. 2 A gluten sensitivity, or even Celiac disease can develop at any time in a person’s life, so just because you’re a certain age doesn't mean anything when it comes to food-related issues. Further, the range of symptoms of a gluten sensitivity is vast, so please don’t think the symptoms are limited to just the above.
Gluten has not been apart of our diet for very long as the native diet of humans consisted of mostly meat, fruits, and vegetables with very little exposure to grain. Gliadin and glutenin proteins primarily make up the structure of gluten. Gliadin is the component that is rich in prolamine and glutamine, which cannot be degraded by intestinal enzymes and triggers an immune reaction in genetically predisposed individuals. 3
The gluten-free product market has grown substantially over the years. According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, he states that the prevalence of gluten-related issues are on the rise, and based on his study, it seems that prevalence has doubled every 15 years in North America. 4 Why such an increase over the years? Well, there is no clear answer for this. However, some research and experts in the field link this rise to glyphosate. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup. A study done on Fish exposed to glyphosate showed that they develop digestive problems that are similar to that of celiac disease. Glyphosate has been shown to disrupt gut bacteria in animals, specifically killing beneficial forms and causing an overgrowth of pathogens. Interestingly, the use of glyphosate on wheat in the U.S. has risen sharply in the last decade, in step with the sharp rise in the incidence of Celiac disease. 5,6 My recommendations are to avoid non-organic produce, meat, and grains as much as you can. The Dirty Dozen List ranks the top twelve vegetables and fruits found to have the highest levels of pesticide residue, which is very helpful when you’re trying to make informed choices while out shopping. Having a healthy gut microbiome is essential for health as 70%- 80% of our immune system resides in our gut. 7 Protect your gut microbiome by choosing organic as much as you can.
Where is gluten found, and why do some people not fully improve once it’s eliminated?
When you hear of gluten, it is typically referring to the protein found in wheat, rye, some oats (must be labeled gluten-free as most are contaminated), barley, and triticale; thus foods containing these ingredients should be avoided on a gluten-free diet. Now, a big reason one may not improve when they eliminate gluten is that they may be consuming other foods that are cross-reacting with gluten. Cross-reactive foods are known to mimic gluten to the human immune system. 8 Casein (milk protein) is the most likely to cross-react and should also be removed at the same time that gluten is removed. This is imperative as many people with a gluten sensitivity also have a sensitivity to dairy. Another reason casein should be removed is that it is one of the top allergen foods in the U.S. In my opinion, you would be wasting your time on an elimination diet if you only eliminate gluten and not dairy along with it.
In my first post, I discussed how leaky gut is at the root of many chronic illnesses, especially in the development of an autoimmune disease, and is a cause for the development of food sensitivities. Leaky gut is triggered by many things including certain medication like NSAIDs, stress, surgeries, gut infections like small intestinal overgrowth (SIBO), yeast overgrowth, and parasites, as well as challenging foods like alcohol and food sensitivities. When the gut barrier is inflamed and more permeable, it’s not uncommon for the immune system to react to many different foods as undigested food proteins leak through the damaged gut barrier. When someone is dealing with many different symptoms, eliminating these foods can help calm down the immune response and allow them to heal.
People who have a full-blown autoimmune attack going on, meaning they’re dealing with many symptoms that are affecting their quality of life, do well when they take a comprehensive approach to a food elimination diet. This diet is well known as the Autoimmune Paleo Diet.
In the Autoimmune Paleo diet, the following foods are removed:
All of these foods are either known to cross-react with gluten, are ones that are commonly known to invoke an immune response, inflammatory, or are aggravating to the gut. This diet was designed to heal the gut in addition to helping one determine additional foods they could be causing a reaction. There is a wealth of information on this diet from books to blogs that are extremely helpful when doing an advanced elimination diet such as this. I highly encourage doing your research before eliminating all of these foods or working with a nutritionist that can help you. On average, you will follow this diet from anywhere from two to six weeks, but possibly longer depending on the severity of your symptoms.
In my non-autoimmune clients who have noticed an improvement in their symptoms on a gluten and dairy-free diet, but have not had complete resolution of their symptoms, I will consider other potentially problematic foods. This approach is not as comprehensive like that of the Autoimmune Paleo diet, but equally as effective. Other foods that people can commonly be reacting to include grains and eggs. Grains are a common staple in our diet, but we do not need them to survive. Grains are high in lectins and have been shown to degrade the intestinal barrier. 9 Grains that are gluten-free like rice, millet, corn, and gluten-free oats can also cross-react with gluten, just like casein mentioned above. I often suggest removing them to aid in the gut healing process on an elimination diet and testing for tolerance on reintroduction. One of the tests that I use in practice to help those determine other foods that cross-react with gluten that they could be reacting to is Cyrex Labs, Array 4. I will be going over more on this test in my next post, which is part 3 of the blog series.
Eggs are a common food allergen in children, but adults can develop a sensitivity to eggs later in life, especially those who have leaky gut, so this is why I often suggest eliminating them to test for tolerance. Keep in mind that when you’re ready to reintroduce eggs, you need to introduce the yolk and white separately as reactions can be to either one. Interestingly, more people tolerate the yolks more than the whites.
Now if symptoms don’t improve with the elimination of these top offending foods, I begin to look into other root causes of their symptoms that could be related to things like viruses, bacteria, parasites, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), toxins, etc.
Other Highlights on an Elimination Diet
To make the most gains from doing an elimination diet, you shouldn’t just focus on removal of the above foods. It’s important to also remove inflammatory foods and replace your diet with the highest quality, most nutrient-dense foods available to you. They will not only help to repair the gut in those with leaky gut, but it will also help provide a powerhouse of nutrition essential for optimal detoxification and cellular health.
Food is powerful medicine. If you need someone to help you get started on a path to improving your health? You can contact me here.
In optimal health,
In this three-part blog series, I will be breaking down a lot of information centered around elimination diets that will help you in your health journey. In the first part, I will be discussing what an elimination diet is, why it can be so effective at getting closer to the root cause of your symptoms, and what you should know before starting so that you’re successful. In the second part, I will review the top foods that should be eliminated when you are dealing with chronic symptoms or an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s and what foods you should incorporate. And in the third post, I will review when it’s helpful to test for food sensitivities and the lab I use in practice.
Address the Root Cause of Symptoms with an Elimination Diet
If you’re struggling with your health and are wanting to reverse disease, lose weight, or put a stop to chronic symptoms, then a food elimination diet may be right for you. Food has a profound ability to either heal us or hurt us. A food that is typically considered healthy like whole grain bread, tomatoes, or oats may be causing a lot of inflammation and tissue damage in someone who has a sensitivity to those foods. If we’re putting things that are typically thought of as healthy into our body day after day that is unknowingly causing inflammation, it will be very difficult, if not impossible in some cases, to overcome chronic symptoms. It is for this reason I always address a clients diet first before moving onto uncovering other root causes for their symptoms that could be related to other things like infections, toxins, or other imbalances in the body. If you’re suffering from chronic symptoms or are overweight, you’re in a state of chronic inflammation, which is directly tied back to the health of your gut. Research has found that when there is a breakdown in one's health, there is damage to their gut known as leaky gut. So, when you eliminate your food triggers, you’re automatically lowering inflammation and taking the first step to healing your gut.
Leaky Gut and Food Sensitivities
In leaky gut or intestinal permeability, the tight junctions that act as a barrier within the gut are damaged. When this occurs, macromolecules such as undigested food, bacteria, viruses, allergens, and toxins can get through these “junctions” and trigger an immune response.2 Research has strongly linked leaky gut to the development of autoimmune diseases, obesity, and other chronic inflammatory disorders.3,4,5,6 There are many triggers for developing leaky gut, but we will focus on one of them, which is food. Food sensitivities cause irritation and inflammation in the body every time that offending food is consumed. This perpetual cycle of inflammation leads to many symptoms, along with the potential to develop other food sensitivities down the road if not addressed.
Food as Medicine
Inflammation is driven by sensitivity to foods, so by removing the food, you’re removing the inflammation and allowing your gut and your body to heal. Instead of using meds to mask symptoms, in an elimination diet, you will be using food to uncover symptoms.
When you fully eliminate foods that you’re sensitive to and then reintroduce them back into your diet, your body will exhibit certain symptoms to let you know that inflammation is going on and it sounds the alarm. These symptoms can be very vague or very straightforward, but they are typically only apparent once you have reintroduced them after you have fully removed them from your diet for at least two to three weeks. Here is a list of the top symptoms associated with food sensitivities.
Common Symptoms of a Food Sensitivity
Gas and stomach upset
Eczema, acne, and other skin problems
Lung or nasal congestion
Headaches or migraines
ADHD and other behavioral issues in children
Difference Between a Food Intolerance/Sensitivity and a Food Allergy
Food allergies trigger an acute immune response, and the symptoms typically develop within a few minutes to a couple of hours after the food is ingested. Symptoms can be life-threatening like that seen with anaphylaxis, or the symptoms can just be uncomfortable and result in hives, rashes, or swelling, for example. Food intolerances and food sensitivities are harder to detect because symptoms are not as straight-forward like that of an allergy and can take as long as 24 to 72 hours to develop. The term food intolerance can mean either an immune or non-immune mediated response. For example, lactose intolerance, a condition where the person lacks the enzyme needed to completely digest lactose, is not an immune reaction and does not create the type of inflammatory response and chronic symptoms that we will be discussing in this post. Often, the term food intolerance is used interchangeably with food sensitivity. For the purpose of this article, I will be using the term food sensitivity.
Using the Steps of the Scientific Method to Determine Food Triggers
You will be using the steps of the scientific method to determine your food triggers. It’s a process and something you don’t want to rush into without fully doing your research because the chances of you failing can be quite high. However, if you’re unsuccessful in your first attempt, don’t worry. Learn from your mistakes and move forward. Here are a few tips to ensure your success:
Ask a question: Which foods am I sensitive to?
Do Background Research: Everyone responds differently to food, so this is where it can be a little difficult in deciding which foods to initially eliminate from your diet. I suggest starting with the foods that tend to cause people the most trouble and are also the ones they have the most difficultly giving up: gluten, dairy, grains, and eggs. However, in my next post, I’ll be going into more detail on the foods that you should eliminate depending on your set of symptoms, foods that commonly cross-react with gluten if this is one of your triggers, and inflammatory foods that everyone should eliminate when doing an elimination diet.
Construct a Hypothesis: Example, if I eliminate gluten and dairy, then my joint pain will go away.
Test Your Hypothesis: Removal Phase
Ok, folks, this is where it gets even trickier. If you have only eliminated one food from your diet, there is a strong possibility for no improvement in your symptoms. This is because if you’re reacting to a food, then you likely have more than one food sensitivity. It’s best to eliminate all of the top trigger foods at the same time for a minimum of two weeks. However, if you have been suffering from chronic health problems for a long time, you will likely need to eliminate them for a total of four to six weeks before you reintroduce them.
For this to be a fair test, you will also need to ensure you’re not accidentally exposing yourself to the very foods that you’re trying to eliminate from your diet. Cross-contamination can occur when dining out or at home, so be sure to discuss your restrictions with those that are in charge of your food prep.
After a period of two to six weeks, and possibly longer depending on your symptoms, you will test your body’s response to each food separately. You will know when it’s a good time to test when your symptoms are gone. If your symptoms are not gone, then you likely have other foods that are triggering an immune response or, very commonly, a pathogen could be at the root of your symptoms. That’s why I find it so important to start with diet, then move quickly onto investigating other root causes for symptoms if no symptom relief. Remind yourself that it’s a process, but you have to start with the fundamentals first. And remember, you never want to reintroduce food during periods of high stress, illness, or active symptoms as this will only interfere with your results.
Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion:
After doing this a while now both in myself and with my clients, it’s very interesting to see how symptoms surface once problem foods are reintroduced, whereas there were no symptoms noted while those foods where eaten. Once the immune system is able to rest and recover, it allows for ample energy to exhibit an immune response to that food resulting in apparent symptoms.
Once trigger foods are identified, remove them for a minimum period of 3 months before trying to reintroduce and supplement with gut-healing herbs like L-glutamine, Marshmallow Root, and Slippery Elm.
Tips for a Successful Elimination Diet
An elimination diet can be challenging. But if you shift your way of thinking it can be very empowering. You’re taking control of your health and will likely be doing something that you may have never done before. You will be putting more thought and awareness into your food that can sometimes cause anxiety and unsuccessful completion if you’re not prepared. Here are my top tips to get you through an elimination diet successfully:
Getting to the bottom of food sensitivities can sometimes take time, but everyone’s journey is different. However, if you can commit to your eliminations, you can look forward to a healthier and happier life. If you need help, you can contact me.
Why Am I Not Losing Weight?
With the New Year, you may be motivated to make yet another stab at your weight loss attempt or have already felt defeated with the progress you’re making. Clients who come to me often eat very carefully, exercise regularly, and feel like they’re doing everything right, but they feel stuck because the weight is not budging. Does this sound like you? Diet and lifestyle are the obvious factors that are driving the weight merry-go-round, but there are other underlying causes that can throw a wrench in your progress. If you’ve already exhausted yourself with diet and lifestyle and are not getting the results that you’re looking for, then tune in. You may be surprised at what’s keeping you from shedding those extra pounds and causing inflammation in your body.
Find Out What Your Food Triggers Are
Most people don’t think of trying a food elimination diet if they’re having difficulty losing weight, but this can be very insightful into uncovering your hidden symptoms and a powerful push in dropping stubborn pounds. Food allergies are often easy to identify because it triggers an extreme reaction. However, identifying food intolerances or sensitivities are not easy because the symptoms can be vague. Helping clients uncover food sensitivities is one area I work with in my clients. And often the results they get are extremely shocking once the food is eliminated and then reintroduced properly.
Food sensitivity testing can be useful in some cases, but they can also commonly generate false negative and false positive results. The gold standard for testing is by doing an elimination diet to test your bodies response. If you’re new to an elimination diet and don’t know where to begin, then a good base to start from is by taking the foods out of your diet that you frequently eat every single day. For most people, it’s gluten and dairy. These two foods commonly make their way into every meal, if not all three. They are also two foods that I see that cause the most issues in people.
Weight struggles can also be a result of an autoimmune disease. Now if you have an autoimmune condition or have already tried a gluten and dairy-free diet and are still experiencing symptoms, then following the Autoimmune Paleo diet can be very helpful in further determining the foods that could be problematic or unhealthy for you. This diet eliminates nightshade vegetables, grains, eggs, beans, legumes, soy, nuts and seeds, and a few others. Now keep in mind as you’re eliminating these foods, you’re also following a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet as this is key for any diet you follow. You will also want to strictly avoid these potentially reactive foods for a minimum of two to six weeks, and possibly longer before you introduce each one at a time. For more information on how to effectively do an elimination diet, stay tuned for my next post.
The Scoop on Thyroid Dysfunction
The health of your thyroid has a direct impact on your metabolism. And when your metabolic function is disrupted, you gain weight that is not easily lost. A very classic symptom of low thyroid function is weight gain despite adhering to a low-calorie diet. The body is throwing up a flag saying, “Pay attention to me.” If you’re one of these people, you may have a thyroid problem. I recommend requesting a full thyroid panel that includes TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, TPO Ab, and TGB Ab. You can develop a thyroid disorder at any age, so routinely checking a full panel is recommended if you have a family history or have many classic thyroid symptoms.
Unfortunately, many thyroid disorders don’t get caught early leaving many people suffering. This is because their labs fall within the “normal” range when they get tested, or only a TSH test is ordered. What’s considered “normal” for most thyroid markers in conventional medicine is by far not optimal. If you have thyroid symptoms, but your doctor states that everything looks great with your labs, it’s worth your health to seek out a holistic or functional medicine practitioner that can take a closer look for you and possibly address the conditions that caused the thyroid to slow down if that is indeed the case. Further, a lot of people feel that if they get on thyroid medication they will lose weight, but since it doesn’t address the root cause of the thyroid imbalance, it often doesn’t work.
Address Gut Infections
If our gut health is poor, we suffer. Most chronic diseases, including obesity and weight gain, benefit greatly when we heal our gut.
If you think of your gut in terms of a garden, this will help you get a clearer picture of how important gut health is. For healthy plants, you need healthy soil that is balanced with the proper pH and nutrients so your plants can thrive. The same goes for your gut. If the balance of healthy gut flora is disrupted by things like stress, alcohol, high sugar intake, poor diet, and certain medications like ones to suppress stomach acid and antibiotics, then this will lead to dysbiosis, which is just an imbalance of healthy gut flora. Now if your garden has a poor pH, then it increases your chances of developing invasive weeds and may result in increased problems with disease in your plants. Again, the same goes for our gut. If your healthy flora is disrupted, common infections like parasites, Candida, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can easily develop.
In my practice, I suspect dysbiosis in anyone with digestive issues, which include symptoms of gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and reflux. You can test for gut pathogens, but some of the best functional stool tests can have false negatives, so I tend to rely heavily on symptoms. Cleaning up the diet and adding probiotics and fermented foods can help, but it’s often not the fix, especially if you have a very invasive weed in your garden. A more targeted approach would be warranted using antiparasitic and antifungal herbs to properly restore balance.
Address Nutrient Deficiencies
Nutrient deficiencies are due to many things including certain medications, stress, diet, lifestyle, and heavy metal toxicities. If we’re deficient in a vitamin or mineral, it can create other deficiencies and also affect other body systems including our hormones and our ability to effectively detox. So, if you’re trying to lose weight and you lack certain nutrients, this can slow down your metabolism. Deficiencies can also create many symptoms that one would likely get you prescribed a drug that would further deplete the very nutrient that caused the symptoms in the first place; It’s a vicious cycle!
Vitamin D may be the first deficiency caught because it’s commonly the only vitamin that is included in a health screening. Vitamin D is extremely important to address if deficient or suboptimal as this can affect your ability to lose weight. Others important nutrients to look into include zinc, selenium, vitamin A, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B12 because they are all required for the thyroid to function properly, which affects your metabolism. Symptoms and medication history can be used to determine which supplements are appropriate, but testing is ultimately the best, especially if you continue to struggle with symptoms and weight issues. Sometimes testing individual nutrients is all that is needed, but for a more comprehensive approach, I prefer to check a whole panel. I use SpectraCell’s Micronutrient test as it measures 31 vitamins, minerals, amino/fatty acids, antioxidants, and metabolites at an intracellular level.
It’s next to impossible to avoid most of the stress we encounter in our lives often due to a full-time job and family life, but how we view stress and how we handle it can make a significant difference in how it affects our health. Cortisol is the most powerful stress hormone that is associated with weight gain, especially around the belly. Small cortisol surges are normal and healthy to get us through the day, but chronic surges in cortisol not only contribute to weight gain but the inability to lose it too. If you’re constantly analyzing or thinking about negative events, are in an unhealthy relationship, or are miserable at your job, they are all contributing to your weight.
Mind-Body exercises like yoga, Tai Chi, breathwork, meditation, and scheduling daily self –care are ways to attenuate the stress response and reduce the risk of stress-induced diseases. They’re also powerful tools in moving your life in a more positive direction so that you’re in a healthier state to make needed changes to your life. However, just like exercise, you have to do it consistently to experience the benefits, so you will want to find something that you enjoy doing that you can commit to.
Stick the Course
Once you make up your mind to adhere to a specific health protocol, don’t stray from it. And when you do, get right back to it. This will make for easier adjustments if needed to continue your weight loss journey. If you hit a plateau or get stuck with your progress, seek support to get you moving in the right direction.
At the end of the day…just remember that every step you take is a step that is moving you closer to your goal. If you feel you need a little extra guidance, you can contact me.
Have you tried various herbs and supplements to boost your immune system during the cold and flu season only for the results to be disappointing? There are hundreds of products advertised for the cold and flu often with basic vitamins and cheap ingredients. Before you waste any more of your money, let’s shift gears a bit and discuss what’s truly an effective solution that concentrates more on lifestyle and less on supplements and incorporates one of my favorite immune-boosting herbs, Echinacea.
A holistic approach to illness prevention is way more effective than just relying on a handful of supplements to get you through the germy season. Plus it will do more than just prevent you from getting sick; it will support your general health and wellbeing too. With a little more awareness and self-care this season, you can have a better chance of staying healthy. And even if you do catch something, your body will overcome it quickly. Support your immune system with what I like to call the core fundamentals to health with an extra layer of protection.
Echinacea as the Herbal Holy Grail
Although there has been a great deal of research done on Echinacea, the results are conflicting. Some show a significant reduction in cold symptoms as well as cold prevention while others do not. It is for this reason I wanted to review what I look for in a high-quality Echinacea supplement because they are not all created equal.
Echinacea, also called purple coneflower, has been commonly used for the prevention of colds and flu for hundreds of years. However, most consumers are not aware that Echinacea products vary considerably in their phytochemical makeup due to the plant material used, method of extraction, time of harvest, and overall quality of plant and seed (1). It’s definitely worth your time, money, and health to know what to look out for when purchasing Echinacea. If you’re not getting the results you had hoped for with your Echinacea, then it may be the brand. It’s also best to take Echinacea throughout the cold and flu season rather than at the first sign of symptoms or one to two weeks before travel. Here are some key characteristics to look for when purchasing Echinacea and my go-to brand:
I get it; we’re all busy! Convenience seems to be the going theme these days if you’re human, but often what is compromised is our health. And that goes for supplements. I always tell my clients that you cannot supplement an unhealthy lifestyle. If you have a toxic body and all you do is supplement hoping for a quick fix, then the results won’t be ideal. Instead, spend your money and time on what works.
And last, even though this is not part of the core fundamentals of health, frequent hand washing with plain soap is one of the top ways to prevent the cold and flu. According to the FDA, plain soap is just as effective as antibacterial soap at eliminating germs. Also, in 2016 the FDA banned 19 antibacterial additives in over-the-counter wash products including the most commonly known ones, triclosan and triclocarban. This is because manufacturers could not prove that these ingredients are safe for long-term use (7). So it’s best to skip antibacterial soaps altogether as they are likely doing more harm than good.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, better known as SIBO, is just as the name implies; it’s an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Many classic symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation are identical to that of SIBO, and it has been suggested as a possible cause in IBS. (1) As the bacteria eat the food we eat and ferment the high carbohydrate component of the meal, this fermentation is what causes the symptoms. SIBO causes inflammation within the small intestines that may interfere with the absorption of nutrients leading to the symptoms associated with SIBO as well as nutrient deficiencies specifically of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. (2) SIBO can often float under the radar and be challenging to identify as it does not always present itself in a clear picture. The symptoms caused by SIBO can be very mild, or they can be severe and cause great distress for the individual.
Personally, there have been many layers that I have had to peel back and examine in my health journey due to having Hashimoto's, and SIBO was one of them. My symptoms were frequent and sometimes severe bloating, mood swings, extreme fatigue, weight loss, anxiety, and just a general feeling of being run over by a semi-truck. I ran a complete stool analysis at the time, which came back normal. My symptoms started shortly after having my son coupled with a huge career move for both my husband and I. I just correlated it to significant hormonal shifts, adjustment to motherhood, and financial stress of starting new businesses. Being a new mom is naturally exhausting, and I know it was truly the spark that set off my Hashimoto's. Two things that are known to affect gut motility are stress and autoimmune disease, and the most common reason SIBO develops is from a motility issue. The function in the gut that sweeps residual debris through the GI tract, known as the migrating motor complex (MMC), often does not work efficiently in motility disorders, and bacteria may not be moved from the proximal bowel to the colon. I had both of those going against me, but I kept making myself believe that all my symptoms were normal and would resolve once everything calmed down. The results on the top are my first lactulose breath test (LBT) that confirm SIBO, and the results on the bottom are the repeat LBT after completing a 3-week elemental diet protocol. As you can see, the repeat is normal. My results were not as high as some others that I have seen, but my symptoms in conjunction with my results were enough confirmation for me.
Diagnosis of SIBO
SIBO is commonly diagnosed using a breath test with a lactulose or glucose substrate. It is noninvasive and low cost, which makes it the preferred route for testing. The individual will drink either substrate, then blow into a bag that has a vial attached to capture various breath samples over a defined period. Lactulose is a nonabsorbable disaccharide that is metabolized to short-chain fatty acids in the colon and glucose is a monosaccharide that is completely absorbed in the proximal small intestine. In the presence of SIBO, fermentation of either one produce gases that can be measured in a breath test. Another way of diagnosing SIBO involves obtaining a culture of an aspirate from the jejunum. This method is invasive, costly, and it is not able to reach the distal small bowel, which is why it is not favored in clinical practice. (3)
Etiology of SIBO
It is best to understand why SIBO developed in the first place to be able to eradicate it and prevent a reoccurrence. If SIBO was eradicated, but it came back, then it’s possible that the cause was never addressed. There are many risk factors and causes for SIBO, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but the following are some of the most well-known:
Eradicating SIBO can be challenging due to the underlying issues that caused it and how resistance the bacteria can be to treatment. Some cases clear after one protocol while others require a variety of them over months to years. There is no universally accepted gold standard to treatment, but it is recommended to switch it up if the previous therapy did not work. It's also important to note that there may be other viruses, bacteria, toxins, or pathogens present that are keeping you from clearing SIBO, so patience is key to being successful with whatever route you and your practitioner choose.
The antimicrobials used to restore microbial balance are either antibiotics or herbal antimicrobials. Research has shown that herbal antibiotics are at least as effective as Rifaximin (common antibiotic for SIBO) for resolution of SIBO by lactulose breath test. The other treatment option that has been shown to be highly effective at normalizing microbial balance is with an elemental diet. (10) If I have a client that presents with SIBO and they have not tried anything else before seeing me, I typically will try the herbal route first because it allows me not just to address SIBO, but also Candida and other pathogens that commonly accompany it.
If someone has a severe case of SIBO or they have tried other modalities, then I will typically recommend an elemental diet. An elemental diet is the most difficult to do, and it is not for everyone, but it is another great option especially for someone who has severe gut issues or if antimicrobials were unsuccessful.
An elemental diet is a medical food diet where the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are in a readily assimilated form that's easily absorbed into the proximal small bowel, which requires little to no digestive effort. An elemental diet frees up the nutrients so that they can be fully absorbed, it allows the gut to rest and heal, and it doesn’t allow for any fermentation to occur in the small intestines, which cuts off the food source for the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines. Typically, an elemental diet is used short-term in individuals with moderate to severe gastrointestinal dysfunction for 14-21 days. Specifically for SIBO, it's used for 2-3 weeks max. Because this will be your sole source of nutrition during this period, you need to know your caloric needs to know how much to drink throughout the day. This will be calculated by your practitioner and adjusted as needed throughout your protocol. If you choose to do it on your own, then a general rule of thumb is 25-30 calories per kilogram of body weight, though each individual's needs will ultimately vary.
I was ecstatic to have eradicated SIBO using only an elemental diet. However, my bloating improved, but my energy and some of my other symptoms did not, which was a sign that there was still a lot of work left to do with my health. This is often the case with a lot of people dealing with SIBO because you still need to address the other health issues that allowed the bacteria to overgrow in the first place.
Recommended Product for Elemental Diet
If you’re interested in making your elemental drink, here is a recipe that is available on siboinfo.com. I have never tasted it, but I have heard it's not the most pleasant. The only company that makes an elemental diet that I currently recommend is Physicians' Elemental Diet by Integrative Therapeutics, which is what I used for my SIBO. There are other brands available, but due to the their ingredients, I don't recommend them. Integrative Therapeutics recently came out with a revised dextrose-free version that is great for those dealing with Candida, fungal overgrowth or who have a glucose sensitivity. The product is called Physicians’ Elemental Diet Dextrose-Free, and it contains 10 grams less sugar per serving than the original Physicians’ Elemental Diet as it substitutes maltodextrin in place of dextrose. I prefer this form since it's not as sweet, is lower in carbohydrates, and you don't risk worsening any underlying fungal issues that you may not even be aware of.
Is an Elemental Diet Right For You?
As a dietitian in functional nutrition in my own healing journey, I have used myself as a guinea pig to test out the protocols, diets, and detoxes that I use in practice. There are a couple of reasons I chose the elemental diet. For one, I wanted to try the elemental diet so that I could know firsthand what my clients may have to go through from everything to the physical aspect of not eating to the emotional aspect that comes with the diet. The second reason was that I wanted an easy route. This included a break from cooking, preparing, and thinking about food. It’s important to assess where you’re currently at so that you can choose what’s best for you. A minimum of two weeks on an elemental diet is recommended, followed by retesting, and if positive, another week on the diet is typically suggested before retesting. I ended up doing it for three weeks before testing so that I did not have to potentially retest, but I wouldn't recommend that for everyone.
Throughout this diet, you will only be drinking water, some herbal teas, the elemental drink, and that’s about it. Symptoms that may be experienced include emotional, flu-like, nausea, rash, fatigue, or headaches. I had many symptoms surface while on the elemental diet. I was way more emotional and sensitive than I ever was and this was the hardest part for me. I think it’s important to note that I was also taking care of my one-year-old son who was teething and not sleeping well all while my husband was out of town for part of it. I kept a journal while on the elemental diet so that I could keep track of my progress. My energy was not the greatest, but that could have been due to the lack of sleep from my son. Surprisingly, I was not hungry throughout the entire three-week period. I also lost a total of five pounds during it, and my bloating was completely gone, which isn’t surprising since my stomach was on vacation. If you’re not able to take sick time from work in case the need for it arises, then an elemental diet may not be the best choice. There can be a few tough days where you may want a little flexibility in your schedule. I also don’t recommend this diet for people who have severe adrenal or blood sugar issues and who are malnourished or have an eating disorder.
Tips on an Elemental Diet
Once SIBO is eradicated, it is important to follow a modified diet for several months that is low in FODMAPS to prevent a reoccurrence. It is also recommended to take a motility agent that will help to keep things moving along in the GI tract for several months as well. Working with a practitioner who has experience with SIBO is important as treatment should be individualized according to the client’s history and test results. For some people, getting a diagnosis of SIBO and successfully eradicating it is a game changer in their health, but for others, it just means that more work needs to be done.
If you're interested in learning more about the elemental diet and SIBO, I recommend listening to the podcast with Dr. Lela Altman.
Lomatium dissectum is a powerful healing herb that is not commonly talked about nor even heard of by most. It is for this reason, I became intrigued with the herb and wanted to learn more. I commonly use and test the very supplements, herbs, and functional labs that I recommend to my clients, not only because I feel personal experience is important, but also because of the path that I’ve been on in my own health journey. Studies demonstrate Lomatium’s effectiveness with treating influenza A and certain viruses like rotavirus, and herbalist with extensive experience with Lomatium have also used it in many other ailments from UTIs to tooth abscesses.
My first experience with Lomatium was when I was on vacation with my son who had come down with a cold the second day we were there. I started to experience cold symptoms two days later, and the last thing I wanted was a cold on vacation, especially knowing I had to fly by myself with my rambunctious toddler in just a few short days. And just before leaving for vacation, we had a three to four week stretch of one virus being passed around to the next between my husband, son, and myself, followed by a cold in my husband, so quite frankly I was over illness at this point. I knew I needed to act quickly. Lomatium was one of the first herbs that I thought of because it was fresh on my mind after learning about it just prior to our trip, so I ordered it online for 2-day delivery. I wish I would have thought about it earlier for the viral episode going around in our home as it may have helped. Fortunately, I was staying at our lake house that had a sauna, so I hit up that heat machine at least once to twice a day and took an immune support formula with a blend of medicinal mushrooms that I had on hand to try to get ahead of it. When the Lomatium arrived, I still felt like I was fighting it as I could feel it in my chest and head, but I didn’t feel that it was progressing. I knew I was on the right track with my current plan, so when the Lomatium arrived, I incorporated it at a dose of 10 drops two times a day for two days, then increased it to 25 drops, twice a day. However, I would suggest staying at the lower dose for at least a week before advancing to test your tolerance. By the third day of use I felt great with no symptoms! I can’t tell you how pumped I was about this! I’m unsure if it was the Lomatium by itself that allowed me not to get sick or if it was the combination of therapies that did it; whatever it was, it worked for me, and it was what my body needed to up the defenses and overcome quickly. I have continued to take Lomatium as I have incorporated it into an anti-viral protocol that I’m doing due to a reoccurring rash that appears on my chest whenever I get sick. One significant thing that I have noticed since being on it is an improvement in my energy, which is always a good sign.
How Lomatium Became Known
Lomatium, also known as fernleaf biscuitroot and desert parsley, is a perennial wildflower native to the western United States. The Native Americans used this plant as both a food and medicine and scientific studies have shown it to have antiviral and antibacterial properties. The root extracts were shown to inhibit rotavirus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Mycobacterium avium. (1) Lomatium dissectum became widely popular after the influenza pandemic of 1916-1918 when a physician from Nevada reported a complete lack of influenza mortality in a Native American group taking the herb. (2)
In one study, one hundred extracts of medicinal plants were screened for antiviral activity against seven viruses. Lomatium dissectum root extract was found to completely inhibit the cytopathic effects of rotavirus, which is one of the major infectious diseases in the world that causes gastroenteritis. (3) In another study, Lomatium dissectum root extract was shown to have an inhibitory effect on CXCL10 secretion, a chemokine implicated in the pathogenesis of influenza A infection. The primary cause of morbidity and mortality from influenza is cytokine and chemokine dysregulation that may occur during the immune response and not by the virus itself. (4) Herbalist familiar practicing with Lomatium, also claim that it has many other medicinal uses including, but not limited to, Candida, EBV, bacterial infections, strep infections, respiratory infections as well as prevention for the common cold and flu. (5).
It should be noted that before you start taking Lomatium, you need to be aware of the rare one-time detox rash that may occur in some people taking it for the first time. The rash typically shows up about five to seven days after taking Lomatium, and it’s similar in appearance to measles. It can appear randomly on different places of the body and then spread to cover the whole body. Some speculate that it’s a healing rash that is pulling out viral and fungal infections stuck in the tissues. I can believe this because I’ve experienced a “healing crisis” before with homeopathy as my tonsils literally turned black for a few days from a remedy that I was on for a recurring chronic sore throat when I was younger. After that, I never had them again. The image below is one I took of my arm after being on Lomatium for seven days. My case is not common as it didn't itch, was contained to my arm, and was present for about two weeks.
The rash is not harmful, it can just be uncomfortable and probably enough for one to not want to use it again. But if you can get past the discomfort for a couple of days, then I feel there are more rewards associated with it than risks. Some people can get a light rash that only covers a small area on their body and is gone typically in two to three days, but most cases are the full body version that may make sleep restless for a couple of nights. (5) It’s advised to start with a low dose of 5-10 drops in water once a day for the first week when taking for the first time. More information regarding the rash, ways to minimize or to potentially avoid it, and uses of Lomatium can be found on Barlow Herbal. MunityBoost by Barlow Herbal was specifically developed to help prevent the one-time rash that can develop with using Lomatium for the first time. They also have a wonderful team that will help to answer any questions that you may have regarding its use.
Before beginning an herbal protocol, you should always consult with a health practitioner as there are interactions with certain medications and dosages may vary.
I'm Meagan Reynolds- a certified functional medicine practitioner and dietitian located in Nashville, TN. I help women reverse Hashimoto's symptoms so they can regain their energy and heal their brain and body.