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Exercise Your Guts Out

January 15, 2019 - 3:17pm

Exercise is good for us, yes? With its wide-range of benefits that include supporting heart, muscle and bone health, the short answer is yes. But could there be repercussions in over-exercising? For some people, yes; intense exercise can lead to leaky gut. In the literature, it is referred to as “exercise-induced gut permeability,” and the mechanism for damage stems from changes in blood flow and neuronal functioning. During exercise, blood flow is diverted from the intestinal tract. Also, changes in the nervous system work to decrease intestinal motility. Our bodies move the resources to the arms and legs, and away from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Similarly, stress of any kind can exacerbate leaky gut for the same reason. Adrenal hormones move resources away from the GI tract and into skeletal muscle, away from the intestines. In addition, any type of stress can cause oxidative damage.

Impact of Diet on Baby’s Microbiome

January 8, 2019 - 10:17am

Whether you’re a would-be parent or your newborn is already safely in your arms, the joy and wonder of having a new member in your family can be truly exhilarating. But what most parents may not take the time to think about is the impact a baby’s diet has on their microbiome.

The importance of developing a healthy gut flora from early life stages cannot be overemphasized. Among other things, a healthy microbiome helps to boost immune functioning, aids digestion and improves nutrient absorption. These, of course, lead to overall health. However, babies aren’t born with a fully-developed microbial colony, but if properly developed, the microbiome can lay a valuable foundation for a healthy life.

Do You Have Leaky Brain?

January 2, 2019 - 7:40pm

The NIH estimates that 20% of Americans have a diagnosable mental disorder, at a cost of $201 billion per year. The most common maladies are depression and phobias. In 2014, the CDC issued a report indicating that the U.S. suicide rate reached 13 per 100,000, the highest it had been since 1986. We are beginning to look at systemic inflammation and its effect on the blood-brain barrier as a cause of neurodegeneration and, subsequently, mental health problems. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is semi-permeable and vulnerable to damage by free radicals and inflammation.  

As for the efficacy of antidepressants, a report published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics states, “Meta-analyses of FDA trials suggest that antidepressants are only marginally efficacious compared to placebos.” Because of this, researchers continue to explore mechanisms to address mental health issues. Scientists are now exploring how inflammation might decrease the firing rate of neurons in the frontal lobe of the brain in people with depression. Some believe that medications used to manage depression are limited since they do not address underlying brain inflammation.  

Detox Your Fat Cells

December 18, 2018 - 6:58pm

A quick internet search on the causes of obesity would lead one to believe this epidemic is simply due to poor diet and lifestyle choices such as too much junk food, food addiction, or overeating without exercising enough to balance energy intake. Genetics have also been implicated in the obesity discussion, making obesity a multifactorial and complex disease. One consideration, however, that is often overlooked is the impact of artificial chemical compounds that disrupt the normal development and balance of lipid metabolism. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) are exogenous chemicals that interfere with hormone action; in animal studies EDCs are known to contribute to infertility, endometriosis, and other disorders. But what about obesity?

Adipose tissue is not an inert substance, but a complex endocrine organ that is associated with the synthesis and secretion of numerous hormones. EDCs that disrupt the normal functioning of these hormones have been called “obesogens” since these chemicals promote adipogenesis and cause weight gain by damaging natural weight-control mechanisms. With obesity and chronic diseases on the rise, obesogens should be considered an important contributor to the obesity epidemic. According to Current Obesity Reports, the lipophilic structures may be the culprit, since “their ability to increase fat deposition has the added consequence of increasing the capacity for their own retention. This has the potential for a vicious spiral not only of increasing obesity but also increasing the retention of other lipophilic pollutant chemicals with an even broader range of adverse actions.” Even when someone loses weight, these chemicals are released into the bloodstream, altering natural functions. However, the deleterious effects do not end here. Other studies have found these chemicals can alter immune and thyroid functions and increase systemic inflammation and oxidative stress.

Probiotics for Immune Support

December 11, 2018 - 8:53am

You have already heard about washing your hands, getting plenty of rest, getting your vitamin D and eating a diet rich in antioxidants and various botanicals such as Echinacea, Astragalus, Elderberry and mushroom blends, but what other immune-boosting tactics might be missing from your medicine cabinet? To keep the immune system running strong, there might not be just one magic bullet. However, more and more, research is pointing to the power of probiotics in supporting immune health.

Your colon is an ecosystem containing several pounds of bacteria, which belong there. They remove toxins, keep pathogens in check, and create nutrients that are beneficial to the GI lining and to the rest of the body. According to research appearing in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, supplementing with prebiotics and probiotics can also improve antioxidant status, which might one way they help the immune system.

The Methylcobalamin Effect

December 4, 2018 - 11:08am

Vitamin B12 plays a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system (and the formation of blood). One of its analogs, methylcobalamin, which is considered an active form of vitamin B12, exerts neural protection by encouraging the regeneration of injured nerves and serving as an essential vitamin for promoting proper brain development. Methylcobalamin is required for the formation of the myelin sheath and nerve fibers. Without it, irreversible nerve damage may take place. One such example where a lack of methycobalamin has been associated with neurological impairment is peripheral neuropathy. Recent clinical and experimental studies have demonstrated that methylcobalamin may also have soothing effects for patients with diabetic neuropathy (DPN) by improving nerve conduction.

Nutritional Genomics as It Relates to Detoxification

November 27, 2018 - 11:04am

The study of nutrient-gene interactions is becoming a popular and developing area of science, and people now accept the diet-genome relationship affects our health. In other words, the belief there is an optimal individualized diet which, if compromised, could expose a person to greater health risks is gaining credibility. As the poet Lucretius stated long ago, “What is food to one man is bitter poison to others.”  But why is that? Because the nutrients from food are able to interact with molecular mechanisms and modulate biochemical functions in the body. Nutrigenomics is the influence of nutrients on gene expression and provides a genetic understanding of how common dietary components affect the balance between health and illness by altering the structure or expression of an individual’s genetic makeup. On the other spectrum, nutrigenetics is the interplay between gene variants and dietary components, which also play a role in the development of nutraceuticals. Genetic variations have a known impact on the extent to which food intolerances may influence dietary requirements, and they open the door to optimal health through personalized nutrition.

Genetic polymorphisms can influence responses to environmental factors such as enzymatic changes that, in turn, influence the effectiveness of chemicals and metabolites. Therefore, metabolic conditions may influence genetic variations to diets such as Phenylketonuria (PKU), defects associated with iron absorption (hemochromatosis) and long-chain fatty acid oxidation. These conditions may be reasonably well-managed with dietary restrictions.

The Power of Peas

November 20, 2018 - 10:19am

For those celebrating Thanksgiving this week, definitely have your family or friends pass the peas, please. Peas have been a common part  the human diet for ages. Produced by the Pisum sativum plant, peas actually belong to the family Fabaceae, which are a group of pod-producing leguminous plants. So, although commonly regarded as vegetables, peas are actually legumes, not vegetables.

Regardless of the classification, peas are a valuable source of nutrients that provide tremendous health benefits. Although we’ve grown up being told to eat our peas, most people might not know these little spheres contain copious amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. The following are a few health benefits from peas:

How to Build a Better Mood

November 13, 2018 - 10:24am

The brain is comprised of billions upon billions of nerve cells (neurotransmitters) that relay information from one nerve cell to the next, allowing for efficient communication to occur. When everything is working properly, we feel our best. However, neurotransmitters often get compromised from the stressors of everyday life, which then affects our overall mood.

One example is how serotonin, that feel good chemical, gets depleted from insufficient sleep. As a result, our mood, appetite and even sleep patterns become less than optimal. The reason? The building blocks of those neurotransmitters become depleted, which then affects the production of the neurotransmitters. In the case of serotonin, this often means insufficient B Vitamins, tryptophan or 5-HTP, all nutrients that aid in the production of serotonin. Of course, reduced serotonin leads to reduced melatonin, explaining the connection between depression and sleep disorders.

Probiotics and the Brain

November 6, 2018 - 10:29am

The mind-body connection garners a lot of attention these days, with explosive and ever-emerging research demonstrating the importance of seeing the body as a whole, rather than fractured systems. When talking about the brain, it’s hard to ignore the gut. The gut-brain axis is a good example of this; with the ability of the gut microbiota to bidirectionally communicate with the brain through the vagus nerve. Also, 95% of serotonin is found in the gut’s enterochromaffin cells

Our bodies are comprised of trillions upon trillions of bacteria, or microorganisms, the majority of which reside in our gut. These bacteria are responsible for various supporting functions in the body; ranging from digestion and immune system functioning to metabolic support, but exactly how do they impact the brain?

Current research points to the gut microbiota as a significant determinant in brain health. In a study evaluating the effect of the gut microbiota on the brain development in humanized germ-free mice, they found the gut bacteria influence neuronal development, neurotransmission pathways, oligodendrocyte development and neuroinflammation markers. In this study, the pregnant germ-free mice were colonized with either microbiota from a preterm infant with good growth (M-H) or a preterm infant with poor postnatal growth (M-L).

What Can Brown Fat Do for You?

October 30, 2018 - 12:30pm

We often hear about fat in our foods -- good fats, bad fats, fake fats. And the debate has been raging for decades over which fats are good for what and whether fat intake actually makes us fat. Everyone seems to know where the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Gary Taubes stand on the issue, and the subject of dietary fats in the media is enough to make one’s head spin. Although the debate continues over whether fats are simply a highly concentrated source of calories or an energy source preferable to even glucose, we seem to understand the basic biochemical mechanisms of fat metabolism and fat storage in humans. But relatively little is known about the types of fat tissues found in our bodies and their various functions.


Not long ago, it was discovered there are different types of fat cells within body tissue: brown and white adipose. Brown is referred to as such because of the actual hue these cells have due to their higher concentration of mitochondria and thus iron content. Most fat tissues found in human adults is white adipose (WAT), serving as sites for energy (fat) storage and endocrine activity that modulates whole-body metabolism including insulin response. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) conversely, is known for its energy-producing capability, termed thermogenesis. This is vital to mammals in order to maintain a normal body temperature higher than most ambient temperatures. This is mediated by the expression of a tissue-specific uncoupling protein (UCP1) that instigates the uncoupling of ATP production and substrate oxidation.

Effects of Sleep Loss on Weight Gain

October 26, 2018 - 3:15pm

For a number of reasons, sleep loss has been associated with weight gain whether it’s because of an increase in appetite due to hormonal imbalances or craving sugar-laden products to stay awake. Few studies, however, have focused on underlying tissue-specific molecular responses to acute sleep loss. In a recent study, adipose and skeletal tissues were obtained after one night of sleep loss and one full night of sleep. What they discovered was that there were critical differences in how these tissues responded to sleep loss.

In summary, sleep loss was associated with a downregulation of the glycolytic pathway in skeletal muscle, but an upregulation of that pathway in the adipose tissue. Sleep loss also affected genome-wide DNA methylation in adipose tissue, which increased adiposity.

Tiny Seed, Big Health Benefits

October 23, 2018 - 2:18pm

Flaxseed, known as a vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids, may also have the added benefit of promoting hormonal health. Although phytoestrogens are similar to estrogen, their role is not completely understood as having a positive or negative influence on women’s hormonal health, particularly those with a history of hormone-linked cancers. However, for women with no health history of cancer, and normal hormonal changes due to aging, flaxseed may offer the benefit of balancing hormones. It does so by providing the essential building blocks for hormone production, thus helping alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.

Infertility on the Rise?

October 16, 2018 - 9:23am

In the United States, approximately 10% of couples are infertile, and the number could be as high as 8-12% worldwide. With rising infertility rates, and the culpability pointing to factors such as environmental toxin exposure, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and water contamination, the data looks grim for the next generation. But that’s not the whole story.

When it comes to reproductive health issues, many factors within our control are at play. Some involve lifestyle choices such as nutrition, sleep, stress, relationships, exercise and chemical use. We hold tremendous power over our own health and fertility status by choosing healthy lifestyle habits.

5 Lesser-Known Benefits of Vitamin D

October 9, 2018 - 1:07pm

Vitamin D, commonly dubbed the “sunshine vitamin,” is an essential micronutrient produced by the body when exposed to sunlight. Generally speaking, most people require 10-30 minutes of decent exposure to sunlight, 3-4 times a week in order to naturally synthesize enough vitamin D.

However, factors such as genetics and where we live also play a role in whether or not we’re synthesizing enough vitamin D. And it is important to be aware of these influences on our personal lives, in order to maintain an optimum level of vitamin D.

But why does this one vitamin get so much attention? It’s simply because vitamin D plays a tremendous role in the body – more than most even give it credit for. While the role of vitamin D in the regulation of calcium and phosphorus (and by implication, the development of healthy bones and teeth) is well-documented and accepted, this is not its only benefit. Here are five more reasons why maintaining optimal levels of this sunshine vitamin is important for our health.

For Better Sleep, Turn Off the Blue Light

October 3, 2018 - 3:21pm

Causes for sleep disorders are many, and may include issues such as chronic pain, stress, shift work, jet lag or nocturia. Not planning for sleep, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, or eating too close to bedtime can also contribute to not getting enough sleep; so may something as seemingly harmless as returning a text late at night.

One poll noted that parents believed the number one reason for teen sleep disturbance was their late-night use of cell phones and social media.

Not surprisingly, Americans are expected to spend approximately $84.9 billion on sleep aids by the year 2021, a significant increase from $66.3 billion in 2016.