All posts in Nutrition

Eating Your Veggies Can Help Breast Cancer, Study Shows

broccoliWith all the hype about what’s bad in our diet here’s some encouraging news. A landmark study was completed in Shanghai China regarding genes and breast cancer. This study was done over a 3 year period with over 6,000 women between the ages of 20 and 70 years of age. One of the groups studied were 3035 women who already had breast cancer. The second group of 3037 was randomly selected and was cancer free. Extensive dietary histories were taken to see if breast cancer or genetics could be linked to diet.

Two very important findings were identified. The first was that scientists were able to identify an important breast cancer gene.  The second was that women with the cancer related genotype who have a low intake of cruciferous vegetables have a 1.7 fold increased risk for cancer. Women with the same genotype who consume a diet high in cruciferous vegetables lower their odds for breast cancer because nutrients in these particular vegetables lessen the potential cancer causing effects.

The take home message from the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study is that if you have the genetic variation that makes you vulnerable to breast cancer, (GSTP1 val/val allele), certain phytonutrients in cruciferous vegetables can compensate for the breast cancer gene you inherited and in turn lower your risk for breast cancer. But even if you don’t have the particular cancer gene, cruciferous vegetables have other health promoting effects that will benefit you and your whole family. Now that’s a good reason to eat your veggies

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New Research Shows Essential Fatty Acids Help You Live Longer

vitamins(1)Most of us are aware that we need essential fatty acids in our diet.  They play an imperative role in our genetic expression, our longevity, our pain reduction and the functioning of our immune system.  In essence, you live longer and have a better quality of life when you are getting the right amounts of essential fatty acids.

The latest research is showing that our body is using these essential fatty acids to resolve inflammatory stress and bring homeostasis back to the body.  Our bodies have a built-in method of doing this, and that method is dependent upon having adequate essential fatty acids in our system.  This is how your body resolves inflammation so you do not age any faster than you have to and can prevent the inflammatory diseases that commonly occur during aging (cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, heart disease, etc).  This new field of research sprung up because fatty acids like EPA and DHA were shown to make specific molecules that actually resolve inflammation and return your body to a state of healthy balance. 

This research shows that once your body starts an inflammatory process, it also starts an anti-inflammatory process that will eventually curtail the inflammation as well as clean up the “debris of the battle”.  The cleaner and more rejuvenated you keep yourself the longer and healthier you will live.  Conversely, the more inflamed you remain, the more your quality of life is at risk.  Scientists call these new fatty acid-containing proteins “specialized pro-resolving mediators” or SPM, for short.  They include molecules such as:  resolvins, docosatrienes, & protectins. 

The suppression and resolution of inflammation, but especially pain is an active process in the body.  And this ongoing active process is supported by the presence of two newly-discovered protectins.  They are both dependent upon the dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids because protectins come from the fatty acid DHA.  Protectins were first classified as important nerve protectors, since they protect both your brain and eyesight.  (FYI..It has been demonstrated that protectins are lacking in cognitive decline as well as Alzheimer’s).  Protectins are made by your brain cells and nerve cells, but they were also discovered to be made by some immune cells and the cells that line your body cavities and blood vessels.   

Resolvins are compounds that help your body resolve inflammation.  Some resolvins come from EPA and others come from DHA.  Resolvins help your body resolve inflammation and they are important in managing the perception of pain.  Resolvins are also highly interactive with the immune system surrounding the mucosal membranes in your airways.  Deficiencies in them are associated with faulty immune responses as well as allergies and asthma.  All resolvins are highly specific in their actions toward resolving inflammation, including the cleanup of general wear and tear as well as your immune system’s battle against bugs.  Docosatrienes, on the other hand, come from completely from DHA and shed new light on managing inflammation.

All of these molecules are boosted by omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Their production is a system wide process in your body, vital to recovery from anything, and to maintain a state of healthy natural balance.  If you lack omega-3 fatty acids you cannot possibly make them at an optimal rate. These anti-inflammatory DHA metabolites are highly active in tissues all over your body.

Molecules such as resolvins and protectins are part of the new frontier of nutrition science in the war against common diseases in America today. The anti-inflammatory properties of resolvins and protectins are stunning.  Even more stunning is their documented method of operation, which for the first time explains the recovery from stress and inflammation.

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Calcium: Good For More Than Just Bones

Calcium is a mineral important for strong bones and teeth.  It is also essential for your heart, nerves, muscles, and other body systems to work properly.  However, most people in the United States, especially women, do not get enough calcium in their diet.  Milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, contain a lot of calcium, but you can also get it from nuts, green leafy vegetables, and calcium-enhanced orange juice.  Vitamins such as A, C, D, and E help your body utilize the calcium it derives from food.  On the other hand, stress and lack of exercise can harm your calcium balance. 

Getting enough calcium can help your body with the following:

  • Develop strong bones and teeth
  • Prevent osteoporosis and broken bones
  • Reduce your blood pressure
  • Keep your heart regular
  • Reduce cramps and moodiness from premenstrual syndrome
  • Reduce irritability, insomnia, depression, and headaches during menopause
  • Reduce risks of pregnancy, such as high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
  • Prevent gum disease
  • Prevent cancer of the colon and rectum
  • Prevent kidney stones
  • May be associated with a decrease in body fat 

There are many good sources of calcium that you can work into your diet.  The richest sources of calcium include cheeses (Parmesan, Romano, Swiss, Provolone, Monterey Jack, Edam, Cheddar, Muenster, Gouda, Colby, Havarti, Fontina, Mozzarella, Feta); wheat-soy flour; blackstrap molasses; and rennin.  Other good sources of calcium include almonds, bok choy, Brazil nuts, broccoli, cabbage, caviar, dried figs, greens (dandelion, turnip, collard, mustard, kale), hazelnuts, ice cream, milk, oysters, sardines, soybean flour, and yogurt.

You can also get calcium from many herbs, spices, and seaweeds (for example, basil, chervil, cinnamon, dill weed, fennel, fenugreek, ginseng, kava kava, kelp, marjoram, oregano, parsley, poppy seed, sage, and savory).

Calcium is available in many forms for supplementation.  Lead has been found in some types, so use caution when choosing a product.  Lead can harm the brain and kidneys, and can reduce red blood cell production.  Children are most at risk for lead poisoning.  The following are some of the available forms of calcium:

  • Microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate (MCHC). MCHC is an excellent source of bioavailable calcium and other nutrients important for maintaining bone health.  Because MCHC is derived from whole bone, it is complete with the minerals and organic factors naturally found in raw bone. MCHC has been shown to be well-tolerated, even by small children, with no undesirable side effects.
  • Calcium citrate. This is the most easily used form of calcium.  Lead levels are safe.
  • Calcium carbonate. This type is less expensive, and lead levels are safe if it is refined.
  • Calcium gluconate. This type is safe.
  • Calcium lactate. This is another safe form.
  • Calcium chloride. This is not recommended because it irritates the gastrointestinal tract.

You should be cautious with products that may contain harmful levels of lead.  These include unrefined calcium carbonate from oyster shells or limestone, bone meal, and Dolomite.

Supplementation should be considered only under the guidance of your healthcare professional; this is particularly true for children. If calcium supplements are used, they should be taken in small doses throughout the day with 6 to 8 cups of water over that time course to avoid constipation.

Talk with your provider about your calcium needs if you have any thyroid or kidney problems, take prescription medications, or if you have hormone or vitamin deficiencies.

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Your Diet Can Affect Your Pain and Inflammation

As chiropractors, we often see patients who suffer from chronic pain and other conditions that are caused by inflammation.  One thing that I try to explain to my patients is that for most of their lives they have eaten meals that produce chronic pain for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Most of the meals we eat contain linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid that is found in various oils, grains and packaged foods.  Linoleic acid is converted by our bodies to arachidonic acid, a precursor of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), the primary eicosanoid associated with pain. We also ingest arachidonic acid directly in animal products, particularly in fatty meat, chicken skin and farm-raised fish such as tilapia and catfish.  The more of these types of food that we eat, the more likely we will develop a chronic inflammatory disease including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

The only the only real alternative to chronic inflammation is adopting a lifestyle change.  One such change may be to restore the proper balance of essential fatty acids in the diet.  Too many people have chronic inflammation in their bodies and brains because they are eating too many omega-6 and too few omega-3 fatty acids.  Experts believe that for optimum health we need a 1:1 to 4:1 range of ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, but we are eating a ratio of 20:1 to 30:1.  Excess omega-6 in the diet is pro-inflammatory.

Consumption of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids may decrease chronic pain and inflammation and reduce the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  Research performed by Joseph Maroon, MD, a board-certified neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, showed that 2 g of EPA/DHA daily reduced joint pain and the need for NSAIDs in 59% of patients with neck and low back pain.  According to Dr. Maroon, the omega-3 fatty acids counter to some extent the poisons we put into the body in the form of trans-fatty acids, nitrates, and various chemicals and pesticides from non-organic foods.

While omega-3 acids are contained in green leafy vegetables, flax seed, flax seed oil and canola oil, many patients, especially older adults, need direct marine sources of EPA and DHA, namely fish, seafood, seaweed and fish oils. DHA seems particularly important for cognitive health and the health of the retina of the eye, while EPA may be more important for heart health and for emotional health.  One caution when taking omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, in particular, can have blood-thinning properties, so if you are taking a blood thinner, you need to communicate with your doctors before you increase your consumption of fish oils.

In addition to increasing intake of anti-inflammatory compounds, returning to a healthy diet and nutritional support can help reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases.  From a dietary perspective, we need to eat more low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, such as lean meat, fish, skinless chicken, vegetables and fruit.  A modest amount of nut intake is also appropriate.  From the perspective of supplementation, the available evidence favors a multivitamin, magnesium, fish oil, vitamin D and probiotics.

A small study showed that a lifestyle modification protocol may be effective in reducing the pain associated with fibromyalgia.  Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, found in his placebo-controlled study that 91 percent of fibromyalgia patients improve, with the majority becoming pain-free, using his SHINE Protocol: Sleep, Hormones, Infections, Nutrition and Exercise.  As part of his protocol, Dr. Teitelbaum advocates eight hours of daily sleep for tissue repair; thyroid and adrenal hormonal support; elimination of infections, including yeast overgrowth; nutritional support through proper diet and supplementation; and exercise.  For those whose pain may prevent them from exercising, he recommends starting a walking program in a warm-water pool.

So if you suffer from a chronic inflammatory condition, you may want to consider making some lifestyle modifications and change what you are eating to see if it helps alleviate some of your pain and inflammation.

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Nutritional Therapy for Autoimmune Diseases

Like I discussed in the previous post, autoimmune diseases can have a number of contributing causes.  Some of these causes include heavy metal toxicity, vitamin D deficiency, food allergies, and chronic infections.  But even if you don’t know if any of these things are contributing to your autoimmune condition, there are certain things you can do to help improve your overall health which will help with your condition.  If you can make changes to your diet and lifestyle, the stronger your body will be.  The greater the changes, the healthier the cells and cell membranes will become.  The more you can build antioxidant reserves and reduce inflammation, the healthier you can become.  By building your foundational health, you can make great progress in re-building and repairing cells.

So first and foremost, you want to make sure you have a good diet.  You want to make sure your diet contains foods that are dense in nutrients and low in dietary toxins.  You may also want to eat a diet that to low in food allergens.  This means you will have to stop eating grains and dairy.  Your gut won’t ever heal if you have food sensitivities or allergies.  The fact that your immune system is attacking your own body, it is very likely that something major has gone awry in your gut.  You also may want to start using a good probiotic that will help increase the amount of good bacteria in your intestinal tract.  This will help improve your digestion and gut dysbiosis that was discussed in the previous post.

You also want to make sure you have adequate levels of vitamin D.  You want your blood levels of vitamin D to be around 50-100 ng/ml.  If you don’t know what your blood levels of vitamin D are, it is recommended to take between 4,000 to 6,000 IUs per day. Vitamin D has a profound effect on gut health and a calming effect on your immune system.

You also want to use an essential fatty acid blend that will reduce inflammation and support healthy cell membranes.  There are at least five health-promoting fatty acids commonly found in the human diet.  These are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from flaxseed oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from fish oil, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish oil and algae, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from borage oil, and oleic acid from olive oil, flaxseed and borage oils.  Each of these fatty acids has health benefits that cannot be fully attained from supplementing a different fatty acid.  The goal here is a balanced intake of all of the health-promoting fatty acids; using only one or two sources of fatty acids is not balanced and results in suboptimal improvement, at best.  You want to use a combination fatty acid therapy comprised of ALA, EPA, DHA, and GLA.

Granted, this may not “cure” your autoimmune disorder, but it should help improve your overall health and help your body repair its damaged cells.

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