by Sara Vance, Nutritionist & Author of The Perfect Metabolism Plan
Just as the cold and flu season is winding down – allergy season is gearing up. Due to a warmer than usual February and March, it is looking like Spring 2017 will unfortunately be a robust allergy season.
Most people think that if you have allergies, you are just ‘stuck with them’, so you may as well just stock up on the antihistamines and Advil. I certainly used to believe it myself too…until I no longer needed them any more. I went from being allergic to “everything” (my nickname was “The Bubble Girl”), to not suffering any more.
What if allergies weren’t something that we were stuck with – what if we could actually heal from allergies…
“Most people look at allergies as symptoms that get treated with drugs. I’m here to help you think of allergies in a new way, so you overcome them by understanding their root causes.” says The Allergy Solution author, Dr. Leo Galland. So rather than just popping antihistamines to deal with the symptoms for the rest of our lives – we should be looking for the root of the problem, and figuring out WHY we are reacting. But the issue with that approach, is that it can take a little time, experience, and investigative work.
According to Dr. Clifford Bassett in The New Allergy Solution – although “there may be no ‘cure’ for your allergy, in many cases it can be preventable.” He believes that “nearly all cases of allergies are treatable…with a program that includes diet, exercise, de-stressing, and overall health awareness (and proper medication).” He says that “my patients want more than just to sneeze less, they want to garden again and partake in the activities that they love and that make life enjoyable.”
But before we get to the cause, let’s take a step back and cover the basics.
An allergic reaction happens when the immune system is exposed to and reacts to a trigger (the antigen or allergen), causing symptoms – inflammation, redness, swelling, rashes, nasal symptoms, etc. Typically, an allergic reaction does not occur on the first exposure to the allergen – it happens on subsequent exposures. Dr. Leo Galland says that there can be a genetic component to allergies, but that the exponential rise in allergies is due largely to environmental factors – such as increases in pollution, toxins, changes in seasonal temperatures and the like. He says there usually is an “antecedent” to the allergic reaction – exposure to a toxin, mold, pollen, an infection, nutrient deficiencies, microbiome depletion (as with antibiotic use), or stress.
An allergic reaction sets off the body’s inflammation response. Allergy symptoms can be uncomfortable and annoying like the runny nose, itchy eyes with dark circles under them, and skin issues. But for some, allergies can also be very severe, and even be life-threatening – such as those that can lead to anaphylactic shock – such as peanut, shellfish, and bee sting allergies.
Chronic inflammation is at the heart of allergies, autoimmunity, and most other major diseases. According to this article by Dr. Mercola, chronic inflammation affects every aspect of your health.
That is the million dollar question. If you struggle with allergies – you are not alone, it is estimated that over 1 billion people suffer with allergies, with 50 billion of those people in the United States alone. Today allergies affect 30% of adults, and up to 40% of kids – it is the most common health condition affecting kids today! But just 50 years ago, allergies were relatively rare – affecting only about 1 in 30 people. So why are so many people suffering from allergies today? We don’t know for sure why allergies are rising so fast – but these are some the potential theories:
Although seasonal allergies are often considered a singular condition, could those seasonal sniffles and sneezing be a sign of a deeper issue brewing? Dr. Leo Galland, says allergies could be the underlying mechanism for a long list of other symptoms including chronic pain, migraines, depression, fatigue, weight gain, ADHD, and other conditions. In The New Fat Flush Plan, Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, has a similar view as Dr. Galland, saying that allergy “symptoms include not only the typical runny nose, but also stomachaches, insomnia, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, depression, or anxiety, and yes, weight gain. Allergies and weight gain and allergies have a cyclical relationship. Allergies make fat cells larger, and fat cells in turn create a type of inflammation that intensifies allergic reactions.”
According to Robyn O’Bryan, in her best selling book The Unhealthy Truth, allergies are just the “tip of the iceberg…they’re a warning sign from our kids’ immune systems that something is wrong with our food supply. This toxic food supply has not only created an allergy epidemic, but is linked to other health problems such as asthma, autism, ADHD, and behvioral difficulties.” Robyn O’Bryan, who became an advocate for improved food and environmental health systems after her child suffered a life-threatening food allergy – she views allergies as “canaries in the coal mine” and is demanding change in our food system.
When I was a kid, I used to suffer from terrible seasonal allergies – Spring, Fall, as well as allergies to animals, dust mites, and other year round allergies. I remember that one of my Allergy Doctors called me “the Bubble Girl” when I was a kid – because I reacted to so many things, that short of living in a bubble – I was just going to have to deal with them. So I used to just pop antihistamines all the time. I thought nothing of it, but….are antihistamines safe?
According to a 2015 study – a strong link to developing dementia was found for certain antihistamines and other medications that fall into a class called anticholinergics. Find a list of anticholinergic medications here – the higher the score, the more risky the medication. A score of 1 is a possible anticholinergic, a score of 2 or 3 is a definite anticholinergic – and according to a study published in Neurology, “each definite anticholinergic may increase the risk of cognitive impairment by 46% over 6 years.”
This class of drugs called anticholinergics act on a brain chemical called acetylcholine – which is a very important neurotransmitter for memory and recall. Acetylcholine declines with age anyway – so taking this class of drugs could hasten the decline. Acetylcholine is also important for muscle contraction and gastrointestinal motility – so long term use of these meds could potentially also be linked to constipation and other digestive disorders.
The trouble is, antihistamines like Benadryl can serve a very important role – they help to quickly turn off an immune reaction to an allergen when someone is experiencing an allergy attack – possibly even saving lives when someone is having a bad attack. So it can be an important tool in the arsenal of someone with an allergy. But just be aware that because it is considered a class 3 anticholinergic – using it habitually for several years could potentially raise the risk of developing dementia later in life (read: Common anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl linked to increased dementia risk).
There are a number of natural alternatives to conventional allergy medications. If you suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms and want an alternative to an anticholinergic medication – consider trying essential oils, herbal, or homeopathic remedies:
If allergies require a trigger – then removing as many of those triggers or antigens is important for reducing the reactions. There are several things that are good to eliminate if you struggle with asthma and allergies. Not only can many of the following things trigger allergies – many of them are considered hormone interrupters too:
Some replacements for the above products:
When I was diagnosed with allergies – I was told that despite being allergic to pretty much everything, that at least fortunately – I had no food allergies. I was very relieved to not have food allergies. But it was ironically decades later after I did a food elimination diet that my seasonal and environmental allergies finally resolved. Finally decades “just dealing” with the itchy eyes, runny nose, chronic sinus issues, chronic pain…it just went away, and never came back!
So why might a food elimination diet help with seasonal allergies you might be wondering?
The foundation of our immune system is in our digestive tract. According to this article, “The crucial position of the gastrointestinal system is testified by the huge amount of immune cells that reside within it. Indeed, gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is the prominent part of mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) and represents almost 70% of the entire immune system; moreover, about 80% of plasma cells [mainly immunoglobulin A (IgA)-bearing cells] reside in GALT. The gastrointestinal system plays a key role in the complex mechanisms of immunoregulation. The importance of immune modulation at the gastrointestinal level can be understood easily, considering that approximately 70% of the entire immune system is found in this site and that in the lamina propria there are about 80% of all plasma cells responsible for IgA antibody production ”
And with the overuse of antibiotics, aantibacterial soaps, GMOs and pesticide laden foods, high levels of stress, the use of prescription and non-prescription medications, and more – our digestive systems and microbiome are being assaulted day in and day out. When the wall of our gut is what is called “leaky” then we are going to be more prone to inflammation and allergic responses. So it is important to heal and seal the gut wall, so we become less reactive to the foods we eat and our environments.
When we are eating foods that are creating an inflammatory response in our body – that can cause the body to be more reactive to not only those offending foods – but also other potential allergens. So one of the first things to try when trying to heal from the root cause is an elimination diet. Dr. Galland calls it the “Three Day Power Wash.” The goal of the power wash is to increase nutrient intake, and remove potential allergic triggers. Almost any food can cause hidden allergies – but the most common food intolerances generally include the following (Dr. Galland’s “Power Wash” eliminates these foods and a few others):
The liver also plays a very important role in our immune system as well – in Chinese medicine, it is called “the general of the army” because the health of our liver dictates whether or not so many different biochemical processes are working well or not. Ann Louise Gittleman says that bile, which is produced in the liver, is critical to a healthy immune response. In this article she says that “There is already a 75% bile deficiency by the time allergies, arthritis, and inflammation in joints and muscles develop. By the time cancer or chronic illness is diagnosed, a whopping 90% deficit has already occurred.” Produced in the liver, bile is stored in the gallbladder so it can be released as needed – generally when we consume a meal. When the liver and gallbladder are not working optimally, there can be bile stagnation, this can lead to poor digestion, allergies, weight imbalances, and a number of health issues. The New Fat Flush Plan explains in detail how to improve bile flow, liver & digestive health – which affects our overall health.
Today, I am no longer the “Bubble Girl.” I haven’t been bothered by allergies or needed allergy medication in the past 6+ years. Some might say I finally just “grew out of them,” and in many cases – people can grow out of allergies later in life. I also did get years of immunotherapy (allergy shots), and that probably also helped lessen my allergies as well. But I suffered from seasonal allergies even after finishing my immunotherapy, well into my adulthood – but after giving up gluten and eating a much less inflammatory diet (less sugars, more omega 3 fats, etc), I finally was able to stop needing antihistamines in the Fall and Springtime.
So although the traditional allergy testing didn’t identify any ‘food allergies‘ – I found through an elimination diet (as well as an ALCAT food intolerance test later) that certain foods were linked to chronic and systemic inflammation in my body – which very likely made me more reactive to my environment and was an antecedent or trigger for my “seasonal” allergens.
And as a bonus – by giving up gluten, I also got rid of my chronic aches and pains (and stopped popping Advil like it was candy too) – systemic inflammation is closely linked to pain. I also found my mood stabilized as well – which makes sense, as depression and other mood imbalances are now thought to be inflammation in the brain (read more).
So I always ask people – would you be willing to give an elimination diet a try – for just 3 weeks? How about just 3 days as Dr. Galland suggests for his Power Wash? I am surprised by how much resistance I get when I suggest an elimination diet. The question you have to ask, is: What do you have to lose? I had a lot to lose – I lost my allergies, chronic pain, headaches, mood swings, and more. You might even just lose those few extra stubborn pounds that have been hanging on. An elimination diet does not always have to be forever. Sometimes even foods that were causing a reaction can be brought back into the diet after the digestive tract is healed, and nutrient deficiences are replenished. Time will tell. Usually foods that can be brought back into the diet are best done only on limited basis. But often, people who feel better after removing an offending food – don’t want to reintroduce it anyway – because they would prefer to not go back to feeling like crap again.
Although not all allergies can be “cured” – many can be greatly lessened by some investigative work, and some diet & lifestyle shifts.
Learn more about food intolerances, elimination diets, digestive health, and more – in my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan – available on amazon.com.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
If you know me – you know I am a fan of dark chocolate. I am kind of a chocolate snob actually – it has to be DARK, and high quality.
I am also a huge fan of coconut oil. Coconut oil is my favorite oil – it is high in medium chain fatty acids – which are boosting to the metabolism, and a good source of energy. Coconut oil does not require bile salts for digestion – so it is a good fat for people with gallbladder issues. Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and antiviral, so it helps to prevent bacterial overgrowth while helping to lubricate the digestive tract. This makes it a useful remedy for constipation. There is even some evidence that coconut oil could potentially reduce the risk of developing dementia/Alzheimers (or reduce the symptom and progression of those with an early diagnosis). This is a very delicious way to get someone to eat their coconut oil.
I like to make my own chocolates using coconut oil – usually I use raw cacao, but this recipe is way easier – because instead of making it all from scratch, I just use chocolate chips and coconut oil.
This makes 1 batch/tray of mini chocolate squares – I used the square one of these silicon ice cube tray molds (this is nice as it comes with a cover). If using a larger mold like this heart shaped one, then double the recipe and cover with plastic wrap.
Occasional mild constipation can happen to anyone – often it is due to a stressful event, interruptions to your routine, or diet (maybe you were traveling, or you just went a little crazy with the cheese plate). But generally, as long as you get back to you normal routine or diet, or the stress subsides – the constipation will resolve and you will be feeling normal in a day or so. If you have ever had occasional constipation, you know the feeling – discomfort, bloating, feeling full, gassy and sluggish. Now imagine what it would be like to feel that way most of the time. Chronic constipation is hte #1 cause of kids’ belly pain, and a common reason to miss school and activities. In addition – being constipated can impede the body’s ability to detoxify. When constipation is ongoing or chronic, it generally is a signal that something is amiss somewhere in the digestion and elimination process – with the organs, the nerves, and anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract.
In some cases, constipation can become a medical emergency. According to this article by Dr. Mercola – Constipation Emergencies are on the Rise, “there was a 42 percent increase in ER visits for constipation in the US between 2006 and 2011.” If chronic constipation goes on for a long time, it could leads to a blockage, also known as fecal impaction.
Not everyone agrees on the definition of constipation – some experts say as long as you “go” 3 times a week, you are fine. But most natural & holistic health practitioners say anything less than 1 daily movement is constipation. You should look before you flush, because another way to identify constipation is by the quality of the stool – even if you are passing stool – if they are hard, little pebbles – it is considered constipation. (see below Bristol stool chart). Another consideration is when you are not completely emtpying the bowel – incomplete evacuations are another sign of constipation. Also – if someone has to strain every time they go in order to pass the stool – this is another sign of constipation. The ideal situation is to have at least one complete evacuation of the bowel daily with a type 3 or 4 bowel movement on the Bristol Stool chart – which is a smooth and easy to pass stool. Some people may pass more than 1 daily.
Chronic constipation can be caused by a long list of issues including:
For constipation sufferers – the tasteless and odorless over the counter medication Miralax seemed to offer an easy solution to the problem – just stir it into a glass of water or juice, and drink it down – problem solved, right? Not so fast…although doctors have been recommending it as a safe solution for constipation in kids for years, prescribing Miralax is not FDA approved for use in children, so giving it to kids is an “off-label” use. And giving it to anyone for longer than a week is also off label. Miralax’s label – says that it is for use in people age 17 and over, and not for more than 7 days (without a doctor’s orders).
The research on the long-term safety of propylene glycol (PEG) use in kids is limited at best. And there have been concerns regarding the safty of Miralax’s use in children for several years. According to the NY Times, “the Empire State Consumer Project, a New York consumer group, sent a citizen petition to the F.D.A. on behalf of parents concerned about the increase in so-called adverse events related to PEG that health professionals and consumers have reported to the F.D.A. over the past decade.” According to this NY Times article, tests conducted by the F.D.A. in 2008 on eight batches of Miralax, found tiny amounts of ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG) in all of the samples – which are ingredients in antifreeze. Despite being conducted in 2008, the results of the tests were not disclosed to the public. The article also said that taking Miralax for long periods of time could lead to developing “acidic blood.”
Since the start of 2017, a growing number of parents have come forward complaining of a myriad of psychological, behavorial, and neurological symptoms that they have been linked to the active ingredient propylene glycol (PEG) found in Miralax and some other laxatives – these side effect include tics, stuttering, anger/aggression, depression, anxiety, memory issues, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and more. There is a Facebook group called Parents Against Miralax that has grown from about 2,000 to over 18,000 members in just a few weeks time.
Many doctors are still recommending it as a safe option, while others are questioning the safety. “Every pediatric GI physician, I would guarantee you, has told a family this is a safe product,” said Dr. Kent C. Williams, a gastroenterologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Now, he worries, “it may not be true.” According to the NY Times, “Scrutiny for Laxatives as a Childhood Remedy.”
Many kids and families have been using Miralax without being told of the potential risks, and having never been offered any natural alternatives to try first. Now with the possible side effect concerns – a lot of parents are scrambling to find a safe & natural alternative to Miralax – that works.
The good news is there are lots of natural alternatives that are safe, effective, and offer lots of positive health benefits.
Note: Do not expect constipation to resolve overnight – take your time and implement changes very slowly and gradually to allow the body to adjust. Any major changes made to the diet or with supplements are best done on the weekend when the child is not rushing out of the house, and can be near a toilet in case they happen to get loose stools, and home relaxing in case there is any discomfort, gas, or bloating. Kids under the age of 4, or with a medical conditions (such as kidney disease), or currently taking medications – should speak to their pediatrician or specialist before implementing any of the below suggestion. The content of this article is not to be construed as medical advice. – all information provided in this article is general and not specific to individuals. Contact your doctor or specialist with any questions about how this information pertains to you, your child.
Studies show that most kids are not replenishing enough fluids each day, making them chronically dehydrated. Without proper hydration, the stools can become hard and difficult to pass (Type 1 and 2 on the Bristol chart). Overtime this situation can become chronic constipation. Just correcting hydration alone can potentially solve the constipation problem for certain kids!
When constipation is chronic, going on an allergy elimination diet is a very good idea. Undiagnosed food allergies or sensitivities can cause inflammation, digestive troubles, problems absorbing nutrients, and constipation. It is also important to discover a food sensitivity because they can lead to damage in the small intestine, and many other very serious health issues overtime. I generally recommend keeping a food journal for a few days before starting the elimination diet, during the elimination period, and after. Download this Food Mood Journal for free.
Almost any intolerance to a food could cause constipation, two of the most common culprits are dairy and gluten:
Test – Don’t want to do an elimation diet, or would rather just test? A food intolerance panel can be run to identify food intolerances as well – such as the ALCAT test.
Cutting back on sugary and processed or “enriched” foods will not only benefit digestion – but it will benefit weight, energy, and overall health too. Processed foods lack enzymes, fiber and nutrients. Diets that are highly processed and sugary not only can lead to constipation, but can also lead to inflammation in the gut and an overgrowth of candida, which is a yeast. Also – the more sweet foods a child eats, the less they will enjoy unsweetened foods like vegetables, so getting rid of the sugar for a little while helps to reset the taste buds and metabolism. High sugar consumption also raises our triglycerides, blood sugar, and increases our risk of many diseases. Read: 20 Reasons to Break up with Sugar to learn more.
Increasing foods that are naturally rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals like fruits and vegetables will help to get the digestion moving better. Some particularly good foods for constipation include: prunes and other dried fruits, pears, kiwis, blueberries, cooked beets, cooked sweet potatoes, cooked oatmeal, and (well hydrated) chia seeds.
If you want to get “things” moving – get moving!! Exercise is really important for overall health and digestion. Kids have more reasons than ever to be sedentary – lots of screentime, homework, etc. Kids who are not out being active can suffer from sluggish digestion. In addition to promoting regularity, exercise also benefits our mood, weight, energy, and sleep. So turn off the screens and get moving!
Healthy fats help to lubricate the colon and keep things moving. My favorite fat for constipation is coconut oil. It is antiviral, antibacterial – so it will help to improve the bacterial balance in the colon, and it also does not require bile salts for digstion – so those with a sluggish gallbladder will still be able to digest it well. It is also metabolism-boosting and easily converted into energy. Any adult that has tried a Bulletproof coffee (which has 1-2 Tablespoons of coconut oil, plus 1-2 Tablespoons of grass fed butter in it) can attest to the fact that eating a lot of coconut oil and butter can make you “go!” Other healthy fats that benefit digestion and metabolism include grass fed butter, flax oil (not for cooking), olive oil, and avocado oil.
Some ways to get coconut oil into the diet are – adding it to smoothies, stir into oatmeal, cook with it, and making these “coconut oil chocolates”:
It is important to make sure your child has enough time each morning to sit and relax on the potty before going off to school. Even if you have to wake them up earlier in the morning – make sure they have plenty of time after breakfast to sit on the potty. Morning is one of the most optimal times to have a bowel movement. Sometimes kids will “hold it” at school, traveling, or if they are out in public. Some teachers might restrict bathroom breaks, to limit disruptions to the school day. If your child suffers from urinary tract, constipation or digestive troubles; make sure to inform the teacher so he knows to not to restrict your child’s access to the bathroom. If the teacher does not agree, bring your issue to the principal, there is a disabilities act that prevents kids who have continence issues from being restricted from using the bathroom.
The modern toilet is not designed to put our bodies into the ideal position for moving our bowels. Raising the feet up onto a stool or a Squatty Potty can be very helpful in getting the anatomy in the right position to make a bowel movement. Especially little kids whose feet don’t even reach the ground – they need a little support. The Squatty Potty comes in two sizes, to fit the individual just right and get them into the right squatting position for optimal bowel movements. It also stores neatly under the toilet when not in use. If you don’t want to invest in a Squatty Potty – you could stack up some books, or use a little step stool – but once you do – you will see how great it is to get in the right position and you will want the Squatty Potty – because it can be washed clean, and fits perfectly next to the potty. As they say “try the stool for your stools!”
Too much calcium and not enough magnesium can lead to constipation (it also has been linked to increased risk of heart attack, due to calcifications of the arteries). As many as 70% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. This can result in constipation, headaches, sore muscles, nerve troubles, restless legs, nervousness, and even increased fractures. Taking magnesium before bedtime is helpful with constipation. For some kids, taking magnesium before school is also helpful – as magnesium is called “the calming mineral’ – so it can help them to be calm in school.
Seek out foods that are rich in magnesium – like dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. If you are craving chocolate, it could be your body telling you that you need magnesium, because cacao (the main ingredient in chocolate) is one of the highest known food sources for magnesium. Most people also will benefit from taking a magnesium supplements, such as Natural Calm (for ages 4 and up). Magnesium can also be absorbed via the skin by soaking in an epsom or Dead Sea salt bath – I particularly like this brand Dead Sea Warehouse‘s salt bath product – it is very high quality and affordable. Another option is using magnesium oils – which can be applied topically.
If your bowels are feeling sluggish, vitamin C supplements can be a wonderful way to get the bowels moving. Chewing one or two of these vitamin C gummies on an empty stomach in the morning, might just be what is needed to produce a bowel movement (BM). – they are 125 mg each. For older kids, you might want to find a capsule, powder, or liquid vitamin C with 500 mg./serving. Vitamin C (like magnesium) can be taken to bowel tolerance* (the amount needed to produce a BM). If the stool is loose*, just take less vitamin C. If the vitamin C bothers the tummy – look for a buffered brand, or take with food (it will have less of an effect of moving the bowels however if taken with food). If tummy upset occurs from taking vitamin C, 1 glass of water with a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda mixed in might help reduce the acidity of the vitamin C. Learn more here: vitamin c for constipation.
* Taking too much magnesium or vitamin C can lead to diarrhea, so you want to gradually increase it over several days. If diarhea does occur – make sure to give your child an electrolyte replenisher and fluids – I like Scratch Labs electrolyte replenisher packets, or Nuun tablets. Make sure to back off and take less magnesium and vitamin C if this does occur.
Most Americans do not get nearly the amount of fiber they need each day. There are 2 types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble dissolves in water, creating a gel. Insoluble fiber passes through undigested, so it adds bulk. Adding too much fiber to the diet too quickly is not a good idea – it can cause discomfort, and can even make the constipation worse, especially if fluids are not increased along with the added fiber. So make sure to drink extra liquids as well when increasing dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber because it needs to soak up water in order to work. Adding in too much fiber, too fast, without enough fluids could not only cause discomfort, gas and bloating – it could even potentially cause a blockage – especially if there are already hard stools stuck in the colon. If a stool has not been produced within the past day, before adding in fiber to the diet – consider using an enema or suppository to make sure the colon is clean first – this will make a blockage less likely to develop from the added fiber. And remember to add the fiber in gradually.
Ideally before adding in any bulking fibers (insoluble fiber)… the bowels should have moved and be fairly cleaned out. If all of the above steps have been implemented and the bowels have not been moved. It is a good idea to do a thorough bowel “clean out.” Often, doctors will prescribe Miralax for this. But there are many other ways to achieve a clean out without Miralax. A glycerin or liquid pediatric suppository or an enema may be used at this point. If a suppository or enema is chosen, it is important for everyone to remain calm and not to appear embarrassed – the child often will mirror our behavior and attitude, and if they are tense – it can make it more uncomfortable. Using a little coconut oil as lubrication can make it significantly more comfortable. (Read: How to give a child an enema in 5 Steps).
Approximately how much fiber should my child get each day? It can vary from person to person – but a general guideline for kids ages 3-18 is to add the number 5 to your child’s age, and in general, that is the number of grams of fiber they need daily – so an average 11 year old, should have about 16 grams of fiber per day. A 6 year old needs about 11 grams. Recommednations for an average adult are to get about 25 grams each day. But again – this can very from person to person. Through experiementation – find what works for you and your child – and try to have a balance of soluble and insoluble fibers.
Some good fiber sources:
We need to balance out the bacteria in our gut – probiotics boosts the good bacteria, which is very important for healthy digestion, a balanced weight, and a strong immune system. Fermented and cultured foods and drinks such as kefir and yogurts can provide natural probiotics, or you can add a probiotic supplement to the daily routine. Prebiotics are also helpful – because they are food for the probiotics. Prebiotics are founnd in certain fibrous foods, and supplements.
There are instances when taking probiotics or prebiotics may not be a good idea – at least initially. If someone has Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), that means that there is bacteria growing in the small intestine, this can lead to bloating and distention when carbohydrates are eaten. If you suspect that your child may have SIBO ( gas, bloating after eating carbs), then you might want to seek out a SIBO specialist to have them evaluated and treated – they may or may not think probiotics are a good idea. Once the SIBO is resolved, probiotics may or may not be appropriate for repopulating the gut to prevent further dysbiosis. Some of the supplements mentioned above have probiotics and prebiotics
Read The Importance of Good Bacteria to learn more.
The body naturally produces hydrochloric acid (HcL) and enzymes to digest foods, which are needed to break food down for absorption and digestion. If we are low on stomach acid or enzymes, food may not get properly broken down for digestion, so it will be harder to pass through the digestive tract, and also the body will absorb less of the nutrients. If you suffer from acid reflux, you might think that you need to reduce the acid in your stomach. But usually, it means you do not have enough acid or enzymes.
Constipation can stem from issues with motility. When the migrating motor complex or the vagus nerve re not working optimally – this can lead to slow motility. If that is the case, stimulating the vagus nerve can help to get things moving again. Singing, vigorous gargling, gagging, and deep breathing can stimulate the vagus nerve. Or you can use a device called Nervana – which stimualtes the vagus nerve through the ear. In addition to improving motility, stimulating the vagus nerve can help with reducing stress and anxiety, and promoting a calm feeling and good sleep.
One of my favorite ways to sneak lots of good nutrition, fiber and hydration into a glass are smoothies. Especially good for picky eaters – smoothies are a great way to sneak in healthy ingredients!
Orange Dream Smoothie:
Makes one 8 oz. smoothie
Essential oils can be very helpful for dealing with the discomfort of constipation and helping resolve digestion issues. I like a product called Digest Zen from DoTerra. Peppermint essential oil is also very helpful when there is bloating or discomfort. But please be aware that essential oils are very powerful – even one drop is powerful – so always be sure to keep them out of young children’s reach. When using topically, always use a carrier oil (coconut works wonderfully). You can put a tablespoon of coconut oil into a little container – and add a few drops of essential oil like Dgest Zen – and then rub that on the belly as needed. You could also order or make your own DigestZen rollerball that has the carrier oil in it. Another topical remedy to consider is castor oil. Just rub a little castor oil on the right side of the abdomen (this is the liver area) before bedtime.
Realize that digestion issues may take a while to resolve, and it might be a good idea to slowly ease into the changes. If the constipation and digestion issues continue to persist, it might be prudent to schedule an appointment with a holistic or integrative practitioner to see if there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed – such as an infection, parasites, SIBO, or another issue.
And just remember that if allowed to go on for a long time or get severe, constipation can become a medical emergency. According to this article by Dr. Mercola – Constipation Emergencies are on the Rise, “there was a 42 percent increase in ER visits for constipation in the US between 2006 and 2011.” If chronic constipation goes on for a long time, it could leads to a blockage, also known as fecal impaction. Or in rare very severe cases – constipation that has gone on too long – could lead to sepsis, a very dangerous infection. So it is important to not allow a child to go more than a a few days without eliminating – you may need to use an enema or a glycerin suppository to prevent a blockage if a child has gone more than a couple days without having a BM, and is getting very uncomfortable, is not eating well, and is not able to produce a stool on his/her own. If this is happening – please seek medical attention right away/have your child evalated by a gastroenterologist or pediatrician.
* Please note: the content in this article is for children ages 4 and up, and without any kidney disorder. This content is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided in this article is general and not specific to individuals. Persons experiencing problems or with questions about their health or medications, should consult their medical professional. Persons should carefully read the labels of all foods and supplements, and those who are taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before taking the above foods, herbs, vitamins or supplements to be sure there are no interactions. Linked articles are provided for further resources and information and should not be construed as medical advice.
Drug for Adults Is Popular as Children’s Remedy – Previous title for this article was: “Miralax – a popular cure but never approved for children”
Have you heard of resistant starch? Resistant starch is sometimes called the “Skinny Starch” because it can improve digestion, stabilize insulin and blood sugar, provid longer lasting energy, improved digestion and gut bacteria – all of which could potentially mean flatter bellies and weight loss.
Resistant Starch is a type of carbohydrate that “resists” digestion, meaning it passes through the stomach and the small intestine relatively unchanged. When it reaches the colon, it serves as a prebiotic fiber. A pre-biotic is different than a pro-biotic. A pre-biotic feeds the probiotic (good) bacteria. So you want both – in order to keep the good bacteria (probiotics) in your colon happy – you need to regularly feed them (prebiotics).
Certain foods contain resistant starch naturally such as plant-based foods with a cellular structure that offers some resistance to digestion – like legumes, tiger nuts, and whole grains. Certain kinds of starch are naturally resistant to digestion in their raw or unriped state – like green bananas, raw potatoes, and green plantains. Some starches become resistant to digestion after they are cooked then cooled – such as potatoes, rice, or pasta. Note: if you reheat these foods they will lose some of the resistant starch, but will also retain some. There are also man made resistant starches, called “superstarch” – which is a food that has been modified/changed in order to be more resistant to digestion.
When resistant starch reaches the colon – it creates a short chain fatty acid chemical called butyrate – which changes the pH of the colon and has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve intestinal permeability, improve digestion, elimination and the metabolism. It also makes the colon a less hospitable environment for bad bacteria and even for colon cancers to develop. So regularly consuming resistant starch could potentially reduce our risk for colon cancer – the 4th most common type of cancer. (Read more)
Mark my words – resistant starch is pretty cool – I would even call it a “metabolism hack.”
But before you run out and start to load up on resistant starch – realize that like any fiber – especially a prebiotic one – you want to incorporate it slowly, or it could potentially cause digestive upset. So start with a teaspoon or less at first to see how you do first.
One of the best sources of resistant starch in my opinion comes from a small tuber called a tiger nut. You can eat the nuts whole, or use tiger nut flour. I buy Tiger Nut Flour from Organic Gemini. I add a Tablespoon of Tiger Nut flour to my smoothie every morning.
Another benefit of resistant starch is that it can also help some people sleep – so this Tiger Nut & Cashew Horchata drink I created could be a nice thing to have before bedtime.
I also like to make raw desserts with tiger nut flour – like this delicious Skinny Starch Raspberry Tart recipe.
To learn more about resistant starch and get a recipe book (recipes include Cookie Dough Balls and Skinny Thin Mints!), sign up for my online Course – All About Resistant Starch.
When people want to lose weight – they often cut down on carbs. It can work like a charm – with the pounds melting off (at least initially). But is this a good approach for everyone for the long term? Are there some downsides? This article helps you to know if low carb might be right for you, and also when your low carb diet might be backfiring…
On the one hand, you have the Low Carb enthusiasts, who tout the myriad of benefits of less carbs and more fat – who tout the low carb diet as the secret to resetting the metabolism and getting out of insulin resistance. And there is a lot of evidence that they are right – the majority of the population is getting way too many carbs in their diets – especially simple carbs. A recent study supports the low carb approach – it found that doubling the intake of saturated fats did not affect the levels of fats in the blood. And conversely, the study found that an increased intake of carbohydrates increased the levels of fats in the blood. According to Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University in this article, dietary refined carbohydrate is the primary driver of circulating saturated fatty acids in the bloodstream. “White bread, rice, cereals, potatoes, and sugars — not saturated fat — are the real culprits in our food supply,” said Mozaffarian.
So if you are one of the millions of Americans that is struggling with stubborn weight gain – you might find that cutting down on carbs like bread, crackers, and cereals, and dialing up on the fats – can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce hunger, and improve many metabolic markers like triglycerides, cholesterol…and allow you to finally drop those stubborn pounds.
There are some people that take it a step further than low carb – to a Ketogenic approach – which is basically an extremely low carb, very high fat diet. Ketogenic diets train the metabolism to run on ketones for fuel instead of glucose/carbs. A recent study confirmed that a ketogenic diet led to a reduction in body mass, decreased triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose; and an increase in HDL cholesterol.
If you haven’t already, you might be ready to jump on the low carb bandwagon now! But wait – is low carb a panacea? Is it right for everyone? Should we all just go low carb and call it a day?
One the other side are the Carb enthusiasts, who say our bodies and brains run on glucose and so carbs are what give our body and brain energy. And without them, we will bonk and this can eventually send our body go into hormonal havoc.
They both are – because the answer depends on the person, their current situation, and most importantly the TYPE of carbs we are talking about. Not all carbs are created equal – and so we can not “lump” all carbs into one basket – you can’t really put sodas in the same bucket as broccoli! To truly comprehend this conundrum, we need to first ask…
Carbohydrates are macronutrients that are basically made up of chains of sugars. These chains can be simple or complex. Simple carbs (monosaccarides) contain one or two sugars in their chain. Simple carb chains are broken apart easily, and therefore are a quick source of energy. Generally speaking, simple carbs do provide quick energy (calories), but not much else – so most are “empty calories.” After or during a hard long workout, you might need a simple carb to replenish energy, but generally speaking eating a lot of simple carbs overtime can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain and many other health problems. And if they do not come paired with any fiber, the energy boost that you get from simple carbs is short-lived and can be followed by a “crash.”
Complex carbs (polysaccarides) contain 3 or more chains of sugars, they are not broken down as quickly as simple carbs – and therefore serve as a longer lasting energy source. Complex carbs contain fiber and/or starches. There are many issues with eating a lot of sugar or simple carbs:
But nutritious carbs that come paired with fiber, vitamins and minerals (like vegetables and fresh, whole fruits) give you longer lasting energy, satisfy your hunger better, and have even been shown to lower the risk of many diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a low carb diet, some common pitfalls – and who might benefit from lowering carbs, and who may not.
Going low with carbohydrates in our diets (especially simple carbs) can be useful strategy for those with:
Extremely low carbohydrate/ high fat diets (KETOGENIC diets) has been studied for years to benefit persons with:
According to this article in the NY Times, low carb, higher fat diets can help people improve their heart health markers and also lose unwanted body fat. The people who diet was comprised of at least 40% dietary fat (13% saturated) were found to lose more weight (about 8 pounds on average more in a year’s time) and have better inflammation and triglyceride markers than the people who took in less than 30% fat in their diets. The people who had lower fat intake also lost muscle along with any fat loss, which is not good for the metabolism.
While low carb diets can reset our insulin sensitivity and it can be THE factor that gets some people’s metabolism going again….sometimes, low carb diets for a long term can lead to a myriad of issues – including thyroid issues and hormonal havoc. Some studies even show that low carb diets can actually cause insulin resistance – the very condition that it can initially improve! (read this article to learn more). And low carb diets are not a panacea, and…could be disastrous to some people’s health. Below are some signs that a low carb diet may not be for you, or that you need to adjust your diet to include some more nutrious carbs.
Signs Your Low Carb Diet May be Backfiring:
The most common mistakes people make when lowering carbs:
Read: Is a Low Carb Diet Ruining Your Health?
I get this question A LOT in my Break up with Sugar program. And as much as I want to give them an answer – there really is no one real clear answer for everyone. The amount of carbs a person needs depends on a number of factors. You need to find the right balance for you for that timeframe in your life. Here are a few things to consider when determining your carb need:
According to Paul Jaminet in this post, a mildly low carb diet (20-30% carbs) appears to promote longevity, a carb “overfed” diet (40-50% carbs) promotes fertility and athleticism, and a moderate carb diet (30-40% carbs) is essentially “neutral” and places minimal stress on the body. So if you are struggling with hormones or fertility, or you are an endurance athlete – you might think twice before cutting out carbs. If you are dealing with elevated disease markers – like high triglycerides, you might want to consider going lower carb.
People that have been on a low carb diet often have a fear of carbs. They think that carbs cause weight gain and therefore are evil (even if they know their low carb diet is no longer working for them). So getting more carbs in your diet may not be an easy mental shift for low carb devotees. But if you are experiencing some of the above symptoms – it is probably time to dial up the carbs, or you could potentially find yourself with a serious case of adrenal fatigue, hormonal havoc, and/or a thyroid disorder.
So in order to choose wisely, when deciding whether or not to eat a carb – ask yourself
One possible approach to the dilemma of whether or not to go Low Carb or not – is to cycle back and forth between low carb/higher fat, and moderate carbs. This is great for commitment fobes, and more importantly, keeps the metabolism on it’s toes. This approach has long been used by weight lifters to lean out and bulk up – but is becoming more mainstream as of late.
There are several ways to do this, these are just some examples:
Read: The Science of Carb Cycling: How It Works and How to Do It Right
Whether you stick with a low carb diet or not, you might want to consider adding in a serving or two of resistant starch to your diet. Resistant starch does not spike blood sugar or insulin like regular starches/carbs, and it supports healthy bacteria in the gut. It is sometimes called the “skinny starch” because it can help people lose excess weight and help balance gut health to give you a flatter belly. Read What is Skinny Starch? to learn more. Or sign up for my eCourse – All About Resistant Starch to learn more and get a recipe book.
So although I generally recommend going low carb for a short period of time for most people, because it can help you reset the metabolism and lose weight, just realize that it may or may not be right for you for the long term. And if you do stick with a low carb diet – you need to remember to get plenty of healthy fats!!
This article is an excerpt from Sara’s Break up with Sugar program.
Have you heard of “skinny starch”? It is also called “resistant starch” – because it resists digestion. What that means is that it moves slowly through the digestive tract – so it helps to keep your blood sugar more stable, it is a prebiotic – meaning that it serves as “food” for the good bacteria in our colon. It is called the “skinny starch” because it can improve digestion, blood sugar, energy, and gut bacteria – all of which could potentially mean flatter bellies and weight loss. But before you run out and eat a lot of skinny starch – realize that like any fiber – especially a prebiotic one – you want to begin to incorporate it slowly, or it could potentially cause digestive upset.
One of the best sources of resistant starch in my opinion comes from a small tuber called a tiger nut. You can eat the nuts whole, or I like to add tiger nut flour to my daily smoothie. Resistant starch can also help you sleep – so this Tiger Nut & Cashew Horchata drink is a nice thing to have before bedtime. I also like to add tiger nut flour to desserts – like this raspberry tart!
“Sugar Cookie” Crust:
Put all the ingredients into a food processor, process until still crumbly, but starting to come together.
lightly grease a tart pan, and press the crust into it (I like to use my fingers to spread it around, then a flat bottom measuring cup to get it even. Press it so it comes up about halfway up the sides of the tart pan.
Put into freezer for about 20-30 mins.
Put all of the above into the Vitamix, and blend until combined.
Take crust out of freezer, and pour filling onto the crust – spread with a spatula or spoon. Return to freezer to set – at least 2 hours, up to a day ahead. Remove from freezer before you want to serve, add the raspberries, and whipped cream if you like (see below).
Coconut Whipped Cream (optional)
Put the coconut milk in refrigerator the day before you want to make the cream. Open the bottom of the can, and pour off the coconut water (reserve for smoothies, or another recipe).
Scoop out the coconut cream and put it into a bowl with the other ingredients, using a electric mixer – whip it up. Taste and adjust. Spoon onto slices before serving.
Want to learn more about Resistant Starch and get more delicious recipes – including “skinny starch” chocolate nut butter cups and cookie dough balls? Take my Resistant Starch eCourse!
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My hubby and I are invited to a holiday party tonight and my friend asked me to bring a “healthy but yummy Sara” dessert. So I decided to come up with a new recipe! I used my ‘formula’ for flax muffins – and took it the chocolate peppermint route. They turned out delish!!
If you are interested in learning more about essential oils contact email@example.com
Looking for a special gift for your friends and loved ones this year – why not give them a gift of health?
These gift ideas include items that can de-stress, keep your groceries cold, or beautify – I am sure there is something that will delight your friends and loved ones!
Now 25% off using code GlowOnceMore (end Dec. 13th)!!
Do you have someone special on your list who wants to have beautiful glowing skin, and also wants to avoid common chemicals included in many skincare lines? Then Annmarie Skin Care is the solution – you’ll be amazed to find that you don’t need all those nasty chemicals to make really good, spa quality skin care products. And with sample kits starting at just $10, there is something for everyone and for every price list from Annmarie Skin Care.
If you know someone that likes to start their day with a little boost of focus and energy, but doesn’t want to feel jittery? Then look no further than Matcha tea!! Matcha tea is the highest quality green tea and contains an amino acid that promotes a calm, focused feeling – called L-Theanine. You can brew it hot, or you can blend it into a matcha latte smoothie. Matcha boasts a lot of other health benefits, read: Why Everyone is Drinking Matcha Tea to learn more about this amazing superfood. Matcha Source is a great place to get your matcha tea gifts – with gift sets ranging in price from $45 to $138.00, Matcha Source has something for many different budgets. Unlike other green teas which are steeped, matcha tea is ground into a fine powder – so it is added to water, and then whisked in to blend it in – so it is good to get someone started with a gift that contains everything they need to make matcha tea:
Here in California, plastic bags have been given the heave ho – so if we don’t want to have to pay 10 cents each time we need a brown bag at the grocery – we’d better bring our own. If you are looking to invest in or gift some reuseable grocery bags – let me recommend Pack It cooler bags – they are not only reusable, they are like mini portable refrigerators! They are really strong, stylish, and they fold down flat so you can store them in your freezer. Take them to the store – and they will keep your items cold for hours!! These are great for soccer moms that like to do errands, but can’t get right back home. Also great for taking to the beach, pool, or parties too! They also make wine bottle cooler bags (perfect hostess gift), lunch bags (kids love them!), and many other items. I have used Pack It cooler bags for years, and I get compliments on my bags every time I use them! Pack It’s prices are great too – learn more or order at www.packit.com.
Have you heard of the Vagus Nerve? It connects our brain and our gut – and when it is not optimized, it can lead to a myriad of symptoms including anxiety, poor focus, slow gut motility (constipation) and more. This exciting new product called “Nervana” stimulates the vagus nerve while you listen to music – it can help to balance neurotransmitters, the nervous system, mood, boost gut motility, and much more!! This is a really unique and helpful gift for someone suffering from high stress levels, anxiety, sluggish digestion, focus issues, or just wanting to optimize or ‘biohack’ their overall health. I vew the Nervana device as kind of like a “workout” for my vagus nerve. Why would I want to work out my vagus nerve you might ask? According to Vagus Nerve Stimulation, a New Tool for Brain Research and Therapy, “clinical and animal studies indicate that VNS likely results in changes in serotonin (Ben-Menachem et al 1995), norepinephrine (Krahl et al 1998), GABA, and glutamate (Walker et al 1999)—neurotransmitters implicated in the pathogenesis of major depression.” So stimulating the vagus nerve could be a factor in resolving mood imbalances. And according to this study, while exercise is important for proper gut motility, “vagal nerve regulation is essential for the increase in gastric motility in response to mild exercise.” Learn more about Nervana here. See more articles and research on the vagus nerve at the bottom of this article.
Note: I have been testing out a Nervana device personally for a few days – and even though it has been less than a week – so far I have been impressed!! Stay tuned for a blog about my experiences with Nervana soon.
Nervana units start at $319.00 (they are on special now for $289.00). See below for some links to research on the vagus nerve.
Fermented foods boost healthy digestion, have been linked to improved mood, and also may support a healthy metabolism and weight. Do you know someone that loves to buy kombucha, kefir, saurkraut, and kimchi? They might want to make their own! Making your own fermented foods is kind of like having a science experiment in your house that tastes great, and makes you feel great when you eat it. I have made my own kombucha, kefir water, kimchi, and saurkraut – and I find the easiest one is kefir water. But I have always wanted to make my own sourdough bread. There is a lot of evidence that fermenting the wheat makes it easier to digest and even some people who have senstivities to regular wheat bread can tolerate sourdough fine (if you have celiac disease or a severe gluten intolerance, please go with the gluten free version). I would love to find a sourdough culture under the tree this year…hint, hint honey. Cultures for Health offers gifts in all price ranges – single cultures start at just under $10 – you can get a sourdough culture for $13.95. Or you can get a full Kit like the Ginger Water Kefir making kit for $39.95, or the Homemade Kimchi kit for $49.95. Learn more/order here: www.culturesforhealth.com.
I love these wearable mantra bracelets from My Intent. My Intent is not just a jewelry company – they are an “intentions project.” My Intent wants their jewelry to be a catalyst for “meaningful conversations and positive energy.” They believe there is “purpose inside each of us and we want our efforts to encourage people to share more truth and inspiration with each other.” Prices start at just $12 for a keychain, and $18 for a bracelet. You can even buy the stamper to make your own mantra jewelry! These bracelets are big with the Hollywood set – with Jay Z, Beyonce, and Kayne seen wearing them (even seen on the cover of Time magazine). Check out this story about My Intent bracelets on The Today Show. In my Break up with Sugar program, I encourage participants to pick a mantra to help guide them and stay focused on their purpose and truth – I love that we can wear our mantra and keep in the forefront of our mind. What would your word be?
Essential oils are a powerful natural way to support health – they have been shown to support mood, immunity, energy, focus, and much more. Essential oils can be diffused, used topically, they make wonderful cleaning products, candles, and soaps; and some can also be used internally – but it is important to make sure to use only the highest quality therapeutic-grade essential oils. Prices start at $10 for some single oils and go up from there! I like to add a drop of lemon essential oil to my water, diffuse oils for calm, focus, and energy – and also to clear stinky kitchen smells! You can add lavendar to your bath for calm, and even put some on your pillow for sleep. One of the most important thing that essential oils do – they can replace chemicals in your life – see articles and references below about chemicals to avoid.
Interested in learning about essential oils? Contact Sara Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.mydoterra.com/saravance
Someone on your list interested in meditation, but don’t really know where to start? This Meditation Studio app offers a diverse selection of over 200 guided meditations featuring different teachers and styles. Focus on your intention or dive deep into a meditation topic with exclusive collections and courses. Meditation Studio is a great gift idea, and it is just $3.99. Featured by Apple as “10 Best Apps of the Year” 2016, one of TIME’s “50 Best Apps of the Year” 2016, and recommended by: Forbes, Inc., Refinery 29, Huffington Post, Well and Good, Greatist, Celebuzz, Yahoo! Beauty, and many more! Find out even more and try a meditation at www.meditationstudioapp.com
Do you have a loved one that likes to read, and is interested in improving their health? Books are a great gift – because they are budget friendly and provide hours of entertainment. Or maybe you have someone that loves to cook – cookbooks are also a great gift. Selecting a healthy book or cookbook could have a huge impact on someone’s life and health – and their families’ too. Stay tuned, my next blog will include my top recommendations this year – several of these will be featured in my FREE Book Club – learn more/sign up here.
Vagus Nerve Articles and Studies:
Essential oils articles:
Some cancer researchers have been asking the question: Does Sugar Feed Cancer? If the answer to that question is Yes, the next logical question is then, Can we Starve Cancer? This basically sums up the metabolic theory for cancer – which says that we should be looking at cancer as a metabolic disease, not a genetic mutation.
The cool thing about this approach – is that it offers new hope. We can change our metabolism, but we can’t change our genes.
The metabolic theory for cancer may seem new, but it is not. Ninety years ago Nobel Laureate Dr. Otto Warburg discovered that cancer cells are metabolically different from normal cells, and that they require sugar to grow and thrive. Since then various studies have demonstrated a potent link between sugar and cancer, including that malignant cells die when starved of glucose.
According to this Dr. Mercola article, “a cell can produce energy in two ways: aerobically, in the mitochondria, or anaerobically, in the cytoplasm, which generates lactic acid — a toxic byproduct. The former is far more efficient, capable of generating 32 times more adenosine triphosphate (ATP) than anaerobic energy generation. Dr. Warburg concluded that the prime cause of cancer was reversion of energy generation from aerobic energy generation to anaerobic fermentation.”
“For cancer there is only one prime cause…it is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by a fermentation of sugar.” – Nobel Prize winner, Otto Warburg
Sugar molecules are present in high numbers in cancer cells, in fact – that is one way to test for cancer – a radioactive glucose solution is swallowed, and a PET scan can see that areas that are cancerous – because cancerous cells naturally take up more of the solution than non-cancerous ones. A 2013 University of Copenhagen study found that sugar was not just present in cancer cells – but that it aided the growth of malignant cells.
Researchers out of the University of Wurzburg in Germany, concluded that “significantly reducing the intake of dietary carbs could suppress or at least delay the emergence of cancer, and the proliferation of existing tumor cells could be slowed down.” According to their study, Otto Warburg’s theory appears correct: “many cancer patients exhibit an altered glucose metabolism characterized by insulin resistance and may profit from an increased protein and fat intake.”
There is currently promising research underway at the Salk Institute in La Jolla led by Dr. Reuben Shaw, PhD. to study the link between diabetes, sugar metabolism, and cancer.
According to researchers at MD Anderson – fructose, glucose, and sucrose – all types of sugar, affect a metabolic pathway that helps cells metastasize, or spread. “The majority of cancer patients don’t die of their primary tumor. They die of metastatic disease,” Cohen told NBC News. These findings suggest that those who eat more sugary foods could be more likely to have cancer mestastize and spread. Their study showed that mice whose diets were high in sugar, were 50% more likely to get cancer. And that the more sugar you fed them, the bigger the tumors grew.
A study published in 2004 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that diets comprised of more than 57% carbohydrates, more than doubled the risk of developing breast cancer. “Scientists have long suspected that diet was among the factors contributing to breast cancer,” said study co-author Walter Willett, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H, the Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Now, with studies like ours, we are beginning gradually to understand what elements of diet specifically are associated with the disease, and to grasp the chemical and biological processes that contribute to it at the cellular level.” Researchers suspect that the elevated insulin levels and insulin-like growth factor were potentially to blame for the rise in cancer.
Yet despite the ling history linking sugar to cancer, and all of the recent studies and mounting evidence of a link between sugar and cancer development and growth – nutrition is rarely considered or discussed with cancer patients. In fact, you will often find candies, cookies and sodas in oncology departments.
According to The American Cancer Society, “there will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cancer cases diagnosed and 595,690 cancer deaths in the US. in 2016.” That is almost 6 hundred thousand people that will die this year from cancer.
With 50% of men receiving a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, and 30% of women being diagnosed – cancer affects all of us, either personally or with a loved one or friend being diagnosed. Cancer mortality rates have not changed significantly since the 1950s despite billions of dollars being raised and spent on research. For nearly a century – sugar has been linked to cancer – and thankfully more studies are being done to understand this link and what we can all do with this information to prevent and treat cancers.
If sugar feeds cancer, what happens when we stop eating it – can we essentially “starve” cancer? That is what a lot of proponents of “the metabolic theory of cancer” are purporting. Diets high in fats, extremely low in carbohydrates, and moderate protein are called ketogenic diets – and they force the body to burn fat (ketones) as fuel instead of it’s preferred fuel – sugar. Ketogenic diets have been recognized for years as a nutritional way to treat epilepsy, and also for weight loss, and improved brain function. The jury is still out on whether or not it is an effective long term solution/approach to preventing or treating cancer. But it is exciting to watch the research being done, and it could potentially could offer new hope for cancer prevention and treatment.
Learn more about the metabolic theory of cancer in this fascinating book: Tripping over the Truth by Travis Christopherson.
The question is – do you have to go all the way to a ketogenic diet to starve cancer, or is significantly cutting down on our intake enough? Current guidelines from the American Heart Association are that women should get no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons. Most Americans are getting more than double that. Overtime, when we overload our metabolism with sugars, it gets less effective at processing them (insulin resistance), and that is when the trouble begins.
In addition to stubborn weight gain, sugar and carb-heavy diets are linked to a higher risk of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, nerve damage, and even death of all causes – read 20 Reasons to Break up with Sugar to learn more.
Manufacturers know that we love sugar, and that it is as addictive as a drug. So adding it to foods gets consumers to buy their food over and over. Over 75% of all packaged and processed foods contain added sugars – even foods that are not considered “sweet” like Cheetos and Doritos!! Most people have no idea how much sugar they are actually getting in their diets every day – because it is sneaking in all day long – even in “healthy choices” like yogurts, cereals, sports nutrition foods, and snack bars.
When I was a kid, sugar was a major food group for me. There was nothing I loved more than cookies, ice cream, soda, or candy. I always knew sugar wasn’t good for me, that it was essentially “empty calories” (contains no vitamins, minerals, fiber or nutrients). But for decades, I believed the myth that those empty calories were totally harmless. Now I know the truth – that sugar raises our risk of many diseases.
My addiction to sugar continued into adulthood – with diet sodas, chocolate, and high glycemic foods like pretzels. One of the best things I ever did – was to take back the control from sugar. I will never know what disease I may have prevented by breaking up with sugar, but I do know that not only did my energy, sleep, and moods improve – but I noticed my skin looking more vibrant and youthful! And my tastebuds even changed!! Now the idea of eating an ice cream drenched in caramel sauce does not appeal to me in the least! I still do enjoy a square or two of dark chocolate however.
Want to take back control of your health? Join me for the Break up with Sugar Program – the next group starts on November 2nd:
Here’s How Sugar Might Fuel the Growth of Cancer
Our hormones are kind of like a chain of dominos. When one gets out of balance, it can pull the others along with it, and our metabolism too – this can contribute to a myriad of symptoms, including very stubborn weight gain. Like – no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get that weight in your midsection to budge.
One very important hormone that is often the trigger to pull the rest of the dominos down is insulin – it is responsible for removing glucose from the bloodstream and delivering it into the cells. When that mechanism is not working correctly (as in insulin resistance)- then our blood sugar can stay elevated, the cells get starved for energy, and the glucose ends up getting stored – as fat.
Another hormone imbalance that can cause metabolic mayhem is a very common condition is called estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance occurs when estrogen is out of balance with progesterone and testosterone. You can even have low levels of estrogen, but if it is high in relation to your testosterone and progesterone (because they are in the tank), then your estrogen can still be dominant.
Women are not the only ones affected by this condition, in fact – there is increasing evidence that excess estrogens could also be having devastating consequences for males.
I uncovered a fascinating and disturbing documentary called The Disappearing Male, which examines the impact that the more than 80,000 xenoestrogen chemicals in our environment has had on the male species – I was shocked to learn that boy births have been on a serious decline in the past few decades. So much so, that 3 million fewer boys have been born since 1970. Other problems include lower sperm counts, genital birth defects, weight gain, and increases in cancer. I highly recommend watching this documentary – it is in the references section below.
One place that we can see the evidence of the impact of chemicals on the male species is in pesticide-laden Lake Apopka in Florida – where male aligators are not really very male anymore. They have smaller genitals (25% smaller), low to no sperm count, and testosterone levels of a female. In contrast, in other nearby lakes that are not polluted with pesticides, the male aligators are quite normal. According to this PBS article, this phenomenon was repeated in the laboratory.
Some possible symptoms of estrogen dominance include:
Conditions that estrogen dominance could promote:
1. Avoid endocrine interrupting and obesogenic chemicals.
Although it is nearly impossible to avoid chemicals entirely, it is prudent to do your very best to become aware of them, and avoid them as much as possible. Certain chemicals are called “obesogenic” because they are linked to weight gain. Some are endocrine interruptors that can raise our estrogen levels and cause estrogen dominance and the myriad of related symptoms. These chemicals may also raise our risk for cancer, and heart disease.
Some of the common gender-bending chemicals to avoid:
Find a more detailed list of chemicals and toxins to avoid and practical suggestions for detoxification in chapter – 5 ‘Lose the Toxic Weight’ – in my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan.
2. Avoid a high sugar diet.
A study conducted at the University of British Columbia found that a diet high in sugars, especially fructose, could interrupt our sex hormones, leading to fertility issues, PCOS, and endometriosis. Diets high in sugar and simple carbs can cause aromatization –which is the conversion of one hormone to the other – which can lead to estrogen dominance conditions . Diets high in sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause fat storage – and fat is like an endocrine organ itself, which increases estrogen levels. Another reason sugar can interrupt hormone imbalance is in part the strain that is put on the liver to metabolize the fructose. The liver is very important for detoxing hormones. Chapter 1 of The Perfect Metabolism Plan is titled ‘Break up with Sugar,’ because it is the #1 thing we need to do to line up those hormones and get the metabolism working again.
3. Reduce Stress.
Cortisol is an important hormone, but when we are under high levels of chronic stress, the body can pump out too much cortisol. When cortisol is elevated, so is insulin (fat storage hormone), and digestion is shut down. So you can see how high levels of stress can mess with our hormones and metabolism. And if you keep pumping out cortisol – it will steal from the sex hormones in order to make more. So this can lead to imbalances in the sex hormones – which can cause estrogen dominance. Chapter 7 of The Perfect Metabolism Plan details ways to get stress levels under control and improve sleep.
4. Exercise Smarter.
Doing too much cardio exercise can also cause our stress hormone cortisol to rise. So instead of exercising harder and longer, just exercise smarter. Lift weights, do interval training with short cardio bursts, and balance those out with stress lowering exercises like yoga and walking. Chapter 10 of The Perfect Metabolism Plan is all about ‘exercising smarter, not harder.’
5. Support the liver.
The liver is the “general of the army” when it comes to detoxing the body, it also plays a very important role in sugar metabolism. And in our increasingly toxic world, and high sugar diets – our livers are getting extremely taxed, there has been a exponential rise in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. One of the liver’s important jobs is removing excess estrogens. So when the liver is burdened, excess estrogens tend to hang around and recirculate causing havoc. Read: 20 Signs Your Liver Needs Some TLC for more information.
Resources and additional references:
© copyright 2017 Sara Vance