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General Adaptation Syndrome: When Stress takes Over

General Adaptation Syndrome: When Stress takes Over

Stress can be a real killer. How do we learn to deal with it in a healthy way? To answer that, first let us look at general adaptation syndrome and the role the adrenal glands and their hormones play in activating it. General adaptation syndrome is the pattern of physiological adjustments your body makes in response to your environment (including your emotional environment). It has three phases: alarm, resistance and exhaustion. Understanding these phases will help you to understand why your body responds the way it does to stress, as well as how to help minimize its harmful effects.

The Alarm Phase (AKA The “Fight-or-Flight” Response)

red alarm on a yellow wallThe initial response to stress is the alarm reaction, better known as the “fight-or-flight” response. This reaction is a complex chain of physical and biochemical changes brought about by the interaction of your brain, the nervous system and a variety of different hormones. Your body goes on full alert, responding to the stress chemicals released into the blood stream (such as adrenaline) by increasing blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen intake, and blood flow to the muscles.

The alarm stage is usually short lived. Typically the increased adrenaline lasts a few minutes to a few hours and is followed by a drop in adrenaline, cortisol and other adrenal hormones that lasts a few hours to a few days, depending upon the magnitude of the stress. After the alarm reaction is over, your body goes through a temporary recovery phase that typically lasts 24-48 hours. During this time there is less cortisol secreted, your body is less able to respond to stress, and the mechanisms overstimulated in the initial alarm phase become resistant to more stimulation. In this let recovery phase you feel more tired and listlessness, and have a desire to rest.

The Resistance Phase

tug of war to represent the resistance phase of general adaptation syndromeAfter the recovery phase, if there is additional stress or a series of stressors your body goes into “the phase of resistance.” Entering this phase lets your body keep fighting a stressor long after the effects of the fight-or-flight response have worn off. Cortisol is largely responsible for this stage, which stimulates the conversion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates to energy through a process called gluconeogenesis. This process ensures your body has a large supply of energy long after glucose stores in the liver and muscles have been exhausted. Cortisol also promotes the retention of sodium to keep your blood pressure elevated and your heart contracting strongly. The resistance reaction provides you with the necessary energy and circulatory changes you need to deal effectively with stress.

Cortisol is a powerful anti-inflammatory hormone that, in small quantities, speeds tissue repair, but in larger quantities depresses the body’s immune defense system. A prolonged resistance reaction increases the risk of significant disease (including high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer) because the continual presence of elevated levels of cortisol overstimulates the individual cells and they begin to break down. Your body goes on trying to adapt under increasing strain and pressure. If this phase goes on too long your body systems weaken, leading to exhaustion (the third stage). The resistance reaction phase can continue for years, but because each of us has a different physiology and life experience the amount of time one can remain in this phase is unpredictable.

The Exhaustion Phase

exhausted man sitting on floor by Flickr user randomechoSome people never experience the exhaustion phase; others visit it several times in their life. In the exhaustion stage there may be a total collapse of body function, or a collapse of specific organs or systems. During this phase, lower levels of cortisol and aldosterone are secreted, leading to decreased gluconeogenesis, rapid hypoglycemia, sodium loss and potassium retention. Body cells function less effectively in this condition as they rely heavily on a proper amount of blood glucose and the ratio of sodium to potassium. As a result, your body becomes weak. This means that during the exhaustion phase your body lacks the very things that would make you feel good and able to perform well.

When adrenal corticosteroid hormones are depleted, blood sugar levels drop because low cortisol levels lead to decreased gluconeogenesis. This means that your body is less able to produce its own blood glucose from stored fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, leaving you more dependent on food intake. Simultaneously, insulin levels are still high. The combination of low cortisol and high insulin levels leads to a slowing of glucose production and a speeding of glucose absorption into the cells. Hypoglycemia results because the body cells do not get the glucose and other nutrients they require. When energy and electrolytes once again become available and the cellular stress decreases, the damaged cell must be repaired or replaced.

The reactivation of normal cell functions is an energy consuming series of events that uses up a greater amount of energy than is normally required. Yet this has to take place in a situation in which your body is struggling just to produce enough energy to maintain some semblance of homeostasis! Uninterrupted, excessive stress eventually exhausts your adrenal glands. They become unable to produce adequate cortisol or aldosterone. This combined effect on your kidneys of too little aldosterone can lead to collapse, and in some extreme cases even death. Anyone in this phase should seek immediate medical assistance.

Knowing how to best manage stress can be very helpful, regardless of stage. Here are some blogs that include healthy ways to manage stress:

Breathing and Meditation Techniques for Stress Relief

8 Things You Can Do to Make Daily Life Better (and Healthier)

Dr. Bakker’s 7 Tips for Dealing with Tension and Anxiety

Stress: It’s All in the Management

Image Credits: tug of war by Flickr user toffehoff; exhausted man sitting on floor by Flickr user randomecho

About the Author:

Dr. James L. WilsonWith a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides with his family in sunny Tucson, Arizona.

 

 

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Got Stress? Dr. Wilson Says Relax

 Got Stress? Dr. Wilson Says Relax

When you say relax people tend to think of leisurely activities, like watching TV or reading a magazine. However, physiological relaxation is a set of specific internal changes that occur when your mind and body are calm. It is not the same as sleep, rest or having fun. Physiological relaxation is the one internal state that can protect your body from the harmful effects of too much stress. Below are six different relaxation techniques. I encourage you to read through each  and start with the one that sounds best.

1) Belly-Breathing

This is the most natural kind of breathing, although it may feel unfamiliar initially. If you have ever watched a baby breathing you have seen belly-breathing; the belly, rather than the chest, expands and contracts. This allows the air to reach the lower part of your lungs, where there is a rich blood supply. This triggers the relaxation response within a few minutes.

hands in heart shape on belly by Flickr user Dylan LuderTo begin, take 10 minutes when you will not be interrupted. Either lie or sit on a comfortable surface that fully supports your body. Place your hands palms down on your abdomen, just below your navel. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing without trying to change it; listen to the sound of it, feel it moving in and out of your nose and throat, and notice how far down into your body it seems to go. Then imagine that you have a balloon inside your lower belly, under where your hands are. As you inhale, try to inflate that balloon; as you exhale, let the balloon deflate.

Do not expand your chest as you inhale, just your belly. It is best to breathe through your nose for this exercise but if for some reason you cannot, then it is okay to breathe through your mouth. Continue inflating and deflating the balloon for at least 5 minutes. Bellybreathing may feel awkward or forced the first few times you try it but soon it will feel quite natural.

2) Slowing Down Your Breath

This is a very simple method that you can use even when you are in the midst of doing something else. Whenever you notice you are feeling tense and uptight, check and see how you are breathing. Most people under stress either alternate holding their breath with taking barely perceptible short breaths, or take rapid shallow breaths. After you become aware of your own breathing, consciously relax your belly and slow down your breathing. It works best if you focus on slowing down your exhalation rather than your inhalation. With each exhalation you can say to yourself, “slow down.” That is all there is to it–simple but surprisingly effective!

3) Counting Your Exhalations

This is a variation on slowing down your breath that should be done when you can set aside 10 minutes of time to focus. Get comfortable in a relatively quiet place and begin bellybreathing. This time, count slowly from 5 down to 1 with each exhalation. Your mind will probably wander many times, but that’s okay. Calmly bring it back to counting from 5 to 1 during each exhalation. Do this for at least 5 minutes. When you can keep your attention on your breathing for 5 minutes, you can move on to deeper meditation methods.

4) Repeating a Mantra or Affirmation

Buddha statue

The mantra, a specially chosen sound/phrase used in meditation, is an Eastern tradition that has become popular in the West. It seems that the repetition of particular kinds of sounds, words or phrases is a very effective way to clear your mind and trigger the relaxation response when practiced daily.

First you need to choose a word, phrase or sound that is calming to you. Some examples that other people have chosen are, “relax,” “peace,” “I am still,” and “I open my heart.” Take 15-20 minutes in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Sit or lie down with your back straight and close your eyes. Focus your attention either between your eyebrows (mind center) or in the middle of your chest (heart center). Allow your breathing to slow down and deepen.

When you feel settled, begin repeating your word/phrase/sound out loud or silently. You can repeat it on each inhalation and on each exhalation. Your mind will wander many times, but each time it does gently bring it back to your phrase. You may find yourself frequently falling asleep at first, but keep coming back to the exercise. Do this for at least 15 minutes once or twice a day and you will be amazed at the change in how you feel.

5) Progressive Relaxation

This is a particularly good exercise if you have a lot of stress-related aches and pains or if you have difficulty relaxing. With practice it trains your body to release tension and relax more easily. This exercise takes about 10-20 minutes and is best done lying down. Some people use it to help themselves fall asleep. Take a few slow breaths to get settled and then, starting with your toes, first tighten the muscles in your toes as tight as you can, hold for about 10 seconds and then relax your toes. Next tighten up the muscles in your feet, hold for 10 seconds, and then relax.

Repeat this procedure all the way up until every part of your body has been tensed and then relaxed: calves, knees, thighs, buttocks, hips, abdomen, back, chest, hands, arms, shoulders, upper back, neck, face, and scalp. After you have completed this, imagine a wave of relaxation rolling up your body each time you inhale, and imagine this wave washing all tension out of your body each time you exhale. Do this for a few minutes and then just rest, breathing slowly. You will find that the relaxation you experience with this exercise will get deeper with practice.

Pond in morning light6) The Quiet Pond

Spending some time by a quiet pond, or other still place, allows your cares and burdens to slide down off your shoulders and slip away. It is amazing how refreshing a few minutes beside a pond can be. If you have not had that experience, maybe you have had one of your own–a place you can go that is so peaceful, comforting and renewing, and is hard to leave.

Take time for relaxation every day. When bring feelings of quiet peacefulness into your consciousness, you are doing more than feeling good. You are helping establish balance in your nervous system. Calling forth those images and feelings, even briefly, helps offset the stress building up inside. If you are able to do this at a specific time each day, your body will soon learn that it’s relaxation time, and will begin to bring forth the image and the feelings without any conscious effort on your part.

Image Credits: Hands in heart shape on belly by Flickr user Dylan Luder; Buddha statue by myads; Pond in morning light by Krappweis

About the Author:

Dr. James L. WilsonWith a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides in sunny Tucson, Arizona.

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Is Your Healthcare Professional Living Up to Their Name?

Is Your Healthcare Professional Living Up to Their Name?

smiling HCP with patient

Like a good mechanic, a trustworthy practitioner can be hard to find. Is your healthcare professional living up to their name? To avoid working with a lemon who does more harm than good, here’s a checklist of ten things your healthcare practitioner should be doing for you:

1. Putting in the time                                                      

Sometimes visits with your practitioner can feel like speed dating—two minutes and they’re off to the next one. You should be made to feel welcome, at ease, and not in a rush against the clock. During each visit you should have time to express all your complaints and concerns, and ask any questions you have. Does your practitioner watch the clock and seem aloof?

2. Taking a complete medical history

During the initial visit, your practitioner should ask extensive questions about your medical history to get a detailed sense of you. Make sure your practitioner knows more about your conditions than you do! A practitioner worth their snuff will ask about previous testing, current medications, supplementation, and may ask to see results from previous screens and tests.

3. Displaying credentials and continuing education

All degrees, certificates, and credentials required to practice should be displayed prominently in your practitioner’s office. Don’t be afraid to ask where their training took place, how long they’ve been in practice, and what kind of continued education they pursue. You’re entrusting them with your most precious asset—your life and well-being!—so don’t be shy.

4. Performing basic screens each visit

Basic health checks such as blood pressure and weight are important, but are often ignored. These tests are important and can be used to assess or correct any issues. Avoid practitioners who seem to develop amnesia each time they see you. Your practitioner should be able to grab your file and, after a quick review, resume where you left off last time. Beware a messy, unorganized office.

5. Breaking down diagnoses

Your practitioner should be able to clearly explain any diagnosis given, along with the pros and cons of possible treatments. You should be able to leave the office with more answers than questions, and confident in the next step. Be cautious of hasty, generic diagnoses or practitioners who shrug and recommend antidepressants.

6. Seeing you in emergency situations

A worthwhile practitioner will be able to make time for true emergency calls and concerns. Are you able to call yours a day or two after a treatment or prescription and talk about a possible side effect? Are you bluntly told to make an appointment and rushed off the phone? Does it take weeks to hear back, or maybe not at all? It may be time to look elsewhere for healthcare.

7. Keeping track of all medications and supplementation

Your practitioner should be aware of all medications and supplements you’re taking, including over-the-counter medications like Claritin. A caring and aware practitioner will have an understanding of interactions and will be looking out for potential contraindications that could cause side effects. Does your practitioner do this? It’s an extremely important practice.

8. Being transparent with charges and fees

Any practitioner should be able to give you the cost for various procedures, appointments and tests. If your practitioner has trouble explaining costs, or becomes upset at the notion, that’s a red flag. You should never come away from a visit with sticker shock.

9. Scheduling follow-up visits

Not every issue will be remedied with one visit. Follow-up appointments are important and should be scheduled regularly. A caring practitioner will want to monitor you and ensure you’re progressing as you should. If not, he or she should be open to discussing alternatives. Be wary of clinics that ask you to book bulk visits in advance or prepay for services not yet received.

10. Willing to play nice with other practitioners

By being open to working with other doctors or specialists you’re seeing, you’re practitioner is proving to be a true professional. However, some practitioners are quick to judge and trash the tactics and education of others. I think this saying sums it up best: “Condemnation without investigation is the highest form of arrogance.” Don’t let your practitioner bully you or others, and remember: you’re the boss of your own health.

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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Are Body Burdens Keeping You from Feeling Your Best?

Are Body Burdens Keeping You from Feeling Your Best?

man with head in hand feeling unwell by Flickr user fMoyaSo, what exactly is a body burden? I’m not talking about a monkey on the back (at least not in this blog). A body burden is any problem that negatively affects your body and continues to drain your overall health. Body burdens originate from many different internal or external sources ranging from a chronic, untreated sub-acute infection, to a poorly ventilated work place. Below are some examples of body burdens.

Recurrent respiratory infections - Recurrent respiratory infections are one of the most significant body burdens hampering recovery. It is often necessary to treat the respiratory infection as well as support the adrenal glands. For more on the link between immunity and adrenal function, go here. Once the adrenals are functioning optimally, immune resistance may be able to increase enough to decrease or eliminate the recurrent respiratory infections.

Dental problems - Another common source of body burdens is the mouth. This includes tooth abscesses, cracked or decayed teeth, root canals with sub-acute infections, periodontitis, gingivitis and other gum infections, improperly extracted teeth with smoldering infections, mercury fillings leaking into the body (mercury directly suppresses cortisol levels), dental materials that provoke sensitivities, and poor dental work that irritates the teeth, gums or inside of the cheek. Unresolved dental problems are common but often unrecognized sources of stress and adrenal fatigue.

Intestinal Dysbiosis – Intestinal dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the “good” and “bad” bacteria of the intestines. This balance can become disturbed and produce symptoms ranging from vague and mild intestinal upsets to debilitating fatigue and intolerance to food and/or environmental substances.

Friendly bacteria are necessary and responsible for breaking down bile from the gall bladder, metabolizing some food stuffs, and manufacturing certain vitamins like vitamin K and some of the B vitamins (especially vitamin B12). They also help keep the pH of the bowel at the right level for continued growth of friendly bacteria.

Lack of Fresh, Good Quality Food – The lack of good quality food in your diet is most definitely a major body burden. There is no vitamin pill that is an adequate substitute to provide all the building blocks from which your cells are made. Food is the beginning and the sustaining element of recovery. Without proper nourishment and nutrition, your recovery will be slower or in complete, no matter what else you do.

Food Allergies and Sensitivities – One reason so much space in this book was devoted to food allergies and sensitivities is because they represent such a common, but unrecognized, body burden. I have seen people lose jobs, destroy relationships or sink into chronic poor health because of food sensitivities. Food allergies and sensitivities are easily treated, and their remedy can result in dramatic improvement in adrenal function.

Lack of Sleep – Lack of sleep is a common sign of both low and high cortisol levels and can be a significant body burden. In fact, lack of sleep ranks with diet and regular exercise as an essential component of a healthy life. Chronic lack of sleep is now regarded as a health hazard and has been associated with several health conditions, including decreased immune function, impaired glucose tolerance, and decreased cognitive function. Lack of sleep can also increase circulating estrogen levels, upsetting the hormonal balance.

Living or Working in Toxic Fumes – If you are living or working in an area where you are breathing toxic fumes, this can be more than an unpleasant inconvenience. Buildings with poorly ventilated gas furnaces or stoves, paint or chemical fumes, carbon monoxide from auto exhaust, industrial pollution, petroleum plants, or pesticide and herbicide sprays are examples of toxic environments.

Identifying Body Burdens

Finding body burdens requires you to become like a private detective looking for clues. Creating a “Health History Time Line” can be a useful way to track down potential leads. (Click here to download a template). Fill out the form, then go through and number the events in chronological order (using 1 for the oldest).

Then go back and circle any events that stick out in your mind. These would be events after which you seemed to feel particularly tired or required an extended period of time to recuperate. The event(s) that produced the symptoms and signs most similar to those you are currently suffering from is the likeliest source of the body burden(s), especially if you did not fully recover from that event.

Image credit: Flickr user fMoya

About the Author:

Dr. James L. WilsonWith a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides in sunny Tucson, Arizona.

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Contagious Stress: How Children “Catch” the Stress of their Parents

 Contagious Stress: How Children “Catch” the Stress of their Parents

sad boy sitting on stepsStress: it’s not just for adults anymore. Today’s stress is affecting our children in many ways: they sleep less, eat poorly, stare at screens all day, and consume too much caffeine. Truth is, children have two sets of stresses to deal with: their own, and that of their parents.

“Stress is highly contagious between parent and child, even if the parent is unaware of his or her own anxiety,” says David Code, author of Kids Pick Up on Everything. Research shows that kids can “catch” their parents’ stress, overloading their systems until they act out or exhibit mental and physical illness. “Parental stress can weaken the development of a child’s brain or immune system, increasing the risk of allergies, obesity, or mental disorders,” Code adds.

A 2010 study on stress by the American Psychological Association found that 44% of the kids surveyed said that they had trouble sleeping because of stress, but only 13% of their parents noticed. Moreover, 20% of kids in the survey stated that they experience extreme levels of stress, but only 3% of parents surveyed said they believe the stress level of their child to be extreme.

It’s All About Attunement

Despite our best efforts to protect our children, how are they “catching” stress from us? Specialists are attributing this to attunement. “Attunement is basically a fancy word for what we used to call the mother-infant bond, where parent and child are so attuned to each other that the child can pick up on a parent’s stress and absorb it almost by osmosis,” explains Code. “It’s not so much what we say or do to our kids. It’s more about the ‘vibe’ we give off in their presence. We simply cannot fake being calm to our kids.”

Through my clinical experience dealing with stressed adults and kids, I’ve become aware of just how many parents are unaware of their stress levels. Much of this is accepted as part of being that “superparent” we see in movies and ads. We also spend much more time in the virtual world, up all hours on computers and portable devices, disconnected from our reality. More than half of all families don’t even eat at the same table anymore! Simply put, there is less quality time being spent between parent and child, and it shows.

Dr. Bakker’s Tips For Stressed Out Parents

family walking in road“Parents can help by learning to talk about and model stress reduction techniques with their kids,” says Pediatrician Dr. Michelle Bailey, director of education at Duke Integrative Medicine and the author of Parenting Your Stressed-Out Child. “A lot of stress is not a reaction to actual danger, but a reaction to our thoughts,” she adds. “Being mindful gives children time to deliberately notice their thoughts and choose how to respond, rather than moving automatically into a stressful state.”

David Code mentions that “Lowering your own stress levels can do wonders for your kids as well, the lower our stress response, the fewer verbal cues parents pass on to their children, so kids’ stress response stays lower, too.” For stressed out parents, I recommend looking at the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue to see if you can relate. There’s no shame in working with a practitioner on stress management, especially if it’s affecting the wellbeing of you and your children.

Dr. Bakker’s Tips For Stressed Out Kids

With the younger kids, blow bubbles or play all manner of games. It is a perfect way to diffuse tension and stress. Lie down with your child and teach them to slowly and deeply breathe, a perfect tension buster. Take the dog for a walk, and lie down on the grass and look at the clouds in the sky. In essence, I encourage you to become a kid again.

With older children, communication and involvement is vital. Stay invested in their daily lives, no matter how embarrassed they may get. Fostering open lines of communication (this works both ways!) can fortify confidence and help remove doubt. Be open about your own worries and how you deal. It doesn’t make you less of a man or woman to be open and emotionally available.

Your children desire and need your presence, not your presents. Toys and gadgets are fun, but are no replacement for your time, attention and understanding. In my opinion, the most valuable time you can possibly spend is with your child. In the end, it’s time with their kids people wish they had back—not more time working.

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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Breaking Lactose: How Dairy Affects Your Gut and Going Dairy-Free

 Breaking Lactose: How Dairy Affects Your Gut and Going Dairy-Free

milk cartonMany of the gastrointestinal problems caused by milk consumption are related to the digestion of lactose. When a person with a lactose intolerance or dairy allergy consumes milk or other dairy products, some or all of the lactose remains undigested and ferments in the large intestine, resulting in gas, bloating and abdominal cramping. Symptoms range greatly, and are generally felt within 2 hours of consumption.

What is lactose, exactly? It’s the primary sugar found in milk, made of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of galactose. Lactase, a digestive enzyme, is required to properly digest whole milk. Many people are incapable of manufacturing lactase. This is common in people of Asian descent. Lactose intolerance can also occur as a result of a damaging gastrointestinal disorder, such as celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis.

Milk: To Drink, or Not to Drink

In my practice I see health problems related to milk consumption almost daily. I also know of many people who consume milk and dairy products on a regular basis and tolerate then quite well. Milk has the reputation as being the ‘Darth Vader’ of dairy products, but still has nutritional benefits … for those who can tolerate it.

Most people can tolerate small to moderate amounts of cheese and butter, but start noticing digestive problems once milk is added. Notice how I said small to moderate amounts? Cheese, butter, cream and chocolate are highly concentrated sources of dairy sugars and are consumed in amounts far too large for the average person’s digestive and immune systems to cope.

Lactose Intolerance vs. Dairy Allergy

It is rare for me to encounter a patient with true lactose intolerance. What I see much more are folks with a dairy (casein) allergy. I have also had patients diagnosed elsewhere with a lactose intolerance, only to find out via blood testing that they have an allergy, not intolerance. Another common misdiagnosis I see is irritable bowel syndrome. While it is possible to see people with a milk allergy and a bowel problem, I always suspect lactose intolerance when bloating, flatulence, cramping pains and diarrhea are experienced shortly after consuming milk.

Tips for Going Dairy-Free

set of various dairy products-Avoid all milk and dairy products

An obvious but difficult one. Need a milk fix? Try rice milk instead. Soy milk can be a problem for many individuals, and goat’s milk, though not as likely, may be as well. Try to avoid any dairy products for several months, then re-introduce small amounts and see what happens. And don’t forget: chocolate is actually a type of dairy product.

-Make sure to get your calcium and magnesium

If you avoid dairy altogether, calcium supplementation may be necessary. Balance supplementation with good food sources such as dried figs, broccoli, almonds, sardines, molasses, tofu, sesame seeds, etc.

-Check your medications

Lactose is commonly used as a filler in pharmaceutical drugs. Check with your physician or pharmacist if you have any concerns with medication(s) you’re taking.

-Read food labels carefully
Avoid any foods containing listed dairy products or milk solids.

-Choose low-lactose cheeses for a fix

Parmesan and other low-lactose cheeses are some of the easiest dairy products to tolerate. Again, please consume in moderation.

-Add some Lactobacillus to your diet

Friendly bacteria may facilitate the digestion of dietary lactose and allow lactase-deficient individuals to avoid some of the more unpleasant effects associated with lactase deficiency. Lactobacillus is found in many fermented food products such as yogurt and sauerkraut.

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

References:

1.  Price, Weston, DDS, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Keats Pub. Inc., CT, 1989.
2.  Cohen, Rbt., Milk, the Deadly Poison, Argus Pub. Inc., NJ, 1998.

3.  “Relief for Ear Infections,” Natural Healing, Miami Dade Edit., June 2002.

4.  Kradjian, Rbt., MD, The Milk Letter: A Message To My Patients, www.afpafitness.com/MILKDOC.HTM, Feb.7, 1999.

5.  Whitaker, Julian, MD, Health and Healing, Vol. 6, No. March 1996.

6.  “Lactose Intolerance Actually Normal,” Sun Sentinel of South FL., Feb.24, 2002.

7.  Brown, Ellen, JD, Hansen, Richard, DMD, FACAD, The Key To Ultimate Health, Advanced Health Research, Pub., CA, 2000.

8.  Health Science Institute, Nov 2002.

9.  Jacobsen, Michael, et al, Safe Food, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Living Planet Press, CA, 1991.

10. Mackic, J. B., Department of Neurological Surgery, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, University of Southern California School of Medicine, USA. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 35(3):804-810, 1994.

 

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Emotional Stress and Your Gut – A (Not So) Love Story

Emotional Stress and Your Gut – A (Not So) Love Story

depressed statue by Flickr user Toni Birrer

Today’s society seems ever-focused on the high—high tech, high speed, and high stress, that is. Stress permeates all areas of life: your job (or frustration with unemployment), finances, family, daily commute, even your sleep. All of these areas affect your emotional state, which directly affects your gut and digestive system. Have you ever consoled yourself with food because you’re stressed, angry or sad? Skipped a meal because you were too angry to eat? Please, read on.

One of the most detrimental effects stress has is disrupting healthy eating habits. When you’re under high stress, eating right, or at all, isn’t high on the list. Outside pressure and a lowered emotional state create cravings for comfort foods—those high sugar, high fat, quick and tasty but nutrient-devoid treats. These junk foods slow down digestion and add to the already disrupted state caused by stress. This creates a vicious cycle of propping oneself up with sugar and caffeine, only to crash and feel worse off.

How do you know if your gut is ‘stressed’?

Symptoms of stress on the gastrointestinal system include, but are not limited to:

  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Changes in bowel habit causing diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Difficulty breaking down food and absorbing nutrients
  • Stomach discomfort or fatigue directly after meals
  • Weakened immune response (more than 60% of your immune system is in your gut)
  • Increase in food sensitivities/intolerance

What can I do about it?

For general stress management, try to get one relaxing activity in each day. Pick something you’ll actually enjoy, but won’t cause additional stress. Some good options are yoga, tai chi, meditation, massage, swimming and walking. Assessing your daily diet is also a good step. Replace fast foods/processed junk with more natural, healthy options. There are many healthy meals and snacks that can be made in less time than it takes to hit up the drive-thru. Need some ideas? Check out some healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack options.

good things jar by Flickr user StacieBeeWhat about the emotional distress? In order to truly heal, it is necessary to tackle not only the surface manifestation, i.e. the physical symptoms, but also the emotional stress creating problems. The good news is, adding general stress management activities to your day can help. You may also benefit from keeping a daily journal, which is a healthy way to process and manage things that are bothering you. You can also start a Good Jar. Any time something good happens, regardless of size or significance, write it down on a bit of paper and put it in a jar or other container. This helps remind you that good things do happen, even on bad days. You can also revisit the bits as pick-me-ups on rough days.

If you feel your stress, be it emotional or digestive, is much to handle alone, don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out for help. For some, professional assistance with emotional stress and/or working on a personalized nutrition plan may be the best start. Digestive (and emotional) stress can take time to overcome, but you’ll be surprised at what seemingly insignificant changes can do for you. The first step is taking charge of your own recovery and believing in yourself to do so. Don’t you deserve to feel better?

“There is no true healing unless there is a change in outlook, peace of mind and an inner happiness”   -Dr. Edward Bach

Image Credits: Depressed statue by Flickr user Toni Birrer; Good Things jar by Flickr user StacieBee

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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Hypochlorhydria – Do You Have an Underactive Gut?

Hypochlorhydria – Is Your Gut an Underachiever?

bandage on stomachIs your stomach going on strike? Are you finding undigested foods and supplements in your stool? You may have an underactive stomach. Scientifically known as hypochlorhydria, this condition is an insufficient amount or level of production of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid).

Unfortunately, when hydrochloric acid is low it causes malabsorption resulting in malnutrition, various digestive problems such as constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea and more and eventually a myriad of health problems. HCI mainly digests protein, breaking it down into small molecules in your stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), the smaller molecules formed are further digested and then absorbed in the intestinal tract.

How does one get into such a state? Diet, lifestyle, and other medical conditions can all be factors, but one of the biggest culprits is stress. When you experience high or chronic stress, your whole body can pay the price. The gut is often hardest hit, as it controls digestion and a majority of your body’s immune system. Moreover, HCI production requires a lot of energy and resources, and if there aren’t enough to go around, your gut (and you) suffer.

Hypochlorhydria, Heartburn, and ‘Acid Blockers’

so many antacids by Flickr user shawncampbell

Holy plethora of antacid products, Batman! Why do we need so many?

It is a known fact that doctors are quick to prescribe acid blockers to patients who complain of heartburn, but the unfortunate thing is that many who have in fact an under-acidity of the stomach may well have signs and/or symptoms of heartburn, which the doctor may well interpret as over-acidity. The normal human gut pH range is typically 1 to 2. The pH of an underactive gut can be between 3 to 5, which is considerably less acidic. By addressing all heartburn as a sign of too much acid/too high pH, we’re often making the issue worse.

Hypochlorhydria is often induced by antacids, H2 blockers and protein pump inhibitors. In fact, prolonged hypochlorhydria can potentially increase one’s risk of osteoporosis and other degenerative diseases simply because the body does not have the ability to pull in sufficient minerals through digestion to build strong and healthy bone tissue. This is the same reason why many with hypochlorhydria experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Signs and Symptoms of an Underactive Stomach

fingernails damaged by lack of nutrientsDon’t wait until it becomes painfully obvious there’s a problem. If you’re under a lot of stress, eat a diet that includes tea, coffee, alcohol, red meats and any foods containing sugars/starches, or experience frequent indigestion, start supporting your gut. The older you become, the more likely it is for you to experience hypochlorhydria. Here are some common signs and symptoms of low stomach acid:

  • Frequent stomach pain, discomfort or bloating after meals
  • Feeling unwell/fatigued right after eating
  • High protein or fat foods cause nausea/upset stomach
  • Undigested food in stool
  • Reflux and/or heartburn
  • Poor appetite or feel overly full easily
  • Poor fingernail health (splitting easily/white flecks)
  • Multiple food sensitivities
  • Trouble digesting red meat
  • Frequent constipation
  • Low iron levels
  • Frequent nausea
  • Nausea/reflux after supplements (e.g. fish oil)
  • Burping after meals
  • Thin, weak or fragile hair

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8 Fibers You Should be Taking for Digestive Health

 

fenugreek seeds by Flickr user zoyachubbyFiber is often thought of as some blah-tasting uniform mass you have to choke down just for regularity’s sake. Truth is, there are many different kinds of fibers, and an assortment is necessary for good health. You need insoluble fibers, which bulk up and soften stools to maintain regularity, and soluble fibers, which help remove toxins and by-products of digestion that can cause gas, bloating and discomfort.

Think of fibers as tiny brooms and your gut as a big room to clean–there’s a lot of nooks and crannies, so you’ll need different sizes and shapes of brooms to get it clean. Watch out for common supermarket and drugstore fiber: they often contain sweeteners and fillers like maltodextrin and corn syrup solids that can do more harm than good. Here’s a list of 8 helpful, multifaceted fibers that work together to help keep your gut clean and running strong:

Psyllium Husk

Psyllium husk is the fibrous outer shell of the psyllium plant seed. The husk is high in mucilage, a clear colorless gel that bonds with and absorbs water. This helps keep bowel movements soft and easy to pass, which helps prevent constipation.

Slippery Elm (inner bark)

The inner bark of the Slippery Elm tree is made of durable fibers used for many purposes, including rope making, jewelry, and string for instrument bows. It’s good for your digestive system because of its high levels of mucilage and its ability to gently sweep debris out of the intestines.

Cellulose

Cellulose is a fibrous organic compound found in many things, particularly green plants and algae. This abundant compound acts as a bulking agent for bowel movements, giving feces a texture that holds together and is easy (but not too easy!) to pass.

Rice Bran

Rice bran is the hard layer between the inner rice grain and the outer hull. In addition to containing various helpful antioxidants, rice bran contains a high amount of several types of fibers that can get into those nooks and crannies and keep things clean.

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)

FOS are a form of oligosaccharides (a carbohydrate made of simple sugars) that act as a soluble fiber. FOS occur naturally in many vegetables, including onion, artichoke and asparagus. In addition to being an effective fiber, FOS also has known prebiotic benefits and can help with absorption of certain minerals.

Fenugreek Seed

Fenugreek seeds are used internationally to add flavor and nutrients to dishes. Some Indian restaurants will have bowls of fenugreek seeds at the register instead of after dinner mints. In addition to its high fibrous qualities, fenugreek seed has also shown to help with the breakdown and processing of insulin in the digestive system.

Oat Bran

Like rice bran, oat bran is the hard layer sandwiched between the grain and husk. Grains like oat bran are used for many beneficial purposes, from cholesterol management to cardiovascular support. Oat bran is beneficial to the digestive system because of its high concentration of fiber, particularly beta-glucan.

Hemicellulose

Hemicellulose, like cellulose, is a polysaccharide, but is made of shorter glucose chains. Hemicellulose is especially helpful for its prebiotic properties, meaning it can help the feeding and growth of helpful bacteria in the gut.

Image Credit: fenugreek seeds by Flickr user zoyachubby

References and Resources:

Burton R, Manninen V. Influence of a psyllium fibre preparation on faecal/serum parameters. Acta Med Scand. 1982:668:S91-S94.
Rodri’guez-Cabezas ME, Galvez J, Camuesco D, Lorente MD, Concha A, Martinez-Augustin O, Redondo O, Zarzuelo A. Intestinal anti-inflammatory activity of dietary fiber in HLA-B27 transgenic rats. Clinical Nutrition. 2003 (22/5):463-471.
McRorie JW, Daggy BP, Morel JG, Diersing PS, Miner PB, Robinson M. Psyllium is superior to docusate sodium for treatment of chronic constipation.Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1998 May;12(5):491-7.
Langmead L, Dawson C, Hawkins C, Banna N, Loo S, Rampton DS. Antioxidant effects of herbal therapies used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease: an in vitro study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Feb;16(2):197-205.
Roschek B Jr, Fink RC, Li D, McMichael M, Tower CM, Smith RD, Alberte RS. Pro-inflammatory enzymes, cyclooxygenase 1, cyclooxygenase 2, and 5-lipooxygenase, inhibited by stabilized rice bran extracts. J Med Food. 2009 Jun;12(3):615-23.
Nilsson U, Johansson M, Nilsson A, Bjorck I, Nyman M. Dietary supplementation with o-glucan enriched oat bran increases faecal concentration of carboxylic acids in healthy subjects. European journal of clinical nutrition. 2008 (62/8): 978-984.
Su P, Henriksson A, Mitchell H. Prebiotics enhance survival and prolong the retention period of specific probiotic inocula in an in vivo murine model. J Appl Microbiol. 2007 Dec;103(6):2392-400.
Kannappan S, Anuradha CV.Insulin sensitizing actions of fenugreek seed polyphenols, quercetin & metformin in a rat model. Indian J Med Res. 2009 Apr;129(4):401-8.
Kanauchi O, Mitsuyama K, Komiyama Y, Yagi M, Andoh A, Sata M. Preventive effects of enzyme-treated rice fiber in a restraint stress-induced irritable bowel syndrome model. Int J Mol Med. 2010 Apr;25(4):547-55.

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Three Tasty, Quick and Healthy Ways to Get Your (Essential!) Daily Fiber

 

Fiber–where would we be without it? Not the bathroom, of course. Fiber is essential for proper digestion, healthy bowel movements, and good overall health. Yet, most people only get about half the fiber they need daily (you need 20-30 grams per day). We’ve found some great snack and beverage recipes high in fiber and other nutrients, as well as taste, that are quick and easy enough to fit any schedule.

No-Cook Oatmeal Parfaits

protein fiber fridge parfaitsThis portable nutrient-rich food can be had as a breakfast item or anytime snack. In addition to having lots of fiber, protein and calcium, these goodies also pack plenty of taste. Once you make these you’ll want to have them all the time.

To make, you’ll need half-pint or pint glass jars with lids. This recipe can be made in advance and stored in the fridge, so feel free to make several varieties at once. To each jar add 1/4 cup natural old-fashioned rolled oats, 1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup skim milk (can use any type of milk or milk substitute you prefer), and 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried chia seeds.

Now it’s flavor time! We tried several varieties: Blueberry Maple (2 tsp. maple syrup and 1/4 C blueberries), Apple Cinnamon with Cranberry (1/4 C unsweetened applesauce, 1 tbsp. dried cranberries, 1 tsp. honey, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon), and Peanut Butter Chocolate (1 tbsp. sliced almonds, 1 tbsp. PB2 powder, 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder). Once you’ve added your preferred goodies, put a lid on the jar and shake to mix. Fruit may be easier to mix in with a fork. Once mixed, place jars in fridge and let set overnight.

High Fiber Green Smoothie

green smoothie by Flickr user Stacy SpensleyThis smoothie is a cornucopia of nutrients and flavor, and can be made in 5 minutes. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 pear, chopped, with skin
  • 1 kiwi fruit, chopped, without skin
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • Heaping handful of raw baby spinach
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup ice

To make, simply add all ingredients to a blender and mix until you get your desired consistency.

Fiber and Protein-Packed Blueberry Muffins

blueberry muffins by Flickr user Steve A JohnsonThese tasty and very portable muffins have 7 grams of fiber and 23 g of protein per muffin. Pretty impressive, eh? Here’ s what you’ll need to make them:

  • 1 tbsp. flax seed
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tbsp. blueberries
  • 3 tbsp. steel cut oats (cooked are preferred)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

To get started, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Get your muffin pan greased up while you’re at it (this recipe makes 6 muffins). Add protein powder, flax seed, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to a bowl and mix. Now add the oats and egg whites and mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the greased muffin pan, then add a sprinkle of blueberries to the middle of each muffin. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, but check them after 20. Depending on how you like your muffins, baking time will last 20-40 minutes.

Image credits: Green smoothie by Flickr user Stacy Spensley; Blueberry muffins by Flickr user Steve Johnson

 

 

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