Health Tip #47

health-tip-47

What is vitamin D

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone.  Every tissue in our bodies need vitamin D.  It is needed for overall health including bone and muscle health, heart health, immunity, metabolism, brain development, cell communication, and more.

Vitamin D proves helpful in disease prevention and treatment

Studies have show that adequate vitamin D levels can cut our cancer risk by as much as 60%.  Adequate vitamin D levels have also shown promise  in the prevention and treatment of a number of disease conditions including:   eye and bowel diseases, chronic inflammation diseases, immune dysfunction, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), chronic inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.  Studies have also shown vitamin D is helpful in reducing HIV replication and in alleviating symptoms of depression.  Deficiency in pregnancy has been linked to childhood asthma, allergies, dental cavities, diabetes and more.

We just don’t get enough

Here in the rainy Pacific North West, we don’t get enough vitamin D from sun exposure in the Fall through the Spring.   But we’re not the only ones.  Modern people the world over, even in equatorial regions are not getting enough vitamin D.  Always being fully covered in clothes, spending the majority of our time indoors, skin cancer fears and sunscreen use, all play in to our collective vitamin D deficiency.

How to get what we need

We can get vitamin D from a number of sources including safe,sensible sun exposure, vitamin D3 supplementation, and  animal foods such as fatty fish like salmon and tuna, fish liver oil and eggs.  Some health experts even recommend using safe, UVB tanning beds (with electronic ballast).  We should try to reach a daily vitamin D dose, from all sources combined of between 5000-6000 IU.

Take care with the sun

When exposing our skin to the sun, we never want to overdue it and we never want to burn.  It is interesting however, that our ancestors, although spending most of their time out of doors in the sun, were not all suffering from melanoma.  In fact, it seems the more time we spend indoors, the higher the levels of cancer rise.   Clearly something other than exposure to the sun has changed to create the levels of skin cancer we are seeing today.

Supplementation

When supplementing with vitamin D, we should also balance the supplementation with vitamin K2 and magnesium.  Symptoms of vitamin D overdose are the very same as symptoms of vitamin K2 deficiency as the two work together.  Vitamin K2 moves calcium where it needs to go (bones and teeth)and removes it from where it is not needed (arteries and soft tissue).

Test for vitamin D levels

Without  testing, it is impossible to know what our total vitamin D levels from all of these sources are .  We can ask our doctors to test our vitamin D levels with a 25(OH)D (25-hydroxyvitaminD) test.

 

 

Health Tip #39

health-tip-39

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is an endocrine gland.  It helps to regulate metabolism and weight.  Thyroid hormones influence every cell and process in the body including growth and development.

How does it work?

The thyroid produces three types of hormones:  T3, T4, and T2.  These hormones interact with all other hormones in our bodies.  The liver converts T4 into T3 (the active form).  T3 lowers cholesterol levels, regrows hair and helps maintain body weight by controlling metabolism.  T3 can be disrupted by stress, infections, nutritional imbalances, toxins and allergens.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is and under-active thyroid, when when our bodies don’t produce enough thyroid hormone.  Many, many people have sub-clinical hypothyroidism with no obvious signs or symptoms.

  • Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

    • Some symptoms of Hypothyroidism include: tiring easily and lack of sustained energy, depression, feeling of a “heavy” head, falling asleep sitting up, weight gain, dry skin and chronic hives, hair loss, always feeling cold, low basal body temperature, stiff and popping joints, tingling and numbness.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is an over-active thyroid, when the thyroid secretes too much T4.

  • Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

    • Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism are: protruding eyes, menstrual cycle irregularities, weight loss, heartbeat irregularities, emotional instability, lack of mental focus, nervousness, restlessness, and frequent bowel movements.

Possible Causes of Thyroid Dysfunction and What to Avoid

Some possible underlying causes of thyroid dysfunction include: radiation exposure, chronic stress, nutrient debt (from eating processed foods, low HCl and malabsorption), heavy metal accumulation, pesticides, halogens (bromides, fluoride, chlorine), dysbiosis, free radical damage (low antioxidants), low iodine levels, low selenium levels, yo-yo dieting, metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) and goitrogens (in soy and cabbage family foods), Food allergies and sensitivities, and gluten sensitivity.

Testing thyroid function

Lab tests may be done to access the function of the thyroid including: TSH test, free T4 and free T3 test, and a thyroid antibody test to test for an autoimmune reaction.  A self test can be performed as an initial indicator of low thyroid by taking our temperature, with a basal body thermometer, each morning, before getting out of bed, for at least three days.  Average body temperature measurements should not be below 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 36.4 degrees Celsius.

What to Add In

Things to add in to our diets and lifestyles to nourish the thyroid include:

  • Clean”  whole foods (as opposed to processed foods) to help reduce her exposure to toxins in the diet, particularly pesticides as they interfere with iodine uptake.
  • Shop the outside perimeter of the grocery store looking for nutrient dense, unprocessed whole foods.
  • A primarily plant based diet of brightly colored vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, will provide her with plenty of fiber and antioxidants.
  • Meals including protein and healthy fats to help us feel more satisfied and support blood sugar stability.  healthy fats such as butter, coconut oil, egg yolks and omega 3 oils (like those found in cold water fish, walnuts and pecans, will not make us fat but instead nourish the thyroid and help to regulate our weight).
  • Slow down, careful chewing, avoiding or limiting convenience foods (which lead to inflammation and thyroid problems), as well as drinking between meals (not with meals) so as to not dilute HCl.
  • Drinking pure or filtered water, which does not contain any fluoride or Chlorine.
  • Sea foods and Sea vegetables, (such as: kelp flakes or mixed seaweed flakes), rich in trace minerals and iodine, have a salty flavor and can be added (undetected) to soups and stews. Note: Iodine containing foods are recommended for non-autoimmune thyroiditis only. For autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s), they should be avoided.
*For more information on Hashimoto’s and molecular mimicry, see my tip on going gluten free.

Health Tip #25

health-tip-25

Bathing In Nature

Being outdoors in nature brings about a feeling of peace and restores our equilibrium.  I love being in the forest here on the Pacific North West Coast, surrounded by big trees, or walking along the beach, with the waves crashing on the shore.  I always feel better after spending time in nature.  “Shinrin-yoku,” is a Japanese healing practice of “forest bathing”.  It means spending time in a forest, to improve mental and physical health by  inhaling negative ions, essential oils and even beneficial bacteria from the forest air.

Health Benefits of Negative Ions

When we are in nature, near mountains, waterfalls, and beaches, we are exposed to negative ions.  There is evidence to show that negative ions produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood enhancing chemicals which in turn help to relieve depression and stress, and give us an energy boost.  This may be one of the reasons why being outdoors in nature has been shown to decrease stress, increase creativity, improve mood and self-esteem and improve SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder).

Touch The Earth

As I am writing this post in January, it may seem a little impractical, but one of the best ways to expose ourselves to negative ions is through grounding, or touching our bare skin to the earth, such as walking barefoot on the beach.

Nature Offers Better Air Quality

Another good reason for spending at least some time each day, outdoors in nature, is that indoor air quality is usually far worse than outdoors.  This is due to off gassing of building materials, paints, carpeting and furniture and the build up of dust and mold.

As we mentioned in the post about sleep, getting out in natural sunlight helps set our internal clock and helps us sleep better at night.

Green Exercise

Exercising outdoors in nature or green exercise can be very energizing and has the added benefit of adding variety and intensity to our workout as we move through the wind, weather and changing terrain.  Exercising outdoors has also shown to lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone).

Those who have little contact with nature have been shown to to be more likely to suffer from certain mental disorders.

Walking Meditation

And as a final note, the next time you’re outdoors in nature, why not try doing it mindfully.  Turn off the noise (music players, cell phones…) and be fully present, for at least a few moments, to the nature around you, moving in time with your breath and sensing the moment.  Truly be in nature.

Health Tip #22

health-tip-22

We Need Our Sleep

Sleep is not merely a waste of productive time.  Sleep is a necessary part of your overall health.  We need 8 hours of sleep each night for optimal health.  Lack of proper sleep can lead to a decline in mental and physical health including:  reduced cognitive function, memory loss, weight gain, obesity, depression, headaches, anxiety, accidents, diabetes, decreased immune function, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and lack of emotional control.  A lack of sleep also exacerbates chronic illnesses already present.

While we sleep, our body goes into a detox, repair and mental and immunological integration faze.  Without sleep we miss out on all of these processes.

Sleep For Better Brain Health

Sleep makes you smarter.  While we sleep, and as we dream, our brain sews together (integrates) the pieces of our experiences into memories, discovers the rules for our lives and fosters insight.  Studies have shown that students performed better on problem solving and memory and recall tests when given a chance to sleep on it.   Our brain strategizes and figures out answers to our problems and possible paths of action and the meaning of our lives while we sleep.  A lack of this process can lead to lack of mental health including depression.

Lights Out

In order to get good sleep we need complete darkness.  Light at night disrupts our anti-cancer, melatonin production.  It is for this reason that shift work is listed as a possible carcinogen.  Blue light emitted from fluorescent and LED lights are not healthy for us during the night.  Using blue-light blockers on technology, blue light blocker glasses and incandescent lights at night will help with this.

Stay In Sync With The Sun

Ideally to synchronize our biological clocks, we should be rising with the sun, being exposed to natural sunlight during the day and darkness at night.  Spending daylight hours outdoors will help with this, especially at high noon, so taking a walk on our lunch break is a great idea.  Not only that, but spending time outdoors in nature also helps with good quality sleep.

Winding Down

Shutting off all electronics and stopping work 1 or 2 hours before bed can help with a good nights sleep.  Doing activities that help you to relax and wind down will also help you sleep.  Have a hot bath, listen to relaxation recordings, read something uplifting or write in your gratitude journal and have a good nights sleep.

Health Tip #18

health-tip-18

Omega 3 fats are essential fats.  Essential means that our body can not produce them and we must get them from our diet.  Long chain Omega 3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids containing DHA and EPA.  These fatty acids are needed for the brain, heart, eyes, joints, digestion, muscle activity, blood clotting, cell division and more.  They also contain phospholipids which are building blocks of the cell.   Deficiencies in long chain Omega 3s can lead to heart problems, depression, poor memory and inflammation.  The best sources of long chain Omega 3s are cold water, fatty fish such as wild salmon, sardines, anchovies and herrings.  It is suggested that we have 1 or 2 servings of fresh cold water fish per week.  If you don’t eat fish you can also supplement with long chain Omega 3 oils such as wild, cold water salmon oil and antarctic krill oil.  250-500 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA are recommended daily.

It is important to note that Omega 3s from plant sources are short chain Omega 3s and do not contain the essential DHA and EPA.  Instead plant based Omega 3s, including flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts, are a source of ALA.  While ALA is a precursor to DHA and EPA, our bodies do not efficiently make this conversion.

Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils should be balanced 1:1 but in our modern diet of processed foods and highly processed oils, our typical Omega 6 consumption is ten times higher than our Omega 3 intake.  This imbalance inevitably leads to health problems as mentioned above.

The bottom line?  Make sure you’re getting your essential Omega 3 in your diet.