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Hashimoto’s disease: could it be the underlying cause for your unexplained misery or fatigue?

Could Hashimoto’s disease secretly be causing hypothyroidism for you? And what does your thyroid do anyhow?

Let me tell you. It does a whole lot. And you need it to be healthy.

Understanding Hashimoto’s disease

The autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called lymphocytic thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease, occurs when antibodies working against your thyroid gland lead to inflammation.

The inflammation inhibits your thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormones and can cause slow, chronic cell damage.

The damage then surfaces as an enlarged thyroid gland or hypothyroidism (an under-performing thyroid).

Detecting Hashimoto’s disease

What’s the big deal about your thyroid health?

depressed hashimoto's disease hypothyroidYour thyroid is like the motherboard of your body. Your pituitary gland controls your thyroid. And your thyroid controls just about everything else – your metabolic rate, energy, heart, digestion, muscles, brain development, bone maintenance and reproduction.

No symptoms are necessarily unique to Hashimoto’s disease. However, Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. (http://thyroidbook.com), yet often goes undiagnosed. If you have hypothyroidism, you may suffer from:

  • anxiety
  • cold hands and feet
  • constipation
  • depression
  • dry skin
  • fatigue
  • irregular or heavy periods
  • low sex drive
  • muscle aches and lowered tolerance for exercise

Doctors will use a blood test to determine if you have hypothyroidism. Be sure he or she orders the full panel, and not just the basic test. The basic thyroid test provides 1 overall level or number, which is more likely to fall in the normal range, leaving you undiagnosed.

The full panel provides your levels of all 4 thyroid components – free T3 (triiodothyronine), free T4 (thyroxine), TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and reverse T3. If you have elevated TSH and low free T4 levels, these are indicators of Hashimoto’s.

Treating Hashimoto’s disease

Traditional doctors will start you on a thyroid medicine such as Synthroid, Armour or Cytomel to help normalize your TSH. You will probably be on the medication for life, having to adjust it occasionally. The medication may help you feel better, but it doesn’t address your immune system’s imbalance.

Read a more scientific explanation of this shortfall here. Basically, the medication increases the T4 in your body, but doesn’t help you convert T4 to T3 and doesn’t address the ongoing inflammation.

So guess what holistic doctors will tell you if you have Hashimoto’s disease?

Yes – change your diet!

In Dr. Datis Kharrazian’s book, he explains in detail about why he advises thyroid patients to immediately remove gluten from their diets. Or you can read a briefer explanation in my blog post “Getting to the root of your thyroid problem and how your diet can help”.

Some doctors will ask you to eliminate dairy and soy, too. Still others will suggest the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, or another diet, to give your body a break from all potentially inflammatory foods.

You may resent the idea of having to give up some of your favorite foods, and simply want to take the medicine and move on. But then you are not really giving your body a chance to heal. In fact, if you’re eating foods your body doesn’t tolerate, you are keeping it in overdrive on an empty oil tank!

If you think you have Hashimoto’s disease or hypothyroidism, ask your doctor to order the full thyroid panel and give all thyroid components full attention. Cut gluten and dairy from your diet, and use an elimination diet to identify any other foods you should avoid.

It may be a temporary tweak, or a permanent lifestyle change. But your body has to last your entire lifetime, right? Feed it accordingly!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Tame your grass allergy with a seasonal change in your diet

If you have a grass allergy, you may tear through a box of tissues due to itchy, eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. Weekends may leave you feeling worse since more people cut their lawns then. But did you know that some of your favorite foods might be adding to your grass allergy symptoms, too?

What are grass allergy cross-reactors?

During an allergic reaction, your body sees the pollen or allergen as an enemy and releases histamines as a defense mechanism.

Certain proteins in fruits and vegetables cross-react with the proteins in grass, causing your body to release additional histamine. So if you’re sensitive to grass, you might also be sensitive to the foods that cross-react with it.

Because cooking fruits and vegetables breaks down the proteins in them, you may be able to tolerate them better cooked than in raw form. But that doesn’t mean you should eat them as part of your daily diet during prime grass allergy time.

Foods to avoid if you have a grass allergy

If you know you have a grass allergy or sensitivity, avoid these foods when grass pollens are high:

  • tomatograss allergy foods avoid
  • celery
  • potato
  • pea
  • peanut
  • melon
  • orange
  • peach

Raw apples or the pesticides on lettuce may intensify your grass allergy symptoms, too. And though you may instinctively reach for the wasabi or hot salsa to “open up” your sinuses, know that spicy foods tend to release loads of histamines – not a good thing if your body is already in overdrive. 

Which foods will help combat your grass allergy?

When there are foods to avoid, there are always foods to latch onto for the healing effects you need.

Green tea contains natural antihistamines, but remember it contains caffeine. And avoid purchasing orange or peach flavors.

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish help reduce inflammation caused by the histamines in your body. Eat more salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel or albacore tuna during grass season. Fresh, wild-caught fish is best.

Add turmeric and ginger to your fish or chicken. Or combine these powerful anti-inflammatory spices with cinnamon and hot water to make a tasty tea.

Finally, probiotics, specifically with lactobacillus or bifidobacterium help balance your gut flora. If you’re not taking probiotics daily yet, you need to read “What you should know about probiotics for women, men and kids”.

Of course, you can also tackle your grass allergy symptoms with these non-food tactics, too. Though I strongly advise against medications, including steroid nasal sprays, because they are likely to cause more damage to your digestion and body in the long-term.

There’s a reason foods grow in seasons. Pay attention to how your body responds to foods during each season. Then choose to eat what your body needs, not necessarily your taste buds want!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.

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Healing PANDAS syndrome: traditionally or holistically, diet becomes key

PANDAS hardly brings about a warm or cuddly feeling when you’re talking about the syndrome, which causes an overnight onset of “what demon took over my normal, healthy child?” This rare condition demands serious attention from the parent to both diagnose and treat a child.

Understanding PANDAS

In simple terms, pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS) results when a strep bacteria causes inflammation on the brain which leads to neurological problems.

According to the PANDAS Network, it affects 1 of every 200 children. But doctors have only recognized and diagnosed PANDAS since the 1990s, so it is relatively new and often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

PANDAS syndromeIf your child suddenly (as in overnight) shows intense, debilitating anxiety or mood changes and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder behavior or tics, he may be suffering from PANDAS.

He may also regress in math or handwriting skills, have less desire to eat or suffer greater sensory sensitivity.

PANDAS typically surfaces in children between ages 3 and the puberty years. But it can take as long as 4 to 6 months after a strep infection, whether treated or not, for symptoms to show.

If your child takes a very sudden and drastic turn for the worse, showing these symptoms, ask your pediatrician to rule out PANDAS, because if let unaddressed or misaddressed (as behavior or ADHD issues), he may continue to get worse.

Healing PANDAS

If your pediatrician seems unfamiliar with PANDAS, find another one who is. His or her first line of treatment will likely be antibiotics, for as long as up to 1 year. Though you want to treat the PANDAS, that would mean serious damage to your kid’s digestive system!

Your pediatrician may also refer your child to a psychiatrist for cognitive behavior therapy and/or prescription medicines such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

But you might consider using a holistic approach instead, like Camden’s mom did in this story. Once Camden was diagnosed, she immediately put him on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet to decrease inflammation in his body. This in turn, helped his body respond positively to her next steps.

After giving Camden a regimen including primarily diatomaceous earth (DE), oregano leaf tincture and an intestinal tract defense tincture over a period of time, he became his ol’ self again.

It’s amazing how the products of nature can heal, from food to dirt to herbs and much more.

This doesn’t mean all cases of PANDAS can be treated without prescription medicines.

But it does reinforce that your first line of treatment should involve the foods you eat, to eliminate inflammation so your body can heal.

And whether you treat PANDAS with antibiotics or not, you need to heal the gut, which means probiotics are a must.

To summarize, think of it like this. Getting rid of the inflammation gives your immune system a rest from fighting off your triggers (the inflammatory foods). Once not inflamed, your guts can better absorb nutrients and let your entire body heal as it’s supposed to.

This is why so many people have begun eating paleo, the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet or other anti-inflammatory diets – to eat preventatively!

If PANDAS is affecting your child, consider starting her on the GAPS diet right away.

If you’d like to consider eating a diet that’s anti-inflammatory for better health in general, read an overview of several options in this article from paleotreats.com. Then talk to your doctor or health practitioner to choose the one that’s best for you.

 

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.

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Eating grain free: is it really good for you and how do you do it?

Eating grain free takes eating gluten free to another level. You might want to eat grain free if you need to heal inflammation in your guts or other parts of your body. You might need to do it if you have thyroid or autoimmune issues. Or you may want to do it short term as a cleanse.

Good news. It’s not as hard as it may sound! The key is to change your mindset and to do a little prep work.

eating grain freeFor you carb fiends, changing your mindset is crucial. Admit, you may miss the grains at first – otherwise you’re not much of a fiend. It may take a few months are even longer, but you may grow to not even like them so much (yes, it’s often the case!). And you will need to add other healthy whole foods to fill the void, at least until your stomach adjusts to feeling less full or bloated. Amen to that.

And if you’re trying to lose weight, this is bound, although not guaranteed, to help.

Eating grain free vs gluten free

First of all, become friends with the term “paleo”. “Paleo” refers to a caveman style of eating, or eating the foods that naturally exist on our planet rather than those that are made or processed using chemicals or synthetic ingredients.

More specifically, the paleo diet excludes grains, dairy and alcohol. Hold tight. Don’t panic. Read on.

If there is anything you truly miss when eating grain free, just Google “paleo xyz” and you will find a recipe for it. Paleo pizza, spaghetti, cheesecake, you name it.

And say you want to still eat dairy? Just modify the paleo recipes to include your dairy ingredients.

Dabbling with paleo recipes will expose you to lots of new ways to make old favorites.

Second, plan out some meals. (Sigh, I know. But planning prevents stress and choosing whatever’s convenient ,which is usually not so good for you.) Sometimes even on the typical American diet, it’s hard to figure out what’s for dinner every night. Planning and cooking ahead can take lots of stress out of your unpredictable nights.

Planning doesn’t have to be too time-consuming. Cheat off of a paleo meal plan, like this one from my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways, to spare yourself some of the mental work.

Lastly, identify the grains you rely on most and how you intend to replace those. That way, when you’re in a crunch, about to reach for your ol’ grainy friend, you can stop and reach for your replacement before you die of hunger!

Your new grain-free go-tos

Here are some common grains and suggested new go-tos while you’re eating grain free.

  • crackers, chips, bars                > raw veggies (oh so many to choose from!),                                                          kale or root veggie chips
  • bread                                          > lettuce leaves, put it in a bowl or make your                                                         own grain-free bread or paleo tortillas
  • buns                                            > slices of zucchini or sweet potato
  • cereal                                          > make your own grain-free cereal
  • pancakes                                    > paleo pumpkin pancakes (love these!)

You’ll get more results from eating grain free if you add in healthy foods, especially those high in fiber. You still need fiber, just not via the grains. Your best option? Learn to love the leafy greens! You’ll find many of them, and many ways to prepare them. And they offer loads of minerals and nutrients you may not have been getting before. Here are just a few:

  • kale (raw in salad or smoothie, sautéed, chips)
  • Swiss chard (raw, sautéed, roasted)
  • romaine lettuce (raw in salad or as a wrap, in smoothie)
  • collard greens (sautéed, blanched, roasted)

Also get fiber from these foods:

  • nuts and seeds
  • quinoa (a seed, but not deemed paleo because of it’s potential harm to your guts)
  • figs
  • berries
  • avocados
  • coconut (FYI – a fruit and not a tree nut)
  • beans and peas (legumes are not technically paleo)

Note that white potatoes are not a grain, but they have similar qualities and effects as grains (see the link above about quinoa). So if you’re eating grain free to heal your guts, you should also avoid using potatoes as a substitute.

Curious about going totally paleo? Read “Eating healthier: Is paleo the way to go?”.

In the meantime, if you’re eating grain free, just do a little prep work first. It will make your mission more relaxing and fun. It may be an eye-opening, gut-healing and life-changing experience!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.

What’s the truth about the autism and diet connection?

Get knee deep into the nitty-gritty about autism and diet. Be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised. Even scared. But for the love of your child, be informed.

The connection between autism and diet makes a profound statement about the link between other health-related issues and diet. If changing a diet can relieve the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders, how many other health issues might it improve?

Doesn’t research waver about whether autism and diet are truly connected?

Yes. Some studies weren’t big enough. Others had flaws. But some autism patients have experienced improved or removed symptoms by changing their diet. What if your child could be part of that “some”?

The Autism Research Institute considers a diet free of gluten and dairy a “crucial first step” for autism patients. It could be cornerstone in helping overcome autism or may help medical treatments work better.

Overcome. That’s a strong word.

More specifically, an article on Treatautism.ca discusses how a diet free of gluten, dairy, corn and soy has helped patients by:

  • increasing language skills (number of words spoken, complexity of sentences and conversational speech);
  • improving focus, cognitive function and ability to be “present”;
  • improving social interaction (with peers or siblings or in larger groups, initiating play and using toys appropriately);
  • reducing self-destructive behavior;
  • increasing digestion, sleep and immune function (I’m no scientist but these surely spark the other positive effects!).

Doesn’t it fill your heart with hope knowing a change in diet could free your child from some of these struggles, whether from autism or not?!

Start battling autism by changing the diet

Where do you begin?

  1. autism and diet glutenRemove gluten and dairy from the diet for at least 3 months, as recommended by the Autism Research Institute. Know that many pediatricians or general physicians do not yet believe in the connection between autism and diet. But do what’s best for you, even if that means finding a more supportive doctor. Inform everyone who takes care of your kids so they can support your effort. (I typed up a letter with instructions when my kids did gluten-free during a month of school.) It doesn’t have to be that difficult – keep reading for more relief.
  1. Keep a food journal. Start tracking the foods your kid eats and ANY symptoms. Use this free template, which lists also symptoms you may not normally relate to food. The journal is key because if your child has only an IgG (immunoglobulin G) response to a food, as opposed to a more obvious IgE response, it can take up to 72 hours for the symptom to surface.
  1. Use typical gluten and dairy substitutes in moderation. Consider giving up corn and soy, too, since they 2 of the Big Four products, typically containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs – yikes!). These may cause more symptoms. It’s better to replace gluten and dairy with vegetables including leafy greens and sweet potatoes, which provide essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, vitamin D and zinc.
  1. Consider using supplements so your child gets enough essential fatty acids and probiotics. If your child has leaky gut syndrome, talk to a naturopath about a product with L-glutamine to help heal the gut, too.
  1. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people with autism spectrum disorders may have narrow, obsessive interests, which makes getting them to eat healthier foods more difficult. Work with a naturopath or other experts to educate your child about his choices. Sometimes your kid needs to hear it from someone besides his parents!

Also consider consulting Brian Balance Achievement Centers if your child has autism or spectrum disorders. A colleague told me about this rather rigid program you have to commit to for several months at a time. It includes changes in diet, sensory activities, at-home exercises and more. But his son wanted to do another session of it because he was so happy with the results. His teenage son wanted to commit to the rigid plan.

As explained on the website, “The Balance 360 System progressively removes foods that contain gluten, refined sugar and dairy. These foods are known to have negative reactions on brain, leading to food sensitivities and inflammation, causing negative behaviors, physical symptoms and learning challenges.”

More and more centers and people are seeing relief of complex, brain-centered symptoms by changing the diet.

autism and diet

Too often, we think we are depriving kids of the food they love. In reality, they’d be happy to starve the symptoms that restrict their livelihood.

I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to have a child with autism. I certainly am not downplaying the magnitude of it. Diet is not the answer to everything. And changing the diet may not help you or your child.

But it might. It could. It could make a marked difference in all the symptoms listed above, and more – whether they are a part of autism or another health-related struggle.

So isn’t it worth a try? See if your child might become part of the “some”. Read Eating gluten free made easy – what to avoid and what to eat and Eating dairy free with a busy lifestyle for practical ways to make the changes more easily. It could be life changing!

 

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Eating gluten free made easy – what to avoid and what to eat

Does the idea of eating gluten free make you cringe because of the foreseeable agony it will surely cause you? You may feel short on the time you need to do it. You may not know where to begin. Or maybe you’ve tried it before and just need some fresh ideas to make it easier.

Eating gluten free doesn’t have to be a downer. And for some, it’s a must.

So read up and breathe easier – maybe literally since going gluten free may relieve your allergies like it has mine.

What foods do you need to avoid when eating gluten free?

Inhale. First, know that all wheat products contain gluten. This includes farro, kamut, barley, rye and spelt.eating gluten free gluten foods

But you will also find gluten in these other grains and ingredients: bulgur, couscous, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, graham, matzo, semolina, wheat germ, wheat starch, some caramel color, “stabilizers,” “flavors”, “colors” and bouillon.

Unfortunately, many sauces, condiments and soups contain gluten, because it’s a thickening agent. And it’s in many lunchmeats.

Finally, because many grains are processed using the same equipment, rice or oat products may not start out with gluten in them. But after being processed on equipment used for wheat, they end up with pieces of gluten-containing wheat in them.

What in the world can you eat instead, when eating gluten free?

And exhale. While you will need to avoieating gluten freed standard wheat products and even those with “ancient grains”, you can opt for breads or crackers with the gluten-free (GF) label.

I suggest choosing products with the “GFlabel as well as the “USDA Organic” or “Non-GMO Project Verified” label. Otherwise, you may end up with certain brands that though gluten-free, may contain modified food starch and other not-so desirable ingredients.

Ditto this for sauces and condiments. And for gluten-free soups and salad dressings. In fact, consider making your own. My go-to homemade gluten-free salad dressing is a 1:1 mixture of raw, organic apple cider vinegar and organic extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper, whisked with a fork. I make extra and have it on hand, shaking it before each use. Add lemon, lime or other gluten-free spices as you wish.

If you eat chips, cereal or anything else made of corn, make sure they are labeled gluten-free and organic.

When baking, choose flours from other gluten-free sources including: amaranth, arrowroot, GF rice, GF oats, buckwheat, cassava, nut flours, potato, quinoa, tapioca or yucca. Find a more extensive list of options on page 50 of my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways, as well as many more ideas of how to fill the gluten void throughout your day.

Want more ideas?

  • Boar’s Head and some other deli meats are gluten free.
  • Use large lettuce, kale or kohlrabi leaves instead of sandwich bread. Consider using zucchini or sweet potato slices (somewhat firm) for buns or noodles (with help of spiralizer).
  • Sweet potatoes became key to me, to help me fill fuller without all the grains. I didn’t use to like them, until I had them sliced and on the grill. Also try them mashed, sautéed or roasted in the oven with a little cinnamon.
  • Add other starchier vegetables such as kohlrabi and cauliflower (riced, mashed, as hummus). Eat more peas, beans and potatoes if you digest them well.
  • For an occasional gluten-free grain as a side, choose gluten-free rice or quinoa, which is technically a fruit!
  • When snacking on the run, grab some raw veggies or fruits you cut ahead of time. Grab a handful of nuts or plantain chips. Make your own paleo crackers or snack bars ahead of time or buy GF versions in stores.
  • Sweet potatoes and paleo sausage make a great breakfast. Look for a good gluten-free flour (I buy this one) for your pancake cravings, or make one of my favorites, paleo pumpkin pancakes. The pumpkin adds fiber and makes them more filling than regular pancakes!
  • Instead of your usual cereal, opt for gluten-free oats or quinoa, made even tastier with fresh fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, nuts, flax seed and so much more.

Don’t let the idea of eating gluten free freak you out! You have so many options, many of which may pleasantly surprise you.

It will take more time and some planning up front. So does building a new deck, playing a new board game, using a new TV and so on. But you are worth it. And it will become natural to you after a little practice.

Eating gluten free can open up a whole new world of foods to you. (Just Google “paleo” anything for a truckload of ideas.) Avoiding gluten may open up a new realm of health and energy for you, too. Embrace the opportunity, get creative and enjoy!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Migraine detail – how to manage those unbearable headaches and find true migraine relief

Latch on to a priceless source of migraine relief now. You don’t have to spend a fortune on prescriptions. You won’t have serious side effects. You won’t have to miss as much work. And you can enjoy life including those noisy, silly kids, more fully.

Understand the symptoms and causes of migraine headaches

Experts have identified several types of headaches – tension, cluster, sinus, rebound and migraine.

migraine reliefWhen you experience a migraine headache, you will suffer one or more of the following symptoms:

  • throbbing pain
  • nausea or vomiting
  • blurred vision or floaters
  • sensitivity to light or sound

A migraine can last a couple of days and can leave you attached to your bed, with the pillow over your head. And some people suffer migraines several times a month. It’s no wonder they want the quickest form of migraine relief, so they can keep up with life.

Some people begin to experience migraines during childhood, while others get them later in life. Studies have named several possible triggers of migraine headaches:

  • weather or barometric pressure changes
  • hormone changes
  • skipping meals
  • caffeine
  • stress
  • too much or too little sleep
  • dehydration

Another cause you may find surprising? Food.

That’s right. If you have a food allergy or sensitivity, your symptom may not surface as hives, sneezing or itching. It might surface as a migraine headache instead.

Example? Over the past couple of years, I’ve given up most gluten, while limiting other grains, on a mission to relieve my chronic allergy and sinus issues. I’ve added lots more vegetables and removed most GMOs or other additives from my diet.

My allergies have improved, but I was getting migraines more often – a couple times each month and lasting 2 days each in 2015. I wasn’t completely laid up when I had them, but I felt miserable with pain behind my eyes, nausea and exhaustion.

Being a non-fan of medicine and its long-term effects, I use homeopathic remedies or a little ibuprofen for migraine relief. But the migraines were also getting harder to nip, and immune to these remedies.

migraine relief avoid dairyLast year, I finally decided to try giving up dairy. (Somehow, I dragged my feet more on giving up cheese than on giving up beer. I can’t always explain myself!)

As a result, last year I had just 2-3 migraines total plus a couple of other minor headaches. During most of them, a little food, sleep or ibuprofen broke the headache.

I still have headaches occasionally. But not nearly as often or as intense. I do miss cheese at times, but I sure don’t miss the headaches.

Does that mean giving up dairy is your answer for migraine relief?

I can’t say for sure that dairy caused my migraines. But it sure made me more prone to get them.

God made us each unique. So what causes or heals for me, may not cause or heal for you.

So keep in mind these common headache causers: amines, coffee, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sulfites and wheat. Other potential culprits include gluten, yeast, nitrates in deli/processed meats, chocolate, eggs, GMOs, conventional dairy products and aged cheeses, according to Dr. Axe.

That’s why, if you are looking for migraine relief, keeping a food journal for a few weeks is critical. It can help you pinpoint foods that trigger your headaches.

If you pinpoint a food related to your headache, you may need to eliminate it completely, eat less of it or try an organic version in moderation.

When you do get a headache, you can try adding other foods for migraine relief.

migraine relief ginger turmericDrink tea with turmeric and ginger, two anti-inflammatory spices, or add them to your lean meats, fish or poultry. In fact, “Head off migraines” in Health and Happiness (Lucky’s Market, November 2016) cites a study in which low doses of ginger proved to be just as effective as Imitrex, without as many side effects.

Increase your water intake. This may even help prevent migraines.

Omega-3s also decrease inflammation while controlling blood flow. Get more omega-3s by eating nuts, seeds and wild-caught fish such as salmon or sardines.

Magnesium relaxes your nerves and muscles. Good food sources of magnesium include black beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, figs, avocado, sweet potatoes, spinach and Swiss chard.

Found in organ meats, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables, vitamin B2 is also thought to provide migraine relief.

Migraines can mean messed up lifestyles for serious sufferers. Medicines may help, but wouldn’t you rather make the pain disappear naturally, without any side effects? Instead, find migraine relief by making changes to what you eat.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

 

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Grinding down to the truth: Is coffee healthy for you?

Do you count on coffee to cure your morning brain fog? Your afternoon crash or Sunday morning hangover?

Have that cup of joe without guilt. 3 or 4 cups, in fact. New research says it’s good for you and to drink up.

But is it really good for you?

Let’s grind down the health benefits of coffee

coffee healthy or notRecent research suggests that coffee can lower your blood pressure and slow down weight gain. This may reduce your risk for Type 2 Diabetes, which is when you have elevated blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance or the inability to secrete insulin.

Coffee may also reduce your risk for liver diseases that lead to cirrhosis.

Caffeinated coffee helps prevent accidents because it stimulates your brain.

Thanks to its antioxidants from chlorogenic acids, both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have proven to decrease deaths resulting from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes and infections, according to the research.

When you grind it all out, the antioxidants in your coffee, whether caffeinated or not, help fight off disease. The caffeine may help reduce inflammation, which would in turn, help reduce disease. And the caffeine can help you feel more alert and responsive.

So yes, your beloved cup of java may help you.

But I’m not referencing any of these research articles because they are a little too pro coffee and in my opinion, too carefree about it. All things should be consumed in moderation, at most.

Let’s also admit the drawbacks of your joe

The acids in coffee can wreak havoc on your intestines, causing gas, bloating, irritated bowel syndrome, cramps or heartburn, as examples. Learn how coffee and other surprising foods can affect your digestion here.

Coffee can cause headaches or other pain in your muscles and joints.

Coffee inhibits absorption of iron in your stomach and the retention of other vital minerals, including zinc, calcium and magnesium, in your kidneys (healthambition.com).

The acrylamide formed when coffee beans are roasted at high temperatures may be cancer-causing (healthambition.com).

Caffeinated coffee is dehydrating. And it seems that many coffee drinkers fail to drink enough water as it is.

Coffee can be addictive. But when you use coffee as a stimulant, you’re stealing energy from other jobs your body should be doing, like digesting or resting, and feeding a viscous cycle of dependency and exhaustion.

And this infograph shows that the number of kids ages 12-17 who drink coffee has grown 80% since 1980. It’s the fastest growing age group amongst coffee drinkers. In a world where we’re already over medicated for ADD and ADHD, this is alarming!

Go for the joe with the most health benefits

In the November 2016 issue of Lucky’s Market’s Health & Happiness, “Coffee Buzz” shares how to select the healthiest coffee. Choose:

  • a light roast. Higher temperatures used for darker roasts reduce the chlorogenic acids and antioxidants in the coffee. If the science behind this interests you, geek out with this article.
  • Arabica coffee because it’s grown at higher elevations, which also means more chlorogenic acids.
  • a finer grind, which offers more surface area for the water to penetrate, therefore extracting more of the antioxidants.

Drink your coffee black. Most add-ins are unhealthy. And just as the milk in milk chocolate diminishes the antioxidant power of chocolate, the dairy in liquid or powdered cream reduces the antioxidants in your coffee!

And lastly, use unbleached coffee filters because the chlorine in bleached ones is also an antioxidant decreaser.

If you drink coffee, do it in moderation. Stay tuned to the latest research about it. And listen to your body. If you’re having chronic symptoms, skipping the brew may mean a healthier you.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Food coloring matters: should you forego the foods with food dyes?

food dyes in cerealAre synthetic food dyes damaging your health and livelihood? Could they be a factor in your lack of focus? Your kid’s inability to sit still? The cancer of your dear friend?

Yes. Synthetic food dyes could be contributing to those issues and more.

What’s the connection between food dyes and behavior or cancer?

Recent studies are proving that synthetic food dyes may be linked to both our physical and mental health. Some of the health problems connected with the consumption of food dyes include:

  • hyperactivity
  • lack of concentration
  • ADD/ADHD
  • aggressive behavior
  • tumors

The behavior issues quickly become a triple play when you’re the batting team. So not good! First you’re dealing with the distraction. Then the delay or lack of finishing the task at hand. Plus, if you’re taking a prescription medication for the issue, you’re dealing with whatever that drug may be doing to your body over the long-term, which I’m willing to bet is not good.

Granted, sometimes medication is absolutely necessary. But what if it’s the food dyes that pushed your kiddo over the edge and into that diagnosis and prescription? What if those symptoms would go away once he stopped eating and drinking the food dyes?

Now when a tumor is involved, patients are often advised to stop eating potentially carcinogenic foods. Food dyes are one of them. Why give your body even more to battle?

Then why do we have synthetic food dyes?

food dyes st pats cookiesFood dyes were created to add color to foods – so we would be more drawn to buy them and eat them. Think about it. Which cereals do kids point at first – the tan Os or rainbow of colors? The light purple popsicle made from organic grape juice or the velvet purple one shaped like a rocket? The ice cream treat with sprinkles or without?

In parts of Europe, manufacturers must put warnings about the effects of food dyes on product labels. But in the U.S., manufacturers still only have to list the food dyes in the ingredients. Common man-made food dyes may be listed as:

  • Blue #1 (Brilliant Blue, FD&C Blue No. 1)
  • Blue #2 (Indigo Carmine, FD&C Blue No. 2)
  • Citrus Red #2
  • Green 3 (Fast Green, FD&C Green No. 3)
  • Orange B
  • Red #3 (Erythrosine)
  • Red 40 (Allura Red, FD&C Red No.40)
  • Yellow 5 (Tartrazine)
  • Yellow 6 (Sunset Yellow)
  • annatto
  • caramel coloring
  • FD&C Lakes
  • artificial color

You may find these food dyes in beverages, baked goods, cereals, gelatin desserts, dessert powers, candy, gum, ice cream, maraschino cherries, pepperoncini and other jarred foods, sausage casings, pet food and personal care products such as medicines and shampoo. Note this is not a complete list. And you may be surprised at how even some brown or white foods contain food dyes as well.

What if these food dyes were never created in the first place? If only.

How do we avoid food dyes?

The good news is that you can change your shopping habits and your kids’ desires.

  1. Say goodbye to the foods with food dyes. Tell your kids the truth about the dyes  and that you only want what’s good for them and yourself (literally and figuratively). Make it a team mission to toss them out together.
  2. Shop mostly the outside aisles of the grocery store, focusing on whole foods – those foods that will rot in a few days. If you buy a few packaged goods, look for those without bright colors or at least ones with organic or non-GMO labels. (Some organic products may contain color from natural sources such as beets, beta-carotene or turmeric.)
  3. When out, opt for treats without the dyes. Think funnel cake (though the mix may have some food dye) instead of sno-cone and popcorn instead of candy.
  4. Celebrate your healthier lifestyle by finding recipes for treats without the food dyes. For St. Patrick’s Day, try these healthier recipes for green pancakes, Shamrock smoothies or green ice cream!

Ideally, foods with food dyes would be boycotted until banned, especially for kids and in schools. The food dyes only entice us to put harmful stuff into our bodies, possibly adding to our struggles while sucking away our livelihood. So be your own kind of bright and avoid the fake colors!

Read about other foods and the symptoms they cause in my blog post “Are food allergies and behaviors linked?”.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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What are the best and worst foods for spring allergies?

Are you starting to sneeze, wheeze or fight off watery eyes? St. Louis pollens haven’t popped quite yet, but some of the tree pollens are blowing up from the south and doing their thing. Do you know you can help minimize symptoms by choosing foods for the season? Read on to get familiar with the best and worst foods for spring allergies.

How are foods related to spring allergies?

Foods can impact spring allergies in 2 ways.

First, some foods are high in histamines. Histamines occur naturally in your body and trigger it to defend itself. But if you have allergies, your body is over reacting, trying to defend itself against pollens, dust, pet dander or other environworst foods for spring allergiesmental elements. So when you eat foods high in histamines on top of that, you are literally adding fuel to a fire. And this is no sing-around-the-fire-eating-s’mores campfire.

Second, some of the proteins in certain fruits and vegetables are related to those found in pollens. And if the pollens bother you, the related fruits and vegetables (especially raw) may too. When you experience “Oral Allergy Syndrome”, you typically feel itchiness in or around your mouth or throat, immediately up to a half hour later. Instincts are to avoid that food in the future, but you may need to address an allergy to the pollen it’s associated with instead.

In fact, according to this article on Mother Nature Network, up to 70% of people with pollen allergies have reactions after eating certain foods. This may include Oral Allergy Syndrome symptoms, or less obvious ones such as congestion, constipation, mood swings and more. (For a more complete list, see the “Common reaction-causing foods and symptoms” chart in my book.)

So what are the worst foods for spring allergies?

If you start sneezing, get water eyes, feel more congested or even feel more depressed this time of year as it warms up, try limiting or avoiding the worst foods for spring allergies due to high histamine content.

  • bleu cheese or other aged cheeses
  • smoked meats
  • walnuts, cashews
  • hot peppers
  • picked or fermented foods such as sauerkraut
  • wine (because of fermented grapes and sulfites) and alcohol

Really, you should lay off these foods whenever your allergies flare up.

Plus, this may surprise you because these are otherwise healthy foods. But limit or avoid these cross-reactors to tree pollens, that is, the foods related to the proteins in tree pollens.

  • parsley
  • almonds
  • celery
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • apples
  • pears
  • cherries

At the very least, be mindful of these foods as we head into spring. Ideally, use a food journal to track your responses and hopefully determine whether the food or pollen is to blame for your havoc.

Then stock up on the best foods for spring allergies

Put these foods to work to help tame your allergy symptoms:

  • fresh, wild-caught fish
  • onions
  • pineapple

You may want to eat local honey early in the season as another defense strategy. This produces a similar effect to getting allergy shots. You expose your body to the coming pollens in small doses daily, trying to build a healthy immune response to them. However, if you are super reactive to tree pollens, check with your doctor first.

Also, add ginger, turmeric or cinnamon to your tea or food for their anti-inflammatory effects.

Later as summer and fall approach, check back for foods that cross-react with grass and ragweed. You may want to push that chamomile tea to the back of your cabinet!

With a better understanding of how foods can cross-react with pollens and add histamine to your system, you can embrace the best foods and avoid the worst foods for spring allergies.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.