12 tips to stay healthy during holidays

12 Tips to Stay Healthy During Holidays

The year 2020 will go down as one marked by enormous changes and uncertainty, which is why this time around, the most thoughtful gifts to give are ones that provide something we could all benefit from: health and wellbeing.
Read on to learn how to protect your health and wellbeing, and how to survive the holiday hustles and bustles with a smile on your face, even though this year’s holidays will look different than we’re used to.

1. Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet

The holidays are full of temptations and indulgences. Unfortunately, many of our holiday classics from mac ‘n cheese to holiday roasts, from sugary cookies to sweet pumpkin pie, from egg nog to New Year’s Eve cocktails, are often promoting inflammation and therefore weaken our immune system.  Eating heavy, sugary, and inflammatory foods for a month or longer can be incredibly hard on your body. These foods zap your energy, decrease immune defenses, and increase the risk of disease.

Instead, I recommend that you stick to anti-inflammatory foods during the holidays. Whole foods vegetables cooked or fresh, small amounts of seasonal fruit, warming herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, and fermented foods are your best friends. If you eat animal products, always choose organic, pasture-raised beef, free-range poultry and eggs, wild-caught fish, or wild game. There are so many healthy holiday recipes made with whole foods to enjoy nutrient-dense foods without missing out on anything. If you still want to reach for some of your old favorites, I recommend that you limit them for the actual days of the holidays instead of eating them the entire month. If you are focusing on a nutrient-dense diet, you will notice how much better you feel!

2. Take Probiotics

Since your gut is connected to all parts of your body, its health is incredibly important. Inflammatory foods and stress may both compromise your gut integrity, causing increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut. If your gut flora and gut health are out of balance, your entire health can become compromised. Your risk of increased inflammation, fatigue, stress, pain, and disease increases.

A healthy gut, on the other hand, creates a strong base that supports your entire health and well-being. While eating an anti-inflammatory diet is essential for gut health, I also recommend that you eat plenty of probiotic-rich fermented foods, such as sauerkrauts, kimchi, and kefir (dairy and non-dairy), and take daily probiotic supplements to support your gut microbiome. In my practice I use a variety of different probiotics, so feel free to call us and inquire about our monthly special for probiotics.

3. Use Adaptogens

Burning the candle at both ends during the holidays can drain your adrenals. Too much stress, too little sleep, too much sugar, and junk food, or too many holiday alcoholic drinks may force your adrenals to overwork and may lead to adrenal fatigue, which leads to a sluggish immune system. 

To support your adrenal health and balanced stress response, I recommend adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens have been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries. They help your body to regulate cortisol, combat stress and improve fatigue. My favorite adaptogenic herbs are Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Licorice and Ginseng.

4. Exercise

Exercise may be the last thing on your mind during the busy holiday season. However, it is crucial for your health and energy levels. Regular exercise can help to reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your energy.

Ideally, you want to get some exercise for 20 to 30 minutes five times a week and stay generally active. Mix up your routine by including some cardiovascular exercise, such as swimming, running, or biking, strength- and resistance training, such as bodyweight exercises, weight lifting, or TRX, and low-impact exercises, such as yoga, pilates, and stretching. Stay active by getting a standing work desk (“sitting is a new smoking”), stretching throughout the day, going for a walk during lunch, playing with your kids, taking the stairs, or walking your dog.

5. Make Time for Yourself

If you are like most people, you try to please everyone during the holiday season and end up forgetting about yourself. It is certainly wonderful to have this opportunity to reconnect with family and friends and create beautiful memories together. But you also need some love – from yourself.

You deserve and need some quality “me-time”. Make “an appointment with yourself” time during the holiday season. Go for a nature walk. Take a hot, relaxing bath. Meditate. Breathe. Journal. Try some yoga. Curl up with your favorite book. Watch your favorite holiday movie. Even if it’s just a few minutes, try to make a little time for yourself each day. You deserve and need it. 

And don’t forget that sleep is so important for your immune system and overall health. During the holidays we all cut down on sleep, but it is one of the most important parameters in a healthy lifestyle. If you have a problem falling asleep or staying asleep try some simple homeopathic medicine like Quetude or Sedalia that you can obtain at our office. If that does not help, come see me for a consultation. We have many tools to investigate sleep issues by getting to the root cause of YOUR sleep problems.

6. Practice Gratitude

Anxiety and gratitude cannot exist at the same time. Having a gratitude practice is the perfect way to improve your mood, reduce stress, and increase your zest for life. Remember the ‘little things’ throughout the day. Keep a gratitude journal jotting down the things that you are grateful for each morning and evening. Tell your loved ones that you are grateful for them and why you appreciate them. Do “daily inventory” in your mind by the end of the day  and find 2-3 things you are grateful for and let this day go with appreciation.

7. Show Your Support While You Show Your Appreciation

One of my favorite things about the holidays is gift-giving.I am making a conscious effort to support as many small-owned businesses as possible and suggest curating a basket of some of your local favorites or industry-specific items.

This month we are giving thanks and support to our delicious friend, Stylish Spoon.

If you are looking for a healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth, visit Stylish Spoon (stylishspoon.com/order). Stylish Spoon is a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and refined sugar-free online bakery located in Harlem and they ship right to your door. Their signature baked OatMEAL Cups are a healthy and satisfying breakfast option. Pop them in your freezer to reheat and eat in the mornings or for dessert. Stylish Spoon is offering 15% off with code DRK15.

8. Be Present

When you spend too much time in the future, it increases anxiety and stress. Being in the present moment, on the other hand, can decrease anxiety and stress, and increase happiness. Spending only 15 to 30 seconds in the present being aware of your body can make a difference. Savoring positive experiences can stimulate and strengthen neural connections in your brain, increasing positive emotions. Meditation and breathwork are fantastic ways to spend some time focusing your awareness on the present moment. You can also set your timer a few times a day reminding you to stop and slow down and check-in with the moment for 30 seconds.

9. Keep It Simple

Even though this year’s holidays will look different than we’re used to, the holidays still can be an incredibly stressful time. If you have a large family, it can be quite a hassle. Try to keep it as simple as possible. Your family loves you no matter what, so by doing less, you are doing more. 

Try not to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Don’t be a perfectionist. Ask for help if you need to. Ask everyone to bring/make a dish or dessert instead of doing everything by yourself. Make decorations a family event. Involve others in planning games and other holiday activities. Most importantly, know your limitations and say “no” when you have to.

10. Remember to Have Fun

During the holiday season, we tend to spend too much time running around and trying to make everything perfect. You have to take care of your holiday shopping, plan your holiday meals, and decorate your house. It can be a lot when you are a busy person.

But remember the time when you were a kid? The holidays were fun! All the decorations, lights, holiday cookies, movies, and music. It was magical. Be a kid again for a moment. Allow yourself to have a bit of fun. Dance to your favorite song. Sing along with the radio. Play some games with your family. Be silly. This is what the holidays are all about.

11. Ensure You Wear Your Face Mask

Ensure you wear your face masks when you travel. Here is a great site if you’re searching for a cloth mask to shop. But a simple disposable KN95 is still the best protection from increasing virus.

12. Be Smarter than the COVID-19. Take the Right Supplements and Minerals

Giving your body key supplements is also extremely important when you are supporting your immune system or battling Covid-19. I suggest the following:

  • Zinc: 30 to 50 mg per day (It can cause nausea, so take it with food.). If you can’t get your hands on the supplement, these food sources are rich in zinc: 
    • Oysters 
    • Ground beef
    • Alaskan king crab 
    • Cooked lobster 
    • Pumpkin seeds (raw)
       
  • Vitamin D: 5,000 IUs per day. (Ideally, you would have your level checked and keep the blood level between 50-80 ng/mL). 
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): 600- 800 mg twice a day. It protects the lungs and supports the production of the master antioxidant glutathione in the body.
  • Glutathione. Have it handy and start using it only when you feel you are getting sick. Take 400mg 1-5 times per day (sicker you feel, more you need). It will help your immune system function optimally. 
  • Vitamin A: 5,000 IUS per day. 
  • Vitamin C: 500 mg every 1 to 2 hours with big glass of water until irregular bowel movement 
  • Herbs like Echinacea, Andrographis and Elderberry
  • Homeopathic Silver and Homeopathic Oscillococcinum

Take these supplements to support your immune system. If you are running low, you can order them from our office at 212-696-4325.

Final Thoughts

Remember, the holidays don’t have to be stressful. You can enjoy this season with your loved ones in happiness and health. If fatigue, chronic pain, health complaints, or health issues slow you down this holiday season, I recommend that you stay home and call your functional medicine doctor, like myself. 

As an experienced functional medicine doctor with an integrated expertise of both Western medicine and traditional Eastern practice, I can assess all the factors, including diet, lifestyle, stress, toxicity, allergies, sleep habits and medication that may affect your body in order to uncover the root cause of your health issues and prescribe a personalized and effective plan to improve your thyroid condition, repair your body and regain your health and well-being.

If you would like to get more information about autoimmune thyroid treatment or to schedule an integrative medicine consultation, please call my office at 212-696-4325.

Stay healthy and strong!

Dr. Elena Klimenko

References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smart-habits-highly-successful-people/200912/7-tips-relieve-holiday-stress
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/6_simple_practices_to_handle_holiday_stress
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/adaptogen
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25857501 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874109005728 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5628357/ http://www.brainlife.org/fulltext/2001/kelly_gs010600.pdf
http://www.herbs-for-menopause.com/ginseng/articles/siberian-ginseng.htm https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21793317
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/taking_in_the_good/

fasting mimicking support your health

The Power of the Pause: How the Fasting Mimicking Diet Can Heal the Body and Mind

Are you feeling overwhelmed and burned out?

Maybe you’re suffering from a lack of motivation or constant, low-level anxiety?

You’re certainly not alone:
Our fast paced lifestyles, combined with the stresses and strains of balancing a family life with a successful career can quickly become overwhelming.

Add in a global pandemic and the threat of financial instability, and well, you probably get the picture!

Pause for Thought…

When everything seems to be up against us, and motivation and productivity begin to tank, it’s tempting to try and push through the problem and work even harder.

But you know what? That’s a huge mistake.

In situations of stress, lethargy and procrastination, it’s absolutely vital to take a pause and reassess the root causes of your mental and physical overwhelm.

In this article, we’re going to look at how fasting, and specifically the “Fasting Mimicking Diet”, can form the cornerstone of successful life realignment or reset.

Fasting? But My Issues are Purely Stress Related!

Fasting has risen greatly in popularity over the last five or so years, and with very good reason: studies have repeatedly shown that not only does fasting promote weight loss, it’s also associated with boosts in general mood and wellbeing, with many of the physical benefits of fasting being closely tied to improved mental health and brain function.  Back in Russia, some hospitals treated most difficult cases of depression and bipolar disorders with water fasting up to 30 days, and those patients would reach the complete remission.   It is still done in some cases, but under physician supervision in the hospital setting.

Here are just a few of the positive health outcomes you can expect from a well-designed fasting program:

A Reduction in Elevated Blood Sugar and Lower Cholesterol

Repeated studies have shown that fasting can reduce “bad” cholesterol and promote more healthy insulin production, stabilizing elevated blood sugar levels.

Lowered cholesterol and insulin will reduce your likelihood of developing heart disease and diabetes respectively.  And, once your blood sugar is under control and stable, it will reduce mood swings, irritability and food cravings.  All of it can be accomplished once you successfully adjust to a lifestyle of periodic fasting.

A Reduction in Inflammation

Several studies on both animal and human subjects have shown a reduction in overall inflammation, once the body is allowed a rest from the demanding task of food digestion and processing, allowing the stomach and intestinal lining time to heal and repair.

We also see from the studies that fasting will change the gut microbiome (microorganisms populating the gut).  The science is still in its infancy, but having the wrong types (and ratios) of gut bacteria can be a key reason behind symptoms of lethargy, listlessness and anxiety.

The Slowing of Mental Decline and Improvements in Cognition

Autophagy is a complex process in which old and damaged cells are recycled to produce new, healthy ones. During the process of fasting or significant reduction of caloric intake, the process of autophagy kicks in around the third day.

Animal studies have repeatedly shown that fasting can improve lifespan and cognitive ability, and often drastically so. As a bonus, the process of autophagy can also help to ward off cancers and the growth of malicious tumors.

Overall, the evidence is mounting that far from being stressful, a well implemented fasting regime can do wonders for your health, both mental and physical.

Sounds Great! But What Do You Mean By the “Fasting Mimicking Diet”?

“The Fasting Mimicking Diet”, created by Valter Longo, PhD aims to give all of the positive benefits of a long fast, without severe calorie deprivation of a full-blown starvation diet.

So How Does It Work?

The “5 Days Fasting Mimicking Diet” called ProLonis designed by company L-Nutra. The company’s plan is based around specially formulated kits that feature pre-packaged meals and instructions. Here’s how the diet is structured:

  • During the five-day period, participants consume only the meals contained within the kit.
  • The first day of meals and snacks provides around 1,090 calories, with 10% protein, 56% fat and 34% carbohydrate.
  • From the second day onwards, the kit provides just 725 calories, with 9% protein, 44% fat and 47% carbohydrate.

The specially formulated meals cause your body to slowly deplete it’s stores of glycogen (stored sugar), and eventually burn energy from non-carbohydrate sources (your own body fat reserves).

This staggered calorie restriction triggers the body’s physiological fasting response, boosting cell regeneration, decreasing inflammation, and promoting  fat loss, without the dangers of eliminating food and nutrients entirely.

For optimal results, the Fasting Mimicking Diet should be undertaken at least once every 4-6 months, and shouldn’t be thought of as a one-time cleanse.

What Will I Be Eating?

If you decide to undertake a Fasting Mimicking Diet, you’ll need to order a ProLon meal kit from our office. The kit makes sticking to this protocol extremely easy, as you won’t need to worry about getting meal timings wrong or selecting the wrong types of food.

The ProLon kit is spread over five individual boxes, one for each day of the fast, and includes an easy to understand chart to help you make sense of the meal timings and order.

The kits are vegetarian, as well as being lactose and gluten free, but allergy sufferers should note that the meals do contain both nuts and soy.

There’s a broad list of foods to keep you on track, with nut bars, soup blends and vegetable chips all thrown into the mix. In addition, you’ll also get a range of herbal teas, as well as a comprehensive stack of vegetable supplements and specially formulated drinks.

Should You Try the Fasting Mimicking Diet?

Right away, it should be mentioned that breastfeeding or pregnant women should avoid lowering calories. That means a fasting protocol is not appropriate if you’re in either of those positions.

Likewise, if you already suffer from a serious medical condition such as diabetes or have a history of disordered eating, you shouldn’t undertake any kind of dietary intervention without consulting your doctor first.

Other than that, if you’re felling stuck in a rut and looking to improve your mood, energy levels and overall health, why not give it a shot? The benefits of a healthy fast are hard to ignore!

Watch: How can fasting support your health:

Call our functional medical office for a more explanations or simply click on the recording of the educational webinar that further discusses the science and process of fasting mimicking diet. 212-696-4325

Watch: The Power of the Pause in Business and Life:

Environmental Toxins and Gut Microbiome

Can Environmental Toxins, Like Glyphosate, Affect Our Gut Microbiome?

Glyphosate, a weedkiller also known as Roundup, has made many headlines in the past year.
It was named a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015 by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. And shockingly, levels found in the human bloodstream have increased by more than 1,000% in the last two decades.

Now, more recent research is pointing to the negative effects that glyphosate has on our gut microbiome.

So, what is glyphosate exactly?

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weedkiller, Roundup. It is used to kill weeds that interfere with agricultural crops like soy, canola, corn, and wheat.

What is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome may be one of the most complex biological systems on Earth. It contains trillions of microbes and bacteria and is the entire system of organs that is in charge of digestion, removing waste from your body, and taking in energy and nutrients.

Research suggests that when the gut microbiome is in balance, it may prevent and treat many common diseases.

And alternatively, when the gut is out of balance it can be linked to dozens of chronic diseases, potentially being the origin point of dis-ease. The gut has a direct effect on our body’s inflammation, immune system, brain health, hormonal balance, and even skin. Studies show that obesity, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression all have been linked to an imbalance of the gut microbiome (and this is an incomplete list!).

Environmental toxins like Glyphosate can affect our Gut Microbiome
Image: Getty Images

How do environmental toxins impact our gut health?

Pesticides and other toxic chemicals, like glyphosate, can make their way from our food, into our mouths and into our gut. Anything we put in our mouths will impact the health of our gut, negatively or positively. For example, an organic vegetable may provide the necessary nutrients and fiber, called prebiotics, to help our gut microbes thrive. But, lace that vegetable with a toxin like glyphosate, and this healthy produce is no longer a source of just nutrients and fiber – it’s now also a vehicle for a harmful toxin.

In a 2018 study, rats were exposed to what was considered “safe” doses of glyphosate in their drinking water, over a 13-week period. The study “provided initial evidence that exposures to glyphosate, at doses considered safe, are capable of modifying the gut microbiota and warrant future studies on potential health effects of Glyphosate-based herbicides.”

Glyphosate and Leaky Gut

Glyphosate and other pesticides are also thought to increase intestinal permeability, commonly known as “leaky gut”, by irritating the gut lining. Leaky gut develops when the intestinal lining is damaged, allowing for undigested food and toxins to leak into your bloodstream, causing an immune reaction.

What symptoms should I look out for to know if my gut is imbalanced?

If there is one thing you should know, it’s that it is possible to feel well 100% of the time! As stated earlier, a lot of chronic dis-ease begins in the gut! If you have any of these symptoms, it might be attributed to an imbalance in the gut:

  • Chronic diarrhea, constipation or bloating
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Moodiness, anxiety, depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Skin problems like acne, rash, eczema
  • Joint pain

Tips to avoid environmental toxin exposure

While you might not be able to eliminate exposure of pesticides and glyphosate 100% of the time, there are steps you can take to minimize your exposure risk:

  1. Read your labels and choose foods that aren’t genetically engineered. Genetically modified crops are typically sprayed heavily with pesticides and glyphosate. So, choosing foods that aren’t genetically engineered is a simple way to avoid unnecessary exposure to this chemical. You can find labels on foods that let you know if they are genetically engineered or not. Labels to look for could be, “Partially produced with genetic engineering”. Alternatively, the label “No genetically engineered ingredients” suggests that there are no GMOs in the product. Not every single brand uses these labels, so it’s hard to tell 100% of the time, but you can start to remove extra known sources of these foods by simply reading the label.
  2. Buy organic when you can. Pesticides are never sprayed on organic crops. So you can try to buy as much organic food as possible. The good news is that you don’t have to buy 100% organic all the time. The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of agricultural subsidies, toxic chemicals & pollutants and corporate accountability, releases their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” Food lists every year.
    Fruits and Vegetables that have the highest amount of harmful pesticides are on the “Dirty Dozen” list . Foods that have the lowest amount of harmful pesticides are on the “Clean Fifteen” list. Focus your attention on buying organic from the Dirty Dozen list to lower your exposure to pesticides and glyphosate. And you can buy conventional fruits and vegetables from the Clean Fifteen list without worrying about toxic exposure. Keep this list handy for reference.
    Additionally, many carbohydrate-type crops are most likely sprayed with glyphosate like wheat, oats, soybeans, corn and rye. Most recently it was discovered that some hummus (chickpea) brands contain high levels of glyphosate. Knowing which crops might be contaminated and can help you choose which to buy organic as well.
    A study done by Environmental Health News showed that levels of glyphosate fell by more than 70 percent in both children and adults, with reductions seen after just three days after switching to an all organic diet.
  3. Support Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Organic Food Co-Ops. CSA’s in New York are a great way to obtain high-quality organic foods from ethical farmers. If you are in New York, I like Local Roots, but you can find a full list of CSAs here. An added bonus of buying organic produce from your local farmer, you are working to maintain a healthy environment, a vibrant community, and a strong and sustainable local economy for you and your kids to thrive in.

Being Realistic

It might be completely impossible to avoid toxic chemicals like glyphosate 100% of the time, so making small changes and buying organic when you can to minimize your risk can be very helpful. If you are exposed to glyphosate and other pesticides, make sure to keep your microbiome in the best shape possible by eating a variety of organic fruits and vegetables, reducing processed foods and seed oils, and taking high-quality probiotics.

Next step

If you need help to stabilize and reverse chronic medical conditions including a variety of illnesses related to gut health, look for a certified functional medicine practitioner here. Or simply call our practice at 212-696-HEAL. In our practice, we test for glyphosates and recommend treatment protocols to detoxify you from glyphosate and toxicants alike. We also prescribe treatments to stabilize and enrich healthy beneficial microbes in your gut with nutrition and food like supplements. Feel free to call our office to schedule a consultation with Elena Klimenko, MD IFMCP at 212 696 4325.

5 Simple and Smart Ways to Stay Hydrated in Winter

Five Simple and Smart Ways to Stay Hydrated in Winter

“Every aspect of our being fully alive relies on the precious resource of water. It’s the most important thing we consume, as the primary building block for our cells; it’s integral to many human faiths and spiritualities, and since ancient times, diverse hydrotherapies have been used to manage pain and stress and boost energy, sleep and immunity.”

Global Wellness Institute

Harsh winter weather can wreak havoc on your system, leaving your skin parched and body dehydrated. Even though your thirst response diminishes because of low temperature, staying well-hydrated during winter is as crucial as it is during the summer season. “In cold climates, body fluid losses can be as high as those in hot climates because of high rates of energy expenditure, use of heavy clothing and increased losses in urine,” the European Hydration Institute points out. The average man needs roughly 125 ounces of water daily (91 ounces for women) from both food and beverages. Inadequate water intake can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches, even dizziness.

Keep winter dehydration at bay with these five smart strategies to up your water intake:

1. Set a drinking water goal

Being attentive to the amount of water you drink each day is important for optimal health. Establishing a daily drinking water goal is one of the easiest ways to keep track of your water consumption. You can use apps like Waterlogged, Hydrate Daily and Plant Nanny to set and achieve these water goals. Also, make a habit of carrying a water bottle everywhere you go, including at work, as it acts as a physical reminder to stay hydrated.

2. Warm it up

Hydrate With Room-Temperature Beverages. Instead of forcing yourself to gulp down glasses of cold water, drink warm water (plain or infused), homemade smoothies and healthy hot beverages like green tea, cinnamon tea or ginger tea.

3. Eat hydrating foods

Consuming fluid-filled foods like orange, oatmeal, cantaloupe, celery, strawberries and yogurt is a great way to sneak in more water into your daily diet. Eating homemade soups made with seasonal vegetables and herbs can also help you stay hydrated while providing warmth and nourishment to your body.

4. Layer your clothing

Wear layers of breathable fabrics instead of heavy-duty woolens to minimize water loss caused by perspiration.

5. Consider your workout water needs

It’s recommended to take half a cup of water for every fifteen minutes of exercise to rehydrate your body. To replenish lost fluid post-workout, “aim to drink one and a half times the fluid you lost while exercising”, suggests Better Health Channel. Instead of drinking it all in one go, “spread it over the next two to six hours after the session”, it adds.

And last but not least, if you want skin that looks and feel hydrated this winter, start growing indoor plants like peace lily, English ivy, snake plant and Boston fern that can naturally humidify a room.

Stay hydrated, stay healthy!


References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-staying-hydrated

christmas tree decorated

9 Tips to Stay Healthy During Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a season of love, joy, and happiness. This is easier said than done.

Sure, good food, parties, gifts, and family gatherings are beautiful. However, just thinking about setting up the decorations, sending out holiday cards on time, shopping for gifts, attending holiday events, hosting guests, planning, cooking, and cleaning up can be incredibly overwhelming.

Do you want to enjoy this holiday season without overwhelming, fatigue, and health complaints? Do you want to experience more ease, joy, and health than the years before? You’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn how to protect your health, energy, and happiness, and how to survive the holiday hustles and bustles with a smile on your face.

How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet

The holidays are full of temptations and indulgences. Unfortunately, many of our holiday classics from mac ‘n cheese to holiday roasts, from sugary cookies to sweet pumpkin pie, from egg nog to New Year’s Eve cocktails, are often inflammatory. Eating heavy, sugary, and inflammatory foods for a month or longer can be incredibly hard on your body. These foods zap your energy, create inflammation, and increase the risk of disease.

Instead, I recommend that you stick to anti-inflammatory foods during the holidays. Leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, and fermented foods are your best friends. If you eat animal products, always choose organic, pasture-raised beef, free-range poultry and eggs, wild-caught fish, or wild game. There are so many healthy holiday recipes around made with whole foods to enjoy nutrient-dense foods without missing out on anything. If you still want to reach for some of your old favorites, I recommend that you limit them for the actual days of the holidays instead of eating them the entire month. If you are focusing on a nutrient-dense diet, you will notice how much better you feel!

Take Probiotics

Since your gut is connected to all parts of your body, its health is incredibly important. Inflammatory foods and stress may both compromise your gut health. If your gut flora and gut health are out of balance, your entire health can become compromised. Your risk of inflammation, fatigue, stress, pain, and disease increases.

A healthy gut, on the other hand, creates a balanced base that supports your entire health and well-being. While eating an anti-inflammatory diet is essential for gut health, I also recommend that you eat plenty of probiotic-rich fermented foods, such as sauerkrauts, kimchi, and kefir, and take daily probiotic supplements to support your gut microbiome. In my practice I use a variety of different probiotics, so feel free to call us and inquire about our monthly special for probiotics.

Use Adaptogens

Burning the candle at both ends during the holidays can drain your adrenals. Too much stress, too little sleep, too much sugar, and junk food, or too many holiday alcoholic drinks may force your adrenals to overwork and may lead to adrenal fatigue.

To support your adrenal health and balanced stress response, I recommend adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens have been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries. They help your body to regulate cortisol, combat stress and improve fatigue. My favorite adaptogenic herbs include Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Licorice and Ginseng.

Exercise

Exercise may be the last thing on your mind during the busy holiday season. However, it is crucial for your health and energy levels. Regular exercise can help to reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your energy.

Ideally, you want to get some exercise for 20 to 30 minutes five times a week and stay generally active. Mix up your routine by including some cardiovascular exercise, such as swimming, running, or biking, strength- and resistance training, such as bodyweight exercises, weight lifting, or TRX, and low-impact exercises, such as yoga, pilates, and stretching. Stay active during the day by stretching throughout the day, going for walk during lunch, playing with your kids, taking the stairs, or walking your dogs.

Make Time for Yourself

If you are like most people, you try to please everyone during the holiday season and end up forgetting about yourself. It is certainly wonderful to have this opportunity to reconnect with family and friends and create beautiful memories together. But you also need some love – from yourself.

You deserve and need some quality “me-time”. Make “an appointment with yourself” time during the holiday season. Go for a nature walk. Take a hot, relaxing bath. Meditate. Breathe. Journal. Try some yoga. Curl up with your favorite book. Watch your favorite holiday movie. Even if it’s just a few minutes, try to make a little time for yourself each day. You deserve and need it.

Practice Gratitude

Anxiety and gratitude cannot exist at the same time. Having a gratitude practice is the perfect way to improve your mood, reduce stress, and increase your zest for life. Remember the ‘little things’ throughout the day. Keep a gratitude journal jotting down the things that you are grateful for each morning and evening. Tell your loved ones that you are grateful for them and why you appreciate them.

Be Present

When you spend too much time in the future, it increases anxiety and stress. Being in the present moment, on the other hand, can decrease anxiety and stress, and increase happiness. Spending only 15 to 30 seconds in the present being aware of your body can make a difference. Savoring positive experiences can stimulate and strengthen neural connections in your brain increasing positive emotions. Meditation and breathwork are fantastic ways to spend some time focusing your awareness on the present moment. You can also set your timer a few times a day reminding you to stop and slow down and check-in with the moment for 30 seconds.

Keep It Simple

The holidays can be an incredibly stressful time. If you have a large family, out-of-town guests, or too many holiday parties, it can be quite a hassle. Try to keep it as simple as possible.

Try not to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Don’t be a perfectionist. Ask for help if you need to. Ask everyone to bring a dish or dessert instead of doing everything by yourself. Make decorations a family event. Involve others in planning games and other holiday activities. Most importantly, know your limitations and say “no” when you have to.

Remember to Have Fun

During the holiday season, we tend to spend too much time running around and trying to make everything perfect. You have to attend holiday parties, take care of your holiday shopping, plan your holiday meals, and decorate your house. It can be a lot when you are a busy person.

But remember the time when you were a kid? The holidays were fun! All the decorations, lights, holiday cookies, movies, and music. It was magical. Be a kid again for a moment. Allow yourself to have a bit of fun. Dance to your favorite song. Sing along with the radio. Play some games with your family. Be silly. This is what the holidays are all about.

Final Thoughts

Remember, the holidays don’t have to be stressful. You can enjoy this season with your loved ones in happiness and health. If fatigue, chronic pain, health complaints, or health issues slowing you down this holiday season, I recommend that you seek help from a functional medicine doctor, like myself.

As an experienced functional medicine doctor with an integrated expertise of both Western medicine and traditional Eastern practice, I can assess all the factors, including diet, lifestyle, stress, toxicity, allergies, sleep habits and medication that may affect your body in order to uncover the root cause of your health issues and prescribe a personalized and effective plan to improve your thyroid condition, repair your body and regain your health and well-being.

If you would like to get more information about autoimmune thyroid treatment or to schedule a functional medicine consultation, please call my office at 212-696-4325.


References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smart-habits-highly-successful-people/200912/7-tips-relieve-holiday-stress
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/6_simple_practices_to_handle_holiday_stress
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/adaptogen
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25857501
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874109005728
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5628357/
http://www.brainlife.org/fulltext/2001/kelly_gs010600.pdf
http://www.herbs-for-menopause.com/ginseng/articles/siberian-ginseng.htm
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21793317
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/taking_in_the_good/

top 10 Gut-nourishing foods

Top 10 Gut-Nourishing Healthy Foods

The holidays are around the corner. This means that you will be tempted with all kinds of unhealthy treats and comfort foods that may lead to gut inflammation. The good news is that it is possible to eat delicious food while following a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, and gut-protecting diet rich in gut-nourishing foods.

Your gut health matters. A healthy microbiome and well-functioning gut are absolutely essential for optimal digestion, absorption of nutrients, elimination of toxins, and your overall health. A compromised gut flora may lead to leaky gut syndrome, an underlying cause of many digestive issues and other health complaints, including chronic pain, fatigue, and autoimmune diseases.

Take control of your health and nourish your body with gut-friendly foods that promote well-being. Learn about the best gut-health foods and incorporate them into your diet today.

Top 10 Gut-Nourishing Foods

10 Gut-Nourishing Healthy Foods

Sauerkrauts

Sauerkrauts mean sour white cabbage in German. They are incredibly common in Germany, my motherland, Russia, and other parts of Eastern-Europe. They are fermented cabbage that serves as fantastic gut-health food. Sauerkrauts are not only rich in fiber but provide they are loaded with good bacteria. They help a healthy gut microbiome balance, promote smooth digestion, and help to prevent the leaky gut syndrome.

You can find sauerkrauts at your local health food stores, grocery stores, and farmer’s markets. You may even make it yourself. I recommend that you also try another powerful gut-friendly food, kimchi, a Korean version of sauerkrauts.

I like to get sauerkrauts in the local store, like Zabar or Fairway, sprinkle it with high-quality olive oil, shred some fresh carrots, chop some red onion and sprinkle with fennel. Takes 5 minutes to prepare and what a great salad to increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables! Bon Appetit!

Yogurt

Speaking of fermented foods, yogurt is another fantastic gut-nourishing food. It is made with fermented milk and is incredibly rich in probiotics. It helps to balance your gut flora, reduce digestive distress, and prevent leaky gut syndrome. If you like yogurt, I also recommend it’s close cousin, kefir, another gut-health food made with fermented milk with similar gut health benefits.

You may find yogurt and kefir at any grocery store. Make sure to buy organic and avoid added sugar and artificial ingredients. If you are intolerant to dairy or avoid dairy for other reasons, you may find dairy-free yogurt and kefir options made from coconut milk or nut milk. These dairy-free options are also fantastic gut-friendly foods. Trader Joy sells delicious cashew nuts kefir, it is delicious and what a great alternative to dairy!

Dandelion Greens

You may remember waving dandelion crowns as a kid. As an adult, you can use green leaves as a gut-health food that grows everywhere in the spring. Yes, the dandelions in your backyard are gut-nourishing free food. Dandelion greens may help to improve gastric motility relaxing the muscles between your stomach and small intestines. It is a powerful cholegogic (stimulates bile production and drainage). As a result, this ubiquitous plant will improve your digestion and prevent leaky gut syndrome. Dandelions may reduce inflammation balance your blood sugar, and lower blood pressure.

Dandelions are versatile and nutritious. You can eat their stems, roots, and flowers. They serve as a beautiful garnish on your salads and dishes and make gut-nourishing tea.

Recipe: Saute green leaves of dandelion in olive oil with onion and garlic. What a great garnish! Remember, more bitter is better for your digestion!

Asparagus

When you think of asparagus, the first thing that comes to mind is that they make your pee smell funny. While it’s true, asparagus is excellent gut-friendly food. Asparagus is a gut-nourishing food that may reduce inflammation, pain, and disease in your gut and body. It may improve nutrient absorption. Asparagus is a fantastic prebiotic food that helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut and prevent intestinal dysbiosis.

You may enjoy asparagus steamed, grilled, roasted, sauteed, and baked. It makes an excellent side dish and is fantastic in soups, salads, and baked vegetable dishes.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Don’t confuse Jerusalem artichokes with globe artichokes. Jerusalem artichokes are actually related to sunflowers. They are delicious tubers that are one of the best gut-nourishing foods. They are rich in fiber and promote the absorption of nutrients. They may help to keep your microbiome balanced and gut inflammation levels low. Jerusalem artichokes may also prevent diarrhea, constipation, and leaky gut syndrome.

You may find Jerusalem artichokes in the produce aisle and try them instead of potatoes next time. You may steam, boil, bake, or saute them, or even eat them raw (shredded) in a salad.

Onions

Onions are one of the best gut-nourishing foods. They are rich in prebiotics that supports your healthy digestion. They also contain flavonoids and antioxidants, including quercetin that fight free-radical damage. Besides boosting your gut health, they are beneficial for your immune system and heart health.

You may enjoy onions raw or cooked. They add a delicious flavor to most soups, salads, stir-fries, baked vegetables, and other main dishes.

Garlic

When talking about the best gut-nourishing foods, you cannot forget about garlic. As fantastic prebiotics, they have similar benefits as onions do. They are rich in manganese, selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin B-6. It has a significant antibacterial effect and also works against parasites and fungi, like candida. I use garlic in tablets (Garlic Forte by MediHerbs) as part of the gut flora restoration protocol. If you choose to do raw garlic, then one clove twice a day will give you close to a therapeutic dose.

Garlic is the most nourishing when eaten raw, however, you can enjoy its gut-health food properties when it’s cooked as well. If you choose to cook garlic, first crush or chop it and allow it to sit for 10 – 15 minutes to activate its beneficial gut-healthy enzymes before cooking. You may add garlic to your soups, salads, and favorite dishes.

Seaweed

Seaweed is also referred to as a sea vegetable. It is a form of algae that I recommend you to try as a gut-nourishing food. Seaweed is incredibly rich in antioxidants and fiber. It may help gut flora balance, promote gut health, and aid digestion. Seaweed is full of polysaccharides that help the production of short-chain fatty acids that protect and feeds your gut cell lining.

Add seaweed flakes to your salads and meals. Try nori snack as a crunchy treat. Be adventurous and enjoy a seaweed salad.

Pineapples

Pineapple is a delicious tropical fruit that is also powerful gut-nourishing food. They are rich in bromelain, an enzyme that helps your digestive system by breaking down protein from large food molecules into smaller, more digestible peptides. Bromelain in pineapples, if eaten on an empty stomach, also helps to reduce pain and inflammation, including gut inflammation. As a result, it may help to promote a healthy gut lining and prevent the leaky gut syndrome.

You can find pineapples at any grocery store or health food store. You can eat it as it is, or as part of a fruit salad, salad, vegetable stir-fry, or pineapple salsa. Make sure to eat it fresh and avoid canned pineapples that are full of added sugar.

Bone Broth

Bone broth is one of the best gut nourishing foods. It is a nutritious clear liquid made from brewed bones and connective tissue. It is a fantastic source of collagen, glutamine, and amino acids that may help to reduce gut inflammation, maintain a healthy gut lining and prevent the leaky gut syndrome. Besides being a delicious gut-friendly food, bone broth may also support your metabolism, joints, and immune system.

You can make your own bone broth from organic, free-range poultry, pasture-raised beef, and wild-caught fish bones. You may also find organic bone broth at your local health food stores. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you may substitute bone broth for a vegetable broth. While vegetable broth doesn’t have collagen, it is still a gut nourishing food. However, bone broth is a high histamine food, so some people may not tolerate it well. If you are one of them please consult with your functional medicine practitioner and get tested.

Conclusion

If you are experiencing digestive troubles or suspect that the root cause of your health issues is your gut health, as a functional medicine practitioner, I am happy to help. Together, we can identify and address the root cause of your health complaints. With the help of a personalized treatment plan along with some gut-nourishing foods, I can help you to repair your body, and regain your health and well-being.

If you would like to get more information about my integrative and functional medicine services or to schedule a functional medicine consultation, please call my office at 212-696-4325.

In the meantime, share this article about Top 10 Gut-Nourishing Healthy Foods with your friends and family to help them regain their health with the power of gut-nourishing foods and holistic medicine.


References:

Natural Health Benefits of Turmeric

The Extraordinary Natural Health Benefits of Turmeric

The benefits of turmeric are numerous, as it’s widely considered one of the most powerful medicinal herbs on earth. It’s also one of the most studied herbs on the planet, as in 12,500 peer-reviewed articles, studies, and clinical trials.

Turmeric has a long history of use, especially in Ayurvedic medicine. It has been used in India for centuries for a vast array of conditions and illnesses, including as an antiseptic for burns and cuts and as a remedy for digestive distress and respiratory issues. But it’s the ability to significantly reduce inflammation that makes turmeric a superstar among herbs.

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric, or Curcuma longa, is a perennial herb in the Zingiberaceae (or ginger) family. Curcuma is native to South India and grows well in hot and humid climates. It is the rhizomes, or root system, of the plant that is most often used.

Turmeric reaches a height of around three feet. Its roots are yellowish-orange in color and have been used in Asia for thousands of years as both food and medicine. Turmeric is often used in curries in Asian cuisine. And it’s added to mustard, which is what contributes to its yellow color.

Where turmeric is grown locally, the roots are often used fresh like ginger root. The leaves are also sometimes used to wrap and cook food in. Besides Asia, turmeric is popular in the Middle East, and South Africa, where it is often added to white rice giving it a nice golden color.

The main active ingredient in turmeric and that which is responsible for its bright yellow color is called curcumin. Curcumin, along with several other active compounds, is responsible for turmeric’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.

What are the Health Benefits of Turmeric?

When you talk about the holistic healing effects of turmeric, and specifically curcumin, you have to begin with its potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Chronic inflammation is an immune response from the body when there is no threat or injury present. It’s a condition that has been linked to numerous diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and the 80 or so autoimmune diseases that exist.

The problem with chronic inflammation is that it can exist in the body undetected for years. Then not-so-suddenly, you find yourself in a state of serious disease. Think of chronic inflammation as a foundation on which numerous diseases and conditions can build upon.

This 2004 study examined numerous anti-inflammatory compounds and found curcumin to be one of the strongest, most effective anti-inflammatory compounds on the planet.

Numerous studies on mice have found that curcumin is able to reverse mild cases of Alzheimer’s disease, as this neurological disorder is directly related to chronic inflammation.

If you’re thinking that an anti-inflammatory medication is the best course of action, just remember that a powerful herb like turmeric solves issues at the root level ― functional medicine ― while medications simply mask the symptoms.

Since cancer is one of the most studied diseases on the planet, let’s take a look at how one of the most studied medicinal herbs on the planet interacts with cancer cells.

According to the holistic health practitioner, Dr. Joseph Mercola, curcumin appears to be universally useful for all cancers.

Dr. Mercola goes on to explain how unique this is, as different types of cancer have different types of pathologies, which is why you usually see different types of natural treatments work more effectively for certain types of cancers.

However, this doesn’t appear to be the case when it comes to curcumin, as it affects multiple molecular targets, via multiple pathways. According to Dr. Mercola, “Once it gets into a cell, it affects more than 100 different molecular pathways.”

He goes on to say about the anti-cancer effects of curcumin: “Whether the curcumin molecule causes an increase in activity of a particular molecular target, or decrease/inhibition of activity, studies repeatedly show that the end result is a potent anti-cancer activity.”

Best of all, unlike modern, allopathic treatments for cancer ― chemotherapy and radiation ― healthy cells are not adversely affected, which better enables your body to fight the disease. Again, another benefit of functional medicine ― allowing the body to heal itself. Curcumin is also available in a pharmaceutical form and could be administered intravenously.

Turmeric benefits also include …

• Improved lung health
• Reduced risk of blood clotting
• Improved liver function
• Reduction in depression symptoms
• Cardiovascular protection
• Cancer prevention
• Improved skin health
• Normalization of cholesterol levels
• Rheumatoid arthritis relief
• Treatment for inflammatory bowel disease
• Cystic fibrosis treatment
• Treatment and prevention of autoimmune diseases

What are the Best Ways to Consume Turmeric?

You probably wouldn’t think you could find so many ways to incorporate turmeric into your diet. But actually, it’s quite easy. You can add turmeric to rice dishes, potatoes, sautéed vegetables, stews, meats and fish dishes and if making homemade chicken soup, it gives the broth a wonderful and natural yellow color.

Natural Health pioneer, Dr. Andrew Weil, in this video talks about some of the health benefits and uses of turmeric and even mentions how little you’ll notice a flavor difference when adding a teaspoon of this magical herb to meals. He also talks a little about ginger, since they’re in the same family of herbs. And speaking of ginger …

One issue with turmeric, and in particular curcumin, is that it’s poorly absorbed by the body. However, you can increase the rate of absorption by combining it with fresh ginger and freshly ground pepper.

Dr. Mercola recommends making a microemulsion to make it more bioavailable — Mix 1 tablespoon of raw turmeric powder with two egg yolks and 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil. We presume that you simply eat that concoction when you’re done mixing it.

As always, start out small, and see how your body reacts. Try adding turmeric to meals in smaller amounts until you feel comfortable adding more.

Remember that turmeric is first and foremost an herb, besides being a type of functional medicine, which means you can increase the dosage as needed. If you’re feeling sick, fatigued, or are experiencing muscle or joint pain, get more turmeric into your diet and see how you respond. The holistic healing effects of this special herb may really surprise you.

If you’re looking to optimize your health and wellness, sign up below, and I’ll send you a FREE copy of my ebook ― How to have Better Health: Functional Medicine 101. It’s full of valuable tips to becoming your healthiest and happiest self.

Stay Healthy Wealthy & Wise,
Doctor Elena Klimenko, MD

Functional Medicine Doctor NYC

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=curcumin
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15489888
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.04613.x
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/05/04/curcumin-turmeric-benefits.aspx
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QKzD9zVdYM

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth SIBO

What Is SIBO And How To Treat It

Have you been bloated and gassy lately? No matter what you eat you feel like your stomach swells like a balloon few hours after you have eaten?

Pay attention: you might suffer from a condition called SIBO – small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

Bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, otherwise known as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), is a digestive disorder that causes chronic bowel problems and intolerance to carbohydrates. Its main symptoms include excess gas, abdominal bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, and abdominal pain shortly after a meal.

Both the small intestines and colon naturally house bacteria, creating a balance within your digestive system. The types and amount of bacteria that reside in the small intestine and colon are very different. The colon contains roughly 100,000 times more bacteria than the small intestines. SIBO occurs when the bacteria from colon migrate to the small intestine and because there is a lot of not fully digested food in small intestine, the bacteria multiply and overgrow uncontrollably.

Since the main purpose of the small intestine is to digest and absorb food, any disruption in its role affects the absorption and utilization of nutrients into the body. Thus, if SIBO is left untreated for too long – various nutritional deficiencies may occur. It can manifest as anemia, various vitamins deficiencies (vitamin D and B), calcium malabsorption causing weakening of the bones, etc.

SIBO is often overlooked as a cause of these digestive symptoms because it so closely resembles other disorders. In fact, SIBO is theorized to be the underlying cause of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), since up to 84% of IBS patients have tested positive for SIBO. SIBO is associated with many other disorders as well, either as an underlying cause or as an aftereffect of the pre-existing condition. This includes parasites, pancreatic problems, and Crohn’s.

The two major factors contributing to the development of SIBO include insufficient gastric acid secretion and lack of intestinal motility (movement of intestinal content through the lumen). Since both of these mechanisms naturally decline with age, those over 70 years old are especially susceptible. Anything that slows down motility can contribute to overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine because there is no outlet for the waste.

Gastric acids (a hydrochloric acid of the stomach) is another important factor. It helps to break down food and activate digestive enzymes. Without the production of hydrochloric acid or pancreatic enzymes, we can’t digest and sterilize food sufficiently. To help with gastric acid secretion, supplementation with betaine hydrochloride during meals is recommended. People who chronically taking gastric acid suppressing medications are at higher risk to develop SIBO.

If you think you may be suffering from SIBO, please call our office for evaluation. Together we can determine if your condition warrants further assessment. Depending on your particular condition there are several options for treatment: specific diet, probiotics, and natural or pharmaceutical antimicrobials. The longer SIBO is left untreated, the more damage can be done to your body. Although a serious condition, it is treatable once properly diagnosed.

Is Coconut Oil Still Good For You?

Is Coconut Oil Still Good For You?

Yes. Coconut Oil Is Still Good for You. Here Are 4 Studies That Suggest Why.

You’ve probably seen the coconut oil articles spreading around social media. With headlines like “Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy” and “Coconut oil is out” it’s no wonder people are confused.

These articles were spurred by an American Heart Association (AHA) report that revisited their dietary guidelines on fat and cholesterol. Overall, they didn’t really say anything new since they’ve been incorrectly blaming saturated fats for cardiovascular disease (CVD) for decades.

But in this AHA report, they emphasized the use of polyunsaturated fats over saturated fats. And what shocked the health and wellness industry further, is that they recommended dangerous, inflammatory vegetable oils over coconut oil.

I want to take a moment and set the record straight about some of the key points in the article.

  1. Coconut oil IS high in saturated fat – One of the reasons the AHA recommended against using coconut oil is because of the high saturated fat content. Coconut oil is 82% saturated fat. As with nearly all foods, you should eat coconut oil in moderation. MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) Oil, are a component of coconut oil and are also beneficial to your health.

The report does recommend that 6 percent of your diet come saturated fats, which would be about two tablespoons of coconut oil. That’s a good amount of fat and coconut oil.

  1. Saturated fat does NOT cause cardiovascular disease, SUGAR DOES – The idea that cardiovascular disease is caused by saturated fat clogging the arteries is an incorrect concept that began in the 1950’s and has somehow stuck around. This notion causes the entire food industry to switch to “Fat- Free” and consequently increase sugar content in foods. The results are obvious — cardiovascular disease rate keeps climbing up and the rate of obesity increased dramatically since the implementation of the “Fat-Free” frenzy.

Numerous studies have proven that saturated fat does not cause cardiovascular disease. It’s inflammation that causes cardiovascular disease. And it’s time to set the record straight. Diets that are high in sugars and simple carbohydrates and low-fat cause inflammation, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

  1. LDL cholesterol is not the only factor in cardiovascular disease risk – The reasoning the AHA had against recommending coconut oil was that it increases your LDL cholesterol, “a known cause of CVD.”

They then said that coconut oil had “no known offsetting favorable effects.” This isn’t true. Coconut oil raises your HDL cholesterol levels, which studies have shown reduces CVD risk. More importantly, your LDL to HDL ratio is a better indicator when examining your risk for CVD than LDL alone.

  1. Vegetable oils are terrible for you – Vegetable oils are inflammatory, contain pesticides, are mostly GMO, and are unstable.

Polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils are packed with omega-6 fatty acids which are inflammatory. While you do need some omega-6s, many Americans eat up to 50 times more omega-6s than they should and vegetable oils found in processed foods and fast food restaurants are one of the major culprits.

Vegetable oils are also bad for you because they break down readily under heat when cooking. Polyunsaturated fats are easily oxidized when heated meaning they will react with free radicals in the body and can cause cell membrane and DNA damage.

Now that we understand where a lot of the confusion surrounding this report came from, let’s take a look at the ways coconut oil is good for you. And remember, as with most things in life – moderation is key.

4 Studies That Suggest Coconut Oil is Good for You

Studies on coconut oil are typically relatively small and require a little interpretation and gentle extrapolation for the purpose of making your own decision on whether or not you’ll incorporate coconut oil into your diet. Overall coconut oil is a safe food that should be experimented with to find if it’s best for you.

1. Coconut oil is better than soybean oil

study on the effects of coconut oil versus soybean oil on 40 obese women found that coconut oil reduced waist circumference, while the waist circumference of those that used soybean oil slightly increased.

Both groups consumed about two tablespoons of their respective oils each day, walked 50 minutes, and followed similar low-calorie diets.

While both groups lost about two pounds, the coconut oil group had an increase in the “good” HDL cholesterol and a decrease in C-reactive protein (an inflammation marker). The soybean oil group experienced an increase in the “bad” LDL cholesterol, a decrease in HDL cholesterol, and a decrease in the C-reactive protein.

What this means for you: Try switching out any vegetable oils you use for coconut oil and note the changes. Adding coconut oil to your diet could be especially helpful if you are overweight or struggling to keep inflammation down.

2. Simply adding coconut oil to your diet (with no other changes) may increase weight loss

study of 20 overweight men and women consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil each day for four weeks without changing anything else about their diet or exercise routines. The men lost an average of 1.2 pounds and 1 inch off their waist and the women lost an average of 0.5 pounds and 1.2 inches off their waist.

While a study of twenty people isn’t large enough to determine direct cause and effect, it does suggest this is a simple and safe experiment you can try. Just watch your sugars and carbs while doing that.

What this means for you: Why not do this yourself? Try adding two tablespoons of coconut oil to your diet each day for four weeks without changing anything else and see what happens. You may find coconut oil to be beneficial to you.

3. Coconut oil is great for natural dental hygiene

Coconut pulling is an age-old Ayurvedic technique thought to help fight plaque-forming bacteria in your saliva. A study of 60 people swished with either coconut oil or chlorhexidine mouthwash and their bacteria levels were measured before and after. Both mouth rinses significantly reduced the Streptococcus mutans bacteria.

Because there was no difference between the two washes and chlorhexidine is a disinfectant – coconut oil is a great natural replacement.

What this means for you: Add coconut pulling to your dental hygiene routines for a natural method that promotes good teeth health.

4. Coconut based, high saturated fat diet may improve LDL/HDL ratios in women

A study that had 25 women compare three diets (one high in coconut oil, one low in coconut oil, and one high in polyunsaturated fats) revealed that the best of the three diets for having the healthiest LDL/HDL ratio was the high saturated fat, coconut oil diet.

What this means for you: Again, a study of 25 women is not enough to be conclusive but it does suggest that it might be a good idea for you to see how coconut oil impacts your personal health, especially if you are struggling to maintain a good LDL to HDL ratio.

The Importance of Interpreting Data for Yourself

Beyond the irresponsible and misleading arguments regarding the cause of cardiovascular disease and the strange attack on coconut oil, the AHA is recommending polyunsaturated vegetable oils, which is downright dangerous.

A big concern is that the  – American Heart Association – packs authority. And they’ve published a poorly researched, grossly misguiding report. One that’s being repeated across mainstream news outlets across the country.

It seems surprising that the AHA would recommend vegetable oils so freely when there are mountains of data to suggest that it’s bad for your health. But then at the bottom of the report, you can see that some of the funding for the AHA and the report come from The Canola Oil Council. That’s concerning.

I encourage you to take information such as the AHA reports and keep a critical eye. Our bodies are fundamentally similar but also unique in how we metabolize and respond to environmental inputs.

Determine through careful personal experimentation whether or not adding coconut oil to your diet is good for you. Listening to your body and noting reactions is one of the best ways you can make the shift from treating symptoms and illnesses to encouraging optimal health.

Elena Klimenko, MD, a certified functional medicine physician, will help you choose the right course of action to improve your nutrition. In her practice, she uses herbal and food-based supplements to help patients address the root cause of their medical symptoms. Call today to find out more about functional medicine and speak with Dr. Klimenko at 212-696- HEAL(4325).

If you want more information about Functional Medicine, contact us to receive a FREE copy of  Dr. Klimenko’s E-book.

Resources:

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2017/06/15/CIR.0000000000000510
https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/oils/properties-of-coconut-oil.html
http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2017/03/31/bjsports-2016-097285
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109706013350
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3504986/
http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/gmos-and-pesticides/
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332202002536
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11981884/Cooking-with-vegetable-oils-releases-toxic-cancer-causing-chemicals-say-experts.html

The Four Studies

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3226242/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27084861
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12514271
Your Complete Guide to Causes of Constipation and Finding Relief – Part 1: Low Stomach Acid (Hydrochloric Acid)

Your Complete Guide to Causes of Constipation and Finding Relief – Part 1: Low Stomach Acid (Hydrochloric Acid)

Your Complete Guide to Causes of Constipation and Finding Relief – Part 1: Low Stomach Acid (Hydrochloric Acid)

Constipation can be uncomfortable or downright painful if left untreated. You may experience few bowel movements, the sensation that everything isn’t coming out, small and hard stools, a swollen belly, pain or throwing up.

But you’re not alone – an estimated 42 million Americans suffer from constipation, making it the most common gastrointestinal problem in the United States.

When you experience constipation, it may seem like a good idea to reach for fast relief like a stool softener or other common constipation remedies such as prune juice – but these are usually just a quick fix that doesn’t solve the underlying cause.

If you want long-term constipation relief it’s a good idea to get to the root of what’s causing your chronic constipation.

There are a number of causes of constipation, which we are going to address in throughout this six-part article series. First, we are going to take a closer look at low hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach – an often-overlooked cause of constipation.

Part 1: Low Hydrochloric Acid

Your stomach acid is made up of three parts: hydrochloric acid (HCl), potassium chloride (KCl), and sodium chloride (NaCl). Hydrochloric acid is the primary acid in your stomach and it plays important roles in keeping the digestive tract running smoothly. Often, stomach acid and hydrochloric acid are used interchangeably.

When your body isn’t producing enough hydrochloric acid, it can cause serious and chronic constipation. Also called achlorhydria or hypochlorhydria, low stomach acid can disrupt several important bodily processes.

The Importance of Stomach Acid

Why is stomach acid so important? Stomach acid frequently gets a bad rap because an overabundance can cause heartburn or ulcers, but it’s just as problematic to have low stomach acid. Your stomach acid is involved in many critical roles, including:

  • Completely digesting food
  • Supporting the immune system
  • Encouraging the pancreas and intestines to produce necessary enzymes and bile
  • Ensuring good absorption of vitamins and minerals
  • Activating pepsinogen – a protein-digesting enzyme
  • Helping to kill unwanted bacteria, viruses, and parasites

When your stomach isn’t making enough hydrochloric acid, you can experience an array of unpleasant and sometimes painful symptoms, such as:

If your stomach has low hydrochloric acid levels, you might experience constipation but also nutritional deficiencies, even if you’re eating a healthy diet. This can make identifying your health issues difficult. In fact, low hydrochloric acid is a condition that is often misdiagnosed or overlooked.

Causes of Low Hydrochloric Acid

Low levels of hydrochloric acid can make you constipated and uncomfortable but it can also be responsible for a cascade of health consequences, which is why it’s important to address constipation with techniques that treat the root cause and not just the symptom.

Understanding some of the causes of low hydrochloric acid can give you clues to help you determine if low HCl is causing your constipation. Some causes of low stomach acid include:

  • Medications – Some prescriptions and over the counter drugs suppress HCl production.
  • Chronic stress – This is when HCl secretion is inhibited by chronic low-grade worry (acute stress may cause overproduction of HCl, which is associated with ulcers).
  • Older age – Your body tends to decrease HCl production levels as you get older.
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency – In particular, low zinc and thiamine levels can contribute to insufficient hydrochloric acid levels.
  • H. pylori infection – When there’s an overgrowth in the stomach, H. pylori can cause low HCl levels.
  • Processed foods and refined sugars – These foods are mineral deficient and cause inflammation of the stomach, which alters your gut microbiome and can reduce stomach acid production.
  • Chronic illness – Some chronic illnesses have an increased risk of low HCl production.
  • Antacids – Antacids interfere with your acid levels and can be the cause of low HCl production.

If you are experiencing constipation – other related symptoms – and also have any of the above contributors to low hydrochloric acid, you should test yourself for low stomach acid. There are three simple ways you can test your HCl levels at home before you make a trip to the doctor.

How to Test Your Stomach Acid (HCl) at Home

These three easy ways to test for low hydrochloric acid production in your stomach are much cheaper than a conventional HCl test administered by many doctors. Keep in mind a negative test result for these techniques is not an absolute diagnosis. These methods are simply for seeing if your constipation is caused by your stomach’s inability to produce enough stomach acid.

Self-Exam for Low Stomach Acid

A quick method for checking low hydrochloric acid levels is an old homeopathic trick. Take both your hands and find your xiphoid process – the bottom of the sternum where it meets the ribs – marked in red in the image below.

Then, with both hands slide along the rib cage in both directions while pushing in and under your ribs – on your left and right side of your body.

In people experiencing low levels of stomach acid, it’s common for the left side to be more tender than the right side – this area is marked in blue in the image below. It can be so tender it may cause you to jump when you find the right area – if this occurs you likely have low hydrochloric acid levels.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Low Stomach Acid

Another test you can try at home is taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar when you experience temporary symptoms after eating, such as indigestion or upset stomach. If your symptoms are relieved after taking apple cider vinegar, that could be a sign of inadequate hydrochloric acid production.

Betaine HCl Test for Low Stomach Acid

The betaine HCl is another at-home test you can use to check for low stomach acid. Take a betaine HCl capsule during or right before your last bite of a meal containing protein and fat. If you experience indigestion or burning, then you have plenty of HCl and shouldn’t take any more of that supplement. But if you don’t experience any burning, your stomach isn’t producing enough hydrochloric acid.

Home Remedies for Constipation Caused by Low Hydrochloric Acid

The best choice of remedy for any individual’s constipation always depends on the underlying cause. If you’ve determined the underlying cause of your constipation may be low stomach acid, here are a couple of changes you can make:

  • Add fermented vegetables to your diet
  • Reduce processed food consumption
  • Increase zinc intake
  • Reduce chronic stress in your life, especially at mealtime
  • Have a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water before each meal
  • Add betaine HCl supplements to your diet

These are a couple of remedies that may give you constipation relief. But if you continue to struggle with constipation, you should see your doctor so you can have a comprehensive diagnosis made as early as possible.

When to See Your Doctor for Constipation

As with many conditions, using temporary fixes that relieve symptoms only prolongs the underlying issue. Waiting to treat your condition can cause complications and make it more difficult to treat. If you are experiencing constipation that lasts longer than a couple of weeks, or if one of the three at-home self-tests for low stomach acid appears positive, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

There is a myriad of ways to treat low hydrochloric acid levels naturally. By working closely with a holistic physician, you can restore balance to your stomach and relieve uncomfortable and widespread symptoms.

Elena Klimenko, MD, a certified functional medicine physician, will help you choose the right course of action to identify the root cause and relief your unsettled symptoms. Call today to find out more about functional medicine and speak with Dr. Klimenko at 212-696- HEAL(4325).

If you want more information about Functional Medicine, contact us to receive a FREE copy of Dr Klimenko’s E-book.