Can your gut bacteria help you burn fat?
How the balance of your gut flora is a missing link in weight loss.
In case you don’t know the microbiome is our collection of normal bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms that live on and in our bodies – most of which are in our gut. The microbiome contributes to normal digestion, immune function, brain function and even has the ability to impact weight gain through fat storage. The good news is that there’s a way to correct an imbalanced microbiome and reverse symptoms like weight gain.
How the microbiome affects digestion and fat storage
What we see with the microbiome and weight gain is interesting lets look at a normal, ideal situation for a natural shift in the microbiome, pregnancy. Pregnancy creates a shift that results in a much higher efficiency of microbe digestion of food. This means that a pregnant woman’s gut flora are helping her to access more calories(energy) out of the same food. A natural result of this is weight gain and food cravings, which is actually a good thing for a mother growing a baby. There’s even studies showing when you take this new composition of gut flora and implant it into another host, the new host will then gain weight (they did this in mice). This shows there is a clear link with the microbiome and weight gain. This is a normal part of pregnancy but it’s not necessarily normal or healthy outside of pregnancy.
What’s most likely happening is that this shift has a big effect on blood sugar, and can lead to bigger spikes of increased blood sugar and even insulin resistance. This might be why gestational diabetes is a common condition with pregnancy, and it’s certainly a contributor in weight gain. Insulin is one of the hormones in our body that signals our cells to build and store fat, which is why any blood sugar issues have weight gain as a common symptom.
When things go wrong, possible sticking points
There is of course the question of how this happens in non-pregnant individuals. There are some very common things that can shift the microbiome into it’s fat storage mode. A few things that definitely disrupt our microbiome are poor diet, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals and even stress. Poor diet causes a microbe shift due to processed foods, refined sugars and carbohydrates levels that are too high and create an overgrowth of yeast and/or bacteria in the small intestine alongside overall changes through the entire digestive tract. Between the lack of fiber and the refined carbs all of the microbes at the front end get lots of food but the microbes lower down are being starved.
Another culprit, antibiotics, kill bacteria and in the case of our gut targets some species and leaves others alone. This means imbalances and overgrowths, which leads to the fat storage microbiome imbalance if not corrected. Other drugs that have an impact on the gut flora are heartburn medications, specifically proton pump inhibitors. This class of drug lowers the acidity of the stomach, which makes it hard for the normal stomach bugs to live as it creates new competition from other microbes that can tolerate the less acidic stomach and compete with the normal acid loving stomach bugs.
Stress can inhibit digestion in different ways, being high stress for long periods inhibits normal peristalsis – the muscle contractions that move food from your stomach down to your colon. When this happens there is too much time for food to hang out and microbes to grow, leading to imbalance. Chronic stress also inhibits acid production in the stomach and digestive enzymes from the pancreas and liver. Overall this means you’re not digesting your food or moving it through your body quickly enough to cultivate a healthy gut flora.
There are actually very few things in our lives that don’t have some effect on our gut flora. Even simple things like travelling, your spouse, kids, pets and water sources have the ability to nudge our microbiome in one direction or another.
How to identify and correct the problem
There are some common signs of microbiome imbalance, most commonly gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and digestive symptoms in general. It’s helpful to know there are integrative lab tests that analyze the stool for the composition of gut flora which are fantastic to get a read on the good and bad microbes present in what levels. The best way to identify this problem is to work with your doctor, specifically one who’s integrative and is knowledgeable on the microbiome. Once you know what’s out of balance the next step is to fix it.
One of the fastest ways to reliably shift the microbiome, for good or bad, is diet.We already talked about poor diet for the microbiome so an example of a good diet is one that has minimal (ideally none) processed foods and refined sugars. It should be high in raw and cooked organic vegetables and legumes with good amounts and varieties of fiber and organic meats raised without antibiotics. Diets higher in raw plant foods are shown to have a major impact on correcting the blood sugar imbalances of diabetes, which is a great thing to focus on if the goal is weight loss. Going 100% raw is difficult for most of us, but incorporating more raw vegetables like salads, nuts, seeds, sprouts etc is completely achievable and an excellent step in the right direction.
If there are high levels of opportunistic microbes, there are many options for natural or prescription antimicrobials that can lower them. But killing them isn’t enough, there needs to be a rebalance of the other microbes through proper digestion and diet including probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods.
Understanding the microbiome, and specifically working with a doctor who understands can make a big difference in your health, especially if you’ve dealt with weight issues. Integrating things like healthy diet, fermented foods and probiotics into your life is an easy way to support your gut flora and prevent or work towards correcting an imbalance. This is just one more simple way to support your health and longevity, I hope you all find it useful and please post any questions or comments below.
- Stress’ impact on microbiome http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15800998
How (and where) your body stores toxins
The real reason some toxicities are more dangerous than others
Most of us are well aware we are exposed to a number of different chemicals that are harmful to our health during the course of our day, although you probably don’t realize just where these chemicals go. You might think that if it gets on your skin you can wipe it off or if it enters your body you just pee it into the toilet in a few hours. The reality is it’s rarely so clean and simple, and our body will protect itself to an extent and the natural properties of some toxins mean they tend to be stored for long periods.
Fat soluble toxins
Let’s start with the place that is the most likely to be toxic – your fat. The thing about many toxins is they don’t dissolve well in water because they are lipophilic – which means they dissolve in oil a.k.a. fat. This can be a blessing and a curse – it can lock these toxins away where they might not do as much damage. We can think of belly fat and the toxins stored there as (relatively) low harm, since there is distance from our vital organs and central nervous system. More worrisome is the other place we see fat stored – directly around the organs in our visceral fat which is found on and surrounding our liver, pancreas, kidneys, GI tract and other organs. Toxins stored in visceral fat exposes our organs to different toxins, subjecting sensitive glands like our pancreas to toxins. There is a lot of research showing clear association with PCBs (a fat soluble toxin) and an dramatically increased risk of diabetes. The other downside of fat stored toxins is proximity to our extremely sensitive nervous system. The brain is estimated to be made of 60-80% fat, fat also wraps around our nerves in the form of myelin. This means certain toxins are very, VERY close to our nerves which is why symptoms like brain fog, mental impairment, headaches, tingling, numbness and mood problems are very common with this type of toxicity.
Some common toxins that are fat soluble.
- Solvents (benzene, xylene, gasoline, etc)
Blood (Water soluble toxins)
The other main place where toxins are found is in the blood, which is the shortest “storage place” in the body and easiest location for our body to eliminate toxins from. This is because our blood is purified constantly all day every day mainly by our liver and kidneys, where any toxins are quickly addressed and eliminated (given the required nutrients). The real problem of water soluble toxins comes from near constant exposures. If a toxin lasts in the blood for 30 minutes to a couple of hours before and then is completely eliminated, that’s usually fine. What happens when you re-dose yourself everytime you take a drink of water from a plastic bottle (BPA) or eat food contaminated with pesticides? It becomes a cycle of constant re-exposure to many toxins that act as hormone disruptors or worse causing damage throughout the body. Your blood washes over essentially every part of the body, and may even allow certain chemicals to cross the Blood-Brain Barrier.
A few common water soluble chemicals.
- Numerous heavy metals (arsenic, thallium, cadmium, lead etc)
- Chlorinated pesticides
The next storage place, bones, tends is more insidious. It generally protects us from lead, the main toxin stored there. You probably know that calcium is important for bone health, well on a chemical level lead and calcium look and function similarly enough that lead often displaces calcium in many functions and is often stored in our bones because of this. One problem comes when there is trauma that breaks the bone or when pregnancy and osteoporosis cause breakdown of our bones. In all of these cases the lead that has been stored in the bone is mobilized into the blood in much higher levels. This puts many different tissues and organs at risk, and especially harmful to a developing fetus in pregnancy. This is why addressing any lead exposure is very important to do long before pregnancy or osteoporosis enter the equation.
Main toxin stored in bone
The next place where toxins tuck away is actually the second most easy to remove them from. These are the nooks and crannies of our body like our joints, connective tissues, and lymphatic system. The main reason toxins hang out here is a lack of movement and exercise. As a society we are increasingly more sedentary with desk jobs, driving, tv and computers. The fluids are pumped through all of these tight areas by the movement of joints and muscles. Exercise and simple movement helps move these toxins and supply better oxygen and nutrition to the areas. Once the toxins are moved into the blood the liver and kidney take over. This is even more support for the new and popular catch-phrase “sitting is the new smoking.”
The bad news is that we all have some pretty nasty chemicals from the recent industrial revolution trapped in our bodies. The good news is with the right steps you can address and start reversing this toxicity. With optimal nutrition and lifestyle you can protect yourself from the negative effects of most of these chemicals and even support elimination and detox more toxins than you store. Step one is to minimize and avoid toxins, step two is to make and support our natural ability to detox through diet, optimal water intake and exercise.
- Plastics in all forms especially containers marked PC or #7.
- Conventional (non-organic=pesticides) produce and meats.
- Dental amalgams (silver fillings=mercury).
- Organic vegetables, wild caught fish, organic/grassfed meats.
- 70% or more vegetarian diet.
- Antioxidants: great sources are berries fresh or frozen.
- Brocolli, mustard, cabbage, etc: this family of plants (the brassicas) all upregulate our ability to detox so include them in your meals often.
- House plants: a few years ago NASA funded a study on the ability of plants to clean the air of numerous toxins, take advantage of this and make your home and office healthier.
11 Ways to drink more water
Step 1 to lose weight, feel great and be healthy
You know that water is massively important to health, so here’s a quick laundry list of how it benefits us followed by 11 ways to drink more water, today!
- Prevent sunburn and dry, cracked lips
- Good for your heart and cardiovascular system
- Better regulate temperature
- Healthy skin
- Flush out toxins
- Healthier cells and muscles – water transports nutrients in and out of cells
- Prevent overeating
- Stay regular
- Reduce stress
- Helps joints
- and on and on and on
1. Lemon and warm water first thing
If you haven’t heard of or tried this before it’s a really great way to start your day. The lemon is very alkalizing and rich in minerals and nutrients like Vitamin C, and the warm water helps prep the stomach and GI tract for the day. Just be careful not to overdo the lemon or too much heat – usually ¼-½ a lemon in a cup of warm-hot water is perfect. If you want to get fancy grate some raw ginger or add a few drops of Bitters to your hot lemon water.
2. Start with good clean water
This is really important, because a good water filter/purifier can save the day by improving the taste and quality of the water you drink. Around the bay we are pretty lucky to have some relatively good tasting tap water, but whenever I travel to Phoenix or Texas I have a really hard time because the water tastes awful. There are a lot of good options, if you want a real filter you need to at the very least invest in an over or under the counter unit. The pitcher based filters do very little to pull out undesirable (and common) contaminants like heavy metals or microbes.
3. “Earth Juice” Infusions
I was at the park with my daughter Arianna a few weeks ago talking with a nanny who asked me if Arianna was a good water drinker. She then told me about how she the boys she cared for to drink more water with “Earth Juice.” The name was new to me, but the concept is a classic. With berries or another fruit you essentially let the water extract some of the nutrients and flavor just by cutting up or putting some whole pieces in and letting sit for a few minutes to a few hours.
My favorite is a few frozen blueberries in a glass of water to give a nice blue tinge and very mild flavor. This is a great way to experiment to find a flavor that you like. Other ideas: raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, lemon, orange, apple, etc
4. Get fizzy
While I’m not a fan of soda for many reasons I do on occasion enjoy some carbonation. At my house we started making our own special cocktail with grated ginger,
5. The old jug and a mug trick
If you’re the type of person who gets distracted and wrapped up in what you’re doing to the point where getting up to refill your water is too inconvenient this is for you. Keep your glass or mug and a gallon jug of water at your desk or work area. Easy access refill and if you fill the jug to how much water you want to drink for the day then you can track how well you’re doing.
6. Stay glassy
Ever notice when you have a fancy glass, cup or water bottle that you really like you find yourself reaching for it more often? It’s marketing, and it works. So help yourself by making your water look more appealing in a fancy glass or cup thats nice and clean and shows just how clear and refreshing that water looks. Don’t believe me? Try it and you’ll see.
7. Set reminders
If you’re like most of the world these days you carry around a cell phone, that cell phone has the ability to set alarms, and lots of them. Set yourself a “drink water” alarm whether it’s once an hour and you chug a glass or every 2-3 hours so you finish and refill a larger water bottle, you’ll hit half your weight in ounces of water in no time.
8. Break a sweat
Make sure you are doing things to make yourself thirsty and getting a good workout is a fantastic way to get thirsty and trigger your body to want to drink more water. It only takes 20-30 minutes of the right exercise and you should be sweating and drinking more water because of it.
9. Be the little girl in “Signs”
By this I mean leave glasses of water everywhere as a safegaurd to an alien invasion from aliens who’s only weakness is water. Just kidding, we’re in a drought don’t dirty up those dishes for no reason. What I really mean is to always carry water with you in a bottle or jug. Ideally you want a glass or steel water bottle to reduce your intake of toxins from plastics (like BPA/BPF/BPS).
10. Eat some water
Celery, cucumber and melons are all great examples of foods that are high enough in water content they actually help hydrate you. Great snacks to incorporate, especially if you have kids that don’t drink enough.
11. Citrus/berry ice cubes
Try this, peel a lemon, lime or orange and separate the sections then freeze. Next time you have a glass of water toss in one of the sections and you have a citrus ice cube. Fancy and tasty. Another alternative I like is frozen berries from the store as ice cubes.
It’s as simple as this, drinking water is required for us to function -especially if it’s at a high level. Use the ideas above or get creative and come up with your own. Regardless the method if the result is more water intake then you are a winner, feel free to share with us any of your tips or tricks to drink more water.
Naturopathic Medicine, Hormones, environmental toxins and more!
In this interview conducted by Rob Arthur (find out more about Rob here) we discuss Naturopathic Medicine, the microbiome, environmental toxins, hormones and more. Check it out and let us know what you think!
10 Tips For Your Healthier Home
Make sure you’re doing these 10 things to protect your family and yourself from the most common harmful toxins.
1. It starts at the door
Take those shoes off at the door, the EPA recommends this because of it’s the most likely way kids get lead exposure. What? The dirt and dust on the bottom of shoes often has high levels of lead, due to the history of lead being an additive in automobiles. Beyon
d lead there is the concern that you might be tracking in other harmful substances in small amounts. Think of cars with oil or antifreeze leaks, animal poop or anything else you really don’t want in your house.
Fresh air and sunlight can make an impact on your health and wellbeing. Good air-flow is helpful because we all have something in our house that off-gasses. Off-gassing is what happens when glues, solvents, flame retardants and other chemicals used in furniture or flooring are released in the form of gas. These levels are often low, but they can build up and become another obstacle on the path to optimal health.
Sunlight in the home can play two important roles, first sunlight is the best natural alarm clock and
helps set your biological clock to be awake. Another great benefit is that sunlight stimulates the natural production of Vitamin D in our body. Correcting low levels of Vitamin D can improve symptoms from depression to osteoporosis and more.
3. Purify your air
Since we can’t leave the windows open all the time, particularly on hot summer and cold winter days, what are our options to keep the indoor air clean of toxins and allergens?
High quality air filters
- A good air filter is more expensive than you would expect, and bigger too. They are fantastic for keeping the air clean consistently, especially at night when you’re sleeping when it can be important for many with chronic diseases, allergies or asthma.
Natural air filters
- A lot of easy to find house plants reduce the level of common indoor air toxins like formaldehyde and ammonia. Here’s a few good starter plants that aren’t too difficult to care for.
- Pothos (Devil’s Ivy)
- Spider plant
- English ivy
4. Cleaners and chemicals
What are you using and why?
Take a quick look under your sink, or wherever you store your cleaning products for your home. Are there many things that you don’t know what’s actually in them? Are there any that you wouldn’t want to inhale or spill on you? There are some good options for simple non-toxic cleaners.
Where are they stored
That being said, sometimes you know the right tool for the job and it’s nice to have around. Store these somewhere with ventilation and avoid getting hit in the face with an intense chemical vapor when you open that cabinet. It’s going to be better for your entire household if there are minimal harsh cleaners, and that they’re in a place that can circulate and remove the gases from the house.
Basic Natural cleaner
Part of getting rid of harsh chemicals is finding a better alternative. There are 3 basic cleaners that can take care of almost any job.
Baking soda and vinegar
- In combination or alone these two food items do a great job in cleaning surfaces. Vinegar can make a great multipurpose cleaner for the kitchen and bathroom.
- Baking soda is a good scrubbing agent, and can give an extra boost if scrubbed in then sprayed with vinegar before wiping off.
- Hydrogen peroxide is better for more than causing pain and cleaning cuts and scrapes. Hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning moldy corners of showers, sinks, tile and grout.
- These are nice additives to your cleaners, they can increase the antimicrobial action and leave behind a great smell. Be careful because some are quite strong, can be toxic to kids and animals if ingested.
5. Pure water
A lot of us have water filters, for a number of reasons. Knowing you have a quality water filter (I’ll give you a hint, most pitcher filters don’t do much) and making sure you change/clean the filter as often as recommended. Old water filters can grow bacteria or fungi that can create health problems.
6. The food zone
Plastic free: many plastic containers contain chemicals that leach into foods and liquids and which disrupt hormones – the most commonly known is BPA, which has estrogenic effects on the body. More than this there is no hard evidence that any plastics are “safe” and even those labelled as “BPA-Free” tend to contain BPS or BPF, which are chemically very similar to BPA and have been shown to cause (big surprise) the same and possibly worse problems than BPA. Win this by switching over to glass and stainless steel containers for your food storage and water bottles.
Clean: It’s common sense these days that you want kitchen surfaces to be clean. Specifically cutting boards and any places that come in contact with raw produce and/or meat.
Food placement: One of the best things we can do to limit our intake of junk foods is to place these foods in places that are harder to get to. Top shelf in the cupboard or in the back behind other things. Increase the difficulty of accessing junk foods and make it easier to just grab the healthier snack (carrot or piece of fruit and nut butter) can make a bigger difference than you think.
7. Support your sleep
Three tips for better sleep
- Sound: Silence is blissful when you’re trying to sleep, since this isn’t always possible or perfect another great option is a white noise machine or app that can make a huge difference.
- Light: Did you know that light, especially blue light, can actually suppress your body’s chemical signals to go to sleep. Making sure your bedroom is as dark as possible creates more restful sleep.
- Temperature: Ever notice how hard it is to fall asleep if it’s too hot, most people find it most comfortable to sleep in a room around 68 degrees fahrenheit.
8. Healthy bathroom
Clean: One of the most common things to find in a bathroom is mold, because this is a room with high moisture due to showers and all of the water usage. Cleaning out mold in the bathroom with baking soda and peroxide usually does the trick. A great shower spray to prevent mold recurrence is plain hydrogen peroxide which prevents any mold from taking hold.
Ventilation: This further helps preventing any mold, as well as makes for a clean smelling bathroom.
9. Check those nooks and crannies
Clean and dry: Think about places in your house you don’t visit too often. It could be the back of a closet, a basement, or attic. Make sure to keep an eye on these spaces especially during and after any major rain or snow melts. Catching any leaks, mold or pest growth early will make a huge difference in cost of repair and prevent aggravation of allergies and asthma common from mold and fungal invasions.
10. A better work/play space
Create an office or relaxing space that encourages focus and movement: Having the room encourage standing, movement and good posture is one of the most helpful things you can do. Some great options are using something like the pomodoro technique when you’re working/playing on the computer or watching tv – have an egg timer or app that goes off every 45-90 minutes to signal you to stand, stretch, move around or get a drink of water. Another favorite of mine are standing and walking desks, which help improve focus and overall health.
We hope you enjoyed some of our tips for making your home a healthy one. If you have any questions, comments or want to learn more get in touch at (415)385-2621!