To be or not to be……gluten-free? Ahhhhh…….that’s the million dollar question. Does being gluten free really offer the extended health benefits that science claims to offer or is it just another peg on the board of healthy eating?
I have written previously about peeling back the layers of understanding leaky gut syndrome. While this concept is still in its infancy, the research appears to have solid validity. Let’s go one step further and isolate specific microscopic causes that contribute to forming the hole in the ozone of our gut.
First, we must understand what gluten is. Many of the references here are from the research of Dr. William Davis, one of my favorite writers and author of Wheat Belly.
What is gluten?
“Gluten is a complex two-part protein found in wheat with virtually identical structures and amino acid sequences of the protein also found in rye and barley. Each gluten molecule comes in two parts: a larger, polymeric glutenin molecule that confers the stretchiness, or viscoelasticity, of wheat dough, and gliadin, a smaller protein. Both glutenin and gliadin share overlapping sequences also, but it’s the gliadin that is the source of most of the health issues associated with wheat, and thereby rye and barley. Note that the gliadin protein of wheat also resembles the zein protein of corn and, to a lesser degree, the avenin protein of oats, which therefore share some of the same effects, including activation of the immune system. While there is no gluten or gliadin in corn and oats, they have related proteins that have similar effects.” –Dr.William Davis
Although gluten is primarily in wheat, similar chemical properties are seen in oat, barley, rye and most recently discovered in corn. Remember the days of our grandmother’s homemade biscuits, pies, cookies? We devoured them without even giving it a second thought.
Why is gluten now being linked to a host of symptoms and diseases?
Remember, gluten is a PROTEIN, not an actual ingredient. It serves as a binder that prolongs shelf life and helps maintain the product’s shape. With the genetic modification of gluten, the human system is unable to process and breakdown the products as nature intended. This results in an explosion of inflammation within the cell walls. These inflammatory markers then leak into other areas causing cellular and hormonal disruption. It is this disruption that causes our symptoms.
What are symptoms of gluten sensitivity?
- Weight gain
- Worsening PMS
- GI issues
- Muscle/Joint pain
- Hair loss
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mental confusion/Depression/Decreased concentration
This is only a partial list of potential symptoms. Inflammation is not discretionary. It hits in all corners of the human body.
What can gluten consumption cause?
- Leaky gut. The gap between the intestinal cell junctions allows foreign proteins to spill into the bloodstream. The body looks at this debris as foreign and begins to attack. This is how autoimmune conditions begin. This is why wheat, rye, barley and corn are associated with Type 1 Diabetes, Hashimoto’s and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Mood changes. The unique amino acid sequences of these peptides act asopiates on the human brain. Opioids activate hunger, increase calorie intake, cause mental fogginess, anxiety, anger, food obsessions, mania and decreases attention span.
- Allergies. Just as pollen, grass, mold triggers a histamine response, the allergen component of gluten and its by-products triggers the same histamine release leading to itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, rash.
- Increased risk for Celiac Disease. “There is a 33-amino acid long sequence within gliadin that is most powerfully associated with triggering celiac disease. One gene, in particular, coding for this amino acid sequence, Glia-alpha9, was uncommon in the wheat of 1950, but is common in modern semidwarf strains of wheat, explaining why there has been a 400% increase in celiac disease over the last 50 years.” –Dr.William Davis
The science is unarguable! The manipulation and modification of our crops since the 1950’s correlates directly to the increasing symptoms and health ailments entering our lives. It is imperative to understand gluten is only ONE such contributor. Researchers continue to isolate others causes.
Until then, what do we do? Do we go completely gluten free? Is gluten free better than not? Will I lose weight if I am gluten free?
Ideally, is it better to be fully gluten free? Yes. Is it practical? No. So where to start? Begin by cutting down the most obvious sources of gluten, (ie. bread, pastas, baked goods etc.) Gluten is hidden under many different titles. Labels will not list gluten as an ingredient because it is not an ingredient, it is a protein. It is important to learn what ingredients do contain gluten. (I highly recommend reading Wheat Belly.)
Be sure to keep a detailed food journal and make note of any subtle changes you may be feeling. Your body takes a minimum of two months to begin responding to any changes made. Don’t expect to lose weight right away or burst through the doors with untapped energy. Or for that matter, you may not see any difference at all. Don’t lose hope and don’t under estimate what is happening on a cellular level.
Eating “gluten free” products is NOT any better than the real stuff. A gluten free cookie is STILL a cookie. If you wouldn’t eat it before, then you shouldn’t eat it just because it is gluten free.
Keep expectations out of the equation. No matter what you see or don’t see on the surface, below ground, you are doing your body good! Above all, be gentle with yourself. It has taken us six decades to create this mess. We have to begin to dig ourselves out with the shovel of knowledge and a bucket of patience.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Depression has been labeled “a hush hush” diagnosis. The stigma of being called “depressed” has somehow placed a Scarlet Letter on those affected. Everyone reading this understands at some point what it feels like to be down. Let me tell you, we have ALL been there, continue to be there, or will be there. There is nothing wrong in admitting that we can’t do it all. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us that much stronger for having the courage to say what everyone else may be thinking. I have talked about the effects of hormonal imbalances in my previous blogs. This month, I would like to focus on breaking through the silent conversations of depression.
While depression is known to have genetic links, it does not mean we are destined to that fate. With the convoluted ways of our world and the minute to minute emotional roller coaster we face from our home life, work place or just by turning on the news, there is no doubt we have all been plagued on some spectrum of depressive symptoms.
So why am I writing on this topic? I am writing because it is time to start having REAL conversations on what is happening within our psyche.
While depression has earned its own DSM code, all depression is not treated equally. Each degree of symptoms is just as important as the other. It must be acknowledged and accepted so that healing may begin.
How does depression affect the physical body beyond the obvious?
“The most frequently occurring endocrine abnormality in depressed subjects is hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Depression also affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-GH (HPGH) and -thyroid (HPT) axes. Alterations in the reproductive system may also play a role in the pathology of depression. In addition, there is increasing evidence that leptin and neurosteroids, such as DHEA, are implicated in mood disorders.” J Endocrinol Invest. 2005 Jan;28(1):89-99.
So what does this mean? Exactly what we think it means. When neurotransmitters are imbalanced or depleted, it drives cortisol into over production to compensate for the deficit. This puts an extra burden on the organ systems leading to the development of diseases we are too often familiar with.
What are causes of depressive symptoms?
- Hormonal imbalances
- Decreased levels of neurotransmitters
- Endocrine disorders (Hypothyroidism,Hyperthyroidism, Diabetes etc)
- Autoimmune disease (Thyroid, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus etc)
- Food or environmental allergies
- Environmental stressors or trauma
- Medication side effects
By no means is this a complete list, but it is evident most anything can cause symptoms.
How many of these sound familiar?
- Physical pain
- Hair loss
- Decreased concentration
- Fleeting thoughts
- Weight changes
- GI disturbances
- Sleep disturbances (too little or too much)
- Increase in alcohol consumption
- Spending increased time on social media or online (who would have thought?)
- Not keeping up with grooming or hygiene
Don’t give up!! There are many ways to treat these symptoms and come out on top!
How can I get well?
- Therapists/Healers. They are your BEST and #1 resource. There is nothing like being able to sit in a room for an hour talking about yourself with someone listening to your every word. They are trained to listen and they are trained to help. No, they can’t change the situation, but they do know how to give objective insight and perspective. We all at some point should experience the awesomeness of seeing a therapist.
- Breathe. If we block oxygen from entering our cells, then nothing can heal, including our emotions. Pick your favorite breathing technique and start inhaling power and exhaling doubt.
- Stay present. Easier said than done, I know! Learn to control your mind from re- visiting the past or jumping to the future. Both are out of your control, so begin accepting the gift of the present.
- Mindful eating. YES, everything comes back to the GI tract! When we eat clean, the body stays clean. Don’t hoard toxins that only spin you further out of control. Hydrate – 90 oz water/day. Even if you have to force yourself to get the water down, it is worth it.
- Exercise. Moving the body has been proven to release endorphins that stimulate release of neurotransmitters. Higher levels of hormones means happy you. Move, move, move.
- Buddy up. Nothing like being in the company of friends whose energy can give you a boost. Relish and cherish the bonds of friendships. BFF’s are the best antidepressant in the world.
- Explore your creativity. Color, paint, write, choreograph a dance, compose music, cook, sew….whatever brings out the Martha Stewart in you, do it. Stimulating our creative forces causes increase blood flow to different parts of the brain thereby increasing levels of the neurotransmitters.
- Get a pet. Now, I know this maybe a little bit of work so don’t panic on me. Just think of the love, energy, unconditional compassion they bring into the home. That is enough to take away anybody’s down days. Just consider it.
- Herbal supplements. I have included this on the list, but I am not a strong advocate of herbs. There is some evidence that certain natural supplements help lift minor depressive symptoms, but it has not been evaluated in long term studies. Be cautious! It is only a temporary solution.
- Antidepressants. Let me clear up one thing. Antidepressants are very effective in treatment of depressive symptoms and I am in favor of using them, BUT only in conjunction with other treatment modalities. Think of antidepressants as a crutch to help you walk on this rocky road. It doesn’t mean you are unable to handle the situation without the use of meds. It only means they help protect your physical body from the effects of depression. It doesn’t have to be a permanent treatment, but only to be used only until the storm passes. Whatever your reason may be for resisting them, don’t. They truly can help ease the passage into brighter days.
There are many more advanced treatments, remedies and therapy techniques on the treatment of depression and its associated symptoms.
The courage must lie within you to find the voice of your feelings. Sweeping things under the rug doesn’t make them go away. It only makes the magnitude of the situation seem worse.
We are all human beings. And part of being human is the glory of having feelings. Some feelings make us feel good and others don’t. It is about identifying those that don’t and making things alright. Because at the end of the day, it will be alright!
“People cry not because they are weak. It’s because they have been strong for so long.” — Johnny Depp
You are not alone!!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieveing and maintaining OPTIMAL health, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Eating out is fun, and with a little planing, you can still be eating healthy while eating out. And why wouldn’t you? Gathering around for a meal has long brought families together for hours of conversation over endless bowls of our favorite dishes. Once in a while it is nice to shut down the kitchen and give Mom and Dad a break from chopping, stirring and cleaning.
Trying out great new restaurants or visiting your old favorites is no doubt exciting, relaxing and rejuvenating. However, what we don’t often realize is how excited our palates become when these tasty treats in their most perfect presentation are brought out in front of us. Before we know it, we have devoured the last bite consuming more calories than imagined.
Enjoying good food is a must. Enjoying new food is a necessity.
So if you are one that loves restaurant hopping, keep at it!! Life is too short not to enjoy the simple pleasures! To avoid spiraling down an unhealthy lifestyle, plan ahead!
The following may seem like simple suggestions, but I assure you simplicity will bring about longevity!
- Decide the restaurant early. Knowing what type of food will be ordered will help you be aware of the amount of carb, protein, and fat in that item. If you anticipate a great Italian Bistro where carbs are in very selection, plan to decrease carb intake couple days prior to the outing. Most restaurants offer apps that allow you to search the menu as well as nutritional values. Making good choices comes from being educated.
- Hydrate.This should be your staple even when you don’t plan to go out. 90 oz of water /day helps keep cellular function performing at optimal levels. Avoid any water substitutes and go for the plain H2O.
- Eat a small protein snack one-two hours before anticipated meal time. Protein intake helps keep the balance of insulin and glucose. This results in longer satiety and decreased cravings. Good examples are almonds, string cheese, fruit, slice of meat, peanut butter, hummus etc.
- Check out the menu beforehand. If you know you will not be leaving that table until you have had that favorite 1000 calorie dessert, then scale back on appetizers and entrée. Yes you can have your cake and eat it too, but only in moderation. You don’t want to wake up the next morning with a sugar laden hangover.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the server. Ask the server how the food is being prepared. Ask them if they use butter, cream or any other high fat substitutes to give it that rich mouthwatering flavor. Ask to speak to the chef if you are not satisfied with the answer. Even if they think you are one of “those” customers, it doesn’t matter because ultimately, you are only accountable to yourself. So take ownership and be ok asking!
- Avoid “low carb” options and high carb temptations. Anything that claims “free or low carb,” STAY AWAY! To take something out and still have it taste so good, means something else has to be put in. That something else is likely to be highly processed ingredients that do you no good. Better to go for the real stuff in smaller quantities. Also skip the bread basket. It’s not worth it!
- Double the veggies. Just because it doesn’t say it on the menu, doesn’t mean you can’t ask. Ask for double quantity of veggies-steamed or broiled, NOT FRIED. Even if it costs a few pennies more, it is well worth it.
- Watch out for the salad temptation. Of course the vegetables in the salad are healthy, but the croutons, cheese, dressing, not so much. Salad toppings may seem insignificant, but what we may not realize is that these innocent munchies turn out to be the biggest culprits of our weight gain. Have you seen how many grams of fat are in ONE tablespoon of dressing? A LOT! You know they don’t stop at one tablespoon. So is it really worth ruining all of your hard work with something that is not even the main meal? Ask for dressing on the side.
- Skip the alcohol. Alcohol consumption causes an increase appetite and not to mention increase in empty calories. If you absolutely must have a drink with your meal, choose red or white wine limited to 1x glass. For every one sip of wine, take 3-5 large gulps of water. Chances are you won’t even be able to finish that one glass. Avoid the fruity cocktails. Choose your calories wisely.
- Dress up nicely. Who would have thought right? Research has shown when you take the time and effort to dress nicely and are happy with what you see in the mirror, you will be less likely to make poor dietary choices. If dressing up is a time consuming process for you, you may not be keen to put in the effort just for going out. And in the long run, less eating out means less consumption of unwanted calories.
- Walk off the guilt. If your willpower happened to get the best of you, don’t sweat it. We are all human. We all have cravings. It’s ok! If you still can’t shake the guilt, take a brisk walk outside and breathe knowing you can start over with the next meal. We ALL go through these times when we know better, but we choose otherwise. Following the 80-20 rule can help with any feelings of guilt. Focus on mindful eating 80% of the time and look forward to the other 20% when you know you’ve earned it!
Indulgences are part of life’s greatest joys. Don’t deprive yourself of a little happiness. Eating out is more than just about watching calories. It is the opportunity to kindle relationships and foster new ones.
Food is nourishment. It is our greatest ally, not our worst enemy. Savor each bite because you know you have earned it. And when you have taken that last bite, set yourself back on that right path until you can look forward to it again!
Over the last three months, I have deliberately chosen to write and focus on understanding how a healthy gut affects every aspect of our health. It has become clearly evident to me that the true source of healing resides in the confines of our GI tract.
I recently attended a talk given by my dear friend on the topic of Ayurvedic Medicine. This healing concept originated in India over 3,000 years ago. The fundamental philosophy of Ayurveda is “heal thy gut, heal thy symptoms.” During this talk, the realization came upon me that what Eastern ancient medicine knew 3,000 years ago has only claimed territory in the West a decade ago.
How many times do we recall our mothers or grandmothers complaining of merciless symptoms of menopause or our fathers moaning with relentless joint pain? Not much at all, right? But now, it seems every article, every conversation, every ad mentions one physical ailment or another and how there is a medication to “fix” it. I often wonder why we see so many advertisements for medications but hardly any on exercise or nutrition. Why does medication have to always be the only answer?
Why are the children of this generation thrown into the fires of puberty before they even hit double digits? Why do the women in the third through fifth decade of their lives suffer when life is supposed to be rosy? What could have so drastically changed within the last 30 years that health is no longer the care free life we once thought it was?
Our DIET has changed. Our FOOD industry has changed. Our CONSUMPTION has changed. There is no big mystery disease that explains most of our symptoms. We, as humans, need to simply the search for the answers.
We are what we eat.
I know it is frustrating!! We eat the “right” foods. We eat the “right” quantities. We eat at the “right” times. Yet, nothing seems to help improve those dreaded badgering symptoms. If what you are doing is not working, stop trying to put a round peg in a square hole. Look at other causes. Look at what is going into your mouth!!
The term “leaky gut” is beginning to make its way into research labs and proving how our gut seems to have the answers. Here’s a very simplistic explanation. Altered, modified, hormone and antibiotic infested crops are not meant for human bodies to process. Over the years, this constant traumatic exposure has caused disruptions to our DNA structure. The breakage of the DNA molecule has resulted in maladaptive pattern to which our bodies don’t recognize. This causes our endocrine system to short circuit. It prevents our hormonal pathway from staying in true alignment.
Simultaneously, antibiotics in the food enter the lumen of the bowel and kill our “good” gut flora. With the diminishing army of the good guys, the bad guys, “bad” bacteria, flourish. These bad guys cause a “leak” in our gut. This leak triggers a release of inflammatory cytokines. The surge of cytokines leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance subsequently causes weight gain, hormonal imbalances, diabetes and eventually blankets the operation of every system in the body.
With full disclosure, I share the story of my own journey over the last two years. In 2014, my thyroid relapsed. Normally it is a small adjustment in my medication and I revert back to normal. At that time nothing worked. Long story short, I soon found out I had a severe sensitivity to gluten, which I never experienced before. I gave up gluten expecting to improve. Never came. Struggled on for the next 18 months while beating my head against a wall trying to figure out what I was missing. I was a “clean” eater. I exercised like a crazy person. Slept like a baby. Why couldn’t I figure this out? So in February of this year, I had blood taken for the MRT Leap Food sensitivity testing. MRT checks for 150 of the most common food sensitivities.
I had my answer. The test confirmed I had high sensitivity to apples, quinoa, whey, milk, lentils, turmeric, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, chocolate, oats, and broccoli.
Say what?? But those are all the healthy foods I was “supposed” to eat. That’s what I was told. That’s what I read. And there isn’t anyone taking away my chocolate and peanut butter!!
It turns out those specific foods were continuously causing insults to my GI system. The leaky gut was now a high tide flood. I very slowly started decreasing and eliminating the high reactive foods. Within two weeks, swelling in my hands diminished. Energy levels improved. Weight started to normalize. Life started to have hope.
It has only been two months. But in these two months, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt, clear to me, we must heal the layers that lie in solar plexus. When getting evaluated by your physician, it is very important ALL medical causes are evaluated also. You are welcome to call my office and learn more about this test, and other ways I can help you.
If you are left with more frustrating questions than answers, I encourage you to look into the core of your existence, the core of your health, the core of your central energy. Look into the core of your gut!
With its painful cramping, accompanying gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation, is there possibly any good news about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Actually, the answer is yes. Although the condition usually requires long-term management, sufferers are not at an increased risk of colorectal cancer because IBS doesn’t cause bowel tissue changes. Additionally, IBS can usually be controlled by making healthy lifestyle adjustments.
What is IBS?
Affecting the large intestine/colon, IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder worldwide, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. However, because the majority of people who do suffer from IBS have only mild symptoms, they rarely realize they have the condition.
Importance of Gut Health
A small number of IBS patients experience severe symptoms that require medication and ongoing physician care, but most patients can control symptoms by improving their gut health. The gut is garnering a lot of attention lately and rightly so. Research continues to connect a healthy gut with overall good health.
Not just one specific body part, the “gut” refers to your overall digestive system that runs from your mouth to the end of your large intestine. When determining gut health, most doctors focus on gut flora and the gut barrier.
The gut is filled with 400 known varieties of bacteria and 100 trillion microorganisms in a system called the gut flora that regulates metabolism and gastrointestinal function and makes up most of our immune system. The healthiest gut is one where all the bacteria and microorganisms are in balance and there’s plenty of diversity.
A variety of common things can negatively affect gut health by disrupting gut flora diversity, including:
- Antibiotics, birth control pills and NSAIDs
- Diets high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar and wheat that has been stripped of its nutrients
- Chronic stress
The gut barrier is an optimally functioning gut that processes and delivers the products our body needs while moving along and disposing of the things that our body doesn’t need or which could harm it.
When the gut flora is out of balance, the gut can become inflamed which negatively affects the gut barrier. If this condition becomes chronic, it can present itself as irritable bowel syndrome.
Improve IBS Symptoms and Overall Gut Health
Now, back to the good news. It IS possible to not only keep IBS symptoms in check, but to also achieve optimal gut health.
- Toxins and Antibiotics: The most common recommendation for a healthy gut is to avoid the toxins listed above, particularly antibiotics. Before requesting or accepting an antibiotic, discuss your concerns about gut health with your doctor and determine if an antibiotic is truly needed. If it is, ask about ways to balance gut flora after completing the course of antibiotics.
- Diet and Stress: Eliminating processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar and wheat is quite possibly the best way to improve your gut health and control IBS. Most people experience a dramatic improvement in IBS symptoms and overall wellbeing within weeks of eliminating those foods from their diet. Similarly, people who learn and apply stress-reduction techniques experience positive results that provide motivation to continue efforts.
Work with a Trusted Physician
IBS, like many other conditions, affects each person differently and therefore requires a very personalized approach to care.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.