Monthly Archives: February 2015

Pay the Grocer, or Pay the Doctor.

Crop

Hot off the press of Current Microbiology journal’s March 2015 issue, a study evaluating the effects of glyphosate (trade name Roundup), a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide.  Thanks in large part to crops genetically engineered to be glyphosate-resistant (including corn and soy), glyphosate now makes its way into an estimated 75%-80% of the food lining grocery store shelves today.  But what effect does glyphosate have on us?

“In conclusion, glyphosate causes [gut] dysbiosis which favors the production of [neurotoxin] BoNT in the rumen. The global regulations restrictions for the use of glyphosate should be re-evaluated.” 1

Gut dysbiosis is effectively an imbalance of the microbiota within our gut.  But what are the health implications of this effect?  In a word:  Infinite.  We have an entire ecosystem of microbes outnumbering our cells 10 to 1, with a collective genome at least 150 times larger than our own.  This ecosystem exists primarily in our gut, specifically the large intestine.  Researchers are just beginning to uncover the many implications of the complex and intricate balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbes, especially in the context of our immune system. 2, 3  In order to properly frame just how rudimentary our knowledge is within this arena, a recent study has suggested that our appendix is responsible for producing microbes to influence our critical microbiota balance. 4  You may recall the long withstanding hypothesis for the appendix as a useless organ inexplicably left behind by evolution; supporting its frequent surgical removal in the case of inflammation.

GlutenFreeInternational research has identified a particular group of microbes that seem important for gut health and a balanced immune system, dubbed the ‘Clostridial Clusters’.  Of particular interest is the apparent direct relationship between certain members of this cluster and cells that prevent immune overreaction, called regulatory T cells, or Tregs.  Studies have demonstrated that without these Treg cells, mice are unusually prone to inflammatory disease.  Inflammation mediates and is the primary driver of many medical disorders and autoimmune diseases (including cancer 5), as well as many cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and infectious diseases. 6   One of the questions central to microbiome research is why people in modern society, who are relatively free of infectious diseases, a major cause of inflammation, are so prone to inflammatory, autoimmune and allergic diseases.  Many now suspect that society-wide shifts in our microbial communities have contributed to our seemingly hyper-reactive immune systems. 7

Given the recent and dramatic rise in chronic inflammatory conditions and the uncanny statistical correlation with the introduction of glyphosate, I would say it’s time to reconsider our position on the subject.  I know I have.

(Incidentally this is only one of additional published studies currently available on PubMed demonstrating the effects of glyphosate on the microbiota of animal models.)

allergies

Battle of the ‘Sensies’ – The Rotation Diet

Perhaps the most confounding problem surrounding extreme food/chemical sensitivities is that the very nutrient rich whole foods intended to heal – can make us incredibly ill!  My daughter is a ‘Sensie’.  Her food and chemical sensitivities are extensive, too many to count or track.  My husband jokes that she’s allergic to carbon, and perhaps they don’t make ‘this stuff’ on her planet.  (Incidentally, only the parents of sick kids are allowed to crack jokes on the topic.)

Ultimately we’ve had to remove all detergents, lotions, soaps, oils, even certain fabrics and we use only the mildest forms of soaps on necessary things like her dishes, the carpet, etc.  When it comes to food, that is an entirely separate epic battle.  I finally came to conclusion that it was not a matter of IF she reacted to a food, but WHEN.  I had heard the term ‘Rotation Diet’ before and never gave it much thought until it occurred to me that we had been able to successfully trial foods on her for a day, sometimes even up to a week before they generated a reaction.  So what if I fed her the same thing for only 24 hours, switched the menu, and then did not feed her those items again for a couple days?  Nothing else was working, so why not give it a shot?

spinIn a nutshell, this is how a rotation diet works:  All foods are placed into various categories and you only eat foods from a particular set of categories for a select period of time (usually 24 hours).  Then you select foods from a different set of categories for the following 24 hours, and so on.  Eventually you circle around and repeat the cycle, usually every 4-8 days.  I decided I had enough variety to cover 4 days worth of different category meals, and make them healthy and balanced.  I have to say it was quite liberating building her Rotation Menu.  Never before had I been able to select foods without hyper-analyzing their food chemical or allergen content potential, only to typically dismiss them as an option.  Instead, I was actually able to consider the health benefits and variety – it was fantastic!

It’s been 1-2 months now on the new rotation diet consisting of purees, meat/vegetable broths, and oils.  I’ve had to tweak the menu a bit to suit her tastes, but so far things are going really well.  It certainly has not been an overnight change, but there are consistent subtle improvements.  Her appetite has been fantastic (eating has been an issue for us in the past), her bowel movements have become normal and healthy, and her moods and sleeping are improved, too.  I’ve even been able to start using shea butter as a lotion on her!  After receiving the thumbs up from both her integrative MD and ND on my food choices, I thought I would share the menu in the chance it is helpful to other Sensies out there, and those of you with Sensie little ones.

There are a few basic guidelines I kept in mind when selecting her menu:

  • No gluten, legumes (including soy), or dairy (except camel’s milk).  Whoa, wait…did I just read ‘camels milk’?  Weird I know, but it’s different in some very significant ways from cow’s and goat’s dairy, and you can read more on that topic here.
  • Low Glutamates and low Histamine – That means I stuck with 2-4 hour meat stocks rather than bone broths (more on that here).  Everything is made fresh (when possible), then frozen immediately, and consumed within 8 days (2 rotations).
  • A healthy balance of Omega 3/6/9 – Fats are so critical! 1  Generally, Americans get way too much Omega 6 (vegetable fats) and not enough Omega 3. 2  Everyone is different, but a good rule of thumb is a 4 to 1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fats.  (Western diets typically consume a ratio of 16 to 1 – Omega 6 to Omega 3 fats!)  If you’re vegan/vegetarian or feed your child a vegan/vegetarian diet, please keep this ratio in mind and seek out appropriate and sufficient sources of Omega 3 fats.  (Check out this informative video for more facts on scientists’ recent erroneous vilification of saturated fats.  Incidentally, it is my personal opinion that the adjustment of Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio accounts for the immediate improvement many people experience when initially adopting a Paleo diet.)
  • Low oxidative stress (high in antioxidants)
  • Alkaline
  • I did not introduce food items to which she had previously demonstrated an acute/immediate reaction (such as spinach and corn).
Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4
Carrot/Celery & Banana PureeChard & Pear & Avocado PureeSquash/Zucchini & Peaches/Cherry PureeKale/Broccoli/Collard Greens & Sweet Potato & Wild Blueberry/Strawberry Puree
Carrot/Celery JuiceChard BrothSquash/Zucchini BrothKale/Broccoli/Collard Greens/Sweet Potato Broth
Bison BrothLamb BrothTurkey Broth (replaced chicken following lab results indicating low Tryptophan)Camel's Milk
Hemp Seed OilOlive OilFish Oil (Carlsons)Sunflower Oil

I also have plans to introduce crackers from the Anti-Grain apple, squash, and sweet potato flours, because they conveniently fit in 3 different food categories.

Some tips on preparation:

  • All produce gets a thorough washing in an ACV and water bath.  I also use this opportunity to inspect the produce and remove any ‘unhealthy’ looking parts.
  • Purees – Gently cook produce at 250 degrees with just a wee bit of water, for as long as it takes to get slightly soft.  Remember ‘low and slow’, when it comes to cooking to ensure we preserve as many of the delicate enzymes and nutrients as possible.  Be sure to include the liquid left behind from baking in your puree because it’s packed full of nutrients!  Many of the fruits can be blended as-is and don’t require any cooking.
  • Whenever possible I juice the produce rather than preparing a broth, for a much more nutrient rich option.
  • Removing the skin/seeds and ensuring adequate ripeness will reduce the phenol (food chemical) content of the produce.
  • Try to stick with organic/non-GMO produce and organic/grass-fed meat and dairy products whenever possible.  Check out your local farmers market for regional options which can be more budget-friendly than the natural grocery stores.
  • Wild blueberries are higher in antioxidants than farmed blueberries.

My preferred tools for the job(s):

  • Food Categories Guide
  • Nutri Ninja – I love this for the purees.  Its quick, powerful, and very easy to clean!  I also use it to make my own smoothies.  I do not believe the containers are BPA free so be sure the contents have cooled to room temperature or colder before you blend.  Another tip is to slowly add the liquid in between mixing, this will help break up the fibers and also ensure you don’t get a puree that’s too watered down.
  • Breville Juicer – I don’t have a lot of experience with juicers, but wanted something that was BPA free and did not heat the juice in any way.  My only complaint is that this thing is a pain to clean.
  • Pyrex Cookware – It’s glass and made in the USA.

Immune Dysfunction: Where Does it Come From?

DNAMethylationStudies are consistently showing that DNA Methylation controls the triggers of all things immune system related, effectively determining the onset of an infinite number of conditions.  These conditions can be the result of an overactive immune system (food/chemical sensitivities, EE, MCAD, Autoimmune disorders) or a weakened immune system (viral infections, cancer, bacterial overgrowth).  Immune Dysfunction can also include neurological implications (NeuroImmune) including Autism, ADHD, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and vertigo.

Treating the immediate symptomatic conditions is important, but treating the root of the conditions by correcting DNA Methylation pathways within the body is equally important in order to ensure long term healing.  Treatments which only consider the immediate symptom and jeopardize DNA Methylation are ultimately counterproductive.  Typically those practitioners who are well versed in functional medicine consider the entire system when evaluating treatment options, so as not to do long term harm for the sake of short term good.

The practice of optimizing DNA Methylation pathways is still a relatively new concept and difficult to pin down, given the bio-individuality of each patient.  The dose and timing of a supplement that is optimal for me, may not be the dose, timing or even type of supplement that is optimal for my daughter.  Even though we share much of the same DNA, her individual experiences and exposures will alter which of her problematic genes are expressing/activated (a concept known as epigenetics).

DNA testing can serve as a good starting point, but you will need a practitioner to interpret the results and conduct appropriate laboratory testing to help determine which of your genes may be expressing and how to proceed with treatments.  The MTHFR variant is the most well-known DNA Methylation gene, but it is only one of many which influence the productivity of DNA Methylation pathways.

The real conundrum:  How are these compromised DNA Methylation pathways affecting our children so early in life?  Are these fully expressed genes being transferred maternally as-is to our children?  Or are they suffering from the implications of the gene expression in Mom (food/chemical sensitivities, nutrient deficiency, reduced oxidation, etc.) during pregnancy and immediately following birth?  How long after birth do the genes potentially become activated, or silenced?  One thing seems certain; the best prevention is ensuring a healthy DNA Methylation cycle in mom and dad before conception and during pregnancy.