Monthly Archives: November 2014

Gut bacteria may play a role in eating disorders

428 gut bacteria and eating disorders

Eating disorders affect an estimated 5 to 10 percent of the population and are generally thought to be a psychological disorder. However, new research from France shows gut bacteria can also play a role in causing eating disorders. The study showed eating disorders developed in mice who had an immune reaction to a protein made by gut bacteria. Basically they reacted to these proteins as if they had an allergy or sensitivity to them. The protein made by the gut bacteria is very similar in structure to a satiety hormone called alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (a-MSH). When the immune system reacts to the protein it reacts to the a-MSH too because they are so similar. This reaction causes the immune system to attack a-MSH, which regulates feeding, energy usage, and anxiety.

Mistaken identity and friendly fire by the immune system

When a pathogen, such as infectious bacteria, is similar to a tissue or hormone in the body and the immune system can’t distinguish between the two and attacks both, this is called cross-reactivity. It is a very common cause of autoimmune reactions. For instance, gluten, the protein in wheat, cross-reacts with tissue in the brain. Many people with gluten sensitivity develop neurological disorders because when the immune system attacks ingested gluten it attacks the brain too, confusing it with gluten. The same holds true for dairy and some cases of type 1 diabetes, and other foods and autoimmune diseases. This study opens the door to the possibility that eating disorders may have an immune component at their root driving the psychological disorder.

Ways to address an unhealthy relationship with eating nutritionally

Although serious eating disorders are complex and require intensive therapy, certain nutritional strategies can help you obtain a more balanced approach to eating and food. The key is to follow a diet that fosters healthy brain chemistry.

Eliminate processed carbohydrates from your diet as they are addictive and skew brain chemistry in the way other addictive substances do. This can foster an unhealthy relationship with food.

Eating to keep blood sugar stable is a vital component to curbing cravings, obsessions with food, and a constant feeling of hunger. Avoid sweet, starchy foods, coffee drinks and energy drinks, going too long without eating, and relying on coffee for breakfast. Many people need to eat small, protein-dense meals frequently in the beginning to stabilize blood sugar.

It’s also important to base your diet on plenty of vegetables — research shows a plant-based diet affects the composition of gut bacteria and affects energy usage and fat storage in a way that promotes being slender naturally — without having to obsess over it.

Supporting your neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that affect mood and brain function, can also help you stabilize your approach to eating. Your brain may need serotonin or dopamine support. Serotonin is important to feel joy and ward off depression, while dopamine support may be helpful to feel motivation and ward off cravings. Both have been shown to play a role in eating disorders.

Ask my office for more advice on how to support a healthier approach to balanced, obsession-free eating.

BPAs in store receipts can trigger autoimmunity and other health issues

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BPA (bisphenol-A) is gaining recognition as an undesirable toxin that people now try to avoid in plastics, particularly water bottles. But it’s harder to avoid than you think – research shows handling those seemingly innocuous store receipts quickly raises blood levels of BPA and that BPA may play a role in autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s.

Be aware of BPA on store receipts when you have Hashimoto’s 

Store and fast food receipts, ATM receipts, airline tickets, gas station receipts, and other thermal papers use large amounts of BPA on the surface as a print developer. Holding a receipt coated with BPA for just five seconds is enough to transfer it to your skin and if your fingers are wet or greasy about 10 times as much is transferred. Having hand sanitizers, lotions, or sunscreen on your hands also increases the amount of BPA your body takes in from receipts. Cash stored with receipts in a wallet also become contaminated with BPA that raises blood levels when handled.

Why BPA is bad for health

So why should you care? BPA has estrogen-like qualities that meddle with hormone function and become a toxic burden. In rodents BPA has been proven to cause reproductive defects, cancer, and metabolic and immune problems. BPA is particularly threatening to a developing fetus as it can cause chromosomal errors, miscarriage, and genetic damage. In children and adults BPA is linked to decreased sperm quality, early puberty and early breast development, ovarian and reproductive dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, thyroid problems, insulin resistance, and obesity.

BPA and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Recent research also links BPA to the triggering and flaring of autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. BPA does this because it stimulates and disrupts various pathways in the immune system, which raises the risk of triggering autoimmune disease or flare-ups.

Where BPA is found

BPA is the main component of polycarbonate and is also found in water and beverage bottles, plastic lids, the lining of tin cans, food storage containers, dental sealants, contact lenses, and electronics. BPA contamination from canned foods is significant. One study found a person who eats canned soup versus fresh soup receives 1,000 percent more BPA because it is in the lining of the can. Plastics exposed to heat, light, or acids (such as soda) release considerably more BPA. Eating from a microwaved plastic container and drinking hot coffee through a plastic coffee lid, sugary soda from a plastic water bottle, or water from a plastic bottle that has been sitting in the sun are examples of ways you will increase your exposure to BPA.

BPA-free is no guarantee

Given the documented health risks it poses, BPA has been banned from use in baby bottles and sippy cups and many companies now offer BPA-free products. Unfortunately, researchers have found many non-BPA plastics still have synthetic estrogens similar to BPA. Some even have more. Basically, if it’s plastic, it’s a problem–- 95 percent of all plastic products can disrupt hormones, even if they carry a “BPA-free” label. Also, be aware that some metal water bottles are lined with plastic, negating the purpose of avoiding a plastic water bottle.

Reduce your exposure to BPA to better manage Hashimoto’s

It’s important to reduce your exposure to BPA as much as possible. Minimize use of plastics and especially avoid drinking or eating from heated plastic. Maintaining healthy gut bacteria with cultured and fermented foods such as kimchi and taking probiotics is believed to help mitigate the absorption of BPA and help degrade it in the body.

Ask my office for advice on better managing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. 

Teens need enough sleep as much as they need air, water, and food

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Teens burn through life because, well, they can, and research shows two out of three teens are severely sleep deprived. But what teens and the adults in their lives don’t realize is that sleep deprivation raises the risk of car accidents and driving fatalities (driving sleepy is as bad as driving drunk), obesity, diabetes, depression, risk-taking behavior, and suicidal ideation. It also raises the risk of the very adult diseases of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Studies show sleep deprivation also impairs judgment, impulse control, and good decision making, areas where teens are already compromised due to incomplete brain development. Lack of sleep hinders proper development of these skills.

Teenagers need at least 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night and research shows only a small minority meet that requirement. The rest are short changing themselves by two or more hours a night, a significant loss to a body and brain that are still developing and need that precious downtime to rest, regenerate, and grow.

Lack of sleep not only raises health risks but it also robs teens of cognition, good mood, optimal well-being, and even safety. One study showed that the driving accident rate among teens was 41 percent higher in a school that started at 7:20 a.m. than a nearby school district where classes began at 8:40.

Later school starts, which allow for more sleep, have also been shown to improve student test scores and grade point averages; researchers also noted that well rested students were able to finish their homework faster.

Sleep deprivation in teens has been linked to a threefold increase in suicide attempts as well, and depression goes up with sleep loss. Another startling finding showed that for each hour of sleep lost, the odds of obesity goes up 80 percent.

Not only do teenagers need more sleep than adults, their internal sleep-wake cycle shifts by as much as two hours after puberty, making it harder for them to fall asleep early. A teenager who manages to fall asleep by 11 p.m. — already a long shot — should not be getting up until 8 a.m. It’s no wonder so many teachers say their students are “useless” during morning classes. Adding to the problem is that many teens are overscheduled, with sports, dance, jobs, and other activities running late into the night before homework has even started.

Another impediment to sleep, and one that parents didn’t have to grapple with when they were teens, is the intrusion of smart phones and other screens. Texting and social media compel teens to keep each other up, as can video games and favorite shows on tablets and TVs. Not only do these devices distract teens from getting to bed on time, the blue light emitted from such screens suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone. An electronics curfew each night can help teens get more sleep.

Teens typically spend the weekends getting caught up on sleep, which, unfortunately, throws their internal clocks out of whack and can promote a jet lag state that makes for brutal Monday mornings.

Ask my office about nutritional and dietary support that can help bolster your and your teen’s attempts to get enough sleep.

Boost brain function with PQQ when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

PQQ

By now you’ve probably heard of CoQ10 and it’s anti-aging potential. The newest discovery in the world of anti-aging and brain health is PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone). PQQ works inside your cells like CoQ10 by defending them from damage. But what sets PQQ apart is that it can also energize your cells so they function better. This is done by PQQ’s ability to enhance mitochondrial function. For the person with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, this could help battle brain fog, depression, and memory loss.

Mitochondria are tiny compartments inside the body’s cells that are often referred to as the cell’s batteries or energy factories. Just as low battery power can cause the lights on a flashlight to slowly dim, so can poor mitochondrial function drain us of energy and function — issues the person with Hashimoto’s can understand.

PQQ and health

Poor mitochondrial function is a key marker of aging. Research shows people over the age of 70 have 50 percent more mitochondrial damage in the brain than those who are middle-aged. Mitochondrial dysfunction is also linked to chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dementia and Alzheimer’s.

PQQ is found in the natural world, including in plants and even in stardust. However, because we cannot synthesize it ourselves we depend on getting it from out diets, which makes it an essential micronutrient. Studies show that animals deprived of PQQ exhibit stunted growth, poor immunity, reproductive problems, and fewer mitochondria in their tissues. Putting PQQ back into their diets reversed these issues.

PQQ is also unique because it is a very stable antioxidant, which means it can perform it’s cellular defense duties without breaking down. It has been shown to be especially effective in the heart and the brain, the body’s two most energy-demanding organs. This could make PQQ helpful to the person with Hashimoto’s battling brain fog, depression, and memory loss. 

PQQ, the brain, and Hashimoto’s

Studies of PQQ have shown it can optimize the health of the entire central nervous system, reverse cognitive impairment, improve memory, help in stroke recovery, slow the damage caused by neurodegenerative disease  and help protect the brain from toxicity, such as from mercury. These qualities make it very beneficial for the person with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Because of its many protective roles, researchers and clinicians are looking at PQQ’s preventive role in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. One study on aging rats showed supplementation with PQQ resulted in significantly improved memory. Studies on humans showed supplementation of 20 mg a day of PQQ improved cognition in middle-aged and elderly people. The improvements were amplified when they also took 300 mg a day of CoQ10 in addition to the PQQ. As people with Hashimoto’s are at higher risk for neurodegeneration, PQQ could play an important preventive role. 

To learn more about PQQ and how it may help you and to learn more about how to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, contact my office.