Are Food Sensitivities Behind Your Symptoms?

Aside

The other day I had another reminder about the significant effect food has on our health. A patient who had been medicated for years for daily acid reflux and nasal congestion, tried an elimination diet for only 3 weeks. Essentially all her symptoms of reflux and sinus inflammation resolved! Inadvertently, even her rosacea improved! Her hsCRP blood test had for years been showing whole-body inflammation  (associated with high risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease). But after 3 weeks of the protocol, she went from a high risk level to a very low risk level!

So what’s an elimination diet?

The elimination diet is a protocol used to identify foods in our diet that may be causing or aggravating headaches, sinus inflammation, abdominal pain, gas and bloating, fatigue, mood changes, skin rashes and hives, eczema, acid reflux, constipation or diarrhea, joint pain, brain fog, wheezing, palpitations and many other symptoms.

Sometimes the adverse reactions to foods are obvious to us (such as when it changes our breathing or causes a skin rash). However, food reactions can occur up to 3 days after eating the food triggers so often symptoms are hard to track and difficult to correlate to foods. Generally the protocol involves eliminating common food allergens for a short period of time and watching to see if any symptoms improve. This is followed by systematically reintroducing the foods and observing responses to each food group to identify which foods are associated with which symptom(s). As you can imagine, this program involves careful planning, guidance and monitoring so make sure to do this under the supervision of a physician. Also, this protocol is NOT for suspected anaphylactic reactions (closing up of the throat and difficulty breathing) caused by foods.

I have heard some people say “I would rather not know if certain foods are bothering me because that means I can’t eat it!” That’s not necessarily the case. Often times, once we identify foods that exacerbate symptoms, we avoid them for a period of time to allow the gut lining to heal. After this break period, sometimes those foods we were previously sensitive to are well tolerated. Either way, knowing our body’s responses, we can choose to manage our food sensitivities to our comfort level.

What a great reminder: before jumping to therapies to suppress symptoms, in non-urgent cases, let’s always investigate our basic daily practices, such as diet, to improve symptoms from the inside out.

Advertisements

How to get better blood glucose control and improve your mood

A study published last week on 40 patients with Type II Diabetes showed naturopathic care decreased blood glucose to a greater degree than the control group with conventional care only. Not only did HbA1c improve more with naturopathic care, “self monitoring of glucose, diet, self efficacy, motivation and mood” also improved. These results were seen after one year with an average of only 4 naturopathic care visits during that year. Although randomized clinical trials are needed to show if naturopathic care is responsible for these improvements, these initial findings are very promising for naturopathic medicine’s effective role in diabetes management!

Check out the article on PubMed: Adjunctive naturopathic care for type 2 diabetes: patient-reported and clinical outcomes after one year. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Apr 18;12(1):44.

Preventing Diabetes and Improving Its Management

Aside

What a huge event! The Diabetes Expo held at the Trade and Convention Center in downtown Seattle brought thousands who were motivated to improve their health and curious to learn more! Thanks to everyone who visited us!

Naturopathic medicine’s emphasis on healthful diet and physical activity was definitely well-received! I loved hearing story after story of people who had significantly changed their eating habits and had really seen their own or their loved ones’ blood glucose improve. How inspiring!

We performed hundreds of HbA1c screening tests. For many with diabetes, this was a routine check of their long term blood glucose levels, but for many others, the test was their first indication that they were heading towards diabetes. What a perfect time to incorporate healthful proteins at breakfast, more (non-starchy) vegetables at each meal and incorporate fun, physical activity! Thanks for letting me be a part of your health journey!

The Trick with Protein

Unlike vitamins and minerals, most people in North America actually eat more protein than recommended (American Dietetic Association recommends 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight – so that’s about 55-75g of protein a day for most adults). So if people are getting enough, why am I talking about it? There’s a trick with protein: source and distribution.

Most of us eat most of our protein later in the day (at dinner time). If we redistribute protein intake throughout the day (say 20g of protein at each meal) we can better control our weight, maintain muscle mass, maintain energy and blood sugar levels and prevent sugar cravings. So for many of us, this means, redistributing protein to breakfast and lunch. How do we do this?

All animal proteins are “complete” (meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids). However, higher animal protein intake has been associated with higher diabetes risk. So the key to increasing protein is to add a variety of plant-based protein sources (which are NOT associated with diabetes risk). (Combining grains with beans or legumes allows us to get complete protein sources.) Whole grains, nuts and seeds come with lots of protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. A 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds will instantly add 14g of protein to your morning oatmeal. How about just substituting the butter on your toast with a nut butter (like almond, peanut or cashew)? This substitution alone will cut the increase in blood sugar by half!

Other sources of protein that come with additional benefits: salmon and sardines contain anti-inflammatory omega 3 oils; low-fat yogurt is a significant source of protein plus it comes with probiotics; try some good quality organ meats as well! They’re packed with vitamins and minerals that are hard to get elsewhere.

Try to avoid processed sources of protein such as cured ham and deli meats. Also any foods high in salt and chemicals (like nitrates) as these can increase risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Remember: protein recommendations vary with the individual’s physical activity level and kidney health; consult your naturopathic physician or dietitian to determine optimum protein amounts and protein sources.

Diabetes Event – Don’t Miss This!

Is my current lifestyle leading to diabetes? or preventing diabetes?

What’s the best way to manage my blood sugar?

Come and visit me with the Bastyr Center for Natural Health’s Diabetes and Cardiovascular Wellness Team at this year’s Diabetes Expo in Seattle!! It’s a free event with health screenings, cooking demonstrations, fun fitness demonstrations, expert talks by researchers, medical doctors and naturopathic doctors and LOTS of exhibits! Learn about the latest research on prevention and management of diabetes.

Saturday, April 21, 2012 from 9am to 3pm at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center North Halls 4E/F

American Diabetes Association – Diabetes Expo in Seattle

Looking forward to seeing you there!