Healthy Eating

Anti-Inflammatory Diet For Pain Relief

Diet For Pain Relief
If you’ve been trying to reduce overall aches and pains but have hit a bit of a roadblock, you might be able to move the needle by making a few small dietary changes. Some main dietary contributors that can increase pain are a lack of hydration, insufficient fiber, and too many processed foods. Making a few changes in just these areas can make a huge difference. Stay Hydrated  About 70 percent of the body including muscles and joints is made up of water. Not drinking enough water leads to dehydration, causing your muscles and joints to become less lubricated and stiff. It can also lead to faster degeneration of the spine and the discs over time. Not drinking enough can also lead to headaches, low blood pressure, and insufficient fluids to flush toxins out of the body, which can lead to more pain and inflammation. Mineral levels are also depleted when you are dehydrated. Due to their importance for the basic function and repair of many systems in your body, supplementation may be required if you’re not replacing these minerals within your diet. Fiber Slowly increasing your fiber intake (along with water) can help reduce inflammation, which can subsequently reduce pain. Eating fiber pulls sugar out of the body (that’s a good thing); sugar increases inflammation and leads to other physiological problems that may also contribute to increased pain in the body. Fiber also cleans out the intestines to ensure we don't have food and waste lingering for too long and getting reabsorbed into the body. Processed Foods  Another huge contributor to inflammation is processed foods, which the body will eventually break down into sugar. I encourage you to take a look at your diet and log your food for a week or two (yes, there are apps for that). You may be surprised at how much sugar is being consumed, even though you’re not eating anything sweet!  “While it’s beneficial to remove or swap out inflammatory foods, you can increase some anti-inflammatory foods as well.”  These days, a lot of our foods are highly processed even if we cook everything at home. Most flour, for example, is processed to some degree, with white and bleached flour being the most processed. Switching to a more fiber-rich flour (such as a whole grain), or reducing flour usage in general, might be worth trying if you’ve been cooking with it in excess. Cooking oils are also inflammatory, but avocado or olive oil are two of the better options. Using avocado oil for higher-heat cooking and olive oil for lower heat is best. You can also include coconut oil and butter in moderation for medium-heat cooking or baking. Switching from the more inflammatory oils like vegetable, corn, canola, sunflower, grapeseed, and safflower—as well as margarine—to these better choices could make a difference in your inflammation and pain levels over time.  While it’s beneficial to remove or swap out inflammatory foods, you can increase some anti-inflammatory foods as well. These fiber-rich nutrient foods include cruciferous veggies, greens, nuts and seeds, berries, and fatty fish (follow the acronym SMASH: sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, and herring). There are some spices you can use in your cooking and baking that may help too, such as turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, or garlic. If you would like a more structured approach to eating or more guidance, the Mediterranean diet or a whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB) might be right for you. Even within these diets’ guidelines, there may be ways to customize the foods you eat to make them specific to your needs. Nutrition and diet are very individualized when taking into account a person’s specific conditions and symptoms, so it’s worthwhile to consult with your healthcare practitioner to figure out what works for you. Remember, what’s good for your Aunt Minnie, may not be right for you.

Healthy Eating Tips For Veggie Haters

Healthy Eating Tips
During my years in practice, I’ve realized that for many people, visiting a dietitian does not sound like fun. Unfortunately, some of my sisters and brothers in dietetics have established a bad reputation for themselves. I’ll never forget one of my first appointments as a newly-fledged dietitian with a client who was not interested in being there. “What are you going to do—write down everything I say and then tell me what I’m doing wrong?” she asked. Cue the eye roll. But I get it. If you’re already struggling with eating healthy, the last thing you need is someone telling you you’re doing everything wrong and that you need to completely overhaul your diet. The advice given by health and wellness experts is not always relatable either; I’ve seen plenty of examples of this. I follow a fitness instructor on social media who recently suggested that people with a sweet tooth should munch on cherry tomatoes when they have a craving since they have a slightly sweet flavour. “Healthy eating tips” like that frustrate me because I know that for most people, they will actually have the opposite effect. Expecting to never eat sweets and only eat vegetables will just set a person up for intense cravings, followed by immense guilt when they give in to those cravings. I’d rather see health professionals be honest and realistic with their clients. It’s a lot easier to eat healthy when you know you’re allowed to be human. You don’t have to turn into a complete veggie lover to improve your diet. I’m proof of that. I am not a fan of the taste of raw vegetables. Hand to my heart, it’s the honest truth. I have my reasons for being “frenemies” with raw veggies—maybe you can relate to some of them. First, there’s the taste. I’ve never liked bitter flavours, and veggies like broccoli and kale taste so bitter to me when they’re raw. Then, there are the potential unpleasant stomach issues that arise after eating large amounts of uncooked vegetables—the bloating, gas, and loose bowel movements are not so fun. Lastly, I don’t find that vegetables satisfy my hunger. If I eat a salad for lunch, it won’t hold me over until dinnertime.  If you can relate to any of these veggie-related problems, don’t worry. Despite these issues, I’ve figured out how to include vegetables in my daily diet while keeping my tastebuds and body happy. Don’t Like The Taste? Try This . . .  The key to adding more veggies to your diet when you don’t like the taste is to go on a flavour exploration. The easiest way to do this is to try out a variety of cuisines. Check out the restaurants in your area, or go online to find recipes for dishes from different cultures. Exploring cuisines will help you determine what makes a dish taste good to you, which you can then apply to your own cooking. This will help to improve the taste and appeal of vegetables for you. For example, when trying Indian dishes, you might discover that you prefer your veggies to be cooked with hot, spicy flavours; you might enjoy the tangy salads from Mediterranean cultures; or perhaps you like the umami flavour of a Thai stir fry.  “If you don’t know how to make veggies taste good, you aren’t going to eat them.”  While you’re taking note of the flavours you like, also pay attention to textures and colours. Do you like your veggies to be crunchy or soft? Do you prefer to eat veggies on their own or incorporate them in a mixed dish? Are brightly coloured vegetables appealing to you, or do you prefer dark greens? These may seem like rudimentary questions, but they are important to answer. If you don’t know how to make veggies taste good, you aren’t going to eat them. So, give a lot of thought to what you enjoy and apply those concepts to your grocery shopping and cooking at home. Stomach Issues . . .  The discomfort that happens in your stomach after eating a bunch of raw veggies is the result of a fibre overload. When we’re not used to eating a lot of fibre, the microbes in the colon have a heyday with the influx of insoluble fibre found in veggies. These microbes ferment the insoluble fibre that our body’s cells can’t break down, causing it to produce large amounts of gas and organic acids—the culprits behind bloating and loose stools. However, there are a few things you can do to prevent these unpleasant side effects. Whenever you’re introducing something new to your diet, be sure to start slow and gradual, and build from there. If you’re not used to eating veggies regularly and suddenly start eating them at every meal, you’re definitely in for some gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort. I suggest adding vegetables to your diet one serving at a time. If you aren’t in the habit of eating them, begin by having one serving of veggies each day. Give yourself a solid two weeks to adjust to this change. If your gut is feeling happy, introduce another serving of vegetables to your d ...

Xymogen’s VegaPro – A Clean Vegan Protein that is GMO-Free and Sugar-Free

Xymogen’s VegaPro
Xymogen not only offers supplements for addressing a range of medical concerns and health conditions, but also produces a high-quality vegan protein powder that is bioavailable and free of unnecessary ingredients.   High-quality dietary protein is vital for helping the body to sustain proper function and metabolism. Amino acids from dietary protein are needed in various physiological processes, and help to regulate digestion, detoxification, and hormone production.  Xymogen’s “VegaPro” protein is a clean vegan protein that is GMO-free and sugar-free, and designed to offer customers a completely “clean,” unmodified plant-based option that can be easily incorporated into any kind of diet or lifestyle.  VegaPro is available in a 14 serving size container, with one scoop equal to 21 g, and provides 17 g of protein and 80 calories.  VegaPro is a blend featuring pea protein isolate, rice protein concentrate, taurine, glycine, and l-glutamine.  Clean High-Quality Protein, with Added Amino Acids L-glutamine, glycine, and taurine have been added – all of which have demonstrated clinical efficacy in supporting cardiovascular health, glucose tolerance, and intestinal health. These three non-essential amino acids are often found to be deficient in those with immune system disorders, those recovering from chronic illness, or those with digestive disorders. Providing additional, plant-based amino acids can help support the maintenance of immune cells and metabolic function.  At around 93% - 94% digestibility, pea protein is considered to be highly digestible, and meets the same standards of animal-derived protein like beef, whey, or milk.  The amino acid profile for pea protein and rice protein concentrate are ‘complete’ when combined together in this formula, providing a high amount of important amino acids like arginine, lysine, aspartic acid, and leucine.  Those that want a protein free of sugar (including lactose), sugar alcohols (xylitol or Stevia), flavorings, gluten, and animal products (including dairy) look no further than Xymogen’s VegaPro! VegaPro also offers practitioners and regular customers alike a degree of flexibility not found in many other types of protein powders on the market. Given that the main goal of Xymogen’s pea + rice protein blend is an easily digestible plant-based protein, with no other additives, any concerns over interactions with herbal supplements or nutraceuticals can be avoided. Completely free of sugar and flavoring, the protein can be added to plain water, a smoothie, or any other kind of beverage easily. You can choose to disguise or mask the taste if needed.

EGCG – The Best “Fat Burner?"

EGCG
Is green tea extract all it has been cracked up to be? Long touted for the ability to help ‘burn fat,’ ‘boost’ metabolism, and help protect against cancer – green tea extract has faced a lot of criticism for potential “dangers” associated with the health supplement, while many others simply declare it a fad. What is “EGCG,” and What Are Catechins? First, it is important to mention the ‘catechins’ in green tea extract – which are the compounds associated with all of the reported health concerns. Catechins are part of the family of flavonoids. These phenols, antioxidants, are phytochemicals that naturally exist in foods such as tea, berries, and legumes. They are healthful and thought to be responsible for the health-promoting properties in teas. Catechins seem to possess protective qualities in terms of degenerative diseases and cancers. Some of these compounds, particularly one that is exclusively found in tea – EGCG – have become an area of research and debate as to their safety and efficacy. Green tea, in particular, seems to contain the highest levels of catechins. The primary catechins in green tea are EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), EC (epicatechin), GC (gallocatechin), and ECG (Epicatechin gallate). EGCG, for example, is only found in tea. Should I Be Worried About Liver Function? Concerns have arisen concerning liver toxicity with high-dose, long-term use of EGCG in particular due to the way catechins are processed in the body when consumed in high amounts. Research does show that a dose of over 866 mg EGCG per day, when used long-term, could potentially be harmful to the liver. However, studies using under 800 mg did not correlate to any liver toxicity or damage, while the average intake from tea drinkers is estimated to be 90 to 300mg (not from supplements, but just ol’ fashioned tea infusions). After a review of 38 different studies, it was concluded that doses of or above 800 mg EGCG for longer than 4 months were associated with markers of liver toxicity in a small percentage (10%) of the population. Studies showed that there was no reported liver toxicity at levels below 800 mg EGCG per day when taken for up to 12 months. If more reassurance is needed, hepatotoxicity from Green Tea Extract is quite rare, and in the cases in which it was reported, once the large doses of EGCG were stopped, liver function resolved fully after discontinuation. There is no documentation of fatal injury from EGCG or Green Tea Extract, even at doses of up to 1,800 mg per day. For most people, using the supplement at the recommended dosage (typically 200 mg – 600 mg) for a period of 1-3 months is not causing concern, provided they have been cleared by their doctor or physician to do so. Of course, if you have a pre-existing liver injury, EGCG and Green Tea Extract may not be the right supplement for you. Most supplements are sold at a dosage of 400 mg Green Tea Extract, which often contains ~200 mg EGCG (50%) – well below the threshold for safety limits. Real Benefits to EGCG and Catechins from Green Tea Extract Tea has always been renowned for its weight loss benefits, and for promoting longevity. Most of these benefits can be ascribed to the polyphenol antioxidant content of teas – particularly from catechins. Studies in animal trials and exploring weight loss in people show promising results, with numerous published studies reaffirming the traditional beliefs in the effects of green tea on body composition, cancer prevention, and longevity. The first study shows that even in rats fed a high-fat diet for a period of 6 months, those that were also given EGCG were able to reduce body fat while increasing lean mass, glucose tolerance, and better fat synthesis. There were also no negative effects on liver tissue reported. In the second study, 690 mg catechins were consumed for 12 weeks, and body weight, waist size, body fat, and total fat all were dramatically lower in the EGCG group compared to the control, without any other change. These studies, among many others, display Green Tea Extract and EGCG – catechins – ability to help in reducing body fat and improve metabolic health markers all-around.

Colloidal Silver – Is it Safe, and Does it Work for Infections?

Colloidal Silver for Infection
First of all, yes, it does work for certain infections – colloidal silver has proven anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties.  This is promising news, considering the harm and dangers of antibiotics + antimicrobial resistance. Silver has long been used to address bacteria / bacterial infections for centuries, and has known active properties against both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria.  Colloidal silver presents an effective treatment option for those looking to deal with a bacterial or viral infection – of course, this should always be done after consultation with a healthcare practitioner and should not be used to replace antibiotics in more serious bouts of illness or infection.  Now, is colloidal silver safe?  Most information out there online regarding colloidal silver seems to be conflicting and confusing at best – there are countless testimonials from people claiming silver helped them through severe infections or the first sign of illness. At the same time, there are plenty of well-known health sites or regulatory bodies that warn about safety concerns (like the FDA).  First, let us establish that colloidal silver is a “solution” of water that contains the suspended silver in nanometer-sized particles that are readily absorbed. The total silver content of the solution should be expressed on the supplement you purchase as “ppm” or parts per million. This is the same as mg of silver per liter of water (mg/L). Silver has been used as an antibiotic up until the early 1940s – this is thanks to various processes that occur once silver is ingested. Silver nanoparticles enter bacterial DNA, attach to bacterial cell membranes directly, and block the cellular process known as cellular respiration within the cells of organisms.  Ionic silver is not the same as true colloidal silver. Always ensure you purchase true colloidal silver when looking for a supplement – these do not contain additives, and the solution should only contain nanometer-sized silver particles and purified water.  Colloidal Silver is Safe for the Gut and Does Not Destroy “Good” Gut Bacteria After ~28 Days of Use As for colloidal silver being safe, there is plenty of debate online surrounding the use of silver internally. Those noting adverse effects like argyria (turning blue) are often not referring to pure colloidal silver, but rather low-quality, inexpensive products that contain silver that is not a nanoparticle.  Generally, when used for 10-14 days internally, it was not shown to cause any adverse side effects, nor was it shown to alter the gut microbiome. This means that even after 28 days of reported use, the diversity of “good” gut bacteria was not altered, destroyed, or changed by colloidal silver. This is a huge deal, especially when compared to the impact of traditional antibiotics on the microbiome.  Our stance is that colloidal silver will absolutely work as a potential antibacterial supplement, but it needs to be used/implemented short-term (10-14 days ideally; maximum of 28 days) on a strict dosage as indicated on the product.  Dosing Colloidal Silver, and a Word of Caution When it comes to dosing colloidal silver, most supplements are sold as a liquid tincture with a dropper. Depending on the condition, colloidal silver will be applied differently – generally, most practitioners will recommend against taking it for more than 14 consecutive days at a time.  Dosages may range depending on the concentration of the suspension itself. Always check/consult with the bottle or container for the most accurate dosing instructions.  2-5 drops can be applied topically to the skin for infections, wounds, and irritation.  5-10 drops can be taken internally, per day, for immune system support or to combat an infection. 1-2 drops can be placed in the eye directly for cases of pink eye.  Colloidal silver is always sold as a solution of purified water that contains nanometer particles of suspended silver. While silver has been demonstrated as safe, long-term or excessive prolonged use of colloidal silver may lead to some undesirable side effects – stick to recommended dosages, and only use it for the duration or period of time you need it for (I.E., recovery from a viral infection).  Colloidal silver can be applied topically or ingested internally – ensure to opt for a high-quality pure silver product, such as those sold on our website. 

Marshmallow Root – A Potent Digestive Aid for Better Gut Health

Marshmallow Root
A cursory Google search will prompt plenty of results associating marshmallow root with better digestive health, and “healing” the integrity of the gut for better health. But how exactly does it do this, and does it really work? First, let us touch on what marshmallow root is – before we approach it as a potent digestive aid for better gut health.  Marshmallow root is “Althaea Officinalis,” a perennial herb that is most commonly native to Europe, West Africa, and West Asia.  As an ancient ‘folk remedy,’ with widespread use across Middle Eastern countries, it has been consumed for thousands of years for relief of digestive and respiratory ailments.  Most commonly, it is consumed in capsule, powdered, or tea form – occasionally, you will see alcohol or glycerin-based tinctures. Marshmallow root is also typically added to many ‘natural’ cosmetics and personal care items.  How Marshmallow Root Protects the Lining of the Gut and can Help Restore Optimal Digestive Health In one study from 2011, an extract of marshmallow root was shown to help protect against gastric ulcers, platelet aggregation (clotting), and digestive inflammation. The extract also raised HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) while having no adverse impact on the liver or other health markers.  When ingested, marshmallow root tends to bulk up, and form a gel-like consistency. This extract can help coat the stomach lining.  Both marshmallow root and marshmallow tea – and by extension, supplements that are sold as “marshmallow extract” act as “mucilage.” This means that it sort of swells up when it comes into contact with water, and functions as a kind of fiber.  Naturally, marshmallow root will contain various bioactive compounds, all of which seem to contribute toward beneficiary effects on digestive health: flavonoids, polyphenols, polysaccharides, and phenolic acids.  Various studies proclaim an immediate effect by protecting “inflamed mucosa” or intestinal membrane. This is also seen in the respiratory tract.  Marshmallow Root Dosage and Safety Profile Marshmallow root seems to have a high safety profile, and no negative side effects have been reported in people taking the supplement for colds, flu, cough, sore throat, respiratory issues, digestive issues, or IBD. Generally, the only concern is for those who may have diabetes, as it has been demonstrated to lower blood sugar levels. Otherwise, marshmallow root does not appear to impact any other health markers negatively.  Marshmallow root comes in powders, capsules, tinctures, and tea forms. If you are taking marshmallow root specifically for digestive distress/disorders, your best option is to go for a capsule, alcohol-based tincture, or raw powder/tea. With tinctures, you’ll get the most concentrated dose, and with capsules, you’ll have the most possible control over the among you’re taking compared to teas or powders.  Always stick to the recommended dosage as outlined on the product/bottle itself. The concentration may differ between brands, but the guideline for those with Crohn’s / UC or IBD is around ~6g daily, split into 2-3 daily doses.  If you’re using a powdered form or raw tea, you’ll want to ensure you consume enough water as it can form a more gelatinous substance. As always, you should consult with a healthcare professional prior to use if you have any sort of pre-existing medical condition. We’d also advise taking it a couple of hours before or after other medications.

Goji Berries: A True Superfruit and Anti-Oxidant Powerhouse

Goji Berries
We all know some of the most nutritious, antioxidant-packed (super)foods are berries – from blueberries to mulberries – and everything in between. How does the goji berry or “wolfberry fruit” stack up against its humble competitors? Is Goji a true superfruit and anti-oxidant powerhouse as purported? Goji has been an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, and a popular superfood for fighting free radical damage, aging, and markers of disease. Typically, goji berries are eaten raw and dried, but can also be used in a powdered form for smoothies, bowls, and shakes. Nutritional Content of Goji Berries Before even getting into the polyphenol and antioxidant content of goji berries, the nutritional content alone is quite impressive. ¼ cup provides (depending on dried or powder form, and how they’ve been processed) approximately: 70 Calories 12g of Sugar 9g of Protein 6g of Fiber 150% DV Vitamin A 84% DV Copper 75% DV Selenium 27% DV Vitamin C 21% DV Potassium 15% DV Zinc 42% DV Iron Goji berries are also extremely rich in “phenolic acids,” “polysaccharides,” and “flavonoids” – biologically active compounds with beneficial health properties. These compounds are responsible for many of the health benefits attributed to goji berries. Various studies and literature denote the many health-promoting properties of goji berries, such as those documented and compiled here. Vision Support, Macular Degeneration, and Eye Health Goji contains many ‘carotenoids’ – the natural pigments that give fruits bright orange and red colors, such as carrots (and goji berries). This is why you have probably heard the old adage that carrots are great for vision health. They are extremely high in Vitamin A, and this is due to the beta-carotene content. In particular, goji is high in the carotenoid “zeaxanthin” which is sometimes sold as an individual natural supplement for vision support. Research shows this compound protects the retina and improves retinal function. Further, human and animal studies looking at goji berry extract (not just zeaxanthin) found that goji was protective and restorative in the early stages of retina and macular degeneration. Cardiovascular Protection, Lipid and Cholesterol-Lowering Support Studies demonstrate goji berry extract as having a notable reduction in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels compared to non-goji berry treated animals with elevated blood pressure and hyperlipidemia. Meanwhile, “good” cholesterol levels, HDL, were unaffected or increased with the dosage of goji berry extract. Aside from the high antioxidant levels of goji, they have also demonstrated the ability to lower blood lipid levels effectively in diabetic animal studies. Abnormal fat oxidization and accumulation in the blood vessels were inhibited in animals fed a high-fat diet after administration of goji extract. Goji appears to also be beneficial for diabetes from other studies, which point to its ability to lower blood glucose levels significantly and impact the rate of glucose uptake. Anticancer Benefits and Neuroprotective Benefits Not only are goji berries beneficial for heart health, cholesterol levels, and lipids – but they also have potent benefits in the fight against neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s and even in protecting against cancer cell growth. Goji has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for many decades specifically to prevent the progression and early onset of cancer – the whole goji berry seems to have a better preventative effect than just extracts of specific compounds alone (those most commonly sold as supplements). The polysaccharides which are present in goji (polysaccharides are also extremely beneficial parts of what make medicinal mushrooms great) have the ability to inhibit and prevent tumor growth without negative side effects. Neurological brain health is an extremely important area of study, and the benefit of goji has been shown to reduce glutamate excitotoxicity, which is implicated in neurogenerative diseases. Treatment with goji showed a reduction in neurological deficits in stroke models and improved cognitive performance. Goji – Should I Be Adding Them to My Smoothies or Bowls? Similar to many other potent superfruits, goji berry offers a natural, whole-food antioxidant powerhouse that does not require supplementation or medication to confer benefits against cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, cancer, neurological disorders, and vision degeneration. Best of all, goji is easy to incorporate into daily diets in a wide variety of dried forms, powders, and extracts for any need – all available at Healthy Planet Canada.

Are Sodas Naturally Gluten-Free?

Gluten Free Soda
Itching for a refreshing root beer to pair perfectly with your burger? Or simply wondering if you can safely enjoy a cream soda or can of coke? Worried about the ‘hidden’ ingredients in things like soda?  Gluten has become recognized much more prominently as a problematic allergen in recent years, but it can still be incredibly difficult to determine what foods and drinks actually contain gluten in them – especially for those eating out at restaurants. Anyone can request gluten-free burger buns, and things on the menu like fries are obvious ‘gluten-free’ options, but what about something like root beer? Is root beer truly gluten-free? Yes, generally, most soda and soft drinks are indeed gluten-free. While gluten can seemingly hide in any sort of food product or drink, most sodas are naturally gluten-free as well. The importance lies in checking specific brands – formulations can change from one company to another, and some corporations may use ingredients or natural flavoring that is derived from gluten, or which has come in contact with gluten. This is often referred to as “cross-contamination,” and the reasoning behind why people with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance react to things like oats that do not naturally contain any gluten. In this article, we will further explore what soda is most frequently made from (mostly carbonated water and sugar, with flavoring), what gluten actually is, and how to spot potentially problematic ingredients that may contain gluten – whether in a restaurant or a grocery store. Not all soda is created equal.  What Is Soda Actually Made From? Traditionally, most sodas are typically made from carbonated water, sugar (or glucose-fructose), flavoring, and preservatives. Very few soft drinks contain any traces of gluten, and if they do contain wheat or wheat-based ingredients, they would be labeled explicitly as allergens on the bottle or can. While you might not see the gluten-free label plastered on the outside of the can or bottle, most of the major corporations like Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Co ensure the products are safe for those with Celiac Disease so as not to cut this large demographic out of the market. The concern lies in the “natural and artificial flavoring” and things like “caramel color,” which could potentially be derived from wheat or barley. These additives have caused a lot of stress for people wondering if that can is really safe for them to drink.  More on these problematic additives will help better clear up the fear among consumers looking to avoid gluten – but first, let us actually explain what gluten is and if you need to be avoiding it if you do not have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance. What Is Gluten? Should I Avoid It? So, what is gluten, actually? Gluten is used as a very broad and general term for the complex of proteins specifically found in wheat and wheat-related grains. Most people have likely heard the phrase ‘gluten-free’ by now, but many are still blissfully unaware of what gluten is all about. Shall we? As we mentioned, gluten relates to the proteins found in wheat and wheat-related grains, which include everything from durum wheat semolina (often used to make pasta) to rye, barley, farro, farina, spelled, triticale, and emmer.  You do not need to be familiar with all of these varieties of wheat to understand that essentially any grain that is not specifically marked or indicated as ‘gluten-free’ on the packaging has the potential to contain gluten, or be “cross-contaminated” with gluten. For most people, this is not a problem – as we have consumed bread, baked goods, cereals, pasta, and soups containing these grains for over 10,000 years. Part of the issue lies with a lot of modern food production processes. Current wheat crops have been bred to have an especially high gluten content, as this is desirable for leavened bread, the perfect consistency of pasta, and that ‘rise’ we get in dough and baked goods. However, a higher gluten content means more of the problematic proteins in wheat that can cause people allergies and intolerance – just as people have digestive upset from milk and cheese due to the ‘casein’ protein found in dairy. This means that current wheat crops may be more inflammatory and allergenic than those in the past. For those without Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, gluten does not need to be avoided. “Celiac Disease” is an autoimmune disorder that results in the body attacking itself upon consumption of wheat or gluten-containing grains.  As a result, gluten damages the intestines by immune cells in the body attacking it. Damage to the small intestine can result in “intestinal permeability,” which can lead to a whole host of health issues including vitamin deficiencies, i ...

Astaxanthin: Carotenoid Super-Power, and Antioxidant Powerhouse

Astaxanthin
The name may be hard to pronounce, but there is no mistaking the slew of health benefits associated with this powerhouse of a carotenoid.  Before we delve into astaxanthin specifically, first we should understand what carotenoids ‘are’ and their benefit to human consumption. Carotenoids are responsible for the pigments or colors you see in brightly colored fruit and vegetables. These are found in plants, along with other lifeforms like algae and bacteria. Often, these specific compounds are associated with bright reds, yellows, and oranges in plant matter.  All About Carotenoids These carotenoids also act as potent antioxidants in the human body. Dietary intake is associated with benefits due to this antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential for reducing the risk of chronic illness, disease, and oxidative stress. There are plenty of fairly popular carotenoids that are now regularly used as supplements to address a variety of health concerns – lycopene (tomatoes), lutein, beta carotene, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin are among the most common.  These compounds are fat-soluble and should be consumed with dietary fat. This ensures enhanced absorption and utilization by the body. Often, supplements for carotenoids like astaxanthin or beta-carotene will be in a soft gel capsule that contains oil (fat source) or encapsulation of fatty acids. Carotenoids themselves are associated with a variety of health benefits and protective benefits (cardioprotective and neuroprotective). They are routinely linked to eye health, anti-carcinogenic properties, reducing risk factors for heart disease, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, stroke, and cardiovascular events.  Specifically, we are looking at astaxanthin, which is among the most potent and protective – noted scientifically for the extremely high antioxidant levels it contains, comparable to that of Chaga mushrooms and much higher than that of acai berries. While we know most of these carotenoids come from fruit and vegetables, astaxanthin is derived from a microalga that has a stark red-orange hue. Aquatic life that eats these algae and feeds on it are often noted for their red pigments – salmon, shrimp, krill, crabs, lobsters, crayfish, and red trout are all notable examples that display the astaxanthin pigment.  In Europe, it is considered for use as a food dye, and the FDA has approved it as a color additive in animal food products. In general, astaxanthin from natural sources (algae or yeast-derived) or synthetic sources (lab produced) is given the “generally recognized as safe” approval from the FDA for use in supplements.  Astaxanthin’s Rise to Popularity as Powerhouse Supplement While astaxanthin is a supplement that has only more recently begun to be clinically researched and studied (~10 years), there is already a wealth of evidence of its role in human health as a major source of antioxidants that offer protection from liver injury, kidney injury, high blood pressure, poor vision, LDL “bad” cholesterol, and joint pain – to name a few.  The liver is absolutely essential to healthy functioning, given its important role in the body of metabolizing harmful substances and chemicals, toxic by-products, and regulating hundreds of other vital functions. Astaxanthin seems to confer protection from a wide range of liver disease-related conditions by offering extremely potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support. Liver fibrosis, liver cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, drug-induced liver injury, and liver ischemia were all accounted for in studies. It exerts protective and therapeutic effects in these cases, offering protection as a preventative measure or therapeutic relief in those with these pre-existing conditions.  Not only is astaxanthin regarded for its antioxidant powers on the liver, but it also appears to help regulate insulin resistance and fat synthesis, and inhibit tumor growth.  If astaxanthin is healthy for the liver, it seems to make sense that it confers a benefit to our other important organs. In studies, kidney health was also positively impacted by supplementation with astaxanthin versus controls. As astaxanthin prevents oxidative stress, several studies have looked at it as a potential therapeutic in addressing kidney injury and function – astaxanthin appeared to prevent necrosis and destruction of the kidneys after oxidative injury in kidney tissue.  Astaxanthin also suppressed cell proliferation of cancerous cells, and this not only applies to the kidneys but our other vital organs. Anti-carcinogenic, it can inhibit tumor growth and cancerous cell proliferation. Astaxanthin and other carotenoids were also found to reduce the risk of kidney disease, along with the severity in sufferers.  Astaxanthin seems to prevent and reduce the replication of H. pylori – the bacterium associated with gastric distress, stomach ulcers, SIBO, and other digestive c ...

When should you take a probiotic?

Probiotic Food
Can probiotics solve all your health concerns? The truth is, probiotics are one of the most complex natural supplements because each probiotic varies greatly from one another. It’s not as simple as picking a probiotic that your best friend recommended because it worked perfectly for them. When it comes to probiotics, choosing the best one depends on your unique symptoms. Probiotics, or “good bacteria”, are living species that live naturally in our digestive tract. Each bacteria has a different effect on your body, so we need a good balance of various species to have a healthy gut. When your gut bacteria become unbalanced, you may experience symptoms such as an upset stomach, weight changes, difficulty sleeping, food intolerances, diarrhea, or constipation. When this occurs, you may need to supply your body with a healthy dose of good bacteria. You may need to take a probiotic if you find yourself in the following conditions After you take a round of antibiotics Antibiotics are prescription drugs that wipe out the bacteria in your gut, good or bad. Because they kill the good bacteria, you may notice an increase in digestive symptoms after taking a round of antibiotics. The most common symptom is antibiotic-associated diarrhea. The good news is that you can preserve your gut bacteria for whole body health by taking a probiotic along with your antibiotics, and for a short period afterward. By taking probiotics along with antibiotics, you prevent healthy gut microbes from being lost, while mitigating antibiotics' side effects. There are many high-dose probiotic formulas created specifically to replenish gut bacteria. Make sure to take them at least 3 hours before or after antibiotics, so that they have the best chance of surviving. Best choice: Genestra HMF Antibiotic Care 14 caps To combat Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) Many people can agree that UTIs are one of the most uncomfortable infections to have. When unfavorable bacteria grow in the urinary tract, the infection may result in symptoms like a persistent urge to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, passing frequent but small amounts of urine, or cloudy urine. When left untreated, UTIs can progress to a more severe kidney infection. UTIs are conventionally treated with antibiotics, though some may want to avoid frequent use by choosing an alternative instead. Probiotics can also be used in conjunction with an antibiotic, to ensure optimal results. A probiotic called Lactobacillus rhamnosus has been shown to be effective in preventing and fighting UTIs. This bacteria can fight pathogens in the vaginal and urinary tract by preventing them from sticking to the track and multiplying. Best choice: Genuine Health Probiotic Gut Health Women’s UTI 30 capsules When you have reoccurring yeast infections Yeast infections are another extremely unpleasant infection. They occur when there is an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida living in the vaginal tract. Common symptoms include itchiness and discharge that resembles a cottage cheese-like texture. If yeast infections are reoccurring frequently, it may be a sign that your vaginal flora is imbalanced. A healthy vaginal microbiota should have varying quantities of different Lactobacillus bacteria. They work together to fight pathogens that may grow in the vaginal tract. A probiotic formula containing high doses of many Lactobacillus species can help prevent and fight yeast infections. If you are currently fighting the infection, using a probiotic suppository can distribute good bacteria to the vaginal tract faster. Best choice: NFH Flora SAP 10 capsules, Renew Life Ultimate Flora VS for Women Probiotic 50 Billion 60 Veggie Caps Are probiotics safe? Although probiotics can improve many unpleasant symptoms, they can sometimes cause more harm than good. Before taking any probiotics, make sure to consult with your healthcare practitioner so they can help you choose the best option. Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.