To Take or Not Take Hormone Replacement Therapy Years After Menopause?

I admit it – I am concerned about my brain health.  I have greater risk due to my genetics, family history, and a really bad concussion when I was younger (and several hard knocks to my head when I used to snowboard).  But new research is helping us to understand why people get Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) in the first place; and Dr. Dale Bredesen along with practitioners that he has trained are demonstrating reversal of AD in some patients.  This is encouraging and exciting! Dr. Dean Ornish is also getting ready to conduct the first randomized controlled trial to determine if the progression of early to moderate Alzheimer’s disease can be reversed by a comprehensive lifestyle medicine program, without drugs, devices, or surgery.

Two BIG questions for many women who are at increased risk for AD: do I take Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) to protect my brain?  And when do I start taking it? This is also a question I am pondering as I enter my later perimenopausal years.

There is no question that estrogen (specifically estradiol) is protective to the brain. See my previous blog on the protective mechanisms of estrogen.

There is some debate about when to start BHRT to protect the brain (and cardiovascular health and the bones).  The timing hypothesis evolved from a large clinical trial and proposes that if a woman is not on estrogen and is 65 years or older, she will NOT benefit from HRT, especially if she already has cardiovascular issues. Dr. Ann Hathaway, Bredesen trained practitioner and also women’s hormone expert, disagrees.  This timing conclusion is based on research that used oral estrogen in the form of premarin and progesterone in the form of medroxyprogesterone. See her YouTube video on this topic here.

Dr. Hathaway has found that topical bioidentical estradiol (patch or cream) and topical or oral real progesterone yield totally different results.  But at the time there is no large-scale study to counteract the current timing hypothesis. However, there ARE smaller studies and research out there that do demonstrate the benefits of taking BHRT several years after menopause to protect the brain. Check out the research of Dr. Natalie Rasgon. Dr. Rasgon looks at PET scans of menopausal women’s brains on HRT and the brains of women who discontinue HRT for a two year period. Fascinating!

And please don’t forget that hormone production and balance is dependent on so many factors, including diet, sleep, stress management, GI Health, and LIVER health.  And happiness!  When balancing your hormones, you really have to look at all these factors. In fact, you may want to address these factors BEFORE doing hormone testing to get an accurate picture of your hormones.

Of course, there are other hormones that are important to brain health including testosterone, progesterone, and thyroid hormone.  If you have never had your hormones tested and you are in your late 30’s or 40’s, I suggest testing them to get a baseline.  If you are in your 50’s or older and have not had your hormones tested in a couple of years and are concerned about AD, cardiovascular disease, or osteoporosis, I highly suggest working with a good integrative hormone doctor to evaluate your current state of hormones.

My Revitalize Your Brain program offers a starting point for you to look at all these factors, including basic hormone testing!  If you are ready to take charge of your brain health and need direction, please schedule your complimentary strategy session here! 

Is Mold Linked to Anxiety, Depression, and Night Sweats?

Mold exposure and inability to detoxify mold and mycotoxins from your body is detrimental to your health, especially the health of your brain.  In fact, chronic brain fog is a big sign that some kind of biotoxin like mold is crossing your blood brain barrier and causing inflammation and other havoc. Other BIG mold symptoms include anxiety, panic, and night sweats. Yes, your anxiety and depression may be linked to mold exposure.  And your night sweats may not be early menopause; they could be a result of exposure to mold!  When I was in my early thirties, I started to suddenly have night sweats.  I was so perplexed.  I thought “I am way too young to be going through menopause!”  Thankfully, one of my instructors at my nutrition school suggested it may be mold in my bedroom.  Sure enough, there was mold in the corner wall close to my pillow (this wall never got any sun) and as soon as it was remediated, my night sweats went away!

 

Is everyone sensitive to mold?  No.  But now that we have more advanced testing to detect mold in our environments and in our bodies, a lot more people are mold sensitive than previously thought!

 

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, and cannot visibly see mold in your environment, do a quick history timeline and see if a move or change in work environment corresponded to the onset of your symptoms.  Has there ever been water damage in the building where you reside or work?  The answer is often yes…people forget!  If you are not sure or have lived in a place for a long time and symptoms have gradually worsened, you can always do a home test to start that is not very expensive.  The ERMI test is popular and although not 100% accurate, it can at least give you an idea. Qualified mold inspectors are quite expensive, but worth the investment if you suspect mold and your health is deteriorating – affecting your mood, relationships, work, and overall joy in life. Ten questions to find a qualified mold inspector.

There are many tests that can indicate mold or other biotoxin illness.  For example, a couple of tests that you can request from your primary care physician include ADH (Antidiuretic Hormone) and osmolality.  ADH and osmolality are usually low when there is mold or other biotoxin exposure.  If osmolality is low, replenishing with electrolytes can be very helpful.

New testing now allows us to measure mycotoxins in our bodies.  Mycotoxins are molecules produced by mold and mycotoxin elevations can come from our foods or our environments.  Certain mycotoxins are carcinogenic, while others may affect our endocrine, immune or neurological systems.  In any case, there is a lot we can do to support lowering the body burden of mycotoxins.

Mold is tricky. Supporting immune health, the gut and the liver, and detox pathways are all critical to getting rid of mold and decreasing mycotoxin load.  Often, we see overgrowth of pathogenic gut bugs, parasites, and even heavy metals along with mold.  Mold really weakens us and makes us more susceptible to everything else.

Of course, there are solutions and you can heal from mold illness and get your brain back!  The first step is to get rid of the mold exposure, whether from food or your environment. Specific foods can help decrease the adverse effects of certain mycotoxins.  Certain nutritional supplements are very helpful in binding up mold toxins and also supporting overall detoxification and immune system health.

Antioxidants are often used to mitigate the oxidative effects of these  mold toxins like Vitamins A, E, C, and also N Acetyl Cysteine and liposomal glutathione. Bentonite Clay and Zeolite Clay are reported to reduce absorption of multiple mycotoxins found in food.

Movement and sweating are critical in detoxification of just about everything!  Support your drainage system by dry skin brushing or jumping on a mini rebounder!  If you are not a good sweater, this can be a sign of toxicity!  If you cannot induce a sweat through exercise, then use a sauna regularly (under the guidance of your physician!)

Mold is one of the many contributing factors to brain decline.  When you address mold, you are often also covering other biotoxins that may be contributing to brain decline.  It can seem a bit overwhelming to know where to start.  That is why I offer my three month Revitalize Your Brain program. We look at all the possible contributing factors and prioritize where to start!

Please set up your complimentary strategy session with me today to determine if this program is right for you!

Green matcha withdrawal: Observations and upside of being caffeine free for seven days!


Day 8 of my two week “no caffeine” challenge.  Funny how it is all relative.  I had become rather addicted to my one matcha beverage in the morning.  Even at ½ the normal serving size of matcha powder, I noticed that it was ramping me up too much.

 

I was feeling restless, agitated, and rather unfocused in the mornings. My matcha drink was getting me going, but certainly not helping my focus and mood.

I know I am a poor caffeine metabolizer; I always have been.  I cannot drink any caffeine in the afternoon and expect to sleep that night. We are all biochemically unique in how we process caffeine. If you metabolize caffeine quickly, you will most likely benefit from the antioxidants and other potent compounds in green tea, matcha, black tea, and coffee.  If you don’t, less likely to derive benefit.

What I have noticed over the last seven days:

  • Although it takes me a little longer to wake up in the morning, my morning work outs are actually better and my energy is more even throughout the day.
  • I am more focused in the morning once I get my blood circulating.
  • I am more patient.
  • I feel less anxious about getting what I need to get done for the day.
  • I get to bed earlier at night knowing that there will be no caffeine in the morning.
  • My sleep duration has increased by about 30 minutes. This feels good!
  • My jaw does not hurt in the morning.
  • I don’t have the same drive to get out of bed super early in the morning. Once I am up though, all is good!

I have found some great decaf substitutions including Teeccino beverages, Four Sigmatic Cordyceps Mushroom Elixir Mix (this one has no stevia added to it) and Coffig (roasted fig beverage).  These are all rich and robust and go well with the dark mornings!  In the warmer months, you can enjoy these iced as well!

“Pure” matcha is not available decaf.  Matcha is the result of shade grown green tea leaves covered for a certain period of time, increasing the caffeine and L-theanine content. However, there are “mock” matcha powders available.  These are not covered until harvested and this results in minimal caffeine.  I am curious to try one of the decaf green powders next week.

Yes, I miss the taste of my green matcha with fresh almond milk from the farmer’s market.  It got me up early in the morning, knowing that it was waiting for me.  I also miss that early morning pop and spring in my step.  But I don’t miss the feelings of restlessness, agitation, impatience, and tightness in my jaw.  I guess my “pure” matcha has stepped down to an occasional treat!

This blog is for all those people out there that are caffeine sensitive!!

But I don’t want to move! Cleaning up Mold and Mycotoxins in your Home…

MOLD and MYCOTOXINS have become very scary words!  What do you do if you live in a climate or place that favors mold growth?  I live in San Francisco, along with thick fog that keeps everything so damp in the summer months.  Mold is a big concern here.  I don’t want to move, so I have been learning as much as I can about testing for mold and cleaning it up! In some cases, mold and mycotoxins may be so bad that you need to pack up and leave your house and belongings behind.  Especially if certain species of mold are found in your home and you are susceptible. But often, you can clean up your home and keep it unfavorable to mold growth.  I hope this blog is helpful to you!

What can you do to prevent mold overgrowth and keep mycotoxins at bay in your home?

  • Make sure that you have a fan installed in your bathroom that you turn on while showering. Leave the fan on for at least 30 minutes after you shower.  Avoid the bathroom mats that are thick and take a long time to dry.
  • Mold likes washing machines. Be sure to check your washing machine and make sure that mold is not growing in the agitator, if you have a top loading machine.
  • If you live in a humid climate, a dehumidifier can greatly help. Use throughout your living space.
  • If you do have a water leak, make sure that everything is completely dried out after the leak occurs. You may have to have a professional come to your home to assess that the leak is contained and that you do not have mold growing in an area that you cannot see (like behind the dish washer).
  • Basements are a hotbed for mold. If you have a basement and it smells musty, consider a dehumidifier.  You may want to do the ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) test to assess quantity and types of mold growing in the basement.  If your reading comes back high, you will want to contact a qualified environmental mold specialist.
  • Invest in a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) vacuum cleaner. Especially if you have wall to wall carpeting!  A HEPA vacuum will clean up mold spores from soft materials such as wall-to-wall carpet, area rugs and upholstered furniture. Typical vacuums are good at picking up filth, including mold, but the majority of vacuum cleaners spit the really small particles, like mold spores, right back into the air. Where they settle in your home, all over again!
  • Clean hard surfaces with microfiber cleaning cloths. I learned from John Bantas, Environmental Mold Specialist, that these microfiber cleaning cloths pick up and hold tiny particles, such as mold spores and fungal fragments. Examples of microfiber cleaning cloths that John Bantas recommends include the Swiffer dry wipe and the Bona microfiber cleaning cloth. He also notes that if you are using the non-disposable microfiber cleaning cloths (like Bona), it is important they are washed thoroughly in a very hot water wash cycle in order to remove the mold contaminants. Best to air dry afterwards. Be aware that the non-disposable microfiber cloths will lose their effectiveness after about 50 washings.

FYI: Regular sweeping with a broom or mopping spreads the spores from one place to another, but doesn’t remove the spores from your home!!

To learn everything you need to know about cleaning up mold and mycotoxins in your home and to prevent mold overgrowth, please visit John Banta’s website: He is certainly a mold expert!

Environmental toxins are making us obese, diabetic, infertile, and contributing to dementia – what we can do about it NOW!

We can’t see them, but exposure to environmental toxins is making us obese, diabetic, infertile, and contributing to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.  They are also contributing to many types of cancer. As Dr. Elissa Epel said at the recent 12th annual Sugar, Stress, Environment & Weight Symposium in San Francisco, CA, our mind is not equipped to handle the threat of invisible toxins and their ongoing long term consequences.  As humans, we tend to react with fear, despair, or hopelessness or denial and apathy.  But we need to find a middle ground: engagement and cautious optimism. 

 

Why? Because according to Tracy Woodruff, PhD, Director of the UCSF Environmental Health Initiative, in 2016 alone, 30,000 lbs. of chemicals per person were produced in the U.S.  And very sadly, there is virtually no safety data on the long-term effects of these manufactured chemicals.

What are these chemicals doing to us? Bruce Blumberg, PhD, UC Irvine Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology and leader in the field of “obesogens,” has identified 50 chemical obesogens.  What are obesogens?   They are chemicals that stimulate fat storage and alter control of appetite, feelings of fullness, and metabolism; leading to weight gain and obesity.

The most common sources of obesogens are parabens, PCBs, phthalates, pesticides, and certain prescription drugs (anti diabetic drugs like Actos and Avandia and atypical antipsychotics).  Please refer to my previous blog post for the most common everyday sources of these chemicals.

Michele La Merrill, PhD recently conducted a mice study to determine if DDT (banned in 1972 in the U.S.) and DDE (a metabolite of DDT still found in our bodies!) affected calorie burning.  In this mice study, which she presented at the 12th annual Sugar, Stress, Environment & Weight Symposium, only 20% of calories were burned by exercise.  The rest of the calories burned were to keep the mice alive and support normal metabolic functions.  The study found that DDT and DDE decreases calories burned in mice.  The take home message: You may be eating a pretty healthy diet and exercising regularly, but still gain weight or can’t lose weight because you are burdened with chemicals that are decreasing your daily calorie burning expenditure.

When it comes to infertility and the health of a baby in utero, chemicals are also a great concern. BPA has been found to be harmful to the female reproductive system at low doses. And prenatal obesogen exposure reprograms exposed babies to be fat.  These babies are born to battle weight their entire lives!

And let’s not leave men out of this picture.  Phthalates have been found to negatively affect testosterone production.

Being a SF Bay area resident, I have written about what we can do to protect ourselves from the air pollution caused by wild fires.  In the SF Bay area, the biggest causes of air pollution are traffic exhaust and wildfires.  Air pollution from wild fires is now a common occurrence for most people living in the Western part of the U.S.  Air pollution is also a big problem for people living close to conventional farms, refineries and coal mines.

And yes, air pollution greatly affects your lungs.  But because it induces oxidative stress and inflammation, air pollution is not just confined to the lungs!  Systemic inflammation can negatively impact any part or system of your body. A lot of research is being done in Fresno, CA on the effects of air pollution, since Fresno is one of the most polluted cities in the U.S.  thanks to massive spraying of pesticides, herbicides, etc.)

An ongoing study in Fresno found that a seven year old kid already had elevated blood pressure due to exposure to agricultural spraying.  And there is a higher incidence of Parkinson’s Disease among farmers who used toxic chemicals like DDT (before it was banned).

And if you read my blogs, you know that I have studied with Dr. Dale Bredesen and follow his work.  He has now acknowledged that dementogens are a bigger concern than previously thought.  These dementogens are simply organic chemicals, metallotoxins (heavy metals) and biotoxins (i.e. candida, mold, spirochetes) that cause dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders.

This “toxic type” neurodegeneration is primarily occurring in women in their late 40s to mid 50s. Why?  Because menopausal women experience the osteoclastic burst (their bones start to break down because their estrogen levels greatly decrease).  And many chemicals do get stored in bone (especially lead).

What can we do now?  How can we exercise engagement and cautious optimism?

First, decrease exposure!

Buy organic produce whenever possible. Switch out personal care products loaded with chemicals to safer alternatives.  Use cleaning supplies that do not harm the environment or yourself!

Secondly, get involved with cleaning up our environment in our communities and at local levels.  Support the organizations that are advocating to protect us from unsafe chemicals and providing education on how to reduce chemical exposure.

Some helpful resources and organizations that are advocates for our wellness:

The Environmental Working Group ewg.org has excellent consumer guides to help you choose safe personal care products, cosmetics, and cleaning supplies. EWG also has a new EWG verified program!

The Honest Company provides a variety of products for the family made with eco-friendly materials.

Sierra Club: the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization

APPS:

thinkdirty.com Empowering ingredient-conscious consumers to choose the safest beauty + personal products!

Ambiciti:  first mobile app for street level air pollution and noise pollution!  Choose a less polluted or quieter route.

 

The Four Stages of Brain Decline: Do You Need to Take Action Now?

Have you noticed that your brain is not working like it used to?  Brain fog has increased very gradually from some days to most days? Or your brain fatigues very easily and you have to take frequent breaks from your computer or work projects?  And on top of that you have trouble focusing?  Even in your social conversations?

You are finding it harder to get out the front door on time in the morning and your organizational skills seem to have gone by the wayside.  You used to be so on top of it all…and now you feel like you are falling apart.  You are concerned; yet your family and friends tell you that you are just overwhelmed, have a lot going on, and not to worry about it.

 

BUT YOU KNOW THAT SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT.  AND YOU WANT YOUR OLD BRAIN BACK.  Because you want to live your life fully, not struggling every day to keep on top of your work and personal life.

Please do not ignore these early signs of brain decline!  Neurodegeneration, no matter what the underlying cause, usually starts decades before you notice any symptoms.  If you are noticing mild symptoms, then the time to act is now!  Start taking care of your brain health and work with a qualified practitioner to get down to the root cause of your brain symptoms.

I have often been asked about the difference between Mild Cognitive Impairment and actual Alzheimer’s Disease.  How do you know where you stand?  And when can you make the most impact?

Actually, there are four stages:

  1. Pre-symptomatic: You have no symptoms of brain decline yet, but you have high risk of Alzheimer’s Disease due to a previous head injury, family history, genetics, or more than one anesthesia after the age of 40.  THIS IS THE PHASE TO GET PROACTIVE ABOUT YOUR BRAIN HEALTH.
  1. Subjective Cognitive Impairment (SCI): SCI means that you notice that your brain is not functioning as well and have complaints, yet no abnormalities show up when cognitive testing is done. This phase can last up to 10 years. THIS IS THE PHASE TO GET REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT TAKING CARE OF YOUR BRAIN.   Changes in diet and lifestyle and working with a practitioner to address underlying causes of your brain decline symptoms are crucial to prevent further decline and reverse your symptoms.
  1. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): SCI turns to MCI when tests become abnormal.  However, please note that MCI may have existed before; the tests performed might not have been sensitive enough to pick it up. MCI may last several years.  According to Dr. Dale Bredesen, 5 to 10% of MCI folks convert to AD.  AT THIS STAGE, YOU CAN STILL REVERSE YOUR SYMPTOMS AS LONG AS YOU ARE GETTING TO THE UNDERLYING CAUSE OF YOUR BRAIN DECLINE AND MAKING THE NECESSARY LIFESTYLE CHANGES TO HEAL YOUR BRAIN.
  1. MCI converts to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) when activities of daily living are affected. For example, you can no longer drive without getting lost, can no longer do bills, work, or plan ahead.  YOU CAN STILL REVERSE AD AT THIS STAGE, IT JUST WILL NOT BE AS EASY.  But it can be done and Dr. Dale Bredesen’s work has demonstrated reversal in pilot studies.

If you are at any stage above, now is the time to take action. Please check out my Revitalize Your Brain Program and schedule your complementary 30 minute strategy session with me to determine next steps.

Resource: The End of Alzheimer’s by Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD

 

 

Do you have a low or high set point for happiness?

Just returned from the National Association of Nutrition Professionals conference and one of my favorite presentations was Dr. Lise Alschuler’s lecture on the science and holism of happiness!  Yes, it is true that some people are born with higher set points for happiness than others. Not fair!  Ever been around someone who wakes up in the morning singing or whistling and making jokes?  Well, I was certainly not born with that high of a set point, but we can all raise our set point over time!

And there is a lot we can do to raise our set points for happiness from being present and mindful to inviting playfulness and laughter into our daily lives.  And even something new and interesting each day!

There are so many ways to increase our happiness set point, but for now let’s focus on certain foods and nutrients!

What are our molecules of happiness?

Serotonin receptors exist in our gut and throughout the brain. Serotonin is responsible for positive mood, feelings of peacefulness, optimism, and self-confidence.  Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression and anxiety.

Dopamine is our neurotransmitter that is vital for motivation, pleasure and reward.  Low levels are linked to depression, lack of motivation, and decreased pleasure.

Oxytocin is our love hormone that is associated with social emotions such as trust, generosity, and empathy. It also is responsible for deep social bonds such as between mother and child or the bond experienced in romantic relationships.  Interesting to note that dopamine stimulates the hypothalamus to produce oxytocin.

What can we do to support the production of serotonin and dopamine (and ultimately oxytocin?)

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted to 5-HTP and then to serotonin.  High tryptophan foods include seeds, nuts, wild game, beef, turkey, tempeh, tofu, kelp, pineapple, and bananas. So you would think that people would reach for these foods when they need a boost or happy pill. Unfortunately, high-tryptophan foods won’t boost serotonin on their own.  The tryptophan you find in food has to compete with other amino acids to be absorbed into the brain, so it’s unlikely to have much of an effect on your serotonin levels.  However, eating these foods with starchy carbohydrates might help, as carbs cause the body to release more insulin, which then promotes amino acid absorption.  But even this does not ensure an increase in serotonin levels right away, as tryptophan is a larger protein molecule and is at a disadvantage with the smaller amino acids when competing for entry. So what do people reach for?

Sugar and processed carbohydrates! Foods rich in sugar and processed carbs will raise serotonin levels quickly, but only temporarily. And then you just keep wanting more sugar and processed carbs for another boost, leading to weight gain and blood sugar issues and gut problems!  And more mood issues!  Over time, the cookies and pasta and bagels used to increase serotonin levels actually inhibit production of serotonin!

How does tryptophan get converted to serotonin?   Key vitamins and minerals needed to convert tryptophan down the metabolic pathway to serotonin include magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and iron!  So many Americans are deficient in magnesium zinc, and B6 due to lack of these nutrients in their diets AND medications/OTC drugs that deplete these critical nutrients.

Tyrosine is an amino acid that is also found in many foods and is converted to L-Dopa and then dopamine.  This metabolic pathway depends on magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and iron.  See a pattern here?

Are you getting these important nutrient co-factors through diet and supplements? Foods rich in magnesium include nuts (esp. almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, and filberts), seeds, whole grains like buckwheat and millet, tofu, leafy greens like collard leaves and dandelion greens, and dried fruits like dried figs and apricots.

Foods rich in vitamin B6 include seeds (especially sunflower seeds), lentils and other legumes, bananas, avocados, greens such as spinach and kale, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower.

Foods rich in zinc include oysters (the highest source of zinc!), other shellfish, red meats, and plants foods such as nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Eat a variety of unprocessed plant foods in the lists above to support the conversion of tryptophan and tyrosine to your happy molecules like serotonin and dopamine.  Remember that dopamine also stimulates the production of oxytocin!  And you can increase your oxytocin levels just by giving or receiving a BIG hug!

All these plant foods are loaded with plant chemicals that decrease oxidative stress and inflammation…which ultimately leads to all biochemical pathways working more efficiently!

TAKEAWAY:  Ensure that you are getting enough amino acids through protein rich foods and a variety of fresh veggies, fruits, nuts/seeds, and legumes (if tolerated) to support the conversion of amino acids to your happy molecules!

If you are unsure if you are low in magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6 or iron, you can have your nutrient status assessed via blood or urine.   Red blood cell magnesium is a good test to assess magnesium levels.  An Organic Acids test is a good way to assess B vitamin levels. You may need to supplement short term to bring your vitamin and mineral levels back to balance.  Your happiness depends on it!

 

What does gas, bloating, and constipation have to do with your brain health?

You might have heard how important a healthy gut microbiome is to your body and brain.  Overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and yeasts in the gut have been linked to inflammation, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and yes, brain fog!  Clean up the gut and often these symptoms go away.

An article in Scientific Reports in 2015 reported that different brain regions are infected with fungi in Alzheimer’s Disease. This article suggested the possibility that untreated fungal infections slowly spread to the Central Nervous System and when the fungal burden gets high enough, neuronal loss takes place and communication between neurons becomes impaired.

Take away: An untreated yeast infection in the gut can make its way to the brain!

How do you know if you have overgrowth of unfavorable bacteria or fungi in the gut?  Most people will experience unpleasant GI symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation/diarrhea, and even abdominal pain.  However, some people do not have any GI symptoms and instead may experience non-GI symptoms such as allergies, joint pain, weight gain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, brain fog, and the list goes on!

Unsure if you have an unhealthy gut microbiome or fungal overgrowth in the gut? I recommend doing a functional stool test which looks at your healthy bacteria population and overgrowth of potentially harmful bacteria and also detects parasites, worms, candida, and fungi.  It even detects inflammation in the gut.  Schedule a complementary strategy session here to learn more about this comprehensive stool test.

Once you know what is causing your GI symptoms (or your non-GI symptoms), you can take action to restore a healthy gut and brain!

Insulin Resistance in your brain: Why you don’t want this and how to test for it

When you hear insulin resistance, you probably think of diabetes or blood sugar issues.  When you have insulin resistance, your cells are not responding very well to insulin’s message to take up the circulating glucose or sugar in your bloodstream for energy and suddenly you are on the path to Type 2 Diabetes. Your blood sugar remains high and your cells do not get the energy they need to perform optimally.  And you feel crappy.

Did you know that insulin resistance also happens in the brain? Your neurons end up not getting the energy they need from glucose to produce energy and communicate with each other and your brain health suffers.  A slow down in energy metabolism caused by insulin resistance leads to oxidative stress, DNA damage, and mitochondrial dysfunction which then ultimately leads to inflammation.  A not so pretty cascade of events.

Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of  The End of Alzheimer’s  lists insulin resistance as one of the major underlying causes of Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease.  This has also been called Diabetes of the Brain.

Maintaining optimal blood sugar levels is imperative to your brain health and the health of your whole body.  In fact, keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range is crucial to aging gracefully!  And the good news is that simple changes in diet and lifestyle can make your cells more receptive to insulin and bring down your glucose levels. You can be proactive about protecting your brain from insulin resistance!

Step 1: Get tested! Especially if you have not been to your primary care physician in awhile!  When you check in with your primary care physician each year, make sure that he or she is testing for fasting glucose. This means that you need to make your appointment in the morning!  Optimal fasting glucose levels are between 75 and 85 mg/dL.  Please note that optimal does not correspond with typical lab reference ranges.  If you start to see your blood glucose levels inch up every year, you most likely have the beginning stages of insulin resistance. Warning bells should be ringing when you start to see fasting glucose numbers in the mid 90’s and alarm bells should be going off when you see numbers in the high 90’s and 100’s.

Ask your doctor to test for Hemoglobin A1c as well.  This lab value gives you a better picture of how you are managing your blood sugar levels long term – approximately a three month time period.  This is also a great test to do when you are assessing how your diet and lifestyle changes are impacting your blood glucose levels! Optimally, Hemoglobin A1c should be below 5.6%.

Knowing your numbers helps you determine how assertive you need to be with dietary and lifestyle changes and if supplements are needed to support lowering of blood glucose levels and to combat insulin resistance. It is never too early or too late to start testing and make changes!

If you need help figuring out what to do when you get your test results back, please set up a complementary strategy session with me here.

Three Heavy Metals That You Need to Know About to Protect Your Brain

Unfortunately, our water, food, and environment are filled with toxins like heavy metals and chemicals that can severely affect our brain/body health.


The GOOD news is that we can identify these toxins that are harming our brain, reduce exposure to them, and support the elimination of them from our bodies. Your brain will thank you!

Let’s just look at three heavy metals that pose the most significant potential threat to human health and our brains and how we can take the most important step: REDUCE EXPOSURE.

 

Lead: You have probably heard as a result of the Flint, Michigan lead water crisis that children are very vulnerable to lead and even low levels of lead can increase neuro-developmental risk, including IQ loss and learning disabilities. But lead toxicity does not just apply to children. Adults with exposure to lead can also experience cognitive decline and a host of other health issues as well.

Women need to be especially aware as lead is stored in bones. If lead is present in the bones, then bone loss during menopause will leach any lead into the blood.  Tip:  If you are menopausal and your blood pressure shoots up, make sure to test for whole blood lead as excess lead in the blood leads to hypertension!

Where is lead found?  The biggest sources are drinking water contamination, leaded cans, home remodeling (lead paint dust), older lead pigment paints, many herbal products from India, China, Southeast Asia, toys and other products from China, glazes on ceramic dishware from China and Mexico, wine, and lipstick and makeup.

Avoid lead by choosing a water purification system that filters out lead (see my recent blog on water), wear lead-free makeup, buy lead-free dishware, and be cognizant of how much wine you drink!

Mercury is another heavy metal player that at low levels can lead to difficulty concentrating, memory loss, fatigue, mood swings, sleep disturbance, tremors, and brain fog. And this is just a partial list.

Sources of mercury include fish, high fructose corn syrup, amalgam fillings (vapor outgassing from amalgam fillings), broken fluorescent light bulbs, broken thermometers, cement plants, and coal-powered electric generating plants.

To lower your exposure to mercury avoid eating larger ocean fish which accumulate more mercury (esp. tuna, swordfish, halibut, sea bass), avoid foods containing high fructose corn syrup, and consider amalgam filling removal. However, amalgam filling removal must be done safely by certified biologic dentists!

Arsenic is a known carcinogen and chronic exposure can also lead to Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and decreased cognition! Arsenic slows down your body’s ability to produce ATP, your energy currency. Data from almost 50,000 utilities showed that arsenic contaminates more than 7,230 water supplies serving 70 million people and that mercury contaminates more than 280 water supplies serving 2.5 million people. EWG Know Your Environment. Protect Your Health.

Where is arsenic found? In drinking water, seaweed and shellfish, chicken, rice, and soil.

To avoid or lower your exposure to arsenic, invest in a good water system that filters out arsenic, eat only organic chicken, and reduce consumption of rice and shellfish.

In summary, one of the best ways to avoid these top heavy metal players is to invest in a water system that filters them out!!  Again, please refer to my recent blog on water!  If you just do this one thing, it will make a significant impact on your health and brain!

Testing for metals in your body is a bit more complicated as different heavy metals are stored in different areas of the body. Testing the blood usually only indicates acute or recent exposure to heavy metals.  If you would like to assess whether or not heavy metal toxicity is contributing to your fatigue, mood swings, high blood pressure, blood sugar issues, or decreased cognition, please set up a complementary strategy session with me.