Ever eat a steak and feel like it’s just sitting on the bottom of your stomach, not digesting at all?
You’re not alone!
This is because as we age, we lose our once robust ability to digest our foods—basically, we need help.
Not only do we feel like we ate a brick, but we might also suffer from digestive distress in other forms like heartburn, flatulence, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and that awful feeling that you can’t digest what you just ate.
A recent article in PubMed declared the safety and efficacy of supplemental digestive enzymes, saying they prove promise for those who suffer from malabsorption and other digestive maladies.
Not being able to digest your food well is highly stressful for your digestive system and your immune system.
When you don’t digest as you should, you not only don’t feel well, but you aren’t getting the nutrition from the food you’re eating.
You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat,” right?
That’s not entirely true—you are what your body absorbs.
In other words–if you can’t digest it, you’re not getting the crucial nutrients you need!
Good digestion isn’t just better; it’s critical for optimal health and weight loss.
Our DigestZymes 2.0 are gentle, effective, and make ALL the difference in how you feel! Check them out, they’ve changed my life!
There have been countless TV commercials over the years talking about calcium and how it is important for strong bones and teeth. Calcium is the primary mineral in your bones, which hold more than 99% of the calcium stored in the human body. Since the body is constantly regenerating bone tissue it is important to consume an adequate amount of calcium daily.
That said, there’s WAY more to it than that…you also need magnesium in the right proportion.
Magnesium is a perfect partner for calcium because it is needed for the conversion of vitamin D into its active form that aids in the absorption of calcium.
For years it was believed that a good combination of calcium and magnesium would be in a 3:1 ratio. That belief has been traced back to a French scientist named Jean Durlach, who stipulated that a 3:1 ratio was a not-to-be-exceeded level when your total intake of calcium is considered. While he meant that to be a maximum number, his statement was apparently interpreted by many to be the recommended level.
The more recent findings strongly suggest that a 1:1 ratio is optimal.
The medical director of the non-profit Nutritional Magnesium Association is Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, and she supports the new findings of a 1:1 ratio. If you take too much calcium without adequate magnesium to help the body absorb it, the excess calcium won’t be utilized correctly and may become toxic. As a result, that toxicity may cause some forms of arthritis, prostate cancer, kidney stones, osteoporosis and calcification of the arteries, leading to heart attacks and cardiovascular disease, yikes!
Focusing primarily on magnesium, there are specific functions it performs in the human body. First and foremost is bone health. Magnesium is believed to improve bone health both directly and indirectly because it helps to regulate calcium and vitamin D levels, which are vital nutrients for bone health. Magnesium is also linked to higher bone density, improved bone crystal formation, and a lower risk of osteoporosis after menopause.
Cardiovascular health is also improved with proper magnesium levels in the body, and deficiencies have been linked to higher risks of congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, and clinical outcomes are generally worse.
Research indicates that an increase in magnesium intake can lower a person’s risk of stroke and to a small extent it may help lower blood pressure, reducing hypertension.
Diabetics also benefit because of the important role magnesium plays in glucose control and insulin metabolism. A 2015 review in the World Journal of Diabetes indicates that most people with diabetes have low magnesium levels and that shortage may worsen insulin resistance. It is unclear whether insulin resistance causes low magnesium levels, however, a systematic review in 2017 suggests that taking magnesium supplements can improve insulin sensitivity in people with low magnesium levels.
Migraine headaches may also result in part from low magnesium in the body. Migraine sufferers generally improve with magnesium therapy with daily doses of 400-500 mg per day as a prevention method.
Depression and anxiety are also potentially helped by increasing your levels of magnesium, partly due to activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is a set of three glands that control a person’s reaction to stress. Scientists are at the earliest stages of this research and the evidence is only now being compiled.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms may also be reduced with magnesium, with research suggesting that magnesium supplements could help to reduce bloating, breast tenderness, and mood swings.
It is important to remember that magnesium is just one factor in healthy bones because calcium and vitamin D are also critical nutrients and they work together to improve absorption and metabolism.
The other necessary component is collagen–which we already covered in another blog post. 🙂
For more information about the specifics about Cal-Mag and to get more information on the research, check out our Wise Women’s supplements.
I’m talking about the kind of inflammation you can’t see or necessarily feel (directly) but according to studies, inflammation may be the cause of many different diseases and conditions.
So What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is your body’s process of fighting against things that harm it, such as infections, injuries, and toxins, in an attempt to heal itself.
Think about the time you stubbed your toe or accidentally hit your thumb with a hammer. The result is redness and bruising as your body rushes to help your body begin the healing process. This is normal and is for a brief period of time while your body is doing some rebuilding work.
There’s A Difference
There are two types of inflammation: there is acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.
The above examples of the stubbed toe or injured thumb are acute inflammation and are normal, natural, and are a perfect example of our body’s innate immune system response.
Another example is when you get a bad cold–you get a stuffy nose, cough up crud and have a fever–your body is doing its job to heal itself from the virus or bacteria and heal itself.
Chronic Inflammation Is Different
Chronic inflammation can be silent or it can have symptoms. In any case, it’s something no one wants because it sidelines your health and robs you of your vibrancy.
This is the case of inflammation not being able to turn itself off. It’s being provoked (more on that later) and essentially, stays “lit up” in your body.
The Many Symptoms of Inflammation
As I said, inflammation can be silent or have symptoms.
Your lungs, liver, and spleen for example don’t have very many nerve endings so the feeling of pain may not be felt, even if inflammation is present.
That said, chronic inflammation is well known by arthritis sufferers–joints swell and are uncomfortable and even painful.
How do you know if you’ve got inflammation happening? Here’s a partial list of symptoms:
*fatigue (and brain fog)
*skin blemishes and rashes
*bloating (rings are tight)
*aches and pains everywhere
*joint swelling and pain
What Causes Chronic Inflammation?
No surprise, a poor diet is first and foremost the biggest issue.
But even if your diet is on point and you’re seemingly doing everything “right”, you can still be lit up like a Christmas tree so finding out if you have food sensitivities is important–that’s what it was for me and the culprit was dairy and gluten.
As someone who has lived through rosacea, plantar fasciitis, and thyroid nodules and was absolutely miserable, caught up in a lot of pain, frustration, weight gain, bloating, and all the rest, I was willing to do anything.
Including giving up bread, pasta, and cheese.
It worked–my life completely changed and I was able to lose the inflammation and consequently, the weight.
Added to that equation was learning to handle my stress. Stress can throw you down an inflammatory hole and pile on with depression and hopelessness. It’s pretty bleak when you’re wracked with pain, inflammation, and depression.
Learning to meditate, pray and journal was part of the solution and helped me handle the stress of my life.
Being sedentary is also a risk factor for inflammation, but so is overexercising. Finding the Goldilocks Zone (it’s just right) for you is important–the “it’s gotta hurt” kind of exercise doesn’t do you any favors whatsoever…find your thing and stay consistent.
I also weighed 237 pounds and was technically obese. I hate that word, but that’s what I saw written on my medical chart at the doctor’s office. Losing weight helped ease the inflammation big time–excess weight produces inflammatory cytokines in your body which in turn can create a state of long term low-grade inflammation.
There are other things too like exposure to chemicals (take a look at what’s under your sink in your bathroom and your kitchen) and pollution.
And Then There’s Leaky Gut
In essence, a leaky gut is a gut with a compromised barrier. Food particles leak into your abdominal cavity causing inflammation and a possible immune response.
When you’re out of balance as well and your bad bacteria is winning the war over the good bacteria, you’ve got double trouble.
Healing your gut starts with lots of bone broth and l-glutamine as well as removing the culprits that are causing the problems: stress, food sensitivities, junk food, and sugar.
The Foundational Fix: An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
An anti-inflammatory diet is crucial and from my experience as a nutritionist for over 25 years, it’s a game-changer for so many.
Toss the sugar, say no to the drive-thru, clear the pantry of processed foods, hydrogenated oils, and seed oils like cottonseed, soy, and peanut oils.
Kick gluten-containing products to the curb–flour, rolls, bread, crackers, and pastas all have gluten and do your body zero good.
And how about that dairy? It could be the problem–do a trial of 2 weeks and just pull it out entirely. See how you do–I know, I know…your cheese. But listen…if that’s the offender, it is well worth the pain of giving it up!
I have a 7-day plan to show you the whys and wherefores and how-tos of an anti-inflammatory plan–it’s right here on the site–go grab it and tell me later how much better you feel. It’s the Hot Melt Sprint and I’ve put thousands of women through the program with astounding results.
It’s free–go grab it here: The Hot Melt Sprint
The Supplemental Fix: Supplements that WORK
Curcumin is nature’s anti-inflammatory.
There are over 12,000 studies on the efficacy of curcumin as an anti-inflammatory. As a matter of fact, this newest study* gives curcumin its due for dealing with osteoarthritis.
Our InflaCrusher 2.0 is pharmaceutical-grade curcumin that works on that inflammation and may even help in the weight loss battle–this is a “side effect” of taking the supplement!
Accordingly, if you’re going to go all in and take this leaky gut business seriously, you need to get familiar with collagen (we have our Perfect Paleo Protein to help you with that) as well as a good probiotic (check out our ProActive Probiotic).
And let’s remember–supplements are just that—supplemental.
You cannot out supplement an unhealthy diet–get your diet in order, handle your stress, take some quality supplements (outlined above), and move your body.
Your body’s ability to heal is incredible–give it what it needs and let it do the rest!
Curcumin, one of the most studied and researched compounds in recent years, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. If you haven’t tried InflaCrusher 2.0 yet, check it out here!
Vitamins are essential nutrients for the body, needed in small quantities for the proper functioning of the metabolism. Although the needed requirements are small, there is no way to synthesize them in the body itself, so they must be acquired through the diet.
While the list of vitamins reads like a short alphabet, the one with the most variations is vitamin B, including B1(thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin). Vitamins A, C, D, E, and K have no such variations and only vitamin C and the B vitamins are water-soluble while the others are fat-soluble.
Since vitamin B is not fat-soluble it isn’t stored in the body fat and needs to be replenished more than the others, so consuming it regularly through diet or supplements is essential to maintain a healthy system. B is essential for the metabolism and the full range of the Bs are readily found in many foods. However, some bodies have a need for more B than others, usually because of factors like age, medical conditions, genetics, dietary choices, alcohol consumption, or pregnancy.
Since a normal diet provides only a basic level of vitamin Bs it is usually necessary to take supplements to maintain a higher level for such conditions and supplements that contain all 8 B vitamins are referred to as B-complex vitamins.
The Functions of B-complex:
- B1 (thiamine): Helps convert nutrients into energy. The richest food sources include pork, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ.
- B2 (riboflavin): Helps convert food into energy and also acts as an antioxidant. Foods highest in riboflavin include organ meats, beef, and mushrooms.
- B3 (niacin): Plays a role in cellular signaling, metabolism, and DNA production and repair. Food sources include chicken, tuna, and lentils.
- B5 (pantothenic acid): Like other B vitamins, B5 helps your body obtain energy from food and is also involved in hormone and cholesterol production. Good sources include liver, fish, yogurt, and avocado.
- B6 (pyridoxine): Is involved in amino acid metabolism, red blood cell production, and the creation of neurotransmitters. Food sources for B6 include chickpeas, salmon, and potatoes.
- B7 (biotin): Essential for carbohydrate and fat metabolism and regulates gene expression. Some of the best sources for B7 include yeast, eggs, salmon, cheese, and liver.
- B9 (folate): Needed for cell growth, amino acid metabolism, the formation of red and white blood cells, and proper cell division, B9 can be found in foods like leafy greens, liver, and beans or in supplements as folic acid.
- B12 (cobalamin): Perhaps the most well-known of all the B vitamins, B12 is vital for neurological function, DNA production, and red blood cell development. B12 is found naturally in animal sources like meats, eggs, seafood, and dairy and is called methylcobalamin. A synthetic form is also available commercially and is known as cyanocobalamin.
While there are several studies about the natural and synthetic forms of B12 regarding which is more effective, the common findings show that about three times as much of the synthetic version is eliminated through the urine, indicating that the natural form is more usable and retained in the body.
A Little Science Lesson: Methylation
What does methylated mean? Methylation is a biochemical process that has a significant impact on many biochemical reactions in the body that regulate the activity of the neurological, reproductive, cardiovascular, and detoxification systems. If you think of the body as a machine, methylation helps turn the switches and gears on and off as needed.
When you have a mutated MTHFR gene, your ability to methylate is compromised which means, you’re not getting the folic acid and B12 you need.
In other words, your B-Complex (unless the folic acid and B12 are methylated) is useless and you’re peeing it all out.
I’ve told this story before, but when my daughter was a college sophomore, she was in a car accident and ended up with whiplash. When consulting with the doctor, he told us that she was lucky she wasn’t born with spina bifida–her spine was filled with tiny holes!
In my pregnancy with my daughter, I religiously took my prenatal vitamins but the folate wasn’t methylated and that impacted my daughter because MTHFR is responsible for methylating it and it didn’t happen–I didn’t know that at the time.
Studies have shown that during pregnancy, women who test positive for the mutated MTHFR gene have a higher risk for miscarriage, preeclampsia, and birth defects, especially spina bifida.
Without a genetic test, it’s impossible to know if you have the MTHFR mutation. This is why our Wise Women’s B-Complex has methylated folate and B12.
Who Needs a B-complex Supplement?
People who can most benefit from a B-complex supplement include pregnant or breast-feeding women, especially if they are vegetarians or vegans. B12 and folate in particular are needed for fetal development and a deficiency can lead to birth defects or severe neurological damage in the fetus.
Vegetarians and vegans miss out on the B12 that is naturally found in meat, dairy, seafood, and eggs. A daily B-complex supplement is essential for them to maintain adequate levels of these essential vitamins.
Older adults (50+) often don’t produce enough stomach acid to absorb B12, and a decreased appetite as we all age adds to the decline. A deficiency in B12 has been linked to depression and mood disturbances in the elderly.
Certain medical conditions can result in a B deficiency, and the result can be even more health issues. Cancer, hypothyroidism, alcoholism, anorexia, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease can make you more susceptible to developing nutrient deficiencies and some weight-loss surgeries can also cause B vitamins to be lacking.
Additional B-complex Health Benefits
Studies have shown that B-complex supplements can help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms compared to a placebo. While not a cure for mental health issues, B vitamins have shown promise in enhancing treatment response when given in combination with anti-depression medications.
If blood levels are low in certain B vitamins like B12, folate, and B6 there has been shown a link to increased levels of depression, so it is important to consider nutrient deficiencies in anyone experiencing symptoms of depression. They may also help to boost cognitive performance and relieve stress too.
For more information about the specifics about vitamin D and to get links on the research, check out our Wise Women’s supplements.
Vitamin D – The Bone Defender is a fat-soluble nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium, which is needed to maintain healthy and strong bones. It is also involved in several other bodily functions such as digestion, blood circulation, and the immune and nervous systems. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, so it is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”.
Although direct sunlight is a great way for the body to produce vitamin D, today’s lifestyle often limits, if not prevents many people from getting enough vitamin D produced that way, so food sources and taking a quality supplement are often needed to make sure a healthy balance is maintained.
Some of the best food sources are fatty fish and seafood. Tuna, shrimp, anchovies, sardines, oysters, mackerel, and salmon are among the most common and popular, but farmed salmon may contain only 25% of the amount found in wild-caught salmon.
Egg yolks are another potential source of D, but mass producers of eggs generally don’t allow their chickens to be exposed to direct sunlight, so the D content is generally much less than that of free-range or pasture-raised chicken eggs where the animals have exposure to direct sunlight.
Mushrooms, especially wild grown, make their own vitamin D from their exposure to UV light and are the only completely plant-based source of vitamin D. Mushrooms produce D2 (ergocalciferol) and in sunlight, the human body creates a form of D called D3 (cholecalciferol). While both forms are beneficial, D3 is generally considered more efficient and effective in raising vitamin D levels.
Supplements of vitamin D are generally the best and most efficient way for people to be sure of adequate intake. As noted earlier, there are two main biological forms of D, D2 (ergocalciferol) from plants and D3 (cholecalciferol) from animals. Research suggests that D3 is considerably more effective at raising and maintaining overall D levels, so look for a supplement that contains D3.
There are generally two different ways to measure the dosage of vitamin D, and the recommended dosage generally increases with your age. Vitamin D intake is recommended at 400–800 IU/day, or 10–20 micrograms. However, some studies suggest that a higher daily intake of 1000–4000 IU (25–100 micrograms) is needed to maintain optimal blood levels and keep your immune system on point.
For more information about the specifics about vitamin D and to get links on the research, check out our Wise Women’s supplements.
Our bodies are filled with bacteria, and in a healthy body we can have around 40 million of those little critters floating around, mostly in our intestines.
However, we also may have a fair share of bad bacteria at any given moment and they can contribute to sickness and disease, so it is important to take steps in keeping a healthy balance by keeping the bad guys in check, and that primarily comes down to what you put into your body.
Diversify Your Diet
The bacterium in your gut includes hundreds of species, each with a different purpose.
That means they need different minerals and other nutrients to thrive and that comes down to a diverse diet, so eating a diverse range of foods is crucial. The more diverse your diet is the more diverse your microbiota will be, and that is a very good thing.
It is interesting to note that the people in rural regions of South America and Africa actually have more diversity in their gut microbiota that people in the US and Europe.
The western diet is far too dependent on fat and sugar, and it is estimated that around 75% of the food in the world is produced from only 5 animal species and 12 plants, so getting more adventurous and trying new whole foods will help expand your gut health.
Fruits, Veggies and Beans
Like mom and dad always told us–”Eat your vegetables!”
But don’t forget the legumes and beans–if you tolerate them.
The best sources of nutrients for a healthy microbiota are fruits and vegetables because they are high in a type of fiber that cannot be digested by your body. However, certain bacteria in your gut can digest fiber, so their growth is stimulated. And of course, legumes and beans are also high in fiber.
Some of those high-fiber foods that are good for your gut bacteria include:
Broccoli, whole grains, certain beans (white, kidney, pinto), lentils, green peas, raspberries, artichokes, and chickpeas.
There have also been studies done that indicate a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help prevent the growth of bad bacteria that cause diseases.
Bifidobacteria are considered beneficial to the human body because they can enhance gut health and help prevent intestinal inflammation.
Bifidobacteria can be increased through the consumption of foods like almonds, pistachios, apples, artichokes, and blueberries.
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermentation is a metabolic process that produces chemical changes in organic substrates through the action of enzymes. In biochemistry, it is narrowly defined as the extraction of energy from carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen. (Wikipedia definition)
Those carbohydrates that are converted are usually sugars, which are turned into organic acids or alcohol by yeasts, microbes, or bacteria.
Examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir, tempeh, kimchi and kombucha.
While some of these dairy products may not be tolerated well for some, but they all add good bacteria and kefir may possibly improve tolerance to lactose. The casein however, remains in tact.
Yogurt is among the most common foods on the list and like many of them is rich in lactobacilli, a type of bacteria that can benefit gut health. While people who eat yogurt regularly appear to have more of this beneficial bacteria in their intestines, they similarly have a lower level of Enterobacteriaceae, a harmful bacteria associated with a number of chronic diseases and inflammation.
Not surprisingly, a lot of people avoid eating yogurt because they are lactose intolerant, yet a number of studies have shown that eating yogurt can actually improve lactose intolerance in both adults and infants.
Greek yogurt seems particularly helpful and kefir is similar in form and substance. However, many of the flavored, fruit yogurts also contain high levels of sugar, so the healthiest yogurts are generally the natural variety made with only milk and bacteria mixtures, referred to as “starter cultures”.
And again casein, a common protein found in dairy, is still an issue even after undergoing fermentation.
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
One way to look at this topic is to begin with understanding that Mother Nature probably does it better than man, and artificial sweeteners are really just man-made replacements for sugar. Numerous studies have found that they can negatively affect the gut microbiota.
One study of aspartame, a controversial sweetener in diet sodas and the like, found that in rats it reduced weight gain (not lost weight, just reduced the gain), but it also impaired insulin response and increased blood sugar!
Those rats that were fed aspartame also had higher clostridium and enterobacteriaceae in their intestines. Those harmful bacteria, when present in high numbers, are associated with disease, and another study had similar findings for both mice and humans, showing negative effects on blood sugar levels.
Eat Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotics are essentially “food” that feed the probiotics.
They promote the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut.
They are generally fiber or complex carbs that can’t be digested by human cells, but certain bacterial species can break them down and use them for fuel.
While many fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain prebiotics, they can also be found on their own.
And then there is resistant starch.
Resistant starch is one source of prebiotics and is not absorbed in the small intestine (it resists digestion), so it passes into the large intestine where it is broken down by the microbiota.
Good examples of resistant starch include oatmeal, potatoes, rice and green bananas. It has been shown that cooked and cooled rice and potatoes have even more resistant starch.
These prebiotics have been found to promote healthy gut bacteria, including bifidobacteria, and have also been beneficial for people with certain diseases.
As an example, certain prebiotics can reduce insulin, triglycerides and cholesterol levels in people who are obese, so these results suggest that prebiotics may reduce the risk factors for many diseases associated with obesity, including diabetes and heart disease.
If you’re good with eating natural whole grains, beans and legumes, they’re wonder sources of a lot of fiber, however it is best to soak them well and fully cook them to remove lectins and anti-nutrients.
Raw potato starch and potatoes that are cooked and then cooled are other good sources, so load up on that potato salad instead of a hot baked potato to get the most resistant starch out of your taters.
Green bananas are better for resistant starch than ripened bananas because as they ripen they convert the starches into simple sugars like fructose, glucose, and sucrose, so eat them within a few days of purchase to maximize your intake.
Eat More Plants
No, you don’t need to become a vegetarian, but by reducing your meat intake and eating more fresh plant foods you can improve your gut bacteria and likely lose weight in the process.
Different types of intestinal bacteria are promoted by each food group and those who have a lot of veggies in their diet tend to have healthier gut flora, likely due to more fiber content.
Eat Foods Rich in Polyphenols
Polyphenols act as antioxidants and may protect against some common health problems and possibly certain effects of aging. They tend to protect cells and body chemicals against damage caused by free radicals, which are reactive atoms that contribute to tissue damage in the body.
Free radicals are like rust on a bike left out in the rain–they cause damage to your body.
Reductions in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, inflammation, and oxidative stress are just some of the benefits from polyphenols. Like resistant starches, they resist digestion in the upper intestine and are therefore digested later by gut bacteria in the colon.
Some good sources of polyphenols are: Red wine (Yay!), dark chocolate and cocoa (double Yay!), broccoli, blueberries, onions, almonds, green tea, and grape skins (or red wine!).
The next time you are drinking your favorite red wine, think about all those beneficial changes in your microbiota that are associated with lower levels of triglycerides, heart disease, and inflammation.
Take a Probiotic Supplement
Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, which exert a specific health benefit when consumed, and may aid in fighting off inflammation and heart disease while aiding in the production of good gut bacteria.
Keep this in mind especially if you are on medications like anti-biotics that intentionally destroy all bacteria in general, so restoring your healthy gut as soon as possible is really important when it has been compromised like that.
For more about our two different, pharmaceutical grade probiotics, click here and here.