H is for hormones!

Hormones are the main messengers of the body. They tell the body what to do, how to do it and when. It could be a message that boosts up your energy so you can meet that deadline at work, one that tells your body to release an egg, or one that gets you in the mood for love.  Hormones link one system to another and permit parts of the body to communicate with one another. One hormone greatly impacts another and hormones are in delicate balance.  Once you get to the root cause and fix hormone related problems, health can be dramatically improved.

In this post we’ll go through each hormone, their roles, signs of deficiency or excess and a few treatment options!

Hormones related

Hormones are intricately related.

Cortisol

Our first hormone, cortisol, comes from the adrenal glands and is essential for many metabolic and immune functions. It’s the hormone our body uses to deal with stress and can be chronically elevated due to physical, psychological, chemical or environmental stress. ¬† One of the first things I do with every patient is assess their cortisol. ¬†Are you someone whose tired in the morning and has a tough time getting going? Do you get wired at night if you stay up past 10pm? Are you emotionally unstable if you don’t keep your blood sugar controlled with regular meals? Having a tough time losing weight? Suffer from insomnia? These are all signs that your cortisol is out of wack. Naturopathic doctors assess your cortisol two ways and both are important.

Wired and tired

Firstly, we collect urine for 24 hrs to assess total cortisol and its metabolites in your urine.  This tells us if your cortisol is way to high or too low.

Second, we assess the pattern of cortisol through-out the day.  Patients take a salivary sample of cortisol 4 times a day. Saliva is actually a very useful indicator of health since it contains free and therefore active hormones, as compared to hormones in the blood which are bound to receptors.

Normal depicted in green

Normal depicted in green

Cortisol is suppose to be higher in the morning when you wake and then decrease to its lowest concentration at night.

Signs of elevated cortisol

  • Food allergies, environmental sensitivities, muscle and skin breakdown, PMS, diabetes, obesity, mood disorders, chronic fatigue, infertility, bone loss, high estrogen, low progesterone, low growth hormone, aging due to lower levels of the anti-aging hormone DHEA, high blood pressure and poor memory.

If you think you may be a candidate for adrenal testing, take the test below.

http://www.diagnostechs.com/Pages/StressEvaluationTest.aspx

What can you do?:

  • Yoga/meditation/stress reduction
  • B vitamins, vitamin C
  • Rhodiola, ginseng, ashwaghanda to build you up
  • Magnesium and/or phosphatidyl serine to bring you back down at night.

DHEA

DHEA increases muscle, improves immune function, is associated with anti-aging and is the precursor to all other hormones, especially testosterone and estrogen. DHEA levels peak in our early twenties,  and then, unfortunately decrease from then on.  High levels of cortisol greatly deplete DHEA.

Symptoms of DHEA deficiency

  • Fatigue, loss of stamina, low sex drive, memory decline, muscle weakness/wasting, loss of bone mass and sleep problems to name a few.

What can you do?:

  • DHEA is a fantastic hormone, but currently its illegal for canadians to prescribe. It’s readily available in the states as an over the counter prescription.
  • Try increasing levels naturally with magnesium, Relora and Puncture Vine (Tribulus)

Thyroid hormone

Thyroid function and adrenal function go hand in hand. Cortisol greatly impacts how the thyroid functions and ¬†is one of the main causes of hypothyroidism. The thyroid sits in the throat and releases active thyroid hormones (T4 which converts to T3) in response to TSH with help from its percursors tyrosine, selenium and iodine. ¬†The thyroid controls metabolism, energy, bone turnover and heat regulation among many other things. ¬†Up to 90% of your thyroid hormone is bound in the blood and only a small amount circulates as free physiological T4 and T3. ¬†It’s important to measure these active free hormone levels, in saliva or in the blood. ¬†Ask for a free T3 and T4 if your doctor suspects you have hyper or hypothyroid issues, don’t settle for a TSH only.

You may be suffering from an under-active thyroid if you have:

  • A goiter, or swollen thyroid, anemia, a metal taste, anxiety, fatigue, constipation, cracking/dry skin, depression, edema, hair loss, palpitations, low body temperature, cold extremities, a slow pulse and weight gain.
The thyroid affects weight gain and loss.

The thyroid affects weight gain and loss.

What can you do?:

  • Avoid goitrogens, which deplete iodine:¬†turnips, cabbage, mustard, soy, peanuts, pine nuts, millet
  • Doctors often prescribe Synthroid which contains T4. Some¬†people will benefit form T4, but most will not be able to convert T4 to T3 and will continue to suffer with symptoms.
  • I prefer dessicated thyroid hormone which contains bioidentical T4 and T3.
  • Thyroid precursors: Selenium, Iodine , zinc, B-vitamins and Tyrosine
  • Animal glandulars (Whole thyroid gland from another animal)
  • Bladder wrack (Fucus versiuclosus)

Estrogens

Estrogens, cortisol and thyroid hormone greatly affect one another. ¬†Elevated cortisol, leads to high estrogen and when estrogen is high, hypothyroidism commonly occurs. There are three main forms of estrogen in the body: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2) and Estriol (E3). Each has different degrees of interaction with estrogen receptors making them relatively strong or weak estrogens. ¬†Estrone is formed in the liver from precursor hormones such as androgens, DHEA and progesterone. Estrone remains high after menopause since it isn’t synthesized in the ovaries, is a strong estrogen and is often called “bad” estrogen since one of its metabolites is associated with increased rates of cancer. ¬†Estradiol is produced by the ovaries from cholesterol, its main role is to build the uterine lining during the second half of the menstrual cycle. ¬†It is also a relatively strong estrogen. Finally, estriol is a weaker estrogen, is secreted in high amounts during pregnancy to protect the fetus from estradiol and does not cause abnormal cell growth in the breasts and uterus and thus is not linked with cancer risk. Estrogen becomes deficient during menopause when the ovaries are no longer capable of producing estrogen. There is however some estrogen left from adrenal production, and fat storage

Signs of estrogen deficiency include:

  • Brain fog, painful intercourse, urinary tract infections, vaginal dryness, night sweats and thinning of the vaginal wall.

What can you do?:

  • Many herbs are helpful in menopausal symptoms that are due to low estrogen: Black cohosh, Chaste berry, Red clover, Sage and Alfafa.
  • Supplementing estrogen is very popular after menopause, however its imperative that the RIGHT estrogen is given in a safe form.¬†I recommend topical estrogen only and insist patients are on supplements which help prevent estrogen conversion into cancer causing metabolites.
  • Furthermore I assess liver function in these patients prior to beginning supplement and carefully monitor serum levels of estradiol once supplementation has begun.
  • I like Biest, a combination of estriol (80%) and estradiol (20%) applied topically.

chaste

Too much estrogen can cause several issues in both women and men. For starters its associated with cancer risk, can generate endometriosis, fibroids, obesity, hypothyroid, lumpy breasts, heavy periods and more. One of the main culprits associated with high estrogen are something called xenoestrogens.  These are estrogen mimickers that wreak havoc on your entire endocrine system.

Common sources include:

  1. pesticides
  2. beef
  3. dairy
  4. cosmetics (especially parabens)
  5. plastic
  6. cleaning chemicals
  7. fabric softeners
  8. farmed fish
  9. hair dye

You may have high estrogen if you experience:

  • Acne, anemia, depression, endometriosis, fatigue, fluid retention, irritability, PMS, weight gain, irregular/long or short periods.

What can you do?:

  • Avoid xenoestrogens
  • Consume brassica rich foods like broccoli or foods that are rich in DIM or indole 3-carbonate (I3C).
  • Supplement with calcium d glucarate.

Progesterone

There are receptors for progesterone in the brain, skin, thyroid, blood vessels, breasts, bone and more. Although its main roles are to shed the uterine lining during menses and maintain the placenta during pregnancy, the relative levels of progesterone in the body compared to estrogen is extremely important for good health. Progesterone deficiencies are very common.  This is because progesterone is used to synthesize cortisol.  Given our stressful lifestyles many of us are using progesterone to make cortisol.

Symptoms of low progesterone include:  

  • Anxiety, insomnia, abdominal fat, depression, a poor ability to deal with stress, headaches and miscarriages.

What can you do?:

  • Protect your progesterone with Dong Quai and Turmeric
  • Detoxify and clear estrogen with I3C, DIM, calcium-d glucarate and liver support.
  • Another great option is either oral or topical bioidentical progesterone. I like prometrium.

natural-micronised-progesterone-100mg-200mg-400mg-softgel-250x250

Testosterone

Important for both males and females, testosterone builds muscle, affects skin health/tone, bone health, heart function and sex drive.

Low levels of testosterone have been linked with:

  • Depression, obesity, osteoporosis, low libido, skin aging and heart disease.

What can you do?:

  • Avoid ¬†pesticides, plastics and xenoestrogens
  • Chill out! When the body needs more cortisol less testosterone is made from their common precursor (cholesterol). When this happens it is known as pregnenolone steal.
  • Increase zinc and fiber
  • Inhibit testosterone conversion to estrogen with aromatase inhibitors like resveratrol, chamomile, passionflower and red clover.
  • Enhance testosterone with Tribulus terrestis, Maca root and Damiana (Turnera diffusa)

Final thoughts

I recommend all patients have a complete hormone work-up if they aren’t experiencing optimal health. ¬†A salivary panel can assess estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, progesterone and cortisol. ¬†Once the results are in, dietary, supplement, botanical and pharmaceutical recommendations will be tailored to you to give you back your life and your health.

Biodentical replacement (BHRT) and balancing hormonal health are an important part of a naturopathic practice.

We are living a lot longer these days and quality of life needs to be addressed.  I think the best way to ensure we are living both longer and happier lives is to address endocrine health.

Bet these guys are on DHEA and have cortisol under control!

Bet these guys are on DHEA and have cortisol under control!

G is for Gastrointestinal health!

We’ve all experienced the discomfort of a stomach ache, most of us have experienced the pain of crampy diarrhea or constipation and many experience acid reflux and indigestion.

poo

“Number 2” as I liked to call it when I was a child is one of the most important bodily functions. It eliminates a great deal of the waste we accumulate through-out the day but our digestive tract is certainly more than that finished product that exits the large intestine and the colon. Our digestion spans from mouth to anus and each part of the journey food takes throughout the body is complex and can lead to disease. Our intestines don’t just assure we get nutrients from our food, but also makes up 80-90% of our immune system and is the site where roughly 70-80% of our neurotransmitters are synthesized.

In this post I’ll touch on how the body digests and eliminates food and I’ll describe what I think are the most important supplements and interventions for a healthy digestive system, such as:

  1. Probiotics
  2. Prebiotics
  3. Fiber
  4. Essential fats
  5. Water/hydration
  6. Eliminating food intolerances and allergies
  7. Stress relief

forkOne of my favorite naturopathic quotes is “we dig our graves with our knives and forks”.

Digestion is a very important determinant of health and what we consume affcets the make-up, functioning and effectiveness of every organ and cell in our body.

The mouth

Food is first broken down with physical energy from our teeth, and our saliva which contains enzymes that start to break down carbohydrates and fats. ¬†Chewing is a KEY part of digestion. ¬†When the food is left in chunks that are bigger than desired, the stomach needs to work harder to break them down and the small intestine will have a very difficult time getting food into the molecular sizes needed for absorption. ¬†Something as simple as not chewing can cause malabsorption, malnutrition, food sensitivities, inflammation of the intestinal tract¬†and even cancer. ¬†Once you’ve chewed your food (might I suggest a good 10 chews at least per bite) the swallowed food enters the esophagus and passes into the stomach.

Stomach:

The stomach is a strictly controlled environment with a very acidic/low ph. ¬†This is necessary to breakdown the molecular structure of proteins and begin to digest them down into smaller absorbable peptides and amino acids. ¬†¬†I often see patients on ant-acids, proton pump inhibitors or h2 blockers, who are unable to digest their food. This leads to bloating, distention, malabsorption and a deficiency of several minerals and vitamins like iron, B12, magnesium and calcium. ¬†What your medical doctor may not tell you is that the sphincter that keeps your stomach from pushing bits of acid food back up into your esophagus needs an acidic environment or low ph to function properly. Sometimes LOW, not elevated acid is the cause of heart burn!¬†Although reflux needs to be managed to reduce risk of ulcers, consider seeing your naturopathic doctor for natural remedies that can alleviate the discomfort without having a massive tole on your digestion (I’ve had great success with this).

Small intestine-absorptionMajor_digestive_enzymes

Once the stomach has churned and burned our food it enters the small intestine where food is absorbed into our blood so that it can heal and nurture every cell in our body. The pancreas and the gall bladder are very important players in the further breakdown of food and secrete enzymes required to finish digestion. Unfortunately, many of us have intestinal damage from synthetic foods, food intolerances and stress, this causes a deficiency of enzymes. Taking a digestive enzyme with food can help relieve the burden of an inefficient digestive system and can even relieve symptoms of pain, bloating, gas and indigestion.

The colon

The colon, also known as the large intestine is the last leg of our journey. It’s an amazing environment that is very dependent on proper bacteria content. ¬†Bacteria are a friend but also a foe. Naturopathic doctors talk a lot about natural healthy flora (bugs) vs. unhealthy ones, like candida. ¬†It’s crucial to build up enough good healthy bacteria to allow proper hormone function, serotonin synthesis and immune function.

Probiotics are found in: Yogurt, Kombucha tea, Miso, Soy milk, Sauerkraut and Kimichi.  Whereas prebiotics can be found in :Raw chicory root, raw oats, raw dandelion greens and unrefined barley.

chicory

sugar-free-yogurt

Elimination, a.k.a poop: 

Numero deux is made up of fiber, un-digestible components of food and bacteria. Your body loves fiber! It uses it to bulk stool, which helps with elimination, and even uses fiber to regulate blood sugar control. Another crucial component to elimination is enough water. If you’re constipated the top things to try are:

  1. Water
  2. Fiber
  3. Activity, moderate activity helps with peristalsis and gets things moving!
  4. Food elimination
  5. Herbs that stimulate peristalsis (although this can lead to dependence and a decrease in natural movement)

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and are experiencing diarrhea or loose stools, see your Naturopathic doctor for food sensitivity testing (a blood or electrodermal test), make sure to replenish electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium and consider raspberry or black tea to help dry up the stool.

Some diseases associated with poor intestinal health:

That’s the end of journey down gastrointesinal way. Poor digestive health is linked to these and many other disease:

  1. Cancer
  2. Crohn’s/ulcerative colitis
  3. IBS and depresison
  4. Arthritis
  5. Low energy/chronic fatigue/anemia
  6. Poor immune health

If you have digestive complaints see your naturopathic doctor for a program tailored to your specific needs which is likely to include one or more of the following:

  1. Fish oil
  2. Betaine acid/Vinegar
  3. Food sensitivity testing
  4. Digestive enzymes
  5. Food hygiene advise
  6. Counseling
  7. Probiotics
  8. Fiber
  9. Botanicals/Herbs like fennel. slippery elm, ginger and chamomile
    • Stimulate digestion
    • Sooth irritation
    • Promote healing of the intestinal lining
    • Generate relaxation so the body can rest and digest
  10. Stress relief! The body must be in parasympathetic or a relaxed state for digestion to occur.
Rest & Digest vs. Stress

Rest & Digest vs. Stress

 

If you want to know more, or are suffering from digestive complaints send me a message or schedule an appointment!!

digestion

F is for fatty acid part 4: DHA, the membrane fat!

H to the¬†izz-O, ¬† D to the HA. ¬†That’s the anthem get’cha damn hands up!

I’d like to introduce you to the super cool and fabulous fatty acid, DHA. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has an amazingly complex structure and because of this; very significantly alters the physiology of the body. ¬†DHA is the longest and most unsaturated omega-3 fatty acid and has several different applications compared to EPA.

DHA

DHA

DHA has an extremely kinky chain and is the omega-3 with the most double bonds lending to its special role in dynamic, fast-acting cells.

Dynamic quick acting muscles like the flight muscles in hummingbirds have extremely high levels of DHA but not their leg muscles while

Untitled

Pretty flutter wings full of DHA

the muscles found in the rattle of a rattle snake are very high in DHA whereas the stomach muscle has very little.

DHA containing rattle

Rattle containing DHA

Areas of the body with high DHA content

DHA is found in its highest concentrations in the membranes of brain cells, our eyes, sperm, and the heart, making it the fatty acid for neural health, cardiovascular health and issues surrounding fertility and birth

Areas of the body that benefit most from D to the HA

Areas of the body that benefit most from DHA

DHA’s ability to flip-flop between hundreds of different shapes, billions of times per second, enables nerve cells to send their rapid signals, allows the heart to contract and integrate its beat and permits the eye to see and interpret the world around us.

DHA is of most benefit in:

            1. Heart health
            2. Neural health and cognition
            3. Pregnancy and child development

DHA for heart health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in North America. Several studies support the use of omega-3 fatty acids in heart disease.  The heart health benefits of fish oils are so well supported in the literature that even health canada has approved claims for DHA and EPA in support of heart health.

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/applications/licen-prod/monograph/mono_fish_oil_huile_poisson-eng.php

DHA + EPA are great for the heart!

DHA + EPA are great for the heart!

DHA is found in large concentrations in the heart (more so then EPA).  Specifically, the kinky and flexible DHA is very involved in proper membrane function in the heart and regulates heart rate by modulating how and when potassium and sodium ions cross the cardiac membrane.  Thousands of studies have been done to assess the heart health benefits of omega-3s and research has revealed that DHA combined with EPA effectively decreases triglycerides, raise good (HDL) cholesterol, lower heart rate, prevent arrhythmias, and decrease blood pressure. All of these effects are extremely beneficial for the heart.  Studies have even shown that omega-3 supplementation with statin administration lowers cholesterol and reduces negative effects better then statins alone!

Most importantly adequate levels of DHA and EPA have been shown to prevent and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, ischemic event, atherosclerosis and death from a cardiac event.

DHA for cognitive health

The human brain is 90% fat and a good 30-50% of those are omega-3s. In fact, it has been speculated that the development of the large human brain and our evolution as human race depended on early man consuming a rich source of DHA.  The availability of DHA is literally a limiting factor in the evolution of the brain and research suggests that high levels of DHA optimize neural function.  Clinical research has demonstrated that DHA supplementation is effective for preventing cognitive decline in early stage memory decline and supplementation throughout adulthood with a high DHA formula has a positive effect on the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Adequate levels of omega-3 reduce risk of dementia by as much as 67%.  DHA also enhances cognition in healthy adults and teens as well.  It has been shown to improve reaction time, concentration, memory and possibly sudoku skillz? (j j/k).

DHA is prevents dementia

DHA is prevents dementia

DHA for pregnancy and fetal health

beldly

DHA supplementation is required during pregnancy

Adequate levels of omega-3 are associated with enhanced fertility.  They reduce the risk of miscarriage and have been shown to increase the likelihood of becoming pregnant.

Once pregnant, omega-3 intake during pregnancy and lactation modulate the growth, development, and health of infants. DHA is found in large concentrations in the brain and eyes of mom and her baby too! WIthout DHA, fetal development is severely compromised.  Adequate maternal intakes of DHA are very important for establishing optimal health of infants.  Birth outcomes such as intelligence, eye hand co-ordination and athleticism are enhanced in mothers with higher DHA status.  Adequate DHA during pregnancy also creates a longer gestation time, reduces the risk of preterm birth and leads to higher birth weight and length which reduces the risk of children that are small for gestational age.

Maintaining levels of DHA and EPA during infancy and breast-feeding is just as crucial.  Higher omega-3 intake throughout lactation leads to more mature and favorable behaviors in infants and children, such as: accelerated attentional functions; improved cognitive function; greater visual acuity; and improved immune responses, among other super kid benefits.

Two of the best ways to get DHA are algae oil and calamari oil. ¬†My favorite is Ascenta’s NutraSea DHA. ¬†I think its one of the world‚Äôs most sustainable high DHA omega-3s

Summary:

High DHA omega-3 supplements are best for pregnant and lactating women (or women trying to conceive), seniors, individuals looking to maximize brain health and those who are at increased risk for heart disease.

DHA is the best fatty acid for areas where membrane functioning is crucial like the heart, the eye and the brain.

Finally since calamari (in NutraSea DHA) and algae oil (in NutraVeg) are high in DHA and more sustainable then fish, high DHA fish oil is also a great choice for individuals looking to a choose a more sustainable marine source of omega-3.

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F is for fatty acid part 3! EPA for the win!

Fresh off the super fun talk I gave this past Thursday to the lovely BC employees of wholefoods, on omega-3s; I shall as promised, finally deliver the 3rd part of our discussion about all things fatty acid.

get it in ya!

get it in ya!

One of the points I really wanted to emphasize with the whole foods crew is that there are specific instances when we want more EPA and those during which we need more DHA instead.  Just like we talked about omega-6s and omega-3s competing for cellular absorption in part 2 of F is for fatty acid, so too do EPA and DHA compete with each other for incorporation, metabolism and use through-out the body.

cellular_health

The clinical benefits of daily fish oil

Omega-3s are one of THE most researched topics in medicine.  Close to 2000 papers are published per year and currently there are about 20,000 research articles on the health benefits of omega-3s.

Picture1

Geeks love omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids biggest claim to fame is heart health and prevention of cardiovascular disease. It all started in Greenland, where eskimos paradoxically were living longer and had lower risks of heart disease despite consuming diets that were¬†ridiculously¬†high in fat. ¬†Dr Dyerberg (considered by many to be the father of omega-3s) traveled to Greenland and discovered that their high fat diets weren’t made up of the usual fats, but were very high in omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, and so the era of studying the health effects of omega-3s began.

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The health effects of omega-3s:

Fish oil modifies a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including blood pressure, blood clotting, triglyceride (blood fat) concentrations, irregular heart beats, heart rate and blood vessel health. Because of this,  increased intake of omega-3s is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and supplementation in at-risk patients also reduces mortality.

As mentioned in fatty acids part 2, omega-3s are awesomely anti-inflammatory. They are beneficial in any disease with an inflammatory component, such as pain, arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, psoriasis, eczema, lupus, asthma, and basically any condition that ends in ‚Äúitis‚ÄĚ, as that means inflammation. In fact I challenge you to google any condition, especially an inflammatory one + omega-3 or fish oil and I¬†guarantee¬†you’ll get multiple hits.

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Research also suggests that omega-3 fatty acids improve immune function,  boost metabolism and improve body composition, which can help overweight or obese people achieve weight loss.

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Omega-3s have been shown to help maintain bone mass and therefore help in the prevention of osteoporosis or loss of bone density and are very involved in visual development so they can help to improve eye health.

Because omega-3 fatty acids comprise a large part of the fats in the brain, they help to improve brain health and learning processes, which therefore make them valuable in infant and childhood learning, as well as behavioral or attention issues.  They also decrease the inflammation associated with an aging brain making them great for prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and memory decline.

Finally, research suggests that omega-3s can help to stabilize mood imbalances, which is helpful in depression, anxiety, and hostility/aggression.

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Lets talk about each of these effects in more detail and specifically address which conditions EPA is of benefit, and which ones require DHA.

EPA

EPA is the best choice for any condition modulated by, or due to inflammation.  The anti-inflammatory actions of omega-3 fatty acids are mainly attributed to EPA.

When inflammation becomes chronic is destroys healthy cells and tissues in our bodies contributing to a great deal of diseases such as:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • cancer
  • allergies
  • asthma
  • eczema
  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • obesity¬†
  • arthritis and joint pain
  • ulcerative colitis
  • crohns disease and others

One of the conditions newly thought to be due to inflammation is depression.

  • In the past the etiology of depression was widely assumed to be due to serotonergic dysfunctions.¬† However, the current theories that rely solely on serotonin function and cortisol hypersecretion are insufficient.¬†
  • More then half of depressed individuals with depression relapse despite conventional management with anti-depressants.¬†

One of the new hypotheses for depression etiology is inflammation and several studies have been done to assess the inflammatory hypothesis of depression. 

  • Depressed patients have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines and when exogenous inflammatory molecules are administered they induce a depressed state.¬†
  • Chronic inflammation generates what is known as sickness behavior and signs and symptoms match those of depression almost completely.
  • Depression has been described as the ‚Äúbrain on fire‚ÄĚ
  • Research reveals that EPA is actually the main effective component in omega-3 treatment of depression
  • Several meta-analysis have discovered that a ratio of at least 3:1 of EPA to DHA is required for anti-depressant effectiveness.

Inflammation is also a common factor in brain disorders, including attention deficit disorder.

You can’t feel brain inflammation the way you can feel an inflamed finger from a splinter or an arthritic joint, however, brain inflammation when present can generate a foggymind, difficulty concentrating, and an inability to focus.

An excellent way to control inflammation in the brain is to maintain high levels of EPA in the blood through the consumption of a high EPA omega-3 product

Finally,

EPA is of GREAT benefit to athletes and those looking to loose weight. EPA improves body composition by accelerating fat loss and increasing muscle growth and strength; this can have important implications for athletic performance. When EPA is consumed it promotes recovery from exercise by reducing exercise-induced inflammation and soreness while also improving heart efficiency and lung function.

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Next week we’ll tackle the clinical indications of DHA and GLA ūüôā

If you’d like to know specifically how omega-3s modulate joint pain and arthritis, how they can generate weight loss or how they reduce and improve symptoms of colitis, IBS or poor memory, comment on the post and I’ll reply!

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

A new year, some new thoughts

It’s a new year! A fresh slate, a time of resolve. A time to reflect on what you want from your life.

Winston Churchill once said that you create your own universe as you go along. We are all responsible for the entirety of our lives.  For our feelings.  For our actions.  For our happiness and lack thereof.

hartley2lores

Life is suppose to be fun.  It should be magical, it should be beautiful and it certainly should be happy.

me and my siblings loving the shit out of our fort!

loving the shit out of our fort!

Your thoughts are the most powerful tool you have in designing your life.  In fact, all that you are is a result of what you have thought.  Unfortunately, this is true of negative thoughts and of positive ones.

images

What you resist will always persist and you can shift this by focusing on your DO wants rather then your DON’T wants. You get what you think about, whether it’s wanted or un-wanted.

Albert Einstein said “Imagination is everything. ¬†It is the preview to life’s coming attractions” – Smart man.

So on this new day, the first of a new calendar I resolve to imagine my life as I wish it. In fact I intend not only to imagine it, but to feel as though I am already living my own personal bliss.

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Celebrating

  1. I will focus on the things I have to be grateful for.
  2. I will count my blessings.
  3. I’ll remember that the feelings I put out into the world are the same ones that will be returned to me.
  4. I will approach every task and every challenge this new year brings with the idea that:

Whether I think I can or can’t, either way I am right.¬†

Welcome  2013, welcome love, welcome laughter.

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F is for fatty acid- part 2

How the heck do fish oils work & what do EFAs do?!?

Once fish oil is consumed and enters the blood it becomes incorporated into every type of cell all over our bodies. Each of these cells have an outer membrane and this outer membrane contains phospholipid fat. Each of these phospholipid molecules contain two fatty acids. Many of these fatty acids are the lovely essential fatty acids we discussed last week. Mainly:  AA, EPA or DGLA.

The cell and its phospholipid plasma membrane

F is for fatty acid….part deux

How do Essential fatty acids work?

There are 4 key concepts which have helped these mean green health helping machines develop their cure all reputation:

1) EFAs are an important part of all cell membranes: Blood cells, immune cells, neurons and neural cells, heart cells etc etc tec. 2) EFAs provide the correct environment for : Membrane fluidity, enzymatic functioning, proteins structure and membrane receptors. 3) EFAs regulate cell signaling, gene expression, cellular function, the immune system and EVERY SINGLE REACTION IN THE BODY! 4) EFAs reduce and resolve inflammation

One of the primary roles EFAs play in the body is immune system regulation and inflammation

1) Important cell membrane component EFAs are critical components in the cellular membranes of many organs. Some of those most affected by EFA imbalance are the brain, the heart, the digestive system and the skin. Once the fatty acids from fish oil make into the tiny membranes found all over our body, they are cleaved/cut out of their membranes so that they can be modified, metabolized and utilized for chemical reactions. After they are cleaved out of the phospholipid membrane and released as free fatty acids,  EFAs are enzymatically metabolized and oxygenated and then further modified to yield hormone like molecules called eicosanoids. The first of these enzymes, Cyclooxygenase (COX) oxidizes and removes two C=C double bonds leading to the thomboxanes, prostaglandins and prostacyclins (TX, PG and PGI). These hormonal signalling molecules then modulate circulation, the thickness of your blood and the release of white blood cells and inflammatory mediators.   The second enzyme: Lipoxygenase (LOX) generates leukotrienes whose main action is to narrow your blood vessles causing vasocontriction.

Arachidonic acid being cut out of a membrane and metabolized

2) Every reaction in all the cells of your body is very dependent on the structure of its outer membrane. How flexible or “fluid” it is, what molecules are sticking out (receptors) and the tags other cells floating around can recognize (like glycation, sulphonation at the like) are what determine the activity of every cell. When a molecule floats by on the outside of a cell it must bind to the outer membrane of the cell in order to initiate changes on the inside of said cell. The proteins the molecule binds to is known as a membrane receptor, and is dependent on a lock and key model. Only a very specific size and shaped molecule (key) which fits perfectly into the receptor protein (lock) can initiate the snow-ball effects inside the cell where changes occur that initiates genetic, messenging and metabolic alterations. ¬†EFAs very profoundly modulate the way the outside of our cellular membranes look. By doing this, EFAs significantly modify the shape of the lock and therefore what type of key will fit in and initiate cellular changes. EFAs modulate:

  1. The fluidity, flexibility and moldability of our cells
  2. The enzymatic reactions that occur inside and outside of our cells
  3. Protein structures and membrane receptors.

3) Genetic alterations Once they alter the structure and functioning of the cellular membrane omega-3s are able to alter intracellular signalling. They modify the genes involved in fat burning, glucose control, neural synpase formation, neurotransmitter release, hormone secretion and modify virtually every reaction in your body from the signal required to initiate a new muscle fiber growth to being able to remember the buy eggs at the grocery store.

Fish oil’s claim to fame! Decreased inflammation

The main benefit of fish oil is a reduction in chronic¬†inflammation giving our cells a break from the overwhelming destructive inflammatory fire that’s been burning on and on due to toxicity, processed diets, environmental exposure and the chemical reactions required to run our beautiful magnificent human bodies.

Remember when I told you that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is about 30:1 in our society, well that inappropriate level of omega-6 fats relative to omega-3s generates what is known as chronic inflammation.  The eicosanoids/hormones produced from fish oil are anti-inflammatory, those from omega-6s are inflammatory. Unless our diet is balanced and equal in both fatty acids; inflammation will prevail and become chronic.
Chronic inflammation

When inflammation becomes chronic and is allowed to smolder un-opposed, the immune systems ceases to only fight and attack pathogens and invaders and begins to cause damage and break down to normal tissue. This chronic inflammation inappropriately activates the immune system against self cells and is at the foundation of auto-immune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, and Psoriasis

Omega-3 are able to prevent and resolve inflammation in 3 ways:

  1. They compete with AA for membrane incorporation
  2. They modify the genes that initiate inflammation
  3. They actively resolve inflammation that’s already occuring

1. One of the principle ways omega-3s reduce inflammation is by directly competing with the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid for membrane incorporation.  EPA then competes for enzymatic activation by several ezymes, namely: COX and LOX enzymes which convert EFAs into prostaglandins (PG2/PG3), thromboxanes (TXA2/TXA3) and leukotrienes (LTK4/5)  EPA then competes for enzymatic activation by COX & LOX enzymes. When eicosapentaenoic acid is metabolized by COX/LOX instead of AA, it produces a very different and much less inflammatory set of molecules then does AA.

  • AA produces the proinflammatory hormone like molecules: ¬†Prostaglandin E(2) and leukotrieneB4–>These are potent molecules that recruit inflammatory cells and contributes greatly to tissue breakdown and the heat of inflammation
  • EPA produces eicosanoids, with a different structure which are less potent and much less inflammatory¬†Prostaglandin E3 and leukotriene B5
2. Omega-3s directly modify the genes associated with inflammation. ¬†Omega-3s turn inflammation off, preventing destruction of your body and allowing it to heal. They reduce a messenger called nuclear factor-őļB. This bad boy is activation which decreases the formation of ¬†pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-1, 6, 8 and TNF alpha from monocytes and macrophages.

3. Finally, Resolution of inflammation has historically been viewed as a passive process, occurring as a result of the withdrawal of pro-inflammatory signals like leukotrienes and prostaglandins.  Research over the last few years has determined that inflammation resolution is an active process. basically meaning the taking your omega-3s inhibits inflammation from starting in the first place and thennnnnnn helps turn off the inflammatory switch if its already been on & burning everything up. Stay tuned next week for part 3 of 3 which deals with which clinical diseases are prevented and treated by the anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids EPA, DHA and DGLA.