Monthly Archives: October 2013

Environmental Chemicals and toxins

car exhaustThis is a popular topic today as research is finding out that chemicals are causing illness, especially in our most vulnerable population: kids. Now, we know that toxins actually are damaging before our children are born. While pregnant, the mother can actually transfer her toxic exposures to her child. The unfortunate part is that the fetus cannot detoxify these chemicals. Hence, many chemicals can lead to illness, including neurodevelopmental disorders. This has been by witnessed by mercury and lead exposure, but now it is not just the heavy metals, it is the chemicals leaching from plastics and the pesticide and herbicide use in our lawns.

Many diseases are now linked to these chemicals known as “endocrine disruptors”, such as early puberty, thyroid disease, obesity, and even cancer.

So what can you do to limit the exposure? We’re inundated with car exhaust, air pollution, and every day chemicals used at work, but we can limit it by avoiding chemicals on our lawn and in our house to kill bugs. It takes a bit more work to pluck weeds and use sticky traps. Here are some ideas for healthy alternatives to harsh pesticide chemicals: LINK

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Brain-Gut Axis

brain gut axisImagine a bi-directional highway between your gut and your brain. Now, all the cars and trucks on the highway are called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are the biologic messengers of the gut and the brain. There is serotonin, which is the feel good neurotransmitter, and dopamine, which is your motivator neurotransmitter, and GABA, which is your calming neurotransmitter. These are just a few of the neurotransmitters, with more about them HERE.

Neurotransmitters aren’t just made in the brain, they are mostly manufactured in the gut. And how do we make them? Through the protein that we eat! That’s why we need to eat well-balanced meals so that we can get the protein we need to help keep our nervous system in balance.

Proteins break down into amino acids in the gut. And these amino acids are the precursors to neurotransmitters. But that’s not all we need to make neurotransmitters.

We also need vitamins and minerals, otherwise our neurotransmitters run out of gas. The most common vitamins and minerals we need to help make neurotransmitters include: Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, and zinc.

So to sum up, we need healthy protein at every meal, as well as whole foods, such as legumes, squash, greens, cruciferous vegetables and fruits, to provide the necessary vitamins and minerals to support the nervous system.

Food Allergies vs. Food Sensitivities

food sensitivityThere can be confusion about the difference between food allergy versus food sensitivity. Food allergy and food sensitivities occur when the immune system goes “awry” and thinks that food is foreign.

Food allergy means that an antibody called IgE (stands for immunoglobulin E) binds to food and causes a reaction in the body. The reaction commonly manifests in hives, skin rashes, stomach aches, nausea/vomiting, and more seriously, swelling of the throat and “anaphylaxis” which can be life-threatening.

Food sensitivities are mediated by different antibodies than a Food Allergy. A Food sensitivity happens when an antibody, IgG or IgA, binds to a food and causes a reaction in the body. Usually this type of reaction is not as immediate as food allergy, but may occur from 2-3 hrs to days after ingesting the food. The reaction may cause inflammation in the body. Many people people report feeling fatigue (especially a few hours after eating), congestion, joint pain (especially in the lower back), stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea, and general malaise.

The most common food sensitivities you’ll hear about is gluten and dairy sensitivity. In my practice, I often see find dairy food sensitivity linked to stuffy nose and congestion, frequent ear infections, sinus problems and even allergy-like symptoms, such as itchy throat and puffy, dark under eye circles. See gluten sensitivity and celiac disease HERE.

Testing can be done for food allergy by your child’s allergist/immunologist or pediatrician. It can be done by a skinprick test or by a blood test.

Specialized testing can also be done for food sensitivity. This may include IgG and IgA food sensitivity testing by blood and stool, respectively. The gold standard for detecting food sensitivity, however, is the food elimination diet. This elimination diet may be very difficult and the child should be followed by a dietitian closely.

A Nutritional Perspective

Navigating a healthy diet for kids can be confusing with the bombardment of advertisements for healthy foods and beverages containing vitamins or amino acids.  Simply put, the less processed the food is, the better for your child.  That includes pre-packaged foods and processed carbohydrates (i.e. flour, pastas, tortilla or potato chips).  One of the hot topics is the omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for kids.  A healthy balance of fatty acids is required for healthy brain and cognitive development, but our diet consists of an imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids which promotes inflammation.  This is due to the fact that we use too much processed fats, vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, canola oils that are commonly used in cooking.  We also get it in meat from cows and chickens that are mostly fed grains due to their high omega-6 content.

Kids need a diet containing mostly whole foods, so consider ditching the cereal, toast, or bagel in the morning and try protein smoothies or chocolate avocado pudding instead (see recipe menu). Start using coconut oil for cooking which provides an easy absorbable fat. Use olive oil for salad dressings, avoiding pre-packaged dressings.