How Stress and Trauma Shape Us: Why You Should Be Thankful for Hardships

Is Stress Really That Bad? 

Nearly every human I know responds negatively to stress. In fact, most of us will do just about anything to avoid trials, tribulations, stress, troubles, roadblocks and any sort of stimulus that pulls us out of our comfort zones. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the words, “why do bad things happen to good people?” I used to be one of those who echoed that same sentiment when I was going through rough patches, but then I started to notice something about myself. When I was in my comfort zone, I usually became complacent. For me, this equalled stagnation. Why would I change? Everything FELT good, comfortable and easy. Only when I fell on my face and had to re-evaluate my values and life, was I willing to change. You see pain serves a very noble purpose. It pushes us beyond what we think we can handle; it cracks us open; it brings us to our knees and molds us into someone stronger.

I remember when I went through my divorce, it was a bit of an ego death. Who I thought I was, what people thought of me and my life in general were all tested. I hit rock bottom, but something beautiful happened in that dark night of the soul. I was cracked open, and as wise philosopher Rumi says, this is where the light can enter. Only in a time of desperation and pain was I able to look through different lenses. I am now fully convinced that without that pain, I would not have seen the world from a different perspective that helped to change my entire career. Again, very few people transform without something painful to push them in that direction.

Stress becomes dangerous when its too much, we perceive it negatively, or it becomes chronic. It is all in our perspective and how we react to things. Chronic conditions occur because there is some sort of stressor, whether it be mental or physical, that is continual. This can lead to inflammation of the body or brain. And remember-inflammation is the heralding cause of all disease. However, the flip side of this argument is that acute stress and acute inflammation can give us new eyes, a new lease on life and push us in a direction we would’ve never entertained without the “bad” experience. Short lived stress is not necessarily a bad thing it seems after all.  There is great wisdom to be gained if one is able to change perspective and see healthy stress as a challenge, puzzle to be solved, or a “push” that leads to growth. Which leads me to ask-Are there really “good” or “bad” experiences or is our perspective just off? And how do we gracefully deal with stress and then let it go so that it does not turn into a chronic problem?

 

Lessons from Science about Stress

And what does science say about stress? We can easily investigate the animal and plant world to see how stress can become a natural (and not necessarily bad) part of life.

For example, in the plant world they actually have a word for it-xenohormesis. Xenohormesis explains how plants undergoing ecological stress produce “extra nutritional constituents” that confer survival advantages upon the animals or humans that eat them. This is exactly what happened in the blue zones of the plant like Okinawa, Japan. The plants there were closer to the equator and had to make more prominent antioxidants and phytochemicals to protect themselves from the damage of the sun. This is one of the reasons why the population there lives longer.

Concerning animals, a study done by Kaufer, Kirby and their colleagues at UC Berkley Neuroscience Institute subjected rats to short lived stress. For them, immobilization in their cages for a few hours. This doubled the proliferation of new brain cells in area of the brain that retains memories. The rats even performed better on a memory test two weeks after the stressful event.

One of the simplest examples of positive stress in humans is exercise. Whether you love it or hate it, exercise makes us healthier and stronger. But it doesn’t do so through pleasure. No pain, no gain. Through sweat and tears, we build the bodies that we desire that promote longevity. This feat is accomplished through ACUTE STRESS-tearing muscle fibers when lifting weights, pushing our heart rates to build more cardiac muscle and production of lactic acid that makes us sore the next day. This acute stress makes us stronger in the long run and actually makes us live better.

Stress can also come in the form of heat or cold. But does it benefit our health too?

  1. The Importance of Heat Shock Proteins and Anti Aging

There is actually new research coming out on what heat can do for healing. (Cold temperatures place a similar stress on the body. For more info, check out my blog on cryotherapy). Saunas are now being shown to trigger the stress response in the body in a similar fashion as exercise. This is great news for those patients who have trouble physically or don’t have the luxury of being able to exercise. The concept is known as Hyperthermic Conditioning and now research has shown that it can affect everything from endurance to growth of new brain cells. In fact, studies are now showing increases in secretion of HGH, or human growth hormone, as well as activation of HSP, or heat shock proteins. HGH increases stamina, promotes longevity and is anti aging. Its levels drop off after age 30 and this is what leads to aging, so you can see how increasing this hormone is very important to overall health. HSP, or heat shock proteins, are also activated during heat exposure and stress. High heat serves a purpose, you see as it can denature or destroy proteins. This is beneficial as it kills off protein capsids of viruses but does not harm the body’s innate proteins due to none other than, HSP. This is HSP’s job-to prevent protein degradation in the body when it is exposed to high heat. They also have the ability to repair damaged DNA. This is why you should not immediately treat a fever until it is dangerously high-around 105 or so.

Take it from the well versed Dr. Rhonda Patrick,

“Heat shock proteins (or HSPs), as the name implies, are induced by heat and are a prime example of hormesis. Intermittent exposure to that induces a hermetic response (a protective stress response), which promotes the expression of a gene called heat shock factor 1 and subsequently HSPs involved in stress resistance. HSPs can prevent damage by directly scavenging free radicals and also by supporting cellular antioxidant capacity through its effects on maintaining glutathione. (Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant) HSPs can repair misfolded, damaged proteins thereby ensuring proteins have their proper structure and function.”

In one study, rats that were exposed to intermittent heat sessions had a HUGE expression of heat shock proteins that was associated with 30% more muscle regrowth compared to a control group. And the expression lasted for 48 hours after the heat exposure!

There is one specific HSP called HSP70 gene that is now associated with increased longevity, which suggests there may be anti aging benefits.

         2. Heat Shock Proteins and Muscle Soreness

Hyperthermic conditioning has been shown to slow muscle atrophy during disuse, for example, if you broke your leg and couldn’t move around for a few weeks. Not only that, but studies now show that HSP and hyperthermia can prevent against muscle breakdown that can occur in up to 25% of patients on the cholesterol lowering statin drugs.

Many patients are unable to stimulate HSPs through exercise, but now with research indicating that saunas are nearly as effective, this is extremely important for the population to understand.

Moreover, new research is showing HSPs lowering insulin resistance, promoting longevity, and revving up immunity. Stress is not always a bad thing, especially if acute! It actually makes us stronger, no matter how uncomfortable in the moment.

As Above, So Below

Now that we see that the microscopic parts of bodies can perform such wonders when exposed to stress, it only makes logical sense to extrapolate to the environment around us.

  1. Our immune systems become extremely healthy if we are exposed to and live through any disease.
  2. We dread exercise but in the long run, it gives us the body we desire.
  3. Stressful heartbreaks teach us what we do and don’t want in a partner
  4. Fasting can feel mentally stressful, but frees up energy for our immune cells to seek and destroy cancerous or rogue cells.
  5. New business ventures are extremely stressful and take hard work but in the end you can reap great success.
  6. Fevers feel terrible but destroy unwanted pathogens
  7. Speaking our minds can be terribly difficult, but afterwards we usually feel a sense of relief.

Again, let me stress that not all stress is positive or healthy. It all depends on how much, our perspective about it, how long it continues and to what extent. But often, the bad can show us what we do not want to seek out. It can “wake us up” to a new world with new eyes. When we are at our lowest, we become creative and determined. We have nothing to lose. The underlying issue to grasp when dealing with stress is that EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY. The good, the bad, the sun, the rain, joy or pain…all are temporary and will end. It is up to us in deciding HOW we respond to stress. And perhaps stress is a teacher that we should not avoid at all costs?

Only the greatest of warriors are given the greatest of trials. No one else could survive. No matter what you are going through, know that you will survive and be better and stronger for it. SMILE

Much love

Dr Jess

 

How the Nutrient in Broccoli Sprouts Can Change Genes To Protect Against Cancer

All of us know broccoli when we see it but how many of us know what broccoli sprouts are? I know I didn’t grow up eating them and have been surprised to find out the amazing health benefits of this little but powerful veggie. And this isn’t the only veggie that has the magic….

 

Why Should I Care About Sulforaphane?

I know, I know, why should you care about sulforaphane? Well, it just so happens that it is VITAL. Some of its most important jobs are enhancing brain function, promoting healthy weight, autism, reducing the risk of cancer, neurological diseases, diabetes, and heart disease. Sulforaphane is an organosulfate that provides valuable sulfur that is the building block of so many reactions in our body. Sulforaphane is antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective. Lots of great reasons to understand this powerful compound!

Dr. Thomas W Kensler described it as “the most potent naturally occurring inducer of Nrf2 signaling.”

What sulforaphane does is activate and up regulate certain genetic pathways or transcription factors, like Nrf2. Nrf2 is a transcription factor that affects what genes are turned on or off. When I began to see this published in medical journals, I was really impressed. Everyone is beginning to see how nutrition CAN target genes (better known as nutrigenomics) and can therefore, prevent against common killers like cancer. In fact, sulforaphane has been found to be effective against several types of cancer! More and more evidence shows that it is also acts against cancer on several levels, from development to progression. In a study published in Cancer Therapy in May 2010, sulforaphane was found to inhibit breast cancer stem cells. Not even chemotherapy can inhibit cancerous stem cells.

Sulforaphane has shown a potential therapeutic role for protection of cells from DNA damage. It also showed that it could induce modulation of the cell, meaning death if the cell was diseased or old, or protection against cancer and proliferation of cancer cells. In fact, one study out of Harvard demonstrated signifiant improvement in autistic children treated with sulforaphane. They showed an improvement in social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication.

As previously mentioned, sulforaphane helps to activate Nrf2. It has been shown to be protective against cancer and can modify genes associated with chemoprevention. It does this by ramping up cellular defense mechanisms and detoxification pathways. Basically this little Nrf2 factor turns on genes that activate our cellular military. Their job is to go out and patrol our tissues, blood, organs and each cell to make sure everything is running smoothly with no mutiny anywhere in the body.

Where Do I Get Sulforaphane?

Broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are all rich in what is known as sulforaphane. In fact, all cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane! But it doesn’t just happen to occur naturally in plants.

Sulforaphane is only created when the plant is damaged as a stress mechanism. An enzyme called myrosinase is released that then reacts with another compound called glucoraphanin. The result is sulforaphane. You may be wondering how this is a defense mechanism for the plant? Well sulforaphane is actually toxic in high doses, even in humans, especially if large quantities of cruciferous vegetables are eaten raw. So  chewing or chopping up the vegetables trigger them to release sulforaphane.

Can I Eat Cruciferous Vegetables If I Have Thyroid Dysfunction?

Trust me when I say that cruciferous vegetables do not CAUSE thyroid dysfunction. In small and normal quantities, sulforaphane creates a hormetic effect. Remember the poison is in the dose in the natural world concerning herbs, so called poisons and foods. Sometimes, as in the case of sulforaphane, we can gain beneficial effects from something that would be toxic in higher doses. Everything in moderation!

In high doses or if cruciferous veggies are eaten predominantly raw in someone who is susceptible to thyroid disease, goitrins can form in the body. These goitrins interfere with the production of normal thyroid hormones, leading to hypothyroidism. The trade off with this is that cooking the cruciferous veggies past 138 degrees Fahrenheit deactivated the enzyme that helps to make sulforaphane. So the best way to get a satisfactory dose is by eating it raw in small amounts or by eating broccoli sprouts.

One thing you can do to prevent any negative effects from goitrins is to take adequate doses of iodine and selenium. Plus sulforaphane is pretty powerful-you only have to eat 3-5 servings per week to see the anticancer benefits! In fact, one study found that “dose” reduced the cancer risk by 30-40%.

The Highest Dose of Sulforaphane

Now that you know about sulforaphane, you may be wondering what the best source is and how much you need to reap the wonderful benefits! The highest dose is found in vegetables that are more immature and the content actually weans as the plants mature. Thats why young broccoli sprouts have a much higher content than just regular broccoli. They contain 10-100 times the level of glucoraphanin and sulforaphane. This little vegetable is really the panacea of healing.

There are supplements with sulforaphane and broccoli sprouts, but I always believe if you can get the nutrition from food, or the most natural way possible, it is much more bioavailable or absorbable. Try adding broccoli sprouts to your salad or even smoothie every week. Remember you only need 3-5 servings a week to ensure you’re getting the detox, anticancer and immune benefits. Don’t forget to speak with your trusted healthcare professional if you have a thyroid disorder prior to gobbling up too many cruciferous vegetables!

Way to be your own best doctor!

Much love

Dr Jess

 

 

Exposure of primary mouse hepatocytes to sulforaphane resulted in activation of Nrf2 and significant elevation of protein expressions responsible for excretion of arsenic into extracellular space. SFN has the ability to potentially excrete heavy metals like arsenic.

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

  1. www.sciencedirect.com/science/articles/pii/s0014579306002316
  2. www.drperlmutter.com/good-news-nrf2/
  3. www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080//10408398.2016.1259983?journalcode=bfsn20
  4. Sulforaphane and other Nutrigenomics Nrf2 Activators: Can the Clinician’s Expectation Be Matched by the Reality? www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/26881038/

Signs You May Have Candida

Candida albicans, or yeast, is an silent epidemic in modern countries. It is the most common strain of yeast and is found in the vagina, the throat/tongue, the GI tract, and the skin. The infection most often affects those who have a weakened immune system. It can spread to unsafe levels throughout the body. As a doc, I’ve tested many people who have vague symptoms like digestive issues or brain fog for candida. This yeast often overwhelms the body by hiding from the body’s defenses in a sticky biofilm. It also pairs up with other opportunistic pathogens like Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or Epstein Barr virus.

Over time, if left unchecked, candida breaks down the intestinal walls and barrier, where it can enter the bloodstream. Candida can then release toxic byproducts like acetylaldehyde into the system, causing its victims to feel almost drunk. These toxins can also lead to leaky gut syndrome, as the stomach barrier is then compromised.

What makes things worse is if the pH of the gut is altered at all. When our guts (not the bloodstream) are too alkaline, this makes it more hospitable to these negative pathogens. Our guts are supposed to be acidic! Healthy stomach acid kills any opportunistic bacteria that may try to enter our bodies through food and water. Processed carbs and sugar raise the pH to alkaline levels in the gut where this allows candida to grow out of control, leading to a fully systemic infection. This can all be prevented with a healthy immune system, healthy food and self care.

So What Causes Candida? 

We aren’t sure what all directly affects candida overgrowth. Most likely anything that negatively impacts our immune systems can help candida production. Here are some known causes:

  1. Standard American Diets of sugar, alcohol, and refined carbs. As I mentioned above, these “foods” change the pH of the gut and can lead to a more hospitable environment for malicious pathogens. Diets full of organic food that our ancestors would recognize are imperative. Think of anything that grows naturally from earth! Fruits, veggies, clean proteins and some pseudo grains like quinoa are the best choices!
  2. Antibiotics. Although antibiotics are often life saving in dire situations like sepsis, infections and injuries, they are absolutely overprescribed today. When this happens, it not only creates antibiotic resistance, but kills off all bacteria-the bad AND the good! This is detrimental as these good bacteria help protect our immune systems. In fact, they are our immune system!
  3. Steroids. Its a fact that people who use steroid inhalers for disorders like cardiopulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma have a higher risk of developing thrush, or candidiasis of the mouth. They are told to wash out their mouths after each inhaler use. Those who have to use systemic steroids like prednisone, for their autoimmune disorders also risk getting compromised with systemic candidiasis. Steroids significantly lower immunity.
  4. Birth Control Pills. This is a less common cause, but nonetheless, should be named because so many women today are on birth control pills! They are labeled a stage 2 carcinogen by the World Health Organization as they are made from synthetic hormones from pregnant mares. When combined with a poor diet, steroids or antibiotics, birth control pills can compound yeast infections. They do this by skewing natural hormone levels. Hormones are integral to a functioning system as they intimately communicate with our immune systems and neurotransmitters.
  5. Anything that Lowers Immunity such as Chemotherapy or HIV. Candida is opportunistic and therefore preys on weaker immune systems for survival. Children, the elderly, HIV patients, or cancer patients are particularly at risk. Inflammation or  an autoimmune condition are favorable for candida as well.
  6. Diabetes or Obesity. Candida LOVES sugar. In fact, this is its primary food source, so it makes logical sense that a high level of sugar in the blood would attract this pesky fungus. Obesity also plays a role in lowering immunity and predisposing one to candidiasis. In the hospital, we would often treat obese patients with antifungals as they would get yeast infections of the skin anywhere that was cool and moist.

What are the Symptoms of Candida?

  1. Brain Fog and Chronic Fatigue-Most people would never expect such infections to cause such vague symptoms. Candida overgrowth can be responsible for inability to focus, migraines, joint pains, lack of initiative and chronic fatigue syndrome. Remember that candida produces the toxic acetylaldehyde, which can lead to impaired thinking.
  2. Bruxism-Bruxism, or grinding the teeth at night, is a sure sign of a candida infection. These critters are often more active at night, which puts a stress on the body. The people infected can often be seen grinding or gnashing their teeth at night due to the stress of the nocturnal movements of the candida.
  3. IT Band Soreness-the IT band runs alongside the outside of the knee and thigh. There are lots of reasons for the soreness such as trigger points, but a less well known cause is candida albicans. If systemic, it can get lodged in the joint spaces like the knees and lead to inflammation, or pain.
  4. Digestive Issues and Bloating-this one should be no surprise. One of the main causes of gut dysbiosis is an out of control candida infection! Candida can cause the lining of the stomach to become permeable, or leaky if they become overpopulated. This can lead to improper digestion and absorption of nutrients which can further impede the immune system.
  5. Vaginal Yeast Infection and Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections-Candida overgrowth is super annoying as many women know! I think most people today know that recurrent yeast infections point to a parasitic infection that needs eradication. But did you know that recurrent urinary tract infections, or UTIs, also indicate the same issue? The fungus can hang onto the cells within the bladder, leading to eventual overgrowth
  6. Persistent toenail fungus-Similar to yeast infections, toenail fungus that is persistent (longer than 8 months), indicates there may be a bigger problem at play. A month long parasite cleanse might really help to clear up the problem.
  7. Oral Thrush-This is common in babies, but can also occur in adults if there is a systemic candida infection or if they are using steroids or inhalers. Thrush is a thick white coating on the tongue that can cause a sore throat or tongue as well as painful swallowing. Remember the mouth is the opening to the digestive tract so it reflects what may be going on in our guts too!
  8. Recurrent or Persistent Sinusitis-A candida infection can be a cause of sinusitis, although there are many causative factors. Its presence can lead to inflammation of the sinus cavities, post nasal drips, sneezing, allergies and pain.
  9. Adrenal Fatigue-When systemic candidiasis is present and left untreated, this can stress the body. Eventually our hormones become askew as cortisol “steals” from progesterone production. This can also plummet DHEA and testosterone levels. A byproduct of candida breakdown is also an “estrogen mimicker” which further compounds the problem.

How Do I Get Rid of Candida?

The candida diet, my Microbiome Master (find it in my store!), avoiding sugar, alcohol, and processed carbs as well finding an educated practitioner are the first steps.

If you’d like a consult with me, be sure to schedule under my consults tab.

Much Love,

Dr Jess

 

How PTSD and Early Emotional Trauma Can Wreck Digestion (plus the tricks that can help correct it)

Stress Affects the Body More than Medicine is Willing to Admit

I went to a Integrative Conference on Anxiety and Depression this past week and was blown away by the amount of information given to us on genetic mutations, stress and emotional factors that play a HUGE role in how we interact and feel about the world. If only allopathic medicine would jump on board, then healthcare in this country could be completely revitalized.

Many healthcare professionals say to me that they don’t believe food or chronic stress can play such a vital role in our health because there are no concrete scientific or peer reviewed studies on this topic. To which I say two words. Takosubo cardiomyopathy. This is a physical heart condition brought about by intense and deep heartbreak. Have you ever heard of an elderly couple that has been together for decades and when one dies, the other passes away shortly thereafter? This is often due to Broken Heart syndrome, or Takosubo cardiomyopathy. The typical scenario is a mother who loses a child or a husband that unexpectedly loses his wife. Takosubo cardiomyopathy is named for the pot in Japan that resembles how the heart pathologically balloons out during this stressful time. All because of heartache, these patients can go into overt heart failure or even sustain a heart attack. Most of them recover, but many of them have permanent disabilities all due to stress or emotional trauma.

One of the main topics that was discussed at the conference was how stress can physiologically disrupt digestion. We all know that when we have to give a public speech, we can get an upset stomach. This is because the vagus nerve connects our guts to our brains. If we are anxious, signals are sent from the brain down the vagus nerve to the gut, where the gut can “feel” those anxious feelings as well. Multiple studies have recently shown that mood disorders as well as chronic brain inflammation can affect the gut. Many of the emotions, cravings and urges that we experience are now being linked to the colonies of bacteria in our guts.

So what does this mean for people who are chronically stressed, whether physically or emotionally? A lot actually. Lets take for example, a Vietnam veteran. These are patients who often have had serious mental trauma because of what they witnessed overseas. They are often plagued by an anxious condition called PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, which involves vivid flashbacks, nightmares, and unbearable anxiety that can lead to irritability. All of these symptoms are pointing at emotional trauma that is “stuck” or resides inside the body. And this doesn’t just include PTSD; many people who suffer from anxiety or panic attacks have their sympathetic nervous system in overdrive.

We are constantly stressed, rushed, worried about deadlines or trying to please other people, we do damage to our parasympathetic nervous system, the housekeeping system responsible for digestion. 40% of Americans eat breakfast in the car! This is not the ideal situation for proper digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients. The sympathetic nervous system is the “flight or fight” mode of operation and opposes the parasympathetic nervous system. In this state, the brain perceives that there is trouble or danger. Blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate all increase in preparation for the impending threat (whether real or imagined). This is not a good time to eat and expect the body to perform at peak function. So what exactly happens with digestion when you are in “flight or fight” sympathetic mode?

The Importance of Stomach Acid 

The body nearly shuts down digestive capacity during periods of stress. Production of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid is blocked. Why is acid in your gut so vital? Well, the stomach should have an acidic pH of around 2-3 when food is present. When we are hungry, smell food, and properly chew our food, the body has time to produce hydrochloric acid from parietal cells that reside in the gut lining. This acid is like a barrier and protects us from invasion from bacteria, parasites, viruses and other pathogens that cannot live in such a hostile, acidic environment. The gut is supposed to be acidic!

The hydrochloric acid also activates the production of digestive enzymes, integral to proper digestion and absorption. These enzymes break down fats and proteins so the body can easily use them. If these proteins and fats do not properly get digested, they become putrefied. Yes, the food in your gut can ferment or begin to rot, causing waste products to become toxic. Without the absorption and assimilation of these nutrients, your body doesn’t get essential amino acids and other building blocks needed to make energy, repair DNA and keep you functioning at peak performance. As you can see, hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes triggered by that acid, are imperative.

Not only that, but being stressed stops digestion and acid production, so food sits in the gut longer, waiting to be digested. This can lead to bloating and eventual putrefaction of the food. Gas is created when the food is putrified, which expresses itself as burping, stomach gurgling, and gas. Putrefaction also causes organic acids to form from the fermentation, and this feels like acid reflux. Most people will readily reach for antacids, but as you can see, this is only compounding the problem. Hopefully, you can now see how detrimental long term use of antacids and proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec can be on the immune system in the gut. This is basically blocking absorption of food and worsening the problem of low stomach acid. We all think that acid reflux is caused by high stomach acid, but this is simply not true. Hypochlorhydria, or low stomach acid can produce the same symptoms due to the slowing of digestion and putrefaction.

How to Help Your Digestion by Destressing

People who have had childhood trauma, PTSD, high stress jobs or chronic anxiety/panic attacks, have a near constant state of flight or fight. They are at high risk for digestive issues like bloating, gas, abdominal pain, malabsorption, acid reflux and inflammation. This is not only bad for digestion, but all housekeeping activities in the body, including sleep, meditation, and deep breathing. When the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, the parasympathetic system is pushed aside.

How do we activate the parasympathetic nervous system which can help calm us and encourage proper digestion? The key is the vagus nerve that connects the brain to the gut. It is activated by:

  1. Deep belly breathing or pranayama breathing-you can slightly constrict the back of your throat until you hear an ocean like breathing. Make sure you take full breaths into your belly. Most patients with severe anxiety, trauma or PTSD only breathe into the top third of their lungs. This one exercise can drastically change thought patterns by activating the parasympathetic nervous system through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve then sends these calming signals back up to the brain where we are told to relax.
  2. Preparing and Blessing your Meals-this may sound a bit out there to some, but appreciation and blessing of the food and its nutritious content sends a mindful message to our bodies. Ancient cultures and religious texts have long encouraged blessings or grace prior to eating. Could there have been an actual emotional purpose to this? The ideal circumstance prior to indulging would be picking your own home grown food from the garden, seeing the colors, picking it with your own hands, smelling it and spending time preparing it. Feeling gratitude and appreciation and sending this energy to the food has been shown in studies to encourage better digestion. You then sit amongst friends and family, full of calm happiness prior to eating. Although our lives today do not often permit this type of lifestyle, being mindful only takes a moment. Make healthy choices, take a deep breath prior to eating, stare at the food and appreciate it. Send good energy and blessings to the life giving nutrients you are about to enjoy. Pausing prior to devouring sends signals to your digestive system to begin to start manufacturing digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid. This makes a huge difference!
  3. Don’t Eat Until You Feel Calm and Safe-take a moment to find a place out in nature or in silence where you can center yourself prior to eating. Do not eat while in a car, in front of a tv, or people who upset you. Do not relish in negative thoughts or anger while eating. Deep belly breathing and happy thoughts!
  4. If All Else Fails, take a Digestive Enzyme with Betaine HCL-this is my last recommendation for digestion as I do feel our bodies can heal if given the correct “recipe,” made for us. If you feel anxious and panicky most days, I encourage you to look into bioneurofeedback to retrain the brain, EMDR work to reset, or mindful mediation practices. Apple cider vinegar or lukewarm lemon water also help to naturally reset the gut pH to a healthy level that will activate your now natural digestive enzymes. If all else fails, then try a good digestive enzyme pill with each meal. Be sure it contains betaine HCL. HCL stands for hydrochloric acid and will help digest the food by exogenously replacing the acid needed. Before going out and buying some, ensure that you do not have an ulcer, are on steroids which erode the gut lining, or have Barretts esophagus. In these cases, HCL replacement is not advised.

I know you can be your own best doctor!

Much Love,

Dr Jess

4 Little Known Herbs and Foods that Can Control Cholesterol

The number is shocking, but more than 100 million Americans suffer from high cholesterol issues. This means their total cholesterol is above 200. If you guys have followed me for awhile, you know that I am disappointed in the mainstream medicine system for putting every single patient (it feels like) on a statin, like Lipitor. These medications are some of the top prescribed medications in the USA, racking in a shocking 12 billion dollars per year since their advent. But where is the study that shows it is actual cholesterol plaques in the arteries causing the issues? How do we know it isn’t just inflammation? How do we know what the proper levels are for cholesterol? Why is some cholesterol bad and some good?

In my opinion, cholesterol is NEEDED in the proper levels for brain function and memory. It is integral in the formation of cell membranes, vitamin D, sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, bile acids to emulsify and absorb nutrients, and a wide range of metabolic processes. We actually need it! For years, mainstream medicine touted cholesterol as “bad” and that the lower the levels, the better. Sadly, this is untrue and was a ploy to sell their popular statin medications. Statins, like Lipitor, Crestor, Pravachol and Zocor have approximately a 20% rate of causing liver failure and are also a risk for myalgias, or severe muscle cramping. They have also been linked to heart failure.

If a patient is at risk for angina, heart disease, or strokes, this is a sign that overall lifestyle changes should be made. Diet, exercise, meditation, stress management and emotional burdens should be examined and bravely worked on. This is a journey of self love and everyone will be ready at their own pace.

Many of us know about some natural ways like omega 3 fatty acids, niacin, red yeast rice, or flaxseed to help correct abnormal cholesterol levels. However, there is one combo that even helps extremely high cholesterol like familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic mutation that causes levels to be over 1000! If you or someone you know is ready to make the change to a more holistic lifestyle including herbs and organic, whole foods, here is where you can start with cholesterol.

  1. Berberine- This is an alkaloid that comes from a number of different plants like barberry. It is widely known to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and to aid in weight loss. But researchers were surprised when they saw what 500mg three times a day for 12 weeks could do for cholesterol.”Dr. Hu Yueshan, Ph.D, and colleagues from the Avera Institute for Human Genetics, in Sioux Falls, SD, had been investigating berberine for its ability to prevent fat accumulation in obese humans and mice. They therefore conducted a study in obese human subjects to determine the safety and efficacy of berberine treatment on cholesterol and a number of other important cardiovascular risk factors such as body weight and markers of inflammation.Taking berberine supplements to lower cholesterol leads to 12% reduction in cholesterol and 23% reduction in triglycerides

The treatment with berberine significantly reduced blood lipid levels. Cholesterol levels decreased by an average of 12% and triglycerides by 23%.The researchers also replicated the lipid-lowering effect of berberine in rats (9% decrease of cholesterol and 34.7% decrease of triglycerides). The human subjects also lost an average of five pounds without changing their diets”(1)  Wow! This means berberine is more effective than the statin, Zetia! In my experience, I have seen berberine work quite well to lower cholesterol and normalize levels…without side effects! If you would like to try berberine, look for a 500mg capsule and try it out three times a day for 3 months.

2. Citrus Bergamot- Is an orange that comes from the Calabria region of Italy. The essential oil in the peel has been popularized around the world for its use in perfumes and aromatherapy as it helps to reduce anxiety. Not just that, but citrus bergamot has high antioxidant ability due to its polyphenol concentration. When examined and then extracted, this citrus has the ability to dramatically lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, while raising the “good” cholesterol HDL. Like its counterpart, berberine, it also can help control blood sugars and lower cardiovascular risk.

  “In a placebo-controlled clinical trial, Italian researchers gave either 500 mg or 1,000 mg of bergamot extract daily to study     volunteers with high cholesterol levels. After one month, average LDL cholesterol in the two groups fell by 24 and 36 percent, respectively, HDL cholesterol increased by 22 and 40 percent, and triglycerides—another cardiovascular risk factor—declined by 30 and 39 percent. These are impressive results for any intervention, let alone a nutritional supplement.” (2) Whats really nice about this natural food is that while statins rob your body of the necessary antioxidant, CoQ10, citrus bergamot does not have this effect. It leaves antioxidants alone, while still regulating proper cholesterol levels. Isn’t that what we all want?

       To try out citrus bergamot, take 500mg-1000mg twice a day for 3 months.

Noni (Also named as Morinda Citrifolia, Rubiaceae Noni, great morinda, indian mulberry)

3. Noni Berries- In Polynesian folk medicine, the juice of noni berries has been used for centuries to help remedy heart problems, cholesterol, and reduce pain. The juice comes from the exotic fruit, noni or Morinda citrifolia which grows in the Asia Pacific part of the world. It lowers cholesterol naturally by preventing the absorption of LDL cholesterol, thereby boosting memory as well. It also contains high antioxidants in the form of phytosterols.

To confirm these findings, researcher Mian-Ying Wang, MD performed a study on noni juice. She took 100 smokers who were not on other cholesterol medication and had them drink 1 to 4 ounces everyday for a month. 26 other volunteers got a placebo juice that did not contain noni berries. Total cholesterol in the noni juice drinkers went from 235.2 to 190 after one month! Triglycerides dropped from 242.5 to 193.5. The placebo group had no significant changes.

Noni has also been touted as an analgesic, immune system booster, cancer fighter, and antidepressant, however, more studies are needed to confirm these claims.

Try 60ml of noni juice daily for 3 months to see if it helps you!

4. Jerusalem Artichoke-this special artichoke is an annual plant closely related to the sunflower. Not only do I recommend this veggie as a prebiotic for some gut issues, but it also helps lower cholesterol as well. Why?

Jerusalem artichoke contains a high amount of fiber called inulin (also found in chicory and dandelion). Inulin works by sweeping the bowels clean and works on gut bacteria by encouraging the growth of the healthy bifidobacteria. As it sweeps through the GI tract, it captures some of the fat eaten, preventing its absorption into the bloodstream. This fat (AND CHOLESTEROL) is then moved out through the bowels without being brought into the body to affect levels in the liver. It works well to lower LDL and triglycerides.

Not only does Jerusalem artichoke work on cholesterol, but it helps to regulate digestion, obesity, constipation, colon cancer, and heartburn.

To try it out with the rest of my recommendations, try 900mg to 1000mg twice a day.

Remember these are synergistic and should be used together for the best and most efficacious results! There are other options besides statins and their nasty side effects. Take your health into your own hands.

Remember you are your own best doctor!

Much Love

Dr Jess

REFERENCES:

  1. http://universityhealthnews.com/daily/heart-health/natural-berberine-supplements-to-lower-cholesterol-more-effective-and-better-tolerated-than-prescription-ezetimibe-zetia/
  2. https://www.drwhitaker.com/benefits-of-bergamot/
  3. Wang, M., Kikuzaki, H., Csiszar, K., Boyd, C.D., Maunakea, A., Fong, S.F., Ghai, G., Rosen, R.T., Nakatani, N., Ho, C.T., (1999) Novel Trisaccharide fatty acid ester identified from the fruits of Morinda citrifolia (Noni). Agric Food Chem. 47;4880-2.

5 Herbs That Help To Balance Hormones

If you have been feeling down lately, noticed weight gain or weight loss, you may have an underlying issue that affects millions of people. Sudden changes in your body may be the result of hormonal imbalance. Hormones like estrogen, progesterone, insulin, testosterone and adrenaline help in keeping us healthy.

Hormonal imbalances can be the cause of diseases like diabetes, depression, fatigue, infertility, mood swings, migraines, and especially endocrine disruptors in the environment. These include BPA, plastic, and parabens. Hormonal imbalances are more common in females. Hormonal changes in women happen during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation and menopause. There seems to be more rapid changes in today’s world because of environmental pollution and a poor job of the EPA and FDA in protecting us from this. Because of this, women are more prone to hormonal imbalances.

Weight problems, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, hair loss or hair growth, acne, mood swings are some of the symptoms of hormonal imbalance. You can notice the problem by observing your energy, eating patterns or hunger. If you notice any changes, consult the doctor and start the treatment with lifestyle changes, herbal supplements (see my Hormone Master), dietary improvements, stress relievers and possibly, bioidentical hormones. You can also resort to homemade remedies and herbs to recover from hormonal imbalance.

Natural Remedies for Hormonal Imbalance:

Ashwagandha :

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is a popular herb used in Ayurveda, for medicinal purposes. It has positive effects on the mental, physical and emotional health of a person. It helps in balancing the hormones as it acts as an adaptogen and reduces cortisol. Ashwagandha can increase the production of testosterone, androgens and DHEA. This herb is also useful to improve the thyroid function. It is good for menopausal support as it works on the endocrine system to improve the hormonal balance. This reduces the symptoms like anxiety, mood changes, hot flashes, which women experience. Ashwagandha is good for energizing and reducing the fatigue, as it reduces the stress-related disorder. This herb supports sexual health and fertility. Ashwagandha also fights mood fluctuations and helps in relaxing.
Holy basil:

Also known as Tulsi, this herb is wonderful in balancing hormones as it acts as natural adaptogen, meaning it gives you energy when needed or provides calming energy when needed. This assists in the biochemical development of stress by balancing cortisol levels. Tulsi helps balance the blood glucose levels and indirectly balances the secretion of cortisol. High levels of cortisol negatively affects the thyroid gland, pancreas and ovaries. This herb is useful for improving mood and mental health and we all know, a better mood keeps us stress free and calm.
Maca root:

Maca root or Lepidium meyenii, improves normal hormone production. The Maca root has a positive effect on the energy levels, mood and fertility. This herb is endocrine adaptogen, which boost hormone production and contains nutrients which are needed to help normal hormone production. It has minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc and includes carbohydrates, amino acids and proteins. Consuming this herb, increases the energy levels and reduces fatigue and the stress levels. This is exactly why we put it in our Hormone Master, and have been very successful with this wonderful herb!
Shatavari:

Ayurveda has always recommended Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) to recover from hormonal imbalance and the diseases which might occur as a result of this. It improves hormone levels and increases fertility. The herb nourishes and cleanses the blood and the reproductive organ of women, thus improving female fertility. Shatavari is an adaptogenic herb, so again, it gives you what your body needs. It balances the endocrine system, which affects the production of all the hormones that regulate our response to stress and mood swings. Shatavari can drastically improve hormonal imbalances caused by stress and anxiety. It manages menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings and controls the pain and blood loss during menstruation.
Chasteberry:

This herb is great for hormonal balance for women. It is a natural source progesterone and balances the estrogen and progesterone. Consequently, it reduces the symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome like cramps, acne, bloating, etc. It is beneficial for most menstrual irregularities, pain and mood swings. The herb improves fertility and helps in sustaining pregnancy. It controls the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause. Chasteberry lowers testosterone levels and can assist in preventing prostate cancer.
Before you start using any of these herbs, it is better to consult the doctor. Along with these herbs, it is essential to have a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

5 Herbs That Help To Balance Hormones

Hormonal imbalances can also be caused by irregular sleep or unhealthy diet.

●  A good night’s sleep is essential in keeping the hormones balanced. Proper sleep 
is essential for a good health and to avoid any of the health issues. Most of the health issues are caused because of lack or sleep or irregular sleep. Try to get 7 -8 hours of sleep every day, which restores energy and allows the body to recover.

●  Exercising regularly lowers cortisol levels. Physical activity, absolutely balances hormones. Exercise releases endorphins which makes you happy and relieves stress. Also you can’t beat the healthy weight loss it provides!

●  Vitamin D influences the pituitary gland, which produces hormones. Deficiency of vitamin D can result in an abnormal release of parathyroid hormone. Vitamin D can affect your weight and diet and alleviate the symptom of low estrogen levels. It is actually more of a hormone that vitamin because it has far reaching effects throughout the body!

●  Coconut oil helps in balancing the hormones. Coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids, which encourage healthy thyroid functioning, as they can be broken down quickly and used by your brain and glandular organs for quick energy. It assists in weight loss, improves immunity, balances blood sugar levels and your metabolism. 
All these remedies reduce the hormonal imbalance and improves the overall health.

This way you can become your own best doctor!

Much Love Dr Jess

Relation of human brain and guts, second brain, image diagram

How The Bacteria in Your Gut Control Your Mood, Cravings and Mind

Those little parasites and bacteria in your gut are playing mind games with you!

A new study published by BioEssays and research conducted by Dr. Joe Alcock at University of New Mexico has confirmed that gut microbes are able to control food cravings, behavioral choices and personality changes.

We are made up of more bacteria than cells! Many of these bacterial colonies live in the gut where they use our food for survival. Bacteria within the gut are manipulative and can their interests are not always aligned with our dietary goals.

Microbes are intelligent enough to influence our cravings based on what they need for survival. Studies describe how the bacteria, Preveotella, grows easily on carbohydrates and how the bacteria Bifidobacteria gravitates to dietary fiber for its needs. They release hormones and chemicals via the vagus nerve that connects your brain to your gut.

The hormones then communicate with our brain to influence our cravings and choices ….that benefit their survival! Most bacteria are not that picky and can utilize whatever you eat for food, however even THOSE guys have a preferential treatment for a certain combination of nutrients and minerals. This is the epitome of “survival of the fittest.” They have also been shown to induce cravings based on what would suppress their competitors’ needs. This way they kill off the competition. They also can create dysphoria for humans when we eat their competitors’ favorite nutrients. Smart huh? They can make you feel ill if you eat something that does not benefit them!

The vagus nerve connects the brain to the gut for chemical messages.

Scientists believe we have a microbiome-gut-brain axis feedback loop which in a sense, increases or decreases cravings through nerve stimulation, hormone modulation and local chemical release. This is our second brain and contains it’s own enteric nervous system! This system can tell our brains, “We want candy or chips or anything bad for us!”

What connects the brain to the gut for these signals? Its our vagus nerve! It connects the base of the skull (medulla oblongata) to the enteric nerves in our gut. Gut micobes are responsible for how we feel when we are hungry and give us feedback info through happy hormones or toxins based on what we eat; microbes are responsible for expression of different receptors and genes as well as increasing or decreasing signals from the vagus nerve to the brain. I cannot stress enough. A healthy gut with beneficial symbiotic bacteria is a healthy, happy person. Did you know the gut contains 95% of the serotonin stores? Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to our feeling of happiness.  This is why mental disorders are rampant in America. The standard American diet is largely responsible. Keep reading for dietary suggestions to get your gut healthy.

Why is the gut so important?

First I want to explain why is gut flora so important. You won’t have the incentive to eat properly and know how if you don’t understand the physiology. Plus these microbes are really intelligent!

Studies have shown that in rodents, the gut microbiome can influence neural development, brain chemistry and nearly all behaviors, including emotions, pain perception and how the stress system responds!

“Research has found, for example, that tweaking the balance between beneficial and disease-causing bacteria in an animal’s gut can alter its brain chemistry and lead it to become either more bold or more anxious. The brain can also exert a powerful influence on gut bacteria; as many studies have shown, even mild stress can tip the microbial balance in the gut, making the host more vulnerable to infectious disease and triggering a cascade of molecular reactions that feed back to the central nervous system.”-American Psychological Association

In fact, changing the scope of gut bacteria completely changed mice’s personalities. In one striking demonstration of the “microbiome-gut-brain axis,” published in Gastroenterology in 2011, researchers gave antibiotics to a strain of mice that are typically timid and shy. It dramatically changing the composition of their gut bacteria and subsequently their behavior. “Their behavior completely changed,” Bercik says. “They became bold and adventurous.” Some studies have even shown all that is necessary for behavioral change is ONE switch in bacterium type in the gut. Research also shows that certain benevolent bacteria like the famous lactobacillus, may even help down regulate anxiety. Our gut bacteria “fingerprint” is not only responsible for our food cravings and immunity (80% is in the gut), but also for our mental state. Your food feeds your gut and encourages growth of different strains of bacteria which then refer signals back to your brain about your physical and mental status.

95% of Serotonin Stores are in the Gut

Did you know that 95% of your body’s serotonin or 5-HT, an important neurotransmitter responsible for mood, is located in your gut? The microbiome-brain-gut access communicates regularly. SSRI’s, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, like the antidepressants, Prozac or lexapro, work by leaving serotonin around longer to have its effect…this effect occurs more in the brain supposedly, however 95% of 5-HTP is in the gut. Too much 5-HTP causes nausea/diarrhea/anxiety. (The anti nausea medication, Zofran, works as a 5-HTP antagonist, meaning it blocks too much 5-HTP).

Too little leads to constipation and depression. Normally serotonin is calming to the stomach, especially if the system is running as expected. SSRI antidepressants have the potential to completely disrupt or change our gut flora, for better or for worse, by this theory. (Moreover, SSRIs all contain oreganofluorines-supposedly broken down inorganic fluoride compounds in the body. Fluoride has been shown to lower IQ in studies done by Harvard and Lancet) The question is-does leaky gut from food/ bacteria trigger communication with the brain that creates depression? Or does depression trigger leaky gut through the brain communicating to the gut? How do SSRIs fit in with true gut health?

It is of paramount significance for everyone who understands this information to boycott any and everything genetically modified and massed synthesized with a gene gun, which puts bacterial DNA into the DNA of our food to breed for certain “desirable” traits. You should also now see that SSRI antidepressants have the potential to completely disregulate or improve our gut flora, as more 5-HTP will undoubtedly change the brain and gut environment and hence, the bacterial strains able to thrive there. How serotonin stores bodywide are effected and redistributed is unclear at this time.

The bottom line is that food can change our bacterial micro biome (or gut bacteria) which then influence everything else!

What do I need to do to start my journey to gut stability and health?

These facts are why I find it incomprehensible that other healthcare workers cannot see that food is medicine. You literally are what you eat. If you wish for a long, vital and exuberant life than please get your gut as healthy as possible.

1) Take probiotics & probiotics.

Probiotics come in pills and should be in a specialized container that prevents breakdown and need for refrigeration. There are also refrigerated forms, kefir, unpasteurized yogurt or fermented teas like kombucha. Fermented foods are a great source of beneficial flora (think kimchi). Pasteurization kills off any microbial strains that might be beneficial for gut health. Try to look for unpasteurized choices. Know that cheese and pasteurized dairy products we highly inflammatory and should be avoided especially in someone with leaky gut issues. They should contain a variety of anerobic & gut specific strains, especially lactobacillus. Prebiotics are indigestible fiber rich foods which help cultivate an ideal environment for beneficial gut bacteria. They provide a gentle breeding ground and hospitable barrier for symbiotic bacteria. (Chicory root, garlic, onion, bananas). It is very difficult to get all the Prebiotics you need in a day. Eat them liberally!

2) Cleanse the bowels.

Yep, microbe, heavy metal cleanses, and enemas are necessary. Don’t think microbes are responsible? H. Pylori, a gut bacteria is known to cause gastric cancer. The hepatitis virus causes liver cancer. Candida buildup cause tumors as well, especially in the lungs and respiratory tract . Emotional toxins & trauma can also be stored in the digestive tract and biliary organs, like the liver. You must cleanse yourself emotionally & physically.

3) Avoid antibiotics

They can be life saving at times, however, the majority of times they’re over prescribed. Antibiotics completely obliterate all bad AND good gut bacteria. So yes, the patient recovers, but without proper inherent immunity, they fail to recover chronically. Why do you think clindamycin, is the biggest culprit responsible for C Diff, the terribly contagious & resistant bacteria that causes profuse diarrhea? It wipes out good bacteria. All antibiotics cause vaginal infections due to obliteration of beneficial bacteria. Widespread use of antibacterial hand sanitizer safe also responsible for widespread bacterial resistance to antibiotics as well as destruction of good gut bacteria.

4) Chronic stress

You know how right before an important speech, your tummy can get knots in it and you can even feel nauseated? This shows you how your brain and gut can affect each other significantly. Stress is very important from this standpoint. Stress leads to decreased immunity and stomach or upset-even leaky gut! Don’t let stress derail your emotions enough to affect your health. Remember you will create suffering for yourself/others if you practice any negative emotions. Regardless of the situation, learn to be enthused, be inspired or learn to accept what you cannot change. All else will cause suffering and strife as you fight what you cannot change or accept! Emotional writing & poetry also helps those with sensitive immune systems due to early trauma and suppressed feelings. You may experience deep rooted & heavy emotions that you didn’t expect while journaling! Emotions are your friend. Bottling up sincere pain and turmoil will slowly kill your immunity-and your happiness. Tears are released grief and emotional trauma. Do not suppress it.

5) Eat organic REAL food

It is essential for health to eat REAL FOOD. Even if the chips you love are “organic,” your ancestors would not recognize that as food. Grains like wheat and gluten contain gliadin, which has been shown to induce and contribute to leaky gut.

Food grown naturally on earth contains vital nutrition not found in something made in a lab. GMO wreaks havoc on gut immunity and causes permeable holes or leaky gut, disrupting cell membrane integrity and therefore, immunity. Remember most biotech companies pay to conduct research on their products and then are able to have them published. Multiple studies show safety with gmo, however these studies as paid for big such companies as Monsanto or Bayer. For example, Bayer pharma wrote my Harrison’s internal medicine board review questions! Something is not right or ethical here. I have also not touched on the fact that conflicts of interest exist between the FDA and Monsanto as many of their employees have worked for both corporations. As food is medicine, no other avenues toward health will be permanent until you clean up your diet!

6) Cut Down on Alcohol or other Toxins

You can’t eat right but then drink excessive alcohol and hope that you won’t burn out your gut defenses. You will. Alcohol completely eats away at the stomach lining-or barrier to immunity. It leads to excessive acidity in the digestive tract and eventual ulcers and bleeding. Alcohol only in moderation please. Try to stop smoking or indulging in refined sugar and carbohydrates.

7) Mother Nature Provides Healing Herbs

Look into herbs and healing plants that are known to repair the gut lining and make your tummy more hospitable to friendly bacteria like-aloe vera, the amino acid L-glutamine, colostrum, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, licorice, coconut oil, and fermented foods should be staples in your diet and quest for a healthy gut!
Keep your gut happy and healthy for longevity and extended health! You can become your own best doctor!

Much Love

Dr Jess

References:

http://www.nature.com/nri/journal/v9/n5/full/nri2515.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3554020/

http://m.naturalnews.com/news/046779_second_brain_gut_bacteria_human_behavior.html

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling.aspx

Long and Happy Life

How To Live a Long and Happy Life: Secrets From Okinawa

Because of my job, I have patients ask me all the time what the key to longevity is.

Paradise beach on the deserted tropical island of         Okinawa, Japan

“Long and Happy Life” is a boon to some, but a difficult time for many.  It seems that the more advanced our society becomes, the higher the rates of anxiety, depression, and cancer. None of these is synonymous with a long and happy life. What are we doing wrong?

The island of Okinawa in Japan, just north of Taiwan, has long been a hot spot for the secrets to longevity. It is unrivaled for its health, spirituality and connection to mind and body. In fact, Okinawa has some of the highest number of centenarians (those who live past 100) in the world at about 50 per 100,000 compared to 5-10 per 100,000 in the USA. These aren’t your average old folks either. Here in the west, we associate old age with misery, joint pain, dementia and nursing homes, but in Okinawa, the centenarians are happy and surprisingly independent. Diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, autism, cancer, diabetes and heart disease are virtually unheard of, at least, not until you’re 90! Interestingly enough, when an Okinawan is removed from his or her society and established rituals, then adopts an American or Western lifestyle, their age limits begin to parallel those of the citizens of the United States.

Secrets From Okinawa for Long and Happy Life

What exactly is the secret to long and happy life?

Although genes do play a role, it seems lifestyle might be the biggest contributor. In 2000, the Okinawa Centenarian Study published some fascinating facts on longevity:

1. Plant based diet

Okinawa is a beautiful tropical island which helps anyone’s mood, but there is a bigger secret to their success. Because the plants are closer to the equator where the sun’s damage may be greater, they protect themselves by producing higher amounts of phytochemicals and antioxidants to stay alive. These nutrients not only protect the plants from the sun’s rays, but from animal/insect consumption too. Those phytochemicals are what correct free radicals and eliminate inflammation from our bodies! Okinawans eat up to 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day-ALL ORGANIC! (sounds like Gerson therapy doesn’t it?)

2. Limited to No Animal Protein

Senior couple working in vegetables garden in Okinawa.

In Okinawa, the population follows a plant based diet where they

grow their own food. It is 80% plant based with the 20% reserved for fish and occasionally, pork if there is a special ceremony. It is also free of antibiotics, hormones and cruelty that exists in western culture in factory farms. I often say it is not animal meat that is the full problem. It is what is being done to the meat in factory farms coupled with our

 3. High Flavanoids (estrogenic compounds from food) and Good Fats

Halved cut bitter melons

They eat natural grains, root vegetables, sweet potatoes, leafy greens and a ton of NON GMO fermented soy (90% is GMO in the USA). Examples like miso, flax or tofu, are excellent for the liver and for menopause. Women experience menopause naturally with fewer complications. Another secret is bitter gourd or goya. As the name implies, this is a very bitter melon! It contains B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, iron and beta carotene. It contains a phytonutrient called charantin and an insulin mimicking compound called polypeptide P that induces lower blood sugar and could be a remedy for diabetics.

4. Caloric Restriction

They practice a technique called Hara Hachi Bu, where they do not overeat. It translate to 8 parts out of 10, meaning they stop eating when they are 80% full. Caloric restriction has been a debatable topic but studies have shown that restriction, without malnutrition, can produce measurable benefits and potential longevity. For one, you lose weight and this is a good thing for most Americans. Caloric restriction also activates autophagy, which is the process by which older, dead cells are gobbled and cleaned up by other cells to keep the body running at tip top shape.

If the body is inefficient at removing old debris, then this buildup can lead to neurodegenerative and cardiac diseases. If the body does not have to use calories to digest food, it can use that extra energy towards killing pathogens or increasing our own immunity.

Other studies point to “hormesis,” which means to induce benefit from low intensity biological stressors. This theory proposes that a calorie restricted diet excites the immune system and heightens the defensive state by inducing small amounts of stress, which lead to turning on longevity genes through epigenetics (certain genes are turned off and on based on nutrition, environment, thoughts, etc).

5. Daily exercise

They practice daily exercise that is not only beneficial for the body, but the mind too. You know how wonderful it feels to finish a challenging or relaxing yoga class? Imagine doing that every day in a slower paced, island environment. The majority practice Tai Chi, karate, gardening, dance, yoga or martial arts which are known to connect mind and body in a more spiritual process. Also, no one smokes! They also have little osteoporosis (no they don’t drink a lot of milk which recent studies have shown can contribute to osteoporosis) because they eat more plants which are chock full of calcium! They then activate vitamin D and overall bone health by spending time outdoors in the sun.

6. Positive attitude

When polled, the Okinawans consistently scored higher in the ability to handle stressful situations as well as overall outlook on life. On the island they enjoy a slower paced life and close, supportive networks. Lab results reveal low levels of homocysteine, an inflammatory amino acid present in those with heart disease. Okinawans have a 80% lower risk of heart attack! Stress truly is a killer. It can create hormonal imbalances, raise blood pressure, and drive us crazy mentally. The Okinawans have found a way to turn negative stress into positive opportunities.

7. Close knit community groups

We are social beings who need love and support from friends and loved ones. Up to 80% of Okinawa’s elderly live alone independently or with a spouse, however they never give up their connection to community centers or elder day cares where they engage in games, sports or exercise together. There is a name for these social groups and they are called moai groups. In Okinawa, growing old is looked at respectfully and the elders still help to run the community. There is always family visiting as life is slower paced. There are local festivals, gardening activities and healing herbs brought to friends and dances for all to attend to continually heal the body and soul.

8. Find your “ikigai:”

Ikigai means “your purpose.” Retirement is a foreign concept in Okinawa. Their belief is make life worth living no matter how old you are. You help others and continue to always look for a renewed mission. Its like the saying goes-if you love what you do then you’ll never work a day in your life. No one goes into debt there to support their lifestyle, therefore they are not stuck in a career that does not give them pleasure just to pay the bills.

9. Cultivate spirituality

Spirituality, but not religion, is a major part of life in Okinawa. There are morning rituals, meditation groups and a continued sense of belonging to a group that works collectively to achieve something bigger than them. They do not shy away from music or dancing as they believe this awakens the soul. The natives play Okinawan instruments like a traditional banjo and gather for community celebrations often. Women in Okinawa are noro (priestesses) or yuta (female shaman).

10. Eastern and western medical approaches

Unlike the mindset in the west where there is a pill for every symptom and hard work to achieve health is often shunned, the Okinawans combine both aspects to achieve overall health. The employ shamanistic healing practices, spirituality and some western outlooks. They believe in the vitality and health of the people and their villages. Particularly, the older women play an active role as the religious leaders and spiritual shaman in the villages. Ancient herbs like the ones used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine are used in daily life. In fact, turmeric is consumed in large quantities (mostly in tea) and is revered for its antioxidant and detoxifying effects on the liver. Turmeric has been found to be one of the only substances that can kill cancer stem cells.

We could all learn some lifestyle lessons from the wise and gentle people of Okinawa, Japan.

Ways of Defeating cellulite

The Only Tool You’ll Ever Need To Defeat Cellulite

GUYS-I have the best news ever – holy grail for defeating cellulite.

But first, let me back up and start from the beginning…..

If you’re one of the 85% of women (and even some men) that suffer from some level of cellulite, then I feel your pain. Even in my teens and 20’s, I had cellulite on the sides and backs of my legs that left me feeling super insecure. As I reached my 30’s the problem seemed to get worse. I got the Mirena and before that, had been on synthetic birth control for most of my adult life which completely wrecked my hormones.

Aging plus abnormal hormone levels cause aging skin, sun spots, and the cellulite will worsen! I used to never have a problem with putting on a bikini, but suddenly I had all kinds of unwanted doubts. Mind you, a lot of this is always in our heads. We are our own worst critics. I’m not saying that I’m any different or that my problem was even an enormous issue to overcome. However, it is extremely important that we feel good in our own skin and in this area, I was lacking.

What Exactly is the Physical and Emotional Cause of Cellulite?

I have done a myriad of research into cellulite. On the mainstream medicine sites, they claimed cellulite was a “dimpling of the skin” due to persistent underlying, subcutaneous fat on hips, stomach or thighs. I had even contemplated surgery or one of those lasers that uses heat to “break up and melt away” the fat tissue. It was easy for me to ask around since I was in the medical field and every surgeon or dermatologist that I questioned did not seem to know the cause or cure for this pesky issue. It made sense that they could “melt” the fat away since it was a fat problem, right? I didn’t understand how I personally could have this problem. I was a gym rat with a 6 pack for most of my entire 20s. It seemed other girls were in the same boat as me, not matter how much they worked out, they still had cellulite. So something was adding up. So my search continued…

When I began to become interested in energy healing and alternative medicine, I came across a couple books and articles that changed the game for me. They were all about repressed emotions, life missions or traumas that were hidden deep in the physical body. I actually wrote a full blog post on repressed emotions and you can read it here:http://drjess.com/repressed-emotions-can-lead-to-dis-ease-the-mind-body-connection/

The research I uncovered for the emotional cause of cellulite hit me like a blow to the heart. It seemed that many bodyworkers and intuitive healers agreed that cellulite was due to a very oppressive upbringing early in life as well as suppressing one’s natural gifts. Thick thighs and cellulite represented repressed anger at the parents, specifically the patriarchal figure. I love my parents dearly but back then they were religious fanatics who molded me into a God fearing child with little say so in my life. This explanation resonated so hard with me!

It turns out that cellulite has nothing to do with a “fat” problem and everything to do with a fascia problem. Fascia is the thin sheath enclosing muscles, bones, nerves, arteries, veins and internal organs. It is densely woven, right below the skin and can form a spiderweb-like structure, holding us in place. If the fascia becomes too tight or thick, it can create a casing that restricts the blood flow and nerve conduction. Now consider the emotional ramifications of that. Our fascia, or connective tissue, holds us together, but if we have an oppressive upbringing, especially one where our inherent talents are suppressed, then we develop “thick skin.” We must become tough and harden up.  As such, our connective tissue and skin, the biggest organ in our bodies, follow suit. Our bodies do not function properly without healthy blood flow and rapid nerve conduction. Neither do we function well in life if we are suppressing talents in lieu of an oppressive childhood where we cannot be ourselves. This makes perfect sense.

Fascia is the spiderweb below the skin

Enter in…The Fascia Blaster….

What is the Fascia Blaster?

Besides being a life changer? Who knew that a stick with claws on it could have so much power?

Ok I know cellulite is not the worst issue to have at all, but ridding yourself of insecurities is definitely up there. One day I was surfing Facebook with my best friend. An ad came up with a lady holding this curious white stick with claws. I rarely turn the volume up on these things, but my friend squealed, “Have you seen this thing that supposedly gets rid of cellulite?” I was instantly interested. The video turned out to be of Ashley Black of ashleyblackguru.com. She was giving a live demonstration using some sort of tool that I had never seen while claiming that cellulite is a myth! WHAT. How could all my medical training and physiology not be true? Well, as it turns out, mainstream medicine has made quite a few mistakes.

Ashley was interesting to me because this line of work had fallen into her lap because of her own personal life struggle. In her 20s, she had gone into the hospital for a routine operation and contracted a life-threatening flesh-eating bacterial infection that forced her to undergo multiple surgeries and left her with disproportionate and unsightly fascia and muscle pain. She was left nearly crippled. Never fear! Ashley is a survivor and healed herself. She then decided to teach and heal others. She has years of experience training professional athletes, celebrities and other elite stars looking for solutions. She studied fascia extensively and created her wonderful and revolutionary product.

Again, cellulite is a fascia problem and not a fat problem. It has no bearance on what you weigh! After reading Ashley’s story, I promptly ordered the fascia blaster and patiently awaited its delivery.

How Do You Use the Fascia Blaster?

It’s simple! As you can see pictured above, there are three different kinds of blasters. The first one on the left is the full-size version while the middle one is the mini fascia blaster that fits perfectly in your carry-on suitcase. The last one on the right is the face blaster, which helps to define facial architecture and improve circulation. You simply place the blaster on the area you want to improve with the claws facing the skin. Move with quick movements in an up and down or side to side fashion, but try to avoid a circular motion. By scrubbing the Blaster over an area of fat that you want to break up, you can reduce unwanted fat pockets and “spot reduce” while contouring your body!

HINT: You Will feel some slight pain and discomfort! The claws are breaking up the taut connective tissue and fascia just below the skin. I BRUISED like no other the first month of using this thing 10 min daily after yoga or a hot shower. Personally, I found it to work best when the skin and muscles are warm. It is OK to bruise while blasting! Not everyone does and that’s just fine. However, what it does indicate is that the fascia is so restrictive that it is preventing proper circulation. This indicates that the lymphatic system is sluggish and proper blood flow is not reaching areas containing toxins! Remember blood and lymph move so that they can MOVE toxins out as well. Every part of our body needs to be nourished with proper blood flow. Once we break the fascia up, the blood flow can return to these neglected areas, but the aftermath might include some bruising!

This pic is after I had been blasting for nearly two months and is totally nothing compared to the bruising I got at the beginning!

The beauty of the Fascia Blaster is that it doesn’t treat just cellulite. It also helps give mobility to muscles, improves soft tissue pain, breaks up fat, and increase blood and lymph flow.

The Emotional Aftermath

So when I started blasting I had done my due diligence concerning the EMOTIONAL REASON we might have cellulite. What I did not expect was some of the emotional RELEASES I had from doing the fascia blaster daily. The first week, I would be right in the middle of blasting and would suddenly remember what my childhood kitchen floor looked like EXACTLY. They were random childhood memories that I could not recall prior to blasting. I have no explanation for, except that somehow this was connected to the saddlebags on my thighs! All jokes aside, this confirmed that thick thighs and cellulite possibly do represent repressed childhood memories of an oppressed upbringing. I even had a couple crying fits during that first week or two of blasting that was connected to deep pain that I could not fully put my finger on. The more I blasted, the less pain I felt. I could get deeper into the thicker layers with time and patience.

So the verdict is….I actually found a cellulite treatment that works! You can be sure to ditch all those creams and gimmicks that promise results but do not deliver. Today I’m happy to admit that I’m nearly cellulite free! It just takes trailblazers like Ashley Black’s revolutionary product as well as the dedication on our own parts.

This is the holy grail of cellulite destruction and the only tool you’ll ever need!

Fast Food Diet

Kapha Dosha: How Emotional Eating Can Cause Sinusitis

This is part 3 of my three part blog series on the three dosha in ancient Ayurveda Pitta, Vata and Kapha Dosha. We have discussed the two other mind-body types, Pitta and Vata. You may go back and read both part one and two posts in detail by clicking these links.

  1. http://drjess.com/pitta-dosha-why-you-should-be-dry-brushing-everyday-if-you-are-reactive/
  2. http://drjess.com/vata-dosha-why-you-should-not-eat-raw-foods-or-have-meaningless-sex-if-you-are-anxious/

Last but not least, it’s time to discuss the Kapha dosha.

Review of the Three Dosha

  1. Pitta-pitta is a mind body type that aligns with the summer. It is lively, competitive, first responder, spicy, and fire based. Pitta predominant constitutions usually have a muscular build, oilier skin, are prone to bleeding or ulcers and are very intelligent and quick witted. The organs most affected include the liver, eyes, and skin. To pacify pitta imbalances, one must eat a pitta satisfying diet of astringent/bitter herbs and cooling foods/spices.
  2. Vata-vata is a mind body type that aligns with autumn and winter. It is sweet, airy, fluid, expressive, agile, dry, changeable and movement based. Vata predominant constitutions usually have long extremities, drier skin, large eyes, are prone to anxiety and distractibility, and are grounded by heavier or sweeter foods. Their minds never stop. Imbalances lead to a different energy blockage and stagnation of proper prana flow. The organs most affected by a vata excess include the colon, lungs, and nervous system. To pacify vata imbalances, one must eat a vata pacifying diet to include sweeter and more grounding foods.
  3. Kapha-kapha is a mind body type that aligns with spring and winter. It is sweet, loyal, caring, grounded, and water/earth based. Kapha predominant constitutions usually have heavier set builds, glowing skin and lustrous hair, are prone to emotional eating and clinginess, and are supported by social interaction and exercise. Emotional eating and coveting can lead to stagnation of prana that causes heaviness and depression, affected certain organs. When imbalanced, Kapha predominant types can become clingy, stingy, controlling, lethargic, sluggish, have brain fog, laziness, and even depression. They often suffer from chronic bronchitis, mucus congestion, a thick, white coating on the tongue, and can become overly emotional. The organs most affected by a kapha imbalance include the sinus cavities, stomach, and lungs. To pacify kapha imbalances, one must eat a kapha dosha satisfying diet that avoids heavy or sweet foods. should be light/spicy and easily digestible. Stimulation, keeping warm and regular exercise are paramount for Kapha personalities.

Keep in mind that we are all born with all three dosha, but 1-2 usually predominate. Some people have all three in equal amounts and are rather balanced, however.

How Do I Know If I have a Kapha Imbalance? 

Many of us may be feeling sluggish due to the cold temperatures outside. After all, winter is partly Kapha season! Thats why we often hibernate inside our homes and gain weight during the holidays. Its hard not to emotionally eat with all the good food and family (that may or may not trigger emotions in us) around during this time of year. All of that can leave us feeling heavy, depressed or even fighting weight gain. You may also notice that you are prone to feeling stuffy, having phlegm, bronchitis symptoms or frequent sinusitis. This makes sense since Kapha is an earth and water mind body type, so adding heavy meals or feelings to the mix can make you feel cold and water logged. This contributes to mucus production. In fact, congestive heart failure is a sequelae of an out of balance kapha dosha. These patients are literally drowning in their own fluid.

Kapha have beautiful round faces, thick hair and white, shining teeth. They are a joy to be around when balanced. They are a bit more hesitant than the quick witted pitta, but once they have grasped a concept they never forget it. If you suspect that you are a Kapha dominant, it is important that your diet be very controlled and that you do not keep “cheat foods” in the house. If imbalanced, the downfall of Kapha is that they will eat their emotions, making this dosha very susceptible to weight gain. You may notice that these symptoms worsen in the colder months. 

Symptoms of a Kapha Imbalance include: excessive mucus and phlegm, thick and white coat on tongue, sluggish bowel movements, heavy build, brain fog especially in the morning, feeling sluggish, possessive, overly sentimental, stubborn, lazy, emotional eating, raw foods may worsen symptoms, craving highly processed foods, feeling stuck, depression. Since the organs associated with Kapha include the stomach, lungs and sinus cavities, it makes sense that these organs may show signs of dysfunction when Kapha is in excess. This water based dosha can cause stickiness and mucus in the respiratory tract and lead to improper digestion concerning the stomach. Of note, shame and grief are held in the lungs so often the overly sentimental Kapha types turn inward on themselves, leading to disease in these representative organs. 

How Do I Help To Correct a Kapha Imbalance? 

Like I always say, be your own best doctor. Nearly every imbalance in the body can be corrected if caught in time and especially when we are armed with the right knowledge, tools and determination! If the Kapha dosha resonates the most with you, there are some lifestyle and diet changes that can help to energize and revitalize your life, while bringing you back into balance.

When the lungs and respiratory tract becomes congested, this is a sign that we are not clearing toxins properly from our bodies. Heaviness is a sign of stagnate energy, or Prana flow. It is extremely important for Kapha’s to NOT eat when they are upset or feeling down. Do not use your emotions as justification for a “deserving” meal when you know you will not be happy with your decision later. You may also notice that you sink into the couch in the winter when you should be a bit more adventurous, or that cheese (although you love it), does not sit well with digestion. You may notice that you are easily hurt by others’ comments and this you often turn inward on yourself, which makes you more prone to feeling victimized, hiding from the world and self punishing behaviors. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, you may notice that you can become clingy and possessive when these characteristics surface.

  1. Indian Triphala-Yes I listed this healthy digestive herbal under every dosha. It is a tridosha balancing herb used to encourage healthy elimination. If we closely examine each dosha, we see that each one has their respective organs in the digestive system. Pitta is the small intestines while Vata is the colon and Kapha is the stomach. When imbalanced, each affect proper digestion and elimination. Triphala is one of my favorite gentle laxatives to remove toxins and balance all three dosha. Not to mention it contains some of the highest vitamin C on the planet.
  2. Eat Foods that are Pungent, Bitter or Astringent in Flavor-kaphas are known to indulge in delicious food, however sometimes it is not exactly what is ideal for their mind and body type. Be sure to include ginger, coriander and turmeric to your daily dishes. Bitter herbs help to decrease water retention and bloating. Astringent herbs naturally help to purify the blood. As far as foods go, look for bitter melon, eggplant, fenugreek, leafy greens, barley, basil, nettle, jicama, aloe vera, green apples, pomegranate, pear, quinoa, and lentils.
  3. Try To Indulge in Warm Foods and Spices-Just like Vata, Kapha needs to lean towards warmer meals. Both Vata and Kapha are representative of cooler months and therefore, like to warm up! Raw food diets tend to exacerbate the stagnation of cold energy leading to depressed moods for Kapha. Look for warming spices as well as bitter and astringent. Think cinnamon, cardamom or cumin.
  4. HONEY-If you are not vegan, honey is your best friend as a Kapha! Honey is an excellent expectorant and coats the respiratory tract preventing infections. It can actually ward off upper respiratory infections or mucus production.Kapha Dosha - Dos & Don'ts
  5. Avoid Heavy Foods-as a Kapha, you do not want foods that are heavy in your stomach, take hours to digest or leave you feeling heavy. Avoid all the good stuff that we regret later like heavy oils, pasta, rich sauces, breads, puddings, refined sugar, processed foods, or heavy desserts. Kaphas, more so than any other dosha, should avoid dairy like the plague. Dairy CAUSES mucus production in someone who is already prone to it. This goes for the Ayurvedic staple, ghee as well.
  1. Break Away From Emotional Eating-Kaphas have very sensitive and slower digestive tracts so emotional eating will always be regretted later! You know what they say-a moment on the lips, forever on the hips. It is just not worth it! Try a new pattern when you feel upset or emotional. Go for a walk, go to a coffee shop, talk on the phone or keep yourself busy. Emotional eating can lead to heaviness and stagnant energy which can predispose you to the Kapha’s weakness-sinusitis and congestion. Remember that emotions pass and you can conquer your yo-yo eating by just doing something different.
  2. Get Out and MOVE! I can’t stress this enough. Often the thing we dread the most is the thing we need the most. Movement is key for a sluggish kapha. If you have been feeling down on yourself, heavy with brain fog and stuck in a routine, it is SO self loving to be brave enough to break out of that pattern. Be sure to give yourself 20-30 minutes of daily vigorous exercise. Ride a bike, run, do vinyasa yoga, hike, or any other challenging exercise is imperative for the Kapha.
  3. Be Mindful Of Clinginess and Separate Your Own Energy-An imbalanced kapha will often “covet” their possessions or even people. When feeling insecure, they can become controlling of things or those they care about. They come from a good place and often do not see themselves. If you have been feeling this way, be sure to set boundaries with people and possessions. Realize that the insecurity is from you and take back your own power by disengaging in any drama and needless worry. Don’t mix energies with loved ones as this can confuse you more.
  4. Daily Self Massage-also known as Abhyanga, this Ayurvedic practice relieves tension and balances bodies if the proper oils are used for each dosha. Abhyanga can nourish the body, increase immunity, decrease aging effects, and stimulate circulation. The best massage oils for a Kapha excess are warms oils, like sesame, almond, olive and even dusting powders before or after the massage such as Calamus powder.
  5. Keep Warm and Dry in All Seasons/Do Invigorating Activities-Kapha is cold and just like Vata, needs to be cognizant of staying warm throughout all seasons and climates. Also, be sure you are having fun everyday. Never lose your joy for life and let fear creep in to make you stagnant.

Happy Kapha Balancing!

Much Love

Dr Jess