All About Hormones: Part 5 – Natural Suggestions

As mentioned in previous articles, the key players of the endocrine system don’t work alone. When everything is working well, you should feel great as hormones are secreted in response to how much the body needs at any given time. However, a single hormone that is “off” can produce a series of “unideal” events. Toxic exposure, suboptimal nutrition, poor lifestyle habits (such as stress, lack of exercise) can create an imbalance and lead to unpleasant symptoms.

General Recommendations:

  • Minimize toxins in food, environments, body care and cleaning products (i.e. tobacco, xenoestrogens, heavy metals, chemicals).
  • Manage stress. Try relaxation and deep breathing techniques. Consider counselling and acupuncture.
  • Ensure good quality sleep.
  • Take part in regular, moderate exercise and stretching. Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Balance blood sugar levels. Consume quality protein, healthy fats and high-fibre ingredients at each meal. Eat regularly and don’t skip breakfast!
  • Avoid food sensitivities, artificial sweeteners, processed/refined/hydrogenated foods, sugars, alcohol, excess animal products or caffeine.
  • Eat a wholesome diet full of whole, natural, nutrient-rich foods (i.e. fresh produce, fatty fish, raw nuts & seeds, avocado, etc.) and drink plenty of water! Choose organic whenever possible J
  • Support digestion by eating slowly and chewing thoroughly in a relaxed state. Also, consider enzymes, HCL and gut repair nutrients (i.e. L-glutamine) if necessary.
  • Consider a cleansing program 2-3 times a year and ensure to prevent constipation.
  • Get yearly physical checkups and monitor hormone levels.
  • Take your daily “Prevention Pack” which includes a Multivitamin + Vitamin D3, essential Omega Fats (i.e. fish oils) and Probiotics. A multivitamin works as an “insurance policy” to cover any nutrients lacking in the diet while Vitamin D helps promote healthy hormone function (especially in those with diabetes and low thyroid!). Probiotics help normalize the gut bacteria balance in order to support digestion, immunity and mental health while preventing toxicity, inflammation and hormone imbalances. Note that they actually improve production and regulation of key hormones! Healthy fats also help to control inflammation, promote hormonal balance and act as building blocks for certain hormones. GLA from borage or evening primrose oil is especially beneficial for PMS cramps, PCOS, bone density, fertility and wrinkled skin after menopause. Omega 3’s from flax, algae and fish oils help support the heart, skin, joints, mood, brain, eyes, etc.
  • Target other health conditions and concerns, such as candida overgrowth if necessary.
  • Consider supplemental antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support in addition to a healthy diet.
  • Adequate protein is essential for building certain hormones, maintaining muscle mass, controlling appetite and blood sugar levels in addition to supporting the immune system. As a general rule, it is suggested that the average person consume roughly half of their ideal body weight (lbs.) in grams of protein per day.
  • Fibre helps to bind excess toxins, cholesterol and estrogen in order to remove it from the body. It also slows down absorption of sugars in the blood stream to help support balanced glucose levels and supports weight control and bowel regularity.

Condition Specific Supplements:

  • Adrenal Support -> Take Adaptogens. These are ingredients that assist the body in adapting to and coping with stress by supporting the adrenal glands. They have a normalizing effect, helping the body maintain a constant internal state and support immunity, fight fatigue, improve mental ability, increase resistance to and counteract the negative physical and emotional effects of stress. Examples include Ginseng, Suma, Rhodiola, Ashwaghanda, Schizandra, Holy Basil, Medicinal Mushrooms (i.e. Reishi, Cordyceps). In addition, note that Vitamins B, C and Magnesium are depleted by the stress response and essential for healthy adrenal function. For additional support in stress management, look for calming herbs such as valerian, passionflower, lemon balm, hops, skullcap, kava kava, chamomile and lavender. Also, L-theanine or GABA are great for fast-acting stress relief and mental calmness. 
  • Estrogen Dominance/Andropause -> Certain ingredients are used to maintain a healthy sex hormone ratio, help the body break down harmful estrogens to non-toxic forms, detoxify excess estrogens in the liver and protect against the effects of estrogen dominance. These consist of Indole-3-Carbinol, Calcium D Glucarate, Sulforaphane, Curcumin, DIM, etc. Additional natural recommendations may be made for those suffering from specific issues such as PCOS, menstrual pain, endometriosis, cysts, infertility, etc.
  • Menopause -> In addition to supporting the adrenal glands and promoting healthy estrogen levels, certain ingredients can help target menopausal symptoms. These include black cohosh, vitex/chasteberry, dong quai, sage, siberian rhubarb and elk velvet antler. Consider extra support for healthy bones, libido, mood, sleep and skin health if necessary. Key nutrients during this time are magnesium, B-complex, Vitamin D.
  • Thyroid -> Certain ingredients may help increase the production of thyroid hormones or support the conversion of T4 to T3. These include L-Tyrosine, Guggal Extract, Iodine, Selenium, Ashwaghanda, Myrrh and Vitamin D3. In addition, choose to steam goitrogenic foods such as cruciferous veggies and consume in moderation.
  • Enlarged Prostate -> Certain ingredients will help inhibit inflammation in the prostate, improve symptoms of BPH, increase bladder function and help block the harmful conversion of testosterone to DHT. These include pygeum bark, rye flower pollen, saw palmetto, plant sterols (beta sitosterol), pumpkin seed oil and zinc.
  • Diabetes -> Ingredients that help support insulin function include berberine, bitter melon, chirositol, garlic and cinnamon! Note that diabetics have higher requirements of chromium and vanadium, magnesium, B-vitamins, Zinc, and Vitamin E.

This concludes our “All About Hormones” series. If you have any questions or concerns about your hormone health, consult a health care professional for testing and suggestions. Ask your Naturopathic Doctor about hormone analysis, acupuncture and natural supplement options!

  • This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach -

All About Hormones: Part 4 – Hormone Conditions

In previous articles, we have discussed key players in hormone health, specific hormones and their functions, as well as hormone connections and interactions. In Part 4, we take a closer look at some of the most common hormonal complaints.

ADRENAL FATIGUE: Stress is not meant to be a bad thing as it serves a basic survival function. Hormone fluctuations are part of a natural stress response and are meant to eventually fall back to normal and recover once the stressor is removed in temporary situations and healthy people. However when stressors and/or the inability to manage them overload our bodies, symptoms and disease can occur. Adrenals respond to stress of any kind, whether psychological, physical, chemical, or environmental. Living in a constant state of chronic stress depletes nutrients and as the body continues to release cortisol, sustained elevated levels can lead to taxed adrenal glands and related health problems such as blood sugar concerns, fat accumulation, compromised immunity, infertility, fatigue, bone and muscle loss, poor memory and heart disease. Eventually, the adrenal glands may wear out completely and no longer be able to produce even normal levels of cortisol. This is known as “adrenal exhaustion”. Remember, your ability to adapt to stressors depends on optimal function of the adrenal glands and cortisol regulation!

ESTROGEN DOMINANCE: This condition is characterized by an imbalance of unopposed estrogen to progesterone ratio. This may be due to either excess estrogen, or low progesterone levels in the body. Potential underlying factors include an overloaded liver, excess fat, stress and insomnia, poor gut health, inactivity, underactive thyroid, blood sugar imbalances or overexposure to xenoestrogens (estrogen mimickers) in food, environment and products. Estrogen dominant-linked conditions include polycystic ovary syndrome/PCOS (also associated with excess insulin and male hormones), breast cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, infertility and PMS (tender breasts, bloating, cravings, migraines, mood swings, and terrible periods).

MENOPAUSE: Menopause is defined as one year without menstrual periods when a women stops ovulating and fertility ends. However, not all women experience menopause symptoms! In natural menopause, ovaries gradually slow down production of estrogen & progesterone and adrenal glands (along with uterus & fat cells) begin to take over with minimal symptoms. Once estrogen has dropped to a certain point/baseline level, the menstrual cycle stops and menopause is reached. However, during perimenopause (10-15 years before menopause while the body prepares itself for the transition), hormones may begin to fluctuate unpredictably and surge, becoming imbalanced and leading to multiple symptoms. Factors that complicate this transition include weak adrenal glands, sluggish liver, poor gut health, nutrient deficiencies or underactive thyroid.

ANDROPAUSE: This is also known as “male menopause” and is characterized by a specific set of symptoms that appear in some men as they age. It is said that on average, men experience a 10% decline in testosterone each decade after the age of 30, unless it is acknowledged and properly addressed. As men age, their estrogen levels rise and their testosterone drops as the conversion of testosterone to estrogen increases (due to the aromatase enzyme in fat cells). These hormonal changes can lead to multiple signs and symptoms such as a decline in muscle mass, lower metabolism, body fat accumulation and “man boobs”, moodiness and anxiety, low energy, memory problems, diminished sex drive and dysfunction, hair loss and increased risk of heart complication and diabetes. High estrogen levels are closely linked to excess belly fat, which is linked to higher activity of an enzyme called aromatase. This enzyme breaks down testosterone into estrogen, in turn, leading to a vicious cycle.

ENLARGED PROSTATE (BPH): Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is gradual prostate enlargement and very common in men over 40. It is caused by an increased conversion of testosterone to estrogen and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a testosterone by-product (by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase), which stimulates an overproduction of prostate cells leading to enlargement. Due to pressure on the urethra, affected men often have difficulty emptying the bladder, leading to infections. Other symptoms include frequent need to urinate at night and painful urination. Due to the fact that the prostate gland impacts both urinary and sexual function, erectile dysfunction can also be a sign of enlarged prostate. Interestingly, DHT production is also associated with male pattern baldness! Underlying risk factors include hormonal changes due to age, nutritional deficiencies, toxic overload, chronic stress and exposure to xeno estrogen/estrogen mimickers in food, environment and products (i.e. plastics, pesticides).

HYPOTHYROIDISM: Underactive thyroid is due to a decreased production of thyroid hormones or poor conversion of thyroid hormones (T4 to T3). This leads to a slowed metabolism, weak immunity, impaired liver function, constipation, brain fog, etc. Common underlying factors include nutrient deficiencies (especially tyrosine, iodine, selenium), poor gut health, chronic inflammation, candida overgrowth, estrogen dominance, blood sugar imbalances, stress, an overburdened liver or environmental toxicity! According to women’s health expert, Lorna Vanderhaeghe, “mild or sub clinical hypothyroidism may respond to nutritional and herbal support.” She notes that, those with low thyroid symptoms or a TSH number over 2.0 can consider natural thyroid support ingredients that help increase the production or conversion of T4 to T3.

DIABETES: Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body does not produce enough insulin, or does not properly use insulin. In Type II diabetes, there is enough insulin produced, but the body does not allow the insulin to bring glucose into cells. When blood sugar/glucose levels rise and stay high, the pancreas produces excess insulin to move it into cells. When excess insulin is present over a long period, cells start to become accustomed to having so much of it around. Our pancreas must increase production to maintain a normal blood sugar level and eventually enlarges and becomes impaired. This decrease in insulin sensitivity is called “insulin resistance”. Chronically elevated blood sugar levels can cause damage to brain, nerves, eyes, kidneys, gut and blood vessels, among others. Common causes and triggers include obesity, poor diet (high refined foods/sugars and low in fibre), caffeine/alcohol intake, dehydration, physical inactivity, chronic inflammation, poor gut health, stress/insomnia, nutrient deficiencies (i.e. B vitamins/chromium), irregular eating habits, overloaded liver and toxin exposure. Did you know that insulin resistance is the main feature of Alzheimer’s disease? It is known as Type 3 Diabetes!

LEPTIN RESISTANCE: Those with excess fat cells produce a great deal of leptin (appetite suppressant). Unfortunately, in the case of leptin resistance, the brain is not able to understand these signals and may actually think it’s hungry as the leptin “message” is not getting through. People will naturally tend to eat more as a result, gaining more weight and creating a vicious cycle. This is similar to how insulin resistance works and both problems commonly occur in obese individuals.

In Part 5, we will look into natural suggestions to support hormonal balance and optimal health!

  • This column is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

All About Hormones: Part 3 – Hormone Connections

Part 1 and 2 of this series discussed basic hormones and key players in their production. This week in Part 3, we will look at how various hormones and systems are interrelated and can affect each other. Hormones work together closely and when one process is off balance, it can create a domino effect throughout the body. Here are a few reminders before looking at these connections in detail:

  • An overloaded liver due to over toxicity is unable to detoxify and has an impaired ability to convert/process hormones. This can lead to an imbalance in sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Remember that estrogen and progesterone work together to maintain a healthy balance and work to adjust themselves as needed.
  • When adrenals are overtaxed from chronic stress, they secrete excess cortisol as part of a long-term response.
  • An underactive thyroid due to deficiencies or damage is characterized by the inability to properly produce, convert or use hormones.
  • An overworked pancreas as a result of constant high blood sugar levels and physical inactivity has to secrete increased levels of insulin in order to keep pushing excess into cells as they become more and more resistant to this hormone.
  • Weight gain is caused by an accumulation and enlargement of fat cells.

Here are just a few ways in which how an imbalance in one system can wreak havoc on the other.

Thyroid & Adrenals

High cortisol directly inhibits the enzyme that converts the thyroid hormones T4 to T3, causes thyroid receptor insensitivity, slows TSH production and increases the excretion of iodide from the kidney (important for thyroid hormone production). The thyroid uses tyrosine as building block for hormones but it is also needed by the adrenals for the stress response, potentially creating competition and deficiency.

Thyroid & Pancreas

Repetitive insulin surges from the pancreas increase the destruction of the thyroid gland. Also, a malfunctioning thyroid can affect blood sugar levels and lead to insulin resistance.  

Thyroid & Liver

Impaired detoxification can lead to abnormal thyroid function as a sluggish liver cannot properly convert T4 to T3. Excess estrogen levels also block uptake of thyroid hormones by receptors.

Thyroid & Fat Cells

The thyroid governs our metabolic rate. An underactive thyroid leads to a slow metabolism, low energy and resulting weight gain.

Adrenals & Pancreas

Under conditions of chronic stress, glucose levels remain high, which triggers the release of insulin. Therefore, chronically elevated cortisol may eventually lead to insulin resistance. In addition, spikes in blood sugar levels stress the body, further depleting the adrenals.

Adrenals & Liver

Cortisol and progesterone compete for the same receptor sites. When cortisol goes up due to stress, progesterone is decreased because receptors are full and estrogens increase as a result, leading to an imbalance. High cortisol levels also lead to a drop in testosterone and inhibits proper liver detoxification.

Adrenals & Fat Cells

Excess cortisol boosts abdominal fat storage, fuels a desire for fatty and sugar-laden comfort foods, depletes serotonin (leading to cravings), blocks leptin (appetite suppressant), eats away at muscle and triggers insulin resistance. It also causes fat cells to become larger, more resistant to fat loss and promotes more estrogen production in fat cells.  

Liver & Pancreas

Insulin tells the body to absorb glucose from the blood and turn it into fat where it can be stored for energy. Some blood sugar is stored as glycogen in the liver. When the liver is constantly reaching its capacity to store glycogen, it can lead to a fatty liver that has trouble metabolizing hormones. In addition, elevated insulin levels will reduce glutathione levels inhibiting the liver’s ability to detoxify. Also, insulin resistance will increase the activity of the enzyme aromatase, which can lead to estrogen dominance.

Fat Cells & Liver

When the liver detoxification pathways are disrupted, it contributes to hormonal imbalances, toxin accumulation and fat gain. Poor liver detoxification can lead to a decreased rate of excess estrogen excretion, leading to estrogen dominance and “belly fat”. On the other hand, too much fat in the body can also lead to excess estrogen as fat cells can both manufacture and store estrogen. This creates a vicious cycle. High estrogens promote weight gain, yet fat cells are estrogen factories.

Fat Cells & Pancreas

Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and is pumped out to reduce abnormally high blood sugar (eventually storing it into fat cells when other stores are full). The body then gains fat as a result and over time cells. Fat cells also produce inflammatory compounds which increase insulin resistance.

BONUS: Ovaries

Next to the thyroid, the ovaries contain the greatest concentration of iodine in the female body and they also have hormone receptors for thyroid hormones. An underactive thyroid can create menstrual problems, low sex drive and infertility.

BONUS: Gut

.  Elevated cortisol levels slowly destroy the immune system that lines the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, increases inflammation and prevents the cells from regenerating. As a result, the body has an increased risk of leaky gut and infections from parasites, yeast, viruses, and bacteria which further stresses other organs. Also, if you have gut issues, this may cause problems with mineral absorption, affecting proper function of other bodily systems.  

  • This column is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

All About Hormones: Part 2 – Specific Hormones

Last week in Part 1 we looked at hormone basic and key players involved in these functions. This week we will dive further into specific hormones and how they work in the body.

SEX HORMONES-> Women and men both produce estrogen and testosterone. In men, the adrenals are the main source of estrogen. In women, hormones are predominantly produced in the adrenals, ovaries and fat cells. Women who have had their ovaries removed, or who have undergone menopause, rely on the adrenal glands for the majority of hormone production.

  1. Estrogens: A group of hormones that play a role in normal sexual and reproductive development. The main estrogens are Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), Estriol (E3). Each has different degree of interaction with estrogen receptors making them either weak or strong. Estradiol is the most potent and estriol has the lowest potency. Both estrone and estriol are made from estradiol.

According to women’s health expert, Lorna Vanderhaeghe, estrogens can stay in their original form, convert to another estrogen, or convert to cancer-preventative or cancer-promoting estrogen metabolites/breakdown products. For example, 2-hydroxyestrone is a breakdown product of estrogens and is thought to be breast cancer protective. However, having high levels of 4-hydroxyestrone and 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone metabolites are said to be cancer-promoting.  Estriol is the safer form that rarely converts to metabolites. Harmful conversions take place when liver health is compromised by drugs and toxins, when we are exposed to high amounts of “xeno estrogens” found in plastics, cosmetics, pesticides, animal products, etc. or when taking high doses of estrogens. Estrogen metabolism is affected by other hormones, as we will see in Part 3.

  1. Progesterone: Progesterone is a precursor hormone that the body uses to make other steroid hormones. It is produced in the “corpus luteum” of the ovaries. Progesterone can be used to make cortisol in the adrenal glands and it can also convert to estrogen through a series of reactions. During pregnancy, progesterone produced by the placenta is essential to maintain a pregnancy to term as it keeps the uterus from contracting until labor begins. These levels naturally decrease at menopause when the ovaries stop producing eggs, although the adrenals continue to produce it in smaller amounts.

Note that estrogen and progesterone work together to create harmony. If estrogen levels are too low, progesterone converts to estrogens to maintain these levels. However, when you have too much estrogen, you need more progesterone to maintain the balance.

  1. Testosterone: Testosterone is an androgen – a masculinizing hormone, although it plays a role in both male and female health. In women, it is produced mainly in the ovaries, but most is converted to estrogen. It is also produced in the testes in men and the adrenal glands in both men and women. It enhances libido, bone density, muscle mass, strength, motivation, memory, fat burning and skin tone. These levels tend to taper off with aging, obesity and stress. Exposure to pesticides and toxins also negatively impact production of testosterone in the testes.

CORTISOL -> Cortisol is known as our “chronic stress” hormone. It is secreted from the adrenal glands in response to long-term stressors. It results in increased blood sugar levels, breathing rate, cardiac output and blood flow (to muscles, lungs, brain) in order to help the body cope with stress. Our ability to adapt to long term stressors depends on the optimal function of the adrenal glands and regulation of cortisol secretion. Therefore, we need cortisol in the right amounts to survive and adapt to stress. It also helps to maintain blood pressure, body temperature and control inflammation. Cortisol has a natural rhythm throughout the day, so the body should produce more in the morning than in the evening, when levels should drop by 90%. As mentioned, those who have stressful lives tend to have elevated evening levels. If adrenals are weak, sleep suffers and poor sleep leads to exhausted adrenals, creating a vicious cycle. Stress and aging can both lead to high cortisol levels, especially during transitional hormone years of perimenopause.

THYROID HORMONES-> Thyroid hormones regulate heart rate, cholesterol levels, body weight, energy, muscle contraction and relaxation, skin and hair texture, bowel function, fertility, menstrual regularity, memory, mood and other processes. Thyroid stimulating hormone, or “TSH”, is secreted by the pituitary gland and prompts the thyroid to produce hormones (T4 & T3). Calcitonin is another thyroid hormone and it is involved in the balance of blood calcium levels.  Thyroid hormones are made up of tyrosine and iodine. T4 is the most abundant thyroid hormone and T3 is the most active thyroid hormone, having up to 10x the activity of T4. T3 is the thyroid hormone that directly influences the metabolism of every cell, tissue and organ in the body. Up to 80% of T4 is converted to T3 in multiple tissues and organs (i.e. liver, gut, muscle, brain and thyroid). Therefore T4 is a precursor to T3. Note that under periods of stress or selenium deficiency, the body may produce increased levels of “reverse T3”, which generally indicates an underactive thyroid.

INSULIN & GLUCAGON -> When sugar from the diet enters the bloodstream, the pancreas releases insulin to process blood sugar (glucose) and carry it into the cells to be used. The more sugar in the bloodstream, the more insulin is released. Once insulin is released, the sugar can be used immediately as a fuel source for the brain or kidneys, stored as glycogen in the liver or muscles for later use as an energy source, or it can be stored as fat once the glycogen sites are full and if it cannot be used right away. Glucagon works directly opposite to insulin in that it raises our blood sugar. When we need fuel, glucagon instructs our body to use stored fat and sugars for energy. However, release is inhibited when high amounts of sugar and insulin are present in the bloodstream.

LEPTIN & GREHLIN -> A proper balance of these hormones is ideal to help lower body weight, body fat percentage, control food intake, blood sugar and insulin levels as well as regulate metabolism. Leptin is secreted by the fat cells and considered the main “satiety hormone” because it helps control appetite. Ghrelin is secreted primarily in the lining of the stomach and is considered the main “hunger hormone” because it increases the desire to eat. However, these signals can be disrupted due to obesity and the ability to eat when we are truly hungry and stop when we are full becomes compromised.

-This column is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

All About Hormones: Part 1 – Hormone Basics

According to women’s health expert, Lorna Vanderhaeghe, “hormones are chemical messengers that tell other systems throughout your body what to do, how to do it and when to do it.” Hormones are made out of various nutrients such as cholesterol, amino acids or fats from the diet. There are over 50 known hormones in the body and they are influenced by a wide variety of factors, such as exercise, diet, stress and sleep, digestion and environmental toxins.

Three Main Types:

  • Steroid Hormones -> These are made from cholesterol and manufactured by the liver. Examples include estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. Note that some steroid hormones can also convert to other hormones and back again.
  • Peptide Hormones -> These are made from protein/amino acids. Examples include insulin, LH & FSH, prolactin, dopamine and growth hormone.
  • Amine-Derived Hormones -> These are made from certain amino acids. Examples include melatonin, serotonin, thyroxine, and epinephrine.

Organs, glands and cells in the body secrete hormones into the bloodstream. The main hormone producers in the body are the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid and parathyroid, adrenals, pancreas, ovaries, pineal, thymus and fat cells. Other organs that can produce and secrete hormones include the liver and large intestine, among others.

KEY PLAYERS

Hypothalamus: Takes in signals from the nervous system and sends out hormone messages to the pituitary gland, directing it to either stop or start a hormone process.

Pituitary: Produces specific hormones in response to signals from the hypothalamus and sends out instructions to endocrine glands and organs.  This is known as the “master gland” because its hormones act on the thyroid, testes, ovaries and adrenal glands.

Thyroid/Parathyroid: The thyroid gland sets the rate for your body’s metabolism, which means it regulates nearly every cell in the body. This gland receives messages from the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) from the pituitary. It secretes both T4 and T3 hormones, which travel through the bloodstream. The thyroid also secretes calcitonin, which lowers the amount of calcium and phosphate in the blood as necessary to stop bone breakdown and stimulate movement of calcium into bone. The parathyroid gland secretes parathyroid hormone (PTH), which does the opposite. It stimulates bone cells to break down bone and release stored calcium into the blood. It is also involved in calcium absorption by the intestines and its conservation by the kidneys.

Adrenals: The adrenals secrete both male and female sex hormones and become the prime producers of estrogen and progesterone when the ovaries “retire” (i.e. menopause). They release the stress-response hormones that guide the body’s reaction to a stressor, as well as small amounts of estrogen, testosterone, cortisol and progesterone. Adrenals contain two parts, the adrenal medulla and the adrenal cortex. In response to triggers from the hypothalamus the adrenal medulla secretes epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine as part of the fight or flight response. When a longer-term stress response is required, the adrenal cortex produces the hormones cortisol in response to a signal from the pituitary gland.

Pancreas: Assists in digestion by secreting enzymes. It also secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon directly into the bloodstream. Insulin pushes sugar/glucose into cells to decrease blood glucose levels, while glucagon increases the level of glucose in the blood when it gets too low. The pancreas monitors blood sugar levels and secretes one of the two to make adjustments in order to keep levels table. When blood sugar is constantly high, the pancreas becomes exhausted.

Ovaries: The ovaries secrete the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. When the pituitary gland sends out FSH and LH throughout the menstrual cycle, it is targeted for the ovaries. These are the storage organ for eggs in females. An increase in FSH stimulates the full maturing of one or multiple eggs. LH is the hormone that stimulates the release of the egg from the ovary. Fallopian tubes act as portals for the egg to the uterus.

Pineal Gland: Makes melatonin and secretes it into the bloodstream, which regulates the sleeping and waking cycle.

Thymus: This gland play an important role in immune function. It secretes hormones such as thymosin.

Fat Cells: Also known as adipose tissue, they are located in different places in men and women. Both estrogen and testosterone play a role in fat deposition in the body. Did you know that the size of fat cells can change throughout life, but the number of fat cells is determined by the late teens? This is why appropriate prenatal and teen nutrition are key in adult weight management. The size and number of fat cells affect hormone balance. Fat cells manufacture and store estrogen!

EXTRA CONSIDERATIONS

Liver: The liver is the key organ for clearing excess hormones. The liver also decides if a hormone is going to convert to one hormone or another. In addition, it manufactures cholesterol, the starting material for all steroid hormones. A healthy liver is key to healthy hormone balance.

Gut: The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, some good, some bad and some neutral. The beneficial bacteria in our “microbiome” are called probiotics. Probiotics can metabolize and recycle hormones in the body. They can reduce the levels of cortisol in the body due to a chronic stress and regulate circulating estrogen levels. Certain probiotics can also promote optimal insulin levels, help maintain healthy weight, support healthy sleep and potentially increase testosterone levels in males.

In order to have optimal hormone function and balance, it is important to ensure that various parts of the body are functioning properly as they each play an important role. Tune in to Part 2 next week for more information on specific hormones and what they do for you!

 -This column is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach -

Eat The Rainbow!

According to leading scientists, James A. Joseph, Ph.D., “one of the biggest discoveries is that colorful fruits and vegetables contain many disease-fighting compounds known as phytochemicals and that we need the protective benefits of the full spectrum of their bright colors.” 

 

What are Phytonutrients?

Phytonutrients are a range of naturally occurring active chemicals in plants that give them their sensory characteristics such as flavor, odor, color and texture. In fact, the more intense the color, flavor or scent, the more concentrated the phytochemical content. These health-providing plant substances are currently not considered “essential” nutrients, although they have proven to be highly beneficial when consumed.  

Phytonutrients are manufactured by plants in order to provide them with natural protection from the environmental challenges they face. In this way, they defend them against excess UV radiation, dangerous microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites), pollution, toxins or predator pests and insects. When we consume plants rich in phytonutrients, they appear to provide humans with protection as well.

 

What are the Benefits of Phytonutrients?

Phytochemicals have a wide range of benefits due mainly to their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help reduce and/or prevent oxidative damage. This is due to free radicals that occur on a cellular level when the body is exposed to toxins, dietary imbalances, inflammation, stress, etc. Antioxidants help protect joints, blood vessels, eyes and the brain, in addition to helping slow the aging process, both internally and externally.

Phytochemicals are also known for their anti-inflammatory strengths and their ability to boost the body’s natural detoxification systems. Some have also been recognized to exert anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-cardiovascular disease (help support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels), and anti-cancer activity as well as analgesic, anti-allergic, liver protective, estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects! In addition, foods rich in phytochemicals (especially green foods) can help improve the pH balance in the body. A poor diet can lead to a body that is too acidic, which can have a number of damaging effects such osteoporosis, decreased immunity and arthritis, among others.

 

Common Types of Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients are classified by their chemical structure. Here are some common ones you might hear about.

  • Chlorophyll -> Helps to reduce inflammation, eliminate bad breathe, assist detoxification and support the immune system. It also plays a role in improving cholesterol and blood pressure. This is the chemical that gives green foods their color and can be found in ingredients like spirulina, wheat grass and kale.
  • Phytosterols -> These ingredients are common in prostate support, immune modulating and cholesterol lowering supplements. Examples include beta-sitosterol.
  • Carotenoids -> Sourced from foods like tomatoes and carrots. They are powerful antioxidants that are critical in protecting eye health. This group includes lycopene, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin and lutein, as well as alpha and beta-carotene, which are precursors to vitamins A. Lycopene also plays a role in preventing heart disease and promoting hair, skin and nail health.
  • Glucosinolates -> These are found in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and bok choy) and have the ability to modulate liver detoxification enzymes. For example, Indole-3-carbinol supports healthy estrogen metabolism and promotes beneficial conversions in the liver, breaking down dangerous estrogens into non-toxic forms. Sulforophane is also a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to stimulate the body’s production of detoxification enzymes that eliminate environmental estrogens.
  • Curcumin -> Found in turmeric spice. It is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory used for both joint and brain health.
  • Resveratrol -> An antioxidant found in peanuts, berries, grapes and red wine. It has anti-inflammatory effects and can help prevent heart disease.
  • Ellagic Acid -> Found in berries and protects the body from oxidative stress.
  • Ferulic Acid -> Found in the germ and bran of whole grains, in addition to certain vegetables such as spinach, parsley, grapes and rhubarb. It defends and provides antioxidant benefits to skin.
  • Flavonoids (Bioflavonoids) -> They are primarily antioxidants that help protect the liver, heart, joint and brain health. These include anthocyanins which provide the purple-dark blue pigments in blueberries, black currants, red and purple grapes. Other members of the flavonoid category include catechins, hesperidin, rutin, quercetin and kaempferol.

 

Where Do I Get Phytonutrients From? 

We experience the benefits of phytonutrients by eating plants (and plant-based foods) such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, cereal grasses, algae, green tea, cacao, herbs, nuts and seeds, etc. Many of these phytonutrients act synergistically; that is, they help each other and provide more benefit when taken with other phytonutrients than alone.

The official recommendation is 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. However, more may be needed based on the quality of ingredients. According to co-author of “The Color Code”, Dr. Joseph, “eating 9 to 10 servings of vibrantly colored produce each day is optimal for degenerative disease protection. A serving equals either 1/2-cup chopped vegetables or fruits or 1 cup berries or chopped greens.”

It is best to source plants from organic farms to avoid pesticides. Note that microwaving, irradiating, and overheating can also lower nutrient values of food. Plus, poor digestive health, stress and the use of certain drugs further inhibits us from absorbing nutrients. 

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach -

Where Should I Buy My Supplements?

What is the main benefit of shopping at your local health food store? The answer is “staff assistance”. Staff assistance doesn’t just mean that someone is available to point you towards the Vitamin C aisle. This concept entails the product knowledge behind the labels, the compassion behind the conversation and the carefully asked questions to find the right product to fit your unique needs. 

Most health food store employees are certified natural product advisors who consistently take part in continuing education and specialized trainings. In addition, many staff members have achieved extra credentials on their own time, such as nutrition diplomas or personal training certificates. A product advisor is trained to ask those important questions you won’t get from just looking at the shelf. These include: Why do you want to take this product? What else are you taking? What are your symptoms or conditions? Have you tried anything already? What is your diet/lifestyle like? What budget are you working within? What are you looking to achieve?

When it comes to natural supplements, who is to say you are getting the right product for your specific needs? Have you ever asked yourself if what you picked off the shelf is in fact the best choice and the best investment for your health? Shopping with no staff assistance leaves one to rely solely on the label marketing claims and price. Here are some examples why having an interaction with a knowledgeable advisor can be financially beneficial and worth your time. This is how health stores add value to your purchase and save you the “guesswork”.

 

Example 1 – Choosing a Supplement Form: Perhaps you have heard from a friend that you need to take magnesium for your anxiety. However, there could easily be 6 or more forms of magnesium on the shelf. How do you know which one to choose? A trained advisor knows that magnesium oxide works differently than magnesium bisglycinate. While magnesium oxide does not absorb well in the body and is commonly used as a laxative, the bisglycinate form can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and help support an overactive mind. Perhaps, you are looking for vitamin B12 as you have heard it supports energy levels. However, you realize once again that there are multiple forms on the shelf. Which one do you take? An experienced staff can explain to you that the methylcobalamin form does not require “intrinsic factor” for absorption and enters the bloodstream more quickly, bypassing the digestive system. This is especially important if you have an underactive stomach, which is common.

 

Example 2 – They Understand Ingredients and How They Work: B-vitamins are marketed as “a factor in the maintenance of good health” or “help metabolize proteins, carbohydrates and fats.” What does that mean? How does this apply to your life? A product advisor can explain the underlying benefits of B-vitamins, such as energy, mood and cognitive support, in addition to what factors commonly deplete them. They can also explain key uses for individual B-vitamins. For example, Vitamin B12 plays a role in red blood cell production and Vitamin B6 is known as the “Women’s Vitamin” and may help with PMS. Or perhaps you are picking up a product marketed towards “arthritis” but you have no idea how or why it’s supposed to work. A trained staff can explain to you that the turmeric and boswellia in the formula have anti-inflammatory properties, the white willow helps with pain and the collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin are important building blocks.  

 

Example 3 – They Warn about Side Effects: A product advisor can also tell you about the normal “niacin flush” effect that may accompany taking vitamin B3. This occurs because it acts as a potent vasodilator, expanding blood vessels to increase the flow of blood, causing an uncomfortable flushing effect. Or perhaps you are looking at purchasing a cleansing kit. An experienced staff member knows that you will need to increase your intake of water and fiber throughout this period of time in order to adequately flush the toxins out of your system, otherwise you could end up with adverse effects from the cleansing reaction. This important information can save you from wasting the effects of the supplement and potentially causing harm.

 

Example 4 – They Help You Make Wise Decisions: Talking to a product advisor can also help you get the most value for your dollar. For example, you may be taking a greens supplement, multivitamin and protein powder separately. By having a conversation about your current supplement protocol, an advisor can suggest an “all-in-one” protein powder that contains all three of these products in one easy and economical scoop. In addition, their main concern is making sure that you are giving your body the basic essentials it needs before moving onto anything else.  An advisor can help you evaluate your priorities and start with the “essentials” that you are potentially lacking in your diet, before moving on to the “extra support”. First thing’s first, if your body is deficient in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, omega fats, protein or probiotics, you will most likely be experiencing symptoms. Therefore, this should be the first thing to correct. These basic essentials are the best investment to start with as they benefit a wide range of things from cholesterol and blood sugar to skin health and weight control.

 

Example 5 – They Target Potential Root Issues: Product advisors can help you get a better understanding of the potential root triggers behind the symptoms you are dealing with. For example, say you are struggling with hair loss and want to take a product for “thicker, healthier hair”. What a holistic professional can do for you, is help you recognize the many potential root causes behind hair loss and suggest possible areas and tests to inquire about. For example, is your thyroid underactive? Do you have low iron? Is it due to stress? Perhaps you have an autoimmune condition? Are you taking in enough protein in a day? Product advisors also understand interconnections in the body, such as that the gut and brain are highly connected. Something like this may play a role in a condition like depression. Instead of just sending you home with a product that targets part of the solution, they can also include a probiotic supplement as part of their recommendation to support a healthy gut.

 

Example 6 – They Have More Resources: Product advisors have access to books, professionals and educational materials beyond what you can see on the label. They can provide you with the information and tools you need to empower you to take control of your health! Health food stores may also be able to carry unique higher end brands due to the fact that they have a licensed Naturopath on staff. 

 

Note that product advisors and nutritionists are not legally allowed to diagnose or use the terms “cure”, “heal”, or “treat”. They will not give any information regarding pharmaceutical medications or medical practices. Health food store staff focus mainly on holistic prevention and do not in any way replace these areas of expertise. It is advised to seek out a Naturopathic Doctor for more specific treatment information beyond the scope of what health food store staff can provide.

So what makes all the difference when you are buying your supplements? It’s the people!

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

Aging Well…

Like it or not, as we age we are naturally more susceptible to certain symptoms and health conditions. The statistics for higher incidence of things like benign prostate hyperplasia (“BPH”), reduced immune function (“immunosenescence”), osteoporosis and osteoarthritis,  dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, skin wrinkles, age-related muscle loss (“sarcopenia”), stiffening of the blood vessels and increased risk of heart disease, vision and hearing loss, tooth decay and even gum disease in senior citizens are astounding. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent aging, but we CAN age well. Here are some common problems that contribute to aging poorly.

 

Problem 1: Free Radical Damage

Free radicals are unstable, highly reactive atoms that damage our cells. These tend to accumulate with age and can also be created by factors such as exposure to pollution, tobacco smoke, pesticides, alcohol, fried foods, excess stress, etc. According to Dr. Denham Harman “Free radical damage is a major contributor to most age-related degenerative conditions”.  Oxidative damage by free radicals has been shown to play a role in problems such as macular degeneration, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease and accelerated aging.  

SOLUTION -> Antioxidants are vital in keeping cells and tissues healthy by protecting the body from free-radical damage. In addition to avoiding the triggers mentioned above, it is suggested to increase antioxidant intake through foods and supplements. These could include green food or berry powder blends, turmeric, green tea, vitamins C & E, resveratrol, carotenoids (lutein, beta-carotene), selenium, pycnogenol, alpha lipoic acid, quercetin, etc.

 

Problem 2: Nutrient Depletion

As we age, production and absorption of certain nutrients tend to decline in the body. These include collagen, CoQ10, and Vitamin B12 to name a few.

 

Seniors who are protein deficient tend to lose muscle, have increased risk of osteoporisis, cardiovascular disease, compromised immune function and low energy. Collagen is the key structural protein in the body, making up ¼ of total protein. It is found in cartilage, ligaments, skin, bones, tendons, muscle, teeth, intestines, nails, eyes, blood vessels and hair!  Its production begins to decrease by roughly 1% per year after the age of 20. Collagen improves skin elasticity and firmness, helps rebuild damaged joint cartilage and blood vessels and slows down the process of age-related muscle loss.

SOLUTION: Eat more protein. To slow loss of muscle, strength and mass (sarcopenia), seniors are advised to aim for 1-1.2g/kg or .45-.5g/lb daily. Consider a quality collagen supplement as a source of protein. Tip: Creatine supplementation in seniors is also helpful for reducing age related muscle loss in addition to helping to protect the brain and support heart health.

 

Our stores of CoQ10 diminish with age and production is in rapid decline by the age of 40. This is associated with a decrease in muscle strength, fatigue, gum integrity and cognitive sharpness, in addition to an increased risk of heart disease. CoQ10 is an antioxidant and is beneficial in postponing aging and preventing age-related diseases.

SOLUTION: Consider a CoQ10 supplement in it’s active form, “ubiquinol”.

 

Due to deficiencies in stomach acid and “intrinsic factor”, seniors have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12, and certain minerals. Vitamin B12 is important for energy production, nervous system function, supporting memory and learning, counteracting depression, slowing cognitive decline that comes with aging and protecting the heart.

SOLUTION: The methylcobalamin form of this vitamin is highly bioavailable and does not require “intrinsic factor”. It is readily absorbed directly into the blood, bypassing digestion.

 

Problem 3: Poor Gut Health & Inflammation

Aging contributes to impairments of digestive function and nutrient absorption. This means that the food we eat is no longer being broken down as efficiently into the nutrients we need. Not only does the body’s production of digestive enzymes and stomach acid decline as we age, but after the age of 50 the “microflora” profile in our intestines begin to reduce. In fact, studies have found that people over the age of 60 have around 1000-fold fewer friendly bacteria in their gut than younger people. This can lead to an increased risk of infection or overgrowth, constipation, malabsorption and inflammation in the gut, which can then spread and negatively affect other areas in the body such as the joints, heart and brain.

SOLUTION: Seniors are advised to look for a high ratio of Bifidobacterium in a probiotic supplement as it helps replenish the bacteria species that are most affected by ageing. It is also recommended that people over the age of 35 take a daily digestive enzyme supplement (with HCl if necessary). In addition, aim for at least 30g of fiber intake daily for proper elimination and consider Omega 3 fish oils, which help manage inflammation and support brain, joint and heart.

 

Problem 4: Malnutrition

As we age, our metabolism slows down which means we can gain weight by eating fewer calories than before. This means it is even more important to make every bite count by choosing highly nutritious foods.

SOLUTION: Avoid high-sugar, processed, hydrogenated or refined foods and excess animal products. Instead focus on choosing natural, whole, alkalizing, anti-inflammatory and organic ingredients as much as possible. Also, take a quality multivitamin +D3 to fill in nutritional gaps.

 

Other tips include: Get regular daily exercise and include a few sessions of resistance training per week. Manage stress and ensure quality sleep. Drink plenty of water. Engage your brain with mentally stimulating activity. Maintain an active social life and a positive attitude. Get regular checkups. Ask about specific natural supplements to target various concerns.

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

The Newest Superfood: Bone Broth

Bone broth is made by simmering the bones (and other parts) of a variety of animals and fish in a large stock pot with water, vegetables, herbs and spices for one to multiple days. A long, slow cooking time is necessary to fully draw out the nutrients. Some people may also add a bit of apple cider vinegar to assist in this process. This results in a nutrient-dense and easily digestible end product.

 

Key Nutrients ->

Holistic Pharmacist, Rosemarie Pierce explains that bone broth is rich in collagen, amino acids, glycosaminoglycans, and key minerals.

  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It is the structural protein found in all connective tissues. These include bones, skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels, giving them firmness and strength. Collagen is made primarily of very specific “non-essential” amino acids (glycine, proline and glutamine), that are generally not found in muscle meat we generally consume. There are 16 types of collagen with different structures and functions. The majority of these are either Type 1, 2 or 3. Type 1 is more so found in bone, skin, ligaments, tendons, organs, gums, teeth and eyes. Type 2 is present in joint cartilage in knees, hips, shoulders. This type of collagen is commonly sourced from chicken. Type 3 is present in skin, lungs and vascular system. Type 1 and Type 3 are often found in combination and are commonly sourced from beef. Collagen naturally decreases as we age. Consequences of collagen deficiency include wrinkles, thinning hair, brittle bones, bleeding gums, weak joints, poor wound healing and bruising. Note that gelatin is part of broken-down collagen, so cooking collagen helps isolate gelatin.
  • Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Bone broth contains 18 amino acids, although it is generally low in tryptophan, cysteine and methionine. It is made up predominantly of proline, hydroxyproline, glycine and glutamine. Glycine is a conditionally essential amino acid in humans and is used to help create muscle tissue, convert glucose into energy, regulate bile salts and support liver detoxification. It is necessary to repair damaged tissues. Proline and hydroxyproline are the main amino acids needed to build collagen in the skin, bones, ligaments and tendons. It is said that increased amounts may help slow down the aging process and enhance skin health. Glutamine helps heal the gut lining, reduce sugar cravings, improve mental focus and memory, promote muscular growth and enhance recovery from injury and illness.
  • Glycosaminoglycan’s (GAG’s) help to repair and restore joint health. The three most important are hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate. These ingredients are often found in supplemental formulas for arthritis. Hyaluronic acid loves water and acts as a lubricator and shock absorber in joints. It is also naturally-occurring in the skin and helps keep it elastic, hydrated and supple. Chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate help keep cartilage healthy and minimize joint pain.
  • Bone broth can also provide various minerals, depending on the type, method and length of cooking time. These can include potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, sulfur in addition to multiple trace minerals. They may also contain small amounts of vitamins A, C & B’s.

 

General Health Benefits ->

Specific health benefits will vary based on the source. Ask a nutritionist or natural product advisor which is type is best for you and your unique needs.

  • Gut Health: Improves digestive health, assists in gut lining repair and supports immune system.
  • Healthy Bones & Joints: Supports and regenerates cartilage, reduces joint creaking/popping/pain, helps back pain and regenerates disks, assists with injury recovery, builds strong bones, improves circulation and supports ligaments, tendons, muscles.
  • Skin, Hair, Nails: Improves skin health and elasticity, minimizes fine lines and wrinkles for smooth skin, promotes strong nails and thick hair.
  • Stress & Sleep: Promotes relaxation and healthy sleep.

 

Therefore, bone broth may be useful for those with gut problems, inflammation or degenerative diseases such as arthritis, among other ailments. It is ideal for athletes, those following a ketogenic or Paleolithic diet or individuals who are in cardiac recovery.  

You can either make your own bone broth from scratch, buy it ready-made or consider an easy to use bone broth protein powder for a quick nutrition boost! These can be mixed with hot water and sipped or added into stews, soups or sauces. Look for bone broth made from organic, grass-finished cattle and free-range chickens, raised without antibiotics and hormones.

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach -

Understanding Heart Health - Part 2: Common Risk Factors

Last week we looked at atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) in the arteries. It appears that at the root of this process is damage or stress to the arterial lining (also known as endothelial dysfunction) from a variety of factors, which then sets off a series of events due to an overactive inflammatory response. With prevention as our first priority, here is a brief look at 8 common risk factors that may cause this initial dysfunction and set off this detrimental process.

 

Oxidative Stress -> This is a fancy way of saying that there are not enough antioxidants available to neutralize harmful oxidants (free radicals) in the body. Oxidative stress is one of the main drivers of inflammation and destruction of arterial lining. As mentioned last week in Part 1, oxidation occurs due to highly unstable molecules, known as “free radicals” which damage cells. Oxidative stress can be the result of regular biological processes, smoking, alcohol, emotional stress and lack of sleep, pollutants, chronic infections, poor nutrition or high blood sugar. Note that excess homocysteine also promotes oxidative stress. This amino acid is normally found in the bloodstream but is dangerous when elevated.

Poor Diet -> The following dietary factors contribute to “endothelial dysfunction” and excess inflammation in the body: alcohol, regular intake of processed/refined foods and trans fats, high sugar or low-fiber diet, chemicals, additives, and imbalanced consumption of omega 6 in relation to omega 3. Note that both omegas are necessary from the diet, however excess omega 6 can be harmful.

Unhealthy Weight-> Accumulated belly fat contributes to chronic inflammation and may initiate atherosclerosis. Even people who are overweight, but not obese are at increased risk of heart disease. Physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle are major risk factors for heart disease. Regular exercise protects against the development of cardiovascular disease and can help improve other risk factors such as insulin resistance and obesity. Dr. Michael Murray, ND, states that “obesity is the major dietary cause of high blood pressure”.

High Blood Sugar -> Increased blood sugar and insulin resistance both trigger inflammation and are associated with increased oxidative stress. High blood sugar also contributes to the production of molecules called AGEs, which are able to modify LDL cholesterol particles so that they can be more easily oxidized. This we know, from Part 1, is a common underlying trigger for atherosclerosis. Insulin resistance also causes retention of sodium and water from the kidneys, leading to high blood pressure as well as greatly increases the risk for clot formation.

Environmental Toxins -> These may come in the form of cigarette smoke, air pollution, pesticides, herbicides, chemical additives, heavy metals or hormone disruptors (i.e. in plastics). Toxic exposure contributes to oxidative stress, causing damage to the endothelial lining and triggering silent inflammation in the body. When the body is overburdened with toxins, antioxidants are depleted.

Poor Gut Health -> We have seen that inflammation plays a role in all stages of atherosclerosis, as it is an inflammatory disease. What is important to note is that the gut is the major source of chronic, low-grade inflammation. This generally occurs in response to changes in gut bacterial balance or activity, food sensitivities, emotional stress, inadequate enzymes or stomach acid or intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut), which allows bacteria and undigested food to enter circulation. Therefore, there is a direct connection between the gut and the heart. The gut also plays a major role in cholesterol metabolism. Brenda Watson, CNC, states that a study has shown that the composition of gut bacteria may even affect whether statins work effectively or not!

Emotional Stress -> Stress increases inflammation in the body. This can lead to an increase in abdominal fat, high blood lipid levels, poor digestion and insulin resistance, which are other triggers for heart disease. Brenda Watson explains that the physiological response to stress increases blood pressure and heart rate, which puts pressure on arterial walls, thus damaging the lining. As we have seen, this damage can trigger an inflammatory response that sets off plaque accumulation. She also states that elevated levels of cortisol are found in people with both acute and chronic stress and that even mild “normal” stress can negatively affect the heart. Did you know that depression and anger are also related to heart disease? According to a study shared by Dr. Michael Murray, ND, greater anger and severity of depressive symptoms were significantly associated with increased inflammatory markers as well as increased cortisol, endothelial dysfunction, high blood pressure and increased platelet aggregation.

Inflammation -> Inflammation plays a role at every stage of the plaque buildup process and is considered a risk factor as it can initiate artery damage. Inflammation is necessary in the body and serves as the response to injury or infection. It can occur due to a foreign invader, malfunction or damage. It serves an important purpose and is meant to stop once the trigger is taken care of. However, when the irritation is constant, the result is chronic, low-grade inflammation. Factors that promote this “silent” inflammation include poor diet, high blood sugar and insulin resistance, obesity, environmental toxins, emotional stress, chronic infections (even gum disease), increased exposure to free radicals, poor digestion and food sensitivities, etc. Remember that the gut is an important source of inflammation.

 

Bonus Tip: healthy estrogen levels can play a protective role against heart disease. These levels are known to decrease after menopause. Balance is an important key to heart health!

 

Now that we understand that heart disease stems from a combination of risk factors, we see how important it is to target various aspects of health in our efforts to prevent heart disease. In addition to taking lifestyle measures to control these triggers (such as balancing blood sugar, eating well, managing stress, digesting properly, controlling weight, avoiding toxin exposure), tune into Part 3 next week for natural ingredient suggestions to help increase your chances of a healthy and happy heart!

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

 

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About Good n’ Natural

Good n Natural

Good n’ Natural started as a small-family owned business in 1994. Our team has grown and diversified to include Certified Natural Product Advisers, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and a part-time Naturopathic Doctor. Our mission is to educate, inspire, and empower our customers to pursue a healthy lifestyle in order to achieve their wellness goals and in turn build a stronger community.

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