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6 Ways to Fight Osteoarthritis with Food

Move over, apples, it’s time to start sharing the spotlight.

We’ve all heard “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” but more and more research is showing health benefits of a variety of other foods too. Especially when it comes to osteoarthritis.

As the approximately 27 million Americans who suffer from it can attest, it often begins slowly with stiffness and soreness that is uncomfortable but not seemingly serious. Some lucky people stay at this level while others have it grow increasingly painful and debilitating to the point simple tasks like walking and sleeping are difficult. It can affect a variety of joints but the knees, back and hips are frequent victims.

A number of factors can cause it ranging from being overweight and/or older to overusing the joint or having a previous injury to simply being unlucky genetically-speaking. While there is no cure, maintaining a proper weight and staying active are key—as well as eating nutritious foods.

Inflammation in particular is a big enemy when it comes to keeping osteoarthritis at bay as it creates free radicals which can damage the cushions between joints (as well as various other body tissues).

Foods that can help fight against inflammation are some of the following:

  • Antioxidants—Antioxidants are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables including strawberries, apples, onions, kale and blueberries among others. Green tea and cocoa powder contain them as well.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids—This nutritional powerhouse is common in fish such as salmon, tuna, trout and sardines so aim for at least two 3-ounce servings a week. Walnuts and omega-3 fortified eggs are other options.
  • Olive Oil—Olive oil contains the compound oleocanthal which acts similarly to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Next time instead of popping a 200 mg pill, try 3-and-a-half tablespoons of olive oil instead. (When possible use it instead of butter and other fats as olive oil is relatively high in calories.)
  • Spices—Spices especially turmeric and ginger also seem to have anti-inflammatory benefits.

Getting enough of certain vitamins is also critical. For example:

  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C can be found in everything from oranges, strawberries and kiwi to tomatoes and bell peppers to broccoli and kale and is important in maintaining cartilage health.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D may also help keep cartilage healthy so eat fortified milk and eggs, wild-caught salmon and shrimp and various Vitamin D and calcium-fortified foods like cereal and orange juice.

Finally, it’s important to avoid a few things too. Saturated and trans fats, excess salt and sugar should all be consumed in moderation if at all. Also, watch out for AGEs or advanced glycation end products which can end up in foods that are cooked at high temperatures and lead to inflammation. Examples include fried, grilled and broiled meats as well as some processed foods.

So go ahead and eat those apples…but make sure to add some of these other powerhouses to the plate as well.

by Kristen Stewart
Kristen is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at www.kristenestewart.com.

 

References

 


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The Challenge of Treating Pain “Traditionally” when there is Heart or Kidney Disease

Pain is one of the most common reasons that people go to see their doctor. Developing the right treatment plan can be challenging, but this task becomes especially daunting when other medical conditions are present, including heart and kidney disease. Many of the commonly prescribed medications used for pain need to be used with caution if you have either of these conditions. Heart disease represents the number one killer in America and Congestive Heart Failure represents the most common reason that people are going to the hospital. Kidney disease affects approximately one in eight individuals, with approximately over thirty million people diagnosed with kidney disease.

One of the most common classes of medications used to treat pain include the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS. The side effect profile of this class of medications makes them almost intolerable for someone with heart disease. They may antagonize the effect of aspirin and other blood thinners patients may be on which can increase their risk of developing a heart attack. NSAIDS can raise blood pressure as well. If you have kidney disease, the increase in blood pressure is detrimental to your well-being. NSAIDS also increase the risk of bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract; blood thinners such as aspirin or Plavix further increase this risk. Furthermore, NSAIDS significantly elevate your potassium levels which can affect your heart, can cause your body to retain salt and water, and have the potential to cause worsening of kidney function.

Acetaminophen is a commonly prescribed medication for pain. It is known to be toxic to the liver, but long-term chronic exposure, especially at higher doses, may affect kidney function. The use of narcotics also needs to be monitored closely in the setting of kidney disease. Morphine needs to be dosed carefully as the metabolites of morphine can “hang around” longer in the body as they are not eliminated by the kidney as quickly when kidney disease is present. This increases the potential of developing side effects including depression of the respiratory drive and increased lethargy and confusion.

The alternative is to develop a holistic treatment plan in treating chronic pain. Eating a diet that is alkaline and anti-inflammatory, promoting the use of nutrients that reduce inflammation and pain provides significant benefits to your heart and kidneys.

by Rich Snyder, DO

References

  • Kuo HW, Tsai SS et al. “Analgesic use and the risk for progression of chronic kidney disease.” Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety. 2010 Jul;19(7):745-51.
  • Ray WA, Varas-Lorenzo C. “Cardiovascular risks of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs in patients after hospitalization for serious coronary heart disease.” Circulation, Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2009 May;2(3):155-63.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kplawver/5594593031/


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Nutrition for Fibromyalgia

Forming a solid nutritional plan is vital for Fibromyalgia sufferers who may be nutrient-depleted. Pain from FMS can be so debilitating that one’s appetite may be quite low, making it easy to skip meals.

An anti-inflammatory, plant-based diet focusing on fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains is highly advised for the treatment of Fibromyalgia.

In order to reduce inflammation in your diet, begin a food journal. Identifying specific foods that trigger pain associated with FMS can help reduce internal inflammation and prevent future reactions. Gluten is a common example that sets off an inflammatory response in the gut. You may consider having your doctor test your blood for a gluten allergy and also for other food sensitivities.

[themedy_media type=”youtube” url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EOieVr0Ef4″]

Sugar is another potent source of inflammation for the body. Sugar and refined grains or processed foods that break down into sugar, can activate an inflammatory response and promote the overgrowth of Candida yeast in the gut. This can further the inflammatory process and disturb digestion. Therefore avoiding sugar in your diet may significantly reduce Fibromyalgia pain.

There is a strong connection between the inflammation seen in Fibromyalgia patients and those suffering from Irritable bowel syndrome or poor intestinal health. Maintaining a healthy intestinal tract can reduce total body inflammation and is key for treating FMS.

Probiotics are often recommended to normalize the gut by replacing bad bacteria with good intestinal microflora.

Digestive enzymes may also prove helpful for the body to digest food more completely and maximize nutrient absorption.

Lastly, Fiber is an essential part of your nutritional plan to manage FMS. It is vital for overall bowel health and can help bind and remove toxins in the intestine from the body.

For more information on Nutrition and Fibromyalgia, please visit Natural Holistic Therapies for Fibromyalgia.

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How to Use Your Local Farmers Market to Treat Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, and Migraines

It is no secret that diet plays a large role in treating many different types of conditions. But in the spring and summer months there is plethora of medicinal treatment options set up at little tables in communities all across the county – Farmers Markets. Farmers markets are the off-shoot of nature’s bounty providing a virtual organic pharmacy disguised by sweet, fresh, and delicious produce. Here are some farmer’s market gems for treatment of Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, and Migraines.

Fibromyalgia

  • Cherries and Raspberries – Having strong anti-inflammatory values, most red fruits can have a stronger pain and inflammation reduction value that is ten times the average aspirin treatment. Recent studies have also shown that tart cherries can also help with sleep problems that are often associated with Fibromyalgia.
  • Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Broccoli, Collard Greens, and Kale – The local farmer’s market favorites are proven alkaline forming foods. Adding these to a Fibromyalgia diet can also reduce inflammation and help to combat the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which is commonly diagnosed as a co-morbidity with Fibromyalgia.

Osteoarthritis

  • Strawberries, Bell Peppers, and Cauliflower – High in vitamin C and absolute staples to get from any farmers market, produce power houses provide a healthy dose of vitamin C which is vital in the formation of both collagen and proteoglycans.
  • Spinach, Pumpkin, Tomatoes, and Carrots – These market gems are high in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is strong antioxidant that helps reduce the progression of Osteoarthritis.

Migraines

  • Spinach – Especially when eaten raw, spinach contains high levels of vitamin B-12 which is often prescribed as a supplement to help combat migraine pain.
  • Green Beans, Kale, and other leafy greens – These green veggies are high in magnesium, a powerful element that can help reduce tension in muscles as well as help the reaction of nerve and muscles cells.

Whether it’s just to help local economy or a conscious effort to bring more fruits and vegetables into your diet, visiting your local farmer’s market can provide relief for many conditions including Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, and Migraines. Just by its nature of getting a person outside and moving, a farmer’s market can provide exercise, fresh air, and the added bonus of a growing ‘pharmacy’ to treat chronic pain conditions.

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/29233640@N07/9223899743

Natural Treatments for Osteoarthritis, Migraines, and Fibromyalgia

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5 Foods to Help Kick Migraines to the Curb

When it comes to preventing migraines, there are many different things you can do. Diet is the number one place to begin, and the simplest for you to try. First, take some time to keep a food log. This should be for about one month if you do find that you suffer migraine headaches often. Be honest and write down everything you eat or drink. You may see a pattern right away, or it may take some time. A diet full of highly-processed foods can definitely be a problem when it comes to any type of headaches. Find ways to add in more nutritiously dense foods.

Another cause of some migraines can be food sensitivities. If your daily diet consists of too much corn, dairy, eggs, gluten or soy, this may be something you want to consider speaking to your doctor about. These foods are the most common allergens and can cause inflammation in the body, leading to symptoms such as headaches. Listening to your body is key in helping you heal. If you suspect a specific food might be causing you problems, stop eating it for two weeks. Then add it back in and notice any changes. This can be very easy and effective.

When it comes to preventing migraines, researchers have found certain nutrients that are believed to relieve symptoms, or even used proactively, to prevent headaches from occurring. Some of these are magnesium, healthy omega-3 fats and probiotics like acidophilus.

Here are some great ways to introduce these powerhouses into your daily diet:

  • Water – This is the easiest the thing to do. Keep your body hydrated with clean water. Chronic dehydration is a common trigger for migraines. Begin with two 32-ounce reusable water bottles. Fill them up and make sure you have them with you all day. If you feel you need to adjust to more, feel free! A good rule of thumb to go by is to take your weight in pounds, divide that number in half. Now take that number and drink that many ounces of water per day.
  • Wild Caught Salmon – Rich with omega-3 fats and a delicious way to get protein also. Healthy fats help to reduce inflammation. It is important to purchase wild caught salmon and try to eat it at least twice a week. This type of salmon can also be found canned and makes a quick and yummy lunch or dinner. If you do not like to eat fish, you can purchase fish oil supplements to add to your daily routine.
  • Pumpkin Seeds – These little gems are full of magnesium. Many people today are deficient in this important mineral. Magnesium is also very helpful for women who find their migraines come with their menstrual cycle. Pumpkin seeds are great to grab as a snack or toss on a salad as a crunchy topping.
  • Ground Flaxseed – Rich in fiber and healthy omega-3 fats, flaxseed is a super food. Being constipated, or even not fully evacuating the bowels properly can lead to headaches for many migraine sufferers. Flaxseed is very easy to add to a smoothie, your oatmeal, or even mix into a glass of water in the morning or at night. One easy way to add flaxseed to baked items is to swap out the eggs in a recipe for a “flax egg” – this is 1 Tablespoon of ground flaxseed mixed with 2-3 Tablespoons of warm water. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes and add it to your pancake or brownie mix.
  • Fermented Vegetables – Such as sauerkraut or kimchi are full of probiotics and great for your digestive system. By improving digestion your body will be able to access more of the nutrients from your food. This can also help balance the ratio of good to bad bacteria in your gut. By adding in healthy bacteria you just might find that your headache symptoms change for the better.

By identifying your personal migraines triggers, you will better be able to figure out which nutrients you need. Take some time each day to take charge of your health, begin your food log and listen to your body.

By: Gina Weiboldt

Gina Wieboldt is Certified Holistic Health Coach acreditted from Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She’s also a mom and blogger. Read more about her at http://goodlifehealthcoaching.com/

  • Balch, CNC Phyllis A.: Prescription for Nutritional Healing 5th Ed. (2010) NY; Penguin Group
  • Bauer, Joy : Joy Bauer’s Food Cures, Eat right to get healthier, and add years to your life (2011) NY; Rodale

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5 Nutritional Facts that Fight Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia comes with many symptoms. These include widespread pain, fatigue, muscle tenderness, and emotional distress. Treatment options vary from physical therapy to medication. Natural approaches to treating Fibromyalgia are consistently gaining more popularity. Some of these include yoga, reflexology, acupuncture, and meditation with successful results. The most simple thing that can change the way a body reacts to Fibromyalgia symptoms, however, is not in a specific treatment but much more strategic – Nutrition.

Certain foods can add elements to the system that can increase pain tolerance, reduce inflammation, stimulate energy, and reduce fatigue. Here are 5 powerful nutrition facts to incorporate into Fibromyalgia diet. Foods rich in Omega-3 Fatty acids have long been suggested for Fibromyalgia sufferers.

  • With their natural anti-inflammatory properties and side effect of pain reduction, foods like salmon, flax seed and nuts are a natural choice for treating the condition. Fresh fruits and vegetables are another way to decrease inflammation. An added bonus to their anti-inflammatory properties is the natural energy boost that fruits and vegetables provide. Good fresh choices include blueberries, raspberries, spinach, celery, and broccoli.
  • Commonly used to make food flavorful, ginger and garlic have long touted medicinal values. But with treating Fibromyalgia, ginger and garlic are nutritional super stars. Both respectfully possess anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. Ginger and garlic also have been known to reduce pain in muscles and joints. Fatigue is one of the most chronic symptoms associated Fibromyalgia.
  • Usually chronic fatigue syndrome is commonly diagnosed along with Fibromyalgia. This disorder is known to reduce energy which can have a profound effect on emotional well-being. Coconut has medium-chained fatty acids that help to sustain energy. Having more electrolytes than any sports drink and coconut water can help reduce fatigue and increase alertness.
  • Whole grains are another source of energy and fuel that Fibromyalgia sufferers desperately need. The complex carbs break down slowly in the system providing sustained energy which helps battle the fatigue that goes hand in hand with Fibromyalgia. Fortified whole grain cereals, oatmeal, and wild rice are great sources of complex whole grains.
  • Calcium and protein are vital for Fibromyalgia sufferers. Both provide relief from digestion problems that can be connected with the condition. Adding soy is a great source of both calcium and protein. Soy milk and edamame are both great sources for soy.

Employing the proper foods into a diet can create a natural treatment plan that can not only ease Fibromyalgia symptoms, but could help to eliminate some altogether. Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, ginger, garlic, coconut and soy are readily available and easy to incorporate into a daily routine. Nutrition is a great starting point to naturally relieving Fibromyalgia symptoms and everything else associated with it.

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Fighting Fibromyalgia with Proper Nutrition

Fibromyalgia is a medical condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, tender joints and chronic fatigue. Fibromyalgia can be mild or severe, sporadic or chronic and has no known cure. Medications are available to reduce the pain of Fibromyalgia, but do not eliminate the pain completely. In addition, these medications often have side effects. One particular side effect being the havoc they wreak on the intestinal tract, causing an overgrowth of Candida which may lead to “leaky gut syndrome.”

Lifestyle changes are key when living with Fibromyalgia in order to identify triggers and control the symptoms. Even those living with the most chronic and debilitating type of Fibromyalgia can alleviate the two most severe symptoms – chronic pain and fatigue – by adopting lifestyle changes with or without the use of medication. Along with adequate sleep, exercise, and stress management, nutritional changes make a huge impact on pain management and quality of life.

Nutrition is an important component to any healthy, balanced lifestyle. For those who live with Fibromyalgia, a healthy diet is even more important. Nutrition is more than just eating your fruits and veggies. Nutrition also refers to the avoidance of highly-processed foods. Scientific research is limited on the relationship between nutrition/diet and Fibromyalgia; many cases show that people experience a decrease in symptoms when highly processed food, caffeine, alcohol, red meat, refined sugar and fried food are removed from their diet.

Several foods should be avoided when trying to reduce Fibromyalgia symptoms, as recommended by experts Mary Moeller and Joe Elrod. These food categories include:

  • High fat dairy food
  • Refined (white) sugars
  • White flour
  • Fried foods
  • Preservatives and additives
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Junk food High salt foods
  • Red meat Meats preserved by being smoked cured or nitrate cured, such as lunch meats
  • Coffee and caffeine
  • Sodas and carbonated beverages
  • Aspartame and all other artificial sweeteners
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)

In addition, it is recommended that alcohol and tobacco products (including second-hand smoke) be completely avoided. Simple carbohydrates are linked to the “bad bacteria” found in the large intestines. Therefore, simple carbohydrates should be either eliminated or kept at a minimum.

What can you eat? If you are trying to control your Fibromyalgia, limited studies and anecdotal data suggest that eating foods rich in the following vitamins and minerals relieve Fibromyalgia pain: Vitamins A, C, D, E, magnesium, selenium, zinc and Omega 3 fatty acid. Also include high fiber food and foods rich in antioxidants in your diet. Use a quality nutritional supplement and also be sure to drink plenty of water – approximately 8 ounces a day.

Working with a nutritionist to meet your individual needs is strongly recommended since every case of Fibromyalgia is as individualized as we are.

Fibromyalgia has no known cause or cure, but avoidance of highly-processed food and adopting a nutritionally-sound diet has resulted in less pain, an increased energy level and greater overall quality of life for those living with this condition.

REFERENCES.

  • The Fibromyalgia Nutrition Guide by Mary Moeller and Joe Elrod
  • National Fibromyalgia Research Association nfra.net

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/free-stock/6827885818/

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Using Diet and Detox to Treat Inflammation and Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, a chronic and degenerative condition that affects the joints, affects millions of people a day. However, with no cure in sight for the disorder many people are trying to find alternative treatments for the disease. One of the most successful approaches to treating Osteoarthritis alternatively is to treat both inflammation and the symptoms of the disease with detox and diet.

Detox – Incorporating a detox into your lifestyle may be difficult at first, but it is important to flush out the toxins that are put into the body so that your system can effectively utilize diet to combat osteoarthritis symptoms. A common detox measure is to add an herbal tea comprised of ginger, honey, and cinnamon in your morning routine. Ginger is a natural pain reliever, while honey and cinnamon have huge anti-inflammatory values. Together, this mixture helps flush environmental toxins from the body while assisting wiht pain management and inflammation.

Diet – While a detox can greatly increase comfort when dealing with inflammation and osteoarthritis symptoms, it must be followed up by adding some nutritional powerhouses to reap the full benefits of it. Add dark-pigmented fruits such as cherries, grapes, blackberries, and dark figs – all of which have huge anti-inflammatory properties. Nuts and fish high in Omega – 3 also help with inflammation and pain associated with Osteoarthritis. Finally, avoiding saturated fats, gluten, refined sugars, and most importantly hydrogenated oils and trans fats will greatly increase the effectiveness of diet change and detox for treatment of Osteoarthritis.

While medication and physical therapy can help decrease pain and increase range of motion for chronic inflammation and Osteoarthritis symptoms, many people have found the most relief from diet changes, weight loss, and overall healthy living. One of the biggest culprits contributing to symptom flare up is usually associated with diet. It’s not what you aren’t eating, but what you are that usually is causing the most problems. Removing certain trigger items and replacing them with a simple detox and healthy choices could be the difference between daily pain management and a lifetime of symptoms.

Reference:

  • womentowomen.com/inflammation/naturalantiinflammatories.aspx

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/zest-pk/923930277/

Natural Treatments for Osteoarthritis

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5 Fish and Seafood with High Mercury Levels and What to Replace Them With

More and more we are learning that what comes from the sea can also come with high levels of mercury. While it may seem harmless, mercury can had adverse effects on the body. It can be detrimental to our nervous system, brain function, and kidneys when consumed in large amounts. Mercury levels in our seafood supply are increasing daily with supply being over harvested and mishandled. Here are 5 Fish and seafood that have mid to high levels of mercury and what to replace them with.

  • Lobster – Lobster is not only high in mercury levels, it is also a higher in cholesterol and sodium. A good replacement to get your shellfish fix would be to have crabs instead. They are not only lower mercury; they are also low in cholesterol and calories.
  • Tuna – Ahi Tuna and other varieties are a mid-level fish in terms of mercury. The tuna used for canned tuna, however, can contain lower levels of mercury than its fresh counterparts. While it is hard to replace the succulence of fresh Ahi Tuna, tilapia can be a great substitute for any other type of tuna.
  • Orange Roughy – This meaty fish has often been touted as the poor man’s lobster with its sweet taste and firm texture, but it is also higher in mercury than most other white fish. Swapping it out with freshwater perch will give you a similar texture and an unbelievable sweetness.
  • Mahi Mahi – Normally this fish is topped with fresh salsas and has a wonderful buttery texture, but with mercury levels being higher than should be consumed, it is not the best choice especially during pregnancy. A wonderful substitute would be a farm raised salmon. High in protein and omega – 3, Salmon is delicious and good for you.
  • Halibut – This firm fish is rich and savory, but fairly high in mercury. A solid substitute, although mild in flavor, would be haddock. It is readily available and sustainable.

Just because a fish or seafood is high in mercury doesn’t mean you can’t indulge occasionally. Having lobster once in a while most likely won’t have an effect on your overall health. That being said, it is important to know that there are good substitutes for when the mood strikes for that mercury-laden meal.

Reference:

  • longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/a/fish_mercury.htm

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/robertbanh/6014699929/

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New Ideas about Diet and Supplementation for Thyroid Health

Thyroid disease, in its many forms, seems to be more common today than ever before. In my holistic health coaching practice, whether people come to me for skin issues, weight loss, or other health issues, more than half of them either have an existing thyroid condition or have it in their immediate family health history.

Even I have a family history of thyroid disease

I didn’t learn this until I developed my own subclinical hypothyroid condition during the years I was overweight. Once I told my parents about it, they responded with “oh yeah, so and so in the family had that.” I was really fortunate that my thyroid levels were still considered “normal” in the eyes of most Western medical doctors, meaning they were too low to require medication or operation. After my initial freak out, I took a deep breath and realized this was an opportunity to really see if my condition could be managed—or reversed—naturally. I did a lot of research with many different health practitioners—naturopathic doctors, nurse practitioners, endocrinologists, herbalists, and health coaches who specialize in healing the thyroid naturally. I had already lost a significant amount of weight and felt that I was already doing what I needed to do. I was comforted by the understanding that natural healing takes time—the body knows how to heal itself and will do so if you give it what it needs in terms of proper nutrients, rest, physical activity, and self care. Even though my own condition is now under control, I still continue to pay attention to thyroid articles and studies when I see them pop up, whether they are from Western medicine or the more alternative realm of healthcare. I was offered an opportunity to interview endocrinologist Dr. Jason Wexler, who works closely with The Endocrine Society and I got some great information. I always enjoy asking traditional allopathic doctors questions about natural ways to manage or prevent diseases, because even though it’s not part of their medical education, it’s always good to hear if the latest research supports any of these more natural or preventative measures.

In this conversation, I had two specific areas of focus

Dr. Wexler and I discussed the benefits of a whole foods-based diet in general, in conjunction with healthy lifestyle changes in general—of course we agreed that any changes should complement medical care (I’m sure he was referring to Western medical care but I would expand that to include any properly licensed and qualified healthcare provider). I had two specific topics that I wanted to ask Dr. Wexler:

  1. Are there any supplements or foods that are known to improve thyroid levels or that can worsen them?
  2. Is there any evidence that consuming a large amount of poultry contributes to thyroid disease?

Iodine supplementation might not necessarily be a good thing

I asked the first question because one of the most common remedies for regulating the thyroid is iodine supplementation. In Western medicine this comes in the form of potassium iodine supplements, and in holistic health it comes in the form of kelp supplements or adding sea vegetables to the diet. Dr. Wexler did confirm that the treatment protocol for severe hyperthyroidism does include pharmaceutical strength iodine. However, on the subclinical level, any type of iodine supplementation concerns him. “Iodine-containing substances can exacerbate a subclinical thyroid condition either way—hypo or hyper.”

I then asked him if a diet rich in iodine-containing food or regular iodine supplementation could have a protective or preventative effect regarding thyroid disease. Dr. Wexler responded: “ If thyroid function is normal, it is not clear that these supplements or substances would cause a problem or inhibit disease progression…however many people have an existing subclinical condition and are unaware of it, in which case increased iodine intake would likely make their condition worse.”

Dr. Wexler went on to explain that “we need iodine—it produces thyroid hormone—and there are multiple reasons that a subclinical condition might exist, some of them we know, some we do not yet know.” My thinking cap was on during this interview and at this point in the discussion something clicked from my own holistic perspective.

The thought process went like this: If the body is already getting enough iodine from dietary sources (although the Standard American Diet has many issues, it is still thought to be an adequate source of iodine), and is not able to properly absorb and utilize it to produce the proper amount of thyroid hormone, then how would pouring more iodine into an already malfunctioning system possibly help regulate it? Shouldn’t we go deeper and find the reason WHY the body is not properly utilizing the iodine it already takes in before we flood it with more iodine? I posed this question to Dr. Wexler and he confirmed that it was a legitimate question.

What about other supplements?

Since I know my clients, and many health conscious consumers are always interested in supplements, I asked Dr. Wexler if there is any evidence of benefit from other supplements. He reported that the one micronutrient with positive data is selenium. Specifically, “selenium supplementation may be helpful for women who are either pregnant or postpartum who have tested positive for thyroid antibodies. It has been shown to decrease thyroiditis both during pregnancy and postpartum.

“It has also shown benefit for patients with mild Grave’s Disease (on the hyper side of the spectrum) with the symptom of orbitopathy. Selenium supplementation has been shown to decrease the amount of eye involvement in this condition.” I asked Dr. Wexler about the safety of selenium supplementation and he said that “the daily dosage should NOT exceed 200 mcg. A daily dose above 200 mcg has been linked to development of diabetes.”

The chicken question

You might be thinking “why on earth did she ask him if eating chicken contributes to thyroid disease?” I know. It seems totally random and farfetched. When I was going through my holistic nutrition education, I remembered hearing some study that people in cultures/countries that don’t consume poultry as part of their traditional diets are virtually free of thyroid disease. I even heard the joke that there is no such thing as thyroid disease…it really should be called “chicken eating disease”. I’ve gone back over my course materials and I’ve Googled the heck out of this question but can’t find any specific studies that confirm this. I tried eliminating poultry from my own diet for one month and I have to tell you that I experienced a significant reduction in my own thyroid symptoms. This is a more holistic/Eastern idea, which means that the only “evidence” in existence is probably anecdotal, like my own experience—but I figured I’d ask anyway.

Dr. Wexler had never heard of a thyroid-poultry connection, but he did say that there is a considerable link between soy consumption and thyroid disease. In fact, a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism revealed that “excessive soy protein intake demonstrated a 3-fold increase of developing overt hypothyroidism.” Furthermore, soy has been linked to increased estrogenic effects on the body. Dr. Wexler pointed out that the links between high estrogen and thyroid disease have not yet been established in research, but it’s reasonable since thyroid disease is more prevalent in women than men. He also mentioned that certain toxins we take in from foods and personal care products are known endocrine disruptors, which have been shown to increase estrogen over time.

My light bulb went on again here—maybe the link between poultry and thyroid disease only includes conventional and commercially raised poultry. Chickens and turkeys raised in factory farms—even the “nice” factory farms that supply organic and “all natural” chickens and eggs are fed “vegetarian” pellets made primarily from corn and soy. When a person consumes “vegetarian fed” or conventional chicken, he or she is also consuming soy. Soy is also present in nearly all processed foods, many personal care products (soy lecithin is a very common emulsifier in foods and products). If you consider how much soy people actually consume in processed and packaged foods (even “healthy” options) in addition to how much they are taking in by eating eggs, chicken, and turkey, the rising prevalence of thyroid disease makes total sense.

While some of the information provided by Dr. Wexler surprised me, and some of it did not, the overall interview gave me a solid foundation to draw conclusions about a common thyroid remedy, as well as the not-so-common notion that eating poultry causes thyroid disease. Based on Dr. Wexler’s comments, and my own postulation, I will definitely be more cautious with iodine in my own diet. I also now only consume and recommend to my clients traditionally pasture raised poultry products. These can be hard to find even in specialty health food stores, but it’s a great opportunity to form a relationship with a local farmer.

Thank you to Dr. Jason Wexler and The Endocrine Society for the informative and very productive interview.

By Rachael Pontillo, AADP CHC, BS, LE

Rachael is AADP board certified holistic health coach, licensed aesthetician, and wellness entrepreneur. She is the founder of the health and wellness company, Holistically Haute™, LLC and is the publisher of the popular skincare and wellness blog, Holistically Haute™. Additionally, Rachael has had articles published in leading aesthetics trade publications and several leading online magazines. She currently works with individual clients and groups in the Philadelphia area, nationwide and in Canada and teaches classes in the Philadelphia metro area on the topics of natural skincare, health, nutrition, and wellness. Rachael also enjoys public speaking, and has lectured at national holistic health and skincare conferences.

Reference: 

  • The Endocrine Society, 2013
    endo-society.org
  • Massachusetts Medical Society, 2013
    nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1012985

Photo Credit: projects4success.com/projects/starch1/index.html

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Understanding Processed Foods and Weaning Away From It

We all know what it means to feed our kids well –  Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, eat whole foods, and cut out the sugar and junk food. In short, avoid the processed stuff.  However, for many well-meaning moms the avoidance of all processed foods can be a great challenge. Convenience, cost, marketing, and societal pressures are all hurdles in our quest for healthier eating. In addition, our children can often be our greatest obstacle – they want the stuff that tastes “good” which translates as “processed.”  Additionally, we don’t want them feel like the oddball if we bring in bottles of water and gluten-free, organic muffins filled with raisins for a school celebration when the other moms are showing up with juice pouches and frosted cupcakes!

We know what the best food choices are, yet sometimes we need encouragement and a little  reminder as to WHY a daily diet consisting of too much processed foods affects the health of our growing children.

What is Processed Food?

The definition of what constitutes processed food can be a bit varied, but it is essentially any food that is canned, frozen, dehydrated, boxed, bagged, or jarred.  Basically, if there is a list of ingredients on the label, it is considered processed. If the food is not in it’s “natural state” (as found in the “wild”) it is processed. Of course, there are different degrees of processing. For instance, the stricter definitions include any food that has been peeled, chopped, cooked or husked. By doing your own research and determining your personal comfort level, you can determine where you want to draw the line for your family.

What Makes It Bad?

When food is highly processed to increase shelf-life, preserve appearance, color and texture and re-introduce flavor lost during the processing, it ends up stripped of any pre-existing nutrients and filled with many chemicals. Some of these additives and preservatives such as nitrites, trans- fats, food colorings, and sodium, have been linked to health issues such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and cancer.

Why Is Processed Food So Hard To Quit?

Most families try to educate themselves on healthy eating and the perils of processed foods as best they can. With so much information out there, it is not uncommon for parents to become quite overwhelmed, feeling like all they can safely feed their family is raw, organic fruits and vegetables bought at a specialty store for high prices. In addition, parents may feel that if they can’t go full throttle, then why bother at all? If it feels too hard, too labor intensive, and too restrictive, parents may lean back toward the “everything in moderation” approach.  However, the insidiousness of processed food is that it is difficult to keep it in  “moderation” – we actually eat much more processed food a daily basis than we might think, often because we are lead to believe it’s healthy by savvy marketing and packaging! 

Small Changes Make A Big Difference

If a complete pantry overhaul and a Paleo diet feels too extreme for you, don't beat yourself up.  Never underestimate the positive effect of making any changes that decrease the amount of processed food your family consumes. You may not want to give up your family’s favorite breakfast cereal or the convenience of canned beans, but there are so many ways to start chipping away at the processed food in your home.  Below are a few simple substitutions that will actually save you money instead of breaking the bank.  Try making one small change a month from this list.

Easy Homemade Substitutions To Many Common Processed Foods

Taco Seasoning– Making your own seasoning eliminates massive amounts of sodium and MSG.  It can be whipped up quickly with about five common pantry ingredients and made in large batches to be stored in an airtight container for months of use. 

Salad Dressing– Bottled dressings have a laundry list of unhealthy additives. Instead, search the web for a few simple, healthy recipes. Balsamic and olive oil with some salt and pepper is always a hit. A few examples are at

Hummus– Store-bought hummus is yummy and feels healthy, but is unfortunately loaded with unwanted additives and rather expensive.  Chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a few spices whirled up in a food processor makes this delicious, healthy snack much cleaner and healthier.

Yogurt and Real Fruit Ice Pops– Though parents feel they are choosing a healthy snack for their kids, one glance at the ingredients reveals several unnatural ingredients. Invest in a few BPA-free ice pop molds and puree up any super-ripe fresh fruit (alone or with plain greek yogurt) then freeze. 

Granola Bars– Granola and cereal bars fool us into believing they are far healthier than they really are. High fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, and loads of sugar put these snacks low on the healthy list. Search granola bar recipes on the web and test out a few to see which one your family enjoys.

Fruit Roll Ups– The recipe for homemade fruit leather is super easy and fun to make with the kids.

Veggie Dips– Kids are more likely to eat veggies if accompanied by a yummy dip.  Use a base of non-fat plain greek yogurt and add your own seasoning rather than using a bottle, jar or flavor packets filled with MSG.

Don’t Give Up

Just like anything in life, you need to develop a routine.  Routines forms habits and habits create life changes.  By making small changes and understanding how foods are processed, you can bring more whole, unprocessed foods into your household.

By: Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D.

Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D. is a freelance writer with a doctorate in psychology. Her personal essays and parenting articles have appeared in various newspapers and magazines. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four girls, one of whom has extensive special needs. She can be found writing about her adventures in parenting at her blog, Lost In Holland.

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