Friday, October 21, 2016

Healthy Breast Lifestyle

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, after skin cancer. About 1 in 8 women born in the U.S. will get breast cancer, causing distress and discomfort, potentially costing lots of money, and leading to many deaths. Having a periodic breast health screening and practicing a lifestyle that promotes breast health can be the difference between living cancer-free and dealing with this debilitating disease!

Screening Options

There are a number of tests available for breast health screening. In America, conventional doctors order mammograms for breast screening and use ultrasound and MRI for further investigation of abnormalities. Thermography is widely used around the world and has a long history of use in Europe. Thermography uses infrared imaging of the breast to detect abnormalities five to eight years before the change would be seen on mammogram.

The difference between a mammogram and thermascan is simple. Mammography is able to diagnose changes in the anatomy--or physical structure--of the breast tissue such as masses, micro calcifications or dense breast tissue. These anatomic changes result from chronic physiologic changes in the breast. Thermography examines the physiology--or physical and chemical processes--within the breast. Specifically, a thermascan uses a change in the predicted pattern of heat in the breast to identify "hot spots" where there may be either an early cancer or inflammation, or both. A thermascan takes a thermal picture of the outer chest that shows temperatures of tissues, like the color map used to show weather. Healthy breasts are cooler than the rest of the body. Heat is generated by cancer cells and inflammation; inflammation is a high risk factor for cancer. Thermography can detect an abnormality when there are as few as about 300 abnormal breast cells. However, it takes more than 4 billion abnormal cells (an anatomical change) to be detected by mammography. This is the difference of a 2 millimeter spot and a 10 millimeter spot! This is why thermography detects abnormalities five to eight years before mammography.

Many women have breast cysts or lumps. Fortunately, 90% of these are not cancerous. In younger women a single non-tender lump is usually a non-cancerous tumor called an adenoma. Some women have fibrocystic breasts--lumpy breasts that are tender before their period, which are also not cancerous. However, Fibrocystic Breast Disease has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. Breast lumps should not be ignored. If a lump is NOT tender and does not go away or get smaller with onset of the menstrual cycle, a woman needs a mammogram or an ultrasound and possibly a biopsy to look at the cells and determine what is causing the lump.

Other Testing options
  • Genetic testing
  • Hormone levels
  • Estrogen metabolism
  • Methylation
  • Hemoglobin A1C
In the media and tabloids there has been information about genetic testing for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 as several actresses have undergone bilateral mastectomy once they found out they had this genetic risk for breast cancer. The function of these genes is to keep breast cells growing normally and prevent any cancer cell growth. Changes to these two genes put a woman at risk for breast cancer as well as ovarian and other cancers. Genetics research has found other genetic alterations that are also linked to breast cancer, but BRCA 1 and 2 are the most commonly tested genetic markers.

There are other tests that can be obtained that might be helpful in determining one's cancer risk. First it is important to know a woman's hormone levels, specifically her estrogens and progesterone. Also, a urine test can be performed to determine how she is metabolizing estrogen. One form of estrogen metabolism is particularly carcinogenic. If a woman is making a high amount of carcinogenic estrogen, supplements can be given to direct metabolism to other forms of estrogen. Methylation is a chemical reaction that happens in our cells to neutralize toxins so that they can be removed from the body. Methylation is also involved at a DNA level to repair and protect DNA and prevent cancer. Some people are not able to methylate effectively and are at increased risk of cancer due to damaged DNA or increased toxins. Integrative physicians can test a person's methylation ability and recommend supplements to optimize this chemical process.

All cancer feeds on sugar. One way to prevent breast cancer, as well as other forms of cancer, is to keep blood sugar low. Conventional doctors test Hemoglobin A1C to determine the average blood sugar over the previous 3 months to monitor and diagnose diabetes. A person is considered to have diabetes when their Hemoglobin A1C is over 6.5. An optimal Hemoglobin A1C to prevent cancer is 5.2 to 5.4. So, people with diabetes are also at risk of developing cancer. A diet low is sugar and carbohydrates is the best way to keep blood sugar down. It is also recommended to avoid processed and restaurant food and eat lots of organic vegetables, organic grass fed meats and healthy fats.

Breast and Bras

Wearing a brassier restricts the breasts. Let's compare breasts and testicles. A man's testicles are warmer when held close to the body, which reduces testosterone and sperm production. When a couple wants to get pregnant, fertility clinics will tell the male partner to get out of tight fitting underwear to allow the testicles to be cooler and move freely. This increases sperm production and fertility. When young boys have a testicle that does not descend naturally into the scrotal sack, that testicle is either surgically brought into the scrotal sack or surgically removed because it has a 50% greater risk of developing cancer. Breasts, like testicles, are meant to be cooler, as seen in thermography. Bras keep breasts warmer and restrict blood and lymph flow. The lymphatic system is the filtration system for our body--the way to remove toxins and waste. Adequate blood flow in the breasts brings in nutrients and distributes hormones that are made in the breasts. Wearing tight bras, especially those with underwires, compress the tissues and reduce the blood and lymph systems, allowing the buildup of toxins and estrogen in the breast tissue that lead to fibrocystic breast and breast cancer.

Studies from around the world have shown that women who wear bras have a higher rate of breast abnormalities. A study from Scotland in 2014 reported that breast cancer may be caused by "cleavage-enhancing bras, due to the constricting effect of in-built wiring on breast tissue and the lymphatic system". A study from Brazil in the Spring of 2016 showed the more hours a woman wears a bra and the tighter the bra, the greater the incidence of breast cancer in both pre and post-menopausal women.

This is not new information. The first study to recognize an association between brassiere usage and the risk of breast cancer was published in 1991 by Harvard researchers. They found premenopausal bra-free women had a 50% lower risk of breast cancer compared to bra users. Sydney Ross Singer and his wife, Soma Grismaijer published a book, Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, which showed how they became interested in breast issues while studying populations of women in Fiji. Women in Fiji who adopted American styles of dress and wore brassieres developed more fibrocystic breasts and breast cancer compared to those who wore native dress, without bras. Singer and Grismaijer returned to America and studied a larger population of women; they found that the longer a woman wore a bra, the greater her risk of developing breast cancer. In the 21 years since the book, Dressed to Kill, many women and some physicians have experimented with not wearing bras or wearing them for only short periods of time. They have found that premenstrual pain and tenderness decreased, and breast lumps diminished. Reportedly, these women had a lower rate of breast cancer.

If you have breast discomfort, breast lumps or are concerned about breast cancer, try going bra free for 30 days or more. See for yourself how much better you can feel. It does not cost money and it does not take a lot of time. It does require you to think about what you wear in a different way. If you do not want to go without a bra completely try something without an underwire like a "shelf bra" or camisole. Use scarves, puckered tops, vests, jackets, etc. to disguise the fact that you are not wearing a bra. If you have a special occasion or outfit for which you really need to wear a bra, get out of the bra as soon as you can. Don't stay in anything restrictive and don't sleep in a bra. Singer and Grismaijer found that wearing a bra for more than 12 hours at a time increases the risk of breast cancer. Once going bra free, most women notice improvement in breast lumps and breast tenderness. Some women notice a transient period of increased breast tenderness or achiness as toxins are moving out of the breast cells and into the lymphatic system. This generally does not last more than three weeks even in large breasted women. If you feel discomfort, massage your breasts to move out the toxins.

Healthy Breast Lifestyle
  • Minimize bra use
  • Keep blood sugar low
  • Maintain adequate levels of vitamins A and D
  • Keep cell phones away from breasts
  • Use iodine
  • Eat ground flax seeds
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get moving
Adequate levels of vitamins A and D are essential for optimal breast health. Both of these vitamins keep the cells in our body healthy and have been found to prevent the growth and spread of breast cancer cells. Integrative physicians usually recommend higher blood levels of these vitamins to reduce the risk of cancer. For vitamin D, tested as 25-hydroxy vitamin D, optimal levels need to be between 65 and 100. For vitamin A, optimal levels are 65 to 85. Both are fat soluble vitamins, meaning they can build up in the body, since they are not quickly cleared out in urine, and become toxic. Therefore, periodic testing is important. Vitamin D can be obtained from food such as milk and fish, and our bodies convert cholesterol to Vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. We can get vitamin A from foods such as mushrooms, carrots and sweet potatoes. But to ensure higher levels of these important nutrients dietary supplements are recommended

Iodine enhances the immune function and lymphatic flow. In experiments using tissue cultures, Iodine has been found to kill breast cancer cells. For generations we have known it is important for thyroid health, which is why in America iodine is added to table salt in very small quantities. Ingestion of large amounts of table salt is not recommended, but iodine can be taken as oral supplementation or as a prescription liquid called Lugol's solution which is put directly on the breasts. Lugol's solution is also helpful in reducing fibrocystic breast lumps and tenderness.

Cell phones and smart devices give off a form of energy known as radiofrequency (RF) waves as they send and receive signals. Anytime the power is turned on, cell phones emit electromagnetic radiation, even in standby mode. There has been significant research showing that cell phones held near the head causes brain wave changes and that radiation from the phone penetrates through the skull two inches into the brain in adults and further in children. These facts have been linked to the increased rate of brain cancers. As reports, "Many insurance companies are so alarmed by this evidence that they now exclude health issues related to cell phone radiation from coverage." Unlike holding a phone to your ear where there is a skull bone to block radiation and RF, when a cell phone is in a bra, directly against the skin, these harmful energy waves go directly into breast tissue. There is increasing evidence that putting cell phones in bras increases a woman's risk of breast cancer, especially in women under the age of 40. There are several studies of young women with no family history of breast cancer and no BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutations that have developed breast cancer and they frequently carried their cell phone in their bra. In the legal section of user information for iPhone 5, Apple states, "To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands- free option, such as the built –in speakerphone, the supplied headphones or similar accessories. Carry iPhone at least 10 mm away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the as-tested levels". A woman can reduce her risk of breast cancer by keeping cellular devices away from her breasts and keeping her breasts out of bras.

Many physicians feel that the exponential increase in all cancers in recent decades is due to environmental factors and an aging population. We can reduce our exposure to toxins and electromagnetic frequencies and clean up our diets to reduce the amounts of toxins in our bodies. We can stay on daily supplements and detoxifying foods to help keep toxins and inflammation low. We can avoid over consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and toxic foods. These steps reduce the risk of breast cancer as well as other cancers and reduce our risk of other chronic diseases.

Ami Ingram, M.D. is accepting new patients at Vaughan Integrative Medicine (VIM). Dr. Ingram has always been interested in natural and alternative medicine, the human body's intricate systems, and the body's ability to heal itself. She has additional training in Nutrition and Functional Medicine and is a Certified Chelation Specialist. VIM is conveniently located at 1301-A West Wendover Avenue in Greensboro. To schedule an appointment, contact the New Patient Coordinator at 336-808-3627 x. 53.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Effectively Addressing Joint Pain

Dear Readers,

Todd Humphrey, Practice Manager of Vaughan Integrative Medicine, compiled the information in this article. He used to experience significant jaw pain related to TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder). After a number of sessions with Dynamic Reintegration’s Nancy Yow, who traced the pain to his left hip joint, he no longer suffers from jaw pain. The body is a stack of joints; if one joint is out of alignment you may experience pain anywhere above that joint as a result.

- Dr. Vaughan

Discomfort and pain in the joints is extremely common. Caused by injury or disease, joint pain – also referred to as arthralgia – is experienced as mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful. Conditions that lead to join pain include gout, infection (including some sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorreha), strains, sprains, and other injuries. Another leading cause of joint pain is inflammation which can lead to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and bursitis.

The adult human body consists of 206 bones. Joints are the areas where these bones come in contact with one another and include cartilage, ligaments, bursae, and tendons. Injury or inflammation to any of these parts can result in pain. Symptoms and signs associated with joint pain can include:

  • joint redness
  • joint swelling
  • joint tenderness
  • joint warmth
  • limping
  • locking of the joint
  • loss of range of motion of the joint
  • stiffness
  • weakness.
Joints in body parts that contain include multiple bones and joints that are more active or bear body weight are more likely to experience discomfort and pain. Each foot contains 26 bones that provide structural support for the entire body. Each hand contains 27 distinct bones; the hands and wrists provide the body with flexibility and support to manipulate objects in different ways. The knee joint and the hip joint are the two strongest weight-bearing joints in the body. These joints account for the majority, but not all, locations of chronic joint pain.

Although joint pain can be common, in the most severe cases it is debilitating and interferes with daily living. Making the right choices can help reduce the risk of and effects from joint pain. Here are some suggestions to consider that will help maintain alignment and reduce straining the joints:

  • wear shoes with proper arch support
  • wear sneakers if you’ll be walking a lot
  • reduce the amount of time spent texting
  • hold your cell phone up instead of hunching over to read the screen
  • empty back pockets before sitting
  • take stretch breaks from computer use and game stations
  • be mindful of your posture when seated; don’t slouch or assume contorted positions on the sofa
  • learn to lift without straining your wrists
  • choose rolling laptop cases and rolling luggage (even for airplane carry-on items)
  • sleep on your back or on your side
  • lift heavy objects by bending the knees and the hips
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • incorporate yoga into your exercise routine to keep the body limber.
A primary contributor to joint pain is inflammation. While there are many anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications available, they target the symptom and don’t deal with the underlying cause of the inflammation. These pharmaceuticals and medications can sometimes add stress on the body by overtaxing the liver; by addressing the root cause of inflammation it’s possible to keep the entire body healthier. Each person’s physiology is different. To address the root cause, an elimination diet works as an empirical trial that can help identify foods that cause or increase inflammation.

Elimination Diet

An elimination diet requires that for two weeks, someone stop consuming a particular food group completely. For example, to identify sensitivity to dairy foods someone would eliminate all dairy for their diet for two weeks. Dairy elimination would include milk, all cheeses, yogurt, ice cream, coffee creamer, whey protein supplements – everything that is derived from milk. (Although eggs are often included as dairy on food pyramid charts, they are safe when eliminating dairy from the diet.) On the day after the two week elimination of dairy, consume one or more healthy servings of dairy foods. For the next thirty-six hours avoid dairy. All during the elimination phase of this empirical trial, someone should keep a daily journal about physical symptoms, moods – including irritability and lethargy, and any noticeable bloating, gas, and inflammation. When reintroducing dairy, continue to journal noticing if there are any significant physical changes for the next thirty-six hours. Here are some symptoms to watch for:
  • insomnia
  • fatigue
  • new or increased joint pain and/or inflammation
  • skin breakouts or rashes
  • headaches
  • bowel changes or GI pain
  • bloating
  • brain fog
  • sinus or other respiratory issues
  • excessive mucus in the throat.
If any of these symptoms occur, there’s a good chance that dairy is causing or contributing inflammation in the body and therefore increasing joint pain. The elimination diet empirical trial can be done for any food or food group. Most commonly, people do the elimination diet to check for symptoms related to diary, corn, wheat, and sugar. After eating any meal if someone experiences significant joint pain, doing an elimination diet on the foods in that meal would help them better understand what their trigger foods are and help them know what to avoid to keep from experiencing discomfort. For example, if after eating lasagna someone has stiff joints, a headache, and feels bloated, testing wheat (lasagna noodles), dairy (ricotta and mozzarella cheeses), and tomatoes would be appropriate.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Heavy Metals: Toxicity Explained

Dear Readers,

This post was written by Ami Ingram, MD, the newest addition to the Vaughan Integrative Medicine (VIM) team.

- Dr. Vaughan

Environmental factors play an important part in the overall health and wellness of individuals and contribute significantly to community health. There is now a greater awareness of environmental toxins because of the publicity surrounding the Flint, Michigan water crisis. If you followed the news, you are aware of the toxic levels of lead in Flint’s water supply. While there are many sources of environmental toxins, one of the most prevalent is heavy metals.

Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements that have a high atomic weight and a high density compared to water. Some heavy metals are required in varying amounts by living organisms for proper cellular function; these metals include iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. Other heavy metals include aluminum, antinomy, arsenic, beryllium, bismuth, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, platinum, thallium, thorium, tin, tungsten, and uranium. Many of these metals now have a wide distribution in the environment because they are used in industrial, domestic, agricultural, medical and technological applications. All metals are toxic at higher concentrations. The potential for a metal to become toxic depends on factors including the dose, the pathway of exposure, along with the age, gender or at the nutritional status of the individuals exposed to the metals.

Heavy metals become toxic when they accumulate to the point that they disrupt metabolic functions. This happens in two ways:

1. They accumulate and thereby disrupt function and vital organs and glands such as the heart, brain, kidneys, bone, liver, etc.

2. They displace the vital nutritional minerals from their original place, thereby hindering their biological function. For example, lead can displace iron and inhibit the body's ability to make hemoglobin.

The degree to which an individual will experience the symptoms of heavy metal toxicity vary greatly from person to person. Children and the elderly are more susceptible to experiencing symptoms. Some individuals never develop symptoms because they are genetically predisposed to more efficiently detoxifying the body. Other people may not show symptoms of toxicity for many years and late in life develop a chronic degenerative disease that is sometimes the result of slow ongoing exposure to toxins.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine and the American College for the Advancement of Medicine teach that exposure to heavy metals contributes to an individual’s chance at being affected by cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and many neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), and many other autoimmune diseases.

Each of the heavy metals has a slightly different effect on the body. Common symptoms of heavy metal toxicity include:
  • altered metabolism,
  • asthma and chronic lung disease,
  • cancer,
  • damaged immune system,
  • high blood pressure,
  • atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease – resulting in heart attacks, strokes, per referral vascular disease, and congestive heart failure,
  • neurodegenerative diseases,
  • psychiatric illnesses,
  • kidney and liver damage,
  • reproductive system diseases in both men and women, and
  • skin disorders.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provides information and fact sheets on many substances that are considered toxic including heavy metals, how exposure to the toxins occurs, and how they can impact human health. Three of the most common heavy metals that impact people's health are cadmium, lead, and mercury; here’s information from ATSDR on these three heavy metals:


Cadmium is a natural element in the earth's crust. It is usually found as a mineral combined with other elements such as oxygen (cadmium oxide), chlorine (cadmium chloride), or sulfur (cadmium sulfate, cadmium sulfide). All soils and rocks, including coal and mineral fertilizers, contain some cadmium. Most cadmium used in the United States is extracted during the production of other metals like zinc, lead, and copper. Cadmium does not corrode easily and has many uses, including batteries, pigments, metal coatings, and plastics.


  • Exposure to cadmium happens mostly in the workplace where cadmium products are made, for example a battery factory.
  • Living near industrial facilities which release cadmium into the air.
  • Cadmium is used in cigarette production therefore smoking cigarettes or breathing cigarette smoke exposes individuals to this potential toxin. 
  • Eating foods containing cadmium; low levels are found in all foods (highest levels are found in shellfish, liver, and kidney meats). 
  • Drinking contaminated water.
  • Breathing fumes from combustion of petrol and other fossil fuels (cadmium oxide is one of the main by-products of combustion). Living near or exercising along major roadways can cause exposure to high amounts of cadmium.
  • Yellow paints, especially oil paints are high in cadmium. 

Health Risks from Over-Exposure:

  • Breathing high levels of cadmium can severely damage the lungs. Eating food or drinking water with very high levels severely irritates the stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Long-term exposure to lower levels of cadmium in air, food, or water leads to a buildup of cadmium in the kidneys and possible kidney disease. Other long-term effects are lung damage and fragile bones.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that cadmium and cadmium compounds are known human carcinogens.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

FULL-Fat Diet

Dear Readers,

This post was written by Ami Ingram, MD, 
the newest addition to the Vaughan Integrative Medicine (VIM) team. 

- Dr. Vaughan

Americans are getting fatter. According to The State of Obesity, obesity rates for adults more than doubled from 1960 to 2012. The average American adult is 24 pounds heavier today than in 1960! A 2012 study – the most recent statistics available – indicated that more than two-thirds of the American adult population were overweight or obese. The same study showed that more than 30% of children were also overweight. Along with higher rates of obesity come higher rates of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and dementia. This increased rate of obesity is true despite years of promotion of a LOW FAT DIET. For 30 years we have been eating products labeled low fat because the food industry and health care industry have been telling us, “Eating fat makes you fat.” In truth, it is not eating fat that makes us overweight and unhealthy; it is when we eat certain kinds of fats, along with carbohydrates and sugar, that we end up overweight and unhealthy. We need fats and fatty acids for our bodies to work properly – so we have to make sure we choose types of fats that promote these functions.

The campaign against fat has had tremendous success. In the effort to avoid eating fats, many people have focused their grocery shopping on buying products that are marketed as low fat, reduced fat, and fat-free. Many low fat, reduced fat, and fat-free food options are overly processed and loaded with refined sugar and carbohydrates (which are also broken down into sugar). Sugar enters the blood, stimulating insulin release. Insulin tells the body to take sugar out of the blood and store it in muscle, liver and fat cells for use as energy when needed. When we consume high carbohydrate, high sugar foods and beverages throughout the day, our insulin levels remain elevated and the excess sugar is converted into triglycerides. Triglycerides are stored for energy for times when we are not eating, for example at night when we are sleeping. As the body continues to convert sugar into triglycerides, they are stored in ever enlarging fat cells and in the liver causing fatty liver disease. This is why a diet high in carbohydrates and refined sugar leads to being overweight.

When we consume healthy fats, our body breaks them down into fatty acids which are immediately used for energy. Fat has three times the energy of sugar and stays in the blood longer causing you to feel satisfied so you don’t get hungry for a longer period of time. Starting your day with healthy fats keeps you from getting hungry in the late morning and helps your brain work better. The brain is sixty percent fat; each nerve and brain cell is covered and protected by fat. Fat is a critical energy source for the brain and is essential for proper brain development, so children especially need healthy fat. Every cell in our body has a fatty or lipid layer that regulates nutrients going into the cell and toxins going out of the cell. The building blocks of hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone come from fat. Your body cannot make Vitamin D and Vitamin A or absorb calcium without fat.

Dietary fats come from both plants and animals. Based on their structure, fats are described as saturated, mono-unsaturated, poly-unsaturated, and trans fats. Nutritionists suggest we get 20 to 35 percent of our required calories from fat. An average, moderately active adult, trying to maintain their weight, would consume about 2,000 calories a day. That person would optimally have 40 to 70 grams of fat a day. Those fats ideally would be 1/3 or less from healthy saturated fat, 1/3 or more from mono-unsaturated fat and 1/3 or more from poly-unsaturated fats. TRANS-FATS are unhealthy and should be avoided. POLY-UNSATURATED FATS can be classified as omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9. Omega 3 and omega 6 are essential fats that we must get from food. Our Western diet provides an abundance of omega 6 fatty acid in processed oils, as well as naturally in nuts and seeds and the oils from them. Omega 6 fatty acids promote clotting, cell proliferation and immune system support whereas Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, working opposite of Omega 6 fatty acids. The body needs both in the correct ratio, which is about 2 - 4 Omega 6 to 1 Omega 3. Our modern diet provides 15:1 to 22:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3! Safflower and Cottonseed oil are high in poly-unsaturated fats, have a higher ratio of Omega 6, and should be limited. Macadamia nuts and oil have a ratio of 1 omega 6 to 1 omega 3 and are highly recommended.

There has been controversy about the health benefits of SATURATED FATS, which are solid at room temperature. What matters is the source of the saturated fat. Lard and Butter are examples saturated fat that when conventionally raised, are considered unhealthy. However, when meat, eggs and dairy come from organic, grass fed animals, they provide healthy saturated fats as well as other nutrients. Butter and Ghee from pasture-raised/grass fed animals contain nutrients such as calcium and Vitamin K2, which helps build strong bones. Ghee is butter that has the lactose and casein removed and is usually safe for those sensitive to those components. Coconut oil is gaining popularity as a saturated fat and is good for cooking because it is stable at higher temperatures and has a nutty flavor. Coconut oil has antimicrobial and antifungal properties and is easy to digest. Some people add it to coffee, use it to make chocolate candy, or spread it on toast to help sustain energy for the brain.

When buying coconut oil and other oils, look for one that is not heated and does not have chemicals added for extraction. Avoid oil that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. In general cold press, raw, unrefined products are healthier and have a mild coconut smell and flavor.

MONOUNSATURATED fats are liquid at room temperature and are healthy but not recommended for cooking because they become oxidized and lose beneficial properties. They are best added to food after it has been cooked or prepared. Olive oil is an example of monounsaturated fat that is perfect for drizzling on salad, steamed vegetables or cooked meat. Avocados and macadamia nuts have monounsaturated fats and their oils can be extracted. Avocados are a good source of vitamin E, Vitamin K, B vitamins and fiber as well as healthy fats.

It is important to understand that natural foods are a mix of fats, not 100% one any one kind. For example sesame seed oil is 41 % mono-unsaturated fat, 44% poly-unsaturated fat, and 15 % saturated fat and has a ratio of 137 omega 6 to 1 omega 3. Hemp seed oil is 12% mono-unsaturated fat, 79% poly-unsaturated fat and, 9 % saturated fat and has a ratio of 3 omega 6 to 1 omega 3. Sesame seed oil has an unfavorable omega 6 to omega 1 ratio, but is a good balance of saturated/mono-unsaturated/poly-unsaturated fats. Hemp seed oil is mostly poly-unsaturated fat and has a good omega 6 to omega 3. Both sesame seed and hemp seed oil are recommended.

Most TRANS FATS are man made by hydrogenating liquid oil to make it a solid. This process makes the oil last longer and makes it reusable and inexpensive. Think about the oil used for fast food deep fryers in restaurants, as well as in vegetable shortening and margarine. These are the fats that we want to limit in our diet. Trans fats/ partially hydrogenated oils come from corn, peanut, and canola.

Increasing healthy fats in your diet does not cause cholesterol build-up in arteries, leading to heart attack and stroke. Scientists are learning there is more to “clogged” arteries, atherosclerosis, than cholesterol. One of the factors is the size of the cholesterol or lipid. Smaller lipid particles are more dangerous than large “fluffy” cholesterol particles. To find out the size of particles your doctor can perform a more detailed lipid test called NMR or Advanced lipid profile. One way to make more fluffy lipids is to increase your intake of Omega 3 from fish, flax seed, chia seed, hemp seeds or Omega 3 supplements. It is important to choose a good quality Omega 3, from krill or fish low in toxins, with at least 500 mg of both EPA and DHA.

Don’t be afraid to enjoy fats in your food. Fats are important for functions of your body and brain and help you feel full. Choose foods with healthy fats that also provide nutrients rather than low fat processed foods that are high in carbohydrates.

Recommended fats

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Flax seed
  • Macadamia nut
  • Avocado
  • Grass fed meat, ghee or butter
  • Sesame seed
  • Hemp seed
  • Chia seed
  • Omega 3 fish: salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, 

Non-Recommended fats
  • Margarine
  • Corn oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Canola oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Conventional fed meat, ghee or butter 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Big Four

The National Institutes for Health (NIH) recommends these habits to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Help commit yourself to these lifestyle changes by creating written goals or working with an accountability partner until these actions become habits in your life!

1. Get Regular Physical Activity

Most adults should plan for 20-to-30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least five days a week. Brisk walking, cycling, and swimming are great options. For individuals who are easily bored with the same routine, vary your activities every few days and move your aerobic exercise routine outside when the weather permits. Couple your aerobic exercise with at least two days of strength training that focus on all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

2. Maintain a Healthy Weight 

While obesity is an epidemic in America, be aware that being either overweight or underweight can significantly increase your chances for heart disease. Talk with your health care provider about what a healthy weight would be for you instead of relying solely on an online Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator. BMI calculators don’t account for age, body type and body fat percentage. Maintaining a healthy weight requires a combination of regular physical activity, making appropriate food choices to meet nutritional needs, and controlling portion sizes. Some general guidelines include having a nutritious breakfast that includes lean protein and healthy fats, avoiding excessive sugar intake, and staying hydrated. Make sure you drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water a day; for example: if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water daily (150 ÷2 = 75). For every caffeinated beverage you drink, add another 8 ounces of water. A physician or dietician can help you with a plan that will support you achieving an optimal weight for your best health.

3. Avoid Smoking

According to the NIH, tobacco smoke harms nearly every organ in the body. Specifically, the chemicals in tobacco smoke damage blood cells, damage the function of the heart, and the structure and function of blood vessels. Smoking significantly increases the risk of plaque building up on arterial walls, causing heart disease. There are lots of resources available to assist people who desire to quit cigarette smoking. Your health care provider can help you identify the right resources for you if quitting is a priority.
Exposure to secondhand smoke is also a significant risk factor. As a non-smoker, protect yourself by asking others to smoke outside and not in a closed vehicle. Also avoid places where smoking is allowed.

4. Eat A Healthy Diet

Choosing healthy meals and snacks is important to avoid heart disease. Eliminating processed foods from your diet and creating meals that focus on brightly colored vegetables and fruits wil lower your risk of heart disease. Incorporate 4 to 6 ounces of lean meat or fish or choose alternate protein sources like beans, eggs, or nuts. Cook using healthy fats like olive or coconut oil and avoid hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Instead of using iodized table salt spice your foods with fresh herbs and spices or choose Celtic Sea Salt or pink Himalayan Salt; these salts have essential minerals that can actually help regulate blood pressure unlike regular table salt. Eliminate processed sugars and artificial sweeteners as much as possible from your diet.

Monday, January 25, 2016

How to Love Your Heart

Hearts are everywhere! Even before we flipped the calendar page to February, the shelves in retail stores were stocked with heart-themed gifts and cards that declared our love in fancy words and pretty pictures. Boxes of questionably flavored crème-filled chocolates were stacked strategically though out the store under signs reminding us that “Valentine’s Day is February 14.” 

While Valentine’s Day started as a religious holiday – in fact some denominations still celebrate the feast of St. Valentine – it has evolved into a secular holiday. Heart-shaped symbols, winged baby cupids, and bouquets of roses proclaiming romantic love are its distinguishing characteristics.

With all the decorative hearts and Valentine cards, it could be easy to miss that February is also the American Heart Association’s annual campaign to inform the public about the importance of maintaining a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. With 1 in 4 deaths in America being attributed to heart disease annually, it’s clear that we as a nation have an opportunity for better cardiovascular health. A heart-healthy lifestyle includes wise dietary choices, nutritional supplements, and regular exercise. From an integrative approach, having a healthy heart not only includes care for the physical heart, it also includes care for the intellectual heart and the spiritual heart! Here are some ways we can love our hearts – body, mind, and spirit – better.

The Physical Heart
The physical heart is a muscular organ that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body via the circulatory system. The blood travels through the body delivering oxygen and other nutrients to cells for essential metabolic function. If the heart fails to pump, eventually all metabolic function will cease. Heart failure is typically the result of heart disease.

Heart disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed due to a buildup of plaque on the arteries’ inner walls. Plaque is the accumulation of fat, cholesterol, and other substances. As plaque continues to build up in the arteries, blood flow to the heart is reduced. High cholesterol is a marker for heart disease. Although the liver makes enough cholesterol for bodily function, more is introduced through dietary selections making plaques issues worse. Your doctor can order tests on cholesterol and triglycerides to check this marker for heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women; 50 percent of men and 64 percent of women who die suddenly of heart disease show no previous symptoms of the disease. As frightening as these statistics may be, heart disease can be avoided by making healthy lifestyle choices. The National Institutes for Health has defined the “Big Four” habits that help to prevent heart disease: getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and eating a healthy diet.

Another way to reduce risk for heart disease is to manage health conditions like high blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure.

High blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms, which is why checking blood pressure regularly is important. Blood pressure screenings are easily available in most doctor's offices and drugstores and can be checked at home using a home blood pressure monitor.

Another significant risk factor for heart disease is diabetes. Diabetics have issues in creating insulin which is the hormone that helps move glucose into the cells. When someone is insulin resistant or doesn’t make enough insulin, glucose accumulates in the blood and adds to blood flow issues involving plaque buildup. Individuals who are diabetic and have suffered a cardiac event may benefit from chelation therapy; the Trial to Access Chelation Therapy study which was funded by the National Institutes for Health suggests that chelation therapy may significantly reduce a recurrent cardiac event. Consult with an integrative practitioner for more information and to evaluate personal benefits of chelation.

Check the suggestions in the NIH’s THE BIG FOUR for ways to reduce your risk for heart disease and check with your doctor for a complete health screening so that your physical heart is in top notch condition!