Yes, You Can Predict the Future

I’m excited to inform you all that I’ve recently formed a relationship with the Cleveland Heart Lab—a branch of the renowned academic hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, located in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Cleveland Heart Lab specializes in predicting inflammatory issues, diabetes, and other things that can impact the quality of your life. In particular, it offers many different tests that are used across North America, Europe, and Asia in the management and prevention of heart disease—the number one killer of men and women in the US. A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Economics predicts that Cleveland Heart Lab’s inflammation testing could reduce the average heart attack and stroke rate by 10% over the coming years. That translates to about $187 million dollars saved and thousands of healthier, happier people. 

Cleveland Heart Lab can predict the future of your health by measuring the level of inflammation in your body, an often over-looked indicator of health problems either now or to come. People with higher levels of inflammation are more likely to suffer from heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and hypertension, amongst other things. 

What sorts of life choices might cause the body to become inflamed? Namely, poor diet. Certain foods are naturally pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, which means that what you choose to eat can have a serious impact on your inflammation responses. Eating sugary, processed foods and trans fat, which tend to be found in fried foods, snack foods, industrial seed oils and baked goods, is one of the best ways to put your body on track to chronic inflammation.

When you eat inflammatory foods like the ones mentioned above, chemicals called “cytokines” are released into the blood and tissues. Cytokines are known to be destructive to our normal cells and, if the inflammation is chronic, they often wear down tissues and lead to further systemic inflammation. The result? Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. Even if you manage to evade the worst outcome, studies have shown that inflammation of internal organs also leads to mental and emotional imbalances, digestive disorders, skin problems, and more.

This brings me back to the Cleveland Heart Lab. If you want to know the future of your health as it stands with your current lifestyle, consider getting one of the many tests offered by the Lab. Here is a quick summary of some of the tests available and how they can help you:

  1. C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) test: often used in combination with a lipid profile to evaluate an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease. CRP is a protein found in the blood that increases with inflammation. The hs-CRP test is used to detect low but persistent levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, thereby indicating low levels of inflammation that could result in heart disease given enough time. The consensus within the medical community is that this test can be used to target people who have a moderate risk of heart attack over the next ten years. Very high levels of hs-CRP, especially in combination with high levels of LpPLA2 (an enzyme that produces inflammation in the artery walls) can be used to predict an adverse cardiac even within the next one to six months.
  2. TMAO test: another incredibly powerful way of predicting heart attack and stroke risk in individuals who seem otherwise healthy. This test measures the level of trimethylamine-N-oxide in the blood, a compound produced by the liver.
  3. Adiponectin test: targets individuals at risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes due to poor life choices. People with low adiponectin levels have a 3X greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome and a 9X increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  4. Fibrinogen test: Fibrinogen is a protein essential for blood clot formation. Low levels of fibrinogen can indicate a bleeding disorder or disseminated intravascular coagulation. 
  5. Vitamin D test: Vitamin D deficiencies are known to lead to a host of health problems including osteoporosis, some forms of cancer, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and more—even in people who seem perfectly healthy. 
  6. Hemoglobin A1C test: used to monitor the glucose control of diabetics, helping to prevent the health complications that can come from long-term high glucose levels. This test can also be used to diagnose diabetes and pre-diabetes in individuals with or without symptoms.
  7. Homocysteine test: helps target individuals at high risk of myocardial infarction or stroke or individuals with a family history of coronary artery disease. A homocysteine test can also reveal Vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiencies. 

Finding out this information now can help you pursue the most promising and tailored path of preventative care—before it’s too late. Yet, your doctor is likely not going to recommend any of these tests to you. While conventional medicine often focuses on the treatment of present illness, Cleveland Heart Lab saves lives every day by revealing prophecies of ill health before they become a reality. With this information so readily available, patients can make informed decisions about how to ensure disease prevention based on their personal situation and disease risk. The Lab offers many more tests than the ones mentioned here for people at all different places in their health. Chances are there is at least one test that can help illuminate the future wellbeing of you and almost anyone else.

The effects of inflammation on your body may not always be obvious—but that means you have even better reason to seek professional help to predict the future of your health. It is crucial that you monitor low, but persistent levels of inflammation on your body now before the effects start to appear. To find out more about the services offered by Cleveland Heart Lab, please contact Gary Merel at garymerel@annarborholistichealth.com or call 734-222-8210.

The Calcium Lie--How Much is Enough?

When it comes to calcium, more is not better. You’ve heard that calcium is the key to good bone health, or even bodily health in general—but that is only partially true. When taken in the right form and in the right amount, calcium is very beneficial. But if you exceed that “right amount,” you won’t be doing yourself any favors.
In fact, you could be setting yourself up for some problems that have serious health implications—and I’m not just talking about kidney stones, which are one result of too much calcium in the body. Excess calcium can actually play an important role in the development of diseases like osteoporosis, obesity, and even heart disease. See below to find out why.

Osteoporosis:
Shockingly, excess calcium actually puts us at greater risk of fracturing our bones. Bones are made of at least 12 different minerals, and when these minerals are out of balance with each other, bones are compromised. Having too much calcium in our bodies exaggerates these mineral imbalances and deficiencies, and even causes other minerals to be lost or excreted in urine, leaving our bones more susceptible to fractures.

Further, bones serve as storehouses for the minerals we ingest, so when the body needs a particular mineral to perform some bodily function, it goes to the bones to get it. These minerals include magnesium, phosphorous, fluoride, and more—all of which are vital for bone strength. If some of the minerals are depleted, your body will substitute a more accessible one—but not without consequences. Minerals are responsible for maintaining the pH balance in the body, facilitating the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes, maintaining proper nerve conduction, helping relax and contract the muscles, and much more. Forcing your body to substitute one for the other could cause any of these important roles minerals play to suffer.

Obesity:
Excess calcium in the body may be a contributing factor to obesity. Too much calcium again leads to mineral imbalances, which in turn make it harder for our cells to get the essential amino acids and glucose needed for good health. As a result, the cells become starved for glucose and the body starts craving simple carbohydrates. The more carbs we eat, the greater chance we have of gaining weight and developing conditions like insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.

Heart Disease:
Several recent studies show that excess calcium in the body puts us at risk for cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Researchers believe that the calcium that goes unabsorbed in our bodies starts to settle in the arteries, causing them to harden. This is most prevalent in people taking over 1,000 mg of calcium a day.
For example, in one large study, researchers followed a group of 60,000 women for almost two decades. They found that those who ingested the most calcium (1,00mg+) were more likely to develop heart disease. This is because the extra calcium in your body builds up on the inside the arteries. Normally, arteries are elastic enough to flex and pulse with each heartbeat. However, calcium buildup will harden them, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood through the body. As a result, we are more susceptible to heart attack and stroke.

With stakes this high, it’s important to know how much calcium is really enough. We want to have healthy bones without the worry of gaining weight or developing heart disease. The National Institute of Health puts the upper limit of calcium ingestion at 2,000 mg a day. In reality, you really shouldn’t ingest any more than about 1,000mg of calcium a day. Additionally, you’ll want that 1,000mg to come form your food, not from a supplement. The calcium in food is easier for our bodies to absorb and utilize, reducing the risk of calcium build-up. Since the body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at any one time, supplements are often a significant cause of calcium build-up because your body can’t absorb all that calcium at once.


Though you’ve been told a lie about calcium, I don’t want to downplay the fact that bone-loss can be a debilitating problem. It’s also much easier to prevent than it is to resolve. There are many steps you should be taking to ensure proper bone health, such as getting the proper minerals through your diet. This can be as simple as adding more organically grown vegetables in your diet. Vegetables contain a great balance of vitamins and minerals and vegetable juicing is a fast and easy way to give your body the nutrition it needs.

Omega 3 and Vitamin K2 also play important roles in osteoporosis prevention. Flax seed and seafood are two great choices for omega-3; fermented foods (like cheese and natto), spinach, kale, and collard greens for Vitamin K2. Some studies indicate that Vitamin K2 specifically can even increase bone mass and reverse osteoporosis in some people. For calcium-rich foods, try eating a container of yogurt with lunch (contains about 200-300mg of calcium), and incorporating a couple ounces of cheese into any meal (another 200-300mg). You really don’t need much more calcium than that.

Apart from diet changes, sunshine exposure is a great way to keep your bones strong. The Vitamin D that we get from the sun’s rays is vital to bone health and also helps your body absorb the calcium you ingest. 15 to 20 minutes a day is all it takes. Even better, spent those 20 minutes in the sun exercising. Bone is living tissue that requires physical activity in order retain and rebuild itself.

The takeaway here is that there are important steps to take when it comes to preventing bone-loss. So don’t dwell on the calcium lie—otherwise you might find yourself faced with health issues that are easily prevented, but much harder to cure.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

Why Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is a Superfood

I would like to share with you some of the “super foods” I have found to have a great effect on maintaining one’s health. These include organic Coconut Oil, Extra virgin Olive Oil, fermented foods, and eggs, all of which I’ll talk about in future newsletters. But for this month, I would like to highlight one of nature’s most useful gifts: organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

Organic ACV has too many different uses to list all of them, but here are a few:
·      Sunburn treatment
·      Hair growth stimulant
·      Shower cleaner
·      Acne treatment
·      Workout booster
·      Deodorant
·      Weed killer
·      Flea repellent
·      Laxative
·      Gout relief
·      And many more!

The power of organic ACV has been known for centuries, dating all the way back to the Ancient Romans and Greeks. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have used it as his go-to antiseptic. Overtime, this cooking staple has gained a reputation as a natural alternative for ailments such as: sunburns, acne, itch/rashes, infections, and more. There are a number of ways to use it. Here are some examples:

Simply gargling with a mixture of 1 part water, 1 part organic ACV can relieve a sore throat, treat canker sores, and prevent bad breath. Dab the mixture on itchy spots, boils, athlete’s foot, calluses, sunburns, warts, and even varicose veins a couple times a day for relief of redness, swelling, and pain.

You can also create your own apple cider vinegar hair rinse to get rid of product build-up/residue and to seal the hair follicle, making the hair shiny and glossy. Other organic ACV recipes you can find on the web include deodorant, aftershave, skin moisturizer, face mask, etc.. The uses are almost endless.

These claims may sound like nothing more than an old wives’ tale, but there are many reasons, both practical and profound, why I wanted to share this information about organic ACV with you. The typical person’s diet is contaminated with fillers, chemicals, pesticides, and more toxins that can and will harm your body. But unfortunately, the harm doesn’t stop at what you ingest. What you put on your hair and skin is also absorbed into the blood stream, and that often includes ingredients known to be toxic. Some of them have even been linked to cancer, loss of fertility, and Alzheimer’s.

Organic ACV is the perfect natural alternative to these products—and, its only about $6 for a huge bottle of it. You’d spend at least that much on any single hair, face, or body product. So why pay for individual, potentially harmful personal care products when you could get the same benefits from just one—without the harsh chemicals?

But the power of organic ACV reaches even farther than personal care. In addition to the properties I listed above, science is now finding that ACV has the potential to do a lot more for your health then just treat a rash. For one thing, its packed with naturally occurring nutrients, including: Potassium (essential for organ and cellular function), Iron, Magnesium (important for heart health), Enzymes (boost chemical reactions in the body), Acetic acid (slows the digestion of starch), Calcium, Pectin (helps regulate blood pressure and cholesterol), Mycoderma aceti (delivers nutrients and good bacteria) and Alpha hydroxy acid (improves cell regeneration).

Heart-healthy nutrients like potassium and magnesium provide a supply of power and energy to the heart, helping to boost your workout potential and strengthen the heart muscle itself. Scientists also think organic ACV may help stave off some of today’s most common killers—metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease—by helping regulate blood sugar and normalize blood pressure and cholesterol. It could even help in the fight against obesity by making people feel fuller, thereby managing their hunger.

Whether you’re concerned with preventing heart disease or getting silkier hair, I hope I’ve convinced many of you to try and incorporate organic ACV into your lives. But before you do, there are a few things you should know: ALWAYS buy organic, unpasteurized ACV, and cloudy is better than clear. I suggest drinking a little bit every day, but you MUST dilute it with water (otherwise the acidity could burn your throat and tooth enamel). My recommendation is 2 tsp ACV mixed in 8 oz of water. More ACV recipes and directions, such as household cleaning agents or garden maintenance, can be found with a simple web search.

These days, we tend to underestimate or even ignore all that Mother Nature has provided us with. It doesn’t always make sense to turn to processed food, products, and treatments (if ever). This is where organic ACV comes in. A couple substitutions in your diet or personal care routine can translate to a BIG step in leading a more natural and healthy lifestyle—and may even help keep you out of the doctor’s office longer. 

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

A Death that was Completely Preventable

One of my patients, Kathy Mitchell, died from heart disease this past December. Her death left me feeling deeply saddened and somewhat shaken. Kathy passed away at the age of 47 from Cardio Vascular Disease. This was the result of complications caused by Type II Diabetes. She was African American. African Americans are already 20% more at risk then the population as a whole from death caused by a stroke and cardio vascular disease. Kathy first came to see me about 4 months ago. She was on dialysis. Her kidney function was greatly diminished as a result of diabetes. Despite the insulin she was taking for the diabetes and the beta-blocker to lower her blood pressure, she was still in trouble.

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Unfortunately, Kathy’s case is not unique. Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) and complications from Type II Diabetes are the second cause of death in the US. There are an estimated 8 million people in this country with undiagnosed Type II Diabetes. But what upset me the most is that, the majority of the time, these conditions are completely preventable; Kathy’s death was completely preventable.

The key to lessening your risk for such common illnesses as Diabetes and heart disease is to catch them as early as possible; then make the necessary life-style changes, which can be as simple as changing your diet. Kathy’s life, for example, could have been drastically different with something as simple as restricting intake of processed food and simple carbs at the very onset of her Diabetes. But before I talk about that, let’s look at ways to catch the progression of Diabetes and CVD, before they become irreversible.

Before Kathy ever had Diabetes or CVD, she had Metabolic Syndrome—the root of these more serious illnesses. Metabolic Syndrome refers to a series of conditions that occur simultaneously and drastically increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. These conditions include obesity, hypertension, high blood sugar, abnormal blood cholesterol, and high blood triglycerides. When a person has three or more of these disorders, that person is said to have Metabolic Syndrome, or, equivalently, Insulin Resistance. Insulin resistance occurs just in case a body can produce insulin normally, but is unable to use it effectively. It is the precursor of Type 2 Diabetes. Other risk factors of Metabolic Syndrome include obesity, physical inactivity, poor diet, age, sleep apnea, and hormonal imbalance—all of which are also precursors of Diabetes.

According to the Journal of Diabetes36.1% of adult men and 32.4% of women had metabolic syndrome in the US in 2010; this puts an alarmingly large portion of the population at risk of developing a life-threatening condition. But thankfully, Metabolic Syndrome alone is completely reversible. But time is of the essence; once you actually develop Diabetes, contract heart disease, or have a stroke, it becomes almost impossible to reverse the damage. If you have one or more of the five symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome, but don’t see an immediate need for a life-style change, you should know that many people develop Diabetes unknowingly—that is, until the first complications show up (blurred vision, heart problems, etc.). But by that time, treatment is already less promising. In fact, it takes merely a single night of sleep deprivation for a body to start developing insulin resistance, even in completely healthy people.

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The most important takeaway here is that Metabolic Syndrome is reversible—but, when left unaddressed, leads to much more serious illnesses, and can even result in death. Diabetes, in particular, can cause tragedies like heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, blindness, and even amputations. The number one thing you can do to prevent (or rid yourself of) Metabolic Syndrome and, consequently, Diabetes or Heart Disease, is to maintain a healthy life style at every age, which, as I stated earlier, can be as simple as eating healthy.

This brings me to a second important takeaway: being healthy is not equated with eating fewer calories. It matters where those calories come from; i.e., a calorie is not just a calorie. There is a HUGE difference between eating 2,000 calories of carbs a day versus eating 2,000 calories of fat and protein. Due to growing research in the way carbs and gluten affect our bodies, scientists are starting to see a very negative relationship between brain health and carbohydrates. Dr. David Perlmutter calls this phenomen “Grain Brain” in his New York Times bestseller, also titled Grain Brain. He references studies that specifically link higher levels of blood glucose (a result of eating a lot of carbohydrates) to shrinkage of a critical part of the brain. Several acclaimed journals have come out with reports linking even slight increases in blood glucose to significantly increased risk for developing Dementia. The results of one study in particular showed that people who ate high amounts of Carbohydrates (as compared to those who ate more fat and protein) were 89% more at risk of developing dementia.

It was only recently in the timeline of the human race that we started eating large amounts of carbohydrates. Our bodies evolved in a completely different environment, producing a genome that thrived most when nourished with healthy fats and protein. As a result, we are now seeing many harmful side effects of eating large amounts of refined carbs, including but not limited to, depression, cognitive dysfunction, obesity, and, subsequently, Diabetes. But just as the causes of these conditions can be traced back to diet, so too their cures. One study comparing Diabetes patients on a standard, low-fat “diabetes” diet versus those on the Paleo diet showed that patients on the Paleo diet had greater improvements in weight, blood sugar, triglycerides, blood pressure and waist circumference.

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With this in mind, I would suggest a diet low in simple carbohydrates and grains when it comes to tackling Metabolic syndrome (or any of the other conditions it causes). The Paleo diet is a practice I embrace clinically and personally. I also suggest the Mediterranean diet, which includes olive oil as the main source of fat, plenty of vegetables and fruits, legumes, a moderate-to-high amount of fish and seafood, small quantities of red meat and dairy products, and moderate amounts of wine. The most general advice I can give is to always avoid processed foods, especially any industrial seed oils, like Canola oil or Vegetable oil, which are tremendously processed and often contain harmful chemicals.

Diet change should also be supplemented by moderate exercise for 30-60 minutes a day for the best results. This can be as simple as taking a walk. But if you can’t fit a walk in everyday, try standing at your desk as opposed to sitting; you’ll burn 75% more calories that way.

If Kathy’s doctors had advised her to make any of these changes, she might still be here today. Instead of addressing her Metabolic Syndrome before it progressed, she was given medical attention only after she had already developed diabetes. By that stage, most doctors treat their patients merely by giving them insulin. Because insulin feeds off of glucose, patients then tend to crave even more carbs—the very thing that caused their condition in the first place! Kathy motivated me to write this newsletter precisely because her death was no unnecessary. No one should have to die from a disease that is entirely preventable. Kathy’s life may have been spared if only more doctors were looking for Metabolic Syndrome in its early stages and advocating low-carb diets and exercise, as opposed to prescribing useless pills after it is already too late.

Ultimately, our diets are one of the best tools we have for living a long and healthy life, even when it seems like more and more practitioners are relying on pills and medication. Eating healthy is never something that one does unnecessarily, gratuitously, or overcautiously. It can, however, be something that you do too late.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

Part Two: How To Include Carbs Into Your Diet.

First off, I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving. While you all know I endorse a Paleo lifestyle, I will admit that I myself ate my fair share of carbs last Thursday—and lived to tell the tale. Hopefully my last newsletter helped you to understand important role carbohydrates play in both physical and mental health. But an informed decision to include this macronutrient into your balanced diet is only the first step. Now, the questions you're probably asking are: which carbs are the healthiest? How can I incorporate them into my diet with maximum results? And finally, how do I know what exactly what my carb-intake should be? This last question is perhaps the most important, as a lot of people tend to mentally misconstrue how much of a certain food group they are ingesting. Do you know what are the recommended daily allotments of carbohydrates for someone of your age and weight? Have you ever kept track of the grams or percentage of calories you are receiving from carbs? 

As I explained in part-1 of this 2-part series on carbohydrates, something as basic as carb-intake can have an effect on health conditions from depression and lethargy to digestive upset and athletic performance. Keeping a balanced diet is undeniably one of our most valuable roots to good health. So, I have written the following newsletter to expose just which carbohydrate-containing foods offer the most benefits, like increased energy, healthier sleep patterns, etc., and I have included an easy process to help you calculate your own individual, optimum carb-intake based on health conditions, exercise level, age, weight and other factors, so that you can all get the most health benefits out of your diet.

If you’ve been shying away from carbohydrates until now, I’m guessing that’s because you think they make you gain weight. And that’s true—in some cases. If you generally eat very low amounts of carbs but binge on pizza or bread every once in a while, you will probably find that these slip-ups do add on some pounds. Don’t blame carbohydrates as a whole though; blame the refined and processed carbs that constitute America’s favorite junk foods. Carbs must be incorporated into a diet strategically and thoughtfully in order to avoid the harmful side effects that can result from ingesting certain refined carbs, like sugar and white flour. Following are some charts of diet-friendly foods and the amount of carbs (in grams) they contain. If you want to know more about which carb-containing foods to keep and which to toss, take a look at the November newsletter (click here). 

The moral of the story is that, when you’re choosing which carbohydrates to eat, please choose carefully; i.e. go for fruit, not chips. 

Knowing which carbs to eat is only half the work though. The next step is figuring out how much of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates—something that will ultimately be a result of personal factors and preferences. The following information is meant to help you customize your own diet in a way that can have you feeling your best; it just takes a little diligence and patience.

Step 1 is to assess what percentage of carbs will work best with your life-style and weight goals. First, look at any diseases or health conditions you may be suffering from. For example, if you have diabetes or small intestinal bacteria overgrowth, you are going to want to start off in the low-carb category. If you have adrenal fatigue, are breastfeeding, or are a moderate to heavy exerciser, you’ll probably want to start at a moderate carb level. There are many other conditions that can affect how well your body receives carbs, so please be sure to assess your overall health when deciding what amount of carbs might work best for you. If you have multiple conditions that require opposite amounts of carbs, you should consider working personally with a practitioner. 

If you don’t have a condition that places you in a particular spot on the carb-intake spectrum, the best place to start is with a moderate carb diet. I suggest keeping a food diary in order to keep track of any symptom regression/improvement. Ultimately, the best indicator of carb-intake is how you feel, e.g. good, bloated, weak, etc.. Based on this diary, you can experiment by increasing and decreasing your carb percentage until you find a level that benefits you the most.

Step 2 is to figure out how many calories you should be eating each day from carbohydrates. If you know what your daily calorie-intake should be, simply multiply it by your target-percentage of carbohydrates. The following chart details what percentages constitute which carb-levels (low, moderate, high), as well as which populations would benefit most from each level:

 If you are unsure how many calories you should be consuming each day, you may want to search the web for an online calorie calculator. Otherwise, 2000 is a reasonable number to start with. So if you want 20% of your calories to come from carbs, multiply .20 x 2000 = 400. This is the number of calories you should be getting each day from carbohydrates. If you don’t feel like counting calories you can divide this number by 4 to figure out how many grams of carbohydrates you should be eating each day. 400 / 4 = 100g of carbs a day. Based on the first few charts, we see this goal can be met by eating a banana and an apple between meals, ½ a head of romaine lettuce in a salad for lunch, and a sweet potato with dinner, for example. 

If this process sounds a little too mathematical to you, you can also use the basic rule of thirds, which requires your plate to be 1/3 protein, 1/3 starch, and 1/3 low-carb vegetables and tubers. Following this rule will put you somewhere near the moderate-carb level.

I would like to stress that the diet calculation process as a whole is somewhat imprecise and for most, it will take some experimenting. Start in a moderate position unless you have one of the aforementioned health conditions, see how you feel, and adjust your carb-intake from there. My final advice is to please give each stage of your experimenting a fair amount time for your body to acclimate. If you eat only 10%-15% of calories from carbohydrates and you start feeling sluggish, have a harder time shedding that last pound or two of fat, or aren’t sleeping as well, you might need to consider slightly raising your carb-level. If you’re eating 30% or more of calories from carbs and you notice weight gain or digestive upset, you should consider a moderate or low-carb diet.

Remember: patience is key. There’s no miracle diet or one-size-fits-all approach. But, if you do give your diet the time and attention it deserves, the results should be well worth it.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

How to Live Well: A Closer Look of the Impact of Food, Nutrition & Health

How to Live Well: A Closer Look the Impact of Food, Nutrition & Health

 

Chronic disease is a serious problem. People get sick every year with easily preventable diseases, and spend more and more money to heal. We must learn to use the incredible scientific innovation and resources in our country to better combat these issues as a nation.

 

According to the CDC: Chronic disease is a public health crisis.

-          Deadly: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women

-          No one is safe: Diabetes affects 25.8 million people (CDC)

-          Expensive: 75% of our health care dollars goes toward the treatment of chronic illness

-          Growing Problem: 65% of all men and woman over 25 are overweight or obese.

For most people health is a choice, but you need the right information to make the best decisions. In the following article we will talk about how poor nutrition leads to chronic disease and what you can do to prevent it.

 

Section A

 

The Three Basic Molecules of Nutrition: Proteins, Carbs, and Fats

No matter what you eat, this is where it ends up. Basic nutrition is all about these three main components. Staying healthy depends on eating the appropriate amount of each. To prevent disease, it’s all about managing insulin and glucose, which all gets back to eating minimal carbs.

 

1. Proteins:

Proteins are the source of life itself. They do a lot of cool things, chief among them DNA assembly. Proteins also are used for food and energy, body repair and growth. They are what make up our skin, muscle, hair, and nails, as well as neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones. To make proteins useful, our guts break them down into what’s known as amino acids. And just try to eat too much of them- it won’t happen. The body won’t let you. The body has a mechanism for making sure you never, ever overeat them. 

 

2. Carbohydrates:

Technically, carbohydrates include everything from wood to grass to apples to bread.  Depending on how you link carbohydrates together, you can have anything from a bowl of pasta to a pine tree. Our body, however, has no use for bark. Unlike the multi-tool protein, sugar is only used for energy production.

 

It all starts with what are called “monosaccharides.” The two monosaccharides, or sugars, we will follow most closely are glucose (the main sugar used for energy in our bodies) and fructose (a relative of glucose). Everything boils down to glucose. Our bodies need to break down all sugars (whether they be disaccharides or polysaccharides) into glucose, which is the only form of carbohydrate that can pass through the gut wall to be used for energy. This is why if we eat too much of it, it can tax our bodies. It takes a lot of energy to whittle those sugars down into glucose-bites.

 

Also unlike proteins, our body has no mechanism for controlling our carb consumption. This is why we can just keep eating and eating all that pizza…

 

3. Fructose

Fructose is what you really have to look out for. While it is naturally occurring in most fruit, fructose is everywhere in processed foods. And it doesn’t do a whole lot besides make us sick. Fructose actually serves zero purpose- it can’t be used for energy by your body, and as we already know, carbs (sugars) only have that one purpose anyway. Fructose can cause obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It also can feed pathogenic bacteria in the gut, make us forgetful, and damage the liver.

 

3. Fats:

Fat has a really bad reputation these days. There are a lot of fad diets out there that tell people the best way to lose weight and get healthy is by cutting out fat. Actually, a good way to lose fat is by cutting out unhealthy fats. But fat itself is really good for us. Our body is designed to run on fat as a source of energy, which it converts into ketones bodies. Scientific research shows that diets rich in monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats actually reduce instances of obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive decline.

 

Just like protein, it’s impossible to overeat fat. Except the fat that you combine with, say, sugar, and chocolate flavoring to make, oh I don’t know, ice cream. It’s possible to overeat ice cream precisely because it has carbs (sugar) in it.

 

Section B

 

Hormones: Insulin, Blood Glucose, Glucagon, Leptin, Ghrelin, Adiponectin, Peptide YY, Cortisol and IGF_1

Besides the three main nutritional building blocks, our body also runs on a series of important hormones. Below are some of the most important hormones for understanding digestive function and health.

 

1. Insulin

Critical in regulating blood sugar, body fat, and aging, it’s important to keep insulin levels low by controlling carb intake and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Too much insulin can be extremely inflammatory. According to Dr. Cordain, 35% of all heart disease and blood vessel disease are related to mismanaged insulin and glucose.

 

2. Blood Glucose

Blood Glucose is basically glucose that has left the digestive tract and is now in the blood, traveling around to be utilized by the body. It’s important because red blood cells and certain parts of the brain need it and it alone to run properly. However, we are better off if we can run the body on mostly fat. Our bodies actually have the capability of making glucose from fats and proteins, so this blood glucose could come from carbs or from proteins and fats converted into glucose.

 

3. Glucagon

Released from the liver, glucagon allows us to access our body fat for energy which helps normalize blood sugar and energy levels between meals. Insulin and glucagon play complementary roles in the maintenance of energy levels by storing and releasing nutrients at the right time. While insulin facilitates the passage of nutrients into cells, glucagon releases nutrients in cells to be used or energy. Decreased blood glucose levels, among other signifiers, stimulate it. Under normal circumstances, glucagon is stored in the liver and muscle tissues for later use.

 

4. Leptin

Leptin tells us when we’re full. It regulates both appetite and metabolism. Produced by white adipose tissue (fat cells) and the cells lining the wall of the stomach, Leptin heads towards the central nervous system where it communicates directly with the brain.

 

5. Ghrelin

Ghrelin tells us when we are hungry and low on energy. It is greatly impacted by too little sleep and high levels of stress. It is produced all over the body- in the stomach lining, the pancreas, and other

tissues.

 

6. Adiponectin

Another hormone that tells us we’ve had enough to eat, Adiponectin also protects our arteries from oxidative damage. Though it is secreted by adipose (fat) tissue, it has been found that people with high levels of adiponectin actually have a lower percentage of body fat.

 

7. Peptide YY (a.k.a. PYY)

Another satiety hormone. Protein and fat release a lot of PYY, whereas carbohydrates release relatively little. PYY is a gut hormone that plays a synergistic role with leptin in helping us feel satisfied after a fatty (not carb rich) meal.

 

8. Cortisol

Cortisol does a lot of things, but in relationship to the topic of this article, w’re only going to talk about what it does with blood sugar. Made in the adrenal glands, cortisol raises blood sugar levels which can lead to fat gain. Spikes in cortisol occur through lack of sleep and stress. In fact, it’s often referred to as “the stress hormone.” It increases blood pressure and lowers the activity of the immune system. It can trigger the breakdown of muscle mass by converting protein into glucose. Too much cortisol can decrease insulin sensitivity, lower the bone formation rate, and diminish skin collagen and connective tissue. However, by and large cortisol is a helpful hormone because it serves as an anti-inflammatory. To avoid developing too much cortisol, avoid: intense or prolonged physical activities, caffeine, sleep deprivation, stress, and certain contraceptives.  

 

9. Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF_1)

Just enough IGF_1 aids in physical recovery, but too much increases our likelihood for cancer and our rate of aging. IGF-1 also helps kids grow, promotes cell maintenance and stress resistance. Exercise, stress and nutrition all affect IGF-1 levels.

 

Section C

 

Comparing Healthy and Unhealthy States: The Physiology of Digestion

Now we have met all the contributing players in the digestion/endocrinology game, we will begin to understand Type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis and, of course, our bodies homeostasis: wellness.

What happens to our bodies when we eat too much, too little, and just enough? In the next section we will use what we have learned to evaluate a “normal” fed state where we eat exactly as much as we need (isocaloric), a “fasted” state (hypocaloric) and an “overfed” state (hypercaloric).

 

What happens to the body in a “normal” fed state?

You’ve decided to marinade then roast some salmon. The protein in the salmon is broken down into individual amino acids. The amino acids can now go one of two ways. Either the liver will absorb them and use them for its own functioning, or the amino acids will circulate to the blood where they will help primarily with growth, repair, and energy production.

 

You’ve also decided to make some pasta with a white wine sauce to go with the salmon. Digestion breaks down the carbs into free glucose, and the glucose makes its way from intestines to liver. Its fate can go one of a few ways, too. Free glucose releases insulin from the pancreas, which activates glucose transport molecules. These glucose transport molecules facilitate blood glucose absorption by the liver, where it is then stored as a form of starch called glucogen.

What tips the scales in an “overfed” state?

 

Some people are able to eat everything they want and never gain a pound, while others just look at food and it creeps on their wastes. The secret is not calores-in and calories-out, but rather hormones and food choice.

 

All the satiety hormones we discussed previously in this essay are complex sensors which let us know when we are “full.” This is why hormones such as leptin are so important. Food choice is also very important. Certain foods affect our sense of satiety and can wreak havoc on various physiological functions.

 

If instead of eating the amount of salmon our body needs, we instead continue to eat, the protein is still broken down into amino acids. These amino acids will also still be either converted to glucose or burned directly as fuel. While proten can add to overall caloric excess, it is virtually impossible to overeat protein due to the potent satiety signal sent to the brain. Because of our bodies strong response to excess protein, its good to base meals around protein-rich foods, which will tell us to stop eating before we eat too much.

 

Now, if we start with the pasta before we eat the salmon, we’ve got a different story. If we eat too much pasta, digestion will still break down the carbs into free glucose, and the glucose will make its way from the intestines to the liver. However, we filled up our liver with so much pasta that now excess carbohydrates are converted to fat molecules called VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) within the liver. The fat is then released from the liver and heads out to the body to be used as fuel or be stored as adipose tissue.

 

1. VLDLs skyrocket

VLDL’s are the most inflammatory of the four cholesterol particles (LDL, HDL, IDL, and VLDL). Once released, VLDL’s move all over the body, including the brain. Once inside the brain, VLDL’s can make the hypothalamus (responsible for energy regulation inside the brain) leptin resistant, destroying our normal satiety signal and leading to future over-eating.

2. Insulin Resistance

 

This process happens in waves, much like the ocean eroding a sand castle. The liver becomes insulin resistant and blood glucose drives up higher. Insulin sensitivity inour muscle tissue is finally lost when the muscles can physically store no more glycogen. They are literally drowining in glucose. The blood sugar continues to increase, insulin skyrockets, and eventually even the fat cells become resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance is considered the half-way mark to Type 2 diabetes.

 

3. Cortisol Production

Once systemic, full-body insulin resistance occurs, the liver is overwhelmed. Blood glucose is turned into fats and VLDLs so quickly that fat cannot escape into circulation, and it builds up within the liver. This is the beginning of what is known as non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease. Even though the liver is literally swimming in glucose at this point, the liver is also insulin resistant so it actually believes that the body has low blood sugar. Your body is worried about the low blood sugar, because if it falls too low you can die. So your body starts producing cortisol, the stress hormone, and it’s like throwing gasoline in a fire.

 

4. Full System Meltdown

Cortisol is released to combat the perceived low blood glucose levels, even though your body at this point clearly has way too much.  The body begins to make more glucose by cannibalizing its own tissues. Muscles and organs are “burned” to make more glucose. Remember, the muscles are where the body deals with elevated blood glucose in the first place! So not only is our body producing more glucose, its also doing so by depleting our first line of defense when it comes to lowering glucose levels in the body.

 

This is why Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance is effectively a wasting disease of the muscles, while fat cells grow exponentially. Fat is stored in the abdominal region because of the high insulin, blood sugar, and triglycerides. This waistline fat is the telltale sign of insulin resistance. The stage is now set for chronically elevated insulin levels, and all the other complications that brings such as increased cancer rates, accelerated aging, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, obesity, and ultimately Type 2 Diabetes which is characterized by insulin resistance and chronically elevated blood glucose levels.

 

5. AGE’s and Physiological Degeneration

We’ve seen above how glucose can serve as a toxic substance, even though it is critical for bodily function. Sugars can oxidize and form “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs) which damage proteins, enzymes, DNA, and hormonal receptor sites. AGEs are a major cause of the symptoms we take to be normal aging, and can also cause several degenerative diseases.

 

6. The link toHigh Cholesterol

When glucose binds to low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol), it prevents the LDL from binding to receptors that tell the liver to stop manufacturing cholesterol.  As a result, the liver “thinks” there’s a shortage of cholesterol in the body and continues to produce more.  This is one reason why diabetes is almost always associated with high cholesterol levels.

 

Section D

How to Live Well: Digestive Health Ann Arbor

For most of us, health is a choice. Provided the right information and enough support, we can all achieve optimal health and wellness. If you or a loved one suffers from chronic diseases, food allergies, or wants to make sure they are living as healthfully as possible, it is important that they seek professional health. As we have pointed out in this article, following the right nutritional balance is crucial to living well. In order to find the right nutritional balance for you, you need a nutritional path tailored to meet your needs. For more information, please call Digestive Health Ann Arbor at (734) 726-0153

 

Digestive Health Ann Arbor now offers a complete Metabolic Health Assessment.  It is extremely comprehensive and provides considerably more information about the current state of your health then most doctors will provide.  If you are interested in a very detailed assessment of your health, please click here for more information. (All blood work needed for this assessment is covered by your health insurance).

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.