Coffee is good for you--unless it's not!

November 2016

Featured article by: Chris Kessler

            When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you think about? Feeding the dogs? Getting the kids ready? Or is it… coffee? If you (perhaps guiltily) answered yes to the latter of these questions, you aren’t alone—and this article is for you.

            We live in a coffee-crazed nation, where our daily cup of joe is so deeply engrained in our subconscious that we often feel we can’t function without it. In fact, in America alone, 400 million cups of coffee are consumed per day, costing a grand total of 30 billion U.S. dollars.  So the question presents itself, is this espresso epidemic helping or harming our overall health? In his article, “Coffee is good for you—unless it’s not”, Chris Kessler explores the often contradicting theories concerning the health effects of caffeine consumption.

            Before you kick your Keurig to the curb, it’s important to note that there are proven health benefits of coffee. Coffee consumption has been linked to decreased risk of health issues such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, drinking 4-5 cups of coffee per day also has the potential to lower depression rates in women. Although there is not much research proving why coffee has these positive effects, they are certainly still worth noting.

            But before you run to your nearest Starbucks, it’s important to note that coffee has also been linked to negative health effects—but these effects are only experienced by some people. So why aren’t effects identical across the board? To explain, caffeine is broken down by an enzyme in the liver. This enzyme is encoded for by a gene called CYP1A2. As it turns out, 50% of the population have a variation in this gene which causes slow processing of caffeine. For these people, drinking coffee can lead to higher risk of heart disease and hypertension as well as impaired fasting glucose. However, despite these negative effects, most large studies observe the overall effect of coffee to be positive.

            Confused? Allow me to clarify: in sum, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to diet. This holds true in all areas of nutrition, not just concerning the effects of caffeine. You don’t have the same genes, gut microbiome, or even activity level as your neighbor—so it should be expected that your bodies will respond to different foods in different ways. For example, caffeine consumed later in the day disrupts sleep in some people but not others. This is because our bodies process food based on various factors and characteristics unique to the individual.

            So now you’re probably wondering, how do I know if coffee is good for me? The following three steps will assist you in determining how your body reacts to caffeine:

1.     Firstly, I would suggest listening to the podcast “Is Drinking Coffee Good For You?” to understand the non-genetic factors that play a role in caffeine reactions.

2.     Next, try slowly removing caffeine from your diet and remain caffeine-free for 30 days. Then, re-introduce it to your diet and pay close attention to if/how your body responds.

3.     Lastly, you can utilize websites like 23andme to find out if you are a “fast” or “slow” metabolizer. After creating an account, search for the gene “CYP1A2”. Once you’ve found it, locate the rs762551 SNP under the search results. Find the variants of that SNP (on the same page) and look for AA (this means you’re a fast metabolizer), AC or CC (slow metabolizer).

            In total, it is critical to understand the individualized nature of nutrition. There exists no “one-size-fits-all” method when it comes to your body’s unique needs. In terms of caffeine, effects and reactions depend on both genetic makeup and individual factors including gut microbiome, lifestyle, and stress levels. If you consider coffee as a staple in your every day routine, it may be a good idea to utilize the afore-mentioned steps to find out if you are a “fast” or “slow” metabolizer of caffeine. Taking these precautions will allow you to understand the long-term implications of your latte love affair.

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.


Adrenal Exhaustion: When Stress Becomes Something More

Everyone gets stressed out at some point. We feel that rush of adrenaline as our heartbeat gets louder; we might feel irritable and on-edge; some nights, we can’t even get to sleep because of all the thoughts racing through our minds. Late nights at the office, traffic, family issues, little complications, and all the other pressures of modern life can really take their toll. For some of us, these feelings occur quite often. But how do you know if what you’re feeling is a typical, temporary case of being stressed out, or something more? Healthcare professionals are starting to notice a strong connection between stress and the adrenal glands—and how too much stress can turn into a debilitating problem.

First, here’s some information about the adrenal glands. On top of each of your kidneys sits a walnut sized gland that controls many of your body’s hormones. By choosing what hormones to produce at what times, your adrenal glands play a large role in regulating vital bodily functions such as: energy production for daily activities, muscle and joint function, bone health, immune health, sleep quality, thyroid function, and a healthy stress response.

When you get stressed out, your adrenals put you into “fight or flight” mode. They can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release stored energy for you to use, and sharpen your senses. To activate this response, the adrenals produce three main stress hormones: DHEA, adrenaline, and cortisol. These hormones can be very useful in short bursts. For example, when you’re in a situation with high stakes and you need to be on your toes.

But our bodies are not designed to continuously be in stress mode. When your adrenals produce high levels of stress hormones for too long, you might experience some very serious side effects. This is because the body’s stress response takes priority over all other metabolic functions. Remember all those important things that your adrenals are responsible for? They all get put on the back-burner so that your body can react to stress. As a result, your health is compromised. We call this Adrenal Exhaustion.

When cortisol levels are too high, you could experience everything from loss of bone density and spiking blood sugar levels to increased vulnerability to bacteria, depression, and more. Abnormal adrenal rhythms can make it harder for tissue to heal, leading to joint breakdown and chronic pain. You might have a hard time rising in the morning or feel lethargic during the day. High cortisol makes it harder to enter regenerative sleep cycles, and a lack of regenerative sleep can induce depression. Your immune system will be suppressed, and you might find yourself getting sick more often, especially with a cough. All this translates into several very common symptoms that can indicate adrenal exhaustion: low energy, behavior, mood, and memory problems, muscle and joint pain, weak bones, poor immune system health, low-quality sleep, hypoglycemia and salt cravings.

Some healthcare professionals estimate that as much as 80% of the population suffers from at least some form of adrenal exhaustion. Yet, conventional medicine avoids this diagnosis. Most mainstream doctors hear these symptoms and look for Addison’s disease—an adrenal disorder that causes weight loss, fatigue, low-blood pressure, and muscle weakness. It also only affects only every 1 in 100,000 people—making it extremely rare—and is related very serious adrenal malfunction, not stress.

But if you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of adrenal exhaustion, you probably know how frustrating it can be to feel so unwell, yet be overlooked by mainstream medicine. Luckily, there are many effective, natural courses of treatment and many find that their adrenal exhaustion is completely curable. Here are some of my recommendations for abating stress and helping your adrenals function at their full capacity:

1)   Please visit a healthcare practitioner to discuss your symptoms in full and rule out other possibilities.

2)   Ashwaganda is an Indian herb that reduces anxiety by lowering cortisol levels. It can boost your immune system and also help you sleep at night. You can purchase it from a trusted provider in tablet, capsule, and liquid forms.

3)   Eleuthero Root is a Siberian herb that also works to reduce stress hormones. Its known to sharpen the memory, combat fatigue, and speed up recovery from illness.

4)   Vitamin B5 helps the body convert food into fuel. We all need it to get through the day, so please make sure you’re getting enough of it. A deficiency in B5 could contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, depression, irritability, and more.

5)   Vitamin C is used up quickly during times of stress, so you need to make an effort to replenish it. You should aim for 2,000-4,000 mg a day.

6)   Simple stress reduction techniques, like getting some moderate exercise, taking time for yourself, and just resting when you can find the time.

It’s important for every single one of us to take time to rest in our busy lives, especially in times of stress. Again, if you’re experiencing lethargy, depression, frequent illness, chronic pain, low-quality sleep, low-blood sugar/cravings, or  general feelings of being physically and mentally unwell, then you could be suffering from adrenal exhaustion. You’re healthcare provider can put you on the road to feeling like your old self again.

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.

Enzyme Nutrition: You're not what you eat, but what you absorb.

I. Changing the Question
II. The Cause of Symptoms, Pain & Discomfort
III. Enzyme Nutrition Can Heal
IV. The Importance of Digestion
V. Warning Signs of a Compromised Digestive System
VI. The Role of Enzymes in Digestion
VII. Enzyme Therapy: Assessing your Path Towards Healing
VIII. Take Command of your Health
IX. Links to Helpful Information
X. A Call to Action

I. Changing the Question
To live healthy lives, we need to change the question from, “How can we most effectively manage symptoms and pain?” to “How can we help our body heal?”

II. The Cause of Symptoms, Pain & Discomfort
When our body's tissue systems are under stress for an extended period of time, they are unable to absorb nutrients they need to support the ongoing needs of our life. This stress comes in many forms. There is the stress of everyday life; mechanical stress caused by an accident, sports injury, or repetitive stress injury; and biochemical stress caused by medications, poor nutrition or the environment.  Regardless of its source, the effects of stress are always the same. Without sufficient nutrients, our systems cannot function properly and begin to break down. Once the body begins to deteriorate, it needs a kick start in order to heal. Enzyme nutrition can provide us with the momentum to resolve symptoms and reach true vitality.

III. Enzyme Nutrition Can Heal
The healthiest diet imaginable is useless if your body cannot absorb food's essential nutrients. We eat not only because food tastes delicious, but also to sustain our body's 35 trillion cells.  The saying “you are what you eat” is not true - “you are what you absorb” is much more accurate.

Enzyme Nutrition is the process through which we can restore our ability to fully absorb the food we eat. It provides three basic steps to healing:
1.    Help identify and remove sources of stress.
2.    Nourish stressed organs and tissues.
3.    Assist the body in flushing out accumulated waste.
If we can do these three things the body will heal itself.

IV. The Importance of Digestion
The digestive system plays two essential roles in our bodies:
1.    Ingesting, digesting, absorbing, transporting, utilizing, and eliminating food.
2.    70% of the body’s immune system lives directly in your digestive system and it is the first line of defense against all diseases.

V. Warning Signs of a Compromised Digestive System
1. Allergies (both food and environmental)
2. Arthritis
3. Asthma
4. Bronchitis
5. Constipation or Diarrhea
6. Fibromyalgia
7. Gastro-intestinal Disorders (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, IBS)
8. High blood pressure
9. High cholesterol
10. Frequent headaches and migraines
11. Sinus problems
12. Skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne
13. Stomach problems (gastritis, ulcers, acid reflux)
14. Unresolved Muscular and Skeletal Pain
15. Chronic Fatigue
16. Gradual weight change
17. Depression, anxiety

VI. The Role of Enzymes in Digestion
Enzymes are extremely important for aiding failing tissue systems after repeated stress for the following reasons:
1.    Enzymes coordinate almost all biochemical processes in an organism, plant or animal.
2.    Enzymes are catalysts for chemical reactions within the cells.
3.    Enzymes function as key elements of pre-digestion in the mouth and digestion in the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and colon.

VII. Enzyme Therapy: Assessing Your Path towards Healing
Through appropriate assessment tools we can discover your enzyme deficiencies; detect biochemical, emotional and mechanical stressors; and identify the most effective detoxification methods. At Ann Arbor Holistic Health we use three assessment tools for a comprehensive assessment of the body's deficiencies: Signs and Symptoms Survey, 12-hour-fasting Nutritional Stress Test and Loomis 24-hour urinalysis. At a follow-up appointment, we present a complete “statement of findings,” explain the results, and suggest the appropriate Enzyme Therapy to address the conditions revealed.

1. Signs and Symptoms Survey
This subjective gauge gathers a wide range of information about your health, habits, and history. The survey covers medical history, diet, your immune system, your state of mind, and digestion information.
2. 12-hour-fasting Nutritional Stress Test
This thorough physical assessment examines over thirty stress points which identify nutritional deficiencies in the various tissues systems of the body.
3. Loomis 24-hour urinalysis
Unlike other urinalyses that are based on a single random sampling, the Loomis 24-hour urinalysis tests all the urine produced in one full day. Since the general composition of urine fluctuates constantly, this testing method provides a more comprehensive appraisal of overall digestive health and absorptive functions. The test is helpful in predicting our future digestive health if deficiencies are not addressed appropriately. The urinalysis analyzes:: pH, Specific Gravity compared to volume, Chlorides, Calcium, Vitamin C, Indican, Sediment, and Abnormal Solutes.

VIII. Take Command of Your Health
Eating a balanced diet is just the beginning of the path to digestive health. Many obstacles exist, but with careful observation and objective scientific tests we can unravel practical and straight-forward solutions. The body is a resilient and wise instrument that can achieve true vibrancy with care and awareness. Enzyme Nutrition is an essential step in your journey of healing.