Top 10 Foods For Thyroid Health

Top 10 Foods For Thyroid Health

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, located at the base of the neck. Thyroid hormones are essential for growth and metabolism. Every single cell in the human body has receptors for thyroid hormone, so the effects of poor thyroid function affect a wide range of body systems from the digestive system to the neurological system, and musculoskeletal system to reproductive systems. (1)

Common thyroid disorders can include hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), Grave’s disease (an autoimmune condition where the thyroid is overactive), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune thyroid condition), thyroid nodules (growths on the thyroid gland), thyroid cancer and goiter (an enlarged thyroid).

Approximately 10% of Canadians have thyroid disease (2). Additionally, other thyroid disorders or dysfunction (that is, conditions and symptoms not severe enough to be labelled a “disease”, but that still impact health and quality of life) affect approximately 1 in 3 Canadians (3). Irregular thyroid function can have wide-ranging, seemingly unrelated symptoms, which is why thyroid issues go undiagnosed and/or untreated so frequently. (4)

Could you have an undiagnosed thyroid disorder?

There are actually over 300 symptoms of thyroid dysfunction.

  • Common symptoms include:
  • fatigue
  • loss of the outer third of the eyebrows
  • reproductive issues such as difficulty becoming pregnant and/or difficulty carrying a pregnancy to term
  • menstrual issues including painful periods, heavy bleeding or irregular cycles
  • depression/anxiety
  • constipation/diarrhea
  • joint and muscle pain
  • dry skin
  • weight gain/loss
  • difficulty sleeping
  • difficulty regulating body temperature including always feeling cold, or hot flashes
  • poor memory or concentration

This broad range of symptoms, in addition to difficulty accessing functional testing through one’s family doctor, can make it difficult to obtain a proper diagnosis.

Can dietary choices support thyroid health?

It can take many years, even decades, for a sluggish thyroid to become weak enough to become a diagnosable disease. Whether you want to support your thyroid or want food to help support or address a thyroid condition, then nutrition has a vital role in supporting thyroid hormone production and conversion. We are here to help you with some thyroid supportive foods that contain specific nutrients that play a key role in thyroid health. (5)

Top 10 Foods for Thyroid Health

#1. Brazil nuts

The thyroid gland is the organ with the highest selenium content, and selenium is known to play an important role in converting T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) into T3 (active thyroid hormone), decreasing Reverse T3 (which can block T3 hormone receptor sites), and decreasing anti-thyroid antibody levels (antibodies the body produces to attack itself). (6, 7)

For most people, eating just 1 – 3 Brazil nuts daily can easily meet their selenium needs.

#2. Liver

Grass-fed beef liver is the richest source of B12 and Vitamin A around. This is important because these nutrients are critical for thyroid hormone production and regulation. Adequate intake of Vitamin A improves cellular sensitivity to thyroid hormones. (8)

#3. Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens are high in detoxification-supportive fibre, sweeping waste out of the digestive tract. Supporting the body’s natural detoxification pathways (including the colon) assists in reducing the amount of harmful toxins circulating in the blood by carrying them out of the body through waste. Circulating toxins can increase systemic inflammation, trigger autoimmune flares, and can even potentially be damaging thyroid tissue. So, ensuring adequate intake of fibre is an effective way to support the body’s natural detoxification, which in turn supports thyroid health. Additionally, leafy greens are a great source of magnesium as well, aiding in the conversion of inactive T4 to the active thyroid hormone T3.

#4. Berries

Berries are high in antioxidants. Studies show those with thyroid dysfunction have higher levels of harmful free radicals, the antioxidants found in berries offer great protection to neutralize those free radicals. Berries’ are another food that is high in fibre content to help aids in detoxification as well.

Plus, berries are delicious! Check out our Berry Beet Smoothie Bowl for a twist on a classic smoothie.

#5. Turmeric

This simple spice has powerful anti-inflammatory effects that can calm down an active autoimmune response that is often the cause of damage to the thyroid gland. Curcumin is the active component of turmeric responsible for this action. Curcumin also has the benefit of offering pain relief. Many thyroid-disease sufferers struggle with pain in their thyroid, body pain, headaches, and more as a result of their condition. Curcumin may serve as a pain-management option while they work to correct the underlying imbalance(s) causing the thyroid condition.

We have loads of turmeric recipes, but one of our favourites is this anti-inflammatory Turmeric Latte!

#6. Seaweed

Seaweed such as kelp, nori and wakame, also known as sea vegetables, are a great food source of iodine which the body uses as a building-block for thyroid hormone production. These food sources of iodine also contain selenium, which is required to support iodine uptake. In essence, selenium improves how efficiently your body can absorb the iodine consumed from your diet. (9)

#7. Bone Broth

Bone broth is known as “liquid gold” for good reason. Most people recognize that bone broth is a source of easy to absorb essential minerals.

A cup of bone broth also contains many amino acids, which have gut healing benefits. Gut healing is an important consideration because most thyroid disorders are autoimmune in nature and often have roots in impaired digestive function. Bone broth is also a source of glutamine, used by the intestinal and immune cells for energy.

#8. Avocado

Avocados are a source of a wide variety of micronutrients, vitamins, and healthy fats. Avocados’ high fat content is made up of mostly health-promoting monounsaturated fats. Teaming these fats up with high fibre improves blood sugar balance and increases satiety. Blood sugar balance is critical for those with a thyroid dysfunction because the hormone insulin that is responsible for signalling our cells to take in sugars from our blood has an inversely proportional relationship to thyroid hormones. That is, as blood sugar goes up, insulin goes up as a result, and thyroid hormone production goes down.

#9. Oily Fish (Salmon, Sardines)

These oily fish are high in specific types of omega-3s. Some such omega-3s include EPA (eicosapentanoic acid), which is hailed for its anti-inflammatory effects, and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) which supports the nervous system, including the brain. Both fats can be utilised by every single cell membrane in the body to improve cell signalling and down-regulate systemic inflammatory responses. Systemic inflammation is a common contributing factor to most diseases, including thyroid conditions. As such, reducing systemic inflammation can help support thyroid function.

If you’re looking for some recipe inspiration, check out our Walnut Crusted Salmon.

#10. Fermented Foods

Coconut kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles and other fermented foods provide a wide variety of beneficial bacteria. These beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, are critical not only for gut health, but also for regulating immune function (which is responsible for autoimmunity). (10)

Plus, the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of existing nutrients by breaking down the anti-nutrients including phytates that can bind to essential nutrients and cause irritation within a compromised gut. As concluded in Knezevic et al. 2020, “Gut microbiota also influences the absorption of minerals that are important to the thyroid, including iodine, selenium, zinc, and iron.” (11)

Summary
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, suspect you may have a thyroid condition, or just want to maintain your thyroid health… we encourage you to consume these 10 healthy foods to support your thyroid health.

If you’d like to make implementing the recommendations above easier, get your copy of our 1-Week Thyroid-Supporting Meal Plan today.

Or, to take things a step further, if you’re interested in functional thyroid testing above what is offered at your family doctor’s office, please connect with one of our naturopathic doctors. You can also connect with our nutritionists to learn more about how nutrition strategies – ranging from micronutrient balancing to autoimmune protocols or specific therapeutic foods – can be applied to improve thyroid function.

 

https://thyroid.ca
https://thyroid.ca/thyroid-disease/
https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/thyroid-disorders-1.814623
https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/06/06/hypothyroidism-can-go-undetected-sometimes-for-years-before-proper-diagnosis/
http://www.whfoods.com
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5307254/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23046013/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23378454/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049553/
https://www.thepaleomom.com/the-health-benefits-of-fermented-foods/
https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/6/1769/htm

 

 

Top 5 Health Benefits of Turmeric

Top 5 Health Benefits of Turmeric

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

Turmeric is a plant native to Southeast Asia, grown primarily in India. Its an underground stem, which has an appearance similar to ginger. Turmeric has been used since ancient times as a culinary spice and in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. In fact, it’s use in treating various health issues such as respiratory diseases and skin conditions can be found back to as far as 500 B.C. It has a vibrant yellow-orange colour and earthy flavor, and is one of the main ingredients in curry powder.

Fresh or powdered turmeric is often used in cooking. Because of its growing popularity it can often be found in smoothies and hot drinks. Although nowadays, turmeric and its extract, curcumin, are also available in supplement form.

The main active component of turmeric is curcumin, which has been found to have a wide range of health benefits (1). It is this compound and its health benefits that are making turmeric and curcumin supplements very popular. Turmeric and curcumin have also been well researched with many positive results. They have been found to be anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial and is high in fiber, vitamin C and iron.

What are the advantages of consuming of turmeric, you ask?

Below, we have a look at 5 health benefits of turmeric:

  1. Powerful Antioxidant 

    Free radicals are formed by toxins in our environment, air, food that we eat and even through exercise. If there are too many free radicals in the body, then this can cause cellular and tissue damage and contribute to the onset of illness and disease. Antioxidants help prevent cellular damage by protecting your body from free radicals. Not only does curcumin itself act as an antioxidant by neutralizing free radicals in the body, it can support the functioning of glutathione, a potent antioxidant produced by the body. (2)

  2. Anti-Inflammatory

    Turmeric and curcumin can help protect the body against chronic inflammation that contributes to diseases such as arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. In one study of people with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was found to be more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug. (3) In a review of the effects curcumin has on osteoarthritis, participants reported improvement in pain, physical function, and quality of life after taking curcumin, with decreased use of pain medication. (4)

  3. Supports Brain and Neurological Health

    Research has supported curcumin’s use with concussion and various other neurological and brain conditions. The reason being is that curcumin can cross the blood brain barrier and works as an antioxidant by protecting the loss of neurons, one of the main processes that occur in the development of Parkinson’s disease. (11). Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a growth hormone found in the brain that plays an important role in learning and memory. Curcumin has been found to increase brain levels of BDNF, helping to protect against brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s (5). It may even help reverse some of these effects, with research suggesting it can help enhance cognitive functioning, such as with memory and attention (6). Curcumin has also been found to have an antidepressant-like effect, providing a natural alternative to medication in some cases (7).  

  4. Cancer Prevention

    Due to its high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin has the potential to help prevent against many forms of cancer. Evidence suggests curcumin can prevent or slow the growth of tumours, destroying cancer cells and reducing its overall spread. (8)

  5. Protects Against Cardiovascular Disease

    Curcumin has also been shown to lower your risk of heart disease. Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, it can help decrease cholesterol levels to protect against atherosclerosis, and it can also prevent cardiovascular complications related to diabetes. Research showed that supplementation of curcumin before and after a coronary bypass surgery reduced the incidence of myocardial infarction post surgery. A 2017 of over 600 patients demonstrated a significant reduction in LDL (“bad” cholesterol”) and triglyceride levels with turmeric supplementation. (11) Animal studies have also found it can prevent heart failure. (9)

You are what you absorb!

Despite all these benefits, curcumin on its own is not easily absorbed by the body. But the good news is, by taking turmeric with a bit of black pepper, you can enhance how well the body absorbs the active component of turmeric by up to 2000%! So, when cooking with turmeric, make sure to sprinkle some pepper onto your dish as well. Turmeric and curcumin supplements should also contain black pepper or it’s active component, piperine, for optimal results. (10) Since curcumin is also fat-soluble, it is best to have with a meal that contains fat or oil.

How To Use Turmeric

Turmeric is a very versatile spice. Try:

  • Incorporating it in soups and curries
  • Sprinkling on roasted vegetables with a dash of black pepper
  • Add it to scrambled eggs or fritatas
  • Use it to flavour rice or other whole grains
  • Use in a marinade for chicken or fish
  • Try a turmeric latte or “golden milk.” 

Side Effects of Turmeric

Although turmeric has wonderful health properties it may have some side effects that you need to be aware of. It can lower blood pressure, which may not necessarily be a bad thing if you struggle with high blood pressure, but could be a challenge for individuals with already low blood pressure, or certain thyroid conditions. For a small percentage of individuals, turmeric may irritate the digestive tract which can potentially cause diarrhea or an increase in acid production, which in turn could lead to annoying heartburn.

Turmeric does contain oxalates, so it may contribute to kidney stone formation and should be avoided if you are at risk of kidney stones or are on a low-oxalate diet. People that have allergies to yellow food colouring or ginger are also likely to be allergic to turmeric. 

Summary

This spice packs a mighty health punch! It is a great option to incorporate into your meals with the help of some black pepper to increase absorption or get the concentrated benefits of taking it in supplement form. So, whether you’re new to consuming turmeric or not, we hope this article provided some insight into the powerful disease-fighting benefits that turmeric offers! 

 

References

1. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric  
2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15650394/  
3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22407780/  
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27703331/ 
5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006899306027144  
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3281036/ 
7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0166432812006997  
8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12680238/  
9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19233493/  
10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9619120/  
11. https://10faq.com/health/turmeric-benefits/6/ 

 

Can Nutrition Really Help With Inflammation And Chronic Pain?

Can Nutrition Really Help With Inflammation And Chronic Pain?

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

We have all heard the word “inflammation”… but what is it, and is it really that bad? 

What Is Inflammation?

Believe it or not, inflammation is good for us and we need it! When we get injured, our bodies trigger an inflammatory response which causes redness, swelling and pain. This is all in an effort to bring more blood (and therefore nutrients) to the area to help with the healing process. However, when inflammation persists over time when there is no injury present, that is when it becomes problematic.

The Effects of Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is well recognized as a root cause for many diseases and health conditions. Inflammation has been shown to contribute to obesity; endometriosis; heart disease including stroke; autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis; cancer; diabetes; thyroid issues; inflammatory bowel disease; pulmonary diseases; as well as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD; and many other chronic pain conditions including arthritis, migraines/headaches, and fibromyalgia. 

What Causes Chronic Inflammation?

Inflammation can be a product of certain diet and lifestyle choices. Inflammation can accumulate over time as a result of continued oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a phenomenon that occurs when there are more damaging “free radicals” in the body than there are protective antioxidants to neutralize them.

Over time, oxidative stress leads to oxidative damage, which in turn leads to chronic inflammation, that promotes the above diseases to occur. 

Inflammation and Pain

To help manage pain, you need to help manage inflammation in the body. This is why NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are a common strategy for pain relief, these drugs block inflammatory pathways that lead to pain.

Another way to manage inflammation – from the root cause – is through diet!

How Nutrition Can Help with Inflammation and Chronic Pain

Nutrition has a crucial role in helping to reduce inflammation by providing antioxidants and various phytochemicals, fiber, omega-3, as well as specific vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, the importance of nutrition is often grossly overlooked as part of a chronic pain program.

We are here to help you on your journey to a more pain free lifestyle!

Below we list some strategies to help you find some relief from your pain and other pain related symptoms. This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list… but, hopefully a great start to provide you with some direction in the search for relief. Plus, check out our article on our Top 10 Anti-inflammatory Foods!

Anti-Inflammatory Diets

There are many diets that can help reduce inflammation this includes vegetarian diets, the Mediterranean diet, a specific anti-inflammatory diet, or following a gluten-free and dairy-free diet.

Regardless of the exact strategy used, common elements among all these diets include:

  • whole-food based, limiting or excluding processed foods
  • tons of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • increasing intake of Omega-3, while reducing intake of Omega-6
  • avoiding sugar, hydrogenated oils, and processed ingredients

Kylie James, founder of Koru Nutrition, was fortunate to be a part of a study at Brock University which followed individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI). People with an SCI are in a chronic state of low-grade inflammation and are at higher risk of many secondary health conditions as identified above. The study focused on tracking inflammatory markers in the blood while following an anti-inflammatory diet, and how the dietary intervention impacted the participants’ mood, depression and sleep. The study diet was based on whole foods, while avoiding all gluten and dairy products, as well as adhering to a supplement program including omega 3, turmeric, antioxidants, vegetarian protein powder and a greens supplement. After 3 months following the diet the results showed that cytokine levels (inflammatory markers IFN-y, IL-1B, IL-6, CRP) reduced in the blood by 28%. Additionally, depression scores reduced by 55% in 3 months compared to 48% reduction in depression scores when using SSRI’s for 6 months. Pain scores significantly reduced by 39%. Participants also noted significant improvements in weight loss and sleep (3). This study demonstrates the therapeutic role that nutrition has in reducing inflammation, pain, and resulting symptoms.

For more information or support with getting started with a therapeutic anti-inflammatory diet please reach out to us to book an appointment. If you’re a clinician with a client suffering from chronic pain and are interested in making a referral, please fill out our referral form.

Maintain A Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is critical to help mitigate pain experiences. This might be difficult given exercise and activity can contribute to pain, but again that might be another reason why changing the diet becomes such a major step in a rehabilitation and/or pain-reduction program.

One 2012 study published in the journal Clinical Rheumatology found that people with fibromyalgia experienced less pain and depression, had fewer tender points, and slept better after losing weight. This study suggests that weight loss can be an important part of fibromyalgia treatment (1).

A 2019 literature review also suggests that weight loss and eating a low calorie diet can contribute to less pain and inflammation and an improved quality of life (2).

One of the reasons for this is that fat tissue excretes inflammatory markers and can impact hormones, such as the production of excess estrogen, which can promote inflammation. The other important factor is that inflammation contributes to weight gain and weight gain contributes to inflammation, so it is important to work on both to break the cycle.

Vitamin D, Magnesium and Calcium

A 2018 literature review, has linked pain in conditions such as fibromyalgia to low dietary intake of, and low levels of nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D (4). Deficiencies in vitamin D (which is common in Canada in light of our long, dark winters) can be associated with joint, bone and muscle pain. In observational studies, low vitamin D levels have been associated with increased pain and higher opioid doses. Recent interventional studies have shown promising effects of vitamin D supplementation on cancer pain and muscular pain in patients with insufficient levels of vitamin D when starting intervention (6).

Symptoms of calcium deficiency include leg, bone, joint and neck pain; as well as muscle cramps and muscle spasms; numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, and face; and frequent toothaches. Magnesium deficiency can promote inflammation and contribute to fatigue, sleep and mood problems and muscle dysfunction such as muscle cramps and spasms – all factors that influence pain. Studies show that magnesium can reduce osteoporosis pain, muscle cramps, muscle spasms and myalgia (5).

References 
1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10067-012-2053-x 
2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07853890.2018.1564360 
3. Allison, Thomas, Beaudry and Ditor, 2016 (Journal of Neuroinflammation) 
4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0753332218309697 
5. James, Smith, Eat Well Live Well with Spinal Cor Injury and other Neurological conditions, 2013
6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29057787/ 
7. https://file.scirp.org/pdf/FNS_2014062611410421.pdf 
8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27485230/ 
9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16280438/ 
10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21242652/ 
11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21142420/ 
12. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/bromelain 

 

Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

1 in 5 Canadians – that’s 8 million of us – live with chronic pain. Chronic pain impacts children, adults, and the elderly, affecting the way individuals take part in school, work, family life, and within their communities. Unfortunately, with pain often comes reduced activity levels and difficulties participating in daily tasks such as grocery shopping and meal preparation and often people seek out more quick on-the-go foods, prepared foods, or take out to help avoid pain flare ups. This unfortunately can often fuel pain experiences as these types of foods contain many ingredients and substances that contribute to inflammation.

The goal with reducing inflammation and subsequent pain in the body is to remove inflammatory foods from the body such as processed foods, hydrogenated oils, sugars, saturated and trans fats from the diet while integrating anti-inflammatory foods into the diet instead. There are many foods that have been identified as anti-inflammatory foods that have been well researched. To learn more about the role of nutrition and reducing inflammation check out our article Can Nutrition Really Help With Inflammation And Chronic Pain?

Focusing on a few specific foods is a great way to begin incorporating anti-inflammatory foods your diet.

Below are our Top 10 Anti-inflammatory Foods, and some healthy recipes to help you introduce them into your diet.

  1. Turmeric has massive anti-inflammatory benefits! In a review of the effects curcumin has on osteoarthritis, participants reported improvement in pain, physical function, and quality of life after taking curcumin, with decreased use of pain medication. (4) For more about the medicinal properties of turmeric, check out our recent article on the Top 5 Health Benefits of Turmeric. We’ve also created a Turmeric Latte recipe that you’re sure to find delicious, even if you’re not usually the biggest fan of turmeric!
  2. Green tea is rich in flavonoids which are anti-inflammatory, contains fat burning properties to help manage healthy weight, and L-theanine to relax the mind and the muscles. Of course, green tea makes for a simple and delicious cup of comforting tea or as a cold refreshing drink in the summer, but you could also try out our Green Tea Ice Cream recipe for something new!
  3. Berries pack a mighty punch when it comes to fiber, antioxidants and other amazing phytochemicals that can help reduce inflammation. Berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins. These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce your risk of disease and pain. In one study, adults with excess weight who ate strawberries had lower levels of certain inflammatory markers (10) Check out our Berry Beet Smoothie Bowl!
  4. Oily fish is loaded with omega 3’s which are anti-inflammatory and can help to reduce inflammation and pain and boost mood. One study have found that individuals that consumed salmon or EPA and DHA supplements experienced reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP). (11) Our Smoked Salmon and Avocado Toast is a simple way to consume more healthy fats!
  5. Dark Leafy greens are an excellent source of nutrients including folate and iron, plus pain relief minerals such as calcium and magnesium, antioxidants including zinc and vitamin C, and fiber. They also contain high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds known as carotenoids, which may protect against certain types of cancer. (8) A simple green salad is always a great way to fit in more greens, but if you’re looking for a way to sneak more greens into your diet without even noticing them… check out our Green Shrek Muffins.
  6. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds that function in the same way as COX-2 inhibitors. COX-2 inhibitors are drugs used to treat pain and inflammation. Researchers in one study found that ginger was an effective pain reliever for human muscle pain resulting from an exercise-induced injury (9). This powerhouse green smoothie is an easy way to include some ginger in your diet!
  7. Shiitake mushrooms have been studied for their protective qualities against cancer and inflammation.  Bioactive compounds in shiitake mushrooms are responsible for their therapeutic effects. (7) If you’re interested in including more mushrooms in your diet, check out our Broccoli & Mushroom Fried Rice because Shiitake mushrooms work perfectly in this dish!
  8. Papaya contains papain, a protein-digesting enzyme. Together with other nutrients such as vitamin C and E, papain helps to reduce inflammation. one study noted that men who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids such as papaya had a significant decrease in CRP, a particular inflammatory marker (9). Enjoy on its own as a delicious snack.
  9. Extra virgin olive oil offers a rich supply of polyphenols to protect the heart and blood vessels from inflammation. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil are also turned into anti-inflammatory agents by the body, which can lower occurrences of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Researcher led by Paul Breslin of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia indicated that a daily dose of 4 tablespoons of olive oil is the equivalent of around 10% of the recommended ibuprofen dose for adult pain relief. This is great as a salad dressing because cooking with olive oil on high heat can damage the oil, destroying many of the health-promoting qualities.
  10. Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that aids in the healing of indigestion, sports injury, trauma and other kinds of swelling. Extracts of bromelain have also proven to be as effective as some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and are used in a number of natural anti-inflammatory supplements for arthritis. Mount Sinai Hospital indicated that studies show bromelain may reduce swelling, bruising, healing time, and pain after surgery and physical injuries. It is often used to reduce inflammation from tendinitis, sprains and strains, and other minor muscle injuries (12). Have pineapple on your own or enjoy it in this high antioxidant green smoothie!

Summary

If you or someone you know is struggling with inflammation and chronic pain, we want you to know that there is hope! Nutrition and lifestyle strategies such as adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, maintaining a healthy weight, optimizing nutrient status, and incorporating specific therapeutic foods can go a long way in reducing inflammation and reducing chronic pain! If you need some support on your chronic pain journey, we’re here to help!

References

1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10067-012-2053-x 
2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07853890.2018.1564360 
3. Allison, Thomas, Beaudry and Ditor, 2016 (Journal of Neuroinflammation)
4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0753332218309697 
5. James, Smith, Eat Well Live Well with Spinal Cor Injury and other Neurological conditions, 2013
6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29057787/ 
7. https://file.scirp.org/pdf/FNS_2014062611410421.pdf 
8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27485230/ 
9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16280438/ 
10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21242652/ 
11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21142420/ 
12. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/bromelain 

 

Why Am I Constipated?

Why Am I Constipated?

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

Don’t you just hate it when things get backed up? You can feel bloated, uncomfortable and trying to move things out can be downright painful!

Constipation is a common problem for a lot of people and for a lot of different reasons. In fact, constipation affects approximately 16% of adults worldwide (1). But you don’t need to struggle with this! We are here to help provide you with strategies to help “unclog the pipes”.

Constipation is characterized by the following symptoms (3):

  • fewer than three bowel movements per week
  • hard, dry, or lumpy stools
  • difficulty or pain when passing stools
  • a feeling that not all stool has passed

There are many reasons people experience constipation.

  • Almost half of pregnant women report having constipation as a result of higher levels of progesterone.
  • Women can also experience constipation as part of their menstrual cycle.
  • Not consuming enough fibre and water can contribute to constipation.
  • Taking medications such as pain meds can really impact bowel motions.
  • Lack of exercise can also contribute to constipation as movement with the body helps with passage of the stool through the intestine.
  • If a person often “holds it in” to avoid going, this can also cause stools to get backed up and contribute to constipation. This can be a common problem with kids.

What Can I Do To Help Stop Constipation?

 

Top 7 Nutrition Strategies To Help Relieve Your Constipation:

1. Consume Adequate Fibre To Bulk Things Up

There are two types of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble. Both types of fiber have a role in treating and preventing constipation. Both types of fiber are also essential for keeping your intestinal system running smoothly. Soluble fiber draws water and therefore retains more water within in your stool, making waste larger and softer, resulting in easier to pass bowel movements. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your fecal material, speeding up the transit time through your gut and preventing that heavy constipated feeling.

Fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes are all healthy sources of fiber. If you still feel you struggle to get enough fibre from food, fiber supplements are also available. In fact, one 2016 review found that 77% of people with chronic constipation benefited from supplementing with fiber (4).

Remember, when increasing fiber intake, do so slowly. Increasing fibre intake too quickly, might overwhelm the digestive tract and make constipation or abdominal pain worse.

Canadian guidelines for minimum fiber intake is as follows:

 Males

9-13 y

14-18 y

19-30 y

31-50 y

51-70 y

>70 y

Recommended Fibre Intake (g)

31

38

38

38

30

30

Recommended Water Intake (L)

2.4

3.3

3.7

3.7

3.7

3.7

Females

9-13 y

14-18 y

19-30 y

31-50 y

51-70 y

>70 y

 

26

26

25

25

21

21

 

2.1

2.3

2.7

2.7

2.7

2.7

2. Drink Water To Get Things Flowing:

To help your stools move through your digestive tract, taking in an adequate amount of fluid is very important. Often, we are just not drinking enough! Nearly ¾ North Americans are chronically dehydrated despite the vast majority of us having easy access to safe drinking water on demand.

Health Canada recommends on average 2.7 liters for women a day and 3.7 liters for males a day. However, if you are a larger person, live an active lifestyle, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you are likely to need even more than this.

If you don’t like water, try infusing it with fruit, vegetables, or herbs. Freshly squeezed lemon juice can be great to help stimulate digestive processes. Plus, using a water bottle is helpful as you can carry this with you, and because it can hold more water it means less trips to the fridge to fill it up.

Increasing water intake when increasing fiber intake is critical, as both work closely together to help get the bowels working optimally.

3. Drink Herbal Teas To Help Ease Constipation Symptoms

Certain herbal teas can not only help make it easier to consume adequate water intake, but may also help to aid in some of those uncomfortable feelings that come with constipation and digestion problems. Soothing teas include peppermint tea, fennel tea, ginger and green tea. Dandelion tea, as well, may help with mild digestive symptoms such as bloating or occasional constipation. In fact, dandelion can stimulate the liver to produce bile, which can indirectly help with constipation.

4. Your Morning Coffee Can Help Promote A Regular Morning Bowel Movement 

You will be pleased to know that coffee can have a great effect on your bowel routine. One reason is that coffee contains small amounts of soluble fibers that help prevent constipation. But the real powerhouse component is the caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and so it causes the intestinal muscles to begin contractions called peristalsis, which is a sort of pulsing, squeezing action that moves fecal matter through the intestines.

One study found that caffeinated coffee can stimulate a bowel motion. This effect was 60% stronger than drinking water and 23% stronger than drinking decaffeinated coffee (5).

5. Fermented Foods Feed Good Bacteria

Our gut is basically a huge ecosystem of living organisms known as our microflora or microbiome. The good bacteria in our gut is crucial for ensuring bowel regularity. Fermented foods include yoghurt, kefir, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. If you don’t like fermented foods, then taking a probiotic with over 10 billion cultures can be another way to get your good bacteria levels up in your body.

One study in 150 people with IBS revealed that supplementing with probiotics for 60 days helped improve bowel regularity and stool consistency (2). A 2019 review found that taking probiotics for 2 weeks can help treat constipation, increasing stool frequency and stool consistency (6).

6. Eat Small, More Regular Meals Throughout The Day

We all have the gastrocolic reflex which is stimulated every time we eat. Its role is to help move food and fecal matter through our intestines. If we eat regularly this reflex gets activated more regularly and therefore more movement is occurring in our intestines to help push fecal matter through our systems.

7. The Low-FODMAP Diet Can Help To Relieve Constipation And Other Digestive Problems

The low-FODMAP diet is a diet that was developed in Australia, specifically for people with IBS. It has been shown to help with numerous IBS-like symptoms including bloating, abdominal pains, nausea and constipation (7).

The low-FODMAP diet is focused on reducing intake of specific types of carbohydrates, so involves restricting a lot of otherwise healthy fruits, vegetables, grain and legumes. But, FODMAPs can be hard for the digestive system to breakdown, which causes fermentation in the gut, and with that multiple digestive problems can follow for sensitive individuals.

For more information on the low-FODMAP diet, please check out our recent article or download our 1-Week Low-FODMAP Meal Plan.

Summary
Remember, there can be a number of reasons why you might be experiencing constipation. Try drinking more water, herbal teas and coffee, and incorporating fermented foods into your diet, along with regular exercise, and consuming more fruits and vegetables. These can all be great ways to help receive your constipation!

If these don’t work, please check with your health professional to determine if there are other underlying health conditions or diseases, or to discuss if implementing the low-FODMAP diet is an option for you.

And as always, we’re here to help! Book a session today and let us help you on helping your pipes run smoothly and regularly.

 

References
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5976340/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4993960/
3. The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and kidney Diseases
4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/apt.13662
5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9581985/
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6379309/
7. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jhn.12385
8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24090144/
9. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/apt.12913

 

Can I Have A Cheat Day?

Can I Have A Cheat Day?

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

“Cheat days” or “cheat meals” are recommended by many in the nutrition field. The idea is to “allow” a person who is on a diet to have some indulgence and flexibility. A “cheat day” is most commonly applied in social situations when temptations are high.

The prevailing belief has been that having a “cheat day” may allow an individual to be able to comply with and stick to a more restrictive diet plan long-term, knowing that they have a meal, or day, in the future to look forward to. “Cheat days” allow the individual on a diet to enjoy foods that they normally are not “allowed” to consume. 

But…

Do Cheat Days Work?

“Cheat days” may work for very disciplined individuals who are not likely to use “cheat days” as an excuse to gorge themselves on foods and beverages that are not in their best interests. Most folks lean toward foods that are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and alcohol on “cheat days”. Depending on why the individual was adjusting their diet in the first place, these foods may really sabotage your diet and health goals.

Whether incorporating a “cheat day” is effective or appropriate really varies based on an individual’s relationship with food, their ability to move back to their optimal diet after their “cheat day”, or if there’s a history of food addictions or eating disorders. It’s a strategy that may work for some people, but can easily be triggering to others, making it much harder to get back on their nutrition program or diet.

Typically, it is recommended that the “cheat day” or “cheat meal” needs to be “reasonable” and not excessive. The feelings of guilt from going overboard can trigger negative emotions. Because this strategy can be focused on a reward-based system, it may not be ideal for those who have a difficult time self-regulating emotional eating. Some people may feel hopelessness, despair and guilt after “cheating” (1), which can lead down a negative path towards emotional eating and sabotaging the work they have already done to better their health through nutritional changes.

Considering the above, you might already know the answer to “should I have a cheat day?”.

Are Cheat Days Helpful?

You may have started a diet to address some health goals or to improve poor eating habits. It can be hard to break unhealthy diet patterns because your brain becomes hardwired to consume certain foods, possibly even at a certain time of day. For example, whether it is a glass of red wine while preparing dinner, or having a doughnut with your mid-morning coffee, or eating a bag of chips while watching TV in the evening… if you do it enough times, it becomes habitual and your brain actually sets up a craving system to ensure you continue that behaviour.

Research indicates it takes between 21 and 60 days to “break” or replace a habit. So, if you’re considering incorporating a “cheat day”, you may wish to incorporate a “cheat” not related to the habit you’re working to change. Consuming a food you’ve habitually indulged in (even if you logically know it’s no longer in your best interest to consume that particular food) might trigger your brain’s cravings and habitual eating patterns. This could make it harder to avoid that food afterwards, when the “cheat day” is over and you are back on your optimal diet, because you have now got your “taste” for that food again.

Are Cheat Days Practical?

Some individuals find that the “cheat day” offers them some freedom to go out with friends, host a dinner party, or attend a celebratory event and other social situation where temptations and associations with indulgences are high. It can give them something to look forward to, and possibly “take the edge off” a restrictive diet. For these people, a cheat day might be practical.

But, while it may sound convenient at first to “allow” yourself a “cheat day” for social events or a personal reward… certain diets may not lend well to “cheat days”.

For example, the ketogenic diet is very specific with certain macronutrient ratios needing to be achieved on a consistent basis. Having a “cheat day” may throw an individual out of ketosis, inhibiting progress toward their health goals, causing uncomfortable transitional symptoms, and leading to additional work to get themselves back in that specific metabolic state. That said, there are clinicians that recommend “carb up” days on the ketogenic diet, in specific quantities, intervals and circumstances; especially for women to help support healthy thyroid function.

Additionally, if you have identified (or are going through the process to identify) food reactions such as food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities, “cheat days” can absolutely derail your healing process. Depending on the specific food and the severity of the sensitivity or allergy, it can take months to recover from a “cheat day” or “cheat meal”. For example, egg allergy (IgE mediated reaction) or sensitivity (non-IgE mediated reaction) is common in individuals with eczema. Some studies have shown over 40% of individuals with eczema are reactive to egg whites (1). Although many times, food sensitivities (non IgE-mediated reactions) can be reintroduced to the diet safely after an initial period of healing – that healing requires intention and compliance. Spending weeks calming your immune system back down, healing your skin due to a flare-up, and getting “back on track”… is that worth a “cheat meal”?

Are “Cheat Days” Healthy?

Our biggest concern when it comes to “cheat days” is the mindset aspect.

“Cheat” has a negative connotation to it and may subconsciously impact a person’s mindset. We are taught from a young age that cheating is bad, so indulging in “forbidden” foods may lead to negative emotions. Changing the word to “treat” day or “treat” meal, may be a better term that is less likely to lead to feeling guilty and shameful about food choices.

A healthy weight loss program or nutrition plan is one that you can stick to. For most of us, this includes incorporating food for enjoyment within our lifestyle. When considering a “cheat day” or even a “treat day”, it is important to consider your goals as well. Ideally, we can include thoughtful indulgences within our dietary choices that offer enjoyment, and satisfy desires without hindering progress toward your health goals.

So, at the end of the day, if you are carefully choosing mindful indulgences that are in line with your health goals… that’s not cheating! That’s well-balanced, sensible, conscious decision-making – and it’s a foundation for long-term success with any dietary change and building or maintaining a healthy relationship with food.

“But I Deserve A Cheat Day!”

“But I deserve it”, is an argument heard frequently; usually when discussing a piece of cake, a bottle of wine, or some other dietary habit we intuitively know isn’t serving our best interests. But, really ask yourself, do you deserve it?

Let’s dig a little deeper…

Let’s say you’ve recently learned that you are lactose intolerant. Reactions to dairy products have been causing you digestive upset for most of your life. But, you’re craving a bowl of your favourite ice cream. You know that if you eat that ice cream you will be doubled over in pain within 30 minutes, and likely spend most of the next two days making frequent, uncomfortable trips to the washroom. Do you deserve all those symptoms? Absolutely not! You deserve to feel well.

To give another example, let’s imagine that you were diagnosed with an autoimmune condition after nearly a decade of various symptoms including chronic pain, skin rashes, insomnia, and weight gain. You’ve consulted a naturopathic doctor and a nutritionist and have undertaken a type of elimination diet called the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP), designed to calm the immune system’s overreactions. You’ve been on the program for 4 weeks and have had marked improvements in nearly all your symptoms. But, you want a box of those brand-name cookies. You know that the cookies contain several ingredients that you’ve eliminated. You also feel confident the elimination phase of the protocol is working because you feel so good! Do you deserve a flare-up of the symptoms you struggled to get under control for a decade? Of course not! You deserve to be at your best. You deserve to heal.

The importance of understanding why you are making dietary changes, and how that impacts your personal health goals, cannot be understated. Considered more holistically, eating a bowl of ice cream only to condemn yourself to two days of pain and discomfort no longer seems as enjoyable!

Plus, there are almost always alternative food choices that can address specific cravings, desired flavours, or emotional comfort that may be sought from food – while still keeping on track with your health goals! It just takes a little creativity, and we’re here to share our experience!

In Summary

We would rather call “cheat days” a “treat day” to help build or maintain a healthy relationship to food. If you work out an approach and frequency for indulgences that will not sabotage your health goals and is best for you, then go for it!

However, if you have a history of unhealthy eating patterns, emotional eating or food addictions, or difficulty regulating cravings then having a “treat day” might not be the best approach for you. If you’re on the ketogenic diet, have food sensitivities, or are on another therapeutic diet, then “treat days” may not be ideal for you either.

If these are not issues for you, then the best advice is plan out a “treat day” or “treat meal” mindfully to be consistent with your health goals, and then monitor your behaviours and emotions leading up to and after it. Was your response healthy? Were you able to resume your optimal diet with no problems and no major set backs?

If you are going to incorporate a “treat day”, we recommend ensuring it is not excessive, it is planned in advance, that nothing about it causes negative emotions like guilt or shame, and that even your “treat” food choices are truly in your best interest! Because you deserve to be well. As has been famously said, “there’s no cheating, just choices” … and that applies to food as well.

References

  1. https://www.jacionline.org/article/0091-6749(74)90054-2/pdf
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25186250/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/leptin-101