The Problem with NSAIDs

I’d like to tell you how anti-inflammatory drugs block normal prostaglandin function and why prostaglandin function is important. Anti-inflammatory drugs (things like aspirin and ibuprofen) are used as pain relievers and fever reducers. Prostaglandins are wonderful hormone-like substances. Our body cannot function without them and they occur all throughout the body. They are made in our cell membranes and built from essential fats that we eat.

Prostaglandins are in charge of the body's inflammatory function. Our bodies are always working to maintain homeostasis, or balance. Prostaglandins help maintain the balance of inflammation. They increase and decrease inflammation as needed.

Inflammation causes us to feel pain, so you may ask why we want prostaglandins that cause inflammation. It’s because inflammation is an important part of the healing process. Here are a couple of examples. When you twist your ankle, it hurts and swells. The hurt keeps you from running on it and complicating the injury. The swelling immobilizes it further so that it has time to heal. Another example is a fever, which is an inflammatory response throughout the body - the heat of fever. A fever makes us feel like resting. It also raises temperature to create a more hostile environment for the pathogens our immune system is fighting. Besides making us rest, inflammation also marshals the cellular repair forces used by our rebuilding cells and immune system. Inflammation is like a Facebook post, calling on all your friends, your tribe, to come help you when you need help the most.

After your friends have arrived and helped you with the painful issue, or after the body’s repair forces have completed the repair, other prostaglandins arrive to deflame and turn off the distress signal.

So inflammation is needed for healing, then other prostaglandins are made to deflame after we are healed. When we feel pain, we reach for painkillers to stop the unpleasant sensation. Painkillers work by suppressing the inflammatory response. We don’t feel pain, but the call for help doesn’t go out. NSAIDs block the production of all prostaglandins so that the body’s natural inflammation and de-inflammation maintenance system is turned off, slowing healing and recovery.

Book Review: The Big Fat Surprise

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet - Nina Teicholz

The big idea of this meticulously researched book is that contrary to popular belief, saturated fat is good for you. Teicholz explains and demonstrates how we ended up with the high-sugar, high-carb, processed oil mess we find ourselves in. Based on shoddy science and powerful personalities, we started by deciding that high cholesterol was a predictor of heart disease. From there, we decided that saturated fat causes high cholesterol. Both of these assumptions were somewhere from over-simplifications to completely wrong. But based on advice from the government and powerful experts, food makers and people replaced saturated fats with vegetable oils, sugar and carbs which may well be the actual cause of heart disease and a myriad of other ‘western diseases.’

I learned three mind-blowing things from this book.

  1. The first is about the three kinds of fat. Most fats contain all three kinds of fat. A fat is just categorized based on the kind of fat that makes up the largest percentage of it.

  2. A good example but sad example of this is that saturated fat from animal fat used to contain a good amount of the essential fat omega-3. It is naturally occuring in grass-fed beef and it was only when beef switched to grain feed that the omega-3 amounts were negligible.

  3. A third thing I learned was about the buildup of plaque in arteries that was incorrectly blamed for heart disease. Teicholz presents research that shows that it’s not the presence of the plaque that causes heart disease - it appears to be a natural result of aging. Heart disease may be impacted by chunks of rogue plaque that break off and cause problems. In any case, cholesterol was not to blame for the plaque. Cholesterol has building and protecting jobs in the body and it may gather on troublesome buildup to protect the body from it.

The book sometimes presents a bewildering amount of data. It is disheartening to see how easy it is to spin research for economic reasons. It’s hard to know who to believe. It has made me a more critical reader of research reports. But it also firms my resolve to trust my gut and to follow the paradigm that resonates with me.

The Joys of Healthy Fats

The popular misconception that eating fat makes you fat has contributed to the obesity epidemic and a host of health problems. Here’s a quick explanation of how what you eats affects your weight and general health.

When you eat a carrot, it isn’t used as it is for energy and building blocks. It has to be broken down and processed for the nutrients to be used by the body. That’s the process of digestion.

The three kinds of food are Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats. They are each digested in different ways. Everyone is different, but a good rule of thumb is that we should eat all three kinds of food in proportions of 40%, 30% and 30% respectively. That’s how our bodies work best and how our ancestors ate for centuries. It’s only recently that the American diet got so heavily skewed towards carbs.

Digestion breaks down food so that our body can use it for energy and growth. When we eat more food than we need immediately, the excess is stored so that we can use it when we aren’t eating.

Carbs, Fats and protein are each broken down through different processes. This is one reason it’s good to have a mix, so that the systems responsible for each process don’t get overburdened.

The three kinds of food are also used differently by the body. Carbs are either used for energy or stored as fat. Fats are broken down to energy, storage and building blocks. Proteins are used for building blocks and energy.

Based on the proportions of each we eat, we either become sugar burners (carb eaters) or fat burners. Our ancestors were fat burners but the modern diet is heavily sugar burning. As fuels, you could see sugar/carbs as the kindling that burns hot and fast. Fats are the big logs that burn slowly for a long time. Because of this, sugar burners get hungrier more often and they need to eat more calories to feel satisfied. Fat burners feel less hungry and have better sustained energy like a fire that burns all day.

When the low-fat diet craze took off, the culture shifted to sugar burners. Low-fat food is high carb sugar. Reliance on carbs makes us get hungrier, eat more often and eat more calories. And it leads to the roller coaster of the fast, hot burning fire. We eat more and more to keep the fire burning and the excess calories get stored as fat. It is harder for sugar burners to get energy by burning stored fat. They just keep stoking the fire with more excess carbs that keep getting stored as fat.

This is how the low-fat craze led to the obesity epidemic we find ourselves in now. The standard American diet is approaching 200 pounds of sugar a year, and is way higher than 40% carbohydrates. Our bodies are not designed to be sugar burners and besides obesity, this has led to a host of health problems.

If you are interested is becoming a fat burner instead of a sugar burner, nutritional therapy can help. And it will be a delicious and joyful transition! Check out my services page for more information and support.

Book Review: Adrenal Fatigue - The 21st Century Stress Syndrome

Adrenal Fatigue The 21st Century Stress Syndrome - James L. Wilson

The book explains a collection of impacts that occur when the adrenal glands become fatigued. The adrenal glands normally function by releasing hormones that help our bodies respond to stress. A combination of our stressful lifestyles and the poor diet has caused the adrenal glands of many people to be worn out. When this occurs, people’s bodies are no longer able to deal with stress.

I didn’t realize how often the stress response is triggered in modern people, including myself, or the number of things that trigger the activity of the adrenal glands. It’s not just stressors like getting chased by a tiger - a stress response is triggered by things as diverse as a conflict with a coworker to an infected wisdom tooth to exposure to a toxin. It’s no wonder our adrenal glands can get tired!

Cortisol is one of the hormones released by the adrenal glands, and the main one discussed in this book with regards to adrenal fatigue. Cortisol has many important uses in the body. But one I found especially interesting is the role of cortisol in sleeping patterns and circadian rhythms. Cortisol controls the release of energy while we sleep.

I also learned about a link between adrenal fatigue and abuse of drugs and alcohol. It’s a vicious cycle - drugs and alcohol place huge stress on the body as poisons. This stress contributes to adrenal fatigue. A person with adrenal fatigue is unable to respond to stress so she may turn to drugs to alleviate suffering.

The book has a powerful section about how to take charge of your own recovery from adrenal fatigue. The first step the author recommends is to change your lifestyle, in particular your response to stress. The book also places a lot of importance on nutrition, but it starts with lifestyle changes. It’s challenging but exciting to think about approaching very poor health by changing your approach to stress first.

This book really got me thinking about the modern western lifestyle and diet. The situation we find ourselves in combines an extremely high level of stress with a very poor diet with exposure to toxins. What is surprising is the amazing resilience of our bodies and spirits.

I was inspired by the parts about changing lifestyle and our response to stress. People’s ability to reframe and change their emotional response to stress is heroic. As a nutritional therapist, my goal would be to help people heal and energize their own bodies with food so that they have the strength to grow and expand spiritually.

Book Review: Why Stomach Acid is Good For You

Why Stomach Acid is Good for You - Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. and Lane Lenard, Ph.D.

This was yet another life changing book I read for my NTP course. The information is so contrary to conventional wisdom that I want everyone to read this book. It reveals an open secret that is supporting a billion dollar business selling acid reflux ‘remedies.’

The situation is that acid reflux is epidemic in our culture. I and most everyone I know thought this was because of an over abundance of hydrochloric acid in our stomachs. This book presents meticulous research and explanations that turn that belief on its head.

Heartburn and other digestive issues are not caused by too much stomach acid. Stomach Acid is a vital component of digestion, nutrient absorption, immunity and much more. Conventional remedies for heartburn either neutralize stomach acid or suppress it. These ‘treatments’ do alleviate the immediate pain and burning that happens when acid refluxes into the esophagus. But by reducing the level of stomach acid, they exacerbate the problems which are actually caused by too little stomach acid, (hypochloridia).

The digestive process is an amazing and complex system. Learning about it, I wasn’t surprised by how much can go wrong with the process. I was instead surprised and delighted by how magically it works! Stomach acid plays a key role in this process. It does many wonderful things but two of the ones that struck me are:

  1. It breaks the molecular bonds of foods so that the nutrients can be released and the absorbed farther down the system in the intestines.

  2. The changing acid level in the stomach triggers other processes farther down the system. For example, when a high enough acid  level is reached, the valve that leads to the duodenum opens to release the digested food to the absorption stage. Without high enough acid, the partially digested food stays in the stomach too long and gets gross and the nutrients are not absorbed.

I knew something about the importance of stomach acid, but I learned some fascinating new things that it does.

1. Hydrochloric (HCL) acid protects us from bacteria. The digestive system is a system that is exposed to the outside world through food. HCL in the stomach can kill harmful bacteria that make it inside in our food.

2. HCL is important in brain function including the production of Serotonin. HCL digest proteins, producing amino acids - the building blocks of neurotransmitters such as Serotonin.

3. The rampant food sensitivities in our culture are caused in part by stomach acid dysfunction. Undigested allergenic proteins make it to the intestines where they wreck havoc, allowing allergens to get into general circulation causing allergies and even autoimmune disorders.

I was really curious to learn why hypochloridia causes acid to reflux into the esophagus. Why would too little acid make the acid spread to the esophagus? The book suggested that acid gets into the esophagus because of a malfunction of the valve that opens from the esophagus into the stomach. The valve is supposed to open briefly when we swallow to allow food to pass, and then close. When there isn’t enough stomach acid, this valve isn’t triggered to close. The esophagus valve stays open, and if the acid level is too low, the valve leading to the small intestine stays closed. That gross food hanging out in the stomach for too long starts to gurgle, putrefy and bubble. This causes the more acidic juice of the stomach to bubble up into the delicate esophagus, causing that horrible burning sensation. And Ew!

There is overwhelming evidence presented that acid reflux is primarily caused by a deficiency of stomach acid. The pharmaceutical remedies briefly alleviate the symptoms while exacerbating the actual cause of the issue. This creates dependence on the medicines. If you’ve ever been on a PPI, I’m sure you know that you can’t stop taking it without scary, urgent pain. The only entities benefiting from the treatments are the pharmaceutical companies who profit by providing both the cause and the remedy of the problem.

I am saddened by this profit-motivated approach to healthcare. Unfortunately, it’s part of a bigger problem with our technological, commercial approach to food and wellness. Instead of feeling sad about this depressing situation, I will use it to fire my passion to help people support their amazing, beautiful bodies and souls.

Top 10 reasons why Saturated fats are good for you!

Our bodies run on fuel made of Fats, Proteins and Carbohydrates. For optimal health, we should eat the highest quality fuel available. Let’s talk Fats. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is full of highly processed fats which are detrimental to health. But many of us have followed low-fat diets and demonized high quality fats like yellow angel food (that’s what I call butter). The low-fat craze greatly profited processed food producers while making us sick and sad. Research shows that high quality fat is essential to optimal health. Here are the top 10 reasons why your body needs and prefers good fats.

  1. High quality fats are a concentrated source of energy.

  2. Good fats provide the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones.

  3. Good fats slow down and optimize nutrient absorption

  4. High-quality fats are the carriers of the very important fat-soluble vitamins - A, D, E & K. We can get those vitamins from our food, but they need to be transferred to where they are needed by fats.

  5. Speaking of vitamins and minerals, high-quality fats also help with absorption. Fats are also necessary for utilization of proteins

  6. In the 1800’s, most of the fats in the American diet were saturated, like butter and lard. In the last century, we switched to polyunsaturated fats, mostly poor-quality vegetable oils. Consumption of polyunsaturated fats is one of the causes of the dramatic increase in cancer, heart disease and immune system dysfunction of the last century.

  7. Polyunsaturated fats have been processed which causes them to become rancid and change into something called a free radical. A free radical is a rogue atom or cluster of atoms that contains an unpaired electron. Those unpaired electrons cause the atoms to act like a rioting mob. They attack other atoms and cause damage to them that leads to mutations.

  8. The liver’s job is to clean toxins from our blood. Fatty acids help the liver by lessening the toxic load the liver has to deal with.

  9. The fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated. Our hearts draw on this fat in times of stress.

  10. Saturated Fats have antimicrobial properties that work in the digestive tract to protect against harmful microorganisms.

*The source of this information and much more is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This wonderful book also has recipes!

Book Review: Nourishing Traditions

This is a beautiful book that explains how we got to our current poor state of health. The meticulously researched book shows how technology led us to processed foods, which have much of the healthful properties removed. The author follows the money of the nutritional ‘experts’ who have political power and explains the forces that drive them to ignore key findings of science and the wisdom of our ancestors.

I thought I knew a lot about nutrition before reading this book, but it blew my mind and I learned a lot. The most mind blowing thing I learned was that the foods of cultures untouched are more healthful and people in those cultures have better health. Every time those cultures join the practices of the modern world, they get sicker with our big diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. This is amazing, but more amazing is that Dr. Weston Price wrote a ground-breaking book about this in the 1930s. We have know about this for a century and things have just gotten worse.

Another great thing I learned was about the importance of meat and the right meat. It is difficult to maintain optimal health with a solely vegetarian diet so animal products are important. I shudder at the treatment of the animals that we eat in the West and I tended to avoid meat for that reason. From this book, I learned that animals who live a happier life are also much better for us to eat! An example is the benefits of eating a chicken that spent its life free-range, eating bugs. The meat is much better for us and the chicken has a much better life! This makes it worth the expense and inconvenience to buy humanely, properly raised meat.

I also learned the truth about ‘fad nutrition.’ I and most of us are overwhelmed with the amount of contradictory food advice out there. In my life, we have been through low-fat and Atkins and a mind-boggling array of recommendations and miracle diets. This book is not about the latest food craze. This is the healthy way for humans to eat and it’s been true since the 1930s, and the 0030s!

You can’t help noticing that a lot of people in the United States are quite ill. We all have loved ones with cancer and heart disease. There is more and more research into nutrition and more and more concern about nutrition and yet we keep getting sicker. Why? This book explained it perfectly.

My favorite thing about this book is that it starts with wonderfully researched explanations. After reading the information and having my mind expanded, I thought, ‘great, but I don’t know what to eat.’ To my delight, the rest of the book is recipes! You can follow the recipes to learn how to live with optimal health through the wisdom of our ancestors.

Nourishing Traditions - The Cookbook the Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats - Sally Fallon