Trying to give up certain foods may seem impossible, because your cravings for them are so intense. But is this merely an emotional addiction...or is there an actual physiological component to it?
If you are a coffee drinker, and try to give it up for a period, you might notice you experience headaches, agitation, and even shakiness. This tells you that you have a physiological dependence or addiction to that black heavenly brew. The same goes for sugar. Trying to break the sugar craving can be as difficult as stopping smoking. This however, is due to a different mechanism. Coffee contains caffeine - a chemical stimulant that can cause a physiological dependence. Sugar, however, creates a metabolic reaction, causing the pancreas to secrete insulin to get the sugar into your body's cells, but at the same time, triggers the pleasure center in your brain - which is very similar to other types of addictions.
But there are two other common foods that most people are completely unaware of the physiological effect on their brain and body: Dairy and Gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and kamut. Dairy contains two proteins: whey and casein. Casein - in dairy, and gluten - in grains, can both cross the blood-brain barrier. Once they do, they are termed "caseinomorphine and gluteomorphine".
The reason these proteins have the "morphine" attached to their names is due to the physiological effect that it has on the brain. It stimulates the "morphine" receptors and can have the same addictive response as heroine or other narcotics. In other words, coming off of these addictive foods can not only stimulate severe cravings for them, but cause physiological reactions such as headaches, nausea, insomnia, irritability, and other symptoms.
There are lab tests that can be performed to determine if these proteins are crossing your blood-brain barrier, stimulating this type of response. But just as important, these tests can detect if your body is having a response from them, causing damage (or increased anti-bodies) to other tissues. You see, it's not the addictive nature of these proteins that are so detrimental to your health, but the immune response that it has against your own tissues. For example, Crohn's or Celiac disease is an auto-immune response to the gastrointestinal tract. But any tissue in your body can be erroneously targeted as the "enemy" by your immune system: The thyroid, pancreas, skin, lungs, bone, stomach, intestines, etc.
Most people aren't willing to put in the effort to get these foods out of their diet until they experience pain, disability, or life-threatening disease. But with the incidence of auto-immune disease on the rise, why wait to experience full blown symptoms and disease when you can detect and prevent it today?
Don't wait to see a functional medicine practitioner if you have this concern!
Wishing you Abundant Health,
Dr. John Filippini
I get asked quite frequently by my injured, overweight or elder patients "What kind of exercise can I do to build up strength without hurting myself?" As I've grown older myself, I've had to modify my own exercise routine (which used to consist of weight training 2-3 times per week), and I think you are going to be thrilled with what I've discovered:
Isometrics! Now before you tune me out and write this off as "too simplistic", please hear me out. This 5 minute work out is not intended to bulk you up, but merely strengthen and tone your muscles. Yes, it will build a little muscle, and if you do longer sessions, isolating each muscle group, you can actually add muscle mass!
One of my colleagues used isometrics to put on 10 pounds of muscle mass in only 8 - 10 weeks. But he was doing about 15 minutes per day (the animal!), but he broke it up throughout the day to focus on different muscle groups. You can do these almost anywhere, whether it's at home, at work, the bathroom...anywhere you can take a 5 minute break.
How I do it: I stand in front of a mirror so I can see which muscles I'm trying to isolate (which is ALL of them), and starting out at about 75% maximum, I gradually build up to 100% contraction. I hold my arms out to the side, contracting the chest, abs, lats and back muscles, as well as my thigh and glut muscles. I squeeze as hard as I can for 30 seconds, and take a 30 second break in between while I brush each quadrant of my teeth while I'm getting ready for work. This allows me to do 5 sets of contractions, and by the time I'm done, I'm breathing hard and fully awake for the day.
When I'm fully contracting, my body shakes, but I don't hurt anywhere while I'm doing it. You WILL feel muscle soreness the next day, however, if you're doing them correctly. But since giving up weight training, I haven't injured myself anymore, my muscles are tone, and with proper diet and a simple walking program, it's easy to shed pounds and easily maintain a healthy weight.
You can focus on you thigh and ab muscles even sitting down...or while you're sitting in traffic. If you want to get really aggressive, you can push against walls, hold a squatting position, or isolate any muscle you want to tone up. Just be careful when you're pushing against immovable objects, because you can overdo it and hurt yourself. When you just resist against you own body's antagonistic muscles to balance the contraction, it's very difficult to hurt yourself.
Try it! What do you have to lose, other than a few inches, a sagging body and poor self-esteem? And who can't fit in just 5 minutes a day? NO MORE EXCUSES!!!
Chronic headaches, sinus infections and allergies are usually traced to the gut. When the gut becomes inflamed, due to exposure to certain foods, bacteria or other toxins, it releases cytokine messengers to alert the rest of the immune system that it's under attack. These other tissues can then respond with inflammation and symptoms that you would never guess originated in the gut. Treat the gut...heal the brain (along with many other tissues and organs).
As a functional medicine practitioner, one of the most common deficiencies I find in my patient's lab work is low vitamin D - 25(OH). And what's frustrating is the fact that many of these patients have been told by their M.D.'s that they are within normal range...even when they're in the low 30's and 40's.
Even though these numbers may fall within the "normal" range, as we increase these levels, I've seen remarkable changes in my patient's health. What should vitamin D levels be at? I like to get my patients as close to 100 as possible, and some practitioners will shoot for even higher levels - closer to 150!
Why is vitamin D so important?
Insufficient vitamin D levels can cause:
It's amazing how this one vitamin deficiency can be the underlying culprit of so many symptoms and disease processes. But just as amazing is how easily these problems can be resolved - or better yet, avoided, simply by supplementing your diet with sufficient vitamin D intake.
How much vitamin D should a person take?
We are actually supposed to produce our own vitamin D when we're exposed to sunlight. But even here, in sunny California, it doesn't seem to be enough. I don't know if it's attributed to our poor Standard American Diet, or possibly all the toxins we're exposed to, somehow effecting our vitamin D synthesis. (The average adult has been documented to have over 700 toxins in their system...many of which are carcinogenic.) But I've only found 2 patients over the past 10 years of lab testing that had healthy levels of serum vitamin D...and they were already supplementing with high doses.
Foods that are rich in vitamin D
D3 (from sun exposure and meat products) is substantially more effective than D2 (found in plants) in raising your vitamin D levels. Wild salmon, herring, sardines, cod, trout, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, milk and cheese (which I highly recommend organic, if you must drink milk), soy milk (which I discourage my patients from, as soy is an endocrine disruptor, and can cause hormonal problems), almond milk, liver, ham, and other "fortified" foods (orange juice, dairy, cereal, etc.), pork chops, beef and chicken all contain higher levels of vitamin D. But even if you are eating these foods regularly, I would challenge you to have your serum vitamin D levels checked...especially if you are experiencing any of the symptoms or health disorders described above.
Foods that are "fortified" are usually processed or pasteurized, which destroys their natural vitamin content. So to be considered healthy and nutritious, large food corporations add synthetic vitamins to make it sound healthier. Synthetic vitamins are not recognized by the body the same as natural occurring vitamins...but that's for another time.
If you are supplementing your diet with vitamin D, I typically start my patients on 10,000 iu/day (as well as taking that much, myself). If you are "lab low" in vitamin D (below 35), have your doctor monitor your lab work every 3 months until you get up as close to 100 as possible. If you go above 100, you can back off to 5,000 iu/day. Yes - your M.D. will freak out if he/she sees your vitamin D above 80 - but that's OK. It's YOUR health - not theirs. And unless your MD has had post-graduate training in nutrition, they will likely know nothing about nutrition (other than what the drug and pharmaceutical companies teach them). Too high vitamin D levels are rare, and usually require long-term VERY high doses of supplementation. You won't get too much vitamin D from simply eating vitamin D rich foods.
Symptoms of too high vitamin D levels (typically not found in levels below 300) include: Nausea, vomiting, fatigue, forgetfulness, and slurred speech, among others. But again, you would have to be on very high doses of supplementation for a long time. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and it can therefore build up in your system. But compared to the risks of low vitamin D, getting too much should not even be a concern.
Wishing you Abundant Health,
John Filippini, D.C.