Got an issue with gluten? You’re not alone.
It’s estimated that up to 6 percent of the population suffers from some sort of gluten sensitivity, according to studies published in the journal Clinical Nutrition (1). Gluten is a protein found in some grains, including wheat, barley and rye.
On one end of the spectrum are people with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which eating gluten wreaks havoc on the body. It can cause everything from intestinal damage to anemia and osteoporosis (2).
Celiac disease should not be confused with a wheat allergy, or an extreme reaction to foods containing wheat (3). In some cases, a wheat allergy can lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing.
On the other side of the equation are those who experience non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If you’re in this camp, your doctor may have ruled out celiac disease and a wheat allergy, but you still deal with uncomfortable digestive issues after eating gluten.
Think you may need to go gluten-free? Let’s take a closer look at what gluten is and the common signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance.
What Is Gluten Intolerance?
If you’re gluten intolerant, your body reacts to the proteins found in gluten-containing foods in a way that can cause stomach, skin and other issues.
It’s not quite the same reaction as someone who has celiac disease or a wheat allergy, says Neal Malik, a registered dietitian nutritionist and the chair of the Department of Nutrition and Basic Sciences at Bastyr University.
Folks with those conditions experience a scary-sounding “systemic immune response” when they eat gluten, he says. “The body overreacts to something it has been exposed to and begins attacking itself,” he says. “In the case of celiac disease, the body’s immune system begins attacking healthy cells in the small intestine, causing damage to those cells. With a wheat allergy, there may be no damage to the small intestine, but instead a more generalized, whole-body response.”
People with gluten intolerance don’t have quite as extreme a reaction, he says.
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
While most of the population feels fine after feasting on bagels, pizza and other gluten-rich foods, people who are gluten intolerant may experience a range of not-so-fun symptoms, including:
- Abdominal pain
“To quote the Roman philosopher Lucretius, ‘what food is to one may be bitter poison to another,’” says Malik.
Then there’s what researchers call “systemic manifestations” like headaches, joint and muscle pain, leg or arm numbness, and chronic fatigue (1). There’s even a gluten-induced condition called “foggy mind.”
People with gluten intolerance may also experience skin symptoms like acne, rashes and hives. Mouth ulcers may also be a problem, says Malik. “There is also a condition known as dermatitis herpetiformis that can occur,” he says. “Symptoms include the formation of watery blisters and pimples on the skin.”
If you’re gluten intolerant, you may experience discomfort anywhere from several hours to several days after consuming a food containing the offending protein. “This makes it all the more challenging for individuals and health professionals to discover the underlying cause of their symptoms,” says Malik.
How Is Gluten Intolerance Diagnosed?
If you want to find out whether gluten is causing your stomach pain or foggy mind, you need to cut it out of your diet.
Most physicians will recommend what’s called an “elimination diet,” says Kristin Koskinen, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner at Eat Well, Live Well in Washington State. This involves banishing all foods containing wheat, barley and rye, as well as any oats that aren’t clearly certified as gluten-free, from your plate.
This may sound easy. All you have to do is stop eating bread, pasta, pizza and cereal, right? Yes, but you also have to be careful about not-so-obvious offenders. Foods like soy sauce, gravies and processed lunch meats may contain gluten. There are also salad dressings, meat alternatives and soups that contain surprise gluten.
You also have to watch out for non-food offenders. Some medications and supplements use gluten as a “glue” or binding agent, says Malik. “Many times, individuals will believe they have eliminated the trigger food from their diets, but not realize that they were consuming the offending food unintentionally,” he says. “Gluten is a perfect example of this since it is found in small amounts in so many foods.”
That’s why it’s important to have a physician, gastroenterologist or other health care professional oversee your elimination diet. Their job is to make sure you cut out enough, without cutting out too much. “If not planned properly, an elimination can lead to nutrient deficiencies,” says Malik.
Your doctor may also recommend testing for celiac disease or wheat allergies. Depending on the results, you may also need to undergo an intestinal biopsy. This is considered to be the most reliable and valid method for diagnosing celiac disease, says Malik.
If your physician does suspect you have an allergy or intolerance, then a gluten-free diet may relieve many of your symptoms, says Malik. There are also lifestyle changes you can make to help your gut. “Stress, anxiety, negative thoughts, depression, and physical inactivity may also lead to abnormalities in the gut,” he says.
While the symptoms of gluten intolerance are all over the place, fortunately, there’s an easy fix. “When we get rid of the gluten, the symptoms resolve,” says Koskinen.
Celiac disease, wheat allergies and the prevalence of gluten sensitivities are just a few reasons why people are incorporating gluten-free diets into their lives. In today’s society, there is a great deal of buzz surrounding the word gluten, but a lot of people don’t truly understand or know what gluten is.
Gluten is the name for the main proteins found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. For individuals who have a wheat allergy or celiac disease, the body’s immune system has a negative reaction to these proteins, which can cause damage to the intestinal lining and make it difficult to absorb nutrients. By adapting a diet free of gluten, the body can work more efficiently, resulting in less discomfort for the individual.
Whether you’re switching to a gluten-free diet by choice or because of a health concern, here are some tips to consider to ease the transition.
What Is a Gluten-Free Diet?
Gluten can be found in a number of grains, including wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt and more. Gluten is what gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape. It is also what gives products with these grains a chewy texture.
In a small part of the population, consumption of gluten can trigger reactions as a result of celiac disease, gluten sensitivities and gluten ataxia, which can impact a person’s nervous system. People with these issues can have a variety of negative reactions as a result of consuming foods that contain gluten.
Celiac disease is a rare autoimmune condition in which the immune system negatively responds to the proteins found in gluten-containing foods. It is a genetic condition in which the ingestion of gluten can damage the lining of the small intestine over time, leading to nutrient malabsorption. People with celiac disease should avoid gluten completely. It is estimated that one percent of the population worldwide suffers from celiac disease.
For people with gluten intolerance, the body has a negative response to gluten as a result of a lack of enzymes, not as an immune system response. Symptoms of gluten intolerance include gastrointestinal issues such as pain, bloating and diarrhea. These issues can be avoided by supplementing the diet with digestive enzymes or reducing the amount of gluten in the diet to below intolerance levels. Because it can be difficult to diagnose and because of the confusion between celiac disease, gluten intolerance and general wheat allergies, it is unknown how many people are affected by gluten intolerances.
Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet
People who have celiac disease will notice an immediate improvement in symptoms once they begin avoiding gluten. Additional benefits of a gluten-free diet can include promoting immune and digestive health, enhancing energy levels and supporting normal cholesterol. There is also an added benefit of eliminating certain unhealthy foods from the diet, including fried foods and some desserts. People who eliminate gluten from their diet may be more likely to eat more whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, and should avoid eating too many processed gluten-free products.
What Foods Are Included in a Gluten-Free Diet Plan?
In general, a gluten-free diet should consist of lean meats, fish, eggs, plain dairy products (such as milk, yogurt and cheese with no additional flavorings), vegetables, fruits and gluten-free grains. Nuts and seeds can also be consumed on a gluten-free diet, as can starches and flours that come from potatoes, corn, chickpea, soy, almost meal and coconut flour. Spreads, vegetable oils, herbs, spices and most beverages are safe to consume if they are labeled gluten free.
Gluten-free foods must be labeled in a variety of ways: gluten free, free of gluten, no gluten and without gluten. The FDA now enforces the labeling of these four variations, which means there must be an unavoidable presence of gluten that is below 20ppm.
Below is a list of ingredients to avoid on a gluten-free diet, as well as some hidden sources of gluten:
|What To Look Out For On The Ingredient Label
Other Hidden Sources Of Gluten
||Binders and Fillers
||Salad Dressings, Sauces
||Soup, Chili Bases
||Processed Deli Meats
||Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
|Oats (although these are naturally gluten free, they are often processed in facilities with gluten containing grains and may become cross-contaminated)
Fortunately, there are many grain options available for people who are trying to avoid gluten. Here are some suitable alternatives:
- Amaranth –This grain is similar to oats and has a rich, nutty flavor profile that is high in protein, fiber, minerals and B vitamins. This grain can be a great thickener for sauces, soups, stews and even jellies.
- Quinoa – Quinoa contains some of the highest quality protein compared to any other grain or cereal because it has all nine essential amino acids. It is also packed with fiber, iron, magnesium folate and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Quinoa can be used as a thickener for soups, chili and stews. It can also be a great side dish to any main course.
- Chia – Chia seeds come in black or white, both of which are a great source of protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. They also have a high concentration of plant-based omega 3-fatty acids. You can sprinkle the seeds on gluten free cereals, yogurt or salads, and they can also be added to smoothies and used for puddings.
- Sorghum – Sorghum is a tall-growing cereal grain that is high in protein, phosphorus, potassium fiber, niacin, iron and B6. It is commonly used for the production of sorghum molasses, syrup and in the production of alcoholic beverages, but can also be used in cereals, granola bars, snack foods and baked products.
- Millet – Millet is an ancient grain that is a good source of protein, fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. Millet has a mild, sweet flavor and quick cooking time. It can be served alone or turned into a flour to be used for baking.
- Buckwheat – Although commonly included in the lists of grain, buckwheat is not a grain. It is actually a seed rich in trace minerals like manganese, magnesium and copper. It is also a good source of vitamins, fiber as well as quercetin and other bioflavonoids. Buckwheat is great when seasoned and served as a side dish but also is great when added as a thickener to stews or soups.
Gluten-Free Bread Recipe: Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
Recipe courtesy of Kate Carey
If you and your family are considering a gluten-free diet, there are plenty of ways to keep your gut (and your taste buds) happy. Here’s a delicious gluten-free chocolate chip zucchini bread recipe you can try at home:
- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup organic sugar
- 1/4 cup melted dairy-free butter
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 1/2 cups finely shredded/unpeeled zucchini
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter.
- Combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Lightly beat egg in a large bowl. Mix in sugar, melted butter, applesauce, zucchini, and lemon zest. Gently stir in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into greased loaf pan.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When it’s ready, let cool and enjoy!
Pro tip: Keep an eye on your bread to avoid overbaking!
Foods to Avoid on a Gluten-Free Diet
A number of foods, including bread, pasta, cereal, baked goods, beer and certain sauces, contain gluten and should be avoided if possible. Anything that is wheat based or uses gluten in the processing of the food should also be avoided—this may include roasted nuts, popcorn, pretzels, couscous, soy sauce certain marinades and salad dressings. Gluten may also be found in a number of cosmetics, personal care products, vitamins and some pharmaceutical medications.
Reading all product and food labels will be essential to determine what you can and cannot eat on a gluten-free diet. Additionally, you will want to seek out gluten-free menu items at restaurants. People with a true gluten allergy should also make sure establishments do not use the same equipment to cook dishes with gluten as they do gluten-free items.
When possible, it’s best not to overindulge in processed gluten-free cookies, breads and other products due to their high sugar content and processed carbohydrates. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that the grains you do eat include plenty of B vitamins and minerals, as some gluten-free foods can be deficient in these.
Dangers of a Gluten-Free Diet
In general, gluten-free diets should be used for those with gluten allergies or intolerances. If you don’t have an allergy or intolerance and still want to try going gluten-free, proceed with caution if you have any other dietary restrictions such as veganism, other allergies or are on paleo or keto diets. Having a highly-restrictive diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies, and because whole wheat is a major source of dietary fiber, it’s important to replace it in your diet with high-fiber vegetables or supplements. In addition, removing grains from your diet completely can lead to deficiencies in B vitamins, iron and magnesium.
You’ll want to work closely with a medical care professional when considering making the change to a gluten-free diet. If you believe you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, you’ll also want to work with an allergist who can perform the appropriate tests and help design the right diet for your body. Make sure that your diet remains both balanced and nutritionally sound when taking on a gluten-free lifestyle.
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Did you know you probably have candida albicans—a type of fungus—living in your digestive tract right now? In fact, we all do. It’s one of the many members of our gut flora (the trillions of microscopic yeasts and bacteria living within our digestive system that keep us healthy).
However, when the fungus overproduces, it can cause candidiasis, an infection that can affect people of all ages. “The human body needs a little bit of yeast to function correctly. When those yeasts grow in excess, a variety of different symptoms can occur,” says Dr. Pamela Reilly, a naturopathic doctor who specializes in candida overgrowth.
Many factors can cause candida to multiply and spread out of control, including a high-carbohydrate eating style, excessive use of antibiotics, long-term use of prescription birth control or too much alcohol consumption.
If you are experiencing candida symptoms, you might consider trying the candida diet. We asked the experts about signs of candida overgrowth and how exactly the candida diet works.
Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
Symptoms of candida overgrowth may include:
- Recurring yeast infections or urinary tract infections
- Weight gain
- GI issues, including constipation or loose stools
- Sinus infections
- Skin and nail infections
- Joint pain
- Rashes and eczema
What Is the Candida Diet?
The candida diet (sometimes known as the anti-candida diet) is a way of eating that focuses on eliminating certain foods that cause the candida fungus to flourish. This diet helps reduce the candida overgrowth that can cause health issues and alleviate symptoms.
Before beginning the diet, it’s essential to have your GI system evaluated by a health care provider. Candida symptoms are similar to those from other forms of intestinal overgrowth like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or overgrowth from a parasite. A simple stool analysis can identify the correct GI condition.
To start the candida diet, you can merely eliminate certain foods from your diet that cause candida to grow and focus on eating healthy foods that don’t feed the fungus. Adding a probiotic to your diet is also important. It will help you crowd out the candida with healthy, natural gut flora.
“Targeting and killing candida may involve adding in certain pharmaceuticals that your doctor can prescribe or antimicrobial herbs and herbal byproducts like berberine, caprylic acid, grapefruit seed extract and oregano oil. Bentonite clay and activated charcoal can bind up the toxins released as candida is eliminated from the digestive tract,” explains Dr. Mark Iwanicki, a functional and integrative naturopathic doctor with a practice in Mill Valley, California, at The Clear Center of Health, a multidisciplinary, integrative medicine clinic.
Foods to Avoid on the Candida Diet
On the diet, it’s crucial to eliminate all high-sugar, high-carb foods that feed the candida. “By eliminating sugar-rich foods (the food source for candida), you are starving the yeast at its root and causing it to die off,” says Iwanicki.
The list of foods to remove from your diet includes:
- Dairy products
- Fruit juice
- High-sugar fruits (such as banana, melon, pineapple and pears)
- Peanuts (which may contain mold that can exacerbate candida)
- Processed snacks and sweets
- Starchy vegetables (like carrots, potatoes and corn)
- Vinegar (except for apple cider vinegar)
Candida Diet Foods List
The best foods to focus on when following a healthy candida eating style are those that are low in sugar. Meals and snacks should include meat, veggies, nuts, and seeds.
On the candida diet, you can enjoy all of these foods:
- High-protein meat (including chicken, salmon, turkey and beef)
- Non-sugary fruit (like avocado, tomatoes, olives and lemons)
- Non-starchy vegetables (such as zucchini, broccoli, celery, kale, spinach and cucumber)
- Nuts, seeds, and nut butter (except for peanuts)
- Gluten-free grains (including quinoa, buckwheat, millet and teff)
Candida Diet Meals and Snacks
Healthy candida diet meals and snacks include:
- Vegetable patès
- Soups (without pasta)
- Raw veggies dipped in guacamole
- Sliced meats
- Nut butters spread on dehydrated veggie crackers
Candida Diet Recipes
Try these delicious candida-friendly recipes from Dr. Pamela Reilly to add to your diet.
Marinara Over Veggie Noodles
This dish makes an excellent cold entree in the summer or you can heat it up in the winter.
- 1 pound organic tomatoes (or 2 cans organic diced tomatoes)
- 2 cloves garlic (a natural candida suppressant)
- 1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
- ½ diced organic onion
Blend lightly in a food processor or blender. Serve over spiral zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 organic cucumber
- 1 handful organic spinach
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup organic coconut water
- Pure stevia extract
Blend all ingredients and serve over ice.
How to Know If the Candida Diet Is Working
After implementing the candida diet, most people usually experience relief from symptoms within two to three weeks. “You should see a reduction in symptoms, such as gas and bloating, runny stools, headache, fatigue, weight loss and even a clearing of skin. If the underlying cause of your symptoms is candida overgrowth, then the candida diet should have a near 100 percent success rate,” says Iwanicki.
Over time, you can slowly reintroduce the foods you eliminated back into your diet. Start with low-glycemic foods first, like sprouted-grain bread, and from there add foods with a higher sugar content back into your meals a little at a time. “However, every person is different, and the reintroduction of foods is more of an art than a strict protocol. Find a good health care practitioner skilled in nutrition and knowledgeable about candida overgrowth to work with on reintroducing foods back into the diet,” says Iwanicki.
You also may need to limit certain foods indefinitely. “Many people will need to be careful with baked goods and sugary foods on a long-term basis and enjoy them as occasional treats,” says Reilly. If you have candida, you can take comfort in the fact that once the candida is under control, you will be able to eat a wide variety of foods again.
This post was provided by our friends at ATP Science.
Your body can’t afford to wait and see what your stress is before it reacts. Just in case that pain you are feeling is a shark attack that has left a big hole or a snake bite with venom, and not just a sore back from sitting at your desk or standing at the sink for too long.
And then the phone rings. You answer, deal with it and hang up. Someone walks in with a new perfume that makes your nose tickle and makes you sneeze. Then you realize you didn’t get a chance to eat, let alone prepare a meal, so you grab something convenient full of a chemical cocktail of colors and preservatives and sweeteners…
All of these scenarios will trigger a stress response. This stress response gives you everything you need to fight a shark, prevent bleeding and purge venom. After that stress response is activated, it will send signals to the brain to say, “we survived, and now you can switch it all off.”
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is often referred to as our “stress hormone,” as it is released from our adrenal glands in response to stress. Cortisol in the short term will help to keep sugar in your blood to fuel your escape plan, increase blood pressure, and switch off sleep and contentment chemicals to help us escape. Then the brain picks up on the fact that cortisol has been released and says “stop.”
Cortisol also switches off inflammation and immune activity to protect you from your own defense mechanisms. So, cortisol is also our essential “anti-stress” hormone.
Balancing Cortisol Levels
But what if cortisol is telling us to stop when we experience another stressor? What if you wake up in a pit of snakes, have a stress response, get out of there and end up in a pit of spiders with cortisol running around your brain saying, “Stop, relax, it’s OK.” You ignore cortisol and go again anyway. You become resistant to cortisol as an anti-stress hormone.
This can result in phases of hyper-reactivity with over-secretion and over-exposure to cortisol long term. In this instance, cortisol stops working as on/off switch and you struggle to let go and calm down even after the stress has passed. At the same time, your body is changing because of the cortisol. You can develop insulin resistance, keeping sugar in the blood, you can break down the muscles in your arms and legs to make more sugar, and you can preserve fat and fluid around your organs in case of immobilizing injury. The constant preparing for injury results in high blood pressure and holding on to salt and fluid retention. Your immune system can be suppressed.
You can’t do this forever, so your adrenal gland will often go into a phase of conservation, where it holds on to its cortisol and stops giving it out. This is when we experience excessive fatigue and pain and feel wired and tired. We have so much fatigue but can’t get a good night’s sleep.
Most people are stuck hovering between overactive and underactive. There is no middle ground. This is why adaptogens are so good. It is too hard to treat with uppers and downers—you’d be changing plans every day. Adaptogens help to bring back that middle ground and prevent the extremes.
What Are Adaptogens?
The simplified definition of an adaptogen is something that brings you back to balance, regardless of the direction of change. Meaning that when you are up and stressed, they can help calm you down, but when you are down and flat, they can pump you up.
Adaptogens don’t simply work as uppers or downers. They’re not happy pills or sedatives. They work by reducing the number of stress triggers you get from within your body to reduce overreacting to stress as it piles up. This also prevents exhaustion of your stress response.
4 Adaptogens That Can Help Reduce Stress
Imagine stress as an overflowing cup. You can’t stop how much the outside world tries to put in your cup. But with adaptogenic herbs, you can build a bigger cup with ashwagandha to hold more, you can remove the added burden from within your own body with turmeric and schisandra, and you can work to put a cap on it and stop it from overflowing with rhodiola.
Turmeric is an adaptogen with very mild effects on brain chemistry to alter mood up or down. Its main actions are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, supporting the immune system and reducing pain, inflammation and immune over-reactivity. This leaves more resources to deal with stress from outside your body.
Schisandra is an adaptogen with mild brain effects. Its main actions revolve around the liver and lungs, protecting us from toxic exposure and regulating acid (alkaline balance via our cells, liver and lungs).
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen with mild effects on your stress response. Its main target is supporting the other parts of the body that are switched off with stress, such as the systems that control sex hormones and thyroid hormones and support and build up our rest, digest and recovery. It works to support our recovery to prevent exhaustion from being stuck in survival mode.
Rhodiola is an adaptogen with a state-dependent effect on mood. When up and nervy before an event, it can calm you down, but if you are feeling flat and no fire, it can pick you up.
Can Supplements Help Manage Stress?
There are so many stress triggers around us at all times in the modern age. When your body is stuck in survival mode, you have two options. You can use natural or pharmaceutical drugs to manage or sedate your response to stress by modifying your mood or reducing the number of triggers that get to your brain through sedation. Or, you can reduce the severity of the stress signals to the brain to take the burden off your body and allow it to reboot naturally and adapt to your stress.
ATP Science formulated a supplement called Cort Rx to help people deal with stress. The brain knows you are under stress because it picks up on your outside environment but also measures the chemicals released by your immune system, inflammatory pathways, and toxins from your gut and liver. The adaptogenic ingredients in Cort Rx—turmeric, ashwagandha, schisandra and rhodiola—help to normalize your stress reactions by removing the stress burden.
Stress also drives your body into exhaustion. It is essential to ensure adequate nutrition. Macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat and their energy yield) are necessary to regulate energy requirements—having too much or too little is a stress. But do not dismiss the micronutrient cofactors, especially the water-soluble B vitamins that need to be replenished daily, as they are not stored in reserves. You must load up. The more you are doing, thinking and stressing, the more nutrients you are churning through. Nature knows best, so look for a food-based supplement that has been tested to show the nutrients are there in all of their naturally activated forms.
We may not be able to control our outside environment and predict when stress is going to come at us. But if we work on helping our body manage our internal inflammation, oxidative stress, and liver, gut and immune triggers, we can handle life’s challenges better.
An estimated 10 to 15 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), according to the American College of Gastroenterology (1). That equates to between 25 million and 45 million people. And if you’re one of them, you know just how painful and uncomfortable the chronic symptoms can be.
People with IBS suffer from abdominal cramping, diarrhea, bloating, constipation and urgent bowel movements. And while IBS is considered a functional gastrointestinal disease (in the sense that it’s not life-threatening), it remains important for people suffering from IBS to find relief for the triggers and symptoms.
One way of potentially alleviating IBS symptoms is to consider a low-FODMAP diet. “Studies have now been conducted worldwide showing that a low-FODMAP diet is effective in managing IBS symptoms,” says Dr. Marina Iacovou, senior research dietitian and project manager at Monash University in Melbourne Australia—a leading research university for FODMAP studies. “The diet has been shown to be effective in 3 out of 4 people, or approximately 75 percent.”
So is a low-FODMAP diet something that you should try? It gets a bit complicated, so let’s break it down.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are a group of fermentable short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are indigestible or poorly absorbed by some people.
“As FODMAPs travel through the gastrointestinal tract, they draw excess fluid into the small intestine and generate gas when they are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine,” says Dédé Wilson, co-founder of FODMAP Everyday and author of The Low-FODMAP Diet Step by Step. “This fluid and gas build-up can lead to symptoms of IBS, such as abdominal bloating and distension, pain, flatulence and nausea, as well as diarrhea and constipation.”
Understanding the Different Types of FODMAPs
A key part of being on a low-FODMAP diet is understanding the types of FODMAPs and what foods they are commonly found in.
This term encompasses fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides, says Wilson. Common foods that are high in these FODMAPs include wheat, onions, garlic, beans and cashews.
Wilson explains that when it comes to FODMAPS, disaccharides usually refer to the lactose found in dairy products, such as milk, ice cream, custard, puddings and certain types of cheese. Lactose intolerance is not uncommon. According to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, it’s estimated that nearly 30 million to 50 million American adults have sensitivities to lactose.
“This references the simple sugar called fructose,” says Wilson. “Fructose is a problem when it is present in greater amounts than glucose in foods.” Some examples of foods containing monosaccharides include apples, mangoes, pears, asparagus, agave and honey.
Polyols are commonly known as “sugar alcohols,” but these compounds are neither sugar nor alcohol. “They do taste sweet, but they won’t get you drunk,” says Wilson.
Polyols such as sorbitol and mannitol occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including apples, blackberries and peaches. But Wilson says commercially manufactured polyols such as xylitol, maltitol and isomalt are also found in sugar-free gum, candy and other processed foods, as well as some dietary supplements and medications.
Stages of a Low-FODMAP Diet
There are multiple stages of a low-FODMAP diet. The first two phases refer to an elimination phase and what’s called the “challenge” or reintroduction stage. These stages take place before settling on a long-term dietary plan.
“The elimination phase is a brief two- to six-week phase where FODMAPs are eliminated from the diet to calm the digestive system,” says Wilson. “Its brevity is important because this phase eliminates certain sources of fiber and prebiotics, and following any very restrictive diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies.”
Because of this, Wilson explains that it’s very important to work under the supervision and guidance of a registered dietician or gastroenterologist before starting on a low-FODMAP diet.
Iacovou agrees. “It is very important for people to reach a state where their symptoms are well-controlled and not troublesome,” she says. “It is equally as important that they eventually identify which foods are key triggers for their symptoms.”
Once the elimination phase is complete, individuals can start to reintroduce FODMAP foods back into their diets. The “challenge” or “reintroduction” phase may take several months and is meant to identify the specific types of FODMAPs and foods that trigger IBS symptoms. “Eventually foods can be reintroduced into the diet at a dose that is well-tolerated,” says Iacovou. “Every individual will be different, as symptoms and tolerance levels vary between people.”
Following the elimination and reintroduction phases, it’s important to work with a registered dietician or gastroenterologist to figure out how a lower-FODMAP diet can work long term. “The goal is to always eat as broadly as possible without triggering symptoms, and this can mean constant vigilance,” says Wilson.
Foods to Avoid on a Low-FODMAP Diet
During all stages of a low-FODMAP diet, no entire food group is off limits. While not a complete and comprehensive list, Wilson and Iacovou say that the following are common high-FODMAP foods that should be avoided during the elimination phase and may be troublesome for people with IBS:
But it’s important to keep in mind that the amount of FODMAPS in certain foods are related to portion size. “The same food can become high-FODMAP if too much is eaten,” says Wilson. “Almonds are a perfect example. Ten whole almonds are fine, but 20 are not.”
Working with a registered dietician or your gastroenterologist is imperative to incorporating the right recipes and portion sizes that work for you.
The list of low-FODMAP foods is extensive, and individuals on this diet have plenty of options. “People can still eat a complete, nutritionally-balanced diet that is based on their habitual diet,” says Iacovou.
But according to Wilson, some of the most common no- or low-FODMAP foods include:
- Firm Tofu
- White Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- White Potatoes
Low-FODMAP Diet: Risks and Things to Consider
One of the biggest risk factors of a low-FODMAP diet, says Wilson, is when people self-diagnose and attempt to embark on this type of eating without working with a medical professional. “Risks come in applying the diet incorrectly,” she says. “This can happen if you use disreputable or incorrect sources. People download apps because they are free, make recipes because they are called low-FODMAP, and believe what they read on blogs. Unfortunately, there are many sources presenting information that is not accurate.”
Iacovou also says that the elimination phase of the low-FODMAP diet should not be followed long-term. “Eventually people will reach a point where their diet is personalized to a tolerance level that controls their symptoms,” she explains. In addition to potentially altering gut bacteria composition, she says, unnecessary long-term restriction can compromise social activities and initiate food fears. Because of this, the low-FODMAP diet is not recommended for individuals at risk of or who have eating disorders.
Because of its complexity, the low-FODMAP diet isn’t meant to be the next diet trend. “It is not the next ‘fad’ diet or for anyone seeking the next best ‘healthy’ diet,” says Iacovou. “The low-FODMAP diet is a way of eating for people diagnosed with IBS to reduce their symptoms that would otherwise be problematic on a daily basis.”
In fact, says Wilson, people shouldn’t start on a low-FODMAP diet until they have a formal IBS diagnosis from a gastroenterologist and the diet is explicitly suggested by a doctor.
If a low-FODMAP diet is recommended, individuals should keep track of their symptoms and how they feel during each stage of the diet. Wilson says that personal feedback is imperative to success. “This is a learning diet and while it is always best to work with a registered dietitian, ultimately you are going to be able to give yourself the best and most specific feedback,” she says. “You are in charge, and after years of feeling like food has been charge, it’s an incredibly empowering position to be in.”
In most areas of my life, I try to be conscious about what I put in and on my body. I buy organic groceries when possible, seek out natural beauty products, and use environmentally friendly cleaners around the house. One glaring exception to my green routine? Antiperspirant. Like paying taxes or pretending to care about other people’s vacation photos, I consider smelling good to be part of the social contract.
Like most conventional antiperspirants, my trusty brand—which has been keeping my pits spelling like a tropical smoothie for 10-plus years, thank you very much—uses a questionable cocktail of chemicals to block sweat ducts and kill bacteria. Although the research isn’t conclusive, ingredients including parabens and aluminum have been linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s, and some question the wisdom of trapping toxins beneath the skin’s surface. As for me, I’m wary—but the last time I tried a natural deodorant, the options were limited and, quite literally, stunk.
These days, however, natural deodorants are more refined, and there are a ton of formulas to choose from depending on your body’s unique chemistry. With this in mind, I reluctantly agreed to hand over my go-to antiperspirant stick for two weeks and try out three natural deodorant alternatives.
Making the Switch to Natural Deodorant
First up was Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant Sensitive Skin Formula in Coconut Pineapple. As much as I loved the idea of replacing aluminum and artificial fragrances with Schmidt’s plant-based powders and essential oils, I was skeptical—my life, after all, is pretty active. Most days, my morning begins around 6 a.m., when my 11-month-old daughter shoots up out of her crib like a cross between Dracula and the Energizer Bunny. Before noon, we’ll walk the dogs, cover every square inch of the playground, splash around in the pool, make a mess in the garden, and find a new way to avoid napping. The afternoon brings more of the same until my husband gets home from work, at which point I either go on a run or hit up a yoga class (full disclosure: sometimes “yoga” is a glass of wine in the shower). In short, my summer is a sweaty, messy, potentially smelly one.
To my surprise, Schmidt’s was up to the task. It glided on smelling absolutely heavenly, then kept my underarms neutral throughout the day. Like all natural alternatives, Schmidt’s is a deodorant, not an antiperspirant, so it doesn’t actually prevent perspiration—but that said, I wasn’t unreasonably sweaty. After using it for a week, there was only one occasion when I felt the need to reapply multiple times (and in all fairness, nothing in Philadelphia smelled particularly fresh that day—East Coast humidity is the real deal).
Feeling good about the experiment, I decided to try out two cream deodorants for the second week: Primal Pit Paste’s Level 2 formula (which promises to stand up to high-level stinkers such as crossfitters and teenagers) and PiperWai, a charcoal-based paste that my friends and coworkers have been raving about for years. Although not quite as convenient as Schmidt’s traditional stick, I didn’t mind rubbing in either of the creams—they went on smoothly and didn’t leave any sticky residue on my fingers. While I loved the strong tropical fragrance of Schmidt’s, the cleaner, less flowery scents of Primal Pit Paste and PiperWai were also refreshing.
Both Primal Pit Paste and PiperWai did the job reasonably well. However, by the end of a long, hot day, I noticed a smell unless I had reapplied. According to the very small group of people I’m comfortable asking to sniff me, I didn’t smell bad—the word “natural” was suggested—but I also didn’t smell like nothing, which is what I’m going for.
Am I ready to permanently break up with my conventional antiperspirant? Maybe not—on the hottest, stickiest, down-and-dirtiest days of the summer, I’ll probably still reach for it from time to time. But it’s great to have a few more options, and Schmidt’s has officially been promoted to my pit crew.
Americans are odor-obsessed. There’s no other way to explain the fact that the domestic deodorant and antiperspirant market is projected to hit nearly $3.5 billion in 2019 (1). For those in search of alternatives that are less irritating or potentially toxic, there is some good news: The natural deodorant market has grown steadily in recent years to reach $42 million in late 2017, according to research firm Mintel (2). Granted, sales are a mere fraction of the overall market, but the fact that major players like Procter & Gamble and Unilever have acquired natural brands (Native and Schmidt’s, respectively) suggests that the alternatives are gaining traction as more people become concerned about what’s going into their bodies—and on to their underarms.
Like any strong face wash or laundry detergent, traditional deodorants and antiperspirants use strong chemicals to get the job done. “Depending on a person’s skin sensitivity, sometimes these harsh chemicals can cause skin irritation,” says Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Tess Mauricio, CEO of MBeautyClinic.com.
An even greater concern is whether one of the main ingredients in your favorite antiperspirant could down the line negatively impact your breast or brain health. If you’re one to err on the side of caution, or if your pits react negatively to the ingredients in conventional antiperspirants and deodorants, a switch to natural varieties may be in order.
How Does Natural Deodorant Work?
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the sticks and sprays that banish odor and sweat, it’s important to define the difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant. “An antiperspirant literally stops the flow of sweat by blocking underarm pores, whereas deodorant, which kills bacteria on the skin, covers up any smells that come with sweat,” says Caitlin Hoff, health and safety investigator at ConsumerSafety.org. “Some brands will combine the two for maximum protection from sweat and odor.”
The problem with blocking the pores in your underarms, says Dr. Mauricio, “is that they are then blocked from performing their intended function—purging toxins and regulating temperature.” Natural deodorants cover smell from underarms with antimicrobial ingredients such as sage or other essential oils as well as powders like baking soda or arrowroot that absorb odor.
The first natural deodorants to market may not have been nearly as reliable as conventional brands. In fact, many provided little more than a momentary blip of scent. But over time, chemists have experimented with various natural ingredients, and Dr. Mauricio believes that natural deodorants have definitely improved as the natural beauty space has grown. Those white streaks natural deodorants used to leave on your T-shirt? That’s caused by baking soda, a common deodorizer. “But this ingredient isn’t as commonly used in natural deodorants today,” she says. A good thing, since, for some people with sensitive skin, baking soda is a known irritant.
Hoff believes a lot of the negative reviews of natural deodorants early on came from a lack of understanding of the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants. “Many people try natural alternatives and find the product lacking because the deodorant didn’t stop them from sweating or the antiperspirant didn’t cover up the odor well enough,” she says. Hoff suggests that you read labels and know exactly what your natural product claims to do.
Ingredients to Avoid in Conventional Deodorant
So, just what has a growing percentage of Americans up in arms about the antiperspirants and deodorants they trusted for years to fight both odor and wetness? In a word, aluminum. Conventional brands contain aluminum compounds for the purpose of blocking sweat ducts. “Aluminum is the most controversial ingredient when it comes to antiperspirants,” says Hoff. She cites claims that the metal contributes to the development of breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and kidney disease. However, she cautions, “there is little evidence proving a link between antiperspirant use and these diseases.” Nor has it been proven that, as was once rumored, cancer-causing substances in antiperspirants are absorbed through razor nicks from underarm shaving.
Backing up Hoff’s claims, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that “there are no strong epidemiologic studies in medical literature that link breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use.” In fact, the ACS website cites one study published in 2002 that compared 813 women with breast cancer and 793 women without the disease (3). The researchers found no link between breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use, deodorant use, or underarm shaving.
“Researchers have found that even after shaving, the body doesn’t absorb enough aluminum to do significant damage,” says Hoff. In fact, one study that looked at how much aluminum from antiperspirants containing aluminum chlorohydrate is actually absorbed when applied to the underarms (4). The researchers found that only a tiny fraction (0.012 percent) was actually absorbed.
The potential link between aluminum found in antiperspirants and Alzheimer’s first emerged during the 1960s and ’70s. Since then, however, studies have not confirmed the connection, and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.
That said, aluminum can cause skin irritation, “which is one reason that some people prefer to use aluminum-free traditional deodorants or natural deodorants,” says Hoff.
When it comes to skin irritation, another major culprit in traditional deodorant is the catch-all term “fragrance.” The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has confirmed that, more often than not, this term refers to not one, but multiple ingredients. Unfortunately, this blanket term found on a multitude of deodorants gives little information as to whether the ingredients are synthetic or natural, or if they could produce an allergic reaction. More often than not, it’s a cocktail of chemicals that comprises the scent.
A few known irritants found in some traditional deodorants include parabens, compounds used as preservatives that can mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen in the body’s cells; propylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze that allows the deodorant to glide smoothly over the skin’s surface; and triclosan, which was originally developed as a pesticide in the 1960s and has since made its way into cosmetics, deodorants, soaps, and lotions thanks to its ability to kill germs and odor-causing bacteria. In 2017, the FDA banned the use of triclosan in soaps and antibacterial washes due to concerns over long-term health effects. However, triclosan is still allowed in deodorants.
If the thought of having suspect ingredients touching your skin is a turn-off, you should definitely consider switching to natural alternatives.
Types of Natural Deodorant
Natural deodorants come in many formulas, including sticks, creams, charcoal, sprays, and roll-ons. Here’s what you need to know about each:
Sticks. Many of the natural stick deodorants on the market use waxes like beeswax and cadelila so that they go on smoothly and leave skin moisturized. Depending on the brand, ingredients run the gamut from coconut oil, shea butter and fruit oils to peppermint, eucalyptus and kaolin clay (to absorb sweat and moisture). If you’re skin irritates easily, look for brands that make sensitive skin formulas.
Creams. Most are comprised of some combination of the following ingredients: coconut oil, shea butter, baking soda, clay, corn starch, and essential oils. They are very similar to a moisturizer with the addition of odor-zapping powders and antiseptic ingredients like coconut oil, neem oil, and essential oils. There’s far more flexibility as to what ingredients a cream can contain since it does not need to retain its shape like a stick. In addition, far more product makes contact with the skin (and stays there!) as it gets absorbed and creates an emollient layer, much like a body butter.
Charcoal. If odor’s your true nemesis, activated charcoal deodorant may become your new BFF, and it will keep you dry all day. Unlike other natural deodorants, activated charcoal is carbon-rich so it can extract oil and dirt from clogged pores. It can also absorb 1,000 times its own weight in moisture.
Sprays. One big benefit of dry sprays is that they don’t feel wet or sticky when you apply them. Plus, the natural sprays available today dry fast and don’t stain.
Roll-ons. These deodorants glide over skin, which is great if your pits are on the sensitive side. Another bonus: The Internet is filled with recipes for DIY natural roll-ons, which include ingredients such as baking soda, corn starch, essential oils and distilled water. So if you’re looking to save a pretty penny while still smelling fresh, this could be a good option.
Before you rush off to purchase (or produce) your own natural deodorant, Hoff offers a caveat: “As a consumer, you should scrutinize a natural deodorant just as much as a traditional one for the ingredients used rather than blindly following labels. Just because a product claims that it’s “natural” or “organic” doesn’t mean it is. Read up the ingredients and confirm that they are safe for you and your family.”
How to Transition from Conventional to Natural Deodorant
When switching over to a natural deodorant, it’s wise to allow for a transition period. “The period of transition from a traditional antiperspirant to a natural deodorant can be a smelly experience,” says Dr. Mauricio. “Thankfully, its short lived! Your underarm pores will unclog and detox themselves for three-ish weeks, releasing all the toxins you’ve trapped there since you started wearing antiperspirants.” However, she adds, as soon as your body adjusts, “you’ll experience minimal sweat and minimal smell (yes, even less than the days when you forgot to apply your antiperspirant).”
Patience is key here; you are going to sweat and smell more than usual for about two weeks. Still, it helps to remember that you are only resetting your bodies natural functions, so you’re really just getting things back to working the way that they’re meant to function.
If time is of the essence, you can jump start the transition process by exfoliating your armpits and using a clay mask. Exfoliation helps by opening your underarm pores so they can more quickly clear and the clay mask starts the detox/deodorization process by helping to remove some of the harmful toxins clogged in your underarm sweat glands.
If you can possibly help it, don’t default back to your antiperspirant just because things get uncomfortable. Like everything else in life, good things—and far better results—come to those who wait.
Detoxes aren’t limited to body cleanses…you can (and should!) detox your home of harmful chemicals.
There are synthetic chemicals in everything from cleaning products to personal care items, and those chemicals can affect everything from how well you breathe to the health of your pregnancy to your focus at work.
Common Household Toxins
There is substantial evidence linking toxic environmental chemicals to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficits, hyperactivity, intellectual disability and learning disorders, according to the collaborative organization Project TENDR (1). The group identifies these seven pollutants that affect children’s development (2):
- Organophosphate (OP) pesticides
- Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants
- Combustion-related air pollutants, which include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
If you have dust in your home—and if you don’t, seriously, what’s your secret?—chances are you’re being exposed to toxic chemicals. In a 2016 meta-analysis of the composite of dust in U.S. homes, researchers reported that “some phthalates, fragrance, flame retardants and phenols are consistently found in 90 percent or more of dust samples across multiple studies” (3).
As scary as all this sounds, we’ve got you covered!
“It’s pretty normal if this all starts to feel a little daunting when you first begin to look into it,” assures Katie Hussong, a registered nurse and holistic health and culinary nutrition coach in Baltimore. “The best approach, I think, is to focus on one thing at a time, to really take the time to understand it, and then to create a healthy swap. Little by little, these small changes can have a huge impact, and it can be an incredibly empowering and enjoyable process.”
So how can we reduce our exposure to harmful chemicals? Here are some smart, simple ways to eliminate toxins at home.
How to Detox Your Home
Learn what you’re facing. “Most folks simply don’t realize how harmful so many products and practices can be,” Hussong says. “We shouldn’t have to think about the chlorine and fluoride in our water or how the germs on our shoes, the closed windows and excessive time spent indoors, or the harmful endocrine disruptors in our favorite skincare, haircare, deodorant, perfume, cookware, cleaners, candles and furniture are all negatively impacting our health.”
Scan your home and make note of potential toxins. You can check the ingredients in your personal care and cleaning products on websites like the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Figure out the biggest offenders in your home, then make a plan to address them one step at a time.
Tackle your personal products. Sunscreen, toothpaste, face wash, lotion—anything you put on or in your body should be detoxified first since it gets directly absorbed. This can seem like an expensive proposition, but focus on one swap at a time. As you use up one product, replace it with a toxin-free alternative. Try using the Think Dirty app to find cleaner options.
Swap out your cleaning arsenal. “Harmful, hormone-disrupting, toxic, synthetic fragrances and chemicals are everywhere, and most of them come from the personal and cleaning products we bring into our homes with the best of intentions,” Hussong says. Eliminate chemical products as you finish them up. Use the EWG list or make your own non-toxic cleaners. Use wet rags to collect dust instead of spraying an unnecessary, chemical-laden dusting product. Make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter.
Toss your dryer sheets. “In the laundry room, get rid of those dryer sheets (one of the most toxic items in our homes) today,” Hussong advises. As an alternative, she suggests purchasing (or making your own) organic wool dryer balls. “It’ll cost you less than $20, and they’ll last you years and years. You can also add essential oils to the balls for your own real fragrance, courtesy of Mother Nature. It’s easy to DIY your own laundry detergent and fabric softener, too, if you’re up for it.” You can also use vinegar for a fraction of the cost.
Eat clean. Choose fresh fruits and veggies that have lower levels of pesticides. EWG has created shopper’s guides to help identify which produce you should buy organic and which are safe to buy conventional.
Furnish wisely. When it’s time for a new sofa, or you’re decorating your child’s bedroom, look for products that don’t have toxic flame retardants (4).
Use essential oils. “Because of their many diverse properties—antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, soothing, uplifting, cleansing, etc.—we can use high-quality, ethically-sourced essential oils to replace so much of the toxic stuff we bring into our homes, slather onto our bodies, and put into our air, and it can be easy, fun, and super cost-effective,” says Hussong, who is also a doTERRA Wellness Advocate.
Purify the air. Make sure your HVAC, vacuum, air filter and so on utilize HEPA filters. Open windows on a nice day to let fresh air in—and toxic air out. You can also harness nature’s air purifier—plants!—by scattering them around the home. Or, work in essential oils. “Instead of that plug-in air freshener or candle laden with toxic hormone-disrupting chemicals, imagine being able to put a few drops of your favorite essential oils in the diffuser to shift the aroma, energy and mood of your home after a long day of work,” Hussong says. “As they diffuse, the natural antimicrobial properties of the oils will also work to cleanse the air of germs and odors.”
Creating a Healthy Home
Bottom line…yes, our homes are probably full of toxins. But, just like a detox or cleanse for your body, you can detox your home with these simple swaps. Make them one at a time to avoid burnout. Then, when you find one thing that works, keep it up, then shift your attention to the next offender on the list!
“That’s the beauty of the world of natural health. One door opens another, which opens another, and so on. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about progress and creating safe habits that support lifelong health, happiness and vitality,” Hussong says. “And here’s the thing: Once you know this stuff, you can’t un-know it. But there’s power in that, because as the great Ms. Angelou taught us, we do the best we can until we know better. And then, when we know better, we do better.”
Diarrhea can be caused by anything from digestive problems to food poisoning to too much caffeine. But when you’re stuck on the porcelain throne, you’re not so much concerned about what caused your condition. Instead, you want to know how to fix it. Fast.
We caught up with Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in New York City and self-proclaimed “poop expert,” to help you do just that.
Here are six tips on how to get off the pot and back to feeling like yourself again.
1. Reduce Stress Levels
If your belly starts rumbling before a job interview, a public speaking event or a long flight, it could be a symptom of stress. In these cases, meditation, visualization and other relaxation techniques could help settle your stomach.
“The calmer you are, the calmer the stomach will be,” Malkoff-Cohen says. But she warns that this won’t help with all cases of diarrhea. “If you get E. coli, singing Kumbaya won’t help.”
2. Eat a Bland Diet
Sticking to the BRAT diet (which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) is Malkoff-Cohen’s top tip for anyone experiencing stomach issues, especially diarrhea. These foods contain fiber, pectin and other ingredients that have a binding property, which can help firm up your stools.
“Those foods will help clog you up, if you will,” Malkoff-Cohen says. “Think about it: You use applesauce as a binding ingredient when baking.”
3. Avoid Fats and Dairy
Eating high-fat foods makes your digestive system work harder and can lead to loose stools, which is the last thing you want when you have the runs, Malkoff-Cohen says. It’s also wise to avoid dairy when you’re dealing with diarrhea, she says. Milk products contain lactose, a natural sugar that can be harder to digest when your stomach’s fighting a bug.
“When your digestive system is already on the fritz, why add anything into the mix to complicate things?”
4. Embrace Probiotics
Diarrhea is sometimes a symptom of an imbalance in your gut flora. Probiotic supplements can help strengthen the good bacteria in your gastrointestinal system and shorten a diarrhea spell, she says.
5. Be Careful What You Drink
You want to stay hydrated when you have diarrhea, but some drinks can make your symptoms worse, Malkoff-Cohen advises.
Coffee, tea, soda and alcohol are all diuretics. Drinking these can cause you to lose fluids. You also want to watch out for drinks that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, including many sodas, juices and energy drinks. Large quantities of fructose can cause gas, bloating and, you guessed it, more diarrhea. Finally, any food or drink sweetened with sorbitol and other artificial sweeteners can have a laxative effect on the digestive system.
“Say no to all sugarless items,” Malkoff-Cohen says.
6. Try Over-the-Counter Remedies
Over-the-counter medicines like Pepto-Bismol and Imodium A-D can help bring fast relief when you have diarrhea, Malkoff-Cohen says. Both drugs slow peristalsis, the involuntary muscle movements responsible for digestion. Pepto-Bismol also reduces inflammation and kills bacteria that may cause diarrhea, she says, while Imodium A-D reduces the frequency and volume of your stools.
Pro tip: “Beware, the next poop you have after ingesting Pepto-Bismol may be very dark or even black,” she says. That’s because Pepto-Bismol contains bismuth. When the bismuth mixes with small amounts of sulfur (which can be found in saliva and the gastrointestinal tract), a black chemical compound called bismuth sulfide is formed.
“Do not freak,” Malkoff-Cohen assures. “It is both temporary and harmless.”
As they say, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Case in point? Collagen.
When you’re young, this premium, does-it-all protein is abundant, binding cells and tissues together with ease and aplomb. Collagen—which is derived from the Greek word for “glue”—is essentially a tightly wound bundle of amino acids, and is responsible for everything from healthy joints to shiny hair to rosy cheeks. That fabled “youthful glow”? You’re admiring the handiwork of good old-fashioned collagen.
Unfortunately, nothing gold can stay, and your body produces less and less collagen as you age. In the past, weaker bones, achy joints, wrinkled skin and brittle hair due to lack of collagen was inevitable. But now, some studies show that supplements can boost your body’s levels of this highly-coveted protein.
If you’re thinking of adding a collagen supplement to your diet, there are some important factors to consider.
Why Supplement with Collagen?
Much of the research about collagen supplements is preliminary, but there is evidence that consuming collagen derived from animals can help the human body restore diminished levels.
Tara Nayak is a naturopathic doctor who practices in Philadelphia. Although she first attempts to support her patients’ natural production of collagen, she recommends supplementing when it matches an individual’s needs. “Collagen is recommended for those looking to improve skin elasticity, support joints and heal wounds,” she says. “There is also some evidence for its use in hair loss and cardiovascular disease.”
Hair and skin health are two of the most common reasons that people reach for supplements, and studies suggest that the benefits are significant. A double-blind 2014 study found that when women ingested collagen once daily for eight weeks, they experienced improved skin elasticity, moisture, and smoothness (1).
There’s also evidence to support supplemental collagen’s role in improving joint health. A study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences showed that patients suffering from osteoarthritis pain enjoyed more mobility and increased comfort after ingesting collagen (2).
Collagen Types and Sources
If you decide to use a collagen supplement, choosing one can be overwhelming. From pills to powders, broths to bars, protein shakes to gummy chews, there’s no shortage of options. To make matters more confusing, dozens of different types of collagen exist in nature, and many supplements make the distinction between what types they contain.
Most commonly, supplements contain type 1, type 2 or type 3 collagens. There is some research suggesting that different types provide different benefits—for example, types 1 and 3 are associated more closely with hair and skin, while type 2 is aligned with joint health. However, Nayak recommends not reading too much into this just yet. “There are some claims of the differences between these, but there is still much research to be done to differentiate which works best for what,” she says.
Instead, Nayak advises her patients to be more vigilant about the source of the collagen than the particular type. Collagen is derived from animals—primarily the bones of cows and chickens and the scales of fish—and there is, at the moment, no vegan alternative. “I would first make sure that your source of collagen is organic and grass-fed if beef, pasture-raised if chicken and wild-caught if fish,” she says. “Because these come from animal sources, we want to make sure the animal was raised in a clean, humane manner with minimal chemical additives.”
Other Collagen Considerations
Although collagen is generally considered to be safe, supplements can be problematic for those who suffer from conditions including allergies and kidney stones.
“Anyone with sensitivities to the animal source of the collagen should absolutely avoid a collagen supplement made from the animal,” says Nayak. “I would also hesitate to use these supplements in someone with a history of stone formation due to collagen’s tendency to raise calcium—increased calcium makes an easy breeding site for kidney stones.”
Regardless of your risk factors, it’s important to talk to your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet.
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- Garlic has long been considered useful in the fight against certain cancers and other serious diseases.
- Scientists consider sulfur compounds the main force behind garlic’s many health benefits. Unfortunately, the inconsistent nature of these compounds has led to varied research results.
- Generally, researchers agree that garlic is useful in fighting cancer, but the exact nature of the connection is still mysterious and difficult to repeat.
For millennia, garlic has been used around the world to treat various diseases. Over the years, researchers have typically agreed on the fact that garlic is useful in preventing certain cancers, as well as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Still, a recent study conducted at the University of Nottingham has elaborated on why the composition of garlic makes it difficult to make bold claims about garlic’s impact on our health.
Sulfur compounds found within garlic are what give the vegetable its robust and distinct flavor. Over the years, researchers have also suggested these compounds give garlic its reputation as a cancer-fighting agent. Unfortunately, there seems to be a great deal of inconsistency on how the human body absorbs these sulfur compounds. How the garlic itself is cooked, prepared and consumed can alter the effect of the garlic.
“[T]hat’s what makes this research so complex, because we don’t really understand how these compounds are metabolized in humans and it’s very difficult to identify common mechanisms of action for these molecules,” stated Peter Rose, one of the authors of the recent study.
Rose and his collaborators believe there might be a connection between sulfur compounds found in garlic and gaseous signaling molecules found in human beings. These molecules, like nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfide, are responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body. Higher quantities of these molecules are usually present when a person is fighting a particular disease. Researchers have also noted that consuming garlic can increase the production of gaseous signaling molecules, which Rose and his colleagues believe might be the answer to how garlic works its health magic.
The researchers said further studies must be conducted in order to figure out exactly how garlic helps to fight cancerous cells. Until then, scientists and researchers alike agree that consuming garlic regularly through your meals and other supplements is an excellent move for your overall health and wellness.
You know that feeling of calm you get when you sit at the beach, allowing the sand to slide effortlessly between your toes? How about letting all your troubles fade away as you walk barefoot on a dewy lawn on a spring day? Turns out, those moments may not only bring you bliss; they could benefit your overall health, too.
What Exactly Is Earthing?
Earthing, or grounding, is the practice of absorbing electrons from the Earth into your body. By absorbing these electrons, you can improve everything from sleep issues to hormone levels to better blood circulation, according to the experts.
So how exactly does all this work?
“The Earth has a natural electric charge, based on lightning strikes and other meteorological phenomenon,” explains Martin Zucker, coauthor of “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?” “Humans are highly conductive, and when the skin of our bodies contacts the Earth, we create a mind-body-Earth connection.”
Zucker says that the Earth has an “unlimited reservoir of electrons” that are critical to “the operation of our cells and ourselves.” These electrons from the Earth are able to neutralize free radicals in the body that contribute to health issues such as inflammatory conditions and diseases.
In other words, the electrons from the Earth have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and we can apparently harness this energy by making direct contact with the Earth’s surface, either by going barefoot outdoors or by using grounding products, such as blankets, wristbands and floor mats.
Indoor grounding products are made of conductive materials and used via a grounded wall outlet or an earthing ground rod that’s placed outside, Zucker describes.
Since not everyone has access to safe outdoor space, Zucker says these products provide a way for people to reap the benefits of earthing from their desk, their couch or even their bed.
Benefits of Earthing
Integrative pain and rehabilitation specialist Tina Michaud-Gray not only practices earthing with her family, she also uses it for her patients. “It really helps accelerate the healing process,” she says.
Earthing cannot only be used as an anti-aging remedy, but also can assist people who have been living with illness or chronic pain, Michaud-Gray adds. Being one with nature, whether it’s outdoors or via other earthing methods, is a “primal need….our bodies, minds, and spirits require it,” she says.
While results vary from person-to-person (one person may see rapid changes within a week, while another may see subtler health benefits over a longer period of time), Zucker says that earthing “creates a new normal in the body.”
Though there are some skeptics to the practice, there is evidence to back up these claims. “Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy” against issues like chronic stress, inflammation and pain, as well as common health disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, a 2012 study concluded (1).
Whether you’re hoping to gain more energy, heal a wound or combat an illness, earthing may just help improve your overall well-being. As Michaud-Gray puts it, “It’s right there at your feet…literally.”
As tempting as it is to bask in the sun on a warm summer day, you’ll want to protect yourself from its rays every time you head outdoors.
The best way to prevent a sunburn, of course, is to not get one in the first place. But we all know that things happen, even to the savviest SPF advocates.
As soon as you notice a burn, cover up, head inside and try one of these natural healing remedies:
The Right Moisturizer
Dr. Jeremy Wolf, LuckyVitamin’s lead health advisor, recommends using calendula lotion to treat sunburns or even urtica urens, a plant-based cream that can be used to treat first-degree burns.
Stacey Rex, creator and owner of Pure Stella Skin Care in North Carolina, suggests using aloe vera to soothe and hydrate sunburned skin. If possible, she recommends using aloe straight from the plant, but it can also be used in a gel or lotion.
In addition, Wolf cautions against using lotions or creams that contain petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine. Moisturizers with petroleum trap heat in your skin, he says, and benzocaine and lidocaine can also be irritating.
“Stick to moisturizers that are free from fragrances and preservatives, which may further irritate your skin,” Rex adds.
Florida-based beauty chemist David Pollock considers tea to be the greatest at-home remedy for sunburns.
“You can brew a strong pitcher of black tea using several tea bags, then bring it to room temperature,” says Pollock, founder of JustAskDavid.com. “The tannic acid in the tea will instantly restore the acidic nature of your skin, take out the stinging and help to prevent peeling.”
He suggests using a compress to dab the tea across your burn, or run a bath and pour the pitcher of tea into the tub to soak in.
Baking soda can have a similar soothing effect on sunburns. “It helps balance the pH of your skin to promote healing and soothe your skin,” Rex says.
Add a cup of baking soda to a cool or lukewarm bath and soak for 20 to 30 minutes, Rex says, or apply a paste of baking soda and water to clean skin with a cotton ball. Let it sit for up to 10 minutes before rinsing with cool water.
Like tea, white wine vinegar is acidic and can be used to soothe a sunburn naturally, Pollock says. (It just has a stronger smell.) In addition, Rex recommends using apple cider vinegar as a sunburn-treating solution.
“Mix equal portions of water and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and spray on skin,” she says. “I also recommend adding lavender essential oil; not only will it mask the vinegar smell, but lavender is also great for soothing burns and speeding up the healing process. You can also add a cup of vinegar to a warm (not hot) bath and soak.”
The acidic nature of yogurt is close to that of our skin and can help promote natural healing, Pollock says.
In addition, Rex says that the probiotics in yogurt help moisturize and reduce pain. “Make sure you find a plain, full-fat version, then apply to the skin, wait 10 minutes and rinse off in the shower.”
Hydrating Foods and Beverages
One of the most important things you can do to help heal a sunburn is to stay hydrated, Wolf says. Drink plenty of water, and even consider adding a scoop of electrolyte powder to your water bottle to maintain hydration, he says.
You can also consider trying certain foods to help ease your pain. “Snack on foods that are high in vitamin C, like oranges and watermelon, to promote healing,” Rex adds. “As an added bonus, they also help keep you hydrated.”
Summer’s arrival means more time spent outside. If you are headed outdoors, you have to take steps to protect yourself from the sun. Though responsible for allowing life on Earth to thrive, the rays of the sun are also a cause for concern. Consistent exposure to sunlight without wearing sunscreen or a similar layer of protection can lead to skin damage and other more serious illnesses (1).
Now, the frustrating part of this is that you also need to expose your body to sunlight in order to get a healthy dose of vitamin D. Produced by the human body after it is exposed to sunlight, vitamin D ensures heart health, creates strong bones and helps the nervous system to function at its best (2). If you’ve spent more time indoors than out in recent months, then your body might not be producing the right amount of vitamin D. To remedy this, pay attention to the signs your body sends when it requires more of this essential vitamin.
1. Feeling Sleepy
Do you feel tired, like, a lot? Plenty of people do. When you work long hours, have an active social life and binge Netflix all night, feeling a bit tired can seem normal. Of course, you also could be feeling exhausted because you aren’t getting the right amount of vitamin D. One of the easiest signs to spot when your body needs a boost of this vitamin is fatigue (3).
Research suggests that working indoors for long periods of time can lead to a vitamin D deficiency. Nurses, for example, were reported to suffer from a lack of vitamin D. Due to the nature of working as a nurse, many of the people in this profession assume feelings of fatigue stemmed from the long hours and physical demands (4). In truth, a lack of vitamin D was to blame. If you’re a nurse, be sure to take supplements to ensure your body is getting ample vitamin D to keep up with all the amazing work you do.
2. Chronic Pain
Living with pain is definitely not enjoyable. Unfortunately, millions of people all over the world deal with persistent pain on a daily basis. Though there are numerous reasons why a person could be suffering from this sort of lasting discomfort, some studies suggest the pain could be linked to a lack of vitamin D (5). Since this vitamin is responsible for helping the body absorb calcium, having less of it in your system can weaken your bones and teeth. This makes it easier for bones to break when you fall or bump into a piece of furniture.
Low levels of vitamin D might also lead to chronic back pain. According to one study, people with vitamin D deficiencies tended to experience lower-back pain more often than people who got ample amounts of vitamin D (6). If you feel like you’ve been living with mysterious pain and want to know why, visit with your physician to determine whether more vitamin D is the solution. In the meantime, play it safe and start your day with a big glass of orange juice. Fortified drinks like OJ and milk contain a healthy dose of vitamin D.
3. Losing Hair
Do you ever feel so stressed out that you just want to pull your hair out? Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but you probably know the feeling. While you might not be yanking out your own hair, losing follicles could actually be a sign that you need more vitamin D in your diet (7). Various reports have revealed that a vast majority of women suffer from nutrient deficiencies without realizing it (8). Usually, it takes a more extreme sign like hair loss to alert one to the fact that something is wrong.
Don’t panic, you most likely won’t lose significant chunks of your hair because of a lack of vitamin D. Still, you definitely don’t want to allow this to persist. Protecting your hair is important to ensuring its longevity. Salmon can do wonders when it comes to restoring your vitamin D levels, though you need to make the fish a weekly meal to see lasting benefits (9). This fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, perfect for encouraging hair growth and giving your locks a chance to shine.
4. Experiencing Depression
Feeling depressed can also be a warning sign you need a bit more vitamin D. There’s a good reason being exposed to sunlight makes people feel happy and alive. Not getting enough of this vitamin can encourage symptoms of anxiety and depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2016 (10). If you are prone to depression and feel like your symptoms have gotten worse recently, you might find some relief by adding more vitamin D to your diet.
Oatmeal can be a perfect way to boost how much vitamin D you get each day. Though somewhat bland at first, you can customize this morning dish in a number of ways to make it more appealing. Top your oats with some chia seeds, fresh berries or slices of banana, and treat yourself to something delicious while helping your body. Be kind to yourself when you feel low and be sure to speak to a professional should your depression become more severe.
5. Sweating Buckets
Some people sweat more than others. It might be gross, but bodies aren’t always the most pleasant things. If you suddenly begin to sweat more than normal without engaging in additional physical activity, then your body could be telling you something important. In most cases, it is the forehead that will see increased sweat production. Adding more egg yolks into your diet can help to balance your vitamin D so you don’t have to constantly wipe down your brow (11).
Though a majority of people would prefer spending their days outside in the sunlight, most lifestyles won’t allow for it. When you notice any of these symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, be sure to take action by improving your diet or taking the appropriate supplements. Should symptoms persist, be sure to visit with your doctor as soon as possible.
If you have symptoms like exhaustion, body aches, depression, irritability, dizziness, and poor concentration, a controversial condition called adrenal fatigue could be to blame.
Your adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped glands located on top of each kidney. They produce hormones that control your immune system and regulate metabolism and blood pressure. The adrenal glands also secrete cortisol (the stress hormone) and regulate the stress response (1).
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Natural health practitioners believe that chronic stress taxes the adrenal glands, rendering them unable to keep up with a constant state of fight-or-flight (2). In 1998, chiropractor and naturopath James L. Wilson coined the term “adrenal fatigue” to describe the stress-induced condition (3).
“Oftentimes, we are exposed to chronic, long-lasting stressors that seem to keep us in fight-or-flight mode,” says Dr. Jeremy Wolf, a naturopathic doctor and LuckyVitamin’s lead health advisor. “If our adrenal glands are not able to keep up with the demand put on by the stressors, then adrenal fatigue could occur.”
There are no blood tests to confirm adrenal fatigue—proponents argue that standard blood work is too insensitive to detect small declines in adrenal function. Naturopaths take saliva or urine samples to check cortisol levels.
Without a definitive blood test, conventional medicine does not support adrenal fatigue as a medical diagnosis. A 2016 meta-analysis claimed that “adrenal fatigue does not exist” and highlighted several studies with inconsistent or unfounded claims (4).
Natural health practitioners disagree. Online support groups with thousands of members who have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue (or who suspect they have the condition) are looking for answers and embracing strategies to feel better.
“Lifestyle modification, dietary changes, vitamins, supplements and herbs are an important part to addressing adrenal fatigue,” Dr. Wolf says.
Adrenal Fatigue Treatment
Here are four strategies to help ease adrenal fatigue symptoms:
The foods you eat are believed to play an integral role in alleviating adrenal fatigue. “Poor food choices and eating habits can deprive the body of essential nutrients,” Dr. Wolf explains. “At the same time, it can also create stress and put a further burden on our adrenal glands.”
The recommended diet for adrenal fatigue includes a combination of fat, protein, and complex carbohydrates to avoid dips in blood sugar and provide energy throughout the day (5).
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians also suggests a diet rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium to help with adrenal fatigue (6). Processed foods are best avoided (7).
Take Adrenal Fatigue Supplements
Your naturopath might recommend a combination of supplements to boost energy and ease exhaustion. “There are some really great herbs and other supplements that may help balance and promote adrenal health,” Dr. Wolf says. “These herbs are called adaptogens, and they help the body respond to daily influences or stressors.” Examples of adaptogenic herbs include eleuthero, holy basil and ashwagandha, he says.
Research shows that ginseng regulates the immune and hormonal responses to stress and controls hormones in the adrenal gland (8). Additional research found that ginkgo biloba had a similar effect on cortisol (9). Another study reveals that a botanical called Rhodiola rosea has been linked with lower levels of stress-induced fatigue (10).
Because chronic stress triggers adrenal fatigue, stress management is essential. “Day-to-day stress that continues to stockpile can have a devastating effect not only on your adrenals but also on your overall health,” Dr. Wolf says.
A 2017 study published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience reported that practicing yoga and meditation had positive effects on stress resilience (11). “Mindfulness-based mediation is a great way of easing stress and may even have other benefits, such as helping to control anxiety, depression and pain,” Dr. Wolf says.
Deep breathing exercises and journaling can also help keep stress in check (12, 13).
Both stress and adrenal function can take their toll on sleep. If you struggle with insomnia or feel exhausted throughout the day, establishing regular sleep and wake times can be helpful. Avoid staying up too late at night or waking up too early in the morning and steer clear of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol (14).
As the controversy about adrenal fatigue rages on, it’s important to remember that whether you believe the condition exists or not, these are all science-backed, common sense strategies for healthier living that are beneficial regardless of the status of your adrenal system.
Graphic by Josh Carter