6 Strategies to Reverse Autoimmune Disease

  Autoimmune disease diagnoses are rising.  Psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Celiac disease, and autoimmune thyroid disease are no longer rarities.  There are now more than 100 diseases classified as as autoimmune in nature… and the list is growing.  In this article, I”ll be sharing 6 Strategies to Reverse Autoimmune Disease

In the United States alone, over 50 million people are living with Autoimmune disease. That number doesn’t even include people who have undiagnosed, strange or difficult to classify issues like chronic inflammation, pain, moodiness and general sickness symptoms that are not attributed to any known disease.

What are autoimmune diseases?

Your immune system is your defense mechanism.  It protects against germs, viruses, bacteria, allergens, and foreign matter that can harm your health.

When your immune system gets confused it can attack your own tissues, shut down and attack nothing or ramp up and attack everything!

Autoimmune diseases can affect skin, bones, joints, brain, nerves, gut lining or sometimes entire organs and organ systems.

Traditional Treatment Approach for Autoimmune Issues

Conventional medicine usually looks to manage symptoms.  For example, anti-inflammatories and basic pain relievers like Naproxen, Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen are used for swelling and pain.  Steroids like Prednisone, immune suppressants like methotrexate, or TNF-a blockers like Enbrel may be prescribed next.  While those can ease symptoms, they can also cause a host of ugly side-effects (just read the fine print on any of the drug ads!)

Don’t get me wrong. Some medications can save lives.  They can slow or stop disease process and help people get their lives back.  They can also trigger a cycle of endless pill popping and injections, new or different symptoms and a cascade of subsequent issues.  What if there was a different way to approach autoimmune imbalance?  And, what if that way focused on more than just symptoms?

What If We Take a Different Approach?

You wouldn’t use a band-aid to treat a broken bone, so why use medications to mask/patch autoimmune issues.  While some of the newer therapies target specific genes, the traditional approach is to suppress, block, or mask the problem WITHOUT understanding the cause.

Cholesterol medication, for example, blocks the enzymes that produces cholesterol but doesn’t address why cholesterol may be high in the first place.  Those meds deplete the body of CoQ10 (which is key for heart and brain health) and give people a false sense of success.  Cholesterol may drop, but the body is no better balanced than before.  Without addressing diet, stress, physical activity and genetics, the traditional approach is basically band-aid for a broken bone (again).

What would happen if we dig in and ask the right questions?

  • Why is the body out of balance?
  • When was the last time you felt well? (How long has this been going on?)
  • What role does nutrition, exercise and stress play in your life and health?

A Functional Approach

Instead of suppressing and masking the issue, how different would our plan be if we could understand the roots of the imbalance?  A band-aid is not going to mend your arm if your bone is broken.  You need to align and set the bone and let it heal.

If you are one of the 50 million Americans who suffers from an autoimmune condition, I bet you would like to find REAL answers and get off the hamster wheel of meds, appointments and frustration.

The conventional approach does not necessarily look in the right places or or ask the right questions.

A Functional approach looks at everything.  We take steps to clear the muddy water, THEN assess and map out the points of assault or imbalance.  This approach not only asks what you are experiencing but also, why is this happening, how long has this been going on, where does your body need support?

When we know the cause of inflammation, we can support the body so foundational healing can happen.  Stress, food allergies, food sensitivities, gut permeability, parasites, blood sugar issues, toxins, genetics, nutrient deficiencies, sleep issues, constipation/gut imbalance can all be parts of the equation.

To cool inflammation in the body, you must find the source and understand why the body is inflamed. Again, conventional medicine and the traditional approach asks “what” but not necessarily why, what else, or how long?

Functional Nutrition, like Functional Medicine, teaches practitioners to assess and understand the body as a system in addition to it’s parts.  The Functional model looks for causes, holes, stressors and assaults.  The goal is to restore balance by understanding the interconnectedness of life, stress, body and mind.

Working with a Functional Nutritionist

If you have an autoimmune disease, I strongly encourage you to work with a Functional Nutritionist. Together, you can identify root cause(s) and take steps to sure up your foundation.  The process often feels like detective work.  It involves trial and error… patience, practice and trust (but I’ve never had a client say it wasn’t worth it!)  People who see me have often seen many practitioners already, had a ton of labs and tried what feels like everything.  They come in feeling defeated and wondering if anyone can help.  After the initial assessment, most people report feeling heard, finally feeling as though someone is looking at the big picture while also caring deeply about the details and about the connections.  Hope is a feeling that people talk about when working with me.  There is also frustration that other practitioners don’t work this way.

6 Strategies to Reverse Autoimmune Disease

When clients see me about autoimmune imbalance, we often start with these 6 strategies.  They help calm, clear and firm up a healthy foundation.

Eat a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet. 

Focus on dark green leafy vegetables, garlic, sweet potatoes, berries (these are rich in polyphenols), wild salmon and other sources of omega-3 fats, seeds and nuts. Enjoy herbs like turmeric, ginger, and rosemary. Eliminate inflammatory foods including refined oils, processed foods and sugar.

Address food sensitivities and food allergies.

Whether through an elimination diet*, standard allergy testing or IgG food testing, we can determine what foods are not working well for your body.  Test specifically for Celiac Disease. This is a blood test any doctor can do.  Gluten is a common cause of inflammation and autoimmune imbalance. *My Seasonal Detox can get you off to a good start!

Support your gut.

80 percent of your immune system is in the lining of your gut. If the gut is irritated or if the gut lining becomes too permeable then your immune system can think something is up and activate improperly.  The easiest way to support gut health is to reduce toxins and triggers, then rebuild by focusing on a nutrient-dense whole food, anti-inflammatory diet.

Exercise regularly.

Research shows that exercise is a natural anti-inflammatory. Do not add stress or overexert yourself.  Start moving in whatever ways you are able.  Take a short walk or do seated arm raises and leg lifts.

Work on your stress.

Stress makes your immune response worse. Whatever you can do to identify and ease stress in you life, do it! Some people find yoga, breath work, time in nature, exercise, a warm bath or massage helpful.

Sleep for 8 hours every night.

The research is in! Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep impacts metabolism, memory, recall and focus, causes cravings for sugar and carbs, makes you eat more (and feel less satisfied with what you’re eating) and drives up your risk of all major illnesses. Getting enough sleep and sleeping well are essential for vibrant health and reversing inflammation.

 

If you are suffering from an autoimmune disease or suspect that you have an autoimmune imbalance…

Are you frustrated with the conventional-medicine approach?

Feeling ready to finally get to the bottom of it and get your life back?

Are you already using one or more of my 6 Strategies to Reverse Autoimmune Disease?

 

Click this link and schedule a free Discovery Call.  When you schedule your call, you’ll get instant access to a 7-Day Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan to get you started.  Let’s talk about what else we can do to help you feel better.

3 Reasons to Change Your Diet Even if You Don’t Think You Have Any Digestive Problems

You may be wondering how there can even be 3 reasons to change your diet even if you don’t think you have any digestive problems.  I mean, why would you want to change if you think everything is okay?

In the office, I hear it all the time… “I have no symptoms or problems that point to my digestive system, at all.  I’m pooping a couple of times a week. Only have occasional gas, no food allergies. My digestion is fine.”  So, why would you need to change your diet even if you don’t think you have any digestive problems?

Interestingly, the same people who don’t believe that their digestive system is an issue also talk about headaches. They have missed periods, heavy periods and joint pain.  Anxiety, depression, thyroid imbalance and more.  Believe it or not, all of those issues can have links to the digestive system and gut health.

What is the Digestive System?

Before we look at reasons to change your diet even if you don’t think you have any digestive problems let’s look at digestion.  Here is a primer on the process of digestion and the digestive system.

Where it Begins

Digestion begins in the mouth.  Amylase in your saliva begins breaking down carbohydrates.  The mechanical action of chewing continues breaking down food to make it easier for your stomach to continue the process.  What you swallow is called a bolus.

Once you swallow, it takes about 6 seconds for the bolus to move down your esophagus, past your epiglottis and lower esophageal sphincter into your stomach.

Where Most of the Breakdown Happens

Your stomach does most of the work breaking down what you eat. Protein digestion begins with Pepsin mixing into the bolus.  Other stomach secretions are added and continue to liquify the bolus. Now it’s called chyme.  Chyme passes through the pyloric sphincter into the small intestines.

In the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine), pancreatic enzymes (lipase) and bile are added to the chyme and fat digestion begins. Bile helps make fats water-soluble by breaking them into fatty acids and glycerols. (This is one reason why people who don’t have their gallbladder can have difficulty digesting fats!) The duodenum is the body’s primary location for digestion and biggest area for breakdown of nutrients.

Where Most Absorption Happens

Chyme moves through the small intestine from the duodenum to the jejunum, and absorption of nutrients begins.  Most absorption happens in the jejunum before chyme enters the ileum.  However, B12, bile salts and other products of digestion that weren’t absorbed in the jejunum are absorbed in the ileum.  The Ileum walls have villi that facilitate absorption and the majority of GALT cells and Peyer’s patches that modulate the immune system.

Where It Ends

The ileocecal value opens the ileum/small intestine to the colon/large intestine.  Water and electrolytes are reabsorbed here.  Remaining indigestible waste leaves the body through the rectum, out the anus and into the toilet!

 

Digestion is more than just probiotics and your gut

As you can see from the path we traced, digestive isn’t just about the gut.  Organs range from the mouth and salivary glands to stomach, gallbladder, intestines, and anus.  Any disruption or imbalance in any step or accessory can cause issues with your health.  It may not be that you suffer with constipation or diarrhea or gas, but you may experience fatigue or headaches, acne or joint pain.  You may have an autoimmune imbalance or a thyroid problem or mental health challenges.  Digestion, absorption, and elimination are all critical to overall health!

 

Let’s look at 3 reasons to change your diet even if you don’t think you have any digestive problems

According to an article in the journal Gut

The condition and function of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are essential to our well being. After the respiratory tract, the GI tract constitutes the second largest body surface area, comparable in size to a tennis court. During a normal lifetime 60 tons of food pass through this canal, which is important for well being, but also constitutes an enormous threat to the integrity of the digestive tract and the whole body…

The GI surface is protected by large quantities of important secretions, from saliva in the oral cavity to colonic secretion in the large bowel. These secretions contain factors… for the lubrication of the mucosa and for functions of the GI tract but also hundreds of ingredients of importance for intraluminal microbial defense. The secretory functions are extremely sensitive to foreign chemicals.(1)

Knowing that the GI tract is both very important to health and very sensitive makes it important to protect.

1. Stress, Your Immune System and the Microbiome.

Stress affects the composition of protective intestinal flora.  Even if you have no gastrointestinal symptoms, you likely have stress in your life.  That alone can impact your health.  It is VERY well documented that stress has a major impact on the immune system.  80% of the immune system stems from GALT cells in the intestines. So, protecting your gut with a healthy diet makes sense. (2)

2. Weight Issues and Risk of Disease.

A standard Westernized/American diet is associated with worse microbiome diversity and many accompanying issues, include obesity and other diseases. (3)  Releasing excess weight and getting your body to a comfortable and healthy weight for your frame is one way to support your health.  Simple dietary shifts and strategies can often help!

3. Mental Health.

Scientists know that there is a link between your gut and your brain. This is the brain-gut connection, or the gut-brain axis.  Communication between your gut and brain is a two-way street, involving your immune, hormone and nervous systems.(4)  People with gut conditions like IBS or inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or other mental health conditions. Some studies suggest that regulating your gut bacteria could influence your mood and may help to prevent and treat mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.(5,6)  Autism spectrum disorders are also being studied for links with microbiome diversity and how changing microflora may help.(7,8)

 

Next Steps

What do you think?  Do any of the 3 reasons to change your diet even if you don’t think you have any digestive problems resonate with you? Making dietary changes to help support your microbiome can have benefits.  What changes you make depends on your current diet and your unique health circumstance.  Are you working with a Functional Nutritionist or Dietician? Ask them what steps make sense for you and your health.  If you don’t have nutritional support on your trusted team, reach out and schedule a discovery call with me.  We will spend 15-20 minutes together, I’ll listen and ask a couple of questions and then share my thoughts on next steps you might want to explore.

Sources

  1. “Ecological control of the gastrointestinal tract. The role of probiotic flora” from the journal Gut 1998;42:2–7
  2. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry (nih.gov)
  3. Links Between Immigration, Obesity, and the Microbiome – The Atlantic
  4. The Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis – ScienceDirect
  5. Gut microbiome from patients with schizophrenia modulates the glutamate-glutamine-GABA cycle and schizophrenia-relevant behaviors in mice | Science Advances (sciencemag.org)
  6. Differences in gut microbiome composition between persons with chronic schizophrenia and healthy comparison subjects – ScienceDirect
  7. The fifferences between the gut microflora of children with autistic spectrum disorders and that of healthy children | Microbiology Society (microbiologyresearch.org)
  8. Mental Illness: Brain Disease or Gut Disease? | Psychology Today

Healthy Eating Tips Every Vegetarian Needs to Know

Healthy Eating Tips Every Vegetarian Needs to Know

Are Meatless Mondays intriguing?  Wondering what vegetarians eat and how vegans get protein?  Tasty, healthy, socially conscious plant-based meals can be part of any diet… and yet, this dietary approach is always prompting a lot of questions.  How about digging in a little with me as I share the healthy eating tips every vegetarian needs to know?

What is a vegetarian diet?

  • A vegetarian diet is one excluding meat, poultry and seafood.
  • A fully plant-based vegan diet is further excluding eggs and dairy.

Now, you might be thinking that vegetarian diets all include a lot of vegetables… right?  Unfortunately, not all do.  There are plenty of junk foods that are vegetarian and vegan.  Oreos, twinkies, potato chips, mashed potatoes, french fries, processed meat substitutes, etc are all junk food options.  Grains, nuts, and plant fats are also vegetarian and vegan.  Occasionally, those foods are okay, but a diet of those alone is lacking!  While we think that the terms “vegetarian” and “vegan” are health conscious, they do not necessarily mean “healthy.”

Well-planned, balanced, nutrient-dense vegetarian and vegan diets, on the other hand, focus on plant foods that are packed with nutrients.  This type of diet can be appropriate for people of all ages including infants, children, teens and pregnant and breastfeeding women, adults and seniors.

Are there health benefits?

Yes! First, vegetarians often have healthier body weight, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure than non-vegetarians.  In addition, rates of heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes is also lower in plant-based eaters. These health benefits may result from higher intake of fiber and phytonutrients from fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, and nuts along with lower intakes of saturated fats.

Healthy Plant-Based Foods

Vegetables:

  • Veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Choosing vibrant colors, especially orange, red and dark green ensures that your diet will contain plenty of vital nutrients.
  • Broccoli, bok choy and collard greens provide calcium; Spinach, iron and bell peppers, Vitamin C.  The list goes on and on!
  • Fresh is best, frozen is fine.  Most frozen produce is flash frozen at the peak of freshness so you do not lose any nutrition AND you get the benefit of the best flavor!
  • For canned veg, be looking for brands that don’t add salt.  Choose BPA free cans to reduce exposure to those extra toxins.

 

Fruits:

  • Colorful, seasonal fruits supply fiber, phytonutrients and anti-oxidants that help your body fight free radicals and stay healthy.
  • Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits, including fresh, frozen and canned with no added sugar.
  • Berries are low glycemic, meaning they do not trigger a big spike in blood sugar when eaten in moderation.  Their fiber content is part of the secret that maintains blood sugar balance.

 

Grains:

  • Whole grains can be part of a healthy diet.
  • Quinoa and millet are high in protein and gluten-free.
  • Wild rice, buckwheat and gluten free oats are packed with fiber and nutrients.
  • Steer clear of refined flours, pasta and breads in favor of whole grain options.
  • Some people are sensitive to gluten, lectins and phytates.  These are natural components of most grains.  If you feel tired, bloated, achy or otherwise “off” after eating grains, this may be an issue for you.

 

Proteins:

  • It’s a myth that vegetarians have a hard time getting enough protein!
  • All plant foods are made up of amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein!
  • Just like gorillas can get their protein from grasses and plants, so too can you!
  • Beans, peas and lentils are packed with protein and have the added benefit of iron, zinc and fiber.
  • Nuts, seeds and soy products are also great choices.
  • My favorites, quinoa and hemp contain all the amino acids to make a complete protein!

Fats:

  • Healthy plant-based fats promote brain health and have cardiovascular benefits.
  • Fats are needed for fertility and to create easily passed stool too!
  • Coconut oil, avocado and avocado oil and olive oil can be part of a healthy diet.
  • Nuts and seeds are also sources of healthy fats.

 

Dairy:

  • Dairy milk, yogurt and cheese contain calcium but it is a form that the body cannot easily absorb.  On the other hand, non-dairy alternatives are fortified and don’t include the risks of hormones and animal by-products.
  • Nuts milks, hemp milk, oat milk, coconut milk and soymilk are all readily available.
  • Rice milk is another option.  However, it tends to be overly sweetened and is generally not an everyday choice.  All rice is a natural source of arsenic.  Some varieties contain more than others.  In general, rice should be an occasional food.

 

Beautiful, Healthy Plant-based Meal and Snack Ideas

A healthy vegetarian or vegan eating style depends on variety. Here are some ideas to get you started.

 

Breakfast

  • Spread mashed avocado on a slice of whole-grain or gluten free bread and top with sprouts and hemp seeds for a balance of protein, fat and fiber!
  • Spread almond butter on a whole-grain toasted bagel and top with thin apple slices.
  • Soaking ½ cup gluten free oats overnight in 1 cup non-dairy milk and topping with nuts and fresh fruit or dried cranberries in the morning makes for a quick breakfast
  • Whole-grain toaster waffle topped with blueberries and tahini

 

Lunch

  • Veg burger or falafel with non-dairy cheese, mushrooms, tomato, lettuce and pickles on a whole-grain bun
  • Salad: leafy greens, cut-up vegetables, beans or tofu, fruit, nuts, hemp seeds
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread with carrot and celery sticks
  • Avocado roll with seaweed salad and miso soup

 

Dinner

  • Start with chili made with beans, lentils and quinoa. Then, top with shredded non-dairy cheese and add a side of cornbread and salad
  • Whole-grain pasta with tomato sauce plus vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and onions) and a gorgeous green salad
  • Pizza with or without cheese, topped with your favorite vegetables and arugula
  • Tacos or burritos filled with beans, corn, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cilantro and avocado
  • Vegetable stir-fry with quinoa
  • Butternut squash soup with a mixed salad and whole grain flatbread
  • Use baked russet or sweet potato as a base.  Then, top with sautéed mushrooms, broccoli and melted Daiya cheese and chives.  Or, try hempseeds, avocado, minced parsley and pine nuts.

 

Snacks

  • Hummus with pita wedges, celery sticks, bell pepper strips and carrots
  • Prepare and keep sliced veggies and fruits in the fridge for quick snacking and meal prep.
  • Top a bagel with nut butter
  • Coconut Yogurt layered with crunchy granola, hemp seeds and sliced fruit
  • Enjoy a cup of vegetable soup and whole grain crackers
  • Mashed avocado topped with crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt

 

What is your dietary approach?  Is plant-based eating something you would try?  Sharing is caring… do you have any other healthy eating tips every vegetarian needs to know?

Want a copy of these tips in a handy pdf? Click here for instant access –> Healthy Eating Tips for vegetarians

Why Your Body Poops Easier When You’re at Home

Why your body poops easier when you’re at home

Poop.  Every body does it.  From Kindergarten, we dive into books like Everybody Poops.  We are told that it is normal, natural and nothing to fear.  Yet, as we age, poop talk becomes taboo.  And the act of pooping feels taboo.  We shy away from pooping at work, when we are out at restaurants or even at friends’ homes.  Ever wonder why your body poops easier when you are at home?  Let’s look to the latest on how gut health (and poop) relates to our circumstance and location.

Why your body poops easier when you're at home

You may already know that a healthy gut is linked to everything from mental health to stronger immunity.  Society is comfortable with why we poop.  But the when and how we poop remain fringe topics. After today, I hope we can change that.

German doctor and author Giulia Enders, wrote Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ.  She gave a TED Talk in 2017 and described why she believes “bowels are quite charming.” Enders discussed a conversation she had with a roommate about bathroom habits and what she discovered about our anatomy that makes it so much easier to poop when you are in your own home.

Click to Read This Related Article: Herbs that Improve Digestion

The Tale of Your Brain and Two Sphincters

Basically, this is a tale of the brain and two sphincters!  We have two sphincters that control our bowels. The one we are familiar with is the outer sphincter, which we can control.  The inner one, Enders described as having more of a mind of its own. That inner sphincter opens a little bit and releases just enough gas or solid for the sensory cells near the anus to determine what happens next.

“There are sensory cells that analyze what has been delivered,” Enders explained, “and this is the moment when our brain knows, ‘Oh, I have to go to the toilet.'”

Once your brain gets the signal, it begins checking your surroundings and circumstances before deciding if now is a good time to release what is being held back by the internal sphincter. Finally, the outer sphincter and brain coordinate with the nervous cells to push poop back if you are not in a place where you feel comfortable using the toilet.

 

Control, Coordination and Communication

The control and coordination involved in the process is something that gave Enders a deeper respect for her body and digestive process.  If we reframe the feeling of needing to poop from being something embarrassing to being a biological cue, then we may be able to tap into that same respect.  By tuning into that feeling, Enders thinks of the inner sphincter as “putting a suggestion on her daily agenda.”

What would happen if we begin being more respectful of that smart sphincter’s suggestion?  While we have the option of putting that suggestion on hold, we also have the option of listening to our body and responding promptly.

In her book, Enders notes that waiting to poop when you have the urge can mess with the communication between the two sphincters.  Always delaying or denying yourself the ability to poop when the urge hits is what can create the disconnect.  There is no harm in occasionally holding off until you can reach a convenient bathroom!

 

Respecting Cues

That said, I talk with clients every day about poop, digestion, and nutrition.  Most people do not have any issues respecting their body’s hunger and thirst cues, sex drive, feelings of sleepiness, need to urinate or need to vomit.  While some of those cues are more pleasant than others, it makes me wonder why we have made poo so taboo.  After all, we teach our toddlers that Everybody Poops.  Even though we now know why your body poops easier when you’re at home, it doesn’t mean that pooping away from home has to be a challenge!  We need not be so wrapped up in embarrassment about something so universal, simple, and healthy!

 

As your Functional Nutritionist and Holistic Health Coach, I would much rather you pop into the public bathroom, work toilet or a friend’s guest bathroom and poop when you need to, than hold out and create a belly ache or constipation.  Embrace your inner 2-year-old, poop when you need to!  When you walk out of the bathroom, do it with a smile and the knowledge that your body is amazing and your bowels are major players in your health and well-being.  If more of us normalize normal bowel habits then the days of blaming farts on the dog and feeling embarrassed about this basic, critical bodily function will be long gone.  Wanna join me in a #pooprevolution?

 

Here’s the thing… I know it is not always practical or possible to poop when the urge hits.  I also know that withholding and delaying bowel emptying can result in all kinds of distress.  If you are struggling with digestive challenges, click my email at the top of the page and reach out.  Depending on your exact circumstances, we can either work out a plan together or partner with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, like my colleague at the NH Health & Wellness Center, Falguni Vashi PT, DPT, PRPC.  Do NOT let bowel and pelvic issues wreck your life.  We can help.  

 

The Deal with Vitamin D, Health and Immunity

The Deal with Vitamin D, Health and Immunity

 

Vitamin D is an overachieving, jack of all trades, hands-into-everything Casanova. D’s relationship with your body is complicated, but full of love.

So, what is the deal with Vitamin D, health and immunity?  To understand that, let’s look at what Vitamin D actually is!  “Vitamin” D is not actually a vitamin at all, but rather, a fat-soluble hormone that directs processes in the body rather than just supporting them.

 

6 Reasons You Can’t Live Without Vitamin D:

  1. Proper levels of vitamin D are needed for your cells to use the thyroid hormone.
  2. It helps cells form correctly and cleans up any misbehavers.
  3. Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium.
  4. It regulates insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity and balances blood sugar.
  5. Vitamin D is critical to the success and function of your immune system.
  6. Therapeutic doses of vitamin D are helpful in managing chronic pain and depression.

 

Get the picture? Vitamin D is an inside operator. The big deal about the big D is, without it, you risk your body tanking in a variety of ways. We are talking about increased risk of autoimmune disease, colon and breast cancer, depression, and chronic pain.

 

The Bad News: 

 

According to this article, in 2014 an estimated 50% of all people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D. Almost 70% of adults in the U.S. were deficient. Whoa!

What is more troubling now is that reports show that 80% of the people who are ending up hospitalized with moderate to severe cases of Covid19 are Vitamin D deficient!

 

When many people lack enough of the stuff that directly modulates almost every single cell in the body, we have a global health problem.

 

For my friends with thyroid concerns, it is important to note that inadequate Vitamin D may be impacting thyroid hormone production. People suffering from autoimmune thyroid conditions, such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’ Disease should get their Vitamin D status evaluated.  Vitamin D deficiency is also a major factor in thyroid cancer.

 

The Good News:

 

That same 2010 study showing the link between Vitamin D deficiency and thyroid cancer also found that Vitamin D is protective of thyroid cells, and is actually preventing cells from becoming cancerous. 

 

Plenty of vitamin D is a sunbeam away!  Bikini and speedo clad bodies exposed to enough UVB sun rays just to pink you up a bit can manufacture enough Vitamin D to reach an equivalent of 25,000 IU. Incredibly, your body is a Vitamin D factory not only when exposed to enough sun, but also the Vitamin D that you make lasts at least twice as long as supplemented Vitamin D in your bloodstream… But there is a trick to it!

 

How Do You “Make” Vitamin D?

 

Want to be the best D-maker you can be? Of course, you do! There are a few things you need to know. When UVB rays hit the surface of your skin, your skin begins converting a cholesterol derivative into vitamin D3. The problem is that the D3 formed on your skin does not immediately make it to your bloodstream. The absorption process takes up to 48 hours and requires that you do not scrub or soap it off (you are thinking about stinking, I know).

 

Healthy Action Steps:

  1. Start by getting your blood level of 25-hydroxy so you have a baseline number established.
  2. Next, begin trying to catch some rays every day.  10-15 minutes may be all you need.  Make the best decision based on your location and your personal risk for melanoma.
  3. Post sunning, in the shower, wash pits and private bits. Just rinsing off the rest will do.
  4. Finally, re-checking your levels in a few months and seeing if you are making a difference.

 

How Much Do You Need?

 

The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IU daily for adults through age 70 and 800 IU daily thereafter. Intake does not really do much for you if you do not know your blood level though, so ask your doctor for that 25-hydroxy test. Blood levels about 30 ng/mL are considered adequate. However, for people with chronic illness and autoimmune disease and for COVID-19 protection, many integrative doctors recommend blood levels of 60-80 ng/ml.

 

Supplementing

Talk to your doctor about a good starting amount for supplementation if your numbers are not in range with sun exposure or if you can’t sunbathe because of a history of skin cancer or if you’re at high risk for melanoma.

  • A good Vitamin D supplement will be oil-based Vitamin D3.
  • You can choose liquid drops or capsules.
  • Re-check your levels every other month to avoid toxicity.
  • 500 mcg Vitamin K2, in the form of MK4 or MK7, has been shown to enhance the absorption of Vitamin D and helps prevent any calcium liberated by Vitamin D supplementation from being deposited in muscle tissue rather than in bones or teeth.  Note: do NOT supplement K2 if you are on a blood thinner or if you have Factor V Leiden.
  • If you cannot get your level to raise above 30 with adequate supplementation, consider getting tested for a defect on the VDR gene that could be prohibiting your body from absorbing Vitamin D.

 

Food Sources of Vitamin D and K2

graphic depicting Vitamin D sources

sunlight, raw milk, cod liver oil, salmon, caviar, sardines, mushrooms, eggs, mackerel, tuna

One of the few great sources of Vitamin D as far as food goes is mushrooms. Here are some other ideas:

  1. Adding a handful of ‘shrooms to a beautiful miso broth or sautéing them in a stir-fry with other veggies!
  2. Making a tall glass of your favorite juice or smoothie and go enjoy it while lounging in the sun under a gorgeous blue sky.
  3. Tapping in to Vitamin D in eggs to make omelets or scrambles.
  4. Enjoying a Caesar dressing made with sardine instead of anchovy (if you eat fish).

 

A vitamin K rich diet includes lots of cabbage, kale, spinach, Swiss Chard, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, wheat bran and sauerkraut.  Eating these foods with a little healthy fat, like that from olive oil, coconut oil or avocado will help boost absorption.  Like K2 supplementation, be cautious of a major increase in K-rich foods if you have clotting issues.

Conclusion

Do you feel like you have a better understanding of the Deal with Vitamin D Health and Immunity?

Are you struggling to get your Vitamin D status into the healthy range?

Are you more concerned that your Vitamin D level is low now that Covid 19 is such a huge factor in world health?

If you want to dig in more deeply and get personalized support, let’s get you on the schedule.  Email sarah@yourholistichealthcoach.com and we can get started!

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