There are many reasons to maintain good nutrition and a regular exercise routine. It can help you manage your weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent disease, reduce the risk of cancer, improve mental health and well-being, and keep you fighting fit and feeling younger for longer. But what many people don’t realize is that good diet and exercise can also help with overall eye health and to keep your vision sharp.
Almost everything we do with our bodies (what we put in and what we put out) affects our eyesight and eye health, so ensuring that we eat healthily and exercise regularly is essential.
The Importance of Nutrition
Foods that can boost your eye health include fish and other things rich in omega-3 fatty acids, leafy greens and pigmented veggies packed with lutein and zeaxanthin, whole grains with a low glycemic index (GI), citrus fruits and berries with vitamin C, and any foods that contain vitamin E, zinc and niacin.
A healthy diet also helps you manage your weight, which prevents eye complications that can be caused by type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Don’t Dismiss Superfoods
Eating a well-rounded diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, proteins and good fats is the best way of ensuring good vision for the long term. But it’s also important to pay special attention to some of the ‘superfoods’ that are out there.
Whilst kale may have become a popular smoothie ingredient due to today’s health trends, it really is much more than just a trend.
This infographic above shows the damaging effects of blue light and reveals the top 10 vegetables to help protect your eyes from blue light macular damage. The listed veggies are all packed with high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. These are both carotenoids that can help to keep the eye’s macula healthy.
The infographic not only reveals the vegetables with the highest levels of carotenoids (with kale, cress, spinach and peas ranking at the top), but it also references a recent Harvard University which revealed data to show that lutein and zeaxanthin rich diets could prevent the risk of macular degeneration by up to 40%.
I receive this question a lot: Can what I eat cause pimples? The answer is yes. Of course, that isn’t the only thing that causes acne but why not eat to promote the healthy skin you want? Below is a short list of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ foods in regards to acne.
Things to eliminate:
Limit foods high in sugar with a high glycemic index (white bread, bagels, sweets), as those may promote the production of certain hormones linked to acne
Omega-6 fatty acids (refined vegetable oils, fried foods) are thought to contribute to inflammation
In a study comparing people with no or mild acne to those with moderate to severe, the ones with moderate to severe acne reported greater dietary glycemic index, added sugar, total sugar, number of milk servings per day, saturated fat, and trans-fatty acids, and fewer servings of fish per day
Most people have heard (or suffer from) “food allergies”. But sometimes it isn’t a true allergy that they are experiencing. They don’t have a food “allergy” they have a “sensitivity” or “intolerance”. These distinctions are possibly insignificant in the casual conversations with a friend. But as a medical health professional, they are very significant to me. They mean very different things about what’s going on in a person’s body and more importantly how I can fix it!
So, let’s flesh out the differences between these terms:
Food allergies cause an immune response by the body that occurs immediately after any amount of the food is ingested and can be serious and potentially life threatening. The key here is that it is ANY AMOUNT (think peanut breath from one person causing a reaction in another person across an airplane). An allergic response might be itching, hives, stomach cramps, diarrhea, swelling, anaphylaxis, and even death.
Food intolerance is when digestive symptoms occur after a certain food is eaten and the response time can vary. The amount of food ingested can have an effect on the severity of symptoms. There is a threshold, where you can tolerate a small amount of the food but not a large amount. For example, some people with lactose intolerance are able to consume a small amount of dairy but if eaten in large quantities may experience symptoms. Yogurt and hard cheese are easier to digest because they contain low amounts of lactose. The key distinction here is that this is entirely a DIGESTIVE issue. There is no immune response going on. There are no symptoms outside the digestive tract. A food intolerance may result in nausea, stomach pains, bloating, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Food sensitivities are an immune response but a different type of immune reaction from an allergy. They can originate from the systemic immune or digestive immune system and the response can be delayed (up to 3 days!) or even undetectable. The amount of food that causes a response varies (again, a threshold) and symptoms include nausea, stomach pains, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, headache, irritability, joint pain, eczema, lack of energy, and more.
There are tests for each of these. IgE blood tests, test for allergies (although the accuracy isn’t great). These can be done through an allergist. Breath tests can detect intolerances and are done through a gastroenterologist. There are a few tests for sensitivities but there is a lot of controversy about their validity. Blood tests can be done for IgG, IgA or MRT reactions. The results have been known to help some, but not others. These tests can only be done through properly trained nutritionists, dietitians, functional medicine doctors and the like.
So when someone comes to me and says they have an allergy to dairy because ingesting it causes eczema, I explain that actually that’s a sensitivity : )
When we think about our bodies, we focus on how we look. When we focus on how we look, we usually focus on what we don’t like.
It is certainly a step in a positive direction to notice and appreciate what we do like about our appearance. Instead of zooming in on our saggy butt, we love our beautiful eyes. But this is not the body love I am talking about here.
We need to shift out of the appearance mindset altogether.
How does your body serve you?
It’s time to give your body the due respect it deserves for all it does for you. Your body is your home. It is also your vehicle for getting around in the world. It is an intricate machine that performs incredibly complicated biochemical processes millions of times, every single second of every day. (I can lend you my anatomy and physiology textbook if you don’t believe me).
Without your body, you couldn’t do anything. You couldn’t walk, see, write, hug, laugh, hear music, or taste delicious food.
Every moment, your body is working for you. Even if you have a chronic illness or disability, there are still millions of things your body is doing right, all the time. It rises to the challenge this world puts on it. It surmounts obstacles and tries its best despite not always being fed the optimal fuel.
Aging also brings out negative feelings about appearance. But aging is just wear and tear, evidence of a life lived and a job well done.
Your body carries you. It allows you to participate in life. You only get one, so take care of it.
When you or your child gets a tick bite, fear goes straight to your heart. As well it should. Because some tick bites lead to Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria borellia burgdorferi and it can wreak havoc on any and every part of your body, especially your gut and your immune system.
The symptoms of Lyme are widespread, and typically antibiotics are presented as the main and sole solution. Doctors hand out a prescription and send you on your way with no guidance on the healing. While antibiotics are necessary, they don’t provide a whole systems approach to recovery, which you definitely need. Additionally, antibiotics leave your microbiome in bad shape, and with a taxed immune system (from the Lyme), you won’t be able to fight out any bad yeast that cropped up during antibiotic treatment.
What does it look like?
It’s necessary to recognize the signs and symptoms of Lyme, as they are vast and could be masked under other diagnoses.
bull’s eye type rash
fever and or chills
painful muscles or joints
symptoms can appear within 3-30 days after the bite
fatigue (systemic exertion intolerance disease)
migratory joint and muscular pain
neck and shoulder stiffness
daily persistent headaches
tingling and numbness
recurrent flu-like symptoms
mood and psychiatric dysfunctions
increased sensitivity to foods, smells, light and noise
Because the symptoms are so widespread, it makes sense that Lyme disease has a systemic burden, including ongoing inflammation, immune system exhaustion, cellular oxidative stress, and neurotoxin release.
What to do?
It is hopeful to know that the symptoms of Lyme can be attenuated through different lifestyle, diet, and supplemental protocols.
Sleep should be addressed within a holistic approach to Lyme disease. Sleep disturbances and chronic fatigue are prevalent with Lyme. And sleep is so necessary for healing and building the immune system up.
Arrange your schedule to allow for 8 hours of sleep.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is important: not using screens for a couple hours before bed, making sure you go to bed at the same time every night and sleeping in a cool dark room.
If falling asleep or staying asleep is a problem, there are numerous natural sleep aids: melatonin, passionflower, lemon balm, or GABA precursors.
Stress management is essential. External stress can further the stress inside your body and prevent recovery.
Deep breaths, taken throughout the day
Diet: the goals of being to reduce inflammation, rebuild the immune system, improve gut health (repair after the pathogens and antibiotics), and nourish the person.
Eat whole foods
Avoid high sugar and fat foods, such as processed starches, candy and junk food, fried foods
Increase intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and grains
Repopulate the gut with probiotic rich fermented foods (contraindicated in some people)
Address food sensitivities, such as gluten and dairy, as all food sensitivities can increase inflammation, weaken the immune system and worse Lyme symptoms
For gut health, we might need to kill off any yeast or other pathogens that are present. (There are many options for this, but I don’t recommend trying them without supervision from a qualified practitioner.) Then also heal the gut lining from any injury from the Lyme or other pathogens as well as reinoculate with probiotics.
Supplementation should be utilized in order to address and TREAT poor immune function, chronic fatigue, neurological symptoms, muscle spasms, joint pain, and gut and hormonal imbalances.
Some ideas to decrease overall inflammation and inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine production:
EPA/DHA (omega 3 fatty acids or fish oil)
Alpha lipoic acid
Tart cherry juice
Some ideas to address chronic fatigue or neurological symptoms and boost general immune health:
High quality multivitamin
Vitamin B Complex (with activated Bs)
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
Omega 3 EFA fish oil
Alpha lipoic acid
Here is a testimonial from a client of mine. She came to me, feeling like crap, after the doctor had put her on numerous rounds of antibiotics for the Lyme:
“My sophomore year of high school I was diagnosed with Lyme’s Disease. This led to multiple rounds of doxycycline and amoxicillin along with my 5 year battle of joint pain, fatigue, and the ever present stomach issues. I finally began seeking help, and was led to Dianne. She put me on a treatment plan, for the lifetime of stress my body’s been under due to the high amounts of antibiotics I had been on, and quickly began rebuilding my gut. Alongside the supplements Dianne recommended, I changed my diet and almost immediately began feeling a change! Within three months I felt like a new person. I have a new lease on life that I had never experienced before and began living a life without fearing of the pain that was coming. I am now studying abroad in France and have the freedom from suffering with fatigue, pain, or digestive issues.”
As you can see a functional approach to Lyme is much more comprehensive than what you will get from the doctor alone. Antibiotics kill the Lyme but don’t support the healing or clean up the mess that the Lyme (or the antibiotics themselves) created.
This product has stinging nettle, an anti-inflammatory allergy remedy that has stood the test of time through centuries. It also has quercetin, a natural anti-histamine and mast cell stabilizer. It also contains Vitamin C. These ingredients, plus a couple others, balance your immune response during allergy season.
For years conventional doctors told people that their chronic fatigue was all in their head. Finally two years ago an official diagnosis (with criteria) was created in the US. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is debilitating exhaustion, for no ‘apparent’ reason. The validation of this diagnosis is a huge step in the right direction, yet there is still no test or official treatment for CFS.
Those of us in the functional nutrition world have been successfully treating fatigue with diet and supplements. By targeting the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, we are able to boost a patient’s energy levels. Other treatments include improving the function of the gut and boosting the immune system, also by using diet and supplements. These approaches work wonders for most people with fatigue.
Now, new research is emerging that shows the people with CFS have a dysfunction in a certain cell receptor. There is a genetic alteration in the code for the TRPM3 receptor. This receptor facilitates the transfer of calcium through the cell wall. According to preliminary research, people with CFS have fewer functioning TRPM3 receptors preventing sufficient amounts of calcium from entering the cell causing depressed cell function. This discovery is in the early stages, and more research is needed, but this is a big relief to those who have been previously dismissed by conventional doctors and who are in desperate need of a new solution.
Magnesium is one of the most powerful minerals, responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. Magnesium is a vital electrolyte, and among the biochemical reactions it regulates are protein synthesis, blood-glucose control, and blood pressure, insulin regulation, vitamin D metabolism, bone health, and detoxing. Magnesium also greatly affects heart function, digestion, and sleep.
But that’s all boring, right? What about the fact that Magnesium is a treatment for anxiety? insomnia? constipation? fatigue?
Just a few of the effects of Magnesium:
Magnesium slows nerve signals leading to a calming and relaxing feeling in the body and brain. This makes magnesium a wonderful natural treatment for those with anxiety, insomnia, and ADHD.
Magnesium is needed to make ATP. ATP is the energy molecule in the body (that we produce from calories, with the help of Magnesium).
Magnesium relaxes the muscles of the GI tract making it easier to go to the bathroom
Magnesium also draws water into the intestine, making it the most natural treatment for constipation
Your body needs magnesium to run the many detoxification pathways that your body uses to get rid of metals and free radicals (from normal metabolic processes, as well as pollutants in our environment)
Heavy metals compete with magnesium for entry into the brain cells and for absorption in the gut. If we have enough magnesium and vitamins/minerals, healthy metals such as aluminum won’t be absorbed as readily.
Studies show that Magnesium combats insomnia. People take it to promote getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Reflux and/or that full indigestion feeling
Magnesium relaxes the sphincter at the bottom of the stomach. This promotes stomach emptying, so food won’t sit like a rock in your stomach (which can lead to reflux).
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you might be deficient in magnesium:
Muscles cramps or twitching
Sensitive to loud noises
Additionally, research shows magnesium deficiency is common in those with these conditions:
In the United States, magnesium deficiency is a serious concern. The reason is simple: many of us eat a diet that contains very little magnesium. The Western-American diet is filled with highly processed, refined foods, white flour, meat, and processed dairy. None of these foods contain magnesium. In addition magnesium is decreased with the intake of alcohol, salt, coffee, profuse sweating, chronic stress, chronic diarrhea, diuretics, antibiotics, and other drugs. It is no wonder everyone needs more magnesium!
Foods high in magnesium include: Wheat bran, wheat germ, brown rice, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, rye, soy beans, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, dark leafy greens, and garlic.
But it is often a good idea to supplement. Magnesium glycinate is the best form of magnesium to get past your gut and into your brain and muscles. But if constipation is your challenge, than magnesium citrate or oxide is best.
Suffer from a range of symptoms and haven’t had any success with treatment? There is a condition that gets overlooked by doctors. And it can explain a lot for people who can’t find answers anywhere else: Histamine Intolerance
What is histamine?
Histamine is a natural compound found in the body. Mast cells of the body produce histamine (in regulated appropriate amounts, if all is working well).
We need histamine for multiple reasons:
-Regulation of stomach acid; digesting your food
-Effectively moving your bowels
-Brain function; paying attention and staying focused
-Deliver blood, nutrients, and oxygen to various areas of the body.
Histamine is also found naturally in some foods and the microbes on our food or in our gut produce it. If we have enough histamine degrading enzymes (DAO is the main one), then we should be able to degrade all the histamine that is produced or ingested.
Histamine intolerance occurs when there is an accumulation of histamine and/or the inability to degrade it. High histamine can cause all kinds of unpleasant symptoms including:
Low blood pressure
Rapid heart beat
Runny nose, watery eyes
Histamine comes from:
The body (mast cells doing their job)
Microbes (in gut)
The causes of histamine intolerance are many and complicated. Just to name a few: nutrient deficiencies (B vitamins, Zinc, Copper) that lead to the inability to produce histamine degrading enzymes, lifestyle factors (like excessive exercise or too much alcohol), and hormone imbalances. But for clarity I like to break down the causes into two categories: overproduction of histamine and inability to break down histamine.
Mast cell activation syndrome. Mast cells release histamine, but if the mast cells release too much, or you have too many mast cells (as many with IBS do) then you will produce and release too much histamine. There is a spectrum of mast cell disorders, ranging from severe to mild.
Dysbiosis: an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. Too much bacteria or too much of the bacteria that produce histamine will lead to histamine intolerance. The species that we know are producers are: L. Casei, L. delbreckii, and L. bulgaricus. These are commonly found in multi-species probiotics. This illustrates how important it is to choose a probiotic that suits the person and their health situation.
Inability to break down histamine:
Genetic issues: impaired methylation, not being able to produce enough DAO (histamine degrading enzyme)
Dysbiosis: not having enough of the histamine degrading bacteria. The species that degrade histamine: B. Infantis and L. plantarum.
The best way to know if you have histamine intolerance is to go on a low histamine diet for 4-6 weeks. If you feel better, then you are indeed histamine intolerant.
A low histamine diet excludes foods that are high in histamine or that promote histamine release. (This is not a complete list, just a taste)
Aged foods: bacteria produce histamine during the aging process
Ripe avocados and bananas
There are many supplements that can be used to help with histamine intolerance.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and natural antihistamine. Vitamin C is known to help stabilize mast cells and reduce histamine intolerance.
B vitamins are extremely important in the process of methylation. With a deficiency in B vitamins methylation begins to fail, causing a multitude of heath problems, including histamine intolerance.
Diamine oxidase (DAO): you can take this histamine-degrading enzyme in a pill.
Quercetin is a mast cell stabilizer found in fruits and vegetables and can be taken in a supplement form.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple and can be taken in supplement form.
Probiotics, tailored to the histamine intolerant person of course.
And the main treatment, in my opinion, is to rebalance the gut and restore overall health. Doing that, can cut the histamine intolerance at the root.
Conventional medicine is very effective if you have an acute problem, which needs immediate treatment. Despite all the advances in science and medicines, chronic diseases are on the rise. Most people suffer from some form of chronic problem (such as IBS, high cholesterol, Diabetes, insomnia, chronic fatigue, anxiety, ADHD, etc). Conventional medicine doesn’t seem to be able to treat these problems successfully. At best, conventional medicine doles out prescriptions to dampen the symptoms. That isn’t ‘treatment,’ and it certainly isn’t prevention. The problem? Neither the individual nor the root cause of the illness is treated.
Functional Medicine and Nutrition is an entirely different approach.
Functional Medicine Nutrition Therapy is a personalized method for getting to the root of your symptoms and restoring balance to your system. It is about promoting health, not just treating illness.
Everybody’s different. We each have different genes, different microbiomes (which influence everything), and different lifestyles. In Functional Nutrition, all information is taken into account: sleep, diet, stress level, activity level, energy level, mood, sunlight exposure, time in nature, and other data. Additionally, using tests that actually reveal what’s going on inside your body down to the cellular level and tests for genetic influences, diet and supplementation can be very targeted.
As the Institute of Functional Medicine explains: “The current healthcare system fails to take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual and the ability of food, toxins and other environmental factors to influence gene expression.”
Treating the problem, not just the symptom:
If you throw drugs at a symptom, without addressing the root cause of the symptom, you are clearing the smoke but not putting out the fire. Left resolved, the cause will continue to persist, and therefore so with the symptoms. The drug will continue to be needed indefinitely (and possibly at greater and greater doses) to treat this symptom.
Chris Kresser articulates this: “In conventional medicine…they mostly focus on symptoms and diseases. If you go to a doctor and you have high cholesterol, you get a drug to lower your cholesterol…and there’s often little investigation into why your cholesterol is high in the first place. The intent is to just bring it down, and that’s generally the end of the story. In functional medicine… Symptoms are important in as much as they can give us clues as to what the underlying mechanisms might be that are contributing to the problem, but they’re not as important because when you focus on the underlying mechanisms and causes and you address those, the symptoms tend to resolve on their own, so you don’t have to worry about going after each and every symptom individually. You just address the root causes and the symptoms resolve.”
Dr. Mark Hyman, one of the leaders in Functional Medicine, articulates this point very well in the foreword he wrote for The Disease Delusion (a book written by Dr. Jeffery Bland, the father of Functional Medicine): “Depression is not the cause of misery, it is merely the name we give to a constellation of symptoms. The actual cause of depression may vary greatly from patient to patient…knowing the name of a disease tells us nothing about its true cause; nor does it lead us to the right treatment”
Conventional medicine has its place. It has saved my life more than once. However, in other instances, it also left me disappointed. I know my clients have felt the same way before coming to see me.
Dr. Fitzgerald, another leader in the field, sums it up: “Simply, functional medicine is an individualized, systems-based, patient-centered approach to care. We look at the whole person, their environment, diet & lifestyle and genetics/epigenetics. An individual’s history is carefully mapped to a timeline, which we use to gather clues to the cause(s) and promoter(s) of disease/imbalance. Sensitive laboratory assessments help us “look under the metabolic hood” for contributing biochemical/genetic/microbial/nutrient/inflammatory/toxicity issues.”
For all these reasons, I am very excited about Functional Medical Nutrition Therapy. I am a Certified Integrative and Functional Nutrition Practitioner and have been practicing it with my clients (and on my own health) for several years.