The Benefits of Spirulina
Renata Trister DO
Spirulina is a blue green microalgae that grows in waters of subtropical climates. It is a type of cyanobacteria (cyano – blue pigment) that can be consumed as a superfood. Spirulina is has countless uses as a supplement for maintaining good health and preventing diseases. This is because it contains a plentiful supply of many important nutrients and antioxidants, including protein, complex carbohydrates, iron, and vitamins A and K, as well as B complex. It’s also rich in chlorophyll, fatty and nucleic acids, and lipids. Spirulina is rich in gamma-linoleic acid, or GLA, a compound found in breast milk that helps develop healthier babies. In fact it is often referred to as “Nature’s Multivitamin”. This is a breakdown of some of spirulina’s most significant benefits and nutrient composition.
Spirulina contains powerful carotenoids such as best-carotene and yellow xanthophyll. It is one of the richest beta-carotene foods. The beta-carotene found in spirulina is ten times more concentrated than in carrots.
Spirulina is rich in iron, magnesium and trace minerals and is easier to absorb than iron supplements. And without the common side effects of iron supplementation. Ten grams of spirulina can supply up to 70% of the minimum daily requirements for iron.
About 60% of Spirulina’s dry weight is protein, which in the form it comes in within spirulina, is essential for growth and cell regeneration.
Spirulina suppresses bad bacteria like E. coli and stimulates beneficial flora like lactobacillus and bifidobactria in the digestive tract to promote healthy digestion and proper bowel function.
Healthy flora is one of the foundations of good health. It increases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the foods we eat and helps protect against infection.
Spirulina has a completely unique composition of phytonutrients, including chlorophyll, phycocyanin and polysaccharides, that can help to purge toxins from the body. In 1994, a Russian Patent was awarded for spirulina, deeming it a medical food for reducing allergic reactions from radiation sickness. This was a result of 270 children in Chernobyl consuming five grams a day for 45 days. Radionuclides were lowered by 50% and allergic sensitivities were normalized.
Spirulina has been demonstrated to have cardiometabolic benefits – improving glycemic, lipid and blood pressure parameters. In a double-blind placebo controlled trial, overweight patients with hypertension were randomly allocated to receive 2g of Hawaiian spirulina daily for 3 months. The subjects that received spirulina exhibited a reduction in systolic blood pressure and some reduction in BMI (Body Mass Index).
Spirulina also has a favorable effect on cholesterol.
A meta-analysis also showed that spirulina reduced plasma concentrations of total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides.
Spirulina contains Vitamin E, selenium and tyrosine, which are all known for their powerful anti-aging effects. The antioxidants present in spirulina can aid in skin healing and support.
Adding 1-2 teaspoons of spirulina to your daily diet can be very beneficial. Try adding some to your smoothie or simply sprinkle a teaspoon into coconut water.
Natural Support For The Flu Season
Renata Trister DO
The flu, or influenza, is a viral illness that affects the respiratory tract including your nose, throat, lungs and bronchi. Mild cases of the flu can be confused with the common cold, however, the flu usually causes a more serious illness. Although it’s tempting to rely solely on natural remedies, the flu can be very serious, and one should always talk with a qualified healthcare provider if you think you may have the flu. Completely avoiding getting sick during the flu season ay be unrealistic, but there are ways to support your body naturally. The goal is to have a recovery plan and good sign of health is the recovery process itself.
Healing Herbs & Supplements
There are a variety of powerful supplements you can use as weapons against a flu virus.
Olive leaf is great for anyone who is starting to feel sick and noticing flu-like symptoms.
Echinacea and goldenseal are two supplements to incorporate when you are fighting a flu. Echinacea has been used for immune system support for hundreds of years.
Oregano is a great herb for flu viruses. Oregano oil is very powerful and should only be used short-term.
Elderberry syrup is another incredible flu-fighting supplement.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is a herb that has a long history of use as a folk remedy for colds, sinus infections, and the flu. In preliminary lab studies, elderberry extracts have been found to fight off viruses. Researchers believe that anthocyanins, compounds found naturally in elderberries, may be the active component that strengthens the immune system and blocks the flu virus from sticking to our cells.
Propolis can be a powerful immune system support and can be great supplements to take if you start to feel the beginnings of a flu arise.
All different kinds of teas can provide benefits for someone suffering with flu symptoms. Steeping a strong cup of rose hips tea and adding in ample lemon juice can be particularly powerful and incredible for sore throats. Rosehips provide a great source of bioavailable Vitamin C. A simple lemon, honey & ginger tea provides soothing minerals to support you while you are healing.
Lots of rest & sleep. Sleep can help us immensely, it is very important for healing.
Hydration & lots of fluids. This is critical. Hydration allows the body to flush viral toxins out of the body and to keep the mucus thinned out. Staying away from heavy cooked foods is also helpful so that you don’t use up too much energy on digestion, which can instead be focused on healing.
Healing Foods & Recipes
This healing broth is great while fighting off a flu. This healing broth can be nourishing, supportive, and help keep you from picking up any unwanted virus. Thus its useful to have all winter.
4 carrots, chopped or 1 sweet potato, cubed
2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
2 onions, sliced
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 cup of shiitake mushrooms, fresh or dried (optional)
2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)
1 bulb of garlic (about 6-8 cloves), minced
1 inch of fresh ginger root
1 inch of fresh turmeric root
8 cups of water
Optional: Chili peppers or red pepper flakes
Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and allow to simmer for about an hour. Strain for a light soothing drink or leave the veggies in to enjoy as a light healing soup.
This simple rice soup is easily digested and assimilated, it harmonizes the digestion and is extremely nourishing.
1 cup rice, 1 garlic clove, 3 inch piece of ginger, 6 cups water.
Combine the rice, ginger, garlic and water in a large saucepan. Stir well. Cover and cook on low heat for approximately 1.5 hours until the rice is very soft and the congee has thickened.
Turmeric Ginger Garlic Orange Juice Shot
This is a powerful combination of flu fighting ingredients
2 oranges, 2 garlic cloves, 2 inch piece of turmeric, 2 inch piece of ginger
Run the ingredients through a juicer. Drink like a shot. This is a very powerful preparation.
Natural Herbal Support for Type 2 Diabetes
Renata Trister DO
Herbal supplements have been studied as supportive treatments for type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes affects more than 20 million Americans. It is a growing epidemic that is now very common and even seen in children. When someone has type 2 diabetes, it needs to be controlled through managing blood sugar levels. Diet and exercise are most important.
Herbal Supplements for Type 2 Diabetes
Several herbal supplements show promise in supporting type 2 diabetes.
The compound curcumin, which is found in the spice turmeric, has been shown to both boost blood sugar control and help prevent the disease. In a nine-month study of 240 adults with pre-diabetes, those who took curcumin capsules completely avoided developing diabetes while a sixth of patients in the placebo group did.
Ginseng has been used as a traditional medicine for more than 2,000 years. Studies suggest that both Asian and American ginseng may help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. One study found that extract from the ginseng berry was able to normalize blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity in mice.
Benefits of fenugreek for diabetes have been demonstrated in both animal and human trials. In one study of 25 people with type 2 diabetes, fenugreek was found to have a significant effect on controlling blood sugar.
Cinnamomum verum (true cinnamon)
Consuming about half a teaspoon of this variety of cinnamon daily can result in significant improvement in blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
This plant has been used for thousands of years for its healing properties. Some studies suggest that the juice from the aloe vera plant can help lower blood sugar in people with types 2 diabetes. Aloe is available in juice form and can also be purchased fresh. The fresh leaves can be peeled and added to smoothies.
This flowering herb is found around the Mediterranean See. Its active component is called silybinin. Milk thistle may reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who also have liver disease.
Holy basil (Tulsi)
This herb is commonly used in India as a traditional medicine for diabetes. Studies in animals suggest that holy basil may increase the secretion of insulin. A controlled trial of holy basil in people with type 2 diabetes showed a positive effect on fasting blood sugar and on blood sugar following a meal.
Gymnema has been used in traditional medicine as a treatment for diabetes. The Hindi name for this herb translates to “destroyer of sugar.”
Modern pharmacological research seems to support this traditional wisdom. Compounds extracted from gymnema have been shown to reduce the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and boost insulin production, all of which could help lower blood sugar. Furthermore, an active component of gymnema called gymnemic acid binds to the taste receptors on your tongue that perceive sweetness. As a result, it makes sweet things taste a lot less sweet. Animal testing confirms that gymnema reduces blood glucose levels.
Changing the diet is vital to managing Type 2 Diabetes. Eliminating processed foods, oils and sugars is critical, not only for diabetics, but for everyone.
Wild blueberries, papayas, blackberries, and raspberries are top fruits to eat if you have type 2 diabetes. Vegetables to focus on include spinach, celery, sprouts, kale, and asparagus. These foods help detoxify the liver, strengthen glucose levels, support the pancreas, boost the adrenal glands, and stabilize insulin.
Natural Remedies For Hypertension
Renata Trister DO
Millions of adults around the world deal with hypertension or high blood pressure. Hypertension can be successfully managed through lifestyle modifications, medications, and natural remedies. Most people with hypertension experience improvement with prescription treatment and some may require more than one prescription medication to reach optimal blood pressure. Dietary modifications, exercise and smoking cessation are critical to managing hypertension, with or without the use of medication. Reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption as well as stress management are also important.
Ginkgo Biloba – Ginkgo biloba can thin the blood while dilating your blood vessels, which allow the blood to circulate more easily, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This popular herb is also high in important antioxidants, which are known to lower blood pressure.
Hawthorn – Hawthorn supports the overall health of your cardiovascular system by strengthening the walls of the heart. This herb is a tonic for heart tissue.
Cinnamon – Specifically, Ceylon Cinnamon. Studies show that consuming cinnamon every day lowers blood pressure in those with diabetes.
Cat’s Claw – Traditional Chinese medicine has used cat’s claw to treat high blood pressure as well as neurological problems. Studies show that it can help reduce your blood pressure by acting on the calcium channels inside cells.
Celery – Chinese medicine has used celery seed for hundreds of years to treat high blood pressure, but juicing the entire plant has the same action. Celery is a known diuretic, which might be why it lowers blood pressure so effectively.
Black Cumin Seeds – Or Nigella seeds. Daily use of black cumin seed extract for 2 months may have a blood pressure-lowering effect in patients with mild hypertension according to studies. It also helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels, which is further beneficial for cardiac health.
Flax Seed – Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), which is the natural precursor of the cardio-protective long-chain n-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds protect heart health by reducing serum cholesterol, stabilizing blood pressure, and improving glucose tolerance. It’s also a potent antioxidant and so easy to add to any dish. According to research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dietary supplementation with flaxseed oil (8d/day) lowers blood pressure. Another study found that there’s a significant reduction in both Systolic BP and Diastolic BP following supplementation with various flaxseed products. Since whole flaxseeds can pass virtually undigested through the human body, flaxseeds need to be freshly ground for best effect. Add 30 grams of freshly ground flaxseeds to your daily routine.
Recommended Foods for Heart Health (containing Antioxidants)
Oranges –Calcium protects the nervous system, Vitamin C
Wild blueberries (you can find these in the frozen section)
Celery –contains bioavailable mineral salts –critical for everything in the body –fuel for the heart. Mineral salts conduct electricity. Magnesium. Potassium. Sodium.
Omega 3’s from Walnuts, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
Additional supplements for the heart
Barley Grass Juice Powder
Hawthorne Berry Tea
Natural Remedies For Anxiety
Renata Trister DO
Chronic stress and anxiety affects millions of people. Nervousness, agitation, tension, racing heart, chest pain are just some of the overt symptoms these people experience. Anxiety is among the most common mental health issues. It has become an epidemic in the United States, so much so that it has overtaken depression as the leading mental health disorder. It is estimated that 40 million Americans struggle with anxiety.
Although there are many prescription medications that help treat the symptoms of anxiety, we may want to consider more natural remedies if a long-term solution is needed.
Exercise and Meditation
Exercise is a great way to burn off anxious energy, research and experience has demonstrated the effectiveness of exercise for many years. Talking walks in nature, gentle yoga and Qi Gong are all great ways to help manage anxiety symptoms long term.
Meditation is very effective in decreasing anxiety symptoms over time. Meditation can help to slow racing thoughts, making it easier to manage stress and anxiety. A meta-analysis combining the results of 163 different studies had an overall conclusion that practicing meditation produced beneficial results with significant improvement in anxiety. The easiest way to start is with guided meditations, which are available on YouTube and podcasts. A 5-minute daily meditation can have a profound effect with continued practice.
Lower sugar and processed food intake
Refined carbohydrates found in processed foods can create sugar highs and lows throughout the day. These highs and lows can trigger symptoms of anxiety. Processed foods can also cause mood swings and altered energy levels, making it potentially harder to manage anxiety symptoms. It is critical to avoid foods such as cakes, cookies, soda, fast foods, fried foods, processed meat, and refined grains when dealing anxiety.
This is one of the most revered herbs in Ayurvedic healing and is frequently referred to as the “Indian ginseng.” This is a rejuvenating herb that reduces anxiety without causing drowsiness, and helps stabilize the body’s response to stress.
Valerian naturally increases the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which can calm anxiety. In fact, benzodiazepine medications work in a similar way.
Magnesium has many important roles in maintaining a healthy body, including calming the nervous system. It is also vital for GABA function. Interestingly, magnesium deficiency is a common deficiency in adults, so consider this supplement when recommending anti-anxiety treatment options. Magnesium glycinate is the best-absorbed form of magnesium and is the gentlest on the stomach. Topical magnesium preparations and Epsom salt baths are also a great option.
B vitamins help reduce stress and stabilize moods. Vitamin B6 should specifically be considered as a natural remedy for anxiety symptoms, because one of the signs of B6 deficiency is anxiety itself. Vitamin B6 helps to boost mood, balance blood sugar levels, and maintain a healthy nervous system.
Fragrant plant oils can help with stress and anxiety. Lavender essential oil is very helpful. A 2012 study tested the effects of aromatherapy with lavender on insomnia in 67 women aged 45–55. Results suggest that the aromatherapy may reduce the heart rate in the short term and help to ease sleep issues in the long term. To relieve stress, inhale 100% pure lavender essential oil straight from the bottle or apply it topically behind the ears, on the temples, and on the back of the neck. It is also safe to combine lavender essential oil with vetiver oil.
For stressful situations:
Rescue Remedy Gummies – take the heat off mild anxiety.
Lemon Balm Tincture (alcohol-free) knocks down anxiety. 3-4 droppers are great when you are up against confrontation.
Foods for healing Anxiety & Depression
Our diet can have a tremendous impact on our mental health. Try to incorporate a few of the following foods into your daily routine.
Lemon or Lime Water –great for electrolytes and neurotransmitters
Celery Juice –do it straight if you are dealing with anxiety and depression –gives mineral salts to build up electrolytes (16 ounces a day)
Wild Blueberries 1-2 cups daily. These are available frozen.
Cilantro ½ cup daily
Spirulina 1-2 teaspoons daily
Apples –an apple a day is great to alleviate anxiety & depression.
Information from Kerry Bone Principles of Phytotherapy
And Anthony William Medical Medium books.
Herbal Treatments for Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
By Renata Trister DO
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the leading causes of chronic liver injury. There is also strong association to other conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic syndrome. The exact pathology of NAFLD is not fully understood, but seems connected to insulin resistance, lipid metabolism dysfunction, oxidative stress, and inflammation. NAFLD is one of the leading causes of chronic liver disease in both developed and developing countries. Although it is considered a somewhat benign form of chronic liver injury, without proper treatment and lifestyle modifications, about 20% of NAFLD patients can advance to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Recently, the use of herbal treatments for NAFLD has received attention due to their low side effects, and proven therapeutic benefits. The use of wolfberry, garlic, resveratrol (from grape seeds), and milk thistle seem to be most promising.
Lycii fructus (wolfberry, goji berry)
Wolfberry or goji berry is the fruit of plant Lycium barbarum of the family Solanaceae. These berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to support the liver and the eyes. The polysaccharide in the goji/wolfberry (often referred as LBP) appears to be the most active portion. Studies show that LBP has many effects, including antioxidant effect, immunoregulation, neuroprotection, control of glucose metabolism, and anti-tumor activity. Clinical trials also found that intake of goji berry juice increases the number of lymphocytes and levels of interleukin-2 and immunoglobulin G. LBP also was found to increase the serum levels of antioxidants. In the liver, studies show that treatment with LBP inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis in hepatoma cells, suggesting possible anti-tumor activity of LBP.
Garlic, or Allium sativum, is a species in the onion genus Allium. It has a very long history (over 6,000 years) in culinary and medicinal uses all over the world. A recent paper reported a liver protective effect of dietary consumption of fresh garlic. Garlic attenuates abnormal lipid profile through AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway. The use of raw garlic along with the diet modifications improves insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and lipid metabolism.
Resveratrol is a substance extracted from red grapes. It is one of the most well-documented and accepted herbal medications in the world due to its tremendous effect against oxidation and inflammation. In recent years, many groups have found the very promising phytochemical properties of resveratrol in the treatment of NAFLD. Treatment with resveratrol can lead to the suppression of lipogenic genes in the liver. This effect was further supported by the studies in which treatment with resveratrol diminished oxidative stress and inflammation.
Silymarin is a derivative of plant milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Thousands of papers have been published on the antioxidative, and hepatoprotective effects of silymarin. In the liver cells, the beneficial effects of silymarin include antioxidative effects, direct/indirect effects on inflammation and fibrosis, as well as modulation of metabolic pathways. The anti-inflammatory effects of silymarin are due to its interference with NF-κB–controlled transduction cascade. A recent basic study showed that crude extract of Silybum marianum has a powerful anti-inflammatory role in the treatment of steatohepatitis.
The pathology of NAFLD is very complex and not yet understood. It is attributed to multiple events, from insulin resistance to apoptosis. Goji berry derived LBP, garlic, resveratrol, and milk thistle are the most promising herbal remedies that can target some of the pathological changes of NAFLD development.
How To Begin Using Herbal Supplements
Dr. Renata Trister DO
Starting your journey into herbal supplements can be challenging. Exciting headlines of the latest studies are everywhere, but often leave us baffled. There is an overwhelming amount of products, brands, and preparations. Which ones are safe? Who can you trust? Which should you buy and try?
To the herbal novice, starting to take herbal supplements can be a confusing and scary endeavor because there’s a lack of regulated, clear communication to consumers on ingredient quality, effectiveness, and proven health benefits. However, when taken properly, herbal supplements can support many conditions, such as stress reduction, weight management, immune system support and combating depression. The key is to keep it simple and stay safe.
Where To Start
Although it may be tempting to go after the “latest and greatest” herb or supplement, in my opinion, the herbs that deserve the most attention are a bit more conservative. The following is a list of herbs that not only have the largest amount of clinical data, but also have hundreds of years of use and are viewed as sacred by multiple generations of herbalists in many cultures.
Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that help the body resist various stressors – physical, chemical or biological. These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions. They help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes (adapt to internal/external stressors, fight fatigue, increase stamina but also mitigate anxiety and stress). Adaptogens benefit mental function, feelings of calmness and may help fight fatigue and enhance physical activity by lowering oxidative damage and increasing energy production in cells. Panax Ginseng, Rhodiola, Schisandra Berry, Eleuthero or Siberian Ginseng and Turmeric are the most revered herbal adaptogens. These herbs have a wide range of uses and come with very few downsides. They also can be used together or in various combinations for a synergistic effect.
Panax Ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Ginseng has beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some test-tube studies have shown that ginseng extracts and ginsenoside compounds could inhibit inflammation and increase antioxidant capacity in cells. It can help reduce inflammatory markers and help protect against oxidative stress. Panax ginseng is an amazing adaptogen. It also seems to be beneficial in the control of blood glucose in people both with and without diabetes.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea) also is an adaptogen and acts in non-specific ways to increase resistance to stress, without disturbing normal biological functions. This herb grows at high altitudes in the arctic areas of Europe and Asia, and its root has been used in traditional medicine in Russia and the Scandinavian countries for centuries. Studies of Rhodiola rosea’s medicinal applications have appeared in the scientific literature of Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, the Soviet Union and Iceland. Rhodiola rosea is still widely used in Russia as a tonic and remedy for fatigue, poor attention span, and decreased memory; it is also believed to make workers more productive. In Sweden and other Scandinavian countries it is used to increase the capacity for mental work and to boost general strength and vitality.
Numerous studies of rhodiola in both human and animal models have indicated that it helps prevent fatigue, stress, and the damaging effects of oxygen deprivation. Evidence also suggests that it acts as an antioxidant, enhances immune system function, and can increase sexual energy.
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. This berry growns East Asia, where it is called Wu Wei Zi, or “five flavor fruit,” because the berries possess all five basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, pungent, and bitter. Schisandra has been used as a supportive treatment for coughs, indigestion, diarrhea, flu and premenstrual syndrome. It is traditionally used to support your body’s capacity to handle stress, sustain energy and concentration. It is also known to support healthy liver function, which can reduce the signs of stress and inflammation of the skin.
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) Eleuthero or Siberian ginseng, grows in mountain forests and is native to eastern Asia including China, Japan, and Russia. Traditional Chinese Medicine has used eleuthero for reducing lethargy, fatigue, as well as for increasing endurance and resilience to various stresses. A compound found in eleutherococcus called eleutheroside appears to reduce the severity and duration of herpes simplex 2 infections. It is also a great herb to take to reduce the duration of the common cold (especially when combined with an herb called andrographis).
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is actually a very common spice that spans centuries of use in many cultures. Botanically related to ginger turmeric has tremendous anti-inflammatory properties. One of the most comprehensive summaries of turmeric benefits was published by the respected James A. Duke, Phd.
Reviewing some 700 studies looking at turmeric’s health benefits, Duke concluded that turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic, debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects.
Here are some of the diseases that turmeric has been found to help prevent or alleviate:
Alzheimer’s disease: Over 50 studies on turmeric’s effects in addressing Alzheimer’s disease were analyzed. The reports indicate that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s disease.
Arthritis: Turmeric contains over two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, including six different COX-2-inhibitors (the COX-2 enzyme promotes pain, swelling and inflammation; inhibitors selectively block that enzyme). Curcumin – the component in turmeric most often cited for its healthful effects – is a multifaceted anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric can be used to alleviate occasional aches and pains as well as an herbal alternative to ibuprofen.
Always Be Safe
Botanicals are medicine. They can have powerful physiological effects. I strongly suggest you consult with your doctor before starting an herbal regimen. Experience and education are key.
Herbal supplements are regulated by the FDA. These regulations improved somewhat when the FDA introduced mandatory Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in 2007. GMP is a set of requirements and expectations by which dietary supplements must be manufactured to guarantee ingredient identity, purity, and composition. GMPs aim to prevent misleading claims, the addition of too much or too little of a dietary ingredient, the possibility of contamination (by pesticides and heavy metals such as lead, bacteria, etc.), and the improper packaging and labeling of a product. Companies who adhere to this set of guidelines are starting to produce more effective and reliable herbal remedies. However, the active ingredient level of an herb is still a recommendation rather than a requirement. MediHerb upholds the highest quality of medicinal herbs, creating both single herbs and multi-herb blends giving consumers the ability to find mixes of herbs for specific needs. They adhere to standards that are above and beyond FDA/GMP’s requirements.
Zonulin and Leaky Gut
By Renata Trister DO
An amazing discovery has dramatically altered our view of gut permeability and its impact on a wide range of conditions such as cancer, autoimmune disease, inflammation and food sensitivity.
Zonulin is a protein that moderates the permeability of tight junctions between cells of the wall of the digestive tract. It essentially opens up the spaces between the cells of the intestinal lining. This occurs normally so that nutrient molecules can get in and out of the intestine. In leaky gut, these intercellular spaces open up too much allowing larger protein molecules to enter the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream these proteins can elicit an immune response. After this occurs, the body is primed to react to these proteins every time they enter the bloodstream. Intestinal contents, bacteria can also leak in creating inflammation.
The two most powerful triggers are gluten and gut bacteria in the small intestine. Gliadin (a class of proteins present in wheat and several other cereals within the grass genus Triticum) causes zonulin levels to increase both in those people who have celiac disease and those who do not. As the zonulin level rises, the seal between the intestinal cells diminishes, opening up spaces between cells. This is called “leaky gut”. The immune system views these particles in the bloodstream as foreign invaders and will subsequently mount an immune response. This can lead to food sensitivities. Furthermore, this immune activation can damage the intestinal cells and the gut becomes more permeable and more inflamed. Over time the microvilli that line the intestines become damaged. The villi seen in a healthy gut lining are almost completely lost in celiac patients, greatly reducing the surface area and impairing nutrient absorption.
Top Causes of Increased Zonulin and Development of Leaky Gut:
Overgrowth of harmful organisms, like bacteria or yeast in the intestine
SIBO = small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
Fungal dysbiosis or candida overgrowth
Gliadin in the diet (gluten containing foods)
A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology in 2006 clearly showed that gliadin can affect zonulin even in people without the gene for celiac. Based their results, it was concluded that gliadin activates zonulin signaling irrespective of the genetic expression of autoimmunity, leading to increased intestinal permeability to macromolecules.
Elevated Zonulin Levels And Leaky Gut Are Also Associated With The Following:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Type 1 Diabetes
Miscommunication between innate and adaptive immunity, exposure to environmental triggers, genetic predisposition, and loss of intestinal barrier function secondary to the activation of the zonulin pathway by food and environmental triggers all seem to be key in the pathogenesis of inflammation and autoimmunity.
How to check your zonulin levels:
There are a couple of ways to check your zonulin levels. The first is a simple blood test to check for levels of protein expression in the blood.
A second option is the lactulose or mannitol test, which assesses the gut permeability by measuring the levels of both compounds in urine after they have been ingested. The patient drinks a premeasured amount of lactulose and mannitol. The degree of intestinal permeability or malabsorption is reflected in the levels of the two sugars recovered in a urine sample collected over the next 6 hours.
So to summarize, zonulin is an important modulator of gut permeability. It has strong associations with several disorders of the gut. This protein was first described in the 2000s and is therefore very new. Genetic markers, diagnostic tests are still being developed.
By Renata Trister DO
IDEAS FOR NATURAL LIVER SUPPORT
Your liver is one of the largest organs in your body, and it
performs a vast array of metabolic functions.
Additionally, the liver plays a role in regulating blood sugar,
breaking down damaged blood cells, and removing toxins from our
bodies. Because of these important functions, a sluggish or
diseased liver can take its toll on your overall health.
SUPPORTING THE LIVER
There are many steps you can take to support your liver and ensure
its proper function. One of the simplest things you can do is to
avoid or limit toxins. This includes alcohol, processed sugar and
sweets and over-the-counter pain relievers. Diet also plays a huge
role in the health of our liver. The following is a list of natural
remedies that can be used for liver support.
ACIDIC DRINK IN THE MORNING
In Chinese medicine, Qi is your vital life force and is responsible
for the harmonious “flow” of energy in our bodies. Because of its
role in healthy circulation, the liver is largely responsible for
maintaining Qi. Additionally, Chinese medicine believes that the
best time to support your liver is first thing in the morning.
There are studies that show the benefit of consuming acidic
substances for the liver. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to
have a protective effect on the liver and lower oxidative stress.
Citrus juices, like lemon, also have benefits, including anti-
inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities.
Drinking these acidic drinks early in the morning may increase the
beneficial effects. Wake up your liver in the morning by adding a
couple TBSP of apple cider vinegar and a squeeze of lemon to a
cup of warm water.
HERBS TO SUPPORT THE LIVER
Milk thistle benefits work by drawing toxins out of the body
and protecting the liver from damage. This herb is used for
liver support, milk thistle is a powerful liver cleanser. It helps
rebuild liver cells while removing toxins from the body that
are processed through the liver. Silymarin, which is derived
from the milk thistle plant, has been used in traditional
medicine as a natural remedy for diseases of the liver because
of its potent antioxidant activity.
Oregon Grape Root for its ability to stimulate liver function
and relieve congestion. This herb also helps improve the flow
of bile through our bodies, which promotes efficient blood
Beet Root is shown to have protective and anti-carcinogenic
benefits for the liver. Beets are widely available at the
grocery store and can also be juiced. Supplements containing
beet root powder are also available.
Dandelion is an herb that has been noted for purifying and
protecting the liver from oxidative stress and injury.
Dandelion is available in tea, tincture and can be eaten fresh
Alfalfa Sprouts are vitamin-rich shoots that help to reduce
the accumulation of cholesterol in the liver.
Cichoric acid, found in the herb Echinacea purpurea, has
demonstrated promise for its preventive effects liver lipid
metabolism disorders in obesity.
CASTOR OIL PACKS
Castor oil packs have been used to promote circulation of the
blood and lymphatic drainage.
Historical textbooks list castor oil as one of the oldest ways to
support health with citations dating back to 1550 BC in Egypt,
thousands of years in India and China, and Europe.
WHAT IS CASTOR OIL?
Castor oil and its major constituent ricinoleic acid, an unsaturated
omega-9 fatty acid, has been researched for analgesic, anti-
inflammatory, laxative, and uterine relaxation effects. Specifically
castor oil has been shown to increase the levels of T-11
lymphocytes in the top layers of the skin, increase prostaglandin
E2, and activate the EP3 prostanoid receptor. Increase in T-11
lymphocytes is hypothesized to support immunity.
The heat from a castor oil packs increases blood flow and may
improve oxygenation to target tissues. Castor oil also activates the
VR1 receptor similarly to capsaicin, and this may account for its
Castor oil has a lipid structure that easily passes through the skin’s
surface. As castor oil moves through the lymph system, it
stimulates a healthy flow of lymph fluid. This flow is essential to
removing waste materials from the body. Castor oil contains
ricinoleic acid, which is easily absorbed into the liver. Ricinoleic
acid is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that also provides
significant pain relief.
Castor oils packs are typically placed on top of the liver or on top
the uterus. The former supports liver health, while the latter
supports reproductive health. Castor oil packs should be avoided
while trying to become pregnant, and during pregnancy.
CASTOR OIL PACK SUPPLIES:
Wool flannel large enough to cover the liver.
Organic, cold pressed castor oil.
Hot water bottle.
Towel that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Storage container for wool flannel once finished with pack (a
mason jar or plastic bag).
Warm water on the stove until almost boiling. Lay towel on bed or
Stretch plastic wrap over towel and lay out piece of wool flannel.
Saturate the flannel in castor oil (you want it fully saturated, but
Once water is warm, fill water bottle.
Place wool flannel and plastic wrap on top of liver or abdomen.
Cover as much of the flannel as possible with plastic wrap.
Lie down on towel and place warm water bottle on top of liver.
Relax for 20-30 minutes or longer. Repeat this procedure as often
You may also enhance your castor oil pack with essential oils for a
relaxing, aromatic experience.
By Renata Trister DO
The Low FODMAPs DIET for IBS
The low FODMAPs diet is an elimination type diet that has become first line of dietary therapy recommended for patients suffering with IBS.
This plan was developed by Australian dietitian Sue Shepherd and the researchers at Monash University in the late 1990s. Much research was done on this subject and in the early 2000s the Monash university team developed a well-defined and structured diet plan specifically formulated for patients with IBS.
What is FODMAPs?
The acronym FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccahrides and Polyols. These are complex names for different short chain sugars found in foods. The F in Fermentable means that intestinal bacteria can consume these sugars producing gas through their digestive processes. The rest of the acronym just lists the names of the different types of short chain sugars. These fermentable sugars are found in various carbohydrate rich foods, such as starchy foods (certain grains, breads and cereals) as well as in some fruits, vegetables and dairy. These short chain sugars are not very well absorbed by the body. Rather than being absorbed in the small intestine, these small chain sugars travel to the large intestine. The large intestine contains trillions of bacteria that use these undigested sugars for food. When these bacteria consume these sugars, they produce gas. Patients with IBS have sensitive intestinal lining and experience this with bloating and pain. Furthermore, the presence of undigested FODMAP sugars in your colon attracts water, causing loose stools and diarrhea. Reducing the number of FODMAPs in the diet, can decrease gas, pain and fluid in the large intestine of patients with IBS. A low FODMAPs diet has also been shown to reduce the amount the amount of histamine. Histamine is a natural substance, a biogenic (resulting from the activity of living organisms such as, fermentation) amine that is present in many foods and is produced by human cells with a wide array of functions. Histamine is a neurotransmitter, it has a role in allergic reactions, often associated with causing itching, redness, swelling, cough or rash. Histamine regulates sleep and aids in digestion by playing a role in stomach acid secretion. The accumulation of histamine and the inability of the body to completely degrade it may play a role in the pain symptoms many IBS sufferers experience. Studies have shown that following a low FODMAPs diet plan can have an 8-fold decrease in histamine levels in some IBS patients.
Where are FODMAPs found?
Examples of foods high in each of the FODMAPs.
Oligosacchrides/ Fructans: Artichokes, Garlic, Leek, Onions, Green Onions, Shallots, Wheat, Rye, Barley, Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) found in Agave Syrup and Asparagus. Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS) found in Beans, Lentils, Chickpeas.
Disaccharides/ Lactose: Dairy products such as Milk, Ice Cream, Yogurt, Soft Cheeses (such as cream cheese ricotta, cottage, brie).
Monosacchrides/ Fructose: Apples, Mangos, Pears, Watermelon, Honey, High-Fructose Corn Syrup.
Polyols: Found in stone fruits such as Apricots, Nectarines, Pears, Plums, Prunes, as well as in sugar alcohols sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol and isomalt. These sugar alcohols are often found on ingredient labels of many prepackaged and processed foods.
The list is not complete. The best way to begin your low FODMAPs protocol is to discuss this with your physician and use the Monash University FODMAPS app.
What does the low FODMAP diet involve?
The Low FODMAP Diet has two phases.
During first phase of the Low FODMAP Diet all high FODMAP foods are strictly eliminated for 4-6 weeks. Using the Monash FODMAPs app is important for this process. The symptom response during this period should be monitored and noted.
During the second phase foods that were restricted in the first phase are reintroduced gradually. This is where the type and amount of FODMAPs that can be tolerated by the individual are identified.
According to a study published in the Journal Gastroenterology, about 3 out of 4 people with IBS had their symptoms ease after starting a low-FODMAP diet and felt the most relief after 7 days or more on the plan. Success rates vary and depend on the type of IBS a patient has.