Tuesday, 21 November 2017 14:22

Beautiful skin with hyaluronic acid

Did you know that back in medieval France, King Henry II’s wife, Princess Catherine, believed that if she ate chicken combs she would become beautiful? Even before that (in the 700s) Yang Guifei, one of the four beauties of ancient China, also ate chicken combs.
Chicken combs, as it turns out, contain a lot of a substance known as hyaluronic acid. Recent clinical studies show that ingesting hyaluronic acid actually can increase the moisture content of the skin. This shows up as more hydrated, and “beautiful” younger-looking skin.
Nowadays, hyaluronic acid is not just made from chicken combs, but also from microbial fermentation. It’s found in many skin supplements. It’s also used as an injectable filler to reduce wrinkles.
Let’s dive into how this ancient beauty enhancer actually works.
Hyaluronic acid in the “matrix”
Before we dive into the skin, let’s talk a bit about the “matrix.” All tissues, including the skin, have what’s known as an “extracellular matrix” (ECM). 
This matrix is made from two types of substances: proteins and “proteoglycans.” 
The proteins are fibrous and give the tissue structure and elasticity. This means they help to retain the shape (i.e. structure) of the tissue. The main proteins in the matrix are collagen and elastin. 
Proteoglycans, on the other hand, are a gel-like substance made from carbohydrates. This substance fills in the spaces and keeps things moist and hydrated. One of the main proteoglycans is hyaluronic acid. 
You can think of the matrix as a thick gel-like substance (think: egg white). 
Collagen is a protein that helps to maintain structure. One of its main roles is to help the cells join together by forming a kind of a scaffold within the matrix. This allows tissues to maintain their shape and stiffness, while allowing flexibility. It helps reduce sagging.
Hyaluronic acid (a.k.a. hyaluronan, HA, or HLA) allows tissues to be squished without breaking. It’s a type of carbohydrate made from sugars bound together in very long chains. 
Hyaluronic acid also has a special ability to attract and hold onto water. Because of its special chemical structure, it can hold 1000x more water than its own solid volume. 
It is found in several lengths (i.e. thousands and even millions of sugars long). The longer the length, the better it is.
Both the proteins (e.g. collagen) and the proteoglycans (e.g. hyaluronic acid) work together, along with other substances. Together they form complexes and cross-link to create the gel-like matrix.
This matrix is constantly being remodeled and rebalanced by the cells to ensure optimal structure. elasticity, and water retention (hydration). It changes when tissue ages, gets wounded, or develops a tumour. 
It’s this matrix around skin cells that keeps skin healthy and beautiful.
Hyaluronic acid in the skin
For skin health and a “youthful” appearance, the skin needs structural support, moisture, and good blood flow. Structure and moisture for the skin is made from not just the cells, but also from the important “matrix” that they secrete and surround themselves with. Blood supply is needed to bring nutrients and oxygen to the skin, while removing waste.
In the skin, the proteins (e.g. collagen) and the proteoglycans (e.g. hyaluronic acid) are secreted by cells called “fibroblasts.”
Hyaluronic acid is found throughout the body, but is most important in the eyes, the joints, and the skin. In fact, half of the body’s hyaluronic acid is found in the skin. 
Hyaluronic acid helps to retain water to keep skin hydrated and plump. It also does this in the eye and the fluid cushioning the joints (synovial fluid). This is why when the amount of hyaluronic acid in the body decreases with age, this increases dry and sagging skin, as well as joint pain.
This is what makes hyaluronic acid a great moisturizer for your skin.
“HA is extremely abundant in the dermis under normal circumstances. It is also a major ingredient in moisturizing creams, due to its tremendous hygroscopic (hydrating) properties, which also helps to explain why injected HA-based fillers excel at “plumping up” the dermis.” Maytin, E.V., 2016.
Your skin replaces about ⅓ of its hyaluronic acid every single day. This means that each molecule only sticks around for a couple of days before it’s naturally recycled and replaced with a new molecule.
The hyaluronic acid in the matrix of the skin cells help to keep it hydrated and prevent sagging.
Aging and wounded skin
When it comes to skin health and visible aging, the matrix’s collagen and hyaluronic acid are big players.
As we age, our skin gets “looser” and start to show fine wrinkles. It thins slightly thinner and the cells produce less collagen and hyaluronic acid. This is common and occurs naturally over time in everyone. It’s thought to be, at least partly, related to hormone changes. It’s referred to as “intrinsic aging.”
Intrinsic aging is partly because of the natural reduction in amounts of collagen and hyaluronic acid in the skin. Over time our skin simply makes less. This is mostly true for the outermost layer of the skin, the “epidermis.”
At the same time as intrinsic aging, other external factors can affect our skin’s appearance as well. The result is considered premature aging, or “extrinsic” aging. For example, ultraviolet (UV) light from chronic sun exposure causes deeper wrinkles, dryness, lines, colour changes, reduced elastic ability (elastosis), and taking on a “leathery” appearance. This UV aging is referred to as “photoaging.” 
Because our faces are exposed to the sun, about 80% of facial skin aging is from UV exposure. The other 20% is from smoking cigarettes, air pollution, and certain medications (corticosteroids). These all have a similar damaging effect and contribute to extrinsic aging.
With chronic exposure to UV light, there is a change in both the type of collagen and size of the hyaluronic acid molecules. The long chains of hyaluronic acid become more degraded into  smaller chains. These smaller chains are inflammatory. The overall result is less flexible skin that wrinkles more easily and becomes drier.
Extrinsic aging does this due to oxidative stress and an increase in an enzyme (“metalloproteinase”) that breaks down collagen and hyaluronic acid. 
Vitamin A creams are sometimes used to help the skin’s appearance. They work by helping to prevent breakdown of the collagen in the skin.
Hyaluronic acid has another interesting role in the skin. It helps wounded skin heal. When skin is wounded, a large part of the fluid secreted is hyaluronic acid. In fact, you make more hyaluronic acid when skin is injured or wounded specifically to help the wound heal. It’s even thought that scarring from wounds increases with age due to the reduced amount of hyaluronic acid in the skin.
The bottom line is that aging skin is partly the result of a change in the collagen, and lower levels of the large hyaluronic acid molecules in the matrix.
Collagen and hyaluronic acid supplements
There are three types of collagen found in our bodies: type I, type II, and type III. The skin contains mostly type I, with some type III. The cartilage cushioning the joints is mostly type II.
Collagen supplements are made from animal collagen, mostly from bones and/or skin.
There are two main types of collagen supplements:
Hydrolyzed and
Undenatured type II collagen
Friday, 17 November 2017 15:24

Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten is a hot topic and one of the harder foods to eliminate for many people. It does, however, have a big impact on the health and life of those who are sensitive because it can be lurking in so many places. 
Many health coaches first become aware of the food they eat because of the symptoms of food allergy or intolerance that they or their loved ones suffer from. 
Gluten intolerance is a big topic and this article does not intend to cover the topic in depth. The intention is to cultivate awareness so that readers who suspect they have such sensitivity can seek additional help.
Gluten is a protein composite found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. This protein can causes reactions in people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. 
Gluten intolerance can manifest itself as a wide range of symptoms. Here are some most common ones, although by no means exhaustive: abdominal pain and cramping, arthritis, attention deficit disorder (ADD), bloating, constipation, irritability, stunted growth (due to poor absorption of nutrients), fatigue, headaches, nausea, osteoporosis, teeth and gum problems, unexplained weight gain or weight loss.
Celiac disease – a digestive condition triggered by the consumption of gluten – can cause damage of the villi in the intestinal lining, resulting in a gradual decrease in the ability to absorb any nutrients from ingested food, leading to stunted growth and malnutrition. The damage that are done to the intestinal lining also leads to a higher likelihood of leaky gut syndrome, which can create other types of food sensitivities and systemic health issues.
In the case of gluten sensitivity, the protein composite escapes the confines of the digestive tract and makes its way into the bloodstream. When the protein composite reaches the brain, it can cause damages leading to mood issues, attention deficit and sometimes learning disabilities. 
Usually an elimination diet is the most common and definitive way to confirm gluten intolerance. However, some doctors recommend blood testing and allergen testing to be done first so that biomarkers indicating celiac disease can be confirmed.
If you are indeed tested positive for gluten sensitivities, care needs to be taken to avoid gluten in your diet. Grains such as wheat, barley, bulgar, kamut, spelt and rye are of course the obvious foods to avoid (oat and oatmeal themselves do not contain gluten, but can be contaminated due to processing and manufacturing process), however, there are also hidden sources of gluten in our food supply that we may not be aware of. These can include: cheese spreads, flavored yogurt and other frozen dairy products, hot chocolate mixes, chocolates, candy/energy bars, soup mixes and canned soups, processed meat (hot dogs, sausages), gravies and other sauces mixes, ketchup, mustards, marinades, nut butter, soy sauce, drink mixes and other packaged beverages, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (found in may prepared or processed foods), children’s modeling dough (Play-Doh), some nutritional supplements, some medications, and some cosmetics such as lipstick and lip balms.
Since gluten can be found in so many hidden sources, it’s best to stick with whole foods as much as possible. If you have to buy processed and packaged foods, read the labels carefully and pick ones that have as few additives as possible.
Let me  guide you through an elimination diet, or meal planning to remove gluten from your diet.
Friday, 17 November 2017 15:15

Lactose Intolerance and Dairy Alternatives

Dairy is one of the most common substances that people develop allergy or intolerance toward. If you are suffer from lactose intolerance, which means your body is unable to produce the enzyme lactase to digest the lactose, you can supplement with lactase enzyme whenever you eat dairy products.
There are also many ways we can avoid dairy and substitute dairy products in meal preparation without having to lead a completely “miserable” life in the culinary department.
For some people who are allergic to commercial cow’s milk and cow’s milk products, goat’s or sheep’s milk may be better tolerated and can be used instead in moderation. Raw milk is also a great alternative – the enzymes present in raw dairy products are not destroyed by the process of pasteurization, helping pre-digest the protein molecules and lactase, which are the causes of allergic reaction or symptoms of lactose intolerance, respectively.
“Milks” made from nuts, seeds and grains can be substituted for cow’s milk for drinking and cooking – provided that you are not allergic to those foods (nuts and soy in particular). More common ones that you can find in stores include soymilk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, rice milk and oat milk. Their consistency and taste vary – from type to type and from brand to brand, so you may need to experiment to see what suits your taste or makes the best substitute for your recipes. 
If you buy commercial nut, seed or grain milk, make sure you read the label to avoid added sugar as much as possible. Also, additives are often added to these products to make their consistency and taste closer to cow’s milk. If you want to avoid additives altogether, the best bet is to make your own. [If you have a recipe that you want to recommend, you can add a link here]
For a more creamy texture in cooking, mashed tofu can be used. However, soy products such as soymilk and tofu should be used in moderation by most and sparingly by those who suffer from hypothyroidism. Soy has a high allergenic potential as well, so if you have other food allergies or a family history of food allergies, you may want to be careful and pay special attention to see if you have any reaction. If you are allergic to other legumes, such as beans, peas and peanut, you are more likely to be allergic to soy as well.
Another word of caution about soy: Soy contains phytoestrogens that may have an impact on our hormonal system, and anti-nutrients that may affect the absorption of vitamins and minerals. The problem with most commercially available soy products today lies in the fact that a majority of them are highly processed, without having gone through the traditional process that can remove their anti-nutrients. Soy protein isolates, found in many processed and packaged foods, are highly concentrated. These processed soy products are very new to our diet, so their effects on our body are essentially unknown. Also note that a lot of the soy in our food chain today is genetically modified, and again, this is so new to us as a species that we just can’t be sure if there is any negative health impact for our body.
Friday, 17 November 2017 14:53

Leaky Gut and Food Allergies

I knew from a young age that milk just didn't do my body good.  I would get stomach aches and then have to run to the bathroom.  Over time left untreated, I developed other food sensitivities and leaky gut.
Our intestines are designed to be impermeable to large protein molecules that our body may mistake as “invaders” and launch an “attack” by producing antibodies, which lead to allergic reactions. Modern diet, lifestyle and medications often times compromise the permeability of our digestive tract, creating what is known as the “leaky gut” syndrome. When the gut becomes permeable to larger protein molecules, they can get into our bloodstream and trigger an immune response, resulting in symptoms of food allergies.
Here are some strategies to help protect and heal the digestive tract:
Maintain Healthy Gut Flora:
  • Increase intake of probiotics, eat foods such as yogurt, kefir, natto, kimchi and sauerkraut.
  • Eat fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.)
  • Avoid antibiotics, birth control and NSAIDs
Reduce Inflammation:
  • Use herbs such as slippery elm and marshmallow roots, which helps coat and heal the intestinal lining and reduce inflammation
  • Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids – supplement at therapeutic dosage, cold water fish, walnuts, and flaxseed to help support the immune system and reduce inflammation (EPA in particular helps reduce inflammation)
Reduce Irritations:
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates, including refined sugar – which irritates the intestinal lining
  • Avoid alcohol, which is an irritant
  • Avoid caffeine, which irritates the gut and dehydrates the body
Positive Lifestyle Changes:
  • Reduce stress
  • Practice mindful eating
  • Chew well
Book your Food Sensitivity Screening today.
Thursday, 19 October 2017 21:19

Warm Quinoa, Sweet Potato and Kale Salad

 1/2 cup quinoa cooked in one cup of broth or water
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and roasted in oven till soft at 350C for about 50 minutes.
(I sprinkled cardamom on mine)
1 red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp grated ginger root
1 tbsp coconut oil
Saute above ingredients till soft
Wash and chop into large pieces 6-8 large leaves of Kale.
Assemble the cooked quinoa, cooked sweet potatoes and sauted onion, garlic and ginger root into a roasting pan, I used a square stone.  Mix in the raw kale and add about 4- 8 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 4-8 tbsp of olive oil or melted coconut oil, 1/4 cup of maple syrup.  You can add more spice if you like such as cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and/or nutmeg.  I added some epicure Thai seasoning this time.
Throw in the oven at 350C till the kale is softened through. 
I actually turned it down to about 200 and let it sit for about an hour till dinner was ready.
Top with greens and add a chicken breast for a complete meal.
Thursday, 19 October 2017 15:01

Strawberries and Crème smoothie

1 Cup frozen strawberries
1 ½ Cups Vanilla Coconut Milk
½ cup coconut water
¼ cup rolled oats
8 – 10 raw almonds
1-2 figs, to sweeten
Chia Seeds
Blend until smooth, top with a sprinkle of Chia seeds.
Serve cold. Serve with gf toast, and a boiled egg.
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 19:35

Amaranth Cereal

Amaranth looks very similar to quinoa and was an Aztec dietary staple so it is classified as an ancient grain.  Like quinoa, it is actually a seed. 
Amaranth is also gluten free, so if you are looking to eliminate wheat and gluten products you might want to give Amaranth a second look.  It contains an appreciable amount of protein around 26 grams per cup.
1 cup whole grain amaranth
2 cups almond or coconut milk
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tbsp hemo seeds
Place amaranth, milk and 1 cup water in a medium saucepot. 
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until most liquid is absorbed and amaranth is cooked through and tender, about 25 minutes. 
Stir in cherries, walnuts, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and hemp seeds until combined. Serve hot.
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 19:29

Coco-Yogurt Parfait

This is a beautiful little parfait that you can make ahead of time and then grab for a quick breakfast or afternoon snack.
1 Cup Coconut Yogurt, vanilla flavoured
¼ Cup Homemade Granola or your favourite brand
½ Cup Mixed Berries
½ tsp Flax Seed
1 tbsp Hemp Seeds
Layer yogurt, granola and fruit, sprinkle with flax seed and hemp seeds.
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 19:00

Amazing Eggs and Veggie Sauté

Coconut Oil or Olive Oil
6 Eggs
Minced Garlic
1tsp turmeric
½ tsp chili powder
1 small Zucchini
3 grape Tomatoes (or 2 romas)
6 Baby Bella Mushrooms
Dice all veggies into small bite size pieces. Over medium heat, heat oil in medium sized skillet. 
Add tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, and garlic. Sauté until tender, about three or four minutes. 
Add turmeric and chili powder. Mix in thoroughly. Remove from pan. (set aside)
Using same skillet, make over easy eggs. Using a spatula, shape and unstick eggs from skillet until runny in the middle but all whites are cooked, turning only once.
Serve with Egg in center of plate, topped with sautéed vegetables. Sprinkle a dash of salt if desired.
May add a whole grain gluten free English muffin or sprouted grain bread to this dish!
** Alternatively, you can add the eggs to the sautėd veggies and create a fritatta.
Serves 4 – 6

Blood Sugar Creeping Up? Get Control by Doing These!

Blood sugar is literally that: the sugar in your blood. Your blood contains all kinds of important nutrients and other substances that we need to be healthy. Including sugar. Blood is the liquid transporter that distributes these compounds to all parts of our bodies.

Sugar (a type of carbohydrate) is one of our body’s main fuels. The other two fuels are fat and protein. I call it “fuel” because our cells literally burn it to do work. It’s this “biochemical” burning of fuel in all of our cells that is our metabolism.

So, how does blood sugar get too high? What diet and lifestyle upgrades can we do to manage it?

In this post, I’ll talk a bit about blood sugar balance, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Then I’ll give you 11 proven strategies that can help manage blood sugar level naturally. The good news is that blood sugar levels are responsive to diet and lifestyle upgrades.

You have power to help manage your blood sugar with these key strategies!

NOTE: There are several medical, diet, and lifestyle approaches to managing medical conditions.  None of these are a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have any of these conditions, or are taking medications for it, please make sure you’re being monitored regularly.

Blood sugar balance

Our body strives to be in balance. It exerts a lot of energy to make sure that our systems are all running smoothly. Our digestive system, nervous system, cardiovascular (heart & blood vessels) system, etc. And this includes our blood too. Our bodies try to balance our blood pressure, blood volume, blood sugar, etc.

There is a normal and healthy range of sugar levels in our blood. The problem doesn’t start until these levels are out of range, i.e. too high for too long.

Here’s how our bodies strive to maintain optimal levels of blood sugar:

We eat a food containing carbohydrates (i.e. sugar and/or starch).
Our digestive system breaks down the sugar and/or starch into smaller sugars like glucose. These smaller sugars are then absorbed into our bloodstream. This naturally raises our blood sugar level.
When our blood sugar gets too high, the pancreas (a gland in our digestive system) sends out insulin. Insulin is a hormone that tells our muscles, liver and, ultimately, fat cells to grab that sugar from the blood. These cells use the sugar they need for energy now, and store the rest for later.
The muscles and liver store sugar (e.g. glucose) temporarily. When we need it, our muscles and liver give up their sugar into the blood. This happens, for example, when we haven’t eaten for a few hours, we’re exercising, or we’re under stress.

As you can see, the amount of sugar in your blood is constantly flowing up and down. Up when we eat; down when the insulin tells the cells to pull it out of the blood. Then up again when we eat again and/or start using some of the stored glucose. And down again as it’s used (burned) or stored.

This is all good and healthy!  This is what we aim for.

Blood sugar imbalance (insulin resistance & type-2 diabetes)

The problem is when the balance is thrown off. When the blood sugar ups and downs become unhealthy. When the “ups” get too high, and they stay there for too long.

Too much blood sugar can cause heart rate issues (arrhythmias), and in extreme cases, even seizures. Too high blood sugar for too long can eventually cause long-term damage to organs and limbs.

A healthy blood sugar balance is key.

A common way our blood sugar gets too high is when we eat a lot of sugar in a short time. Especially processed sugar, like in soda pop, energy drinks, desserts, etc. Our digestive system absorbs as much sugar from our food as possible. This is an evolutionary thing. We inherited this from thousands of years ago when food was scarce and the next meal was unknown. Our bodies adapted to crave, absorb, and store as much sugar as possible in one sitting, because it didn’t know how long it would be until the next meal. It’s a survival mechanism.

Over the years, if we frequently eat a lot of sugar and have increased body fat, our bodies can change. The muscle and liver cells start ignoring insulin’s call to absorb sugar from the blood. They become “insulin resistant.” When this happens, the sugar stays in the blood for a lot longer than normal. Blood sugar levels become too high for too long.

But this doesn’t stop the pancreas from releasing even more insulin. When this happens you have the paradox of high blood sugar and high insulin.

Some symptoms of insulin resistance are:
Fatigue after meals;
Sugar cravings that don’t go away, even if sweets are eaten;
Increased thirst;
Frequent urination.