Are Grains Really Good For You?

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”- Hippocrates

We are led to believe that grains are an essential element in a healthy diet. We are told that eating high-fiber whole grains may help reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent or treat diabetes, and reduce cholesterol. Grains occupy the entire base and largest space on the food pyramid.  Should we question whether they are healthy for us?

Interestingly, scientific and historical research shows that humans have not always consumed grains, and in fact some would argue the body was not designed to function on grains at all! Based on this research we have asked our patients to reduce their intake of grains and in some cases we are suggesting to go grain free. Grains include processed and whole grain products such as wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, teff, rice, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, sorghum, and corn. These grains are used to make products like cereal, crackers, cookies, breads, and pasta. Grains contain anti-nutrients and cause big fluctuations in insulin levels, which promotes inflammation in the body.  Let’s discuss each of these issues in detail.

Reason #1:

Grains contain anti-nutrients.

Anti-nutrients are elements within a food that either prevent or disrupt the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients contained in that food. The more grains you eat the more anti-nutrients you have in your diet. If you eat cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and a bowl of pasta for dinner you are being exposed to a huge amount of anti-nutrients.  Phytates are anti-nutrients. Phytates make minerals bio-unavailable as they bind to the minerals in our foods and prevent their absorption. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc are crucial for health and healing, but in the presence of phytates they are blocked from being absorbed by the body. This causes mineral deficiency which can result in a wide variety of symptoms that include, but are not limited to, suppressed immunity, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, heart palpitations, muscle cramps, constipation, hormonal imbalance, restless leg syndrome, muscle spasms, asthma, migraines, PMS and infertility.

Lectins are anti-nutrients that are sugar-binding proteins resistant to digestive enzymes and stomach acid. Lectins stick to the cells in the lining of the small intestines causing a weakness in digestive function. They are sticky like glue, and their stickiness is what clogs your digestive tract and blocks the absorption of nutrients. Overconsumption of lectin rich foods can build up over the years and cause sludge to form on your bowel walls keeping the intestines in a constant state of inflammation.

One way to address the problem of anti-nutrients in grains is to soak and/or sprout them. Some cultures prepare their grains by sprouting and soaking them before preparation and eating. This process dramatically reduces anti-nutrients and makes the actual nutrients present in grains available for absorption. If sprouting and soaking your own grains is not an option there are many health food stores and supermarkets that are already fully stocked with sprouted-grain products. Sprouted-grain breads are easy to find in the freezer section of most grocery stores.

Resources:

www.sproutpeople.org

www.foodforlife.com

www.organicsproutedflour.net

Reason #2:

Grains contain gluten.

Gluten is the protein component in wheat, rye, and barley.  It makes pizza dough stretchy, gives bread its spongy texture, and is used to thicken sauces and soups. The latest research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that around 1% of the population has Celiac’s disease, an autoimmune response to gluten that damages the small intestine. A Celiac patient reacts to trace amounts gluten in their diet. Although only a small percentage of people have Celiac’s, research shows a larger percentage of the population is sensitive to gluten and wheat. Some researches estimate that 30-40% of people of European decent are gluten intolerant. In addition to that Allopathic medicine has recently recognized a new group of diagnoses called non-celiac gluten sensitivity disorders. These conditions include digestive issues, cognitive and behavioral disorders, and neurological conditions that are caused by immune reactions to gluten in the diet.  Unfortunately for many, the long-term results of consuming gluten can cause permanent damage to their immune and nervous systems.

Gluten free grains such as millet, amaranth, rice, buckwheat, sorghum, corn and teff also contain anti nutrients, cause insulin fluctuations and promote inflammation in the body.  We recommend these grains in limited amounts. Pure oatmeal does not contain gluten, but most oatmeal brands on the market today are not pure — they contain oats that have been cross-contaminated with small amounts of wheat, barley and/or rye.

Reason # 3:

Grain consumption causes spikes in insulin production.

Insulin is very important for storing nutrients and processing glucose (sugar). Our bodies simply can’t handle the insulin requirements demanded when we over consume grains on a daily basis.

Ingesting grains causes blood sugar levels to spike, causing a shock to your system. Both simple and complex carbs get converted into glucose but at different rates once they enter the body. Your pancreas compensates for this excess glucose in the bloodstream by secreting excessive levels of insulin. Over stressing your insulin response system over the years can lead to metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.

We could tell everybody to completely eliminate grains out of their diet, and those who do will thrive… It will lower their blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels, dramatically improve energy levels, burn off belly fat, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, alleviate dermatitis, acne, and digestive disturbances etc. Those who chose to stay on the grain train should choose their grains wisely and infrequently. Soak and sprout your grains, buy sprouted grains, and seek non-grain, high protein alternatives like almond flour and coconut flour for your baked goods. By changing your diet and lifestyle you can take an active role in improving your digestive system, which in turn, will improve your immune system, and your ability to resist chronic diseases. As for the food pyramid, we should turn it upside down and get our daily fiber and essential nutrients from foods like vegetables, fruits, proteins and healthy fats which offer a much higher nutrient profile without the drawbacks seen with grains. This decrease in grain consumption will allow you to create a new relationship with grains and will help manage your blood sugar, control insulin levels and decrease systemic inflammation, which is essential to restoring health and slowing the aging process.


Protect Your Skin From the Sun With 3 Easy Steps

With all this beautiful weather and summer upon us, many people are spending time outdoors enjoying the sun.

And let’s face it, after being cooped up for the winter, many of us may even be overdoing time in the sun!

While most experts are finally agreeing that sunshine has its health benefits, it’s still vitally important to practice a healthy balance of sun exposure and sun protection. 

Healthy Sun Exposure Has Great Benefits 

When it comes to health and healing, I recommend that everyone spend at least 10 minutes in the sun per day (without sunscreen) as the best way to keep your serum vitamin D at optimum levels for good health.

Why Healthy Sun Protection Is Critical Too

But what do you do when beautiful weather arrives and you want to be outside all day? How do you protect your skin from the sun?

This question comes up a lot because of the sunscreen controversy in natural health circles today. The thing is, most sunscreens on the market have toxic chemicals that are harmful to your health. And if you’ve been reading our newsletters and articles, we’re certain you really care about creating your best health.

Choosing a good sunscreen is just as important as choosing good, healthy, toxin free foods. After all, your skin eats everything you put on it!

In fact, toxic chemicals from sunscreen absorb straight into your skin and ruin your health by disrupting your hormonal systems and increasing the production of free radicals.

Let’s discuss skin protection for those times when you are in the sun for more than 40 minutes or there is a possibility of sunburn based on the intensity of the sunlight.

Top Sunscreen Ingredients to AVOID

Shopping for the best sunscreen can be confusing at best. Here’s are sunscreen ingredients to avoid:

  • Spray or Powdered Suntan Lotion with Micronized and Nano-Scale Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide –Micronized and nano-scale zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen provide strong UVA protection and while these ingredients have not been found to penetrate healthy skin, powder and spray products are often inhaled. You can actually inhale these small particles and they can potentially damage your lungs. European companies are already phasing out the use of these products.
  • Oxybenzone - a widely utilized ingredient that rates poorly due to high absorption through skin, high rates of allergic reactions, and growing concerns about hormone disruption

Animal studies indicate oxybenzone has estrogenic effects. Numerous other studies have linked   oxybenzone to hormone disruption, cell damage, and cancer.

  • Fragrance -it is always best to avoid fragrances unless they are plant based. Unfortunately, a loophole in federal law doesn't require companies to declare any of the dozens of toxic chemicals that a single product's fragrance mixture could contain.
  • Parabens (Methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, Isoparaben, etc.) – a common preservative used in sunscreens. Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, and some studies show it plays a role in the development of breast cancer and urogenital abnormalities.
  • Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate or OMC) – this common ingredient in sunscreens has estrogenic effects, causes disruption of thyroid hormone and brain signaling and reacts when exposed to sunlight.
  • Octisalate - a penetration enhancer that may increase the amount of other ingredients passing through the skin.
  • Avobenzone - an unstable ingredient that breaks down in to unknown chemicals in sunlight.
  • Octocrylene -produces free radicals in UV light, like sunlight.
  • Homosalate -a weak hormone disruptor that forms toxic metabolites.
  • Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid) - known to produce free radicals in sunlight, causes DNA damage and may cause cancer.
  • Padimate O (Octyl Dimethyl PABA / PABA Ester) -a paba derivative, releases free radicals, damages DNA, has estrogenic activity and causes allergic reactions in some people.
  • Menthyl Anthranilate – produces free radicals and has been banned in Europe and Japan.

If your own health isn’t reason enough to avoid these ingredients, do it for the sake of our oceans. National Geographic presented a theory where they implicate toxic chemicals from sunscreen in the death of coral reefs around the world.  

So How Do You Protect Your Skin From Too Much Sun?

There are healthier sunscreens and I am going to share my favorites with you. But first, it’s important to know that what you eat actually has more importance on your skin health than you think!

Eat For Sun Protection

Sun protection starts from the inside because what you eat can naturally protect your skin from the sun. Here are two great examples of how you can nourish yourself to better skin: 

  • Antioxidants- a diet rich in antioxidants, like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, lycopene and selenium has been shown to protect your skin from sun damage.

The reason for this is because antioxidants fight the free radicals from the sun’s UV light. These free radicals contribute to cell damage, aging and the risk of skin cancer. [1]

A study in 2007 showed that the antioxidants carotenoids and flavonoids can reduce skin sensitivity to the sun.[2]

If you want to get carotenoids, eat your carrots, kale, spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, papaya and tomatoes. Flavonoids can be found in foods like apples, pears, berries, black beans, cabbage and parsley.

  • Probiotics – live good bacteria, called probiotics, can contribute to skin health by enhancing your digestion (for example, you can eat antioxidants, but if you can’t digest them well, you won’t get their full benefits!) and reducing systemic inflammation.

A study published in 2010 found that a supplement containing probiotic and carotenoids reduced skin damage from UV light.[3]

Consuming probiotic foods, drinks and supplements http://store.pbhealthcenter.com/category_s/14.htm) can have many benefits for your overall health!

So is diet alone good enough for sun protection? Well, it helps, but I also recommend choosing an all-natural sunscreen for added protection.

Choose Healthy, Natural Sunscreens

Here are some of my favorite all-natural sunscreens:

  • Zinc Oxide - a physical sun blocker similar to oxybenzone, but without the toxic side effects.
  • Sun Defense Minerals by Emnence Organics - provides intense SPF 30 sun protection in the form of a make-up powder. The tinted powder is sweat-proof and water-resistant, hypoallergenic and anti-inflammatory. Plus it is naturally anti-bacterial and will not clog your pores. Eminence does a great job with sustainable packaging too for an extra bonus!
  • Tomato Suntan Lotion (SPF 22) by Organic Skincare - filters the sun's harmful rays with tomato and other natural ingredients like sesame oil, carrot, aloe and titanium dioxide. The handpicked, organically grown ingredients are rich with body beautifying and protecting antioxidants like lycopene, bioflavonoids, and carotenoids.
  • Antioxidant Sun Butter Level 18 Sunblock Cell Protection by ISun Organic Skincare - blends mango seed butter with zinc oxide and Phytoplankton Phytolyase enzymes into a butter that not only guards against sunburns, but also repairs damged skin.
  • SPF 30+ Sunscreen No Fragrance by California Baby – this sunscreen isn't just for babies! California Baby is safe for sensitive skin, free of artificial scents, and has no irritating chemicals while still providing UVA-UVB broad-spectrum protection. California Baby is also very conscious to use earth friendly packaging.

It All Comes Down to 3 Easy Steps

For a worry-free summer, follow these 3 easy steps:

  1. Keep your skin sunscreen free for a short period (about 10 minutes), so you can keep your vitamin D levels healthy.
  2. Consume a probiotic and antioxidant-rich diet for good digestive health and UV light protection.   
  3. Use a chemical free natural sunscreen to protect yourself when in the sun for longer periods.

And most of all, enjoy your summer outside!


[1] Sun and Skin Damage: Is Nutrition Important in Sun Protection? http://www.optiderma.com/en/they-talk-about-it/interviews-skin-experts/sun-et-skin-damage-is-nutrition-important-in-sun-protection.html

[2] Carotenoids and Flavonoids Contribute to Nutritional Protection against Skin Damage from Sunlight. http://www.springerlink.com/content/t34970046j826u74/ 

[3] Clinical evidence of benefits of a dietary supplement containing probiotic and carotenoids on ultraviolet-induced skin damage. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20545689