Iron deficiency anemia is a very common problem, which is why iron is often added to foods such as iron-fortified cereals and infant formulas as well as supplements.
Babies are born with iron stored in their bodies but because they grow so fast they need more than what can be stored. Babies between 9 months and two years of age are at the greatest risk for anemia if they are not being breastfed or have natural sources of iron in their diet such as liver, red meat, pork, seafood, beans, and dark leafy greens. Even if they are breastfed, it is important that mom has these foods in her diet for her baby to benefit.
The problem with supplementing with iron-fortified formula, cereal, or vitamins is that the side-effects often can be just as bad if not worse. Constipation is the most common side-effect but occasionally there can be diarrhea and gastrointestinal inflammation. Iron supplements may even be an underlying contributing factor to gut dysbiosis. Too much iron can also be poisonous to children under six years of age.
So what is going on? Why do iron supplements cause constipation and gut inflammation when foods high in iron do not?
Most iron supplements are simple salts like iron fumarate, iron gluconate, or iron sulfate. But iron compounds are not bioavailable in an aerobic environment. So some supplements use chelates like iron bis-glycinate to make the iron more soluble.
Unfortunately, even with these efforts to make iron more bioavailable, the rapid pH changes in the digestive tract (from acidic pH in the stomach to more neutral in the small intestine) will cause the iron to become insoluble. Any iron that isn't absorbed (which can be as much as 70% in some supplements) can cause inflammation in the gut due to a process called redox cycling, which creates free radicals. Any remaining iron travels to the lower bowel where it feeds iron-loving pathogenic bacteria leading to lower levels of beneficial bacteria, constipation, diarrhea and more inflammation.
In contrast, iron found in our diet comes in the form of ferritin, a protein-bound form of tiny iron oxohydroxide particles found in both plant and animal tissue. Ferritin doesn't dissolve in the digestive tract but is absorbed through the gut wall and is carried directly into the cells where the iron is released through enzymatic processes from lysosomes making it available for use by the cell. Ferritin doesn't cause inflammation in the gut and bacteria cannot absorb it the same way so it doesn't have the side effect risk.
That has led some scientists to try and make a better iron supplement called IHAT. In the meantime food sources of iron remain the most effective at reducing iron deficiency anemia with the least harmful side effects.
Recovery from the side effects of iron supplementation should include probiotics, Vitamin C, and food rich in Antioxidants.
This June 21st will mark the 4th anniversary of opening the doors to Elder & Sage, our family-owned herb and remedies shop. Back in 2010 when I first sat down with my parents to discuss opening a business together I don't think any of us could have imagined how things would have happened. In just six short months we left our long term employers, moved four generations of family members from two different cities and started our own business. Since then I have worked with over 500 clients and customers. It has been quite a ride!
My parents are now ready to retire and they deserve it. After 45 years of employment in various retail positions throughout the country – it's time. So, this year I have had some very hard thinking to do:
Could I run both the shop and do my naturopathic consultations?
Is the shop capable of supporting outside employees?
Can I afford to invest the time required to own and operate a retail store?
Perhaps you can see where this might be going. The truth of the matter is my answer to all of these questions is “no”. I love having the shop to work out of but the time investment to manage it on my own is just not feasible. I feel that the time spent managing a retail store would detract from my ability to consult with and research for my clients which is my first priority. I just cannot do it without Mom and Dad.
So, on Friday, May 22nd the shop portion of Elder & Sage will be closing. The business name, website, and Facebook page will continue to be run by me but only for the purposes of my natural health consultations and client education. I will be moving my office into my home and my husband will be handling his CSA and herd-share delivery service out of our home as well. I will maintain relationships with some of our current vendors to supply my clients with the supplements they need and may be able to offer certain product (such as essential oils) through this website at a later date.
Please know that if you have had a health consultation with me in the past or would like to set one up, I will continue to be available for appointments out of my home or by phone/Skype, and email – that will not change. I will be happy to direct you to sources for any of the supplements and retail items you have come to rely on. I will also continue to teach at the Naturopathic Institute of Therapies and Education in Mt. Pleasant and take on students and interns for apprenticeships when I am able. I also hope to offer more classes in the future so stay tuned for that.
The good news is, in many ways I will become more available than before as I attempt to blend my career and home life more seamlessly. So I like to think of this transition as an exciting new adventure and I look forward to continuing our work together on promoting and improving your health. Please feel free to contact me using the updated contact form above. Thank you so much for your loyalty and support these past four years and your continued support as we make this important life transition.
To Your Health!
Breastfeeding eczema is a term I came up with to describe those babies that have eczema even though they are exclusively breastfed, which has been reported to reduce the risk of childhood eczema and doesn't seem to make logical sense if breastmilk is the best food for infants.
As a Naturopath, I have worked with many clients over the past 10 years on this issue and have had some success and some failures. It is a difficult issue so I want to cover what I know all in one post for reference.
Recently I came across an article that suggested that breastfeeding for the first two years of life was found to prevent atopic dermatitis in infants if the mother did not have allergies or asthma. Results were not significant in mothers with allergies and there was no protection if the mother had asthma. So we have here the confirmation that the infant's eczema is related to the mother's health.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the book Gut & Psychology Syndrome describes the connection as such:
"Babies are born with an immature immune system. Establishment of normal gut flora in the first 20 or so days of life plays a crucial role in appropriate maturation of the baby's immunity. As these children acquire abnormal gut flora (from their mothers) they are left immune-compromised."
This gut dysbiosis leads to a damaged gut wall and toxins, microbes and undigested foods enter the body causing physical problems in the child such as eczema and asthma.
I believe that the connection may go a little bit deeper. In a mother with a compromised gut system and intestinal permeability there are undigested proteins and endotoxins from pathogenic forms of bacteria leaking into her bloodstream. Her immune system actively works to eliminate these pathogens. These immune compounds such as histamine, cytokines, etc. get into her breastmilk. Because the mother's body is training the infant's immune system through her breast milk the baby's immature immune system responds to the cascade of immune complexes resulting in the eczema. Even if the baby itself does not have poor gut bacteria and intestinal permeability, their body reacts as if it does due to the mother's immune complexes in her milk. This causes inflammation and irritation that may result in further health complications. I do not currently have studies to support this theory but I will continue my informal research to see what I can find.
These are the characteristics I see from these children:
I have worked with many clients as a GAPS Practitioner through the GAPS diet in trying to heal the mother's gut dysbiosis. There has been some success with this approach depending on the severity of the mother's issues. Mothers who have other complications such as glandular imbalances due to gut dysbiosis will often have a harder time.
I am suspicious that the severity of this problem and the drastic increases in numbers may also have other environmental factors influencing it. I have been following the potential impacts of the following:
I have started an online support group through Facebook for parents so that I can more thoroughly research the common factors tied to this issue. I also hope it will help provide parents with ideas for ways to cope with symptoms.
To Your Health,
This spring has been a bad one for colds and sore throats that don't seem to want to go away. Why is it that everyone seems to get sick in the springtime?
There are a lot of physiological changes going on in our bodies as the weather outside begins to warm up. Our bodies need to maintain a core temperature around 98 degrees Fahrenheit so during the winter a significant amount of our calories from food go towards maintaining this body temp. That's also why we tend to be more hungry in the winter and crave more high calorie foods. Our bodies use the excess calories to increase the number of fat cells to serve as insulation. Fat cells are also convenient storage sites for excess amounts of fat-soluble chemicals that come in from our food and our environment including pesticides. As the weather warms up we no longer need the extra insulation or the excess calories for heat production. So fat cells undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death) which may also release the fat-soluble chemicals back into the lymph fluid and bloodstream. The liver then continues it's detoxification efforts to convert these chemicals into a form that can be removed via the lungs, bile, or urinary tract.
If you are sensitive to your body signals you will notice that your appetite diminishes in the spring. This is an important mechanism that allows our bodies to remove the cellular waste and essentially do some “spring cleaning” internally. If we ignore our body signals however and continue to eat the same amount of food as we did during colder times it will put more strain on our detoxification systems. Your body starts to get mixed signals trying to burn off the fat and create fat for storage of excess calories at the same time. When temperatures fluctuate wildly from one week to the next this process can be all the more complicated. You may notice your liver go into overdrive resulting in hot flashes or flushes of heat, pain under the ribcage on your right side, and waking up between 1 and 3 am, which is known as “liver time”.
With excess waste material in the blood and lymph, the immune system is employed to help in the form of those wonderful white blood cells that clean our system by eating their way through the waste. With the increase in temperatures there is also an increase in microbial activity. We are exposed to more bacteria in the air we breathe and everything that we touch. As the active immune system and environmental microbes collide we may develop the typical “spring cold” symptoms. The length of time and severity of the symptoms is directly proportional to the amount of bacteria and waste the body needs to eliminate. Mucus flows from our sinuses and our lungs cough up this viscous material that is loaded with the debris of battle. As unpleasant as it all might be to have our daily routines interrupted, it is biologically important.
We would do well to listen to the wisdom of religious and spiritual customs that encouraged periods of fasting during this time. These customs were not only a way to promote moderation during the lean times of food availability but also a way to ensure the health of the community. The remedy for spring diseases is to eat less! Support your body's cleansing efforts by drinking more water and alternate periods of rest with moderate levels of exercise. Above all eat cleanly and do not put more chemicals in to your body at this time. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Food should be whole and free of pesticide residues. Prepare your meals at home with fresh ingredients when possible to avoid excess amounts of additives and preservatives used to lengthen the shelf-life of processed foods. Make good use of the early spring greens such as dandelion leaves to add to your salads to support liver function but even more important than going through liver cleansing protocols is to be sure and give your liver a break by putting less burden on it. Reduce meal portion sizes by at least one third, eat when you are hungry and do not eat when you are not hungry. If you listen well to your body you will transition easily into warmer weather without the sniffles and coughs of spring.
To Your Health!
Last year as part of my continuing education I attended a series of classes on the Liver Detox Pathways. A significant portion of the class was dedicated to statin drug and their effects on the body based on a book written by James and Hannah Yoseph called How Statin Drugs Really Lower Cholesterol: and Kill You One Cell at a Time. Here's a sample of what I've learned.
In order for a cell to thrive, grow and replicate itself it requires food. Cellular food is in the form of a protein called “reductase”. Reductase activates something called the mevalonate pathway that produces cholesterol and other molecules called isoprenoids to cause the cell to grow large, replicate its DNA and then divide into two daughter cells. This is the cellular cycle and the basis for all life. Without the cholesterol and isoprenoids, cells will age and die without being replaced.
Statin drugs block reductase and the mevalonate pathway in order to reduce the production of cholesterol in the body and pull cholesterol out of the blood. Every single cell in the human body is affected by statin drugs but since cellular renewal happens at various rates it takes a long time before we notice its effects.
Cells lining the gut renew themselves every 10 hours up to every 5 days.
Skin cells regenerate every two weeks.
Liver cells are replaced every 300-500 days.
Bone cells last a decade.
If you are trying to heal your body and improve your health but you are taking a statin drug you won't get very far. If cells cannot replicate, they will die.
There is nothing you can take as a supplement in order to reduce the effects of a statin drug on the mevalonate pathway. Taking CoQ10 is often recommended if you are on a statin drug because CoQ10 is an isoprenoid that is vital for cell energy and its production is also blocked by statin drugs. But taking CoQ10 will not keep your cells from dying. Even taking cholesterol would not keep your cells from dying. The only way to keep your cells from dying is to stop blocking the mevalonate pathway.
There are better ways to reduce your risk and prevent heart disease like:
Reduce alcohol consumption
Reduce coffee consumption
Remove processed foods from the diet
Avoid partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
Avoid vegetables oils that have been heated
Reduce refined carbohydrate consumption
Reduce or eliminate sugar consumption
Reduce your exposure to pesticides in your food and environment
Eat more fresh vegetables
Everything on this list will improve your health and help your body to heal while reducing your risk of all chronic diseases instead of contributing to death one cell at a time.
To Your Health!
Let's just put it simply, shall we? Feel free to share this photo and let's get the message out loud and clear.
This is a quote from the Institute for Responsible Technology:
"Gluten-related disorders are commonly accompanied by and possibly triggered by intestinal permeability, which is commonly referred to as “leaky gut.” Leaky gut occurs when gaps form between intestinal cells and large particles from the digestive tract enter the bloodstream, potentially triggering immune or allergic reactions. The Bt-toxin produced by genetically modified corn kills insects by punching holes in their digestive tracts, and a 2012 study confirmed that it punctures holes in human cells as well. Bt-toxin is present in every kernel of Bt corn, survives human digestion, and has been detected in the blood of 93% of pregnant women tested and 80% of their unborn fetuses. This “hole-punching toxin” may be a critical piece of the puzzle in understanding gluten-related disorders."
So if you don't want to risk having your intestines look like Swiss cheese please avoid non-organic corn products and let's get GMO's out of our food!
To Your Health!
Could simple exercises that train your brain actually improve your gut health? The answer is a definite "yes" according to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSc, author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working? and a new book coming soon called Gluten, Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity.
In a recent interview with Sean Croxton from Underground Wellness as a part of his Digestion Session series still going on this week Dr. Kharrazian talked about the brain-gut axis, not to be confused with the gut-brain axis.
“One of the most neglected things that I think most practitioner’s don’t understand, whether they’re conventional or alternative, is that there’s this brain-to-gut axis.”
Dr. Kharrazian explains that some of what we may assume to be traditional gut disorders may in fact be a type of neuro-degenerative disease that starts in the gut. And the way to determine if a digestive disorder is brain-based is to look for motility issues.
“Motility means how you move foods; when you eat something and how you have a bowel movement.” says Dr. Kharrazian. “Do you have constipation, do you have to drink coffee to have a bowel movement, do you have to take magnesium or some kind of laxative to have regular bowel movements? If you do, that could very well be a brain-to-gut axis issue.”
Slow motility then becomes the trigger for chronic digestive issues such as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), H. Pylori infections, Intestinal Permeability and eventually auto-immune disorders.
You can have your doctor check for whether or not you have a motility problem or you can check yourself by two simple methods:
Gargling - Gargling with water stimulates the vagus nerve which helps bring blood flow to the gut. Dr. Kharrazian suggests gargling forcefully with water several times a day. If you’re doing it right, he says, you may even start to have tears come to your eyes. This is because it also stimulates an area of the brain right next to the vagus nerve called the the superior salivatory nucleus, which causes you to tear. You may need to start with a small amount of water and gargle for a short period of time but slowly building up the duration and intensity will exercise those neurons and strengthen them.
Induce Your Gag Reflex - Using disposable tongue depressors, press on the the back of your tongue just enough to induce your gag reflex. Be careful not to go too far into the back of the throat to cause injury. Stimulating the gag reflex may also cause you to tear up which is once again a sign that you have stimulated your vagus nerve.
Coffee Enema - Most people who have heard of coffee enemas will know that they are used for detoxification. But Dr. Kharrazian suggests using a strong coffee enema daily so the caffeine in the coffee will stimulate something called the gastrointestinal nicotinic cholinergic receptors which encourage gut motility. If you are using a strong enough concentration of caffeine you should get the urge to have a bowel movement. Then he says you need to suppress your urge to eliminate for as long as possible.
“As they suppress their urge they’re firing their frontopontine vagal enteric axis. If they keep doing that, they build endurance and they start to regain their brain-gut axis.”
Sing - Another way to stimulate the vagal muscles at the back of the throat is to sing really loudly, which is probably the easiest and most fun of all the other suggestions!
If you are interested in learning more about what the top experts in digestive health recommend, I suggest you check out the Digestion Sessions. I’m learning so much and I’m excited to be able to pass some of this info on to you!
To Your Health!
I finally did it! I have been working on a project now for the last 2-3 years of creating a children's book to try and explain gut dysbiosis to kids. I've finally finished it!
It's a bit rough. Right now I have it in a powerpoint presentation to show clients (a few of you may have already seen some of my rough draft version). I like to read the story to my kid clients and their parents to help them understand what gut dysbiosis is and why it affects their health. I've also printed off the powerpoint slides to make a little coloring book.
As much as I'd love to get this published I think I'm happy just being able to use it for right now! I've posted a few pictures from the storyline for your enjoyment. What do you think?
To Your Health!
As a GAPS Practitioner I come across a lot of people that will say, "Yeah, I tried the GAPS diet but it was just too hard." or "I don't think I could ever do that." or even sometimes, "I tried it for a couple of months but it didn't work for me." It seems that some people will come to me for a consultation hoping that I have some other easier approach, a quick fix that doesn't involve major dietary changes. But let me tell you, if there was a quick fix for gut dysbiosis, I would be shouting it from the rooftops!
The truth is - it is really difficult to heal the digestive tract once it has been damaged to the extent that it leads to food sensitivities, allergies, auto-immune disorders, chronic digestive disturbance, and psychological issues. Gut dysbiosis is like the pebble that triggered an avalanche. The longer it goes on the worse it gets and the harder it is to recover fully. Sure you can dabble with a gluten and dairy-free diet for a while; just avoid those foods that seem to aggravate your symptoms; or save the sweets for the weekends and rare occasions - but every day you put off fully dealing with gut dysbiosis is another day of damage that leads to nutrient deficiencies that will at some point lead to something really serious, maybe life threatening.
The other day I met with a client that had just completed the minimum two-year healing protocol of GAPS for her IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). She had tried other diets which gave her some relief but since starting the GAPS diet she had zero episodes of intense cramping, pain and diarrhea. Until then she had been having 4 episodes a week. After asking her some detailed questions about her levels of energy, bowel habits, quality of sleep, etc. I gave her the green light on trying to re-incorporate some foods that are illegal on the GAPS diet. While she was relieved to be able to expand her repertoire she, like many others who have successfully completed GAPS, didn't feel the diet had been that difficult overall. The initial planning and changing of habits had been the most difficult part.
Most clients struggle with die-off reactions within the first few months but soon all cravings for sugar and carbohydrates will cease. Suddenly you can go to a potluck and not feel crazy with desire for all the sugary desserts. You can feel satiated with each meal and watch as your health and vitality begin to recover.
I've come to the conclusion that when it comes to health issues - it's good to be boring. What we are looking for with the GAPS nutritional protocol is to restore some resilience to the digestive functions. You should be able to eat some birthday cake and ice cream once in a while without suffering. You should be able to travel to a foreign country without feeling so fatigued that you sleep for several days after returning home. You should be able to eat real pizza! The GAPS nutritional protocol has the ability to restore your quality of life if you are only brave enough to do it! What is harder? Suffering for decades and slowly getting worse or a couple of years of discipline for a lifetime of health?
That being said, there are those out there that have legitimately tried the GAPS diet and not felt better right away. There are complications that can make a quick recovery unlikely such as hormonal imbalances. That's why having a GAPS Practitioner to help you navigate the ups and downs can be so valuable.
With each client I learn how complicated the effects of gut dysbiosis can be. Sometimes we have to get creative with herbal remedies and supplements, sometimes I have to throw my hands up in the air and admit I have no idea what the body is trying to do! But, I always appreciate working with the individual through the issues side by side. I am just as invested in their health as they are!
It is all worth it to have that client come back and say how good they feel - how much relief they have - and how boring their health issues are! So if you have considered the GAPS diet before or even tried it for a little while, I encourage you to take another look. It is certainly not easy but nothing worthwhile ever is and you really are strong than you think.
Plain and simple.
And until I find that magic pill that makes gut dysbiosis go away in a day I will keep recommending it.
To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher, ND, CGP
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor and has been seeing clients for natural health consultations and therapies for more than 6 years. Most recently Kathryn has received training from world renowned author and practitioner Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in 2012 to become a Certified GAPS Practitioner for dealing with the connection between gut health and our mental/physical ailments. Kathryn has done numerous public speaking engagements, taught several classes on natural health for the community, is an instructor for a naturopathic school, maintains a website and blog about natural health, has written several articles for local publication and is a highly respected professional in her field.
I was recently reviewing a new homeschool resource for my kids that has all kinds of learning videos including ones on health. So I thought I would check out a few videos on the immune system and see if I could learn anything new or at least jog my memory on a few things I've covered in the past because after all, I can't remember absolutely everything I've read! :)
While there wasn't much new to learn it did give me a different perspective that I would like to share with you. Basically it boils down to this: Immune cells are designed to attack anything that doesn't belong in your body. These are called pathogens and they include viruses, bacteria, chemicals, parasites, etc. Once your immune system destroys one of these pathogens it takes a little piece of its protein and carries it around with it so all the other immune cells can learn to watch out for it too.
So imagine you have a string of colored beads. Each bead on the string is an amino acid and the whole string of beads together is a protein. While there are only a handful of amino acid variations out there what order they are put on the string and how long the string is makes up an almost infinite number of possible proteins. So you could have a pink bead followed by a green bead, another pink and then an orange and that would be one protein but take off all the beads and put them in a different arrangement and you have a completely different protein.
Now if you took some scissors and clipped off small pieces of that protein chain you would have what are called polypeptides. These polypeptides are only a fraction of the larger protein but these are what the immune cells are using to train all the other immune cells as to who the enemy is. Can you see where the problem is?
So proteins make up just about everything. There are proteins in the food you eat, in the pollen and dust in the air, and your own body is made up of proteins. If you have leaky gut, you've got all kinds of partially digested proteins and polypeptide chains leaking into your bloodstream where your immune cells have to clean them up. And these immune cells remember every little protein it has to clean up and will communicate that to your other immune cells.
Now if that little bit of polypeptide chain that your immune system is looking for happens to be similar to a part of your own body proteins - it will attack that too. It's called molecular mimicry where your immune system mistakes your own body tissue for a pathogen resulting in an auto-immune condition.
So say for example a polypeptide chain from soy protein leaks through your gut wall and your white blood cells digest it. Then it remembers that bit of polypeptide chain which happens to look a lot like your thyroid tissue. You may end up developing Hashimoto's Thyroiditis which is an autoimmune condition where your own body has developed antibodies to your thyroid tissue. And the more cells your immune system destroys the more the program is reinforced creating a vicious cycle of continuous inflammation.
And it's not just the thyroid this can happen to. Any body tissue can come under attack. Auto-immune disorders are on the rise and many people will end up with multiple auto-immune diseases. Some examples include Psoriasis, Crohn's Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and many others.
The key to bringing auto-immunity under control is to seal the leaky gut through a nutritional protocol such as the GAPS diet allowing the body and the immune system to return to normal function, although it may take quite a while depending on how much damage has been done. In some cases the body may never fully recover from auto-immunity! So the sooner you can deal with a leaky gut, the better your chance of a full recovery.
If you suspect you have a leaky gut or you already have been diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, don't wait to address it. Get to the root of the issue with the help of a qualified natural health practitioner or GAPS practitioner.
To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher, ND, CGP
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.