Category Archives: Natural Health

Natural health information that you can use to make your health better today. Why wait?

PCOS infographic. Because it’s awesome.

I love love LOVE infographics. Seriously. So here’s an awesome PCOS infographic, made by yours truly. Please share this with sisters, mothers, daughters, wives and besties.  Women need to know how common PCOS really is and how many women are struggling but don’t know it. Men should know too – maybe she’s actually doing everything she can but still struggling with weight because there’s an actual medical condition.  Maybe she needs a little more support right now. Send it to your guy friends too, because men you can hand down the tendencies for PCOS to your children and there is growing evidence that men can be affected as well. So pass it on my friends! Pass it on.

PCOS infographic from dramyneuzil.com

PCOS made pretty. Pass it on folks – women need to know.

 

Want to share this on your own website?  Please do!

Link it back to me if you can. Here’s the code:

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OR:

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Is gallbladder sludge linked to your gut bacteria?

Gallbladder sludge is an initial step in the development of gallstones. It causes many people pain but is arguably too early for surgery.  There are, of course, many natural ways to address this issue including a basic protocol, lecithin, and castor oil packs and research is indicating that probiotics might be helpful as well. While it stands to reason that a healthy digestive tract, i.e. one with a thriving colony of beneficial bacteria, will help protect against any digestive disease it is still nice to see the results on paper.

This study, published in the online journal PLoSOne, was actually conducted on different types of mice. These mice were from four groups of genetically related strains that were purchased from different vendors with a very different treatment of the mice in terms of their good bacteria. The researchers use genetically similar mice because genetics plays a role in gallbladder stone and sludge development so having similar genetics eliminates that variable and puts all the mice on an even playing field. The groups of mice differed mostly in their gut flora.  One vendor maintains the mice in a germ-free environment but doesn’t introduce any good bacteria. Another colonizes the mice with a healthy bacterial flora and then maintains a pathogen-free environment after that.

Good gut bacteria like these may be able to help prevent gallbladder sludge and stones. Image from Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

Good gut bacteria like these may be able to help prevent gallbladder sludge and stones. Image from Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

All of the mice were fed a “lithogenic diet”  meaning a diet that is known to induce gallstones. This diet was essentially similar to a high-fat human diet. Specifically 1% cholesterol, 15% triglycerides and 0.5% cholic acid (one of the components of bile – in humans we would produce this naturally). Results were based on gallbladder weight, the percentage of mucin (or mucus) in the bile, cholesterol crystal formation, sandy stone formation, and presence or absence of true cholesterol stones.




The study found that the mice with the good flora were more resistant to gallbladder sludge than the mice without the good flora. The total gallbladder weight was lower which is important because it represents a measurable way to test inflammation. Inflamed gallbladders grow thicker walls that have a higher content of immune cells and inflammatory particles.  Also the mice without the good flora showed higher percentages of mucin and researchers were able to determine that the good bacteria actually influence the gene expression of those mice.  Healthy gut bacteria is able to down-regulate the action of mucin genes, which contribute to mucus formation in the digestive tract.

Actual cholesterol crystal formation, sandy stone formation and cholesterol stones were also all significantly less in the mice with healthy gut flora.

What Does This Mean for Humans With Gallbladder Sludge?

Mice aren’t people, and although this is certainly something to think about, we can’t jump to the conclusion that gallbladder sludge can be prevented by good bacteria.  We can, however, use common sense to say that chances are having healthy digestive bacteria can help our bodies to maintain healthy digestion. That means that gut inflammation will probably be lower with good flora, there will probably be less mucus, and digestive processes will run more smoothly.  Logically it makes sense that this would lead to less gallbladder sludge formation.

How Do I Get Healthy Gut Flora?

Of course, there are a million probiotic formulas out there all claiming to be the “best” and as a consumer, it can be very difficult to wade through unless there is specific research on a specific product for the specific issue you’re having (which happens only in a handful of cases). There are not any products currently on the market which are researched for gallbladder sludge.  There are a number of ways to increase your good bacteria, many of which are from food.

Increasing Your Good Gut Flora

Your gut bacteria are 100 trillion friends you didn’t know you had. Take care of them!

  • Reduce Antibiotic Use. If at all possible, minimize or eliminate all antibiotics from your life.  Life-threatening illnesses are a different matter and some situations do require antibiotics but work with your doctor to minimize usage that is not absolutely necessary. Antibiotics kill off your good bacteria along with any bad bacteria and overuse is linked to obesity, serious digestive disease along with the more globally threatening antibiotic resistant bacteria.
  • Moderate Processed Foods. Processed foods are typically filled with preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, colors and other chemicals that are foreign to your body and to your more fragile gut flora.  A whole food diet has been shown to foster a very different digestive environment than a processed food diet and so eating foods with fewer chemicals will help your host of tiny helpers.
  • Increase Dietary Fiber.  If you’ve read this blog before you probably know I’m a big fan of fiber. Fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps to feed the good bacteria and provides material for fermentation in your gut.  All of those good bacteria really like fermentation and need the “prebiotics” or bacteria food that the fiber provides.
  • Get More Fermented Foods. Naturally fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sourkraut and other fermented veggies like spicy kimchee are all rich sources of good bacteria and can help to reintroduce those good strains into your digestion.
  • Grow Some (Organic) Veggies. Many of our good bacteria are soil microorganisms that we are supposed to through contact with, well, soil.  We are supposed to have these good bacteria from the earth and historically we would have got plenty of them by gardening, harvesting, farming and eating vegetables that aren’t “sanitized” before being put on grocery store shelves or irradiated to prevent foreign plant diseases from entering the country with produce. So growing some of your own or buying from a good local organic grower.  Rinsing your veggies as you normally would won’t eliminate all of the healthy bacteria so as long as they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides they’re a great source of some of your most potent good flora.
  • Take a Supplement.  The supplements are always an option if that is easiest for you, but don’t forget to do some of the rest of it too. In terms of supplements, every digestive tract is different so it can be helpful to rotate through different types of products with different strains of beneficial bacteria because there isn’t a great way to predict which strains will colonize best in your system.

 

 



Lifehack for Weight Loss: Imaginary Food

The easiest life hack for weight loss ever! Imaginary food. Image: Plate, Saucer, And Bowl © Brett Stoltz | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The easiest life hack for weight loss ever! Imaginary food. Image: Plate, Saucer, And Bowl
© Brett Stoltz | Dreamstime Stock Photos

This study is truly a case for mind over matter. The study shows that if you’re having a food craving, imagining yourself eating that food gives you the same level of satisfaction as does actually eating that food.  So if you’re at a party staring down a chocolate cake, and you imagine yourself eating and enjoying it, you are less likely to actually eat it.  Also if you do have a piece, you will be more satisfied by a smaller piece than you would be if you hadn’t imagined eating it. Talk about a life hack for weight loss!




Basically this means that imagining eating something is almost as satisfying to your body as actually eating something and the more you imagine eating it the less of it you are likely to eat.  Imagining eating something else doesn’t help.  So if you go to a party and have the choice of chocolate cake and chips, imagining eating the chocolate cake will give you some protection from the temptation of eating chocolate cake, but won’t protect you from eating the chips. Also the more you imagine eating it the less likely you are to actually eat it, so involving yourself in a nice long fudge fantasy can be your anti-fudge vaccine.

Please enjoy this food fantasy and lose weight.

Please enjoy this food fantasy and lose weight.

I think for a long time dieters have tried to never think of the foods they crave for fear that the cravings will get worse, but this study actually shows us that the opposite is true.  Daydreaming about the food you crave actually gives you some satisfaction, brings you some joy and makes that craving less. For once this is great news for weight loss!

For every dieter who is dreading this holiday season, just imagine those yummy Christmas cookies. Have a Christmas cookie fantasy date.   Go ahead and roll around in the cheese dip at the office party (um… in your imagination only.  In real life it doesn’t look good on your resume).  Imagine eating and loving whatever is in front of you right now and then either have a small piece, or move on to the next food daydream because hey – your imagination is your best life hack for weight loss and you’re helping yourself to weight loss success. Because science says so.



The Best Magnesium Supplement for YOU

One thing you’ll notice about supplements is that everyone is pretty convinced that their product is “THE BEST.” It’s a little hard to believe when every product on the shelf makes the same claim. You would think something like magnesium, which is a mineral, would be pretty straightforward but sadly, no. There is no easy answer as to what is the best kind of magnesium, other than to answer what is the best kind of magnesium for you.

What Is Magnesium Anyway?

Magnesium (Mg) is a mineral that is involved in almost every process in your body from muscle relaxation and proper muscle movement to hormone processing. Clinically it is used to treat muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, high blood pressure, constipation and chronic stress. Magnesium is pretty much everywhere – it’s the fourth most abundant element in the earth as a whole and the ninth in the universe. Magnesium is also highly water-soluble and is the third most common element dissolved in sea water. Generally, the composition of sea water and the composition of our bodies internal mineral balance is reasonably similar (although sea water is significantly higher in sodium) and, as a human, you function best when you have a rich supply of magnesium in your system. Magnesium is key to all of the energy-forming reactions in every cell in your body and there are over 300 enzyme pathways in humans that are dependent on magnesium.

The best magnesium supplement might just be the one you crave the most.  Chocolate

The best magnesium supplement might just be the one you crave the most. Chocolate

Historically magnesium would have been a much larger part of the human diet for a couple of reasons.  Magnesium is the center of the chlorophyll molecule in plants, so any dark green plant is a rich source. The average person in centuries past would have had a higher proportion of greens in their diet than modern folk tend to.  Also, magnesium is often present in spring water but less likely to be in any quantity in filtered city water. Also, sugar consumption effectively “burns” magnesium, using it to process sugar instead of leaving it available for other bodily functions so modern magnesium usage has changed.




How Do I Find The Best Kind of Magnesium For ME?

Magnesium can’t just be by itself as a molecule – it needs to be bound to something else to be stable, so the biggest difference in different magnesium products comes not from the magnesium itself (which is all the same) but from the molecule it’s bonded to.  The most common bonding agents I’ve seen are oxide, citrate, glycinate, sulphate or amino acid chelate. There are two things to look for about the molecule it’s bonded to: size, and function. There is the secondary consideration of absorption.

The size of the molecule matters because most people don’t want to take a tablespoon of something, they usually want to take a reasonably small amount – like maybe the amount that will fit into one or two capsules.  Magnesium itself is a very small molecule, but if it’s bonded to something large and floppy then you get a very small amount of magnesium, mixed in with a pretty large amount of something else.  So magnesium by weight is higher if it’s bonded to an extremely small molecule (like oxygen in Mg oxide) than if it’s bonded to a large molecule like glycine (in Mg glycinate) or an amino acid (in magnesium amino acid chelate). Citrate and sulphate molecules are somewhat in the middle for size.

Or maybe this is the best magnesium food source? Mmmmm... Coffee...

Or maybe this is the best magnesium food source? Mmmmm… Coffee…

The function of the additional molecule is also something to consider. Oxygen is obviously useful to body tissues, as are amino acids, but some amino acids have functions that may enhance one particular effect of the magnesium that you might be looking for clinically. We’ll go over different forms of magnesium individually.

Magnesium Absorption

Absorption is a separate concern. Magnesium itself is reasonably poorly absorbed (35% absorbed in the worst case scenario and 45% absorbed in the best). Generally if you are magnesium-depleted then your body will absorb any magnesium better than it would otherwise.  Calcium and magnesium compete for absorption, so if you take calcium and magnesium together they will both compete with each other (meaning you will absorb less of each). Also high or low protein intake can reduce magnesium absorption, as can phytates from some vegetables. Generally if you’re taking a magnesium supplement it’s best on an empty stomach. Magnesium also absorbs well through the skin (potentially far better than through the digestive tract), so Epsom salt baths (magnesium sulphate) and magnesium lotions, gels or oils (usually magnesium chloride) can be a great way to increase your body stores. Topical forms can be best if you’re using magnesium for it’s muscle relaxation and calming properties.

Orally, magnesium citrate is the best absorbed form (but it’s bonded to a big molecule so there is a smaller amount of magnesium by weight). Mg oxide is the most poorly absorbed form but has the highest Mg per weight, so actually you may get more elemental magnesium out of the same dose of Mg oxide vs. another magnesium, simply because of the size. The other forms of magnesium are somewhere in the middle in terms of absorption.

What Are The Benefits of Different Types of Magnesium?

Magnesium Oxide (The best magnesium supplement all around and highly cost effective)

Magnesium Oxide (MgO) is simply bonded to oxygen, which is obviously also something your body needs so there is nothing unnecessary in the product. The oxygen is useable by your body but will not strongly affect the way you feel taking the Mg. This is the least absorbed form, but also has one of the highest percentages of elemental magnesium per dose so it still may be the  highest delivered dose per mg. This is a great general purpose magnesium if really Mg is all you need, and it’s typically the least expensive form.  It makes a simple muscle relaxer, nerve tonic and laxative if you take a high dose.

Magnesium Citrate (The best magnesium supplement as a laxative)

This is one of the most common forms of Mg on the commercial market. This is Mg bonded to citric acid, which increases the rate of absorption. Citrate is a larger molecule than the simple oxygen of oxide, so there is less magnesium by weight than in the oxide form. This is the most commonly used form in laxative preparations.

Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate (The best magnesium supplement for mental relaxation)

In this form, Mg is bonded to the amino acid glycine. Glycine is a large molecule so there is less magnesium by weight, but the glycine itself is a relaxing neurotransmitter and so enhances magnesium’s natural relaxation properties. This could be the best form if you’re using it for mental calm and relaxation. In general because the glycine or amino acids are large, it’s best to take a higher dose or dose more frequently with these products. Magnesium amino acid chelate is usually bonded to a variety of amino acids, which are all larger molecules. In this form there is less magnesium by weight but the individual amino acids could all be beneficial for different things. Every formula is different so if you need both Mg and a particular amino acid, then this could be the way to go.

Magnesium Taurate (The best magnesium for heart health)

This is a less common form, and is typically taken for cardiac conditions and heart function in general. Magnesium helps the heart muscle relax, as well as the blood vessels that feed the heart to open and deliver more blood to the heart tissue itself, which can be helpful in angina – especially exercise-induced angina. Taurine is an amino acid that is known to feed cardiac muscle and enhance the quality of contractions of the heart so if you’re taking Mg for heart function this is probably the best form for you. Again, taurine is a larger molecule so there is a lower Mg by weight and effective dosing might need to be higher or more frequent.

Magnesium Sulphate and Magnesium Chloride (The best magnesium supplement *topically for muscle cramps and restless legs)

These forms are both typically used topically, although there are some oral preparations as well. Mg sulphate is best known as Epsom salts. If you’ve taken this internally you know it tastes horrible and has a very strong laxative effect, but when used in a bath or soak it is extremely relaxing to the muscles and can ease aches and pains. Epsom salts baths can also help to lower high blood pressure and reduce stress levels. Magnesium chloride is more common in the lotion, gel and oil preparations that can be used topically for muscle cramps and relaxation.

Magnesium L-Threonate (The best magnesium for brain health, Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline)

Magnesium L-threonate A newer player on the magnesium front is magnesium threonate, or magnesium L-threonate. This form effectively crosses the blood brain barrier and so has recently been studied for uses such as patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline.  A recent research study published in the medical journal Neuron showed that magnesiumthreonate creates improvement in learning abilities, working memory and both short and long term memory.  Additionally it has the same benefits as any other magnesium including enhancing sleep quality.

Also a notable food source of magnesium, and probably the one  I should mention first, but chocolate.

Also a notable food source of magnesium, and probably the one I should mention first, but chocolate.

The Best Food Sources of Magnesium

In what amounts to the best news of the day, magnesium is present in high quantity in some of our most craved foods, including chocolate (thank the gods) and coffee. The question then, is do we crave these foods so much because they’re great sources of magnesium?  Possibly. Magnesium helps modulate women’s hormones and chocolate and PMS certainly go together so maybe we’re on to something here (or maybe it’s just that chocolate is awesome.) It’s true that fewer of us are blessed with kale cravings – so maybe the magnesium isn’t the point. Other great dietary sources include tea, spices, nuts and, of course, green vegetables with chlorophyll. Good body stores of magnesium will improve your health, mood and general functioning so finding the best kind of magnesium for you is tremendously important.



I Have MTHFR A1298C Mutation – What Does That Really Mean?

MTHFR mutations are just starting to be recognized as an issue and so more and more doctors are testing, but what happens if your doctor tells you that you’re homozygous for MTHFR A1298C? They might as well be speaking Greek! So here’s the skinny on what that really means. Also here’s a post about MTHFR mutation basic in general.

MTHFR A1298C Terminology Basics (or as basic as we’re going to get with genetics).

The simplest level of information here is just the plain genetics.  Here are some quick factoids to get us started:

  • MTHFR is the short name for the genes that code for the enzyme that changes folic acid to the active form that your body uses (the long name is methylfolate reductace).
  • 1298 is the marker for one particular MTHFR gene.
  • The official genetics labeling of this gene is Rs1801131. Sigh.
  • You get one copy of this gene from your mother and one from your father, so there are two possible copies that can be either “normal” or “mutant”
  • If you inherited one good copy and one bad copy that’s called “heterozygous A1298C”
  • If you inherited two bad copies (one from each parent) that’s called “homozygous A1298C”
  • A…C stand for the bases that you actually have.  A = adenine C = cytosine.  Bases are essentially the letters that spell out your genetic code.  There are four of them commonly (C, T, A and G).
  • When this gene is “normal”or “wild type” (I love that name) it looks like MTHFR A1298A.
  • Heterozygous mutations (one good copy and one bad) are MTHFR A1298C because there is one normal A and one abnormal C Also occasionally written 1298AC.
  • Homozygous A1298C (two bad copies) can also be written as C1298C (because there are two abnormal copies with C instead of A). Occasionally you’ll also see it written 1298CC

Phew! So the take-away there is MTHFR A1298C means you have at least one bad copy of this gene, and if it’s called homozygous, or C1298C then you have two bad copies.

How Much of a Problem Is This?

The MTHFR A1298C mutation is considered less serious than the C677T mutation because it seems to cause less impairment to actual methylation function than C677T.  That doesn’t in any way mean that it isn’t an issue. This mutation can still be a significant problem If you don’t have a good diet, don’t take supplements or burden your body with a lot of stressors like smoking, alcohol, drugs, sedentary lifestyle or high stress. If you get lots of dark green leafy veggies, legumes and other food sources of natural folate – see this post – then you’re probably already getting good methylfolate. If your diet isn’t up to scratch, then supplementation can be useful and here’s a whole post about that.

Heterozygous MTHFR A1298C is thought to have mostly normal MTHFR activity  and homozygous MTHFR A1298C (C1298C) have about 65% normal activity (so 35% compromise). Normal activity refers to the way your body converts folic acid to 5-L-methyltetrahydrafolate (the active form) so that it can be used. Compromise in this case looks like a folate deficiency.

What Are The Health Risks of MTHFR A1298C Mutation?

According to SNPedia, which compiles research on genetics, A1298C mutants have been shown in at least one research study to have an increased risk for:

  • Midline defects such as:
    • Cleft lip
    • Cleft palate
    • Neural tube defects
    • Facial asymmetries
  • Cancers including:
    • Breast
    • Lung
    • Brain
    • Stomach
    • Head and neck
    • Kidney
  • Cardiac-related issues including:
    • Thrombosis (increased tendency to clot inappropriately)
    • High homocysteine levels (a heart risk)
    • Pre-eclampsia (dangerous high blood pressure in pregnancy)
    • Vascular dementia
  • Fertility issues including:
    • Multiple pregnancy loss
    • Low sperm count
    • Birth defects such as down syndrome
  • Neurological issues including:
    • Migraines
    • Autism
    • Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Mood and psychological issues including:
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Schizophrenia

You’ll notice that this is quite a list, and it can be a little daunting to think about when you’re just learning about this. Most research doesn’t differentiate between the A1298C genetic variance and the C677T genetic variance so the list is the same for both mutations.  We assume the risk is lower with A1298C because the folate metabolism is less strongly impaired, but that might not be correct.

What Do You Do About This?

Compromise with the MTHFR A1298C gene can have severe consequences so it’s important to work on getting good sources of natural folate from foods, which is generally useable by mutants, or 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) which is already methylated so the genetic compromise doesn’t matter.  As discussed in this article, I feel supplementation should be started slowly because for many mutants who haven’t had active folate very much in their lives it feels really strange when those active forms start showing up.  There can be quite an adjustment reaction  by your body.

Activated folate is used by your body to run enzyme pathways, to aid in some parts of normal metabolism, to help your body detoxify and even to methylate your DNA. The methylation cycle is also a big part of neurotransmitter manufacture, which explains the strong link to depression, anxiety, and mental disorders including addictions and even schizophrenia. If 5-Methylfolate  isn’t there then your body does maintains those functions as best it can, but the things your body can’t do start to pile up. Starting supplementation means your body can start digging in that pile to clear up high priority items.  This is exactly what we want, but if you start with high doses of a supplement then it’s a little like drinking from the firehose.  Kind of out of control and not very pleasant.

A great way to start if you’re unsure, is with a folate-rich diet.  I love this image because it kind of covers what we’re looking for.  Hint – think dark greens and beans. 🙂




Is folate in foods safe in MTHFR mutants? In these foods YES! For MTHFR C677T or MTHFR A1298C mutants. Thanks to exhibithealth.com for the great image.

Is folate in foods safe in MTHFR mutants? In these foods YES! For MTHFR C677T or MTHFR A1298C mutants. Thanks to exhibithealth.com for the great image.

Can Mutants Become “Normal”?

If you’re a mutant (like me) then you’ll always be a mutant, but it doesn’t have to matter. Essentially as long as you’re getting enough of the active form of folate and taking care of yourself for the other consequences of the MTHFR mutation then the mutation doesn’t have to matter.  If you aren’t taking care of yourself, then it matters a lot.

The bottom line is MTHFR A1298C mutations don’t have to mean anything at all as long as you supplement and have a good diet and lifestyle (here’s an article about a folate-rich diet for MTHFR mutants) I always suggest taking a little more care with yourself too.  There are known health risks for things like clotting, fertility and cancers so it makes sense to take some precautions.  Eat your fiber, do your exercises, get your sleep and generally treat yourself with high regard – shouldn’t we all anyway?



Change Your Life – Sign Your Contract of Personal Responsibility Now

Personal responsibility – it sounds so grown up. So adult.  So dry, in a way.  But the thing is, without it life feels pretty crappy. You get into this slippery state where things just slide by you without really engaging.  The to-do list piles up, the difference between the way you actually are and the way you want to be grows increasingly wider.  Some part of you knows you aren’t living the right life and in the beginning that part is easy to ignore, but that little voice gets louder and louder and shows up in all kinds of mysterious ways.  Why?  Because while you’re letting things slide, you’re also giving away your power.

Your power is the most precious thing you have and you’re letting it slip through your fingers because personal responsibility is hard. It is so easy to give away your own power, and often it slips by you unnoticed.  It happens every time you allow something else to have power over you. What does that mean? Simple. If you aren’t acknowledging ownership, then you’re stating your powerlessness.




Here’s an example.  I had my daughter (lovely girl) 11 months ago today.  She is amazing and wonderful and brings me so much joy and happiness.  She also gives me a great excuse not to do some of the things that are actually necessary for me to live the life I want – like exercise (but I’m running around after a toddler – surely that’s exercise enough) and meditate (who has the time?!?)  That excuse is actually a reason for a while, because really when there’s no sleep and you’re desperately trying to keep your head above water something really does have to give.  But now?  When she has two good naps per day and doesn’t always sleep through the night, but does sometimes.  Now is it a reason? Nope. It’s just the story I’ve been telling myself as I let my personal responsibility, my power, drain away.  Now it’s easy to say that it’s a minor thing, but the person who pays for this is me.  I don’t feel strong in my body (my fault). I notice more of the scattered monkey-mind coming in.  I don’t have my normal energy level.  Why?  Because I’m just not stepping up to the plate.  It could be habit, it could just be that the little voice that recognizes I’m not being the me I want to be hasn’t been loud enough until today.

Red Flags that You Have Given Away Your Power

The red flags are flying out there for everyone to see, but when you’re on the inside they sound perfectly reasonable.  Let’s do the three biggest:

  1. You’re getting further from your goals or standing still. The difference between how you’re living and how you want to be living is getting bigger, not smaller.  You’re moving away from your goals.
  2. You start using powerless words. These could be the words you say out loud and also the words you use in your head. Here are some of the easiest to recognize (but there are plenty more)
    1. I really wanted to, but
    2. I just can’t because you know how bad [the economy, my joints, my marriage, the 2000s …] is…
    3. I’ll get started when [I have the money, I have extra time, aliens land…]
    4. I just have to [do this thing I’ve been saying I”d do for a year but haven’t done yet] first and then I’ll…
  3. Some part of your life feels out of control.  Like you aren’t driving the ship, you’re being driven (or swimming desperately behind). You can’t seem to get around the mess, the clutter, your weight, your health, all the things you haven’t said to your partner, your kids… whatever.

Okay – So That Might Be Me. Now What?

Step 1 is to take back your power. And here’s the quickest way.  This is a take back your power lifehack. I want you to sign a contract with yourself – a contract of personal responsibility. Here’s a .pdf copy to download ContractofResponsibility

Step 1 to taking back your power is to sign a contract of personal responsibility. Nobody can help you but you.

Step 1 to taking back your power is to sign a contract of personal responsibility. Nobody can help you but you.

Step 2 is up to you.  Here’s the thing – it’s easy to keep giving away your power.  To say I can’t because of this or that.  So here are some exercises to do around this:

  1. Try reading the contract out loud to yourself in the mirror.  You may notice that some parts are actually hard to say, or your brain comes up with an instant “but.” Pay attention to what is triggering you.  This may bring up all kinds of anger, indignation, and furious backlash about how someone really is stopping you from doing something. Are they? Are they really? To what degree are you willing to allow that person to continue to have power over you? These are questions only you can answer.
  2. Start to look at your sense of yourself in the world.  Are you adopting a victim place?  Where someone has done something to you and because of that things aren’t right? No doubt there are people who may have done you wrong, people who you have felt haven’t treated you well, or who have outright abused or violated you.  These events can be incredibly hard to get over, but until you do get over it, until you choose to take your power back and stop giving it to that person, you will continue to be powerless.
  3. Forgive, forgive, forgive.  Mostly forgive yourself and move on.

I hope this is helpful, and I’ll have you know I have both exercised and meditated today because the truth is that I just wasn’t taking personal responsibility, and now I am.  I was giving my power away to my daughter, and while I would give her anything in the world if it would actually benefit her, it will benefit her more to see her mom being powerful. Use this lifehack today to take your power back and start taking personal responsibility and if you feel like sharing a story I’d love to hear it in the comments.



The Hard Stats About Stress, Made Beautiful.

Stress is a killer.  We all know it, but it can be shocking to see it – really see it. That’s why I love this infogram that I stumbled across from Katie Hess, the flower guru at LOTUSWEI flower essences. Such an eye opener!  Thanks to Katie and lotuswei for permission to use. 🙂 I’m seriously considering joining the Flowerevolution movement.




Learn the stats about stress with this beautiful LotusWei-Infographic

Learn the stats about stress with this beautiful LotusWei-Infographic

We’ll talk more about alternative ways to reduce your stress level in subsequent posts, but also check here for information about Nine Practices to Create Happiness and here for information about dropping the addiction to overthinking. Now that you know the stats about stress it’s time to do something about it!



I Have MTHFR C677T Mutation – What Does That Actually Mean?

MTHFR mutations are just starting to be recognized as an issue and so more and more doctors are testing, but what happens if your doctor tells you that you’re homozygous for MTHFR C677T? They might as well be speaking Greek! So here’s the skinny on what that really means. Also here’s a post about MTHFR mutation basic in general.

MTHFR C677T Terminology Basics (or as basic as we’re going to get with genetics).

The simplest level of information here is just the plain genetics.  Here are some quick factoids to get us started:

  • MTHFR is the short name for the genes that code for the enzyme that changes folic acid to the active form that your body uses (the long name is methylfolate reductace).
  • 677 is the marker for one particular MTHFR gene.
  • The official genetics labeling of this gene is Rs1801133. Sigh.
  • You get one copy of this gene from your mother and one from your father, so there are two possible copies that can be either “normal” or “mutant”
  • If you inherited one good copy and one bad copy that’s called “heterozygous C677T”
  • If you inherited two bad copies (one from each parent) that’s called “homozygous C677T”
  • C…T stand for the bases that you actually have.  C = cytosine, T = thymine.  Bases are essentially the letters that spell out your genetic code.  There are four of them commonly (C, T, A and G).
  • When this gene is “normal” it looks like MTHFR C677C.
  • Heterozygous mutations are MTHFR C677T because there is one normal C and one abnormal T. Also occasionally written 677CT.
  • Homozygous C677T can also be written as T677T (because there are two abnormal copies with T instead of C). Occasionally you’ll also see it written 677TT




Phew! So the take-away there is MTHFR C677T means you have at least one bad copy of this gene, and if it’s called homozygous, or T677T then you have two bad copies.

How Much of a Problem Is This?

This can be a significant problem If you don’t have a good diet or you don’t take supplements. If you get lots of dark green leafy veggies, legumes and other food sources of natural folate – see this post – then you’re probably already getting good methylfolate. If your diet isn’t up to scratch, then supplementation can be useful and here’s a whole post about that.

Heterozygous MTHFR C677T have about 65% normal MTHFR activity (so 35% compromise) and homozygous MTHFR C677T (T677T) have about 30% normal activity (so 70% compromise). Normal activity refers to the way your body activates your folic acid so that it can be used, so compromise usually looks like a functional folate deficiency.

What Are The Health Risks of C677T Mutation?

According to SNPedia, which compiles research on genetics, C677T mutants have been shown in at least one research study to have an increased risk for:

  • Midline defects such as:
    • Cleft lip
    • Cleft palate
    • Neural tube defects
    • Facial asymmetries
  • Cancers including:
    • Breast
    • Lung
    • Brain
    • Stomach
    • Head and neck
    • Kidney
  • Cardiac-related issues including:
    • Thrombosis (increased tendency to clot inappropriately)
    • High homocysteine levels (a heart risk)
    • Pre-eclampsia (dangerous high blood pressure in pregnancy)
    • Vascular dementia
  • Fertility issues including:
    • Multiple pregnancy loss
    • Low sperm count
    • Birth defects such as down syndrome
  • Neurological issues including:
    • Migraines
    • Autism
    • Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Mood and psychological issues including:
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Schizophrenia

You’ll notice that this is quite a list, and it can be a little daunting to think about when you’re just learning about this.

What Do You Do About This?

Compromise with the MTHFR C677T gene can have severe consequences so it’s important to work on getting good sources of natural folate, which is generally useable by mutants, or 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) which is already methylated so the genetic compromise doesn’t matter.  As discussed in this article, I feel supplementation should be started slowly because for many mutants who haven’t had active forms of folate very much in their lives it feels really strange when those active forms start showing up and there is a whole lot of adjusting by your body.  This activated folate is used by your body to run enzyme pathways, to aid in some parts of normal metabolism, to help your body detoxify and even to methylate your DNA. If it isn’t there then your body does what it can, but what it can’t do starts to pile up. Any time you start supplementation then your body starts digging in that pile to clear up high priority items.  This is exactly what we want, but if you start with high doses of a supplement then it’s a little like drinking from the firehose.  Kind of out of control and not very pleasant.

A great way to start if you’re unsure, is with a folate-rich diet.  I love this image because it kind of covers what we’re looking for.  Hint – think dark greens and beans. 🙂

Is folate in foods safe in MTHFR mutants? In these foods YES - even for MTHFR C677T mutants. Thanks to exhibithealth.com for the great image.

Is folate in foods safe in MTHFR mutants? In these foods YES, even for MTHFR C677T mutants. Thanks to exhibithealth.com for the great image.

Can Mutants Become “Normal”?

If you’re a mutant (like me) then you’ll always be a mutant, but it doesn’t have to matter. Essentially as long as you’re getting enough of the active form of folate then the mutation doesn’t have to matter.  If you aren’t, then it matters a lot.

The bottom line is MTHFR C677T mutations don’t have to mean anything at all as long as you supplement and have a good diet (here’s an article about a folate-rich diet for MTHFR mutants) I always suggest taking a little more care with yourself too.  There are known health risks for things like clotting, fertility and cancers so it makes sense to take some precautions.  Eat your fiber, do your exercises, get your sleep and generally treat yourself with high regard – shouldn’t we all anyway?



Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy – What Now?

Go figure that pregnancy with all of it’s rapidly and vastly changing hormones is one of the most common triggers for gallbladder sludge, and it’s also one of the hardest times to do anything about it. Let’s look at why it happens and what you can do about it. If you’re unclear about what the gallbladder does, and what sludge is then read this post first.

Symptoms of Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy

Gallbladder can cause a wide range of issues ranging from mild to severe, but any issue is worth discussing with your doctor because untreated disease can lead to complications for the pregnancy. Symptoms include:

  • Itching – on belly, palms and soles or all over. This can happen with or without a rash. If it’s serious, go to your doctor.
  • Right sided digestive pain – at the bottom of your rib cage on the R side or radiating into the R shoulder blade, R shoulder or even L shoulder blade.
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Why is Gallbladder Sludge So Common in Pregnancy?

Gallbladder sludge essentially happens when your gallbladder is overwhelmed by too much cholesterol and not enough bile.  You’ll recall that the bile acts as kind of a “soap” to emulsify fats and make them more water soluble so that they can be both excreted and absorbed in the digestive tract. Just like with dish soap, if there is too much fat or grease and not enough soap you get a sludgy goo that tends to stick to everything and generally get in the way. Hence gallbladder sludge. But why does this happen in pregnancy? Many reasons:

  • Huge hormone shifts – Rapid changes in hormone levels mean that lots of hormones (fat soluble) are being excreted by the liver, and fat soluble toxins are excreted via bile. In fact, below are pictures of a cholesterol molecule and an estrogen molecule – no doubt you’ll notice the similarities (and estrogen along with the other sex hormones is made in your body from cholesterol).

    Estrogen and testosterone (progesterone as well, but it's not pictured) are incredibly similar to cholesterol, which is why gallbladder sludge in pregnancy is such an issue.

    Estrogen and testosterone (progesterone as well, but it’s not pictured) are incredibly similar to cholesterol, which is why gallbladder sludge in pregnancy is such an issue.

  • High Water Use – Pregnancy uses a lot of water – your body is building a human and that’s no small task. It requires that you also create lots of extra blood, extra fluid to protect and support the baby and of course, all the water that goes into the baby.  Not only that but there are thousands of extra metabolic processes happening to make all of this go.  It’s just a big time for water, and so mild to moderate dehydration is incredibly common – especially in early pregnancy before mama’s intake has adjusted sufficiently to cover it all.  Dehydration is also a risk factor for gallbladder sludge just because all bodily fluids, including bile, get a little thicker and sludgier if there is less water to go around.
  • Estrogen – High estrogen is a risk factor for gallbladder sludge, or cholestasis, independent of pregnancy as well (at least it is in animal studies). In fact, the risk factors for gallstones are called the five F’s – Fair, Female, Fat Fertile and Forty. Lovely.
  • Genetics – There are some genetic conditions associated with gallbladder sludge (more specifically with Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy, or ICP). So chances are if your mother, aunties, sisters or grandmother had troubles, you may be at greater risk.

Are There Natural Ways to Help Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy?

Yes and no. Pregnancy is a risky time to use any natural or medical treatment and many drugs and supplements are off limits because they may cause harm to the baby. If you’re not pregnant, then here’s a whole post about gallbladder sludge and stones. If you are, then here are the things you can do:

  • Diet – Pregnancy is a great time for a healthy diet anyway, so might as well do a healthy gallbladder-friendly diet. This means:
    • No fried foods
    • Lots of fruits
    • Limited red meat, butter, shellfish and eggs
    • LOTS of veggies – especially dark green leafy veg
    • Good lean meat, poultry and fish
    • High fiber foods – aim for 30 – 50 g per day – some examples below
      • Split peas – 16.3 g per cup cooked (split pea soup. Yummy.)
      • Lentils – 15.6 g per cup cooked
      • Black beans – 15 g per cup cooked
      • Artichokes – 10.3 g each and also gently boost liver function
      • Broccoli – 5.3 g per cup boiled
      • Raspberries – the yummiest 8 g per cup ever
      • Bran flakes – 7 g per cup
      • Avocado – 12 g each



  • Water – Bump the water WAY up. Aim for 12 eight ounce cups with 8 eight ounce cups being the absolute minimum. This will suck because pregnancy makes you pee all the time anyway and drinking this much water will have you running to the bathroom constantly. Sorry! It’s better than a gallbladder attack, believe me.
  • Lecithin – Lecithin is safe in both pregnancy and nursing because as it turns out, one of it’s major ingredients, choline, is great for baby. Typically midwives and doctors suggest 1200 mg 3-4 times per day with lots of water, but here’s more information about lecithin and it’s use in gallbladder issues. It’s also great for blocked ducts when you’re nursing and gallbladder sludge even when you’re not preggers.
  • Gentle Exercise Regularly – Exercise is good for everything in the human body, including the gallbladder. For many women this will actually eliminate mild symptoms.
  • Castor Oil – Topical (NOT INTERNAL) castor oil over the right side of your abdomen and back can help your body to deal with some of the sludge in a gentle way. Here’s a whole post on it with more detailed information. And Here’s info on a great lazy method of doing a castor oil pack. This is both anti-inflammatory and also good for the functioning of the liver and gallbladder.
  • Lukewarm Epsom Salts Baths – The magnesium in the Epsom salts will help to relax the bile duct and allow sludge to pass more easily, and the lukewarm bath can help to relieve the itching.

    Doing all of this in 9 months isn't easy! Great picture from free image.com/Jose Torres.

    Doing all of this in 9 months isn’t easy! Gallbladder is one of the places that fallout can happen. Great picture from free image.com/Jose Torres.

What About Not-Natural Ways to Relieve Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy?

If you’re having gallbladder attacks on top of the already uncomfortable state of being pregnant, then sometimes you want a faster option. Also severe gallbladder attacks with protracted vomiting, inflammation or infection can be a serious risk to your baby, so there’s that too.

  • Ursodiol – this prescription drug may be suggested by your doctor to help manage symptoms and increase bile flow.
  • Surgery – It is possible to have your gallbladder removed during pregnancy and sometimes it’s necessary. The second trimester is considered the safest time for both mother and baby to undergo this procedure. Depending on your doctor they  may suggest laparoscopic removal or open gallbladder surgery.

Remember pregnancy is a rough time anyway because your body is doing so much, changing so fast and generally working so hard. Be gentle with yourself, talk with your doctor, and don’t judge – sometimes you can use the natural methods for working with gallbladder sludge in pregnancy and sometimes you really do need something more intense, like surgery.



Lecithin for Blocked Ducts and Gallbladder Sludge

If you’ve had gallbladder sludge, blocked ducts in your gallbladder or blocked ducts in your breast you know just how painful and horrible this can truly be. In good news there is a reasonably simple food supplement that can make a huge difference while you’re working on clearing things out, called lecithin.

What is Lecithin?

Lecithin is naturally occurring in such common foods as soy, egg and sunflower seeds. It’s a compound called a phospholipid, which is a phosphate head bound to long lipid tails. The phosphate head is water soluble, and the lipid tails are fat soluble so lecithin is a great natural emulsifier, meaning it helps to blend fat and water. Lecithin  is used as a food additive frequently for this very reason – it helps to keep fats suspended in a water solution. As a supplement it is sold in both a granule form that you can add to cereal, oatmeal, soups or just about any other food as well as a capsule.  The granules have a nice, nutty sort of flavor that adds well to things and the capsules are , well, just capsules.

Lecithin helps emulsify gallbladder sludge and open blocked ducts in the gallbladder or breast. It's commonly found in soy, sunflower and egg. Photo by John Sullivan

Lecithin helps emulsify gallbladder sludge and open blocked ducts in the gallbladder or breast. It’s commonly found in soy, sunflower and egg. Photo by John Sullivan

Why Does Lecithin Work for Blocked Ducts And Gallbladder Sludge?

Gallbladder sludge is a thick waxy build up of cholesterol and other sterol-type fats bound to bile salts.  Under normal circumstances this is a fluid mixture, but when it gets too thick it becomes waxy and semi-solid.  Blocked breast ducts are also filled with a condensed form of breast milk that is very fat-rich.  Therapeutically , we are looking for this same emulsifying action – we want to allow water to easily add into the mixture to loosen things up and get them moving. Quite literally we want to emulsify the gallbladder sludge or thickened breast milk with water so that it can pass.Lecithen, as a potent emulsifier, does a great job.

How To Take Lecithin For Gallbladder Sludge

If you’re having mild trouble with gallbladder sludge that gives you low-grade symptoms or frequent mini-attacks then 4000 – 5000 mg per day in divided doses will help to prevent further attacks and keep the sludge moving.




If you’re having a strong acute attack that isn’t serious enough for the hospital then 4000-5000 mg every 4 hours with lots of water until it resolves (not more than 24 hours without talking to your doctor or knowing for sure that it truly is gallbladder sludge and not a gallstone emergency). If the lecithin isn’t producing any changes or the symptoms get worse please do seek medical attention because if gallstones get stuck in a duct and block bile flow completely it can be a medical emergency.

How to Take Lecithin for Blocked Milk Ducts

If you’re having recurrent blocked ducts or always feel like you’re hovering on the cusp of a blocked duct then 1200 mg four times daily will help to prevent further issues.

If you’ve already got a blocked duct that you’re trying to loosen up then 4000 – 5000 mg every 4 hours with lots of water until it resolves.

How to Make The Lecithin Work it’s Best

There are a few things you can do to support the action of lecithin so that you’re getting the most benefit from it:

  1. Water – obviously we’ve got the fat, but we need the water to make the emulsifier work.  Aim for 10 8 oz glasses per day if you’re having issues with blocked ducts or gallbladder sludge. **Lecithin will not work without water**
  2. Heat – physically warming up the area can help to relax and open ducts, as well as “melt” the fatty plug. A hot compress such as a hot water bottle, infrared heating pad or wash cloth soaked in hot water over the breast area or gallbladder area (on your right side just under your rib cage straight below the nipple from the front to the back at the same area) will help to loosen things up and get them moving.
  3. Castor Oil – if you’ve read my blog before you know how much I love castor oil. *Love* castor oil. It can be rubbed on the breast tissue (be sure to wipe off completely before your baby nurses) or over the entire liver/gallbladder area to reduce inflammation and help to get things moving as well.  Even better is the combo of castor oil + heat.  Just be sure to put on an old T-shirt because the oil is heavy and will stain clothes. Here’s more information about castor oil in general and castor oil for gallbladder health.
  4. Rest – blocked ducts and gallbladder sludge are both reasonably difficult for your body.  They produce a lot of inflammation and can lead to infection and other problems if left untreated so you will need more rest, more support and generally a little more TLC while this is going on.

Other Uses for Lecithin

Lecithin, as it turns out is great for lots of things:

  • Natural source of choline
  • Improves brain heath, cognitive function and memory, possibly even ADHD
  • Reduce cholesterol and triglycerides and increases HDL (the good cholesterol)
  • Used in the formation of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine
  • Supportive in pregnancy, as a source of choline, to help prevent neural tube defects and help healthy brain development
  • Mildly anti-inflammatory
  • Helps to gently improve anxiety
  • Helps to supplement nutritional deficiencies created by alcohol consumption.

Lecithin is a simple, safe, low-cost, beneficial supplement for blocked ducts, gallbladder sludge, and blocked bile ducts but don’t forget the water!