Category Archives: Nutrition

The food you put in your body every day is the single most important choice you make about your health. A tiny little pill just can’t substitute for a crappy diet no matter how much of a ‘miracle cure’ it is. Here’s some great information for you to learn about eating better right now.

Lifehack: Get rid of Gallbladder Sludge, with water.

Every now and then I realize that for all my talk about gallbladder sludge, I haven’t emphasized the MOST IMPORTANT THING, which is water. In terms of getting rid of sludge of any kind in life, water is the key. Can I say this again? If you want to get rid of gallbladder sludge, water is absolutely vital. Let’s review.

Your gallbladder is a small little sac-shaped organ that is connected to both your liver and your intestines by thin tubes. Your liver makes bile, which helps your body to emulsify the fats from your diet in order to absorb them, and also helps you eliminate fat-soluble toxins including excess hormones. Bile is usually very fluid, but once it gets to the gallbladder your body starts to pull out the water and concentrate it, helping it to become more effective.  By pulling out this water you make the bile thicker and more goopy. If you pull out too much water or there isn’t enough in there to begin with, then goopy turns into sludgy. This one simple factor can lead to sludge pretty quickly.

Want to get rid of gallbladder sludge? WATER is the biggest key.

Want to get rid of gallbladder sludge? WATER is the biggest key.

Get Rid of Gallbladder Sludge Long-Term:

If you have gallbladder sludge, and the pain that goes with it, you know how important it becomes to eliminate it quickly.  Here are some of the quick things you can do to get rid of gallbladder sludge for good:

  1. Boost your water intake quickly and make it a life-habit.  The more fluid your bile is, and the more well-hydrated you are, the faster you will flush out that sludge and the less likely your bile will get too thick in the future.  Did you know that according to a New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center Survey, 75% of American Adults are chronically dehydrated? Wha????? If you have gallbladder sludge my guess would be that you’re one of the 75%.
  2. Boost Your Fiber, Just Like Your Grandmother Told You. Fiber helps to bind to the fat soluble toxins and bile salts that are eliminated and pull them out of your system so that your thrifty body doesn’t recycle them.
  3. Eat Sensibly For Your Gallbladder. This means ix-nay the fried foods, trans-fats and excess animal fats and add more fruits, veggies and lean proteins.
  4. Boost the Power of your Water With a Little Lemon. Lemon and other acids, like apple cider vinegar, help with both detox and hydration, both of which help with gallbladder sludge. Super!
  5. Consider a Gallbladder Cleanse: BUT the gallbladder cleanse has it’s own risks so it’s only safe if you know, because a doctor did the appropriate testing, that you don’t have stones.  If you only have sludge and you’re not pregnant, then this could be helpful.




Get Rid of Gallbladder Pain Short-Term:

So, if you’re having a gallbladder attack you’re probably not sitting down at the computer to read about it, but hopefully, you’ll google it later and remember it for next time.  As soon as you start to feel an attack coming on:

  1. Guzzle The Water: Again, the quickest way to clean out goop is to dilute it and thin it out.  Your body will thank me for it. This is especially important if you get nausea or vomiting with your attacks because the vomiting makes dehydration worse quickly, which just makes the sludge worse.  Even if you have stones that are causing the pain water will help them to pass if they’re going to.
  2. Add Lemon or Apple Cider Vinegar: Taking a shot of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice at the start of an attack (followed by a BUNCH of water) will help head the attack off before it gets into full swing. Also adding a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to the vast quantities of water you’re drinking (ahem) will help it to be more effective.
  3. Slather on the Castor Oil: Castor oil is anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving in it’s own right, but it is also especially “lubricating” to the lymphatic flow around the liver and gallbladder, which comes in handy when that whole area is jammed up with pain, inflammation, and sludge.
  4. Consider some Supplements: There are a few things that help in the short term.  Water and the acidic juices are the biggest things, but some others include digestive bitters and lecithin.




Doesn't this look awesome? Don't be one of the 75% of adults who are dehydrated. And Get rid of the gallbladder pain for good!

Doesn’t this look awesome? Don’t be one of the 75% of adults who are dehydrated. And Get rid of the gallbladder pain for good!

So – will water and proper hydration fix the problem permanently?  It could, but not if you’re still eating fast food or if you have a major hormone shift contributing (like pregnancy ladies, sorry.) But if your diet is reasonably good and your hormones close to normal, then yup. The water is the key. Simple, right?



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.



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!



Seed Cycling and Pregnancy Before, During and After.

Seed cycling is a gentle way to re-establish normal hormonal rhythms for women, but many people have questions about what to do around seed cycling and pregnancy.  If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of seed cycling you can read about the basics here and I’ll add a visual how-to before we get started. Here are some thoughts.

Seed Cycling for hormone balance adds seeds into your diet following the rhythm of your body or the moon. Seed cycling and pregnancy are a natural fit.

Seed Cycling for hormone balance adds seeds into your diet following the rhythm of your body or the moon. Seed cycling and pregnancy are a natural fit.




Seed Cycling and Pre-Pregnancy Fertility Boost

Naturally anything that helps to normalize your cycle will ultimately boost fertility so seed cycling and pregnancy go hand-in-hand.  In preparing for pregnancy your body is trying to create a soft landing space for a fertilized egg, a cushy spot to settle down and take nourishment. That cushy spot is created via the hormones – estrogen to thicken the uterine lining (in the first half of the cycle) and progesterone to ripen that lining and make it ultimately inhabitable for a fertile egg.  Both halves of the woman’s cycle need to be strong for this to occur and seed cycling helps to encourage that balance.  Days 1 (the first day of your period) through day 14 (when you ovulate) are called the follicular phase. They are building uterine lining and also ripening a strong egg. The flax and pumpkin seeds that you take during those days help to bring healthy estrogen levels while blocking conversion to unhelpful androgenic hormones like DHT.

Day 14 and the window around that time (24-48 hours) is your fertile time – the time when you are most likely to conceive.  Strong ovulations need a healthy estrogen spike nurtured by the hormone balance achieved in Days 1-14.

After ovulation through the rest of your cycle is called the luteal phase and is dominated by the hormone progesterone, which is encouraged by the combination of sunflower and sesame seeds. Progesterone is released by the pocket on the ovary out of which that month’s fertile egg came, called the corpus luteum. If the egg is successfully fertilized (meaning you get pregnant) then progesterone levels must stay elevated to help the egg to implant into the uterus and to prevent your body from flushing out the uterine lining (to prevent your next period).

Encouraging good progesterone levels, is in fact one of the most important factors in keeping viable early pregnancies, especially in older women who are trying to get pregnant or women who have unbalanced hormone pictures that are shifted towards estrogen (like PCOS, endometriosis, and many cases of multiple pregnancy loss). Happily in the implanting days women who are seed cycling are already encouraging progesterone with the sunflower seed and sesame combination.  But what to do when you find out you are pregnant?  That depends very much on you.

Seed Cycling and Pregnancy

Once women become pregnant seeds in your diet can still be highly supportive, but it helps to have some idea of your hormone balance before hand, and the “cycle” of menstruating is no longer happening.  In fact, hormonally pregnancy becomes almost a hyper-extension of the luteal phase.

Progesterone in Luteal phase:  1 – 28 ng/ml. Average is 10-15
Progesterone in First Trimester: 9 – 47 ng/ml
Progesterone in Second Trimester: 17 – 146 ng/ml
Progesterone in Third Trimester: 49 – 300 ng.ml

As you can see, progesterone levels are on the rise through the entire pregnancy and logically to support that some women take the theory that they should continue the luteal phase seeds – sesame and sunflower.  Others feel that all the seeds provide support and so choose to do steady amounts of all seeds on a consistent basis.

*One good tip to remember* If you’re trying to get pregnancy it’s important to continue the luteal-phase seeds (sesame/sunflower) until you actually have a period, just in case you are pregnant that month. This gives the egg the best chance at implantation.

Women who have a history of estrogen dominance,  repeated miscarriages, or are “advanced maternal age”:

For these women progesterone support can help to keep the pregnancy viable and often prescription progesterone is given.  Seeds can help as well. Women in this category can use all sunflower/sesame through the pregnancy or a 2:1 ratio of sunflower and sesame: flax and pumpkin.  These seeds are not a substitute for prescription progesterone, but they can be safely used in combination with prescription progesterone. I personally feel that all the seeds are supportive and so taking all of them each day during pregnancy gives the biggest nutritional boost. In this case a good mix would be:

2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Young women with typically balanced hormones and normal pregnancy history:

Although pregnancy is still a higher progesterone time, women who have healthy balanced hormones should have no problem maintaining the progesterone levels needed. In these cases equal amounts of all seeds can be used or the ratios can be weighted towards sunflower/sesame if that is your choice. So:

1 – 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 – 2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

This can be continued through the entire pregnancy as well as the early months of nursing (up to about 6 months post-partum). This seems to help many women soften the post-partum emotional changes that can occur because of the huge hormone nose-dive.

Seed Cycling for Post-Pregnancy Restoration of Cycle

After delivery some women have a hard time with the sharp drop of progesterone that happens along with the normalization of estrogen levels. Continuing the steady doses of seeds suggested in the pregnancy section can help to smooth out some of the rough edges, but there will come a time when your body moves more towards reestablishing it’s normal rhythm. Some women have a sense of this, whether it’s from changing nursing habits of their baby to hormonal symptoms like skin changes and some women really don’t feel it happening until they get their first cycle.  If you start to feel changes then I typically suggest re-starting seed cycling then according to the lunar phase. If you don’t particularly feel anything then around 6-9 months or when your baby really starts to be interested in solid foods you can restart (also according to lunar phase).  If your body surprises you with your first period out of the blue, then start seed cycling using day 1 of that cycle as your starting place.

In every phase of pre-, during and post- pregnancy make sure that your maternity care team and doctors are aware of your seed cycling routine and that they don’t have any concerns for your particular pregnancy. Seed cycling and pregnancy is generally lovely, but may not be right for you so do check with your doctor.

Also – here’s the moon phases, just in case you need those.

CURRENT MOON



Benefits of Lemon Water for Liver, Gallbladder and Energy

We’ve discussed lemons for skin health and beauty, but what about the awesome benefits of lemon water for your liver, your gallbladder and even your energy? Not to mention the zesty taste! Lemon water has this sort of ambiguously detox-y reputation on the interwebs.  Seems like a lot of people like the way it makes them feel, most people seem to feel it does something related to detox but isn’t sure quite what, and some people claim it’s the cure-all. I’m not going to ever call anything a cure-all because every person’s physiology is unique, but there are some things that are pretty universally good, and as it turns out having a nice, hot lemon water in the morning is one of those.

The benefits of lemon water make this little guy a superfood. Thanks to Evan Amos for the great photo.

The benefits of lemon water make this little guy a superfood. Thanks to Evan Amos for the great photo.




The Actual Benefits of Lemon Water

Detoxify

  • The acidity of lemon juice makes it a much-used cholagogue for herbalists and even the doctors of yore (yore has to be one of my favorite words – I couldn’t resist a chance to sneak it in there). Cholagogues promote the discharge of bile from the system, purging it downward.  In plain English, that means that when you eat or drink lemon or lemon juice it stimulates your body to release bile into your intestinal tract to pass through into the stool. Bile helps you to digest fats that you eat, and it also helps eliminate cholesterol and fat soluble toxins.  This makes lemon water a gentle detoxifier.
  • Just as a fun factoid, if you’re not sure if something is a good cholagogue (the new word of the day), just taste it.  Cholagogues are usually strongly sour or bitter and you can feel that little salivary gland at the back of your jaw start to freak out.  Lemons are all over this!
  • Your liver does much of it’s heavy lifting overnight while you sleep. In the morning there can be a back-log of toxins from the night before that your body would love to eliminate. To do that it honestly benefits pretty greatly from both the water – especially warm water, and the lemon juice itself.
  • Lemon juice may even stimulate healthy production of both bile and stomach acid and it was used historically to do just that, although there isn’t research out there to support this use.

Hydrate

  • In addition to the lemon, there’s the water and the water is actually key to this whole thing.  Detoxification, which is essentially cleaning, requires water just like every other washing job you’ve ever done.  Have you ever tried cleaning the dishes without water? Washing the car? Yup. All hinges on water.
  • Let’s face it – we all struggle for that 8-10 glasses of water we’re supposed to get every day. With lemon water at least one of them tastes good!

Think More Clearly

  • There is a strongly established link between getting enough water and using your brain effectively. The mountain of research on this link for adults is huge and there’s even research showing clearly this link in kiddos.
  • Essential oil of lemon, which is the lemon smell released by the lemon water, is also shown to improve mood and cognitive performance in adults, so double whammy.
  • Triple whammy! The bioflavenoids in citrus fruit are also shown to boost cognitive performance including nobilitin and hesperidin.

Lose Weight and Boost Heart Health

  • A study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that drinking more water boosts metabolism by about 30% for both men and women.  That is incredibly helpful! The study went on to say that people who drank 1.5 liters of water per day burn an additional 17,400 calories over a year just through this one simple step. That’s a weight loss of 5 pounds, just by drinking water.
  • An additional study on the lemon detox diet showed that adding lemon detox drink to a low calorie diet actually improves the cardiovascular benefits of that diet.  They compared three groups, one eating a normal diet, one eating a calorie restricted diet and one eating a calorie restricted diet plus lemon water sweetened with maple syrup. Both low calorie groups lost weight, lowered their insulin and reduced their waist-hip ratios but only the lemon water group showed improvements in cardiovascular inflammation.

Get Your Antioxidants

  • Lemon water from the recipe below has about 22 mg of vitamin C, or 36% of your daily value. It also has small amounts of vitamin A and vitamin E.
  • Citrus bioflavenoids are an incredibly diverse group of compounds that are high-powered antioxidants and every day there is new research emerging for compounds such as hesperidin, quercitin, rutin, nobilitin and there are literally hundreds of others that have yet to be researched.

Boost Your Happy

  • Lemon essential oil is one of the scents most associated with elevated mood.  It is stimulating to the energy but not agitating – it remains calming to the nerves. In short, it gives you the happy.

Not only that but one of the best benefits of lemon water is that you can drink this, and also your coffee. It doesn’t have caffeine and so won’t conflict at all with that beloved morning ritual. Now – if you want to enjoy the health benefits of lemon water, here’s a fantastic recipe:

Lemon Water Recipe

Juice from 1/2 large lemon or 1 small lemon
Zest from the peel – just a few swipes will do
12-16 oz hot water (I prefer 16 to soften the tartness)
If you can’t tolerate the tartness then a little bit of raw honey

Mix it all together in your favorite mug and enjoy the lovely fresh smell, the tart wake-me-up taste and all those health benefits of lemon water. And no worries – you can still have a coffee or tea if you want without worrying about being over-caffeinated.



Fiber for Gallbladder Sludge and Detoxification

Fiber is about the least sexy thing I could choose to talk about, but in terms of helping your body to eliminate toxins it’s at the top of the list and fiber for gallbladder sludge is essential. Especially helping to eliminate fat soluble toxins like hormones, bile salts and cholesterol residues that often make up gallbladder sludge. In fact, fiber is one of the key ways to help your body eliminate sludge from the gallbladder as long as it’s used correctly.

The Basics about Fiber:

Fiber comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and  forms a gooey sponge in the gut that grabs toxins and also feeds gut bacteria.  Insoluble fiber is unchanged by water and acts as an irritant to the gut wall, helping it to move correctly. Insoluble fiber can also ferment in the gut and act as a food source for your good bacteria. In terms of fiber supplements that means if you mix it with your drink and can’t tell it’s there, it’s soluble.  If you mix it with your drink and it adds some texture or grit, then it’s insoluble.

Soluble and insoluble fiber have slightly different uses and functions in the body, but for the purpose of this article I’m not going to differentiate.  I just want you to get fiber and lots of it.




General Benefits from Dietary Fiber:

  1. Detoxification – As your body eliminates toxins in the liver they are excreted into your intestines in order to pass out in your stool.  Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen.  Often we reabsorb these toxins, sometimes on purpose as is often the case with hormones and bile salts (both frequent components of gallbladder sludge) and sometimes by accident. If there is fiber in your intestines the fiber binds to the toxin and will not let your body reabsorb it. This means fiber for gallbladder sludge, detox or weight loss (which is a kind of detox) is absolutely essential.
  2. Regularity – This is the part of fiber that most people know about.  It keeps your bowels regular and easy. This also is important for detoxification, simply because the more effective your bowels are, the more of the toxins from your liver are able to be released.  The slower your bowels are moving the more likely it is that toxins will be reabsorbed. Fight your constipation the simplest way, with fiber. Just make sure you drink lots of water every time you take a fiber supplement because without enough water they can cause constipation instead of relieving it.
  3. Hormone Balancing – Most people don’t know that one of the most important mechanisms of hormone balancing is elimination.  Hormones are just signals and in order to end that signal when we don’t need it any more, you eliminate those hormones just like you would a toxin.  If fiber isn’t there to catch the hormones in your intestine then often you will pull them back in to your blood stream in a misguided attempt at being thrifty – we are the ultimate hormone hoarders.  Fiber binds to hormones just like it does to bile salts and pulls them out of your body, helping to maintain your natural hormone balance.
  4. Blood Sugar Stability – This is tragically overlooked.  The simple act of adding fiber to a meal helps your body to more effectively regulate and moderate the sugars that are coming in with that meal.  Given that diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions, this simple step seems worth it.  Fiber supplements or fiber-rich foods like flax seeds can also be added to foods like mashed potatoes that have a high glycemic index to help to moderate their effect on your blood sugar.

    Lentils are great sources of dietary fiber and fiber for gallbladder sludge and other detox is absolutely essential. Picture from wikimedia commons, by Hohum.

    Lentils are great sources of dietary fiber. Fiber for gallbladder sludge and other detox is absolutely essential. Picture from wikimedia commons, by Hohum.

Fiber for Gallbladder Sludge

Fiber for gallbladder sludge is almost essential.  When you’re working on eliminating the sludge it’s always a coordinated effort of liquefying bile, increasing bile flow through the gallbladder to flush the sludge out, and fiber to grab the toxins from the sludge and pull them out of the body so you don’t end up having to detoxify them back through the gallbladder. For more about the other steps of eliminating gallbladder sludge see this article as well as these helpful steps towards boosting liver performance. Fiber is essentially a large floppy molecule that acts like a sponge, catching the toxins that are released and holding on to them so that your body can’t reabsorb them.  Fiber itself isn’t absorbed into your blood, it stays in your gut so it’s only available for use if you’ve eaten it recently – you can’t stock up the way you can with some vitamins and nutrients.  For that reason fiber with every meal is important.

The average American eating the “standard american diet” (or SAD diet) gets between 12 and 15 g of fiber daily.  The recommended daily allowance is 25 g and if you’re working on detoxification, weight loss or gallbladder sludge then it may be  a good idea to get even more than that. Spreading fiber out through out the day so that there is always some in your gut to bind to toxins is extremely helpful. Also as you’re increasing the fiber in your diet it’s extremely important to increase slowly and to add water proportionally because otherwise fiber can be constipating, which is pretty much the opposite of what we want.

For the next week try to count the grams of fiber you take in on a daily basis just to see where you are starting from.  If your fiber intake is too low then one of the best things you can do is add more high fiber foods into your diet or even a fiber supplement if you can’t add the foods.  I try to shoot for anything between 30-50 grams daily.  I don’t always make it, but I always try. Foods like nuts, beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and dark chocolate (woohoo!!!) are all high in fiber. Fiber for gallbladder sludge and any other kind of detoxification is absolutely essential.



Is Folate in Food Safe for MTHFR Mutants?

The question of  folate in food safe for MTHFR mutants has, like everything else about MTHFR, a complex answer: yes and no.  Sigh. But actually there’s a pretty easy split, and that’s between foods naturally high in folate, and foods fortified with folic acid.

Foods Naturally High in Folate

This list is all awesomeness. These are great healthy foods that most people want to incorporate into their diet but many of us mutants (MTHFR mutants that is) hesitate because of the folate content. Great news folks – naturally occuring folate is actually not a problem with the MTHFR mutation. Here’s the thing – what we call “folate” isn’t actually just one thing. In nature it’s a collection of related molecules in the family of pteroylglutamates (say that three times fast).  Folate can be used directly by the human body, it doesn’t have to be converted into anything and so with or without a MTHFR mutation we can use folate well.

We use folate to synthesize, repair and methylate DNA, and as a cofactor in a number of reactions in the human body.  It’s especially important in periods of rapid growth and cell division  – so infancy, growth spurts and pregnancy. We also use it to make our red blood cells and deficiency is one of the causes of anemia.

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

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

Foods Highest in Folate (Safe for MTHFR)

Beans and Pulses:

  • Black eyed Peas – 356 mcg/cup serving (89% daily value)
  • Mung beans – 80% DV per cup serving
  • Pinto beans – 74% DV per cup serving
  • Chickpeas – 71% DV per cup serving
  • Lentils – 90% DV per cup serving

Dark Green Leafy Veggies:

  • Spinach – 66% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Turnip greens – 42% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Romaine Lettuce – 16% DV per cup serving (raw)

Brassica Family Veggies:

  • Broccoli – 42% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Cauliflower – 14% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Brussels sprouts – 25% DV per cup serving (cooked)

Odd Ducks:

  • Avocado – 30% DV per cup serving (raw)
  • Mango – 18% DV per cup serving (raw)
  • Oranges – 18% DV per cup serving (raw)
  • Asparagus – 68% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Okra – 37% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Liver – 50-60% DV per 3 oz serving (because nobody eats a cup of liver.) Percentage range depending on the type of animal the liver comes from.




The answer to the question ‘Is NATURALLY OCCURING folate in foods safe for MTHFR mutants?’ Is a resounding YES.

Foods Fortified with Folic Acid

Here’s where the MTHFR group get tripped up. Often ‘folate’ and ‘folic acid’ are used interchangeably to refer to the same thing, because they theoretically do the same things in the body.  Except for MTHFR mutants they really don’t do the same thing because we have varying degrees of impairment with the enzyme that converts folic acid to folate. This means that MTHFR mutants really can’t count folic acid, which is the synthetic, lab-created, oxidized form of folate which is really not found so much in nature.  This requires functioning MTHFR genes to be converted into a usable form of folate.  If you don’t have good function of your MTHFR genes (and just a note – we all have some function, we’re just impaired) then you don’t get to use this form very well.

Folic Acid ≠ Folate

The issue with eating a lot of foods fortified with folic acid for an MTHFR mutant is that the folic acid competes at receptor sites with natural folate that is coming from your diet. This means the synthetic folic acid makes the natural folate less effective because much of the time the synthetic (unusable) form is clogging up the folate receptors.

Foods Most Likely to Be Fortified with Folic Acid (Unsafe for MTHFR Mutants):

Grains:

  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Pasta
  • Flour
  • Baking mixes

So – is Fortified “Folic Acid” folate in food safe for MTHFR mutants? Absolutely Not.

The best strategy to make your foods MTHFR friendly is to eat whole foods, natural unfortified whole grains, and skip the fortified garbage.  There are many dangers of folic acid (and not just to MTHFR mutants – we’ll talk about that later) so avoid it wherever possible and add naturally-occurring folate-rich foods into your diet wherever you can. One more time: Is folate in food safe for MTHFR mutants? You betcha, but folic acid isn’t.