Gut health linked to heart health via Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient important for bone health, blood clotting, and now shows promise in preventing heart disease.

Vitamin K and heart health

Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium, but once absorbed, it must go to the correct place to have health benefits. Without enough vitamin K2, calcium can end up in your arteries (this helps explain why doctors find calcium deposits in the arterial plaques of people with atherosclerosis).

Think of vitamin K as a conductor at an orchestra. Instead of cueing musical instruments, vitamin K directs calcium into your bones. Vitamin K2 directs calcium to your skeletal system (and away from your arteries) by activating a protein hormone called osteacalcin.

Vitamin K2 (along with vitamin D) also helps produce Matrix GLA Protein, a protein responsible for keeping calcium out of our arteries.

Why our gut is so important for vitamin K

Vitamin K1, which is found in green vegetables, does not appear to direct calcium. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) does. Vitamin K2 is made in our gut by bacteria. We also get some K2 from fermented foods such as natto (click here for Bay Area’s Cultured Pickle Shop offering many fermented food options). Many people are deficient in vitamin K2. Many people also suffer from poor gastrointestinal health. Coincidence? I think not.

Steps for building a healthy gut & vitamin K2 levels

We need around 45-185 mcg of vitamin K2/day. Currently, there aren’t any reliable tests for measuring levels, so your best bet is to make sure your gut is healthy (and there are tests for that), get plenty of the right foods, and possibly take a high quality K2 supplement (with fat so you can absorb it!).

  1. Find out which foods you are intolerant to and avoid them!
  2. Rotate your foods. Eating the same foods every single day or multiple times every day increases your chances of inflaming your gut, increasing gut permeability, increasing food intolerance and causing dysbiosis. All of these spell trouble for healthy gut flora and making vitamin K2.
  3. Eat a clean diet full of foods that are right for your unique biochemistry. Testing is a surefire way to know when you are eating the right diet. Other clues are having 1-3 bowel movements daily, having balanced energy and weight, clear skin, and an absence of bloating/gas. Work with a local nutritionist who specializes in functional diagnostic nutrition if you need help.
  4. Drink plenty of filtered water daily (half your body weight in ounces).
  5. Get adequate sleep nightly. Sleep is necessary for tissue repair and that includes gut tissue! Aim for 6-8 hours/night.
  6. Extra support from probiotics will help ensure the beneficial bacteria aren’t overrun by harmful bacteria.
  7. Eat fermented foods and limit foods/drinks that tax the adrenal glands such as alcohol and sugar. Without healthy adrenals, your gut cannot be healthy.
  8. Move your body every day. Exercise helps encourage blood flow and peristalsis (movement of the intestines that allow digestion to occur).
  9. Aloe vera juice, bone broth, and the amino acid L-glutamine may be necessary to heal a damaged gut. Drinking bone broth or eating soup made from bone broth weekly is a good idea.
  10. Include vitamin K2-rich foods in your diet. Vitamin K2 is only found in animal productsbutter from grass-fed cows, other grass-fed dairy products such as milk, cream, and cheese, organ meats, foie gras, shellfish, fish eggs, and egg yolks from free ranging, insect eating chickens or ducks. Click the links for local sources.

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Salmon Avocado Seaweed Wraps

Nutritious Delicious is happy to bring you the 7th and final breakfast of our series. These wraps are a quick and easy way to get 2 servings of veggies, healthy protein, antioxidants, and essential omega-3 fats. Enjoy our video here.

Ingredients:

1 Can Wild Pacific red salmon (packed in water)

1 Avocado

1 Package small Nori wraps or several large Nori sheets (we used Sea’s Gift Korean Seaweed)

1/4 lemon

Sea salt, garlic powder, and parsley to taste

How to:

Empty the entire can of salmon into your bowl, including the liquid, skin, and small bones. Add the entire avocado. Add about 1 tsp lemon juice and seasoning. Smush (yes, that is a technical term) it all together with a fork. Spoon it onto your nori paper and roll it up. Enjoy!

 

Why Nori?

We use Nori wraps instead of bread or tortilla because Nori is hypoallergenic (unlike wheat) and very low in carbs. Nori also contains Iodine, an essential nutrient that is critical for healthy thyroid function and not in many foods.

Why Wild Salmon?

As we mentioned, farmed or “Atlantic” salmon is highly toxic and contains chemicals like PCB’s and Dioxins which have a negative impact on hormonal health. Wild salmon is one of the cleanest fish available and one of the few foods that contain essential Omega 3 fats an an easily absorbable form.

For more info on seafood and toxins check out the Environmental Working Group’s Safe Fish List.

In health,

Rebecca & Holly

Stress: These coping strategies may surprise you

We’ve all heard that stress is a killer and that we should learn how to manage our stress levels in order to stay healthy. But how do we do that?

Author, doctor, and one of the world’s leading researchers of neuroendocrine immunology and behavior, Esther Sternberg, commented in a recent interview with ACE that one-third of Americans are living with extraordinary stress and that 90% of us live with continual stress that over time can make us ill. Since some stress is unavoidable in life, it is important to implement some strategies for helping us cope.  Before delving into these strategies, let’s take a closer look at the different parts of stress.

The four parts of stress

  1. The event: The “thing” that happens in our lives.
  2. Perception: Our interpretation of “the event” as stressful or not. If we don’t perceive the event as stressful, our body won’t have a stress response!
  3. Brain’s physiological response to stress: A cascade of chemical events ending with adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals cause the feelings of stress and anxiety such as pounding heart and sweating.
  4. Adaptation to chronic stress: Immune system wear down. Cortisol, among many other things, is a potent anti-inflammatory, “mutes” white blood cells, and wears down our gut lining where a potent player of our immune system, secretory IgA is made.

Strategies for coping with chronic stress

  • Perception modification through exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi. Train your mind to not immediately react with a fight-or-flight response. Remember, the body listens to what our mind tells it. Calm your mind and the body will follow.
  • Sounds in your environment that calm you or lift your mood help reduce stress. Examples are sounds of moving water, nature sounds (birds or other animals), favorite music, audio books, hypnotherapy or meditation recordings, affirmations, and laughter.
  • Visual reminders of pleasing images at home and at work such as artwork, funny comic strips or quotes, screen savers of vacation/happy memory/relaxing image help shift you away from feeling stressed.
  • As we age the ends of our chromosomes shorten and this is exacerbated by chronic stress. Dr. Sternberg shares that a number of unpublished medical studies show that walking 30 minutes a day 3 times per week (along with proper diet and mindfulness meditation) can help to increase an enzyme that repairs the ends of our chromosomes to bolster immune system and reduce aging.
  • Colors and lighting that reduce stress are blues and greens and full-spectrum lighting or sunlight.
  • Smells that remind you to relax can range greatly from person to person since it is dependent on your association. For some, lavender is relaxing because they associate it with getting a massage. For others, the smell of a certain flower may remind them of their gardening hobby.
  • Breathing in and out of your mouth deeply from your belly strengthens the calming parasympathetic branch of your nervous system. Taking a few deep breaths like this in a moment of stress can give you that moment of clarity to stop and re-evaluate things and possibly change your perception.
  • Stress management help in the Bay Area

    There are a number of options right here in the Bay Area from stress management workshops, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, therapy, guided meditation, yoga, Tai Chi… and let’s not forget all the beautiful parks and nature we are blessed to have surround us.

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    New York Cheesecake with Stevia

    This cheesecake is incredible and there is no sugar!!

    Ingredients

    Crust: 8 ounces pecans, chopped or ground

    1 1/2 T melted butter (optional, add 1 T flour)

    Filling: 3 (8 ounce) packages organic cream cheese

    1 cup organic sour cream

    2 eggs

    3-4 T vanilla, can also add 2 scraped vanilla beans

    35-50 drops liquid vanilla stevia (taste after mixed and add more if you like)

    2 T corn starch

    Optional: 3/4 cup frozen or fresh organic blueberries

    Directions

    1. Place chopped or ground pecans into the bottom of a round glass baking pan and drizzle melted butter over them.
    2. In a large bowl, mix all other ingredients thoroughly and taste for sweetness (only if you use high quality eggs).
    3. Pour in baking pan over crust and bake for 45-60 minutes at 300 degrees until firm in center and then refrigerate till cooled, preferably overnight.

    *Optional, if you use organic, pastured eggs, this dessert is DELICIOUS raw! Put a small amount of crust into individual dessert bowls or glasses and pour custardy mixture over the top and enjoy immediately.

    *Other options are to use another nut, like almonds or walnuts for the crust or add blueberries or chocolate into the mix

    Topping: melt 6 ounces of organic bakers chocolate in a pot on low heat until melted, add stevia or Truvia until preferred sweetness is achieved (10-15 drops or 4-6 packages Truvia) and then add fresh or frozen blueberries. Spoon onto top of cheesecake right before serving. Oh my goodness, so good!

    How food intolerances can make you fat and sick

    We’ve all heard that one man’s medicine is another man’s poison, but did you know that one person’s health food is another person’s junk food?

    Millions of Americans suffer from at least one food intolerance/sensitivity. Anyone can be intolerant to any food: apples, lettuce, chicken, and even olive oil. Besides making it impossible to lose weight, food and food chemical intolerance has been found to play a role in many chronic health conditions including:

    • Celiac Disease
    • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Autism Spectrum Disorders
    • ADD/ADHD
    • Bloating
    • Gas
    • Headaches & migraines
    • Fatigue
    • Weight imbalances
    • Cravings
    • Skin conditions such as eczema
    • Heartburn/GERD
    • Rheumatoid Arthritis
    • Joint and muscle pain
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • Chronic diarrhea

    Food intolerance is also considered a major stressor to the adrenal glands. Unhealthy adrenals can wreak havoc on gut health, immune system, detoxification capabilities, hormones, fertility and muscle and fat gain and loss.

    What is food intolerance?

    Food intolerance is a negative reaction to food that happens when your body is hypersensitive to a food and launches an attack with mediators such as eosinophils, basophils, neutrophils macrophages, T-cells and NK cells). Every time the trigger food is consumed, systemic disruption takes place and can cause chronic inflammation in the body resulting in a variety of symptoms (see above).

    Food intolerance is different than food allergies in a couple of ways. One is the way that the body responds and the other is the speed in which the body responds.

    With an allergy, the body’s immune system (mast cells) reacts to the offending food very soon after exposure. Food allergies occur in 2-4% of the population. The body releases histamine, prostaglandins and other proinflammatory mediators. If a person has a strong enough allergic reaction, exposure to the allergic food can result in life-threatening anaphylaxis. Because the reaction occurs so quickly after exposure to the allergic food, most people who have food allergies are well aware of what they are allergic to. Food intolerance or sensitivity can be much trickier since the reaction is delayed.

    Food intolerance pathways

    There are many, many ways that the body can react to an intolerance because there are multiple hypersensitivity pathways. The four main categories of hypersensitivity are: Type I, II, III and IV. Types III and IV are much more common in people than Type I reactions; 15-25% of population compared to 2-4%.

    • Type I hypersensitivity categorizes true food allergies as given in the above example. It is also called an IgE reaction.
    • Type II hypersensitivity has not been found to be linked to adverse reactions to food.
    • Type III hypersensitivity includes IgG reactions (commonly tested for by most food intolerance tests). Type III reactions usually take place 3-8 hours after exposure.
    • Type IV hypersensitivity is the most common pathway for adverse food reactions and yet many tests do not test for Type IV reactions. In Type IV reactions, the T-cells react with offensive foods and symptoms occur anywhere from 4-72 hours after exposure. Herein lies the challenge with identifying delayed food intolerances. How many people are going to make the connection between not feeling well with what they ate 72 hours earlier?

    Finding out if you have a food intolerance

    There are several methods for food intolerance testing.

    • Finger prick IgG can be done easily at home and mailed to a lab if ordered by your doctor or nutritionist. Many doctors and nutritionists in the Bay Area can facilitate this method of testing.
    • Serum IgG involves a blood draw and must be done at a medical clinic. This testing is more commonly done with naturopathic doctors, but if you do not have an ND, can be requested by any doctor.
    • Serum IgG and Type IV tests offer the broadest spectrum of pinning down food intolerance trigger foods. Signet Labs offers a test called the MRT (Mediator Release Test), which is currently considered one of the best, most accurate food intolerance tests (also tests for food chemicals). This test is offered locally through nutritionists with special certification in Functional Diagnostic Nutritionand Metabolic Typing(such professionals are available in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Jose, Cupertino, Mountain View, Oakland, Redwood City, Saratoga and Sunnyvale. Click here for contact info). You can also check with nutritionists and allergy specialists at a Bay Area medical center closest to you.

    Successful elimination of trigger foods is essential to any treatment plan. Once allowed to heal (minimum of 3 months without exposure to trigger foods), re-introduction of trigger foods will allow one to see if they are still reactive to those foods and need to continue avoidance.

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    Myofascial release techniques to reduce pain & improve performance

    Even using every precaution, injuries happen, bodies get sore, and people suffer from chronic pain. Life is too short to waste time hurting instead of enjoying your favorite physical activities. You are about to learn some techniques that you can do at home or in a fitness facility to reduce chronic pain, improve mobility and posture and limit the chances of future injuries.

    SMR, self-myofascial release, is part of a corrective-exercise and injury prevention program SMR is intended to heal injured tissue, improve range of motion, and repair muscular imbalances & postural misalignment that contribute to dysfunctional movement patterns.

    Foam rollers are a great tool for reducing fascial tightness.

    Methods of SMR

  • Golf ball or tennis ball on feet: Use a golf ball or tennis ball on your feet-one of the most common musculoskeletal deviations that causes chronic pain is overpronation of the foot (when the foot arch flattens under load), (Justin Price, MA, ACE Fitness Journal May 2011). This collapsed arch leads to other areas such as the knees, ankles and hips to work harder and can lead to imbalances in any of those body parts. Rolling a golf or tennis ball under your foot for 30-60 secs/day/per foot helps reduce chronic pain and improve function.
  • Foam roller: Use a foam roller on your quadriceps muscles, IT bandglutealshamstrings, calves, and back. Anywhere you use it, you will be reducing stress, improving mobility and helping to restore proper movement patterns. Even though you may not realize it, when one area of your body can’t manage to move properly (from injury, excessive tightness, poor posture), it affects how your entire body moves. Day after day of moving in ways that compensate for lack of mobility or pain avoidance in one area of your body can increase pain in another area. Misalignment causes stress on our joints and surrounding muscle tissue. Using the foam roller is a great tool for keeping your muscles and fascia healthy and unrestricted.
  • Stretching: Taking all the joints through a full range of motion is great, but it is more important to spend your time stretching the areas of your body that are tightest not the ones that are already flexible. Most of us avoid stretching tight areas because it feels uncomfortable. However, stretching areas that are flexible can lead to joint instability and increased chances of injury. Tight muscles are more likely to strain or tear with sudden movements or stretches. So, while it may be uncomfortable stretching really tight muscles at first, that discomfort does not last. Spending a few minutes a day to stretch can lead to noticeable differences in tightness in as little as a week. Start with gentle stretches and take as many weeks as you need to increase your flexibility.
  • Myofascial Pros

    At-home techniques are wonderful since you can do them every single day. Frequency is important when you are trying to establish new patterns with your body. If you are someone who needs extra help to speed up the healing process, it might be time to call in a pro. We have some terrific myotherapistsbody workers specializing inmyofascial releasemyotherapy clinics, and rolfers in the Bay Area.

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    Coconut sap: A sweetener even a paleo dieter could love

    Used for thousands of years in South East Asia, coconut sap is quickly growing in popularity in the U.S. Environmentally sustainable, low in fructose, low on the glycemic index, full of nutrients, and darn tasty, this minimally processed sugar substitute excels where others fail.

    What is coconut sap?

    Coconut sap (a.k.a. coconut sap sugar, coconut nectar, coconut syrup) is harvested from cut flower buds of coconuts. The sap is heated on medium heat to evaporate moisture making it thick and syrupy. The sap can also be dehydrated (looks a lot like brown sugar) and sold as coconut sugar.

    Sustainable

    When the flower buds are cut to harvest the sap (called “tapping“), the sap flows for up to 20 years! That is probably a best-case scenario. There are different approaches to collecting the sap. If only half the length of the spadix (which contains thousands of flowers) is cut, the coconut tree is able to produce both sap and nuts whereas more aggressive approaches only allow for sap production.

    Coconut sap being extracted from spadix.

    Low in fructose

    Coconut sap only has about 2-10% fructose versus agave’s 40-90% (honey is also high, around 55%). High fructose is associated with a variety of health problems including fatty liver, raised triglycerides, appetite disruption and weight gain.

    Low glycemix index

    The glycemic index (measure of carbs on raising blood sugar) of coconut sap is fairly low: 35-55 (honey 75, table sugar 80, high fructose corn syrup 87). It is considered safe for diabetics.

    Nutrients

    • High in the minerals potassium, iron, magnesium and zinc.
    • Contains B vitamins and is especially high in inositol. Inositol is beneficial in several clinical settings including reducing diabetic neuropathy and a number of mood disorders.
    • About 80% inulin, a prebiotic fiber, which feed our intestinal flora to help boost digestive and immune function.

    Tasty

    Nothing that isn’t sugar is going to taste exactly like sugar. However, coconut sap tastes pretty close to brown sugar. If you want to give it a try, there are some delicious recipes available.

    Coconut sap can be found in the following Bay Area stores: Rainbow Foods in San Francisco, Whole Foods in Redwood City, and Staff of Life and Food Bin in Santa Cruz. Coconut Secret is a common brand that you can ask for at a local market near you. Even if they don’t stock it, they may be able to order it. Coconut sugar (the dried version of coconut sap/nectar) is more widely available in the Bay Area.