The Organic Dietitian is a health and food Blog centered around Organic Living by Sara who is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and Certified LEAP therapist. Subscribe us to know how whole foods made with unprocessed ingredients can be delicious.
Our periods can tell us a lot about our health, so as women, it is important to know what a normal period is like. In fact some people consider them a vital sign and I completely agree with that idea. If your cycles are abnormal, then you could be experiencing symptoms that indicate imbalanced hormones, or something else going on in your body. I find that lots of women don’t know what their periods should be like. We tend to accept intense period cramps and moodiness as”normal.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It isn’t our fault that we don’t know what to expect from our periods; this is often not something that we are taught. Today I am going to teach you this important lesson and answer the question: what is a normal period?
Length of Your Cycle
Day 1 of your cycle is the first day that you see blood, and the last day of your cycle is the day before your next period starts. This count equals the length of your cycle. A normal cycle should last between 21-35 days (28 days being average). Ideally your cycle length would be fairly consistent (within a few days) versus skipping around a lot cycle to cycle. If one month your cycle is 21 days and the next month it is 35 days, then it might be worth doing some investigating to find out why the large variation (especially if it stays consistently irregular).
If your cycle is longer than 35 days it may be due to stress, illness, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), undereating, thyroid issues, or moving into menopause.
I do want to note that a teenager that just started her period may have a longer cycle in the beginning lasting up to 45 days but this should improve with time. If it doesn’t then it could be a symptom.
How Long Should it Last
Your period bleeding should last 2-7 days. The flow is often its strongest for 3-5 days and you may experience a couple of light days as your period finishes up. If you see brown (almost dried up looking) blood initially this is often blood that was “leftover” from your previous cycle and could indicate low progesterone. The first day that you see fresh blood is day 1 of your cycle. Any spotting that happens before or after your cycle usually still counts as bleeding days.
Periods lasting longer than 7 days could be a sign of PCOS or be due to perimenopause. Spotting in between cycles is often a sign of low progesterone.
If your periods are heavy, then your anticoagulants may not have enough time to keep up with your blood flow, which can cause large blood clots. The most problematic clots are ones that are larger than a dime and happen frequently. If you have the occasional small clot it may be normal.
Pain and cramping are symptoms that are by far accepted as being “normal”, but that isn’t necessarily the case. A little cramping can be normal. Light cramps or pain that last 1-2 days, but don’t knock you out for the day is ok. It is the super painful cramps that are throbbing and last for days that can be a symptom of something out of whack. It might be so bad that you are doubled over in pain or need to take the day off work to stay in bed.
This type of pain can be caused by imbalanced hormones or, in worse cases, things like endometriosis.
From a medical perspective, you normally want to lose about 50 mL of fluid during your period. That usually equals about three tablespoons of fluid over the length of your period. One regular pad or tampon holds about one teaspoon of fluid and you shouldn’t need to change that pad or tampon more than once every two hours.
If your period is super light, then it could be a sign that you didn’t ovulate. A heavy period can be caused by many different things like copper IUD, no ovulation, endometriosis, perimenopause, thyroid issues, or estrogen dominance.
When your period starts, it should be a nice bright red color, similar to cranberry juice. If it gets dark and almost purple in color then it could be a sign of estrogen dominance. If it gets light pink then it could be a sign of low estrogen. If your blood is brown, that is old blood that has been oxidized and it didn’t make it out of your uterus during the last cycle, which can be a sign of low progesterone.
Your period is something that should be paid attention to every month because it can tell you a lot and give you clues about your health. Don’t feel bad if you have abnormal periods because this is something that most doctors don’t even know and this topic isn’t talked about with enough. Use the clues your body is giving you as helpful hints to investigate and dig deeper to find the root cause and get things back on track. One thing I don’t recommend to “fix” an irregular period is birth control.
Hormones are a complicated system with many moving parts so one of the best things you can do is to work closely with a practitioner that will do proper functional testing like DUTCH from Precision Analytical and help you get to the root cause.
ARE YOU READY TO GET TESTED AND TURN YOUR HEALTH AROUND? CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO REQUEST A FREE 30 MINUTE DISCOVERY CALL…
As a Holistic Dietitian and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, I help clients get proper testing, assist in the process of reading those results using clinical correlation (treating the patient and not just the test results), and give them the proper tools (diet, supplements, and lifestyle) to start the healing process.
Estrogen dominance is very common these days,but that DOES NOT make it normal. Our modern world creates the perfect environment for estrogen to take over. It may seem impossible, but you can do something about it. Yes, YOU can! You just have to know what is causing estrogen dominance in you specifically. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to addressing estrogen dominance. I know because I spent years trying to figure out what was causing estrogen dominance in my own body. Different doctors told me what to do, but nothing was helping. That’s because no one was addressing the root cause.
I work with a lot of women dealing with the symptoms of estrogen dominance. Things like PMS, heavy or irregular periods, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, brain fog, mood swings, depression, irritability, low libido, histamine intolerance, fibroids, endometriosis, thyroid problems, gall bladder issues, and blood sugar issues. Any of these sound familiar?
Many things can contribute but here is a list of the top causes I see with my clients…
1. Gut dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance)
Your gut and hormones are absolutely connected. Glucuronidation is one of the major phase 2 detoxification pathways in the liver that helps us eliminate hormones from the body. An enzyme called beta glucuronidase can block this detoxification process, which can cause your hormones (including estrogen) to get reabsorbed, reactivated, and put back into circulation. Beta glucuronidase is produced by imbalanced intestinal bacteria.
So to address the cause, you need to lower this enzyme by balancing your gut bacteria. Sorry to say it but simply taking a probiotic is usually not enough to re-balance the gut. Get a good stool test, like the GI MAP, to address bacterial overgrowth. The nice thing about the GI MAP is that it actually tests for the beta glucuronidase enzyme. This result below was the first GI MAP I took…it showed over double what the lab considers normal! In order to address the cause, I worked to re-balance my gut bacteria, which is a process that should be customized to you and your microbiome.
2. Poor liver detoxification (overall, phase 1, or phase 2?)
If your liver is sluggish, then it will be difficult to clear estrogen from your body, no matter what. We live in a pretty toxic world, which makes our livers work really hard. The liver processes hormones to get them ready to be eliminated from the body. If the liver is not functioning optimally, estrogen levels can be high because your body is not breaking it down and getting rid of it like it should. It is important to know if there is a specific phase of liver detoxification where estrogen is getting backed up. This information can help figure out what you need to do to address the cause.
If phase 1 of estrogen metabolism is stuck then a supplement like DIM can help but if that isn’t the problem, then you could be wasting your money on an unnecessary supplement or even cause estrogen to drop too low.
Phase 2 of estrogen detoxification is a process called methylation. Genetically we might not be good at methylating properly, but we also depend on certain nutrients for this process to work correctly. We need vitamin folate, B12, B6, and magnesium. If you are deficient, then that could be a contributing factor to your estrogen dominance. These pathways can’t be tested using blood or saliva, but you can test them with urine, which is why I use DUTCH test by Precision Analytical with my clients. So much more information! Save yourself a lot of trouble and get tested instead of guessing.
I talk about pooping all the time with my clients. Your bowel movements can tell you a lot about your health. When you are not having at least one bowel movement per day, when you are not eliminating fully, or when you are going and it looks like little pellets, then you are constipated. Estrogen that should have been eliminated from the body in your stool is reabsorbed in the gut and re-circulates in the body. It’s the gut’s responsibility to eliminate hormones. Get to the root cause of your constipation. Is it your thyroid, gut pathogens, motility issues, dehydration, low fiber, stress, or something else? Start by increase your water intake. You should be drinking at least half of your body weight in pounds in ounces of water per day (coffee and alcohol doesn’t count). Then make sure you are eating enough fiber by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. If that doesn’t help then you may need to investigate further. Test your thyroid and gut with functional lab testing. Proper testing is key!
4. Low progesterone
Estrogen dominance does not always equal high estrogen. Estrogen can be at a normal level, but if progesterone is too low then you can still have estrogen dominance symptoms. So why is progesterone low? Not eating enough healthy fats, too low body weight, chronic stress, HPA axis dysfunction (AKA adrenal fatigue), gluten sensitivity, lack of ovulation, hypothyroidism, or high prolactin– these are just some causes of low progesterone. It is all about getting to YOUR root cause. A good practitioner should be able to help you with this investigation. That is exactly what I do with my clients.
5. Copper toxicity and Other Heavy Metals
We can become copper toxic in a variety of ways. Hormonal birth control (pill, patch, ring), copper pipes, copper IUDs, hormone replacement therapy. It can even be something that was passed to you in-utero from your mother. Copper stimulates estrogen production and estrogen can increase copper; they are very connected. When one goes up the other can follow. In my practice I use hair mineral analysis testing to look for copper issues. If you have looked at all the other factors and still can’t seem to find out what is causing your high estrogen, then it might be time to consider copper.
Other heavy metals like aluminum, mercury, and lead are also considered metalloestrogens, which means that they have the ability to mimic estrogen in the body. Some metals are considered essential minerals, but if the concentration of these metals become too high, they can interfere with hormones. These types of metals are much harder for the body to eliminate on its own. I like to do a hair mineral analysis test with clients, especially when they are having a hard time addressing why their estrogen is high.
Do you have a lot of inflammation in your body? Maybe aches, pains, skin problems, joint discomfort, gut issues, heart problems, excess weight, inflamed gums in your mouth? Do you have a lot of food sensitivities? Have you been exposed to a lot of toxins? Inflammation anywhere in your body can be a problem because it can drive up your production of cortisol (your stress hormone that can also be anti-inflammatory). High cortisol can equal higher DHEA, which then can get made into testosterone and – yes-even estrogen.
These are the top root causes of estrogen dominance that I see in my practice. It is also very possible to have more than one root cause. This can be an overwhelming and sometimes complicated beat to tackle. Working with someone that can help you navigate your root cause(s) and provide you with the best game plan to get your hormones back into balance can be very helpful. When your hormones are balanced it is easier to maintain a healthy weight, have clear skin, have healthier periods, and slow down the aging process. If you don’t have the ability to work with a professional, below are a couple things you can start to do on your own.
What can you start doing today to help your estrogen?
1. Use safer beauty products. Toxic chemicals in conventional beauty products can be hormone disruptors. These chemicals can act like hormones in your body and contribute to higher estrogen levels. Beautycounter is my favorite safer beauty line! Consider swapping out your shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, and makeup for non-toxic products. Read my post Are Your Beauty Products Contributing to Hormone Imbalance for more info.
2. Eat more veggies. Things like cruciferous vegetables contain a compound that help to support phase 1 of estrogen detoxification. Even raw carrots contain a beneficial fiber that helps to eliminate estrogen from your system. Don’t forget your leafy green veggies that are a good source of folate and support phase 2 of estrogen detoxification. These are easy things you can incorporate into your daily meals.
3. Love your liver with castor oil packs. I wrote a whole post about it so go check it out here.
4. Get enough sleep. Sleep is super critical for overall health and it is whenyour body does a lot of repair work. Just two consecutive night of not sleeping well can negatively impact your cortisol levels. And high cortisol can lead to high estrogen. Get to bed by 10pm and work toward getting at least eight hours per night.
5. Manage your stress. I can’t emphasis this one enough! Stress is terrible for your hormones. Stress negatively impacts your adrenal glands and cortisol levels, which makes it really hard to get your hormones back on track. Deep breathing, getting out in nature, and a daily self-care ritual are my favorite ways to keep my stress in check.
Resolving estrogen dominance is a multi-factorial process including nutrition, lifestyle, proper detoxification, and healing other bodily systems like the adrenals and gut.
ARE YOU READY TO GET TESTED AND TURN YOUR HEALTH AROUND? CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO REQUEST A FREE 30 MINUTE DISCOVERY CALL…
As a Holistic Dietitian and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, I help clients get proper testing, assist in the process of reading those results using clinical correlation (treating the patient and not just the test results), and give them the proper tools (diet, supplements, and lifestyle) to start the healing process.
Hair loss, thinning hair, and male or female pattern baldness are no fun! It can happen to anyone, at any time, and there are numerous potential causes.
If you know me, then you know that I like to investigate the root cause of symptoms and not just manage them. The same can be said for hair loss.
I’ve worked with many clients who have experienced hair loss or thinning hair as a symptom. Yes – it is a symptom, a sign of something deeper going on. The downside is that it can take some time and patience to figure out the root cause. And it can take some time for your hair to start growing back.
So what can CAUSE hair loss?
1. Nutrient deficiencies
Poor diet, digestive issues, and low enzyme or stomach acid production can cause nutrient deficiencies in our bodies.
It may not simply be enough to take a multivitamin. If your body can’t properly break down and absorb nutrients from a vitamin, then taking a multivitamin may not do much for you. So if your experiencing digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, excessive and painful gas, reflux, anxiety, depression, or eczema, then you NEED to address that first. I use a comprehensive stool test and GI MAP with my clients to look for pathogens and customize a protocol to improve gut health. Improving gut health will help improve nutrient deficiencies, which can help hair loss.
2. Hormone imbalances
Imbalances can involve numerous different hormones: cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, or thyroid hormones.
If you are under stress or have inflammation (even in the gut) your cortisol levels have likely been impacted. When your body is under stress, it prioritizes resources that help you deal with stress instead of helping you make hair.
Excess estrogen can lead to thinning hair. For example, during and after pregnancy estrogen levels peak and then dip, causing sudden hair loss for many women. But your estrogen can be high or low at any time for a number of reasons. Are you experiencing PMS, heavy periods, painful periods, breast tenderness, irritability, or fibroids? This could be due to altered estrogen levels.
Elevated testosterone is also problematic for your locks – and not just for men. Too much testosterone can cause hair growth on the face, neck or chest, but hair loss on your head. It may not be enough to simply test testosterone via blood. You also want to know which pathway testosterone is going down: the 5 alpha or beta pathway. If you have “normal” or even low testosterone levels, but the testosterone in your body is going down the wrong 5 alpha pathway, then your testosterone is becoming three times more potent. This can still cause symptoms such as hair loss. How do you know which pathway yours is going down? A urine test, such as a DUTCH hormone test, is the key to finding out.
Hypo- or hyperthyroid can also contribute to losing hair. When your body is under stress due to hormone imbalances, like fluctuating thyroid levels, it redirects resources from noncritical processes in your body like hair growth. Just like it does with cortisol.
Since hair loss is a common symptom in those who have a hormone imbalance, it’s important to do a few simple tests to see what’s really going on in your body. Addressing the underlying issue of an imbalance can improve the symptom of hair loss, and many other symptoms you may be experiencing.
3. Low iron or iron deficient anemia
Iron deficiency can cause your body to channel oxygen to support vital functions instead of keeping your hair intact. Hemoglobin carries oxygen for the growth and repair of cells in your body, including the cells that stimulate hair growth. Anemia can be caused by a decrease or loss in that hemoglobin.
The interesting thing is that iron deficiency isn’t just caused by not eating iron-rich foods or by a bleed. Low iron can also be a symptom of copper toxicity or gut pathogens. Copper deficiency, as well as excess, can impact iron metabolism. Copper deficiency leads to anemia while copper excess can cause a different type of anemia, hemolytic anemia. Birth control (pills, patch, ring), copper IUDs, copper pipes, or getting copper passed along to you inutero can all contribute to copper issues.
4. Blood sugar issues, insulin resistance, and diabetes
Sugar is very sticky (even when floating around in your blood) and can essentially clog hair follicles, which can prevent healthy hair growth. Diabetics often lose hair all over their bodies because of circulation issues. This prevents much-needed nutrients from even getting to the hair follicle, causing a lack of the necessary resources to grow hair.
If you have tried everything else and still don’t see improvement, then it might be time to visit your doctor to see if something else is going on, like a scalp infection.
If you are dealing with hair loss or thinning hair, address the ROOT CAUSE. Hopefully now you know a little more about WHAT could be causing this symptom. It is absolutely possible to address the issue in a natural, healthy way. Get proper testing and work with a practitioner that knows what to look for and how to help you find YOUR cause.
WANT TO WORK WITH ME? SCHEDULE A COMPLIMENTARY, NO-OBLIGATION DISCOVERY CALL WITH ME. WE’LL USE THIS TIME TO MAKE SURE WE’RE THE RIGHT FIT BEFORE COMMITTING TO WORK TOGETHER.
As a Registered Dietitian certified in Stress and Hormones by Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, I help clients get proper testing, assist in the process of reading those results using clinical correlation (treating the patient and not just the test results), and give them the proper tools (diet, supplements, and lifestyle) to start the healing process.
Have you ever tried a castor oil pack? I asked this question a few months ago on my Instagram page and got a lot of questions. Most people had never heard of castor oil packs and expressed interest in learning more about how to use them for liver support. In this post, I am sharing why castor oil packs are so beneficial for the liver (can be used for other things, too!) and how to get started using them.
I recommend castor oil packs all the time to my clients. They can be really beneficial for a few things, but the most common reason I suggest them is for gentle liver detox. An overworked liver due to excessive toxins is not a good scenario for healthy hormones or digestion. And since your hormones and gut are so connected, you can’t work on one without addressing the other.
You are always detoxing – not just when you do cleanses (which I am not a fan of, by the way). The best way to support detoxification is to avoid as many toxins as possible in the first place, eat a nutrient-dense diet including complete protein so the liver has what it needs to work well, and support the liver any way you can.
How can you avoid toxins?
Clean up your beauty products. When you use chemical-filled products, toxins get absorbed through your skin and your liver has to work hard to eliminate them from your body. Think shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, makeup, deodorant, and soap. You could unknowingly be exposing your liver to hundreds of unnecessary chemicals every single day.
Next: eat real food. This is one reason why I always recommend reading the ingredient list on your food labels vs. nutrition facts. Ingredients you can’t pronounce or that don’t sound like food are often made in a lab by chemists. These are essentially toxins that are added to food and create an extra burden on your liver.
How the castor oil pack works
Warm castor oil packs can be placed on many different areas of the body for healing.
Castor oil has a drawing power that clears the body of excess tissues and toxins. The packs help by stimulating the lymphatic and circulatory system. Lymphatic congestion is a major factor leading to inflammation and disease.
The lymphatic system removes toxins and waste from the area stimulated by the castor oil pack. Lymphatic tissue also produces and stores lymphocytes which are your immune system’s disease-fighting cells. When castor oil gets absorbed into your skin it can also improve you lymphocyte count which in turn can speed up the removal of toxins from your tissues.
Castor oil packs can also increase circulation, which brings in fresh oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to the area (in this case the liver).
You can do a castor oil pack initially every day for about 20 minutes for at least one month and then cut back to 3-4 times per week. I recently started adding Zendocrine detoxification blend from DoTerra, which is optional, for even more detox support. I just dab a couple drops of the oil over my liver. Then apply the pack directly to my liver (right side of your body under the rib cage). I recommend NOT doing packs when you are on your period but the rest of the month is fair game.
Fold the fabric so that it is large enough to cover your liver, about 1 foot by 1 foot. Saturate the fabric with castor oil. You don’t need it to be dripping with the oil but the fabric should be moist.
Apply the moist pack to your liver (right side of your body under your rib cage). Note: the oil can stain so I don’t wear a bra and be sure any clothes I am wearing is away from the pack. Consider wearing something you don’t mind getting stained and lay on a towel to keep your furniture clean.
Take a piece of wax paper or towel you don’t mind getting stained and cover the castor oil pack with it. Please don’t use plastic wrap.
Cover that with an electric heating pad or hot water bottle and relax for the 20 minute process.
When done I use a towel to remove excess castor oil from my skin or you could also jump in the shower.
The pack can be kept and reused over and over for at least 3 months before you want to purchase a new fabric. I keep mine in a glass container with a lid. If it starts to dry out you can add more castor oil to it to re-hydrate.
Today I focused on using castor oil packs for liver support, but they have many uses. You can use them over uterine fibroids or breast cysts, make a smaller pack to use over your thyroid, or even put them over your abdomen to help with bloating or constipation. They are helpful to alleviate pain, inflammation, and swelling, but also make sure you are working with a professional to get to the root cause of your symptoms!
Have you used castor oil packs? How do you use them? What benefits have you noticed? I’d love to hear! Let me know in the comments.
Kennedy, DA & Keaton D. Evidence for the Topical Application of Castor Oil. Int Jrnl Nat Med. Apr 2012;5(1).
Grady Harvey. Immunomodulation through castor oil packs. Journal of Naturopathic Medicine. Unknown; 7(1):84-89.
Probiotics have become so popular, there’s certainly no shortage of probiotic supplements being sold in stores. But do you really know what you are doing when it comes to taking probiotics? First, you need to understand how probiotics really work. Now I want to debunk 4 myths about probiotics and how to get the most of of them when you do decide to take one for yourself.
1. My doctor told me I need to start taking probiotics- I’ll just eat yogurt every day then, that should be good enough, right?
Wrong. Well, mostly. Yes, yogurt does in fact contain live bacteria- the bacteria that’s necessary to turn the initial milk product into the final yogurt product. However, this bacteria is typically not useful to human health, as the strains of bacteria used during this process are only useful for turning milk to yogurty goodness, and not so much for improving your gut health.
There are a few yogurts on the market that have actual therapeutic strains of bacteria added however: Nancy’s Organic Probiotic Greek Yogurt, for instance, has added Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 (plus Lactobacillus Acidophilus La5), which is clinically shown to be useful to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, traveler’s diarrhea, and intestinal dysbiosis, among many other conditions.
However, this is not the “rule” but the exception- the majority of yogurts on the market contain no useful bacteria inside, plus the addition of harmful added sugars and dyes. So overall, eating yogurt is not a good alternative to taking an excellent quality probiotic supplement.
2. I should take my probiotic supplement on an empty stomach to get the best benefit.
It is often times thought that taking a probiotic on an empty stomach should increase the potential of that bacteria surviving past the stomach (and stomach acid) to make their way healthy and happy into the intestine where they belong.
The thought behind this is that no food in the stomach suggests that there would be less stomach acid present too, and less of a possibility for the probiotic bacteria to be killed off before they can actually work to improve your health.
Turns out, this is actually furthest from the truth, as the highest number of bacteria to survive into the colon result from taking the non-enterically coated probiotic 30 minutes prior to or directly with a meal (Tompkins, Mainville, & Arcand, 2011).
Believe it or not, when you take a probiotic supplement with a meal vs. on an empty stomach, the added food helps to buffer the stomach acid, or neutralize it to an extent. Even more interesting, eating a meal that is higher in fat further increases the numbers of bacteria that survive their short stent in the stomach so that more good guys can make it to work in your small and large intestine.
Long story short: don’t take probiotics on an empty stomach. Pop ‘em with a meal, especially those that contain some good fats, to get the best results.
3. I can take any probiotic on the market and it’ll improve my digestion issues.
FALSE! Nothing could be furthest from the truth, actually. There have been decades of research demonstrating just how incredibly important not only specific Genus classifications of bacterium are (ie. Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, etc.), but even more importantly, how different Strains of bacterium within the same Genus and even Species (ie. Bifidobacterium lactis HN019, Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12) produce different benefits to human health.
Take a look at this quick chart showing just how diverse the benefits are for differing probiotic strains, and the importance of taking the right one for you.
Something else often misunderstood by most is that probiotics are also useful for many other chronic conditions not directly related to digestion symptoms. Take a look at these other probiotic super stars:
My main point is- I would never want to take a probiotic that’s been useful to improve constipation if I suffer from severe diarrhea, or one that’s been shown to improve Metabolic Syndrome when I really needed it to help decrease the duration of my Respiratory Tract Infection. Not all probiotics are made equal, and not all strains will be useful to you. Choose your probiotic wisely.
4. I can’t take a probiotic supplement while taking a prescribed antibiotic.
That’s where you’re wrong. An antibiotic is meant to kill bacteria in the body and a probiotic is meant to introduce bacteria into the body. The two shouldn’t seem to mix. But in reality, literature has BUSTED this widely believed myth wide open! With the wide use of antibiotics today come a typically unwelcome guest- antibiotic-induced diarrhea, typically caused by a opportunistic clostridium difficile (c. diff) infection, increasing the potential for death, and hiking health care costs and lengthening hospital stays.
With this being said, a meta-analysis of 63 randomized controlled trials was conducted to look at the effects of taking many different probiotic species with an array of antibiotics, both singularly and in combination with other pharmaceutical antibiotics, and not only found no significant decrease in risk (so the probiotics didn’t mess with the antibiotic’s ability to do it’s thing), but taking probiotics while taking a round of antibiotics has actually been shown to prevent and treat antibiotic-induced diarrhea (Rodgers, Kirley, & Mounsey, 2013). This means that taking a probiotic along with your prescribed antibiotic is actually better for your health than taking the antibiotic alone!
In all, there are so many things we have still yet to learn about the miracle of the gut, and the use and benefit of good quality probiotics. Just do me a few favors on your personal health journey: question everything, do your darn research, and find a practitioner to help you understand what’s really going on in that incredible body of yours.
SCHEDULE A COMPLIMENTARY, NO-OBLIGATION DISCOVERY CALL WITH SARA. WE’LL USE THIS TIME TO MAKE SURE WE’RE THE RIGHT FIT BEFORE COMMITTING TO WORK TOGETHER.
Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine
Health fanatic, paleo enthusiast, and lover of Functional Medicine
Bennett, R. G., Gorbach, S. L., Goldin, B. R., Chang, T., Laughon, B. E., Greenough, W. B., & Bartlett, J. G. (1996). Treatment of Relapsing Clostridium difficile Diarrhea with Lactobacillus GG. Nutrition Today,31(Supplement 1). doi:10.1097/00017285-199611001-00011
Bernini, L. J., Simão, A. N., Alfieri, D. F., Lozovoy, M. A., Mari, N. L., Souza, C. H., . . . Costa, G. N. (2016). Beneficial effects of Bifidobacterium lactis on lipid profile and cytokines in patients with metabolic syndrome: A randomized trial. Effects of probiotics on metabolic syndrome. Nutrition,32(6), 716-719. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2015.11.001
Cox, A. J., Pyne, D. B., Saunders, P. U., & Fricker, P. A. (2010). Oral administration of the probiotic Lactobacillus fermentum VRI-003 and mucosal immunity in endurance athletes. British Journal of Sports Medicine,44(4), 222-226. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2007.044628
Eskesen, D., Jespersen, L., Michelsen, B., Whorwell, P. J., Müller-Lissner, S., & Morberg, C. M. (2015). Effect of the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium animalissubsp. lactis, BB-12®, on defecation frequency in healthy subjects with low defecation frequency and abdominal discomfort: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial. The British Journal of Nutrition, 114(10), 1638–1646. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114515003347
Hun, L. (2009). Original Research:Bacillus coagulansSignificantly Improved Abdominal Pain and Bloating in Patients with IBS. Postgraduate Medicine,121(2), 119-124. doi:10.3810/pgm.2009.03.1984
Ouwehand, A. C., Nermes, M., Collado, M. C., Rautonen, N., Salminen, S., & Isolauri, E. (2009). Specific probiotics alleviate allergic rhinitis during the birch pollen season. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG, 15(26), 3261–3268. http://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.15.3261
Rodgers, B., Kirley, K., & Mounsey, A. (2013). Prescribing an antibiotic? Pair it with probiotics. The Journal of Family Practice, 62(3), 148–150.
Tompkins, T., Mainville, I., & Arcand, Y. (2011). The impact of meals on a probiotic during transit through a model of the human upper gastrointestinal tract. Beneficial Microbes, 2(4), 295-303. doi:10.3920/bm2011.0022
Don’t get me wrong, probiotic supplements and probiotic foods are absolutely incredible, and even life changing in fact; but they may not be the “golden ticket” or the one-size-fits-all treatment for those gut troubles, as most people believe they are. Digestive issues like bloating, painful gas, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, and excessive burping.
There is so much research now that shows a direct correlation between our gut bugs and overall health, even linking specific species of probiotics to very specific health benefits, like Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 and its use in treatment of eczema in infants.
We have also seen the strong emergence of prebiotics in the functional and naturopathic health scene. Just so that everyone’s on the same page: prebiotics are a grouping of fibers and carbohydrates that our good gut bugs love to feast on to get strong and build bigger and better homes in our intestine, and probiotics are the actual live bugs themselves.
With all this being said, taking a probiotic supplement can’t cure a disease or fix any problem, though it can definitely be a short-term band aid treatment to get you through until you find out what’s really going on in that troubled gut of yours.
Myth: the bacteria inside a probiotic capsule goes straight to your intestine and stays there forever.
I’d like to just take a second and bust the common myth that when you take a probiotic supplement the good bacteria inside the capsule goes straight to your intestine and stays there forever. No, no, no- so not the case. Good quality probiotics that manage to survive the stomach acid and digestive bile acids make their way through the digestive system, but only provide benefit for the short time they ride your digestion roller coaster. That means to continue getting that probiotic benefit you’ll have to continue taking that probiotic, which simply means it’s not a forever fix but a short-term mend.
This is all great and well, but not maintainable for many, especially when a good quality probiotic can cost upwards of $60-$100 per month. Essentially, probiotic supplements are not technically meant to be taken long term, but instead to be used for very specific needs during very specific, short times. According to Dr. Jason Hawrelak, one of the top microbiome leaders of the world, probiotics may colonize in you, but only for a short while and only if they’re a good quality probiotic; even those that “stick” for longer periods (ie. about 2 weeks) will have gradual decline in bacteria numbers each day until they’re essentially undetectable, kind of like semi-permanent hair dye job.
So if taking probiotics doesn’t fix my problem, what will?
First you want to make sure that you have killed off any pathogenic or “bad” bacteria that might be taking up precious space in your gut. This will help create more space and a better environment in your digestive tract for good bacteria to grow and thrive. Get a comprehensive stool test, like the GI MAP, so you can see what is growing in your gut. Test, don’t guess! Work with a trained professional so that they can use your results to create a drug-free, all natural protocol customized to you.
Then you want to feed your own healthy gut bacteria and provide them an environment where they can multiply and repopulate themselves is actually the best way to fix your digestion long term (though probiotics are an excellent short-term solution).
And this is where your good gut bug’s preferred food, also called prebiotics, makes its stunning entrance! A prebiotic is basically a grouping of certain fibers that have been shown to feed and increase one or more strains of the beneficial bacteria in the gut. This study, that pinned the best of these fibers against each other, found that partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG), fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), and trans-galacto-oligosaccharides (TOS) all out performed other forms of supplemental fiber by allowing fermentation by only specific beneficial bacteria, increasing the production of exceptional fermentation byproducts like short chain fatty acids and butyrate in the gut (Vulevic, Rastall, & Gibson, 2004).
What this is really saying is that certain fiber supplements or prebiotics can actually feed your good bacteria and REPOPULATE them in your gut for good- unlike probiotic supplements. Essentially, fiber strengthens your microbiome more than probiotic supplements do. But there is one word of caution here. If you have a lot of pathogenic bacteria in your gut then these prebiotics can feed them too. This is why step number one (testing and eliminating pathogens) is so important!
If you’ve grown up taking rounds of antibiotics for a stubborn infection, developed chronic diarrhea or constipation, deal with bouts of eczema or psoriasis, have chronic urinary tract or yeast infections, or even deal with anxiety and depression on a regular basis, it might be time to test for pathogens and add some microbiome boosting fiber into your diet. Your gut bacteria will thank you for it.
Already been working on your gut health and still having troubling symptoms? Learn more about working with Sara by clicking on the link below to schedule a FREE 30 minute discovery call. Because no, tummy troubles are not normal. But it is possible to heal. So cheers to you on your personal health journey!
Dr. Jason Hawrelak, ND, BNat (Hons), PhD, FNHAA, MASN, FACN, Chief Research Officer at Probiotic Advisor. Learn more at www.probioticadvisor.com
Siitonen, S., Vapaatalo, H. & Salminen, S. (1996). Colonization of the human gastrointestinal tract by probiotic bacteria (Lactobacillus GG). Nutrition Today, 31, 5s-9s.
Tallon, R., S. Arias, et al. (2007). “Strain- and matrix-dependent adhesion of Lactobacillus plantarum is mediated by proteinaceous bacterial compounds.” J Appl Microbiol 102(2): 442-451.
Vulevic, J., Rastall, R., & Gibson, G. (2004). Developing a quantitative approach for determining the in vitro prebiotic potential of dietary oligosaccharides. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 236(1), 153-159. doi:10.1016/j.femsle.2004.05.036
I have never actually shared the story of how I became The Organic Dietitian and what started my road to functional nutrition (vs. conventional). This long journey has lead me to my dream job where I get to help support my clients with hormone and digestive issues from the inside out. It all started with my oldest sister. Eight or so years ago she introduced me to a website called 100 Days of Real Food. Since I was a dietitian already my sister knew that it would be right up my alley and boy was she right!
This was the start of my journey down a road that opened my eyes to change what I was teaching as a nutrition professional. Starting with the idea of eating real food. The fact that processed food could be contributing to all sorts of health issues. The idea that what I had thought was good for me wasn’t! The thought that what we eat has tremendous impact on our health.
From that moment on I never stopped learning. I was able to change my health for the better and now I help others get to the root of their health issues, starting with real food! Lisa Leake created 100 Days of Real Food as a challenge to her family to eat better and in turn created a movement to help others cut out the processed food. This is a mission that I could get on board with and have been supporting it ever since.
So many people don’t think eating real food can be affordable and can be a big obstacle to changing eating habits. I am happy to report that all the recipes in this book are $15 or less per recipe. Now even though this doesn’t take organic into account, even just starting with real food that isn’t organic is better than processed foods.
One of my favorite parts of a good cookbook are looking at all of the beautiful pictures of the recipes. We eat with our eyes first after all. Every recipe in this book includes a picture of the completed product!
As a dietitian that often works with dietary restrictions I was super happy to see that each recipe included information helping those with special needs pick out recipes that fit their needs. 75 recipes are (or can be) gluten-free and 49 recipes are (or can be) dairy-free.
You can also find some great tips from Lisa (who has now been shopping real food for years now) on how she helps keep her food budget down while still eating more nutritious foods.
There were so many great recipes to choose from in here. I made the Oatmeal Cookie Energy Bites from the book and they were one of the easiest things ever and only 5 simple ingredients. Just dump all the ingredients into a bowl, mix, and roll into bite size rounds. No oven required!
What have been your favorite resources when it comes to eating well on a budget? Share your tips with me in the comments!
Oatmeal Cookie Energy Bites
Only 5 simple ingredients and no oven required. The perfect little bite sized snack.
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir until well mixed. Roll into 18 bite-size balls with wet hands to keep the mixture from sticking to your (or use a melon scooper to help). Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Did you know that there are potentially 5 lifestyle behaviors at the root of acid reflux, and high acid production may not be one of them?
I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a household that lived by antacid tablets and pepto bismol, with a constant stock pile in the medicine cabinet and fridge, and a “just go take an antacid” floating around the kitchen table.
I distinctly remember a time when my mom ran around the house frantically looking for the specific flavor of antacid tablets that my dad liked because he had eaten too much at dinner and was so uncomfortable and in pain that he thought he might lose it. Essentially, acid reflux wore the pants at my house.
I honestly grew up assuming it was normal to have acid reflux the older you got, as just about every adult I knew had the exact same issues. As my parents got older however (as did I), my mom’s symptoms got so bad that one day she came home from the doctor’s office with an official diagnosis- the dreaded GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, typically accompanied by actual erosion of the esophagus and increasing the chances for other very serious side effects. She also came back with a shiny new bottle of little purple pills. Nexium, like other proton pump inhibitors (PPIs; think Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, Tums), STOP the stomach’s cells from creating stomach acid during the digestion process, which greatly reduces the acid that can slosh into the esophagus at any given time, reducing pain and erosion associated with GERD and reflux.
What my mom wasn’t told however was that this medication, and any acid suppressing or neutralizing medicine, should only be used for a short time and can lead to multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies, ulcers in the stomach, bacterial infections in the intestine, and a slew of digestive disorders if used long term.
This study correlates an increased long-term and overutilized use of PPIs with vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin C, and iron deficiency (Heidelbaugh, 2013).
Long term use of antacids can be harmful long term @organicRD Click To Tweet
This study highlights the potential side effects of renal damage, fractures related to osteoporosis, pneumonia and c. difficile infections, and anemia with long term use (Yu, Sun, Zhang, Li, Yu, Yuan, … Wang, 2017).
And this article relates PPI use with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, travelers diarrhea, and magnesium deficiency (Johnson, & Oldfield IV, 2013).
Fortunately, we now know that there are so many lifestyle causes of acid reflux disease, that when changed can completely reverse all signs and symptoms without the harsh side effects of prescribed drugs. Because, just so you know- reflux is not normal, belching after a meal is not normal, constipation is definitely not normal, and neither is abdominal bloating or distention.
Do you suffer with acid reflux or GERD, or really any digestion related issues? Let’s take a peek at 5 potential lifestyle behaviors that might be at the root cause of your reflux symptoms:
1. Eating then going straight to bed
When you eat a meal this triggers the stomach to create acid to begin the digestion process. Laying down or going to bed right after a meal is like turning the liquid-filled ziplock bag upside down and praying that it doesn’t bust open.
2. A high carbohydrate or sugar diet
Quite a few studies have shown a huge correlation between a high carb, high sugar diet and an increase in reflux symptoms, with most symptoms completely resolving once the carbs in their diet have been reduced. Think bread, pasta, soda, candy, and sweets.
3. Stress; before, during, or after eating
Stress increases stress hormones in the body, causing the less blood flow to the digestive organs, which can lead to reflux, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, belching, and just flat out discomfort. If you’re looking to decrease reflux and increase proper digestion, try setting aside a relaxing time to eat, away from the tv or the work desk. Your tummy will thank you!
4. Bingeing; eating an excessive amount all at once
I can’t even begin to count how many antacids were popped at my house during the holidays. Too much food means too much pressure in the stomach, causing the valve between the stomach and esophagus, or the zip on the ziplock bag, to bust open or leak acid and food into the esophagus. Hello reflux! Try only eating until you’re 80% full- just enough, but not too much. Or as Confucian would say, Hara hachi bu.
5. Alcohol and dairy at meals
Sorry guys! Though a daily glass of red wine with dinner does have its health benefits, it can actually increase symptoms of reflux. This can be linked to alcohol, similarly to dairy, loosening the seal on the valve separating the stomach and esophagus, or the gastroesophageal sphincter, allowing acid to escape into the esophagus easily, and burn baby, burn!
Just remember, it’s not always about the overabundance of acid in the stomach that causes the symptoms. Reflux is actually more often related to a poorly sealing valve. Think of it this way; no matter how much water you pour into a ziplock bag, if the zip doesn’t close fully you’re gunna get wet, and taking some of the water out of the bag won’t fix this problem. We’ve got to work on fixing the zipper instead.
If you’re having digestive issues in general or have dealt with reflux or GERD for weeks or for years and need help getting to the root cause? Learn more about working with Sara by clicking on the link below to schedule a free 30 minute discovery call. Because no, it’s not normal. But it is possible to heal. So cheers to you on your personal health journey!
Johnson, D., & Oldfield IV, E. (2013). Exam 1: Reported Side Effects and Complications of Long-term Proton Pump Inhibitor Use: Dissecting the Evidence. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 11(5). doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2013.03.002
Heidelbaugh, J. J. (2013). Proton pump inhibitors and risk of vitamin and mineral deficiency: Evidence and clinical implications. Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety, 4(3), 125-133. doi:10.1177/2042098613482484
Yu, L.-Y., Sun, L.-N., Zhang, X.-H., Li, Y.-Q., Yu, L., Yuan, Z.-Q.-Y., … Wang, Y.-Q. (2017). A Review of the Novel Application and Potential Adverse Effects of Proton Pump Inhibitors. Advances in Therapy, 34(5), 1070–1086. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12325-017-0532-9
Nothing is TMI for me. I talk to my clients all the time about their poop. Your poop can give you some insights into your health. What it looks like, what color it is, if it floats, how it smells, and how often you go. Let me tell you – there are so many people out there that don’t know what healthy bowel movements look like, so here is your daily lesson. These are my top 10 Signs of a Healthy Poop and what’s normal:
1. You should be going AT LEAST once per day. If you go twice even better. Just because you have only gone 2, 3, 4, or 5 times per week your entire life DOES NOT make it normal!
An important reason we have bowel movements is to rid out bodies of excess waste and toxins. If you don’t go every day, then your body can reabsorb those toxins and put extra burden on your body and liver. Included in those toxins that your body is trying to eliminate are excess hormones. Constipation can contribute to things like estrogen dominance because it causes extra hormones to be reactivated as they recirculate in your body.
2.On the flip side, you shouldn’t be running to the bathroom 4+ times per day either. Food still needs some time to move through your digestive system properly so that you can soak in all of the nutrients your body needs.
3. It should look like toothpaste coming out of a tube. Type 3 or 4 on this chart is best. Anything 1-2 is considered constipation. Anything 5-7 is considered diarrhea. So even if you are going to the bathroom 1-2 times a day it is still important to consider what it looks like.
4. It should feel like a full elimination. Even if your stool looks like 3 or 4, if it is only a couple inches long and you don’t feel relieved after going it could be a sign of poor motility (or slow moving).
5. You shouldn’t see your undigested food in your stool (corn may be the exception). This can be a sign you don’t have enough enzymes or stomach acid to breakdown your foods. Your body is designed to make sufficient enzymes and acid all on its own. Things like gut infections, pathogens, toxins, stress, and some medications can damage the microrvilli that line your digestive system. This damage can prevent your body from producing those beneficial enzymes that help you breakdown food.
6.It should be brown in color for the most part. Stool color can be influenced by what you eat, such as lots of leafy greens or beets.
7. It shouldn’t look greasy or float (could be a fat malabsorption issue). If you aren’t properly breaking down and absorbing your healthy fats, then you aren’t able to benefit from this amazing nutrient. Fat is important for hormone and brain health. More fat in your stool can be a sign of many things including gallbladder issues since this organ releases bile that helps emulsify fat.
#pooptalk What is normal? What is says about your health? @organicRD Click To Tweet
8. You shouldn’t have to sit on the toilet for 30 minutes with a newspaper to have a BM (ehm men!). Am I right ladies? Men in particular seem to think this is a normal habit because it is very common. Passing a bowel movement should be fairly easy otherwise that can be another sign that constipation is an issue.
9. If the only reason you go poop is because you drank coffee there may be something going on, especially if you have other symptoms. Coffee makes you go because the caffeine helps to relax the muscles in the digestive system. Don’t know for sure if you can go without that morning cup of coffee? Then I encourage you to cut it out for a few days and see if you still have a bowel movement on your own.
10. If you can’t go without high doses of magnesium that might not be a good sign. Magnesium helps relax the bowel (kind of like caffeine does) so you can go but doesn’t address why you can’t go. I do use magnesium citrate sometimes with my clients when we start working together to make sure they get rid of toxins. But I do this while we investigate the root cause of their constipation.
It is important to note that things like fiber (including fiber supplements) and staying hydrated by drinking enough water can be important to have a normal bowel movement. But I have had clients overly depend on these things. At the end of the day also comes down to other symptoms and properly testing to make sure your gut health is optimal and working at its best.
Keeping an eye on your digestive health is important because it is an indicator of your general health. When things start to go wrong, symptoms are the bodies way of letting you know something isn’t right. If you don’t listen and ignore those symptoms then you might be putting yourself at risk for more health problems later on down the road.
So there you go. Are you a good pooper? If not, then you need to investigate why. When I work with my clients I use good functional lab tests to help get to the root problem.
If you are serious about getting to the root problem of your symptoms and health concerns then click on the button below to schedule your free 30 minute discovery call to see if we would be a good fit to work together!