Brominated Vegetable Oil…what you need to know, and why you should stay away!

Bromintated Vegetable OilThe other day while on my lunch I ran to the gas station to get a bottle of water and a KIND bar, and just as I had gotten back in my car, another woman walked out of the gas station carrying 3 diet Sun Drops. This had me thinking…I wonder if she really knows what she’s drinking? Most people don’t…they’re totally unaware (aside from the regular, “Sodas are bad for you” thing)…So, I figured it was time to go ahead and address this issue.

When patients come to see me, no matter what it is for, I give them a list of things I like for them to avoid on their food labels. And guess what?? Brominated Oil is one of the lucky ingredients on that list πŸ˜‰ .

A few years ago this little ingredient started getting a little media attention…someone wrote one of the big beverage companies about the risks of prolonged consumption, and said beverage company actually reformulated their drink…and it’s no longer in that beverage…the drink? Powerade. You’re probably wondering, so what is Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) and what other drinks is it in?

Well, as you probably guessed from the picture up at the top, BVO is found in: Mountain Dew, Mello Yello, Sundrop, Squirt (Multiple flavors offered contain it), Fresca, and Fanta (Multiple flavors in this one too). Another major drink that contains this ingredient is Gatorade. Now not ALL flavors of all of these drinks contain this ingredient, but you can pretty much guarantee it’s in anything that is a citrus flavored drink.

So what exactly is this stuff? And why should you avoid it?? Brominated Vegetable Oil is vegetable oil that has been brominated…helpful right πŸ˜‰ lol. Well what does this mean? Bromine is an element on the periodic table. When bound to the oil (derived from corn or soy) it acts as an emulsifier to prevent the citrus from separating and floating to the surface (since citrus is very oily, it is known to separate). The FDA allows 15 parts per million of BVO in citrus drinks, and they used to consider it GRAS (generally recognized as safe), but it has been moved to “interim” status in the last 30 years because it has been known to cause issues and illness in people.

Dr. Mercola’s website says:

“Bromines are common endocrine disruptors, and are part of the halide family, a group of elements that includes flourine, chlorine and iodine. What makes it so dangerous it that is competes for the same receptors that are used to capture iodine. If you are exposed to a lot of bromine, your body will not hold on to the iodine that it needs. And iodine affects every tissue in your body, not just your thyroid.”

So what else do they use bromine for? They use it in pesticides, plastics (like those found in computers), flame retardants (at least your Mountain Dew isn’t flammable…yikes!), some hot tube and pool chemicals, as well as some anesthesia agents. Another fun little fact about bromine…it was given to Jewish prisoners in concentration camps because it made the prisoners lethargic and forgetful…they were forced to consume this stuff to keep them subdued, and now we willingly consume it?! Um…okay.

In addition to “dumbing us down” it can build up in the body and cause toxic effects. “In 1997, doctors were stumped by the case of a man who came to the emergency room with headaches, fatigue, and a loss of muscle coordination and memory. He continued to get worse over times, and eventually he lost the ability to walk. A blood test found sky-high levels of bromide. The source? The man had been drinking between 2 and 4 liters of soda containing brominated vegetable oil every day. He needed dialysis but eventually recovered.” There have been other cases where it has cause oozing sores, swollen hands, and halogen acne.

Now, back to the whole issue of displacing iodine…as mentioned above bromine competes for the same receptors as iodine, and typically wins out. Most people know that iodine is crucial to thyroid function and health, but what most don’t realize is how many other systems are effected by deficiencies. Iodine deficiency can lead to an increased risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and thyroid cancer…some of the most commonly found cancers today!

In addition to accumulating in your tissues it can cause issues with your central nervous system, build up in breast milk, and has been shown in some studies to affect fertility. When it effects the central nervous system is can act as a depressant and in extreme cases can cause acute paranoia as well as other psychotic symptoms. Bromine toxicity can cause skin rashes, severe acne, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, fatigue, metallic taste, and cardiac arrhythmias.

All of this sounds like fun doesn’t it? πŸ˜‰ So, how about that Mountain Dew or Sundrop??? Having one once in a blue moon isn’t a big deal…but knowing all of this should definitely make you want to stay away.

Now this woman I saw the other day wasn’t just carrying Sundrop…she was carrying DIET Sundrop…that’s like a double punch of nastiness! If someone told me they were going to drink one of these citrus sodas, and they told me they were going to have diet…I would tell them to go for the real stuff…you’re still putting nasty toxins in your system, but there will actually be less of them. I could go on for days on sugar alternatives…but I’ll save that for the next one πŸ™‚Β 

For more information you can check out Dr. Mercola’s article here

Or check out WebMD’s article here

What are digestive enzymes? And how can they help?

Enzyme Photo

Many times when we start having issues with digesting upset from our food, someone may chime in and suggest probiotics…and they may help, but that really depends on what you have going on. There is a little known supplement out there that can really help alleviate many digestive upset symptoms…and those are digestive enzymes. You see, if you were to divide your abdomen in half…the top half being upper digestion and the bottom half being lower digestion, then probiotics work on the bottom half while digestive enzymes work on the top half. So what are digestive enzymes exactly?

Digestive enzymes are proteins that the body produces that cause chemical reactions and break down your foods into absorbable nutrients. There are multiple digestive enzymes that assist in the break down of foods into nutrients…and they each have a specific job. You see, when you eat a steak, vegetables, fruits, etc. your body can’t really do anything with that, your body has to break those down. So, we’ll use steak as an example…Protease will break the proteins in steak down into amino acids. These amino acids are then absorbed by the body, then they can be used to make proteins in the body or they may be used for other processes in the body.

After we eat a meal or a snack, our bodies begin producing enzymes to break down our foods. Sometimes we are not producing sufficient amounts to break down our food…this can be a problem. The inability to break down foods properly can cause gas to build up, stomach pain, indigestion, heartburn, a feeling like a brick sitting in your stomach, nausea, bloating, and so on… If you know what foods trigger this, sometimes it can help you to select an enzyme to help with your specific problem. For example, if you know that when you eat ice cream, drink milk, or eat certain types of cheese that you have a lot of digestive upset then you are likely lactose intolerant, and not producing enough lactase to break down the lactose in milk products. What I recommend for most people that are having a lot of digestive upset is that they take a multi-enzyme. We carry one that contains enzymes to break down proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and even gluten.

I take digestive enzymes before I eat out at a restaurant. I don’t have issues with my foods at home normally (unless it’s ice cream, then I have to take them…but it’s a rare occasion that I eat ice cream). When you eat out, even IF you are trying to eat clean, you are likely going to consume 2-3x the amount of sodium that you would consume if you were going to eat at home. The fat content is also higher when you eat out. There are a lot of hidden calories and fat in the foods that we eat out…and if you’re not used to eating that way, then you will experience everything from some mild indigestion to some pretty nasty gastrointestinal side effects.

Digestive enzymes are most effective if you take them RIGHT before you eat (If you get part of the way through your meal and remember, that will be okay as well…but it’s best to take them before). If you happen to eat a meal that is causing issues and you forgot to take them before you were done eating, you can take the enzymes afterward and they will help…but it may take 15-20 minutes for them to kick in, and they may not be quite as effective as if you had taken them before the meal/snack. As an example, a few months ago I really wanted some ice cream so I went to the store and got some. I had a very small portion (about 1/4 c), and within about 20-30 minutes I was extremely uncomfortable; my stomach was killing me (I’m assuming gas), I was very bloated, and I felt like I had a brick sitting in my stomach. I realized at that point that I forgot to take my enzymes. So I grabbed my bottle and took a couple, and within about 15-20 minutes, my symptoms were pretty much gone.

If you have similar issues after you eat, digestive enzymes will probably become your best friend. Digestive enzymes work well if you have bloating after a meal, aren’t digesting your food properly, deal with digestive upset after a meal, or have that heavy feeling like a brick in your stomach after a meal. Digestive enzymes, unlike probiotics, are not easy to find in the store. You have to either know what you’re looking for online, or go into a health food store. And like probiotics, not all digestive enzymes are equal…If you have any further questions about digestive enzymes, feel free to send me a message…I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Probiotics…gut health, immune system support, IBS, and…weight loss?? Hmm…

Probiotics Antibiotics JPGLikely, you’ve heard someone over the last couple of years talking about the benefits of probiotics…and if you do a little research you’ll find there are a LOT of benefits to these little strains of bacteria. There are many different strains of probiotics, each strain has a unique function and benefit to the gut and the body. So what are probiotics exactly?Β Β Β  Webmd Definition(click the inserted photo for more information on probiotics)

When you are ill, occasionally (depending on what is making you ill), you may start an antibiotic regimen…the purpose of the antibiotic that you are consuming is to kill whatever bacteria is causing your issue. Unfortunately, they don’t kill 1 specific bacterial strain, they will also in the process killing off the bad bacteria, kill off some of your “good” bacteria too. When starting an antibiotic regimen, most people will have at least one or two loose bowel movements…this is from the die off of bacteria. Depending on the type of antibiotic as well as the length of time that you take it, it can leave you immunocompromised. If you take a probiotic while on an antibiotic (at separate times of the day, so they don’t counteract each other), then it can help ensure that your good bacteria levels stay sufficient to maintain a healthy gut…a healthy gut allows your immune system to function at a higher level of efficiency and ensuring your digestive process (and nutrient absorption) is operating at a more optimal level.

What many people don’t realize is that not only can antibiotics effect the levels of good bacteria in your gut, so can your diet as well as many other factors. Raw greens and fermented foods contain probiotics…while a lot of the chemically junk in processed food can promote bad bacteria in the gut.

I personally, struggled with IBS for years. Now, while my diet wasn’t the best…it was better than most people my age. (Which just goes to show that everyone is different…some people’s gut can withstand junk, and others can’t.) When I moved off to college, it became such an issue I could not eat anything in the cafeteria or food court without getting sick (literally…nothing! EVERYTHING made me sick! To the point I was missing classes because of my stomach). My physician at the time put me on a prescription for IBS, which was barely effective for about 2 weeks, after 2 weeks it was like taking a sugar pill…it was doing absolutely nothing. So we tried a few other meds, to no avail. About 3 years ago, I had done some research on probiotics, so I decided to try them out. I went on a 85 Billion Probiotic with over 50 strains…I took one daily, until I had gone through the 90 capsule bottle. Within a few days I could tell they were working, but I continued until the bottle was gone. To this day, I do not struggle with IBS. Occasionally, if I eat out I may have an upset stomach (usually from salads, but this has a lot to do with how they wash it)…but I typically take digestive enzymes before I eat out. As long as I remember to take my digestive enzymes before I eat an abnormal meal (or a meal I know I shouldn’t be eating πŸ˜‰ ), then I don’t have any problems at all! (I’ll do a blog on digestive enzymes soon!)

Now that we’ve talked about the more commonly known benefits of probiotics…lets get into the more juicy stuff! Research has been out there for years showing that probiotics can help with weight loss…and there is new research out there that backs this up! When they first started studying the effects of probiotics on weight, they took samples of the bacteria from individuals who were thin/lean and those that were overweight and obese…what they found is that those that are lean have different bacteria in their gut than those that are overweight/obese. There are some strains that cross over between these individuals, but there was clear difference in the combination and amounts of the strains contained in their gut. The two types of bacteria that are the focus of this research are Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. Research shows that individuals that have a tendency to be lean by nature have higher concentrations of bacteroidetes in their gut and a small amount of firmicutes….however, the opposite is true for those individuals that struggle with weight. While there isn’t 100% definitive evidence out there on how to increase one while decreasing the others (besides doing a fecal transplant…yes, that is exactly as it sounds like…Gross, I know! But if done by an experienced physician, it works). One way that research shows can be helpful at reversing this balance is consuming more beans. If you have trouble digesting beans, research also suggests it’s because of a lack of this bacteria! One article suggests starting with as little as 1 tablespoon of beans at dinner for a week, then start working your way toward a full serving (see article here).

There is also another strain that has been researched in its effectiveness in aiding in weight loss, especially in women….Lactobacillus rhamnosus. One study on the effect of probiotics on weight loss showed that women who were taking a probiotic containing this strain, during a calorie restricted diet found that the group of women taking a probiotic containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus lost more weight than the group with out it. Conversely, they removed the calorie restricted diet and left the supplementation of probiotics the same…the group that was getting the probiotic continued to lose weight, while the group that was not getting it GAINED weight! So, the moral of the story…if you’re trying to lose weight, consider taking a probiotic πŸ˜‰ . We carry two probiotics with live cultures that contain this strain, so if you have trouble finding a probiotic with this strain contact us and we’d be happy to provide you with one πŸ™‚ !

If you would like to read more on probiotics and weight loss…visit the following links:

Mercola Peak Fitness


Mercola – this one is about how antibiotics early in life can effect metabolism

Huffington Post – this one talks about how to increase your Bacteroidetes

Melatonin…better sleep AND weight loss??

Sleep Diet

The idea that you can sleep AND lose weight is just too good to be true…right?! Well, it’s true…sleep is an often overlooked solution to a lot of health problems, including weight gain. Good, sound sleep can reduce inflammation levels, fatigue, and increase brain function during the day.

Melatonin is a hormone that our bodies release that stimulates Stage IV Sleep (aka REM Sleep). Supplementing melatonin is ideal for those individuals who don’t dream when they sleep, don’t sleep through the night, or just don’t feel like they sleep well, because they are always tired….independent from the amount of Zzzzs they got. Melatonin is a great supplement to improve sleep, and is the first thing I recommend people try if they are having issues with sleep.

Some research suggests that this hormone is related to increasing a type of fat found in the body called “beige fat”…now, before you leave me just bear with me! This is good news!! You see, beige fat is a type of fat that actually burns more calories! Other studies have shown that melatonin supplementation is directly linked to an increase of beige fat accumulation. The same study that showed this, also found that it increased the thermogenic process in the body, which raised the metabolic rate and burned more energy. These fat cells require more energy, so that’s why they burn more calories…leading to fat loss. Another research study found that cold can also turn white fat cells into brown or beige fat cells. So, theoretically, if you sleep in a cool room and are supplementing melatonin, you can burn more calories and may be able to lose weight in your sleep. (For more information, you can google these studies or visit these sites here and here)

Now, is this to say that everyone should take melatonin? Not necessarily. As with any supplement, you should check with your doctor.

If you are concerned about getting a quality melatonin…do your research before purchasing. We sell a prolonged release pharmaceutical grade melatonin here at Birk Grove Life Centre and Paducah Physiatric Partners…and it is the only melatonin I have ever taken that I can tell works! If you’re in the area, stop by and pick some up, or you can call and order it and we can ship it to you πŸ™‚ !

All Calories are NOT Equal

Calories-noun-Tiny-creatures-that-live-in-your-closet-and-sew-your-clothesLosing weight is definitely a struggle, and don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise…if they are trying to tell you it’s easy, then they likely have never struggled with their weight. Many timesΒ  you hear people say weight loss is “calories in vs calories out”…oh, if only it were that simple. If you saw my previous blog on calorie restriction and skipping meals (find it here), then metabolismyou already know there’s a little more to it than just what you’ve eaten vs what you’ve burned off. Our bodies are equally complicated and simplistic, all at the same time. The body’s actual metabolic process is extremely complicated (see photo inserted to the right, these are the basic metabolic processes. Click the image to make it larger). But even as complicated as our metabolic processes are, your body still doesn’t recognize “dieting” from starvation, or exercise from fight or flight. Our bodies are designed for survival, we are built to store calories…and some of us just do that better than others πŸ˜‰ .

When we consume carbohydrates, our bodies break those down into sugars and use them for instant energy. Now, if we have a carbohydrate rich meal and go sit on the couch (or if we’re in the car on a road trip) then our body is going to break all of those carbs down, into sugar, and whatever we don’t use (which if we’re sedentary, it won’t use much) it will break down further and store it as fat! Yikes, right?! That’s why you want to spread those carbs out throughout the day!

Another fun fact about carbohydrates, did you know that meals in prison tend to have higher carbohydrate content than the average meal, because the higher carb amount makes the prisoners more lethargic and they have less fights…interesting huh? That’s why so many of us are ready for a nap after a heavy meal…it’s called carb overload πŸ˜‰ ….it’s like jamming a huge wad of paper in a paper shredder, that shredder will work much more efficiently if you feed it one paper at a time!

Now that we’ve covered all of that, lets get into calorie vs calorie…If you consume 240 calories of Coca Cola (a 20oz bottle) vs 240 Calories of broccoli (that’s equivalent to a bunch and a half of broccoli at the grocery store), in the calorie in vs calorie out mindset it will take the same amount of energy to burn that off. But your body is going to metabolize them differently, and that’s why that mindset doesn’t work. An article on Dr. Hyman’s website says:

“Coke and broccoli trigger very different biochemical responses in the bodyβ€”different hormones, neurotransmitters and immune messengers….The Coke will spike blood sugar and insulin and disrupt neurotransmitters, leading to increased hunger and fat storage, while the calories of broccoli will balance blood sugar and make you feel full, cut your appetite and increase fat burning.”

So, as you can see all calories are not equal. Depending on what you have consumed, they can trigger a different reaction in the body, or may be broken down differently. You should also know where your calories come from…when you look at the back of a nutrition label it will break down how many grams of carbohydrate, protein, fat, etc that you’re consuming in said product. But do you know how they get a total calorie count on your food? They calculate it this way…you get 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate & protein, and you get 9 calories per gram of fat. Did you know that alcohol is 7 calories per gram?! Meaning, it’s closer to a fat than a carbohydrate.

Besides just counting calories, there can be a little more to it that can help you decide if something is a healthy carbohydrate vs a less healthy one…If you have ever noticed when they show how many grams of carbohydrates are in a product, they actually break it down into how many gramnutrition_facts2s of sugars contribute and how many grams of fiber (if any) contribute to the total carbohydrate count. When you’re looking at the carbohydrates on your nutrition label, if it has dietary fiber listed as contributing to the total carbohydrate count in the product, you can subtract the dietary fiber from the total…that is how many grams of carbs that will break down and effect your blood glucose levels (for more information you can click the pic, and it will direct you to a site that will give your more information on fiber). Dietary fiber also helps with satiety and fullness (especially if you are drinking fluids when you eat), fiber can also bind to toxins in the body and help flush them from the system, it helps maintain a healthy gut, and helps keep your bowels moving (Yes, I had to go there…your BMs are important! You can tell a lot about your health by your bowel habits!!…go here for another article on fiber benefits).

Dietary fiber can be broken down even further into soluble and insoluble fiber…although it is rarely broken down that way on a label. But since fiber is not actually broken down in the body it actually BLOCKS some of the absorption of sugar in your digestive tract! So, it helps to keep your blood sugar from spiking and making you feel like junk!

So, are all calories equal? No, definitely not! Like referenced earlier, 240 calories of Coke is straight sugar that will cause a spike in blood sugar, in addition to the spike from caffeine…only to crash later. 240 calories from broccoli, on the other hand will provide a good source of fiber, iron, vitamin k, and vitamin A (one of THE most important vitamins!!) among other nutrients. Am I saying that you should never drink a Coke? No…I’m just saying that broccoli is a better choice πŸ˜‰ LOL. A Coke every once in a while is okay…but just be aware that you could spend those calories more wisely on something else.

Water…how important is it really?

water-tapNo matter if you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, eat clean, lower blood pressure/blood sugar/cholesterol, etc. your doctor or dietician will likely tell you to make sure you drink lots of water. The human body is made of approximately 60% water, so staying hydrated is crucial to ensuring your body is functioning properly. Most people don’t drink enough water, and they count their tea and coffee as part of their water consumption…and unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way. Caffeine, which naturally occurs in tea AND coffee (yes, even in decaffeinated there are trace amounts), will actually dehydrate you. Some signs and symptoms of mild dehydration are: increased thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, low urine output accompanied by a yellowish/golden tint, headache, dry skin, dizziness, dry eyes, etc. If you suffer from any of these symptoms and know you don’t drink enough water, then the solution is simple…drink more water πŸ˜‰ ….64oz per day is the goal.

For those that are trying to lose weight, water is crucial! It flushes toxins from your system, makes sure that all of your organs are functioning properly (including your colon), and helps to keep you full! Most of the time when people feel hunger pangs in between meals, it’s because they are actually thirsty…not hungry! If you drink water with your meals you will eat less as well. In addition to helping you feel full, water helps to increase your metabolism! It allows your body to burn calories more efficiently; those that are at least mildly dehydrated tend to burn less calories and have a slower metabolism!

One issue that people complain about the most when trying to increase their water consumption is, “If I drink more water, I’m going to be in the bathroom every 5 minutes!” Yes, if you drink more water you will have to urinate more often, but that’s because your body is actually able to cleanse itself! However, just because the goal is 64oz of water per day, it doesn’t mean you have to drink 64oz of water tomorrow…what I tell all my patients and clients is start off with tracking how much water you currently drink. If it’s none, then start and see how much you get in over the course of a day. If it’s one 16oz bottle of water per day, then work toward 1 1/2, then 2, then 2 1/2, and so on… Eventually you will reach your goal of 64oz. Why don’t you want to start off immediately with 64oz?? You can, but you will be in the bathroom very frequently because your system is not hydrated. The example I like to give people is this….If it hasn’t rained outside in weeks, and we are in a drought, then suddenly we get a big rain storm that comes through with heavy rainfall…what happens? All that water rushes straight over the ground and into the drainage system because it’s coming down too hard and too fast for the ground to absorb it….same thing goes with your body!! If you are dehydrated, the best thing to do is to slowly hydrate yourself until you get to that goal of 64oz. If you are only consuming 8-16oz of water per day, it may take you about 2 weeks to get to 64oz. But, that’s okay! Progress is progress!! 16oz per day is better than 8oz per day!

So bottom line is…go get yourself a bottle of water and start drinking πŸ™‚ It’s good for you!