Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Vitamin K2, Vitamin D and Calcium

Doing more research on the bones, I discovered the new vitamin that everyone seems to be suddenly talking about -- Vitamin K -- is very important for bone health and interaction with other dependent vitamins and minerals. Vitamin K is fat-soluble, and I'm deficient in fat (triglycerides this past summer dropped to 25, which is very low and a little dangerous as it's under 40). My Vitamin A, a fat soluble vitamin, has been very low for a long time, so perhaps my Vitamin K is too. Hmmm. 

Vitamin K is broken into three vitamins actually: K1 from green leafies and other similar sources, K2 from animal-based and even fermented food and is bacterial so especially vegans (am nearly vegan) with candida struggle with getting this one adequately, and then K3 is synthetic so avoid. 

Anyway, to have a better understanding of the importance of this little-understood vitamin, read Dr. Mercola's article:


Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin most well known for the important role it plays in blood clotting. However, many do not realize that there are different kinds of vitamin K, and they are completely different.
The health benefits of vitamin K2 go far beyond blood clotting, which is done by vitamin K1, and vitamin K2 also works synergistically with a number of other nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D.
Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, a naturopathic physician with a keen interest in nutrition, has authored what I believe is one of the most comprehensive books on this important topic, titled: Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life
"I tuned in to the emerging research about K2 early in 2007," she says. "Not long before, I had read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. When I learned about vitamin K2, I thought:
"Hey, you know what? I'm sure Price talked all about this in his book." I went to the book, looked through it, and didn't find any reference to vitamin K2. I was really stumped.
A little bit later in 2007, I read a brilliant article by Chris Masterjohn that links vitamin K2 to Price's work on Activator X.
Once I realized that link, the light bulb went on about how important this nutrient is, and how overlooked it's been for so long. It really provides the missing piece to the puzzle of so many health conditions, and yet it was being completely overlooked, despite the overwhelming amounts of modern-day research."

What's So Special About Vitamin K2?

Vitamin K is actually a group of fat-soluble vitamins. Of the two main ones, K1 and K2, the one receiving the most attention is K1, which is found in green leafy vegetables and is very easy to get through your diet. This lack of distinction has created a lot of confusion, and it's one of the reasons why vitamin K2 has been overlooked for so long.
The three types of vitamin K are:
  1. Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, is found naturally in plants, especially green vegetables; K1 goes directly to your liver and helps you maintain healthy blood clotting
  2. Vitamin K2, also called menaquinone, is made by the bacteria that line your gastrointestinal tract; K2 goes straight to your blood vessel walls, bones, and tissues other than your liver
  3. Vitamin K3, or menadione, is a synthetic form I do not recommend; it's important to note that toxicity has occurred in infants injected with this synthetic vitamin K3
It also plays a role in removing calcium from areas where it shouldn't be, such as in your arteries and soft tissues.
"K2 is really critical for keeping your bones strong and your arteries clear," Rheaume-Bleue says.
Now, vitamin K2 can be broken into two additional categories, called:
  1. MK-4 (menaquinone-4), a short-chain form of vitamin K2 found in butter, egg yolks, and animal-based foods
  2. MK-7 (menaquinone-7), longer-chain forms found in fermented foods. There's a variety of these long-chain forms but the most common one is MK-7. This is the one you'll want to look for in supplements, because in a supplement form, the MK-4 products are actually synthetic. They are not derived from natural food products containing MK-4.
    The MK-7 – these long-chain, natural bacterial-derived vitamin K2 – is from a fermentation process, which offers a number of health advantages:
    1. It stays in your body longer, and
    2. It has a longer half-life, which means you can just take it once a day in very convenient dosing

How Much Vitamin K2 Do You Need?

The optimal amounts of vitamin K2 are still under investigation, but it seems likely that 180 to 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 should be enough to activate your body's K2-dependent proteins to shuttle the calcium where it needs to be, and remove it from the places where it shouldn't.
"The most recent clinical trials used around those amounts of K2,"Rheaume-Bleue says. "The average person is getting a lot less than that. That's for sure. In the North American diet, you can see as little as maybe 10 percent of that or less. Certainly, not near enough to be able to optimize bone density and improve heart health."
She estimates that about 80 percent of Americans do not get enough vitamin K2 in their diet to activate their K2 proteins, which is similar to the deficiency rate of vitamin D. Vitamin K2 deficiency leaves you vulnerable for a number of chronic diseases, including:
OsteoporosisHeart diseaseHeart attack and stroke
Inappropriate calcification, from heel spurs to kidney stonesBrain diseaseCancer
"I talked about vitamin K2 moving calcium around the body. Its other main role is to activate proteins that control cell growth. That means K2 has a very important role to play in cancer protection," Rheaume-Bleue says.
"When we're lacking K2, we're at much greater risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. And these are three concerns that used to be relatively rare. Over the last 100 years, as we've changed the way we produced our food and the way we eat, they have become very common."
Researchers are also looking into other health benefits. For example, one recent study published in the journal Modern Rheumatology1 found that vitamin K2 has the potential to improve disease activity besides osteoporosis in those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Another, published in the journal Science2, found that vitamin K2 serves as a mitochondrial electron carrier, thereby helping maintain normal ATP production in mitochondrial dysfunction, such as that found in Parkinson's Disease.
According to the authors:
"We identified Drosophila UBIAD1/Heix as a modifier of pink1, a gene mutated in Parkinson's disease that affects mitochondrial function. We found that vitamin K(2) was necessary and sufficient to transfer electrons in Drosophila mitochondria. Heix mutants showed severe mitochondrial defects that were rescued by vitamin K(2), and, similar to ubiquinone, vitamin K(2) transferred electrons in Drosophila mitochondria, resulting in more efficient adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. Thus, mitochondrial dysfunction was rescued by vitamin K(2) that serves as a mitochondrial electron carrier, helping to maintain normal ATP production."

The Interplay Between Vitamin K2, Vitamin D, and Calcium

As I've discussed on numerous occasions, vitamin D is a critical nutrient for optimal health and is best obtained from sun exposure or a safe tanning bed. However, many are taking oral vitamin D, which may become problematic unless you're also getting sufficient amounts of vitamin K2. Dr. Rheaume-Bleue explains:
"When you take vitamin D, your body creates more of these vitamin K2-dependent proteins, the proteins that will move the calcium around. They have a lot of potential health benefits. But until the K2 comes in to activate those proteins, those benefits aren't realized. So, really, if you're taking vitamin D, you're creating an increased demand for K2. And vitamin D and K2 work together to strengthen your bones and improve your heart health.
... For so long, we've been told to take calcium for osteoporosis... and vitamin D, which we know is helpful. But then, more studies are coming out showing that increased calcium intake is causing more heart attacks and strokes. That created a lot of confusion around whether calcium is safe or not. But that's the wrong question to be asking, because we'll never properly understand the health benefits of calcium or vitamin D, unless we take into consideration K2. That's what keeps the calcium in its right place."

IMPORTANT: If You Take Vitamin D, You Need K2

This is a really crucial point: If you opt for oral vitamin D, you need to also consume in your food or take supplemental vitamin K2.
"There are so many people on the vitamin-D-mega-dose bandwagon, taking more and more of vitamin D. And it could absolutely be causing harm if you are lacking the K2 to complete the job to get the calcium where it's supposed to be,"Rheaume-Bleue warns.
"We don't see symptoms of vitamin D toxicity very often. But when we do, those symptoms are inappropriate calcification. That's the symptom of vitamin D toxicity. And it is actually a lack of vitamin K2 that can cause that..."
While the ideal or optimal ratios between vitamin D and vitamin K2 have yet to be elucidated, Rheume-Bleue suggests about 150-200 micrograms of K2 will meet the need for the "average" healthy person.
"My earlier recommendation was not taking into account people who were doing high dose of vitamin D supplementation," Rheaume-Bleue says. "That's where it gets a little bit more technical. It seems that for the average person, around 200 to 280 micrograms will activate your K2 proteins and do a lot of good for your bones and your heart. If you're taking high levels of vitamin D... then I would recommend taking more K2."
The good news is that vitamin K2 has no toxicity. No toxic effects have ever been demonstrated in the medical literature.
"The reason why K2 doesn't have potential toxic effect is that all vitamin K2 does is activate K2 proteins. It will activate all the K2 proteins it finds. And if they're all activated and you take extra K2, it simply won't do that. That's why we don't see a potential for toxicity the way we do with vitamin A or D," she says.

If You Need Calcium, Aim for Calcium-Rich Foods First

For those who are calcium deficient, Rheaume-Bleue recommends looking to food sources high in calcium, before opting for a supplement. This is because many high calcium foods also contain naturally high amounts of, you guessed it, vitamin K2! Nature cleverly gives us these two nutrients in combination, so they work optimally. Good sources of calcium include dairy, especially cheeses, and vegetables, although veggies aren't high in K2.
Additionally, magnesium is far more important than calcium if you are going to consider supplementing. Magnesium will also help keep calcium in the cell to do its job far better. In many ways it serves as nutritional version of the highly effective class of drugs called calcium channel blockers. If you do chose to supplement with calcium, for whatever reason, it's important to maintain the proper balance between your intake of calcium and other nutrients such as:
  • Vitamin K2
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium

The Importance of Magnesium

As mentioned previously, magnesium is another important player to allow for proper function of calcium. As with vitamin D and K2, magnesium deficiency is also common, and when you are lacking in magnesium and take calcium, you may exacerbate the situation. Vitamin K2 and magnesium complement each other, as magnesium helps lower blood pressure, which is an important component of heart disease.
Dietary sources of magnesium include sea vegetables, such as kelp, dulse, and nori. Few people eat these on a regular basis however, if at all. Vegetables can also be a good source, along with whole grains. However, grains MUST be prepared properly to remove phytates and anti-nutrients that can otherwise block your absorption of magnesium. As for supplements, Rheaume-Bleue recommends using magnesium citrate. Another emerging one is magnesium threonate, which appears promising primarily due to its superior ability to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane.

How Can You Tell if You're Lacking in Vitamin K2?

There's no way to test for vitamin K2 deficiency. But by assessing your diet and lifestyle, you can get an idea of whether or not you may be lacking in this critical nutrient. If you have any of the following health conditions, you're likely deficient in vitamin K2 as they are all connected to K2:
  • Do you have osteoporosis?
  • Do you have heart disease?
  • Do you have diabetes?
If you do not have any of those health conditions, but do NOT regularly eat high amounts of the following foods, then your likelihood of being vitamin K2 deficient is still very high:
  • Grass-fed organic animal products (i.e. eggs, butter, dairy)
  • Certain fermented foods such as natto, or vegetables fermented using a starter culture of vitamin K2-producing bacteria. Please note that most fermented vegetables are not really high in vitamin K2 and come in at about 50 mcg per serving. However, if specific starter cultures are used they can have ten times as much, or 500 mcg per serving.
  • Goose liver pâté
  • Certain cheeses such as Brie and Gouda (these two are particularly high in K2, containing about 75 mcg per ounce)
  • "An important thing to mention when it comes to cheese (because this becomes an area of confusion), [is that] because cheese is a bacterial derived form of vitamin K2, it actually doesn't matter if the cheese came from grass-fed milk. That would be nice, but it's not the milk that went into the cheese that makes the K2. It's the bacteria making the cheese, which means it doesn't matter if you're importing your brie from France or getting it domestically. Brie cheese, the bacteria that makes brie cheese, will make vitamin K2," she says.
Fermented vegetables, which are one of my new passions, primarily for supplying beneficial bacteria back into our gut, can be a great source of vitamin K if you ferment your own using the proper starter culture. We recently had samples of high-quality fermented organic vegetables made with our specific starter culture tested, and were shocked to discover that not only does a typical serving of about two to three ounces contain about 10 trillion beneficial bacteria, but it also contained 500 mcg of vitamin K2.
Note that not every strain of bacteria makes K2. For example, most yoghurts have almost no vitamin K2. Certain types of cheeses are very high in K2, and others are not. It really depends on the specific bacteria. You can't assume that any fermented food will be high in K2, but some fermented foods are very high in K2, such as natto. Others, such as miso and tempeh, are not high n K2.

Pregnant? Make Sure You're Getting Enough Vitamin K2

Last but not least, while vitamin K2 is critical for the prevention of a number of chronic diseases listed above, it's also vital for women who are trying to conceive, who are pregnant, and for growing healthy children. "K2 plays a very important role throughout pregnancy (for the development of teeth for both primary and adult teeth, the development of proper facial form, healthy facial form, as well as strong bones), then again throughout childhood to prevent cavities, and through adolescence as the skeleton is growing," Rheaume-Bleue says.
Vitamin K2 is needed throughout pregnancy, and later while breastfeeding. It may be particularly important during the third trimester, as most women's levels tend to drop at that time, indicating there's an additional drain on the system toward the end of the pregnancy. Since vitamin K2 has no toxicity issues, it may be prudent to double or even triple — which is what Rheaume-Bleue did during her own recent pregnancy — your intake while pregnant.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Foods with Good Fats

The word is out. Fat—or at least “good fat”—is not something you should shun from your diet. Monounsaturated fat, a staple in the Mediterranean diet, is the “good fat” that may actually help you lose weight, whittle your middle, keep blood sugar levels in check, lower harmful LDL-cholesterol and much more. According to the American Heart Association, no more than 25%-35% of your total calories should come from fat–and in an ideal world all those calories should be from “good fats.” Following are a dozen good-for-you fats that you could incorporate into your diet.

Pine Nuts (1 oz): Approx 5.3 grams of Good Fat  
Most commonly associated with pesto, pine nuts are also delicious when added to salads, vegetable dishes or baked into bread. With 5g of monounsaturated fat per one-ounce serving, pine nuts help to lower bad LDL cholesterol and prevent heart disease and strokes. They’re also rich in iron—great news for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Looking to shed a few pounds? Pine nuts may help, since they contain pinolenic acid, a specific fatty acid that helps you to eat less by suppressing your appetite.

Olive Oil (1 tablespoon): Approx 9.85 g of Good Fat
Just one tablespoon of olive oil contains about 10g of monounsaturated fat, and only 2g of saturated fat. Due to its high monounsaturated content, olive oil is a terrific option for boosting heart health. Use regular olive oil to sauté a variety of colorful veggies or you can even bake with it. Extra virgin olive oil is made from the first pressing of the olives and contains the highest antioxidant levels, but these also start degrading sooner when exposed to heat and light. To make the most out of your purchase, use the more expensive extra-virgin kind for drizzling and homemade salad dressings.

Peanut Butter (1 tablespoon): Approx 3.3 g of Good Fat
With close to 4g of monounsaturated fat per 1-tablespoon serving, peanut butter provides a hearty dose of fiber, as well as other important vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that people who regularly include nuts or peanut butter in their diets are less likely to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes—compared to those individuals who rarely eat nuts. Spread natural, unsalted peanut butter on crunchy apple slices or add it to a smoothie. A word of caution: Peanuts are grown underground and are known to be highly moldy and inflammatory. People with candida should avoid these nuts.

Avocado (1/5th medium avocado): Approx 3 g of Good Fat  
They’re delicious, creamy and luscious, so what’s not to love about avocados? A 1-oz. serving contains approximately 3g of fat, and 75% of that fat comes from the “good” monos and polys. Avocados also contain nearly 20 different vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients including vitamin E, folic acid, fiber and carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. Avocados have been shown to act as a nutrient-booster, so you can absorb more of the fat-soluble beneficial carotenoids in plant foods. In addition to your favorite guacamole, try fresh avocados on salads, sandwiches or toast, on top of your tomato or in veggie soup.

Hazelnuts (1 oz): Approx 12.9 g of Good Fat
With nearly 13 grams of monounsaturated fat per ounce, hazelnuts may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Besides being a heart-healthy choice, hazelnuts are also rich in manganese and copper, vital minerals for iron absorption and bone formation, respectively.

Flaxseed Oil (1 tablespoon): Approx 2.5 g of Good Fat
A rich source of soluble fiber, with almost 3g of monounsaturated fat per tablespoon, studies suggest that flaxseed oil may benefit individuals with heart disease and aid in cancer prevention. Use this slightly nutty tasting oil to make salad dressings, add to soups and smoothies for an extra boost of nutrition, or stir into your favorite pasta sauce for an added dose of good-for-you fat. Since flaxseed oil turns rancid rather quickly, be sure to refrigerate it after opening, and avoid exposure to light. When purchasing flax seed oil, look for the cold-pressed variety, since it has been processed at a minimum temperature to preserve its integrity. Flaxseed oil is not heat stable, so try to eat it raw.

Pistachios (1 oz): Approx 6.7 g of Good Fat  
About 90% of the fat in pistachios is healthy unsaturated fat, and research shows that when individuals with elevated cholesterol ate pistachios as a daily snack, their blood levels of antioxidants increased and harmful LDL-cholesterol levels declined, compared to those who did not eat pistachios. A serving of pistachios has 7g of monounsaturated fats, 4g of polyunsaturated fats and just 1.5g of saturated fat. Because nuts are calorie-rich, keep portions in mind: There are 49 pistachios in a 1-oz serving, and 30 pistachios contain about 100 calories. Enjoying pistachios as a snack instead of carb-rich options like crackers or pretzels is a smart swap. Pistachios provide more fiber and may also keep you feeling fuller longer. A word of caution: Pistachios are said to quite moldy and therefore inflammatory. People with candida probably should avoid these nuts.

Olives (10 large olives): Approx 3.4 g of Good Fat
Whether you are partial to green, black, purple or brown — all olive varieties are rich in monounsaturated fat. In fact, recent research shows that the monounsaturated fat found in olives can help to decrease blood pressure. As an added benefit, olives are also loaded with antioxidants, which may offer protection against heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions. Consider whipping up an olive tapenade as a sandwich spread or baguette topper, sprinkling chopped olives into a salad or adding olives to a tasty marinade for chicken or fish. A word of caution: People with candida should avoid the olives in vinegar or a brine (which is the majority of olives) as may trigger candida growth.

Walnuts (1 oz): Approx 2.53 g of Good Fat  
With nearly 3g of healthy monounsaturated fat per 1-oz serving, walnuts are also nutritional dynamos, packing a powerful punch of protein, fiber, magnesium, and phosphorus — all important nutrients for optimal health.

Sunflower Seeds (1 oz): Approx 3.07 g of Good Fat
Sunflower seeds are a true nutritional powerhouse packed with healthy fats, protein, fiber, minerals and phytochemicals. And, since almost 90% of the fat in sunflower seeds is the good unsaturated fat, they are a terrific choice for individuals suffering from high cholesterol or high triglycerides. Just 1 ounce of sunflower seeds provides 76% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin E. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on top of a salad or simply roast in the oven for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Sunflower seeds heaped on freshly steamed broccoli or salads is quite the treat. They also make good pate-dips for celery and carrot sticks or spreads for breads.

Almonds (1 oz): Approx 8.9 g of Good Fat
Reaching for a small handful of almonds will supply you with a tasty, protein-packed snack that contains 9g of monounsaturated fat per 1-oz serving — that’s about 23 whole almonds. This nutrient-dense nut is also a terrific source of vitamin E, magnesium and manganese, as well as a good source of fiber, copper, phosphorus and riboflavin. A 1-oz serving of almonds has a similar amount of antioxidants to one cup of green tea or ½ cup of steamed broccoli.

Sesame Seeds (1 oz): Approx 3 g of Good Fat
A delicacy in Asian cuisine, just one ounce of sesame seeds supplies 3 grams of heart smart monounsaturated fat, not to mention 35% of the recommended daily requirements for calcium. In addition to being a top source of monounsaturated fat, sesame seeds also contain two strains of beneficial fiber—sesamin and sesamolin—which have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect. Sesame seeds are a terrific source of zinc, an essential mineral for producing collagen. Add protein-rich sesame seeds to baked chicken, fish or salads for a nice, nutty flavor and texture, use them to make homemade tahini, or incorporate sesame seeds into a unique spice blend, like this Middle Eastern Za’atar. A word of caution: People who have polyps, gastric disorders or other GI disorders probably should avoid sesame seeds as they are known to stick to the GI track.

There are many nuts and seeds that are available in the market and are rich in good-for-you fats. Here is a useful chart to refer to when trying to alternate nuts (and flavors) and trying to pack in those nourishing fats.





Tuesday, September 22, 2015

9 Signs of a Leaky Gut

The gut is the gateway to health. If your gut is healthy, chances are that you’re in good health. However, there’s a condition called leaky gut that can lead to a host of health problems.

What is leaky gut?

The gut is naturally permeable to very small molecules in order to absorb these vital nutrients. In fact, regulating intestinal permeability is one of the basic functions of the cells that line the intestinal wall. In sensitive people, gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart tight junctions in the intestinal lining. Other factors — such as infections, toxins, stress and age — can also cause these tight junctions to break apart. Once these tight junctions get broken apart, you have a leaky gut. 

When your gut is leaky, things like toxins, microbes, undigested food particles, and more can escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attacks them. The immune response to these invaders can appear in the form of any of the nine signs you have a leaky gut, which are listed below.
What causes leaky gut?

The main culprits are foods, infections, and toxins. Gluten is the number one cause of leaky gut. Other inflammatory foods like dairy or toxic foods, such sugar and excessive alcohol, are suspected as well. The most common infectious causes are candida overgrowth, intestinal parasites, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Toxins come in the form of medications, including NSAIDS like Motrin and Advil, steroids, antibiotics, and acid-reducing drugs. They can also present in the form of environmental toxins like mercury, pesticides and BPA from plastics. Stress and age also contribute to a leaky gut. If you suffer from any of the following conditions, it’s likely that you have a leaky gut.
9 signs you have leaky gut?
  1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  2. Seasonal allergies or asthma
  3. Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS
  4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease
  5. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
  6. Mood and mind issues such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD
  7. Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
  8. Diagnosis of candida overgrowth
  9. Food allergies or food intolerances

How do you heal leaky gut?

In my practice, I have all of my patients follow The Myers Way comprehensive elimination diet, which removes the toxic and inflammatory foods for a certain period of time. In addition, I have them follow a 4R program to heal their gut. The 4R program is as follows.
  1. Remove the bad — The goal is to get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract, such as inflammatory and toxic foods, and intestinal infections.
  2. Replace with good — Add back the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption, such as digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids.
  3. Restore the balance — It’s critical to restore beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria.
  4. Repair the damage — It’s essential to provide the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself. One of my favorite supplements is L-glutamine, an amino acid that helps to rejuvenate the lining of the gut wall. If you still have symptoms after following the above recommendations, I would recommend finding a Functional Medicine physician in your area to work with you and to order a comprehensive stool test.

This article is by Amy Myers, MD, a renowned leader in Functional Medicine.