Your Nails Can Give You Insight in to Your Health

Through symptomology our bodies are always telling us the story of our health.  What we need to learn is how to understand the story being told.

Within this space, a well-studied area is fingernails.  Most symptoms reflected by our nails are innocuous.  But others can be indicative of chronic diseases, including cancer.

Our fingernails are composed layers of a protein called keratin.  Healthy fingernails are smooth, uniform in colour and without pits or grooves.

What Your Nails Might be Telling You

Yellow Nails

Nails may yellow with age or develop through the use of acrylic nails or nail polish. Smoking can also stain nails yellow.

If your nails are thick, crumbly, and yellow, it could be due to a fungal infection. 

In rare cases, yellow nails can indicate a more serious condition such as severe thyroid disease, lung disease, diabetes or psoriasis.

Pale Nails

Very pale nails can sometimes be a sign of serious illness such as:

  • Anemia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Liver disease
  • Malnutrition

 White Nails

If nails are mostly white with darker rims, this can be indicative of liver issues such as hepatitis.

Bluish Nails

Nails with a bluish tint can mean the body isn’t getting enough oxygen. This could be a sign of a lung problem such as emphysema. Some heart problems can be associated with bluish nails.

Dry, Cracked or Brittle Nails

Dry, cracked or brittle nails can be simply a result of lifestyle factors such as having  your hands in water frequently, excessive use of nail polish remover or exposure to other harsh chemicals.  Low humidity can also be a contributing factor.

However, in some cases, dry, brittle nails that frequently crack or split can be linked to a thyroid disease.

Clubbing Nails

Clubbing is when your fingertips become enlarged and the nail becomes curved downward. This can be a sign of low oxygen in your blood and is associated with lung disease. Clubbing can also be related to liver or kidney disease, heart disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

Spoon Nails

This describes nails that curve upward at the edges.  This may be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia, hemochromatosis (excess iron absorption), heart disease or hypothyroidism.

Pitting Nails

Nails that have multiple pits or dents could be a sign of psoriasis. Nail pitting may also be due to connective tissue disorders or alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

Dark Discolourations

Black streaks or painful growths on your nail (or nails) needs to be taken seriously, as they may be due to melanoma, a form of skin cancer.

Tips to Keep Your Nails Healthy

Do Not Cut Your Cuticles

The cuticle of the nail is a natural protection against bacteria and fungi. Cutting them could leave you exposed to infections of the nail bed.  What you can do is moisturize overgrown cuticles and encourage them back with a cuticle brush.

Moisturize and Massage Your Nails and Cuticles

Massaging your nails regularly will improve blood circulation making your nails stronger and healthier.

Using olive oil to massage your nails is a wonderful way to moisturize!

Soak Your Nails in Green Tea

Green tea can help to make your nails strong and healthy. The antioxidants in green tea can help prevent brittle nails. Green tea can also help get rid of yellow discolouring.

  • Brew a cup of green tea and allow it to cool. Soak your nails in it for 10 to 15 minutes once or twice a week.

Eat Foods Containing Biotin

Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin that helps to build healthy nails.  Foods rich in biotin include salmon, carrots, eggs, lentils, sweet potatoes and almonds.

Eat Adequate Protein

As mentioned earlier, nails are made of a protein called keratin.  Eating adequate protein daily will provide the building blocks for growing strong and healthy nails.

References

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-nails-and-health

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/12/07/10-nail-symptoms.aspx

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/nails/art-20044954

https://healthiack.com/beauty/5-tips-on-how-to-get-healthy-nails-naturally

https://www.top10homeremedies.com/how-to/how-to-make-your-nails-stronger.html

 

 

 

 

 

Raw vs. Cooked – Which Contains More Vitamins and Minerals?

My son challenges me.  It’s kind of this game that we play.  Sometimes it’s not fun.

One of the first things questions he threw at me when I started my practice was:

“Is it better to each fruits and veggies raw or cooked?”

The research commenced!

Honestly he wasn’t the only one to put this question to me so the time was well spent!

Raw vs. Cooked

Let’s finally put an end to the debate of raw vs. cooked.

Of course, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet, the cooked vs. raw debate isn’t that critical for most people.

Where this can become a consideration is for vitamin and mineral deficiencies (or “insufficiencies”). These may be due to digestion or absorption issues, or avoidance of certain foods (due to allergies, intolerances, or choice).

Cancer patients may face some issues with digesting raw fruits and vegetables due to the impact of some treatments on the GI tract.  In such cases cooking these foods will help to break down the fibre, making it easier to digest.

The answer isn’t as simple as “raw is always better” or “cooked is always better.”  As with most nutrition science, it depends on several factors. Some vitamins are destroyed in cooking, while others become easier to absorb (a.k.a. more “bioavailable”).

Here is the skinny on vitamins and minerals in raw foods versus cooked foods.

Foods to eat raw

As a general rule, water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and the B vitamins, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are best eaten raw.

The reason why is two-fold.

First, when these nutrients are heated, they tend to degrade;  this is from any heat, be it steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying. Vitamin C and the B vitamins are a bit more “delicate” and susceptible to heat than many other nutrients.

Of course, the obvious way to combat these nutrient losses is to eat foods high vitamin C and B vitamins in their raw form (like in an awesome salad) or to cook them for as short a time as possible (like quickly steaming or blanching).

Fun fact: Raw spinach can contain three times the amount of vitamin C as cooked spinach.

The second reason why foods high in vitamin C and the B vitamins are best eaten raw is that they’re “water soluble.”  So, guess where the vitamins go when they’re cooked in water?  Yes, they’re dissolved right into the water;  this is particularly true for fruits and veggies that are boiled and poached but even for foods that steamed as well.

Of course, if you’re a savvy health nut, you’ll probably keep that liquid to use in your next soup or sauce to preserve those nutrients that are left after cooking. Just don’t overheat it or you may lose what you were aiming to keep.

But, how much loss are we talking about?  Well, of course, it ranges but can go from as low as 15%, up to over 50%.

In short, the water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins degrade with heat and some of what’s left over after they’re heated dissolves into the cooking water. So be sure to cook your fruits and veggies as little as possible, and keep that cooking water to use in your next recipe.

Soaking nuts and seeds

Regarding raw nuts and seeds, it may be beneficial to soak them. Soaking nuts and seeds (for several hours at room temperature) allows some of the minerals to become “unlocked” from their chemical structure, so they’re more absorbable.

Foods to eat cooked

Cooking certain orange and red “beta-carotene rich” veggies (e.g. tomatoes, carrots, & sweet potatoes) can help make this pre-vitamin A compound more absorbable.

Fun fact: One study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw carrots!

Of course, eating your fat-soluble vitamins with a bit of fat will help you to absorb more of them, so that’s one factor to consider.

One vegetable that’s best eaten both raw and cooked

Spinach!

And I’m not just saying this to get everyone to eat it any way possible (although, I would love for this to happen…unless you’re allergic, of course).

Spinach contains so many beneficial compounds that it’s great eaten both raw and cooked.

Eating raw spinach preserves the water-soluble vitamins C & the B vitamins.

Eating spinach cooked allows the pre-vitamin A, as well as some of the minerals like iron to be better absorbed. Not to mention how much spinach reduces in size when it’s cooked, so it’s easier to eat way more cooked spinach than raw spinach.

Conclusion:

The old nutrition philosophy of making sure you get a lot of nutrient-dense whole foods into your diet holds true. Feel free to mix up how you eat them, whether you prefer raw or cooked just make sure you eat them.

Having trouble eating enough spinach? Try this flavourful recipe.

Recipe (cooked spinach): Sautéed Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bag baby spinach leaves
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • Fresh lemon

Directions:

  1. In a large cast iron pan heat olive oil.
  2. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add spinach, salt, pepper and toss with garlic and oil.
  4. Cover pan and cook on low for about 2 minutes.
  5. Saute cook spinach for another minute, stirring frequently, until all the spinach is wilted.
  6. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Enjoying the cooked spinach with the vitamin C in the “raw” lemon juice helps your body absorb more of the iron.

__________________________________

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/cooking-nutrient-content/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/10-ways-to-get-the-most-nutrients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chai Tea Latte

I’m not sure what I enjoy the most about Chai tea; its flavour or its smell.  Perhaps it’s the combination of the two that has won my heart.

Chai tea is made from a combination of black tea, ginger and other spices like cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper and cloves.  And it is these spices that give Chai its many health benefits including anti-inflammatory and anti-tumorigenic properties:

The chemopreventative benefit of a whole foods diet is often attributed to phytochemicals, such as terpenoids and polyphenols, found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. Spices, (which) tend to have high concentrations of these classes of potentially therapeutic agents…Many spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, clove and ginger, have shown promise as chemopreventative and therapeutic agents in cancer. In vitro and in vivo, each of these compounds has demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory and anti-tumorigenic properties. Thus, chai tea, which contains a combination of all the aforementioned spices, represents an enjoyable means of chemoprevention.

~The Anti-Inflammatory and Chemopreventative Effects of Chai Tea; Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO

The recipe below is a twist on the normal Chai tea latte that is milk-based.  As well as tasting great, this latte offers you:

  • Antioxidants
  • Healthy fats
  • Fiber

And you can enjoy it cooled, outside on a hot summer day. Or hot, snuggled up by the fire on a cool winter’s night. A true functional food that can really be enjoyed all year long!

Chai Tea Latte Recipe

Serves 1-2

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
  • 1-2 dates 
  • Cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Cover the teabag and dates with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Discard the tea bag and place tea, soaked dates, tahini and almond butter into a blender.
  3. Blend mixture until creamy.
  4. Sprinkle with cinnamon (if using) and serve right away.

If you want a cold beverage, simply chill it in your refrigerator for a bit and serve over ice.

Enjoy!


References:How Chai Tea Can Improve Your Health: Healthline

The Anti-Inflammatory and Chemopreventative Effects of Chai Tea; Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO

Why You Need to Include Bee Products in Your Anti-Cancer Diet

Honeybees do and make amazing things!  We are all familiar with honey but in addition to this sweet nectar of the bees, they also produce other health promoting goodness that are great to include in your anti-cancer diet.

Let’s take a look!

Bee Propolis

Bee Propolis is made by honeybees through a fascinating process of mixing saliva and beeswax. These ingenious little buzzers use propolis to seal and protect their hives. Bee propolis is high in antioxidants containing various flavonoids, fatty acids, amino acids and a variety of vitamins.

Health benefits you ask?

Here are just a few.

Bee Propolis:

🐝 Aids in digestion

🐝 Improves immunity

🐝 Is anti-viral

🐝 Is anti-bacterial

🐝 Can be effective in relieving mucositis brought on by chemotherapy

Bee propolis is sold as a tincture, spray, paste or capsules so you would buy it in the form appropriate for what you want to use it for.

Chrysin is a polyphenol found in bee propolis (and honey as well).

Like many other flavonoids, chrysin has free-radical scavenging, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer activities (Mani 2018). Although few human studies have been conducted with chrysin, animal studies and in vitro studies suggest that it may protect against DNA damage (George 2017) and modulate several cell-signaling pathways involved in cancer progression, including those affecting inflammation, cell survival, cell growth, new blood vessel growth, and metastasis (Kasala 2015).

Bee Pollen

Bee pollen comes from the pollen that collects on the bodies of bees as they go flower to flower.

It is a mixture of pollen, saliva, and nectar or honey.

Bee pollen:

🐝 Is a complete protein

🐝 Is full of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and lipids

🐝 Increases energy

🐝 May help to lower blood pressure

Bee pollen is available in most health food stores.  They are tiny little gold nuggets and can easily be added to smoothies, mixed in with salads and sprinkled on top of yogurt.

Royal Jelly

Royal Jelly is a gelatinous substance produced by honeybees to feed the queen bees and larvae.

Royal Jelly:

🐝 Is rich in nutrients and anti-oxidants

🐝 May help to regulate blood sugar

🐝 Is anti-bacterial and anti-viral

🐝 May help to support a healthy immune system

It is most commonly sold in its jelly form or in capsules.

Honey

Honey is the most well known of the bee creations. It has a wonderful flavour and is a much healthier sweetener than regular sugar.

Honey:

🐝 Is a prebiotic food. It has oligosaccharides that can promote the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria

🐝 Possesses antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, apoptotic, and antioxidant properties

🐝 Is the oldest wound-healing agent known to mankind

Carbohydrates dominate the composition of honey taking up approximately 95–97% of its dry weight. Honey also includes proteins, vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and organic acids.

Evidence has shown the presence of nearly thirty types of polyphenols in honey. Polyphenol levels in honey vary depending upon the floral source, the climatic and geographical conditions.

Sore Throat Remedy

Got a sore throat?  Try this!

Mix together:

  • 1 cup warm (not boiling) water
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ lemon, juice

Drink up to soothe your sore throat.


References:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29161583/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549483/

https://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/propolis-contains-compound-which-inhibits-triple-negative-breast-cancer-animal

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3985046/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31438508/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221169115303233

https://mmed.mosuljournals.com/article_159191_aa1b9268093c56c786ff149a3fd30d26.pdf

https://academic.oup.com/fqs/article/1/2/107/3860141

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5424551/

 

 

 

 

 

 

fasting insulin levels

Why Is It Important to Know Your Fasting Insulin Level?

Insulin is a hormone.  It is made and secreted by the pancreas.

Functions of Insulin

The functions of insulin include:

  • Regulation of fats, proteins and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Helping cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream
  • Helping to regulate levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Insulin helps to remove the glucose from the blood and put it into fat and tissue cells where it can be stored for energy.

The production of insulin is stimulated by eating. When all is running tickety-boo, insulin rises when we consume food, does its job and then goes back to its resting levels.  Our bodies always need some circulating insulin, even when we are not eating.

When food has not been consumed for a period of time, usually between 12-20 hours, this level of insulin is called the fasting insulin level.

If our bodies stop responding well to insulin, in many cases due to poor diet and lifestyle choices, this can lead to a condition called insulin resistance.  In the earlier stages of insulin resistance, the pancreas will notch up its production of insulin to keep glucose levels normal.  So if your fasting glucose levels are tested within this paradigm, all may look well.  However you may not be getting an accurate picture of what is truly going on.  Because while your blood sugar level may be within normal range, it could be due to your body compensating for blood sugar issues by elevating your insulin levels.

Insulin resistance in its early stages does not often present with symptoms. Symptoms begin to appear once insulin resistance leads to secondary effects such as higher blood sugar levels. When this happens, the symptoms may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Hunger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Weight gain around the middle (belly fat)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels

Many diseases are linked to elevated fasting insulin levels including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Type II diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Migraine headaches
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke

A simple blood draw, testing for your fasting insulin level, could be a very important indicator of your health.

Ways to decrease insulin resistance

There are diet and lifestyle changes that can go a long way to decreasing insulin resistance:

  • Avoid simple carbohydrates. Eat a balanced whole foods diet with a focus on plant-based eating
  • Get regular exercisefasting insulin levels
  • Get consistent good quality sleep
  • Increase intake of daily fibre aiming for 30-40 grams per day

 

 

 

 


References

https://www.diabetes.co.uk/insulin-resistance.html

https://www.walkinlab.com/labcorp-insulin-fasting-blood-test.html

https://www.lifeextension.com/Magazine/2019/5/Overlooked-Danger-of-Excess-Insulin/Page-01