Leaves of Life Practitioners, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath

Bolstering Immunity by Optimizing GI Health

About 10 years ago, I contracted a GI infection, accompanied by chronic diarrhea that took over a year to fully resolve. In the first few months, I lost 14 pounds, putting me at 108# at my lowest (I’m 5’9″).  What finally helped me resolve the issue was a DNA-based stool test that I collected at home.  After approximately 18 months of treatment, coupled with diet and lifestyle changes, I was able to resolve salmonella as well as several chronic infections, and gain enough weight to be in a healthy BMI range for the first time in my life.  (WAIT! Before I lose you, balancing the GI tract helps normalize weight, so most patients see weight loss.)

Because so much of our body’s immune response originates in the gut, optimizing its function is one of the most impactful things you can do to enhance immunity. At Leaves of Life, we know firsthand that many of you may have the time, interest and need to focus on this type of regimen, but may prefer a DIY approach, so that’s what this blog post is all about.

It’s rare that a new patient doesn’t need to address their GI tract as one of the first and most important foundational pieces of their care, so even if you opt not to test, I feel confident that addressing the most common imbalances we see on stool testing reports would significantly boost your immune response.

Why DNA Stool Testing?

Parasites, bacteria and other invading microbes don’t LIVE in the stool – most burrow into the gut lining, snagging nutrients from food passing by, and expelling their metabolic waste in exchange (akkk!–their poop!). However, they still shed cells, and DNA stool testing picks up the presence of non-human cells and identifies their microbial origin. This type of testing is much more sensitive than conventional stool testing.

Some microbes can cause or contribute to disease, but at the very least, “unfriendly” microbes:

  • Contribute to chronic, ongoing toxicity
  • Deplete nutrient levels
  • Weaken immunity by crowding out “friendly,” beneficial flora
  • Cause chronic, systemic inflammation
  • Create or worsen leaky gut, which can lead to food and environmental sensitivities
  • Can be an underlying cause of insomnia and mood disorders (anxiety, depression, irritability)
  • Make it difficult to attain or maintain an ideal weight
  • Can trigger acute or chronic skin conditions
  • And more!

As you can see, eradication of unwanted microbes can be pretty critical to overall health.  Below, we’ll discuss what to use and how to dose it, but first things first

Leaky Gut Lining

The gut lining is fragile, at just one cell thick, and is protected by a mucosal barrier.  We’ve learned over years of practice that healing the gut lining and associated mucosal barrier needs to come firstThis keeps die-off-generated debris and toxins from crossing over into the bloodstream during the eradication phase.

More than 90% of our stool tests come back with indications of a leaky gut lining, and most patients feel noticeably better with just this first step. We typically have patients begin GI lining support about 2 weeks before an eradication regimen begins.

There are three stool test markers we use to evaluate the integrity of the GI lining:

  • High or low secretory IgA (immune response at the mucosal barrier)
  • Low levels of normal flora (the protective sentries along the GI lining)
  • Elevated calprotectin (indicating inflammation)

Here are some of our favorite products and dosing:

GI Revive by Designs for Health (contains a small amount of prune powder)

If having less than 2 BMs per day, take 1 tbsp at bedtime, mixed to taste with water or nut milk

If BMs at 2-3/day and formed, ease in at 1 tsp, then 2 tsp, then 1 tbsp per night over 2-5 days

GI Restore by DesBio (can be used with any type of bowel pattern – contains bonus colostrum)

1 scoop at bedtime, mixed to taste with water or nut milk

Glutashield by Orthomolecular (the chocolate is delicious – we often recommend for kids and adults with sensitive palates – it can use some additional mucosal barrier support such as aloe juice 1/4 cup or slippery elm powder – 1tsp)

1 scoop at bedtime (with optional aloe or slippery elm), mixed to taste with water or nut milk

Typically, we keep patients on GI lining support until their protocol is complete, and for some patients, it’s necessary for them to take it for a longer period of time before beginning eradication.  Heartburn or ulcers, if present, should be resolved before moving ahead with eradication.

Digestive Weakness

The most common cause of weak digestion is Helicobacter Pylori infection (H Pylori for short). If present, this microbe requires a 3-4 month treatment regimen, which I’ll cover in more detail in a separate blog post (coming soon).  H Pylori lowers stomach acid, and can create imbalance in the following stool test markers:

  • H Pylori present, sometimes strains that product toxins that can lead to ulcers or stomach cancer if left untreated
  • Pancreatic elastase <500 (pancreatic digestive enzyme)
  • Presence of steatocrit (undigested fat in the stool)
  • Overgrowth of pathogenic or opportunistic bacteria (these displace normal, “friendly flora” that participate in digestion and absorption)

When digestion is weak, proteins don’t break down into amino acids needed for tissue repair (think leaky gut and achy joints) and neurotransmitter production (one reason mood disorders can stem from GI dysfunction), and minerals and fat-soluble vitamins are poorly absorbed.

Here are some of our favorite digestive aids with dosing:

OrthoDigestZyme by Orthomolecular (blend of enzymes and hydrochloric acid for broad spectrum support) or Proactazyme by Nature’s Sunshine (blend of pancreatic enzymes that work in various pH ranges, no stomach acid for those intolerant at treatment onset)

1-3 per meal, at the beginning of the meal, dose is based on level of digestive weakness and size and complexity/richness of meal – I recommend increasing until you notice improved digestion

Metagest by Metagenics (contains betaine HCl and pepsin that stimulate bile flow and pancreatic enzyme output

Start with 1 per meal, mid-meal and slowly increase to 2-3 per meal, as tolerated. If stomach acid deficiency has been longstanding, the stomach may no longer be producing a sufficient mucosal barrier as protection, and this takes time to build back, so starting slow allows for this to take place. Most often, heartburn when beginning simply means more mucosal barrier support is needed before starting or increasing.

Because stomach acid triggers the next steps in digestion (bile flow and pancreatic enzyme output), hydrochloric acid (betaine HCl) is the workhorse of digestion. If I can only choose one product for digestion, I choose HCl (Metagest) because it will stimulate the patient’s own digestive functions.  Additionally, stomach acid sterilizes the food we eat so microbes can’t survive digestion and set up camp in our intestinal tract. For this reason, I think of stomach acid as the bouncer at the door of a party. It won’t do much good to eradicate if you don’t take away the welcome mat that will allow for new exposures to settle in. Hydrochloric acid is also critical for protein digestion and absorption of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins.

Pathogenic and Opportunistic Bacteria

There are nuances when addressing microbial overgrowth, dependent on what all is present and in what amount, but in general, after 2-3 weeks of intestinal lining support, we typically shift into broad-spectrum antimicrobials (alongside probiotics–see below).

Our favorite antimicrobials:

Candibactin BR by Metagenics (berberine based blend of dry herbs with broad-spectrum action)

GI Microb-X by Designs for Health (berberine-based blend with broad-spectrum action)

Candibactin AR by Metagenics (a blend of aromatic oil-based herbs that can penetrate biofilms)

Oil of Oregano by Designs for Health

Intestin-Ol by Orthomolecular (similar to Candibactin AR)

I typically choose one of these products and one of the parasite remedies below, and dose 1-2 per meal, though some patients may need to start low and build up to the full dose.  As microbes die, they release toxins and bacterial debris into the intestines, so die-off symptoms may occur, though they’re most likely to occur at the beginning when bacterial numbers are highest.  As patients make headway and the numbers drop, they can typically tolerate the full dose.

Parasites

Whether or not parasites are present on the report, I typically like to treat for them. The stool test only looks for the specific parasites that are listed, and there isn’t any way to test for every known parasite, and if they’re present and not addressed, it can be very difficult to eradicate the other dysbiotic microbes, and it doesn’t hurt to treat if they’re not there.

Our favorite anti-parasitics:

Wormwood Complex by MediHerb or Artemisia Combination by Nature’s Sunshine

Work up to 2 tablets per meal and take for 1-3 bottles, depending on what parasite is present

Probiotics

Whether or not testing shows low levels of normal flora, they are impacted by anti-microbial treatments and should be supplemented during eradication of “unfriendly” microbes.  Probiotics stand as protective sentries along the gut lining, and help with nutrient absorption from the diet.  They also produce vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.   No wonder they’re often referred to as “friendly!”

Because they also support respiratory health, we’re currently favoring these two probiotics:

Ultra Flora Immune Booster by Metagenics and Ultra Flora Balance by Metagfenics

1-2 per day on empty stomach

I prefer dosing at bedtime when peristalsis slows and GI lining support can be paired with the probiotic as comprehensive support.

Diet

Refined carbohydrates and high-glycemic foods are the favored nutritional source for many harmful microbes, so continuing to consume them will prevent successful eradication, and fiber is the preferred food for the friendly flora (think vegetables, fruit and whole grains).  You can see why most Americans are in need of a GI detox plan.

Click here to read Caitlin’s recent article on eating for optimal immunity.  It covers all the basics in supporting a GI detox plan.

In Summary:

  1. Heal and seal the GI lining (GI Revive, Intestinal Restore or Glutashield)
  2. Digestive Support (Metagest and/or OrthoDigestZyme)
  3. Broad-spectrum antimicrobials (Candibactin AR/BR, Intestin-Ol, Oregano oil, Wormwood Complex or MicroDefense)
  4. Probiotics (Ultra Flora Immune Booster or Ultra Flora Balance)
  5. Avoid sugar and refined carbs and include plenty of fresh veggies and low-sugar fruits.

I hope you find this article helpful.  I’m available for consultations, with or without GI stool testing, if DIYing isn’t your thing or you need additional help.

Remember: The Road to Health is Paved with Good Intestines!

Corona virus, COVID-19, Kelli Cuda, Masters in Science, Family Nurse Practitioner, Leaves of Life Practitioners

Bolstering Immunity: Nourishing Spirit

I used to be an avid runner. When I was in college, I’d run everywhere. I guess that’s the beauty of an open college campus with sidewalks that never end.  I’m not really sure why I stopped running, other than learning to appreciate the comradery of group fitness, however with everything happening in the world lately, group anything, just isn’t an option. Over the last few weeks there has been this heaviness in my chest, and while I’ve debated, “Is this COVID-19 paying me a personal visit?” what I’ve realized is that this pandemic has a much bigger burden than just physical illness. So, in all fairness to my mental health, I decided to pause the research and lace up my running shoes.

Despite my favorite playlist blaring, the world was quiet. I saw folks fishing at the pond by themselves, others walked their dogs, a few flew kites with their family, while neighbors talked amongst themselves from their front lawns. I began to appreciate that despite the distance that has been wearing on all of us, we stand together.

There IS something beautiful about a shared struggle.

Even though the heaviness was still there thinking about all of my friends and colleagues on the front lines, everything else slowed down. I could appreciate the collective efforts being made to win this battle.  So, while most have been inundated daily, with emails and news updates on our current global pandemic and as we, at Leaves of Life, have worked together to sort through the rapid developments and new information daily, today I felt the need to step away from the details of COVID-19, and focus on the effect that this has had on our mental health and well-being.

For most of us, life today looks much different than it did just a few weeks ago. There is an uncertainty that has left us all wondering what the next few weeks and months will hold. We’ve been asked to make changes that have never been asked of us before. We are a social species and this physical separateness seems very unnatural. For many, this change means homeschooling children and trying to balance multiple work schedules from home. (I for one have never been so appreciative of our teachers!) For others, that means working around the clock to serve in some capacity in this crisis, or perhaps leaving a job, without knowing when the next paycheck will come. No matter how this has affected our day to day, collectively we are all carrying the burden of these shifts in our economy, our healthcare, and certainly in our stress levels.

What I do know, is that despite what we are faced with, we are growing every day. We’re mobilizing resources in ways most of us have never imagined. We’re witnessing the most innovative movements in medical history. We’re being called to stand up or stay home, BOTH of which have a significant impact. There CAN be clarity in chaos.  In all of this, it’s equality important to support one another in optimism, resiliency, and nourish our physical and mental health.

Follow along, as we offer ideas on how to keep calm and carry on, in these uncertain times, and remember, some of the best things in life are not canceled.

  1. Friends and family time: Stop looking at the calendar…soccer is still canceled! Put your phone down and embrace the quiet.
    • Play a board game
    • Write a hand-written letter to someone
    • Plan a “movie-marathon” of oldies but goodies
    • Plan a scavenger hunt for you family on your evening walk
    • Create your own “talk show” or YouTube channel with your family
    • Make a meal together or try out one of these healthy desert recipes
    • Read a new book together
    • Have a “camp-out” in your living room
    • Do an impossible puzzle together
    • Build a camp fire on a nice night
    • Go for a family bike ride or hike
    • Build a scrapbook together
    • Plan and plant a garden together
  1. Togetherness: Even though we are all practicing physically distancing, we are still united in cause and can interact socially. So, put your nice shirt on and grab a glass of wine when you are camera ready.
    • Get your zoom on with a virtual gathering (Zoom Cloud Meetings)
    • Share your afternoon funnies or inspirational quotes on social media
    • Kids can use Flip-grid (school) https://info.flipgrid.com or kids’ messenger to connect with one another
    • Meet your friends at an empty parking lot and chat from your cars
  1. Community:
    • Organize a neighborhood event from your front yards; (for ex; every day there is a themed craft to display in your window)
    • Write a letter of gratitude to Governor Mike DeWine, Dr. Amy Acton, Lt. Governor Husted or other first responders.
    • Buy a gift card or even just a greeting card to thank a delivery team, janitor, waste management crew, grocery employee, etc.
    • Share some of your favorite recipes with neighbors
    • Chalk some inspirational driveway quotes
    • Utilize deliveries or pickup and support local businesses
  1. Optimism:
    • Identify acts of heroism and heroes of optimism
    • Have a positive start to your day
    • Set short term goals
    • Embrace creative outlets
    • Start a gratitude journal. My favorite; https://www.amazon.com/Five-Minute-Journal-Happier-Minutes/dp/0991846206
    • Add value and positivity to someone else’s life
    • Move your large muscles
    • Reframe your negative experience into a more positive one
  1. Cultivating Joy: We’re most joyful, when we’re helping others.
    • Volunteer where you can
    • Drop off groceries to an elderly neighbor
    • Tell someone you love them
    • Give someone a hug
    • Commit a daily act of kindness
  1. Personal Growth
    • Exercise
    • Gardening
    • Cooking and baking
    • Listening to music
    • Reading
    • Dancing
    • Learning a new skill or language
  1. Mindfulness and Meditation

I know these are challenging times and our days ahead will not always be taken with ease. I myself am not immune to this worry and at times have found myself tangled in the fog of this uncertain beast. We have to be forgiving. You will ponder, “How many days CAN I wear these sweats?” “Why is common core even a thing?” “Is it that hard to change the toilet paper roll?” To which I respond, “three days, just carry the one, and be lucky you even have it.” You will worry about bills, the health of a loved one, our essential workers, and on and on. But in those times, remember, we are in this together. If we do it right, getting back to normal will look different.  We’ll rise up and do better. For now, hold your loved ones tight, embrace the quiet, share your gifts any chance you get, appreciate those who are working tirelessly in this fight, and maybe…lace up those running shoes.

In good health,

Kelli

Caitlin Pfeil, FMCHC, CPT, NCAA Personal Trainer, Corona virus, COVID-19, Education and Newsletters

Bolstering Immunity by Eating Well

             Eat a rainbow!

The immune system is an incredibly complex network of cells, organs, and tissues that work together, and what you eat directly impacts your immune system’s ability to fight. Eating whole, unprocessed foods is one of the most significant ways to support a healthy immune system, and the more variety you have in your diet, the better.

Once upon a time, I got sick with some type of infection twice a year, in the spring and fall…allergies that often led to a bad sinus infection, or the flu.  Looking back now, I can see the connection to my diet: I was eating artificial and processed foods — mostly simple carbs and sugar, ie, the Standard American Diet.

When I began learning about the importance of good nutrition, I changed my diet to whole unprocessed foods, and I stopped getting sick. I’m happy to say I haven’t been sick in over five years! I take charge of symptoms right away with immune-boosting nutrition, dramatically decreasing the time it takes to fight off infection.

Below are my top evidence-based tips to help strengthen your immune system through good food!

Sip on bone broth. Chicken soup when you get sick isn’t just an old wives’ tale! It’s great for prevention, too. Real bone broth (not bouillon cubes) helps heal and seal the lining of our intestines which is important since 70-80% of the immune system resides in the GI tract. It may also reduce the overgrowth of harmful microbes while providing tons of bio-available nutrition that is readily and easily absorbed by the body, like protein, collagen, and gut-building glutamine. Want to learn more? Check out a previous post on bone broth here.

Increase natural, whole-food Vitamin C, like rosehip tea, papaya, strawberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and sweet or bell peppers (particularly yellow, which have double the amount found in green!). Though there are vitamin C supplements available for purchase, getting all vitamins from our food – if possible – remains best.

Eat more fresh, whole foods and less processed, sugary foods. Vitamin and mineral-rich whole foods provide your body with an array of nutrition needed to build a robust immune system, whereas processed and sugary foods weaken your immune system and lead to health problems. These may include increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease.

Prioritize protein. It’s very important to consume enough high-quality protein because it breaks down into amino acids, the building blocks needed for tissue repair, building muscle, and antimicrobial activity. Lysine and cysteine are two notable antiviral amino acids. The antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) has been shown to help respiratory conditions and inhibit virus replication and virus-induced pro-inflammatory responses. NAC has also been shown in vitro to limit lung inflammation and damage associated with viral growth. Foods that readily contain these important amino acids include chicken, turkey, eggs, sunflower seeds, red meat, fish, and spirulina.

Eat more nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are rich in powerful immune-supporting antioxidants. They contain healthy fats that help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin D, which is incredibly important to immune health. It’s easy to add nuts like almonds, pecans, and walnuts to your favorite salads, or as a healthy snack.  We suggest avoiding peanuts because of their mold content, and rotating which nuts you’re consuming so you don’t develop sensitivity.  For instance, we’re seeing almonds showing up quite frequently now as a sensitivity because they’re being over-consumed (almond milk, almond flour, almond butter, almonds)!!

Eat fermented foods for probiotic support. The good bacteria found in fermented foods stand strong like soldiers to crowd out and fight off pathogenic microbes. Fermented foods include raw sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, low-sugar kombucha, and beet kvass. However, if you have an overgrowth of bacteria like SIBO or other GI issues, fermented foods may exacerbate symptoms. This does not mean they’re harmful, they just may not be the right probiotic strains to address that particular imbalance.

Increase antiviral and antimicrobial foods and herbs — fresh ginger, oregano, sage, basil, and fennel. Raw crushed garlic is known for it’s potent antiviral and antimicrobial activity. If you can’t eat two garlic cloves straight up, try making a chimichurri, where it’s balanced with EVOO and fresh green herbs like parsley, cilantro, and sage.  Chimichurri is delicious as a topper for veggies or minimally processed gluten-free crackers. Another way to incorporate garlic is to chop and mix it into salad dressing (shallots, garlic, EVOO, fresh lemon juice, S&P is one of my go-to’s). Coconut Oil is another great addition: it contains lauric acid and monolaurin, both known for their antiviral activity.

Drink more water! Hydration plays a vital role in your health in general and especially your immune health! Drinking water helps your blood carry oxygen to all of your systems. It also allows your kidneys to do their job of removing toxins that would otherwise build up and weaken your immune system. Water also helps to digest and assimilate foods. Another huge perk of hydration is keeping your eyes and mouth moisturized — this helps repel dust, phthalates, nanoparticles, and other harmful things that can cause infection.

I know that’s a lot of information! As a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach, I’m here to help educate and to work with you to create sustainable change in your day-to-day life. I suggest taking two or three of these and building them up until they slowly become second nature. I used to set alarms to drink more water, but now my body lets me know. So go put a pot of bone broth on, curl up with a cup of rosehip tea, and eat well to stay well!

Meet Caitlin Pfeil, FMCHC, CPT, NCCA Personal Trainer

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