diet | Integrative functional medicine blog

Salt is Killing your good gut bacteria




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A high-salt diet has long been connected with cardiovascular disease. I should say a high salt, processed food diet has been linked with cardiovascular disease.

Too much sodium in the bloodstream causes fluid retention, which makes the heart work harder to move the extra volume of blood. This can stiffen blood vessels and lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease.


However, a recent
study shows a high-salt diet also raises blood pressure by damaging healthy gut bacteria. This destruction increases the inflammation that contributes to high blood pressure and the development of autoimmune disease — when the immune system attacks tissue in the body. Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and many many others.

You may be asking, why does salt do this? Here is a very simple visualization.
Did you ever pour salt on a snail or slug when you were a kid? Yeah, not very nice, but you remember what happened to the snail right?


Mice. The study shows that mice fed a high-salt diet killed off beneficial Lactobacillus murinus bacteria in the gut. It also raised blood pressure and activated pro-inflammatory immune cells.


The mice also showed signs of encephalomyelitis, an autoimmune condition similar to multiple sclerosis in humans.


When the mice were given supplementary
Lactobacillus, their blood pressure and inflammation came down.


Humans. The humans in the study experienced similar results. Consuming a high-salt diet for two weeks killed off their Lactobacillus bacteria and increased inflammation.
However, if they took probiotics for a week before starting a high-salt diet, their
Lactobacillus levels and blood pressure remained normal. That is some pretty cool stuff!


Can gut microbes protect against a high-salt diet?
While the study showed probiotics can protect against a high-salt diet, the researchers cautioned that taking probiotics cannot protect you from the damages of a high-salt, fast-food diet.


Manage your salt intake with good daily habits
While the average American consumes a whopping 3400 milligrams of sodium a day, the USDA recommends no more than 2300mg of sodium a day — about a teaspoon of table salt. That is still a lot of salt.  

However, some people are more sensitive to the effects of salt than others, so it's recommended that middle-aged and older adults should limit intake to 1500 mg of sodium a day.


Adopt these habits to lower your salt intake:

  • Read food labels.
  • Choose foods low in sodium.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Consume foods that are rich in potassium, such as leafy green vegetables and fruits from vines. Potassium can help blunt the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The recommended intake of potassium for adolescents and adults is 4700 mg/day. And most of us get nowhere near that amount. And if you are on certain medications then you may need even more.
  • Flavor food with pepper, herbs, and spices instead of salt.
  • Choose unsalted snacks with savory flavors.


Build good gut bacteria to protect your health

The digestive tract is home to roughly four pounds of bacteria — your gut microbiome. Some strains are helpful, some are harmful. Both have roles to play, but it's important to support your "good" bacteria for healthy immune function, brain function, and mood, and to avoid leaky gut, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), and systemic inflammation that leads to autoimmunity and other chronic health conditions.

And Remember, when taking probiotics that is not just how many
probiotics you have that is important. It's also how many different types you have that is equally important. I recommend patients switch every 2-3 months to get more biodiversity.


It's easy to support a healthy gut with these simple habits:

  • Eat plentiful and varied produce; this is the best way to support a healthy gut environment.
  • Supplement with probiotics; There are lot of different ones, including spore based. Check out my links. They work best in a gut environment that’s already being supported with plenty of fiber from fruits and veggies.
  • Avoid excess sugar.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Drink plenty of filtered water.


  • What if I have low blood pressure?
  • Adequate blood pressure is necessary to push blood carrying oxygen and nutrients into your tissues. Chronically low blood pressure can result in reduced brain function and neurodegeneration as Alzheimers, dementia, Parkinsons, and tremors.
  • Low blood pressure is also often a sign of chronic stress, adrenal fatigue, autoimmunity, or chronic infection. Check out my conditions page in the link below.
  • If you have low blood pressure you need to get it up as close as you can to 120/80.
  • Salt can help raise blood pressure. While a high-salt diet is not recommended for most of the population, people with chronically low blood pressure may need to consume more than the recommended daily amount of salt. It's a matter of experimentation to see what level of salt intake is appropriate for you without raising symptoms of inflammation.
  • Glycyrrhiza. Extracted from licorice root, this natural compound increases the hormone aldosterone, helping to retain sodium and raise low blood pressure. You can use a liposomal cream version or an oral licorice root extract.
  • When you work with salt and glycyrrhiza to raise your blood pressure, you will need to purchase a good home-use blood pressure cuff. Measure your blood pressure throughout the day and experiment with
dosages. A return to normal blood pressure typically results in a dramatic increase in overall energy and brain function.

If you salt your foods, take your probiotics.

I'm Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!


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Intermittent fasting, should you be doing it?






Intermittent fasting for weight loss and longevity


As long as human have been on earth we have always fasted. Whether due to lack of food, season variations, religious or spiritual reasons. Its even in the bible. If God says fasting is a good thing, its has to be true.

And we are finding out more and more that intermittent fasting can be really good for us, and its becoming very popular for a variety of reasons. Among those are for weight loss and the anti-aging benefits one can experience

Intermittent fasting, or IF, makes fasting an everyday part of life versus something you do once or twice a year. Although longer fasting a few times a year has some other benefits as well.

Many people use it successfully for weight loss and inflammation as well as to improve brain function and insulin sensitivity.
See my previous blog on Alzheimers and type 3 diabetes.

The promise of increased longevity is another reason people choose to fast regularly. Its can slow down the shortening of your telomeres - those shoelace like structures at the end of your genes that determine how long we can potentially live.

So what are the different types of intermittent fasting? There is not a one size fits all solution. I recommend doing a little experimentation to find which of these types of fasting you can do and which agrees most with your body.

Keep watching and I will tell you which form I like best and which one I use for most patients.
Different forms of intermittent fasting.

So here is a breakdown of the different types of intermittent fasting


#1 This is what is called the 5:2 diet — In this plan you eat normally five days per week, and either fast completely, or severely restrict calories (500-600 calories) the other two days, typically on the weekend or whatever days you have off. Many times with this type of fasting it can be done every week but this is one of the more difficult ways to fast so many times people do it 1-2 times per month.

#2 - Alternate day fasting — This type of fasting plan includes normal eating for 24 hours and zero, or very low calories (500-600) for the next 24-hour period, alternating every other day. These 24-hour periods typically begin at dinnertime so that in any one day you may miss one or two meals, but not all three.

#3 This type of fasting is either a 16:8 or 14:10 — Also known as the “eating window plan,” this plan has you eat during an 8- or 10-hour window and fast the remaining 16 or 14 hours of each 24-hour period. For example, you stop eating at 7 p.m and do not eat again until 14 hours later at 9 a.m. the next morning. That would be the minimum time. Many people often will fast until noon of the next day.

Intermittent fasting for weight loss

Restricting caloric intake can lead to weight loss, but intermittent fasting seems to help with weight loss in more ways than that. For one thing, studies show intermittent fasters have better insulin sensitivity and glucose regulation. Among other things, this makes a person crave less sugar and use glucose more efficiently for energy production instead of being stored as fat. Intermittent fasting also causes your body to burn more fat. Because it depletes glycogen, the storage form of glucose, your body switches over to burning stored fat for energy.

Intermittent fasting for brain function

Studies show intermittent fasting can benefit brain function and potentially even stave off Alzheimer's disease, Take a look at my previous post on Alzheimers and type 3 diabetes. It helps by regulating insulin control as well as in the production of ketone bodies for fuel. Ketones provide a ready source of clean-burning fuel for the brain that leave behind fewer free radicals than glucose does. Free radicals are the reason we take antioxidants. High-fat ketogenic diets have also long been used to help prevent seizures.

Other benefits

Intermittent fasting has been shown in trials to reduce blood pressure, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and insulin-like growth factor, a hormone that is linked to cancer and diabetes.
There is still a lot we have to learn about intermittent fasting and new studies are being done all the time.

Who is intermittent fasting NOT for?

Children, teens, pregnant women, people with eating disorders, as well as those with hypoglycemia should not fast. That seems pretty self explanatory don't you think? Also, diabetics taking insulin should ONLY attempt this diet under supervision of a doctor.

Women often find less stringent forms of intermittent fasting are more suitable for them. For example, a woman might start by trying a 12:12 eating window plan and potentially lengthen her fasting time gradually, or not, as it suits her.

Intermittent fasting can be difficult often due to the hunger pangs we often get. Some herbs and supplements that can sometimes help reduce your appetite and satisfy your leptin hormone (another issue) are listed below.

Check out the links for the products that can be helpful.

5 - HTP
Organic Fennel Tea
Green Tea Extract
Saffron

Until next time, Im Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, Be happy.

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Going gluten free may not be as healthy as you thought! Chew on this wrench!







Going gluten free may not be as healthy as you thought!

Gluten free is all the rage theses days. Every one and their grandmother is doing it. It’s sooo cool. All the popular kids are doing it. You should be too!

And there are some really valid reasons for going gluten free, which is too big of a topic for this short little blog/vlog. But, for most people I’m a big fan of going gluten free.

However, most people are doing the whole gluten free thing all wrong, and I’m throwing a big fat wrench into how healthy your gluten free diet may be. In fact, for some people going gluten free can be one of the most unhealthy things they do.

Walk into any health food store and you will see all types of new foods and food variations that are gluten free.

How do they make all those breads, crackers, pastas, cereals, etc. gluten free?

One simple ingredient. RICE!


Gluten-free folks accustomed to eating rice-based gluten-free breads, pastas, cereals, and other substitutes may be consuming dangerously high levels of arsenic.

In fact, a 2017 study showed people consuming rice-based products on a regular basis showed almost twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to those who did not (and 70 percent more mercury, another troublesome finding.)


Why arsenic is harmful

Arsenic is a naturally occurring heavy metal. It is the inorganic arsenic (not bound to carbon) that is toxic to humans if levels ingested are too high.

Although inorganic arsenic occurs naturally, it also accumulates in soil and water due to pesticides and fertilizers. Because rice grows in water, it is the grain highest in arsenic.

Consistent exposure to small amounts of arsenic increases the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurological disorders. Consuming arsenic during pregnancy may affect the baby’s immune system.

Consumer Reports found one serving of rice pasta, rice cereal, and rice milk exceeded a safe amount of arsenic for one week while one serving of rice cakes came close.

The FDA recently proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal.

However, it’s impossible to know how much arsenic is safe to consume as risk is dose dependent; the more you consume the higher the risk.

Personally, I think ZERO is a good number. I don’t want my kids getting exposed to any arsenic if I can help it.

How to minimize arsenic exposure from rice

These troubling truths about arsenic exposure through rice don’t have to spell doom for gluten-free folks who depend on rice-based substitutes.

For starters, look for products made from other grains besides rice. Thankfully, there are many more on the market these days. But you will still have a hard time finding one that fulfills all your health requirements. Sometimes you may need to make slight trade offs.

Look at where your rice comes from.

In 2014 Consumer Reports found that rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas had the highest concentrations of inorganic arsenic
while California rice has almost 40 percent less arsenic.

Brown basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan has a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices.

Unfortunately, because the arsenic comes from the water, organic rice may not be lower in arsenic.

Consider white rice.

Since arsenic tends to accumulate in the outer layers that are removed to turn brown rice into white, white rice contains less of the toxin than the whole grain. But, as I outline below this may contribute to making the whole high glycemic index issue worse.

Rinse your rice thoroughly and cook in excess water.

Wash your rice thoroughly before cooking and then cook your rice in a ratio of about six cups of water to one cup of rice and drain the excess water after. This cuts down arsenic levels by about one third compared to letting rice absorb all the water during cooking.

Consider a grain-free diet. (Probably the best route for most people)

Many people feel and function significantly better on a grain-free diet. If you don’t eat rice-based products, excessive arsenic exposure is one less thing to worry about in a world where we are constantly at battle with toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
Ask my office for more ways to protect yourself from toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

P.S. - Another reason why the typical gluten free diet can be bad is because with all this substituting certain gluten free foods for other things, particularly breads, crackers, cereals and pasta type foods, they tend to be higher glycemic index.

The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food turns into sugar. This makes it more likely that those eating this type of diet will develop or worsen diabetes. So it seems as though you are doomed if you do and doomed if you don’t.

Health can often be a complex and tricky endeavor. If you need help restoring or maintaining your health please give my office a call to set up an appointment.

Until next time,
Be healthy, be happy,

Dr. Craig Mortensen

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