Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Storing Leftovers can "leave" BPA in your system

What do you store your leftovers in? If you’re like most people, you probably use plastic. But that isn’t the healthiest option.

I’ve been concerned about the health effects of plastics since I first learned about them back in the 1990s. Since then, research has shown that those handy plastic containers you put your food in contain dubious chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that can leach into your food.

A 2008 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with the highest levels of BPA were twice as likely to suffer from heart disease and diabetes than those with the lowest levels. These substances can disrupt crucial antioxidant and DNA activity in the body, as well as the normal functioning of the endocrine system. But what worries me even more is that, once inside the body, BPA acts like the hormone estrogen. Based on this characteristic, new studies link BPA to reproductive damage in both men and women. It also boosts the risk of developing breast cancer.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid BPA. Along with some food storage containers, you can also find this hormone-disrupting chemical in plastic water bottles and even in the cans that hold many of the foods you eat. The FDA says that this isn’t a threat, but a new Consumer Reports’ test of canned foods (including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans) found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods tested contain some BPA.

The consumer group reports that a 165-pound adult eating one serving of canned green beans could ingest 80 times more BPA than the recommended upper daily limit. Children eating multiple servings of canned foods daily with BPA levels comparable to the ones they found in some of the tested products could get a dose of BPA approaching levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies.

Perhaps most telling is that in Japan major manufacturers voluntarily changed their can linings in 1997 to cut or eliminate the use of BPA because of concerns about health effects. A 2003 Japanese study found that the levels of the chemical in subjects’ urine dropped by 50 percent after the change in cans was made.

But BPA isn’t the only problem. The PVC used in many brands of plastic wrap is also problematic. This type of plastic contains phthlates—plasticizers which have a similar estrogen-like effect in the human body. And like BPA, PVC has been associated with infertility problems and abnormalities of genital development.

Ideally, you should switch to glass, metal or ceramic containers to store your leftovers. But, I know that’s next to impossible. The next best option is to become well-versed in how to pick your plastics. The best way to tell if a plastic container contains BPA or phthalates is to look at the number on the bottom of the container. Containers marked with a 1, 3, or 7 contain phthalates or BPA, while ones labeled with 2, 4, or 5 are safer.

If plastic storage containers are used, never expose them to heat or use them in the microwave. This can cause even greater leaching. Remove cling wrap from any store-bought meats, cheeses and fish and repackage them in a safer container. It’s also important to throw away any container that is scratched or appears worn since bacteria can hide in these nooks and crannies.

While it’s difficult to completely avoid plastics, minimizing its use can reduce the overall amount of plasticizing chemicals that wind up in your body. And, even though it might seem like a bit more effort when storing your holiday leftovers, opting for safer alternatives to BPA- and PVC-laced containers can give you a big health payoff for years to come.

To your better health,

David Blyweiss, MD

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Too Little Sleep Leads to Too Many Pounds!

Research into the causes of obesity have expanded out into the "sleep" world. A study conducted by the European Centre for Taste Sciences in Dijon Cedex, France, shows that sleep deprivation increases your appetite! Both food intake and activity levels of 12 men (average age 22) were measured after they had been allowed either 8 hours of sleep or only 4 hours of sleep.

The results showed that after less sleep the previous night, the men reported feeling hungrier during the day, especially before breakfast and before dinner. They ate approximately 22% more calories following a night of too little sleep but oddly, were more physically active during the day (trying to stay awake?).

The hormones Ghrelin (made in the GI tract which triggers increased calorie intake) and Leptin (made in the fat cells to turn off the desire for more calories) are two of the master controllers of hunger and how much we eat. We've known for some time that lack of proper sleep—8 or more hours of restful restorative sleep--increases stress cortisol and affects insulin sensitivity resulting in increased belly fat. This new information reveals that lack of sleep increases ghrelin (and the consumption of refined carbohydrate rich foods) and decreases leptin (a master governor of caloric intake). Unfortunately for morbidly obese people battling the bulge, it appears that the fatter you are the greater your level of sleep apnea which, in turn, continues the cycle of poor sleep which helps keep you fat.

The next step in weight management may well include diagnosis and treatment of apneic sleep and assuring other patients of consistent, quality sleep time to help keep their weight down.

To your good health,

Dr. David Blyweiss

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Gut Feeling

If your bowels aren’t happy, you aren't either. And ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease—collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease or IBD—can make you very unhappy. In my Boca Raton functional medicine practice, inflammatory bowel disease is one of the main disorders we treat.

IBD is a chronic, relapsing and debilitating condition affecting a patient’s lifestyle and mental state, often causing social embarrassment and isolation. No one knows what causes it or how to prevent it, but at its most basic, IBD involves inflammation of the intestines because of abnormal activation of the immune system. And that can have wide-ranging ramifications throughout the body.

The most common conventional treatments for IBD involve heavy-hitting drugs that include steroids and immunosuppressants. Accompanying these are side effects including anemia, easy bruising, frequent infections and mood swings. Because of the frequency and severity of these side effects, many patients prefer the symptoms of the disease to the problems that accompany treatment.

But if you have IBD, the symptoms—which can include rectal bleeding and diarrhea—aren’t the only thing you have to worry about. When your gut is damaged, your body can’t absorb the critical nutrients it needs to function properly, especially protein, unrefined carbohydrates, healthy fats, water, and many vitamins and minerals. This is especially true if you’ve had surgery to remove part of the bowel.

Because of this, many doctors recommend a multivitamin-mineral supplement for anyone with IBD but if you are taking a standard vitamin pill you might as well flush your money down the toilet! Vitamins made with fillers and binders take too long to break down and become absorbed into your bloodstream. This is especially true if you already suffer from absorption problems. What you need is a comprehensive high-potency liquid multi that is rapidly absorbed by the body.

You also want a multi that contains iron. Most don’t, so check the label. Often, iron absorption is limited if you suffer from IBD and that can compromise the production of the red blood cells that carry oxygen to your body’s tissues. You should have your iron levels checked every year during your annual checkup.

While everyone with IBD is a little bit different, certain foods tend to make symptoms worse. Here are my recommendations for anyone with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease:

  • Avoid clothing that is tight around the waist.
  • Drink plenty of purified water.
  • Eat more natural foods in smaller portions more frequently during the day. Just be aware that fruit may cause problems on an empty stomach
  • Avoid high-fat foods. These foods speed up the time it takes food to travel through your intestine. This can cause diarrhea and further prevent proper nutrient absorption.
  • Do not eat foods containing artificial fats and sweeteners. Artificial fats (like Olestra) and sweeteners (like sorbitol and aspartame) often cause diarrhea.
  • Steer clear of caffeine and soft drinks. Like fat, caffeine also speeds up the movement of food through your intestines and can promote diarrhea.
  • Avoid spicy foods since they can cause a flare up. Specific spices to watch out for are black and red pepper, chili peppers and powders, nutmeg and mustard.
  • Avoid foods known to cause problems, either through your own experience or through lab testing.
  • Avoid the chronic use of prescription and over-the-counter gut-altering medications like NSAID’s, proton pump inhibitors or acid blockers. This can cause mineral deficiencies.
  • Feed the gut what it needs (after testing). Initial regimens usually consist of pre and probiotics, colon cell nutrition (glutamine and short chain fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Find ways to consistently reduce stress. Stress suppresses good gut bacteria and necessary serum immunoglobulin A.

It’s also important to mention enzymes. It isn’t uncommon for people with IBD to be deficient in pancreatic enzymes. Taking digestive enzymes may not only reverse this deficiency, it will also enhance nutrient absorption. While most multivitamins don’t include critical enzymes, I’ve included an array of important digestive enzymes in my liquid multivitamin-mineral.

IBD is a serious, chronic, perplexing disease. As with so many chronic diseases, it’s a combination of genetics and environment—the persistent stimulus in an individual who has a genetic predisposition to this disease. Managing IBD symptoms, while challenging, requires a proactive nutritional approach—starting with the tips I’ve outlined above. And, ultimately, you should always trust what your gut is telling you so that the “gut feeling” you get is the best you can have.

To your good health,

Dr. David Blyweiss