Microplastics in Our Bodies: Unveiling the Impact of Plastic Packaging and Beyond

Microplastics in Our Bodies: Unveiling the Impact of Plastic Packaging and Beyond

Plastic has become an integral part of our daily lives.

From the meat we buy to the vegetables we consume, it seems like everything is wrapped or packaged in plastic. Even our clothes are made from recycled plastic bottles. However, the prevalence of plastic in our lives has led to a concerning issue: the presence of microplastic particles in our bodies.

Why should we be concerned about this? Numerous studies have shown that microplastic particles are being found in various parts of our bodies, including our blood, lungs, and even placentas. Furthermore, research suggests that the plastic used to wrap our food is a significant source of microplastic contamination. Additionally, the chemicals present in plastic are known to be harmful to our health.

In a study conducted on different types of food, researchers found that plastic-wrapped dinners contained significantly more microplastics compared to unwrapped meals. In fact, consuming just one traditional roast dinner wrapped in plastic could result in ingesting up to 230,000 microplastics, which are plastics smaller than 5mm in size. This highlights how plastic packaging of food acts as a pathway for plastics to enter our bodies. Moreover, eating one plastic-wrapped meal every day is equivalent to consuming two plastic grocery bags annually. Interestingly, non-plastic-wrapped foods were not only found to have fewer microplastics but also cost 37% less.

Several studies have detected microplastics in human blood, lung tissue, and placentas. Microplastics were also found in the stool of animals and humans across different regions. Furthermore, microplastics have been discovered in everyday self-care items, including personal care products and disposable face masks. This indicates that our exposure to microplastics extends beyond just our food.

The impact of microplastics on our health is a cause for concern. Studies have shown that microplastics can disrupt fat metabolism and cause liver dysfunction. There is also evidence suggesting that microplastics can influence our immune system, potentially affecting the development of diseases like cancer.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to reduce our exposure to plastic. Avoid cooking or storing food in plastic containers and opt for alternatives. When shopping, choose fresh produce that is not wrapped in plastic. When buying meat, request that it be wrapped in parchment paper instead of plastic. Websites like EWG.ORG can help you find chemical-free self-care products, reducing your overall chemical exposure.

If you are interested in minimizing plastic pollution in your daily routine or want to enhance your body’s detoxification process, consider discussing it during your next health visit. Taking control of your plastic consumption and promoting a healthier lifestyle can contribute to your overall well-being.

The NHCAA

Adaptability [My 75 Hard Experience]

Adaptability [My 75 Hard Experience]

Beginning September 20, 2022, I began the 75 Hard Program.

For a long while before that, I had been trying to incorporate more regular exercise into my daily routine but had been unsuccessful. A patient told me she was doing the 75 Hard program, so I looked it up. The rules looked daunting to me but I knew if I wanted to improve my health I needed a plan. Never one to turn away from a challenge, I decided to start.

75 Hard is based on a book by Andy Frisella. If you are not a fan of no-nonsense, profanity-laced dialogue, do not listen to his podcasts. The rules are as follows:

  • If you skip a day, you must start over. If you miss a task, you must start over from day one.
  • Pick a diet to follow with no alcohol or cheat meals.
  • Drink a gallon of water daily.
  • Complete two workouts daily. Each workout must be 45 minutes in length and one must be outside.
  • Read 10 pages per day of a non-fiction book.
  • Take a progress photo every day.

If you skip a day, you must start over. If you miss a task, you must start over from day one.

Since I did not want to start over, I bought a journal to log all my tasks so I would be sure to get them in daily.

Pick a diet to follow with no alcohol or cheat meals.

I chose to follow a no sugar, no wheat, no alcohol, low carbohydrate diet. I was already pretty low carb but I knew complete avoidance of wheat and sugar would decrease inflammation.

I followed this plan during a trip up north, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. The point is – no excuses, you can eat well no matter what the circumstances.

I lost 15 pounds during the 75 days of this challenge. My last official day was December 4, 2022; and as of the end of January 2023, I have kept this weight off because my diet has stayed consistent. I think doing this challenge for 75 full days made it easier to maintain better habits. When the 75 days were over, I didn’t want to go back to less healthy options.

Drink a gallon of water daily.

I thought this would be the hardest part of the program for me. I don’t think I’ve ever really consumed enough water in a day. Surprisingly, this was not as difficult as I imagined. I bought a 32-ounce mason jar and would fill it four times per day to ensure I was getting the required amount. I would add lemon, lime, oranges, or strawberries to the water to give it a little flavor so as to not get bored.

I believe the hydration helped my kidneys, bladder, and bowel work better to detoxify, and made my skin less dry.

Complete two workouts daily. Each workout must be 45 minutes in length and one must be outside.

This was the reason I chose to do the 75 Hard program. I, like many other people, was very good at finding reasons why I couldn’t work out; and I was not very creative with finding solutions to how I could work out. This challenge forced me to figure out ways to fit two workouts into my daily routine. No exceptions. No excuses.

I worked out in the rain, in the cold, in the dark, on a day when I worked 16 hours (one workout at 3:30 a.m. and a walk at lunch). I discovered something with these daily workouts that I had forgotten – when I was young I was always moving. I grew up a dancer who trained at least four days per week. Then, I was teaching dance and Pilates for many years. My body liked to move. I didn’t realize– until I did this challenge– how much movement and exercise help strength, stamina, circulation, body composition, and mental health. For the 75 days, I worked out twice per day- I walked, lifted weights, exercised with YouTube Videos, biked, and rebounded. Since finishing 75 Hard I have maintained at least one workout daily (I skipped one day). Although this has not been easy, I know keeping exercise/movement in my routine is an important part of my physical health.

Read 10 pages per day of a non-fiction book.

This part of the challenge forced me off my phone and computer for some time each day. That, in itself, is a good thing. I chose books that would help me personally and professionally and I read all or part of six different non-fiction books during these 75 days.

Take a progress photo every day.

This was my least favorite part of 75 Hard. I’m not a fan of myself in photos. When my husband and I first talked about doing this program (yes, he did it with me which helped so much!) I told him – “I’m not doing the daily photo part.” But, I am glad that I did this. I didn’t necessarily see the differences in my body day to day, but when I looked back at the photos the progress was visible.

I wrote this article for you as motivation and encouragement. If you are struggling with diet, exercise, or getting on track with your health, DO SOMETHING! First – figure out your WHY. What needs to change and why do you want to change it? I wanted to do this because I wanted to be stronger, healthier, more able to play and keep up with my grandson, and set a good example. It doesn’t have to be the 75 Hard program – just make a plan, set an amount of time to do that plan, and DO IT! What I did discover during this journey was the importance of being able to adapt to reach the goals I had set. Set your goals and GO!

Yours in health,
Kerry Cradit, B.S. Nutrition and Food Science

Unveiling the Wonders of Vitamin D: From Hormone to Lifestyle Factors and Sources

Unveiling the Wonders of Vitamin D: From Hormone to Lifestyle Factors and Sources

Hormones serve as the chemical messengers within our bodies, orchestrating vital functions such as digestion, growth, and mood regulation. Among these hormones, there’s one that may surprise you—Vitamin D. Yes, you heard it right. Vitamin D is not just a nutrient, but it is also classified as a hormone due to its unique properties and roles within the body.

So why exactly is vitamin D considered a hormone? Unlike other vitamins that need to be solely obtained from food sources, vitamin D can be synthesized by our own bodies when exposed to sunlight. This ability to produce vitamin D endogenously distinguishes it as a hormone. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it triggers a reaction that synthesizes vitamin D, which is then utilized by various tissues and organs in our body.

However, despite our ability to produce vitamin D naturally, several lifestyle factors can deplete our vitamin D levels. One such factor is smoking. Research has shown that cigarette smoke decreases the production of the active form of vitamin D (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D) in lung epithelial cells. This effect may be offset to some extent by higher levels of the substrate (25-hydroxyvitamin D) in the bloodstream. Additionally, cigarette smoke can also impact the expression levels of the vitamin D receptor, further contributing to vitamin D depletion.

Furthermore, certain medications can interfere with vitamin D levels and block its receptors in the body. Medications belonging to classes such as antiepileptics, antibiotics, antihypertensives, and anti-inflammatory drugs have been found to have an impact on vitamin D metabolism. Consequently, considering vitamin D supplementation may be beneficial for individuals taking these medications.

While sunlight and some foods serve as sources of vitamin D, they may not always be sufficient to meet our needs. Some healthy food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, salmon, and liver. However, supplementation in the form of vitamin D is often necessary to ensure optimal levels, particularly for individuals who may have limited sun exposure or live in regions where sunlight is scarce. Interestingly, studies have shown that people living above the 37th parallel North of the equator are at a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency due to reduced sunlight availability.

At the NHCAA, we recognize the significance of vitamin D and its impact on overall health. We offer a range of high-quality vitamin D supplements, including Vitamin D and K2 with D3 blends designed for improved absorption. Our supplements are available in various strengths, ranging from 1,000 IU to 50,000 IU. To determine which supplement is best suited for your health, we encourage you to inquire during your next visit.

In conclusion, the revelation that vitamin D is considered a hormone sheds light on its multifaceted role within the body. While lifestyle factors and medications can deplete our vitamin D levels, we have the means to optimize our intake through sunlight exposure, dietary sources, and supplementation. By understanding the importance of vitamin D and taking proactive steps to maintain optimal levels, we can support our overall well-being and ensure the harmonious functioning of our body’s intricate systems.

The NHCAA

Understanding the Different Types of Hunger: Addressing Your Needs Appropriately

Understanding the Different Types of Hunger: Addressing Your Needs Appropriately

Hunger is a fundamental physiological response that alerts us to the need for nourishment. However, not all hunger is the same. It is important to understand the different types of hunger we experience so that we can address them appropriately and make informed choices regarding our dietary habits. In this article, we will explore the four most commonly observed types of hunger and delve into strategies for managing them effectively.

Thinking Hunger: The Desire for Food Without True Physiological Hunger

One type of hunger that often arises is what we call “thinking hunger.” This occurs when we find ourselves constantly thinking about food, even though we may not be physically hungry. This type of hunger is often triggered by our environment, such as when we are bored, watching television, or browsing through social media filled with food-related content. Late-night entertainment can also lead to cravings for snacks and meals. Unfortunately, these behaviors can contribute to obesity and other health issues.

To overcome thinking hunger, it is beneficial to establish a structured eating routine. Instead of eating late at night, aim to have your meals earlier in the day and avoid eating beyond 5-7 pm. By reorganizing your eating habits and incorporating activities like hiking, cleaning, studying, or exercising during the evening, you can reduce the temptation for late-night eating and snacking. Modifying your behavior, reducing sedentary time, creating structure in your day, and limiting screen time can also help alleviate the constant thoughts about food.

Research has shown that having a late dinner or bedtime snack is associated with a higher probability of overweight/obesity. It is crucial to be mindful of the timing of your meals and prioritize establishing a consistent eating schedule.

Taste Hunger: The Desire for Sensory Pleasure in Eating

Taste hunger refers to the desire for sensory pleasure in eating. It is driven by our senses and includes the desire to crunch on something, savor certain flavors, or experience the touch and smell of food. We often seek momentary pleasure from the sight, smell, taste, and texture of food, believing that it will bring us happiness in that moment. However, this pleasure is short-lived, and succumbing to taste hunger frequently can lead to overeating, excessive snacking, late-night eating, and a reliance on highly processed foods.

To combat taste hunger, it is essential to prioritize a balanced, whole-food-based diet. Instead of indulging in highly refined and processed foods, focus on incorporating nutrient-dense options into your meals. Choosing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats can provide both satisfaction and nourishment. Be mindful of the glycemic index (GI) of the foods you consume, as high GI foods can rapidly increase blood glucose levels and exacerbate hunger. Opt for foods with a lower GI to support satiety and help regulate your appetite.

Stomach Hunger or Real Hunger: The Actual Need to Eat

Real hunger, often referred to as stomach hunger, occurs when our body is genuinely in need of nourishment. It is accompanied by physical sensations such as stomach growling or feelings of emptiness. This type of hunger indicates that our body has utilized much of the readily available energy and requires replenishment. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, plays a role in signaling when we are truly hungry.

Acknowledging and responding to stomach hunger is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship with food. Ignoring this type of hunger, especially in an attempt to extend periods of fasting, can disrupt our body’s natural cues. Intermittent fasting, for example, involves shorter eating windows and longer fasting periods. If you are following such an eating style, ensure that you honor your body’s hunger signals during the designated eating window to support overall well-being.

Energy Hunger: The Need for Sunlight

While not directly related to food, energy hunger refers to the need for sunlight. Sun exposure provides our bodies with an essential energy source that cannot be replaced by vitamin D supplements or energy drinks. Sunlight has been studied for its health benefits, including its impact on pregnancy, bone health, vitamin D levels, immune system function, and metabolism. Sunshine helps increase metabolic activity within our bodies.

If you find yourself feeling hungry despite consuming snacks or drinks and cannot find satiety, consider stepping outside and allowing direct sunlight to reach your skin, even if it’s cold outside. Spend around 20 minutes in the sunlight, facing its rays. Then reassess if you still feel hungry. Sunlight exposure can have a positive effect on our overall well-being and may help alleviate the sensation of persistent hunger.

In conclusion, being aware of the different types of hunger we experience allows us to respond to them appropriately. By addressing our needs mindfully and adopting healthy habits, we can maintain a balanced relationship with food and support our overall health and well-being. Remember to differentiate between thinking hunger, taste hunger, real hunger, and energy hunger. This awareness, along with conscious decision-making regarding our eating patterns, can empower us to make choices that nourish our bodies and promote optimal health.

The NHCAA

Fungus and Yeast and Mold, Oh My!

Fungus and Yeast and Mold, Oh My!

Fungus (plural fungi) is a microorganism of which there are many species.

These species include yeast, mold, and mushrooms.  As with many things in life, there can be good and bad qualities of fungi. Fungi are used to make bread, wine, beer, kombucha, and some cheese.  Fungi break down dead trees and animals in nature and through that process provide beneficial compounds such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus back into the soil. Some fungi, such as Ganoderma, Shiitake, and Lion’s Mane are being researched and used for their therapeutic qualities. But, some mold can be extremely toxic (example: Stachybotrys – black mold). 

Mold spores are everywhere. Mold problems begin to arise when certain mold spores grow in damp, dark conditions and produce Mycotoxins, which are poisonous to humans. Common places where mold can grow are areas with water or dampness- sinks, tubs, kitchens, bathrooms, washing machines, basements, the humidifier on your furnace, indoor plants. Fungi/mold can live on coffee (OH NO!), nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Here in Michigan, during the early fall, mold can be found in higher quantities in the environment- falling leaves, rainy weather, damp ground.

I have had first hand experience with mold exposure several times in my life. For me, I believe it has caused sinus problems, headaches, and heart pain. Symptoms of mold or mycotoxin exposure can be: sinus and lung problems (because we breathe it in), skin rash or irritation (ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch, toe nail fungus, vaginal yeast problems), circulatory problems (heart palpitations, shortness of breath, heart pain), anxiety, brain fog, headaches, muscle pain, digestive problems, and fatigue.

What you can do to help your body and health – 

  • There are supplements that can help. CellCore’s Biotoxin Binder and Carboxy are top choices in our office for addressing mold/mycotoxin problems. Additionally, supplements such as Oregano, Spanish Black Radish, Echinacea, Garlic, and Pau D’Arco can be anti-microbial and beneficial to the immune system. For specific recommendations for your situation, it is always best to consult with your Practitioner.
  • Inspect and clean areas where you suspect mold overgrowth. 
  • Diffuse Thieves (from Young Living) to improve your immune system and benefit the lungs and sinuses. Thieves can also be used topically on problem skin areas, but remember to use a carrier oil such as coconut, jojoba, or castor oil if applying it on a sensitive area.
  • Navage and Neti Pot can be helpful if you have sinus problems.
  • Avoid white refined sugar and dairy, which can feed fungi/mold in your body. 
  • Sweat with exercise or sauna use.
  • Use an Air Purifier. I have a Molekule Air Purifier that helps the air quality in our house. Some filters can decrease the amount of harmful microorganisms in the air such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
  • Use leftovers within 3 – 4 days. Watch for mold growing on food and discard those right away to protect yourself from toxic fungus.

If you have concerns about your health or just want to feel better, we are here to help. We can support you and your body’s specific needs in any situation. 

Yours in health,

Kerry Cradit, B.S. Nutrition and Food Science

Sources:

  1. https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/oee/a_z/mold.html
  2. https://www.britannica.com/science/fungus
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031942206004080
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924982/
  5. https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/apsnetfeatures/Pages/Stachybotrys.aspx
5 Common Dietary Mistakes

5 Common Dietary Mistakes

Here at the NHCAA, our patients diligently track their diets. 

I have been reviewing food logs for over a decade and have seen thousands.  You don’t review that many food records without noticing some common themes in food choices people tend to make.  I’m going to share with you 5 common dietary mistakes to avoid that people often do not realize are mistakes.  

  1. Coffee creamers 
  2. Salad dressings
  3. Excessive snacking 
  4. Frequent alcohol intake
  5. Overuse of sugar substitutes

Coffee Creamers & Sweeteners

Many individuals think they are doing themselves a favor by foregoing breakfast and just drinking coffee. What these individuals often fail to realize is the impact the coffee can have on their health when mixed with certain ingredients.   While many people can successfully intermittent fast and still have a cup of coffee, if you add enough creamer, milk and milk alternatives, sweeteners, and other products to your coffee, you may completely lose the benefit of delaying food, and may even worsen your glycemic control.  

There’s another camp of people who eat a good breakfast but ruin it by pairing it up with coffee containing sugars, artificial sweeteners, chemicals, and processed fats.

Coffee is not great for everyone; however, if you are drinking it, you should be very aware of what you are putting into it.  Cut out the Coffee Mate, International Delights, sugar free syrups and other like additives.  

Better options for coffee are drinking it black or adding mct oil, Nutpods, collagen powder, stevia or monk fruit (in moderation).

Salad Dressings

When attempting to eat healthy, many people go straight to salads.  If you can digestively tolerate eating raw vegetables, a salad can be a great low carb meal.  However, most commercially prepared salad dressing is full of chemicals, processed fats, soy, and sometimes loaded with sugar.  Read your labels!  You will probably be surprised at the ingredients list of your favorite dressing.  If you are eating a restaurant salad, It is highly likely that one or more undesirable ingredients are in it.

Better options for salad dressing are to make your own so you know exactly what is in it.  If you don’t want to make your own, Primal Kitchen has a line of clean salad dressings.  When eating a restaurant salad, the best bet is to ask for olive oil and vinegar.

Excessive Snacking

Snacking is a very common habit of Americans.  There was a time when people were instructed that their best bet for their health was to eat 5 small meals a day.  Snacking between meals is not a good thing for most adults.  Toddlers need snacks; most adults do not.  If you feel the need to snack, you are probably missing out on something in your meals to create lasting satiety.  For most people in this situation, it is good fat and protein they are skimping on. 

The worst type of snacking is night-time snacking.  Make having at least a 3 hour buffer between eating and bedtime a priority.  You don’t want your liver and digestive system working hard on digesting food while you are trying to rest.  Your organs have other things to do at this time and need a rest as well.

Frequent Alcohol Use

I have seen many cases in which a patient has an incredible diet, super low carb, but are still having a nightly cocktail.  Even if your alcohol choice is low carb or a spiked seltzer drink (which are undoubtedly better choices), at the end of the day, regardless of carb count, it is still alcohol and is a special circumstance.  Alcohol must be metabolized FIRST- even before sugar.  Alcohol increases the workload of the liver and may affect blood sugar and inhibit fat burning and other health benefits from your otherwise healthy diet; not to mention, alcohol may negatively impact your sleep cycle.

Overuse of Sugar Substitutes

I typically recommend that patients avoid sugar as much as possible and use natural substitutes that do not spike blood glucose.  My top recommendations are stevia and/or Monk Fruit.  But even these better replacements can be overused.  Too much use of natural sugar substitutes not only can cause you to hold on to your sugar cravings but can also imbalance your gut bugs (microbiota).  Overusing these seemingly innocent sweet treats can cause digestive problems and sometimes can halt your health progress.  It is best to use stevia, monk fruit and any sweetener only occasionally.

There you have it, 5 very common diet mistakes that are best to avoid.  If you are halted in your health goals in any way, I challenge you to examine this list and see if you are doing any of these 5 things.  If so, correcting these 5 areas can help get you back on track.  If you are still stuck or having trouble identifying your dietary trouble area, you should consult with us at the NHCAA.  

Your Holistic Pharmacist,

Dr. Amanda Childress, PharmD

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