Nutrition

My Favorite New Lab Test

blog are your minerals balanced 2Over the last few months, I have been doing a deep dive into all things minerals. It is fascinating when you understand what minerals do in the body. It is even more interesting to see how minerals work together in a unique way.

For example, magnesium is a key component for hundreds if not thousands of reactions, while copper and oxygen are used to make ATP which is our main energy source.⁠

All of the cells in your body require minerals to make energy and hormones, but most of us are low in some minerals. Getting the right balance of minerals can make a huge difference in how you feel. 

Let's explore why we may be low in minerals and learn how to check to see what minerals you may need to replenish.

 

How Could I be Low in Minerals?

Several things are leading to the depletion of key minerals in our world. 

- Our soil is more depleted than it used to be. This results in the plants and animals that we eat having fewer minerals. 

- Pesticides used on crops commonly deplete minerals.

- Medications deplete minerals (blood pressure medicine, birth control, corticosteroids, PPIs, etc.). Check out this article for more details. 

- Surprisingly supplements can deplete minerals. For example, too much vitamin D can actually deplete magnesium and sometimes copper.

- Water filters can remove minerals from water.

- Stress depletes minerals! When we are stress, we burn through our minerals at a much faster rate. 

While you can learn about your mineral status from blood tests, they don't give you the full picture. Since our bodies are great at keeping homeostasis (balance) in the blood they will often steal minerals from other places in the body to bring about this balance. In addition, when there is an excess of minerals the body may store them in the tissue to keep the blood at the level it needs to be. For this reason, I have been intrigued by Hair Trace Mineral Analysis lately. 



Hair Trace Mineral Analysis (HTMA)

Since hair is one of many places the body eliminates minerals and heavy metals, it gives us an accurate picture of the minerals that may be lacking in the body. It also shows you when heavy metals or minerals are at excessive levels.

Some of the minerals it tests for are calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. These minerals are not produced in the body and must be gotten through your diet. It is important that these four minerals are balanced in your body; without them, you will not be able to feel your best.

When I first learned about this test, I was honestly quite skeptical. I had heard that it wasn't validated or reliable. Since then, I have learned that there is a lot you can learn from it, but there is quite a bit of nuance to understanding the results. With the right interpretation of the results, it can be really valuable. 



The Sample

A hair test is a simple non-evasive test that you can do it in the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is take a small sample of your hair as close to your scalp as possible. Then cut the hair to about 1 ½ inch. This will give information on your mineral status for approximately the past 90 days. 

Once you send your tests in you will get your results in about two weeks. You can make an appointment to come in to discuss your results and develop a personal protocol. This will give you clear direction on the next steps to balancing your minerals.



What Lab do I use?

My favorite lab for this is Trace Minerals out of Addison, Texas. I trust this lab because they have been recognized as a leading provider of HTMA laboratory services since 1984 and currently serve health professionals in over 46 countries.

Having processed over one million HTMA patient specimens, Trace Elements is a leader in the field. Their mission is to continually assist in improving patient care and response to treatment for those they serve.

 

What Minerals are Included?

The primary 4 minerals that I focus on first are Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium. Beyond that we can learn about secondary minerals like Copper, Zinc, Phosphorus, Iron, Manganese, Chromium, Selenium, Boron, Cobalt, Molybdenum, and Sulfur. The HTMA also shows if you are excreting toxic minerals such as mercury, lead, and aluminum. 

 

What Insights will we Gain from the Test?

HTMA can give us some valuable insights, but like any lab test it doesn't tell the whole picture of your health. Reading the results of this test is nuanced because low doesn't always mean low and high doesn't always mean high. The interrelationships between the minerals are also important.

When I go through someone's results a few of the things that I might be able to infer include: 

- Are you depleted in any of the major minerals?

- Are you eating enough protein and are you absorbing enough protein? 

- Do you have signs of potential iron overload or liver stress?

- How much stress is your body under and how quickly are you burning through your minerals?

- How is your thyroid function? Even when thyroid labs our normal an HTMA might show signs of poor usage of thyroid hormone or a need for iodine.

- Do you have mineral signs of blood sugar imbalance?

 

Will my Insurance Cover this Test?

This test is not covered by insurance, however compared to other tests the price is quite reasonable. I am currently offering the test plus my interpretation of the results and recommendations in a 30-minute appointment for $149 total. 

 

How do I Replete my Minerals?

So, the next question that I get asked is how do I replete my minerals that are found to be low? Are you just going to put me on a ton of supplements?

While there are a few minerals that are tricky to get in your diet, my preference is always to get your minerals from real food. Mother nature knows what she is doing when she makes certain combinations of vitamins and minerals. Taking a synthetic replacement actually tends to lead to more imbalance. It's important to understand which foods are good sources of the nutrients that you are low in so you can emphasize them in your diet. 

 

What I Learned in my Test

I always like to run tests on myself before running them on any patients, so this summer I decided to run an HTMA on myself. It surprised me to find out that my potassium was extremely low. Guess what foods are high in potassium? Real food carbohydrates! 

While I have been eating these (potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and fruit), I was not prioritizing them. I would often have meat and non-starchy veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, brussels sprouts, etc.), because I didn't want to "spike my blood sugar." Doing this for years (along with growing and nursing 3 small humans) caused me to tank my potassium.

So, what have I done? I now prioritize getting a root, fruit, or fruit vegetable (squash, etc.) with every meal. I have also been having 1-2 adrenal cocktails a day between meals. I make mine with 1 cup of coconut water, the juice of a lime, and a quarter teaspoon of salt. 

What have I noticed? Ever since my cycle came back postpartum, it was 26 days each month with an 11-day luteal phase (the second half of the cycle from the day you ovulate until bleeding starts). Once I started prioritizing potassium, my cycle magically went back to 28 days with a nice 14-day luteal phase! Could be a coincidence, but I'm going to credit the potassium! 

 

If you are interested in finding out if your minerals are balanced, give me a call. We can set up testing and make a personalized protocol to get you on track.

 
Dr. Jamie


 

Are You Eating Enough?

blog are you eating enoughWhen you think of eating healthy do you ever think about eating more calories? Most people think that they need to limit calories to eat healthy, but this simply is not the case and can actually cause a lot of harm.

Your body needs enough calories to function. Every system of your body is dependent on the nutrients it gets through your food. When you don’t get the calories you need, your body will not function well, and you will start to have symptoms.

Unfortunately, our culture has glamorized low-calorie diets to the point that many people don’t even know what is normal anymore. In fact, many women are chronically undernourished without even being aware of it.

Are you one of these women? Let’s find out! 

 

Not Eating Enough

Without enough calories your body will start to turn on itself to supply the need for nutrients and energy. Your body will tell you that you need more calories in all kinds of subtle ways. If you don't listen to the subtle symptoms, your body will begin to speak louder. Symptoms may include:

  • loss of muscle
  • slower metabolism
  • lower quality of sleep
  • decrease in energy
  • irregular cycles
  • increase in anxiety and depression
  • hair loss
  • gut issues (including stomach aches and bloating) 
  • symptoms of hypothyroidism (cold hands/feet, etc.)
  • symptoms of adrenal fatigue (lightheaded, fatigue, body aches, etc.)
  • weight gain (your body confuses lack of calories as a famine and holds on to everything possible.)

Since eating enough is so important and many women undereat without knowing it, I encourage you to follow the following steps to make sure your body is getting what it needs.

 

Calculate Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) 

If you have followed me for a while, you know that I'm not a big fan of counting calories… BUT it can actually be an incredibly helpful exercise to do for a few days to make sure you are eating enough!

That's right- I find that SO MANY WOMEN are either intentionally restricting calories or don't even realize that they are eating WAY LESS than their body needs.

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Grilling Out this Fall

blog grilling out this fallMost people think of grilling out in the summer, but the fall is a perfect time to heat up the grill. As the weather gets cooler it is more pleasant to cook outside and sit on the patio for a nice meal.

It doesn’t have to be time-consuming to have a great meal on the grill, in fact, simple is often better. Meat and veggies by themselves make a solid meal, but you can add grilled fruit for a yummy dessert.

Eating these simple, real foods - specifically the meats and the veggies - is a healthy easy option for a dinner everyone will love.

Here are my top grilling tips for you to enjoy this fall.

 

The Meat

Start planning your meal by choosing your meat. With most food, there is a large spectrum of quality. You may not be able to get the highest quality variety, so just do your best with the options available! Let’s see what to look for when buying your meat.

  1. Good - Meat that is not breaded with flour or breadcrumbs or loaded with sugary or processed sauces. (Note: The first ingredient in many BBQ sauces is high fructose corn syrup).
  2. Better - Meat from a healthy animal that had a chance to walk around and eat its natural diet while it was alive. If you are purchasing meat, look for words like pasture-raised, grass-fed (for beef), or wild caught (for fish).
  3. Best - Meat from a local farmer’s market where you can meet the farmer! When you talk with the farmer ask them how their animals are raised. If you like their answer, get the meat from them when you can!

Grill the meat and keep it simple! If you have good quality meat, the flavor will be great. You don't need to add much to it.

 

The Veggies

It's easy to get stuck in a rut of always buying the same veggies but trying some new ideas can really spice things up. When you eat a variety of veggies you tend to eat more of them. You can choose a few of the ones below to throw on the grill.

  1. Eggplant - Simply cut it into ½-inch patties.
  2. Asparagus - Bend the stock to snap off the thick base, leaving the pretty flowery end.
  3. Zucchini - Slice into ¼-⅓ inch slices.
  4. Onions - Just cut it in half and grill that way. You can also cut it smaller for kebabs!

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Eating Healthy on a Budget

blog eating healthy on a budgetYou may want to change your diet, but don’t feel like you can afford it. The cost of everything has gone up; isn’t healthy food even more expensive? Well, not necessarily.

If you have the motivation to start a healthier lifestyle by eating nutrient-dense foods, you may be surprised to find out that it can be affordable. It may take a bit of extra work, but you do have options.

Here are some tips to get you started eating healthy while keeping your grocery bill within your means. 

 

Focus on the Basics

Shop for ingredients that can be used for many types of dishes.

You don’t need all the fancy spices. Salt, fresh garlic, and onion powder are a good start to flavoring your food. If you enjoy ethnic foods, you can get seasoning appropriate for those dishes, but stay away from the expensive spices you’ll only use for one dish.  

You will also need some healthy fats. Olive oil, coconut oil, and butter can be used in most dishes. Choose your favorite and use them in everything you make. (Note: Olive oil is intended to be used at low temperatures and is not intended to be used in cooking.)

Next, get some fruits and vegetables. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh and can be used in many different dishes. Since they have a long shelf life there will be little food waste. Buying fruit in season and looking on the clearance rack will also keep the cost down.

You could stop there, but if you tolerate starches white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables are inexpensive options.

 

Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk can help to keep the cost down. If you are able to invest in a quarter, half, or whole animal directly from a local farmer you can often save a lot of money. 

While this is cheaper than buying quality meat in the store, it does take money upfront which can be a concern for many. If this is an issue for you, ask your family or friends to go in on it with you. 

Dividing the meat with others requires less money upfront. It will also make it easier to store the meat in your freezer and lower food waste.

 

Choose Your Battles

It may not be possible for you to buy organic, grass-fed, free-range, local food. So, pick the most important things to focus on.

Some produce is important to buy organic, if possible, while it’s not as important for other varieties. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to see where to focus. 

Animal products are the same way. You don’t have to feel bad for buying non-grass-fed, non-organic lamb, eggs, and some cheeses. Even canned fish (salmon, skipjack tuna, sardines, and herring) are nutrient-dense foods that aren’t that expensive.

Get the highest quality you can afford, but it’s better to eat non-organic meat and eggs than processed foods. It’s better to eat a conventionally grown kiwi than it is to grab a bag of chips.

 

 

If you want to eat healthier, you don’t have to be perfect! Do want you can and know that you are doing your best. I’d love to hear what changes you are making and if you have any tips for saving money along the way.

Dr. Jamie


 

Foods That Seem Healthy

blog foods that seem healthyWe’ve all heard it, eat fewer calories than you burn and you will lose weight. It sounds so reasonable, but is it really that straightforward? The short answer, is it’s NOT. 

Trust me, I used to be a calorie counter too. I figured if I ate fewer calories than I burned, I’d lose weight! When it didn’t work, I was confused. My research led me to understand that it is much more complex than the calorie in calorie out myth.

Food is MUCH more than just a source of calories; it is information for our bodies! And our bodies are not simple scales, balancing calories in and calories out. Our bodies have many complex chemical systems that break down the food we eat and process each ingredient in a different way! 

Armed with this information, I thought about the foods I used to buy because I thought they were healthy. Keep reading to find out what these foods are along with the reasons that I no longer buy them. 

 

Food Marketing is Tricky

An important point to keep in mind is that food marketers are after their best interest, not yours. The truth is that their main concern is what helps their bottom line.

  • Making the food as cheaply as possible.
  • Making the food's shelf life as long as possible.
  • Making the food addictive so we want to keep eating it and buying it.

Their goals are definitely different than mine. I don’t want the cheapest ingredients in my body. I actually want my food to go bad because if it will last on a shelf forever it must be full of chemicals to keep the bacteria away. And I certainly don’t want to be addicted to my food. 

To make matters worse food companies throw in buzzwords like “gluten-free,” “low fat,” “heart healthy,'' and “all natural” to confuse us. This type of marketing makes us believe the foods are good for us even when they’re not. 

 

Boca Burgers and Veggie Burgers

For years I believed that eating red meat was bad for me, so I turned to meat alternatives. The label showed that soy patties have less fat and less cholesterol than a beef burger, and I was sold.

But we don’t have to be afraid of fat! Research has found that cholesterol in the diet does not play a strong role in determining the body’s cholesterol levels. In fact, we need good healthy fats to survive.

We should, however, be cautious with any food product that has a long ingredient list, especially if it contains words you don’t recognize. A good rule of thumb is: "If you wouldn’t want to eat the ingredients plain, then why eat them all combined in a food-like product?” 

A good grass-fed burger that comes from a healthy cow that was able to walk around and eat its natural diet while it was alive has only one ingredient: beef! It has important nutrients, and I’d choose that over meat alternatives any day!

 

Fruit flavored yogurt

I used to eat fruit-flavored yogurt every morning. I loved that it was only 80 calories. But now I look at it and see that it contains “natural and artificial flavors.” I mean, what does that even mean? 

I don’t consume much dairy now, but when I do eat yogurt it will be PLAIN FULL FAT yogurt. The less processed the better. 

When the milk came out of the cow it had fat in it. Wouldn’t you prefer to keep it that way? The fat is actually HELPFUL in keeping your blood sugar stable for longer periods of time without spiking. And if you want fruit-flavored yogurt, you can add your own real berries!

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Healthy Foods People are Afraid to Eat

foods people are afraid to eatIt’s not only kids that avoid certain foods. Many adults who don’t consider themselves picky eaters avoid certain foods as well.

Some people are afraid to eat specific foods because they have been told they are unhealthy, while others think they will taste bad. 

Let’s look at 5 foods that many people avoid and tear down the myths that surround them. You might be surprised that the following foods have many health benefits and actually taste good!

 

Red Meat

Many people think that red meat is unhealthy, raising your cholesterol and setting you up for heart disease. However current research shows this is not true.

According to Dr. Chris Kresser, “despite what you’ve heard, red meat is an extremely healthy and nutrient-dense addition to your plate.  It’s a great source of vitamin B12, Vitamin d, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Copper, Cobalt, and more.” 

For more information about the benefits of red meat check out his article Red Meat: The Food They Love to Hate or download his eBook The Truth About Red Meat.

 

Eggs

Eggs have gotten a bad reputation over the years. It makes me sad that so many people are afraid of cholesterol, because cholesterol in our diet is not the enemy!

Studies have shown that eating eggs does not affect blood cholesterol in 75% of the population and only modestly increases LDL and HDL cholesterol in the rest of the population. These studies have found that eating eggs does not increase the risk of heart disease. 

To learn more about why your body actually needs cholesterol check out my blog post Bacon & Eggs: Healthy or Not.

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