Dr Gigi Chow

Archive for the ‘Diet’ Category

IBS: One Diagnosis, Many Causes

In Diet, Hormonal Health, Stay Healthy on August 15, 2013 at 6:17 pm

As many as 20 percent of American adults have some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to the National Institute of Health. IBS is an umbrella term for a wide range of symptoms that affect the entire digestive system. Sufferers commonly report symptoms such as alternating constipation and diarrhea, painful cramps and spasms, abdominal bloating, nausea, acidity, heartburn or a sensation of fullness very soon after eating even a small meal. For many, trips to the GI doctor, colonoscopies and medications offer little relief to their digestive symptoms because the cause(s) of IBS have not been identified. It is important to look at the potential triggers of IBS since proper identification will lead to greater success in treating this uncomfortable condition.

The link between emotional states and physical symptoms is well documented and this is particularly apparent with gut problems. There are a multitude of nerve endings in the gut and it is often called the second brain for this reason. Emotional stress, particularly if prolonged, will have negative impact on the gut. Nonetheless, the presence of IBS symptoms is likely to cause stress, depression or anxiety so then the vicious cycle between stress and abdominal symptoms continue. Nutritional supplements, yoga, meditation and acupuncture can all help alleviate and improve the stress response.

Food Intolerance
Intolerance to one or multiple foods can be a factor in IBS. Food intolerance is different from food allergies.  Most people have food intolerances and not food allergies. When you’re allergic to a food, it means that when you eat it, your immune system misidentifies it as dangerous and sends out antibodies to fight off its proteins. You suffer allergic symptoms such as scratchy throat and swollen tongue as a result of the battle between the allergen and the immune system. Meanwhile, if you have food intolerance, your body has trouble digesting the foods. Your inability to break down large food chunks results in unpleasant side effects such as bloating and abdominal pain. It can be frustrating, confusing and time-consuming trying to figure out food intolerances on your own. Getting a food intolerance test to identify your food intolerances may be very helpful.

Leaky Gut
The lining of a healthy gut wall is designed to allow through tiny molecules that we obtain from food digestion. These molecules, such as glucose and amino acids, are used by the body to convert into energy or as building blocks for hormones and muscle cells. However, if the gut becomes damaged or “leaky” and  inflamed, larger than usual food molecules are able to pass through its lining. When these food particles come into contact with the blood, they can provoke an immune reaction. Leaky gut undoubtedly can play a role in IBS. Many supplements can assist in repairing a leaky gut.

Low Stomach Acid
Stomach acid is secreted by the stomach to digest food, especially protein. Stomach acid protects us from parasites and other infections as well as helps with the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. Stomach acid may decrease with age and stress. Prescription and over-the-counter medications such as Nexium and Prilosec can also suppress stomach acid. Without enough stomach acid, food is not digested properly and undigested food can sit in your stomach and intestines for a prolonged period of time and lead to bloating and pain.

Intestinal Flora Imbalance
Also known as dysbiosis, gut flora imbalance can result from the use of antibiotics, GI infections from overseas travel, GI surgery, the use of acid-suppressing medications, chronic constipation, chronic mental/emotional stress, the use of oral birth control pills, poor diet, cigarettes/alcohol or food sensitivities/imbalance (please see above). Once the flora is out of balance, undesirable organisms including yeasts and parasites may start to multiply and crowd out the “friendly” bacteria even further.  Bacterial balance can be positively influenced by the right foods and supplements.

Yeast Overgrowth
Normal intestinal flora contains some yeasts but for some people, yeast becomes problematic as it develops into a form which can spread through the gut and elsewhere in the body. Candida albicans is one such yeast and its presence can contribute to a range of physical and mental symptoms including bloating, gas and many other symptoms related to IBS. The presence of candida can be assessed by an elimination diet as well as stool/urine tests.

If your stomach has never been the same since traveling abroad, parasite infection could be a factor in your symptoms. A test known as Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) can be helpful here because this test can detect hard to find parasites, the presence of candida and incorrect bacterial balance.

Hormonal Imbalance
Lots of women notice that their IBS symptoms are worst just before their periods. Why this occurs is not clear, but it may have to do with the balance of progesterone and estrogen during the second half of the menstrual cycle (that is, from ovulation onward). Progesterone is relatively high at the end of the cycle, then drops off suddenly just before menses. Progesterone in general slows gut motility and many women notice more constipation and abdominal discomfort in the week or two prior to the onset of their menses. It’s possible that when the ratio between these progesterone and estrogen is off and sluggish bowels could in turn worsen pelvic congestion, cramping, and abdominal distention. Salivary hormone testing here can be helpful in determining whether your hormones are in balance and whether an imbalance is a potential cause of IBS symptoms.
Please feel free to contact me via my website if you have any questions or if you would like to schedule a consultation to discuss your IBS symptoms, testing and treatment.


The Omega-3 Rebuttal: Fish Oils Linked to Prostate Cancer…Are You Serious??

In Diet, Natural Cancer Prevention, Stay Healthy on August 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Here is another one-liner attack on nutritional supplements that is spreading like wildfire across the internet: “Omega 3 Supplements linked to Prostate Cancer”  This involves a recent study conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle which has supposedly found a link between high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish and fish-oil supplements and an increased risk of prostate cancer. According to the report, omega-3 fatty acids are linked to “a 44% increased risk of ‘low-grade’ prostate cancer, and a 71% increased risk of “high grade” (i.e. aggressive) cancer.

This study’s conclusions are contrary to numerous studies on the subject showing the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in relation to prostate cancer. A Harvard study examined the link between dietary fish consumption and the risk of metastatic prostate cancer. The study involved 47,882 men over twelve years, and found that eating fish more than three times a week reduced the risk of prostate cancer but had an even greater impact on the risk of metastatic prostate cancer. For each additional 500 mg of marine fat consumed, the risk of metastatic disease decreased by 24%!

Another study found that fish intake may improve prostate cancer survival: 20,167 cancer-free men were followed for 22 years. While this study did not find that increased fish consumption reduced prostate cancer, it found that among the men diagnosed with prostate cancer, those consuming fish  more than 5 times/week had a 48% lower risk of prostate cancer death than men consuming fish less than once weekly.

What many readers don’t realize when they read the one-liner story about the Fred Hutchinson Research study is that the study is flawed in so many ways, below are just a few of them:

1) The data of this study came from a previous study that DID NOT evaluate omega-3 intake and prostate cancer risk, but from a study the effect of selenium and vitamin E on prostate cancer. Using data from an unrelated study (vitamin E and selenium) to draw conclusions about dietary intake of omega-3 oils and prostate cancer is purely nonsensical!

2) It is also hugely important to realize that the authors of this study did not assess any of the participants’ dietary intake of fatty fish or omega-3 nutritional supplements. There is no documentation of fish oil or dietary fish intake in the study group. Also, researchers did not discuss diet or supplementation at the beginning, during, or end of the study. The study’s conclusions are based wholly on the results of a single blood test.

3) Identifying one particular physiologic marker in a group of individuals with a given condition – in this case, an elevated omega-3 level in men with prostate cancer – does not prove causation, especially when that marker can be influenced by diet or behavior and is only measured at a single point in time.

4) A number of confounding risk factors might have influenced the purported outcomes in the study, despite attempts by the investigators to account for them:

–53 percent of the subjects with prostate cancer were smokers.

–64 percent of the cancer subjects regularly consumed alcohol.

–30 percent of the cancer subjects had at least one first-degree relative with prostate cancer.

–80 percent of the cancer subjects were overweight or obese.

Despite the fact that the study showed no causal link between prostate cancer and fish oil supplementation or the presence of omega-3s in blood, the paper’s senior author made the following blanketed statement in a press release : “We’ve shown once again that use of nutritional supplements may be harmful.” Have you ever heard such an absurd conclusion? It’s one thing if this study is founded on sound science and research methods, but it is not.  The logic of its ridiculous conclusion and its subsequent application to the entire field of nutritional supplements is beyond…what’s the word…unscientific.

Don’t believe the hype.

Other references:


Foods That Can Improve Cognitive Function

In Diet, Stay Healthy on April 17, 2013 at 10:31 am

A growing body of evidence indicates that nutrients in food can have significant positive impact on brain functions such as learning and memory. Cognitive impairment is increasingly attributed to oxidative stress, a condition that involves excessive harmful molecules called free radicals or oxidants. Because these free radicals lead to inflammation in the brain, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds are critical in keeping the brain young and healthy. Many of these nutrients are found in foods readily available at the supermarket.

Nuts and Seeds

Walnuts can boost cognitive function. A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition compared college students who consumed 2 ounces of roasted walnuts in banana bread daily over an eight-week period versus those who ate plain banana bread. Testing showed that inferential reasoning — the process of reaching conclusions — significantly improved at the end of the eight weeks of walnut consumption. Walnuts are rich in vitamin E, a strong antioxidant, and alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. A sprinkle of sunflower seeds on top of your salad can also help with memory. Not only are sunflower seeds one of the richest sources of vitamin E, they are also abundant in choline. Choline is a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is critical for memory.

Fruits and Vegetables

A 2006 study published in the British Medical Journal suggested that eating two or more servings of vegetables a day could slow mental decline by about 40 percent compared to eating fewer vegetables. In the study, green leafy vegetables were found to be especially beneficial because they are higher in vitamin E than other vegetables. Among the fruits, berries are your best bet for healthy brain function. A 2012 study published in Annals of Neurology suggested blueberries and strawberries slow cognitive decline, based on an analysis of more than 16,000 women over two decades. Women who ate berries more frequently showed slower decline in brain functions like memory and attention than those who ate the fruits less often. Berries are high in flavonoids, a class of antioxidants that appears to reduce and delay mental decline due to aging.

Olive Oil

Among cooking oils, olive oil has been shown to improve memory, according to a 2009 study published in Dementia and Geriatrics Cognitive Disorder. Researchers suggested this effect is due to the rich monounsaturated fatty acids that help maintain the structure of the brain cell membranes. The study also indicated olive oil is rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E and flavonoids, and intensive use lessens the decline of visual memory.


Curcumin is a compound found in turmeric, an Indian herb used in curry powder. In a study published in Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, curcumin was shown to improve memory in those with traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers attributed curcumin’s benefits to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, researchers at UCLA-Veteran Affairs, who published their findings in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, hypothesized that frequent consumption of curcumin in curry may help explain why the rate of Alzheimer’s disease in India is among the world’s lowest.

Tea and Wine

When it comes to brainy beverages, the winners are green tea and red wine. Green tea possesses the potent antioxidant compound epigallocatechin-3 gallate. According to a 2012 study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, EGCG is shown to benefit memory and spatial learning by boosting the production of brain cells. Red wine contains an antioxidant known as resveratrol. A 2010 study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded resveratrol increases blood flow and oxygenation to the brain. Because brain functions are critically dependent on adequate blow flow and oxygenation, the study suggested resveratrol can be helpful for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and strokes.


•    British Journal of Psychiatry: Possibilities for the Prevention and Treatment of Cognitive Impairment and Dementia.
•    The British Journal of Nutrition: Effects of Walnut Consumption on Cognitive Performance in Young Adults.
•    National Sunflower Association: Powerhouse of Benefits?
•    Current Opinion in Neurobiology: The Role of Acetylcholine in Learning and Memory.
•    British Medical Journal: Vegetables may Slow Cognitive Decline in Older People.
•    Annals of Neurology: Dietary intakes of Berries and Flavonoids in Relation to Cognitive Decline.
•    Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders: Olive Oil and Cognition: Results from the Three City Study.
•    Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education at Stanford: Fatty Acids.
•    Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology: The Effect of Curcumin (Tumeric) on Alzheimer’s Disease: An Overview.
•    University of California, Los Angeles: UCLA-VA Study Names India Dietary Staple as Potential Alzheimer’s Weapon

What can be done about the rise of thyroid disorders?

In Diet, Environment, Hormonal Health on November 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm

By Gigi Chow N.D.

Thyroid disorders are increasingly common. According to statistics by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), approximately 27 million Americans have a thyroid disorder. 1 in 10 Americans, more than the number of Americans with diabetes and cancer combined, suffer from thyroid disease. Yet, half remains undiagnosed because initial signs and symptoms are vague, ambiguous, and often seen in various disorders. The underlying factor in very common disorders such as infertility, hair loss, irregular menses, constipation, fatigue, weight gain, elevated cholesterol, anemia, or depression may be a malfunctioning thyroid. Fortunately, our current understanding of thyroid disorders shed light on actions we can take to maintain a healthy thyroid.

It is well-established that most thyroid disorders are autoimmune. The body’s tissues, here the thyroid, are attacked by its own immune system via the production of antibodies. These antibodies can in turn cause the thyroid gland to be hyperactive, hypoactive, or inactive. Because autoimmune diseases as a whole affect disproportionately women, hormones are seen to play an important role in autoimmunity. Furthermore, it is observed that women with conditions involving hormonal imbalances such as endometriosis and PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) are more susceptible to thyroid disorders. Therefore, ensuring that hormones are balanced is one way to maintain adequate thyroid function.

Autoimmunity may also arise from a very interesting phenomenon known as molecular mimicry. Molecular mimicry describes a type of biochemical forgery in which protein sequences in bacteria, viruses, foods, or other foreign substances are similar or identical to sequences in human tissues. The immune system recognizes these mimicking sequences as foreign and mounts an immune response (a cross-reaction) to both the mimicking sequences and sequences in human tissues. Research has implicated cross-reactions with wheat and milk proteins in autoimmune diseases. Because not everyone who consumes these proteins will develop autoimmune cross reactions, it is a very good idea to obtain tests for food allergies and intolerances in order to determine suspicious foods that might trigger these reactions.

Iodine deficiency is a well-known cause of hypothyroidism. Iodine is an element that is essential for the production of thyroid hormone. Treatment of iodine deficiency by the introduction of iodized salt virtually eliminated goiters due to iodine deficiency in the 1920s in industrialized nations. Yet, a state of iodine deficiency can be created by many common consumer products.

Everyday consumables such as flour products, pesticides/herbicides/fungicides, synthetic perfumes, drinking water, and toothpaste contain halogens. Halogens are a group of highly active chemical elements that include bromine, chlorine, fluorine, and iodine. Bromine, chlorine, and fluorine readily displace iodine; this makes iodine less available to the thyroid gland for the production of thyroid hormones causing hypothyroidism. These halogens may also mimic the actions of iodine; this leads to the production of excessive thyroid hormones, leading to hyperthyroidism. Chlorine and fluorine are commonly found in tap water, toothpaste, and non-stick cookware. Bromine is a chemical frequently used in pesticides/fungicides, fire retardants, and many flour products. Eating unbrominated flour products and organic foods, reducing the use of synthetic chemicals and non-stick cookware, and purchasing a good filter to minimize chlorine and fluorine from drinking water are simple ways to lessen halogen exposure and ensure optimal thyroid function.

The thyroid gland produces hormones that influence essentially every organ, tissue, and cell in the body; it plays an important role in regulating metabolism and calcium balance. This article hopefully sheds light on actions that we can take to optimize the functioning of this very important gland.

Seafood Lovers Beware

In Diet, Environment on November 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm

If you eat a lot of fish, more likely than not you’re eating something that was raised on a farm and hauled in from thousands of miles away. According to NOAA, we import about 86 percent of the seafood we consume, about half of which comes from from aquaculture. And just because you find it in a gleaming supermarket fish case or on a well-presented restaurant plate doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat.

Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, there’s a pretty startling piece on the sanitary conditions on some of those farms. In Vietnam, farmed shrimp bound for the US market are kept fresh with heaps of ice made from tap water that teems with pathogenic bacteria, Businessweek reports. Tilapia in China’s fish farms, meanwhile, literally feed on pig manure—even though it contains salmonella and makes the tilapia “more susceptible to disease.” Why use hog manure as feed? Simple—it’s cheap, and China’s tilapia farms operate under intense pressure to slash costs and produce as much cheap tilapia as possible.

Harmful bacteria like salmonella aren’t the only potential health problem associated with Asia’s fish and shrimp farms. There’s also the threat of residues from the chemicals farm operators use to control those pathogens. Like US meat farmers, Asia’s shrimp farmers rely heavily on antibiotics, traces of which can stay in the shrimp. And many of the antibiotics in use on Asia’s fish farms are banned for use in the United States for public health reasons.
Read more.

Can Foods Affect Colon Cancer Survival?

In Diet on November 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

A new study suggests that what you eat may affect your chances of surviving colon cancer.

The research is among the first to look at the impact that specific nutrients have on the likelihood of disease recurrence in people with colon cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer death in the United States. It found that people treated for Stage 3 disease, in which tumor cells have spread to lymph nodes, had greatly increased chances of dying of it or experiencing a recurrence if their diets were heavy in carbohydrate-rich foods that cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin.

The patients who consumed the most carbohydrates and foods with high glycemic loads — a measure of the extent to which a serving of food will raise blood sugar — had an 80 percent greater chance of dying or having a recurrence during the roughly seven-year study period than those who had the lowest levels. Stage 3 colon cancer patients typically have a five-year survival rate of about 50 to 65 percent.

Read more.

Please Support Proposition 37: Mandate GMO Labelling

In Diet on October 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Eat Less For Longer, Healthier Lives

In Diet on October 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Published on Naturalnews.com: http://www.naturalnews.com/037388_calorie_restriction_longevity_lifespan.html

Diet as a major environmental factor has been shown to have a profound effect on many aspects of health. Specifically caloric restriction (CR) has been shown to expand the maximal lifespan of many species. While CR has not been proven to increase lifespan in humans, CR has also been shown to delay a wide range of aging-associated diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases in higher mammals, such as nonhuman primates and humans. CR may therefore increase longevity by favorably influencing broad aspects of human health.

Although some define CR as a 30 to 40 percent reduction in calorie intake (as determined by daily energy expenditure) there is no “official” definition of caloric restriction, and investigations have revealed CR benefits can still occur with less-restrictive caloric intakes. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) sponsored a randomized human clinical study to assess the safety and efficacy of CR in non-obese but overweight healthy individuals. Researchers followed overweight , middle-aged (average age 37) individuals for 6 months who reduced their daily caloric intake by 25% or by 12.5% with an additional 12.5% caloric expenditure from exercise. Both intervention groups demonstrated reduced body weight and abdominal fat, as well as reduced liver fat deposits and DNA damage. In addition, the participants were able to improve two markers of longevity (reduced body temperature and reduced fasting plasma insulin), as well as reduce cardiovascular risk factors (LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure).

Similar results have also been observed from another study on slightly older 50-60 year old non-obese overweight volunteers after 1 year of CR. However, some of the older volunteers also experienced decrease in muscle mass, strength, and aerobic capacity. Exercise is therefore very important for this age group in order to minimize these consequences.
There are many hypotheses on how CR minimizes aging-associated diseases and improve longevity. Possible mechanisms include protection from oxidative damage, increased cellular and DNA repair, reduction in the inflammatory molecules and therefore inflammation that may be responsible for a wide range of conditions from cancer to cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
The significant impact of CR on delaying aging and preventing aging-related diseases has motivated efforts to identify natural or synthetic compounds that mimic the effects of CR. Resveratrol is such a compound that has garnered much research as a CR mimicker. Resveratrol is a compound found in the skin of red grapes and it is a potent antioxidant. Studies have revealed promising and universal effects of resveratrol by favorably increasing cellular detoxification, protecting DNA damage, modulating metabolic processes such as blood sugar and insulin regulation and inhibiting tumor formation and growth, all of which significantly improve human health and lead to increased human lifespan.

While there is no specific and definite composition of the CR diet, the potentially significant reduction in caloric intake necessitates the consumption of nutrient-dense foods, and the avoidance of “empty” calories from foods such as white flour and refined sugar. It is also important to mention that the focus of CR is on health and longevity and not merely weight loss. When adopted long-term, the CR lifestyle may be a simple way to prevent various potentially debilitating diseases and promote longevity.