As we age, our bodies often remind us we are getting older. While other parts of our body may start to show signs if aging, our digestive systems are not always affected as much by aging as we may believe. However, there may be certain foods you once enjoyed with ease that are now causing stomach upset if you over indulge. And while food intolerances are always a possibility, these new symptoms do not necessarily mean we have developed intolerances for certain foods.
Certain changes to digestion do occur as we age. These include:
1. Slowed digestive response. As digestion response slows it requires more time to break down the food in our stomachs. As a result, we can feel full for a much longer period of time after consuming a large meal, which may also make us feel bloated.
2. Less elasticity of the stomach. The stomach also becomes less elastic, meaning rather than being able to consume an entire pizza, like we could when we were teenagers, we are only able to eat a few slices before we start to feel full.
3. Lactase production decreases. As we age, the body slows how much lactase (the enzyme that breaks down the sugar, lactose, in milk) is produced, which can cause some of us to become lactose intolerant or start to feel the effects of consuming too many dairy products, like gas and intestinal cramping. Contrary to popular belief, lactose intolerance is not a “condition”. It's a normal process of aging, and your body’s attempt to preserve resource (since milk is for babies, not adults).
4. Bacteria growth expands into the small intestine. While normal “gut” bacteria is essential to proper digestion, as we age, it is not uncommon for the bacteria to extend beyond the large intestine and into the small intestine and can make it seem like we have food intolerances (commonly termed SIBO).
5. Contractions weaken or slow in the large intestine. Feeling of constipation are not uncommon as we get older and is caused by this age-related factor.
6. Illnesses – Age-related reduced immune responses can affect the digestive system.
7. Medications – Certain medications can affect the digestive system and could have side effects similar to symptoms of food intolerances.
8. Failing to Change Eating/Dietary Habits – As we get older, what we eat, how much, and when are directly related to digestive problems sometimes mistaken as intolerances to food.
Going back to our original question, the primary type of food intolerance we may develop as we get older is an enzymatic intolerance to certain foods, such as dairy products. This type of food intolerance is where the body no longer produces the right amount of enzymes needed to properly digest the food.
In conclusion, if you are experiencing digestive problems related to specific foods, it does not necessarily always mean you have developed an intolerance to a food or food group. It may in fact mean your body has developed an inability to properly digest it. As a result, it may be time for some dietary changes to maintain a healthy digestive system.
If some of the above points are effecting you, it is best to speak with naturopathic doctor to determine the underlying to your concerns. You can book an appointment for a full health assessment with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND at her naturopathic clinic in Toronto by calling 647.351.7282 today!
Gluten is a grain protein found in wheat, spelt, barley, and rye. Its also added as a filler to many dressings and sauces, such as soya sauce. Individuals with intolerances to gluten may experience a number of symptoms, including but not limited to gas, bloating, diarrhea/constipation, joint pain and/or swelling, fatigue, brain fog, mood issues such as anxiety or depression, headaches, mouth ulcers, and dermatitis herptiformis (unique to celiac disease). And while gluten intolerances exist, the list of associated symptoms is very broad and non-specific, meaning the same symptoms can also be seen in a number of other medical conditions such as food intolerances, anemias, dysbiosis, hypochlorhydria, and so on. Its always best to talk to your Naturopath or Family Doctor before deciding to sustain a gluten free diet.
The most important fact I want to highlight here is this...
A product labelled "gluten free" does NOT mean it's a healthier alternative.
Now let me be clear... following a gluten free lifestyle lays some important groundwork for a less refined, more whole foods, and overall healthier diet.
However, the mistake is made when, instead of limiting refined foods like breads, crackers, and pastas altogether, people reach for their gluten-free alternatives. To shed evidence on the situation, new and interesting research coming out of Harvard University found after reviewing 30 years worth of medical data that individuals limiting or completely avoiding gluten had a 13% increased risk of type 2 diabetes . Now does that mean gluten prevents diabetes? Unlikely. But what it does suggest is that gluten free foods often contain less fibre and other macronutrients helpful in preventing metabolic disorders. Secondly, the most common ingredients found in gluten free alternative products are rice and corn. Most of the corn in these pastas are genetically modified, and because corn flour doesnt stay together as well as wheat, a number of chemical binding agents get added to the mix to create a wheat like texture. A cup of brown rice pasta has a glycemic index (GI) of 92 and a glycemic load (GL) of 52 !!! (I call it diabetes in a box), vs a cup whole wheat pasta with a GI of 37 and a GL of 17 . Also, if you didn't know, rice is loaded in arsenic, with brown rice being the highest source of it. Without going into too much detail on this topic, I'll direct you to the Environmental Working Group's website, who has a great resource here highlighting the problems with arsenic, how it's getting into our rice, and ways to limit/avoid it .
So yes, this Naturopath enjoys the occasional slice of toasted whole grain bread with brunch, and the occasional hoppy brewed beverage on a summer patio. I'm fortunate to not experience a gluten intolerance, which means I don't limit it completely, but I also dont consume it often. My diet tends to limit refined carbohydrates in general, gluten and gluten-free all the same.
Remember, the foods that were always gluten free (ie popcorn) are now re-branding with gluten free labels in hopes of catching a few more consumers who are getting in on the action. We must act as educated consumers, or else it becomes very easy to fall victim to the next biggest health trend, and miss the mark completely.
Moral of the story, if you're going gluten free, part ways with refined carbohydrates instead of reaching for the chemically altered, less nutritious gluten free substitutes. And for goodness sakes, eat your veggies.
 Low gluten diets may be associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes. American Heart Association Meeting Report Presentation 11. March 09, 2017. http://newsroom.heart.org/news/low-gluten-diets-may-be-associated-with-higher-risk-of-type-2-diabetes?preview=076d
 The University of Sydney Glycemic Index Database. http://www.glycemicindex.com/www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/arsenic-contamination-in-rice
 Arsenic is in rice - should you worry? Evironmental Working Group Food Database. http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/arsenic-contamination-in-rice
Medical science misguidedly suggests that we are victims of our genetics, but this statement is not entirely true. While our genes help determine how certain disease onset and develop over time, our lifestyle choices can actually manipulate how, or even if, these genes are expressed. Take celiac disease, for example. The National Institute of Health determined that roughly 30-40% of the population in the US have one or both genetic markers for celiac disease, but only about 3% of that population actually actives them, developing celiac disease.
What is MTHFR, and Why is it Important?
Properly referred to as Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase, the MTHFR gene codes for a rate limiting enzyme used in the methylation process of our body’s elimination of waste, toxins, heavy metals, and more. There are two main mutations, referred to as polymorphisms, which researchers focus primarily on. Both of these mutations can be inherited and occur on different locations of the MTHFR genes.
MTHFR is responsible for the conversion of homocysteine into methionine, which supports the body’s natural antioxidant pathways, as well as the activation of folic acid into folate (required for cellular development, pregnancy, and so on). Methionine gets converted into SAMe, a chemical that metabolizes dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin, and therefore deficiencies are correlated to impaired cognition and mood disorders. Research shows that MTHFR gene mutations have been linked to mental disorders like bipolar, schizophrenia, and depression, as well as migraine headaches . Furthermore, high levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream have been correlated to high blood pressure, ischemic heart disease, and cardiovascular disease like atherosclerosis .
Effects on the Body
As a result, MTHFR mutations can affect the way in which our bodies metabolize various nutrients from foods, beverages, vitamins, and supplements we consume and how they are converted into active minerals, proteins, and vitamins our bodies use to give us energy, fight off infections, and so on.
These mutations further affect how hormone levels and neurotransmitters function within the body, as well as, in certain cases, affect the function of enzymes that influence brain function, cholesterol levels, endocrine functions, digestion, and may even contribute to the development of certain cancers .
To determine whether you could have a MTHFR mutation, the first thing you should do is get a detailed examination conducted by a naturopathic doctor. One tell-tale sign of this mutation is severe nausea that onsets after taking vitamins, particularly B-vitamins.
There are several underlying symptoms and medical conditions which could contribute to MTHFR mutations, including:
Treating MTHFR Mutations Naturally
There are several natural treatments available to address MTHFR mutations. Your naturopath will work with you to determine which ones would be of the most benefit for your health and well-being. Possible treatment options may include:
Most people have no idea they have a MTHFR mutation that could be contributing to other health-related issues.
For testing and diagnosis, or for further information about MTHFR, please feel free to schedule an initial consultation appointment with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND by booking online or calling 647-351-7282 today!