If you’ve listened to or read any of Dave Asprey or Mark Hyman's work, you've probably heard of the term biohacking. In short, it's a term used to reference quick and efficient ways to improve, or shall I saw ‘maximize’, your health and fitness to make you feel your best and live the longest. Intermittent fasting, bullet coffees, HIIT and ketosis are all examples of this trend, and at its core it is about about making shifts to your daily habits and routines to help you achieve longevity. It also focuses on the concept of nutrigenomics, which is the diet’s influence on your genetics.
And while we might see acute results from these trends, like weight loss, clearer skin or more energy, the real question is what does it ultimately mean for our health long-term? Does it actually keep us younger longer, does it lengthen our lifespan, and does it truly prevent disease. Lets break down this biohacking trend and explore the answers to these questions.
We all know chronic stress, improper diet, infections, and medications like antibiotics can all create poor gut health, but did you know your gut health may also be impacting your hormones? The reason for this starts with our gut microbiome (aka the collection of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract), and maintaining a healthy microbiome is essential to hormonal health, as the two are closely intertwined.
Acne is easily one of the most common concerns I see in day-to-day practice, often as a result of patients seeing little long term results from the common allopathic treatments. A dermatologist may prescribe topical creams, antibiotics or a contraceptive pill to manage your skin, and while these may clear up acne for the time being, breakouts can easily recur if you stop taking your medication.
That's not to say these interventions don't have a place, and everyones skin has unique needs, but by addressing acne from a more internal and holistic approach, such as lifestyle and dietary changes, acne management tends to be more long term and effective.
The term 'hormonal imbalance' gets thrown around a lot these days. If you've scrolled through social media or listened to any health related podcasts recently, you're sure to have come across this buzz word. But what are we actually referring to when we say hormonal imbalance?
Are they talking about sex hormones, metabolic hormones, or adrenal hormones? Is this a symptomatic imbalance or a clinical one? It's important to know what we're referencing when we talk about hormones, since the term itself is an umbrella for numerous communication molecules that float through the body.
Let's spend a moment and actually break down the most important hormonal systems in your body, and identify where imbalances may exist.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common GI disorder impacting roughly 1 in 5 Canadians, with our incidence rate being one of the highest in the world (18% vs 11% globally). However, despite its high prevalence, health care costs and impacts on people's quality of life, our understanding of the true ‘root cause’ of IBS is limited. It often occurs in association with gut infections (often referred to as post-infectious IBS), bacterial overgrowths (also known as SIBO), or heightened stress (people exposed to stressful events, especially in childhood, tend to have more symptoms of IBS). Fortunately, outside of impacts on quality of life, the good news is IBS doesn't cause changes in bowel tissue or increase the risks of colorectal cancer.
Histamine intolerance symptoms are experienced by many people, although it still remains relatively misunderstood (that being said - research on the topic is quickly expanding). Its severity ranges from more severe IgE-mediated symptoms to milder intolerances to fermented or aged foods containing high histamine levels.
Here, we’ll examine more about this condition, its causes, and what you can do to alleviate symptoms.
Allergies form when the immune system improperly identifies an otherwise harmless molecule like a dust particle or pollen as a danger, mounting an immune response and producing the symptoms we’ve come to recognize as ‘allergies”.
Histamine intolerance affects millions of people every year, and many are unaware of its symptoms or that they may be presenting with it. The connective tissues in your body produce histamine to help organs, muscles, and nerves receive and deliver messages to your brain and immune system. For example, histamine signaling will trigger your brain tissues to release pent-up stomach acids to process the foods you eat. It also helps immune system response by drawing attention to damaged tissue that requires repair.
Histamine intolerance comes from an overproduction of the histamine molecule from mast cells and basophils. Most patients with histamine intolerance symptoms present with hyperinflated histamine levels and/or no way to metabolise it, leading to symptoms such as sinus issues, intestinal permeation, chronic headaches, anxiety, fatigue, hives, nausea, and digestive problems.
SIBO, short for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, affects thousands of Americans every year. Much like the name suggests, it’s a disorder caused by the presence of otherwise normal colonic flora growing in the wrong location - your small intestines. Issues arise when the gasses produced by this flora impact the small intestine’s enteric nervous system, resulting in changes in movement and increased sensitivity to pain, among other concerns like gas and bloating.
SIBO is a non-threatening but annoying condition that often causes long-standing issues if left without treatment. Learning you have SIBO can often be both a worry and a relief, as it provides some direction as to the underlying cause of your otherwise ‘IBS’ labelled symptoms. But what happens when you present with all the symptoms of SIBO, but your breath test results come back negative? Is that the end of the road for the microbiome's role in your gut issues?
Insulin is a metabolic hormone that plays a valuable role in helping the body utilize sugar as fuel, and is, therefore, a key hormone in the regulation of our body weight.
The body breaks down and absorbs glucose (aka sugar) through our intestinal walls and into our bloodstream, commonly referred to as our ‘blood sugar’. From there, the glucose moves into our extracellular fluid to be burned as energy within our cell or stored for future needs in the form of adipose tissue, or ‘fat’. When our blood sugar rises after consuming glucose, our bodies also signal the release of insulin, which is the key hormone to ‘unlock’ the cell and allow the glucose to enter and be utilized as fuel. However, for some individuals, the cells begin to resist the reception of insulin, commonly referred to as insulin resistance. In this circumstance, the pancreas produces the insulin, but the cells do not respond, often triggering more insulin release, but also funnels the glucose towards storage instead of burning ... which = fatigue + weight gain.
Odds are, you know at least one woman around you who has PCOS. It is a common condition effecting women of reproductive age, with prevalence rates approximated to be around 1.4 million in Canada alone. Upon diagnosis, most women’s first question is ‘how will this impact my fertility’? Unfortunately there is no short answer, but the general conscientious is that while PCOS is unlikely to cause infertility, and can certainly make it harder to conceive, and increases risks of secondary complications.
However, the good news is there are numerous ways to improve PCOS to ultimately assist in a woman’s chances of conception and lead a healthy pregnancy if she has PCOS. Let’s learn more about PCOS and how to improve your changes of getting pregnant with it.
© 2018 Courtney Holmberg ND. All rights reserved. Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND does not endorse or have professional affiliation with any discussed supplement or lab companies. All material provided is for general education and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to assist in diagnosing to treating a medical condition. Legal & Medical Disclaimer, sitemap