Writings by Amy
Protecting the ecosystem within
Author: Amy Hubbard
Published August 7, 2016.
Many modern day ailments such as depression, insomnia, food sensitivities, hypothyroidism, and fatigue all seem as though they are unrelated when in fact all of them can be traced to an imbalanced gut. Within our gut, we hold over 3 pounds of bacteria at any time during our lives, beginning in infancy. The bacteria help digest our food, make vitamins we cannot make and help our human cells make “feel-good” neurotransmitters. There is a balance of this bacteria, just as there is in any ecosystem in the world. There are some “good” and some “bad” species and the idea is to keep the good bacteria strong enough so that the bad bacteria stays few in number and the balance is maintained. Throughout our lives we encounter immeasurable threats to the good bacteria in our gut and when this balance is thrown off, we encounter ailments and even disease. This imbalance is called gut dysbiosis and it leads to a leaky gut. Leaky gut occurs due to endotoxins created by the bad bacteria in the gut which are toxic to human cells and open up the tight junctions that seal a healthy gut together. They are released from the gut and interfere in many systems within our body, beginning with the immune system. Endotoxins also suppress the messages from the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland in the brain, interfering with the function of our adrenal glands, ovaries and gonads, potentially causing hormone imbalance.
One particular class of harmful endotoxins that are created from dysbiosis are lipopolysaccharides (LPS), found within the cell wall of gram-negative bacteria such as E. Coli and enterobacter species, which can grow in number when good bacteria are not present in high enough numbers. Lipopolysaccharides are potent immune activating substances that increase cortisol (the stress hormone) and run down adrenals. They also lower the absorption of zinc from our food, a critical nutrient for proper immune function. Decreased zinc also causes worsening of food sensitivities. Lipopolysaccharides lower the amount of dopamine produced within the gut, which can cause a feeling of unease, depression and pain. Serotonin synthesis within the gut is also hampered due to LPS, which decrease the amount of serotonin receptors and in doing so, hamper the body’s ability to make melatonin (the sleep hormone) from serotonin. These harmful endotoxins can also damage the hippocampus which means gut dysbiosis can cause issues with short-term conversion to long-term memory. They can even impact thyroid function by lowering TSH, which is made by the pituitary gland as a signal to tell the thyroid to make more thyroid hormones. Even if the signal does arrive to the thyroid gland, thyroid hormone production is lowered in the presence of LPS and T4 is also not converted to the active T3 in the presence of LPS, causing hypothyroidism and a lowered metabolic rate which can result in weight gain and chronic fatigue. Lipopolysaccharides also decrease the ability of the kidneys and liver to excrete toxic chemicals and these chemicals and hormones are then recycled in the body. They increase ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and make us hungry and at the same time, they decrease leptin (the “full” hormone) from fat cells, making it so we don’t feel satiated after eating a meal. Lastly, another way in which LPS can contribute to a state of disease is through the production of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress damages the mitochondria (the energy producers in each of our cells), lessening the amount of energy that can be produced and decreasing the anti-oxidant glutathione.1,2 The best way to protect our organs, mental health and body is to treat the gut as the diverse ecosystem it is and contribute to building the diversity in this system through consuming probiotic rich foods and beverages such as dill pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and beet kvass.
Hasegawa S, Goto S, Tsuji H, Okuno T, Asahara T, Nomoto K, et al. Intestinal Dysbiosis and Lowered Serum LipopolysaccharideBinding Protein in Parkinson’s Disease. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(11): e0142164. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142164.
Rossol M, Heine H, Meusch U, et. al. LPS-induced cytokine production in human monocytes and macrophages. Crit Rev Immunol. 2011;31(5):379-446.
Shuhong G, Al-Sadi R, Said H M, Ma T Y. Lipopolysaccharide Causes an Increase in Intestinal Tight Junction Permeability in Vitro and in Vivo by Inducing Enterocyte Membrane Expression and Localization of TLR-4 and CD14. Am J Path. 2013;182(2): 375-387. doi.org.libproxy.bridgeport.edu/10.1016/j.ajpath.2012.10.014
The Truth About Olive Oil's Virginity
Author: Amy Hubbard
Published July 23, 2015.
You've heard the claim, that extra virgin olive oil is healthy for us. This is a true statement if the oil labeled "extra virgin" is in fact virgin and not disguised lampante oil (colorless, oderless liquid fat) or worse, canola oil or soybean oil. Buying extra virgin olive oil at the store will not ensure you are receiving 100%, cold-pressed olive oil. In fact, “cold-pressed” is more of a marketing term than it is factual or descriptive term today because pressing has been replaced by milling, malaxing and centrifuge extraction mechanisms.1(209-10) The US labeling standards for oils are extremely lax and vulantary.2 Extra virgin olive oil can actually be a blend of oils, including soybean, canola oil colored with chlorophyll and beta carotene, deodorized and sold as extra virgin.1(5) This is exactly the quality of oil you’ll receive if you buy “light,” “pure” or just straight olive oil from your store.1(213) Through Protected Designation of Origin, POD standards, the EU mandates that the term cold-pressed be used only when the olive paste has been malaxed/mixed or pressed (a rarity these days) to no more than 80 degrees but cheap deodorized blends and second pressed oils are sold in supermarkets illegally with the extra virgin label and until recently it has been very hard to test for compliance.1(102, 215) Manufactures of olive oil may not always reveal the truth behind how the oil was extracted. There are two methods for extraction, solvent based and mechanical, very few manufactures use a mechanical press anymore. It is our hope when we are buying organic olive oil, that chemical solvents have not been used in the extraction process but becuase labeling is vuluntary and standards are lax, we won't know what we are buying unless we've talked with or visited to site of origin.
The primary unsaturated fatty acids in extra virgin olive oil are the monounsaturated oleic acids (50-80%),1(211) the polyunsaturated linoleic (4-21%)1(213) and linolenic acids (1.5%)1(213) and saturated palmitic acid (8-20%).1(215) Olive oils are judged in the EU by a grading system based on the oil’s Free Fatty Acid (FFA) or free oleic acid content. The more FFA’s there are in the oil, the more poor the quality of oil is. This is becuase an increase in FFA's means the breakdown of once beneficial fats due to either light, high heat, poor quality fruit, or poor harvesting techniques and timing. If you find an olive oil with a FFA grade of 0.2% it is likely excellent quality with low levels of reactive fats. If you find one with a grade of 0.5% or higher it is one you should pass on.1(211) By US standards, extra virgin olive oil is allowed to have 0.8%, and virgin up to 2%.2 Oils with a higher FFA content will have a lower smoke point of about 365 degrees and a higher quality oil will have a smoke point of around 400 degrees.1(218) Personally, I prefer not to cook with olive oil because although it is one of the more stable plant oils, heat oxidizes fat and can create harmful free radicals. I recommend cooking with more stable saturated fats such as coconut oil, ghee or lard because even medium stove-top heat (325-374 degrees) is beyond the smoke point of most supermarket extra virgin olive oils and even the most superior quality olive oil can’t withstand a medium to high heat stove-top setting between 375-449 degrees.1(218),3 Every time olive oil is heated, it increases in FFA content and acidity, reducing the smoke point further.1(227) Even time increases the FFA content of olive oil. The FFA content climbs within just months of milling, especially if it has been sitting in a half empty bottle, exposed to air. Best by dates are usually 2 years from the date of bottling, however it is best to buy olive oil from this year's harvest and avoid oils that do not have a specific mill (preferably from the EU) listed on the bottle.1(223)
Hydroxytyrosol is a polyphenol (plant-based) antioxidant found in olive that is thought to protect against the oxidation of human DNA, LDL cholesterol and other inflammatory processes.1(212) Oleocanthal is another polyphenol found in olive oil and is thought to work in the body as an anti-inflammatory agent.1(214) Tocopherols are also beneficial organic compounds found in olive oils that can potentially help prevent DNA oxidation.1(219)
Plant based antioxidants are critically important for our health but antioxidants can become oxidized through exposure to heat, light and air. It is important for us to eat fats that are as close to natural as possible and involve the least amount of processing so that we are able to reap the health benefits they offer us.
1. Mueller T. Extra Virginity. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.; 2013.
2. USDA. United States Standards for Grades of Olive Oil and Olive-Pomace Oil. USDA.gov. Published October 25, 2010. Accessed July 23, 2015.
3. Smart Kitchen.com. Cooking Heats - Temps & Uses. Smart Kitchen.com. Accessed June 23, 2015.
Your Food heals
interview with Doula, Maura Marksteiner and Nutritionist, Amy Hubbard