Immune Health and Neurotransmitter Function: What You Need to Know

Fun fact: a hijacked immune system means hijacked neurotransmitters, especially in the case of tryptophan.

The primary pathway for tryptophan metabolism in the body is the kynurenine pathway, needed for supporting inflammation and immune function in case of virus or infection. In fact, tryptophan is so crucial for fighting inflammation that a recent study on mice found that mice who consumed diets low of tryptophan have altered gut bacteria and increased inflammation.

Tryptophan is needed for so many functions in the body. We need tryptophan to make serotonin, which definitely has an impact on mental well-being. We need it for sleep support, as serotonin flips the switch to melatonin at night, and we even need tryptophan to regulate GI function.

Tryptophan plays an important role for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well, so if the immune system is under attack, or the body is dealing with any other threat, tryptophan may not be available to support mood health. This is often referred to as the “tryptophan steal.” Some studies even suggest supplementing with tryptophan may be just as effective as taking an antidepressant to ward of seasonal depression. This make sense, because SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) work on the synapses of the brain to keep serotonin available for longer. If the body isn’t getting tryptophan to make serotonin, there isn’t much available to “inhibit reuptake.”

You can support tryptophan by focusing on getting more tryptophan rich food into your diet or by taking a tryptophan supplement, but I advise you to check with a professional before adding in a supplement like tryptophan.

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Tryptophan-rich foods I love and how I incorporate them:

Bananas – Not only do they contain tryptophan, they are a great source of B6, needed for the metabolism of tryptophan. I love having bananas on hand to eat with peanut butter, throw in a smoothie, or add to oatmeal or chia pudding. Which leads to…

Oats – I love making overnight oats, using a cup of liquid, 1/4 cup oats, nuts and seeds, protein powder, all mixed in a jar and put in the fridge overnight or for a few hours. I also love making power balls with a mixture of oats, peanut butter, honey, and other add-ins like coconut and chocolate chips. My boys help me roll the mixture into balls and set in fridge. Usually it gets eaten immediately!

Chocolate – The darker the chocolate, the higher the amount of antioxidants and tryptophan. I love a square in the evening, or mid-afternoon if I’m having a craving for something comforting. I love dipping a square in organic peanut butter (with one ingredient: peanuts).

Dairy – This is when quality goes a long way. For those who can tolerate dairy, looking for full fat, grass-fed and organic dairy will give the most nutrient value. Because dairy is such a staple in the American diet, I don’t need to specify how to incorporate it. But be sure you tolerate it well and the quality is top notch, or you won’t be getting the full benefits.

Tuna – Quality is extremely important in all seafood, due to water contamination. Look for wild-caught, sustainable versons, especially when you’re looking for shelf stable tuna to mix as tuna salad.

Various nuts and seeds – Pumpkin seeds are great sources to throw on a salad, while I love adding chia and flax seeds to my kids’ oatmeal or yogurt. Cashews and pistachios have more tryptophan than peanuts, but organic peanut butter is such a great quick source and can be added to anything to up the flavor (I’ve even drizzled it onto my stir fry dishes).

Chicken/Turkey – Always look for pasture-raised, antibiotic-free sources. For turkey, this is particularly challenging, so I usually stick to chicken.

Because we are in the middle of cold/flu season, our bodies are constantly fighting viruses and our immune systems are more vigilant than ever. Those with more adipose tissue will carry a higher viral load, so it is extremely important to load up on tryptophan-rich foods as much as possible.

If you’re curious to know more about tryptophan and how to supplement with it, message me. I’d love to support you as you support your neurotransmitters this season!

Getting Relief from Seasonal Allergies

The design of the human body is amazing, and the immune system never ceases to blow me away. Its primary job is to scan the environment and tolerate. It is constantly scanning, for our protection. It then decides what it wants to tolerate, and what necessitates an attack back. It’s a beautifully protective design.

Mold, pollen, trees, grasses – these are not new things to the human body. We have always lived in community with our natural world. So what is the deal with seasonal allergies? Why are so many people struggling, and getting worse and worse from year to year?

It goes back to what your immune system is tolerating.

We are exposed to a myriad of foreign substances every day. Yes, we have the natural world. Yes, we have viruses and pathogens the body is protecting against. But now we have outdoor air pollution, synthetic fragrances in everything indoors, pharmaceuticals, medications and supplements with fillers our body has to figure out what to do with, pesticides on our food, food that isn’t really food, and all manner of chemical/toxin exposures from beauty products and antibacterial soaps and sanitizers that disrupts the microbial balance. Whew!

We are overexposed to foreign man-made substances and underexposed to the natural world. We don’t get nature time, play in the dirt, or live in close proximity to a variety of animals. We have a decline in vaginal births and breastfeeding, which decreases microbial diversity as a result.

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Most of your immune cells live in the gut. So any damage to the gut impacts the way the immune system is able to function optimally, but a failure to function optimally… creates more damage to the gut. It’s extremely cyclical.

It’s no wonder you go from living and tolerating all manner of foods, substances, allergens… then one day in your 30s or 40s you realize you have an abundance of skin issues, digestive problems, food reactions, and allergies gone wild! The allergy medicine that you used to be able to use with no problems seems not to work as well, and you experience brain fog and confusion when you take it.

It is all connected.

The good news is we can restore immune health. We can restore nutrients, and we can support our body’s desire to be in balance.

But we have to be able to look beyond the presenting symptoms and question what is driving them.

Taking an allergy pill will not remove the reason your immune system is creating a histamine response. Blocking histamine receptors doesn’t block your body’s need to protect you through the release of histamines. So it only works for so long, and as always, your body creates a compensatory response, at the expense of increasing risk of cognitive decline and glioma (well-documented side effects of long-term use of antihistamines).

So what do I recommend?

I love using quercetin for supporting the body at the root. Quercetin is a flavanoid naturally found in apples, blueberries, and kale. It helps the immune system respond to outside threats, and can act as a natural antihistamine by stabilizing the release of histamines. But the benefits go beyond symptom relief. It may even have anti-inflammatory effects, as well as help promote healing to the intestinal lining by creating a tighter junction and reducing likelihood of enhanced intestinal permeability. It’s a two-for-one value! To get started, I really like this brand, one to two capsules a day. Give it two weeks to take effect. When it is combined with bromelain, like the version I recommend, absorption is enhanced. QBC Plex by Solaray is another great option.

For kids, I really love Snifflex by Creekside Naturals. It’s inexpensive and works. Other options are D Hist for adults or D Hist Jr by Ortho Molecular Products, but those are typically more expensive, and if you have more than one child with allergies, it really adds up!

Boswellia is derived from frankincense, and it can reduce allergy and even asthma symptoms (clinically studied to reduce symptoms in 70% of those studied). There is much research available on Boswellia as an anti-inflammatory alternative to NSAIDs, which do quite a bit of damage to the gut by increasing enhanced intestinal permeability and breaking down the mucosal intestinal barrier (which we need for protection). Taking 300 mg, 3 times a day is a beneficial dose for reducing asthma-like symptoms.

Two other options to try are Stinging Nettle, 500 mg, 2 times a day, or Butterbur, 100 mg, 2 times a day (which can also help alleviate migraines as well).

As always, this information is used for educational purposes. Talk to your practitioner before you start any new supplements, especially if you are on other medications. Please do your own research. Instead of asking “Dr. Google,” I like to do a search such as “Butterbur Pubmed” to see what kind of published research is available. We live in an incredible era with published research available to all, so don’t buy the medieval dialogue to “leave the research to the experts.” That language is best left in the Middle Ages, and has no place in the modern, educated society.

I did not reverse chronic disease dynamics in my family by simply listening to the experts and nodding my head. I played an active role in my healing journey and that of my children, and I was thankful for the experts who partnered with me along the way and encouraged me to research on my own as well. If a practitioner is unwilling to work with you or laughs at your research (yes, this has happened to me), then it’s time to find someone new.

The last thing I will mention for seasonal relief is homeopathy. To be fair, I don’t have as much training in homeopathy as I do in nutrients and supplements using nutrients from food. But homeopathy has been my family secret for five years now, and it never fails in symptom relief. The two that I’ve used successfully are Boiron Histaminum Hydrochloricum 30c pellets and Rhinallergy Tablets. Pellets are great, because you can just drop a few of them in your mouth and let dissolve under your tongue. The tablets are a little trickier to drop into your mouth without touching the outside, which can take away some of the benefits. Homeopathy is great, because it’s heavily diluted and safe for a wide array of ages, and I never have side effects other than relief. Because of the increase of antibiotic resistance, homeopathy is gaining more favor from many traditional practicing physicians, though more study needs to be done and it still may be viewed as “quackery pseudoscience” for some practitioners.

Please remember that chronic stress increases the release of stress hormones and will put your body in a vulnerable position to fight back against invaders. When stressed, everything will look like an attacker and your body will respond accordingly. Your body’s job is to protect you, and it is always on your side, even if it doesn’t look like it.

Finally, if reading this has made you realize that it is time to take your health in your own hands, I would love to help you walk through that empowering journey. Contact me and let’s see what we can learn together!

Stress and Your Immune System

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, but it needs to be said.

When you’re stressed, your body isn’t prioritizing immune health.

When you’re stressed – and this includes physical stress as well as emotional – your body’s main job is prioritizing survival of the stressor. All other functions get altered in order to survive.

Healing can only occur in a parasympathetic state. Learning to manage stress and actively rest, limiting stressful external physical triggers as well as negative self-talk, gives your body a chance to heal…which optimizes immune function.

Some of us are living as if every day we are running from a saber tooth tiger. Your body doesn’t know you’re just stressed from kids’ schedules, relationship conflicts, pandemic fear, work, sleep issues, your dietary restrictions or nutrient deficiencies, and your stressful exercise routine (yeah, that’s a stressor).

Continue reading “Stress and Your Immune System”

What Do We Currently Know About Covid?

All we hear from the news media is wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance. Is that really a long term solution for supporting your immune system?

Dr. Chad Edwards is a former army surgeon and currently works as an Emergency Physician. He is the founder and director of Revolution Health and Wellness Clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Here, he pays special attention to sports medicine and health and wellness as a preventive strategy to optimize health, minimize injury risk, and decrease disease. Viewing his patients through a holistic approach helps identify subtleties in their function that are beginning to show signs of dysregulation.

This interview is a very balanced and informative take on the current pandemic, what we currently know, and what we can do to support our immune function.

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Key topics include:

  • His experience with Covid patients
  • What the current numbers of deaths and infections tell us, according to CDC data
  • The data on wearing masks
  • The issue of asymptomatic carriers
  • Common sense precautions to take
  • Practical steps to support immune health via gut health and supplementation
  • The magic of vitamin c and nitric oxide (and why you want to avoid mouthwash and proton pump inhibitors)
  • The importance of glutathione, n acetyl cysteine and nitric oxide
  • Should we run out to get the Covid vaccine?

For CDC data mentioned in the episode, click here.

For more information on Dr. Edwards and his work, click here.