Optimum Health Options

Empowering Wellness

Breaking Down the Basics of Digestive Enzymes


Digestion occurs through both mechanical factors and enzymatic factors. Enzymes are proteins that are distinguished by their ability to catalyze a chemical reaction without being consumed in the process. The enzymes involved in digestion are responsible most importantly for breaking up macronutrient macromolecules of carbohydrate, fat, and protein into smaller molecular components.

Medically, therapy with digestive enzymes is used for individuals with certain conditions. Cystic fibrosis patients are treated with pancreatic enzyme supplements in order to aid digestion and allow for growth and weight gain. Other medical conditions such as celiac disease and pancreatic exocrine insufficiency from various causes are also treated as a standard of care through digestive enzymes orally.

Enzymes have been used in traditional folk medicine to support digestion and other uses. Initially they were from whole plant parts or crude extracts, such as bromelain and papain from pineapples and papaya. Papain was first investigated by contemporary researchers in 1873.

There have also been several research efforts examining the addition of digestive enzymes to improve health beyond digestion. Bromelain has been shown in several studies, albeit “uncontrolled or comparative studies” to have potential for utility in osteoarthritis, but larger and more well-designed studies were said to be necessary. However, based on the sum total of the evidence, the FDA has declined creating any claims regarding these types of substances.

The digestive system also is rich with signaling activities from both the hormonal and nervous systems, and immune activity from the immune and lymph systems. Describing the influences stemming from just protein digestion, a review article in the journal Nutrients had this to say about the wider influence of the breakdown of nutrients:

“The interaction of dietary proteins and their products of digestion with the regulatory functions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract plays a dominant role in determining the physiological properties of proteins. The site of interaction is widespread, from the oral cavity to the colon.”

The impact of these products, they went on to say “affect several regulatory functions by interacting with receptors releasing hormones, affecting stomach emptying and GI transport and absorption, transmitting neural signals to the brain, and modifying the microflora.”

Significant research shows microbe status in the GI system has a relationship with inflammation levels systemically.

Enzymes catalyze a particular reaction, and work most effectively in a particular range of conditions. Outside of their functional range, enzymes will either be inactive relative to their target process, or will break down all together. Relevant conditions include most prominently temperature and pH. Enzymes also often require cofactors to properly facilitate their activity. These co-factors are most commonly minerals or vitamins taken in through the diet.

Overall, digestive efficacy decreases as we age. The secretion of protein digesting enzymes such as pepsin in the stomach and chymotrypsin from the pancreas are decreased in the elderly. Additionally, pancreatic lipase may decrease as well as lower levels of lactase, decreasing digestive efficiency of some fats and carbohydrate molecules.

A very good digestive enzyme supplement called CompleteGest can be purchased here.

Brain-Boosting Sleep Position


The brain’s glymphatic pathway is responsible for clearing harmful wastes – particularly amyloid-beta plaques that characterize Alzheimer’s Disease, during sleep. Employing an animal model, Helen Benveniste, from Stony Brook University (New York, USA), and colleagues studied the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) – interstitial fluid (ISF) exchange efficiency – a marker of the clearance capacity of the glymphatic pathway.  The team found that sleeping in the lateral position (on one’s side) may more effectively remove brain wastes including amyloid-beta, as compared to sleeping on the back or stomach. The study authors submit that: “We propose that the most popular sleep posture (lateral) has evolved to optimize waste removal during sleep.”

Wellness Shot



  • 1 oz. cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Optional: Dash of cayenne pepper, fresh pureed ginger


  • Blend together, and bottoms up!

According to research, this shot could decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 90 percent. In fact, turmeric can help clear your brain of the plaques that cause Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Meats and Sweets Are Not Healthy Treats


Dietary factors, second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of cancer, account for about 30 percent of all cancers in Western countries and approximately 20 percent in developing countries. Announcing findings in 2005 of its twenty-year-long study tracking 150,000 Americans, the American Cancer Society found that men and women who ate the most amounts of red meat (compared with those who ate more poultry, fish, and non-meats) had a 53 percent higher risk of distal colon cancer.

Also in 2005, a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, in which 1 million Koreans were tracked for ten years, reported that high sugar consumption could be a risk factor in developing several types of cancer. These researchers suggest that glucose intolerance may be one way that obesity increases cancer risk and that rising obesity rates may increase future cancer rates.

Healthy Holiday Season


Before my Certified Holistic Life Coaching training, I had a love-hate relationship with the Holiday Season.
Sure, all the celebration, wine, and dine were great fun. But I also dreaded the aftermath…  Feeling tired, sluggish, and not liking what I saw on the scale.

Navigating the confusing information on food and nutrition was overwhelming. I wished someone would just hand me a few solid pointers and actionable steps I could implement.

That’s what most people feel about the Holiday Season… They want to enjoy every minute with friends and family, yet something is nagging at the back of their mind. They don’t like how they feel after the “fun.”

Not only physically, but there’s always a hint of guilt…  And it took some of the fun out of the festivities.

We even say “surviving” the Holiday Season…

Yet we all want to THRIVE.

What if we can turn the challenge of staying healthy during this time of the year into an opportunity to boost our awareness and learn some good habits that will benefit our health and wellness way past the “New Year Resolution” craze?

Contact me.  I know how to help you!

Potato Power


Purple-fleshed potatoes are a rich source of anthocyanins – potent plant-based antioxidant compounds.  Jairam K.P. Vanamala. from Penn State University (Pennsylvania, USA), and colleagues previously discovered that baked purple-fleshed potato and its extracts suppress early and advanced human colon cancer cell proliferation and induced apoptosis (cell death).  In the current study, the team conducted an initial laboratory study in which they observed that baked purple-fleshed potato extract suppressed the spread of colon cancer stem cells while increasing their deaths. The researchers the tested the effect of whole baked purple potatoes on mice with colon cancer and found similar results.  Explaining that as well as anthocyanins, purple potatoes, contain resistant starch, which serves as a food for the gut bacteria, that the bacteria can covert to beneficial short-chain fatty acids such as butyric acid – a substance that regulates immune function in the gut and suppresses chronic inflammation, the investigators point out that the portion size for human consumption equates to about the same as eating one baked, large purple-fleshed potato per day.

Venkata Charepalli, Lavanya Reddivari, Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Ramakrishna Vadde, Rajesh Agarwal, Jairam K.P. Vanamala.  “Anthocyanin-containing purple-fleshed potatoes suppress colon tumorigenesis via elimination of colon cancer stem cells.”  J Nutritional Biochemistry, 14 August 2015.

Spice Combats Soreness


The yellow pigment that gives turmeric its color, curcumin has been shown by numerous previous studies to exert antioxidant and anti-inflammation effects. David S. Rowlands, from Massey University (New Zealand), and colleagues enrolled 17 men in a study in which each subject received either 5 grams curcumin daily, or placebo, for 2 days before and 3 days after performance tests. This was followed by a 2-week ‘washout’ period, after which the subjects crossed over to the other intervention. Moderate-large reductions in pain during exercises, as well as small increases in performance, were achieved in 1-2 days among the curcumin group. The study authors report that:  “Oral curcumin likely reduces pain associated with [delayed onset muscle soreness] with some evidence for enhanced recovery of muscle performance.”

A Message From Me


Although New Year’s is the more traditional time to reassess goals or set new ones, I think I think the transition from summer to fall is the more natural one. Maybe that’s because of the sometimes rude awakening to the heavily scheduled routine that kicks in when the kids head back to school.

As the daylight hours get both shorter and busier this year, my goal is to get an earlier dinner on the table and go for a family walk at least a few nights a week.  The change in the season also provides a good reason to adjust my fitness routine.

It turns out switching things up a bit can do more than just keep this interesting – it can also prevent injury.  Vary both workouts and strength training.

Switching jobs and getting married have helped people live a healthier lifestyle.  Whether it’s a life change or just a change in season that motivates you, take some time to reevaluate, especially when it comes to your health.

The Cardiac-Cognitive Connection


A healthier heart may reduce a person’s risks of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Reflecting cardiac output – the amount of blood that leaves the heart and is pumped through the body taking into consideration a person’s body size, cardiac index is a measure of heart health.  Angela Jefferson, from Vanderbilt University (Tennessee, USA), and colleagues analyzed data collected on 1,039 participants enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study’s Offspring Cohort, who were followed for up to 11 years.  Over the study period, 32 participants developed dementia, including 26 cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Compared to normal cardiac index, the researchers found that those individuals with clinically low cardiac index had a higher relative risk of dementia. The study authors conclude that: “Lower cardiac index is associated with an increased risk for the development of dementia and [Alzheimer’s Disease].”

Angela L. Jefferson, Alexa S. Beiser, Jayandra J. Himali, Sudha Seshadri, Christopher J. O’Donnell, Warren J. Manning, et al.  “Low Cardiac Index is Associated with Incident Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Framingham Heart Study.”  Circulation. February 19, 2015.

2 Antioxidants to Enjoy Every Day


Sometimes it easy to forget about the basics, but keeping a natural antioxidant in your regimen can be easy. We’ll take a look at two of them but first we need to ask:

Why do we bother with antioxidants?

Antioxidants protect the body from the damaging effects of unstable molecules known as free radicals. The effect of free radicals on our bodies is called “oxidative stress.” Think of it as a kind of cellular “rust” we need to protect against. So why bother with antioxidants? Because they can protect your body’s most valuable players–your heart, lungs, and brain–against the oxidative stress we face every day.

Number 1 antioxidant: Get Green. Green tea, that is.
There’s something inspiring about tea. In fact, the very creation of drinking tea began with an “aha!” moment. Legend has it that 4,000 years ago, a Chinese emperor was preparing hot water when tea leaves fell into the bowl. He gave the concoction a try, and tea (probably very close in taste to green tea) was born.

It seems fitting that such a Zen-like experience would herald the arrival of a truly inspirational drink. While coffee runs a close second, tea is one of the world’s most consumed beverages. All true “tea” starts as the same plant, but not all teas share the same characteristics. The way they’re harvested and prepared makes all the difference, and that’s why you’ll see green, oolong, and black tea. Same plant, different processing. Also – start with tea leaves if you can rather than an already mixed variety. Sometimes the already mixed/ready to enjoy beverages have additives or sugar.

Not crazy about the taste? Try a supplement instead.
And, if the taste of green tea isn’t for you, or even if you’re a green tea aficionado and there are times when it isn’t convenient, consider a green tea supplement. The best of the bunch concentrate the benefits of green tea, but package it up in an easy-to-carry and take capsule.

Number 2 antioxidant: Get Seedy with Grape Seed
Most of us buy seedless grapes for a reason. Grape seeds are like pits in cherries. They’re the “extra bits” nobody wants. But maybe we shouldn’t be so ready to write off the grape seed. In the same way that the fruit of grapes fight free radicals, so too, do the seeds. Grape seeds contain polyphenols – a type of antioxidant – called procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs). Of course, just knowing that probably won’t make anyone suddenly decide to start grazing on grape seeds, so supplementing these is a great option.

Keep those antioxidants in mind
We create free radical stress just by taking a walk, being in the sun, and enjoying life. Keeping plenty of delicious fruits and veggies in your diet is definitely one of the best ways to stay healthy. But if you have an active life and full schedule, adding a supplemental boost makes good sense, too.

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