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Man in need of heartburn help

Heartburn Relief

You might need heartburn relief if you have pain in your chest after a meal, have sour burps that contain food or liquid, have a lingering bitter taste in your mouth, or feel like there’s a lump in your throat. An estimated 15 million Americans seek heartburn relief daily! But before you pop a pill, consider these strategies.

Remove Foods Known to Weaken your Sphincter

Above your stomach and below your esophagus is a muscle called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter or LES. Keeping it toned is important for heartburn relief. If you went jogging with a bag of gold, you would want to make sure that you had a tight drawstring to prevent the coins from escaping. Similarly, you want your LES to remain closed when your churning stomach is filled with food. Your throat is not coated with an acid-resistant lining like your stomach is.  So contact with stomach contents hurts!

Studies have shown that the following foods relax the LES. Then it does not remain securely shut.

Chart of foods to avoid for heartburn relief

The most common acidic food to bother Americans is cooked tomatoes (e.g. tomato sauce or tomato paste).

Don’t Overfill the Washer

Just like a washing machine, your stomach needs to be able to agitate freely. If you stuff it to the brim, it’s most likely going to slosh some of the contents where they don’t belong. Sometimes more is less. In this case, effective digestion means stopping when you are satisfied. Because if digestion doesn’t occur efficiently, gas and pressure will build up. Your body is elegantly designed to blow the LES in a case like this instead of letting the inadequately-liquified food move into the small intestines, where if would create further digestive distress.

Chew on This

Did you know that there are digestive enzymes in your saliva? The more you chew your food, the less your stomach has to. Further, the mechanical action of your teeth helps convert food to a fluid form for absorption. Food that has been very well chewed is less likely to spend long periods in the stomach. That means it is less likely to go sour and gas off, putting undue pressure on your LES.

Try this experiment: Start with a bite of food half the size or your normal bite and chew until the food is the consistency of applesauce or pudding. Do your notice a flavor change? Many foods, especially carbohydrates, will increase in sweetness the more you chew.

Augment Digestive Secretions

Breaking down proteins and dissolving minerals so that you can absorb them into your bloodstream requires more, not less, stomach acid. When the pH of your stomach is similar to a battery, the digestive process runs smoothly, as designed. But as a culture, many things we do curtail the stomach acid production. You can support more effective digestion for heartburn relief by practicing the following techniques consistently.

  • Stay hydrated. Stomach acid is, after all, a fluid. The body cannot make fluids out of thin air. Since your body is eloquently intelligent, it will prioritize blood manufacture over stomach acid synthesis. That make sense, because blood is more critical in the short run to your survival.
  • Engage in regular practices to dissipate stress throughout the day. You cannot be in two nervous system modes simultaneously. Rest-and-digest simply is not compatible with fight-or-flight. If you are uptight, deadline-focused, task-oriented, and performance-driven, your body will divert resources away from digestion on purpose! You must breathe deeply, be present, and calm yourself if you hope to have adequate digestive secretions.
  • Don’t dilute your meals. Sure, it’s fine to have a sip of water with your food. But don’t depend on your beverage to moisten your food and wash it down. That’s what saliva is for! It is best to drink most of your water between meals. If your food seems too dry, chew it more!

Use Caution with Commercial Heartburn Relief

You’re not likely to find a long-term solution to a chronic heartburn problem by buying an over-the-counter product. After all, heartburn is not a deficiency of Prilosec! There are several issues with reducing your stomach acid regularly for a chronic reflux problem.

First, as mentioned above, you require good acidity to break down, or denature, proteins. Imagine that you have a big ball of yarn that you need to snip into little pieces. It would make sense for you to unravel the ball before trying to cut it.  Preparing proteins for your use works similarly. First, your body has to unravel, or denature, the strand. Then it breaks that strand into amino acids that can be used to build bones and muscles, make blood cells, create antibodies, or synthesize hormones. Denaturing occurs in a high acid environment.

Second, you need adequate stomach acid to absorb vitamin B12. This vitamin is important to sustain your energy, boost your mood, prevent memory loss, and maintain heart health. The cells that release stomach acid also release Intrinsic Factor, an essential component that binds to B12 so that you can absorb it. Suppress stomach acid and you suppress Intrinsic Factor.

Third, “it takes a lot of acid to dissolve a rock.” Minerals just are not bioavailable to you in a low-acid environment. The calcium for bones & teeth, potassium for heart health, magnesium for anxiety, iron for red blood cells, and zinc for immunity require that you not block stomach acid long-term.

Finally, bile and enzyme secretion depend on high acidity. Good digestion isn’t just about the stomach. You also need enzymes from the pancreas and brush border of the intestines, and bile from the liver. But these are triggered by a very acid pH when the stomach dumps its contents into the duodenum.

So, using a product that you have seen advertised may bring short-term symptomatic heartburn relief, but may create further health problems downstream.

Still Need Help?

Sometimes there are food sensitivities, anatomical abnormalities, or nutrient deficiencies at play that prevent you from getting heartburn relief. I have tools to do the detective work, so you can get the the bottom of your problem. Reach out today if you want a more detailed work up to figure out your unique triggers.

January Lecture: Help! I'm Hangry!

Stop Being Hangry 5 Ways

Want to stop being hangry? Do you feel like a dragon when you get hungry. Help is here for the snarky creature you become. Your irritability happens because your blood sugars drop too far. But that doesn’t mean you should grab a candy bar or eat every 2-3 hours. On the contrary, fueling yourself with well-spaced traditional meals may be more effective to help you stop being hangry.

Eat a Balanced Breakfast

When you break your fast is not as important as how your break your fast. It is true that eating sooner than later definitely brings relief if you want to stop being hangry. But having a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for your first meal of the day weighs in more heavily to maintain your blood sugar balance. Your mocha and muffin actually exacerbate your grouchy crankiness. They drive your blood sugars abnormally high and set you up for an even greater crash. This starts of cycle of alternating highs and lows for the day.

So, for breakfast, consider a combination carbs, fats, and proteins to keep you running smoothing for hours. For example, you might try one of these combinations:

  • Oats, protein powder, and chia seeds, with (nut) butter, cream, or coconut milk
  • Whole grain sprouted toast with ham, swiss, and poached egg
  • Cottage cheese, strawberries, hemp seed & pistachios on whole grain toast
  • Scrambled egg, black beans, cheese and salsa in a corn tortilla
  • Fried egg, smoked salmon & avocado on a sweet potato half
  • Greek yogurt, ricotta, lemon zest, almonds, berries, and chia seeds
  • Sausage patty, pineapple ring, and cheese in a lettuce wrap

Stop Being Hangry with Smart Snacking

When the hunger dragon strikes, your urge might be to snarf a bag of cookies or chips. However, combining an unrefined fat (such as nuts or seeds) with a slow-burning carbohydrate (such as a vegetable) will stabilize your blood sugars and keep you fueled longer. Therefore, wise combinations of whole foods stop you from being hangry. Here are some suggestions:

  • Strawberries & pistachios
  • Pico de gallo & boiled egg
  • Baby carrots & hummus
  • Celery & sunflower seed butter
  • Snap peas & tahini
  • Mandarin oranges & guacamole
  • Cherry tomatoes & olives
  • Banana & walnuts
  • Whole grain cracker & smoked salmon
  • Blueberries & Greek yogurt (Fage Total)
  • Dates & goat cheese

Count Quality as Much as Quantity

Many people think they must eat a low-carbohydrate diet in order to stop being hangry. Rather than reducing your carbohydrates, consider changing the type of carbohydrates you eat. Grab a handful of berries instead of a glass of juice in the morning. Build your pasta with squash or sweet potato instead of noodles. Choose a whole fruit instead of pastries when you want something sweet. Maximize your vegetable intake. Avoid sugary, sweetened beverages, products made with refined flour, and commercial snack foods. Instead, choose plant foods in their natural form that don’t come with a nutrition label: whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and especially vegetables.

Don’t Skimp on Natural Fats

You may have been taught to eat a low-fat diet. Unfortunately, to satiate your hunger, you have tried to fill up on crackers, chips, sodas, and other processed foods. These are like kindling on your metabolic fire. They flare up in a burst of energy, then fade away quickly into ashes. On the other hand, fats are like logs. They burn long and slow. That doesn’t mean you should eat fries and fry sauce to stop being hangry. Nature’s foods are naturally balanced with fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Milk, eggs, meat, nuts, and seeds all have fats that work in harmony with your body. So capitalize on foods such as olives, avocados, butter, pastured and wild-caught meats, and other traditional foods to keep your blood sugars balanced.

Lower Your Stress to Stop Being Hangry

Did you know that stress can wreak more havoc on blood sugars than a poor diet? When you are under pressure, you need a ready source of energy to fight your dragons. Of course, this sets up cravings for fast fuel: empty carbohydrates. So, if you want to stop being hangry, you might need to take a few deep breaths and get back in control of your stress.

watermelon & lemon are foods that cool

Foods That Cool

Foods that cool the body are more vital in the summer than foods that keep the kitchen cool. Just as you need coolant in your car to drive across the desert mid-day, you must also have “coolant” in your body to keep from overheating. Below are three tips to for finding and eating foods that cool the body in the heat.

Don’t Put a Match in the Tank

While it is true that you probably don’t feel like cooking when the temperatures outside skyrocket, running through the drive-up window for a meal may be even worse. We could compare that meal to a match inside your car’s gas tank.

Fast foods and processed foods have two strikes against them. First, they are inflammatory – they create more fire in your body. Partly this is because they alter the microbes in your gut. Dr. Edwin McDonald of the University of Chicago Department of Medicine suggests that you avoid foods you couldn’t make at home, such as corn chips.

Second, processed foods are dehydrating. Did you know that most products made with flour have a moisture content of less than 10%? Therefore, they rob your body of water in order to digest them. When you become dehydrated, you have more difficulty regulating your temperature and staying cool enough. In this post about fast foods that don’t rot, Serious Eats posits that it is the dryness of certain fast food burgers that inhibits mold growth.

By contrast, foods that cool have high water content and are anti-inflammatory. But just eating a cooling food here or there will not do the trick. Cooling foods must be part of a long-term lifestyle.

Start with Coolant

To regulate its temperature, your body’s primary need is for water. But perhaps drinking plain water is boring or unsatisfying to you. Do you like fizz and flavor? I suggest that you grab sparkling water if you like carbonation, add an herbal tea bag for flavor (and electrolytes), and sprinkle in some powdered glycine (an amino acid) if you you need a sweetener.  But you don’t just have to drink your water. You can slurp it, crunch it, and swap it!

  • Slurp your water: Bone broths are very hydrating. Not only are they mostly water, they also contain many electrolytes to help you hold onto your hydration. There’s no sense in gulping down lots of fluids, just to end up urinating them off. If a tall mug of broth sounds unappetizing for your summer picnic, consider a broth-based cold soup, such as this refreshing gazpacho.
  • Crunch your water: High water content foods, such as melons, leafy greens, and cucumbers are perfect for slaking your thirst and hydrating your body. As a bonus, they require no cooking! An entree such as this roasted peach and arugula salad might be just perfect for a hot summer evening. Another tip is to blend frozen watermelon into your beverage. Pink lemonade, anyone?
  • Swap your water: Exchange flour products for vegetables. For example, you can replace commercial chips with thin-sliced jicama, and trade out conventional noodles for spiralized vegetables, which are much more hydrating and much less inflammatory. A great weeknight dinner could be butternut squash pasta smothered in pesto and topped with rotisserie chicken.

Remember Foods That Cool

Yes, melons and cucumbers are hydrating. But other foods can help cool the body, too.

  • Anti-inflammatory foods will take down some of your fire: Pineapple and papaya have proteolytic enzymes that help “digest” inflammation. Why not sip a pineapple-cucumber-basil smoothie and get the best of both anti-inflammatory and hydrating foods?
  • Foods with cooling properties quell your heat from the inside out: Mint has a reputation for being able to lower body heat. I like these suggestions from blogger Elizabeth Rider to add more mint to your repertoire.
  • Citrus fruits help break down fats that warm the body: Especially use lemons and limes abundantly. Mix fresh-squeezed lemon juice with olive oil for an easy salad dressing, stir some orange zest into your morning oatmeal, blend limes into your morning smoothie, sip a lemon-ginger tea with your meal, or juice limes into marinades for grilled meats. My favorite use is to squeeze the juice of 1 lime into a fruity sorbet made from 1 avocado and 1 cup of ripe frozen berries.
  • High-electrolyte foods retain the water that keeps you cool: coconut water is particularly high in electrolytes. I like to add a splash of coconut water to my water bottle, or blend it into a smoothie.
chicken basted with a summertime marinade

Summertime Marinades & Sauces

Summertime marinades and sauces add flavor without heating up the kitchen! Grill, stir-fry or pressure cook your meat and vegetables without sacrificing taste. Add versatility by using the same meat, but a different sauce, or the same sauce, but a different meat.

Summertime Marinade and Sauce Templates

Choose one of the combinations below. Make a few tablespoons if you are eating by yourself, or a few cups if you are feeding a crowd!

  • Pure maple syrup & dijon mustard (in equal parts)
  • Soy sauce & honey (in equal parts). Spike with grated ginger and minced garlic
  • Orange juice concentrate & olive oil in equal parts. Season with nutmeg & allspice
  • Coconut milk with curry paste to your taste preference. Add depth with fish sauce & extra chili flakes
  • Olive oil and lime juice in a 2:1 ratio, flavored with taco seasoning 
  • Chili sauce and soy sauce in 2:1 ratio
  • Pesto – just that. Dilute w/ olive oil or chicken broth if needed
  • Honey & lime in 2:1 a ratio. Spice up with chipotle and/or cilantro

Ideas for Using Your Summertime Marinades and Sauces

Pick one, two, or all three methods!

  1. Whisk up one of the summertime marinades or sauces in a ziplock bag. Add your meat, and let sit in the refrigerator for a couple hours at least, or even better overnight.
  2. Baste one of the summertime marinades or sauces over your meat and vegetables while they are cooking.
  3. Drizzle one of the summertime marinades or sauces over your meal when you are ready to serve.

Note: if you find your recipe makes a product that is too thin, add a little cornstarch (perhaps a tablespoon) to it and simmer it in a saucepan on the stove just until slightly thickened.

These Summertime Marinades and Sauces Work for Any Type of Protein

Whether you are prefer vegan protein – such as tempeh, tofu, or plant-based patties – or whether you love animal protein, these recipes perk up any entree! Use them with fish, shellfish, pork, chicken, beef, or wild game. You can even serve them with meatless meal, such as oven-roasted vegetables, or rice & bean dishes.

Fruity low-sugar lemonade as a thirst quencher

Thirst Quenchers For Sweat and Sun

Thirst quenchers are what you need when the heat’s on! We have some easy, refreshing thirst quenchers free of added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial flavors and colors. They will help you hydrate for sunny and sweaty days.

Why Not Drink Soda and Sports Drinks as Thirst Quenchers?

We all love soda. It’s sweet, cheap, and convenient. But Irina Todorov, a Wellness and Preventative Medicine Physician with the Cleveland Clinic, points out that our number one killer, heart disease, is highly associated with sugary beverages. “The more regular soda cans per day we drink, the more likely we are to die from heart disease,” says Dr. Todorov.

So, what about diet soda as a thirst quencher? Truthfully, it’s just as bad. Penn Medicine reports that zero-calorie sodas actually cause more weight gain than regular soda, and increase your risk for diabetes and stroke by as much as 50%.

As for electrolyte-containing sports drinks, their sugar concentration can actually block your efforts to hydrate, according to this study. 

What’s a Thirsty Soul to Do?

Tomato and cucumber can be hydrating

Since your body is primarily made up of water, the obvious way to slake your thirst is to drink water. US News reports that if you are resting, you need to drink half your body weight in ounces. But exercise and extra weight can increase that baseline requirement, as explained in this article. Therefore, you may need 12 glasses or more per day, instead of the 6-8 you’re consuming.

However, plain water is just not as tasty or exciting as other thirst quenchers on the market, right? Don’t worry, there are many ways to get water without actually drinking it!

  • Puree a seedless watermelon, and pour the liquid into popsicle molds to freeze. Then you can suck your hydration!
  • Drink cucumber juice, spiked with fresh, crushed mint leaves. Cucumbers are 90% water and have a much lower sugar content than fruits. (As stated above, sugar can inhibit hydration.) The mint increases flavor appeal and has a cooling quality.
  • Slurp a broth-based soup, such as this tasty summer gazpacho. Bone broth is high in electrolytes. Therefore you are less likely to urinate off its water content. Electrolytes help you retain water for cellular hydration.
  • Swap out some of your carbs for vegetables. Since highly processed foods are less than 10% water, and yet vegetables are upwards of 80% water, you can hydrate by making some simple sustitutions. Snack on carrots, not crackers. Use spiralized vegetables, such as squash or zucchini, in place of pasta. Satisfy your cravings with sweet, juicy grapes instead of cookies. Crunch on celery instead of chips.
  • Eat more salads. Lettuce, spinach, and cabbage are among the top water-containing vegetables.
  • Sip coconut water. High in electrolytes, coconut water also has higher water content than fruit juices. It is healthier than most sports drinks, because it contains no added sugars and no artificial flavors or colors.

But I Want Fizzy Thirst Quenchers!

Mineral water as a thirst quencher

That’s easy, too! Flavor a bottle of sparkling mineral water, such as Gerolsteiner or Pellegrino, with a splash of citrus juice for a Hollywood spritzer. Or try my favorite technique: drop a fruit-flavored herbal tea bag into the mineral water and let it cold-infuse. If your beverage is not sweet enough, you can add powdered glycine, a sweet-tasting amino acid.

Even simpler, just buy a bottle of kombucha. It’s not only a good thirst quencher, it’s probiotic profile is good for your gut, too.

But if you’re still craving a true soda, you can drink stevia-sweetened Zevia, then dilute it over time with sparkling water.

Celebration Beverages

special occasion watermelon lemonade

For that evening social, the birthday party, the family reunion, or the date at the pool, you can still hydrate in a healthy way.

Strawberry Milkshake for 2

Romantic and refreshing

  • 1/2 pound strawberries
  • 1 c. coconut milk
  • 2 Tb. coconut butter
  • 2 Tb. collagen power or plant-based protein powder
  • 8 ice cubes

Blend until creamy. Pour into glasses and serve with straws.

Pink Lemonade

Low-sugar and appealing

  • 1/2 c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1 3/4 c. water, divided
  • 1 1/2 c. frozen fruit, such as watermelon or raspberries

Combine the lemon juice, honey, and 1/4 cup of the water in a small saucepan and warm slightly until honey dissolves. Blend with remaining water (ice cold) and frozen fruit. Strain if desired. Makes 1 quart.

 

Which diet is right to lose weight?

Which Diet is Right For You?

With so many diets to choose from, how do you know which diet is right for you? Is there one diet that is better than all the others? Which diet guarantees the most weight loss? Which diet insures that you will be your healthiest? Let me give you some straight talk so that you can cut through all the marketing to discern what you really need.

It’s Not About the Weight.

The answer doesn’t matter if you’re asking the wrong question. Is “Which diet is right?”  even a productive question? Perhaps, first, you should ask, “Do I really need to go on a diet? Why do I need to go on a diet?”

Chances are you feel like you need to lose some weight. There is an assumption here: “If I lose some weight, I’ll be healthier.” But I’m telling you, that’s backward! In reality, if you get healthy first, then you’ll lose some weight! We tend to think that we carry around those excess pounds simply because we haven’t exercised enough yet to compensate for all the calories we ate. But if that simple calorie-in, calorie-out math were correct, there wouldn’t be a glut weight loss and exercise programs on the market, because we’d all be skinny!

There is an assumption here: “If I lose some weight, I’ll be healthier.” But I’m telling you, that’s backward! In reality, if you get healthy first, then you’ll lose some weight!

Which Diet is Right for You? It Depends

The reason that you diet and workout like crazy and still can’t get those pounds off is because there’s an imbalance, impairment, or blockage somewhere in your body. Your body is not stupid. In fact, your body is absolutely brilliant! It compensates precisely and marvelously to all the conditions under which you ask it to live, keeping you alive and functioning in spite of whatever stresses, toxins, illnesses, and food-like substances you encounter. It may be working around inflammation, or poor digestion, or skewed hormones. But it adjusts and optimizes what is available to keep you as resilient as possible.

Therefore, in order to understand which diet is right for you, it’s imperative to understand what unique dynamics are going on inside of your body. Just because your friend lost weight on a keto diet doesn’t mean that your gall bladder is strong enough for you to process that many fats. Even though your mom is a vegan doesn’t mean that you will make enough hemoglobin, antibodies, enzymes or hormones without animal protein in your diet. And while your wife eats low carb, it doesn’t mean you can compete in sports without a few more starches to burn.

Four Hormones Are Key

Truthfully, you are not really in control of your weight. Your hormones are. If you are fighting stubborn weight loss, chances are that at least one of these four hormones is out of kilter. So, which diet is right for you will depend on your levels of thyroid, estrogen, insulin, and cortisol. If you focus on bringing the hormones into harmony, you will not only settle at a better weight, you will feel stronger and more vibrant, too.

Truthfully, you are not in charge of your weight. Your hormones are.

The Right Diet for Poor Thyroid Function

If your thyroid is sluggish, so is your metabolism…and your digestion…and everything else. Of course your body holds on to your energy stores! It’s an insurance policy against loss of fuel. For that reason, you need MORE nutrition, not less if your thyroid hormones are out of balance. Low calorie diets are stressful to the body, and stress is very damaging to thyroid function. So is hard-core, extreme exercise. Consequently, it’s time to stop dieting and exercising if you need to support your thyroid.

Six top nutrients for thyroid health are iron, selenium, zinc, iodine, protein, and Vitamin A. Incidentally, these nutrient require robust digestion. Minerals are hard to absorb, and protein is tough to break down. If you have wimpy digestion, dieting is not going to augment your thyroid function. Work with a practitioner to prime digestion first!

Eat for Estrogen Balance

Did you know that fat tissue is endocrine tissue? In other words, fat tissue makes hormones! So, if you are more than 20 or 30 pounds overweight, there’s a likelihood that you are making more estrogen than your body needs. Estrogen tends to increase weight gain. Therefore, the more weight you gain, the more you’re likely to gain. Dieting is not going to fix that.

The right diet for estrogen dominance is one that supports the liver. It’s your liver that has to break down all the estrogen for elimination. Super foods here would be cruciferous vegetables, high-fiber foods, and B vitamins, especially the active form of vitamin B6, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P). Most detrimental to estrogen excess would be foods that contain “xenoestrogens,” sustances that either mimic or stimulate estrogen in the body. You can find a list of xenoestrogens here.

The Right Diet For High Insulin Levels

You don’t have to be diabetic in order to have high fasting insulin. In fact, insulin may be elevated decades before rising glucose shows up on your bloodwork, even at pre-diabetic stages. You can have chronically high insulin because of ongoing stress in your life, excess calories, or simply too many refined carbohydrates in your lifestyle. Ask for an insulin test the next time you have annual blood samples drawn for lab testing. Functional practitioners consider any result in the upper two-thirds of the reference range to be unhealthy.

An appropriate dietary approach for correcting hyper insulin production is a low-glycemic, high fiber one. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s high or low fat, or even high or low carb, so much as it matters the type of carbs you eat. Focus on vegetables! Stay away from foods made with flour, eliminate all sweeteners, and implement some kind of intermittent fasting or restricted time window eating if you are able. You must make dramatic and sustainable changes for about six months to give your organs an abrupt and extended holiday from this deadly metabolic process.

You must make dramatic and sustainable changes for about six months to give your organs an abrupt and extended holiday from this deadly metabolic process.

Correcting Abnormal Cortisol Hormone

Stress is a killer for normal cortisol production. If you feel that you are wired all the time, or tired all the time, you may need to investigate your cortisol levels. But stress is not just emotional! You can be stressed by a hidden food sensitivity, heavy metal toxicity, an imbalance of gut microbes, or a simmering infection, such as gingivitis.

For that reason, the best diet for cortisol health is the one that resolves your unique physiological needs. It may be a high fiber diet, or a dairy-free, gluten-free one. For someone else, it could be a low-starch diet, or one high in polyphenols. There is no one-size-fits-all diet! A functional approach to your needs is best in order to customize a program that works for you.

 

Do I Need to Quit Sugar?

Should you quit sugar? There is evidence that sugar is detrimental to health. But are sweeteners really harming you? Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who can eat treats without it impacting your well being. Or maybe you think sugar is okay in moderation. My 3-part quiz can help you evaluate whether you should quit sugar.

Sugar is the Perfect Lover

Americans are having an affair with sugar. And why not? It looks good, tastes good, smells good, never criticizes you, and keeps you company when you are lonely. But data from the market research firm Euromonitor – reported in the Washington Post – suggest that the love may border on lunacy. The United States consumes more caloric sweeteners (including cane and beet sugar, corn syrup, agave, maple syrup, and honey) than any other nation! This statistic does not included naturally occuring sugars, such as those in whole fruit or milk.

The Unites States leads the nations needing to quit sugar

So, if the nation is adding almost twice as much sugar to its food as France, is your personal intake as moderate as you deem? The Diabetes Council reports that sugar consumption rose more than 130 pounds per person per year in over the last century (1915 to 2011). That means per capita, we are eating more than 500 calories per day from our sweeteners – not including artificial ones!

 

Sugar consumption is up 130 pounds per capita

Part 1: Quit Sugar if Your Appetite is Unsatisfied

Do you feel the need to snack between meals? When you finish a meal, do you feel that something was missing? Are you plagued with cravings, in spite of regular meals and high caloric intake? Do you sometimes binge, or feel your appetite is out of control.

These signs tell you to quit sugar for two reasons:

  • Your blood sugars are crashing in response to an earlier spike, leaving you desperate to stoke up your metabolic fire once again. In other words, instead of a warm, lasting burn of energy, you are having a hot blast of kindling, followed by ashes.
  • Hundreds of nutrients you need to thrive – from essential fatty acids and amino acids, to minerals and antioxidants are missing, so your hunger spirals to greater and greater heights. Not only does sugar lack the essential “food” for your health, it robs you of those nutrients in order to metabolize it.

Part 2: Quit Sugar if Your Energy is Unstable

Are you exhausted, but you can’t sleep? Do your reserves run out and leave you shaky or jittery between meals? Are you drowsy after eating? Do you feel sluggish when you wake up or lethargic through the day. Does it seem that you just can’t muster the energy to get through the day, but then you’re wired at night?

Having adequate and level energy is a factor of blood sugar balance. Therefore, roller coaster energy can be a reflection of drastically fluctuating blood sugars. What you need is not more sugar! When you quit sugar, you allow your body to burn fat instead.

Part 3: Quit Sugar if Your Moods are Imbalanced

“Who are you when you’re hungry?” Adjectives such as ornery, snippy, grouchy, feisty, whiny, loopy, dramatic, and impatient are more than just a Snickers campaign! Do you feel irritable, depressed, anxious, angry, apathetic, or nervous almost every day? Yes, everyone has a bad day now and then. But are these negative moods pervasive in your life?

Being “hangry” happens when blood sugars drop too low. You have to ask yourself, “Why are they dropping?” A bowling ball rolling down the alley continues on a smooth path. But if you lob it in the air, it will stike the floor with intensity! The higher the launch, the greater the fall. As for apathy, that occurs when your cells block sugar because of a condition called insulin resistance where you are flooded with too much sugar all the time. Quit sugar to regain a more even temperament.

"Hangry" is an extreme drop in blood sugars

Bonus Question: Do You Struggle With Weight?

Often, weight is a sign of inflammation in the body. Sugar is inflammatory! So if you quit sugar, not only will you immediately remove excess calories from your diet, you will also take away some of the gasoline you’ve been pouring on the “match.” In my experience, clients can often easily drop 10 to 20 pounds just by removing all sweeteners from their diet.

Do you need help overcoming your love affair with sugar? I can help!

Eggs for a sugar-free Easter

Sugar-Free Easter

Create a sugar-free Easter without depriving yourself of treats! Use only whole, natural, nutrient-dense foods, and celebrate in health! These sugar-free Easter treats do not use artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes, such as honey, agave, and maple syrup. Eating strong does not mean you have to give up the joys and traditions of special days.

Sugar-Free Cookies

Sugar-free Easter macaroons

Use dried fruit to transform the ordinary cookie into something spectacularly health-supporting.

Apricot Macaroons: First, blend 1/4 cup dried apricots with 1/2 cup thick coconut milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Then, in a separate bowl, mix 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut with 2 tablespoons flour (all-purpose, gluten-free, or almond) and a pinch of salt. Finally, add the blended apricot mixture to the bowl with the coconut shreds. After mixing well, scoop by tablespoon onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Not-Sugar Cookies: To begin, puree 1/2 cup of golden raisins with 1 egg. Next, mix the puree into 1 cup of fresh-ground nut butter (cashew, almond, hazelnut, etc.) along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Flavor with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Roll into balls and set onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, until set and lightly browned.

Easter Candies

Certainly, no American celebration exists without chocolate! It’s incredibly easy to make these truffles. You can even roll them into an egg shape for your sugar-free Easter festivities.

Sugar-free Easter truffles

Before you add any other ingredients, warm 1/2 cup of coconut milk or heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it begins to steam. While you are waiting, chop three 3-ounce chocolate bars (70-85% cacao) into 1/2-inch squares. When the milk/cream is warm enough, remove from heat and stir in the chocolate pieces. Keep stirring until the chocolate is all melted. Now, add a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of flavoring: vanilla, raspberry extract, or mint extract. Chill until firm – a few hours – then roll into desired shapes. Optional: roll in cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or unsweetened coconut flakes.

Sugar-free Easter Cake

Pear and Parsnip Cake

Similar to a banana bread, this Pear & Parsnip cake is a beautiful finale to your sugar-free Easter feast.

Start by peeling and grating 1 parsnip. Set aside. Warm 1/2 cup coconut oil, palm shortening or pastured lard until softened. Blend your softened fat with 6 cooked pear halves. Following that step, combine 1 cup flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, glulten free, or almond) in a bowl with 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Finally, mix the grated parsnip and the pear mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Spread in a parchment-lined loaf pan and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 1 hour. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Pretty Spring Ice Creams

Raspberry Sorbet

photo credit: Mordi Photographie

Serve your sugar-free Easter cake with a scoop of coconut ice cream! Or skip the cake, and serve a colorful, spring raspberry sorbet. Unlike the coconut ice cream, it is pleasingly light.

Coconut Ice Cream:

Blend 2 cans of chilled full-fat coconut milk with 1 cup medjool dates until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla or maple flavoring and pour into pre-chilled ice cream freezer bowl. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Raspberry Sorbet:

Blend 2 cups frozen raspberries with 2 ripe avocadoes until smooth. If desired, add 2 Tablespoons of lime juice and 2 Tablespoons melted honey. Pour into pre-chilled ice cream freezer bowl. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Brownie Bites Anyone?

Sugar-free Brownies

Who says you need jelly beans for Easter? Why not put little brownie balls into your Sugar-free Easter basket instead? Without a doubt, this is the fastest brownie recipe I have every made.

First, measure 1 cup fresh-ground peanut butter (no additives) into a bowl. Then blend 3 bananas with 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lastly, beat banana mixture into peanut butter. Spread into a sprayed 9″ x 9″ baking dish and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Alternately, you can scoop the batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes (You may need to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour to make the batter thick enough for this.)

Having Trouble Making Sugar-Free a Habit?

Perhaps you want a healthier lifestyle but struggle to control those cravings. If you think your will power is too weak, let me empower you with tools to transform your health. Often, I find that cravings are more physiological than psychological.

Tuning Immunity helps prevent virus transmission

Tune Immunity 10 Ways

It’s vital to tune immunity so that you are not susceptible to pathogens. But you also need to regulate your immune system so it doesn’t over-react when it faces a challenge. You want it neither weak nor aggressive. For example, you want to be fit enough to fight off COVID-19, yet not have such an antagonistic response that it precipitates a cytokine storm. In other words, you don’t just want to boost immunity, you want to balance it.

Hydration is Your First Defense

#1 Drink plenty of pure, clean water. No, I don’t mean start drinking water when you get a sore throat. I mean keep your mucus membranes hydrated all the time. Before you even activate that part of your immune system that creates antibodies, a germ first has to get past the nasal passages, the throat, the lungs, and the gut. These are all lined with special membranes designed to provide you protection at the site of first contact with pathogens. Your mucosa is the largest component of your immune system. If you are drinking more soda, juice, coffee, tea, and alcohol than pure water, you are compromising your protection!

Immune-Tuning Triad

The pillars of restorative sleep, frequent movement, and copious amounts of fresh air are foundational for immune balance. However, they are also the most-compromised health tenets in our society today.

#2 Sleep: You know high-quality sleep is vital to wellness. While your body is lying still on the outside, inside it is processing toxins, repairing damaged tissue, generating white blood cells for immunity, and eliminating the effects of stress. Unfortunately you may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking too early. The best advice I can give is to make bedtime earlier! That includes an hour for switching gears by turning down lights, dampening the stresses of the day, and stopping stimulating screen time. Aim for hours (plural!) of sleep before midnight.

#3 Movement: Your lymph system requires muscle contractions for good flow. Of course, you need good lymphatic function to release immune cell “soldiers” that monitor and destroy invaders. It stands to reason that more consistent movement throughout the day is better than working out for an hour, then sitting the rest of the day. Such a pattern amounts to movement only 6% of your waking hours. Make a point to walk more, bend more and stretch more throughout the day.

#4 Fresh air: Indoor air can become quite toxic due to outgassing from textiles and chemicals and building materials.  This is especially true during the cold months, even in our own homes! Taking away unnecessary burdens from your body helps it maintain an appropriate response to true threats.

Tune Immunity with Vitamins

#5 Take your vitamins. I’m not talking about Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E. Those are secondary nutrients. Nourish yourself with a full spectrum of these primary nutrients: Vitamin J (joy), Vitamin P (play), Vitamin Q (quiet) and Vitamin T (touch). Without them, we stay predominantly in a sympathetic nervous system mode of fight-or-flight, which suppresses immunity. How can you thrive if you are surrounded by drudgery, stress, noise, and isolation. While I don’t suggest a hedonistic lifestyle, there must be a balance of recreation and pleasure to rejuvenate you from the necessities of providing for yourself.

Tune Immunity with Breath

#6 Mindful breathing. The fastest way to increase immune cells is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Mindful breathing is the key to accessing the this nervous system mode. While you may not be able to meditate or do yoga every time you trigger your fight-or-flight nervous system response, you can always deepen your inhales and lengthen your exhales. That simple act of mindfully shifting away from short, shallow breaths brings you back into a more calm, restorative nervous system state. The more time you spend in parasympathetic mode, the healthier your immune system will be. So, make a point to check and adjust your breath frequently throughout the day.

HRV Reflects Immune Balance

#7 Increase your Heart Rate Variability. What’s that? Heart Rate Variability, or HRV, is how much change in time there is between all the heart beats in any given minute or hour. For example, 0.9 seconds might elapse between two beats, then 1.15 seconds between two other beats. This is a great way to measure your ability to switch out of fight-or-flight into “rest-and-digest.” That’s because your heart rate variability will not increase if your body does not feel safe enough relax.

Dr. Marcelo Campos explains, “If a person’s system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high. In other words, the healthier the autonomic nervous system the faster you are able to switch gears, showing more resilience….A low HRV is  associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease.”

So, how do you tap into a higher HRV? Stimulate your vagus nerve regularly! This wandering nerve that connects brain to larynx, heart, lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines, is the messenger that tells your organs whether to gear up for battle or gear down for healing. You can stimulate it by singing, gargling, laughing, snuggling, praying, getting a massage, expressing gratitude, or engaging in other health-supporting activities outlined in this post.

(If you want to know what your HRV measures, you can wear a heart monitor with a blue tooth function that connects to an HRV measuring app.)

Tune Immunity with Supplements

#8 Supplement with zinc and omega-3 fats. There’s been much debate about the efficacy of Vitamin D. But no one is debating that your immune system needs zinc to function optimally. Yet, zinc continues to be one of the top nutrient needs in America, along with omega-3 fats, which are vital to having anti-inflammatory action in the body. Additionally, scientists have found that these essential fatty acids actually signal immune cells to behave in certain ways. With a deficiency of these two imperative nutrients, you are much more likely to have an out-of-control response to a pathogen.

Contact me to learn what forms and doses of these supplements to use.

Tune-up Systemic Imbalances

#9 Address your body’s imbalances. No system in the body works in a vacuum. Digestion, immunity, neurotransmission, detoxification, metabolism, and hormone balance all impact each other. When one system is skewed, the other systems have to compensate. So if your blood sugars aren’t balanced, if your thyroid function runs on the low side, if you don’t have a smooth bowel movement once a day, if you function under stress all the time without appropriate breaks, then you are “going into battle wounded.” I suggest you work with a functional practitioner to assess and normalize these functions so that your immune function isn’t pulled out of kilter.

Don’t Forget Your Produce

#10 Your immune system is a nutrient hog! It needs much more than carbs, fats, and proteins. It depends on micronutrients, especially polyphenols. These are a family of more than 8,000 plant chemicals that offer their protective qualities not only to the seeds, fruits, shoots, and roots they are found in, but to you as well! Make sure that you are getting a diverse, copious intake of fruits and vegetables. Challenge yourself to eat a rainbow of natural colors every day. From personal experience, I feel my very best when I get 3 servings of vegetables at every meal.

Of course, we are all at different points in our health journey. You may already be implementing some of these 10 tips. You may feel overwhelmed at implementing others. No one is perfect at doing all of them all of the time, and no one can change all of their weaknesses at once. Start where you are, pick the most attainable or most needful area, and work on that. Any improvement to one area will bring greater resiliency to your immunity and your other body systems as well.

 

woman with mask

COVID-19 Considerations

Consider how resilient you are to COVID-19 or any viral infection. Whether or not you have had the SARS-COV-2 virus infect you, you need strong immune function. Regardless of whether you choose the vaccine or not, you want your body to respond well to threats. Even if you are not concerned about Post-COVID Syndrome, you want to be resilient when germs attack your body.

Consider Your Innate Immune Response to COVID-19

Your innate immune system is on the front lines for any viral battle. The key components of this system include your body’s natural barriers: your skin, and the mucous linings of your gut, lungs, and nasal passages. Even the membrane that surrounds your brain is part of this innate system.

If you have enhanced intestinal permeability (EIP), your barriers are compromised. You likely already have increased levels of the cytokine Interleukin-6 (IL-6). Therefore, you are more susceptible to the inflammation of a high viral load causing a cytokine storm. EIP is common where many food sensitivities are present and is an underlying condition of autoimmunity.

To be strong for either a vaccination or an infection of COVID-19, consider changes you can make to strengthen your body’s barriers.

Heal Barrier Function

Looking at Vitamin D as a consideration for COVID-19 immunity, sufficient levels of this vitamin DO enhance the tight junctions in our skin, gut lining, and blood-brain barrier. One of the issues with Vitamin D supplements is that individuals take high doses. Taking too much at once can deplete magnesium and Vitamin A. Always, you must strive for balance in the body. Too much of one substance compromises others.

Also, too high of levels of vitamin D can suppress immunity. So, while low Vitamin D levels threaten barrier function, too much is just as dangerous. Work with a qualified practitioner to asses your need, and don’t just supplement indiscriminately.

Also, be mindful to hydrate, manage stress, and avoid unnecessary medication to maintain your body’s barriers. Eat whole, natural foods, and skirt the refined, processed oils. Be wary of sugars and foods that increase Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).

Consider Minerals for COVID-19 Resiliency

It is no secret that you need zinc to heal wounds. When you are fighting any virus, the tissues in your body are “wounded.” Further, when you are under stress chronically, your body allows more copper in place of zinc on purpose so that your can fight or flee better. But you need adequate zinc to maintain your immune function. So, whether or not you have been infected or vaccinated, you may want to test your zinc sufficiency. You can ask your practitioner to check your zinc levels.

Are you feeling anemic? When you have inflammation, your body upregulates a substance called hepcidin on purpose. Hepcidin keeps you from absorbing iron well. Your body knows that iron fuels microbial growth, so it wisely prohibits high iron levels. Insufficient iron in the presence of higher hepcidin could be a clue that you already have too many cytokines on the loose. Working to get to the root of chronic inflammation empowers you to be safer when threatened with a virus.

Your practitioner will want to compare serum iron, ferritin, and hemoglobin levels to ascertain your iron status.

Restorative Sleep for Resiliency

You need to sleep to heal. Your sleep hormone, melatonin, is also a powerful antioxidant that repairs damage from a viral battle. When you find yourself on the “long-haul” recovering from a viral infection, your body may commandeer tryptophan (an amino acid) to make more macrophages (white blood cells that devour viruses). Since you need tryptophan to make melatonin, you may find you can’t sleep well. While making more macrophages promotes your survival, it does not support your healing. Thus, you enter a downward spiral that is difficult to recover from.

For the short term, you may need additional protein (and the tryptophan precursor Vitamin B6) so that you can make both macrophages and melatonin. Your practitioner can give you appropriate supplementation guidelines. But to insure your resiliency before and after an infection, make sure you don’t short-change your sleep. Less than 8 hours per night puts you into a sleep deficit. Prioritize a restful night to support your health.