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girl with fever is not well

Top Tip to Stay Well During Pandemic

What’s the best way to stay well during the COVID-19 pandemic? Taking zinc or vitamin D supplements? Requesting hydrocholoquine treatments? Actually, my top recommendation to stay well is to minimize all sugar intake. Especially high fructose corn syrup.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t keep washing our hands, masking ourselves in crowded public places, and staying 6 feet away from others. If we’re already infected, we need to exercise care not to expose our fellowmen. In particular, we need to be mindful of those who may already have weakened immune systems. But in the long run, staying well is better than being sick and trying not to spread our germs. Wouldn’t you agree?

Sugar Hijacks Our Health

With regard to the current pandemic, there are at least 3 researched paths by which eating more sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup, increases both our risk for infection and our risk for a more severe outcome from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

First, sugar consumption increases insulin resistance. You understand that the higher the sweetness of your diet, the higher your insulin levels go to compensate. Eventually, your cells become resistant to this hormone. According to Benjamin Bikman, author of “Why We Get Sick,” insulin resistance is the fundamental factor in obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Of course, you know that these three conditions are the primary risk factors in COVID-19 infection and mortality. High fructose corn syrup, found in most soft drinks, is especially harmful. Gerald Shulman, professor at Yale University School of Medicine explains that, “Fructose is much more readily metabolized to fat in the liver than glucose is….[This] can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. NAFLD in turn leads to hepatic insulin resistance and type II diabetes.”

Can You Stay Well With A High-Sugar Diet?

There are more reasons to watch your sugar intake. Namely, elevated furin levels in your blood. Furin is a protein that SARS-CoV-2 hijacks to increase its infectivity. A 2018 study between researchers in Sweden and Finland found that over 4,000 participants with insulin resistance and diabetes had elevated furin.[1] The implication is that the greater your insulin resistance, the higher your furin levels. Further, the higher your furin levels, the greater your vulnerability to COVID-19.

Finally, sugar, particularly high fructose corn syrup, feeds the pentose phosphate pathway in your body. Researcher Chris Masterjohn describes a process in which the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses this pathway to replicate its RNA. “There is a strong biochemical argument suggesting that fructose,” he says, “would provide extra fuel to the growth of RNA viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. Fructose disproportionately feeds the part of the pathway that fuels viral growth.”

Eat Well to Stay Well

So what’s a sweet tooth to do? Here are some suggestions to minimize your sugar intake and help you stay well:

  • Transition from soft drinks to flavored water, using stevia-sweetened pop as a stepping stone, if needed.
  • Eat a breakfast of at least 15 grams of protein and 8 grams of fat to keep insulin low all day. If insulin spikes with your first meal, you are apt to have a reactionary blood sugar crash a few hours later. Inevitably, that crash instigates cravings. Soon, you are reaching for more insulin-spiking foods. Avoid the pattern by fueling with a low-carb meal first thing.
  • Snack on foods that contain natural fats and slow-absorbing carbohydrates. Maintain lower insulin levels throughout the day by reaching for smarter snacks instead of cookies, candies, and crackers. For example, munch on olives and vegetables or cheese and fruit. How about a hard-boiled egg with some grape tomatoes, or some nut butter on celery?
  • Supplemement with magnesium to improve your insulin sensitivity. When your insulin sensitivity increases, your cravings will lessen to some degree and you will be able to make healthier eating choices. You can work with a certified nutritional therapist to determine what form of magnesium to choose and how much to take.

[1]Fernandez C, Rysä J, Almgren P, et al. Plasma Levels of the Proprotein Convertase Furin and Incidence of Diabetes and Mortality. J Intern Med. 2018 Oct;284(4):377–387.

brands of fish sauce

Easy Basil Stir-Fry

Basil Stir-fry is easy, quick, and nutritious. For a dinner that comes together in a wink, try this popular Thai street food, also known as Pad Kaprow. Make it with chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp, and choose vegetables that fit your tastes.

The Benefits of This Easy Stir-Fry

  • Nutritional balance: In a single dish, you’ll get an appropriate balance not only of fats, carbs, and proteins, but also a healthy serving of phytonutrients from the herbs and vegetables. Additionally, this dish provides a nice harmony of the five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and umami.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Although basil has many beneficial properties, one of its top healthy traits is that it may help lower inflammation through its oils, eugenol, citronellol and linalool. Including plenty of vegetables to this dish enhances the anti-inflammatory benefit of the meal.
  • Immune boosting: If you include mushrooms in your easy stir-fry, especially shiitakes, you can count on their immune-enhancing characteristics.

Which Basil to Use

Thai basil, also known as holy basil or tulsi

Although the spicier Thai Holy Basil (Tulsi) suits this recipe best, feel free to use sweet Italian Basil instead if you cannot obtain the former. While sweet basil will give a different flavor profile, it will still be delicious. Adding perhaps a small amount of Thai basil to a bunch of sweet basil will provide the welcome licorice-like taste.

Thai basil has a more distinct flavor than Italian basil, similar to licorice or anise. It’s more savory and is a defining characteristic in Southeast Asian recipes. Because its sturdy leaves hold up well to longer cooking times, it’s the perfect punch for stewed dishes, soups, and stir-fries. Use it to spice up a dish with a heavy scent that has slight citrus notes.

A Note About Ingredients

  • Protein: Ground meats work best. If you’re not using a ground beef or sausage, cut meat into bite-size chunks. I personally enjoy sausage, but even vegan tempeh will work!
  • Soy Sauce: Traditional pad kaprow recipes use oyster sauce, soy sauce and dark soy sauce. To simplify the recipe and minimize ingredients, I have opted to stick with soy sauce only, spiked with a little molasses to give the characteristic thick sweetness of dark soy sauce.
  • Fish Sauce: Don’t scrimp here. This ingredient is important not only for saltiness, but for umami depth. I promise it tastes a hundred times better than it smells! I recommend traditionally-fermented Golden Boy or Red Boat fish sauce. After the you cook this easy stir-fry, you can add more if needed.
  • Palm Sugar: Extracted from the sap of various palm trees, including the sugar palm and the date palm, palm sap is boiled into a syrup, then crystallized. Coconut sugar is just one type of palm sugar. Palm sugar makes a good alternative to white sugar because it has been minimally processed and still retains many minerals, a few phytonutrients and some antioxidant properties. It has a lower glycemic index than white sugar.
  • Mushrooms: For flavor and immune-enhancement, shiitakes are your best bet, but oyster mushrooms and criminis are also good.
  • Beans or Pea pods: Be sure to add plenty to green to your easy stir-fry. They add aesthetics and polyphenols that will feed your beneficial gut microbiome. Polyphenols are antioxidants that help control inflammation. They are a major fuel source for your gut bugs.
  • Red and yellow bell peppers: These sweet peppers balance the savory taste of the mushrooms, add antioxidants to help with inflammation, and create a pleasing rainbow on your plate.
  • Water Chestnuts: Add these if you like a little crunch to offset the texture of the meat and rice.
  • Egg: This ingredient is optional, but for a truly traditional ethnic dish, fry in oil until crispy on the edges and serve on top of your stir-fry.

Easy Basil Stir-fry

This easy basil stir-fry infuses authentic Thai flavors into a dish that’s legendary over rice for a fast dinner you will crave.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Thai
Keyword: Basil, Beef, Chicken, Pork, Stir-fry
Servings: 4
Cost: $8

Equipment

  • Wok or skillet

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 lb. ground beef, pork, chicken, or shrimp
  • 2 red chilies, chopped (more or less for desired heat)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh vegetables (see ingredient notes, above)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, crushed
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 4 eggs, fried (optional)

Instructions

  • Melt the coconut oil in your wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the protein, garlic, and chilies. Stir-fry until protein changes color and is cooked through.
  • Mix in the chopped vegetables and continue stir-frying until they are fork-tender.
  • Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, molasses, water and palm sugar. Stir and cook until the palm sugar dissolves.
  • Mix in the basil leaves and cook just until fragrant and wilted.
  • Serve over warm rice. Top with fried egg, if desired.

 

female measures weight loss with measuring tape

10 Weight Loss Tips

Stepping on the scale, counting calories, and exercising more are old school tools for weight loss. If you’re feeling stuck, try these more effective measures for trimming down your body weight.

Measure fat loss, not weight loss

Since your body fluctuates 2 to 3 pounds daily, and loses weight in fits & starts, it seems futile to be constantly monitoring the scale. The scale isn’t a measure of health, anyway. A person can be very muscular and actually weigh more than someone who is “over-fat.” Therefore, it’s better to assess your progress in terms of fat loss. Use an article of clothing that your try on once every couple of weeks. If you are truly in better shape, your clothing will fit differently, even if can’t measure weight loss in pounds.

Eat fat to lose fat

Fats are necessary for life, so a fat-restricted diet will stress the body. Bodies under stress tend to hold onto their weight as a survival mechanism. Only when your body is convinced there is no threat, will it begin to release its reserves.

However, not all fats are created equal. Avoid chemically-extracted vegetable oils (soy, cottonseed, canola, safflower, and corn); they loose their antioxidant protection during processing and become oxidized. Oxidized oils are one of the top contributors to free radical damage to your body tissues. And damage = inflammation = stress. Also stay away from trans-fats; they make your cell membranes stiff and less able to take in nutrients and excrete wastes.

Good sources of fats include unprocessed raw nuts and seeds, butter from grass-fed cows, and virgin fats that are cold-pressed and unrefined.

Track sugars, not calories

Counting calories is not a natural or intuitive way of life. In fact, it seems a bit obsessive. It certainly isn’t something I would want to do for the next 25 or 30 years.  In my opinion, any weight loss plan needs to be sustainable in order to head off yo-yo dieting.

Additionally, calorie restriction suppresses thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is a fast-track to weight gain, not weight loss. So, eat plenty of protein and fat to increase satiety, stimulate fat-burning, and provide amino acids and fat-soluble vitamins to the thyroid.

The root barrier to weight loss, in many cases, is high insulin hormone. Unfortunately, you can still have insulin-driven fat storage on a restricted diet. So, if you’re going to monitor anything, let it be sugar. Your fat-free yogurt that seems such a healthy breakfast alternative may have the same amount of sugar as a Red Bull energy drink. Some smoothies have more sugar than Coke, and a medium Jamba Chocolate Moo’d  has more sugar than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Butter Pecan ice cream.

Differentiate between carbs

With all the media about ketogenic diets, it’s easy to think that carbohydrates are bad. However, they are not bad any more than a knife is. It can be very useful; or it can be very harmful, depending on how it is used. Obviously, a diet of high-sugar, low-nutrient carbs isn’t going to be very health-promoting. Too much bread, pasta, and cereal is going to lead to imbalance. But did you ever stop to think that fruits, vegetables, and legumes are carbohydrates, too?

A helpful way to think about carbohydrates is in terms of their calorie content and their potential to be absorbed into your bloodstream quickly. A food that is calorie-dense and quick-absorbing (such as a grain or a sweetener) is going to signal your body to store all that extra energy for a rainy day. Of course, energy storage is the antithesis of weight loss.

But calorie-light and slow-absorbing foods (such as vegetables) can be very beneficial. Medium-calorie carbohydrates, as long as they are slow-absorbing (whole fruit, legumes, nuts, and seeds), can also be helpful for a weight loss plan.

Be mindful of when you eat

Think of your car. After you gas it up, you can drive a long distance, or you can park it and keep the fuel in reserve for another time. The same principle applies for your body. If you want to burn the fuel, you can’t park yourself in a bed or chair for a great length of time and expect your meals to not become reserves. So, it’s best to front-load your meals. That is, eat bulk of your food when your are going to be most active. That’s because anything you don’t burn within 3 hours of eating is stored as fat. It doesn’t make sense to eat your heaviest meal just before bedtime. It’s a good idea to eat 3/4 of your food by mid-afternoon.

Remember, you’re not the boss

We have been conditioned to believe in the simple equation Energy In – Energy Out = Weight. Therefore, more energy expenditure will equal greater weight loss. But this equation neglects the fact that your hormones are in control. Thyroid hormone is king of metabolism. Cortisol reigns over your state of relative stress or relaxation. Insulin dictates how much fuel gets stored.

No matter how much you exercise, you will not lose weight if thyroid hormone is low, or if cortisol or insulin are chronically high. Exercising under these conditions just creates more stress for the body. Then, it switches to survival mode, and hoards fuel to help you fight or flee.

Ultimately, you have to balance hormones first. A functional practitioner can help you with this process.  Engage in “movement,” as opposed to “exercise” to promote stress-relief.

Address “food on the wrong side of the tracks”

Inflammation prevents weight loss; it’s a physical stress, so your body conserves until it is “safe” to let go of those pounds. Guts can be damaged by antibiotics, stress, chemicals, and sugar. Then, when the gut lining is thin and worn, food gets “on the wrong side of the tracks” and causes inflammation. We then say you are sensitive to those food proteins that are causing the inflammation.

If you’re serious about weight loss, you may have to remove triggering foods and heal your gut for a minimum of 3 months before your weight begins to drop, because it takes a while for inflammation to subside.

Support your liver before weight loss

Your liver is responsible for detoxifying everything that needs to be eliminated from your body. But if that organ is overburdened, it will send toxins to fat tissue to be stored where they cannot damage other tissues in your body. Naturally, weight loss frees those toxins from your fat tissue. If your liver is already overtaxed by medications, chemicals, or hormonal and blood sugar imbalances, your body will not release those toxins and you will continue to retain the fat.

The bottom line is that you need to support your liver first! This includes drinking ample water and eating abundant cruciferous vegetables to help your liver with the “rinse cycle” of laundering out your toxins. Potassium-rich fruits and vegetables are also important to help your body flush its wastes. Be sure to eat enough protein, for detoxification requires ample amino acids.

“Find your happy” at your current weight

It’s easy to think you will be happy when you lose those pounds. But your body follows your mind. Stated another way, your mind decides whether life is good and you can release your garbage, or whether your are unsatisfied and need to hold onto things that protect you (such as body fat). So, if you are genuinely grateful and joyful with who you are, your body can let go of those things that no longer serve it.

Don’t moisten your food with beverages

As mentioned above, healthy weight loss requires plenty of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to support detoxification. Breaking down and absorbing those nutrients from your food requires good digestion with plenty of strong stomach acid. Although hydration is critically important, it’s best to sip your water between meals. After all, high liquid intake at meal times will dilute stomach acid. Hence, it will impair digestion. If your food seems dry or tasteless, chew it more. Your saliva will moisten it and sweeten it the longer you massage it in your mouth.

 

 

 

An array of supplements to choose from

How to Choose A Supplement

Selecting the right supplement for your own body’s need can be as confusing as deciding between paleo and vegan, between low-fat and keto, or between gluten-free and whole grain. In the circus of marketing tactics, what claims are you to believe?

First, Do You Need to Supplement?

To begin with, I want to make it clear that no supplement, regardless of its benefits, can replace a healthy diet. There is simply no such thing as eating poorly, and expecting to make up for with with a multi-vitamin.  On the other hand, even the cleanest diet may be lacking in targeted nutrients specific to your genes, lifestyle, and environment.

Supplements can give a short-term boost to overcome an insufficiency that has accrued over time. For example, you may need extra vitamin D temporarily after spending a winter at a desk job in the northern hemisphere. Also, supplements can help with a very targeted therapy. For instance, you may need digestive enzymes and probiotics if you are struggling with Irritable Bowels. Finally, supplements can provide insurance against future illness. Since our produce today has many fewer nutrients than just 25 or 50 years ago, you may add magnesium to your regimen to help prevent tension headaches, muscle spasms, and even heart arrhythmia.

Yet overall, food provides greater nutrient density than any supplement. At most, a multi-vitamin contains around 30 vitamins and minerals. A single stalk of broccoli contains over 500 nutrients! Beyond that, a single piece of produce usually contains all of the cofactors to help metabolize it. As a case in point, a beet contains sugar, but also the minerals and vitamins your body needs to process that sugar. No supplement can give you that kind of synergy, nor are supplements always as bio-available as food.

Considerations Before Purchasing a Supplement

The “best” supplement is one you can find, afford, remember to take regularly, tolerate well, and reap some benefit from.  – Tracy Harrison, founder School of Applied Functional Medicine

  • Access: Sure, zinc picolinate is a great immune boost during a pandemic. But is it available? Can you get it locally? Do you have to order online and wait for it to be in stock?
  • Cost: If you buy a supplement, will it take money from your grocery budget that you would have spent on quality food? It may be better to eat real food and forego the liquid chlorophyll than to eat macaroni and cheese, then sip your liquid greens in a bottle.
  • Bio-availability: Is the supplement in a form you can take and absorb? Minerals in foods come attached to amino acids, but inexpensive supplements often attach minerals to salts. This is the case with calcium carbonate or magnesium oxide. Additionally, the supplement needs to be one that you personally can assimilate. In other words, is it a powder if you have trouble swallowing capsules? Is it a liquid if you have trouble digesting tablets? Is it the active form of the nutrient? Many people have trouble converting beta carotene to retinol. The latter is the form of vitamin A your body uses. Other individuals have trouble making methylfolate from folic acid. Consult with a functional practitioner if you need help deciding what form to take.
  • Tolerance: A calcium supplement containing whey from cows is not helpful if you have a dairy sensitivity. Or perhaps, the beneficial nutrient is packaged with binders or fillers. Here’s a good article to understand additives used in supplements.

How to Choose a Quality Supplement

  • Good Manufacturing Procedures: These guidelines assure that a supplement has the identity, strength, composition, quality, and purity that appear on the label. USP and NSF perform third-party testing which certifies that a supplement has been made using these guidelines.
  • Tru-ID: Some large companies perform their own quality assurance tests. These confirm that the ingredients as represented.
  • Non-GMO: This certification insures that there are no measurable GMO ingredients in the product
  • Food-based or lab-derived: Most supplements are lab-derived. This is not a bad thing. Because companies can synthesize nutrients chemically identical to those found in nature, you get a standardized quality and quantity for less money. Lab-synthesized nutrients can also be more concentrated. Therefore, if you prefer that your supplement have whole food ingredients, you will need to take a higher dose in order to get the same benefit.
  • Non-toxic ingredients: Watch out for harmful components, such as sweeteners: corn syrup, sucralose, sugar alcohols (sorbitol) Also beware of aluminum, hydrogenated oils, talc, artificial colors and artificial flavors.

Reputable Supplement Companies

There are way more supplement companies than I can list. The following are some of the most reputable:

  • Thorne
  • Pure Encapsulations
  • Metabolic Maintenance
  • Metagenics
  • Designs for Health
  • Integrative Therapeutics
  • Innate Response
  • Allergy Research
  • Life Extension
  • Vital Nutrients
  • Seeking Health
  • Jarrow
  • Xymogen
  • Synergy
  • Garden of Life
  • Dr. Mercola
  • Biotics
  • DaVinci Labs
  • Quicksilver Scientific
  • Renew Life
  • Gaia Herbs

Unfortunately, the supplement companies at the bottom of the barrel are the ones for the big box stores. That is because they incorporate cheap, inactive forms of nutrients you cannot absorb well. These companies use sweeteners and artificial colors and flavors to make the product more appealing.  They may use talc for a filler. Their products contain allergenic ingredients such as caramel color (gluten) and whey (dairy).

If you are going to put your money into supplements, choose wisely so that you don’t literally flush your nutrients down the toilet.

 

Gluten-free cookie

No Gluten? No Problem!

No gluten in your diet? No problem! There are plenty of whole foods to alleviate your cravings and satisfy your hunger!

Who Needs to Say No to Gluten?

Perhaps you have no problem because you have not got Celiac Disease? Or don’t have any severe GI symptoms? Even though you may feel great in your tummy, you may have symptoms elsewhere. This particular sensitivity is an immune response. Therefore, it can show up anywhere in your body. Simply put, when you react to gluten, your body generates inflammation that can affect your brain, joints, muscles, or heart.

You might have  gluten sensitivity if you suffer from arthritis, ADD, eczema, or frequent headaches. Further, brain fog is common with gluten sensitivity. Do you have trouble focusing or remembering? (“I feel like I’m thinking under a heavy, wet blanket.”) Do you crave breads, pastas, and other foods made with all-purpose flour? For sure, partially-digested gluten, in the form of gluteomorphins, fits opiate receptors in your brain, and gives you a “high” when you eat it.

People who may benefit from gluten elimination include those with:

  • Autoimmunity. Gluten can promote “leaky gut”, which is a precursor to autoimmunity. (See this interview with Alessio Fasano)
  • Type 2 diabetes. You need to avoid the high-glycemic load of white flour if you have insulin resistance.
  • Overt obesity. The high-glycemic load of flour products contributes to increased body fat
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Your immune response to gluten may be causing gut inflammation.
  • Chronic depression. There is increasing evidence that gluten might enact changes in your brain chemistry that promote depression.

Elimination is No Problem

While there are many gluten-free products on the market, switching from one processed food to another is not necessarily a good idea. Your optimal health depends on vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (plant-based) that come from nutrient-dense foods. The more colors you can get into your diet, the more you will calm your inflammation. So, using vegetables, legumes, and seeds to substitute for products made with wheat, rye, or barley is a sure win!

Sweet Potato Toast

Here’s a fuss-free solution if you like a slice a bread for breakfast. Roast a sweet potato before bedtime and refrigerate overnight. Then, in the morning, you can whack off a slice and pop it into the toaster. It will be amazing with a little mashed avocado or nut butter smeared on it when it’s brown and warm.

Plantain Tortillas

Boil equal amounts of peeled, cut ripe plantain with peeled, cut yucca root until fork-tender. Drain and chill to set the starches. Then process in a high-powered blender with a little salt and a pat of butter of coconut oil until it forms a dough. Roll out and cook on a medium-hot griddle for flavor and pliability that tops any commercial product! (Note: if your dough is sticky, you can add a little cassava flour, arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, or cornstarch.)

Plantain Waffles

Add an egg or two, enough milk to make a batter, and a teaspoon or two of baking powder to the dough above. Cook on a sprayed, hot waffle iron.

plantain waffle

More Whole Food Ideas

Seed Crackers

Although you can make your own crackers, here’s one case where you can buy it in a box and still get a whole-food product. I prefer Mary’s Gone Crackers.

Yam Pita or Pizza Crust

Microwave or bake a large yam until very soft. While it is still warm, slip the peel off with a paring knife and mash the yam in a bowl. Next, add cassava flour until you get a soft dough that will form a ball – about half the amount of the yam. On parchment paper, press the dough into one large or several smaller circles, about 1/2″ thick. Invert over a 375 degree griddle or onto a non-stick baking pan placed in a 375-degree oven. Cook until brown on one side, flip, and cook for equal time on the other side.

Nut Butter Cookies

Combine one cup nut butter (cashew or almond) with a half cup honey and 1 egg. Add a teaspoon each of vanilla and salt. If you prefer, substitute molasses for half the honey and use pumpkin pie spice in place of the vanilla. If the dough is sticky, add a little almond flour. Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Lentil Crepes

First, soak one cup red lentils in double the amount of water until the water is mostly absorbed (2-3 hours). Second, blend with a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of coconut oil until smooth like a thin pancake batter. Finally, pour by half cups into a hot, non-stick, or buttered skillet, forming a thin layer. Cook on one side until bubbly, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes until browned on the second side.

Lentil crepe

 

Becoming suddenly diabetic takes years

Suddenly Pre-Diabetic?

Almost no one becomes pre-diabetic suddenly. The onset is progressive. But unless you know the signs, a diagnosis might blindside you. Your lab work might appear “normal” one year, then be over the limits the next.

The Pre-Diabetic Evolves Over Years

Shouldn’t the main question we ask be, ‘Why is this happening?’ instead of ‘What new drug can we find to treat it?’ – Dr. Mark Hyman

Unfortunately, when a doctor gives an unexpected or diagnosis, we want a quick fix. But there are no sudden reversals any more than there are sudden pre-diabetics. The choices that lead to a pre-diabetic outcome are decades in the making! They begin with high-stress, low-nutrient lives, deprived of sleep, and filled with numbing recreation and damaging toxins.

Today, there are probably 100 million Americans with pre-diabetes. However, 90% of them don’t realize it! Because they haven’t been diagnosed yet. But the cycle is the same.

There are pressures. Relationship woes, work deadlines, unmet expectations, and a race to be good enough. You hit the ground running when the alarm goes off. IF you grab breakfast, it’s a “muffin and a mocha.” You work through lunch – or munch on chips and coke. Then you snarf a chocolate bar or an energy drink to get you through the afternoon slump. You put in extra hours to get the job done and have a voracious appetite by the time you eat dinner at 8 p.m. After the pizza, you wrangle with the kids and their homework, the laundry, and the rest of the to-do list. Finally, after bedtime has come and gone, you slump into a recliner to watch a movie while you snack on popcorn.

The stress alone, without any of the junk food, would be enough to catapult you into pre-diabetes. Stress increases blood sugar by design! If you have to fight a saber-tooth tiger, you need quick energy. So, your body converts glycogen stores from your liver and muscle tissue into quick fuel. Next, you start craving. Can you see why? Your body wants more and more fast energy, and it needs to replenish its stores. As a result, you eat more high-glycemic foods. As stress hormones remain high, your sleep tanks! And you become more fatigued and sedentary.

Progression from “Normal” to “Sick”

If we were to put you, the “sudden pre-diabetic” under a historical microscope and examine your life, we would see several distinct stages of change happening over a period of years.

First, as characterized above, you simply have too much stress. Living the modern lifestyle, you exhibit no abnormal blood markers or indicators of inflammation… yet. But you might see the scales reflecting a 10-pound weight gain. If you characterized your diet, it would be more than 50% refined carbohydrates. In fact, you would be consuming the perfect storm of inflammatory fats, low-fiber foods, and an excess of chemical additives and preservatives.

Second, you begin to have episodes of hypoglycemia: blood sugar crashes! Why? Because at this point insulin levels are so consistently high and your cells are becoming so “deafened” to insulin’s message, the fuel cannot get into your cells. Your cellular energy crashes because you are “insulin resistant.” You have to be grazing on snacks all through the day to avoid brain fog, anxiety, irritability, shakiness, and headaches. You might even be drinking a lot of caffeine to stave off headaches and to keep the fatigue at bay. Your stress hormones spike when your blood sugars crash, which sends cravings skyrocketing. You begin to accumulate a little more belly fat, and a lab test might show triglycerides climbing.

Third, some lab markers begin to show up now. Your fasting glucose levels rise above 85 and your c-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) may be slightly over normal lab ranges. Your organs and tissues, over-exposed to high glucose, begin to show signs of oxidative stress – if you’re looking! You might start having signs of gall bladder disease, heart or kidney disease, or changes to your vision. If a doctor is very astute, he might diagnose you with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

Finally, you match the criteria for metabolic syndrome: high triglycerides, low HDL, high blood pressure, and abdominal obesity. Your arteries are forming plaque, and you may have high levels of homocysteine. Your blood sugars are at last consistently high enough to be measured in terms of a Hemoglobin A1c test over 5.7. Suddenly, you are pre-diabetic.

Suddenly Not Pre-diabetic?

Diagnosing pre-diabetes as the first sign of disease is like waiting for a raging house fire to engulf the second story before you decide to buy a smoke detector. – Tracy Harrison, founder School of Applied Functional Medicine

Your retreat from disease will be as dramatic as your lifestyle changes. If you make moderate changes, you’ll likely still end up with diabetes; it just won’t progress as quickly.

Only dramatic change brings dramatic results

So what striking approach should you use? Intermittent fasting, keto, vegan, or perhaps a combination?

What seems to make the most difference is lifestyle changes supported by low-glycemic whole foods. Not all carbohydrates are created equal. You want to choose ones that are not dense, like grains, and that are not quick-absorping, like juice. The lightest, slowest carbs are seeds and non-starchy vegetables.

Here’s a quick checklist of lifestyle considerations:

  • Choose unrefined, clean, whole foods. Remove all products made with flour.
  • Break the habit of needing foods to be sweetened.
  • Anchor your diet with vegetables, building up tolerance to fiber gradually.
  • Hydrate with pure water. Break the habit of self-medicating with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Eat natural fats liberally, but emphasize whole foods and unrefined olive oil.
  • Eat enough protein: at least 15 grams for breakfast and 50 for the daily total.
  • Move. Daily. Get your heart rate up doing something you enjoy at least every other day.
  • Rejuvenate. Prioritize sleep, and choose activities that increase your gratitude and joy.
  • Work with a qualified practitioner to use targeted supplements to re-sensitize your cells to insulin and increase your antioxidant capacity.

 

 

 

 

 

antioxidant berries for inflammation

Antioxidants for Inflammation

You need antioxidants for inflammation. Simply put, inflammation flares when free radicals outnumber antioxidants in your body. While this is a good thing because of surgery or an acute trauma, it’s trouble if it continues chronically. Inflammation is the sign of tissue damage. You want to stop that damage and quench the fire. That’s why you need to eat antioxidant foods AND make antioxidants within your body.

Common Triggers for Chronic Inflammation

You’ve probably heard it before. However, the textbook answers are still true. Here’s a short list of lifestyle factors that contribute to inflammation.

  • Sleep deprivation (Anything less than a consistent 8 hours per night is considered inadequate.)
  • Extreme exercise
  • Sustained elevated blood sugars
  • Eating oxidized or rancid fats (Hint: this includes transfats and vegetable oils such as canola, cottonseed, soy, safflower, and corn.)
  • Toxicity from heavy metals, chemicals, or pathogens
  • Chronic simmering infection
  • High levels of emotional or physical stress

What are Antioxidants?

If your body were a car, the antioxidants would be the steel brushes that removed the rust from your parts. While you don’t actually rust like metal, you still have natural processes at work that can damage your tissues. Without antioxidant molecules, you wouldn’t be able to reverse this damage.

Antioxidant Foods for Inflammation

Look for rich, deep natural colors in whole foods to signal high antioxidant content. For example, dark, leafy greens and bright, red berries are great choices. Interestingly, spices are among the foods highest in antoxidant content. Use both warming spices and cooling herbs in your cooking! In particular, include cumin, ginger, turmeric, parsley, mint, and cilantro.

Another category of antoxidants for inflammation is dark-fleshed fish, such as sardines, salmon, herring, and mackerel. Undoubtedly, these are high in antioxidant omega-3 fatty acids.

How to Synthesize Antioxidants for Inflammation

As important as antioxidant-rich whole foods in your diet are, it’s even more critical that your body be able to make its master antioxidant, glutathione. Indeed, your ability to quell inflammation hinges on this molecule, made from three amino acids, glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. The latter requires methionine for its synthesis. Therefore, getting the essential amino acid, methionine, in your diet is imperative. Eggs, meat, fish, nuts, and seeds are the best sources of methionine.  Legumes, though protein-dense, have very little methionine. Most fruits and vegetables have almost none.

Two other substances necessary to create glutathione are sulfur compounds and vitamin B-6. When you use onions & garlic in your cooking, your are adding sulphur compounds. Also, cruciferous vegetables contain high amounts of sulfurs. This class of vegetables includes broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, spinach, Brussels sprouts, horseradish, and wasabi!

While prominent in many foods, Vitamin B-6 serves several essential functions besides making glutathione. If your diet and lifestyle are putting heavy demands on your body, it’s easy to be short-changed on this lifestyle. Some conditions that make it likely you have insufficient B-6 include smoking, diabetes, alcoholism, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The key to vitamin B-6 sufficiency is being able to convert it to its active form. Eating more foods high in this vitamin is not helpful if you can’t convert pyridoxine to pyroxidol 5-phosphate. You can work with a functional practitioner to remedy this problem.

 

 

Viruses provoke immune fitness

Immune Fitness for Viral Survival

What’s your immune fitness? Is your adaptive immunity robust enough to rise above an infection, stronger than before? Although you may not know your capability for viral survival, sound principles of health give you a powerful offense.

Exposure is Inevitable

Viruses are ubiquitous and everlasting. As the most numerous biological entity on the planet, they affect all lifeforms. Because there are millions of kinds of viruses, they appear in plants, insects, animals, and humans alike, transferring between hosts via sap, blood, mucus, or feces. Ironically, viruses technically aren’t a life form themselves. They don’t breathe (respirate), grow, or have their own metabolism (breakdown of food to create energy). In fact, without a host, they are inactive, inert, and non-responsive.

However, there is no such thing as life without viral exposure. Even babies face a constant challenge to their immune systems. But that’s the beauty of it! Your immune fitness requires opposition to strengthen it. Viral exposure is like athletic training. No one aggressively sprints uphill well without practice. Many hill climbs condition you to respond powerfully without collapsing. Similarly, each virus you encounter trains your immune system to recognize a threat and to launch an assertive antibody response.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Your immune fitness is a work in progress. When a viral threat confronts your body, your innate immune system – with its macrophages, T cells and killer cells – is like a crew of paramedics. These First Responders assess the situation and call appropriate back-ups. For instance, they might need a neurosurgeon, or perhaps a thoracic specialist. Likewise, the innate immune system rallies the B cells to form antibodies for the particular germ you are facing.

But here’s the clincher: You develop this adaptive immunity only after a successful first innate response. If nothing ever provoked your innate immunity, you would never develop any resistance. Thus, exposure primes your immune fitness. This is the principle behind vaccines.

Make Broad, Balanced Choices for Viral Survival

Another truth is that you cannot restore immune fitness during times of stress. Your body switches into a sympathetic response, known as fight-or-flight, when challenged. This state dilates your eyes, speeds your pulse, increases your respiration rate, raises your blood pressure, and heightens your muscle tension. However, your immune system only replenishes itself during times of rest and relaxation. It requires more nutrients than any other system in your body. But what body will prioritize digestion or sleep when running from the Boogey Man?

Therefore, immune fitness is more than minimizing infection. It is maximizing food nutrients as well as emotional, social, and other lifestyle nutrients. It is prioritizing true health, over just absence of disease.

Develop Immune Fitness

Doritos and Mountain Dew don’t contain the slew of minerals your immune system hogs. The nightly news doesn’t engage your parasympathetic, calm-and-connection nervous system response. You must make deliberate choices to gear up your nutrition and gear down your worry. You develop immune fitness that enhances your viral survival with these tactics:

  1. Chill! For real. Being in a reactive state of worry or fear activates your fight-or-flight system in the body and suppresses immunity. Deliberately stop frequently to breathe deeply, exercise faith, and know that you will get through this. Focus on hope, gratitude and laughter.
  2. Engage! Seize the moment to strengthen relationships in precious, sacred ways. Personal connections raise oxytocin, lower cortisol, and put the nervous system in a state that supports immunity.
  3. Take the Pill of Common Sense. Your body functions best with deep sleep, nutrient-dense food, and frequent movement. Freaking out, losing sleep, eating junk food, and vegging in front of a screen does not support wellness.

 

processed American comfort foods

Craving Comfort Food

Is Coronavirus making you crave comfort food? Having the munchies doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly. Real food can be more comforting than factory imitations! Read on to see our tips for making your comfort meals healthier. Then check out our round-up of 10 amazing snacks to soothe the munchies.

Tips for Making Comfort Food Healthier

  • Serve a large side dish, rather than denying yourself of that sweetened, processed meal, heavy in refined carbohydrates.  Then, the food you crave becomes almost an afterthought. For instance, offer a large salad with Cookie and Kate’s Asian Carrot-Ginger Dressing next to a small portion of pad thai.
  • Tuck vegetables in wherever you can. Child-feeding specialist Melanie Potock shows you how in this macaroni and cheese that contains parsnips and carrots. Healthy Little Foodies demonstrates how to make marinara sauce with 6 different vegetables.
  • Make substitutions. Use cauliflower for part of the cheese in this epic sauce from The Kitchn. (It makes a great dipping sauce for chicken tenders.) Try pumpkin puree to replace some of the flour and oil in pancakes or muffins. Eggplant subs well for noodles in this lasagne from Well Plated.
  • Be creative. You can make the comfort food you crave in unusual ways. Bake pizza ingredients inside of a hollowed out spaghetti squash, or make sandwiches out of toasted sweet potato slices, fried green tomatoes, halved cucumbers, or grilled portabello mushrooms.

Comforting Snacks to Crave

Here are our top 10 healthy ideas from around the web for your next snack attack. When you are craving American junk food, trust these alternatives to satisfy you.

avocado chips

Chips: You can make nearly any vegetable into a chip. Root vegetables, such as turnips, beets, sweet potatoes and parsnips are best. But even eggplant, zucchini, green beans, and radishes can be sliced thin and crisped in a hot oven with a coating of cooking fat. These novel avocado chips, are worth their salt, though!

hummus

Dips: Marinara and hummus are good whole food substitutes for store-bought dips that are full of artificial ingredients.

Fruity Frosty is a Big Fat Treat

photo credit: Mordi Photographie

Ice Cream or Popsicles: Sometimes you just want cool and creamy. With these “big fat treats,” you don’t have to worry about too much sugar.

apple "doughnuts"

Doughnuts: If you’re sight-triggered, these darling “iced” apple rings look enough like a doughnut to tickle your fancy.

cold-infused tea

Soft Drinks: If it’s the flavor you’re after, cold-infuse an herbal tea into your water. If you want fizz, try sparkling water or a probiotic drink, such as kombucha.

chocolate cake

Cake: Made with bananas, applesauce, and pumpkin – but no sugar – this chocolate cake… er, uh, takes the cake!

Whole Food Mother's Day Cookies

Photo Credit: Kristi Jo, (208)242-6148

Cookies: These no-flour, no-sugar cookies are made simply from whole foods that are quick and easy to combine.

watermelon fries

Fries: Crispy and salty is really what you’re after. But it doesn’t have to be deep-fried in oxidized oil. How about these watermelon fries for comfort food?

dark chocolate

Candy Bars: You’ll need canned coconut milk, pecans, pure maple syrup, and a 70% cacao bar for this one! Simmer 3 parts coconut milk with 1 part maple syrup until thick and caramel-like. Cool slightly. Mix in plenty of nuts. Spoon into mini-muffin cups and refrigerate. Meanwhile, melt your chocolate bar. Dips the caramel nut “turtles” in melted chocolate and return to the refrigerator.

banana s'mores

 

S’mores: As long as there’s chocolate, who really needs marshmallows? These Smore’s Banana Bites have just enough sweetness to comfort your crave! (You can leave out the marshmallow fluff.)

 

Eat broth and cruciferous vegetables for immunity

Eating for Immunity

Eating to boost your immunity may be a powerful weapon in these times of uncertainty. While scientists debate which approaches are working in the battle against pandemic viral disease, we can rest assured that nutrient-dense whole foods are never contraindicated! Further, we can start by nourishing ourselves with the primary foods of love, gratitude, laughter and faith.

Eat Cysteine for Strong Immunity

Your body makes its own master antioxidant, called glutathione. Especially in diseases that attack the lungs, you use a lot of this antioxidant to fight inflammation & congestion. However, in order to keep up with the production demand, you have to have a good supply of the amino acids glycine and cysteine. You can augment your stores with the following:

  • a good quality source of whey
  • pastured poultry
  • spinach
  • low-toxicity seafood
  • legumes
  • bone broth

In addition, eating cruciferous vegetables can support immunity. Plant compounds in this family increase glutathione formation. So, load up on kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, arugula, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, watercress, and horseradish!

Eating Hygiene Impacts Immunity

Your body has a mechanism to kill germs that enter through the mouth. It’s called stomach acid. But stress curtails stomach acid production. So, when you sit down to a meal, breathe deeply, express gratitude, eat slowly & chew thoroughly. It may also help your stomach pH to sip 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water.

Furthermore, you can support healthy digestion and better immunity by feeding your gut microbiota. Did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your gut. Supporting the right kind of microbes goes a long to toward fending off the enemy. The probiotics that live in your GI tract love fiber! In particular, they feast on garlic, onions, oats, Jerusalem artichokes, and asparagus. Eating probiotic foods, such as kimchi, kefir, and kombucha supports healthy immunity.

Boost Immunity with Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin C and zinc are immunity all-stars. Vitamins A & D are vital, too. But at this point, you are advised to keep your immune system strong by eating nutrient-dense foods, rather than taking high doses of supplements. Maximum doses of Vitamin A and D supplements appear to enhance the receptors through which the corona virus is entering the body.

Top foods for vitamin C include papaya, kiwi, acerola cherries, red bell peppers, and amalaki berries. Oysters are an incredible source of zinc. Other shellfish, grass-fed beef, lentils and almonds contain fairly high levels of zinc, too. You can’t beat liver and egg yolks for their Vitamins A & D content! Sunlight, and yellow-orange-red vegetables are also important.

You might like Immunity Soup, which has a nutrient-rich profile of vitamins and minerals.

Eat Anti-Viral Foods

Not all viruses respond the same way, but a study of a virus related to the current SARS-COV-2, showed that tannic acid exhibited inhibitory activity. This acid is responsible for giving many foods a bitter or astringent taste. Black and puer teas (both caffeinated & decaffeinated) are the highest sources of tannic acid, but you will also find it in red raspberry leaf tea, pomegranates, and cranberries.

Another study found polyphenols to have anti-viral activity against the corona family of viruses. Polyphenols occur in deeply-colored produce such as berries and leafy greens. Along with their anti-microbial benefit, polyphenols serve as fodder for your gut microbes.

Besides tannic acid and polyphenols, selenium may be helpful. Eat selenium-rich foods for immunity rather than taking a supplement. It appears that supplements may enhance receptors in the body that the virus can enter through. Brazil nuts are the most common food source of selenium. Two or three nuts a day is sufficient.

Finally, raw garlic seems to be a good anti-viral food in general. However, at this point, we don’t know if it attacks SARS-COV-2. If you’re turned off at the idea of chomping on a fresh bulb of garlic (I am!), raw garlic is great in salsas, salad dressings, guacamole, mashed potatoes, and hot sauces.

Avoid Inflammatory Foods

One of the reasons people die with pandemic viruses such as the coronavirus is that the disease process sets off a “cytokine storm.” Cytokines are inflammatory messengers your body produces. Already having inflammation in your body puts you at greater risk for this kind of inflammatory storm. Curtail your use of sweeteners, refined carbohydrates, vegetable oils and processed meats. Whatever foods bolster your defenses, I’m sure of this: You won’t fight COV-19 eating Twinkies!