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Lemon and ginger are cold and flu remedies that work

Cold and Flu Remedies that Work

During cold and flu season, you need remedies that work – that actually cure your symptoms, rather than just mask them. Here are my personal favorites.

Cold and Flu Prevention

The most important step you can take during the winter months is to protect yourself before the sick days come. Common sense applies here. Sleep long and deep (about 8 hours) every night, stay hydrated, eat your vegetables, and get plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and vitamin J (joy).

But is there more you can do? I believe so. Like maidens with garlic to ward off vampires, fire cider seems to nip viruses before they can get established. The principle of fire cider is to preserve the anti-microbial qualities of several plants in a vinegar base, then take a spoonful every day.

Fire cider recipes abound on the internet. They all include garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, and apple cider vinegar. Some use lemon, cayenne, turmeric, rosemary, thyme, or other ingredients from your pantry. I have used recipes from Mommypotamus, Wellness Mama, and Mountain Rose Herbs.

My favorite way to use this cold and flu remedy is to incorporate it into an oil and vinegar salad dressing, using the fire cider in place of the vinegar in the recipe.

Immune Support that Works

When you feel that scratchy throat just beginning, or the chills setting in, you need nutrients to switch your immune system into high gear. Keep a cold and flu remedy box in your medicine cabinet that contains vitamin A (retinol form), vitamin D3, vitamin C, and zinc picolinate. At the first sign of illness, take the following doses each day for 7 days:

  • 10,000 IU of vitamin A
  • 5,000 IU of vitamin D3
  • 2,000 mg. of vitamin C
  • 45 m.g of zinc picolinate in 15 mg. doses spaced 4-6 hours apart

As a bonus, you can take an astralgus supplement twice a day for two days.

Fever Remedies

There is a difference between gently drawing down a fever and suppressing it. When you suppress a fever with aspirin, ibuprofen or Tylenol, you hamper your body’s ability to fight the virus inside. So when the pill wears off, you experience a more virulent fever than if you had just let it run it’s course. Alex Pinchot, ND, says, “When we get in the way of our bodies innate ability to fight an infection we end up prolonging the illness and are more uncomfortable for longer.”

It is wonderfully soothing to lay a vinegar-soaked washcloth on a hot forehead, or to put vinegar-soaked stockings on your burning feet. You’ll keep your fever low-grade while still allowing it to work against your cold or flu virus. Here’s how to do it: dilute 1 cup of apple cider vinegar with 2 cups of tepid water. Wring your fabric out before applying it. If you are soaking socks, wear wool socks over the top of them and re-soak them after about 3 hours when they are dried out.

Another important principle to remember about fevers is that our greatest discomfort comes when we begin to get dehydrated. You don’t have to limit yourself to water in order to replenish your body’s need. Herbal teas and especially bone broth are particularly nourishing and restorative. I also like electrolyte powders, such as Ultima Replenisher, added to my water.

A Restorative Remedy for Malaise

I understand how difficult it is to budge when everything aches and the fatigue goes bone deep! However, movement can get lymph flowing better, moving waste away from our cells, and it can open up airways, reducing congestion. Yoga teacher Adriene Mishler presents a most relaxing and rejuvenating sequence you can do on your sick bed.

Zinc Works for Sore Throats

You’ve seen supplements that combine vitamin C with zinc. That’s logical since the immune system uses both to fight pathogens. But have you ever thought of applying zinc directly to your inflamed throat tissue? Ahhh, it’s truly soothing! And it doesn’t just numb; it actually provides immune support to your throat tissue. My favorite spray is TheraZinc.

Other Cold and Flu Remedies that Work

  • Cough: Did you know that according to this study, honey is just as effective as dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in most cough syrups? I like mixing it with a little lemon juice and warm water. Others stir it into oil and vinegar, or combine it with cinnamon.
  • Headache: Several different essential oils can be effective when rubbed on the temples. I am partial to peppermint or spruce.
  • Congestion: Hydration is paramount. I find it helpful to temporarily omit dairy and to sip a cup of steaming herbal tea, such as peppermint, eucalyptus, or ginger.

Don’t Forget to Support Your Spleen

It’s a forgotten organ, but your spleen is a blood purifier and is challenged in its filtering capabilities when you are under viral attack. A few drops of burdock tincture or a cup of burdock tea every few hours can be quite healing. I also recommend skin brushing to keep your lymph from stagnating and putting additional burden on the spleen.

The Most Important Cold and Flu Remedy

Last, but not least, take a day off – or several. Stop pushing. Let your body do the work of recovering without fighting against you. It needs the energy to address the viral threat, not to meet work deadlines, run the kids to soccer, throw in another load of laundry, and fix dinner for company. Don’t just take an over-the-counter symptom treatment to keep going. Give your body the grace to heal by truly resting.

 

Sneezing is one type of food reaction.

Food Reactions 101

If you have a food reaction, are you allergic to a particular food? Not necessarily. There are a lot of reasons to react poorly to something you ate. You may be sensitive, or intolerant, but not allergic. Perhaps you lack digestive enzymes or free-flowing bile. Let’s explore different types of food reactions.

What kinds of food reactions are there?

Beyond food intolerances, sensitivities, and allergies, there are physiological reasons to have trouble with food. For example, spicy food can irritate and inflame your esophagus. Foods containing certain starches that are difficult to digest can give you bloat, gas, and cramps. High fat foods can make you nauseated if your gall bladder is congested or even missing. Further, foods contaminated with chemicals can give you a headache. If your detoxification pathways are blocked, you may feel your heart racing when too much of a substance, such as caffeine, builds up in your body. Lastly, sustained stress can  impair your ability to digest.

It can be very helpful to keep a food journal. Note what you ate and when, and record what symptoms you are having and when they occur. You may be able to see certain patterns, such as waking up with joint pain after a binge of cookies, or getting a stomach ache every time you eat fast food in the car. Perhaps you notice post-nasal drip at night that it goes away when you eliminate yogurt or peanuts. The expert on your food reactions is YOU!

What is the difference between a food allergy, a sensitivity, and an intolerance?

Most likely, you know if you are allergic to something. Your reaction occurs sometimes within minutes, but certainly within a few hours. The symptoms are classic: itchiness, swelling, rashes, sinus congestion, and/or airway constriction. It only takes a drop or a crumb to set you off.

However, a food sensitivity may take up to 3 days to manifest. You may not realize you are reacting to something you ate yesterday or the day before. In addition, you may eat it this week and not have any symptoms. But when you eat it next week, you have an attack of diarrhea.

With the first exposure to a food you are sensitive to, your body flags the item as a possible problem. When you eat it again, the antibodies are ready and your immune system reacts aggressively. You may feel that you are inflamed in some way.

Yet, perhaps you only eat a few bites. So you don’t notice much. Next time, you may feel it’s harmless, and may have a cup of it. Over the next day or two, you feel cranky, sluggish or achy. This is typical of a food sensitivity.

An intolerance does not involve an immune reaction. Nevertheless, you are incapable of breaking down and absorbing the food. Usually, this is because you lack the enzymes to digest it. A case in point is lactose intolerance. This simply means your body doesn’t make lactase. Therefore, you cannot degrade lactose. If you eat it, you will have a stomach ache.

How do I know if I’m having a food reaction?

The simple answer is to take the food out of your diet cold turkey for 30 days. (Watch labels to make sure you are not accidentally being exposed.) Then on the 31st and 32nd days, eat two full servings of it each day. Record any symptoms that crop up, especially if you have not been experiencing them over the past month.

Common symptoms of food reactions include joint pain, muscle aches, sinus congestion or post-nasal drip, headache, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, depression, anxiety, lethargy, fatigue, rashes, itching, bloat, brain fog, forgetfulness, sudden mood changes, and irritability.

If you are having difficulty sleuthing out which foods to remove from your diet, you may want to use a blood-based food sensitivity test. The lab technicians will determine if you have antibodies and an inflammatory reaction to the foods on the test. Although the test can give false positives or negatives, you will have a set of likely foods to begin removing in a methodical way.

You can order an at-home blood sample kit through Inner Connected Wellness that tests 22 foods, 132 foods, or 176 foods, depending on your need.

Will I ever be able to eat that food again?

Unfortunately, food allergies are unlikely to go away. But many people are able to heal food sensitivities by avoiding their triggers for 3-4 months (it takes that long for antibodies to die) and engaging in a gut healing protocol to repair the problem that caused the sensitivity in the first place. You can work with a functional nutritionist to make sure you have adequate nutrition and digestive secretions to break down your food optimally. That way, your immune system will not freak out over a particle of partially-digested gluten or casein.

If your food reaction is because of an intolerance, digestive enzymes will most likely help you assimilate that food. When other imbalances, irritants, or blockages are at play, addressing the root cause removes that impairment. Then you can eat troublesome foods once again without an adverse reaction.

Measuring foods against an ideal diet

The Ideal Diet

What is the ideal diet? Is it Keto or Vegan? Should you employ the Flexitarian approach or try Intermittent Fasting? What about Volumetrics?

Truthfully, none of the above diets are ideal for everyone. Because our physiology, genetics, stressors, food tastes, energy expenditures, and budgets are all different, there is no one-size-fits-all diet!

However, there are some principles that can be applied to every eating style. These principles have guided international cuisines through the ages. They have kept humans alive and thriving for millennia.

First and foremost, the ideal diet for you will be one the that supports your lifestyle the best. No approach is any good to you if you can’t implement it consistently over the long haul. Sure, anyone can “white-knuckle’ a diet for a few weeks. But is it sustainable? Is it enjoyable? Further, can you do it without endlessly charting, counting, and tracking? In addition, are the ingredients readily available?

Once you have determined what foods are accessible that you are willing to cook and eat on a regular basis, you might consider these additional keys. I deem these tenets as ideal for mankind’s diet across the planet.

5 Keys To An Ideal Diet

  1. No industrially processed or refined foods. If you think about it, you will realize that food labels are a relatively modern creation. If you were to travel to the Inuit, the Maori, or the Maasai of yesteryear, you would find no commercial foods whatsoever. Now, I’m not glorifying primitive life. I’m only pointing out that strong people require strong natural foods.
  2. A balance of animal and plant foods. Your physiology is that of an omnivore. Nature did not design you to be purely carnivorous nor utterly vegan. You need the phytonutrients of the plant kingdom, and the fats, amino acids, and vitamins of the animal kingdom.
  3. Nutrient dense. Foods from nature have comparatively lower calories and higher nutritional value than man-made foods. For example, contrast a stalk of broccoli with a protein bar. There are so many wholesome plant chemicals in the broccoli that we haven’t even discovered them all! But we know there are upwards of 500.
  4. Cooked plant foods and raw animal proteins. In the ideal diet, vegetables are best raw and animal foods are best cooked, right? Not necessarily. We can learn from traditional cultures that some plants are more digestible when cooked. Some proteins are best consumed with the raw enzymes that help us digest them. Nature and history are good schoolmasters to help us weigh the benefits of cooking against eating raw.
  5. Some fermented foods or beverages. Until the commercialization of modern foods, there was no culture in the world that did not eat fermented products regularly in its diet. Some examples are kimchi from Korea and chutney from India, natto from Japan, and togwa from Tanzania. Mexico had its horchata, and Finland had its sima. These help stabilize your oh-so-important microbiome.

Additional Tenets for Optimal Eating

  1. Soaked, soured, cultured grains, legumes, nuts & seeds. Is it possible that today’s allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances are partially due to improperly-prepared food? In temperate regions all over the globe, societies pre-treated their seeds with extensive methods of sprouting or fermenting. These approaches neutralize the “anti-nutrients” that make them indigestible.
  2. A wide variety of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Certainly, we should understand the science by now proving that a fat-free diet is absolutely detrimental to human health. But which fat is best? Perhaps olive oil is optimal for the heart. However, you cannot build a brain without saturated fat! No single fat has the corner on the health market. The best diet contains fats from both animals and plants, from a diverse range of foods.
  3. Colored salt. Since when was stripping any food down to a single molecule advantageous to your health? Nature brings us food with all the co-factors we need to utilize it. In the case of salt, the other trace minerals are crucial to maintaining our electrolyte balance.
  4. Skin, bones, and organs, too. Just as it is unnatural to eat food that has been processed down to a component or two (think sugar and white flour), it is also just as short-sighted and unhealthy to eat only the  muscles of a creature and to throw away the rest. All societies from the beginning of time made use of the whole animal in their cooking. Each part has its special contribution, such as collagen, minerals, or vitamins.
  5. Special nutrition for select groups. Soon-to-be parents, mothers, and children have an especially high nutritional need! Nature requires these individuals to eat better for the propagation of the race. Our rising generation should have the best diet of all, instead of the most deficient! It is deplorable that we bribe our little ones with treats, send them with puffed bits of artificial food for lunch, and serve them dinners of instant, processed, microwaved substances.

For me, the ideal diet is the one that is closest to nature!

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 lentil mixture 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.