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Is Your Sweetheart Killing You?

The big, fat problem with heart disease isn’t the fat; it’s the sugar. Your sweet tooth is literally creating a sweet heart that is up to four times more likely to have an attack.

Simply put, sugar increases insulin output. Continuously high insulin damages the lining of the blood vessels, driving inflammation up to make repairs. Meanwhile, insulin resistance sets in as a high-sugar diet continues. Insulin resistance blocks the PG-1 anti-inflammatory pathway, preventing the body from putting the brakes on the inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation in the blood vessels compounds placque build-up and escalates heart attack risk.

To compound matters, insulin resistance also spurs mineral deficiencies. Both macro- and micro-minerals are blocked from entering the cells. Since rhythmic, powerful heart contractions depend on a balance of calcium and magnesium, insufficiency of one or the other contributes to arrythmias.

Love your heart. If you want to treat it right, don’t treat it with sweets. The heart is an endurance muscle, so its primary fuel is fatty acids. For heart health month, replace some of your carbs (white flours, fruit juices, soda, and desserts) with whole food carbohydrates (vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits with the peel) and traditional fats (fish, avocado, olives, coconuts, butter).

Aim to get approximately equal calories from proteins, appropriate fats and carbohydrates. Watch your food labels. Dr. Mark Hyman, author of the Blood Sugar Solution, notes that “most of us don’t know that a serving of tomato sauce has more sugar than a serving of Oreo cookies, or that fruit yogurt has more sugar than a Coke, or that most breakfast cereals — even those made with whole grain — are 75% sugar. That’s not breakfast, it’s dessert!”

Worst of all is the soda, which can contribute up to 500 calories per day just from sugar. So love your fats and give your heart some sweet relief!

Un-American Breakfast

Go ahead, break the mold! Life is too precious to not savor each moment!

That’s why it’s important to start each day by truly nourishing your body and soul. If you go into flight-or-flight from the moment the alarm goes off, and rush through your preparations only grab a doughnut and coffee on your way out the door, you are setting yourself up for instability the rest of the day. You’ve got adrenaline pumping, you’re dehydrated, and you’ve just given yourself an insulin surge that’s going to drop you cold about 10 a.m. How can you engage with life in a meaningful way if your energy is flat and you have no reserves?

Breakfast is a top priority for me because it lays the foundation for my well-being the rest of the day. I aim to eat equal proportions of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats to give me a long, slow, even burn – instead of the roller coaster ride I used to experience with my repertoire of muffins, pancakes, and cereals. It can be rather liberating to stop the all-carb breakfast that is the American tradition.

Here are three well-balancedrecipes to start your day off right:

Breakfast Pizza  

Sourdough Bread or prepared whole-grain pizza crust

Ricotta cheese

Basil

Vegetables – chopped spinach, sliced tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, etc.

Crumbled bacon

Fried or scrambled eggs, optional

Spread bread/crust with ricotta cheese and sprinkle with basil. Add vegetables and top with bacon. Add egg if desired.

 

Chocolate-Cherry Smoothie  (“It’s chocolate pudding ice cream!” –Nathanael, age 3)

1 c. spinach

½ c. coconut milk

2 Tb. cocoa powder

2 Tb. collagen powder, optional

1 c. frozen cherries

½ c. cherry or pomegranate juice

1 avocado

Blend until smooth, adding water if needed for mixing. Serves 2

Note: freezes well for popsicles!

 

Buttered Crock Pot Oats  

1 c. steel-cut oats

2 c. water

1 c. milk, any kind (it’s nice and creamy with coconut milk!)

1 egg (or 2 Tb. collagen powder)

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

2 Tb. butter, preferably grass-fed

Salt to taste

Nuts, berries, honey (optional)

Whisk eggs with milk and water. Combine with oats, seasonings and butter in a crock pot. Cook on low for up to 8 hours. Serve with additional milk  and top with honey, berries and nuts if desired. Serves 4.

Are You At Risk?

Over the last 35 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has quadrupled, from 5.5 million to 22 million. Further, one third of Caucasian children born in the United States after 2000 will develop diabetes, and half of Hispanic and African-American children will end up with the disease, according to the Center for Disease Control.  Our risk for the disease is sky-rocketing.

Blood tests are an accurate way of determining whether you are headed toward diabetes. An A1C result of 5.7 or greater, or a fasting blood glucose level above 100 are considered pre-diabetic. But there are correctable indicators that can be spotted years before you reach these points.

  • Do you get 60% or more of your daily calories from carbohydrates?
  • Do you crave sweets?
  • Are you dependent on sweets to keep you going?
  • Do you become irritable when meals are delayed or missed?
  • Are you grouchy in the morning?
  • Do you become lightheaded, shaky, jittery, agitated, or nervous when you don’t eat?
  • Are you forgetful?
  • Do you feel mentally foggy or sluggish?
  • Do you have blurred vision?
  • Are you dependent on stimulants for energy?
  • Do you feel hungry constantly?
  • Are you unsatisfied after a meal?
  • Are you compelled to snack through-out the day?
  • Do you feel tired after you eat?
  • Do you have a general sense of fatigue all the time?
  • Does it take you hours to fall asleep?
  • Do you awaken in the wee hours of the morning and find it difficult to get back to sleep, even when you’re exhausted?

Nutritional Therapy is a highly-effective way of addressing these red flags and reversing the trends early in the game. A Nutritional Therapy Practitioner can assess strain on the pancreas and other organs through the use of reflex points. She can determine the burden on the body and can use pure-grade supplements to support the body in a healing journey while diet modifications are being made.

One of the most effective lifestyle changes you can make is changing your ratio of carbohydrates to fats. Most Americans get at least 60% of their calories from carbohydrates. By replacing some of those calories with calories from healthy fats, you can reduce your insulin surges and moderate blood sugar spikes and dips.

Never before in the history of mankind has there been such an emergency to lower blood sugars – and the tragedy is that most individuals don’t even realize the danger they are in. We are delighted to offer one-on-one consultations as well as classes to help individuals identify their risk and stabilize their blood sugars.

How Much Sugar Can I Eat?

Is moderate use of sugar okay? A little sugar can’t be all that bad, can it?

Well, how much is a little? In the 1700’s, moderate use of sugar was 1 pound per person per year! A hundred years later, it was 10 pounds per capita. Now, estimates are that the average American consumes 180 pounds (405 cups) every year! That’s enough sugar to fill 25 gallon-size paint cans!

via GIPHY

Where is it all coming from? The primary source is beverages, but even those who are not drinking pop daily get sugar from many hidden sources, starting with that bowl of cereal for breakfast, the condiments at lunch and the packaged products you open your dinner. So read your labels! Even my tomato sauce has high fructose corn syrup in it!

Look under the Nutrition Facts on the food label to compute how much sugar you are eating. Every five grams of sugar is 1 teaspoon. Since Americans eat nearly a half of a pound of sugar each day, that’s the equivalent of 225 grams or 45 teaspoons daily!

But is sugar actually harmful? Don’t ask the sugar specialist; ask you body. Here are ten ways sugar affects your body:

  1. It triggers the liver to store globules of fat that condition you for fatty liver disease.
  2. It causes insulin surges, which in turn stop your cells from receiving the minerals they need as they become resistant to insulin. You end up deficient in magnesium chromium, zinc, and other important nutrients.
  3. It puts you at higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
  4. It suppresses your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infection.
  5. It accelerates aging.
  6. It alters your metabolism and leaves you short on energy.
  7. It creates an addictive response in the brain, fueling cravings for more.
  8. It promotes fat storage and weight gain.
  9. It contributes to chronic cortisol output, which weakens the gut; increased gut permeability fuels inflammation, food sensitivities, and auto-immunity
  10. It imbalances your sex hormones, spurring mood swings, low libido, PMS, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

To reduce your sugar consumption, try the 8 tips below, and enroll in this course to curb your cravings.

No-Bake, No-Guilt Cookie

I cut  my teeth on sugar. By 2nd grade, I could make no-bake cookies unsupervised. I was incapable of conceiving the ramifications of the trans-fats and sugars on my health. But regeneration and renewal are possible! Cells are under constant turn-over, and every nourishing habit you implement today impacts your physiology forever after. Re-vamping the snack list is a good place to start. Here’s my make-over of an old favorite.

Gourmet Eskimos

1/4 c. coconut oil

1/2 c. almond flour

1/8 tsp. salt

2 Tb. honey

1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes

Pistachios, craisins, or additional coconut flakes for rolling

Cream coconut oil and almond flour. Stir in salt, honey, vanilla and coconut flakes. Mix until smooth. Form balls and roll in nuts, dried fruit or additional coconut flakes if desired. Store in the fridge. Makes 1 dozen

Coca-mos

Same as Eskimos, except add 2 Tb. cocoa powder with the almond flour.

Photo Credit: Mordi Photographie

3 HEALTHY Uses for Sugar

I’m under a microscope when it comes to sugar use! Is the blood sugar specialist 100% sugar free? NO!!! The solemn truth is that I use refined sugar every single day. Here’s how:

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hum

Hum a Favorite Tune

I’m a very tense backseat driver. When road conditions are dangerous, my clutched hands, feet moving toward an imaginery brake pedal, and spontaneous outcries can put any conscientious driver into a state of panic. So last winter I tried something new. When the traction and visibility were severely limited, I hummed Christmas carols softly to myself – for about 90 miles! My partner, who tends to be very attuned to my moods, commented that my serenity helped dissipate his nervousness and aided his focus .

Stress is a silent killer. It elevates cortisol levels, which, when chronic, raise blood pressure, disrupt digestion, abet sugar issues, exacerbate inflammation, and skew hormone balance. But humming can change all that!

Your vagus nerve runs right past your vocal chords; humming helps tone that nerve! From this previous post, you know that when the vagus nerve is strong and resilient, so are you! You are less likely to stay in “fight-or-flight” when you are triggered, and everything from your inner organs to your external relationships benefits! You are able to maintain that more relaxed parasympathetic state, and even your blood sugar levels become more stable.

It doesn’t work to just think a song in your head, though. There has to be actual vibration to bring about the benefits. But apparently, it doesn’t matter whether you hum a melody or just create a monotone sound. The longer the voice is engaged, the greater the results. At least one study shows that humming for even five minutes can reduce diastolic blood pressure significantly.

Other benefits to the parasympathetic nervous system include:

  • slowed breathing
  • relaxed muscles of the head, shoulders, and neck
  • greater focus, mental clarity
  • subdued anxiety, enhanced cheer
  • deeper sleep
  • increased blood oxygenation
  • softened abdominal tension

Here’s a fun exercise to try the next time you find yourself getting angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed: unleash your inner pirate! Start with a deep growling “aaarrrrgh!” Prolong  the vowel, keeping your mouth open and sound resonating. Then slowly raise the pitch and tone of the cry into one more melodic. Try imitating an opera star or singing “hallelujah!” Notice your mood change as you continue to add vocal fluctuations.

Humming not only can be healthy, it can be fun, too!

 

Cozy Up!

Perhaps you haven’t thought about soup much more than to enjoy its steamy fragrance as you thaw yourself out from a snowy day, but it’s likely that soup existed in the earliest societies. Once cultures learned that they could create a clay vessel or watertight basket to hold their food instead of just waving it over the fire, they would have added water to their ingredients so that the contents would cook nicely. Traditional societies that hunted and gathered would have simmered bones in the liquid in order to salvage the last scraps of meat. Hence, our word for soup today actually comes from the Latin suppa, meaning bread soaked in broth. It was customary to “sop” or moisten bread in the watery mixture to utilize every drop.

Soup has been prescribed for invalids since ancient times, but it was the French who capitalized on that idea. In the 16th century, shops in France that sold a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup, advertised as an antidote to physical exhaustion, were called “restoratifs,” or as we say today, restaurants. Indeed, science is proving now that broth-based dishes full of cooked vegetables are not only easy to digest, they are healing to the gut.

But soup isn’t just physically restorative. It has a sort of emotional appeal as well, being comfort food when the weather outside is frightful. It also is an excellent way to stabilize blood sugars. So celebrate soup month by whirring up this easy recipe to enjoy by the mugful!

Spiced Cream of Butternut Soup

1 small onion, chopped

1 Tb. coconut oil

2 c. cooked pumpkin or butternut squash*

1 c. bone broth

1 c. canned coconut milk

1/2 tsp each cinnamon, coriander, and allspice

1 lb. cooked sausage, ground beef, or chicken breast, if desired.

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in coconut oil until translucent. Combine onion, squash, broth, coconut milk and spices in a blender and process until smooth. Adjust seasonings. Add cooked meat. Heat to marry flavors.

*To roast a whole pumpkin or butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down on a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until soft when pierced with a fork. Cool completely, then scoop flesh out of the rind.

 

 

 

Craving a Heart Attack!

Do you crave breads, pastas, and sweets, – especially when you are under pressure? Too many refined carbs, along with too much stress, may be instigating heart disease for you – not the fat you are eating.

In paradigm-shattering research, Thomas Cowan argues in his newly-released Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, that fats are vital to heart function. Being an endurance muscle more than a sprinter, your heart relies on long-burning fats for fuel as opposed to flash-energy sugars.

Cowan reveals that not all heart attacks are accompanied by ruptured plaques, which have been incorrectly correlated with high-fat diets. But all heart attacks ARE preceded by a reduction of parasympathetic activity. You recognize the parasympathetic response as the rest-and-digest arm of the autonomic nervous system. The other half of the autonomic nervous system, of course, is the sympathetic response, which under a perceived threat, puts the body into flight-or-flight. It is characterized by dry mouth, dilated pupils, rapid pulse, shallow breathing, and inhibited colon function.

According to Cowan, chronic stress, followed by an acute traumatic event or physical exertion, causes heart attacks because of increased adrenaline production.

You may recall that adrenaline spurs glycolysis – the converting of stored sugars into ready fuel for an immediate dash to safety.  Under chronic stress, adrenaline is continuously being released. When an acute trigger erupts, even the heart is forced into glycolysis.

“This redirects the metabolism of the heart away from its preferred and most efficient fuel sources, ketones and fatty acids,“ Cowan notes.

What happens next is a cascade of misfortune. Lactic acid builds up in the heart, just the same as it would in your calf muscles if you were fleeing a charging bull. This state of acidosis prevents calcium from entering the individual cells. Since calcium is needed for muscle contraction, your heart is unable to beat as forcefully. Edema – fluid retention – sets in. The combination of edema and acidosis deprives the cell of its nutrients and the tissue begins to die. You experience a heart attack. Thus, stress is to blame.

This is not to say that you can ignore plaque build-up in your arteries. Here is where a high-carb diet is implicated. Too many carbohydrates force your body into producing excess insulin to lower blood sugars away from diabetic levels. In another tragic cascade, high insulin causes insulin resistance. That, in turn,  precipitates high blood sugar levels. These out-of-control blood sugars instigate fluid retention, high blood pressure, and inflammation. In response to inflammation degrading the blood vessel in critical places, your body responds with a “plaster cast” of plaque to shore up the vessel wall. Thus, plaque actually indicates too many sugars, rather than too much fat.

Cowan’s solution to heart disease is to de-stress and reduce inflammation. He recommends parasympathetic activities such as walking barefoot, getting out in nature, and nurturing positive relationships. His diet plan includes traditional fats, such as coconut oil, butter, and ghee rather than refined vegetable oils.

Need a Vagus Nerve Tune-Up?

Life is coming at you fast and furious! You want to feel strong but you’re just too tired to start anything new. You know you should eat better – but there’s no time to cook. You try to stay hydrated; you didn’t even remember lunch, let alone a water bottle. Your conscience nags you about exercising. Sheesh, getting out of bed is a work-out!

But darling, you can find pleasure in toning your vagus nerve, and the very act of doing so will diminish some of your stress and begin to change you physically. With enough practice, you may find your stamina improves.

The vagus nerve is the master mind of the anti-stress network in the body. It stretches from the brain to the intestines, affecting the heart and lungs, the liver and kidneys, stomach and spleen. When it is toned, people have more balanced blood sugars, are less susceptible to depression, are more able to concentrate and remember, have more fulfilling relationships, and are less likely to be plagued by inflammation in the body.

The more toned your vagus nerve, the more quickly you can recover from a situation that puts you into “fight, flight, or freeze.”  Although some of us are born with less tone than others, engaging in just one uncomplicated activity each day can strengthen that tone.

Here are a dozen of my favorites ways to do so:

  1. Humming or singing
  2. Laughing
  3. Meditating
  4. Deep breathing
  5. Washing my face in cold water
  6. Praying
  7. Taking Probiotics
  8. Thinking positive thoughts
  9. Serving others
  10. Getting a massage
  11. Expressing gratitude
  12. Aromatherapy

Dr. Arielle Schwartz, psychologist, explains that like Goldilocks, “we recognize we are ‘too hot’ when we feel keyed up, anxious, irritable, or panicky. We are too ‘too cold’ when we are shut down, depressed, or feeling hopeless. Sometimes we alternate between the two which is like driving with one foot on the gas and one on the brakes. Practices that regulate the vagus nerve are aimed towards either relaxing or re-energizing ourselves depending upon what is needed to feel ‘just right.’”

No matter how poorly you feel, you are never too out of balance to engage your vagus nerve.