Education

Tuning Immunity helps prevent virus transmission

Tune Immunity 10 Ways

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

Hydration is Your First Defense

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

Immune-Tuning Triad

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

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

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

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

Tune Immunity with Vitamins

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

Tune Immunity with Breath

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

HRV Reflects Immune Balance

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

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

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

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

Tune Immunity with Supplements

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

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

Tune-up Systemic Imbalances

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

Don’t Forget Your Produce

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

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

 

woman with mask

COVID-19 Considerations

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

Consider Your Innate Immune Response to COVID-19

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

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

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

Heal Barrier Function

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

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

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

Consider Minerals for COVID-19 Resiliency

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

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

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

Restorative Sleep for Resiliency

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

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

 

Toilet paper

Relieve Constipation

You can relieve constipation with diet and lifestyle choices. The Constipation Club includes roughly 1 of every 5 Americans. Constipation is a serious symptom that contributes to disease. While it is not true that diet, exercise, and hydration are the only factors contributing to constipation, they are they ones you can control.

Relieve Constipation with Good Eating Hygiene

One of the most important everyday choices you make to sustain bowel regularity is how you eat. If your eating hygiene is sloppy, it will decrease your digestive secretions (stomach acid, bile, digestive enzymes). These secretions are key to ensuring that you have a healthy bowel movement.

What does good eating hygiene consist of? Here are 7 key aspects:

  1. Imagine and create a relaxed setting, where you can truly be in the moment. Candles or nature, anyone?
  2. Focus on the smells, tastes, & textures of the meal. Truly savor your food.
  3. Chew more! If that means taking smaller bites, then use toddler silverware or cut every bite into fourths, but make sure your food is nearly liquid before you swallow.
  4. Yes, hydrate. But do so mainly between meals. If you need to moisten your food, see #3. More than 8 ounces of liquid with your meal will dilute digestive function.
  5. Don’t overfill the “washing machine.” Your stomach needs room to agitate its contents. Leave overstuffing to padded furniture.
  6. Deepen your inhales and lengthen your exhales, especially when you sit down to your meal. This helps switch you out of “fight-or-flight” into “rest-and-digest”.
  7. Take your time. Approximately 20 minutes after you start eating, your body produces cholecystokinin (CCK) to stimulate both bile and enzymes to help break down your food. So, avoid rushing in order to let these substances have optimal effect.

Moving Beyond Eating Hygiene

If you have mastered eating hygiene and are still struggling to relieve constipation, consider the 3 M’s and the 3 F’s.

  • Magnesium helps relax the colon. The best form to take for constipation relief is magnesium citrate. Check with your functional practitioner to know how much magnesium is appropriate for you.
  • Movement stimulates peristalsis. Are you sitting too much? Counting steps with an pedometer lets you know how much movement you engage in per day. For example, 5,000 steps in a 16-hour waking period means you are moving approximately 5% of the time. You need to have roughly 24,000 steps in 16 hours to be moving 25% of the time.
  • Medicines may impair motility (especially opiods, antacids and iron supplements). When you take prescriptions sporadically, you can relieve constipation with prune juice. But when you use constipating drugs regularly, you may need to work with a practitioner to resolve your need for these pills.
  • Fat helps “grease the skids” if it is unrefined & natural. Avoid processed vegetable oil. Stick with olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, coconut oil, and butter for the most part. A low-fat diet can impair your ability to relieve constipation.
  • Fiber can both bulk up and soften the stool for it to pass more readily. You should strive to eat more than 25 grams of fiber each day. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains fills this requirement.
  • Food intolerances or sensitivities interfere with normal bowel function. If you have a food intolerance, you lack enzymes to digest your food well. In contrast, a food sensitivity invokes an immune response and you experience inflammation. Both of these scenarios can contribute to constipation. You can order a blood test to check for food sensitivities.

Constipation Relief Requires Good Cellular Communication

Another cause of constipation is poor communication between the brain and the gut, or between the cells of the gut. Since hormones and neurotransmitters are the messengers of this communication, functional practitioners look at those chemicals for imbalance.

Too little thyroid hormone, can cause your system to back up because it slows down all metabolism, including digestive functions. Be sure to let a functional practitioner test your hormone levels before adjusting any medication. One of your most important levels to know is your Free T3, which is the active form of thyroid hormone. Many individuals have sufficient T4 thyroid hormone, but don’t convert it well to the active form.

Cortisol primes cell receptors for other hormones to enter. Both hyper- and hypo-cortisol states influence thyroid hormone action. Again, “test, don’t guess” is the rule for balancing your hormones correctly.

Neurotransmitter Action Matters

You synthesize serotonin, one of your most prominent neurotransmitters, chiefly in your gut, not your brain. Taking an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) for anxiety or depression is a common cause of constipation. These medications tell the body to recycle the serotonin you have, so the brain assumes you have enough. Over time, your brain directs your body to slow down production. Too little serotonin provokes constipation, while too much serotonin triggers diarrhea. If you struggle with neurotransmitter balance, you will want to work with a functional practitioner to help you re-establish healthy levels.

As you can see, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to solving constipation. Factors can be varied and individual.

Passing a stool should be an effortless, everyday occurrence. Just as you would not want to use the dirty dishwater to cook a meal, your body does not want to re-circulate waste products to sustain your health. Please avail yourself of tools and resources to make sure that your “garbage” doesn’t pile up.

 

 

 

Is a resolve to lose weight harming you?

Don’t Resolve to Lose Weight in 2021

Don’t resolve to lose weight in 2021. Rather, resolve to be healthier than ever before. Then, when you have optimized your digestion, blood sugars, metabolism, and hormones, your weight will take care of itself.

Prime Indicators of Health

Americans have been conditioned to believe that the scale accurately reflects their health. There are plenty of skinny diabetics, stocky athletes, and beautiful but fatigued models to disprove the weight-health connection. Yet, we continue to look at weight as an end-goal.

For example, if you were to visit your physician with tension headaches, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight gain, you would likely receive a prescription for weight loss, along with a diuretic and a statin. But this would not address the reason for your symptoms. Weight gain is after all, only a reflection of your body’s function. It would not be accurate to say that excess weight is the cause of your headaches, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In this case, a resolve to lose weight would treat one of your symptoms. It would not necessarily make your a healthier person.

We can use many lab tests to assess whether you are thriving. Perhaps one of the greatest indicators, though is how you feel. Are you sluggish or energetic? Do you have plaguing cravings, or do your meals leave you feeling fueled and satisfied? Do do you feel bloated, and swollen. or do you move freely and easily? Is your mind foggy or clear? Are your moods unpredictable, or stable?

Roadblocks to Weight Loss

If dieting really worked, we would not have an epidemic of obesity. The CDC reports that the number of Americans on diets has risen 14% over the last decade, and yet, the rate of obesity also continues to rise. Estimates are that roughly 2/3 of the American population is now overweight or obese.

Here are some reasons why your body might be hanging on to those extra pounds:

  • Dieting – Calorie restriction lowers your basal metabolic rate and convinces your body to hoard! It’s better to have an abundance of nutrient-dense foods for your body to run optimally. Then it can discard what it doesn’t need.
  • Toxicity – Adipose tissue is the storage depot for toxins that your body cannot fully eliminate. Your body hangs onto the fat on purpose to protect you from organ damage. If you resolve to lose weight by drastic caloric reductions and extreme exercise plans, you put those toxins back into circulation. Unless your liver is a superhero and all your elimination routes are fully clear, you increase inflammation and stress in your body.
  • Hormone Imbalance – Guess what! Your hormones are in control! Thyroid hormone determines how fast or slow your metabolism is. Insulin commands whether you store or burn your meal. Cortisol is the gatekeeper that admits other hormones into the cell. It’s all a symphony. If one is “out of tune,” it spoils the whole performance.
  • Stress – When your are under constant strain, without regular breaks for relief, your body chooses to “stockpile” energy in the form of fat tissue to insure survival. It doesn’t know how long the threat will last, or if you will be required to flea at any moment. It does know, though, that if you are starved and depleted, you will not effectively make your escape. Thus, stress can increase weight even more than poor nutrition and empty calories.

Resolve to Lose Inflammation, Not Weight

What do toxicity, hormone imbalances and stress have in common? Inflammation! So, you will be most successful in your resolve for better health if you shed inflammation and stop worrying about weight. As noted in this post, sleep deprivation is one factor that increases inflammation. Therefore, getting a good night’s sleep is a primary tool for thriving health. Another tool is insuring good blood sugar balance. If you experience blood sugar crashes, you may want to enroll in our newest class for 2021, “Help! I’m Hangry!”

Baby steps are okay! Start where you are, and resolve to do a little better each day. If you are having digestive distress, or feel that your hormones are skewed, I can help.

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.

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.

 

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.