Education

Becoming suddenly diabetic takes years

Suddenly Pre-Diabetic?

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

The Pre-Diabetic Evolves Over Years

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

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

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

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

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

Progression from “Normal” to “Sick”

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly Not Pre-diabetic?

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

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

Only dramatic change brings dramatic results

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

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

Here’s a quick checklist of lifestyle considerations:

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

 

 

 

 

 

antioxidant berries for inflammation

Antioxidants for Inflammation

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

Common Triggers for Chronic Inflammation

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

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

What are Antioxidants?

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

Antioxidant Foods for Inflammation

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

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

How to Synthesize Antioxidants for Inflammation

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

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

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

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

 

 

Viruses provoke immune fitness

Immune Fitness for Viral Survival

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

Exposure is Inevitable

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

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

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

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

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

Make Broad, Balanced Choices for Viral Survival

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

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

Develop Immune Fitness

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

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

 

Eat broth and cruciferous vegetables for immunity

Eating for Immunity

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

Eat Cysteine for Strong Immunity

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

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

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

Eating Hygiene Impacts Immunity

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

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

Boost Immunity with Vitamins and Minerals

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

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

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

Eat Anti-Viral Foods

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

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

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

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

Avoid Inflammatory Foods

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

10 numerals for the 10 ways to fight diabetes

Fight Diabetes 10 Ways

How do you fight diabetes when you’re hungry, tired, and the disease runs in your family? Can you fight pre-diabetes when you haven’t got time to sit down for a decent meal? Is it possible to fight rising weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure when work and family demands are so pressing?

You have more control than you think you do. It starts one breath at a time, one bite at a time.

Fighting diabetes isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. Your body got this way day by day over a decade or two. You can make in-roads with baby steps in the right direction until the balance tips. Every effort you make sends your body signals that things are different now. That’s because your body isn’t suddenly non-diabetic one moment and then diabetic the next. There is a progression that starts with increased insulin levels. So anything you do to decrease insulin output will help. Your degree of insulin resistance will creep down until normal sensitivity is again restored. Progress will be slower, but you’ll have a plan you can actually stick to.

How to Tip the Balance

Pick one of these top 4 strategies that feels attainable. Put your heart into it and do it well until it becomes a natural part of your lifestyle. Then pick a second one, and so on until you are doing all of them. When you are ready, move on to the secondary strategies. If you do everything in your power to heal, you will.

  1. Today, do something that brings you joy. Do it again tomorrow. Do it every day. Because stress raises blood sugars more dramatically than food. First, stress releases cortisol, which raises glucose in your blood supply so that your body can mobilize against your stressor. Second, stress creates sleeplessness, which increases insulin resistance. Third, stress shuts down digestion such that only quick sugars are available for immediate energy. This creates cravings for sugary foods. But when you find joy in your life, you raise oxytocin instead of cortisol. These two hormones can’t both be high at the same time. When you release stress by finding joy, you fight diabetes.
  2. Make your first meal of the day your best. Your first foods set blood sugars for the rest of the day. So, if you have juice and a granola bar, or cereal with skim milk, or coffee and a doughnut, you’re “throwing kindling on the fire.” These high-carbohydrate offerings will flare up the glucose levels in your bloodstream. Next, insulin levels with rise to protect you. Yes, insulin stows sugars away to be used later so they don’t damage organs. When insulin has finished its job, your blood sugars will plummet and you will be reaching for a candy bar to stoke them back up again. To protect yourself from this cycle, eat natural fats with your breakfast and make sure you get at least 15 grams of protein.
  3. Snack in style. While spacing food 4-5 hours apart is ideal, it’s not realistic if your blood sugars are dysregulated. But you don’t have to grab chips, crackers, or soda, either. These food-like substances don’t support your fight against diabetes in the least. But combining a fruit or a vegetable with a natural fat gives you energy and satisfies you until the next meal. Check out the 20 suggestions in this post.
  4. Drink pure water. Flavor it if you need to. Beverages in America contribute to diabetes more than anything else we put in our mouths. That includes energy drinks, sodas, juice, lattes, and purchased smoothies. Here’s a tip. Look on the nutrition label at the grams of carbohydrates. Divide by 5. Your answer will be how many teaspoons of sugar you are ingesting. If water just doesn’t taste good to you, consider dropping cut fruit into it, cold-infusing some herbal tea in it, or adding a product such as Ultima Replenisher.

Continue To Fight Diabetes

  1. Eat more vegetables. Did you know we should be eating 6-9 cups of vegetables per day? These nutrient-dense powerhouses fight diabetes by stabilizing blood sugars, providing minerals your pancreas needs, and feeding a healthy microbiome that supports better metabolism. Plus, vegetables take room on your plate that might be filled by pasta, potatoes or pie. Try to make half your plate vegetables.
  2. Sleep longer and deeper. The Sleep Doctor explains, “sleep deprivation increases production of cortisol, which can make cells more resistant to insulin. Lack of sleep also triggers changes to other hormones, including thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and testosterone, which can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity and higher blood glucose.” Try to go to bed early enough that you wake naturally without an alarm
  3. Move your body more. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to increase insulin sensitivity. It helps move sugar into the muscles for storage and promotes an immediate increase in insulin sensitivity, which lasts 2–48 hours, depending on the exercise, according to this study. But you don’t have to go to the gym, as long as you are moving consistently throughout the day, with short intervals of increased heart rate. Make your activity enjoyable and find ways to break up your periods of sitting.
  4. Keep a 12-hour window between your last meal and your first. Intermittent fasting is greatly advantageous for reversing insulin resistance. But you don’t have to skip meals to get the benefit. Start by lengthening the time between dinner and breakfast. If you can’t go 12 hours, go 10, gradually lengthening out your fast. Research shows that a 16-hour window is very beneficial if you can work up to it.
  5. Avoid foods made with flour or sweeteners. Since these are the selections that are most likely to contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes, it only makes sense to eliminate them. Try substituting whole fruit at first, if you need more carbohydrate or miss the sweet taste.
  6. Optimize nutrients. Your body needs zinc, B vitamins, magnesium, carnitine, and many other nutrients to regulate blood sugars. How can your pancreas function optimally if you don’t give it the raw materials it needs. Real foods are your best source, as illustrated by the pictures below. But if it suits your style to use a meal replacement shake once a day to insure you are getting the nourishment you need, MediPro Plus is a great option.
Food-like substances that support diabetes

Don’t eat this!

Real foods that fight diabetes

Eat This!

High blood sugars may indicate a need to reduce insulin resistance

Reduce Insulin Resistance

There are lots of ways to reduce insulin resistance. The best ones for you are the ones you can implement and sustain with pleasure and commitment. There is no one-size-fits-all diet that is perfect for everyone. But there are some important principles that are true, regardless of what plan you choose to reduce your insulin resistance. The more of these principle you can adopt, the greater your chances for a return to healthy insulin sensitivity.

Why is it important to reduce insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is a precursor to chronic illness, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and liver and kidney disease. It’s the smoke detector that signals that your body is on fire. But waiting until your lab tests show high blood sugars is like waiting until the 2nd story is engulfed in flames before you call the fire department.  Insulin is a critical wellness marker. Ask your doctor, or visit an online lab to request fasting insulin levels. Optimally, your number should be 5 or less.

Breakfast Like a King

If you choose to eat in the morning (many people prefer a fasting approach), your meal should contain at least 15 grams of high quality protein. By high quality, I mean as much wild-caught, grass-fed, free-range and organic as you can find and afford. Filling up on protein not only helps your body build new non-insulin resistant cells, it also helps satisfy your appetite without reaching for another bowl of cereal.

The debate over fats – which ones and how much – is hotly contested. However, it is clear that too many refined carbs will immediately raise blood sugar levels, followed by an increase in insulin. Fats slow down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. Many people have success by including nuts and seeds in their morning meal, and by using olive oil or coconut oil regularly.

Are Carbs Good or Bad?

Each proponent of insulin reducing diets has his or her own guidelines on carbohydrates. Some say eliminate fruits. Others say eliminate grains. Or both. Still others say fruits and grains are acceptable as long as they are not processed or refined. Regardless of these differing opinions, individuals with insulin resistance are likely to have exaggerated responses to high glycemic foods, even unrefined ones. Therefore, in short-term, it’s a good idea to reduce carbohydrate intake in general.

More specifically, avoid sweeteners of any kind and stay away from flour initially, even gluten-free varieties, as these convert to glucose and raise blood sugars rapidly. Many people find that limiting fruits to one serving a day is helpful.

Vegetables are carbs. But non-starchy vegetables have such a low-glycemic index, are so nutrient-dense, and are high enough in fiber, that they are welcome in any dietary approach. A good rule of thumb is to fill your plate half-full with vegetables, starchy ones excluded. (Corn, potatoes, peas, and root vegetables are best minimized while you reduce your insulin resistance.)

Can a Ketogenic Diet Reduce Insulin Resistance?

The keto approach is too extreme for most people to be able to sustain for more than a month or two. Reducing insulin resistance should be a long-term lifestyle. However, you might find a keto diet is a great way to jump start your progress or get you off a plateau, provided you have the digestive capacity (and gall bladder function) to increase your proteins and fats that dramatically. If you don’t feel well doing keto, you’re just as well off to simply keep your carbs under 100 grams per day if you are moderately active or under 50 grams per day if you are largely sedentary.

Move it!

I think all researchers will agree that exercise increases insulin sensitivity. The best exercise for you is the one you will consistently engage in! Some people are inspired by using a device to count their steps. Others feel they have to sweat! Research shows that high-intensity interval training and resistance training with weights or therapy bands are both effecting in reducing insulin resistance.

Raise Your Oxytocin

Cortisol is released during stress, and cortisol raises blood sugars. When stress is chronic, blood sugars are also chronically high. Since high blood sugars damage organs, your body protects yourself with a continuously high output of insulin to stow those sugars away in various organs and tissues. But chronically elevated insulin leads to insulin resistance. Therefore, even on a clean diet with lots of exercise, stress begets insulin resistance.

The answer to high cortisol levels is to find ways to raise your oxytocin. These two hormones work like a see-saw. When one goes up, the other goes down. You can raise oxytocin by engaging your five senses:

  • Look into the eyes of a loved one.
  • Breathe deeply of diffused essential oils, or better yet, flowers, trees, leaves, and soil.
  • Listen to nature sounds or beautiful music.
  • Savor the complex flavors of a well-prepared nutrient-dense meal.
  • Snuggle with a child, a partner, or a pet.
  • Take up a hobby, such as dancing or painting.
  • Laugh.
  • Notice the clouds, individual blades of grass, the caress of a breeze, or other details of nature
  • Like a child, run your fingers through the sand, or mold a ball of clay, or play with someone’s hair.
  • Write your feelings in a gratitude journal
  • Get acupuncture or a massage
  • Eat to raise oxytocin, using strategies in this post. 

Do You Need Help Reducing Insulin Resistance?

If you have implemented as many of these strategies as you can and need help troubleshooting a lack of progress, I’m here to help! I use my functional approach to detect imbalances that may be creating roadblocks for you.

Eating together raises oxytocin

Eat to Raise Oxytocin

Obsessing about de-stressing? Why not raise your love hormone, oxytocin, instead? Since stress is damaging to your health, you’re under pressure to live a more relaxed life. But isn’t relaxing under duress an oxymoron? However, science assures us that stress hormones come down when oxytocin rises, wouldn’t it be simpler to focus on the pleasurable task of raising oxytoxin?

What is Oxytocin?

You might say that oxytocin is commander-in-chief of your body’s parasympathetic nervous system response. This response is commonly called the rest-and-digest state, or the connection-relaxation state. Though many hormonal and nerve changes switch the body to this response from a sympathetic, or flight-or-flight state, oxytocin oversees the process. You see, oxytocin has many more hats to wear than just making sexual intercourse pleasurable and enabling mothers to birth and nurse their babies. It enhances bonding, appears to modulate fear, and has an anti-depressant effect.

Additionally, oxytocin can reduce anxiety, and lessen symptoms of withdrawal. Both men and women secrete oxytocin.

Signs You Might be Making Insufficient Oxytocin

Obviously, given the roles above, you might be low in oxytocin if:

  • You have trouble bonding.
  • You experience chronic depression, anxiety, or fears.
  • Sexual intercourse is mechanical and/or you have trouble achieving orgasm.
  • You crave addictive substances.

Here’s another sign that’s intriguing to me as a nutritional therapist: you crave sweet, high-carbohydrate foods. There is research that oxytocin counters cravings for sweets. But whether it does or not, this much is clear: stress does raise cravings for sweets. And too much of the stress hormone cortisol blunts oxytocin. So, it only stands to reason that raising oxytocin would diminish sugar cravings.

How Eating Can Raise Oxytocin

We know that social contact, looking in the eyes of loved ones, touch, warmth, and verbalizations of love and gratitude heighten oxytocin production. These factors all come together when you share a meal with family or friends.  But there’s more: you need certain nutrients to make oxytocin, so eating foods high in those factors can enhance your ability to manufacture and release oxytocin.

Here are three nutrients that are effective in optimizing your oxytocin levels:

  • Magnesium: This mineral has a dual function. It helps oxytocin receptors work properly, and it boosts oxytocin’s action. Because most Americans are clinically low in magnesium, you could struggle to have sufficient oxytocin due to mineral deficiency. The top foods for magnesium, believe it or not, are not bananas, although this fruit is #10 on the list. The best choices are spinach, pumpkin seeds, lima beans, tuna, and brown rice.
  • Vitamin C: Oxytocin depends on this vitamin as a co-factor in its synthesis. Vitamin C also seems to stimulate oxytocin secretion. Enhance your Vitamin C stores by eating plenty of acerola cherries, chili peppers, red and yellow bell peppers, guava, parsley, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lemons, and papayas.
  • Lactobacillus reuteri: This probiotic augments brain oxytocin. It is found in cultured foods, such as cheeses, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and miso.

My Favorite Ways to Raise Oxytocin

I find it delightful to strive for an oxytocin boost! It’s much more satisfying than writing “manage stress” on my to-do list. Here are just a few of my most enjoyable ways to increase the love hormone.

  • Eat nutrient-rich, whole-food meals with my favorite people. I highly doubt that junk food will give me an oxytocin rush, so I leave processed, refined foods out of the equation.
  • Turn up the heat. Here are several cozy options I indulge in for warming my body: sit in a sauna, soak in some hot springs, place a heated compress on my neck and shoulders, and relax with a foot soak.
  • Listen to relaxing music. It’s even more beneficial to hum or sing along.
  • Engage in body work. I personally find acupuncture, massage, and yoga to be very pleasurable.
  • Notice the sights, scents, and sounds all around: the motion of the clouds, the chirping of birds, the smell of a pine boughs, the laughter of a child, the snapping of a campfire.
  • Engage in deep inhales & long exhales, using the diaphragm, not the chest.

Remember, stress can undermine even the cleanest diet. Contact me to learn more about reducing stress hormones and eating healthier.

Blueberries and cream is a smart snack to stabilize blood sugars

Smart Snacks

Smart snacks keep blood sugars stable, maintain level energy and moods, and provide vital nutrients. Usually, they come without an ingredient list. The best ones require no mixing or cooking. For the most part, you can eat them on the go.

Convenience Drives Foolish Snack Choices

Why are we even talking about smart snacks? Today’s convenience food industry has created products that are the nemesis of health. For example, beverages with high fructose corn syrup are damaging to your liver. Further, highly processed crackers, chips, and baked goods are high in calories and low in nutrients. They can cause your blood sugars to rise rapidly. Chronically high blood sugars contribute to insulin resistance and type 2 Diabetes. Also, packaged snacks with flavor enhancers, food coloring, and other chemical additives affect your mood negatively by altering your microbiome.

Smart Snacks Are Natural Foods

When you run into the grocery store to grab a quick bite, look for items that don’t come in a box, can, or bag. Think about food that existed more than a century ago. Envision going outside to pick it, dig it, milk it, or gather it. Food scientists have invented most of the harmful products on the market today in the last 50 to 100 years. If you can’t pronounce all the ingredients on the label and don’t know what half of them are, that’s your first clue that you don’t need them. After all, who cooks at home with sodium benzoate, BHA, propylene glycol, and azodicarbonamide?

Don’t Leave Out Healthy Fats

Most of today’s snack choices center on refined carbohydrates. Eating high quantities of processed carbohydrates is dangerous for your metabolic balance. Those snacks that do contain fats are made from highly inflammatory oils: soy, canola, cottonseed, safflower, and corn. But your cells – all 37 trillion of them – each need the right kind of fats in order to admit nutrients and expel wastes. Nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, coconuts and dairy products contain natural fats that benefit your health.

Smart Combinations to Snack on

Check out this list of snack pairings, then get creative designing your own. The key is to pair a fat or protein with a fruit, vegetable or whole grain carbohydrate.

  1. Smoked Salmon on multi-seed crackers
  2. Dates & cream cheese
  3. Hummus & baby carrots
  4. Peaches & Greek yogurt
  5. Snap Peas & tahini
  6. Olives & baby bell peppers
  7. Hard-boiled eggs & grape tomatoes
  8. Raspberries & ricotta cheese
  9. Celery & sunflower seed butter
  10. Red pears & cheddar
  11. Cottage cheese & cantaloupe
  12. Grapes & gouda cheese
  13. Avocado cubes & mandarin orange slices
  14. Tuna salad in cucumber “cups”
  15. Nut butter on brown rice cakes
  16. Broiled tomatoes slices with mozzarella
  17. Peel-&-eat shrimp with cocktail sauce
  18. Pistachios & strawberries
  19. Popcorn with butter & parmesan
  20. Sunflower & sesame seeds baked with honey (see recipe below)

Sunflower-Sesame Crisp

  • 1/2 c. sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 c. sesame seeds
  • 1 Tb. honey
  • 1 Tb. olive oil

Toss ingredients together and spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast in a preheated 400° oven for 6-8 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, break apart, and cool completely.

Linking Insomnia, Anxiety, and Indigestion

What do insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion have in common? That may depend on your own physiological uniqueness. But for many individuals with these 3 complaints, chronic cortisol is the link.

What is cortisol and how is it made?

When your brain perceives a threat – either from within or from without – it needs a messenger to spread the alarm and get the body ready for action. So, the hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary to trigger the adrenals to make cortisol from cholesterol.

You might mistakenly believe that cortisol is the enemy. Many call it The Stress Hormone and give it a bad rap. But what many people don’t realize is that cortisol is critical for you to wake up, focus, set goals, meet your deadlines, and even exercise. That’s because it rouses you out of your resting/healing state. It does that by increasing blood pressure and heart rate and raising blood sugars to that you can have energy to mobilize – whether that be dancing, debating, or dodging a bullet!

The problem is that when cortisol output becomes chronic, your body never gets to rest and digest and heal. That’s when you begin to see health issues.

Why do so many people have chronically high cortisol levels?

First, this is a go-go-go world of ongoing crises from sun-up to sundown, with alarms, alerts, and emergencies all clamoring for your attention. Urgencies control your focus. Your body responds intelligently by producing the hormone that will help you meet those demands. Unless you deliberately choose to slow down, shut down, and turn off, your body will continue to produce cortisol day and night.

Second, 60 to 80% of the American diet is refined carbohydrate, everything from Rice Krispies to Wonder Bread, and from French fries to pasta. And that’s not counting chips, candy, or pop! When you eat like that, your body needs cortisol to come to the rescue. Think of it like this:

What happens after I toss a bowling ball 10 feet in the air? Of course! It comes crashing down! Well, blood sugars are the proverbial bowling ball. You launch them into the air by loading up on meals and snacks that are not balanced with appropriate proteins and fats. The laws of nature say that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, inevitably, blood sugars plummet!

A blood sugar dip may contribute to insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion

Your brain can’t tolerate that. It must be guaranteed a constant supply of glucose in order to direct the minute-by-minute management of all your body functions. So, it declares an emergency, and the hypothalamus signals the pituitary to trigger the adrenals to release cortisol to raise blood sugars back up.  Cortisol alerts the muscles and the liver to release stored glucose for immediate energy. In effect, when you grab a doughnut, a Kit Kat, or a Pepsi, you stress your body into fight-or-flight.

How does cortisol instigate insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion?

Your body is smart. It knows how to put first things first. If you have a battle to fight, it will energize your muscles, increase your blood flow, and sharpen your vision. But…it will also shut down digestion and keep you alert so you don’t drift into slumber easily. After all, those things are a lower priority than simply surviving! Therefore, people with chronically high cortisol often notice symptoms such as heartburn, bloat, anxiety, and insomnia.

How can you reduce insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion?

Start in the morning by building a slow-burning, enduring metabolic fire. You prevent a cortisol spike by avoiding a blood sugar trough. Figuratively speaking, you have to put coal in your steam engine. What would happen if you tried to run a steam engine train with a pile of newspapers? It wouldn’t work! The train would get 2 feet down the track and stop.

Fruit juices, cereal, white flours, and sweeteners are like newspapers. They burn hot and fast, and extinguish quickly. They don’t power you for the long haul. “Coal” comes from healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, butter, coconut oil, olives, and avocados.

That might mean adding Greek yogurt to your oatmeal, putting an avocado in your green smoothie, eating a couple of eggs with your toast or having a sausage patty with your hash browns. Please, please, please don’t grab a bowl of cereal with skin milk, or run out the door with a granola bar!

Next, when you grab a snack, pair a healthy fat with a high-fiber fruit or vegetable. For example, you might eat hummus and carrots, cottage cheese and peaches, coconut milk and blueberries, olives and baby bell peppers, almond butter and apples, or guacamole and mango.

While there are many factors that contribute to insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion, stabilizing cortisol output with balanced eating can improve these complaints dramatically.

Need to end bloat from too many cookies?

End Holiday Gas, Bloat, and Heartburn

Is binge-eating synonymous with Christmas?  Too often, merry turns into miserable when gas, indigestion, and heartburn strike after a night of gorging on goodies! Functional Nutrition can help you digest and absorb your food better in order to end holiday bloat.

Use these five tips to keep your holidays happy:

  • Eat real. Focus on foods that don’t come with a nutrition label. You are more likely to be satisfied with less when you eat whole foods. Consider which of these offerings is likely to give your body what it needs so it will turn off the hunger signals. They are both fish: Atlantic salmon, and Swedish Fish candies.

salmon dinnerSwedish Fish ingredient list

  • Sip herbal tea: Used for centuries, peppermint and chamomile are two pleasant herbs that can power up digestion, relieve gas, reduce bloat, and end indigestion. Additionally, sipping the hot water can soothe your stomach. As the water moves through your your system, it hydrates your organs so they are better able to eliminate waste.
  • Nibble bitter food. Fennel seeds and ginger root are classified as digestive bitters. A little at the end of your meal will promote gall bladder contractions and intestinal movement to prevent stagnant stomach. You can toast fennel seeds in a dry skillet until golden brown for enhanced flavor and performance. Ginger can be shaved to be eaten in thin curls.
  • Stretch into some yoga poses. Marichyasana improves digestion by twisting and massaging the abdominal organs. Pavana muktasana releases trapped gas and cures indigestion by stimulating peristalsis, the wavelike motion of the intestines.
  • Go for a walk. Rather than slumping onto the couch, which accentuates lethargic digestion, get up and move! Even just a slow stroll will stimulate your organs to work better.

Now, on the list of don’ts: avoid reaching for Tums or Zantac. We believe in functional nutrition that what you absorb is just as important as what you eat. To rev up sluggish digestion, you need MORE stomach acid, not less. So, enjoy good food and good company, don’t rush your meals, chew thoroughly, and implement the strategies above to prevent and end holiday bloat, gas, and indigestion.