Education

Summer Shape-up

When the buds and bugs appear, so do the sneakers and gym shorts! After a heavy winter and a damp spring, you are probably a bit feverish to get outside and move. Maybe you want to shed some of your “hibernation fat” or maybe you just want to feel less sluggish. In any case, one of the best ways to re-boot your health for the season is to condition your plate.

Weight gain is a sign of imbalance in the body. That usually registers with most folks as too many calories ingested and not enough calories expended. But it can signal quite a different imbalance: not enough nutrients and too many “hollow” foods. This imbalance also leads to feelings of fatigue, unclear thinking, moodiness, insomnia, and cravings.

If you want to feel and look sharp this season, tighten your carbohydrate intake and not just your shoelaces.  That doesn’t mean eliminating wholesome plant foods – vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Rather, be cautious about foods made with white flour and sugar. These nutrient-poor foods are detrimental because they rob your body of vitamins and minerals in order to process them, they spike your insulin levels and they burn so quickly that they leave you flat when they’re extinguished.

A food is considered nutrient dense when it contains a wide array of amino acids, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and minerals for the quantity of calories it contains. In other words, for just a few calories, it really packs a punch. On the other hand, a hollow food carries a lot of calories without giving you the quality fuel your body needs to function properly. An example might be “extruded, corn-based, cheese-flavor puffs,” which have a nutrient-density rating of 1.4, compared to cauliflower, which rates a weighty 4.5 out of 5. For more information about these ratings, visit http://nutritiondata.self.com/

The point is that a food with a low-rating actually uses up your body’s stores of nutrients to digest it, while a food with a high rating replenishes your stores.

Another problem with nutrient-poor foods – which are most of the carbohydrates we eat (chips, breads, pastas, cookies, cereals, crackers, cakes, pastries, etc.) – is that they create an insulin surge. They enter the bloodstream so quickly that blood sugar levels rise with dangerous rapidity. The body must respond with a flood of insulin to bring sugar levels back to safety. Insulin is a storage hormone that does its job well: to stow excess sugars as fat tissue.  So excess carbs almost always means excess weight, too.

Carbohydrates burn much quicker than fats, so the flip side of the coin is that after the blood sugar rush comes the inevitable crash. Parents will probably recognize that children can be hyperactive one moment and in tears the next. But it happens to adults, too. Even athletes speak of the proverbial “bonk” when their energy comes crashing down.

Because nature hates a vacuum, it isn’t enough to limit empty or refined carbohydrates. They must be replaced with wholesome alternatives. A stellar choice is natural fat (cold-pressed, unrefined, and virgin, such as fish oils, coconut oil, and olive oil. Raw nuts, avocados, and seafood are also beneficial.) Natural fat doesn’t spike insulin levels and keeps the metabolism fueled for hours at a time.

Consider that most Americans get 60-80% of their calories from refined carbohydrates. You can make a huge impact on your health by choosing to change your plate this season to a more balanced distribution of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Try a 30-30-40 plan, where only 40% of your calories come from carbohydrates. You will almost surely think more clearly, sleep better, lean up, and feel more energetic.

America’s Most Common Deficiency

What necessary component is missing in the diet of more Americans than any other substance? Is it iron or protein or B vitamins? No, what most of us lack above all else is water!  H2O ranks second only to oxygen in sustaining life. But statistics estimate that three-fourths of us are chronically dehydrated! The reason for this stems from what we drink rather than how much we drink.

Per capita, American’s swallow almost a gallon of soda per week and roughly half that much coffee each week. Throw in fruit juices and milk and many individuals think their fluid requirements have been met. Unfortunately, coffee and other caffeinated drinks cause us to lose water. Beverages containing natural or refined sugars are also dehydrating. For every ounce of these drinks that we consume, we must sip an extra ounce and a half of water just to maintain normal balance in the body!

As the weather heats up, remember that your typical 2.5 cups of water lost through perspiration can easily double, so it’s even more critical to keep a water bottle in use! You only have to lose 2% of the body’s water volume to start feeling fatigued.

If you are playing in the sun and feel your concentration slipping and your aggravation rising, it’s quite possible you are losing too much water. Don’t wait longer to replenish because the consequences get worse: headache, dizziness, nausea, flushed skin, cramps  and weakness are troublesome, but they are followed by life-threatening symptoms: confusion, rapid heartbeat & breathing,  low blood pressure, lack of sweating and failing kidney function.

Since the body cannot store water as it does vitamins, minerals, or even fat, you have to replenish daily. An adult body is composed of 40 to 50 quarts of water! Most of that is fluid contained within the membranes of our trillions of cells. But you exhale about 1.25 cups of water each day through moistened air leaving the body, and lose roughly 6.25 cups through urination. Add that to the debt incurred by perspiration, and you’re down 2.5 quarts!

But hydrating isn’t just for restoring lost body fluids. The coming vacation season means travel. Along with new sites and adventures, come new pathogens. Your immunity can be truly challenged during these trips. You body’s first line of defense against foreign microbes is its mucous barriers: the sinuses, the lungs, and the gut. Ideally, these moist linings trap bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic invaders as they enter the body. Then white blood cells in these membranes destroy the harmful microbes before they can colonize and create disease. But what if these membranes – normally 98% water – are shrunken and parched? Where is your defense then? Is it asking too much to drink 8 cups per day?

Of course bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and 8 cups is only an average. A better measure of water need is your weight. To compute your water requirement, divide your weight in half. Take your answer and drink that much in ounces each day, capping at 100 ounces if you are over 200 pounds.

Perhaps your complaint is the too frequent trips to the bathroom when you try to hydrate.  Adding some electrolytes to your water can help you retain it better. Easy electrolyte solutions include a splash of lemon or lime juice, a pinch of sea salt, or a dribble of coconut water.

Be aware that plastic bottles left in hot cars can leach harmful BPA. Keep your water in a cooler or use a metal thermos to have a safe, wet summer!

Slow Starter?

If you can stay up late but have trouble waking in the morning, your cortisol rhythm may be skewed. Cortisol is your “get-up-and-go” hormone. It moves you from a parasympathetic restful state into action. Normally, it is highest in the morning, and gradually declines over the course of the day, until it reachest its lowest point around midnight – during your deep sleep.

Since cortisol is produced in the adrenals, disrupted cortisol cycles often point to some form of adrenal overload. Adrenals – tiny glands that sit on top of the kidneys – can be burdened by environmental toxins, food allergies, sleep deprivation, and many other factors. But the most prominent causes in the American lifestyle today are excess sugar intake and stress.

Excess sugar intake is considered by the American Heart Association to be no more than 9.5 teaspoons (or 47.5 grams) per day. Estimates in 2012 placed consumption at 3 times that much.

Love you adrenals with these measures:

  • Eat whole, not processed foods
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and refined sugar (watch food labels!)
  • Get adequate protein (roughly 1/3 of your daily calories)
  • Go to bed earlier (optimally around 10 p.m.) and sleep for 8 hours
  • Manage stress daily with laughter, nurturing, meditation, and deep-breathing
  • Engage in light to moderate exercise
  • Get outside as much as possible. Natural light is essential to healthy adrenal function.

Working with a health practitioner to obtain supplemental adrenal support may be necessary to normalize your cortisol output.

 

Is There A Pill for That?

High blood sugars, chronic cortisol output, overwhelming stress, crippling anxiety… these are the modern plagues that keep you from feeling peace. Wouldn’t it be simple if there were just a pill that could fix all that?

The bad news is that no supplement will compensate for poor lifestyle choices. But the good news is that if you are addressing dietary and emotional factors and still experiencing some extremes, ashwagandha may help modulate your responses. This herb, also known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry, has been revered for millenia in Ayurvedic medicine. Native to India, its name means “strength of a stallion.”

The root is the part used in nutritional therapy and can be steeped in teas, or ground for use in capsules.

What are the purported benefits of ashwagandha?

  • Regulating blood sugars
  • Lowering cortisol levels
  • Blocking anxiety and relieving stress
  • Decreasing inflammation by reducing C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Enhancing the immune response by stimulating the activity of natural killer cells
  • Promoting anti-oxidant activity to improve brain function and memory
  • Boosting thyroid function
  • Reducing cholesterol and high triglycerides
  • treating adrenal fatigue

The beauty of ashwagandha is that it’s an adaptogenic herb. That means it will treats extremes and tends to bring into equilibrium both highs and lows. So it may be used for both hypo- and hyper-thyroidism, and for depression as well as anxiety.

But before you order some, be aware that it should be tested on you by a certified practitioner, particularly if you have an auto-immunity. Since ashwagandha is a member of the solanacea family, individuals with an auto-immune response may experience extraordinary results if they are TH-1 dominant, but it could exacerbate their condition if they are TH-2 dominant because of its effect in stimulating natural killer cells.

Doses of ashwagandha are typically around 500 mg, taken once or twice a day. It works best when combined with a diet high in healthy fats and proteins, as well as a diet void of sugars.

Is Your Sweetheart Killing You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You At Risk?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Much Sugar Can I Eat?

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

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

via GIPHY

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

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

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

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

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

Craving a Heart Attack!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fat Burner vs. Sugar Burner

  • Do you feel either wired or tired after eating?
  • Do you need to snack between meals to keep your energy up?
  • Do you hit a wall during work-outs?
  • Does your energy fluctuate dramatically during the day, often leaving you flat?
  • Do you experience strong food cravings?

If you answered yes to any number of these, chances are your body is primarily using glucose rather than fatty acids for fuel.

A fat burner feels no rise or slump in energy after meals, can go long hours without food – even fasting with ease intermittently – and has sustained endurance during prolonged workouts. Further, a fat-burner has level energy from sun-up to sun-down and does not experience compelling food cravings.

Not only does being a sugar-burner make you feel miserable, it also damages your health. Here’s a brief physiology lesson. Every cell produces energy to carry on life. The process of converting fuel to energy is called the Krebs cycle. Acetyl coenzyme A is a necessary molecule for the Krebs cycle. The breakdown of glucose to form pyruvate is one way to make this molecule, but it can also be created if fatty acids go through a process called beta oxidation.

You don’t need to remember that. The important point is that the body’s preferred pathway is beta oxidation because it requires one less step and produces 33% more energy.  

So if the body wants to burn fats, why are you burning sugars??? Because the fats aren’t accessible! Enter insulin. This is a masterfully-designed hormone that performs its labor well, which is to carry glucose to various parts of the body – the brain for immediate use, the liver for conversion to glycogen, the muscles for quick bursts of energy, and to adipose (fat) tissue for long-term storage.

When you eat a meal that is roughly 1/3 protein, 1/3 fat and 1/3 carbohydrate calorically, the sugars from the carbohydrates will enter the bloodstream at a nominal rate, and you will be able to utilize them as they are made available. But if you double the amount of carbohydrates, and halve the protein and fat content, sugars surge into the bloodstream.

Humans were never designed for such high loads of glucose, which wreak havoc if blood levels remain chronically high. There is a sudden emergency to lower blood sugar. The body can’t possibly use all that glucose at once for energy, so it releases a deluge of insulin to compensate. Insulin whisks the glucose into storage and prohibits fat stores from being mobilized. Your cells are left to burn only glucose.

One solution to the sugar burner metabolism is to adjust your ratios of carbs, fats and proteins. The next time your body sends a signal in the form of a craving that it needs energy, feed it something that will counter an insulin spike and initiate a fat burn.