Should You Be On a Ketogenic Diet?

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Keto diets are all the rage these days and I've had so many people ask me what I think of keto, if should they be doing it, and if it will it help them lose fat, heal from chronic illness, achieve better brain health, etc.  So I'm finally sitting down to give you the skinny on this high fat protocol in hopes of shedding some light on the subject to help you decide if it's right for you.  Keep in mind, this article is not intended to guide you through following a ketogenic diet.  I simply want to present you with some facts and considerations to help you decide if it’s worth pursuing depending on your goals.

First of all let me say that there is no single perfect diet that EVERYONE should be on, regardless of what “the experts” might say.  The closest thing to that would be a whole or non-processed food diet where you eat real food that comes from the earth, not from a lab or factory.  But you probably knew that already.  

If you're not yet familiar with the ketogenic diet, it is a very high fat, low-moderate protein, extremely low-carbohydrate diet.  It has been used as an effective therapeutic diet for epilepsy since the 1920's, and more recently for cancer, Lyme disease and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and ALS.  When the body is deprived of glucose (which we get from carbohydrates), it is forced to burn fat for fuel instead which is why it can be effective for fat loss, mitochondrial function and brain/neurological health.

The most well-known diet that people associate with keto is the Atkins Diet, but this differs from a true ketogenic diet in that it includes high amounts of protein.  A proper, healthy ketogenic diet will not be high in protein since the body can convert protein into glucose more easily than it can convert fat, so even if you're eating really low-carb, too much protein can prevent you from getting into ketosis.  With that out of the way, let's dive into what you need to know before doing keto.

Do Your Research First

There is SO much misunderstanding and misinformation out there about keto and there are certain people who should absolutely not follow it, so it's important to understand what it's all about before you try it.

While many people may benefit from a ketogenic diet for several weeks or even a few months, I don't believe that people should be on a ketogenic diet long-term unless they first do genetic testing to understand how a high fat diet might affect them in light of their genetic predispositions.  This applies both for those wanting fat loss and those considering keto as a therapeutic diet, and stay with me here because I'm gonna get all science-y for a minute...

For example, in people who have one or two alleles (+/+ or +/-) of the the APOE4 gene, high saturated fat intake is associated with greater risk for Alzheimer's.  Since the ketogenic diet has actually been shown to be beneficial for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients, it would be important for APOE4 individuals to limit saturated fats and eat mostly  unsaturated fats.  And while the keto diet has become the hot ticket for fat loss, there are some people with a gene variant who are more likely to actually gain weight if they eat a high fat diet.  There are yet other genetic variants that put people at greater risk of obesity and diabetes if they consume a high fat diet, so bottom line, if you're following or considering the ketogenic lifestyle, you may want to do some genetic testing.

I also recommend regularly checking in with your doctor and monitoring your thyroid and hormone levels since some people (usually women) will experience suboptimal thyroid levels and hormonal changes. If you have thyroid or adrenal issues,  a keto diet may not be the best idea for you.

Carbs Matter

Let's start with what it takes to actually get into ketosis and how to measure it.

Depending on your goals for doing a keto diet, your daily intake of net carbs (total grams of carbohydrate - grams of fiber = net carbs) will vary between about 20-60 grams.  Men can often go higher and still achieve ketosis, especially if they are active, but everyone is different and it takes some people longer to get into ketosis than others which is why it's important to measure your ketones regularly.  Total daily net carbs should be lower If you are using keto as a therapeutic diet, versus for fat loss, but again this varies according to the individual.

I was at recent event when a woman who was "trying the ketogenic diet" refused to taste a special cocktail because it had a few grams of sugar, when meanwhile she was snacking away on cheese crackers.  I think some people believe that just because something isn't sweet means that it doesn't contain sugar.  The fact is that foods made from grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes are easily converted into glucose (yep, that's sugar) once we eat them, so it doesn't matter if you're avoiding actual sugar if you're still eating too many carbs.

Measuring Ketone Levels

I’m not going to sugar coat it; accurately measuring ketones is a giant pain in the ass and it’s expensive. Ketones are detected in the blood, breath and urine and testing methods vary greatly in cost and accuracy.  

Most people rely on urine strips which are the least expensive option but are notoriously inaccurate since ketones will appear in lower and lower levels in the urine the longer someone is in ketosis.  Urine strips often work well for the first 1-2 weeks, but after that they become less reliable and results can differ depending on how hydrated you are at the time of testing.  Testing ketones via blood is the most accurate, but it’s also painful and expensive.  Other methods test acetone in breath and include the Ketonix and LevlNow devices.  I had the chance to test the Levl for a couple months when I was following a keto protocol and I was impressed with it, but it requires a significant investment both initially and monthly.  

At this point in time, the Ketonix device may be the happy medium when it comes to price and accuracy, but I’m hopeful that the Levl will become less expensive in the near future.  They’re a great bunch of people and the accuracy of the device is the next best thing to blood testing, so if you don’t mind the price tag, this is a good way to go.

The beauty of measuring your ketones regularly is that you will learn how your food, exercise, and schedule affect your body’s ability to get into and stay in ketosis.  If you don’t measure you can end up being more or less strict than you need to be and you may not reap the benefits of the protocol.

Not all Fats are Created Equal

Probably the biggest and most detrimental mistake people make when on a keto diet is not being careful about the types of fat they’re eating.  If you’re eating a high fat diet you want to make sure that the fats you’re ingesting are high quality, anti-inflammatory fats, versus inflammatory, processed, or hydrogenated ones, as these will exacerbate the problems that a keto diet is supposed to reverse.

Good fat sources to eat include avocado, olives, coconut, nuts, seeds, cold water fish, and fats & dairy products (if you tolerate dairy) from organic, pasture-raised, and grass-fed animals.  Fats to avoid as much as possible include processed/refined industrial “vegetable oils” like canola, soybean, sunflower, safflower, corn and peanuts oils, and fats from non-organic and factory-raised animals.

It’s also important to use the right cooking temperature for each type of oil to prevent oxidation for overheating which can turn an otherwise healthy oil into a trans-fat.

Don’t Skimp on Veggies

Another common mistake keto dieters make is not eating enough vegetables.  Getting plenty of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in veggies is crucial for good health, and as long as you’re eating non-starchy vegetables that are low in starches/sugars, you can eat quite a lot of them without going overboard on net carbs.  Some of the best bets are dark leafy greens, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, celery, and cucumbers.

Is Keto Right For You?

A ketogenic diet can be healing and life-changing for some and a disaster for others, so it’s important to listen to your gut instincts, talk to a trusted health practitioner, and do some research before diving in.  I’ve coached many clients to successfully navigate a keto protocol so if it’s something you’re considering, let’s talk more about it.  I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have to help you decide if it’s right for you.

As I've said in previous blog posts, I'm not one for bandwagons. In fact, if "everyone is doing it" I'm extra skeptical.  The first question that runs through my head is, does this have any merit or is it just the latest fad? Usually it's a combination of the two and the important thing to ask yourself when you’re intrigued by the newest, hottest thing is “Does this resonate with me as something that might be truly helpful or is it just a shiny new object?” Because at the end of the day, it’s all about figuring out the right approach for your body and your lifestyle, not what’s right for the current Hollywood “it girl”. 

Continually jumping on trend bandwagons will keep you in a cycle of dieting and prevent you from creating a sustainable and healthy lifestyle that enables you to get results AND enjoy life.  If you are looking for support and guidance in finding the right approach for you, I can help! Click here to schedule a free Coffee Talk session and let’s chat about what you want to achieve.

The Gut-Mood Connection: Preventing and Treating Depression with Food

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Awareness and dialogue around mental health, and depression in particular, is growing all the time. It is heartbreaking that we have lost so many gifted, wonderful people to suicide, but the silver lining is that we’re actually talking about this out loud. Finally. We’re realizing that while people’s lives may appear idyllic on the outside, they are often suffering silently on the inside. Now imagine the impact that depression has on those who are not wealthy or famous and who may not have access to help.

As someone who struggled with depression for over a decade, I know what it’s like to think of death in terms of relief and escape. I am thankful that I had access to therapy coupled with a strong faith and a single mom who taught me and showed me that there is always a way out, even if it’s painful and difficult. I’m grateful that I witnessed people in my family who turned to alcohol and drugs as a means of escape and anesthesia and learned by watching them that substance abuse only made things worse. I am one of the lucky ones.

Many people don’t have access to therapy or treatment and don’t have a strong support system or a relationship with a higher power to lean on in the dark times. And even for those who do have these things, sometimes the pain is just too strong to break free of and they succumb to the overwhelming feeling that there is no way out. Sometimes drugs and/or alcohol are involved, and sometimes they’re not.

Depression is a complex problem and it’s causes can be both numerous and mysterious. To say it is simply due to diet or can easily be fixed with nutrition would be silly and short-sighted. However, more and more studies are showing that the impact of diet and gut health in preventing and treating depression are profound, and for some, dietary changes can mean the difference between life and death. Changing my diet made a huge difference for me and it helped give me the strength (both emotional and physically) to break free of depression.

Only recently has the medical community started to recognize and understand the connection between food and mood, and the data is really exciting! According to this study, our gut microbiota is linked to anxiety, depression, and even schizophrenia, and a poor diet is a risk factor for these conditions. Supporting a healthy gut microbiome with a healthy diet of unprocessed foods and probiotic foods and/or supplementation is not only beneficial in preventing and treating depression, but can be as effective as anti-depressant medications.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our moods, sleep, and appetite and it also inhibits pain.  A lack of serotonin has long been blamed as the cause of depression, and this is often the case. However, we’re learning that the lack of serotonin can be a symptom of chronic inflammation and inadequate gut flora. We now know that 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut, and that the presence of enough beneficial bacteria is essential for proper serotonin production. So if we have a history of antibiotic use or were not exposed to enough bacteria in birth or childhood, we may not produce enough serotonin.

Another interesting factor is inflammation which is measure by testing C-reactive protein levels. In one studythat followed C-reactive protein levels in over 1000 women for several years, they discovered that the onset of depression was triggered by increased inflammation (higher C-reactive protein). A poor diet and inflammatory foods have been linked to increased C-reactive protein and mood disorders, so getting away from processed, high sugar foods is crucial.

The take home here is that by eating an anti-inflammatory diet and including probiotic foods or taking probiotic supplements, you can help prevent and/or decrease anxiety and depression. Do your best to eat whole foods including plenty of vegetables and moderate amounts of clean animal protein (pasture-raised, organic, wild caught, etc.) and limit or avoid processed foods and high glycemic/high sugar foods. Adding in some fermented veggies such as sauerkraut or kimchi that contain live cultures and possibly taking a probiotic supplement is also important. These foods can be expensive and aren’t always accessible, but local food banks and non-profits such as Got GreenFoodJustice.org, and othersare working to make fresh, real food more accessible to low-income and marginalized communities.

If you need support is this area or want to learn more about the food-mood connection and what you can do to feel happier and healthier, I’m here to help. Don’t suffer in silence! If you’re struggling with depression, I understand what you’re going through and I’m living proof that you can be free of it. Click here to book a free Coffee Talk session and we can talk confidentially about your concerns. I won’t try to sell you on working with me unless ongoing support is what you’re looking for. 

 

References:

A Natural Approach to Treating PCOS

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine (hormone) disorders, affecting approximately 10 million women of all races and ethnic groups worldwide. It's the leading cause of infertility in women and can present at any life stage - from puberty through post-menopause. Most women with PCOS will have cysts on the ovaries, but as many as 30% of women will not have cysts. Women with PCOS experience an array of symptoms, including:

  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • obesity
  • infertility
  • pelvic pain with or without periods
  • mood swings, depression or anxiety
  • thinning hair on the head
  • excessive body hair (hirsutism)
  • fatigue and sleep problems

Because of the wide range of PCOS symptoms, fewer than 50% of women are properly diagnosed. Too often women simply accept the discomfort and don't inform their doctors until symptoms are at their worst. Even then, they are often misdiagnosed because so many of the symptoms can be attributed to other causes. Another reason for missed diagnosis is that PCOS has long been believed to be present only in obese women; we now know that it can affect women of any body weight including those who are normal or even underweight. Additionally, PCOS can present differently based on life stage, genetics, ethnicity, age and environmental and lifestyle factors such as self-care, exercise, and eating habits.

Causes of PCOS

Obesity and insulin resistance are health issues that are linked to PCOS and both affect hormonal function in the body. Insulin resistance relates to problems with regulating insulin, a hormone that allows the body to properly use glucose (blood sugar) for energy. When the body isn't as responsive to insulin as it needs to be, too much of it circulates in the blood and can cause a hormone imbalance.

Natural Solutions

Dr. Samuel Thatcher, an early pioneer in PCOS research and treatment, was among the first clinicians to advocate for a holistic approach to PCOS treatment. With the goal of enhancing a woman's quality of life, holistic health practitioners perform a thorough lifestyle assessment, blood tests, and dietary analysis. They then educate and guide women in using natural approaches to manage and heal from PCOS, such as:

  • Lifestyle Improvements. A whole foods diet, exercise, stress management, and proper rest are essential to PCOS treatment. These approaches can create a positive shift in blood sugar level, mood, and body weight. Approaches will differ based on a woman's stage of life and complexity of symptoms.
  • Supplement Support. Some of the herbs and nutrition supplements that may be used for PCOS aim to balance blood sugar level as well as hormones. These can include Nettle Root, Green Tea, Flax Seeds, Saw Palmetto, Licorice Root, Chaste Tree Extract, Trace Minerals, Vitamin D3, and Chromium.

Eating an anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic diet is also essential as it can help to balance hormones and optimize your body's detox process. Eliminate inflammatory foods including dairy, gluten, sugar, and refined "vegetable" oils (canola, soybean, peanut, safflower, anything hydrogenated) and processed foods. Increase your intake or organic non-starchy vegetables, clean proteins (organic, pasture-raised and grass-fed only, minimizing beef and avoiding pork) and healthy fats.

Many of the personal care products we use can also act as hormone disruptors, so ditch the conventional hair, skin and body products and opt for non-toxic, fragrance-free products. I've put together a list of some of my favorites here. EWG.org's Skin Deep database and the Think Dirty app are also excellent resources.

If you think you have PCOS, speak with a holistic practitioner about the approaches best suited to your symptoms and needs. It is crucial that you get a comprehensive hormone panel to determine imbalances, so be sure to ask your doctor for this.

Fat Was Never the Bad Guy

The Secret’s Out on the Sugar Industry

Having grown up int he 80's and 90's I was one of those who fell prey to the high carb low fat diet craze and it took me years to reverse the damage it did to my health and my waistline. Luckily we now know better and the truth is finally coming out.

A report published in the JAMA Internal Medicine on Sep. 12, 2016 revealed that the sugar industry paid scientists in the ’60s to shift the focus from sugar as a link to heart disease and blame saturated fat instead.

The New York Times reported the discovery of internal sugar documents. The documents suggest that many of today’s dietary recommendations were influenced by the sugar industry.

According to the NYT, “A trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation paid three Harvard scientists … to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies … minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.”

Sounds similar to the decades-long cover-up of the health hazards of nicotine, doesn’t it? The NYT article also cites the previous revelation of soft-drink companies covering up the link between sugary drinks and obesity. 

Why do wellness coaches and health practitioners care so much about the recent report? As the NYT cites, “For many decades, health officials encouraged Americans to reduce their fat intake, which led many people to consume low-fat, high-sugar foods that some experts now blame for fueling the obesity crisis.” 

Just one more reason to recognize that sugar is addicting and harmful to our health; the better choices we can make, the better we can influence our health and longevity, and the health of our kids. Read the entire article, with links to the research, here.

Broccoli: Superhero of Superfoods

Shaped like green mini-trees, broccoli is a real superhero. It is loaded with a powerhouse of nutrients beneficial for digestion, heart health, and the immune system. It's also high in fiber vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A and B6 and research shows that these nutrients, along with other compounds in broccoli, have anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties.

Broccoli is packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants. These amazing substances influence cancer-fighting activity within our bodies, such as stimulating the immune system, stopping substances we breathe or eat from becoming carcinogens, reducing inflammation that makes cancer growth more likely, and even slowing the growth rate of cancer cells.

Broccoli's secret weapon is actually two chemicals: sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (I3C). These chemicals boost the body's ability to detoxify, help moderate estrogen levels, and have been shown to slow the progression of tumors. In fact, sulforaphane is the most powerful antioxodant know to man according to a study at Johns Hopkins University and broccoli sprouts are the best source.

It's easy to add broccoli to your diet because you can enjoy it raw, steamed, in stir-fry, soups, slaws, and even in a green smoothie. A serving is one cup; aim for two to three servings per week. But don't eat that broccoli raw! You're actually better off steaming it lightly before eating it since raw cruciferous veggies can have thyroid suppressive effects.  You'll also want to enjoy it with a little fat like organic extra virgin olive oil or grass-fed ghee to make sure that you get all those wonderful fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

Tips for buying the best broccoli: Choose organic broccoli with uniformly colored florets (dark green, sage or purple-green, depending upon variety) and with no yellowing. Store in a plastic bag, with no extra air trapped inside, in the fridge for up to a week

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1549603

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/09/970919062654.htm   

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/Broccoli_SproutDerived_Extract_Protects_Against_Ultraviolet_Radiation

The Mind-Body Connection: Food for a Healthy Brain and Happy Mood

There's no doubt about it: what we eat, and how much we eat, has a direct impact on our physical health. But did you know that those same choices also influence mood, mental alertness, memory, and emotional wellbeing? Food can act as medicine, have a neutral effect, or it can be a poison to the body and mind.

When food acts as poison, it creates inflammation, which alters the body's balance of nutrients, hormones, and neurotransmitters. This directly affects your body's ability to manage and heal from stress or illness.

Below are four common culprits that can be detrimental to brain and emotional health and a list of foods that help support your brain and nervous system.

Foods that Impact Body-Mind Wellbeing

Gluten: Gluten stimulates secretion of a protein called zonulin which causes permeability in both the gut lining and the blood-brain barrier. This permeability allows undigested food molecules and pathogens to access the bloodstream which triggers an inflammatory immune response. This elevated inflammation in the gut and/or brain can cause short-term reactions like lethargy, "brain fog", and fatigue, and contribute to long-term issues like depression and dementia.

Caffeine: The most socially accepted psychoactive substance in the world, caffeine is used to boost alertness, enhance performance, and even treat apnea in premature infants. Caffeine is frequently added to other foods, so be mindful of total consumption. Too much caffeine (500-600 mg daily) interferes with sleep quality, which affects energy, brain detoxification, concentration, and memory. Caffeine can also aggravate other health conditions, cause digestive disturbances, and worsen menstrual symptoms and anxiety.

Food Dyes: Listed on ingredient labels as "Blue 2," or "Citrus Red," food dye has been documented to contain cancer-causing agents (e.g., benzidine). They're also associated with allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. Dyes are sometimes used to enhance skin color of fruits and veggies. A number of dyes have been banned from use in foods and cosmetics around the world and eating organic will help you avoid these chemical compounds.

Sugars: Increased sugar consumption (as much as 30% over the last three decades for American adults), is linked to decreased intake of essential nutrients and associated with obesity, diabetes, inflammatory disease, joint pain and even schizophrenia. Too much sugar results in blood sugar fluctuations, causing mood swings, anxiety, irritability, headaches, and increased depression. There are even sugars that can act as poison including High Fructose Corn Syrup, table sugar, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame .

MSG: Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer common in packaged and prepared foods. Although the FDA considers MSG "generally safe," some individuals experience a complex of physical and mental symptoms after eating MSG-containing foods. Symptoms vary but can include headache, sweating, nausea, chest pain, heart palpitations, and overstimulation of the central nervous system which can lead to alterations in sleep, mood, and immunity.

Becoming aware of your food choices, why you make them, and how you feel mentally and physically is an important first step in understanding your personal body-mind food connection. Keeping a mind-body food journal can be very helpful in providing a clear picture of how your food choices affect your health.

The Gut-Brain Connection and Foods that Support Body-Mind Wellbeing

Healthy Fats: These include fats such as organic avocado, virgin coconut oil, ghee and other animal fats from organic, grass-fed animals, fish oils, olive oil, flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds and oil, and organic nuts and seeds. Fat is your best friend when it comes to brain health, and contrary to old beliefs, it does not make you fat. In fact, healthy fats support healthy hormones and a healthy metabolism which means they can actually help you lose body fat.

Colorful Vegetables & Antioxidant Fruits: Vegetables and certain fruits like dark berries are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent or delay cell damage and they help reduce our overall inflammation and prevent disease. By "eating the rainbow" and getting as many different colors of veggies as possible (mostly those that grow above ground), you will be giving your body a healthy dose of antioxidants to help support a healthy brain and nervous system.

Naturally Fermented Probiotic Foods: Foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and homemade goat or sheep's milk kefir and yogurt are great sources of probiotics. We know that these friendly bacteria are crucial for a healthy gut but they also have a major influence on our mental and emotional health. You've heard the expression "gut feeling" or "gut instinct"; Well, doctors often refer to the gut as the enteric nervous system, or the second brain. The enteric nervous system or ENS is made up of over 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. 

The ENS can also play a major role in emotional distress experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gut problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” says According to  Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. “These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety,” 

In short, if you have a healthy gut, you probably have a healthy brain so eat the foods that benefit both and you can't lose. If you're experiencing symptoms that interfere with your quality of living, reach out and let's talk about the role these or other foods may play in your emotional and physical health.

References:

Powerful Foods & Herbs for Hormone Health

Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum)

While research results are mixed around flaxseed and its ability to reduce menopausal symptoms, there are enough positive findings to support use of this nutrient-rich, high fiber seed. For many women it has made the difference between comfort and discomfort when it comes to reduction of hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings). Here are three nutrients unique to flaxseed, all of which play a role in supporting good health.

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: beneficial for preventing or treating certain health conditions, including heart disease and depression.

2. Mucilage: refers to water-soluble, gel-forming fiber that can provide special support to the intestinal tract. This flaxseed an excellent support to digestion and relief of constipation. 

3. Lignans: provides fiber-related polyphenols that have two important health benefits. They provide antioxidants, which help prevent damage to other cells in the body and are associated with preventing disease. Additionally, polyphenols in lignans influence hormone metabolism.

Purchasing and Storing Flax

Raw flaxseed ranges in color from amber/gold to tan/brown. White or green flaxseed has been harvested before full maturity; black flaxseeds were likely harvested after full maturity. To reap the full health benefits, select the amber or brown variety. If possible, purchase the whole seed in bulk, store in the freezer and grind only the amount needed for immediate use. Flaxseed can be ground, sprinkled on salads, added to smoothies and baking mixes and used as a thickening agent in many recipes.

References

Cruciferous Vegetables

Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a compound found in "cruciferous" vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. Scientists think these crunchy vegetables may help protect the body against cancer because they contain diindolylmethane and a related chemical called indole-3-carbinol (I3C).

Dim helps balance the sex hormone estrogen and testosterone. When the body breaks down estrogen, for example, it can form either a harmful or beneficial metabolite. DIM, in some clinical and animal studies, has been shown to help the body form the more beneficial estrogen metabolite and reduce formation of the harmful metabolite. The beneficial estrogen metabolites can have many positive effects, including reducing the risk for some types of cancer. DIM may benefit patients with certain types of prostate cancer and may help reverse abnormal changes in cells on the surface of the cervix. Some scientists think DIM will be useful for preventing breast, uterine and colorectal cancer. However, because of the variability in types of cancer and the sensitivity of the estrogen system in the body, DIM and I3C supplements may not be appropriate for everyone. Instead, just enjoy plenty of delicious cruciferous veggies!

Note: If you have thyroid disease, I recommend eating cruciferous veggies (from the brassica family) cooked instead of raw to avoid and thyroid suppressive effects.

References

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

There's a long history to the medical uses of Black Cohosh. Native Americans have used it as a diuretic and to treat fatigue. European settlers used preparations of the roots to treat fever, menstrual problems, and pain following childbirth. Into the 19th century, black cohosh became a staple ingredient in medicines for "women's complaints." Over time, it faded from use in the U.S. while still being used in Europe. New studies in the U.S., however, are investigating the safety and long-term effectiveness of black cohosh and there's a resurgence of its use for treatment of women's health concerns.

Black cohosh is considered a menopause tonic for a number of reasons. It can improve mood and soothe anxiety. Also, herbal practitioners recommend it for taming hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. It's commonly prescribed for women who - for medical reasons - don't take conventional hormone replacement therapy.

Tinctures, capsules and standardized extract are available for medicinal use and the specific dose of this herb will depend on your individual needs and health concerns. Black Cohosh should not be used during pregnancy or nursing and it is not recommended for persons who have a heart condition or liver disease. Always check with your holistic health practitioner before using an herbal remedy.

References

Stressed Out? Yoga May Be the Answer

 Attempting boat pose on my paddle board in the North Cascades. It's a lot easier on solid ground!

Attempting boat pose on my paddle board in the North Cascades. It's a lot easier on solid ground!

If daily hassles, constantly chiming cell phones, and past-due deadlines have you at the boiling point, simmer down to the yoga mat and find a little peace of mind.

I have to admit - I never used to find yoga appealing. As someone who grew up dancing and doing extreme sports I prefer higher intensity fitness like weight training or HIIT workouts, basically anything I can do to loud, fun, dancey music. But lately I find myself in a different state of mind and suddenly yoga sounds pretty darn good.

As an entrepreneur I tend to think about work all day, every day. I have to make a concerted effort each day to unplug, shift gears and actually stop working at a certain point because no joke, I could work 24 hours a day and still have more to do. Sound familiar?

As my practice has grown and I have a fuller and fuller plate I find myself longing for ways to check-out and enjoy some "me-time". Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that I'm helping more people get healthy and that my business is growing; but as a Wellness Coach I also need to be an example of good self-care while maintaining the emotional energy to guide and support my clients through their health challenges. Lately yoga has become a way for me to chill out, get in touch with my body and refocus on what's important. It doesn't feel as daunting as an intense weight workout does on days when I'm already feeling depleted, so I'm also more likely to do it. As I always tell my clients - the best workout is the one that you'll actually do.

The beauty of yoga is that it helps reduce stress hormones, of which most of us are producing far too much and too often. For those of us with stressful jobs and/or lives, yoga can provide a peaceful respite from daily life and help us handle stress in a more healthy way while increasing our strength and flexibility. Sounds like a win win to me!

Yoga is considered a "mind-body practice", combining physical poses (postures) called asanas, simple breathing exercises and guided meditation. And you don't have to be super flexible or athletic - anyone can reap the amazing benefits of practicing yoga, regardless of age or fitness level.

Benefits of Yoga:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower resting heart rate (so the heart works more efficiently)
  • Promote mental alertness
  • Better manage symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Reduce muscle tension, pain and stiffness associated with stress and chronic health conditions
  • Improve recovery after workouts

There are many 'styles' of Yoga for you to try. Styles vary in the number or poses and the intensity of how the poses are performed. Some styles are more intense like Bikram, Power, and Iyengar, while others such as Kundalini and Ashtanga are more restorative. All yoga styles originate from Hatha Yoga, which originated in India about 5,000 years ago. Hatha Yoga is a good choice for managing stress and chronic health concerns and is also ideal for beginners.

A typical yoga class begins with breathing exercises and gentle movements to clear the mind and limber up the body to prepare for the "active postures." Next, you'll move through a series of poses or asanas (standing, seated, and lying down). During class an instructor may use the ancient Sanskrit (Hindu) names and the American names for poses, e.g., Mountain Pose (Tadasana) or Triangle Pose (Trikanasana). A certified instructor will also help participants modify poses to suit their unique needs, ensure proper form and prevent injury.

The focus of practicing yoga is not on how long or how perfectly you perform the pose. Nor is it competitive - so no making comparisons or judgments of yourself and others! Yoga is all about letting go of your mental chatter by focusing on the breath and allowing it to guide your body into a calm, centered state.

Yoga class concludes with a guided meditation or relaxation exercise. This may help you learn to be more mindful and aware of yourself throughout your day, not just during your time on the yoga mat.

References

Can You Actually Speed Up Your Metabolism?

Many people blame their expanding waistlines on a slow metabolism. But is that really what's keeping you from reaching your ideal body composition?

What is Metabolism?

Metabolism is your body's method of converting calories, from the food you eat, into energy needed to power all the physiological processes that keep you alive and kicking 24/7. The minimum amount of energy your body needs to keep you going is called Base Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Calories in food - protein, fat and carbohydrates - fuel your BMR. Each of us requires a unique daily number of calories to maintain BMR so we can breathe, grow, think, sleep, digest food, and filter waste. Age and lifestyle are significant factors in calculating BMR. If you sit more than you move each day, your BMR is lower and your daily calorie needs are lower, too.

Calories In, Calories Out - Not the Whole Story

Losing or gaining weight is not just about energy balance (calories taken in - calories burned off). Sure, if you take in more calories than your body needs you'll probably gain weight, but it's not that simple. The food we eat acts as a chemical messenger that tells our hormones and other chemical compounds in our bodies what to do.

I always give the example of the doughnut and the chicken breast: both have about the same calories but the chemical reactions that occur on the body after ingesting each of the foods is drastically different. The combination of fat and starch in the doughnut will cause your blood sugar to spike and ghrelin, often called the "hunger hormone". So in short, the donut puts your body into fat storage mode, increases hunger and promotes insulin resistance.

The chicken breast on the other hand stimulates production of glucagon which enables the body to burn fat instead of storing it when insulin levels are low. The protein in the chicken also stimulates leptin production which helps suppress hunger. This is why most people could eat several doughnuts but would struggle to eat more than 1 or 2 chicken breasts.

Here's a great excerpt from this article by Dr. Keoni Teta that helps explain the importance of hormones in relation to body composition:

GLP (glucagon-like peptide) and GIP (glucose dependent insulinotropic peptide) are secreted by the endocrine cells of the small intestine.  They basically help the body sense the macronutrient ratio the incoming food. In other words, they taste the food in the small intestine and tell the body whether there is more fat and sugar in the meal or more lean protein and vegetables in the meal.  More fat and sugar in the meal cause the small intestine to release more GIP relative to GLP, and the more protein and fiber in the meal causes release of more GLP relative to GIP.  Think of GIP as fat storer and GLP as fat burner.

Eating more protein and vegetables influences a stronger signal of GLP relative to GIP thus helping to burn fat.

Your Genes are Not Your Destiny

Your genes (and hormones) play a role in metabolism because they can influence the potential you have to grow muscles (how dense and how big) and how your body stores fat. However, genetic and hormonal mechanisms in metabolism are extremely complex. There are no definitive theories. Yet, many people have lost and maintained a tremendous amount of weight despite their family history. Many health experts agree, "Your genes are not your fate."

Chances are your 'slow metabolism' has more to do with your diet and the type of exercise you are (or are not) doing on a regular basis.

If your exercise routine builds lean muscle, that helps rev-up your metabolism. Muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue. This is why people with leaner bodies (a higher muscle to fat ratio) have a higher BMR. (Those are the folks who eat carrot cake that doesn't 'go right to their hips.)

Build a 24-Hour Fat Burning Body

The first key to revving-up metabolism is eating a whole foods diet: clean protein (organic, pasture-raised meats and poultry and wild seafood), anti-inflammatory fats and oils, fresh organic fruits and veggies, and drinking lots of water.

To really turn-up the heat on your metabolism, and your waistline, you'll want to try the muscle-building, never boring workouts listed below. These workouts help your body generate a 'post-exercise burn' that can rev up your metabolism for 2 - 24 hours after you finish a workout. Factors that determine the "afterburn" effect include your current fitness level and body composition, the intensity and duration of exercise, and type of exercise performed.

Just remember: Our bodies are designed to adapt; beginners to elite athletes both have to change-up their routine every few weeks to continue to see progress.

Circuit Training: Exercises all the major muscle groups in one workout (30-45 minutes) and may include body-weight movements, machines, dumbbells, and exercise bands. Exercises are performed for 8-12 reps, 1-3 sets of each.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Rest-Based Training. These workouts alternate bouts of maximal physical effort with a rest (or lower intensity) period for set times (e.g., 40 seconds max, 15 seconds lower effort). HIIT principles can be integrated into a variety of exercise routines including walk/run, swim, weight training, and group classes. Research shows an increase in calorie burn for up to 24-hours post exercise. I take this a step further with what we Metabolic Effect folks call "Rest-Based Training". This means that you go as hard as you possibly can during a high intensity interval until you have to rest. You then rest as long as you need to until you can go again at the same intensity. This allows you to individualize a workout to your fitness level and achieve that afterburn effect in less time.

Metabolic Conditioning routines are highly intense and designed to engage different physiological "energy" pathways in the body. These workouts typically use a "suspension exercise system" (e.g., TRX) but can be integrated into other fitness activities. It's best to have a metabolic exercise routine designed and supervised by an experienced exercise specialist who can appropriately alter the intensity, reps, sets and rest intervals.

References

Boost Your Brain Health With Meditation and Prayer

Amazing changes happen to your mind and body when you meditate or pray. During meditation and prayer, there is a physiological shift that takes place called the "relaxation response" (RR). This response is exactly the opposite of the stress response that so many of us chronically experience in our daily lives. You may think you have lots of ways to relax - sleeping, watching TV, reading - but these activities don't have the same physiological effects as meditation and prayer.

In addition to changes in brain waves, heart rate and respiration rate, meditation allows you to disengage from the thinking process. You become a detached observer of the clutter that fills your mind and learn to let go of it all, one breath, one moment at time. Your troubles won't magically disappear, but your perspective about them will shift, even if you meditate just a few days a week. Prayer has been shown to have similar effects.

So how does Meditation work?

When you are stressed (and let's face it, who isn't?), your body releases hormones that have a negative impact on your health. Research shows that having stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) circulating through your body for prolonged periods is associated with certain diseases. Meditation and prayer bring about the Relaxation Response and reduce the levels of stress hormones your body produces. Now, your immune system is better able protect you from illness, recover quickly, and restore optimal wellbeing.

What can Meditation and Prayer Do For You? Alot!

  • Reduce tension-related pain
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Improve quality of sleep
  • Strengthen neural pathways
  • Improve emotional stability
  • Enhance creativity
  • Boost brain chemicals associated with mood, memory and learning

Start a Meditation Practice

Begin with 5 minutes a day and progress to 20 minutes at least 3-4 times a week. Use sounds of nature, music, a candle, or a guided imagery to help you get started. Meditation is often done seated or lying down. Use cushions or a chair to support your posture. Eyes closed or open is up to you.

When you pray, begin with expressing gratitude to your higher power for all of the good things in your life. Then give all of your concerns over and ask for help and direction with all of your concerns. Visualize placing all of your worries, hopes and dreams in the hands of your higher power and allowing them to carry any burdens and bless you with your heart's desires. 

You'll soon discover that meditation and/or prayer is a state of mind involving awareness and acceptance, that you can do in the midst of any activity. Namaste!

Fat Loss and Detoxification - Why Toxicity May Be Stopping You From Losing Weight

Detox has become somewhat of a dirty word these days. With all of the "detox" programs that require juice fasts, extreme calorie restriction and bizarre foods, it's no wonder that people cringe when they hear the word. Truth be told I have the same reaction and unless I know and trust the source of a detox program, I tend to assume it's a bad idea.

Our bodies have built-in detoxification processes which, as long as they are working properly, don't need crazy diets or loads of supplements to rid our bodies of the toxins and pollutants we're exposed to every day. However, our bodies were not designed to handle the amount of toxic exposure we are subjected to in this day and age which means that our internal detox pathways can get overloaded. Throw a poor diet on top of that and you'll find yourself feeling and looking pretty awful.

For years we have been told that losing weight is simply a matter of calories in, calories out, and to some degree that is true. But weight loss and fat loss are two VERY different things, and for most people, real fat loss is what we want to achieve. That brings us to our fat cells. These little guys get a bad wrap, but in fact they're helping to protect us by storing any fat-soluble toxins that our organs of detoxification can't get rid of. So the next time you see those rolls of chub on your tummy, remember that while you don't want to keep them, they're preventing your organs from being poisoned.

If we are storing a lot of toxicity in our fat cells, our bodies will not release that extra weight because it simply isn't safe. But if we nurture our liver and kidneys and optimize our body's detox pathways, we will have a much easier time eliminating those toxins and then we will more readily burn fat.

So how does one go about detoxing in a natural, gentle way without going to extremes? There are a few ways to go about it, but the bottom line is - use your food as medicine. By eliminating the most common inflammatory and allergenic foods, avoiding non-organic foods and toxic chemicals, and eating foods that support the your detox organs, you can help optimize your body's ability to "take out the trash".

October is a great time to step back and take stock of your health, using the change in season as a chance to make a fresh start. I wanted to give clients a way to do this that was both effective and enjoyable so I created the Reboot Your Bod Detox. My Fall detox program is an ideal way to detox gently and naturally while enjoying delicious, whole foods that nourish and heal your body. And you won't be going it alone! Starting on October 19 others just like you will begin their 21-day journey to a healthier, happier body and mind, and I'll be supporting you every step of the way with one-on-one coaching and a private Facebook group.

The most common feedback I hear from my Detoxers is that they are amazed at how they can eat so much delicious food and still lose weight, eliminate bloating, feel more energized. And the best part is that you'll learn skills to continue seeing results long after the program is over. Want to learn more? Click here for Detox details and to read what others are saying about this transformational program.

Other articles on this topic from industry experts:

PCBs are Linked to a Fat Stomach by Byron J. Richards, CN

Pesticides vs. Calories. Another hit to the calorie model. by Dr. Jade Teta

Remove Toxins From Your Fat Cells by Dr. John Douillard

How Toxins Make You Fat: 4 Steps to Get Rid of Toxic Weight by Dr. Mark Hyman

Beating the Late Night Munchies

Dinner is done, the dishes are put away, and you’re watching your favorite show. The next thing you know you’re standing in front of your pantry (or fridge or freezer), pulling out chips (or ice cream or crackers or popcorn) to satisfy those nagging post-dinner cravings. Does this happen to you? What’s going on? Are you really hungry?

Night-time snacking is one of the biggest challenges and can really contribute to weight gain. When you eat within a few hours of sleeping, your body stores the food as fat.

Believe it or not, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes of night-time snacking -- habits, hormones, emotions, nutrition deficiencies, sleep deprivation – even the influence of television! See my top tips below to help you beat those late night munchies!

“Emotional eating.” Have you heard of “emotional eating?” Perhaps you‘ve experienced this or seen a movie where the jilted lover tries to soothe her broken heart with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? (They actually have a flavor called “Chocolate Therapy!”) But emotions that can drive you to snack are not always that clear or dramatic. Everyday stress, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, and boredom are just a few of the feelings that cause many people to “comfort eat.” You may not even be aware of those feelings, but night-time can magnify them and send you to the kitchen.

In my practice, I work with clients to help them understand their emotional triggers, change their relationship with food, and learn healthier habits. The first step is self-awareness. When you find yourself mindlessly snacking, write a few notes about how you’re feeling and ask yourself a few questions:

Am I really hungry or am I bored? New clients often tell me that they snack because they’re bored. Does that ever happen to you? When and why does that happen? What could you do about your boredom besides eat?

Am I stressed and trying to comfort myself with food? Stress increases cortisol, which can increase your craving to snack. How about trying some healthier ways to relax, such as taking a walk, doing yoga stretches, soaking in a warm bath, or doing some deep breathing or meditation exercises? Check out the meditation app, Headspace. It’s easy, just 10 minutes at a time, and very calming.

Emotional eating is one driver of night-time snacking, but here are some other common reasons why we may get the urge to snack:

Insufficient nutrition earlier in the day. If you haven't eaten enough or had enough of the right foods throughout the day, your body is going to want more nourishment come night time. Shoot for eating 1 lb of non-starchy vegetables each day and include sources of clean protein and healthy fats at each meal. Drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages first thing in the morning before eating can also cause major cravings later in the day.

Entertaining. When we get together with family or friends, it’s often about eating, and summertime brings picnics, BBQs, family reunions, and more! If you’re worried that you’ll offend your host who’s baked all day, or that your family or friends will give you a hard time (what’s that all about? NOT cool), bring healthy food with you, let them know you are focusing on healthy habits, and find other ways to join in and connect. If that idea makes you uncomfortable (you’re not alone here, this is a very common challenge) let’s talk about ways you can handle this with your friends and family.

TV triggers. When you’re watching your favorite shows, you’re the target of commercials for fast food, sweets and salty snacks. These ads work, as they were designed to, and they trigger the urge to snack. Companies spend millions of dollars to create those cravings, so take back your power by muting the television or fast-forwarding through your recordings.

Hormone health. Your body produces hormones to help regulate your appetite – insulin, leptin and ghrelin are just a few. If these hormones are out of balance, you might feel as if you can’t control your hunger, because your brain is not acknowledging that you’re full. For example, why do we crave something sweet right after a big meal? It’s physical! Your body produces insulin after you eat in order to process the carbohydrates (sugar). Making just small changes to when and what you eat can help keep your hormones in check, making it easier for you to kick your cravings and maintain or lose weight.

Here are some steps you can take right away to help curb your night-time snacking:

1. Eat a nourishing breakfast. Because our bodies store late-night eating as fat, snacking before bedtime might prevent you from being hungry when you wake up. This might cause you to skip breakfast, which could throw you off for the whole day. It’s a snacker’s vicious cycle! To prevent this, be sure to begin your day with a nutritious breakfast of protein, fiber and healthy fats. For example eggs with veggies sautéed in coconut oil or ghee will help fuel your brain and regulate your blood sugar until it’s time for lunch. I like to make a smoothie with coconut milk, vegan protein powder, hemp hearts, frozen organic blueberries and kale, and mac root. It energizes me and keep me going for 2-3 hours.

2. Don’t keep tempting snacks in the house. So there you are, right after dinner, looking in the pantry or fridge. What are you looking for? If you can’t find the snacks you crave, you can’t eat them! The decision not to have snacks in the house is made in the supermarket. Next time you’re grocery shopping, resist the temptation to bring home the unhealthy treats that sabotage your health and weight-loss goals. If it’s not in your house, it’s not in your mouth!

3. Crowd out the unhealthy snacks with better options. It’s unrealistic to think we’ll never want a snack – the key is to choose good, better, best options for snacking! Sliced cucumber with hummus or half an avocado are both tasty, satisfying options.

4. Make sleep a priority. Studies show that when we’re tired, we’re 25% hungrier. Remember the hormone ghrelin I mentioned earlier? Your body produces more of it when you’re tired, and ghrelin is the hormone that tells your body that you’re hungry... If you tend to stay up too late, you could be adding a double-whammy to your night-time cravings.

Want to beat your bad habits once and for all and create an empowered and healthy lifestyle? Book your free Coffee Talk session and let’s get to the root cause of your snacking!

High Cholesterols Foods - Friend or Foe?

Originally published on the Sophia Health Institute blog on June 20, 2015.

For decades we have been conditioned to believe that saturated fats and cholesterol were the enemy responsible for heart disease, obesity and a host of other health problems. In the 80’s we all began ditching the bacon, nuts, and full fat dairy in favor of low-fat, high carbohydrate foods that were supposed to contribute to a healthy heart and a leaner body. But here we are, a little over 20 years later, finding ourselves hungrier, fatter, and sicker. So what went wrong?

It all began with a study published by Dr. Ancel Keys in 1970 who postulated that heart disease was directly related to high serum cholesterol, caused by high dietary fat intake. The model of his study was highly suspicious and recent studies have found that there is in fact no link between saturated fats in the diet and heart disease. However, Dr. Keys’ ideology was – and still is – widely accepted in the mainstream medical community. Many doctors continue to recommend low-fat, high carbohydrate diets in spite of the new, more accurate science proving that this approach is detrimental to our health.

Produced by the liver, cholesterol would still be present in your body even if you consumed no dietary cholesterol whatsoever. It is the most common steroid in the body and it is a crucial component of our cell membranes. In addition, cholesterol is required in the formation of Vitamin D, bile acids and hormones. Evidence suggests that without adequate cholesterol, our risk for heart disease and other inflammatory diseases increases; according to Dr. Joseph Mercola “Your body needs adequate cholesterol to perform a number of critical functions, and there is strong evidence that people have a higher risk for heart attacks by having their cholesterol levels driven too low, as is being done by drugs like statins.”

Cholesterol is also necessary for a healthy brain as it acts as a protective antioxidant, promotes neurogenesis (creation of new brain cells) and facilitates communication between neurons. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, there is a correlation between higher serum cholesterol and increased cognitive function and a Mayo Clinic study found individuals consuming a higher saturated fat diet reduced their risk for developing dementia by a whopping 36%.

Not all saturated fats are created equal, especially when it comes to trans fats and animal fats. In a ruling on this Tuesday the 16th of June, the FDA declared that trans fat are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food. Trans fats or hydrogenated fats/oils are highly inflammatory and should be avoided at all costs.

Fats from animals raised by grazing on a natural diet (grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens and eggs, etc.) contain higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, whereas animals fed grains or other foods foreign to their natural diet are higher in omega-6 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory if we get too much of them. Ideally our diet would consists of a ratio of 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, but in the standard American diet, people consume over 25 times as much omega-6 as they do omega-3.

There are three types of omega-3 fats – ALA, EPA and DHA, and while there are good plant-based sources of ALA (hemp, flax, chia), our bodies need all three types. To get the necessary doses requires eating a variety of both plant and animal foods.

Refined vegetable oils can be equally problematic; these so-called  “heart healthy”, “cholesterol free” oils such as canola, soybean, peanut,  sunflower and corn are high in omega-6 fatty acids which can contribute to intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome), increase the risk of inflammatory diseases and negatively alter gene expression. These oils are also commonly made from genetically modified crops which destroy our beneficial gut bacteria, further compromising our digestion, immune system, and neurological functions. If you are already struggling with digestive issues or chronic illness you may already have too much inflammation in your body. By eliminating refined vegetable oils you can reduce your overall inflammation.

A diet high in healthy fats is also beneficial for digestive health. Ghee and butter from pastured animals are excellent sources of butyric acid. This fatty acid is an excellent anti-inflammatory source of energy for the cells lining our intestines and it helps to “seal” the gut and reverse intestinal permeability. In addition, bacteria, parasites and fungus do not eat fat which means that we can reap the nutritional benefits of healthy fats while starving any unwelcome bacteria or pathogens in the gut.

Great sources of cholesterol and healthy fats:

  • Nuts
  • Wild fish
  • Wild and grass-fed meats
  • Ghee and butter from pastured animals
  • Seeds (hemp, chia, flax)
  • Avocados
  • Whole organic pastured eggs (the yolk is the best part!)
  • Organic extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil

People often ask me if eating more fat and high cholesterol foods will make them fat, and the answer is absolutely not! In fact, proper fat intake can help us lose weight and maintain healthy body composition by training our bodies to tap into our fat as a fuel source instead of burning sugar. Fat also keeps us feeling full and satisfied, enhances absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, helps reduce blood sugar and provides a steady flow of energy throughout the day.

Heart disease is less likely a product of high fat foods and more likely the result of chronic stress, a diet high in processed foods and poor lifestyle choices. When we are under constant stress our bodies produce more cortisol which then breaks down vitamin C. If we have a long-term vitamin C deficiency, it weakens our arterial walls which the body then attempts to “patch up” with available cholesterol from the bloodstream. This creates atherosclerotic plaque to protect the arterial walls which is often treated with statins. Sadly this approach does nothing to address the root cause of the problem which could most likely be resolved with proper diet, lifestyle changes, and natural interventions.

By choosing real, unprocessed, properly raised and cultivated high fat foods from both plant and animal sources we can greatly improve the state of our health and overall well-being. So enjoy that organic, grass-fed steak and full fat organic yogurt and don’t skimp on the avocado in your salad. You will enjoy your food so much more and your heart, brain, gut and waistline will thank you.

If you have trouble digesting fats or have had your gallbladder removed, talk to your practitioner about supplementing with digestive support such as digestive enzymes, ox bile and/or betaine HCl. Fatty or greasy stools that float or are pale and very stinky are good indicators that you’re not digesting fat properly.

References:

Dietary intake of saturated fatty acids and mortality from cardiovascular disease in Japanese: the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer Risk (JACC) Study. - American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Yamagishi K., et al. 2010

Aglaée Jacob, M.S., R.D., Digestive Health with Real Food (Paleo Media Group, LLC, 2013)

Effect of Dietary Fatty Acids on Inflammatory Gene Expression in Healthy Humans*  - Kelly L. Weaver, et al.

The Diet-Heart Myth: Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Are Not the Enemy - by Chris Kresser 2013

Your “Healthy” Diet Could Be Quietly Killing Your Brain - A new book challenges convention with the latest science on brain health. by Max Lugavere for PsychologyToday.com 2013

Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. -  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Siri-Tarino PW, et al. 2010

The Great Cholesterol Myth, - Dr. Stephen Sinatra 2014

New Science Destroys the Saturated Fat Myth – Mercola.com 2014

The 6 Greatest Cholesterol Myths Debunked - James Colquhoun,2014

The diet–heart hypothesis: a critique - Sylvan Lee Weinberg, MD, MACC* 2004

Why Grassfed Animal Products Are Better For You – Dr. Joseph Mercola

FDA orders food manufacturers to stop using trans fat within three years, By Jen Christensen, CNN Updated 3:47 PM ET, Tue June 16, 2015

The Science is Practically Screaming... Don't Make This Trendy Fat Mistake – Mercola.com 2011

How too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 is making us sick - 2010 by CHRIS KRESSER 

Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence - Glen D. Lawrence* 2013

Glandular Gladness - The Magical, Mighty Thyroid

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which includes the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, thymus, pineal gland, testes, ovaries, adrenal glands, parathyroid, and pancreas. It makes hormones (e.g. T3, T4, free T3 and T4 and reverse T3)) that travel through your bloodstream and regulate your metabolism, brain and heart function, and reproductive and menstrual cycles.

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that lives just below your Adam’s apple and quietly does its thing without getting much attention until your doctor checks it with their hands during a routine exam. Unless something unusual is found (e.g., swelling) or symptoms manifest that indicate a problem, your doc probably won't take a second look at it. If they do check your thyroid on a blood test, they will often tell you only if your thyroid is within normal range, not if it is functioning optimally or not.

When the thyroid is not functioning properly, a chain reaction of hormonal events takes place that involves many other glands/hormones of the endocrine system and the bodily systems they regulate. The end result is one of two primary types of health conditions: hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underachieve thyroid).

Common Symptoms of Thyroid Dysfunction

  • Depression
  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • headaches / migraines
  • constipation
  • menstrual irregularities 
  • infertility and/or miscarriage
  • anxiety / panic attacks
  • poor memory
  • Inability to concentrate / focus
  • muscle & joint pain
  • decreased sexual interest
  • cold intolerance
  • swollen abdomen, legs, feet, hands
  • insomnia
  • sleep apnea
  • low body temperature
  • irritability
  • thinning hair
  • acne
  • allergies
  • iron and B12 deficiency
  • dizziness / vertigo
  • high blood pressure
  • gallstones
  • bladder & kidney infections
  • easy bruising
  • osteoporosis

I know, crazy long list, right?! And this isn't even a complete list of all the possible symptoms.

8 Ways to Keep Your Thyroid Healthy

1. Eat from the sea. The sea provides many natural sources of iodine, a building block of the thyroid hormone. Salt has a high concentration of iodine, but it can raise blood pressure. Instead, opt for saltwater fish, or try seaweed in a salad. Cod and halibut are high in selenium, which protects the thyroid gland during periods of stress and helps regulate hormone synthesis. Fish oil is also excellent since it provides essential fatty acids that reduce inflammation.

2. Eat foods high in B vitamins, which are precursors to thyroid hormones and influence cell energy. Balance your diet with pasture-raised meats and poultry, nuts (especially Brazil nuts) and seeds. Red meat provides iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and other minerals essential for thyroid hormone function, and the health of other bodily systems affected by thyroid disorders (skin, hair, metabolism).

3. Avoid dietary pitfalls that can compromise thyroid function. If your diet is too low in protein, fat or carbohydrates or too high in sugar, alcohol or soy products, you could be setting yourself up for thyroid problems. There is also a lot of talk about "goitrogens" or cruciferous vegetables being a potential enemy to the thyroid, but after a lot of reading and research I believe their benefits outweigh any potential problems, especially if they are cooked and not consumed excessively.

4. Love your liver and listen to your gut. If your liver is stressed in can inhibit your ability to convert T4 to T3 and produce thyroid binding globulin (TBG). Gut health must also be addressed and optimized to achieve healthy thyroid function.

5. Catch some rays. Vitamin D is also crucial for thyroid health and a plethora of other functions in your body. Try to get at least 10-15 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) several times a week and take a Vit. D supplement if your live in dark climate or don't get outside often enough.

6. Take time to unwind. A daily relaxation practice, such as just 10 minutes a day of silence and deep breathing, can make a difference in the state of mind and body. Stressed adrenal glands are often at the root of thyroid problems, so adrenal health should be addressed before beginning thyroid treatment.

7. Move your body! Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Yoga is particularly good for thyroid health, including poses such as butterfly, fish pose, shoulder stand, and child’s pose.

5. Get supplement-al insurance. Our diets aren’t perfect, so supplementing with a vitamin/mineral or botanical (herb) regimen can provide extra insurance against exposure to stress, toxins, and even genetic predispositions. Be sure to consult with your wellness practitioner about the best nutraceutical options for you.

If you suspect a thyroid condition, talk with your doctor or wellness practitioner right away. There are a variety of tests (micronutrients, thyroid-adrenal, hormones) that can help them create an appropriate treatment plan.

 

Resources

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. “Natural Therapies for Hypothyroidism.” October 11, 2013. 

American Thyroid Association. ATA Patient Education Web Brochures. Accessed May 2015.

Hormone Health Network. “Your Thyroid: What You Need to Know.” Accessed May 2015.

Women to Women. “Alternative Hypothyroidism Treatment.” Accessed May 2015.

 

The information offered by this post is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this web site.