Stressed Out? Maybe These Techniques Can Help

Stressed Out? Maybe These Techniques Can Help

Stress is completely natural and, biologically speaking, intended to be very beneficial. It is the body’s response to certain life demands or threats that helps you perform better. Like when you come upon a tiger and need to run away or when you are hunting gazelles with spears and need extra strength, alertness and focus. Oh wait. Fast forward to the present and that doesn’t happen to most of us anymore. Stress can help you though meet the deadline for a work project, make the game-winning shot, deliver an amazing presentation or react superhumanly to avoid an accident. The “stress response” of the body was intended for physical, immediate, short-term circumstances that occur infrequently. The problem is that for many people, the stress response is constantly activated more so emotionally than physically, leading to chronic stress that brings with it a variety of health complications.

The Stress Response: What Happens in the Body

When your body is under stress, it responds by releasing various hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. These hormones cause an increase in heart rate, constrict blood vessels which causes blood pressure to rise, hones your sense of sight, smell and hearing and enhances brain function. All of these effects lead to the sudden increase in strength, stamina, speed and reaction time. The body is simply amazing!

Once again though, this response was designed to either help you win a fight or flee from danger. In my case it is mostly to flee from danger; I haven’t been much for fighting. My older brothers can attest to that. What happens though when the body is under chronic stress?

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Stress

  1. Depression and anxiety
  2. Sleep problems
  3. Digestive issues
  4. Weight fluctuations
  5. Cognitive difficulties
  6. Headaches
  7. Irritability
  8. Impaired immune system
  9. Autoimmune disease
  10. Hormonal imbalance
  11. Chronic yeast infections

Techniques to Effectively Manage Stress

Let’s face it. Stress is an inevitable part of life and you needn’t run away or hide from every stressful situation you are confronted with. You probably know a number of people in your life that never appear to get stressed out. How is that possible? Could it be that their life is gum drops and roses all the time? I doubt it. The key is to learn how to balance and manage your stress so that you can be healthier, happier and more productive. With practice, anyone can become stress masters! Some of the following tecniques are based on HealthGuide.org’s stress management section.

1: Identify what causes you stress

Sounds easy, but aside from the major stressors in one’s life, I wager there are many tiny things that are causing you stress that you are completely unaware of. Heck, just the way you think can influence your levels of stress. You alone play the biggest role in creating or maintaining your stress levels and you alone play the biggest role in controlling them.

Start a stress journal. Each time you feel stressed, record it. Over time, you will be able to identify patterns. Try and answer these questions:

  • What caused your stress?
  • How did you feel? (physically and emotionally)
  • How did you respond?
  • What did you do to make yourself feel better?

Ask friends and family. Often times it takes someone on the outside to help you identify what’s happening on the inside.

2: Replace unhealthy coping strategies with healthy ones

Contemplate your current coping methods for stress and identify which ones are healthy and productive and which ones are unhealthy and unproductive. The last thing you want is to respond to stress in a way that actually compounds the problem. Once again, you may find it beneficial to ask friends and family what they see as unhealthy coping strategies you may not of thought of.

Examples of unhealthy coping strategies are smoking, drinking alcohol, drugs (prescription and illegal), social isolation, food bingeing, procrastination, excessive sleep, distracting oneself with technology (Facebook, Instagram, movies, tv, video games).

Examples of healthy coping strategies are physical activity, deep breathing, meditation,yoga, friends, humor, hobbies, pets (careful though, pets can also cause a lot of stress as well), prayer, positive self-talk,service, organizing your space and a healthy diet.

3: Relaaaaaax…

Each day you should set apart time to allow your body and mind to relax. The following relaxation tecniques are some of my favorite and all have the potential to lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, lower respiratory rate and lower cortisol levels.

  • Deep breathing. Breathing deeply sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax (1). It is extremely effective at managing stress. In summary you want to breath in and out through the nose and down into your tummy. This website does a good job at describing how to practice the technique of deep breathing (click here).
  • Yoga. There are various modalities of yoga and surely one of them will feel right to you. Most classes are free for the first time so go out and experiment. Maybe group classes or paying a monthly fee isn’t something you want to do. That’s okay. Youtube offers an amazing selection of great yoga videos you can do at home.
  • Meditation. Is training for the mind. Don’t think you need to become a monk to meditate nor do you need hours to do so. Even just a few minutes can be effective in reducing stress and relaxing. Click (here) to read up on tips on how to begin meditating.There is also great online meditation videos that will walk you through the process if you’re a newbie.
  • Massage. I don’t think I need to talk much about massage therapy. Anyone who has recieved a professional massage has experienced its awesome benefits. If you haven’t ever had a professional massage, you need to!
  • Reflexology. This really is a modality of massage, but deserves its own bullet point. Reflexology can directly stimulate energy meridians and organ function that may need support due to chronic stress, like the adrenal glands.

4: Physical Movement

Notice how I didn’t say exercise? Too many people equate exercise to strenuous activity. But even simple bodily movements can provide serious stress reducing benefits. Regular exercise (movement) helps improve mood, takes your mind off of current worries, increases the feel-good neurotransmitters known as endorphins, improves sleep and helps build self-confidence and self-worth. (1)

5: Tapping (Emotional Freedom Tecnique)

This technique is based on the theory that there exist energy meridians within the body and that by tapping with your fingers on different points on the body relieves stress and anxiety. Really? Tapping myself is supposed to help me? Surprisingly yes (3). I know countless people who swear by it. Before you dismiss it, why not give it a try? Click here to view an instructional video on tapping.

6: Avoid unnecessary stress.

Not all stress can or should be avoided, but seriously, there is a lot of stress in people’s lives that really shouldn’t even exist.

  • Remember, you can almost always say “no”. Don’t wait until your plate is already overflowing with commitments. Learn to say no before you reach your limit. It’s easy, I’ll teach you. Repeat after me, “no”. Good job. Now, one more time, “no”. You got it!
  • Stay away from people who cause you stress. Either limit your time with them or end the relationship.
  • Take control of your environment. If driving in traffic stresses you out, take public transit. If crowded malls make you anxious, shop online. If doing dishes makes you want to pull your hair out, make your kids do it (haha… just kidding. Slightly.)
  • Prioritize your to-do list. Only God could accomplish everything on some people’s to-do list. Prioritize your to-do list with the most important things to do at the top and then decreasing in importance towards the bottom. If you don’t finish everything on the list, oh well. At least you have accomplished the most vital.
  • Simplify. Many of us love to complicate our lives by filling it with stuff. Try organizing your home or work space and get rid of unnecessary items. My wife and I try and live by the one-year rule. If we haven’t used something within the last year, we don’t need it! 

7: Have fun!

Nothing relieves stress as quickly as laughing and having a good time. Research has proven it over and over again (5)(6). It also helps to take your mind off of matters that are worrying you and allows you to revisit them with a fresh perspective. As you prioritize your to-do list, make sure a little “me/fun” time is near the top each day.

8: Social Connecting

There is something magical and soothing about spending time with someone who listens to you and understands you. There is a brilliant Ted Talk titled “The Power of Vulnerability”, and I fully agree with what the speaker says. Don’t be afraid to take down your walls of defense and open up to those close to you. Facebook, Snapchat or email just won’t do here. It is the literaly face-to-face interaction with another human that helps reverse the body’s defensive stress response.

9: Learn the skill of adaptability.

  • Put on the lens of positivityYeah, the traffic sucks, but at least your favorite song is on the radio.
  • Take a bird’s eye view. Is the current situation really going to matter tomorrow? Next month? Next year? If not, I’m sure you can save your energy for more productive tasks.
  • Adjust your standards. While perfection is nice, “good enough” isn’t all that bad either.
  • Find things to be grateful for. It’s amazing how effective this is at relieving stress. You can be grateful for personal qualities, your family and your life in general.

10: Get outside!

There is something magical about being out in mother nature. Few things can call calm the soul like a gentle breeze, the sound of moving water, the melodic singing of birds and clean, fresh air. All it takes is 10 minutes or so outside to feel revitalized and calm. You could also practice deep breathing outside for an incredible stress reducing combo. To get even more benefit from being outside, take your shoes off and feel the grass and dirt beneath your feet. This simple act allows you to connect with mother earth energetically and is known as earthing. For more information on earthing and its amazing health benefits, visit our blog post here.

11: Accept the unchangeable. 

Some things just are the way they are no matter what we do. Death cannot be changed. The financial market moves up and down independent of you. And no matter how well a guy aims, urine will always get everywhere.

  • Learn to forgive 
  • Time to put on the lens of positivity again
  • Communicate your feelings

 

Stress is real. You simply can not avoid it altogether. But you certainly don’t have to allow it to dominate you life. Start making steps to manage and control your stress today!

The Dangers of Dairy

The Dangers of Dairy

The dairy industry, along with government institutions, have convinced us that not only is consuming the milk from another species completely natural, but also a necessity. This magical liquid is needed for adequate growth and good health because it is loaded with calcium, protein and various other vitamins and minerals. We have also been told over and over again how dairy builds strong bones and prevents osteoporosis. But is dairy really a superfood and vital in obtaining optimal health? Could it actually be dangerous to one’s health? Let’s put dairy under the microscope of science and critical thinking and see how it holds up.

Nutrients in Milk

It’s true. Dairy is loaded with calcium, has lots of protein and contains other vitamins and minerals like phosphorus, potassium, vitamins B12, riboflavin and niacin. It is also fortified with the vitamins A and D. But how did all those nutrients besides the ones added get into the milk? They came from the cow’s food – plants. Eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains will provide you and all humans with all of the nutrients found in dairy plus many others like fiber and antioxidants. There is one exception though – Vitamin B12* (see bottom of page).   What I am trying to say is that dairy is not the only source of certain essential nutrients and humans do not need dairy to be healthy. In fact, all that calcium and protein may not be in your best interest as I will explain later. A recent  journal article summed it up nicely, stating that “humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk” (1). Why not skip the middle man and get all of the nutrients you need from plants?

Some Non-Nutrients in Milk You Probably Want to Avoid

Artificial hormones. Many are already familiar with or at least heard of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) and recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST). They are synthetic hormones given to dairy cows to increase milk production and have been under public scrutiny for potential health concerns in humans. Research has shown cows given artificial hormones have higher levels of IGF-1 (which has been linked to higher cancer risk) (2). They also suffer from increased rates of mastitis – infection in the udder – that require increased doses of antibiotics which may lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria that get transferred to humans (2). Interestingly, Canada, Europe and other countries have banned the use of these artificial hormones due to health concerns, yet the United States continues to allow them. Now you can find many dairy products that are certified to be free of artificial hormones. While it is a step in the right direction, artificial hormones are not the only hormones you should be worried about in milk.

Estrogen. Dairy is loaded with various natural hormones, principally estrogen and in turn can cause imbalances in your own hormones. Much research has been done on estrogen and it’s effects on health. Excess estrogen has been linked to thrombosis (blood clotting) which can then lead to a stroke, pulmonary embolism, heart attack and organ failure (3)(4)(5). Excess estrogen also increases risks of developing prostate cancer in men and breast and uterus cancers in women (6)(7). Excess estrogen can also delay puberty in boys and accelerate it in girls (8).

Toxic chemical residues. The environment of both humans and animals is becoming more and more toxic every day. Just like humans, animals are exposed to herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, air pollution, heavy metals, drugs and so on. Also like us, the toxins that are not eliminated get stored in fat cells. These toxic chemicals can disrupt endocrine function, affect the reproductive system, be neurotoxic, carcinogenic and immunotoxic. It just so happens that these chemical contaminants are passed along in maternal milk, not only in humans but also in cows as well (8)(9). I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to take my chances that the chemical contaminants in breast milk won’t cause too much harm during the brief period of an infants life. But what about the remaining 70+ years of that infant’s life continuing to consume dairy products?

Calcium and Strong Bones. Maybe.

The thought process is and has been for over a century that because bones contain lots of calcium, the more calcium we ingest the stronger our bones will be. And because dairy contains so much calcium, obviously consuming lots of dairy is going to lead to increases in bone mineral density (BMD) and prevent the onset of osteoporosis. But does it really? Let’s take a look at some of the research. According to one meta-analysis of nearly 50 cohort and randomized controlled trial studies, “dietary calcium intake is not associated with risk of fracture, and there is no clinical trial evidence that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources prevents fractures. Evidence that calcium supplements prevent fractures is weak and inconsistent.” (10) Another meta-analysis of over 59 randomized controlled trials concluded that, “increasing calcium intake from dietary sources or by taking calcium supplements produces small non-progressive increases in BMD, which are unlikely to lead to a clinically significant reduction in risk of fracture.” (11) This makes complete sense though when you stop and think about it. The body is extremely intelligent. If the body’s vitamin and mineral needs and reserves are met, it simply discards the excess. Also, there is a lot more that goes on to build strong bones other than just consuming calcium. Adequate levels of Vitamin D, vitamin K, phosphorus, magnesium, silicon, boron, zinc, manganese, and copper are also needed, along with numerous hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, insulin, parathyroid hormones, thyroid hormones, cortisol, growth hormones, calcitriol and calcitonin (12)(13). Yeah, I know right? I find it humorous that the medical community and society as a whole focus so heavily on calcium when obviously there could be a number of factors effecting one’s current bone health.

So how much calcium does the body really need? It is believed that the minimum intake to sustain health is around 200mg per day. The World Health Organization recommends about twice this much at 500mg each day. The US recommends between 1000-1200mg per day. That’s quite a spread! Studies show that above 500mg of calcium daily little benefit to bone health is obtained (14)(15). Interestingly, the countries with the highest dairy intake also have some of the highest osteoporosis rates (16). Also worth mentioning is the fact that cow’s milk has nearly 4x the amount of calcium than human milk! Cow’s milk was designed for baby calves, not for humans.

*Side note: If you are really concerned about your bone health, I would first look at the amount of exercise you do rather than increasing calcium intake (17). Exercise is essential for bone health and I’d wager more people are lacking exercise than they are dietary calcium, especially in developed nations.

Increases IGF-1 Levels

Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is a hormone produced by all mammals and plays an important role in normal growth and development.  IGF-1 is largely responsible for childhood growth and continued growth of organs and muscles into adulthood. Because this hormone specifically promotes cell division, it has also been linked to promote various types of cancer growth, including breast, prostate, pancreas and colon cancer (18).

Well, consuming dairy actually increases levels of IGF-1 by either direct absorption from the milk itself or its digestion (19). One study showed that dairy consumption increased IGF-1 levels in adults by 10-20% and in children by 20-30%. And as another study pointed out, kids who drink plant milk instead of cow’s milk are slighty shorter than their peers (20). But ask yourself, is adding an additional centimeter to a child’s height worth the heightened risk of developing cancer later on in life?

Dairy and Digestion

Lactose intolerance.  Lactose is a sugar molecule in milk and the specific enzyme lactase is needed for its digestion. Lactose intolerance is simply the lack or insufficient amount of lactase to digest milk. Infants are blessed with lots of lactase to allow them to live off of breast milk. Naturally, once a child is weaned, the body produces less and less lactase. Nature didn’t intend us to keep drinking milk. Many people become lactose intolerant while some retain sufficient lactase amounts to continue digesting milk. Did you know around 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerance (21)? Interesting how many governments, institutions and companies promote dairy as a part of a healthy diet when the majority of the population can’t even digest it properly! And some of those 75% may actually not be intolerant to lactose per se, but rather a specific protein in milk called casein.

Casein. Cow’s milk has more than triple the protein content of human milk with the protein casein making up around 80 percent.  Casein only accounts for around 40% of the protein in human milk. So cow’s milk has more than 6x the amount of casein than human milk (22). Why does this matter? Casein has repeatedly proven itself to be quite the trouble maker with regards to health. As the casein is digested, the molecule bovine beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) is formed. BCM-7 has been linked to intestinal inflammation, which affects bowel transit time and consistency, can disrupt intestinal flora and lead to diarrhea, constipation, leaky gut, various skin conditions like acne and eczema, ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease (23). BCM-7 is also known to increase mucus production also influencing various bowel disorders. Casein has also demonstrated in various studies to increase the proliferation of prostate cancer cells (24). Dr Campbell, author of The China Study, discovered through years of research that casein literally acts as a switch turning on and off cancer cell growth.

Dairy and Cancer

Breast cancer. – As mentioned briefly above in the estrogen section, dairy has been linked to increase the risk of developing breast cancer. This occurs due to several influencing factors including the onset of precocious puberty, increased levels of IGF-1, and increases in estrogen levels (7)(18).

Prostate cancer. – As mentioned briefly above in the dairy and digestion section, dairy consumption is linked to and increased risk of prostate cancer. This occurs due to several influencing factors including high intakes of calcium, increased levels of IGF-1, and the protein casein. (18)(25)(26).

Dairy and Type 1 Diabetes

Remember that I mentioned consuming dairy (and other problematic foods) can cause intestinal inflammation and lead to the development of a leaky gut? A leaky gut is definitely something you don’t want to have as it is influential in the development of autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes. A leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is when the lining of the intestines is damaged to the degree that small perforations occur. These “holes” in the gut lining allow substances to pass into the blood stream that wouldn’t be allowed otherwise, like undigested food, waste, toxins, viruses and bacteria. Your immune system targets these foreign substances, develops antibodies against them and begins to attack them, as it should. An autoimmune disease can develop though when one of these foreign substances is so similar to a healthy and inherit substance within the body that the body’s immune system can’t distinguish between self and non-self. Your body not only attacks the foreign substances, but also similar healthy cells. Keep in mind that sometimes autoimmune diseases occur simply due to genetic bad luck. However, many times it is environmentally instigated. In the case of type 1 diabetes, one environmental factor is the consumption of casein from cows milk in the presence of a leaky gut (27). The protein casein leaks into the blood stream where the body recognizes it as foreign and develops antibodies to fight it. Well, it turns out that the casein protein is very similar in structure to insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas and in a matter of time all of these cells are wiped out. Again, maybe milk is not the super food it is touted to be.

Consuming Dairy is Absolutely Unnatural

I just have to end with this. Have you ever seen a grown cow push a calf out of the way in order to get a shot of mama’s milk? Or how about a dog for that matter? Or a cat? Have you ever seen any animal for that matter, under natural circumstances and once it has been weaned, return to drinking milk on a daily basis? If you have, please send me the video! It just isn’t natural. But let me pose an even stranger scenario. Could you imagine seeing the new born calf tromp its way over to the dog who has just given birth and try and get its fair share of dog milk? I’m sure you agree with me that it would be weird for a grown human to go back to drinking mom’s milk on a daily basis. Shouldn’t it be even more unsettling and more unnatural then to see a grown human drink the milk of another species? Cow’s milk is for calves. Monkey milk is for baby monkeys. Human milk is for infants. Stop fighting nature by stopping to consume dairy. You may just find that your health will improve.

Dairy Replacements 

Luckily, we live in a time of when companies have developed substitute foods for practically everything, oftentimes creating products that taste and feel identical to the food they were meant to replace. Gone are the days of the tasteless, cardboard-like veggie burgers. There are now vegetable substitutions for sausages, eggs, beef and you guessed it, a variety of your favorite dairy products. The really neat thing that is happening is that these plant-based options are now available at many mainstream supermarkets. You no longer have to search for the obscure health food store.

Plant milks. Take your pick from one of the delicious options in a variety of flavors of soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk or oat milk.

Plant cheeses. Choose from various plant cheeses made from cashews, tofu, almonds, aquafaba, potatoes, carrots, hazelnuts or coconut. Check out this website for some amazing, delectable, knock-your-socks-off plant-based cheeses! (click here) 

Plant yogurts. Just like regular yogurt is made from the milk of animals, you can make yogurt from pretty much any of the plant-based milks as well. And many companies have! Walk into your favorite health food store and you are sure to find a variety of options to choose from.

Plant butters and creams.

Plant ice-cream. The options really neat. Not only can you make ice-cream using similar ingredients for the plant milks, cheeses and creams, but you can make some amazing, creamy ice-cream with just frozen bananas! A new name has even been coined for banana based ice-cream – NICE-cream. My personal favorite is to add lot’s of cinnamon to the banana mixture and then top with raw cacao pieces.

Take Away

Wow. This post turned out longer than anticipated. I hope you made it through to the end and learned something new. Even better would be if you were to make the decision to ditch the dairy and come on over to the plant side! Milk is kind of a double-edged sword. Despite the nutrients milk contains, it can also pose as a serious hazard to health.  As always, please feel free to leave any comments below or shoot us an email!

* Vitamin B12 is actually produced by certain bacteria found in the intestines and in the soil.  Although humans also have the vitamin B12 producing bacteria, we tend to run away from anything with dirt on it so supplementation is almost always needed. The way I see it is you can either supplement your diet with vitamin B12 by consuming dairy and meat products, or buy a manufactured supplement.

 

References

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/1704826
  2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/recombinant-bovine-growth-hormone.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6925385
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17310026
  5. https://www.webmd.com/dvt/features/dvt-dangers-prevention#1
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15203374
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3357167/pdf/brc0005-0044.pdf
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1240884/
  9. http://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=ijds.2007.104.115
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26420387
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26420598
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3330619/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45504/
  14. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/106/1/40?ijkey=8d9d1e7b49b7f086325eaccf9aef9fbc52f130a6&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
  15. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/115/3/736?ijkey=06d38fb5905fec9ee1033237a7e57016cf24f358&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
  16. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1638S.full#ref-21
  17. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/exercise/exercise-your-bone-health
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15562834
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2715202/pdf/de0101_0012.pdf
  20. http://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/07/health/milk-children-height-study/index.html
  21. http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/what-is-lactose-intolerance
  22. https://www.coursera.org/learn/lactation-biology/lecture/OMF8L/cow-vs-human-milk-composition
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4586534/
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25237656
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249408/pdf/kwr289.pdf
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15203374
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5518798/
Fasting – The Holy Grail

Fasting – The Holy Grail

Fasting is voluntary abstinence from food and/or drink for a period of time. Fasting is not a new trend, but has been practiced by civilizations throughout history. It is very common for members of religious sects to practice fasting as a means to obtaining spiritual enlightenment and closeness to Deity. But fasting has benefits far outreaching spiritual matters alone. Researchers are discovering numerous health benefits as a result of fasting as well. Results will vary of course from the kind of fast you choose to follow. This post is mostly geared toward fasting from food entirely, where only water is consumed. This type of fast yields the most significant health benefits.

Potential Health Benefits of Fasting

Weight loss. Guess what? If you don’t eat, you lose weight! Don’t worry, it is not unhealthy weight loss either as you will discover further in the post.

Increases insulin sensitivity. This is especially true in fasts where only water is consumed. Because you are not consuming steady doses of sugar/carbohydrates your pancreas produces less insulin. Lower levels of insulin has the side effect of increasing insulin sensitivity in cells. Also important to note is that excessive fat stores also appear to contribute to insulin resistance in cells. Intermittent or extended water fasting thus has the potential to help those suffering from Type 2 Diabetes by reducing fat stores and limiting sugar/carbohydrate consumption. (1)

Increases Levels of Human Growth Hormone. Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced by the pituitary gland and is responsible for normal development. Extremely low levels of HGH in adults leads to loss in bone density, decrease in muscle mass while increasing body fat. It is believed that many effects of aging are influenced by low levels of HGH. Synthetic growth hormone is available and while does produce various beneficial results, also carries with it high risks of side effects and is extremely costly. Wouldn’t it be awesome to increase HGH naturally? Fasting does just that, potentially increasing levels by 5-10 times! (2)(3)

Encourages cell recycling (autophagy). Cellular autophagy is different than cellular apoptosis. Apoptosis is the designated time of death of a cell (various cells have different life spans) and is a completely natural and beneficial process. Our body is in a state of constant renewal of getting rid of the old and replacing it with new. Here are a few fun facts: your lungs are constantly replacing themselves around every three weeks; your taste buds every 10 days; your skin every 2-4 weeks and your bones even are completely replaced every 10 years. But before cells die and get replaced, they can suffer damage and malfunctioning, much like a used car. Cellular autophagy then is similar to taking your car to the repair shop. The parts and pieces that aren’t working get replaced and recycled by the body to use in other ways and the cell gets a nice tune up. Increased levels of glucose, proteins and insulin all inhibit the process of autophagy or cellular recycling. Basically then, constantly eating throughout the day does not allow for cellular autopahgy. Only during the night can our body start doing some house cleaning and recycle and replace damaged cellular components. Often times though the night isn’t sufficient for all the cleaning and recycling that needs to be done. Fasting then sets the stage for deep, deep cleaning without any interruption from the ingestion of food. This celluar recycling helps prevent aging and keep cells functioning optimally. Essentially, fasting can lengthen your life and help you look longer. (4)

May help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the abnormal accumulation of amyloid beta (Aß) proteins in the brain. Current science believes that accumulations of these Aß proteins damage and eventually destroy the synaptic connections in the memory areas of the brain. Under normal circumstances, Aß protein is disposed of through autopahgy so that it can be recycled into other molecules as the body sees fit. For some reason, this autophagy process is hindered and the Aß proteins accumulate, leading to Alzheimer’s disease. Theoretically, fasting then may play a beneficial role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease by encouraging and stimulating cellular autophagy. (5)

Improves heart health. First, fasting has the potential to improve triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the blood. Both triglycerides and cholesterol are types of fat and higher levels of both are linked to various heart diseases. Second, fasting also helps lower blood pressure.  (6)(7)

Decreases inflammation. While inflammation can have many causes, one main contributing factor is one’s diet. Processed foods, meat, dairy, over cooked food, sweeteners and alcohol all provoke inflammation in the body. Obviously then, going without food for an extended period of time will help lower dietary-related inflammation. Other provokers of inflammation are allergies, wounds, infection and day-to-day metabolism. Fasting has shown to also help lower inflammation generally, not just related to diet. (8)

 

Fasting Myths

Fasting leads to muscle catabolism. The body stores excess fuel as small amounts of glycogen and mostly fat, not as protein. Muscle is reserved until fat reserves dip so low – less than 4 percent – that the body has no other choice than to start burning muscle. Let’s put that in perspective. An average male of 70 kg (160 lbs) with 15 percent body fat is carrying around 10.5 kg (24 lbs) of fat. Each gram of fat equals 9 calories so this same person has almost 100,000 calories in reserve fuel. Even at 2500 calories per day expenditure while fasting (which is relatively high), it would take roughly 40 days to use up all this fuel. To assume that the body is going to start eating your muscles when there is all this fat around would be similar to you having a 3 month food supply of grains, beans, tubers, canned fruit and vegetables, and when famine hit, you went looking for tree bark and insects. Kind of absurd. Also, remember that during fasting HGH levels actually increase, helping maintain lean muscle mass. Take a look at the chart below. You can see that during fasting the body actually starts conserving muscle, not burning it.

 

Source: McCue, ed., Comparative Physiology of Fasting, Starvation, and Food Limitation.

Fasting is equivalent to starving. Starvation simply put is death brought on by a lack of food. The point of starvation is different for every person and highly dependent on the current situation. In fact, fear alone may kill a man faster than abstinence from food ever could. As mentioned above, an average person is carrying weeks, if not months of reserve fuel to feed him during a fast. Fasting then is abstaining from food until these reserves are consumed. Starvation then is abstaining from food after these reserves are depleted. I find it ironic that so many people are so concerned about starving (fasting) to death, while all the long encourage the constant stuffing oneself to death. Frankly, much of the worlds population in developed nations could seriously benefit from missing a few meals on a regular basis.

 

How does one fast?

My favorite thing about fasting by only drinking water is how incredibly simple it is. It is absolutely free and requires no preparation or planning. If you want to practice intermittent fasting (IF), simply stop eating and continue only drinking water for 12-48 hours. Intermittent fasting is repeated shorter fasts, possibly every day, every few days or every week. However, if an extended fast is what you are after, it is advised that before you start, you prepare your body by eliminating all processed foods, lower carbohydrate intake and increase healthy fat intake. The ideal scenario would be if you were already in a state of nutritional ketosis. Since during fasting you will switch from burning glucose to fat as fuel, it will be a smoother transition if you are already encouraging your body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates as fuel.  This will lead to less hunger pains and adverse side effects during the first few days of fasting. Also, you may want to take some form of natural laxative to empty the bowels as it is very likely you will not have any bowel movements during the duration of your water fast. Once you start your fast though, there is nothing else to remember other than to drink water (pure, filtered or distilled water is preferred). Rest is also strongly advised during an extended fast. Hunger usually disappears after day 2 or 3 and you may experience times of weakness and lightheadedness. Please don’t plan a marathon or an adventure in the mountains while fasting!

 

How does one end a fast?

Ending a fast may just be as important if not more important than all your fasting days put together! If all you are doing is intermittent fasting, something less than 48 hours there is not much concern on what you eat afterwards. However, if you are coming off an extended fast longer than five days but shorter than 30 days, some caution should be had. It is also suggested that during an extended fast your body will clearly tell you when it is time to end by the return of true hunger.

If you want to continue on with a ketogenic diet, then I would recommend breaking the fast with either a spoonful of coconut oil or half an avocado. Then later in the day some more coconut oil or avocado. The following day slowly add in more fat-based foods that adhere to a ketogenic diet plan, but I would still hold off on any raw veggies or meat until the third day. 

If you plan to go back to a high carbohydrate diet, then I would recommend first drinking some coconut water to get some healthy electrolytes back into your system. Then for breakfast some fresh fruit, like watermelon, papaya or pineapple. I would have fresh fruit for breakfast and then again for lunch. For dinner you might have some light vegetable soup or boiled potatoes with the broth. The second day I would first eat fruit again for breakfast, then for lunch more cooked vegetables or maybe a small portion of oatmeal or other cooked cereal grain and dinner somewhat the same. By day three you should be able to basically resume old eating habits without any problems. But hopefully after your fast you will stay away from all processed foods and follow a whole-foods, plant based diet! Also, pay attention to each food you add to your diet and how your body digests it. After a water fast is a great time to test your body for any food sensitivities or allergies that may have been causing problems before. 

While I do recognize the potential health benefits of a high fat, low carb and moderate protein diet, I still strongly believe that such a diet should only be used for the short term. For long term health and wellness, there just isn’t anything better than a vegan, whole foods, plant based diet. 

 

Is fasting for everyone?

While most people are perfectly capable of fasting, even for extended periods of time, some will need to consult with a medical professional before starting any kind of fasting regime.

Those with diabetes, who are taking medications or suffer from gout, should first consult their health practioner before making any significant dietary changes, like fasting. 

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not practice fasting. 

Those under the age of 18 should not fast any longer than 24 hours. 

Those underweight or undernurished should not practice fasting. 

 

I hope you have learned alot about fasting and are more confident incorporating fasting, be it intermittent or extended fasting into your life. I am sure you will discover for yourself some of the many health benefits described above! 

 *For a more comprehensive reading about fasting, please check out Dr. Fung’s new book – The Complete Guide to Fasting

References

  1. http://journals.lww.com/co-lipidology/Abstract/2008/06000/Free_fatty_acids_and_skeletal_muscle_insulin.4.aspx
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC329619/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1548337
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20225336
  5. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0104423013000213#sec0020
  6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0104423013000213#sec0020
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1274154/
  8. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150216131146.htm

 

Early to Bed; Early to Rise

Early to Bed; Early to Rise

Are some people really programmed naturally to stay up late into the night? I don’t believe so. Everyone has an internal clock that cycles between sleepiness and alertness known as circadian rhythm. This sleep/wake cycle is controlled by the hypothalamus and heavily influenced by light and darkness (1). When darkness falls at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus letting it know that it is time to feel tired.  This leads to the release of the chemical melatonin which makes you tired. There is some degree of variance in circadian rhythm from person to person, but typically this falls between a range of a couple hours. So while staying up till 10pm is understandable, staying awake past midnight is not. 

The problem that many night owls have is that their lives are “off beat” from their circadian rhythm. Shift work, late night tv, video games, texting, Facebook,high stress, caffeine, college all-nighters, parties, sugar intake and other factors can all cause an individual to resist and override their natural sleep/wake cycle. I’m not saying that everyone should go to bed as soon as the sun sets or at one designated time. What I am saying though is that staying awake into the wee hours of the night is not only unnatural, but also potentially unhealthy.

Potential Health Benefits of Going to Bed Early and Rising Early

  1. Positive thoughts. One study found that those that go to bed early tend to worry less and have a more positive outlook on life (2).
  2. More in control and less stressed. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to wake up to an alarm clock? Well you shouldn’t really have to. One huge benefit of going to bed early is getting adequate sleep. Most of us need to be up by a certain time in the morning, so while the time of falling asleep vary, the time to get up is nearly constant. Those that retire early usually wake up naturally well before they have to be somewhere or do something. The night owls are often the same people who continue to hit snooze on their alarms until the last possible minute and then in a panicked hurry get ready for wherever they have to be. Poor or inadequate sleep are linked to feelings of irritability, stress and short tempers (3).
  3. Enhances your chance of success. Some research has shown that early risers tend to get better grades, are more proactive, better at solving problems, more cooperative, more conscientious, and have increased memory and concentration (4).
  4. Makes you happier (3). I think we have all experienced this. You just feel good and happier after a good nights rest. 
  5. Strengthens the immune system. Have you ever noticed that when you are running on less than desired sleep that you are more prone to getting sick? Adequate and quality rest help keep you healthy and disease free by strengthening the immune system (5) . Maybe instead of the flu shot, people just need to get more sleep?
  6. More energy in the morning and throughout the day.

Tips to help you fall asleep earlier so that you can enjoy the health benefits of those listed above!

  1. Exercise early in the day
  2. Don’t eat late at night
  3. Listen to sleep meditation at the time you want to fall asleep
  4. Drink a warm glass of chamomile tea an hour or so before bed
  5. Don’t bring your electronics with you to bed. Try reading a book instead.
  6. Limit caffeine intake to the morning

Good luck on making going to bed earlier and waking up earlier a habit! In fact, I’m off to bed!

 

Fruit: Friend of Foe?

Fruit: Friend of Foe?

Just because Adam and Eve had a negative experience with fruit, doesn’t mean you need to fear it as well! Unfortunately, however, it appears that there is a very real fear of eating fruit these days. There are countless misconceptions about fruit mostly promulgated by high-fat and high-protein diets, but also by misinformed doctors and nutritionsits alike.  But why is fruit – unarguably known by scientists to prolong life, reduce inflammation and protect against cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and various other diseases – vilified?

Fruit Myths

Fruit will make you fat. This is just silly. You make yourself fat by your food choices and quantity eaten, but food in and of itself does not make you fat. There are thousands of individuals that literally live off of fruit – fruitarians – and I have yet to see one of them obese. The vast majority of people know pretty well what they need to do to lose weight but don’t want to make the necessary changes. So what do they do? They look for something to blame. And the group carbohydrates, of which fruit belongs, seems to be a popular scapegoat in our modern day. Now I will admit that there are a handful of people out there, lost in the sea of misinformation, who are trying there best to lose weight with little success. Please contact us.  Now weight gain is heavily influenced by consuming more calories than your body needs, eating a lot of foods that are toxic to the body (meat, dairy, processed foods, oils, sweeteners) or can be due to hormonal imbalances. Right now you are saying, “See! I knew it wasn’t my fault. Hormonal imbalance for sure is to blame in my case.” You may be right. But what causes hormonal imbalances? Mostly a poor diet (think lots of animal products, especially dairy products), stress (which you are largely responsible for) and some times certain medications (which 80% of the time would not be needed if following a healthy, plant-based diet). Fruit does not make you fat. Please don’t fall into the modern trap that eating slabs of butter, a cheese and meat omelette or a triple bacon cheese burger without the bun is “healthier” than a couple of pieces of fresh fruit.  Save yourself the time and effort from blaming fruit and instead use that time and effort to go grocery shopping and pick you up some delicious fruit!

Fruit is high in sugar (carbohydrates) so its bad. Nowadays I feel like many treat carbohydrates like “he who must not be named”, daring not to even say the evil word, let alone eat them! First off, you need to understand that your body and especially your brain is designed to run off of sugar! Everything you eat, be it simple sugars, complex carbohydrates, fat and even protein in some cases gets turned into a form of sugar called glucose to fuel your body. We absolutely need glucose to live a healthy life. But what about ketone bodies? Yes, our body can run off of ketone bodies but this is a safety mechanism meant for times of famine or fasting. There is no evidence that living off of ketones indefinitely is healthy in the long run. But we also need a lot more than just glucose to be healthy and thus you need to understand that there is a HUGE difference between eating a raw piece of fruit and a packet of skittles. Some carbohydrates in fruit are fiber, which is indigestible by the body and therefor has absolutely no effect on blood sugar levels (but has a lovely effect on bowel movements!). Also, one of the main sugars in fruit is fructose that is almost entirely metabolized in the liver and the rate at which it is converted to glucose is actually rather slow, much slower than other carbohydrates. Thus fructose’s impact on blood sugar levels is moderate, unless you are consuming high-fructose corn syrup which not only spikes blood sugar levels but also leads to other negative health consequences. So yeah, I guess a lot of fruit at one time (like 20 bananas) can spike blood sugar levels and lead to fat production and fat storage, not to mention be very taxing on the liver. This is one of the reasons why I am not on board with the fruitarians. But who of you eats that much fruit? I must admit that I have on occasion because dang the fruit is good down here in Costa Rica. Shame on me. Fruit also hosts various vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals which are necessary for proper functioning of all major organs, metabolism, good health and prevention of all major diseases that plague us today. The broad potential health benefits of eating fruit far outweigh a couple of very minor potential disadvantages. Do yourself a favor and taste the rainbow of natural, whole, raw fruit, and not just their simulated flavors in that packet of skittles.

If you have diabetes you should stay away from fruit. As I mentioned above, fruit contains fructose which is converted to glucose rather slowly. And understanding that about half of the natural sugars in fruit is typically fructose, there only remains the other half able to raise blood sugar levels significantly. But then we also need to add to the blood-sugar equation that fruit contains the carbohydrate fiber that actually doesn’t contribute at all to increases in blood sugar levels. Fruit is also mostly water, therefor a serving of fruit and a serving of cake will have dramatic differences in impact on blood sugar levels. This concept is accounted for with the glycemic load (GL), rather than the glycemic index (GI). Glycemic load is pretty much the saturation of carbohydrates in a food and any number below 10 for glycemic load is considered low with regard to impact on blood sugar levels, 10-20 considered moderate, and above 30 considered high.  Let’s look at watermelon, for example, that has a GI of 72 (high), but only a GL of 7.2 (low) and skittles with a GI of 70 (high) and a GL of 31 (high). You would need to eat 4-5 servings of fruit to equal a serving of skittles.

You also need to remember that most diabetics have type 2 diabetes (95%) and that carbohydrates, regardless of their glycemic index, are not really the problem when it comes to this form of diabetes. The real problem is fat. A diet high in fat, especially animal fats and processed oils, leads to high levels of fat in blood which then can cause accumulations of fatty deposits inside the cell called intramyocellular lipids. These fatty deposits inside the cell are responsible for blocking insulin from allowing glucose to enter the cell, called insulin resistance. You can read more about type 2 diabetes in my blog post: Diabetes Mellitus – You Are Not a Victim of your Genes. Thousands of people who suffered with type 2 diabetes have actually been cured with a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. There are various medical doctors leading the way with the idea of treating diabetes (and almost every other chronic disease) with a low-fat, high-carb, vegan diet, such as doctors John Mcdougal, Joel Furhman, Neal Barnard and Caldwell Esselstyn. Once you remove the animal fat and processed fat from the diet, the fatty deposits inside the cells are burned up and eliminated allowing insulin to do its job properly.

So when all is said and done, fruit’s impact on blood sugar levels really is minimal and you should not be afraid to eat it or other healthy carbohydrates (unless you continue eating a lot of fat), even if you are diabetic!

Fruit should be avoided if you have Candida overgrowth. 

Why would we deprive ourselves of one of nature’s greatest healing foods when the body is at a time when healing is most needed? Fear of “sugar” once again. While it is true that the candida bacteria feed on sugar, so what? Your own cells function and thrive on sugar too, not to mention all of the beneficial bacteria needed to keep candida in check! The idea of “starving” candida out of the body by severely limiting carbohydrate intake can also be problematic as this is a known trigger that causes the normal candida to convert to its pathogenic fungal form (1). And again, I need to make myself clear that not all sugar is the same. A package of skittles and a bag of grapes will be digested very differently and have different effects in the body. Similar to diabetes, sugar is not the real problem here, especially not fruit. In fact, most carbohydrate/sugar consumed is absorbed by cellular activity before it can even be considered as food for candida.  If carbohydrates (sugar, fruit) were to blame for candidiasis, why are there so many people that have healed themselves by going on a high fruit low fat diet? Heck, there are even some people who have adopted a diet entirely of fruit – that is a lot of sugar – and have healed themselves of candidiasis (2, 3, 4).  The real problem is the imbalance in gut flora, allowing the Candida to over populate and eventually convert to a problematic fungi. Imbalances in gut flora can be influenced by an acidic diet (think the standard American diet full of animal and processed foods and devoid of fresh vegetables and fruit), use of antibiotics, poor immune system, diabetes, stress and intestinal diseases such as IBS, Chrohn’s, leaky gut and colitis. Concentrating on helping repopulate the good bacteria and healing the gut is what is needed, and fruit helps significantly in this effort!

*A great presentation given by a doctor on Candidiasis can be viewed here.

Benefits of Fresh Fruits

Easily digested.

No need to cook.

Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and various other micronutrietns and phytonutrients which are crucial for overall health, wellness and a strong immune system.

Loaded with fiber (soluble).

Low on the glycemic load.

Very little packaging.

No labels, so naturally nothing has been added or removed.

No toxic byproducts are produced through digestion, only byproduct is water.

Helps prevent and manage various diseases like diabetes, heart disease, colitis, hypertension and the list goes on and on.

Keeps your body hydrated.

Helps satisfy your “sweet tooth” cravings in a healthy way!

Remember, fruit is your friend, not your foe!

True Hunger

True Hunger

Just what exactly is true hunger? Most of us, myself included often times mistake appetite for hunger – we simply want to eat or there is food in front of us so we unconsciously tell ourselves we are hungry. Other times, what we think is hunger really is our body detoxifying from the nutritionally-poor food we are feeding it – think symptoms like headaches, irritability, cravings, fatigue, brain fog, or light-headedness. When we feed our body food lacking in the various array of micronutrients and phytochemicals, like animal products, processed foods, stimulants and oil-rich foods, digestion leads to the production of toxic metabolites and an increase in inflammation (1). As our body tries to eliminate these toxins, the uncomfortable symptoms already mentioned occur. Instead of recognizing these symptoms as positive signs of detoxification and allowing the body to continue cleaning house per se, we view the symptoms negatively, call them hunger pains, and try to rectify the symptoms with food. Dr. Fuhrman calls this “toxic hunger”. Eating will signal to the body to stop detoxifying and concentrate its energy on digesting once again, thus eliminating the toxic hunger pains. Ironically we then eat the same nutritionally poor food that will just cause the unwanted cycle to continue. This is one reason why so many people snack throughout the day, even if its just a piece of chocolate, a coffee, some candy, crackers or whatever else it might be, they are trying to stop these uncomfortable detox symptoms they associate to be related to hunger pains.

True Hunger

True hunger is believed to be felt in the mouth and throat, not in the head and stomach. According to a study conducted by Dr. Fuhrman, when individuals eat a nutritionally-dense diet, based on whole plants that are loaded with micronutrients and phytochemicals, toxic hunger symptoms greatly diminish, caloric intake is more easily controlled and managed, and they will often report hunger signals appearing more in the throat and mouth, rather in the belly and head (2).

Give it a try today, forgo the toxic hunger pains recognizing that it is merely your body detoxifying and is a very beneficial process, and wait till you feel true hunger to eat again. Remember it’s in the throat and mouth. I’m trying to do the same and would love to hear back from your experiences!

Diabetes Mellitus – You Are Not a Victim of your Genes

Diabetes Mellitus – You Are Not a Victim of your Genes

First off, I think we need to talk a little about genetics and maybe more importantly, epigenetics. You were born with a specific genetic code that does not change. Your genome is fixed. However, epigenetics (meaning above genetics) involves how much or whether or not your specific genetic code is expressed. Epigenetics is heavily influenced by environmental factors. We can see living examples of this with many sets of identical twins. Fifty years down the road, despite their genomes continuing to be exactly the same and containing genetic code let’s say linked to heart disease or diabetes or cancer, often times only one of the twins will develop the disease while the other remains disease free. Two sets of exactly the same genes with different outcomes. The take away is to understand that just because you were born with certain genes that are linked to various diseases does not mean that you will necessarily develop those diseases. Now in rare cases there are diseases that are inevitable due to genetic mutations, like Haemophilia and Huntington’s disease. However, with regards to most common illnesses like heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes, even more important than genetics is your cells environment. Diet, lifestyle, gender, age, geographic location, climate, air quality, water quality and so forth all can potentially affect the expression of certain genes.

The same can be said with diabetes mellitus and its two different forms, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. While yes, there are various genetic variations that are linked to the development of either type of diabetes, these variations in a person’s genetic code do not determine absolutely the development of the disease.

TYPE 1 DIABETES

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease increasing world wide, and like many other autoimmune diseases, what triggers its development is largely unknown. Type 1 diabetes is the result of the inability of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin is quite literally the key to unlock the door of the cell to glucose (the fuel that your body’s cells run on) and thus without insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells. Those unfortunate people who develop type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin injections the remainder of their lives (unless a miracle happens, which some people have reported, but I wouldn’t bet on it). Many falsely believe that type 1 diabetes is entirely genetic or inherited, this is not the case. Less than 10% of people with the genetic markers linked to type 1 diabetes actually develop type 1 diabetes. On top of the genetic tendency to develop type 1 diabetes, various environmental factors also exist that implicate the disease including viral infections, consumption of milk proteins early in childhood, pollutants, variations in gut flora and vitamin D exposure (1). Since type 1 diabetes only accounts for 4-5% of diabetic cases (approximately 1.25 million Americans) and not much can be done to treat the disease other than insulin injections, the focus of this post will be majorly on type 2 diabetes (2). That being said, many people have reported that improvements in their diet (switching to a whole foods diet and eliminating processed foods, be it vegan or paleo or whatever you want to call yourself) have reduced the amount of insulin needed to manage the disease.

TYPE 2 DIABETES

While type 1 diabetes is a result of the lack of insulin, type 2 diabetes is the result of increasing insulin resistance and develops over an extended period of time. What is insulin resistance? Let’s go back to the analogy of insulin acting as the key to open the door to the cell and allow glucose in. In the case of type 2 diabetes something is jamming the key hole, rendering insulin unable to open the door. That something is actually fatty deposits inside the cells (intramyocellular lipids) that act as insulin blockers, increasing the body’s resistance to insulin. What causes these fatty deposits in your cells? Lot’s of fat in the blood stream due to a high-fat and high-carbohydrate diet (what most Americans, Canadians, European’s and other developed nations eat). Returning to your glucose starving cells, they ask the pancreas what the deal is and why it hasn’t sent insulin to help bring in all the glucose floating around in the blood. Your pancreas, probably somewhat confused because it knows it is sending sufficient insulin to handle the blood sugar levels, produces more insulin to fulfill the request. If this issue continues, your cells continue to go hungry and your pancreas gets overworked, which may eventually lead to insufficient insulin production. The goal then of type 2 diabetes treatment is to increase your cell’s sensitivity to insulin. Metformin is the most common drug prescribed for this purpose. Some type 2 diabetes patients pancreas has taken too much of a beating and will also need to take insulin injections to help cover the shortages. I have good news though folks, type 2 diabetes is almost entirely preventable and sometimes even reversible!

I’m not going to state that type 2 diabetes is 100% preventable, because I don’t believe that has been proven. That being said, I would say that close to 99% of the time it is. Just think about this for a minute. Approximately 10 percent of Americans (roughly the entire population of Canada) who suffer from type 2 diabetes essentially are suffering from a disease that could have been avoided. China also displays a similar statistic with approximately 10% (just over the entire population of the western United States) of its residents suffering from the disease. Just 40 years ago only 1% of Chinese had diabetes – that’s a 1000% increase (3)!  How is that possible in such a short time? Rapid Westernization.  I repeat, type 2 diabetes is almost entirely preventable and need not even exist. I don’t care if everyone in your family including your dog and cat have type 2 diabetes, that does not mean you too will inevitably develop the disease. It’s quite possible that you can break the chain!

The single most important thing that influences the development of type 2 diabetes is diet.  More specifically, a diet high in fat. The Chinese make a great example. Once they started adopting the western diet high in fat with lots of meat, dairy, oils, and processed foods, diabetes rates, using the words of the World Health Organization, “exploded”. Over 90% of those suffering from type 2 diabetes all over the world are overweight or obese (again, not a surprise as it is the accumulation of fat in the cells that lead to insulin resistance).  And diet more than exercising helps maintain a healthy body weight. Shawn Talbott, PhD holder and nutritional biochemist stated that weight loss is typically 75% diet and 25% exercise (4). Simply put, you can not outrun a bad diet. But I hope you don’t get caught up in just reducing calories. I’ll admit that reducing calories heavily influences weight loss, but doesn’t necessarily lead to health. Extremely low calorie diets run the risk of nutritional deficiencies. And maybe just as important as how much you eat is what you eat. Your diet should be full of healthy, whole, life-giving food. 1000 calories from white bread are very different than 1000 calories from raw fruit, veggies and sprouted beans and seeds. You are probably thinking, “Here we go again. Mitch, will probably state that a vegan diet is the most adequate at preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.” You called it my friend. A study posted on the website of the American Diabetes Association (ADA -not to be confused with the American Dental Association, the American Dairy Association, the American Disability Act, the American Dietetic Association and a host of other possible definitions) found that a low-fat vegan diet when compared to the recommended ADA diet was 2x as effective at reducing the need for medication, 3x more effective at lowering blood sugar levels and 2x more effective at losing weight (5). Those results are great, but I think even better results could have been obtained. The low-fat vegan diet followed in the study did not eliminate processed food nor was it based on raw, living fruits and vegetables. I believe this is key to attaining optimal health. The diet I recommend to help manage diabetes and potentially reverse type 2 diabetes is a whole food, low protein, fruit-and-veggie-based vegan diet, void of all animal products and any processed garbage called food. Just recently two of my clients suffering from insulin resistance and using the drug Metformin no longer have any need for the medication and their blood sugar levels that once were in the 300-450 range without the drug are now consistently at normal levels around 100. One client had been taking Metformin for several years! This has all been achieved in under a month. I can’t promise you these results, but I have seen similar results over and over again with a whole food, fruit-and-veggie based vegan diet. If you have doubts, I suggest you give the diet a try for a month and see how you feel.

The second most important thing is lifestyle. The human body needs to MOVE. You don’t have to get a gym membership or spend thousands of dollars on a fancy road bike (although those sexy tights are very attractive) or start training for a marathon to reap the benefits of bodily movement. If you want to engage in more intensive forms of exercise like the ones mentioned, all the power to you. But moving doesn’t have to be complicated, leave you sore or require lots of time.  It can be as simple as going for a walk in the morning, practicing yoga, gardening, hiking in nature, taking the stairs instead of the elevator (unless you work or live on the 47th floor or something ridiculous like that), walk or ride your bike to work if possible, jumping on a trampoline and so forth. The benefits of exercise for diabetics are three fold: 1. helps lower blood glucose levels as muscles during exercise can utilize glucose without the need for insulin; 2. increases the effectiveness of insulin, thus lowering a person’s insulin resistance and 3. influences weight loss which in turn will help lower insulin resistance.  Instead of Nike’s slogan of just do it, your new slogan is just move.

Also an important aspect of lifestyle, one that greatly influences your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or helps manage it is STRESS. It is absolutely frightening the level of stress most people live under in our modern age. The majority of my health clients report stress levels of 10/10 and very rarely does anyone report lower than 8. Your brain consumes a lot of glucose, in fact, your brain accounts for approximately 20% of total calories burned in a day. Thus, mental stress can actually raise blood glucose levels which is exactly what diabetics are trying to control. Also, the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol typically released in response to stress directly affect blood glucose levels. Submitting the body to stress on occasion is not much of a threat to health, but chronic stress can severely wear you down, influencing the development of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, weight gain and a host of other ailments. If you are constantly under stress, do yourself a favor and seek out ways to reduce it. Some effective forms of stress reduction are deep breathing exercises, yoga, exercise, reading, being in nature, going for a walk, gardening, meditation and engaging in a favorite hobby. If you think you don’t have time for any of these stress management activities, your wrong. Make time now when you have the choice, because sooner or later, the negative effects of chronic stress will make you slow down, if not stop you completely.

Herbal Support and Supplements. There are some wonderful herbs that God has given us that may help you in the management of diabetes. If you are on current diabetic medication, you may want to consult your doctor before taking any kind of supplement as it could have negative drug interactions.

– Bitter melon (momordica charantia) appears to have insulin-like properties and is popular in Asian and Indian cooking.

– Cinnamon (cinnamomum aromaticum) appears to increase insulin receptor sensitivity. Cinnamon also helps tone and balance the pancreas which can also aid in diabetes management. And since cinnamon is down right delicious  – I’m thinking of banana cinnamon nice-cream right now – why not try making an effort to get more of it in your current diet?

– Fenugreek seeds have also displayed glucose-lowering effects and insulin stimulating effects (6)(7).

– Goldenseal and licorice, especially in combination help regulate the pancreas and the production of insulin.

– Chromium deficiencies are linked to glucose tolerance, hyperglycemia, glycosuria (a fancy word given to a decrease in insulin receptors) and lowered insulin binding (8). Chromium is essential in carbohydrate metabolism. Before you start taking large amounts of a chromium supplement however, if possible, I would first get your chromium levels tested to make sure you even have a deficiency.

And that’s it folks. I know this post is super long, and if you are still reading you’ve just won a golden ticket and you are on your way to Willy Wonka’s! But honestly, I think we covered some really important stuff here and I hope it was worth your time.

Happy Health!

 

 

Going Barefoot – Are All Those Hippies on to Something?

Going Barefoot – Are All Those Hippies on to Something?

 “It was good for the skin to touch the bare earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with their barefeet on the sacred earth… The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing.”

– Luther Standing Bear (Sioux Tribal Leader)

I have to admit, up until a few years ago, that on the occasions I saw someone walking barefoot around town, hiking barefoot or even running barefoot, I merely grouped them together as a bunch of attention seeking hippies. And yes, I classified them all as hippies, because, well, you know, they weren’t wearing shoes like civilized people! In all reality though, I think deep down I was slightly jealous. I hated wearing shoes. My feet always felt cramped, I was developing bunions, near the end of the day my feet felt exhausted, I had poor arches, had dealt with plantar fasciitis once before and the cherry on top of it all was my feet often stunk worse than moldy dish rags (the ones that have been left on the bottom of the sink for a few days in the middle of summer… yep, those moldy dish rags). Gold bond did nothing. Athletes foot cream was slightly helpful. I tried various shoe brands but could never find one that my feet just loved. I eventually switched to zero drop shoes and I saw some improvement, but my bunions persisted and my feet continued to stink like sewer. “Maybe those dang hippies were on to something,” I finally concluded. And after months and years of experimenting, I think they were.

I am still not able to run on asphalt roads barefoot nor hike mountain trails void of footwear, but I have made an effort to go barefoot as much as possible and have seen some serious improvement in the health of my feet, and possibly my general health overall as I will explain further below. I now rarely ever wear “shoes” – those constricting boxes forced upon us by society (yes, even the famous Altra with their supposedly wide toe boxes – and instead wear minimalist sandals when footwear is needed. Walking and running and working in sandals is so liberating! You need to try it! And I’m not talking about Chacos, or Birkenstocks or comfy flip-flops. I’m talking about a hard, perfectly flat sole of rubber strapped to your feet. No arch support, no cushion and no ankle supports. It’s the closest thing I can get to barefoot, without getting kicked out of the supermarket or church 🙂 Since wearing minimalist sandals coupled with going barefoot as much as possible, I have noticed my bunions decreasing, my toes spacing out a little more, no more foot fatigue and my arches have never been better! In fact, many studies are now revealing various potential health benefits of going barefoot. Below are just a few:

Potential Health Benefits!*

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces chronic pain
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces cortisol levels
  • Reduces muscle soreness
  • Speeds recovery time from illness
  • Helps regulate blood pressure
  • Helps manage autoimmune diseases

How can grounding, or earthing as it is commonly called, have so many positive benefits? The earth is saturated with mobile electrons and freely passes them on to us humans, if we allow her to. But why would you want more mobile electrons flowing through you? The same reason why you want to consume more antioxidants from the magical fruit eaten by pink unicorns recently discovered in the lost city of Atlantis (Okay, I made that up. But I wouldn’t doubt that some company will try and use that story to sell a piece of fruit). Seriously speaking now, how antioxidants work is by giving up electrons to neutralize free radicals, or in fancy science language, reactive oxygen species (ROS). It’s conceivable that these ROS’s were also in the fire swamp with the ROUS’s – If you get that reference, you’re invited over for movie night. These ROS’s negatively impact the immune system and your body’s inflammatory responses. So, theoretically by grounding yourself with the earth, aka going barefoot, gardening without gloves, mud wrestling in your underwear, ect., you are actually helping to combat those nasty free radicals, which strengthens your immune system and reduces inflammation in the body. Also earthing helps stabilize the electrical environment of all your organs, tissues and cells, thus promoting their proper and healthy functioning.

I know it can be difficult if not impractical at times to go barefoot in our modern society, but that only means we should go to greater efforts to try and ground ourselves in some way throughout the day. Hopefully, you will find some potential options in the list below to help you benefit from Earthing!

How Can I Participate in Earthing?

  1. Going barefoot. Possibly the easiest and cheapest way (I mean you can’t beat free) is to have your barefeet contact earth for at least 30 minutes per day. The more moist the ground is the better the conductivity. This can be soil, grass, rock, sand or even water. This is one reason why the ocean feels so good, the sand and salt water are great condcutors and you are literally practicing grounding at it’s very finest! Grounding most likely a contributor to why people tend to sleep much better during beach vacations.
  2. Gardening. You’ve got to get your hands dirty though… no gloves. This is also an effective way to ground yourself. Typically you need to spend more time gardening though as your hands are not in constant contact with the earth, like they are when you are walking or standing.
  3. Mud baths. Probably the most intense and adventurous form of grounding, but you can’t get much more grounded than covering your naked body in mud.
  4. Swimming in rivers, lakes and oceans. Water is an amazing conductor of electricity. As long as the water is grounded that you are in, you are grounded. Sorry, swimming pools are a no go, not to mention all the yucky chemicals in the water as well!
  5. Earthing  products. You can purchase earthing products or make them yourself. These products have conductive metal fibers built into the product that you can plug in to the grounding hole of electrical sockets (most newer homes have this grounding feature on all electrical sockets) with the electrical socket being grounded outside. It is literally the small round hole below the two flat holes on the socket. Has a similar effect as if you were sticking your feet in the dirt! These products can be ordered online from www.earthing.com in the US and www.earthingcanada.ca in Canada.
    • Earthing mats – place under your feet at your desk or couch or in the kitchen
    • Earthing throws – comfy cotton blankets
    • Earthing pads – sleep on them, use on top of pillow, place under wrists while typing,
    • Earthing bands – leg or arm bands that can be used while doing a variety of activities.
    • Earthing sheets – fitted cotton sheets with silver thread sewn throughout.
    • Earthing pillow cases

 

“The earth heals us through our feet. We heal others through our hands.” 

 – Anonymous

 

*Here is the link to the study that looked at many other studies and saved me the time from doing it. Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons

*You can also purchase Clint Ober’s book, Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? 

 

Why Are We Consuming Animal Products?

Why Are We Consuming Animal Products?

Hello? Is anybody home? It can’t just be me out there asking this question… Really? Just me? Well, here are a few reasons why I consider eating animal flesh and animal byproducts one of the craziest things us humans are doing right now.

Environmental Impact of Eating Animal Products

When you hear global warming (regardless of whether you believe in it or not) what comes to mind? Natural gas. Its those dang oil companies, major industrial plants and all those gas-guzzling vehicles that are ruining the protective ozone layer. What if I were to tell you though that eating little piggies and cow butt is also a major contributing factor and probably the easiest one to change? The UN pins livestock for at least 14.5% of global greenhouse gases (GHG), which by the way is more than all of the transportation sector combined (1). That’s right; all those belches and farts add up! So maybe instead of walking to McDonald’s to reduce your carbon footprint, let’s just pass on by the smorgasbord of animal flesh and pay a visit to the much less frequented produce aisle of our local grocery store.

It’s not just the animals themselves that are causing problems, but it’s all the resources required to sustain them as well. Every year millions go hungry, yet 3.5 billion people could be fed with the grain given to livestock. That’s a lot of farmland being wasted to feed animals instead of humans. Rainforests aren’t too happy about livestock either. The Amazon has shrunk in size by 20% in the last few decades and it isn’t with the intent to farm the land to feed a family. Around 90% of deforestation in the Amazon is for the sole purpose of feeding animals, not humans. And it’s not just the Amazon, but deforestation is threatening rainforests everywhere. Why should you care? Rainforests act as the earth’s lungs and help keep the air you and I breathe clean. For those that have experienced an asthma attack or have had the wind knocked out of them, it sure isn’t fun. If we don’t change things quick, we are dooming the earth to one continual asthma attack. That can’t be good for her or us 

Fresh water is a precious commodity that is rapidly disappearing. I keep saying that it will be the gold of the future. While reducing time in the shower and turning off the tap when you brush your teeth are good ideas to help save water, they come no where close to how much water you could save by simply going vegan. You would have to skip around 26 showers for every whopper you consume (2). Please, if water gets that scarce, pass on the whopper and shower! In other words, livestock drink a lot of water, especially cows. The UN states that it requires about 15000 liters (roughly 4000 gallons) of water to produce 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of beef, while rice only requires 3500 liters (900 gallons) to produce 1 kg (2.2 lbs), bananas even less at 400 liters (100 gallons, and lettuce at 50 liters (15 gallons) (3). Seems that a vegan diet could help a lot in the fight to save fresh water.

And yes, eating fish is not much better! Deep sea fishing is causing the extinction of thousands of species and farmed fishing is still supporting deep sea fishing because fish are fed to fish! What the heck!?

Animal Rights (ALL animals, not just dogs and cats)

Irony. This world is full of it. But wow, how messed up is our society that we throw people in jail for abusing or killing a dog, while we pay others to mercilessly slaughter cow after cow, pig after pig, and chicken after chicken? You have the person that founded a dog reserve and dedicates his life to trying to help those poor innocent dogs, then sit down at dinner and chew away on pig flesh. Why is it okay to repeatedly rape a cow, steal her baby when it is born, hook her tits up to a milking machine, cram her in with other raped cows who have had their offspring stolen and have her stand day in and day out in her own urine and feces? Just so you can have a glass of milk? Would you like me to do that to your precious dog or cat? Would you like that to be done to you? I sure wouldn’t (not to mention they wouldn’t get much milk out of me). And just an added thought, no other animal species continues drinking milk after infancy, much less the milk from another species! Why humans ever started drinking the milk from animals is beyond me. I also think everyone who chooses to eat meat should first attend a slaughterhouse, a chicken farm and a pig farm and see what goes on. I also think every meat-eater should also have to kill and prepare, at least once, each of the animals that they choose to eat. I have a feeling there would be a massive influx in the popularity of veganism. And even if you are okay with the animal abuse and merciless slaughter, at least think twice about eating animal products for environmental reasons. I’m pretty sure Dori would chime in right now and say, “Animals are friends; not food.”

Health Impact of Eating Animal Products

Eating animals and their by-products not only harms animal lives but your life as well. The consumption of animal products is linked to increases in heart disease, diabetes and various forms of cancer, including breast, colon and prostate (4). One explanation for this is due to various carcinogens that occur in cooked and processed meat, like heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Some studies show animal protein specifically to promote tumor growth by increasing levels of serum IGF-1 concentrations (5). Animal products are highly mucous forming, especially dairy and eggs. Too much mucous in the body leads to a sluggish digestive tract, compromised respiratory system and a congested lymphatic system, all of which influences the onset of disease.

Okay… Do you feel better now, Mitch? A little.  I’m sure there are more reasons out there of why we shouldn’t consume animal products but this is good enough for me at the moment. I think there are a few influencing factors at play for why the world hasn’t changed their eating habits yet. I know these factors were influential when I myself didn’t think twice about consuming animal products.

  1. Marketing.  The livestock industry has been incredibly effective at getting us to believe that our health depends on animal products, when this is complete bull****(pun intended). Dairy is not the only food with calcium and it’s easy to get all the protein your body needs from plants.
  2. Ignorance. The livestock industry has also cleverly removed the consumer from animal products they are consuming. Out of sight, out of mind. No one sees the abuse or the slaughtering. No one hears the animal’s cries for help. No one smells the awful condition in which the animals are kept. And no one feels the rapid scared heartbeat through the skin of the soon to be sacrificed animal. Heck, we have even given the meat from animals separate names. You don’t eat cow for dinner, but beef, steak, roast. You don’t eat pig flesh, rather ribs, bacon or pork.
  3. Racism. Some animals, like dogs and cats, are clearly far better than others and clearly shouldn’t be in the same category as cows, pigs, chickens and fish. In fact, dogs and cats are so superior that we even humanize them. “My dog is like my child!”. Well what’s wrong with adopting goats, sheep and pigs too?
  4. Superiority. Animals are just animals. They are stupid beasts. We humans are superior beings and can do with them as we please.

I don’t always agree with Charles Darwin, but I do when he said, “The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”

*I am aware that current farming methods of mono crops also damage the environment and lead to animal suffering and loss of animal life, like birds (this is why the majority of my diet now comes from fruit – incredibly sustainable). First things first though. Let’s first concentrate on reducing animal products, then look at farming.*

 

Watermelon is a Vegetable?

Watermelon is a Vegetable?

As I was eating a watermelon this morning, I thought, “Too many people only appreciate you little watermelon for your pink flesh. If only they knew who you really are and what you have to offer. Well dab-nabit, I need to let them know what they are missing!” So here goes 🙂

Watermelon is actually a close cousin to the squash family (think cucumber and zucchini) and similar to the squash family, not only is the inside flesh edible, but so are the seeds and the rind. I know what you are thinking right now and yes, you were wasting perfectly edible and nutritious food when you would stock pile the watermelon seeds in your cheek like a chipmunk waiting to spit them at one of your annoying siblings. And although your garden soil loved the fresh watermelon rinds, your body probably would have loved them too. In fact, watermelon seeds and rind are the most nutritionally dense parts of the whole fruit.

So, cue the awkward question: “Is watermelon a vegetable then?” No. Ahhh… sigh of relief. “But you said it was a cousin to the squash family, and those are all vegetables?” Well, guess what? Santa ain’t real and cucumbers and zucchinis are actually fruits! But that’s a post for another day… back to watermelon.

Watermelon Seeds

Although it is great fun shooting these black bullets at others, next time try eating a few first. Watermelon seeds are a great addition to the diet, especially those of us who choose not to eat animal products, as they are packed with protein. Just 1/8 of a cup boasts around 10 grams of readily available plant protein. Watermelon seeds also contain a myriad of micro nutrients. They are packed with B-vitamins as well as iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, phosphorous and manganese. Watermelon seeds also contain healthy fats and some fiber. And if you really want to get fancy – and unlock even more nutrition – try sprouting the seeds first before you eat them.

Watermelon Rinds

Yeah it doesn’t taste as good as the colorful sweet middle, but what it may lack in taste, it makes up for in nutrition. That juicy white stuff contains concentrated amounts of citrulline, a nonessential amino acid that is later converted to first, another amino acid called arginine and second, to nitric oxide. Why do you care? Because nitric oxide helps relax blood vessels and maintain their elasticity, all which contributes to healthy blood flow and a happy heart. Some studies have even shown citulline to help boost libido and may help some men with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction(1). If you are a guy and reading this, you probably are now on your way to the supermarket to pick up some watermelon 😉 The rind also contains the vitamins A, B’s, and C, along with the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. So keep digging down past the pink stuff and enjoy some of the white meat! For those really adventurous, I dare you to eat the green stuff too (try and get organic watermelon if you plan on making a habit out of it).

Watermelon Flesh

Yes, the flesh is pretty good too nutritionally speaking. Among many of the same vitamins and minerals mentioned in the rind and seed, the pink flesh is extremely high in lycopene, even beating out the famous tomato in lycopene concentration. Why do you care? Because lycopene is a powerful carotenoid antioxidant, even stronger than beta-carotene. Some studies show that the higher the level of lycopene in the blood, the less likely a stroke is to occur (2,3). Also, lycopene is an anti-inflammatory and has displayed anti-cancer effects.

Soooo… who’s up for some watermelon, seeds and all???