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Is Your Brain Starved?

Woman holding coconut to drinkWhen I think about all of the motivations for eating healthy—promises of a longer lifespan, reduction in diseases, losing weight and looking better—the one that most appeals to me is improving my brain. If eating can help me remember things better and process information more quickly then I’m getting an immediate payoff and am therefore more motivated to select healthier food options. The other benefits of a good diet are more delayed and as a human living in an era of immediate gratification, I want results now. That’s why I titled this post about the brain because I’m hoping this will wake you up and motivate you to think about the food choices you’re consuming and whether it is going to help or hurt your brain NOW.

In short, fat is our friend. The brain NEEDS fat. Heck, the brain IS fat (at least more than half of it is composed of fat). So, doesn’t it make sense that it requires lubrication? Think about those poor nerves encased in a myelin sheath that never gets fed properly. It’s like a piece of leather left out in the sun. It dries out. It doesn’t work as effectively. Anyone who has ever read The Seal Skin story can apply that lesson here. (It’s a favorite story of mine and I’ve always wanted to reference it!)

The problem with fat is when we our arteries get clogged and health is risked by consuming it. For years, doctors have encouraged lowering fat when one has high cholesterol. Hundreds of beauty magazines have also encouraged low-fat diets for weight loss. We’ve been conditioned and we’ve seen the consequences. (This blog is inspired by the loss of my mother who lived on a low-fat, barely any calories starved existence for years until her metabolism was ruined and then she gave in and ate foods to sate her deprivated body...which led to losing her health and life to obesity and diabetes. That’s a dire consequence! Of course her body was starved and sugar was the quickest fuel, so her body naturally craved it.)

 

  "Your body is either in glucosis or lipolysis." 

Fat is not bad. Consuming fat with sugar is bad. To put it very simply, our bodies can run on two types of fuel—sugar or fat. When we consume higher carbohydrates, our bodies automatically pick the easiest fuel for energy—sugars (carbs), or glucosis. If we limit the carbs and consume fats, we can switch our bodies into lipolysis (fat-burning machines), which is what our bodies actually crave and run more efficiently on, like a fancy Lamborghini that needs high-end oil and fuel to operate optimally.

Numerous studies reveal a low-carb, high fat diet reduces weight loss, curbs health problems, and improves overall nerve and brain functioning—including easing mood disorders like depression. What’s exciting is that researchers are finally studying this issue in more depth and reporting on it. One recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine even revealed that the low-carb, high fat diet produces decreased fat, increased lean body mass, and decreased inflammation (a huge component underlying so many diseases) among Caucasians and African Americans.

The takeaway is to feed your brain with healthy fats and decrease your carbs so that it will actually use the fats you ingest. If you have been living on carbs and sugars for a long time, it will take a little bit of time to heal from the withdrawals, yet you should feel increased energy after a few days.

You may also discover improved digestion. One Paleo blogger provides an interesting analysis of the digestion topic in his post “Does Meat Rot in Your Colon? No. What Does? Beans, Grains, and Vegetables!”

Change your diet for two weeks and see how you feel. Sate your body with healthy fats and see how efficiently your brain works. Then post your results in the comments section. Looking forward to learning how it works for you! Blessed wishes and happy healthy eating!

 

 

 


Resolving the Gluten & Grain Controversy

Golden-Grain-Field_www.FullHDWpp.com_You may have heard of gluten. It seems everyone is sensitive to gluten these days. I’ve heard some people question the legitimacy of gluten intolerance and have suggested it’s just a fad. Maybe. But what if I told you that gluten and its cousins, other grains (which are abundant in “gluten-free” products), might be harming you—whether you feel the consequences or not.

That’s part of the basis of the growing paleo movement. What I like about paleo are the dozens of paleo bloggers that share their personal stories of overcoming illness and weight issues by switching to paleo (check out slimpalate, thepaleomom, or thedomesticman to name a few). While they are truly inspiring, I find that people get totally overwhelmed by the topic, don’t know what to eat or not eat, and just give up.  This post is an attempt to simplify the issue so that you can decide whether you want to eat grains or not.

First, here are a few definitions…

  • Gluten—a protein in grains that gives dough its elastic texture. You may have seen gluten in a bag next to the flour at the grocery store. It’s used for binding and enhancing elasticity in doughs. And gluten can be found in more than just wheat. It is in other cereal grains. Gluten is widely used and in some medications, vitamins, soy sauce, and other condiments, so it’s a stealthy ingredient that can cause a lot of distress for people trying to avoid it.

 

  • Celiac and other diseases that cannot tolerate gluten—people with celiac have an autoimmune disease in their small intestine and it flares up with the introduction of gluten. Other people with digestive disorders like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), leaky gut syndrome, Crohn’s disease, endometriosis, and other diseases and digestive disorders can have similar indigestive allergic type reactions to gluten.

 

  • Grains—while there are grains of sand, the grains for this topic are cereal grains such as wheat, rice, corn, millet, oats, rye, barley…and yes, legumes (beans, pulses)…and soy.

 

Paleo stays away from all grains. Knowing that gluten can be in other grains may seem like the reason, but it’s not. Paleo stays away from grains because of the phytic acid contained in grains. Here’s why—phytic acid competes with mineral absorption in the body. Let me explain that in a different way. Ladies, you might be taking fancy calcium supplements to avoid osteoporosis. Men, same thing. Perhaps you’re taking magnesium (a post to come on this essential mineral!) or you’re just taking a plain old multivitamin/mineral supplement. Well, you can just throw those away when you’re ingesting grains because that’s what your body is doing. Yep, like a magnet it attracts that phytic acid to the mineral and flushes those healthy and much needed minerals right out of your body.

Some doctors point to research that vitamin & mineral supplementation passes directly into our urine, so they claim supplements are a waste of money. In fact, it’s a common joke that middle class have the most expensive urine on the planet. I believe that supplementation works and can does get absorbed—when its not competing with other elements in the body like toxins, metals, and phytic acid in grains.

What can you do? Well, the good news is that you have two options. Or three…(the third being that you just keep doing what you’re already doing.)

In my last post, I recommended the book, The Metabolic Typing Diet. The test reveals if your personal metabolism needs a low-carb/high purine protein diet or a high carb/low protein diet or a balanced mix of both. If you are a low-carb/high purine protein type, the paleo no grains approach will work for you. More meats and veggies.

BUT if you are the high carb/low protein type, your solution requires a little bit of work and may explain why all the sage advice in the leading vegan books urge you to soak your grains. Soaking depletes the phytic acid in grains. Eating sprouted foods does the same. See, you can have your cake and eat it too—as long as you soak.

If you’re not still sure what to do, try limiting grains for a couple of weeks and then see how you feel after you reintroduce them. I discovered all kinds of problems when I tried to eat even sprouted grains (I’m also a low carb/high purine protein type though). The pain I experienced keeps me from craving it as much. I have also found a lot of great healthy substitutes. You can check out those paleo sites for ideas.

I hope this helps explain the controversy of gluten and grains. It’s a daily process of discovery. Good wishes and happy healthy eating. You can share any questions or comments in the comments section. 


Three Must-Have Supplements to Ease Aging

We are all aging. It’s a good thing. With age, comes wisdom and maturity. (Hopefully.) In today’s world of fighting the appearance of aging, I think we miss the opportunity to embrace all that age gives us. Our elders have much to teach us about the world and have rightfully earned their place as our heroes, mentors and guides along the path. With that stated, our bodies do start giving us certain challenges that make it a little more difficult to move around as we get older, so here are the top three must-have supplements that can help you maintain your mobility and ensure your status as a future elder hero that can guide the younger generations. (Please note these supplements are in addition to – supplement – your multivitamin.)

  1. Glucosamine—I was fortunate enough to have an orthopedic surgeon recommend this to me long ago. I was a candidate for knee surgery and thank goodness he was open to healthy alternatives. I began taking glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin and my knee pain subsided and my mobility improved. It works so dramatically well that my knee pain flares back up if my glucosamine runs out and I miss a day or two. I will find myself absentmindedly rubbing my knee in a meeting and then it dawns on me to quickly refill. Pain and absent-minded knee rubbing disappear! Because of my personal success, it was no surprise that when my golden retriever could not walk or move, my vet recommended glucosamine. My golden is now 14 years old and can still fetch and walk up stairs.
  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids—Omega fatty acids from healthy fish oils tested free of heavy metals and pesticides can help your body in numerous ways. Combing through the research can be exhausting and exciting. To simplify, Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) help our nervous system and organs in our body – even hormone production. Unfortunately, the low-fat diet craze led to a decrease of these healthy fats and gallbladder malfunctioning and other issues resulted. No wonder research shows a positive connection with EFAs to decrease depression and even aid other neurosensory disorders like attention-deficit disorder. Think of our bodies like a new pair of leather boots. After time in the sun (aging), boots need polishing. If they are only dabbed with water (low-fat diet) and not a good polish, they will worsen. EFA’s help our internal organs, our nervous system, and that precious organ that keeps us together – our skin.
  1. Digestive Enzymes—If EFA’s are like a wax for leather boots, digestive enzymes are like the buffing cloth that rubs in the wax and gives the leather a dazzling sparkle. Our natural digestive enzymes decrease as we age. Unhealthy diets of processed foods don’t help. With lack of enzymes, our food doesn’t properly digest and particles on undigested food escape into our intestines where they ferment and breed unhealthy bacteria. Once established, it becomes a vicious battle to restore that delicate bacteria balance. Problems like chronic indigestion, leaky gut syndrome and Candida ensue. I personally use a good enzyme that contains hydrochloric acid, pepsin, l-glutamic acid, and some pancreatic enzymes like amylase, protease and lipase.

There are so many more supplements on the market and shopping in the health section of your favorite grocery store can be overwhelming, if not completely addicting. There are even hundreds of natural cures ailments you didn’t even know you had. I confess to buying many of them and trying new things with as much zeal as a child opening presents on Christmas morning. Yet these are the three must-haves that I make sure I consistently take. I hope you find as much success with them as I have. We only have one body and it’s worth caring for as we age.

 

 


Bloated Stomach? Try this Simple Stomach Cure from the Sea

New ImageI was fifteen years old when I was diagnosed with an ulcer and prescribed a liquid antacid. Fast forward a couple decades, numerous antacid prescriptions and countless stomachaches later, I have learned that antacids were my worst enemy.

Now, for those of you that picked up that antacids are not the primary treatment for ulcers  (an antibiotic is now prescribed to treat the H. Pylori that causes many ulcers and antacids are used to treat the acidity to heal the stomach lining), you're right. I have been given antibiotics as well, yet my stomach issues persisted. I know I'm a sensitive soul, so  I - and practically everyone around me - chalked up my stomach issues to having a "nervous stomach." Ahh, there's nothing more validating than that. Stomach pain coupled with judgement.

Not much time passed before I started playing with my diet. I have been a vegan, vegetarian, balanced my carbs and protein, tried the Zone diet, tested my metabolic type, tried low-carb, Paleo, practiced food combining, took enzymes, did FODMAPS, and a few other things. My stomach problems still continued. I even relented and went to a "real" doctor, had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy and then tried a few medications that made things worse. 

I've learned a few things that work and definitely A LOT of things that make things WORSE. I will coniniue to post and share what has worked for me. For now, I want to share one big solution that has not been widely publicized. In fact, its nemesis - ANTACIDS - are the go-to cure for everyone. Remember, nemesis means enemy. Its opposite. Can you believe that many of us actually have too little stomach acid??

I tested myself by taking some HCl  tablets (Hydrochloric Acid - I used one 650mg HCL with Pepsin) after I was sick and bloated one day. I began feeling relief within 15 minutes. I was stunned. Grateful. What I learned is that our stomach acid actually declines as we age and one of the major precursors to natural HCl in our body is iodine. It also helps regulate our thyroid. (Which regulates our homormones! More posts on that to come!)

Once upon a time, iodine was supplemented in some of our foods, like bread, and was then abandoned. There has been a resurgence in the past few years as studies point out connections between health decline and iodine deficiency - and now some bread manufacturers are supplementing with iodine again. Still, bread (later posts will discuss the challenges of wheat and gluten) is not best source for iodine. Neither is iodized salt (for obvious sodium reasons and iodized table salt is the most depleted source of salt, so a healthier pink himalyan salt would be a better choice). 

The best way to supplement your diet with iodine is through kelp or kelp iodine drops. If you're past your 20's, you could really benefit. If you are past 40, you will be in awe how this simple supplement can improve your digestion.