Category Archives: Weight Loss

Household disinfectants promote obesity gut bacteria

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New research shows those powerful and toxic household disinfectants do more than kill germs — they also kill off vital gut bacteria and shift your gut microbiome signature to promote obesity.

Our gut microbiome consists of several pounds of bacteria and research increasingly shows how powerfully these bacteria influence our overall health.

The composition of the gut microbiome determines much about our immune health, personality, brain function, and weight. In fact, scientists are increasingly discovering a connection between our microbiome signature and a propensity toward obesity.

For instance, being born via C-section versus vaginally, bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding as an infant, and frequent antibiotic use in childhood, all factors which affect the microbiome, have been associated with a much higher risk of obesity.

Also, both mice and human studies show that inoculating the gut of an obese subject with the gut bacteria of a thin subject causes swift weight loss. The reverse is also true — thin mice quickly become fat when inoculated with the gut bacteria of obese mice.

Now, a new study adds more weight to these findings by showing that multi-surface cleaning disinfectants are another factor that promotes an obesity microbiome. Children who grow up in households that use these products regularly are more prone to obesity.

The Canadian study showed that three-year-old children who grew up in homes where these products were used two or more times a week were more overweight than their peers who grew up in homes where these products were used less often or not at all.

The bacterium scientists looked at is called Lachnospiraceae. In animal studies, higher levels of Lachnospiraceae is associated with increased body fat and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a stepping stone condition to diabetes and is often found in people with obesity.

Fecal samples from children in homes that used eco-cleaners or detergents free of the bacteria-killing ingredients did not show the same elevated levels of Lachnospiraceae.

It was important in the study to look at the home environments three-year-olds grew up in because microbiome researchers find that our lifelong gut microbiome is largely determined by age three.

Although more work needs to be done in this arena, animal studies have produced similar results.

Can you alter your gut microbiome signature?

Although it looks like the gut microbiome signature we develop in infancy plays a large role in our lifelong health, it is not completely set in stone.

In fact, the gut microbiome is increasingly being viewed as a dynamic organ that can change composition in as little as three days. The foods you eat profoundly influence your gut bacteria.

The best strategy to promote a healthy gut microbiome that favors fat burning over fat storage, healthy immunity, and balanced brain function is to eat a large and diverse array of produce, mainly vegetables, at every meal. It’s important to eat many different kinds of produce on a regular basis. Gut bacteria health is based on diversity, which is created by a diverse produce-based diet.

Gut bacteria also respond positively to regular exercise, an environment and diet as free of environmental chemicals as possible, and consumption of fermented and cultured foods and drinks, such as kefir water, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

Ask me for more ways to promote a healthy gut microbiome.

Syncing meals with your body clock for better health

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Many of us start the day with a small breakfast as we run out the door, followed by a medium sized lunch and a large dinner. We also tend to snack throughout the day and even grab a bite before bed. However, while what we eat is important, a growing body of research suggests when we eat matters too.

The digestive system’s circadian rhythm

While you have likely heard of the circadian rhythm, the master “clock” in the brain that governs our sleep-wake cycle, we actually have a variety of circadian clocks that govern the daily cycle of activity for every organ.

These rhythms exist because every organ needs downtime for repair and regeneration.

The digestive system is no exception. During the day, the pancreas increases production of insulin, which controls blood sugar levels, and then ramps it down at night.

The gut has a clock that regulates the daily enzyme levels, absorption of nutrients and waste removal. Even our gut microbiome operates on a daily rhythm.

Circadian clocks optimize our health by aligning our biological functions with regular and predictable environmental patterns. Disrupting our circadian clocks — such as by skipping breakfast or eating at midnight — can result in health issues such as weight gain, metabolic syndrome, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more.

Eat breakfast daily

About 20 to 30 percent of American adults skip breakfast. Some do it to save time, many do it in an effort to lose weight. However, studies show that people who eat breakfast daily are less likely to be obese, malnourished, suffer from impaired blood sugar metabolism, or be diagnosed with diabetes.

They are also less likely to have the heart disease risk factors of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Even the American Heart Association recently endorsed biologically appropriate meal timing to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Just eating breakfast isn’t the only important thing however. It’s critical to start the day with a breakfast that provides plenty of protein and healthy fats, and a minimum of sugars. This helps support blood sugar balance and proper brain function throughout the day.

Make breakfast the largest meal for weight control and fat loss

The timing in relation to the size of our meals is also important.

Research shows having the largest meal in the morning appears to help with weight control compared to having a large meal in the evening.

In fact, a person eating the identical meal at different times of day might deposit more fat after an evening meal than a morning meal.

This is partly because insulin, a hormone that helps with blood sugar control, appears to be most efficient in the morning. In addition, we burn more calories and digest food more efficiently in the morning than later in the day when most of us eat our largest meal.

In one study, a group of overweight women with metabolic problems were put on a 1400 calorie-per-day diet. Half consumed 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch, and 200 calories at supper. The other half reversed that pattern.

Women in both groups lost weight and experienced reduction in fasting glucose, insulin, and ghrelin (a hunger hormone), but in the same time frame the large-breakfast group experienced added benefits:

  • They lost 2.5 times the weight compared to those who ate the largest meal at dinner.
  • They had a significantly greater decrease in fasting glucose, insulin, and triglyceride levels.
  • Their satiety (sense of fullness) scores were significantly higher.
  • They also lost more body fat, especially in the belly.

According to the researchers, a high‐calorie breakfast and a reduced calorie dinner is beneficial and might be a useful alternative for managing obesity and metabolic syndrome.

The body needs fasting periods for optimum health

Fasting signals to the body to start burning stores of fat for fuel. Most of us eat meals and snack from the time we wake up until shortly before bed — or even in the middle of the night. In fact, studies show the average person eats over a 15-hour period during the day. This short fasting time period may interfere with optimal metabolism and increase weight gain.

Researchers put a group of prediabetic men through two eating cycles. In one phase, they ate meals within a 12-hour window for five weeks.

Then in another phase, they ate the same meals in a time-restricted six-hour window starting in the morning.

They ate enough to maintain their weight, so they could assess whether the time-restricted regimen had benefits unrelated to weight loss.

The six-hour meal schedule improved insulin sensitivity, insulin beta cell responsiveness, reduced oxidative stress, decreased appetite, and significantly lowered blood pressure.

In addition, the men who ate only one or two meals per day fared better than those who ate three meals.

A recent review of the dietary patterns of 50,000 adults over seven years provides added evidence that we should ingest most of our calories early in the day, including a plentiful breakfast, a smaller lunch, and a light supper.

The researchers said that eating breakfast and lunch five to six hours apart and making the overnight fast last 18 to 19 hours may be an effective method for preventing long-term weight gain.

Another recent study found that subjects who added snacks to their daily meals tended to gain weight over time, while those who had no snacks tended to lose weight.

Light exposure is key for proper metabolism

Sufficient exposure to natural light and darkness also play an important role in how we metabolize food for either energy production or fat gain.

At night, the lack of sunlight signals our brain to release melatonin, the hormone that prepares us for sleep. In the morning, the light stops melatonin production and we wake up.

When we change that signaling — whether from a late-night meal, artificial lighting at night (especially blue screen light), shift work, flying and travel, or changing our eating patterns — it confuses our bodies’ circadian clocks. Eating at the wrong time of day strains the digestive organs, forcing them to work when they are supposed to rest.

Shift workers, who account for about 20 percent of the country’s work force, have a particular problem with disturbed circadian clocks. Many frequently work overnight shifts, forcing them to eat and sleep at odd times. Nighttime shift work has been linked to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer.

Studies have linked poor melatonin activity and disrupted sleep-wake cycles with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, cancer, autoimmune flare-ups, obesity, and more.

Low blood sugar may require a before-bed snack

One important exception to the “don’t eat right before bed” rule is for those who have chronic low blood sugar. For these people, keeping blood sugar stable throughout the day — and night — is critical for brain health, energy level, and more.

If you suffer from the following chronic low blood sugar symptoms, it may be best to take a small, high-protein low sugar snack just before bed:

  • Constant sugar cravings
  • Nausea or lack of appetite in the morning
  • Irritability, light-headedness, dizziness, or brain fog if meals are missed
  • Craving caffeine for energy
  • Eating to relieve fatigue
  • Afternoon energy crashes
  • Waking around 3 a.m.

Daily habits to maximize your dietary rhythm

To help maximize your meal timing and metabolism, incorporate the following habits into your day:

Make breakfast your largest meal and make dinner your smallest. While this may prove difficult for those with a busy social life or family that sits down to a big dinner every evening, make the evening meal smaller whenever possible.

Prioritize protein and healthy fats with breakfast, and minimize sugar and caffeine intake especially before lunch, to stabilize blood sugar and regulate metabolism.

Avoid between-meal snacks and bedtime goodies. The exception is for those who have chronic low blood sugar as mentioned above.

Try time-restricted eating pattern, or intermittent fasting, to maximize weight management.

Manage exposure to blue light at night:

  • Avoid screen light in the evening
  • Install the f.lux app on your phone and computer
  • Read a book
  • Wear blue-blocker glasses at night
  • Install amber or red light bulbs for evening use

If you have chronic low blood sugar, a small before-bed snack with plenty of protein may be a good idea to keep your blood sugar stable all night and prevent that 3 a.m. wake-up.

While studies suggest that prioritizing larger meals early in the day helps support metabolic health, it does not necessarily mean that you should skip dinner. Instead, have your dinners earlier and make them relatively light.

The take-home message here is like the old proverb, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”

Food quality, not calories, matter in managing weight

739 food quality over caloriesIf there is one thing Americans love, it is a prescribed diet, and the internet abounds with rules for grams of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, genetic and body type diets, calorie counting, and so on. But a recent 12-month study found focusing on whole foods and ditching sugars and processed foods resulted in weight loss and improved health for the subjects.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed it didn’t matter whether the diet was low-carb, low-fat, the genetic factors, or insulin response issues.

Here is what the subjects were told to eat:

  • Nutrient-dense, minimally processed, whole foods cooked at home as often as possible.
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Fresh fruits
  • Legumes and whole grains for the low-fat group
  • Grass-fed meats and salmon for the low-carb group
  • Lean meats for the low-fat group
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Healthy fats for the low-carb group
  • Low-fat dairy for the low-fat group
  • Hard cheeses for the low-carb group

Here is what all participants were told to avoid:

  • Products made from refined flour: Breads, pasta, bagels, muffins, etc.
  • White rice
  • Sugary snacks and beverages
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed foods, even if they were low-fat or low-carb

Participants were also encouraged to follow national guidelines for physical activity but generally did not change their exercise routines.

After 12 months in the study, which included nutritional counseling and support, the low-carb group lost an average of 13 pounds while the low-fat group lost an average of 11.7 pounds. Both groups also saw improvements in body fat, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

However, individually, some members of the study gained weight while some lost as much as 50 to 60 pounds. Those who lost the most weight were the ones who reported changing their relationship with food. They no longer snacked in the car or in front of the television and they cooked at home more often.

The researchers concluded it is time to shift the national focus from calories to nutrient-dense foods.

What this study means for functional medicine

In functional medicine, we always emphasize the importance of a whole foods diet and avoiding processed foods and sugars.

However, people managing complex health conditions may need to go beyond a basic whole foods diet as grains and dairy are inflammatory in many people.

Dairy and gluten are common triggers in people with autoimmunity and many feel better avoiding them. Many people also find they react to other grains, such as corn. The lectins in legumes pose a problem to some as well.

This study is great because it cuts through the clutter of complex dietary recommendations — and the industries built on them — and shows the value of getting back to the basics of human nutrition.

If you suffer from a chronic inflammatory condition or autoimmune disease, that is a great first step. However, if you continue to have problems, you may need to temporarily follow an elimination diet to identify dietary triggers of inflammation. Ask me for more advice.

New study shows sugar industry sold us lies for decades

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A new investigation reveals the sugar industry successfully blamed fat for heart disease using skewed science, when sugar is the main culprit. This corporate deceit triggered more than 50 years of a nutritional “low-fat” policy that helped make Americans the fattest and most chronically ill population on the planet, thanks to diets high in sugars and processed carbohydrates. Sadly, it’s an ideology still touted today in many doctors’ offices.

Using tactics similar to those of the tobacco industry, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the role of sugar consumption in raising levels of fat in the blood and did not disclose findings that linked sugar with heart disease.

The industry’s own animal studies showed high-sugar diets increased triglyceride levels, thus raising the risk of heart attack and stroke, and also increased the risk of bladder cancer. They pulled the plug on the study before it could be completed.

The Washington DC-based Sugar Association said the study was stopped because it was over budget and coincided with restructuring of the Sugar Research Foundation. It also said scientific recommendations to limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of daily calories are “out of bounds.”

Had the study been completed, it could have led to further research and policies that put the welfare of American citizens — not the sugar and processed food industries — first. This could have saved millions of Americans and their families from the heartbreak and devastation of sugar-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.

We can see another telling example in a 2018 European study that shows a significant correlation between the amount of processed foods people keep in their homes and obesity and related diseases. Though Americans and Europeans have, surprisingly, eaten roughly the same number of calories over the decades, significantly more Americans than Europeans are obese and ill thanks to corrupt marketing and nutritional policy.

While the policies of the last several decades have steadily made Americans fatter and sicker, they have also been fuel for the multi-billion-dollar weight loss industry that arose in response to the collective weight gain. Sugar content simply replaced fat calories in fat-free foods dominating the shelves.

The trouble with foods high in sugar and processed carbs (which are essentially sugar once ingested) is not only do they make people fatter, but they also trigger a hormonal cascade that increases sugar cravings while turning off the satiety hormones so that one feels constantly hungry. Diets have been shown to fail most people in sustained weight loss and even trigger eating disorders.

The low-fat, high-carb diet sends you on a downward spiral that ends with a foundation for chronic disease based on high inflammation, accelerated brain degeneration, and metabolic imbalances.

In functional medicine, we see myriad chronic disorders that can be significantly ameliorated or even reversed simply by stabilizing blood sugar and saying goodbye to the Standard American Diet (SAD) in favor of a whole foods diet.

Ask me for advice on the best diet for your chronic health condition.

Counting carbs? Carbohydrate density matters most

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If you are counting carbs to stabilize your blood sugar, lower inflammation, balance hormones, or lose weight, experts say looking at carbohydrate density is a more important strategy. Carbohydrate density measures how many carbohydrates are present per 100 grams of food. Low carb density foods don’t raise your risk of chronic disease.

Research shows eliminating dense carbohydrates from your diet improves health, prevents disease, and can even improve periodontal disease.

While many diets focus on how many calories or how many grams of carbohydrates you should eat per day, the carb density diet instead focuses on how many grams of carbohydrates are in a food once you subtract the fiber.

Ideally, you only want to eat foods under 23 percent carb density. More importantly, avoid carb dense foods.

Foods with low carb density include meats, vegetables, fruits, and whole nuts.

High density carbs include flours, sugars, breads, chips, rice cakes, granola bars, French fries, popcorn, and other fast and processed foods.

In a nutshell, if it has been processed, it’s going to be more carb dense.

Carb density in foods

Foods with low carb density contain the carbohydrates within cell walls. In these foods, carb density won’t go much beyond 23 percent.

In foods that are carb dense, however, such as flours, sugars, and processed grains, modern processing breaks apart cell walls so that carbs are much more concentrated, abundant, and hit the bloodstream more quickly.

Why high carb dense foods make us sick and fat

The human body was not designed to eat processed foods in which carbs and sugars have been busted out of their cells, concentrated, and able to quickly raise blood sugar.

Carb dense foods overwhelm the body’s cells with too much glucose. This causes cells to become resistant to the hormones insulin and leptin, both of which play a role in blood sugar regulation.

Insulin and leptin resistance in turn promote obesity, inflammation, accelerated brain degeneration, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmunity, and hormonal imbalances — in essence, the foundation to the many chronic diseases of western civilization.

Why regular diets don’t work and the kinds of food you eat matters most

These days, plenty of research has demonstrated why diets don’t work in the long run for so many people. Calorie counting, exercising more but going hungry, extreme diets — these approaches may work in the short term but they pit the individual against primal survival mechanisms and can be metabolically and psychologically damaging.

Although opting for a diet that is made up of healthy meats, fats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts may seem severe initially, it quickly adjusts hormonal responses to food. This reduces cravings, boosts energy, and reverses inflammation — the diet makes you feel so good you no longer feel deprived. You may also find processed foods make you feel terrible, so they lose their appeal.

Ask me for more advice on how you can manage and even reverse chronic health conditions through diet, lifestyle, and functional nutrition protocols.

Artificial sweeteners fail dieters; cause health risks

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If you use artificial sweeteners to avoid gaining weight, you’re not only wasting your time but also possibly causing future health problems, according to a new study.

The study found that not only do aspartame and sucralose not prevent weight gain, they also raise the risk of disease in people who use them regularly.

Some research even shows long term use of artificial sweeteners leads to weight gain.

Recent research shows about a quarter of children and more than 40 percent of adults in the United States consume artificial sweeteners daily.

Some people eat them purposefully in the mistaken belief that is better for their health. Many others, however, are unwittingly consuming them in everyday food products.

Artificial sweeteners hiding in many foods

Artificial sweeteners are hiding in many foods unbeknownst to most people. These products are not always clearly labeled and some are even labeled with misleading claims such as “natural ingredients.”

While we expect to find artificial sweeteners in foods labeled “light,” “reduced sugars,” “diet,” and “sugar-free,” they also show up in “smart” popcorn, granola bars, yogurt, and even a popular pediatric electrolyte drink.

Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity; disease

Studies also suggest long term use of artificial sweeteners leads to weight gain and chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.

Participants in a randomized trial who used artificial sweeteners as part of their weight loss program were shown to have a slight increase in their body mass index, a 14 percent higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes, and a 32 percent higher chance of developing heart disease.

Lobbyists for the artificial sweetener industry and researchers agree other variables need to be considered and more research needs to be done.

Why artificial sweeteners cause weight gain

One reason it’s believed these fake sweeteners lead to weight gain and obesity-related health risks is because they trigger sugar cravings that a person eventually gives into.

Another theory suggests that consuming foods with artificial sweeteners leads a person to feel “virtuous” and thus justified in overindulging later.

Animal studies show artificial sweeteners trick the brain into thinking you’ve eaten sugar, which can trigger inflammatory cascades and disease.

Artificial sweeteners also alter the gut microbiome in a way that promotes obesity and diabetes.

Functional nutrition approach to sweeteners

In functional nutrition, we see time and time again that people naturally lose their cravings for sugar and starchy carbs when they eat a whole foods diet that stabilizes blood sugar, lowers inflammation, and promotes brain health. You won’t feel drawn to regular use of artificial sweeteners when you have no cravings for sweets in the first place. Ask me how I can help.

How diet foods prevent weight loss and cause obesity

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For decades the diet industry has conned consumers into thinking good diet products are low in fat. This led to a boon in creation of low-fat, high-carbohydrate, and often high-sugar “diet” products that promote fat storage, prevent fat burning, increase cravings, and raise inflammation. Not only can diet foods make you fatter, they can also make you sicker.

Yet another new study shows low-fat diet foods lead to obesity. Rats given high-sugar, low-fat foods that mimic many diet products not only got fatter than the control rats, they also experienced liver damage and brain inflammation.

The sad thing about this study is that the low-fat rats didn’t eat more calories. They consumed the same amount of calories as their counterparts that were fed a balanced diet yet they still ended the study fatter and sicker.

Liver and brain damage from low-fat, high-sugar

The excess fat accumulated around the rats’ livers was similar to the liver damage caused by heavy alcohol use. This study and others similar to it show that brain-inflammation from the high-sugar, low-fat diet also impaired function of the vagus nerve. This is a nerve that runs between the brain and the gut and is vital to both healthy brain and gut function.

Diet foods skew hunger and satiety hormones

The impacts on the vagus nerve and the brain also alter hormone signaling around hunger and satiety. This explains why people on high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diets often feel hungry all the time despite how much they eat.

Dieting signals the body to store fat

The hormones that control hunger and satiety also play a role in fat burning and fat storage. When this system is dysregulated due to a high-sugar diet, this prompts the body to favor fat storing over fat burning.

The best way to reverse this process is to fuel the body with a lower carbohydrate diet that is adequate in proteins and fat, and abundant in vegetables. How many carbohydrates a person needs to consume depends on many factors and varies from person to person.

Dieting makes the body efficient at fat storage

Add a low-calorie diet to the poor performance of mainstream diet products and you have a recipe for lifelong super-powered fat storing abilities. This means a person has to consume fewer and fewer calories simply to avoid gaining weight.

This was best evidenced among former contestants of the popular TV show The Biggest Loser Although contestants lost weight through a stringent regime of low-calorie dieting and intensive exercise, most contestants piled the weight back on after the show ended. They also had to consume 500–800 fewer calories below maintenance calories simply to avoid gaining weight. This is because the extreme dieting and exercise, though effective, had lowered their resting metabolic rate so that they were burning fewer calories each day compared to before participating in the show.

How to lose weight and stay healthy?

Often people lose weight simply by following a diet that lowers inflammation and removes foods to which they are intolerant, and by stabilizing blood sugar, repairing leaky gut, and addressing chronic inflammation. By focusing on a vegetable-dominant diet you also increase the proportion of gut bacteria that promote fat burning over fat storage.

The key is to gradually switch yourself over to a life-long way of eating you enjoy because it makes you feel better.

For more information on healthy weight loss, contact me.

Extreme exercise is good for you, right? Not exactly

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If you want to get fit and lose weight, you should exercise as hard as you can, for as long as you can, every day, right? Wrong! Research shows extreme exercise can cause chronic health problems and make you feel worse. (What constitutes over exercise depends on the individual and their fitness level.) Recovery time is as important as the exercise itself.

Over exercising can cause the following health issues:

  • Increased inflammation
  • Fatigued adrenals, the stress-handling glands
  • More bad gut bacteria
  • Leaky gut
  • Depleted hormones
  • Depressed immunity
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Bone loss
  • Too much exercise raises inflammation

Many of the issues caused by over exercising stem from inflammation. Although appropriate exercise can be anti-inflammatory and very good for the brain, too much has the opposite effect.

The cellular damage from over exercising triggers a systemic inflammatory response that sets the stage for a host of other health problems.

Too much exercise stresses out your body

The damage and inflammation from over exercising is very stressful to the body. Excess stress underlies the burnout, depletion, and increasing weakness often seen with over exercising. Results can be fatigue, poor thyroid function, depressed immunity, and more.

Over exercising damages gut health

The gut and the bacteria it houses are increasingly being recognized as the seat of the immune system and foundational to our health.

Overdoing exercise has been found to damage the gut wall, causing “leaky gut.” This allows undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream, where they then trigger inflammation throughout the body.

Overtraining also changes the composition of gut bacteria so there is too much bad bacteria.

How to know if you’re over training

How do you know if your exercise routine is making you unhealthy?

One of the most common symptoms is constant fatigue. Your workout routine should give you more energy, not less. Appropriate exercise boosts chemicals in the body that improve brain function, increase well being, and raise energy. If the opposite is happening to you, you’re overdoing it.

Other symptoms of over exercising include getting sick frequently, loss of muscle mass, gaining body fat, and difficulty recovering from injuries.

What to do if you’re over exercising

If you’re making yourself sick with exercise, the answer isn’t to stop exercising, but to go about your workouts differently. First of all, give yourself time to recover. This typically means exercising less frequently.

Also, it’s very important to get enough sleep. This is a critical time when your muscles repair and your metabolic system and brain recharge. Sufficient sleep is crucial if you want to stay active and healthy for the long haul.

Intermittent fasting for weight loss and longevity

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Humans have been fasting for millennia, either for religious or spiritual reasons or simply due to lack of food. Today, a new form of fasting called intermittent fasting is increasingly popular among those seeking its anti-aging and health benefits.

Intermittent fasting, or IF, makes fasting an everyday part of life versus something you do once or twice a year. Many people use it successfully for weight loss and inflammation as well as to improve brain function and insulin sensitivity. The promise of increased longevity is another reason people choose to fast regularly.

Different forms of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can be done in a number of ways:

  • 5:2 diet — In this plan you eat normally five days per week, and either fast completely, or severely restrict calories (500-600 calories) the other two days.
  • Alternate day fasting — This plan includes normal eating for 24 hours and zero, or very low calories (500-600) for the next 24-hour period, alternating every other day. These 24-hour periods typically begin at dinnertime so that in any one day you may miss one or two meals, but not all three.
  • 16:8 or 14:10 — Also known as the “eating window plan,” this plan has you eat during an 8- or 10-hour window and fast the remaining 16 or 14 hours of each 24-hour period. For example, you stop eating at 7 p.m and do not eat again until 14 hours later at 9 a.m. the next morning.

Intermittent fasting for weight loss

Restricting caloric intake can lead to weight loss, but intermittent fasting seems to help with weight loss in more ways than that. For one thing, studies show intermittent fasters have better insulin sensitivity and glucose regulation. Among other things, this makes a person crave less sugar and use glucose more efficiently for energy production instead of being stored as fat. Intermittent fasting also causes your body to burn more fat. Because it depletes glycogen, the storage form of glucose, your body switches over to burning stored fat for energy.

Intermittent fasting for brain function

Studies show intermittent fasting can benefit brain function and potentially even stave off Alzheimer’s disease and depression. This is likely due to better glucose and insulin control (Alzheimer’s disease is often called type 3 diabetes), as well as production of ketone bodies for fuel. Ketones provide a ready source of clean-burning fuel for the brain that leave behind fewer free radicals than glucose does. High-fat ketogenic diets have long been used to help prevent seizures.

Other benefits

Intermittent fasting has been shown in trials to reduce blood pressure, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and insulin-like growth factor, a hormone that is linked to cancer and diabetes. There is still much to learn about the benefits and pitfalls of intermittent fasting. Fortunately, it is an area of great scientific interest and research is happening at a rapid pace.

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone

Children and teens, pregnant women, people with eating disorders, as well as those with hypoglycemia should not fast. Also, diabetics taking insulin should only attempt this diet under supervision of a doctor.

Women often find less stringent forms of intermittent fasting are more suitable for them. For example, a woman might start by trying a 12:12 eating window plan and potentially lengthen her fasting time gradually, or not, as it suits her.

As always, it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all remedy to any health concern. Contact my office to discuss if intermittent fasting might be right for you.

Your gut bacteria can play a role in anxiety and PTSD

Probiotic w/ prebiotic foodsNew research has found a link between gut bacteria and anxiety — the diversity and quantity of your gut bacteria can affect your anxiety levels. Scientists believe this could play a role in treating PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the study, researchers subjected mice to stressful conditions until they showed signs of anxiety and stress: shaking, diminished appetite, and reduced social interaction. Fecal samples showed the stressed mice had less diversity of gut bacteria than calmer mice who had not been subjected to stress.
When they fed the stressed mice the same live bacteria found in the guts of the calm mice, the stressed mice immediately began to calm down. Their stress levels continued to drop in the following weeks.
Brain scans also showed the improved gut flora produced changes in brain chemistry that promotes relaxation.
These biomarkers, according to researchers, can indicate whether someone is suffering from PTSD or is at a higher risk of developing it. Improving gut microflora diversity may play a role in treatment and prevention.

The role of healthy gut bacteria in the military

Because about 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD, the military is interested in the potential of influencing gut bacteria to manage and predict the risk of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Enhancing gut microflora may also help submarine crews who go for long periods in confined spaces and with no daylight.

How to improve the health of your gut bacteria for anxiety, PTSD, depression, obesity, eating disorders

The quality and diversity of gut bacteria, or the “gut microbiome,” has been linked to not only anxiety, but also depression, obesity, eating disorders, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, and many other common disorders.
In other words, if you want to improve your health, you need to tend to your inner garden and make it richly diverse and bountiful. Although we’re still some way off from a magic-bullet approach, there are many ways you can enrich the environment of your gut microbiome:

Cut out foods that kill good bacteria and promote harmful bacteria: Sugars, processed foods, processed carbohydrates, alcohol and energy drinks, fast foods, food additives, and other unhealthy staples of the standard American diet.

Eat tons of fiber-rich plants, which good bacteria love: All vegetables but especially artichokes, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, as well as fruits. Either way, eat a large diversity of veggies on a regular basis instead of the same thing every day.

Use probiotic supplements: Live, “friendly” bacteria in supplement form will bolster your gut’s population of healthy microbes. Read the label to make sure they are high in multiple strains of live bacteria. Dietary fiber nourishes these friendly probiotic bacteria, earning it the title “pre-biotic”. This combination of pre- and probiotic support is vital for healthy gut bacteria.

Eat fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha, and yogurt contain live microbes, and can also help boost the probiotic content of your digestive tract. Not all fermented foods have live cultures so make sure to read the labels.

Protect your existing gut flora: Medications, age, health status, and stress influence your gut microbiome. Eating a fiber-strong, gut-friendly diet and supplementing with probiotics and fermented foods is one of your best strategies for supporting gut health, a healthy mood, and stress resiliency.