Reduce Inflammation with These Key Foods

Inflammation is a hot topic among scientists and it’s not just for health headlines.

 

It’s a fact.

Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic (i.e. is ongoing / lasts a long time).

Inflammation responses have been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.

In the last 20 years, we learned about how the inflammasome is activated through our innate immune response. Now, there are over 800 studies linking inflammasomes to cancer, and over 400 studies linking it to autoimmune disease, as well as heart disease and Parkinson’s disease.

 

But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it’s measured, and where it comes from (info); why don’t I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it (action)?

 

Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries

 

Why save the best for last? These delicious items make a major difference to our overall antioxidant levels and are perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods. Are they a sweet favourite of yours?

Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).

Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol”  are found in these small and delicious fruits.

In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.

(*Bonus – when you eat a lot of dark cherries, your melatonin levels go UP, which can result in better/deeper sleep!!)

 

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers

 

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, and helps our body to deal with toxins.

Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin, which helps with allergic type symptoms.

Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours.  Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in the recipe below.

 

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)

 

Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats and damaged fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: “omega-3s”), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.

The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, especially omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax. When choosing oils, go for quality, minimal processing, and glass bottles.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea

 

Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.

EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.

Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.

 

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric

 

Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?

Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.

 

This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.

I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.

 

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate

 

Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.

Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy.

They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuro-inflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.

 

Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!

 

Conclusion

 

There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.

You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of “anti-inflammation.”

 

 

Recipe : Anti-inflammatory Quinoa

(Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric)

 

Serves 2

¾ -1 cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 dash salt

½ tbsp turmeric

1 dash black pepper

2 cups broccoli, chopped

Prepare quinoa according to directions, or, in a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer on low until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.

Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.

Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.

 

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick. If you have flax oil or another omega oil at home, now is the time to pull it out – drizzle some on your finished dish!

 

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/13-anti-inflammatory-foods/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717884/

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea/

https://authoritynutrition.com/matcha-green-tea/

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/brain-food-essentials-cacao

http://leesaklich.com/foods-vs-supps/foods-vs-supplements-the-turmeric-edition/

 

Lowering Cortisol, the Stress Hormone

How to Naturally Lower Stress Hormone (Cortisol)

 

STRESS!!!

Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?

 

And sometimes, even cute, inspirational quote squares don’t make it go away 😛

 

Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

 

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.”  It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

 

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?

 

Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!

 

Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol

 

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar.

Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

 

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels.

If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.

 

 

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol.

Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.

 

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.

 

Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.

 

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics!

There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.

 

Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

 

Reduce your stress with mindfulness.

Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol. Try putting things in perspective, or asking, what might this be opening the door to?

 

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it).

While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels. Just don’t be both intense AND lengthy. One, or the other is best for stress hormone management.

 

Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Well, not by me, I have written a ton about it, lol. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways. Sleep!

 

Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music – actually any music YOU like – all reduce cortisol.

 

Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.

 

Conclusion

 

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.

 

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

 

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.

 

In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

 

Recipe – high-fiber, prebiotic, de-stressing Chocolate Pudding

Serves 6

3 ripe avocados

¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)

¼ cup maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 dash salt

 

Instructions

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon or vanilla pod in place of extract for a deeper flavour.

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/ways-to-lower-cortisol/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cortisol

https://authoritynutrition.com/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

Fat fuzzy or frazzled? Its your hormones!

Feeling fat fuzzy or frazzled?

is the name of a fabulous book about hormones…so hopefully it’s ok that I named this blog post that way.

The book is by Richard Shames MD and Karilee Shames, PhD, RN.

 

But in the event that you do not read the book, let me give you in a nutshell some of the takeaways.

One – the list of shitty things you might feel if your thyroid or adrenals or parathyroid glands are out of whack is extensive.

Feeling fat (fat isn’t a feeling but bear with me), fuzzy (in the head), or frazzled is WAY TOO COMMON. and it is usually hormones…

Today I will focus on just the thyroid…and I will deal with the others in future days.

I want to start with the thyroid because if you are a woman over 30, you have a one on 4 chance of having a thyroid issue …DID YOU KNOW THAT!!??

Women going through perimanopause are the most likely people to have Graves disease, a thyroid problem, and owmen in their 40s have a 20% chance of hypothyroidism that wont get treated. By 60, it’s worse.

And I want to start with it because thyroid problems to me are like the biggest single reason women don’t have better self esteem and that KILLS ME.

“Thyroid problems” is a blanket term that includes either an under-functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) or over-functioning thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and maybe autoimmunity in the thyroid.

Parathyroid problems are also common but I will speak about them separately.

Here’s a list of symptoms associated with just hypo – thyroidism (low thyroid).

It’s crazy yo…
–Brain fog
–Brittle nails
–Constipation, rabbit plop poops
–Depression
–Difficulty with focus
–Dry skin, coarse and/or itchy skin
–Dry, coarse and/or thinning hair
–Fatigue, exhaustion
–Feeling cold (cold feet in summer!)
–Feeling rundown
–Infertility or miscarriages
–Irregular menstrual flow
–Low sex drive, low sexual response
–Muscle cramps, loss of muscle
–Feeling ‘sluggish’ or blah
–Unexplained or excessive weight gain

What’s super crazy about this is that is not even all the stuff, AND it is not textbook in most cases and even if it is you can miss it!

So it’s a huge list and it can still be confusing even if you have many of the things on the list…or maybe it’s just confusing because of brain fog!!

I had low thyroid forever …and just thought I had dry skin…and was confused…and had thin nails…was I sluggish or tired…if you have it long enough it feels normal…it was just me…I thought.

I had thick hair…yes it came out in clumps but it was soo thick…I was thin….not overweight…and yes I was cold….so cold that when friends went swimming in the lake I felt horrified at the idea…I hated wearing open shoes because my feet would freeze.

Additional signs that are potential symptoms of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (the autoimmune kind of hypothyroidism where your body attacks the thyroid gland) the most common kind of hypothyroidism, and the kind that I have, include:

–Acid reflux
–Acne
–Anxiety
–Candida (yeast overgrowth)
–Constipation
–Depression
–Difficulty expressing yourself
–Digestive discomfort or diarrhea
–Eczema
–Eyebrow loss especially at the edges
–Feeling socially distant
–Forgetfulness
–Frequent colds
–Gluten intolerance
–High LDL cholesterol
–Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
–Intestinal bloating
–Intestinal gas
–Irregular menstrual flow
–Itchy skin
–Lack of motivation
–Low level of vitamin B12
–Low level of ferritin (iron) or anemia
–Low level of vitamin D
–Low sex drive
–Muscle aches
–Muscle cramps and muscle loss
–Puffy eyes
–Swollen tongue
–Throat discomfort and/or tightness
–Water retention

Um I had all of them…pretty much. Aside of eczema and frequent colds, I had the whole list. THE WHOLE LIST.

Which is INSANE…because it is SO FREAKING COMMON AND I DIDN’T GET DIAGNOSED!!!

I had to diagnose myself. Seriously people?

Yes I had even more symptoms that this…so maybe that was confusing.

BUT, honestly, if I showed this list to Dr. Google I would be diagnosed with hypothyroidism…and probably Hashimotos, PROBABLY IN A FEW SECONDS.

AND DID I MENTION IT IS REALLY FREAKING COMMON?

Especially amongst people who have been under major stress (that’s a trigger for the epigenetic changes that allows it to express).?

So why do doctors miss it for YEARS?

If it was this common for men would it be such a mystery and a challenge??

To this day, endocrinologists and physicians will have somebody walk in with the same laundry list of symptoms and they will NOT diagnose Hashimoto’s.

And I feel the reason is simple: knowing you have it won’t change how they treat you…so why bother finding out?

Grr.

Allopathic, Naturopathic and Functional medicine and your thyroid

A functional medicine approach or an ND’s approach to your thyroid begins with the doctor herself having in mind that hypothyroidism or autoimmune thyroid is more common than most doctors realize and is likely the single most likely cause of what is up with you.

But if you don’t get such a doctor, you might get missed. I mean, there are a whole bunch of good tests, which I will list below, and most Doc’s even endocrinologists, don’t run them. Endocrinologists rarely order these tests when approaching a patient with low thyroid, because they don’t specialize in thyroid, usually, because they deal with so much diabetes, they basically get focused on that.

Also, because in conventional medicine, there is no reason to diagnose an autoimmune thyroid person, because there is no treatment for the autoimmune component with a conventionally marketed drug, to be honest.

What I am saying is, the allopathic regular system doesnt have a drug AKA a treatment for Hashimotos. So they don’t bother checking for it.

BUT THERE ARE TREATMENTS.

YOU CAN GET BETTER.

SO YOU WANT TO KNOW!!!

Also, conventional doctors might have been scared off of more natural treatments, like dessicated thyroid, that work when your levels are just slightly off, instead of needing them to be WAY off. The doctors are encouraged to limit their thyroid testing to one test only: the TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) blood test. They look to diagnose to find the drug to give, instead of taking a more holistic view and treating the whole patient. And up to 60% of this group are unaware that thyroid function is an issue.

The TSH test measures your thyroid levels only indirectly, though, so you can see that this is already sounding like a flawed or limited approach.

TSH is a hormone, but it isn’t one produced by your thyroid gland, but rather by your pituitary gland. The pituitary stimulates the thyroid into activity when it senses thyroid underactivity.

If your TSH is high, the test indicates hypothyroidism.

That’s because if the pituitary is producing lots of TSH, so it’s inferred that your thyroid must be underfunctioning.

Even with only this one test… which isnt even of the thyroid itself, we could be doing better than we are.

That’s because we should be looking for a much tighter range than we are.

We should be looking for a 2.5 TSH reading or lower, yet endocrinologists have decided that a TSH level up to 4 is fine and any higher you probably have an underactive thyroid. So they dont look, or if they do, not hard enough.

For decades the standard was 5 or higher and it’s estimated the number of missed hypothyroid diagnoses was in the millions.

However when the test range was updated they didn’t go tight enough still. The amount of miscarriages and other suffering this is causing makes me ANGRY!!!

Another flaw with this testing is that hypothyroidism isn’t the only thing affecting TSH.

TSH results are influenced by what you eat, your stress levels, and even the time of day your blood is drawn!!

 

Lab tests for thyroid issues
Here’s the list from Janie A. Bowthorpe’s excellent Stop The Thyroid Madness website. Each item revolves around how your body is functioning with its current supply of thyroid hormone.

TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). Since this hormone comes from the pituitary gland, at best it tests pituitary function. High TSH usually means underactive thyroid, but low TSH in the presence of hypothyroidism means pituitary insufficiency.
Free T3 and Free T4. These are measurements of the actual thyroid hormones themselves.
Reverse T3 (rT3). This is an “inactive” hormone that can appear in some cases of hypothyroidism. Your body should convert inactive T4 to the active hormone T3, but under certain stresses it makes rT3 instead. By itself, reverse T3 is not a helpful test, but it should be viewed in context of thyroid function.
Thyroid antibodies. The most common autoimmune disease and cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The presence of thyroid antibodies clinches a Hashi diagnosis. Some physicians, especially in Europe and the UK, start thyroid hormone replacement when antibodies are present. You can also get a drug called LDN, or low dose Naltrexone, to help you control the autoimmunity to some degree, but not all doctors will do this.
Iron profile (ferritin, percentage iron saturation, iron binding capacity). Symptoms of low iron are often indistinguishable from hypothyroidism.
Saliva adrenal cortisol. The same goes for adrenal fatigue, but more about this next week.
Vitamins D, B-12 and folate. More on this next week too.
Sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) measured throughout a one-month cycle. Single-day test is fine for postmenopausal women.
MTHFR gene mutation tests susceptibility to heavy metals damaging thyroid. If MTHFR inherited from both parents, test for metals.
Complete blood count and comprehensive metabolic profile. This is the standard wellness profile your doctor orders when you get a general check-up. It can yield a lot of useful information.
–Basal body temperature measurement for five days in a row. This is your oral temperature just as you emerge from sleep (click here for full instructions)  If you’re a menstruating women, take your temp for five straight days beginning with the second day of your period (to avoid the normal temperature rise that occurs with ovulation). An average temperature of 97.6 or lower make a diagnosis of mild hypothyroidism a strong possibility. The test is less useful for adjusting your dose once you’ve started thyroid replacement.

So, I think if a doctor is always suspecting hypothyroidism, she’ll rarely miss the diagnosis. If we go back and look at that list of possible symptoms, for virtually all of them, there are other possible causes. BUT, a relatively small number of lab tests can figure out if they are caused by hypothyroidism.

Do you wonder if this affects you?

Do you want some help? I would love to help you, I can guide you.

xox

Dana

Womanly Hormones – get that sh*t under control

HORMONAL (IM)BALANCE and LIFE BALANCE go HAND in HAND

From a functional nutrition standpoint, hormone imbalances like PMS, uncomfortable peri-menopausal or menopausal symptoms, even bad blood sugar or stress response, can be caused by many factors; High stress hormones, high toxin levels, inadequate sleep, low nutrients, and gut issues being primary amongst them.

Addressing lifestyle factors like these ^^^^^ first can often help to alleviate symptoms.

In fact, you may need no further treatment, if you address lifestyle stuff. But, we need to know what nutrients and actions may aid detoxification in order to improve our health.

I like to encourage women to create lives that are more pleasurable, less stressful. I like to help them to do whatever they need to do to get a better night’s sleep, even if that means helping them with their money issues, not their diet.

And … I always focus on aiding women to lower their exposure to toxins and improve their biotransformation and elimination of toxins. Doing this can result in a proper menarche, comfortable menstruation, optimal fertility, and easy menopause, and beneficially impact their overall health.

 

WHAT DOES DETOXIFICATION HAVE TO DO WITH IT

Detoxification is a missing piece, in conventional treatment, but it is crucial – we need to clear toxins to balance hormones.

The toxins that are the focus here are the ones that mimic estrogen but act in it’s place in a dysfunctional way – turning off and on things in ways that might shift our metabolism down or our anxiety up – for example, but there are many possible symptoms; Anxiety, depression, irritability, tenderness, cramps, skin issues, bleeding irregularly, fluctuating sexual responsiveness, fluctuating energy levels, etc..

We can feel these symptoms creep up on us slowly over time, especially after certain triggers – hormone changes and stress – during adolescence, pregnancy, and peri-menopause. These changes in our bodies, along with other stress, and especially if coupled with nutrient deficiencies, can cause epigenetic changes – aka changes to our gene expression.

So, you have to clear toxins and manage stress to avoid the big problems.

My preferred approach is to look first at lifestyle factors, especially nutrition, but a full workup should include other lifestyle factors beyond nutrition, such as exercise, toxicity and stress.

There are many lifestyle factors that can lead to hormonal problems.

I am years past the baby making phase. 8 years to be exact. I went through menopause really early, and I am not alone. If you are an otherwise healthy, slim, fit woman, you might be prone to going through it early too. Why do I say that?

If the case of early menopause, there are such lifestyle factors as a history of anorexia and or bulimia, being an athlete/long distance runner, very thin, or a vegetarian, or having low cholesterol levels (such as can be caused by chronic low fat eating).

And it isn’t just early menopause – what about late menarche? I know an athletic, thin, vegetarian woman with no exposure to toxins in any great amount – I mean she was VERY protected and NEVER even had sugar, fast food or alcohol in her whole life – who still had not hit menarche and was going off to college.

So yes, there can be things ASIDE from toxins that can mess with your hormones. Our genetics can be triggered by stresses such as malnutrition, such as was the case for this young lady. What she thought was an ideal diet, her body took for starvation.

But toxins definitely play a role, for many people a huge role. We can feel the symptoms of these things come upon us in an accelerated manor if we get a sudden, noticeable influx of toxins – such as can happen if we get breast implants, or are exposed to mold in an infested home or car.

In the very sensitive, the ones we call the canaries in the coal mine, I can often see toxins slowly dragging them down. If they get get daily exposure to BPA in a job as a cashier, bagging groceries, or if she invests a lot in toxic beauty, such as lip injections, face fillers, keratin hair smoothers, and regular nail treatments, she may have a lot of pain, inflammation, and fatigue.

So I use a functional nutrition approach that looks at the whole person through the lens of systems biology and examines the underlying cause of hormone dysregulation, which can include the effects of endocrine disruptors, aka toxins.

 

TOXICITY

It is now clear that our individual ability to detoxify aka to bio-transform and excrete toxic and synthetic substances is of critical importance to our overall health. We are exposed to a greater quantity and a more complex array of toxic compounds in our air, water, and food than ever before. Understanding toxicity and taking practical steps to improve biotransformation are essential and critical pieces in any integrative approach to health and well-being.

I want to be clear about the concept of detoxification.

We cannot really “do a detox” and force our body to detox. The phases of detoxification undertaken by the liver (there are 3, 2 of them very well recognized) and the clearing of toxins is done by the body automatically, in conjunction with the kidneys/urinary system, lungs, skin, and more, not by any product we take. However, we can give the organs what they need to do these processes, and we can use binders to help to keep some things from recirculating, and we can help them get flushed out faster, which is often called “cleansing”.

The concept that toxins accumulate in the body and are the cause of various health problems has long been a fundamental tenet of traditional healthcare systems around the world. Removal of toxins from the body has long been an integral part of Ayurvedic, yogic, and naturopathic medicine. We know that in Canada, the Ojibwa used an 8 herb formula, drunk as a tea, and in Ayurveda, panchakarma and triphala are some of the methods employed. Naturopaths may use herbs or coffee enemas.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention began measuring human exposure to chemicals in 1976, and more recent science has really taught us a lot about how toxins affect us, where they originate, and how to improve our ability to detoxify. There is a very long list of chemicals we may encounter daily. Biomonitoring of subjects is ongoing and they continue to find new toxins in subjects’ blood and urine. Some of these include pesticides like DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and glyphosate, BPA (bisphenol-A) from plastic bottles, food containers and cash register receipts, and phthalates from toys and shampoos.

Most people are born with chemicals like these in their blood, and then have a persistent, detectable amount of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in their blood most of the time ever afterward. What endocrine disrupting means is that they look like estrogen in the body, but estrogen that misbehaves, even doing evil, like something out of the movie V, or Men in Black, or even American Psycho.

Several of these hormone-f-ing chemicals have been linked to early menarche and early menopause.

Earlier menarche means starting your period young, and it is associated with some bad health outcomes. Around the world, the age of menarche keeps getting younger and is linked to exposure to a common fumigant, according to an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data.

The NHANES researchers measured a single chemical in girls 12-16, but there are hundreds of known endocrine disruptors in our everyday environment, affecting women of all ages. In a different analysis of the NHANES data, 15 known toxicants were identified as contributors to early menopause in women, including persistent organic pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and common endocrine disruptors like phthlates. You are also more likely to reach menopause early if you are unfit, overweight, or if you have irritated ovaries, or pituitary gland problems, or have never had kids, or if you smoke…so again, it isn’t just about chemicals – but they sure don’t help.

 

WHAT TO DO

First of all, I recommend that you be careful to reduce your toxin exposure.

Filter your water. If you can, filter your air. Change filters often. Open your windows year round.

Say no to paper receipts.

Get better shampoo, or no shampoo. Use natural, clean and vetted body care, and less of it. Refuse to use regular nail polish, or to hang out in salons, or in places with toxic air. Don’t use hair treatments like Keratin smoothers or perms that use formaldehyde. Use non-toxic menstrual products.

Don’t buy new carpets, or sofas, buy second hand. If you buy furniture, like mattresses, check what they might be made with, and then, if you can, plan to sleep out of your house for the first week or two that they are in your house, to let them air out. Air out new dry cleaning for a week outside of the house in a covered area while they off-gas. Try not to move into places right after they are built – give them a year.

Eat cleaner, cook for yourself. Don’t eat canned food. Bring your own containers – don’t get take out in styrofoam and thin plastic – especially things like hot soup. Get organic food, pastured animals, don’t eat animals that eat conventional grains – they eat too many sprays.

Give up the dryer sheets, and beware of anything perfumed. Don’t hang out near the dishwasher when it is running. Use safer soap in the dishwasher, and run the kitchen exhaust fan when it runs, and go into another room. Hire someone to dust and to vacuum, and don’t let your kids play on the floor.

It’s along list, and you might feel crazy at first, but just try to work at it little by little.

You might need to do things even harder than avoiding toxins.

You may need to get a more understanding and helpful and supportive partner. You might need to earn more money. You might need to say no more and get what you need help with more. You might need to go dancing more, or accept yourself as you are, or tell an asshole to f off. You might need to make seasonal detoxification a regular thing you do now. You might need to really eat nutritiously, not just eat to stay thin. You might need to say NO to the beauty treatments, like the lip fillers, the Botox, the Keratin treatment, the toenail polish, that you think makes you beautiful, and realize how beautiful it is to think clearly in your forties, and to feel better then, and to be glad you worked on your confidence instead of your forehead wrinkle. You might need to drink less alcohol and coffee, so that you can go the F to sleep. You might need to adopt a habit of doing a little walking, a little weights, and a little yoga, instead of nothing, or everything, like a maniac.

Start practicing now, and you can avoid a lot of headaches in the future.

xox

Dana

 

 

Haven’t Changed Anything in Your Diet But Getting Fatter?

You are positive that you’re not eating more food, or “junkier” food, but you’re still gaining weight…

 

Is this possible?

 

Yes!  You are NOT crazy!

And here’s why.

 

We both know that the whole “calories in, calories out” argument is an overly simplistic view of weight.

There’s definitely more to the story than just what you’re eating, right?

 

A lot of this comes right down to your metabolic rate which is affected by things like your activity level, history of dieting, body composition, and even what you eat.

 

But, let’s go beyond the “eat less and exercise more” advice and dive into some of the less obvious underlying reasons why you may be gaining weight even though you’re eating the same.

 

Things like:

  • Aging;

  • Hormones;

  • Sleep;

 

 

Aging

 

Funny things happen the older we get.  People commonly experience lower energy levels, more digestive discomfort, weight gain, as well as aches and pains.

 

Aging can result in hormonal changes for both men and women.  And these can contribute to loss of some lean muscle mass, as well as increases and changes in fat storage on our bodies.

 

The good thing is that, this is very common and not your fault one bit. We can also manage around these changes.

 

Hormones

 

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism and can be a massive contributor to your weight gain.  It is one hormone that could be to blame. There are several things that can affect it and throw it off course.

 

When your thyroid gets off course and produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down.  And when your metabolism slows down you can gain weight.  Even though you’re eating the same way you always have.

 

Pro Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your hormones tested.  Oh, and try the thyroid-friendly recipe that I created for you at the end of this post.

 

Sleep

 

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.

And as we age it can become harder and harder to get a good night’s sleep.

The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night to help avoid weight gain.

It’s true!  Lack of sleep is linked with weight gain.

 

Who ever thought you can sleep off your weight?

 

Pro Tip: Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.  The first place to start is by implementing a calming before bedtime routine.

 

Stress

 

It seems to be everywhere!  So many things that can cause stress responses in your body.

And you know that stress hormones are not going to help you sustain healthy habits or maintain a healthy weight, right?

 

While you can’t necessarily change your stressors you can try to adjust your stress response to them.

 

Pro Tip:  Try meditation or yoga.  Or even mindful eating.  What about those new adult colouring books that are all the rage now? Filling a mandala or nature colouring book might be a better pastime than Candy Crush.

 

Conclusion:

There are lots of factors that can affect your weight, even if you’re eating the same way you always have.  Aging, hormones, stress, and sleep are all interconnected to each other and can all contribute to weight gain, even if you’re eating the same way you always have.

 

 

Recipe

Thyroid friendly iodine: Seaweed Sushi Bowl

Serves 2

 

1 cup cooked rice

1 avocado (thinly sliced)

½ cucumber (diced)

½ red pepper (thinly sliced)

1 green onion (chopped)

2 tablespoons dried seaweed (arame, wakame, or crumbled nori sheets)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons gluten-free tamari sauce

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sesame oil

½ garlic clove

dash salt and pepper

 

Split the first seven ingredients into two bowls.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together to make the dressing.

Pour the dressing over the sushi bowls.

 

Serve & Enjoy!

 

Tip:  This is a great lunch to take on the go.  Keep dressing in a separate container so you can give it a shake before adding it onto the sushi bowl.

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/lose-weight-in-menopause/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/sleep-stress-and-fat-loss

Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

 

1-2 lemons, sliced

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 tablespoon thyme

2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless, organic)

dash salt & pepper

1 tablespoon avocado oil

1 tablespoon Omega oil blend (reserve)

 

Preheat oven to 450F.

Cooking hot, fast and uncovered produced a nice juicy bakes chicken, and not a tough steamed or dry roasted one.

Layer the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper.  Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken.  Drizzle with avocado oil.  Do not cover or tent with parchment paper.

Bake for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Make sure to check with instant read thermometer before removing chicken breast from the oven.

Cooking time varies depending on thickness of meat. It’s very easy.

  1. Thin under 2 inches thick: Bake for 25 minutes.
  2. Thick over 2 inches thick: Bake for 35 minutes.

Cook in both cases ensure it has reached a minimum internal temperature of 150 degrees F.

After baking it’s important to cover let chicken breast and allow it to rest. The chicken breast will reach internal temperature of 165 degrees F during this time.

Drizzle wit omega oil. Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!

Why is My Metabolism Slow?

You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight.  Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”.

You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.

Why does this happen?  Why do metabolic rates slow down?

What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy.  And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”!  In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.

 

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

 

 

Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism.  When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down. The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active. Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right. But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course. Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine, zinc or selenium) for example.

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested*

 

 

Your history of dieting

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down.  This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food.

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have.  As you know more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it.

 

 

Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates.  This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one.

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy.  Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat.  This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

Tip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass.

 

Which leads us to…

 

Your activity level

Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

Even little things can add up.  Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

Tip:  Incorporate movement into your day.  Also, exercise regularly.

 

 

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night. 

 

Recipe (Selenium-rich) Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4

 

½ cup Brazil nuts (pictured)

2 cups water

nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)

½ cup chia seeds

¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

 

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk.  If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth. (I don’t strain, I keep it all!)

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

 

Serve & Enjoy!

Tips:  Makes a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries. Also, buy your Brazil Nuts in a place with high turnover, getting them fresh is a MUST! They should taste creamy, mild and delicious.

 

* About Thyroid tests:  if you feel really bad and have many signs of thyroid imbalance, get more than your TSH (the standard) tested if possible. Knowing the status of your T4, T3, Reverse T3 as well as checking for anti-thyroid antibodies such as TPO can completely change your options and radically change how you feel and what you do next. If you can, speak to a functional doctor or naturopath for these tests.

 

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/metabolic-damage

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/thyroid-and-testing

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-mistakes-that-slow-metabolism/

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

http://summertomato.com/non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis-neat

Understanding Metabolism

What is Metabolism?

This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.

You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  But what exactly does this all mean?

Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body.  It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive.  And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

 

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

  • Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
  • Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
  • Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

  • Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
  • Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
  • Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

 

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.

 

One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

 

 

What affects your metabolic rate?

In a nutshell: a lot!

 

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid.

This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.

(It’s very important to not only check your TSH numbers when you get your thyroid checked! That is more than I can get into here, but it is critical. A lot of the time there are things impacting thyroid function that will not be tested for. If you have any concerns, please reach out, I’mm happy to steer you in the right direction!)

But your thyroid’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

 

How big you are counts too!

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!

 

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you’re not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program.  Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.

 

The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen.  So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.

 

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%.  By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

 

Eating smart

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

Another thing is, when you are choosing carbohydrates, choose those that are more fibre than sugar or starch is a smart way to control your blood sugar balance and metabolism hormones.

When choosing fats, choose more the omega fatty acids (Omega 3/6) or medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) for the best metabolic effect.

 

And don’t forget the mind-body connection.

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

 

Check out below –  lean protein recipe: Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

 

1-2 lemons, sliced

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 tablespoon thyme

2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)

dash salt & pepper

1 tablespoon Avocado oil

1 tablespoon Omega oil blend (reserve)

 

Preheat oven to 450F.

Cooking hot, fast and uncovered produced a nice juicy bakes chicken, and not a tough steamed or dry roasted one.

Layer the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper.  Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken.  Drizzle with avocado oil.  Do not cover or tent with parchment paper.

Bake for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Make sure to check with instant read thermometer before removing chicken breast from the oven.

Cooking time varies depending on thickness of meat. It’s very easy.

  1. Thin under 2 inches thick: Bake for 25 minutes.
  2. Thick over 2 inches thick: Bake for 35 minutes.

Cook in both cases ensure it has reached a minimum internal temperature of 150 degrees F.

After baking it’s important to cover let chicken breast and allow it to rest. The chicken breast will reach internal temperature of 165 degrees F during this time. 

Drizzle wit omega oil. Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!

 

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

IF and TRE – Eating on the clock

Intermittent Fasting (IF) and Time Restricted Eating (TRE) are here to stay.

And for good reasons:

Intermittent fasting is a way to get the benefits of a regular calorie reduced diet without restricting what you eat, just when you eat it.

Intermittent fasting reduces both weight and fat, and can improve blood sugar and blood lipids. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure and some markers of inflammation. Many animal studies show improvements in brain health too.

While these benefits of IF are similar to those with calorie reduced diets, IF has some key advantages including being easier for some people to stick with and it might help people eat more intentionally.

There is also evidence that IF preferentially reduces fat while preserving muscle and may help our bodies become more “metabolically flexible.”

More research is needed to really understand long-term benefits of IF on the body and brain, as well as which IF approach is optimal for different people and different health goals.

IF is one way that women in menopause can manage their hormonal weight gain. Just remember, the studies show that women often do better on a relatively short IF schedule (like 12 hours is enough to get benefits!).

So no reason not to start.

I like to make myself butter teas and Bulletproof type coffees when I am not quite into fasting.

pexels-photo-935868.jpeg
Butter tea can help you mimic fasting while you transition away from meals towards fasting

 

They help me to get closer to a fasted state. Using foods they consist of mainly fibre, water and fat (the types of foods that would be on a keto diet) is sometimes called being on a fasting-mimicking diet.

We can explore that idea in future posts.

xoxo

Dana

As promised, the science:

References:

Anton, S. D., Moehl, K., Donahoo, W. T., Marosi, K., Lee, S., Mainous, A. G., … Mattson, M. P. (2018). Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 26(2), 254–268. http://doi.org/10.1002/oby.22065
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5783752/

Antoni, R., Johnston, K.L., Collins, A.L. & Robertson, M.D. (2016). Investigation into the acute effects of total and partial energy restriction on postprandial metabolism among overweight/obese participants. Br J Nutr, 115(6), 951-9. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515005346.
LINK: https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/53531AD2D87F6EAF46882955EC832A80/S0007114515005346a.pdf/div-class-title-investigation-into-the-acute-effects-of-total-and-partial-energy-restriction-on-postprandial-metabolism-among-overweight-obese-participants-div.pdf

Brandhorst, S., Choi, I. Y., Wei, M., Cheng, C. W., Sedrakyan, S., Navarrete, G., … Longo, V. D. (2015). A periodic diet that mimics fasting promotes multi-system regeneration, enhanced cognitive performance and healthspan. Cell Metabolism, 22(1), 86–99. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2015.05.012
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4509734/

Carter, S., Clifton, P.M. & Keogh, J.B. (2016). The effects of intermittent compared to continuous energy restriction on glycaemic control in type 2 diabetes; a pragmatic pilot trial. Diabetes Res Clin Pract, 122, 106-112. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2016.10.010.
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27833048

Clifton, P. (2017). Assessing the evidence for weight loss strategies in people with and without type 2 diabetes. World Journal of Diabetes, 8(10), 440–454. http://doi.org/10.4239/wjd.v8.i10.440
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5648990/

Fontana, L., & Partridge, L. (2015). Promoting Health and Longevity through Diet: from Model Organisms to Humans. Cell, 161(1), 106–118. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2015.02.020
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4547605/

Harvie, M., & Howell, A. (2017). Potential Benefits and Harms of Intermittent Energy Restriction and Intermittent Fasting Amongst Obese, Overweight and Normal Weight Subjects—A Narrative Review of Human and Animal Evidence. Behavioral Sciences, 7(1), 4. http://doi.org/10.3390/bs7010004
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5371748/

Headland, M., Clifton, P. M., Carter, S., & Keogh, J. B. (2016). Weight-Loss Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intermittent Energy Restriction Trials Lasting a Minimum of 6 Months. Nutrients, 8(6), 354. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu8060354
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924195/

Horne, B.D., Muhlestein, J.B., Lappé, D.L., May, H.T., Carlquist, J.F., Galenko, O., Brunisholz, K.D. & Anderson, J.L. (2013). Randomized cross-over trial of short-term water-only fasting: metabolic and cardiovascular consequences. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 23, 1050–7.
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23220077

Horne, B.D., Muhlestein, J.B., & Anderson, J.L. (2015). Health effects of intermittent fasting: hormesis or harm? A systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr, 102(2), 464-70. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.109553.
LINK: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/102/2/464/4564588

Hussin, N.M., Shahar, S., Teng, N.I.M.F., Ngah, W.Z.W. & Das, S.K. Efficacy of fasting and calorie restriction (FCR) on mood and depression among ageing men. J Nutr Health Aging, 17, 674–80.
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24097021

Keogh, J.B., Pedersen, E., Petersen, K.S. & Clifton, P.M. (2014). Effects of intermittent compared to continuous energy restriction on short-term weight loss and long-term weight loss maintenance. Clin Obes, 4(3), 150-6. doi: 10.1111/cob.12052.
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25826770

Li, L., Wang, Z., & Zuo, Z. (2013). Chronic Intermittent Fasting Improves Cognitive Functions and Brain Structures in Mice. PLoS ONE, 8(6), e66069. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0066069
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3670843/

Mattson, M. P., Moehl, K., Ghena, N., Schmaedick, M., & Cheng, A. (2018). Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 19(2), 63–80. http://doi.org/10.1038/nrn.2017.156
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5913738/

Michalsen, A. & Li, C. (2013). Fasting therapy for treating and preventing disease – current state of evidence. Forsch Komplementmed, 20(6), 444-53. doi: 10.1159/000357765.
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24434759

Patterson, R.E. & Sears, D.D. (2017). Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. Annu Rev Nutr, 37, 371-393. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634.
LINK: https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634

St-Onge, M.P., Ard, J., Baskin, M.L., Chiuve, S.E., Johnson, H.M., Kris-Etherton, P. & Varady, K.; American Heart Association Obesity Committee of the Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young; Council on Clinical Cardiology; and Stroke Council. (2017). Meal Timing and Frequency: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation,135(9), e96-e121. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000476.
LINK: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/135/9/e96.long

Stockman, M.C., Thomas, D., Burke, J. & Apovian CM. (2018). Intermittent Fasting: Is the Wait Worth the Weight? Curr Obes Rep, 7(2), 172-185. doi: 10.1007/s13679-018-0308-9.
LINK: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13679-018-0308-9

Teng, N.I., Shahar, S., Manaf, Z.A., Das, S.K., Taha, C.S. & Ngah, W.Z. (2011). Efficacy of fasting calorie restriction on quality of life among aging men. Physiol Behav, 104, 1059–64. LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21781980

Teng, N.I., Shahar, S., Rajab, N.F., Manaf, Z.A., Johari, M.H. & Ngah, W.Z.W. (2015). Improvement of metabolic parameters in healthy older adult men following a fasting calorie restriction intervention. Aging Male, 16, 177–83.
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24044618

Tinsley, G.M. & La Bounty, P.M. (2015). Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutr Rev, 73(10), 661-74. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv041.
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26374764

Varady, K.A., Bhutani, S., Klempel, M.C., Kroeger, C.M., Trepanowski, J.F., Haus, J.M., Hoddy, K.K. & Calvo, Y. (2013). Alternate day fasting for weight loss in normal weight and overweight subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J, 12, 146.
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24215592

Witte, A. V., Fobker, M., Gellner, R., Knecht, S., & Flöel, A. (2009). Caloric restriction improves memory in elderly humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(4), 1255–1260. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0808587106
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633586/

When science caught up to fasting

Fasting goes mainstream

Obviously, religious people and kooks have been fasting since forever, so why is it suddenly trending? If you’re like me, fads smell like trouble.

Background: History and animal studies

Back in the 1980s and 1990s U.S. studies looked at effects that reducing smoking had on heart disease risk. Interestingly, the risks seemed to reduce more in members of the churches of Latter Day Saints / Mormons than in other people.

Researchers wanted to know why, and that’s when they found a possible connection with fasting.

Beyond smoking, researchers started looking specifically at people who fasted.

In the early 2000s, they found that people who reported routine fasting (for religious reasons or not) had lower risk of heart disease. People who reported fasting had lower blood sugar levels, body-mass indices (BMIs), and risks of diabetes.

You eat for this period of time, you fast for the other. Pretty simple.

Studies

When it comes to animal studies, it’s easy to restrict when an animal eats, so there are a lot of studies on the health effects of IF in animals.

Animal studies show a lot of health benefits of IF including longer lives and reduced risk of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the blood vessels due to buildup of plaque), metabolic dysregulation (includes type 2 diabetes), and cognitive dysfunction (ability to learn, remember, solve problems). They also have lower levels of inflammation and generally live longer.

So, let’s dive into the health benefits of IF.

Intermittent Fasting for Weight and Fat Loss

For people who have excess weight, even if they seem to be in good health, losing weight and fat is associated with reducing the risk of diabetes, improves their healthy lifespan, and increases function of both the body and mind.

After about 5-6% of a person’s body weight is lost, even more health benefits are seen – lower blood lipids (LDL cholesterol and triglycerides), better blood sugar management (lower glucose and insulin), lower blood pressure, and lower levels of inflammation (C-reactive protein).

These benefits are seen with both calorie reduced diets and with IF.

When it comes to weight and fat loss, a typical calorie-reduced diet can work. By consistently reducing the amount ingested by 15-60%, people with overweight and obesity lose weight and fat. This is called “continuous” calorie reduction because one is continuously reducing what is ingested – at every meal and snack, every day.

Calorie reduced diets can include eating smaller servings, changing some foods eaten for low calorie substitutions, and/or cutting out some snacks/desserts every day.

By calorie-restricted eating is hard, and hard to maintain. The best weight loss diet is actually the paleo diet. Because it focuses on eating nutrient-dense foods, fibre-rich veggies, satiating fats, and muscle-building proteins, paleo is the best weight loss diet around. It is easier to feel full than on the calorie-reduced diet, and to be healthy while doing so.

However, not everyone likes cutting out empty calories and eating nutritious foods like game meat, broccoli, and liver, so those who love the pleasures of food may find both of the proven weight loss diets not worth the sacrifice. These people want to eat sugar, drink alcohol, and eat cheese sometimes. For these people, IF is a better option.

Intermittent fasting isn’t a continuous reduction, but rather an intermittent one. It allows you to eat what you want, but only during certain times. It’s an alternative to calorie reduced diets. IF is a way to “diet” without “dieting,” so to speak.

Both continuous calorie reduction and IF have similar weight loss results.

But…

Intermittent fasting has a few key benefits!

Many studies prove what we know already: it’s really difficult to sustain a (continuous) calorie reduced diet for a long time.

This is the reason why many people prefer intermittent fasting – it gets similar weight and fat loss results, plus it’s easier for many people to stick with.

This makes IF a great alternative for anyone who wants to lose weight and fat, but has difficulty sticking with a reduced calorie diet.

Other advantages to IF over calorie reduced diets are that it can help people eat more intentionally (and less mindlessly). Also, some studies show that IF makes our metabolism more flexible so it can preferentially burn fat, while preserving the muscles. This is a great benefit because that can help improve body composition in people with excess weight.

In the next post on this topic, I will talk about specific ways the IF supports heart health.

XOX

Dana