Waves for Water is a guerilla style humanitarian aid organization that I am super inspired by. Their mission is simple…to provide clean water to every single person who needs it. A mission and a goal that spans all of humanity, a goal that is integrous, real, accessible and so damn important! Water is at the root of basic human needs, human rights and human life. How awesome to help all folks access that thing which gives us energy, life and a sense of wellbeing! I heard about their work awhile back, it created a spark, it makes complete sense, it is fully down my alley of DIY, live your passion and give back along the way. In complete support!And am straight up asking for your support in the efforts to spread the mission of Waves for Water! I have signed on to be a Clean Water Courier, to purchase these filters with your help, and to bring them to areas in need along our travels. I will be heading to Ecuador this spring, coinciding with World Water Day which is March 22nd, and plan to bring filters, contact communities in need and get them access to clean water. As Jon Rose, the founder of Waves for Water puts it “it is not a matter of technology but rather access”. CWC’s are traveling to these areas, we can make the connection and create the access to that all important life sustaining element, clean water. We want to live out this guerilla campaign based around the spirit of adventure with a mission of giving. To know me is to know that I love adventure and following ypassions but also need to be giving back along the way, this is a perfect match! “Making a difference in this world is all about choice, and we all have a choice”. These filters are simple to assemble, easy to use and extremely accessible. One filter can provide clean water for 100 people each day for many years. The filters are only $50 each! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! All photos respectfully ‘borrowed’ from Waves for Water (well except the one of my hands in water)
With so much more talk in the air recently of GMO’s and as the fight for our food freedom continues in this country and others and as Monsanto rears it’s ugly head yet again….I recently repicked up one of my favorite food books called “Grub”. It is in part a cookbook, in part a book on the politics of food, and in part a book asking the hard questions of what is going on in our country with big business and the food industry… offering various well researched answers and facts for the reader and concerned citizen to ponder. Everyday we make choices about food, about where to buy our food, about who to support and who not to support, about what we can afford to feed ourselves and our families and about what we want to put into our bodies. These choices have a much broader effect than we often even realize in large part due to the illusions we have about food and farming in this country that have been fed to us by the big Ag Industry and that have blinded us to the realities that surround us. The effects of these choices include:
- Americans going hungry while food abounds: “More than 35 million Americans live in food-insecure households in which they are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. At the same time enough food is available to meet American’s calorie needs almost two times over”.
- Disappearing independent family farmers: “The US has lost a third of our farms since the early 70’s. And many of the surviving farmers are no longer independent, but are contract workers for large food companies”.
- Farmer’s despair deepening: “Farmer’s are committing suicide at a rate double the national average. Among farmer’s in the Midwest suicide is the 5th leading cause of death”.
- Toxic pesticides blanketing our country: “Four pounds of pesticides for every American man, woman and child are used every year in the US, more than one-fifth of the world total for all pesticides and one-quarter of the world’s herbicides. Yet crop loss to pests for some crops is actually double what it was before this chemical storm”.
- Our diets making us sick: “The typical American diet is now implicated in more and more diseases ranging from hypertension to certain types of cancer to type 2 diabetes”.
- Our diet causing obesity and obesity related diseases to skyrocket: “With obesity rates soaring, as many as 365,000 Americans (in 2006) are now dying prematurely every year because of obesity-related illnesses”.
- And What About What is Going On Outside Our “Precious” Country…least we be too selfish…. Big Ag has huge, unrelenting and often devastating effects on so many other countries esp third world countries, creating a reliance that is often destructive to a culture….yes it can help feed the poor but yes their is a selfish mission there too.
So what follows (and what you just read above) is a summary of some of the important topics covered in this book regarding the food industry, some appalling facts and hopefully some answers to the quandary we find ourselves in in this area. Take the time to watch the videos and learn as much as you can so you can make the best choices for you, your family and your community. You will see lots of quotes from this book, because the authors explained so much so well and I want to share it with you!
Living with the illusions we have about food in America, it is often hard to see the solutions that may be right in front of us. So let’s take some time to break apart these illusions (of which are outlined in the book and with a few added personal thoughts and interpretations), to see the truths that are hidden behind them so we can begin to make decisions that are in our best interests as a society vs our worst.
THE SIX FOOD ILLUSIONS
The Illusion of Choice:
“Choice. What is more American than that?” ask the authors. Our grocery stores are chock full of almost 50,000 items from Chilean strawberries to coffee from Nicaragua. “In the cereal isle alone, you can count a dizzying number of seemingly different choices. But do dozens of cereals or candy bars or sodas really equal food choice?” Let’s start with the question of “what is food”? Isn’t it what nourishes us, what sustains us? I believe that answer would be yes, right? Then it seems it is the choice for REAL food that we are missing.
Those near 50,000 items in the typical grocery store are “mostly manufactured products, manufactured with a single goal in mind: to bring the companies’ shareholders the highest return. The power of this profit motive has – in just a few generations- turned food into something else: processed products with sugar, salt, bad fats, and other additive pumped in and a lot of the essential good stuff taken out, and in which genetically modified organisms are nearly ubiquitous despite never actually having been thoroughly safety tested for humans or the environment”. This profit goal has turned food, which is essential to life, into something that is literally killing us.
What real choices we have lost in the process include the choice for a diverse variety of safe, fresh foods. “A hundred years ago, we had 7,000 apple varieties, today more than 85 percent of those have become extinct and most of our milk now comes from one breed of cows and most of our eggs from a single strain of hens”.
GMO’s have drastically narrowed those choices even further. “85% of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified as is 76 percent of the cotton and 40 percent of the corn”. And those figures are from 2006, the numbers I’m sure are higher now. Even though “94% of Americans agree that these foods should be labeled, as they are in most other countries that grow genetically modified foods (even China and Europe), here at home we don’t require labeling”. Can you actually have a real food choice when you don’t even know what you are buying??
The Illusion of Safe and Clean:
“Humans have been experimenting with pesticides for centuries, but synthetic chemicals are a recent phenomenon. Many were born of war. When Swiss chemist Paul Muller discovered the insecticide properties of DDT in 1939, suddenly the US Military had a quick fix for the devastating malaria and other insect borne diseases that were wiping out military forces at home and abroad faster than enemy fire. Within a year of it’s introduction into the civilian market in 1946, DDT was being used widely in US agriculture. Just 5 years later, sales of DDT had spiked ten fold, to $110 million.
Since World War II, the use and widespread application of synthetic pesticides (a term that includes fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides) has soared. These man made chemicals are now everywhere. Invisible to the naked eye, they are mostly used on your neighbor’s lawn, at your local playground and that golf course in the middle of the desert is probably blanketed with them, as is most of the cropland in this country, using a good 1.2 billion pounds of active ingredients in pesticides used in the US every year.”
They have spread to our bodies as well. “The Center for Disease Control research on our exposure to environmental chemicals has found that most of us are walking around with a significant “body burden” of chemical residues, including pesticides with a known toxicity to humans. We’re even born with them. In ones study, an average of 200 chemicals and pollutants, including a number of pesticides, were found in the blood of umbilical cords”.
Low level exposure to pesticides – in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat – has been linked to a broad range of less acute but often very serious illnesses, which may appear long after initial exposure. “These include developmental disabilities and neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. These chemicals can also disrupt our hormones, weaken our immune systems and decrease fertility. Among children, for whom cancer is now the second leading cause of death, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and brain cancer have all been associated with pesticide exposure”.
Why is this and don’t we have a government that is looking out for our safety as a society and government agencies to protect us and make sure what we put into our mouths is safe?? Yes and no….
Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” helped to awaken a nation to the wide spread use of chemicals and their impact on our health and the environment. Due to this awakening and subsequent public outcry, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded in 1970. “It took over the responsibility for registering new pesticides and evaluating and reregistering those already on the market”. Today the EPA’s stance on the threat of pesticides leaves no doubt: “Labratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer and other effects that might occur over a long period of time”. No doubt yes, but the EPA rarely pulls a chemical from the maket ” and even when it does the chemicals toxic effects can still linger. With a half life of 15 years, DDT (pulled from the market in 1972 after 675,000 tons of it had already been applied) is still found in the environment and in our bodies”.
“There is no compelling reason to take the risks that we do with chemical pesticides. Consider, first, that many pesticides are applied just for cosmetic appearances – to make that orange with the flawless skin or that perfectly red apple”. Think twice about that before you ponder the choice between what may look good and what may be good. “We also know that there are less toxic alternatives to many chemicals, some made by the very same companies, but sold elsewhere….Syngenta, the maker of atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the US, sells a less toxic alternative, terbuthylazine, in the European market, where atrazine is banned” ….hmmmmm!! Demand better. It is not “extremist” to promote the idea that our food not only look clean but actually be clean.
The Illusion of Cheap:
When we go to the grocery store we pay a set price for our foods, right? The price that is on the shelf in front of that food reflects what the going rate for the cost of providing us that food is, right? Well, not quite. The price only tells you what you pay right then and there for that food. But is does not tell you about the “externalities” you also pay for. “Externalities is economics fancy-talk for the costs we as a society shoulder for individual and corporate actions. So how much are we really paying for our food? One estimate puts the total cost of externalities related to industrial farming in the US to be about $6 billion to $17 billion a year. Those estimates include the costs of:
- water pollution from agricultural run chemical run off and waste from factory farms
- soil deterioration from pollution and loss of topsoil
- impact of pesticides on ecosystems and human health
- pollution from release of greenhouse gases from cropland and livestock operations
Oh yeah and what about the price we pay for oil….industrial farms in the US use up to 100 billion gallons of oil each year in manufacturing our food. Too many dollar signs to put an accurate figure on that one.
Another hidden cost is found in our health care system, by what processed foods have done to our waistline and overall health, results in hundreds to thousands of hard earned dollars to try to fix that weight gain either through diet products and prescription drug costs to correct the health issues that have arisen from that weight gain. “The weight gain that gives rise to all this has it’s effects in surprising places….the ten extra pounds the average American gained in the 1990’s required the airline industry to use 350 million more gallons of fuel per year”.
The Illusion of Fairness:
“Economists generally agree that once four companies control 40 percent or more of a market, real competition – what we consumers rely on for fair prices and practices – is shot. With that 40% benchmark in mind consider the following:
- In Meat: the four largest beef processors control 84% of the market, pork manufacturers control 64%, and the poultry manufacturers 56%
- In Food Processing: the four largest companies process 63% of flour and 80% of soybeans
- In Commercial Seeds: four companies: Cargill, Monsanto, Novartis, and ADM – control 80% of the market
- In GMO seeds: roughly 90% of the market is controlled by one comapnay, Monsanto
- In Pesticides: six companies – BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta- control between 75-80% of the world pesticide market
- In Retail Food Sales: the top five supermarkets now control almost half of retail sales. Walmart, which entered the food sales market only 20 years ago, now roughly collects one out of three of our food dollars
This concentration of control over our food has huge consequences. It affects food quality as well as our bottom line; choice as well as fairness”.
What then, about the farmer’s growing for these companies? When you think about our nation’s farmers, do you still envision a rural setting within which a close knit family is working hard to provide for their communities. Well, they are working hard that’s for sure but much of their “independence and the once fairness that there was in the farm economy, disappeared a long time ago. Now, many farmers no longer own their own land, they rent it from corporations with headquarters in far away cities”, often having been left no choice but to do just that.
“While contracts with these companies pitch the promise of lifting the nerve wracking risks of farming -unpredictable weather and prices- many farmers expressed that these contracts bring on whole new risks”. Big debt being a key factor and a dangerous one. “Contract poultry farmers must take out loans of up to a million dollars to build the required facilities before they even get their first contract”.
Contract farmers must also agree to keep quiet. “Forced into silence, farmers lose community solidarity and their capacity to work together for a fairer deal.”
Check out the trailer for the movie Food Inc: and then consider watching the full length version after you finish reading this post!
The Illusion of Progress:
Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry said it so well…”If looking back on several million years of human evolution teaches us anything about human nature, it is that we are constant innovators. As our tools have become more complex, so have our innovations. But we have evolved tools far faster than we have evolved an ethics of progress – a morality of technology. And we’ve developed technology faster that we have developed the safeguards to protect our common assests – air, water, soil, and more – from technology’s unintended consequences”.
One of Two questions arise as we ponder progress…”Can it be done?” or “Should it be done?” Asking the question “should it be done?’ does not mean “arresting innovation, it means we choose the best path of innovation. It means we ask “is there a better alternative?”, “what are the possible consequences?” and “who may benefit and who may suffer?”.
The question “can it be done” was asked often by the biotech industry and as a result we have genetically modified foods. “First released in the 1990’s, GMO’s are now found in 70% of processed foods in our supermarkets. Check out the following videos on GMO’s to learn more and to learn what the scientists behind these GMO’s are saying…
“What the public fears is not the experimental science,” writes renowned cellular biologist and author Barry Commoner, “but the fundamentally irrational decision to let it out of the lab into the real world before we truly understand it.”
“We’re being sold the idea that our industrial approach to farming- with the latest genetically modified twist – is the avatar of progress, but this might just be the grandest illusion of them all. Real progress is coming to a shared understanding of our values and seeking out paths, not for the greatest profit for a few, but for the greatest benefit to the many.
The Illusion That What We Want Doesn’t Matter:
(and guess what?!…VT is making it’s voice heard!)
Around the world, more and more countries are saying no to GMO’s. They are demanding that foods containing GMO’s should be labeled. Europe, Australia, many countries in Asia and across South America, have implemented law requiring the labeling of GMO’s or even, as in the case of Costa Rica, the total ban of GMO’s in their countries…””Monsanto the company responsible for more than 90% of industrial releases of transgenic organisms in the world has decided to withdraw its request to release genetically modified corn (maiz) in Costa Rica and to pull out of the country. Environmentalists in Costa Rica are still working to strengthen the campaign for an GMO-free country.” Even in the storm ravaged country of Haiti, the poorest nation in the western world, the people and the govenment declined the GMO seeds sent to them from Monsanto, and went so far as to burn them in protest.
We, as a people have a choice and a voice. Those in office in the states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Conneticut and Washington State are acting now to stand up to GMO’s. The concerned citizens, including many farmers, of these states are working with their state governments to either require labeling of GMO’s or ban the spread of GMO crops.
Way to go Vermont!!……. “Vermont has taken the initiative against Monsanto and other biotechnology corporations in launching new legislation that would require the labeling of products containing genetically modified ingredients. The bill, known as the ‘VT Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act’, was introduced to the Vermont House of Representatives by Representative Kate Webb of Shelburne on February 1st, 2012. The bill would require the labeling of not only products filled entirely with GMOs, but also for those partially created using GM ingredients.
Perhaps most monumental is the fact that the legislation would prohibit GMO food manufacturers from using promotional labels like “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown,” “all natural,” or any words of similar import. The bill, which can be read for free online, would require strict and clear labeling on GMO-containing food items. The wording states that in the case of a raw agricultural commodity, the label ‘genetically modified’ would be clearly visible. As for processed food products, the words ‘partially produced with genetic engineering’ or ‘may be partially produced with genetic engineering’ would appear prominently on the front or back of the package.
Get off the couch, get out of the house, talk to your neighbors and use your voice! What you want and what you say really does matter. Work now to create a better future for your children and for the health of our planet!! The choices you make really do matter as well…be informed and make the best choice your can.
- Grub: ideas for an urban organic kitchen by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry
- Organic Consumer’s Association
I originally wrote this over a year ago for the Muscles Not Motors Website, for which I am thankful to be a ‘spoke‘, a few months ago but feel compelled to share on this site as well. It’s a never ending story, one we hear time and time again…that is why I try to offer a solution or at least a challenge to myself and to you all vs just ranting! Please read and remember the 4 R’s: REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE & RECYCLE!
Being an outdoor enthusiast, lover of the outdoors, tree hugger, dirt worshiper, earth mama, grass sniffer, forest freak, ocean lover, sun worshiper…whatever name you want to give it…I feel a need to protect these beloved playgrounds from the waste of our existence.
Plastic is abundant on our shores, in our ocean and thus in our bodies. It finds a way to entangle itself around rocks, roots, and marine life and in a vast plastic wasteland in the Pacific Ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is roughly the size of Texas, containing approximately 3.5 million tons of trash. Shoes, toys, bags, pacifiers, wrappers, toothbrushes, and bottles too numerous to count are only part of what can be found in this accidental dump floating midway between Hawaii and San Francisco.
After a cold January surf session in New England a few days ago, as Skye and I were eating some grub, he paused to work something out of his ear. Assuming it was yet another piece of seaweed, he was about to flick it when he stopped, looked at, it and found that it was a piece of plastic from the ocean.
Plastic is a marvel of a creation. Some might even call it man’s greatest creation. It surrounds us every where we look. It is durable, versatile, adaptable, transferable and universal. There is nothing in the world quite like plastic. It’s been estimated that it takes over 1,000 years for a single piece of plastic to break down. That’s an amazing invention on the part of the human race. But wait, 1,000 years…how long does mama earth have? Plastic is forever. How many times have we heard that saying? As great as it is, plastic is also destructive, devastating and deplorable.
Single use plastic is the worst of all. Plastic creates toxic pollution at every stage of its existence: manufacture, use, and disposal. Consumption of disposable plastics—bags, bottles, straws and so forth—has spiraled out of control. Approximately 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year. That’s more than 1,200 bags per U.S. resident, per year. These items are used for seconds, hours or days, but their remains last forever.
Plastic is on my mind every day. Right now as I write, Skye is walking around the house commenting on what he is doing that involves plastic: “I’m putting the leftovers in plastic to go into the plastic fridge then I will wash the dishes with this sponge made of plastic materials. Now I am going to turn on my plastic computer so I can download pictures from my plastic camera of our day surfing on plastic composed surfboards.” Thanks, Skye, your making me feel really good right now! That is our reality.
We can all take action! I don’t like to rant for too long without offering suggestions for solutions. Here’s my plan:
My mission from here on out is to work to drastically reduce my use of single use plastic: I will try and practice the 4 R’s: REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE & RECYCLE. (Click on the link to take the pledge!) No longer will I allow a straw in my drink when out at a restaurant…“no straw please”…wow, that wasn’t so hard. I will always remember my reusable bags at the grocery store and if I forget them in my car (where I will make sure they stay), I will stop and turn around to retrieve them instead of just saying, “next time.” Or if I am only grabbing a few items, I will use my strong arms and my empty pockets to carry those items out. And I will never separately bag my various produce items (what the hell is the point of that anyway?). If I forget my glass jar when out, I will no longer use a lid on my to-go tea, coffee or soup. I will always carry silverware in my car instead of relying on plastic utensils while on the road. (That one hasn’t been too hard since we basically live out of our vehicles!) I will use washable rags to wash the dishes with instead of plastic based sponges. And I will continue to get creative with those random plastics containers…hmmm…a plastic container filing rack?! These are simple things, we can do so much.
I will not rely on recycling as recycling of plastic is costly and does not stem the production of virgin plastic product, and I will instead get involved! Check out your local Surfrider chapter, or make it your mission every day you are out in nature to pick up a few pieces. As 15-year old Cobi Emery, the founder of Pickup3.org, would say, just pick up three pieces.
Let’s Rise Above Plastic Together in Whatever Ways We Can!
Megan Walsh, certified nutrition consultant, registered nurse and clinical herbalist, of RootsWise Wellness will be offering a super informative and well rounded nutrition class at Lyndonville Family Chiropractic on Wednesday November 13th from 6-8pm. There is so much confusing information out there in the world of nutrition as it relates to optimal health, healthy and sustainable weight loss or weight maintenance and using food as fuel to energize your life. We will touch upon all these areas, clear up some confusion and dive into what it really takes to feel and look your healthiest, how to achieve sustainable weight loss and how to bring energy and vitality back into your life for good! We will also answer questions related to the whys and hows of living and eating and living in a primal or paleo way.
So join us this Wednesday the 13th, for only $20, in Lyndonville, Vt! Call Megan with any and all questions or to save your spot! 603-674-7249
Class location: Lyndonville Family Chiropractic Health Center At 11 Hill Street Lyndonville, Vt. 802-626-5866
Quality digestion absolutely cannot be overlooked but unfortunately it often is when we talk about a healthy way of eating. As i am sure you have heard before….you are not what you eat but rather what you absorb and don’t poop out! There are plenty of important reasons as to why there are nutrients in the foods we eat…because our body needs them to function optimally and if we aren’t absorbing them properly then we are not functionally optimally.
We need to eat foods that serve us well, make us feel alive but if digestion is off…its really doens’t matter as much what we eat….and who wants to waste money on quality foods that we are not getting the most from?! Improper digestion and thus less than optimal digestion can lend a hand to us ‘starving’ at a cellular level and thus the ripple effect of less than optimal health and dis-ease.
What follows is a brief (b/c this is a huge topic!) sum up of some of the key factors that go into proper digestion. There is so much to consider and so many reasons why someone may not be functioning at their best but this will review will be a good starting point….consult a nutrition consultant for more individualized info.
When we eat and digest food, various biochemical components of the food trigger a slew of hormonal responses in the body. These hormonal responses control the use, storage and availabilty of the nutrients ingested, where they go to in the body and when they actually get there. “Different nutrients cause different hormonal responses but all of those responses are intended to correct the shift in balance of our biochemistry by the influx of digested food”.
As you can see… every part of the body and mind depends to the extreme on proper digestion to supply it with nutrients for proper functioning!
Poor digestion is an epidemic in and of itself and it has major implications. The rise in the sale of Tums and proton pump inhibitors (protonix, prilosec, nexium, prevacid etc) is thru the roof as are the incidence of IBS, colitis, diverticulitis, crohn’s disease, and gallbladder and appendix surgeries. And unfortunately these meds are often just the thing that contributes to the decline of optimal digestion…yes they may help in the relief of acute discomfort but they were never meant to be used long term although that is precisely what is happening.
Theere are soooo very many components involved in the digestive process. We will look mostly at the stomach, the small intestine and the large intestine….and really only skim the surface but attempt to give you a great place to start. And we will focus on 3 of the key players in the health of your digestive system. Those three areas are the amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, inflammation and good gut bacteria.
We must first remember that the process of digestion actualy starts in the brain and is a part of the parasympathetic nervous system….this is the nervous system related to “feed and bred” or sometimes called “rest and relax” vs the “fight or flight” mode of the sympathetic nervous system. So what does that tell us…that you need to be relaxed in order to digest properly! This is the first step… be sure to eat in a relaxed manner, in a relaxed setting and one in which you can take adequate time to eat slowly, comfortably and while enjoying it! Eating while stressed, rushed or preoccupied sets the initial stage for improper digestion and therefore a decrease in necessary secretions along the way…creating a great set up for reflux, indigestion and poor absorption…as well as other issues down the tract…
Taking time to thoroughly chew our food is also key…just like mama said!…this starts the process of proper carb digestion and improperly chewed food means that it will take more of the important hydrochloirc acid (HCL acid) to do the same job than had you chewed that food up better….thus using up your stores of the all important HCL acid, which as you will soon learn has implications further down in the digestive process.
As the properly chewed food moves down into the stomach, it is hoping for a nice acidic environment in the gut. In order for proteins to begin to be properly broken down, the pH of the gut needs to be nice and low….and in order for the rest of the digestive process to work…this pH needs to be nice and low!
A healthy low pH signals to the pyloric valve (the valve b/w the stomach and the small intestine), to open and move food to the small intestine. If the pH is off (not enough acid or too high), then this emptying is delayed, sometimes for hours…leading to bloating, indigestion and fermentation…setting the perfect stage for reflux and heartburn! These are almost always issues of too poor HCL acid vs too much….if may feel like too much b/c that fermented food creepes back up to where it shouldn’t be. So, trying to “neutralize” that acid with tums or other meds is actually making the overall situation worse in the long run.
A healthy amount of HCL acid, providing a nice low pH in the gut is essential for protein digestion and at least 14 different minerals as well as vitamin B12. It is also essential for the proper flow of the rest of digestion!
Some common signs and symptms of potentially low level of HCL acid:
- Indigestion/bloating/sense of heaviness after meals
- Gas and belching
- Acid reflux/heartburn
- weak brittle nails and hair loss
Implications of a low level of HCL acid: (besides those mentioned above):
- Poor digestion and absorption of proteins and amino acids which are necessary for sooo much…such as: neurotransmitter production (regulation of mood); maintenance and repair of cells, organs, bone and tissue…sounds like alot eh?!
- Poor absorption of key minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, boron, iron and zinc, as well as vitamin B12.
- A poorly digested mass of food (from not enough HCL acid) traveling to the small intestine contributes to inflammation within the small intestine which contributes to what is known as “leaky gut syndrome” or increased and inappropriate intestinal permeability (which is a topic for a whole separate blog post!). In simple terms, this is when food stuff gets thru the lining of the small intestine and into the bloodstream too quickly thus creating an immune system response and a whole slew of issues from that! (think food allergies, food sensitivities, and autoimmune issues, amongst others).
You see, your small intestine can be described as a case of “inside/outside”. This is the way the authors of “It Starts With Food” so clearly describe it…..if something is still inside the small intestine it is technically still outside the body. That food stuff and those nutrients have not yet reached the bloodstream and thus the cells inside the body. Your small intestine is very much like the skin, keeping you protected from the outside world. When is it ever a good idea to have skin breakdown or an open wound??…Never! The lining of your gut is the physical barrier between your insides and the outside world and thus it is very important to protect tht lining!!
It is super important to consider that >70% of your immune system resides in the gut…to protect us on the front lines from the nastiness that may be coming in. This is the area of the first line of defense! When our immune system flares, so too does inflammtion and thus the cascade of often detrimental events.
Our immune system has made a vital alliance with some good gut bacteria or healthy intestinal flora. They are super important “back up” as well as front line defense to help with: proper digestion on all levels, protection of the small intestinal lining, they help with detoxification pathways and help our body in the production of vital nutrients that effect mood, nutrient absorption, energy levels….everything! …. quite a few important jobs!
So keeping up a healthy level of beneficial gut bacteria is paramount for multiple reasons.
So, let’s look at the ways that disruption of this all important digestive process can occur in 3 of the important areas:
Poor Hydrochloric Acid Levels:
- Eating foods/meals in a rushed or stressed setting
- Not chewing your foods properly
- Eating too many carbs (whther complex or simple) as HCL acid production is inhibited in the presence of sugar/glucose an starches
- Not eating enough overall proteins from a variety of sources as HCL acid can only be produced in the presence of protein
- Eating too much protein all at once…we really do not need that 12 oz hunck of meat
- Avoid unfermented soy (tofu, soy protein, soy milk etc) as it contains enzymes inhibitors that inhibit your ability to absorb various nutrients
- Chronic stress and anxiety…keeping us in an elevated “fight or flight” mode and not so easily transitioning to the “feed and breed” mode we need to be in for proper digestion
- Increased, excessive or chronic alcohol consumption
- Vegan or vegetarian for an extended amount of time without adequate protein or fat soluble vitamin intake
- Thyroid hypofunction
- Nutrient deficiences….which becomes a viscious cycle as poor digestion lends to nutrient deficiences which then contributes to poor HCL acid production and then poor digestion!
- Not enough HCL acid contributing to leaky gut (which has been implicated in an increase risk of heart disease, stoke, diabetes and high blood pressure, as well a contributing factor to IBS, Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis and autoimmune disorders)
- Chronic stress…continuously elevated cortisol levles can do damage in many areas
- a deficiency or decreased intake of fat soluble vitamins
- Excess abdominal fat…literally “inflammed” adipose tissue rubbing against the lining of the gut
- Chronic immune response or overactive immune system (often from chronic or systemic inflammation..again a viscious circle)
- Various foods and their components…dairy and gluten are two of the biggies…creating an immune system response
Managing Inflammation is key and profoundly impacts your quality of life!
A Decrease in Good Gut Bacteria:
- Stems from all of the above!…the ripple effect!
- When thay have to work all the time…you use them up = decreased
- Antibiotic use
Soooo, when you think about how you personally can take steps to create an optimally functioning digestive system for overall optimal health…think of the measures that would support all of the above….
- Eat in a relaxed manner
- Chew, chew, chew
- Eat a lower carb, higher healthy fat and moderate protein diet
- Decrease overall: simple and complex carb intake…speak to your nutrition consultant about what appropriate amounts are for you personally
- Avoid unfermented soy
- Do not overeat at meals
- Avoid liquids within 30 mins of a meal (rushes food through too quickly, altering the pH and not allowing for enough time for porper nutrient absorption for all of the body’s important processes)
- Avoid fruit with meals
- Eat probiotic rich foods regularly…like kimchi, coconut kefir, kombucha etc
- Minimize gluten and some dairy and monitor for gluten and dairy sensitivities
- Soak and properly prepare grains if you eat them and nuts
- Have your thyroid levels checked (and remind your Dr that the parameters for TSH have changed!)
- Avoid alcohol
- Stess Management
- Weight Managment
- Supplement with appropriate supplements as needed….talk to your nutrition consultant about this
- And enjoy life…make time for play and activity daily!!
Eat it! Mostly protein, minimal carbs. Make time for it, it is the most important meal of the day.
Breakfast literally means to “break-the-fast”, after not eating overnight and often for up to 12 hours. Overnight our bodies are in healing and repair mode and have been doing a lot of work while we are sleeping. It is crucial to replenish the lost energy during this work within an hour of waking.
Breakfast is the first chance the body has to refuel its blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels. Glucose is essential for the brain and is the main energy source. Blood glucose also helps fuel the muscles needed for physical activity throughout the day. We need to awaken our body internally well…not too fast though…so we don’t want to berate it with glucose from carbs.
“Think of your meals in terms of Meal #1, Meal #2 and Meal #3 vs breakfast, lunch and dinner…that will give you the freedom to not feel as though you need to be stuck with “breakfast” foods for breakfast or that you can’t have eggs for dinner!”*
Despite the healthful benefits, breakfast may be the meal that is most often neglected or skipped. Eating breakfast not only aids in weight loss and weight management, it fuels the body to help provide energy, better concentration and problem-solving ability throughout the day. It also helps curb hunger and prevent binge-eating later in the day…providing you eat a well rounded first meal. Starting your day with a good breakfast boosts your energy, increases your attention span, and heightens your sense of well-being. You’ll be in better control of your emotions. A good breakfast is one that provides about one third of the day’s calories.
Don’t put it off for too long, even if you’re not hungry. If you’re not hungry first thing in the morning, that tells me that your hormones are off. And one of the best ways to get those hormones back in line is to eat something in the morning…make it habit until it sticks and feels good.
Ideally eat this first meal within one hour of waking…whether you wake up at 5am or 3pm…get into a habit or “wake then eat”. As you will soon learn, leptin (a vital energy balance hormone) has a daily rhythm tied to your eating schedule. “Which means that if you start eating too late in the day, your entire leptin pattern can be thrown off. Which means that at night, when leptin should be high, it won’t be and cortisol correlated with leptin dysfunction, will tend to make you crave more food at this time. Usually not the good kind either. Which means you’ll be prowling thru your pantry or freezer after dinner looking for a snack. Which leads to more hormone disruption”. *
Most people give a variety of reasons for not eating breakfast. A common reason is that they are not hungry in the morning, which is often a result of eating a full meal late in the evening, late snacking or routine…stemming from a disruption of hormones…just the kind of disruption we are trying to fix. When they go to bed, the body is still busy digesting all that food. Digestion then goes into a slower gear during the hours of sleep and there is still food in the stomach in the morning. The wrong hormones are thus made to work at the wrong time. The stomach needs a rest too. A tired stomach does not feel like digesting a big breakfast. When you get up in the morning, your glucose or blood sugar level is at its lowest point in the day. Glucose is the basic fuel for the brain and central nervous system. A good breakfast will keep you from being tired and irritable by mid-morning and will help to reset your crucial hormonal rhythm.
People who eat breakfast eat less throughout the day. You may be saying to yourself, “But breakfast actually makes me hungrier!” This is true, if it is unbalanced or too high in carbs. A good first meal (breakfast) focused on protein and fat as well as nutrient dense veggies (and not overloaded with fruit or other carbs) sets you up for less hunger, more consistent energy levels, and fewer sugar cravings. This combination makes you feel full for longer than a straight carbohydrate breakfast will (such as sugary cereal/bagel etc). Most people can sustain themselves for at least a few hours on a breakfast of 300-400 calories coming from proteins and fats. But skipping that small amount entirely could be the biggest mistake of your day!
It is okay to feel hungry between breakfast and lunch. Prepare yourself for this situation by packing a snack with less than 250 calories. If you feel guilty about eating so often, keep this in mind: A healthy small breakfast and a healthy small snack in order to get you to a healthy small lunch is a much better option than a gigantic early lunch you attacked because of morning food deprivation. After awhile of getting into a rhythm of eating overall fewer carbs and more healthy fats…you may find you do not even need 2 snacks a day in addition to 3 meals. The “eat 5-6 mini meals throughout the day” mantra just came about b/c we were eating too many carbs and dieticians figured that would be a good way to balance blood sugar….good thought, but if you are not eating excess carbs, this is not such a concern. So as you become more adept at using healthy fat for fuel you may find you do not need those snacks and do just fine with 3 great meals a day.
To make eating breakfast a habit or to give your breakfast a nutrition makeover, rethink your meal. “Breakfast just means breaking the fast; it doesn’t mean you have to eat specific foods. Breakfast food alternatives just don’t come to mind because they weren’t taught to you,” says Susan Kraus, MS RD.
The key to this is- Planning! It’s hard to eat a balanced breakfast if you don’t have the proper raw materials, so planning ahead is crucial.
What’s your excuse for not eating breakfast?
• “No time?” How much time does it take cook an egg? Making time for breakfast is making time to be healthy.
• “Not hungry?” To get started, don’t eat anything after an early supper. Finish supper by 7:00 p.m. Once you get into a rhythm with breakfast you will become hungry in the morning…a good sign of balancing hormones.
• “Might gain weight?” Eating breakfast will actually help you reach and maintain your healthy weight. Your appetite will be satisfied longer. You’ll be eating food when you can best burn the calories. You won’t be as tempted to gorge later on when you find yourself “starving” b/c you haven’t eaten breakfast. You’ll feel great. Eat breakfast (mostly proteins and healthy fats)
• You “don’t like breakfast foods?” You don’t have to eat traditional breakfast foods. You can eat leftovers of any kind. Any healthy food with protein is fine. Caffeine may mask hunger, so eat first then have your coffee.
• You “don’t like eating breakfast?” It is in your best interest to eat breakfast. Take the step. Do the right thing. Eat breakfast. Change habits.
Simple, easy ways to add Breakfast:
• Start Small. If your not a breakfast eater, begin with greek yogurt and/or one egg. In a few days, add more food.
– Eggs, eggs, eggs…..my favorite for protein, fiber and healthy fat in the am: 2-3 over easy eggs over a bed of baby spinach, steamed kale or broccoli and topped with avocado slices, sea salt and hot sauce….and kimchi for good digestive functioning throughout the day!
– Check out the recipe page for a great recipe for egg muffins
– Greek Yogurt with nuts, seeds, shredded coconut and a few berries
– Smoothie with berries, plain greek yogurt, almond milk or coconut milk for the liquid part, flaxseed meal, almond butter peanut butter or a protein powder
• Add Some Fruit for Breakfast if you plan on working out earlier in the day. Fruit gives you fiber and glucose for energy for that workout. Fresh fruit is the best choice. Avoid fruit juices at all costs. There are many to choose from: berries are best….oranges, grapefruits, apples, pear. But don’t forget your protein..
• The sky’s the limit. The only limitation is your imagination. Make it a priority. Eat breakfast.
It’s time to Give These Things Up for Breakfast:
- Cereal (I don’t care how much fiber etc it supposedly has)
- Granola (one of the hardest foods to digest)
- Oatmeal everyday
- Just fruit
- Skipping breakfast
Fiber is an important addition to any meal. It is a natural appetite suppressant that curbs the appetite and keeps your cholesterol and blood sugar at optimal levels and your bowels functioning smoothly. I will do a complete write up about fiber but in the meantime, add extra to your breakfast with a tablespoon or two of flaxseed meal, veggies esp leafy greens or some berries.
Breakfast is especially important for women:
Going for long periods without eating, as in fasting, or skipping breakfast, increases the risk of gallstones particularly in women. Without the stimulation of food, the gallbladder does not put out enough “solubilizing” bile acids that keep cholesterol dissolved and unable to form gallstones. Women who skipped breakfast have been found to have the highest incidence of gallstones and those least likely to have gallstones are those who ate breakfast within an hour of waking. To help prevent gallstone formation and cholesterol buildup, eat breakfast and be aware of long periods of fasting or not eating.
* Dallas and Melissa Hartwig
Drink more water. Period.
Ok, fine let’s elaborate! Water is fundamental to all life on earth. Without water life wound end in 3-5 days. Water makes up more than 70% of the body’s tissue and plays a role in nearly every body function, from regulating temperature and cushioning joints to bringing oxygen and nutrients to the cells and removing wastes from the body. Without clean water we cannot experience optimal health. Yet most of us fail to get enough of it.
“We are only in our infancy with respect to our scientific comprehension of what water actually is and what it does within and surrounding our cells”*. One thing we know for certain is that it is essential to critical cellular communication on all levels and is the single most important substance for life (along with oxygen).
“Often what may seem like a complex physical or emotional issue is little more than chronic dehydration. Losing as little as 2 percent of your body’s water content through diuresis (peeing/sweating etc) or dehydration can result in noticeable fatigue. A drop of 10 % can cause problems ranging from muscoskeletal issues (ex: joint pain, back pain, cramps) to digestive problems (heartburn, constipation), immune problems or allergies and even cardiovascular symptoms.” **
Replacement is key. But very individual.
All day long you lose water, as you breathe, when you perspire (both of which I hope you are doing a lot of!), and each time you make a trip to the toilet. Folks who lead moderately active lifestyles lose about 6-8 cups (1.5-2 liters) of water each day. For optimal health and well being, at least that much water must be replaced, meaning at least 3 quarts of water needs to be replaced under normal circumstances. Fresh fruits and vegetables can provide up to 1 quart, drinking pure water is the other source of replacement. Caffeinated beverages, such as tea, coffee or colas and alcoholic beverages do not count as water replacement because they act as diuretics in the body, increasing fluid losses from the kidneys. Contaminants and other substances combined with water ultimately make water less hydrating to the cell (meaning the water does not get into the cell in the same way). This is why pure water is always more hydrating than say juice or tea. Sweetened “sports drinks” may enhance water retention (water filling up on the outside of the cell), but they are inefficient at actually rehydrating the inside of your cells, where water is most needed.
Water is the ultimate calorie free and sugar free substance. Regular ol’ water can also play a significant role in losing weight because of the way it revs up metabolism and hydrates cells so that they can process carbohydrates and fats more efficiently. When your body’s cells are adequately hydrated, you accelerate the liver’s ability to convert stored fat into usable energy and help your kidney’s flush out toxins.
Initial weight loss is largely due to a loss of water, and you need to drink an adequate amount of water in order to avoid dehydration. The process of burning calories requires an adequate supply of water in order to function efficiently; dehydration slows down the fat-burning process.
Dehydration causes a reduction in blood volume; a reduction in blood volume causes a reduction in the supply of oxygen to your muscles; and a reduction in the supply of oxygen to your muscles can make you feel tired. It is very important to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Water helps maintain muscle tone by assisting muscles in their ability to contract, and it lubricates your joints. Proper hydration can help reduce muscle and joint soreness when exercising.
A healthy (weight loss) diet includes a good amount of fiber (which we will talk about soon). But while fiber is normally helpful to your digestive system, without adequate fluids it can cause constipation instead of helping to eliminate it. Drinking water 30 minutes before a meal may make you feel full sooner and therefore you may be satisfied eating less. With sufficient water intake, we tend to crave proteins more than carbohydrates….just what we want!
Many folks confuse hunger and thirst, thinking their hungry when they are actually dehydrated. When people reach for water first, they can separate the two sensations, which stops them from overeating.
When you feel thirsty, you are often already dehydrated. Try to avoid this situation by drinking in advance. Be especially careful when participating in activities where you won’t be able to stop to get caught up. If the kidneys are water-deprived, the liver has to do their work along with its own, lowering its total productivity. It then can’t metabolize fat as quickly or efficiently as it could when the kidneys were pulling their own weight. If you allow this to happen, not only are you being unfair to your liver, but you’re also setting yourself up to store fat.
How much water should you be drinking? A general rule of thumb is a half ounce for every pound of body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim for drinking 75 ounces of pure water. That is just over 2 quarts and another 1 quart of water replaced through fresh fruits and veggies, providing you are eating plenty. I feel for all of you this is a good amount, considering you are increasing your activity level as well as part of this challenge.
Then again, overconsuming water can lead to something called water intoxication and overdilution of sodium in the body. It’s a little like drowning from the inside out. Anyone who is way overzealous about water consumption can succumb to the ill effects of hydration excess though true water intoxication is rare. Most people really do fail to drink enough water, but just watch out for going to far the other way.
Keep in mind that it is less about how much you drink than how fast you drink it…we can get into trouble when we drink too much all at once…as with anything. The human body (and kidneys) can process only so much water at a time. Listen to your body, it will tell you when you’ve had enough for now.
Water consumption should be spread out throughout the day, one or two glasses upon waking and also about 30 minutes before each meal. Try to pick three or four times a day when you can have a big glass of water, and then sip steadily in between. Don’t let yourself get thirsty. If you feel thirsty, you’re already becoming dehydrated. Drink when you’re not thirsty yet. If you consume any dehydrating beverages like coffee, all juices, soda or alcohol…be sure to add another 12-16 ounces of pure water for every 8 ounces of diuretic beverages consumed.
Do Not Drink Water With Meals: Avoid drinking water within 30 mins – 1 hour of a larger meal. Drinking with meals leads to a more rapid digestion of the food you are eating and therefore a greater tendency to lose out on proper absorption of crucial vitamins and minerals in your foods. Drinking water with meals can greatly contribute to heartburn and acid reflux (as can eating fruits with other foods). Try to change the habits you may have been brought up with that we know are not beneficial. If you experience heartburn or reflux regularly….this is super important and will greatly help…cut the water and fruit with meals.
Basic Water and Rehydration “Rules’:
- Drink when you are thirsty….listen to your body
- Drink more when in higher altitudes (increase work of breathing) or much dryer climates
- Drink more if sweating profusely
- Drink a bit more as you age
- Drink more when very ill or fighting disease
- Drink more if pregnant or nursing
- Do not drink with meals
Our individual need for water depends on numerous factors: Activity level, body size, environment (humidity level and altitude, most significantly), quality of health, age, and pregnancy/breastfeeding.
Be conscious of over hydration (rare but can and does happen), which is often more dangerous than dehydration.
While specific fluid recommendations aren’t possible due to individual variability, most athletes can use the following guidelines as a starting point, and modify their fluid needs accordingly.
Hydration Before Exercise
- Drink about 15-20 fl oz, 2-3 hours before exercise
- Drink 8-10 fl oz 10-15 min before exercise
Hydration During Exercise
- Drink 8 fl oz every 20 min during exercise if greater than 1 hour (don’t worry if your workout is less than 30-45 mins)
- If exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 8-10 fl oz of a sports drink or replacement (with no more than 8 percent carbohydrate) every 20 – 30 minutes….sipping so as to avoid the stomach upset
Hydration After Exercise: focus here!
- Weigh yourself before and after exercise and replace fluid losses.
- Drink 15-20 fl oz water for every 1 lb lost.
- Consume a 4:1 ratio of carb to protein within the 2 hours after extended exercise to replenish glycogen stores.
1) Short workouts don’t usually require water – If you’re doing a quick 20-45 minute run or strength training routine, you can simply drink 20-24 ounces of water after you finish. Unless it’s very hot or you’re beginning the workout in a dehydrated state, you’re not going to “lose performance” by not drinking.
2) Long workouts require water – By the time you get thirsty during a sweaty, long workout, such as a 10 mile run, you may have already lost 2% body weight. Dehydration can occur when you reach just 3%. So if you’re waiting to get really thirsty before you drink, you could be dehydrating and limiting your performance or recovery. For long workouts, try to consume 5-10 ounces of water every 20 minutes (choose the higher range for hotter conditions).
Tips to meet your water quota throughout the day:
- Make it a habit to carry water with you at all times. I have a stainless steel water bottle with lots of stickers on it to make it more personal!
- Keep a bottle or pitcher of water near your desk at work. If it’s there you’ll drink it, if it’s not you won’t!
- Always order water with whatever other beverage you get when dining out.
- Drink extra water before, during and after physical exercise.
- Non-caffeinated tea and milk alternative still count to some degree….for every cup (8 oz’s) of each of these, count it as 1/2 cup. (water is preferred though esp for weight loss!)
- Squeeze fresh lemon or lime into your water to make it more refreshing!
Health benefits of drinking water
- regulate appetite
- increase metabolism
- boost energy levels
- less water retention
- alleviate some headaches
- help reduce blood pressure
- help reduce high cholesterol
- ease joint pain
- decrease in risk of some cancers
- less chance developing kidney stones
- release toxic waste products
- improves skin
* Gerald Pollack, Ph.D, Univ of Washington professor of bioengineering and author of the book Cells, Gels and Engines of Life
** Nora Gedgaudes, CNS, CNT
We have all heard over our years of schooling that “almost all of the body’s energy is derived form glucose – sugar and this is the main “fuel” of the body”.
So, let’s revisit this…almost all the body’s energy is derived from glucose because we GIVE it so much damn glucose! Genetically we were not necessarily programed to run solely off of glucose….our body also loves to run (and more efficiently too) off of ketones from healthy fats. Way back when we actually did run off of more ketones than glucose and thrived that way. We actually only need 5 grams of glucose an hour for our brains and body to function properly. Our bodies can make needed glucose from proteins and fats (thru gluconeogenesis) as well….our body is smart! What you eat determines the quality, the quantity and the availability of glucose to all your body’s cells, including the brain. So, the importance of obtaining the best form of glucose becomes paramount. Also, maintaining an even blood sugar is extremely important with regards to energy, mood and overall health. A key way to control this is by what you eat, especially what type of carbohydrate you eat.
Carbohydrates are a great source of energy. They are necessary for the digestion and assimilation of other foods, and they can help regulate protein and fat metabolism. We just don’t need as much as we tend to eat. The damage occurs when we over do it….All carbs are broken down by digestion into sugar, which is released into the bloodstream to provide the entire body with fuel. So, whether you eat a milky way or a sweet potato, the end result is a glucose (or sugar) molecule. The way in which this works has an effect on our energy, mood, weight, our ability to deal with stress and our long term health.
We do need carbs. We just don’t need the carbs from refined foods and we do NOT need as many as the USDA food pyramid would have us believe. Too many carbs, esp those from refined sources forces the body to convert any excess carb into body fat, which keep the pounds on. You won’t lose weight and keep it off, your energy levels will be like a roller coaster and often low, and your overall health will suffer if your diet is high in refined carbs or excess unused carbs, healthy or not.
A Little Science…
When you consume carbohydrates, your body experiences a spike in blood sugar levels due to a rise in glucose in your bloodstream. In response to this rise in glucose levels, the pancreas releases the hormone, insulin. Insulin is a hormone that’s absolutely essential for getting amino acids into the muscles for growth and getting carbohydrates into the muscles where they’re needed for energy.
However, when there’s a large blood sugar spike, your body tends to “overreact” and produce too much insulin. The insulin quickly clears the glucose from the bloodstream, leading to a sharp drop in blood sugar known as hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar is accompanied by cravings, hunger, weakness, mood swings and decreased energy. The hunger and cravings tend to cause the sugar consumption to perpetuate itself, resulting in a vicious cycle of ups and downs in energy throughout the day. Thus the importance of maintaining a stable blood sugar level.
If there is too much insulin in the bloodstream, which often happens when you eat an excess amount of either highly refined, high-carb foods, or even too many ‘good’ complex carbs or high glycemic (sugar content) simple carbs…the body stores the extra sugar as fat. Insulin converts the excess glucose in the blood into triglycerides (blood fat) that are then stored in the fat cells. Sugar can not only lead to weight gain and obesity but also to water retention and the increased risk of cardiovascular disease. During this time of insulin spikes, there is also a spike in cortisol. Cortisol is a dangerous hormone (stress hormone) that actually kills brain cells, increases fat storage, and breaks down lean muscle mass.
Other than sugar (and dietary fiber), the other main carbohydrate form is starch which is found in plant-based foods such as rice, potatoes, corn and grains. When starchy foods are eaten, the digestive tract breaks down each type of carbohydrate in essentially the same way, converting it into simpler sugars (except for fiber which passes through your body undigested), and finally into glucose (blood sugar), which is a source of immediate energy. If these calories are not expended, however, the body stores them as fat and is the reason why high starch foods should be eaten in limited quantities.
Why are we limiting carbs during this program let alone for the rest of out lives?
With excess weight on, or hormones out of balance (hormones being anything from insulin, thyroid hormone, estrogen and progesterone to testosterone, leptin and cortisol) you are at a metabolic disadvantage. Your body and your hormones are out of balance and thus not able to do their jobs properly and also not able to metabolize your food intake properly. As you work towards achieving balance through this program and lose unnecessary weight, you’ll need to put an end to the hormonal havoc that excess or bad carbohydrates have caused. You will scale back on less nutritious sources of carbs and increase the healthier ones. By modifying your carb intake, you will keep extreme blood sugar spikes to a minimum. This allows your pancreas a much needed rest. With blood sugar levels relatively steady, your pancreas does not need to continually secrete insulin to shuttle that sugar into cells. As insulin levels drop and stay low, it takes stress off of important organs throughout your body, such as your kidneys, heart, liver, thyroid, and adrenals so these organs can heal and become more efficient.
Make Your Carbs Count:
This is not about counting every last carbs but it is about being mindful or your intake especially this first month until we get your metabolism back to a healthy place. We will focus on carbs that are:
- Low in starch and high in fiber: this is why we are avoiding potatoes, corn, and excess beans and peas and instead increasing fiber rich food sources such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, etc.
- We are avoiding artificial additives, sweeteners and excess sugar as well as any refined carbs.
- We are choosing foods and carbs sources that are as minimally processed as possible. Whole fruits over jarred fruits, raw nuts over roasted nuts, whole grains over flour based products like bread, cereals and baked goods.
Carbohydrates and Inflammation:
I personally believe (and more and more research support these views) that the majority of all of our chronic illnesses are a result of chronic, long standing inflammation. Here is a blurb I cut and pasted that I thought did a good job of outlining the idea….
“When inflammation becomes chronic and systemic, when it ceases to be an acute response, when it becomes a constant low-level feature of your physiology that’s always on and always engaged, the big problems arise. The inflammatory response is supposed to be short and to the point. I mean, just look at its responsiveness. Go twist an ankle (don’t, not really) and watch how fast it swells up and gets warm to the touch. It isn’t meant to be on all the time.
And because a big part of inflammation is breaking the tissue down, targeting damaged tissue and invading pathogens, before building it back up, the inflammatory response has the potential to damage the body. That’s why it’s normally a tightly regulated system, because we don’t want it getting out of hand and targeting healthy tissue. But if it’s on all the time, regulation becomes a lot harder.”
Carbohydrates, aka sugars, (along with stress, toxic diets, insufficient omega 3 intake and excess omega 6 intake, lack of sleep, lack of movement, and poor gut health) can contribute greatly to chronic inflammation. I want you to be healthy on all fronts, not just in the weight realm, so yet another reason why we are focusing on eliminating unhealthy and excess carbs/sugars.
For your carb sources, choose the best you possibly can:
- All the above the ground growing veggies
- Root Veggies…the below the ground growing veggies (except white potato)
- Fruit…esp temperate region fruits (over tropical fruits)
- Grains and Legumes
I am a science gal. I love to know the science behind why something works and I love to see the evidence of something working even more. Science is about a combo of evidence based research, theory, practice and practical, visible, everyday results. If we just theorize about something and it sounds really good, but it doesn’t actually work then I would be very hard pressed to take that info as fact from a scientific perspective….unfortunately that happens alot in science (ie the THEORY that eating fat makes you fat).
Nutrition is a very young science (2nd in youth to neuroscience…hmmmm…the brain is super complex, maybe the way be take in and process food is too). There is SOOOO much that we have learned since we as a people first started spewing nutrition theory and fact and sometimes we have to go back and accept that what we once thought was right is actually in fact wrong, because we have learned oh so much more!
There are sooo many weight loss myths out there, much that is wrong and little (in comparison) that is actually right. We now KNOW for fact (at least now) that eating healthy fat does NOT make you fat. The low fat hypothesis (b/c that is all it is, there was never any practical evidence that it was true….just essentially one Dr trying to lobby the AHA, mind you it took him practically 8 years to convince them to spread his message….read Good Calories, Bad Calories if you are interested in the story) is now regarded as wrong by the leading endocrinologists and bariatric doctors as well as many up to date nutritionists out there in the world.
Since Americans went “low fat” beginning in the 50’s, we have only gotten fatter and more disease ridden as a nation. When the low fat craze came into play, we began to eat low fat yet high carb. Hmmmm….
So why do we get fat??
“Well we don’t get fat from eating too much and exercising too little and somehow we can’t get the right balance of that and therefore the excess is going to fat tissue”, says Gary Taubes. The answer is not as simple as calories in and calories out. It is about what makes up those calories and how do those nutrients effect our very intricate inner workings, our hormones, our biochemistry. If it were that simple then there would be a million or rather billionaire out there raking it in on that “right” formula of the calories in, calories out.
Gary poses this question: “Think about it for a minute…if you were walking down the street and you saw an 8 foot man walking toward you, you might think (with a scientific mind)…”wow! I wonder what is going on inside them to secrete so much excess growth hormone”. If you see an obese individual, how about applying that same “out of balance internally” thinking….”wow! I wonder what is going on inside them that is causing them to not be able to burn fat”. It is the same issue…HORMONES!
Another weight loss myth to consider….we need to increase our metabolism in order to burn lots of calories and then we won’t get fat. So, ask yourself first…”what is metabolism?”. If you answered “it is how you burn calories”, you would be wrong. That is one of the things it does, but not what it is. Your metabolism is your biochemistry, which is the interplay of your many hormones. It is your body’s electrical system that switches all else on and off thru a very sensitive set of feedback loops and alot of detailed communication. It is similar to the engine in a car…if we increased the heat, the car would only get hotter, not run better. We don’t want to increase metabolism, we want to make it run more efficiently. And how do we do that? Thru creating proper communication thru our electrical system, our biochemistry, our hormones and thus the rest of our body.
So we come back to HORMONES….So what do we KNOW regulates fat? The hormone Insulin. And if it is insulin, then we need to look at the main regulator of insulin, which is the carbohydrates in our diet.
Insulin is your fat producing AND fat storing hormone. The carbohydrates that we eat cause us to secrete more hormones thru a variety of mechanisms. When we secrete insulin (in response to eating carbs), the broken down calories (glucose) go first to our muscle cells and is stored as glycogen and a little goes to our brain. (I don’t mean that you have a little brain, just that we only need a very small amount of glucose to feed our brain!). The excess (really anymore than 90 grams, b/c that is all we can store at one time) goes into storage in our fat cells. The problem lies when we secrete too much insulin from too much carbs in our diet…causing us to store fat. Not only does insulin cause us to store fat, it causes us to lock fat into fat tissue. So the more fat you accumulate from excess carbs, the harder it becomes to burn fat because it is locked into place. Now you have a fat producing factory vs a fat burning factory and the viscous cycle will continue until you cut out the excess carbs. BODY FAT CANNOT BE BURNED IN THE PRESENCE OF INSULIN.
So now what are we going to do?! Well we need to stop producing so much insulin, which means we need to figure out how to maintain even blood sugar levels so insulin doesn’t have to come in (be secreted) and try to sweep the excess blood sugar away. And how are we going to do that? Cut out the excess carbs! Yes I know the name Dr Atkins may draw up thoughts of a very deranged man and his plan….but in reality, he had it right, the science that is….he just went a little too far to the extreme!
Keep in mind that not only are we concerned with insulin for fat burning and weight loss but more importantly overall inflammation and an increase in blood sugar and subsequent chronic elevation of insulin secretion are 2 of the biggest contributors of systemic inflammation.
It’s really a simple equation:
You get rid of the excess carbs, thus limiting insulin production and you get leaner.
But if you get rid of the excess carbs, what is your body going to use for ‘fuel’?? Don’t forget that there are two other important nutrients out there….proteins and fats. And what do you know….fats are the only nutrient that do NOT create a surge of insulin. (Proteins no where near as much as carbs either). Fat loves to be used for fuel and can be very efficient if you allow it to be. So you replace carbs with healthy fats….like avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, real whole eggs, real butter, clean meats, etc. Fats make you feel satisfied and do not lead to the cravings that carbs do. Fat is your friend. Healthy fats do NOT make you fat.
So ideally you are aiming for a lower carb, higher fat intake of nutrients. (keep in mind that fat adds up alot quicker as there are 4 calories for every gram of carbs and 9 calories for every gram of fat….so you are not really eating a ton of fat) This is the way of eating that the top endocrinologists, the top bariatric and the top medical Dr’s are suggesting and using in their practices all over the world. This all comes with a history of over 150 years of working! Science in practice!
We will diving even deeper into all of this soon!!
In the meantime…EAT REAL FOOD, LIMIT CARB INTAKE FROM ALL SOURCES AND EAT HEALTHY FATS!!
Often with my clients, I ask them to avoid grains or at least limit them to a certain few or a limited amount per day and that is a request for a variety of reasons, not just because of the extra (often uneccesary) carb load but because of the other health detrimental effects that they can cause. This is in fairly stark contrast to the “Eat More Whole Grains” sentiment spoken by the USDA….but since you know me by now, you probably already know that most of my beliefs about nutrition are in stark contrast to that outdated model that is based upon bad science. If I had my way, many people would be grain free and most would be near to, for the sake of their own health!
Here is a sum up of why….
Grains and legumes (yes beans too) typically contain very high levels of a substance known as phytic acid….an anti-nutrient. What is an anti-nutrient? Diane Sanfilippo describs it well: “They are primarily plant based-defense mechanisms that are concentrated around the reproductive force in a seed or grain.” Consider this: every living thing has a defense mechanism. Plants can’t run away when they are under attack, so to ensure that they continue to thrive and grow, they have internal defenses to fight against predators. To the plant, or more specifically the seed or the grain of a plant, your digestive system is just such a predator. These defense mechanisms in the plant fight against your digestion, blocking it’s ability to fully break the food down into harmless amino acids that are easily absorbed into your cells….big proteins or non-broken down amino acids are seen as foreign and dangerous to your body. In other words, anti-nutrients are elements within a food that either prevent or disrupt the proper digestion and absorption of the nutrients contained in that food. Phytic acid is the plant’s main anti-nutrient. “While ruminant animals like cows, sheep, and goats have adequate enzymes in their digestive system to break down phytates, non-ruminants, like humans, do not”. It actively binds to minerals and eliminates them from the body, which results, with increased grain consumption, in widespread deficiencies of minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. These minerals are very important and when we don’t absorb them….the ripple effects of poor health begin. Magnesium alone is required to complete over 300 enzymatic processes in your body….hmmm, I wonder what those other nutrients we are not absorbing properly are useful for?!
The foods richest in these anti-nutrients are:
- Whole grains, whole grain products, grain like seeds and legumes that include, but is not limited to, wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, corn, soy, lentils, red beans, black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, brown rice and quinoa. (some of these are more concentrated than others)
- Refined grains and refined grain products, including white rice, flour, bread, cereal, crackers, cookies or pasta.
Yes beans too….We all know that beans are famous for causing gas. “This is due to the presence of a starchy carbohydrate that we can’t properly break down in our bodies. If your experiencing gas symtpoms, you have eaten a food you don’t digest well”. Instead of forcing your body to “deal” with it by using beano etc….stop eating the food…it means something is not right. Legumes typically contain 60% starch and only relatively small amounts of incomplete protein and they also contain potent protease inhibitors which can effect one’s ability to properly digest and use the dietary protein you think you are getting anyway.
Our culture’s diet is centered around these anti-nutrient foods….Again Diane asks: “if I told you I had an omelet for breakfast, a slice of quiche for lunch and an egg souffle for dinner, you might say “isn’t that alot of eggs?” but if I had eaten cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and past for dinner you probably wouldn’t ask “isn’t that alot of grains?”
Grains and legumes also contain goitrogens, or thyroid inhibiting substances, as well as “foreign proteins” like gluten and gliadin and as you may know, these “foreign” proteins are an extremely common source of allergies and sensitivities that can lead to a wide range of problems, both physical and emotional. We now know that chronic carbohydrate consumption, in general, ultimately depletes serotonin (our bodies natural happy ‘pill’/neurotransmitter) stores and greatly depletes the B vitamins required to convert amino acids into needed neurotransmitters. There is much research being done now on just how severely grains account for the rampant serotonin deficiencies in our society leading to clinical depression, anxiety, and some forms of ADD/ADHD; one hypothesis suggests that it is because of the lack of L-tryptophan (a crucial amino acid) in grains.
Careful preparation by pre-soaking, sprouting or fermenting these foods can greatly minimize their phytic acid, or ‘anti-nutrient’, content but nonetheless, they are still a very high carbohydrate food source, which brings with it the blood sugar and insulin issues. Not to mention, many grains are also a source of an extremely damaging protein that has increasingly become a source of serious health problems for millions of people: gluten.
When you consume foods that your body is not able to properly digest and assimilate – either because your body isn’t functioning properly or because the foods themselves initiate the damage – food particles that are too large “slip” intact through the weakened and compromised lining of the small intestine and are seen by your body as invaders. When these “invaders” (phytic acid and gluten) enter your body, they interact with the immune layer on the other side of the lining of your small intestine (70% of our immune system resides in the digestive system!). It is at this immune layer that inflammatory molecules (called cytokines) respond to these intact food particle proteins and tell your white blood cells to launch an attack! The by-products of the action of your white blood cells are called “oxidants”…I am sure you all have heard about the importance of “anti-oxidants”…this is why, they are needed to combat these oxidants that are created in part when you eat foods that your body interprets as harmful.
This is the same type of response that happens in your immune system when any other allergen or invader like a bacteria or virus enters your body. In an effort to fix the problem, your body reads this scenario as disease and react with an inflammatory response. Inflammation is a whole different topic for a blog post…my belief is that inflammation is at the root of most all disease. Chronic inflammatory conditions that can all be related to poor digestive function includes so many things from acne, anemia, arthritis and ADD to bone disease, celiac disease, chronic fatigue, Crohn’s disease and depression to eczema, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, gallbladder disease and IBS to infertility, lupus, migraines, mood disorders, parkinson’s disease and PCOS to thyroid disorders and weight gain.
As Nora Gedgaudes points out…..”Since there is no human dietary requirement and since the consumption of grains causes so many known health problems due to their gluten content, anti-nutrient content, poor L-tryptophan profile, as well as high omega 6 levles and mainly starch based content, as well as their allergy and sensitivity potential, there is little reason to include grains in the diet of anyone seeking optimal health or at least little reason to include them regularly.”
What did she just say? No health redeeming reason to eat grains?!! That goes against so many things we hear about in the conventional day to day nutrition advice! Remember; we know alot more now than we ever have, we have a ton of rampant health issues in our society (of which nutrition is rarely looked at), the research takes many years to reach the public let alone be published in a nutrition book and we have large governmental subsidies paid out to the grain industry, so of course they want us eating the cheapest food stuff available, the ones that our ancestors would have scoffed at and called “poor man’s food or starvation food”.
So, I know I said this was going to be a “sum up” but I think it is important to look at some of that research a bit deeper and dive into the perils of gluten…
Gluten is a substance found in numerous grains such as wheat (durum, semolina, graham, spelt, kamut), rye and barley. It is typically present in oats too but that is mainly do to modern processing methods (and easy contamination). Gluten is almost everywhere and laws do not require labeling on all products. For us humans, we have spent nearly all of the past 2.6 million years as hunter-gatherers; gluten is a very new inclusion to the diet and is very difficult for us to digest. To say that gluten can add complications to your health is putting things mildly. Problems with gluten are becoming epidemic, and although public awareness about this issue is certainly growing, there is more that is poorly understood by most people (including those in the medical field) than not. The weight of the scientific evidence supporting concerns associated with gluten is suffocating. ***
Although it is commonly associated with Celiac Disease, many people do not realize the broad and very real impact that non-celiac gluten sensitivity can have on people and that is often masked as something else. All celiac disease is a form of gluten sensitivity but not all gluten sensitivity is celiac disease.
Gluten is rarely suspected to be the underlying culprit in many health problems, even by medical authorities, because too much has gone unknown for so long and because our medical industry does a great job at looking at how the body works but not necessarily what really influences it. Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease results in chronic and severe malabsorption of nutrients, commonly leading to other disease states and degenerative processes.***
Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are generally defined as states of heightened immunologic responsiveness to ingested gluten proteins (remember that when our body is exposed to a foreign protein, alarm signals go off creating a cascade of events to occur within). A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that it has been estimated that 1 in every 200 people has full blown celiac disease. Some researchers from this prestigious journal hypothesize that this number may be closer to 1 in 30 people…especially considering that the way in which is is diagnosed is not until there is actual full blown internal structural damage (at that point, it’s too late). In an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the authors wrote, “celiac disease is a mush greater problem than has previously been appreciated”. And in an article in Pediatrics, the authors stated, “In the past 7 years, 1 in 4 children was diagnosed as having celiac disease”!! ***
Meanwhile, gluten sensitivity (not included in these statistics) is considerably more common than full blown celiac disease and is currently viewed as ‘near epidemic’. So what is going on?? Look to the culprit.
Both of these situations are autoimmune conditions that create inflammation and immune system effects throughout. Gluten can affect all organ systems (including your brain, heart and kidneys), your extended nervous system, your moods, your immunological functioning, your digestive system, and even your musculoskeletal system, truly almost all of you.
The Brain: When it comes to effects of gluten in the brain, exposure to gluten in a sensitive individual shuts down blood flow to the frontal and pre-frontal cortex…this is the part of our brain that allows us to focus, to manage emotional states, to plan and organize, to consider the consequences of our actions and to use our short term memory. The decreased blood flow to this part of the brain is commonly associated with conditions such as depression, anxiety and ADHD. ***
The Digestive System: Gluten wrecks havoc on our digestive system as mentioned above and it’s proper permeability through a very specific stimulation of the enzyme “zonulin”. Without getting detailed, this allows for a flood gate of food sensitivity to open. This is basically, a total setup for autoimmune disorders as well as decreases absorption of vital nutrients, which has many ripple effects.***
Autoimmune disorders are the number 3 killer, behind heart disease and cancer in the US. Of course gluten is not always the culprit but food sensitivities rank in the top 5 causes of autoimmune disorders. Even where gluten is not the cause of the disorder, it almost always acts as an exacerbating factor. ** Let’s just say it never helps. Is that one piece of bread really worth the risk, especially considering the fact that only 1 percent of people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity have ever been properly diagnosed?***
Unfortunately the wheat we are eating these days, is no where near the same wheat our grandmothers were eating let alone our great grandmothers. It is genetically modified, and grown and processed differently creating an entirely different species/food.
People often think that the symptoms to watch for when it comes to gluten issues are typically gastrointestinal, when gluten sensitivity can, in fact profoundly impact your brain, nervous system, emotional states, endocrine functioning, neurotransmitters, immune system, bones, joints, and skeletal system….your body. If you experience regular issues with digestion whether it is gas and bloating or pain and cramping or if you are depressed, anxious, angry, suffer from arthritis or any other chronic issue…experiment with your diet. Cut gluten out for 30 days and see how you feel….you have to cut it out entirely (basically try a paleo diet for 30 days) and then decide whether you need it back in your life or not.
If you are interested in testing, let me know, I will point you in the right direction as far as the proper tests to get done. The standard “gluten sensitivity” testing DOES NOT cut it….too many people are being missed!
- Diane Sanfilippo, author of Practical Paleo
- Nora T Gedgaudas, CNS, CNT ***
- Journal of the American Medical Association
- Archives of Internal Medicine
- Pediatrics journal
- C.B. Allan and W Lutz: Life without Bread: Excess Carbohydrates as the Underlying Cause of Disease
- M.N. Cohen: Health and the Rise of Civilization