Friday, December 7, 2007

Hey Sweetie

Did you know that the average American consumes over 170 pounds of sugar each year? So, picture that 5 pound bag of sugar that you buy, then line up 33 more, and start rationing for the year. One year. Yikes!

Much of that sugar comes from sources that are not even considered sweet at all. The bulk of our sugar intake usually comes from starches in our diet. When you eat things like white bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and cereal, your body breaks down the starch into sucrose. When in excess, sucrose converts to adipose tissue-- yep, that's fat… in all your favorite places.

Sucrose is metabolized by your liver, thyroid, small intestine, and pancreas-- which produces insulin for absorption. The more we consume sugar, the harder these organs have to work to avoid fat build-up. When the body ends up with an abundance of adipose, the tissue actually begins to make its own hormone, called "resistin". And, true to its name, it resists the effects of insulin, forcing the pancreas to make more and more to produce the normal effect. Eventually, the body no longer responds and is considered insulin-resistant...aka Type 2 Diabetic.

Over 21 million Americans (7% of the population) have diabetes. I don't think that most people realize just what a big deal this disease is with its staggering health implications...according to the CDC, "Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness, lower-limb amputation, kidney disease and nerve damage. Two-thirds of people with diabetes die from a heart attack or stroke."

Now, please forgive the intensity; I realize that many of you will not abuse your bodies to the extent of diabetes, but this does not necessarily preclude your needed awareness. So aside from some fat build-up and the potential of life-threatening disease, there IS MORE YOU MUST KNOW before you say, “ oh, I’m skinny and fit- we’re good to go”, and keep throwing back the sweets.

Sugar also plays a large role in your mood, immunity and your body’s ability to heal itself. Because thyroid is also involved in sugar metabolism- depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, sudden fatigue and panic attacks are common when your blood sugar is imbalanced. Bacteria thrives on sugar, so naturally fighting off infection is nearly impossible when you’ve got a bird bath for beasties in your body. If you often get sick, have skin or fungus infections, or just don’t seem to feel 100%- I’m talking to you.

So here are practical strategies for starving that sweet tooth of yours:

>Do your best to drop the obvious sugar loaded treats:
*Replace them with fruit (which is also high in sugar- but it is fructose, rather than sucrose, and does not require the same insulin blast).

>Look at your starch intake and consider substitution. First of all, a plate of veggies will always be better than a mound of carbs. But I do live in the same tempting world you do, so I will add the realistic dose:
*When it comes to starches, remember- the whiter the worse. The more you can insert whole grain and sprouted options, the less your insulin needs to spike. You will feel fuller for longer, thus reducing the need to return to the all-you-can-eat spaghetti buffet again and again.
*Seriously, if you shop intentionally, it is not that crazy to eat fresh foods and proteins for all your meals. You know, the salad over the sandwich and the smoothie rather than the cereal.

This message is brought to you with love for my fellow beings and dismay for the misery they are enduring in their ignorance of body chemistry. You have made it this far and are no longer that person- Congratulations! Now get out there and be good to yourself.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Turn Down the Heat

Whenever I meet someone who mentions one area of pain, then another, and another! And before you know it, they've described some "problem" with nearly every joint in their body--- I've got to go deeper and think systemically.

Pain, swelling, redness and heat typify the body's inflammatory process. We see these whenever we injure ourselves, with obvious outward signs. But imagine these occurring with every meal in a low-grade internal way, causing the same reaction, but in our joints...leaving them to feel stiff and achy for much of the day.

Certainly, each individual warrants their own investigation, but diet is a universal element that must be considered as a contributor to this state. Did you know that some of the most seemingly benign and healthy foods can cause an inflammatory response in your body? Like tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, and potatoes??

And the list goes on and on- I'll give you some of the top inflammatory offenders, but you're not gonna like it:

-citrus fruits

Oh yes, I know- these things are everywhere...but seriously, there are also tons of alternatives on the market thanks to other people learning how their chronic pain lives can be completely controlled by what they consume. Whether you have a diagnosed inflammatory condition (like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, fibromyalgia, MS, hayfever, tendonitis, bursitis, sinusitis) or just feel like you're walking around in a body that is twice your age, the food you eat may be your best strategy to manage pain and improve your body's function.

On the flipside, let me give you a delicious list of nutrients that reduce inflammation:

-Yummy fruits:
kiwi, cherries, ginger, peaches, pineapple, plums, strawberries
-Savory veggies:
avocados, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli, kale, squash, beets, onions
-Alternative grains:
brown rice, buckwheat, oats, lentils
chicken, tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tofu, oysters, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
fish oils, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B, zinc (or just a good quality multi to get all those vitamins)

If you sense that your body's comfort and function could be improved through diet, there are a few ways to experiment with this:

1. Keep a daily journal that details your diet alongside your sense of well-being and see if you can identify connections.
2. Eliminate the top offenders for 3 weeks and see how you feel. This is best done after #1, so you have a recorded baseline.
3. Do a fast to remove all food interactions for a few days, followed by a scheduled re-introduction of the most common offenders, to best identify your body's friends and foes. This tactic is best done with support from a trained nutrition-savvy professional.
4. There are a couple ways to use blood tests to determine your body's response to foods. Ask your chiropractor, naturopath or primary care doc about an ELIZA test.
5. Just start minimizing the bad guys and adding a bunch of the good guys and see how your body likes it. Give this a couple months before anticipating changes.

Diet change, or any change for that matter, is often the hardest thing to ask of someone. It helps to give yourself a timeline and remember that this is by far the safest, cheapest, and most natural approach to being in control of your health.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

There's something fishy going on...

All my life I have been encouraged to take vitamins...

Calcium ("just take 2 tums, it's for your bones"), vitamin C ("so you don't get sick"), A ("for your eyes"), E ("for your skin"), multi-vitamins ("for everything!!!")- and, as I'm sure many of you have experienced, you end up taking 9 pills each day, forgetting what most of them are for and eventually forgetting to take them at all. Then five or six years later the battalion of expired bottles has taken over your cabinet creating their own little shaker band.

I will not argue the value of any of these vitamins, nor will I try to suggest a regimen that is right for everyone- but I'd like to take a moment to salute one (just one right now) that you should really know about.

So let's step back, get a good running start, high step rapidly down the sandy bank and go tumbling into the ocean waves. Oh yes, here it comes...the talk of fish. Specifically their oils. Here's a handful of the benefits (that I swiped from of regularly taking fish oils:

1. Less Pain and Inflammation. For anything ending in "itis".
2. Cardiovascular Health. Lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL), while increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
3. Protection from Stroke and Heart Attack.
4. Better Brain Function and Higher Intelligence. Pregnant and nursing mothers can have a great impact on the intelligence and happiness of their babies by supplementing with fish oil. For adults, omega 3 improves memory, recall, reasoning and focus.
5. Less Depression and Psychosis.
6. Lower Incidence of Childhood Disorders.
Studies show that children (and adults) with ADD and ADHD experience a greatly improved quality of life. And those with dyslexia, dyspraxia and compulsive disorders have gotten a new lease on life thanks to omega 3 oils.
7. Reduction of Breast, Colon and Prostate Cancer.

There's loads and loads of info out there- don't get bogged down in it...just start taking it! And don't worry, it comes in tasteless capsules, or even strawberry flavored oils for the kids.