Health Tip #34

health-tip-34

Soft drinks are addictive

If you are a regular soft drink consumer, one of the best things you can do for your health is to stop drinking soft drinks.  Soft drinks contain sugar, in the form of fructose, caffeine and a number of unsavory chemical flavors, coloring and preservatives.  Sugar and caffeine are very addictive substances.  In fact, sugar consumption increases dopamine and stimulates pleasure centers in our brains exactly the same way heroin does.

Soft drinks cause blood sugar dis-regulation

Consuming caffeine and sugar in this way can set you off on a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows as your body struggles to return to homeostasis after  their consumption.  Blood sugar rises rapidly.  The pancreas creates insulin to deal with the sugar.  As the blood sugar spikes, the liver deals with the sugar by storing it as fat.  The caffeine creates a stress response which raises blood pressure and the liver dumps more sugar into the bloodstream.  An hour later our blood sugar crashes leaving us looking for another sugar high.  The sustained level of sugar intake of a regular soft drink consumer, makes it impossible to lose weight and can lead to diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Fructose makes us fat

Most soft drinks are sweetened with fructose which is far worse for our health than regular sugar because fructose must be processed by the liver which then stores it as fat.  For this reason, fructose consumption has been associated with obesity.  Fructose has also been linked to increased levels of triglycerides which increases risk of heart disease.  The blood sugar roller coaster effect after fructose consumption also puts us a risk for insulin resistance and decreased leptin signaling.  Leptin controls appetite and fat storage.

Artificial sweeteners are no better

Finally, if we think we can avoid soft drinks negative effects by choosing the diet version, think again.  Diet sodas are often sweetened with Aspartame.  Aspartame has been associated with neurological disorders, brain tumors, liver problems, birth defects, diabetes, and other ailments.  Artificial sweeteners also disrupt appetite regulation and sends messages to keep eating more.

Healthier alternatives

The best thing we can do for our health when it comes to soft drinks is to just avoid them all together.  Try switching to spring or sparkling water, adding cucumber, lemon or lime for flavor.  Chilled herbal teas are flavorful and refreshing. Lacto-fermented drinks like kefir or kombucha can also be a healthier alternative.

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Health Tip #19

health-tip-19

A diet based on simple carbohydrates, sugars, processed carbs and processed grains can lead to health problems including metabolic syndrome, carbohydrate intolerance or insulin resistance and diabetes. Problematic processed carbohydrates include sugary foods, soda, processed grains, pasta, bread and cookies.  These carbohydrates that quickly break down into simple sugars in the digestive tract, feed pathogenic organisms in the gut that can lead to gut inflammation and a damaged gut wall.  This process can also lead to leptin resistance.  Leptin is our satiety hormone that tells us when we are full.  When this system is disrupted, it is difficult to for us to regulate our stores of body fat.

There are other carbohydrates that are a better choice.  Basing a diet on complex carbohydrates like those found in vegetables, combined with healthy fats helps to regulate our leptin levels.  Low-(processed)carbohydrate, healthy fat diets are healthier for our mitochondria as well.  Mitochondria are the energy producers of the cell.  Eating this way also helps to stabilize blood sugar, so we are not hungry or suffering from food cravings and we lose weight more easily.

Health Tip #8

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We hear the word stress thrown out there so often that it has kind of become meaningless.

What is the big deal about stress anyway?  The big deal about stress is that  it is the underlying factor in every disease you can think of.  We all have a weak link in our chain and under stress, that’s where the chain is going to break.  That’s where we are going to see ill health show up.  Stress can turn on disease promoting genes that might have otherwise remained switched off.  That’s a pretty big deal.

So what is stress anyway?  Stress is wanting reality to be different than it is.  Stress is fear  and lack of trust in our future. Stress is perceiving our situation in a negative way.

Stress can make us crave sugar and processed carbs to sooth our emotions and as a quick source of fuel for our muscles so we can  fight or take flight.  Stress raises our blood pressure.  Stress shuts down our digestive system making it hard for us to extract nutrients from our food and can lead to irritable bowl syndrome and other digestive disorders.

So what can we do about it?  Relax.  Find a few moments each day to unplug and slow down.  Activities that help us to relax and de-stress are ones that encourage deep, rhythmic breathing.  Deep breathing sends the message to your body that you are safe.  Some of these activities include meditation, guided meditation or visualization work, yoga, and tai chi.  Writing in a gratitude journal also affords us that little break to slow down and switch gears.  I enjoy little reminders throughout the day to stop and take a conscious, deep, cleansing breath.  I sign up for positive reminders that remind me stop, relax and refocus.  I also have a mindfulness chime app on my phone that I can set to go off periodically throughout the day as a reminder to take that much needed breath.  And finally as pictured above, one of my favorite ways to relax and de-stress is to take a walk in nature…And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul!

 

 

Health Tip #3

health-tip-3

Calories in, calories out, right?  Wrong.  The days of counting calories is a thing of the past.  Why?  Because not all calories are created equal.  As we discussed in health tip #2 you will lose weight initially if you just cut calories, but if your body isn’t nourished from what you’re taking in, your cravings will never stop and you will end up either back where you started or several pounds heavier.  What you want to take stalk of instead of calories, is nutrient density.  The question we want to ask when selecting a food to eat is, not how many calories are in the food but how nutrient dense is it?  If you’re eating a diet of primarily nutrient devoid or low nutrient value, prepared and packaged foods, you won’t be getting the nutrients that your body needs for all of your bodily functions.  If you aren’t being well nourished by the calories you take in, you will continue to be hungry as your body continues to seek out those missing nutrients. So what are nutrient dense foods?  Foods that are in their whole, unprocessed state  will tend to be the most nutritious; foods that came from a farm, not a factory.  A wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables will provide the body with needed nutrients.  These are the foods that will nourish your body and reduce cravings because your body is getting what it needs.

Health Tip #2

health-tip-2

If you want to put on weight, go on a calorie restricting diet.  You will inevitably lose weight at first but by the time you’re done, you’ll have added an extra 5, 10, 15…pounds.  Why is it that diets don’t work?  If you’re carrying excess body weight, there’s a reason for it.  Your body isn’t some stupid lug that doesn’t know what it’s doing.  Your body is ALWAYS looking out for your best interest.  The reason that diets don’t work is your body’s perception of stress.  I’ll speak more about stress in a later post but the human body is programmed to respond to stress as a signal for: fight, flight, fright, freeze, or famine.  In the case of dieting, in order to save you from eminent death, your body packs on weight.   When you diet, your body can perceive your decreased caloric intake as starvation and say, “don’t worry buddy, I’ve got your back, I’ll pack a little extra away for later”.

Yo-yo dieting can also lead to highs and lows in blood sugar which can cause insulin and leptin hormone dis-regulation.  Your goal should be to maintain a steady blood sugar level.   This can be achieved by eating a healthy wholefoods diet, and by avoiding refined sugar and carbohydrates,  and processed foods.  More on what a ‘healthy’ diet looks like in posts to come!