Healing Reactions


“If the patient has been to more than four physicians, nutrition is probably the medical answer.”
…Abraham Hoffer, MD, PhD

 

Healing Reactions, On the Road to Better Health

 

Summer’s rich bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables together with its heat, humidity and more leisurely pace invite us each year to lighten up and adopt healthier habits. In summer, we naturally rotate away from heavy anabolic “build-up” foods such as animal proteins and fats to more catabolic, cleansing fruits and vegetables. We may also try giving up sugar or caffeine/coffee, replacing these with more sleep.1

 

Dietary changes give the body a chance for “housekeeping.” Cleansing foods allow the system to expel toxins and set healing in motion. But, healing often brings reactions, so when we launch into a healthier dietary or lifestyle program, we need to expect reactions and read them as positive signs of healing.
Far Eastern philosophy suggests that true healing requires reaction: Reactions signal the body’s attempts to discharge toxins, both physical and emotional, that stand in the way of healing. Giving up sugar, coffee, alcohol, dairy, meats or fats each has a set of associated reactions, outlined below.

Substance
Possible Symptoms
Duration
SugarFatigue, sleepiness, depression, lack of coordination, alienation1 to 5 days
CoffeeHeadaches, shakiness, nervousness1 to 10 days
AlcoholTension, inability to relax2 to 5 days or more depending on level prior consumption.
DairyMucus discharge through the skin, sinuses, mucous membranes, lungs, sex organsStarting up to 3 months after the food is stopped, for a year or two.
Meats, Fats, ProteinsFoul body odor, coated tongue,feelings of being toxic, skin eruptionsVaries: 1 to 4 weeks with fats; 6 to 10 months deeper accumulations.

Emotional and physical healing. Toxic experiences and traumas, perhaps dating to early childhood, also come with their own unique set of physical and emotional reactions; these are signs of a more prolonged and complex healing process. Healing reactions present an opportunity to go back through everything not previously resolved in life. Our body carries our personal history.

 

The nature of a reaction indicates what phase of life is being healed. Reactions feel similar to the original disease or emotional trauma but usually appear in a diminished form. If the reaction is an emotional discharge of anger, the feeling may remind a person of anger earlier in life, even though the present anger may be “caused” by different circumstances. Physical reactions are also reminders of former conditions: If chronic sore throats occurred during childhood, a healing reaction could involve one or two sore throats that eliminate any residues accumulated from the original infection(s).2

 

Types of Healing Reactions:3

  1.  Tension or pain in the upper back and neck, which may move upwards to the head, downward across the abdomen, arms, and legs, and eventually to the top of the head and to the toes and fingers. Pain may occur in the internal organs, particularly the liver, under the right side of the rib cage. Headache is also common.
  2. Vomiting, particularly bile or various types of mucus.
  3. Digestive imbalances: gas, cramps, diarrhea, constipation.
  4. General fatigue. Weakness, weight loss, sensations of cold and/or heat. Fever, chills, cough, minor hair loss.
  5. Heavy and prolonged sleep; occasional wild dreams.
  6. Possible discharges include boils, pimples, rashes, body odors, nasal and vaginal discharges, coating on the tongue. Mercury fillings may loosen and fall out.

 

Progressive Order of Healing

 

In true healing, symptoms of discharge follow a set progression. First outlined by Constantine Hering (1800-1880) and known as Hering’s Law of Cure, such symptoms are used to this day in the field of homeopathy. In a true case of healing, symptoms unfold in the following patterns:

  1. From the inside to the outside; internal heat or toxins can appear as rashes on the skin.
  2. From the upper part of the body to the lower extremities. Medications that affect the liver or kidneys can appear as redness or rashes on the legs or ankles.
  3. For chronic conditions, symptoms may appear in reverse order: Known as “retracing,” someone who in early childhood contracted chicken pox and later bronchitis may experience a period of coughing associated with bronchitis, and later a skin rash resembling chicken pox.
  4. Prior to a healing crisis, a person feels a sense of calm and centeredness.
  5. At a deep level, a person in a healing mode, despite symptoms, feels good.

If the summer season inspires you to make positive changes in your life, have patience, knowing that healing may bring a few ups and downs on the way to establishing a firmer foundation for better health.

 

Copyright 2013 Pathways4Health.org

  1. For an excellent piece on sleep, see, well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/17/cheating-ourselves-of-sleep/?hpw []
  2. Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods, 106-7. []
  3. Pitchford, Annemarie Colbin, PhD, Food and Healing, 216-19. []

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Metabolic Stress


Carbohydrates, in refined form, can lead to blood sugar issues.  Yet, “traditional”1 carbohydrates—whole and minimally-processed grains as well as legumes, fruits, and vegetables—help prevent insulin resistance and chronic disease.2  Therefore, to control blood sugar, the answer is not to eliminate carbohydrates.  Instead, we need to emphasize traditional carbohydrates, while also using proteins and fats, with their flat-to-negative glycemic impact, to buffer the glycemic effect of the refined carbohydrates that we do choose to eat.


Restoring “Traditional” Carbohydrates—To Control Blood Sugar

  • The Role of Carbohydrates in Nutrition
  • The Glycemic Index in Perspective
  • Mapping Post-meal Blood Sugar Behavior—Clues for Combining Foods to Control Blood Sugar

 

Carbohydrates are the essential dietary mainstay of all population groups. Today, they account for between 40%-80% of the calories consumed by people around the globe.  Carbohydrates are the cleanest burning of the three macronutrients—proteins, carbohydrates, and fats—and the primary fuel of the brain.  Carbohydrates perk us up and make us feel good.  We like carbohydrates because our taste buds are primed to “sweet.” And, we buy and consume refined carbohydrates in abundance because they are inexpensive and readily available, have a long shelf-life, and require little if any refrigeration.  Refined carbohydrates are everywhere and go anywhere.

 

Measuring Carbohydrates as a Tool to Assist in the Prevention of Blood Sugar Diseases

The glycemic index (GI) developed by Dr. David Ludwig or the University of Toronto is the classic way to gauge the blood sugar impact of carbohydrates.  In recent years, particularly through the efforts of the University of Sydney, the concept of the glycemic index, a measure of the quality of carbohydrates has been expanded to include a quantity refinement termed glycemic load (GL).   The University of Sydney’s website www.glycemicindex.com provides information about carbohydrate foods and blood sugar, including GI and GL listings for hundreds of foods that have been tested in the rigor of the science lab.  Measures such as GI and GL can be used to select foods to balance blood sugar.  For example, coupling a low-GI food with one that is high on the GI scale creates a meal with a GI that strikes a balance between the two.

 

In these modern times, with the plethora of blood-sugar-related diseases, we need tools like GI and GL to help us understand ways to control blood sugar.  I believe that there are two major reasons why blood-sugar chronic diseases are so prevalent today:  The shift in the American diet from fats to carbohydrates and from traditional to refined carbohydrates.

 

The Recent American Fat/Carbohydrate Exchange. The relative shift in the diet from fats to carbohydrates was set in motion during the postwar years when consumers heeded warnings to avoid fats and cholesterol.  Fats, which accounted for 45% of the American diet in 1965, now hover around 32%.  Meanwhile, carbohydrates have increased their share from around 40% to over 50% during this same time period.  [With this shift from traditional fats to refined carbohydrates (and refined vegetable oils) has also gone the demise of the shirtwaist dress and the hourglass figure.]

 

The Shift From Traditional to Refined Carbohydrates. The second factor—the postwar shift from traditional to refined carbohydrates—is largely due to the growing role of the commercial food industry and processed, convenience foods.  Convenience foods must have a long shelf-life, so food companies rely upon refined flours and oils, which do not go rancid.

 

Data from the Economic Research Service of the USDA indicate that of the carbohydrates Americans do consume, most are derived from grains (rather than from fruits and vegetables).  Of these grain-based carbohydrates, 90% are in the form of high-glycemic cereals and bakery products that spike blood sugar to foster inflammation and chronic disease (such as insulin resistance and coronary heart disease).   Only a small proportion—about one in every nine calories—is derived from slower-metabolizing whole-kernel grain products for a more moderate blood glucose effect.

 

Looking At and Beyond the Glycemic Index—A Dynamic View of the Behavior of Blood Sugar


In this newsletter, a sequel to April, I want to first consider some measurement limitations and variations associated with trying to gauge the true blood glucose impact of various foods.  Not to be critical of the glycemic index, the goal is rather to support the notion that self-testing is perhaps one of the very best ways to discover how our own bodies react to favorite foods, eaten at the times of day when we consume our meals and snacks, and against the backdrop of our own personal lifestyle, including our level of activity.  We do not live under scientific lab conditions, nor do we consume most of our food as the first morning meal following a 12-hour fast.  As discussed below, many factors, such as the amount of cooking, can affect the GI “score” of a food.

 

The self-testing, graphic approach to food testing developed in the balance of the newsletter is a less scientific but a more dynamic way to explore postprandial (post-meal) blood glucose levels (BGLs). Visual pictures of postprandial blood sugar behavior, while less scientific than GI measurements, are nevertheless powerful learning tools, providing a real flavor for how our body reacts when we eat different kinds of foods.

 

The Glycemic Index and Its Limitations. The glycemic index, developed in 1981, moved carbohydrate classification beyond the categories of “simple” and “complex” carbohydrates into a new era where a carbohydrate’s quality is ranked numerically on a scale of 0-100 (compared to glucose, the more popular standard) or 0-140 (to white bread).  As with many attempts to standardize measurement in a world fraught with personal and material variation, there are several recognized reservations about GI:

 

  1. GI measures the blood glucose impact of foods eaten in isolation, yet we rarely consume foods this way.
  2. GI readings for the same food can vary widely depending upon whether a food is measured in relation to white bread (higher numbers) or glucose (lower readings).  Looking at some breakfast foods illustrates the variation in GI, where either white bread or glucose is the measurement standard—for example, a bagel (GI=103; 72), corn flakes (GI= 116, 81), and a piece of whole-grain toast (GI=58, 41).   Glucose is the typical standard, although white bread is thought to be more reliable.  If you read a GI in isolation, know which standard is being used.
  3. The GI of any food will vary with the temperature of the food and amount of cooking (warmer and well-cooked is higher than cold and raw); the degree of ripeness (ripe scores higher than “green”); and particle size (a whole, raw carrot’s GI=16 will be lower than a diced raw carrot, GI=35, or one that is diced and cooked, GI=49).
  4. GI readings vary with the individual—blood sugar and insulin reactions are more extreme for diabetics, for example (See Charts 2A and 2B).
  5. GIs are calculated in the science lab as the day’s first meal after a 12-hour fast and using a fixed serving that includes 50 grams of carbohydrate.  Most of our daily calories, however, are consumed in combination and throughout the day, when our blood sugar is affected by other foods that we have eaten earlier, as well as by our level of activity.   In addition, we rarely consume foods in 50-gram carbohydrate portions [that is a lot of oatmeal!].
  6. As a final factor, and my major point for constructing graphics and writing this newsletter, is that GI is a static number that cannot convey what happens in our body when we consume a meal.  GI cannot provide a visual picture of blood sugar behavior—its shape and trajectory—during the time following a meal (for an example, see Chart A).  I believe pictures are the best tool for learning how to combine foods effectively to control blood sugar.  A single number cannot touch us and teach us in quite the same way.

 

Thinking of Carbohydrate Foods in Terms of Blood Sugar Curves

To control blood sugar, what we are after—the real goal—is to avoid “metabolic stress” that puts our hormone system on “red alert” and our body through a hyper/hypoglycemic rollercoaster. Metabolic stress occurs when we eat too much high-glycemic food and/or too much carbohydrate without sufficient protein/fat “buffers.”  The result is a sharp rise in blood glucose (Chart A), forcing insulin, the glucose storage hormone, to come to the rescue, and remove excess glucose from the blood stream.

 

Instead, we want to choose low-glycemic foods and higher-GI carbohydrates balanced by proteins and fats (their GIs=0) so that blood sugar rises moderately and is sustained for several hours above the pre-prandial (pre-meal) zero line (Chart A). Such a low-glycemic pattern is what helps maintain energy and mental focus.  In contrast, high-glycemic foods eaten alone or in combination create a blood sugar spike that can result in hunger, irritability, lack of concentration, and overeating shortly after a meal.  [See the work of David S. Ludwig, High Glycemic Index Foods, Overeating, and Obesity, www.pediatrics.org].

 

Metabolic Stress. As touched on above, metabolic stress describes what happens in the body in reaction to excessive levels of blood sugar following a high-glycemic meal.  In an attempt to restore blood sugar to normal levels, the pancreas releases insulin to remove excess glucose.  With the help of insulin, much of this glucose is stored in the form of glycogen in the liver, in the blood as high triglycerides, and as fat in the cells of muscles and tissues, particularly around the belly.

 

Unfortunately, in the “alarm mode” it is easy for the pancreas to overshoot.  Insulin in excess can then cause a steep drop in blood sugar (BGLs plunging below the zero line, as shown in Chart A) and a hypoglycemic condition that can trigger a new cycle of hunger, irritability, cravings for carbohydrates, and overeating.   When insulin does its job too well and blood sugar dips to hypoglycemic levels that are inadequate to fuel the brain, the body calls upon a new set of hormones—principally glucagon, as well as adrenal hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline—to  restore blood sugar to normal levels by reversing the fat-storage process.  Glucagon does this by setting in motion enzymes needed to convert the liver’s glycogen stores back to glucose.

 

When we select foods, the idea then is to avoid metabolic stress.  This is because metabolic stress taxes the body’s hormone and organ systems, particularly the pancreas (which produces insulin and glucagon), the adrenals (cortisol and adrenaline), and the liver thus leading to a variety of issues including insulin resistance.  One way is obviously through the foods that we chose to eat.  Another is to eat well-balanced meals frequently enough to avoid hunger and rapid carbohydrate assimilation: “Carbohydrates are absorbed more slowly with increased meal frequency, often resulting in a reduction of insulin response, postprandial blood glucose, and serum cholesterol levels.3

 

Graphics—Blood Sugar Behavior Following a Variety of “Meals”


Of the following numbered charts, the first three are based upon scientific research journal articles (Charts 1, 2A, 2B), while the last four (Charts 3-6) are constructed from my own self-testing of foods4 using a simple blood glucose monitor.  I decided to do my own testing for two reasons—I wanted to try a variety of foods and combinations that, to my knowledge, have not been tested and presented graphically in scientific journals; and, I wanted to illustrate how easy this can be as a way to encourage you to try testing your own favorite foods.

 

From graphic drawings of what happens to blood sugar after eating different foods, we can discover  strategies for “food combining” that will moderate blood sugar—combining fats and proteins with high-glycemic foods (to offset their blood glucose impact), while emphasizing combinations of lower-glycemic whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables to avoid metabolic stress.   It is interesting to note that, apart from vigorous exercise, only proteins and fats, with their flat-to-negative impact on blood sugar, can effectively temper high-glycemic carbohydrates.  While fruits and vegetables are laudable in so many ways, their own carbohydrate content adds to the glycemic load of a refined carbohydrate meal.  Thus, fruits and vegetables cannot be counted on in the same way that proteins and fats can to effectively dampen the metabolic impact of refined carbohydrates.

 

 

Concepts Suggested by the Charts:

Chart 1:  Blood Sugar Curves of White Bread Compared to Bread with Added Fiber, Sourdough, and Vinegar. Eating white flour products like white bread readily exposes starch granules to digestive enzymes.  Starch is quickly digested and absorbed, and glucose is rapidly delivered to the blood stream.  The resulting spike in blood sugar at 30-minutes is followed by a hypoglycemic “low” within 90 minutes of eating.  In other words, within 90 minutes, hunger can set in.  As the work of insulin removes excess glucose from the blood following the 30-minute peak (Chart 1), and, without other foods to slow digestion and delay gastric emptying (like proteins, fats, and fiber), blood sugar plummets to below pre-meal levels soon afterward—we are hungrier than before!  Acids like sourdough and vinegar slow digestion and moderate this pattern.  Of the variations shown, fiber added to foods is the most effective at moderating postprandial blood sugar.

 

Charts 2A and 2B:  Blood Glucose and Insulin Reactions of Normal and Diabetic Subjects. These charts illustrate several points.  The first, people can experience very different blood sugar reactions to exactly the same meal.  This is especially true of diabetics, for whom the blood glucose reaction is greater than for normal subjects (Chart 2A). For diabetics, blood glucose levels are generally higher both prior to and after eating.  More importantly, the insulin reaction of diabetics is far more extreme, as indicated by the dotted lines (Chart 2B).  Insulin levels for diabetics rise far in excess of normal subjects—double the reaction—and these are sustained high levels.  High insulin levels cripple efforts to lose weight:  When insulin stays high, the body is less able to tap into fat stores. This is why diabetes and obesity often go hand-in-hand (90% of diabetics are either overweight or obese). With high insulin levels, it can be hard to avoid the double-edged sword of belly fat that partners with hunger and overeating:


According to Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller, “If insulin levels are high all day long, as they are in insulin resistant and overweight people, the cells are constantly forced to use glucose [rather than fat] as their fuel source…The blood glucose level (BGL) then swings from low to high…playing havoc with appetite…and the store of carbohydrates in the liver and muscles undergo major fluctuations over the course of the day.”

 

Chart 3:  Instant Oatmeal, Whole Oats (Soaked and Not Soaked), and Whole Oats Combined with a Protein and Fat. Instant oatmeal, which we might think to be a wholesome breakfast, in fact traces a blood glucose pattern similar to white bread (shown in Chart 1).  This may be indicative of the fine particle size to which oats must be ground to become “instant” and to the oat flour that is often added to instant oatmeal as a thickening agent.  In two separate tests, I also consumed instant oatmeal adding 1 tablespoon of sugar, which resulted in a higher 30-minute peak; and, instant oatmeal adding 1 tablespoon of butter, which reduced the peak at 30 minutes and sustained the curve above zero through the 2-hour test period (I did not clutter the chart to show these expected results).   Chart 3 also illustrates that soaking whole oats (to degrade phytic acid, a mineral inhibitor) greatly increases the glycemic impact compared to oats that are not pre-soaked before cooking.  This is because soaking makes grains more digestible and renders the starch more available to digestive enzymes.   Adding a protein/fat to pre-soaked, cooked whole oats—in this case 2 ounces of salmon—significantly dampens the metabolic reaction and easily sustains blood sugar throughout the two hours following the meal.

 

Chart 4: Blood Sugar Curves of Proteins; Fats; Carbohydrates:  Salmon, Kidney Beans, Whole Oats, and a Coke. This is one of my favorite charts because it illustrates disparate blood sugar reactions to quite different foods—a protein/fat (salmon); a whole-grain carbohydrate (oats); a carbohydrate/protein (beans); and a pure high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) carbohydrate (Coca-Cola).  The footprint of the Coke is a classic case of metabolic stress:  the peak glucose increment of 50 at 30 minutes is by far the greatest reaction of any food I tested as a first meal.  With the Coke, insulin comes to the rescue to such an extreme that blood sugar plummets to pre-fasting levels within the first hour following the Coke.   What the chart says is, if we have a Coke for a breakfast on the run, we can be hungry by the time we arrive at school or the office —and, all the while we have also put our body’s hormone system through the wringer.

 

As an extreme contrast to Coke, salmon drops initially in the first 30 minutes (the flat-to-negative glycemic effect of proteins and fats) and then rises above pre-meal levels.  In the case of both slow-metabolizing proteins and fats, the body has time to moderate the flow of insulin and glucose to keep blood sugar well-balanced.  Because the body reacts to proteins and fats in mirror-image fashion to carbohydrates (contrast salmon with oats), proteins and fats can be paired with carbohydrates to modulate the 30-60 minute blood sugar rise normally associated with carbohydrates (as in the Coke and whole oat curve) and cushion the 60-120 minute drop in blood sugar that would otherwise occur with these carbohydrates.  In other words, in view of the salmon curve, it seems to make sense to begin meals with sufficient proteins and fats before introducing high-glycemic foods.


Our final example here is kidney beans, which illustrates the value of foods that are balanced combinations of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein (see the food composition list in Appendix A, which outlines the macronutrients of our test foods.).  Kidney beans can be eaten alone due to the inherent blend of fiber, protein, and phytic acid (phytates reduce the glycemic effect).  After a meal of kidney beans, blood sugar traces a moderate initial rise and a gentle tapering off, but at levels that are sustained above pre-prandial levels throughout the 2-hour test period.

 

Chart 5:  Kidney Beans with Added Grains; Vinegar; and Vinegar and Oil. Because kidney beans trace a gentle, sustained blood sugar curve, I chose to use them to test the addition of an acid (apple cider vinegar); an acid and oil (vinegar and extra virgin olive oil); and a carbohydrate (whole oats that were pre-soaked before cooking).  Adding vinegar to beans and even more so, vinegar and oil, significantly moderates the blood sugar effect of kidney beans.  Vinegar and oil accomplishes this same function for other foods if you keep them handy at a central place in the kitchen and on your dinner table.

 

Combining beans with grains (in our bean-whole oats example) would normally call for a 1:2 ratio of beans-to-grains in order to assemble complementary amino acids in the right proportion for a complete vegetarian protein.  Yet, eating beans and grains in this standard vegetarian way spikes blood sugar.  The idea that “wholesome” vegetarian meals push blood glucose to an uncomfortable zone is also borne out by other examples of vegetarian meals explored in my own day-to-day personal testing.  It appears that vegetarian meals, without the anchor of animal proteins and fats, easily spike blood sugar. [Vegans and vegetarians may be particularly interested in using a simple blood glucose monitor to sharpen food combining skills.]  What I believe this specific beans/oats case tells us is that beans and grains alone can deliver too much carbohydrate for the body to handle, if not offset with adequate protein/fat buffers.


The Second Meal Effect


The second meal effect means that what we eat at one meal affects the glycemic and insulin response at the next.  A low-glycemic breakfast will curb the response at lunch, and a low-glycemic dinner can have the same muting effect at breakfast the next morning.5  A breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup will work best when preceded by a late steak dinner the evening before.

 

Chart 6: Blood Glucose Response to Instant Oatmeal as a Second Meal. This chart illustrates the second meal effect– that what we eat at one meal affects postprandial blood sugar behavior at the next. Procedure: On three separate mornings I ate instant oatmeal as a second breakfast three hours after a first 12-hour fasting breakfast.  On each of three separate mornings, the first meal was either—two poached eggs; instant oatmeal; or a Coca-Cola.

 

To fully appreciate the impact of two back-to-back carbohydrate breakfasts please notice that the scale used for Chart 6 is twice that of Charts 3-5.


Results: Eating two successive carbohydrate breakfasts dramatically spiked blood sugar at the second meal.  This was true for Coke-oatmeal, but especially oatmeal-oatmeal. In dramatic contrast, 2 poached eggs as a first breakfast comfortably accommodated the carbohydrate load of oatmeal as a second meal—this curve meanders around the zero line.  There was no rise in blood sugar following the second meal of oatmeal—a food that normally spikes blood sugar.  This second meal experiment points to the wisdom of eating dessert at the end of a meal—when ,like 2 eggs, proteins and fats from a typical dinner can buffer the sugar in a sweet dessert.

 

More importantly in terms of successive meals, it, of course, suggests the importance of a good breakfast that includes proteins and fats, not only to help get through the morning without hunger, but also to blunt the blood sugar effects of the 10 o’clock coffee/snack break.  If nothing else, it means we need to feed children a wholesome breakfast that includes proteins and fats to stay with them through the morning and to curb the blood sugar impact of snacks—such as graham crackers and apple juice that are so often served at nursery schools. What we do to our children when we give them a sugary cereal or a Pop-tart for breakfast extends beyond this first meal to affect their blood sugar, hunger, concentration, and desire to overeat throughout the rest of the day.  For a more complete discussion, I again recommend the work of Dr. David Ludwig regarding high-glycemic foods and overeating, cited in the Recommended Reading section at the conclusion of this newsletter.

 

Using a Blood Glucose Monitor For Your Own Personal Experiments


Blood glucose monitors are sold in most drug stores, where they are principally inventoried to serve diabetics.  They are not expensive.  A simple monitor sells for around $30.  The sophisticated replacement test strips that are used to take each reading (expressed as mg/dL) are what can be expensive (though strips can be covered by insurance).  Refills usually cost more than $60 for a set of 100.  A monitor is quite easy to use.  Most pharmacies can help you if you are having trouble.

 

Normal Range for blood glucose are:

Fasting or before meals   <100 mg/dL

2 hours after a meal         <140 mg/dL

 

Resetting the Table–to Control Blood Sugar (For a discussion of other strategies, see April 2011).


When you sit down to a meal, ask yourself  if you have incorporated sufficient protein and fat and consider adding some of the following to your dinner table in order to moderate blood sugar:


  • Ramekins filled with condiments like nuts and seeds (GI=0).  Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, while they slow digestion and curb blood sugar.
  • A tart vinegar6 and extra virgin olive oil.  Or, flax oil.  Ume plum vinegar, which is alkalizing and a good digestive aid, is also a good choice
  • Sourdough bread or whole-grain bread with whole kernels; butter from grass-fed cows and organic nut and seed butters such as tahini and pumpkin seed butter.
  • A pitcher of water and glasses for all—sometimes we mistake hunger for what is in fact thirst.  You might flavor the water with a little lemon juice or other flavoring.
  • Coconut sugar to replace cane sugar.  Coconut sugar is not refined so it retains minerals, including magnesium, zinc, and iron, as well as B vitamins.  Its GI about half that of cane sugar.
  • Powdered cinnamon. One of the best herbs and spices to moderate blood sugar.  It can be sprinkled on hot cereals and desserts such as puddings, custards, and stewed fruits.
  • Crudités such as celery. Celery is a great way to end the meal, whether to cap off a rich dessert or simply to add “crunch” when hunger is satisfied but you are still looking for “something more.”  Celery provides moisture and fiber to slow gastric emptying and moderate blood sugar.  Celery helps clean the teeth.  It also provides electrolytes and detoxifies while it lowers cholesterol.  Be sure to buy organic. Because celery is normally treated with ethylene gas to remove the bitterness (and its dark green color), it is one of the most chemically-treated foods.7
  • If you currently take a chromium supplement to curb blood sugar, consider brewer’s yeast, if you do fine with yeast—yeast is a common allergen.   [Brewer’s yeast is a different variety from torula yeast, the yeast linked to Candida].   Brewer’s yeast is loaded with B vitamins and minerals.  One tablespoon provides 70% of the RDA for chromium,8 the primary micro-mineral required by the body to regulate blood sugar.  Brewer’s yeast can be sprinkled on salads, soups, yogurt, or mixed in drinks.  It is high in phosphorus (40% RDA), so be sure to consume sufficient calcium, and do not overuse.

 

Side Question:  How can people in some LDCs consume an 80% high-carbohydrate/high-glycemic diet and avoid diabetes? My guess is there are at least three reasons—more chromium in the soil; fewer refined carbohydrates (refining removes 90% of the chromium in wheat, as well as the fiber); and vigorous physical activity.  High-glycemic foods are not “ bad;” they are appropriate to restore the body from rigorous physical labor.

 

 

Appendix A:  Self-Testing Methodology


For my own self-testing of foods, I used a simple blood glucose monitor.  I appreciate that to hold scientific weight my tests would require a large sample size and multiple rounds of testing, but this was not my intent.   Instead, I wanted simply to provide a rough feeling for how foods affect blood sugar following a meal.  I did apply a degree of rigor, by testing foods as the first meal of the day consumed after a 12-hour overnight fast, and I consumed comparable quantities of food, where applicable.

 

In selecting foods for testing, I wanted to try foods that were rather pure proteins, fats, carbohydrates, as well as combinations thereof.  In reality, few foods are totally protein, carbohydrate, or fat.  Even though we think of whole oats as a carbohydrate, they are also fiber, protein, and 3 fat.  So, to interpret the charts, I list here the composition of the foods in my test universe.

 

Organic oats, 40 g dry weight=27 g carbohydrate (4 g fiber); 6 g protein; 3 g fat;

Butter, 1 teaspoon=5 g fat; 0 g carbohydrates; 0 g protein;

Eggs, 2 poached=12 g protein, 8 g fat, 0 g carbohydrate.

Canned wild sockeye salmon, 2 oz. serving= 12 g protein, 4 g fat; 0 g carbohydrates (0 g fiber);

Organic canned kidney beans, ½ cup serving= 18 g carbohydrate (10 g fiber), 8 protein; 0 g fat;

Coca-Cola, 12 oz. serving=42 grams carbohydrates (42 grams sugar as HFCS), 0 fat, 0 protein;

 

[A 50 gram serving was consumed to test instant, steel cut, whole oats, and kidney beans.]


Because 12-hour fasting, pre-meal blood sugar reading can vary, all data points at time zero prior to the first morning meal were indexed to zero in order to illustrate the change from a neutral starting point.

 

Reading Resources:


Granfeldt, Y., Liljeberg, H, Drews, A., Newmand, R, & Bjorck, I. (1994).  Glucose and insulin responses to barley products:  influence of food structure and amylase-amylopectin ratio.  American Journal of Nutrition, 59, 1075-1082.

 

Jenkins, D.A., Wolever, T.M., Taylor, R.H., Griffiths, C., Krzeminska, K., & Lawrie, J. A. (1982).  Slow release dietary carbohydrate improves second meal tolerance.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 35, 1339-1346.

 

Juntunen, K.S., Niskanen, L.D., Liukkonen, K.H., Poutanen, K.S., Holst, J.J., & Hykkanen,H.M., (2002).  Postprandial glucose, insulin, and incretin responses to grain products in healthy subjects.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 75 (2), 254-262.

 

Ludwig, D.S, Majzoub, J.A., Al-Zahrani, A., Dallal, G.E,, Blanco, I, & Roberts, S.B.  High-glycemic index foods, overeating, and obesity (1999). Pediatrics, 102 (3), e26.  Retrieved November 6, 2010 from:  http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/103/3/e26.

 

Ostman, E.  (2003) Fermentation as a means of optimizing the glycaemic index:  food mechanisms and metabolic merits with emphasis on lactic acid in cereal products.  Department of Applied Nutrition and Food chemistry, Lund University, Sweden, 1-59.

 

Ostman, E.M., Nilsson, M., Liljeberg Elmstahlt, H.G.M, Molin, G. & Bjorck, I.M.E. (2002).  On the effect of lactic acid on blood glucose and insulin responses to cereal products:  mechanistic studies in healthy subjects and in vitro.  Journal of Cereal Science, 36, 339-346.

 

Reaven, G. (1979).  Effects of differences in amount and kind of dietary carbohydrate on plasma glucose and insulin responses in man.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 32, 2568-2578.

 

Wolever, T.M.Jenkins, D. A., Ocana, A.M., Rao, V.A., & Collier, G. R.,  (1988).  Second meal effect:  low-glycemic-index foods eaten at dinner improve subsequent breakfast glycemic response.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 48, 1041-1047.

 

Books:

Gropper, Smith, and Groff, Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism.


Institute for Functional Medicine, Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach.


Pizzorno and Murray, Textbook of Natural Medicine.

 


Copyright 2011 Pathways4Health.org


  1. I use the label “traditional” carbohydrates, just as we call unrefined fats, “traditional” fats. []
  2. . Hegarty, Nutrition:  Food and the Environment (1995), 143-68.  Plants, through photosynthesis, create carbohydrates in many forms—simple sugars (e.g., glucose, fructose, glactose); oligosaccharides (e.g., fructooligosaccharides); starch (amylase and amylopectin); and non-starch polysaccharides (cellulose, pectin, hemicelluloses, and gums). They all play different metabolic roles, particularly soluble fiber which slows gastric emptying and helps curb blood sugar response.  Americans consume less than one-fifth the fiber of people worldwide.  Fiber protects against CVD, diabetes, and cancer.  (Clinical Nutrition, 27). []
  3. Clinical Nutrition, 35 []
  4. For a description of the testing procedures used, see Appendix A. []
  5. DJ Jenkins et al. (1982); and TM Wolever, et al. (1988).  See Reading Resources. []
  6. Vinegar weakens bones (we add vinegar to bone stocks to leach minerals).  Fats and oils buffer this action, so vinegar should be used in moderation and accompanied by a fatty acid when possible. []
  7. Rebecca Wood, The Whole Foods Encyclopedia, 35. []
  8. People in some LDCs consume a very high (80%) carbohydrate diet, yet have no major diabetes problem.  Why?  Perhaps because, unlike the U.S., their soil is not depleted of chromium and they do not consume vast quantities of refined carbohydrates.  Refining extracts almost 90% of the chromium from wheat. []

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Strategies to Avoid Fatty Liver Disease


To read this newsletter in its .pdf  form, click here to download the file: June 2011 Newsletter. Thank you.

 

As a sequel to my April and May 2011 newsletters on blood sugar and metabolic stress, this a short June piece on the liver. Spring and summer are the perfect seasons to think of revitalizing the liver. Spring brings bitter greens to cleanse the liver following the rich heavy meals of winter. Meanwhile, summer provides antidotes to detoxify and de-stress the liver with its vast array of rainbow-colored fresh, nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits. It is these nutrient-laden whole foods that provide the liver with the tools—vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients—needed to convert toxins for their safe elimination from the body. Because summer also brings a more leisurely pace of living, there is perhaps no better time to alter dietary and lifestyle habits for a healthier liver.


A well-functioning liver is vital to good health because of the many important functions it performs in the body. Among its jobs, the liver helps to regulate blood sugar and the burning of fat; and, it processes and helps the body discard many toxins—drugs, pesticides, food additives and chemicals, environmental toxins, caffeine, alcohol, and toxic metals. Thus, it is the liver that bears the brunt of many of our modern dietary and lifestyle habits.

 

Over the past weeks in researching blood sugar and reading the lead article in the Spring 2011 Weston A. Price Foundation Journal on fatty liver disease, I think of one primary theme to emphasize in this newsletter—we need to think of the impact of processed foods on the liver.  The key idea to take away from this letter I would summarize as follows:

 

 

Our modern diet that relies upon refined carbohydrates and refined vegetable oils—so often consumed in convenience foods—takes a heavy toll on the liver. Refined carbohydrates and omega-6 vegetable oils such as corn, soy, and canola provide concentrated, inflammatory, empty calories but without the fiber (to slow and assist digestion) and essential neutralizing phytonutrient cofactors to allow the liver to do its job well. The speed with which empty calories are consumed—particularly from the sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in soft drinks—exerts an enormously heavy burden on the liver. It is the calorie load, the speed, and the lack of nutritional cofactors needed by the liver to effectively process toxins that underlie the current epidemic of fatty liver disease.


 

Fatty Liver Diseases


Current research suggests that fatty liver disease is not just a disease troubling alcoholics. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease affects more than 70 million Americans and is fostered by the modern American diet. The following factors are worth enumerating and repeating again. All are particularly detrimental to the liver…

 

  1. Refined carbohydrates such as sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), especially when consumed as soft drinks. These high-glycemic carbohydrates tax the liver because of the speed with which the liver is forced to deal with the rapid-metabolizing calories and because they lack the nutritional co-factors required by the liver for their processing.
  2. Refined vegetable oils such as corn, soy, safflower, and canola. These are polyunsaturated, inflammatory oils that are subject to oxidative stress/free-radical damage due to their fragile double bonds. As in the case of refined carbohydrates, processing strips refined oils of their natural protective antioxidants.
  3. The relative absence of choline in the modern diet. Choline, found in egg yolks, liver, and organ meats, is necessary for the proper transport of fats from the liver.

 

The dynamics of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is clearly explained in A Silent Epidemic of Nutritional Balance from the Spring 2011 WAPF Journal, which is available on line at http://westonaprice.org/health-issues/2162-nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease. If you do not have time or the inclination to read it in its entirety, much of the flavor is captured in the following excerpts:

 

Over seventy million Americans may have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The disease begins with the accumulation of fat within the cells of the liver, but can progress to inflammation, the development of scar tissue, and in some cases death from liver failure or cancer.


Simple accumulation of fat within the liver generally proceeds without producing any overt symptoms, but it is not necessarily harmless. The liver regulates blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels, plays a critical role in burning fat for fuel, helps eliminate excess nitrogen, contributes to the metabolism of endocrine hormones, stores vitamin A, protects against infections, and detoxifies drugs and environmental toxins.


Any damage to the liver is thus likely to impact whole-body health. Indeed, fatty liver disease increases the risk of cardiovascular disease three-fold in men, fourteen-fold in women, and seven- to ten-fold in type one diabetics. Fatty liver is thus a dangerous silent epidemic, and… it is likely caused by the overabundance of calorie-rich, nutrient-poor refined foods and the banishment of traditional sources of choline like liver and egg yolks from the modern American menu.


…numerous studies have confirmed the relation between fatty liver, obesity and diabetes…the disease is present in up to three-quarters of obese people. Similar studies have shown that 45 percent of type-one diabetics and 70-85 percent of type-two diabetics have fatty liver. Moreover, even in the absence of diabetes and obesity, those with the lowest insulin sensitivity have the highest accumulation of liver fat.


…fatty liver disease occurs in two distinct stages. In the first…fat accumulates within the cells of the liver. In the second, inflammation, the proliferation of fibrous connective tissue (fibrosis), and eventually the formation of scar tissue (cirrhosis) ensue.


The totality of the evidence suggests that the initial accumulation of fat in the liver is triggered by nutritional imbalance…fatty liver seems to occur as a result of too much energy flowing through the liver without sufficient nutrients to process it. The accumulation of delicate fats, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) [like corn, soy, safflower, and canola oils]increases the vulnerability of the liver to oxidative and inflammatory insults in the form of infections, toxins, or poor metabolism. These insults launch the progression from the first stage of simple fat accumulation to the second stage of inflammation.


The key culprits, then, are nutrient-poor refined foods, choline deficiency and polyunsaturated oils.


…dietary protein, methionine, and choline …protect against sucrose-induced fatty liver disease. [This suggests, just as protein “anchors” alcohol to prevent a hangover, it is also a necessary component when we eat sugar. See May 2009 Newsletter on sugar cravings].


…unrefined foods supply a wide variety of interacting vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional substances that aided in the metabolism of the sugar, helping the liver to burn it for energy, store much of the excess as glycogen, and export any fat made from it into the bloodstream… supplying extra choline in the diet provides powerful protection again fatty liver, whether induced by sugar, alcohol, or fat.


…while there are special roles of including egg yolks, liver, and other organ meats, and spinach in the diet, as well as avoiding polyunsaturated oils and refined foods—especially sugar—there is likely to be a wide range of different diets that can promote liver health. What they all have in common is that they are ancestral diets, rich in nutrient-dense foods that we are well-adapted to…The emergence of fatty liver as a silent epidemic in the modern era is a call to nourish our livers with age-old traditional wisdom as we pursue the vibrant health of our ancestors.


Strategies for a Healthy Liver

 

The primary way to support the liver is through a diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods. Bitter greens, now in season, are especially effective in cleansing the liver. Other strategies to support the liver include consuming fresh, organic (to avoid pesticides) fruits and vegetables and organic animal proteins rich in choline, while avoiding sugar, HFCS, refined vegetable oils and other refined, processed foods. So, too, will eating hearty meals early in the day, with a light supper consumed at least several hours before bedtime time. The liver cleanses the blood between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. when it is at its peak activity. Late-night eating prevents the liver from doing its job efficiently and well (see November 2010 newsletter, The Body Clock).

 

Another aspect of liver health involves avoiding modern environment and lifestyle toxins. Do we give sufficient thought to how convenience foods combine with drugs and medications compound, creating an ever greater toxic load for the liver? Layer upon layer, toxins that burden the liver are everywhere—from synthetic prescription drugs, over-to-counter medications such as Tylenol and Nyquil, caffeine, alcohol, food additives and food colorings, pesticides in foods, and chemicals in cleaning agents.

 

Summer provides a time to pause, take stock, and alter dietary and lifestyle habits. Try to read labels and think of the factors in your present lifestyle that might be placing an unnecessary load on your liver. If you do not eat them already, try some cleansing bitter greens and think of shopping for fresh, organic food at a local farmers’ market. For sustainably grown foods, see www.localharvest.org and to find a local farmers’ market, go to www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets.

 

June Recipe: Watercress Bisque

 

  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 parsnip, chopped fine
  • 8 cups filtered water or rich vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 bunches watercress with stems, washed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light miso or umeboshi vinegar, to taste

 

Simmer onion and parsnip in stock 20-30 minutes, covered, until very tender. Add watercress and simmer 3-5 minutes, uncovered. Add miso and puree with an immersion wand or in a blender. Serve with favorite garnishes. This is delicious topped with a broiled or poached fillet of fish.
(For a thicker soup, add some cooked grain with the miso and puree. Or, add 4 T. agar flakes when cooking, for increased mineral nutrition.)

Source: Pathways4Health, derived from Elson Haas.

Reading Resources

 

 

Copyright 2011, Pathways4Health.org

 


Dealing with Sugar Cravings


Factors That Underlie Cravings for Sugar

 

For me, a lack of sleep is the biggest force sending me in search of carbohydrates. Besides lack of sleep, stress and emotional upheaval are also big factors that can send us to the cookie jar.

 

Another factor that drives cravings is the relationship of sugar and protein.

 

Carbohydrate and protein metabolism work hand in hand. Both the Western and Yin/Yang model illustrate this. When we eat meat, which is concentrated protein and fat, we crave concentrated carbohydrates like sugar. And, meat, contractive/yang demands expansive/yin offsets like sugar (see discussion below). Also, in order to metabolize refined sugar our body “likes” meat as a buffer. The rich minerals in meat help the body metabolize these concentrated calories so it does not have to tap into its mineral stores stockpiled in tissues, bones, and teeth.

 

The key to keep in mind when the goal is to cut out sugar (and calories), limit red meats, which set up cravings for sugar.


Metabolic stress. Another consideration is blood sugar levels. Because carbohydrate and protein metabolism are inter-related, when we eat a lot of sugar and other concentrated sweets, our body needs to be anchored by additional concentrated animal protein and fats in order to stabilize blood sugar. Have you ever noticed how much better you feel when you pair a glass of wine (an expansive sugar) with adequate protein and fats to avoid a hangover? For our body, might it not be much the same with sugar? We need protein and fats as a balancing buffer. Unlike alcohol, our body does not react to sugar with the same hangover warning, but the imbalance is there nonetheless, through a surge in insulin, along with dehydration, depletion,1 and cravings.

 

Counter-intuitive perhaps, but this is why “junk-food” vegetarians (who rely upon a diet of sugar and refined carbohydrates) often crave sugar. Without eating animal protein to counterbalance and buffer this expansive energy, they set in motion a blood sugar roller-coaster of “sugar-insulin-sugar,” along with insatiable cravings for more and more sugar-charged treats. Ironically, “like” craves “like:” Contractive foods (chips) do send us for expansive opposites (a Coke), but this safeguard relationship does not hold so well for expansive foods. We can eat/drink a lot of expansive “spacey” goodies without craving contractive offsets.

 

In addition, vegetarians can crave sugar, and acid-forming food, to offset the alkalizing nature of a diet heavily weighted toward fruits and vegetables.  See acid/alkaline discussion and table, below.

 

Reasons to Crave Sugar:2

  • Not enough sleep. (This commands first place. Most of us are sleep-deprived and reach for sugar for energy.)
  • Not enough emotional support and sense of connection.  (Sugar’s temporary “high” works to mask emotional stress and pain.)
  • Too much stress.  (Stress is contractive; sugar, expansive in nature, works as a counterbalance to stress.)
  • Too few wholesome foods.  (Fractured foods create cravings; it is easy to try to fill the vacuum with sugar.)
  • Not enough…
    • Calories
    • Protein
    • Fat
    • Carbohydrates
    • Sweet taste
    • Expansive foods
    • Acid-forming foods
  • Too much…
    • Contractive foods
    • Alkalizing foods
    • Carbohydrates vs. Protein
    • Protein vs. Carbohydrates
    • Salt
    • Spices

Specific Strategies to Curb Sugar Cravings

  • The easiest way to cut out sugar is to prepare your own whole meals since 70% of the sugar we consume comes from packaged/prepared products.3
  • The vital force energy of whole foods satisfies and the creative process of preparation provides its own form of gratification.
  • Allow enough time at every meal to chew well. Sweetness and complex tastes are unlocked when we chew well. Carbohydrate digestion begins in the mouth and the true essence of whole foods is tapped only when we sit down long enough to chew well and enjoy our food. Whole plant foods such as grains, beans, and vegetables become sweeter the longer they are chewed, so chewing well can go a long way toward satisfying cravings for sweets.
  • Try to cook in advance and have plenty of sweet, whole foods on hand. Some foods, as outlined on page 7 are inherently sweet. Foods all have an associated temperature, so you can choose warming sweet potatoes, oats, or the heat of lamb in the cold winter months; or cooling melon and pears, salad greens, tempeh, and barley in the hot summer months.
  • Baking at high heat is a natural way to convert the carbohydrate energy of vegetables and grains into delectable sweet treats. Roasting root vegetables caramelizes their natural sweet starches into sugars, concentrating and intensifying their natural sweetness. Through the magic of heat and stable saturated fats, we can alter a pungent onion into sweet velvety smoothness.
  • Have plenty of sweet substitutes like roasted parsnips, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, dried fruits, and perhaps some bananas, dates, and figs on hand. At the first sign of a sugar craving, try one of these first.
  • Try salting fruit, even apples and strawberries.  It intensifies their sweetness.
  • Foods that are pungent, sour, or spicy help curb sweet cravings. Try radishes (at the end of the meal), lemon juice and water, or spices like cinnamon to satisfy the sweet tooth. And, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves regulate blood sugar.
  • Raw carrots help raise blood sugar effectively but less dramatically than sugar, and for a longer time interval.
  • Try to give up soda and other sugary drinks, and have plenty of water. Sometimes our energy fails us simply because we are dehydrated.
  • Substitute fruit juices and sauces in cooking, as well as fruits and stewed fruits.
  • Learn to read food labels, especially for hidden forms of sugar (September 07).
  • The best natural sweeteners, with the greatest nutritive value and lowest sugar content (compared to sugar’s 99%), are amasake (40%), brown rice and barley malt (50%), and maple syrup and molasses (both at 65%). Rice syrup and barley malt are less disruptive to the mineral balance of the body, along with maple syrup which is indigenous to the Northeast.
  • If you do give in to a sugar craving, enjoy it. We are not supposed to be good all of the time. Diversions are adventures. They are wonderful experiments, but we owe ourselves to take note as if on a real adventure, and make sure we pay attention afterward to how we feel. It is all information. And, this information just might make veering off course less attractive the next time.

Copyright 2009 Pathways4Health.org

  1. Refining strips 99% of sugar’s Magnesium, 98% of its Zinc, and 93% of its Chromium and Manganese, 88% of Cobalt, and 83% of its Copper (Elson Haas). []
  2. Enhanced and derived from the work of Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D. []
  3. Mary McCarty, Sweet and Natural, 16. []

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Managing Inflammation, A Broad Overview


…Simple “How’s” and Scientific “Why’s”


 

 

This article aims to outline specific strategies to address pain, inflammation, and chronic disease.  But the greater question remains: why is inflammation so pervasive today?  Why, in a time of great affluence and food abundance should inflammation and chronic disease be so widespread?  The answer lies largely in our modern lifestyle and diet, particularly in the postwar shift away from healthy fats to denatured vegetable oils that foster inflammation while they disrupt the body’s natural metabolism.  I will leave this for next month’s newsletter—for now my focus will be limited to  natural ways to control inflammation.

 

If you are concerned about inflammation, the overarching idea is to try to eliminate inflammatory foods—refined vegetable oils, trans fats, refined flour, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup.  These are not whole foods and they are not in keeping with tradition.  They are fractured, empty-calorie foods that  fuel the fires of inflammation and chronic disease.

 

If you take time to read this newsletter, please keep several things in mind.  First, that we do need omega-6 oils, but the goal should be to bring these back in better alignment respect to omega-3s, in a ratio of about 3:1 compared to the 20:1 ratio of today:

 

“…our balance of omega-6 to omega-3 affects our health as much as any other aspect of dietary fat…Because the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s helps determine the flexibility of cell membranes, nearly all chemical communication throughout the body depends at least in part on the correct balance between omega-6s and omega-3s.  Within this context, it is difficult to imagine any health problem that isn’t partly related to the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.” 1

 

A second idea to remember is that we need both stable saturated fats like butter and coconut oil for the structural integrity of cell walls, as well as omega-3s and omega-6 fats for the flexibility of cell membranes.  Unsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fats are needed for cells to carry out highly sophisticated neurological and electrical communication functions.

 

Finally, I mention in this newsletter fish oils and the role that they can play to help cool inflammation, but a supplement like this works best against a supportive diet.  The most important step we can take is to shift away from inflammatory foods.  By doing so, we remove logs from inflammation’s burning fire.  A fish oil supplement is like placing our trust upon a candle snuffer to put out the flames.  Far more important is to stop feeding the fire with inflammatory foods.

 

Realistically, to eliminate inflammatory foods means that we need to know where our food comes from.  This is the very best way to eliminate pro-inflammatory vegetable oils and trans fats that are hidden in prepared foods—as well as inflammatory refined sugars and white flour products.

 

When we shop for and cook with whole foods that are in keeping with tradition, we naturally incorporate plant foods’  vital force energy, as well as their antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber (July08 newsletter).   Plant foods help prevent oxidation and inflammation as they regulate the immune system and assist its proper functioning.  Whole foods, sunshine, fresh air, moderate exercise, meaningful life work, and a sense of gratitude are all natural nutrients to build a fertile terrain for our proper genetic expression.


The body’s inflammatory response is vital for survival.  It is always on guard and comes to our defense against foreign bacteria, viruses, and other invaders.  It also goes to work immediately to help us recover from injury and traumas.  Through natural selection, we are genetically prone to inflammation since before the days of antibiotics and modern medicine a strong inflammatory response was necessary in order to survive.

 

Even though inflammation safeguards our health and wellbeing, in modern times it has acquired a bad reputation.  Science tells us to blame inflammation anytime we feel pain, since pain is a sign of inflammation.  And,  we also know that inflammation, the subtle ongoing “silent” kind that we do not feel, plays an important role in most, if not all chronic disease—heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and joint pain, auto-immune disorders, and allergic diseases—to name a few.

 

If inflammation helped our forebears to survive in a hostile world, why is it now seen as such a health threat?  The answer again comes from the science lab.  Research tells us that our modern diet and inactive lifestyle are the two factors most to blame for silent inflammation and chronic disease.

 

In my mind, the diet part of the inflammation story has two sides:

 

  1. The shift that has happened in just a few decades away from grass-fed animal products and other foods with healthy omega-3 fats toward processed foods rich in inflammatory omega-6 refined vegetable oils:  Today, we consume 25 times more pro-inflammatory refined liquid vegetable oils than a century ago, but only a third as much stable, nutrient-dense butter.
  2. The transition over the same period away from whole grains and other antioxidant-rich whole foods toward sugars and refined flour products that provide calories but are stripped of vital nutrients.  It is really the simple matter of refined products…oils, sugars, and grains…both “crowding out” the traditional whole foods that we are genetically programmed to eat, as well as the massive quantities of fractured products in the modern diet that overwhelm the modest levels of good nutrition that we still take in.

Like diet, our lack of exercise also plays a role in the inflammation/chronic disease story.  This is because exercise is necessary to moderate insulin, contain abdominal fat,2 and control the body’s natural inflammatory response.  Moderate daily exercise and a healthy diet are two of the most powerful anti-inflammatory strategies of all.

 

Just think.  There is so much that we alone can do to manage and even reverse pain and inflammation without having to rely upon medications.  Medications, while sometimes required, work by interfering with the body’s normal processes and their synthetic nature makes them foreign and, to varying degrees, toxic.  In contrast, whole foods, with their vital force energy intact, are ideally suited to nourish the human body, cleanse it, and restore it to health.

 

Because I see inflammation as an underlying factor in many people’s health concerns, I want to use this newsletter to share some thoughts on inflammation.   My goal is to keep things simple.  Then for those of you who are interested in science, to support these ideas with some underlying concepts related to insulin, “belly” fat, cortisol, and oxidative stress—and the role they play in the inflammatory process (found below).


Balancing the Inflammatory Response: A Few Simple Steps You Can Take

 

It is true that inflammation is a complex topic, but we do not have to understand it and its underlying dynamics to take actions to overcome its dark side.  As mentioned, many scientists have been at work to unravel its mysteries and then guide us in what we should do.  Perhaps none is more famous than Dr. Barry Sears.   I am indebted to him, as well as to the pioneering work of Mary Enig, Paul Pitchford, Mark Hyman, and a host of others for helping me shape my own thoughts into the following list.  While I do not intend to tell you what to eat (we each need different foods), if you are concerned about inflammation, the following measures can be helpful. [Supporting reasons found below.]

 

Return to the table of contents.

Dietary Ways to Manage Inflammation

 

  • Cut out inflammatory foods.  These include processed refined sugars, grains, and flours; high fructose corn syrup (HFCS); products from grain-fed animals; trans fats; and refined “white” vegetable oils—especially those derived from corn, soybean, and cottonseed.  These and other “cheap, stripped” oils are often found in commercial salad dressings and processed foods and are loaded with omega-6 inflammatory fatty acids (Tables 1 and 2, below).  Limit consumption of the nightshade vegetables—potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, tobacco—which have an alkaloid, solanine, which can exacerbate pain caused by inflammation.
  • Eat whole foods, especially colorful, nutrient-dense plant-based foods rich in anti-oxidant phytonutrients (to contain oxidative stress) and with a low glycemic index (to control insulin).   Or, combine higher glycemic color-rich personal favorites with good fats and proteins, which also work to control blood sugar and insulin. [October ’07 Newsletter]
  • When possible, choose grass-fed animal products, which have an ideal 1:1 ratio of omega-3/ omega-6 fatty acids.  This healthy balance of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids means that grass-fed animal products are “neutral” with respect to inflammation.  [September ’09 Newsletter]
  • Use good fats and oils.  For the dinner table choose extra-virgin olive oil—low in omega-6 fatty acids, it is essentially “neutral” concerning inflammation.  Also at the table consider flax oil and flax meal [See recipes, below].  For cooking, try stable fats like butter or ghee from grass-fed animals, as well as unrefined coconut oil.  Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, an anti-microbial that fights bacteria and viruses that can lead to inflammation.3 ( Table 2, below)
  • Consider a daily fish oil supplement.  Fish oil is the most powerful and efficient way to reduce inflammation.  Supplementing with fish oil is important because you cannot get enough by eating fish.  This is because most beneficial fish oil is in the skin and is lost in cooking; and, of course, the skin is often not eaten.  I prefer fermented cod liver oil4 as a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin D, EPA and DHA.  EPA inhibits enzymes that foster inflammation, while DHA is vital for brain function.  Fish oil is the only direct source of EPA and DHA.  For specific tips on using fish oil, see below. [Flax oil is not a comparable substitute for fish oil since it must be converted to EPA.  This requires healthy functioning cells and adequate levels of vitamins B3, B6, and C, and magnesium and zinc—which cannot be counted on.]
  • Cook with anti-inflammatory herbs, and spices such as turmeric and ginger.  These inhibit the enzyme that makes arachidonic acid (AA), the precursor for inflammatory hormones.  Turmeric, ginger, and rosemary are also powerful antioxidants.
  • Eliminate any potential food allergens (e.g., wheat, corn, soy, egg whites, gluten, dairy, yeast, peanuts) in order to support and restore both intestinal health and immunity (see Probiotics, below).
  • Try to buy organic produce, especially when purchasing fruits and vegetables with very high pesticide levels (See Table 3, below).   Pesticides and toxins disrupt good intestinal flora and weaken the immune system.  Both of these factors create inflammation.
  • Consider probiotics (e.g., fermented foods [July ’09] or a high-grade probiotic supplement) to maintain and/or to restore good intestinal bacteria.  Inflammation is tied to “gut” health in several ways:   First, because “good” intestinal bacteria are the backbone of the immune system;5 and a healthy immune system is important to manage the inflammatory response.    And second, because good bacteria are essential to protect the delicate intestinal wall. The intestine works as a sentry—no food enters the blood stream without passing through the mucosal lining of the digestive system.  Nothing “gets into” the body without passing through this barrier.  But, this lining is fragile; it is only one cell in depth, and stretched out, spans the size of a tennis court.  If the barrier is damaged, toxins and undigested foods can enter the blood stream (“leaky-gut syndrome”)6 to create allergic reactions and autoimmune disorders.
  • Eat adequate protein with each meal to balance blood sugar. The concept of a Barry Sear’s “Zone Diet” is to have every meal include moderate portions of protein, carbohydrate, and fat, where a protein serving is defined as 3-4 ounces.   This balance curbs insulin (the nutrient/fat storage hormone that responds to blood sugar spikes from carbohydrates) and stimulates the secretion of glucagon (the hormone that assures the flow of glucose for the brain by causing the release of glycogen from the liver).

Return to the table of contents.

Lifestyle Approaches to Manage Inflammation

 

  • Moderate aerobic exercise 5-6 days a week helps prevent insulin resistance. A brisk 45-60 minute walk is perfect. [Excessive exercise, no matter how good the diet, is inflammatory and does more harm than good.7 ]  Moderate aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and stress level, which forces your cells to become more responsive to taking up glucose from the bloodstream.  When this happens, it relieves the pancreas, allowing it to secrete less insulin into the bloodstream.  It is important to keep insulin at bay, because insulin boosts arachidonic acid (AA), a precursor of inflammatory hormones.8
  • Weight trainingseveral days a weekcan help reduce insulin levels and strengthen immunity.  Unlike aerobic exercise which burns fat, strength training burns glucose so it does not directly melt away fat stores.  But, by building muscle, what it does do is to make it easier for the body to gobble up glucose from the bloodstream, so less insulin is required.  Greater muscle mass also boosts immunity because the body stores amino acids in the muscles, including glutamine, which is a major building block of specialized immune cells.9
  • Avoiding “visceral” (belly) fatcurbs chronic inflammation. This is because the body uses visceral fat as a place to store excess AA (a precursor of inflammatory hormones) in order to prevent high AA levels and inflammation from affecting vital cells.  Visceral fat is metabolically active and allows for the steady release of stored AA into the bloodstream, where it can then be taken up by the cells.”10 In short, belly fat fosters inflammation, which leads to more fat deposits, which creates more inflammation.
  • A regular relaxation strategy helps  lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is an anti-stress hormone whose job it is to turn off the inflammatory response, but constant stress and chronic inflammation keep it elevated.   Mediation, yoga, deep breathing or any quiet relaxation for 20-30 minutes a day can help normalize cortisol.  And, deep breathing helps to expel toxins, free radicals, and inflammatory agents from the body.
  • An early bedtime and enough sleep honors the body’s natural biorhythms. The hours before midnight are the most efficient for restoring the body.  Sleep is the body’s own form of natural mediation.   Sufficient nighttime sleep allows cortisol to follow its natural cyclical ebb and flow, dropping off around midnight and peaking about sunrise.11

 

 

Balancing Anti-Inflammatory Omega-3 and Pro-Inflammatory Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids

 

If you are a regular reader of this newsletter, you may recall that our forebears consumed a diet that was balanced with respect to omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids., something around 1:1 or 2:1.   But today, for the typical American, this ratio is now is around 20:1, weighted toward inflammatory omega-6 oils.  Our modern diet of processed, convenience foods is one factor that explains this shift, since food companies rely upon refined, white vegetable oils like corn, soy, and cottonseed because they are cheap and have a long shelf life (there is nothing left to go rancid).  Another aspect is that many modern households have grown to fear healthy saturated fats like butter and unrefined coconut oil and have switched to inexpensive vegetable oils, often believing that they are a healthier choice, and perhaps, too, because they have a long shelf life.   Looking at the table below, which outlines the omega-6/omega-3 ratios of a variety of oils, we can easily see how this omega-6/-3 ratio could soar to 20:1.  Corn, safflower, and cottonseed oils are frequent ingredients in salad dressings and other prepared foods, and their omega-6/-3 ratios range from 72:1 for corn to 234:1 for cottonseed oil (Table 1, below).

 

Table 1: Competition of Omega-6s “Crowding Out” Omega-3s in a Variety of Cooking and Salad Oils

Oil
Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 (Ideal is 3:1 to 1:1)
Flaxseed1/4:1
Butter, Grass-fed animals1:1
Walnut5:1
Soybean7:1
Butter, commercial9:1
Olive11:1
Sunflower19:1
Palm 46:1
Corn72:1
Safflower186:1
Cottonseed234:1

 

Source: Pathways4Health, Derived from Mary Enig’s Know Your Fats

 

Note:  These simply reflect omega-6 versus omega-3s.  For a more complete picture and overview, see Table 2 that follows.

 

Table 2 provides a broader profile of nut and seed oils.  It shows omega-3s and -6s fatty acids within the context of other fat components.  Note that most oils are a composite of a variety of types of fatty acids.  Try to avoid those where the majority of the oil is pro-inflammatory omega-6 such as safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean—between half to three-quarters of these oils are inflammatory omega-6s, with little to no anti-inflammatory omega-3 offset.  Olive oil and saturated fats such as butter and coconut oil have very little omega-6s, and are therefore thought to be “neutral” with respect to inflammation.  [Most experts believe saturated fats like butter from grass-fed animals and unrefined coconut oil are good choices unless chronic inflammatory conditions are deeply rooted.12 ]

 

Table 2:  Composition of Nut and Seed Oils; A Guide to Choosing Oils to Fight Inflammation

Nut or Seed:
Super-
Omega-3
(Table)
Poly-
Omega-6
(Table)
Mono-
Omega-9
(Low-Temp)

Saturated
(Cooking)

Lauric Acid
Flax581419 9 0
Olive 0 87616 0
Coconut,unrefined 0 3 69144
Palm Kernel 0 2138547
Sesame 0454213 0
Peanut 0294718 0
Rape (Canola) 73054 7 0
Almond 01778 5 0
Avocado 0107020 0
Safflower 0751312 0
Sunflower 0652312 0
Corn 0592417 0
Soybean 7502615 0
Pumpkin 75034 9 0
Wheat Germ 5502518 0
Pecan 02063 7 0
Cashew 0 67018 0
Butter (grass-fed) 1.52.329632.8

Source:  Udo Eramus and Pathways4Health


Refined Flour, Blood Sugar, and Insulin

 

The chart above suggests that whole grains are a better choice than refined flour products for controlling blood sugar.  Fracturing a grain raises it blood sugar impact: for example, instant oatmeal (a fractured product) has a glycemic index (GI) of 82 about twice that of steel cut oats (42).   If we do choose to eat refined flour products like white bread we can reduce the insulin effect by combining these with low-glycemic proteins/fats (e.g., turkey, eggs, and nut butter).  Refined flour is, of course, not eaten alone.  It is often baked with ingredients such as eggs, fats, nuts, which lower its GI—a sweetened whole-grain muffin can have less impact on blood sugar than a serving of soaked, whole grain brown rice!  This may sound strange but I learned this from research on grains and blood sugar by my friend Ellen Arian, a teacher, consultant, and professional whole foods chef.

Table 3:  Produce to Buy Organic to Avoid Pesticide/Herbicides

Greatest Load (Buy Organic)
Rating
Least Load (Buy Regular)
Rating
Peaches100Onions 1
Apples 96Avocadoes 1
Peppers 86Corn, frozen 2
Celery 85Pineapple 7
Nectarines 84Mango 9
Strawberries 83Peas, frozen11
Cherries 75Asparagus11
Lettuce69Kiwi14
Grapes68Bananas16
Pears65Cabbage17
Spinach60Broccoli18
Potatoes58Eggplant19
Carrots57Papaya21
Green Beans55Blueberries24
Hot Peppers53Watermelon25

The Test: The data used to construct the list considered how people normally wash, peel, and prepare the specific produce before eating.  The results are compiled from some 42,000 tests for pesticides on produce gathered between 2000 and 2004.



A Segue to Science…For a Few Underlying Concepts and “Why’s”

 

Insulin’s Tie to Inflammation: Insulin controls the metabolism and uptake of nutrients by the cells—so it is really a storage hormone, both for fat and for nutrients. A high carbohydrate diet of refined grains/flours and sugars forces the pancreas to speed up insulin production to contain blood sugar levels.  Also, with the aging process, people tend to become more resistant to insulin, so the pancreas must produce more insulin to assure that nutrients are taken up by vital cells.  When chronically elevated, insulin increases AA levels13, and AA is a building block of pro-inflammatory hormones. [High insulin levels do not allow the burning of fat since insulin (a storage hormone) prevents the release of fat into the bloodstream.  Eating sufficient protein can be helpful for weight loss, both by controlling blood sugar and by stimulating the production of glucagon (See glossary, below).

 

Abdominal Fat’s Role in Inflammation: Through natural selection, we are genetically prone to produce large quantities of insulin—a necessary trait for survival when the efficient storage of calories was critical in times of food scarcity.  Now, of course, we live in an environment with readily available refined carbohydrates and sugars and where this traditional fat-storage survival mechanism can easily work against good health, through the accumulation of excess, active fat.

 

Inflammation and belly fat are closely related because insulin increases AA levels.  When this happens, abdominal fat cells are programmed to sequester AA in order to protect vital cells from excessive AA, the precursor of pro-inflammatory hormones.  But, when AA accumulates and becomes heavily concentrated in “belly fat” (the body’s dumping ground for AA), this visceral fat can begin to actively produce pro-inflammatory hormones, which then leads to the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can enter the blood stream and fuel inflammation. As Barry Sears explains:  “Fat cells can work like immune cells, releasing cytokines as you gain weight.  Cytokines make cells resistant to insulin, so the body pumps out more and more insulin, which increases the production of more and more cytokines.”14

 

Cortisol’s Tie to Inflammation:  Cortisol leads to insulin resistance and lowered immune function. Cortisol is the major anti-inflammatory/anti-stress hormone assigned to turn off excess inflammation and the “fight-to-flight” response.  But, under the conditions of chronic inflammation or chronic stress—either emotional or physical—quite the opposite happens.  Stress causes cells to produce pro-inflammatory hormones—and, in response, the adrenals pump out more cortisol to try to extinguish the fire.  The constant fires that result from chronic stress (stress can stem from excessive exercise, overeating, missing meals, caffeine and other stimulants, excessive weight, etc.) forces the body to counter with more and more cortisol.  Thus, chronic stress leads to persistent high cortisol levels—and as your body adapts, you become more cortisol resistant and you need more cortisol.  More cortisol leads to more abdominal fat (since high cortisol fosters insulin resistance), as well as a depressed immune system (since cortisol’s job is to shut off the immune system).  Persistently elevated cortisol levels pose a variety of risks, including muscle and bone loss, fat gain, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, weakened immune function, loss of memory, and mood swings.15 Mediation and other forms of relaxation help to reduce cortisol levels and give the body some breathing time to normalize.  A helpful tip when you are unavoidably stressed is to increase your intake of fish oil, as a natural way to help cool and curb inflammation.

 

Oxidative Stress and Inflammation.  Diet is a key underlying factor of oxidative stress and weight gain.  A diet centered on sugars and refined carbohydrates and without sufficient antioxidants from whole vegetables and fruits allows free radical damage, known as “oxidative stress.”  Oxidation is a normal process:  an apple slice browns when exposed to oxygen, but if dipped in lemon juice, its antioxidants keep an apple slice looking fresh.  Oxidation like this also happens inside the body if antioxidants are not sufficient. Oxidation disrupts metabolism, making it less efficient, setting the stage for weight gain. Weight gain and inflammation are, thus, set in motion (see comments about abdominal fat, above).

 

Plant Foods for Inflammation. Plants are the leading adaptagens.  Plants are at the forefront of nutritional innovation, adapting to new environmental conditions and creating the anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrients to survive change.  Eating plant foods, especially from our local area, helps us to adapt to the seasons and to longer-term climate shifts.  Choosing a wide variety of plant foods across the color spectrum also helps prevent free-radical damage and inflammation. (Table 4, below; and July ’08 Newsletter for complete discussion.)

 


Glossary of Terms

EPA… eicosapentaenoic acid, a prominent ingredient of fish oil, it inhibits the enzyme that converts by-products of omega-6 oils into arachidonic acid (AA), a precursor of inflammation.

DHA… dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid, found in fish oil, is vital for normal brain function and can be converted to EPA, so it also plays a role in fighting inflammation.

AA… arachidonic acid, is a building block of inflammatory hormones.  Excessive dietary levels of omega-6 oils (linoleic acid) relative to EPA and GLA (found in evening primrose oil) fosters AA and inflammation.

ALA… alpha-linolenic acid…in flaxseed oil, which inhibits the delta-6-desaturase enzymes that decreases both anti-and pro-inflammatory hormones but does little to disarm AA.

Insulin…the nutrient/fat storage hormone that responds to spikes in blood sugar. It has an indirect affect on inflammation by increasing AA levels.

Cortisol… an anti-stress, anti-inflammation hormone produced by the adrenals.  Its job is to turn off the inflammatory response (the immune system) when it is no longer needed.

Glucagon… the major hormone that controls the flow of glucose energy to the brain by signaling the liver to release glycogen.

For a comprehensive scientific explanation of these terms and a thorough discussion of inflammation dynamics, see Barry Sear’s The Anti-Inflammation Zone.

Return to the table of contents.


Table 4:  A Color Spectrum of Fruits and Vegetables

Red
Dark Green
Yellow/Light Green
Orange
Purple
Apples (Red)ArtichokeApples (yellow)ApricotsBeets
Bell PeppersAsparagusApples (Green)Bell PeppersBlackberries
CherriesBell peppers (green)AvocadoButternut SquashBlueberries
CranberriesBroccoliBananaCantaloupeCabbage (purple)
Grapefruit (pink)Brussel SproutsBell Peppers (yellow)CarrotsCherries
Grapes (red)ChardBok choyMangoesCurrants
Plums (red)Collard greensCabbageOrangesEggplant
Radishes (red)Grapes (green)CauliflowerPapayaGrapes (purple)
RaspberriesGreen beansCeleryPumpkinOnions (red)
StrawberriesHoneydew melonsFennelSweet potatoPears (red)
TomatoesKaleKiwiYamsPlums (purple)
WatermelonLeeksLemonsRadish (white)
Lettuce (dark green)Onions
PeasPears
SpinachPineapple
Turnip greensSquash (yellow)
Zucchini (yellow)

Source: Textbook of Natural Medicine, J. Pizzorno Jr. and Michael T. Murray


Summary Guidelines

 

The most important step you can take is to know where your food comes from.  This is the best way to avoid excessive pro-inflammatory omega-6 oils and trans fats—and to limit the consumption of refined flours, sugars, and high fructose corn syrup. More specifically:


  1. Eat good protein (e.g., from grass-fed land animals) with meals to help control blood sugar and insulin;
  2. Know the “good” fats and oils. Consider a high-quality fish oil supplement.  Use omega-3s and omega-9s (at the table) and saturated fats (for cooking) while you limit pro-inflammatory omega-6s fatty acids.
  3. Rely on whole grains and fruits and vegetables  as carbohydrate sources, rather than sugars and refined flour products, to control blood sugar and insulin as well as oxidative stress.
  4. Get Moderate Daily Exercise: Do aerobics 5-6 times and strength training 3 times a week, to control insulin and inflammation.
  5. Get enough sleep to synchronize cortisol and to curb cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates.  The most efficient sleep hours are those before midnight.
  6. If you take a fish oil supplement, quality matters. Fish oil is best absorbed when taken with other foods.  Orange juice or sucking an orange slice helps to dissipate the taste.  I believe reliable sources of cod liver oil to be Green Pastures and Radiant Life;  and for fish oil, Vital Choice, Omax3, and Pharmax (orange flavored).  You may want to research these and others on your own.

If you are concerned about inflammation, ask your doctor for a C-reactive protein (CRP) blood test.


Reading Resources

 

Return to the table of contents.

Omega-3 Recipes16


Flax is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids, but its conversion to EPA and anti-inflammatory prostaglandins requires the presence of vitamins B3, B6, and C, as well as zinc and magnesium.  It is useful for the treatment of a variety of issues including inflammatory conditions, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, immunity, and weight loss (since supports energy metabolism).17

 

Omega Pesto Sauce

[Omega3: Omega-6 Ratio  1.0 to 0.8 ]

3 cloves garlic
3 T. chopped walnuts
3 T. flaxseed oil
1 T. flax meal
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a food processor or blender, add ingredient on at a time, blending after each addition until smooth.  Pesto can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for use within a couple of days.

Can be served as a garnish with fish.


Flax-Olive Oil Vinaigrette

[Omega-3 to -6 ratio  1.0 to 0.4 ]

2 T. flaxseed oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk together.  Use on salads and steamed vegetables.


Omega Mixed Green Salad

[Omega-3 to -6 ratio  1.0 to 1.5 ]

8 cups romaine lettuce
2 medium cucumbers
4 cups baby spinach
½ cup grated carrots
1 cup chopped fresh basil
2 T. chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 T. flax meal

In a large bowl, toss together the romaine, spinach, basil, parsley, cucumbers, and carrots.  Scatter walnuts and flax meal over the salad.

 

Copyright 2010 Pathways4Health.org

Return to the table of contents.


 



  1. Haas, Staying Healthy With Nutrition, 68. []
  2. “Inflammation and abdominal fat accumulation are inextricably linked,” Shawn Talbot, The Cortisol Connection, 35. []
  3. Enig []
  4. Available from Green Pastures and Radiant Life. See January 2010 Shopping Guide. []
  5. See Natasha Campbell-McBride, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, 25-30. []
  6. Primary causes of “leaky-gut” syndrome include low-fiber, high-sugar, refined-flour, and processed foods; overuse of medications, such as NSAIS, antibiotics, acid blockers, hormones, steroids, and birth control pills; toxins such as mercury and molds; low-grade imbalances, such as yeasts, parasites, and bad bacteria; and stress…Mark Hyman. []
  7. Dr. Barry Sears, The Anti-Inflammation Zone. []
  8. Sears, 24. []
  9. Sears, 106. []
  10. Sears, 238. []
  11. See Bruce McEwen, The End of Stress as We Know It. []
  12. Art Akers, PhD, “Cooling Inflammation;” and Mary Enig. []
  13. Sears, 24. []
  14. Sears, 18. []
  15. Talbott, 41. []
  16. Source:  Evelyn Tribole, The Ultimate Omega-3 Diet []
  17. Udo Eramus, Fats the Heal, Fats that Kill, 282-3. []

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Stress, Cortisol, and Belly Fat


 

Stress elevates cortisol, and staying up late throws off the body’s natural cortisol rhythm.  Because cortisol is the fat storage hormone, chronic stress keeps cortisol elevated and encourages weight gain, particularly in the form of belly fat.  The connection between stress and cortisol is one of the reasons that whatever aerobic exercise you choose should be one that you enjoy.

 

Cortisol’s Functions in the Body

 

Cortisol is a vital hormone that helps us deal with stress.   Cortisol makes us active and mentally alert and, since it enters the brain to deliver glucose for energy, it also works to aid learning and memory.  In times of stress, cortisol teams with adrenaline to balance our energy:  It replenishes the body’s energy stores depleted by the “adrenaline rush” and converts the foods that we eat into storage forms, such as fat and glycogen.  We need cortisol.  It helps us spring out of bed in the morning to be mentally alert after a good night’s sleep.  But to work well for us, we need cortisol to ebb and flow in its own natural rhythm—rising early in the morning, gradually diminishing throughout the day and evening to reach a low around midnight to allow us a full night of restful/restorative sleep.

 

Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle—of late-night eating and activity, as well as daytime multi-tasking and lack of exercise—throws off the body’s natural cortisol clock.  Eating and electronic stimulation from television and computers elevate cortisol.  So, too, does chronic stress:  Because the brain is linked to the endocrine system (through the HPA axis, the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenals) just thinking about a stressful situation, whether an important work deadline or the frustration of a traffic jam, elevates cortisol.  Confined in an office or in the midst of a traffic jam, we have little opportunity to work off the energy mobilized by the stress response, so cortisol remains in our blood stream and tissues.

 

Cortisol does not work in a vacuum.  It partners not only with adrenaline, but also with dopamine and a host of other hormones and neurotransmitters.  Cortisol tends to diminish DHEA, growth hormone, and testosterone (an anabolic hormone that affects mood, skin, tendons, muscle mass, metabolism, and the immune system).  It also reduces the effectiveness of insulin (which can lead to insulin resistance).   These are some of factors that underpin why too much cortisol:

 

  • Keeps us in a fat storage mode and keeps us hungry:   Cortisol leads to excess storage of abdominal fat, since abdominal fat is particularly attuned to cortisol.   [Abdominal fat also generates additional cortisol to keep us hungry and exacerbate insulin resistance];
  • Prevents insulin from delivering glucose to muscles (a precursor of insulin resistance and diabetes);
  • De-mineralizes bones and teeth (stress is an insidious factor in osteoporosis!);
  • Accelerates the loss not only of bone mass but also of cartilage and muscle;
  • Upsets the immune system and suppresses immune function over the long-term which can lead to a variety of diseases, as well as auto-immune issues; and
  • Affects the brain and memory:  Unlike adrenaline and insulin which do not cross the blood-brain barrier, cortisol can enter the brain where it delivers glucose for energy and aids memory by enhancing glutamate and promoting neuron “excitability”—but, too much leads to depression, exhaustion of nerve cells, and shrinking of the hippocampus (a key for memory).

 

The Cortisol Clock

 

Sleep is by far the best way to manage stress.  It does more to restore the body than yoga, meditation, or other stress-relieving activities1. Sleep is the body’s natural way to meditate.  We might think of sleep as “vitamin S”…as essential as any micronutrient for ensuring health.  Just as our soil is overworked and depleted of nutrients like the food that it grows, our modern hectic lifestyle erodes our vitamin S:  In 1910, the average adult was still sleeping nine to ten hours a night.  Now, the typical adult barely gets seven hours of shut-eye.  And, it is not just a question of quantity but also quality:  If evening cortisol levels are abnormally high, either from a day of chronic stress and/or late-night stimulation and eating, then sleep may be light and interrupted, with little nighttime sleep of the deep-restorative kind.

 

When we do not get enough sleep or when our sleep is not coordinated with daylight, we throw off the natural timing and intricate balance of hormones, including serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin, as well as the neurotransmitters in the brain.  While the intricacies of biochemistry are hard to follow, let alone to remember, we do not need to understand these concepts  to learn how better to deal with stress.

 

Instead, we can simply focus on cortisol—the major hormone associated with stress—and the lifestyle factors that can help control it so it works for, and not against us.  What I hope you will take away from this newsletter is the visual picture (below) of the natural daily ebb and flow of cortisol.  We want to strive to adjust daily habits, to the degree that we are able, in order to encourage these natural cortisol rhythms.

 

Cortisol normally peaks in the early morning hours between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., and it bottoms out around midnight.  After reaching its early-morning peak, cortisol drops off sharply throughout the day, often leaving us with a dip in energy in late afternoon.  The body is really programmed for a light dinner around 5 p.m., followed by an early bedtime about three hours later2.

 

We can raise our cortisol and energy levels by eating meals (note the cortisol spikes around mealtime and snack breaks, which represent the impact of consuming food).  Other factors that boost cortisol include exercise; stimulants such as caffeine; and, of course, stress, which can include actual situations that are stressful/frustrating, as well as the times when we simply think about and anticipate them.

 

 

Source:  James L. Wilson,Ph.D,  Adrenal Fatigue


When I visualize this chart, I am inspired to eat a good breakfast, a hearty lunch and a lighter dinner.  Regular meals and snacks help maintain cortisol levels throughout the day.  The chart also suggests we might think twice about staying up late to finish emails or to watch the final exciting moments of a late-night sporting event.  It also means trying to plan as many social times around breakfast and lunch rather than late dinners, since the body is best served by a light, early supper.

 

Strategies to Lower Stress

 

Sleep: Sleep is the best defense against stress. Sleep is also the best strategy against weight gain since sleep lowers cortisol and insulin (the fat storage hormone) and helps prevent insulin resistance.  In addition, sleep boosts growth hormone (builds muscle mass) and leptin (curbs hunger and cravings for carbohydrates).    Sleep is also important for immunity, fertility, and mood:

 

“The immune system that controls metabolism…wages a battle every night when you sleep against bacteria and viruses.  Sleeping is actually ‘thinning the herd’ of bacteria…an adaptation that helps us get the jump on bacteria every planetary rotation.”  …T.S. Wiley

 

Sleep researchers at the University of Chicago found that the cortisol levels of people averaging just 6.5 hours of sleep were 50 percent greater and their insulin function was 40% lower compared to subjects getting 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep.  Similarly, a Yale study of more than 1700 men living on fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night “doubled their risk of weight gain and diabetes because of excess cortisol exposure and its interference with insulin metabolism and blood sugar control3.”

 

Just following an early-to-bed policy for a week can reset cortisol levels.   And, once you succeed in lowering cortisol, you have a greater chance of deep, restful nighttime sleep to help perpetuate early waking, daytime alertness, and future nights of restful sleep.

 

How much sleep do you need? Sleep researchers tell us that the typical person, if free to choose, will sleep 8 hours and 15 minutes.   I need a solid 8 hours, but I have family members who seem to thrive on much less (though they often nap in their chairs!).  How much sleep is optimal is a personal matter.  Do you wake up in the morning eager to get out of bed?  Do you need stimulants like coffee to get going?  Do you rely on caffeine to get through the day?  Do you feel mentally “off?”  Do you rely on naps?  If you answer in the affirmative, chances are good that you are not getting adequate sleep at night.

 

Strategies for sleep. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine and follow a regular bedtime schedule.  Go to bed and get up at the same time (when possible).  Try not to nap more than 20-30 minutes, and do not make napping a regular habit.  Make sure the room is dark to help your body make melatonin.

 

Avoid caffeine beyond lunch time and alcohol in the evening (it can awaken you between 1-3 a.m.).  Because it takes energy to fall to sleep, a very light carbohydrate snack may help you drop off to sleep.

 

Try to get some vigorous exercise each day, but not too close to bedtime; as well as exposure to the sun.

 

Exercise. Aerobic exercise and lifting weights can counter the effects of stress-related cortisol.  Enjoyable aerobic exercise helps burn off energy mobilized and stored in the muscles by stress.  It helps reset the body clock from jet-lag.  Exercise also heightens the body’s sensitivity to cortisol and insulin, so it can get by with less.  Be sure to choose an activity you enjoy.  Torturing yourself with exercise you dislike elevates cortisol and becomes self-defeating.

 

Weight training builds muscle mass, which is important for metabolism since a pound of new muscle is estimated to burn 50 additional calories a day.  Weight training helps to counter the normal muscle loss associated with aging:  While muscle strength can be sustained through age 50, it tends to decline by about 20 percent through age 70, and by 40 percent by age 804. Lost muscle impairs balance and means slower metabolism, reduced insulin resistance and hormone function, lowered immunity, weaker bones, decreased conditioning and aerobic fitness.

 

Massage; Yoga; Meditation; Prayer; Time Outdoors. These are all effective ways to lower cortisol, but only if they are activities that you enjoy.  If trying to make time for a yoga class adds stress to your day and makes you feel guilty, sitting quietly in a chair listening to your favorite music might be a better choice.  Whatever you choose should be fun, stress-free, and enjoyable.

 

Cook, Knit, Play Games. If you like kitchen arts, cooking can relieve stress and be empowering.  Cooking, like knitting, can be creative and offers a sense of control at least over a small portion of life.

 

 

Eat Breakfast, Eat Lunch, and Enjoy Daytime Snacks. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  We need food to meet the 6-8 a.m. cortisol crest of early morning.

 

 

Try Not to Diet. Studies show that dieting is stressful and therefore boosts cortisol levels.  Eating at the right times of the day—breakfast, lunch, snacks, and an early dinner—helps keep cortisol on track.

 

Reading Resources

 

  • Bruce McEwen, The End of Stress as We Know It
  • Shawn Talbott, The Cortisol Connection
  • T. S. Wiley, Lights Out:  Sleep, Sugar, and Survival
  • J. E. Williams, Prolonging Health
  • James L. Wilson, Adrenal Fatigue

 

  1. Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., The Cortisol Connection, 141. []
  2. Talbott, 99. []
  3. Talbott, 142. []
  4. J.E.Williams, Prolonging Health, 38. []

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Diet and Lifestyle that Contribute to Wheat Allergies and Chronic Disease


 

Wheat allergies and celiac disease, as well as obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and chronic disease, are not simply the product of wheat, as Dr. Davis in Wheat Belly might like us to think.  Our modern health problems are largely the result of government subsidies that create surpluses of GMO wheat, corn, and soy and the food industry that converts these surpluses into irritants in the form of cheap, new-fangled products that can survive long periods on grocery store shelves.   In his book, Dr. Davis fails to mention inflammatory high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or refined vegetable oils, the consumption of which, through soft drinks and convenience foods, has mushroomed in the last 50 years in parallel fashion with dwarf wheat.  Mutant dwarf wheat is only a piece of the obesity/diabetes puzzle.

 

Other ingredients of our modern lifestyle that underlie wheat allergies and celiac disease include a constellation of factors that weaken the immune system and gut health.  Beyond HFCS and refined oils, we can point to our modern-day reliance upon antibiotics that play havoc with good intestinal flora.

 

And, in terms of diet, while we have added denatured oils and HFCS, mostly through prepared/snack foods and soft drinks, we have crowded out many traditional gut-healing/health-promoting foods like cod liver oil; fermented foods;1 and whole foods that are rich in natural fiber and pre-and probiotics.   Urban living can also be a factor since it decreases our exposure to healthy bacteria from the soil, while our modern screen-based living  habits often rob us of a good night’s sleep, a major restorer and safeguard of immunity.  Compared to today, our great-grandparents ate 40% more wheat largely prepared at home and had little problem with wheat.  Understanding the role played by elements of our modern lifestyle, discussed below, and adjusting habits accordingly could help more of us better assimilate and enjoy traditional wheat, artisan breads, and other gluten grains, when properly prepared.

  • Antibiotics make us more susceptible to wheat allergies.   The gift of antibiotics has brought with it more people to feed.  The widespread use of antibiotics is a factor creating the “need” for cheap GMO plant foods such as mutant dwarf wheat.  Antibiotics have also created a population of antibiotics users with compromised gut health who are less able to digest and absorb the very wheat that was bred and designed to meet their energy needs.  While addressing acute conditions to save lives, antibiotics can foster chronic health issues.  This is because antibiotics weaken gut health by killing off good gut bacteria, thus upsetting the delicate balance of intestinal flora nature designed as an important sentry of our immune system.   Weakened intestinal flora can lead to “leaky gut syndrome,” a condition when undigested proteins (as in wheat proteins) enter the blood stream and cause allergic reactions.
  •  Inflammatory,2 refined vegetable oils interfere with intestinal flora and metabolism.  Per capita consumption of refined vegetable oils has increased more than five-fold in the last half-century!  Like refined flour products, denatured, omega-6 oils feed inflammation, including inflammation of the digestive tract/gut.  Omega-6 oils also depress thyroid/ endocrine function and metabolism, linking them to obesity.
  • Inflammatory high fructose corn syrup.   HFCS takes more energy to be absorbed in the intestine, thereby depleting reserves needed to preserve the integrity of intestinal lining.  According to Mark Hyman, “High doses of free fructose have been proven to literally punch holes in the intestinal lining, allowing nasty byproducts of toxic gut bacteria and partially digested food proteins to enter the bloodstream and trigger the inflammation that is at the root of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia and accelerated aging.”
  •  Cod liver oil; fermented foods; and rural living—traditional links to immune/gut health.  Cod liver oil, which was relied upon by former generations, is a good source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils, as well as a rich source of vitamins A and D.  Active vitamins A and vitamin D help fight inflammation while they work to soothe and heal the digestive/immune system.  Fermented foods provide digestive enzymes and fiber to help feed good intestinal flora.  And, “healthy” bacteria from outdoor living and contact with the soil also support gut health.3
  • Sleep, the victim of our modern screen-based lifestyle.  I think of sleep as nature’s “super antibiotic.”  Nothing restores the mind/spirit and immune system better than a good night of sleep.  For many people, a healthy gut, a healthy immune system, and the ability to enjoy traditional wheat and other grains cooked in traditional ways may be as simple as making a habit of a good night of sleep.
  1. See http://pathways4health.org/2009/07/01/julyaugust-2009-fermenting/ and http://pathways4health.org/2011/12/20/janfeb-2012-vitamin-d-in-winter-and-throughout-the-year/ []
  2. See http://pathways4health.org/2011/07/23/managing-inflammation/ []
  3. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, Gut and Psychology Syndrome. []

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Weigh Out: Ideas for Heathy Weight


A person’s weight is a product of a variety of factors:  hereditary, age, sex, the physical and emotional environment, lifestyle and its associated calorie demands, and the quality and quantity of the food consumed.  Gaining or losing weight is far from a linear phenomenon.

 

Some ethnic groups are more efficient at hoarding calories than others, and some people even within the same family are born with naturally higher metabolic rates than others:  for example, high-strung vata types have higher rates than lower-key kaphas.  Age also plays a role, since metabolism slows down after the early growth years.  With advancing age, body chemistry goes through a variety of hormonal and other adjustments.  The volumes we could eat and drink as a teen and young adult does not work well later in life.

 

A person’s sex also plays a role:  men lose weight in a more linear relationship to calorie intake than women; weight loss is generally easier for men, because of the way their metabolism works:  Metabolism is a product of anabolism, building up, and catabolism, breaking down.  For any given individual, these two forces are rarely in perfect balance.   A man’s metabolism is tilted more toward catabolism, while a woman’s leans more toward anabolism.  This helps explain why some women can actually gain weight on a calorie-restricted diet.

 

Climate, work conditions, and a person’s emotional state also play a role in how rapidly calories are burned.  Even exercise can be self-defeating if the activity is disliked and viewed as stressful.1


Poor quality of food plays a role in weight gain:

  • Refined foods hit the blood stream rapidly and, if not burned, are quickly converted to triglycerides;
  • Fructose in the form of high fructose corn syrup disrupts insulin receptors and glucose metabolism.  It is stored as fat more than any other type of sugar;2; and
  • Trans fats depress metabolism and raise insulin levels.

 

A calorie of Wonder Bread is not metabolized in the same way as a calorie of kale, for example.  Some foods require more energy for digestion than others.  In contrast, whole foods satisfy, so we eat less.

 

Diets

The body’s natural survival mechanism can “undermine” a person’s efforts to lose weight:  When a person goes on a low-calorie diet, the body reads the condition as a time of famine and begins to hoard calories.  In the “starvation” mode, metabolism drops and the body makes every effort to use available calories in the most efficient way possible.  So, dieting becomes can quickly become discouraging and self-defeating.

 

Strict diets are rigid and they tend to work against the enjoyment and pleasure that nature intended food to provide.  We are inclined to rebel against a diet designed by others, especially if it does not fit with our tastes, preferences, and personal needs.  Diet dictates also work against our innate programming for autonomy and independence, drives established at the earliest ages, and that particularly apparent when it comes to food.  (Parents will certainly recognize this food voice, present in the youngest of children.)

 

We all need flexibility when it comes to food.  What tastes good to us one day may not the next, so we need to be able to adapt our eating from day to day—as well as from year to year.  A person may require more calories and more carbohydrates, for example, to make it through a day of difficult physical or mental work, and particularly if tired from being up late the night before.  Exhaustion breeds cravings for sugar.

 

Food is information.  When we pay attention, we can learn a great deal from what, how, where, and when we eat. Eating is always a creative new experience.  Rigid diets are very “left-brain” and really belong to someone else.  In that way alone, they are lifeless, stultifying, and suffocating.

 

Food is always an interesting adventure, an opportunity to experience a sense of gratitude, and an edifying experiment every time we eat.  A weight loss diet is better replaced by a good, flexible dining program of chewing well, enjoying whole food and good company that leave us feeling satisfied both physically and emotionally, and then allowing the body “seek its own level.”

 

We will feel best if we eat wholesome foods and then allow your body to seek its own healthy weight.  This alone can encourage rapid metabolism, good physical and mental energy, and weight loss.

 

“Weigh out” strategies:

Eat fresh, natural, whole, quality food for the life-force energy that it provides, and because good quality food helps boost metabolism and leave us feeling satisfied with less. In contrast, fractured, empty-calorie foods like refined flour, sugar, and vegetable oils do not satisfy and can leave us searching for more food to fill the void.

 

Chew. Chew every bite 25-30 times, and at every meal.  This is easier said than done.  It requires intention, attention, and practice.  Get used to the way that food that is thoroughly chewed feels in the mouth.  When we pay attention and appreciate our food, we eat less.  Chewing gives us time to register satiety and to register the full experience of eating through chewing, tasting, and crunching to satisfy on many levels, and sooner.  Chewing improves not only digestion, but also the absorption of nutrients.  It also helps stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.

 

Chewing is especially important for the digestion of carbohydrates since carbohydrate digestion starts in the mouth when starches are pulverized and mixed with salivary amylase.  Carbohydrate digestion is then “on hold” for a prolonged period of time.  It is only later, when starches move through the stomach to the upper part of the small intestine, when they meet up with pancreatic enzymes, that their digestion can continue.  (Pepsin and hydrochloric acid in the stomach digest proteins, but not carbohydrates.)

 

Balance meals with adequate protein, carbohydrates, and fats. A meal is most satisfying if it includes a small amount of protein, whole-grain carbohydrates, quality fats, and vegetables and/or fruits of a variety of colors, particularly green and red-orange.  Include plenty of “good” fats and high-quality foods.

 

Be flexible and vary foods, both with the seasons, and by emphasizing a variety of colored fruits and vegetables. Some days we are hungrier than others.  What we need one day may be the product of what we ate and did the day before, as well as whether we got adequate sleep the night before.  The lack of sleep can send a person looking for sugar and caffeine as a “quick fix.”

 

Drink plenty of water. Drinking water before, during, and after the meal can help digestion so that food does not get all “clumped up” in the stomach.  Sometimes cravings, which we can easily misread as being for more food, are really messages that the body needs more water.  Water, a yin substance, can help us feel lighter and more expanded.  It is especially helpful to balance yang lifestyle factors such as stress and overwork, as well as contractive foods.  Often drinking water will restore a sense of balance.  As a general rule, try to drink about 8 glasses of water a day, but the amount will vary with the weather, the level of physical activity, and the type of foods eaten.  Vegetables and fruits have high water contents, so a diet of relatively more plant foods would require less water than one that focuses more on contractive animal proteins.  Sugars are also particularly dehydrating and require plentiful fluids.

 

Try to “fast” three hours before bedtime and throughout the nighttime hours. Digestive energy is actually at its peak in the late-morning hours, so it is best to eat your major protein meals early in the day and have at night a lighter supper of vegetables and grains.  The body naturally cools down in the early evening hours and digestive fire is then at its lowest point.  Natural biochemistry and bio-rhythms are attuned to expect a12-hour fasting period, from early evening to the next morning, a period when the digestive organs can rest and the liver can take over to cleanse the blood.  The liver can perform this janitorial function only if we get out of its way. [See the Chinese Body Clock, Resource Graphic Section.]

 

Get some moderate exercise, fresh air, some sunshine when possible, and an adequate night’s sleep.  Mediation and deep breathing can also relieve stress. These strategies help keep the body flexible and energized.  They can also help keep your cortisol (a mental-acuity and a fat storage hormone) and energy levels high in the daytime and lower at night, as nature intended.

 

Avoid feeling guilty. We all make food mistakes, and we usually suffer when we do.  There is no need to add guilt to the toll:  We are punished not for our sins but by our sins.  This is all information, and when we pay attention, we do better the next time.

 

Copyright 2010 Pathways4Health.org

  1. Marc David, The Slowdown Diet. []
  2. “ Fructose is No Answer For a Sweetener,” Nancy Appleton. []

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Fats and Metabolism


Fats play an important role in weight loss, particularly by making us feel satisfied at the end of a meal.  This is intuitive and empirical.  And, there are a host of interesting concepts that come from the science lab that support the idea of using healthy, saturated fats for weight loss.  Good fats not only boost metabolism, but also immune function, and they assist in the absorption of minerals.

 

Another important concept from the science lab is to eat enough calories to prevent your body from going into “starvation mode.”  The body requires somewhere between 1000-1800 calories a day just to maintain itself.  This minimum level is required for the normal function of the body.  When calorie intake drops below this minimum level, a bell signaling famine goes off, telling the body to hoard calories.  This mechanism seems especially active in women, perhaps as a safety for reproduction.  When this occurs, calorie restriction becomes self-defeating.  A drop in metabolism also means quick weight gain when a person returns to a normal calorie intact.  Good fats help boost metabolism, create satiety, stabilize blood sugar, and help you “stay the course.”

 

Fat facts from the science lab:

  • Coconut oil boosts metabolism. As a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), coconut oil is metabolized more quickly than vegetable oils.  MCTs are absorbed directly from the digestive tract into the blood stream without having to be transported by the lymph system to the liver.  Vegetable oils, in contrast, are long-chain triglycerides (LCT) which circulate  in the blood stream and, if not needed for energy, can readily be deposited as fat. 1   Coconut oil is burned at a rate three times faster than other fats.2 Part of the reason for this relates to the high lauric acid content of coconut oil.  Lauric acid, an effective antimicrobial, accounts for half of the content of coconut oil, and it is the most rapidly utilized of all the fatty acids.  By boosting metabolism, coconut oil raises body temperature, metabolic rate, energy and a sense of well-being.  Because it is stable, it can be a good choice for cooking, particularly for anyone with a slow metabolism or is hypothytoid.   At the same time, coconut oil is limited by the fact that it contains no essential fatty acids (EFAs), and unlike butter from grass-fed animals, it is not a source of fat-soluble vitamins, so it is best used as a complementary fat in the diet. 3.

 

  • Butter is a short-chain triglyceride (SCT) with just 4 carbons (coconut oil as a MCT with fatty acid components of between 6 and 12 carbon molecules).  Short and medium chain fatty acids have fewer calories than longer chain (18 carbon) vegetable oils and, as mentioned, they are metabolized quickly rather than being as readily stored as fat.  Butter from grass-fed animals is a powerful antimicrobial, with the proper balance of omega-3s and -6s, as well as being a source of a variety of trace minerals, including selenium.  Butterfat also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which helps to fight cancer.4   Butter from grass-fed animals is rich in the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K, particularly vitamin A and also vitamin D, making butter a more balanced, nutritious fat than coconut oil.

 

  • Cod liver oil, high in vitamins A and D, is also helpful for weight loss.  It provides necessary vitamin D to help the body utilize insulin.  Vitamin A helps adrenal function and aides diabetics, who are not able to utilize beta carotene in foods.  Fish oils are high in EPA and DHA, which are precursors of prostaglandins that help regulate metabolism.

 

  • Fats in the small intestine help silence hunger pangs.  The body reacts to fat in the small intestine by releasing hormones that quiet hunger contractions.

 

  • Non-dairy sources of calcium stimulate weight loss. (Seaweeds, along with green vegetables are a good choice.  Seaweeds are the highest source of calcium and, due to their high levels of iodine, they also help boost thyroid function.)

 

  • Trans fats, like vegetable oils but even more so, are best avoided.  Trans fats, not only disrupt the normal biochemistry of the body, but they also play havoc with weight loss.  Trans fats depress metabolism and foster diabetes.  Holding calories constant, people gain more weight on diets that include trans fats.  Trans fats affect adipose cell size because they are packed in cells  less tightly than saturated fats.

Sources:

Mary Enig, Know Your Fats

Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions

Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, Eat Fat to Lose Fat

Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, Dangers of Statin Drugs

Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods

Udo Eramus, Fats that Kill, Fats that Heal

Ronald Schmid, Traditional Foods are Your Best Medicine

Copyright Pathways4Health.org


  1. Udo Eramus, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, 309. []
  2.  Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, Eat Fat to Lose Fat. []
  3. Also, if you are concerned about cholesterol (about which I have reservations) lauric acid may actually raise total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels…Elson Haas, 65 []
  4. Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, 15. []

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Thyroid Deficiency and Fertility


Thyroid function and fertility are interrelated.  It is estimated that 40% of the population is thyroid deficient.  Meanwhile, more women are experiencing fertility issues, particularly as many postpone marriage and childbearing and encounter the stresses of labor force participation. Continue reading »


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