Tuesday, February 22, 2022

In Depth: Gut Health


Have you ever wondered why you aren’t seeing progress, why your energy levels are off, feeling stressed and bloated, why you may be getting sick more? All of these link up to gut health. Inflammation, immunity, hormones, are all a part of gut health and if something is off it could lead to many symptoms that coincide with your doctor telling you to “just rest more” or “lose weight” or “take this medication” (which you may not even need). A few of these symptoms may include: fatigue, high stress, craving sugar, constipation or diarrhea, overactive bladder, chronic UTIs, brain fog, cold extremities, food intolerances, stomach aches, skin irritation, autoimmune diseases such as thyroid diseases, unintentional weight changes, allergies, sleep problems, bloating and gas, I could keep going on with this list. In January, I went through the gut and brain health series of the foods that help reduce inflammation in the body and help to heal your gut. If you need to take a look back at those videos for more in depth information please do so but here is the general list: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Avocado, Blueberries, 80% of higher Dark Chocolate, Pasture raised Eggs, Grass fed Beef, Dark Leafy Greens, Broccoli, Wild Salmon, and Almonds. All of these foods are high in vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy. When your gut health is off it could be due to an underlying condition going on in your gut. This could be an overgrowth of bad bacteria, yeast, or parasites causing SIBO, IBS, or Leaky Gut. When your gut health is off this can also lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The good thing is that it can all be fixed! There are tests that doctors can run (but they don’t) including a GI Map (stool sample) that can determine the types of bacteria in your GI system and if it’s overrun with anything I mentioned above, extensive blood tests on all areas of your body including thyroid (there are 6 tests for this alone), kidneys, liver, hormones, as well as a full metabolic panel (this one is the one you get when you get blood drawn for yearly check ups), and food allergen testing (this will change as your gut heals). Many individuals go undiagnosed with gut health issues their whole life and end up feeling like crap (pun intended) and on tons of medication potentially making their gut health worse along with the side effects of the medication. If your doctor does not want to run a functional screening either find a new one or see a functional medicine doctor. Functional screenings are a little different than your yearly blood work because doctors do not run the tests based off of what it means to be in a functional range (prevention) but instead go based off of “oh you have this so now we are going to treat it with pharmaceuticals that you’ll be on for life” aka treating the symptoms and not the cause, even though it could be reversible using functional (preventative medicine). All in all, gut health is one of the most important factors in keeping your body healthy and in homeostasis. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms check in with your doctor and make sure to advocate for yourself!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

What Does Health Mean?


What does health mean? When I ask this question the answers I receive are different, but they do have similar undertones. I’ve gotten responses that health is only based on how much you weigh, only eating vegetables, and overall being miserable at the constant thinking about what it means to be a healthy person. Health truly will look different for everyone. I’m going to tell you a little about my personal story to get you out of the mindset that weight=health because remember IT DOES NOT! Back in 2020 I was the heaviest I had ever been and was definitely seeing that mid 20’s weight gain that women go through. Now let’s jump to 2021, I had moved back home to Iowa due to the pandemic and started seeing drastic weight loss. This was actually strange to me because my eating habits hadn’t changed much and I hadn’t been to a commercial gym in ages. I chalked it up to a lot less stress in my life (which I had broken off in 2020), having a more active job, and unfortunately 6 runs of tonsillitis and constant antibiotics. In less than 6 months I had dropped 70lbs. This is something that is very dangerous for you and your organs and if my weight hadn’t leveled out in July I would have seen a doctor because it is concerning. Let’s jump to 2022, after being sick and on some form of antibiotic or steroid every month in 2021 I now weigh less than I did in high school, regardless of trying to gain weight and have been experiencing some health symptoms that are alarming. Doctor’s and Specialist’s ran the tests and came back with “nothing is wrong with you, you are a lean young person”. I went to functional medicine instead after not being taken seriously. Turns out I have an overgrowth of a few different bad gut bacteria that is causing leaky gut syndrome, malnourishment and not able to absorb nutrients properly, and causing my liver and kidneys to overwork themselves trying to excrete and filter out the toxins in my bloodstream that my gut is leaking out. This in turn threw off my thyroid and I now have borderline hypothyroidism. If you just look at me, you wouldn’t know this, you would just think what my prior doctors did, she’s a young, slender, healthy person. Remember WEIGHT DOES NOT EQUAL HEALTH!!! The overall umbrella of health and the underlying tones of responses to the question of “what is health” include: mental, physical, and spiritual. We want to be in the right mindset, we want to be happy and stress free. We want to be able to do the activities we want to do with no issue and live a long life. We want to not have to rely on medication. We still want to enjoy our food and fuel our bodies with what feels good without constantly thinking negatively about it. So I’ll leave you with this question to ponder: What does health mean to you?

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Sleep and Nutrition

Nutrition and sleep are interconnected. If we eat an unbalanced diet that will reflect how we sleep and may lead to sleep problems. Having a lack of calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, C, D, E,  and K can disrupt your sleep patterns. This is more due to those micronutrients having an effect on the hormonal pathways involved in sleep. High carb meals can also increase the number of times you wake up during the night and reduce the amount of time you are in deep sleep. Frequent consumption of energy drinks and sugar sweetened beverages is also associated with poor sleep quality. The best “diets” for better sleep are the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, however the dash diet is now under review for updates. That is just how nutrition affects sleep. Now onto how sleep affects nutrition. People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to increase their food consumption and pick higher calorie foods. The production of hunger and appetite hormones can be thrown off after short periods of inadequate sleep. Sleeping can also reduce overeating. 

Ways to improve sleep: 

  1. Sleep hygiene such as keeping to a regular sleep schedule, regardless of the day of the week, have a set wakeup time

  2. Giving yourself plenty of time to relax and get ready for bed (avoiding screen time at least an hour before bed)

  3. Not eating right before bed

  4. Prioritize sleep, make gradual adjustments so you can adjust more easily to get to bed at a decent hour and wake up feeling refreshed (and eventually without the need for an alarm)

  5. If you are having problems falling asleep (i.e. after 20 minutes), don’t toss and turn, get up and stretch, read a book, or something else calming in low lighting

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

BMR and Reverse Dieting

BMR stands for Basal Metabolic Rate, that rate at which your metabolism burns calories. Many different factors including: age, height, weight, activity level, hormones, medications, and thyroid health play a role in what this number is. Your base BMR is what I like to call coma calories. Basically meaning if you were in a coma in the hospital the amount of calories you would need to run your bodily systems and function. The number goes up from there based on the lifestyle you live; from sedentary to extremely active jobs. This number is important because we can use it as a tool to see if we are under or over eating and as a way to help fix our metabolism and even speed it back up. In many cases that I have seen the cause of slower metabolisms has been due to undereating. The more underfed we are the more our BMR drops. For example, say I workout 5x a week doing mostly HIIT and cardio and I am only eating 1300 calories per day; my BMR (coma) should be 1300 however because of the amount of exercise I do my BMR may look more like 900 because of the limited amount of calories consumed and the protein synthesis would also be lower (when your body takes what it needs to survive from your muscles instead of the food you eat). In order to fix this I would need to double my calorie intake to 2600 so my body can recognize that I am now giving it enough fuel to run its functions and also enough fuel for my workouts and my recovery. This, in turn, speeds up my metabolism to a more “normal” number of 1300 or even above that to 1500 or 1600 and also helps speed up protein synthesis. Once this is fixed (and only when this is fixed) can you begin to go into a caloric deficit to lose weight if that is your goal. This is how reverse dieting works. You may be thinking to yourself, Sami wouldn’t an increase in calories cause more weight gain?, and to answer your question, maybe. It may cause a slight increase in weight (this is temporary) or you may start to lose weight. It really depends on your hormones at that point in the process and how fast your body recognizes it is now receiving enough food to fuel itself. We need to remember that fixing your metabolism is a process that can take months to figure out and work. What we also need to remember is that weight DOES NOT equal health. Focus more on how you feel throughout the process versus the number on the scale. Reverse dieting will also give you a little more food freedom and the ability to help you heal your relationship with food and the constant binge and restrict that we see so often. Another question when it comes to reverse dieting is wondering if that means you can eat whatever you want. Yes and no. You want to eat more (and I mean massive amounts) of whole foods like fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes and nuts/seeds (if your gut can handle that), lean sources of meat, and lots of water. You can still have unhealthy foods, just less of them. You’ll find when you eat massive amounts of whole foods you won't be craving the unhealthy foods as much anyway.