Tuesday, September 27, 2022

How Not To Die: Part 1

Based off the book "How Not To Die" by Michael Greger 

How Not To Die: Part 1:

Most deaths in the United States are preventable, and they are related to what we eat. Our diet is the number one cause of premature death and the number-one cause of disability. The primary reason diseases tend to run in families may be that diets tend to run in families. For most of our leading killers, nongenetic factors like diet can account for at least 80 or 90 percent of cases. Surely, diet must also be the number-one thing taught in medical schools, right? Wrong. While most of the public evidently considers doctors to be “very credible” sources of nutrition information, six out of seven graduating doctors surveyed felt physicians were inadequately trained to counsel patients about their diets. But this is the twenty-first century. Can’t we eat whatever we want and simply take meds when we begin having health problems? For too many patients and even the author's physician colleagues, this seems to be the prevailing mind-set. We’re living longer, yes, but we’re living sicker. In public health school, students learn that there are three levels of preventive medicine. The first is primary prevention, as in trying to prevent people at risk for heart disease from suffering their first heart attack. An example of this level of preventive medicine would be your doctor prescribing you a statin drug for high cholesterol. Secondary prevention takes place when you already have the disease and are trying to prevent it from becoming worse, like having a second heart attack. To do this, your doctor may add an aspirin or other drugs to your regimen. At the third level of preventive medicine, the focus is on helping people manage long term health problems, so your doctor, for example, might prescribe a cardiac rehabilitation program that aims to prevent further physical deterioration and pain. As physicians, the authors colleagues and the author himself were trained not to treat the root cause but rather the consequences by giving a lifetime’s worth of medications to treat risk factors like high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. This approach has been compared to mopping up the floor around an overflowing sink instead of simply turning off the faucet. Drug companies are more than happy to sell you a new roll of paper towels every day for the rest of your life while the water continues to gush. This is how much influence the business of medicine has on the practice of medicine. In his words, Dr. Ornish “realized reimbursement is a much more powerful determinant of medical practice than research.” In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced newly mandated safety labeling on statin drugs to warn doctors and patients about their potential for brain-related side effects, such as memory loss and confusion. Statin drugs also appeared to increase the risk of developing diabetes. In 2013, a study of several thousand breast cancer patients reported that long-term use of statins may as much as double a woman’s risk of invasive breast cancer. But why accept any risk at all if you can lower your cholesterol naturally? Given the right conditions, the body heals itself. If you whack your shin really hard on a coffee table, it can get red, swollen, and painful. But your shin will heal naturally if you just stand back and let your body work its magic. But what if you kept whacking it in the same place three times a day—say, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner? It would never heal. If you eat the typical American diet, processed foods and fast food, these can stiffen your arteries within hours, cutting in half their ability to relax normally. And just as this inflammatory state starts to calm down five or six hours later—lunchtime! You may once again whack your arteries with another load of harmful food, leaving many Americans stuck in a danger zone of chronic, low grade inflammation. The American Dietetic Association (ADA), which produces a series of nutrition fact sheets with guidelines on maintaining a healthy diet, also has its own corporate ties. Who writes these fact sheets? Food industry sources pay the ADA $20,000 per fact sheet to explicitly take part in the drafting process. So we can learn about eggs from the American Egg Board and about the benefits of chewing gum from the Wrigley Science Institute. In 2012, the American Dietetic Association changed its name to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics but didn’t appear to change its policies. It continues to take millions of dollars every year from processed junk food, meat, dairy, soda, and candy bar companies. In return, the academy lets them offer official educational seminars to teach dietitians what to say to their clients. When you hear the title “registered dietitian,” this is the group they are registered through. The top reason doctors give for not counseling patients with high cholesterol to eat healthier is that they think patients may “fear privations related to dietary advice.” In other words, doctors perceive that patients would feel deprived of all the junk they’re eating. Can you imagine a doctor saying, “Yeah, I’d like to tell my patients to stop smoking, but I know how much they love it”? Possible reasons for not counseling patients include a lack of insurance reimbursement for the extra time spent, a lack of resources, a lack of time, and a lack of knowledge. We’re just not training doctors how to empower the people they serve. So what do we eat? It has also been shown with data going back fifty years that a high intake of fruits and vegetables is positively associated with good lung function. Sources of potassium-rich foods such as greens, beans, and sweet potatoes. Certain fruits and vegetables may give the immune function an extra boost like broccoli. For disease prevention, berries of all colors have “emerged as champions,” according to the head of the Bioactive Botanical Research Laboratory. The purported anticancer properties of berry compounds have been attributed to their apparent ability to counteract, reduce, and repair damage resulting from oxidative stress and inflammation. But it wasn’t known until recently that berries may also boost your levels of natural killer cells. It’s critical to understand what the concept of “normal” is when it comes to our nutrition and our bodies. For example, having a “normal” salt intake can lead to a “normal” blood pressure, which can contribute to us dying from all the “normal” causes, like heart attacks and strokes. Remember, if we continue to eat as though we’re having our last meals, eventually they will be.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Part 5: Inflammatory Habits Part 2 and Conclusion

Part 5: 

Inflammatory Habit 4: Negativity. Did you know that you have around 60,000 thoughts every day? And what’s even more surprising: One Stanford study found that a staggering 90 percent of those thoughts are repetitive. Think about that: Nine out of ten of your thoughts are ones you have over and over again. For many people, these thoughts are not only repetitive but largely negative. Negative thoughts include things you are worried about, critical thoughts about your own appearance or abilities, dread of the future, regret about the past, etc. Negative thoughts fuel stress, and that is damaging to your overall health. Negativity is inflammatory. It’s not easy to change your habitual way of relating to your own world. HOW TO GIVE IT UP: Mindful awareness will help you notice your negativity habit. Proceed slowly, consciously, and rationally. Be the observer of your own thoughts as if you’re watching the thoughts of someone else scroll by. ACTIVITIES TO INCORPORATE: Give these glass-half-full strategies a try. Pay attention. Start noticing your thoughts. When they are negative, question them. Ask yourself: Is that true? Practice positivity. Like any other skill, being more positive takes practice. Purposefully form positive thoughts, especially in response to negative thoughts. Even if you don’t completely believe them, say them to yourself anyway. Fake it till you make it, as they say. Notice your triggers. If you are negative only in certain situations or with specific people, think about why. Can you change the situation? Is the relationship, environment, or situation something that can be fixed, or do you need to move on? Laugh more. Humor can be a good way to defuse negativity. Seek out chances to laugh more—funny friends, funny movies, or a willingness to be amused by the occasional absurdity of life. Hang out with positive people. When all your friends are Negative Nancys or Neds, it’s easy to fall in step. When your friends tend to see the bright side, you are more likely to join in on that behavior. Be patient with yourself. Negativity is a hard habit to break, but be persistent. You may not conquer your negative habits today, but you can choose to make this the first day of the rest of your life when it comes to having a more positive outlook.

Inflammatory Habit 5: Monkey Mind. Monkey mind comes from a Buddhist term (both Chinese and Japanese have versions of it) meaning “unsettled” or “capricious,” and it is used to mean a restless mind that can’t concentrate because it keeps jumping around like a crazy monkey, unable to settle on any subject or engage in any deep thought. This anxious, reactive mind is prevalent in our culture, which is so often focused on sound bites, video clips, advertisements, and other visual and aural stimuli that change constantly to draw and keep our attention. WHY GIVE IT UP (FOR NOW): The result of chronic monkey mind is that we have trouble paying attention to anything for longer than about 30 seconds (or less). Monkey mind also describes that state when you lie awake in bed at night thinking of a million things you need to do or worrying about a long list of things that probably won’t ever happen. WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Detachment from the reactive thinking mind is liberating and calming to your system. You are not your thoughts or your emotions, but the observing presence of them. As you go through the day, become aware of when your mind starts jumping around. Noticing is the first step. When you notice, see if you can detach from the “jumping around” so that you feel like you are looking at it from the outside rather than being in the thick of it. This might feel hard at first, but with practice, you will get better and better. The trick is consistency. 

Inflammatory Habit 6: Emotional Eating. Emotional eating, sometimes called stress eating, is a stress response that involves consuming food to relieve stress, distract yourself from unpleasant feelings, or provide a little moment of pleasure in the face of depression or anxiety. In other words, when you feel bad, you eat to feel better. It’s the proverbial pint-of-ice-cream-after-a-breakup scenario. Eating for reasons other than hunger is okay now and then—to celebrate, to socialize. However, if eating for emotional reasons becomes chronic—you do it more than a few times a week, or even daily—then it is a problem and can damage your health. It isn’t about eating for hunger. It is about eating your feelings, and that’s not a healthy physical or emotional practice. When you have emotional “hunger,” food will not fill you. It is only a temporary distraction that will likely leave you feeling even worse later, especially if it causes you to go against the health improvements you’ve been trying so hard to make. The kinds of foods emotional eaters usually crave are high in refined carbs like sugar and white flour or fried like potato chips or French fries or extremely high in fat like cheese, or all of the above, like a doughnut. One intense emotional eating session can derail your good health efforts, so if you are an emotional eater and want to feel better, you will benefit immensely by working through this problem. HOW TO GIVE IT UP: If you are an emotional eater, you probably already know you aren’t going to solve this problem in one day, but you can solve it by gradually increasing your awareness of the cues that make you feel like eating. The point of this exercise is to help you make food about food, and about nothing but food. You can’t get rid of strong emotions, and this isn’t about repressing your feelings or judging your emotions. Emotions come and go. This practice is about disassociating feelings about other things in your life from the food you eat, thus processing your emotions separately from processing your food. WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Negative emotions, especially anxiety, can make you feel compelled to do something, anything, to relieve it. Make a list of five things you like to do that you can do immediately without any preparation. Listen to three favorite songs in a row with headphones. Go for a walk—no need to change clothes, just go. Take 20 slow deep breaths, counting to 5 as you inhale and 10 as you exhale. Take a shower and vigorously scrub all your skin with a brush or washcloth, then moisturize everywhere. Sit down and watch a funny show or movie (no food or cell phone—just be present for the show). Drink 16 ounces of water. Eat four stalks of celery— although it’s food, it’s not a “binge” food, and the crunch can help relieve anxiety. Take a 20-minute catnap. Free-write for 15 minutes without stopping. Write whatever you are feeling without thinking about it or worrying about grammar or how it sounds. No judgment—it’s just for you. Do anything else that relieves the pressure of your immediate in-the-moment feeling that doesn’t involve food. 

Inflammatory Habit 7: Social Isolation and/or Social Media Addiction. WHY GIVE IT UP (FOR NOW): Social media keeps people constantly interrupted as they continually stop what they are doing to check their notifications. This keeps them from ever being fully engaged in an activity for an extended period—a skill you can lose if you never practice it. ACTIVITIES TO INCORPORATE: Try these strategies to help you reconnect with actual face-to-face humans again. Have a conversation with a friend or family member who is physically with you. Better yet, spend the day with a real person, in a no-phone zone, talking about your lives. Write a letter using a pen and some paper. Mail it in a real envelope with an actual stamp. Notice whether your other family members have a problem, too—you could make this “social media cleanse” a family affair or challenge, especially since many kids and teens have problems with this issue.

Inflammatory Habit 8: Lack of Higher Purpose. WHY HAVE A HIGHER PURPOSE? Having a higher purpose has been demonstrated to improve health, recovery from illness or surgery, and brain function, including stroke risk. It is deeply connected to your wellbeing. Those who report not having a higher purpose tend to have poorer outcomes after a health crisis, more depression, and less life satisfaction. ACTIVITIES TO INCORPORATE: Here are some things to do to help you discover your higher purpose—they are long-term things, but take just one step toward making at least one of these happen this week: Join a place of worship or a spiritual group or study some spiritual tradition that interests you. Learn something new that you have always wanted to learn, such as how to play the piano, or how to speak Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, or how to do karate or tai chi or yoga, or how to knit or do woodworking. It doesn’t have to be lofty (although it could be). It just has to get you feeling passionate. You can try multiple activities to see what resonates with you. Pick up something you used to love but stopped doing when life got in the way. Maybe you could start planning that trip you’ve been wanting to take, or finish that book you started writing, or finally get that degree. If you used to dance or write poetry or paint landscapes or play the guitar and you loved it, carve out a time to start doing it again. You could volunteer with an organization that helps others—children, animals, the hungry, the poor, whatever it is that catches your heart—and see how service work changes your perspective.

Now that we have gone over your toolboxes and your inflammatory habits you may be wondering what can I eat? Well I am here to tell you some more foods to look out for that may provoke an inflammatory response in your body (but then again, maybe it won’t, you’ll have to see for yourself!)

HIGH-HISTAMINE FOODS Here are the foods with the highest content of histamine, foods that could cause an overload: Alcohol (especially beer and wine), Bone broth, Canned food, Cheese, especially aged cheese, Chocolate, Eggplant, Fermented foods (kefir, kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut), Legumes (especially fermented soybeans, chickpeas, and peanuts), Mushrooms, Nuts, especially cashews and walnuts, Processed foods, Shellfish, Smoked meat products (bacon, salami, salmon, ham), Spinach, and Vinegar. FOODS THAT RELEASE HISTAMINE These foods are low in histamines but can trigger the release of histamine, thus creating problems for people with histamine intolerance: Avocados, Bananas, Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit), Strawberries, and Tomatoes. DIAMINE OXIDASE (DAO) ENZYME BLOCKERS These foods block the enzyme that controls histamine, which can cause higher levels in some people: Alcohol, Energy drinks, and Teas (black, green, yerba maté).

Salicylates: Salicylates are compounds found in pain medications like aspirin as well as in beauty and skin products, but in the context of food, salicylates are naturally found in many plant foods. In certain plant foods, salicylates act as a defense mechanism to protect the plant. The symptoms of salicylate intolerance can be similar to those of histamine intolerance: neurological, digestive, or skin reactions. If you think you might have this intolerance, try eliminating these salicylate-rich foods and see if it helps: Almonds, Apricots, Avocados, Blackberries, Cherries, Coconut oil, Dates, Dried fruits, Endive, Gherkins, Grapes, Green olives, Guavas, Honey, Nightshades (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes), Olive oil, Oranges, Pineapple, Plums/prunes, Tangelos, Tangerines, and Water chestnuts. You may be tolerant of some FODMAPs but not of others, so it’s good to test these one at a time (or in small groups, since the list is long) to see if your symptoms improve: Artichoke, Asparagus, Bananas, Beets, Cabbage, Cashews, Carob powder, Cauliflower, coconut water, Dairy products, all types from cow’s milk: cheese, milk, cream, ice cream, sour cream, yogurt, Fruit juice of any kind, Garlic, Gluten—all products that contain wheat, barley, rye, or spelt, Green beans, High fructose fruits (all except berries, limes, lemons, and melons), Honey, Legumes, Mushrooms, Onions, all types (including shallots and scallions), Peas, Sauerkraut, Soy, Sugar alcohols (often used in sugar-free sweet products, these include inulin, isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol). In oxalate-sensitive people, this can drive inflammation in these areas. Foods higher in oxalates include: Beets, Cocoa, Kale, Peanuts, Spinach, Sweet potatoes, and Swiss chard. Reactions can come in many forms. As you begin to test foods through re-introduction after 4-8 weeks, any of the following symptoms count as a reaction and you should record them, even if you aren’t 100 percent sure they came from the food you ate: Any aggravation or recurrence of your past symptoms that went away during the last four or eight weeks, Headaches or migraines, Any digestive symptoms (bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, abdominal pain), Any skin problems (itching, rashes, hives, acne breakouts, sudden appearance of dry flaky skin), Eyes or mouth itching, irritated, or burning, especially right after eating a food, Sudden nasal congestion, itching, or dripping, especially right after eating a food, Increased heart rate: racing heart, palpitations, skipped heartbeats, Joint pain, joint stiffness, especially on both sides of the body at the same time or all over, All-over muscle aches or stiff muscles, Feeling feverish Brain fog symptoms, such as trouble concentrating, focusing, or remembering things, especially if this has abated in the last eight weeks and suddenly comes back or gets noticeably worse, Sudden fatigue, Sudden mood changes—depression, anxiety, panic, nervousness, sense of doom, Retaining water —limbs and face look thicker, rings don’t fit, clothes leave marks in your skin, Sudden weight gain of a pound or two, and Sleep inconsistency or inability to fall or stay asleep. What about “cheating” during this 4-8 week reset? The concept of cheating, as it relates to food, is antithetical to sustainable wellness. I want you to remember that nothing is forbidden. There is a difference between knowing a food is bad for you and choosing not to eat it and forbidding yourself from having a particular food. One is food freedom, and one is food prison.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Part 4: Why Give Foods Up, For Now

Part 4: Why Give Foods Up, For Now 

Grains: Gluten. It’s nearly impossible not to hear the G-word thrown around these days. An explosion of gluten research has shed light on this protein in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt—conservative estimates approximate that 1 in 20 Americans have gluten intolerance. Gluten is difficult to digest compared to the proteins in other grains, so its presence in the digestive tract can inflame the intestinal lining, loosening the tight junctions and contributing to leaky gut syndrome. When this happens, undigested food proteins such as gluten and bacterial endotoxins called lipopolysaccharides (LPS) can pass into the bloodstream, creating an inflammatory reaction outside the GI tract that could trigger an autoimmune response. Lectins. Lectins are proteins found most abundantly in grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes), and squash (mainly the skin and seeds). These plant defense mechanisms are indigestible, and like gluten, lectins can cause digestive problems and trigger inflammation in many people, compromising the intestinal barrier. Lectins can also bind to insulin and leptin receptor sites, fueling hormonal resistance patterns. Enzyme inhibitors. Your body makes enzymes to assist with digestion, but grains contain alpha-amylase inhibitors and protease inhibitors, which can inhibit these digestive enzymes, causing digestive difficulties for you if you are sensitive. Phytic acid and phytates. These compounds are anti-nutrients that bind to minerals like calcium and iron in your body, making them unusable to you. Mineral deficiencies like osteoporosis can be perpetuated by the presence of phytates. Saponins. Pseudo-grains like quinoa are particularly high in these anti-nutrients, which can contribute to inflammation and gut permeability in sensitive people. Sugars. Grains are high in sugars, which can cause blood sugar and insulin spikes and could lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes in susceptible people. High omega-6 levels. Fats are essential for optimal health, but there are inflammatory fats and anti-inflammatory fats. Grains are high in polyunsaturated omega-6 fats, which are inflammatory when out of proportion to omega-3 fats. Since most people eat far more omega-6 fats, grains can contribute to this imbalance.

Dairy: There are all kinds of reasons people might react to dairy products like milk, ice cream, yogurt, cream, and cheese. Lactose. Those who are intolerant of lactose (milk sugar) lack the enzyme to digest dairy products containing lactose. In these people, eating dairy products can cause uncomfortable digestive problems, from bloating and gas to diarrhea. Casein and/or whey. Those who can digest lactose without a problem may have a different issue—they may be intolerant of or sensitive to the proteins in milk—specifically, casein and whey. The casein molecule can look a lot like the gluten molecule to an over reactive immune system, so bodies that are sensitive to one are often sensitive to the other, causing inflammation in the digestive tract. If casein proteins pass through the protective gut lining due to intestinal permeability, they could trigger more serious reactions, like autoimmunity. In people with casein or whey intolerance or sensitivity, dairy products can also cause severe digestive problems, like stomach cramps and diarrhea, as well as other seemingly unrelated effects, like breathing problems, vomiting, hives, joint pain, extreme fatigue, neurological symptoms, and behavioral changes (or even anaphylaxis in people who are allergic to the casein or whey protein in milk). Additives. Want growth hormone with your milk? Conventional milk available in supermarkets often comes from cows injected with bovine growth hormone, which dairy farmers administer to increase milk production. We don’t yet know what effect this could have on the people who drink it, immediately or in the long run. Also, dairy cows are often pumped full of antibiotics to prevent or treat mastitis, which develops as a result of irritation or infection from the milking machines. That means you could get an extra dose of residual antibiotics, and probably a little mastitis pus, in every glass of cow’s milk. Added sugar. Of course flavored milks like chocolate milk are loaded with added sweeteners.

Added Sugar: There are mountains of studies proving that refined sugars, such as white sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup (or any corn syrup), and similar cheap sweeteners cause inflammation in almost everybody and can increase your risk of many chronic diseases, including diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease, (sugar increases your chance of dying from heart disease, even if you aren’t overweight). Artificial sweeteners can be even worse, toying with your gut bacteria and tipping your scales to make you weigh more, even though you may have thought your calorie-free beverage choice was doing the opposite. Even natural sweeteners keep you focused on that sweet taste, instead of refining your palate to appreciate the natural sweetness of foods. Sugar is addictive. The average American consumes about 3,550 pounds of sugar in a lifetime—the equivalent of 1.7 million Skittles, or an industrial-sized dumpster full of white sugar. We are going to ignore that dumpster and keep all added sweeteners out of your body for now. Later, you may find you can reintegrate some natural sweeteners, but you won’t know for sure if you tolerate them unless you give them up for a while.

Seed Oils: To extract these oils, the seeds are subjected to high temperatures. Then the oils are removed with petroleum solvents and further chemically treated to remove the by-products of the process. Next they are often colored and scented so they don’t smell like what they really are—the unnatural result of an aggressive chemical process. These oils also frequently contain artificial antioxidants like BHA and BHT to keep them shelf-stable for long periods of time. Mmm, old oil . . . Vegetable oils also contain more polyunsaturated fatty acids than oils from olives and coconuts (more naturally extracted through good old fashioned pressing). These polyunsaturated fats oxidize easily, so these oils are often major sources of inflammatory free radicals, especially when heated. We’ll be sticking with more natural, anti-inflammatory inflammatory oils like cold-pressed olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and ghee (clarified butter with the dairy solids removed). 

One of the unique features of this individualized plan is that you will be eliminating some inflammatory lifestyle habits. Food is key to an elimination diet, but there are also some potent nonfood factors that can contribute to systemic inflammation and health decline. If you have lifestyle habits that harm your body and brain as well as your emotions and spirit, then even if you do eat everything perfectly during your elimination journey, you are unintentionally sabotaging your healthy efforts. These lifestyle habits can be just as inflammatory as foods, if not more than, so let’s get them out of your life.

Inflammatory Habit 1: Prolonged Sitting Human bodies aren’t meant to sit all day. They are meant to walk, run, lift, carry, even swim. Squatting or even sitting on the ground is better for your body than sitting in a chair. 

Inflammatory Habit 2: Screen surfing. Today, see if you can cut down your time a little bit: After you are done working, resist the urge to surf the Internet. Turn off the screen and do something else. Notice how often you check your emails. Can you reduce the time you spend on this, or do it in chunks a few times a day instead of immediately responding to every text or email alert? Challenge yourself and your family to find something different to do tonight, other than watching TV or playing video games—something that doesn’t involve a screen at all. Can you go out to a (screenless) restaurant? Play a game? Take a walk or a bike ride together? Invite people over? Can you all leave your phones at home? ACTIVITIES TO INCORPORATE: Fresh out of ideas that aren’t screen-centric? Try these: Spend time in nature. There is nothing more healing to the eyes, the brain, and the body than time passed in the natural world. Take a walk in a park, go on a hike, or take a day-trip to a natural area today. If you can’t leave your phone at home, at least stash it in the glove box or put it in your purse or pocket and resist the urge to keep taking it out and looking at it. Interact with those in front of you. Talk directly to your kids. Meet a friend for coffee and keep your phone put away. Walk over to people in your office and tell them what you need to tell them, without defaulting to text or email. Look others directly in the eyes and smile. Notice their reactions. It might feel weird, but the more you do it, the more natural it will be. Go to the theater or attend a live event or a concert. Watching a play or a concert, as opposed to watching a movie or a music video, feels completely different. At first you may even find it strenuous, but it is good for your brain. What can you see live tonight? Bonus points if it is outdoors and you don’t take a video of it with your phone or post anything about it on social media. Take a walk around your neighborhood, or even indoors somewhere, tuning in to all your senses.What do you see, hear, smell, feel? Notice if you have the impulse to look something up or post about something on social media and try to ride out the impulse. Eat an entire meal without looking at a screen—no TV, no phone. Pay attention to your food and the company instead. You will eat less and make better food choices when you pay attention to your food. but weighing yourself daily or even weekly can keep you too focused on that one goal at the expense of a broader view of your health and well-being. 

Inflammatory Habit 3: Not getting enough sleep. Sleep is not a luxury. It is a mandate for your wellness. Sleep is essential for health. You heal and rejuvenate both body and mind when you sleep, yet many of us tend to make sleep a low priority. Next week we will finish out the rest of the Inflammatory Habits!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Part 3: More Toolboxes

 Part 3: More Toolboxes 

Hormone (Endocrine System) Toolbox:

If you suffer from moodiness, PMS, irregular or painful periods, or a low sex drive, or you are heading toward menopause and having a lot of uncomfortable symptoms, you probably already suspect that you are having trouble with your hormone balance. These are some obvious hormonal issues, but there are many other ways your hormone system reveals it is out of balance, such as thyroid, adrenal, and testosterone issues. Whatever your specific hormonal imbalance, the tools in this toolbox can help get your system back in order by reducing inflammation to improve hormone receptor activity and brain-hormonal communication (in the hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal, thyroid, or gonadal axes). Even when you are in a period of hormonal upheaval such as perimenopause, you should notice major symptom improvement on this plan. This toolbox will help get you back on track fast. Sole water. This electrolyte-infused water supports the adrenal hormone aldosterone, which is partially responsible for electrolyte and fluid balance. It stabilizes sodium levels and is easy to make. Once you have made it, it won’t take more than a few seconds to add it to your daily routine. To make it, find a large mason jar (any large size—you can find these online if you don’t have any) with a plastic lid—a metal lid can oxidize and corrode when it comes into contact with salt water—and fill it a quarter of the way up with high-quality sea salt, Celtic salt, or Himalayan pink salt, or a mixture or combination of these three. Add filtered water but leave a little room at the top. Put on the lid, shake it up, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, check your sole water. If you can see some salt in the bottom of the jar, the water is saturated with the salt. If you don’t see any salt, add a teaspoon more. Shake, and give it an hour to dissolve. Keep going until some salt remains at the bottom. When the sole water is fully saturated, it is ready. Add 1 teaspoon to a glass of water every morning and drink it before eating anything. Dip only plastic or wood into the water to scoop it out—no metal utensils. Sea vegetables. Plant foods from the sea—for example, kelp, nori, dulse, kombu, wakame, and agar—are high in iodine, which you need to produce thyroid hormones. Every cell needs thyroid hormones to function properly. Wild-caught fish—specifically salmon, mackerel, and sardines. These are rich in vitamin D, which supports hundreds of different metabolic pathways, and contain healthy fats that support hormone balance. Chasteberry supplements. This berry naturally supports healthy progesterone levels to balance out your ratio of progesterone to estrogen. Rooibos tea. This bright red tea from the African red bush supports adrenal function by balancing cortisol, one of the stress hormones. Ashwagandha supplements. The ultimate cortisol balancer, this herb, popular in Ayurvedic medicine therapy, supports the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the thyroid by boosting sluggish thyroid hormones, and helps you feel calm, especially when you have been suffering from mood swings and/or hormone-fueled anxiety. Evening primrose oil supplements. This oil contains the hormone-supporting omega-6 fatty acids GLA and LA, and helps relieve symptoms of menopause, PMS, PCOS, and hormonally fueled acne. Schisandra powder. This berry supports the adrenals and is good to add to smoothies or teas.

Musculoskeletal Toolbox:

Inflammation in the structures that hold your body together can have a wide range of painful effects—from tight, sore muscles and joints to osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune diseases that settle in the joints (such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and lupus). It can also compromise joint, muscle, and connective tissue structure, making you too loose and more prone to injury or too tight with more pain and stiffness. If you don’t decrease inflammation in these areas, you could end up with a chronic pain problem, an inability to exercise, or even a disability due to joint damage and muscle weakness. This toolbox targets the areas that give your body structure and provides it with the ability to move and function better, to get you moving comfortably again. Here are your tools. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) supplements. This sulfur-containing compound reduces joint and muscle pain through its natural anti-inflammatory action. Turmeric. This ancient medicinal spice is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory spices, due to the curcuminoids and other beneficial compounds it contains. Collagen powder. This powder, which you can add to smoothies or any hot or cold drink, is restorative for connective tissue. Glucosamine sulfate (with or without chondroitin sulfate). This supplement supports healthy cartilage and synovial fluid to restore joint health, reduce pain, and calm inflammation. Studies show it has legitimate pain-reducing and mobility-increasing effects. Infrared sauna. This type of sauna in particular reduces inflammation and can feel relaxing and stress-reducing (unless you are intolerant to heat). Cryotherapy. This therapy uses deep cold temperatures for short time periods to drive down inflammation levels. It is rejuvenating and can result in significant pain relief (unless you are intolerant to cold). Massage. Do you need another excuse to make massage a part of your regular routine? Various techniques, especially Swedish, trigger point, myofascial release, and deep-tissue techniques, target and relieve muscle pain and tension. CBD oil. This oil from the hemp or cannabis plant helps alleviate pain in the musculoskeletal system. Don’t worry (or maybe I should say, “Sorry, but . . .”), CBD is refined so it does not contain any (or contains very little) THC. You won’t get high, but you will get pain relief.

Autoimmunity Toolbox:

In America alone, it’s estimated that 50 million people have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. In most cases, the official diagnostic criterion is that the patient’s immune system has already destroyed a significant amount of their body—for instance, there has to be 90 percent destruction of the adrenal glands for autoimmune adrenal issues or Addison’s disease to be diagnosed. There also has to be major destruction of the neurological and digestive systems in a diagnosis of neurological autoimmunity like multiple sclerosis (MS), or gut autoimmunity, like celiac disease. This amount of autoimmune-inflammation attack does not happen overnight—it’s the end stage of the larger autoimmune inflammation spectrum. We want to address the causes of the inflammation before the patient reaches that end-stage level of destruction. There are three main stages of the autoimmune-inflammation spectrum: Silent Autoimmunity: There are positive antibody labs but no noticeable symptoms. Autoimmune Reactivity: There are positive antibody labs and the patient is experiencing symptoms. Autoimmune Disease: There’s enough body destruction to be diagnosed and loads of potential symptoms. Many people are in the second stage: not sick enough to have been slapped with a diagnosis code, but nonetheless feeling the effects of autoimmune reactivity. People living somewhere on the inflammation spectrum often get sent from doctor to doctor, with a pile of labs and medications, yet nothing to show for it. These patients are often essentially told, “Well, you will probably get lupus in a few years —come back then.” Inflammation is a major factor for most, if not all, autoimmune diseases. Autoimmunity is a condition in which the immune system attacks its own tissues, thinking they are foreign invaders (like viruses or bacteria are). What once used to be a rare condition is now common, with approximately a hundred different recognized autoimmune diseases and another forty conditions that have an autoimmune component. Some the more common ones seen are rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disorders, celiac disease, psoriasis, scleroderma, vitiligo, pernicious anemia, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Addison’s disease, Graves’ disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, type 1 diabetes, hidradenitis suppurativa, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Most often, the immune system attacks the digestive system, joints, muscles, skin, connective tissue, brain and spinal cord, endocrine glands (such as the thyroid and adrenals), and/or blood vessels. These diseases can be mild in some and debilitating, even fatal, in others. If you already have an autoimmune disease, this toolbox will help support your health. If you are not diagnosed but your immune-centered inflammation is advancing, cooling inflammation is crucial, start with this toolbox. Organ meats from grass-fed or pastured animals. Once a common part of the human diet, organ meats are much less common now, especially in the United States, but they contain some of the highest amounts of true vitamin A, bioavailable B vitamins, and minerals like iron of any food. Vitamin A deficiencies are linked to autoimmune conditions, and organ meats can replenish deficiencies quickly. Extra-virgin cod-liver oil. This ultra-healthy fat is rich in fat-soluble vitamins, which the immune system requires to stay healthy and function appropriately. Emu oil. This oil from the ostrich-like emu is rich in vitamin K2, which helps balance the important family of enzymes called iNOS (inducible nitric oxide synthases) to modulate inflammatory pathways. Broccoli sprouts. These sprouts have some of the highest levels of methylation-supporting sulforaphane, which can dramatically reduce inflammation and maintain proper T-cell function. Elderberry. This fruit helps balance the immune system. Elderberry is typically found in a liquid supplement form. Black cumin seed oil. This supplement increases T-regulatory cells to rebalance an out-of-control immune system and lower inflammation. Pterostilbene supplements. This compound, which is similar to resveratrol, decreases inflammatory NF-ĸB proteins and increases the anti-inflammatory Nrf2 pathway. Water or coconut kefir. These fermented drinks contain naturally occurring vitamin K2 as a by-product of the fermentation process. They also contain kefiran, a unique sugar produced by kefir grains that has the ability to decrease inflammation and calm the immune system.

Polyinflammation Toolbox:

Multiple areas of inflammation are a sign that your health is significantly compromised. Are you facing a future of imminent chronic disease if you don’t change course? Maybe. Or maybe you already have a diagnosis. In any case, this is no time to dabble in the next fun fad diet. You must do something dramatically different to see different results. If you have been waiting for the right time to make a drastic change for your health, it’s now. Let’s get serious because your health may be at stake, and the power to change that is in your hands. Fortunately, you have quite a few toolboxes at your disposal—in fact, all of them. Dip into all the toolboxes that are relevant to your particular areas of inflammation. You could focus on the toolboxes for the areas you are most concerned about, or you could try strategies from a different toolbox every day. If you are having a bad joint day, go to the musculoskeletal toolbox and pick some medicinal foods and therapies. If your digestion seems off, check out the digestive toolbox to try some digestive food medicines and therapies. If it’s a nasty brain fog day, head on over to the brain/nervous system toolbox and sample some of those therapies. Browse freely, use all the tools you can, and tackle that inflammation.