August 27, 2018

486 Keeping It Off [27 August 2018]

Most dieters will agree that it’s easier to lose weight than to keep it off. Once we have achieved our goal weight we tend to revert to our old eating habits and the pounds start creeping back on. Remember, weight gain is normal and natural. Here are some strategies for maintaining our desired weight:
Have a Plan – just like in the weight-losing phase, having a plan directs and motivates us to achieve our new objective.
Accountability – keep in close contact with your coach through the first year post diet – weekly the first few months, then monthly for the rest of the year. Then check in a few times a year as needed.
Journaling – several studies show that keeping a food journal increases our rate of successfully keeping the weight off. It increases our awareness of what we are eating; helps identify problem habits, and creates accountability (even if just to our self).
Exercise daily – with a ketogenic diet, exercise is not necessary for losing fat weight, but it is very important in maintaining our weight. Resistance training exercises (lifting weights) increases muscle mass, further improving our body fat ratio.
Choose Healthy Foods – strictly limit simple carbs; choose healthy fats; eat sufficient high quality protein (more on this another week)
Proper Food Combinations – separate carb-rich and fat-rich meals
Some Quick Tips
o Start the day with a hearty breakfast.
o Don’t shop on an empty stomach.
o Eat mindfully, especially snacking.
o Control food portions; resist second helpings.
o Hot meals are more filling than cold.
o Stay hydrated – drink at least 2 liters of water daily.
o Use alcohol with moderation
o Get enough sleep.
Reward yourself – each month you meet your maintenance target, treat yourself with something non-fattening like a night out, massage or pedicure.
Reboot your metabolism for a few weeks every year with the ketogenic diet to return to your desired weight.

Further reading:
"How to keep weight off forever" WebMD
"Ten Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep it Off"

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

August 20, 2018

485 Inherited Stress [20 Aug 2018]

There’s an old joke that insanity is hereditary – you get it from your children. What parent hasn’t at some point exclaimed “You kids are driving me crazy!” Less funny perhaps, but more fascinating is what scientists have learned recently about heredity and health. Dr. Emeran Mayer, devotes Chapter 5 of his 2016 book “The Mind-Gut Connection” to the effects of early life experiences on gut-brain communication.

Stressful family events during childhood, in the womb, or even prior to conception, can affect our health in surprising ways: lowering our tolerance to stress; increasing our risk for anxiety, depression, digestive disorders like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), diarrhea or constipation; and causing unhealthy changes to our gut microbiome. Babies born to highly stressed mothers have lower birth weights and are more prone to infections. Brain scans of adults with significant adverse childhood experiences (death of a parent, divorce, abuse, etc.) show abnormalities in brain structure and function.

In animal studies baby rats who were neglected or whose mothers were stressed, developed health problems similar to anxiety, depression, and addiction, while the nurtured pups developed into relaxed normal adult rats. The nurtured pups grew up to be nurturing mothers while the neglected pups became neglecting mothers. This wasn’t just learned behavior – it was hard wired into their hormonal and neurological systems during infancy.

These changes can be passed on to the second and third generation by a process called epigenetics [see #269 May 2014]. Epigenetics is the study of markers that turn genes on or off while leaving them intact. If this happens to reproductive cells, these markers can be passed on to your children.

How can we apply this information to improve our children’s health? First, minimize maternal stress during pregnancy and early childhood (easier said than done – refer back to the first line!). This is where Dad’s support is critical. Secondly, provide a loving secure home for the kids from birth through their teens. Thirdly, ensure the children’s microbiomes are as healthy as possible (more on that in a future article). Finally, don’t blame yourself for your kids’ health problems – blame your parents! [smile!]

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

August 13, 2018

484 Our Complex Gut [13 August 2018]

In grade school health we were taught that our digestive system was a fairly simple “food processing machine” comprised of a handful of organs. Food entered at one end, a variety of digestive juices were added along the way, nutrients were extracted, and the leftover waste expelled out the other end. Scientists are just now discovering how complex our digestive system really is.

Dr. Emeran Mayer in his 2016 book “The Mind-Gut Connection – how the hidden conversation in our bodies impacts our mood, our choices, and our overall health” shares what cutting-edge science has learned about the connections between our gut, our brain, and our microbiome. This adds to previous articles I wrote about the brain-gut axis: #320 in May 2015 and #422 in May 2017.

First, the gut has its own nervous system, sometimes called the “second brain”. The enteric nervous system (ENS), as it is properly named, rivals the spinal cord for number of nerve cells – some 50-100 million. The ENS makes the gut the largest sensory organ of the body – covering an area the size of a basketball court.

The gut contains more immune cells than in all the rest of the body. There is a good reason for this – the gut is exposed to more pathogenic microbes than any other system. It can identify and destroy a pathogenic species out of the approximately 1,000 species that may exist in our gut.

The gut contains more endocrine cells than in all the other endocrine glands put together – adrenals, thyroid, pituitary, etc. The gut produces and stores 95% of the body’s serotonin, the neurotransmitter that controls our mood, sleep, appetite, and pain sensitivity.

Then there is the microbiome. Technological advances in DNA testing over the past few decades has allowed us to identify the thousands of microbial species that typically inhabit our body. There are about as many microbial cells in and on our body as there are human cells (if you include the red blood cells). By weight our microbiome is more massive than our brain. And since there are over 1,000 species, their collective genes outnumber our own a hundred fold.

These gut systems communicate with the brain in different ways. The large vagus nerve directly connects the gut and the brain. The hormones and neurotransmitters produced by the cells in the gut wall, and the metabolites produced by the microbes, can travel by the bloodstream to the brain. Mayer calls this complex three-way communication system the “Gut-Microbiome-Brain Axis”.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. Find this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.

August 6, 2018

483 The Placebo Effect [6 Aug 2018]

In the first few chapters of her 2016 book “Cure – a Journey into the Science of Mind over Body”, Jo Marchant explores the placebo effect.

The placebo effect is stronger and more widespread than I had realized. An enlightening example was the 1996 discovery that the enzyme secretin dramatically improved some autistic children, which when tested (in 1999) was found to work no better than a placebo. It did work, but so did the placebo (a saline injection); both groups improved significantly.

Another example is the surgical technique vertebroplasty (essentially gluing cracked vertebrae) which in a controlled study was found to be no better than placebo (a sham surgery). Again both groups improved significantly in mobility and pain relief.

So the placebo effect is more than just random improvement – there is a measurable beneficial effect due to patients’ expectations. And studies are discovering physiological changes in the body in response to these expectations which likely account for most of the favorable results. Some examples: a Parkinson’s drug placebo increases dopamine production; and a placebo pain killer increases production of endorphins (our body’s natural painkillers). Patients aren’t imagining the improvements – they are real.

The benefits of placebos are, however, limited to effects the body can control. A placebo can reduce pain, anxiety and depression, improve sleep, and lower blood pressure, but can’t replace insulin, shrink a tumor or lower cholesterol.

The author believes that any benefits from many alternative medicines and treatments like homeopathics and Reiki are due to the placebo effect. But she also reports that half of 53 surgical procedures studied in 2014, and most antidepressant drugs like Prozac, work little better than placebo. Valium for example only works if the patients know they are taking it. These drugs are still being marketed, and vertebroplasty surgery is still being performed. The author even proposes prescribing placebos, with the patients’ knowledge, in certain cases.

I’d love to see more controlled studies of natural products to learn how well they really work compared to conventional treatments. But I would still sell products that proved no better than placebo – if the customer asked for them and it was safe to do so. Why not harness the power of the mind to improve our health?

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.