Tuesday, February 18, 2014

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU STOP WASHING YOUR HAIR


After being a slave to daily shampooing since the tender age of 13, and hearing tales that it is possible for one to transform their locks into that of a Disney princess using just apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and enduring a few days of looking like Broom Hilda, I've decided to take the plunge and do the whole "no-poo" thing.

You can follow my progress (or lack there of) here:

The "no-poo" experiment

Saturday, February 8, 2014

CAN DIETING AND EXERCISE CAN MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT?!??

Wait, diet and exercise are supposed to make me skinny, right? Calories in calories out? At least that's the impression I had been laboring (literally laboring) under for the past 25 years. Well, turns out this theory is wrong, like, krimped hair wrong. And this over simplification of fat gain and loss has led to many a hungry, frustrated gal (and guy), hanging over the stairmill, churning away in vain, wondering what the heck gives. 

The truth is people gain weight for many, many reasons including hormonal function, genetics, micro and macro nutrient ratios, but today we're going to talk about STRESS.

Now, when you hear the word stress you might start imagining some poor unfortunate soul screaming out "SELL GODDAMNIT, SELLL!" from a trading room floor in the seventh circle of hell. And this would be a stressful situation indeed. However, stress comes in a lot of different forms - not just work-related. Dr. James L. Wilson classified stress into four categories:  


  1. Physical stress – from things like overworking, lack of sleep and over-exercise
  2. Chemical stress – from environmental pollutants and a diet high in refined carbohydrates and processed foods
  3. Thermal stress — over-heating or over-chilling the body (hello Bikram!)
  4. Emotional and mental stress


Any kind of stress causes our body to produce the hormone cortisol. Cortisol stimulates the liver to raise our blood sugar by taking proteins from our skeletal tissue and fat from our adipose tissue and converting them into glucose (gluconeogenesis).

Why? Because our stress response evolved over millions of years, and being chased by a wild animal  (very stressful) requires a lot of energy. Sor our body learned to provide this energy by making more blood sugar.

Now you might say, hey, wait a minute - you said cortisol breaks down fat, so how could it make me fat? 

Well if your only stress is running from a wild animal and/or working out at the gym every now and then, then yes, this energy expenditure will cause your body to produce cortisol to make glucose out of your stored fat. Hooray. Burn baby burn. 

HOWEVER 

If, perhaps, you have more stressors than the occasional foot race with a wildebeest, you could be putting yourself in a chronically stressed state without even knowing it. This is when the pounds start piling on and this is why:  

Let's say for example you're someone who exercises on a daily basis, something pretty strenuous - running, spinning, hot yoga - for about an hour. Then let's say you also just started work at a new job where your boss has mistaken you for their personal slave or, alternatively, you're in college trying to figure out how to fit in class and partying while still making the deans list, in both of these situations sleep is probably not high on the priority list. Then let's add to the mix calorie counting. You're trying to look damn good in the process, so you're faithfully using mycaloriecounter.com like any good dieter would and making sure you keep that total at a whopping 1,200 per day, after all, that's the magic number according to US Weekly. 

In sum that's:  
* Daily exercise = cortisol
* Workplace / lifestyle demands = more cortisol
* Lack of sleep = more cortisol (your body needs more fuel the longer you stay awake) 
* Lack of fuel (calories) = more cortisol (your body thinks it's starving = stress = cortisol) 

All of this stacks up to equal one crapload of cortisol constantly pumping through your body. This means your blood sugar is constantly elevated. When your blood sugar is elevated your body produces another hormone - insulin to get that sugar out of your blood and into the cells. The more and more insulin you have in your body the less responsive your cells are to it - thus the phenomenon that is called "insulin resistance" - in layman's terms: you have a ton of sugar in your blood, your cells become either saturated and/or resistant to taking in anymore - what happens with all this extra sugar? 

FAT STORAGE. 

This is why it sometimes seems like you're banging your head against the wall, busting your hump to work out like Richard Simmons doesn't even KNOW and nothing. Nada. No change. 

Here's the solution: stop. If you want to loose weight you've got to get your body as close to that wildebeest-fearing primal lifestyle as possible. This means: 

1. Fueling your body - as soon as your body starts to feel like it's running out of fuel it's going to try and raise your blood sugar, so eat. Eat until you are full. Then eat again when you are hungry, not starving. Repeat as needed. 

2. Exercise then rest. Remember sporadic bursts of stress will cause your body to produce cortisol and in the process break down fat. Plus since you're being active (as opposed to freaking out over an expense report at your desk)  you're actually using all that extra blood sugar you're making. But your not running from wildebeests every day. Give it a rest. Rest is key. 

3. Manage your emotional stress. Of course it's not possible for everyone to say 'good day' to the ole' slave driver and ship off for a life of leisure in Cozumel, but you can try and let a few more things roll. My strategy is simple, yet effective, it's called "In the grand scheme of your life.." say this to yourself whenever you feel a freakout upon you. Like say an unexpected bill / speeding ticket comes in or you accidentally hit 'reply all' when you meant to hit reply, just say to yourself "in the grand scheme of your life - does this really matter?" Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. It's pretty much always no. 

4. SLEEP. Sleep is a superfood. Sleep is the best way you can give your body a rest and keep your cortisol down. So make sure you're getting the shut eye. 




Saturday, January 11, 2014

THE HYDROCHLORIC ACID TEST

If you read my post about the importance of stomach acid and are curious about what you've got brewing down there then take the HCL challenge.

1. Get yourself some HCL with pepsin - I recommend starting with 350mg. They sell it pretty much everywhere or you can get it off amazon.

2. Take one HCL capsule per meal per day*

Note: only take the HCL when your eating protein

3. Increase by one capsule per meal every day until you feel a burning sensation - either in the stomach (like you just took a shot of whiskey) or a heartburn-like feeling - within 5 minutes of ingesting the supplement.

So day two you would take two capsules, day three, three, and so on until you feel any kind of burning. You can put out the burn by drinking a 4 oz. glass of warm water with 1 tsp. baking soda.

4. The number of capsules you took BEFORE you felt the burning is the dose you should start taking. So if you felt the burn at 4 capsules, start taking 3 at every meal with protein.

5. Continue to take this dose until you feel the burn again. Then back down by one capsule. Keep stepping down until you don't need the acid anymore.

Sounds simple enough but if you run into some trouble, check out this post: Troubleshooting the HCL Challenge 

Friday, January 10, 2014

DIGESTION PT I: THOU SHALT CHEW THY FOOD


Everybody's got problems. Acne, IBS, depression, traffic on the 405. Turns out that most of these problems can be considerably improved by just chewing your food.

Actually the solution is focusing on digestion as a whole - if you don't digest your food properly, your body can't absorb all the nutrients, and thus begins a whole cascade of bodily issues that can result in bad skin, bad moods and bad bowel movements, to name a few.

And it all starts with chewing.

CHEW
I know growing up in my household the kitchen table was the kitchen counter, where my mother and I would stand, inhaling our food - usually an assortment of randomness: cheese, rotisserie chicken bits, a scoop (or ten) of peanut butter, the occasional hunk of frozen key lime pie - like a Nascar pit crew.  Gobble gobble. This practice of chew, chew swallow sends nearly solid food down your gullet into your stomach.

Think about it: there's teeth in your mouth, the purpose of which are to breakdown food, if you don't break it down COMPLETELY in your mouth, what's breaking it down in your stomach? Not much.

So the first step to problem solving is CHEWING.

Wait. Strike that. The first step is to SLOW DOWN AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING.

Ever heard of "mindful eating" well that's the practice of actually acknowledging the fact that you're nourishing yourself, rather than inhaling whatever gruel you popped out of the microwave (as was the case with me) whilst flipping through an US Weekly or checking your work email.

Just by thinking about food your brain triggers your saliva glands to start salivating (re: "mouth watering") and your saliva is your body's first responder when it comes to digestion - already beginning the process in your mouth. If you're not thinking, you're not salivating.

Once you've taken a moment to acknowledge your food and thank God, Buddah, or mom for the glorious abundance that lie before you, then start chewing. Like 30 times. Or more if you can.

Sounds easy but it's not. I'm currently working on this practice and it literally takes  all my mental strength and focus just to chew more than 10 times. But you must. Sit down. Concentrate. And Chew. For the love of God. Chew.

If nothing else motivates you perhaps the almighty dollar will, remember: all that money you're spending on grass-fed, all-natural, fermented goodness you might as well throw down the drain if you're not chewing your food. Your body can't benefit from what it can't digest.

Now on to Digestion PT II

DIGESTION PT II: THOU SHALT DROP ACID




The next most important key to digestion is stomach acid. A TON of information has been posted on the subject and if you really want all the info read: Why Stomach Acid is Good for You by Dr. Jonathan Wright, but in a nutshell you need stomach acid to breakdown your food. Low stomach acid is caused mostly by:
* Acid blockers / acid suppressors
* Age
* Stress
And, according to Dr. Wright, 90% of Americans don't have enough. Thus is the nexus of all those problems...

HEARTBURN
Yes it's one of life's little ironies but low stomach acid can actually cause heartburn. Put simply, you have two sphincters, one at the top of your stomach and one at the bottom. The bottom one will only open when the stomach contents are at the right acidity, or pH. If the stomach contents never get to that high acidity, the bottom sphincter won't open and contents are pushed back through the top, burning the esophagus. That's why taking HCl (Hydrochloric Acid supplements  actually improves heartburn in most cases. If you have heartburn read about the HCl challenge here.

BACTERIAL OVERGROWTH
Most bacteria cannot survive in a highly acidic environment. So if your acid is high, your stomach will be sterile and protect you from any bacteria you might eat. If you don't have enough acid, bacteria is given the chance to grow and potentially cause symptoms like diarrhea, constipaiton, food poisoning and even acne to develop.


ACNE
Think about it - doctors prescribe powerful antibiotics for people with severe acne. Where do those antibiotics go? They're swallowed into the stomach to kill the bacteria. According to Wright, HCl supplementation coupled with probiotics (to help the good bacteria) can greatly help or eliminate skin issues.


DEPRESSION
The stomach needs acid to break down protein into amino acids. The amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine are needed to make dopamine and adrenaline, while tryptophan is needed to make serotonin. It's lack of serotonin and dopamine that has been linked to depression. So if you're not breaking down your protein, you could potentially develop a deficit in these neurotransmitters and start to feel pretty shit.

MALNUTRITION
When your food isn't broken down properly it can't be absorbed through the small intestine and essentially passes straight through your system. So even if you're eating all the vitamin-rich foods in the world, you might just be crapping them out. B12 is one of the most important vitamins lost due to low stomach acid, as its found in protein. Lack of B12 can leave you feeling fatigued and depressed. Wump wump.

ALLERGIES
Undigested food from the stomach erodes the lining of the small intestine, eventually making holes in the lining. This is known as "leaky gut" syndrome.  Food particles then pass through the linting. The body doesn't recognize these foreign bodies and creates anti-bodies against them = an allergic, or inflammatory reaction. This kind of reaction can be anything from sneezing, to skin rashes to arthritis.

GAS
Finally, undigested food sits in the stomach and makes you fart and burp. In fact gas is one of the first signs that something's amuck with your digestion.

ETC., ETC...
Other conditions associated with low HCl: asthma, anemia, stomach cancer, gall bladder disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Grave's disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic hepatitis, oestoperosis, Type 1 diabetes, accelerated aging (eek!)

DIGESTION PT III: THOU SHALT EAT YOUR ENZYMES

















































So IF you have enough stomach acid, the bulk of your protein will be digested in the stomach. When the contents hit the right pH (re: VERY acidic) a little flap at the bottom of the stomach (the pyloric sphincter) will open and the contents will move into the small intestie - this is where the majority of your carbs and fats are digested.

IF the contents are at the right acidity (re: VERY acidic) this will trigger two hormones:
1. Secretin, which stimulates the pancreas to release enzymes that further break down the protein, carbs and fats
2. Cholecystokinin (CCK) - which stimulates the gallbladder to release bile that breaks down the fats even more (read more about that here)

Once again for the people in the cheap seats:
If the contents aren't acid enough, the enzymes won't get released, your food wont get broken down, and the nutrients won't be absorbed.

SIGNS YOU'RE NOT PRODUCING ENZYMES:
* Gas - undigested carbohydrates ferment both in the stomach and small intestine
* Floating poop - your not digesting and absorbing fats

If you've done the HCL challenge and you're stomach acid levels are normal, try supplementing with enzymes at the end of your meals until your symptoms resolve. I like Intenzyme Forte by Biotics I find animal enzymes work better than vegetable and it contains the full spectrum of pancreatic enzymes. If you're a vegetarian try Rainbow Light Advanced Enzyme System.

Now check out the Bonus Round to make sure you're reaping the benefit of all those good fats.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

DIGESTION BONUS ROUND: FAT



























So you know all about how fat is a superfood (read about that in my article here), your cabinets are bursting with Kerrygold and you're ready to dive headfirst into a great, glorious fat of beef tallow. Fabulous. But there are some things you need to know first...

Fat needs fat to digest fat.

Let me explain.

Bile is necessary to break down fat so you body can absorb it and put all those awesome fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and fatty acids to work in the body.

When the body eats fat, the gallbladder secrets bile to break down the fat...BUT if someone is following a low-fat diet (as most of us have been at one point or another) then bile is not released.

This causes bile to build up in the gallbladder, becoming thick and nasty.

When fat is reintroduced, the gallbladder tries to squirt out the bile but it can't because it's too thick and all jammed up.

No bile is secreted and the fat is not broken down or absorbed.

This undigested fat rancidifies in the colon, which puts stress on the liver as toxins start to build up, and ultimately leaves you even more fatty acid deficient. Gah!!! No good.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU'RE NOT DIGESTING FATS?
* Greasy or shiny stools
* Nausea after eating fatty foods
* Light or clay colored stools
* Dry skin, itchy feet, skin peeling on your feet
* Headaches over your eyes


HOW TO FIX IT: 
If you've had these symptoms or you've had your gall bladder removed...

* Replace the monounsaturated fats (like olive oil) with saturated fats like coconut oil and butter - these don't have to be processed by the liver or need bile to be broken down, they go directly into the blood stream. 

* Supplement with enzymes, specifically lipase (the digestive enzyme that breaks down fat) at any meal with fat. Beta-TCP by Biotics. This worked wonders for my fat digestion - literally overnight. Try 1 - 3 capsules per any meal.

If the Beta-TCP doesn't seem to be working (one tell tale sign is you still have floaters) try Beta Plus - this contains the actual bile salts that you're body's not producing.*

*Note:
If you've had your gallbladder removed: use this regularly with every meal containing fat.

If you still have your gallbladder, cycle the dosage: 1 capsule with a meal, then three, then two, then none, then one - always change it up. This prevents your gallbladder from becoming dependent.
Continue to cycle until your symptoms go away and you don't need to supplement anymore.