Our bodies were designed to eat natural foods. Today we get most of our foods from boxes, bags, or drive through. Most of what we eat looks the same and tastes the same, plus we can get it in the freezer and canned section of the grocery store any day of the week; which is a testament to the processed nature of our foods. Doesn’t it seem strange that most of the food we eat is made in a lab by scientists instead of by nature? What does this mean for our bodies and our future?
In 1903 the hydrogenated process was invented. Since then most if not all foods have been processed to death stripping all good nutrients from our food in order to make it always taste the same and look the same and be the same.
A few tips to know and understand whether or not your food is actual food or processed food. If it is made after 1903, wrapped in cardboard, tinfoil, or layers of plastic, if it is heavily advertised to get you to eat it, if it is manufactured, convenient, keeps forever, artificially flavored, always the same, bland and/or gives you instant results, it’s probably not real food your body can process.
Trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, additives, preservatives and artificial flavorings are other things that have contributed to the epidemic degenerative diseases that occur in today’s world.
Here are some tips to look for when searching for “real” food. Real food is grown, has variable quality, goes bad fast, requires preparation, has vibrant colors, is authentically flavorful, rich in textures and is messy not neat like processed food.
Carlos Monteiro, a professor at the University of São Paulo, believes that “the big issue is ultra-processing.” That is to say, the most important factor when considering food and nutrition is neither nutrients nor foods — it’s what is done to foodstuffs and the nutrients contained in them before they are purchased and consumed.
Monteiro makes it clear that most foods and drinks are currently processed to some extent — even fresh apples are washed and sometimes waxed, and drinking water is filtered. But ultra-processed foods are all too common, and they are depleted of nutrients and provide little beyond calories.
According to the Atlantic:“The purpose of … ultra-processing is to create: durable, accessible, convenient, attractive, ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat products … Monteiro argues: ‘the rapid rise in consumption of ultra-processed food and drink products, especially since the 1980s, is the main dietary cause of the concurrent rapid rise in obesity and related diseases throughout the world.‘”
The most important factor now, when considering food, nutrition and public health, is not nutrients, and is not foods, so much as what is done to foodstuffs and the nutrients originally contained in them, before they are purchased and consumed.” Americans currently spend upwards of 90 percent of their food budgets purchasing processed foods, which offer very little in terms of nutritional value and instead typically contain ingredients that will actually cause you harm.
What makes processed foods, or as Monteiro calls them “ultra-processed foods,” so devastating to your health?
Lots of Calories for Little Nutrition
If you eat a fast-food burger, you can easily take in close to half of your daily caloric requirements. Add in fries and a soda and you may be nearing an entire day’s worth of required calories.
But in that one meal, which is designed to be eaten quickly, on-the-go, you have not received the vitamins and minerals, the live enzymes and micronutrients, the healthy fats or high-quality protein that your body needs to function, let alone thrive.
When these types of foods are consumed day in and day out, for months and years on end, what you end up with is a calorie-dense diet that is not giving you the nutrients you need to stay healthy. On a diet like this, you will likely gain excess weight while your body is still literally starving for healthy nutrients.
Processed Foods are Addictive
Fast food is available just about everywhere, including in hospitals and schools, and processed foods make up the majority of foods at your supermarket. They are marketed aggressively to kids and adults alike, and are manufactured using specific synthetic ingredients and other tricks to get you to eat more, crave more, and keep coming back for more.
As Monteiro wrote:“Ultra-processed products are characteristically formulated from ‘refined’ and ‘purified’ ingredients freed from the fibrous watery matrix of their original raw materials.
They are formulated to be sensually appealing, hyper-palatable, and habit-forming, by the use of sophisticated mixtures of cosmetic and other additives, and state-of-the-craft packaging and marketing. Further, ultra-processed products are ‘convenient’ – meaning, ready-to-eat (or drink) or ready-to-heat.
The leading branded ultra-processed foods and drinks are manufactured by transnational companies most able to purchase substrates for their products at rock-bottom or even subsidized prices. They penetrate new markets in lower-income countries, with massive marketing and advertising budgets, and may undercut local industries, drive them out of business, or take them over.”
It is interesting that most people know that fast food and processed foods are “not good for you,” yet most still choose to eat it. This is in large part due to the intensive advertising campaigns coupled with the habit-forming nature of these foods.
On average, just one serving of a typical children’s breakfast cereal equates to more than 90 percent of the daily sugar intake for sedentary girls aged 9 to 13. Even infant formulas and jarred baby food contains excessive amounts of sugar and high fructose corn syrup — hooking babies on the unnatural taste of processed foods as soon as they’re out of the womb!
In one study of rats fed a diet containing 25 percent sugar, they became anxious when the sugar was removed — displaying symptoms similar to people going through drug withdrawals, such as chattering teeth and the shakes.
The researchers conducting the study found a link between opioids, your brain’s ‘pleasure chemicals,’ and a craving for sweet, salty and fatty foods. It is thought that high-fat foods stimulate the opioids, as when researchers stimulated rats’ brains with a synthetic version of the natural opioid enkephalin, the rats ate up to six times their normal intake of fat.
Further, long lasting changes in rats’ brain chemistry, similar to those caused by morphine or heroin use, were also noted. According to researchers, this means that even simple exposure to pleasurable foods is enough to change gene expression, which suggests an addiction to the food.
Dangerous Food Additives
Eating processed foods is in no way the same as eating pure, unprocessed foods, in taste, nutritional value or the way they interact with your cells on a biological level.
Processed foods often have little nutritional value and are chemically altered to increase the appeal to your taste buds, so they can override your body’s signals that would otherwise tell you it’s time to stop eating and try something else. They are also loaded with additives that are harmful in their own right, such as
Now the number one source of calories in the US, fructose diminishes your feelings of fullness because it does not stimulate a rise in leptin, one of the most powerful hunger- and fat storage regulators in your body. Fructose also reduces the amount of leptin crossing your blood-brain barrier by raising triglycerides. Leptin resistance, in turn, is perhaps one of the most significant factors underlying human disease. For example, it plays a significant if not primary role in the development of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, reproductive disorders, and perhaps the rate of aging itself. Additionally, whereas glucose suppresses ghrelin (also known as “the hunger hormone,” which makes you want more food), fructose, again, does not. Fructose also increases your insulin levels, interfering with the communication between leptin and your hypothalamus, so your pleasure signals aren’t extinguished. Your brain keeps sensing that you’re starving, and prompts you to eat more. For the sake of your health, it is strongly advise keeping your fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, but this is virtually impossible if you eat a lot of processed foods.
Some 75 percent of processed foods contain GM ingredients, which are being increasingly linked to serious health problems. Just last year the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) reviewed the available research and issued a memorandum recommending that all doctors prescribe non-GMO diets to all patients because they are causally linked in animal feeding studies to:
- Immune system problems
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Organ damage
- Dysfunctional regulation of cholesterol and insulin
- Accelerated aging
One of the first steps to avoiding GM ingredients is to cut back on processed foods in your diet
Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer, is added to thousands of processed (canned soups, crackers, meats, salad dressings, frozen dinners, chips and much more) and restaurant foods.MSG is so popular because it actually enhances the flavor of foods, making processed meats and frozen dinners taste fresher and smell better, salad dressings more tasty, and canned foods less tinny. However, it is also an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees — and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more.
More than 3,000 food additives — preservatives, flavorings, colors and other ingredients — added to foods. While each of these substances are legal to use, whether or not they are entirely safe for long-term consumption — by themselves or in combination — is a different story altogether. Many of them, such as sodium nitrate, BHA, BHT, aspartame, Blue 1, 2, and potassium bromate, have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Others are estrogen-mimicking xenoestrogens that have been linked to a range of human health effects, including reduced sperm counts in men and increased risk of breast cancer in women. Studies have also shown that a variety of common food dyes, and the preservative sodium benzoate — found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings — cause some children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible.
Meanwhile, E-numbered food dyes (such as tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129) do as much damage to children’s brains as lead in gasoline, resulting in a significant reduction in IQ. Fortunately, when you avoid processed foods you’ll also automatically avoid virtually every one of these toxic food additives.
It is wise to get as much raw food in your diet as possible, including raw eggs and humanely raised organic animal products that have not been factory farmed. And there are a number of reasons for this.
For starters, processing foods at high temperatures destroys naturally occurring enzymes. Enzymes are proteins — catalysts to speed up and facilitate reactions in your body. In fact, some biochemical reactions will not even occur without these enzymes (you have about 1,300 of them).
Processed foods are also devoid of bio-photons, the smallest physical units of light, which are stored in, and used by all biological organisms — including your body. Vital sun energy finds its way into your cells via the food you eat, in the form of these bio-photons.
They contain important information that controls complex vital processes in your body. The bio-photons have the power to order and regulate, and, in doing so, to elevate the organism – in this case, your physical body — to a higher oscillation or order.
The more light a food is able to store, the more nutritious it is. Naturally grown fresh vegetables, for example, and sun-ripened fruits, are rich in light energy. The capacity to store bio-photons is therefore a measure of the quality of your food — and processed foods contain zero light energy.
Ditching Processed Foods Can be Easy
Eating fresh, whole foods is the “secret” to getting healthier, losing weight and really enjoying your food, but many believe it’s next to impossible to eat nowadays without processed foods.
Many people are under the mistaken impression that cooking from scratch is an extremely complicated affair that takes lots of time and costs more than they could possibly afford. More often than not, this is simply not true.
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find you can whip up a healthful meal from scratch in the same amount of time it would have taken you to drive down the street to pick up fast food. Of course, you’ll be far more satisfied when you eat your home-cooked meal, both physically and mentally.
Finding the time, and the financial resources, to make healthy meals for your family can be challenging, but please don’t use these as excuses to exist on processed food. Your health — your energy levels, your appearance, your mood and so many other factors — will improve when you eat the foods your body was designed for. Returning to a diet of locally grown, fresh whole foods is really the only way to reach optimal health. A major leap forward would be to strive for a diet of 90 percent non-processed food and only 10 percent from other sources.
Final Words of Wisdom
Please remember that someone has to spend some time in the kitchen to prepare your meals, whether it is you, your spouse, a relative, friend, or a chef. If you ignore this basic principle you can be strongly assured your health will suffer.
The other point to consider is that if you fail to plan you are planning to fail. It is no mystery that when noon comes around you will likely want lunch. So why not figure out what that will be the night before you go to sleep. Seek to make a habit of knowing what you will eat the next day so you can be prepared and won’t have to rely on fast food or junk food.
Exercise Leads to Better Food Choices
There is a part of our brain that helps control our cravings. Exercise helps our brain get what it needs to give us the strength we need to overcome cravings for junk food and choose healthy foods instead. It even helps your gut hormones stay in balance. A healthy gut helps your body absorb nutrients from food, fight off infections and much more.
New research shows exercise helps to enhance your brain’s executive functions like inhibitory control, making it easier for you to resist unhealthy food and instead choose healthy options that will help you realize your weight loss goals
Exercise also makes your brain more sensitive to signs of fullness, offering both short-term physiologic benefits and long-term behavior-oriented benefits for weight loss
Exercise is already known to increase sensitivity to leptin, the “satiety hormone” involved in appetite regulation, providing even more reason why it’s crucial for long-term successful weight loss.
Exercise is important and crucial for weight loss, but not only because it helps you to burn calories. About 80 percent of your ability to achieve an ideal body weight is related to your food choices, and new research shows that exercise may make it easier for you to make healthy food choices.
Exercise Boosts Your Will Power to Resist Unhealthy Food
One of your brain’s many responsibilities, or “executive functions,” is referred to as “inhibitory control.”
This is what helps you to keep inappropriate or unhealthy behaviors under control, such as making you think twice before eating a gallon of ice cream for breakfast. Since we are all inundated with temptations around the clock, this function is under constant strain. Plus, it has only limited capacity and will grow fatigued with overuse, similar to your muscles. The end result is reduced will power to control impulsive behaviors, such as binging on junk food.
Exercise, it turns out, helps to enhance your brain’s resources for executive functions like inhibitory control, making it easier for you to resist unhealthy food and instead choose healthy options that will further your weight loss goals.
Exercise Enhances Your Brain’s “Inhibitory Control” Making it Easier to Eat Healthy
Often regular exercise and a healthy diet go hand-in-hand, and this may not be a coincidence. Researchers have revealed that regular exercise enhances your brain’s resources that facilitate inhibitory control, helping to compensate for the onslaught of temptations that encourage unhealthy eating (junk food advertisements, fast-food restaurants on every block, and so on).
Exercise also appears to make your brain more sensitive to signs that you are full, offering a short-term benefit on top of the long-term, behavior-oriented benefits noted above.
Exercise Even Alters Your Gut Hormones, Helping to Regulate Food Intake
Adding to the brain benefits, separate research presented at the 2011 meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB) revealed another way that exercise may help control your body weight: by altering the hormones released by your gut after a meal.
In rats that exercised, increased levels of an inhibitory feeding hormone, amylin, were released when a meal was eaten, and a more rapid rebound of ghrelin occurred after the meal. Further, exercised rats treated with a gut hormone called CCK, which limits meal size, decreased their food intake more so than sedentary rats.
Exercise is already known to increase sensitivity to Leptin, the “satiety hormone” involved in appetite regulation, providing even more reason to make physical activity a regular part of your life. And as mentioned, there is far more to exercise and weight loss than simply burning calories! Not to mention, aside from the weight loss connection, exercise also offers profound benefits to your brain health, including helping to preserve your brain function as you age.
What is the Best Type of Exercise for Weight Loss?
One of the reasons why people continue to struggle with their weight despite engaging in regular exercise, aside from dietary mistakes, is because they’re not doing the right kind of exercise! Several studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising less intensely for longer periods. So, if you want to lose weight, cancel your hour-long treadmill session and replace it with 20-minute, high-intensity interval training like Peak Fitness instead!
An added bonus: you can cut the duration of your exercise session in half. Yes, one 2007 study showed you can burn more fat exercising for 20 minutes than for 40 minutes!
In their trial, women either exercised for 20 minutes, alternating 8 seconds of sprinting on a bike with 12 seconds of exercising lightly, or exercised at a regular pace for 40 minutes. After exercising three times a week for 15 weeks, those who did the 20-minute, alternating routine lost three times as much fat as the other women.
The researchers believe this type of exercise works because it produces a unique metabolic response. Intermittent sprinting produces high levels of chemical compounds called catecholamines, which allow more fat to be burned from under your skin and within your muscles. The resulting increase in fat oxidation is thought to drive the increased weight loss.
Further, high-intensity exercises engage a certain group of muscle fibers that you cannot engage through aerobic cardio, and engaging these muscle fibers causes a cascade of positive health benefits, including improved fat burning and also boosting your body’s natural production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is a vital hormone that is key for physical strength, health and longevity.
For an in-depth explanation of the Peak Fitness program, which is a comprehensive exercise plan that also includes strength training, core exercises and stretching, please review this recent article.
Eating THIS May Sabotage Your Workout Efforts
Exercise may make it easier for you to eat healthy, but it’s also important that you arm yourself with the knowledge of what’s truly healthy and what is not. It’s very easy to sabotage yourself with sugary foods and beverages, especially those that contain fructose, after a workout, and this includes so-called “healthy” beverages like “vitamin water,” energy drinks, and similar types of sports and recovery drinks.
Fructose, which is hidden in virtually every processed food, tricks your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism, as it turns off your body’s appetite-control system. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”), which together result in your eating more and developing insulin resistance.
Fructose also rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (“beer belly”), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure — i.e., classic metabolic syndrome. And, as HGH Magazine explains, consuming fructose, including that from fruit juices, within two hours of your workout will decimate your natural HGH production, so it should definitely be avoided for optimal benefits.
What Should You Eat After a Workout, and the Rest of the Time?
What you do eat after your workout is crucial to stop the catabolic process in your muscle and shift the recycling process toward repair and growth. If you fail to feed your muscle at the right time after exercise, the catabolic process will go too far and can potentially damage your muscle. A product like Shaklee’s Performance Drink is perfect for after workout rebuilding.
So ideally you should EAT within 30 minutes after your workout, and your meal should include fast-assimilating proteins, such as high-quality whey protein. Doing the right kind of exercises for 11 to 20 minutes a day will help you lose weight faster and keep it off. Remember this is in addition to eating good food.Cut out sugar and processed foods and increase your raw food and healthy fat intake. Avoid waters that add things which are not necessary, popular sports drinks, energy drinks and similar drinks like the plague. Water is best in its pure form.
Sugar is everywhere and in just about everything. Take a look at the packaged foods you buy. What are the ingredients? The first one is more than likely high fructose corn syrup or some other form of sugar. If it’s not the first ingredient sugar, or some form of it, is in the first 5. Low fat means higher sugar or salt content. In order for the “food’ to taste good they have to add in sugar or salt, or both.
Sugar permeates every facet of our lives. Everything from packaged foods, salad dressing, fruit juice, cereal, pretzels, soup, and packaged dips… the list goes on. An overload of sugar, along with the over 80,000 chemicals used in our society today, can be linked to everything from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer… just about every disease or allergy out there can be linked in one way or another to a toxic overload of sugar and chemicals from the standard diet and/or current farming practices.
What is it about sugar?
What is so powerful about sugar? Why do we crave it? Our brains react to sugar the same way it does for cocaine. Is it any wonder it’s used in almost every product out there? Sugar in and of itself isn’t so bad, the problem comes in consuming way too much. High sugar intake can be linked to just about every disease out there from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and so on.
Glucose and fructose are different types of simple sugars. After they are separated apart and broken down in your body they are metabolized using completely separate pathways. Glucose is utilized by every cell in your body, but fructose breaks down into a variety of waste products that are bad for your body. When talking about high fructose corn syrup, it gets metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar. Another waste product is uric acid which drives up your blood pressure.
Refined sugar is just as addictive as cocaine. A study involving rats had them choose between sugar-water and cocaine. 94% of the rats chose the sugar-water; even those who were previously addicted to cocaine wasted no time changing their selection. Plus the rats were more willing to work for the sugar reward than the cocaine reward.
The worst type of sugar you can ingest is fructose, which may surprise you because it is derived from fruit. Since the average 12-ounce can of soda contains 40 grams of sugar, at least half of which is fructose, this can of soda ALONE would exceed your daily allotment of 15 grams. It is no accident that childhood obesity is at a record high and life expectancy for the youngest generation is, for the first time, lower than that of their parents.
Marion Nestle, who wrote What to Eat, is also a professor of nutrition at NYU suggests that any food that contains more than 15 grams of sugar per serving is closer to dessert than anything else. She looked up the sugar content of a few common foods and menu items. Here is what she found in March of 2010:
Sugar Content of Common Food Products
- Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut 10 g
- Luna Bar berry almond 11 g
- Froot Loops breakfast cereal 3/4 cup 12 g
- Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream 16 g
- Starbucks caffè latte grande 16 oz 17 g
- Godiva 2 truffles 17 g
- Subway 6″ sweet onion teriyaki chicken sandwich 17 g
- Tropicana 100% orange juice 8 oz 25 g
- Yoplait original yogurt 27 g
- Craisins dried cranberries 1/3 cup 29 g
- Vitamin Water 20 oz bottle 33 g
- Coca-Cola Classic 12 oz can 39 g
- Sprinkles Cupcake red velvet 45 g
- Starbucks caffe vanilla frappuccino grande 16 oz 58 g
Keep your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day!
Fructose consumption clearly causes insulin resistance, whereas straight glucose does not. Insulin resistance can eventually lead to full blown diabetes.
Interestingly, glucose actually accelerates fructose absorption. So when you mix glucose and fructose together, you absorb more fructose than if you consumed fructose alone. This is an important piece of information if you are struggling to control your weight.
Remember, sucrose, or table sugar, is fructose plus glucose. If you are craving something sweet, your best bet is to reach for an apple or a pear. And if you give yourself a sugar holiday for even a couple of weeks, you will be amazed at how much those cravings will decrease.
Because you are sure to consume plenty of “hidden” fructose in the other foods you will be eating, keep your total fructose from fruit below 15 grams per day. The table below can help with the fruit you choose.
Sugar’s Link to Obesity, Heart Disease and Diabetes
Obesity rates have paralleled sugar consumption trends in Western civilization. Although the obesity epidemic is relatively recent, obesity is not a new phenomenon. In 1860, the prevalence of a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or higher (which defines obesity) was 1.6 percent among 50 year-old men. By 1900, it had tripled, and it has sharply increased over the past century.
Did you know cardiology is a relatively NEW field? Prior to 1940, there was no such thing as a cardiologist because there was no need for them; and that was only 70 years ago! The first report of angina was in 1929. In 1950, there were 500 cardiologists in the United States. Now there are 35,000. Guess what, they perform more than one million heart surgeries annually.
What is driving this eruption of cardiovascular disease? One key factor: the explosion of sugar in our diet.
The book, Pure, White and Deadly, was written by a British nutritionist John Yudkin in 1972 and is said to be a culmination of decades of research. He surmised that, “…the evidence that the over-consumption of sugar was leading to a greatly increased incidence of coronary thrombosis, and that in addition it was certainly involved in dental caries, probably involved in obesity, diabetes and liver disease, and possibly involved in gout, dyspepsia and some cancers.” as stated by Wikipedia. Needless to say the Sugar Industry did not take kindly to this bit of news and did what they could to silence and discredit Yudkin, his book, research and what it revealed.
So What Can We Do?
How much sugar is safe? Women should have no more than 6 teaspoons per day while men should consume no more than 9. The reality is most people eat an average of 26 teaspoons per day! Kids who have just one soda pop per day ingest the equivalent of eating 50 pounds of sugar per year. No wonder there is a growing number of children and adults with diabetes and other health problems.
The keys to getting excess sugar out of our diets are actually pretty simple. First start with reading the labels on everything you buy and avoid sugar laden foods. Better yet, secondly, instead of buying prepackaged foods, start cooking meals from natural (preferably organic and non-GMO) whole foods and vegetables. You can find several recipes online of knock off recipes that you can reproduce with better ingredients. Third, instead of drinking several soda pops a day, either diet or regular, opt for non-fluoridated water instead. Fourth, get plenty of good sleep and add fermented and high probiotic foods or supplements to help stop cravings for the sweet stuff and allow yourself to make better decisions.
If time is the problem and reason it’s hard to cook homemade meals, find one day during the week when you can spend some time pre-cutting veggies to be used in recipes during the week. Crowd out the fake higher sugar content foods by adding greens and other veggies to your dinner. Try eating veggies like carrots which have a higher natural content of sugar to help you feel satisfied. Drinking a glass of water when a craving hits is also a good way to end the craving; many cravings are due to dehydration.
Taming the Sweet Cravings
If you feel like you need that sugar fix, don’t stress and deny yourself a little. You don’t want to set yourself up for a binge and failure. First just make sure you avoid ALL artificial sweeteners! They are not the same or better than sugar; they have been processed.
If you can find pure glucose, which is dextrose, on the internet do it. It’s not as sweet so you may end up using more; but health-wise it is the better option. Limit all other types of sugar as much as possible.
When all else fails, EXERCISE! If you are going to consume fructose it is BEST to do so immediately before, during or after intense exercise as your body will tend to use it directly as fuel and not convert it to fat. It will also increase your insulin receptor sensitivity and help modulate the negative effects of fructose, help to blunt your appetite and control your sweet tooth.
High sugar intake is one of the reasons we have such a high percentage of our money going to health care. The sugar industries along with the companies that make our processed foods don’t want to admit that their products are the cause for such overwhelming changes in our nation’s health. But is it totally their fault? Shouldn’t we be more engaged and aware of what we put into our bodies?
By changing the way we cook, eat, drink, sleep, relate to others and ourselves, cravings for sugar will decline and better health will come naturally. You don’t have to go cold turkey. Begin by reading labels, crowding out the bad with a few good choices that you can handle. Getting your taste buds used to eating healthy and increasing your gut health will eventually kill your cravings for high sugar foods.
Getting enough sleep is as important as eating a good diet, drinking plenty of water and exercising. When we don’t get enough sleep (or get too much) our bodies suffer along with our minds. “Enough sleep” is generally accepted to be 6 to 8 hours every night, but some people feel fine on as little as five hours a night, while others need as much as 9 or 10 in order to feel at their best. When we are sick or stressed out, we tend to need more sleep.
Our sleep patterns are dictated by our circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in your environment. The term circadian comes from Latin words that literally mean around the day, this is what drives the body’s clock and are important in determining human sleep patterns.
The body’s master clock controls the production of melatonin, a hormone and antioxidant that makes you sleepy. Melatonin also helps dictate sleep-wake cycles, cell regeneration, hormone production and release, patterns of brain wave activity, body temperature and other important bodily functions linked to this 24-hour cycle. When circadian rhythms are interrupted your body makes less melatonin which means your body’s ability to fight free radicals is lessened.
When your body can’t repair itself because you haven’t been able to rest, stress related health problems can become major issues. These can include heart disease, stomach ulcers, constipation or depression and mood disorders among other things.
Sleep Deprivation Symptoms
Sleep deprivation can cause serious effects on health. Poor sleep contributes to a weakened immune system, accelerated tumor growth, can cause a “pre-diabetic” state making you feel hungry when you shouldn’t be which can lead to weight gain, impaired memory, decreased mental and physical performance and decreased problem solving abilities.
Symptoms of sleep deprivation can include:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Feeling tired when you wake up
- Stress, anxiety and/or depression
- Changes in appetite
- Driver Fatigue
- Slow mental performance
- Reduced motor skills
- Mood swings
- Weakened immune system and frequent infections
- Blurred vision
- Digestion problems
- Hormonal imbalance
Sleep deprivation prematurely ages you by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep and during certain types of exercise. Growth hormone helps you look and feel younger.
Lost sleep is lost forever, and persistent lack of sleep has a cumulative effect when it comes to disrupting your health. Poor sleep can make your life miserable, as most of you probably know. One study has even shown that people with chronic insomnia have a three times greater risk of dying from any cause.
Sleep deprivation can even cause changes in your brain activity similar to those experienced by people with psychiatric disorders, and your body does most of its repairs during sleep, so not getting enough of it can weaken your immune system, leaving you less able to fight off diseases of ALL kinds.
According to Science Daily in an article published February 2, 2008, one of the largest epidemiologic studies of insomnia among adolescents ever conducted has revealed that youths with insomnia, especially chronic insomnia, are at greater risk of future somatic and psychological problems.
The study collected data from more than 4,000 youths between 11 and 17 years of age, with a follow-up one year later on more than 3,000 of them. Almost 14 percent suffered from one or more symptoms of insomnia, and almost half of those had chronic insomnia.
Among those who suffered from insomnia, there was a link to both somatic and psychological dysfunctions. The link to psychological dysfunction was particularly strong.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association lack of sleep can make other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, gastrointestinal tract disorders, kidney disease, and behavioral problems in children worse.
Some Herbs and Tips on how to get good sleep
Optimizing Your Sleep Sanctuary
1. Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your internal clock and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep.
This will help decrease your risk of cancer since your body’s antioxidant power is working to repair the day’s damage. Close your bedroom door, and get rid of night-lights. Refrain from turning on any light at all during the night as best you can, even when getting up to go to the bathroom. Cover up your clock radio. Cover your windows, try using blackout shades or drapes.
Modern day electrical lighting has significantly betrayed your inner clock by disrupting your natural rhythms. Little bits of light pass directly through your optic nerve to your hypothalamus, which controls your biological clock.
Light signals your brain that it’s time to wake up and starts preparing your body for ACTION.
2. Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 25 degrees C. Many people keep their homes and particularly their upstairs bedrooms too warm. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 15 to 20 degrees. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep.
When you sleep, your body’s internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep. Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body’s natural temperature drop.
3. Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). It sounds kind of sci-fi, but these can disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well.
To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, or hire someone to do it for you. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house. Not sure if this is totally necessary, but even unplugging unused devices and keeping your alarm clock at the foot of the bed can help.
4. Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your bed. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least 3 feet. Remove the clock from view. It will only add to your worry when you stare at it all night… 2 a.m. …3 a.m. … 4:30 a.m.
5. Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on your body to be suddenly jolted awake. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, an alarm may even be unnecessary. A sun alarm clock is a good way to wake up each morning if you can’t wake up with the REAL sun.
They combine the features of a traditional alarm clock (digital display, AM/FM radio, beeper, snooze button, etc) with a special built-in light that gradually increases in intensity, these clocks simulate a natural sunrise. Some even include a sunset feature where the light fades to darkness over time, which is ideal for anyone who has trouble falling asleep.
6. Reserve your bed for sleeping. If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and drift off to sleep, so avoid doing these activities in bed.
7. If you sleep with a constant snorer or mover, consider separate bedrooms. Recent studies suggest, for many people, sharing a bed with a partner (or pets) can significantly impair sleep, especially if the partner is a restless sleeper or snores. If bedfellows are consistently interfering with your sleep, you may want to consider a separate bedroom.
Preparing for Bed
8. Get to bed as early as possible. Your body (particularly your adrenal system) does a majority of its recharging between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins during this same period. If you are awake, the toxins back up into your liver, which can further disrupt your health.
Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well.
9. Don’t change your bedtime. You should go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, even on the weekends. This will help your body to get into a sleep rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning.
10. Establish a bedtime routine. This could include meditation, deep breathing, prayer, using aromatherapy or essential oils or indulging in a massage from your partner. The key is to find something that makes you feel relaxed, then repeat it each night to help you release the tensions of the day.
11. Don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood of needing to get up and go to the bathroom, or at least minimize the frequency.
12. Go to the bathroom right before bed. This will reduce the chances that you’ll wake up to go in the middle of the night.
13. Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production.
14. Eat a small piece of fruit along with the protein. This can help the tryptophan cross your blood-brain barrier.
15. Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars. These will raise your blood sugar and delay sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep.
16. Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. When your body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating slumber. The temperature drop from getting out of the bath signals your body it’s time for bed. Stick to baths if showers do more to wake you up than put you to sleep.
17. Wear socks to bed. Feet often feel cold before the rest of the body because they have the poorest circulation. A study has shown that wearing socks reduces night waking. As an alternative, you could place a hot water bottle near your feet at night.
18. Wear an eye mask to block out light. As discussed earlier, it is very important to sleep in as close to complete darkness as possible. That said, it’s not always easy to block out every stream of light using curtains, blinds or drapes, particularly if you live in an urban area (or if your spouse has a different schedule than you do). In these cases, an eye mask can be helpful.
19. Put your work away at least one hour before bed (preferably two hours or more). This will give your mind a chance to unwind so you can go to sleep feeling calm, not hyped up or anxious about tomorrow’s deadlines.
20. No TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom or even completely out of the house. It’s too stimulating to the brain, preventing you from falling asleep quickly. TV disrupts your pineal gland function.
21. Listen to relaxation CDs. Some people find the sound of white noise or nature sounds, such as the ocean or forest, to be soothing for sleep. An excellent relaxation/meditation option to listen to before bed is the Insight audio CD. Another favorite is the Sleep Harmony CD, which uses a combination of advanced vibrational technology and guided meditation to help you effortlessly fall into deep delta sleep within minutes. The CD works on the principle of “sleep wave entrainment” to assist your brain in gearing down for sleep.
22. Read something spiritual or uplifting. This may help you relax. Don’t read anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel, which has the opposite effect. In addition, if you are really enjoying a suspenseful book, you might be tempted to go on reading for hours, instead of going to sleep!
23. Journaling. If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed. Try doing it in the morning when the brain is functioning at its peak and cortisol levels are high.
Changes in Your Lifestyle that Can Help You Sleep
24. Reduce or avoid as many drugs as possible. Many drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, may adversely affect sleep. In most cases, the condition causing the drugs to be taken in the first place can be addressed by following the health guidelines. Many people are starting to talk about drugs and their side effects on forums, chat rooms and other places. It’s best to learn as much as you can about each drug, its side effects and what the root cause may be that could be relieved through nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.
25. Avoid caffeine. At least one study has shown that, in some people, caffeine is not metabolized efficiently, leaving you feeling its effects long after consumption. So, an afternoon cup of coffee or tea will keep some people from falling asleep at night. Be aware that some medications contain caffeine (for example, diet pills).
26. Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol will make you drowsy, the effect is short lived and you will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol will also keep you from entering the deeper stages of sleep, where your body does most of its healing.
27. Make certain you are exercising regularly. Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can improve your sleep. However, don’t exercises too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake. Studies show exercising in the morning is the best if you can manage it.
28. Lose excess weight. Being overweight can increase your risk of sleep apnea, which can seriously impair your sleep.
29. Avoid foods you may be sensitive to. This is particularly true for sugar, grains, and pasteurized dairy. Sensitivity reactions can cause excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset, bloating and gas, and other problems.
30. Have your adrenals checked by a good natural medicine clinician. Scientists have found that insomnia may be caused by adrenal stress.
31. If you are menopausal or perimenopausal, get checked out by a good natural medicine physician. The hormonal changes at this time may cause sleep problems if not properly addressed.
Other Natural Ways to Improve Sleep
32. Dr. Mercola’s current favorite fix for insomnia is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Most people can learn the basics of this gentle tapping technique in a few minutes. EFT can help balance your body’s bioenergy system and resolve some of the emotional stresses that are contributing to your insomnia at a very deep level. The results are typically long lasting and improvement is remarkably rapid.
33. Increase your melatonin. Ideally it is best to increase levels naturally with exposure to bright sunlight in the daytime (along with full spectrum fluorescent bulbs in the winter) and absolute complete darkness at night.
34. Natural supplements. Calcium, magnesium, B-complex, vitamin D, omega 3s which help reduce inflamation, a good multivitamin, Valerian, German chamomile and passion flower are just a few of the ways you can help your body be better equipped to have a good night’s sleep.
We would all love to be in perfect health all the time, but being able to live in a way that would make that happen can be incredibly tough. It only becomes more difficult as you get older, with work, family, and other commitments taking up most of your day. That makes it virtually impossible to eat the foods that can help keep you healthy, meaning that junk and processed foods tend to be the order of the day. The human body needs a certain number of vitamins and minerals in order to maintain a healthy balance. The fact that we can’t get enough of the foods we need to help us achieve that goal means that turning to supplements is often necessary. One supplement that is becoming increasingly popular is Gamma-Linolenic Acid, or GLA for short.
The body is not able to naturally produce GLA, but it can be introduced into the system by regularly eating vegetables. That brings us back to how difficult it can be to eat these types of foods every day, which is why a GLA supplement should very much be considered part of your daily vitamin regimen.
Just about everyone can benefit from taking the GLA, but considering that it can help specific ailments, the benefits that you see from it may vary. Where the real GLA benefits are to be found are in people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or diabetic pains. It is also effective in helping those who are suffering from eczema or breast cancer, as well as being beneficial to people who suffer from osteoporosis or other bone issues. There have even been studies done that show that bond density is improved in elderly folks who regularly partake of the GLA supplement.
The list of health benefits from using GLA goes on and one, but there are probably still many of you out there wondering about potential GLA side effects. While you may assume that since GLA is derived from the natural oils of plants, the possibility of side effects would be lessened, you still have to be careful with how you use it. Of particular note is taking GLA supplement with other medicines or supplements that are known to increase the risk of bleeding. These include such items as aspirin, blood thinners, and the ginkgo biloba supplement. As is the case with any supplement, you should always check with your doctor before taking it.
When it comes to weight loss, there are many supplements that have undergone various trials to see how well it will work. Fortunately there have been some researched supplemental breakthroughs that have successfully been very effective for weight loss. GLA is a fatty acid which stimulates the burning of fat instead of the storage of fat by jump starting the metabolism. That is why people use GLA for weight loss more and more often. GLA benefits include the burning of specific tissues that are common to obese or overweight people, along with using up some of the body’s calories.
When a person is healthy, GLA can be extracted from the linoleic acid, which is usually found in essential oils such as evening primrose, black currant and other seed oils. Depending on the a person’s diet and nutritional intake, the GLA may not be able to extracted in this manner. The reason for this may be that if a person lives an unhealthy lifestyle where their diet is filled with alcohol, smoking, trans-fat and habits like smoking. These habits will put a halt on the conversion from linoleic acid to GLA. Fortunately, it’s fairly simple to provide the body with the appropriate amount of GLA that is necessary to burn the essential amount of fats that are accumulated from a high calorie, high fat diet. Since GLA originates in seed oils, the body can actually skip the need to be extracted from the linoleic acid and fortunately go directly to burning the body’s extra fat.
If a person is looking to increase the amount of Omega fatty acids when they are extracting the GLA from the linoleic acid, it’s highly suggested to use black currant seed oil in order to begin this process. Most recommended dosages of GLA that is extracted from the black currant seed oils should be approximately 200 to 3,000 milligrams maximum daily. Essential fatty acids are some of the healthy fats that are naturally in some food. They serve as an essential part of the body’s nutritional intake in order for the body to function and weight loss to happen naturally. GLA comes in the form of supplements, which is one of the most concentrated ways to consume it and thus yield the quickest results for the losing weight process. In order for the GLA supplement to begin successfully stimulating the weight loss process, it’s important for consistent exercise and a well-balanced diet to be implemented.
Weight loss due to GLA supplementation has been due to the decrease in appetite that it renders. It also has the ability to decrease body fat by effecting the enzymes that metabolize glucose and fats that the body takes in. Most people who suffer from depression or anxiety tend to eat a bit more, which is due to a lack of serotonin. GLA for weight loss supplements assist with regulating an individual’s levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain which let the body know when it’s full after eating. GLA will balance out the level of serotonin, so that the individual will not feel the need to eat more when they are depressed or feeling anxious.
Advocates for the use of GLA supplements believe that a wide range of maladies may be helped from their use. People with breast cancer or colon polyps may find relief from daily usage. High cholesterol may be lowered and the effects of chronic fatigue may be lessened when GLA is used on a regular basis. Studies of GLA’s effect on heart disease and attention deficit disorder are also being done.
There are several areas where the use of GLA has been documented with varying degrees of success. Many women who suffer PMS symptoms monthly have experienced less irritability, breast pain and tenderness and bloating after taking GLA. It has also been noted that hot flashes seem to lessen after taking the supplement.
Other interesting benefits include those found in the areas of the skin. With aging or exposure to the sun the skin becomes dry and less smooth. The elasticity of aged skin lessens and sagging occurs. GLA benefits the skin by aiding in cell repair and giving the skin the ability to retain more moisture. This in turns produces skin that is smoother and skin that shows fewer wrinkles.
One of the best known benefits is its ability to reduce inflammation. People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis have availed themselves to the properties of GLA to help reduce joint pain and stiffness. It should be noted that it takes one to three months for any lessening of symptoms to occur. Others who suffer with eczema or psoriasis have also experienced a noticeable difference after using GLA supplements.
There are presently laboratory tests being done that hope to show how GLA benefits will include the slowing down of the growth of cancer cells. There are other lab tests being done that hope to prove that GLA will be beneficial in reducing high blood pressure and the pain that is brought about by fibrocystic breast syndrome. Others tests hope to show how diabetics with nerve damage may be helped by taking the supplement.
One more thing to pay attention to GLA is the daily dosage you take. There should be very clear instructions on the bottle outlining the recommended daily dosage. The most common daily dosages for adults fall in the 500 to 1,000 mg range, usually depending on what they are taking the supplement for. Those taking GLA for high cholesterol tend to go with higher doses than those taking it for arthritis pain, but again, this is something that you should discuss with your doctor.