Adrenal Fatigue – or is it?

Adrenal glands are two little glands sitting atop your kidneys and produce hormones that help regulate blood sugar levels, burn protein and fat, react to stressors such as infection, illness, or injury, and regulate blood pressure.  One of the most important hormones the adrenal glands produce is cortisol.

The idea of adrenal fatigue has gained a lot of popularity as we are a culture of over-worked, over-medicated, malnourished, toxic and perpetually exhausted people. High stress, be it emotional, physical, physiological, or social, leads to high amounts of cortisol being produced by the adrenal glands in response to a threat/stressor. These high levels of cortisol completely wipe us out and drain us of any energy we had. Constant states of stress and elevated cortisol means we are chronically exhausted, completely burned out. If we can lower our cortisol levels, we won’t be so burned out. Right?

Maybe not.

The connection between high cortisol levels and fatigue just isn’t there.

Numerous studies have been done regarding the effects of cortisol on energy and fatigue. The research has shown researchers that cortisol levels have nothing to do with Chronic Fatigue (also diagnosed as Burn-Out or Adrenal Fatigue). Researchers found that cortisol levels made no difference between those diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or Adrenal Fatigue) and those of healthy people.  It was found that some people with debilitating fatigue had completely normal levels of cortisol, and those who were healthy had low levels of cortisol.

In one study, those who had been diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue had been placed into two groups and were subjects of a double-blind study. Some received a placebo and some received a medication to raise cortisol levels. They found that those on medication to raise cortisol levels had no symptom abatement. Even though their cortisol levels were brought to within a “healthy” range, they still suffered from debilitating fatigue.

Low cortisol levels do not automatically mean your adrenals are burned out. There are other factors contributing to low cortisol levels, such as: being overweight, being a night owl, late night eating, napping, certain medication, and poor sleep habits. These factors could mean you have low levels of cortisol, but that doesn’t automatically mean you have adrenal fatigue.

If low levels of cortisol is not what is causing your fatigue, then why care about low levels? Low cortisol may not cause you to be exhausted, but it does cause a down regulation on the functions of the adrenal glands and specifically the jobs of cortisol in the first place, such as controlling blood sugar levels, regulating metabolism, reducing inflammation, assisting with memory formulation, and it has a controlling effect of salt and water balance in the body that helps control blood pressure. Keeping cortisol at optimal levels is critical to health, wellness, and even survival.

That being said, raising cortisol levels artificially to levels beyond what the body wants naturally is extremely damaging. Elevated cortisol suppresses the immune system, weakening its ability to fight infection. Other damages include:  disrupted digestion, impaired brain function, impaired metabolism, loss of muscle & bone, impaired healing & cell regeneration, mood swings, depression, low sex drive, thyroid imbalance, weight gain, and hair & skin problems. High levels of cortisol make your body think it is dealing with a threat, and all immune, digestion and even thyroid function is put on hold.

As you can see, balance is key. Not too high and not too low. Having too high or too low cortisol is detrimental to overall health in many ways… yet, having low levels are cortisol is not likely the cause of your fatigue.  So what is?

Mitochondria Dysfunction.

The mitochondria in our cells have 2 main functions. One function is widely known and that is to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – energy – for the cell so it can perform its cellular duties. The other job of the mitochondria is cellular defense. It will detect when there is a danger or threat then direct energy to defense. When are mitochondria are constantly in “detect-a-threat” mode, they are less in “produce-energy” mode, which leaves leads to chronic low energy – fatigue.

Every system of the body requires ATP, your heart, lungs, brain, gut, etc.  If the mitochondria is not working properly and not producing energy because it is constantly in detect and defend mode, then those systems requiring energy (which is every system of the body) decline and/or shut down.

Now, let’s touch on what is suffocating us at a cellular level. Things like home toxins (cleaning products, candles), environmental toxins, food toxins, leaky gut, beauty products (soaps, lotions, make-up, deodorant), poor sleep, psychological stress, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and being overweight all contribute to averting the function of your mitochondria into constant battle-ready mode. This leaves you, at a cellular level, always using up stores of energy rather than creating more, leading to constant burn out and fatigue. Interestingly, this fatigue reaction is your body’s way of trying to preserve itself. It slows you down for survival, it is a survival response to extend your life. Your body can’t indefinitely be in defense mode without burning out to the point of complete shut-down. This “hibernation” your body goes into may preserve some years of your life, but you won’t be thriving. You’ll be exhausted.

Graphic from The Energy Blueprint

 

Eliminate Fatigue and Exhaustion for Good

 

When it is too much for too long spent in detect and defend mode, your body gets “stuck” and forgets how to switch to energy production mode. Thankfully, there is a way to train your body to be able to effectively handle stress. We can train our body to be able to detect then defend against a treat and then return to energy production.

Hormesis

Hormesis is when you deliberately stress the body in safe, effective and short-lived ways to strengthen the body’s ability to handle stress. Exposing yourself to various stressors have a positive and beneficial effect on our physiology. Things such as:

  • Showers alternating cold/hot water
  • HIIT exercise (high intensity interval training)
  • Intermittent Fasting (IF)
  • Phytochemicals
  • Cold water plunges
  • Sunlight

Basically, get comfortable with getting uncomfortable. Temporarily anyway.

Just as with weight training, the more you lift, the stronger you get and eventually you can lift heavier. The body doesn’t just compensate for the weight you are currently lifting, it overcompensates and you recover stronger and can then lift heavier. The same goes for dealing with stressors. Hormesis is training the body to handle stress and strengthen its ability to handle it next time around which in turn boosts your ability to get stronger, healthier, and more resistant to disease than you were before.

Remember, it needs to be a short-lived bought of stress. As we discussed previously, being constantly in a state of stress turns off energy production in the mitochondria and turns on energy depletion mode in the form of defending against a threat (stress or illness).

The trick to optimizing the stress and recovery response – SLEEP.  During deep sleep, your body goes into a natural “self-eating” mode called autophagy. Your cells create membranes that will search out scraps of dead, diseased, or worn-out cells; feed on them; use the molecules for energy or to make new cell parts; then your body will eliminate the waste. It’s like your body’s own recycling system.

With intermittent fasting and deep sleep, specifically, you will maximize autophagy and regenerate new, healthy cell parts.

To summarize, too high or too low cortisol levels are dangerous and lead to many chronic and debilitating health conditions. Maintaining optimal levels of cortisol is important, but cortisol levels have no bearing on energy levels. What does greatly affect energy is mitochondria function. Mitochondria is either producing energy or depleting energy by shifting into detect and defend mode. If it is in detect and defend mode it isn’t producing energy therefore fatigue sets in.

Eliminate or greatly reduce cellular suffocation (overweight, poor sleep, home, food, & environmental toxins, psychological stress, nutritional deficiencies etc.) and add in metabolic stressors (HIIT exercise, phytochemicals, IF etc.) to strengthen ATP production within the cell.

There is no one magic bullet. There are multiple magic bullets. Eliminate the bad, add in the good. It takes conscious effort but chronic fatigue is not a life-long sentence. It is 100% preventable and treatable.

Healthy Cooking Guidelines

“Together we can heal our planet. It all begins with what we put on our plates.”

The food industry would like us to believe that the food we eat has no bearing on our overall health and that real food is expensive and difficult to cook. In my experience, when I went plant-based, cooking got a lot easier and, if sticking to basic staples, can be much cheaper, as well.

Parents have the unique ability to change the entire course of their health and their family’s health.

Successful change takes planning, though. Below, I have a few simple steps to keep in mind when getting back into the kitchen and taking control of your and your family’s health.

 Guideline to Healthy Cooking

  1. Embrace cooking. Cooking and sharing meals with family and friends is an intense act of love and strengthens bonds amongst you and your loved ones. Cooking with your children teaches them important life skills, skills that can ensure their health and extend their life.
  2. Reestablish priorities. We have time for what we make time for. Time is the biggest reason I hear as to why people aren’t cooking. Monitor your time and see where you are spending it. You might be surprised at how a little tweaking offers up quite a bit of extra time. Cooking doesn’t have to be an all-day affair. Complicated doesn’t always mean more nutritious. Quick and simple can be just as nutritive, sometimes even more-so.
  3. Choose frozen foods when possible. Fresh is best, but not always possible. You can find an abundance of inexpensive organic fruits and vegetables in the freezer section of your grocery store. They are great for quick meals, soups and stews, or smoothies.
  4. Stock your pantry with the staples. Nut butters, nuts, non-dairy milks, beans, rice, vegetable stock, nutritional yeast, chia seeds, dried sea vegetables …. you can do a lot with a few staples. They are generally inexpensive as well, especially if you get these items from the bulk bins at your local health food store.
  5. Plan ahead – I menu plan for at least a week at a time and I ask family members if they have any special requests for those meals. On one side of a sheet of paper is my menu and on the other side are all the items I will need to purchase at the grocery store to make those meals. When shopping, stick to the list. Having a plan and a list deters those impulse (and usually unhealthy) purchases.
  6. Mess up – I have come up with some of my best recipes by goofing up another one. There are no such things as mistakes, right? It’s all learning! Which leads me to my next tip…
  7. Invite your kids in the kitchen with you – instead of shooing them away while you make dinner, invite them to help you. My kids don’t always want to help me, but a lot of times they do. This teaches them what real food and real nutrition is and it teaches them how to take control of their health. What a great learning experience for them as well, as they get to learn how to measure ingredients, cut vegetables (age appropriate, of course), and my favorite, help menu plan. Hey, no one complains about what is for dinner if they get to choose what it is!

The best way for you to start eating healthy, is to start cooking healthy. It all starts with making the decision.

Our Kids Are Dying

“We have raised a generation who don’t know how to cook and live instead on processed or fast foods. And quite frankly, it’s killing us. Shopping, cooking, and eating are political acts with far-reaching benefits to our health, the earth, the economy, and beyond. Contrary to what the food industry would have you believe, real food can be inexpensive and easy to prepare. Whether you’re a kitchen newbie or a pro chef.” ~Dr. Mark Hyman

 

 

It is an epidemic of massive proportions. Our kids lives are in danger. From what? What they’re being fed. It scares me, and here is why:

Obesity

  • Nearly 1 in 3 adolescents are overweight or obese.
  • It is estimated that 9.4% of children ages 2-4 are already obese.
  • 4% of children ages 6-11 are overweight.
  • 20% of teens, aged 12-19 are obese.
  • Nearly $200 billion dollars are spent every year on obesity related diseases.
  • Children who are obese are already showing signs of heart disease.

Overweight kids are more likely to have:

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma
  • Muscle and joint pain which leads to arthritis
  • Fatty Liver, gallstones, reflux
  • Psychological problems (self-esteem, depression, anxiety)

Autism

The rates of autism are now up to 1 in 45, with boys being the most effected. Autistic kids are at a higher risk for:

  • Seizure disorders
  • Neurogenetic conditions
  • Gastro-intestinal disorders
  • Obstructive sleep disorders
  • Sensory Integration Dysfunction

ADHD

On average, 1 in every 3 kids in a classroom has been diagnosed with ADHD and that number is rising. Health risks stemming from hyperactivity include:

  • Learning disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Bed-wetting
  • Sleep disorders
  • Conduct disorders (antisocial, fighting, oppositional defiant disorder)

The sad truth is that our kids are not living and thriving. Quite possibly, they are actually already starting a long slow decline. A decline towards disease and eventually early death before they really even get started in life.

We need to get our kids in the kitchen and teach them to take control of their health. Let’s teach them that what they eat, really matters.

Our children are getting sicker and sicker. They are bombarded with nutritionally deficient and highly toxic foods – and drinks – and it is completely wrecking their little bodies.

If we don’t take action NOW, they are on a fast track towards a lifetime of debilitating disease and early death.

As parents, we are sold a bill of lies that the packaged foods on store shelves are perfectly healthy, when in actuality they are loaded with sugar, salt and chemicals. We are bombarded with advertisements for junk food and packaged foods that slap the words “nutrition” and “healthy” on them, even if they are far from it. We read articles that contradict each other on what exactly is the right diet. We are being duped into trading convenience for health. As a result, because parents are confused, our kids have no idea what nutrition is. They have no idea what healthy food is. And worse, they have no idea just how bad junk food actually is.

The over-toxification and nutritional deficiencies of our kids is caused by the foods they eat and is exacerbated by environmental toxins. The good news is we can do something about it.

We can stop this societal norm that is running rampant in our country. The norm that kids will have neurological disorders, carry extra weight, and be too tired and lethargic to do much more than watch TV and play video games. It starts with getting in the kitchen with your kids and cooking real food.

I have a great deal of recipes on this blog that are nutritious and plant-based, start there. Search for your favorites and cook with your kids. Let them choose a recipe, they tend to try more foods when they can take ownership and choose what they eat. Let them make a mess and make mistakes. It is the best way to learn, after-all. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, as well. Show them that trying something new is fun and exciting. Teach them that “you win some, you lose some” but never give up trying. Make each recipe your own, tweak it to suit your tastes. But bottom line, get in the kitchen with real food and with your kids.

If you need guidance, send me an email (naturalhealthyfamily427@gmail.com), and I will coach you through every step of the way. Change is hard. Damn hard. But you deserve it,  your kids deserve it. All kids deserve our absolute best. I know you know that sugar and processed food is bad for them. Let’s get them (and you!) off the dependence on convenience based products. Because what are we really trading for convenience? Our life.

High Sugar Leads to Low Nutrients

I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t know that sugar is bad news. I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t know that they should add more fruits and vegetables to their diet.

I do think there is a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of confusion as to just how bad sugar is, though. No one considers it a health food. But do enough people really know just how extremely damaging this substance is?

I have a few other posts about sugar, and the damage it causes, that you can read here and here.

The topic of this post puts the spotlight on another issue you should know about regarding sugar and your health.

 High sugar intake strips your body of essential nutrients.

 The human body does not make its own vitamin C. It is a nutrient we must consume, and is found abundantly in plant foods. Sugar and vitamin C reach the cells in the same way. If there is more sugar in the blood stream, then vitamin C must compete for its place and for absorption once reaching the cell. A sugar-induced vitamin C deficiency has been shown to result in suppressed tissue regeneration and a decrease in immune function.

Sugar is a double whammy on vitamin D. Sugar promotes activation of the enzymes that downgrade vitamin D while at the same time decreasing the enzymes needed to synthesize vitamin D. The results of a vitamin D deficiency are linked to numerous health conditions such as autoimmunity, dementia, chronic infections, inflammation and even some cancers.

Calcium is absolutely critical for bone health. Vitamin D expedites calcium absorption in the body. It stands to reason, then, that a sugar-induced deficiency in vitamin D leads to insignificant calcium absorption. Not only is calcium important in bone health but also for blood clotting and electrolyte balance. A calcium deficiency leads to a host of unwanted health ailments in addition to poor bone health. It can also delay growth and development in children and increase blood pressure leading to heart problems.

Magnesium is essential for over 300 functions in the human body. It is a nutrient we must be sure to consume enough of, yet most people are deficient. The body needs it badly enough that it will save reserves of it. Unfortunately, high processed sugar intake results in high blood sugar levels and therefore increased insulin. This high blood sugar and high insulin level promote magnesium secretion by the kidneys which leads to the body using up all of its stores of the mineral. Since magnesium is crucial for certain body functions such as blood sugar control, muscle and nerve regeneration, and bone building, when the body is forced to deplete its stores because of a high sugar diet, you can be sure poor health will follow.

We don’t hear much about chromium, but it is another essential mineral. Deficiency of this mineral leads to high blood sugar levels and poor glucose tolerance. The effects of sugar on chromium are similar to that of magnesium, it triggers the body to excrete its stores leading to inefficient ability to perform its function properly.

People are aware that sugar is bad news and that it leads to unwanted health consequences. The confusion comes in when we are told that it isn’t too bad “in moderation” and that it’s ok “once in a while” as long as we exercise. It would be wonderful if exercise negated the damage done to the human body caused by sugar, but it just doesn’t work that way.

Sugar is associated with a host of damaging reactions within the body leading to a suppressed immune function, kidney damage, increased blood acidity, tooth decay, asthma, arthritis, digestive disorders, fungal infections, decreased cardiac blood flow, and advanced aging, amongst many other detrimental afflictions. Some of the most dangerous effects of sugar consumption include increased liver and kidney size.

We live in a society that normalizes and even promotes highly-processed junk food. It is the center of most of our holiday customs and our celebratory traditions. We live in a society now where kids get ridiculed when they refuse junk food at the birthday party, or the lollipop from the bank teller. We live in a society that has made sugary drinks and packaged snacks the absolute norm as if grabbing a wrapped snack is easier and quicker than grabbing a piece of fruit.

I believe we need to make eating whole foods normal. We need to model to our children what eating real food is, so that they don’t fall victim to the chronic and even deadly diseases that will absolutely afflict them if they walk down this “normal” path of high sugar consumption.

Take control of your health. It starts with cutting sugar.

Dairy is Deadly

I was a little worried about giving up dairy. I LOVED cheese. Yogurt and cheese sticks were a staple for Matthew. What the heck was he going to eat?! And how would we ever enjoy a slice of pizza again with gluten gone and now dairy?

I knew it had to be done, though. Gluten and casein are molecularly similar. Plus, dairy comes from animals. Animals that are given an abundance of hormones, and even those that claim to have “no-added hormones” still have their own naturally occurring hormones.

That influx of hormones introduced to the gut is warfare to the digestive system. On top of that, there is an introduction of bad bacteria resulting in the release of toxic proteins into our body. Fermentation of these proteins, like casein and whey, result in the release of toxic compounds which promote the production of tumors, increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease, lead to liver disease, and, when the proteins of animal foods like meat, eggs, and dairy are metabolized, they get absorbed into the body and release a metabolite that has been linked to cardiovascular disease.

When the fat from animal foods are absorbed, mostly in the small intestine, they inhibit the growth of good bacteria, allowing the bad bacteria to take over. Even pasteurized milk contains microorganisms. Pasteurization does not completely eliminate food-borne pathogens, which of course erodes the lining in our gut, creating permeability.

As if that wasn’t enough, the antibiotics given to cows makes its way into the milk, too, and then, in turn, into us. A diet high in dairy is a diet high in antibiotics. Even if you haven’t been prescribed an antibiotic, when you consume dairy products then you are continually on a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics seek and destroy all bacteria, not just the bad bacteria.

Dairy and Bone Health

We have been told that to get calcium and build strong bones we must consume dairy. Who wants us to believe that? The dairy industry. The truth is, the more dairy you consume, the more at risk you are for osteoporosis. Dairy is very acidic. The body works hard to bring the body back into balance by pulling calcium from the bones to deal with the acidity in the dairy. Cows don’t make calcium. They eat it, by eating plants. That calcium makes its way into their milk. We don’t need cows for calcium, we need plants. Some plant foods high in calcium include: broccoli, brussels sprouts, black beans, rice milk, figs, and white beans.

Dairy and Fat

Dairy products – ice cream, yogurt, butter, cheese, milk – contribute immensely to the fat consumption in the human diet. This significantly raises cholesterol and increases risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It is the saturated fat in the diet that causes diabetes. When our cells are full of fat, there is no room for the sugar to get into the cell. Sugar is what our body runs on. Sugar is what our body needs – and I don’t mean processed/refined white sugar, I mean sugar from plant foods – for energy. When the sugar can’t get into the cell then it stays in the blood. With all that sugar swimming around, the pancreas releases more insulin. But it won’t work, the sugar still can’t get in as long as fat is in the way. The phytochemicals in plants dissolve the gumming up of the cells, allowing the glucose into the cell. As humans, we do need fat. We need the fat present in plant foods. Unsaturated fat. As long as you are eating a wide range of plant foods, you are getting all the fat your body needs.

Dairy and Cancer

Dairy consumption is also highly linked to certain cancers, especially cancers of the reproductive system. This connection is likely due to the increase of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) which is found in cow’s milk.  Consumption of milk/dairy products increases the amount of IGF-1 circulating in the body. The higher the levels of IGF-1, the higher the risk of cancer especially in the breast, ovaries, and prostate.

What’s in Your Glass of Milk

  • 135 million pus cells
  • Blood
  • Feces
  • 20 painkillers, antibiotics, and growth hormone
  • Bacteria & pathogens
  • IGF-1 – which contributes to diabetes, hormonal imbalance, immune system damage, early puberty, and cancer
  • Acidic protein which leaches calcium from bones
  • Casein, a milk protein, which is linked to breast cancer, kidney disease, arthritis, MS, crohn’s disease, IBS, and asthma

Eliminating Dairy

There are many ways to enjoy a dairy free meal, while still enjoying the foods you are used to.

Replace cow’s milk with non-dairy alternatives such as almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk, coconut milk, soy milk, or oat milk.

Cooking without Dairy/Cheese

You can make dairy-free. I have a delicious macaroni and cheese recipe that is just as creamy and delicious as dairy filled macaroni and cheese – it tastes better, actually. Those alternatives include making a cashew cheese sauce as used in my mac & cheese recipe. You can even make vegan parmesan cheese by grinding up cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and sea salt in a food processor. I have dairy-free pizza recipes you will enjoy, and not even miss the cheese. It is possible to eat amazing food and still take care of your health.

Baking/Cooking without Dairy

How can you bake a cake or muffin or cookies without butter? Easy! Make healthy substitutions and you’ll be enjoying the occasional treat, dairy-free! When baking, you can substitute the oils and/or butter with bananas, applesauce, or nut butters. Cookies are amazing even without butter! When sautéing vegetables, instead of using butter to keep veggies from sticking to the pan, you can use either a splash of water or a splash of vegetable broth.

 

 

Dairy-Free Life

With the elimination of dairy from your diet, you’ll enjoy better digestion and the end of stomach pain and bloating, you’ll have stronger bones, and you’ll have less acne. You will no longer be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or cancer. If you already have those conditions, you could possibly even reverse it by going dairy-free. Knowing you will no longer be contributing to the destruction of your gut leading to such chronic, debilitating and even deadly conditions is a wonderfully empowering feeling. No need to rely solely on doctors and their prescription pads.

The Risk of Meat in your Diet

Meat is supposed to be really good for us, right? It is full of protein and iron which are definitely things a growing body needs.

The trouble is, getting those macronutrients from meat is not such a good idea.

First, let’s look at it from a gut flora perspective: Eating meat alters the trillions of microbes living in our gut. Within 2 days of eating a meat based meal, the types of microbes living in the gut shuffle around, and not for the better.

Certain types of microbes that are introduced to the gut in a meat-centered meal flourish and have been linked to inflammation and intestinal diseases.

That bad bacteria introduced to the gut and hanging out in the intestines influence many aspects of our health including weight, immunity, and behavior.

The fact is, a single meal of meat triggers an inflammatory response in the body within hours of consumption. If we go from one meat-centered meal to the next, like from bacon for breakfast then a turkey sandwich for lunch, and a hamburger for dinner, then we end up in a chronic state of inflammation, with never any time for the body to reset back to normal healthy range. We become always inflamed, always damaged.

If you have a damaged and inflamed gut, you have damage and inflammation elsewhere in the body. This routine of chronic inflammation sets us up for, inflammatory diseases. Those diseases include all auto-immune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers.

The question is, if inflammation is an immune response to a perceived threat, then what is the the body finding threatening in a meal containing meat?

One answer: endotoxins.

Endotoxins are the toxins released from bacteria when introduced to the human gut. There is a direct link between endotoxins in the blood stream and increased intestinal permeability. The more permeable your gut is, the easier unrecognizable molecules, even from food, will enter the bloodstream and cause an immune response.

After one meal of meat (or any animal product such as eggs and dairy), the bloodstream becomes flooded with bacterial endotoxins. And no, you can’t cook them off. The endotoxins survive cooking, high heat, and even your stomach acid.

To make matters worse, fat in the animal food increases the absorption of the endotoxins into the bloodstream.

A high protein, meat centered diet, accelerates the rate at which endotoxins and carcinogens get into the cell. 

Another answer to the “what is my body finding threatening” question is:  saturated fat.

Look at it this way, the saturated fat we eat saturates our cells with fat. The more fat our cells are saturated with, the less room there is for glucose to get into the cell. Glucose is what our cells need for life sustaining energy. When you have fatty cells, the glucose can’t get in, so the glucose (sugars) stay in your blood. This is when you get diagnosed with diabetes because you have high blood sugar. But the kicker is, it isn’t because of the sugar you have been eating, it’s because of the saturated fat. With all that sugar coursing through your blood vessels, your vessels become hard and narrowed. Blood can’t pass through easily which cuts off circulation not just to your heart causing cardiovascular disease (which is the number 1 killer in America), but to your other organs, your brain, your eyes, and even your genitals.

By the time you get diagnosed with diabetes, you have already had it for 10-20 years.

Too often, the first sign of cardiovascular disease is a heart attack.

RECAP

Damaging bacteria introduced to our gut when eating meat leads to toxic blood and in turn systemic inflammation and complete weakening of the immune system. We know that bacteria death (endotoxins) are more readily absorbed into our cells because of the animal protein. And we know that the saturated fat from animal foods takes over our cells and leaves us with too much sugar in the blood which leads to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

EAT WITHOUT MEAT

You have all this information, so now what do you do? Change is hard, but your life depends on it. The life of your children depends on it. After I learned how damaging meat is, I couldn’t, in good conscience, feed it to my kids anymore. I was damaging their gut, and whole body, one bite at a time. That was the motivation I needed.  What is your motivation?

On a meatless diet, my kids have thrived. They have limitless energy, they sleep soundly, they get sick less-often (almost never) than their peers, they have amazing focus, and they are a healthy weight. They are getting every nutrient they need. Why? Because they eat a wide variety of plant-based foods. Plants are where all the nutrients are. Meat has no fiber, no carbohydrates, no antioxidants, and no phytonutrients. Any trace amount of nutrients someone might get from an animal food is only there because the animal ate the plant those nutrients came from.  By going directly to the source (plants), and skipping the excess protein, iron, saturated fat, and endotoxins found in meat, we eliminate the chances of life threatening, and oftentimes deadly, diseases.

Cutting meat out of your diet can be hard at first, especially if you have grown up on meat at every meal. It isn’t just what tastes good to you, it’s a part of who you are. It is how you relate to your family, memories of sitting around the dinner table eating your favorite meat-centered meal and talking about your day. How do you make changes when, maybe, no one else in your family is?

Another hurdle: maintaining this new way of eating. When I gave up meat, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to maintain it because I was just sure I didn’t like nearly enough vegetables to make it work. I couldn’t possibly live on apples and bananas alone. As much as I had always wanted to like salad, I just never did. What was I going to eat?!

Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself.  Pick a few recipes that become your go-to recipes. For me, one of those meals was tacos. Instead of using ground meat for the filling, I substituted it with brown rice or quinoa and I doubled up on the veggies I added in. To my surprise, I liked it much better than tacos made with ground meat. Most importantly, so did my kids.

Rice became my substitute for meat in many of the main dishes I made. Chickpea’s are also a great replacement. And much healthier, too. Instead of chicken noodle soup, I make chickpea noodle soup. Making soup or stew? Double up on the beans and/or rice and skip the meat. It will be just as hearty and filling (more filling!) and be life giving, not disease promoting.

It only takes 10 days to 2 weeks for taste buds to change. You can do this.  I found myself craving more fruits and vegetables, liking the taste of more vegetables that I grew up not liking, and expanded my palate by more than double. And now, I absolutely love salad. I could eat a giant salad for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Your taste buds will change.

Beans and grains are not to be feared. Grains are the most protective food against diabetes, because of the fiber.  Foods like red meat and processed meats, because of the saturated fat carry the highest increased risk.

Beans are full of the healthiest sources of protein, in just the right amounts necessary. Remember, excessive protein turns on the cancer process and accelerates its growth.

Now, what about iron and protein? Most people fear they won’t get enough protein or iron on a plant based diet, however, on a plant based diet you will get plenty of protein and iron – the right kinds of protein and iron. You will also get the wide range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber that you won’t get in meat.

You can read more about the benefits of cutting meat out of your diet in this article here.

Gluten: Is it really bad or just a fad?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is what gives dough it’s stretch and ability to rise (when interacting with yeast). It is also used as a filler and thickener agent in certain products such as marinades, gravies, sauces, condiments, processed meats, and canned soups. Did you know that restaurant scrambled eggs even have gluten in them?! A lot of times they add pancake batter to their pancakes to bulk them up and make them fluffy. But that is no good for your gut.

So, what is the trouble with gluten?

Being gluten-free is considered by many to be a “fad” diet, but extensive research has been done to prove the detrimental effects of gluten on every human body. According to Dr. Tom O’Bryan, a leading authority on gluten sensitivity, and who wrote the book The Autoimmune Fix, “The problem with gluten is that no human can digest it.”

Dr. Alessio Fasano has also done comprehensive research on the subject of gluten, and specifically on how gluten effects the body. He found that, “…if you take the hydrochloric acid in the human stomach and you put it in a little vial, then you put your finger in the vial, it eats your finger to the bone in one minute. One minute! You put some gluten in that vial, it (stomach acid) won’t digest the gluten. When you eat gluten, it is not digestible. It’s supposed to be broken down into very small molecules called individual amino acids or 2 or 3 together a dipeptide or tripeptide and that gets absorbed very easily into the blood stream through the intestines but you can’t break it down into dipeptides or tripeptides.”

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When we eat protein, the digestive system will break down that protein into 1, 2 or at most 3 amino acid peptides that are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. The gluten molecules of wheat, rye, and barley are not digested into those small enough molecules. They remain in larger sizes, sometimes very large, and these macromolecules trigger an immune system response because they aren’t recognized by the body in such large form.

With repeated exposure to these large molecules from toast, pancakes, bread, pastries, cereal, condiments, sauces, pasta, croutons and the like, you hit a critical stage internally. Your body starts sending signals of distress by way of symptoms.

It is important to note here, that these symptoms are not restricted to the intestines. It won’t just be stomach pains or bloating alerting you to a problem. Eating gluten will trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation that can be in any part of the body.

Some extra-intestinal symptoms include: anxiety, brain fog, vertigo, headaches and migraines, motion sickness, chronic aches and pains, fatigue, and even nerve pain.

At this point, you might make your way to the doctor who will run tests, but will you get accurate results? My son, Matthew, didn’t. Too many doctors tell their patients that if the symptoms they are having are not severe, or if there is no advanced intestinal damage (such as total villous atrophy) then you don’t need to worry about avoiding gluten. Unless they find completely worn-down villi, you are told that you do not have Celiac Disease and therefore you do not need to avoid gluten, because gluten is not the problem.

Celiac Disease is an allergy to gluten, and those with Celiac Disease do have completely worn-down villi. However, with gluten sensitivity (sometimes called gluten intolerance), you do not have completely worn-down villi so your intolerance to gluten will be over-looked, even dismissed. But the toxic peptides of gluten act as a trigger in the auto-immune mechanism whether or not you have worn-down villi. Remember, it is the large molecules that initiate the problem. The worn-down villi is a result of the problem.

My advice: the symptoms are signals, messengers, from the body. No matter where they come from, they should not be ignored. Recognize it, and catch it early.

In an excerpt from The Autoimmune Fix by Dr Tom O’Bryan, he states:

“…gluten is a primary trigger of inflammation, which activates the genes for intestinal permeability, and the development of the autoimmune spectrum. All people have a problem digesting the toxic gluten peptides from wheat, rye, and barely, whether or not they have symptoms when they eat it. We mistakenly believe that if we don’t ‘feel’ bad when we eat something, we do not have a problem with that food. We do not associate the headache we woke up with this morning – or our high blood pressure or our brain fog or lack of ability to think in school – with the food we ate yesterday.”

For some, as in the case of my son, the messages did come from the gut. However, gluten reactive patients can notice symptoms on the skin (dermatitis, psoriatic arthritis, eczema), the brain (altered neurotransmitter production, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, ADHD), or even the nerves (carpal tunnel, idiopathic neuropathies).

Pathology to gluten exposure can occur in multiple systems without any evidence of intestinal damage. The tests will come back negative, as they did in my son’s case. Since the comprehensive testing has been done showing that no one can digest gluten, it is a safe bet that if you are eating gluten containing foods, you are introducing large molecules into your bloodstream, initiating an immune response, and slowly but surely wearing down your intestinal villi and increasing your intestinal permeability.

A lot of doctors do not recognize this connection and tend to wait for the accumulated damage of this immune system attack on our tissues, when damage is extensive enough that there is complete organ failure. That is when you’ll receive an auto-immune diagnosis. We can avoid organ failure and chronic disease by cutting gluten out of our diets altogether.

Alternatives

Going gluten-free is easier than ever, nowadays. There are plenty of gluten-free flours to choose from when making baked goods. Some of my favorites are almond flour, brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and oat four.

There are gluten-free pasta alternatives such as pasta made from rice, corn, or quinoa.

Replacing wheat and white flour is the easy part. It is the hidden gluten to be on the lookout for. Gluten is hidden in items such as:

  • Energy bars
  • Pasta sauces
  • Salad dressings
  • Pasta
  • BBQ sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Processed foods
  • Lipstick/lip gloss
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Canned soups
  • Candy and candy bars
  • Chips

Be sure, when buying a packaged product, you look for a gluten free label. It will ensure there is no cross-contamination.  Ingredients that masquerade as gluten on ingredient lists are words like: fried, coated, crispy, or crusted.

Your best bet is to leave the processed foods in their packages and eat whole-foods, like plants!

All the recipes on my website are gluten-free!

Coconut Kefir

Let’s talk about the gut. Over 70% of our immune cells are in the GUT. When we have dis-ease in the body, it is because our gut has been compromised and can no longer break down foods into nutrients it recognizes. Most of the diseases we suffer from are coming from the intestinal tract.

When we kill of the good bacteria, the bad bacteria proliferate and take over. The normal body functions cannot perform correctly, and this leads to illness and disease.

Here are just some of ways your body is telling you that you need to heal your gut (there are many more clues and signals your body sends you):

** abdominal pain

** anxiety

** behavioral problems

** cognitive decline

** brain fog

** constipation

** diarrhea

** hives

** depression

** fatigue

** insomnia

** joint pain

** chronic sinus infection/ear infection/bronchitis

** dark circles under eyes

Fermented foods:

  • Fermented foods are foods that grow bacteria on or in them and have been through a process called lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process of lactofermentation preserves the food, all the while inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. It also creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
  • Fermented food are one of the best detoxifying agents as they are capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals.
  • Fermented foods directly inoculate your gut with live bacteria that will crowd out unhealthy bacteria and prohibit the bad bacteria from flourishing.
  • Fermented foods have also been shown to break the food down to a more digestible form. (you are what you eat, but more importantly – you are what you digest)
  • Fermented foods/probiotics are more effective when combined with a high-fiber diet so be sure to eat an abundance of plant foods. Meat and cheese are devoid of any fiber whatsoever, and can even contribute to killing off good bacteria.

Ingredients:

kefir powder (starter grains)

2 cans of full fat unsweetened coconut milk

** Follow starter grains package instructions to know how much starter culture to use. For the brand I used, I needed the whole pre-measured package (5g) for 1 quart of milk. Brands may vary slightly but this is generally how all kefir would be made **

  1. Dump packet of starter grains into quart sized mason jar.
  2. Empty the contents of 2 cans of full fat unsweetened coconut milk into the jar.
  3. Stir to mix well being sure that no lumps remain.
  4. Cover with a mesh cloth or wash cloth and secure with rubber-band (metal lids could halt the process of fermentation).
  5. Leave out at room temperature for at least 24 -48 hours. At this point put it in the refrigerator to stop fermentation and keep it fresh. It will only last at room temp for 1-2 days. You can store it in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

Cold and Flu Season

With cold and flu season upon us, there are some very easy and practical ways we can boost our immune system and the immune system of our children.

  1. Plants: An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? It is imperative to eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. Those colors are more than just appealing to the eye. Each color provides a different antioxidant power. Those antioxidants destroy the free radicals that weaken our immune system and are responsible for making us feel sick when we catch a bug.
  2. Soap and water: Washing hands regularly with soap and water is the best way to keep from introducing germs to the inside of our body. But be sure to use plain soap, not fragranced soap or anti-bacterial soap. Though they sound like a good idea, fragranced soaps contain many synthetic chemicals that actually destroy the good bacteria on our skin and also weaken our immune system.
  3. Fermented food: Fermented foods contain probiotics, which are the good bacteria your body needs to survive. Without a healthy gut flora, your immune system is compromised and the viral and bacterial infections have a better chance of dominating throughout your body.
  4. AVOID sugar: Lab tests have shown that your immune system is weakened by more than 50% just a mere 30 minutes after eating simple/processed sugars. This weakened state is still present 5 hours later! That means your immune system is still in a compromised state from one meal or snack as you imbibe on another meal or snack containing more non-whole foods. It stays perpetually suppressed, and unable to fight infection when eating a SAD (Standard American Diet). This brings us back to point #1. Eat plants.
  5. Exercise: Exercise boosts the production of microphages, the kind of white blood cells that “eat” bacteria and viruses. Better yet, head outside for exercise and gain the benefit of fresh air and Vitamin D!
  6. Sleep: Sleep increases the number of white blood cells boosting your immune power. Conversely, lack of sleep increases inflammation in the body and reduces immune function.
  7. Reduce Stress: Easier said than done, right? But it is important to find ways to reduce stress because excessive unresolved stress weakens our immune system, and increases inflammation which increases our chances of getting sick. Find a way to relax and be still & calm, and meditate daily.

In addition to those recommendations above, there are some nutritional supplements that can further boost the immune system. It is always best to consume your nutrients from food, but in the toxic world we live in now, that isn’t always possible, even with a whole-food plant-based diet, because in many cases the soil in which our food is grown has been depleted of vital nutrients our bodies require for optimal health. Here are some of my favorites to supplement with:

  1. Probiotics: as mentioned above, without proper colonization of good bacteria we are at reduced capacity to fight the bad bacteria, leaving us susceptible to getting sick.
  2. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is a catalyst for many enzymatic and neurological reactions in our body. Without adequate vitamin C we are in a compromised position to fight germs.
  3. Vitamin D3: Studies show that people who supplemented with Vitamin D3 during the cold and flu season had significantly lower rates of infection. That is because Vitamin D3 increases our body’s production of cathelicidin, which is an antimicrobial compound that helps fight viral and bacterial infections. Vitamin D is vital in facilitating normal immune system function. Since it isn’t always possible to get enough Vitamin D from sun (especially in northern climates where the temps get so low that even when we are outside, we are covered head to toe to keep warm and sunshine never reaches our skin).
  4. Zinc: Zinc is required for normal functioning of white blood cells, improving the immune system’s ability to fight off infection.

Also, give essential oils a try! Supporting your immune system with essential oils is another easy way to ensure your body stays strong enough to fight the invaders. Applying and diffusing are two easy and efficient ways to use essential oils safely.