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coconut oil in context

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently announced coconut oil is bad for you. This is the same advisory organization that endorses breakfast cereals loaded with sugars and artificial additives.

It’s important to look at this coconut oil advisory in context: Saturated fats have been proven repeatedly not to be bad for your health or raise the risk of heart disease when you eat a diet that is low in sugar and carbohydrates and high in omega 3 fatty acids (such as from cold water fish and raw nuts).

Sugars and carbs biggest heart disease culprits

In fact, studies also show it is sugars and excess carbohydrates that inflame the arteries, lead to arterial plaques, trigger production of the “bad” types of cholesterol, and promote obesity.

Likewise, polyunsaturated fats, which the AHA recommends in place of coconut oil and other saturated fats, are high in omega 6. Although we need a healthy ratio of omega 6 to omega 3, the average American eats far too much omega 6 already, thus promoting chronic disease.

Inflammation, not cholesterol, is a culprit

Excess omega 6, which is ample in polyunsaturated vegetable oils, is linked with chronic inflammatory disorders, such as fatty liver, arthritis, and irritable bowel disorder. Chronic systemic inflammation has also been found to increase the risk of heart disease.

Meanwhile, cholesterol has been found not to be a factor in heart disease risk. What matters are levels of inflammation (as measured by CRP or homocysteine on a blood test) and levels of the “bad,” or dense, LDL from eating too many sugars.

Big difference between saturated and trans fats

Although it’s not clear which saturated fats were investigated in the study panning coconut oil, the majority of studies linking saturated fats to heart disease include hydrogenated, or trans, fats. Trans fats are inflammatory, artery-clogging, brain damaging fats that should be avoided at all costs. It is incorrect to group them with natural saturated fats.

Health benefits of coconut oil

In a nutshell, if you manage your blood sugar levels with moderate to low consumption of complex carbohydrates, you avoid sugars and processed carbohydrates, you eat plenty of omega 3 fats, and your diet includes 7 to 10 servings a day of vegetables and low-glycemic fruit, chances are you can safely enjoy liberal amounts of coconut oil.

In fact, coconut oil has been shown to have healthy heart benefits even. The heart prefers the fatty acids found in coconut oil as a source of fuel.

Coconut oil is also known to:

  • Increase metabolism
  • Curb appetite
  • Fuel the brain
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Fight bacteria, viruses, and fungal infections

The AHA diet can raise risk of heart disease

Unfortunately, the AHA promotes pro-inflammatory foods that are high in sugars, processed carbs, and omega 6 oils — the very foods most associated with chronic diseases. To their credit, however, they also promote 7 to 10 servings of produce a day and ample omega 3 fatty acids, both of which are excellent anti-inflammatory approaches that support heart health.

If you follow the AHA advice to replace calories from healthy natural fats with AHA-approved foods high in industrialized oils and processed carbohydrates, you may find both your blood test results and symptoms worsen. Ask my office for more advice.

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Sadly, millions of women and girls absorb high levels of toxins every month thanks to lax manufacturing standards of tampons and sanitary pads. These products are loaded with highly absorbable industrial contaminants — the body takes in more toxins through the vaginal wall than through ingestion.

Manufacturers are not required to list the ingredients used in tampons and sanitary napkins. However, the main material cotton is a crop notorious for genetic engineering and heavy use of pesticides.

Feminine hygiene products also contain synthetic fragrances, bleaches, foams, gels, anti-bacterial agents, and surfactants.

Although the FDA offers recommendations, there are no regulations manufacturers are required to follow regarding the use of toxic chemicals in these products.

Why toxins in tampons are more dangerous

Lack of regulation and oversight means anything goes in manufacturing of feminine hygiene products, including the use of cancer-causing chemicals.

Vaginal tissue is far more permeable than other areas of the body. In fact, it’s so good at absorption that drug companies are looking at ways to deliver drugs vaginally as a way to bypass metabolization.

Because compounds absorbed vaginally do not pass through the liver first, this also means they go into the bloodstream in much higher concentrations than if they were ingested.

Additionally, the thin ridges of the vaginal wall not only provide more surface area to enhance absorption, they also can retain chemicals.

Conventional sanitary pads contain myriad toxic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fibers that sit against the permeable skin of the vulva for days every month.

Toxic chemicals in feminine products

Sadly, most feminine hygiene products are loaded with toxins. This includes not only tampons and pads, but also feminine wipes, washes, douches, sprays, and creams.

These chemicals include dioxins and other bleaching chemicals, pesticide residues, anti-bacterials, unknown fragrances, dyes, spermicides, phthalates, and surfactants (also used in detergents).

Studies show the chemicals used in feminine hygiene products have been linked to cancer, hormone imbalances, reproductive harm, allergic rashes, and asthma.

Douches in particular have been linked to numerous reproductive and health disorders and should be avoided.

Safe alternatives in feminine products

Fortunately, natural alternatives exist, although they are dwarfed in number by the brands with toxins (look online for more options). Go for chemical-free pads and tampons, or consider the menstrual cup or even cloth pads.

For other feminine products such as wipes, washes, sprays, and douches, remember that the body is innately intelligent and functions best with the right support.

Support your vaginal health by minimizing sugars and starchy carbs to prevent the yeast and bacterial infections that drive women to these products.

Taking probiotics can also support vaginal health, and these days you can buy brands geared specifically toward that.

Also, in addition to eating a whole foods diet, rule out a sensitivity to gluten, dairy, or other foods — many women have found food sensitivities causes vaginal itching and inflammation.

Ask my office for more advice.

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The United States enjoys liberal access to nutritional supplements. We can buy virtually any supplement from multiple sources either at the local grocery store or online. Other countries can be more stringent when it comes to access and don’t enjoy near the wide range of variety.

However, the freedom around nutritional supplements in the United States means consumers must be wary of shoddy, fraudulent  and even unsafe supplements with misleading claims. It’s important to learn how to be a smart supplement shopper to make the most of our supplement-shopping freedom. You may be surprised to learn the worst supplements aren’t from some shadowy corner of the internet, but rather usually from your local drug or grocery store.

At the same time, it’s also important to protect consumer access to supplements. The FDA’s approach to the industry is often viewed as unnecessarily aggressive due, it is widely believed, to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. As the rates of “untreatable” or “mysterious” chronic diseases and dementia continue to skyrocket, people increasingly turn to alternative health care and nutritional supplements to address their health concerns. This has turned the supplement industry into one worth many billions of dollars.

What supplements to avoid

The supplement industry has created its own standards of quality that manufacturers can choose to comply with in order to reassure their buyers only the purest ingredients are used.

Avoid cheap, mass marketed supplements comprised of synthetic or inflammatory fillers (such as wheat and corn), poor quality ingredients, inactive ingredients, and artificial colors. There is also no way of knowing how shipping and storing has affected the ingredients.

What to look for in quality supplements

For starters, avoid fillers that use wheat, corn, starches, and magnesium stearate. Also, research the origin of the ingredients. Herbal ingredients can come from heavily polluted areas in other countries and be loaded with toxins. Good companies test their ingredients for toxins.

Research the brand. Are they formulated with a health-care professional and scientific advisory board? Are there peer-reviewed studies to back up the ingredients? Does the company test purity?

What is their marketing like? Do they use sleazy snake-oil selling tactics? Or do they cater to licensed practitioners and provide educational seminars to teach about the products and how best to incorporate them into a health care plan?

Also, look for supplement companies that send their products out to independent labs to test for quality and purity.

NSF International, and independent organization, certifies supplements on three levels of quality:

Certified Good manufacturing practices (CGMPs): Guidelines that assure a product conforms with what’s listed its label.

American National Standard for dietary supplement products: Testing that ensures products contain what is on the label and not undeclared contaminants.

NSF Certified for Sport: Screens for athletic banned substances.

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Aging gracefully is all about taking care of your mitochondria — the little energy factories in each cell. As we get older, their function can start to diminish, which plays a key role in aging of the body. However, new research has shown a little-known strategy to boost the longevity and function of your mitochondria — regular bursts of high intensity exercise.

People are told to exercise for all sorts of reasons, but regular exercise is one of life’s magic bullets when it comes to remaining physically and mentally agile into the elder years. Any kind of regular exercise is better than none when it comes to health and longevity.

However, when it comes to nurturing cellular mitochondria and thus better preserving your overall health, one form of exercise outshines the rest — intervals of high intensity exercise. This means an exercise routine that boosts the heart rate to healthy upper thresholds for several minutes at a time.

How different forms of exercise affect aging

Although any regular physical activity makes for a better aging process, a recent Mayo Clinic study showed different types improve aging in different ways.

The study divided healthy but sedentary men and women under the age of 30 and over the age of 64 into several groups of exercise:

  • Vigorous weight-lifting several times a week.
  • Interval training three times a week on stationary bikes (they did three sets of pedaling hard for four minutes and resting for three minutes).
  • Alternated between mild weight lifting and moderate pedaling on a stationary bike throughout the week.
  • No exercise.

Not surprisingly, all the groups who exercised reported better blood sugar control and fitness after three months of regular exercise. The vigorous weight lifters gained muscle mass while the interval exercises gained more endurance.

But the finding that surprised researchers was cellular improvement in the interval exercisers. The under-30 interval exercisers showed changes in 274 genes, compared to 170 genes in the young moderate mixed exercise group and 74 genes in the young weight lifters.

However, the older interval exercisers showed changes in 400 genes, compared to only 19 for the older moderate exercisers and 33 for the older weight lifters.

In other words, interval exercising is the most advantageous at any stage of life, but it’s significantly more advantageous the older you are compared to other forms of exercise.

How interval exercise improves the aging process

Researchers theorize interval training is beneficial because it increases the number and health of cellular mitochondria. This means more energy for muscles (including the heart), better brain function, and better recovery and regeneration.

The fact that the older participants had more robust responses to high intensity interval training shows it is never too late to exercise, especially if you do the most beneficial kind. Another bonus? You can extract the most gains in the least amount of time from interval exercise, which requires less time than other forms.

How to interval train for better cellular health

To interval train  simply push yourself to your maximum effort for several minutes several times in your routine, with short periods of rest in between sets. Work within your capacity and don’t over train — over exercising causes inflammation and can damage mitochondria.

Ask my office for more advice on the best way to exercise for optimal health.

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If you struggle with excess weight or high blood sugar, your blood tests show may also show fatty liver (high liver enzymes). Although fatty liver has no overt symptoms, a liver filled with fat hinders detoxification, promotes inflammation, may increase gallstones  and increases heart attack risk. So a fatty liver means eat less fat, right? Wrong, the culprit in fatty liver isn’t too much fat but rather too many sugars and carbohydrates.

Too many carbs are the main culprits behind the excess belly fat that is a sure sign of fatty liver. This is because sugar signals the liver to produce more fat.

This process is heightened when the liver must process fructose  particularly high-fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks and other junk foods.

From fatty liver to fatty liver disease

While some fat in the liver is normal, if it exceeds 5 to 10 percent of total weight of the organ, it is considered fatty liver and the first stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). If fatty liver progresses unchecked, it can lead all the way to cirrhosis.

(Alcohol abuse can also cause fatty liver disease and the majority of alcoholics have a fatty liver.)

NAFLD is the most common liver disorder in the west, affecting as many as one third of Americans. It primarily afflicts those who overweight and middle-aged, but NAFLD is increasingly affecting children and teens due to their over consumption of sodas, sweets, and high-carb foods. High cholesterol and diabetes are typically found with NAFLD too.

How to reverse fatty liver and regain liver health

The good news is you can reverse fatty liver before it’s too late. Even though the liver may not initially complain with symptoms, it’s important to take liver health seriously to prevent serious long-term complications. Steps to reverse fatty liver include:

Adopt a lower-carb, sugar-free diet. High blood sugar leads to fatty liver. To start reversing it you need to bring blood sugar down to healthy levels with a whole foods diet abundant in fibrous vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins while low in foods that spike blood sugar. Most people will begin to lose excess fat on this way of eating as well, further unburdening the liver.

Exercise daily. Exercise helps lower high blood sugar, detoxify the body, and shed excess fat, all of which will help reverse fatty liver.

Avoid alcohol and unnecessary medications. Alcohol is very hard on the liver, as are many medications. Avoid both as much as possible while working to reverse fatty liver.

Lower inflammation. The liver actually plays an important role in inflammation and lowering overall inflammation will likewise ease its burdens. The most important ways to do this are by removing foods from your diet that promote inflammation (gluten and dairy are the most common) and minimizing exposure to toxins and chemicals.

Take natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Certain nutritional compounds really shine when it comes to lowering inflammation. These include high doses of emulsified turmeric and resveratrol, absorbable forms of glutathione, vitamin D, and many other compounds. Ask my office for more advice.

Support liver detoxification pathways. If your liver cells are clogged with fat it may have trouble with everday detoxification duties. The liver responds wonderfully to herbs and compounds that support detoxification, such as milk thistle or n-acetyl-cysteine.

Ask my office for more ways to reverse fatty liver and support liver health.

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For decades the diet industry has conned consumers into thinking good diet products are low in fat. This led to a boon in creation of low-fat, high-carbohydrate, and often high-sugar “diet” products that promote fat storage, prevent fat burning, increase cravings, and raise inflammation. Not only can diet foods make you fatter, they can also make you sicker.

Yet another new study shows low-fat diet foods lead to obesity. Rats given high-sugar, low-fat foods that mimic many diet products not only got fatter than the control rats, they also experienced liver damage and brain inflammation.

The sad thing about this study is that the low-fat rats didn’t eat more calories. They consumed the same amount of calories as their counterparts that were fed a balanced diet yet they still ended the study fatter and sicker.

Liver and brain damage from low-fat, high-sugar

The excess fat accumulated around the rats’ livers was similar to the liver damage caused by heavy alcohol use. This study and others similar to it show that brain-inflammation from the high-sugar, low-fat diet also impaired function of the vagus nerve. This is a nerve that runs between the brain and the gut and is vital to both healthy brain and gut function.

Diet foods skew hunger and satiety hormones

The impacts on the vagus nerve and the brain also alter hormone signaling around hunger and satiety. This explains why people on high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diets often feel hungry all the time despite how much they eat.

Dieting signals the body to store fat

The hormones that control hunger and satiety also play a role in fat burning and fat storage. When this system is dysregulated due to a high-sugar diet, this prompts the body to favor fat storing over fat burning.

The best way to reverse this process is to fuel the body with a lower carbohydrate diet that is adequate in proteins and fat, and abundant in vegetables. How many carbohydrates a person needs to consume depends on many factors and varies from person to person. Ask my office for advice.

Dieting makes the body efficient at fat storage

Add a low-calorie diet to the poor performance of mainstream diet products and you have a recipe for lifelong super-powered fat storing abilities. This means a person has to consume fewer and fewer calories simply to avoid gaining weight.

This was best evidenced among former contestants of the popular TV show The Biggest Loser  Although contestants lost weight through a stringent regime of low-calorie dieting and intensive exercise, most contestants piled the weight back on after the show ended. They also had to consume 500–800 fewer calories below maintenance calories simply to avoid gaining weight. This is because the extreme dieting and exercise, though effective, had lowered their resting metabolic rate so that they were burning fewer calories each day compared to before participating in the show.

How to lose weight and stay healthy?

Often people lose weight simply by following a diet that lowers inflammation and removes foods to which they are intolerant, and by stabilizing blood sugar, repairing leaky gut, and addressing chronic inflammation. By focusing on a vegetable-dominant diet you also increase the proportion of gut bacteria that promote fat burning over fat storage.

The key is to gradually switch yourself over to a life-long way of eating you enjoy because it makes you feel better.

For more information on healthy weight loss, contact my office.

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If you want to get fit and lose weight, you should exercise as hard as you can, for as long as you can, every day, right? Wrong! Research shows extreme exercise can cause chronic health problems and make you feel worse. (What constitutes over exercise depends on the individual and their fitness level.) Recovery time is as important as the exercise itself.

Over exercising can cause the following health issues:

  • Increased inflammation
  • Fatigued adrenals, the stress-handling glands
  • More bad gut bacteria
  • Leaky gut
  • Depleted hormones
  • Depressed immunity
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Bone loss
  • Too much exercise raises inflammation

Many of the issues caused by over exercising stem from inflammation. Although appropriate exercise can be anti-inflammatory and very good for the brain, too much has the opposite effect.

The cellular damage from over exercising triggers a systemic inflammatory response that sets the stage for a host of other health problems.

Too much exercise stresses out your body

The damage and inflammation from over exercising is very stressful to the body. Excess stress underlies the burnout, depletion, and increasing weakness often seen with over exercising. Results can be fatigue, poor thyroid function, depressed immunity, and more.

Over exercising damages gut health

The gut and the bacteria it houses are increasingly being recognized as the seat of the immune system and foundational to our health.

Overdoing exercise has been found to damage the gut wall, causing “leaky gut.” This allows undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream, where they then trigger inflammation throughout the body.

Overtraining also changes the composition of gut bacteria so there is too much bad bacteria.

How to know if you’re over training

How do you know if your exercise routine is making you unhealthy?

One of the most common symptoms is constant fatigue. Your workout routine should give you more energy, not less. Appropriate exercise boosts chemicals in the body that improve brain function, increase well being, and raise energy. If the opposite is happening to you, you’re overdoing it.

Other symptoms of over exercising include getting sick frequently, loss of muscle mass, gaining body fat, and difficulty recovering from injuries.

What to do if you’re over exercising

If you’re making yourself sick with exercise, the answer isn’t to stop exercising, but to go about your workouts differently. First of all, give yourself time to recover. This typically means exercising less frequently.

Also, it’s very important to get enough sleep. This is a critical time when your muscles repair and your metabolic system and brain recharge. Sufficient sleep is crucial if you want to stay active and healthy for the long haul.