Happy New Year!
By this time most people have already broken their New Year’s resolutions. Sad but true. The problem with resolutions is the same problem as dieting. It’s something you make a promise to do for a finite amount of time until you achieve a certain result. However, in order to be successful it really has to be thought of as a lifestyle change where you are not giving anything up as much as what you are gaining. In Ayurveda we never say “diet.” Ayurveda believes you eat according to your individual body type and since we are all different each plan is tailored to you specifically. It’s not a diet because it’s the way you should eat throughout your whole life for optimal health.
If you are eating healthy and exercising to lose weight and still can’t lose maybe you need to look at your whole body and what could be the problem. You may have a sluggish thyroid that could be preventing you from losing weight so it’s important to see your doctor. However, almost everyone can lose weight. You just may not be following the right diet or there could be other factors interfering with your weight loss.
There are three topics I think should be a focus. One is inflammation, which is a contributor, and can also be a precursor to so many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity autoimmune disease, arthritis and cancer. You can have your doctor give you a blood test to see if your inflammation markers are high. They will test your CRP (c-reactive protein) and/or ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate). Integrative doctors may also check homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that when elevated has been linked to an increase risk of strokes and heart attacks. If you have chronic inflammation you need to work with your doctor to discuss various options.
The first line of defense should always be diet. I can’t stress enough the importance of eating real food. Plus it should be as organic as possible. You want to rid your body of all the toxins so it can function optimally. It is amazing how we can turn around our health just by committing to a healthier lifestyle. It’s harder than popping a pill but it’s something you can do for yourself not to mention be an example to your family so they can avoid getting sick. Besides, you are worth it! However you can’t just eat healthy one day a week, the benefits are felt over time just like any treatment so you need to stick with it. I guarantee you will feel so much better when you change how you eat that you will never go back. Also, you don’t have to be sick to eat this way. Everyone can benefit from making these changes.
One of my favorite food writers is Michael Pollan. If you can check out his PBS special called, “In Defense of Food.” His books are all wonderful as well. He has a saying that I wish I would have thought of because it sums up nutrition in one sentence…..”Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Forget fads, quick fixes, juicing like crazy and powder protein drinks. Eating should be an enjoyable experience, not something we rush through so we can get back to texting or working. If you want to do a cleanse, just eat clean organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and even grass-fed and/or organic protein but not too much of it. Shop at your local farmer’s market and get to know your farmer.
The first thing you want to do is eliminate all sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white pasta, rice and bread. I would eliminate all gluten products for at least 2 weeks. Many people can be sensitive to gluten and it is known to cause inflammation, especially for those with autoimmune disease. Since this is not an easy transition for those who love their bread, the only bread that I would recommend is sprouted bread. You may have seen the Ezekiel brand in the freezer section of your market. Sprouted bread is much easier for the body to digest and therefore it uses the vitamins and nutrients from the whole grains more effectively in the body. It is also low glycemic for those who have diabetes or may be pre-diabetic since the bread has no added sugar and no flour…just live grains. I love Food for Life Ezekiel bread because they are certified organic and do not use any GMO’s. It’s a pure healthy product. They also make gluten-free bread. Clearly if you have Celiac disease you cannot have any gluten products ever. If you need to have a sweetener and are not diabetic or pre-diabetic occasionally use raw local honey. Honey is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal, treats wounds, soothes coughs and even helps allergies.
The other foods that can cause inflammation in some people are dairy, eggs and soy. I am not allergic to dairy and or gluten, however, I feel much better not eating them. They only dairy I consume is raw dairy (that’s another blog:). You need to eliminate a particular food for about 2 weeks and see how you feel, then you can slowly incorporate it back to see if there is a difference. Here are some anti-inflammatory foods to add to your diet:
- Vegetables – various colors. You may want to stay off the nightshade vegetables which include white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. Some people are sensitive or allergic to nightshades and can experience joint pain, and digestive issues such as gas and bloating.
- Fruits – berries are low in sugar.
- Herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, but all spices are beneficial and they can replace salt. Cumin, oregano, thyme, dill, rosemary, parsley, mint and cilantro are some of my favorites. Cilantro also has the added benefit of detoxing heavy metals from the body so enjoy your guacamole with an added handful of cilantro.
- Choose good fats. The demonization of fat has been the biggest health myth. Due to the low-fat craze, companies replaced the fat with sugar and as a result so many good healthy foods were removed from our diets and people just kept gaining weight and getting sicker. We need fat and cholesterol to survive. It’s good for the brain, cardiovascular system and synthesizing nutrients and hormones. Some good fats are: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter) and raw diary.
- Fish is a great source of healthy fat but concerns over toxins and metals are a problem. I only recommend wild Alaskan or Pacific salmon. Check out vital choice seafood. www.vitalchoice.com/shop/pc/home.asp. Smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies are good as well but make sure it’s a reputable brand. I like Wild Planet http://www.wildplanetfoods.com/. Check out this great sardine recipe on Jen’s Reviews – https://www.jenreviews.com/sardines/.
- Nuts, especially walnuts and almonds, seeds such as flax and hemp are wonderful sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Some people may be allergic to nuts so these may not be possible. You may also need to supplement with a good quality omega 3 supplement if you do not like any of these foods.
- Grass-fed beef. You turn an unhealthy burger into a healthy one when you chose grass-fed beef. When cows are free to graze on grass they ingest all the nutrients from the grass which has been nurtured by the sun. The meat is also leaner than when cows feed on grain. Grass-fed beef also has significantly higher levels of omega-3s.
- Chicken and turkey are fine but make sure they are organic and humanely raised.
- Incorporate real bone broth into your diet. Among many other benefits it fights inflammation, supports digestion and gut health and enhances bone health.
Try to stay away from anything in a box, package, bag, can or food that needs to be microwaved.
Repairing the gut and replacing the good bacteria is like a domino effect for healing other issues (some which may have been unexplainable). Be patient with it as it is a process. It took me over a year to repair my own leaky gut. As you are reading this article and I am addressing different areas for overall health keep in mind that the body is like a sports team that works together. When one player is weak or takes ill it affects how the rest of the team functions. The same goes with our body. We are the sum of our parts and they all work together to keep our bodies functioning optimally. Our mind is not separate from our body and spirit and the reserve is true as well. In addition to following the recommendations above other things you can do to repair your intestinal health are:
- Upon waking and after brushing your teeth drink a cup of hot water. Boil the water then let it cool enough to drink. Ayurveda believes this cleans out the toxins from the previous day and sets your digestion up for the new day.
- Incorporate fermented foods like Greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi.
- Take a high quality probiotic. Note that your dairy should be organic and full fat.
- Get tested for allergies, yeast, candida or any intestinal parasites.
- Chew Chew Chew! – You want to make sure you are not swallowing chunks of food. The more liquified it is going down the better for your overall digestion. Take time to sit and eat and enjoy your meal.
- Let’s not forget stress. Stress can play a big role in leaky gut so try stress reduction techniques like yoga and meditation.
- Also – Natasha Campbell-McBride is the author of a terrific book in which she outlines a protocol for healing intestinal health called Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS). You can find practitioners in your area who are certified to help you with the protocol.
The third and also very important point for any area of your life is stress. We have heard it time and time again about the problems stress can cause from inflammation to cancer. According to the American Institute for Stress, three out of four doctor visits are related to stress. Chronic stress causes the hormone cortisol to become elevated. This makes it harder to lose weight since excess cortisol causes the body to store more fat in the abdominal area. Note that if you have high blood pressure, glucose imbalances or feel fatigued you should have your doctor check your cortisol level. Stress also causes emotional eating and the foods we eat during times of stress are not usually low-calorie or healthy but comfort foods such as carbs and sweets which cause weight gain.
There are numerous reasons for stress in our lives however we must have an outlet for stress (as long as it’s not destructive). Take up some sort of stress reduction practice whether that means sitting quietly for 15 minutes a day, going to yoga, church or a meditation class. It can also be indulging a hobby, listening to music you love, taking a dance class, enjoying nature or spending time with people you love.
Anyone that knows me has heard me like a broken record say that meditation is a must for everyone. Many people say they cannot stop thoughts and clear the mind. My response is that they need meditation more than anyone. Everyone can meditate. You need to find the right teacher or method. It’s a process that evolves over time but the benefits are too many to mention in this article. You can learn much more about managing anxiety and stress in my book The Holistic Root to Managing Anxiety http://www.amazon.com/The-Holistic-Root-Managing-Anxiety/dp/0615356222
So the resolution for 2016 should be to invest in yourself. A healthy body, mind and spirit are the best gifts you can give to yourself and everyone else around you.
I wish you a healthy, joyful 2016!