The Metabolism Myth

Metabolism might be the least understood and most misused health topics that exists. By misused, I mean that many people blame their “slow” metabolism for being overweight, or a “fast” metabolism for being skinny. While there are some genetic factors involved, these kind of statements about the metabolism couldn’t be further from the truth.

Your metabolism is primarily based on the amount of Fat Free Mass (FFM) you have. This only differs slightly from Lean Body Mass (LBM) in that LBM also includes some essential fat that is mostly around and in your organs.

If you have had a an accurate body composition test done then your Basal Metabolic Rate with be an amount closely related to the amount of your Lean Body Mass percentage. Basically this means that the more muscle mass you have the higher your metabolic rate will be in relation to someone your same weight, height, and gender.

Before we move ahead let’s go back and examine what your metabolism really is, before we worry how high or low it is, and if you can change it.

The majority of your metabolism revolves around simply staying alive. Your organs use up anywhere from 60-75% of the daily energy you consume. Men generally have bigger organs than women which accounts for their slightly higher metabolic rate. That and the fact that men generally carry more muscle mass than woman. Your body also has to stay within an optimal temperature range to function well. These factors make up the vast majority of what we call a metabolic rate.

When we say someone has a fast or slow metabolism what we are really saying is that “the devil is in the details.” Does this person have more or less muscle mass? Do they exercise more than we do? Do they eat more or less than we do? What a minute. I think what we are really saying is that they have a faster or slower metabolism than us. Doesn’t it make sense that a 220 pound man will have a higher metabolism than a 120 pound woman? Of course that makes sense, but we really don’t think about that when we are explaining away our own thinness or thickness.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that your metabolic rate has very little, if any, relation to how fat you are. In fact, the fatter you are the more likely it is that you have a higher metabolism than you should have. How can that be possible? Every pound of body weight you have requires some maintenance. That maintenance costs some energy. Every additional bit of energy cost your body has increases your metabolic rate. Now muscle mass burns somewhere around eight times as many calories as fat mass does, but each bit of mass has a cost nonetheless.

So if metabolism has nothing to do with how fat someone is, then what is the real reason a person becomes fat.

Appetite.

But let me digress for a moment and also mention that each bit of food you digest has a cost to it. Meaning that a bit of food could amount to 200 calories of energy, but cost you 30 calories to digest it, leaving you with 170 calories left for future use. Some foods have a higher energy cost than others. For instance, celery is known to have a negative net cost to it. Meaning that the cost to digest celery is more than the calories it provides you in return.

So back to appetite…

Generally speaking, when you eat more calories than you use up in a given day you gain weight. This is why people think they are fat because their metabolisms are low. They blame calorie output for their fatness, instead of calorie input.

Going back to celery example. Certain foods such as celery that are high in fiber help you lose weight and keep the fat off. Why? Because they cost a lot of energy to digest and give you little energy in return. Highly processed foods are super easy to digest and give you a ton of energy in return. See the pattern? Carbohydrates are easier to digest and give you a lot of energy in return. Fat is hard and slow to digest, but gives you a ton of energy in return. Protein is very hard to digest, and gives you little energy in return, specifically because protein is used as a building block rather than an energy source in many areas of the body.

All that to say that there are other factors to consider in how fat or skinny you are than just the rate of your metabolism.

This is our 24th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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10 Stubborn Exercise Myths That Won’t Die, Debunked by Science

Normally I don’t make a whole post about one article, but this one was just too good to pass up. It was written on the Lifehacker website and it has made the rounds on all the social media networks. It is called 10 Stubborn Exercise Myths That Won’t Die, and it talks about some reasons why society as a whole believes the things that it does.

My goal with this whole Better Health Challenge is to educate you on the current research science and inform you what the best of science has to share with us. Not all science experiments are created equal and a lot of what passes as science is actually pretty wishy-washy. It takes some critical thinking to discern what is good science and what is bad science, and unfortunately a lot of the major news networks pass around a lot of bad science.

In any case, I will give a few brief thoughts of my own on these myths and potentially write longer articles on certain ones in the future. But here are the 10 Stubborn Exercise Myths that won’t die…

Myth 1: No Pain, No Gain (My thoughts… Too much pain could mean you are producing too much cortisol, which is our major stress hormone. Too much cortisol means absolutely no gains to be made at all. End of story.)

Myth 2: Soreness After Exercise is Caused by Lactic Acid Building Up in Your Muscles (My thoughts… As the article says soreness is created by the microscopic tears in your muscles. Lactic Acid is long gone by the time delayed muscle soreness sets in a day or two later.)

Myth 3: Exercise Takes Long Hours/Is Worthless If I Can’t Exercise Regularly – (My thoughts… Great benefits can be seen from exercise that is as short as an hour or two a week. Exercise doesn’t have to seem like “exercise” either as I explained in my article last week about walking.)

Myth 4: You Need a Sports Drink When Exercising to Replenish Your Body’s Electrolytes/Minerals/Etc (My thoughts… Whenever you hear BS like this you know someone is trying to sell you something. Just ask yourself what we did before sports drinks were invented. Unless you are running a marathon or working out for hours on end, you don’t need anything to replenish yourself. A simple breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack after you exercise is all you really need. Wait, you do that anyhow? Then you are covered.)

Myth 5: Stretching Before Exercise Will Prevent Injury – (My thoughts… Oh stretching. What can I say about you? The article perhaps says it best that people often confuse “warming up” with stretching. I have always liked the advice to never stretch before your muscles have been warmed up which kind of prevents this confusion. I believe strongly that people should add in some “mobility work” to their workouts, but not necessarily stretching. This seems to be an area we need a whole article on so…)

Myth 6: Working Out Will Only Build Muscle, Not Help Me Lose Weight – (My thoughts… This one almost makes me want to pull my hair out. Working out is a great way to lose weight, but you have to do it intelligently. Certain exercises are better than others for fat loss, but in general a well designed workout plan along with a well designed eating plan will help you retain muscle at the same time you lose fat, which is the body composition you are looking for. Simply losing weight means you are probably losing fat and muscle at the same time which isn’t exactly the best case scenario.)

Myth 7: Exercise Will Help Me Lose Weight Quickly – (My thoughts… This goes hand in hand with the above myth. Here is a hard and fast rule folks… “More exercise = more hunger = more eating = less weight loss” Make sense? If you are obese you can lose weight very quickly with a well designed exercise and dieting plan, but the closer you get to the optimal weight for your height and gender, the slower you lose weight.)

Myth 8: You Need to Take Supplements to Build Muscle – (My thoughts… I love Whey Protein and Creatine, and all the amino acids, but you really don’t need them to build muscle. Again, it’s like sports drinks, someone is trying to sell you something. Do they work? Yep. Will they work for you? Maybe. Should you just buy a few more steaks instead of whey protein? Probably.)

Myth 9: If You Don’t Exercise When You’re Young, It’s Dangerous When You Get Older – (My thoughts… First off, don’t let anyone tell you what is and isn’t dangerous. Hopefully you can decide that for yourself. Exercise is almost imperative when you are old so that you can retain most of your abilities into old age. But again, it should be a well designed intelligent program. Can old people get hurt? Yes, but so can younger people. In any case, the benefits to exercise for the elderly outweigh any dangers they pose.)

Myth 10: Working Out at Home/Working Out at the Gym is Better than Working Out at Home/Working Out at the Gym – (My thoughts… Does it really matter as long as you are doing a well designed exercise program? What is well designed since I mention it so much? A well designed program is one in which you get the results you desire. End of story. You can achieve the results you want anywhere. This is just one more excuse for people not to exercise.)

These things really get me going, but they are worth talking about. It is hard to believe people still think these things are true, but I hear them all the time. You need to do this, or that, or the other thing. Just try some things out and see what works for you and what doesn’t. Take some time to do some research and bring a critical mind to the subject matter.

This is our 23rd challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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Walking is Mans Best Medicine

This piece of advice is right up there with mom’s advice to eat your vegetables. There really aren’t any downsides to walking, and there are a bunch of positive things that can happen to your health if you do walk more often.

Human beings are designed to walk. We are actually designed to walk pretty far. In our “hunter-gatherer” days we often had to walk long distances to gather food. And even when we became an agricultural society we still had to do a lot of walking out to the fields, around the fields, and back from the fields to plant, water, and harvest the crops.

Now in modern society we get to sit at a desk all day and type away at our computers. We hardly move from one spot at all. When we leave work we go and sit in a car, then we go home and sit down. We never really walk that far at all. Is it any surprise that our middle sections are a bit thicker than we want them to be?

This article was inspired by some of the latest studies coming out about how sitting all day is killing us. Here is an awesome “infographic” entitled, “Sitting is Killing You

Here is just one telling statistic from that infographic… “Between 1980 and 2000 the amount of exercise people were doing stayed the same, sitting time increased by 8%, and obesity doubled.” I think this statistic also has to do with what we were eating in that 20 year time span, but sitting down a lot more sure didn’t help.

Another statement that struck me as odd was that… “Of those that sit in front of the tv 3 hours per day, those that exercise are just as fat as those that don’t.” Folks, those couple of hours you exercise a week just don’t make up for all the other bad habits you do during the other 95% of your hours.

So if sitting down is bad for us, shouldn’t we simply just start standing up more often? Actually that is what a lot of people are starting to do in their offices. David Teten just wrote a great blog post on the 4 Hour Work Week blog called Reinventing the Office: How to Lose Fat and Increase Productivity at Work. It is some interesting stuff.

And you can do all that, but I would recommend that your simply get your body moving by walking.

It doesn’t have to be much. A lot of doctors recommend a simple 30 minute stroll after dinner. You can talk to a friend or loved one who walks right beside you, or maybe just spend 30 minutes with them on the phone while walking around the block.

You see it isn’t hard to do and it has so many benefits.

  1. Heart Health – People that walk daily have much lower instances of heart disease. Nothing gets the heart pumping as well as a good brisk walk.
  2. Better than Running – Most people know that running, especially on pavement or concrete, is hard on the joints. You can still get all the benefits of running by simply walking for the same amount of time, not necessarily the same distance. If you want to be a fast runner, then by all means go running, but if you just want to be healthy, walking will be your best bet.
  3. Bone Strength – Walking is also good for improving your bone density and preserving it into old age. Running can also improve bone density if not overdone, and weight lifting is the best way to improve bone density, but walking is perhaps the the healthiest way to keep your bones strong.
  4. Fat Loss – Again, walking may be the best way to lose fat. Yes, you can help yourself lose fat with just about any exercise, but you are guaranteed to burn out with most other exercises if you do them everyday. More intensive types of exercise cause an increase in the hormone cortisol which causes your body to repair itself, but also causes your body to retain fat, not lose it. Light exercise like walking will start the process of fat metabolism without causing too much stress on the body.
  5. Anyone can do it – And everyone should do it. With few exceptions, everyone can place one foot in front of the other and start walking. You can walk and talk with friends. You can walk to the park, or the grocery store. You can walk pretty much anywhere, anytime. Listen to some music. Think some deep thoughts. Anyone can do it. And maybe there are some hardcore exercisers who think walking is too easy. For you, you can try some hardcore uphill hiking. :-)

But yes, walking is for everyone. I will leave you with a great quote from the Father of Medicine…

“Walking is man’s best medicine.” – Hippocrates, Greek physician (460 BC – 377 BC)

Some of our oldest advice is still the best advice. Now go out and take a walk my friends!

This is our 22nd challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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Just Do It!

This is just a friendly reminder…

Don’t just read all this stuff about health…

Go out and do it…

Try it for yourself…

See what works and what doesn’t work…

Don’t Wait…

Start NOW!

This is our 21st challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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How To Have A Healthy Baby

After my last post about testosterone I figured I would give everyone a more feminine related post. Instead of a post about how to boost your estrogen, I figured it would be better to talk about how to have a healthy baby. The reason is that these two things go hand in hand.

For the most part, boosting your estrogen also raises your fertility. The better your fertility the higher your likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy. Everything works in conjunction with everything else.

It is important to emphasize just how important the health of the mother is during pregnancy. The general health of the mother is strongly tied to a number of birth defects that can happen during pregnancy and ultimately affects a wide range of things in the baby after birth including things like eyesight, IQ, ability to digest certain foods, and prevalence for the big three diseases of modern civilization (cancer, heart disease, and diabetes).

The health of the mom is so important that a doctor will frequently keep a close eye on a number of factors during the pregnancy.

Top Ways To Be Healthy During Pregnancy:

  1. Stop Drinking and/or Smoking – The research on this issue is exhaustive and the effects of drinking or smoking during pregnancy is pretty awful. The likelihood of having a miscarriage or having a baby with developmental issues if very high.
  2. Eat More Fat – Contrary to popular belief, fat is not the enemy. Human breast milk is 55% fat, 38% carbohydrate and 7% protein by calories. It only makes sense that a women’s diet should be similar to that ratio during pregnancy. A recent Harvard study also showed that women that consumed low fat dairy products on a regular basis as opposed to those that ate high fat dairy products had an increased possibility of infertility. As I have mentioned before, the best fats to increase in your diet are Omega 3’s, which are found mostly in fatty fish and grass fed animal products. With that being said it is also important to note that late pregnancy and breastfeeding women need up to an additional 700 calories per day in their diet with most doctors setting a bare minimum of 1,800 calories during this time period.
  3. Avoid Iron Supplementation – Women are often advised to take iron supplements because of the loss of iron through the natural menstrual cycle. Since women do not have a menstrual cycle during pregnancy they should avoid any iron supplementation during that time period to avoid any type of complications from iron toxicity such as malabsorption of necessary nutrients.
  4. Get Folate Into Your Diet – Because of the risk of neural tube defects most women are advised to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy. While folic acid is a decent supplement for preventing neural tube defects, in large amounts it can be detrimental to the mom by masking a possible B12 deficiency or even causing some other complications. It is best to get the more natural form of folic acid which is folate in the diet by eating foods high in it such as liver, legumes such as lentils, foods fortified with folate, and especially making sure you eat enough dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale.
  5. Get Your Exercise In – Exercise becomes really important during pregnancy because it promotes all the natural hormone development in the mom that helps pump all the necessary nutrients to the developing fetus. Even if it is just a daily walk of about 30 minutes, it is important to maintain a healthy amount of exercise during pregnancy.

This is a huge topic and I found out a lot of interesting stuff in doing the research for this article. When I get around to writing the book on health I am sure this topic will be greatly expanded. And I may possibly write a second part to this topic concerning everything that happens after pregnancy, but more on that later…

This is our 20th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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How To Boost Testosterone Naturally

Ladies may want to sit this one out or simply pass it along to the men in their life. Today’s post is all about boosting testosterone in men.

You may already know, or think you know, a fair deal about testosterone, but it is actually a pretty complex hormone involved in a lot of processes in your body.

A lack of testosterone has been linked to all kinds of things. I am sure you know that a lack of testosterone gives you a low sex drive. You may even know that the more testosterone you have the better your ability to build muscle. But did you know that a lack of testosterone can make you more likely to break a bone and will put you at an increased risk for heart disease?

Simply put, naturally high levels of testosterone in men make them less likely to see the effects of aging.

Estrogen has roughly the same effect in women. The more natural estrogen you have going into your golden years the less likely you will see the effects of aging.

There are all kinds of reasons you could have low testosterone levels. An injury, a pituary gland disorder, a poor diet or exercise routine, bad sleeping habits, literally anything can harm your ability to produce testosterone.

So how do we naturally increase testosterone? And I say naturally because there are all kinds of downsides to taking artificial hormone replacements, especially the fact that taking artificial hormone replacements decreases the ability of your own body to produce testosterone.

Natural Ways To Increase Testosterone:

  1. Heavy Compound Movement Weight Lifting – This is probably the best way to increase your testosterone levels. Squats, Deadlifts, bench presses, etc. The more muscle mass you can engage in the workout the better. Squats are probably the king of all exercises that will help you produce the most testosterone naturally.
  2. Get More Zinc – Zinc has been touted as the most important micronutrient when it comes to increasing testosterone. Zinc prevents testosterone from being converted into estrogen by inhibiting the enzyme aromatase. Foods high in zinc include oysters, liver, low fat roast beef, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate.
  3. Eat More Omega 3’s – Omega 3 fatty acids keep popping up as important. The best sources of it are flaxseed oil or fish oil supplements although eating fatty fish a few times a week is a good way to get what you need.
  4. Eat Plenty of Good Food – Any type of calorie restriction causes a reduction in testosterone, but that doesn’t mean you can go crazy on the donuts. Eating too much sugar also decreases the amount of testosterone you have.
  5. Eat Cruciferous Vegetables – Broccoli and Cabbage are two great vegetables to eat that include DIM (Diindolylmethane) which reduces the amount of estrogen in your system.
  6. Get Your Sleep – The better rested you are, the less cortisol you have, the better your testosterone levels will be.
  7. Avoid Alcohol – Alcohol definitely lessens your body’s ability to produce testosterone.

There are other ways to produce more testosterone by becoming more sexually stimulated, avoiding soy products, and taking Vitamin C supplements, but the 7 above are the main ones. So getting more testosterone sounds a lot like all the other things we have been talking about. Simply becoming healthier through exercise and diet should increase your testosterone naturally. A few little extra steps here or there will help max out your testosterone production.

This is our 19th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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How To Live To Be a Centenarian

Basically a Centenarian is anyone who is 100 or more years old. I know most people don’t necessarily want to live to be that old for fear of the downsides of old age, but many centenarians live pretty robust lives right up till the day they die.

So here is just another way to think about health and longevity. I am just going to throw out some stories of the oldest people on Earth and what they attribute their long life to…

Jeanne Louise Calment is the oldest verified human ever to live and she died at the ripe old age of 122. She rode a bicycle up until she was 100 years old and even smoked till she was 117 years old. She attributes her long life to olive oil which she poured on all her food and even rubbed into her skin. She also loved port wine and ate about a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of chocolate a week.

Sarah Knauss lived to be 115 years old. Her daughter who lived to be 101 years old said that she was a very tranquil person and nothing ever fazed her. She also loved chocolate, cashews, and potato chips.

George Harris lived to be 112 years old. Besides living over 100 years he was known for his short stature and weighed only 100 pounds. He credits his long life to nature, and a diet rich in pork, eggs, milk, and lard.

Christian Mortensen lived to be 115 years old. He is quoted as saying, “Friends, a good cigar, drinking lots of good water, avoiding alcohol, staying positive and lots of singing will keep you alive for a long time.”

Louisa Shepard lived to be 111 years old and credits her long life to drinking hot milk with a dash of whiskey each evening.

Emiliano Mercado del Toro lived to be 115 years old and credits his long life to his sense of humor.

Flossie Elizabeth Page lived to be 112 years old and credits her long life to living morally, and taking no medication whatsoever.

Walter Breuning lived to be 114 years old and credits his long life to keeping his mind and body busy.

Bessie Cooper who was born in 1896 and currently still living attributes her long life to minding her own business and avoiding junk foods.

Gertrude Baines who lived to be 115 years old loved the simple pleasures in life like bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper lived to be 115 years old and said that her longevity was due to eating a herring a day and drinking orange juice. And being active.

Joan Riudavets Moll lived to be 115 years old and lived on a Mediterranean diet of olive oil, tomatoes, fish, and bread. Some of his hobbies were playing the guitar, singing, and playing football. And he walked and rode a bike every day till his death.

Moses Hardy lived to be 113 years old and his longevity was credited to a daily meal that consisted of cabbage, corn bread, butter milk, potatoes and Dr Pepper, and the fact that he never drank alcohol or smoked in his life.

John Evans lived to be 113 years old and attributed his longevity to abstinence of smoking, drinking, swearing, and gambling.

Henry Allingham also lived to be 113 years old and credited “cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women – and a good sense of humour” for his longevity.

I hope you are laughing a bit now as you hear all these stories of people that lived to very ripe old ages. There is not much coherence among any of their stories. Some smoked and drank, others abstained and each still lived to be a centenarian.

I think the common theme seems to be that they all enjoyed life as much as they could. So maybe the key to living longer isn’t trying to live a healthier life, but to simply enjoy life as much as possible.

This is our 18th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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It’s All About the Hormones

There is a lot to learn when it comes to hormones, and it isn’t just about testosterone and estrogen, the main sex hormones in males and females. There are actually about 75 different hormones found in the body and they do all sorts of wild and wonderful things.

Just think of hormones as the little messengers of your body. This is basically how every cell of your body communicates with one another. They produce a little hormone messaging signal and that is transported through the blood or lymphatic system to whatever cell it is trying to communicate with. Once it is there is tells that cell to do something.

When most people think of hormones they think of puberty or menopause or anything dealing mostly with the sexual nature of humans, but hormones have a wide range of functions in the body.

Hormones are also responsible for the “flight or fight” response we get when faced with a challenge to our being. The most well known hormone that does induces this response is adrenaline.

Another hormone called serotonin controls your mood, appetite, and sleep patterns.

Another hormone called dopamine controls your heart rate and blood pressure.

Insulin helps to pump nutrients into your cells, cortisol helps to keep things out, and keep what is already in the cell still inside.

There is even a hormone called calcitonin that you can probably guess what it does. Uses calcium in your blood to construct bone.

You can also think of hormones as a lock and key system. Each different cell in your body has a lock on it. And only hormones have the key.

You see we want our cells to be as permanent and non changing as possible. If your cells didn’t have a lock on them, if they don’t have integrity then they fall apart or do other unwanted things and we would probably instantly melt.

And like all things I have been saying, hormones also have an effect on whether you develop heart disease, cancer, or any other type of disease. It all fits together in a very synergistic way.

And like all things I have been saying, the modern lifestyle makes these hormones go a little haywire.

One of the issues we have is that we are putting synthetic chemicals into our system that sometimes act like hormones.

Think of it this way. It is a like someone came and picked the lock to your house and rearranged all the furniture. The cells start doing things that naturally produced hormones never told them to do. The brain hears about it and starts telling the body to do all kinds of things to fix the mess, some of which are good and some bad. While you may not think having someone rearrange your furniture is a bad thing, when this happens to your cells doctors like to call the result cancer.

What to do about all this?

If you want to stay healthy it is the same old song and dance. Only eat the the best whole foods. Drink clean filtered water. Get a moderate amount of exercise. Take supplements as needed. Limit stress. Avoid environmental pollutants and toxins. Enjoy life!

With that being said, we will get into a more thorough discussion on specific hormones in upcoming posts.

This is our 17th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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Chronic Inflammation is the Real Killer

Time magazine did a report entitled Inflammation: The Secret Killer back in 2004 that showed how inflammation is linked to many diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer to Alzheimer’s.

Inflammation is a response by the body to remove harmful particles such as pathogens or damaged cells from the body and heal the area that is inflamed. Without an inflammation response your cuts and wounds simply wouldn’t heal.

Cutting your skin or having a pathogen such as a virus invade your body is a form of acute inflammation. This means that the inflammation is very pronounced but goes away in a relatively short amount of time as the body heals itself.

Chronic inflammation is where your body continually acts like it needs healed in a certain area and continues to pump various nutrients and chemicals to the site needing healed. This results in a simultaneous destruction and healing of the cells in question.

What does all this mean?

As with nearly everything in the body, what was meant for good has somehow changed around into something bad. The body attacks itself instead of attacking the real problem.

So what causes chronic inflammations?

A whole host of things cause inflammation including injuries, foreign particles, toxins, irritants, and immune reactions due to hypersensitivity.

Hopefully most of you are trying to avoid injury, the common cold, and know to avoid known toxins and irritants such as those you are exposed to through cigarette smoking. With that being said, we will focus on how the food you eat causes a chronic inflammation response.

As I mentioned in my article on Food Intolerance and Allergies anything that you are intolerant too will cause inflammation. Again these include, but are not limited to, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. You could be eating these things all your life and not realize how much they are hurting you.

You may or may not be intolerant to the foods listed above, but it never hurts to do your research and find out for yourself. With that being said, here is a list of pro inflammatory foods…

  1. Sugar – Of all foods nothing is probably more inflammatory than sugar in it’s raw form. This is because sugar causes a high insulin response and insulin itself is very pro-inflammatory. Insulin is the primary hormone that helps move nutrients into our cells. Limiting sugar intake in all its forms will help you to manage your inflammation response.
  2. Foods High in Omega-6 – While Omega-6 fat is an essential fat for the body we tend to get too much of it, especially in terms of how much Omega 3 fat we ingest. It is best to try and get equal amounts of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fat in our diet. Foods HIGH in Omega 6 include oils such as soybean and corn oil which are used in processed foods and beef that is raised on a large amount of grain instead of grass-fed. Foods HIGH in Omega 3, which are the foods you should eat more of include, fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, and halibut, flax seeds, and walnuts.
  3. Trans Fats – These are the worthless fats otherwise known as hydrogenated vegetable oils. Avoid them at all costs.
  4. Alcohol – Not necessarily a food, but pro-inflammatory in any case. Alcohol can help contribute to all types of inflammation. Like all things, if you must drink, do it in moderation.
  5. Grains – Grains contribute to inflammation, if not through gluten (or other protein) sensitivity, then through increased insulin response. While “whole grains” have been touted as being better for you than refined grains (due to a lesser glycemic index), they are still not as good for you in terms of your other foods choices.

When you take all the above together you will realize why processed foods are the worst thing you could possibly be eating. Combine some sugar, wheat flour, and soybean or corn oil, and you have a recipe for inflammation disaster.

Pro-Inflammatory Foods To Avoid – Straight from Dr. Perricone and Oprah. :-)

So what is the solution? Eating anti-inflammatory foods.

  1. Fruits and Vegetables – Whole fruits and vegetables, juices don’t count because they usually have too much sugar in them. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables gives you a ton of antioxidants. Oxidative stress is one of the primary causes of inflammation and antioxidants help prevent it.
  2. Fatty Fish – Again, fatty fish has a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids in it which are anti-inflammatory. You can get it by eating the fish, by taking fish oil supplements, or both.
  3. Green Tea – The flavonoids in green tea are known for their high amount of antioxidants and therefore their high anti-inflammatory properties.
  4. Herbs & Spices – Many of the herbs and spices we eat everyday have great anti-inflammatory properties. The top three to eat are probably garlic, turmeric, and ginger.
  5. Rest – Again this isn’t exactly a food, but getting adequate sleep every night and having relatively low chronic stress in your life will also help to prevent inflammation in your body.

With all the research coming out about inflammation it is good to incorporate what we are learning about it in terms of our own preventative health. Limiting the things that cause inflammation, and increasing the things that limit inflammation in our bodies and our lives will go a long way to improving our overall health and livelihood.

This is our 16th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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The Substitution Diet

I pretty much just coined the term substitution diet, but it is primarily how I think about dieting these days. When people ask me how to eat healthier I always tell them to give me a journal of what they have eaten for a week. Anything less than a week is probably too short and anything over a week is probably too long for people to want to do.

Once I can see what someone has been putting down their pie hole for a week I can start recommending what they should stop eating and what they should start eating.

The thing is most diets are about eliminating something or possibly adding something, but both approaches fall short of really helping someone out in the long run.

Actually when we think of the word “diet” or “dieting” we mostly think of someone wanting to lose weight. But we can also diet to gain muscle mass or have a better body composition. And we can simply diet to improve our health or possibly to help cure a disease or prevent one.

In most people’s view the best diet is one that is a permanent way to keep off unwanted pounds and fat, and for us to be as healthy as possible for the rest of our lives.

A diet that is “low-carb” or “low-fat” may not be the best thing for you. The Atkins diet, the blood type diet, the south beach diet, a vegetarian diet, a weight watchers diet, or any other type of diet may or may not be good for you depending on who you are and what kind of life you lead.

People always want a black and white answer to their problems, but your health problems don’t always have black and white answers. The way you should eat depends on a large number of factors.

Which leads me right back to the Substitution Diet. This is the best way I have found so far to get people eating better for their health.

The idea is simple. Take one unhealthy thing out of your diet and replace it with one good thing. One example for this would be to stop eating pork sausages and start eating pork loin. Pork sausage is usually made from the worst cuts of meat, has too much fat, and has a lot of preservatives like sodium nitrate in it that you are better off not ingesting. Pork loin on the other hand should technically be fresher and has a better makeup of proteins and fats that will be beneficial too you.

Here are some other examples…

  1. Wheat Gluten – Gluten is a very well known gut irritant that has all kinds of ways to mess you up. You may not think you are gluten intolerant but most people don’t do so well with it. More and more “gluten free” products are coming out on the market, but even they have some problems with their makeup. One good substitution example is the “Unwich” that Jimmy John’s came up with. Basically you can get any of their sandwiches in a lettuce wrap instead of a bread wrap.
  2. Soda Pop – This is one of the worst things for you especially if you drink it everyday. High Fructose Corn Syrup is one of the worst sugars and plenty of studies have shown that it contributes a lot to obesity and diabetes. Diet Soda isn’t that much of an improvement because there have been studies showing that the artificial sweeteners in them are potentially carcinogenic and mess up the connection between your mind, your taste buds, and what your stomach ultimately gets. One way to add a good substitute is to get a Sodastream machine where you can make your own soda at home and add any flavors you want. Basically what you end up with is carbonated water with some lemon and/or lime squeezed in it that is 1000 times more healthy that any other drink on the market.
  3. Legumes – This is another category of foods that a lot of people have problems with. They include beans, peanuts, and soy products. Many vegans and vegetarians have trouble getting enough protein and one of the best sources of plant protein is the bean. However, if you know you have trouble digesting them you may want to think about eating peas (peas are technically a fruit) which are also high in protein. Most people seem to eat peanuts in the form of peanut butter and almond butter is a great substitute. Soy also provides a lot of protein, but some good substitutes for it are coconut, rice, and almond products.
  4. Dairy – Some people have a lactose intolerance and coconut milk, rice milk, and almond milk are all potential substitutes.
  5. Processed Foods – Maybe you aren’t really allergic or that intolerant to anything, but you eat a lot of processed foods. It is always good to replace a processed food (pork sausage) with an unprocessed food (pork loin).

I could go on a long time with this subject and list every food swap I have ever recommended or could think of, but that would take a long time and you probably would get very bored reading it. The point is that you don’t have to follow some diet religiously or at all. You simply have to look at what foods you are currently eating, and slowly but surely switch them out for the better foods.

Wait… I got one last one for you. For the love of every good and green thing on this Earth, stop using salad dressing (it’s evil, trust me) and start using oil and vinegar or just a splash of lemon juice on your salads. Thank me later!

This is our 15th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

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