Twenty years ago, most people didn't know anything about gluten. People didn't even know how to spell gluten. Now gluten-free diets have become all the rage. But are celiacs the only people who should be on a gluten-free diet?
My guest on this week's episode of The Doctor's Farmacy is here to say no. Clearly, gluten is a staple of the American diet. What most people don't know is that gluten can cause serious health complications for many. You may be at risk even if you don't have full-blown celiac disease.
In my own practice, I've noticed that gluten is the most common food sensitivity. Even if a doctor tells you your tests for gluten antibodies or celiac are normal, you can still have a severe reaction. And it isn't just your bowels that can become affected; so can your mood, your energy levels, and a host of other problems. But gluten is just one piece of the puzzle. I've noticed a trend of people going gluten-free and hoping that this will solve all of their gut woes. This week, Dr. Alessio Fasano and I talk about how going gluten-free might just be one part of deeper gut healing.
Dr. Alessio Fasano is an expert on gastrointestinal health. This week he discusses not only the effects of gluten but the numerous other culprits that lead to a leaky gut.
Our gut lining can break down from stress; too many antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or Advil; steroids; intestinal infections; a low-fiber, high-sugar diet; alcohol and even C-sections (which we have seen a dramatic increase in recent years).
These and other things trigger and activate an immune response, sparking food allergies and aggravating your second brain (the enteric nervous system), creating havoc that leads to leaky gut. Simply put, certain foods can irritate your bowels and digestive system. We call these food sensitivities, and they are very common. They aren't true allergies like a peanut allergy or shellfish allergy, but rather a more mild food sensitivity that can cause terrible symptoms.
Simply put, when your gut microbial ecosystem is healthy, you are healthy. When you have too many pathogenic bacteria and not enough healthy bacteria, you become sick, inflamed, and more susceptible to problems like leaky gut.
However, healing your gut means more than eliminating one food (for example gluten). It involves weeding and seeding—removing the bad stuff and adding in the good stuff. Tune in to learn more.
I hope you enjoy this fascinating conversation about the gut as much as I did.
Watch the conversation with Dr. Alessio Fasano below:
A reader tweeted, "I lost 30 lbs on The Blood Sugar Solution program. Now, I am following the guidelines from Eat Fat, Get Thin for the next 30 days. NO sugar/carbs—all veggies, proteins, good fats—but seeing much slower weight loss this time."
Weight loss plateaus are a very common and frustrating issue. When I am working with someone who is having trouble losing weight, despite doing everything right, there are a few things I look at, to see if we can uncover why they are hitting a weight loss plateau.
Here are four of the most common reasons for a resistance to weight loss:
1. Nutritional Imbalances
Let's first talk about nutritional imbalances. Studies show these deficiencies are more widespread than you might imagine. More than 30 percent of American diets fall short in nutrients like magnesium and Vitamins C, E and A. More than 80 percent of Americans have low Vitamin D levels. Nine out of 10 people are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids which, among other things, help cool inflammation and control blood sugar levels.
Simply put, Americans have been overfed and undernourished for a very long time. In fact, most obese children and adults are actually malnourished. While that might sound contradictory, an abundance of calories does not necessarily deliver the nutrients that your body needs. Actually, the very opposite is true: overeating can create nutrient deficiencies.
You can eat too many calories and too few nutrients. And guess what—you need vitamins and minerals to process all those empty calories. Low nutritional status = a poorly functioning metabolism.
Nutrition-based treatment can often help reset your metabolism. You can work with a Functional Medicine doctor or a Functional Nutritionist to test for these deficiencies and put together a plan to correct them.
At The UltraWellness Center, my private practice, we focus on nutrition, using food as medicine and work on achieving balance in all of the systems in the body so that it functions optimally. Our Functional Nutritionists can work with you remotely to detect nutritional imbalances and support your body's natural ability to heal.
2. Gut Microbe Imbalances
We have more than 1,000 species of bugs in our gut, and bacteria cells out number our own cells 10 times over. That's a lot of hitchhikers!
We call this the microbiome—it's the place where all these beneficial bacteria live and work within us to maintain a healthy gut.
From both an animal and human models, we know that the bacteria in our gut can have profound effects on weight and metabolism, through many types of mechanisms. Some bacteria extract more energy from food, leading to weight gain, while other bacteria will extract less energy from your food, leading to weight loss. Studies have shown that taking the gut bacteria from a thin mouse and putting it into a fat mouse can cause the fat mouse to lose dramatic amounts of weight without changing its diet.
Some bacteria trigger inflammation leading to a leaky gut, while others are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation triggers insulin resistance and diabetes, independent of your caloric intake. So, clearly, it's important to heal your gut if it is damaged by imbalances. I typically recommend working with a Functional Medicine practitioner, but there are some things you can do on your own to cultivate a healthy microbiome.
1. Eat whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods. One of the best ways to maintain gut health involves cutting out the sugar and refined carbs and jacking up gut-supporting fiber.
2. 75 percent of your plate should be vegetables and plant-based foods. Your gut bugs really love these high-fiber plant foods.
3. Eat good fats and get an oil change. The good fats we mentioned earlier (like omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil) will help with decreasing inflammation, giving healthy gut bugs a chance to flourish.
4. Supplement smartly. Studies find omega-3 fatty acids can support healthy gut flora, aside from their other numerous benefits, like reducing inflammation. If you're not regularly eating wild-caught fatty fish, you should definitely supplement with an essential fatty acids formula.Take a strong probiotic supplement as well. This helps reduce gut inflammation while cultivating health and the growth of good bacteria.You can find professional-quality formulas in my online store.
5. Add more coconut. Studies demonstrate anti-inflammatory and weight loss benefits from adding Medium Chain Triglyceride or MCT oils. Some of my favorite fats, coconut oil and coconut butter, contains these fabulous fat-burning MCTs.
Remove inflammatory fats. Cut out bad, inflammatory omega-6 rich fats like vegetable oils. Replace these with healthier oils like extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
6. Add fiber-rich foods. Nuts, seeds, and a special fiber called glucomannan provide prebiotics and feed our healthy bacteria.
Add fermented foods. Sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and miso contain good amounts of probiotics so your healthy gut bugs can be fruitful and multiply.
3. Inflammation and Immune Function
Science now clearly identifies chronic disease and aging as a state of inflammation. And it's not just allergies, asthma, arthritis or autoimmunity that are the causes of inflammation.We now know that diabetes and obesity are inflammatory problems, as are heart disease, cancer, depression, autism and dementia.
Your fat cells produce inflammatory molecules that perpetuate weight gain and disease. Other factors can trigger weight-gain inducing inflammation, independent of caloric intake. There are many other triggers for inflammation that also promote weight gain—including:
- food allergens (such as gluten and dairy)
- a poor-quality processed diet that is high in sugar and omega-6 refined oils and low in fiber.
All of these trigger inflammation, which then creates insulin resistance and promotes weight gain.
The Blood Sugar Solution and Eat Fat, Get Thin are designed to be powerful anti-inflammatory programs. Learning to identify the various hidden sources of inflammation is often critical for those who are stuck in the vicious cycle of the dreaded plateau.
4. Environmental Toxins
Many doctors look down on the whole idea of detoxification. But if you were to ask them what happens when your kidneys or liver fail, or if you're constipated for weeks on end, you'd quickly find out just how important the detoxification process really is. Detoxification is a natural process that occurs all the time in the body, though our personal ability to detoxify can become hindered for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, in our modern world, we are exposed to a huge burden of toxins from our environment and our diet.
These toxins, including plastics, pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol A, flame retardants, metals like mercury, lead, arsenic—and any one of the 80,000 chemicals introduced into our world since the industrial revolution—have been shown to interfere with metabolism and cause weight gain even in the absence of extra calories. These environmental toxins are called obesogens.
There are many mechanisms by which toxins promote weight gain—affecting your metabolism, your hormones and your brain function. Reducing your exposure to environmental toxins is entirely possible. There is a lot you can do to cut your exposure to toxins and help your body eliminate the ones it may already contain.
- Eat organic when you can and follow the Environmental Working Group's list of the "Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen." This list helps identify the fruits and vegetables that are more or less likely to contain agricultural chemical residues.
- Stop eating mercury. Avoid big fish with lots of mercury—such as tuna and swordfish.
- Eat clean, organic animal products by choosing grass-fed or pasture-raised animals that haven't been exposed to hormones or antibiotics. These responsibly raised products cost more, but the reduced exposure to these additives and toxins is well worth the cost.
- Be sure to filter your water. Use a carbon or reverse osmosis filter to get rid of hidden contaminants in your water supply. Drink eight glasses of filtered water every single day.
- Eating lots of fiber helps you poop at least once a day—this a very important part of the detoxification process!
- Add 1 to 2 cups of cruciferous vegetables daily to assist with detoxification. This includes foods like broccoli, kale and bok choy and lots of garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric.
- Don't forget to sweat—this is the body's natural mechanism to excrete toxins—so I recommend getting outside to play or participating in your favorite exercise—or go relax in a sauna!
- Take supplements that support detoxification including selenium, zinc, Vitamin C and a Vitamin B-Complex.
- Take special glutathione boosting compounds such as n-acetyl-cysteine, alpha lipoic acid and milk thistle, which also support your liver.
When I work with my patients who are experiencing a weight loss plateau, these are the first four things I immediately take into consideration. Remember, Functional Medicine assesses the root cause of the problem and treats the whole system to quiet and cool the flames of inflammation, leading to weight loss and overall good health.
You can't discount the importance of your gut health. Research shows that the microbiome within your digestive system has a disproportionate impact on how well your whole body functions.
Unfortunately, bad diets, the overuse of antibiotics, and other stressors mean many of our digestive systems are in trouble. Probiotic supplements claim to solve this problem by replenishing your gut with the healthy bacteria it needs for optimal functioning. Here, we'll analyze the popular probiotic brand Seed to determine whether its supplements are worth taking.
How We Review Probiotics
Whenever we review a probiotic supplement, we evaluate six specific categories.
- Number of active strains - How many types of bacteria are included?
- AFU (Active Fluorescent Units)/ CFU (Colony Forming Units) - These units of measurement tell you how many billions of bacteria are estimated to be within each supplement dose.
- Storage Requirements - Some probiotics are shelf-stable, while others require refrigeration.
- Ingredient Transparency – does the company disclose where it sources its active strains and provide clinical research for their efficacy?
- Value - How are the probiotics priced? Can you purchase them without an auto-ship program?
- Sustainability - Does the company show ways its supplements are better for the environment through sustainable ingredient sourcing or packaging?
Let's evaluate these criteria for Seed.
About Seed Probiotics
Seed is an e-commerce supplement brand with a single product—the DS-O1 Daily Synbiotic probiotic. The company got its start in 2018 when cofounders Ara Katz and Raja Dhir determined that the current probiotic supplements available weren't hitting the mark.
Katz's experiences of pregnancy and breastfeeding as a new mom led her to develop a deeper appreciation of the body's microbiome and its role in overall health. She joined forces with Dhir, who had the scientific experience to understand what could be improved within the probiotic industry.
Together, they strove to create a supplement that "raised the bar on bacteria" by giving the body what it needed for all its systems to operate most effectively. They collaborated with a large team of entrepreneurs, artists, and scientists to develop a probiotic known as DS-01 Daily Synbiotic.
The Seed DS-01 Daily Synbiotic
- Active Strains - 24
- AFU - 53.6 billion AFU
- Storage Requirements - Shelf-stable for 18 months after opening
- Ingredient Transparency - Clinical data available for each strain
- Sustainability - First order ships in reusable glass canisters and subsequent orders arrive in compostable biofilm.
- Value - $49.99/60 supplements (30-day supply subscription)
The DS-01 Daily Synbiotic is a broad-spectrum probiotic that combines 24 probiotic strains with a non-fermenting prebiotic concentrate of Indian pomegranate for better delivery. Of these strains, 23 are human-derived, and one is isolated from fruit and added to promote healthy cholesterol levels.
These strains work synergistically to support the 38 trillion bacteria that make up your microbiome. They will purportedly help the body digest food, minimize inflammation, and better synthesize nutrients.
This supplement contains four distinct probiotic blends:
- Digestive Health/ Gut Immunity/ Gut Barrier Integrity: 37.0 Billion AFU
- Dermatological Health: 3.3 Billion AFU
- Cardiovascular Health: 5.25 Billion AFU
- Micronutrient Synthesis: 8.05 Billion AFU
(See strain-specific studies here)
How It Works
With these multiple strains, the company claims to take a 'Microbe-Systems Approach' through microbes that impact specific physical functions beyond the digestive system. These include skin and heart health, better immune system functioning, and micronutrient synthesis.
In other words, DS-01 goes beyond digestive issues to support full-body health. The company claims it's even one of the first probiotic formulations able to synthesize folate and increase its production.
Seed's DS-01 Daily Synbiotic probiotic also stands out with its delivery system. The supplement utilizes "nested capsule technology" along with a patented algae delivery system. This two-in-one capsule design houses the probiotic formula within a prebiotic casing made from Indian pomegranate to ensure these fragile bacteria survive both sitting on store shelves and the perilous journey through stomach acid to your colon.
Through this method, Seed claims to average a 100% delivery rate of the probiotic's starting dose to your colon. According to internal testing, DS-01 probiotics will exceed the living cell counts listed on the label even after ten days of constant 100º F exposure.
Adults can take two Seed probiotic supplements per day, preferably at the same time. It's best you do so on an empty stomach to limit the capsule's exposure to digestive enzymes that start to break it down. However, those with sensitive stomachs may want to eat something first. While you'll get optimal results from taking the supplements daily, it's not a problem if you occasionally skip one.
If you're new to probiotics, start by taking one per day for the first three days and then increasing your dosage to two per day. You may feel its effects on your digestive system within 48 hours, though long-term improvements to the cardiovascular system take more time and might not be noticeable to you.
Seed probiotics don't need require refrigeration. They are shelf-stable for 18 months at temperatures up to 78℉ and are safe to take when expired. Just note that the company can't guarantee their potency at this point.
How to Buy
Seed DS-01 Daily Synbiotic probiotics are only available on a subscription basis. They cost $49.99 per month and ship free throughout the US (international orders include a $10 shipping fee).
You will receive a 30-day supply (60 capsules) when you order through the company website, and the first order includes a reusable glass canister and travel vial. Each subsequent order arrives in compostable biofilm so you can transfer the capsules to the reusable ones.
All first orders are covered by a 30-day risk-free trial, during which you can return the probiotics for a full refund. It's possible to cancel the subscription at any time by contacting customer service at [email protected].
Note: At publication, these probiotics were sold out. They are available for pre-order and expected to ship again in 2-4 weeks.
What We Like About Seed
As a product within the largely unregulated supplement industry, Seed broad-spectrum probiotics earn major points from us for both transparency and abundant clinical research. The company shares detailed information about every bacterial strain within the supplement and links out to the scientific studies highlighting their effectiveness.
Customer reviews on Facebook and other review sites show that Seed probiotics work as described for many users. Some shared they experienced positive improvements in their digestive system within 48 hours and noticed better-looking skin within a month.
Those with allergies or food sensitivities will also appreciate these supplements are soy-free, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, and free of binders and preservatives.
From a consumer standpoint, Seed makes taking probiotics simple. The shelf-stable formula means you won't have to store them in the fridge, and each 30-day supply is guaranteed to remain viable for 18 months after opening. Likewise, the nested capsule delivery system should improve how many billions of bacteria make it into your digestive system intact.
Equally noteworthy, we love Seed's commitment to environmental sustainability. By sending each customer two reusable glass containers at the start of their subscription, the company minimizes the packaging waste for each subsequent order.
What We Don't Like
Despite these positives, Seed broad-spectrum probiotics have some downsides. To start, they are pricier than many competitors. You will pay $1.66 per day's dose, which is more than some want to pay for supplements.
It's also not possible to try them without committing to a monthly subscription. While it will take several weeks or longer to start noticing their effects, some customers might not want to be locked into an auto-ship program so early in the experimenting process.
Likewise, some customer reviews complained of unexpected side effects such as breakouts and rashes. It's not clear whether these went away for users after a few weeks of use.
Finally, it's currently only possible to pre-order these supplements. If you're dealing with digestive distress today, you may want to try a probiotic brand that's available right now for faster relief.
Seed Safety & Side Effects
Seed DS-01 Daily Synbiotics are considered safe for adults over 18. Each supplement is vegan and free of common allergens like gluten, dairy, soy, and corn. They have undergone extensive third-party testing and adhere to the highest global regulatory standards for safety.
As with all probiotics, you might notice unpleasant side effects when you start taking them. Many people experience bloating, increased gas production, constipation, and other gastrointestinal problems for the first few days.
This can be discouraging, as many users take probiotics precisely to combat these symptoms in the first place. However, your system should adjust to the new bacteria within two weeks, and this digestive distress should diminish accordingly.
The DS-01 Daily Synbiotic is classified as safe for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, although the company recommends speaking with a medical professional before starting them. As will all probiotics, you should not take these supplements if you have a weakened immune system, recently underwent surgery, or if you have a serious illness. Speak with your doctor before starting any dietary supplement if you have concerns or questions.
Takeaway: Are Seed Probiotics Worth It?
The Seed DS-01 Daily Synbiotic is well-formulated and shows clinical evidence of improving your gut biome for far-reaching health benefits. The company solves the tricky problem of selling a live product with its innovative delivery system that keeps the bacteria within the supplement safe both on the shelf and through the digestive process.
If you are dealing with digestive problems, or are looking for a way to improve your general health, then this broad-spectrum probiotic might be one worth trying.
Just keep in mind that you might feel worse for a few days before the microbes will take full effect in your gut and that giving it a try means you are committing to a monthly subscription.
Lydia Noyes is a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness, food and farming, and environmental topics. When not working against a writing deadline, you can find Lydia outdoors where she attempts to bring order to her 33-acre hobby farm filled with fruit trees, heritage breed pigs, too many chickens to count, and an organic garden that somehow gets bigger every year.
In this week's House Call, a reader asked, "If one is lactose intolerant, but has no other intolerance to dairy, (e.g. casein and whey) is it ok to consume dairy products while having Hashimoto's?"
By now, most of my readers probably know how I feel about dairy—it's nature's perfect food—but only if you're a calf. We have no biological requirement for this food, and yet, we've been told over and over again that dairy is a great source of calcium, milk makes healthy bones and we should drink it daily. I'm here to tell you that this is not true.
Based on research and my experience practicing medicine, I typically advise most of my patients to avoid dairy products completely.
Here are some facts to consider:
- Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
- Research shows that higher intakes of both calcium and dairy products may increase a man's risk of prostate cancer by 30 to 50 percent. Dairy consumption increases the body's level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (or IGF-1)—a known cancer promoter.
- Calcium isn't as bone-protective as we thought. Studies of calcium supplementation have shown no benefit in reducing fracture risk. In fact, vitamin D appears to be much more important than calcium in preventing fractures.
These are just a few of the findings related to the harm that dairy can cause.
About 75 percent of the world's population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products—a problem known as lactose intolerance—which is what our reader is asking about.
I often find that symptoms of lactose intolerance are actually caused by difficulty digesting casein, the main protein found in milk, which is often used in other food products as a binding agent. Casein proteins can actually induce inflammation leading to things like eczema, ear infections, congestion and sinus problems. So, I highly recommend avoiding casein, no matter who you are.
Whey protein contains very little lactose, so there is a chance that someone with lactose intolerance might be able to have whey. However, I know some people who can tolerate whey protein and others who cannot, so you might want to test it out for yourself.
Overall, I recommend avoiding dairy, especially if you're lactose intolerant. Dairy consumption can lead to increased cancer risk, increased fracture risk, constipation, irritable bowel, bloating, gas, diarrhea, allergies, eczema and acne. None of that sounds good to me!
One dairy product that many people can tolerate is ghee. Ghee is simply clarified butter which has had all the water and milk solids removed from it. That means it can be consumed by those who are allergic to dairy. Again, some people do well with ghee and others do not. It really depends on the individual.
How to Test for Dairy Sensitivity
I recommend getting off of all dairy—except for grass-fed butter and ghee for three weeks. That means eliminating milk, cheese, yogurt, products with casein and ice cream to see if you feel better. You should notice improvements with your sinuses, post-nasal drip, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, energy and weight. Then start reintroducing dairy again and see how you feel. If you feel worse, you should try to give it up for life.
If you do consume dairy, always choose grass-fed. If you're going to consume butter or other dairy products, remember that grass-fed is best. The milk these cows produce has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1 which is optimal. Conventionally raised cows eat grains and other crops that make their fatty acid profiles more inflammatory. The milk they produce—and as a result the butter and cheese made from it—contains more omega-6 fats.
Personally, when I eat little to no dairy, I feel much, much better. Give it a shot, what's to lose? Besides all the miserable symptoms and a little weight, that is…
Did you know that 50 percent of media headlines about medical studies are dead wrong? And that many of these headlines don't accurately match the conclusions of the studies they cover? That's from a review published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It makes me sad and furious at the same time that journalists don't do their homework and create firestorms of confusion because of their negligent work.
That is exactly what happened when USA Today published their article, Coconut Oil Isn't Healthy. It's Never Been Healthy. Shame on you USA Today editors for doing such a sloppy job of journalism.
Why the American Heart Association Has Been and Still Is Wrong
First, there is not a single study showing that coconut oil causes heart disease. Not one. Second, the whole case against coconut oil is founded on a hypothesis that has been proven wrong. It's the diet-heart hypothesis. Saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol causes heart disease. Anything that raises LDL cholesterol is bad. Only problem is that the data does not support this hypothesis.
If you are geeky and want to read more where I cover the science in detail, read my blog Fat: What I Got Wrong, What I Got Right. But just like it took 150 years after Copernicus recognized that the earth revolves around the sun before it was finally accepted, it will take a while for the world to catch up with the false idea that low-fat and low-cholesterol diets won't save us from heart disease. In fact, low-fat diets cause heart disease. I have covered all this in my last book, Eat Fat, Get Thin with hundreds of references.
The USA Today article was based on a review by the American Heart Association (AHA). They published a review of fat and heart disease. The AHA has been at the vanguard of bad advice for decades since they first hooked onto the "fat is bad and will kill you" meme. They told us to eat very low fat, low cholesterol diets and to eat tons of starchy carbs. By the way, the AHA gets huge funding from cereal makers that put the AHA seal of approval on sugary (including cereal makers) cereals because they are "fat free" despite containing 75 percent sugar. Except now the overwhelming amount of research has proved that idea to be dead wrong. In fact, their recommendations have killed millions of people (no joke) from heart disease and diabetes. That's why the very conservative 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines removed any upper limits on dietary fat and eliminated any restrictions on dietary cholesterol. In fact, after decades of telling us to avoid eggs and shrimp they said, "Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption."
If you are interested in the corruption of the AHA, its funding is supported by the Pharma industry, industrial food giants (including sugary cereal makers) and industrial vegetable oil manufacturers, then read this recent blog on Medium entitled, Is the American Heart Association a terrorist organization? I'm not calling the AHA a terrorist organization, I just want you to read the article and question who's really pulling the strings.
How could this happen you might wonder? How could the scientists have gotten it so wrong? It all comes down to how we do the research. Most nutrition research is based on what we call observational studies. You follow a group of people for a long time, you ask them once a year what they ate last week and you see if patterns emerged. Good luck if they can remember. And people aren't always honest—if they think butter is bad, then they will underreport consumption. Problem is those types of studies do not prove cause and effect, just correlation. If I did a study on women over 55-years of age who have sex, I could conclude that sex rarely leads to pregnancy. Pretty meaningless. The populations studied that ate saturated fats also were coincidentally smokers, didn't exercise and ate otherwise unhealthy diets. Those who actually ate well, exercised and didn't smoke (i.e. lead healthier lifestyles) also didn't eat saturated fats because they were told not to. Studies prove that it was the well-rounded healthy habits that saved them, not less saturated fats.
Why Saturated Fats Are Not Bad and Are Essential for Health
This is exactly why multiple recent studies have shown no link between saturated fat and heart disease. You can read most of the important ones from the references, below, in my book and in the Fat: What I Got Wrong, What I Got Right article. In fact, there have been very few cause and effect studies in nutrition—they are hard to do, take a long time and cost a lot. But two of the largest ones every published show that fat and saturated fat are not the problem. The first was the PREDIMED study where researchers gave 7,000 participants olive oil (which contains 20 percent saturated fat) or nuts vs. a low-fat diet. PERDIMED had to stop the study because the people who were following the low-fat diet were dying.
The next study was completed more than 40 years ago, but it wasn't published because the results contradicted the prevailing dogma that saturated fat was bad and that LDL cholesterol caused heart disease. This was a study that could not be conducted today because it would be considered unethical. They fed 9,000 people in mental hospitals butter and saturated fats or corn oil (polyunsaturated vegetable oil, which the AHA report says we should eat more of). And, guess what? Those who ate the corn oil had more heart attacks and deaths, despite lowering their LDL cholesterol. Really? Yes, it's true. In fact, for every 30-point drop in LDL the risk of heart attack went up 22 percent. To top it off a recent review of all the science on big bad butter looking at 6.5 million patient years of butter eating, researchers found that butter eaters had no increased risk of heart disease, but they did have decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. You read that right. Butter = lower risk of type 2 diabetes. And if you still need to be convinced, here's a review of 17 meta-analyses (reviews of all the best and relevant research) showing no link between saturated fat and heart disease.
The whole idea that LDL cholesterol causes heart disease is the reason we have a multi-billion dollar statin industry. One study of more than 130,000 people who had heart attacks over 5 years showed that 75 percent had normal LDL and 50 percent had optimal LDL cholesterol. But only 10 percent had normal HDL or the protective cholesterol. Guess what raises HDL? Saturated fat. And coconut oil raises it the most of any saturated fat. And what lowers it? A low-fat, high-starch and high-sugar diet. We need cholesterol and saturated fat for the health of every cell membrane, for your brain cells, your sex hormones and more. Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, it is the band-aid that tries to repair the arteries when damage occurs from a low-fat, high-starch, high sugar diet. This causes pre-diabetes and inflammation from a processed food diet, environmental toxins, a bad gut from a low fiber, processed diet or anything that causes inflammation.
Before we get off saturated fats, here's one big warning. They are a problem if you eat them in the context of a high-sugar, high-starch, processed foods diet. It's what I call sweet fat. Stay away. No bagels and butter. No donuts or French fries. Stick with butter and broccoli.
Why We Shouldn't Be Mainlining Omega-6 Vegetable Oils
The other recommendation from the AHA other than dramatically lower saturated fat intake is to increase omega-6 refined vegetable oils. Bad idea. Yes, some studies show a lower risk of heart disease with a higher intake of omega-6 oils (otherwise known as polyunsaturated fats or PUFAs which include soy, corn, safflower, canola oils). Again I cover this in detail in Eat Fat, Get Thin, but the take-home is this: If you eat saturated fat in the context of the typical American diet, it will cause problems and the people in omega-6 studies were eating exactly that. And to make it more confusing, the studies looking at PUFAs included both omega-3 (super protective) and omega-6 fats. The omega-3s made the omega-6 cousins look better. When you look at just the studies of the effects of omega-6 fats, you find actually increase the risk of heart attacks. And it is just common sense and evolutionary sense—our intake of these refined, heat processed, hexane treated, chemically deodorized oils (never consumed before in human history) have increase more than 1,000 times (that's 100,000 percent) in the last 100 years. Saturated fats make your cholesterol molecules stable and less likely to oxidize or go rancid. It is oxidized cholesterol that causes heart attacks. The PUFA's are unstable and easily oxidized so when they are incorporated into cholesterol they make it unstable and go rancid—which is bad for your heart.
Is Coconut Oil Healthy?
We have had a coconut craze. What's the deal? Broccoli is healthy but if that's all you ate you would get sick. Coconut oil is healthy but only as part of an overall healthy diet, not as the main course. Coconut oil has been consumed by populations in the South Pacific for thousands of years without ill effect. It has so many health benefits. You can read more in my article Is Coconut Oil Bad for My Cholesterol. But here's the short list of benefits. It raises HDL, the good cholesterol. It improves the quality and size and type of cholesterol. It lowers the total cholesterol to HDL ratio—a far better predictor of heart disease than LDL. And cultures with 60 percent of their diet as coconut oil have no heart disease. It also contains a unique type of saturated fat called MCT oil that boosts metabolism, reverses insulin resistance, and improves cognitive function. Coconut oil is also anti-fungal and anti-microbial and it contains lauric acid that is great for immune function. The only other good source of lauric acid is breast milk, which contains 24 percent saturated fat—far higher than the 6 percent the AHA recommends.
Who would you trust, nature/God or the American Heart Association? So, I am sorry you have to be buffeted about by bad conclusions from insufficient outdated science and bad journalism. But hopefully reading this helps, and if you are so inclined check out the references below, my other blogs on this topic and my book so you can come to your own conclusions.
Scott, a 10-Day Detox participant wants to know, what are the best prebiotics and probiotics to take and how to keep his gut healthy.
The health of the trillions of bugs in our gut (which outnumber your cells 10 to 1) is one of the biggest things that impacts our wellbeing. We have to learn how to tend the flora of our internal gardens (our gut) by being selective of what we eat and how we live. We must feed the good bugs and avoid gut-busting habits—like eating too much sugar and starch or consuming too much alcohol or allowing stress to wreak havoc (yes, your gut bacteria are eavesdropping on your thoughts).
I see so many patients in my office who are suffering from uncomfortable and disabling symptoms like bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain. Often these are signs of irritable bowel syndrome, which have become a very real problem. Did you know that 60 million people (20 percent of Americans) have an irritable bowel? And even if you don't have gut symptoms, so many other diseases are affected by the health of your gut flora—including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, allergic diseases like asthma and eczema and even depression, ADD and autism!
Basically, the microbial ecosystem in the gut has to be healthy for you to be healthy. When your gut bacteria are out of balance, it makes you sick. Among all that gut bacteria, there are good guys, bad guys and very bad guys. When you have too many bad guys and not enough good guys, this becomes a problem.
This is why supplementing with probiotics and prebiotics is so very important.
Probiotics vs. Prebiotics
Probiotics provide beneficial bacteria that colonize the GI tract with optimal amounts and types of bacteria to protect against inflammation and support immunity and healthy digestive function. In cases where someone is dealing with yeast overgrowth or a histamine intolerance and who wants to avoid fermented foods, a probiotic supplement might be the best choice. I typically prefer pills or powder form because this is the easiest and most effective way to introduce probiotics. Here is a list of my favorite brands. And one particular product that I like is VSL#3—a super high potency probiotic. Each dose contains 450 billion live beneficial bacteria. Start slowly on this and build up.
Now, prebiotics are a form of soluble fiber that helps feed the good bugs in your gut. Prebiotics include foods like onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, dandelion greens, jicama and resistant starch. Be sure to include these natural gut health supporters as much as possible.
Prebiotics and probiotics are great; however, there are a ton of other things we should be doing to get our guts healthy. I highly recommend reading my blog, How to Fix Your Gut Bacteria and Lose Weight.
Drinking wine is like a U-shaped curve. A little bit is ok; a little more is bad news. For women, wine can be especially damaging. Why? Increased alcohol load means your liver can't metabolize estrogen well. Increased estrogen in the body can lead to breast cancer. Drinking just one glass of wine a day increases your breast cancer risk by 40 percent.
So, What is the Verdict?
Occasionally enjoying a glass of wine can be part of a healthy diet but only in moderation. Red wine, for example, contains resveratrol, which naturally protects and improves your body's mitochondrial function through its effects on special master aging genes. But make sure you enjoy only the best quality wine out there. I recommend Dry Farm Wines for the best quality and highest integrity wines.
Remember … mitochondria are the part of your cells that create energy. So, supporting healthy development and sustaining them is super important. But as stated above, increased consumption can tax your liver, leading to negative side effects.
For a less harmful and more effective way to support healthy mitochondria, I recommend sticking to these tactics:
- Exercise regularly and incorporate a mix of different types of exercise. Interval training increases the efficiency and function of mitochondria, while strength training increases the number of mitochondria.
- Eat whole, real, colorful plant foods which are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients that protect mitochondria. Include 8 to 12 servings of fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds every day.
- Supplement with nutrients that protect mitochondria and boost energy—such as: acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, n-acetyl-cysteine, NADH, D-ribose, resveratrol and magnesium aspartate.
- Increase omega-3 fats. These help to build your mitochondrial membranes.
The final word here is that we need to think of alcohol as a recreational treat. If you drink alcohol, I suggest you limit consumption to one glass, up to three times a week. Remember: One drink equals 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol or 12 ounces of beer. And again, quality makes all the difference. For the best quality organic wines check out Dry Farm Wines.
Have you heard of the concept of food as medicine? Have you ever wondered about the Blood Type Diet or the Ketogenic Diet? These are the three questions covered in this week's Housecall.
Food as Medicine
Our first question comes from Chrysanne who asked, "Is it really worth it to spend extra money on good food? Does it make a difference?"
The food industry likes to trick us into thinking that eating healthy is expensive, but this is far from the truth. My friends at the Environmental Working Group created an easy-to-use, comprehensive guide, called Good Food on a Tight Budget, to help consumers make the best food choices without breaking the bank.
When people tell me they cannot afford organic produce or healthy cuts of meat, I ask them to consider the gargantuan markup of many convenience foods. Manufacturers package them in "value-priced jumbo sized" containers and grocery stores promote them with price cuts to create the illusion that we are getting value.
Relying on inexpensive, overly processed food is tempting, given our demanding lifestyles and schedules, but the cost to our health is quite large. Feasting on the sodium, fat and sugar bombs disguised as food can lead to serious diseases that cost hundreds of dollars in doctor's visits and prescription drugs.
Food is not just calories; food is information. I've seen thousands of people transform simply by changing their diet, so why not give it a shot? You will only feel better. Here are my tips for eating well on a tight budget.
The Blood Type Diet
Our next question comes from Jenna who asked, "Eating for your blood type advocates say that those with O blood type shouldn't eat anything with coconut, but it's so good for you. What are your thoughts on this?"
I believe in the personalization of our diets. We are learning more and more about how to customize diets for every individual based on their genetics, metabolic type and more. The blood type diet was one of the first customizable diets, but it only focuses on one bit of information: your blood type.
Instead, I recommend looking at the whole picture. When I see a patient, I look at their genetics, predisposition to diabetes, food intolerances, detoxification symptoms and other factors.
My hope is that in five years or less, we will be able to customize our diets based on a simple drop of blood. But until then, my advice is to look at the whole picture instead of just one factor. You can do this by working with a Functional Medicine practitioner who can test you for food intolerances, check out the state of your gut, identify nutritional deficiencies among other factors, to give you a complete picture of the state of your body. From there, they can create a plan to customize your diet to get you back on track and optimize your nutritional intake.
Also, you know your body better than anyone else. If coconut oil works for you, use it. The smartest doctor in the whole room is your own body. Take note of how you feel after you eat certain foods. If you dig a bit deeper, you can find out what works for you and what doesn't.
The Ketogenic Diet
Our final question comes from Deanna who asked, "Is there such a thing as a vegetarian or a vegan ketogenic diet?"
I'm not going to lie to you, it is absolutely tougher to be vegan or vegetarian on a ketogenic diet, but it is possible.
You need to focus on two important groups to maintain a vegetarian ketogenic diet: proteins and fats. In fact, studies have shown that a low-carb vegan diet with higher amounts of plant-based fats and proteins has advantages over a high-carb, low-fat diet—including increased weight loss and improvement in heart disease risk factors.
Sources of vegetarian protein include:
- Tofu and tempeh
- Nuts and seeds
- Eggs (if you're not vegan)
Sources of plant-based fats:
- Organic extra-virgin olive oil
- Organic virgin coconut oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Avocado oil
- Grass-fed ghee (if you're not vegan)
Here's an easy guide to a vegan ketogenic diet.
"My doctor wants me to take another antibiotic for this cold that won't quit, but I've read antibiotics damage the gut and even can make me fat," a patient recently asked me. "I've read mixed reviews and I know you've given them the thumbs down in the past, but really, how bad are antibiotics?"
Firstly, let's not totally dismiss antibiotics. After all, they can be life saving and in certain situations, become absolutely necessary. They've saved millions of lives. Trust me, we do not want to live without antibiotics in the twenty-first century.
That being said, antibiotics today are over-prescribed and often unnecessary. Developments to prevent and treat infectious diseases—like sanitation, early vaccines and best-use of antibiotics—have dramatically reduced deaths from infectious disease. But there is a cost.
Antibiotic Resistant Infections Kill 23,000 Americans Each Year, Sicken 2 Million https://t.co/cmWhdMiFpF @NRDC @Earthjustice @TEDxManhattan— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481058251.0
Take sanitation ... hyper-focusing on hygiene and sterilization using hand sanitizers and overusing vaccines and antibiotics has dramatically altered our gut ecosystem, spiking autoimmune and allergic diseases and contributing to things like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and autism.
While western medicine has greatly advanced with acute disease, we've failed miserably addressing chronic disease.
Louis Pasteur discovered the bug or microbe causing infections and Alexander Fleming discovered antibiotics to cure them. This simple cause-effect "cure"—single bug, single disease and single drug—might work for infection, but not so much for chronic disease.
Ever since, we have been searching for "cures" for chronic diseases (including cancer and dementia), yet we can't find them! Medicine's history has become the pursuit of a holy grail—a pill for every ill. This failed approach will continue to fail because chronic disease results from the complex interaction of our genes, lifestyle and environment. A magic pill or other "miracle cure" just isn't going to cure us. We need a well rounded, permanent lifestyle approach.
So back to the original question: Antibiotics can become detrimental because they damage your gut ecosystem, what we collectively call our microbiome, which is made up of 100 trillion bugs that live inside you and outnumber your cells an astounding 10 to 1.
True, antibiotics wipe out the bad stuff that is causing the infection; but they are like napalm—they take out everything in their path—including the good bacteria.
That becomes a real problem because while your gut has trillions of bacteria, they collectively contain at least 100 times as many genes as you do. That bacterial DNA in your gut outnumbers your own DNA by a very large margin.
That's important, because among its functions, this bacterial DNA controls immunity, regulates digestion and intestinal function, protects against infections and even produces vitamins and nutrients.
Antibiotics destroy these beneficial bacteria, which creates a wide open field for the overgrowth of bad bugs, yeast and candida, leading to numerous problems including mood disorders, food allergies, fatigue, skin issues and of course, digestive issues.
Overgrowth of bad bugs can also encourage cravings for sugary, processed junk foods, leading to weight gain and other problems that eating junk foods creates. So it is clear that antibiotics can potentially make you fat.
When a patient comes to see me, I ask if they have a history of taking antibiotics. More often than not, I've learned overuse has led to their gut issues, including leaky gut.
I recently had a patient born by C-section, who was then bottle fed and as a child suffered recurrent ear infections. Conventional doctors—doing what they felt was best—overprescribed antibiotics, eventually leading to irritable bowel syndrome during the patient's teen years and then an autoimmune disease as a young adult. I hear this story repeatedly, and much of this stems from not honoring, respecting and tending to your inner garden.
More often than not, the antibiotics children receive for viral infections, colds, sore throats and other ailments, for which they likely would have gotten better on their own, have damaged their delicate gut flora starting at an early age.
One Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found 71 percent of children who suffered C. diff infections (inflammation of the colon caused by a specific bacteria called clostridium difficile) received numerous courses of antibiotics for respiratory, ear and nose illnesses 12 weeks before infection.
Another study published in the American Society for Microbiology found a one-week course of antibiotics could negatively affect your microbiome for long periods of time, potentially even for a whole year.
While antibiotics can sometimes be absolutely necessary, I highly recommend conferring with a Functional Medicine practitioner to discuss alternatives (including allowing infections to heal on their own).
If you must use antibiotics, I recommend a few things before and after using them.
First, add in the good stuff. Eat a low-glycemic, whole-foods diet and take quality probiotics and prebiotics. A high-quality, multi-strain probiotic helps populate your gut with beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics, a form of soluble fiber, which also helps feed good bugs, which can be found in onions, garlic, resistant starch, sweet potatoes, dandelion greens and jicama.
Unlike regular starch, your small intestine doesn't absorb potato starch. Instead, your gut bacteria process it, creating molecules that help balance blood sugar and healthy gut flora. In other words, when you consume resistant starch, it "resists" digestion and does not spike blood sugar or insulin.
I like to supplement with my favorite resistant starch found in Bob's Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch. I suggest adding about 1 teaspoon to a glass of water.
Then, focus on gut repair—especially after you're finished using antibiotics. Utilize gut-healing nutrients including L-glutamine, omega-3 fats, vitamin A and zinc to repair your gut lining so it can resume its normal, natural functions. The use of digestive enzymes can help you digest your food better.
That's it … pretty simple but with amazing results.
"I have been dealing with constipation for years now and I'm so tired of it. It's making me cranky, bloated and it's messing with my appetite," a social media follower recently wrote. "I feel like I'm doing everything right, but I can't poop. Help!"
Unfortunately, I see many patients who struggle with constipation and other bathroom issues. Sometimes they are too embarrassed to admit their problem until it becomes too painful to bear.
My patients aren't alone. Researchers find that roughly 12 to 19 percent of the U.S. population (about 63 million people) suffer from constipation. And while constipation might be common, it's definitely not normal and it can have disastrous consequences.
Having healthy digestion and eliminating waste every day (ideally twice—yes, twice—a day) is critical to your overall health. Remember—your liver flushes out toxins and dumps them into your intestines. If your digestive system isn't working optimally, then all those toxins and waste gets reabsorbed into your body. So, it makes sense that constipation has been linked to multiple diseases, including cancer and even Parkinson's disease, plus it actually makes you feel like crap!
Then there are the practical problems. Constipation is often uncomfortable and can lead to symptoms including bloating, irritability, lack of appetite and vomiting.
I often ask my patients if they are regular. One answered yes, but when I followed up with how often she eliminated, she replied "once a week." Trust me: That is not regular. Other patients think constipation is normal but after treating them, their whole world turns around once they eliminate normally. Again, common does not mean normal, nor does it mean it's okay.
We now know so much about how to fix your gut, how to tend your inner garden (the flora in your gut), and how to reset your system, yet many of us maintain poor ways of eating and living. Like most problems, constipation is usually fixable without pharmaceutical drugs or other invasive procedures.
The first most important thing to get things moving consistently is addressing your diet, which causes most constipation. While chronic stress and antibiotic overuse can mess up your gut, a diet that is high in processed foods and sugars does great harm and promotes constipation.
Incorporating the following simple hacks will help most people get things moving:
Eat whole, real foods in their unprocessed forms. This is the first and easiest and healthiest first step to healing.
You need lots of fiber. Back in the day, as hunter-gatherer, we humans ate 100 to 150 grams of fiber a day. Today most modern humans are lucky if they get 8 grams daily. Fiber comes from plant foods. Besides eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, I like "super fibers" like ground flax seed. Try adding 2 tablespoons a day to your smoothies or salads for an easy fiber boost. Nuts, seeds and beans also contain high amounts of quality fiber; however, remember that beans can cause insulin spikes—so go easy if you are prone to blood sugar imbalances. You'll also want to avoid foods that cause constipation. Dairy tops this list, and gluten is a close second. I challenge you to give those up for at least three weeks and see how your digestion and overall health improve.
And here's something that often surprises my patients: Low-fat diets can contribute greatly to constipation, despite still being touted as healthy.
A clinical study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition put 11 men on a high-fat diet for two weeks and found that, when compared to a low-fat diet, a high-fat diet accelerated gastric emptying.
You'll want to incorporate lots of smart healthy fat sources include wild fatty fish like sardines and salmon, olive oil (which lubricates the digestive system) and avocados.
One of the best "laxatives" is MCT oil, which I recommend in my book Eat Fat, Get Thin. You can put it in your coffee (which, by the way, also helps you go) or use it in your smoothies and salad dressings.
Another big constipation culprit is magnesium deficiency. We don't eat enough of this underrated mineral (magnesium-rich foods include nuts, beans and greens), plus things like chronic stress, too much caffeine and sugar and toxic overload often deplete magnesium levels.
Even if you eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods, you probably need to supplement to get optimal levels. Use 200 mg to 1,000 mg of magnesium citrate daily. Gradually increase the dose until you go once or twice a day. If you take too much, you will get loose stools. If that happens, back off a bit.
Vitamin C is another great poop inducer. You can take 2,000 to 4,000 mg or more a day, along with magnesium supplementation. The same principle applies here: If you begin to get loose stools, just back off a bit.
Many patients are often deficient in healthy gut bugs, which is why I also recommend adding probiotics.
Exercise is a great laxative. So move your body everyday to help move those bowels.
And lastly don't forget water: Hydration is critical, so drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water each day.
Simply put, to optimize bowel function:
- Eat a whole foods, high-fiber diet (check out the Pegan Diet I explain in my book Eat Fat, Get Thin).
- Add 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds to your daily diet.
- Eat more good fats and try MCT oil.
- Supplement with magnesium, vitamin C and probiotics.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
- Exercise daily.
If you're still struggling after using the above tips, then consider having your thyroid looked at. An often-overlooked culprit is a sluggish thyroid, which affects 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men (about half of whom are not diagnosed or not treated properly). Check out my e-book, The UltraThyroid Solution, to figure out if this is a problem for you and what to do about it.
And there could be other underlying problems that a Functional Medicine practitioner could help address.
I was visiting Google one day and I walked into a lunch area and saw everyone sitting on couches and at tables, all on their computers. I asked, "Is this the silent lunch room?" and was surprised when I was told no.
Far too often, I find myself on my phone or computer for most of my day—often missing the people and life events that are all around me. This is why it is important to do a complete "digital detox"—something I do at least a few times a year so that I can get back to just being.
More and more studies have been coming out showing the link between too much Internet usage and screen time and mental and mood disorders (like ADHD, anxiety, depression etc.). In a recent study, people who reported excessive Internet use also reported social anxiety disorders, loneliness, social isolation and lower quality of life. The study also showed that Internet addiction was associated with reduced immune function.
That's right, too much Internet and screen time can actually make you sick!
Connected Online = Disconnected from Self
How is this possible? Your addiction to your screen prevents you from the habits that make you a healthier person. People who are addicted to their screens often live very sedentary lifestyles. They don't make enough time for exercise, movement, community and play. These are important factors in achieving optimal health. People who habitually sit have as much risk of dying as people who have bad diets or smoke. Being sedentary also increases risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. If you think about it, sitting is the new smoking.
Also, more time in front of your screen means less time for face-to-face contact with other humans, which not only increases stress but also feelings of isolation and social anxiety. Too much FaceTime and Facebook, and not enough real face-to-face time.
Sleep Disrupting Screens
And there's more. Too much screen time, especially before bed disrupts our circadian rhythms, affecting our hormones, our sleep and our energy. This artificial light coming from our screens delays melatonin secretion (needed for sleep); and we now know, that inadequate sleep can quickly sabotage our efforts at getting healthy and losing weight. Sleep is a major cornerstone for an energetic, joyful, healthy life.
One problem that's been proven is that not getting enough sleep or getting poor-quality sleep adversely affects the hormones that make you hungry and store fat. One study found that just one partial night's sleep could create insulin resistance. Ever wonder why you get bad carb and sugar cravings after sleep deprivation? This is why!
Other studies show that poor sleep contributes to cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, poor immune function and lower life expectancy. So, banish your phone from your bedroom or at least switch it to airplane mode.
Downtime Linked to Healthier Habits
So many of us are used to slaving away in front of our computers, pushing ourselves to get more work done and be more efficient. However, a Stanford University study found that creative output increased by an average of 60 percent in people who took regular walks. In fact, the more fun we have, the more we move, the more we get out in nature and away from our devices, the more productive we become and the healthier we are.
Attention and focus are hard to come by. Psychiatrists increasingly diagnose "adult attention deficit disorder" and prescribe Ritalin for grown-ups who can't focus or pay attention. A lot of this is caused by our distraction by email and the ping of a new text message. Our bodies' break down under the onslaught of stress—insomnia, anxiety, depression and all chronic disease are made worse by the unending stress from being constantly plugged in.
In order to manage all of this stress, we need to unplug and have fun. I love to incorporate play and fun in my daily life: horseback riding, playing basketball, biking, doing yoga and decompressing with friends over a good meal. These are all things that keep me happy and allow me to recharge so I can perform well at all of my jobs—and I have a lot of them!
Play is not just for kids! It's for adults, too. Playing gives us the chance to unplug, de-stress, find joy, challenge our brain in different ways and connect with new and old friends. It also keeps our immune systems healthy and elevates our energy level.
I know it sounds impossible, but I suggest you give it a try today. Here are my tips for unplugging for a successful digital detox:
1. First, use a timer. Commit to only a certain amount of screen time per day. I like to set a timer to stay focused on the task at hand and when the timer goes off, I get up, take a walk, stretch or take a yoga break. This keeps me from being sedentary even on days where I have to do a ton of work on the computer.
2. Next, silence your cell phone. Unplugging does not mean going for a walk while scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. Put your phone and your notifications on silent so that your unplugged time isn't interrupted by noise. Carve out specific times to do emails, answer texts, do social media or surf the Internet, and leave blocks of time where your technology is turned off so you can focus, play, read or just be.
3. Next, quit TV. Try going without TV for a week. Television is a serious time suck that prevents us from doing things we actually love to do and it keeps us from accomplishing our goals. Quit TV for a week and watch how much more time you have to cook and stay active.
4. And, finally, when it comes to exercise, find something you love. When you don't feel excited about going to the gym, Netflix and that game on your smart phone become very attractive. It's important to find an activity that you love. You won't find me at the gym. I love sports and adventurous activities that challenge my body and my mind. Find what works for you. Find something that you love so much, you'd rather do it than sit in front of a screen.
When it comes to overall health and weight loss, there's an excess of advice out there. Unfortunately, most of it is terrible, misguided, outdated and scientifically disproven.
This ubiquitously poor advice can create weight loss roadblocks and even damage your health. Here are four prevalent misguided myths that drive me nuts.
Myth #1: All Calories are Created Equal
A calorie is a calorie, right? Wrong. This myth that refuses to die keeps people from getting and staying healthy, as well as losing weight and keeping it off.
The current thinking is as long as we burn more calories than we consume, we will lose weight. The multi-billion dollar weight loss industry perpetuates this lie and actually relies on you believing it to stay afloat.
Thinking that losing weight is all about energy balance or calories in/calories out, vastly oversimplifies the truth. The food industry and government agencies love this myth because it keeps you buying more junk food, which they suggest you eat in moderation. How's that working out for America?
Truth is, there are good and bad calories. Your body is much more complex than a simple math problem. When we eat, our food interacts with our biology, a complex adaptive system that instantly transforms every bite. Food is more than just calories and flavors. Food is information telling our cells what to do.
In fact, every bite you eat affects your hormones, brain chemistry and metabolism. Sugar calories cause fat storage and spike hunger. Calories from fat and protein promote fat burning. What counts more is the quality, not the quantity, of the calories.
The highest-quality calories comes from whole foods. Calories from high-quality whole foods are naturally lower in calories as compared with processed foods. This is why calorie counting isn't necessary when you eat fresh foods like those your great-grandma made.
These foods include quality proteins such as grass-fed animal products (not factory-farmed), organic eggs, chicken, small wild fish, nuts and seeds. It means good fats like avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut butter and omega-3 fats from fish. And it includes good carbs like vibrantly colored vegetables (the brighter the better), fruits like wild berries, apples and kiwis, and superfoods like chia and hemp seeds.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Slow Carbs, Not Low Carbs via @EcoWatch https://t.co/O55pfjj2i8— Mark Hyman, M.D. (@Mark Hyman, M.D.)1471047537.0
Myth #2: Your Genetics Define You and Your Health
Most conventional doctors still believe we are pre-dispositioned to weight gain due to familial history. In other words, if your mom is fat and your grandma is fat, that's why you became fat. You drew the fat card or the diabetes card in the genetic lottery.
As a firm believer that food is medicine and information for our cells, I can assure you our genetics do not dictate future health outcomes. We possess much more power over them.
Consider this: There are 32 obesity-associated genes in the general population that account for only 9 percent of obesity cases. Even if you had all 32 obesity genes, you would put on only about 22 pounds.
Our genes only change 2 percent every 20,000 years. About 35 percent of Americans are obese today, yet by 2050 that number will rise to more than 50 percent. Our genes simply don't evolve that fast to keep up with the increase.
What changed drastically wasn't our genes. It was that we went from eating about 10 pounds of sugar, per person, per year in 1800 to 152 pounds of sugar (and 146 pounds of flour) per person, per year today. These pharmacological doses of sugar and flour hijack our metabolism and make us fat and sick.
Numerous factors contribute to obesity, but the least of them is genetics.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Is Weight Gain Dictated by Genes? https://t.co/OBcBSPIS7c @Healthy_Child @MensHealthMag— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1457920212.0
Myth #3: You Can Out-Exercise a Bad Diet
The myth that you can eat whatever you want and burn the calories with exercise is completely false and makes no sense if you understand how the human body works.
If you think you can exercise your way to weight loss, you're in for a big disappointment if you treat yourself to a post-workout sugar-laden smoothie, muffin or other "healthy" snack. You can't just suck back some Gatorade to quench your thirst after your 30 minutes on the treadmill.
If you're relying on exercise to lose weight without changing your diet, you're setting yourself up for failure. You can change your diet and lose weight, but if you exercise and keep your diet the same, you may gain some muscle, improve endurance and be healthier overall, but you won't shed many pounds.
Put this into perspective: If you drink just one 20-ounce soda, you'll have to walk four-and-a-half miles to burn it off. If you consume one super-sized fast-food meal, you'll have to run four miles a day for one whole week to burn it off. If you eat that every day, you have to run a marathon every single day to burn it off.
You simply cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet. Yes, exercise is extremely important, but to lose weight and keep it off you need to couple exercise with a healthy diet filled with plenty of plant foods, healthy fats and protein.
Myth #4: Fat Makes You Fat
Here's another pet peeve: Eating fat makes you fat.
Fat is not a four-letter word! Eating fat not only doesn't make you fat, it's critical to health and weight loss.
Studies comparing a high-fat diet that is identical in calorie count to a high-sugar diet had totally different effects on metabolism. The higher-fat diet caused people to burn an extra 300 calories a day. That's the equivalent of running for an hour without doing any exercise.
In studies of animals that ate identical calorie diets of either low-fat (high-sugar) or higher-fat and protein diets showed that higher-sugar diets led to more fat deposition and muscle loss, while the higher-fat and protein diets led to more muscle mass and fat loss. Keep in mind they were eating exactly the same number of calories.
The right fats are actually your cells' preferred fuel, especially those fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that come from foods like coconut oil and coconut butter.
Yes, stay away from trans fats, but good fats like extra-virgin olive oil, coconut butter, avocado, nuts, seeds and nut butters keep us full and lubricate the wheels of our metabolism. Please stop fearing fat!
I've created a plan to reset your body and move toward your best self that incorporates movement, supplementation and above all, food and dietary fats .
The Eat Fat, Get Thin program is a 21-day plan designed to support weight loss, maximize energy and mental clarity and kick start your health.
Thousands of people all over the world have completed this program, and the results have been astonishing. If you're tired of typical calorie-deprivation diets that don't work, I highly recommend joining our Eat Fat, Get Thin January challenge.
"Dr. Hyman, I just started your Eat Fat, Get Thin plan and I'm feeling great, but I have a lot of fear around my upcoming social schedule," writes a Facebook reader. "How can I maintain my newfound health during the holidays?"
I get this all-to-common yet excellent question from folks as they confront their holiday eating fears.
Eating well is not about perfection. We are human, so perfection is impossible. A better approach involves honoring your body and knowing what works best for you and just as importantly, what doesn't work.
If I go to a party and eat tortilla chips or sugar-laden treats, I'll definitely feel the aftereffects. I'll feel sick, tired and bloated. Obviously, that's not how I want to spend my time or how I want to feel.
Just like anything in life, preparation is key to staying lean and healthy during the holidays. I've found these 10 strategies help my patients stay on track in even the toughest social situations.
1. Remember your goals.
Think about the way you want to feel before you hit those holiday parties and dinners. If you want to feel great, you're less likely to indulge in foods and activities that make you feel less than great. Set an intention for how you would like to feel after each meal and hold yourself accountable by sharing with a close friend or family member. Or write it down and post it on your bathroom mirror to read after the event. Sometimes treating yourself to sugary and other pleasure foods is exactly what the moment calls for; however, most of the time, you'll feel better off if you don't indulge in these foods containing the recreational drug I fear most!
2. Become the host.
If you can, host your own party and take the opportunity to introduce your guests to the healthy foods you've been enjoying. Controlling food choices becomes easier when you have your own gathering.
3. Don't deviate from the norm.
If you know you're going to attend a lavish party, begin your day as you would any other. Don't skip meals to save calories or carbohydrates. Eat a protein- and healthy-fat-packed snack an hour before your holiday meal like celery sticks with nut butter or a protein shake. Protein and fat help cut cravings for sugar and processed carbs.
4. Start your holiday meal with smart food choices.
Beginning with soup, fresh veggies or a salad and avoiding appetizers filled with refined flour and other unhealthy choices can prevent cravings. Look for the vegetable board or other healthy options as snacks or appetizers. Volunteering to bring something to every gathering you attend guarantees there's a healthy choice.
5. Avoid or limit alcohol.
Alcohol reduces your inhibitions and can lead you down a slippery slope of making bad choices. Most types of alcohol are also filled with sugar and empty calories. Instead, bring or ask for sparkling water with lemon or lime. Drink two glasses of water with lemon before a meal.
6. Stay active and people-focused rather than entirely dwelling on food.
Plan an activity to look forward to after the meal like a group walk, visiting with other friends or family, a group game or playing with younger family members. Offering to clean up and help your host helps prevent overeating or reaching for dessert. I like to sit next to someone I find genuinely interesting and engage in conversation with them.
7. Practice mindfulness.
Take five deep breaths before your meal and chew every bite slowly. Really focus on the flavors, colors and smells of your food. Try to put your fork down between bites and breathe through your nose while you eat. Express gratitude with others before your meal. Halfway through your meal, I recommend putting your fork down and taking a pause. Take three deep breaths and assess your hunger on scale of 1 to 10. Ask yourself how much more you need to feel satisfied yet energized and comfortable.
8. Remember food can be medicine.
Eat healthy and enjoy your time with loved ones. Take the time to enjoy healthy, wholesome meals with your friends and family and remember that you can heal your body and mind with each forkful of delicious food you enjoy.
9. Respond to pushers politely.
Occasionally, you might have a food pusher, friend or relative ask you why you're not indulging at a party. When this happens to me, I reply I'm here for the people, not the food. No one argues or feels insulted.
10. Don't beat yourself up.
f you do happen to slip up, leave guilt behind. Guilt is a toxic emotion that creates more damage. When things get out of control (which they do), simply make a gentle U-turn. Think of this as a GPS for the soul. Your GPS doesn't yell at you, call you stupid or judge you for taking a wrong turn. In the sweetest voice imaginable, the GPS reminds you to take the next possible U-turn. If you indulge a little, that's fine. Did you enjoy the process? How did you react to the food that you ate? Pay attention and move on by making a U-turn and getting back to the foods and activities that make you feel great.
You'll find more great tips to divert temptations during the holidays and beyond in my new book, the Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook.
This cookbook features more than 175 delicious recipes for your holiday parties including dips, side dishes, soups, drinks, entrees and even desserts. It's available for pre-order now. And when you pre-order, you will receive access to some special gifts like a sneak peek of the book and cooking videos.