Crash in the afternoon but wide awake at 3 or 4 a.m.?

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Are you often wide awake around 3 or 4 a.m., your mind racing with anxiety, but then collapsing into a near coma in the late afternoon? This maddening cycle of waking up and falling asleep at inconvenient hours is often relieved by managing low blood sugar.

Why you’re wide awake at 3 or 4 a.m.

Although sleep is a time for the body to rest, your brain is still busy working on repair and regeneration, transforming the day’s impressions into lasting memories, and keeping you entertained with dreams.

The brain demands more fuel than any other organ, about 20 percent of the body’s total supply. These needs don’t abate during sleep, when your body is fasting.

In the absence of food, the body keeps the brain going by gradually raising the adrenal hormone cortisol, which triggers the production of glucose to feed the brain through the night.

At least in theory.

Chronic low blood sugar breaks this system down because it skews cortisol rhythms and release. When your brain starts to run low on fuel during the night, cortisol may lag in triggering glucose release.

The brain cannot wait until breakfast and perceives this lack of fuel supply as an emergency. As a result, the body releases more urgent “fight-or-flight” adrenal hormones, which raise blood sugar back to safe levels.

Unfortunately, these adrenals hormones are also designed to help you either flee from danger or fight it. This does not bode well for a sound night’s sleep and explains why if you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m., it’s usually with a mind racing with worry.

Meanwhile, 12 hours later when you could really use the energy to finish a work project or deal with after-school duties, you crash and can barely function thanks to blood sugar and cortisol levels bottoming out. Reaching for that shot of caffeine may pull you through, but in the long run it’s only compounding the problem.

How to fall asleep if you wake up at 3 a.m.

If you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. with a racing mind, eating a little something may feed your brain and calm your mind so you can fall back asleep. But do not eat something sugary, which will spike blood sugar and perpetuate the cycle. Instead, eat some protein and fat.

Examples include nut butter, a little bit of meat, boiled egg, or a coconut snack. Have these prepared ahead of time and even next to your bed so you don’t have to go into the kitchen and turn on bright lights. You will not feel hungry because adrenal hormones are appetite suppressants, but you don’t need to eat much.

How to avoid the afternoon crash

To avoid the afternoon crash without caffeine you need to stabilize blood sugar as a way of life. Eat frequently enough to avoid sending blood sugar into a nose dive, and avoid foods that cause blood sugar to spike and crash: Sugar, caffeine, energy drinks, too many carbohydrates, and starchy carbs.

How do you know if you have low blood sugar?

Low blood sugar symptoms include:

  • Sugar cravings
  • Irritability, lightheadedness, dizziness, or brain fog if meals are missed
  • Lack of appetite or nausea in the morning (this is caused by stress hormones)
  • The need for caffeine for energy
  • Eating to relieve fatigue

A variety of nutritional compounds can further support your blood sugar handling and stress hormone functions so you sleep better. Ask us for advice.

The key to staying youthful is to embrace aging

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Aging can cause us to feel invisible and unwanted in a society that worships youth. However, the key to staying youthful into your latter years doesn’t lay in the hands of your hair stylist or medical spa, but instead in your attitude.

Research shows internalizing negative stereotypes about aging harms your health, which speeds up aging. However, having a positive attitude toward aging can boost immune function, promote healthy behaviors, and help you feel in control of your life.

Embrace aging for the following benefits

Here are some benefits researchers have found to a positive perception of aging, such as feeling useful and happy with yourself:

  • Positive perception of aging has been shown to be more important than cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and even exercise when it comes to improving longevity.
  • One study found positive self-perception around aging lowered the risk of aging-associated disability and preserved daily function and ability.
  • Positive aging improves preventive behaviors such as sticking to a good diet, exercising, and following through with check-ups.
  • Expecting to lose your memory has been shown to increase cognitive decline by up to 30 percent compared to thinking positively about your brain function.
  • And of course, a negative perception of aging has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. A startling find, however, was that developing a positive aging attitude can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 80 percent.

How to positively embrace aging

Although you might not be able to embrace aging overnight, it can be done, even in this culture. The first step is to survey your attitude about aging and what you believe old age holds in store for you: Senility and disability? Or wisdom and vitality?

Beyond that, turn your attention away from a cultural philosophy that values people based on their work productivity and instead toward one that values aging as socially valuable and even a time of renaissance.

Some nuts and bolts of healthy aging

A positive attitude has been shown to be vital to good health. However, it’s important to pay attention the nuts and bolts of good health, too.

Regular exercise is regarded as somewhat of a magic bullet by researchers. People who exercise regularly throughout their lives age better and enjoy better brain function throughout their lives.

Along with that that comes a diet low in sugars and processed carbs — chronically high blood sugar is behind many chronic diseases and brain degeneration. In fact, some researchers call Alzheimer’s disease type 3 diabetes because of the links between high blood sugar and brain degeneration.

Avoiding other inflammatory foods (besides sugar, gluten and dairy are the most common inflammatory foods) while loading up on fresh veggies is another preventive dietary approach.

Lastly, healthy aging depends on a healthy, nutrient-dense diet that is rich in fresh vegetable as well as healthy fats.

Ask my office for more advice on how to age in a healthy, positive way you can embrace.

How to use functional medicine to boost your libido

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We often think of good health in terms of blood pressure or cholesterol levels, but your libido is also an important indicator. If yours has gone missing, it could be a red flag that important underlying health issues need to be addressed.

People who turn to functional medicine for other health issues, such as low thyroid function, an autoimmune disorder, or depression, often report a boost in their libido thanks to their protocol.

Of course, it’s natural to expect low libido following a major stressor or during an unhealthy relationship, but if it’s chronically absent, investigate why.

Common causes of low libido

Below are some common causes of low libido that can be addressed through functional medicine:

Blood sugar imbalances. Many people eat more carbohydrates than their body can handle, they skip meals, or they consume too much caffeine. Eating habits that send blood sugar constantly soaring and crashing will eventually lead to fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and depression. All of these make zoning out in front of Netflix more tantalizing than a roll in the hay.

Adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal glands secrete stress hormones to help you manage life’s daily ups and downs. Most people are so stressed out from not only their lifestyles, but also their diets, chronic inflammation, gut health problems, and other health issues that adrenal function is fried. This is one of the primary causes of hormonal imbalances in men and women, delivering a double whammy to libido.

Leaky gut. Leaky gut means inflammation has made the lining of the small intestine too porous, allowing undigested foods and other pathogens to escape into the sterile bloodstream. This causes inflammation throughout the body, which typically leads to pain, fatigue, depression and other unsexy symptoms.

Food intolerances. Can a gluten or dairy intolerance really cause low libido? Yep. When you constantly eat a food that triggers an immune reaction, you send your body into an inflammatory tailspin. How you react depends on your genetic makeup. Symptoms include flare ups of your autoimmune disease, skin rashes, gut problems, joint pain, depression, migraines, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, and, you guessed it, no desire for sex. You can run a food panel from Cyrex Labs to figure out which foods rob you of vigor, or follow an autoimmune diet for at least a month before reintroducing foods.

Diminished brain function. They say the biggest sex organ is the brain and it’s true. Many people today suffer from a brain that is aging too fast, besieged by inflammation, not getting properly oxygenated, struggling from poor fuel supply, or suffering from poor activity of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Although all of these issues can often be addressed with the functional medicine basics I just mentioned, various nutritional compounds can also help boost brain function and, as a result, libido.

These are just a few underlying causes of low libido. Sometimes, of course, it’s more complicated, especially if you are unhappy in your relationship, suffer from low self-esteem, or run yourself ragged putting others’ needs before your own.

However, don’t shrug off low libido as no big deal. You could be missing out not only on the health benefits of regular sex, but also on the opportunity to address an underlying health concern.

Glutathione: A power tool in autoimmune management

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Our bodies have to work hard to deal with hundreds of toxic chemicals in our daily environment, in our food, and our water. Even if you eat a clean, organic diet and use non-toxic products, it’s impossible to completely avoid them. Thankfully, certain natural compounds can boost levels of our most powerful antioxidant, glutathione, in our bodies.

Glutathione is a powerful defense against toxins and inflammation. It protects the body’s cells from damage, it helps detoxify the body, and supports optimal immune function.

When glutathione levels drop too low, this makes you more susceptible to autoimmune disease, multiple food sensitivities, chemical and heavy metal sensitivities, chronic inflammatory disorders, leaky gut, and other immune-related issues.

By ensuring your glutathione levels stay at robust levels, you provide your body with an army of soldiers ready to “take a bullet” and shield your cells from the destructive forces of toxins and inflammation.

Things that deplete glutathione

In an ideal world, we have plenty of glutathione. Our bodies make sufficient amounts and the glutathione system is not overly taxed. Sadly, the modern world is far from ideal. Chronic stress, environmental toxins, diets low in nutrients but high in inflammatory triggers, sleep deprivation, smoking, sugar, excess alcohol, and other stressors slowly deplete glutathione levels. Glutathione levels also decrease naturally as a result of aging.

A straight glutathione supplement is not effective taken orally. Instead, people can take glutathione through a liposomal cream, nebulizer, suppository, IV drip, or injections. S-acetyl-glutathione, reduced glutathione, and oral liposomal glutathione are forms that are absorbable orally. These methods will help raise glutathione levels and your general antioxidant status, which can reduce inflammation and improve health.

Another method that raises glutathione uses precursors to boost levels and recycle glutathione within cells.

Glutathione recycling helps guard against autoimmunity

Recycling glutathione entails taking existing glutathione the body has already used in self-defense and rebuilding it so it can work for us again.

Research shows a link between poor glutathione recycling and autoimmune disease. In other words, if you’re not recycling glutathione well you’re at more risk of developing autoimmune disease. Healthy glutathione recycling is a vital tool in managing autoimmune disease.

Glutathione recycling helps repair leaky gut

Glutathione recycling also helps repair leaky gut and protect it from permeability. Leaky gut can lead to or exacerbate autoimmunity, multiple food sensitivities, and chronic inflammation. When glutathione recycling is insufficient, a person is more prone to developing leaky gut and all that maladies that accompany it. Glutathione recycling is vital to good gut health.

How to boost glutathione recycling

The most important first step to boost glutathione recycling is to remove the stressors depleting glutathione levels to the best of your ability. Look at your life around sleep deprivation, smoking, foods that cause inflammation, sugars and processed foods, excess alcohol, and other factors.

In addition to addressing lifestyle factors, you can take a variety of nutritional and botanical compounds that have been shown to support glutathione recycling. They include:

  • N-acetyl-cysteine
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • L-glutamine
  • Selenium
  • Cordyceps
  • Gotu kola
  • Milk thistle

Booting your glutathione levels with an absorbable form and then supporting glutathione recycling can significantly help you manage autoimmune disease, inflammatory disorders, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, and more.

A hidden trigger of autoimmunity: Too much salt

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Those with high blood pressure and heart disease know to avoid salt, but researchers have learned salt comes with another risk — too much alters immune cells in a way that promotes autoimmune disease.

Examples of autoimmune disease include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes. Autoimmune disease rates have skyrocketed in recent years, affecting more people than heart disease and cancer combined.

Although salt is not in itself harmful, Americans are guilty of eating way too much salt, more than the human body was ever designed to process. Fast foods, junk foods, and snack foods are all heavily salted to increase palatability and mask their inherent poor quality.

Sadly, our extreme consumption of salt raises the risk of the body’s immune system attacking itself and destroying viable tissue; this is what autoimmune disease is. For instance, in Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. In type 1 diabetes, it is the pancreas that falls under attack. This gradual tissue destruction, along with the inflammation generated from the autoimmune attacks, causes a wide array of chronic and seemingly irresolvable symptoms.

The cells in the immune system responsible for this auto-destruction are called TH-17 cells. Researchers discovered that immune cells exposed to salt turned into TH-17 cells. Further experimentation showed mice fed a high-salt diet were more likely to develop a disease similar to multiple sclerosis.

A later study on human subjects showed just seven days on a high-salt diet put the immune system into inflammation overdrive, just as if it were encountering an infection or in the throes of an autoimmune attack. An interesting side note: The high-salt diet used in the study represented salt intake for the average American.

Increased TH-17 means increased inflammation in general. This not only raises the risk of autoimmune disease, but other inflammation-based diseases all too common today: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and disorders of the gut, skin, and respiratory system.

Should you stop eating salt?

Although researchers are quick to say removing salt is not going to cure an autoimmune disease, it’s important to pay attention to your salt intake if you are working to manage an autoimmune disease or other chronic inflammatory condition.

Researchers found lowering salt intake in human subjects produced beneficial, anti-inflammatory changes in the immune system.

The USDA daily recommended intake of sodium is 2300 mg, which is the equivalent of only one teaspoon of salt. Some argue we need even less than that and get plenty from produce and meats. Either way, the average American consumes twice the recommended amount, which research has shown causes inflammatory changes in the immune system.

Those who have low blood pressure may have been told to consume extra salt in order to raise blood pressure. Low blood pressure means tissues in the body, including the brain, are not getting sufficient oxygen, nutrients, and other compounds. In this case, trial and error may be necessary to see what works. Glycyrrhiza, a compound in licorice root, may also be effective in raising blood pressure.

Trapped in a hostile marriage? It’s healthier to be alone

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Although we’ve all read the stories about marriage being good for your health, a bad marriage is bad your health. In fact, bad marriages are far worse for you than healthy marriages are good for you. In other words, if your marriage is a constant stressor, you’ll lower your risk of chronic disease either going it alone or doing the work to make the marriage a good one. What’s more, the risks are higher for women.

Contemporary studies show marriage lowers your risk of many modern ailments, including heart disease, cancer, and even dementia. Why? Research into adult attachment shows humans are hardwired to depend on a significant other as a matter of survival. Though we may think it’s about love and romance, to the human brain, a long-term relationship is the difference between life and death.

However, these benefits don’t extend to troubled relationships. It’s the human body’s life-or-death approach to relationships that also makes a bad marriage a health risk. One study went so far as to show a bad marriage entails the same risks as smoking, and another showed being single is healthier than having married and divorced, prompting researchers to encourage people to try and make a bad marriage good again.

Stress negatively impacts the immune system

When researchers analyzed blood samples of unhappy couples immediately after a big fight, they saw a significant decline in immune function, with the biggest drops happening in those whose fights were the most hostile. Fighting couples also showed slower wound healing.

Fighting and hostility in a relationship both depress immune function and promote inflammation, particularly for women, raising disease risk.

Constant fighting and bickering with your spouse can trigger inflammation and exacerbate symptoms if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. 

Men and women respond differently to arguing

Researchers measured how different styles of arguing affected couples’ health. The results showed surprising differences in how men and women react physiologically to arguing.

For women, the biggest predictor of health risk is lack of warmth and openness from her partner. For instance, small cues during an argument (a term of endearment or a squeeze of the hand) gives a woman the reassurance she and her partner are still connected.

Men, on the other hand, are triggered by battles for control and use of controlling language.

Either way, hostile fighting turns out to be as predictive of heart disease in women and men as a history of smoking. The key isn’t to stop the inevitable arguments, but rather to learn how to fight in a more thoughtful manner that doesn’t trigger the subconscious, immune-sabotaging threat to survival.

Why health depends on a healthy relationship

Healthy relationships are good for us because they give the survival-wired brain back-up during times of stress. Affection from a caring partner during a stressful time helps you regulate negative emotions, relieving the brain of the need to do it all alone, and thus buffering the body from the detrimental impacts of stress.

Even the best of marriages will have conflict. The key is to use those times to repair and strengthen the relationship rather than damage it.

Your gut bacteria can play a role in anxiety and PTSD

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New research has found a link between gut bacteria and anxiety — the diversity and quantity of your gut bacteria can affect your anxiety levels. Scientists believe this could play a role in treating PTSD, or post-traumatic stress syndrome.

In the study, researchers subjected mice to stressful conditions until they showed signs of anxiety and stress: shaking, diminished appetite, and reduced social interaction. Fecal samples showed the stressed mice had less diversity of gut bacteria than calmer mice who had not been subjected to stress.

When they fed the stressed mice the same live bacteria found in the guts of the calm mice, the stressed mice immediately began to calm down. Their stress levels continued to drop in the following weeks.

Brain scans also showed the improved gut flora produced changes in brain chemistry that promotes relaxation.

These biomarkers, according to researchers, can indicate whether someone is suffering from PTSD or is at a higher risk of developing it. Improving gut microflora diversity may play a role in treatment and prevention.

The role of healthy gut bacteria in the military

Because about 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD, the military is interested in the potential of influencing gut bacteria to manage and predict the risk of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Enhancing gut microflora may also help submarine crews who go for long periods in confined spaces and with no daylight.

How to improve the health of your gut bacteria for anxiety, PTSD, depression, obesity, eating disorders

The quality and diversity of gut bacteria, or the “gut microbiome,” has been linked to not only anxiety, but also depression, obesity, eating disorders, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, and many other common disorders.

In other words, if you want to improve your health, you need to tend to your inner garden and make it richly diverse and bountiful. Although we’re still a ways off from a magic-bullet approach, there are many ways you can enrich the environment of your gut microbiome:

Cut out foods that kill good bacteria and promote harmful bacteria: Sugars, processed foods, processed carbohydrates, alcohol and energy drinks, fast foods, food additives, and other unhealthy staples of the standard American diet.

Eat tons of fiber-rich plants, which good bacteria love: All vegetables but especially artichokes, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, as well as fruits. Either way, eat a large diversity of veggies on a regular basis instead of the same thing every day.

Use probiotics: Live, “friendly” bacteria that bolster your gut’s population of healthy microbes. Read the label to make sure they are high in live bacteria. Dietary fiber nourish these friendly probiotic bacteria. This combination of pre- and probiotic support is vital for healthy gut bacteria.

Eat fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha, and yogurt contain live microbes, and can also help boost the probiotic content of your digestive tract. Not all fermented foods have live cultures so make sure to read the labels.

Protect your existing gut flora: Medications, age, health status, and stress influence your gut microbiome. Eating a fiber-strong, gut-friendly diet and supplementing with probiotics and fermented foods is one of your best strategies for supporting gut health, a healthy mood, and stress resiliency.

Want to get fat? Go on a diet

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It’s an addiction to insanity in our culture, one of the most overfed populations in human history — the weight loss diet.

Despite plenty of scientific evidence that diets don’t produce lasting results for most people and despite countless numbers of dieters, most of them women, thrown into a lifetime of damaging despair, low self-esteem, and self-hatred thanks to failing diets, our culture still blindly adheres to the low-calorie diet as the panacea for all life’s problems, including those extra pounds.

The reality TV show The Biggest Loser provided the perfect high-profile platform for scientists to showcase what millions of Americans have learned the hard way: diets make you fatter in the long run.

Why dieting makes you fat

For most of our species’ history, meager food supply and bouts of famine have been the norm. As a result, the body prioritizes conserving fat and energy through altering its metabolism and fat-storing hormones.

Metabolism slows dramatically for years

Eating fewer calories to lose weight significantly slows your metabolism and causes you to regain the weight quickly and easily. The body will fight for years to get back to its previous set point. Contestants on the Biggest Loser learned they now burn between 400 and 800 fewer calories six years after their televised weight loss journey. In other words, they have to under eat just to not continually gain fat.

Satiety hormones skewed for years

Diets also skew levels of leptin and other satiety hormones. These hormones control hunger and food cravings. All of the show’s contestants had normal levels of leptin prior to losing weight. After losing weight their leptin levels plummeted to near nil. A follow-up study showed after they had regained the weight leptin levels were at about half of original levels. Other satiety hormones were also out of range.

This caused contestants increased hunger and cravings.

Televised torture for weight loss

The weight loss program The Biggest Loser contestants were put on not only ultimately damaged their metabolisms, it was unrealistic, tortuous, and exhausting. Contestants ate too few calories and exercised many hours a day, needing to quit their jobs to meet the weight loss demands. Maintaining the weight loss required exercising two to three hours a day and continued under eating. They were also left with mounds of loose skin.

Understand how the body works to lose weight

Fortunately, sustainable weight loss is possible for many people who understand functional medicine approaches to metabolism, satiety hormones, and the effects of stress and inflammation on weight. Unfortunately, those who have lost and gained weight repeatedly during their lives will have a bigger battle. It is also important to manage underlying causes of weight gain, such as emotional and addiction issues, PTSD, and chronic stress. For instance, one study showed many overweight women have been sexually abused as children.

Although portion control and regular physical activity are important, so too are managing the types of foods you eat. For instance, processed carbohydrates and sweets trigger the mechanisms that cause cravings and weight gain. On the other hand, consuming ample vegetables can alter the composition of gut bacteria in a way that fosters weight loss. Eliminating foods that are inflammatory, such as gluten in the case of gluten-sensitive people, can reduce stress on the body, thus facilitating fat burning.

And lastly, ditching the self-loathing and shame that accompanies diets can also reduce fat-promoting stress.

Ask my office for ideas on how to release weight in a way that is sustainable and healthy for the body.

Omega 6 and 3 fats: Which to eat and which to avoid

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For decades, media experts have promoted a diet high in omega 6 fats — found in corn, soybean, canola, and safflower — to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. We now know excess omega 6 fatty acids is connected to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, psychiatric issues, and cancer.

Omega 3 fats, however, are linked with lowered inflammation, better brain function, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Our grandparents ate a much different ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids than we do; omega 3-rich wild and grass-fed meats were the norm, and traditional omega 3 fats such as butter and lard were always on hand.

Omega 6 fats promote chronic illness

Introducing processed seed, nut, and bean oils into our diet while reducing grass-fed and wild fats has resulted in Americans becoming deficient in essential omega 3 fats, while having way too many omega 6 fats on board.

In addition, these processed oils are commonly chemical-laden and rancid, carrying toxic free radicals that promote inflammation throughout the body.

Many studies show a connection between inflammation and chronic health issues. It’s common knowledge in the medical world that omega 6 oils encourage inflammation in the body. They also reduce the availability of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in your tissues, resulting in even more systemic inflammation.

Even more, they reduce conversion of plant-based omega 3 fats into essential, active forms of omega 3s called EPA and DHA—by about 40 percent!

Over consuming omega 6 fats and under consuming omega 3 fats significantly increases the risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmunity

In addition, consuming too many omega 6 acids increases the likelihood of mental illness and suicide, due to the connection between inflammation and mental health issues.

Which fats should I eat?

While we do need some omega 6 fats in our diet, we need a higher ratio of omega 3 fats to keep inflammation in check. It’s easy to get plenty of omega 6 fats in the American diet, so our focus needs to be on getting enough omega 3 fats.

Fats that protect the brain and reduce inflammation include:

  • Extra-virgin, cold-pressed, organic coconut oil—which is anti-inflammatory and may help improve your cholesterol numbers. It also handles medium to medium-high cooking heat.
  • Unrefined, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil.
  • Avocados and avocado oil.
  • Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia; avoid peanuts.
  • Grass-fed meats and butter, which have about 7 times the omega 3 fats that conventionally-raised beef has (which is near zero).
  • Fatty cold-water fish such as sardines, herring, salmon and mackerel, which are all rich in omega 3 fats.

With the epidemic of inflammation-based chronic health issues skyrocketing today, it’s important to reduce your risks for inflammation. Changing the fats you eat is one easy way to boost anti-inflammatory effects. If you have concerns or questions regarding your diet, or your level of inflammation, please contact my office.

Stable blood sugar is the key to stable moods

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You’ve probably heard that depression and other mental health issues are based on a lack of brain chemicals such as serotonin and GABA. Conventional treatment is to give medications that trick the brain into thinking it has enough chemicals. But new research shows in many cases mental health issues are related to chronic inflammation, not necessarily a lack of chemicals, and unstable blood sugar is often at the root of inflammation.

How does inflammation cause mood issues?

When the body is chronically inflamed, it sends chemical messengers to the brain, where they activate the brain’s immune cells, called glial cells. Chronic inflammation permanently activates the glial cells, setting off a cascade of destruction:

  • Reduced production of brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA.
  • Brain cells can’t produce vital energy to thrive.
  • Cells degrade and die, releasing toxins into the brain, causing even more damage.
  • The result? Depression, anxiety, and even Alzheimer’s.

How does blood sugar factor in?

The fix for these issues is managing the destructive inflammatory cascade  At the core of systemic inflammation for many people is blood sugar balance. When we eat too many sugars or carbs, the body over-produces insulin, a hormone that helps escort glucose (sugar) into cells for energy. Too much insulin in the blood exhausts the cells, resulting in them becoming resistant to it (insulin resistance). This leads to excess glucose in the bloodstream, which is severely damaging to tissues in the blood vessels and brain. It is also a precursor to diabetes.

How can I keep my blood sugar balanced?

By keeping blood sugar balanced, we can help reduce the inflammatory cascade that creates brain inflammation. Below are dietary and lifestyle habits that help keep blood sugar stable. By practicing them, you may notice positive shifts in your mood, energy level and mental focus:

  • Always eat a protein-strong breakfast within an hour of waking. Include healthy fats, and avoid sweets and fruit before lunch.
  • Eat every 3–4 hours to avoid low blood sugar.
  • Eat protein with every meal and snack; never eat just sweets.
  • When you crave sugar, choose protein or foods with healthy fats such as coconut or olive oil.
  • Eat a small high-protein snack before bed to keep blood sugar stable throughout the night.
  • Don’t use caffeine to boost low energy in that afternoon “crash;” it’s your brain telling you it needs real nutrients, not stimulants. Instead, eat a healthy snack with protein, fat and a few carbs, and hydrate with water.
  • Wake and go to bed at the same time every day. Get plenty of sleep and if you’re tired, let yourself nap. Exercise regularly to keep blood sugar stable. Also, a 5- to 7-minute burst of high intensity exercise helps reduce inflammatory factors in the brain.

In addition to the factors above, certain botanicals are highly effective in helping manage blood sugar and reduce brain inflammation. If you have questions about mood and blood sugar stability, please contact my office.