Archive for April, 2019

“Pick your poison”

That phrase was originally used in bars in reference to selecting a cocktail. But, it has expanded to cover any equally bad choices. (By the way, the straws in the photos are an environmental problem.)

First the sugar side of the story. Humans have zero nutritional need for added sugar. And, as you have heard, sugar is bad for our health. The evidence continues to grow. One recent study showed that those who consumed 25% of their calories from added sugars were TWICE as likely to die of heart disease within 15 years as those who “only” got 10% from added sugar. (That is still a lot!) Those most likely to hit that scary 25% level are people who look for “low fat” foods and consume soft drinks or sweet coffee drinks (which can be worse). There are several reasons that low fat foods are a problem. First, sugar is added to them to make up for the loss of flavor. Also, the foods are not as satisfying and so more is eaten. And, the now sugary foods tend to be addictive. Although it is possible to overdo natural sugar (fruit juices are especially problematic), the added sugars are worse. In January 2020, the FDA will require food labels to list the two types of sugar separately.

Artificial sweetener alternatives. For some time, research has shown that artificial sweeteners have a negative association with heart health, type 2 diabetes and changes to our good intestinal bacteria. A recent study showed that women who drank the equivalent of two 12-ounce cans or more a day of diet sodas were 23% more likely to have a stroke. Earlier studies showed that men are also at stroke risk. One study showed that high intake of diet drinks by pregnant women was linked to a 78% increased risk of delivering babies too early.

Neither type of soft drink is good for brain health according to the science.

Read more about various artificial sweeteners in my article on the subject. (You will see the first paragraph of this blog as an introduction.)

What is a better choice? WATER! (Listen in May for a powerful interview on Fluoridation.) 

What we should eat—SIMPLIFIED

Research clearly shows that a “bad diet” will shorten your life and likely make final years unpleasant. But, it is easy to be confused about what is a “good diet” with so many eating plans being promoted. Since we are all busy, I will present my thoughts on the subject so briefly that you will get the most important part even if you don’t make it past the first paragraph. Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto said “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That is a good start. I would clarify that when he says “food” he means something that your great grandmother would recognize as such…going back to nature’s original plan. Mostly “plants” to me means we need a lot more vegetables than most of us are getting. I would add that most people should greatly reduce their intake of refined grains and try to eliminate added sugar and that certainly includes soft drinks and the sugary coffee concoctions. Oh, and if you still have an old “food pyramid” hanging around, put that in the trash.

After that, you can get fancy depending on your special health needs and philosophy. If you want to follow an eating plan that has a name, The Mediterranean Diet as described by the Mayo Clinic (which they will tell you is not pizza and spaghetti) has a lot of scientific backing. It is a plan that is not hard to follow because of the variety and flavors. In their description they say to add olive oil and I agree. But, I don’t think you have to eliminate butter. Look at the French. They eat a lot of it and are healthier than Americans. Mayo also suggest using herbs instead of salt. Herbs and spices are very healthful, but overly restricting salt is not ideal for everyone. And the beans the diet recommends don’t work for all of us. (They may be better tolerated if they are cooked in a pressure cooker.)

Many diets like the low-carb, Paleo and Keto restrict carbohydrates. None of them should keep you from eating copious amounts of green vegetables. Although most studies favor the low carb way, especially for weight loss, the science on them is confusing. That’s because some people do skimp on vegetables or overdo protein or get too much red meat which contains iron that can be an aging factor. Many of the negatives studies on low carb don’t distinguish between pasture-raised meats and the stock yard variety with its hormones, toxins and antibiotics. They often don’t even separate smoked and cured meats which are not as healthful. I recently wrote in defense of fats. Part 1 and Part 2.

Dr. Gundry’s Plant Paradox diet would have you give up what are otherwise healthful plant foods because they contain “lectins”. Sherry Rogers, MD says lectins are not a problem if your gut bacteria are in balance and your gut lining is healed. On the other hand, overdoing lectins may add to leaky gut.

Vegetarian / Vegan. Keep in mind that you could eat nothing but Twinkies and call yourself a vegetarian. Some people on a balanced diet of vegetarian foods do fine. (I am not one of them.) Vegans can take the idea to what is too often an unhealthy extreme. Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, is a reformed militant vegan. She had to give that up to regain her health. Her book exposes a lot of the widely held yet misguided ideas about animal foods.

Since we are each different, you can make up your own, e.g. the “John Doe Diet”. You might start with a base of a low carb diet with loads of vegetables. Make most proteins from wild fish and pasture-raised meats and eggs. Then, assuming you aren’t working on a major weight loss goal or a yeast overgrowth, add modest amounts of antioxidant and nutrient rich foods such as true whole grains (not brown colored white bread with some bran on top), fruits that aren’t very sweet (e.g. berries and green apples), and fermented whole fat dairy (it fares well in studies).  Many people are gluten-sensitive, so they should perhaps avoid wheat, rye and barley. If there is a special treat that you love but which breaks all the rules…have it once in a while and slowly savor it so that the feeling lasts a long time.


Do the “experts” forget that the head is attached to the body?

What causes Anxiety, Depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s? Here is a wacky thought—maybe it has something to do with what we do to the rest of the body. That stands to reason because the head has no independent source of fuel, oxygen, nutrients or detoxifying circulation. Obviously, we can benefit or hurt brain performance by how we treat the body. And yet, it seems that most of the research is trying to find a pharmaceutical or even high tech surgical intervention to fix the problems. Little work is done on prevention. For those of us who want to keep our brains functioning until the very end, here is some food for thought:

  • What we eat. Most of us have noticed being in a better mood when we are eat and drink healthful things. A hangover is a clear example of the reverse effect. Alzheimer’s is being called “Diabetes of the Brain”. So, avoiding the starchy, sugary foods that lead to diabetes is probably a good idea. This article will shed some light on how to do that. Foods high in omega-3 fats (e.g. fish) help with depression.
  • Antioxidant Supplements. Even the best diet these days is missing critical nutrients because of degradation in farming practices. Supplements not only fill in the blank spots, but can also go beyond that to be protective. Antioxidants are of primary interest. For example, vitamin C and E supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Scientific paper. I recommend Formula 216 for the vitamin C and Famil-E for the E.
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D has a reputation for helping bones, but that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Science is excited about D’s role in depression and other brain-related issues. Scientific article.
  • Vitamin B12. While all the B vitamins are involved in nervous system function, vitamin B12 deficiency is notoriously associated being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and other mental illnesses. (Taking heartburn drugs is one way people make themselves deficient.) Click here to see my favorite book on B12.
  • Minerals. All minerals affect the brain at least indirectly. Magnesium is of special interest because of the research done on it in the treatment of depression and anxiety. While psych medications have scary side effects, magnesium has important benefits throughout the body.
  • Herbal and other. Green tea has been shown supportive of brain health. Resveratrol unlocks blood vessels in the brain and may restore some memories. Read Bill Sardi’s impressive article. For depression, you might also check out St. John’s Wort, SAMe and Rhodiola.
  • Exercise. This item could easily be number one because so many studies link movement to brain health. My article lists 16 Reasons to Exercise.
  • Toxicants in our food, air and water get into the brain and cause trouble. Antioxidants are one way to help with their effects, but better yet, let’s not allow the poisons to get in the brain. The far-infrared sauna is one way to lower body burden of toxins. Don’t you feel happier at the beach or near a waterfall? Part of the reason is that those locations are high in negative ions. Generate your own negative ions and clean your air with an Ionbox.
  • Gut bacteria. What do the intestines have to do with the brain? A whole bunch. There is a direct gut/brain communications channel. For example, an overgrowth of yeast in the gut can cause depression and boggy brain. You have probably heard us talk about “leaky gut”. When a person has that problem they most likely also have a leaky blood/brain barrier which allows toxins in. Feed your good bacteria lots of fiber and vegetables and supplement with Ohhira’s Probiotics.
  • Light therapy. I’m a fan of the Brain Light Pro for improving circulation in the brain. That should have a positive effect on all aspects of brain function and for me includes relaxation, sleep and clearer thinking.

Notice a trend? It all matters and there is more! I interviewed Dr. Bob Martin about suicide. Dr. Bob listed the following items that improve mental health: regular exercise, sunlight, family support, staying off both prescription and illegal drugs, community service, reading, staying away from negative influences, taking vacation, going to church, and having a pet. The National Suicide Lifeline is 800.273.8255.

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