health

Common Mistakes We Make On The Elimination Diet

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An elimination diet is a short-term eating plan that eliminates certain foods that may be causing allergies and other digestive reactions – then reintroduces the foods one at a time in order to determine which foods are, and are not, well-tolerated.

Starting an elimination diet can be a great way to learn what foods are triggers for your condition, and it can ultimately help you feel better when you know what foods to avoid. I recommend starting an elimination diet that eliminates corn, soy, gluten, dairy, and eggs since those are the most common allergens.

However, there are a few common mistakes that people make that can cause an elimination diet to be less successful.

1. Not scheduling appropriately.

A proper elimination diet requires a time commitment of about six weeks, including the reintroduction process. Scheduling this over a vacation, wedding, or a bunch of parties can be very challenging. Sometimes it’s better to wait until you have the time to do it correctly.

2. Having too many processed foods.

Don’t just aim to follow trendy labels like “gluten-free” or “dairy-free.” Eating an excessive amount of processed foods, even if they’re free of the eliminated foods, may not lead to the results you want. Try to stick with all-natural, whole foods.

3. Not having enough healthy food.

Because you are eliminating foods, it’s important to plan and make sure that your body gets the nourishment it needs. An easy way to do that is to add in plenty of vegetables, fruit, and clean sources of protein. By doing this, you’ll also feel less restricted.

4. Loading up on certain foods.

Nuts, avocados, and honey are common staples that people tend to enjoy a little too much when on the elimination diet. Eating these in excess can cause GI distress, which can interfere with your ability to pinpoint food sensitivities and give your gut the rest it needs. These foods are also either high in calories, fat, or sugar, which can lead to unintended weight gain.

5. Restricting calories.

You can’t just take out the bad without putting in more good. For every calorie that you are removing from your diet, you should replace it with one from a nonprohibited food, particularly foods filled with antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients, which can help your immune system in a number of ways.

While some people do use elimination diets to lose weight, restricting calories can create unwanted symptoms like fatigue that mask how you ought to feel. You shouldn’t be starving yourself or skipping meals; rely instead on natural reductions from cutting out processed and inflammatory foods.

6. Failing to keep a written log of symptoms.

During the reintroduction phase of the process (when you add back the foods you’ve eliminated), you have to write it down and analyze everything you consume right away. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to remember accurately, you’ll never see the patterns, and the whole experiment becomes a missed opportunity.

7. Expecting that you will feel miraculously better.

Everybody is different, and it may take time to see and feel results. While many people do feel great, don’t expect to feel amazing on Day 1, Day 3, or even Day 15, but rest assured every day is a step closer to healing your gut and identifying triggers for chronic ailments.

If you’ve unsuccessfully tried an elimination diet previously, now may be the time to try again. By following the proper steps and avoiding these common mistakes, you will better understand which foods you should avoid and which foods fit into a balanced diet that can keep you feeling great.

health

Tired All The Time? Heal Adrenal Fatigue Naturally

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Have you ever caught yourself thinking, Wow, I’m burned out! It’s a feeling most people can identify with. But what does that really mean, and how does it happen? Do you go to sleep feeling exhausted, sleep 8 hours and wake up still feeling tired? Foggy brain, irritable? Are you drinking coffee throughout the day just to keep yourself going?

Adrenal fatigue is a phenomenon characterized by a disruption of your adrenal glands’ ability to make cortisol in the right amounts at the right times in response to stress.

The adrenals are the body’s hormonal powerhouse. Two little glands that sit on top of your kidneys, they’re the linchpin of a feedback loop coordinating nearly every hormone in your body.

The Three Stages Of Adrenal Fatigue

There are three stages of adrenal fatigue. Each one is associated with a different type of cortisol imbalance, and typically people progress from stage 1 to stage 3 sequentially over time.

Stage 1: Wired and tired

This stage is characterized by high cortisol levels, especially at night, leading to insomnia, insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain. People often feel energized but in an edgy “wired” way.

Stage 2: Stressed and tired

In this stage, many people wake up early in the morning (often around 3am) and are unable to fall back asleep. Later in the day some stressor kicks in, and they feel more awake. Their cortisol peaks early, flattens out, but often has midday or early evening rise.

Stage 3: Burnout

This stage is characterized by exhaustion regardless of hours slept, a flat cortisol curve, and in some cases low DHEA and thyroid hormone levels. I’ve been in stage three for a while now due to Lyme disease which is a dangerous place to be because it’s associated with higher risk of autoimmune disease.

So what can we do about it? 

1. Follow the adrenal diet.

This means getting rid of foods that you are sensitive to and foods that cause inflammation, and eating lots of brightly colored vegetables, lean clean protein, and whole grain gluten-free carbs.

Eliminating dairy, eating more vegetables, and eating more carbs. A strict no-carb diet can stress the body even more, worsening adrenal burnout. Of course, don’t eat cookies and cakes, but rather quinoa, lentils and buckwheat.

2. Go to bed early.

Getting to bed before 11pm is a must in any stage of adrenal fatigue. Many people get a second cortisol surge after 11pm, which further disrupts sleep patterns.

3. Flood the adrenals with B vitamins.

B vitamins (B5 and B6 in particular) are food for the adrenals and can be low in a high-fat, low-carb diet. B12 and folate also help with energy production.

4. Cool inflammation.

Using omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, and vitamin C supplements lower systemic inflammation levels allowing the adrenals to recover.

5. Replace important nutrients.

Vitamin D, selenium, magnesium and zinc are all important for proper thyroid function and adrenal function.

6. Focus on hydration.

Dehydration is also a hallmark of adrenal fatigue. Try adding a multi trace mineral supplement to absorb more water into your cells. You can also add fresh lemon juice or Himalayan sea salt to your water instead.

7. Use adaptogenic herbs.

Licorice root, ashwagandha and rehmannia help balance and stimulate the adrenals. Always check with your doctor first.

8. Build rest into the day.

The last thing you need is high-intensity cardio that would further burn you out. Try adding yoga or walking into your schedule a few times a week. Take time to breathe and restore your body.

9. Change your perspective.

Is your definition of success killing you? In many cases, what you perceive as success is driving you into adrenal overload. We have to realize that “it” (whatever it is) doesn’t have to be perfect to be great.

For most people who live their way into stage 1, 2 or 3 adrenal fatigue, it’s just a matter of living their way right back out of it and into balance with their bodies.

 

 

 

health

5 Easy Ways To Overcome Lymphatic Congestion

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As I’m progressing through different stages of my Lyme treatment, I’m noticing symptoms and changes in my body that haven’t been there before. Based on my experience in natural medicine, I know that the symptoms I’m experiencing are due to an overworked and clogged lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is one of the most overlooked yet significant systems in the body. This expansive system travels throughout the body to remove waste from every cell while helping to regulate the immune system. It includes a complex network of vessels, ducts, lymph nodes, the spleen, the thymus, the adenoids, and the tonsils.

Lymph fluid is propelled by breathing and other muscle movement as it is transported through many filtration points known as lymph nodes. The lymph nodes contain collections of white blood cells (lymphocytes) that identify and help destroy harmful pathogens or toxins. The lymph must flow freely to ensure that waste products and fluids do not build up in the tissues.

The lymphatic vessels act like a giant drainage system for the body that needs to stay clear for it to work properly. Just like in your home if the drains are clogged in your toilet or sink, you can’t get rid of waste effectively—the same is true for your body. Stagnant lymph flow leads to waste and toxin buildup, weakening immunity and leading to a wide variety of health issues.

How do you know if you’re suffering from lymphatic congestion?

Almost every part of the body can be affected by poor waste removal in the lymphatic system. When your lymph drains become congested you may notice:

  • Stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy and dry skin
  • Bloating
  • Breast swelling with each cycle
  • Holding on to water
  • Brain fog
  • Swollen glands
  • Stubborn weight gain
  • Chronic sinusitis, sore throats, colds, or ear issues
  • Cellulite
  • Cold hands and feet

If you are experiencing symptoms of lymphatic congestion, it may be time to decongest your lymph system. Opening up your lymphatic channels is crucial for my recovery since I can’t heal if the toxins aren’t being removed from my body.

So what can you do to move your lymphatic system? It’s actually pretty easy. Just try these 5 things:

1. Detox your environment.

The lymph must deal with the body’s “waste products” that are produced internally like dead cells as well as toxins that are introduced from the external environment. Systemic inflammation creates congestion and swelling in the tissues, which impairs lymphatic flow. Oxidative stress damages the lymph vessels and breaks down their ability to effectively transport lymph fluid and wastes.

Therefore, it is important to reduce your exposure to chemicals in food, air, personal care products, and water while increasing your intake of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients to prevent damage. Opt for an organic, anti-inflammatory diet filled with green leafy vegetables, cruciferous veggies, omega-3 fatty acids, and herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, and garlic. Avoid processed additives, chemicals, and artificial ingredients.

2. Stay hydrated.

Lymph fluid is about 95 percent water and becomes thicker and less fluid when you are dehydrated. In fact, one of the most common causes of lymph congestion is dehydration. Stay well-hydrated by sipping warm purified water throughout the day to help keep your lymph flowing well. Avoid sugar-laden soft drinks, processed juices, sports drinks, and alcohol, which add an additional metabolic burden on the body as well as too much caffeine, which dehydrates the body.

3. Incorporate raw foods.

A sluggish digestive tract also congests the lymphatic system. Ayurvedic medicine teaches that naturally red foods like berries, pomegranates, cherries, cranberries, and beets keep the lymph moving freely. Beets are particularly valuable as they help thin the bile for healthy fat digestion, scrub the intestinal villi where the lymphatic vessels originate, and help keep the lymph flowing. Incorporating raw foods into your diet is another way to keep the lymphatic system healthy. The naturally occurring enzymes and bioflavonoids in raw fruits and vegetables help to break down toxic buildup and free radicals while fiber promotes regular elimination and cleansing of the intestinal villi to keep the intestinal lymphatic system healthy.

4. Move your lymph naturally.

The lymphatic system does not have a built-in pump like the heart, which propels blood through the circulatory system, where it gets oxygenated, filtered, and circulated. Therefore, the lymphatic system relies on the contraction and relaxation of the muscles and joints to move the lymph. The rhythmic tensing and relaxing of the muscles during physical movement wring out the tissues and propel fluid through the lymphatic channels.

Laughter and deep breathing involve movement of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles that help push lymph through the vessels. Dry brushing and lymphatic massage also help to support healthy lymphatic flow in the skin-associated lymphatic tissue. The coarse bristles of a dry brush encourage movement of the lymph and blood in the underlying tissues, which helps move out built-up toxins. Brush or massage your body gently, working toward the heart and paying special attention to the head, neck, feet, breasts, and abdomen, where lymphatics are concentrated.

5. Cope with stress through mindfulness.

Oxidation and lymph congestion increase when you are physically and/or emotionally stressed, so having an effective routine for coping with daily stress is key. There are many mindfulness practices to help you cope with the inevitable stress of life and minimize its effects on your lymphatic system, digestion, and overall health including meditation and spending time in nature. Having the ability to slow down, pause, and remain calm in the present moment can allow you to decrease stress. Practices like tai chi and yoga that coordinate the breath with movement can be especially effective at reducing the state of constant hyperarousal, which is detrimental to digestion and lymphatic health. When you learn to understand your emotions and responses to stress and adopt healthy ways to manage stress, your lymph and life will flow more smoothly.

When your lymph is flowing well, it will support natural revitalization and cleansing of your body. Follow these daily habits and exercises to naturally decongest your lymphatic system for vibrant skin, digestion, and health!

health · recipes

Simple Diet Changes That Can Heal Adrenal Fatigue

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Photo: Natasa Mandic

One of the most important parts of supporting our adrenal health is to eat real food. Why? Because eating whole and natural foods will help your body combat inflammation, better manage glucose levels, and sustain energy. All three are incredibly important factors in supporting your adrenal health. Ditch the processed and sugary foods and stick to the real options such as the foods on this list. Here are a couple of tips to help you get started:

  • Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking to help stabilize your blood sugar.
  • Eat a high-protein snack in between meals. Ideally, you will want to eat every two to three hours to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  • Cut out white sugar and white flour from your diet. This will help to eliminate foods that cause sudden blood sugar spikes.
  • Eliminate caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol is high in sugar, which we want less of to help balance blood sugar. Caffeine can put your body into fight-or-flight mode, which is the last thing you want when dealing with adrenal fatigue. Caffeine sends signals telling the adrenals to pump out more adrenaline as well as cortisol, which will cause even further chaos for your adrenal glands.
  • Don’t limit your healthy fat intake. Healthy fats are important for energy, which you need more of when your adrenals are burned out, and they can help stabilize blood sugar by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates.
  • Don’t limit your salt intake; just focus on sea salt. Remember that sea salt is rich in minerals to support adrenal health whereas table salt is stripped of its nutritional value.
  • Eliminate foods you may be sensitive to. Cutting these foods out of your diet will help to reduce inflammation. We want as little inflammation as possible to help reduce symptoms and heal from the inside out.
health

10 “Health” Foods That Aren’t So Healthy

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Photo: Ani Dmi

It’s so easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which foods are not. When you go to the store, they have a way of making you think that even very unhealthy foods contain health-promoting properties when in reality they do not.

These 10 foods are some of the biggest “healthy” culprits that secretly cause inflammation. As with all advice, take this with a grain of salt—it’s all about how something interacts with your individual body.

1. Peanuts.

Despite their name, peanuts are not actually nuts at all—they’re part of the legume family. For many, this may come as a surprise, but this popular post-workout snack may not actually be healthy and may be causing more inflammation than good.

I recommend that most people don’t eat peanuts, for several reasons. For one, peanuts are one of the most common food allergens. But even if you don’t think you have a peanut allergy, peanuts contain naturally occurring molds that can trigger an immune response, which would then result in inflammation. The common fungi found on peanuts are called aflatoxins. The National Cancer Institute has stated that exposure to aflatoxins can cause an increased risk of liver cancer. This is just one more reason to keep this commonly known “health food” out of your diet.

2. Seasoning mixes.

Who would have thought that something as simple as seasoning your food could lead to inflammation? While we may want to think that all seasoning is made with fresh herbs and spices, this is unfortunately not always the case.

We can run into issues with seasoning mixes when we use mixes containing added sugars and artificial ingredients and colors. Artificial colors are a major issue, and they are found in so many processed and packaged foods today. Since the use of these colors has increased, so has the presence of allergic and other immune reactive conditions. The artificial colors contain very small molecules, and thus the body’s immune system finds it challenging to defend the body from them. Artificial colors can bind with body proteins and can cause significant inflammation due to an immunological response and can even lead to things like leaky gut and autoimmune disorders.

You can easily purchase dried spices and herbs from the bulk section at health food stores and make your own seasoning mix.

3. Seitan.

Seitan is a wheat-based product that many vegans and vegetarians include in their diet as a way to boost their protein intake. This particular “fake meat” is texturized wheat protein, and it’s highly processed. It is so important that we keep processed foods out of our diet to keep inflammation at bay. The thing about processed foods is that they are man-made, so we aren’t born with the ability to break these foods down appropriately. Since seitan is wheat protein, it’s also not a good option for anyone who suffers from a gluten or wheat sensitivity.

Steer clear of this processed wheat product even if you don’t have a gluten sensitivity and choose whole foods such as nuts and seeds to boost your plant-based protein intake.

4. Barley.

Grains—especially high-gluten ones, like barley—are another food that I often recommend my patients remove from their diet. Grains and gluten have been linked to intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and even autoimmune conditions by triggering an inflammatory immune response.

5. Yogurt.

Yogurt has been represented as being healthy for as long as I can remember, but there are a couple of red flags when it comes to yogurt. First and foremost, we need to talk about dairy when it comes to yogurt consumption. Many people are intolerant to dairy, so adding yogurt to the diet can cause inflammation if there is a dairy allergy or sensitivity present.

If you are consuming a nonorganic yogurt, there’s a good chance the milk found in the yogurt is filled with hormones, and many farmers use rBGH, which is a genetically engineered growth hormone that causes the cow to increase milk production. This is terrible for the cow as it can lead to infection, which would then be treated with antibiotics. Guess where these antibiotics wind up? You guessed it: in our milk supply.

Between the hormone and antibiotic exposure, that’s enough to keep us away from yogurt, but the sugar content is something else we need to touch upon.

If you are consuming a flavored yogurt, chances are you are getting an average of at least 10 grams of sugar in that one cup of yogurt, and some yogurts can pack in over 20 grams of sugar! The worst part is that the ones that are marketed as being the “healthiest” option because they are fat-free or “weight loss friendly: are often loaded with more sugar than some of the others to make up for the lost flavor when the fat is stripped from the product.

Don’t fall for the yogurt trick. If yogurt is a regular staple in your diet and you just couldn’t imagine living without it, make sure your yogurt is low in sugar or contains none at all, and make sure it comes from antibiotic-free cows (or coconut).

6. Agave.

Although commonly referred to as a healthy sugar alternative, agave may not be healthy after all. Despite the fact that this sweetener may appear to be a more “natural” option, it’s still packed with sugar. In fact, agave is nearly 90 percent fructose. The issue with fructose is that we are consuming so much more of this “fruit sugar” than we did years ago. Unfortunately, the fructose we are getting in our diets is coming from refined foods, which can be detrimental to our liver.

The liver uses fructose to create fat. When the liver is inundated with fructose from foods rich in this sugar, the fat can then accumulate in the liver. When there is too much buildup, it can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is something we are seeing more and more today.

7. Granola bars.

Granola bars wind up on this list for a couple of reasons. For one, granola bars tend to be very high in sugar, whether this is cane sugar or even natural sweeteners such as agave or raw honey. No matter what type of sweetener is used, remember that too much of even a good thing is not healthy for us.

Secondly, granola bars also typically contain some type of grain, which we now know can be problematic for some people. Instead of snacking on granola bars, try making a homemade trail mix with some almonds, walnuts, raw cocoa nibs, and pumpkin seeds. You’ll avoid the added sugar and unnecessary ingredients and fuel your body with healthy fat and plant-based protein at the same time.

8. Cereal.

You know that bowl of cereal you have been starting your day with? As it turns out, it could be causing inflammation. Similar to granola bars, cereal can be packed with sugar and grains, both of which can cause inflammation.

Did you know that EWG.org found that 92 percent of cold cereals in the United States come with added sugars? That means that each time you purchase a box of cereal (even if it’s a so-called healthy kind), it’s almost guaranteed that you are going to start your day with excess sugar. Excess sugar consumption has been linked to inflammation, and studies have shown that there is a clear relationship between sugar consumption and having an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

9. Granola.

Granola is another major source of sugar, which you now know is a major trigger of both inflammation and even a potential cause of disease. Granola products marketed for children appear to be the worst, and they have been found to add more than 2½ teaspoons of sugar per serving! Keep in mind that most people will consume more than one serving in one sitting, so that’s adding in multiple teaspoons, maybe even tablespoons of sugar before your day even gets started.

This is a major problem because sugar is found in just about everything, and what appears to be small amounts adds up quickly, as does the inflammatory effects it has on the body. Try my version of a healthy granola here!

10. Bottled juices.

You know those bottled green or fruits juices and smoothies you find at stores that have beautiful labels and look “natural” and “healthy”? Unfortunately, we need to do a little detective work to truly decide if these drinks really are a health food or not, and more times than not if it’s found in a bottle at the grocery store there are going to be some added ingredients and some amount of added sugar in that bottle.

Freshly pressed juice that you make at home is going to be better than something you can buy in the bottle. Making it at home allows you to dictate what goes into the juice as well as how much fruit versus vegetables you add to it. Keep in mind that you want to add more veggies than you do fruit to keep the sugar content down.

Now onto those store-bought bottles. The problem with many of these products is that in order for them to last for a period of time on the shelves, they have to go through a pasteurization process. This process is done at a very high heat to kill off microorganisms, but this process also destroys all of the enzymes present in the juice or smoothie, meaning it kills the good with the bad. The antioxidants will be significantly reduced, and fiber is lost—leaving you with a bottle of sugar.

With some products, you also run the risk of ingesting some fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides, and you may be consuming GMO ingredients. The bottom line here is to stick to homemade juices and smoothies to steer clear of adding anything artificial to your diet that could potentially cause inflammation and to keep your sugar intake low.

The take-home message here when it comes to these foods is that what may appear healthy at first isn’t always the best option. To keep inflammation at bay, I always encourage people to stick to a whole-foods diet with little to no packaged food items to avoid any added ingredients and to keep their sugar intake to a minimum.