Let them eat cake? Merci, Non!

I listened to another great podcast featuring Dr. Steven Gundry, a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and New York Times bestselling author of The Plant Paradox and Plant Paradox Cookbook

Dr. Gundry explains what sugar is, why it’s harmful and some options for substituting it.  

Here are the highlights:

  • The average American eats around 153 pounds of sugar a year which is the size of a baby giraffe!
  • There are multiple forms of sugar: glucose, fructose, lactose are all sugar molecules.
  • Table sugar is sucrose which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
  • High fructose corn syrups are ~45% glucose and 55% fructose.
  • Many studies have been conducted indicating that fructose is worse than glucose and is the culprit in causing a fatty liver and elevated cholesterol levels. Bottom line: Sugar is sugar is sugar.
  • Most people do not realize the effect that sugar has on the gut microbiome. Bad bacteria and fungal species like candida yeast thrive on sugar. Good bacteria prefer complex sugar molecules with fiber as it’s easier to ferment.
  • Gundry believes that rationing sugar and flour during WWII was one of the reasons why diabetes and heart disease plummeted around the world during that period.
  • When you grind up whole products like wheat into flour, your body more readily absorbs them; that is why the glycemic index of white flour (85) is higher than white table sugar (58)!
  • Sugar takes a toll on our immune system. Research conducted by Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Laureate showed that any type of sugar consumption (including orange juice) suppresses white blood cell function by 70% for up to 6 hours.
  • Everyone knows about the dangers of saturated fat and cholesterol BUT most cholesterol is manufactured in our body. And elevated cholesterol comes from sugar consumption. How? Sugar is converted into the first form of fat which is triglycerides (TG). TG in turn are carried by cholesterol. Hence, the more sugar you eat, the more TG you make and the higher your cholesterol level.
  • Gundry says that TG is one of the most important markers of coronary heart disease. And NO – having TG levels of 150 is NOT normal contrary to what the lab reference ranges indicate. You need TG levels of 40-50 to be optimal. Go get your TG checked!
  • Sugar is an incredibly addictive substance: Did you know that rats will choose sugar over cocaine if given a choice?
  • Why is getting off sugar so difficult? Because two-thirds of the human tongue’s surface is dedicated to tasting sweets and this was for survival reasons – to gain weight in the summer to store fat for the winter.
  • Gundry is not a fan of fruit either – modern fruit has been hybridized to be bigger and sweeter. And now fruit is available 365 days a year when it is meant to be eaten only in season
  • If you are eating fruit out of season, he recommends “reverse juicing”: buy organic fruit, juice it and throw away the juice! Just eat the pulp which has fiber and rich polyphenols and nutrients. You can mix the pulp in yogurts or put it in shakes.
  • Sugar is hiding everywhere – brown rice syrup, glucose, fructose, agave are all other words for sugar, so don’t be fooled by what’s on the label.
  • Here’s a shocking metric to see how much sugar you may be consuming in a serving:
    • Take the total carbohydrates per serving and subtract the fiber = number of net carbohydrates
    • 1 tsp of sugar has 4 grams of carbs
    • So a slice of bread with 21 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber (16g net) is like eating 4 tsps of table sugar! Making a sandwich? That’s 8 tsps!
  • It is best to retreat from sweets – sugar is hidden in products that don’t even taste sweet.
  • Here’s the skinny on sugar alternatives and why Dr. Gundry says you can have your cake and eat it too:
    • Sucralose (Splenda) is a must avoid. A study conducted at Duke University showed that one packet of Splenda killed 50% of the gut microbiome (the good kind)
    • Honey, coconut sugar, agave are all sugars. If substituting with honey, have only several teaspoons a day – and stick to local or Manuka honey
    • Allulose, monk fruit and stevia are good sweetener alternatives that do not spike glucose.
    • Allulose also contain prebiotic fiber which feeds the gut. Look for non-GMO allulose at the market or online.
    • Stevia is a good substitute but has some bitterness. You can try the Sweet Leaf brand Stevia which is blended with inulin (the sugar in chicory and a great prebiotic).
    • Yacon syrup is another option but has been known to raise triglyceride levels so best not to consume much

What I took away from this podcast? Remember Marie Antoinette’s famous quote: “If the people have no bread, let them eat cake”? I say neither!

Here is the podcast:

https://drgundry.com/healthy-sugar-alternatives/

What’s Growing in Your Backyard? An Introduction to the World of Herbalism

If you do not use chemical fertilizers or weed killers around your house (like me), then you may have some healthy herbs growing in your backyard. However, they can be tricky to identify, so as tempting as it might be, it’s best to leave the foraging to the professionals. With that in mind, we can still look to the vibrant, colorful plant kingdom for inspiration. Even if we aren’t going out and picking plants ourselves, exploring natural remedies can be rewarding.

In this blog, I’ve invited an herb nerd and colleague (Teaghan Aston) to take us on a journey to introduce us to the world of herbalism.  

Generally speaking, herbalism describes the intricate world of the use of plants to promote wellbeing. Most cultures have their own unique systems and beliefs surrounding how plants can be used to promote wellness, some of which have roots going back thousands of years. For example, Ayurveda is more than 5,000 years old, with Traditional Chinese Medicine following close behind, rooted in practices that began approximately 3,000 years ago.

While these two systems, in particular, typically incorporate many different modalities, herbs often play a huge role in how they work to improve balance in people’s lives.

The US is home to a plethora of valuable plants and herbal traditions of its own, which vary based on region. Many of these plants are still valued today by the herbalists and practitioners of holistic medicine.

Herbalism in Today’s World

Thanks to today’s training programs, modern herbalists have access to all sorts of information. As a result, many combine herbs from various traditions and parts of the world when working with clients. However, some specialize in traditional systems and stick to using herbs and modalities from those systems exclusively.

With that said, not everybody interested in using natural modalities can afford to work with an herbalist. With the ongoing increase in popularity of using natural approaches to foster wellbeing, all sorts of herbal products and formulations can be found online and in large chain stores.

Caution: The availability of herbal products makes it easy for people to explore these options, but access comes with a BUYER BEWARE warning.

  • Not all herbal products are created equally, and not all herbal products are for everyone.
  • There are herbs out there that have contraindications, which is why everyone, even those who have access to an herbalist, should still check with their doctor before adding an herbal product to their routine. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should never start working with a new herbal product or supplement without first consulting your healthcare provider.

  • Many herbal products are contaminated with heavy metals with sources of origin unknown or suspect. And you cannot tell from their online reviews.

On a more positive note, there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk while exploring herbal remedies.

Gather Your Information From Trustworthy Sources

While heading over to sites like Pinterest to look at other people’s recipes may seem quick and easy, it’s best to avoid finding information on sites like that when it comes to wellness, as anybody can put up anything, making it hard to discern what can and cannot be trusted.

Stick to Simple, Well Researched Herbs 

As mentioned above, there are all sorts of different herbal concoctions out there. However, complicated doesn’t always mean better, and when you’re working without the guidance of an herbalist, it’s generally best to keep things simple, and some herbs are more beginner-friendly than others. However, “beginner-friendly” is a very subjective term, and it’s important to use your discernment when assessing your comfort level surrounding the use of herbs for wellness.

Where to Begin?

Teaghan mentioned some herbs that she thought would be great to discuss in this post (purely for educational purposes). The herbs mentioned below are primarily a mixture of adaptogens, nervines, or nourishing herbs, although some (cinnamon) do not fall into the pre-mentioned categories.

Here is a great educational blog post from Mountain Rose Herbs, which breaks down the basics of understanding nervines and adaptogens that may be helpful if these terms are new to you.

Here are Teaghan’s top picks:

Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn is a wonderful plant that may have cardiac trophorestorative (rectifies deficiency in organ/organ system) properties. It is a favorite among herbalists and people who are looking to provide their hearts with extra support. While popular as a general heart tonic, Research suggests that Hawthorn extract as an adjunct treatment (although most certainly not a “cure,”) may even be of benefit for symptom control in individuals experiencing chronic heart failure. Some people believe that Hawthorn can also be useful for soothing the “emotional” heart as well – although this is anecdotal. This makes sense, as in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hawthorn is one of the many herbs used when creating herbal formulas for calming “disturbed shen” (spirit).

With that in mind, it is imperative that you seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing cardiac symptoms. If you are already receiving treatment for a cardiac condition, it is essential that you get approval from your healthcare provider before determining if Hawthorn is appropriate for you, as there is some important information to be aware of, including but not limited to how Hawthorn can increase the risk of bleeding after cardiac surgery.

Reishi Mushrooms

Reishi mushrooms is experiencing a surge in popularity, which is no surprise, as there is much excitement in the herbal world surrounding their potential benefits. Reishi is thought by many to be a powerful ally for immune support, the nervous system, as well as a host of other things. While Reishi has a long, rich history of traditional use, the human research that we currently have available is limited although the studies that we do have are promising. For example, in this study, it was shown that a mycelium-based extract of Ganoderma lucidum may have been responsible for suppressing colorectal adenomas (precancerous lesions in the bowel).

In another human study, it was found that Ganoderma lucidum spore powder improved cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer patients during endocrine treatment. In this same study, the participants also reported overall improvements to quality of life, such as less anxiety and depression.

If you have mushroom allergies, Reishi products are not a safe choice for you. Additionally, Reishi may interact with anticoagulants/antiplatelets, immunosuppressants, and potentially other medications, such as those used for blood pressure and diabetes.

This is not a complete list of potential contraindications, so be sure to speak with your doctor before trying out Reishi mushrooms if it has piqued your interest.

Milky Oats (Avena sativa)

Teaghan says a tincture made out of fresh milky oat tops is one of her go-to choices when she’s feeling frazzled from the effects of stress and when she knows that her nervous system is in need of extra support. However, since oats are considered to be a “food” herb and are thought to primarily work through trophorestorative actions, they seem to work best when used consistently over time (from Teaghan’s personal experience), much like Hawthorn. Generally speaking, slower-acting herbs like these also tend to be more gentle than quick-acting herbs (although this is not always the case), which is why these “nourishing” herbs are typically the first ones that those new to herbs choose to experiment with.

However, research indicates that there could be some acute benefit, as we’ll touch on below.

While Teaghan’s knowledge of milky oat tops is mostly anecdotal, as human research is very limited, she did point out this study, which takes a look at both the potential acute effects as well as the potential chronic effects of Avena sativa (Green oat) extract.

Here is a brief excerpt from the study: “The results showed that both a single dose of 1,290 mg and, to a greater extent, supplementation for four weeks with both 430 mg and 1,290 mg green oat extract resulted in significantly improved performance on a computerized version of the Corsi Blocks working memory task and a multitasking task (verbal serial subtractions and computerized tracking) in comparison to placebo. After four weeks, the highest dose also decreased the physiological response to the stressor in terms of electrodermal activity. There were no treatment-related effects on mood. These results confirm the acute cognitive effects of Avena sativa extracts and are the first to demonstrate that chronic supplementation can benefit cognitive function and modulate the physiological response to a stressor.

It’s important to note that Milky Oat products are contraindicated for those who have celiac diseaseas well as those who have gluten sensitivities. There could also be other contraindications that we are unaware of, so be sure to double check with your provider.

Ceylon Cinnamon

If you’ve heard about the numerous reported benefits of Cinnamon, you’ve probably run into some confusion. When most people hear Cinnamon, they assume that there is only one kind, but there are multiple, and they are not all created equal. The variety that we are discussing here is Ceylon Cinnamon, also known as “true” Cinnamon, and its potential extends far beyond the spice cabinet.

According to this randomized, controlled trial, it was discovered that participants with type 2 diabetes who had been given Cinnamon experienced reductions in serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol, although it is unclear to readers which type of Cinnamon was used during the trial.

With that being said, Ceylon Cinnamon is generally thought to carry fewer risks than other varieties of Cinnamon, like Cassia cinnamon. This is because “True” Ceylon Cinnamon is believed to have lower amounts of coumarin (which can be toxic to the liver) than other varieties.

If you’re curious to learn more about Ceylon Cinnamon, Teaghan noted that this article published by Healthline appeared to do a great job of explaining it. However, while additional online resources are helpful, you still need to check with your doctor before pursuing cinnamon supplements. This is especially true if you are already taking diabetes medications or insulin, as mixing these with cinnamon products could lead to Hypoglycemia.

As you’ve probably determined, there’s a lot to consider even when working with seemingly basic herbs like the ones we’ve touched on here. If the research we’ve linked to is any indication, the plant kingdom holds a lot of potential power. While precautions need to be taken, such as those we’ve touched on throughout this post, we hope you’re left feeling inspired by some of the possibilities!

The Role of Uric Acid on Diabetes and Chronic Diseases (It’s Not Just about Gout)

I listened to a great podcast featuring Dr. David Perlmutter’s new book. He is a board-certified neurologist and five times New York Times bestseller including the well-known “Grain Brain”.  The new book was released in Feb 2022 and called “Drop Acid” which is NOT about LSD but refers to the role that uric acid plays in the development of diabetes and other chronic conditions. 

Here’s a summary of the podcast interview:

  • Up to 88% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy, with at least one component of metabolic syndrome like high blood sugar, insulin resistance, hypertension, obesity, cardiac disease and even Alzheimer’s. It was very eye-opening to learn about how uric acid plays a critical function on the development of chronic conditions.

  • Uric acid is measured in blood and typically associated with gout BUT it’s also an important marker for metabolic conditions.

  • In an 8-year study, it was found that all-cause mortality was dramatically increased with high levels of uric acid. For example, heart disease and stroke related mortality was 35-40% due to high levels of uric acid.

  • Uric acid levels are easy to check during an annual check-up. Ideal level should be 5.5 mg/deciliter or below. For every point above 7, there is an 8-13% increased risk of all-cause mortality in addition to gout.

  • Uric acid is raised by 3 key factors: Alcohol, Purine and Fructose
    • Wine has not been shown to raise uric acid much; Hard liquor raises some but BEER raises it a lot. Why? Beer contains purines from the brewer’s yeast so it’s a double whammy of alcohol AND purine to contribute to the beer belly
    • Purines are from organ meat consumption but unless you’re eating a ton, it doesn’t raise the bar much
    • Fructose is the elephant in the room!

  • Unlike glucose, fructose is metabolized directly into uric acid. As fructose raises uric acid, weight, blood pressure and insulin all go up. An interesting study showed that if you give the gout drug (allopurinol) to participants eating a lot of fructose, their uric acid levels drop.

  • Fructose means energy storage whereas glucose means energy utilization. That’s why bears eat a ton of fruit during the summer so they can store fat for hibernation in the winter.

  • Fructose in the form of fruit is okay because it’s a whole food and not processed. It has fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. However, modern fruit has been hybridized for ultra sweetness so an apple a day is fine but that doesn’t mean a half dozen…

  • 60% of the food in the store with a bar code has been sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or some derivative of it. Our bodies are designed to seek out sweet food for our survival. Were you aware that the US gov’t sponsors corn production to the tune of ~$500B/year and a lot of that goes into making HFCS which then makes us fat and sick?

  • When you eat fructose like HFCS, you are turning on gluco-neogenesis (body makes glucose), compromising insulin functionality and setting the stage for diabetes. Fructose inhibits leptin sensitivity (hunger suppressing hormone) which makes us want to keep eating and contributes to weight gain. Fructose also requires energy for it to be absorbed and uses up all the ATP (energy cells) in the gut. The uric acid enhances inflammatory bacteria and increases gut permeability leading to leaky gut syndrome. 

  • There are also medications that increase uric acid: Aspirin, diuretics, proton pump inhibitors, acid blockers, beta blockers and even the sugar substitute xylitol.

 

What to do?

  • First, get your uric acid levels checked. You can ask your physician or buy a test kit on Amazon: Here’s one to try.

 

How to Reduce Uric Acid

  • Eat a mostly plant-based, high fiber, high color diet. It’s better for you and your bacteria.
  • Limit fruit and do NOT drink fruit juice as it’s a concentrated form of fructose. I stopped buying green drinks at the grocery store because they contain fruit juices to make it palatable to most of us. If you drink juice, stick to vegetable juice only (which is hard to find).
  • Shellfish, anchovies and organ meats are rich sources of purine – it’s hard to eat a pound of anchovies in one sitting so no worries as long as everything is enjoyed in moderation.
  • Alcohol, especially BEER, should be avoided except for an occasional glass of wine (and I mean occasional, not every other day occasional!)
  • Coffee is a great drink for lowering uric acid.
  • Vegetables like broccoli have higher levels of purine BUT it is rich in fiber, bioflavonoids and vitamin C so enjoy to your heart’s content. 
  • Minimize consumption of refined grains like flour – flour elevates insulin and this increases uric acid by inhibiting its excretion in the kidneys.

  • Supplements that Dr. Perlmutter suggests to lower uric acid include:
    • Quercetin (500mg/day) is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory bioflavonoid and is present in foods like onions.
    • Vitamin C (1000mg/day) aids in the excretion of uric acid.
    • Luteolin (100 mg/day) also lowers uric acid and is on par with the gout drug allopurinol!
    • DHA (1000mg/day) present in fish oil offsets the damage of uric acid.
    • Tart cherry extract can also bring down uric acid.

It has been estimated that 25% of the western world has elevated uric acid so it’s important to get our levels checked so we’re not part of this statistic. 

Here’s the podcast.

And Dr. Perlmutter’s new book.

Budget-Friendly Recipes Part 2

During colder weather, it can be a bit more challenging to plan healthier meals as produce-in-season is more limited. In this blog, I’ll share some more budget-friendly recipes and how to make healthy vegetables a mainstay of our diet.  

Lentils

Lentils are not technically a vegetable as they are in the legume family. They are also one of the highest vegetarian sources of protein. Did you know that just 1 cup of cooked lentils provides 18 grams of protein and are a great source of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and B-vitamins? My sister perfected this lentil soup recipe – she makes a big batch to have throughout the week OR freezes it in Pyrex containers for future meals.

Lentil Soup

  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (can use other root vegetables like turnip and parsnip)
  • 2 celeries, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 cup dry brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1 cup spinach or chopped kale (tough stalks removed)

Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat. Saute onion, celery and carrot until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and curry powder and bloom the spices, about 30 seconds. Add the dry lentils, broth and water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Bring the soup to boil. Then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Add chopped greens and cook for 5 more minutes. Add more salt to taste. Ready to serve!

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are in the Brassicaceae family of cruciferous vegetables and are low in calories but packed with nutrients, especially fiber, vitamin K and C. They also contain antioxidant compounds that reduce oxidative stress, inflammation and lower the risk of chronic disease. Studies have shown the benefits of brussels sprouts consumption in reducing the risk of diseases like cancer.

Here’s an easy salad recipe that’s great as a side dish or for lunch

Brussel Sprouts Salad

  • 1 bag of brussels sprouts (or ~0.6-0.7 pound)
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice
  • ½ TBSP mustard (Dijon or yellow)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Handful of chopped nuts (walnut, cashew or almond)

Cut brussels sprouts in half and boil them in a pot of boiling water for ~5 min or until done (tender yet firm). Drain the sprouts and put into a salad bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the sprouts and toss. Top with a handful of nuts and serve!

Onions

Onions are in the allium family and are rich in soluble fiber and vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, folate, potassium selenium, manganese and vitamin C. Onions have been used over thousands of years as natural remedies due to its health enhancing properties.  Onions are rich in flavonoid compounds like anthocyanins and quercetin which have demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12410539/ .  Onions are an incredibly versatile and inexpensive ingredient and can be used raw or cooked in many recipes. Since I’m not a fan of eating a lot of raw onion (It’s hard to get rid of onion breath), here’s an onion soup recipe that uses 2 pounds of onions!

This makes multiple servings so you can save the soup and then reheat with bread and cheese.

French Onion Soup

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds yellow or white onions
  • 2 containers (32oz) of beef broth (can substitute with chicken or vegetable broth)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 5 ounces Swiss cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sliced bread (opt for whole grain)

Cut onions into thin slices (you may want to wear some glasses or protective eye gear as onions release a natural chemical that irritates our glands and produces tears). To a soup pot, add olive oil and the onions and cook until caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Then add beef broth, bay leaves, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Turn oven onto broil and warm up. Spread a dash of olive oil on the sliced bread and toast until brown. When oven is ready, ladle the soup into an oven-safe soup bowl, then place the toasted bread and top with cheese.  Broil on the top rack of the oven until cheese is melted and browned. It’s ready to serve!  

Beets

Did you know that beets are good for your heart? Beets contain natural nitrates (not the nitrates found in processed meats) that convert into nitric oxide in the body – this opens up the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure and heart rate. This study showed that consumption of one cup of beetroot juice daily for four weeks sustained a reduction in blood pressure in hypertensive patients. But that’s not all – high in vitamins A, C, K, and B2 as well as folate, manganese, and copper, beets reduce inflammation, support digestion and a balanced immune system. One of my favorite ways to consume beets is by roasting them. Here’s one of my go-to recipes:

Roasted Beet Salad

  • 6 medium beets, cleaned and trimmed
  • 3 TBSP of balsamic vinegar
  • 3 TBSP of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To a 400 degree preheated oven, put in aluminum wrapped beets on a baking sheet. Roast until soft in the middle (~50-60 minutes). When cooled, unwrap and peel beets and cut into bite-size pieces. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Pour over beets and toss. This can be served warm or cold.

Enjoy!

5 Tips to Starting Off the New Year in a Healthy Fashion

I used to make New Year’s Resolutions every year until I realized that making promises at the beginning of the year which inevitably get broken within 90 days was not a sustainable habit. So, in light of the New Year, I’ll share some things you can do to take control of your health without a calendar to dictate your actions.

Cut the Carbs, Sugar & Bad Fats

One of the first things we can do is control what goes into our mouth. We as a society eat way too many carbs, sugar and bad fats. As you may be aware, chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity are all tied to our over-reliance on what has become the standard American diet. Have you noticed how having a high-carb/high-sugar meal makes you crave more snacks several hours later? These high-carb foods (breads, cereals, pastas, waffles, pancakes, cookies, cakes, pies) cause blood sugar fluctuations that lead to incessant carb cravings thereafter. So, what to do after weeks of eggnog, wine (of course – alcohol is formed from sugar), grandma’s pumpkin pie and that holiday feast with turkey, stuffing, and mac and cheese?

First, reduce your carb and sugar intake. This does not mean you have to go on a ketogenic diet as moderation is key as you transition from all the holiday festivities.

  • Get most of your carbs from plant-based sources, primarily non-starchy vegetables like greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). You can add some fruit like apples and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and beets to up your carb intake but the key is to make greens and veggies the mainstay of your daily plate. And no need to count calories – eat until you are satisfied as these veggies are high in fiber and volume and low in calories. Also, eating a naturally fiber-rich diet will help with elimination and keep you ‘regular’.

  • Eliminate bad fats and add good ones.
    • Man-made fats that are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils like margarine should be avoided like the plague. If nature intended for humans to consume them, they would be naturally available. Also, vegetable oils (corn, soybean, canola, grapeseed, peanut, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower) are HIGHLY processed and READILY oxidized when exposed to light, air or heat. Oxidized or ‘rancid’ oils are NOT healthy for humans so it’s best to avoid them.
    • Healthy fats should be added to the diet – it sounds counter-intuitive for losing weight but healthy fats are necessary building blocks for cell membranes and for keeping hormones in balance. Non-animal sources of fat include avocados, avocado oil, nuts and nut butters, coconut and coconut oil, olives and olive oil. Animal sources include lard, grass-fed butter/ghee, grass-fed/wild-caught/pasture-raised meats and fish. 

Good Health Begins in the Gut

Good health = healthy gut = good intestinal bacteria. The human gut is home to more than 100 trillion micro-organisms and contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body. Recent studies suggest the role that the gut microbiome plays in regulating the risk of diseases like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer AND the importance of diet in altering the gut’s microbial composition. So to keep your gut flora healthy:

Manage stress levels as studies have shown that prolonged stress can negatively alter intestinal microbiota composition

Get Moving!

If you don’t have time to exercise, how about starting off with a daily 7-minute workout? This free app called 7M offers exercises for a variety of body parts and they are only 7 minutes long. They have options with weights or without so no need to invest in equipment to get going.

Here are two 7-minute high-intensity interval training workouts to try without downloading the app:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/well/workouts/

Take Time to Meditate/Reflect

You don’t need a 30-minute meditation or yoga practice to get your mindfulness quotient in. Upon waking, try a 5-minute breathing or meditation exercise. Here are a couple to try:

And before bed, try to reflect on the happenings of the day – what went well and what could be improved. This raises awareness of the positive things achieved in the day along with areas for improvement. Continuous improvement and learning is key to keeping us youthful and vibrant!

Practice Good Sleep Habits

And last but not least, establish a sleep rhythm that works for YOU as we all have different sleep clocks. I have tried to be an early riser (before 6:30am) SO many times but it’s not my optimal sleep clock and ends up making me more tired and run down. Against my better judgment, I woke up REALLY early (5:30am) over Thanksgiving holiday to go walking with my sister – although I got my steps in, I ended up with a head cold which lasted for weeks.

If you are an early morning person, you can do a lot of the important tasks early in the day. But if you’re like me and cannot get going until around 7am after a stiff cup of coffee, you may be more prone to get some productive work done well into the evening.

So, in addition to when you sleep, determine how much sleep you need to feel optimal – some feel fantastic after just six hours but if you’re like me, you will need at least 7-8 hours to survive the next day.

So, how about a New Year’s plan of consistency, moderation and steady improvement to keep you going and going? Happy Holidays!

Natural Detoxification Strategies

We live in a world full of environmental toxins. According to the CDC, more than 400 toxic chemicals have been measured in human samples. With over 80,000 chemicals used regularly by industries, it’s no surprise that our bodies are a sponge for toxins that are in our air, water, oceans and ground! This blog highlights the importance of incorporating detoxification strategies to eliminate and reduce the risk of toxins everywhere. You don’t need to sign up for an extensive fasting program with unpleasant procedures (like colonics) to clean you out. You’ll be pleased to hear that there are more sustainable and gentler ways to get the junk out!

Detoxification Pathways

Our body is built to naturally detoxify through 4 major systems:

  • Sweat – Our skin is the body’s largest organ and has tremendous surface area for eliminating toxins. If you naturally sweat easily, good for you! Your body is very efficient at reducing toxins via your skin. I remember the aerobics instructor telling me many years ago that I didn’t work out hard enough as she didn’t see me dripping with sweat like the others – I didn’t realize then that not sweating efficiently is BAD for your health! Regular vigorous exercise will stimulate circulation, deep respiration and removal of toxins through the skin. If you have access to a hot sauna, that’s a great add-on to get some serious perspiration in. Did you know that studies have shown that 15-20% of infrared sauna-induced sweat is composed of fat-soluble toxins and heavy metals? If saunas are not an option, try to spend time outdoors (in the summer) to induce sweating, take hot baths, or go to a hot yoga class.
  • Pee – Proper hydration allows us to pee the toxins out of our body so it’s important to drink plenty of CLEAN water. Did you know that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated? Water is critical for flushing out the urinary tract and regulating the gut microbiome. Make sure to drink plenty of clean water – add in some fresh lemon or lime juice to help the body neutralize the free radicals that are generated by the toxins.
  • Poop – We should all be going to the bathroom 2-3X a day and eliminating what we eat within 12-24 hours. For most of us, even once daily is an accomplishment but constipation and lack of bowel movements keep the toxins in our bodies which may be reabsorbed (yuck). To improve the trips to the bathroom, start with an anti-inflammatory diet that is rich in fiber (eg: chia and flax seeds) and include fermented foods and probiotics to create the optimal gut environment. To bind toxins in the gastrointestinal tract, try adding activated charcoal in between meals. Activated charcoal acts like an absorbent sponge and can bind up to 100 times its own weight in toxins, parasites, and bad bacteria. I carry activated charcoal with me when traveling – if I’m not sure what I’ve been eating, I take them with my meals (or right after). If you are a fan of sushi like me, it’s a good idea to take them with the meal to bind to any parasites in the raw fish. Here’s one I use:

  • Breath – We need to practice deep breathing often to help move toxins out through our respiratory system – short, shallow breathing isn’t effective at moving the junk out. Here’s a detox breathing exercise to try:

5 Foods to Detox Naturally

Chlorella

Chlorella is a freshwater algae that is considered a nutrient-dense superfood as it’s loaded with phytonutrients, amino acids, chlorophyll, beta-carotene, potassium, phosphorous, biotin, magnesium and B vitamins. One of the main health benefits of chlorella is its amazing ability to help the body detox heavy metals and prevent them from being reabsorbed. Here’s my favorite – USDA certified-organic, cracked-cell-wall chlorella algae tablets. There are less expensive sources out there but I like that this brand has been tested for purity.

Curcumin in Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice containing the active ingredient, curcumin, and is well known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies also suggest that curcumin is effective in promoting optimal detoxification. Turmeric spice only contains about 3% curcumin so you may want to supplement with a curcumin extract to get the full strength benefit. Here are several that have been tested:

Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens are one of Nature’s best methods to support natural detoxification, so make this the mainstay of every meal. Leafy greens are full of minerals, vitamins and the necessary fiber which is critical for getting the bowels moving. Greens that are particularly detox-effective include spinach, kale, alfalfa leaf, moringa leaf and parsley. If you are sensitive to oxalates like me, try to avoid excess spinach and kale (or steam or cook gently to reduce the oxalate content) – yes, too much of a good thing is not a good thing!

Broccoli Sprouts

Broccoli is good for you but if you want to kick up the antioxidant richness, try broccoli sprouts – they contain a compound called sulforaphane that has been shown to protect cells from environmental toxins and also induce cell death of various cancer cells. You can try these sprouts in the produce section of many grocery stores.

Beets

Beets are like a bodywash for your liver. Your liver is your detoxifying organ so it needs to be healthy and nourished in order for it to do the proper job of filtering out toxins during the digestive process.  Beets are high in antioxidants, nutrients and contain pectin, a natural blood cleanser. So add roasted beets or beet soup to the diet to keep the liver happy. Here’s a simple recipe to try.

You Are What Y’all Did With What You Eat

I recently listened to a great webinar on one of my favorite health experts, Dr. Robert Lustig, a neuro-endocrinologist and New York Times best-selling author (Fat Chance, The Hacking of the American Mind, and Metabolical). He has been active in promoting health policy to reverse the obesity and diabetes pandemic that is engulfing our society.  

In this blog, I’ll share some highlights from this 70-minute webinar (hosted by the Commonwealth Club of California) and the two key tenets from his new book, Metabolicalthe Lures and Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition and Modern Medicine.

Dr. Lustig’s standard mantra used to be “you are what you eat” but now stands corrected with the revised statement that “you are what y’all (food industry) did with what you eat”. He is referring to food processing and the food industry that tricks you into thinking you’re eating healthily when in fact, you’re eating all the foods that are basically designed to destroy your health.

So, he has two essential rules to live by when it comes to judging ‘healthy food’. Eat foods that:

  1. Protect the liver
  2. Feed the gut

Any food that does both is healthy and any food that does neither is poison.

Protect the Liver

  • Ged rid of sugar in the diet. Sugar is like alcohol as liver metabolizes it the same way and over time, leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Although virtually non-existent in the 1980s, 45% of us have NAFLD today. In particular, children are what he calls the “canaries in the coal mine” as they are getting these diseases of aging. Type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease used to be diseases of alcoholics and aging and now children are getting them. Dr. Lustig estimates that 20% of normal weight children and 40% of obese children have a fatty liver today and blames this on the sugary, processed foods that kids consume.
  • Eat organic and stay away from pesticide-ridden foods (eg: Round-up), excess iron and heavy metals.
  • Avoid eating too much BCAA (branched chain amino acids) – unless you are a body builder, you don’t need to consume excess BCAA as this gets converted to liver fat and results in insulin resistance.
  • Dr. Lustig advocated two lab tests to get a baseline on your liver condition:
    • ALT – 25 is optimal , NOT 40 (which is the new reference range). In 1976, the ALT upper limit was 25 but now it’s 40 because so much of the population has fatty liver disease. These reference ranges reflect the population so as the country gets fatter, the ranges are also moving up.
    • Uric acid level – upper limit is 7.0 but it should be no higher than 5.5 as this marker is a proxy for sugar consumption.

Feed the Gut

  • You need to feed the bacteria in your gut with insoluble and soluble fiber to keep it happy and avoid conditions like leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome and systemic inflammation.
  • Dr. Lustig is known as the “anti-sugar crusader” in the industry and his lecture has over 100,000 views (I watched it three times as it was that good) – here’s a condensed version. However, he claims that fruit is healthy even though it has sugar because the amount of sugar in fruit is dwarfed by the amount of both soluble and insoluble fiber which prevents sugar absorption in the gut. Insoluble fiber forms a latticework and soluble fiber forms a gel and they both act as secondary barriers to prevent early absorption of sugar getting to the liver. If your gut doesn’t absorb it early, it goes further down to the intestine where the bacteria will chew it up for consumption to feed the gut. So even if you consumed the fruit, some of that sugar was spent to feed the microbiome.
  • Processed food has no fiber and there’s a reason why the industry doesn’t like fiber. For example, an orange does NOT freeze well as the ice crystals macerate the cell walls and when thawed, becomes mushy. But if you squeeze the orange and freeze it, it’s highly storable making it easier to sell. However, in processing the orange, you’ve deprived your microbiome of all the important fiber in the fruit.
  • Dr. Lustig explains that it’s what’s been done to the food that matters. There are four classifications of processed foods known as the NOVA system, and he uses an apple to describe what each class means:
    • Nova Class 1: An apple is unprocessed and doesn’t need a food label
    • Nova Class 2: Apple slices have been minimally processed as it’s been sliced, destemmed and placed in packaging
    • Nova Class 3: Apple sauce has been crushed/cooked and may or may not have added sugar
    • Nova Class 4: Apple drink which is the juice plus preservatives and added sugar with all the fiber removed. Nova Class 4 is considered ultra-processed and the predictor of disease. He claims that if it has a logo (those juices in the boxes with a cool name on it), it’s ultra-processed.
  • Meat is another example. You would think that meat should be Nova Class 1 if you are buying from the refrigerated meat aisle in the supermarket. However, if the animal comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO), that animal had to be pumped with antibiotics in order to survive. This permanently changed the cow’s microbiome which pervades in the meat. And when we eat it, we are causing gut dysfunction by eating the ‘sick’ meat. Hence, this meat is considered “processed” because of what the food industry did to it. But it’s not on the label as the food industry does not have to disclose any of this.

It’s the Insulin, Not Just the Glucose

  • Dr. Lustig says that people think glucose is the problem but it’s insulin that drives chronic metabolic disease. Rising glucose levels are a proxy for a rise in insulin so it’s important to keep both down. Giving insulin to Type 2 diabetics to control blood sugar is not the answer and it’s important to note that insulin has two functions:
    • The first is metabolic – insulin takes up blood glucose and lowers blood sugar
    • The second is cell growth – Insulin also drives cell division and can promote coronary artery muscle division to drive heart attacks and promote breast glandular cell division to develop cancer. 
  • Dr. Lustig states that it’s not just glucose but fructose (like high fructose corn syrup) that accelerates metabolic disease and insulin resistance. Fructose goes to the brain and negatively affects cognitive and behavioral health. There’s a wealth of research and evidence on how food affects the brain and the use of sugar-free diets (ketogenic) to treat conditions like bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

So, what did I learn from this? First, get some baseline data on liver, fasting glucose and insulin levels as Dr. Lustig recommends so you know where you stand today.  Second, eat a whole-foods, non-processed diet with plenty of pesticide-free vegetables and fruits and clean, grass-fed meat. Dr. Lustig follows his own advice – he and his family used to go out twice a week for meals but given that you really don’t know what you are being served at most restaurants, he has cut back his meal outings to just once a month.

Want to learn more? Check out Metabolical – this book has over a 1,000 references which could not be printed as it would add 70 more printed pages so he made all the references available on the book’s website.

Your Gut & Weight Loss Connection

Have you heard all the buzz lately about the role that your gut microbiome has on your weight? There’s an ever-growing body of research around this with plenty of evidence for the association between gut bacteria and obesity in both infants and adults. In fact, the microbial changes in your gut can be considered a factor involved in obesity development as modifications to the bacteria in the digestive tract can reshape the metabolic profile. So, if that has you thinking about popping bottles of probiotics or even a fecal transplant to lose that extra baggage, read on…

Awesome bacteria

We have many hundreds of different species of bacteria in our gut and while some are harmful and cause illness, most are necessary for human health. They produce vitamins (like vitamin K) and can help your body fight off invaders. They determine how the foods you eat are digested and can promote satiety. So, having a lot of varied, beneficial bacteria is clearly good for you. This study conducted on human twin subjects showed that the obese twin had lower bacterial diversity compared to the non-obese twin.

The bacteria in your gut can even impact how fats from foods are absorbed and stored in the body. I envision these bacteria running around my gut doing aerobics to burn off the dietary fat I consume so it’s not stored in my thighs.

Sharing awesome bacteria

I am definitely not advocating sharing any fecal matter with anybody (unless you absolutely need a transplant) but this research is part of a growing body of evidence that your gut CAN shape your weight. A fecal microbiota transplant, also known as a stool transplant, is the process of transferring fecal bacteria and other microbes from a healthy individual into another individual. FMT is an effective treatment for C. difficile infection. This study showed that the sharing of thin mice fecal matter prevented the development of increased body mass and obesity-related markers in obese mice mates.

So, how do we cultivate awesome bacteria? As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

  • Fiber

One of the reasons why the whole foods-based approach to eating is recommended is due to its high fiber content. So, it should come as no surprise that studies are showing that people eating a high fiber diet have lower weight. This is not just due to the fact that fiber lowers insulin levels and promotes satiety but also the role that the gut bacteria has in digesting that fiber. This review shows how fermentation of dietary fiber by gut microbiota leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids (butyrate, propionate and acetate) which suppresses inflammation, carcinogenesis and maintains a healthy balance of the digestive tract.

Remember, processed food = no good fiber (cardboard has fiber but your gut won’t process it)

Whole food = good fiber

Eating a diet rich in high-fiber vegetables and fruits will keep the bacteria in your GI tract busy and happy and help you achieve a thin-person gut microbiome. 

If you feel like you need some help as no one has a perfect diet, you can try supplementing with probiotics. There are numerous studies done on various strains of probiotics and its impact on weight loss. Here are a couple for you to check out:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24299712/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25473159/

Strains containing Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have the most evidence for assisting with weight loss – here are ones that have been independently tested for strength and quality:

Lactobacillus:

Bifidobacterium:

  • Flavonoids

Did you know that your gut likes to digest antioxidants commonly found in plants called flavonoids? And that studies have shown that flavonoids can prevent weight gain? Flavonoids are a class of compounds (with six different subtypes) that are rich in antioxidant activity to help ward off inflammation, rid toxins and keep you svelte.

Here is a list of foods rich in flavonoids:
  • Fruits – apples, all berries, peaches, grapefruit, lemons, limes, red and purple grapes
  • Vegetables – broccoli, kale, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, scallions, celery, red peppers
  • Herbs/tea – chamomile, parsley, peppermint, white/green/oolong/black tea
  • And don’t forget dark chocolate!

Heart Disease Fighting Foods

As mentioned in my previous blog, cholesterol is just one factor in a comprehensive approach to managing risks for heart disease. Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, alcohol, smoking, and toxins/pollution have a significant impact on our vascular health. So in this blog, I will highlight some superfoods that you can incorporate into your diet to keep your arteries in tip-top shape. 

Avocados and avocado oil

Avocados are nutrient dense and packed with healthy, monounsaturated fat. In this study, participants who ate an avocado daily had significantly lower levels of oxidized LDL (the kind that clogs up your arteries).

Avocado oil is mild so it doesn’t impart flavor to the food and comes with a high smoke point (over 500F) so it’s a great option for cooking and stir-frying all types of food. I no longer use olive oil for frying as the high cooking temperature can damage the oil. In general, the safest way is to stir-fry the food in water or some broth and then add in oil towards the end to minimize high temperatures.

Here is an avocado oil to try:

Berries

Berries are low in sugar and loaded with disease-fighting phytonutrients like flavonoids and antioxidants. In this study of over 1,200 subjects, regular consumption of berries significantly lowered LDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, fasting glucose levels and Hemoglobin A1c.  What’s not to like about blueberries, raspberries and blackberries? I buy fresh berries in season but most of the time, I opt for frozen – they store well with many varieties available anytime.

Broccoli sprouts

Compared to standard broccoli, broccoli sprouts have 30-50X more glucoraphanin – a known antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic compound. In this study, consumption of high glucoraphanins resulted in significantly reduced LDL. You can find broccoli sprouts in the produce section – they come in a small container by the alfalfa sprouts section. You can add some broccoli sprouts to top off salads or add them to your morning shake. 

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavonoids (powerful antioxidants) due to the high cocoa content and has been proven to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. In this study, an analysis of interventional studies done with dark chocolate/cocoa products showed it reduced low-density LDL and total cholesterol levels. If you love chocolate but don’t want the sugar, try these sugar-free options. I ate these while wearing a continuous glucose monitor and noticed how my blood sugar was smooth and steady even after eating a whole bar!

55% Cacao:

My personal favorite:

70% Cacao:

Fibers from legumes and beans

  • Chickpeas, which are a type of legume, are full of fiber and have been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels and fasting insulin.
  • Lentils are another great plant fiber food. In this study, the substitution of red meat with legumes improved glucose control and cholesterol profiles among diabetic patients. 
  • Other heart-healthy beans to try include kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans and cannellini beans.

Green tea

Green tea is rich in catechins, which are antioxidants (a major active compound is epigallocatechin gallate – EGCG) and have been widely used and studied for reducing inflammation, aiding in weight loss and preventing heart and brain disease. In this clinical trial, subjects treated with green tea extract showed significant reduction in LDL cholesterol and an increase in leptin (the satiety hormone). In this study, daily supplementation with green tea extract improved blood pressure, insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress along with lipid profile.

It’s a superfood with many benefits. In lieu of extracts, I prefer to drink green tea daily. Here are the ones I would try:

Green tea has also been highlighted for fighting diabetes – check out my blog on this topic.  

Konjac root fiber

Konjac plant, or the root, is a Japanese root vegetable that is full of fiber. It has been used by people in East Asia for thousands of years and is mainly grown in Asian countries. Similar looking to an odd-shaped potato (as they come from the same family as potatoes), it contains a fiber called glucomannan – a viscous soluble fiber that is being studied as a dietary intervention for reducing cardiovascular risk. In this study, the use of konjac root significantly lowered LDL cholesterol and non-HDL cholesterol. Did you know that konjac root is used to make noodles and rice? They are called shirataki noodles and are available as a low carb, low calorie substitute for pasta and rice dishes. I use the shirataki noodles to put in soups and the shirataki rice to blend with regular white or brown rice. Here are my favorites:

Spaghetti

Rice

Oat Bran

Oat bran contains high levels of beta-glucan, a viscous, soluble fiber that is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This systematic review showed that oat beta-glucans have a lowering effect on LDL cholesterol and very low density lipoproteins (which are artery clogging) and hence recommended as part of a vascular health dietary regimen. 

Here’s one to try:

Olive Oil

The vascular protective properties of the Mediterranean Diet have been well documented, with the importance of olive oil highlighted in lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes. In this study, consuming at least half a tablespoon of olive oil per day was associated with a 21% lower risk of heart disease. Olive oil, particularly, the extra virgin kind, contains the highest concentrations of polyphenols – the powerful antioxidants which have been shown to reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol, improve HDL cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. 

To insure I’m not ingesting any oxidized olive oil (resulting from high temperature and long storage), I buy olive oil in small quantities and use it as a finishing oil (when stir-frying to minimize heat contact) and for room-temperature dressings and toppings. Unfortunately, the olive oil industry is rife with fakes and oil blends. In a future blog, I’ll share what to look for when buying olive oils. These two have been tested by an independent lab to be pure olive oil and are noted for their high polyphenol content: 

Red Grapefruit

Red grapefruit contains higher quantities of bioactive compounds and higher antioxidant potential than the blond variety. In this study, a diet supplemented with red grapefruit improved lipid levels, triglycerides and serum antioxidant activity.

Salmon

Salmon is fabulous not only for its flavor but also for the high concentrations of heart-protective omega 3 fatty acids. This study has shown that intake of fatty salmon reduced triglycerides and increased HDL cholesterol levels when compared to lean fish (cod). Opt for wild salmon whenever possible as it is higher in minerals and contains less contaminants than farmed salmon (pesticides, PCBs). For convenience, I opt for frozen salmon.

Walnuts

Are you nuts for nuts? How about some walnuts for heart health as they are rich in healthy fats, vitamin E and folate? In this study, inclusion of walnuts in the diet for six months improved endothelial function and LDL cholesterol levels.

How to Prepare for the COVID Vaccine

With vaccine availability now broadening to more groups, you may be wondering what steps you can take to prepare yourself for the shot(s). In this blog, I’ll describe some do’s and don’ts to consider. It’s important to note that these are not short-term solutions but ways to reach optimal health which will support the vaccine response and also protect you from illness.  

Stay away from processed foods

In this peer-reviewed study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, it’s been shown that a food preservative known as tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), commonly used in packaged foods like Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies Treats, Cheez-Its and over 1,000 processed foods, has been found to harm the immune system. Unfortunately, chemicals like TBHQ were approved by the FDA decades ago and there has been no re-assessment of the safety of food chemicals. So, it’s “buyer beware” and all the more reason to stay away from processed foods and eat WHOLE.   

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet

Although there is not enough research to support that anti-inflammatory foods can make the COVID vaccine more effective, in general, it’s a good idea to eat a healthy diet. This earlier study found that increased fruit and vegetable intake improved immune function and antibody response to the pneumonia vaccine. Eating whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish and grass-fed meats with minimal processed foods will generate less inflammation in the body and over the long term, improve immune responsiveness. Also, vegetable oils like corn and soybean oils which are prevalent in processed foods are pro-inflammatory and should be avoided. So, now is a good time to change your habits to “clean eating” to reap the benefits all year long. Here is my earlier blog on some inflammation-fighting super herbs which can be added to your diet.

Cultivate a healthy microbiome

Recent studies suggest that a healthy gut microbiome can increase the immune response to vaccines by modulating immune function and acting as a natural vaccine adjuvant. So to support a diverse and healthy gut microbiome, aim for fiber-rich and fermented foods that will encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. Greens, cruciferous vegetables, yogurts, kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut and kombucha are great options and should be eaten regularly. 

Reduce alcohol and get proper hydration

As good as alcohol may taste going down, in excess, it leads not only to dehydration but a hangover which could exacerbate your vaccination side effects. Excessive and frequent alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections. So keep your drinking to a minimum and stick to non-alcoholic beverages the day before. In addition, make sure you have plenty of fluids to keep you internally moisturized for vaccine day.

Get adequate shut-eye

While there are no formal studies done on the COVID vaccine and sleep, it’s no surprise that the quantity and quality of sleep impact your immune system. So a good night’s sleep will help offset fatigue the next day and prepare your immune system for the shot.

Supplements ideal for balancing your immune system include:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These essential fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating and possible antiviral effects and have been recently studied for their impact on COVID-19 prevention and immune dysregulation. I would suggest getting these fatty acids in whole food form (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines are good options) but if you don’t think you are getting enough in your diet nor a fan of oily fish, you can opt for a supplement. Here’s one to try:

  • Vitamin C:  Recent evidence indicates that oral vitamin C (2-8g/day) may reduce the incidence and duration of the respiratory infection. In this study, the use of intravenous vitamin C (6-24g/day) has been shown to reduce mortality and ventilator time and is suggested as the adjunctive therapy for COVID-19. Here are two to try that have been third-party tested:
    • Powder form: https://www.vitacost.com/solaray-vitamin-c-powder
      If you don’t normally take vitamin C, start out with half a teaspoon first and gradually increase to avoid any trips to the bathroom. I prefer the powder form as it is inexpensive and I can dose as I need.
    • Liposomal form: More expensive but easy on the tummy:

  • Vitamin D3: Over the past year, it has been noted that people with low levels of vitamin D were more vulnerable to COVID-19 with higher morbidities. This recent study assessed the role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of COVID-19. Vitamin D is known to reduce the concentration of pro-inflammatory cytokines, increase levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines, enhance the production of natural antimicrobial peptides and activates defensive cells that could destroy COVID-19. Here are several in various dosages:

  • B-complex: A good B-complex can be a part of your arsenal for keeping the immune system healthy and fighting off inflammation. Although studies have not yet been done on COVID-19, this study has shown the influence of the B vitamins (B1,B2,B3,B5,B6 and B12) in lowering proinflammatory cytokines and increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines. Here are a couple to try:

  • Zinc: Commonly used to combat colds, zinc is known to bolster the immune system. In a study conducted in Spain, they found that patients who had higher levels of zinc were more likely to survive COVID-19 than those with lower levels. Here are several verified options:

Regardless of what precautions you take and preparations you make, however, the main thing to remember is that even after you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more.