4 Root Causes of Low Mood & Depression

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Low mood and depression are increasingly at an alarming rate in today's modern society. The Center for Disease Control shows 10% of people suffer from depression, but in clinical practice people struggle with low mood at much higher rates in today's constantly connected world seemingly fuelled by processed foods. The World Health Organization has estimated that by the year 2050, one-third of the global population will suffer from either anxiety or depression. This is a moind-boggling statistic. How is this possible? Why are we more prone to depression today than in generations past? As with any complex condition, multiple underlying factors conspire to create an environment where low mood and depression can thrive. Let’s look at a few common root causes to better understand how things go wrong at a cellular and hormonal level. 

#1 BLOOD SUGAR AND INSULIN DYSFUNCTION

Today, 75% of the North American population are classified as overweight or obese. While the annual consumption of processed and simple sugars has dropped a little over the past few years, it's still incredibly high at 100-140 lb. of sugar per person. Combined with the over-consumption of processed carbs and alcohol and you've got five of the top six foods in the American diet; desserts (grain-based), breads, processed chicken, soda pop and energy drink, alcohol and pizza. This leads to an excessive caloric intake, which is further exacerbated by these hyper-palatable foods, meaning the cycle continues over and over again. When your cells are constantly flooded with excess energy, they eventually say "enough is enough" and refuse to take in more energy. This is the state of insulin resistance and further down the road diabetes (type-2). 

How does this relate to mood? Research from Scandinavia has uncovered a clear association between elevated HbA1c - a three-month average of you blood sugar levels - and insulin levels with increased risk of depression. They found that young men with insulin resistance were three times more likely to suffer from severe depression.(1) Another study in Diabetes Care of over 4,000 people showed depressive symptoms were highly associated with higher fasting and 30-minute insulin levels.(2) The authors specifically noted that antidepressant medications did not alter this association because the medications target neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin, dopamine) and do not address blood sugar and insulin dysfunction. Improving blood sugars and insulin control is an important first step for reducing your risk for low mood and depression.

#2 CHRONIC & SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION

Inflammation is another potential root cause of low mood. Low-grade systemic inflammation leads to the over-production of pro-inflammatory cytokines that are also associated with depression.(3) The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine recently published a review of the growing connection between chronic inflammation and the development of today’s most common chronic diseases, including depression.(4) The current medical literature tells us that if you are overweight or obese, you likely have low-grade systemic inflammation.(5) This shouldn't be a surprise, as inflammation is "upstream" of blood sugar and insulin dysfunction. A diet rooted in traditional foods - rich in animal protein, healthy fats and antioxidants - will help to cool inflammation and reduce the damaging effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced during the inflammatory response. Polyphenols found in coffee, dark chocolate (even red wine!), as well as vegetables are great sources of anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Extra-long chain omega-3 fats DHA and EPA also exert powerful anti-inflammatory effects and a poor omega-3 to omega-6 fats ratio is also associated with a chronic stress state and increased risk of depression.(6)

#3 GUT DYSFUNCTION & DYSBIOSIS

The gut microbiota - commonly referred to as your microbiome - plays a key role in your mental health through its constant communication with the brain via the vagus nerve. Key neurotransmitters targeted by medications for improving symptoms of depression – serotonin and dopamine – are actually produced in the greatest concentrations in the gut (not the brain). This gut:axis is highlighted by research showing that if you are overweight, you're at much greater risk of poor zonulin function, a key molecule that regulates gut permeability.(7) Poor zonulin function leads to symptoms of a leaky gut, leading to a pro-inflammatory environment that creates the cytokine storm that contributes to low mood and depression. You don’t need to be overweight to suffer from leaky gut. If you travel across multiple time zones, consume alcohol excessively, or chronically rely on NSAIDs – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – like ibuprofen and naproxen you'll be much more prone to leaky gut and chronic worsen inflammation.(8,9) A dietary approach rooted in traditional foods - animal protein, healthy fats, vegetables and unprocessed carbohydrates - will help to keep blood sugar levels balanced and support a healthy gut microbiota, thus keeping systemic inflammation and low mood at bay.  

#4 A SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE

Movement is a critical component of mental health and wellbeing. Long, busy workdays make it difficult to find time to exercise, however it should be a foundation of every mental health plan. A recent meta-analysis of 92 studies on more than 4,310 people showed that light to moderate exercise significantly reduced the incidence of depression.(10) Try adding 15-20 minute walks at lunch or the end of your day to increase your activity level.

Strength training can also play a key role in mental health. Basic movements like squatting, lunging, bending, pushing, and pulling are deeply engrained in our DNA and exert tremendous positive benefit on multiple systems of the body: improving blood sugars and insulin, reducing inflammation, boosting testosterone (low levels have been associated with depression), and supporting healthy gut flora. If you’re not active, start slowly with 10-20 minutes of strength training 2-3 times weekly and focus on bodyweight type movements.

There is no “magic bullet” to fix depression. It’s a complex multi-factorial condition that is impacted by numerous systems of the body. From a biochemistry and physiology standpoint,  addressing root causes like blood sugar and insulin dysfunction, chronic inflammation, dysbiosis and leaky gut and maintaining an active lifestyle are great places to start so you can raise the playing field. (It's also important to consult a qualified mental health professional to address the underlying emotional root-causes). Take control of your mental health by making the small changes to your nutrition, movement and lifestyle so you can get back to feeling your best. Many people and athletes alike experience low mood and depression, you're not alone.

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

Want to learn more? High blood sugar and insulin levels are strongly associated with depression. Listen to diabetes expert Dr. Jason Fung MD in Episode #15.

 

 

REFERENCES

1. Timonen. M et al. Insulin resistance and depressive symptoms in young adult males: Findings from Finnish military conscripts. Psychosom Med 69(8):723-28.

2. Pyykkonen AJ et al. Depressive symptoms, antidepressant medication use, and insulin resistance: the PPP-Botnia Study. Diabetes Care. 2011 Dec;34(12):2545-7.

3. Felger J, Lotrich FE. Inflammatory cytokines in depression: neurobiological mechanisms and therapeutic implications. Neuroscience. 2013 Aug 29;246:199-229.

4. Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration. Diabetes mellitus, fasting glucose, and risk of cause-specific death. New England Journal Medicine, Mar 2011;364;9:328-341.

5. G. S. Hotamisligil, N. S. Shargill, and B. M. Spiegelman, “Adipose expression of tumor necrosis factor-α: direct role in obesity-linked insulin resistance,” Science, vol. 259, no. 5091, pp. 87–91, 1993.

6. Larrieu T, et al. Nutritional omega-3 modulates neuronal morphology in the prefrontal cortex along with depression-related behaviour through corticosterone secretion. Transl Psychiatry. 2014 Sep 9;4:e437.

7. Moreno-Navarrete JM et al. Circulating zonulin, a marker of intestinal permeability, is increased in association with obesity-associated insulin resistance.. PLos One 2012;7(5):e37160.

8. VanWijck K et al. Aggravation of exercise-induced intestinal injury by Ibroprofen in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Dec;44(12):2257-62.

9. Matsui H et al. The pathophysiology of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-induced mucosal injuries in stomach and small intestine. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2011 Mar;48(2):107-11.

10. Rebar A, et al. A Meta-Meta-Analysis of the effect of physical activity on depression and anxiety in non-clinical adult populations. Health Psychol Rev. 2015 Mar 5:1-78.

3 New Years Resolutions for Weight Loss (That Actually Work)

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It’s the New Year and the number one resolution on most people’s list is to trim their waistline and lose a few pounds.  After a festive holiday break, it’s easy to consume a few too many tasty treats or festive drinks. Unfortunately, the calories and the pounds start to add up. The natural tendency is to want to completely overhaul your eating habits and exercise routine to kick-start your weight loss. Unfortunately, most people fall short of their new goals before the end of the month and research shows only 5-10% lose weight and hold it off by the end of the year. 

The key to long-term successful weight loss is to focus on weight loss principles and not get too lost in the latest fads (although, if a fad motivates you to get started, by all means!). Let's review two key underling principles of weight loss; caloric restriction and compliance. The common theme amongst all types of diet, regardless if its LCHF, Keto, Paleo, Vegan, IIFYM, the Cabbage Soup diet (yes, a real thing) is a caloric deficit. Ironically, if you chase artificial sweeteners and zero-fat foods you likely won't see the progress you're after. Far easier to adopt a method that gets you naturally into a caloric deficit and focuses on real food. Next, on the compliance side of things, once again it doesn't matter what type of diet you start, if you can't stick to it you're going to fail. Compliance is fundamental to success. 

In this article, I've review three methods my overweight and obese clients have adopted with a high degree of success to support acute and long-term weight loss; low-carb breakfast, no snacking and HIIT training. You can jump in with both feet and adopt all three, or drip-feed them in to suit your schedule. (There is a lot more nuance than these three steps, but it's a great place to start if you're looking simple, effective methods for success). Let's take a closer look.

#1 Adopt A Low-Carb Breakfast

If you’re overweight, out of shape, or in poor health you're more than likely in a caloric excess.  Your body will be stuck in "storage" mode due to the excess of calories, converting them efficiently body-fat and unfortunately blocking your ability to tap into your own fat stores for fuel ( a big problem if you're trying to lose weight). The research shows 5 out of top 6 calorically dense foods in the North American diet come in the form of mainly processed carbohydrates; grain-based desserts, breads and cereals, soda pop, pizza and alcohol. If you start your day with the conventional high-carb breakfast, the hormonal signals telling your body to "store" your energy as fat will ramp up (i.e. insulin), putting the brakes on your ability to burn your own body-fat for fuel. Research shows that chronically high blood sugar levels and poor insulin sensitivity contribute to increased risk of weight gain diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, dementia and alzheimer’s.(1,2,3

A simple and effective strategy to reduce your caloric intake and improve your blood sugar control is to ditch your high-carb breakfast in favor of a higher protein and fat alternative. For example, poached eggs with avocado and cherry tomatoes or plain yogurt with berries and walnuts are great breakfast options, even if you’re busy and on the go. If you prefer breakfast smoothies, add 30-40g of protein along with a source of dietary fat (e.g. avocado or coconut oil), keep fruit to a minimum (i.e. ½ cup) and remember to use water as the base rather than juice to keep the carb and calorie count to a minimum.

The added protein you naturally achieve in a low-carb breakfast is one of the major reasons why this strategy is often so effective; helping to keep you full and satiated, as well as boosting metabolism due to its higher thermic effect of food (a fancy way of saying it "costs more" for your body to metabolize and process the protein you eat).  It also provides a more nutrient-dense food option, supplying you with key vitamins and minerals to support overall health. 

#2 Ditch The Snacks

You've probably heard the common refrain that eating lots of small meals throughout the day supports weight loss via increasing your metabolism. Context is crucial when considering this generic piece of advice. Like most things in life, the answer isn’t black and white. A recent meta-analysis review over the last 50 years in overweight people (i.e. general population) found eating multiple meals throughout the day (i.e. snacking) did NOT increase their metabolism and did NOT improve their weight loss.(4) In fact, they often gain weight! Lean protein snacks can be beneficial, but in an office setting you probably don’t have chicken breasts, steaks and salmon fillets tucked away in your desk drawers to snack on. Processed carbs and sugary treats tend to dominate the snack options, and these types of foods are hyper-palatable, leading to over-consumption. In fact, research shows overweight individuals can often trigger greater weight loss with fewer meals, rather than constantly grazing throughout the day.(5) (Remember, you still need three meals a day, as dropping to only two will slow metabolism and hinder weight loss.(6)

This New Year, a simple strategy to support effective, long-term weight loss is to ditch the snacks at your desk and re-focus your energy on eating three “high-quality” square meals throughout the day (just like your grandparents used to!). At first, you may struggle with some cravings, so feel free to add coffee (only in AM) or tea as caffeine helps to curb cravings, or a glass of water between meals (mineral water works great) to help prevent the negative impacts of "distracted eating" in this article.

(Note - If you're an athlete or bodybuilder and training frequently, eating multiple meals throughout the day - with protein at each meal - can definitely help optimize training adaptations and body composition. More on this in a future post.)

#3 Add More High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

In January, gyms across the country are full of people doing steady-state cardio in an attempt to lose weight. While a properly periodized plan from a coach can definitely help you get fitter and leaner, most people tend to do the same routine every time they train and this type of “chronic cardio” strategy is a major roadblock to weight loss success. Over time, you burn fewer and ferwe calories to perform the same exercise bout. You're not getting fitter and you're not getting leaner. The solution is more efficiency (not more miles on the treadmill). The research shows that short, intense bursts of HIIT exercise can produce powerful changes in body composition and is far more time-efficient than steady-state cardio. That’s right, HIIT helps build a greater VO2 max (a reliable marker for aerobic fitness), can burn more calories than traditional cardio and is just as good as for your heart as steady-state aerobic training. It's a time-efficient way to get your movement i

The Bottomline: You don't have to completely overhaul your life to achieve your goals. Embrace your New Year's resolutions this year and get back to the fundamentals to achieve success;  adopt a low-carb breakfast and ditch the snacks to achieve a caloric deficit and better sustained energy (and satiety), and add HIIT training to improve your cardiovascular fitness and capacity to burn fat. 

What will your legacy be this New Year? The answer is much simpler than you think. It’s not about finding the best new exercise regime or trendiest diet, but rather transforming your old habits that hold you back and transform them into new “good” habits that promote weight loss. Make small changes that you can sustain over the long run.  Building new habits will enable you to achieve your weight loss and health goals this year and before you know it, you will be set up for long-term success and a better body this year!

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, MS(c), CISSN, CSCS

Want to learn more about weight loss principles? Listen to Danny Lennon MS talk weight loss in Season 2, Episode 1 of the Dr. Bubbs Performance Podcast.

Ready for more in-depth support? Check out my FREE WEIGHT LOSS E-BOOK, a full 14-day guide on what to eat, how to move, and how to upgrade your sleep and lifestyle to kick-start weight loss.

5 Reasons You're Always Sick (And How To Prevent It!)

5 Reasons You're Always Sick (And How To Prevent It!)

As summer comes to an end and we move into fall, cold and flu season beings. Chronic congestion, runny noses, fatigue and germs start to spread easily through training facilities, locker rooms, offices, and daycares as we move indoors during the colder, darker and shorter days of winter.

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Does Red Wine Make You Healthier? 11 Factors To Consider

Does Red Wine Make You Healthier? 11 Factors To Consider

Red wine has been consumed for centuries, dating all the way back to 7,000 BC in China and 4,500 BC in Greece, and when Rome conquered Greece it became embedded into Roman culture. Not surprisingly, it became a huge part of the Southern European lifestyle in countries along the mediterranean, whom still typically consume wine with meals. More recently, in the 1980s the term "French Paradox" attempted to explain why the French had the lowest incidences of cardiovascular disease despite a high-fat diet (see Nina's Teicholz expert podcast for the full story) and regular intake of antioxidant-rich red wine was thought to be a factor.

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Salt - Evil Additive or Essential Nutrient?

Salt - Evil Additive or Essential Nutrient?

Salt has been a highly valuable commodity throughout the history of mankind — so revered that terms like “worth their salt” are used widely to describe a person’s integrity. Yet today, every newspaper, magazine, and blog seems to be telling us to avoid salt like the plague!

With all the conflicting information, it’s no wonder one of the most common questions I get asked by patients and athletes...

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Late-Night Eating: The Modern Circadian Mismatch

Late-Night Eating: The Modern Circadian Mismatch

Renowned evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky said “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”[1] Throughout our evolution, we have lived in daily cycles of light and dark. These cycles have led to the development of natural circadian rhythms that impact many aspects of our health and vitality.

Circadian rhythms are triggered by the bright light stimulus in the morning and darkness in the evening. The hypothalamus area of the brain – specifically the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) – is the master regulator, synchronising the body’s circadian clock based on information it receives from photoreceptors in the eyes in response to light [2]. The impacts of circadian rhythm are wide-reaching:

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What's The Best Marker For Improving Cancer Survival?

What's The Best Marker For Improving Cancer Survival?

Every year, there are 14 million new cancer cases diagnosed globally and diagnoses are expected to increase by 70% in the next 20 years. These staggering statistics highlight just how pervasive cancer is in our society; everyone has a friend, loved one or colleague affected by cancer. On the bright side, your genetics accounts for only 5-10% of your actual cancer risk, whereas diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors impact the overwhelming majority of your cancer protection. So, what can you start doing today to help upgrade your cancer protection?

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3 Ways Gut Bacteria Can Harm Your Thyroid

3 Ways Gut Bacteria Can Harm Your Thyroid

Today, approximately 30 million people are struggling with a thyroid problem and many more are undiagnosed. Women are much more affected by thyroid problems, compared to men, with one out of eight impacted in their lifetime and the likelihood increases as you age. Alarmingly, while most cancer diagnoses are on the decline over the past decade, thyroid cancer rates have been increasing. The obvious question to ask is why are thyroid conditions becoming so commonplace? Like most chronic and degenerative conditions it's multi-factorial, and one key factor affecting your thyroid health is your gut bacteria, also known as the microbiome.

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3 Ways Camping Can Reboot Your Circadian Rhythms

3 Ways Camping Can Reboot Your Circadian Rhythms

Sleep problems seem to be the “new normal” these days. Most of the clients I see in clinical practice complain of difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep regularly throughout the week. Sleep quality isn’t the only problem. The average person gets a mere 6.5 hours of sleep per night (a far cry from the 8 hours our grandparents slept two generations ago) and over 33% of the population get less than 6 hours per night. New research shows lack of sleep is also a major factor contributing to blood sugar, insulin imbalances and chronic disease (not to mention poor athletic performance), so rebooting your sleep and recovery are critical. It seems late nights watching iPads, working on your laptop, or scrolling social media is dramatically changing our modern sleep patterns.

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6 Winter Foods That Boost Your Health

 6 Winter Foods That Boost Your Health

This time of year, it seems like every time you turn on the TV or open up Facebook, someone is talking about tips and tricks for staying healthy during the winter months. And while being a stickler about hand washing, disinfecting your workspace, and getting plenty of rest is excellent advice for avoiding seasonal colds, one area you cannot—I repeat, cannot—neglect is your diet.

If a strong, high-functioning immune system is your goal, then consuming quality, nutrient-dense foods needs to be a keystone in your game plan.

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Longevity "Secret" of Modern Day Hunter-Gatherers

Longevity "Secret" of Modern Day Hunter-Gatherers

It's the start of another New Year. Gyms across the country are filled with "new joiners" hitting the treadmills, weights and fitness classes to lose weight and upgrade their health. Unfortunately, after a few months most people lost interest and motivation. The research shows that only one out of 10 people who lose weight will keep it off by the end of the year. This begs the question, why can't people stick to their routines, is it simply a matter of poor will power? Not likely.

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What To Do If You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

What To Do If You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

It’s that time of year again. The darkest and shortest days of the year don’t just bring about cold weather; they can also bring about significant changes in your mood and how you feel. 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real thing that affects over 10 million Americans, with another 10-20 million said to struggle with mild symptoms.

If you live in a city with a true winter climate – like New York, Toronto, or London – you’re up to 10 times more likely to struggle with mild to moderate SAD. Also, adolescents and young adults are more likely to be affected.

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Eczema - 3 Causes & 10 Natural Treatments

Eczema - 3 Causes & 10 Natural Treatments

Do you struggle with chronic eczema or regular flare-ups throughout the year? You’re not alone.

Over 31 million Americans suffer from atopic dermatitis, the medical term for eczema, and over half of these people have moderate to severe conditions. Eczema is an inflammatory skin disease that causes dry, itchy and thickened skin that typically appears on the flexor surfaces of your body (crooks of your elbows or back of your knees). It’s not just an irritating skin condition; it also severely impacts your quality of life and psychological well-being. 

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Promoting Calcium Balance Health on a Paleo Diet (Easier Than You Think)

When you talk about calcium, the conversation typically shifts quickly over to bone health and osteoporosis.

There’s a reason: the ingrained fear of bone loss is very real.

The US Surgeon General’s Report states that one out of two people over the age of 50 either has osteoporosis or is at risk of developing it.1 In fact, osteoporosis accounts for more hospital days for women over 45 than diabetes, heart attacks or breast cancer. Further, fragility fractures are the leading cause of hospitalization in adults over 65.(2,3)

These staggering statistics lead most people, including many doctors and nutritionists, to think that the best strategy to protect against osteoporosis and fractures is to supplement with calcium. Unfortunately, this strategy falls well short.26

The problem is that the solution doesn’t lie in one “all-star” mineral – calcium.

Rather, as Christopher James Clark explained in the  of this calcium series, a healthy calcium balance requires a “team effort” from a variety of  micronutrients – magnesium, vitamins D and K, and potassium. A balance of these nutrients is needed to support bone and heart health, hormone regulation, muscle function and the numerous other benefits often attributed solely to calcium.

So, with this team approach in mind, let’s explore how to maximize your calcium balance with a healthy Paleo diet:

The Concern Over Calcium Recommendations

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium is 1,000mg (for adults aged 19-50), and increases to 1,200mg in females over 50 and both men and women seniors aged 71.4 Incredibly, only about 30% of the population achieves the recommended dietary intake for calcium and the majority is derived from dairy.5

One the most common questions people ask when they start a Paleo diet is “where will I get my calcium without consuming any dairy products?” It’s been so ingrained in our psyche since we were young to drink milk for strong bones, that the thought of omitting milk and dairy can be daunting.

Focusing on Calcium as an All-Star: The Wrong Approach

New Paleo dieters concerned about getting their 1,000-1,200mg RDA of calcium often turn to supplements. But the research is mixed on the benefits, and newer studies show supplemental calcium may actually increase your risk of vascular calcification and heart attack.(6,7)

Others choose to keep some dairy in their diets. But from an evolutionary perspective, the consumption of dairy foods is relatively new, with the domestication of cattle, sheep and goats occurring only about 10,000 years ago.(8)

Cow’s milk has a very different nutrient profile compared to human milk, with approximately four times more calcium and a calcium to magnesium ratio of 10:1. This ratio is much greater than the 3:1-2:1 ratio seen in ancestral diets rich in fish, seafood and green vegetables and has been shown to disrupt magnesium balance in the body.(10)

Further, milk may not have the benefits the dairy industry wants you to believe. A recent meta-analysis study of over 195,000 women and 75,000 men found that low milk intake was not associated with increased hip fractures and that increased intake of dairy was not associated with protection against hip fractures.(11) 

Focusing on the Micronutrient Team: The Right Approach to Calcium Balance

The benefit of a Paleo diet is that instead of simplistically seeking to increase calcium intake it naturally supports the ideal ratios of the other key micronutrients required for maximum calcium absorption and retention.

Christopher Clark provides a great  of the various micronutrient players. Let’s take a look at how to balance this team with a Paleo diet:

Your sodium intake plays a key role in calcium retention. The two minerals share some of the same transport systems in the kidneys. Diets high in sodium (typically from processed foods) lead to greater sodium intake and thus calcium excretion.12 Actually, it’s the potassium to sodium ratio that is crucial for calcium retention. The standard American diet (SAD) is shockingly low in potassium and high in sodium – the potassium to sodium ratio of the American diet is typically 10-fold lower than evolutionary diets.(13)

Focusing on vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, fish and seafood (over processed foods) that are naturally much higher in potassium and lower in sodium will help the body conserve calcium more effectively.(14)

Vitamin D often gets ignored when it comes to bone health, but it may actually be the better predictor of bone mineral density, particularly in women with low levels.15 The sun is far and away your best source of vitamin D, with just 15-30 minutes of sun exposure in the spring and summer months providing enough vitamin D to achieve blood levels of 30-40ng/dL – the currently accepted ideal range.(16)

If you live in a northern city in the winter months, you’ll likely need to supplement 2,000 IU of a vitamin D daily to maintain your levels (read more Vitamin D: One of the Few Supplements Paleo Dieters May Need).

The forgotten fat-soluble vitamin K operates in sync with the other fat-soluble vitamins like D to maintain healthy calcium balance in the body. Low Vitamin K levels (common with blood-thinning drugs like warfarin) can predispose you to decreased bone density, fractures, and increased vascular calcification.(17,18)

There are different forms of vitamin K. Phylloquinone (vitamin K1) is found in green leafy vegetables like kale, collards, mustard greens, parsley, spinach, and Swiss chard.  Menaquinone (vitamin K2) is found in the fat of pastured-raised meats and fermented foods.19 K2 is more protective for bone and heart health. It is naturally produced in your gut, where K1 is converted to K2 by “good” bacteria.

Supplemental vitamin K can be taken in conjunction with vitamin D at 50mcg per 2,000 IU of vitamin D.

Paleo-Friendly Calcium-Rich Foods

It’s still important to make sure you are getting adequate calcium in your Paleo diet. The main dietary source of our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors was animal bones and cold-water fish. Sardines and salmon with skin and bones provides 250mg and 240mg of calcium respectively per 3.5 oz. serving.(20) Mackerel and anchovies are your next best bet with about 200mg per serving.

Spinach, kale, collard and turnip greens are also calcium powerhouses, providing about 200-250mg per cup.21 Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and brussels sprouts are the next best source with one cup providing 60mg each. Tahini (sesame seed butter) provides 130mg per 2 tbsp, and almonds 93mg per ¼ cup.(21)

If your sweet tooth strikes, a medium orange contains 60mg of calcium and a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses incredibly gives you 170mg of calcium.(21)

A sample day might look like salmon (3.5 oz) and spinach (1 cup) for lunch, followed by and orange snack and kale (2 cups) for dinner and you’ve already achieved 800mg of calcium. Not only that, you’ve also boosted your intake of the rest of the calcium team – potassium, magnesium, vitamin K and D for superior bioavailability and better calcium retention.

Finally, as Christopher Clark says, you shouldn’t be concerned about the effects of a high-protein Paleo diet on your calcium balance. High protein diets have been shown to actually support bone anabolism by boosting IGF-1 and to be superior to vegetarian and vegan diets when it comes to increasing bone mass and reducing fracture rates(.23,24,25)

Calcium gets the spotlight when it comes to bone health, but the calcium story gets quite complex when you take into account its bioavailability and all the key players. It’s not just how much you eat, but also how much you absorb and how much your body retains. The reality is it’s a team effort to support strong bones, protect your heart and provide the numerous benefits of calcium in the body.

The good news is the solution doesn’t need to be complex. A food-based approach, the hallmark of a Paleo diet, is the ideal platform for optimal calcium status. Eat your greens, include regular fish and consume adequate protein to achieve your ideal daily intake of calcium (850-1,100mg) to support strong bone and heart health by following the blueprint from our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

(This article originally appeared on Loren Cordain's ThePaleoDiet.com)

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

 

Check out more articles in the "VITAMIN DEFICIENCY" SERIES...

The Problem With Standard Diabetes Advice (And How To Fix It)

Are you currently struggling with pre-diabetes or diabetes (type-2)? You’re not alone. Today, one out of every two Americans either has pre-diabetes or diabetes (type-2), which puts you at greater risk of heart attack and stroke, cancer, alzheimer’s disease, kidney damage, and chronic nerve pain. (1)

Do you feel like your health isn’t improving, and you’ll be stuck on your medications for life? It’s not your fault. Unfortunately, even if you precisely follow the guidelines laid out by the American Diabetic Association (ADA), you’ll likely struggle to ever reverse your condition.

How is this struggle possible? Shouldn’t following the advice from the “experts” help you restore your health and vitality? Sadly, that’s frequently not the case. Let me explain:

Proteins, Carbs, and Fats

All the foods you eat can be lumped into three categories: proteins, carbs, and fats. Hands down, carbs have the greatest impact on your insulin and blood-sugar levels. Proteins have only a modest impact, while fats have virtually no impact at all. If you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, the excess sugars (i.e., carbs) in your blood are at toxically high levels and making you sick.

The blood-sugar hormone insulin is responsible for shuttling the food you eat (primarily carbohydrates) into your cells, which gives you energy. If you consume a high-carb or high-sugar diet (or you’re out of shape), your body is not very efficient at this process. Therefore, it must pump out more and more insulin to do the same job. If you’re pre-diabetic or diabetic, the dysfunction becomes even more pronounced.

When you eat a high-carb diet, your body has a hard time converting food to energy.

So if carbs are the greatest contributor to insulin and blood-sugar dysfunction (and thus diabetes), surely the recommendation would be to follow a low-carb diet, right? Wrong.

The ADA confirms that the single biggest factor impacting blood-sugar levels is carbohydrates, yet it doesn’t recommend a low-carb diet over a low-fat approach—despite mounting evidence. Astonishingly, their recommendations suggest that diabetics consume 40-60g of carbs per meal, plus more while snacking. What? That would amount to over 200g carbohydrates per day for diabetics. And the average intake for most Americans would be a whopping 450g per day! (2)

The problem starts when things get so bad you need medications. If you’re taking a drug to manage your blood-sugar levels, you MUST eat more carbohydrates to avoid the side effects of the medications. Ironically, you need to consume more of what’s causing your problem in the first place; that worsens your condition in the long term, and leaves you stuck on medications for the rest of your life. There is a better way.

Diabetes is a “food” disease, and lowering your carbohydrate intake is crucial. By simply reducing your carb intake, you can dramatically reduce insulin levels and improve your blood-sugar level in a matter of weeks.

Research about the effects of low-carb diets on diabetics shows dramatic improvements in blood-sugar and insulin levels, as well as key health markers (e.g., inflammation, triglycerides, and “bad” LDL cholesterol).

In 2015, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the difference between low-carb and high-carb diets in 115 obese type-II diabetics—over the course of 52 weeks. The low-carb diet beat the high-carb approach (i.e., the ADA’s recommended diet) in EVERY category: weight loss, blood-sugar control, reduction of diabetes medication, and improved cardiovascular health. (3) When you reduce your carbohydrate intake, your insulin levels improve very quickly (which is the root cause of your diabetes).

Reduce your carb intake to improve insulin levels and your overall health.

One of the biggest risk factors for heart attacks is insulin dysfunction (i.e., pre-diabetes or diabetes). People with diabetes are 42% more likely to die of a heart attack. A meta-analysis review examined the benefits of a low-carb diet on cardiovascular disease (CVD) from 20 different studies, which included over 3,000 people. A low-carb, high-fat, high-protein diet showed the greatest improvements in CVD markers; it also triggered the best blood-sugar control and weight loss, and it improved “good” HDL cholesterol.(4)

Furthermore, Harvard Medical School also had a recent finding: White breads, cereals, and processed carbs promoted significant elevations in markers of systemic inflammation in overweight individuals—which worsens every chronic disease condition.(5)

But the negative impacts of excess carb intake on insulin dysfunction and health don’t stop there. Most (if not all) individuals struggling with insulin dysfunction also have significant belly fat, which is also strongly associated with increased inflammation and damage to the lining of the gut; this increases the likelihood of intestinal permeability or leaky gut, (6) places a tremendous burden on your immune system, and can predispose you to autoimmune conditions (e.g., thyroid problems).

The solution to the problem is getting your insulin levels back on track, and the best way to do that is to adopt a low-carb diet.

Carbohydrates are NOT an essential nutrient. You need to consume foods with proteins and fats every day because your body cannot make them from its own internal machinery. Your body can make glucose (i.e., carbs) from protein and fats. In fact, you could actually eat ZERO CARBS and survive. While this tactic isn’t my recommendation, it highlights how the body requires proteins and fats for survival—but not starchy carbohydrates (e.g., breads, pastas, and potatoes).

With one out of two Americans pre-diabetic or diabetic, it’s fair to say that the overconsumption of carbs and simple sugars is rampant in today’s society.

The Problem with the Typical American Breakfast & How to Fix It

It’s not easy shaking a dependency on carbohydrates. Your hormones are geared to leave you constantly craving food, specifically carbs and simple sugars (unfortunately, not broccoli and grass-fed beef).

Tragically, we wait for disease to take root, then try to fix it. A mandate to reverse type-II diabetes is nowhere to be found in the ADA guidelines. Diabetes is a food-based disease, which requires a food-based solution. A low-carb, high-fat diet has the power to reverse your diabetes, restore your health, and get you off a lifelong dependency on medications. (And best of all, it’s absolutely delicious!)

If you want to reverse insulin dysfunction and diabetes, start with breakfast.

The typical American breakfast is ideal for promoting insulin dysfunction and diabetes; it places a dramatic emphasis on carbs, carbs, and more carbs! You don’t need cereals, juices, toast, or muesli to be sharp and energetic at work. Remove all starchy carbs and juices at breakfast (i.e., all breads, cereals, bagels, muesli, and orange juice).

Ditch the cereal and start your day with eggs, avocado and berries.

Instead, consume at least two eggs (with the yolks, which contain all 13 essential nutrients and fantastic fats). Combine it with some avocado and a handful of berries or a slice of melon. Alternatively, try plain coconut-milk yogurt with added walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and berries. Or go the smoothie route, and combine a low-carb protein powder (20-30g) with avocado, frozen berries (1/2 cup), and water.

All of these options are low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein. That’s the perfect combination for correcting a blood-sugar imbalance.

Once you achieve a compliance of 6 out of 7 breakfasts, shift your focus to lunch. Adopt a similar, low-carb, high-fat lunch. In other words, replace all breads, pastas, rice, and potatoes with leafy greens, veggies, and small amounts of fruit. Then once you’ve achieved a compliance rate of 6 out of 7 lunches, transform your dinner to complete the regiment.

Start Slow for Long-Term Success

You could jump in with both feet, and attack all meals every day. But in my experience, those who’ve struggled in the long term to achieve success do best by slowly integrating the changes. In terms of compliance, it’s much easier. And it’ll help you build new nutrition habits; that’s the secret to reversing your blood-sugar dysfunction or diabetes, and achieving long-term success.

The current medical system is phenomenal for acute care and emergencies. However, it woefully falls short, in terms of preventing chronic disease. Don’t wait for a disease to take root, then try to fix it. Diabetes is a food-based disease. Change your diet (i.e., reduce carbs), and you’ll quickly improve your insulin dysfunction and blood-sugar control—even if it means going against the grain.

(This article originally appeared @Paleohacks)

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

(Note: If you currently suffer from diabetes (type-2), find a doctor in your area that supports a low-carb approach. Then you can reverse your condition.)

Want to learn more? Listen to obesity and diabetes expert Dr. Jason Fung MD talk "Nutrition & Fasting" to reverse diabetes on the Dr. Bubbs Performance Podcast...

Reduce Omega-6s (and Increase Omega-3s) for Better Health & Performance

If there’s one area where the nutrition media seems to sing a different and more confusing tune every week, it’s with their messages about fats.

Low fat was good for us, now it’s not. Saturated fats may not be the heart-clogging poison we thought. And what exactly are trans fats? It’s enough to make us throw our hands in the air and reach for the nearest burger.

Fortunately, one message has been consistent: omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are extremely beneficial for your overall health.  

The problem is, not all sources of omega-3 fatty acids are created equal.

In fact, in his recent post on multi-generational vegetarians, Christopher Clark explained how poorly the most common plant source of Omega-3s, called DHA, is converted to the form that we use, called EPA. It’s EPA which exerts the majority of the potent benefits of omega-3 fats.

But that’s only half of the story. While omega-3’s benefit our health, too much consumption of its counterpart, omega-6 EFAs, increases circulating levels of inflammatory arachidonic acid (AA) which can promote heart disease, cancer and most chronic diseases. 1

Unfortunately, our bodies can more readily convert omega-6 fatty acids to AA. Especially among some multi-generational vegetarians. That’s why, for optimal health, it’s not enough to just increase your variety of DHA and EPA-rich foods. You need to reduce your intake of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats as well.  

Decrease Your Omega-6 Intake

The balance of omega-6 to omega-3 is critically important and unfortunately today’s modern diet is loaded with omega-6 fats. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of ancestral hunter-gatherer diets was approximately 2:1-3:1, whereas today’s ratio is around 10:1 to 20:1 (and higher among vegetarians). 2

Many people aren’t even aware they consume as much Omega-6 fatty acid as they do. It’s hidden in processed and convenience foods, used in most restaurants (even the expensive ones!) and in your favorite midday treat.

Vegetable and cooking oils are the most common sources. The following is a list of common omega-6 rich oils:

Oil - Omega-6 (%):Omega-3 (%)

Safflower- 75:0%

Sunflower- 65:0%

Corn - 54:0%

Cottonseed50%0%

Sesame - 42:0%

Peanut - 32:0%

Soybean - 51:7%

Canola - 20-9%

Fish Oil - 0:100%

For multi-generational vegetarians with the genetic variant described in Christopher Clark’s post, reducing these oils in the diet is a must.

But all of us will benefit from cutting out these pro-inflammatory oils in favor of Paleo-friendly fats like beef tallow and duck fat (best for high-heat cooking) as well as coconut, avocado, walnut, macadamia or extra-virgin olive oil (best for moderate-heat cooking).

Increase Omega-3 Intake (EPA/DHA)

Now that you’ve cleared your kitchen of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats, it’s time to ramp up your dietary intake of the extra-long chain omega-3 fats; DHA and EPA.

A daily intake of just 1g of combined EPA and DHA can have many positive effects. If you’re overweight or struggling with poor health, increasing your intake of omega-3 fats can improve blood sugar and insulin control, help fight off low mood and depression, and protect you from coronary heart disease. 3,4,5

If you’re exercising regularly (or just getting active), the University of Florida found consuming DHA post-training was able to significantly reduce exercise induced pro-inflammatory markers IL-6 and CRP over a two-week period. 6 In the UK, researchers at Cardiff University found that EPA and DHA were able to reduce key proteins that trigger the disease progression in osteoarthritis. 7

Fish: A Great Source of EPA

Terrific sources of extra-long chain omega-3 fats include Atlantic mackerel (2.6g per 3.5 oz. serving), herring (1.8g), tuna (1.6g), and salmon (1.5g per 3.5 oz.). If you like shell fish, blue mussels (0.5g per 3.5oz serving), oysters (0.6g), and squid (0.4g) are nice options as well. Try great recipes like mackerel tartare and spicy salmon with avocado and yams.

Lean Meats: A Less Known Sources of Omega-3s

While most people naturally associate feedlot beef with saturated fats, and look to fish and seafood to get their omega-3s, grass-fed beef is actually a good source of EPA and DHA (0.3g per 3.5oz. serving).  Ancestral staples like wild game meats – elk, bison, venison, etc. – are also good options as they’re naturally low in pro-inflammatory omega-6 with some omega-3s. Try this elk recipe perfect for a summer BBQ or stir-fry beef with veggies at dinner.

Omega-3 Eggs

Pasture-raised eggs are far more nutrient dense than conventional eggs and provide 0.3g of omega-3s per two large eggs.8

If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 is what’s crucial for optimal health, as well as mental and physical performance.9,10,11 Focus on both reducing your intake of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats and increase your intake of extra-long chain omega-3 fats to reverse chronic degenerative conditions and restore health and vitality.

(This article originally appeared on PaleoDiet.com)

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

 

References

[1]  ResearchGate. (March 29, 2016). Human genome shaped by vegetarian diet increases risk of cancer and heart disease. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/blog/post/human-genome-shaped-by-vegetarian-diet-increases-risk-of-cancer-and-heart-disease

[2]  Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, et al. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(2):341-54.

[3] Delarue J et al.Interaction of fish oil and a glucocorticoid on metabolic responses to an oral glucose load in healthy human subjects.Br J Nutr.2006 Feb;95(2):267-72.

[4] Su K, et al.Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder. A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2003;13(4):267-271

[5] Okuyama H et al. ω3 Fatty Acids Effectively Prevent Coronary Heart Disease and Other Late-Onset Diseases – The Excessive Linoleic Acid Syndrome. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics (Karger) 2007, 96 (Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease):83-103. Retrieved From – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232471505_o3_Fatty_Acids_Effectively_Prevent_Coronary_Heart_Disease_and_Other_Late-Onset_Diseases_-_The_Excessive_Linoleic_Acid_Syndrome

[6] Phillips T et al.A dietary supplement attenuates IL-6 and CRP after eccentric exercise in untrained males.Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003;35(12):2032-2037.

[7] Zainal, Z et al. Relative efficacies of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in reducing expression of key proteins in a model system for studying osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2009 Jul;17(7):896-905.

[8] Karsten H et al. Vitamins A, E and fatty acid composition of the eggs of caged hens and pastured hens. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. Volume 25/ Special Issue 01 / March 2010, pp45-54. Retrieved From – http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=7219036

[9] Sheppard, K.W. and C.L. Cheatham, Omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio and higher-order cognitive functions in 7- to 9-y-olds: a cross-sectional study. Am J Clin Nutr, 2013. 98(3): p. 659-67.

[10] Simopoulos, A.P., An Increase in the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio Increases the Risk for Obesity. Nutrients, 2016. 8(3): p. 128.

[11] Simopoulos, A.P., The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother, 2002. 56(8): p. 365-79.

 

8 Signs You Have a Hormonal Imbalance (and How to Fix It)

Your hormones are tiny chemical messengers that travel throughout your body, delivering messages to your organs, tissues and cells to boost metabolism, build muscle, de-stress, lift mood, etc. The food you eat, how much you move (and the type of movements you perform), and lifestyle factors like sleep and stress management play fundamental and crucial roles in setting and maintaining ideal hormone balance.

Make the wrong food choices, lack exercise in your daily life, or burn the candle at both ends and it will come at a cost. Some of us can get away with this for a long time without suffering too heavily. For others, it can quickly derail health and performance goals.

While it’s human nature to look for the exciting and sexy new fixes to hormone imbalance, the truth is, an ancestral approach of tackling the things that impact you the most – food, activity, environment – are the answer that addresses the root cause of why these imbalances occurred in the first place.

Here is a quick look at 8 common hormone imbalances and how to fix them.

You Struggle to Get Out of Bed in the Morning

If you struggle to get out of bed in the morning or hit snooze multiple times before starting your day, then it’s a clear sign your circadian hormone output is out of whack. Specific hormones are produced in a cyclical or circadian pattern every day, and if their rhythm gets altered you’ll start to feel sluggish, fatigued or fail to thrive.

For example, your stress hormone cortisol should be high in the morning; it wakes you up, supercharges your brain and gets you ready to start your day. If you feel like it takes you a little time to get going in the morning or you need to pry yourself from the warmth of your bed, then your daily circadian cortisol high may be stuck in neutral. How does this rhythm get imbalanced?

Well, if you’re constantly on the go and drinking a lot of coffee or stimulants, it can impact your deep sleep and ultimately circadian pattern. Similarly, a busy social calendar and a few drinks every night can also hinder your deep sleep and circadian rhythm.

Ironically, if you’re busy and stressed, you normally reach for MORE coffee during the day to boost your brain and energy, and subsequently MORE alcohol in the evening to unwind and take the edge off. This is the perfect storm for circadian disruption. (Not to mention research shows drinking more than 4 cups per day is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. [1]).

The Fix: Cut out coffee and alcohol for one week. I know, I know… it sounds horrible. For 7 days, replace coffee in the morning with green tea (but nothing after 3:00 pm), and in the evening, cut out the alcohol completely. In the first few days you’ll likely feel a bit irritable and sluggish in the morning, but by the end of the week you’ll be popping out of bed with natural energy on a daily basis.

You Crash After a High-Carb Meal

Stop me if this sounds familiar: you eat a tasty lunch, get back to the office and by the mid-afternoon, you can barely keep your eyes open? Or maybe it’s the high-carb cereal or oatmeal breakfast you knock back to start your day, only to be struggling to stay sharp by mid-morning? If you notice a significant crash after a high-carb meal, then you likely have poor insulin function (your blood sugar hormone that shuttles the sugars from your breakfast or lunch from your bloodstream into your cells).

Do you crash after high carb meals? Your insulin hormone could be to blame. 

If you’re overweight, out of shape, or in poor health and struggle with crashes after a high-carb meal, it’s because your insulin hormone is not working efficiently. Your body needs to pump out greater and greater amounts of insulin to cope with your high-carb lunch (as compared to a fit or lean person). This leads to a massive blood sugar and insulin high after your meal, followed by a roller coaster-like fall a few hours later.

The Fix: Adopt a low-carb diet to improve your blood sugar and insulin control. (2) High insulin levels can promote weight gain and a foggy brain, and shifting to a low-carb diet can help bring your levels back into balance. A Paleo diet fits the mold perfectly! By reducing carbohydrates, your body can become more “flexible” and burn your own body fat for fuel more effectively. When your insulin isn’t working efficiently, your body is metabolically “inflexible,” meaning it’s stuck relying on carbs you eat from food for energy (instead of your body’s own energy reserves). Reduce your carbs and you can kiss your afternoon crashes goodbye!

You Get Serious Cravings Throughout the Day

There are a lot different reasons why you could get cravings during the day. One hormone in particular is responsible for keeping you full – leptin, your “satiety” hormone signal – and when life gets busy or you make the wrong food choices, your leptin signal gets scrambled and cravings ensue.

If you feel like you’re always grazing on fruit, craving sweets, or looking for that post-dinner sweet fix, then your leptin levels are likely low. How do they get out of balance? Well, high insulin levels block the leptin signal, leading to more cravings (unfortunately not for lettuce wraps!). It’s a vicious cycle because the more sugars and simple carbs you eat (because of your cravings), the more insulin output and the more you suppress leptin. (3)

Stress scrambles the satiety hormone leptin, making you reach for sweets when you’re feeling the crunch. 

Stress also blocks leptin. It’s no wonder when you get stressed the first thing you reach for is a sweet treat or dessert (more often than not before you “feel” stressed). This three-headed monster of insulin and cortisol problems disrupting your leptin levels is the perfect storm for sugar cravings.

The Fix: In the short-term, aim for dark chocolate (70% or more) as your go-to treat when you get afternoon cravings. Take a handful of frozen grapes or berries in the evening to give you a little sweet rush without the usual big sugar hit. For long-term resolution, see solutions #1 and #2.

You’ve Got High Belly Fat

High belly fat reflects high levels of visceral fat, which is the fat that accumulates around your organs. It is very pro-inflammatory and dangerous for your overall health. (4) The vast majority of your cortisol receptors are located around your mid-section. If your belly fat is high, your cortisol stress levels will be out of balance and leading you down the path to weight gain, poor health and lack of vitality. Cortisol is the “yang” to insulin’s “yin,” responsible for increasing blood sugar levels by breaking down your muscle mass. If you have a cortisol problem, it can create an insulin problem.

The Fix: If you’ve got high belly fat, stop drinking beer (and reduce other alcohol as well) until things start shifting back in the right direction. There is a reason they call it a beer belly! Visceral fat is also strongly connected to poor insulin function and thus high insulin levels, so lowering your carb intake is also a great way to lower your systemic or total body inflammation. (Note – you can run the CRP lab test to find out your levels of systemic inflammation.)

Your Libido Is Low

A classic sign of a hormone imbalance is low libido. If you’re training intensely and pushing yourself to the limits, one of the primary signs of overtraining is losing your mojo. Similarly, if you’re burning the midnight oil and working long hours, your libido can hit rock bottom as stress levels increase. In men, as cortisol stress levels go up, testosterone goes down. (5) In women, stress levels lower the female hormone progesterone, which is one of your primary libido hormones.

The Fix: Low T is the most common cause of low libido in men, while low progesterone is the cause in women, but the answer isn’t usually in a cream or gel from your doctor. The answer is to address the root cause… stress! If you’re training hard at the moment, it’s time to revisit your training plan and see if you’ve gone from over-reaching (pushing yourself beyond your limits to adapt and grow stronger) to overtraining (tired, rundown and lost your mojo). If you’re just really busy at work, make time for more sleep, less coffee and fewer alcoholic drinks while scheduling more relaxation at home or a vacation to disconnect, recharge and reinvigorate your life.

You’ve Gained Weight Around the Hips

If you’re naturally more of an hourglass- or pear-shaped woman, and feel like you’ve been gaining weight recently, it’s probably accumulated around your hips. This is where body fat is predominantly distributed in women, but even more so in pear-shaped or estrogen-dominant type women. As estrogen levels climb too high, you’ll experience irritability, heavier menses, breast tenderness, weight gain and worsening of premenstrual symptoms. If you’ve gained weight, body fat also produces estrogen, adding to the severity of your symptoms.

The Fix: Your liver and digestive system play a key role in metabolizing excess estrogens. Make sure your bowels are regular every day by incorporating lots of veggies and fruit, and be sure to keep hydrated. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchee, and natto miso are fantastic additions. To support a healthy liver, add more cruciferous veggies rich in sulphoraphone, which help to support liver detoxification and clearance of excess “bad” estrogens. (6)

You’re Cold, Tired and Your Hair Is Lifeless

Your thyroid gland is a bellwether for your overall health. If something in your body is off balance, the thyroid responds by ramping up or down its function. Hallmark signs of low or sluggish thyroid function are cold hands and feet, constant fatigue, thinning or dull hair and skin, as well as sluggish bowels. (When your thyroid slows down, everything in the body seems to slow down!)

Like a lot of hormones on this list, stress plays a major role. Your cortisol stress hormone inhibits the production of the thyroid hormone, prevents the conversion to the “active” T3 form of the hormone, and can even make your cells resistant to thyroid hormone (a fancy medical term that means your body can make thyroid hormone just fine, but your body is not using it effectively). (7) In short, it’s like having a bad connection on your mobile phone – slow service that leaves you frustrated and unhappy.

The Fix: Supporting your thyroid gland – responsible for keeping your metabolism running smoothly, energy levels up and brain sharp – can come in many different forms. However, there is a strong connection between stress, inflammation and a sluggish thyroid. As your stress levels increase, so does inflammation in the body, which keeps your thyroid stuck in the mud. For anyone struggling with potential thyroid problems, start with the fundamentals: eliminate sugar, ditch the caffeine, limit your alcohol and get more sleep. (I know, I know… all the exciting stuff, but remember it’s all about the fundamentals.) Next, getting a full thyroid panel run – TSH, free T4, free T3, anti-TPO antibodies and reverse T3 – is a great way to establish baseline levels for yourself and to investigate whether there is a potential thyroid problem brewing.

Your Mood Is Low

The consumption of simple sugars has skyrocketed over the past 50 years and the rates of type II diabetes are climbing right along with them. There is a strong connection between depression and poor blood sugar control. It’s no wonder the World Health Organization predicts depression will be the leading cause of disease burden globally. (8) A growing body of research is connecting the dots, indicating that high blood sugars lead to (and worsen) depression, while depressions leads to (and worsens) diabetes. (9) It’s the ultimate “chicken and egg” scenario, and the downward spiral seems to be impacting everyone to some degree.

The Fix: The research shows that high blood sugar and insulin levels dramatically increase your risk of low mood and depression. While there are many causes of low mood, it’s important to address the fundamental hormones that impact so many areas of your health. A simple HbA1c blood test, a three-month average of your blood sugars, will tell you exactly where you stand. Ideally, your levels should be between 4.8-5.2%. If you find yourself higher than 5.2%, then adopting a low carb Paleo diet is the perfect platform for bringing your levels back into range.

There are many more reasons why hormones can become unbalanced than I’ve presented on this list. However, in most cases, if you can do 20% of the fundamentals well, you’ll address 80% of your symptoms and health concerns. Adopting a Paleo lifestyle is more than just what you eat; it’s also your lifestyle, sleep and activity habits. Use these Paleo principles and reset your hormones so you can thrive and achieve your health and performance goals.

(This article originally appeared on Paleohacks.com)

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

 

Check out more articles in the THYROID SERIES...

Why Avoiding The Sun Is As Dangerous As Smoking

For almost three decades, we’ve been told by doctors and health practitioners to limit our sun exposure. Just like eggs yolks and cholesterol, a fear of too much sun and the risk of skin cancer was instilled in the general population. Unfortunately, more sunscreen and less sunshine hasn’t improved our health. In fact, it’s gotten worse.

Something that likely started with good intentions eventually morphed into a completely excessive use of sunscreens to protect ourselves from skin cancer.

New research is highlighting that NOT getting enough sun exposure can be just as bad for you as smoking! (1) That’s a powerful statement, so let’s take a closer look at the studies and find out what the right dose of sunshine is for you.

Doesn’t the Sun Cause Skin Cancer?

There is no doubt that if you continually and significantly overexpose yourself to the sun (think sunburns), then you increase your risk of melanoma and skin cancer. However, the skin cancer scare of the 1990s was a little misleading.

Recently, the British Journal of Dermatology concluded that the marked rise in cases of skin cancer in the 1990s had less to do with sun exposure—and more to do with changes in the diagnosis of skin cancer. Researchers call it “diagnostic drift,” which is a fancy term that describes how doctors in the 1990s started lumping in noncancerous (i.e. benign) lesions with cancerous ones. (Previously, they were separated.) (2) In fact, sun exposure may actually help you prevent skin cancer and heal more quickly if you already have skin cancer. (Yes, really!)

How is that possible? Well, the original research was done in northern Australia, an area that provides constant, strong sun exposure throughout the year. A group of individuals live there who ancestrally migrated from northern Europe.

What we know now is that extrapolating that information and then applying it to countries that only get a few months of strong sun exposure every year (e.g., Canada, England, and Sweden) is faulty logic. Similarly, using the original research of populations with predominantly fewer melanocytes (cells that produce melanin), and applying it to other populations with more pigmentation is also poor logic.

In short, they got it wrong. The good news is that new research is uncovering just how important the sun is for your overall health and vitality.

The New ‘Light’ on Sunshine Research

Just this spring, the prestigious Journal of Internal Medicine made a discovery unlike any other. If you AVOID the sun, it increases your risk of death to the same degree as smoking! (3) It’s hard to believe, but the evidence is very compelling.

Between 1990 and 1992, Dr. Pelle Lindqvist, MD, of Karolinska University in Sweden had his research team recruit almost 30,000 women between the ages of 25-64. They tracked their health status over the next 2.5 decades. They found that women who got the most sun had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and lung disease—compared to those who avoided the sun.

They concluded that avoiding the sun could subtract 0.6-2.1 years of your life expectancy. How’s that for turning the “sunshine” argument on its head?

The researchers also found the benefits were dose-specific: The more sun you get, the more the benefits increase. However, it’s important to remember that it’s an observational study, so it highlights an association between lack of sun exposure and disease, not causation. (There could be a number of different factors that lead to this improvement; people who get more sun tend to eat more healthily and exercise more regularly.)

Some confusion was added to the list of their findings because skin cancer rates did in fact increase, but those patients exposing themselves to sun had much better survival rates. Studies in Ireland confirm that a Vitamin D deficiency makes skin cancer more dangerous. (4) How is that possible? The answer likely lies the dosage.

More Benefits of Sun Exposure

Here is a quick list of benefits from exposure to regular sunshine and Vitamin D:

Cancer Prevention
Sunlight is your body’s best source of Vitamin D, which has been shown to be protective against more than a dozen cancers. In fact, the Canadian Cancer Society performed a large, randomized, placebo-controlled study, and they found that it may help cut the risk of cancer by 60%. (5) (6)

Better Blood Pressure
If you live in colder, darker climates (e.g., northern cities in the United States, Canada, or England), then the research shows you’re more likely to suffer from hypertension than people who live in warmer, sunnier climates closer to the equator. (7)

Lowers Inflammation
Inflammation is a common root of many chronic diseases. Therefore, cooling inflammation should be a high priority for anyone trying to improve their health. Exposure to sunlight has been shown to reduce the effects of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and experts think that Vitamin D’s impact on lowering inflammation may play a key role. (8)

Sets Your Circadian Patterns
Exposure to first morning light is a signal to your nervous system to wake up and get ready for the day. Recent research on modern-day hunter-gatherer tribes (e.g., the San in southern Africa, the Tsimane in Bolivia, and the Hadza in Tanzania) has highlighted the powerful impact of waking with the rising sun and going to sleep not long after sunset. (9)

Despite these tribes averaging only 5.7-7.1 hours of sleep per night, they sleep deeply and have superior overall health. (In fact, they have no words to describe "insomnia"; it does not exist in these groups.) Disrupted circadian patterns have been shown to leave you more prone to fatigue and inflammation, and they can even change the balance of bacteria in your gut from “good” to “bad”. (10)

What Is The Right Amount of Sun?

The right amount of sun for you involves the approach that maximizes the benefits of additional sun exposure, while limiting the potential harms. The following is a short list of tips to help you find the right dose:

  • Never let your skin burn.
  • If you have fair skin, aim for approximately 10-15 minutes of sun exposure—enough to make your skin very light pink (but never red or burned).
  • If you have darker skin, you need more sunlight. Aim for anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the individual. (Again, never let your skin burn.)
  • Get exposed to morning sunlight daily.
  • Get outside! Sunlight is the purest form of vitamin D.
  • If you know you’re going to be outside all day, then cover your face and nose with sunscreen during the hottest parts of the day.

Getting outside in the fresh air and sun could be the most Paleo of all lifestyle factors. It should be a staple in your life. Enjoy!

(This article first appeared @Paleohacks.com)

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

5 Habits of Resilient People (That You’re Not Doing)

Ready to hit the “pause” button? In today’s 24/7 society, constant connectivity and long, busy work days are the norm. Before you burn out adopt these 5 habits to build resiliency and improve your health!

If you’re constantly burning the proverbial candle at both ends at work and play, when are you supposed to find time for rest, recovery and rejuvenation? Struggling to get out of bed in the morning, hitting “snooze” multiple times, low energy throughout the day, brain fog, poor memory, and sugar/carb cravings are common signs your body is working hard to keep you going.

How can you regain your mojo and rekindle your energy for all the projects you need to get done?

Fear not, I’ve got some fantastic health hacks to rebuild your resiliency, improve your capacity to cope with stress, to enable you to knock all of your goals out of the park this year.

Here is the plan. Over the next seven days, you’ll incorporate these five resiliency-building hacks into your daily regimen, to upgrade your energy, vitality, and enthusiasm. If this seems like too much for you all at once, drip-feed the new habits over the course of the week to set you up for long-term success.

Starting with the top of the day, let’s review the ancestral health hacks designed for upgrading your resiliency and building a better YOU.

1. Swap Out Your Coffee For Herbal Tea

Coffee is a fantastic choice in the morning for boosting cognitive function, increasing work capacity, and getting your daily dose of antioxidants.

During the shortest, coldest, and darkest days of the year, your body wants to rest, rebuild and recover.

Take your foot off the caffeine gas pedal for seven days and replace it with nutritive herbal teas like nettle, mint, rooibos or chamomile.

You may feel a dip in energy during the first few days (or some headaches and low energy — a clear sign you’ve been pushing the caffeine too hard), but you’ll see it bounce back after day 4 or 5. Make it through the week, and your coffee will taste better than ever on day 8!

2. Get Outside First Thing in The Morning

Exposure to the light intensity of natural daylight is crucial for helping to reset and restore the natural daily production of hormones.

Whether you go outside for a 20-minute walk, cycle, stretch or hit the gym, the choice is up to you. Your desire to stay curled up in the morning and to hit snooze multiple times doesn’t help build your resiliency.

Reset your circadian patterns, improve fatigue, and build resilience by getting outside for a walk, run, or training routine after your morning herbal tea. It will be tough the first few days, but you’ll soon find newfound energy in your new morning routine.

3. Put The Brakes On Your Sugar Binging

During times of stress, your body naturally craves sugars and simple carbs (unfortunately, not usually wild Alaskan salmon and broccoli).

Put the brakes on your midday sugar snacking for the next seven days. Cut out all sugars, desserts, and simple carbs and get back to eating high-protein, high-fat meals.

Make healthy paleo snacks, soups and stews; take the time to enjoy your food. If you’re really struggling, a handful of walnuts or macadamia nuts can help curb cravings. Licorice tea is also nice sugar fix.

4. Hit ‘Pause’ On Your Alcohol Intake

Alcohol is a sugar. It’s also a nervine that helps to relax your nervous system after a busy day.

However, once you finish half a bottle of wine or three pints of beer, you’ve lost all benefits, and now will impair deep, rejuvenating sleep.

Give your liver and nervous system a break over the next week and swap out wine at dinner for water, and the evening night cap for herbal tea, to give your body and nervous system a chance to unwind.

5. Swap Out Late Night TV for Early-To-Bed Books

Staying up that extra hour to watch reruns of your favorite show is fun for a few nights, but your body needs sleep when you’re burning the midnight oil.

For seven days, turn off the TV and say goodnight to Facebook and Twitter friends a little earlier. Once you disconnect from technology, climb into bed with a good book and wind down for sleep an hour earlier than normal.

Research on modern-day hunter-gatherer tribes shows that they sleep on average one hour MORE during the winter months.

Unfortunately, most of us sleep LESS in the winter, and this is a major drain on your resiliency.

There you have it. In only seven days, you can reset your health and build better resiliency to attack all your goals this year. Make some time for YOU, and your brain, body, and energy levels will thank you for it.

(This article originally appeared on PaleoHacks)

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

Want to learn more? Listen to Dr. Meghan Walker's interview on building resiliency and finding your creativity flow in Episode #3 of the Dr. Bubbs Performance Podcast.