Anxiety - Symptoms, Causes & Natural Fixes

The pace of life seems to have accelerated over the past decade. Today, the constant stream of emails, never-ending social media updates, and blurring of the lines between work and home life are increasingly stressful on your body and brain.

In fact, our increasingly hectic schedules have paralleled a similarly alarming increase in the rates of anxiety in the general population over that time. It’s becoming more and more common for people to experience anxiety in the workplace; a recent study found that up to 40% of workers today have reported high levels of anxiety in their jobs. (1) Today’s constant connectivity is terrific for driving productivity and innovation, but if you’re not mindful, it can start to negatively impact your health.

About 20% of Americans are affected by anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders affect about 1 out of 5 adults in America, and 40% of people take some sort of mood altering medication from their doctor. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by the year 2050, one-third of the global population will suffer from either anxiety or depression. (2) Let’s take a look at some typical signs of anxiety, after which we can look at some simple strategies to help curb these symptoms.

Anxiety Symptoms

When I see patients in clinic, many people are surprised to see that some (or many) of the symptoms of anxiety apply to them. Common symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety can include:

  • Inability to focus
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of uneasiness
  • Quick breathing
  • Increase heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Cold or sweaty hands or feet

As your symptoms become more pronounced or if your anxiety is more longstanding, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep)
  • Excessive fear or worry
  • Obsessive thinking
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Avoidance of work or social situations

You can see from this list that symptoms of anxiety can be very general; it’s therefore easy for doctors to miss and many people may experience a few of these symptoms at some point in their lives. If you notice these symptoms increasing in frequency or severity, then it’s time to think about actively incorporating strategies to address the root cause.

What Causes Anxiety?

There are number of things that can contribute to symptoms of anxiety, and one of the most common might be part of your regular morning routine. That’s right, caffeine is listed in the DSM-5 (the medical bible for mental health diagnoses used by the American Psychiatry Association) as a direct cause of anxiety, yet for many anxiety sufferers it continues to be part of their morning routine. (3)

Food can also predispose you to bouts of anxiety. If you struggle with poor blood sugar control, when your levels bottom out you’ll be at a much greater risk of symptoms of anxiety. (4) The natural reaction when blood sugars are low is to look for a sugary snack, which shoots blood sugars way up and leaves you prone to constant “highs and lows.”

Unstable blood sugar levels, caffeine and stress all contribute to anxiety.

Stress is another major cause of anxiety. Stress comes in many different forms: work, school, relationships, finances, alcohol and drugs, and even too much exposure to WIFI and mobile devices. Reducing exposure to stressors under your control (caffeine, alcohol, recreational drugs, etc.) is the first place to start, thereby enabling you to improve your response to the stressors which are not in your control (i.e., your workload in school or at the office).

Your reaction to the stressors is the only thing you can truly control, and it plays a massive role in how well you cope with stress. If you struggle with anxiety, your sympathetic nervous system is likely too ramped up in “fight or flight” mode (in which your brain and body think you’re running away from a tiger or lion), when in reality it’s simply too many emails or work deadlines to meet. If you constantly react very strongly to stressors, you effectively program your nervous system to always “hyper-respond” to stress, which will lead to symptoms of anxiety.

The good news is you can reprogram your stress response and build better resilience, or capacity, to cope with stress. Reprogramming your nervous system with some gentle exercises or lifestyle “hacks” will help to reboot your overactive “fight or flight” nervous system.

11 Natural Remedies to Calm Anxiety

1. Remove (or Reduce) Caffeine

If you struggle with regular or severe bouts of anxiety, it’s time to kick coffee to the curb. Caffeine triggers the release of the stress hormone adrenaline, which can be beneficial for some, but disastrous in others if the caffeine dose is too much. Moreover, if you’re genetically a “slow metabolizer” of caffeine, it will remain in your bloodstream for longer periods, which can worsen anxiety symptoms or inhibit deep sleep.

2. Lift Weights

Numerous studies have shown the clear benefit of resistance training for improving cognition, mood and anxiety. (5) If you’re sedentary, you can start by performing bodyweight exercises at home, join a local gym or CrossFit box, or try a new class in your area.

3. Go for a Run

If lifting weight isn’t your thing, get moving and add more cardio to your daily routine. Experts at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America have found that regular aerobic exercise can decrease overall levels of tension, balance mood, improve sleep, and increase self-esteem. (6)

4. Turn Up the Music

When life gets busy, social outings and even listening to music often go by the wayside. Attending a live music concert, or even listening to relaxing music at home, have been shown to reduce anxiety levels. (7) Turn off your TV and turn up your stereo to help decompress.

5. Get a Massage

Physical touch is an important and calming influence on the brain, yet when we get busy we often distance ourselves from friends and loved ones. Something as simple as going for a massage and receiving some therapeutic touch has been shown to be effective for decreasing an overactive sympathetic nervous system. (8)

6. Do Yoga

If you can’t carve out time for a massage, relax your nervous system at home with some gentle stretching or yoga. Performing some basic poses for 10-15 minutes is a great way to turn off your “thinking” brain so your body can begin to relax, possibly helping to relieve symptoms of anxiety in some people. (9)

7. Try Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has used acupuncture for millennia for treating anxiety and research, and there is support for its use as an effective anxiety aid. (10) Acupuncture helps to relax tight muscles, dampen a hyperactive nervous system, and provide an environment to disconnect from your work and life stressors.

8. Talk It Out

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a proven scientific talk therapy approach that uses problem solving techniques to reprogram your reaction to stressors. (11) CBT is a great technique for getting to the root cause of your anxiety.

9. Take a Nature Walk

If you live a city, constant exposure to concrete, noise and pollution takes its toll on your body and mind. A recent study found that rediscovering nature and going for a walk outdoors is naturally calming to the nervous system and can improve symptoms of anxiety. (12) Find a local park or take a trip to the countryside near you.

10. Deep Breathing

Your breath is the connection between your body and mind. When life gets busy, you likely breathe up in your chest, and this “pump handle” type breathing is a sympathetic nervous system stimulator. Carving out 5-10 minutes to take deep, belly breaths (using your diaphragm) activates the vagus nerve in your brain to tell your body “ahh, relax.” (13) It’s a wonderful tonic for mild or severe anxiety.

11. Sing

There are many other ways to help calm your overactive sympathetic nervous system, and singing is at the top of the list. A recent study in choir members found a positive impact on psychological indicators of mood and anxiety. (14) Try singing in the shower, in your car, or during your outdoor walks!

Our environment today is a major driver of symptoms of anxiety like restlessness, poor focus, insomnia and general feelings of uneasiness. Help offset the stimulatory effects of today’s fast paced world on your nervous system by adding some of these simple strategies to your routine. Your health, productivity and happiness will all be rewarded.

(This article originally appeared @Paleohacks)

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

Food-Based Solutions For Sluggish Thyroid

Do you feel tired? Is your mood unusually low? Do you have steady weight gain despite eating well and exercising? If you answered “yes,” your thyroid may be struggling to keep up with the demands of daily life.

Your thyroid gland effectively sets your body’s thermostat and metabolism. It can be sluggish when the conversion from your body’s primary thyroid hormone – thyroxine (T4) – to the “active” or useable form – triiodothyronine (T3) – is impaired. Effectively, the thyroid acts as a bellwether for stress on the body.

A sluggish thyroid is often termed subclinical hypothyroidism because patients can exhibit some of the classic symptoms of hypothyroidism – fatigue (especially in the morning), weight gain, cold hands and feet, sluggish bowels, dry skin and hair – but without the hallmark lab test results needed for a true diagnosis.

Healthy thyroid hormone production is regulated by the hypothalamus. Through a multi-step process, it produces thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) which promotes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary gland that then influences the thyroid – a butterfly-shape gland in your neck – to produce the thyroid hormone T4. The thyroid hormones influence virtually every tissue in the body.

If you suffer from a sluggish or a subclinical hypothyroid condition, TSH is mildly elevated but T4 levels are not. Another cause is when T4 is not being converted to the “active” T3 form inside your cells. The good news is you don’t have a frank hypothyroid condition, however, it is a red flag that you should address areas like your diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors (i.e. sleep and stress management) that can all influence thyroid function.

#1 Too Much Stress

Low thyroid function is often secondary to some type of stressor. 1 TSH production is lowered under times of stress. 2,3 For example, athletes training intensely in preparation for a competition will typically see decreased TSH concentrations as the training load increases. But, once the training stressor is removed levels quickly return to baseline. Long, busy days at work or taking care of family can also be a major stressor just like training, however unlike the athlete you don’t get an “off-season” to allow your levels to return to baseline. The stressor is always present; contributing to elevated cortisol stress levels, lower thyroid hormone production, and impaired conversion of T4 to active T3 hormone. 4

#2 Too Many Grains

Grains may promote inflammation in some people and chronic, systemic inflammation can impair healthy thyroid function. 5 Numerous studies have linked gluten – a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, spelt and rye – to autoimmune thyroid disease called Hashimotos. 6,7,8 If you suffer from celiac disease or even a gluten intolerance, then the likelihood of you suffering from an autoimmune thyroid condition, like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is significantly increased. 9

Even if you don’t suffer from an autoimmune condition, the regular consumption of excessive gluten (if you suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity) can lead to intestinal permeability 10 and chronic inflammation which can hamper the conversion of T4 to T3. 11 Not surprisingly, intestinal permeability and inflammation are commonly seen in those with subclinical thyroid disorders.

#3 Imbalance Gut Microbiota

Too much stress, lack of sleep, poor blood sugar control can all lead to intestinal dysbiosis, the overabundance of “bad” gut bacteria. Harmful bacteria contain lipopolysaccharides (LPS), molecules on the bacteria cell wall that can slow thyroid hormone production and conversion. 12

#4 Nutrient Deficiencies

The standard American diet (SAD) is deficient in many key nutrients that are important for a healthy thyroid. These deficiencies are detailed below.

#5 Too Many Medications

Common drugs that prevent the conversion of T4 to T3 include beta-blockers for hypertension, oral contraceptives, hormone replacement drugs for menopause, and corticosteroids like prednisone.  Over-the-counter antacids, heartburn medications, excessive antibiotics or the use of statins can also lead to a myriad of nutrient deficiencies, including iron, zinc, selenium and vitamin D.

 

Food-Based Solutions For A Healthy Thyroid

Your diet should provide all the building blocks you need to support optimal thyroid output, allowing you to restore low energy, trim your waistline and upgrade your overall health. Here is a list of wholefoods that provide the key thyroid nutrients you need:

Selenium

Selenium is essential for healthy thyroid function and the conversion of T4 to active T3. You’ll need approximately 100-200mcg daily. Brazil nuts are far and away the best source of selenium, with only two nuts providing a whopping 190 mcg daily. Other good sources include mushrooms, eggs, shrimp, halibut, tuna, chicken, turkey and asparagus.

Zinc

Diets high in zinc can help improve the conversion of T4 to T3. 13 Oysters are head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to zinc, providing a robust 78mg per 100g serving. Virtually all animal proteins are also great sources of zinc – beef, venison, bison, lamb, pork, etc.

Iodine

While iodine deficiency is the root cause of most cases of hypothyroidism worldwide, in Western countries, Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis actually accounts for the majority of cases. 14,15 If you suffer from an autoimmune thyroid condition you want to avoid taking an iodine supplement because it can exacerbate your condition. 16

To get your ideal dose of iodine, try adding more sea vegetables to your nutritional arsenal. Seaweeds like kelp, dulse, kombu, and wakame can be eaten as snacks, or make your own “seaweed shaker” by finely chopping up seaweed and placing in a traditional salt shaker. Sprinkle it on meals for a tasty and effective condiment.

Tyrosine

Tyrosine, a conditionally essential amino acid, is the building block for both T4 and T3 hormone and dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter that helps ward off low mood and depression. Tyrosine-rich foods include duck, eggs, mustard greens, spinach, seafood and seaweed.

Vitamin D

Sun exposure and getting your daily dose of vitamin D is crucial for optimal thyroid health. Low vitamin D levels have been associated with Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis. 17 If you live in a city with a true winter climate, then you should consider supplementing with 1,000-2,000 IU daily, unless otherwise specified by your doctor.

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, MS CISSN, CSCS

 

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References

[1] Abdullatif H et al. Reversible subclinical hypothyroidism in the presence of adrenal insufficiency. Endocr Pract 2006 Sept-Oct;12(5):572.

[2] Van Der Pomp G et al. Elevated basal cortisol levels and attenuated ACTH and cortisol responses to a behavioural challenge in women with metastatic cancer. Psyochoneuroendocrinology 1996 21(4):361-374.

[3] Sapolsky R et al. The neuroendocrinology of stress and aging: the glucocorticoid cascade hypothesis. Endocr Rev 7:284-301.

[4] LoPresti J, Nicoloff T. Thyroid response to critical illness. Endocrinology of Critical Disease. Human Press. Totowa NJ. 1997, pp157-173.

[5] Wolters V. Genetic background of celiac disease and its clinical implications. Am J Gastroenterol 2008;103(1):79-88.

[6] Manairdi, E. Thyroid-related autoantibodies and celiac disease: a role for a gluten-free diet? J Clin Gastroenterol 2002 Sep;35(3):245-8.

[7] Spadaccino A et al. Prevalaence of celiac disease in patients with autoimmune thyroid diseases. Autoimmunity 2008 Feb;41(1):116-21.

[8] Hadithi M et al. Celiac disease in Dutch patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and vice versa. World J Gastroenterol 2007 Mar 21;13(11):1715-22.

[9] Elfstrom P et al. Risk of thyroid disease in individuals with celiac disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2008 Oct;93(10):3915021. Epub 2008 Jul 8.

[10] Fasano A.Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer.Physiol Rev 2011 Jan;91(1):151-75.

[11] Vaarala, O et al. The perfect storm for type-1 diabetes:the complex interplay between intestinal microbiota, gut permeability, and mucosal immunity. Diabetes 2008 Oct;57)10):2555-2263.

[12] Van der Pol T et al. Interleukin-1 receptor blockade does note ffect endotoxin-induced changes in plasma thyroid hormone and thyrotropin concentrations in man. J Clin Endcorinol Metab. 1995;80(4):1341-1346.

[13] Maxwell C et al. Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Thyroid Hormone Function. Ann Nutr Metab 2007;51:188–194.

[14] Andersson M, et al. “Current global iodine status and progress over the last decade towards the elimination of iodine deficiency.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 83.7 (2005): 518-525.

[15] Bailleres. Autoimmunity and hypothyroidism. Clin Endocrinol Metab 1988 Aug;2(3):591-617.

[16] Surks M, Sievert R. Drugs and thyroid function. NEJM 1995;333(25):1688.

[17] Drugarin D. The pattern of Th1 cytokine in autoimmune thyroiditis. Immunol Letts 2000;71:73-77.

Eat Meat To Save The World?

As the global population increases year after year, concerns about food availability and climate change have become increasingly real. A common refrain with respect to meat consumption is the enormous amount of water and energy it requires to raise livestock and the negative impacts on the environment (not to mention the notion that it’s impossible to feed the entire planet meat.) Today 66% of the earth’s landmass is experiencing desertification – when fertile soil is converted to arid and infertile ground – negatively impacting climate change and our ability to feed the world.

However, when you look at the problem from an evolutionary perspective, the movement of large groups of herd animals (i.e. bison in the Americas) has had dramatic and positive impacts on the environment; increasing the nutrient density of the soil, improving the absorption of ground water, and reducing atmospheric carbon, just to name a few. It seems, if we mimic the mass movements and intensive feeding, grazing, and trampling of animals we could exert a very beneficial effect on the environment.

It’s controversial (and seemingly counter-intuitive), but here are six reasons why MORE livestock, not less, could be the missing link to feeding the world, reducing climate change, and creating the first truly sustainable and regenerative food agriculture system.

Livestock Increases The Nutrient Density of the Soil

For millennia giant herds of bison in America or antelopes in Africa roamed the lands and their movement had dramatic impacts on the environment and the health of the soil. The grazed intensely on small areas of grass and plants, and trampled down those areas, before moving on to flee from local predators. After this intense “eating” and “trampling” of the plants, there is tremendous energy put for by the plants into the ground and soil to restore growth. In a traditional agriculture setting the earth is not allowed to “rest” long enough for the plants to grow back, however using ancestral or regenerative farming techniques the land is allowed this period of recovery, dramatically improving the health of the soil and its ability to support plants, insects, bugs and wildlife. Livestock are critical for this process to occur. (Watch biologist Allan Savoury’s TEDx talk.)

Livestock Improve Water-Retention of Soils

Around the world, two-thirds of the landmass is being transformed into dry desert-like lands, unfit for growing plants and sustaining wildlife. When land becomes sparse (from lack of water, factory-farming draining resources or modern day agriculture techniques) the dead leaves and plants that typically provide cover for bugs, insects and rodents is removed, along with a protective layer on the land that keeps the soil cool and moist. For this reason, even after large rainfalls occur in various regions across the globe the ground does not soak up the water. The rain runs over the soil, rather than into it. This strongly contributes to desertification of lands and has dramatically negative impacts on the environment (more to come on this in a few paragraphs).

Livestock Provide Sustainable Fertilizers

The microbiome of the soil is critical for the health of the soil; much like the microbiota of you gut is critical to your optimal health. Manure from livestock is crucial to the health of the bacteria in the soil. Plants and leaves take days to decompose naturally on the soil and if left on their own, can also contribute to desertification. In contrast, livestock ruminants can decompose them in a matter of hours. The greater the amount of plant mass livestock can consume, the more nutrients available to the soil and therefore the greater the potential for growing vegetables. If you want to grow a lot of plants to feed the world, you need a lot of fertilizer. Manure from livestock provides plants with the key nutrients they need for robust growth, and unlike chemical fertilizers, are infinitely sustainable and not harmful to the environment. (Read more why livestock are crucial for sustainability.)

Livestock Helps Soil Soak Up Carbon

While fossil fuels and environmental pollution no doubt contribute tremendously to climate change, the conversion of fertile grasslands to arid dry lands also plays a major role. When the soil arid and unhealthy, carbon is no longer absorbed by the soil into the ground, but rather released back into the atmosphere. If you consider for a moment that 66% of the world’s landmass is being transformed into desert-like soil, this has a tremendous impact on the carbon levels in the atmosphere, negatively impacting climate change.

Factory farming animals and modern farming techniques are equally harmful, but that doesn’t mean that all techniques are harmful. Regenerative agriculture mimics ancestral herd movements – intensive grazing and trampling of land, followed by a subsequent rest periods for the plants to regrow – that keeps the soil healthy and stores carbon in the ground, removing it from the atmosphere. This has the potential to exert a massively beneficial impact on the environment. (Read more about Soil Carbon Cowboys)

Livestock Help Grow The MOST Vegetables

The healthier the soil, the more nutrients it contains and the more plants you can grow. We could use machines and fertilizers to accomplish this, but they contribute to environmental pollution and are not sustainable. You could also allow plants to decay naturally, but unfortunately this is not sustainable and cannot support enough plant to feed the planet. It also compromises the long-term health of the soil or limits carbon sequestration from the atmosphere. The best way to maximize the growth and sustainable production of vegetables is to use livestock… and lots of them! (Read more about why livestock are necessary for food production)

Livestock & Regenerative Farming Supports Local Farmers

The multi-national corporations that now control a majority of the farming business do not make their money from growing food. They make their money by selling expensive equipment and chemicals to farmers. This puts a lot of money in the pockets of big business, however at the expense of local farmers. A return to ancestral and sustainable farming techniques dramatically reduces the need for herbicides, fungicides and insecticides needed by farmers to maintain their land, as well as the expensive equipment needed to manage traditionally farmed land.

Properly managed livestock and regenerative agriculture not only improves the quality of the soil, but dramatically improves the health of the animals as well. Healthy animals require far fewer antibiotics. The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly issued warnings to reduce the excessive use of antibiotics in livestock, thought to be a root cause of the marked increase in antibiotic resistance. A return to a truly sustainable and regenerative agriculture will help resolve this problem.

In short, farmers have fewer expenses (e.g. equipment and chemicals) and greater profits (e.g. increased demand grass-fed beef and organic produce), which puts more money in farmer’s pocket. Research is currently being done to determine how to scale the successes of small operators and is no doubt solid investment in the future health of our food sources, animals, and the planet. (Read more about regenerative agriculture)

Livestock create the most nutrient-dense soils to grow the most number of vegetables. Livestock help resilient soils soak up atmospheric carbon, reducing the impact on climate change. Regenerative agriculture (requiring numerous livestock) requires far fewer chemicals (e.g. herbicides, pesticides and fungicides) than traditional farming. Eating naturally raised meat supports all of this.

Albert Einstein once said, “You cannot use the same manner of thinking to solve a problem, that you used to create it.” It seems an evolutionary approach to our modern agriculture problems, might just be the revolutionary change we’ve been looking for. In the end, restoring the health of the planet and food chain will be much easier working with Mother Nature, rather than against her.

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

 

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7 Evidence-Based Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Fasting is a practice that’s been used for centuries in many diverse cultures and faiths to promote mental, physical and spiritual healing. From an evolutionary perspective, our Paleo ancestors would have gone long stretches of time without food and feasted in times of plenty. In today’s convenience society, food is everywhere and mindless eating – snacking even if you’re not actually hungry – is the norm.

You’ve likely heard many times that eating multiple small meals throughout the day is best for your health and that skipping meals is bad for you. What if skipping a meal was actually good for you? More and more research is coming out highlighting the potential benefits of intermittent fasting (IF) for not only losing weight but also for improving your overall health. It seems IF is not just a fad dietary approach, but a potential therapeutic tool to upgrade your health and support healthy weight loss.

Reducing your food intake during parts of the day has dramatic changes on key hormonal and physiological mechanisms in the body that may be catalysts for boosting your brain function, cooling inflammation, improving your heart health and slowing the aging process. It seems the wisdom from our ancestors may unlock some powerful health benefits!

Increases Fat Burning

After a full night’s sleep, you wake up with the perfect hormonal terrain for burning fat. Low insulin and high glucagon levels make delaying your first meal an effective strategy for prolonging this fat-burning period.

While the mantra “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is deeply ingrained in our society, if your breakfast is muffins, bagels, cereal or juice then perhaps it’s time to try another strategy. Studies show better blood sugar control, cardiac markers and significant weight loss with intermittent fasting for overweight and obese individuals. (1)

Intermittent fasting not only capitalizes on your perfect fat-burning hormone balance by delaying your first meal in the morning, but provides the added weight-loss bonus of limiting food consumption in the late evening.

Cools Inflammation

Inflammation is considered to be the root cause of almost every chronic disease. Weight gain is a powerful trigger for inflammation, and with two-thirds of the population classified as overweight or obese, this is a major roadblock to better health.

The Journal Obesity recently found that fasting induced a significant anti-inflammatory effect on the body, improving nervous system and immune function. (2) Cooling inflammation is critical for anyone trying to improve health or lose weight, and any dietary strategy that improves this key health marker is definitely one to consider.

Improves Brain Function

One of the most common questions I get asked by clients is how to improve their focus and concentration at work. Fatigue, brain fog, and inability to stay on task are common symptoms that people experience throughout the day. These symptoms are made worse by high blood sugars, insulin and weight gain.

Intermittent fasting may hold the answer for you. A recent study showed that IF in overweight mice led to much greater learning and memory scores. (3) They also had dramatic improvement in the structural function of their brains. Better brain function and a slimmer waistline…sounds like a nice combination!

Improves Low Mood

Low mood and depression are on the rise around the world, with the World Health Organization predicting that by 2030 it will be the leading cause of disease burden around the globe. (4) That is a powerful statistic, and, like most chronic conditions, it likely stems from a wide array of root causes.

 Low mood and depression are on the rise. Intermittent fasting can help by regulating blood sugar levels.

One root cause in particular, chronically high blood sugar and insulin, has shown a strong association with low mood and depression. With the average sugar consumption up to a whopping 160 lbs. per person per year, it’s no wonder more and more people are suffering from low mood and depression.

Supports Better Heart Health

Keeping your heart healthy is crucial for overall health, as heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Common causes include weight gain, lack of exercise, diabetes and high blood pressure, all of which may be positively influenced by fasting.

 Delaying your first meal or going longer periods between meals can be a powerful weapon for improving your health.

Studies show that heart failure can be dramatically improved with fasting and significantly increase long-term survival. (5) If you’re overweight or out of shape, excessive carbohydrate and/or caloric intake can worsen your situation. Delaying your first meal or going longer periods between meals can be a powerful weapon for improving your health.

Slows the Aging Process

Exotic supplements and medications are available to help people look and feel younger, but food choices give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to anti-aging. A recent study in animals found that fasting helped to significantly reduce oxidative stress and fibrosis, two key characteristics of aging tissues. (6)

Again, these results reflect significant improvements in cellular function, something fad diets definitely don’t provide. If your cells are happy, you’ll be happy. Intermittent fasting may in fact be an effective strategy for slowing the aging process.

Easy to Follow

As a clinician, giving people a dietary plan to help them lose weight is the easy part; getting people to adhere to the protocol is the hard part. Compliance is a big piece of the puzzle. If a person can’t implement their nutrition strategy into their day-to-day life, then chances are they won’t stick to it.

Surprisingly, intermittent fasting seems to simplify things for people as studies show greater compliance with intermittent fasting compared to traditional calorie-reduced diets. (7) The best program is the one you (or your client) will stick to!

Guidelines for Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting can be a great tool to use for 4-12 weeks to trigger weight loss and better health, or, for some people, a long-term lifestyle change. However, before you embark on this journey, you must make sure a few key systems are in good working order:

1. Diet – If you’re not eating clean and your diet is still made up of processed and convenience foods, then get your nutrition in line before starting

2. Sleep  If you struggle to fall asleep or don’t sleep through the night, then IF may not be the best fit for you as it may lead to increased cortisol stress levels.

3. Stress  Lack of sleep, busy workdays and intense training programs can all lead to chronic stress. If your stress levels are high, hold off on intermittent fasting until things settle down.

Most of my clients tell me they are very busy, often grabbing unhealthy breakfast options and snacks in the morning on their way to work. Intermittent fasting can not only provide a novel approach to weight loss and improved health, but also offers a potentially desirable lifestyle that frees up more time to work or spend time at home.

If you’re ready to start an intermittent fasting protocol, try it for 2-4 weeks and see for yourself how you may be able to upgrade your body, mind and energy levels with simply changing when you eat your meals!

(This article originally appeared @Paleohacks.com)

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

 

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Is Distracted Eating Sabotaging Your Health?

Distracted Eating.png

How often do you sit down at a table with no distractions and chew your food thoroughly? Or take a proper lunch break at work? In today’s hyper-connected world it’s important to get back to basics not only with your food choices, but also in how you consume your meals.

You might thoughtfully prepare your own lunch and pack healthy snack foods, but do you end up snacking throughout the day at your desk – mindlessly eating nuts, energy bars or fruit despite not actually being hungry? Or perhaps at the end of a long day you relax on the couch and find yourself pecking on even more snacks.

According to the latest studies, 28% of American employees don’t take a break for lunch, while 39% break for lunch but choose to stay at their desks.1 After work, things don’t seem to get better as two out of three people eat dinner in front of the television.2

Should this be a concern? Does distracted eating – e.g. having lunch or snacking while working on your laptop – negatively impact your waistline and overall health? Let’s take a look at the research.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently reported their findings of a meta-analysis of 24 well-designed studies and the results were eye-opening. People who eat distracted by laptop or TV were more likely to over-eat at mealtime and much more likely to have a bigger following meal or snack.3Interestingly, the memory patients’ had of their previous meal also greatly influenced their behavior in subsequent meals. The better their memory – or less distracted – the smaller the size of their subsequent meal.

So, it looks like not being “present” or “mindful” when you eat can negatively impact your waistline and your health. What can you do about it?

From an evolutionary point of view, our Paleo ancestors didn’t have TVs, smartphones and the countless artificial stimuli that distract us at mealtimes today. It was virtually impossible to be a distracted eater. They also went longer periods of time without eating anything, which contrasts the common tendency to constantly snack at the office.

Here are five quick tips to help curb distracted eating so you can look, feel, and perform your best at work or in the gym.

1. Make The Time To Eat

In today’s 24/7 society, constantly eating your breakfast on the run or lunch while working at your desk seems inevitable. The reality is you need to make the time to eat. Skipping meals and eating at your desk inevitably compromises your cognitive function and ability to perform quality work. You don’t necessarily need to carve out a full hour for lunch, but even 10-30 minutes at a table away from work will go a long way.

2. Get Off Your Phone or Laptop

Monitoring your phone and email or doing any number of other tasks while eating negatively affects your digestion and hunger hormones. Eating while working shunts blood away from your digestive organs, compromising your ability to digest your meal. It also blunts the release of satiety hormones, leading to greater cravings and more frequent snacking throughout the day.

3. Take A Break From Mindless Snacking

I often hear clients say they like to snack on nuts or fruit at their desk during the day. When I ask them if they are actually hungry, the majority aren’t exactly sure. While snacking at your desk can sometimes be a healthy option, watch out you aren’t mindlessly knocking back handfuls of nuts or snack bars throughout the day.

Recently, the British Journal of Nutrition found that eating ‘attentively’ at mealtime reduced mindless snacking by 30%.4  Try two weeks without snacks during the workday; if you need a replacement try increasing your water intake or adding some herbal teas to help make it to your next meal.

4. Chew Your Food

For many people eating at a desk during the day and in front of the TV or a laptop at night has become the norm. This is not how we were designed to eat. With so many distractions and lack of attention on chewing your food, you substantially affect the digestive process and alter the satiety signals sent to your brain.

A randomized cross-over study of 45 normal, overweight, and obese subjects found that increasing the number of chews to 150% and 200% above normal resulted in approximately 10% and 15% reductions in food intake.5 This is a significant finding, so be sure to slow down, chew and enjoy your meals.

5. Curb Late Night Eating

It’s a common scenario: you’ve had a long, busy day at work and finally you have a chance to relax on the couch and watch TV. Despite just finishing your dinner you crave something sweet like ice cream or chocolate to help you unwind. Stress triggers cravings for sweet or salty foods and simple carbohydrates, as your body seeks instant energy sources. The trouble with late night eating is you begin to set a pattern – like Pavlov’s dog – and your brain constantly craves a treat when you sit on the couch and watch TV, just like Pavlov when the bell rings.

A recent study in the journal Nutrition found that watching TV increased the consumption of sugary and salty treats and reduced the intake of fruits and veggies.6 To help curb mindless late night eating, take a break from watching TV for the next few weeks, or swap out your sugary snacks for fruit or herbal teas to help kick the late night cravings.

Make sure you’re truly reaping the nutritious benefits of your food choices and take time to eat. Your behaviors are strongly influenced by your environments. Constantly being on the go, working at a desk all day, and watching TV and laptops all influence your brain and behaviors when it comes to food choices. Bring your focus back to your food, be mindful when eating and chew thoroughly to improve your health and your waistline.

(This article originally appeared @ThePaleoDiet.com)

  Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

 

Check out more articles in the SNACKING SERIES...

REFERENCES

[1]http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2013/10/09/the-vanishing-lunch-break-2

[2]http://www.statisticbrain.com/television-watching-statistics/

[3]Robinson R et al. Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating1,2,3,4 Am J Clin Nutr April 2013. 97 no. 4 728-742

[4]Robinson E, Kersbergen I, Higgs S. Eating ‘attentively’ reduces later energy consumption in overweight and obese females. Br J Nutr. 2014 Aug 28:112(4):657-61.

[5]Zhu Y, Hllis J. Increasing the number of chews before swallowing reduces meal size in normal-weight, overweight, and obese adults. J Acad Nnutr Diet 2014 Jun;114(6):926-31.

[6]Ramose E et al. Effect of television viewing on food and nutrient intake among adolescents. Nutrition. 2013 Nov-Dec;29(11-12):1362-7.

New Statins Risk Exposed

A study published last month in Diabetologia found a connected risk between statin drugs and the possible development of diabetes. Statin drugs are prescription drugs that lower cholesterol levels in adults. There is currently a problem of doctors over-prescribing them, despite the increasing amounts of research available that shows high cholesterol levels are not a reliable indicator of poor cardiovascular health.

The study found that people taking statin drugs suffer a 46% increased risk of developing diabetes. This shows that the drugs are putting people at higher risks of expanding waistlines, increased visceral body-fat around internal organs, and generally worsening health.

More recently, Dr. Kailash Chand, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, called for the end of the widespread use of this drug. His research team, which investigated over 16,000 patients over a 20 year timespan, found that patients taking prescribed statin drugs were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s as those who were not taking the statins. He claimed that the growing list of side-effects far outweighs the benefits for low-risk populations.

Are Eggs Dangerous For Your Health?

What was on your plate for breakfast this morning? Eggs...bacon...avocado...butter? It's great to see so many people coming around to the notion that your total cholesterol and saturated fat intake is NOT a reliable indicator of your cardiovascular disease risk. This is especially important if you're overweight and looking to improve your body composition and overall health.

The troubling part is that news headlines love to keep people confused.

Recently, Canada's national newspaper ran an article stating that anyone eating over 2 eggs per day was at 69% increased risk of cardiovascular disease! I was amazed, so I decided to look into this study.

It turns out the article cites the results of an observational review study and they seemed to leave out some important parts. Observational studies do not prove causation, merely association, and thus the cited study doesn't tell us if those people eating 2 eggs were also eating the rest of the lumberjack breakfast (toast, potatoes, jam, orange juice, etc.), if they were inactive, if they were already at increased risk, etc. Observational studies are at the bottom of the medical study totem pole due to the fact they only show an association.

In fact, the review study actually cites the cardioprotective effects of eggs, their ability to lower homocysteine (a major inflammatory marker), and their positive impact on improving HDL, total cholesterol, fasting blood sugars and insulin, and weight loss in diabetic patients.

Interestingly, none of the benefits cited by the authors of the study were included in the article.

So what is a person to do amongst all the conflicting reports?

Find yourself reliable resources that not only share unbiased reports on the latest findings, but connect you with a community of integrative doctors, trainers, nutritionists, and like-minded people so you can get the scoop on what's "real" and what's not. 

I regularly post articles on my Facebook page from integrative doctors, trainers, and practitioners who review the latest science and health trends to give you the inside scoop. Can't find an answer to your question? Ask on Facebook and I'll help you find an answer.  

Enjoy your eggs this morning... I know I will!

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

More Problems With Statin Drugs

Despite research continuing to pour out that high cholesterol levels are not a reliable indicator of poor cardiovascular health, the over-prescription of statins (drugs that lower cholesterol levels) is still widespread. Last week, a study in Diabetologia found that people taking statins were at 46% increased risk of developing diabetes. This translates into expanding waistlines, increased visceral body-fat (around the organs), and worsening health.

This week, there’s more bad news for statin drugs. Dr Kailash Chand, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, has called for the end of the widespread use of this drug as his research team recently found that patients taking statin drugs were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s.

Dr. Chand summarized that the growing list of side-effects far outweighs the benefits for low-risk populations through his research, which investigated over 16,000 patients over a 20-year time span.

Cholesterol is incredibly important for the functioning of a healthy brain and nervous system, not to mention regulation of blood sugars. Anyone with a degree in biochemistry would quickly point out the vital role cholesterol plays in forming the cellular membranes of all the cells of your body.

Furthermore, 70 % of the cholesterol in the body is produced internally, which indicates just how important this molecule must be to maintain a healthy and vibrant body. Why else would the body allocate so many resources to produce something that was harmful for our health?

The misguided notion that cholesterol levels should be maintained below a certain standard is based on old science and poor logic. As the wealth of data comes forward regarding the importance of cholesterol for good health, it would be a welcome change to see more doctors expressing their concern over these new and troubling findings.

Remember, all major medical journals tell us that 85% of all diseases are diet, exercise, and lifestyle based. Eat a diet full of lean meats, healthy fats, nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits, and the right amount of carbs to fit your lifestyle, and these will give you the the foundation for good health and a long life!

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS

Cauliflower & Bacon Hash

This fantastic recipe by Paleo Leap is a great way to get your morning protein (with 3-4 eggs) and nutrient dense cruciferous veggies in just one meal. This should be a classic breakfast staple that provides high protein, veggies, and healthy fats... dig in and enjoy!

The juicy sizzle of bacon hitting a hot pan and the rich aroma of onions frying in the bacon fat is guaranteed to wake up even the most grouchy of early risers, whether it’s the prelude to a day out in the weather or just another commute to the office. If you’re not keen on potatoes, though, finding the ingredients for a satisfying hash can be something of a challenge: bacon and onions are all very well, but a real breakfast needs a little more oomph too it.

Enter cauliflower: it browns up perfectly in the pan, soaks up the flavor of the bacon and spices, and provides the body and texture that you expect from a real hash, not to mention a healthy dose of added nutrition (especially Vitamins C and K). Don’t skip the spices, either: paprika adds a smoky, savory undertone, and the lemon juice brightens everything up so all the bacon fat doesn’t make it too heavy. For a complete breakfast, fry up some eggs on the side and serve them atop a big bed of hash: yum!

Click here to read full article.

4 tips to avoid a “turkey hangover” this holiday season!

The holiday season is here, which for many of us means a gluttonous weekend of eating, eating and more eating.  I often hear clients complain of a “turkey hangover” after the big holiday meal, where fatigue and digestive discomfort set in after the feast.

How can you avoid that slow, tired, and bloated feeling after your big meal?

Try these simple tips to help improve digestion and avoid the dreaded turkey hangover:

1)     Digestive Support

If you struggle with digestive discomfort, regular gas or bloating, or don’t cope well with rich meals, than try adding a digestive enzyme supplement at the start of the meal. Digestive enzymes provide you with added support in breaking down all the proteins, carbs, and fats you are consuming. Also, if you struggle with gluten or dairy products, a digestive enzyme will give you the extra support you need to process your food efficiently and avoid the intense fatigue that can set in post-meal.

2)     No Beer

Beer is not the best bet to consume around mealtime over the holidays. It can significantly contribute to gas and bloating, exacerbate digestive discomfort, and make you feel like you need to loosen your belt half way through the meal.  Try wine (rather than beer) during your meals, or a digestif at the end of the meal (i.e., scotch, brandy, cognac) to naturally stimulate gastric acid production and promote superior breakdown of foods. (The French have been doing it for centuries!)

3)     Take A ‘Time Out’ Between Dinner & Desserts

If you get the chance to control the tempo of mealtime, I would highly suggest a small break after dinner, before the desserts are served. Most of us want to sample all the trimmings at the table, which means eating more than you normally would during dinner. There is nothing worse than having to force down a nice dessert when really you don’t have the room for it.

Try serving up some mint tea to help soothe digestion and allow some time to digest between courses. If you are a coffee lover, a break for espresso is a great way to naturally stimulate digestion, while at the same time providing the needed pause to let things settle before dessert.

4)     Movement

It’s normal this time of year to eat more than usual over the weekend, and move a little less while visiting family and friends. To help support better energy and digestion, try adding a morning walk over the holiday season to help get some blood flowing, kick-start digestion and keep you regular, as well as just being a nice activity to do with family and friends (no matter how old or young!). Even better, go for a nice walk after your big meal and you’ll feel much better at the end of the day.

There you have it… four easy tips to make your mealtime more enjoyable. Have a happy and comfortable holiday season!

6 Reasons Why You Should Drink Green Tea?

Green tea has been used for thousands of years throughout India, China, and Japan as a panacea for longevity and health.  Green tea is a member the Theaceae family of plants and contains numerous key nutrients that can help sedentary and active people improve overall health, lose weight, and fight inflammation. Green tea is a wonderful tonic for overall health and has an amazing array of health promoting benefits.

#1 Antioxidants

Green tea contains some of the highest concentration of powerful anti-oxidants, which help protect the body’s DNA and cell membranes from damage.

#2 Increases "Good" HDL Cholesterol

Green tea is a great support for cardiovascular health, increasing "good" HDL cholesterol and lowering total cholesterol. 

#3 Protects Against Cancer

Green tea also inhibits cancer cell growth and is protective against breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.  Therefore, for both men and women it provides a nice additional cancer protection. 

#4 Helps Fat-Burning

Green tea also contains epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG, which helps increase fat burning in the body.  Fat is an important fuel for exercise, increasing your endurance and therefore your overall performance. EGCG can trigger the release of stored body fat to be used as fuel for movement and exercise.  The benefits of green tea don’t stop there. It contains naturally occurring caffeine that inhibits a very important enzyme called COMT.  When this enzyme is inhibited it prolongs the fat burning effect of EGCG due to the presence of the naturally occurring caffeine in green tea.  This synergistic effect is why it's important to actually drink green tea, rather than simply take supplements.

#5 Cools Inflammation

Green tea is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, containing over fifty-one anti-inflammatory compounds.  One in particular is especially potent. Apigenin, a citrus bioflavanoid, is an active inhibitor of the enzyme cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2).  The ability to inhibit the COX-2 enzyme is the same mechanism used to stop inflammation by the popular over–the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil or Ibuprofen.  These drugs have many side-effects, including stomach ulcers, liver and kidney damage, and have been shown to cause intestinal hyper-permeability or leaky gut.

#6 Protects Against Ulcers

Inflammation is thought to be the root cause of many chronic diseases. Green tea blocks the formation of uric acid, another important and well-recognized medical marker for systemic inflammation. Green tea not only reduces inflammation and but also contains over 50 anti-ulcer compounds. 

Add a cup of green tea to your day to start reaping the many health and performance benefits of green tea. If you are an avid coffee drinker, try substituting your afternoon coffee for green tea. You'll not only boost your antioxidant levels, but your overall health as well!

Marc Bubbs N.D., CISSN, CSCS

Want to learn more about benefits of caffeine? Check out my interview with Dr. Nanci Guest PhD (cand) about "Caffeine, Fat Loss and Performance" on the Dr. Bubbs Performance Podcast...

How Big Is Your Sleep Debt?

In the Paleolithic or ‘hunter gatherer’ era, from 2.6 million years ago until the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago, our ancestors woke up with the rising sun in the morning and rested for a good nights sleep not long after sundown.  Scientists estimate that our Paleolithic ancestors averaged about 10 hours of sleep per night.  Of course the absence of an external light source, television sets, and laptops  made it a little easier to get to bed so early, but the benefits are deeply engrained in our DNA.  

Your circadian rhythms are based on the light and dark cycles of the day and have a profound effect on your bodyweight, cardiovascular health, fertility, and well-being. Melatonin, your body’s sleep hormone, is secreted in the evening about 3 hours after your last meal.  It makes you feel tired, drowsy, and prepares you for deep rejuvenating sleep. 

In winter, Paleolithic people slept longer hours – approximately 10-12hrs per night – as the days got shorter and darker.  Your immune and hormonal functions are linked to these evolutionary circadian rhythms of light and dark, and understanding how this effects you will help you improve your energy levels, build muscle, burn fat, and upgrade your overall health.

For example, daylight increases your dopamine and cortisol output, getting you out of bed and ready for the day ahead.  When was the last time you felt energized in the morning? How many cups of coffee do you go through to get yourself going in the morning? Do you need your alarm clock to wake up or do you wake up naturally? 

Your natural hormonal patterns shift throughout the day and by nightfall your cortisol and dopamine levels should be at their lowest, allowing melatonin production to kick in and stimulate your repair and rejuvenation hormone... growth hormone.  Growth hormone is essential for rebuilding your body while you sleep, helping to build lean muscle, burn fat and keep your immune system strong.  (Your body is hard at work while you rest!)

So what’s the problem with our 21st century sleep patterns?

Two generations ago, our grandparents average about 9-10 hours sleep per night, not very far off our Paleolithic ancestors.  Today, the average North American gets between 6-7.5 hours of sleep, about an hour or two less than the recommended 8 to 8.5 hours sleep per night.  Over the course of a year, this would amount to approximately a 500-hour ‘sleep debt’! 

Over-consuming coffee can add to the problem. How do you know if you are over-doing the stimulants?

You’ve been abusing your coffee intake if you don't feel the same ‘kick’ from your morning cup of joe, or if stopping your intake results in   headaches, irritability, or intense fatigue.  Coffee triggers the production of adrenaline from the adrenal glands and stimulates our sympathetic – ‘fight or flight’ – nervous system.  While this is okay in moderation, chronically relying on this form of energy is like revving the RPM’s on your car constantly into the red zone. Before too long, you'll burn out your engine!

So what can you do to start cutting into your sleep debt? 

Let’s start in the bedroom.  The key to sleep is ensuring you have total darkness in your bedroom.  Make sure to remove all light sources (think red lights from the alarm clocks), cell phones on the bedside table, and nearby laptops from the vicinity of your head. All of these stimulate the nervous system and prevent deep sleep.  Next, turn off the television or shut off your laptop at least an hour before bed to allow your body to unwind.  All of these stimulants activate the nervous system and prevent deep sleep.  Finally, get to bed before midnight to increase your number of sleep hours per night. In Tradtional Chinese Medicine (TCM), every hour of sleep before midnight counts as DOUBLE, because they are so valuable for restoring health and wellness.

Make time to 'schedule' in more sleep... it will pay off with better energy, productivity, and performance at work and in the gym!

Dr Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

 

Check out more articles in the SLEEP SERIES...

References:

  1. Sabanayagam C, Shankar A.  Sleep duration and cardiovascular disease: results from the National Health Interview Survey.  Sleep.2010 Aug;33(8):1037-42.
  2. Alvarez GG, Ayas NT.  The impact of daily sleep duration on health: a review of the literature.  Prog Cardiovasc Nurs. 2004 Spring;19(2):56-9.
  3. Ayas NT, White DP, et al. A prospective study of self-reported sleep duration and incident diabetes in women. Diabetes Care. 2003 Feb;26(2):380-4.
  4. Chaput JP, Després JP, Bouchard C, Tremblay A.  Association of sleep duration with type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance.  Diabetologia. 2007 Nov;50(11):2298-304. Epub 2007 Aug 24.
  5. Vgontzas AN, Bixler EO, et al. Chronic insomnia is associated with nyctohemeral activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: clinical implications. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Aug;86(8):3787-94.
  6. Kobayashi D, Takahashi O, , et al. Association between weight gain, obesity, and sleep duration: a large-scale 3-year cohort study.  Sleep Breath. 2011 Sep 3. [Epub ahead of print]

 

 

Is Prostate Cancer Screening Useful?

 It’s that time of year again… Mo-vember! Whether you are growing a ‘-stache’ or not, men’s health – and more specifically prostate health - is in the news this month. Do you get your prostate and PSA levels – a marker for prostate health – checked annually? Recently, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, an independent panel of volunteer clinicians and methodologists, reviewed whether PSA testing is actually useful for preventing prostate cancer. Their conclusion may surprise you.

After reviewing the latest literature, the task force found that for men between the ages of 55-69, PSA testing only helps 1/1000 men. That’s right, the research shows that men receiving a PSA test died of prostate cancer at a rate of 5 in 1000, whereas those who received no PSA test died at a rate of 6 in 1000. The reviewers on the panel concluded that the unnecessary harm caused from a full investigation and treatment (surgery, radiation) resulted in too many adverse effects and did not significantly improve outcomes.

What were the negative side effects of treatment?

Men who had surgery or radiation to treat the prostate (due to elevated PSA levels) had a high rate of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction post treatment. For this reason, the panel concluded that ‘the harm of prostate screening greatly outweigh the benefits’. (Check out this interview with Dr. James Dickinson, a member of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, for more info).

The panel goes on to discuss how mortality rates for prostate cancer have dropped by similar rates in countries with no PSA screening, meaning there is much more at play then simply PSA screening as the reason for reduce prostate cancer risks. The panel states that while the PSA marker is great for tracking cancer growth, it is NOT effective as a screen for cancer.

These new recommendations have been received with a lot of controversy across the country.

Rocco Rossi, the CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada does not believe the new recommendations are in the best interest of the patient. He cites the lack of specialists on the panel as a major reason why the recommendations are flawed and believes expert urologists and those on the “front lines” treating patients see benefit with PSA testing.

Rossi outlines that in Canada, we have an active surveillance program, which means that men identified as high risk are not automatically required to get surgery or radiation, reducing the so-called ‘harm’ the panel identified as a major drawback. As prostate cancer is a slow growth tumor, he cites that over 50% of men at high risk are on active surveillance, compared to only 12% in the USA where this type of program is not as prevalent. (Check out this interview with Rocco Rossi, CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada, for more info).

So, what is a guy to do?

There is no easy answer. I believe men should ensure they are seeing their doctor or naturopath at least once a year. Men tend to avoid health issues until they become unbearable, making treatment more difficult. A true preventative approach involves taking into account your current level of health, medical history, and implementing diet, exercise, and lifestyle strategies to reduce your risk of all chronic diseases.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non–skin cancer in men and the third leading cause of cancer-related death among men in Canada. Talk to your doctor today and find out if PSA testing is the right strategy for you. Take a pro-active approach to your health and you’ll look, feel, and perform your best!

 Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS

 

How Important Is Sleep? Just Ask the San Francisco Giants… World Series Champions!

Recovery is the new buzzword in high performance. Gone are the days of “no pain, no gain”, today trainers and coaches use a wide array of statistical metrics to analyze how stressful training is the athletes body so they can ensure are ready for game day.

The term “physical preparedness” is used to describe when you are fully rested and ready to perform at your best. Ironically, despite all these advances many sports teams still go with the status quo… after a night game they take a late flight to the next town and get in around 300 or 400am. This places a heavy burden on your stress hormones and blunts deep, rejuvenative sleep.

The San Francisco Giants are ahead of the game (and it shows… they just won their 3rd World Series Championship in five years!) when it comes to “physical preparedness”. For the past four years, after consulting with sleep specialist Dr. Chris Winter, they decided to have players go home and get a “regular” nights rest in their own beds, then fly the next morning during the day.

Seems like a small change… but the impact was profound!

Sleep is absolutely critical for high performance, whether you’re an athlete or logging long hours at work. As you wind down to sleep at night, your sleep hormone melatonin increases. Several hours after you’ve fallen asleep, your body produces growth hormone (GH), which is critical for optimizing recovery and “building up the candle” that you’ve been burning at both ends. When players to late-night long haul flights, then don’t achieve the same level of deep sleep and GH production, limiting recovery. This adds up over a long season.

Take a lesson from the World Series Champions… prioritize sleep and your productivity at work and in the gym will improve dramatically!

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

 

Check out more articles in the SLEEP SERIES...

 

 

 

Does A Vegetarian Diet Reduce Fertility in Men?

Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet has often been associated with a “healthier” dietary regime. However, a new study has highlighted some significant detrimental impacts of a vegetarian/vegan diet on men’s reproductive health. The findings were quite compelling.

Recently, the Journal Fertility & Sterility followed 474 males over a four-year span and analyzed their total sperm count and quality. The results showed that lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans had significantly lower sperm concentrations (50.7 ± 7.4 M/mL and 51.0 ± 13.1 M/mL, respectively) compared to meat eaters (69.6 ± 3.2 M/mL). Researchers also found that sperm motility was 30% lower in vegan/vegetarian men compared to meat eaters.

Why is this happening?

Experts are throwing around many different hypotheses for the notable difference between vegetarian/vegan and non-vegetarians, including; high intake of soy, lower B12 levels, increased pesticide intake, and lower intake of animal fats.

While we won’t likely know the exact cause of “why” this is happening for some time, it’s important for men to mitigate these negative effects. If you’ve reduced your meat intake out of fear it is “bad” for you… stop! Meat is the most nutrient dense food, choose a wide variety of wild fish, free run chicken, grass-fed beef, game meats to ensure you have adequate cholesterol levels, key building blocks for all steroid hormones (i.e. testosterone) and thus fertility. Remember; when you eat meat you must always include veggies as well. How many? Aim for one-two “fists” worth per meal (equal to your relative hand size.)

If you’re a vegan and vegetarian and don’t want to add some meat to your regime, then reduce your tofu intake and switch over to tempeh. Fermented tofu or tempeh does not exert the same negative effects on estrogen levels in males. Also, you can add whey protein isolate, branched-chain amino acids, and/or creatine as a dietary supplement to help promote lean muscle mass and a more anabolic environment in the body, which will promote superior reproductive health.

Whether fertility or better overall health is your goal, keep this new research in mind when deciding on the best dietary approach for promoting your BEST health.

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS

Why Should You Eat Organ Meats (And How To Make It Taste Good)

Fall is here and with it, the start of cold and flu season. Your energy levels will also naturally decline as we move towards the shortest days of the year. But what can you do to improve your immunity and energy levels? Look no further than your dinner plate for the answer.

Organ meats, liver in particular, are one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat. Period. Chicken liver is a terrific source of pre-formed vitamin A (11,000 IU per 3 ounces), which helps to boost your innate or first-line of defense immunity.

Chicken liver is also a great source of iron, providing half your daily allowance with just 100g (3.5oz) serving. Iron is essential for building hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your blood, and maintaining ideal energy levels. This is especially important over the winter months when iron levels can be depleted from the inflammatory reactions that take place when battling colds and flus, or from intense training.

Liver is also a great source of B12 and folate that support better energy levels and help you get through busy days at work and home. Chicken liver contains all nine essential amino acids, is loaded with B-vitamins, and contains high amounts of choline which is critical to keep your mind sharp and productive.

So, why aren’t you eating chicken liver? The most common response is… the taste!

It’s time to give liver another chance. First, chicken liver is the ‘mildest’ tasting of the various liver sources (veal, pork, beef). So either throw it in with your hamburger or taco meat, or combine it with some of your favorite ingredients. Check out this fantastic recipe from Philippe Grand, Dt.P who presented at Own The Podium’s (OTP) SPort INnovation (SPIN) Summit earlier this week, which brings together Canada’s Olympic team of sports medicine doctors, physiologists, trainers and nutritionists.  

Prosciutto, pear and balsamic vinegar chicken liver (4 portions)

10 + 15ml Olive Oil

1 onion, chopped

100mg (4 slices) Prosciutto, cut into 1cm squares

45ml all-purpose gluten-free flour (or regular flour)

2.5ml cinnamon

1ml salt

2.5ml ground pepper

400g chicken liver, cleaned, cut into 3 to 4cm pieces

1 Bartlett pear, cut into cubes

30ml balsamic vinegar

Instructions

1.     In a large non-stick skillet, add olive oil (10ml), onion, and prosciutto over medium/high heat, until the onion is golden

2.     In a bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Add pieces of liver and with a spoon, mix together until pieces are covered with flour.

3.     In a pan, move the onions and prosciutto aside and add the 2nd serving of oliveoil (15ml).

4.     Fry the chicken liver pieces for 4-5 minutes until they are golden brown on all sides.

5.     Add the pear cubes and balsamic vinegar. Mix and let the vinegar caramelize.

 Nutrition Facts: 293 calories, 25g protein, 18g carbs, 14g fats, and 10mg iron.

There you have it! Stay clear of colds and flus and keep your energy levels up this fall.

Enjoy!

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS

Ps. If you enjoyed this dish, check out these other great organ meat recipes...

‘The Ultimate Beef Liver Recipe’

‘Turkish Hidden Liver Meatballs with Paleo Cacik’  

‘Recipes That Will Make You Love Chicken Livers’

How To Reduce Heart Attack Risk by 86%!

You often hear the same refrain in magazines, blogs, newspapers, and even your doctor… eat a healthy diet and adopt a healthy lifestyle and you can reduce your risk of myocardial infarction (MI) or in layman’s terms…heart attack.  But how much do diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes impact your heart attack risk?

Many people, and even some doctors, are still skeptical at how much diet, exercise and lifestyle really impact your risk of heart attack. Often times, clients try their best to make changes but at the end of the day they fall short, and resort to taking medications – typically statin drugs that reduce all-cause mortality (death from any disease condition).

A new study, hot off the press shines a powerful light on just how much influence you can have on reducing your risk factors. The September 30th issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that each of the following lifestyle factors independently conferred lower risk of heart attacks:

1)    Healthy diet

2)    Moderate alcohol consumption

3)    Smaller waist circumference

4)    Not smoking

5)    Exercise

If you are able to incorporate all five lifestyle changes, you would reduce your risk of heart attack by a whopping 86%! The results were so compelling that study author Dr Agneta Akesson wrote “the benefit of combined diet, lifestyle, and healthy body weight may prevent up to approximately four out of five cases of MI [heart attacks].”  Imagine reducing heart attack rates by 80% with simple changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle … it is possible!

If you are struggling with poor diet, excessive alcohol intake, weight gain, smoking, or lack of activity then start by addressing one factor at a time. Once that becomes manageable, you can think about addressing another factor on the list.

Take an pro-active role in your health, the research shows it’s your best bet to a long and healthy life!

Yours in health,

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS

Can Socializing Extend Your Life?

Just the other day I watched a documentary on centenarians (people across the globe over 100 years old) and the traits they shared in common. It was very interesting that while diet and exercise did play a key role in their longevity, there was another key factor most people don’t immediately think of… community!

The next day I read a terrific article in the Globe & Mail by Wency Leung, hitting home about the same idea. Those people who socialize the most in the older years tend to live the longest.

This is incredibly important in a day-and-age when people are spending more time  connecting online but less time talking to their neighbors.  According to developmental psychologist Susan Pinker, hundreds of friends on Facebook cannot replace the health benefits of face-to-face interactions.

New studies show that the middle-aged are the most isolated, with one in three people stating they have ‘no one to confide in’.  In contrast, the rugged island mountains of Sardinia, Italy is an area dense with centenarians whom all congregate daily to chat, go for walks, and check in on their neighbors. The sense of community provides emotional support and mental stimulus for its inhabitants.

It seems socializing is also good for productivity at work. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found in a recent study that employees who took breaks together, rather than in isolation, improved their productivity by 20% and their satisfaction in their work by 10%!

We are social animals that require face-to-face interactions. Whether it’s taking a regular coffee/tea break with colleagues, scheduling in a weekly yoga or fitness class, or simply going for lunch with a friend, making time to interact with colleagues, friends, and family will help you live a longer, healthier, happier, and MORE productive life!

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS

Do You Really Know What’s In Fast-Food Fries?

Have you ever wondered what’s actually is added to your local fast-food chain fries? Last week, I came across a great article in Wired magazine article that gave me some great insight into this subject. Let’s take a quick look.

Before making a batch of fries, it’s important to choose the right kind of potato, and the Russet Burbank is far and away the number one choice. First, the potatoes are blanched and then doused with a dextrose sugar solution in order to restore some of the flavor lost during the blanching process. Dextrose is a very high-glycemic carb that is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream, spiking blood sugar levels.

Next, to prevent the spuds from turning too brown or black with deep-frying, sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP) is added to make sure the fries stay golden brown. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says this is safe to consume, in a laboratory setting SAPP is hazardous to the skin and eyes upon contact, inhalation or ingestion, and can even cause severe inflammation. It’s also a rich source of excess phosphorus, which when heavily consumed can contribute to osteoporosis.

Next, the fries undergo there first round of deep-frying at the warehouse, using a combination of vegetable oils (canola, soy, hydrolyzed soy bean oil), and most likely the genetically modified type (GMO). Ironically, the fast food industry used to use beef tallow (a much healthier option) but the low-fat craze of the 1980s forced them to convert over to vegetable oil, thinking it was the healthier option. To replace the missing taste, an artificial beef flavoring is added that contains gluten and milk proteins, two common food allergens. (I am not sure about you, but I prefer only potato in my fries, no need for wheat and dairy fillers!)

Once the fries make it to the storefront, there is a second round of deep-frying with corn oil, rich in TBHQ (tert butylhydroquione) that is highly reactive (leads to free radical damage) and has been shown to cause stomach ulcers in rats. Not good. Even worse, these vats of frying oil tend to sit around for quite some time, adding to the oxidation of already unhealthy fats, making them more damaging to your health.

Finally, add salt and your French fries are ready to be served! (Not sure about you, but I am not exactly craving a serving of these fries anytime soon… or ever in my lifetime for that matter!)

So, what should you do if you want to enjoy some fries from time to time? Are you simply out of luck? I would stick with local restaurants or food trucks where the kitchen staff actually peels the potato, deep-fries it on the spot, and then serves it up to you minutes later. This will minimize the negative health impacts and let you enjoy the occasional treat.

Have a great weekend!

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS

 

References

1)    Wired Magazine, July 2014.

2)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disodium_pyrophosphate