Why is Sleep Important?

"I'll just watch one more episode... .""I'll catch up on sleep during the weekend." "I have so much to do. I'll sleep when I retire!"

These thoughts are too often in our daily narratives...  Due to our busy lives, many of us place sleep at the bottom of our list of priorities and never give it a second thought.  When an endless to-do list is running through our minds, why would we use up precious time to sleep?

Then we wonder why we crave sugar (want to kick sugar with us?), why our colds stick around, and why that bit of belly fat just won't go away.  Sleep is the single most important behavior that humans experience. When consistently sleep deprived, a multitude of  health issues can affect our overall well-being.  We need to place sleep as one of our top priorities to ensure a healthy body and mind.

Today, the majority of us get 5 hours or less of sleep each night.   Most of us are walking around consistently sleep deprived.

"How do I know if I am sleep deprived?"

When suffering from sleep deprivation, your body will tell you. You just have to listen and watch for the signs. One key thing to look for is whether or not you are experiencing micro sleeps. Essentially, your body is telling you it needs to rest, and when this issue is not addressed you may start to experience involuntary moments of sleep. Micro-sleeps can happen at the worst times! During a meeting, during a lecture, even during a conversation with a friend... we feel our head start to nod and are usually awakened by a concerned co-worker or peer... or even the start of drool down our cheek. Definitely embarrassing, these micro sleeps can also be extremely dangerous and even fatal. It has been reported that 31 percent of drivers have fallen asleep (micro sleep) at the wheel. These micro sleeps also lead to poor judgment. If at the wrong time, a micro sleep can put us and anyone around us in great danger.

Unfortunately, what do most of us do when we can’t shake the Zzzz's? We resort to some type of stimulant to "wake us up." Coffee, energy drinks, supplements, nicotine, etc. The list could go on and on. Stimulants fuel the awakened state of the mind and it becomes hyperactive. Essentially, we trick our brains into thinking that it is time to be awake and we disrupt the electrical functions of our brains.  We then have trouble falling asleep at night, and some of us rely on depressants, such as alcohol or sleeping aids to fall asleep; however these sedate us rather than induce healthy sleep. Only further damage occurs from here, and yet we follow the same patterns day after day.

Poor quality and lack of sleep leads to a plethora of unwanted side effects. Poor memory, poor creativity, and irritability are just a few. Aside from side effects,  improper sleeping habits can lead to weight gain, trigger our stress response, and affect our delicate hormone balance.  There are at least 10 different hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain that function improperly when we don't sleep enough. These hormone shifts lead to changes in our appetite, fertility, mental health, etc. It's no wonder we aren't the friendliest people when we are tired... everything is irregularly wired!

Healthy sleeping patterns can help prevent all of those side effects and health issues plus more. While we sleep, three major functions occur:

  1. Restoration. While we sleep, our brain rebuilds and restores the body's energy sources. It works to prepare our body for the next day’s work, ensuring that it is properly fueled and functioning.
  2. Energy Conservation.  Going along with restoring our energy sources, our body conserves energy while we sleep. This way our body is not running on empty throughout the day!
  3. Memory Processing and Consolidation. Just as any organ in the body, waste needs to be cleared out in order to ensure proper function. While we sleep cerebrospinal fluid flows through our brain, flushing out these products. A good way to think of it is as your kitchen. What would happen if you stopped cleaning your kitchen for a month? Dishes would pile up, bacteria would grow. Eventually, it would be come unlivable. Cleaning the kitchen makes space, protects from infections, etc., just as our brains do while we sleep.

"So, what can I do?"

There are many things we can do to ensure we get the proper amount and quality of sleep that our bodies need.

1)  Listen to your body! Our bodies have a unique way of letting us know when we need sleep. Pay attention to those moments when you feel exceptionally fatigued, can’t seem to focus, or you notice changes in your mood, stress levels, and overall health. Plan your day to ensure you can get to sleep by a decent time or allow yourself to take a nap in between activities. The more hours of sleep that you can get before midnight, the better!

2)  Take some time to wind down: Prior to going to sleep, chill for a bit! Turn off electronics which excite the brain and seek darkness. Avoid those late night urges to watch television in bed or scroll through the internet on your iPad or phone. Our brains register this light as daytime which stimulates them and prohibiting rest.  So instead, dim the lights about an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Use this time to allow your body to adjust and begin to calm down.

3)  Make the room slightly chilly:  Sleeping in a slightly cool and dark room is the best practice for quality sleep.

4) Watch your sugar and caffeine intake: Especially late in the day.  As we get older as well, our ability to process caffeine diminishes, so you might to be able to drink as much caffeine as you used to.

5) Have a warm beverage!  Go for a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk, both of which work natural magic on our bodies and promote healthy sleep.

6)  Take a little magnesium!  Magnesium is one of the few supplements that have studies to back up its effectiveness.  200 to 400 mg of magnesium citrate or glycinate before bed can help relax the nervous system and muscles.

7)  Make the room pitch black.  Cover all those blinking lights, better yet, unplug all those blinking lights.  If you don't have heavy curtains, it's time to invest in some.  Ideally, you shouldn't be able to see your hand in front of your face!  Even slight light has been shown to hinder melatonin production, which helps us to sleep and to restore.

All in all, pay attention to your body’s needs. Sleep is just as important as exercise and proper nutrition. It is together, that these activities ensure the highest level of health and overall wellness! Written by Ashley Green and Tammy Chang for The Nourished Belly Sources: Main, E. (2014). 9 Foods to Help You Sleep: These Food Cures Will Get You Back to Your Zzzs. Organic Gardening. Retrieved from http://www.organicgardening.com/living/9-foods-to-help-you-sleep?page=0,0 Foster, R. (2013). Why Do We Sleep? TED Talks. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/russell_foster_why_do_we_sleep?language=en Wiley, T. S., Formbly, B. (2000). Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

Eat This: Tomatoes

In every session with my clients, we always have a Food of the Day that is based on what specifically the client is working on, and the season.  Before summer ends, I want to make SURE I talk about tomatoes.   YES!  Tomato plants love hot days and the hot days give us nice, big, plump tomatoes.  They are found in cuisines all over the world, but they are originally native to Western South America. Tomatoes are known for their high vitamin C and high antioxidant content.  Specifically they get a lot of buzz for an antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene is in the carotenoid family and is shown to  be cancer protective for at least prostrate and breast cancer, excellent for heart health, and helpful for keeping blood vessels strong and healthy.  Lycopene has also been shown to be more absorbable after it's heated.  (Which is a great reason to make tomato sauce!)

I always, however, recommend clients to have a mix of raw and cooked tomatoes.  Raw tomatoes have an excellent vitamin C content, especially in that jelly around the seeds, so don’t throw that away!

Another wonder about tomatoes is that they contain glutamates, which are natural flavor enhancers.  You might have heard of glutamates because of MSG, or Mono Sodium Glutamate.  MSG is a flavor enhancer that fits my definition of a processed food:  you can't make it in your own kitchen.  So, I prefer to add naturally occurring glutamates to my dishes.  Tomatoes!  Excellent!  In they go.  Other foods that include natural glutamates are mushrooms, anchovies, parmesan cheese, and of course, bacon!

Tomatoes are also part of the nightshade family, which includes peppers, potatoes, eggplant, and cayenne to name a few.  Some find they are sensitive to nightshades, and for those with arthritis, it is advised to cut them out to see if symptoms improve.

Choose firm tomatoes with bright green stems, and buying them straight from the farmers market ensures freshness and taste.  Store tomatoes at room temperature, for putting them in the refrigerator will make them mealy.  If buying them canned, which is a fine choice when they aren't in season, make sure your cans say BPA free (BPA is a chemical added to can linings that can disrupt hormones), or buy them in glass jars.

My Most Recent Tomato Obsession: Gazpacho

Gazpacho originated from the Andalusia region of Spain, and is a soup, usually with a tomato base, that is served cold.   It has now evolved to take on many different forms, and it’s my recent summertime obsession. It is extremely refreshing to have on hot summer days.

Gazpacho

Serves 2

2 cups tomatoes

1 large cucumber

1 large red pepper

1 cup loosely packed basil

2 cloves raw garlic

1 T balsamic or wine vinegar

2 T extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

1)   Throw all ingredients into a blender, or place in a deep bowl and use an immersion blender.  Blend.

2)   Salt and pepper to taste!

3)   Serve with toast or crackers, or hard boiled eggs!

Why Should I Go Gluten Free?

My entire life, I would often end the day with belly that looked like it belonged to someone at least 4 months pregnant.  Ugh.  It really didn't make me want to go out, or put my jeans on.  I still go through life preferring to wear tights and dresses because I remember this phase of my life.  And it happens still, but now I know why:  I'm sensitive to gluten.

So, let’s talk gluten. What is it? Gluten is a component of the grains wheat, rye and barley. If your body is intolerant of gluten, it’s actually reacting to gliadin, a protein within gluten. Severity of this intolerance ranges from a mild gluten sensitivity, to full-blow celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where your body basically attacks itself every time you eat gluten. In the short-term, sensitivities and celiac can translate into constantly feeling bloated, fatigued, irritated, foggy, or constipated, among over 300 (you read that right!) other symptoms, or it can mean having no noticeable symptoms whatsoever. In the long-run, it can mean the slow flattening and deterioration of your small intestine’s nutrient-absorbing villi, which translates to passing up nutrients that your body REALLY needs and reabsorbing toxins, leading to inflammation, deficiencies, other autoimmune diseases, and infertility. Not fun.

It’s estimated that 1 in 133 people in the U.S. are genetically predisposed to celiac, and about 18 million others are suffering from a gluten sensitivity. The worst part is that MOST of these people are walking around undiagnosed or even misdiagnosed with another disease or issue! Oh, and it runs in families.  So, if a family member has one or the other, chances are you do too, even if your symptoms are totally different. Have I piqued your interest yet? If you’ve been feeling yucky, or I’ve planted a seed of doubt, take this short quiz from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness to figure out if it’s worth a trip to your doctor to get tested for celiac disease.

http://www.celiaccentral.org/disease-symptoms-checklist/

Unfortunately, those with just a gluten sensitivity (after having eliminated celiac as a possibility, of course) can’t get clinically diagnosed simply for the fact there is no test for it yet. This makes it that much more important for you to listen to your body and to be your own health advocate.

So, tell me, why should I go gluten free?

The good news is that the harmful effects of a sensitivity can be completely reversed with a gluten-free diet because of your body’s remarkable ability to heal, and you may start to feel it immediately. An elimination diet can be an important way for you to figure out if you have a sensitivity to gluten, simply by seeing how you feel after you’ve taken it out of your diet. I have clients who, after going gluten-free for just a week, have woken up feeling refreshed, as if a cloud has been lifted, and others who have completely reversed their headaches, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, irritability, or whatever was ailing them. Many pounds have been lost simply by going off gluten since it forces to avoid some of the most fattening, processed foods.   Everyone, however, is different.

One reason why you might want to go gluten free, is if you have any thyroid issues, digestive issues, or your children are having behavioral issues and attention deficit issues at school, it could be worth taking out gluten and seeing if things improve.  Many people find that it helps.

We do however, need to know what foods and food products contain gluten.

Take a look at this list of foods that contain gluten. Does anything surprise you?

  • Beer, ale
  • Barley
  • Broth, bouillon powder/cubes
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Bulgur
  • Commercial soups and salad dressings
  • Couscous
  • Breads, cereals, pastas
  • Imitation seafood
  • Cakes, pies, cookies
  • Processed meats
  • Soy sauce
  • Seitan
  • Wheat starch
  • Pizza
  • Mac and cheese
  • Seasonings
  • Marinades, gravies
  • Rye-containing products
  • Vegetarian meat substitutes
  • Flavored rice-packaged products

Alternatively, here is a list of gluten-free foods (assuming they have not been contaminated with gluten during processing and are free of gluten-containing ingredients).

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dried beans
  • Lentils
  • Amaranth
  • Cassava, millet
  • Grits, corn, cornmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal (gluten-free- Bob’s Red Mill is certified gluten free)
  • Fats
  • Fresh meats, fish
  • Rice, wild rice
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Seaweed
  • Polenta
  • Cheese (not processed)
  • Popcorn
  • Milk

Do you see a trend?

In general, the more processed a food is, the higher the likelihood that it will have an ingredient that contains gluten or an ingredient that has been cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains. So if you’re identifying with any of these symptoms, and want to explore whether gluten could be at the root of your ailment, here are some ground rules to eating a gluten-free diet.

Ground Rules for a Gluten Free Diet

1. Avoid gluten-containing foods, the obvious and the not-so-obvious. Clearly, anything with wheat, barley, rye is off-limits. But did you know that pasta, couscous and seitan are derivatives? Malt vinegar? Here is a great article identifying ingredients to look for on packages when you’re out shopping:

http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/copingwiththediet/a/Gluten-On-Food-Labels.htm.

2. Focus on foods that are naturally gluten-free! There is NO shortage of nutritious, filling foods here that you already love, and your body will thank you. Just because a package says gluten free does NOT mean it’s healthy….it still could be incredibly processed.  Read the labels!

Quinoa, rice, potatoes, and vegetables are perfectly safe. If wheat flour was previously a pantry staple, you’ll be happy to know there are a ton of natural alternatives:

  • almond meal flour
  • coconut meal flour
  • pea flour
  • potato flour
  • garbanzo bean flour
  • millet

3. At the supermarket, look for items that are certified Gluten-Free with an accredited label. Just because an item is labeled wheat-free doesn’t mean it’s necessarily gluten-free, so be an educated shopper! Thankfully, there are several organizations out there that take it upon themselves to certify products, more so in recent years.

The NFCA highly endorses the Canadian-based GFCP for their process, whose symbol looks like this:

4. Download your free copy of this comprehensive gluten-free diet guide from the NFCA here:

http://www.celiaccentral.org/gettingstarted/

 5. Check out online gluten-free recipe blogs! There are SO many, and you can shop around to find your favorites. Here is a great list compiled by thekitchn.com:

http://www.thekitchn.com/10-inspiring-blogs-for-glutenf-137359

Try it for a week. You’ll find yourself eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, beans and legumes. Whole foods! You won’t be hungry, and your late-night delivery pizza cravings just may disappear (which is a good thing, regardless). It will also take practice reading labels and finding gluten-free alternatives to your favorite foods, but once you get the hang of it and realize how much better you feel, you’ll wonder how you ate any other way. Source:  Brown, Judith E.  (2011) Nutrition Through the Life Cycle.  Belmont. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Source:  Brown, Judith E.  (2011) Nutrition Through the Life Cycle.  Belmont. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Contributing writer: Duaa Elnoory for The Nourished Belly

*LEGAL DISCLAIMER – This website (including any/all site pages, blog posts, blog comments, forum, etc.) is not intended to replace the services of a physician, nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Information is provided for informational  purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have an urgent medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Any application of the recommendations in this website is at the reader’s discretion. Tammy Chang and The Nourished Belly are not liable for any direct or indirect claim, loss or damage resulting from use of this website and/or any web site(s) linked to/from it. Readers should consult their own physicians concerning the recommendations in this website.

 

5 Myths About Weight Loss

Aloha Nutrition Lovers! I’ve made some exciting shifts in my practice lately. I’ve decided to start focusing on nourishing and sustainable weight loss! People have been coming to me for different sorts of things, but weight loss is a recurrent theme. And when people embrace this new way of living, many of them find that they are doing just that…. Experiencing weight loss that seems pretty effortless. So, in honor of my new title as a Holistic Weight Loss Coach, here’s a blog post about 5 common myths about weight loss and to really drive the idea home that yo yo dieting and starving yourself thin are really NOT the way to do it.

5 Myths of Weight Loss

Fat Makes Us Fat

For years, we’ve been conditioned that eating fat will make us fat. Many of us still buy low fat dairy products, don’t eat the skin on chicken, and are scared of using butter. The thing is though, our bodies need fat. We love fat. It allows us to absorb nutrients, it helps keep our blood sugar stable, and fat and cholesterol are the building blocks of many of our hormones, which we really, truly need. If you eat dairy, buy whole milk. Buy whole plain yogurt (organic of course.) Never buy something that is advertised as low fat, and eat the skin on your organic chicken! It makes things taste a whole lot better and fat is what makes us feel full.

Vegetable Oils are Healthy

I advise my clients to throw these suckers out. Maybe with the bottle you have in your cupboard, you can grease your bike chain, or clean some goo off your hardwood floors, but do NOT put this stuff into your body. You can read a bit more about why not in my blog post about cooking oils, but the basics are that vegetable oils (corn, soybean, Wessen for example) are extremely delicate oils, and most are extracted using high heat and solvents, and are often damaged before they even get to your house. Then you cook with them and damage them further. Or they are chemically processed (hydrogenated) to look like butter (margarine), and instead are just a heaping pile of transfats. Don’t

 

use them.

Diet Sodas Will Help Me Lose Weight

We drink diet sodas because we think that we don’t want any more calories, but there are studies out that show that just the sweet taste alone is enough to cause insulin secretions...which will cause us to store fat. Not to mention that artificial sweeteners have been linked to cause headaches, sleep problems, fatigue, and a whole host of other problems. There are many people who have written about this subject at length, Joseph Mercola being on them. Read more. Just the word artificial is an accost to my whole foods, nature loving sensibility. Are you with me?

I Just Need to Exercise More

Gary Taubes’ 2011 book Why We Get Fat and What do to About it, addresses the idea that it’s not as simple as eating less and exercising more. Exercise has plenty of benefits and everyone should be doing it, but it’s not the end all be all of losing weight. Taubes points out that exercise will invariably make us hungrier, and that while exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, we won’t necessarily exercise ourselves thin. Losing weight because of activity level has a lot do with our individual metabolism, and honestly and most importantly…because of WHAT YOU EAT. More fabulous info by Taubes here.

The Less I Eat the Better

Deprivation has not been shown to aid in sustained weight loss. Gary Taubes points out that according to the Women’s Health initiative, which was a 15 year research study looking at the habits of post menopausal women, women who were eating 360 calories less a day for 8 years lost an average of 2 pounds each! I often look at clients’ diet journals and see that they aren’t eating ENOUGH. When the body doesn’t eat enough calories, our metabolism slows down and we start to store fat. Instead of depriving ourselves, we need to nourish and create an awareness between the food that we eat and how we feel. You should feel happy and satiated when you eat the right things.

Ok people. Get out of the old paradigm, and into the new.

Happy Nourishing, Tammy

Bet You Didn't Know This About Your Factory Farmed Meat!

My mind has been blown yet again by reading an article in WAP Foundation’s Wise Traditions written by a small meat processor, Bob Martin, who works for a small USDA processing plant.   Now, there is already a lot of information out there about how the factory farmed meat industry in this country is a pretty foul and scary operation.  Some great books out on the subject include Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, Barbara Kingsolver’s, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.   They all do a great job explaining the conditions of CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and the ramifications of eating meat and dairy products tainted with antibiotics and rBGH.  rBGH, according to organicconsumers.org was manufactured by Monsanto, who sold it to Eli Lilly.  It forces cows to boost “milk production by 10%, while increasing the incidence of mastitis, lameness and reproductive complications.”

I make it a point to buy good quality meat, and even though it is more expensive, I feel that I’m doing a favor for my body and supporting ranchers and farmers who also put an emphasis on high quality care and feed.  And even though I feel pretty knowledgable about the conditions of factory farmed animals, I’m always amazed when I find out more unsettling facts.  Read on please.

1)  Large meat processing plants can process up to 2500 animals a day, with 20-30 USDA inspectors and each of them literally have 3-6 seconds to inspect each piece of beef!  The particular plant that Bob Martin works for processes 10 animals a day and inspectors take as long as they need to.

2) Many of the animals killed at slaughterhouses have a dark red color to their meat, meaning that the animals are stressed before they are killed.  The stress releases a rush of adrenaline into their muscles which affects the tenderness of the meat.

3)  The contents of the stomachs must be removed, and for those animals being fed grain, the contents of their stomachs smell putrid and repulsive, while those being fed grass have virtually no smell.

4)  Livers are heralded as being extremely nutrient dense, but the livers of grain fed cows are often abscessed and instead of being firm to the touch you can poke your finger all the way through!  Ew!  Cows are not supposed to eat grain, so it can be very hard on their livers, making them abnormally large and filled with fatty deposits.  The liver of a healthy cow fed only on grass are firm to the touch and a normal size.

I don’t necessarily need MORE reasons not to buy meat from factory farmed conditions, but it never fails to surprise me to learn of all the different ways the health of the animal is severely compromised simply to make meat cheaper for the producer and for the public to buy.

At the very least, buy your meat organic which will ensure that your meat has not been fed GMO feed, and that your farmer has not used antibiotics or growth hormones.  Look for meat that has been grass finished, not just grass fed, because most animals are on pasture for the first 3 months of their lives.  And better yet, have a conversation with a person who sells meat at your farmers market and ask them to describe the way in which they raise their animals.

And if expense is a real issue, don’t forget about using the bones for bone broth!  Which is the best way to get nutrients and a little more protein into our diets.

Happy Nourishing….

Tammy

Bloated? Eczema? Gassy? It's probably something you ate....

I have always been a pretty healthy eater.  But for much of my life, I have had two issues plaguing my self esteem.  My skin was one.  I always broke out more than the average person, but a couple of years ago it got REALLY bad.  I became super self conscious and did not want to have any pictures taken. Being from a Taiwanese family also didn't help because my mother pointed it out constantly!   The other is the fact that normally, I would finish each day feeling bloated and GIGANTIC.  If I let my belly relax, I literally looked like I was 5 months pregnant, and that really did not do a lot for my self image.  I would just think that this was normal, and eventually I became accustomed to feeling this way.  Stretchy pants were my best friend.

It wasn’t until I went to nutrition school, that I learned about food allergies and more importantly for me,  food sensitivities.   Allergies can cause pretty severe reactions, which I never had, but food sensitivities could cause bloating, gas, acne, brain fog, weight gain and a host of other symptoms.  I had a LOT of these problems.    Lightbulb! Bing!  My “healthy” diet wasn’t really healthy anymore... at least for me.  I began playing around with different foods, taking them out of my diet and checking to see how I felt, and finally, I found out which ones didn’t work for me.  Since I've made a big switch in my diet, I know which foods make me bloat and my skin has cleared up tremendously.  Last time I went home, a family friend (Taiwanese of course)  couldn't stop raving about how my skin looked.  Taiwanese are quick to point out the good and the bad. :)

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What is a Food Allergy?

An allergy triggers the immune system. The immune system reacts to a foreign substance, or allergen (for our purposes something edible).   The body will create antibodies against this allergen and can cause inflammation and tissue damage, especially if chronically exposed.

Immediate allergic reactions are acute and can include symptoms such as hives, rashes, itching, trouble breathing, and unconsciousness.  These are the type of allergies that cause people to carry around epi-pens.  In general, however, this only affects 7.5% of children and only 1-2% of adults.

What is a Food Sensitivity?

Delayed reactions are much harder to detect because they can take several hours or up to 72 hours after to manifest.  They are often called “hidden” food allergies or also sensitivities.  Delayed reactions are much more common and affect about 25% of the population. Those with intolerances are unable to either completely digest a food or unable to handle the chemical structure of a food.  One of the most well known intolerances is lactose intolerance where a person is missing the enzyme “lactase” and therefore cannot digest the lactose in dairy products. Delayed reactions are much more insidious, because people often do not connect their symptoms (such as eczema, brain fog, ear infections, joint pain, or fatigue) to something they ate.  Uncomfortable problems can persist for long periods of time.

Some delayed reactions or intolerances can be resolved over time by abstaining from the food, and then allowing it back into the diet only occasionally.

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Explosion of Allergies

Chances are if you know any children, you know that there is an explosion of food sensitivities and allergies in children today.   I’ve worked in education for the last 10 years and I have seen it.  What has happened in the last decades that has changed so drastically? Well, let’s take a look.

 Likely culprits:

1)  Adulteration of the food supply:  antibiotics, artificial flavors and colors.  Some people are extremely sensitive to these additives, but it is also an issue to think about how all these chemicals interact with each other and over time.

2)  GMO’s:  Genetically Modified Foods.  To be clear, we are talking about when scientists go into the DNA of a plant and add usually a different organism’s DNA into its genetic code, not selectively breeding and cross breeding. The most common GMO foods are conventional corn, alfalfa, soy, canola oil, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, milk (rBGH), and cotton. There has been little research done on the safety of GMO’s and many articles have been published possibly linking the two.

3)  Increased environmental pollutants:  More pollutants mean more stress on the body, and the body can only take so much.

4)  Leaky Gut:  Leaky gut is when the membrane of your gut lining is compromised, and larger food molecules pass through into your bloodstream.  Your body recognizes these molecules as foreign, and starts to create antibodies to these foods.

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Have Symptoms?  What can you do?

Not sure if you have any symptoms?  Here are some common ones that could be from food sensitivities.

* bloating              * joint pain                                * excess weight

* gas                     * fatigue                                   * chronic ear infections

* acne                   * diarrhea                                 * depression

* eczema               * asthma                                  * chronic sinus infections

* brain fog             * Irritable Bowel Syndrome        * headaches

If you have some of these symptoms, it would be worth your while to try and take out some suspected culprits for a couple of weeks, and then add them back in one at a time, waiting 3 days between each one.   This is commonly called an elimination diet, which I often work on with my clients, and if you are experiencing a lot of symptoms, then it would be a good idea to find a health care practitioner that can support you through it.

Not sure what to take out?  Here is a list of commonly allergenic food and foods least likely to cause problems.

Most Allergenic Foods

·    Wheat

·    Nuts (peanuts, tree nuts)

·    Eggs

·    Sugar

·    Dairy (Casein)

·    Soy

·    Corn

·    Citrus

·    Yeast

·    Shellfish

Least Allergenic Foods

·        Lamb

·        Fish (cod, haddock, mackerel, and trout)

·        Artichokes

·        Beets and beet greens

·        Carrots

·        Celery

·        Fennel

·        Green Beans

·        Onions

·        Parsnips

·        Peaches

·        Pears

·        Rutabagas

Pulse Testing

Developed by Dr. Andrew Coca, pulse testing is a helpful tool in narrowing down your sensitivities.  Here are the steps:

1)  Sit quietly for 5 minutes

2)  Measure your resting pulse for one minute by counting the number of beats for 60 seconds.  Record.

3)  Ingest the suspected food.

4)  Measure immediately for 1 minutes, record results.

5)  Measure again at 10 minutes and at 30 minutes.  Record.

6)  If there is a significant increase or decrease (by 10 beats or more per minute), this indicates a likely sensitivity.

 

Good luck in finding out how to eat better and learning to avoid foods that are problematic!  Happy Nourishing :) 

 

References:

Bauman, E, and Jodi Friedlander NC. (2011) Foundations of Nutrition.  Bauman College.

Knoff, Laura J. (2010)  The Whole-Food Guide to Overcoming Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Oakland.  New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

 O’Brien, Robyn.  (2009) The Unhealthy Truth.  New York.  Random House.

http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/5-common-genetically-modified-foods10.htm

 

*LEGAL DISCLAIMER - This website (including any/all site pages, blog posts, blog comments, forum, etc.) is not intended to replace the services of a physician, nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Information is provided for informational  purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have an urgent medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Any application of the recommendations in this website is at the reader's discretion. Tammy Chang and The Nourished Belly are not liable for any direct or indirect claim, loss or damage resulting from use of this website and/or any web site(s) linked to/from it. Readers should consult their own physicians concerning the recommendations in this website.

 

 

Digestive Series: Chewing. Yes, it's Really That Important!

It’s official! The name of my holistic health and nutrition coaching practice is officially called “The Nourished Belly!” I wanted to find a name that described how I felt about food, and nourish is a word that should describe everything that we do, for ourselves and for others. The word “belly” is important because when our stomachs are happy, our entire well-being is at its pinnacle. When it isn’t, well, this is when we start to encourage and set the stage for disease. “The Nourished Belly,” thus describes the path I follow to find my own optimal health and how I encourage my clients to find theirs. So, to usher in this new name, I wanted to write a series of blog posts dedicated to nourishing your belly. The first of which, and one of the most basic things you can do to dramatically improve your digestion, is to CHEW YOUR FOOD.

Yup. It’s that simple. Many of us are accustomed to eating, and eating on the run. We often eat in front of the TV, or while reading a book, or in our cars!  According to dosomething.org, 20% of all American meals are eaten in our cars.  Yikes!  All of these habits put eating on the bottom of the list of priorities, when it really should be with the top.  Plus, it makes the nutrients from the foods less absorbable and harder on our digestive system.

Why Should We Chew?

1) It signals to our bodies to be ready for digestion. There are two modes that our bodies run in, the sympathetic and parasympathetic. Most people refer to the sympathetic mode as the fight or flight mode, so our bodies are preparing to run from that tiger.  Thus, every non-essential function is switched off. Including our digestion. When you are on the go go go, this is the state in which your body functions. I experience this most clearly if I exercise too soon after eating. I can literally tell that the food is just sitting in my stomach, and it doesn’t feel good.

When we chew, we are signaling the body that we are in a relaxed state, and therefore our digestion will switch on. We are activating our parasympathetic mode. Turning off the TV and closing that book will also help prepare your body. Eating is not a time you should be multi-tasking!

2) Digestion begins in the mouth. We have enzymes that begin to work on carbohydrates, and to a small degree, fats, in our saliva. Chewing is designed to not only break food down into digestible pieces, but to also thoroughly mix our food with the saliva in our mouths. When we don’t chew, we miss an important step.

3) Not Chewing Can Lead to:

Overworking of the Pancreas: Our pancreas picks up the slack to release whatever enzymes are still needed to break down fats and carbohydrates. Interestingly, it is often referred to as the “mother," because who picks up the slack for you? Your mother! So true.

When you are young, your pancreas might be able to keep up, but over time, the function will decrease. Plus, your pancreas has so many other jobs, not only releasing digestive enzymes, but is also a key player in blood sugar regulation and a producer of many hormones. We want it in tip-top shape!

Food Allergies and Inflammation: Not chewing enough can lead to larger food molecules being absorbed through the intestinal wall. (and also could aid in the development of a syndrome called leaky gut.) Our bodies will perceive these molecules as foreign, and create antibodies against them. This is how food allergies can develop leading to inflammation and possibly other complications.

I’ve tried to chew my food the recommended 25 - 30 times, which is much harder than it sounds, especially if you are used to eating fast, like me. But we can start at a much easier place. Here are some tips:

  • Set the stage for eating: Clear your table, turn off all distractions, and prepare your food on a beautiful plate.
  • Once you start eating, taste your food! Focus on what your food tastes like, and make sure there are no chunks before you swallow.
  • Take a deep breath when you are finished. Take a moment, savor the fact that you just took some time out of your day to nourish yourself.

Next time you eat, think about it how important chewing is for you, and just take a couple more minutes with your meal. One of my favorite sayings from Traditional Chinese Medicine is that “the stomach has no teeth.” Happy Nourishing!

Resources:

N.D.,  Your Digestive System and How it Works.  http://www2.niddk.nih.gov/.  Retrieved from http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/yrdd/

 

 

Blood Sugar: What You Need to Know

I’ve been thinking a LOT about sugar lately, and with the 10 day Kick the Sugar Habit Challenge coming up on January 27th (There are still spaces by the way…..  challenge and register here!), it’s been on the forefront.  I often give myself “permission” on the holidays and when I’m traveling to give into my cravings.  But, once I do this it is a seriously vicious cycle.  I’m to the point right now, that when I come home at night, even if I’m coming home from eating a fabulous meal, I still want something sweet.  Currently, I have zero snacky things in my house, which helps, but I don’t want these cravings anymore.  Be gone! So, I thought it would be helpful this week to talk about what happens IN YOUR BODY when you eat sugar and those fluffy, comforting carbs.  It’s going to get a little detailed, but I think there is importance in knowing how your body responds, and how your body will, over time, become increasingly damaged from consuming these foods.

The Low Down of Blood Sugar

Your body needs around 1 tsp of glucose  circulating in your blood stream at all times….too low (hypoglycemia) and too high (hyperglycemia) are both dangerous and can lead to problems. Some Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

  • Shaking
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty in focusing
  • Sugar cravings
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Many other things too…….

Many of us have symptoms of hypoglycemia, which lead us to eat lots of quick fixes….simple carbohydrates and sugar, which eventually can lead us to the path of high blood sugar.  Here’s a simplified explanation why: Your body is constantly switching between burning fat and burning the glucose from your meals.  It’s very efficient at doing this.  When you eat a meal, preferably one that has nice fats and proteins, your body will slowly digest and glucose will be released into your blood stream at a nice, slow steady pace throughout the day.  Perfect to keep you alert and running optimally.  Usually there is a little more than you need, so your pancreas will release insulin, which is the hormone that signals your cells to take in any excess glucose from your blood stream.  Your body wants to keep your blood sugar stable. More often than not, however, we are eating foods and meals that contain too many simple carbohydrates.  You have a scone and a cup of coffee for breakfast.  Or a bagel with cream cheese for lunch with that nice glass of orange juice.  You aren’t eating enough fat, protein and fiber to slow the digestion, so the sugars from your food are quickly digested and flood your blood stream all at once. If this cycle happens too often, then eventually the cells can become resistant to the insulin that your pancreas is releasing.  They become hard of hearing.  So the pancreas releases larger and larger amounts of insulin, which will cause two things eventually: 1)        Your pancreas becomes tired from overwork. 2)       The cells stop listening altogether, so you ALWAYS have high blood sugar and high insulin. With all that extra circulating insulin, is also makes it hard for us to use the glucose stored in the cells.   We then need to eat! (vicious cycle!)   High blood sugar can cause a lot of damage.  It can damage delicate blood vessels, cause chronic inflammation, and a host of other things.  High insulin can cause problems as well, this study from 2007 found that high insulin created damage to blood vessel walls causing cholesterol and plaque to build up.  So not only is diabetes a concern, but heart disease, high blood pressure, and a host of other problems can result. The good news, is that even if we have been abusing our body for the last 10 years, and we’ve noticed abdominal fat has built up and our cells are starting to show wear and tear from all that high blood sugar and high insulin…..our bodies are highly sophisticated.  The body has a tremendous ability to heal itself once we start taking care of it.  It is never too late. Start with Challenge!  Then we can go from there…..