How Much is Enough?
One the first topics my clients ask me about when wanting to loose weight is, “how much should I eat?” Should I eat 4oz, 8oz or 12oz of meat and how many vegetables? What about fruit? How much is enough? The answers are relatively simple; however, they have been over analyzed and broken down so much that the American people are utterly confused. (more…)
Controversies Over What Raises Cholesterol
The answer to what raises your cholesterol should be a simple one, but even today there are conflicting opinions. I would like to shed some light on the subject not with my opinion but with fact… ok some opinion.
Paleo and Keto diets are quite popular in Crossfit, health and fitness and even functional medicine. This is because they reduce body fat, lower blood markers, and stabilize blood sugar. This ultimately reduces inflammation and improves health. At least that is the goal. These diets rely mostly on high-fat, moderate protein and low-carb ratios.
So, How Does Your Cholesterol Get High and How Much Control Do We Have Over It?
Let’s start with how Americans used to eat before processed foods, added sugars and food substitutes. What I understand from my parents and grandparents is that they cooked with fat, ate the whole egg, drank unpasteurized whole milk, didn’t know the difference between GMO and Non-GMO or organic versus non-organic, and ate a variety of food based on the season. They ate meat, all kinds, without worrying about LDL or triglycerides and fruit without thinking it would cause weight gain. There was no food timing or carb cycling.
To be fair, I do understand many things have changed since then. We have cell phones, cars, and a coffee shop on every corner, and stressors coming from every direction.
What are older generations always saying about today’s health? I don’t remember so many health issues growing up! And you know what? They are right! There has been an exponential increase in chronic disease since the evolution of food.
What Does Cholesterol Do and Why Do We Need It?
Cholesterol is the base for so many functions in the body. Here are a few that may interest you. Cholesterol is a precursor to testosterone, estrogen, cortisol and progesterone.
These are the hormones responsible for sex drive, female hormone balance, energy, sleep, muscle mass, blood sugar control and so much more. Cholesterol is essential for neural function and the formation of other hormones and absorption of nutrients. So, cholesterol is really important.
Our liver makes about three-quarters of our cholesterol, leaving the rest to be consumed through diet.
By the way, I still can’t find a study proving that consuming high amounts of cholesterol will increase bad cholesterol and put our body into a state of disease.
Low Fat and High Fat Diets
We tried the low-fat trend and around the same time we saw increases in obesity, heart disease and a number of autoimmune disease. What does a low-fat diet consist of? High amounts of sugar because food without fat tastes horrible. So, manufacturers added sugar to make food taste better. Of course, most of it wasn’t real food anyway.
Having high triglycerides is known to be associated with disease, obesity, and diabetes. Triglyceride levels are high, usually as a result of high blood sugar and the liver converting excess carbohydrates into fat. The low-fat diet or any processed low-fat foods are high in carbohydrates which could result in increased triglycerides.
Newsflash: Saturated fat and cholesterol have never been proven to cause harm! And, the American Journal of Managed Care released a statement rescinding cholesterol’s bad name.
Looking at a Keto diet or a Paleo diet which is also traditionally a low-carb, high-fat diet there have been no substantial evidence that these diets increase blood cholesterol.
In fact, risk factors decrease when on these types of diets. One of the most famous is of Gary Taubes, writer of best-selling book, “Why We Get Fat, and What to Do About It,” who is a proponent of high-fat and protein eating. When questioned about his blood markers by Dr. Oz., Gary did not respond on camera as he didn’t know, but later got his blood measured and they were optimal.
Not only have I seen this repeated with my own clients, but also on myself. I have patients who tell me stories about how their doctor can’t understand how they got their markers into optimal range without drugs. Weird, eating real food works.
What Really Causes High Cholesterol?
We touched on this earlier with the higher sugars and processed foods impacting cholesterol as a risk factor for disease. I want to go a little deeper. Since studying functional medicine and clinical nutrition, I’ve found the true backlash comes from stress and metabolic chaos impacting the stress hormones and eventually the gut and metabolism. Once our bodies get stuck in the cycle of blood sugar roller coasters this cycle turns disaster and is hard to reverse without some help.
Most of the studies defending the low-fat diet are compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD), which as the acronym states, is a really sad diet. Really, anything different would be an improvement. The only diet that has been proven through research to be effective or at least accepted by conventional medicine is the Mediterranean Diet.
SO what really causes high cholesterol is an overstressed lifestyle, diets high in carbohydrates and refined sugars, and the perpetual ups and downs in blood sugar causing metabolic chaos in the body.
How to Reverse High Cholesterol Without Drugs
First and foremost, change your eating habits! I prefer ketogenic diets and Paleo diets. However, vegetarian diets and the Mediterranean Diet can be equally effective. The point is to stop eating the Standard American Diet. If changing your diet hasn’t helped, it may be time to dig a little deeper with a functional medicine practitioner. Together, you’ll find the root cause of your cholesterol and ultimately your health issues.
is Talking about libido is especially difficult for us men. I know because I was in your shoes. I remember when my girlfriend at the time was feeling frisky and I had no desire. Believe it or not, I was just too tired for sex! Needless to say, this trend eventually ended our relationship.
Our identities are forged as we hit puberty, and our desire for sex plays a huge role in who we are. For many of us, our sex drive makes us feel, well, MALE. So when this drive wanes, it can be difficult to come to terms with it. If you’ve noticed you’re less interested in sex, you’re not alone! Four out of every ten men will struggle with low libido, as hormones like testosterone shift and dip as we age. Fortunately, there is a way to get that spark back that doesn’t involve undergoing extensive hormone replacement therapy
Testosterone and Your Libido
Most men relate testosterone to sex. This is correct, but this hormone manages much more than just our reproductive systems. It is also responsible for bone mass, muscle size, fat distribution, strength, and red blood cell production. Testosterone levels can be checked with a simple blood test. It’s normal for these levels to wane beginning in our early 30s. Lower testosterone levels in younger men are referred to as late-onset hypogonadism, and can lead to the following symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decrease in body hair
- Decrease in muscle mass
- Decreased bone mass
- Mental fog
- Low sex drive
- Increased body fat
Men who overcome the stigma of seeking treatment are often given limited options. Hormone replacement therapy in the form of testosterone gel, cream, or injection is commonly prescribed. However, there is a significant downside to using these therapies: once introduced, the body actually slows production of its own testosterone! Men using these hormones must either continue to take them long-term or suffer the devastating symptoms mentioned above.
A Better Option
I became a functional medicine practitioner after dealing with low testosterone myself. After gaining weight, going through depression, and experiencing a low libido, I knew something was wrong. I saw doctor after doctor, each one prescribing these “life-altering substances” that I would have to take for the rest of my life. I knew there had to be a better way.
The functional medicine difference lies in getting to the source of the issue. For most men experiencing a dip in sex drive, a simple blood test can confirm whether low testosterone is to blame. Once functional tests reveal the root cause of your low libido, we can address the problem at the source.
Boosting Testosterone Naturally
Luckily, hormone replacement is not the only option. Simple lifestyle changes can have a dramatic effect on hormone production. The following list reflects a few ways you can start to build up your testosterone again naturally. Remember to check in with your practitioner before making any significant lifestyle adjustment.
Drop Excess Weight
Fat (especially around the belly) inhibits healthy testosterone production. Fatty tissue absorbs this hormone, keeping it from circulating in the blood and doing its job. As your testosterone level drops, your ability to lose weight drops as well. It can be a self-defeating cycle.
Ditch the sugary, processed snacks. If most of your meals come from a package, it’s time for a drastic change. Fill your diet with green, leafy vegetables, organic protein, healthy fats, and also swap your go-to dessert for a piece of fruit. Limit your exposure to sugars and processed foods to keep your blood sugar at an optimal level. You’ll have consistent, sustained energy.
Bring exercise back into your life. If you played sports as a kid, pick up the basketball again and shoot some hoops with your kids. Take a jog around the block. Incorporate movement into your daily routine. High-intensity workouts and strength training are both proven to increase testosterone. Aim for short, intense bursts of cardio, and long sustained lifting of heavy weights with proper form.
Develop Sleep Hygiene
Do you collapse into bed each night? Spend the last few hours of your day scrolling through the news feed on your phone? Are you often exhausted when you wake up in the morning? One of the keys to balancing hormones is to develop sleep hygiene.Testosterone is produced during the deepest phases of sleep.
Step Away from the Screen
The blue lights emitted from devices can interrupt Melatonin, causing a disturbance in our sleep cycle. Instead of picking up your phone, read an old-fashioned book with a nightlight if you’re having trouble falling asleep.
Rely on Your Routine
Successful sleepers know that the secret to consistently getting the best sleep is to go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning. Our bodies run on a cycle, regardless of our three-day weekends or Netflix binges.
Say Goodbye to Stress
If you feel stressed on a daily basis, your body feels it, too. Chronic stress forces the body to remain in fight-or-flight mode, an ancestral survival technique that allowed us to get away from and defend against predators. However, the modern equivalent of long work days, financial worries, and marital tension does not allow for a release of this stress. Instead of burning up the cortisol (the “stress hormone”) by running away or fighting, we exist in a state of hyper-awareness. The lingering cortisol blocks testosterone production, and can lead to chronic inflammation, lowered immunity, and adrenal fatigue.
Give the Parasympathetic Nervous System a Chance
Practice relaxation techniques like mindfulness and yoga to give your body a much-needed break from this stress. Even 15 minutes each day will allow your system the essential reset it needs to release cortisol and restore balance.
Get to the Bottom of the Issue
If you’ve noticed that your sex drive is waning, you have every right to be alarmed! I certainly was. I have seen my life transformed by getting to the root cause of the issue and getting my system back in balance. Take the next step in getting your life back. Contact me today for a FREE consultation!
Do you struggle with the winter blues, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD? For many of my patients, the change of season brings an unwelcome change to their moods. This form of depression occurs mostly in the shorter, darker days of fall and winter, but can also occur in summer. Most conventional practitioners prescribe antidepressants, which can have significant side effects and be hard to stop without undergoing many adverse effects. Despite what these practitioners and the pharmaceutical companies would like you to think, you can end seasonal affective disorder. (more…)
One of the toughest parts about eating healthy is trying to avoid restaurant traps. Eating out is necessary for people who travel often or have an active social life that requires meeting for meals. And while eating at a restaurant can require careful planning, there are ways to do it without falling prey to the problems of restaurant eating.
The most obvious restaurant trap is portion sizes. If you compare today’s portion sizes to those from fifty years ago you’ll see that today restaurants serve almost twice as much on the plate. If you usually clean your plate, this is a set up for diet failure.
In order to avoid this trap, you’ll need to be aware that you probably only need to eat about half of what you’re served. Many people find success by asking for to-go containers as soon as their meal is served. They package up half of their meal and then eat the rest later.
You may also find a friend who enjoys the same dish and split it. Eating half of what you’re served will help you to stay within the recommended calories for a single meal. Beyond portion size, though, there are other problems.
High Caloric Foods
Restaurant dishes are known for containing much higher calories from fat than something you’d make at home. But you can look for ways to manage the calories by making good choices from the menu.
Some restaurants have a special menu for people looking to eat healthier and lose weight. If the restaurant you’re in doesn’t have a special menu, choose grilled proteins and steamed vegetables. Salads can also be a good choice but beware of high-calorie dressings. These can make the salad higher in calories than something else from the menu!
The ambiance in a restaurant can also make it a challenge to stick to your diet. A quiet restaurant where you can have a conversation can help you slow down your eating and help you stay on track.
Try to avoid restaurants that are loud with servers who are pushing drinks and desserts on your table. And the dessert menu is another big trap for people who are trying to diet. In general, you should skip the dessert.
The Bread Basket
And while not every restaurant has this, the complimentary bread basket or bowl of chips can make it really difficult to limit your carbs. Ask your server to take it away so that temptation is avoided.
Restaurant traps can make it hard to stick to your healthy food plan, but by making good choices you can still enjoy eating out without suffering from weight gain. You may also want to consider hosting dinner parties at home to allow you to enjoy the social part of eating with friends without the restaurant traps.