You probably know the negative health effects of eating too much sugar, especially “added sugars” like in soda pop, candy, baked goods, and many commercially-available cereals, just to name a few.  Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the grocery store.

Yes, ingesting refined sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin, and increases your risk for a whole host of issues.

A while ago, one of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great, was artificial sweeteners.

The idea behind them is that you can still get the sweetness, without the calories; like when you have a “diet pop” versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.

But, it doesn’t always work out the way we think it will…

 

Types of artificial sweeteners

Sugar substitutes fall into several categories, but what they all have in common is that they have a sweet taste and fewer calories than plain sugar.

Today we’ll specifically discuss “artificial sweeteners,” which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet.

They’re also known as “non-nutritive sweeteners,” and include things like:

  • Saccharin (Sweet & Low),
  • Acesulfame potassium,
  • Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet), and
  • Sucralose (Splenda).

 

Health effects of artificial sweeteners

Negative health effects from artificial sweeteners are cited all over the place, and while many studies show effects, others don’t. Cancer? Maybe yes, maybe no. Heart disease? Maybe yes, maybe no. Not to mention that much of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to people.

I did want to point out one ironic thing, to do with artificial sweeteners and weight.

One study found that people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who didn’t.

Another study has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.

While these results don’t apply equally to everyone, they do somehow seem ironic, don’t they?

 

How do artificial sweeteners affect our bodies?

Now that’s a million-dollar question!

There are so many ideas out there to try to explain it, but the reality is we don’t know for sure; plus, it might play out differently in different people.

  • Is it because people feel that they can eat cake because they’ve switched to diet soda?
  • Perhaps it’s because the sweeteners change the taste preferences so that fruit starts to taste worse, and veggies taste terrible?
  • Maybe artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for more (real) sweets?
  • It can be that the sweet taste of these sweeteners signals to our body to release insulin to lower our blood sugar; but, because we didn’t actually ingest sugar, our blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where we get sugar cravings.
  • Some even say (and at least one animal study suggests) that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies toward it.
  • Maybe there is even a more complex response that involves our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.

 

Conclusion:

Understand that added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace them all with artificial sweeteners.

I highly recommend reducing your sugar intake, so you naturally re-train your palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn’t overly sweet.  This way you’re reducing your intake of added sugar, as well as not needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.

Try having ½ teaspoon less of sugar in your hot morning drink. Try reducing a ¼ cup of the sugar called for in some recipes. Try diluting juice with water.

Your body will thank you!

 

 

Recipe (naturally sweetened): Sweet Enough Matcha Latte

Serves 1

1 teaspoon matcha powder

1.5 cup almond milk, unsweetened

1-2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey (optional)

  1. Heat almond milk and maple syrup/honey (if using) in a small pot.
  2. Add matcha powder to cup.
  3. When almond milk is hot, add about a ¼ cup to matcha and stir to combine.
  4. Add rest of the milk to cup.

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: You can steep a chai tea bag in the milk if you prefer chai tea over matcha.

 

References:

 

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030

https://authoritynutrition.com/artificial-sweeteners-blood-sugar-insulin/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-splenda-is-it-safe

https://chriskresser.com/the-unbiased-truth-about-artificial-sweeteners/

There’s A LOT of talk in the health world about gut health these days. You’ve probably even heard that the key to reversing a whole host of health issues, ranging from skin issues to serious autoimmune conditions, starts with healing your so-called leaky gut.

Afterall, Hippocrates is famously credited with stating that “all disease begins in the gut”.

Several factors are thought to disrupt the normal intestinal environment and contribute to a leaking gut.

But what the heck is a “leaky gut” – and how do I know if mine is actually leaking? (Eww!)

This refers to damage and/or thinning of the lining of the small intestine (aka, your gut). Your small intestine acts as the barrier between the outside world and the rest of your body – a pretty important job!

The small intestine is also where partially digested food from the stomach (and anything else you take in from the outside world, like medications and supplements) is further broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, where it is then carried for use throughout the rest of the body.

If your intestinal wall is damaged, thinned, or has gaps in it – known as impaired intestinal permeability, the breakdown and absorption of the food you eat is also impaired.

Partially digested compounds, bacteria, and chemicals that shouldn’t be absorbed can quite literally “leak” across the intestinal membrane and into your bloodstream.

The immune system then kicks into action, reacting to these foreign substances that have crossed the intestine as dangerous intruders.

It is believed that this immune response (from leaky gut) may be the underlying cause of other diseases, like:

  • Systemic inflammation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Celiac disease
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Skin conditions like eczema

Several factors are thought to disrupt the normal intestinal environment and contribute to a leaking gut.

Contributors to leaky gut include:

  • Excessive intake of calories, unhealthy fats, refined grains, sugars, and alcohol, which promote inflammation and digestive trouble.
  • The use of antibiotics and NSAIDs (i.e. ibuprofen). These can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut and cause damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal system, respectively, if used frequently.
  • Disturbances in the gut microbiome. Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the small intestine in relation to the good, healthy bacteria (your gut flora) that help digest your food.
  • Chronic stress, which can also cause inflammation throughout the body, including your gut.

Most healthcare professionals don’t recognize leaky gut as a real diagnosis and there isn’t a standard test to determine if you are suffering from it.

Whether the claims about leaky gut are true or not, gut health is something to consider when it comes to your overall health.

If you’re experiencing digestive woes, like bloating and irregularity, it’s possible your gut health and digestion may be impaired and that your gut is, in fact, in need of healing.

Good habits to support a healthy intestinal environment and properly functioning gut include:

  • Eat whole, minimally processed foods with a focus on fibre-rich plant foods.
  • Include fermented foods, like raw sauerkraut or kimchi, naturally cultured yogurt & kefir (unsweetened), or kombucha, which contain good-for-your-gut bacteria.
  • Sip bone broth or take a collagen supplement. Collagen is thought to help rebuild and restore the gut lining.
  • Take an omega-3 supplement or include 2-3 servings of fatty fish each week to help combat inflammation.
  • Take a daily probiotic supplement to support your gut microbiome.
  • Find natural alternatives to pain relief, like essential oils or meditation, instead of relying on over-the-counter NSAID’s which are known to damage the lining of the gut and cause digestive issues.

 

RECIPE

Gut Soothing Banana Berry Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • ½ cup kefir (or plain, unsweetened whole milk, naturally cultured yogurt)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup berries, any kind
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds or ground flax
  • 1 scoop collagen powder

Preparation

  1. Place all ingredients in blender and blend until desired consistency reached.
  2. Blend in a few ice cubes if you prefer a cold, frosty smoothie OR use frozen fruit.

REFERENCES

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2009: Intestinal Barrier Function: Molecular Regulation and Disease Pathogenesis

BMC Gastroenterology 2014: Intestinal Permeability – A New Target For Disease Prevention & Therapy

Is Leaky Gut Syndrome a Real Condition? (An Unbiased Look)

When you’re completely exhausted, the last thing you want to do is lace up your shoes for a workout. But if you’re tired of being tired all the time, you may want to rethink the idea of regularly exercising.

Exercise is one of the most powerful tools we have for increasing our energy levels and you don’t need to do a lot to reap the benefits.

In fact, a University of Georgia study found that performing 20 minutes of low intensity exercise could decrease fatigue by up to 65%!

A physical activity as simple as walking, yoga or a leisurely bike ride (for only 20 minutes!) can do so much more for your energy than a cup of coffee or an energy drink ever could.

So how does exercise actually increase energy?

There’s a lot of amazing things going on in your body during a workout session. When you exercise, your body increases its production of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine — all of which are powerful mood boosters.

Dopamine, in particular, has been found to make us feel more alert and motivated. This is exactly why it pays to take that 20-minute walk during your lunch break instead of scrolling through your social feeds.

In addition to releasing these helpful neurotransmitters, exercise has been found to help us sleep better.

When your body gets the rest it needs on a regular basis, you’ll have the energy to get through your busy day — and maybe even some to spare!

But, can exercise actually works against you?

While a regular sweat session is typically a great thing for your body, there are some circumstances where a workout can actually affect your energy in a negative way.

Working out at night can make it very difficult to wind down and get a restful sleep. Experts recommend avoiding vigorous exercise up to 3 hours before bedtime.

For those with especially hectic schedules, this can be a challenge since it may be the only time of day they can fit in a workout.

However, consider moving your workout to the morning to increase your energy for the whole day. But if you simply can’t, try sticking to a lower intensity nighttime exercise routine so you can wind down when it’s time to sleep.

Too much of a good thing

Yes, you can get too much of a good thing. Exercising too much can actually have the opposite effect on your energy levels.

One study looked at the effects of over-exercising. Participants were put through a rigorous physical training regime for 10 days followed by 5 days of active recovery.

Not only did participants notice a decrease in performance, they also complained of extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping.

So how much exercise is enough?

It is recommended by many healthy lifestyle experts to get approximately 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous exercise each week to maintain good health. You’ll know you’re getting the right amount of exercise if you notice your energy levels are increasing.

If, after upleveling your exercise efforts you’re (still) feeling lethargic or are having difficulty sleeping, there’s a good chance you may be overtraining.

One last point about Exercise & Energy — the food you eat also plays a huge role in your energy levels! In addition to getting regular exercise, be sure to fuel your body with whole foods throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and maintained.

RECIPE

Energizing Power Balls

This Energizing Power Ball recipe is a great way to fuel your body pre-workout or to give you a mid afternoon energy boost.

Ingredients

1 cup of rolled oats

½ cup of nut butter (use sunflower, pumpkin seed or hemp butter for a nut-free option)

¼ cup of unpasteurized honey or pure maple syrup

½ cup of hemp hearts or chia seeds

Optional additions: add a handful of chopped dried fruit and/or unsweetened shredded coconut

Preparation

  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Roll dough into balls, approximately the size of 1 Tbsp.
  • Chill and enjoy; place a few in the freezer and enjoy them frozen for a slightly different taste experience!

Think living a long and healthy life well into your nineties or even one hundred years old is only for those lucky few who hit the genetic lottery? Think again.

Lifestyle factors, i.e. the things you do everyday over the long-term – can add up to increase the number of quality years in your lifespan.

Look no further than the people of Blue Zones for proof of how powerful everyday habits are when it comes to staying healthy for the long haul.

The Blue Zones are regions around the world where people have very low rates of chronic disease and live longer compared to other populations.

They are located in regions of Greece, Sardinia, Costa Rica, Japan, and California, where a large number of Seventh Day Adventists reside.

Because these communities are home to the greatest number of people who live healthfully into their nineties and even hundreds, researchers have studied them to determine just how they age so healthfully.

Do you have to live in an actual Blue Zone to guarantee longevity? Nope! You can adopt some of the well-studied lifestyle traits of these folks to promote health and longevity right where you are.

Here’s the top 5 life “hacks” of the world’s longest living people:

Eat a Plant-rich Diet

Blue Zone residents eat a mostly plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Animal foods aren’t avoided – they eat smaller portions of meat a handful of times per month.

You don’t have to become a strict vegetarian or vegan, but it’s important to eat a variety of plant foods daily – they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants that help decrease inflammation and protect you from chronic disease, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

A simple rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Yep, every meal!

Include Healthy Fats

Eat heart healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, and fish.

Getting enough omega-3’s helps decrease disease-causing inflammation and keeps your heart and brain healthy.

Eating enough fat also keeps you feeling fuller longer, which can help prevent overeating that leads to weight gain – bonus!

Stop Eating Before You Feel 100% Full

Avoid the clean plate club. Eating slowly chewing your food thoroughly gives your brain and stomach time to register that it’s had enough to eat.

Blue Zone communities avoid overeating and eating beyond feelings of fullness, which again, can help prevent weight gain.

Drink Red Wine

Enjoying a glass of red wine a day increases your antioxidant intake, which is thought to decrease inflammation and help prevent heart disease.

Of course, moderation is key. Four ounces of wine is considered a glass and drinking more than that is associated with negative health effects.

Move Your Body Throughout the Day

Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”? As in, it’s not good for your health to sit for extended periods of time.

Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting is linked to weight gain, obesity, and increased mortality. Be sure to look for opportunities to add movement into your regular routines.

You might try:

  • Stretching while you watch tv
  • Take an after dinner evening walk
  • Park farther away from your destination
  • Choose stairs over elevators
  • Take standing and stretching breaks at work
  • Use a stand-up workstation, and fidget while you work (or dance!)

The world’s longest living people live active lives that include daily physical activities, like gardening, walking, and manual tasks.

RECIPE

Mediterranean Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 15-oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (use black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans or chickpeas/garbanzo beans)
  • 1 english cucumber, chopped with skin on
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomato, halved
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup virgin olive oil (= longevity oil!)
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh herb
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Combine beans, cucumber, pepper, onion, tomatoes, and olives in a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl or sealed jar with a lid, whisk or shake together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper.

3. Toss salad with dressing and enjoy at room temperature or refrigerate unused portions.

REFERENCES

Power 9: Reverse Engineering Longevity

Why People in “Blue Zones” Live Longer Than the Rest of the World

13 Habits Linked to a Long Life (Backed by Science)

You don’t have to be a health nut to know that soda isn’t good for you. But is it really all that bad?

Is it ok to just have it once in a while? And if you’re going to have it, is it better to have the regular ol’ sugar-filled version or the zero calorie “diet” kind?

Well, let’s weigh-in on the facts:

Regular soda – as bad as they say?

PROS:

  • It doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin) that have gotten a really bad rap lately

CONS:

  • The sugar! A 12-ounce can of cola has about 8 teaspoons; almost the daily limit as recommended by the American Heart Association
  • Drinking 1-2 cans a day can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 26%
  • Regular sodas are filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which is linked to obesity, heart disease and fatty liver disease

Diet soda – is it actually better for you?

PROS:

  • It feeds the craving for something sweet without adding extra calories or carbs, if you’re concerned about this
  • Since it’s sugar-free, diabetics can sip without worrying about the direct hit to their insulin and blood sugar levels

CONS:

The verdict on soda

Neither regular or diet soda are going to improve your health. They are literally devoid of any health benefits. In fact, both are linked to significant health issues.

So what should you choose?

The best bet would be to steer clear of both, if you can. However, if you do decide to have a soda from time to time, the choice is ultimately up to you.

If you’re sensitive to sugar, then perhaps the diet soda may be your best bet. But, if artificial sweeteners wreak havoc on your digestive system, you may want to go with the regular soda instead.

What to drink instead

The healthiest drink you can give your body is plain old water. And while water may not seem as exciting as soda, you can shake it up by adding lemon, lime or berries – or even cucumber and mint for a bit of flavor

Sparkling waters (sugar free and artificial sweetener free) can also be a great alternative for a soda replacement since they still contain some bubbles and fizz.

References

Wiley Online Library – Diet study & waist circumference study

CNN – Diet Soda May Do More Harm Than Good

Harvard School of Public Health – Soft Drinks & Disease

American Heart Association – Sugar 101

Healthline – Is Diet Soda Safe for Diabetes?

There’s a lot of talk about healthy fats these days. People are including more fat in their diets and forgetting about the fat-free diet crazes of the past.

You’ve probably heard about omega fats in the mix, but what exactly are they?

What are Omega Fats? Do they all perform the same function in our bodies?

Omegas are a group of fatty acids known as Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9. They’re numerically named based on their chemical composition.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids (EFA’s). The body is capable of producing some fatty acids on its own, like Omega-9 – meaning you don’t need to get them from food.

But the fatty acids the body can’t create on its own must be obtained from food, and therefore, are considered essential. Both fats are needed for good health, but most diets contain an abundance of omega-6 and not enough omega-3.

This skewed ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 is considered a cause of chronic inflammation that can lead to scary stuff, like heart attack and stroke.

A 1:1 ratio is ideal for keeping inflammation at bay, but it’s estimated that most people have a ratio closer to 20:1!

Low intake of Omega-3’s means most people are missing out on the major health benefits of this essential fat.

The protective qualities of Omega-3’s include:

  • Improved immune system function
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Decreased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, arthritis, and depression
  • Improved triglyceride and cholesterol values
  • Critical role in human development – the brain and retina contain lots of omega-3 in the form of DHA

Which foods are the best sources of Omega-3’s?

Omega-3’s actually include several types of fats, including:

  • ALA (alpha linolenic acid) – found in plants, like nuts and seeds
  • DHA/EPA – found primarily in fish

The best sources of ALA include flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Canola and soybean oil are also good sources of ALA, but these oils aren’t the healthy options since they quickly oxidize and turn rancid, which promotes inflammation and cancels out any beneficial effects of the omega-3s they contain.

While meat and dairy aren’t a good source of omega-3s, it’s worth noting grass fed meat and dairy contain higher amounts of omega-3s than conventional grain fed meat.

ALA needs to be converted into EPA or DHA by the body for it to be utilized. This process is pretty inefficient, with estimates of 1-20% of the ALA we consume being converted into a usable form.

Although it would be hard to meet all your omega-3 needs only with sources of ALA, flax, chia, and walnuts are still healthy fats with lots of other good-for-you vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Since fish contains the ready-to-use EPA/DHA form, it is recommended that most people obtain their omega-3’s from fatty cold water fish, like salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines.

Did you know fish don’t actually produce the omega-3s they contain? Instead, algae makes EPA/DHA and fish accumulate the fat from the algae they eat. Cool fat fact! 

If omega-3’s from fish are so good for us, shouldn’t we be eating fish every day? Nope!

How much Omega Fats should we be eating? Do I have to eat fish or take fish oil?

While there are no official recommendations for daily omega-3 intake, it’s thought most people can meet their basic omega-3 needs by consuming fish 2x/week.

To avoid taking in too much mercury, a toxic heavy metal in fish, you should alternate the types of fish you eat and limit varieties known to be high in mercury.

If you choose not to consume fish because of mercury or other concerns, it’s best to supplement with fish oil or, if you’re vegan – try algae oil. Fish and algae oils don’t contain mercury as a result of processing.

It’s generally considered safe to consume up to 3 – 6g of fish oil per day. If you include a high quality fish oil supplement and a variety of sources of healthy fats in your diet, you don’t have to worry about counting omega-3s.

People who are managing symptoms of heart disease or other illness may benefit from even higher, therapeutic doses of omega-3’s.

However, high doses of fish oil could interfere with blood clotting. If you’re currently taking blood thinners or have surgery scheduled, you should check with a healthcare provider before supplementing.

References

Healthline – Omega 3 Fatty Acids: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

National Institutes of Health – Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Precision Nutrition – All About Fish Oil

Precision Nutrition – All About Healthy Fats

If you’ve heard that red wine is one of the healthiest of all alcoholic beverages, it’s for good reason.

Thanks to the antioxidants found in the skins of grapes from which it’s made, red wine has been widely publicized as being “healthful”. The kind of antioxidants found in red wine, like RESVERATROL, have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammation and oxidation are considered the root causes of most disease, so consuming antioxidant-rich foods is a key component in disease prevention.

Moderate consumption of red wine has been linked to improved heart health, along with other health benefits, like decreasing the risk of:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • diabetes
  • certain cancers
  • depression

Some of the buzz around red wine’s health benefits comes from its prominent role in the well-studied Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet includes lots of fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil, and red wine, and is believed to contribute to a long lifespan and low incidences of heart disease and cancer among Mediterranean populations.

The health benefits of red wine are also thought to contribute to low rates of heart disease among the French, despite this population traditionally eating a diet high in saturated fat (think cheese, cream, and buttery croissants!).

How exactly does red wine improve heart health?

But, does a glass of red wine a day really keep the doctor away? Maybe.

Studies have linked regular consumption of red wine with the following positive outcomes:

  • increased HDL cholesterol (the good, protective kind)
  • lowered LDL cholesterol (the bad, inflammatory kind)
  • lowered triglycerides (fat or lipids found in the blood)
  • improved blood pressure
  • more stable blood sugar levels

High blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and undesirable cholesterol and triglyceride levels are all contributing factors in the development of more serious heart disease, like heart attacks and stroke.

Is red wine an essential part of a healthy diet?

The short answer is no.

If you aren’t a fan of wine or choose not to consume alcoholic beverages, there’s no reason to start drinking red wine for the sake of your health!

Plenty of other diet and lifestyle factors, like eating lots of fruits and vegetables, getting regular physical activity, not smoking, and managing stress can provide the same health benefits.

If you enjoy drinking wine, you should choose red varieties over white for the added antioxidants and health benefits. While white wine does contain some antioxidants from grapes, red wine contains much higher amounts.

Like any other alcoholic beverage, it’s also important to remember to limit wine consumption. The health benefits of red wine only apply when it is enjoyed in moderation. Surprise!

When consumed in excess, any alcoholic beverage can negatively impact your health, contributing to alcohol dependence, organ damage, and increased risk of several cancers.

A good rule of thumb for alcohol intake is to limit consumption to one (1) drink per day for women and one to two (1-2) drinks per day for men. The serving size for one standard glass of red wine is 4 oz.

Since the size of wine glasses can vary, use a liquid measuring cup to familiarize yourself with what a 4 oz pour of wine looks like. Then, stick to that serving size!

References

Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/red-wine-good-or-bad

Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/red-vs-white-wine

Time.com – http://time.com/4070762/red-wine-resveratrol-diabetes/

Whether you call them pimples, blemishes, or zits, ACNE is a common skin condition that can be a source of discomfort, frustration, and embarrassment for those who experience it.

There’s quite a lot of behind-the-scenes action happening in your body that contributes to the development of it.

What Is Acne?

Acne can occur at any age, but is often experienced during distinct phases of hormonal shifting, like adolescence, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. This is because fluctuating hormone levels can increase the amount of oil produced by the skin.

A bout of acne or even the appearance of a single pimple is the result of a buildup of oil, skin cells, and/or bacteria in the pores of the skin.

Causes of Acne

Studies have linked acne to:

  • Inflammation – the root cause of all disease
  • Compromised gut health (i.e. leaky gut, not enough good gut bacteria)
  • High blood sugar and unstable insulin levels
  • Hormonal imbalances

The foods you eat don’t usually directly cause breakouts, but can contribute to acne by promoting inflammation, impairing gut health, and spiking blood sugar and insulin levels.

Inflammatory foods include those high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and unhealthy fats. Examples include:

  • White breads, pasta, and rice
  • Candy, baked goods, and other sweet desserts
  • Sweetened drinks, like soda
  • Fried foods
  • Hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and saturated fats found in margarines, processed foods, and many animal products

Refined carbohydrates (many of which are high glycemic index foods), contain little fibre and protein, which helps slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes.

Instead, these sugary foods are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, causing blood sugar to climb and lots of insulin to be released.

Excess insulin can affect other hormones and cause too much oil to be made by the skin, resulting in those dreaded breakouts.

Typical Acne Treatments

Most people deal with breakouts on the surface, relying on topical cleansers, creams and lotions to treat their blemished skin as fast as possible.

However, relying solely on these types of treatments can result in a cycle of continuous breakouts and can delay complete healing of the skin.

‘Spot treatments’ are just that – they treat the symptom (the acne), but never address the underlying root cause.

Instead of reaching for the harsh topicals and concealer, try healing your skin from the inside out.

Treating Acne Holistically

It’s important to consider any foods you may be sensitive to and to try avoid or minimize those. Your immune system can react to certain foods, causing even more of an inflammatory response.

If you suspect your breakouts may be caused by a food sensitivity, consider testing or trying an elimination diet to identify the food trigger. This is best done under the guidance of a nutrition professional or healthcare practitioner.

Common food triggers include sugar, wheat, soy, and dairy (cow’s milk).

To heal skin and prevent future breakouts, focus on foods that contain plenty of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats like:

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables – the more colourful your diet, the better!
  • Nuts and seeds, especially flax & chia for the extra dose of omega-3 fats
  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Lean, grass fed meats
  • Whole grains & seeds, like quinoa, oats, and brown rice

COOL TIP: When a breakout occurs, you can use the same healing foods topically to help soothe, hydrate, and cleanse irritated skin.

The foods that are health-optimizing for your insides can also be soothing and calming for the outside!

References

Healthline – Foods that cause acne

Healthline – Anti-acne diet

Healthline – Symptoms of acne

Recipe:

Soothing DIY Acne Face Mask

Ingredients

¼ cup papaya, mashed

1 Tbsp oatmeal

1 tsp raw honey

Optional

2 – 4 drops tea tree oil (or combo tea tree and lavender)

How to prepare

Stir together ingredients in a small bowl. Apply to clean, dry skin (face, neck, shoulders, back – anywhere you have irritated, acneic skin).

Leave on 15-20 minutes, then rinse off completely, and pat dry. And voilà, happily refreshed skin.

* If you choose to “taste” your mask before slathering it on, do NOT ingest if you have added essential oils!

In today’s world, we are constantly on the go, a steady state “busy-ness” is the norm, and we’re always running from one responsibility to the next – literally! So, it’s no wonder that physical fatigue is such a common complaint.

The good news is that there are some really simple (and natural) ways to increase your energy so you can keep up with your busy life.

Get off the blood sugar roller coaster

One of the simplest ways we can boost our energy is to stabilize blood sugar. When we don’t eat enough food throughout the day or when we eat foods that are higher in sugar, our energy levels bottom out.

You can balance your blood sugar, and boost your energy naturally by:

  • Eating every 3-4 hours gives your body the nutrients and fuel it needs to keep your blood sugar – and energy levels steady
  • Consuming foods that are low on the glycemic index (think fruits and veggies, whole grains) instead of the higher sugar white breads and pastas.
  • Eating protein with every meal to slow down the release of carbohydrates into your bloodstream. Protein is broken down and released slower so you’re less likely to have a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash.

You like to move it, move it!

When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is exercise. However, as hard as it can be to get your butt off the couch, it’s one of the best things you can do to fight fatigue.

And, it turns out that you don’t even have to commit to a long workout!

A California State University study hyperlink to this study: https://web.csulb.edu/misc/inside/archives/vol_58_no_4/1.htm concluded that even a brisk 10-minute walk can increase your energy for up to 2 hours.

So when you feel that afternoon slump coming on, skip the coffee and lace up your running shoes instead.

Up your sleep game

It may seem obvious that lack of sleep causes fatigue. However did you know that the quality of your sleep can have an even bigger impact on your daily energy? Even slight disturbances in our sleep can affect how rested we feel the next day.

Here are a couple of tips for a more restful sleep:

  • Avoid tech in the bedroom, or within 1-2 hours of bedtime. Even the small amount of light, especially the blue light emitted from devices, interrupts your body’s circadian rhythm. Your brain still thinks it’s daytime and won’t wind down.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day – or avoid all together if this is a problem for you
  • Try to create a regular sleep/wake schedule to help your body develop a sleep routine = good sleep hygiene.
  • Dab a bit of calming lavender essential oil on your temples before bed or put a few drops on your pillow. Breathe in the calm.

Drink up!

Before you reach for that coffee or energy drink to perk you up, consider switching to plain old water. While caffeine is usually the first choice for busting out of an energy slump, it can be dehydrating.

And then there’s dehydration. Even mild dehydration impairs our concentration, decreases our mood and zaps our energy.

How do you know if you may be dehydrated?

Check the colour of your urine. If it’s the colour of straw, you’re good to go. If it’s a darker yellow colour, it’s time to drink up.

If you’re still craving a caffeine hit, try the Energizing Matcha Smoothie recipe below.

Matcha gives a longer lasting energy boost than coffee. It doesn’t hit you hard and then cause you to crash. Plus the recipe really is delicious!

References

Glycemic Index Foundation – https://www.gisymbol.com/about-glycemic-index/

California State University Long Beach, Public Affairs & Publications – https://web.csulb.edu/misc/inside/archives/vol_58_no_4/1.htm

National Sleep Foundation – https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/what-good-quality-sleep

Time.com Health Land – http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/19/bad-mood-low-energy-there-might-be-a-simple-explanation/

There may be something lurking within your gut, when and where you least expect it.

You’re probably already in tune with keeping the large intestine healthy, balanced and well- populated with good bacteria (got probiotics?).

But, what about the health of the small intestine that is located before it in the digestive tract?

The truth is, this is where the serious business of nutrient absorption happens before the waste products are sent through to the large intestine or bowel to be expelled.

As you can imagine, there’s quite a slippery slope that ensues when the flora in this critical stretch of digestive highway goes out of balance.

What is SIBO and what are the symptoms?

At its most basic level, SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth is when bacteria or other microorganisms, good or bad, grow out of control in the small intestine – an area that would normally have a low bacterial count, as compared to the large intestine.

Microorganisms setting up shop in this area (colonization) end up damaging the cells lining the small intestine. This is otherwise known as leaky gut or an increase in intestinal permeability.

This, in turn, impairs the digestive process and overall absorption of nutrients which exacerbate nutritional deficiencies, allow toxins, pathogens and undigested protein molecules to enter the bloodstream that then cause widespread inflammation, food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and other immune reactions.

The most common symptoms of SIBO are:

  • Malabsorption issues and malnutrition
  • Weight loss (or gain)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating or distention
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Acid reflux or heartburn (GERD)
  • Excessive gas or belching
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Skin issues like rashes, acne, eczema and rosacea
  • Aches & pains, especially joint pain

As mentioned, one of the biggest concerns with SIBO is that essential nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fats aren’t being properly absorbed, causing deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, calcium and in the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K.

What causes SIBO?

According to experts, the causes are not clearly defined but contributing factors to being diagnosed with SIBO can include:

  • Aging
  • Metabolic disorders including diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Diverticulosis
  • Injury to the bowel
  • Recent abdominal surgery

Celiac disease is also associated with an increased risk for developing SIBO, and can be of particular concern, as it disturbs gut motility leading to poor functioning of the small intestine.

Another common conditions associated with SIBO is Irritable Bowel Syndrome. As a matter fact, studies have found that SIBO occurs simultaneously in more than half of all cases of IBS.

It has even been reported that successful elimination of bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine resolves symptoms of IBS too.

The use of certain medications, including immunosuppressant medications, and proton pump inhibitors (acid reflux medications) as well as heavy metal toxicity, low stomach acid, inflammatory diets, and yep, you guessed it, stress – are all thought to be contributors as well.

How can you test for SIBO?

It is typically diagnosed using a breath test in which the patient drinks a sugar-containing drink and exhaled gases are measured.

If there are too many bacteria, excess gases (hydrogen, methane or both) will be produced. It should be noted that the reliability of this test is considered less than ideal, but it’s one of the only methods available at this time.

What’s the treatment for it?

Most holistic health practitioners advise adhering strictly to the “SIBO diet” for at least 2 weeks – which may include any (or all) of the following protocols:

  • Herbal antibiotics, including oregano oil
  • A low FODMAP, GAPS and/or AIP diet; unfortunately, this includes avoiding garlic & onions
  • Stress management; yes, this can help heal your gut!
  • Repopulating the good bacteria using probiotics, and then feed with prebiotics

In more severe or persistent cases, a prescription antibiotic may be needed to get the overgrowth under control.

References

World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Syndrome”

World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: meaningful association or unnecessary hype?”

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: “Gastrointestinal motility disturbances in celiac disease”