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Precision Nutrition and Nutrigenomics

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Nutrigenomics is an exciting new branch in the field of nutrition and dietetics. It has been nicknamed precision nutrition because it’s able to optimize health-related outcomes by looking at how a person’s genetic make-up influences how our body responds to our diet. Let’s do a brief primer on genetics and then we’ll get to the fun stuff!

The Human Genome Project which was an international research project to determine the DNA sequence of the entire human genome, became a spring board for the field of Nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics sets out to assess how our genes interact with the bioactive components of food to either help or harm our health. (1)

Each human cell holds most of it’s DNA in the nucleus. DNA is composed of four bases or nucleotides; A, G, C and T. DNA is stored as chromosomes and humans have 46 chromosomes, 23 inherited from their mother and 23 inherited from their father. Genes are regions of DNA and each gene holds instructions to create amino acids and proteins. The Human Genome Project determined that humans have approximately 20,000-25,000 genes. (2)

Genetic variation can occur in several ways. The most common genetic variants are called single nucleotide polymorphism or a SNP (pronounced snip). This means that one base is different from the most common form. Depending on the genotype, the gene may interact with the food you eat to have an increase, no effect on or a decrease on a certain health outcome.

Let me provide you with a few examples from my nutrigenomics report to give some clarity.

1.      I possess the GA variant of the CYP1A2 gene which is the gene responsible for the metabolism of caffeine.  Because of this I am what is classified as a “slow metabolizer” of caffeine and I have an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart attack if I consume more than 200 mg of caffeine daily, which is approximately 2 small cups of coffee.  Prior to receiving the results of my genetic test, I easily consumed close to 400mg of caffeine per day. I now limit caffeine consumption to no more than 200 mg per day in order to reduce this risk. Pretty cool, right?

2.      I also possess the GA variant of the ACE gene. This gene is responsible for encoding the enzyme that converts angiotensin I to the active angiotensin II which controls blood pressure and fluid and electrolyte balance. Because of this, there is an increased risk of elevated blood pressure when my sodium intake is high. I am trying (this one is hard!) to limit sodium consumption to 1500 mg per day which should help to reduce the risk.

3.      I have the GA variant of the UCP1 gene, which means my resting metabolic rate may be approximately 150 calories (about 10%) lower than those with the typical risk variants. This is about 10% less than people with the typical risk genotype. I’ve always known that it is challenging for me to lose weight and now I have one reason why. I am trying to work to expend an extra 150 calories more per day through exercise above what I used to do. This has helped to stall midlife weight gain for me, at least for now!

The company that I work with and had my testing done through is Nutrigenomix. The tests analyze 45 genetic variants with research published in peer-reviewed journals. I found out about a total of 15 SNPs that I possess that have actionable personalized nutrition and lifestyle goals to support my health. I am an approved provider with Nutrigenomix. If you are interested in pursuing your own Nutrigenomics testing, contact me at tamibest@promiseofvitality.com

 

 

 

 

This Functional Dietitian’s Favorite Foods for 2019

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In contrast to many common resolutions which often begin with things to cut back on, here are some foods, I would like you to eat more of!

  1. Beautiful, bright berries. They have a lower glycemic index than other fruits and carry a powerful nutrition punch. They are packed with disease fighting phytochemicals and other nutrients. Toss some in your morning unsweetened oatmeal. Blend them into a green tea smoothie. Sprinkle them on top of a hearty salad.
  2. Avocados. Shocker! Most of you know how much I love this superfood! Rich in healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins that help you stay satisfied for a longer period of time and provide fuel to keep your energy-producing units (mitochondria) healthy and running efficiently. Use avocados to add interest to your free-range organic eggs. Season with lime juice, salt and pepper and fill celery boats. Chop them and add them on top of black bean soup.
  3. Did I mention Free-range organic eggs?! Eggs are a great source of high quality protein. Be sure to go with free-range organic eggs to limit your exposure to added hormones and harmful pesticides. What I love most about eggs is how versatile they are. They are great for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Make a dozen hard-boiled eggs each Sunday and have them available for quick meals and lunch-box fillers.
  4. Almonds and other nuts and seeds. In people with Type 2 Diabetes, almond intake improves blood sugar control, decreases weight and lowers LDL cholesterol. Nuts and seeds are a good source of fiber, healthy fat, and other minerals (namely magnesium) which promote cardiovascular health and aid with weight management.(1)
  5. Green tea. Research indicates that the combination of catechins (epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG) and caffeine in green tea may help people lose weight. (2) Drink daily. If you are not a fan of the flavor, use it as a base liquid in soups and smoothies.
  6. Maca. A cruciferous vegetable grown in Peru and is related to broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. Generally it is ground and consumed in powder form and is a good source of both iron and protein. Maca is excellent for a caffeine-free energy boost and may improve mood and decrease risk of depression.(3) Try it in oatmeal and smoothies or add to your favorite homemade granola bar recipe.
  7. Wild Salmon. Definitely skip the farm raised salmon! Farm raised salmon has been found to have high levels of PCBs (Poly-chlorinated bi-phenyls). PCBs have been linked to cancer and other health problems. Wild salmon also has a higher mineral and omega-3 fatty acid content than farm-raised salmon.
  8. Bone broth. Because it is made by boiling down bones and cartilage it is rich vitamin and minerals that promote healthy bones. Also, bone broth is excellent for promoting healthy digestion and may help individuals who are dealing with increased gut permeability and other inflammatory bowel conditions. Replace traditional broth with bone broth in recipes or sip on bone broth like tea.
  9. Seaweed. It is rich in a carbohydrate that feed the good bacteria of our intestinal tract. It has been shown to delay stomach emptying which helps you feel satisfied for a longer period of time. Seaweed also contains compounds which may reduce body fat. Seaweed is a great snack food. Be sure to read ingredient lists as some seaweed is made with maltodextrin which is a filler ingredient that has a high glycemic index.
  10. Last but not least – sweet potatoes. They are rich in antioxidants that help to protect every cell in our body. Try sweet potato toast or a sweet potato and tumeric smoothie!

Start 2019 right! Include the above foods in your diet regularly and in general aim for a whole-foods varied diet! Happy New Year!

References:

  1. Yun Ying Hou et. al. (2018) A Randomized Controlled Trial to Compare the Effect of Peanuts and Almonds on the Cardio-Metabolic and Inflammatory Parameters in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus; Nutrients 2018, 10(11), 1565; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111565
  2. Chacko SM, Thambi PT, Kuttan R, Nishigaki I. Beneficial effects of green tea: a literature review. Chin Med. 2010;5:13 10.1186/1749-8546-5-13 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef]
  3. Meissner, H. O., Reich-Bilinska, H., Mscisz, A., & Kedzia, B. (2006). Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women – Clinical Pilot Study. International journal of biomedical science : IJBS, 2(2), 143-59.

Engineered for Overconsumption: Breaking the Cycle of Eating Highly Processed Foods

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Processed convenience foods are engineered to be easy to get and easy to eat. Not such a bad idea, after all, we’re all very busy and in a hurry.

Here’s the big fat problem. Sadly, they’re making us fat and sick.  Two-thirds of American Adults are overweight with about one-third suffering from obesity. One-fourth of our children under age 19 fit the criteria for obesity. According to the National Research Council, more than half the cancers diagnosed are a direct result of our diets.  And this is just a few examples, unfortunately, there are too many chronic diseases to name that are directly related to our intake of highly processed foods.

And guess what? It’s not our fault.

These sugar and pro-inflammatory-rich foods have been created to make us crave them. Many of these foods have been produced in a way to make them incredibly rewarding to the brain. They cause a surge in our feel good hormone dopamine. Our innate tendency is to continue to try to achieve the same response and eat more in an effort engage the pleasure center of our brain. We eventually override any control mechanism causing us to eat way more than we need.

Our sugar and pro-inflammatory fat intake skyrockets putting us at increased risk for metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and mood disorders.

To make matters worse, these processed foods are loaded with a chemical soup. Preservatives, colorants, artificial flavors, and texturants flood our system.

Maltodextrin for example is often used to thicken foods. It is made from highly processed corn, rice, potato skin or wheat. It has a higher glycemic index than sugar which may lead to a rapid spike in blood glucose followed by a crash. This causes us to crave more sugar. It has also been shown to change the composition of gut bacteria interfering with the growth of healthy probiotics. These changes have been linked to risk of overgrowth of disease causing bacteria.  Cellulose gel, which is wood pulp, is another example of a texturant that can disrupt the balance of the microbiome and increase risk for a host of diseases.

Let’s not forget the artificial dyes and preservatives. Six artificial dyes are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use by manufacturers. Some studies link these dyes to hyperactivity disorders in children. Red 3 has been shown to increase risk of thyroid tumors in rats. Preservatives such as nitrites, commonly used in processed meats may increase risk of stomach cancer.

So how do we redefine convenience foods?

  1. Choose mostly unprocessed whole foods, preferably organic to minimize exposure to more harmful chemicals (ie glyphosate).
  2. Read ingredient lists!
    • Choose products with no or low added sugar. Remember sugar goes by many names such as agave nectar, brown rice syrup, corn syrup solids, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup…
    • Also choose foods without highly processed inflammatory vegetable oils that use chemical solvents to produce them. These include soybean, canola, corn, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut, sesame, and rice bran. Genetically modified soybean oil is currently the biggest source of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. It has also been found to have high levels of the pesticide residues from glyphosate.
    • Instead choose products made with anti-inflammatory fats such as avocado, extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Oils that have been made by crushing or pressing plants or seeds are best.
    • Remember ingredients are listed in order from highest to lowest. Try to find foods that have whole foods as the first three ingredients. Try to avoid foods with long ingredient lists.
  3. Eat these convenient, reasonably-priced nutrient-dense foods:
    • Baby carrots, bagged spinach, pre-cubed butternut squash, potatoes, canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables
    • Brown rice, canned beans, oatmeal, quinoa, air-popped popcorn
    • Bananas, oranges, frozen unsweetened berries and fruit-blends
    • Canned wild salmon, organic eggs, lean pork, chicken breast, organic cheeses and low-sugar yogurts.
  4. Get creative with grab and go snacks:
    • Turkey roll: Fill a slice of nitrite-free turkey with pre-shredded carrots, a slice of cheese and a few sliced olives – roll and enjoy.
    • Energy bites: Mix together 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup or honey, 1 tablespoon  of nut butter and a few dark chocolate chips.
    • Nut butter boats: Rill celery with all natural almond or seed butter. Top with a few raisins for added sweetness.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. But change does need to happen. Redefine what convenience foods mean. If you have more innovative ideas on how to create grab and go healthy whole food meals and snacks, I would love to hear from you!

This one thing or trillions of tiny things can impact your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiometabolic disease, gastrointestinal disease, anxiety, depression and certain types of cancer….

 

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Microbes are microscopic organisms such as bacteria, mold and fungi. It is common for people to view microbes as only “bad” or disease causing however every human hosts billions of these microscopic organisms and most are vital to our life. A microbiome is all the microbes and their collective genes and genomes living together such as those in the gastrointestinal tract of the human body.1

The human intestinal tract is colonized by trillions of microbial cells. In fact, we have more microbial cells than we do human cells. Collectively, these microbial cells have 250 to 800 times more genes than our human cells.2

The microbiome first began being studied more that 300 years ago however, it wasn’t until recently that the evidence became clear that the microbiome has a dramatic influence on whole-body health.

Recent scientific research supports that a balanced, healthy microbiome plays a role in nutrient digestion and absorption, hormone generation, neurotransmitter production, detoxification of environmental chemicals, regulation of metabolism, anti-inflammatory pathways, and regulation of the immune system. In contrast, evidence supports that an unhealthy or disrupted microbiome are associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiometabolic disease, gastrointestinal upset and disease, anxiety, depression, and some forms of cancer.2,3

Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease

Studies support that there is an “obese microbiome” that extracts more energy from food and leads to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase your risk of disease. These risk factors include a large waistline, low good cholesterol (HDL), and high triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar. Most of the bacteria in our intestinal tract is divided into two major families: Firmicutes and Bactroidetes. Research shows that the obese microbiome has a high ratio of firmicutes to bactroidetes.2

Also, we know that disease risk increases when there is poor gut microbial diversity. Lower microbial diversity correlated with higher arterial stiffness, increasing risk for heart attack.4

Gastrointestinal Upset and Disease

When there is dybiosis, or an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut, we can develop a “leaky gut”. A leaky gut is one with increased permeability allowing undigested food particles and pathogens to get through and activate the immune system causing inflammation and food sensitivities. We also know that people with inflammatory bowel disease have lower levels of bacteria that protect against inflammation. Certain bacteria are associated with an increased production of the protective short chained fatty acid butyrate. Butyrate has been linked to a decreased risk of inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.5

Anxiety and Depression

Gut health has been shown to impact mood, stress, and pain. The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication between the central nervous system and the gut (the enteric nervous system). Because of this bi-directional interaction, evidence exists that dysbiosis in the microbiome is associated with increased risk for anxiety and depression.6

Cancer

There is evidence to support that individuals who develop certain types of cancer have higher levels of disease-causing bacteria. The microbiome plays a major role in detoxification of environmental toxins and neutralization of reactive oxygen species. If the microbiome has too much disease promoting bacteria and not enough anti-inflammatory bacteria, these harmful molecules go unchecked and may promote cancer.

How do you promote a healthy microbiome?

The human microbiome is constantly changing and impacted daily by our environment, what we eat, our stress levels and other influencers. There are however evidence-based strategies you can implement to help feed the good bacteria in your gut and squelch the bad bacteria:

  1. Aim for more plant-based foods in your diet and less animal-based foods. Heavily plant-based diets tend to promote a “leaner” microbiome with higher levels of bactroidetes. Conversely, those who eat a higher animal product diet have higher levels of firmicutes which are associated with increased risk for overweight and obesity.5 Also, higher levels of the anti-inflammatory short-chained fatty acids that promote a healthy microbiome and protect against leaky gut were found in vegans, vegetarians and individuals who follow a Mediterranean diet.5
  2. Minimize exposure to environmental toxins. Chose organic food whenever possible. Avoid or reduce exposure to glyphosate (the chemical in Round-up and other lawn treatments). These chemicals have been shown to disrupt and kill the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Visit the Environmental Working Group at www.ewg.org for more information.
  3. Use antibiotics only when absolutely, medically necessary. Antibiotics not only kill bad bacteria, they kill beneficial bacteria in the gut leading to low species diversity in our microbiome.
  4. Exercise daily. Exercise promotes the growth of a diverse and varied microbiota which improves health and decreases your risk for disease.
  5. Avoid simple sugar and refined carbohydrates. These foods fuel the bad bacteria in your gut and are pro-inflammatory which increases your risk for developing a leaky gut.
  6. Eat fermented and other probiotic rich and prebiotic rich foods. Probiotic foods include fermented vegetables, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, yogurt (unsweetened). Prebiotic foods are foods high in fiber that feed the good bugs (probiotics). These include asparagus, bananas, garlic, legumes, and peas. Also, consider adding a medical or professional-grade probiotic supplement.
  7. Limit or avoid foods that you are sensitive or reactive to. Food intolerances or sensitivities promote inflammation in the gut and disrupt the microbiome. If you are unsure of what foods may be causing trouble for you, talk to your dietitian or doctor about doing an elimination diet. Common culprits include gluten, soy, corn, dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, and tree nuts.
  8. Drink plenty of water. Adequate hydration is critical for maintaining a healthy and balanced microbiome.

References:

  1. “Eating For Your Microbiome”; Institute for Functional Medicine; 2017
  2. Komaroff, A. The microbiome and risk for obesity and diabetes; JAMA. {published online December 22, 2016}/JAMA.2016.20099
  3. Reiman, D. The Human Microbiome and the Future Practice of Medicine; JAMA, September 15, 2015, Volume 314, Number 11
  4. Menni C, Lin C, Cecelja C, et al. Gut microbial diversity is associated with lower arterial stiffness in women [published online May 9, 2018]. Eur Heart J. doi:1093/eurheartj/ehy226.
  5. High Dietary Fiber Intake Linked to Health Promoting Short Chain Fatty Acids; {published online September 29, 2015}; BMJ
  6. Carbotti, M. et al..; The gut-brain axis: Interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems; Annals of Gastroenterology, 2015 Apr-Jun, 28(2): 203-209

 

 

A Typical Day of Eating for this Functional Dietitian

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Often times, I have people ask me, “what do you eat?”. I strive to feed myself and my family with clean, whole foods. You’ll notice from this sample day, my meals are simple, quick and follow a bit of the 80/20 rule (80% good choices, 20% fair).

Breakfast:

One cup organic black coffee

Smoothie – 1/2-3/4th cup frozen unsweetened organic berries; 1/4th of a lemon (rind left on); 1/2 cup organic soy milk; 1/4th of an avocado; 1 Tablespoon almond butter; 1-2 Tablespoons flax or chia seeds. Blend all ingredients until smooth (add more soy milk if needed). Sometimes I top the smoothie with 2 or 3 tablespoons of gluten-free, low-sugar granola.

Snack: 12 cocoa almonds and a clementine; Warm water with lemon

Lunch: “Homemade Soup” – Mix together and heat organic vegetable broth, 1/2 can organic seasoned tomatoes, leftover roasted vegetables from last nights dinner, cubed tempeh or tofu, leftover brown rice or quinoa; 6-12 nut or seed crackers; Sparkling water with a splash of ginger infused balsamic vinegar.

Snack: 1 apple sliced and dipped in soy yogurt or nut butter; Organic mint green tea

Dinner: Baked salmon seasoned with lemon pepper, roasted sweet potato wedges seasoned with sea salt and coarse black pepper, roasted balsamic Brussel sprouts, a large salad made with mixed greens, chopped vegetables, fresh lemon juice and olive oil, a glass of wine and water.

Snack: 3-5 dark chocolate covered walnuts or 1/2 cup non-dairy frozen dessert; Herbal tea

Generally speaking, in order to stick to a healthy meal plan, make sure you are making choices that are realistic for you and your family. I would love to cook fancy different meals (and once and a while I do). The reality is, with our busy family, raising three teenage girls, we need to keep it simple. Our daily approach is to eat lots of vegetables and some organic protein at each meal and include daily whole unprocessed grains, calcium-rich foods and fresh fruit while limiting added sugar.

 

Tami’s Top 10 Health Tips for 2018

Tami's top 10 health tips for 2018

The new year brings promise for the healthiest, best version of you. Although I love to personalize and get very precise with individualized recommendations, there are some functional nutrition and lifestyle solutions that can positively impact just about everyone.

So here they are, my 2018 top ten recommendations for the promise of vitality:

  1. Hara Hachi Bu. Unless you are Okinawan, you are probably thinking “Huh?” I was just reading a great newsletter from Blue Zones (The Blue Zones identify regions where people live very long and healthy lives) and they reminded me of a great strategy that the people of Okinawa Japan use: Hara Hachi Bu. This phrase means stop eating when you are 80 percent full. It takes time for our brains to recognize that we are full. Practice eating until you are no longer hungry, instead of until you are completely full. Blue Zones encourages effective techniques such as eating from smaller plates, slowing down and mindful eating to work toward Hara Hachi Bu.
  2. Track your intake of added sugar and take steps to drastically cut back how much sugar you are eating. The American Heart Association recommends the upper limit of 37.5 grams of added sugar per day for males and 25 grams for females. Currently the average intake for American adults is nearly 100 grams per day! Added sugar is a major contributor to the health woes of Americans including and especially obesity. A new review in Obesity Facts confirms that sugar sweetened beverages are a major contributor to causing people to be overweight and obese. Obesity is linked to many chronic diseases plaguing our society including cardiovascular disease, depression, and certain cancers.
  3. Don’t just move more, incorporate interval training. Bursts of working intensely for short periods of time alternating with short periods of rest boosts your metabolism for the whole day, helping you burn calories more efficiently. Check out this great resource form The American College of Sports Medicine on High Intensity Interval Training
  4. If you are not taking supplements currently, consider adding them to your diet. Our food supply has been depleted of essential nutrients due to commodity-based agriculture and the mass use of highly processed corn, wheat and soy in the foods stocking our grocery shelves. For quite some time I believed we could get all the nutrients we needed from the food we ate, unfortunately, things have changed. If you would like to know what supplements I would suggest for you, please contact me via my website. I have partnered with fullscript to provide my clients with medical-grade supplements at below-retail price. If you are currently taking supplements, consider the source. Many supplements have no controls or safety checks in place making their quality and safety highly questionable. A couple seals that are helpful to look for when shopping for supplements are USP (United States Pharmacopeia) certified or GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified. This ensures a supplement has been third party tested for potency, purity and identity.
  5. Practice mindfulness. Check out this article from Berkely on mindfulness Many of the steps to achieve mindfulness center around breathing exercises. Focused breathing connects you to the present moment thereby allowing you to calm the mind, achieve focus, and appreciate the happiness that surrounds you.
  6. Take steps to protect and heal your gut. Our gastrointestinal tract is critical to maintaining the health of multiple systems in our body. If your gut isn’t healthy you increase our risk for mental health problems, diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer and more. If you frequently experience gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, diarrhea, gas, pain, and/or bloating, consider an elimination diet to see what foods might be injuring your intestine. I can help guide you through the process. Look into Promise of Vitality Functional Nutrition Services
  7. Eat clean. Read my blog on limiting highly processed foods
  8. Live clean. Read my blog on limiting exposure to toxins
  9. Eat more healthy fats. These include foods such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados. For years we have been told to follow a low fat diet and what that has led to is us eating too much added sugar and sodium which has caused us to become fat and sick. These healthy fats will help keep you satisfied for a longer period of time so you are less likely to graze on carbohydrate laden foods throughout the day. Our intake of carbohydrates generally needs to decrease as we age because our ability to metabolize them drops as we age. Most adults have some form of insulin resistance that prevents us from effectively using the carbohydrates we consume for energy. Instead it gets stored as fat.
  10. Finally, do what you can to connect with people. Having support and love in our lives promotes health. Likewise, surrounding ourselves with individuals who value health and healthy living promotes healthy behaviors and choices. Health is contagious!

Wishing you a wonderful 2018 filled with health and vitality!

Diet and Lifestyle Quality for a Healthy Body Weight – Part3: Stress and Weight

By: Tami Best, MS, RD, CDN

Manage stress

 

Seven out of ten adults fit the criteria for being overweight or obese. In this series, I have outlined critical steps that we can all take to help fight this epidemic. In part one of this series, I talked about the importance of limiting intake of all processed foods to promote a healthy body weight. In part two, the focus was on reducing exposures to harmful chemicals call obesogens that disrupt the weight control hormones in our body. In this final part, I will give you an overview on how uncontrolled stress can negatively affect your weight and strategies to help manage stress.

Stress can be defined as our perception of a real or imagined threat and our ability to cope with it. Once we perceive the threat, we signal a cascade of hormones in our body peaking with the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Of note, we do not need to be in real danger for cortisol to be released, we only need to follow our thoughts to think we are in danger and all of our cells will begin to be bathed in stress hormones. Therefore, if we are constantly ruminating and projecting on what might happen, we are activating the release of cortisol.

Cortisol is involved in energy regulation. Cortisol releases fuel into the body, halts digestion, and slows metabolism. In addition, this hormone plays a role in helping new fat cells grow into mature fat cells and aids in the deposition of fat in the mid-section. This fat that settles in our middle, surrounding our organs is called visceral fat and is the most dangerous type of fat in our body.

Not only does cortisol slow our metabolism and help us to deposit fat, it plays a role in our appetite. Cortisol causes a drop in leptin which is the hormone that is responsible for telling our brains that we have had enough to eat and that we are full. So on top of a sluggish metabolism and promoting fat cell growth, we are also craving more food.

The stress mounding on us today can feel quite overwhelming at times. We certainly can’t completely escape stress, however there is a lot we can do to improve our resilience and improve our coping mechanisms.

For starters, we need to work on strategies, such as those used in cognitive behavior therapy, to disarm negative thoughts. Consider this equation: A+B=C with A (the activating event), B(our thoughts), and C(the consequence). For example, and activating event(A) might be that you encounter an accident on the way to work and you are going to be late. Likewise we may begin a negative thought process (B) thinking – “My boss is going to kill me, he already thinks I’m worthless”. Finally the consequence (C) is a surge of cortisol being released into your blood stream. Changing our belief can protect our body. Actively work to change negative thoughts. In our example, you might use the following self-talk instead: “I’ll explain to my boss why I was late, I’ll listen to music while I wait”. With this more rational thought process, you can significantly reduce the release of cortisol.

Next, seek active relaxation. Mindful breathing is one great, free way to actively lower stress hormone levels and quiet the mind. Sit in a comfortable position, preferably with your feet on the floor. Breathe deeply into your belly for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four and then deeply exhale. Repeating this pattern for just five minutes will dramatically cool your stress response.

Other great ways to actively relax include meditation, yoga, brisk walking, being outdoors and connecting with loved ones.

Finally, fuel and supplement your body in a way that quiets your mind. Eat whole, unprocessed healthy fats, healthy wild, grass-fed proteins, and organic fresh fruits and vegetables. Dramatically minimize sugar and all processed foods. Support your diet with quality supplements that have been tested for identity, purity, and potency. Here are some good options to consider:

  1. Our standard American diets are highly deficient in omega 3 fats which is needed for many things in our body including a healthy brain capable of  quieting anxious thoughts. I like Nordic Naturals fish oils because they are third party tested for environmental toxins and pass the strictest tests for purity and freshness. Consider adding 1000mg Nordic Naturals Arctic Omega Lemon which can be ordered here through fullscript.
  2. Also, a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement can help bolster our intake of nutrients needed for a healthy stress response such as vitamin D, folate, B6 and B12. I like Pure Encapsulation’s O.N.E multivitamin which can also be ordered here through fullscript.

For more on how to manage stress visit The American Institute of Stress.

 

 

Diet and Lifestyle Quality for a Healthy Body Weight – Part 2: Toxic Load and Obesogens

Tami Best, MS, RD, CDN

Reduce your Toxic Load and exposure to obesogens

Toxic load can be summarized as the accumulation of harmful chemicals we are exposed to or that we ingest and our body’s ability to mitigate the negative impact of those harmful chemicals. Currently in production and widely used are tens of thousands of chemicals with sparse safety testing.

There are broad categories of chemicals that can be labeled as obesogens. Obesogens are hormone imitating chemicals that interfere with metabolism and cause weight gain. These are some common obesogens:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) and Phthalates – widely used in the manufacturing of plastics and in the lining of cans
  • Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) – used as a flame retardant, it is pervasive in manufacturing apparel, electronics, furniture and much more
  • Parabens – commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics
  • 4-Nonylphenol – often an ingredient in pesticides, laundry and dish detergents
  • Heavy metals such as mercury (Hg) – high levels are present in some seafoods and lead(Pb) – used in the paint of older homes

Recently, I was inspired by the documentary  Prosperity. The film covered a lot of ground. For example, relevant to the topic of toxic load, the film puts forth real life examples on how we can all become more conscious consumers, assessing how we can make purchases and choices that more positively affect our health and the environment.

How can we become more conscious consumers and help reduce our toxic burden?

  1. Since it is impossible to avoid all exposure to obesogens, make sure you eat in a way that supports your body’s own detoxification system. Foods rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals help neutralize harmful chemicals so they can’t disrupt our hormone balance. Include cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage) in your diet on a daily basis. Also eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, berries, and orange vegetables (eg winter squash and sweet potatoes). Garlic, onion, turmeric, and apple cider vinegar also help your body’s detoxification system.
  2. Choose organic foods whenever possible. This includes organic free-range poultry and organic grass-fed beef. The Environmental Working Group helps you determine which produce you should buy the organic versions for with their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists
  3. Eat wild (never farm-raised), smaller seafood such as salmon and sardines. Larger fish like tuna and swordfish are high in the hormone disrupting heavy metal mercury.
  4. Avoid the use of pesticides in your own yard. Choosing to weed your yard instead will give you an increase in physical activity. Exercise is a natural way to rid your body of toxins and keep your hormones in balance.
  5. Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods. Fiber promotes gastrointestinal health and regular elimination. This will help prevent prolonged exposure to obesogens and reduce their detrimental metabolic impact.
  6. Stay hydrated with plenty of filtered or spring water. Filtering water removes any obesogens which may have seeped into our water supply.
  7. If you have an older home, test for lead paint. Your local health department can connect you with resources.
  8. Chose paraben-free beauty products.
  9. Minimize your use of plastics. Use glass or stainless steel to store foods, especially hot foods. Heat allows harmful hormone disruptors from plastic to leach into the foods you eat. Never use plastic containers or wrap to heat foods in the microwave. Skip the plastic lid on hot beverages you purchase away from home.
  10. Purchase gifts, groceries, household goods, and clothing from companies who are committed to green manufacturing practice and avoid using or selling products produced with obesogens. A couple examples highlighted in the Prosperity film include Thrive Market and abc Carpet and Home
  11. Finally, reduce obesogens in your home.
    • Take off your shoes prior to entering house. Obesogens such as pesticides can trickle in from the outdoors and contaminate your living space.
    • If possible use only hard surface floors throughout the home. Carpets can hang onto dust and dirt making it difficult to remove harmful environmental toxins.
    • Dust and vacuum often. Obesogenic particles can live in dust and dirt.
    • Use plant-based natural cleaning products.
    • Keep your home green by adding plenty of green. Plants naturally reduce airborne toxins.

For more helpful resources on how to reduce your toxic load and exposure to obesogens visit the Environmental Working Group.

 

Diet and Lifestyle Quality for a Healthy Body Weight – Part 1: Highly Processed Foods

By Tami Best, MS, RD, CDN

Whole, Unprocessed foods

Our mission at Promise of Vitality is to help build a world free of chronic disease caused by intake of highly processed foods, overexposure to environmental toxins and uncontrolled stress. In part one of this three part series, I will talk about the impact of highly processed foods on body weight.

At the advent of mass food production, our world became exposed to a highly-processed diet. In some ways this was very good, a lot of non-perishable food became available at a very low price. People began to have easy access to food that wouldn’t spoil. Three main ingredients; highly manipulated, corn, wheat, and soy, became pervasive in our food supply.

With this mass use of these three processed ingredients, we now have easy access to a plethora of nutrient-poor foods marketed in endless varieties. The foods that are overflowing on our grocery store shelves are high in calories, unhealthy fats, and refined carbohydrates however they are, low in vitamins, minerals and fiber.

There is no question that the types of food you choose impact your weight. The idea that we just need to focus on total calories we consume versus what we expend is antiquated. For example, studies show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages promotes more weight gain than if you were to consume the same amount of calories from unprocessed foods.

When you consume pure, processed carbohydrates likes those we find in sugar-sweetened soda, you over-activate the pleasure center of your brain. In fact, so much so that sugar takes on an addictive quality, much like a recreational drug.

In addition, your body reacts to the refined carbohydrates with a surge of insulin. This insulin is the hormone responsible for clearing sugar from your blood stream. It is also a growth hormone for fat cells (1). As the insulin quickly clears the sugar from your blood stream, your blood sugars crash too low making you feel shaky, irritable and more hungry. In addition, your body is exposed to reactive oxygen species which damage all cells in your body, inducing inflammation. Put all of this together and your body is in the perfect state to store fat.

So what diet-related strategies can we use to fight unwanted weight gain?

We need to focus on an eating style that calms the pleasure center of our brain, stabilizes blood sugar, minimizes our exposure to harmful reactive oxygen species and reduces the growth-promoting state of fat cells that comes with excessively high levels of insulin in the blood. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Eat mostly whole, unprocessed organic fresh fruits, vegetables, organic cage-free poultry, organic grass-fed beef, and wild salmon.
  2. If you eat foods from a package, choose foods with the least number of ingredients. Also avoid all foods that contain high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oils.
  3. If you do eat some refined carbohydrates such as cookies, candies or cake, opt for homemade varieties with wholesome ingredients. Also, have these foods in smaller portions with some protein and/or healthy fat containing food. For example, have a small serving of almonds with a cookie. The protein and fat in the almonds will lower the glycemic load (how high your blood sugar goes up) from the cookie.
  4. Retrain your taste buds to enjoy naturally sweet foods to minimize your intake of hyper sweet foods that activate the addictive-forming, pleasure-center of your brain. For example, with an apple, you will provide plenty of antioxidants to protect you from harmful reactive oxygen species and fiber to help stabilize the rise in blood glucose.
  5. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Just like sugar, they have an addictive quality and may also trigger the release of growth hormones for your fat cells.
  6. Learn how to cook more meals for you and your family. Research shows that people who prepare and eat most of their meals from home, consume between 150 and 200 calories less per day.
  7. Finally, work to have a balance of foods at all meals and snacks. For example, add a protein rich foods such as eggs, nuts, seeds, lean beef or poultry to all meals and snacks to help promote blood sugar stabilization.

(1) Viewpoint – Increasing Adiposity, Consequence or Cause of Overeating?; D. Ludwig, MD, PhD, M. Friedman, PhD; JAMA May 16, 2014