It is well known that the Western diet/Standard American Diet (SAD) are high in processed carbohydrates (especially sugar) which results in gastrointestinal and systemic inflammation. This further contributes to the development of increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) which can lead to all kind of diseases and imbalances (allergies, autoimmune diseases, blood sugar imbalances, obesity etc). By eating refined carbohydrates and not enough fiber we feed the pathogenic bacteria and fungi (especially those higher up in the digestive tract). By eating complex carbohydrates with fiber, we feed the beneficial bacteria in the lower part of the gut.
High carb diet also favors weight gain. Excess carbs are stored as fat.
Now let’s explore a low carbohydrate diet.
Low carb diets have been popular on and off since the dawn of the Atkins fame (and maybe even earlier?). But, what exactly defines low carb? Does eating this way actually help with weight loss? Are there any other health benefits to eating fewer carbs?
What is a carb?
A carb, or carbohydrate, is one of our three main macronutrients. Carbs, along with protein and fat that are needed for optimal health in quantities larger than vitamins and minerals which are micronutrients.
Carbohydrates come in three main types:
Sugars are the smallest (molecule) carb. There are many different kinds of sugars, beyond the well-known table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose).
Starches are longer chains of many sugars bound together. Starches are broken down by our digestive enzymes into sugars. These sugars are then absorbed and metabolized in much the same way as if we ate sugar itself.
Fiber, on the other hand, is also a long chain of sugars, but these are not broken down by our digestive enzymes. Fiber passes through our system, feeds our friendly gut bacteria, and then takes food waste out the other end.
Because fiber isn’t digested like sugars and starches, it’s often excluded from the carb calculation.
How we metabolize carbs
When we eat carbs, our body absorbs the broken down sugar into our blood, thus raising our blood sugar. Depending on how high and fast our blood sugar rises, our body releases insulin to tell our cells to absorb that sugar out of our blood and use it as energy now or store it for later.
This is part of the theory as to why eating low carb diets may help with weight loss – by preventing the release of insulin, thus preventing the storage of excess calories.
But, our bodies are a bit more complicated than that!
Low carb for weight loss?
Yes, our bodies are burning fat more efficiently than sugar (carbs). While burning sugar a lot of free radicals are created. Low carb diet helps with insulin balancing (insulin resistance).
A few studies recently put low carb diets head-to-head against low-fat diets for weight loss.
How many carbs is low carb?
There isn’t one single definition.
The average American eats about 300 g of carbs per day. Some people consider eating under 250 g of carbs per day to be the first threshold of a low carb diet. That’s really not that low in carbs, it’s lower carb, rather than low carb. Plus, if you’re new to cutting carbs, this level is easy to maintain and a good start (if you want to cut your carbs).
Taking that a step further, eating about 50 g per day of carbs is considered a typical low carb diet.
On the extreme side, eating less than 50 g of carbs per day is considered to be very low carb – it falls under the ketogenic diet range. Eating so few carbs can actually change your metabolism into a ketogenic state. That means we are burning fat for energy (fat burner vs. sugar burner).
Other health benefits of low carb diets
Low carb diets have the benefit of preserving muscle mass during weight loss. They can also improve heart health biomarkers like cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Not to mention that eating fewer carbs can improve how our bodies manage those carbs in terms of insulin and fasting blood sugar levels.
There can definitely be some non-weight-loss health benefits to eating fewer carbs!
Eating a low carb diet can be healthy, as long as it contains enough of all the essential nutrients. Some people may lose weight by eating fewer carbs, and others won’t.
Low carb diets can help to improve how the body manages blood lipids and blood sugar, so it can be a healthy choice for some people.
As with most things in nutrition, there isn’t a one size fits all rule. Low carb diets can be a good choice for many people, but it’s not the magic bullet that some people claim.
What about you – have you tried (or do you currently) eat low carb? How many carbs do you eat per day? Have you had any great (or not so great) health effects from it? Let me know in the comments below.
Low Carb Baked “Breaded” Chicken
2 pounds chicken drumsticks
½ cup almond flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp rosemary or thyme
½ tsp garlic powder
Preheat oven to 450F. Cover a large baking dish with parchment paper. In a large food storage bag, combine all ingredients except chicken. Place a couple of pieces of chicken in the bag and shake until coated. Repeat with the rest of the chicken. Place chicken on a lined dish and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Turn over and bake 15 minutes longer. Ensure the internal temperature of chicken reaches 165F.
Serve & enjoy!
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To your radiant health, with love,
We know stress is aging us at a faster pace. We also know that chronic stress is one of the root causes of modern diseases. Managing stress is as important as diet. Even if you have a perfect diet, stress can damage your health. We also know that we can’t avoid stressful situations. We can choose how to react to those situations.
Let’s have some conversation about stress.
How do you feel? Do you find it a struggle to get through the day feeling sane? Stress is a key factor for all health issues, and it may be driving you crazy. And to say that you should work on stress management seems like an easy answer, but there isn’t anything easy about it. People who suffer from issues due to chronic stress can present with many symptoms. The problem we face is whether we are suffering from overactive adrenals and high cortisol or underactive adrenals and low cortisol.
A salivary or urine hormone test could determine this, but you may not want to incur that expense. Use this checklist to help you determine whether you’re dealing with overactive or underactive adrenals. You can have one or the other or be somewhere in between. This means that some days you’re pumping too much cortisol, making you feel anxious and irritated. And some days you may be suffering from low cortisol, leaving you feeling sluggish and blue.
Strategies need to be able to support overall adrenal health. Underactive adrenals will take time to correct– two months to a year – depending on the person, the condition of the adrenals, and the nature of the diet and lifestyle. Overactive adrenals can respond more quickly with proper diet, supplement and lifestyle suggestions.
Strategies for Underactive Adrenals and Low Cortisol
- Check for digestive issues and support good digestive function.
- Supplement with B vitamins.
- Try an adrenal adaptogen or adaptogen formula.
- Try foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, and potassium as these can be helpful.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time and get at least 7–8 hours of sleep.
- Rest when your body signals you to do so.
- Try adrenal glandulars (which can be helpful) or reishi, schizandra, licorice (contraindicated for those with high blood pressure), or maca.
- Get counselling for emotional issues as this can be helpful.
Strategies for Overactive Adrenals and High Cortisol
- Practice deep breathing exercises throughout the day.
- Supplement with B vitamins and vitamin C.
- Consume foods rich in vitamin E and potassium foods.
- Try magnesium to counter feelings of agitation, especially before bedtime.
- Try adrenal adaptogens – relora, rhodiola, ginseng, schizandra, holy basil, or ashwagandha.
- Focus on getting a better-quality sleep.
- Try any of these supplements to help you relax at night – GABA, 5HTP, valerian, hops, or passionflower. Raw honey with cinnamon is also helpful.
Develop a lifestyle to combat stress. This can include counseling, developing time management skills, reframing, or just doing activities you enjoy.
Foods That Help Balance the Adrenals
Supplements are helpful, but foods can also help balance cortisol. The following can easily be added to smoothies, soups, baked dishes, or salad dressings.
- Reishi mushrooms – dried or powder
- Maca root – powder
- Schizandra berries – powder or dried berries
- Goji Berries – powder or dried berries
- Holy Basil – powder or grow your own in an herb box
- Ashwagandha – powder
Supporting the Gut for Adrenal Health
Studies have found that both prebiotics and probiotics help support the adrenals and help manage cortisol levels. GOS, a prebiotic found dairy products, is helpful for stabilizing moods and lowering cortisol. Probiotics, found in supplements and fermented foods, help lower cortisol and anxiety.
CHAI CHIA SMOOTHIE
- 1 scoop protein powder of choice
- 1–2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1–2 tbsp ground chia seeds
- 1/2–1 tsp ashwagandha powder
- 2 cups spinach
- 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
To your radiant health, with love
P.S. PAYING IT FORWARD
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Leaky gut is a popular topic in the health and wellness world these days. It’s been blamed for many symptoms and conditions that seem to be all-too-common. Allergies, intolerances, joint pain, even autoimmune diseases can all be linked back to leaky gut.
But what exactly is leaky gut? What causes it? What kinds of issues are related to it? And most of all, what can you eat for leaky gut?
What is a leaky gut?
Simply put, your “gut” (a.k.a. “intestinal tract”) is a tube that makes up part of your digestive system. It’s an amazing tube made of live cells tightly bound together. Your gut helps your body absorb fluids and nutrients, digests your food, and houses billions of friendly gut microbes.
It’s also selective to what it allows past its barrier. Your intestinal tract purposefully keeps some things from being absorbed, so they pass right on through to the other end to be eliminated as waste. You don’t want to absorb many harmful microbes or toxins into your body, right?
Did you know about 70-80% of our immune system is housed in our gut, so it’s ready for foreign invaders?
Absorption of fluids and nutrients happens when they’re allowed through this cellular tube into the circulation. And this is great! As long as what’s being absorbed are fluids and nutrients., only. The blood and lymph then carry the nutrients to your liver, and then around to the rest of your body; this is so that all your cells, all the way to your toenails, get the nutrition they need to be healthy and grow.
How does a gut become “leaky?”
The gut can become leaky if the cells get damaged, or if the bonds that hold the cells together get damaged. Leaky gut can be caused or worsened by a number of diet and lifestyle factors. Dietary factors like too much sugar or alcohol or even eating things that you’re intolerant to can all contribute to leaky gut, toxins in our food and water, pesticides and environmental toxins.
Lifestyle factors like stress, lack of sleep, infections, and some medications can also be culprits in this area. Sometimes, if the balance of gut microbes inside the gut is thrown off, this can also contribute to a leaky gut.
Any contributing factors that alter the balance in your gut may cause our gut to become “permeable” or leak. At this point incompletely digested nutrients, microbes (infectious or friendly), toxins, or waste products can more easily get into our bodies.
Scientifically speaking, a “leaky gut” is known as “intestinal permeability.” This means that our intestines are permeable and allow things through that they normally would keep out. They “leak.”
As you can imagine, this is not a good thing.
What are the symptoms of a leaky gut?
Because so much of your immune system is around your gut, the immune cells quickly recognize a “foreign invader” and start their response. This is normal and good if the gut is working properly and not allowing too many things to “leak” in.
But when that happens too much, and the immune system starts responding, the notorious inflammation starts. Once the immune system starts responding it can look like allergies, food intolerances, and even autoimmune diseases.
Because the first place affected is the gut, there are a number of symptoms right there. Things such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea. Not to mention that if foods, even healthy foods, aren’t properly digested, their nutrients aren’t properly absorbed. Poor absorption can lead to lack of essential vitamins and minerals for the optimal health of every cell in your body.
Some of the symptoms can also occur on the skin. Acne, dry skin, itchiness, rashes, eczema, and hives can all be symptoms related to leaky gut. Even rosacea and psoriasis can be linked here due to their autoimmune component.
It’s possible that even some neurological symptoms are linked to leaky gut. For example, brain fog, fatigue, headaches, inability to sleep, and general moodiness can also be related.
Finally, a number of chronic inflammatory diseases are thought to be linked to a leaky gut. Things like Crohn’s, colitis, celiac disease, IBS, and MS. Even things like heart disease and stroke are possibilities.
What to eat for leaky gut?
The general recommendation is to stop eating inflammatory foods and eat more gut-soothing foods.
Incorporating a gut-soothing diet means cutting out grains, legumes, and dairy. Add to that list, food additives, alcohol, and refined sugars.
In their place, add in more green leafy and cruciferous veggies. These are full of nutrients and contain fiber to help feed your friendly gut microbes. You also want to add more sources of vitamin D which can come from fish and egg yolks, and also from the sun. Eat more probiotic foods like sauerkraut, dairy-free yogurt, and kombucha (fermented tea). Make sure you’re getting enough essential omega-3 fats found in seafood and seaweed. Finally, make sure you’re getting some coconut oil and bone broth. Coconut oil has special fats called MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), and bone broth has essential amino acids.
Leaky gut, or “intestinal permeability” can happen when your gut gets damaged due to too much sugar and alcohol, or eating foods you’re intolerant to. It can also be from stress, lack of sleep, or imbalance in your friendly gut microbes. The symptoms of leaky gut are vast – spanning from digestive woes to skin rashes, even to autoimmune conditions.
It’s important to cut out problem foods and drinks and add in more gut-soothing things like green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and probiotic foods. It’s also important to ensure you’re getting enough omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and amino acids.
Could you have leaky gut?
I would like to hear from you. Comment below.
You know that you can have gastrointestinal symptoms when you’re stressed or nervous. We’ve all experienced that.
But, you may have also heard about the “gut-brain connection.” That your gastrointestinal system, lovingly called the “gut,” not only talks to your brain (yes, talks “to” your brain) but is kind of its own brain (a “second brain”). And that it may influence your actual brain.
If there was ever a call for “digestive health,” this is it! Yes, it’s true. Your gut is considered your “second brain.” There is no denying it anymore.
And because of the new scientific discoveries about the Vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it’s no wonder what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.
I find it amazing (but not too surprising).
What exactly is the “gut-brain connection.”
Well, it’s very complex, and to be honest, we’re still learning lots about it!
There seem to be multiple things working together. Things like:
- The Vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain;
- The “enteric nervous system” (A.K.A. “second brain) that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain;
- The massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut;
- The huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body; and,
- The interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes.
This is complex and amazing if you ask me.
I’ll briefly touch on these areas, and end off with a delicious recipe (of course!)
There is a nerve that runs directly from the gut to the brain.
And after reading this so far, you’ll probably get a sense of which direction 90% of the transmission is…
Not from your brain to your gut (which is what we used to think), but from your gut up to your brain!
The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters
Would you believe me if I told you that the gut has more nerves than your spinal cord?
I knew you would!
And that’s why it’s referred to as the “second brain.”
If you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done pretty “smartly”…don’t you think?
Guess how these nerves speak to each other, and to other cells? By chemical messengers called “neurotransmitters.”
In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in the gut! e.g. a whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain!
The immune system of the gut
Because eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body, it makes total sense that much of our defense system would be located there too, right? Seventy-five percent of our immune system is in our gut!
And you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere, right?
Well, if they’re “activated” by something in the gut, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body. Including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.
You have billions of those little guys happily living in your gut. And they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation!
But more and more evidence is showing that changes in your gut microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.
How do these all work together for brain health?
The honest answer to how these things all work together is that we really don’t know just yet. More and more studies are being done to learn more.
But one thing is becoming clear. A healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain!
So, how do you feed your brain?
Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone.
But two things that you may consider eating more of are fiber and omega-3 fats. Fiber (in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds) helps to feed your awesome gut microbes. And omega-3 fats (in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-know inflammation-lowering brain boosters.