Immunity: Mild Obesity and COVID

I did a newsletter at the beginning of this whole COVID outbreak (which seems like a lifetime ago by the way) and explained how obesity is a serious risk factor in this virus. Most of that research classified “severe obesity” as a serious risk factor. New research shows that even mild obesity may raise the risk.

Researchers found obesity to be a strong, independent risk factor for respiratory failure, admission to the ICU and death among COVID-19 patients.

Obesity, in these studies, is classified as Class 1 (mild), Class 2 or Class 3 (extreme or severe). They used BMI (body mass index) which isn’t the best indicator overall as it doesn’t take into account muscle mass. However what was interesting about this study was that increased risks started at a BMI of 30 (Class 1), or “mild” obesity.

The study shows that compared to healthy weight patients, patients with a BMI above 25 were 3.68 times more likely to die, 6.98 times more likely to need respiratory support and 2.03 times more likely to suffer critical illness. The report also highlights data showing the risk of hospitalization, intensive care treatment and death progressively increases as your BMI goes up.

So if you are wondering, my strong suggestion is that if you are overweight, take steps right now to change that. Not just for COVID. This will not be around forever. Do it to avoid diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases. This is within your ability to change. While it may not be easy and it will take some time, it is doable. So begin today. You will be one day closer to a healthier you. Today is always the right day to start.

Is weight loss something you feel could help you avoid complications from this virus and chronic disease? What are you doing to change that?

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Posted in Diabetes, Fitness, Heart Health, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness, Weight loss | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Nutrition: Do Whole Grains Confuse You?

I may be preaching to the choir here but I’m going to jump in anyway because I can’t tell you how many people I talk to really are confused as to what whole grains really are. We have been instructed to read labels in order to make the healthiest choices. But if you don’t really understand what an ingredient is, reading the label won’t help.

This isn’t going to be an intensive look at this, but I feel like many need a bit of a refresher course if you will. So let’s just clarify a few terms:

Whole grain products are generally less processed—the grain is literally left whole, meaning it still contains the whole kernel (the germ and bran which are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals) and thus the whole nutritional spectrum of the grain.

You can have gluten free whole grain products as there are numerous gluten free whole grains such as teff, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, bulgur, kamut, spelt, amaranth and sorghum.

Whole wheat is not the same as “whole grain” although it is a whole grain.

Wheat products, even whole wheat that we were raised to believe was healthier than white bread, pasta, crackers and the like, are made from hybridized, genetically manipulated wheat. It is not just about the gluten it contains which causes problems. What used to be a truly healthy food contains a super starch, super gluten and a super-addictive drug that creates cravings and is a driver of the obesity epidemic.

So what are we do do? Well reading the label carefully is definitely step one. Choosing gluten free or organic, sprouted whole grain products would be my next suggestion. If you test your blood sugar it would be interesting to see the difference in your reading after eating a couple of slices of “healthy” whole wheat bread (which is known to raise blood sugar as much as 2 tablespoons of white sugar) compared to a truly whole grain product like quinoa or millet.

When I bake my Easter or New Year’s breads at the holidays, I have begun using organic Einkorn wheat flour, an ancient, heirloom grain, which is actually a true whole wheat. It doesn’t contain those super ingredients that are causing all the problems. It causes fewer issues than the wheat flours we find now. That being said, we are low-carb and gluten free most of the time as I see the many benefits.

Are you confused by the term whole grain? How do you decide what products to choose?

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Posted in Diabetes, Digestive Health, Heart Health, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness, Weight loss | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Weight Loss: Would You Eat This to Lose Weight?

I come across quite a few weird things people try eating to help with weight loss. I must admit this was one of the stranger ones to me and while I’m certainly not recommending it at this point, I share what I found about this simply for your information.

While drinking coffee is well known to possess numerous health benefits, which I shared in this prior newsletter. I shared previously that I had stopped drinking coffee over 30 years ago when pregnant with my oldest son, but I have since rekindled my love for it.

I’ve known people who like to eat coffee beans as a special treat but I had never heard (or thought of!) eating brewed coffee grounds. I’ve read about using them in the garden to fertilize certain plants, but never eating them. Evidently Australian scientists have been studying this for seven years. While their hypotheses haven’t been tested on humans yet, their findings have them pretty excited about the possibilities.

They found the rodents fed those coffee grounds not only had lower body weight but also less abdominal fat (the most dangerous kind); lower blood pressure and triglycerides. Their heart and liver health improved as well as their glucose tolerance. The number, quality and types of gut microbes increased which is a very positive result.

The difference between drinking coffee and ingesting some of the brewed grounds is that even though both contain many of the same health inducing properties, the act of brewing dramatically changes the types and numbers of certain bacteria that have long been studied for their ability to cause weight loss.

While much more study needs to be done before this is a blanket recommendation, the lead investigator of this study is testing it on himself by including a small amount of the brewed grounds that have been dried in a 140 degree oven for one to two hours in bread and muffin recipes. He suggests grinding it further into a finer powder so it isn’t so gritty. You could theoretically put a teaspoon into yogurt, cereal or even a protein shake. A tablespoon a day is what was suggested.

If you decide to try this, since coffee is known to be one of the most contaminated crops worldwide, I would strongly urge you to make sure to buy and drink organic coffee. Conventionally grown coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides, chemicals and combined with solvents and you certainly don’t want to drink or eat those!

Would you consider eating brewed coffee grounds?

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Posted in Diabetes, Heart Health, Nutrition, Weight loss | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Nutrition and Heart Health: The Real Nutritional Villain

Conventional wisdom says that red meat and saturated fat are the primary drivers of heart disease. So in order to avoid that, many people have chosen to eat chicken which is thought to be more lean. Problem is that the incidence of heart disease has not decreased and here is what is thought to be the issue.

Conventionally raised chicken is fed corn. That in itself is a problem since most corn grown in the US is genetically modified and farmed using the herbicide, glyphosate. While everyone is aware of the dangers of consuming too much sugar, trans fats and polyunsaturated fat from vegetable oils are much worse and are a greater contributor to chronic disease. The connection here is that when chickens are fed corn their flesh becomes high in omega 6 fat from the corn. Eating a lot of conventionally raised chicken is the same as consuming a lot of vegetable oil.

Vegegable oil is high in omega 6 fats. While we definitely need both omega 3 and 6, the standard American diet, typically high in processed foods and grains, provides too much omega 6 which becomes inflammatory and has been found to be a driver of chronic disease. The idea ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is one to one. Unfortunately most Americans’ ratio is closer to 25 to1!

This dangerous myth has remained since the 1960s and even today changing this misinformation is difficult especially since there are no profits to be made from recommending people eat well-raised, real food as opposed to processed foods. Diabetes has become an epidemic in our country and besides the fact that overweight and obesity is a primary cause, there is a connection here too. The insulin sensitivity of your fat cells is opposite to that of the rest of your body. In other words, when your fat cells are insulin resistant, the rest of your body is insulin sensitive, which is what you want. And the factor that determines the insulin sensitivity of your fat cells is the fats you eat.

Omega 6 linoleic acid makes your cells more insulin sensitive which makes the rest of your body insulin resistant. Hence increase of diabetes. When you eat saturated fat from grass fed meat, for instance, your fat cells become insulin resistant and the rest of your body becomes insulin sensitive.

So eating less red meat and more chicken, processed foods, grains and vegetable oils not only causes weight gain but also insulin resistance and diabetes which trigger chronic illness including heart disease.

Have you substituted chicken for eating red meat in order to reduce saturated fats believing you are protecting your health?

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Posted in Digestive Health, Heart Health, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness, Weight loss | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Digestion: Could Antacids Put You at Risk

There is something that many people take on a daily basis that could be putting them at increased risk for COVID-19 and other viruses as well as liver and kidney damage, pneumonia, C. difficile, muscle wasting and other serious conditions. And the truly upsetting thing for me is that there are very effective, natural alternatives that could be used instead.

I am talking about PPI’s – proton pump inhibitors. So many people are diagnosed with acid reflux, chronic indigestion and GERD and are put on these drugs, often indefinitely. Most people don’t realize these drugs were designed to be taken for no more than eight weeks when first approved by the FDA, even though they are often used long-term despite their well-documented risks.

Upon analyzing the data from over 80,000 people, researchers found that people taking PPIs once a day had more than twice the risk of contracting COVID-19 than those who didn’t. For those taking PPIs twice a day, they had more than three times the risk of contracting COVID-19 than those not on the drugs.

The researchers believe the drugs cause hypochlorhydria, a low level of stomach acid, which impairs the body’s ability to defend against ingested bacteria and viruses. In one study, once-daily PPI use “increased the odds for enteric infection by 33%.”

The acid in our stomach digests our food but it is also one line of defense against viruses and bacteria so completely shutting it down is not a good idea. Especially since there are natural alternatives to these drugs.

Do you use PPIs or acid reducing drugs regularly?

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Health: Symptoms, Source, Solution

I felt led to continue on from last week’s post about my walking buddy and how she acted as a nutritional detective to figure out what was causing her distressing symptoms.

Pastor Robert Jeffers made this statement about spiritual issues but it absolutely went off inside me and I see how it relates to health issues. He said,

Knowing the source of a problem is the key to determining the solution to the problem.”

As I meditated on this statement I saw the natural progression: symptom to source to solution. All too often we get stuck on symptom. Instead of trying to manage or silence the symptom, it would be helpful to look at it for what it is: information. It is your body’s way of alerting you that something is out of balance or alignment.

Instead of simply finding some drug to calm it or quiet that voice, it would be much better to take the next step toward finding the source of the problem. Here’s where doing some of that detective work I talked about last week comes in so handy.

Ask some questions. Why is this happening now? What have I done that’s different? What have I changed? You can keep a food log and pay attention to any changes to see if they point you toward a source for your symptom. Or you can work with a health coach who can do an evaluation and give you some feedback on possibilities you may not have considered.

Then you can move on from simply managing the symptom to addressing the source. Once you are able to do that, you can implement a solution. More often than not, I have found it is something relatively simple that is part of your regular habits and routine.

You must, however, be open to making a change. All too many people would rather just take a “magic pill” and keep on doing whatever it is that causing the symptom so they don’t have to change a habit. But in the long-run that just causes more problems because every drug has side effects and unless you address the source of the original problem, you will just create more symptoms and new problems.

So, are you willing to listen to your symptoms in order to find the source and resolve the problem by finding a solution?

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Posted in Emotional Health, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Nutrition: Become a Detective

I’ve been watching a new show this summer called Genetic Detective. It follows investigative genetic genealogist, CeCe Moore, as she uses her unique research skills to transform the face of crime solving. By working with police departments and crime scene DNA, Moore is able to trace the path of a violent criminal’s family tree to reveal their identity and help bring them to justice, even in cold cases 30 years old! It’s fascinating.

I mention that because it reminded me of something my walking buddy, Joanne, shared with me a few weeks ago. We talk about everything under the sun on our walks, including health, food, recipes and the like. She mentioned that she was experiencing symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, nausea, digestive upset and just not feeling like herself. But it would come and go. She did mention when she typed her symptoms in to “Dr. Google” the first thing that came up was COVID-19. Well, everything can’t be attributed to that now can it? So she kept track of her diet and the symptoms.

I always recommend people keep food logs so that if something doesn’t agree with them, or they begin experiencing different symptoms they can go back and see when it began and what they may have been doing differently. Essentially, it allows them to be nutritional detectives! This is exactly what my walking buddy did.

Simply by intentionally paying attention, she figured out what was causing her digestive upset. She follows the Wheat Belly diet and she and her husband have had great success with that. She carefully reads labels and avoids grains, processed foods and particularly those with artificial ingredients and additives. She uses a particular brand of fruit jam on the homemade muffins she makes. The store was out of her brand and after scanning the label of another brand, she felt it looked good and bought it. She noticed that her symptoms happened every time she used this new jam. Upon closer inspection she noticed in very small print that it contained a preservative which her usual brand does not. Well she is obviously very sensitive to that preservative in particular and once she figured that out, like magic, her symptoms disappeared.

All it took was just a little bit of nutritional detective work! I believe the effort required is well worth figuring the mystery out. It’s much better than being prescribed some drug to “manage” the symptoms that always have their own fair share of side effects.

Are you willing to do some nutritional detective work when you experience symptoms to try and get to the cause?

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Posted in Digestive Health, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness, Weight loss, Women's Issues | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Heart Health: Statins or Positivity

Statins are the treatment of choice of most physicians for reducing risk of cardiovascular disease. I have shared in the past of my husband’s experience in changing his diet and how it positively impacted his cholesterol levels and heart health. If you would like to read about his experience you can see the posts here.

Recently I came across a JAMA study suggesting that simply by changing your attitude and outlook on life to a more positive one, you could significantly reduce risk of heart disease and extend your lifespan.

Researchers found that those with a positive outlook enjoyed a 35% reduction in cardiovascular events and an 18% reduction in early death, compared to those with a pessimistic outlook. While that may not sound like much, it is significant. In fact, those statistics are much better than what statins provide.

The researchers, in trying to understand how this outlook change could have such significant health effects, postulated that more optimistic people are more likely to eat well, exercise and engage in other healthy behaviors, which is certainly possible.

Interestingly they found another explanation. Over the past 30 years neuroscience research has conclusively proven that since the brain is the control center for health, our thoughts, emotions, experiences and behaviors actually change the function and structure of the brain. So what we think, how we feel and how we respond to experiences in life have a direct and measurable effect on our physical health, which of course impacts how long we live as well. Their conclusions are based on peer-reviewed, scientific studies on neuroscience and neuropsychology. God, of course said it first, “as a man thinks, so is he!” (Proverbs 23:7)

These and many other studies have disproved the belief that the brain cannot be changed. By applying principles of neuroplasticity, we can create a more positive outlook and increase resilience as we rewire our brains for better overall health.

Does it surprise you that simply by changing your outlook could significantly improve your physical health?

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Posted in Emotional Health, Heart Health, Overall Health and Wholeness, Soul Health | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Heart Health: Best Exercise

According to exercise scientists and cardiologists, regular exercise alters the look and function of the human heart, particularly the left ventricle. This chamber of the heart receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it out to the rest of the body, using a twisting and unspooling motion.

All exercise, but specifically aerobic exercise, requires that a large amount of oxygen be delivered to working muscles, which places high demands on the left ventricle. For this reason, in athletes’ hearts, this part of the heart is usually larger and stronger than in more sedentary people. It functions more efficiently allowing the heart to pump more blood more quickly.

Over time, any exercise can cause this type of improvement to this part of the heart, but according to this study, competitive rowers had greater muscle mass in their left ventricles than runners, making their hearts strong but potentially less agile during the twisting phase that pumps blood to muscles.

In this later study, researchers set out to study and compare the structure and function of elite swimmers’ and runners’ hearts. Not surprisingly they found both types of athletes had excellent heart health. These elite athletes all had resting heart rates around 50 beats per minute, which is lower than for most people and certainly for sedentary people. Both the runners and swimmers also had larger than normal and very efficient left ventricles as observed on EKGs.

What was surprising was that the efficiency of the left ventricles was increased in the runners. Their ventricles filled even earlier and untwisted more emphatically than the swimmers’ did. Theoretically, this should indicate that this would allow blood to move away from and back to the runners’ hearts more rapidly than would happen inside the swimmers’ hearts.

However, these differences do not necessarily show that the runners’ hearts worked better than the swimmers’.

Because the swimmers exercise in a horizontal position, their hearts don’t have to fight gravity to get blood back to the heart, unlike in runners. So, posture does some of the work for swimmers, and their hearts reshape themselves only as much as needed for the demands of their particular sport

So my two take-aways from these findings are: It is amazing how beautifully our bodies are created and respond to different types of exercise and since all of the athletes showed better function than the general population, it underscores the fact that exercise is good for heart health.

I you exercise regularly, what type of exercise do you favor and why?

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Posted in Fitness, Heart Health, Intentional Exertion/Exercise | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Nutrition: Water Quality and Tea

I am a tea lover and green tea has long been a favorite both just because I like it and for its numerous health benefits. But I learned something about a simple way to amplify those health benefits.

Rather than just filling the teapot with tap water, simply use bottled, filtered or purified water. According to this study, just this one small change more than doubles the amount of EGCG, the primary antioxidant in green tea, known to boost heart health and lower risk for certain types of cancer, among other benefits.

It was found that average tap water contains various minerals, like calcium, magnesium, and sodium, along with some possible toxins like copper or lead. These minerals may affect the antioxidant levels in your tea as well as blocking EGCG from being extracted from the tea leaves, which could lower the antioxidant levels of your tea.

The researchers found high levels of EGCG produced a slightly more bitter cup of green tea, which can easily be overcome, in my opinion, to get the increased benefits.

Would you choose taste over health benefits?

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Make gradual changes. Boost health, vitality and energy. Become your best YOU.

Posted in Cancer, Digestive Health, Heart Health, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments