Shrimp and Superbugs

We read often about choosing organic produce to avoid pesticides and herbicides. We know grass fed meat and dairy, pasture raised fowl and eggs and wild caught fish are healthier. Avoiding food from animals that are routinely administered antibiotics is important if we want to avoid creating antibiotic resistant bugs.

According to the Organic Consumers Association:

“Nearly 80% of antibiotics in the U.S. are administered to conventionally raised cows, pigs and chickens to promote growth and treat disease. This means exposing healthy animals to antibiotics over long periods of time.The result is antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be passed on to humans through the the consumption of animal products or direct exposure to animal manure, which is often generously applied to farmland as a means to cope with the vast amount of waste produced by concentrated animal feeding operations.”

Gross, I know, but something we need to be aware of. Some recent studies have focused in on shrimp, much of which is imported from countries like China, India, Thailand and Vietnam. Testing has revealed shrimp to be highly contaminated. I wanted to highlight shrimp because it is such a fast and easy protein for many people. But the quality is super important because it can spread these antibiotic resistant bugs to you.

When you need an antibiotic you want it to work. You can avoid unnecessarily taking antibiotics, but if you are eating conventionally raised foods regularly, you may be getting them without realizing it.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself and your family from drug-resistant bacteria. When it comes to purchasing shrimp, look for shrimp that is wild-caught or locally produced.

Always be sure to cook your shrimp carefully and thoroughly, to avoid cross-contamination.

Finally, when it comes to other types of food, try to buy most of it locally and and choose properly grown and raised (organic, grass fed, pasture raised, wild caught) as much as possible. Small producers are less likely to misuse antibiotics and eating organic foods can reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides. As I have often stressed, quality is the most impotant factor.

Do you eat shrimp often? Do you know where your shrimp comes from and how it is produced?

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Health: Where is Your Focus?

I love rainbows. They are God’s promise never to flood the earth and I have always been fascinated by them and loved catching a glimpse of them. It had been quite a while since I’d seen one and I realized that even though there had been some rain storms, I hadn’t seen any. Well I also realized I was so focused on what I was doing or where I needed to go, I never bothered to look up. Yes, sounds silly and too simple but how can I expect to see a rainbow if I am looking at the ground?

Well let’s relate that to health. Your body posture can affect your mood. Slumping and constantly looking down can create a sad, bad mood but did you realize it can also affect your fight or flight response? The tissue that makes up your eyes is part of your central nervous system. When you are in a fight or flight mode, the adrenaline rush causes your pupils dilate to let more light enter so you can better see the danger or zero in at the task at hand.

When you look down, your energy goes down and it can signal your nervous system to prepare for sleep. When you look up, your eyes send the signal that it’s time to wake up, it also helps jump-start creativity. The Bible says it this way in Matthew 6:22,23: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

This is why many experts recommend taking a break from close work, like staring at a computer, and gazing out at a far distance. Looking at nature is especially good. Looking out at wide distances activates your parasympathetic nervous system (your rest and digest system as opposed to fight or flight). The same thing happens if you stare out the window at the sky or even at a blank wall. Researchers found it reduced the cognitive load on the participants’ minds and they were then able to effectively problem-solve.

So if you want to improve your creativity and problem solving ability, or just take a break from whatever you are working on, change your focus. Take a break and look at a far distance and see what happens.

Have you ever found just taking a few minutes to stare at the sky or out at nature helped you solve a problem or boost your creativity?

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My Top 3 Simple Steps to Improve Health

There are so many things we can do to improve our health. Sometimes we get totally overwhelmed by all the choices and often many people just throw their hands up, give up and just keep doing what got them overweight and sick in the first place.

Well what I want to share today are just my top 3 simple steps that you can begin putting into practice right now that will make a measurable improvement in your overall health. So here they are:

First, I strongly urge you to get an oil change. Simply avoiding toxic seed oils and replacing them with healthier fats will do more for your health than you can imagine. I wrote in-depth about it in this newsletter, so I would suggest you read that to learn more. It’s as simple as replacing those toxic oils with pastured butter, organic ghee, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil. There are a few other healthy oils but those are the basics to replace canola, safflower, corn, sunflower, cottonseed, soybean and vegetable oils.

Second, begin drinking one-half your body weight in ounces of water daily and including ¼ tsp of natural, unprocessed salt for every 32 oz. Again, this is something I’ve written about numerous times. The newsletter and post below go into more detail as to the hows and whys.

Ways to Use Water

Why Just Drinking Water Isn’t Enough

Hydration affects every area of your health – physical, mental and emotional! As I’ve said before, you can’t even properly process emotions when you are dehydrated.

Finally, start reducing the number of hours you spend eating and give your digestion a break. There are so many benefits to intermittent fasting or time restricted eating that it is foolish not to at least give it a try. Intermittent fasting is another thing I’ve written about before. So many of us snack and graze throughout the day never giving our digestion a break. Insulin is constantly being released and over time this results in insulin resistance which can result in developing diabetes.

You don’t have to begin with an 18 hour fasting window. A perfectly acceptable baby step is to stop eating by 7 pm and at least 3 hours before bedtime. Get used to doing that. Then try to do a 12 hour fasting window. This is doable for just about everyone. You will be sleeping the majority of your fasting window so limit your meals to a 12 hour window. Then as your body gets used to that, increase it by increments of 30 to 60 minutes. You will be very pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to do and how much it improves your health.

Are these 3 steps ones you are willing to try?

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Health: What you Track You Can Improve

We often have certain things we want to improve in our health and habits. Drink more water, exercise three times a week, eat more vegetables, cut out sodas or sugar. But I have found, both from personal experience and working with clients, that unless you track what you want to change, chances are it will stay the same.

You may want to lose weight. Well you have to be more specific. How much weight do you need to lose? Are you focusing on the number on the scale or the way your clothes fit? You have to intentionally track these things in order to see if what you are doing is working. Then if it is not, you can look for ways to change what you’re doing.

I have written extensively in my book Today is Still the Day and in various blog posts and newsletters about the importance of keeping a food and fitness log. The reason is simple: what you track you can more effectively improve.

When I work with clients our goal is for them to experience success and achieve their goals. Keeping a food and fitness log is the first step we take. People think this has to be time consuming and annoying but it really doesn’t. You can keep a notebook where you jot down your meals and exercise routine each day and even how your meals made you feel. That is what I do and have done for years. You can use any one of a number of apps if you prefer the more techie way of doing it. Either way, as long as you are being specific and tracking what you are doing and the results (or lack thereof), you will have a huge advantage.

Of course there are all kinds of wearables that will track your sleep, heart rate variability, blood sugar, etc. That’s even more information, but I just wanted to keep it easy and simple. I just track what I am doing and of course periodically getting your bloodwork done will give you some good information as to what you may need to tweak.

You may think your memory is good enough and you will remember next week what you did today but chances are you will not. This one simple step provides awareness and control over changes you want to incorporate into your routine. You can look back and see what worked well and what didn’t and make more informed decisions moving forward. Who has time to waste on things that don’t work? We are all too busy for that.

Do you intentionally track your meals and exercise when you are trying to make changes? If not, what stops you?

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Gratitude: Go On a Daily Treasure Hunt

Much has been written about how important practicing gratitude is for our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. I read an interesting bedtime gratitude technique suggested by Dr. Daniel Amen, clinical neuroscientist psychiatrist. While he uses this technique at bedtime, you can use it any time of the day and even write them in your journal. So here is what Dr. Amen does:

“Every night before I go to bed, I say a prayer. I go on a treasure hunt, and I ask myself what went well today. I start at the beginning of the day, and I search through each hour of what happened that made me happy.”

This causes reflection of the day and makes you find anything that went well, whether big or small. Sometimes the smallest thing can be the biggest treasure of your day! While this simple practice may seem like it wouldn’t make much difference, research confirms the positive link between prayer and mental health.

This study focused on the effect  feeling accountable to God had on the mental well-being of the study participants. They asked the participants 2 questions: whether they made decisions with God in mind, and whether they depended on God for help in their life. They found that the people who feel accountable to a higher power also experience greater mental well-being. When this accountability to God was combined with prayer, it was associated with even better mental health. In my opinion, prayer is the most powerful thing we can do daily and often the most misunderstood and underused.

According to one of the study authors, people who consider themselves accountable to God welcome responsibilities that are associated with their faith and view accountability to God as a gift that helps them lead happy and successful lives. Well I am very happy to wholeheartedly agree with this! Prayer has been an integral part of my everyday life since I was a small child. As a believer in the Lord Jesus, my relationship with Him takes precedence over everything else in my life. It affords me great peace. And with the world in the condition it is right now, we can all use more peace.

Do you have a favorite prayer or gratitude practice?

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Exercise: HIIT, Muscle, Mitochondria and Metabolism

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is repeated bouts of high intensity effort followed by varied recovery times is one of my favorite ways to exercise because it is especially beneficial for those of us over 50 and you get an excellent workout in less time.

Skeletal muscle, the muscles that we control voluntarily like our biceps or quads, make up 40% of our body and is actually our largest organ system. Skeletal muscle is considered by many health experts to be the organ of longevity. Many people may see that they are overweight, which I agree is not a good thing, but even more dangerous, they usually are under-muscled. Obesity is a symptom. People who have healthy skeletal muscle have greater survivability and metabolic health.

There are two factors that will help us maintain healthy skeletal muscle as we age which will help prevent frailty and reduce the risk of developing diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Those factors are eating enough high quality protein and building that muscle through exercise and activity.

This research found HIIT boosts the amount of proteins in skeletal muscle. By altering these muscles’ proteins and regulating their activity they found that HIIT exercise increased the productions of proteins used in building mitochondria, the energy center of our cells.

Their analyses showed an increase in the production of proteins used to build mitochondria, which produce energy in cells, and in proteins related to muscle contractions. The team also identified increased acetylation of mitochondrial proteins (altering the function and properties of proteins) and enzymes that are involved in the production of cellular energy. Additionally, they observed changes in the amount of proteins that reduce the skeletal muscle’s calcium sensitivity, which is essential for muscle contractions. You can exercise longer without fatigue or cramping. The changes caused by the exercise are thought to contribute to boosting metabolism.

So the combination of exercise and activity, particularly HIIT, combined with adequate protein intake can improve the amount and quality of skeletal muscle, which is now known to be important for healthy, longevity and aging.

Do you prioritize eating adequate quality protein as well as exercising regularly?

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Salt and Sodium: Are They the Same Thing

I have written numerous blogs and newsletters on the importance of including natural, unprocessed salt in the diet. So I won’t repeat myself yet again. However, I did want to just bring to your attention the fact that salt and sodium are not the same thing and why that’s important.

Salt was originally a food preservative before we had refrigerators and freezers. So it would make sense that our ancestors consumed a lot more salt than we do since it was used to preserve much of their food. I already explained in past posts why salt restriction is not associated with better health.

Sodium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that is critical for maintaining fluid balance, muscle function and nerve health. It is not a villain that causes heart disease and other health problems. Flawed studies from as far back as 1904 have pushed that idea forward but have since been disproved. Salt also helps balance calcium and magnesium. If your body doesn’t get enough, it will pull it from the bone to maintain a normal blood level, as well as pulling magnesium and calcium. Most people are severely deficient in magnesium. Perhaps restricting salt is part of the reason.

Salt is a combination of sodium and chloride, another mineral your body uses for fluid balance and other important functions. Table salt is approximately 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Clearly sodium and salt are not the same thing!

Minerals are critical to health. Perhaps the more important issues are the quality of the salt and the sodium-potassium ratio. As with everything else quality is most important. Most processed table salts contain flow and bleaching agents, and plastic microparticles. Natural, unprocessed salt such as Himalayan crystal salt is naturally lower in sodium, higher in potassium and lower in toxic pollutants. That being said, most people seem to overdo salt consumption due to processed, packaged foods. So restricting those, eating real foods and using Himalayan salt will help normalize your intake to healthy levels.

Potassium is a mineral that your body uses to relax artery walls, balance pH, prevent muscle cramping and lower blood pressure. Significant evidence shows that the key to normalizing blood pressure and protecting heart health is being more focused on sodium-potassium balance than eliminating salt. Here’s a clear picture of how this has changed over the years: our ancestors ate about 11,000 mg of potassium a day and 700 mg of sodium. People who eat a standard American diet consume about 2500 mg of potassium and 3600 mg of sodium, mostly from packaged, processed foods.

So salt isn’t the bad guy here as long as you choose the right quality, restrict or eliminate packaged processed foods and eat real, whole foods and pay more attention to your potassium-sodium ratio.

Were you aware of the difference between salt and sodium?

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Happiness: Are You a Carrier?

We have all experienced being in the presence of someone in a bad mood and felt how oppressive it is. Being around angry, anxious, unhappy people can really affect your happiness.

In 2008, after a 20-year study, researchers found just how contagious happiness is. I find these results absolutely fascinating and encouraging. Those living within a mile of a happy friend had a 25% greater chance of being happy over that 20 year period. If you are fortunate enough to have a happy neighbor, your likelihood of happiness increases by 34%! The spouse of a happy person is 8% more likely to be happy. That one surprised me. I would expect the effect on one who lives with you to be greater.

They also found that happiness spreads through social networks by up to 3 degrees. So friends of friends of friends can all benefit from one person’s happiness. Some people are just naturally more optimistic and “happier” than others but there are many proven ways to improve your mood. Most involve movement of some sort and especially when practiced out in nature. Practicing an attitude of gratitude is another powerful way as well as laughter and just getting some sunshine.

People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future. Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals.

So that tells me that we can develop a happier attitude within ourselves and then be carriers to those around us and create happiness clusters. I think this is especially important during these times we are living in.

Are you a naturally happy, optimistic person? How do you feel about being a happiness carrier?

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Health: Sun Screen Safety

Look at the sunscreen section in any supermarket, Walmart or drug chain and there are too many to count! We are constantly warned against going out in the sun without protection, yet even though people are slathering themselves with these lotions, cases of skin cancer have increased. Why would that be?

This article by Dr. Mercola details the ingredients found in almost every sunscreen on the shelf and the serious health risks they pose. Also most people who eat a typical American diet full of processed foods get way too many omega 6 oils, which are inflammatory and found to increase risk of skin cancer.

First of all, we need sun exposure in order for our body to produce vitamin D in our skin. All this sun avoidance seems to have resulted in vitamin D deficiencies, which we know affect our overall health and immune response. We can practice safe sun exposure and just avoid getting burned. Too much of anything, even the sun, is not better. But completely avoiding it isn’t the answer either.

You can eat specific foods and take certain supplements that act as an internal sunscreen of sorts. Eating plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and/or taking an astaxanthin supplement have been shown to work as an effective internal sunscreen, protecting your skin from UV radiation damage. The astaxanthin has been shown in studies to be extremely effective. I take it daily.

A few other natural things you might consider including are including the culinary herb, rosemary, which has been shown to prevent UVA ray damage and block melanoma cells. Applying beta glucan topically, which has been shown to permeate deeply into the layers of the skin to promote cellular repair and encourage collagen synthesis to such a degree it has been shown to restructure tissue. This is the one I sell and use daily.

Mercola recommends choosing a sunscreen that uses only two known safe sunscreen ingredients — zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. He also cautions against any product that contains ingredients, even these, that are nano-sized as they may reach your respiratory system and cause problems or enter the bloodstream or cross the blood-brain barrier.

Do you regularly use sunscreen? Are you aware of the ingredients?

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Stress: Have You Hugged Someone Today?

I think most of us are familiar with the many health benefits of laughter. Much has been written about it over the years. I came across an interesting study of 76 people who were in a romantic relationship to assess how hugging would affect stress levels. The study participants were told to keep one hand submerged in ice water for 3 minutes while they were being observed and looking into a camera.

Before they began, half the participants hugged their romantic partner and the other half did not. The researchers would then look at the participants’ cortisol levels in their saliva, blood pressure and assess their emotional state.

According to their findings, the women who hugged their partners before had a lower cortisol response than the women who didn’t get a hug. Their blood pressure and emotional state didn’t seem to be affected by the hugging. Interestingly, that effect was not seen in men. So they concluded, for the time being at least, that for women, a hug prior to stressful situations like examinations or interviews could reduce the cortisol spike in response to that stressful situation.

I wrote a post several years ago about the life-affirming benefits of daily hugs. You can read it here.

While everyone may not be in a romantic relationship, researchers plan to see if this result holds true of platonic friends as well. I would have to believe it would since just the physical touch of hugging increases levels of oxytocin and can even improve heart health as I wrote about in the previous post. We are social creatures made for relationship and that includes physical touch.

Do you get your daily quota of hugs?

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