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After a traumatic event, people can sometimes feel as though there’s no hope. Also, life’s daily problems pile up and a way out can often seem impossible. Mending a broken spirit, however, is possible if you set your mind and heart to it. Focus on the positive attributes of your life and yourself to help you feel alive, joyous and thankful. This can also increase your energy as well as your drive to reach your goals in life.
Focus on the present moment. You can’t predict the future and you can’t change the past, so focus on each moment as it comes. This practice, called mindfulness, can help you become peaceful and content. “Being mindful means that we suspend judgment for a time, set aside our immediate goals for the future and take in the present moment as it is rather than as we would like it to be,” according to Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn in their book titled “The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness.”
Repeat positive self-affirmations daily. Write down 10 to 15 positive qualities about yourself. Repeat them aloud every morning and whenever you’re feeling down. In addition, write down things you want in life and repeat those daily. “The first action is to state your desire,” says May Sinclair, author of the book “Just How Do Affirmations Work?” She adds, “The second is to believe it is possible to have your desire fulfilled. The third is for you to be willing to actually have your desire fulfilled.”
Eliminate negative or self-critical thoughts. Realize that thoughts are only that—thoughts—and they don’t represent absolute truths. Many people who are sad or depressed read from the same mental script each day. They tell themselves they are unworthy or bad people, even though it’s not the truth. Over time, “without knowing it our thoughts become words carved in stone rather than words written on water,” say Williams, Teasdale, Segal and Kabat-Zinn.
Focus on the people, places and things for which you are grateful. “Count your blessings and you will find them to be countless, even in the midst of adversity and tragic circumstances,” say Robert A. Emmons and Joanna Hill in “Words of Gratitude for Mind, Body and Soul.” Meditate on what you’re grateful for, pray, write in a journal or tell the people in your life how much they mean to you.
Set a goal of doing one new thing each week. Focusing on a new adventure can lift you out of your doldrums. Choose something small such as surprising a neighbor with homemade cookies or brownies, or complimenting a stranger. Move on to bigger goals such as organizing a food drive or going skydiving. Be creative and do things that expand your spirit and things for which you can be proud.
Help others as much as possible. Volunteer at a nursing home, hospital, homeless shelter or other nonprofit organization. Even an hour or two a month can make a difference in someone’s life. Offer to help a friend move or assist a co-worker with a project. Lending a hand can help improve your mood over the long term.
A busy schedule, waning motivation and tough workouts can all make you think twice before heading to the gym. While missing one day of exercise won’t completely derail your process, making it a habit can. Before you skip a workout, consider your motives. When in the name of rest and recovery, skipping a day can be beneficial. When the result of a lack of motivation, missing exercise can hinder your progress.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, build muscle or simply live a healthy lifestyle, exercise is an integral part of your health. Exercise helps to keep your heart strong, burn calories and increase your energy level, so it’s important to create an exercise routine that you’re comfortable with and that you can commit to on a daily basis. Missing one day here and there won’t negatively affect your overall health and wellness, but it could be the start to a dangerous habit of skipping exercise on a more regular basis.
When you’ve participated in a strenuous workout, such as endurance running or weightlifting, giving your body a day to recover can help you come back stronger. Continuing strenuous exercise when your muscles and joints are sore could result in injury. Still, just because you engaged in high-impact exercise doesn’t mean you should automatically skip your next workout. Interspersing days of high-impact training with days of lower-impact exercise methods can help you stay healthy, on track and injury-free.
When you’ve worked out recently, it can be tempting to allow yourself to take a day or two to avoid the gym and participate in other hobbies. But getting off track can make it difficult to get back on once again. Making exercise part of your daily routine is what turns it from a daily annoyance into a daily habit. Stay motivated by setting easy-to-achieve goals and offering yourself incentives. For instance, if you go to the gym every day for a week, you get a pedicure or a new top. This helps you get your foot in the door even when you don’t necessarily feel like working out.
Even if you don’t feel like going to the gym, it doesn’t mean you have to do without exercise altogether. On days where you’re tempted to skip a workout, plan another physical activity instead. Whether it’s a pickup game of volleyball at the beach, a hike or even parking far away from you building, it doesn’t have to be formal to be exercise. By making a conscious effort to move your body more, you’ll be able to squeeze in exercise on days where your motivation is lacking.
Inactivity breeds complacency. Dropping onto your couch after a long day at work has become a comfortable habit. And, even though you know you should get in shape, it’s tough to overcome the mental resistance. Exercise takes work and discipline. Getting in shape after being sedentary means making a physical and mental commitment to improving your health and becoming physically fit. There’s satisfaction to getting in shape after a long period of inactivity, not only from looking better than you have in years, but from participating in activities that challenge and inspire you.
Stop making excuses. Rid your mind of all the negative chatter that’s been holding you back from getting in shape. No more, “I can’t” or “I’m too tired.” Replace those kinds of statements with positive affirmations that speak to your goals — whether those are to have better health, a toned body or improved self-esteem. Declare your intent to get back in shape on a daily basis and visualize what you want your body and your life to look like once you’re in shape. Pictures of what you want to look like, or what you used to look like, may be the simple motivators you need to become re-inspired every day, so put them where you’re bound to see them, at work and at home.
Get your gear together. Buy yourself the best running shoes you can afford. If your feet hurt from ill-fitting sneakers, you won’t look forward to putting them on. The same goes for your workout clothes. If they’re dingy or have holes, you won’t want to be seen in them and that can be a de-motivator. Purchase, rent or borrow anything you might need to kick-start your fitness plan – that means everything from a yoga mat, workout DVDs, water bottle or gym bag. Having all your tools at the ready will give you less time to ponder and more incentive to road test your gear.
Start slow. Even though the Centers for Disease Control advocates 150 to 300 minutes every week, or 20 to 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity, you can start getting back in shape by working out for 10 minutes at a time. Set the countdown timer on your phone and take a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Put on your favorite dance tunes and let your spirit move you around the living room. As long as your chosen activity gets your heart rate up, you can be as creative as you like. When your fitness level improves, then exercise for 20 to 30 minutes a day doing an activity you enjoy.
Change your diet to reflect your commitment to getting in shape. Swap out the prepackaged, overly sweet or salty foods for healthier ones. Buy fresh, luscious fruits and vegetables, leaner cuts of meat and whole-grain products. Use low-fat dairy products and fill jars with a variety of nuts and seeds that you can snack on when your energy stores need a boost. Pour over recipes that you’ve never tried. Experiment with exotic spice blends — anything to change what you have been doing into something new and exciting. Getting in shape never has to be boring.
If losing weight were easy, no one would be overweight. Many people try and fail every year to shed extra pounds; according to the International Food Information Council Foundation, a whopping 69 percent of American citizens are attempting to lose weight or keep it off. If you’re one of them, you might find that you start off motivated, only to see your willpower fade when you become hungry or tired. Finding the discipline to lose weight requires concentrated, ongoing effort, but it is possible.
Visit your physician for a check-up, including blood work. Discuss your weight-related concerns and ask how your weight is affecting your health. Learning you’re prediabetic or that you have high cholesterol or blood pressure can be the reality check you need to start your weight-loss regime. Ask for a referral to a dietitian or nutritionist if you need help making a healthy eating plan.
Set a goal and place reminders of that goal in visible places. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, write that goal — and the steps you will take to achieve it — on a piece of paper and tape it to your refrigerator. Tape another to the bathroom mirror. Make an image file of your goals and use it as your computer desktop or smartphone screen. The more visual reminders you give yourself throughout the day, the harder they are to ignore.
Make a concrete exercise plan instead of just telling yourself you need to work out. Schedule a regular exercise date with a friend, family member or personal trainer. Sign up for an exercise class; if you’ve paid for sessions, that’s extra motivation to attend.
Declare your intentions publicly on a social media page or blog. Friends on social media or blog commenters can be powerful motivators when you don’t want to work out or when you want to binge on junk food. Post your workout plan for the day to your social media page as soon as you wake up, and tell your friends to comment on your status throughout the day asking if you’ve followed through.
Compete with someone. Make a bet with a family member or friend and set the stakes high enough that you don’t want to lose. For example, if you don’t exercise for 30 minutes per day, five days per week, you have to do the dishes for a month, take your competitor on a weekend vacation or — the best motivator of all — give him money.
Commit to at least five minutes of exercise each day. Don’t want to go to the gym? Fine. Jog in place for five minutes in your living room, go for a five-minute walk, or put on your favorite song and dance vigorously until it’s over. Build a daily exercise habit, even if the time you put in seems negligible. By forcing yourself to do what’s good for you, even for just a few minutes, you build a sense of mastery over bad habits and inertia.
Sit in a quiet spot and meditate. Breathe deeply and calm your mind while visualizing your goals. Schedule a short meditation session every day to check in with yourself, calm your racing mind, and refocus your attention on what you really want.
Consult a therapist. If you’re having trouble sticking to your weight-loss goals, you may have deeper psychological issues holding you back. Counseling, especially behavioral therapy, can help you learn new and better ways to approach your goals.
Have you ever wondered whether those extra chocolate bars and a lack of vegetables in your diet really make a difference? Yes they do, they can have a massive impact on your health.
A healthy lifestyle has both short and long term health benefits. Long term, eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can add years to your life and reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and obesity. In the short-term it can also make you feel and look your best, give you more energy and help you maintain a healthy weight.
The key to reducing the risk of these diseases is making small changes to your daily lives – eating healthier food, getting your 5-a-day, having treats occasionally, and taking more exercise. Improving your lifestyle with small steps in the right direction will have a big impact on your well-being.
Your food choices each day affect your health — how you feel today, tomorrow, and in the future.
Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), and promote your overall health.
Unhealthy eating habits have contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States: about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.1 Even for people at a healthy weight, a poor diet is associated with major health risks that can cause illness and even death. These include heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. By making smart food choices, you can help protect yourself from these health problems.
The risk factors for adult chronic diseases, like hypertension and type 2 diabetes, are increasingly seen in younger ages, often a result of unhealthy eating habits and increased weight gain. Dietary habits established in childhood often carry into adulthood, so teaching children how to eat healthy at a young age will help them stay healthy throughout their life.
The link between good nutrition and healthy weight, reduced chronic disease risk, and overall health is too important to ignore. By taking steps to eat healthy, you’ll be on your way to getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy, active, and strong. As with physical activity, making small changes in your diet can go a long way, and it’s easier than you think!
Whether you’ve already reached your target weight or you’re eagerly anticipating the moment that you do, understanding how to maintain a healthy status is essential. From staying on top of maintenance calories to knowing how to handle setbacks, use these seven tips to maintain your healthy lifestyle.
When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, one of the most important things you can do is simply striving for consistency. No matter how busy life gets or how much your schedule changes on a daily basis, try to eat the same balance of whole foods, consume a similar number of calories, and work in a consistent amount of physical activity.
You might be tempted to maintain your healthy habits during the week and give yourself a break on the weekend, but it’s important to keep things consistent every day of the week. By sticking to your healthy habits seven days a week, you’ll be less tempted to binge and more likely to sustain your weight loss for the long term.
After reaching your weight loss goal, you might be tempted to ease up on your diet plan or change your eating patterns altogether. While it might be a good idea to incorporate a different range of nutritious foods in your diet, it’s important to keep an eye on your caloric intake. After all, the number of calories you need at your target weight probably won’t be the same as what you needed when you began your weight loss journey.
To determine how many maintenance calories you need, calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) regularly to ensure that you’re helping your body achieve the ideal energy balance. To do this, multiply your weight in pounds by 1.2 if you’re relatively sedentary, by 1.5 if you get moderate exercise, or by 1.75 if you’re training for a marathon. Then, use a Calories Per Day calculator app to track your caloric intake and make sure you’re getting what you need to maintain your current weight.
You already know that regular exercise and good physical fitness is essential for helping you reach your ideal weight. But you might not realize how important exercise is for feeling good and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
If you’re already used to getting your cardio and strength training in during your daily visit to the gym, keep it up. If you’re ready for a change of your routine, however, try not to take a break. Instead, squeeze in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, whether you’re jogging on the treadmill, going for a swim, or going for a hike around your local park.
When your primary goal is getting in shape and eating right, you might not give water the attention it deserves. As you strive to keep up your healthy habits, however, it’s important to increase your water consumption.
Not only will drinking water keep you hydrated and improve how your body functions, but keeping the water flowing can also help with weight maintenance. Try drinking a large glass of water before a meal, and the feeling of fullness you’ll experience could help to reduce your calorie intake.
Life has a habit of getting busy, but if you never make time for sleep, your healthy lifestyle goals could suffer. After all, sleep debt and weight gain are more closely connected than you might think. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to skip the exercise that helps you burn fat and build muscle, and you’re prone to making unhealthy eating decisions. In fact, sleep deprivation encourages unhealthy decisions, as it reduces activity in the part of your brain that oversees impulse control.
So how can you make sure that being tired doesn’t prompt you to make bad choices? Aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, and try to find the ideal amount of sleep for your body.
After tracking your weight loss progress carefully for months or years, you might be looking forward to setting aside the scale or putting down the calorie tracking apps. Reaching your target weight doesn’t mean you should stop assessing your progress, though. Instead, it’s important to continue to track your progress so you can make sure you’re maintaining your healthy lifestyle.
Use an app to continue to track your food intake and exercise routines, and make a point of hopping on the scale once a week. Since your new goal is maintaining your current weight, you’ll want to keep an eye out for weight gain or loss. When you use an app to keep a digital diary, you can easily look back on your patterns and identify unhealthy habits before they cause you to get too far off track.
Even when you try your hardest to stick to your healthy habits, you have to expect the occasional setback. Whether you feel under the weather and have to skip your spin class or you accidentally overindulged at a birthday party, you’re bound to have a bad day every once in awhile.
When this happens, don’t assume the worst or convince yourself that you’ve ruined your diet for good. Instead, do your best to power through the day, forgive yourself for a minor slip up, and get back to your healthy habits right away. Try drinking extra water, making sure that you get enough sleep, and restocking your fridge with healthy options. Understand that one off day won’t compromise all your hard work and that a small setback doesn’t have to derail everything you want to achieve.
As you adopt these seven strategies and strive to keep your energy balance consistent, keep in mind that maintaining optimal health isn’t merely a short-term goal. Consider a healthy lifestyle to be the key for your long-term health, and set far-reaching goals that will help you stay healthy no matter what life may bring.
Being healthy should be part of your overall lifestyle, not just a New Year’s resolution. Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent chronic diseases and long-term illnesses. Feeling good about yourself and taking care of your health are important for your self-esteem and self-image. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by doing what is right for your body.
Maintain a healthy weight. Determine whether you are overweight by checking your body mass index. If you are overweight, it can lead to a higher risk of chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and certain cancers.
Stick with healthy food from each food group. This means staying away from food high in saturated fats, sodium and added sugars. Eat more whole grains, lean proteins such as chicken or legumes and beans, low-fat or non-fat dairy, and increase your fruits and vegetables.
Visit your doctor for an annual physical exam. Depending on your age, certain lab tests and screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and heart tests, are necessary. Stay up to date on your health screenings to identify whether there are medical problems to address.
Make sure your relationships are positive and healthy ones. Surround yourself with people who support you and who you feel good around. Your partner in life, friends and others who are in your life should respect you. If you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship, take steps to improve it or move on.
Engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day. Take an exercise class, join the gym or just take a brisk walk outside. Making the time for physical activity is a necessity and not a luxury.
Know when and how to de-stress. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Make sure that you have positive ways of dealing with stressors in your life. This might be exercising, meditating, yoga or just doing deep-breathing exercises. If stress becomes so severe that it is interfering with your sleep or ability to cope, talk to your doctor or a counselor.
Do not smoke. Smoking can cause preventable diseases such as lung cancer and other cancers. Stay away from secondhand smoke, since this can also be hazardous to your health.
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body.
The immune system normally guards against germs like bacteria and viruses. When it senses these foreign invaders, it sends out an army of fighter cells to attack them.
Normally, the immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own cells.
In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of your body — like your joints or skin — as foreign. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells.
Some autoimmune diseases target only one organ. Type 1 diabetes damages the pancreas. Other diseases, like lupus, affect the whole body.
Doctors don’t know what causes the immune system misfire. Yet some people are more likely to get an autoimmune disease than others.
Women get autoimmune diseases at a rate of about 2 to 1 compared to men — 6.4 percent of women vs. 2.7 percent of men. Often the disease starts during a woman’s childbearing years (ages 14 to 44).
Some autoimmune diseases are more common in certain ethnic groups. For example, lupus affects more African-American and Hispanic people than Caucasians.
Certain autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus, run in families. Not every family member will necessarily have the same disease, but they inherit a susceptibility to an autoimmune condition.
Because the incidence of autoimmune diseases is rising, researchers suspect environmental factors like infections and exposures to chemicals or solvents might also be involved.
A “Western” diet is another suspected trigger. Eating high-fat, high-sugar, and highly processed foods is linked to inflammation, which might set off an immune response. However, this hasn’t been proven.
Another theory is called the hygiene hypothesis. Because of vaccines and antiseptics, children today aren’t exposed to as many germs as they were in the past. The lack of exposure could make their immune system overreact to harmless substances.
There are more than 80 different autoimmune diseases. Here are 14 of the most common ones.
The pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
High blood sugar can damage blood vessels, as well as organs like the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
In Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the immune system attacks the joints. This attack causes redness, warmth, soreness, and stiffness in the joints.
Unlike Osteoarthritis, which affects people as they get older, RA can start as early as your 30s .
Skin cells normally grow and then shed when they’re no longer needed. Psoriasis causes skin cells to multiply too quickly. The extra cells build up and form red, scaly patches called scales or plaques on the skin.
About 30 percent of people with psoriasis also develop swelling, stiffness, and pain in their joints. This form of the disease is called psoriatic arthritis.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) damages the myelin sheath — the protective coating that surrounds nerve cells. Damage to the myelin sheath affects the transmission of messages between your brain and body.
This damage can lead to symptoms like numbness, weakness, balance issues, and trouble walking. The disease comes in several forms, which progress at different rates. About 50 percent of people with MS need help walking within 15 years after getting the disease .
Although doctors in the 1800s first described lupus as a skin disease because of the rash it produces, it actually affects many organs, including the joints, kidneys, brain, and heart.
Joint pain, fatigue, and rashes are among the most common symptoms.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe conditions that cause inflammation in the lining of the intestines. Each type of IBD affects a different part of the GI tract.
Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands, which produce the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. Having too little of these hormones can affect the way the body uses and stores carbohydrates and sugar.
Symptoms include weakness, fatigue, weight loss, and low blood sugar.
Graves’ disease attacks the thyroid gland in the neck, causing it to produce too much of its hormones. Thyroid hormones control the body’s energy usage, or metabolism.
Having too much of these hormones revs up your body’s activities, causing symptoms like nervousness, a fast heartbeat, heat intolerance, and weight loss.
One common symptom of this disease is bulging eyes, called exophthalmos. It affects up to 50 percent of people with Graves’ disease.
This condition attacks the joints, as well as glands that provide lubrication to the eyes and mouth. The hallmark symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome are joint pain, dry eyes, and dry mouth.
In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, thyroid hormone production slows. Symptoms include weight gain, sensitivity to cold, fatigue, hair loss, and swelling of the thyroid (goiter).
Myasthenia gravis affects nerves that help the brain control the muscles. When these nerves are impaired, signals can’t direct the muscles to move.
The most common symptom is muscle weakness that gets worse with activity and improves with rest. Often muscles that control swallowing and facial movements are involved.
Vasculitis happens when the immune system attacks blood vessels. The inflammation that results narrows the arteries and veins, allowing less blood to flow through them.
This condition affects a protein called intrinsic factor that helps the intestines absorb vitamin B-12 from food. Without this vitamin, the body can’t make enough red blood cells.
Pernicious anemia is more common in older adults. It affects 0.1 percent of people in general, but nearly 2 percent of people over age 60.
People with celiac disease can’t eat foods containing gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye, and other grain products. When gluten is in the intestine, the immune system attacks it and causes inflammation.
Celiac disease affects about 1 percent of people in the United States. A larger number of people have gluten sensitivity, which isn’t an autoimmune disease, but can have similar symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pain.
The early symptoms of many autoimmune diseases are very similar, such as:
Individual diseases can also have their own unique symptoms. For example, type 1 diabetes causes extreme thirst, weight loss, and fatigue. IBD causes belly pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
With autoimmune diseases like psoriasis or RA, symptoms come and go. Periods of symptoms are called flare-ups. Periods when the symptoms go away are called remissions.
Asthma attacks rarely happen without warning. Before one begins, you might:
Recognize the signs, and you could keep yourself from having an asthma emergency.
Signs of an asthma attack can change from one attack to the next. One time you might have little or no coughing beforehand. The next time, you might have a cough that you just can’t get rid of, especially at night.
An asthma cough is usually dry and hacking. If you have one that doesn’t go away after other cold symptoms are gone, that could point to asthma.
Avoid taking cough medicine to feel better. It won’t help the asthma.
A peak flow meter can let you know if an attack is about to happen. Be sure you always know the number that reflects your best breathing.
An action plan tells you how to deal with the symptoms of an asthma attack.
During an asthma attack, muscles around the airways tighten, and the airway linings swell.
Wheezing might be the first symptom you notice. But as the attack gets worse, you’ll feel more chest tightness and shortness of breath. Eventually, you might feel like you can’t get enough air.
When someone is having trouble breathing, he might lean forward, speak in single words instead of sentences, and get very agitated.
As the problem gets worse, he might hunch over with his hands supporting his upper body. This is called the tripod position.
When it’s hard to breathe, the tissue in the chest and neck may sink in with each breath. This is called retraction.
Retractions mean not enough air is getting into the lungs. They’re a sign of a medical emergency. Call 911 or see a doctor right away.
In children, other signs that breathing is getting worse are:
Blue or gray lips or fingernails are a sign that there’s not enough oxygen in your blood. The condition is called cyanosis.
If it happens, you need medical help right away. Call 911 as soon as possible
Get emergency help at once if you have any of these symptoms:
The latest low-carb diet trend is merely a rehash of fad diets past.
The latest — or maybe just loudest — diet obsession transfixing the internet says it will help you lose weight, live longer, and improve your memory. Sounds great, you say? Except that these benefits will only bloom once you cut carbohydrates. Familiar story, right? The Atkins diet is back? We’re all gonna start eating eggs and bacon for every meal again until our cholesterol inevitably reaches code-red levels?
If you believe a diet is supposed to be a varied landscape of all the things the world has to offer in moderation, keto may not be the diet for you. Let’s find out if science says it’s worth it.
The history of keto goes much farther than an attempt to stem weight gain during our fat-fearing era. In 1921, it was observed that fasting decreased incidence of seizure in epileptic patients. The same year, reports noted cognitive improvement and reduced seizure activity in epileptics who fasted for two to three days (fasting has been used as far back as 500 B.C. to treat epilepsy).
Around the same time, it was discovered that the metabolic change caused by fasting that controlled seizures also occurred when a patient stopped eating carbohydrates. It was then that an endocrinologist named Dr. Rollin Woodyatt had a scientific breakthrough: he found that the compounds acetone and beta-hydroxybutyric acid were detectable in high levels in fasting patients (to be fair, they can also be present in urine in low levels normally, and things like dehydration can trigger a false positive test). These compounds are classified as ketones, produced via the metabolic state of ketosis, which occurs when an elevated level of ketones are produced as a result of the body using fat for fuel as stored carbohydrate is depleted.
THE KETOGENIC DIET KEEPS COMING BACK INTO THE LARGER CONSCIOUSNESS, TO THE CONSTERNATION OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic created a formula that manipulated the ketogenic effect that came with complete fasting by instead limiting a patient’s intake of carbohydrates. This was the genesis of the ketogenic diet. To manage childhood epilepsy, the prescribed diet consisted of one gram of protein per kilogram of body mass — a max of 15 grams of carbs — and the rest of the calories from fat. Et voila: the ketogenic diet was born.
A strict version of the diet is still used to manage drug-resistant epilepsy. But it’s fallen out of favor because the success rate of a large suite of readily available anti-epileptic medications. It’s been observed that children on this diet for epilepsy don’t generally become overweight and tend to lose some weight in the first few months on the diet, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Children on keto tend to have higher cholesterol than other children in their age range and there can be some nasty side effects, including kidney stones. Due to the public’s appetite for miracle weight-loss cures, however, the diet keeps coming back into the larger consciousness, to the consternation of medical professionals.
In 1997, a book titled Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution climbed up the bestseller list for five years after it was first published (this edition of Diet Revolution was little more than a cosmetic overhaul of Dr. Robert Atkins’s 1972 book, Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, which didn’t quite revolutionize diets in the way publishers hoped).
But this time around, America was primed for Atkins’s theory that it wasn’t fat but carbohydrates that caused weight gain. Food manufacturers and consumers had cut fat from their diets but obesity rates continued to rise; something was due to be the new culprit for our weight woes. Dr. Atkins was further vindicated by 2002 article by the science journalist Gary Taubes in The New York Times Magazine. “If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it,” Taubes wrote. “They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution and Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along.”
At one point in the early 2000s, approximately 10 percent of the country was on a low-carb diet. That’s insane. What’s more, people actively started avoiding carbs even if they weren’t on a diet. “A year ago, if you asked consumers what they watch, 11 percent would have said carbs,” Michael Polk, the chief operating officer at Unilever-Best Foods, told The Times. “Today if you ask, 40 percent of consumers say they are watching carbs. In our opinion, this has evolved into a major shift in consumer behavior.” Atkins was able to build an industry out of his diet advice: Atkins Nutritionals, which cranked out low-carb meals and snacks, was at one point valued at approximately half a billion dollars.
AT ONE POINT IN THE EARLY 2000S, APPROXIMATELY 10 PERCENT OF THE COUNTRYWAS ON A LOW-CARB DIET.
So why did Atkins fall out of favor? Well, the diet’s delightful side effects could include fatigue, constipation, excessive thirst, bad breath, the dreaded meat sweats, and worst, the look your friends would give you when you said you were on Atkins. There was also the fact that the diet wasn’t really sustainable (kinda like most diets, funnily enough). In 2003, a pair of studies in the New England Journal of Medicine found that most of the weight one initially lost while following Atkins was water weight; and subjects who followed the diet typically gained back any lost weight in six months.
Atkins Nutritionals filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005, a year after the doctor died after falling on an icy New York City sidewalk. Still, Atkins had a long-lasting impact on the dietary landscape in America. “Sugar free” and “low carb” labels never left the snack aisle. People still fell back on the idea that to lose weight, one simply had to cut carbs. But all the while, obesity rates climbed from 30 percent up to 39 percent of the country, priming the stage for another diet “revolution.”
Losing weight has become a challenge to be solved through innovation, and the new diet gurus don’t take kindly to the scientific method. It’s in line with Dr. Atkins’s legacy; he was a huge proponent of alternative and unproven medical treatments beyond just his ideas about nutrition. You almost can’t blame him or the other diet gurus for leaning in on the techno-bullshit market; it’s hard to fill up a 300 page diet book on “eat a bit less and find a type of exercise that doesn’t make you hate life.”
Dave Asprey is one such tech guy-turned-low-carb guru. Asprey is now the CEO of Bulletproof 360, which sells butter-larded coffee and myriad supplements to the masses — and which raised $19 million in Series B funding last year. Over the past two decades, Asprey says he’s spent $1 million to “biohack” his body, turning it into a fat-burning machine and even increasing his IQ by 20 points. (Asprey has also said that he blocks waves out of his cells with glasses and takes supplements to help with the “low oxygen high EMF [electromagnetic field] environment” on airplanes, so.)
I’ll give Asprey this: people have told me that the buttered coffee tastes okay and makes them feel energetic. The coffee is also, of course, keto-approved:
“The Bulletproof Diet uses ketosis as a tool, but tweaks it for even better performance,” goes a blog post on the Bulletproof website. “It is a cyclical ketogenic diet, which means you eat keto for 5 to 6 days a week and then do a weekly protein fast, which lowers inflammation and kickstarts fat-burning. This is much better for your body and spurs weight loss even more.”
But about that weight loss.
Between the butter and the so-called “Brain Octane Oil” that are part of the Bulletproof coffee recipe, any increased energy one feels after consuming it could have something to do with the nearly 500 calories of fat that are in it. As has been pointed out, those calories displace other more nutrient-dense sources of fuel. Asprey also claims that his coffee is better for you because it doesn’t contain mycotoxins, i.e. toxins produced by fungi. Though it’s true that mycotoxins can be dangerous for your health, the possibility of any roasted coffee available on store shelves containing mycotoxins is slim to none. It’s like slapping “this coffee was not made with white rhino horn” on the label.
Keto devotees sometimes brag about how they eat more on the diet than ever before and still lose weight. On keto, their bodies have turned into fat-burning machines that give the finger to the laws of thermodynamics, or something.
Let’s hold up a sec. Allow me to introduce you to the DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial, published in February 2018 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. DIETFITS, which stands for Dietary Intervention Examining the Factors Interacting with Treatment Success, succeeded in busting a slew of dietary theories. Microbiome is responsible for everything? Nope. Predisposition to success on one diet based on genetics? Nah. Low carb over low fat? Uh-uh.
Over the course of a year, 609 participants were randomly sorted into low-fat or low-carb diet groups. They were given instruction on healthy habits and choices, along with practical advice on how to stick to the diets to which they had been assigned. Additionally, and possibly most importantly, they were instructed to keep their caloric intake limited similarly in both groups.
It’s fairly common that, initially, low-carb dieters see more weight loss. This is because glycogen molecules bind with water, and once you’ve burned through your most readily available source of energy, you’re also down a few pounds of water weight. Over time, that weight loss of the low-carb group evened out with the low-fat one; there was ultimately just a 1.5 lbs difference in weight loss between the two groups — the low-fat group lost an average of 11.7 lbs the low-carb group 13.2 lbs. This is a difference reflective of which group took a shit before or after going for their final weigh-ins.
IT’S FAIRLY COMMON THAT, INITIALLY, LOW-CARB DIETERS SEE MORE WEIGHT LOSS. BUT IT DOESN’T LAST.
A few variables were tested in conjunction with weight loss. One was initial insulin secretion, specifically to see if it had any affect on loss in each diet group. It did not. They had also checked a few genetic markers that were suspected to give dieters pre-dispositions to success either on low fat diets or low carb diets based on previous studies. However, genetics were shown to have no effect.
But the most important takeaway from the study is that similar numbers of participants lost and gained similar amounts of weight in both groups. As Examine.com shows in its analysis of the study, charts comparing weight loss (or gain) from each group are almost identical.
In the beginning of the study, all participants were instructed to consume either ≤20 g of fat (if in the low-fat group) or ≤20 g of carbs (if in the low-carb group) for the first two months, after which they could increase either their fat or carb intake to levels they felt they could sustain indefinitely. By the end of the trial, the vast majority had not been able to maintain such low levels. The final dietary recalls reported an average daily fat intake of ≈57 g (low-fat group) and an average daily carb intake of ≈132 g (low-carb group).
Part of what makes a diet work in the long run, of course, is a person’s ability to stick with it, and most diets that cut out an entire food group or macronutrient are not sustainable.
Curiously, this study was funded by the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI), a group with the aim of producing “conclusive results in the next decade” in a sometimes confusing nutritional landscape. They claim our nutritional guidelines are “based on inconclusive science,” and though their website doesn’t directly indicate any bias, their research so far focuses on the effects of carbohydrates on obesity. This was the second published study that received funding from the institute. In the first study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016, researchers hypothesized that a low-carbohydrate diet increased energy expenditure. Results said otherwise:
The carbohydrate–insulin model predicts that the KD would lead to increased EE, thereby resulting in a metabolic advantage amounting to ~300–600 kcal/d. Our data do not support EE increases of that magnitude. (…) In summary, we found that a carefully controlled isocaloric KD coincided with small increases in EE that waned over time. Despite rapid, substantial, and persistent reductions in daily insulin secretion and RQ after introducing the KD, we observed a slowing of body fat loss.
In layman’s terms: people burned marginally more calories at first, but there wasn’t evidence that the diet increased caloric burn in the long term.
I suppose it’s not a surprise that, per an investigation from Wired, NuSI seems to be having trouble scrounging up financial backing lately.
Remember those insanely awful Snackwell’s cookies and the chips that gave you anal leakage? We were willing to suffer so much for the price of “weight loss.” Snackwell’s. Christ.
We soon learned that low-fat diets only work if a dieter is also controlling their calories. Five thousand calories of broiled dried out chicken breasts, kale, or anal-leakage chips is still 5,000 calories. Low-fat content or not, those calories add up.
Low-carb has become the new low-fat. During the early Atkins era, snacks included cucumbers, beef jerky, and pork rinds. Now there’s a wealth of low-carb snacking options; there are junk-foody low-carb recipes all over Pinterest; a low-carb aisle at the grocery store. There are low-carb replacement foods and ingredients for low-carb replacement foods. It’s Snackwell’s 2.0.
REMEMBER SNACKWELL’S? LOL.
Want candy but you don’t want to stray from keto? A low-carb peanut butter cup has about the same calories, gram per gram, as a Reese’s. Want to slap all that bacon between something other than lettuce wraps? Some low-carb bread will run you $7.99 per loaf whereas bread that doesn’t taste like sadness with the same number of calories per slice is generally about half the cost. How about chocolate? A chocolate brand that boldly calls itself ‘The Good Chocolate’ is sweetened with a sugar alcohol commonly associated with some nasty gastrointestinal effects when consumed excessively. It’s also $8 for a 2.5-oz bar, and about as calorically dense as a Hershey’s bar. Low-carb flour? Not surprisingly, it costs more than normal old flour, and the more expensive one has more calories.
Here’s the thing: Low-carb diets absolutely have a track record of working. A 2017 study in Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviewsshowed significant weight loss, improvement of health markers related to diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol in participants who followed the diet for 10 weeks. If you have been advised to lose weight by your trusted medical professional and your doctor or dietitian says this is appropriate for you, a low-carb diet can help you lose weight.
But low-carb diets don’t work because of how people seem to think they work — more specifically, through something called the “insulin hypothesis,” which says that removing carbohydrates from your diet stabilizes insulin and blood sugar levels, subsequently increasing your metabolism and reducing your hunger. This hypothesis has failed several studies. A review study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2017 reported it as “carefully controlled inpatient feeding studies whose results failed to support key [carbohydrate-insulin] model predictions.” Sad.
A common belief among keto devotees is that your body not only switches to burning fat on keto but that a low-carb, high-fat diet turns you into a “fat-burning machine.” Now that you’re not eating pizza crust, your body is going to burn through all of its own fat, calories and laws of thermodynamics be damned. But you don’t magically burn off your love handles just because you changed your fuel source. As much as the three macronutrients have different uses in the bodies, when it comes to gaining and losing weight, calories are calories are calories.
Someone trying to follow the keto diet to a letter may not even go into the much-desired state of ketosis. Sure, you can buy those little piss strips that react to ketones in your urine to reassure you that you’re “in ketosis,” but you’re probably wasting your money. Ketones are present in low levels in your urine even if you’re not on a ketogenic diet. Measuring ketones via blood is far more accurate (if not overly invasive for a diet), but to measure them for weight loss in the first place is borderline useless, especially in urine.
One of the most extraordinary claims in Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution was the metabolic advantage hypothesis, which theorizes that the inefficiencies in the fat-burning process caused an energy advantage (in layman’s terms, it was hypothesized that using fat for fuel causes you to burn more calories). Unfortunately, a 2006 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said that calorie per calorie, you’ll lose the same amount of weight on both a ketogenic diet and a reduced calorie, controlled carb (but not ketogenic) diet. Amazing what you can get people to believe when you sell some books.
Studies also contradict the claim that the ketogenic diet will help your Crossfit performance, or whatever. A 2018 study published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reports that a low-carb diet inhibited cardiovascular performance. Want to check that half marathon off your bucket list? Science says eat your carbs. Multiple studies have shown similar results. The best news I can tell you about keto is that a 2017 Journal of Human Kinetics study said that it can help maintain a lower body weight, which can help athletic performance. But the study also said that “some aspects regarding the effects of long-term LCHF diets in athletes are still unexplored and in need of investigation, including (…)Strength, power, psychological status, and perceptual-motor performance after weight loss.” So, take that with a grain of low-carb salt.
You could pick any of the countless diet books on the market, follow their plan to the last calorie, and lose weight. This is because — as study after study has shown — calories and dietary adherence matter more than anything for weight loss. You can gain or lose weight on any combination of foods. People have lost weight on twinkies, McDonalds, juice, plants, and obscene amounts of meat.
It’s important to remember weight loss alone doesn’t necessarily cause all health markers to improve, and a diet causing weight loss does not mean it’s appropriate and healthy for everyone. Some foods are better than others at making weight loss and maintenance easier for different people, so balancing a diet is a fairly personalized thing. If your doctor gives you the green light and keto works for you, do it. If low fat works for you, do it. If plant-based, paleo, Mediterranean, or one of the zillion other diets help you improve your health and your relationship with food? Do it. There’s no one right way to eat for everyone, just as there is no miracle diet plan for weight loss.
Why should leaky gut syndrome concern you? Recently leaky gut has been called a “danger signal for autoimmune disease.” (1) If you’re wondering if you may be experiencing leaky gut, the first thing to do is access your symptoms. Keep in mind that it’s very common for people on a Standard American Diet to struggle with poor gut function and high levels of inflammation — but just because digestive issues and autoimmune conditions are common doesn’t make them “normal”!
In this article, I’ve outlined a brief description of common leaky gut syndrome seen in people struggling with this condition. Can you heal leaky gut syndrome? As you’ll learn about below, there are four steps I recommend taking in order to repair leaky gut, which includes removing trigger foods from your diet, taking beneficial supplements and rebalancing your microflora with probiotics.
The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, said, “All disease begins in the gut.” More than two millennia after his death, scientific research has now proven he was onto something all those years ago. For over three decades, study after study has been published (several thousand articles exist to date) discussing our growing understanding of immunity, gut function and how modern diets and lifestyles negatively contribute to overall health by damaging our digestive system.
I (and many others in the medical field) refer to this particular phenomenon as leaky gut syndrome. In the medical literature, leaky gut is also referred to as “intestinal hyperpermeability.”
The intestines are protected by a single layer of specialized epithelial cells that are linked together by tight junction (or TJ) proteins. Leaky gut symptoms are a consequence of intestinal tight-junction malfunction.
These tight junctionsare the gateway between your intestines and your bloodstream. They control what is allowed to pass into the bloodstream from your digestive system. More than 40 different TJ proteins have now been recognized to play a role in gut health. Tight junctions have a very precise job — they have to maintain the delicate balance between allowing vital nutrients to enter your bloodstream, while remaining small enough to prevent xenobiotics (disease-causing compounds from your diet or lifestyle) from passing out of your digestive system into the rest of your body. (1)
Here’s how a report published in the journal Frontiers in Immunologydescribes the pathology of leaky gut: (2)
The intestinal epithelial lining, together with factors secreted from it, forms a barrier that separates the host from the environment. In pathologic conditions, the permeability of the epithelial lining may be compromised allowing the passage of toxins, antigens, and bacteria in the lumen to enter the bloodstream creating a ‘leaky gut.’
When you have leaky gut, certain tiny particles that should never be able to enter your bloodstream start to make their way through. There’s also commonly abnormalities in the gut stemming from antimicrobial molecules, immunoglobulins and cytokine activities. This presents a major problem, as the vast majority of your immune system is found inside the gut.
The result? A disruption of acute inflammation, and sometimes autoimmune reactions. A normal part of your immune response that serves to fight infections and diseases winds up over-performing, leading to chronic inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases.
Some of the underlying causes of leaky gut include:
Well, according to a 2014 review of the facts and research about intestinal permeability (among other sources), the chronic condition of hyperpermeability is linked to numerous symptoms and health conditions.
What are the symptoms of leaky gut? Some of the most prominent signs you may have leaky gut include: (3)
While these diseases are linked to leaky gut syndrome, it hasn’t been proven that there is a causal relationship; in other words, it’s not yet established that leaky gut causes any of these conditions, just that people who have leaky gut are more likely to have a number of other health problems. So while the scientific evidence has not yet proven that intestinal hyperpermiability (leaky gut syndrome) is actually responsible for these conditions, it strongly suggests that leaky gut and other dysfunctions tend to occur simultaneously. (8)
How do you know if you have leaky gut? Below you’ll find seven leaky gut symptoms and early occurring conditions that may point to an issue with your gut health.
Because of the onslaught of toxins that enter the bloodstream, the immune systems of people with intestinal hyperpermeability are on overdrive mass-producing various antibodies, which may make their bodies more susceptible to antigens in certain foods (especially gluten and dairy). In studies involving rats and human children, leaky gut and food allergies have been linked. (9, 10) Allergies are believed to be one of the most common leaky gut symptoms.
Researchers from Hungary uncovered in 2012 that elevated gut permeability is oftentimes localized to the colon in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. (11) As far back as 1988, scientists suggested that Crohn’s disease may be more of a risk for people with leaky gut. (12)
A small study (observing 12 patients) discovered that zinc supplementation may help resolve the tight junction dysfunction in these cases, although more research is required on a larger scale to confirm these results. (13)
Zonulin is the only physiological modulator of intercellular tight junctions described so far that is involved in trafficking of macromolecules and, therefore, in tolerance/immune response balance. When the finely tuned zonulin pathway is deregulated in genetically susceptible individuals, both intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune, inflammatory, and neoplastic disorders can occur.
Eating gluten may trigger this dangerous cascade. University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers have uncovered that gluten “activates zonulin signaling irrespective of the genetic expression of autoimmunity, leading to increased intestinal permeability to macromolecules.” (15)
The good news is that, at least as far as leaky gut plays a role in autoimmune conditions, it is reversible and could potentially alleviate some of these problematic immune responses. (16)
One of the autoimmune diseases that leaky gut syndrome may directly affect is Hashimoto’s disease. (17) Also known as “chronic thyroiditis,” this disorder is displayed with hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), impaired metabolism, fatigue, depression, weight gain and a host of other concerns.
In my own patients, I’ve observed various nutritional deficiencies resulting from leaky gut, including vitamin B12, magnesium and digestive enzymes. Those common nutrient deficiencies are one reason why many functional medicine practitioners prescribe a whole-food multivitamin in addition to probiotics for people suffering leaky gut problems.
First described over 70 years ago, the gut-skin connection theory has described how intestinal hyperpermeability can cause a slew of skin conditions, particularly acne and psoriasis. (18) Creams and drugs with endless lists of (sometimes dangerous) side effects are often prescribed for these skin disorders, yet there has been evidence for several decades that part of the root cause might exist in the gut.
According to a study published in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters, leaky gut has been shown to cause various neurocognitive disorders. For example, the inflammatory response characteristic of intestinal hyperpermeability triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and other chemicals that are thought to induce depression. (19)
A study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience described the “vicious circle between immune system impairment and increasing dysbiosis that leads to leaky gut and neurochemical compounds and/or neurotoxic xenobiotics production and absorption.”
The authors go on to describe findings from a number of studies that point to their theory thatautism may be connected to problems in the gut microbiome, particularly within the first year of life. (20) It is actually a common hypothesis in modern science that leaky gut is strongly related to autism. (21)
Do most conventional doctors support the idea that leaky gut is real?
WebMD refers to leaky gut as “something of a medical mystery.”(22) This isn’t surprising, since it’s not a diagnosis that most doctors have been taught in medical school. “From an MD’s standpoint, it’s a very gray area,” says gastroenterologist Donald Kirby, MD – Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic. In his opinion, “Physicians don’t know enough about the gut, which is our biggest immune system organ.” (21)
To make matters worse, government agencies have also contributed to the confusion. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), “There is currently little evidence to support the theory that a porous bowel is the direct cause of any significant, widespread problems.” (23)
Yet, not everyone agrees. A roundtable review quotes the researchers at seven different European universities in 2014 agreeing upon the following: (24)
Alteration of the gut barrier seems to have multiple consequences facilitating the onset of a variety of diseases depending on other hits and on genetic or epigenetic constellations, respectively. The growing significance of the gut barrier and bacterial translocation raises the questions of how we can improve gut barrier functions and gut microbiota.
So while it’s encouraging that science is coming around to leaky gut syndrome being a real problem, we are by no means at a point where there are standard diagnostic tools for testing and treating leaky gut.
In the Western/conventional medical world, if there are no standard diagnostic criteria for a disease, then there are no specific therapies or treatments available. Moreover, if there are no “proven” treatment models, then most MD’s are left with no other choice than to follow what they believe to be the “safe path” and prescribe drugs that only treat leaky gut symptoms. For example, medications (like proton pump inhibitors or antacids) can be used to manage symptoms like acid reflux medications but these drugs don’t solve the root problem.
Because much of the medical community denies leaky gut’s very existence, it’s critical that you understand what leaky gut is and what to look out for in case you or a loved one is affected by it. The good news is that many functional and integrative medicine practitioners have a greater understanding of this condition than they did even a decade ago. They are much more likely to help you determine if you are suffering from leaky gut syndrome and to give you tools to help repair your gut.
Now that we’ve been talked about leaky gut symptoms, causes and opinions, let’s talk about how to test for and repair leaky gut.
How do you test for leaky gut?
Several leaky gut syndrome tests are available that can help confirm a diagnosis and point you in the right treatment direction. Tests are helpful for identifying specific sensitivities and uncovering which types of toxins or deficiencies are contributing to your symptoms. Leaky gut tests include:
What leaky gut treatments are available?
After years of research and patient care, Avisae has developed a gut protocol process for helping to heal leaky gut. . If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may have leaky gut symptoms, I encourage you to read the detailed instructions, food suggestions and recommended leaky gut supplements listed in this article.
The basic steps to healing leaky gut are as follows: