Tag Archives: mark hyman

Intent of the Day: Cut Down on the Sugar

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Setting food goals is an important step for us in getting balanced nutritionally. This is why we decided to get a jump on one of the toughest aspects of eating- curbing the sugar.
It’s in everything at this point and there is so much to learn about sugar alternatives, processed sugars, even natural sugars like honey. In the meantime, our intent is to cut down on the sugar. 
You too? Here are three resources to help: Continue reading

Are You Sick and Tired? Maybe It’s Your Thyroid

If you feel cold and tired all the time, there’s a good chance your thyroid is to blame, because one out of five women and one out of ten men have thyroid problems. That’s 30 million women and 15 million men. And half of them suffer needlessly because their doctors completely miss the diagnosis or don’t treat it properly.

You don’t have to suffer. Are you tired and sluggish? Do you have trouble getting going in the morning? Are you constipated? Do you have dry skin, dry, coarse hair, or hair loss? If the outer third of your eyebrows are thinning that could mean low thyroid function. Or maybe you have depression, high cholesterol, low sex drive, fluid retention, poor memory, and trouble concentrating.

All of these symptoms are potentially related to low thyroid function or what we call hypothyroidism. And because they can be vague and subtle, they’re easy to miss. But these symptoms can negatively affect your quality of life. But when you correct your thyroid function, you can get rid of these symptoms. You can actually get your life back and feel better.

One of my patients is a 73-year-old woman who was tired and a little depressed, had a little fluid retention, was constipated, and had trouble with memory. She had been to another doctor who said, “What do you expect? You’re 73.” Well, you know what? That’s not what 73 has to feel like. 73 can feel like 53 or 43 if you’re tuned up.

Get to the root cause

My job as a Functional Medicine doctor is to be a medical detective, to investigate and address the root causes of problems—not just the symptoms—and help people fix the underlying problems that CAUSE their symptoms and recreate balance in the whole system.

So, how do you find out the root cause of low thyroid function? What do you do about it? Can you reverse it? And what should you do if you have it? Well, if you fix the cause, you often can heal your thyroid. So, first, let’s take a look at the causes of this condition.

There are many causes of low thyroid function, but the most common one is environmental toxins.

For example, plastics, pesticides, thallates in plastic bottles, BPA (bis-phenol A) in cans, parabens in sunblock and make-up, chemicals in our food and water: all of these things interfere with our thyroid function, which acts like the yellow canary in the coalmine that died when the air went bad. When our environment becomes overloaded with toxic substances, the thyroid is the first to go down.

What you are eating can also mess up your thyroid. Gluten is one of the biggest causes of low thyroid function, because it causes an autoimmune reaction against the thyroid. We call this Hashimoto’s disease. It is fixable. If you get rid of gluten, you can heal it.

Nutritional deficiencies may also be causing the problem. Iodine, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, omega-3 fats, and vitamin A are all important for optimal thyroid function. You have to have optimal nutrient levels for your thyroid to work properly. For example, you can’t make thyroid hormone without iodine. You can’t convert the inactive to the active form of thyroid without selenium, and the thyroid can’t work on your cells without vitamin D and vitamin A.

Another big cause of thyroid dysfunction is heavy metals, such as mercury and lead.

People who eat a lot of fish, who have a lot of fillings in their mouth, or who have had a lot of vaccines that contain Thimerosal may develop problems with their thyroid.

Get tested

So, how can you know for sure that you have this problem? Well, first, you have to do the right tests. Most doctors do not do the right thyroid tests, and I strongly encourage you to demand your rights as a patient and ask for them. What are they?

It’s the TSH, or thyroid-stimulating hormone test, and the free T3 and free T4 tests. It’s very important to get the free levels of both the free T4 and free T3 hormones.

Next, you should also always check your TPO (thyroid peroxidase) and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. These are an indication of an autoimmune reaction against your thyroid.

Also, check for celiac or gluten antibodies or anti-gliadin antibodies, because these also can indicate a gluten problem that can trigger thyroid problems.

You also might need to get heavy metal testing, because high levels of mercury and lead can trigger thyroid issues, too. Go to www.functionalmedicine.org to find a doctor near you who can test for metals and help you fix your thyroid.

Take action

So, once you’ve found that you have this issue, follow these steps, so you can begin to treat yourself.

Clean up your diet. Get rid of the sources of pesticides and chemicals. Filter your water. Eat organic when possible. Eat safe fish. Minimize your exposure.

Eat foods that support your thyroid. These include vitamin D-rich foods like mushrooms, sardines, and herring; vitamin A-containing foods like green leafy vegetables and carrots; iodine-rich foods like seaweed, fish, and shellfish; and zinc-rich foods like pumpkin seeds and oysters.

Thyroid replacement may be needed for some people. But this is very controversial. Some doctors recommend only T4 and some recommend a combination of T4 and T3. I think, when you look at the scientific evidence, it’s clear that people do better when you combine the inactive T4 with the active T3 hormone. And that’s what we do at The UltraWellness Center. We give combinations, either in the form of Armour Thyroid, Nature Thyroid, or just combinations of T3 and T4.

Take thyroid supportive supplements. I recommend a combination supplement for my patients called Thyrosol, which contains kelp for iodine, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin A, and selenium.

This is all described in my UltraThyroid Solution. I go through everything in step-by-step detail. It’s a 7-step, goof-proof plan for fixing your thyroid. I encourage you to check it out. Learn what you need to do, and fix your thyroid, because you don’t have to feel tired and crummy all the time. There is a way out.

Originally posted on my website, DrHyman.com

photo by: adria.richards

3 Ways to Rewire Your Brain and End Food Cravings

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I’m a food addict. We all are. Our brains are biologically driven to seek and devour high-calorie, fatty foods. The difference is that I have learned how to control those primitive parts of my brain. Anyone can this if they know how. In this article, I will share 3 steps to help you counteract those primitive parts of your brain that have you chasing high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods. But before you can update your brain’s biological software, you’ve got to understand why it developed in the first place.

Calories = Survival

The brain’s desire to binge on rich food is a genetic holdover from the days of hunter-gatherers. Given what scientists know today about our early ancestors, it makes sense that our brains are hardwired to fixate on high-calorie foods. It’s a survival mechanism. Eating as many calories as possible, whenever possible, allowed our ancestors to store excess calories as fat and survive lean times. That approach worked well for 2.4 million years, but today it’s making us sick and fat.

That’s because our brains haven’t evolved as fast as our food environment. The human brain evolved over 2.5 million years. And, with the exception of the last 10,000 years, people only ate animals they could hunt and wild-plants they could gather. Imagine if you could only eat what you caught or picked! The variety of foods hunter-gatherers ate paled in comparison to the 40,000 different food items we can buy in the average big-box grocery store today.(1)

No cinnamon buns for them!

And whereas we have easy access to food 24/7, drive-thru meals were not an option for hunter-gatherers. Not to mention that hunting and gathering was hard work. Early humans expended lots of calories acquiring their food, so they needed to eat high-calorie foods to offset the loss. The average hunter-gatherer got up to 60 percent of his calories from animal foods, such as muscle meat, fat, and organ meat, and the other 40 percent from plants.(2)

That balance between protein and carbohydrates in the diet is where the problem lies, but it’s not what you think. Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap, but they are the single most important nutrient for long-term health and weight loss. But I’m not talking about bagels and donuts. I’m talking about plant foods that more closely resemble what our ancestors ate. Hunter-gatherers ate fruit, tubers, seeds, and nuts. These are whole foods. They are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and disease- and weight-busting colorful phytochemicals. They also take time to digest. Therefore, they raise blood sugar slowly, which balances metabolism and offers a steady stream of energy. Whole foods have all the right information and turn on all the right genes.

But the past 10,000 years saw the advent of both agriculture and industrialization. And, in the blink of an eye (by evolutionary standards), the human diet got turned upside down. Today, 60 percent of our calories come from things that hunter-gatherers wouldn’t even recognize as food. The bulk of those items—cereal grains, sugary drinks, refined oils and dressings—are simple carbohydrates.(3) The primitive brain sees an endless supply of easy energy. Left unchecked, our bodies pay the price. The result is a two-fronted epidemic of obesity and diabetes in our country—what I call “diabesity.”

3 Ways to Reprogram your Brain

Luckily there are ways to rewire the primitive parts of your brain by making good food choices. Here are 3 ways to get started.

1.) Balance blood sugar.

Blood sugar highs and lows drive primitive food cravings. If you get famished between meals, that’s a sign that your blood sugar is crashing. When blood sugar is low, you’ll eat anything. To better balance blood sugar, eat a small meal or snack that includes healthy protein, like seeds or nuts, every 3 to 4 hours.

2.) Eliminate liquid calories and artificial sweeteners.

Early humans didn’t reach for soda or fruit juices when they got thirsty. Sodas are full of chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. Processed fruit juices are awash in sugar. Try sticking with water and green tea. Green tea contains plant chemicals that are good for your health. And, last but not least, don’t succumb to the diet-drink trap. The artificial sweeteners in diet drinks fool the body into thinking it is ingesting sugar, which creates the same insulin spike as regular sugar.

3.) Eat a high-quality protein at breakfast.

Ideally, you’re eating quality protein at every meal, but, if you need to prioritize one meal, choose breakfast. Studies show that waking up to a healthy protein, such as eggs, nuts, seeds, nut butters or a protein shake help people lose weight, reduce cravings and burn calories.

Ultimately, you may not control your genes, but you do control what and how you eat. Since taking control and changing my diet, my brain no longer caves into the cravings and urgings that seduce the reptilian brain. The most powerful tool you have to transform your health is your fork! Use it well and you will thrive.

References:
(1) “What to Eat,” Marion Nestle, p 17
(2) “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets,” L
Cordain, et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000; 71
(3) “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets,” L
Cordain, et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000; 71

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com

Why You Should Not Stop Taking Your Vitamins (Part 2)

Amor Sin Remedio Hopeless Love Hoffnungslose LiebeClick here to read Part 1!

Why Most Vitamin Studies Are Flawed

There is another important thing to understand about clinical trials that review the utility of vitamins in the treatment of disease. The studies that show harm are often designed like drugs studies. For example, a study may use a high dose of vitamin E and see what happens. This is actually a prescient example also explored in recent media.

Studies recently found that high doses of vitamin E and selenium didn’t prevent prostate cancer and may increase risk. What this study didn’t explore properly was the true biochemical nature of vitamin E and selenium. These nutrients work as antioxidants by donating an electron to protect or repair a damaged molecule or DNA. Once this has happened, the molecules become oxidants that can cause more damage if not supported by the complex family of antioxidants used in the human body. It’s sort of like passing a hot potato. If you don’t keep passing it, you will get burned. Many studies simply fail to take this into account.

Nature doesn’t work by giving you only one thing. We all agree that broccoli is good for you, but if that were all you ate, you would die in short order. The same is true of vitamins. Nutrients are not drugs, and they can’t be studied as drugs. They are part of a biological system in which all nutrients work as a team to support your biochemical processes.

Michael Jordon may have been the best basketball player in history, but he couldn’t have won six NBA titles without a team.

Obesity Is Linked To Malnutrition

The tragedy of media attention on poor studies is that they undermine possible solutions to some of the modern health epidemics we are facing today, and they point attention away from the real drivers of disease.

Take the case of obesity, for example. Paradoxically, Americans are becoming both more obese and more nutrient deficient at the same time. Obese children eating processed foods are nutrient depleted and increasingly get scurvy and rickets–diseases we thought were left behind in the 19th and 20th centuries. After treating over 15,000 patients and performing extensive nutritional testing on them, it is clear to me that Americans suffer from widespread nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, folate, and omega 3 fats. This is supported by the government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data on our population. In fact, 13% of our population is vitamin C deficient.

Scurvy in Americans in 2013? Really? But if all you eat is processed food–and many Americans do–then you, like the British sailors of the 17th century, will get scurvy.

Unfortunately, negative studies on vitamins get huge media attention while the fact that over 100,000 Americans die and 2.2 million suffer serious adverse reactions from medication use in hospitals when used as prescribed is quietly ignored. Did you know that anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen kill more people every year than AIDS or asthma or leukemia?

In short, these studies often confuse rather than clarify, and they only serve up doses of media frenzy and superficial analysis. They leave the consumer afraid, dazed, bewildered, and reaching for their next prescription drug.

Please, be smart; don’t stop taking your vitamins. Every American needs a good quality multivitamin, vitamin D, and omega-3 fat supplement. It is part of getting a metabolic tune-up and keeping your telomeres long!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Why You Should Not Stop Taking Your Vitamins

pale-woman-taking-vitamins_123rf.com_Do vitamins kill people? How many people have died from taking vitamins? Should you stop your vitamins?

It depends. To be exact, it depends on the quality of the science and the very nature of scientific research. It is very hard to know things exactly through science. The waste bin of science is full of fallen heroes like Premarin, Vioxx and Avandia (which alone was responsible for 47,000 excess cardiac deaths since it was introduced in 1999).

That brings us to the latest apparent casualty, vitamins. The recent media hype around vitamins is a classic case of drawing the wrong conclusions from good science.

Remember how doctors thought that hormone replacement therapy was the best thing since sliced bread and recommended it to every single post-menopausal woman? These recommendations were predicated on studies that found a correlation between using hormones and reduced risk of heart attacks. But correlation does not prove cause and effect. It wasn’t until we had controlled experiments like the Women’s Health Initiative that we learned Premarin (hormone replacement therapy) was killing women, not saving them.

New studies “proving” that vitamins kill people hit front pages and news broadcasts across the country seemingly every day.

Paul A. Offit’s recent piece in The New York Times, “Don’t Take Your Vitamins,” mentioned a number of studies that suggested a correlation between supplementation and increased risk of death. Offit asserts, “It turns out … that scientists have known for years that large quantities of supplemental vitamins can be quite harmful indeed.” The flaws in the studies he quoted have been well documented. Giving large doses of a single antioxidant is known to set up a chain reaction that creates more free radicals.

But many studies do not prove anything. Science is squirrelly. You only get the answers to the questions you ask. Many of the studies that are performed are called observational studies or epidemiological studies. They are designed to look for or “observe” correlations. Studies like this look for clues that should then lead to further research. They are not designed to be used to guide clinical medicine or public health recommendations.

All doctors and scientists know that this type of study does not prove cause and effect.

Why Scientists Are Confused

At a recent medical conference, one of most respected scientists of this generation, Bruce Ames, made a joke. He said that epidemiologists (people who do population-based observational studies) have a difficult time with their job and are easily confused. Dr. Ames joked that in Miami, epidemiologists found everybody seems to be born Hispanic but die Jewish. Why? Because if you looked at population data in the absence of the total history and culture of Florida during a given time, this would be the conclusion you would draw. This joke brings home the point that correlation does not equal causation.

Aside from the fact that they fly in the face of an overwhelming body of research that proves Americans are nutrient deficient as a whole and that nutritional supplements can have significant impact in disease prevention and health promotion, many recent studies on vitamins are flawed in similar ways.

How Vitamins Save Money and Save Lives

Overwhelming basic science and experimental data support the use of nutritional supplements for the prevention of disease and the support of optimal health. The Lewin Group estimated a $24 billion savings over five years if a few basic nutritional supplements were used in the elderly. Extensive literature reviews in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine also support this view. Interventional trials have proven benefit over and over again.

The concept that nutritional supplements “could be harmful” flies in the face of all reasonable facts from both intervention trials and outcome studies published over the past 40 years. For example, recent trials published within the last few years indicate that modest nutritional supplementation in middle age women found their telomeres didn’t shorten. Keeping your telomeres (the little end caps on your DNA) long is the hallmark of longevity and reduced risk of disease. A recent study found that B12, B6 and folate given to people with memory loss prevented brain atrophy that is associated with aging and dementia. In fact, those who didn’t take the vitamins had almost ten times loss of brain volume as those who took the vitamins.

A plethora of experimental controlled studies–which are the gold standard for proving cause and effect–over the last few years found positive outcomes in many diseases. These include the use of calcium and vitamin D in women with bone loss; folic acid in people with cervical dysplasia (pre-cancerous lesions); iron for anemics; B-complex vitamins to improve cognitive function; zinc, vitamins C and E and carotenoids to lower the risk of macular degeneration; and folate and vitamin B12 to treat depression. This is but a handful of examples. Fish oil is approved by the FDA for lowering triglycerides and reduces risk of heart attacks and more. There are many other studies ignored by Offit in his New York Times piece.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Can Adaptogens Help Us Reduce Stress – For Good?

If there were an herb believed to help reduce stress and increase our ability to adapt to new circumstances, would you try it? Couldn’t hurt, right?

In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra addresses questions about adaptogens, which are plants and herbs that may be able to modulate our response to stress and any discomfort caused by changes in the environment. He examines the history of these substances and some recent studies on particular adaptogens which he has been involved in. How can these substances be used to improve our response to stress?

Dr. Mark Hyman encourages the use of adaptogenic herbs to help reduce stress and calm the mind. Such herbs might include ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Siberian ginseng, cordyceps, ashwagandha, and others that are nontoxic, nonspecific in action, and generally healthy and high in antioxidants.

Studies on the medical viability of adaptogens to reduce stress have been somewhat sparse but nonetheless promising.The more we learn about these plants and their healing potential, the closer we may get to finding real, long-lasting relief from stress and anxiety. And wouldn’t that be a treat!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and leave your comments below!

10 Ways To Ditch Your Cravings for Sugar, Salt, and Fats

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According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Food Corporations Turn to Chefs in a Quest for Healthy Flavor,” Big Food companies like PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, and even fast food giants like Taco Bell, are changing their ways in response to the increasing public demand for healthier food options. To improve their image as healthy food manufacturers, Big Food corporations have called upon top chefs to help them create healthy menu makeovers, infusing real, fresh, whole food into old recipe favorites.

Why is this happening now? Intense pressure brought on by politicians and their constituents (you and me!) has given these food manufacturers no choice but to respond to the public outcry for healthier food. It’s no longer enough for these companies to earn a profit by selling food that tastes good. People are beginning to use the power of the pocketbook to show these companies that the food they sell must also be nutritious.

That’s because people everywhere are waking up. They are beginning to see the dangers of genetically modified ingredients and all the sugar, salt, and fats hidden in our food supply. From fancy restaurants to fast food chains, chefs are catching on that people want their food to make them feel good, not just while they are eating it but hours, days, and years afterward.

Really, this news shouldn’t make the headlines. This is common sense! Paying for food that makes us sick is as crazy as shooting ourselves in the foot. It just doesn’t make sense.

Big Food is finally getting the message and getting on board.

But remember, no processed or fast food option will ever be better than a healthy home-cooked meal. The best way to ensure you are eating the highest quality, most nutritious food possible is to prepare your own food in your own kitchen. We are all chefs. You don’t have to be trained at Le Cordon Bleu to know your way around a kitchen. You just need a little knowledge, some imagination, and a sense of adventure.

A desire for real food is a fundamental part of our basic biological blueprint. Given the chance, our taste receptors will naturally gravitate toward the inherent sweetness found in vegetables, fruits, and even nuts and seeds.

So, how do you reprogram your taste buds to ditch the cravings for sugar, salt, and fats? You can start by eating real, fresh, whole foods. Avoid fake, commercialized foods that come in convenience packages or are made in a lab.

Here are 10 more tips to get you excited about ditching the sugar, salt, and fats:

  1. Sauté or roast your veggies to bring out their natural sweetness. Properly searing your chicken or meat brings out the inherent sweetness by way of the Maillard reaction. This is a fancy name for what happens when you create that nice, brown crust on your meat. Want more cooking tips like this? Check out The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook!
  2. Play with herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, and oregano to add flavor and phytonutrients! Finish a meal by adding fresh herbs before plating or serving. This last-minute addition kicks the flavor up a notch!
  3. Healthy fats found in avocado, coconut, and tahini not only increase the flavor of your meal, they also add that creamy, luscious texture found in many rich foods. See for yourself just how healthy and tasty desserts can be by trying my Dark Chocolate Silk Pudding from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook!
  4. Try creating a savory, umami (Japanese for “delicious”) flavor. Add moderate amounts of tamari, umeboshi plum paste, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, dried mushroom, or sea vegetables to your next stew, soup, sauce, or stir-fry.
  5. Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and even cayenne or chipotle pepper powder are all extremely flavorful additions to a meal. Spices like these excite your taste buds and grab your attention. This is helpful, because, as studies show, when we are focused on actually tasting our food rather than mindlessly gobbling it up, we actually need less food to feel satisfied.
  6. Befriend some kitchen must-haves like real vanilla extract or vanilla bean or coconut butter. Or use common, every-day foods like lemons in some creative ways. For example, use lemon zest to add real zing to any meal!
  7. For the most flavor, eat seasonally and locally. Canned or packaged foods or foods that have traveled great distances in the back of a truck just can’t compare to the succulence of a fresh piece of locally grown fruit.
  8. Check your hydration. Digestion starts in your mouth with your saliva, which helps us taste all the magnificent flavor in food. If you are dehydrated and not producing enough saliva, you won’t really be able to enjoy your food.
  9. Check your medications. Believe it or not, most medications interfere with the body’s ability to taste and smell. Some of them can even create an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. Wondering how you might decrease the number of pills you take? Learn more about functional medicine.
  10. Got nutrition? Nutrient deficiency is an important cause of improper taste perception. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can markedly impair your ability to smell and taste food. Most Americans have several nutrient deficiencies, but there is one in particular that can especially keep you from enjoying your next meal: zinc. Try adding foods like oysters, pecans, sunflower seeds, and lentils to increase your daily intake of this important mineral. Try the recipe for Hearty Lentil Soup from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. If you are deficient, you might also need to take a zinc supplement. Work with one of my nutrition coaches to ensure your nutrition status is up to par.

* * *

For more ways to use your kitchen to take back your health, check out The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. Get tips and tricks for making healthy and tasty meals. Learn what foods you should eat to boost your metabolism, balance your blood sugar, and lose weight. Try more than 175 tasty recipes that appeal to a variety of budgets, taste preferences, health goals, and lifestyles.

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

10 Reasons Why Summer is the Season for Eating Well

raspberriesThere are so many reasons why I love the summertime: the green grass and warm sunshine, longer days and warmer evenings, more time to savor all the beauty of the outdoors. But the best part by far is the amazing abundance of healthy, fresh, whole foods everywhere you look. In celebration of the richness of the season, I’ve put together my top 10 reasons why there’s no better time to eat well.

1. Food is Fresh, Available, and Affordable

It’s easy to eat fresh, locally grown food when fruits and vegetables are as abundant and available as they are during the summer months. And when food is more available, it’s more affordable, too, since choosing local produce cuts the cost of shipping food from some far-off place.

When food is in season, it’s better for you. Except for freezing, most food storage practices cause a loss in nutrition and quality. Think of all the preservatives and toxic chemicals used to keep packaged foods from going rancid on grocery store shelves. Beware these processed and preserved foods that can’t die. Fresh food is alive, filled with all the nourishment and nutrients needed to keep you alive and thriving!

Eating locally is not only healthy for you, it’s great for your community, too. Participate in the grow-your-own movement by shopping at your local farmers’ market or join a CSA (community supported agriculture). See www.localharvest.org to find a CSA or farmers’ market near you. For more adventurous ways to go local, try that interesting little farm stand you drive by during your daily commute (they usually offer great value for seasonal fruit and veggies) or try a pick-your-own farm.

2. You Can Get Back To Basics

Summer is all about unwinding, relaxing, and enjoying the simple pleasures of good food and good company. Always keep basic staples in the pantry, so you’ll be ready for an easy, impromptu meal. They don’t need to cost much. To eat well, you don’t have to indulge in expensive specialty foods or the new, trendy exotic fruit du jour. Keep it simple.

Tip: Get back to basics by creating delectable meals out of everyday foods, such as beans and greens. Beans cost only 50 cents per serving, yet give you 7 grams of blood sugar-friendly fiber. Try the Black Bean Salad recipe from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook.

3. You Can Savor the Flavor

Summer offers so many ways for you to add flavor to your food without resorting to salt and fat. Herbs, spices, and berries are all plentiful during the warmer months. Get creative, and experiment using herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, or fresh dill. In the summertime, these are so easy to grow right in your own window!

4. You Can Lighten Your Load

Produce is available in huge quantities and varieties during the summer months. This wide array of options makes it easy to enjoy a light, plant-based diet, which can keep your heart healthy, your waistline slender, and your blood sugar levels optimized.

Try incorporating meatless Mondays into your weekly meal plan or try eating at least one meal a day without animal protein. This can help you lighten the load on your digestive system, as well as on the Earth, since raising animals for food has a greater impact on the environment than growing fruits and vegetables.

Tip: Choose non-GMO tempeh to replace ground beef in your next recipe. This one change will drastically trim your shopping bill, because tempeh costs about a third of what you’d pay for the amount of meat needed to feed a family of four!

5. There Are So Many Ways To Enjoy Your Leftovers

Remember all those leftover berries from the pick-your-own farm or all the fresh zucchini you found from the farmers’ market? Don’t waste them—re-use them! Here’s one great way to use Monday night’s chicken dinner in Tuesday morning’s breakfast: the Roasted Chicken and Egg White Cup recipe from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook.

6. Dine Under the Stars

Add flare to your normal weeknight routine by creating your own summery dinner table outside. No need to go to fancy restaurants to make your meal feel special; decorate your outdoor table with some candles, stones, or fresh flowers to enhance your dining experience! Invite friends over. Make it a potluck! Relaxing under the stars, enjoying a fine meal with friends, will soothe your nerves and help you digest your food, while truly appreciating the magic of summertime.

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Can Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer? (Part 2)

Pills vitamin supplementsClick here for Part 1!

Consider the Japanese

If it is true that taking fish oil or raising your blood levels of omega-3 phospholipids increases risk for prostate cancer, then why hasn’t this been a problem for Japanese men? They certainly eat their fair share of fatty fish and have done so for generations! The Japanese (and other fish-loving cultures) have been studied many times to test this hypothesis, and guess what? Males in Japan, while having some of the highest levels of EPA and DHA, also have some of the lowest rates of prostate cancer. Only in the most recent studies have Japanese men been shown to have an increase in prostate cancer. Could it be that, as the Japanese begin to abandon their traditional diet of fish, seaweed, and other sea vegetables for the typical SAD (standard American diet, high in saturated fat and linoleic fatty acids), their risk of prostate cancer rises?

It seems that for every claim against fish and fish oil, there are several studies that confirm their benefits. One study, Consumption of Fish Products Across the Lifespan and Prostate Cancer Risk, showed that high blood plasma phospholipids was protective against prostate cancer when fish oil was consumed. Another study showed that omega-3 fatty acids protect against death caused by prostate cancer. And what about the effect of fish oils on the outcome of prostate cancer in men with elevated PSA levels? Again, the literature shows that EPA and DHA have no negative effect.

Personalized Medicine

It’s important to stop and remember that each person has a unique inner ecology and external environment. Contributing factors, such as exposure to environmental toxicity, poor nutrition, and other lifestyle variables, as well as genetics, all play a role in the development of cancer. It’s a complicated disease, and it would be a good idea to pause and look at the whole picture before drawing any major conclusions.

The simple fact is that countless studies have proven the health benefits of eating a diet rich in antioxidants and fiber from fruits and vegetables. And just as we all know that eating your veggies is good for your health, we are now beginning to prove similar health benefits from including healthy fats in your diet. (For more information on how to increase your intake of healthy fats, please see my discussion here). We also know that limiting omega-6 fatty acids and increasing omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce the risk of diabesity in Western cultures.

So, before we toss good medicine aside, we need to examine carefully the factors that contribute to imbalances in the body. We need to assess what we do know and keep asking questions about what we don’t.

We know that a whole foods-based diet, rich in fresh, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein, does make a positive difference in health outcomes. We know that high-quality, purified fish oils are best. We know that a balanced and varied diet is key for maintaining good health. And we know that moderation is the key to a healthy and sensible relationship to food. Any diet or program promoting an extreme is not realistic, sustainable, or even remotely healthy. Remember, the “dose makes the poison,” so just the right amount—and not too much—will allow you to reap the intended benefits. In the case of fish oil, 1-2 grams daily is appropriate for most people, though some of you may need more. I strongly suggest you work with a trained functional medicine practitioner to help you determine the appropriate doses you need, not only for fish oil but for all supplements. My nutrition coaches are here to help you transform general guidelines into personalized solutions.

So, where do I stand on whether fish oil causes prostate cancer?  I’ll be eating sardines in my salad for lunch tomorrow, and I’ll be taking my daily fish oil supplement with my dinner tonight. And I hope you will be too!

Now, I’d like to hear from you…

Have you been swayed by recent reports to feel that omega-3s can cause prostate cancer?

Will you limit the amount of omega-6 fatty acids you consume?

What are some of your favorite ways to include fatty fish in your diet?

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Can Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer? (Part 1)

SalmonWhenever a newly published health study challenges current thinking, you can bet it won’t be long before the news media starts ratcheting up the drama and jumping to conclusions. This is true of a recent study called “Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial,” published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This study suggests a higher risk of prostate cancer among men who eat omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish like sardines and salmon or in fish oil supplements.

Because I encourage my patients and readers to get plenty of omega-3s, I want to respond to these reports and offer my answer to the question they’ve raised: can fish oil cause prostate cancer? But first, let’s examine the findings.

What the Study Found

The study, which was conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, claims a link between increased blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and increased incidence of prostate cancer. The highest blood plasma levels of these polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically EPA, DHA and DPA, were associated with the highest risk. The research also showed that higher levels of linoleic acid (or omega-6 fatty acids, which most Americans eat too much of) were actually associated with a lowered risk. This would suggest that the more fish or fish oil a man included in his diet, the greater the chances he would develop prostate cancer. It would also mean that increasing his omega-6 fatty acid intake would be a good idea.

So, have I led you astray by telling you to eat your fatty fish and limit your intake of processed vegetable oils that contain omega-6 fatty acids? Should I warn you against taking fish oil and instead tell you to eat more cottonseed and sunflower seed oils? Let’s look at the facts and decide.

A Closer Look at the Study 

This study used what is called a retrospective case controlled cohort design. Simply put, to make their conclusions, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center used data from a previous study conducted in 2011 called the SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial). It’s important to note that the original SELECT study did not have the same objective as this current one.  It wasn’t designed to determine whether fish oil led to prostate cancer. The fact that both studies didn’t have the same goal calls into question whether the old data is even relevant to the new study.

What we can be sure of is that association does not prove cause and effect. If this had been an intervention design study, where half the participants got fish oil and half didn’t and they were followed for 20 years to see if they got prostate cancer, then you can say pretty definitively that they are connected. Bottom line, this type of study does not prove cause and effect. If I did a study on sunrise and humans waking up, I would find 100% correlation, but that doesn’t mean that the sun came up because you woke up. Correlation, yes; causation, no.

Another problem with the study is that the researchers did not address whether the men who were studied got their omega-3 fatty acids from eating fatty fish or from taking supplements. Also, there was no regard for their health status before starting the study. Did they start using fish oil as a therapy once diagnosed with prostate cancer or had they been taking it all along?

And what about the myriad other factors that can lead to the onset and progression of cancer, such as how lifestyle affects genetics? Smoking, nutrition, exercise, environmental toxicity, stress: none of these things were taken into account. It is too simplistic to reduce a disease as complex as cancer down to one trigger. In fact, perhaps we should be asking if these men were exposed to toxins and heavy metals from eating mercury-containing fish, which can cause cancer. Or did the men smoke or drink to excess? Was there a history of cancer in the family? What was their personal health history prior to diagnosis? Were they overweight or obese, and did they have other symptoms of diabesity?

Another major flaw with this study’s design involves the way the researchers got their data. They analyzed blood plasma instead of red blood cells. And they did so with one single blood draw! The conclusions would have been stronger and more reliable had they used red blood cell samples, because those provide a more accurate assessment over the long term (plasma tends to provide only a short-term picture). Because the research was based only on samples of a single blood draw, the red blood cell analysis would have given a better picture of long-term omega-3 intake (a couple months of eating salmon, for example, instead of what happens in the body after a single meal). That’s why I suggest people use the omega-3 index test, which measures levels from within the red blood cells.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com

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