Why you should start walking today, even if you already work out

walk even if you work out

We sit at desks, sit in traffic, and sit at home in front of the TV. Americans have lost touch with the human being’s most basic and unique design function: to walk. Walking daily not only wards off more diseases than you count on both hands, it also soothes the mind, inspires creativity, and heightens the mood. Even if you already work out regularly, walking can still deliver its ancient benefits.

Walking shaped the human brain and keeps it healthy

We departed from the rest of the animal kingdom when we evolved to walk upright on two legs. This adaptation freed our arms and allowed us to conserve energy while moving over long distances, giving us more endurance than any other animal on the planet. The ability to walk also stimulated the development of the human brain into the fascinating and complex organ it is today.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle was known to give his lectures while walking, and many great thinkers since—Henry David Thoreau, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and even Steve Jobs—were known to use long walks to clear the brain and generate new ideas.

Walking is good for those intimidated by exercise

You don’t have to be one of history’s great thinkers to derive the benefits of a daily walk. For Americans who are overworked and overly sedentary, committing to a weight lifting routine or a workout class at the local gym may seem intimidating, overwhelming, or too expensive at first. A daily walk can be an excellent and non-threatening way to embark on an exercise program and reap the many benefits it promises. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll quickly realize it doesn’t require the same level of motivation as something more arduous—walking is a great way to escape and renew yourself on a regular basis.

Health benefits of walking

Walking 30 to 45 minutes at least six days a week along with a healthy diet has been shown to offer the following benefits:

  • Shed excess fat
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve circulation
  • Strengthen bones
  • Reduce stress
  • Prevent depression
  • Prevent Type 2 diabetes
  • Improve mood and well-being
  • Reduce risk of colon and breast cancer
  • Prevent heart disease

Walking beneficial even if you work out

If you’re not walking because you already work out regularly, you may be short-changing yourself. For one thing, if you’re a runner, walking instead could save wear and tear on your joints. Newer research has even shown that training for marathons and long distance runs may even damage the heart and arteries.

Because walking has played such an integral role in the development of the human brain, it improves brain health in ways other exercises don’t. Research of adults in their mid 60s showed that an area of the brain called the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory, grew in the subjects who walked regularly compared to subjects who did other forms of exercise. Walking regularly is an excellent way to lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Walking can also stimulate the creative juices that may be put on hold during a weight-training or high-intensity-interval cardiovascular session. For Americans on information overload and inundated with daily distractions, walking slows you down and invites you to soak in the world around you.

Walking also offers a great way to socialize with others. Socialization has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of many disorders, making a walk with friends or family members doubly good for you.

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Heart disease is a sugar disease

heart disease sugar disease

If you have been following conventional advice, then you’ve been told to avoid fats to prevent heart disease. Turns out if you want to maintain a healthy vascular system and prevent heart disease, sugar is the target you want to seek out and eliminate.

Research has found people who get at least 25 percent of their daily calories from added sugars of any kind were more than three times more likely to have low levels of the “good” HDL cholesterol in their bloodstream, a risk factor for heart disease, than people who got less than 5 percent of their calories from sweeteners. The high sugar consumers were also found to have higher triglycerides than normal, another risk factor for heart disease.

For a person who eats 2,000 calories a day, 25 percent is 500 calories, or 125 grams of sugar. To give you an idea, a medium white chocolate mocha has about 60 grams of sugar while a pecan roll has about 50. And that’s just breakfast. While most people worry about added weight from excess sugar, they should also consider their risk of heart disease.

Metabolic syndrome from sugar raises heart disease risk

Researchers turned their microscopes on sugar when it became clear during the explosion of obesity and diabetes over the last 20 to 30 years that metabolic syndrome is the leading risk factor for heart disease.

Metabolic syndrome is a condition brought on by a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates that eventually causes insulin resistance. Eating a diet high in sugars and starchy carbs—pastas, pastries, breads—causes your body to pump out high amounts of insulin. Eventually the body’s cells, overwhelmed by the demands of insulin, become insulin resistant. Also, the pancreas becomes overwhelmed by pumping out so much insulin and becomes exhausted. As a result, blood sugar levels skyrocket. Many people with insulin resistance go on to develop Type 2 diabetes.

It’s the chronically high insulin and blood sugar levels that are so hard on the vascular system and increase the risk of heart disease precipitously. In addition to increased belly fat, metabolic syndrome also brings with it high triglycerides (fats circulating in the bloodstream), high blood pressure, lower HDL (the good cholesterol) and higher LDL (bad) cholesterol, high inflammation, and a long list of other chronic health conditions. If scientists want to induce metabolic syndrome in lab animals, they simply feed them a diet high in sugar. Even when sugar comprises just 20 percent of calories it induces insulin resistance.

In humans, regularly consuming soft drinks, sweetened juices and bakery products are sufficient to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Junk fats, such as processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils—fries, chips, and processed foods made with trans fats and soybean oils—fuel the damage to the body.

How sugar damages arteries

Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease because high levels of sugar circulating in the bloodstream inflames and damages the lining of the arteries. The body uses cholesterol to patch the damaged areas contributing to the formation of plaque within the arteries—a process known as “atherosclerosis.” Although an effective short-term fix, this eventually leads to the creation of artery-clogging plaque, and drives up the risk of a heart attack.

How much sugar should you eat

The answer is fairy straightforward, none. The human body operates wonderfully on carbohydrates derived from fresh vegetables and fruit. However, the American Heart Association suggests no more than 5 percent of calories come from sugar. On a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s 24 grams, or the equivalent of six teaspoons.

To put it in perspective, a can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar; a regular size frozen yogurt has 40 grams; a 16 ounce mocha drink with whipped cream has 47 grams; a bag of Skittles has 47 grams; 8 ounces of bottled ice tea has 23 grams; and a Clif Bar has 21 grams. It is very easy to quickly exceed the limits of sugar consumption that increase your risk of heart disease.

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Skin care from the inside: Aging, rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema

skin care inside out

Anti-aging skin products and treatments comprise a $10 billion market globally. Rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema affect millions of Americans, sending them in search of topical skin care solutions. While the effectiveness of anti-aging and skin care treatments range in their success, they overlook the most vital aspect of skin care: addressing skin health from the inside out.

The skin is an immune barrier. Another large immune barrier is the digestive tract. Both the skin and the gut protect the sterile bloodstream from potentially harmful substances from the outside world. Other immune barriers are the respiratory tract and the blood-brain barrier. 

Skin that ages too fast

These barriers can break down when health is suboptimal. In this way, the skin is a window into the health of the gut and the rest of the body. While aging skin is normal, especially with more exposure to sunlight, accelerated skin aging can indicate poor digestive and immune function. In women it may also indicate a hormonal imbalance as healthy, elastic skin depends on sufficient estrogen and progesterone levels. Good skin care includes addressing the health of the body.

Rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema

Other common problems people grapple with are rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis, which cause red, inflamed, patchy, or oozing skin. These embarrassing and sometimes painful conditions are signs of inflammation or an autoimmune reaction, in which the immune system attacks the body. Rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema are frequently triggered by a food intolerance, such as to gluten, egg, dairy, corn or other grains, or soy.

Adult acne

Some adults grapple with acne long after their teen years. Acne can have its roots in many things, including poor diet, inflammation, or a candida (yeast) overgrowth. In women, acne may also signal a hormonal imbalance, such as excess testosterone. A diet high in sugars and carbohydrates causes a woman’s body to overproduce testosterone and throw hormones out of balance, which not only can cause adult acne but also affect skin health in general.

Skin care secrets from the inside out

Because the skin is an immune barrier like the gut, skin that is aging too fast or is affected by rosacea, psoriasis, or eczema is a sign the gut has become inflamed and overly porous (“leaky gut”), which means it’s allowing undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream. This can trigger inflammation, autoimmune reactions, and disorders that affect the appearance and aging of your skin.

By following the basics of gut repair, many people see great improvement or complete alleviation of rosacea, psoriasis or eczema, a more youthful glow, and reduced signs of aging.

Basics of skin care from the inside out

  • Find and eliminate your food intolerances, such as gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, or grain. Either lab testing or an elimination-provocation diet can help you do this.
  • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet. If your body is inflamed your skin will show it. Avoid sweets, sodas, fast foods, and processed foods and instead follow a cleaner, whole foods diet with lots of produce rich in antioxidants and vitamins. This not only will prevent assaults on your skin health, but will also feed your skin with the right nutrients. You may also want to support gut repair with nutritional compounds designed to restore the immune barrier.
  • Address yeast and bacterial overgrowths. A leaky and inflamed gut harbors yeast and bacterial infections, which will inflame your skin as well. Yeast overgrowths are often implicated in rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of clean water and avoid or minimize the beverages that are hard on skin: caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and of course sodas.
  • Reduce stress. Lack of sleep, over exercising, over working, or constant anger or negativity are some other ways you can speed the aging of your skin. Chronic stress promotes inflammation, imbalances hormones, and accelerates aging, which show on your face.

What is the big deal with GMOs?

what are GMOs

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably been hearing about GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. What is the big deal with GMOs, and can they really be that bad for you if the government allows them in our food supply? Sadly, yes, GMOs really are that bad for you despite being legal in the United States.

A GMO food has had its DNA altered through the insertion of genes from another species of plant, animal, bacteria, or virus.

Examples of genetic modification include splicing fish genes into tomatoes and strawberries, jellyfish genes inserted into corn, or tobacco engineered with lettuce. Some genetic modification is done to create new drugs or industrial products, but in agriculture it is used to increase resistance to herbicides, pests, or bad weather.

Why GMOs are dangerous

Common GMO crops include soy, corn, canola, cottonseed, and sugar beets. Genetic modification creates new proteins the human body has never before encountered. As far as the body is concerned, these new proteins are not food but instead dangerous pathogens to be attacked, destroyed, and removed. This creates inflammation, which if chronic can lead to a long list of health conditions.

For instance, an increase in allergies has been shown in populations after GMO foods are introduced, as well as in farm workers who handle the GMO foods. Animal studies show GMO foods can trigger reactions to a wide range of other foods.

GMOs are legal in the United States because of the dearth of studies on humans. The only research on humans shows that GMOs transfer into the bacteria that reside in the gut, which should be cause enough for concern. This means that long after you have eaten a GMO food its foreign proteins could stay behind in your gut, with unknown outcomes.

For instance, if a food is modified with an antibiotic, it could create an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria in your body. Or a food modified with a toxin designed to kill insects could turn your gut bacteria into a pesticide. These new proteins could also make it into other parts of the body, including potentially a developing fetus.

The studies on animals are alarming enough that most other First World nations require GMO foods to be labeled, or have restricted or outright banned GMOs. The FDA’s own scientists have warned of allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems and urged long-term studies. In animal studies GMOs have been linked to:

  • Infertility, lower birth weight, and high death rate among offspring
  • Immune problems
  • Accelerated aging
  • Faulty insulin regulation
  • Changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system
  • Organ damage
  • Death

It can be difficult to find genuine whole foods these days and more difficult still to comprehend the motivations behind the allowance of GMOs in our food supply. The very real threats of GMOs only give us more reason to avoid processed foods. To be safe, avoid risky ingredients, which include soy, canola, cottonseed, corn and sugar from sugar beets.

For guidance while you shop, download a non-GMO shopping app to your phone.

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How to prevent a stroke

how to prevent stroke

Strokes are scary, seemingly leaping out of nowhere. They are the third leading cause of death in the United States and for those who survive, they are the leading cause of disability in adults. But strokes don’t have to be mysterious. In fact, research shows 90 percent of strokes are caused by dietary and lifestyle factors, which means you can lower your risk with a few changes to how you live.

A stoke occurs when an artery that carries blood to the brain either becomes blocked or ruptures. This starves the brain of blood and oxygen, often causing permanent brain damage. A stroke can leave someone with impaired speech, memory, or movement. How this damage affects the person depends on which parts of the brain were damaged and to what degree.

What causes a stroke

Although strokes are a leading cause of disability in adults, the good news is up to 90 percent of them are preventable. This means simple changes to your diet and lifestyle will protect your brain health well into old age. Research has found the great majority of strokes are caused by the following:

  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure is the strongest link, more than doubling the risk
  • Smoking: Doubles your risk
  • Poor diet: Increases the risk by 30 percent
  • Lack of exercise: Exercise four or more hours a week reduces your risk by 30 percent
  • Drinking too much: Thirty or more drinks a month increases the risk by 50 percent
  • Stress and depression: These raise the risk by more than 30 percent
  • Diabetes
  • Excess abdominal fat
  • Heart disorders

Revamping your diet is key to stroke prevention

The most important thing is to revamp your diet. This means focusing on whole foods, plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and ditching sodas, desserts, sweet coffee drinks, and processed foods. It can be difficult at first but most people begin feeling significantly better right away, which motivates them to stick with better eating habits.

Lower stroke risk by stabilizing blood sugar

A whole foods diet should focus on keeping blood sugar stable. High blood sugar causes inflammation, which damages and thickens arterial walls and promotes the formation of arterial plaques and blood clots. People with Type 2 diabetes, a disease of high blood sugar, are two to four times more likely to have a stroke or heart attack than those without the disease.

Just because something is natural, whole, or organic does not necessarily mean it is good for stabilizing blood sugar levels. Use natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, agave, or honey sparingly, and minimize consumption of starchy foods such as potatoes and grains.

Regular exercise prevents stroke or severity of strokes

When it comes to protecting brain health, exercise is a magic bullet. Regular exercise helps keep blood vessels strong and dilated, improves blood flow to the brain, and helps maintain a healthier metabolism. If one does have a stroke, research shows having exercised regularly significantly lowers the severity of the stroke and offers a better chance for long-term recovery. You do not need to take up bodybuilding or triathlons; simply walking regularly can be very beneficial.

Nutritional compounds to prevent stroke

Although diet and lifestyle strategies are key to stroke prevention, certain nutritional compounds can help support the arteries and healthy blood pressure, oxygenate the brain, stabilize blood sugar, and more. Ask my office how we can help you lower your risk of stroke and support your brain health.