How to become a morning person

how to be morning person

Are you one of those people who wishes the work day started 11 a.m. so you can go to bed late and sleep in? Staying up late keeps you caught up with David Letterman but puts you at odds with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Humans aren’t designed much differently than other animals when it comes to sleeping and waking—our internal clocks are set to the rising and setting of the sun.

This cycle is called the circadian rhythm and it affects more than when we wake up and go to bed. The circadian rhythm plays a role in hormone function, mood, immunity, and brain function. One way scientists have learned about the importance of the circadian rhythm is by studying the health of night shift workers, who have a higher risk of health disorders because of their disordered circadian rhythm.

Studies show early risers tend to be slimmer, happier, and healthier. Research also shows they earn better grades in college, are more organized and proactive in life, more physically active, and they enjoy deeper sleep. Early risers also report enjoying the time in the morning to exercise, meditate, or work uninterrupted.

Taking care of your circadian rhythm also promotes better brain health. The area of the brain that governs circadian rhythm—the hippocampus—also governs our short-term memory. The hippocampus is the first area of the brain to degenerate in dementia. In fact, sleep disorders are being recognized as an early sign of dementia in seniors.

How to become an early riser

Deciding to become an early bird when you’re used to being a night owl can be tough at first, especially since genetics play a role. But here are some tips from the research that can help you reset your body’s clock.

  • Go camping for a week. Recent research has shown that sleeping outdoors for a week without the use of electric lights (camp fire only) put every study participant on a sleep schedule in synch with the sun’s, regardless of whether they were a night person or a morning person. Also, all electronic devices were banned for the week.
     
  • Exercise discipline. Many people stay up late to watch their favorite TV shows or surf the web. Record TV shows, rearrange your schedule, reward yourself for compliance, or do whatever else it takes to get yourself to bed earlier. You also need to get up at the same time every morning, including weekends. Otherwise you throw off your rhythm.
     
  • Expose yourself to sunlight first thing and during the day. The body takes its cues from nature, so exposing yourself to sunlight can help reset your clock. Get out in the sunlight first thing in the morning for at least 20 minutes and then on your breaks during the day. You can also use a full spectrum light box to simulate morning sun.
     
  • Minimize exposure to light after dusk. To contrast with daytime sun, you need to mimic the outdoor world by minimizing your exposure to light in the evening. Ideally this would include avoiding your computer, tablets, smart phones, and television, all of which emit sleep-sabotaging blue light. A more flexible option is to wear special glasses that block blue lights, use light bulbs that do not have blue lights, and install a F.lux  program on your computer that adapts the color of your screen to the time of the day so it is pinker in the evening.
     
  • Exercise intensely first thing in the morning. In his book Why Isn’t My Brain Working? Datis Kharrazian explains how exercising at your maximum heart rate for even just a few minutes can help you re-establish your rhythms so you’re more alert in the morning. You can do this through jumping jacks, sprinting, push ups, jump squats, or other activities that get you out of breath. You need to do this within a half hour of waking. You can do your regular workout later in the day—exercise is another way to establish a healthy rhythm.

These are just a few ways you can help nudge yourself to waking up and going to bed earlier. For advice on nutritional support to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, contact my office.

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Resources for the autoimmune leaky gut diet

317 leaky gut resources

The leaky gut diet, also known as the autoimmune diet or anti-inflammatory diet, changes lives. Removing inflammatory foods allows an inflamed and damaged gut to repair, which in turn allows damage in the body and brain to recover and repair. However, despite the phenomenal success rate of the leaky gut diet, it can look very daunting, if not impossible, to the beginner.

In a nutshell, the leaky gut or autoimmune diet is free of grains, dairy, eggs, all sweeteners, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), and processed foods. What’s left is a diet that focuses on plenty of vegetables, cultured vegetables, such as sauerkraut, and healthy meats and fats. You should eat regularly enough to avoid drops in blood sugar and drink plenty of filtered or spring water.

Because the diet is rather stringent, grabbing a quick meal while you’re out or conjuring a meal from an empty fridge is tricky. The most important strategy for success on the leaky gut diet is planning and preparation. You have to be one step ahead of yourself when it comes to future meals. Also, as the diet can be so new to people, simply knowing what to eat is a brain tease in itself.

Following are some resources to help you embark with confidence on the leaky gut diet.

Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook

The author created this book as a result of her own journey on the autoimmune diet and the significant recovery it brought her. Seeing a need for support with menu planning and recipes, she created the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook.

Allergy-free Menu Planners

This is another support service in the way of planning and recipes. The Allergy-free Menu Planner sends you monthly menu plans that include shopping lists and menus for every night of the week.

Celiac.com

If you’re new to eating gluten-free, the lists of legal and illegal foods can be confusing. Gluten is lurking in many seemingly innocuous foods, such as condiments, sauces, and even airline peanuts. Celiac.com is a site that details what is and isn’t safe on a gluten-free diet and provides information on gluten-free sources.

Cultures for Health

Consuming cultured foods and drinks is an essential part of the leaky gut diet to help restore a healthy balance of gut flora. To the newcomer, fermenting, culturing, and kefiring can seem foreign and even risky. Cultures for Health provides plenty of easy how-to articles and videos, as well as starter cultures. You also may be able to find starter cultures locally through food co-ops or on Craigslist.org. Pickl-It supplies airtight culturing containers for a genuine ferment that is low in histamines, compounds that can trigger inflammation.

Grass-fed meats

The ideal types of meat on the leaky gut diet are pastured meats raised on small farms. The animals are raised ethically and on diets nature intended, and are free from hormones, antibiotics, and GMO feeds. Because grass-fed meats have become so popular, you may be able to find them on small farms in your area or at health food stores. US Wellness Meats is an online source that can ship a wide variety of frozen pastured meats to your home.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a staple on the leaky gut diet, taking the place of butter for many cooking needs (unless you are sensitive, which some people are). Thankfully coconut oil is becoming more commonplace on the shelves of health food stores and even Costco. Tropical Traditions was one of the first to offer coconut oil for sale online and continues to offer premium oils.

These are just a few resources to get you started. For more advice on the leaky gut diet and nutritional compounds to facilitate your wellness journey, contact my office.

Can your brain breathe? How to oxygenate your brain

316 vascular dementia

Even though you can breathe normally your brain may not be getting enough oxygen. Lack of oxygen in the brain is not something the average person can recognize. However it can cause poor brain function and increase the risk of vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s. The brain can be hungry for oxygen years or decades before dementia sets in. Risk factors include high or low blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, smoking, alcoholism, and high cholesterol.

By learning to recognize symptoms you can take action to increase oxygenation of your brain, improve brain function, and reduce your risk of vascular dementia.

How to tell whether your brain can breathe

The brain contains one of the body’s most dense networks of blood vessels, which carry oxygen. It is very susceptible to any hindrances in blood flow. When the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain is hindered, brain cells die and the brain degenerates.

Many conditions can affect blood flow to the brain, things not normally associated with brain function. They include:

  • Smoking
  • Chronic inflammation (such as chronic pain, an autoimmune disease, or other inflammatory disorder)
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • High blood sugar (insulin resistance)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Chronic stress
  • Aging

Symptoms that may alert you to poor flow of blood and oxygen to the brain include cold hands and feet, becoming easily fatigued, brain fog, erectile dysfunction, and chronic toenail and fingernail fungus.

How to help your brain breathe better

Two of the most effective ways to oxygenate the brain are to lower inflammation and stabilize blood sugar. An anti-inflammatory diet is designed to lower overall inflammation in the body, which can boost blood flow to the brain. Be sure to eat a hearty breakfast with protein, eat regularly enough to avoid blood sugar lows (but avoid overeating), and avoid foods that spike your blood sugar, such as sweets or refined carbohydrates. Just focusing on an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet can go a long way to improving blood flow to the brain.

Certain herbs improve oxygenation to the brain. They include Ginkgo biloba, vinpocetine, and Butcher’s broom.

How to exercise to improve blood flow to the brain

Exercise is a great way to improve overall blood flow. High-intensity interval training in particular dilates blood vessels, lowers inflammation, and improves blood flow to the brain. This involves reaching your maximum heart rate with just a short but vigorous burst of exercise, resting, and repeating. It’s important, however, to work within your ability and avoid overtraining or you’ll negate the benefits. Even just a few minutes of high-intensity exercise can improve blood flow in the brain.

Improving blood flow to the brain may also include managing hypothyroidism, anemia, or other conditions. The book Why Isn’t My Brain Working? by Datis Kharrazian covers the topic of brain oxygenation. Ask my office for advice on improving brain health.

Quick and easy tip to avoid sitting disease

315 avoid sitting disease

Even if you exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, researchers are increasingly finding just the act of sitting for long hours—something many of us are forced to do for work—still predisposes you to many modern ailments. However, new findings show you don’t have to give up your desk job to stay healthy as long as you set an alarm that frequently reminds you to stand up.

Long days of sitting are linked with increased risk of heart disease, excess belly fat, chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, and diabetes. The metabolic changes predisposing us to these conditions happen quickly, within 24 hours.

Fortunately for the desk jockeys, former NASA researcher Joan Vernikos, who studied the negative effects of sitting and how to counteract them, presents evidence for a sitting antidote in her book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. Vernikos’ research found you can counteract the negative effects of sitting by standing up. A lot.

Best results are achieved by simply standing up every 20 minutes. It’s best to set an online alarm so you don’t forget because stretching out your intervals to even every 35 minutes provides only a fraction of the benefit. What is even more interesting is that standing every 20 minutes is more effective than going for a daily walk in terms of ameliorating the effects of long hours in the chair (although daily walks are extremely beneficial for a host of other reasons.)

Why standing up frequently helps combat sitting disease

The key to standing up frequently is that it forces your body to interact with gravity. One thing the space program has learned is the body and brain require gravity in order to function. Vernikos saw the lack of gravitational forces that sickened and prematurely aged astronauts had the same effect on bedridden people. NASA researchers learned a gravity-free environment accelerates the aging process by 10 times. The same mechanisms that cause one to age quickly in space lie behind the increased risk of disease from sitting long hours.

Although regular strength training workouts, high-intensity interval sessions, and even daily walks have been associated with dramatically lower risks of disease and dementia, the key to combating sitting’s detrimental effects is constant activity throughout each day that forces your body to work against gravity. Vernikos’ findings show gravity plays a role in health and aging, so use it to your advantage as frequently as possible.

This is good news for people who are not willing or able to stand all day at a standing desk (Vernikos says standing all day is also not healthy; we are meant to move through a variety of positions throughout the day). Nor do you necessarily have to build or invest in a treadmill desk. According to Vernikos, humans are meant to squat, kneel, and move consistently throughout the day.

The sitting disease antidote protocol

To combat the negative health effects of sitting disease, do the following:

  • Find an online alarm or alarm app that goes off every 20 minutes, reminding you to stand. Sitting and standing 35 times in a row does not deliver the same effect as spreading it out in regular intervals.
     
  • If possible, work against gravity more vigorously at your 20 minute intervals by squatting or doing squat jumps.
     
  • Move in your chair and maintain good posture with shoulders back as much as possible.
     
  • Incorporate “non-exercise” activity throughout the day, such as reaching for things, bending, kneeling, walking, lifting, and so on. Basically, avoid what is convenient for what is more active.
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Are you in chronic pain? Go to the root cause

314 address chronic pain

Chronic pain can drain you of energy, joy, and hope and make everyday activities seem like insurmountable obstacles. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, prescription pain meds, and steroids may bring temporary relief, but they come with complications and do not address the underlying causes of chronic pain. For more genuine and permanent relief, it’s important to address what is causing the pain to be chronic.

Is inflammation causing your chronic pain?

One of the most common causes of chronic pain is inflammation. Inflammation is the result of an immune response to remove harmful compounds, including damaged cells. It is necessary for healing and protecting the body, however runaway inflammation keeps the immune system on red alert and can cause chronic pain anywhere (or everywhere) in the body. One of the most important things to address if you suffer from chronic pain is inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory diet for pain

Following an anti-inflammatory diet is foundational to dampening inflammation. Many everyday foods are actually very inflammatory and people can experience considerable relief by removing these foods from their diet. For instance, two of the most common pro-inflammatory foods are gluten and dairy, something most people eat at almost every meal. Many people have found considerable pain relief simply by eliminating these foods from their diet. You can find out which foods are inflammatory for you through a food sensitivity panel or simply by following the anti-inflammatory diet for about a month and then reintroducing foods one at a time every 72 hours and monitoring for reactions.

Some people find a group of vegetables called “nightshades” cause pain and inflammation in their joints. Nightshades include eggplant, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, and hot pepper products (cayenne, Tabasco, etc.). Simply removing nightshades from the diet has brought relief from joint pain for many.

However, don’t ditch vegetables completely. Ample vegetable consumption, including veggies that are cultured, is a key component to a pain-busting diet.

Ditch the sugar to tame chronic pain

In conjunction with removing anti-inflammatory foods, it’s also important the diet work to stabilize blood sugar. Blood sugar that is too low, too high, or that swings between the two will contribute to inflammation. One of the best ways to stabilize blood sugar is to ditch the sugar and refined carbohydrates. Not only does the sweet stuff destabilize blood sugar, it also directly causes inflammation. Eliminating or minimizing sweets is vital to taming chronic pain.

Unwinding vicious cycles of pain

The problem with chronic pain is it can create vicious cycles both in the immune system and in the brain that perpetuate pain. In other words, the pain itself stimulates the body to create more pain. Fortunately, certain nutritional compounds have been shown to help unwind these vicious cycles. They include therapeutic doses of emulsified and highly absorbable vitamin D3, omega 3 fatty acids, turmeric, and resveratrol. Other natural compounds and therapies can also help with pain relief while you work on bringing down inflammation naturally.

Ask my office for more information on alleviating your chronic pain by addressing the underlying cause.

Manage childhood obesity without dieting

313 childhood obesity

Although no one allows their child to become overweight or obese on purpose, being heavy is hard on children. It saps self-esteem, makes physical activity harder, and predisposes children to adult diseases earlier in life. Obesity doesn’t have to be a prison sentence for children—using newer understandings of obesity parents can help guide their children to a healthier weight. We know now it’s more than just calories in versus calories out. Food choices, inflammation, gut bacteria, and sleep are factors that influence obesity.

Balance blood sugar to manage childhood obesity

Low-fat diets have long been heralded as the antidote to excess body fat, but research increasingly shows it is excess sugars and refined carbohydrates that promote obesity. These foods negatively impact blood sugar handling and promote insulin resistance, a condition that often leads to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Many find the key to losing unwanted weight is to ditch the sodas, shakes, and fruit juices, substitute fruit for desserts, eat a protein-rich breakfast, and to eat a diet that includes vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. Also, avoid meals that are heavy on high-glycemic foods, such as potatoes or rice.

Ditch junk foods to combat obesity in children

Food that is packaged, processed, or from fast food restaurants often contains hydrogenated oils, chemical additives, excess sugars and refined carbohydrates, and insufficient fiber. Hydrogenated oils skew cellular function and promote blood sugar imbalances and obesity. These foods are also designed to be addictive and promote overeating. It is best to limit these foods to special occasions, if at all.

Ferret out food intolerances to reduce obesity-promoting inflammation

Chronic inflammation has been associated with obesity. One of the most common causes of chronic inflammation is a sensitivity or intolerance to a food. Many people have food sensitivities and don’t realize it. The most common sensitivity is to gluten, the protein found in wheat, spelt, rye, barley, and oats (unless they’re gluten-free oats). A food sensitivity panel or elimination diet can tell you which foods are causing inflammation and possibly promoting childhood obesity. Many people lose weight simply by removing the offending food, gluten and dairy in particular.

Balance gut bacteria to manage childhood obesity

Researchers increasingly are finding imbalances in our gut bacteria are linked to many disorders, including obesity. These imbalances can have their roots in C-section deliveries, bottle feeding, and antibiotic use in childhood. Consuming cultured foods, such as brined pickles and water kefir, taking probiotics, and eating ample vegetables (the insoluble fiber promotes colonization of healthy bacteria) are ways to help balance gut flora.

Make sure your child sleeps enough to prevent obesity

Sleep deprivation has been solidly linked with weight gain. Chronic lack of sleep promotes fat storage, prevents fat burning, increases hunger and cravings for sweets, and lowers metabolism. Children should be getting plenty of sleep regardless—more than adults—to facilitate proper growth and development. But sufficient sleep is also critical to combating childhood obesity.

These are just a few strategies that incorporate new findings in childhood obesity and do not require your child to starve to lose weight. Of course, healthy portions and plenty of physical activity are still important, but by simply tweaking what’s on the menu you can help your child enjoy an active childhood in a slimmer body and reduce his or her risk of obesity-related diseases too early in life.

For more advice or support in managing your child’s obesity, contact my office.

Include cultured veggies on a leaky gut diet

cultured veggies for leaky gut

Embarking on a diet to repair leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, can be a daunting task. But with cultured vegetables on the gut-healing menu, the diet can also be fun and inventive. Culturing, or fermenting, is an ancient art of preserving various vegetables that not only imparts a zesty flavor but also creates beneficial enzymes, probiotics, and B vitamins, all of which enhance digestive health. Also, for such a restricted diet, fermented veggies add variety and convenience while capitalizing on in-season produce.

Why fermented vegetables on the leaky gut diet?

The intestines, considered the seat of the immune system, house trillions of bacteria that play a vital role in the health of the entire body and even the brain. Inflammation from bad diets, chronic stress, food intolerances, and other issues damage the lining of the intestine, causing it to become overly porous. This allows undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the sterile environment of the bloodstream. This is called leaky gut, or intestinal permeability. These pathogens trigger chronic inflammation, autoimmune disease, depression, anxiety, skin conditions, obesity, and other chronic disorders.

leaky gut diet allows the gut to repair and regenerate by removing common inflammatory foods and focusing on nutrients and foods that help repair the intestinal lining. Cultured vegetables are an important component of a leaky gut diet because they act as powerful probiotics, helping to restore a healthy balance of bacteria, or flora, in your gut.

Our gut flora play very important roles in health, immunity, and even brain function. Beneficial gut bacteria help us absorb minerals and produce B vitamins and vitamin K2, which is necessary for optimal usage of vitamin D. They play a role in burning and storing fat and whether a person is prone to obesity. In recent years researchers have found gut bacteria play a significant role in mood and mental health.

How to make our own cultured vegetables

Health food stores carry one or more brands of genuinely fermented vegetables—they are cultured in a saltwater brine and do not contain vinegar, preservatives, or artificial colors. The most popular is Bubbies, which carries cultured cucumbers, cabbage (sauerkraut), and tomatoes. As awareness and popularity of cultured vegetables grows, new brands are popping up in the refrigerated section. You may find some made locally in your area.

However, it is easy and fun to make your own. You can find many recipes online, including at Cultures for Health, an online source for starters for many different types of cultured foods. You can culture almost any vegetable, and the process basically entails washing and chopping your vegetables, mixing with sea salt, covering in a saltwater brine, or mixing with a starter culture, placing in a large jar or fermenting crock, and letting time and natural bacteria do their magic during the next two days to three weeks, depending on the vegetable (the warmer the environment the quicker the process).

The result is a tart, tangy superfood for the gut. The finished product is ready to eat right out of the jar and can be stored for many months in a root cellar or refrigerator. Many people like to make large batches for grab-on-the-go veggies or as a condiment to their main dish.

For more information on how to make your own cultured vegetables, visit Cultures for Health, read Wild Fermentation, or simply Google for recipes and how-to videos.