There is no way around it. We love our sugar fix. Americans on average consume 20 tsp of sugar a day. A 12 ounce can of regular soda holds 39 gm of sugar, that’s 10-12 tsp of pure toxins. So do artificial sweeteners offer another healthier option?
Artificial sweeteners are often times called “intense sweeteners” because they are often sweeter than natural sugar.
The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners:
- Acesulfame potassium (Sunett)
- Aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- D-Tagatose (Sugaree)
- Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low)
These chemicals are found not only in carbonated beverages, but also in baked goods, canned products, candy, powdered mixes, sports drinks, jams and jellies.
Another sweetener, stevia, an herbal sweetening ingredient used in food and beverages by South American natives for many centuries and in Japan since the mid-1970s. According to Ray Sahelian, MD, author of The Stevia Cookbook, “There are no indications at this point from any source that stevia has shown toxicity in humans. Although further research is warranted.”
Because stevia is not FDA-approved, it can only be sold as a dietary supplement and not an artificial sweetener.
Although sweeteners have zero calories compared to their counterpart sugar, they are not the easy go to answer for reducing calories.
According to Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity and weight-loss specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital, “non-nutritive sweeteners are far more potent than table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. A miniscule amount produces a sweet taste comparable to that of sugar, without comparable calories. Overstimulation of sugar receptors from frequent use of these hyper-intense sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes.”
A San Antonio Heart Study showed those who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as people who didn’t drink diet soda.
To further that point, animal studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. In studies of rats who were exposed to cocaine, then given a choice between intravenous cocaine or oral saccharine, most chose saccharin.
According to an article from health.harvard.edu, the results from a Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis proved daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
“Sugar-containing foods in their natural form, whole fruit, for example, tend to be highly nutritious—nutrient-dense, high in fiber, and low in glycemic load. On the other hand, refined, concentrated sugar consumed in large amounts rapidly increases blood glucose and insulin levels, increases triglycerides, inflammatory mediators and oxygen radicals, and with them, the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses,” Dr. Ludwig explains.
There doesn’t need to be compelling evidence or research to convince us that by putting unnatural chemicals any good can come of it. With the urge to satisfy our palate, toxins are leeching into the foundation of our ecosystem destroying the very purpose of healthy existence.
Stop the sugar cravings by stopping what is causing them in the first place: sugar and sugar substitutes!
We all know it is coming. We fight it tooth and nail. We don’t give into the relentless annoyance of it. But yet, somehow it always seems to have the upper hand. And by “it”, I mean your metabolism or lack thereof.
How is it that three little numbers makes us lose so much sleep?
Before starting yet another dieting spree, let’s take a step back and understand what metabolism is and how it changes through the aging process. If we don’t understand it, we can’t change it.
Metabolism is a “series of chemical reactions that sustain the living state of organisms and cells.” Metabolism can slow one to two percent each year after the age of 30.
Nutrition is the KEY to metabolism! Carbohydrates, protein, fats, minerals and vitamins comprise the majority of fuel needed to keep metabolism operational.
Let’s take a brief look at how each one plays a role.
- Carbohydrates: This includes starch, sugar and fiber. When eaten in moderation, carbohydrates are broken down to fuel metabolism.
- Protein: Proteins are the main tissue builders in the body. They are part of every cell in the body. Proteins help in cell structure and function. They are also vital in supplying nitrogen for DNA and RNA genetic material and energy production.
- Fats: Fats produce twice as much energy as either carbohydrates or protein. They help form the cellular structure, help absorb fat soluble vitamins and provide a reserve storage for energy.
- Minerals and vitamins: Minerals do not play a direct role in energy needs but play an important role in metabolism. Vitamins are essential compounds that the body doesn’t produce and therefore relies up nutritional intake.
What are some other potential causes of a slowed metabolism?
- Hypothyroidism and other endocrine issues
- Inadequate sleep
- Chronic stress
- Exogenous hormone intake
- Hormonal imbalance (low estrogen and testosterone)
- Medication side effects
- Excess supplement intake
- Excess fat intake
- Calorie deprivation
- Low muscle mass
The good news is that there are ways to naturally increase our metabolism. But first understand something. Chasing after a “goal” weight or “ideal” size is unrealistic and can lead to frustration and disappointment. The scale doesn’t take in to account skeletal density, muscle mass or fat reserves. It only tells you an absolute number, a number which is false and misleading.
Don’t panic yet. We are not doomed forever. Here are some simple ways (many of which we have seen before) to raise your metabolism.
- Assessing the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). The Resting Metabolic Rate test (RMR) determines the amount of calories your body is using at rest. The results of a Resting Metabolic Rate test can tell if you have an increased or decreased metabolism, and if your body primarily uses fats or carbohydrates for energy. This information can be used to determine the amount of calories you need to eat each day to maintain or lose weight. The testing is done by breathing into a mask that measures your Oxygen –Carbon Dioxide exchange.
- Increase muscle mass. Strength training three to four times a week is mandatory when trying to increase metabolism. Developing and maintaining muscle mass allows the RPR to increase. Every pound of muscle uses approximately six calories a day to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only two calories daily.
- Eat. Calorie deprivation causes the body to go into crisis mode. As a preservation mechanism, the body slows down its metabolic response by storing fat and calories. Adding protein to every meal allows a constant release of glucose and maintains insulin regulation.
- Drink up. Dehydration is the killer when it comes to a slow metabolism. Calories need water to process. Even small levels of dehydration can cause a slowing of the RPR. Try for a goal of 90oz/day. If you struggle to get down your daily water quota, consuming fresh fruits that contain natural water is a great alternative.
- Sleep. Think of sleep like pulling into the gas station. We have to bring the car to a complete stop before we can fuel up. Just the same, sleep forces us to stop so that the body may refuel. If we compromise on sleep, we wake up on an empty tank of gas and expected to go the same distance as if the tank was full. Not possible. To sustain life, the body saves energy by decreasing metabolism.
- Question your medications and supplements. Just because it doesn’t say it on the package insert doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Assume everything going into your mouth is the cause until you proven otherwise. See what lifestyle changes you can make that could help you get off of prescription drugs.
- Maintain zero expectations. Our body will never be how it was in our 20’s and 30’s. So how can we expect it to respond in the same manner? Don’t be disappointed because you lost “only three pounds”. Be happy you didn’t gain three pounds. Body fat percentage, changes in clothing fit, how you feel is the REAL goal.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by looking for a solution under every advertisement. In the US, the weight loss market is a billion dollar industry! If these companies claim to have the answer, then how come we are still the most overweight nation? These are empty promises. The diet pills, the latest calorie restricted programs that leave you emaciated and crabby, the guaranteed “to lose 20# in 20 days” nonsense. THEY DON’T WORK. Don’t waste your money. Our parents and grandparents didn’t seem to struggle as we are now. So how come it is the topic of almost every conversation? What was once a simple seamless process of aging has now become a race against who can promise the fastest results.
If we stop for a second and reflect, in every moment of life our bodies are in constant conversation with us. The symptoms we experience are the body’s attempt to get our attention. A slowed metabolism isn’t something to become consumed by. It is an opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle. Rather than trying to “fix” it, listen to what it has to say.
There is no fast way to lose weight. Let me repeat….there is no fast way to lose weight. Dropping weight faster than the body can handle is a sure fire way to crash the metabolism to an all-time low.
Be gentle and patient with yourself. No matter what the scale says, you will always be worth more than those three little numbers.
You know the saying “prevention is better than cure”? Well, in this month’s blog, we will be discussing prevention from a whole new perspective: it’s called healthy zen living. It will take us to a level that is so deep, that healing can only be understood by experiencing the change.
As I took advantage of these beautiful spring days, I planted myself under the majesty of the beautiful “Great Oak”. When I gazed upwards, I noticed the ease with which the branches flowed to protect me against the fury of the sun’s rays. The leaves were so content in their simplicity that they happily danced to the occasional breeze that would sweep in. I wondered just how content and healthy they must be feeling. With a little love, light and hydration, they live a life free from disease and suffering. It was then I began to question, since we are all made up of the same divine cells, shouldn’t we be able to live a healthy disease free life also?
Yes!! While we can’t prevent 100% of ailments, we can do everything in our understanding to TRY and prevent 100% of the diseases that quite possibly could come our way. I took a step back and began to reflect on my own journey. A journey that has taken me from illness to healing. From confusion to clarity. From desperation to resolution. Could I have done something more to prevent my conditions? Should I have given up processed foods sooner? Or lifted heavier weights more often ? Or limited myself to one episode of ‘Friends’ instead of three before bedtime? Or surrendered what I couldn’t control?
The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter. All the choices I have made have taught me more than the decades spent in education. I have come to believe with a 100% certainty that the years I spent worrying about things that ultimately wouldn’t have mattered left the door open for cellular mutations to occur, not realizing my body was going through hormonal disruption, chemical depletion, and ultimate cellular catastrophe. As I was working so hard on following all the nationally accredited health guidelines, little did I know all the sleepless nights I spent worrying about the future were counteracting all the “good” I was doing during the day.
In 2016, I began my journey into the world of energy healing. I devoured books on quantum physics, chakra balance, the healing properties of crystals, nutritional science, reiki practice, vibrational music therapy. The more I read, the more I craved. Now keep in mind, I am a person of science. I needed proof, facts, case studies and data to convince me this stuff could really help in physical healing. Much to my surprise, most all of the books I read were backed by documented research studies, many of which were written by highly acclaimed and respected practicing physicians. With some reservations, I decided to trust the process and begin using these practices in my own healing. A few months after I began, I was humbled to see how much my body began to respond to energy balance. My thyroid stabilized after 16 years. The severity of my food sensitivities decreased after four years. The exhaustion, I attributed to everything and anything, started to lift. I am by no means an expert (but hope to be one day) in this field, but what little I have learned excites me to pay it forward.
Here are a few energy healing tips: (Please consult your physician before trying these)
- Himalayan salt lamp. True Himalayan salt lamps are made from salt harvested from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan. Although there is no conclusive studies on the benefits of the Himalayan salt lamp, it’s suggested that they may produce ions by attracting water particles that evaporate off as a salt solution when heated by the lamp, forming mostly negative ions. These negative ions have been theorized to aide in healing. More research is still needed.
- Reiki. According to Reiki.org: “ Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.”
- Brain tapping. Based on information from tappingsolutionfoundation.org: “The basic technique requires you to focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything that’s bothering you. While maintaining your mental focus on this issue, use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on 9 of the body’s meridian points. Tapping on these meridian points – while concentrating on accepting and resolving the negative emotion – will access your body’s energy, restoring it to a balanced state.” Freedom Techniques (EFT) lowered the major stress hormone cortisol significantly more than other interventions tested. In a randomized controlled trial 83 subjects were randomly assigned to a single hour-long session of EFT, talk therapy, or rest. Their cortisol levels were measured via a saliva test before and after the session. Cortisol was measured because it is known as the “stress hormone” of the body. As stress goes up, cortisol levels go up.
- Meditation. Meditation can be defined as, “a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.” Most think of meditation as sitting in stillness for hours at a time. If you are anything like me, I am unlikely to make it past 3 minutes. Through my healing, I truly learned that meditation is anything that brings you peace of mind, even if that thing is not being in one place. For me, running, dancing and playing instruments is my happy place. You try to get me to sit still, and I can tell you my cortisol will increase ten-fold. What’s your go to meditation practice?
- Nutritional eating. Food is fuel. Food is also earth’s natural medicine. We have talked extensively in previous blogs about the overwhelming contamination of our food source. The manipulation that goes into our crops has made us vulnerable to a weakened immune system. By becoming educated on the origins of our food, we understand how massive of a role nutrition plays in our healing.
- Chakra balance. Without going into too much detail here, chakra balancing is the process of restoring a harmonious flow of energy across the chakra system. The effect of well balanced chakras often translates into a feeling of well-being, relaxation, centeredness, increased vitality and embodiment of oneself. There are many online resources that describe what the chakras are, how they play a role in healing and what you can do to realign yourself.
I realize this article has veered away from the confines of conventional medical healing. But there are many facets of the human body that the eye cannot see. I truly do believe that a blend of eastern and western medicine is a powerful formula to ultimate health.
We must simply trust the process and allow healing to go into the crevices of the unknown. Because it is in this space of uncertainty, completeness lies.
The human body changes over time, both externally and internally. Hormones are one of the body’s great regulators and both men and women experience hormonal fluctuations throughout their lives.
For women, the transition through perimenopause to menopause is a time of major hormonal fluctuation. The phases are often confused with each other, but true menopause is when a woman has not menstruated for a full year. Perimenopause is the phase leading to menopause and lasts an average of four years, although it can range from a few months to 10 years. A woman’s body typically begins to start the perimenopause process at age 35.
Perimenopause usually begins between the age of 35 and 50 when the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen. The imbalance of estrogen and progesterone often results in missed periods as well as side effects like hot flashes (the most common side effect of perimenopause), fatigue or low energy, difficulty sleeping, decreased libido and what some women call “PMS plus” —instances when pre-menstrual side effects worsen.
Like many transitions, perimenopause can be physically and emotionally challenging. There is no quick fix for troublesome side effects but many women find relief in lifestyle changes that improve overall health, including:
- Adding moderate exercise to your daily schedule
- Improving nutrition
- Avoiding smoking and alcohol
- Reducing stress
- Increasing water intake
- Practicing good sleep hygiene
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT) provide side effect relief for some women. These therapies help balance hormone levels that vary throughout perimenopause. However, using hormones to control symptoms are NOT mandatory. The first question to ask is, “how much do my symptoms affect my daily life?” And if the answer is not at all, then no hormones are needed at that time. The fluctuations of the hormones are like the waves of the oceans. Symptoms are variable depending on lifestyle habits, stress during that particular period in your life, weight loss or weight gain, climate and weather changes and Mother Nature.
Even though menopause is the official ending of your menstrual periods, the hormone fluctuations that created side effects during perimenopause are still occurring, meaning that some perimenopause symptoms may remain (or return) and new side effects could appear during menopause.
Once women reach menopause they are at greater risk for developing osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones. The post-menopausal drop in estrogen is directly related to loss of bone mass. Because there are no symptoms of bone loss, it’s often only after a bone-related injury that the presence of osteoporosis is discovered. Bone mineral density tests (BMD) are x-rays that measure bone density. Screening should begin if you have any of the following risk factors or at the cessation of the menstrual cycle. The following puts you at a higher risk of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis:
- Advanced age
- Your race – Caucasians and Asians have a higher prevalence of osteoporosis
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Body frame – people with petite frames can have a higher risk because they often have less bone mass to begin with.
Likewise, your doctor can offer osteoporosis treatment and prevention suggestions which may include:
- Eating foods high in calcium
- Calcium and vitamin D supplements
- Bone density medications
- Estrogen therapy
- Exercise, especially weight bearing exercise
- Medically Supervised Weight Management
- Avoiding smoking and alcohol
Health Care Options for Perimenopause and Menopause
Perhaps one of the most important things to know about perimenopause and menopause is that you aren’t alone. Approximately three million women transition to menopause every year and there are abundant health care options for both phases. Each woman will enter this phase in her life. During these transition years, remember that these symptoms are not forever. Your doctor can help get you through the storm, by teaching you to dance in the rain.
Certainly the scope of this topic is much more in depth and much more individualized than can be covered here. Knowing that the greatest years of your life don’t have to be the darkest days, lends hope for every woman to reclaim her body.
It has been some time since I have talked about Adrenal Fatigue. As with anything in medicine, there is debate as to whether this is a real condition or a made up label for where there is no answer.
Before we can answer that question, it is important to understand the purpose of the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands, also known as suprarenal glands, are small, triangular-shaped glands that rest on top of the kidneys. Their primary role is produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, and regulate an appropriate response to stress.
The specific hormones released by the adrenal glands include:
- Cortisol – Cortisol helps control the body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It suppresses inflammation, regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar and helps control our sleep patterns. Cortisol is released during times of stress to help in the flight or fight mode.
- Aldosterone – Aldosterone regulates blood pressure by directly by affecting the sodium and potassium pump. Aldosterone sends signals to the kidneys that direct sodium into the bloodstream and release potassium out into the urine.
- DHEA and Androgenic Steroids – These are precursor hormones that are converted in the ovaries into female hormones (estrogens) and in the testes into male hormones (androgens).
- Epinephrine (Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline) – These hormones increase the heart rate and force of contractility of the heart muscles. This leads to an increase in blood flow to the muscles and brain. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are often activated in stressful situations when our body needs additional resources and energy to endure ongoing stressors.
So what does all of this mean?
Let’s simplify our understanding. Adrenal glands are needed to live. Period. It is our fuel tank. When we are born, the tank is full. Then, life happens that requires us to tap into those reserves. And when the demands out weigh the supply, a deficit occurs.
As we have understood from above, the hormones released from the adrenal glands are needed for overall survival. What happens when we run on empty? Fatigue sets in. Hormones are in chaos. The entire ecosystem of the human structure and function is in peril.
How do you know if you have this? Well, this is where we need to take a step back and really understand what our body is going through.
With the current lifestyle the world lives, I am sure we all have some degree of adrenal fatigue. Google the symptoms and I am sure most of us check off 90% of the list.
However, the difference between adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s Disease) is that the latter is a TRUE diagnosable medical condition.
Those that suffer from Addison’s disease are unable to produce the hormones in adequate supply to maintain bodily function. The diagnosis is confirmed with laboratory testing. Every symptom must be watched and treated quickly and aggressively. Time is of the essence with Addison’s.
Conversely, adrenal fatigue doesn’t always have abnormal test results. This doesn’t mean that patients don’t have some diminish of hormone production. It just means that it is not as profound as in Addison’s.
I am sure you’re thinking that is great but how do I treat this so I can move on with my life?
When I first started learning and understanding about adrenal fatigue in 2007, I was sure the answer was replenishing with unproven garland of supplements. What I soon discovered was the supplements caused more issues than the fatigue itself. It didn’t make sense to treat one thing only for it to lead into another issue. Over the years, I have continuously asked myself how can we treat something we are not sure is a real entity? Whether the label is real or not, the symptoms are!
Ok. So we know it is real, but now what?
How about looking back through previous years and recognizing the habits that could have led to this?
- How much processed foods did you consume?
- How strict were you about your sleeping habits?
- How active were you, really?
- How much did you handle and resolve stress rather than sweeping them under the rug?
- How many times did you make a choice you knew wasn’t right?
- How many days did you neglect your “me time” thinking it was selfish?
- How many times did you put yourself at the end of the priority list?
There is no judgement here. We have all been there. Hind sight is 20/20. But it is never too late to refuel, replenish and revive!
Try and begin with these five basic steps.
1. Move at least 20 minutes a day.
2. Stop all screens 1 hour before bedtime.
3. Take a 5 second pause before acting on any choices you make.
4. Move yourself up on the priority list.
5. If it isn’t going to matter in one year, let it go.
This will take time. Keep expectations out of the equation. Work for a lifestyle change. Not for an immediate gain. It all starts with simplicity. Simply staying present. Simply starting. Simply observing. Simply being!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines cravings as, “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing.” We know that feeling all too well. Salivating at the commercials that lure us inside those restaurant doors, whiffs of free samples handed by sweet little ladies in the grocery aisle, or my personal favorite – the buy one get one free trick.
It seems whichever direction we turn, we cannot get away from the altered nutrition we call food. No wonder it is so hard to stay healthy. But it doesn’t have to be! Before going head to head with these temptations, it is first important to understand the root causes of cravings, and then we will discuss solutions.
While the reasons are many, here are few explanations that may shed light on the mysteries of our palate and what you can do to help curb those temptations.
- Conditioning: Much like the analogy of Pavlov’s response to a bell, we too have been conditioned to associate certain foods to environmental triggers. How many times have you sat down at home to watch a movie and had a sudden craving for popcorn? How about at the ballgame where you hear the pretzel and hot dog calling your name? Or when the summer carnival days has you longing for the cotton candy and funnel cakes? We, as consumers, absorb the silent suggestions of marketers. We subconsciously create a link between their product and our environmental familiarity.
Solution: When we become aware of our thoughts, we begin to question whether we truly want to indulge or if it is just a Pavlov’s response to a past experience.
- Stress: Under the umbrella of stress includes emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual triggers. Stressors cause a disruption in the adrenal glands which elevates cortisol. Surges of cortisol signal that an attack is occurring on your body. As a defense mechanism, the body searches for sources of fuel that can be broken down easily and quickly. Hence, under stress we crave sugar and salt.
Solution: Get help. Deal with the stress head on. Don’t try to resist and fight the cravings. It is there for a reason. The cravings aren’t the issue. Whatever is causing the stress is the issue. See your doctor, therapist, spiritual confidant or a friend.
- Leaky Gut: It always appears to come back to the gut, doesn’t it? This has been a recurring theme in multiple, if not in all, health conditions. The gut is a source of serotonin production – our feel good hormones. In a weakened GI tract, there is decreased serotonin release leading to an increased cravings for processed foods
Solution: Heal the gut. Begin by going on a 21 day gluten, soy, dairy, grain and sugar elimination. Our taste buds have memory. It takes 21 days to reset the palate. This is not a diet or calorie deprivation technique. This is simply to take out what shouldn’t be there in the first place.
- Leptin resistance: Leptin is a hormone produced in fat cells. Its primary role is to stimulate appetite and signal fullness. An increase in body fat and a diet high in sugar triggers an overflow of leptin release. This causes the brain to feel hungry even when it is not. The continuous cycle of leptin production eventually leads to leptin resistance. It is this resistance and the breakdown of communication within our system that causes insatiable cravings.
Solution: Limit processed foods. Even decreasing by 10% has significant healing on the body.
- Dehydration: Even a 1.5% drop in water can be felt in the body. According to Dr. John Higgins, M.D., Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine University of Texas in Houston and Chief of Cardiology at Lyndon B. Johnson General hospital, “Dehydration can make it difficult for the liver, which uses water, to release glycogen. That can lead to food cravings.” Dehydration also interferes with brain levels of serotonin.
Solution: Divide your weight by 2 and that is the number of ounces of water needed per day.
I am a firm believer that we must enjoy the indulgences life offers, but moderation is key! Containing cravings has less to do with weight and more to do with living. When you heal, you live. When you live, you awaken. And when you awaken, health and happiness is all you will ever know.
Coming off of the holiday sugar rush, this month’s blog couldn’t have come at a better time: 5 ways to prevent pre-diabetes. With discipline, determination and an understanding, pre-diabetes can be controlled effectively with diet and exercise alone.
The Mayo Clinic defines pre-diabetes as, “The blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be type 2 diabetes.”
The A1C test is a blood test that provides information about a person’s average levels of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, over the past 3 months. The A1C test is based on the attachment of glucose to hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.
- An A1C level below 5.7 percent is considered normal
- An A1C level between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes
- An A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests indicates type 2 diabetes
Diet and exercise seems to be the go to answer for almost everything, right? When hitting the gym becomes a bore or tracking calories becomes a chore, it creates a slippery slope of frustration, discouragement and disappointment. How about making this time different by changing the way you look at health beyond the scope of calories in and calories out. Check out my five suggestions on how to prevent pre-diabetes.
- Become active in the community. Whether you join a book club, hiking group, or a cooking class, it doesn’t matter. Studies have shown when we are surrounded by happy people, we become happy. Being engaged in society provides a release of any stress you may be carrying from the burdens of daily life. When stress is controlled, cortisol maintains homeostasis. With normal cortisol levels, insulin regulation and glucose metabolism is optimal.
- Meditate. You don’t have to spend hours a day meditating. Quieting the mind for 5 minutes/day has shown to have dramatic effects on health. According to the July 10, 2017 issue of Time Magazine, “In a new study published in the journal Obesity, researchers from Penn State University randomly assigned 86 overweight or obese women to receive eight weekly sessions of either mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), taught by a professional instructor, or general health education, taught by a registered dietitian. The MBSR group learned how to use mindfulness techniques—like meditation and breath awareness—to respond to stress. The health education group learned about diet, exercise, obesity-related health issues and general stress management. The goal of these sessions was not to help people lose weight, but to reduce stress and stress-related health problems. In that sense, mindfulness worked better. After eight weeks of training and eight more weeks of home practice, perceived stress scores for women in the MBSR group had decreased 3.6 points from the start of the study on a 10-point scale, compared to only 1.3 points for women in the health education group. Both groups experienced improvements in mood, psychological distress, and sleep-related problems. But only the MBSR group saw a decrease in fasting blood sugar levels—both right after training was completed and when the women were retested eight weeks later.”
- Increase water intake. According to an article in The New York Times, being too dry releases a hormone called vasopressin. Vasopressin tells your kidneys to hold onto water and tells the liver to release stored blood sugar. So what is the optimal amount per day? The jury is still out on that. Most health care providers advise looking at the color of the urine. A light yellow urine indicates adequate hydration. Dark concentrated urine implies insufficient water intake. So just keep drinking until you can see through the pee.
- Team up. Partner up with your friends, co-workers, gym buddies and create a challenge for yourselves or join an upcoming race. Being together in a positive environment helps keep us on track. It creates a foundational support and a matrix of resources to keep us accountable. If you ever feel yourself falling off the path, grab your teammate for a hand up. This incredible network ensures a higher success rate and plus, let’s face it, it is fun to do things together. As long as the competition remains healthy and the support unconditional, hormones work together in the same joy as teammates. The result equals a healthy you and happy you.
- Take a road trip. Let me explain. It is fascinating to see how other people in another city, state or country live. When we get caught up in the monotony of routine life, our creative flow halts in front of our faces. We don’t know what to cook. We get bored of the same route to work. We lose the zest for experience. Getting a fresh perspective on new ways of living can stimulate excitement and help pull you out of a rut. Drive along a country road and talk to local farmers. Visit local restaurants and try out new variations to age old dishes. Peek in on ways other communities stay healthy. Link up with different people in various geographical locations via social media. The scope of learning is endless. Seeing the world through another’s eye reminds us that life is good and health is good and together, all will be ok.
I know this list deviates from “conventional medical advice”, but I feel we are bombarded with one study after another and one statistic followed by the next. The problems of our health only seem to be growing deeper. The United States continues to lead the way in obesity. We spend incomprehensible amounts of funding trying to control a disease process that we have created.
Now is our chance! Our chance to take it back to simpler solutions. Putting the simplicity back into a complex life is where healing and prevention will occur. Don’t go looking outside for more research to come your way, more supplements to find their way into your medicine chest, more guaranteed diets that deliver unrealistic results or more promising science to undo what has been done.
Go back to what you already know: that everything you need is already within you.
There comes a point in our lifespan where the hormones biologically begin to slow down production and we begin to consider hormone therapy. When our body senses the slowing of stressors in our crazy lives, it has no need to keep up with the high demands of life. While this is a good thing, the decrease in quantity of the hormones results in a potpourri of symptoms. While more intricate endocrine pathways are being discovered, the global hormonal function remains constant. We feel fantastic when all hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid, adrenals, insulin) are in a synchronized balance.
We all know the body WILL change. We may long to feel like we did in our 20’s. I am here to tell you, we can feel even better. There truly is no great mystery to understanding aging. Mid–life and menopause doesn’t have to be the “dreaded” era. In fact, if approached correctly with love and patience, it can be some of the best times of life.
Another thing to keep in mind is that hormonal changes don’t occur just in women. Men can experience the same degree of symptoms. We’ve all heard and some have experienced these symptoms. The symptoms of hormonal changes are extensive and exhaustive. Most of which we are all well aware.
The only thing that needs to be understood is SYMPTOMS OCCUR BECAUSE OF HORMONAL IMBALANCES. Each hormone plays a role in contributing to various symptoms. So how do you know if hormones are right for you? Before answering, ask yourself, “Are your symptoms debilitating enough that it is affecting quality of life?”
If the answer is yes, then hormones maybe what you need.
Hormone supplements are not a forever thing. You may only need them for a certain duration when life feels off balance. The goal should be to use the lowest dose possible for the shortest time possible. Do not depend on only hormones to help you. Stay committed to healthy nutrition, regular exercise and optimal sleep.
If you do choose to begin hormone therapy, continue to work towards creating a healthy lifestyle so that you may begin the process of weaning off of the hormones as soon as the body is able to hold its own.
What are the pros and cons to beginning Hormone Replacement Therapy?
- Alleviates hot flashes and night sweats
- Helps with vaginal dryness
- Helps maintain or restore bone strength
- Improves sleep
- May aid in weight loss
- Possible cardiovascular benefit but evidence is still unclear
- Possible decrease risk of colon cancer
- Helps in restoration of skin, hair, and nails
- Improves mental clarity and mood
- Small increase risk in breast and uterine cancer
- Increased risk of DVTs
- Slight increase in cardiovascular disease and strokes (The WHI study found a 29 per cent increased risk of coronary heart disease in those taking combined HRT)
- Small increase in gall bladder disease
The decision to start HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) should be well thought out. Having an extensive discussion with your physician can alleviate any anxiety about the uncertainty of hormone therapy. Each case is unique with varying factors. Listening and honoring your body will lead you to the right decision.
Remember, the minute you decide to start HRT, do everything you can to get off of them as quickly as possible. Use hormones as a crutch, not a permanent companion.
These truly can be the best years of your life! Aging is inevitable. Aging gracefully is optional. That is why I never tire of this topic. Embrace this passing cloud of inconvenience because the rainbow is waiting on the other side.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
The liver, also known as the ultimate multitasking organ, is underestimated in its importance and significance. That is why it is it should be a top priority to keep your liver healthy.
The liver, weighing in about 3 pounds, sits on the right side of the abdominal cavity. Situated below the liver sits the gallbladder and portions of the pancreas and intestines.
The liver serves in multiple roles:
- It helps to filter the blood from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body.
- It aids in detoxifying chemicals and metabolizing drugs.
- It helps secrete bile to assist in food breakdown.
- It makes proteins so blood clotting is possible.
- It helps break down damaged blood cells so that the body may remove them.
So what issues can arise if the liver is not operating at optimal standards?
There are many medical conditions associated with the liver, such as hepatitis, alcoholic cirrhosis, gall bladder disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, and hemochromatosis only to name a few.
According to ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, the liver is the primary organ responsible for removing toxins and purifying byproducts so that they may be delivered to the necessary organs in a purified condition.
When the liver is healthy and happy, the body will experience:
- Increased energy levels
- Clearer skin
- Regular menstrual cycle with reduced PMS
- Improved allergy symptoms
- Stronger immunity
- Fewer GI issues
- Improved oral health
- Improved mood and mental clarity
“A healthy liver results in better blood flow upward and outward, throughout our vessels, veins and capillaries, which transport oxygen and nutrients to our cells. The liver also interacts with other organs like the gallbladder, stomach and spleen, since it receives digested particles or toxins and decides what to do with them: circulate them around through the blood or eliminate them before they can cause damage.” Dr. Axe
While the jury is still out on the efficacy of “liver detox”, the American Liver Foundation outlines ways you can keep your liver out of trouble.
- Foods that have been shows to have protective effects include:
- Coffee (in moderation): Increases antioxidant levels while decreasing inflammation
- Tea: Black and green tea have been shown to improve fat and enzyme levels. Avoid green tea extract as it can cause damage to the liver.
- Grapefruit: The two main antioxidants found in grapefruit are naringenin and naringin that reduces inflammation.
- Beetroot juice: Protects the liver from oxidative reactions and increases detoxifying enzymes.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Be cautious with concurrent thyroid conditions. These vegetables have been found to increase detoxifying enzymes.
- Nuts: One six-month observational study in 106 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease found eating nuts was associated with improved levels of liver enzymes.
- Fatty fish. Studies have shown that fish help prevent fat from building up, keep enzyme levels normal, fight inflammation and improve insulin resistance.
- Olive oil. Helps prevent fat accumulation in liver and improved blood flow.
- Limit alcohol.
- Manage medications.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals. Use natural hair and skin products as well as natural household supplies.
- Avoid excess supplements. Iron, Niacin, Vitamin A have been shown to be harmful to the liver in excess doses.
- Avoid a plethora of unnecessary herbal products. A recent study in the journal Hepatology claims that liver injury due to supplements and herbs is on the rise.
- Get the heart rate up and just move.
While discussions of liver health often end up taking a back seat to more exciting health news, it is a vital component to achieving greater balance. So drink your coffee, limit your supplements and get your body moving!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
As we all age, our bones become thinner. This isn’t just a sign of aging, but is a disease known as osteoporosis. Preventing osteoporosis is something you hear about, but did you know there’s another disease similar to osteoporosis that’s just as dangerous called osteopenia?
Very few people understand how widespread osteopenia and osteoporosis are. In the United States, about 8 million women and 2 million men have thin bones, or a condition called osteoporosis, and another 34 million Americans have low bone mass, also known as osteopenia.
Osteopenia is a reduction in bone mass that is lower than a normal bone mass. This is a precursor to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition marked by low bone mass, a thinning of the bone, which can lead to a weakening of the bone architecture and increased susceptibility to fracture – typically of the hip, wrist or spine.
But how do we recognize these diseases? What are their risks? How do we slow down their symptoms? How do we recognize their warning signs? More importantly, how do we treat it?
Smoking impacts a person at risk for developing osteoporosis. Cigarette smoke generates huge amounts of free radicals — molecules that attack and overwhelm the body’s natural defenses. The result is a chain-reaction of damage throughout the body, including cells, organs and hormones involved in keeping bones healthy. Smoking triggers other bone-damaging changes, such as increased levels of the hormone cortisol, which leads to bone breakdown. Because those who smoke have weakened bones, they are likely to experience exercise-related injuries such as fractures, breaks or sprains. Also, a person who smokes is more likely to have a longer recovery period and greater risk of complications following any sustained injuries than someone who doesn’t smoke.
Quit Excessive Alcohol Use
Alcohol interferes most with bone formation by inhibiting adequate calcium absorption. Alcohol interferes with the pancreas and its absorption of calcium and vitamin D. Alcohol also affects the liver thereby inhibiting activation of, vitamin D, Vitamin D is needed to aid in Calcium absorption. As with smoking, excessive alcohol use has a wide range of damaging health effects for any person, but is particularly damaging for persons at risk for osteoporosis. The good news: when someone quits drinking, bones may recover fairly rapidly. Some studies have found that lost bone can be partially restored when alcohol abuse ends.
Improve Diet and Exercise
The importance of exercise in the fight against osteoporosis cannot be underestimated. Changing to a healthier diet can have little effect on bone mass when not combined with regular exercise. Starting the right kind of exercise in combination with other preventive measures like appropriate diet can help build bone mass especially in high risk fracture sites like the wrist, hip and spine.
Increase Calcium Intake
Sufficient amounts of calcium are required for bone strength. The body uses calcium for the heart, blood, muscles and nerves. Without the proper amount of calcium intake, the body will strip calcium from the bones where it is stored, causing the bones to get weaker. It is estimated that 55% of men and 78% of women over age 20 in the U.S. do not get enough calcium in their diet. It is important to note that since the human body cannot produce its own calcium, adequate calcium intake is critical in the battle against osteoporosis. To learn which type and how much is best for you, contact our office to schedule an appointment.
Navigating the aging process does not need to be cumbersome or cause you unnecessary worry. That is why it is best to create a relationship with your doctor where you can be free to ask questions and discuss your concerns openly.
Dr. Raman is focused on holistic care, a pleasant office experience and good health maintenance. Dr.Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each patient’s individual needs with comprehensive, individualized treatment options and health programs. Our office is committed to your health, and helping you find the best solutions for you and your particular needs.