Are you struggling to “bounce back” after the holidays? It could be stress, it could be burning the candle at both ends, or it could be the over-indulging that so many of us enjoy in December and pay for in the new year. How can you help your body get back to better health? One way is to support your liver with the herb milk thistle. On any given day, the liver is involved in digestion, metabolism, detoxification, storage, production, and immunity.1 It’s a very important organ! When the liver isn’t working to the best of its ability, you might experience symptoms like bloating or abdominal pain, nutrient deficiencies, issues with cholesterol or blood sugar, aggravations of PMS and menopause symptoms, skin rashes, or fatigue.2 Because the liver’s functions are so broad, the side effects of dysfunction are as well. The best way to tell if the symptoms you’re experiencing are due to your liver is through blood work. If you haven’t had blood testing done recently, ask your doctor if they can help you investigate the health of this organ. Checking Liver Function If your blood testing results indicate that your liver isn’t performing as well as it should, some of the most important (and basic) things to consider changing are nutrition, movement, and alcohol intake. Milk thistle is a liver-loving herb in many naturopathic doctors’ toolkits. If you’re looking for gentle liver support, it might be the right fit for you. Milk thistle has been used for cancer care, hepatitis, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It’s often considered for women’s general health and wellness too, as milk thistle supports liver function, blood sugar management, and lower cholesterol levels. Fatty Liver and Hepatitis Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition that affects about 20 percent of Canadians.5 While it’s generally benign, over time and unaddressed, this can progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In addition to excess fat in the liver, NASH presents with inflammation and scarring of the liver that can progress to cirrhosis.6 While experimental studies have shown milk thistle to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antifibrotic benefits, it has yet to be demonstrated consistently in clinical trials.7 More research is required to help determine milk thistle’s appropriate dosage in people managing fatty liver and hepatitis, but this treatment has generally been shown to be highly tolerated and safe. Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Blood sugar and cholesterol management are very common concerns. People are often looking for alternatives to get things under control so they might avoid prescription medications. In a 2018 clinical trial, participants with type 2 diabetes who received 140 mg of silymarin (from milk thistle) three times a day, demonstrated significant decreases in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). This group also showed improvements in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and insulin sensitivity. Hormones Milk thistle has been researched for its estrogenic (promoting estrogen production and activity in the body) effects on women’s health. In one clinical trial, menopausal women treated with this herb reported a decrease in the frequency and severity of hot flashes they had been suffering with. Another Interesting Application A 2021 clinical trial found that a milk thistle ointment applied to the perineum after episiotomy (a procedure sometimes required during labor and delivery) improved healing time and decreased the severity of pain experienced by women.11 Given the research available today, milk thistle has its great- est influence on patients with cholesterol and blood sugar management issues, while showing some interesting potential for women’s health and cancer care. How beneficial it is for those struggling with fatty liver remains to be seen; but given its safety profile, it may still be a good consideration for general liver health. An important point to clarify is that although supplements can help with detoxification, it’s your liver that is always doing that job—supplements or not. Your liver is always working.12 How efficiently it’s working depends on a combination of genetics, age, and overall health. The first step is to see your healthcare provider check on how your liver is working, which will require blood testing and possibly an abdominal ultrasound. It can then be decided whether milk thistle is the right fit for you and your health goals.
Inositol is essentially a form of ‘sugar’ that can influence the way the body processes insulin. It is often referred to, incorrectly, as “Vitamin B8.” Inositol is not a B-Vitamin, nor is it a vitamin of any kind. Inositol is a compound that is naturally found in fruits and plant-based foods (beans, grains, nuts, and seeds) and is also sold as a supplement. It is also naturally produced by the body from the foods you eat. In supplement form, the term ‘inositol’ is actually a broad signifier. Usually, most supplements will be in the form of “myo-inositol” “IP6 – inositol hexaphosphate” and “D-chiro-inositol.” Inside your body, inositol plays several important roles related to the action of insulin and impacts serotonin and dopamine. Structurally, inositol is most similar to the sugar ‘glucose,’ and is involved in signaling between cells. While the benefits of inositol have been reported in doses of over 10 grams a day, the standard amount consumed through dietary means is a dramatically lower 1 gram. With higher doses, inositol is used to typically address concerns such as insulin resistance, PCOS, depression, anxiety, and PMS. How Inositol Works – and What It Can Be Used For So, how does inositol (or Myo-inositol) work, and does which form of inositol you choose to matter? Ultimately, which form of commercial inositol as a supplement you purchase does not matter – they will generally be in two forms and both have been studied for their protective benefits. As inositol(s) help the transduction of hormones and neurotransmitters, any sort of reduction in the amount of inositol or defective metabolism of inositol can help implicated in things like PCOS, anxiety, depression, and insulin resistance. In studies where women with PCOS were given either myo-inositol or D-chiro-inositol – markers of abnormalities and reproductive symptoms were improved. PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) can cause hormonal imbalances in women from the ovaries producing too many androgens – male sex hormones that women also have, but in much smaller amounts. Small cysts form in the ovaries. PCOS can lead to irregular or painful periods, infertility, and high blood sugar/cholesterol markers. In those with mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, inositol may help with the balance of certain chemical signals and hormone production – including serotonin and dopamine. Additionally, inositol was found to be helpful for metabolic disorders. These markers include things like higher blood pressure, higher blood sugar, and high “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL). In a study involving taking 4 grams of inositol for over a year, women with metabolic disorders saw an improvement in reduced cholesterol and triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar. This was without changing any other sort of behavior or dietary habits. Inositol is linked closely to the function of insulin in the body, and as such, appears to be highly beneficial for addressing type 2 diabetes. Is Inositol Safe? Generally, inositol is extremely well-tolerated. It is a supplement that has been used at a fairly high dose for prolonged periods of time (years) without any reported side effects or adverse effects in multiple studies. It is also naturally obtained from food and produced by the body – just in smaller amounts. At dramatic doses of 10 grams or greater a day, some people do report nausea, gas, or upset stomach. As with any sort of health supplement, always do your independent research prior, and ensure you consult with a health care practitioner or naturopath prior to use. Generally, the dosage will depend on what symptoms you are trying to directly address. For PCOS, a dose of 2 grams twice daily for 6 months or greater is recommended, while for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, 2 grams twice daily for up to a year is recommended. In those with mental health conditions, up to 10 grams once daily (as tolerated) is recommended for a shorter duration of time while self-monitoring.
Over the past several months most of us have experienced a “Home Life” comparable to Groundhog Day. In the beginning of CoVID, you may have felt the desire to kick-start a new healthy eating plan, or tackle those in home workouts with a vengeance. However, as time has waged on, the motivation may have started to dissipate and your daily exercise consists of a multitude of trips to the fridge to check if the light is still working (FYI: It is.) Then throw in fashion consisting of daytime and nighttime stretchy pants with no buttons or zippers, and it is safe to say most of us are experiencing a CoVID 15lb weight gain. But it’s not all our fault. When we are faced with a stressful situation our bodies release the hormone called cortisol. This reaction causes our blood sugar levels to rise resulting in a craving for foods high in fat, sugar and salt in order to replenish the glucose. Yet now as we prepare to go back out into our “New Normal” we are finding our skinny jeans are not so skinny anymore; our shorts from last year must have shrunk and with little chance of a new wardrobe on the horizon, weight loss is something we may need to seriously consider for our healthiest selves. However, we know diets do not work, restriction leads to binging, and truthfully finding balance in an unbalanced world seems impossible. So what can we do right now that will get those buttons done up and bring some consistency back into our days? Here are 6 Weight Loss Tips you can start implementing today to deal with the COVID 15lbs. Tip #1: Make a Plan:We technically all know what we should be doing, drinking those 8-10 glasses of water a day, choosing lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats, high fibre, and nutrient dense foods. Start reading the ingredient profiles of the foods you buy, aim for food lower in sugar and refined carbs. Making choices that support your goals is essential. However, when faced with the plethora of tasty treats, we can often forget our commitment to removing the new curves we have adopted. So the next time you make a trip to the grocery store, be prepared and take a list. On that list write your health and wellness goals on the top and plan out your meals for the next couple days. Then if you hear the box of cookies calling your name you can remember your “Why.” And maybe instead of buying a box of 24 deluxe chocolate chip cookies, head to the bakery section and settle on one or two. Even better, pick yourself up an antioxidant rich, dark chocolate bar. As you cruise the store stay on the perimeter and avoid the inner aisle that mostly consists of packaged, processed foods. Remember, a healthy immune system relies on both the Macro (protein, fats and carbs) and Micro (vitamins and minerals) but we must make sure we choose the right kinds. Tip #2: Am I Really Hungry?How many times have you caught yourself elbow deep in a bag of chips or pint of ice cream only to realize that you can’t remember when you started. Often when we find ourselves mindlessly eating it is important to stop and ask “Am I REALLY hungry? Or am I bored, lonely, upset?” Finding comfort in food is common and refereed to as emotional eating. Given the current state of the unknown, food can easily become our comfort and friend. The best way to start connecting to your hunger cues is to start being mindful of when you are eating, why you are eating, and how your food tastes. Take the time to savour your food and enjoy each bite. There is no prize for she/he who finishes first. Another way to bring mindfulness to your hunger cues is first thing in the morning. If your morning schedule is to eat first thing, hold back a bit and wait until you feel a little hungry. Then enjoy your first meal. The purpose behind this is to set the tone of the day by honouring what you need. Start the day by tuning in to what your body needs and then responding to it. As the day progresses continue to pay attention if you are hungry or looking for comfort. This is not about restriction but about connecting. Tip #3: Use Your Hands:Now, we all know our parents have told us to use our utensils when we eat so this concept may throw you off but one issue I have seen time and time again is portion control. And with serving sizes becoming increasingly larger it is no wonder our waistbands are following. Make a point of serving your food on plates and dishes; stop snackin ...
Almond Hemp Energy Balls? Yes please! On the go treat that will energize you all day? We got it. Packed with superfoods and high in protein, these Energy Balls will keep you energized and on the move all day feeling healthy and complete. Healthy Planet Ambassador marissaliana shared with us one of her favourite Fitness snack recipes, AMAZING Almond Hemp Energy Balls. Super fast and easy to prepare, this is the energy ball you will be craving pre and post workout. Combine hemp seeds, chia seeds, almond butter and protein powder together for what will quickly become your new favorite post workout snack. Find what drives you and fuel it with a heart healthy and nutritious treat made with love. #lifelivehealthy Almond Hemp Energy Balls Ingredients: 1/2 cup Organic Traditions Raw Almond Butter 1/2 cup Manitoba Harvest Hemp Seeds 4 tbsp Prana Chia Seeds 1 overly ripe banana 2 scoops Vega Vegan Vanilla Protein Powder (70g) 2 tbsp Shady Maple Farms MapleS 6 tbsp Giddy YoYo Dark Chocolate Chips How to prepare Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined. Roll into golf ball sized balls and store in freezer for best texture. Let thaw for 5 minutes before eating and enjoy! Put together your favourite Energy Ball recipe, tag @healthyplanet on Instagram and show us what keeps you going! Use the Healthy Planet hashtag #livelifehealthy and we will share your recipe with our followers! Keep spreading the love!
Summer is the perfect time to give your diet a reboot and start thinking about the kinds of fresh foods and meats that our forefathers from wayyyyyy back ate, which is more of a Paleo Diet, which is becoming quite popular again, for obvious reasons. There’s lots of evidence to suggest that a back-to-basics approach to diet is the way to go for each and every system in our bodies. Today’s diet has too much sugar and it’s making us store our fat. It’s time to reclaim it. Use summer as the stepstone toward better health, with expert Brad King’s advice! Insulin has an especially dramatic influence on enzymes called lipases. Lipases are like little Pac Men who run around your body, releasing body fat from its cushy containers so it can be shuttled into muscle cells to get burned off (yeah!). When insulin levels are high, it hits the “off” switch on lipases, putting them into a holding pattern until further notice. In fact, the most prominent lipase involved in fat burning is called Hormone Sensitive Lipase, or HSL for short. HSL is the premiere key holder that unlocks those fat storage containers which make you leaner. Unfortunately, the more insulin that’s present, the less HSL is available to release fat for energy and the end result is you become fatter (not so yeah!). As insulin is blocking fat burning it’s also creating an internal environment that is ripe for fat storage. It accomplishes this act through the aid of another lipase enzyme—this one’s called Lipoprotein lipase, or LPL for short, and it is so effective at bloating fat cells that some obesity researchers even call it ‘the Gatekeeper of Fat Storage’. It’s next to impossible for the body to store fat without a certain amount of insulin floating around. As you can see, insulin is something we need, but we don’t want too much of it. Otherwise, we end up with a body that acts as a 24/7 fat-storing factory (as too many people already experience)! Controlling Insulin Almost any food—including the mere thought of food—can cause insulin release, but carbohydrates are the primary driver to a flood of insulin. High-carb foods—especially the highly processed and refined variety—cause glucose levels in your blood to shoot way up. However, the body doesn’t work very well when glucose gets too high, so it sends out a stream of insulin to control the rising tide of glucose. Gobs of insulin will definitely drive glucose down, but it will also turn the vast majority of that glucose into newly formed fat. On the other hand, when insulin levels are under control, the body swiftly transitions into fat burning mode. Normal insulin levels cause lipases to spring into action. Also, a hormone often viewed as insulin’s opposite, glucagon, starts to rise. Glucagon travels around the body, ordering fat cells to relax and let go of the fat they’re clinging to. It’s accurate to view eating and lifestyle as a hormonal event. In a primitive dietary world made up of fresh—and local—produce (including roots, shoots, seeds and nuts) and wild game meat, our hormones were never a problem – in other words there weren’t many, if any, obese cavemen or ladies . If a caveman was lucky enough to stumble upon a beehive filled with honey or a bush sprouting plump berries, insulin was there to process the carbohydrates properly. But for the most part, the diet that our pancreas was designed for, only called insulin into action on a part-time basis. Our modern-day fast food/processed/high glycemic diets forces our pancreas to work double or triple shifts! Our body was simply not designed to metabolize all these carbs. The real kicker is that, because of our ravenous appetite for insulin-stimulating processed foods, the weight we’ve been accumulating over the last few decades is pure, unadulterated fat, which isn’t just unsightly but brings with it a whole host of health issues to boot! Magré, J., et al. (1998) Human hormone-sensitive lipase: genetic mapping, identification of a new dinucleotide repeat, and association with obesity and NIDDM. Diabetes. 47:284-286 Ludwig, D. S. (2000) Dietary glycemic index and obesity. J. Nutr. 130:280S-283S. Due A, Larsen TM, Mu H, Hermansen K, Stender S, Astrup A: Comparison of 3 ad libitum diets for weight-loss maintenance, risk of cardiovascular disease, and diabetes: a 6-mo randomized, controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2008, 88(5):1232-1241 http://www.pno.ca/?p=1336&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=201
It is not uncommon to hear a friend or family member say that they are trying to lose weight. In fact, the vast majority of us spend our entire lives struggling to maintain a weight that is healthy or desirable. There are certainly many people that are over-eating or under-exercising for their caloric requirements. But what about the rest of us? For some individuals, it doesn’t matter how little we eat because the weigh scale doesn’t seem to budge! Weight loss can be quite complex with many contributing factors and the simple reality is that cutting calories is not a clear solution for losing weight. Here’s why. Calorie Counting Is Good… In Theory: When we eat food, we are consuming energy. When we exercise or create movement, we are burning energy. When attempting to lose weight, the simplest goal is to eat less energy relative to the amount of energy that your body outputs. In fact, it has often been stated that an energy deficit of 3500 kcal will lead to fat loss of exactly one pound because that’s how much energy is provided when you break down fat. And this will work in many people. But this simple equation does not take into account the type of macronutrients or micronutrients that you are actually consuming, nor does it consider the strong influence of hormones as we’ll discuss below. A Calorie is Not Just a Calorie: Most people that have done their own dietary research know that the human body does not respond to refined carbohydrates (ie. added sugars) the same way that it does to protein, fats or even complex carbohydrates. When we eat natural sugars found in fruit that are paired with the high fibre content, we have a blunted rise in blood glucose and insulin. If you eat the same number of calories from a donut, your sugar spikes and excess sugars become converted and deposited into fat. Similarly, low-carbohydrate diets have consistently shown greater weight loss when compared to low-fat diets with equal caloric intake. Physiologically, the body treats fats, proteins and carbohydrates quite differently. What About Hormones? The thyroid is largely responsible for maintaining a proper metabolic rate, meaning that it dictates how fast or slow our cells burn energy. This explains why those with low thyroid function can present with weight gain or the inability to lose weight. If you haven’t had your thyroid function checked by your doctor, this is a great place to start. However, just as your thyroid needs to be balanced to maintain a healthy weight, so does your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. Factors such as stress, poor liver function and nutritional deficiencies can all imbalance these crucial hormones. The Importance of Stress: When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that tells the body to release sugar into the blood. This is great to provide energy to get through a short stressful event, but what about when cortisol is elevated for days, weeks or months at a time? Imbalanced sugar levels can lead to fat deposition over the long haul! Stress management is so important, in fact, that some research has found stress-management programs with no dietary changes to be more effective for weight loss than dietary changes alone. Sleep and its role in Weight Management: A large-scale study examining sleep habits in over 86,000 postmenopausal women found a strong association between both lack of sleep and excess sleep with obesity risk. Other studies have found shorter and longer sleep durations to be associated with greater body mass and greater abdominal fat measurements. Sleep deprivation’s association with obesity appears to be due not only with behavioral changes (such as exercising less when you’re tired), but also to hormonal dysregulation. Sleeping less than 6 hours per night results in blood sugar imbalances, insulin resistance and, ultimately, widespread inflammation in the body. Environmental Toxins: There is now a mountain of evidence to show that toxins in our environment can play a great role in body size. Ongoing exposure to chemicals with names like hexachlorobenzene, polybrominated biphenyl and phthalates can wreak havoc on your hormones and your weight loss attempts. Start eliminating the plastics and use glass containers or water bottles instead. Reduce your daily makeup and cosmetic exposure when possible. Avoid unnecessary air-fresheners, chemical-laden cleaners and pesticides. These small changes will all add up. As you can clearly see, there is much more to consider than just calories in and calories out when it comes to weight loss. Eating real food, getting restful sleep, avoiding toxic chemicals, improving relationships and minimizing stressors in your life will all help to normalize your hormones and improve your weight in the long-run. Got some weight loss t ...
Keeping blood glucose (sugar) levels in a healthy range can be challenging. Knowing and understanding the symptoms of high and low blood sugar is very important for people living with diabetes, as well as their friends and family members. What is low blood glucose (sugar)? When the amount of blood glucose (sugar in your blood) has dropped below your target range (less than four mmol/L), it is called low blood glucose (sugar) or hypoglycemia. What are the signs of a low blood glucose (sugar) level? You may feel: Shaky, light-headed, nauseated Nervous, irritable, anxious Confused, unable to concentrate Hungry Your heart rate is faster Sweaty, headachy Weak, drowsy A numbness or tingling in your tongue or lips Very low blood glucose can make you: Confused and disoriented Lose consciousness Have a seizure Make sure you always wear your MedicAlert® identification, and talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about prevention and emergency treatment for severe low blood glucose (sugar). What causes a low blood glucose (sugar) level (hypoglycemia)? Low blood glucose (sugar) may be caused by: More physical activity than usual Not eating on time Eating less than you should have Taking too much medication The effects of drinking alcohol How do I treat low blood glucose (sugar)? If you are experiencing the signs of a low blood glucose (sugar) level, check your blood glucose (sugar) immediately. If you don’t have your meter with you, treat the symptoms anyway. It is better to be safe. Step one: Low blood glucose (sugar) can happen quickly, so it is important to treat it right away. If your blood glucose (sugar) drops very low, you may need help from another person. Eat or drink a fast-acting carbohydrate (15 grams): 15 grams of glucose in the form of glucose tablets (preferred choice) 15 millilitres (one tablespoon) or three packets of table sugar dissolved in water 175 millilitres (¾ cup) of juice or regular soft drink Six LifeSavers® (one = 2.5 grams of carbohydrate) 15 millilitres (one tablespoon) of honey (do not use for children less than one year old) Step two: After treating the symptoms, wait 10 to 15 minutes, then check your blood glucose (sugar) again. If it is still low: Treat again If your next meal is more than one hour away, or you are going to be active, eat a snack, such as half of a sandwich or cheese and crackers (something with 15 grams of carbohydrate and a protein source) Think about why your blood glucose (sugar) went low and make the necessary changes to avoid low blood glucose again Wait 45 to 60 minutes before driving What is high blood glucose? When your fasting blood glucose is at or above 11 mmol/L, you may: Be thirsty Urinate more often than usual, especially during the night Be tired What causes high blood glucose(sugar) levels (hyperglycemia)? High blood glucose (sugar) can result when food, activity and medications are not balanced. High blood glucose (sugar) may happen when you are sick or under stress. What do I do if I have high blood glucose (sugar)? Follow the treatment recommended by your doctor, diabetes educator or other member of your health-care team. If this happens often, you may need to call or see your doctor to: Adjust your meal plan Adjust your physical activity Adjust your medication and/or insulin Reference: http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/blood-glucose-insulin/lows-highs-blood-sugar-levels