Archive for December, 2009

I’m a 25…what are you?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

No, I’m not 25…I AM A 25.

25 is how many times I chew each bite of my food.

How about you?

In a previous post (Improve Your Health by Improving Your Digestion) I talked about the importance of choosing the number of times you chew each bite of your food. By doing this you make it easier for your body to digest what you eat?

People often tell me that chewing their food a set number of times is absolutely ridiculous. They don’t have the time or patience to spend that much time and energy eating.

Sadly, many of the people I hear this from “coincidently” happen to also suffer from digestive problems.

Not only does chewing your food make the digestive process easier for your body, it also makes you less likely to get indigestion.

While there are many reasons people experience indigestion, one of the main causes is the extra burden placed on their digestive system by processing partially chewed food.

Although we’ll talk more about stress in future posts, I want you to think about something…

Eating improperly can cause indigestion. Indigestion can cause discomfort and irritability… which can lead to stress. Stress causes the body to release the hormone cortisol.

At normal levels cortisol is important to the overall function of your body. But during periods of sustained stress, cortisol increases blood pressure and blood sugar levels – and has an immunosuppressive action…that means that it “suppresses the immune system”.

Cortisol also stimulates the secretion of gastric acid (stomach acid) which can further aggravate indigestion.

When you are already stressed, if cortisol is released into your system you will likely begin to feel worse, making the whole process a vicious cycle.

So remember…pick a number and chew your food until it is liquefied.

How much fiber should you eat each day?

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Fiber has become a hot topic in recent years. With the changing of the American diet (as well as many other countries in the world) many people consume less fiber then their ancestors did.

Our busy, hectic lifestyle has changed the way we eat. For many people, processed “convenience” foods are replacing well balanced meals. The meals we eat are much higher in carbohydrates, fats, chemicals, fillers, additives and calories then generations before us.

It is no wonder that diabetes, hypertension and a host of other illnesses are becoming much more commonplace…even with all of the advances in medicine in recent years.

A common question people often ask is, “How much fiber should I eat each day?”

The answer to this may surprise you. According to the American Dietetic Association, healthy adults should consume at least 25 grams of fiber each day.

Sadly, the average adult consumes 10 grams or less per day.

Children should consume their age plus 5 grams per day. For example,
a 6 year old should consume 11 grams per day. (6 years + 5 grams)

So increasing your daily fiber intake should be one of your health goals, if you don’t already consume a minimum of 25 grams.

But it is necessary to caution you that you will want to increase your fiber intake gradually. If you increase it by too much, too quickly, you may experience temporary cramping, gas and bloating.

It is also important to note that when you increase your fiber intake it is also important to drink more water too. This can help reduce cramps and can help your body more easily process the fiber.

Although there are some quality fiber supplements available from your local grocery store or health food market, the best way to increase your fiber is by eating natural, whole foods.

Another common question that people ask is, “How do I know how much fiber I am eating right now?”

The truth is that it is difficult to calculate exactly how much fiber you are ingesting each day. Doing so would require weighing your food and/or referencing a food chart.

The other option is to simply guess.

That’s why I recommend a much easier approach to reach your fiber intake goals.

Let’s assume that you eat an average diet right now, and therefore consume the average amount of fiber…10 grams or less each day.

Instead of trying to count, just make it a point to eat more fiber rich foods at every opportunity you get.

So instead of eating a processed, junk-filled snack, have some fruit or vegetables instead. Indulge in some nuts or trail mix instead of a candy bar, or have vegetable juice instead of coffee.

This approach has served me well for many years. Those that I have shared it with say it is much easier then trying to second guess everything you eat.

Just by eating high fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, cereals and whole grain pastas, it is relatively easy to reach the 25+ gram per day target.

Here are some specific examples of high fiber foods you can eat every day:

– Whole wheat breads and whole wheat pasta
– Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and celery
– Apples, bananas, oranges and berries
– Green beans, pinto beans, black beans
– Almonds, walnuts and cashews
– Tomato, peppers, onions and garlic
– Brown rice or other whole grains
– Lettuce, raw spinach or other leafy green vegetables

The added benefit of eating these foods is that they contain vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to function at optimal levels.

If increasing your fiber intake is one of your health goals (and it should be) then consider adding these foods to your diet – and watch your health – and your energy level improve.

Skip the candy bar, fancy coffee drink or processed snack and have a piece of fruit instead. It is better for your health…and better for your wallet too.

Improve Your Health by Improving Your Digestion

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Can you guess the one function of your body that utilizes 75% of your energy each day?

You might think it is powering your muscles, pumping blood to your heart, or any number of other functions. But you’d probably be wrong.

It’s digestion!

Imagine that…three quarters of your energy is used to process food.

And this is very important to think about because anything you can do to take some of that burden off of your digestive system will free up extra energy that your body can use for other things…such as immunity.

Although digestion is about what you eat, HOW you eat it is equally as important.

There are a number of things people unknowingly do to sabotage their digestion…and therefore their energy.

One of the main things is not chewing their food enough.

When you eat you probably aren’t paying too much attention to how much you chew your food. You probably take large mouthfuls, chew a few times and then swallow.

If you’re like most people, the food you eat is less than 25% broken down when you swallow it.

Do you remember when you were young and your Mother said to chew your food? It turns out she was right.

Our digestive system isn’t designed to function optimally when we swallow our food whole, or barely broken down. Sure it can “handle it”, but at the expense of your overall health and energy level.

Our body is designed for our teeth to grind down the food we eat and to mix it with saliva. This liquid substance is much easier for our digestive system to process.

Most people barely chew their food before they swallow it, which sends large chunks into their stomach to be digested.

Those large chunks of food are broken down with stomach acid and enzymes. But the added work of breaking down those larger pieces comes with an added expense to your system. It requires more work…and more energy.

Basically this extra work saps energy from other areas in your body. Your body has to work harder just to keep up.

Think of an assembly line for a minute. If everything is running smoothly, a certain number of units are produced. Now if you slow down the assembly line by requiring more manual processes, the total production will be reduced.

Sure things will still come off the line…but there will be fewer of them, and each one will have required more work.

One of the best ways to improve your digestion (YOUR assembly line) is to chew your food more.

And one of the easiest ways to remember to do this is to pick a number and chew each mouthful of food that many times before you swallow.

Your number could be 20, 35 or 72, it doesn’t really matter.

What DOES matter is that you do this each time you eat until completely chewing your food becomes a habit. At that point you can stop counting.

Does this sound way too easy to really do anything?

Give it a try and see what happens. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Is being sick good for your Immune System?

Friday, December 4th, 2009

We’ve all been there at one point or another…snuggled up on the couch or in bed, trying to protect ourselves with the safety of our covers, wishing for the horrible illness plaguing us to just give up and go away.

There are few worse feelings for most people.

But did you know that occasionally having a cold or flu is actually good for you?

While this may seem counter-intuitive, being sick once or even twice a year gives your immune system a chance to get in a good workout.

And part of that process is having a fever…which, surprisingly enough, is also a good thing.

I discovered this while spending some time working on an audio recording project with a well-known Viroimmunologist some years back.

What he told me was very surprising.

A fever is typically caused when your body is mounting an immune response to an invading bacteria or virus. A fever is basically your immune system trying to heat up your body to make it inhospitable for the virus or bacteria to reproduce.

What he said was that when your body is mounting this response it shows that your immune system is working to rid your body of the invader.

Unless the fever reaches a dangerously high level, it is typically better to avoid taking medication and to instead let the body naturally do its work.

It is important to let your immune system stretch its legs once in a while. Like any system, a good work out every now and then is good for it. He said that it is not such a bad thing to have a fever once or even twice a year.

He went on to say that many people are quick to take Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Advil), or even Aspirin to reduce the fever.

The problem is that this makes it much more difficult for the immune system to do its job, because the medicine reduces your fever that the immune system is creating to fight the invader.

If people would just let the fever run its course, they would likely get better much quicker.

Now I am not saying that you shouldn’t take medication if you have a fever. If your temperature gets too high it can be dangerous and even kill you.

But I would suggest that you do some research and speak with your Doctor or Alternative Health Practitioner. They can best advise
you on when you should take medication and when waiting a little may be beneficial.

It is also important to mention that this does not apply to people who have a compromised immune system, who are on immunosuppressive therapy (such as after an organ transplant), or for children.

And of course, as with anything, use your best judgment when following anyone’s advice!

I know that being sick isn’t fun…but it is important.

I’m not suggesting that you go out and try to get sick either.

Following good hygiene habits, such as washing your hands regularly and not touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean, are very important.

But next time you are laying there wishing that someone would put you out of your misery, remember this…being sick may not feel good, but it really is good for you.

Improve Your Immunity by Supporting Your Immune System

Friday, December 4th, 2009

So what is your immune system and why is it so important?

It is our internal system for self healing and the protection from outside invaders.

That’s right…your immune system is your own personal army working behind the scenes to neutralize foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. It also helps protect you against many environmental pollutants and chemicals.

On any given day we are exposed to millions of foreign cells. Fortunately our powerful army is there to protect us.

Or is it?

The problem is many of the things we do unknowingly weaken or suppress our immune system.

Even simple things such as not getting enough sleep, constantly being stressed and eating improperly can cause chemical responses in our body that decrease our body’s ability to fight off foreign invaders.

But the problem is greater than that.

In addition to suppressing our immune system we are not giving it the proper fuel it needs to function at its peak level of performance. It doesn’t work as well because we are giving it less raw material to work with.

And if it does take the necessary energy to function, it is at the expense of other systems within the body, which leaves you more stressed, tired and vulnerable to attack by foreign invaders.

This is why it is vital to do everything you can to provide your immune system the optimal environment to function…and with the raw materials it needs to function at its highest level possible.

Our body’s system of immunity is an incredible creation. We just need to properly support it and then get out of its way so it can do its job.