Dem Bones

skeleton_keys_collageAbout 8 years ago I joined a gym specifically because I wanted to learn how to lift weights. It’s a male-dominated environment which I found intimidating so I got a guide, namely a personal trainer. I have klutz tendencies and am injury averse so I wanted to make sure someone was there to keep my form correct and counsel on the right weights to use.

The reason I wanted to lift weights was for osteoporosis abatement. I didn’t want to bulk up or become a body builder; I also didn’t want to be hunched over in my 80s. It’s not a look I’m after. I prefer to look at my surroundings from a level gaze.

Our bodies perform better when used and challenged. We build bone and muscle when we’re active…and also when repairing from injury. Now, I’m not recommending getting injured at all but when our bodies sustain a minor injury, the muscle or skin repairs itself with new vigor. This is actually the basis of modern skin care. Acid peels and microdermabrasion injure the skin and the skin reacts by producing more collagen in order to rebuild. The result is plumper and renewed skin. It’s the same principle with muscles and bone. If you challenge them, they will react.

Don’t be a softy

Most of us will suffer from softer, weaker bones when we’re older. About 52 million Americans have low bone density. 50% of women and up to 25% of men over the age of 50 will suffer broken bones due to bone-density loss.

Studies are providing results that are helping provide a proactive approach to keeping bones healthy. With physical activity, dietary and lifestyle choices, as well as supplementation, we can maintain stronger bones even into our dotage.

Dem bones, dem bones

Besides providing a skeleton that supports you, bones serve to protect and anchor parts of our bodies in place. Bone is alive, constantly renewing tissue that requires lifelong attention to properly maintain the body’s health.

Bone remodeling is what makes bone regrowth possible after a break and allows for rapid growth during childhood. But, the breakdown of bone begins to outpace the production of new bone as we age.

So through lifestyle choices we can make to protect ourselves against bone-density loss are:

  • Limiting alcohol (I know… sucks)
  • Don’t smoke
  • Proper thyroid hormone maintenance as advised by a physician
  • Regular physical activity
  • Proper daily nutrition

Drink your milk 

When we think of having healthy bones, calcium pops into our heads and for good reason. This mineral is essential for maintaining strong skeletal tissue. But the bad news is that when our bodies age, it’s not as efficient at using calcium. No one knows exactly why this is, but rumor has it that decreased ability for the body to absorb calcium and/or insufficient dietary intake are the culprits. Calcium is needed for the other parts of the body as well (e.g. muscles), so if we don’t have enough calcium in our diet, it is leached from our bones to supply the other tissue with this nutrient. So as you can surmise bone density is diminished which is bad because soft bones have a higher risk of fracture.

More evils of alcohol

Interference with the absorption of Calcium absorption is why drinking too much alcohol is not so good. It’s a good idea to watch your martini intake—having no more than two drinks daily. But the most critical factor in calcium absorption is low vitamin D levels in the body, which has grown to epidemic proportions across the world.

Get sunnier

I live in Seattle where it’s dreary most of the year so I know why I take Vitamin D supplements but low levels of vitamin D isn’t prevalent just here. Most high-latitude countries have a similar situation. Our modern lifestyle contributes to this as well. Most jobs are indoors and when we’re out doors we wear sun screen so our skin doesn’t get much exposure to UVB rays which make our bodies produce Vitamin D. Getting out while the sun shines — even sitting outside to eat your lunch in the sun — can give you much-needed Vitamin D and help keep your bones strong.

Our food has much lower levels of nutrients than it did 50 years ago so it’s hard for us to get enough vitamin D to meet recommended 800 IU per day by eating well. So we have to supplement, however there is alot of debate if that intake level is enough for optimal levels of vitamin D. There have been studies that suggest supplementation should be at least 2000 IU (preferably in the more bioavailable form of D3, not D2) to maintain healthy blood levels.

The perfect pair

While vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium, we need vitamin K to play traffic cop and direct it where it should go—namely your bones. That is because vitamin K-dependent proteins are an important factor in bone formation and it’s also required to remove calcium from arteries. Vitamin K’s cozy relationship with calcium is a known factor in protecting against arterial calcification.

Not just any K will do

But just to make it more complicated, there are multiple forms of vitamin K, including K1 and K2, but the golden child, K2 (aka “menaquinone” a friendly bacteria found in cheese) that has been shown to be more biologically active and help with bone formation is what you want. So read your labels, most supplements use vitamin K1 (aka “phylloquinone” found in plants) because it is easily available thus cheaper for the manufacturer.

Fishy

Apparently another rock star nutrient that supports bone health is omega-3 fatty acids which is found in fish oil. Studies show that they decrease the rate that bone breaks down when we age. Make sure you have at least 2 grams of fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids daily. Studies also show that taking this as a supplement daily is better for you than eating fish twice a week. Also, if you take a fish oil capsule with every meal you’ll get the added benefit of your metabolism being boosted a bit.

So you have the info you need now to support your bones’ health. Now it’s one thing to know about it and another to do something about it. Studies show that a good portion of the US population fails to get enough calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K2.

Conveniently I distribute Ageless Essentials Daily Pack which contains all of these bone health nutrients—in the right, most bioavailable forms—in amounts that will help keep bones strong and healthy. Plus, by splitting up dosages in A.M and P.M packs, you’re going to maximally absorb all those nutrients. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start protecting and nurturing your bones. If you want to maintain your youthfulness, make bone health a priority. So hit me up at kate@oldladykickingagingsbutt.com for the deets.

Move!

knowledge-movement-prepI’m having a bit of a challenging summer and the one thing that I can take away from my experience with certainty is that I need to move — walk, do a barre class or Pilates, something — in order to keep my anxiety in check. I also need to cut out gluten, but that’s a different blog post.

I’ve noticed this before in my life. When I’m depressed, if I get moving, I feel much better…whether working in the garden, or going for a hike, whatever, as long as it requires actively engaging my body in some activity. Movement is guaranteed to improve my mood. I’m not alone in this observation. According to a Harvard Medical School publication, “A review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. It also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression.”

I don’t know about you, but I think that the way that antidepressants are handed out like candy is insane. Here in the Pacific Northwest there are people who go to their doctors for prozac every fall and wean themselves off every spring. I have been on antidepressants in my life — zoloft (for eating disorder and unhappy marriage) and cylexa (for after my father died and I need to not cry in job interviews). I hate them. I get brain shudders which is very uncomfortable. These are incredibly strong drugs. Even after being off the cylexa for 3 months, I was still getting the brain shudders.

This is me, not you. If your life is better because of drugs, then God bless, but I’m a fan of not taking medications and eating well and moving my body rather than supporting big pharma and ingesting chemicals. I’ve mentioned it before but there are studies that show that if you walk 45 minutes a day, your brain’s serotonin levels will become normal and there is no trial and error re: dosage. Your brain just kicks into gear and finds its proper balance. Not only does this save your tons of money, there are no evil side effects.

So there you go — a bunch of smart scientists and doctors confirm what I learned through trial and error. Fact: sitting on the couch feeling like crap and staying on the couch will not help your mood.

So I was thinking that I’d put together some suggested mood-busting suggestions should you find yourself in need.

Feeling Blue

As I mentioned above, if you’re depressed, get moving. The first steps are the hardest. Sometimes it seems impossible to get out of the house when you’re depressed, but the benefits of pushing yourself to get moving are huge. Exercise has been scientifically proven to improve mood.

Also getting outside and breathing fresh air will help you. Being out in nature is very healing, so you may want to go for a hike. But if the weather is rotten, just walking on the treadmill for 45 minutes will make a difference. You can then reward yourself by a nice soak in the hot tub… yum.

Spitting Mad

You’re so angry that you want to punch somebody’s lights out. Well, your impulse is correct but how about hitting something that won’t break your hand or get you arrested — like laying into a punching bag. Getting anger out by kickboxing, boxing, or some other intense exercise like running as fast as you can for as long as you can will diffuse your mood. One time I was so angry that I took my son’s baseball bat and hit the mattress while yelling obscenities for 15 minutes or so. I felt much better after that…and my arms got a workout.

I’m going to eat some worms

Nobody likes you, everybody hates you, you feel lonely and sad and sorry for yourself. Well, no one is going to come into your living room and ask you out so go where the people are. Do a spin class, or take up a martial art or some group class — or sign up for meet ups. Meet ups are great, I belong to about 10 groups and whereas I don’t go to most of them, I have a few groups where I’m a regular participant. I’ve made new friends and most of the events involve an activity such as walking of which I’m a big fan, so I’m not only getting in my mood-management exercise, I’m also talking to people and getting out of the house.

Note re: walking: Walking will not make your face sag. Those of us of a certain age will want to take note of this. Running will make your face sag. I’m not making this up. Google it.

Mom, I’m bored

Boredom is the swamp from which creativity blooms. Being bored is sometimes a good thing. It shows that you’re in a  place where you’re not worrying about something. This is an excellent opportunity to start that novel…and what better way to clear your mind than to take a brisk walk. Take your notepad or use your recorder on your phone and take notes while you’re wending your way around the neighborhood.

Or take a dance class. Learning new moves will help your brain in several ways — it’ll be stimulated and repath which is good for Alzheimers abatement and it’ll help you concentrate and focus. Plus, it could be really fun.

You might also want to play tourist and see the areas where you live. Explore new sections of town; check out the museums; go on a hunt for the best coffee house.

Hint: Don’t eat to cure boredom. It’s just not a good idea. You’ll get fat.

The modern scourge: stress

Regular exercise is a huge stress reliever. The rhythm of walking or running is very soothing to the soul. Plus working out any anxiety or worry helps you stay on top of modern life and all the stress that entails. You might want to check out yoga, pilates, tai chi, Xigong or meditation to calm your nerves as well.

Stress is no small issue. It is related to heart disease, anxiety and depression, tummy troubles, asthma, and worst of all early aging. As you can tell by the name of this blog, we are not a fan of anything that contributes to aging.

Stress keeps your body in a physiologic response to threat. When you’re stressed, your blood vessels constrict, blood pressure and pulse go up; your bloodstream is inundated with bunches of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol; you may even have difficulty catching your breath. This sort of stress on your body over time will lead to the above mentioned diseases and more. Not getting sick is worth a 20 minute meditation or walk every day, don’t cha think?

You may also want to add adaptogens into your diet. Adaptogens are herbs that help with stress. Hit me up if you want an excellent one that is a yummy tea and not only helps with stress but also has ayurvedic herbs that are clinically proven to grow dendrites in the human brain — you could get smarter while getting calmer!

Fat Head

cerebroenformaRecently there have been two women in my sphere who have been diagnosed with early onset dementia. They both are in their 60s. One is a runner and the other is very thin and constantly concerned about her weight. When I heard about the first one, I thought it was sad. When I heard about the second one, I saw a potential pattern. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both thin women have the same diagnosis. I think the low-fat diet we were all on in the 80s is to blame. I also think we’re going to see more of this sort of thing because we as a nation are so focused on what the scale tells us rather than what our bodies need. (Check out my not-all-calories-are-created-equal blog post.)

We’re also still stuck in the story that carbs and sugar are the only way we get energy. This is not true. We also get energy from fat.

Our brains are mostly fat and we need to eat fat to maintain our brains. We also need cholesterol — that’s why one of the side effects of statins is fuzzy brain. I’m not a doctor, but it makes me wonder about statins being prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients. This was the case with my mother. She was in her 80s and losing her marbles, but when she was on the meds, she got really demented. It was scary. When she was taken off them, she got better. She wasn’t herself by any means, but not nearly as bad.

I’m Also Not a Research Scientist

I may be totally off on my theory, but I don’t think so. We’ve been indoctrinated into some “healthy” eating patterns that we’ve been told by researchers and the government are God’s truth, only to learn that they’re not.

I’m increasingly concerned that people think that carbs are the only form of energy. I had this very discussion with a friend of mine who used to be a body builder. She would not budge on the whole carbs = energy thing. To her mind, it’s the only way. It’s true that burning glucose gives you energy but you can also get energy from fat without changing your blood sugar levels and messing up your metabolism. My friend’s metabolism is so slow that she can’t lose weight, but she was firmly entrenched in the carb mindset and not open to adding more fats to her diet. And I get it, we as a society focus on weight loss or gain, not the metabolic affects involved from eating specific foods.

There is evidence that being in ketosis which is the state where your body makes energy from burning fat as opposed to burning glucose, helps your brain. Eating good fats is one of Dr. Perlmutter’s three steps to not getting Alzheimer’s — his other two are cut out sugar and carbs, (people with diabetes have a 50/50 chance of getting Alzheimer’s) and cut out gluten (which has been associated with many neurological disorders).

Coconut Oil

There is increasing anecdotal evidence that coconut oil in particular can reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Mary Newport, MD, “cured” her husband of Alzheimer’s in about 2 weeks by giving him coconut oil. There are other such stories as well.

There isn’t a large body of research to support this but the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada conducted a study to investigate the affects of coconut oil on cortical neurons treated with amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide.  Aβ peptide is the main component of deposits found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and believed to contribute to the disease.

The researchers noted significant improvements in Alzheimer’s disease patients after 45 and 90 days of treatment with medium-chain fatty acids derived from coconut oil.

When I read this I thought, “What the heck! I’m going to try this.” I put about 2 tbsps of organic coconut oil in my morning shake and not only does it taste really yummy, I think it’s already starting to help my brain. After only two days of adding it to my diet, I zipped through the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle and didn’t have to cheat… much.

Scientific American has a good technical(ish) blog post that explains ketosis better than I can if you want to dig deep into the physiology of a fat-fueled energy system.

Where is this Magic Elixir?

I found coconut oil at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Cost Plus World Market and sometimes at Costco. I always recommend going organic, but it’s your body and budget. It’s not very pricey, especially if it works for you. It’s a permanent part of my diet now for sure.

Like I said, I throw it in shakes, but you can also use it for sautéing, salad dressings, the usual places where you use any other oil. I have a friend who keeps her coconut oil in the fridge and eats it with a spoon and loves it. It’s also really good for your skin and you can use it as a moisturizer. It’s a goodness.

Baby Steps

Just an added 15 minutes of walking per day can change your life.

Just an added 15 minutes of walking per day can change your life.

To make significant changes in your health and wellness you don’t have to join a gym and starve yourself. In fact the latter is never recommended because it makes it harder to lose weight if you don’t eat. But the truth is that you don’t have to completely overhaul your life in order to slim down. If you’re not in a rush and want to see gradual changes, baby steps will help you get there. If you do two very simple things each and every day you will lose weight over time.

Here’s the secret combination: Take 100 calories away from one meal a day. You can start leaving food on your plate and not taking those extra bites; or your can eliminate something from your daily diet (ex: drink 1/3 less of a soda or don’t put that tablespoon of butter on your bagel) and then walk 500 more steps per day. These two simple things will slim your waist… if you’re consistent.

But that’s the deal, you have to do it every day and be conscious enough to not pile on the calories in your other meals. But taking a walk after dinner or lunch could change your life.

Walking is the easiest way to improve your health. Studies have shown that if you walk 45 minutes every day you will not need to take antidepressants. There are also studies that show that walking 30 minutes a day is equally as good as running a mile in terms of improving your overall fitness (and there’s the added bonus that your joints don’t get pounded).

I’m currently going through a rough phase in my life but I walk at least an hour every day and I’m able to handle the stress. Walking is easy and the rhythm helps my body move out the cortisol and I can calm down. It also gives me undistracted time to process while seeing beautiful gardens and parks.

But back to the easy-peasy way to improve your health… If you make simple changes such as the above you’ll start to feel better. If you feel better you’ll be more inclined to make even more healthy changes in your life. If you feel good, see progress, and have more energy you can do so much more and your outlook on life improves. It’s a wonderful thing.

This is the very reason that I offer free wellness coaching to my clients when they’re on the nutritional cleanse system that I distribute — because it makes my job easier and they quickly see results in their appearance and energy level. It’s also a screaming deal because my support is free, and the meal replacements cost about $3 per meal and the average American meal is about $8. It’s a win-win-win. I’m working with a doctor here in Seattle who is referring her patients to me which is super exciting. I get to help her fight the obesity epidemic! And I always start my obese clients on a simple “add a 15 minute walk per day” routine. It makes a big difference.

Studies show…

There was a study where overweight people were coached to take out 100 calories and add in a 15 minute walk and they saw results over time. But the big news is that by embarking on that simple plan, they were inspired to make even bigger changes. Some turned into overachievers and cut three hundred calories from their diet and added in over 1,400 steps per day. Which turned into losing 1 pound every 10 days or so.

So if you thought that you had to make radical changes in your life to drop weight, you don’t. You just have to be consistent and patient.

So if the enormity of diet and exercise has kept you glued to the couch, fear not, baby steps can get you started on your new healthy lifestyle.

 

A Poopy Post

stool softenerOh Poop! Easier said than done sometimes. I found myself on the, shall we say blocked side of going to the bathroom a few weeks back so I’ve been doing a nutritional cleanse that allows me the most spectacular poops — not the colon-blow kind but big, easy and very satisfying. I’m not a large person, but the volume was shocking. I was so proud. TMI? Well I have to say that pooping — or more to the point of this blog, not pooping, isn’t a common topic of conversation but I think it’s safe to say that everyone has been constipated to some degree at some point in their lives. It’s a very common condition, affecting about 63 million people in North America every year. And although children find poop jokes hilarious, it’s not very funny when you’re plugged up.

Being constipated predisposes you to all sorts of badness — from hemorrhoids to colorectal cancer. Your colon is designed to hold a few pounds of poo and then move it out. When you get constipated your colon may be holding 10 to 20 pounds of toxic waste. It’s not only unpleasant to think about, it’s not good to be holding onto such a thing plus it stretches out and irritates the colon, and it may ferment and rot. Not a pretty picture.

The Joys of Womanhood Once Again

And of course it affects women more adversely than men in that the large intestine and our lady organs are very close neighbors. There can be pressure from the stool on the uterus, rectal prolapse inside the vagina, and some women have even miscarried from pushing and straining too hard.

The “A” Word

Even though we’re in denial about aging (well, I am anyway), chronic constipation is dangerous when we get older because it strips the large intestine of its already thinning mucus membrane and causes lesions and polyps that can turn cancerous.

So basically being constipated is just as abhorrent as talking about it.

The Good News

But all has not gone to s*@!. Fortunately constipation isn’t a permanent condition and is easily controlled and/or abated by diet, drinking plenty of water, and exercise.

Our Friend Fiber

Fiber can be either soluble or insoluble. Each plays a different but equally important role in maintaining a healthy digestive system. Insoluble fiber (as the name suggests) doesn’t digest very easily in the stomach so it helps to push along waste. Soluble fiber forms a gel in your stomach which slows down digestion and helps you feel full faster.

The American Dietetic Association says that the average American eats far too little fiber. You want to hit about 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day to stay regular.

The best way to make sure that you’re eating enough fiber is to eat whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes and beans. The latter isn’t called the magical fruit for nothing. You may also want to add flaxseed to salads and smoothies.

Take a Hike

You may be sick of hearing it, but exercise will help most of your ills. Moving your arms and legs helps to get everything else in motion, including your bowels. Just walking for about 15 minutes a day can be the catalyst that gets your gastric tract functioning normally. So take a walk after you eat. It’ll benefit you in more ways than just getting your tummy into gear.

Sidebar: Walking is easy and one of the best things you can do for yourself. Self-love includes walking. There was a Canadian study that showed that walking ½ hour a day equaled the same results as running a mile or more in terms of cardio health. Another study showed that if you walk 45 minutes a day, you won’t need antidepressants because your serotonin levels will normalize.

Hydrate

Drinking lots of water is hugely important if you’re prone to constipation. Last week’s post went into many of the benefits of staying hydrated, but if your body is dehydrated, then so is your gut and water keeps your digestive tract flowing. Drink 8 – 12 glasses of water a day and read last week’s post.

We Love Magnesium

Magnesium is critical for proper heart and muscle function and it also draws in water as it relaxes the intestinal muscles. Excellent sources of magnesium are dark green veggies such as broccoli, spinach and kale. Almonds and cashews are a yummy way to ingest magnesium as well.

Probiotics

We have a vast number of friendly bacteria in our gut known as probiotics. They are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system and optimal nutrient absorption. These little helpers are the reason you want to avoid antibiotics if possible because they kill all bacteria — good and bad and without the good ones, we can’t absorb nutrients properly. Maintaining healthy gut bacteria is critical to proper digestion. If your intestines are working properly, it’s less likely that you’ll get constipated.

You can nourish your friends by eating prebiotics (bananas, onions, garlic, asparagus, soybeans, whole-wheat) which is food that they thrive on, as well as consuming probiotics which help replace gut bacteria. You can’t go wrong eating yogurt or kefir every day. If you’re dairy reactive, coconut yogurt is very yummy. Soy yogurt is horrible, except the peach flavor…that’s edible.

Snicker — You Said…

Even though poop jokes are very popular on the playground being plugged up is no laughing matter. Constipation is one of the symptoms of disbacteriosis which is where the intestinal flora is dead or missing (see note about antibiotics above). Without this bacteria you run into several badnesses:

  • You aren’t protected from inflammation-causing pathogens in the colon
  • You’ll be low on vitamin B and K which are produced in the gut
  • Your immune system will be compromised
  • Your stool becomes dried out and hard (ouch)

So it’s pretty easy to stay regular if you eat good-for-you foods, drink water, and get out of the house. These simple steps will get your bowels moving properly — and that’s a basic part of being healthy. If we stay healthy, we can tell aging to stuff it — and I don’t know about you, but I’m very much into doing just that.

 

 

Water, agua, eau — aka hydration

Drinking-WaterIt’s summer and it’s hot in most places. Today in Seattle it’s raining like a monsoon, but rumor has it that we’ll be back into the 80s in short order. I love the summers here. They can’t be beat. It’s so beautiful when the skies are clear and you can see Mt. Rainier, the Olympics, and Mt Baker. I’m really looking forward to the reappearance of heat and sunshine!

Summer is a time when we need to be aware of potential sun damage and/or dehydration when out and about enjoying ourselves. More and more I see people carrying water with them and I wish I were better about doing that. I keep a water bottle in the car, and I’m pretty good about keeping it filled. But I need to remember to drag it along with me.

There’s alot of chatter about being properly hydrated, but I was thinking that I don’t really know why — other than it’s good for you and it’s important to flush badness. Our bodies are composed of mainly water so it’s good to keep the cells replenished. Drinking water is also helpful with weight loss because oftentimes we feel peckish, but in reality we’re just dehydrated.  But in reading about the benefits of staying hydrated, I learned the extend to which water is basic to our bodily functions — which is kind of a “duh” right? But I hadn’t really thought about it that way.

So if you’re like me — a little thick — you’ll be interested to know how vital staying hydrated is.

H2O

Most of the body’s cells, except for fat cells, are full of water. Water also cushions and lubricates the brain and the joints. It carries nutrients to our cells and transports waste away from them. It helps regulate body temperature by moving heat to the skin where it evaporates and cools the body through sweating and perspiration.

About 60% of the body weight of adult males is water, and is lower, about 50-55%, in females because we have more body fat. The percentages of water in our organs and tissues is:

  • 75% of our muscles and brain
  • 81%  of our blood and kidneys
  • 71% of the liver
  • 22% of our bones
  • 20% of our adipose tissue

Because we have so many cells, most of the water lurks there and about ⅓ is between the cells and in blood plasma. Water is also elemental in regulating blood pressure and digestion. Given all this it’s no surprise that people can’t live for more than a few days without water even though we can go without eating for weeks or months. Drinking water, and enough of it, is not a trivial matter.

Your Brain

Your brain won’t work well without proper hydration. Brain cells need adequate hydration in order to be supplied with oxygenated blood so your brain can be alert. Being slightly dehydrated — a 1% to 2% loss in body weight — can impair your ability to concentrate. Losing more than 2% body weight due to dehydration can affect your brain’s ability to process information and adversely affect short-term memory.

All of Your 100 Trillion Cells

Drinking enough water is critical for transporting carbohydrates, nutrients, and oxygen to your cells. Your cells can then produce energy so your body can function. Hydration also enables your body to get rid of the waste products your cells cast off as a normal part of your metabolism which enables proper cellular-chemical functions.

Your Digestive System

Hydration is an important part of digestion and absorption of nutrients from your digestive system. Your body needs water to dissolve nutrients so that they are absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the cells. Being dehydrated will slow down your body’s digestive process and chronic, poor hydration can lead to constipation.

Your Heart

For healthy heart function and blood pressure you need to be properly hydrated. Without enough water your cardiac output decreases which may lead to an increased heart rate and a fall in blood pressure. This is not good because your circulatory system delivers a constant supply of oxygen to your brain, muscles, and well, everything else, so it’s good to keep the pumping system working properly.

Your Kidneys

Taking in an adequate amount of water is essential to keeping your kidneys working well. It’s a good idea to drink enough water so your kidneys can easily remove waste products, and excess nutrients so you can pee them out. Your kidneys regulate your body’s water levels by increasing or decreasing the flow of urine. Your kidneys also help control the levels of sodium and other electrolytes in your body. Well-hydrated kidneys filter approximately 47 gallons of water each day. Obviously you don’t pee that much. Most of that volume is reabsorbed by your body.

Your Muscles and Joints

I never thought of it in these terms, but water acts as a lubricant for your muscles and joints. It cushions your joints and keeps your muscles working properly. 70 to 75 percent of your muscle is made of water so you can see how maintaining the right water balance is essential for good muscle function.

Your Skin

Skin, your largest organ, is your biggest defence against pathogens and it helps to prevent the development of infections and allergies. Although there isn’t alot of research to support this, there is thought that good hydration keeps your skin moist, elastic and soft. Makes sense, and certainly doesn’t hurt to use it as a motivator to drink more water. It certainly motivates me since I’m not okay with looking dry and wrinkly.

Your Body Temperature

The water you consume plays an important role in regulating your body temperature by dissipating heat. If you become too hot, water is lost through perspiration and when it evaporates from your skin’s surface, heat is removed from your body. Sweating is the most effective way that your body can prevent overheating.

How Much Water?

The “ drink 8 glasses of water a day” recommendation that we all know so well isn’t entirely accurate according to the Mayo Clinic. They say, “The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.” 8 glasses a day is about 1.9 liters so it differs from the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation. Also, if you work out heavily or the ambient temperature is high, you’ll want to increase your liquid intake even more.

So, you’re a grown up. You can make your own choices about how much water your drink. But considering how critical it is to the proper functioning of everything in your body — and that any excess will be expelled by your happily hydrated kidneys — it certainly can’t hurt to pound down a few extra glasses of water a day.

 

To sleep perchance

Wouldn't we all love to sleep like a baby?

Wouldn’t we all love to sleep like a baby?

Sleep is one of the yummiest things in life. Having a really good night’s sleep and waking refreshed is such a pleasure. I don’t know about you, but sleeping well is episodic for me. I’ll go for a stretch where I can sleep through the night and then I won’t sleep much at all for months.

Until the middle of the last century, it was thought that sleep was a passive, dormant part of our daily routine and not an important part of our health. Now we know that our brains are very active during sleep and the quality of our sleep affects our ability to function during the day. A good night’s sleep plays a big part in our physical and mental health, as well as memory mapping.

Nearly a quarter of adults are unhappy with their sleep patterns, and about 10% meet the criteria for having the diagnosis of insomnia — putting them at a greater risk for depression, hypertension, and diabetes.

So it is worth your time to figure out why you’re not sleeping and to do something about it.

There are many reasons people don’t sleep well, from breathing problems due to apnea or allergies to having the lights on. So I was thinking that maybe I could share some tips on how to help y’all get a decent rest.

Bed buddies

The most obvious reason people can’t sleep is that there is another animal in the bed — dog, cat, or human — that thrashes or snores. My cat, Todd, has a nose whistle that sometimes turns into more of a weed-whacker sound that I don’t find the least bit charming. That and his 5am (even on weekends!) reminder of what a slacker I am when it comes to feeding kitties makes me wonder why he gets to live here.

I keep ear plugs next to my bed lest Todd’s or my boyfriend’s sinuses act up. Neither is nearly as bad as my ex-husband was. That guy shook the house when he snored. He also was a thrasher. One time he had a cast on his arm and thrashed in the night and almost broke my nose. There were many issues with that relationship and I think the fact that I didn’t get enough sleep didn’t help any. So if you have a bed fellow who mimics the sounds of large machinery at night, you can either make him or her sleep in the basement, or suggest sleeping on his or her side. There is also a pillow you might want to try. It’s actually approved by the FDA (who knew they approved pillows?) and is shaped to tilt your head and open your airways.  It’s called a SonaPillow and heck, for around $70 might be worth a try. Other than that, or divorce, ear plugs have worked for me for the snoring. For the thrashing, I have no advice other than to have separate beds.

Too smart

If you’re always thinking you may have noticed that getting to sleep is hard for you because you end up having an argument in your head with your boss or significant other just as you’re head is hitting the pillow. If you find yourself fretful as you’re trying to go to sleep, get up and walk to another room. Leave the lights off. Don’t start another activity, just leave the bed. Then when you go back to bed you’ll probably fall asleep. This is a strategy used successfully in several sleep studies and has a fancy-pants name, “stimulus control.” This technique will also prevent you from associating your bed with anxiety. You may want to do some problem solving earlier in the evening to avoid the thought pileup right as you go to bed. If you write down your pressing issues along with a few solutions for each, it’ll help ease your mind at bed time.

Oh the joys of womanhood 

Hormonal changes either from menstruation or menopause can screw up your sleep patterns big time. A hot bath before bed can help, or meditation to sooth and calm you. I am not a fan of sleeping pills so I’m not going to recommend them. The side effects aren’t worth it to my mind. That said, if cramps are keeping you up or nothing is working for you, do what you’ve gotta do sister.

I’m a big fan of melatonin which is a natural sleep aid and has worked for me. If you try melatonin, don’t take pills because the melatonin is mostly destroyed by the acid in your stomach. Use a spray either under your tongue or directly in your mouth. Hold it there for about a minute so it can be absorbed.

If you have night sweats, air conditioning and moisture-wicking jammies might help. If you’re perimenopausal, exercising 20-30 minutes daily and not drinking caffeine after noon or having a martini close to bed time will help your sleep patterns. A nightcap before bed may help you fall asleep, but is likely to wake you in the wee hours because of a sort of rebound effect that it has.

Sidebar: Also, upping your soy intake and eliminating dairy can help. In several studies of perimenopausal woman in Japan showed this to help reduce hot flashes. I don’t eat dairy and whereas I don’t consume alot of soy, I’ve never had a hot flash. I get warm, but never sweaty. Might be something to it.

Ambient light

Even a small amount of light through your eyelids when your eyes are closed is registered by your retina. Light from street lamps, alarm clocks, and cell phones or other devices could be keeping you awake. Light at night sends a signal to your brain that interferes with your internal clock and makes you feel awake.

So if you have a nightlight on, turn it off. If your alarm clock has a lit display that’s always on, turn it to the wall. If you keep a light on in the hallway, shut the door. I have a big street lamp outside my bedroom window and I installed black-out curtains so I could sleep.

In the summer, I leave all the windows open for the breeze so I wear eyeshades to block out the streetlamp. They aren’t very expensive and they’re pretty comfortable.

All of the above will help your brain realize that it is indeed night time and sleeping is what should be on the agenda.

Little critters

This is totally gross, but you could be sharing your bed with anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million dust mites, according to Alan Goldsobel, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in San Jose, CA. Apparently the residue they leave behind (yuck) can trigger mild to very severe allergies. We all know that sleeping is hard when sneezing or suffering from a headache.

Washing all of your bedding in hot water and drying on high heat will help rid your linens of the mites and help your schnoz. Vacuuming and dusting regularly will help as well. There are also mattress covers that are supposed to block the mites. The most effective way to cut down on dust mites according to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology is to increase your bedrooms air flow by cracking open the windows and doors. I find that really hard to believe — like what? the mites don’t like fresh air so they just die? But hey, I’m not a scientist.

Sweat dreams!

Let the sun shine in

sunshine2It’s summer and over the holiday weekend tons of people were out in the sun and most of them were slathered in sunscreen. We’re all very aware of the dangers of sun exposure and its link to melanoma. However, there was a recent longevity study done in Sweden that indicates that people who sun bathe regularly are far healthier than those who avoid soaking up the rays by liberally applying SPF.

I am definitely in the latter category because I’m Irish and I burn easily. I’m a bit surprised that no omas have popped up on my body what with the severe burns I inflicted on myself when I was a teenager and thought that I could actually tan. I’m also vain and as the title of this blog may suggest, I’m not the least bit interested in having more wrinkles. Thus, I wear at least 50+ SPF on my face, neck, and chest at this time of year. I also wear protection on my arms but I leave my legs bare so I can soak up some vitamin D.

I was diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency about 8 years ago and this was a bit surprising because I had just come back from 10 days in Costa Rica, where unlike Seattle, the sun shines — and I was out in it every day. The naturopath I was seeing at the time said that there was a controversy about sunscreen vs no sunscreen. This is because in areas where there is little sunshine — Sweden, Seattle, Britain, etc. — there is a much higher incidence of MS (multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord) than the rest of the world. There is also a link to low Vitamin D to various cancers and other diseases. My lack of vitamin D even after walking tropical beaches was a testament to the effectiveness of sunscreen and it’s also a cautionary tale.

The Type of D Matters

The sole reason that the sun worshipers in the Swedish study were healthier, was because of Vitamin D and Vitamin D3 appears to be the most important of the Ds. Just taking any ol’ D isn’t going to replace soaking up sunshine or help prevent the diseases and conditions listed in this post. Vitamin D3 deficiency has been linked to conditions such as high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, an increased risk of pre-eclampsia and insulin resistance during pregnancy, various cancers…and low Vitamin D3 levels have been linked to an increase in early age-related macular degeneration.

So, it’s pretty clear that you want to make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D whether by hanging out in the sun, eating foods with Vitamin D3 or taking it orally as a supplement.

Vitamin D is made by the body in response to sun exposure and is found in some foods such as salmon. It’s also added to milk and some other foods in the U.S. (read your labels), although it is difficult to get the recommended amount of vitamin D from food alone. 600 IU is the recommended daily amount of vitamin D for adults but there is alot of chatter about this not being enough.

Some other conditions that you’ll want to watch out for that are associated with Vitamin D deficiency are:

Depression

Vitamin D3 deficiency is a common condition in older adults and has been associated in psychiatric and neurologic disorder diagnoses. In one study of 80 older adults, Vitamin D3 deficiency was associated with being in a poopy mood and cognitive impairment.

Now when I read this I thought — yah, well SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) could be part of the diagnosis as well — but the study didn’t make mention of that. I am definitely affected by the lack of sun up here in the Pacific Northwest. Granted SAD is not quantitative and Vitamin D levels are, so I can see why it wasn’t mentioned in the study.

Back Pain

Vitamin D3 deficiency has also been linked to musculoskeletal disorders in several studies. In one of these, the study contained sixty female patients in Egypt complaining of low back pain lasting more than three months. Researchers measured levels of Vitamin D3 in the women and compared those levels to those of 20 matched healthy controls.

The study revealed that patients with low back pain had significantly lower Vitamin D3 levels than the controls. Low Vitamin D3 levels were found in 49/60 patients (8%) and 12/20 (60%) in the control group.

I guess this makes sense when one considers that Vitamin D plays a role in musculoskeletal health.

Bone Health

One of the best known and long-established benefits of Vitamin D3 is its ability to improve bone health and the health of the musculoskeletal system. It is well documented that Vitamin D3 deficiency causes osteopenia, precipitates and aggravates osteoporosis, causes a painful bone disease known as osteomalacia, and exacerbates muscle weakness, which increases the risk of falls and fractures.

Cognitive Enhancement

Scientists and doctors are gaining a greater appreciation for Vitamin D3’s ability to improve cognition. In a recent study of older adults, Vitamin D3 deficient subjects scored worse on mental-function tests compared to others who had higher levels.

A Fine Line

So I’m sure you’re with me that sun + wrinkles = bad and sun + no MS, cancer or osteoporosis = good; but what’s the best course of action? I think the obvious answer is to wear your sunscreen and take D3 supplements, but make sure they’re absorbable. There are tons of supplements out there that just give you expensive pee.

Or do like I do and have a sacrificial body part that gets to absorb the sun.

And if your healthcare professional isn’t doing yearly blood tests to monitor your Vitamin D levels, it’d be a good idea to start doing so.

 

Whether weather affects

sleeping womanI’m not a big sleeper. Don’t get me wrong, I love it just as much as the next gal, but I’m just not that good at it — and I’m certainly not a napper. In fact I find naps to be potentially dangerous in that I might wake up and feel okay… but I also might wake up feeling like crap, craving fruit. The latter is so uncomfortable, that I’d rather stay awake and slog through until bedtime. So I’d have to classify this last weekend was an anomaly because I napped like a pro. I have a friend, Susan, who is the Queen of naps and I think I put her to shame.

I blame myself for part of it but I also blame the weather. The part that is definitely my fault is that I ate cake and ice cream. You know my stance on sugar (aka the white death) but sometimes you just have to sin, test the envelope, make sure that the laws of physics haven’t changed. And sin I did on Saturday — not only did I consume sugar, but also gluten and dairy (I’m whey reactive). So after pounding down all kinds of evil, I wasn’t all too surprised that I wanted to take a nap. This is actually the expected result of eating donuts or cruising the candy bowl when there is a sugar spike and then a sugar low.

What made this weekend of slumber blog worthy was that my Saturday nap time lasted 4 hours (totally unheard of for me) and I also napped on Sunday for a similar amount of time. I did not eat crap on Sunday but the common denominator was the weather. There was a big-ass low-pressure system sitting right over the Pacific Northwest.

A few years ago I was supposed to go to a party and I took a shower and was kind of sleepy so I lay down. I fell fast asleep to the pitter patter of rain drops and at about 9pm my friend who was hosting the party called. I could hardly wake up to answer the phone. It was like my muscles were mush. So I’m pretty sure that this same barometric reaction took place over the weekend.

Now I find this fascinating — not just because it’s all about me — but because it’s not a typical response. I know people who feel better when it rains; something about positive ions in the atmosphere.

And then there are the people who get heavy eyelids when it rains because of the sleepy environment it produces — it’s dark out, the drone of rain is soothing and kind of hypnotizing, and the humidity makes the air heavy.

But my theory is that it’s the change in the barometric pressure that throws me for a loop. I live in Seattle and it rains all the time here but I’m not always sleepy. Lately we’ve been having nice weather and then a storm will rush in — not unlike summer weather in the midwest. I think that the sudden drop in pressure is what affected me. So I decided to research and sure enough there have been studies which have shown that lower pressure in the atmosphere means less oxygen, and less oxygen induces fatigue and makes us sluggish. In fact, Boeing did a study in 2009 of their pilots and accumulated data to this same effect.

Keeping On The Pressure

At any given time, every square centimeter of our bodies has about 14.6 pounds of pressure on it. This keeps us together. When the pressure goes down, some people will feel bloated because their bodies expand. Fluctuation in this pressure is often felt in our joints. The cliche uncle with the knee that can predict a storm coming in, isn’t made up. Knees, shoulders, and hips are sort of like suction cups and any deviation in pressure makes them slip, which hurts.

Barometric pressure can affect people with existing medical conditions as well. I’m sure you’ve noticed that if you have a cold on an airplane that when the pressure shifts, you get a headache because air gets trapped in your sinuses. Some people say they get migraine headaches from the shifts in the weather. Blood vessels expand or contract when the air pressure outside the body changes and this could be the reason for the headache.

Numerous scientific studies have linked humidity and air pressure  to exacerbating arthritis, asthma, and migraines as well as good old fatigue. So although the reasons aren’t crystal clear, I was validated by my research and I’m on the right track re: the cause for my anomalous nappage over the weekend. Low barometric pressure and humidity can indeed induce feelings of sluggishness, lethargy and overall fatigue.

Not all calories are created equal

I love to eat, not so keen on gaining weight and looking like a potato

I love to eat, not so keen on gaining weight and looking like a potato.

I have had a poor relationship with food for most of my life. In fact I think that it’s only relatively recently that I have figured out what my body wants in order to work properly — or in other words, to be healthy. It was a long road to get here and certainly not efficient, but over time (and thank God I lived long enough to figure it out) I moved toward health.

I had an eating disorder for years which totally screwed up my metabolism and generally hurt me. I was so consumed with the common wisdom that calories are all that count in order to lose weight, that I’d make sure I had as few as possible in my stomach. Of course I’d get super hungry, and then I’d eat alot, but being bulimic took care of the thousands of calories of ice cream I’d pound down in one sitting. Bulimia is the American dream. You can eat anything you want and stay thin — but the downside is that you’re sick. Not just psychologically, but physically as well because you’re not being nourished and without nourishment, bodily systems go haywire.

I remember watching some talk show when I was a teenager and the guest was speaking about how if people ate whole foods that they wouldn’t overeat. She said that if your body gets what it needs through eating well, then you won’t crave things that are bad for you and you’d be in balance; you’d stay at your proper weight, and feel good. I thought she was crazy. Everyone knows that low-calorie diets are the only way to be the proper weight. This woman obviously wasn’t paying attention to all of the magazine headlines at Safeway.

“Modern Wisdom”

In my internet travels I scope out oodles of health and wellness sites for ideas and tips and to educate myself — but I find this “modern wisdom” of advising low-calorie over nutrition continuing. I will often look at recipes to share with you my darling reader, but I rarely find any good ones because whereas they may be low-calorie, they don’t have any decent nutrition. So you might enjoy the taste but you’d be getting little from it. It wouldn’t even keep you from being hungry, it’d probably stimulate the exact opposite result after an hour or so.

I find it disturbing that our current education about food is that calories are what count. I very much disagree with this and it really bothers me that this is still being preached as gospel. I’m appalled by the advice given that even if you use a pre-packaged product that’s full of chemicals, as long as it’s low-calorie, it’s okay. I saw a recipe that looked from the title like it’d be yummy and perfect for summer, but it required a packet of low-cal pudding mix. YUCK! Uber bad for you. Nothing good in there except maybe the powered milk (depending on how it was extracted, what sorts of hormones the cows were given and what was in their food). This is insane. This is also why low-calorie diets make you cranky and don’t work. You’re not eating food and you’re not being nourished so you crave all sorts of stuff. Your body is telling you that you’re not getting what you need, so you go off the diet and eat. You’re being nutritionally starved and your body wants you to correct that. If all you do is pay attention to calories, you’re set up to fail.

Define Equal

You’ve probably been asked that riddle, “which weighs more, a pound of air or a pound of rocks?” and of course the answer is that they weigh the same. The properties of air and rocks are very different however, but the measurement is equal. So it is with calories. A sugar calorie will make you sick and a protein calorie will build muscle. The thermal unit is the same, but the properties of that unit are vastly different.

Let’s say you eat 1,000 calories of sugar (3ish cokes) a day. Statistically you’re headed straight for obesity and type 2 diabetes. But if you eat 1,000 calories of protein (you should drink alot of water because protein can be hard on your kidneys, but other than that) you’ll be helping your muscles rebuild and reform. Now, according to the calories-is-what-counts way of thinking, there is no difference between your 1,000 calories of sugar and protein. Your body will burn them and your weight will reduce because you’ll be using more energy than you’re consuming. And that’s true — it’s physics. More calories in than calories expended = weight gain, but what kind of weight?

There’s “Thin” and Then There’s “Thin”

I had talked about being “skinny fat” in a previous post -- those who are thin but have poor muscle tone and high visceral fat. The skinny-fat people subscribe to the calorie theory by eating low-cal, low-nutrition foods and they may look good in their clothes, but they are not healthy. In a lab, calories are created equal when using a bunsen burner, but in a complex system like the human body that doesn’t hold true. The properties of the calorie can affect your metabolic health, your brain, your organs, and well, everything. When your body is out of whack, you don’t feel well and this is why most-low calorie diets fail. You’ve put your body into an untenable state and it will want to compensate to get back to health, so you eat more than you should and gain back not only what you lost, but more.

Now Matters

In 10 years, every cell in your body will have renewed. So literally you are what you eat. What you consume today will dictate the cells you’ll have tomorrow. You want healthy cells, and in order to have those you have to have metabolic health so nourishment can get to your cells. Your body needs to be able to function correctly and what you put in your mouth is a critical component of your future self. So finding a balanced way of eating — full of nutrition and low-calorie is the holy grail, not strictly adhering to a 1,200 calorie/day diet full of anything just as long as you stay below the calorie target. 1,200 calories of Cheetos may keep you thin and your fingers orange, but your skin, bones, teeth, organs, and breath will reflect your choice.

Once you’re being nourished, you’ll find that you no longer crave sugar and alcohol. Your body wants to feel good. Your brain wants to work well. If we feed ourselves with calories that are usable and promote fat burn, rather than adding to fat creation (ex: the coke diet mentioned above) you’ll have more energy and be more inclined to continue to take care of yourself because you feel so good…and when you sin, you’ll notice and want to get back on track.

Feel Good/Look Good

Being in good health is also very attractive to other people. If you’re glowing, people will want to be with you. Happiness is very attractive, but it’s hard to get there if you feel like crap.

We can’t afford to get sick in our society, so buck the current mode of thought and don’t rely on calorie counting as your savior when it comes to weight loss. Sure, calorie consumption matters, but It’s not the only critical factor.