Deanna's Blog

Athletes & Antioxidants, is there a time I shouldn’t take antioxidants?
 
You may not be an 'athlete', but if you are like me, you do like to throw the weights around in the gym and maybe train for the odd multiport race.  Or maybe your children are heavily in to sports like gymnastics, dance, hockey, lacrosse or soccer.  It's good to know how to support optimal muscle recovery and fueling your young athlete and yourself so to prevent major injuries down the road.  As a mother to a teenage dancer/gymnast who has been dancing since the age of 4, we have encountered our share of sports injuries.  I always like to ensure that we are obtaining optimal nutrition and balance for healing.
 
You may have heard that antioxidants can help reduce your recovery time after strenuous exercise. You know the stiffness, swelling, pain, fatigue and reduced strength that your muscles experience after a good workout.
 
And antioxidants can help!
 
Well, some of them can.
 
Today I’m going to dive into some of the science, but I also want to note that more research is needed. 
 
In this article, we’ll go over how the muscles get “oxidative stress” in the first place, and what “antioxidants” actually are. 
 
Then we’ll look at some of the research on the effects of both antioxidant supplements and antioxidant foods on muscle recovery. 
 
And lastly, when is the best time to get those antioxidants for maximal impact.
 
FIRST OFF - WHY DO MUSCLES GET SORE AFTER A WORKOUT?
 
Even if you haven’t heard of it, you know EIMD (exercise-induced muscle damage). This is an “official” term to describe the stiffness, swelling, pain, fatigue and reduced strength that can follow one, two, or even up to five days after a tough workout.
 
With EIMD symptoms, strength can decline by up to 40-50%, and this can significantly reduce performance for days, or even weeks afterwards!
 
This is because, at a microscopic level, after a good workout, there is damage to the muscle cells; and so the body’s natural repair mechanisms kick into gear. They bring fluid and immune cells to help fix those muscle cells so they can start rebuilding. This causes the inflammation and oxidative stress that show up as the symptoms of EIMD.
 
After a workout, the inflammation actually  helps to repair the muscle, so this inflammation is exactly what is needed so that the muscle can rebuild a bit stronger than it was before. 
 
In fact, this is what makes muscle recovery time critical.
 
So, as you can see, we don’t want to eliminate the symptoms and recovery time, we just want to reduce them, so we can get back to training again.
 
And, of course, exercise is just one of many things that cause oxidative stress and inflammation within the body.
 
BACK TO BASICS - WHAT EXACTLY IS AN ANTIOXIDANT?
 
“Oxidation” is a natural chemical process. 
 
It’s why some fruit goes brown once it’s cut. 
 
Have you ever squeezed lemon juice onto a sliced avocado? The vitamin C in the lemon juice can help prevent it from browning too quickly. That makes the vitamin C an “antioxidant”.
 
Some of the well-known antioxidants are actually essential nutrients, like vitamins C, and E, for example. There are also other types of antioxidants that are not vitamins. Some of these are phytochemicals (phyto=plant) in your fruits and vegetables, especially brightly-coloured plants.
 
And, as you know, fruits and vegetables are great for overall health and to reduce risk of many chronic diseases. One of the reasons why they’re so healthy is precisely because of their nutrients and phytochemicals. 
 
Browning avocados aside, oxidation is a natural and healthy process within our bodies.  It is essential for many normal processes, like when our white blood cells try to kill an invading bacteria, and to help repair muscle cells after a workout.
 
The thing is, as with everything in our bodies, processes work best when kept in balance.
 
So, the problem of oxidation is not the fact that it occurs, but only when there is too much of it, and the oxidation vs. antioxidation balance is thrown off. 
 
And that is what is known as “oxidative stress”.
 
HOW CAN ANTIOXIDANTS REDUCE MY RECOVERY TIME?
 
So now you know that you want your muscles to go through the natural processes of inflammation and oxidation in order for them to recover properly; and therefore, a balanced amount of oxidation and inflammation is your friend. 
 
You don’t want to completely eliminate the oxidative stress that is part of EIMD, you just want to help your body re-balance itself quicker to speed up the recovery process.
 
Here’s where antioxidants can help!
 
CAN ANTIOXIDANT SUPPLEMENTS HELP WITH EIMD?
 
You may have heard (or tried) taking antioxidant supplements like vitamins C or E. But what is the scientific evidence that this works to reduce muscle recovery time?
 
On one hand, vitamin supplements can be a good source of nutrients, as long as you take them as directed (i.e. don’t go overboard on them because more is not always better). 
 
On the other hand, there is conflicting evidence as to whether supplementing with vitamin C actually helps with EIMD. Some studies show benefit, some show no effect, while others show longer recovery times.
 
In terms of vitamin E, one review of many studies showed that high doses of vitamin E supplementation may even increase the risk of death
 
Even though both vitamins C and E are in fact essential vitamins that are also antioxidants, the science of supplementing with them for EIMD does not show much evidence that they help with muscle recovery. And some research suggests they may be detrimental at high doses.
 
What about non-vitamin antioxidant supplements?
 
Several clinical studies of flavonoid (non-vitamin antioxidants) supplements like quercetin and resveratrol showed no improvements in muscle recovery. 
 
In terms of antioxidant supplements in general, just like with antioxidant vitamin supplements, they just don’t seem to have held up to scientific scrutiny. 
 
CAN ANTIOXIDANT FOODS/DRINKS HELP WITH EIMD?
 
Antioxidant foods and drinks, on the other hand are a different story!
 
Many studies show that eating a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables contribute to overall health much more than taking isolated nutrients in a supplement.
 
Some of the richest sources of antioxidant fruits include brightly-coloured plants. Blueberries, for example have a high antioxidant ability (known as “ORAC - oxygen radical absorption capacity”), not because of their vitamins, but because they contain a lot of phytochemicals (phyto=plant) like “anthocyanins”, amongst others. Or even tart cherry juice, pomegranate, or black currant nectar.
 
In fact some antioxidant benefits of fruit juices seem to go above and beyond the amount of vitamin C they contain. So, it’s not just about the vitamins!
 
A few studies have shown improved muscle recovery after drinking tart cherry juice. Benefits include speeding recovery time, reducing inflammation and loss of muscle strength, as well as reducing pain after distance running.
 
Blueberries and black currant nectar have also been shown to speed muscle recovery and/or reduce muscle damage and inflammation.
 
So, the antioxidants that seem to help reduce EIMD symptoms are berries, cherries, currants and their juices.
 
WHEN SHOULD I EAT/DRINK ANTIOXIDANTS TO REDUCE MY RECOVERY TIME?
 
We know that the antioxidant status of the blood can increase within one hour of eating wild blueberries.
 
So, when should we ingest our antioxidants to help reduce muscle recovery time?
 
Most of the studies that showed benefits had people eat or drink their fruits for 4-7 days before their exercise, as well as on the day of. Some even had participants continue for several days afterwards.
 
One review recommends daily consumption of tart cherries for faster recovery from EIMD.
 
Blueberries have been shown to speed muscle recovery when eaten both before AND after strenuous exercise.
 
The bottom line is that you can have your antioxidant fruits/juices for days before and after you exercise. Even consider making them a regular part of your daily diet.
 
SUMMARY
 
Exercise-induced muscle damage, EIMD is an “official” term to describe the stiffness, swelling, pain and fatigue and reduced strength that can follow one, two, or even up to five days after a tough workout.
After a workout, the inflammation actually  helps to repair the muscle, so it is exactly what is needed so that the muscle can rebuild a bit stronger than it was before. So, the goal is not to eliminate the symptoms and recovery time, just to reduce it.
Antioxidant supplements don’t seem to have much beneficial effect, and can be harmful in large doses.
There are some good studies on using blueberries, tart cherry juice and black currant nectar for their help with muscle recovery.
When it comes to reducing recovery time, most of the research has shown a benefit when eating or drinking these fruit and/or juices for several days before, as well as the day of, and even after strenuous exercise. Feel free to have them daily.
More studies are being done, so keep your eye out for updates in this area.
 
REFERENCES
 
Bowtell JL, Sumners DP, Dyer A, Fox P, Mileva KN. Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Aug;43(8):1544-51. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31820e5adc.
LINK: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/08000/Montmorency_Cherry_Juice_Reduces_Muscle_Damage.21.aspx
 
Close GL, Ashton T, Cable T, Doran D, Holloway C, McArdle F, MacLaren DP. Ascorbic acid supplementation does not attenuate post-exercise muscle soreness following muscle-damaging exercise but may delay the recovery process. Br J Nutr. 2006 May;95(5):976-81.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16611389
 
Connolly DA, Lauzon C, Agnew J, Dunn M, Reed B. The effects of vitamin C supplementation on symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2006 Sep;46(3):462-7.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16998453
 
Dragsted LO, Pedersen A, Hermetter A, Basu S, Hansen M, Haren GR, Kall M, Breinholt V, Castenmiller JJ, Stagsted J, Jakobsen J, Skibsted L, Rasmussen SE, Loft S, Sandström B. The 6-a-day study: effects of fruit and vegetables on markers of oxidative stress and antioxidative defense in healthy nonsmokers. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;79(6):1060-72.
LINK:  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/6/1060.long
 
Guarnieri S, Riso P, Porrini M. Orange juice vs vitamin C: effect on hydrogen peroxide-induced DNA damage in mononuclear blood cells. Br J Nutr. 2007 Apr;97(4):639-43.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17349075
 
Hutchison AT, Flieller EB, Dillon KJ, Leverett BD. Black Currant Nectar Reduces Muscle Damage and Inflammation Following a Bout of High-Intensity Eccentric Contractions. J Diet Suppl. 2016;13(1):1-15. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2014.952864. Epub 2014 Aug 25.
 
Islam MA, Alam F, Solayman M, Khalil MI, Kamal MA, Gan SH. Dietary Phytochemicals: Natural Swords Combating Inflammation and Oxidation-Mediated Degenerative Diseases. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:5137431. Epub 2016 Sep 19.
LINK:  https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2016/5137431/
 
Kay CD, Holub BJ. The effect of wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) consumption on postprandial serum antioxidant status in human subjects. Br J Nutr. 2002 Oct;88(4):389-98.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12323088
 
Keul KS, Perrier ET, Elliot DL, Chesnutt JC. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.2010, 7: 17 (7 May 2010).
 
Laupheimer MW, Perry M, Benton S, Malliaras P, Maffulli N. Resveratrol exerts no effect on inflammatory response and delayed onset muscle soreness after a marathon in male athletes.: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot feasibility study. Transl Med UniSa. 2014 Apr 8;10:38-42. eCollection 2014.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4140428/
 
McLeay, Y,  Barnes, MJ, Mundel, T, Hurst, SM, Hurst, RD, Stannard, SR. Effect of New Zealand blueberry consumption on recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.2012, 9: 19 (7 May 2012).
 
Miller ER 3rd, Pastor-Barriuso R, Dalal D, Riemersma RA, Appel LJ, Guallar E. Meta-analysis: high-dosage vitamin E supplementation may increase all-cause mortality. Ann Intern Med. 2005 Jan 4;142(1):37-46. Epub 2004 Nov 10.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15537682
 
Rabello de Lima CL, Oliveira Assumpção C, Prestes J, Sérgio Denadai B. CONSUMPTION OF CHERRIES AS A STRATEGY TO ATTENUATE EXERCISE-INDUCED MUSCLE DAMAGE AND INFLAMMATION IN HUMANS. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Nov 1;32(5):1885-93. Doi: 10.3305/nh.2015.32.5.9709.
LINK:  http://www.aulamedica.es/nh/pdf/9709.pdf
 
Sousa M, Teixeira VH, Soares J. Dietary strategies to recover from exercise-induced muscle damage. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Mar;65(2):151-63. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2013.849662. Epub 2013 Nov 4.
LINK:  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258248692_Dietary_strategies_to_recover_from_exercise-induced_muscle_damage
 
Tuesday, 01 August 2017 18:13

Nutrients for Brain Health

Written by
The best nutrients for brain health (and how to get them)
 
There are so many nutrients that you need for overall health. Vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and essential fats, just to name a few.
 
But which ones are the most important for your brain? 
 
Which nutrients can help with brain development of infants, improve moods, and reduce the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s?
 
Yes, of course, you need an array of nutrients! But, there are five real brain health “winners” here.
 
Let’s go over the brain boosting benefits of omega-3s, vitamin D, B vitamins, magnesium, and probiotics.
 
OMEGA-3s
 
Omega-3s are a type of essential fat. They are arguably the most important nutrients for brain health. 
 
If you take away the water weight, your brain is 60% fat. And 25% of this fat is omega-3s; in particular, the omega-3 called “DHA” (docosahexaenoic acid).
 
Omega-3s have many functions in the brain, for example, they help nerve cells insulate their electrical signals, stabilize their membranes, and reduce inflammation.
 
Omega-3s are critical for baby’s brain development. Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy can help improve baby’s intelligence and reduce the risk of behavioural problems. 
 
People who regularly eat and/or have higher blood levels of omega-3s are less likely to be depressed. And several studies have shown that when people with mood swings, depression, or anxiety start taking omega-3 supplements, some of their symptoms improve.
 
In terms of age-related mental decline, studies also show that people with higher Omega-3 intakes have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
 
OK - They’re great for brain health, but how do I get enough omega-3s?
 
You can get the recommended amount of omega-3s, including DHA, from eating two servings of fatty fish each week.
 
Simple! Have a wild salmon steak and a shrimp stir fry one week. Then have some smoked mackerel and baked cod another week.
 
In terms of supplements, as little as 0.5 grams (500 mg) of fish oil each day is enough for most people to get the minimum recommended levels. Many fish oil supplements come in 1 g (1,000 mg) doses, and that may be just fine on a daily basis (check your labels to make sure).
 
VITAMIN D
 
Vitamin D is another vitally important brain nutrient.
 
Vitamin D is both neuroprotective (protects nerve cells) and neurotrophic (help nerve cells grow).  And there are vitamin D receptors in areas of the brain involved with depression.
 
Prenatal vitamin D status is thought to play an important role in brain development, cognitive function (ability to think), and psychological function. For example, children born of mothers with low blood levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia later in life.
 
In adults, low blood levels of vitamin D have been associated with multiple sclerosis, depression, and cognitive impairment, including Parkinson’s Disease.
 
How can I get enough vitamin D?
 
Your skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun. There are many factors that can affect how much sunshine you need to make enough vitamin D, for example, location, season, clouds, clothing, etc.. However, you don’t necessarily want to trade a vitamin D deficiency for potential skin cancer concerns.
 
Vitamin D is naturally found in a few foods such as fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. It is also added to certain foods such as milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt; so check your labels to find out if yours have it.
 
When it comes to vitamin D, supplementation may be a good way to go.
 
Ideally, your health care provider would test your blood for levels of vitamin D and recommend a certain amount.
 
However, if you don’t have a blood test, the safest way to take the vitamin D supplements is to use them as directed on the label. And never take more than 10,000IU/day, unless specifically told to by your health care provider. 
 
B VITAMINS
 
There are several essential B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12), and they’re particularly important for brain health. In fact, B vitamin deficiency is a leading cause of neurological impairment and disability throughout the world!
 
The B vitamins are so important for brain health that each one is actively transported across the blood brain-barrier. This means that your body spends energy to pull those B vitamins into the brain. And many of these vitamins are found in the brain in much higher concentrations than in the blood.
 
The B vitamins work together and sometimes work with enzymes. They have many roles in brain function. These include as antioxidants, helping the neurons (nerve cells) maintain their structure and function, helping the brain to produce energy (which your brain needs a lot of). B vitamins are also necessary for the production of essential neurochemicals as well.
 
Chronic low levels of several B vitamins are associated with depression, ALS (amyotropic lateral sclerosis), some psychiatric conditions, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
 
And low levels of B12, in particular, are associated with some symptoms of mental disorders, smaller brain size, and poor memory.
 
In fact, some of the benefits of B vitamins on brain health seem to work with omega-3s. So make sure you get enough of both.
 
You can get B vitamins, except B12, from plants. Leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables are great sources, and by eating animal products (who ate those plants), you are also getting some B vitamins. Not to mention that some foods have B vitamins added to them, so check your labels.
 
Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, eggs, and algae.
 
B vitamins can be found individually or in supplements as a complex (B complex). Some of those complexes may not include vitamin B12, so again, check your labels. You may need to take B12 supplements separately, especially if you avoid animal products.
 
MAGNESIUM
 
Magnesium is an essential mineral used by the body for over 600 functions.  Functions like: energy production, nerve function, and blood pressure.
 
Magnesium deficiency has been associated with a number of brain diseases, including migraine headaches, depression, Alzheimer’s, and stroke.
 
One of the ways that magnesium helps neurons is that it helps to control the flow of calcium into and out of those cells. If there isn’t enough magnesium, this can lead to nerve cell damage.
 
Getting more magnesium has been shown to help improve moods and can help to prevent migraines and reduce their symptoms.
 
The foods highest in magnesium include spinach, nuts, legumes, and potatoes.
 
In terms of supplements, magnesium is available in many formats including magnesium citrate, magnesium sulfate, magnesium chloride, and magnesium oxide. If you do need a magnesium supplement, I recommend the forms without oxide because they’re more easily absorbed and cause less digestive disturbances.
 
PROBIOTICS
 
You may have heard new research about the gut-brain connection, and this has great potential to help us use foods and supplements for optimal brain health.
 
You have friendly health-promoting microbes that live in your gut. Probiotics, on the other hand, are similar microbes that you can eat and supplement with. They’re what turn milk into yogurt, and cabbage into sauerkraut. They’re great for your gut health, and brain health as well.
 
Several studies show that after a few weeks of ingesting probiotic foods or supplements, healthy people’s negative thoughts and sad moods reduce. Several other studies show that taking probiotic supplements helped improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress in otherwise healthy people. In one study, people diagnosed with depression took probiotic supplements and their symptoms improved as well. 
 
Studies also show a reduction in some symptoms of multiple sclerosis after supplementing with probiotics.
 
There are a wide variety of probiotic supplements available for sale.
 
SUMMARY
 
Overall, there are several key nutrients for optimal brain health. They are omega-3s, vitamin D, B-vitamins, magnesium, and probiotics.
 
They have wide-ranging brainy benefits from helping baby’s brains develop, to improving moods, to reducing symptoms of depression and multiple sclerosis, to reducing risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
 
Many of them work together, and it’s important to get enough of each of them every day.
 
Overall, I recommend a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally-processed foods to meet your daily needs, but sometimes a supplement may help.
 
REFERENCES:
 
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Wang, H-X., Wahlin, A., Basun, H., Fastbom, J., Winblad, B. & Fratiglioni, L. (2001). Vitamin B12 and folate in relation to the development of Alzheimer’s disease Neurology 56(9):1188-1194
 
Watanabe, F., Takenaka, S., Kittaka-Katsura, H., Ebara, S. & Miyamoto, E. (2002). Characterization and bioavailability of vitamin B12-compounds from edible algae. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 48(5):325-31.
 
Weiser, M.J., Butt, C.M. & Mohajeri, M.H. (2016). Docosahexaenoic Acid and Cognition throughout the Lifespan. Nutrients. 8(2):99.
How stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals 
 
You probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that more stress and stress hormones promote weight gain, would you?
 
But what exactly is stress, and how does it keep you from your weight loss goals?
 
In fact, there are actually many links between stress hormones and weight.  We’ll talk about six major reasons how stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals. These include the effect stress has on digestion and gut health, inflammation and the immune system. Stress can cause cravings, increased appetite, and “stress eating.” It can promote fat storage around the waist with its effect on insulin sensitivity. Stress can also be mood-busting and demotivating, not to mention how it worsens sleep. 
 
All of these can work to keep you from your weight loss goals.
 
Let’s go over the effects of stress and stress hormones, and exactly how they all tie into weight loss. Then we’ll end off with two strategies (and several of my best tips) how to manage stress. 
 
Because, as you know, weight loss isn’t just about calories.
 
WHAT IS STRESS?
 
When you hear the word “stress” do you think it’s dangerous or unhealthy?
 
In actual fact, stress itself is a totally normal response to a sense of danger. It can be your friend or foe.
 
You usually can’t fully control it. It’s your body’s way of protecting you with the “fight or flight” reaction. It can help you survive.
 
Stress can help you to become more focused and have energy when facing an immediate threat. This infrequent short-term stress can help you to run to your kid when (s)he is hurt, or avoid a collision. It can even help you to meet deadlines or get to appointments on time when running late. It’s also what makes some people enjoy roller coasters or dangerous activities (skydiving anyone?). Have you heard the term “adrenaline junkie?”
 
These are examples of infrequent short-lived stress called “acute” stress, or even “good” stress. And when the situation is over, the stress fades and your body goes back to normal. Ideally, this is how stress should be, infrequent and short-lived. The problem is that in today’s society, many people feel stress often, and for a long time. It’s neither infrequent nor short-lived. It’s more “constant” or “chronic.”
 
This is different.
 
This can be from having or caring for someone with a major illness, or long-term relationship problems.  Maybe you have a crummy and long commute to a not-so-awesome job every single day.
 
And that chronic stress (“bad” stress) can affect you in so many ways. It can affect your digestion, moods, and sleep. And, not surprisingly, it can affect your ability to lose weight. In fact, studies show that chronic stress is associated with obesity and metabolic disease. And this is especially true for women. Women are at greater risk for stress-induced emotional eating, and obesity.
 
This kind of stress can negatively affect your digestion, your mood, your health...and keep you from your weight loss goals.
 
SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
 
When your body senses danger (real or imagined), it immediately reacts with the “fight or flight” reaction to help you...well, “fight” or “flee”.
 
Things essential for survival are prioritized. Things like perception, decision making, and energy for your muscles. The other “rest and digest” functions are put on the backburner until the stress levels start fading.
 
You probably know how stress affects you. Do you get cravings or indigestion? Do you feel more aches and pains, or get sick? Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you have more difficulty losing weight?
 
Let’s touch on the physical effects of stress, and then dig into how these effects can keep you from your weight loss goals.
 
STRESS RESPONSE - NERVES AND HORMONES
 
Stress-related symptoms are from the physiological effects of stress. Basically, how it affects our nervous system and hormones.
 
Both of these have profound effects on the body because they’re trying to help you save your (or someone else’s) life.
 
First up, the nervous system. The “fight or flight” part of your nervous system that is activated by stress is called the “sympathetic” nervous system. This part of your nervous system is usually (ideally) nice and quiet. It’s on “standby” until needed.
On the other hand, there is the “rest and digest” part of your nervous system called the “parasympathetic” nervous system. 
 
So, as you can imagine, when you have chronic stress your body isn’t doing much resting or digesting. And both of these are important for optimal health...and weight.
 
Secondly, let’s talk stress hormones. Have you heard of “cortisol” and “adrenaline?” These hormones are released by your adrenal glands. Adrenal glands look like little walnuts on top of each kidney, and they release a number of hormones, including these stress hormones. 
 
STRESS HORMONES
 
When you perceive danger (real or imagined), this starts a hormone cascade that moves from your brain to your adrenal glands. It’s basically like when a bunch of people are in a circle and they’re passing the ball to the person beside them. But with stress hormones.
 
First, a part in the brain called the “hypothalamus” gets your nervous system ready. It also releases a hormone to trigger the next hormone in the cascade. (Here’s the first pass of the ball.)
 
Second, when the pituitary gland (also in the brain) gets that hormone, it releases a different hormone to trigger the next hormones in the cascade. (Here’s the second pass of the ball.)
 
Third, when your adrenal glands (on your kidneys) get that signal, they release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Here’s where things get interesting.
 
The fancy name for this connection between the brain’s hormones and adrenal hormones is called the “hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis”, or the HPA Axis. 
 
There is more and more research that shows a link between a dysregulation (improperly functioning) of the HPA Axis, and its association with insulin resistance and abdominal obesity. And, ideally, you want to minimize insulin resistance and abdominal obesity, right?
 
The stress hormone cortisol affects many things in our bodies. Things like digestion and gut health, inflammation. hunger hormones, insulin release and sensitivity, mood, and sleep. All of these that are affected by stress hormones can also affect your weight.
 
STRESS HORMONES AND WEIGHT
 
We now see that there are many, many effects that stress hormones, mainly cortisol, have on your body. Including the link that people with abdominal obesity tend to have higher cortisol levels.
 
Let’s dive into each one and see how stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals.
 
1 - Poor Digestion and Gut Health
 
As mentioned already, being in a state of stress puts digestion on the back burner. This is because your body is ready to “fight or flee,” rather than “rest and digest.”
 
One of the most obvious impacts stress has on digestion is “transit time.” You may notice that stress can either quickly speed up how fast your food moves through you (diarrhea). Or, it may slow it down quite a bit (constipation). Neither one of these is ideal.
 
So, even if you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, you may become nutrient deficient! And proper nutrition is needed at the best of times, let alone when you’re stressed and trying to lose weight.
 
New research is also showing the impact that stress has on our friendly gut microbes. We’re just beginning to understand the influence that our gut microbes have on all aspects of health, including weight loss. It may be surprising to know that there seems to be a link between stress and gut microbes (in animals). Seriously!
 
Stress is also linked with tiny holes or “leaks” in your digestive tract. This means that incompletely digested food particles can get into your body through these leaks. This can cause a ton of inflammation.
 
Which leads us to the second major way stress keeps you from your weight loss goals.
 
2 - Inflammation and immune system dysregulation
 
Guess where 80% of your immune system is located?
 
Right around your digestive tract!
 
So, you can imagine if chronic stress is messing with your digestion, it’s going to also mess with your immune system.
 
More and more research is suggesting that inflammation is part of many chronic diseases. When you’re chronically stressed, this affects your immune system which is supposed to control inflammation. It can make your immune system either hypervigilant, or less-responsive. And both of these can keep you from reaching your weight loss goals.
 
If your immune system is hypervigilant, you can develop high inflammatory levels.
 
If your immune system is less-responsive, it can allow your body to get sick more often, and stay sick longer.
 
For optimal health, and the ability to lose weight, you want your immune system to work properly (not too high, nor too low).
 
3 - Cravings, increased appetite, and “stress eating”
 
When you’re stressed do you reach for celery? Or do you prefer fatty or sugary snacks?
 
Many people tend to eat more food, particularly comfort food. Things that tend to be fatty and sugary. And there is science to back this up.
 
Scientists are now looking at interactions between stress hormones and the “hunger” and “fullness” hormones.
 
I don’t even have to tell you how this is going to keep you from your weight loss goals.
 
4 - Insulin sensitivity
 
Stress also increases your blood sugar, to make sure that your muscles have the fuel (sugar) they need to “fight” or “flee.” And if your muscles are not working and using up that excess blood sugar (i.e. you’re not running for your life), your body secretes insulin to re-absorb that sugar into your cells. 
 
This increase in both cortisol and insulin promote both insulin resistance and fat storage. Especially around the middle.
 
5 - Mood-busting and demotivating
 
Stress can not only bring down your mood, but that can also be terribly demotivating. When you’re feeling stressed, you may start feeling moody. You may also have less motivation to do the healthy weight loss activities that you really want to do.
 
If you’re down in the dumps and not motivated to prepare healthy meals or snacks, or get some exercise, then you’re less likely to do those things.
 
And we all know how important they are for weight loss.
 
6 - Negatively affects sleep
 
Cortisol is part of your natural sleep-wake cycle. Under normal (non-stressed) conditions, cortisol levels would increase before waking, and slowly drop during the day.
 
And this makes sense, because we know that it helps increase mental clarity as well as blood sugar to fuel your muscles. And we need mental clarity and to move our muscles, especially when we are awake.
 
But we also need this effect to “wear off” by the end of the day so we can start getting tired and relaxed enough to get a good night’s sleep. In other words, in the evenings, we want to start more resting and digesting.
 
And getting enough sleep is probably a more common reason why people don’t reach weight loss goals than most people think. Science is showing the links between not getting enough quality sleep and obesity.
 
Now that we’ve gone through six major reasons how stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals, let’s talk about what the heck you can do about it.
 
STRESS-REDUCING TIPS
 
I’d love to help you manage your stress better so that you can meet your weight loss goals.
 
There are really two main strategies to go about reducing your stress. 
 
First off, you can reduce the amount of stress put on you by re-balancing some demands. Try:
Saying “no”;
Getting more support;
Delegating to someone else;
Re-negotiating deadlines that seem unreasonable;
When working, focus on just one thing at a time (don’t multi-task).
 
Secondly, since you can’t (and maybe don’t want to) completely remove stress from you life, you want to learn to deal with it better. You can improve your personal stress tolerance by trying to:
Have some fun and laugh;
Make time for people (and pets) you love;
Get more, better-quality sleep;
Be mindful and live more “in the moment”;
Have one or two cups of green tea (which has been shown to lower stress levels);
Do light exercise most days per week (e.g. yoga, swimming, or tai chi);
Go for a walk outside;
Spend more time in nature;
Eat a nutrient-rich diet;
Meditate or deep breathing;
Relax every evening (e.g. have a bath or read a book);
Listen to soothing music;
Do a “brain dump” every night before bed where you just make notes of things you’re keeping track of in your head so you can relax more;
Treat yourself to a massage, nice meal, or pedicure.
 
SUMMARY
 
Stress has six major effects that can keep you from your weight loss goals. It affects digestion and gut health, inflammation and the immune system. Stress can cause cravings, increased appetite, and “stress eating.” It can promote fat storage around the waist with its effect on insulin sensitivity. Stress can be mood-busting and demotivating, not to mention how it worsens sleep.
 
All of these effects can keep you from your weight loss goals. Definitely try some of the many ways to deal with stress, but also try to reduce some of the causes of stress in your life.
 
Your mind and body will thank you!
 
REFERENCES
 
Brzozowski B, Mazur-Bialy A, Pajdo R, Kwiecien S, Bilski J, Zwolinska-Wcislo M, Mach T, Brzozowski T. Mechanisms by which Stress Affects the Experimental and Clinical Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Role of Brain-Gut Axis. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2016;14(8):892-900.
 
Chao AM, Jastreboff AM, White MA, Grilo CM, Sinha R. Stress, cortisol, and other appetite-related hormones: Prospective prediction of 6-month changes in food cravings and weight. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Apr;25(4):713-720. doi: 10.1002/oby.21790.
 
Chen WQ, Zhao XL, Hou Y, Li ST, Hong Y, Wang DL, & Cheng YY. Protective effects of green tea polyphenols on cognitive impairments induced by psychological stress in rats. Behav Brain Res. 2009 Aug 24;202(1):71-6.
 
Clarke G, Stilling RM, Kennedy PJ, Stanton C, Cryan JF, & Dinan TG. Minireview: Gut microbiota: the neglected endocrine organ. Mol Endocrinol. 2014 Aug;28(8):1221-38. doi: 10.1210/me.2014-1108.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24892638
 
Fernandez-Rodriguez E, Stewart PM & Cooper MS. The pituitary–adrenal axis and body composition. Pituitary 12 (2009):105–115 DOI 10.1007/s11102-008-0098-2
 
Hewagalamulage SD., Lee TK., Clarke IJ. & Henry BA. Stress, cortisol, and obesity: a role for cortisol responsiveness in identifying individuals prone to obesity. Domest Anim Endocrinol. 2016;56 Suppl:S112-20. doi: 10.1016/j.domaniend.2016.03.004. 

Incollingo Rodriguez AC, Epel ES, White ML, Standen EC, Seckl JR & Tomiyama AJ. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation and cortisol activity in obesity: A systematic review. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Dec;62:301-18. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.08.014.
 
Kolbe, I., Dumbell, R. & Oster, H. (2015). Circadian Clocks and the Interaction between Stress Axis and Adipose Function. Int J Endocrinol. 2015:693204. doi: 10.1155/2015/693204.
 
Lucassen EA, Cizza G. The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, Obesity, and Chronic Stress Exposure: Sleep and the HPA Axis in Obesity. Curr Obes Rep. 2012 Dec;1(4):208-215.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3498460/?report=reader
 
Michopoulos V. Stress-induced alterations in estradiol sensitivity increase risk for obesity in women. Physiol Behav. 2016;166:56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.05.016.
 
Pasquali R, Vicennati V, Cacciari M & Pagotto U. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Annual NY Academic Science, 1083, 2006;111–128. doi: 10.1196/annals.1367.009
 
Schorr M, Lawson EA, Dichtel LE, Klibanski A, Miller KK. Cortisol Measures Across the Weight Spectrum. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Sep;100(9):3313-21. doi: 10.1210/JC.2015-2078.

 

 
 
There may not be an obvious link between sleep deprivation and your weight, but more and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your mood, mental performance, overall health and wellness, and especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.
 
Many studies show that people who have a short sleep duration simply weigh more. And, in fact, as the levels of chronic (long-term) sleep deprivation have increased over the past 50 years, so have the growing epidemics of being overweight or obese.
 
And many studies now agree that lack of sleep is an “independent” risk factor (i.e. a direct risk) for weight gain and obesity. 
 
Especially for women.
 
One large analysis of 45 studies which included over 600,000 people says, “studies from around the world show a consistent increased risk of obesity amongst short sleepers in children and adults.” The increased risks were 89% for children and 55% for adults.
 
The overall data in that study suggests that a reduction in one hour of sleep per day would be associated with about 1.4 kg in additional weight.
 
Right now, 40% of American adults say that they get less than 7 hours of sleep per night, and 7 hours is the minimum recommended nightly sleep, with 9 being the maximum.
 
HOW SLEEP DEPRIVATION LEADS TO WEIGHT GAIN
 
Overall, there are two main ways (with two factors each) that we think that lack of sleep contributes to weight gain and obesity.
 
First, it increases calorie intake in two ways.
It allows more time available to eat; and 
It messes with your hunger hormones.
 
Second, it decreases your ability to burn off calories in two ways. 
It can slow your metabolism; and 
It can cause fatigue and, therefore, reduced physical activity.
 
Let’s talk about all four of these factors.
 
LACK OF SLEEP INCREASES TIME AVAILABLE TO EAT
 
Some researchers suggest that the longer the time you’re awake, the more opportunity you have to eat, or more specifically, to snack. In fact, some studies have shown that these tend to be nighttime snacks.
 
And guess what many sleep-deprived people tend to snack on at night?
 
You guessed it...high-fat, sometimes high-carb, and less protein and fibre snacks.
 
Which, of course, can lead to weight gain.
 
And, at least one study shows that eating at night increases the time it takes (healthy people) to fall asleep. Especially for women. So there is a bit of a “vicious cycle” in play here.
 
LACK OF SLEEP MESSES WITH YOUR HUNGER HORMONES
 
Many people who sleep less tend to eat more calories throughout the day. And not only due to increased time available for snacking, but also because of how lack of sleep can mess with the hormones that control both hunger and appetite.  
 
How does this happen? 
 
This is a “double-whammy” because some studies show that lack of sleep not only increases the stomach’s hunger hormone “ghrelin” (making you hungrier), but it also decreases the fat tissue’s fullness hormone “leptin” (making you feel less full).
 
These changes can clearly lead to more eating, and eventually weight gain or even obesity.
 
It’s possible that this is a natural mechanism that our body uses to make sure we get enough food for longer waking times. But this doesn’t always serve us well, as it tends to make us “overshoot” our energy needs and take in a bit more than we actually need.
 
LACK OF SLEEP MAY SLOW YOUR METABOLISM
 
Research is just emerging on this topic, but it seems to show that sleep deprivation can lower your “energy expenditure” and body temperature?
 
This means that your body may naturally burn less fuel at rest during the days when you’re sleep deprived.
 
When you burn less, you store more.
 
LACK OF SLEEP REDUCES EXERCISE
 
You know how tired you feel after not getting enough sleep?
 
This is the fourth way that lack of sleep affects weight.
 
By increasing fatigue, sleep deprivation can reduce the motivation to exercise. 
 
And when you’re burning less fuel at rest (slower metabolism), and less likely to exercise, you’re at risk of gaining weight.
 
WANT TO KNOW THE GREAT NEWS?
 
Lack of sleep is considered a “modifiable risk factor”.
 
This means that, although it increases our risk for obesity, we have some power over it.
 
How well you sleep and how much sleep you get is something that you can improve by putting into place some tips and making them regular habits.
 
TIPS FOR GETTING BETTER SLEEP
 
1 - Make sleep a priority.

 Let’s admit that, for a lot of us, the lack of sleep we’re getting is often because we simply give other activities priority. Making something a priority will help you achieve it.


 
2 - Be consistent with your sleeping times.

Your body loves routine, and having a consistent bedtime can actually train your brain, your body’s clock (circadian rhythm), and sleep hormones to follow suit.


 
3 - Eliminate stimulants after noon.

 Ideally, you won’t expose your body to chemical stimulation for the whole afternoon and evening. This includes caffeine (coffee, black and green teas, chocolate) and nicotine (cigarettes).
 
4 - Get some exercise and sunshine during the day.

 Of course, exercise and sunshine have many health benefits. They also tell your brain that it’s daytime, so it can help to set your body’s clock.

 Tip: Be sure to finish exercise at least three hours before bedtime, as it may stimulate some people and keep them awake.


 
5 - Stop eating and drinking a couple of hours before bed

By cutting out your bedtime snack you will eat fewer calories, and you may even have a better night’s sleep and wake up more alert. Also, by not drinking fluids a few hours before bed you’ll reduce the need to go the bathroom in the middle of the night.
 
6 - Lower your lights when the sun goes down

If your brain thinks it’s daytime it will not make the sleep hormone melatonin so it can stay awake. So, having bright white (or blue-ish) lights can trick your brain into thinking that it’s daytime. 
So, you can dim your lights, buy amber/red light bulbs and/or blue-blocker glasses, turn off electronics (or at least use the f.lux or twilight apps), and if you do need to go to the bathroom during the night, don’t turn on the light. 
 

7 - Create a relaxing pre-bed routine.

 Choose something that you enjoy and will help to relax your body and mind and prepare it for a good night’s sleep, whether it be a warm bath, or reading a book.

 When you start feeling drowsy, just go to bed.


 
8 - Keep your bedroom comfortable.Having a room that is too hot, bright, or noisy can keep you from having a good night’s sleep. Ideally, your room will be cool, completely dark, and either silent or with white noise.


 
9 - Get light as soon as you wake up.  

Turn on the lights or open the blinds as soon as you wake. This tells your brain to wake up and start the day. 
 
 
REFERENCES
 
Cappuccio FP, Taggart FM, Kandala N-B, et al. Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults. Sleep. 2008;31(5):619-626.
 
Crispim CA, Zimberg IZ, dos Reis BG, Diniz RM, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Relationship between food intake and sleep pattern in healthy individuals. J Clin Sleep Med. 2011 Dec 15;7(6):659-64. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.1476.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3227713/
 
Dashti HS, Scheer FA, Jacques PF, Lamon-Fava S, Ordovás JM. Short sleep duration and dietary intake: epidemiologic evidence, mechanisms, and health implications. Adv Nutr. 2015 Nov 13;6(6):648-59. doi: 10.3945/an.115.008623. Print 2015 Nov.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4642416/
 
Di Milia L, Vandelanotte C, Duncan MJ. The association between short sleep and obesity after controlling for demographic, lifestyle, work and health related factors. Sleep Med. 2013 Apr;14(4):319-23. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2012.12.007. Epub 2013 Feb 16.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23419528
 
Lucassen EA, Rother KI, Cizza G. Interacting epidemics? Sleep curtailment, insulin resistance, and obesity. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012 Aug;1264:110-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06655.x. Epub 2012 Jul 24.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3418485/
 
Markwald RR, Melanson EL, Smith MR, et al. Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2013;110(14):5695-5700. doi:10.1073/pnas.1216951110.
 
McHill AW, Wright KP Jr. Role of sleep and circadian disruption on energy expenditure and in metabolic predisposition to human obesity and metabolic disease. Obes Rev. 2017 Feb;18 Suppl 1:15-24. doi: 10.1111/obr.12503.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28164449
 
Patel SR, Hu FB. Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Mar;16(3):643-53. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.118. Epub 2008 Jan 17.
LINK:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2007.118/full
 
Shlisky JD, Hartman TJ, Kris-Etherton PM, Rogers CJ, Sharkey NA, Nickols-Richardson SM. Partial sleep deprivation and energy balance in adults: an emerging issue for consideration by dietetics practitioners. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Nov;112(11):1785-97. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.07.032.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23102177/
 
Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Med. 2004 Dec;1(3):e62. Epub 2004 Dec 7.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/
Friday, 26 May 2017 14:12

Probiotics for Moods and Stress? Yes!

Written by
 
 
What do you do when your mood is off or you’re stressed to the max?

 Eat ice cream? Binge watch Netflix? Call your bestie?

 After reading this article, you may consider yogurt, a handful of walnuts, or maybe even some dark chocolate as your go-to mood-boosters and stress-busters.

Today, we’ll unpack some of the exciting (and preliminary) new research about the link between your gut health and moods/stress. 
 
We’ll talk about your friendly resident gut microbes (mostly bacteria), probiotic foods and supplements, as well as foods to feed those gut microbes and probiotics (aka “prebiotics”). 

WHAT THE HECK ARE “GUT MICROBES?  ”

Oh, our friendly “gut microbes.” 

They are the trillions of microbes that happily live in our gut. They help us by digesting foods, making vitamins, and even protecting us from the not-so-friendly microbes that may get in there.

Believe it or not, these friendly microbes have mood-boosting and stress-busting functions too!

FUN FACT: There are more microbes
 
FUN FACT: There are more microbes inside our gut than all of the human cells that make us. Yup, we’re more than half microbe! So, how can they NOT impact our health?

It’s a hotbed of research right now and we’re finding out more about their awesome health, and mood/stress benefits every day.

And, while the research is just starting to figure out the many gut microbe-brain connections, it’s such a cool new topic that I couldn’t wait to share it with you!

GUT MICROBES AND PROBIOTICS

The microbes that live in our guts are known as our “gut microbiota”. 
 
The microbes that we can ingest are known as “probiotics”.

“Probiotics” are live organisms that you can eat, drink, or take as a supplement. They’re what turn milk into yogurt, and cabbage into sauerkraut; and they are great for both your gut health and mental health.

Special probiotics that have mental health benefits are called “psychobiotics,” (psycho = mental health, and biotics = live). They’re live organisms that can benefit our psyche.

So, what’s the link between gut microbes, probiotics, and moods/stress?

  BAD MOODS/STRESS CAN MEAN BAD MICROBES

.  Stress can affect our friendly gut microbes.

 Several studies show that stressed rodents not only have increased stress hormones and stressed behaviours; but, they also have different gut microbes!

And this has been studied, to a small extent, in people too.

 One study showed that moms with high levels of stress hormones during pregnancy had infants with more of the “bad” gut microbes. 

But, can it work the other way around? Can changing our gut microbes affect our moods and stress responses?

Studies of rodents that grow up without any gut microbes at all (in a “bacteria-free” environment) respond to stress more than mice with normal gut microbes. Then, when they’re given either a probiotic or gut microbes from non-stressed mice, their stress responses often go back to normal.

The gut microbe, probiotic, and mood/stress connections are starting to get interesting, aren’t they?

  BAD MICROBES CAN MEAN BAD MOODS
 

“Gut microbiota and probiotics alter behavior and brain neurochemistry.” (Ait-Belgnaoui, et. al., 2012)

That’s a pretty powerful statement, don’tcha think?

Many animal studies show positive effects on behaviour when they get probiotic supplements.

For example, after a probiotic, stressed rats had lower levels of both stress hormones and an inflammatory molecule associated with depression (“LPS” - lipopolysaccharide).
 
 
One fascinating study showed that when people took probiotics, brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) tests showed reduced brain activity for negative and aggressive thoughts!

So, as you can see, there is some exciting research on the positive effect that probiotics can have on moods and stress.
 
You might be wondering how exactly your gut can influence your moods...
 
HOW IS THIS GUT-BRAIN CONNECTION POSSIBLE?
 
It may not seem obvious or intuitive, but your body is interconnected in many ways.
 
And more and more research is figuring out the “microbiota-gut-brain axis.” It’s the very complex connection between your gut, its microbes, and your brain.
 
This new field has been called a “paradigm shift in neuroscience” (Dinan, 2017).
 
In fact, there are a number of ways that we’re beginning to understand how our gut microbes can affect our brain.
 
One is via the “vagus” nerve, which is a nerve that directly connects your gut to your brain. 
 
The other ways are through “biochemical messengers.” Biochemicals that are made in your gut and travel through the body to communicate with other parts, including your brain. Biochemicals like short chain fatty acids, cytokines, and even tryptophan (the amino acid that the neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin are made from).
 
The exciting thing is that this may help us with not only moods and stress, but the microbiota-gut-brain axis may one day prove to be helpful for other conditions like autism and Parkinson’s.
 
So, your trillions of gut microbes seem to be more closely interconnected with our moods than we used to think.

So, what can you do to nurture your own healthy gut microbes?
 
HOW TO NURTURE HEALTHY GUT MICROBES - PROBIOTICS
 
First, eat (and drink) probiotics. 
 
Probiotics can be eaten in yogurt, sauerkraut (and other fermented veggies), miso, tempeh, and kimchi. You can drink them in kefir or kombucha. Be sure to choose unpasteurized ones that will be refrigerated in your local grocer. 

Of course, there are a number of probiotic supplements available too. Look for one that’s refrigerated and has at least 10 billion active cultures. I also suggest you look for one that has been “third party tested,” which means someone outside the company has tested it and says it’s a quality product.

  Oh, and always read the label before taking any supplements.

 The probiotics with the most research are of the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus types. But we still don’t know enough about the psychobiotic effects to make specific mood-boosting recommendations...just yet.
 
HOW TO NURTURE HEALTHY GUT MICROBES - PREBIOTICS
 
Second, consider that our resident gut microbes don’t just live inside us to help us - they get something out of the deal too.

Food!

PREbiotics are “compounds that, when fermented in the gut, produce specific changes in bacterial composition or activity”. They are your friendly gut microbes’ favourite delicacies so they’ll happily grow, and multiply. 
 
Prebiotics are basically foods that contain fibre. Things like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Even dark chocolate (preferably with at least 70% cocoa).
 
Giving animals prebiotics can reduce stress hormones and anxiety-related behaviours.
, and in people, studies show that taking psychobiotic's along with prebiotics can improve both the microbes in our gut, as well as our mood. 
 
How amazing is that?

CONCLUSION

The science behind interactions of gut microbes and mental health is still new and ongoing. Much of it is in rodents, with a few studies in people. Some show interesting links and promising potential to help with moods and other areas of mental and brain health.
 
CONCLUSION

:  The science behind interactions of gut microbes and mental health is still new and ongoing. Much of it is in rodents, with a few studies in people. Some show interesting links and promising potential to help with moods and other areas of mental and brain health.
 
More research, especially in humans, is needed; so I’ll be on the lookout for new studies in this young and promising area of mood-boosting and stress-busting nutrition.

What if one day we were able to help mental health by fixing gut health? What an amazing, and less moody, a world that could be!
 
Try eating more probiotics like in yogurt, kefir, miso, kimchi, and kombucha. Consider taking probiotic supplements (making sure you read the label and follow directions).
 
And don’t forget their favourite foods called prebiotics. Those are in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds (and even dark chocolate). 
 
Optimize your gut for more than just gut health, but mood-boosting and stress-busting too.
 
Buh bye blah moods.
 
REFERENCES
 
Ait-Belgnaoui, A., Durand, H., Cartier, C., Chaumaz, G., Eutamene, H., Ferrier, L., Houdeau, E., Fioramonti, J., Bueno, L. & Theodorou, V. (2012). Prevention of gut leakiness by a probiotic treatment leads to attenuated HPA response to an acute psychological stress in rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 37(11):1885-95. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.03.024.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22541937
 
Bailey, M.T., Dowd, S.E., Galley, J.D., et al. (2011). Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation. Brain Behav Immun. 25(3):397–407.
 
Bharwani A, Mian MF, Foster JA, et al. (2016). Structural & functional consequences of chronic psychosocial stress on the microbiome & host. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 63:217–227.
 
Cryan, J.F. (2016). Stress and the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: An Evolving Concept in Psychiatry. 
Can J Psychiatry. 61(4):201-3. doi: 10.1177/0706743716635538. 
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4794959/
 
De Palma, G., Blennerhassett, P., Lu, J., Deng, Y., Park, A.J., Green, W., Denou, E., Silva, M.A., Santacruz, A., Sanz, Y., Surette, M.G., Verdu, E.F., Collins, S.M. & Bercik, P. (2015). Microbiota and host determinants of behavioural phenotype in maternally separated mice. Nat Commun. 2015 Jul 28;6:7735. doi: 10.1038/ncomms8735.
LINK:  http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8735
 
Dinan, T.G. & Cryan, J.F. (2016). Mood by microbe: towards clinical translation. Genome Med. 8(1):36. doi: 10.1186/s13073-016-0292-1.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822287/

Dinan TG1, Cryan JF. (2017). The Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis in Health and Disease. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2017 Mar;46(1):77-89. doi: 10.1016/j.gtc.2016.09.007.
 
Kelly, J. R., Kennedy, P. J., Cryan, J. F., Dinan, T. G., Clarke, G., & Hyland, N. P. (2015). Breaking down the barriers: the gut microbiome, intestinal permeability and stress-related psychiatric disorders. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 9, 392. 
 
Messaoudi, M., Lalonde, R., Violle, N., Javelot, H., Desor, D., Nejdi, A., Bisson, J.F., Rougeot, C., Pichelin, M., Cazaubiel, M. & Cazaubiel, J.M. (2011). Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. Br J Nutr. 105(5):755-64. doi: 10.1017/S0007114510004319.
LINK:  https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/div-classtitleassessment-of-psychotropic-like-properties-of-a-probiotic-formulation-span-classitaliclactobacillus-helveticusspan-r0052-and-span-classitalicbifidobacterium-longumspan-r0175-in-rats-and-human-subjectsdiv/2BD9977C6DB7EA40FC9FFA1933C024EA/core-reader
 
O’Mahony, S.M., Marchesi, J.R., Scully, P., et al. (2009). Early life stress alters behavior, immunity, and microbiota in rats: implications for irritable bowel syndrome and psychiatric illnesses. Biol Psychiatry. 65(3):263–267.
 
Rea, K., Dinan, T.G. & Cryan, J.F. (2016). The microbiome: A key regulator of stress and neuroinflammation. Neurobiol Stress. 4:23-33.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5146205/
 
Rieder, R., Wisniewski, P.J., Alderman, B.L. & Campbell, S.C. (2017). Microbes and mental health: A review. Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Jan 25. pii: S0889-1591(17)30016-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2017.01.016. 
LINK:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159117300168
 
Romijn, A.R. & Rucklidge, J.J. (2015). Systematic review of evidence to support the theory of psychobiotics. Nutr Rev. 73(10):675-93. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv025. 
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26370263
 
Sarkar, A., Lehto, S.M., Harty, S., Dinan, T.G., Cryan, J.F. & Burnet, P.W. (2016). Psychobiotics and the Manipulation of Bacteria-Gut-Brain Signals. Trends Neurosci. 39(11):763-781. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2016.09.002.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5102282/
 
Sender, R., Fuchs, S. & Milo, R. (2016). Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body. PLoS Biol 14(8): e1002533. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002533
 
Sherwin, E., Sandhu, K.V., Dinan, T.G. & Cryan, J.F. (2016). May the Force Be With You: The Light and Dark Sides of the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in Neuropsychiatry. CNS Drugs. 2016 Nov;30(11):1019-1041. doi: 10.1007/s40263-016-0370-3
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5078156/
 
Steenbergen, L., Sellaro, R., van Hemert, S., Bosch, J.A. & Colzato, L.S. (2015). A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood.
Brain Behav Immun. 48:258-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2015.04.003.
LINK:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159115000884
 
Zijlmans, M.A., Korpela, K., Riksen-Walraven, J.M., de Vos, W.M. & de Weerth, C. (2015).  Maternal prenatal stress is associated with the infant intestinal microbiota. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Mar;53:233-45. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.01.006.
LINK:  http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(15)00020-7/abstract
Saturday, 13 May 2017 13:03

3 Reasons to Stop Eating Cereal

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3 Reasons To Stop Eating Cereal… 
And What To Replace It With
 
You wake up late because you had a horrible night's sleep, so instead of taking the extra 3 minutes to have eggs or make a shake you quickly scarf down a bowl of cereal or eat a bagel (same as cereal). 
The box of cereal claimed that it was whole grain (as was the bagel) so you wrongly believe that it must be an okay choice. You grab your large cup of coffee with 2 milks and 2 sugars and head to the office. 
What happens at 10:00am? 
 
The familiar feeling of hunger sets in around mid-morning. You walk to the office kitchen to grab your fat-free, fruit flavoured yogurt for 60 calories and take another cup of coffee. 
By lunch all you can think about is either a burger with fries or a big plate of Thai noodles (you get the point). 
 
Why? Have you ever stopped to think about why you crave what you crave? 
Let’s work through the 3 reasons to ditch cereal once and for all. *Note the reference to cereal is a general example. Replace cereal with whatever processed carb you choose for breakfast (whole wheat toast, English muffin, breakfast bar, etc.)
 
Reason # 1: Cereal promotes fast carbohydrate metabolism
When we consume high impact carbs (cereals, whole wheat, processed carbs) without adding in a significant amount of protein or fat the carb is quickly digested into glucose. 
When carbs digest quickly into glucose your pancreas is forced to secrete insulin (fat storing hormone). Since most of us are sedentary we don’t need the energy from the carb we just ate. Our muscle cells are full with glucose waiting to be used so insulin deposits the glucose (carbs) to your fat cells for later use (which we never use). 
 
Reason # 2: Processed cereals increase food cravings
Using the logic listed in reason # 1 we can better understand cravings. When you choose fast digesting carbs your blood sugar levels increase quickly and drop quickly. 
When your blood sugar levels drop your body sends you a craving to regulate them again. It’s a physiological response that is intense and hard to ignore. 
 
Reason # 3: Cereals lack protein and fat
Starting your day with a protein and fat helps to regulate blood sugar and trigger your satiety hormones. Protein supports your immune system and keeps energy levels stable. Fats are important for proper hormonal function and balance. 
When your breakfast choices are made up of processed carbs then you are setting yourself up for food cravings, energy lows and a day long battle with your will power. 
 
3 Breakfasts That Help Balance Hormones And Promote Fat Loss 
 
Breakfast # 1
2 whole eggs

2 handfuls of dark leafy greens (cooked with eggs)

1-2 tsp of coconut oil 

1 cup berries (any kind) 
 
Breakfast # 2
2 scoops protein powder

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (add more if desired)

1 cup frozen berries

1 tbsp of chia seeds

½ tsp cinnamon 

2 handfuls of spinach 
Blend and enjoy. 
 
Breakfast # 3


½ cup steel cut or slow cooking oats (plain) (cooked)

¼ cup unsweetened almond milk (to mix with oats) 

1 tbsp of chia seeds

1 tbsp of hemp seeds

1 scoop of protein powder (mixed into oats)
 
½ cup of berries 
 
All of these choices can be partially or fully made ahead of time. They are quick and simple to make. Best of all when you eat breakfasts like the ones listed above you won’t experience intense food cravings, you will feel full and lose weight faster. 
 
Monday, 08 May 2017 12:35

5 Ways to Rev up Your Metabolism

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How do I speed up my metabolism?

You aren’t the only one asking this question. It’s a hot topic of discussion this time year. Spring and summer are right around the corner. That means tank tops, shorts and the dreaded bathing suit.
Unfortunately, there is no right answer to that popular question. How your body burns calories is dependant on a variety of factors. Age, weight, height, level of activity, medications, sleep quality and stress levels all play a role in regulating or revving up your metabolism.
Men burn more calories than women, even while resting. Both men and women over the age of 40 have a harder time losing weight because metabolism starts to naturally slow down.
Don’t be so quick to blame your winter weight-gain on your metabolism. Your food choices and exercise level or lack thereof, play a significant role in helping to speed up your metabolism.
Read on for my list of top 5 ways to boost your metabolism.

Fill Up On Fibre:
Starting your day with a high fibre choice helps to regulate your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full throughout the morning. You are aiming to get 25 – 35 grams of fibre per day. Fill up on berries, beans, lentils, whole grains and chia seeds for added fibre.

Lift Weights:
The resting metabolic rate is much higher in people who have a good body composition. Every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories per day just to sustain itself. The more lean muscle mass you have the more calories you burn sitting around doing nothing.

Drink Green Tea:
Green tea is a known super food. Research has shown that those people who drink 2 – 4 cups of green tea per day may push the body to burn 17% more calories during moderate to intense exercise. Here’s a tip, brew your green tea and throw some ice cubes in and drink it while you are working out.

Have a Lean Protein With Every Meal:
Protein burns more calories during digestion then both carbohydrates and fat. Protein helps to stabilize blood sugar and helps you to feel fuller for a longer period of time. You should aim for 20 – 30 grams of protein per meal.

Stop Crash or Yo-yo Dieting:
A crash diet means eating less than 1000 calories per day. Most people don’t even realize they are engaging in a crash diet 2-3 days out of the week. Then the weekend hits and they binge to make up for the lack of calories missed throughout the week. If you do lose weight through yo-yo dieting the weight loss often comes from a loss of lean muscle mass, which further slows the metabolism.

The bottom line is that everybody is different that no two people will burn calories in the same way.

If you are looking to boost your metabolism to shed the weight you gained over the winter I suggest you give me a call at 519-270-1889 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sunday, 07 May 2017 23:54

3 Ways to Calm Your Sugar or Salt Cravings

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Have you written your cravings off as normal because you’ve been experiencing them for so long? It’s possible that you’ve created quick fix solutions to satisfy those cravings just so they don’t drive you crazy.
There is no shortage of “health” products that make BIG claims to help you lose fat, get rid of cravings or balance your hormones. You’ve probably already bought or tried many of these products in an effort to slim down.
Even with all of the free information available now it’s seems harder than ever to get a straight and reliable answer from a trusted source on how to balance your hormones, stabilize blood sugar levels and lose weight without depriving yourself, feeling depressed or angry.
Here’s the harsh reality…
There is no one single food, pill, powder or tea that will give you the results you are looking for.
While that might be hard to hear it’s true.
When you have cravings it’s a result of multiple of physiological triggers that come together to signal you to eat, usually a sugary or salty food. In fact, the signal to eat something sugary or salty can sometimes be so strong that no amount of willpower can overcome it.
So how do you overcome your cravings in a realistic way that is maintainable long-term?

Tip # 1 Ditch The Idea Of The Magic Pill Solution
No matter what your friends, colleague’s, Doctor’s, health food store or Dr. Oz says there is NO one magic pill to get rid of cravings or help you to lose weight.
Yes, there are certain supplements that support blood sugar stabilization, but if you first don’t remove the food triggers no amount of supplements will help you.

Common Food Triggers:
Coffee
Diet Coke or diet beverages
Dried fruit
Flavoured oatmeal
Wheat
Alcohol

When you are constantly looking for a quick fix magic pill to end your cravings and solve your weight problems you deny your personal responsibility involved in your behaviour (food) choices.
You can start by accepting that it will take work and effort to balance your hormones and lose weight. After all, you didn’t put the weight on in 14 days… it’s not going to come off in 14 days.

Tip # 2 Start Your Day With P & F
Do you know why oatmeal is considered to be a good breakfast choice?

Why are eggs a popular breakfast food?
What you choose for your first meal of the day is probably the most important food choice you can make when you are trying to calm cravings and lose weight. This is because your break-fast sets your hormonal tone for the day.
So when you choose foods that spike blood sugar, even if they are “healthy” you are not setting yourself up for an energetic, craving-free day. Just because something is touted as healthy doesn’t mean that it’s the right food choice for you.
Start your day with PROTEIN & FIBRE to stabilize blood sugar, help you to feel full and energetic all day long.

Good P & F Choices:
1 cup plain Greek Yogurt + 2 tbsp of chia seeds
2 whole eggs with 1 cup of blackberries (or mixed berries)
Shake with 1 scoop of protein powder with 2 tbsp of chia seeds
Chia seed pudding made with 1 scoop of protein powder

Tip # 3 Know The Foods That Cut Cravings
Even when you make the best food choices, have the right breakfast, plan and prepare your meals you still might have sugar or salt cravings. We live in the real world where there is NO SUCH THING AS PERFECTION.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to know which foods satisfy you without setting you up for more cravings later on in the day. Since we all have different food likes and dislikes you will want to test out these foods to see which ones work best for you.

Foods That Curb Cravings:
1 tbsp of raw almond butter
¼ - ½ cup of guacamole with 12 Mary’s crackers
1 ounce of full fat cheese
¼ cup of homemade trail mix
1-2 squares of 75% or higher dark chocolate
¼ cup salted cashews
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce with 1 tbsp of chia seeds

Start using these 3 tips to calm your cravings this week and see how you feel.

Sunday, 07 May 2017 23:32

Can't Sleep? Try These Tips

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It’s been proven that sleeping through the night will help you lose weight. The more up and down you are throughout the night, the more likely you are to not only not lose weight- but you’re more prone to gain weight. This is related to a hormone level reaction. Waking up throughout the night disrupts how this hormone reacts and is made within the body, thus leading to weight gain. Researchers believe (and have proven over and over again in studies) that sleeping throughout the night helps to regulate all hormones, improving your metabolism and promoting weight loss.

Ok, this is easier said than done- right? Wrong. You can get a good night’s sleep. In fact, sleeping through the night is not only good for your waistline, it’s great for productivity purposes, too. Here are my seven tips for getting more sleep each and every night!

1. Don’t drink anything caffeinated after three in the afternoon. This sounds obvious, but it’s hard to do. Coffee, green tea (well, any tea), and sodas (which you shouldn’t drink anyway) are all sources of caffeine and beverages we’ve learned to drink well into our favourite primetime programs. Cutting off caffeinated drinks after three in the afternoon will improve your ability to go to sleep on time and stay asleep throughout the night.

2. Keep your bedroom at 68°F and dark. This temperature is scientifically proven to help people sleep through the night. The warmer your room, the harder it will be to sleep. And bright lights or bright paint will not help your ability to sleep. Think ‘bat cave’ at a cool and crisp sixty-eight degrees.

3. Have a ten minute prior to bedtime routine. This will help you psychology prepare for sleep. Don’t just fall asleep whenever. Set a time and then set up a routine that allows your brain and body to cool down before you attempt to sleep. Some people write down what they’re thankful for ten minutes before bedtime, others pray, some people sit quietly and meditate. Do whatever works for you that doesn’t involve checking your phone or email.

4. Take the clock out of your room. You don’t need this. You think you do, you don’t. Trust me and try it for a week. Your body will naturally know when to wake up once on schedule. So, put the alarm clock down the hall or outside the door until you can get your body trained to wake up on time and without the clock. Having a clock in your room adds a subconscious pressure that awaits tomorrow’s stress. Don’t think about time or tomorrow, remove the clock and focus on being present in your bed.

5. Don’t eat heavy meals after seven at night. This will help you avoid digestive issues that will have you back and forth to the bathroom during the night. It also helps avoid foods that are prone to disrupt sleep. The same goes for drinking. Try not to drink anything (including water) an hour before your bedtime to avoid unwanted interruptions.

6. Shut off the phone. Many smartphones have sleep modes. Set your emergency numbers and ringtones to how you desire. Shut off the email and other non-essential alerts. Make sure the phone is across the room where you can’t see, hear or sense it.

7. Don’t go to the gym at night. Working out releases hormones and dopamine in the brain, which can make you feel great and even ambitious. So ambitious that you can’t seem to ‘settle down’ and you just have to send an email, plan out an idea or concept, etc. Plan your fitness routine for the mornings. Even if you have to wake up early, getting to the gym or walking early in the morning or late in the afternoon is far better than working out past dinner time.
Sleeping consistently is a crucial step in any fitness or weight loss routine. Getting a good night’s sleep can also help prevent strokes and heart disease and improve productivity. It also reduces stress levels. Don’t be one of these people who claim they don’t have time to sleep a full six to eight hours a night. That’s nonsense and it will eventually catch up to them medically. Our bodies sleep for a reason and we shouldn’t ignore our body’s natural urge to rest for more than four hours.
Sleep can also reduce how old you look. Proper sleep helps to improve skin elasticity and decreases bags under the eyes. By sleeping a minimum of six hours per night, for three months straight, you can take three to five years off of your appearance without any cosmetic procedure.
So look great, become healthier, and improve productivity simply by implementing these easy-to-follow seven tips into your daily routine!

If you think you might need more help, book an appointment with me to talk about hormone and blood sugar balancing, or perhaps helpful supplements.

Sunday, 07 May 2017 20:54

Self-Care For Mother’s Day

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We all do it, I am guilty of it too: not allowing enough time (or any for that matter) for ourselves. We are busy people, always rushing from here to there, running errands, trying to drop the kids off on time, preparing food, cleaning the house, walking the dog - making sure that everyone else is happy. But where does that leave us? Usually overtired and somewhat unhappy.

This Mother’s Day I challenge you to take some time for yourself and increase your happiness factor. I don’t mean taking an hour to sleep in on exactly Sunday the 14th of May – I mean scheduling time for yourself on an ongoing basis. How can this be done? Well, by starting out slow, creating time and then rekindling something that you have put on the backburner.

1. Find some time for you -  Take a walk, go to a yoga class, pour a glass of wine and a bubble bath and lock the door.  Make it a priority to just shut out the world for an hour or two and enjoy some time to yourself.

2. Improve your sleep - Improving your sleep can be accomplished in a couple of ways. First, turn off your smartphone and laptop 1 hour before bed time. The blue screen from these devices tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime and makes it harder to fall asleep. Second, download all that info that is swirling around in your brain – that is, make a to-do list before bed, or just write down the things that are bothering you, so they won’t keep you up at night.

3. Spend one hour doing something that you love - Knitting, gardening, baking, reading, chatting with a friend, drawing, dancing, singing, cuddling, walking, biking, soaking up some rays…the sky is the limit. By incorporating something into your day that you left behind once the kids came around you will start to feel like you are yourself again – boosting your happiness.

I know some days are harder than others, and that we all are super busy, but taking these small steps will help you in the long run, and your improved mood will also reduce the stress level in your house, bumping that happiness factor up even more.

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