Fats are a hot topic of debate in the health-conscious community, and recent reports have made it hard to separate facts from fear-mongering. Canola and coconut oils are two popular fats that have received a lot of attention over the years, and thankfully recent studies are showing us more clearly which fats to embrace, and which to avoid.
To understand which fats are healthy, it’s helpful to understand “good” HDL and “bad” LDL cholesterol, small fat and protein packages that transport cholesterol throughout the body.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol helps protect your arteries from cholesterol and removes excess arterial plaque.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol can accumulate in the arteries to form plaque that narrows them and makes them less flexible (atherosclerosis).
Triglycerides. Elevated levels are linked to heart disease and diabetes. Risk factors include smoking, physical inactivity, excessive drinking, overweight, and a diet high in sugars and grains.
HDL, LDL, and triglycerides come in small and large particles. While the large particles are practically harmless, the small, dense particles are more dangerous. They can lodge in arterial walls, leading to inflammation, plaque buildup, and damage that eventually leads to heart disease.
When considering test results, your doctor will note:
HDL levels versus LDL levels
The ratio between triglycerides to HDL
The ratio between total cholesterol and HDL
The size of the particles
Here’s where the former warnings about fats and cholesterol have been misleading: We now understand that more important than knowing your total cholesterol is knowing the ratio between your HDL and your LDL, and especially the size of the particles.
In addition, the Mayo Clinic says many doctors now believe that for predicting heart disease risk, total non-HDL may be more useful than calculating your cholesterol ratio. Non-HDL cholesterol is figured by subtracting your HDL cholesterol number from your total cholesterol number.
Finally, either option appears to be a better risk predictor than your total cholesterol level or simply your LDL level.
Note: In some cases, people have a genetic tendency toward extremely high cholesterol. In those situations, it may take more than diet to manage cholesterol levels.
Should I consume saturated fats?
Sourced from tropical oils and animal products, saturated fats are typically solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Common dietary sources include beef, pork, lamb, poultry skin, high-fat dairy, palm oil, and coconut oil.
Saturated fat sits at the forefront of the debate about dietary oils. Why? For years, we’ve been warned that it increases the risk for cardiovascular disease because it raises LDL, the “bad” type of cholesterol.
This recommendation was based on four hand-picked studies done nearly 40 years ago and doesn’t reflect recent studies that shine a different light on fat intake. What the studies didn’t do is take into consideration other things saturated fats do to help balance the equation:
Raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Change LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from small, dense particles — dangerous for heart health — to large particle LDL, which does not increase heart disease risk.
Support brain health.
Possibly reduce stroke risk.
In fact, a recent meta-analysis of studies showed there is no significant evidence that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.
For some people there are legitimate reasons to moderate saturated fat intake:
Saturated fat intake can be associated with lighter, less restorative, more disruptive sleep (yet increased fiber can help increase sleep quality).
ApoE4 carriers (increased Alzheimer’s risk) see a much higher spike in LDL cholesterol from high saturated fat in the diet, without a matching rise in HDL. They may benefit from lower intake of saturated fat which can lower LDL cholesterol and improve HDL/LDL ratio.
A small percent of the population does experience a skyrocketing increase in LDL concentrations along with increased inflammation levels measured by C-reactive protein.
Ask meabout a diet that is sufficient in healthy fats, void of bad fats, and customized to your dietary needs.
Many of us start the day with a small breakfast as we run out the door, followed by a medium sized lunch and a large dinner. We also tend to snack throughout the day and even grab a bite before bed. However, while what we eat is important, a growing body of research suggests when we eat matters too.
The digestive system’s circadian rhythm
While you have likely heard of the circadian rhythm, the master “clock” in the brain that governs our sleep-wake cycle, we actually have a variety of circadian clocks that govern the daily cycle of activity for every organ.
These rhythms exist because every organ needs downtime for repair and regeneration.
The digestive system is no exception. During the day, the pancreas increases production of insulin, which controls blood sugar levels, and then ramps it down at night.
Circadian clocks optimize our health by aligning our biological functions with regular and predictable environmental patterns. Disrupting our circadian clocks — such as by skipping breakfast or eating at midnight — can result in health issues such as weight gain, metabolic syndrome, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more, and if you want to know more about YOU and YOUR health, schedule a FREE 15-minute consultation with Dr. Celaya.
Eat breakfast daily
About 20 to 30 percent of American adults skip breakfast. Some do it to save time, many do it in an effort to lose weight. However, studies show that people who eat breakfast daily are less likely to be obese, malnourished, suffer from impaired blood sugar metabolism, or be diagnosed with diabetes.
They are also less likely to have the heart disease risk factors of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Even the American Heart Association recently endorsed biologically appropriate meal timing to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Just eating breakfast isn’t the only important thing, however. It’s critical to start the day with a breakfast that provides plenty of protein and healthy fats, and a minimum of sugars. This helps support blood sugar balance and proper brain function throughout the day.
Make breakfast the largest meal for weight control and fat loss
The timing in relation to the size of our meals is also important.
Research shows having the largest meal in the morning appears to help with weight control compared to having a large meal in the evening.
In fact, a person eating the identical meal at different times of day might deposit more fat after an evening meal than a morning meal.
This is partially because insulin, a hormone that helps with blood sugar control, appears to be most efficient in the morning. In addition, we burn more calories and digest food more efficiently in the morning than later in the day when most of us eat our largest meal.
In one study, a group of overweight women with metabolic problems were put on a 1400 calorie-per-day diet. Half consumed 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch, and 200 calories at supper and the other half reversed that pattern.
Women in both groups lost weight and experienced reduction in fasting glucose, insulin, and ghrelin (a hunger hormone), but in the same time frame the large-breakfast group experienced added benefits:
They lost 2.5 times the weight compared to those who ate the largest meal at dinner.
They had a significantly greater decrease in fasting glucose, insulin, and triglyceride levels.
Their satiety (sense of fullness) scores were significantly higher.
They also lost more body fat, especially in the belly.
According to the researchers, a high-calorie breakfast and a reduced calorie dinner is beneficial and might be a useful alternative for managing obesity and metabolic syndrome.
The body needs fasting periods for optimum health
Fasting signals to the body to start burning stores of fat for fuel. Most of us eat meals and snack from the time we wake up until shortly before bed — or even in the middle of the night. In fact, studies show the average person eats over a 15-hour period during the day. This short fasting time period may interfere with optimal metabolism and increase weight gain.
Researchers put a group of prediabetic men through two eating cycles. In one phase, they ate meals within a 12-hour window for five weeks.
Then in another phase, they ate the same meals in a time-restricted six-hour window starting in the morning.
They ate enough to maintain their weight, so they could assess whether the time-restricted regimen had benefits unrelated to weight loss.
In addition, the men who ate only one or two meals per day fared better than those who ate three meals.
A recent review of the dietary patterns of 50,000 adults over seven years provides added evidence that we should ingest most of our calories early in the day, including a plentiful breakfast, a smaller lunch, and a light supper.
The researchers said that eating breakfast and lunch five to six hours apart and making the overnight fast last 18 to 19 hours may be an effective method for preventing long-term weight gain.
Another recent study found that subjects who added snacks to their daily meals tended to gain weight over time, while those who had no snacks tended to lose weight.
Light exposure is key for proper metabolism
Sufficient exposure to natural light and darkness also play an important role in how we metabolize food for either energy production or fat gain.
At night, the lack of sunlight signals our brain to release melatonin, the hormone that prepares us for sleep. In the morning, the light stops melatonin production and we wake up.
When we change that signaling — whether from a late-night meal, artificial lighting at night (especially blue screen light), shift work, flying and travel, or changing our eating patterns — it confuses our bodies’ circadian clocks. Eating at the wrong time of day strains the digestive organs, forcing them to work when they are supposed to rest.
Shift workers, who account for about 20 percent of the country’s workforce, have a particular problem with disturbed circadian clocks. Many frequently work overnight shifts, forcing them to eat and sleep at odd times. Nighttime shift work has been linked to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer.
Studies have linked poor melatonin activity and disrupted sleep-wake cycles with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, cancer, autoimmune flare-ups, obesity, and more.
Low blood sugar may require a before-bed snack
One important exception to the “don’t eat right before bed” rule is for those who have chronic low blood sugar. For these people, keeping blood sugar stable throughout the day — and night — is critical for brain health, energy level, and more.
If you suffer from the following chronic low blood sugar symptoms, it may be best to take a small, high-protein low sugar snack just before bed:
Constant sugar cravings
Nausea or lack of appetite in the morning
Irritability, light-headedness, dizziness, or brain fog if meals are missed
Craving caffeine for energy
Eating to relieve fatigue
Afternoon energy crashes
Waking around 3 a.m.
Daily habits to maximize your dietary rhythm
To help maximize your meal timing and metabolism, incorporate the following habits into your day:
Make breakfast your largest meal and make dinner your smallest. While this may prove difficult for those with a busy social life or family that sits down to a big dinner every evening, make the evening meal smaller whenever possible.
Prioritize protein and healthy fats with breakfast, and minimize sugar and caffeine intake especially before lunch, to stabilize blood sugar and regulate metabolism.
Avoid between-meal snacks and bedtime goodies. The exception is for those who have chronic low blood sugar as mentioned above.
Try a time-restricted eating pattern, or intermittent fasting, to maximize weight management.
Manage exposure to blue light at night:
Avoid screen light in the evening
Install the f.lux app on your phone and computer
Read a book
Wear blue-blocker glasses at night
Install amber or red light bulbs for evening use
If you have chronic low blood sugar, a small before-bed snack with plenty of protein may be a good idea to keep your blood sugar stable all night and prevent that 3 a.m. wake-up.
While studies suggest that prioritizing larger meals early in the day helps support metabolic health, it does not necessarily mean that you should skip dinner. Instead, have your dinners earlier and make them relatively light.
The take-home message here is like the old proverb, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” Schedule a FREE 15-Minute Consultation with Dr. Celaya.
While the eight-to-five workday may suit a man’s physiology, female researchers are finding women can capitalize on periods of heightened creativity, productivity, enhanced communication, and reflection depending on where they are in their menstrual cycle. We tend to think of female hormonal cycles as problematic or negative, but the truth is they can facilitate different aspects of productivity once you learn how to use them to your advantage.
Understanding your hormonal cycles of productivity can help you learn the best time to launch or finish a project, brainstorm a creative endeavor, meet with a boss or coworkers, or step back and reflect on operations.
Looking at a functional medicine view of female hormones — aiming for optimal functional and balance instead of just focusing on when things go wrong —can help you plot your course through each work week. Women can look at their cycles as offering four different periods of enhanced performance, with day 1 representing the first day of your period:
Days 1-5, Intuition and Reflection: During your period, your left and right brains are communicating more efficiently, allowing you to better access intuition, analytical thinking, and long-range visionary thinking. This is the time to reflect on past and future endeavors, re-evaluate whether your course aligns with your vision, and consider which relationships need attention.
Days 6-14, Creativity: During the follicular phase, which actually begins day 1, estrogen is increasing and you are at your creative peak. This is a good time to start new projects, plan, strategize, and brainstorm.
Days 15-17, Communication: During the ovulation phase your communication skills and magnetisms are at their height. This is a great time for negotiations, meetings, and pitches.
Days 18-28, Power: During the luteal phase you are primed to power through project completion, take care of all those administrative tasks, and follow up on meetings.
When your hormones are out of balance
Unfortunately, thanks to stress, unhealthy diets, environmental toxins, and other facets of modern life, it’s easy for your cycles to become unbalanced.
One of the most common causes of hormonal imbalances in women is chronic stress and poor blood sugar balance (another form of stress).
Eating a high-carb diet of pastas, breads, and other processed carbohydrates, eating too many sweets, drinking too many sweetened coffee drinks, not sleeping enough, being too stressed out, not getting enough physical exercise — all these things can drive both estrogen and progesterone out of whack and give you miserable hormonal symptoms.
PMS, irregular periods, infertility, hair loss, overly heavy periods, and other symptoms of hormonal imbalance are signs you need to bring your diet and lifestyle habits more in line with nature’s design.
Through functional medicine protocols of anti-inflammatory diets, blood sugar balancing, gut healing and repair, liver support and detoxification, and stress-reduction, our office can help you better balance your hormones so you can function at your best.
Do you know those irritable people that always seem angry or depressed, sensitive to emotion, live in constant chaos, or seem perpetually stuck in unfavorable situations? Sometimes, this is just a byproduct of poor brain function. Of course, naturally optimistic people can suffer from poor brain function too—symptoms may consist of memory loss, brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
All of these feelings—and others—can trigger symptoms in the gut. This gut-brain connection operates as a bi-directional system; therefore, a person’s gut inflammation or distress can be the cause or byproduct of stress, anxiety, or depression.
This is particularly true in circumstances when a person experiences gastrointestinal (GI) upset without a physical cause. For such functional GI disorders, it is a challenge to heal the gut without first looking at the connection between the gut and brain and considering the effects of stress and emotion.
One of the most significant things to understand is the intimate link between the gut and the brain. We have several receptors that fire into the brain, such as for sensation, sound, temperature, balance, etc. These signals stimulate the brain to relay information into the brainstem of the central nervous system (CNS), which is the area of the brain that keeps the heart beating, lungs functioning, and gut moving.
The wall of the digestive system is innervated by the CNS and the enteric nervous system (ENS)—it has millions of neurons that control blood flow and secretions to help you digest food. Inflammatory issues, such as in intestinal permeability (leaky gut) or an imbalance in the gut microbiome (dysbiosis) can impact the messages from the gut to the brain.
The vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that is a part of the ENS, is a key pathway to the activation of the digestive system. Degeneration of vagal function, or less activation of the vagus nerve, compromises the digestive function by decreasing blood flow to the gut (which leads to leaky gut, neuroinflammation, and a cycle of other inflammatory responses).
The multitude of neurons in the ENS not only influence our GI function but also how we “feel”—this is why the ENS is called our second brain. Though the second brain is not capable of in-depth thought, it does “talk” to the brain.
Stress, for example, is closely tied to the gut. The body responds to external and internal stressors with the “fight or flight” system. During a stressful situation, a redirection of energy takes place; your digestion is put on hold, your heart and respiratory rate escalate, and your palms may get sweaty. This protective mechanism is intimately related to cortisol levels, which are ruled by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Typically, diffusion of the stressful situation resets your body back to normal. But if you are always stressed, anxious, or stuck ruminating on negative thoughts, your body gets caught in a fight or flight response.
The byproduct of this chronic response is chronic inflammation—the root of many diseases. Inflammation leads to serious health consequences, such as high blood pressure, intestinal permeability, autoimmune disorders, and neurodegeneration.
The trillions of gut microbes—collectively known as the microbiome—also play a role in the regulation of our immune response. Communication between the gut microbiome and nervous system may influence disorders like anxiety and depression, autism, and dementia.
GUT-BRAIN OR BRAIN-GUT IMPAIRMENT
How do you recognize if you need to improve your gut-to-brain or brain-to-gut axis?
If your brain is impaired (brain fog, memory loss), if you suffer from intestinal motility issues (constipation, nausea), and if you have not had a positive response to conventional digestive protocols, you may have a brain-to-gut impairment.
Furthermore, if you have digestive issues, these can impact your brain chemistry and impair your gut-to-brain communication.
It is not uncommon to be in a vicious cycle of both a gut-to-brain and brain-to-gut impairment; most people need to support both simultaneously.
A characteristic symptom of this cycle is a decrease in the motility of the gut and consequently constipation, straining during bowel movements, and incomplete elimination. Poor elimination means that waste sits in the intestines, promoting an environment for yeast and bacterial overgrowths and the development of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Poor vagal function also encourages gallbladder stones and attacks and reduces the effectiveness of digestive secretions; therefore, digesting food becomes difficult.
Many patients with chronic gut dysfunction never improve because they do not move past treating it at the gut level—this will create the vicious cycle. Poor gut health will impact your brain function thus causing depression, anxiety, poor cognition, and other brain-based symptoms.
GUT-BRAIN HEALING STRATEGIES
While there’s still much to discover about the mystery of the digestive system and all that it affects, we are sure of several things that can help improve the connection between your gut and brain.
Remove pathogenic and reduce opportunistic bacteria and microorganisms.
Supplemental support may include digestive enzymes, L-Glutamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, and antifungals (such as oregano oil).
Support for Your Brain-Gut Axis
Every neuron needs oxygen, glucose, and stimulation.
Oxygen – A reduction in blood flow to the brain, such as from a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, anemia, low blood pressure, and hypothyroidism, reduces the amount of oxygen the brain receives.
Glucose – Glucose fuels the brain. If you become hypoglycemic (low blood glucose) from going too long without eating, you may feel dizzy or lightheaded. On the other hand, in insulin resistance (high blood glucose), glucose can’t get into the cells of your body or brain leaving you feeling sleepy or slow.
Stimulation – Stimulation such as physical activity and mental challenges “exercise” your neurons and are essential to keep them active and healthy. Exercise also increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor and supports mitochondrial function.
Support the brain with nutrition.
Reduce inflammation with resveratrol, turmeric, and fish oils.
Optimize with vitamins and supplements.
Provide neurotransmitter support.
OPTIMIZE YOUR BRAIN WITH GUT REPAIR AND DETOXIFICATION
Healthy brain function is not just about boosting your score on a brain game, remembering where you put your keys, or preventing dementia.
A Healthy brain equals a better quality of life. When you have optimal brain function, you are happier, and you are naturally drawn to nourish your body and mind. Ask my office for more information about a detoxification and gut-repair program using the AIP diet. You can schedule to become anew patientor afree consultation.
At some point of the day, you will feel your eyes going heavy and your senses somewhat dampened even if it’s still a far cry from bedtime. This usually happens in the middle of the day. What do you do? Napping seems to be the best solution. Is frequent naps a thing and should this be done throughout the day? Read on and I’ll tell you more about it.
There are numerous benefits that you can get from frequent naps.
Aside from improving your physical performance and your overall alertness, daytime naps can offer you so much more.
This can help improve your performance when it comes to tasks that require symbol recognition, logical reasoning, and fast reaction time.
A short rest can help uplift your mood. This can also aid in regulating the emotions.
People who resorted to naps are less impulsive in making decisions.
Sleeping for brief periods helps reinforce concepts that you have just learned.
This is extremely beneficial in tasks that require you to distinguish objects based on visual texture. Visual texture is one of the prerequisites for learning new concepts.
This can help improve various areas of memories as well. In fact, catnaps can help you boost your item memory. This is the sort of memory that makes you remember what you are about to buy based on your grocery list. Another memory area that you can boost from naps is the associative memory. In this type, you get to associate concepts and words with actual objects, people, and places.
You have to take frequent naps if you feel a little less functional than your usual self.
There are those times that you will really need a boost and be out for a while from the daily grind. Here are some of the signs that you might need brief episodes of a snooze. These may be somewhat trivial, but a little rest from time to time may just be what your body craves for at the moment. Want better health? Schedule a FREE 15 minute consultation with Dr. Celaya.
You are willing to make frequent naps a part of your usual routine. Some people are very much willing to do this if they typically lack the required number of sleeping hours during the night.
When you are on the brink of experiencing loss of sleep. This usually happens in instances like having a prolonged working shift. Actually, it’s a lot safer than working yourself up to the point of total exhaustion.
This is also helpful if you experience unexpected sleepiness or a new episode of fatigue. This is typically the case during those days that you’ve been staying up later than usual during the previous night.
Even research supports the health benefits that frequent napping can bring you.
According to a 2009 study on sleep research, taking frequent naps can help improve a person’s learning curve. Another similar research done 6 years later concurred. Furthermore, the investigators pointed out that people who napped frequently have higher levels of frustration tolerance. This means that they have an easier time holding back their frustrations even if they’re under stressful situations.
Another experiment revealed that afternoon naps can even act as your midday coffee. In fact, they discovered that a brief snooze can bring you benefits that a similar dose of caffeine can provide you. They were also better in tasks that required memory and long bouts of attention span.
If you want to learn more about other studies that tackled frequent naps, you may check out the website. Aside from nap benefits, you can also check out other blog posts that tackled other health concerns in relation to functional medicine.
Just look out for certain drawbacks of frequent napping so you can do something to avoid them.
For every wonderful thing that can provide surprising benefits for you, expect some degree of drawbacks. However, keep in mind that these drawbacks can be properly managed with the right degree of planning and mindset.
Nighttime sleep problems can occur if you take naps just a few moments away from your actual bedtime rest. To avoid this, avoid napping around 4 to 5 hours before your usual good night sleep.
Sleep inertia is that state when you feel unpleasant because your sleep has been interrupted. To avoid this, just make sure to sleep only within the recommended length of time.
Follow these tips to help you get the most out of your naps.
These will not only help you get those extra Zs but also aid in maximizing the benefits that you can get from doing them in the first place.
Make time to “design” your very own restful environment. Make sure that the environment is conducive to sleep. You may turn off the lights and even block out all the sources of noise so you can make the most out of your brief rest. Make the resting surface as comfortable as possible. Lowering the room temperature can also help you further promote a better resting area.
Take some naps during the afternoon. Actually, the best time to have these naps is during those times of the day when you feel you have the lowest levels of alertness and concentration. This usually occurs when you just had a large meal if you have been continuously working for prolonged periods already.
Keep each nap time short. An average nap should only take 10 to 30 minutes and 90 minutes at most. Anything longer than this can make you feel groggy and you don’t want that.
Depending on what you have to do and what you’re planning to do for the day, frequent naps can help make or break your day. Just make sure to just nap within the acceptable range. Otherwise, you will have a problem adjusting because of the drawbacks of “prolonged” and frequent napping.
Have you ever wanted to know everything there is to know about your thyroid? This 7-part video series will cover thyroid lab testing, nutrition and infections that affect the thyroid, toxins, thyroid hormone conversion, lifestyle, and adrenal interplay.