Antioxidants work by protecting your cells from damaging molecules called free radicals, which are produced in the body as a natural by-product of metabolism. Just as metal rusts and a slice of apple browns in the presence of oxygen, free radical damage triggers changes in the structure of otherwise healthy cells; and are an underlying cause of many chronic diseases and aging.
Since free radicals creation is a natural process occurring continuously in the body, antioxidants are required by the body to neutralize the cellular damage caused by free radicals. While the body naturally produces some of its own antioxidants, it requires an additional supply that can only be obtained from both food and dietary supplements. Maintaining a high antioxidant level becomes even more critical as we get older because the body’s ability to manufacture its own antioxidants declines with age.
Antioxidants are naturally found in large amounts in plants. The origin of all plant life is the sea. When species of marine plants began adapting to life on land, they also began to produce non-marine antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), polyphenols and tocopherols. In order to further protect themselves from their own need to utilize the oxygen in the air around them, plants became pigmented. Pigmentation acts as a chemical defense against the free radical damage resulting from photosynthesis.
What about antioxidants in food?
You will frequently see charts like the one below that take a reductionist approach to classifying foods based on their level of certain antioxidants. For example:
Vitamin A — Dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, turnip greens. Carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, apricots, liver, eggs and dairy products
Vitamin C — Citrus fruits and their juices, guava, kiwifruit, papaya, berries especially strawberries, mangoes, pineapple, red peppers, parsley, broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, tomatoes and liver.
Vitamin E — Wheat germ, sea buckthorn, nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, kiwifruit, vegetable and fish-liver oils.
Unfortunately, this isolated approach can reinforce too narrow a view of the way antioxidants really work—an approach that overlooks the power and importance of the tens of thousands of pigment antioxidants plants have developed over the millennia.
Below is just a small sampling of the known phytochemicals categories that exist in plants:
Carotenoids are a large group—several hundred or even thousands—of fat-soluble pigments widely distributed in plants and animals. Dietary carotenoids are thought to provide health benefits by decreasing the risk of disease (particularly certain cancers), stroke, heart disease, and eye disorders. Carotenoids are also thought to enhance the immune system. The carotenoids that have been most studied in this regard are beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin.
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Chlorophyll has the power to regenerate our bodies at the molecular and cellular level and is known to help cleanse the body, fight infection, help heal wounds, and promote the health of the circulatory, digestive, immune, and detoxification systems. Chlorophyll consumption increases the number of red blood cells and, therefore, heightens the body’s ability to use oxygen. Chlorophyll also reduces the binding of carcinogens to DNA in the liver and other organs.
Flavonoids, also called bioflavonoids, are a group of naturally occurring compounds which are widely distributed in nature and are ubiquitous in vegetables, berries, fruits and cacao (the bean used to make chocolate). They comprise the most common subset of plant polyphenols and provide much of the flavor and color to fruits and vegetables. More than 6000 different flavonoids have been identified. Citrus flavonoids are found in citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, tangerines and grapefruit. A diet rich in citrus flavonoids has been associated with a reduced risk of death due to coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
Catechins or flavanols are a subclass of flavonoids found in onions, apples, berries, red wine, broccoli, tea, grape seed, coffee and cocoa beans. Clinical studies have shown that the consumption of certain flavanol-rich foods such as cocoa, tea and red wine can result in improved cardiovascular function. Epidemiological studies suggest that a high dietary intake of flavanols contributes to a reduced risk of vascular disease.
Anthocyanins, anthocyanidins, proanthocyanidins and procyanidins are a large water-soluble pigment group found in a large number of fruits, vegetables and flowers—particularly grapes, grape seeds, red wine, pomegranate, apples and berries. All of these have pronounced antioxidant benefits and pronounced effects on the vascular system. Apples contain many different kinds of polyphenols with powerful benefits. For example, applephenon is an apple polyphenol extract produced commercially from unripe apples; it has been used as a natural additive to prevent oxidation in food.
There are literally thousands more of these powerful phytochemicals! In addition, there are also countless herbs and spices that have powerful antioxidant properties—holy basil, ginger, pine bark extract, reishi mushroom, thyme, basil and turmeric, just to name a few.
The take home point?
Antioxidant protection is a team effort. Therefore, taking an isolated antioxidant or two will not provide adequate free radical protection. In order to be protected, we need to consume the tens of thousands of plant-based antioxidants that our bodies have evolved to use. Taking a synthetic—or natural—vitamin C, E or beta carotene by itself will simply not be effective in fighting free radical damage. The only real way to pump up your antioxidant protection is by dramatically increasing your intake of organic, colorful whole foods. And numerous studies have shown that when it comes to keeping pace with our life-long free radical battle, almost everyone needs the additional protection that can be found in the right antioxidant supplement formula—one created from whole food concentrates that include ALL the phytochemicals your body needs.
Recently, I shared with you the importance of iodine to our health beyond the common knowledge of an anti-septic.
Iodine is critical in supporting thyroid function and regulating metabolism, boosting energy levels (when iodine is deficient), supporting and maintaining detoxification systems and processes, supporting immune system function, fighting infections (natural antiseptic), preventing fibrocystic breast disease and adequate iodine levels are also necessary to prevent miscarriages.
But how do you know if you need it?
First of all, consider yourself a risk if you suffer from thyroid, metabolism or immune issues. In addition, ironically, iodine deficiency is more common in those who eat most healthfully.
Iodine is relatively deficient in our soil, and the greatest source of iodine commons from iodized salt added to processed foods. In addition, cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage et al.) and soy products (not really healthful) can block thyroid absorption. For those eating healthfully, this is why it is very helpful to add sea vegetables to your diet.
But how can you know for sure?
There are numerous ways to test for an iodine deficiency, and below I will discuss four different methods of iodine testing:
Iodine Testing Method #1: Blood Test.
This would seem to be an easy way to test iodine levels, but just as with magnesium serum iodine levels only show up low when iodine levels are very deficient. Problems can occur long before this shows a problem.
Iodine Testing Method #2: One Sample Urine Test.
This is the urine test typically performed by most medical doctors to determine the levels of iodine. Just as with the serum testing, it really only is positive when severe iodine deficiency is present.
Iodine Testing Method #3: Iodine Patch Test.
This is a easy to perform at-home assessment while not super accurate, can help determine whether someone is deficient in iodine. It involves drawing a 2 x 2 patch on your forearm using a 2% tincture of iodine. For someone who isn’t iodine deficient, the patch shouldn’t begin to fade until 16-20 hours. Someone who is deficient in iodine will see the patch disappear in a shorter amount of time. Those with a severe iodine deficiency will see the patch begin to fade or disappear completely in 12 hours or less.
Once again, this isn’t the most accurate test but it can give you a general idea as to whether you are deficient in iodine, and if you may benefit to supplement with iodine. While you can start off with this test, eventually it is recommended that they receive an iodine loading test to get a more specific reading.
Iodine Testing Method #4: Iodine Loading Test.
This most accurate assessment measures how much iodine you excrete iodine over a 24-hour period after taking a large 50mg dose of iodine. While It isn’t the most convenient test, as you need to collect EVERY urine sample within a 24-hour period it is the most accurate.
Ideally someone who has a sufficient amount of iodine should excrete at least 90% of the iodine over a 24-hour period. If it is less than this, then you are very likely to have an iodine deficiency. The lower the excretion rate, the greater the iodine deficiency.
Fortunately, a new assessment has been developed that no longer requires collection of all 24-hour urine. Using specifically timed collections and an indicator strip, labs are now able to collect dried urine samples to evaluate iodine excretion.
How Much Iodine Should One Take?
If assessments show that you are iodine deficient, I have found that it is always best to start with a low dosage of iodine (3mg), and then gradually increase the dosage each week, and will eventually retest. If the person begins with an iodine patch test, they of course can easily retest every 2 to 4 weeks, although one needs to keep in mind that it usually takes at least a few months to correct such a deficiency, and for someone with a moderate to a severe deficiency it can take a long time to accomplish this.
For those who don’t obtain an Iodine Loading test right away, I recommend obtaining this test after three to six months after beginning to supplement with iodine.
While many people have no problem taking large dosages of iodine immediately, others are not able to tolerate larger dosages. And there really is no way to predict how someone will respond, which is why I like to play it safe and start someone with a lower dosage.
In summary, before anyone supplements with iodine I recommend for them to obtain at least one of the above tests I mentioned. I also recommend that people begin with a low dosage of iodine, and then gradually increase the dosage. And when someone does begin an iodine supplementation program, it is important to retest after a few months in order to make sure they are taking a sufficient amount of iodine on a daily basis.
Also, please keep in mind that it could take a number of months for your body to respond to higher levels of Iodine so know that slowly but surely your body and your health will improve as levels return to normal.
As I have discussed many times, one of the worst substances you can eat for your health and longevity is sugar. And in recent years, more and more studies are revealing the broad scope of the negative consequences of a diet that’s high in sugar. Our collective sweet tooth has caused hormonal imbalance and contributes to obesity, diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, liver damage, and inflammation.
But for many eliminating sugar is easier said than done. Sugar is addictive, and a craving for a cookie at the end of a long day can disrupt the best laid plans for a better diet. And sometimes you just need a little sweetness in your life.
And… sugar is sugar, right?
Fortunately, cutting out sugar doesn’t have to mean cutting out sweets. There are now a number of natural sweeteners that can provide the same flavor profile as well as very little negative effects on your health such as white cane sugar and genetically-modified beet sugar. These sweeteners are far less processed, more sustainably produced (no pesticides or GMOs!), and a few can even provide health benefits as they contain trace levels of minerals.
An Important Caveat
While, the new sugars may not have the same negative metabolic effects of white sugar, for a number of people they can lead to increased hunger.
When you eat food, your brain registers that you’ve eaten and signals your body to release hormones that decrease your appetite. Because a number of natural sweeteners pass through the body largely undigested, you won’t experience the same satiating signals as you would with food sweetened conventionally, this means you may be left still feeling hungry and opt to eat more, which defeats the purpose of eating foods sweetened with sugar alcohols for lower-calorie purposes.
OK, on to the good, bad and ugly of sugar options.
Ribose: An essential body sugar has minimal calories with none of the negative metabolic effects of white sugar such as spiking your blood sugar. On the other hand, ribose has a number of healthy, functional benefits as it helps build the cellular building blocks ATP, DNA, and RNA (molecules that influence energy and information transfer in the body). The only issue for many is ribose is not quite as sweet as regular sugar. You can easily remedy this by adding some erythitol and stevia or monk fruit.
Sugar Alcohols: Erythitol and Xylitol
As the awareness of the harm to our health from sugar grows, these sweeteners previously were only seen in “sugar free” or “no sugar added” foods and eaten by those with diabetes or dieting. While almost as sweet as sugar, they have a number of metabolic advantages due to a slightly different structure.
Common sugars have six carbons while sugar alcohols have only five. And as it turns out that single carbon makes a big difference in how the body metabolizes sugar alcohols as they don’t spike insulin and barely affect blood sugar. In addition, they inhibit bacteria that cause plaque and tooth decay, whereas most sugars feed those bacteria.
Xylitol and erythritol are the best of the sugar alcohols. The rest – sorbitol, maltitol, and mannitol – are cheaper to produce and won’t affect blood sugar, but they’re much more likely to cause bloating and gas in smaller doses. They’re fine if you tolerate them, but keep it to a few grams a day to avoid disaster pants.
Xylitol vs Erythitol
While both have similar effects, there are two differences.
When consumed in large amounts daily (25 to 50 g), xylitol can cause GI distress and bloating, and if you’re sensitive to FODMAPS (from leaky gut, SIBO, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for example), even a small amount of xylitol may cause indigestion.
While erythitol is much less likely to cause GI distress and is also much better tolerated by people with GI issues. And the other hand, erythitol is not quite as sweet as xylitol and is a bit more expensive, but this is negligible for personal use as amounts consumed are small.
And make sure you get xylitol derived from hardwood, not GMO corn. And never give xylitol to your dog. Dogs can’t digest it, which means even a small amount can be fatal for them.
Stevia is a sweet extract of the Stevia rebaudiana leaf native to Brazil and Paraguay. The sweetness is thanks to two compounds called glycosides: rebaudioside (often called Reb-A on nutrition labels) and stevioside. Stevia is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, won’t impact blood glucose or insulin, and isn’t fermentable by dental bacteria. Some people find it has a bitter after taste but this has improved over the past few years as more and more companies are providing 98% RebA stevia without bitter overtones. Stevia doesn’t taste like sugar as xylitol and erythritol do, but it’s a solid option to add to ribose, or erythitol as a sweetness booster.
Monk Fruit Extract (Luo Han Guo)
Monk fruit extract is a popular sweetener in China and Thailand, where it’s also considered traditional medicine – in fact, monk fruit gets its name because Chinese monks used to be the main ones who grew the plants. Its sweetness comes from a collection of compounds called mogrosides. In addition to being 300 times sweeter than sugar, mogrosides boast impressive antioxidant properties and inhibit cancer growth in mouse tumors. Monk fruit has a similar taste profile as stevia and various brands have different flavor profiles. I personally find that the new stevia high reb A sweeteners are much more palatable than monk fruit but for those who still dislike stevia or just want to add a bit more sweetness to ribose and sugar alcohols in a blend, monk fruit is a great option.
Glycine is a sweet tasting amino acid that not only can be used to add flavor to tea or coffee but has the power to regulate blood sugar by converting glucose into energy as well as has powerful anti-inflammatory effects on the body. It is an ideal sweetener to stabilize blood sugar levels for people with insulin resistance and diabetes.
While glycine has a sweetness, it’s flavor profile is a bit different from sugar alcohols and ribose. It is best used to flavor liquids and better when combined with another sweetener such as ribose. In fact, as we speak I am drink my morning beverage of Mate tea combined with beet juice powder and sweetened with a few grams of ribose and glycine.
Glycine can actually be considered an important nutritional supplement. I recommend consuming 10 grams daily.
Honey is a mix of fructose and glucose, and while normally these sugars are not desirable raw, unrefined honey contains hundreds (maybe thousands) of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other bioactive compounds that buffer the effects of sugar. Normal sugar spikes your blood triglycerides and causes inflammation; raw honey actually does the opposite. It only causes a mild insulin spike compared to any other sugar source. Choose darker honey as it is higher in bioactive compounds. And make sure it’s raw; cooking honey destroys most of the precious compounds and the result is basically sugar syrup. So go ahead and add some raw honey into your tea and enjoy!
Typically gathered from palm or coconut oil, vegetable glycerin is a colorless and odorless liquid. You can find vegetable glycerin that is food-grade with a moderately sweet taste. It is completely water soluble, so you can use it to add moisture to recipes.
It is not a raw product — but it does have a long shelf life — is lower on the glycemic index than honey and sugar and does not oxidize easily. It is best used in place of corn syrup, like in a sweetened pecan pie.
The Bad: Use Sparingly Sweeteners
Maple syrup has a bit of manganese and iron in it and is fairly low in fructose. It is more of a whole food but not as healthy as honey and it’s still sugar and will still spike your insulin. Avoid it except on special occasions. If you use it, make sure it’s 100% pure, and not the fake stuff that’s high-fructose corn syrup with artificial maple flavoring.
Coconut sugar is really mostly sucrose, with a little bit of fructose and glucose. It’s basically a fancier form of table sugar, with more potassium, iron, B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium. It’s still sugar, though; don’t let marketers fool you into thinking their products are healthy because they use coconut sugar instead of normal sugar.
The Ugly: Toxic sweeteners to Avoid
White Sugar (Sucrose)
This is table sugar, also known as sucrose. It breaks down into equal parts glucose and fructose. Like glucose, white sugar contributes to tooth decay, obesity, cravings, inflammation, aging, insulin resistance, and bad gut bacteria/yeast. If you eat it, don’t eat much.
Brown sugar is white sugar with a bit of molasses in it. Same deal as white sugar.
Agave is touted by marketers as a healthy sweetener because it has a low glycemic index, but it’s actually worse than table sugar. It’s 70-90% fructose, which doesn’t spike insulin as quickly as glucose because your body doesn’t immediately recognize fructose as sugar. But fructose goes to your liver and causes fat accumulation there, damaging your liver and causing inflammation and free radical damage in a way glucose doesn’t.
Cooking honey destroys most of the beneficial compounds it contains in its raw form. It’s basically sugar syrup. Avoid it.
Fructose is maybe the worse of them all. It was promoted as healthy as it doesn’t spike blood sugar as quickly as glucose, which sounds good at first. but the problem is fructose goes directly to your liver, where it triggers fat production that builds up and causes liver toxicity, inflammation and cellular aging.
Fruit Juice Concentrate
Fruit juice concentrate is basically fructose with a few nutrients left in. The trouble is that it’s usually made from the fruit that isn’t presentable enough to go out on shelves, and that means it’s often full of mold and mold toxins.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Concentrated, super sweet fructose syrup, made from GMO corn that’s probably sprayed with glyphosate, a carcinogenic pesticide. No thanks.
Aspartame is a hotly debated topic. Some scientists say it causes cancer, and others say it’s totally safe. Without long-term studies, it’s hard to know which is true. In addition, using aspartame does not even promote weight loss. As I discussed above, the intense sweetness in aspartame does not blunt appetite so many people using it for dieting are making things worse not better. Add in aspartame’s chemical taste, and the fact that there are plenty of better options available, there’s no reason to use aspartame.
While there have been studies showing sucralose causes cancer in lab rats…these are at dosages thousands of times higher than anyone would ever actually get in a day. But on the other hand, there haven’t been long-term human studies, so it is really unknown whether sucralose in smaller doses take for years increases your cancer risk.
Even so, there are other problems with sucralose.
The full metabolic pathway of sucralose is unknown, it damages healthy gut bacteria, and when heated it converts into carcinogenic and genotoxic chloropropanols. Add in its chemical taste and the fact that you have plenty of sweeteners that not only have better flavor, but are actively good for you, stay away from sucralose.
Ace-k is a popular sweetener in diet soda. There’s not much good research on it in humans, and the number anecdotal complaints about Ace-K causing health issues has led to demand for more research Why risk it? There are plenty of “diet” beverage options available today sweetened with xylitol, erythritol, monk fruit extract and/or stevia.
Most people only know iodine as something in an ointment that is used to clean a minor skin wound, comes in tablets to purify drinking water or maybe something you take to protect against the harmful effects of radiation. Few people know that iodine is an essential trace mineral needed by your body for optimal physiological functioning.
The facts are that your body contains approximately 20 to 30 milligrams of iodine with most stored in the thyroid gland, Iodine is also found in smaller amounts in the stomach lining, salivary glands, lactating mammary glands and in the blood.
So why should you care?
Well if you are experiencing weight gain, fatigue, weakness, down moods or even depression or a thyroid condition, then there is a good chance that you have less than optimal levels of iodine.
You see the most important function of iodine is it helps to ensure proper thyroid gland function.
Iodine is the main component of the thyroid hormones T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). These two hormones are related in that T4 contains four iodine atoms and when one of these atoms is stripped off, it becomes T3, with three iodine atoms remaining.
If the body does not have an adequate supply of iodine, it is unable to synthesize these hormones. And since thyroid hormones regulate metabolic function in every cell and play a role in virtually every physiological function, an iodine deficiency can have a significant impact on your health and well-being.
A bit of physiology:
It is important for the body to tightly regulate thyroid hormone. When levels of thyroid hormones in the blood drops, the pituitary gland secretes thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which, as its name suggests, stimulates the thyroid gland to increase its uptake of iodine from the blood in order that more thyroxine (T4) can be manufactured. As necessary, T4 is then converted to the T3, the metabolically active hormone form. This process involves removing an iodine atom from T4.
What else does iodine do?
Iodine is associated with a wide range of benefits, not limited to supporting thyroid function and regulating metabolism, boosting energy levels (when iodine is deficient), supporting and maintaining detoxification systems and processes, supporting immune system function, fighting infections (natural antiseptic), preventing fibrocystic breast disease and adequate iodine levels are necessary to prevent miscarriages.
Are low iodine levels common?
Iodine deficiency was quite common in North American until the early part of the 20th century. At that time iodized salt was introduced and many commonly consumed foods (such as cow’s milk) had increased iodine levels due to the addition of iodine to animal feed. Unfortunately, iodine deficiency is a still a significant problem in countries who don’t consume iodized salt regularly.
In addition, reduced levels of iodine can be caused by the overconsumption of certain foods (many of them healthful), called goitrogens that block the absorption and utilization of this mineral. Goitrogens are found in cruciferous vegetables, soy products, millet, cassava root and mustard. Additionally, goitrogenic substances may be found in drinking water from contaminated wells.
As I discussed above, deficiency of this vital mineral will result in the reduced synthesis of thyroid hormone. And as the body attempts to produce thyroid hormones in spite of insufficient iodine availability, the thyroid gland is overstimulated by thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This results in enlargement of the thyroid gland, goiter, one of the earliest symptom of iodine deficiency.
Interesting enough, iodine deficiency can result as both hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. The former is characterized by symptoms including depression, fatigue, weakness and/or weight gain while the latter condition includes a constellation of symptoms including rapid heart rate, fluctuations in appetite and weight loss.
If severe iodine deficiency manifests during pregnancy or infancy, it can cause birth defects, severe mental retardation, stunted physical growth, spasticity and deafness. This can be corrected with iodine supplementation if discovered in its initial stages.
In general, it is difficult to attain excessive amounts of iodine from food sources alone and even high intakes are well-tolerated by most people. Yet, in select circumstances, too much iodine can actually cause adverse events including the inhibition of thyroid hormone leading to goiter development and hypothyroidism.
Individuals who have an autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Graves disease or Hashimotos disease, or who have experienced an iodine deficiency at some point in their life, may be more susceptible to the dangers of excessive iodine consumption. These individuals may need to monitor their iodine intake more carefully.
An Ironic Twist
Most natural foods typically contain a very small amount of iodine with levels varying depending upon environmental factors such as soil iodine concentration and use of fertilizers. The best foods to consume include eggs, strawberries, cantaloupe and mozzarella cheese. In addition, seafood and sea vegetables, notably kelp, provide a very good source of iodine. Ironically processed foods and dairy contain the most iodized salt as they have been fortified.
Other Important Nutrients
Deficiency of several nutrients including selenium, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc and iron makes the effects of iodine deficiency more apparent.
Selenium is most importantly required to remove an iodine molecule in the conversion of thyroxine (T4) to triiodthyronine (T3). Deficient selenium slows T4 to T3 conversion and reduces the availability of free iodine for the manufacture of new thyroid hormones.
Iodine may be found in a variety of forms as dietary supplements. Inexpensive versions include potassium or sodium iodide. Potassium Iodide is more commonly used to protect against radiation exposure and should be considered prior to x-rays and CT scans. More natural options include kelp-containing products are often used as a source of supplemental iodine.
Next week I’ll talk about how to assess your iodine levels.
Have you recently noticed that you are having trouble moving your bowel and when you do it is a struggle and your stool is small or dry even though you haven’t changed your diet?
You may have then tried to change your diet, increased your water and fiber intake but found that didn’t make much of a difference. Sure, sometimes things change with our body and we don’t know why. But being constipated and the loss of the simple act of having a normal bowel movement can cause much frustration.
While, constipation is medically defined by having three or fewer bowel movements a week, or by bowel movements that are painful and unproductive, ideally you should have at least daily bowel movements with soft stools.
However, there is something else you must consider. Your thyroid!
Constipation is one of the first signs of hypothyroidism, an under functioning thyroid. The thyroid is the master hormone in control of metabolism and energy production, so It is no surprise that when your thyroid gland is not functioning and/or thyroid hormones are not converting to active forms, it can have many effects on your health. In fact, constipation is the most common first symptom of hypothyroidism. Others include dry skin, sensitivity or feeling cold, low body temperature, hair loss on scalp or even eyebrows, depression or low mood, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue and more!
Relieving constipation starts by assessing your thyroid but also involves making a few key lifestyle changes. There are multiple different causes of constipation, so not everyone who has constipation can attribute the constipation to hypothyroidism, other causes may include side effects of drugs, dehydration, blockages in the gastrointestinal system, problems in the nerves controlling the gastrointestinal system, and diabetes.
So how could your thyroid make you constipated?
Well, essentially the thyroid produces hormones which affect our metabolic rate which ultimately means it affects how fast or slow your brain, heart, muscles, liver, and other parts of your body work. This list includes our intestinal tract of course. If our body works to fast or too slowly, we won’t feel well. For example, if you are not producing enough thyroid hormone, you might feel tired or cold. on the other hand, if you have too much thyroid hormone, it might make you feel nervous, jumpy, and warm.
Constipation is one of the classic signs of an under-active thyroid. This is because muscles line the digestive tract, including the small and large intestines. As we know muscles contract to move the stool through the intestine to the rectum. When thyroid hormones are low, the contraction of these muscles weaken causing the stool to move too slowly and eventually cause constipation.
Let’s Dig a Bit Deeper into the Gut-Thyroid-Immune Connection
One of the most important functions of the gut is to prevent foreign substances from entering the body. Another important function is that the gut hosts 70% of the immune tissue in the body. This is known as GALT, or gut-associated lymphoid tissue which stores immune cells that carry out attacks and produce antibodies against molecules which are recognized by the immune system as potential threats. Problems occur when either of these functions are compromised and the intestinal barrier becomes permeable (leaky gut). Since a leaky gut allows large protein molecules to escape into the bloodstream and the body mounts and immune response. Some studies have shown that these attacks play a role in autoimmune disease which can include Hashimoto’s which is an autoimmune form of hypothyroidism.
We also know that thyroid hormones (TriiodothyronineT3 and ThyroxineT4) strongly influence the tight junctions in the stomach and small intestine and inflammation of the gut. Another two thyroid hormones, thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) both influence the development of the GALT.
The gut-bacteria-thyroid connection is also really interesting. One of the lesser known roles of the gut bacteria is to assist in converting inactive T4 into the active form of thyroid hormone, T3 which is the form that is needed for the body to use to keep it’s metabolism in check.
An imbalance between pathogenic and beneficial bacteria in the gut, significantly reduces this conversion. This is one reason why people with poor gut function may have thyroid symptoms but normal laboratory results.
In addition, constipation can impair hormone clearance causing high levels of estrogen which also decreases the amount of free thyroid hormones available to the body. On the other hand, low thyroid function slows transit time, causing constipation and increasing inflammation, infections and malabsorption.
So it works both ways – it appears we need a healthy gut to help us with a healthy thyroid and we need a healthy thyroid to keep us regular. As always there are lots of things we can do to help us keep regular.
Tips for managing thyroid influenced constipation
If lab tests show that your thyroid gland is malfunctioning, treatment with thyroid hormones (I recommend glandular NaturThroid) to support normal serum hormone levels. However, for people with subclinical hypothyroidism that doesn’t always show up on medical tests and even for those taking thyroid replacement, other changes are needed to truly be healed!
Your thyroid gland and hormones are affected by genetics, stress, adrenal fatigue and a sensitivity to gluten among other things. If you suspect this, please consult with a medical professional experience in functional health. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to support suspected thyroid caused constipation naturally your thyroid naturally.
• Go gluten free – there is a lot of research to suggest that gluten can cause thyroid problems
• Increase your fiber intake – both soluble and insoluble to both soften and help move stools along in a sluggish digestive tract
• Go easy on the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale as these can worsen thyroid problems
• Keep your healthy bacteria in balance with a probiotic. Inner Eco fermented coconut water is my favorite.
• Magnesium – this is a wonderful mineral which many of us are deficient in. It also helps the intestinal lining relax so can help easy constipation. It’s also common to be deficient in this mineral if you have hypothyroidism. Mag SRT is my favorite.
• Take fluoride out of your diet as this competes with iodine to make the thyroid hormones
• Take a good multivitamin with zinc, selenium and B vitamins in it as these are also required by your thyroid.
• Start taking nascent iodine. The thyroid needs iodine in order to produce the hormones. iodine supplementation can be really helpful if you find your thyroid is under functioning. You can also include more iodine rich foods in your diet such as seaweed which is the richest source.
• Get more exercise. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, which is the national recommendation for exercise.
As I have discussed, low thyroid hormone thyroid can have all sorts of symptoms and when you address this issue as a possible cause for your constipation, you may reveal the reason for other problems which have been bothering you. Changes in diet and lifestyle may therefore help not just your sluggish bowels, but relieve you from other symptoms you are finding concerning.
Seven Scientifically Proven Habits for Deep Sleep and Stress Recovery
In the past month, I have shared with you how handle stress can affect how you physical, mentally and sexual vitality. And one of the most powerful ways to lessen these effects are to get a solid night sleep.
But for many people this is easier said them done.
Fortunately, scientists have been looking for answers to this question and have come up with seven simple, some surprising, powerful habits for a deep sleep.
You can use their answers to guide many of the decisions you make on a nightly basis, from what you drink at night to how often you do laundry.
1. Watch your mid-afternoon caffeine intake.
The Mayo Clinic advises adults to limit their caffeine intake to 400 mg per day, or the equivalent of about two to three coffees. Caffeine content can differ dramatically based on the type of coffee, however. Just 1.5 cups of Starbucks contains 400 mg of caffeine, while you’d need four cups of McDonald’s drip coffee to equal that amount.
Like too much of anything, excess caffeine comes with risks, including migraine headaches, irritability, upset stomach, and even muscle tremors – so it’s important to know how much you’re getting.
In addition, many types of coffee are high in mycotoxins. My recommendation is to limit your coffee choices to 2 cups of organic, single bean arabica and stop by early afternoon.
2. Don’t agonize over germs.
A team of geneticists made headlines in 2015 for a mission to document all the bacteria on the New York City subway. They turned up nearly 600 different species of microbes crawling around on all those greasy rails.
Before whipping out the hand sanitizer and tissues, keep this in mind: Almost all of the germs they found were completely harmless. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that regular exposure to germs helps keep our immune systems healthy by priming it to more easily recognize dangerous microbes in the future. The idea could partially explain why children who grow up around animals and in rural areas are less likely to develop conditions like asthma than children who don’t.
In addition, these beneficial bacteria work hard to produce and regulate hormones and neurotransmitters that can keep you feeling calm and relaxed.
3. Skip happy hour, or go simply for the food and company.
Alcohol is one of the world’s most widely consumed drugs, but drinking even small amounts – as little as one glass of wine or beer a day – has been linked with a host of negative side effects, including cancer. In November, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a group of the nation’s top cancer doctors, released an unprecedented warning in which it told Americans to drink less.
And while anyone who drinks alcohol from time to time knows that beer, wine, or spirits can sometimes leave you feeling drowsy. But while alcohol, a depressant, can help you fall asleep faster, it also contributes to poor quality sleep later.
So at your next happy-hour event, consider skipping the booze or doing something else. My recommendations at night is too have some hot coconut milk, honey, collagen and some beet powder. This will balance blood sugar and provide some fat and protein to keep you asleep all night.
4. Stay hydrated.
Staying hydrated is vital. Our bodies are 60% water, and not getting enough can lead to headaches, fatigue, and even overeating. Still, contrary to popular opinion, you don’t necessarily need to drink eight glasses of water a day.
Instead, your daily hydration requirement can change based on several factors, from how much you worked out that day to the weather outside. Certain foods are also a good water source, so eating more of them may mean you need to drink less. Cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, and spinach are all 92% water. Carrots, green peas, and even white potatoes are more than 79%.
My recommendation is to use the color of your urine to determine your hydration needs. And stop drinking a few hours before bed to avoid getting up at night to urinate.
5. If you go out for dinner, eat lightly!
The baseline portion sizes of our snacks and meals have ballooned over the past 40 years – even the plates and cups we serve them on have gotten noticeably bigger.
The average size of many of our foods – whether fast food, sit-down meals, or even items from the grocery store – has grown by as much as 138% since the 1970s, according to data from the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of Nutrition, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. So be mindful of portion sizes, and if you’re eating out, consider taking anywhere from a third to half of it to go.
The problem is not only excess calories but large late meals, not only increase insulin and cortisol but blunt growth hormone, a powerful sleep and recovery hormone.
My recommendation is to learn from long lived cultures and have your largest meal of the day earlier and then have a lighter snack/meal prior to 8 PM at night.
6. Put away screens for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
The blue light that illuminates our screens also tamps down on the production of melatonin, a key hormone our brains use to tell our bodies to start preparing for sleep. That’s something you don’t want to be doing at night, especially right when you’re heading to bed. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of no-screen time before bedtime.
7. Before you tuck in for the night, make sure your sheets are clean.
Our beds can blossom into a “botanical park” of bacteria and fungus in as little as a week, New York University microbiologist Philip Tierno told Business Insider.
The combination of sweat, animal dander, pollen, soil, lint, dust-mite debris, and plenty of other things is enough to make anyone sick, let alone someone with allergies. So clean your sheets at least once every seven days.
In addition, studies show that the refreshing crispness and clean smell of fresh sheets are psychically calming and contribute to a better sleep.
Last week, I shared with you the powerful effects that physical activity can have on your sexual health. This week I’ll share with you 9 easy exercises, that require no equipment that you can start to today.
1. Kegels: Not Just for Women
Like all of our muscles—these pelvic muscles tend to get weaker with age. This weakness means the muscles can’t contract enough to help the penis “stand up” and have an erection, thus contributing to erectile dysfunction.
But also like all muscles, the more you use them, the stronger they’ll be. Kegel exercises are like lifting but for your penis. The stronger your sex muscles, the better you can control your erections and sexual endurance.
This also means that the more you have sex, the stronger your pelvic muscles; the stronger your pelvic muscles, the better your erections and sexual health. So, if you have just mild ED and can still have sex, this doctor says to do it… and do it often.
Kegel exercises target the pelvic muscles and are one of the best ways to regain your overall sexual health since the pelvic muscles contract around the testes and base of the penis during sex, contributing to the “hardness” of the erection. Kegel exercises strengthen two key muscles: the pubococcygeus (PC), which is the muscle that stops the flow of urine, and the perineal muscles, which is the muscle that supports erectile rigidity and ejaculation. Overall, the strength of these muscles impacts erections, sexual experience, ejaculation, and bladder.
So how do you use Kegels to strengthen the pelvic muscles and get back in the game?
First step is a few times to try and stop urination mid-flow to help you get used to the feel of these muscles. Then follow this protocol for sets of reps two to three times daily.
The best part about Kegels is that you can do them anywhere at any time. You can do them while on the floor, in bed, during a commercial break, or even sitting at your desk at work.
Try it right now as you read the rest of this article!
1. You want to squeeze and tighten the PC muscles only and not the surrounding muscles. Be aware not to tighten your abs, butt, or thigh and breathe normally and don’t hold your breathe.
2. Start with 5-second squeezes. Squeeze for five seconds, then relax. Do 10 reps of 5-second squeezes.
3. As you get more comfortable, increase the length of the squeezing up to 30 seconds and 25 reps.
2. Aerobic Exercise
As I shared last week many studies show that aerobic exercise can help improve ED by boosting blood flow. When working out, your heart is pumping faster. This “clears out” your veins from buildup and blockages caused by obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease (which all contribute to by ED).
Furthermore, aerobic exercise of moderate intensity for 5 to 7 sessions per week for 12 weeks increased nitric oxide levels by 32%. Remember that nitric oxide is what pushes blood flow into the penis for an erection and relaxes the penile muscles to allow for stiffness.
In addition, aerobic exercise has many other benefits on the body:
Increases levels of sexual intimacy
Improves sexual function
Creates more satisfying orgasms
Boosts energy levels
Lowers blood pressure
Improves muscle tone
Reduces body fat
What kind of aerobic exercise should you be doing? Anything that gets your heart rate up! This could be running, using the elliptical, rowing, swimming, or dancing. Even good, old-fashioned walking has significant health benefits. In fact, a Harvard study found that brisk walking 30 minutes per day had a 41% reduction in the risk for erectile dysfunction. I usually recommend avoiding biking, as that can bring with it other concerns for male sexual health.
Whatever aerobic exercise you choose—get sweaty and get your heart rate up!
3. Heavier Lifting and Squats
While aerobic exercise can help burn fat and improve ED symptoms, weight training especially those that focus on higher intensity interval training can drastically spike your testosterone levels in the short- and long-term. This, in turn, improves workout performance, burns fat, builds muscle, and heightens the libido.
Although low testosterone doesn’t always lead to erectile dysfunction, if you have low testosterone, you won’t have interest in sex; and not having sex means your penis goes unused, which can eventually weaken the pelvic muscles and cause ED. Furthermore, low libido can often cause psychological or relationship concerns that can exacerbate erectile dysfunction. ED is just one part of the equation of men’s sexual health.
Thus, it’s time to get lifting! Not only will it boost your testosterone, but HIIT weight training will also get your heart pumping (like aerobic exercise). Lifting can regulate your hormones, boost your metabolism, and improve weight loss efforts—all of which are vital to erectile function.
My favorite move is the squat. Squats are one of the best exercises because they work a number of large muscle groups at once. The more you’re working, the more benefits you’re getting. Squats are resistance exercises, performed in intervals, with high intensity—the perfect combo for boosting testosterone levels. Plus, squats improve blood flow to the pelvic region. The more blood flow near the penis, the easier it is to gain an erection.
Yoga is one of my favorite cures for ED and sexual health. A study of a 12-week yoga program found “significant improvement” in sexual scores for men with an average age of 40. They had improvement in: erections, desire, intercourse satisfaction, performance, confidence, ejaculatory control, partner synchronization, and orgasm.
Countless studies prove yoga has benefits relating back to a number underlying causes of ED. Overall, yoga can increase quality of life by enhancing muscular strength, improving cardiovascular function, improving sleep patterns, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, and more. Relaxation is the key here; the intense relaxation that comes from yoga actually helps improve blood flow and oxygen circulation in the blood, which in turn improves organ function (like the sex organs and muscles).
Moreover, certain yoga poses boost blood flow to the penis and work those pelvic muscles. I like to think of these yoga poses as a “wake up call” to your penis, by stimulating the vessels and muscles around it.
Below you’ll find my favorite yoga poses for improved sexual health.
Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
The “seated forward bend” is easy and comfortable, relaxing the pelvic muscles and promoting blood flow to the hips and penis. It’s also great for reducing stress in a pinch.
How to do:
Sit on a yoga mat or blanket with your legs in front of you.
Keep your upper body long and straight.
Lean forward from the hips, moving your chest towards your knees.
Lengthen your tailbone as you reach down towards your feet.
Reach as far as you can. Extend and grab your feet if possible. If not, go as far as you can for a comfortable stretch. You can also use a yoga strap around your feet for a deeper stretch.
Hold the post for 1 to 3 minutes and then release.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
The “standing forward bend” or “intense forward-bending pose” helps with anxiety and stress, while also stimulating organs in the abdomen (including the sex organs). Tradition even says that this pose is so beneficial for sexual health that it can actually help with male and female infertility.
How to do:
Stand with your hands on your hips.
As you exhale, bend forward from the hips.
Keep your back straight as you bend forward. Lengthen the torso as you bend.
Keep your knees straight. A soft bend is okay for newbies.
Bring your fingers down towards the floor.
If you can’t reach your feet with your hands, cross your forearms and hold your elbows. You can swing gently.
Relax into the pose for 1 to 3 minutes.
As you inhale, focus on lengthening and straightening your spine. As you exhale, relax deeper and fuller into the stretch, letting gravity pull you down.
Avoid straining your neck or back. You should be able to nod your head yes and no while in the pose.
Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)
The “butterfly pose” or “bound angle pose” stretches the inner thighs and groin. It opens up the hips and pelvis in a way that stimulates the prostate gland, bladder, kidneys, and abdomen.
How to do:
Sit upright with your legs extended in front of you.
Bend one knee at a time while you exhale, pulling your heel inward towards your pelvis.
Drop both knees to either side. Press the bottoms of your feet together.
Use your first and second fingers to grab your big toes. You can also grab your ankles with your hands.
As you breathe, focus on straightening your torso. Imagine someone is pulling up a string that’s attached to your spine.
Stay in the pose for 1 to 5 minutes.
Janu Sirsana (Head-To-Knee Pose)
The head-to-knee pose helps with flexibility in the lower body while also relieving stress and improving blood flow in the groin.
How to do:
Sit on your mat or blanket with legs extended in front of you.
Bend in one knee, bringing the heel towards your pelvis.
Rest the sole of that foot against your other thigh.
Release your knee towards the floor. Support with a blanket if you need to.
As you inhale, raise both of your hands towards the sky.
As you exhale, hinge from the hips and bend towards your extended foot.
Try to bring your chin to your knee. If you can, clasp your hand around your foot. If you can’t, bend as far as you can and hold on to your shins.
Stay in this position for 1 to 3 minutes.
Inhale and raise your arms overhead to return to sitting.
Repeat with the other leg folded in for balance.
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
The “bow pose” stretches your muscles in the groin and thighs while energizing the reproductive areas. Plus, it’ll boost your flexibility—and may make an interesting sex position in the bedroom.
How to do:
Lay face down on your mat on your stomach. Your feet should be hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
Bend your knees in towards your back, grabbing the front of your feet with your hands.
Raise your upper body and pull up on your legs at the same time. Your chest and knees should both be lifted off the floor, while your pelvis stays grounded.
Stay in the pose for 20 to 30 seconds. While posing, take a few deep breaths. The deeper the breath, the more it will stimulate your pelvis.
Exhale as you release from the pose.
Repeat two or three more times.
Bonus: Work out with your partner.
Getting your heart rate up together can help bring you closer to one another. Partners that work out together find that they have an improved sex life in the bedroom as well. This is likely due to improved self-confidence, regulated hormones, endorphin release, and all those great benefits from working out. But, more than that, couples that work out together connect on a physical level outside of the bedroom. This connection translates back into the bedroom nicely. This is especially true for yoga. One study found that “partner yoga may help couples who are struggling with sexual dysfunction.”
The Bottom Line
You can naturally overcome your erectile dysfunction and improve your sexual health… and it costs you nothing but your time and willingness! The above 9 exercises and poses will put you on a track of sexual health that will also help you look, feel, and be the most vigorous you in years. Say goodbye to ED (and hello to exercise).
Over the past year, we have discussed the importance of testosterone and nitric oxide for overall sexual, mental and physical health. In addition, we have discussed the importance of regular movement that includes a few sessions weekly of high intensity intervals balanced by longer slow enjoyable movement and recovery.
In today’s post, I want to remind you that if you want better “physical fun” in the bedroom, you also need to improve your daily physical activity outside the bedroom as well.
They are now over 30 million men suffering from ED. And if you are one of them, know you are not alone, the facts are that almost 1 in 3 men over the age of 35 years old are suffering from less than optimal sexual health and performance.
And certainly, if you can’t get or maintain an erection like you used to, your confidence, your intimacy, and even your relationships will suffer.
And while, popping a blue pill may be helpful for some, the truth is they only mask the symptoms without getting to the root causes of your ED or other related complications.
Fortunately, you can overcome ED in a natural and effective way that will also help you feel and look better… with exercise!
Why Exercise For ED?
ED has 8 main causes and physical activity actually addresses each cause in some way or another.
1. Stress and anxiety: Stress and psychological problems are the most common causes of ED.
Physical activity has been shown to lower stress, reduce cortisol levels, improve mood, and increase endorphins (the “happy” chemical in your brain). And according to the American Psychological Association, exercise betters our body’s communication system between all of our organ processes and functions. The truth is the more sedentary we are, the less efficient our bodies are at communicating and responding to stress. In this way, exercise is crucial to both the body’s physical and mental reaction to stress.
While excess body fat is primarily caused by the choice of the food you eat, physical activity to support energy and metabolism through body movement and muscle recovery is crucial to weight control. You need to stay active to burn calories, shed fat, build muscle, and maintain a normal body weight.
3. Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol: Physical activity improves heart health and improves oxygenated blood flow throughout the body. These include increase in insulin sensitivity, increase in good cholesterol, reduction in bad cholesterol, reduction in blood pressure, and reduction in body weight.
4. Relationship concerns: Communication problems in your relationship can cause erectile dysfunction.
Research suggests that couples that are active together actually improve their overall relationship by increasing your happiness, boosting romantic attraction, enhancing support, and increasing emotional bond. In addition, physical activity helps better overall health, which makes for a healthy relationship in tandem.
5. Confidence concerns: Men suffering from ED due to “performance anxiety” often have low self-confidence or a negative view of their body.
Studies have shown that physical activity can enhance attractiveness and increase energy levels, where participants rate themselves as higher on positive perception of self. Those men who were active consistently considered themselves more desirable and were thus able to perform better sexually.
6. Sleep deprivation: A lack of sleep—with regards to both quantity and quality— has been linked to erectile dysfunction. In fact, a 2016 survey found that 65% of men who came in with sleep apnea (a sleep disorder) also had symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Working out regularly can improve your quality of sleep and help you fall asleep faster. In fact, exercise is the most effective natural cure for insomnia.
7. Hormonal imbalance: There is a link between low testosterone and erectile dysfunction, though it still calls for further exploration. Nevertheless, we know that a severe imbalance of hormones—like too much cortisol and estrogen with low testosterone—can negatively impact sexual performance. Exercise has been shown to help balance out hormone production, raise testosterone, and lower cortisol and estrogen. Basically, exercise can help put your hormones in a sex-friendly state.
8. Nitric oxide: It’s also important to note the link between nitric oxide and exercise. Nitric oxide (NO) is the chemical that opens up the blood vessels (vasodilation) in the penis and relaxes the muscles in the pelvis. After an erection, your nitric oxide levels will naturally decrease to signal to your body that it’s time to stop having an erection. NO basically controls your erections; you need an appropriate amount of nitric oxide in order to have and maintain an erection for any period of time.
Overall, exercise increases energy, tones muscle, and burns fat. This improvement in overall health can help combat the typical causes of erectile dysfunction. Study after study has proved that physical activity is linked to sexual vigor. Not only does it improve your erectile dysfunction, but it can also improve your flexibility, endurance, and performance in the bedroom…
So what are you waiting for?
Next week, I’ll share with you exercises that you can start right away without equipment that will improve your ED symptoms and sexual health.
Iron deficiency is present in over 40% of woman and 20% of men! This very common and easily remedied deficiency causes you to experience less energy and endurance and a variety of everyday maladies including more frequent infections.
Adequate levels of iron are essential for everyone, especially for those who are physically active because iron is the mineral responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the skeletal and cardiac muscles. If your muscles do not have enough oxygen, your energy and endurance will be significantly reduced.
Ironically, iron can either help or harm you. If you have more iron than what your body needs to satisfy your hemoglobin requirement (for cell oxygenation), the rest becomes a surplus. And because your body has a limited capacity to excrete iron, its build-up in your body can become toxic. Excess iron levels can lead to inflammation and increased risk of autoimmune, cancer and heart disease.
Processed foods that are fortified with iron and multivitamins containing iron can contribute to iron overload. High iron levels are far more prevalent among men than women as woman lose blood each month during menses. In addition, there are a percentage of people who are genetic predisposed to absorbed iron and are at much higher risk for the development of high iron.
In general, the issues with iron are due to deficiencies and this occurs primarily in woman (due to regular monthly bleeding and nutritional deficiencies) and surprisingly in endurance athletes.
Let’s examine why this happens to those taking part in endurance activity.
Their total blood volume is greater.
Participating in endurance sports will increase your total blood volume, enabling your heart to pump more blood per contraction to the lungs for oxygenation. The red blood cells themselves, however, can become diluted—and become less effective in transporting oxygen from the lungs to the muscles.
Dietary iron intake is not sufficient.
Iron is found in food in two different forms—heme and non-heme. Heme iron (which makes up 40 percent of the iron in meat, poultry, and fish) is well absorbed. Non-heme iron (which accounts for 60 percent of the iron in animal tissue and all the iron found in fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts) is less well-absorbed. The typical endurance athlete eats a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet that contains little red meat (a prime source of absorbable heme iron) and/or inadequate amounts of the foods rich in non-heme iron such as leafy greens (especially spinach), legumes and dried fruits.
Iron is lost with every foot strike.
The force of the foot hitting the ground causes a significant breakdown of red blood cells. This is particularly a problem for court sport athletes and high-mileage runners.
Iron is lost through sweat and urine.
Although a relatively small amount of iron is lost through the sweat and urine, people who have a propensity to sweat heavily or train regularly in hot, humid conditions are pre-disposed to suffering from low iron.
Iron is lost through the gastrointestinal system
Loss of iron can occur in some people via small bleeds in the stomach or large intestine. While this is not a health risk, the chronic blood loss can contribute to a cumulative depletion of iron.
It is important to realize that you do not have to be anemic (deficient in red blood cells) in order to be suffering from low iron.
Symptoms of low iron include:
• Poor performance and slow recovery
• Exercise fatigue and/or lethargy Increased heart rate
• Heavy legs
• Susceptibility to infection
• Ice cravings
• Difficulty concentrating on/remembering things
Paying attention to these symptoms is a critical first step in identifying a potential problem. But the only way to know for sure is to have your iron levels assessed.
Key markers include:
Red Blood Cell Markers: Hemoglobin and Hematocrit
Iron Markers: Serum Iron, Iron Saturation and Serum Ferritin
Not only will this rule out the less common genetic high-iron problem but allow you to determine a proper restoration program that includes adjusting your diet to include more red meat, less iron binding grains and supplementing it with bio-available forms for iron in combination with vitamin C to enhance absorption.
Last week I discussed the importance of hormone balance and then specifically how imbalances in both cortisol rhythm and level effect everyday life, cause disease and age us more rapidly.
While we are aware of the large stressors such as those caused by lifestyle, lack of sleep, illness or death in the family, relocation, change of job or loss of income. But it is all too easy to overlook seemingly minor stressors that day by day can over time wear us down.
Sometimes it’s easy to identify these habits that induce stress such as consuming large quantities of caffeine, overloading on processed foods, or overscheduling appointments and activities to the point of burnout. But often certain daily habits that heighten stress levels are less obvious.
Experiencing them sporadically won’t have much of an impact, but when they become habitual and deeply embedded into your daily routine they can contribute to everyday tension, fatigue, and imbalances in cortisol.
And these imbalances lead to headaches, digestive problems, anxiety, and many other psychological and physiological symptoms. Fortunately, once you identify the habits that are plaguing you, you can take steps to address them, putting you in control of how stress affects your overall health.
Avoiding big stresses can be easy or completely out of our control, so take the opportunity to review your life for these eight small stressors and then follow the suggested solutions provided by the Chopra Center. Your mind and body will appreciate the assist!
1. Constantly Running Through To-do Lists
If you weren’t able to think through the things you want to accomplish in a day, you wouldn’t get anything done. To-do lists, whether written or mental, keep you focused and organized. But they become counterproductive when you’re constantly running through them. Excessively planning and obsessing over what you want to accomplish can trigger anxiety and hinder productivity.
It’s important to find ways to be productive while maintaining your sanity. This can be done by prioritizing to-do lists, being realistic about what you can and can’t accomplish in one day, checking items off one at a time, practicing mindfulness to stay present, and rewarding yourself for your hard work.
2. Binge-watching TV
When you’re under stress or need to relax, you may turn to the television to help you “turn off” your brain. Watching TV typically helps you to feel relaxed, although it can depend on what you’re watching. However, those feelings of relaxation often cease after you’ve turned the TV off. You may feel antsy and unproductive after binge-watching Netflix, a contrast to the satisfaction often felt after a workout or catching up with a friend.
There’s no harm in unwinding with a good show after a long day at work. But watching TV for hours on end can disrupt sleep and take time away from other activities that safeguard you from stress and promote health such as exercise, meditation, and connecting with others.
Oftentimes you procrastinate when you fear failure, aren’t sure how to do something, or just simply dread putting forth any effort. Regardless of why you procrastinate, the pressure to throw something together at the last minute is not only unpleasant and daunting, but can also induce high levels of stress.
By tackling something important now—rather than putting it off to the last minute—you can lessen the demand it puts on your time, energy, and overall well-being. Develop a strategy for getting things done on time (or early!) such as breaking down tasks into smaller chunks, creating a schedule, and rewarding yourself along the way.
4. Being Late
Occasionally you will fall behind schedule. But if you find yourself consistently waking up late, rushing to make appointments, or hurryingly paying bills just before they will be sent to collections, then it’s likely adding stress to your day. Similar to when you procrastinate, the pressure that results from having to accomplish something within a short timeframe can induce anxiety and exhaustion.
Leave yourself plenty of time, whether it’s to pay a bill or to get across town for a meeting, to avoid the stress that is inevitably associated with running behind. Set reminders on your cell phone to help alleviate the stress of having to rely on your memory alone.
5. Running on Autopilot
How often do you stop for your morning coffee without engaging in conversation with the barista? Or rush through breakfast with your family, distracted by thoughts of the hundreds of things you need to accomplish that morning? This is the norm for many, thanks in part to technological devices that make it easier to live life efficiently without having to engage as much in it.
When you go through your day on autopilot, you’re less likely to notice and engage in those seemingly simple moments that can make life so enjoyable (and alleviate stress) such as:
• Connecting with a stranger.
• Making a child feel listened to.
• Enjoying a good cup of coffee.
Instead, you run from one obligation to the next, unaware of the stress you’re accumulating along the way. By practicing mindfulness, the act of bringing attention to the present moment, you’ll find yourself more relaxed and engaged in the world around you.
The modern world has no shortage of external stimuli. Technological devices are just one of many contributors to an already-over stimulated society. In addition to being connected via social media, news alerts, and texting, other contributors of overstimulation are plugging in your headphones, over socializing, or overloading on caffeine and sugar. Your brain isn’t wired to process endless stimuli without leaving you overloaded and stressed out.
Fortunately, you can choose what you pay attention to. Limiting phone usage, listening to calm music instead of the news on the way to work, decluttering workspaces, and declining a social invitation when you feel the need for some downtime are just a few ways to prevent overstimulation. Make a habit of checking in with yourself; become more attuned with what your body and mind are telling you they need.
7. Lack of Routine
Your brain inherently favors routine. You prefer to know what to expect versus fearing the unknown. Routines are more easily established when you are in a steady job and living situation. But sometimes you fall out of a routine (not always by choice) and are left feeling directionless. This creates space for worry and insecurity.
Having something you know you can depend on every day—whether it’s getting up at the same time every morning for some peaceful, alone time, or working out in the evening after work—will provide your brain with a dose of consistency it can crave.
8. Surrounding Company
Think of all the people you meet on a daily basis: bosses, coworkers, friends, family members, fellow commuters, and cashiers, just to name a few. Some may alleviate stress while others trigger it. Observing how you feel after an encounter with someone is a sure way to find out which category they fall under. Do they leave you feeling energized or depleted? Supported or anxious?
You have more control than you realize over the influence people have on you. If a friend becomes increasingly toxic, you can walk away from the friendship. If your boss’s demands are causing one-too-many sleepless nights, you can speak up. You can choose to react differently to the stress they evoke within you. Instead of becoming completely overwhelmed, you can limit the time we spend with them, practice mindful breathing, or steer the conversation in a direction that feels more pleasant and less stressful.
Need further support?
Consider any number of online or event programs that exist today. Mentorship and being part of tribe is a powerful tool to both reduce stress and gain success in almost any area of one’s life.
One program that I recommend is the Chopra Center Perfect Health retreat where over six enjoyable days you can learn new, healthy habits and receive one-on-one guidance to help restore balance in all areas of your life. Learn More.