The Microbiome, Pregnancy, and Children

The Microbiome, Pregnancy, and Children

We already know how important the gut is to the health and functioning of the body.  (Find my article A Healthy Gut in 4 Steps: This Week In Paleo here)

But did you know that the gut doesn’t just determine the health of our digestion or immune system but even the health of our brains and our offspring?

In fact, evidence is mounting that the microbiome (that collection of bacteria, fungi, and other creatures who colonize the colon, skin, etc) may determine whether you suffer from anxiety, depression, and may play a role in the development of autism in young children, among other things.

If you are pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant, or have a young child, these are important things you should know. 

The Microbiome and Pregnancy

Before birth, the mother’s microbiome actually changes to produce extra lactobacillus (which helps the baby digest milk) as well as several other bacteria that give the infant an important start in the world, helping with their immune systems and digestion, as well as several other things.

These bacteria coat the vaginal wall in preparation for the infant’s trip through the birth canal.

However,  some mothers are placed on antibiotics while pregnant.  They are sometimes important but these broad spectrum antibiotics destroy both negative and positive bacteria, meaning fewer bacteria overall for the baby.

It is wise to seek a doctor with a well-rounded view and respect for the microbiome, one who is careful with prescriptions of antibiotics, especially during pregnancy.

The Journey of Birth

When it comes time to give birth, the journey through the birth canal is one of the most important moments for the microbiological quantity and quality of an infant.

That trip through the birth canal is vitally important for a new baby.  The microbiome of the vaginal wall infiltrates the babies mouth, eyes, ears, and gets into every mucous membrane, rapidly providing the important first colonization.

However, many babies are now born via cesarean section and therefore are not colonized by the bacteria on the vaginal wall, but rather by the skin of whoever they first spend time touching.  This is significant because the microbiota of the skin is different than what is present in a healthy gut.  

If C-sections are necessary (and they often are, though the medical community is beginning to admit they have historically been overused for many reasons) then many women are requesting or performing vaginal swabs to the mucous membranes of infants just after birth so that the infants can be colonized by the mother’s microbiome.

It might sound weird, but this could prove to be a vitally important procedure for the health, immune system, and psychology of children.

Since pregnant women spend nine months building this special colony for their baby, it’s a shame not to be able to pass it on, and may one day be shown to be quite damaging to the infant.  

Early Childhood

The first three years of life are vitally important for development of a child, especially their microbiome but many children experience ear infections early in life, or other issues which may be prescribed antibiotics.  

Studies on rats have shown that those kept sterile or “germ-free” develop social anxiety, even autistic-like features, as well as a penchant towards obesity and other diseases.

Not only that, but with animals from conventional farms being fed antibiotics to both prevent illness and promote fat storage, we are all are inadvertently consuming antibiotics through food when we eat conventional meat.  

Though there are times when antibiotics are necessary and can be lifesaving, it is generally agreed upon that they have been historically overused, often with little to no benefit and, it is being discovered, more and more detriment. In many cases, the condition would go away in time and may not even be a bacterial infection.

According to many medical professionals, it is often difficult to discern whether an issue is bacterial or a virus.  Because many doctors receive pressure from patients for relief or are determined to “cover their bases”, antibiotics have been overprescribed.  Pair that with the overuse of germ-killing products like hand sanitizer and it’s clear why there has been such a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, which can be deadly.

Probiotics

Most of us were probably placed on antibiotics at some point which threw our microbiome out of whack.  

And it’s important for us to work with the best information and knowledge we have to try to put a healthy gut back together. 

As adults, early childhood issues of the microbiome promote a range of conditions including obesity, diabetes, and associated illnesses, as well as diseases of the gut like Chron’s, and autoimmune conditions, allergies, and the like.

Psychologically there is growing evidence that an affected microbiome can stimulate anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

In several studies, as well as my work anecdotally, probiotics do seem to help many people improve mood, digestion, and symptoms of illnesses and conditions like irritable bowl syndrome. 

For those with depression and anxiety, I think it makes sense to take a probiotic and for anyone- children and adults- who have had to use rounds of antibiotics, I think it is valuable to take a probiotic.

The probiotics used in most supplements are those with heavy research backing their efficacy.  It’s hard to know just how much bacteria actually gets through the stomach acid with these probiotics, but several have special coatings to hopefully help them reach the colon intact.

I particularly like this probiotic for adults (find it here).  Though it has fewer colonies, it is supposed to be more effective, remaining intact through the stomach and small intestine so that it can reach the colon.

This is a probiotic recommended for children (find it here).  As with anything with kids, please make sure you get your doctor’s OK before giving these to your child.

Remember that a healthy diet is vital for the health of the gut as well.  As much as I’d love it, we can’t just take a supplement and be done with it.

If you’ve had success with probiotic therapy, I’d love to hear from you!  Which ones have worked for you?  Which haven’t?  And what have you done to improve your microbiome?

 

 

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

5 Paleo for Women Approved New Year’s Resolutions

5 Paleo for Women Approved New Year’s Resolutions

Woah, 2017. I can’t believe you are almost here!

At the writing of this blog post I’m pondering the making of new years resolutions.  Are they healthy?  Are they harmful?  Are they something in between?

I’ve gone back and forth, but concluded that, like them or not, new year’s resolutions are a part of our culture, exciting and important motivators that can give someone the push they need to make valuable and lasting changes. 

I’m not into crash dieting (or “diets” of any kind really) and I’m not into resolutions that end up making people feel worse about themselves when they fail to live up to unreasonable standards.

But health IS important, and focusing on feeling better and doing better in the new year is something admirable, after all.

So here’s my list of 5 Paleo for Women Approved New Years Resolutions!

#1 Cook More

Cooking is something I usually despise doing and avoid if I can help it.  But it gets old eating canned salmon all the time.

As the new year begins, take some time to plan a daily schedule.

If you’re a detailed list maker, you’ll love it and if you’re not, you might feel caged in, but sketching out your time might show you ways you can be more efficient and leave room for home cooked meals.

Try buying books with meal and shopping plans already inside for you.  Practical Paleo (find it here) is one of my favorites, because it contains meal plans for every possible variation of paleo.

There are other great books too.  Stick with ones that focus on easy recipes that can be made quickly like Well Fed Weeknights (find it here).  Or try books that utilize less dishes for easier cleanup like One Pot Paleo or Paleo Slow Cooker.

Cooking more will mean eating more veggies, one of the biggest indicators of a healthy lifestyle, and will cut down on the amount of rancid oil, sugar and Omega 6 you eat, making you feel healthier, improving skin and cardiovascular health, and probably helping you lose some weight.

#2 Lose Weight

Speaking of losing weight…

I might catch some flack here.  You see, I believe strongly in body positivity and the body positive movement.  That means I do hold firm to a belief in health at every size.

However, I also believe that weight loss can be a valuable goal for certain people. 

Excessive adipose tissue does produce inflammatory responses in the body and does contribute to a range of health issues.  And whether we like it or not, it IS something that we need to consider in our modern world of convenience foods and obesity related illness. 

If you’ve become out of sync with your body, feel you need to lose excessive body weight (and remember that doesn’t mean you need to be stick thin!) the only real difficulty is finding a way to do it gently, positively, and with as little guilt and shame as possible.

That’s where my weight loss program, Weight Loss Unlocked comes in.

It’s designed to help you lose weight efficiently but mindfully, learning to listen to the natural signals of your body, rather than the mean girl in your head. 

It can help you follow those New Years Resolutions without the fad dieting that normally goes with it.  I’d suggest pairing it with a great paleo cookbook with meal plans like the ones I mentioned above.

Find Weight Loss Unlocked Here

#3 Focus on Self-Love

While most people choose to lose weight at the beginning of the new year, it’s just as important to choose to love.

We often become our worst enemies and meanest critics, beating ourselves up and tearing ourselves down. 

Disordered eating, low self-confidence, so many things stem from not loving ourselves. 

To give and recieve love in the new year, we’ve got to start with healing our own hearts.

There are many, many people out there happy to help you do it.

To discover the sexy, confident woman you really are, try reading my book Sexy By Nature.

If you’ve strugged with disordered eating and are ready to take control of negative thinking, try my friend Kayla’s program Starting the Path to Recovery and Discovery here.  Try reading When Food is Love (find it here), a classic for any emotional eater.

If you’re shy, perhaps try pushing yourself to do something that sounds fun but makes you a bit nervous- go out dancing or join friends at a party. 

And if you’re always out to avoid being alone at home, perhaps try a night in of reflective thinking and journaling (Let it Out is a great resource) and sit with some of those emotions. 

You’ll gain self-awareness and balance which we all could use in the new year!

#4  Breathe More

Breathing is something we do far too often without really thinking about it.

Most of us don’t even use the full capacity of our lungs, but only a tiny portion of them. 

And breathe, just like food, is so important to life itself, and quality of life. 

Improper breathing can do damage to the body just as poor food choices can.

Proper breathing, taking deep, long breaths, and long, smooth exhalations, can also be a form of meditation that has been shown to reduce stress, calm the nervous system and relax the mind. 

It’s an imperative especially for those with anxiety, and may help anyone with stress-flaring conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, autoimmune conditions, and more. 

With the new year, I’m vowing to remember to breathe in positivity and breathe out negativity.  I hope you’ll do the same.

#5 Let Go

And as I work to breathe out negativity, I’m going to be trying my best to let go of anger, expectations, and arbitrary standards I place on myself and others. 

2016 was a hard year for many and it’s easy to pick out the bad things that happened and let them stew and boil within us.

We can focus on that negativity, that anger, and let it fester. 

Or we can consciously make the choice to let it go. 

I don’t have a 3 step program to help you do that (though I’m sure one probably exists!) but I think we should try it nonetheless.

Let’s focus our hearts and minds on the good in 2017 and work for peace, justice, and positivity in the new year.

I will.  I hope you will too. 


What are your new year’s resolutions?

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

How to Eat for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

How to Eat for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

One of the most common questions I get in emails, on social media and here on the blog is how to overcome hypothalamic amenorrhea.

Most specifically, women want to know: how do you eat for hypothalamic amenorrhea? how much do you eat for hypothalamic amenorrhea? When do you eat for hypothalamic amenorrhea?

Hypothalamic amenorrhea, given that it’s the condition of having starved (intentionally or not) your body into a state of infertility with low calorie diets, fasting, or excessive exercise, requires a lot of nourishment and care.

I personally have done it. (And overcome PCOS at the same time, too.) I have coached countless women through it.

And you can do it, too.

Here’s how:

Eat for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea: The General Principle

First and foremost, you need to eat. 

Normally, our culture tells people to “eat less, exercise more.”

For hypothalamic amenorrhea, usually the problem however is that you have followed this advice. So now you have to reverse it.

You have to eat more, and exercise less. You have to relax. You have to give your body the nourishment (in the form of calories) it needs in order to consider itself well-fed. You have to reverse the damage done to your hormone signalling mechanisms from months, years, or even decades of under-feeding yourself.

You have to focus on your health, wellness, fertility, happiness, and activities rather than on the specific size of your body.

You have to learn to accept your body as a soft animal, and let it be the size that it wants to be.

Work on appreciating your body for what it does, not for what it looks like. (I know it is easier said than done – here is a great place to start, or here).

Then nourish yourself to high heaven, focusing on eating more, eating plenty, eating bountifully.

Here are the primary pieces of advice I give to all women I encounter with HA:

Eat for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea: Specifics

1. Eat more

You are probably used to eating at least half of what you should be. So eat more. A lot more.

Shoot for at minimum 2000 calories a day. If you are active, make it 2500. Julia Ross says that she believes all women should eat 2300 calories a day.

I don’t recommend counting calories precisely – but it can be important for a lot of people starting out with eating more to keep at least ballpark figures in mind in order to make sure you eat enough.

2. Eat when you’re hungry

Do not go hungry. Whenever your body detects hunger signalling hormones, it decreases thyroid and sex hormone production. In order to properly produce these hormones and get your fertility, sex drive, clear skin, and strong bones back, eat whenever you feel hungry.

3. Don’t stop eating until you’re reasonably full

Many people who suffer from hypothalamic amenorrhea eat regularly but always try to stop themselves from reaching a state of fullness. This ridiculously just deprives your body of good satiation hormones it needs to get “fed” signals. It also sets you up for more hunger faster.

4. When in doubt, eat more rather than less

If you don’t know if you’ve eaten enough, go ahead and eat more. There is nothing to fear – in terms of your health – from eating more food, especially if it’s nice, healthy whole foods. There is a chance you might gain a few pounds, especially if you are under your body’s currently desired set point due to your previous behaviors. But this will not be a bad thing. This will be a good thing because it means reassuring your body it is being fed.

5. Eat when you wake up

While you are sleeping, technically you are fasting.

After dinner and a full night’s rest, you have probably gone 8-14 hours without food.

You might wake up and not be hungry, but that is probably because you have conditioned yourself out of it. So eat when you wake up. Even if it’s just one or two hundred calories, that’ll be enough to break your fast and let your body know that today you are going to eat.

(Also: feel free to eat right before bed!)

6. Forget “3 square meals”

In paleo and other health spheres online, you will often hear people say that you should only eat in 3 square – or even 2 square – meals a day.

They say – don’t graze. 

But here’s the thing:

Everybody has a different cure.

For someone dealing with diabetes, eating in meals could help them manage their blood sugar and insulin levels.

But you do not have diabetes.

You have hypothalamic amenorrhea. What works for someone else is not necessarily what works for you. What cures someone else is not necessarily what cures you.

The answer for them is to eat in meals. Your answer is to eat when you are hungry. And if you want to – you can eat all day long. Eat in six small-moderate sized meals if you like. Or eat in 5. Or just simply snack all day, if that’s what you feel like.

The point of eating to overcome hypothalamic amenorrhea is to eat, and to eat bountifully, and to assure your body that you are fed. Restricting yourself to three square meals a day is not the right course of action for you.

Of course, if you still want to eat in three square meals a day, you are more than welcome to. Just make sure that you still hit your 2000 or 2500 calorie minimum, and that you never force yourself to feel hunger between the meals.

7. Get all the macronutrients

Don’t be low carb.

Don’t be low fat.

Eat plenty of both. Your body needs fat to manufacture hormones; it needs carbohydrates to feel good and fed, as well as to produce thyroid hormone.

I recommend starting with 150 grams of carbohydrate a day for overcoming hypothalamic amenorrhea.

Start also with 50 grams of fat.

Get at least 50 grams of protein.

Now of course you’ll notice that adding up 50 grams of protein, 150 grams of carbohydrate, and 50 grams of fat is still much less than 2000 or 2500 calories. This is true. I am not saying that you should eat these amounts, but that they should be your absolute minimum for that particular macronutrient. If you don’t like fat all that much, just make sure you eat at least 50 grams, then fill up the rest of your diet with carbs. If you are the opposite and don’t like carbs all that much, make sure you still get at least 150 grams and fill up the rest of your diet with fat.

Set macronutrient minimums, not maximums.

8. Focus on quantity, not quality

Now, this is the exact opposite of advice I normally give people when they are trying to be healthy.

One of my favorite things to say is that people need to focus on the quality of their food, and care less about the quantity.

In general, this is great advice. High quality food is super important for being healthy in the long run.

But for overcoming hypothalamic amenorrhea, what you actually need more than anything is calories. 

So, yes, if you decide to eat all 2500 calories a day in the form of vegetables and fruits and other paleo delights, you are more than welcome to.

But if you focus on being nourishing and then add in some hyper-caloric foods on top of that – like paleo desserts, or simply regular dessertsgo right ahead.

I personally got my period back when I added chocolate and oat cereal to my diet. A good friend of mine got hers back when she was going through a period of anxiety and ate a lot of candy. No joke. What your body needs is energy. Quality is important, but you have got to make sure you get the quantity you need. Do what you need to to make that happen.

Beyond food: Overcoming hypothalamic amenorrhea

Bonus point 9. Exercise less

Exercise less. A lot less. If you have cut back on exercise and still haven’t seen results, keep cutting back. Just a couple work outs a week (and not 90 minutes in a spin class) and some gentle walking or yoga is a great way to go. Don’t make yourself work out if you don’t have the energy, and don’t stress your already tired body.

What your body needs now is gentleness. Let it be gentle.

Here is a list of indicators you may be over-exercising.

10. Don’t nitpick your weight

When women are overcoming hypothalamic amenorrhea, they almost inevitably express concern to me about their weight.

They say – “I know I might have to gain weight, but how much?” “Will I have to go back to how heavy I was before?” “Will I become heavier than I was before?”

The thing is – the relationship between weight and hypothalamic amenorrhea is different for everybody. Some gradually gain a little bit of weight until they start to menstruate. Some don’t gain weight but simply benefit from eating more calories. Some people swing up high in weight and then come back down. Others swing up higher in weight then don’t come back down.

It varies.

So the only advice I can give you, if you really care about your period, your fertility, your sex drive, your strong bones, your clear skin, your good sleep, and your improved calm and mental health, is to learn to be okay with a bigger, squishier body.

I did. You can read a bit about my journey in this post here on being sexy while gaining weight, this one here on our lack of objectivity about our size, this one here on the health benefits of gaining weight for me, or in this book – in which I also give my best advice for body acceptance – here.

 

So that’s my advice on how to eat for hypothalamic amenorrhea.

Soon I will release a meal plan for those of you who would like more guidance. In the meantime, simply follow these ten guidelines. More food, at more of the time, with more relaxing. It’s simple – but it truly is the trick to eating to overcome hypothalamic amenorrhea.

For more on HA, see my posts Signs and Symptoms of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, Overcoming Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, and Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Treatment.

Also, if you happen to be one of the 15% of American women who has PCOS – or maybe you have hypothalamic amenorrhea but also don’t quite fit the bill – check out this post on how you can have PCOS and hypothalamic amenorrhea at the same time.

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

5 Reasons I Eat Gluten and Love it

5 Reasons I Eat Gluten and Love it

I remember I was once in the kitchen at a paleo cocktail party, schmoozing with the biggest and baddest in paleo names. It was back in 2014, I believe.

There were about eight people in the room. Seven of us – so everybody there except for me – had a glass of booze in their hand. Most of them were drinking tequila. Some of them, chardonnay.

A couple of them were lightly puffing on cigars.

I mentioned in a super casual, off-hand way (though I knew from the constricted feeling in my chest that it wouldn’t come across quite that casually), that I had eaten a handful of Chex cereal the morning before.

The room went silent.

Then went cacophonous. Everyone was exclaiming. “Stef, what about gluten!” 

“The gluten!”

“The gluten!”

Yes, what about the gluten?, I thought.

What about the cigars, and the tequila?, I wondered.

So I am more than happy to say publicly – as I do on the podcast – that I do occasionally consume gluten. I even do it deliberately. It’s not even a mistake. It’s deliberate. 

Here’s why:

1. I do not have an autoimmune disease

There are some people whom I think should never eat gluten or in fact any grain products.

These are those who suffer from autoimmune diseases (if you do – you should definitely treat it carefully with diet. Check out what I think the best resource is for doing so here).

Gluten and other proteins found in grain products do most certainly have an inflammatory and sometimes even deadly effect on people with autoimmune diseases. But do they have the same effect on people without autoimmune disease?

They don’t.

Do they cause autoimmune disease?

It doesn’t look, necessarily, like they do.

Even while it might be common paleo lore for gluten to “tear holes in the gut, cause gut permeability, and lead to autoimmunity” (something I have personally said), the causes of autoimmunity are far less simple.

Nutrient status, particularly vitamin D status, genetics, gut flora, and immune system health all appear to be major players in the development of autoimmune disease (see, for example, gut flora, here). Gluten may be a trigger for some people, and will certain exacerbate autoimmunity, yet sensitivity to it often comes after the development of autoimmune disease, not before. 

So if you do not have autoimmune disease and otherwise appear to be in good health, gluten will most likely not cause autoimmune disease to happen in you.

(To reiterate, here’s my favorite book on overcoming autoimmunity permanently).

2. I don’t have symptoms 

Many people will argue that even they do not have a specific allergy to gluten and grains, they still have a sensitivity, or an intolerance.

This is totally legitimate. Many studies seem to indicate that people’s obsession with gluten-free diets causes a placebo-type effect and the actual removal of gluten isn’t the real help. Nevertheless, there may still be real truth to it. I won’t tell you you’re wrong about the symptoms you experience. And even if they are psychosomatic – that is, caused by your own brain – they are still real.

I personally am not one of these people. I don’t have gastrointestinal distress when I consume gluten. I don’t get headaches. I don’t break out in pimples.

I do sometimes get thirsty and tired. I assume this is from a blood sugar fluctuation. But I am aware of this symptom and I am okay with it. Plus, if I only have a little bit of bread or a wheat tortilla, it won’t be enough to affect me that badly.

I cede that it is possible that I suffer from some internal damage when consuming gluten. But I have no way to know that without expensive medical testing, and all of my routine blood work has always come back just fine. Given that I am symptom-free, I simply do not worry about it.

3. The nourishment of different foods is relative

I make the argument in my book Sexy by Nature that even though grains might be tolerable for people, they still are not ideal.

I stand by that today. They aren’t ideal. They aren’t broccoli. They aren’t kale. They certainly aren’t pasture-raised eggs or beef or liver.

Grains are nutritionally “eh.” They have pretty little to offer. Some B vitamins (if the grains have been fortified, which actually isn’t all that great), trace minerals, a bit of magnesium, actually. Zinc. But that’s it.

And they have antinutrients in them. Antinutrients are types of chemicals that bind with nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins in the gut and then flush them out of your system before you even get a chance to absorb them into your bloodstream. Eating bread with a salad, therefore, “steals” some of the nutrients  from the salad.

But here’s the thing: the nourishment level of all foods is different.

If you eat a lot of white rice, for example – and a lot of the world’s cultures do, without health problems – then a significant portion of your diet is relatively devoid of nutrients. White rice has almost nothing in it but calories (which, to be clear, is an important aspect of nourishment).

100% of your diet cannot necessarily be the “perfect” foods – and what are those anyway, without balance?

It’s okay to eat foods that aren’t at the top of the nourishing list from time to time. All foods are relative, and are diverse, too. Feel free to engage in some empty calories from time to time.

4. All around I eat a nourishing diet

I might eat gluten from time to time, or other “unhealthy” foods like the deep-fried chicken I had at a Thai restaurant last night, but I do by and large eat a nourishing whole foods diet.

The bulk of my diet is plants. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. I eat high quality animal meat and eggs. I include organ meats from time to time. I eat high quality seafood. I make sure to get plenty of sunshine or to take a vitamin D supplement. I am, by all accounts, pretty well nourished.

That being the case, and being in reasonably good health, there is nothing to lose from some empty calories here or there. Literally nothing at all.

Sometimes paleo leaders like to say that everything you eat either harms or heals your body. Maybe. I think it’s much more complicated than that. I think bodies are complex. I think the best thing to do is chill out, not worry about it, and just focus on being a well-rounded human being who is both mentally and physically well nourished.

5. “Perfect Health” doesn’t exist

Why eat a “perfect” diet?

Why make sure every food you eat follows specific rules?

Why track every nutrient you consume?

What are you running from?

As I have said before, I think that a lot of people eat “perfect” diets because they are afraid of being immoral, are afraid of being overweight, or are afraid of dying.

I heartily encourage you to let go of these attachments, because there is nothing moral about the food you eat – it’s just food (well, I’d argue that local produce and humane animal treatment is more moral). But in terms of the quality of food, there is no morality.

And there is no crazy weight gain.

No perfect body.

And certainly no immortality.

Being paleo will not prevent you from feeling pain, or from dying.

So my choice – and my advice – is to simply let go of perfection.

It’s to embrace life and it’s bumps.

It’s to let my choices go with the flow.

It’s to have a piece of home-baked bread once in a while, or perhaps a sandwich wrap at Starbucks when I’m on the go.

It’s to drink a glass of wine or enjoy a fine cigar.

I stay focused on nourishing myself, absolutely I do.

But I do so without rules, and with balance, and freedom and joy.

 

I'm paleo and I eat gluten. Here are five reasons why.

 

 

These are the five reasons that I sometimes eat bread. What do you think? What do you do?

PS – (No, I will not tell you precisely how much of anything I eat, or how much precisely of anything you should eat. 😉 )

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

I Take 3 Kinds of Magnesium: Here’s Why

I Take 3 Kinds of Magnesium: Here’s Why

Magnesium is underrated.

70% of Americans do not get the recommended daily dose of magnesium. And magnesium is crucial for more than 300 essential chemical reactions in the body. Without magnesium, these vital reactions simply don’t take place.

Without magnesium, systems malfunction all over the map, from bone growth to adrenal health to the ability to fall asleep at night.

Magnesium is also, and perhaps most importantly, one of the primary nutrients involved in the regulation of cellular stress and activity.

And when I say stress here, I do mean stress. Any sort of cellular activity is a stress of sorts, because it upregulates activity and requires energy and resources.

Magnesium’s role is simple: it opens channels on cell membranes. When a muscle fiber, for example, needs to tense up and become active, magnesium will open the membrane and help usher in calcium, which helps make it tense. Then, when the period of stress is over and the muscle can relax, magnesium opens up the cell membrane to usher the calcium out of the cell again.

The problem for most people is that they have enough magnesium to usher calcium into the cell, but not enough to usher the calcium out.

This leaves them in a chronically up-regulated state, leaving muscles tense, nerves firing, and neurons on high alert. This is why magnesium deficiency is associated with muscle tension, with headaches, with poor adrenal health, and with anxiety.

Without magnesium, the body simply cannot calm down.

A lot of paleo people know about  magnesium already!

So a lot of paleo advocates and dieters know about the importance of magnesium already.

Most books and websites recommend magnesium.

Usually, you’ll find a recommendation for a product called Natural Calm (at Amazon here), which I also recommend.  It’s a great form of magnesium, because it’s in the form of magnesium citrate (and in a fun, fizzy drink form). Magnesium citrate is highly bioavailable – the body can absorb it reasonably well.

Some people find that magnesium citrate gives them some digestive issues, however, because magnesium has a laxative effect. For these people, magnesium glycinate  (at Amazon here) is often recommended by paleo and other natural health guturs, because it tends to be easier on the digestive tract.

But I need more than that…

Even though I was once saved by the miracle of magnesium, I have since discovered that I can support my body even better.

Nowadays, I know that there are many different forms of magnesium. Different forms are better suited to different organs and systems in the body.

I struggle with a lot of issues. I once took a pharmaceutical drug (for my acne) which wreaked havoc on my kidneys. Since then, I have had trouble with my heart beating smoothly, with my stress response staying level, with insomnia, and with anxiety.

For adrenal support…

So these days, I still take magnesium citrate about once a week, for the sake of my adrenals. I also just take it after a stressful event or when I feel like I need my adrenal glands needs to calm down.

Natural Calm in the form of magnesium citrate is a great all-purpose, adrenal-supportive magnesium supplement.

For cardiovascular support…

I also take a small dose of magnesium taurate once a week.

My heart is in better shape than it used to be, but I still want to provide it with the best possible support possible. When I first began struggle with heart palpitations and a racing heart, my doctor recommended magnesium taurate.

Magnesium taurate is an excellent form of magnesium for the heart because the heart loves and needs taurate to work well. Magnesium, when chelated to taurate, like it is in this supplement, goes right to the heart, more efficiently than other forms of magnesium.

I take this form of magneisum taurate once a week.

For brain support…

Finally, and most importantly, I discovered magnesium threonate.

Magnesium threonate is the most absorbable form of magnesium to the brain. It passes the blood brain barrier and acts on neurons with an efficiency paralleled by no other form of magnesium.

When I first took magnesium threonate — and I’m being 100% real, cross-my-heart-hope-to-die honest here — I felt an effect immediately. My eyelids drooped more easily than they had in weeks. I even called my mom, and was like

“mom this is amazing omgggg.”

Magnesium threonate has a potent effect on my insomnia, as well as on my anxiety and my racing thoughts. It’s my favorite supplement of all the ones in my cabinet.

I take a very small dose (I break open a caplet and pinch a bit off the top) of magnesium threonate nightly.

This is the form that I take.

So find the magnesium that works best for you!

If you struggle with mental health or with sleep like I do, then magnesium threonate may be best for you.

If you struggle with heart health, then you may want to consider magnesium taurate.

If you feel stressed out or have a lot of muscle tension, then magnesium citrate will probably work quite well.

And if you struggle with gut problems while on magnesium, give magnesium glycinate a try.

OR, if you have any other recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

I really do love and swear by my different forms of magnesium. Of course – I readily admit that I may placebo effect  my way into  being specially affected by them. But I also know that the medical literature describes these forms of magnesium as being particularly complementary and absorable by these different systems — for the magnesium taurate and the magnesium threonate especially.

This is my magnesium regimen and I love it!

How do you get your magnesium?

Chocolate?! 😉

70% of Americans do not get the daily requirement of magnesium. Here's why I take three kinds of this important mineral.

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

5 things I wish I knew when I was strict paleo

5 things I wish I knew when I was strict paleo

For a few years, I ate a very “strict paleo” diet.

It consisted of fish, eggs, meats, vegetables, and coconut oil.

I rarely ate fruits or starches. I never ate out at restaurants or at friends’ homes. I never touched a processed snack like a handful of potato chips. I never drank alcohol.

I most certainly never ate bread.

Now, it isn’t to say that that was entirely a bad thing. My diet was perfectly healthy…. in a way.

Nowadays, however, I eat much more flexibly. I’ll have a handful of chips. I’ll drink a glass of wine. I’ll have a Halloween candy or two. If a particularly tasty looking cake is being served in the dining hall, I’ll have a bite of my friend’s. I don’t go overboard and I certainly don’t stock my pantry with these sorts of foods, but when they come my way, I let them.

And it works for me.

Back when I ate strict paleo, I wasn’t doing particularly well, physically or mentally. If only I knew some things I do now, I might have saved myself a lot heartache and pain. Here’s a list of 5 crucial things I wish I knew when I ate strict paleo:

1. You don’t have to be paleo 100% of the time to get the nutrients you need

Paleo is an incredibly nutrient-dense diet. If you eat the awesome paleo staples like pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed beef, organ meats, wild-caught fish, leafy greens, a rainbow of other vegetables, and starches and fruits on a regular basis, you are most likely supremely well-nourished.

Having a meal that is less densely-packed with nutrients, such as some sort of mac-n-cheese or chicken-fried rice, will not make you nutrient deficient, I promise. Most nutrients last in the body for quite some time, and the most important ones, like vitamin A and D, can be stored in the liver for several months.

2. If you don’t have leaky gut or an autoimmune disease, you can eat grains occassionally without the world ending

The whole paleo diet world is a bit doomsday-esque about grains.

One experience of mine demonstrates this quite vividly: I was at a “famous” paleo person’s house during a paleo event, and the home was full of big-time paleo names. Just about everyone there was drinking tequila and “paleo margarita’s”, and some were even smoking cigars. During the after-dinner conversation I casually mentioned that I had had a bowl of Raisin Bran cereal the week before. Everyone gasped in horror. 

Grains I believe need to be handled with care. For people who struggle with gut issues, who have an autoimmune disease, or who are trying to manage systemc inflammation, I think avoiding grains 100% is a must. I really, truly do. Many people need to eliminate grains altogether.

For the rest of us, I think it may be wise to err on the side of caution. I personally am not sure how I feel about the “toxicity” level of grains. To that end, I like to play is safe, and to generally avoid grains.

I also know that grains are not high quality food. They don’t really have all that much nutrition in them, and the nutrients that they do have can quite easily be cancelled out by their high phytonutrient content. Phytonutrients bind with “real” nutrients and flush them out of the body, such that they can actually be said to “steal” your nutrients from you.

However: grains can also be eaten by people without particular grain-sensitive issues without the world ending. If you don’t have an autoimmune disease, a cracker here or there, or a piece of cake at your friend’s wedding, probably won’t destroy your health. Grains are not optimal but they are not poison. 

(For most people.)

If I had recognized this back in the day, I wouldn’t have been so fearful about food. I lived in fear so much of the time, because I thought any food that I hadn’t personally prepared might  poison me and cause all these extreme gut and health disasters.

Turns out, they probably won’t, and I personally at least am not burdened with having to avoid grains 100% of the time in order to feel healthy and good.

3. Following diet “rules” can make you eat even worse

When I ate strict paleo, I followed strict diet rules: no booze, no carbs, no grains, no sweets, no treats.

Following these rules made me feel like I was deprived. I couldn’t help it: try as I might, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the foods I couldn’t  have. I obsessed over them. I dreamt about sweet foods like it was my job.

Feeling so deprived and obsessive in the end was terrible for me, because it not only made me feel unhappy in the moment, but it also made me go off the rails in the long run. Then all of my “perfect paleo” would  come crumbling down. I would eat a whole dessert tray full of pastries in an evening, for example. Or, on one particularly unhappy occasion, I ate several full loaves of dessert cake by myself.

Then I would feel terrible about myself and starve myself back in feeling moral, perfect, and “paleo” again.

Then I would feel deprived, and the whole cycle would start all over again.

If I had known then that it was the diet rules that were the problem in the first place, I would have been liberated. I would have been free. I would have been able to relax my grip on my life, and no longer swing between these violent extremes of perfect and disastrous eating.

The way that I now manage my eating is by thinking of paleo as a guidelineI eat paleo because I choose to. It isn’t a rule I have shackled around my diet. It is a healthy, life-giving and life-enhancing choice I make. I don’t have to eat paleo all of the time in order to be physically healthy and fit. I only have to choose it most of the time.

And choose it I can and I do, because now have the power over food, instead of food having the power over me.

4. Wellness is about both physical and mental health

Sure, a handful (or, screw it, a whole bag) of potato chips isn’t the most awesome choice for my health.

But true wellness is about combining physical and mental health to make a happy whole.

Sometimes after a particularly rough day, some dessert really does hit the spot in a way that makes me feel better.

Or, if I am feeling homesick, I may be able to sooth my longing by baking that Irish soda bread my mother used to always make.

Back when I was strict paleo I never allowed my mental needs to weigh in with my physical needs. That was a mistake. It only ever made my emotional state worse, and never let me relax into myself.

If I had allowed myself to let my emotional self make some decisions around food, I wouldn’t have drowned in self-condemnation and harsh judgment. I wouldn’t have had to feel like I was at war. I would have been able to feel at peace with food, and to be able to eat more intuitively and lovingly.

5. Eating paleo won’t make you immortal

This is an important point that I still need help with.

Somewhere, deep inside of me, I am terrified of eating the wrong foods, because I am terrified of dying.

Some part of me thinks that if I eat the perfet foods all of the time, I won’t die.

Or I at least won’t have to die as soon.

Now of course there is some truth to this. Eating well is an important factor in a healthy life. Eating well can save you from Alzheimer’s disease, from autoimmune disease, from heart disease, and perhaps even from cancer.

But it will never make you live forever.

And it will never make you invincible against the invariable forces of chance and fate.

My terror around death drives a lot of my decisions. It drives a lot of the fear I sit with on a daily basis. It drives the choices I make, both big and small.

Fortunately, it is no longer such a big part of my relationship with food. I no longer obsessively control my diet. I no longer fear every tiny morsel of food because of the effect it may have on me. I am always careful to be good, but I am no longer a strict perfectionist about it.

And to be honest with you, in the long run, I think this is even better for me, because being purposeful and happy is just as much a part of a rich, long life as eating well, if not even more so.

Paleo won’t make me immortal. It may help me life well and happy, but I have to remember that it is only one of many factorss, and perfectionism about it – at least for me – does more harm than good.

 

And with dying, I bring my list of the 5 most important things I wish I knew back when I was so strict paleo. Now I am curious about your experience. How strict are you with your diet? Why? Why not? What has your relationship with paleo been like, and are you happy with it?

strictpaleoPIN

 

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.