Why Balanced Hydration is Important

Why Balanced Hydration is Important

I’ve occasionally seen a somewhat disturbing idea in the paleo community about water.

There’s an idea that we should “eat” most of our water through fresh fruits and vegetables and neglect the actual drinking of water, only drinking when we feel thirsty.

While I’m sure these people don’t mean not drinking ANY water, I think the advice can be dangerous.

It’s a nice idea to get our water from food and there may be some truth to the fact that it is better absorbed as a part of food.  But the reality is that about 80% of the water we consume as humans comes from liquid we DRINK.

And the vast majority of Americans, on healthy diets or not, are probably not drinking enough water.

We are bombarded day in and day out with cues that confuse our brains.  We often think we are hungry when we are thirsty, for example.

And that’s why relying on what we “feel” isn’t a great indicator for most people.  

Most of us know that dehydration can cause a range of health issues from fatigue and lack of energy to difficulty losing weight, yet we often place it low on the list of important changes to make to help speed weight loss or health gains.   Why water isn’t a more important part of our health conversation kind of amazes me!

Here’s where I might have people chime in to talk about the other dangerous pendulum swing- drinking as much water as you can possibly manage.

This, while well-intentioned (because the reality is that most people who try to drink a lot of water probably don’t end up going much over recommended levels) can be dangerous in the very well-disciplined, in athletes, and in others.

So how much water should you drink?

That depends on you.

The average woman should get around 9, 8 oz. cups of water a day, this is what is generally agreed upon in the scientific community and among nutritionists.  Some might need more, men need a bit more, but 9-13 cups is a good benchmark.

Caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee CAN be counted in your daily cups.  They do cause some moderate water loss but not enough to make them not count.

You all know that I’m not big on caffeine, but many people function well with some, so I recommend limiting it if you must drink it.  Caffeinated beverages shouldn’t make up the majority of what you’re drinking on a daily basis.

What about athletes?

If you’re working out regularly, your fluid needs might change.  Drinking a cup or two 30 minutes to an hour before exercise is a good idea, and then replenishing with a cup every 30 minutes throughout, but there’s no need to be gulping down tons of water.

In fact, over-hydration can cause flushing of valuable sodium and potassium in the body and can lead to serious health conditions.

Those who sweat a lot or who are performing sweat inducing activities should keep in mind that sweat is salty.  That salt is sodium and if it isn’t being replenished, especially in very hot climates during long bouts of exercise like long runs, it can cause low sodium and potassium as well, especially when combined with over-hydration.

Stick to the recommendations above, but when you’re doing something really sweaty, it’s a good idea to replenish electrolytes with some kind of sports beverage.

There are some sports powders that I like for this purpose which you can buy on Amazon that aren’t chock full of high fructose corn syrup and food dyes.

This electrolyte powder is mixed into your drink and comes in several flavors.  It’s sweetened with Stevia and is gluten and soy free.  Find the multi-flavor value pack here. 

And don’t forget to put it in your BPA free glass water bottle!

How do you stay hydrated?

--------

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 Camp Paleo

How to Camp Paleo

I saw a facebook video the other day talking about Japanese Forest Bathing and how it had been shown to improve health and well being, even without any form of exercise.

The personal experience of myself and many friends and relatives can confirm this anecdotally.

Being out in nature is just better. 

It’s not just about the great Vitamin D, or the great hikes.  It’s about being outside, with the trees and plants, connected to the earth the way we once were.

Ancestrally, we probably spent our entire lifetimes mostly out of doors.  Even as recently as a few hundred years ago, many of our ancestors were farming people and spent a great deal of time connected to nature. 

Somehow along the way, we’ve lost that.

But it’s that time of the year!  The weather is just right and it makes sense to hit a state park and go camping.

But seriously, have you tasted camp food?

Or what do you do when your allergies make being outside completely miserable?

And WHAT ABOUT SMORES?

Here’s a few little suggestions to make your camping trip more paleo.

Camping Food

For backpacking, campfires often aren’t allowed.  If you’re using a camp stove but sad about the very non gut friendly foods available at your local camp store, try ordering some of these.  They are paleo freeze dried meals.

No guarantees that they taste good, but its better than the alternative!  Find them here. 

For long hikes when you need a snack, there are tons of great options.  I like dried fruit from my FAVE Steve’s Paleo Goods (find out more here) or even paleo trail mix.  Yep, it exists.   And this one’s NUT FREE!!!  Find it here. 

I also like this tuna jerky for something different.

For smores I get creative.  You can make your own paleo graham crackers and marshmallows.

But honestly, I just like to get down with an awesome chocolate bar from Enjoy Life (find them here) sometimes paired with these yummy cinnamon maple graham crackery things (find them here).  

Stay Hydrated

Don’t forget to stay hydrated while you’re spending lots of time outside.  I like to make sure I do that BPA free.

Here’s a favorite bottle of mine.

Keep Those Allergies Under Control

Allergies can make things tough.  I like these allergina drops.  Find the one for your zone and they can help reduce allergy symptoms.

I also like D-hist.  It is not an anti-histamine but does the job similarly to one.  I use this product a lot. You can find it here. 

That’s all for now!  Enjoy the camping trip and remember that many of the health and wellness benefits of camping come from the relaxation and reduced restriction and anxiety of modern life.  So if you want to fudge a little and eat something you don’t normally eat, let it go!  Enjoy the moment.  Times like these don’t come around often enough.

--------

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.

3 Reasons to Supplement with Vitamin D

3 Reasons to Supplement with Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins, and one we are most likely to be deficient in as Americans.  Some estimates say anywhere from 80-90% of the population may have sub optimal levels of Vitamin D in the blood.

This is worrying because Vitamin D plays such an important role in health.  From reducing autoimmune issues and inflammation, to preventing disease, Vitamin D is a nutrient we shouldn’t neglect.

Here are 3 important reasons to make sure you’re getting enough, and even supplement if you are at risk for deficiency.

#1 Immune System

The major reason to supplement with Vitamin D is its importance in the immune system- with everything from upper respiratory infections to cancer.

Vitamin D has a protective effect on the immune system, helping T-cells and B-cells to to fight immune threats while also preventing autoimmune issues. 

Several autoimmune diseases (including Lupus and MS) have a high range of deficiency and supplementation with Vitamin D has been shown to improve health in these individuals.

Having sufficient Vitamin has been shown to reduce upper respiratory infections in both summer and winter.  Those with deficiencies of Vitamin D are found to suffer from upper respiratory infections much more often, even accounting for the seasons.  

Fun fact: before they knew about Vitamin D, tuberculosis patients were sent to sanitariums.  They were prescribed lots of sunlight which they believed cured the tuberculosis.

People have also taken cod liver oil for ages for its health benefits.  Cod liver oil is a great source of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D also reduces inflammation in the body, making it important for people with many health conditions like diabetes, infertility, autoimmunity, or metabolic syndrome.  

#2 Bone Health

It’s a well accepted fact in the medical community that Vitamin D is just as important for bone health as calcium because of the role it plays as a calcium cofactor.

Vitamin D helps maintain calcium homeostasis in the body.  That’s why so many calcium supplements now also have Vitamin D.  

Vitamin D promotes mineralization of the collagen matrix in bone.

Both women and men commonly don’t get enough calcium or Vitamin D through the diet and may need to consider supplementation.

Another important Vitamin for bone health, and still relatively unknown, is Vitamin K2.  Many supplements don’t contain all three and may not be as effective.

#3 Happiness

The last and best reason to supplement with Vitamin D is that it promotes happiness and emotional stability.

It is very common for people to feel sad, depressed, or anxious during the winter and to feel happier in summer.

Likewise, those who work outside or have ample sunshine time during the day report happier moods than those stuck in dark offices all day.

There’s something to this besides the fun of swimming and eating ice cream.

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is primarily processed through the skin rather than through food.  During the summer, we wear less and tend to spend more time outdoors, and this increases the amount we produce.  In turn, we get sick less often and feel altogether happier.  

Vitamin D deficiencies are associated with lower mood and decreased cognitive function.

Since Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it’s important not to take too much, since the body does store some.

However, Vitamin D needs range depending on specific conditions.  Recommendations for average adults age 19-50 are about 600 i/u a day to prevent deficiency.  This can come from sunlight, diet, or supplements, but it may take up to 1500 or 2000 i/u a day, depending on the individual, to keep blood levels about the recommended 30 ng/ml.

Obese individuals, those with active infections, or those taking certain medications may need twice as much Vitamin D.  Excess fat actually shuffles Vitamin D into the fat so that the body cannot use all of it.

Many in the natural health community recommend even higher levels.  They probably have a point since with the use of sunscreen, we may not be getting enough Vitamin D even during summer and food provides relatively little.

A Vitamin D blood test is relatively inexpensive and easy to order.  I’d recommend asking your doctor to run it the next time you have blood run so you can see where you’re at.  

Also recommended is to get at least 30 minutes of direct sunlight to a majority of skin per day.

If that’s not possible, I recommend taking a supplement like this one which contains Vitamin D, A, and K, all necessary cofactors.  Find it here.

Be careful if you also take other supplements or a multivitamin as these often contain Vitamin D as well and make sure you aren’t taking too much.

When looking for a vitamin D supplement, look for Vitamin D3, the form that is best absorbed by the body.

Do you take Vitamin D?  How has it helped you?

--------

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.

3 Reasons To Track Your Food

3 Reasons To Track Your Food

If you know me, you know I’m not big on the calorie-counting and tracking mania of the rest of the diet world.  I prefer to let people figure out their health intuitively, eating whole, healthful foods that make them feel good.  

But in some circumstances I actually think tracking may be a good idea.

There’s no one size fits all way to know if tracking might be a good choice for you.  You know yourself best.

But here are 3 reasons you might consider tracking food intake.

#1 Micronutrients

Even if you’re eating paleo, you may not be getting ALL the nutrients required for health.  

Ever monitored how much potassium you’re taking in?  I can almost guarantee it doesn’t meet the recommended daily allowance.  

Now, I’m not about perfectionism and strict rule following.

But micronutrients are just as important, if not more important than macros.

Instead of worrying about what exact percentage or gram amount of carbs you’re eating in a day, how’s about worrying if you’ve got your daily allotment of vitamin C, or the B vitamins, or (gasp!) fiber!

You might be surprised.  In fact, I’m pretty sure you will be.

Because if you’re not downing tons of non-starchy veggies and leafy greens you’re not getting as much as you could.  And if you’re not going to make it a priority, it might be time to start thinking about the dreaded multivitamin to help prevent nutrient deficiencies.

I recommend this one in my post on multivitamins which you can find here

#2 You’re having trouble losing weight

I’m a huge proponent of eating a naturally healthy diet and being moderate about the crazy counting calories stuff.

My program Weight Loss Unlocked works for a lot of people by helping them make healthful food choices without really having to count anything.  But some people just have trouble with this method.  

Did you know the average person underestimated their caloric intake by about 30%?  

That number can rise even more if the person isn’t tracking calories.

And while I agree that calories are not the end all be all of weight loss, and certainly not of health, you can’t eat 3000 of them as a fairly sedentary person a day and expect to lose weight.

I don’t care if you’re eating cake or coconut oil, too many calories are going to derail your efforts.  

This is where tracking can help.

Take a week and see where you’re at.  That can give you a better idea of where you’re eating too much and where you’re just right.

Then try tracking a week at a more appropriate calorie count for weight loss and be mindful of how it feels.  Then, when you stop tracking, you’ll have a better idea of what the right amount of food should feel like.  

#3 You’re gaining weight or aren’t feeling well

Weight gain can be caused by a number of factors- hormones, water retention, medications, etc.

But if you have been gaining weight inexplicably, you haven’t done anything differently, or don’t feel you have, tracking your food intake may be helpful.  

Perhaps you’re eating the same number of calories but have increased your carbohydrate count.  If you have insulin resistance, this could cause weight gain.  If you don’t, it could be water retention.

Maybe you feel like you’ve been eating the same, but are forgetting about those dark chocolate squares you sneak in throughout the day, or that new post-workout drink, or those new fat bombs.  

Excess calories could be causing sneaky pounds to build up.  

Maybe it’s just the second half of your cycle, maybe it’s constipation, it could be anything, but sometimes excessive weight gain can indicate an underlying problem.  

If you track your intake and nothing is outside of normal, and the weight keeps packing on, it could be a thyroid problem or a side effect of a medication, or any number of issues.

You can use this information when you see your doctor, and you’ll be one step ahead of the curve.

Likewise, if you aren’t feeling well or are having increased anxiety, depression, or blood sugar crashes, tracking food intake alongside your mood after eating can help you pinpoint possible issues or trigger food/times.

Same thing goes for having digestive issues.  If you know what you ate and at what time, it’s much easier to figure out intolerance. 

Mindful eating is a skill.  And it’s best learned in the context of normal hunger and satiety cues.  

If your insulin is out of whack or you’re carrying a lot of excess weight, or have any kind of health condition or medication that interferes with your hunger cues, mindful eating is going to be remarkably difficult and could lead to feelings of failure and lack of results.

Nutritionists and nerds alike love the website cronometer.com.  It gives you WAY more detailed micronutrient values than other apps like My Fitness Pal, though that is a great choice for busy people because it has an app.

Whether you choose to track or not, I hope we can all learn to be respectful of what works for us as individuals.

If mindful eating isn’t right for someone right now, they certainly don’t need to be judged for that.  And likewise if counting calories is mentally unhealthy for someone, they deserve respect and support as they follow the natural cues of their body.

Do you track food intake?  Why or why not?  What site do you like to use?

--------

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.

The 10 Most Common Mistakes Women with PCOS Make

The 10 Most Common Mistakes Women with PCOS Make

I’ve been working with women who have PCOS now for more than 5 years. In this time, I’ve encountered hundreds if not thousands of specific cases. Iv’e read just about every blog, website, and article there is out there for PCOS. I’ve spent hours searching through online forums and facebook communities, learning about women’s experiences.

After all this time, I’ve learned a thing or two (or several hundred) about what’s right for PCOS, as well as what isn’t.

To help prevent you from making the same mistakes I see over and over again with women who have PCOS, I’ve put together a list of the 10 most common ones. Hopefully then you’ll be able to dodge the bullet, so to speak, and overcome PCOS quickly and painlessly.

  1. Going on the Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill might be a good way to mask symptoms of PCOS, but it never fixes the underlying problem. In fact, many women who go on the pill find that their PCOS has worsens while on it, but don’t find out until they get off the pill, try to get pregnant, then can’t. Birth Control Pills are one of the most favored “solutions” for PCOS of doctors, but they are completely ineffective in terms of healing, fertility, or long-term freedom from PCOS.

  1. Using Metformin

Due to its ability to increase insulin sensitivity, Metformin is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the Western world. Metformin can help alleviate complications from diabetes, as well as help women who have PCOS, especially type 1 PCOS (more on which in video #2). Metformin is a problem, however, since much like birth control pills, in that it never solves the underlying problem causing hormone imbalance and PCOS. It only ever covers it up.

  1. Taking estrogen blockers

Thousands of women take Estro block or other estrogen blockers in hopes of helping their PCOS. However, estrogen is generally not the main problem for women with PCOS. If you’re taking estrogen blockers, you may be targeting the wrong hormones. Instead, consider looking into ways to decrease testosterone and/or DHEA-S levels, especially if you are “type 1 PCOS”. If you are “type 2 PCOS,” more estrogen might actually be what you need.

  1. Taking herbal supplements

Admittedly, some women find great relief from herbal supplements. But just like with Metformin and birth control pills, they don’t  provide permanent solutions. They only help to alleviate symptoms and cover up underlying issues. Also, they are not well studied by the scientific literature, so their effects are not well known. Most supposed “effects” of herbal supplements simply come from people’s stories. So it may be worthwhile to experiment with herbal supplements while addressing underlying issues, but this should be done carefully, and with due acknowledgement of the fact that it may not fix underlying issues.

  1. Doing a lot of cardio

Is more always better? For exercise, the answer is no, especially if you’re spending all your time on a bike or a treadmill. The best way to exercise for PCOS is to shoot for efficiency: short, intense, effective exercises instead of long, grueling, stamina-demanding exercises are best. This is because short and intense work outs (such as lifting heavy weights) help improve insulin levels and hormone balance, while long-distances exercises can help, but not quite as much. Most women do well shooting for 3-4 weight lifting work outs a week.

  1. Failing to investigate underlying causes

Trying to overcome PCOS without paying attention to its underlying causes is like shooting in the dark. Getting your hormone levels tested by a doctor, by a functional medicine practitioner, or with a home saliva test is a great way to get data on what’s going on in your body. If you don’t have access to that, learning about the potential causes and types of PCOS and their symptoms (which I’ll discuss some in video #2) may very well be enough. The more you know about what’s causing your PCOS, the more specifically you can treat it.

  1. Low carb diets

Most women who have PCOS try a low carbohydrate diet. Is this effective? Sometimes. But not all women are helped by it. In fact, more than 20% of women who have PCOS may be hurt by it. If you try a low carb diet, pay close attention to your symptoms and see if they get better or worse. That way, you can stop yourself from doing damage if you are one of the 20% of women who really need those carbs.

  1. Low fat, high protein diets

Common nutritional wisdom says that low fat, high protein diets are best. Nutritionists or magazines might tell you to eat salad with low fat dressing and lean chicken breast. But this is not necessarily best, and definitely not for women with hormone imbalance. Hormones (and other important parts of the body, such as brain matter) are made out of fat. Without it, as you heal from PCOS, your body won’t be able to produce the hormones it needs. Fat is a friend, for all women with PCOS.

  1. Dining out

Unfortunately, dining out in the West is full of potential dangers for women with PCOS. One of the worst dangers is the fact that the vast majority of restaurants use vegetable oil for their cooking. Vegetable oil (including corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, canola oil, and more) is rich in omega 6 fatty acids, which cause inflammation. Inflammation is one of the most common underlying issues that women with PCOS suffer from. To help minimize your inflammation levels, consider dining out as little as possible, or specifically requesting olive oil or butter to be used for your meals. Additionally, adding a fermented cod liver oil supplement (fermentation prevents the fats from oxidizing and keeps them healthful) is one quick way to start reducing inflammation levels.

  1. Ignoring potential red flags

Irregular or absent periods, acne, facial hair growth, and difficulty losing weight are all potential symptoms of PCOS. But it’s important when you’re looking for the underlying causes of PCOS to pay attention to other symptoms you experience. Do you have good digestive health? Are you chronically cold? Do you suffer from chronic headaches? Any symptom you experience in your body could help point to underlying causes.

If you’re looking for help on your journey with PCOS – and want to do things like pay attention to red flags, and avoid all the mistakes these women have, I can help you. There are countless posts on my blog about various things concerning PCOS. You can catch a list of the most popular ones at the page labeled PCOS.

You can also, if you’re ready to get serious about healing (did I tell you I overcame PCOS in 6 weeks once I finally figured out what my underlying problem was?), check out my totally risk free program for overcoming PCOS: PCOS Unlocked: The Manual.

--------

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.

One Thing All Women With PCOS Need

One Thing All Women With PCOS Need

If you’ve done any searching on my website you have probably learned a lot about your PCOS and how to try to heal its many underlying causes and symptoms.

You may have even purchased my helpful e-book, PCOS Unlocked (find it here).

But I have a fear for you, my readers, that I feel its important to point out.

You need a doctor.

Here me out, because I know that in the natural health world, it’s pretty common practice to think you’ve got all the tools at your fingertips, that food is your medicine, and you don’t need anything else.

That given time, your body will heal itself.

Maybe.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, of course.  I DO believe that food is medicine and that there is much that can be done for PCOS with nutrition and lifestyle alone.

But that doesn’t mean that those who follow those nutritional rules to the letter will succeed in eliminating the condition.

And MOST importantly, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be followed by a medical professional.

This has been on my mind lately with the diagnosis of endometrial cancer in a friend.

She did everything right, watched her diet, did her exercise, went off birth control pills.

But her periods didn’t normalize and she didn’t see a doctor and eventually, because she was not ovulating, the lining of her uterus became too thick, turned into complex hyperplasia with atypia and eventually developed into early stage cancer.

It’s rare, it’s absolutely uncommon in a woman her age, but according to many doctors, it’s becoming more and more common.

Endometrial cancer used to be considered a cancer of older women, something that would occur during menopause.

But more and more women with PCOS are suffering from it.

There is no ideal situation here.  It sucks any way you look at it.

Because what she should have done is gone to her doctor when she didn’t menstruate and the doctor would have prescribed a progesterone pill to induce her to menstruate.

There’s potential issues with those progesterone pills, sure, just like with anything prescribed.

But.

It would have prevented cancer.

So I’m asking you ladies, you know who you are, the ones who are sick of ill-informed doctors and being told to go on birth control.  

The ones who are tired of being judged for their weight.  

The ones who are sick of the old advice to just lose “10%”.  

The ones who are looking to natural health to fill the void of medicine.

I’m asking you to please keep them both.

Do the natural thing, absolutely.

But don’t neglect those important screenings- vaginal ultrasounds and sometimes, endometrial biopsies, that are vital to knowing the state of one’s health.

No matter what we do with our diet, some of us are just going to be facing a higher wall than others and we have to be cautious and careful in that climb.

Here’s some of the things that make that wall so high:

  • Having to eat conventional meat with antibiotics and hormones.  If you can afford to do so, we recommend meat from Butcher Box (find more info here), or any grass-fed, pastured meat because it is healthier.  At the very least, go organic if you can.
  • BPA in the environment, the water, and basically everywhere.  You can cut some of the BPA you take in by using BPA free products like these, but you can never eliminate it all.
  • Being more prone to craving sweets and sugar, even though they are much worse for your health when you have insulin issues and having hyperinsulinemia, which most women with PCOS do, in which you produce excessive insulin in relation to the food you eat.  There are several supplements that can increase insulin sensitivity like L-carnitine (find more information here), inositol (find it here), and others, but none can fully solve the underlying problem. 
  • Being overweight and inflamed or being normal weight and inflamed.  Carrying excess weight in the stomach produces inflammation, no way around it, and that inflammation harms the whole body.
  • Having poor gut health, bowel irregularities, or digestive illness.  Here’s my post about having a healthy gut.

That means trying our best, but also listening to the advice of a good doctor.  It’s a TEAM effort.

My friend found a wonderful OBGYN who is super knowledgeable and informed, but there are great reproductive endocrinologists and even primary care providers out there.

By all means, shop around!  Find a doctor that stays up to date on PCOS research, that specializes in PCOS, or at least one who recognizes the important role diet plays in insulin sensitivity.

Find a doctor you are comfortable with, who doesn’t think all supplements and nutrition advice is quack science, and who supports your goals.

But find a doctor.

And see them regularly.

And face your PCOS head on.

The last thing you want to do is bury your head in the sand by eating paleo and thinking everything will just work itself out.

That may happen, but please, don’t take the risk.

Have you learned this valuable lesson?  I’d love to hear your stories.  

--------

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.