Shattering the Myth of Fasting for Women: A Review of Female-Specific Responses to Fasting in the Literature

Shattering the Myth of Fasting for Women: A Review of Female-Specific Responses to Fasting in the Literature

 

One of the more esoteric but much beloved tools in the paleo dieter’s tool-kit is intermittent fasting.

What is intermittent fasting? I.F. is the practice of maintaining overall caloric intake while consuming those calories in fewer meals or in reduced time windows throughout the day. The goal is to create conditions of fasting in the body, but not for extreme lengths of time.

Some examples of intermittent fast strategies include 10, 8, or 5 hour eating windows throughout the day, or perhaps eating just two meals each day: one in the morning, and one at night. The evolutionary premise — the argument that proponents of intermittent fasting make — is that humans evolved to optimize their health under less-than-optimal conditions. Intermittent fasting, they say, is a natural and perhaps even necessary part of being human. 

The modern-day scientific correlate appears promising, too:

Most people are nowadays aware that a calorie-restricted diet has the ability not just to decrease body weight but also to lengthen a human life.  Emerging research is beginning to show, however, that intermittent fasting is just as effective as calorie restriction in ensuring these health benefits! Amazingly enough, this happens without any of the psychological crippling side effects of cravings and food obsession that practictioners of calorie-restriction often experience.

Intermittent fasting, proponents say, also may benefit the fight against cancer, diabetes, and autoimmunity. Here is an excellent, up-to-date review of the “benefits” of fasting. It is wholly understandable that fasting is all the rage these days.

Sort of.

Intermittent fasting women is a specific interest of mine because of what I have witnessed both in myself and in working with literally thousands of women in the PfW community.

Many women report to me (read more about that in this awesome book) that intermittent fasting causes sleeplessness, anxiety, and irregular periods, among many other symptoms hormone imbalance, such as cystic acne.

Intermittent fasting women

I have also personally experienced metabolic distress as a result of fasting, which is evidenced by my interest in hypocretin neurons. Hypocretin neurons have the ability to incite energetic wakefulness, and to prevent a person from falling asleep, in reaction to the body detecting a “starved” state. Hypocretin neurons are one way in which intermittent fasting may dysregulate a woman’s normal hormonal function.

After my own bad experience with IF, I decided to investigate intermittent fasting. I looked into both a) the fasting literature that paleo fasting advocates refer to, and b) the literature that exists out in the metabolic and reproductive research archives.

Intermittent Fasting Women: Problems in the Paleosphere

What I found is that the research articles cited by Mark’s Daily Apple (and others),  focus on health benefits such as cancer-fighting properties, insulin sensitivity, and immune function.

However. I was struck by what seemed like an egregious sex-based oversight in that MDA post I linked to above.  MDA cites this article as a “great overview” of the health benefits of intermittent fasting. This startled me because the article MDA cited was for me one of the strongest proponents of sex-specific differences in response to fasting.

Sex differences were relevant in two striking areas:

1) women in studies covered by the review did not experience increased insulin sensitivity with IF regimes and

2) intermittent fasting women actually experienced a decrease in glucose tolerance. 

These two phenomena mean that women’s metabolisms suffered from IF. The men’s metabolisms on the other hand improved with IF across the board.  Recall that the review was reported by MDA as “a great overview of benefits [of IF].”

Secondly, in another fasting post at MDA, of which there are many, the health benefits of fasting are listed and reviewed, but the sex-specific aspects of the hormonal response go unmentioned, and reproduction/fertility/menstrual health isn’t mentioned at all.

This is not to say that Mark is not attentive to who should and who should not be fasting.  He knows very well and cautions people against the dangers of fasting while stressed. Still, the mere fact of being more sensitive to fasting simply by being a woman is, I would assert, pretty important for a woman who is contemplating or already practicing IF.

This goes nearly unmentioned in the blogosphere.

Intermittent Fasting Women: Problems in the Literature

Beyond reporting biases in the blogosphere, there remains an even greater problem of a significant testing bias in the fasting literature. Searching “men” + “intermittent fasting” in a Harvard article database yields 71 peer-reviewed articles. Searching “intermittent fasting women” yields 13, none of which are a) solely about women b) controlled studies or c) about more than body weight or cardiovascular benefits.

The animal studies are more equitable, but also a bit less applicable to human studies.

 It is well-known in both the research and the nutritional communities that caloric restriction is horrible for female reproductive health. This is not news. There is an infertility condition – called hypothalamic amenorrhea – that millions of women suffer from due to being overly restrictive. But what of fasting?

Intermittent Fasting Women: Should we Fast?

The few studies that exist point towards no.

It is not definitive, since the literature is so sparse, and it necessarily differs for women who are overweight versus normal weight (and who have different genetic makeups), but when it comes to hormones, women of reproductive age may do well to err on the side of caution with fasting.

What follows first is a brief review of what can be gleaned in sex-specific responses to fasting in animal studies. Afterwards I talk about what has been concluded by the few relevant human studies.

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Mice & Rats

First up is a study that demonstrates the hippocampal  changes of calorie restriction and intermittent fasting for both male and female rats.  In this study, they do alternate day fasting, which entails free eating on one day and a fast day on the next.

The study found that brain states while fasting were different for male and female rats.  For male rats the change in hippocampus size, hippocampal gene expression, and ambulatory behavior was the same no matter what kind of restricted diet they were on – but for female rats, the degree of change in brain chemistry and in behavior was directly proportional to degree of calorie intake, demonstrating the unique sensitivity of female rats to the starvation response.

” The organization of the females’ response to the energy restricted diets is suggestive of some underlying mechanism that may allow for an organized, pre-programmed, response to enhance survival in times of food scarcity. Comparatively, the males’ genetic response was less specific, suggesting that the males respond to a general stressor but they seem to lack the ability to discriminate between a high energy and low energy stressor.”

Moreover, “IF down-regulated many gene pathways in males including those involved in protein degradation and apoptosis, but up-regulated many gene pathways in females including those involved in cellular energy metabolism (glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, pentose phosphate pathway, electron transport and PGC1-α), cell cycle regulation and protein deacetylation.”  In this study, both male and female rats gained small amounts of weight on IF diets.

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For female rats, even in the most innocuous form of restriction–intermittent fasting–significant physiological changes take place.  Male rats do not experience as dramatic hippocampal and general brain chemistry change as female rats do, and their behaviors, specifically their cognition and their dirunal and nocturnal activity, do not change.  

Female rats, on the other hand, “masculinize.”  They stop ovulating and menstruating.  They become hyper-alert, have better memories, and are more energetic during the periods in which they are supposed to be sleep.  Theoretically, according to these researchers, this is an adaptive response to starvation.  The more the female rats need calories– or at least the more their bodies detect a “starvation” state– the more they develop traits that will help them find food.  They get smart, they get energetic, they get active, and they stop sleeping.

In a follow-up study conducted by the same researchers who explored the masculinzation of female rats, the researchers analyzed the gonadal transcription of male and female rats subjected to IF regimes.

This study found that male reproductivity up-regulates in response to metabolic stress. Female reproductivity down-regulates.  

Completely opposite to the female rats becoming infertile while fasting, male rats become more fertile. In the researchers’ own words: “our data show that at the level of gonadal gene responses, the male rats on the IF regime adapt to their environment in a manner that is expected to increase the probability of eventual fertilization of females that the males predict are likely to be sub-fertile due to their perception of a food deficient environment.”

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In the final relevant IF rat study I could find, researchers subjected rats to the same diets– to 20 and 40 percent Calorie-Restricted (CR) diets, as well as to alternate-day fasting diets, and monitored them over the long term for hormonal responses.  The results were striking.  Below is the abstract in full because it’s so powerful:

Females and males typically play different roles in survival of the species and would be expected to respond differently to food scarcity or excess. To elucidate the physiological basis of sex differences in responses to energy intake, we maintained groups of male and female rats for 6 months on diets with usual, reduced [20% and 40% caloric restriction (CR), and intermittent fasting (IF)], or elevated (high-fat/high-glucose) energy levels and measured multiple physiological variables related to reproduction, energy metabolism, and behavior.

In response to 40% CR, females became emaciated, ceased cycling, underwent endocrine masculinization, exhibited a heightened stress response, increased their spontaneous activity, improved their learning and memory, and maintained elevated levels of circulating brain-derived neurotrophic factor. In contrast, males on 40% CR maintained a higher body weight than the 40% CR females and did not change their activity levels as significantly as the 40% CR females. Additionally, there was no significant change in the cognitive ability of the males on the 40% CR diet.

Males and females exhibited similar responses of circulating lipids (cholesterols/triglycerides) and energy-regulating hormones (insulin, leptin, adiponectin, ghrelin) to energy restriction, with the changes being quantitatively greater in males. The high-fat/high-glucose diet had no significant effects on most variables measured but adversely affected the reproductive cycle in females. Heightened cognition and motor activity, combined with reproductive shutdown, in females may maximize the probability of their survival during periods of energy scarcity and may be an evolutionary basis for the vulnerability of women to anorexia nervosa.

They also found this:

The weight of the adrenal gland was similar in rats on all diets; however, when normalized to body weight CR and IF diets caused a relative increase in adrenal size, the magnitude of which was greater in females, compared with males. 

And this:

The testicular weight was unaffected by any of the diets. In contrast, both CR diets and the IF diet caused a decrease in the size of the ovaries.

And this, bearing in mind that “daytime” for nocturnal rats is “nighttime” for humans:

The daytime activity of females was doubled in response to IF, whereas the IF diet did not affect the activity level of males. Nighttime activity levels of males and females were unaffected by dietary energy restriction.

And this:

 Uterine activity was monitored daily with vaginal smear tests; cyclicity was scored as regular, irregular, or absent. The mild energy-restriction diets (20% CR and IF) significantly increased the proportion of animals displaying irregular cycling patterns, whereas the 40% CR animals displayed an almost complete loss of estrous cyclicity.

And this:

 In males, corticosterone levels were elevated only in response to the 40% CR diet, whereas in females corticosterone levels were significantly elevated in response to all three energy-restriction diets, suggesting a relative hyperactivation in females of the adrenal stress response to reduced energy availability.

For lipids, all the rats did well: “Collectively, these data suggest that atherogenic profiles of both males and females are improved by dietary energy restriction.”  Interestingly, too, as they pointed out in the abstract, human females also perform cognitively much “better” (memory and alertness) on CR and IF diets than on normal feeding schedules.

There are of course some caveats to this study: A) They are rats.  B) They are somewhat “metabolically morbid” rats, which may make them more susceptible to disease.  C) The rats were allowed to eat ad libitum on the IF days, but they simply did not meet their caloric requirements this way.  So while it is a somewhat natural form of IF, it is still calorically reduced, such that that must be taken into account when gasping in horror at the hormonal responses of IF-ing female rats.

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The Few Human Studies

I mentioned above that through the same review that MDA used as a “great overview” of IF benefits for all sexes, I found harmful metabolic effects for women subjected to alternate-day fasting regimes.

This is the study:

Heilbronn et al found that with IF, insulin sensitivity improved in men (21 participants) but not in women (20 participants): after three weeks of alternate day fasting, insulin response to a test meal was reduced in men. Women experienced no significant change. “It is interesting that this effect on insulin sensitivity occurred only in male subjects,” they report.

With respect to other health markers female health actually declined, specifically with respect to glucose tolerance:

“Another diabetes risk factor that has shown a sex-specific effect is glucose tolerance. After 3 weeks of ADF, women but not men had an increase in the area under the glucose curve. This unfavorable effect on glucose tolerance in women, accompanied by an apparent lack of an effect on insulin sensitivity, suggests that short-term ADF may be more beneficial in men than in women in reducing type 2 diabetes risk. ”  The opening line of their discussion reads: “Alternate day fasting may adversely affect glucose tolerance in nonobese women but not in nonobese men.”

In a follow up study,  Heibron et. al studied the effects of alternate-day fasting on cardiovascular risk.  When human subjects fasted on alternate days for another three week period, circulating concentrations of HDL cholesterol increased, whereas triacylglycerol concentrations decreased.  This is a good thing.  However, the shifts in lipid concentrations were shown to be sex specific: ie, only the women had an increase in HDL-cholesterol concentrations, and only the men had a decrease in triacylglycerol concentrations.

The most recent review of IF agrees with my conclusion: sex-specific differences in metabolism exist and need to be studied further.

This study of alternate day fasting included 12 women and 4 men.   In eight weeks, body weight decreased by about 10 pounds, and body fat percentage decreased from 45 to 42.  Blood pressure decreased, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and traicylglycerol decreased.  These people were significantly obese, which limits the results of this study to an obese population.  However, “perimenopausal women were excluded from the study, and postmenopausal women (absence of menses for >2 y) were required to maintain their current hormone replacement therapy regimen for the duration of the study.”  (Their words, my emphasis)

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The one, big study of intermittent fasting conducted on men and women looked at differences between isocaloric feeding schedules: 3 meals/day feeding versus 1 meal/day.

The study focused on body weight composition, blood pressure, and body temperature in subjects.  Subjects were fed isocalorically either one meal each day or three meals each day.  All subjects were between 40 and 50 years old (excluding women of reproductive age), and between BMIs of 18 and 25.  They ate, so far as I can tell, a healthy diet with 35 percent fat, PUFA < MUFA < SFA.   Only 15 of the original 69 completed the study (which goes to show just how fun everyone thought fasting was).  As for the results,

“Systolic and diastolic blood pressures were significantly lowered by ≈6% during the period when subjects were consuming 3 meals/d than when they were consuming 1 meal/d.  No significant differences in heart rate and body temperature were observed between the 2 diet regimens.    Hunger was enormously larger in the one meal/day than in the three meals/day group.  “The 1 meal/d diet was significantly higher for hunger (P = 0.003), desire to eat (P = 0.004), and prospective consumption (P = 0.006) than was the 3 meals/d diet. Feelings of fullness were significantly (P = 0.001) lower in the 1 meal/d than in the 3 meals/diet.”   Body weight dropped only four pounds after several months.  Cortisol dropped, but  Total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol were 11.7%, 16.8%, and 8.4% higher, respectively, in subjects consuming 1 meal/d than in those consuming 3 meals/d.

In sum: patients on the one meal/day regiment were unhappy, hungry, lost a little bit of weight, increased cholesterol.  This was a small sample, included somewhat menopausal women, and all people of normal body weight.

Intermittent Fasting Women: In Conclusion

All that being said, that’s it. That’s all that exists! Women don’t have much to go on.

There are a few rodent studies. They found that when alternate-day fasting,female rats and found significant negative hormonal changes occurring in the females.

There are even fewer human studies. Human studies on alternate day fasting have not been conducted on women of reproductive age at all, nor have any studies analyzed reproductive responses to fasting.  

Moreover, the few studies that have been conducted on non-obese women have demonstrated that their metabolic responses are not nearly as robust as those of men, and may in fact be antagonistic to their health.

This post has focused on sex-specific responses to fasting, specifically intermittent fasting women. Another important distinction to make is between different body weights. Overweight and obese patients appear to experience significant improvements with IF regimes, but normal weight patients do not show the same across-the-board benefits. For women this may be a particularly sensitive issue. Overweight women may experience metabolic benefits, whereas normal weight women do not. I suspect that that may roughly be the case, but who knows. Honestly, no one at this point.

The practical solution, then, I believe, is to look at options, to be honest about priorities, and to listen to one’s body with awareness and love.

Is fasting worth trying if a woman is overweight and trying to improve her metabolic markers, and so far hasn’t had much success?  Perhaps.  Should it be undertaken if a woman is of normal weight?   What if she is a light sleeper?  What if her periods begin to dysregulate?  Or stop?  What if she starts getting acne, getting a stronger appetite, or losing her appetite altogether?  These things happen, and I see them in women who fast and contact me time and time again.

We women (people!) should be honest with ourselves about our priorities, and act constantly with our mental and physical health foremost in our minds.  All women are different. But the literature is so sparse in this area that we cannot make any real statements or predictions about the effects of fasting, other than that we just don’t know, and that we should continue to emphasize the centrality of awareness, caution, and loving nourishment in moving forward.

intermittent fasting women

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IF is one realm in which the female body has unique characteristics and needs that demand attention. There are boatloads of others. If you’re interested in reading about the collective set of them and learning how to optimize female skin, weight loss, and hormone balance, for a few examples, you could do worse than my best-selling book, Sexy by Nature, here.

 

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And that’s a wrap! What do you think?

Why Paleo May Be Better For Weight Loss than Keto

Why Paleo May Be Better For Weight Loss than Keto

Have you had the opportunity to rest and reset this holiday season? Typically, this is not a priority amongst American families, especially this time of year. Winter used to be a time that our ancestors would hibernate, restoring physical and emotional functions after a long summer season involving plentiful social interactions and physical activity. Somewhere, amid the creation of the industrial age, our focus on periods of rest was completely lost. The desire to pack as many activities into a small period of time become the norm. If only we could step back to when rest was a necessity, but alas that is something we all must work on every year. And, unfortunately, sometimes rest just is not possible.

As we enter the new year, I know we will be bombarded with fad diets and weight loss plans, and for myself personally, the only way I can conquer this season with a healthy mindset is by being fueled by rest. Rest while you can, and we will be better armed to take on this nonsense head on! First and foremost, I want to decipher the differences between paleo and keto, and debunk the myth that keto is better for you than paleo. Controversial, I KNOW! Check out the reasons why paleo is best for a whole encompassing healthy lifestyle, below!

What is Paleo?

The Paleo diet is a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and healthy fats. It improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition while avoiding most processed and refined foods and empty calories.

The Paleo Diet has become extremely popular in recent years, with some several hundred million google searches on the topic every year. It is an incredible diet for improving energy, mood, and health conditions. Yet it may perhaps be so famous and so beloved because it is an excellent tool for weight loss. Perhaps the best diet for weight loss around today (even the scientific studies say so.)

There is no emphasis on calorie counting in the paleosphere, only eating when hungry and stopping when you are full. Hence why this is such a fantastic option for anyone that may have had a history of disordered eating.

The paleo diet is more than just a diet, it is an encompassing mindset and lifestyle plan. With paleo, eating whole and unprocessed foods is a large part, but also included in this diet are lifestyle modifications to reduce stress and inflammation on the body. These key principles differentiate keto from paleo,  making paleo a great option for those suffering from chronic inflammation, stress, or autoimmune conditions. One of the reasons I was drawn to paleo initially is because getting high quality and adequate amounts of sleep was a pillar. Struggling with insomnia and PCOS, I was looking for help beyond just weight loss, and no other fad diet was providing any successful options.

Paleo helped me maintain my health, sanity, and wellbeing until I was healthy enough to start stemming from the paleo principles into creating a plan that worked best just for me.

What is Ketosis?

I am going to steer clear of giving you a long, technical definition of ketosis. I do however think it’s worth learning the biochemistry if you plan to experiment. In that case, I highly recommend Dr Peter Attia’s posts or Dr Chris Masterjohn’s.

In short, ketosis is a state the body enters when there is an excess of molecules called acetyl groups over oxaloacetate. This happens when there is a shortage of glucose supplied to the metabolic processes that create energy, like when you eat a very low carbohydrate diet. Yet interestingly enough the body will also produce ketones when medium-chain fatty acids enter the metabolic processes.

So then, when there is this excess of acetyl groups relative to oxaloacetate, the body produces something called ketone bodies. Ketone bodies come from fatty acids that the body has liberated from fat tissue, which can be used as an alternative fuel to carbohydrates. This is important because the body (and specifically the brain and heart) literally need carbohydrates or ketone bodies in order to function. When carbs are gone, basically, ketone bodies step in to do their work.

People typically achieve ketosis by fasting or by eating diets very low in carbohydrate (high fat, moderate protein). This calls for at least fewer than 50, and maybe more like 20, grams of carbohydrate a day. This depends on your age, body type, activity level and the like.

You can verify how deeply your body has gone into ketosis by peeing on a stick, which reveals the level of ketone bodies being circulated in and used by your body. Ketosis has blown up recenetly, becoming the top searched for weight loss plan. So what’s the deal?

Similarities Between Paleo and Keto:

Although different, there are a handful of important similarities between paleo and keto.

  • Grains are not allowed, specifically glutinous grains.
  • Both plans emphasis consuming healthy fats like nuts, seeds, animal fats, and coconut oil.
  • Each plan encourages eating quality animal protein (grass-fed, organic).
  • Both plans eliminate legumes like garbanzo, black, and pinto beans.
  • Refined sugar is not allowed on either plan.
  • Both technically encourage eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens, however most non-paleo keto diets do not encourage this because the quantity of carbohydrates in leafy greens.

Key Differences Between Paleo and Keto:

  • Paleo is not a strictly low-carb diet. Although, it is easier to accidentally end up low carb on paleo .
  • A crucial part of keto is limiting and understanding exactly your macro-nutrient quantities. Often keto strips are used to test levels of ketones in the body, a somewhat simpler way to understand if your body is in ketosis or not. This testing can result in encouraging negative patterns for those with a history of disordered eating.
  • Paleo is eating and embodying a lifestyle similar to that of our ancestors to reduce inflammation, promote healthy circadian rhythms, and encourage a healthy physical and emotional lifestyle.
  • Keto is often utilized as a tool for weight loss or to assist in reducing symptoms or effects of medical disorders or conditions. See my post here for more info on this. 

Why Paleo is Better, IMO

Sustainable Paleo Weight Loss:

Because the paleo diet provides general guidelines for an overall healthier lifestyle, people tend to have more luck sticking with it long term. One of the most important things I learned when I embarked on a paleo journey was understanding the composition of my food, how different foods effected my energy levels and sleep patterns, and learning what micro-nutrients my biochemistry needed from the food I was consuming.

I really took the time to learn all about macro and micro-nutrients, the different chemical compositions of foods, and gaining a general knowledge on nutrition. This evidence based knowledge helped me continue to make choices I was okay with, even when it felt like I wanted to eat a million cookies – I didn’t. The fact that I knew I could have the cookies, but that they really made me feel awful, was the clear difference between holding onto paleo as a fad diet versus incorporating it as a lifestyle change.

I know I am not alone in this field too, many of you have reached out to me to share your stories on how understanding our food has made it easier to consume what makes us feel better in the long run. Paleo, for us, is about understanding balance and your bio-individuality, not just loosing weight.

Because You Are Eating High Quality Food, Healing Inflammation, and Eating When Your Hungry:

The best ways to keep any unwanted weight off is to reduce inflammation. If we are inflamed, our bodies lowest priority is dropping any weight. If anything, the body holds on to weight when inflamed and stressed as a way of protecting us. By consuming high quality food and eating when you are hungry, two important pillars of the paleo diet, you are working towards reducing overall inflammation in the body. Kept as lifestyle factors long-term, both of these are easy ways to not only feel better, but to maintain the weight your body is supposed to be.

We have all seen the pinterest keto diet pics, showing cheese and bacon breakfasts, bulletproof coffee, etc. It seems like it is too good to be true, does it not? Well spoiler alert, it is. Keto does not always emphasize high quality foods, and often people will stick to processed foods that are low carbohydrate but high in fat and protein. These types of foods are often full of unhealthy saturated fats and processed chemicals that increase the bodies levels of inflammation. Therefore those on the keto may loose weight from this low carbohydrate approach, but the results often are not sustainable as inflammation is prominent most of the time.

Restriction Freedom:

I am known for my honest opinions on “diet freedom” AKA, this doesn’t exist when you are on a fad diet. With paleo, I believe this is a true possibility. When I first started a paleo protocol, I had all of my food groups planned out precisely, but quantity was not an guideline. I was not limited to one apple a day; I ate as many apples as I wanted which allowed me to grow a healthy and non-restrictive mindset towards food. Food was no longer something I controlled, but rather I consumed when I wanted too, and it had the potential to make me feel good! Which was such an unknown concept to me at the time.

Paleo set me up for a long-term, sustainable healthy relationship with my body and with food, and that is something that I do not believe keto is capable of. I believe this because the obnoxious amount of monitoring that must be completed to understand when the body is in ketosis reallly forces you to track every single detail, which in return is known for enabling restrictive eating habits.

Learning More About What Foods Actually Work For You:

Instead of setting little strict boxes around various macronutrients quantities, paleo emphasizes overall food quality without restriction (at least these days it does. At one time, paleo was very restrictive but the community has grown to eliminate this dogmatic approach). Because you are able to experiment with higher carb, lower fat, or high fat and lower carb while using high quality foods you are able to understand which foods really work best for you without judgement. If you want to eat starchy carbs in the morning and higher fat at night, you CAN. And because paleo gently forces you to be in tune with your biochemistry it becomes a bit easier to understand which foods may not work for you.

For instance, I went a long time eating higher carbohydrate in the morning because it was what I had been taught on the standard american diet protocol. I also coincidentally struggled with extremely low energy levels in the morning for many years of my life. After understanding how my body processes carbohydrates in the morning, I was able to switch my macronutrient levels and discover I maintain much higher energy levels with a lower carbohydrate diet.

Instead of restricting your intake to just high fat and low carbohydrate, you are given the freedom with paleo to experiment with what actually works with your physiological needs.

Focusing on Lifestyle:

Important researchers in the paleo community have shown us the importance of exercise, sleep, and stress reduction in unison with eating whole foods as a trifecta for success. For instance, Sarah Ballantyne, the Paleo Mom, dedicated much of her time pulling together research on why sleep quality is absolutely necessary for a healthy lifestyle.

Figure out your underlying issues by taking stock of your body. What symptoms do you experience? When? For how long?  How long have you had them? Take your answers to google and to the doctor. Get some tests done. Paleo is fantastic for healing, but a more targeted approach can help heal you all the faster. Then, the faster you heal your underlying problems, the faster you can lose weight.

Not Contributing to Negative Society Ideals of Weight Loss:

Paleo no longer is about “Loosing Weight” and more about how to maintain some balance amongst the world we live in today. How do we eat, live, breathe and move in a way that is about taking care of ourselves and our bodies, instead of damaging it to the extent where it looses weight out of pure stress? If you are ready to close the door on unhealthy lifestyle patterns and disordered eating, keto may not be for you.

In Conclusion:

In sum, keto is a restrictive diet approach that lacks informative long term studies proving its sustainable effects on weight loss. Those on keto most often will loose weight at the beginning of the diet; this is typically from water loss not fat loss. While having some positive benefits on physiological symptoms of disorders like epilepsy, we don’t have enough research to know that keto is safe long term. Keto also lacks the lifestyle factors that makes paleo the best and most sustainable option for weight loss. Paleo takes into account your lifestyle, encouraging mindset changes that make a long term impact vs the short term fad diet approach of keto.

I am always in favor of doing what is right for your body, and maybe keto is that option. However, for myself and most women I talk to, paleo teaches you the tools you need to live a healthy life, outside of making loosing weight the ultimate priority. When we step back, is the reason you are considering keto purely for weight loss? If so, I encourage you to understand where this need or thought to loose weight is coming from. Is it your own ideals, or are you listening to what society is trying to tell us to do? If it is the first, then I suggest checking out my program before diving headfirst into keto. You can read every one of my weight loss accelerating tips in the program I finally packaged together for you, Weight Loss Unlocked, here.

12 Essential Paleo Travel Tips

12 Essential Paleo Travel Tips

I am a tremendous advocate for the process of using traveling to new places as a way to grow and expand your knowledge. I have had the privilege to travel to many different countries, most currently my temporary home of Oxford. Traveling gives you the opportunity to expand your perspective beyond what is comfortable or the normal for your day-to-day mindset. This really is a tried and true theory, we can utilize watching TV or listening to podcasts or reading books as methods of traveling so to say, but they do not work as well as sinking your toes into a foreign land. If you have the opportunity and privilege to travel, I strongly encourage it.

After many years of traveling myself, I have developed a string of essentials I must take with me every time I travel. These are things that I bring that bring me comfort, convenience and capability wherever I go. I think we all have our own comfort and wellness rituals for traveling; I remember as a child that long road trips meant one of the only times I was able to have peanut m&ms’s and an extensive amount of coloring books and crayons. My traveling rituals also reminded me that we were about to embark on a new journey that would most likely leave me feeling educationally challenged, enlightened, or just closer to those around me.

As an adult my traveling rituals have definitely changed, although the concept still stays the same. Check out my favorite traveling essentials all located below!

1. Hand Lotion

A traveling must-have, my hands experience severe dryness in any sort of airplane cabin. When they get dry and crack, they tend to feel really stiff too, making me feel a bit immobile. That is one of the last things I would like to be feeling while traveling. I recently have been using this ultra hydrating moisturizer as my go-to.

2. Chapstick

In the similar mindset, my lips get terribly dry while traveling. I tend to travel to places where I can spend a decent amount of my time outdoors; a different environment and climate can quickly affect our sensitive lips. I tend to always have a few chapsticks rolling around, (does anyone actually ever finish a whole tube of chapstick?!) so I usually grab whatever’s closest. Recently it has been good old Carmex in a squeeze tube. Get it here.

3. Small Wallet

I try to condense all of my carry-on and luggage into the most minimal package I can possibly pull off. This can be tricky, but one of my easiest ways to accomplish this is by swapping my everyday wallet with a smaller, cash clip like wallet. I suppose I could just carry my small wallet around with me all the time, instead of having to switch when I travel, but I digress. Anyways, I never end up needing any of the random punch cards that I store in my large wallet so downsizing into a smaller one allows me to switch between purses or bags effortlessly, or allows me to not need to carry a purse altogether.

4. Thieves Oil

To be fair, I put this essential oil in my bottle of hand sanitizer, so it doesn’t smell like cheap alcohol. Thieves is known primarily for its antibacterial properties; it contains several other essential oils that harness these properties into one super oil blend. People use this oil in their cleaning products, to help stop smoking, on open wounds, and the list goes on. Mainly for me, it makes me feel like I am protecting my immune system just a tad more than the basic task of washing my hands. I definitely recommend getting it from someone who represents the Young Living Oil collection, quality is key here and I know Young Living has very strict standards when it comes to their oils.

5. Bleach Wipes

I feel a little silly, but mostly triumphant, when I whip these bad boys out on the airplane or in a hotel. I have, on multiple occasions, flipped down the tray table and there has been left over food on there! Visible leftover food! If you can see the food, imagine how many other things are lingering on those tray tables. Between that and the recycled air, bleach wipes are my must have. And, I am by no means a germaphobe, but planes are one area that is considered the dirtiest around.

6. Face Wipes

Face wipes are typically an essential based on convenience. I could bring my face wash in a tiny travel bottle, or I could bring easily accessible face wipes that can turn into body wash wipes when needed. If I don’t have time for a shower or to really thoroughly wash my face, these suffice and make me feel less grimy and traveled. I typically buy these cucumber face wipes, and I know Beautycounter has some excellent face wipes as well, which you can get here.

7. Moisturizer

So we basically know we need our entire skin regime packed in tiny travel form in order to keep sensitive skin happy while traveling, or at least I need to typically do this. I think my skin ends up being a happy little ecosystem when I maintain some semblance of consistency while traveling. That includes a lot of moisturizer. Especially since Noelle mentioned that oilier skin results in less wrinkles, you know I have been laying on the moisturizer thick. I typically bring one that has an SPF content for in the morning and throughout the day, and then one without SPF for at night. I have been using this kind at night, and this one in the morning.

8. Sunscreen

This is 100% always necessary people. You never want to end up being the one that gets the obnoxious sunburn on the first day of your trip, and then struggling to slather aloe vera on said burn while keeping up with all the fun activities. Do I sound experienced here? Trust me, I am! Please bring sunscreen, or buy some wherever you arrive. This little stick from Beautycounter is natural and can be carried in your carry-on.

9. Tea

The last time I traveled I had several tea bags in my purse, chamomile, mint, ginger and turmeric, and one white tea. Tea is a great staple to have in case you end up feeling a little under the weather, whether its upset stomach, or maybe a cold coming on. I love keeping the ginger,  turmeric and mint for tummy aches. You can typically find a free cup of hot water anywhere too, so if you aren’t able to find a good cup of coffee this can be a great free, easy alternative.

10. Bagged Tuna

I can never find anything beyond an epic bar at any airport or truck stop and sometimes you need more than a bar to get you through. I love bringing this stuff because you can always fly with it, it’s non-perishable, and it is really easy to eat. You don’t even need a fork to eat it with. I have successfully eaten a bag of tuna without a fork and only my mouth and a few crackers. There are a few really delicious flavors too. I bring a few bags of olives to toss in with the tuna when I need a fast impromptu but satisfying meal. This brand is really great too.

11. Bagged Olives

These babies go great with bagged tuna, surprise suprise!  Again, these nuggets of delicious fat are super easy to travel with, and mix well with other non-perishables like bagged tuna. Or if you grab a cucumber or some beef jerky, you can assemble your own little traveling charcuterie board.I usually grab the mini bags they have at Trader Joes.

12. Headphones

Do you travel without headphones? If you answered yes, please explain this to me! I have friends and family that do this but I truly cannot understand why you would ever want to put yourself through this. Headphones are the perfect access to the introvert portal whenever you need it but cannot find the space or place to be alone or introvert out. They also make any traveling in a plane, train, or whatever the means, pass by a little faster. Being crammed into a plane with a ton of people I do not know is my least favorite thing to do, so being able tto escape to a movie or podcast is how I survive these travels.These ones are a little bulky but are noise canceling. Get them here.

Now that you have my fantastic list of travel essentials, I wanna know what travel plans you have built up. Do you travel often? Or does your family embark on vacations each year? If money and time was not a factor, where would you travel if you had the opportunity?

 

Guilt Free Autumn Treats

Guilt Free Autumn Treats

Are you sick of pumpkin spiced everything yet? This blend of spices tastes great on a lot of things I eat including in cinnamon tea, in oatmeal, in yogurt, the options are ENDLESS Y’ALL. And it is the perfect essential in any paleo autumn treat. That does not mean I am 100% on team pumpkin spice, and definitely not a fan of Pumpkin Spice Lattes (or Lattes in general), I just have an appreciative taste for cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

But – if you are unlike me and aren’t necessarily a fan of pumpkin spiced things, I wanted to share a few of my overall autumn and winter seasonal snacks. A lot of these things still contain pumpkin based ingredients, but not all are strictly pumpkin based.

Either way, there are a lot of seasonal snacks and treats that disappear come January, so you can bet I am stocking up now for when I am sick of summer and heat next year (lol).

Also, not all of these items are strictly paleo. Most of them are gluten free & dairy free though. Just a friendly tidbit – all snacks are guilt free because food is neither good nor bad, right or wrong. < 3 

Bars

Nutty Pumpkin Bread – This nutty pumpkin bread is like a combination of a pumpkin muffin and a pumpkin granola bar all in one. It has a similar texture to Larabars. The Nutty Pumpkin Bread Bar is made with cashews, pecans and pumpkin spice.



Pumpkin Spice Protein Bar – We all are familiar with RX bars, they are great easy options especially when traveling. They have two great seasonal flavors, pumpkin spice, and apple cinnamon. If you have not had an RX bar, it is important to note the texture resembles that of almost a laffy taffy, so be careful with those fillings and crowns! Get the no B.S. treat here.

Nut Butters

Pumpkin Seed Butter – Okay so not only is this pumpkin seed butter (YUM) but it is sprouted pumpkin seed butter. The only ingredient in this delicious butter is just pumpkin seeds. This butter is great for those that do not like sweeter nut butters; pumpkin butter has much more of a savory taste. 

Tiger Nut Butter – If Tiger Nuts are more your thing, than this is the nut butter for you. The team over at Toots blended honey and cinnamon into this delicious spread, making it the perfect companion for your oatmeal, smoothies, or accompanying a delicious apple. Get the delicious Tiger Nut Butter here

Granola

Apple Cinnamon Granola – Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-Free and Non-GMO, this granola is a great alternative to gluten-filled granola. It is a hearty and delicious blend of organic nuts, fruits, seeds, and spices. This granola is insanely delicious with the new GT’s living coconut yogurt, or my favorite, mixed with other trail mix staples for a sufficient snack. 

Chewy Pumpkin Granola – Another splendid granola, this one is definitely more pumpkin-y. The ingredients contain a blend of nuts like almonds and walnuts, along with honey, coconut, and vanilla. I know this may be overdoing it with the pumpkin, but this crunchy granola is splendid on top of a fluffy gluten free pumpkin pancake. 

Bonus Treats

Apple Cinnamon Plantains – With three ingredients, these make the perfect easy snack for when you don’t feel like pulling anything together. Plantains definitely lean on the side of sweet to me, so the addition of cinnamon is an easy transition. Get these tasty treats here.

Coconut Cinnamon Wraps – Looking for the ultimate tortilla to wrap your pumpkin seed butter in? This is it! These coconut wraps only have four ingredients, and are versatile for any delicious autumn spiced snack. These are great with apples and nut butter, or bananas and nut butter! Snatch them up here

 

Power Loaded Cinnamon Creamer – This creamer has all the coffee essentials loaded into one bottle. It is made with 100% grass fed ghee, organic coconut based MCT and cinnamon. If you are looking for an easy way to spice up your coffee, this is it. This creamer does contain sunflower lecithin though, so if you are sensitive to lecithin be wary.

So there you have it! Stock up those pantries with these seasonal items while you can. AND definitely let me know – are you Team Pumpkin Spice or Team No Pumpkin Spice?

<3

The Truth About Maca Root

The Truth About Maca Root

We have talked about adaptogens on the blog, and the benefits they can have on regulating our hormones, nervous systems, and adrenal functions – amongst other things. (If you aren’t sure what an adaptogen is, check out this post. ) Maca is one such adaptogen that has been touted as a superfood. I wanted to get to the bottom of this buzzword “superfood” and see if Maca really has standing power in the world of verified and beneficial adaptogens.

I have seen several people in the paleo community rave about Maca, but what is it really? How is it used? Does it taste earthy like a lot of adaptogens? Well loves, I did the lifting for you and have unearthed the truth regarding Maca.

What is it?

Maca Root is found in the Andes region of Peru; a common staple in Peruvian cooking. The Maca Root is amongst the same family of foods as kale, broccoli, and cabbage. Maca was used as currency and in trade for the Peruvians, and it is even believed the Incans may have used the root as a delicacy within the royal families.

A very interesting point to consider, Maca Root is used often when there is a disruption in the endocrine system or in the sex hormone systems of the body, or to increase overall sexual health and libido. It is important to note that Maca is not creating a libido for you (curious how to improve your overall libido? Check out this post). Maca is essentially allowing your body to move through stressful periods or less stressful periods as a way to ease the nervous system. It is actually working towards eliminating the stress that may be causing the libido system to be hindered.

What is it used for?

  • Reducing Menopause Side Effects – Maca has been studied in trials regarding menopausal systems, with positive results. Overall, the women that were tested saw significant decrease in night flushes, nervousness, mood swings, fatigue, stress and depression, to name a few. These women also experienced higher energy and mood levels overall. It should be noted this study was conducted on a small handful of women.
  • Overall Anti-Inflammatory Effects – Phytonutrients are found in Maca Root. Phytonutrients contain large quantities of anti-inflammatory properties and are thought to boost the immune system. Maca root also contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals including the following: 
    • Vitamin C
    • Copper
    • Iron
    • Potassium
    • Vitamin B6
    • Manganese
    • Vitamin B12
    • Niacin
  • Fertility – There is a lot of speculation revolving around Maca’s true potential to support fertility and libido health. Mainly, most of these studies have been conducted on men, so the effects it may have on women are still unsure.
  • Improving Learning and Memory – Those that supplement with Maca Root Powder have seen improved energy levels which may be associated with cognitive benefits (key word here is may). Increased energy levels are correlated to improved mood and also improved learning and memory skills. This is kind of a give-in, when you feel like you have the energy to conquer a task it can be a confidence and mood booster, especially if you struggle with fatigue.
  • Improving Mood- Maca supports the HPA axis helping the body support its own production of hormones. This can help create a support system for your cardiovascular, respiratory, lymphatic and nervous systems. Instead of hitting a hard collapse or flight mode, your body is supported and the impact is less intense on the body, resulting in less inflammation and overall stress. There have been clinical studies showing a reduction in depression levels for those that take Maca, along with a reduction in blood pressure levels.

How do people use it?

Maca definitely has a very distinct taste. I have heard it be referred to as a malt-y taste, and the smell is definitely reminiscent of that. I have friends that add it to their morning coffee swearing it turns it into a milk-shake like taste. With most adaptogens, it depends on your biochemistry on whether or not you will be a fan of this creamy earthy adaptogen. If the taste is overwhelming, mix it with something that has a stronger taste base, like a peanut or almond butter smoothie. I have seen recipes containing Maca that vary from bars to smoothies to cookies or other treats.

Warnings:

Maca root has not been associated with an any ill advised side effects. Its apparent effect on the endocrine system though should be considered with caution, especially if you are in treatment for any types of cancer or hormone therapy. Definitely consult with your doctor before starting any adaptogens to make sure they are right for you.

I do not typically use adaptogens as I have had negative side effects and reactions to each adaptogen I do try. I hope to get to a point in the future where I am able to try out some of the milder adaptogens, but in the mean time I stay clear. Please let me know if you are trying these and what effects and reactions you have!


Favorite Brands & Recipes

I have three fantastic recipes that are easy and delicious below. Most of the recipes that Maca Root is found in are typically on the sweeter side as the malty notes in it play off of sweeteners very well. If you are looking for a particular Maca Root Powder to use, this one is a well-rated great option (will insert aff link).

Hormone Balancing Smoothie From Grass-Fed Girl

Maca Root 101

Chocolate Maca Tahini Brownies

maca root 101

Happy Hormones Hot Chocolate

Maca Root 101

So the long story short, Maca has a lot of mixed results. Some people swear by it, some people point to flawed studies on small demographics. I think the history and prevalence of Maca points to a lot of good theories, I am just not sure the science is fully there to support every claim at this point. I am curious though, have you tried Maca? If so, have you had any noticeable effects?

<3

 

7 Reasons Why You Should Be Drinking Bone Broth

7 Reasons Why You Should Be Drinking Bone Broth

I have already experienced and survived the first gross cold of the season. I, fortunately, did not succumb to this illness, although all of my acquaintances and coworkers got hit with it. It is the worst hearing a cascade of different coughs at varying octaves throughout the library and knowing “the cold” is coming for you next.

BUT! I started immune system preparation early this year by drinking bone broth the second it was cold enough outside to drink a hot beverage again. (Living for soup season!) Bone broth is a seasonal must have for me, and I do believe it has positively contributed to my stellar immune system (for the most part, I am definitely not immune to everything, unfortunately. I am hoping to get sick a few less time then last year but I swear it is inevitable). I love the taste too; I know it can be difficult for some people to enjoy, but there are other ways to consume it other than drinking it, too. You can mix it into stews and soups, or cook vegetables with it to achieve the same benefits as drinking it.

Bone broth is great for other things besides your immune system too.  Check out all of the awesome ways bone broth is beneficial to us in addition to immunity, below:

1. Protect Your Immune System :

Eating chicken noodle soup is a tale as old as time. I always believed this was a myth, but when I started to dissect this myth, the truth came out. Chicken broth was and is the OG of the broth movement. The anti-inflammatory properties of chicken broth have been easing respiratory illness symptoms for decades now. Not only is the warmth comforting but the minerals and nutrients in bone broth are attributed to buffing up our immune system. 

2. Joint Health :

it is no secret that collagen is revered for its joint strengthening properties. In fact, collagen has been used as a supplement by athletes in formal studies to deduce whether or not its properties were really effective or not. Check out the study here. Still skeptical? Test out bone broth yourself to see if it really has a strengthening effect on joints.

3. Improve Cognitive Function :

If you are looking for a warm beverage to replace caffeine in your diet, bone broth is the way to go. The umami taste of bone broth combined with the amino acids and collagen make it the perfect, if not superior, replacement to coffee or caffeinated beverages. By decreasing your caffeine intake over time and replacing with bone broth which contains fat, your body is able to draw its energy from the fat instead of a chemical dependency on caffeine molecules.

4. Improve Skin Quality :

In the same fashion that collagen helps increase the elasticity and buoyancy of our joints, it also has the same effect on our skin, nails and hair. As we age the elasticity of our skin and the strength of our nails and hairs weans. Consuming bone broth directly contributes to replenishing our stores of collagen.

5. Heal Your Gut  :

This is the reason I initially started drinking bone broth. The act of drinking a warm mug of bone broth in the morning is appealing in itself, but once I realized the gut healing properties of bone broth, they were a game changer. The gelatin in bone broth has been proven to have an anti-inflammatory affect in our gut, as well as introducing healthy bacteria to our gut microbiome. And you know what they say about the gut (if you don’t, start here.) 

6. To Get a Wide Variety of Minerals :

According to Chris Kresser, the following minerals have been found prevalent in bone broth:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc

When we talk about getting our minerals from our food, this is one of the foods we look up to. The abundant mineral, nutrient, and amino acid properties in bone broth make it an easy choice when you’re looking for simple ways to supplement.

7. Sleep Better :

Glycine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter – found in bone broth has been studied to reveal its anti-inflammatory and anxiety reducing effects on our bodies, which could help us sleep better. Thinking of a warm mug of bone broth before bed instantly makes me sleepy. 

You Can Make it Yourself!

You can either purchase the bone broth, my fave right now is from Bonafide Provisions. They have bone broths of different varieties including Chicken, Beef, Turkey, & Frontier (a blend of lamb, beef, turkey, & bison bones). They also have delicious pre-made soups you can purchase like broccoli cheddar. For those that are okay consuming dairy, the broccoli cheddar is GOLD. Imagine Panera broccoli cheddar but 100 times richer, more flavorful, and so much better for you. You can get 20% off all Bonafide products when they use the code: PFW at checkout! Check out their products here.

OR

You can make bone broth at home. Bonafide Provisions has a super easy recipe to do so, here. I used to make my own at home often but the smell in the crockpot is pretty overwhelming after a while. I imagine an instant pot would be an effective alternate to making it in a crock pot!

Best of health & wellness to you!