Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a simple weight loss strategy that involves prolonged periods of time with no food intake. There are several different ways to implement IF. Some promote 16 hours of fasting, and an 8-hour eating window. Others recommend going a full 24 hours or even longer without eating.

Personally, I believe starting slow and checking in with your body to see how you feel is a good approach. I frequently suggest starting with a 12-hour eating window (7am-7pm) and fasting overnight.

How does IF impact weight loss? 

IF supports weight loss by combating insulin resistance and leptin resistance. When the body is in a fasted state, insulin and blood sugar levels drop. This allows the body to use fat as it’s primary fuel source and leptin signals to reset. Insulin is a fat storage hormone, so we want to keep this hormone tightly regulated and sensitized to it’s receptor.

Fasting also acts as a ‘reset’ to the digestive tract by giving it a break from its energy demanding job of breaking down and absorbing all nutrients, minerals, fats, proteins and sugars. This allows the body to heal and repair the gastrointestinal lining leading to reduced intestinal inflammation and improved motility. This can result in less pain and more consistent, healthier bowel movements.

IF also lowers inflammatory markers by supporting the function of the immune and digestive system so can help with symptoms such as chronic joint pain.

When should IF be avoided?

If you are struggling with chronic stress and symptoms of cortisol imbalance, not sleeping well, or struggling with hormonal imbalance, IF could potentially make symptoms worse. This is because IF puts the body under additional physical stress which has the potential to magnify pre-existing stressors or imbalances.

Always start by addressing these pre-existing stressors before implementing intermittent fasting or talk to a health care practitioner to determine if IF is right for you!

 

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5 Natural Ways to Control PMS

80% of women struggle with at least 1 of the 150 symptoms of PMS. This makes PMS extremely common, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through!

There are three main root causes of PMS symptoms:

1. Inflammation

2. Excess estrogen

3. Decreased progesterone

The below 5 natural treatments are simple and effective ways to address the root causes of PMS and can provide relief as quickly as one cycle.

1. Reduce your sugar intake

Did you know that sugar is inflammatory? It leads to increased prostaglandin release, which could be worsening any painful cramping you are experiencing. 10 days before your period, eliminate all high sugar foods including; pop/soda, table sugar, juice, and any processed foods with sugar added.

2. Cut out dairy

Diets higher in dairy can contribute to PMS symptoms of anxiety, irritability, nervous tension as well as heavy and painful periods. Cow’s dairy is inflammatory and can also cause the release of histamine. Eliminate dairy for two months and monitor for any changes to your cycle.

3. Balance your blood sugar

Mood swings can be worsened by low blood sugar. Make sure you are eating at regular times throughout the day and that each meal contains a good protein and healthy fat.

Healthy fats: nut butter (almond, cashew), avocado, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil
Healthy proteins: fish, chicken, turkey, hemp hearts, chia seeds

4. Exercise

Exercise has been shown to be one of the best ways to improve mood, especially anxiety. Exercising just 60 minutes 3 times a week can help balance your mood. Exercise doesn’t have to be running at the gym. Try yoga, pilates, kickboxing, or swimming. The best exercise is the one you actually do!

5. Maximize progesterone production

Progesterone is made after ovulation in the second half of the menstrual cycle. It reduces inflammation, builds muscle, promotes sleep, protects against heart disease, improves libido, thins the uterine lining and calms the nervous system.

Progesterone production is reduced in states of chronic stress, undernutrition and inflammation. The above treatments will help increase progesterone production. If that is not enough, some simple supplements including magnesium, vitamin B6 and an herb called chaste tree can give your body an extra push.

Should You Try The Ketogenic Diet?

The most popular current diet trend is undoubtedly the ketogenic diet.  A ketogenic diet is one that derives 80% or more of its calories from fat, and the remaining 20% from protein and carbohydrates. When an individual strictly follows this form of dieting, their body enters a state of ketosis, which means the body begins to use fats as its primary source of fuel rather than sugar.

Does the ketogenic diet deserve all of the hype it’s getting? As always, it depends! One diet never fits all and while the ketogenic diet can be beneficial for some, it can also be unhealthy for others. Here is a breakdown of the positives and negatives from keeping this type of diet. 

Positives

  • Improves insulin resistance and blood sugar control

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Can promote weight loss

  • Can increase energy levels

 Negatives

  • Restrictive and difficult to maintain long term

  • May increase stress hormones

  • Many end up relying on unhealthy sources of fat

  • Low intake of fruits and vegetables could result in nutrient deficiencies with long-term use

If you are interested in trying the ketogenic diet, it’s best to work with a healthcare practitioner to make sure it’s the right fit for you. More importantly, if you try the ketogenic diet and you do not feel good, stop! There is no perfect diet for everyone and you may need to find an alternative solution for your own unique body and circumstance.

How Insulin Resistance Causes PCOS

It is estimated that between 5-10% of women in North America have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The name PCOS gives the impression that this syndrome results from an issue in the ovaries. However, PCOS is actually a metabolic condition associated with insulin resistance, hormonal imbalance and inflammation. 

Current research suggests that insulin resistance is the root cause of up to 70% of all cases of  PCOS(1). Why these women are prone to insulin resistance is unknown but it is likely related to a genetic predisposition leading to abnormalities in the cellular action of insulin and its receptor(2). 

The insulin resistance these women experience is directly related to the symptoms of hyperandrogenism that women with PCOS struggle with. These include symptoms such as; hair loss, hair growth where it is definitely not wanted, acne, and long menstrual cycles. When insulin levels are abnormally high they cause the theca cells within the ovary to overproduce male hormones, known as androgens, leading to the above signs and symptoms.

So if you are a woman with PCOS, what do you do with this information?

1.     Check your insulin status.

The best test is the insulin-glucose challenge test. The second best option is fasting insulin and fasting glucose measured at the same time.

2.     Modify your diet.

The first-line treatment for all women with PCOS driven by insulin resistance is dietary modification. Reduce foods that drive insulin and blood sugar to the greatest amounts. These include sugary sweets, white bread, pasta, rice, and dairy. Move towards a plant-based diet and try to get protein from plant sources instead of animal sources(3).

3.     Exercise.

When our muscles are active we are able to move blood sugar into our cells without the need for insulin. This leads to improved insulin resistance in addition to all of the wonderful things we know exercise does for our mental and cardiovascular health. If exercise is new to you, start simple with 20 minutes of cardio or HITT three times a week and work your way up.

4.    Supplement with Myo-inositol.

This naturally occurring compound is my first-line treatment for women with insulin resistant PCOS. It has been consistently found in research to increase insulin sensitivity, reduce androgen levels and improve ovulation rates(4).  Myo-inositol has also been found to improve egg quality, fertilization rates and embryo quality in women with PCOS who are going through IVF(5).

References

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27510482

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277302/

(3) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41387-018-0067-4?WT.ec_id=NUTD-201811&sap-outbound-id=87BDE7AD182649D76973C87EFDC09B2E4BAA45E3

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5655679/

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27635136

 

5 Natural Ways To Fight The Common Cold And Flu

Lately everyone and their uncle have come into my office with a cold or flu searching for natural options to boost their immune system.  

If you are experiencing chronic colds and flus there are some foundational lifestyle modifications that can make a huge impact on your immune system. If after incorporating the below you are still getting sick more than 1-2 times a year you may need some additional support and should follow up with your healthcare practitioner for a complete assessment.

 1.     Avoid foods that dampen immune function

Research finds that immune function can decrease by up to 50% up to 5 hours after ingesting sugar. Limit your intake of white sugars, juices, candy and cookies to avoid their immune dampening effects.

 If you are struggling with congestion and mucous, dairy may be the culprit. Dairy is very cold, phlegm producing and inflammatory. Eliminating it from your diet may be the thing you need if you are suffering from chronic congestion. 

2. Get proper sleep

Sleep is when the immune system is most active and therefore most effective at fighting off infection. Without proper sleep you aren’t capitalizing on this benefit and may struggle to get rid of the infection. When we are sick our body uses an enormous amount of its energy and resources to fight off the infection. Allow your body to use its resources and energy most effectively and give in to those ZZZ’s. 

3.    Wash hands…but not too much 

Of course it’s essential to be washing our hands during cold and flu season to limit the spread of the virus. However, we build our immune system as we age from exposure. For children this is especially important, only by building robust immune responses as children will they grow into healthy adults.

Without exposures, we don't create immune responses and our immune system doesn’t develop. Avoid over-using sanitizers, alcohol based hand washes or any product with antibacterial products within it.

4.    Promote a healthy gut

80% of the immune system lives within our gut. This makes sense considering our intestine is the first line of defence against all the bacteria, viruses and fungus that come into our body with and on our food. Keeping the bacteria in the gut healthy and diverse is essential to a healthy immune system.

Foods that help support a healthy gut microbiome include;

  • Fibre found in fruits and vegetables and in oats

  • Probiotic rich foods such as natural yogurt (without additives or flavours), kimchi, keffir, sauerkraut

  • Bone broth

Foods that can disrupt and impact the gut microbiome include:

  • Overconsumption of gluten and high sugar foods

  • Additives and preservatives

  • Processed foods

5.    Use botanicals to comfort and decrease the length and severity of symptoms!

 If you do succumb to cold and flu season, using botanicals to limit the length and severity of symptoms can do wonders. Here are three of my favourite at home recipes. 

For Sore Throat and Respiratory infections: Lemon garlic honey tea

  • Chop 3 cloves of garlic, place into a quart sized mason jar

  • Cover with boiling water

  • Let sit for 15 minutes

  • Add lemon and honey to taste

  • Drink hot, up to 4 cups/day

For Cough and Sinus Congestion: Castor oil chest rub

  • Add 1 crushed garlic clove, 1-2 tsp. of grated ginger, and 1-2 drops of eucalyptus oil to 3-4 tbsp. of castor oil and mix together

  • Rub the mixture on the chest and back, wrap yourself up in pjs that you don’t mind getting dirty and sleep with overnight

For Sinus Congestion: Essential Oil steam inhalation

  • Boil 1 litre of water and pour into a large bowl

  • Add in 10-15 drops of essential oil  (my favourites are tea tree and eucalyptus)

  • Cover with wash cloth

  • Let the water cool for a few minutes and then lift the wash cloth and inhale the essential oil infused steam to help break up mucous and clear the sinuses

  • Be careful here to make sure the steam isn’t too hot!

 

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