Tag Archives: carbs

Why Can’t I Fall Asleep?

Insomnia can be one of the most frustrating conditions to deal with. And while not all cases of sleep disturbances fall under this overused and often incorrectly utilized label, when you are sleep deprived you know it, and end up suffering on numerous physiologic fronts far beyond simply feeling tired.

But why does this happen?

How can we fix it?

Unfortunately there are plenty of reasons why our sleep cycle can be thrown off, ranging from diet and stress to outright neurological dysfunction. However, if we utilize our knowledge of physiology and start with a least invasive approach, we can start the balling rolling in the right direction.

We first need to understand and appreciate our body’s natural 24 hour cycle. This is called the circadian rhythm and is our built in sleep-wake cycle. This cycle is heavily contingent upon the inverse relationship between two chemicals: melatonin and cortisol.

Our adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to stress (chemical, physical and emotional) in order to provide our body with energy to deal with that stress. The adrenals and thus the release of cortisol can be set into overdrive when we are stressed or from constant blood sugar swings. This is important to grasp as cortisol has an inverse relationship with melatonin and is a driver behind the wake portion of our circadian rhythm. This means that when cortisol is elevated, melatonin and thus your ability to sleep is down.

Melatonin on the other hand drives the sleep portion of our 24 hour cycle. When all is functioning properly, our melatonin level rises throughout the day (as cortisol is dropping), ultimately culminating in its peak in the later evening, sending us off to a refreshing slumber. During the evening our melatonin level begins to drop as our cortisol levels begin to rise in response to our lower blood sugar during the mini fast that takes place when we sleep.

Cortisol then peaks in the morning (while melatonin level bottoms out) providing us with wide eyed energy for the day. As the day goes on cortisol level slowly dips and melatonin rises, and we repeat the cycle all over again.

Does this picture of perfect balance and physiological harmony sound like you?

If it doesn’t, you’re not alone as adrenal dysfunction is overwhelmingly common in contemporary lifestyles filled with poor diets and high stress.

Again, starting with a least invasive, general approach, there are things you can do in an attempt to recalibrate your circadian rhythm. The first thing you can do is to start your day out with 10-15 minutes of sun exposure. This exposure to natural light will signal the body that it is day time and lead to increased production of serotonin, which is the reason people tend to feel happier with higher levels of sunlight.

Serotonin is the precursor to melatonin and thus the more serotonin, the more potential melatonin that can be produced. This is why people who are suffering from depression due to a lack of serotonin also tend to have issues sleeping.

In addition to the sun exposure, you can also make sure to provide fuel for serotonin by consuming the amino acid tryptophan as this is the precursor to serotonin. In order to boost the likelihood of this conversion, adequate amounts of magnesium and vitamin B6 are also necessary.

Taking this step can start you on your way to more serotonin, more melatonin, and hopefully more sleep. However, there are some common pitfalls that hinder the pathway from serotonin to melatonin. One of the last steps in this conversion is called methylation. Potential attenuators of the methylation process include a junk food diet (high carb/sugar), birth control pills, hormone replacement therapies, and the bacterial gut infection, H. pylori. Working with a qualified health care provider to identify and rectify each of these situations is a must when attempting to correct that 24 hour cycle.

By far the most common cause of low melatonin is the aforementioned high cortisol. When one of these is up, the other is down. The most common cause of abnormal cortisol is dysglycemia or blood sugar issues. We have covered the causes of this extensively in past posts and it truly is a deal beaker when it comes to ALL aspects of health and longevity. Other than modifying the diet, having fasting insulin and HbA1c levels monitored can point you in the right direction.

A regular recharge by the way of natural, refreshing sleep is another vital pillar to optimal living and longevity.

Use this information.

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Do what you have to do to ensure you are stacking the deck in your favor as much as possible in order to live this one and only life to the fullest.

Drop the Wheat, Drop the Weight

It’s a new year and with it comes renewed motivation for change and resolutions.  One of the most prevalent goals for the new 365 day cycle is to shed those pounds that may have been accumulating for sometime now.

With all of the quick fixes and abundance of conflicting information out there, it can be difficult to know which way to go.  Well, a simple, free way to get the ball rolling is by eliminating all wheat from your diet.  Now this may sound way too simple, but there is a physiologic explanation for this and here it is:

The first concept that needs to be understood is that for the most part it is not dietary fat, but rather the carbohydrate that is mostly responsible for increased deposition of body fat.  This includes everything from bread, sugar, pasta, and even too much fruit.

This is due to the fact that these foods break down to glucose in the body, which then prompts the release of insulin.  Insulin delivers what glucose is needed to fill stores in tissue like the liver and muscles, with the rest being stored as fat.

You see this mechanism came in handy for our Paleolithic hunter and gatherer ancestors who encountered real periods of feast and famine due to the unavailability of food supply.  It was at these times that the fat stores would be utilized to survive.  For the most part this is not the case today as we live in an age of availability and relative abundance.

The issue arises when, due to high carb meals, insulin is constantly triggered by elevated blood glucose levels.  When no more is needed for fuel, the storage of fat begins.  The difference being, most people do not fast or skip meals at this point, but rather eat another carb heavy meal when hungry or even out of habit.  The fat storage continues, the pounds pile on and the waist circumference balloons.

The higher the carb content of the meal, the higher the blood sugar rises, the more drastic spike in insulin, and the more fat being deposited; mainly around the waist and abdominal region.

This creates a vicious cycle as a high carb meal will lead to a high insulin response from the pancreas.  This aggressive clearing of glucose from the blood can then leave you tired and hungry for another ride on the blood sugar roller coaster.

This is also the mechanism behind type II diabetes, as repeated spikes of blood sugar from high carb meals and subsequent surges in insulin in response to the blood sugar spikes leads your tissues to become insulin resistant, not wanting to accept any more glucose. At this point the only place for your body to dump the glucose load is around your waist as body fat.

So why is wheat public enemy #1 if you are diabetic, trying to lose weight or simply interested in overall health?  Well if we comprehend the physiologic process laid out above, we understand that the higher the carb load, the more insulin is secreted and the more fat is stored for a rainy day; or better yet a beach day when it’s really appreciated.

Wheat is special due to the fact that it breaks down into a complex carbohydrate (a string of glucose molecules) in the body called amylopectin A.  This particular carb has the distinguished honor of spiking the blood sugar more than actual table sugar.

If you are familiar with the glycemic index, you know it is basically a scale or measurement showing how readily absorbed a food is and the effects it will have on the blood sugar levels.  Wheat ranks higher on the glycemic index than actual table sugar.

If we combine that knowledge with the knowledge of the carbohydrate digestive process that leads to fat deposition and the road to diabetes that we described above, we know that this is a big, bad deal.  It also is essential, empowering knowledge of you are looking to drop the weight.

In addition to leading to weight gain and the metabolic dysfunction described above, wheat packs one more diabolical punch in that it is actually chemically addictive.  You may hear people joke about their addiction to bread, but chemically it breaks down and serves as an exorphin to your brain that stimulates the same pleasure generating opioid receptors as heroin or morphine.  There is a reason for the overeating of this mind altering, comfort food, and now you hopefully have another reason to kick it to the curb.

Two points in closing:

Many people resist the notion that wheat, or any food they were raised on can have such a negative impact. What needs to be fully understood is that the food, and wheat in particular, of today is not the food of the past.  Cross breeding, hybridization and genetic modification has created a new product not in line with our genome, of which the long term effects are not known.

What is known is the basic human physiology and systemic impacts of elevated blood sugar (which wheat is king at causing), as far as weight gain and the path to diabetes.  The fact that a diet consisting of heart healthy grains is still suggested to anyone, but especially those with the aforementioned two conditions is outright shameful.

The second point is that while kicking wheat (and all wheat, not just the obvious bread; read your labels) can have a strong impact on weight and blood sugar control, it needs to be accompanied with an intelligent diet.  It seems obvious, but if you avoid wheat, but continue to drink soda, eat a high sugar diet (excess fruit included), and high carb/sugar gluten free alternatives, results will in all likelihood be hindered or outright negated.

However, beginning to phase the wheat and gluten out of your regular regimen can have benefits well beyond those covered in this brief post, but is essential if you are looking to drop some weight or regain control of your blood sugar.

If you have questions, need help getting started, figuring it out or devising an implementable and practical plan, please do not hesitate to contact us. (321-848-0987)

Make a move.

Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Thanksgiving is here which means we’ve officially kicked off the holiday season.  As we break bread with loved ones during these times of celebration and reflection we often tend to take feasting to another, many times uncomfortable and self destructive level.  Here again are a few tips for limiting the collateral damage and post meal regret, stomach ache and reactive hypoglycemic nap.

TIP 1: INTELLIGENT ORDER OF CONSUMPTION

I know. I know. It’s a mouthful (pun intended).  However different macronutrients (protein, fats and carbs) have different levels of impact on satiation or our perception of fullness, with protein having the greatest, followed by fats and then carbs.

To utilize this fact to your advantage, go heavier on the bird or hog first, followed by healthy fats like some grassfed butter, olive oil as a dressing or seasoning, or maybe even some coconut oil, which in my opinion goes good with just about anything and is beneficial across the board.

Do not be hesitant to consume these fats making the seemingly logical association that dietary fats = more body fat.  This is a topic for another post but is simply is not the case, as the more accurate association is excess dietary carbs = body fat.

Consume in this simple, intelligent order and bring on that satisfied feeling without becoming the human garbage disposal for the carb heavy favorites that fill the table and that special place in our hearts.

TIP 2: TAKE YOUR TIME

In order to take advantage of the effects noted in TIP 1, you need to allow time for the brain to receive the hormonally delivered message from the digestive system.  Like so many other situations in life, we look forward to a particular event only to rush through it, not even taking a second to breathe and enjoy the moment while in it.

Never is this so true than with holiday feeding frenzies, especially Thanksgiving, where we feed as though we are preparing for a winter long hibernation.

Admire the construction of your intelligently designed plate.

Take time to savor each individual seldom experienced taste that someone spent time to prepare.

Engage in or attentively listen to some of the surrounding conversations.

Taking time to enjoy that moment will allow the appropriate signals to reach the brain and make practicing self-control all that much easier.

TIP 3: DON’T FAST FOR THE FEAST

Another pitfall leading to gluttonous engorging is not eating throughout the day to save room for the big meal.  Creating this energy and blood sugar deficit can set you up for an out of control food overload followed by the subsequent blood sugar roller coaster, and eventual face plant into the couch.  While this makes for good holiday instagram posts for your guests, it could’ve been avoided had you not fasted to feast.

Eat as you would any other day leading up to “the meal.”  Enjoy a nice breakfast after your turkey trot or while you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Have lunch or a snack as you normally would throughout the day.

Maintaining your usual habits will keep your metabolism on a more even keel and help to curb becoming a rabid animal at the table, drool and all.

TIP 4: ENJOY

For many this kicks off what truly is “the most wonderful time of the year” appropriately with a day that should prompt reflection and expression of gratitude for at the very least, being here for another Thanksgiving.

Exhale.

Laugh.

Enjoy a “rare treat,” as my Mom would say.

And if you are interested in not falling too far off the tracks, implement the tips above.

Thank you.