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6 often overlooked steps toward a healthier weight

 

If you’re looking for professional weight loss advice beyond “eat less, move more” then you’re in for a treat. You and I both know that weight is just one of many, many measurements of health and whatever your measurement happens to be, it should not define you. I can tell you that I get a ton of questions on metabolism and weight loss/maintenance, so I want to share it with you in this month’s post.

 

This topic is near and dear to my heart because I have struggled with my weight since I was a child.  I felt like I had gotten mixed messages from my family and basically tried to teach myself about nutrition and weight loss, which is what lead me to getting into nutrition as my career.  So, I feel your pain and I am here to clear up any confusion on the matter.

 

When it comes to metabolism and nutrition for weight loss and maintenance, there are so many options to try. Not one single approach or diet helps everyone. Finding one that works for you can take some trial and error, and even when something does work, it may stall, and you may need to try new options.

 

Don’t worry. I have your back.

 

I’ve collected a bunch of my best tips and strategies, with several examples of each, so that you can try them out. I’d love to hear how these work for you.

 

Click here to learn all about metabolism and weight loss/maintenance.

 

 

 

Wondering do you have to exercise to lose weight? 

 

 

I recognize that weight is just one measure of overall health, but it is one that many of my clients are concerned with. If this describes you, then this article is for you. Overweight and obesity are so common today that two-thirds of adults and one-third of children experience these in the United States right now. That’s hundreds of millions of people, so please don’t feel alone. Overweight and obesity can increase the risk of many health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Achieving a healthy weight, eating nutritious foods, and being physically active can help improve your health and reduce your risks.

 

But as you know, there is so much more to the old adage: eat less, move more.

 

Weight loss is very challenging for many reasons:

 

  • There is an abundance of food available around most of us 24/7
  • Eating isn’t just something we do for sustenance; it’s gratification, a social activity, and sometimes even a reward
  • Computers and cars, etc. have contributed to a much more sedentary lifestyle—we don’t all need to be physically active farmers to survive anymore
  • Reducing calories voluntarily is really, really hard; it’s a huge challenge to change habits
  • Many diets work in the short term, but fail later on because they’re simply unsustainable
  • After losing weight, maintaining weight loss is extremely difficult and this is particularly true for women after menopause.

 

Today, let’s go over some strategies to overcome the challenges of weight loss.

What is metabolism and how can I lose weight?

Your weight is based on several factors, some are controllable, and others are not. For example, your genetics, family history, and hormones can impact your weight, but there’s not too much you can do to significantly change those. On the other hand, how much and what you eat, the medications you’re taking, the amount of stress you’re under, and how much sleep and physical activity you get also contribute to weight and are a bit more controllable (albeit not completely controllable).

 

Here’s where metabolism fits with weight. There are so many things that your body does at rest: breathing, pumping blood, adjusting hormone levels, maintaining your body temperature, and growing and repairing cells. The amount of energy (calories) your body uses to perform these essential functions is called your “basal metabolic rate.” Overall, your basal metabolic rate (BMR), or metabolism, accounts for about two-thirds of the calories your body burns each day.

 

Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

 

Your metabolism is influenced mostly by your body size and composition. This means that people who are bigger and/or have heavier bones and more muscle mass burn more calories at rest. Because men tend to be bigger and have more muscle, they naturally tend to have a higher metabolism than women. This also goes for younger people. Because bone and muscle mass naturally tend to decrease (and fat mass naturally tends to increase) with age, if you don’t take steps to maintain bone and muscle mass, your metabolism likely will decrease which results in increased weight.

 

Certain medical conditions can also affect your metabolism. For example, the hormonal conditions of Cushing’s syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can slow your metabolism down. These conditions often come with a range of other symptoms beyond just weight gain. If you suspect that you have an underlying medical condition, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional about tests to confirm these diagnoses.

 

A slow metabolism may be one factor that influences your weight, but it’s not the only one. How your body processes what you eat or drink and how active you are also play roles in your weight. The process of digesting food burns calories. About 10 percent of the calories in carbohydrates and protein are used to digest them. Plus, the amount of physical activity you do also accounts for some of the calories you burn every day.

 

While some people may gain or lose weight easier than others, in general, the balance of your “energy equation” counts for your weight. That is, the amount of energy (calories) you take in minus the amount of energy (calories) you burn can determine whether you gain or lose weight.

Weight loss/maintenance strategies

Before you start a weight-loss program, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider. Many weight-loss products or programs can be harmful depending on your current state of health and goals. Be particularly wary of products or programs that promise quick, long-lasting, or effortless weight loss.

 

Your behaviors and habits have a huge influence on your weight, and you are empowered to adjust them as you see fit. It’s recommended that if you experience overweight or obesity and want to lose weight, try cutting 500 calories per day from what you eat. And, if you can add in some of these other strategies (including adding physical activity) you may be able to reach your weight-loss goals even faster.

 

Here are my top six strategies for weight loss/maintenance:

 

1 – Set specific, realistic, forgiving goals

 

  • Instead of a goal to “lose weight,” try smaller and more specific goals that you can attain.
  • Daily or weekly goals can be, for example, to cook a vegetable-rich meal on the weekend, decrease food cues (hiding cookies out of sight or disregarding food ads), or walk at least 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week.
  • Try to stick with a new habit for at least a week or two to start making it routine. Then when one habit becomes consistent, add another one.
  • Remember, it’s not uncommon to take 6 months to lose 5% of your body weight, so that may be a more realistic goal to aim for.

 

2 – Ditch the “diet” mentality and focus on making lasting improvements for sustainable health

 

  • Focus on improving your food choices for overall health, rather than “dieting” for weight loss.
  • Enjoy lots of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
  • Replace saturated and trans fats with healthier choices such as olive oil, nut butters, avocadoes.

 

3 – Try eating a different way and see what works for you

 

  • Ideally, each meal should take at least 20 minutes to eat, so eat slower. Enjoy your food more and listen for fullness cues that subtly signal when you’re getting satisfied and it’s time to stop eating.
  • Eat more mindfully by focusing on and enjoying what you’re eating while you’re eating it. Pay attention to your food’s smell, taste, and texture as you’re eating it.
  • Try putting your fork down or sipping water between bites and thoroughly chewing before swallowing.
  • If you have a habit of snacking in front of the TV or computer screen, try getting used to replacing that with a glass of water or unsweetened beverage instead.

 

4 – You don’t have to do exercise to be more physically active (but you can)

 

  • Boost your activity; move for at least 30 minutes per day (even three 10-minute sessions can help); more movement can bring greater benefits.
  • Aerobic activity (e.g., walking, bicycling, etc.) is the most efficient way to burn calories.
  • Weight training (e.g., using weights or pushing your body against gravity) builds your muscles which increases your metabolic rate; ideally, you’d include at least two weight training sessions per week.
  • Don’t forget you don’t have to do “exercise” to be physically active, you can take the stairs more often, park further away, walk a bit faster, or do housework or gardening—they all count toward your physical activity.
  • Fidgeting counts, too. Your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), like shaking a leg, tapping a foot, or even twirling a pen, also burns some calories.
  • Remember that any physical activity is better for your health (and weight loss goals) than none.

 

5 – Reward your successes

 

  • According to the National Institutes of Health, “frequent small rewards, earned for meeting smaller goals, are more effective than bigger rewards that require a long, difficult effort.”
  • Each time you reach a goal, however small, reward your success with a non-food activity or item.
  • For example, you may want to buy yourself that book, movie, music, or game that you’ve wanted for a while. Or re-read, re-watch, or re-listen to an old favorite.
  • Perhaps you can put a small amount of money away to save up for a larger reward.
  • Rewards don’t have to be monetary. You can take some time for yourself like have a bath, do your nails, or enjoy a craft or hobby you love (or try a new one).
  • Maybe you’d prefer some time to watch comedy skits or funny animal videos online.

 

6 – Persevere

 

  • Losing weight is very hard and most people must keep trying before they find a way that works for them.
  • Every day is a new day. If you go off track, get back on track and try again.
  • Don’t give up. A study published in September 2020 found that trying to lose weight repeatedly (also known as “weight cycling”) can significantly reduce your risk of dying. According to the National Institutes of Health, “repeatedly losing and regaining weight was better than giving up after one or two attempts or, worse still, never trying to lose weight at all.”

 

If you need help with recipes, or meal plans click here to connect

Final thoughts

While weight is but one measure of health, it is a big concern for many people. Losing weight is not easy. Your metabolism is influenced by many different factors—some you can’t control (e.g., your genes) and others you can (e.g., what, and how you eat).

 

The fundamentals of weight loss include enjoying healthier, nutritious foods more often and being more physically active, but there are so many approaches that help you make this happen for you. The way you approach dieting and eating, the way you set your goals and reward yourself, and the way you persevere are all totally customizable so you can try and see what works for you.

 

For a nutritious approach to metabolism and your weight, consult a certified/credentialed/licensed/Master’s level, registered dietitian/nutritionist/nutrition professional who can work with your concerns and dietary restrictions. I can help. Here is my link to book a chat about making sure to meet your dietary needs https://cherylbuckley.com/contact-us-2/

 

Is your metabolism causing issues? Need help to lose weight or maintain weight loss? Looking for ways to lose weight beyond “eat less, move more”? Book an appointment with me to see if my product/program/service can help you.

References

Harvard Health. (2018, May). Burning calories without exercise. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/burning-calories-without-exercise

 

Harvard Health. (2018, July). Small tricks to help you shed pounds and keep them off. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/small-tricks-to-help-you-shed-pounds-and-keep-them-off

 

Harvard Health. (2019, March 19). The lowdown on thyroid slowdown. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-lowdown-on-thyroid-slowdown

 

Harvard Health. (2019, November 20). Building simple habits for healthy weight loss. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/building-simple-habits-for-healthy-weight-loss

 

Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle. (2019, February 21). Is a slow metabolism the reason I’m overweight? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/slow-metabolism/faq-20058480

 

Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle. (2019, February 21). Can I boost my metabolism to lose weight? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/metabolism/faq-20058346

 

Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle. (2020, November 10). Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508

 

NIH Intramural Research Program. (2020, Dec 8). Attempting Weight Loss Linked to Reduced Risk of Death. Retrieved from https://irp.nih.gov/blog/post/2020/12/attempting-weight-loss-linked-to-reduced-risk-of-death

 

NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Healthy. (2017, September). Weight Control. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/weight-control

 

NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). Aim for a healthy weight. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/index.htm

 

NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). Guide to Behavior Change. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/behavior.htm

 

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Leaky Gut

 

 

 

What does leaky gut mean?

 

Harvard Health calls it a “medical mystery” and “mysterious ailment.” It’s been linked to everything from gut troubles, autoimmune diseases, and even mental health concerns.

 

I’m talking about “leaky gut” or “intestinal permeability”—have you heard of it?

 

Many doctors and the established medical community may not recognize it, but there is growing research to suggest it is associated with many health conditions.

 

What exactly is “leaky gut?” Do you, have it? How does it happen? What can you do about it?

What is “leaky gut?”

 

Your gut (gastrointestinal system) is not just a 30-foot-long muscular tube (tract) that starts at your mouth and ends with you going to the bathroom. It’s, in fact, It’s a vast and complex system with many functions. It breaks down food into smaller digestible bits, keeps it moving through the gastrointestinal tract, and skillfully absorbs water and nutrients while keeping out harmful substances. More and more research show that these essential gut functions are interconnected throughout your body—to everything from your heart to your brain.

 

Your gastrointestinal tract is lined with millions of cells, all side-by-side in a single layer. In fact, this layer, if spread out flat, covers 400m2 of surface area! Those intestinal cells help the body to absorb what we need from foods and drinks, while keeping out what needs to stay out. It acts as a gatekeeper allowing in what your body uses and keeping out the rest which ends up as waste. This ability to selectively allow some things in our gut to be absorbed while keeping others out is only possible if the cells are working properly and physically joined together very tightly. The bonds that keep the cells tightly together are called “tight junctions.”

 

Leaky gut happens when the tight junctions aren’t so tight anymore. The cellular barrier is irritated and weakened, allowing tiny holes to appear. These perforations allow things that normally would stay out of the bloodstream get into the bloodstream. Things like food particles, waste products, and bacteria.

 

When these get into the bloodstream your immune system is triggered to start fighting them. Similarly, to how your immune system starts fighting the cold virus and causes inflammation. This immune reaction is normal and helps keep you healthy.

Do you have a leaky gut?

 

The symptoms of leaky gut are like those of other digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation, cramps, bloating, food sensitivities, or nutrient deficiencies.

 

But, because the food particles, toxins, and bacteria have been absorbed into the bloodstream which travels throughout your body, symptoms can appear anywhere. Studies show that leaky gut may feel like fatigue, headaches, confusion, difficulty concentrating, joint pain, or skin problems (e.g., acne, rashes, eczema). Leaky gut is also linked with diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, liver disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. There may even be links to anxiety and depression.

 

Many of these gut and non-gut symptoms and conditions are linked to chronic inflammation, but more research is needed to understand how they are connected.

 

Even if you have some of these symptoms, the fact is, it’s very difficult to diagnose a leaky gut, nor how leaky it is. This means that, while there are some biomarker tests, there isn’t a reliable diagnostic test available just yet. So, it’s difficult to say whether your symptoms are from leaky gut, or whether leaky gut is a symptom of another issue.

What causes leaky gut?

 

It’s not 100 percent clear what causes those bonds to loosen and result in tiny perforations in the gut barrier. In fact, we’re just starting to understand how the gut barrier functions and there is a lot of ongoing research.

 

Part of leaky gut may be due to the genes you inherit from your parents. It can also be from medications or gut infections. Leaky gut is also linked to eating a diet that is low in gut-friendly fiber (adults should aim for 25-30 g of fiber per day). It can also be from consuming too much added sugar and saturated fat. Leaky gut may even result from stress or an imbalance in the diversity and numbers of your friendly gut microbes.

 

Also, as you age your cells can get damaged more easily and heal slowly, including the cells that line your gut. This can leave you more susceptible to loosening of the gut barrier.

What can you do about leaky gut?

 

One way to approach a suspected leaky gut is to address inflammation and eat a more gut-friendly diet. This means reducing excessive alcohol and processed foods that tend to be high in fat and sugar or artificial sweeteners. It’s also a good idea to avoid foods that your allergic or sensitive to. For example, if you have diagnosed celiac disease, you want to be sure to stay away from gluten, as exposing your gut to it can cause a large inflammatory response.

 

Instead, enjoy more foods rich in gut-friendly and fiber which is a prebiotic, or food for your friendly gut microbes. These include

 

  • yogurt or kefir
  • fermented foods (e.g., kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso)
  • fruits and vegetables (e.g., berries, oranges, broccoli, carrots, and zucchini)
  • nuts and seeds (e.g., walnuts, cashews, and chia seeds)
  • Whole grains (e.g., oats, corn, and quinoa)

 

Pro Tip: If you’re going to proactively increase your fiber intake, do it over several days or weeks because sudden increases in fiber can cause gas, bloating, and other gut discomfort. If you have IBS, talk to your doctor, or me to see if certain fibers may worsen your condition and which are recommended.

 

Also, regular exercise can help your digestive system. This means taking even a 15- or 20-minute walk after you eat to help you digest your food. And don’t forget the importance of stress management, quality sleep, and not smoking.

 

If you plan on making changes to your diet and lifestyle, consider keeping a journal to help see if the changes are helping your symptoms.

Final thoughts

 

When it comes to guts, a few simple shifts toward a gut-friendly diet can help you.  Try these nutrition tips to help with leaky gut

 

A leaky gut is associated with gut and non-gut symptoms. It’s an inflammatory condition that has been linked to metabolic disorders, autoimmune conditions, and even mental health. There is no good diagnostic test currently to know for sure if you have it or not. And remember, this is still a rather new area of research, so more information emerges all the time.

 

In the meantime, if you have symptoms that suggest a gut, you can move toward a more gut-friendly diet. Try cutting down on alcohol, processed foods, and any that you may be allergic or sensitive to. Replace these foods and drinks with ones higher in gut-friendly probiotics and fiber. And remember that regular exercise, stress management, and quality sleep are great lifestyle strategies for your gut and the rest of your body.

 

If leaky gut or other inflammatory symptoms are bothering you, book an appointment with me to see if my program/service can help you.

References

 

Harvard Health. (2018). Putting a stop to leaky gut. Retrieved from

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/putting-a-stop-to-leaky-gut-2018111815289

 

Harvard Health. (2018). Putting a stop to leaky gut: What can you do about this mysterious ailment? Retrieved from

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/putting-a-stop-to-leaky-gut

 

Leech, B., Schloss, J. & Steel, J. (2019). Association between increased intestinal permeability and disease: A systematic review. Advances in Integrative Medicine. 6(1), 23-34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aimed.2018.08.003

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221295881730160X

 

Mayo Clinic. (2016). Food sensitivities may affect gut barrier function. Retrieved from

https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/digestive-diseases/news/food-sensitivities-may-affect-gut-barrier-function/mac-20429973

 

Medical News Today. (2019). What to know about leaky gut syndrome. Retrieved from

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326117.php

 

Medical News Today. (2019). What is the best diet for leaky gut syndrome? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326102.php

 

Medscape. (2019). Is ‘Leaky Gut’ the Root of All Ills? Retrieved from

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/913237

 

Mu, Q., Kirby, J., Reilly, C. M., & Luo, X. M. (2017). Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Frontiers in immunology, 8, 598. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.00598

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5440529/

 

National Institutes of Health News in Health. (2017, May). Keeping Your Gut in Check. Retrieved from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/05/keeping-your-gut-check

 

Obrenovich M. (2018). Leaky Gut, Leaky Brain? Microorganisms, 6(4), 107. doi:10.3390/microorganisms6040107

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313445/

 

US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. (2015). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, eighth edition. Appendix 7. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations. Retrieved from

https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-7/

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Inflammation and Anti Inflammatory Diet

You may have heard of “inflammation” and how good or bad it is. There are two types of inflammation, a “good” kind, and a “bad” kind.

 

What makes inflammation good or bad for your body is how long it stays around for. You see, inflammation is your body’s way of protecting and healing itself. This is a good thing! However, when it hangs around for weeks, months, or even years, this is where it becomes a problem. This type of inflammation (chronic inflammation) is linked with several diseases, including heart disease, cancer, depression, and Alzheimer’s.

 

There is some great news! By using dietary and lifestyle habits to target chronic inflammation, you can prevent or reduce your risk of these diseases, plus others. Let me give you the scoop because this is not only possible, but very doable. Sometimes making small healthy habit changes can make a big difference. Research shows that there are foods, diets, and other lifestyle factors that are linked with lower levels of inflammation and lower risks for a ton of diseases. I’m here to share those with you so you can start implementing these today.

 

My latest blog post is all about inflammation and the delicious and doable diet and lifestyle tips to help you reduce it. Click here for all the details and juicy recipes/meal plans.

 

 

Everything you need to know about Anti-inflammatory diet

 

You may remember having a cut, sprain, or a sore throat. The area feels painful and hot and looks red and swollen. These are telltale signs of inflammation. Inflammation is a natural and essential process that your body uses to defend itself from infections and heal injured cells and tissues.

 

Inflammation is sometimes compared to a fire. It produces specific biochemicals that can destroy invaders like bacteria and viruses, increase blood flow to areas that need it, and clean up debris. It can be a good thing. But sometimes it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

 

Before we talk about the power that certain dietary and lifestyle habits can have on inflammation, let’s sort out the two different types of inflammation.

Types of inflammation (acute vs. chronic)

There are two kinds of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is short-lived. It’s like a flaming fire that produces the painful, red, hot, swollen symptoms described above. When inflammation is acute it’s usually at high levels in a small, localized area in response to an infection or damage to the body. It’s necessary for proper healing and injury repair.

 

When your cells detect an infection or damage, they send out warning signals to call over your immune system to help. Your immune system sends over many types of white blood cells to help fight off invading germs such as bacteria/viruses/pathogens and clean up damage so you can heal.

 

Symptoms of acute inflammation may need short-term treatment such as pain relievers or cold compresses. More serious symptoms like fever, severe pain, or shortness of breath may need medical attention. In general, acute inflammation goes away after the damage is healed, often within days or even hours. Acute inflammation is the “good” kind of inflammation because it does an essential job and then quiets itself down.

 

Chronic inflammation is different. It’s more of the slow-burning and smoldering type of fire. This type of inflammation can exist throughout your whole body at lower levels. This means that the symptoms aren’t localized to one area that needs it. Instead, they can appear gradually, and can last much longer—months or even years. This is the “bad” kind of inflammation.

 

Chronic inflammation is often invisible without immediate or serious symptoms, but over the long-term it’s been linked to many chronic diseases such as:

  • Acne, eczema, and psoriasis
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Autoimmune diseases (arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Lung diseases (emphysema)
  • Mental illnesses (anxiety, depression)
  • Metabolic diseases (type 2 diabetes)
  • Neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s)

 

How does chronic inflammation begin? It may start acutely—from an infection or injury—and then instead of shutting off, it becomes persistent. Chronic low-grade inflammation can also occur with exposure to chemicals (e.g., tobacco) or radiation, consuming an unhealthy diet or too much alcohol, not being very physically active, feeling stressed or socially isolated, and having excess weight.

 

Now that we see that inflammation underlies so many of our medical conditions, here’s what to do to put out those slow-burning, smoldering fires.

Nutrition and lifestyle tips for reducing chronic inflammation through anti-inflammatory diet

Studies show that reducing inflammation can reduce the risk of several of these conditions, including heart disease and cancer. There are medications used to help lower inflammation to treat some of these diseases such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and biologics. However, there are also several lifestyle changes—including a healthy diet—that can be very helpful to prevent and scale down inflammation to reduce its many damaging effects on the body.

 

“For chronic low-grade inflammation not caused by a defined illness, lifestyle changes are the mainstay of both prevention and treatment,” says Harvard Health. The good news is that anti-inflammatory foods help you stay healthy and reduce your risk of many diseases. In fact, it’s estimated that 60 percent of chronic diseases could be prevented with a healthy diet. Here’s how.

 

Enjoy an anti-inflammatory diet

  • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains (brown rice, oats, bran), nuts (almonds), seeds, fish, poultry, legumes (beans, lentils), and healthy oils (olive oil)
  • Pay particular attention to foods high in antioxidant polyphenols, including colorful plants such as berries, cherries, plums, red grapes, avocados, onions, carrots, beets, turmeric, green tea, and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
  • Omega-3 fats can help to reduce pain and clear up inflammation and are found in salmon, trout, mackerel, soy, walnuts, and flax
  • High fiber foods (whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes) encourage friendly gut microbes to help reduce inflammation
  • Avoid charring foods when cooking at high temperatures
  • Limit inflammatory foods such as red and processed meats (lunch meats, hot dogs, hamburgers), fried foods (fries), unhealthy fats (shortening, lard), sugary foods and drinks (sodas, candy, sports drinks), refined carbohydrates (white bread, cookies, pie), and ultra-processed foods (microwaveable dinners, dehydrated soups)

 

Be physically active

  • Regular exercise reduces inflammation over the long-term, so try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (brisk walking) per week; about 20-30 minutes per day
  • To this add two or more strength training sessions (using weights or resistance bands) each week

 

Get enough restful sleep

  • Disrupted sleep has recently been linked to increased inflammation and atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in the vessels that’s linked with heart disease), so aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep every night to help the body heal and repair
  • Tips for better sleep: try to maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule every day, get exposure to natural daylight earlier in the day, avoid caffeine later in the day, cut out screens an hour before bedtime, and create a relaxing nighttime routine

 

Quit smoking and limit alcohol

  • Quitting smoking can help reduce inflammation and several other health concerns by reducing exposure to toxins that are directly linked to inflammation
  • Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks per day

 

Manage your stress

  • Engage in relaxing stress-reducing activities such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi

 

Be social

  • New research suggests that feeling socially isolated is linked with higher levels of inflammation, so reach out to family and friends (or make new ones)

 

See your doctor or dentist

  • Get your cholesterol and blood lipids tested because high amounts of “bad” LDL cholesterol is linked to inflammation and negatively affects your vessels
  • You can request a blood test to measure levels of CRP (C-reactive protein) which is a marker of inflammation (this test is also used to check your risk of developing heart disease)
  • If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, this may be a sign of gum inflammation (gingivitis), so ramp up your oral hygiene and see your dentist

Conclusion

Chronic, long-term, low-level inflammation is linked with many health issues. The first approach to preventing and improving this is through food and lifestyle changes. Start by focusing on adding colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fish to your diet. Then layer in lifestyle upgrades like physical activity, restful sleep, and stress management.

 

These changes can be integrated into your day-to-day practices. First try adding one additional fruit or vegetable to your day. Then, several times a day at each snack or meal. For inspiration, try recipes from my Anti-inflammatory Meal Plan https://cherylbuckley.com/meal-planning/

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If you’d like a plan designed to help you enjoy more of these anti-inflammatory foods, consult a certified/credentialed/licensed/Master’s level registered dietitian/nutritionist/nutrition professional who can provide personalized research-based nutrition advice for your health, lifestyle, and goals. I can help. Here is my link to book a chat about making sure to meet your dietary needs. https://cherylbuckley.com/contact-us-2/

 

Want to learn how you can beat inflammation with simple and delicious foods? Need a plan and delicious recipes to get more antioxidants into your diet? Are you looking for ways to incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods into your day? Book an appointment with me to see if my program/service can help you. https://cherylbuckley.com/contact-us-2/

References

Harvard Health. (2018, November 7). Foods that fight inflammation. Retrieved from

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation

 

Harvard Magazine. (2019 May-June). Could inflammation be the cause of myriad chronic conditions? Retrieved from https://harvardmagazine.com/2019/05/inflammation-disease-diet

 

Harvard Health. (2020, April). Understanding acute and chronic inflammation. Retrieved from

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation

 

Harvard Health. (2020, May). Quick-start guide to an anti-inflammation diet. Retrieved from

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/quick-start-guide-to-an-antiinflammation-diet

 

Harvard Health. (2020, June). All about inflammation. Retrieved from

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/all-about-inflammation

 

Mayo Clinic. (2017, November 21). C-reactive protein test. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/c-reactive-protein-test/about/pac-20385228

 

Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 25). Home remedies: How a healthy diet can help manage pain. Retrieved from https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/home-remedies-how-a-healthy-diet-can-help-manage-pain/

 

Mayo Clinic. (2019, August 13). How to use food to help your body fight inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/how-to-use-food-to-help-your-body-fight-inflammation/art-20457586

 

Medscape. (n.d.). Inflammation, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/923743

 

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2020, April 4). Inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/inflammation/index.cfm

 

Neuroscience News. (2020, March 5). Social isolation could cause physical inflammation. Retrieved from https://neurosciencenews.com/social-isolation-inflammation-15864/

 

University of California Berkeley News. (2020, June 4). Fitful nightly sleep linked to chronic inflammation, hardened arteries. Retrieved from https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/06/04/fitful-nightly-sleep-linked-to-chronic-inflammation-hardened-arteries/

 

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. (2018). The anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Retrieved from https://www.fammed.wisc.edu/files/webfm-uploads/documents/outreach/im/handout_ai_diet_patient.pdf

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Articles

Food intolerances and allergies

Everything you need to know about Food intolerance symptoms.

What’s the difference between food allergies and sensitivities?

Many clients come to me with symptoms of food allergies or sensitivities. They may already know that they react to certain foods. And sometimes we figure it out together. 

It’s important to know if you have an allergy or sensitivity because when you know, you can take steps to avoid the allergen. Avoidance is the number one strategy to prevent reactions from occurring in the first place. And this is what this week’s post is all about: food allergies and sensitivities.

Find out the difference between food allergies and sensitivities, the most common types of each, and my best advice to you on how to live your best life despite them. Click here to learn what you need to know about food allergies and sensitivities.

Food Intolerance and Allergies

Food allergies and sensitivities (or intolerances) are increasingly common. You’ve heard of nut-free schools and gluten-free foods, and yes, some people truly need to avoid even the tiniest traces of these foods. In fact, millions of Americans experience allergic reactions to foods every year. While most reactions are mild, some can be life-threatening and require emergency treatment or hospitalization.

Where do food allergies and sensitivities come from? How do we know whether our symptoms are from an allergy or sensitivity? What are the best ways to prevent, treat, and live with them? Keep reading to find all of the essential answers in this blog post.

Food allergies vs. sensitivities

Food allergies are simply an abnormal response to food that’s triggered by the immune system (the system that fights infections). It happens when the immune system mistakes a non-harmful food, like peanuts [tree nuts/shellfish/milk/soy/fish/eggs/wheat] for example, for a serious invader and overreacts to it. The immune system creates a specific type of compound called an IgE antibody that is responsible for most of the symptoms of true allergies. These IgE-mediated allergic reactions can be non-serious or serious and life-threatening. 

Allergies are often first noticed during childhood, but they can develop at any age and may last for a lifetime. Mild allergic reactions to a food may result in more serious symptoms the next time it is eaten. So, after your first reaction—even if it’s mild—it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to see if you should go for allergy testing or carry emergency medication (more on this below).

It’s unclear exactly where food allergies come from. Research shows that they could partly be genetic (inherited in the genes you’re born with). Gut microbiota may also influence your chance of developing food allergies. New studies show that introducing young children to peanuts may reduce their chances of developing serious peanut allergies. (Speak with your healthcare provider before introducing your child to peanuts.)

Unfortunately, there is no cure for food allergies but reactions can be prevented. In an allergic reaction, the production of IgE antibodies is triggered by a protein in the offending food. Any food has the potential to cause an allergic response, however, there is a short list of foods that account for most reactions. These common food allergens must be declared on package labels, according to the FDA. Common food allergens include:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Fish (e.g., cod, bass, flounder)
  • Shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Wheat
  • Soy

Many food sensitivities or intolerances are often mistaken for allergies. Food intolerances can cause many symptoms after eating offending foods but what differs is that these symptoms are not the result of the IgE antibodies. That’s what makes them a sensitivity and not an allergy.

Common food intolerances and allergies

There are several different types of food allergies and sensitivities. Here is a short list of the most common reactions.

Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock 

This is usually a very fast, life-threatening reaction that can occur when exposed to specific foods, medications, or stinging insects (e.g., bees). Symptoms can include sneezing, coughing, itching, hives, swelling, blood pressure drop, abdominal pain, dizziness, tightness in the throat, and shortness of breath. The main treatment for an anaphylactic reaction is an epinephrine auto-injector and calling 9-1-1. Avoiding what caused your reaction is necessary to prevent future life-threatening reactions which may be even worse than the first one.

Oral allergy syndrome or Pollen-food allergy syndrome 

When symptoms such as rash, itching, sneezing, and swelling occur around the mouth, lips, and tongue, this is called oral allergy syndrome. Foods commonly associated with this syndrome include raw apples, bananas, cherries, kiwis, peaches, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, melons, and hazelnuts. This type of allergic reaction is not life-threatening and is common among those who are also allergic to grass and ragweed pollen (hence the name pollen-food allergy syndrome). Cooking the fruit or vegetable often reduces the symptoms because the heat breaks down the proteins responsible for this type of non-life-threatening reaction.

Eosinophilic Esophagitis 

Heartburn-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or difficulty swallowing after eating certain foods may be eosinophilic esophagitis associated with food allergies. If this happens, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to see if you should get tested for allergies or need medications. Avoiding foods that cause this reaction is key.

 

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose is a sugar found in milk that can cause gas to build up in the gastrointestinal [digestive/GI] tract. This is not an allergy, but rather an inability to effectively digest it. Lactose is a two-part sugar molecule that needs the enzyme lactase to break it down. When someone does not have enough active lactase in their digestive [gastrointestinal/GI] tract, lactose remains intact and causes abdominal pain, nausea, excess gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Celiac Disease or Gluten food Intolerances

Gluten is a protein found in many grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. While intolerance to gluten involves the immune system, it differs from allergies by the specific antibodies involved (allergies involve IgE antibodies, while gluten intolerance does not).

Living with food intolerances and allergies

The best way to deal with food allergies and sensitivities is to avoid those foods that cause reactions for you. Here are my best strategies to deal with them.

  1. Read your food labels carefully. To help you avoid foods that you react to, most pre-packaged foods must clearly identify if they contain any of the major food allergens (or contain the immune-triggering protein of the major food allergens). Look at the list of ingredients, “allergen free” claims, and also for statements like “may contain” or “produced in a facility that also uses.”
  2. Wash your hands, surfaces, dishes, and utensils well to prevent accidental cross-contamination between offending foods and other foods.
  3. If you’re eating out, confirm whether the meal is free from the food you’re allergic to before placing your order.
  4. Food allergens may also be added to certain medications and cosmetics, so check those labels or ask your pharmacist before purchasing.
  5. If you experience an anaphylactic reaction, the FDA says that “Persons with a known food allergy who begin experiencing symptoms while, or after, eating a food should initiate treatment immediately, and go to a nearby emergency room if symptoms progress.”
  6. If you have had a serious anaphylactic reaction, it’s important to carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of accidental exposure. This is a lifesaving medication that can help maintain your blood pressure and restore your ability to breathe. You can ask your pharmacist whether a prescription from a medical doctor is needed. Be sure to learn how to use it properly and replace it as it reaches the expiry date.
  7. Anaphylaxis is a condition where you may consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
  8. For lactose intolerance, all milk products do not need to be strictly avoided, provided they are consumed with the lactase enzyme (available as a dietary supplement) or have been pre-treated with the lactase enzyme (e.g., lactose-free milk). These ensure that the lactose has already been broken down for you and should not cause symptoms of intolerance.
  9. If you believe that you may have a food allergy or sensitivity, see your healthcare provided to discuss getting tested.

Conclusion on Food Intolerances

Food allergies and sensitivities are increasingly common. There are several different kinds, and most are not serious or life-threatening, however, they all cause unwelcome symptoms. As a general rule, avoiding the offending foods is highly recommended. This post contains several essential tips on how to live with food allergies and sensitivities.

If you believe you have a serious food allergy, it’s critical that you see your healthcare provider to determine if you need to carry emergency medication for future exposures. If you think you may be sensitive to certain foods I have several allergy-free recipes/meal plans to try.

For a customized plan designed to help you enjoy the meals you love minus the few foods that you may be allergic or sensitive to, consult a certified/credentialed/licenced/Master’s level registered dietitian/nutritionist/nutrition professional who can provide personalized research-based nutrition advice for your health, lifestyle, and goals.

Want to enjoy your favorite foods without allergens? Need a meal plan and simple/amazing allergen-free recipes? Looking for ways to enjoy an allergen-free lifestyle? Book an appointment with me to see if my product/program/service can help you.

Book Now

References

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Lactose intolerance. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lactose-intolerance/symptoms-causes/syc-20374232

MedlinePlus. (2020, September 28). Anaphylaxis. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/anaphylaxis.html

MedlinePlus. (2020, September 28). Food allergy. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/foodallergy.html

Medscape. (2020, February 5). Food Allergies. Retrieved from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/135959-overview#showall

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2018, October 26). Identifying Causes of Food Allergy & Assessing Strategies for Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/food-allergy-causes-prevention

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2019, September 11). Treatment for Living With Food Allergy. Retrieved from https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/treatment-living-food-allergy

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2018, October 25). Characterizing Food Allergy & Addressing Related Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/food-allergy-characterizing

NIH News in Health. (2017, March). Understanding Food Allergies. Retrieved from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/03/understanding-food-allergies

United States Food and Drug Administration. (2018, September 26). What You Need to Know about Food Allergies. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/what-you-need-know-about-food-allergies