Tag Archives: energy

The Real Benefits of Coconut Oil

Enjoy all the benefits for coconut oil, but don’t assume all the claims about it are true. I love coconut oil, and there is a huge list of the possible benefits to be gained from adding coconut oil to the diet. Some of these are supported by studies and others are just theoretical. Many of the studies only look at the short-term benefits, and one on palm oil (similar fat composition to coconut oil) showed excess consumption contributed to fatty liver while sunflower oil didn’t.

Most oils contain long chain fatty acids, while the ones in coconut oil are known as medium chain, hence the term medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). The shorter size of these fats in coconut oil does have several implications for our health. Coconut oil can be absorbed easier by the digestive tract, making it beneficial for many people with poor absorption of fats. These medium chain fats can also rapidly burn for energy in the body.

SONY DSC

Let’s look at the better-supported benefits of coconut oil:

Antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal benefits- Yes, the high lauric acid content of coconut oil can be useful internally or topically to help us fight certain infections.

Brain benefits- Loved ones of people suffering from dementia have told me about impressive improvements in symptoms from adding coconut oil. On small study from 2004 also showed cognitive improvement when Alzheimer’s disease patients were given MCT oils, but the amount of improvement was affected by certain genetic markers. For a great way to support brain health with coconut oil, try my bulletproof turmeric tea.

Weight loss- Studies have shown both reduction in calorie consumption and a mild increase in calorie burning. I have gotten reports from friends that eating coconut oil about a half hour before meals does reduce their appetite.

Energy- MCT oil is a preferred calorie source for some athletes, and several studies have shown that MCTs can enhance athletic performance. Some people notice coconut oil can reduce their sugar cravings possibly because their bodies are happy to use another quick energy source.

Unanswered questions about coconut oil:

Oil pulling– This process where coconut or sesame oil is swished in the mouth like a mouthwash has been show to improve oral health in several ways. Most of the studies have used sesame oil, so we are not sure if coconut oil is equally beneficial other than from anecdotal report. I like the taste of coconut oil over sesame.

Heart health- A 2009 study showed a reduction in total cholesterol and an increase in good HDL cholesterol in obese women given coconut oil along with overall calorie restriction and exercise advice. The control group was given soybean oil and didn’t see the cholesterol changes. This was only a 12-week study so we don’t know what the longer-term effects will be or if these cholesterol changes will affect heart health in any real way.

Diabetes- Some coconut oil proponents say it can improve blood sugar related issues. In a study using rats, coconut oil led to decreased insulin resistance compared to the control group that was given lard. But the rats fed coconut oil also developed fatty liver. So…humans aren’t rats, but the tendency toward fatty liver reflects the palm oil study showing the same issue in humans.

In the study I mentioned where the palm oil contributed to fatty liver, the subjects were eating too many calories as well as too much fat. Let’s not make that mistake. Remember there are individual variations in what foods “agree” with us. And as with nearly every dietary consideration, we need moderation and diversity in our choice of fats.

Advertisements

Shower Hokey Pokey: 1-minute a day to decrease your stress

I put my right leg in. I take my right leg out. I put my left leg in. And I think you can guess some of the next steps, but why am I doing this in the shower?

After my normal warm shower, I turn the temperature to cold and step aside. Then I put one limb at a time into the stream of cold water, usually with that silly children’s song going through my head. I have to confess I don’t usually do this in the wintertime, only summer.

The theory is that exposing yourself very briefly to cold water helps your body learn to adapt to stress. Cold is one of our most ancient stressors, and our body can use it to learn to respond to all stress better. We can’t necessarily do the same thing by exposing ourselves to terrible traffic or bad bosses in short doses.

298024_1017

A small study showed that a 1-minute cold shower at the end of a regular shower increased immune function and decreased the number of colds among participants. Improved immune activity is just one of the benefits from improving one’s stress response. By balancing out our cortisol response to stress we can potentially increase our energy, mood, memory, and metabolism. Elevated stress levels can also contribute to cardiovascular disease and blood sugar issues. So this simple 1-minute activity has the potential to help our health in numerous and profound ways.

The exposure to cold water might also improve metabolism as the body warms itself back up. This could possibly help some of us achieve our weight loss goals.

In addition to doing the shower hokey pokey, I take adaptogenic herbs to further improve my stress response. These herbs can help with all of the issues I mentioned above. I notice that they particularly help my stamina so I can work long days at my job and than some more on our farm. One of my favorite blends of adaptogenic herbs is Gaia Adrenal Health. It contains Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, and Schisandra. Other great adrenal herbs are Maca, Astragalus, and American Ginseng. Try a few to see if one works better for you.

Directions for the Shower Hokey Pokey

After your normal shower, turn the faucet to cold or at least cool and step away.

Put the back of your right leg in the cold stream. Take it out.

Put the back of your left leg in. Take it out.

Turn around and put the front of your right leg in. Take it out.

Then front of left leg.

Put the outside then inside of your right arm in.

Same with left arm.

Then put your chest and face into the cold water.

Turn around and get your back in briefly.

And that’s what it’s all about!

Maca Smoothies for More Vibrant Days

On hot summer days, I tend to have more smoothies for breakfast. Though there are many ingredients I love, the maca I am adding seems to contribute to my sense of wellbeing. This is probably because maca is an adaptogen and a hormone balancer.

By adaptogen, I am referring to maca’s ability to reduce the negative impact stress has on our bodies. We might still experience the stress, but it is not as harmful on our overall health. A recent study showed that women who experienced more stress burned fewer calories after eating a high fat meal compared to the women with fewer stressors. The study showed that the higher stress levels correlated with higher insulin levels, which can contribute to belly fat. The study didn’t address adaptogens like maca, but in theory, these types of herbs might improve insulin levels and therefore help our metabolism. I also find that adaptogens give me more stamina to get through long days.

Maca powder

Maca powder

The other popular benefit of maca is as a hormone balancer for both women and men. It is maybe most widely known as a libido enhancer. It isn’t going to necessarily help everyone since not all libido issues are related hormones, but for those cases, it can be a great choice. Consuming maca might also help conditions like prostate issues, PMS, hot flashes, acne, and even some types of depression.

Because maca is traditionally used in fairly large quantities, it is a perfect item to add to a smoothie or other food. I usually put 1-2 teaspoon in each smoothie. When I added 3 teaspoons I noticed a bit of a spicy radish-like taste that I didn’t like.

Here is my current smoothie recipe:

1 scoop Sunwarrior Chocolate Warrior Blend or other protein powder

1-2 tsp Barley grass or other greens powder

1-2 Maca powder

2 Tbs Almond butter or other nut butter or nuts

1 tsp Cacoa powder

1-2 Tbs ground Flaxseeds and or chia seeds

1 Tbs Coconut oil

1 to 1 ½ cups water

Blend in a blender until smooth with any of these other ingredients I might want that day:

Fresh or frozen fruits or veggies like avocado, baby greens, or sprouts

Coconut water to replace some of the water

¼ tsp Turmeric with a pinch of black pepper

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

½ -1 tsp of the turmeric paste I made for my Bulletproof Turmeric #2 recipe

You can also empty the contents of supplement capsules into the smoothie such as probiotics, amino acids, and herbal supplements. Basically any that doesn’t make the smoothie taste strange.

Make it something delicious that you love to drink and enjoy some vibrant days this summer.

Ubiquinol: A better form of Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is an important supplement that can benefit numerous conditions, especially heart disease. CoQ10, as it is often called, supports energy production in our cells and works as an antioxidant to protect our cells from damage. These roles are important for heart health because the heart needs a lot of energy. In addition, the ability of CoQ10 to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol may help protect us from atherosclerosis. CoQ10 is also used to reduce fatigue in patients with fibromyalgia. It can help protect the kidneys and liver. One month of CoQ10 supplementation was even shown to reduce symptoms of dry mouth, probably by improving the functioning of the salivary glands. CoQ10 is even thought to reduce some of the symptoms of old age. In a study with middle-aged mice, those who had received regular CoQ10 showed reduced signs of aging and improved activity levels.

So where does ubiquinol fit into this picture? There are actually two forms of CoQ10, known as ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Most CoQ10 is ubiquinone, the oxidized form of the molecule, while ubiquinol is the reduced form. This means that ubiquinol is the form of CoQ10 that is ready to neutralize antioxidants. Even more important is that ubiquinol can be up to 3 times more absorbable than the standard ubiquinone form. This varies because our body seem to change how much it absorbs based on how much CoQ10 we need. For instance, people with congestive heart failure usually need more CoQ10. In a recent study among this patient group, taking an average of 450 mg of ubiquinone resulted in blood levels of CoQ10 around 1.6 micrograms per milliliter, but when they switched to an average of 580 mg of ubiquinol, their blood levels jumped to 6.5 micrograms per milliliter. Even more importantly, the switch to ubiquinol resulted in improvements in their symptoms. So even though ubiquinol is more expensive than the standard forms of CoQ10, you can get more for your money by buying this more absorbable form.

Invigorate and Protect with Cordyceps

When I added cordyceps to my morning supplements, I noticed a substantial increase in my energy levels. Other people have shared with me that taking cordyceps improved their endurance while exercising.  These experiences made me curious to investigate this medicinal mushroom further. Cordyceps falls in the category of traditional herbs known as adaptogens that increase stamina and help the body compensate for excess stress. While the only study showing it to reduce the stress response was done in rats, several human studies support the claims about endurance. During periods of exertion, cordyceps has been shown to increase the dilation of the aorta, the largest artery in the body, thereby providing improved blood flow to active muscles. In one study, 72% of long distance runners observed improved performance when using cordyceps. Another study demonstrated that older participants could work out longer before starting to build up lactic acid, a compound that contributes to muscle soreness.

Cordyceps is traditionally known as an anti-aging and rejuvenating herb. I think this claim is well supported by a multitude of research showing how it can protect our bodies from many different types of damage. Cordyceps contains antioxidant compounds that protect our cells from damaging free radicals. Several different compounds in cordyceps also show potential anti-tumor properties. Cordyceps even helps defend us against some viruses while simultaneously stimulating the immune system. Cordyceps benefits the heart by helping to reduce cholesterol and the oxidation of cholesterol, in turn reducing the deposition of cholesterol onto artery walls, which is what happens in atherosclerosis. Cordyceps was also shown to prevent damage to the kidneys from certain toxic substances. Finally, cordyceps has been traditionally regarded as a sexual tonic and libido enhancer. This claim is supported by research that shows that cordyceps can help modulate hormone production as well as improve blood flow and energy.

Cordyceps

Coping with Stress

Many New Year’s resolutions focus on being healthier by quitting smoking or eating healthier. Another important aspect of maintaining our health is improving how we cope with stress. It would be ideal if we could eliminate some of the stress causers in our lives, but this is not always possible especially when the stress is tied to our incomes or all too often these days our lack of income. Excess stress is a significant contributor to short-term and long-term health issues. It can cause headaches, body pain, stomach upset, and increase our susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. In addition, stress may be a contributor to insomnia, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia, and even cancer.

So what can we do about stress? I know there are some stressful circumstances we can’t change, but pay attention to where you might be putting unnecessary stress on yourself. Become aware of when you use the word should. If you are “shoulding” yourself about something that is unrealistic, replace it with a more manageable goal such as a concrete step you could complete that day. Or just drop that unnecessary demand on yourself all together. If your shoulds are about another person, instead try to accept that person for the wonderful if imperfect person they are. Since you can’t change another person, don’t stress yourself out by focusing on what they are not.

In addition to this emotional and mental work, add some healthy lifestyle habits to keep your body strong and mind balanced. Look for fun ways to fit exercise into your day. Ideally, get a workout buddy so you can also benefit from having a friend to talk things over with. Remember to take deep breaths, even if it is just a few when you are stopped at a light. Eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables and whole grains. There are also herbs like Ashwagandha and Siberian Ginseng that can help the body deal with the effects of long-term stress. These herbs can help balance the body’s output of stress hormones, as well as improve energy and stamina.

Ashwagandha

            If you want more tips on dealing with stress, check out Managing Stress at healthfinder.gov.