Tag Archives: weight loss

Detoxification Support Part 2: Sweating

After the holiday festivities, doing a full body cleanse can be a great way to get a new start on your health. Detoxification can also help with weight loss, thyroid issues, fatigue, joint pain, skin problems and many other chronic conditions especially if they aren’t improving with the normal interventions. Last week, I introduced this topic by discussing dietary ideas to help with detoxification.

Another essential aspect of a detoxification plan is sweating. Nearly every known toxin, including toxic metals, can be eliminated in our sweat without normally harming the skin. At this time of the year, many of us are sweating less and this can allow more toxins to build up. During the end of my time in Seattle, I was too busy to have time to exercise and the climate was too cool to cause me to sweat. When I moved to Arkansas in the middle of the summer, my sweat stank for several weeks like it never had before. These were toxins that my body hadn’t eliminated while in Seattle.

One of the best ways to detoxify by sweating is exercise. Exercise heats the body up and increases the burning of fat where many toxins are stored. Exercise also improves circulation so that the blood brings mobilized toxins closer to the skin to be excreted in the sweat.

Additionally, we can use saunas, hot baths, or in the summertime, spending time outdoors to trigger sweating. Aerobic exercise is recommended before sweating in a sauna or hot bath for all of the benefits I listed above. The heat from the sauna can then increase the normal metabolic breakdown of fat started by exercise. Always shower after sweating to wash excreted toxins off the skin since they can be reabsorbed. Another way to enhance your ability to sweat is to enjoy a diaphoretic herb that can help stimulate sweating. Hot ginger or chamomile teas are pleasant ways to do this. Also make sure you are getting adequate water and fiber to keep toxins moving out of the body afterwards.

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Though sweating is usually safe for nearly anyone, there are a few cautions. It is very important to stay hydrated and maintain proper electrolytes just like we do during the heat of summer. Coconut water is a great option for both of these. Don’t become overheated or dehydrated. Finally, occasionally sweating can irritate rashes even though they may benefit long term from the detoxification process.

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Refresh and Fight Stress with Holy Basil Tea

People sometimes ask me if I could grow only one medicinal herb what would it be. My answer is Holy Basil, because it has so many useful medicinal actions and it is very easy to grow. Holy Basil is one of the many herbs that help us cope with stress, but it is easier to work with than many of the others in this category like ginseng because we use its leaves instead of the root. And it makes a pleasant tea. Some of you might have already tried the popular teas made from Holy Basil, where it is often sold under its other name Tulsi.

My Holy Basil, just from one plant

My Holy Basil, just from one plant

Holy Basil has been demonstrated to reduce the impact of stress on the body and brain. Stress can have a serious impact on our health and contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure, immune dysfunction, and memory issues. Holy Basil has been shown to counter act some of the negative changes that happen in the brain when we are exposure to prolonged stress. Holy Basil may reduce insulin resistance and thereby help lower elevated blood sugar. It can also help decrease elevated cholesterol. Holy Basil helps fight inflammation in the body and therefore pain, partially by being a COX-2 inhibitor. Holy Basil modulates immune system activity and can be a good choice for people who get frequent infections. I like to use it during cold and flu season because it has some antiviral properties too. Finally, Holy Basil is rich in antioxidants and can help protect us from cellular damage, even from radiation.

To make Holy Basil tea from the loose leaves, put 1-2 teaspoons in a cup of water that just came off a boil. Steep for 5-10 minutes, preferably with a lid over the tea. Strain (if you didn’t use a tea ball), sweeten if desired, and enjoy this awesome wellness boosting, stress-fighting tea. Or try it iced.

And if you want to grow your own Holy Basil plant next year, I got my seeds from High Mowing Seeds sold at Ozark Natural Foods and online. I may also be selling the plant starts next spring when I do the annual plant sale for our farm.

The Power of Green Tea

As well as being a wonderfully tasty beverage, green tea contains fantastic compounds that can help prevent many common health conditions. Green tea comes from the same plant as black tea, Camellia sinensis. The difference, however, is that green tea is camellia-sinensisblanched before drying, while black tea is allowed to oxidize, effectively converting many of the beneficial catechins into astringent tannins. In part because of these catechins, like EGCG, green tea is antimicrobial, astringent, antioxidant, cancer fighting, and inflammation modulating. Not only does it contain less caffeine than black tea, green tea also has theanine, a relaxation-inducing compound that can help reduce anxiety.

Just three cups a day may be helpful for the prevention of cancer and atherosclerosis. Numerous studies have shown green tea to be useful for lowering cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol. Additionally, when combined with sensible diet and exercise, green tea may help with weight loss, especially in people with increased belly fat. Green tea’s ability to help reduce glucose and insulin could explain why it helps induce belly fat loss, as insulin resistance and elevated glucose tend to encourage weight gain in that region of the body. Regular consumption of green tea is also thought to be one of the reasons why Asian women have a consistently lower rate of breast cancer. Furthermore, if you swish it around your mouth before swallowing, green tea can help stop gingivitis.

To prepare, you need only to steep your green tea for one minute to extract these incredible compounds, but feel free to steep it longer if you prefer a stronger, more bitter flavor.  During these hot Arkansas summers, green tea also makes a refreshing iced tea that can help beat the heat. To give you another way to enjoy green tea this summer, our bulk herbs department has added a delicious raspberry flavored green tea.

If you wish to read Dr. Michael Greger’s other ideas on why there are lower rates of breast cancer in Asian demographics, check out his recent post.

Benefits of Whey Protein

I occasionally use a protein powder as a snack or part of a meal replacement. While I don’t believe we can truly replace a meal with supplements, sometimes protein powders can be a handy way to boost our protein intake. For people that tolerate dairy well, whey protein can be a good choice because it mixes easily and tends to be very palatable. Because of its particular amino acid compositions, whey protein also offers some benefits that other protein powders don’t. For instance, in a small study participants given whey protein, who otherwise ate as they wished, experienced a slight weight loss compared to those given soy protein who had no change in weight. This group also saw a reduction in ghrelin, a hunger hormone that makes us crave high calorie foods. Whey protein is also commonly used by athletes and has been shown to reduce post-workout muscle damage. Whey protein is high in branched-chain amino acids like leucine that have been shown to improve upper body strength and lean body mass. Whey protein can also help seniors shape up by helping improve muscle mass and function. In fact, whey protein led to skeletal muscle improvements that were superior to those from control groups of participants taking an equivalent amount of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins like our muscles.

In addition to helping body composition, whey protein can improve our well being in several key ways. One study demonstrated significant decreases in cholesterol, triglycerides and fasting insulin levels when participants consumed whey protein, but not when they received casein protein. Whey protein may also help with detoxification and cancer prevention since it is a source of cysteine, which our bodies need to make glutathione, a critical antioxidant for protecting our bodies from toxins. There are also immune benefits from whey protein as demonstrated in a study where elderly subjects receiving pneumonia vaccines produced more of the protective antibodies against the pneumonia-causing organisms. Whey protein is also a good choice as part of a protocol to speed healing from surgery.

Coconut Oil: What is all the hype about?

There has been a lot of buzz about coconut oil recently. For years, coconut oil was shunned as an unhealthy fat because of its high saturated fat content. But now many people are cooking nearly exclusively with coconut and olive oils. Coconut oil does contain saturated fats, but the difference between coconut oil and other oils is the length of its dominant fats. 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 the 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 are also rapidly burned for energy in the body. This has made MCTs a preferred calorie source for some athletes, and several studies have shown that they can enhance athletic performance. Others are interested in coconut oil for its weight loss claims. These claims may be substantiated by the fact that these oils tend to be burned for energy and are less likely to be stored as fat. Coconut oil may also mildly curb the appetite.

There are other health benefits of coconut oil that are worth mentioning. Coconut oil is rich in particular fatty acid known as lauric acid that can be converted to monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin seems to have antiviral benefits and may help fight other organisms too. Coconut oil also contains some caprylic acid, which has a reputation as a yeast fighter. Finally, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that coconut oil can be useful for brain function.

I find coconut oil to be pleasant tasting, but if it isn’t the flavor for you, another option is MCT oil. These are neutral tasting products that are liquid at room temperature and can be easy to incorporate into smoothies.

Top 7 Natural Appetite Suppressants

With the growing rate of obesity in this country, weight loss has become an important topic that I am asked about frequently. Unfortunately, I see a lot of unhealthy “quick fixes.” I was so happy to read this no nonsense article from fitday.com that I wanted to share it with all of you. I really appreciated these tips because they pertain to anyone who wants to stay fit as well as people actively pursuing healthy weight loss diets.                                                                                                                                                                          — Dr. Laurell

The Top 7 Appetite Suppressants

When beginning a diet, most will decrease caloric consumption in order to drop pounds. The body’s natural response to fewer calories is to increase the hunger pangs to let you know that something has changed. There is also the deprivation mentality that can happen on a deeper level: we feel as though we cannot have certain foods or as much food as we are accustomed to and we naturally begin to crave or miss that way of living. Remember the body will do everything to maintain balance and change can be stressful.

In order to succeed at the weight loss / restriction calorie diet, the body will have to adjust to a new set point and deal with the associated hunger. There are ways that you can naturally suppress the appetite and remain true to the dietary meal plan.

#1. Avoid refined carbohydrates or simple sugars.
Examples of refined carbohydrates and simple sugars include white bread, white rice, white pasta, baked goods such as muffins, cakes and cookies, high sugar cereals etc. When ingested, refined carbohydrates quickly turn into blood glucose or sugar in the body. The body’s natural response to a high sugar food is to secrete insulin to drop the blood sugar level back down into a more normal range. Insulin carries the sugar into the cells to be used as a source of energy. Most cells are already full of energy (unless you are an active person) so there is no room for the sugar to go. The body’s next step is to store the excess sugar consumed as body fat – not what you had in mind when you began the diet. Perhaps you have felt the sugar high followed by the crash in energy feeling 20 minutes to an hour later. A quick rise in blood sugar is followed by a crash in blood sugar leaving you feeling tired. This process is usually followed by an intense hunger to get the blood sugar back up and leaves you craving for yet another sweet treat. The answer: Eat complex carbohydrates instead. Complex carbohydrates examples include whole fruit (not juice), vegetables, and whole grains (in moderation).

#2. Drink enough water.
Next time you feel hungry; drink an 8 ounce glass of water.

#3. Eat the right amount of fiber, fat and protein.
It is important to consume plenty of fiber – it makes you feel full, plenty of fat (the good healthy fats) – we need those to reduce excess stored body fat, and plenty of protein. Protein takes a long time for the body to digest which results in you feeling full for a longer period of time as your stomach still has food in it. Protein can come from chicken, turkey, fish, yogurt, eggs, and vegan choices such as nuts, seeds, soy, and legumes (dried beans)

#4. Supplement nutrients if you need to.
It is important to ensure that you are getting the required nutrients and often times the only way we can so that when we have a restricted calorie diet is to supplement with a high quality multi vitamin/mineral complex. The body may be giving you hunger pangs because it is deficient in certain nutrients. You do not always have to consume calorie rich food to provide the adequate nutrients. I am only suggesting that you supplement an already healthy diet with supplementation specific to your individual needs. I am not a proponent of over the counter appetite suppressants such as Hoodia.

#5. Exercise to decrease the hunger feeling.
Exercise not only decreases the hunger feeling but it teaches our body how to burn the stored body fat as a fuel source!

#6. Eat frequently throughout the day.
5-6 small and healthy snack / meals. That way you never feel hungry.

#7. Address the emotional hunger issue.
Is it true hunger or an emotional void we are trying to fill with comfort food? Be a conscious eater. Set a very defined and specific goal in order to stay on track.

Fiber For Appetite Control

Weight loss fads come and go. Currently, a fiber called glucomannan from konjac root is popular for appetite reduction to help people reach their weight goals. Since many Americans aren’t getting enough fiber in their diet, I often encourage this approach. Fiber is a nondigestible carbohydrate and is divided into two categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers like glucomannan swell up in the presence of water, up to seven times their original volume. Many people are taking soluble fibers before meals to help them stick to more modest portions of food. This expansion of fiber can increase the feeling of satiety, which partially comes from the volume of food in the stomach. Fiber also can slow the absorption of sugar. This is why complex carbohydrates that are rich in fiber are better for blood sugar control than simple carbohydrates. Better blood sugar control is also helpful for some people in reaching their weight goals.

Fiber has many health benefits beyond helping reduce appetite. Fiber aids colon function by promoting healthy bowel movements and providing food for the beneficial bacteria of the gut. These bacteria in turn make nutrients that the cells of the colon use for energy production. Fiber can modestly reduce the absorption of fats from our diet. This slightly diminishes our calorie intake and can help improve cholesterol levels. Increased fiber intake has also been correlated with lower rates of cancer, even breast cancer. It is recommended that we get between 21 to 38 grams of fiber daily depending on our age and gender. Beans, vegetables, and fruits are all great sources of fiber, so eat a diet that emphasizes these foods. But increase your fiber intake slowly. Since bacteria digest some of these fibers for us, a sudden increase in fiber can cause gas and intestinal discomfort.