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The surprising culprit behind fatty liver is not fat

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If you struggle with excess weight or high blood sugar, your blood tests show may also show fatty liver (high liver enzymes). Although fatty liver has no overt symptoms, a liver filled with fat hinders detoxification, promotes inflammation, may increase gallstones  and increases heart attack risk. So a fatty liver means eat less fat, right? Wrong, the culprit in fatty liver isn’t too much fat but rather too many sugars and carbohydrates.

Too many carbs are the main culprits behind the excess belly fat that is a sure sign of fatty liver. This is because sugar signals the liver to produce more fat.

This process is heightened when the liver must process fructose  particularly high-fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks and other junk foods.

From fatty liver to fatty liver disease

While some fat in the liver is normal, if it exceeds 5 to 10 percent of total weight of the organ, it is considered fatty liver and the first stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). If fatty liver progresses unchecked, it can lead all the way to cirrhosis.

(Alcohol abuse can also cause fatty liver disease and the majority of alcoholics have a fatty liver.)

NAFLD is the most common liver disorder in the west, affecting as many as one third of Americans. It primarily afflicts those who overweight and middle-aged, but NAFLD is increasingly affecting children and teens due to their over consumption of sodas, sweets, and high-carb foods. High cholesterol and diabetes are typically found with NAFLD too.

How to reverse fatty liver and regain liver health

The good news is you can reverse fatty liver before it’s too late. Even though the liver may not initially complain with symptoms, it’s important to take liver health seriously to prevent serious long-term complications. Steps to reverse fatty liver include:

Adopt a lower-carb, sugar-free diet. High blood sugar leads to fatty liver. To start reversing it you need to bring blood sugar down to healthy levels with a whole foods diet abundant in fibrous vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins while low in foods that spike blood sugar. Most people will begin to lose excess fat on this way of eating as well, further unburdening the liver.

Exercise daily. Exercise helps lower high blood sugar, detoxify the body, and shed excess fat, all of which will help reverse fatty liver.

Avoid alcohol and unnecessary medications. Alcohol is very hard on the liver, as are many medications. Avoid both as much as possible while working to reverse fatty liver.

Lower inflammation. The liver actually plays an important role in inflammation and lowering overall inflammation will likewise ease its burdens. The most important ways to do this are by removing foods from your diet that promote inflammation (gluten and dairy are the most common) and minimizing exposure to toxins and chemicals.

Take natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Certain nutritional compounds really shine when it comes to lowering inflammation. These include high doses of emulsified turmeric and resveratrol, absorbable forms of glutathione, vitamin D, and many other compounds. Ask my office for more advice.

Support liver detoxification pathways. If your liver cells are clogged with fat it may have trouble with everday detoxification duties. The liver responds wonderfully to herbs and compounds that support detoxification, such as milk thistle or n-acetyl-cysteine.

Ask my office for more ways to reverse fatty liver and support liver health.


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How diet foods prevent weight loss and cause obesity

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For decades the diet industry has conned consumers into thinking good diet products are low in fat. This led to a boon in creation of low-fat, high-carbohydrate, and often high-sugar “diet” products that promote fat storage, prevent fat burning, increase cravings, and raise inflammation. Not only can diet foods make you fatter, they can also make you sicker.

Yet another new study shows low-fat diet foods lead to obesity. Rats given high-sugar, low-fat foods that mimic many diet products not only got fatter than the control rats, they also experienced liver damage and brain inflammation.

The sad thing about this study is that the low-fat rats didn’t eat more calories. They consumed the same amount of calories as their counterparts that were fed a balanced diet yet they still ended the study fatter and sicker.

Liver and brain damage from low-fat, high-sugar

The excess fat accumulated around the rats’ livers was similar to the liver damage caused by heavy alcohol use. This study and others similar to it show that brain-inflammation from the high-sugar, low-fat diet also impaired function of the vagus nerve. This is a nerve that runs between the brain and the gut and is vital to both healthy brain and gut function.

Diet foods skew hunger and satiety hormones

The impacts on the vagus nerve and the brain also alter hormone signaling around hunger and satiety. This explains why people on high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diets often feel hungry all the time despite how much they eat.

Dieting signals the body to store fat

The hormones that control hunger and satiety also play a role in fat burning and fat storage. When this system is dysregulated due to a high-sugar diet, this prompts the body to favor fat storing over fat burning.

The best way to reverse this process is to fuel the body with a lower carbohydrate diet that is adequate in proteins and fat, and abundant in vegetables. How many carbohydrates a person needs to consume depends on many factors and varies from person to person. Ask my office for advice.

Dieting makes the body efficient at fat storage

Add a low-calorie diet to the poor performance of mainstream diet products and you have a recipe for lifelong super-powered fat storing abilities. This means a person has to consume fewer and fewer calories simply to avoid gaining weight.

This was best evidenced among former contestants of the popular TV show The Biggest Loser  Although contestants lost weight through a stringent regime of low-calorie dieting and intensive exercise, most contestants piled the weight back on after the show ended. They also had to consume 500–800 fewer calories below maintenance calories simply to avoid gaining weight. This is because the extreme dieting and exercise, though effective, had lowered their resting metabolic rate so that they were burning fewer calories each day compared to before participating in the show.

How to lose weight and stay healthy?

Often people lose weight simply by following a diet that lowers inflammation and removes foods to which they are intolerant, and by stabilizing blood sugar, repairing leaky gut, and addressing chronic inflammation. By focusing on a vegetable-dominant diet you also increase the proportion of gut bacteria that promote fat burning over fat storage.

The key is to gradually switch yourself over to a life-long way of eating you enjoy because it makes you feel better.

For more information on healthy weight loss, contact my office.


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Extreme exercise is good for you, right? Not exactly

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If you want to get fit and lose weight, you should exercise as hard as you can, for as long as you can, every day, right? Wrong! Research shows extreme exercise can cause chronic health problems and make you feel worse. (What constitutes over exercise depends on the individual and their fitness level.) Recovery time is as important as the exercise itself.

Over exercising can cause the following health issues:

  • Increased inflammation
  • Fatigued adrenals, the stress-handling glands
  • More bad gut bacteria
  • Leaky gut
  • Depleted hormones
  • Depressed immunity
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Bone loss
  • Too much exercise raises inflammation

Many of the issues caused by over exercising stem from inflammation. Although appropriate exercise can be anti-inflammatory and very good for the brain, too much has the opposite effect.

The cellular damage from over exercising triggers a systemic inflammatory response that sets the stage for a host of other health problems.

Too much exercise stresses out your body

The damage and inflammation from over exercising is very stressful to the body. Excess stress underlies the burnout, depletion, and increasing weakness often seen with over exercising. Results can be fatigue, poor thyroid function, depressed immunity, and more.

Over exercising damages gut health

The gut and the bacteria it houses are increasingly being recognized as the seat of the immune system and foundational to our health.

Overdoing exercise has been found to damage the gut wall, causing “leaky gut.” This allows undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream, where they then trigger inflammation throughout the body.

Overtraining also changes the composition of gut bacteria so there is too much bad bacteria.

How to know if you’re over training

How do you know if your exercise routine is making you unhealthy?

One of the most common symptoms is constant fatigue. Your workout routine should give you more energy, not less. Appropriate exercise boosts chemicals in the body that improve brain function, increase well being, and raise energy. If the opposite is happening to you, you’re overdoing it.

Other symptoms of over exercising include getting sick frequently, loss of muscle mass, gaining body fat, and difficulty recovering from injuries.

What to do if you’re over exercising

If you’re making yourself sick with exercise, the answer isn’t to stop exercising, but to go about your workouts differently. First of all, give yourself time to recover. This typically means exercising less frequently.

Also, it’s very important to get enough sleep. This is a critical time when your muscles repair and your metabolic system and brain recharge. Sufficient sleep is crucial if you want to stay active and healthy for the long haul.


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Nitric oxide for autoimmune and chronic disorders

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When it comes to autoimmune disease and other chronic health conditions, taming inflammation is the name of the game. This can be difficult because the body creates vicious cycles where inflammation keeps feeding more inflammation. This makes halting the progression of autoimmune disease and chronic health issues difficult…but not impossible.

However, we now know about nutritional ingredients that can boost anti-inflammatory efforts. These ingredients act on two inflammatory immune messengers called “nitrous oxide” and “IL-17.”

IL-17 is a pro-inflammatory immune cell that damages body tissue, such as the thyroid gland in autoimmune Hashimoto’s, the joints in rheumatoid arthritis, or the nerve sheaths in multiple sclerosis. IL-17 isn’t completely bad—it’s necessary to fight infection. But when the immune system becomes hyper zealous, IL-17 goes out of control and attacks the body it’s designed to protect.

IL-17 destroys tissue by activating a “inducible nitric oxide,” one of three forms of nitric oxide, a gas, involved in various processes in the body. Two other two forms of nitric oxide are beneficial and actually fight inflammation: endothelial nitric oxide and neuronal nitric oxide.

However, inducible nitric oxide is pro-inflammatory and damages body tissue under the orders of IL-17.

Therefore, one way we can stop the vicious cycle of inflammation is to dampen IL-17 and inducible nitric oxide. Luckily, there are nutritional compounds that help the body do this.

But first — perhaps you’ve heard of arginine to boost nitric oxide. Although arginine boosts the anti-inflammatory endothelial and neuronal nitric oxides, it also boosts inducible nitric oxide. So if you are fighting chronic inflammation, taking arginine may work against you.

It’s safer instead to take nutritional compounds that studies show support endothelial nitric oxide. These include:

  • Adenosine
  • Huperzine A
  • Vinpocetine
  • Alpha GPC
  • Xanthinol niacinate
  • L-acetylcarnitine

These compounds work synergistically taken together in an emulsified liquid form. Not only does boosting endothelial nitric oxide tame inflammation, it also helps repair and regenerate body tissue, promote blood flow, dissolve plaques, and dilate blood vessels. Start with small doses to gauge effects and tolerance. These compounds also support neuronal nitric oxide and thus the health of your brain and nervous system.

Exercise is another excellent way to boost beneficial nitric oxides. In fact, take these endothelial nitric oxide boosting compounds before getting your heart rate to maximum capacity for a few minutes first thing in the morning. This will optimize anti-inflammatory effects and support brain health.

You don’t have to exercise long — just a few minutes of raising your heart rate as high as you can has profound anti-inflammatory and brain supporting effects. Just be sure not to over train as that produces more inflammation. Also, how you get your heart rate up depends on your fitness level and abilities, so keep it safe and doable.

Other tools to tame inflammation include therapeutic doses of vitamin D3, omega 3 fatty acids, absorbable forms of glutathione  and therapeutic doses of emulsified resveratrol and curcumin. These compounds have been shown to dampen the the inflammatory vicious cycles associated with autoimmune and chronic disorders.

Of course, lifestyle and diet changes are vital too. This includes eliminating pro-inflammatory foods with the autoimmune diet and designing an inflammation-quenching lifestyle.

For help taming your chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorder, ask my office for advice.


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Intermittent fasting for weight loss and longevity

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Humans have been fasting for millennia, either for religious or spiritual reasons or simply due to lack of food. Today, a new form of fasting called intermittent fasting is increasingly popular among those seeking it’s anti-aging and health benefits.

Intermittent fasting, or IF, makes fasting an everyday part of life versus something you do once or twice a year. Many people use it successfully for weight loss and inflammation as well as to improve brain function and insulin sensitivity. The promise of increased longevity is another reason people choose to fast regularly.

Different forms of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can be done in a number of ways:

  • 5:2 diet — In this plan you eat normally five days per week, and either fast completely, or severely restrict calories (500-600 calories) the other two days.
  • Alternate day fasting — This plan includes normal eating for 24 hours and zero, or very low calories (500-600) for the next 24-hour period, alternating every other day. These 24-hour periods typically begin at dinnertime so that in any one day you may miss one or two meals, but not all three.
  • 16:8 or 14:10 — Also known as the “eating window plan,” this plan has you eat during an 8- or 10-hour window and fast the remaining 16 or 14 hours of each 24-hour period. For example, you stop eating at 7 p.m and do not eat again until 14 hours later at 9 a.m. the next morning.

Intermittent fasting for weight loss

Restricting caloric intake can lead to weight loss, but intermittent fasting seems to help with weight loss in more ways than that. For one thing, studies show intermittent fasters have better insulin sensitivity and glucose regulation. Among other things, this makes a person crave less sugar and use glucose more efficiently for energy production instead of being stored as fat. Intermittent fasting also causes your body to burn more fat. Because it depletes glycogen, the storage form of glucose, your body switches over to burning stored fat for energy.

Intermittent fasting for brain function

Studies show intermittent fasting can benefit brain function and potentially even stave off Alzheimer’s disease and depression. This is likely due to better glucose and insulin control (Alzheimer’s disease is often called type 3 diabetes), as well as production of ketone bodies for fuel. Ketones provide a ready source of clean-burning fuel for the brain that leave behind fewer free radicals than glucose does. High-fat ketogenic diets have long been used to help prevent seizures.

Other benefits

Intermittent fasting has been shown in trials to reduce blood pressure, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and insulin-like growth factor, a hormone that is linked to cancer and diabetes. There is still much to learn about the benefits and pitfalls of intermittent fasting. Fortunately, it is an area of great scientific interest and research is happening at a rapid pace.

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone

Children and teens, pregnant women, people with eating disorders, as well as those with hypoglycemia should not fast. Also, diabetics taking insulin should only attempt this diet under supervision of a doctor.

Women often find less stringent forms of intermittent fasting are more suitable for them. For example, a woman might start by trying a 12:12 eating window plan and potentially lengthen her fasting time gradually, or not, as it suits her.

As always, it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all remedy to any health concern. Contact my office to discuss if intermittent fasting might be right for you.


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Arsenic levels in gluten-free foods by category

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Recent studies have shown rice can be dangerously high in inorganic arsenic, particularly rice grown in the southern United States. This is bad news for gluten-free people who eat rice-based products — one study showed people on a gluten-free diet have twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to controls (and 70 percent more mercury).

Although guidelines exist to minimize arsenic exposure (buy rice from California, eat white rice, wash rice thoroughly before cooking, and cook rice like pasta in a ratio of about 6 to 1 water to rice), what about rice-based gluten-free foods? It’s nearly impossible to know where their rice comes from, how it’s processed, and what the arsenic levels are.

Arsenic levels in popular gluten-free foods

Until now. The Gluten-Free Watchddog has begun testing arsenic levels in popular brands of gluten-free foods  which you can view with a subscription.

Keep in mind that what is considered an acceptable amount of arsenic varies. Codex, an international collection of safety standards, proposes a maximum of 200 parts per billion in white rice. The European Union proposes 100 parts per billion.

However, arsenic expert Dr. Andrew Meharg proposes a maximum of 50 parts per billion for children, who carry a heavier toxic body burden, and a maximum of 100 parts per billion for adults.

Arsenic levels in rice-based gluten-free foods

For results of inorganic arsenic testing on various brands of gluten-free foods that you can browse by category, visit Gluten-Free Watchdog  A paid subscription is required to access the reports. However, below are examples of arsenic level ranges in some categories of popular gluten-free foods.*

Inorganic arsenic in gluten-free breads

Inorganic arsenic in popular gluten-free breads ranged from 10 parts per billion to 40 parts per billion.

Pastas

Inorganic arsenic in popular gluten-free pastas ranged from 20 parts per billion to 150 parts per billion.

Cereals

Inorganic arsenic in popular gluten-free cereals ranged from 70 parts per billion to 280 parts per billion.

Miscellaneous rice products (rice bran, rice milk, rice syrup, rice cakes)

Inorganic arsenic in miscellaneous rice products ranged from 20 parts per billion to 540 parts per billion.

Rice

Inorganic arsenic in several rice brands ranged from 80 parts per billion to 140 parts per billion. (Brown rice has more than white rice. Gluten-Free Watchdog reports a brand called Mighty Rice grown on the island of Mauritius shows very low levels of inorganic arsenic in their tests.)

Factor in frequency and amount of consumption

It’s important to understand these numbers tell us the concentration of inorganic arsenic in each product. The frequency and amount of any item eaten and whether the eater is an adult or a developing child are also very important factors in the equation. For example, at 540 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic, one rice bran product looks pretty bad. But consumed in very small quantities as brans typically are, it may not pose as much a problem, relative to the other foods listed, as it first may seem.

It would be better if rice were not high in inorganic arsenic. Thankfully groups such as Gluten Free Watchdog are around to help us reduce exposures. Also, there is a group based at Cornell University working to shift the world to a rice farming method that uses up to 50 percent less water while increasing yields, thus saving precious water while reducing the amount of arsenic in the rice produced.

*Ranges included with permission from Gluten-Free Watchdog LLC.


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Gluten-free and worried about arsenic in rice? What to know

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Gluten-free folks accustomed to eating rice-based gluten-free breads, pastas, cereals, and other substitutes may be consuming dangerously high levels of arsenic.

In fact, a 2017 study showed people on a gluten-free diet consuming rice-based products on a regular basis showed almost twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to those who did not (and 70 percent more mercury, another troublesome finding.)

Why arsenic is harmful

Arsenic is a naturally occurring heavy metal. It is the inorganic arsenic (not bound to carbon) that is toxic to humans if levels ingested are too high.

Although inorganic arsenic occurs naturally, it also accumulates in soil and water due to pesticides and fertilizers. Because rice grows in water, it is the grain highest in arsenic.

Consistent exposure to small amounts of arsenic increases the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurological disorders. Consuming arsenic during pregnancy may affect the baby’s immune system.

Consumer Reports found one serving of rice pasta, rice cereal, and rice milk exceeded a safe amount of arsenic for one week while one serving of rice cakes came close.

The FDA recently proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal. However, it’s impossible to know how much arsenic is safe to consume as risk is dose dependent; the more you consume the higher the risk.

How to minimize arsenic exposure from rice

These troubling truths about arsenic exposure through rice don’t have to spell doom for gluten-free folks who depend on rice-based substitutes.

For starters, look for products made from other grains besides rice. Thankfully, there are many more on the market these days.

Look at where your rice comes from. In 2014 Consumer Reports found that rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas had the highest concentrations of inorganic arsenic while California rice has almost 40 percent less arsenic. Brown basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan has a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices. 

Unfortunately, because the arsenic comes from the water, organic rice may not be lower in arsenic.

Eat white rice (sorry!). Since arsenic tends to accumulate in the outer layers that are removed to turn brown rice into white, white rice contains less of the toxin than the whole grain.

Rinse your rice thoroughly and cook in excess water. Wash your rice thoroughly before cooking and then cook your rice in a ratio of about six cups of water to one cup of rice and drain the excess water after. This cuts down arsenic levels by about one third compared to letting rice absorb all the water during cooking.

Consider a grain-free diet. Many people feel and function significantly better on a grain-free diet. If you don’t eat rice-based products, excessive arsenic exposure is one less thing to worry about in a world where we are constantly at battle with toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

Ask my office for more ways to protect yourself from toxic chemicals and heavy metals.