Strengthen Your Immune System with MCTs

There’s no way around it—germs surround us all the time.  Singular medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that act as natural antibiotics, which means they boost your immune system and fight off harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. While completely harmless to our bodies, MCFAs are lethal to some of the most notorious disease-inducing microorganisms in existence. 

They Don’t Stand a Chance

MCFAs may help protect you against:
  • Viruses: influenza, measles, mononucleosis
  • Bacteria: throat infections, pneumonia, earaches, rheumatic fever
  • Fungi, Yeast, and Parasites: ringworm, candida, thrush, giardiasis

Silent Assassins

Due to its chemical structure, MCFAs are drawn to and easily absorbed into most bacteria and viruses. MCFAs enter the lipid membrane and weaken it to the point that it eventually breaks open, expelling the microorganism’s insides and causing imminent death. White blood cells then quickly dispose of the terminated invader’s remains.

Super Fatty Acids

With 8 grams of caprylic acid and 6 grams of capric acid per serving, MCT Oil harbors antimicrobial capabilities, while also being free from any undesirable or unsafe side effects.

  • Capric Acid: one of the two most active antimicrobial fatty acids
  • Caprylic Acid: a potent natural yeast-fighting substance

Research continues to prove MCFAs as one of the best internal antimicrobial substances available without a doctor’s prescription.

MCT Lean MCT Oil 

Add MCT Lean MCT Oil to your daily health regimen to help fight off illness during any time of the year! One of my favorite sources of MCFAs is MCT Lean MCT Oil.  It is rapidly absorbed, easy to digest, and quickly converted to energy to maximize athletic performance. You can add MCT Lean MCT Oil to any drink, smoothie, or shake and use it in place of highly processed and easily oxidized conventional vegetable oils in salad dressings and sauces.
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How to Handle Sugar Cravings

By Karen Malkin Health Counseling 

A study released by the scientific journal PLOS One proves that sugar intake directly correlates to higher rates of diabetes. The study was conducted by four researchers, including Dr. Robert Lustig, presenter of the 2009 “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” talk that became a YouTube sensation at close to 8 million views and counting.

What’s more shocking? The addictive nature of sugar rivals that of cocaine, morphine, and cigarettes!

It’s no accident that recovering alcoholics often turn to sugar as they cut out alcohol—it’s an easily available drug. According to a 2008 study out of Princeton University:

“Rats eating large amounts of sugar when hungry, a phenomenon known as sugar-binging, undergo neuro-chemical changes in the brain that appear to mimic those produced by substances of abuse.”

In addition to the detrimental effects of sugar shown in these studies, sugar has been linked to weakened immunity, even feeding certain cancers! Found in most processed foods, fruit juice, and sports drinks (in the form of HFCS, high fructose corn syrup), and many of the desserts we grew up with and enjoy at holidays and birthdays, it’s hard to resist this substance’s seductive spell.

Fortunately, there are healthful ways to beat back even the most powerful sugar cravings.

Cravings are a method by which your body communicates with you, and they should not be ignored. However, what you think is a call for sugar may likely something else:

SLEEP

Fatigue stresses your body, but the quick boost you seek in sugar only provides a temporary lift. Instead, take a 15-20 minute nap if lack of sleep is the culprit.

WATER 

Dehydration can trigger sugar cravings; drink 12 ounces of water when your next craving hits.

EXERCISE 

Moving your body (especially walking outside) helps keep cravings at bay because you get a potent hit of serotonin, a feel-good chemical that’s also released when you eat sugar.

OMEGA-3s

A deficiency of alpha-linoleic-acids (ALAs or bioavailable omega-3s) can cause sweet foods to taste less sweet, which means you crave more of them to satisfy the flavor. Up your intake of ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil (never heated), and walnuts to prevent this.

LOVE 

Cravings for sugar-laden comfort food often point to a psychological yearning for companionship. Spend more time socializing or engaging in your favorite activities and notice your cravings change!

Keep your energy stable throughout the day by adopting a few key rules:

  1. Don’t skip meals; enjoy three balanced, nourishing, satiating meals, and occasional healthy snacks.
  2. Pay attention to protein (from vegetable or animal sources) as this helps slow the release of glucose into your blood. In addition, make sure each meal includes some form of protein, fiber (found in fruit and vegetables) and heart-healthy fats (found in flaxseed, olive oil, avocado, and nuts).

Whatever you do, steer clear of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin, which are full of man-made chemicals that are detrimental to your health. Instead, enjoy your sweet flavors in moderation by focusing on healthier alternatives to sugar and its blood-spiking counterparts (organic local honey and maple syrup). Stevia and monk fruit are natural herb sweeteners that do not spike blood sugar. They are many times sweeter than actual sugar, so use it sparingly.

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Seasonal Eating and Immunity

By Karen Malkin Health Counseling

Just as the seasons change, your body’s needs change with the seasons. Your immune system demands more during this time of year, and eating in tandem with what Mother Nature naturally provides can keep you feeling in top form—even if you’ve historically gotten sick when the temperature plummets.

The Seasonal Connection

It appears that Mother Nature may know best. During the different seasons, not only are your nutritional needs different, foods affiliated with a particular season affect your body quite differently.

During the cold winter months, root veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, and beets are warming to your system and take longer to digest, which help insulate you from the inside out. Foods typically grown in the summer (think: melons, berries, tomatoes, and peaches) are naturally moist and cooling during a season that is usually hot and dry, helping you regulate your temperature. Note how during the winter months, you likely crave warm root vegetable and meat stews while during the summer, you gravitate towards salads and other light, easy-to-digest foods.

Ecologists consider the seasons to be a source of natural diversity. Changes in growing conditions from fall to winter or spring to summer are considered essential for balancing the earth’s resources and its life forms—that includes you! But today, it’s so easy to forget about seasons when you eat. This is because modern food processing and widespread distribution makes distinctly seasonal foods such as strawberries available year-round; grocery stores shelves look much the same in December as they do in July.

Get Your Vitamin C When It Matters!

Indeed, a study out of Japan shows that growing a food out of season also affects its nutritional value. Evidence bore out that spinach harvested in winter verses summer had considerably more vitamin C. It just so happens that winter is a time that your immune system needs the vitamin C boost. That’s by design!

 To enjoy the immune-boosting qualities of your food, you’ll want to make your menu a seasonal one. Depending on where you live, seasonal menus can vary. But here are some general guidelines you can follow to ensure optimal nourishment in every season:

  • In fall, turn to more warming, autumn harvest foods, such as onions, garlic, carrot, and sweet potatoes. Apples are particularly cleansing in the fall months. Also liberally use more warming spices such as ginger, peppercorns, and mustard seeds.
  • In winter, focus even more exclusively on consuming warming foods. (Here’s an easy principle for gauging if a food has “warming” qualities or “cooling” qualities: foods that take longer to grow are generally more warming than those that grow quickly.) Root vegetables are especially warming, as are animal protein such as fish, chicken, beef, and lamb. In addition, corn, nuts, and eggs are all warming.
  • In spring, consume the tender, leafy veggies that represent the fresh new growth of this season. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including Swiss chard, Romaine lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil.
  • In summer, stick with light, cooling foods recommended in traditional Chinese medicine. These foods include strawberries, apples, pears, plums, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, peppermint, and cilantro.
Mother Nature’s Winter RX

Indeed, as the external conditions turn windy, dry, and cold, so do your internal conditions, which means that stable patterns, paired with moist and warm foods will naturally nourish you.

Focus on the following tips to remain balanced and boost your immunity into the winter:

  • Eat warm, cooked foods (think: soups, stews, porridge, casseroles).
  • Add healthy fat to your diet (i.e.: wild salmon, organic chicken, cashews, olive oil).
  • Establish regular routines (i.e.: rising, eating, and going to bed on a set schedule).

In all seasons, be creative! Let the natural backdrop of fall, winter, spring, and summer be your guide.

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Tips to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

By Karen Malkin Health Counseling 

In an ideal world, you’d simply drop off into a peaceful slumber every night, however, sleep—or a lack of good sleep—can often cause you to feel bad emotionally and physically. In fact, research shows that sleep is a complex state that affects a wide range of your body’s mechanisms, including:

• brain plasticity
• memory
• emotional processing
• cardiovascular function
• respiratory function
• cellular function
• immune function

A large study also shows the specific interconnectivity of insomnia and depression. It’s clear that sleep affects your overall wellness. [1]

About Insomnia
Today, with more than 40 million Americans struggling with insomnia, sleep disorders are at epidemic proportions. And they not only effect adults (they are especially common in women); up to 25% of children also suffer from sleep disorders! [2, 3]

Those who suffer from insomnia—which is defined as a having difficulty sleeping for more than 4 weeks—are commonly hyper-aroused and have an increased metabolic rate across the 24-hour circadian cycle. This may explain why they are less sleepy during the day by objective measures than “normal” sleepers. But what are some of the causes of insomnia?

Common Medical Conditions
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep apnea and snoring
Other Common Contributors
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Prescription and over-the-counter drugs
Quality Sleep: 10 Tips

To combat insomnia, here are some specific areas of sleep hygiene you may want to focus on:

1. Follow the rhythm of life.
Establish a regular bed and rising time, get exposure to early morning sunlight and dim evening light, and maintain regular times for meals and exercise. (Although napping has health benefits, it can worsen the effects of insomnia.)

2. Manage intake of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs. 
These are all sleep disruptors. Recommendations about caffeine may not be conservative enough given its significant half-life.

3. Avoid exercise before bed. 
Regular cardiovascular exercise promotes healthy sleep, but not 3 to 4 hours prior to bed (it raises your core body temperature, and can interfere with sleep).

4. Avoid high glycemic and hard-to-digest foods in the evening. 
Instead, opt for complex carbs; they may help transport tryptophan, a precursor to melatonin.

5. Create a healthy sleep environment. 
Keep your bedroom cool (about 68ºF), completely dark, quiet, and as “green” possible. If possible, use HEPA filtration to clean the air and choose organic and non-toxic bedding and mattress.

6. Limit screen time before bed. 
Blue light from your computer and phone screens can cause melatonin suppression and disrupt sleep. [4] Smartphones offer a blue light filter that can be enabled by the user and glass lenses now offer blue-light filtering.

7. Move your clock. 
Clock watching merely stimulates wakefulness. Ideally, position the clock away from the bed.

8. Use mind-body techniques to manage hyperarousal. 
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) addresses sleep-related dysfunctional thoughts that trigger arousal. An excellent resource is a free app called “CBT-i Coach” that provides various relaxation techniques. For best results, couple that with modalities such as mindfulness meditation, muscular relaxation, self-hypnosis, breathing exercises, and guided imagery.

9. Using your bed only for sleep and sex. 
Minimize wakeful time spent there by going to bed only when sleepy. If more than 15-20 minutes of nighttime wakefulness occurs, get out of bed, do a non-stimulating activity, and then return to bed once you feel sleepy.

10. Consider supplementation. 
When discontinuing hypnotics or otherwise indicated, short- term supplementation with herbs like valerian, passionflower, lemon balm, lavender, chamomile, and/or hops can be helpful. Melatonin is useful in older populations or if you have circadian irregularities. Always couple this with other sleep hygiene recommendations.

Quantity of Sleep: How Much Is Enough?

According to Dr. Param Dedhia, MD, Director of Sleep Medicine at Canyon Ranch, it is a fallacy that we need less sleep as we get older. Most all adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. But it evolves throughout adulthood, with older people getting less deep sleep. They are also more arousable at night; however, they are able to better cope with arousals.[5]

Some of the consequences of poor sleep include decreased tolerance for pain and hunger, explains Dr. Dedhia.[6, 7] The following sleep and/or stress chemicals do double duty as hunger chemicals:

Cortisol   |   Signals stress
Hypocretin / Orexin   |   Difficulty staying awake
Neuropeptide Y   |   Carbohydrate craving
Gallanin   |   Fat craving
Ghrelin   |   Immediate hunger signal

To avoid cravings during the day, it’s best to do all you can to clock your 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. But ultimately, it’s impossible to force sleep. We can set the stage and be receptive to it, but we cannot intentionally “go to sleep.” Letting go and succumbing to slumber may be the most important thing we can do to get that perfect night’s sleep.

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