Sleep: Get some rays to help you get some Zs

Sunlight, Vitamin D, Melatonin, Serotonin, Cortisol, Lights out

Treating Diabetic Hyperglycemia With, High Carbohydrate? FAIL!

Giving people who can't metabolize carbs more carbs is not such a fantastic idea.

Alzheimer's: Type 3 Diabetes?

How sugar contributes to diseases of the brain.

Fruitology

Is fruit REALLY all that healthy?

Spouse not paleo?

The trials and tribulations of making a lifestyle change with a loved one who's not quite on board.

10.27.2011

Pancake recipe ("Safe starch" version, but not orthodox Paleo)

In our household, we used to enjoy pancakes 2-3 times a week.  But since going paleo, aren't able to partake.  This was very sad, particularly for my wife who thinks my pancakes were the absolute best!  So I set out to make a paleo version of my old recipe.

My style of conventional style pancakes are flat, and not fluffy (just a personal choice).  I cook them in bacon grease which crisps up the edges with a slight crunch similar to Johnny Cakes, and let me tell  you...It's awesome.  So the below recipe is a paleo-ized version of that.  Warning, this is a "Safe-starch" version as we do eat some rice.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup Almond Flour
1/2 cup Rice Flour
3/4 cup of coconut milk
1/2 tsp of salt
2 eggs

Mix together dry ingredients, add eggs and stir in coconut milk.

Add less coconut milk for fluffier pancakes, add less for flat pancakes (which we like).

This is best cooked in bacon grease.  Coconut oil or lard can be substituted.

Cook until the edges crisp.  I use a range, typically cook a ton of bacon, and use the left over grease to cook them.

Unlike most paleo pancakes, the rice flour does a good job binding the ingredients, making a solid cake that you don't necessarily have to handle with kid gloves.

Sorry for the poor lighting in the pics:



Add pastured butter or coconut butter, and a small amount of honey if desired.

ENJOY!

-------------------EDIT-----------------

I thought it might be worth noting from a response I gave on Facebook responding to the issue of using Rice. That thread can be found here.
But here's what I wrote:
PS, the other reason to cook the pancakes in copious amounts of bacon grease and then slather them with butter (aside from adding good saturated fats to your diet) is to lower the GI of the glucose from the rice. And the change in GI is significant!
Two great articles on how fat reduces glycemic load:
Go here: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=4937
and here: http://www.gnolls.org/1029/fat-and-glycemic-index-the-myth-of-complex-carbohydrates/

10.26.2011

Product Review: Ultimate Body Press

Ultimate Press Bar:

Winter is coming, and I'm preparing for the cold weather by acquiring more home gym equipment, so that I can do as many crossfit type exercises at home as possible.  Recently, I was introduced to a site called "Bodyrock.tv" by a friend.  Despite the fact that my friend's motives for sending me there was less fitness related and more "Hey dude, check out this hot chick", the site is actually quite good.



The interval workouts are pretty brutal, totally on par with primal blue print and Crossfit type workouts.  The workouts are well thought out, and...well, the results are undeniable. (just look)  

One of the products I found on the site was the "Ultimate Body Press", which could more accurately be described as a very simple dipping station.  However, due to it's simplicity, the Ultimate Body Press is very versatile and all sorts of really good body weight exercises like reverse push ups, L-stands, leg raises.  Its proximity to the floor makes it real easy to scale the exercises to whatever difficulty you desire.  The best aspect of the UBP is that it's weight and portability makes it easy to move to fit your workout area or setup.  Typically, when using a conventional dipping station, one must tailor a given workout to fit the area around the dip bars.   

The product is very solidly built, and will inspire confidence in it's stability and strength the first time you use it.  The assembly is color coded and simple.  I was off doing my first workout within 20 minutes of receiving the package!

Product shots:



Yes, I workout in my kid's play room.
After having had a chance to use the product for a while, I DEFINITELY recommend purchasing it.  The price tag is reasonable, and always having a dip station in your house is priceless.  As an homage to the site that introduced me to this piece of equipment, I decided to forego my usual Crossfit WoD and try another of the Bodyrock.tv workouts.  It was indeed formidable. 

"Set Fire" Workout:


10.08.2011

Sleep: Get some rays to help you get some Zs. (Sunlight, Vitamin D, Melatonin, Lights Out)


If you're reading this blog, chances are you already know much of this, but I'd like to give some thoughts on the issue of sleep-related neurotransmitters, vitamin D, and their effect on sleep- which in turns affects nutrition, health and function.  The key to all of these elements working to successfully facilitate the process of sleep is "synergy."  Exposure to the stimuli that create such synergy is disrupted by things like culture and technology.

Early man (or "Grok") may have been a cave-dweller, but managed to get plenty of sunlight during waking hours.  Typically, Grok would have woken up with early morning "gentle" sunlight, and gone about his day.  Hunting and gathering food (including scavenging) were activities of focus for most early man (as well as modern hunter-gatherers).  Spending hours under the sun garnered large doses of Vitamin D during Grok's quest for food.

Exercise would be a natural component of such activities, as sprinting would be required to hunt game.  Lifting heavy things would be a component of both hunting and gathering as food items (carcass and plant) would need to be hauled back home for preparation and consumption.  Typically, both hunting and gathering required long hours of walking at a slow pace.

At the end of the day, dusk would induce sleep, and Grok would have only the company of his fellow tribesman and perhaps a (low lumen) fire to compete with the urge to sleep.
This was the algorithm by which humans evolved the biological mechanisms for survival.  Understanding this is helpful in explaining why so many people are sleep-deprived today.

Modern man, on the other hand, is obsessed with avoiding sunlight slathering copious amounts of sunscreen on his skin in an effort to avoid getting skin cancer.  Instead of hunting and gathering, we now spend hours under fluorescents in offices or cubicles staring at computer screens and sitting down without any exercise to speak of.  This is, in the literal sense, the exact opposite environment in which we evolved.


Lights out and morning light
Light sensitive hormones and neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine, are secreted relative to the rising and setting of the sun.  It's this morning light that sets our clocks to the circadian cycle.  Here's the catch: humans are now constantly bombarded by artificial light throwing off the timing of sleep rhythms.  If you're reading this blog at night, you too are guilty of subjecting yourself to an artificial light source.  Video screens are responsible for disrupting the sleep of millions of people all across the globe.  Don't subject yourself to this!  Staying up later and waking up sooner is the downfall of many.  Turn off the TV, turn off your computer!  Facebook can wait till tomorrow. (preferably when you're at work and able to do it on your boss's dollar)  I can hear my wife now: "Doctor heal thyself!"


Melatonin Supplementation
Now, I ALWAYS recommend natural sources over supplementation!  I want to make that clear.  But in light of a deficiency, people who are deranged in any neurological or metabolic pathway can benefit from short-term supplementation in order to "right the ship," with the end goal being a tapering off of supplements and reliance on natural food or environmental sources.

Melatonin is a neurotransmitter secreted by the pineal gland during the dark hours of night. This, assuming you have not down-regulated your melatonin receptors, should be enough to cause the feeling of sleepiness.  Melatonin acts in synergy (there's that word again) with decreased sunlight to produce the feeling of sleepiness.  However, all that simply means is that one has a propensity to fall asleep at sundown, but doesn't necessarily imply that sleep at sundown will be a guarantee.  I mention this because often I talk to people that try melatonin for a while, and then report back with how unsuccessful the supplements were in helping them sleep.  Such incidents are not surprising in light of the fact that they work in an office all day, don't get any mid-day sun, and then watch TV and hang out in a well-lit room, with all sorts of stimulants and activities during the late evening.  Think of when the sun goes down.  That's when melatonin would naturally start being secreted.  Turn your lights down or off at that time!

Caution: Melatonin is a hormone, and can be every bit as dangerous as many drugs.  It CAN harm you with over dosing, and over using.  As Mark Sisson says in a post here, he's not a fan of taking melatonin on a regular basis, but is okay with using it to "reset" your diurnal clock when traveling.  My take is that if  you're deranged, you need to reset your clock regardless of whether or not you're traveling, and using the supplement once or twice is not going to get the job done in people with impaired sleep cycles.  Use it for 3-5 days max until you're able to get to sleep and then use it only on an "as needed" basis.  Eventually, you want to get to the point to where you use melatonin supplements VERY rarely. (For example, I've used melatonin once this year)  The worry is that down-regulation of receptor sites or reduced secretion of natural melatonin can occur with over-supplementation, and I concur with that angle.


Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is only produced by the body in the presence of sunlight and UV exposure.  There is some controversy as to the efficacy of vitamin D supplementation, with some claiming that supplements are unsafe.  Also, the efficacy of supplemented vitamin D is relative to the fat composition of the diet, in terms of PUFA ratios (Omega 3s and 6s) as well SFA and MUFA intake. [1]  Frankly, I'm not convinced of the evidence for moderate supplementation being unsafe, but again for peace of mind it would make much more sense to simply get 15-30 minutes of mid-day sun rather than taking a pill.  However, for a large part of the population, mid-day sun exposure is not possible, when either climate is an issue, or they (more commonly) are office dwellers.

Personally, at work I attempt to get out once a day for lunch.  Even with clothes on, it's a better option.  Plus, there's a synergistic psychological response to being out in the sun that, along with vitamin D, helps regulate sleep cycles.  If you choose to supplement (as I do when I can't get out during a shift) then I recommend doing so during the hours of 10am to 3pm to mimic when such exposure to D would typically occur.  15-30 minutes of mid-day sun will garner the average person about 15,000-40,000 IU of naturally produced vitamin D.  However, I'd consume no more than 2,000 IU if supplementing as the typically manufactures use PUFA (often oxidized) as a vehicle for getting the vitamin D in to your bloodstream.

Serotonin
Another neurotransmitter that works synergistically with vitamin D, and UV exposure is serotonin.  You may be familiar with serotonin as a mood hormone.  Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Lexapro or Celexa are drugs used to enhance mood, in the clinically depressed.  They seek to inhibit reuptake of serotonin, thus flooding the synapses with the hormone inducing an enhanced mood.  Often people placed on SSRIs are heavy sleepers as a result.

Luckily, there is a natural way to increase serotonin levels and yet again, the sun is the source.  Lower levels of sun exposure are greatly associated with sleep disturbance.  [23]
"The study reports that levels of serotonin in the brains of participants increased in direct relationship to their exposure to sunlight. Catheters placed in the internal jugular veins of participants allowed assessments to be done as these people were exposed to varying degrees of sunlight. The study found that “the rate of production of serotonin by the brain was directly related to the prevailing duration of bright sunlight, and rose rapidly with increased luminosity." [3,4]"

Epinephrine
Of course Grok might have had occasion to stay up late with stimulating activities like having fun, singing, dancing, watching out for predatory animals, intruders, inclement weather, etc.

As some of you may recall from A&P, epinephrine (aka Adrenaline) competes with melatonin receptor sites, reducing the sensation of sleepiness. Workout at 9pm and then try to go to bed at 10pm for an example of this.  I don't care how much melatonin one consumes, if you clean and snatch your max just before hitting the sack, you're doomed to a restless night's sleep at best.

But, more often than modern man, just by virtue of having less epi-stimulating activities, as well as less artificial light, sleep disturbances were most likely rare. (those with such disturbances were probably unfit and selected out.)

The Grok meme can be useful in terms of its simplicity to explain many "whys" but can often point one in the wrong direction as well.

Cortisol 
Speaking of epinephrine, fight or flight is a protective mechanism that humans evolved to cope with survival situations, typically in life or death situations.  In today's day and age, we are faced with many "Stressful" situations which cause the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary gland to secrete cortisol.  Cortisol is also regulated by the sleep cycle in response to light.   "Information about the light-dark cycle is transmitted from the retina to the paired suprachiasmatic nuclei in the hypothalamus."[5]

This is significant because low-level chronic stress (physical or psychological) increases serum levels of cortisol which is typically moderated by rising and falling of the sun.  But if stress is sustained in to the evening and night, cortisol will continue to enter the blood stream, throwing off sleep patterns and reducing REM time. [6]

In the Paleo world, over-training is a common source for chronic cortisol secretion.  To remedy this, ensure 2-3 rest days and avoid chronic cardio.
Avoiding stress, although impossible to eliminate, is key to reducing chronic cortisol syndrome. Play, love, and laugh!  Increase your focus on hobbies, sports, mediation, and hiking.  Mix in a beer (gasp!).  Spend time with your family.  And for the love of Pete, balance your work life with your personal life!  Time is precious, and the pursuit of happiness doesn't always include a larger paycheck or a promotion.

So here are my recommendations:
1. Get as much mid-day sun as you can without burning yourself. (The time will vary from person to person based of skin pigment and genetics)  If you can't get outside, take a vitamin D supplement.  At work, take your breaks and walk a bit outside.

2.  At sundown, turn all lights out, and minimize your exposure to artificial light sources like TVs or computers.  In your bedroom, eliminate all night lights in your room, even covering up any alarm clock displays.

3.  Avoid caffeine past 4pm.

4.  Eliminate all stimulating activities past sundown, such as dancing,  exercising, walking, etc.

5.  If necessary, take a melatonin supplement about 30 minutes before your desired bedtime.  Do this regularly for a week, and then taper down to using melatonin only when you have trouble going to sleep (i.e. when you're up for over an hour in bed).  Ensure your photo-exposure is minimized, otherwise you render this useless.

6.  Get regular exercise during the day time (office dwellers, walk outdoors on breaks, and use stairs.  If possible use a standing desk).

-----------------
NOTE: citations are linked throughout the article.

10.05.2011

Nutrition tip of the week: Sunlight


Nutrition tip of the week: 

Sunlight a nutrition tip?  Yes!  Try to spend some time in the sun each day.  Instead of overdosing on calcium or taking Vitamin D supplements,  15-30 minutes of midday sun will garner the average person about 15,000-40,000 IU of naturally produced vitamin D!  In addition to calcium absorption, sunlight plays a significant role in regulating circadian sleep patterns.  It increases serotonin levels, thus improving mood.

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