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Posts Tagged ‘sugar’

What should I eat for breakfast?

A large part of working with patients involves helping them to adopt healthy dietary choices. In doing so, I’m always asked these two questions: “What can I eat for breakfast?” and “What do you eat for breakfast?”. This is in fact a very important question because breakfast may actually be the most important meal of the day. The reason breakfast is so important is because it will set the tone for blood sugar regulation throughout the day. So choosing a healthy breakfast is the best way to get your day started on the “right foot”.

Before I discuss healthy breakfast choices, let’s first take a look at what’s NOT healthy. Typical breakfast foods that are not healthy include: toast, cereals, bagels, pancakes, muffins, croissants, waffles, french toast, scones, etc.. Obviously these are all starchy, processed grain-based foods. These will undoubtedly cause your blood sugar to become imbalanced, especially if not combined with protein. Starches and proteins do not combine well for digestive purposes; however added protein would at least help to mitigate the effects these foods have on blood sugar. If you are not familiar with how these foods impact sugar and their ultimate effects on your health (or disease), please refer to my article titled “Blood sugar regulation“.

Acceptable breakfast foods would include any of the following: eggs, bacon, sausage, fish (from a “clean” source), oatmeal, vegetables (except potatoes), raw seeds and nuts (or their butters), and low sugar fruits (esp. apples and berries). Another thing to keep in mind that you should add some amount of protein (or at least fat) if you decide to have a carbohydrate food as the bulk of the meal. This will help to prevent a sharp spike in blood sugar which is exactly what we want to avoid. Carbohydrate foods would include vegetables, fruits, and oatmeal from the foods mentioned above.

As you can see, the idea is to avoid heavily processed, starchy and sugary foods. And this goes for the whole day, not just breakfast. It just so happens that most of the typical breakfast foods are in fact starchy, processed grains often containing sugar.

I personally had a difficult time with figuring out what to eat for breakfast as well; because I don’t prefer to eat heavy protein foods first thing in the morning. So what I decided works best for me is a protein shake. Almost every day I’ll make a 24-32 ounce-sized protein shake and drink it throughout the morning until about 1 and a 1/2 – 2 hours before lunch. I use water as the base, protein powder/meal replacement mix (from whey), strawberries and blueberries, 1-2 teaspoons of 100% cacao powder, 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil, and stevia as a sweetener.

I love typical breakfast foods as much as anyone else, but I know they won’t make me feel good or function well. The protein shake tastes delicious, and is easy make and travel with. And it supplies all the nutrients you need to start your day on the right foot!

Lastly, remember to NEVER skip breakfast and have it within an hour of waking up.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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You may have already read my article titled “General guidelines for a healthy diet“. Often I’ll listen to patients tell me what foods they eat, and they are all great choices. They don’t eat sugar or starches (or perhaps very few starches), they avoid the most common food allergens and sensitivities, etc.. Early on in practice, I’d scratch my head and think: “Why does he/she still suffer from symptoms of dysglycemia?” (an inability to regulate blood sugar properly). Well there are several possible answers to that question. However, the most common reason is that it relates to “how” they eat as opposed to “what” they eat.

The bottom line is that you can eat all the healthiest foods and still wind up feeling terrible and creating problems if you don’t know “how” to eat. In fact, it’s quite simple to eat properly, and there are only two rules.

1) DO NOT SKIP BREAKFAST!!! I know this is quite ambiguous because many patients tell me they wake up at 6, 7, or 8am and then eat “breakfast” at 9, 10, or 11am. As you may know, the word breakfast refers to breaking a fast. That fast occurred overnight while you were presumably asleep. Technically eating at 9, 10, or 11am may be breaking the fast…so to be more specific I’ll say: eat within 1 hour of waking up!

The main reason for this is because you’ll most likely have low blood sugar when you wake up, which is natural and normal. Therefore, you need to eat fairly soon, again, within an hour of waking. This will help to maintain healthy blood sugar and energy levels, amongst many other things. If you don’t do this, there is a very good chance that your body will have difficulty regulating blood sugar throughout the entire rest of the day…only to start over again the next day. Please, eat something! Even if you’re not terribly hungry, have two bites of something. And of course, you shouldn’t ever be eating sugar first thing in the morning, unless of course there is a good reason like a special occasion.

An interesting study cited in Scientific American Mind reports the following: “Sugar may act like a drug in a different way: by inducing dependency under some circumstances. Princeton University psychologist Bartley Hoebel and his colleagues made rats sugar-dependent by depriving them of food for 12 hours a day and offering them a sucrose solution and chow for the next 12 hours. They repeated this schedule every day for one to four weeks. The cycle of fasting and intermittent sugar availability triggered strong demand: the rats gradually tripled their sucrose intake and learned to binge on the sugar as soon as they received access to it each day.”
Doesn’t this sound similar to many Americans; especially children eating sugary breakfast cereals and the like. Please note the similarity between “depriving them of food for 12 hours a day” and breaking an overnight fast! If you’d like to read the whole article – click on the 3rd result from this search; then type in “depriving” in the application your computer uses.

2) Eat about every 2-3 hours during the day!!! Again, it does not have to be an entire meal. Some protein and perhaps complex carbohydrates would be a good idea. The reason for this is to avoid “ups and downs” in blood sugar. By eating frequently, you won’t rely on your adrenal glands to bail you out of a blood sugar crisis. If your blood sugar gets too low (by not eating frequently) you can be sure you will eventually develop a rather unpleasant case of adrenal stress syndrome. How long that takes will vary individually. If you are not “running” on fuel from food, you’re probably running on stress hormones, which are literally breaking your body down.

From a blood sugar perspective, that’s about it. Otherwise, don’t drink liquids with meals as this will dilute your digestive enzymes and make the process less efficient. If you consume plenty of water between meals, you will not be thirsty when you eat. Give it a try. And of course, do not overeat.

Hope this helps and see you soon.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The amount of stress and ability of your body to adapt to it will determine how it affects your health and well-being.

We have 2 adrenal glands that sit atop each of our kidneys and are sometimes referred to as the “stress glands”, because they secrete stress hormones (cortisol) and neurotransmitters (adrenaline and noradrenaline). They also produce sex hormones (estrogen testosterone, etc.), electrolyte-balancing (aldosterone) hormones, and the “anti-aging” hormone DHEA.

All of these biochemicals contribute significantly to blood sugar and pressure regulation, electrolyte and fluid levels, inflammation levels, immune system response, sleeping patterns, mood changes, bone turnover rate, and more.

There are 5 main categories of stressors that the adrenals (and the rest of the body) must respond to. These include:

1) structural: any injury, compromising musculoskeletal condition, etc.
2) chemical: nutrient deficiencies or excesses, exposure to exogenous (external) or endogenous (internally produced) toxins, etc.
3) mental/emotional: fear, worry, panic, anxiety, etc.
4) thermal: extreme temperatures
5) electromagnetic radiation: cell phones and towers, computers, our environment
environmental factors like noise, etc. may also be considered stressors.

Fortunately, we can put ionizing radiation (nuclear reactor and weapon-type) aside; as it is rarely confronted.

Hans Selye, a doctor who studied the stress response extensively, reported 3 phases in which the body reacts to stress. This is known as the General Adaptation Syndrome.

Phase 1 – The Alarm Phase: this refers to the  body responding via a “fight-or-flight” response.  This is generally considered a normal adaptation to stress and causes the major hormones (cortisol and DHEA) to increase at normal levels. Additionally, adrenaline and noradrenaline output is increased. These hormones and neurotransmitters are designed to help the body by increasing heart rate and blood pressure; increasing the respiration rate; shunting blood away from the digestive tract to the brain and muscles instead – thus allowing the individual to “flee” from the stressful event. Think of running away from a saber-toothed tiger. That is what this system is designed to respond to. Everyday “tigers” in the “developed” world equate to every day stress responses as described above. Typically, this is a short-lived stressor and normally functioning response.

Phase 2 – The Resistance Phase: this phase is incorporated during and after  prolonged bouts of stress. Cortisol tends to rise and DHEA tends to be suppressed. This stage may begin after one bout of stress that is never resolved or after the accumulation of many small day-to-day stressors. If, or when this stage begins depends on a number of individual factors.

Phase 3 – The Exhaustion Phase: this is characterized by low levels of the stress hormone cortisol and DHEA. Essentially, this occurs when a person is so drained and exhausted that they have lost most of their ability to adapt to stressors (of any kind).

Behaviors, signs, symptoms, and conditions resulting from (or being exacerbated by) stressed adrenal glands will vary individually but generally include: high or low blood pressure, blood sugar imbalances (esp. hypoglycemia), fatigue and chronic fatigue, depression, eating disorders, panic and/or anxiety attacks, infertility and male/female hormonal imbalances, sleep disorders, low back pain and neck pain, PMS and menopausal symptoms, weak/lax ligaments, irritability, osteopenia and osteoporosis, food cravings, dizziness (esp. when rising from a seated or lying position), swelling and fluid retention, dehydration, heart palpitations, fibromyalgia, thyroid disorders, fat deposition in the abdomen (or central obesity), depressed immune system, insulin resistance, sluggish digestion and/or digestive disorders, etc..  The list continues…

One major complication that results from adrenal stress syndrome of any degree is blood sugar imbalances – because of the problems that can cause. Adrenal stress can cause blood sugar imbalances through hormone fluctuations from stressors; or it can result from hormone fluctuations in response to blood sugar imbalances (caused by poor food choices and nutrient deficiencies).

So either way you look at it… You can’t “fix” the adrenals if you don’t “fix” the blood sugar, and you can’t “fix” the blood sugar if you don’t “fix” the diet (and lifestyle).

By the way, when encountered with “stressful” situations, please remember that it is not the situation that is the “problem” as much as it’s the individual’s response to the situation. I’ll have more on how to help adrenal stress syndrome in future articles.

Selye’s description of changes in body function is a good starting point to understanding adrenal stress syndrome, but many times there is a wide array of variations. And his description may be seen as rudimentary to some.

Fortunately, specific testing of these hormones and neurotransmitters is now possible through “functional medicine” laboratories. Standard laboratory evaluations usually only pick up “outright” adrenal gland diseases, such as Addison’s disease. More people most likely suffer from functional adrenal gland imbalances as opposed to pathological ones. Tests to identify adrenal hormone output should be as commonplace as a CBC (complete blood count) in my opinion.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiologist

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Insulin Resistance

Now that the basics of blood sugar regulation are out of the way, I want to speak of one common physiological result of it. Now I want to get more specific, as it will be a topic that I’ll mention often because it is so important in health and disease. So this article will serve as a good reference for the future.

Insulin resistance occurs when the cells rely on an increasing amount of insulin in the bloodstream before they begin to “soak” the sugar (glucose) up; to lower the blood sugar levels, and get the energy they need. They become resistant because there is too much insulin “knocking on the cell door” telling it to open up and let the sugar in. The reason insulin reaches such high levels in the blood is becuase the sugar levels get high in the blood. And the body does everything it can to keep blood sugar in a stable range. So the insulin is really just doing it’s normal job. The reason sugar gets so high in the blood is from poor dietary choices and/or high stress levels. Nutrient deficiencies also play a role to some degree. So imagine you were at your front door, and an increasing amount of people kept knocking and bringing more people over to come in your house. Wouldn’t you soon become resistant to opening the door as well.

This condition can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, weight gain (especially around the abdomen), fatigue, infections/lowered immune system, and a whole host of other symptoms and conditions indirectly. I’ll speak about many of those specifically in other articles.

The key to preventing or reversing insulin resistance is rather simple. Eat a healthy diet, exercise, manage stress levels, and take supplements (if necessary). Here is an article with guidelines for a healthy diet as a start. This is by far one of the easiest conditions to reverse, and also the starting point to reverse many other symptoms or conditions that develop as a result. And remember it’s simple, just 3-4 things to do! Then again, I realize that it may not be easy to do, depending on your current lifestyle. Good luck and keep this in mind.

Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiologist

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I talk about blood sugar metabolism being so important to health and wellness that I figured I should start writing articles about it. It’s such an enormous topic and impacts health in so many ways…. Because of this, I thought we should start with the basic physiological mechanisms of blood sugar metabolism. Really basic, it’s not rocket science.

The body has built-in mechanisms designed to keep blood sugar levels in a normal range. And I’m not speaking of the ranges reported on your blood test. They are way too wide. I’m speaking generally, and that’s all that it’s important for now. Again, blood sugar needs to be in a certain stable range because it can be quite damaging otherwise, for a number of reasons.

Let’s now assume that your blood sugar level is normal (in the moment). BUT, you have an underlying problem with regulating sugar. Then you decide to eat sugars (pies, cakes, cookies, candies, ice cream, soda, doughnuts, brownies, etc.) and starches (bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes). Here is what happens. Your blood sugar “spikes” to a level deemed too high for what the body considers safe. Then, insulin, a hormone from the pancreas, gets released in order to pull the excess sugar out of the blood and into the cells. The problem is that your blood sugar was so high (from eating those foods), that your pancreas releases an excess amount of insulin. This results in the blood sugar going too low.

Next, as the body senses low blood sugar levels, it decides it needs to raise them. This is done through the release of stress hormones; namely cortisol and adrenaline. Now the blood sugar usually spikes again because the sugar levels went so low – and the body produced too many stress hormones to raise the blood sugar.

Do you see the peaks and valleys here? Blood sugar goes too high by eating sugars and starches. Next, insulin gets released in large amounts (because of the very high sugar levels), resulting in an excessive drop of blood sugar, and ultimately resulting in sugar levels being lower than normal. Then, the stress hormones “save the day” by surging, in order to raise the blood sugar levels. Then the blood sugar is too high (because of the unnatural surge) and excessive insulin release then comes along again and the sugar levels go too low; then excessive stress hormones get released; and sugar goes back up and too high; and so on with this vicious cycle of highs and lows in blood sugar.

At some point these mechanisms get “burned out” and result in insulin resistance. This means the cells don’t respond well to insulin’s message to take the sugar out of the blood. If this condition does not get under control, the result may eventually be type 2 diabetes.

The other main result is adrenal stress syndrome. When the stress glands that produce cortisol and adrenaline to raise the blood sugar, become “burned out”.

Signs and symptoms will certainly vary between individuals. Here are the most common I see: weight gain, insomnia (trouble falling and/or staying asleep), anxiety and panic attacks, irritability, yeast infections, frequent infections (bacterial, viral, etc.), fatigue (esp. late-afternoon), mood swings, depression, headaches, inability to heal from injuries, inflammation, high cholesterol and/or triglycerides, high or low blood pressure, etc., etc., etc….

So now you realize that eating sugars and starches can cause blood sugar instability. These foods can certainly be eaten IN MODERATION if you don’t have a blood sugar metabolism disorder. But please note that you do not need to be labeled “diabetic”, “hypoglycemic”, or “hyperglycemic” in order to actually have problems with blood sugar metabolism. The reason being – blood tests will show normal blood sugar levels until you are you are “far gone”. If a problem shows up on a blood test, there is a serious problem. However, many of your symptoms may be caused by faulty sugar metabolism and go unnoticed, because the tests look normal.

Remember that the body goes to great extents to keep blood sugar in normal range. So measuring blood sugar alone often misses the problem. A better way to check would be measuring fasting insulin levels as well. Usually, they’ll be high working to keep the sugar normal (or low). The problem is doctors don’t typically order fasting insulin tests. In my experience, patients need to have obvious, debilitating, blood sugar symptoms before this is ordered by their doctors.

Why isn’t this done? I truly don’t know. One thought is that some doctors look at the body as if: insomnia is a sleeping pill deficiency; anxiety is an anti-anxiety drug deficiency; yeast infections are an anti-fungal drug deficiency; high cholesterol and blood pressure is a deficiency in drugs to lower those; etc., etc., etc….

Shoot for a (12-hour) fasting blood sugar level of 80-90. The closer to 80 the better. And put the sugars and starches aside; except when celebrating birthdays, holidays, etc..

I’ll discuss the complications mentioned in detail, in other articles.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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I encourage all of my patients to read the label on food products thoroughly. Ideally, there won’t be much to read; meaning that you are not consuming packaged, processed foods. Also, anytime there is a long list of ingredients, especially when you cannot recognize them, it’s probably detrimental to your health. Now let’s discuss high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). We’ve all heard of HFCS, related to how it affects blood sugar (thus health) adversely. But wait, there’s more that I want to share about it.

In case you are not familiar; Wikipedia provides a very technical good definition: “High-fructose corn syrup (HCFS) – called isoglucose in Europe and glucose-fructose in Canada – comprises any of a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert its glucose into fructose and has then been mixed with pure corn syrup (100% glucose) to produce a desired sweetness”. Wikipedia goes on to say: “In the United States, HFCS is typically used as a sugar substitute and is ubiquitous in processed foods and beverages, including soft drinks, yogurt, cookies, salad dressing and tomato soup”.

I tell people to avoid processed foods and HFCS because of the blood-sugar imbalances they usually result in. Regulation of blood sugar is key to any health concern. OK, so your blood sugar is quite stable, you say. For example, you don’t get dizzy when standing from a seated position; you don’t have anxiety or panic attacks without an emotional cause; you don’t get irritable or light-headed if you skip meals; you don’t crave sugars and starches – several common signs of blood sugar imbalances. Therefore, you may feel it’s OK to consume HFCS; at least every now and then.

Well, there’s one more caveat about the problems associated with HFCS. It just so happens that it may contain mercury. That’s right, HFCS and products that contain it have been found to contain the toxic, heavy metal mercury. The journal Environmental Health published a research article that says this about the testing of samples of HFCS: “The samples were found to contain levels of mercury ranging from below a detection limit of 0.005 to 0.570 micrograms mercury per gram of high fructose corn syrup. Average daily consumption of high fructose corn syrup is about 50 grams per person in the United States. With respect to total mercury exposure, it may be necessary to account for this source of mercury in the diet of children and sensitive populations.” Additionally, another study reports that the “Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy detected mercury in nearly one-third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second highest labeled ingredient -including products by Quaker, Hershey’s, Kraft, and Smucker’s”.

Enough said! I’m as surprised as you are and glad that I don’t consume it either. Here is a good website that lists foods containing HFCS.

Be careful and please read labels!!!

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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I treat every patient as the individual they are, and therefore may instruct a patient to restrict certain foods or food groups in order to achieve optimal health. Please note that all foods you eat should ideally be in their whole form; that is, the way they appear in nature. Anything processed is almost always a burden to the system. Also remember to consume many (not necessarily all) foods in their raw, uncooked state. However, raw animal proteins should be avoided as they may contain harmful bacteria or parasites. Also, truly organic foods are best as well, because they don’t contain the toxic pesticide residues (or hormones and antibiotics from meat) that conventionally-grown food does. The nutritional content of them may also be superior. I’ll be doing an update on this topic soon, as the research continues to flip-flop.

1) PROTEIN – Eat foods rich in protein about 3 times a day. Generally every meal should contain some protein. These include, beef, fish (if you can locate mercury-free fish), chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, eggs, buffalo, duck, goose, pheasant, or squab. I know, that’s a bit much at the end there, but the point is essentially that animal foods are the richest in protein. If you can manage to get the amount of protein your body needs every day through vegetarian sources, that is fine also. Some protein powders are acceptable, but most sold in health food stores have unnecessary, harmful ingredients. I personally begin almost every day with a protein shake, as it’s quick, healthy, and easy to digest. I’m often not in the mood for animal proteins first thing in the morning. Another general guideline would be to make sure you are consuming 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. Your weight in pounds, divided by 2.2, and then multiplied by 0.9 would equal the number of grams of protein that is recommended. You may need more if you are especially active.

2) VEGETABLES – Eat a wide variety of as many vegetables as you can every day. Also, remember to eat some of them raw. However, I would avoid white potatoes as they are very high in starch and can cause blood sugar imbalances because of the way they are metabolized in the body. Additionally, take it easy on the carrots and beets because they are also high in sugar. Dark, green leafy vegetables are by far your best option. Fresh vegetables are always best; and steaming them with the least amount of water possible is a great way to prepare them. PS: drinking the left over water is also a good way to get all the nutrients from the food.

3) FRUIT – If your blood sugar is stabilized well, limited amounts of fruit should be fine. Do not combine fruits with other food groups if you have digestive problems, because it may compromise your system. Fruits digest relatively quickly compared to other foods, so you don’t want them to sit around in the stomach for longer than necessary, as they may begin to ferment and cause problems in the lower part of the digestive tract. When I find a patient’s problem is primarily related to blood sugar problems, I usually have them lay off fruit for about three months. This is usually a sufficient amount of time to get the blood-sugar handling mechanisms back on track. By the way, I think everyone should avoid fruit juices as they are too concentrated with sugars. The fact that they are natural sugars makes very little difference. At the end of the day, sugar is sugar.

4) FATS – In relation to food (not supplements) I prefer the oils of olive, coconut, and sesame. Butter is also an acceptable source of fat. Additionally, these are the best to cook with as they can sustain higher temperatures than most, if not all other oils before burning, which you definitely don’t want. Avocados and some nuts and seeds contain healthy fats that are acceptable as well; especially walnuts, sesame seeds, and fresh flax seeds. If you need to balance your fatty acid intake relative to a specific condition, you may need to consider a supplement. Avoid consuming trans fats (i.e. partially hydrogenated oils in processed foods) and margarine. Also, vegetable and grain/legume oils like corn, soybean, canola, safflower, sunflower, etc. should generally be avoided as they go rancid quickly, and can cause problems with fatty acid balance. As an aside, everyone does not need more Omega-3’s, you can have an Omega-6 deficiency as well. The concept you should focus on is balance.

5) WATER – By now you should know my take on water. If you don’t, click here.

6) GRAINS – Generally, I would eliminate or avoid all grains. If you “must” better ones to choose from may be quinoa, amaranth, oats (if you’re not sensitive to gluten because of the likelihood of cross-contamination with gluten-containing grains during processing) and brown rice (if you don’t have blood sugar problems). Grains often cause blood sugar imbalances in people which will exacerbate most symptoms. Wild rice is actually a grass and generally OK.

7) SUGAR – To attain optimal health, all sugars and heavily processed grains should be avoided. These include, but are certainly not limited to: cereals, flour-based foods (like breads, pasta, muffins, cakes, cookies, brownies, croissants, etc.), candy, soda, ice cream, etc.. Unfortunately, that 7-grain, 9-grain, 99-grain, or even sprouted-grain bread is almost always a bad idea as well.

Again, these are general guidelines. And please note how I referred to blood sugar metabolism quite often; it is critical for everyone. Appropriate foods that people should be consuming and avoiding will vary by individual; especially as it relates to food allergies and sensitivities, and health concerns. I find that about 50% of my patients’ health concerns are related to the foods they eat. One more thing – alcohol consumption (if OK individually) is generally alright at a rate of twice a week, but not two days in a row. And when you are celebrating, there are no guidelines – that’s what holidays, birthdays, etc. are for. I’ll be discussing the proper “way to eat”, or eating habits soon. Good luck!

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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