The Good Aliens in Our Body

We, humans, are colonized by at least as many microorganisms as our body cells. A lot of scientists even say they are more, like twice or even ten times more. We inherimicrobiomet some of these  from our mothers but during our life this alien population changes.
Like in a forest, if there’s draught or too much rain, some of the members of this colony, our microbiome,  might disappear or change. No to mention if some of the inhabitants are killed or added or get sick, due to chemicals in the air or water, change in nutrients or attacks by their enemies.
I mean, whatever we eat, breathe, drink, whatever we do affects not only our body but also this colony.
And, surprise, changes in our microbiome affects our body!
Members of the microbiome that are friends to our health might disappear, being replaced by bad, bad microorganisms, some of them suspected of making us obese.
For decades scientists have been demonstrating that our microbiome is  involved in our body processes. It seems our gut bacteria even communicate with our brain, like demanding more food or less.
It is such a complicated picture! There are so many unknown facts, such a diversity of microorganisms and relations inside the microbiome and with our body and environment, that after decades of research, we still don’t know exactly what microbiome particularities differentiate lean people from obese.
What is known for sure so far is not too much:
– There is a difference between the microbiome of the obese people and that of the lean people. When obese people are colonized with the gut flora from lean people, under certain conditions, they can lose weight dramatically. It seems that the gut flora of obese people has less Bacteroidetes than Firmicutes  (what a lovely name) and is thought that these Bacteroidetes are more efficient at extracting energy from food. Bit of controversy in studies over the healthy ratio and other details, though.
– Microbiome can be changed by diet and lifestyle but there’s no silver bullet in this. Don’t expect that if you start from tomorrow eating  yogurt and fiber, you’ll get slim in no time. There’s no one-fit-for-all diet.
First of all, it depends on your microbiome, your genes, your lifestyle, your environment,  your health, your medication and so many other known or unknown factors.
Bacteroides are not the only cause for obesity.
Besides, scientists don’t know for sure which bacteria is involved, what is the right percentage between the various bacteria groups in our guts, which has to be killed, which has to be brought in and how.
Keep in mind also that nutrition science is in its infancy.

Meanwhile it seems a sensible and a fine idea to eat healthy, that is lots of veggies, some fruits, dairy, whole wheat bread, lean meats, less sugar, no junk food a.s.o., you should know the  do’s and don’ts by now. Eat good food but don’t eat too much, calories do count.
Also moving a lot in fresh air, doing some weight lifting  cannot but help maintain your guts health.
You might want to help your microbiome by eating probiotics to enrich your microorganisms colonies, the lovely Firmicutes. Foods like yogurt or kefir (but not that white pasteurized stuff from the supermarket shelves), fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles, fermented cheese a.s.o .
You might also want to eat some prebiotics (the stuff that your microbiome need to stay alive), foods that include dietary fibers like trans-galactooligosaccharide,  inulin,  resistant starch, pectin, beta-glucans, and xylooligosaccharides.
Iai and uau, complicated, isn’t it?
Translating these fancy scientific words in every day  foods names, include in your menus:  bananas, raw garlic and leek, cooked onions, raw wheat bran, whole wheat bread, beans, lentils, potatoes (boiled in skin and refrigerated over night; eaten cold or reheated), oatmeal, mushrooms, apples, carrots.

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Pixabay
Source: pixabay.com

One more thought, related to our inherited microbiota.
We in Eastern Europe might have a different microbiota than let’s say that of the Chinese or Americans or French. Right?
This means, that whatever diet works for the French people, lots of cheese, red wine and so on, is not necessarily going to function for me.
Japanese may be lean but their all fish, white rice and algae diet might not suit my microbiota.
All those scientific American studies on thousands of people (Americans), their conclusions  might be valid maybe only in USA.
Think about this when you try to jump in one wagon or other.

Meanwhile, take a closer look at your local traditions, especially those that have suited your microbiota for thousand of years or more.

Note to travelers. If you’re visiting Romania, try the local sauerkraut and salt pickles and that wonderful Summer salad with raw onions and fermented white cheese.

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Pixabay
Source: pixabay.com

A Lifestyle Strategy

I’m not a fan of big words and strategy is one of them. But when it comes to your lifestyle, you really need one, “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”.
If your aim is to be healthy, wealthy and wise, you need to think your actions on a long long term, for life.
I have no clue about the “wealthy” and “wise” words, you’ll have to figure for yourself your plan.
But when it comes to “healthy”, whatever you do, there are three  tips I’d like to share with you:

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Plan to move, exercise, walk, do any physical activity, DAILY!. Even cleaning you house is better than being a potato couch.

 

 

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Photo by Dana Tentis from Pexels

 

Enjoy good food.  As much as possible, plan to cook your own food, choosing healthy ingredients and recipes. Avoid over processed foods, prefer organic food. Choose a variety of many a color foods.

 

 

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Plan to deal with  stress. Keep in mind that no stress at all means a boring life. But, do respect your sleeping hours, your holidays, take some time to relax  and avoid as much as possible money troubles.

 

 

The rest is history, your life history.

 

 

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Strategy

Carbs and Ex’s

“Don’t eat carbs in the evening!”
“Don’t eat carbs, eat fats”
“Don’t eat carbs, eat protein”
“Eat good carbs with lots of fibre”
“Eat only good carbs and good fats”
and so on, and so on.

All these carbs and fats mantras they haunt me, like in Ella’s little song Ex’s and Oh’s.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA-bTnz4S4I&list=RDTA-bTnz4S4I&t=14

(By the way, this is in my “Dance to lose a poundsongs list, very catching rhythm)

My ex’s and the oh, oh, oh’s they haunt me
Like gho-o-osts they want me to make ’em all, all, all
They won’t let go
Ex’s and oh’s

I’ve change it, just for fun, My carbs and the fa fa fats they haunt me …

Well, back to science and my personalized diet, what shall I do with all these carbs and fats tips?

I’m trying to paint a “naive picture” of what happens in my body whenever we eat, to understand somehow what fattens me.
Actually, it’s a very, very complicated and fascinating process,  only partially known it seems, otherwise there would be no more obesity. I’d appreciate very much any comments or piece of research that will correct or improve my view.

When you eat food, it’s broken down into basic nutrients ( amino acids, fatty acids and glucose), which make their way into the bloodstream. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas,  helps moving the nutrients into cells. From the pancreas, insulin enters the bloodstream and travels to various cells, including muscle, liver and fat cells (all fat cells, including the white ones that store fat, the brown ones that burn fat). The cells are lined with insulin receptors. Once the insulin molecule docks onto the receptor, it signals the cell to open up and absorb the nutrients from the blood. As the nutrients are slowly absorbed, insulin levels drop, until finally all the nutrients are absorbed.

I don’t know what white fat cells use glucose for but for sure  they are not just storage units, they do need energy. Among other functions, they make lots of hormones like leptin that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger.

The liver and muscle cells convert glucose that is not needed immediately for energy into glycogen. At one point, some 500g of glycogen might  be stored in your body, depending on  physical training, basal metabolic rate, and eating habits.
This might explain some of the scale variations. If you are happy that your scale shows a pound less in a day, don’t. It’s just variation. Look for a longer period of time to jump to conclusions.

The cells feed off of this glycogen before using fat as energy.
When blood glucose level drops too low, insulin secretion falls and your pancreas releases the hormone glucagon, which prompts the reconvertion of the stored glycogen into glucose and releasing it into the bloodstream.

As only a limited amount of glucose can be stored as glycogen and as it’s not safe to have more than 4g of glucose in your blood, the excess amount of glucose is stored in the white fat cells. One more role for the insulin is to trigger conversion of glucose into fat.
Burn it or store it, it seems there’s no other way to get rid of it.
Keep in mind that insulin is not the only hormone involved in the process of storing fat.

Just to get a flavor of how complicated things are, there’s  an enzyme called ASP (Acylation Stimulating Protein). This beast has the ability to directly store fat in the fat cells,  completely bypassing the glucose and insulin pathways.

And then, there’s the bacteria in your guts…but this is another story, even more complicated.

Liver glycogen stores serve particularly the central nervous system. The human brain consumes approximately 60% of blood glucose in fasted, sedentary individuals. This is why, in my opinion,  it’s not a good idea to eat low-carb for a prolonged period of time, even if your protein and fat intake might compensate. While I was on a no-starches-no-fruit diet for 2 weeks, I felt quite tired and couldn’t perform, my brain  was sometimes “foggy”. Slept well, though and a lot.

If you eat lots of carbs with a high glycemic index (like bread or sugar) they will be processed rapidly and your blood sugar will spike rapidly. The pancreas releases insulin, lots of, which tells the muscle, liver and fat cells to take up the blood sugar and remove it from the blood.  It seems that this spike in insulin might trigger the storage of excess sugar as fat. Rapidly. It makes sense if you already have more sugar in your blood than it’s safe and glycogen stores can’t take anymore glucose. Couldn’t find more information on this, though.
For sure, too many spikes, too frequently, will damage in time  the communication between pancreas and your cells. You’ll get to a point when the cells become insulin resistant. They do not respond to the insulin trigger and don’t absorb the glucose.
Except the fat cells, it seems.
In time,  the pancreas gets tired and will produce less and less insulin and you’ll  get seriously ill with diabetes.

Can you avoid this spike scenario with our modern lifestyle?
You eat a hearty breakfast, go to your daily activities, eat something at a quick lunch, no too much and then comes dinner. You swallow like a wolf maybe, a nice hearty dinner to compensate for a long hard working day. If you eat lots of carbs (as recommended by almost all guidelines), you might end with a spike in the morning and one in the evening, Many nutritionists recommend you to eat your carbs in the morning, not in the evening.
Is this working to avoid the spike effects?

Recently I’ve watched a very interesting BBC documentary, “Trust me, I’m a doctor”.
Among other subjects, a little experiment was conducted to check if eating carbs for breakfast is better than eating a lot of carbs in the evening.
Surprise, none was the winner. What matters is not so much when you eat your carbs but the length of the carbs-free “fasting” period that precedes your meal. Of course, this was a limited study and more research is needed.
Their advice so far is “not to worry too much about what time of day you eat carbs, as long as you’re consistent and don’t overload with them at every meal. If you’ve had a lot of carbs in the evening, try to minimise them in the morning. On the other hand, if you’ve had a pile of toast for breakfast, go easy on the pasta that night.
You might like this article, it’s quite interesting http://www.bbc.com/news/health-42705852

What’s in all these for a personalized diet?
Based on my new knowledge, this is what I’m willing to try and hope it will help me in time. Follow me, if you find it interesting too, I’ll keep you informed on my progress.
I do have in fact implemented some of them quite successfully, while being on the South Beach & Mediterranean diets. At least, I’ve stopped putting on.

“Fast” from time to time, to let the body rest.  I can’t and I don’t see the reason to fast by limiting calories to a ridiculous small number. I know myself, this is not going to happen.
But it’s worth trying and I can do it,  1 day a week with low Glycemic Index foods. That is, no starches (bread, pasta, rice, bulgur, biscuits, pizza), no sweets, sugar, fruits loaded with carbs like bananas.
Don’t try this before you asks your doctor, if you already have serious health problems, whatever they are.
I’m already having 1 vegan day a week, it’s a tradition and religion custom in my country.  I do feel better after my “no animal products” day  and I’ve  increased my  veggies and fruit intake.
Don’t overload with carbs, at any meal, in any day. If you eat a lot of carbs at a meal, take care not to overload the next meals too. If you eat too much in the evening, eat less or even skip breakfast if you are not hungry.
It remains to decide what “lots of carbs” means to my body. A simple test, measuring my blood sugar after eating certain foods, will help me. Measurements have to be taken at the first bite, half an hour after,  an hour, an hour and a half and two hours after.  Draw a graph and compare graphs with that of some reference food. Look for spikes. You should read this interesting book for details and other options The Personalized Diet by Eric Segal and Eran Elinav.
Avoid over-processed foods  like white bread, snacks, chips, confectionary, foods with added sugar, sweet beverages. This is easy, I’ve already got rid of most of them, I can live without.
Lower the Glycemic Index of some foods by properly cooking them. Eat pasta al dente, combined with cheese or tomato sauce, for example. Or, eat potatoes boiled in skin and refrigerated overnight.  I’ve already  tested my reaction to pasta with tomato sauce and potato salad. I’m so happy they are “good” for me.
Stop adding sugar in foods that are not deserts, like salads, sauces, soups a.s.o. This is quite difficult to do when you eat at a restaurant or buy some processed foods. It seems sugar is added in almost anything in a supermarket shelf.
Learn to “read” your body signals. Don’t eat if you’re not hungry. Try to eat slowly, don’t swallow, give time to your body to decide if you’re still hungry. This I’m fighting with and it’s tricky.
– And, more than anything else, exercise more and often to burn that glycogen and maybe some of the stored fat! Yeap, this is the hardest.

 

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I can do science too

I stumbled upon an amazing book,  The Personalized Diet by Eric Segal and Eran Elinav.

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I cite from the Amazon review  “individuals react differently to the same foods. A food that might be healthy for one person is unhealthy for another. In one stroke, they made all universal diet programs obsolete.”
Well, I have a slightly different opinion. Universal diets are a good starting point, with clear rules, menus, recipes, fitness programmes a.s.o. but should be personalized in time. This book gives one interesting, easy and useful tool to choose the foods that are good for you.
Of course, like with any diet, do not rush to climb in the wagon before consulting a health professional and checking your health status. 

My starting point was The South Beach Diet. It helped me to get rid of lots and lots of pounds but at one point I reached the dreadful plateau and after a tragedy in my life, started to put on again.
This year I’m trying a new approach, a more personalized diet for my life.
I have to understand what are the bad foods for me, those I’ll have to eat less even though they are not “forbidden”.  Also, I hope I’ll discover that I can eat safely some starchy foods like pasta or potatoes, provided I have the right recipe.

I’ve known for years that a lot of bread is fattening me but didn’t know what is the safe quantity. In my mind, 2 slices of 30 grams of homemade whole wheat bread were ok. Well,  after this first test, I’m beginning to wonder.
Here is the result of my first tests, a graph which clearly shows a very ugly spike in blood sugar after a fruit salad, Swiss cheese and 2 slices of my beloved bread.
Also, on this graph, my potato salad recipe seems to be on the goodies side. The secret is to boil the potatoes with the peel on, on very low heat, unpeel them under cold water, slice, add vinegar and keep them overnight in the fridge. Serve with marinated fish, olive oil, onion and a hard boiled egg. Yumi and good for me.
There’s a whole theory on how chemicals can change the potato starches this way, to make it a nice healthy vegetable.
my spike

Traditional Winter Salads

A long time ago, when there were no fridges or greenhouses in the farms and villages of Europe, people enjoyed the tasty and healthy salads of the Winter, to help them cope with pork, cold and Holidays stress.
Here are 4 wonderful recipes, hope you’ll enjoy them.

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First on my Winter list is red beetroot, baked or boiled, grated or cut in small pieces or slices,  and mixed with vinegar, bit of salt and finely grated horseradish. Some green herbs will add to the nice picture. You might like it with a splash of cream on top.
It’s supposed to be rich in vitamins, iron and magnesium and more recent health claims suggest beetroot can help lower blood pressure. Maybe, but what about the glycemic index? Well, it’s high, 64,  if you eat a lot of it, immediately, after cooking it and with no other ingredients. Make it a salad with vinegar and add horseradish and  a bit of cream and it’s yumi and healthy, medium GI.
Just for the record, 2 full tablespoons of this salad  have some 40 kCal and only 7g of carbs.

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Sauerkraut Salad. Lots and lots of ways to combine sauerkraut with other ingredients and all are nice and help the good bacteria in your gut. Rich in vitamin C. It’s a “must” in any diet, if you ask me. Yes, it’s salty but a few tablespoons now and then won’t hurt.
My favorite combinations: sauerkraut with black pepper and olive oil or sauerkraut with green onion or leek, a grated apple, a grated carrot, olive oil and pepper.

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Black Radish Salad. Actually, any radish will do but this one is good for your gallbladder.
Grate the radish, add a bit of salt, juice from 1 lemon, a handful of walnuts and it’s done.
You can make a batch of if and keep it in the fridge for several days. Serve it with Feta or Bulgarian cheese.
Without walnuts, 4 tbsps of this wonder have only 40 calories.

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This salad has a very funny name, The Little Broom Salad, because it’s supposed to clean somehow your guts.
Anything goes in it, any vegetables that can be cut a la julienne or grated. Carrots, cabbage, celeriac, celery, red cabbage, beetroot, turnip, leek, red onions, radishes a.s.o. Just add  lemon juice or vinegar, salt and some olive oil. A vitamin and mineral cocktail. Enjoy!

We Have Winter, Yupiii!

Maybe this sounds crazy, but we are accustomed to very cold winters, with a lot of snow, not with a Spring weather in the middle of January like this year.
I wouldn’ t want a harsh, nasty, long winter,  just a bit of snow for the children to play with and  for me, to enjoy some traditional winter meals.

Diet or no diet, I’ve learned from my ancestors that food should be adapted to the weather outside.
In winter, a bit more fat helps you to fight the cold. And with the lack of fresh vegetables, pickles are in season to help you digest that fat. I wouldn’ t mind an apple pie either, as a treat, provided it hasn’t much sugar added.
The wonderful traditions of my country in winter!
The real winter, I mean, not this year’s “hot” winter.

In the last 4 or 5 years, one problem with the global warming is that in my area we have literally hot Holidays.
But, keeping with the traditions, we continue to eat a lot of fatty foods, cakes,  and drink a lot more than it’s healthy for such a weather. The result: a lot more pounds added to our bodies.

This is year, I’ve decided enough is enough, and until I won’t see some snow, no sausages, no bacon, no pork for me.
Well, it worked in a way, with a splendid fish with green beans on New Year’s Eve and some interesting recipes like poultry and quinces. Also polenta with yoghurt and cheese, chicken soup and lean turkey roast.
I’m a bit hypocrite, you know? It has “helped” me to keep my promise that I’ve had some kind of stomach upset, I will never know the cause.
But fact is, after this new Holidays menu, I’ve never felt better at the beginning of a new year. And, with two pounds less, yeah!

But here comes the snow and one little sausage with beans and sauerkraut with olive oil and black pepper, an apple pie and a glass of red wine will make my life nicer.

By the way, that little sausage is fresh, with fresh meats, made by me.
Although I wouldn’t mind once in awhile this “banana sausage”  but only when the weather outside is frightful.

 

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Know Thyself

Nosce te ipsum, “know thyself” is a saying as old as the world.

Building your new lifestyle, you have to pay attention and learn your body signals.
Some call this “mindful eating” or “attuned eating”  and even propose this as a strategy for weight control, opposed to any diet.
Mindful eating “eating teaches you to reconnect with your internal, physical cues for hunger and satiation. Attuned eating guides you in deciding when, what and how much to eat, and helps you build a reliable, consistent structure for feeding yourself. Attuned eating is flexible, allowing you to meet your nutritional needs.”
You might like this blog article “Attuned Eating: The Antidote to Dieting” by Judith Matz, LCSW.

Well, nicely said but this didn’ t quite work for me. After several months of trying this, I’ve put on.
Sorry, but I need my diet rules, I need a bit of fear that if I break one rule or another, I’ll lose control. However, I’ve learned some valuable lessons and actually, my diet doesn’t exclude mindful eating, it is a part of my new lifestyle.

First lesson is that if the rules are not “mine”, I might be so stressed that I won’t be able to follow them. I have to understand very well any rule, to accept it before making it mine.
If I don’t believe something will work for me, than it’s no use to adopt it.

A good lesson is not to eat if I’m not hungry. Yes, I know, breakfast is important but if I don’t feel like eating anything, just having my nice cup of coffee with a biscuit maybe, I won’t have anything else. And I’m not feeling guilty about this, because it’s done nothing bad to my weight. And, yes, I have to pay attention to “nervous” eating, eating only because I’m too stressed to do anything else.

Another lesson is about cravings.

If I crave daily for more and more sugar and fat, this is nasty, I’ll have to deal with it.
I’ve seen an excellent BBC documentary (“Trust me, I’m a doctor”, I guess) telling of the addiction power of doughnuts, of the 50% sugar – 50% fat proportion that creates a powerful addiction, as it tickles the pleasure center of our brain.
One efficient way to get rid of such a craving is a diet like Montignac or South Beach, Phase I or Atkins diet or a Ketogenic diet,  for two weeks.
That is, you have to eat only low glycemic food for 2 weeks or even no carbs at all and get back slowly, over a month,  to normal. It’s not easy to do it but I’ve got rid of commercial sweets cravings for ever. I simply won’t eat a doughnut, I can’t.

But, don’t discard all cravings as bad. If you crave a fruit, then go for it. Your body tells you something, like you need more vitamins. Learn to understand your body signals, don’t ignore them.

And if you want your diet to work, eat your favorite healthy meals, not what is mandatory or considered by others “healthy”.

 

 

Published on Jan 16, 2015

 

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