Dirty Genes

Dirty Genes by Dr. Ben LynchDirty Genes: A Breakthrough Program to Treat the Root Cause of Illness and Optimize Your Health by Dr. Ben Lynch, is not an easy read, but I consider it well worth the effort. Whenever I see an article or book about genes or genetics I assume it will just be another fatalistic presentation about the futility of preventative medicine.  We are stuck with whatever genes our parents gave us at birth.

Fortunately this isn’t one of those books.  Dr. Lynch offers self-tests to get a basic idea of your health status since most people can’t afford or don’t know how to get a complete gene assessment, as well as things you can actually do to positive impact the gene expression and your health.

Is it hard? Not really, but it will take effort.  You really already know many of the solutions: better diet, more restful sleep, stress reduction strategies, and regular physical activity.  For those of us who haven’t optimized all of those things, or already are showing signs of chronic illness, supplements to modify gene expression are also recommended.

There are recipes included, and the ones I have tried so far are pretty good and not terribly difficult.  Unlike some “healthy” recipes I’ve found elsewhere, Dr. Lynch’s recipes didn’t even include strange ingredients I have never heard of or wouldn’t know where to buy.

Since most of us plan to start 2019 with a resolution for better health, give this book a try.  It would be a great foundational plan for the new year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder in WinterSimply put – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a reaction to the changing season that causes problems with mood and behavior.  These mood and behavior changes tend to start around September and may last until April.  According to S.A. Saeed in the March 1998 issue of American Family Physician, 4-6% of the general population experiences winter depression and an additional 10-20% have low-level features of the disorder. In the Journal for the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (February 1998) J. Giedd reported that 3-5% of students in the 4th through 6th grade meet the criteria for SAD.  Women are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with SAD and the average age of onset is 23.  Giedd reported that 9% of adults with SAD had an onset prior to 11 and 33% reported an onset prior to age 19.

The symptoms of SAD include sleep problems, overeating, depressed mood, family problems, lethargy, physical complaints, and behavioral problems.  Individuals experiencing sleep problems associated with SAD are most likely to report oversleeping, but not feeling refreshed when they awaken.  Then may report difficulty getting out of bed, or the need for frequent naps in the after.  (Think hibernation)

Overeating tends to be a problem in several ways.  First, people with SAD often crave and eat carbohydrates.  This generally leads to weight gain.  (Again, think hibernation).  Weight gain then contributes to depression.  In addition, ingestion of carbohydrates can cause rapid blood sugar fluctuations when also impact mood.

Persons with SAD typically aren’t much fun to be around.  They will often avoid company or when they are with other people they may be highly irritable.  Loss of sexual interest is also common.  In general, folks with SAD feel too tired to cope with daily living.  Everything feels like a tremendous effort.  Normal tasks become difficult.  Joint pain and stomach problems become more frequent and they may have lowered resistance to infection.  As if that isn’t enough, people with SAD are depressed.  They may use words like despair, misery, guilt, anxiety, or hopelessness to describe their mood.

By this time you may be wondering what causes this disorder.  My witty reply would be “living in Ohio.”  Actually, where you live can be part of the problem.  There is a structure in the brain called the pineal gland, and during night/darkness, this gland produces melatonin that makes us drowsy.  Bright light is the off switch for the melatonin production.  On dull winter days (there are a lot of those in Dayton) there is not enough light to trigger the pineal gland.  Bright light has also been associated with another brain chemical – serotonin.  You know about that one because it is associated with depression.

Using sunshine to treat seasonal affective disorderBoth the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association recommend light therapy as the primary treatment strategy for SAD.  This isn’t ordinary reading light.  For this type of treatment the light must be at least 2500 lux.  That’s five times brighter than the well-lit office.  Believe it or not, light therapy does have some side effects for a few people including a jittery feeling, excitability, mild nausea, or burning of the eyes.

What can you do if you are one of the mild, moderate, or severe sufferers of SAD?

  1. See your primary care physician.  The diagnosis deserves careful attention since the symptoms overlap with other disorders.
  2. Increase your exposure to natural sunlight, if not medically contraindicated.
  3. Decrease consumption of carbohydrates.  Again, check this out with your physician before making a big dietary change.
  4. Ask your physician about light therapy.

I’ve used it.   And it works!

Breaking the Rules

breaking the rules with a plate of pastaToday I broke the rules.  Some people might not think that this is too serious.  I didn’t break any laws.  I didn’t cheat at any games.  I ate pasta for dinner.  I’m sure it doesn’t seem like much to you, but to me it is quite disappointing.  When it comes to my food, I don’t like breaking the rules.

Rule #1.  Don’t eat when you aren’t hungry.  I had a snack earlier.  I drove toward town and stopped at my favorite Italian restaurant and ordered gluten free pasta.  Its a great place where they really understand my allergies and cook off-menu for me.  My motivation…I was tired of eating salad, felt frazzled from work, and just wanted some relief.

Rule #2. Don’t eat any starchy carbs after 5 pm.  I know that eating late in the evening is bad for me, so I load most of my calories before 5, and try to eat raw fruit and veggies in the evening if I’m hungry.  This was definitely a plate of starchy carbs, and there were very few vegetables involved.

glass of water to keep you from breaking the rulesRule #3. Drink a full glass of water before eating meals.  I didn’t drink any water at all, and none before the meal.  I already know that thirst wasn’t what was driving my behavior, but it might have helped me to slow down.  If there had been a video camera on me I bet I would have seen myself actually shoveling the food in.

Rule #4. Use tapping before eating anything that isn’t on my meal plan.  I want to know that I’ve dealt with my emotional baggage BEFORE reaching for food.  No tapping before this meal.

These aren’t rules given to me by anyone else.  These were my own rules and I couldn’t – or wouldn’t – follow them.  Luckily I get a redo tomorrow.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time beating myself up for it.  One meal of pasta isn’t a disaster but I do know that it is sometimes hard for me to get back on track after starchy carbs.

Here are the tapping topics I see in my very near future:

  1. stress eating
  2. resistance to following my plan
  3. using food for emotions instead of eating for fuel
  4. forgiveness for being an imperfect human

How about you?  Did you have challenges with food today?  Did you stumble or overcome them?  Did you tap?

Thinner This Year

Book cover image for Thinner This YearThinner This Year: A Diet and Exercise Program for Living Strong, Fit, and Sexy was more challenging for me than was Younger Next Year.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it, but I had to concentrate more to get the information.  Chris Crowley’s witty style is definitely present and Jennifer Sachek’s portions are interesting, but contain so much important information that it was less entertaining.  Together they are a complete package.

Younger Next Year was a game changer for me. I rarely miss a work out.  I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy it as much as Chris does, but I’m definitely a convert and have been since I first read it in 2014.  With regards to the diet component, that’s a little tougher because of my food allergies. I can’t just lift the advice from the pages and apply it quite as easily as I can the exercise part. The overarching message of don’t eat garbage is applicable though.

Remarkably, what I gained from Thinner This Year isn’t just knowledge.  Although a large portion is a how-to book, there is a significant amount of the book dedicated to why-to.  Even more important is that is sparked my excitement about making a few changes. I have a bit more belief in my ability to modify my lifestyle and I have a stronger belief in the necessity of doing it.

As you can tell, I highly recommend reading this book.

Younger Next Year

Book Cover of Younger Next YearThree letters sum up my reaction to the book Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge. You choose either WOW or OMG.  For me, this book was a life-changer. In reality, a lot of the information, the what, was not new to me.  What was new was the why.  And in this book, the why is pretty compelling. I found myself actually wanting to get to the gym more. That is pretty amazing. My diet is really pretty good, but I found myself wanting to make it better. The comparison between aging and decaying rattled around in my head almost constantly for the first few months after reading the book. I was convinced pretty early in the beginning chapters that decaying is a very bad think and generally preventable.

book cover from Younger Next Year for WomenYounger Next Year is a book by men and about men. That was not a turn off to me but it might be for some women. I was readily able to see that the science is the same, no matter the gender. Don’t despair though, there is a version Younger Next Year for Women.  No matter which one you choose, the important thing is to read the book and follow Harry’s Rules.  I am absolutely confident that they can change lives.

Snacking versus Parenting: The Impact of TV Commercials

There has been a commercial on TV that makes me crazy.  The first time I watched it I felt annoyed, but thought I was just having a bad day. The second time (and third time) I saw it I was still annoyed so decided I should look a little bit deeper. The basic story is that here is a child who wants and snack and he whines through the grocery store until mom gets him one. I think the message is supposed to be that this produce it a good choice that can satisfy moms and kids. Nutrition aside – I understand the message.

Unfortunately, there are some other messages contained within this commercial as well.

  • It is acceptable for children to whine to get what they want
  • Good parenting involves giving in to whining children
  • Processed foods are better snacks than whole foods

From a public health perspective, what would happen if the images on television were of children eating healthy foods? I can think of only one commercial on TV that depicts children eating vegetables and liking them. I can think of many commercials and even more television shows that involve parents hiding vegetables to get kids to eat them, children hiding vegetables to pretend that they have eaten them, and other subtle messages to communicate that vegetables are bad and children should not like them.  While I would have still been offended by this commercial, it would have been less offensive if the mom had gone to the produce section of the grocery store and picked up a carrot for the young boy.

Even though the child was whining, everyone still appeared pretty happy. I was never happy when my children whined in public.  I learned very quickly that giving in to the whining only made them whine more often.  There was no correction for the behavior in the commercial.  The background message here is that giving in is normal or acceptable. This message, when viewed repeatedly, can’t help but desensitize us to this inappropriate behavior. Where are the media messages that show children behaving appropriately and parents dealing with childhood misbehavior calmly and rationally?

Many children and adults have viewed this commercial and I suspect that most never notice the messages that I did.  That doesn’t mean that the message doesn’t have an impact though.  Advertising works. In the past I’ve definitely purchased things based on the commercials and jingles. As may awareness has increased, I’m trying to do a better job of avoiding products that perpetuate negative attitudes and behaviors. As yourself these questions:

  1. Does this commercial communicate accurate information about the product?
  2. Does this commercial communicate life views that are consistent with mine?
  3. Does this commercial include people behaving in a way that is inappropriate or dangerous?

If you answered yes to any of these, please consider making a different consumer choice.  Children need to see images of other children behaving appropriately, not children behaving badly and getting away with it. Parents need to see images of other parents acting calmly and confidently with their children. Insisting on this change through our consumerism could have a significant impact on everyone.

I’d love to hear your views on this.  How do television commercials impact your consumer decisions?

I’ve Been Such A Good Girl

When I first published this article several years ago the title was I’ve Been Such A Good Girl – I think I’d like to poison myself today.  That title sounds very provocative doesn’t it? But that is exactly what I was doing almost every day.  I would reward myself for good behavior with substances that poison my body and strengthen the cravings for that poison.  If I was good I would reward myself with ice cream.  Although I learned to eat smaller portions, it was still essentially a poison in my body.  If I had been really good I would reward myself with a slice of carrot cake from my favorite gluten free bakery.  OK, it was gluten free, but it still had so many calories that it was bad for by body and my health.  In addition, once I would eat it I was out of control for the rest of the day.

While I no longer look forward to opportunities to hurt my body, I have slipped back into the habit of thinking of unhealthy foods as rewards or eating larger portions than my body can handle.  There are so many “diets” out there that build in opportunities for unhealthy indulgences.  While that may help to overcome the feelings of deprivation that derail so many eating plans, it still doesn’t address the obsession with certain foods and messed up priorities. (Such as ice cream being more important than health.)

Its not like I’ve ever been really hungry and am reacting to that memory of hunger with overindulgence. I’m not hoarding food because I am preparing for a day of famine.  Someday I hope to wake up from the nightmare of food addiction.  It would be so cool to just eat when I’m hungry, eat the food my body needs, and stop looking forward to opportunities for unhealthy food.

I did pretty well for the last several years until a period of very high physical and emotional stress knocked me out of balance and I found myself again craving foods that I know are not in my best interest.  I haven’t started eating foods that I am allergic to, but those unhealthy foods that I am not officially allergic to have crept back into my pantry and my body.  I fell prey to the “anything in moderation” wisdom that is so prevalent.

The truth – at least my truth – is that I can’t handle eating some foods.  They change how I feel, how I think, and how my body functions.  If you share this experience I’d love to hear from you.