There are incredible stories circulating about people who have used the macrobiotic diet to overcome incurable, end-stage cancer.
Unsurprisingly, people dealing with cancer typically find these stories incredibly compelling. One of the things that make a cancer diagnosis so overwhelming is the feeling of helplessness that it often brings both patients and loved ones.
While your cancer is outside of your control; diet and nutrition is something you can take control of.
Keep reading to find out:
- What is the macrobiotic diet?
- The benefits of eating this way
- What results have other cancer patients had?
- What does science say?
What is the Macrobiotic Diet?
Let’s start with the word – macrobiotic.
It’s a combination of two ancient Greek words macro; which means large or long, and bio; the Greek word that means life.
The macrobiotic diet is plant-based and was originally conceived by a Japanese philosopher called George Ohsawa in the 1920s. He concluded that we could live in greater harmony with nature by eating a simple, healthy diet.
According to Ohsawa; whole, living food possesses abundant energy and where it was grown and how it was prepared, among various other factors – affects how that food energy will flow.
So, when you eat, this energy is transferred to your body, influencing the way you feel and affecting your health.
He was also firmly convinced that a macrobiotic diet would also cure cancer and other serious illnesses.
Macrobiotic diets became trendy in the U.S. during the 1960s as a “counter-culture” eating approach that encouraged:
- Living with greater harmony,
- Adopting a positive mindset
- Viewing food as more than merely fuel
The aim of the macrobiotic diet is to avoid any foods that contain toxins.
Many people on a macrobiotic diet limit themselves to an entirely vegan diet (no dairy products or meats). But others follow a diet to that includes limited amounts of organically sourced fish and meat.
There are many different varieties of the macrobiotic diet being followed around the world, but most have the following things in common:
Complex carbohydrates; such as barley, brown rice, oats, millet, and corn make up a large part of the food eaten, totaling roughly 30% to 40% of daily calorie consumption.
Sea vegetables are a staple component of most macrobiotic diets. Sea vegetables are usually about 5% to 10% of total calories.
50% to 80% of calories on a macrobiotic diet will come from complex carbohydrates, composed of:
- 15% to 30% of healthy fats
- 10% to 20% of proteins
Even though carbohydrates are eaten in relatively high amounts – refined carbs like processed grains and pure sugar are typically avoided.
The Benefits of Eating this Way
Particular studies have discovered substantial evidence that macrobiotic-style diets support cardiovascular health, including by lowering your serum lipid levels and reducing blood pressure levels.
This conclusion isn’t surprising when you consider the broad range of both high-antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods that are eaten in a macrobiotic diet.
The macrobiotic diet is rich in dietary fiber because it includes all kinds of high-fiber foods, such as vegetables, beans, and ancient grains. Eating lots of fiber has been shown to mitigate cardiovascular disease risk factors by multiple mechanisms, including:
- Lipid reduction,
- Body weight regulation
- Improved glucose metabolism
- Blood pressure control
- Reduction of chronic inflammation
Similar to other whole food-based diets that get rid of junk foods, packaged food products, processed drinks, and fried and fast foods; the macrobiotic diet is extremely low in refined sugar, fats, and artificial ingredients.
This makes for a highly nutrient-dense diet that’s high in fiber, vitamin E, vitamin C, and fiber while remaining low in overall calories.
The diet can have potential benefits for people with food allergies because it eliminates many allergens that may cause indigestion, such as; dairy, virtually all wheat gluten and nightshade plants (such as tomatoes).
One major drawback is that macrobiotic diets will tend to include high quantities of high-sodium foods, consisting mostly of things like soy sauce, fermented soy products, and those sea vegetables mentioned earlier.
The Macrobiotic Diet and Cancer
While diet is only one component in a complex puzzle when it comes to cancer prevention, and results will vary from one person to another; research strongly suggests that eating a macrobiotic diet may help to lower your risk of developing cancer in part by supplying extraordinarily high levels of antioxidants and phytoestrogens.
A 2011 paper published in the Journal of Nutrition states that,
“On the basis of available evidence and its similarity to dietary recommendations for chronic disease prevention, the macrobiotic diet probably carries a reduced cancer risk.”
Women who consume a macrobiotic diet will tend to have slightly lower circulating estrogen levels – which has been tied to significantly lowering your risk for breast cancer.
The various macrobiotic diets may do this by providing large amounts of phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogens) from foods like sesame seeds and fermented soy products.
These foods might help regulate the production of natural estrogen by binding to the estrogen receptor sites in your body.
While excess estrogen can come with certain health risks; in the case of women older than 50 who are experiencing a natural decrease in estrogen levels during menopause – the extra estrogen from this diet could help reduce their cancer risk, along with the other health benefits of following a plant-based diet.
What does science say?
The macrobiotic diet is one of the most popular dietary approaches to treating many chronic diseases, including cancer, but few studies have proven any effectiveness in either preventing disease or managing it.
More research needs to be done before we can draw any reliable conclusions about this diet’s potential healing benefits.
Concerns about the Macrobiotic Diet and Cancer
There are serious concerns regarding the treatment of cancer using a dietary approach, including:
- Life-threatening delays of medical treatments or doctor visits
- Hindered immune function from nutritional deficiencies, such as too little protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B, and vitamin D
- Eating too few calories, which may cause fatigue and muscle loss
Many people also find that following a macrobiotic diet can create social limitations due to strictly adhering to the diet that makes it hard to maintain.
Furthermore, macrobiotic foods can be hard to find, while salt intake on this diet plan is too high according to some medical professionals.
And, for obvious reasons – there’s substantial disagreement about the requirement that dieters eliminate almost all fruits.
If You Have an Existing Condition
These are all valid concerns about using the macrobiotic diet.
And anyone considering following a macrobiotic diet should weigh them against
- Personal preferences
- State of your overall health
But, if you have an existing condition, like heart disease or cancer, or if you take medications, you should ask your doctor before you start any new way of eating to avoid risking your health or experiencing any signs or symptoms of poor health.
A Final Word
Evidence shows that a plant-based, macrobiotic diet can be a significantly effective way to improve your overall health by:
- Helping to reduce your blood pressure
- Lessen the risk of developing diabetes
- Help you maintain a healthy body weight
- Reduce inflammation
The increased anti-oxidant and phytoestrogen of a macrobiotic intake may also act to prevent the development of certain cancers.
But, so far, there is no scientific evidence that shows that following a macrobiotic diet will help treat or cure anyone currently fighting cancer.
Are you the type that snacks a lot throughout the day, and then skips the healthy lunch and dinner that the people in your life prepare for you? Consider this, for the best uptake of calories, minerals and nutrients everyone should eat six small meals a day. Many of us love to skip breakfast, which is a bad idea as it delays the pace at which your metabolism gets doing its job of supplying the body with energy from the foods you’ve eaten versus burning your energy stores. Then we eat an unhealthy lunch like a burger with fries, what ever convinced people that a burger with minimal veggies on it and lots of carbs from the bun needed the complement of an excessive amount of carbs and fats from the fried french fries? Top it off with a double sized soda that has more sugar in it than the FDA recommends in an entire day. Then mid-afternoon you go ahead and grab a sugary snack like a bag of gummy bears or a bag of chips. With just the size of that caloric undertaking alone it is no wonder that when you get home and look down dismissively at the healthy balanced meal that has been prepared by your parents or wife, Including vegetables and a reasonable piece of meat, likely with a complex carb thrown in to fill you up. But low and behold when it comes time to watch 3 plus hours of TV on the couch nothing could be finer than a bag of Fritos and a couple of beers or some more sugary soda.
Does that kinda living sound familiar to you? If you want to do it right you need to have the awareness to recognize what it is that you’re doing and the discipline to change it. Many dietitians, athletes and regular folks just like you have found through trial and error that they remain healthiest when they eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day. Start with a light breakfast that is likely richer in carbs than most of your meals. The earlier you eat your carbs the higher likelihood that you’ll burn them for that day.
When you feel the need to eat between meals try snacking on nuts and fruits. Not only will the nuts provide protein for whatever physical activity you take on daily. The other upside of the fruits and vegetables is that they provide better than 90% of your vitamin and mineral needs daily. Besides the benefit of the fiber in them being a big positive for your digestion system. Particularly if you have a craving for sweets you will find that the natural sugars in fruit does a good job of satisfying them.
Eating better doesn’t have to mean abstaining from the foods that get you excited. If you like McDonalds eat it once in awhile but make it a treat. I am not trying to turn this into a zen awareness thing but the reality is that if you are aware of your dieting behavior it is much easier to make changes to it. Practice awareness when it comes to your diet. When you know that you have eaten really well all week and feel like a treat it then may be time to go to Five Guys for that double burger w/ bacon, jalapeños, mushrooms and a double order of cajun fries with a large Coke.
The reality of eating decent is that you end up feeling better and I don’t just mean mentally. I mean you literally feel better, less bloating, more energy. All those things end up having you feel more comfortable in your skin. What you’ll find is the better you eat the more comfortable you are stacking on the activities in both your professional life and personal physical activities. Yeah we’ve all heard it before but the reality is this it’s a cannonball effect that begins with making a few good decisions about what you’ll put into your body on the regular and then recognizing which of those things you can get away with enjoying once in awhile as a special treat.
Much like the recent discovery that coffee drinkers, 3-4 cups per day, tend to be pretty fit healthy eaters will share a similar observation. Meaning this, the jury is still out on whether or not 4 cups a coffee per day is good for you, however, there is no doubt that most of the people drinking four cups of coffee daily are in better shape than a lot of people purely because they are more active and are burning more calories throughout the day to their increased energy. In that sense being a heavy coffee drinker is a lifestyle. Well eating better can be a lifestyle too.
I am a testament to eating well with a moderate amount of physical activity in my life. I typically will eat two cups of fruits and veggies every day along with whole grains and meats. I do not exclude red meats from my diet and am passionate about them. My exercise routine is 2-4 times per week in the gym and whatever physical activity I can get in on the side, mountain biking, wakeboarding and even walking. I am certainly not the most physically active person that I know. However I have the same waist size I had in college and have added muscle mass to my body and gained weight. I did a body fat analysis at the end of last fall and was at around 14.5%. Likely better than when I was in college which I attest purely to eating with a solid awareness of what foods I put into my body, pretty good as I am into my forties now. Working to keep a balance of healthy foods with the occasional treat of Fast Foods or the routine Pizza isn’t that hard versus the satisfaction and overall health returns I see from it.
Weight loss is a journey. Some people attempt to find their own way, while others prefer a roadmap. Nutrisystem is one such navigation system on the road to losing weight.
The basics of Nutrisystem involve selecting a plan of 1200 calories for women or 1500 calories for men. The plans are structured to eat 6 small meals every 2-4 hours with the goal of maintaining energy levels. Research has shown that when energy levels remain steady through consistent intake of quality nutrition sources, metabolism will work more efficiently to promote weight loss. Increasing your body’s ability to burn calories at rest (known as basal metabolic rate) is one of the main goals of the Nutrisystem plan. Safe weight loss is ½ to 2 pounds a week, which promotes long term success while reducing risk of gaining back weight.
Meal Timing and Metabolism
A common weight loss mistake is skipping meals or drastically cutting calories. It is assumed that less intake of calories automatically leads to weight loss. And if significant calories are cut, weight loss should occur faster. However, our bodies don’t follow this logic. When we go long periods of time without providing energy, our body assumes there is an emergency and goes into survival mode. This means the body is conserving energy by slowing down metabolism because it doesn’t want to waste unnecessary energy (ie. calories). In turn, fat stores are built up. Fat is a very rich source of energy the body doesn’t like tapping into unless absolutely needed. Essentially, it’s the energy equivalent of a 401K – lots of money but impossible to withdraw from the account. While you simply are trying to lose weight through reducing calorie intake and skipping meals, your body assumes you’re stranded on a desert island with no sources of food or water. This triggers “starvation mode” and a slower metabolic rate.
Nutrisystem attempts to keep the body out of starvation mode by supplying meals and snacks and a suggested meal timing schedule of every 2-4 hours. The meals provide an average of 150-250 calories, while snacks are around 150 calories. This allows the body adequate energy to meet nutrition needs while simultaneously promoting weight loss.
As a registered dietitian nutritionist, my main goal is educating clients on meal timing and quality food choices. Some need just a few pointers and encouragement to get them on track. Others need a very “paint by numbers” approach, like Nutrisystem. I had an opportunity to review Nutrisystem in more depth to determine if it’s a potential option to offer clients.
What Works with Nutrisystem Plan
When it comes to weight loss, behavior change is more important than the actual food being consumed. Nutrisystem is a plan that encourages behavior change through meal timing, portion sizes, cooking skills, and some planning. One sign I tell my clients to be wary of when looking at weight loss programs are those that require the purchase of special food items. However, the premise of Nutrisystem is following their meals that are pre-planned and pre-portioned with healthy weight loss in mind. As I mentioned, there are some people who need that extra hand-holding when it comes to starting a weight loss plan, which Nutrisystem’s meal plans can provide. As a dietitian with a “food first” philosophy, I appreciate that Nutrisystem puts emphasis on food rather than promoting the use of supplements.
The key to success on the Nutrisystem plan is the reinforcement that meals or snacks must be consumed every 2-4 hours and discourages skipping meals in order to keep metabolism boosted. This plan also heavily encourages the addition of fruit and veggies to all meals. The recommendation is to have at least four servings of veggies (1 serving = ½ C cooked or 1C raw) and 1-2 servings of fruit per day. When it comes to changing eating habits, any plan that does not promote the intake of fruits and veggies is questionable. Bravo, Nutrisystem! It should be noted that most meals or snacks provided by Nutrisystem don’t come with a significant serving of veggies or fruit (if they are included at all), so those must be purchased on your own at a local grocery store. Water is another nutrient that is encouraged on the plan, with a general guideline of at least 8 eight ounce glasses per day. Other positive lifestyle factors like adequate sleep and smoking cessation are also encouraged to promote optimal success on program.
All Nutrisystem plans begin with a Turbo Takeoff during the first week of the program. This portion was designed to shock the system in preparation for the duration of the Nutrisystem plan. Select breakfast, lunch, and dinners are provided during this week, along with TurboShakes™ and NutriCrush bars. Personally, I’m not a fan when shakes and bars are promoted as a meal replacement instead of eating wholesome fruits and veggies, but it is only for the first 7 days before fully transitioning on to the program.
Once a participant is fully utilizing the Nutrisystem plan, they have the flexibility to select their own meals. Participants receive daily trackers with meals outlined and color-coded, a food diary, and a Grocery Guide to help in selecting supplemental fruit and veggie items. Food are categorized as follows:
- Smart Carb: complex, high fiber carbohydrates including fruits, whole grains, and starchy veggies
- Power Fuel: lean sources of protein including meats, dairy, and nuts
- Veggies: non-starchy vegetables
- Free Food: items used as flavoring including spices and seasonings
- Extras: sweeteners, fats, and oils including butter, mayo, avocado, honey, and dressing
Need more info on specific foods that fall into these categories? Check out this helpful guide. The NuMi tracking system, available online and via smartphone app, helps participants monitor program progress. This can also sync to fitness device.
An important aspect of the Nutrisystem plan is the incorporation of FlexMeals. These are meals that participants prepare for themselves. One breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack are required on your own each week (no all in the same day). I like this feature because it forces participants to take some ownership and control of their meals. While I’m sure Nutrisystem would love people to be on their plan forever, it’s not realistic. People need to be given tools to fly on their own for long term success.
Which brings us to the Nutrisystem Success plan, a guided transition off the Nutrisystem meals and promotes maintenance of positive habits in addition to weight loss. Nutrisystem Success provides meal plans, portion control containers, and a start-up guide to eat more self-prepared meals. Participants are given the option to continue ordering meals and snacks a la carte.
What Needs Improvement for Nutrisystem
The premise of meal timing and incorporation of fruits and vegetables are two positive factors for the Nutrisystem plan. However, upon viewing the options available to participants, the quality of foods offered could use a makeover. Breakfast and snacks are particularly the most concerning, as they are very carb-heavy foods including cinnamon buns, muffins, and bars. One area of emphasis I work on with my clients is ensuring breakfast include a source of protein and high fiber foods to feel fuller longer and slow glucose absorption. While the items are labeled as “good sources” of protein and fiber, the amount of protein provided in these items is inadequate for a meal. There should be more PowerFuel items promoted for breakfast and potentially even recommend supplementing as needed.
Likewise, the snack options available still promote intake of cookies, cakes, chocolate bars, pretzels, and cheese puffs. Sure, the items are considered “diet-friendly”, but swapping a Nutrisystem cookie in place of non-Nutrisystem cookie is not changing the behavior to make better choices. Instead the plan should be encouraging intake of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, nuts, and healthy fats such as nut butters and avocado. The same can be said when pizza and stromboli make up a lot of lunch and dinner options. More emphasis should be placed on portion size and the incorporation of veggies rather than swapping a less desirable choice for a different brand.
Another educational area I work on a lot with my clients is the intake of bars. A bar is not a meal. It can sometimes be a snack. But the quality of bars can be questionable and often a glorified candy bar in disguise. Seeing Nutrisystem include a multitude of bars as a breakfast or lunch option is a little discouraging when it comes to truly changing behavior.
Lunch and dinner provide more substantial sources of protein. However, it feels like there is a missed opportunity here to incorporate more variety and educate on whole grains and plant-based proteins. Whole grain options can be incorporated into meals where rice or pasta are currently being used. Whole grains actually freeze better and don’t lose their texture like pasta, which can get mushy after freezing. With movements like Meatless Monday, it would be ideal to incorporate more bean, soy, and other plant-based proteins into meals. You have a captive audience, so why not try something new?
Cost is another factor to take into account with a program like Nutrisystem. Plans range from Basic ($9.82/day), Core ($10.54/day) and Uniquely Yours ($11.96/day). This does not include supplemental items including fruits and vegetables that need to be purchased as well. However, I always ask my clients to assess the cost of convenience before assuming something is too expensive. With Nutrisystem, you are paying for meals that are prepared, portioned, and ready to eat, along with a plan and support. When taking all those features into account, the cost isn’t as prohibitive as one may think. Plus, with Nutrisystem, food waste (which leads to money waste) can also be eliminated due to frozen meals and having a plan in place.
There are a few areas that could use more emphasis with Nutrisystem. Physical activity could definitely use more attention within the program. The USDA recommendation of 30 minutes most days tends to be casually mentioned, but not promoted as much as meal consumption. When it comes to behavior change and health, exercise is as important as food choices. Another missed opportunity is teaching clients how to read food labels, which becomes extremely important once someone transitions to the Nutrisystem Success maintenance plan.
Nutrisystem has a few contraindications for people to consider before starting the program. The ingredients are not ideal for people with celiac, latex/soy/peanut allergies, or chronic kidney disease (CKD). Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not be cutting calories and therefore this program would not be appropriate. There are lacto-ovo vegetarian options (dairy and eggs), but no vegan options are available at this time. One area where Nutrisystem has put focus is offering a diabetes-friendly plan, but this is another area where more education could be provided on carb counting and label reading.
Finally, as the author of the couple’s nutrition blog, Nutrition Nuptials, one area I heavily stress with couples is aim to consume as many meals together as a couple – and ideally the same meal. Eating different meals all the time can feel like a disconnect. We don’t realize it, but mealtime is an incredibly important bonding time with our significant other. And for households with children, parents eating different foods can send a confusing message. This can promote pickiness or food/eating issues in children. Significant others can show support for partners participating in Nutrisystem by doing the program as well or having the occasional Nutrisystem dinner together for support. Partners can help participate in planning and prepping for FlexMeals, and becoming educated as well to help with long term maintenance and motivation on the Nutrisystem Success plan.
The Dietitian Verdict on Nutrisystem
This dietitian feels Nutrisystem can provide a good starting point for those aiming to really get a jump on their weight loss goals. Working in conjunction with a registered dietitian nutritionist addresses gaps in education to ultimately set you up for success. Many dietitians accept insurance, which can help offset cost concerns. To find a registered dietitian in your area, consult your insurance plan or visit the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics dietitian database.
At some point, nearly everyone has been on a diet. And almost every person has failed at one time or another on their quest to achieve a healthy weight on that diet. According to the National Institutes of Health, almost two-thirds of people who start a weight loss program end up heavier than when they started. Why do people fail at diets? That’s a big question — but we have a few answers for you!
The Fear of Commitment
Learning about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle is a big task and knowing is only half the battle. Once you find a diet and exercise program that works for you, you have to commit to it. That doesn’t mean you’ll never eat a Big Mac again (everything in moderation, after all) – it simply means that your habits have to change for good. That’s a far taller order than many people realize.
For a lot of folks, weight loss and dieting is a temporary solution to something they’ve been struggling with their entire lives. They want immediate and long-lasting results without the commitment to a healthy lifestyle that good health requires. If you find yourself endlessly searching for quick fixes and you have an entire shelf of fitness DVDs, fad diet books, and various other weight loss products, then it’s time to take a step back and think about your goals and how you plan to achieve them. You’re not going to get sculpted, rock hard abs in just four minutes a day – sorry!
What everyone on a diet must remember is that small changes will last — big ones won’t. Good health is a habit and must become a way of life to truly be successful. Weight loss is a marathon, not a race. So sign up for the marathon!
Not Getting Enough Sleep
Would you believe that your snooze schedule has a huge impact on your physical health – including weight? It’s true! Restorative sleep helps your body to balance the hormones that make you feel hungry or full. When you don’t spend enough time with the Sandman, the hormone that causes hunger shoots up while the hormone that helps you feel satiated when you eat goes down. So, when you’re tired you’ll be hungry and find it difficult to reach a point where you feel satisfied. When you’re well rested, you’re not as hungry.
Sleep deficiency also happens to be linked to a host of chronic illnesses beyond obesity such as kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, stroke, and diabetes. The lesson to be learned here is if you want to lose weight, you have to make sure to get enough sleep every night! A few tips to help you include:
- Going to bed at around the same time each night
- Waking up at about the same time every morning
- Turning off electronics at least an hour before bed
- Keeping your room dark and cool
- Creating a bedtime ritual that helps you fall to sleep easily
More sleep is definitely a good thing, for your mental and physical health! Do what you must to make sure you’re getting good quality sleep every night and don’t count on the weekends to help you catch up. You’ll always be running a sleep deficit if you do it that way!
Timing Meals Poorly
Be like Indiana Jones – choose wisely. When you eat your meals may just be as important as what is being eaten. The consequences of eating at irregular times may not be apparent right away, but over time there will be subtle effects on health, including the ability to lose weight and keep it off. One of the keys to long term weight loss success is to time meals appropriately.
Many people live under the false impression that they need three large meals a day. The truth of the matter is that eating small amounts of food several times over the course of the day has a much more positive impact on blood sugar, helping the body to avoid spikes in glucose that result in being hungrier later on and keeping the metabolism going at a steady rate.
Keep snacks on hand that supply your body with a good quality source of protein such as nuts, cheese, or nut butter. Combine them with whole grains and you’re one step closer to keeping that metabolism pumping and controlling hunger so you don’t overeat. Then, when it is time for meals, you won’t be so hungry that you overeat.
Keeping track of calories is just one aspect of learning how to eat right for weight loss. Make sure to always take the calories on the nutrition label with a grain of salt – not literally, of course, since too much salt is a big no-no! You must look at the big picture on a nutrition label. Many people don’t bother to fully take in the complete nutritional information of what they’re eating. That snack size bag of Doritos may only say 140 calories, but that’s 140 calories in one serving, not the whole bag. Read the information on the nutrition label completely before writing it down in your daily food journal.
Eating out is also a huge minefield of calorie miscalculation, so be careful when dining out with family and friends. When the meal isn’t prepared by you in your own kitchen, there are many hidden calories that can be added (hello, butter!). Plus, portion sizes in restaurants are notoriously large, meaning you’re not getting one serving but likely 3 or more. Even if there’s a breakdown of nutritional information on the menu, it may not always be on target.
The best way to counter calorie underestimation is to use an app on your smartphone or a journal to track calories daily. It’s well documented that people trying to lose weight who keep track of what they eat in a day lose twice as much weight as dieters who don’t. It’s also important to remember calories are merely a guideline. Fiber, sugar, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals are all important factors when choosing what goes on your plate, too.
Overestimating How Many Calories are Burned
The human body requires energy to function, which is the whole reason for eating food in the first place – to provide energy! A diet rich in proper vitamins and minerals, along with adequate hydration, is incredibly important to overall health and wellness. If you’re focusing only on how many calories you’re eating a day to lose weight to the point where you don’t eat enough, you may find it causes you to experience a sharp decrease in energy. That will create less enthusiasm for exercise – and exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle that helps you achieve a healthy weight.
When you do get your body moving every day, you have to make sure you’re not overestimating how many calories are burned. Keeping track of your exercise with a fitness app or fitness tracker is a great idea. That way, you can get an accurate count on calories in versus calories out – and that’s one of the most important things you need to do in order to meet your weight loss goals.
So you’ve tried a diet or two – or five – in your life and not had long lasting success. So what? You have to get back on that saddle and take control. Learn about healthy eating, get some exercise every day, and concentrate on the quality of the food you’re eating and you may find that the elusive success of the past is finally yours!
The first time you heard about the necessity of probiotics for your health was probably during a round of antibiotics. Your healthcare provider likely explained that the drug you were taking to fight an infection was going to wreak havoc with the bacteria in your gut that keep your digestion running smoothly.
Is this the only benefit that probiotics have for your health?
Emerging research shows that these live bacteria and enzymes – found in foods like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha (a fermented tea drink), are vital to more than gut health; they provide an incredible array of health benefits.
Other natural sources of probiotics are:
Unfortunately, most of us don’t consume enough probiotics for optimum health through our diets – meaning lots of people are missing out on the health benefits of these little bacterial and enzyme powerhouses.
What can probiotics do for you?
While far from exhaustive, we’ll go over some of the most important and scientifically verified benefits of probiotics.
Keep reading to discover the real deal on probiotics.
What are Probiotics?
As you read earlier; probiotics are the bacteria and enzymes necessary for proper digestion and gut health in general. But, what exactly are they and what do they do in our guts?
Probiotic bacteria fall into one of two kinds.
Bifidobacterium bifidum: living inside the mucus lining of your large intestine or vaginal tract, bifidum prevents infectious bacteria and yeasts from invading. Bifidum makes positive changes in pH levels through the production of lactic and acetic acids. Additionally, this bifidum increase the absorption rate of essential minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.
B. infantis: stimulates the production of cytokines affecting the immune system, and will kill off such infectious agents as salmonella, clostrida, and shigella.
B. longum: thrives in the large intestine. Longum prevents pathogenic bacteria and yeast from invading. This could mitigate the severity of gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, and nausea while on antibiotics.
Lactobacillus acidophilus: is a commonly known probiotic and is also one of the most critical for small intestine health.
This probiotic bacteria inhabits the lining of the intestine, but it can also take up residence in the vagina, cervix or urethra. Acidophilus inhibits infection, and produces natural antibiotics like lactocidin and acidophilin, enhancing our immunity. Acidophilus is an anti-microbial against pathogens such as; staphylococcus aureus, salmonella, E. coli and candida albicans.
Lactobacillus brevis: also called L. brevis, is a lactic acid producing probiotic that helps your body to synthesize Vitamins D and K.
L. bulgaricus: Is used to ferment yogurt and plays a protective role by generating lactic acid, creating a friendly environment for other probiotic bacteria species.
L. plantarum: creates lactolin, one more natural antibiotic. Plantarum will also produce L-lysine, a potent anti-viral amino acid. This bacterium eliminates nitrate while increasing nitric oxide levels and eliminating pathogens.
L. rhamnosus: exhibits a high bile salt tolerance and survives in less hospitable environments. This bacterium has demonstrated benefit for both the elderly and infants. Rhamnosus mitigates lactose intolerance, protects your small intestine, and produces lactic acid in your large intestine. There are many strains of lactobacilli that include; L. fermentum, L. caucasicus, and L helveticusi.
These are the most basic facts about the different kinds of probiotics we rely on for digestive health – but in what other ways do probiotics optimize our health?
According to a study published in the journal Obesity; taking probiotics can protect against weight gain and aid in your weight loss efforts.
Past research has demonstrated that imbalances in our microbiome (the trillions of bacteria living in the gut) can increase the chances of suffering metabolic disease like diabetes, weight gain, and poor nutrition due to impaired digestion.
This time test subjects were placed on a high fat and high calorie diet to determine what effect if any consuming probiotic supplements would have on weight gain. The subjects who consumed a probiotic shake as part of their daily food intake had lower total body mass gain and fat accumulation than the subjects who didn’t.
Research published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition details the effects that probiotics have on strengthening our immune response for greater resilience against infection.
This research published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found out that athletes in New Zealand had almost 40% fewer colds and intestinal infections when they took a probiotic compared to when they were given a placebo.
Maintaining healthy intestinal flora by eating probiotic rich foods or taking supplements will also help your immune ability by increasing production from your lymphocytes; a strong marker of a robust immune response.
If you’re sick of being sick, consuming more probiotics is a proven way to turbocharge your infection fighting ability.
Probiotics have been studied for their power to minimize and even prevent the symptoms of psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.
Studies have proven that probiotics are instrumental in mitigating the effects of eczema, psoriasis, and other bothersome (and sometimes painful) skin conditions.
The health of our gastrointestinal tract affects an incredible range of organs and systems throughout the body.
Improve Your Mood
Research shows that individuals suffering from depression and other mood disorders respond positively to supplemental probiotics added to the diet. Researchers conclude that probiotics have strong potential in alleviating distress and anxiety in psychiatric patients suffering from mood disorders.
There is a proven link between gut health and our mental health; if you’re feeling down, try including probiotics in your diet for a pick me up.
Similar to the digestive tract; the vagina relies on a delicate balance of bacteria for health. An imbalance can result in extremely uncomfortable conditions:
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Yeast infection
L. acidophilus has been found useful in both preventing infection and managing an already active case of vaginosis or yeast infection.
Probiotics may be of particular benefit to pregnant women since bacterial vaginosis is a risk factor for pre-term labor. If you’re expecting a baby – take probiotics for your health, and your baby’s.
Probiotics are Tasty!
It’s easy to start enjoying the health enhancing benefits of probiotics. Try some of the probiotic rich foods mentioned in this article and see which ones are enjoyable and easy to add to your diet.
From pickles and sauerkraut to yogurt and kefir – there are many delicious ways to maintain your gut health!
Emotions can Cause Weight Gain?
Overweight? Gaining Weight? Not sure what has caused the pounds to pack on? Most people think overeating, poor diet and lack of exercise is the cause but ever think it’s how you are feeling mentally? Have you ever asked yourself “am I happy?” or “where was the last time I was happy?” Emotional eating is a very common cause of weight gain and obesity. Your emotional and mental health are very important to your overall health. Some people don’t make the connection that the reason your gaining weight is your emotional health. 75% of over eating is caused by emotional stress, that is a problem. Emotional eating is when you eat because you need comfort, whether you are sad, stressed, lonely or bored. Eating “comfort food” can help numb the bad feelings and give you something to occupy yourself and give you happiness.
What Causes Emotional Eating?
Do you find comfort in food because of social situations and anxiety, conflicts or just depression? Are you bored or lonely? When I was a child they only way to get seconds was to eat faster than my brothers, so I grew accustomed to eating fast which can cause you to over eat. By the time my stomach showed signs of feeling full I had already over indulged. Going out to social events with free food, or to restaurants where everyone gets appetizers, entrees and desserts. These events cause you to eat to fit in with the group and also over eat. When everyone at your table is eating unhealthy entrees of course you are influenced to make the same bad choices. Sometimes a daily routine causes us to overeat. Scheduled lunch breaks, busy schedules where you know you won’t be able to eat for hours so you over compensate now. Sometimes we are so busy that we forget to eat and then starve causing us to scarf down as much food as possible. Emotions in general cause us to overeat. If you’re excited and joyous going out to celebrate you are more prone to eating fun foods than a salad or sandwich. We can get upset and emotional that we crave sweets and sugary mixed drinks. I know women will tend to crave chocolate and salty snacks when emotional. If you are stressed you may binge eat to relax your nerves. Sometimes when I am overwhelmed and stressed I like to disengage with a snack because it relaxes my mind and nerves, it’s a reason to chill out. If you are lonely it’s very common to overeat. Make food for two and then eat for two. Portion control is very difficult when alone. If I am with someone I will eat less and have that distraction to not eat more. If I am alone I will get seconds and eat snacks just to feel occupied. It’s even harder to not binge eat when you have health issues like low blood sugar. If my blood sugar is low I feel horrible and very weak. The faster I get sugar in my system, the quicker I will feel better. This is when I scarf down a candy bar and chug a soda. All this sugar can be addictive. The sugar can boost your endorphins making you feel high and happy. When this high is gone you crave even more sugar.
When Emotional Eating Causes Serious Problems
From a psychological standpoint, emotional eating can cause a lot of problems like eating disorders. Say you are feeling fat and upset for over indulging. So, you starve yourself from all food. Then you feel sick and deprived so you binge eat. This makes you feel great but then you quickly feel regret and anger which causes the cycle to start again. In extreme cases the regret and anger can cause the purging of all the food consumed. This can become a very dangerous and life-threatening situation.
How to Control your Emotional Eating Habits
The easiest way to control yourself from over indulging is to be mindful of what, when and where you eat. If you eat fast then be aware of each bite, calm yourself and enjoy it, there is no race. If you eat more when alone, then occupy your mind, be active and be busy. If you need to eat or indulge keep only healthy snacks in the house so you’re never packing on the calories and fat. Be aware of portion size when eating in a group. Sometimes we get distracted and eat way more than we should. If you have a small plate then there’s no way you can over eat. If stress is causing you to over eat then go for a walk instead, take a bath, listen to music. There’s many things you can do to not overeat. If you have that strong of a need to consume something, then drink a glass of water. When it comes to low blood sugar, a soda and candy bar doesn’t have to be your only savior, try an apple or a glass of orange juice instead. All in all, the things you need to be aware of when tempted to over indulge is to slow down. Think about what you are feeling and eating. Be patient, don’t jump to food as the first option. If you over eat it’s not the end of the world, you will slip up. Still feeling like your emotions are getting the best of you? Is anxiety the reason behind your eating habits and weight gain? Check out my previous article, it will help you learn to suppress your anxiety.