Category Archives: Jessica Nagelkirk

How To . . . Boost Your Brain Power, by Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk

While you’re awake, your brain generates 10-23 watts of power. That’s enough power to light up a light bulb. If you ever feel like your mental power could never produce a dim glow of a light bulb, read on for simple steps you can take to boost your brain power.

Exercise
Hundreds of research studies over the past decade have found that physical exercise leads to changes in the brain that improve its function. The hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning and memory, has been found to increase the number of nerve cells with exercise. In a study of mice, it was found that mice that were allowed to exercise had double the number of new nerve cells in the hippocampus compared with mice that were sedentary. Not only does exercise increase the number of neurons in your brain, but it also increases blood flow to the brain, which allows it to be bathed in the nutrients needed for optimal functioning. Monkeys who exercise for one hour a day, five days a week, have demonstrated increased alertness, attentiveness, and the ability to learn new things faster, regardless of age.

Nutrition
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that communicate with the nervous system, including the brain. You have probably heard of serotonin and its association with depressed mood, but it, along with other neurotransmitters including acetylcholine, plays a role in memory. In order for neurotransmitters to function properly, they require additional nutrients called co-factors. These cofactors are nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals. Many of these cofactors can be found in green leafy vegetables and protein. Including a healthy fat in your diet is also really important, as your brain is 60% fat! Healthy fat sources include avocados, olive oil, flax oil, nuts and seeds, grass-fed organic butter, and oils from fatty fish.

You might also want to steer clear of processed foods and pesticides, choosing organic whenever possible. A study of students in New York showed that students who ate lunches free of artificial flavors, preservatives, and dyes scored 14% better on IQ tests than students who consumed those additives.

Sleep
While you sleep at night, your brain works hard to consolidate your memories from the day. Not getting enough good quality sleep actually decreases your ability to form new memories. Set yourself up for success by having a bedroom designed for sleep. Try to sleep in total darkness, with blackout drapes if possible. Your bedroom should also be free of electronics that produce electromagnetic frequencies . If you sleep with your phone next to your bed, try moving it across the room. Millions of Americans watch TV and work on their computers in bed, a bad habit if you’re trying to get good quality sleep. The bedroom should only be used for sleeping and intimate moments.

Supplements and Herbs
There are many products out there to enhance brain function. Some ingredients that I occasionally use temporarily to support the brain are:

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) found in fish oil or krill oil: An omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, called DHA, is the primary structural component of the human brain. Low levels of DHA are associated with cognitive decline.
B Vitamin Complex: B vitamins are important co-factors for millions of processes that happen in your body every day which help support mental and cognitive health. Choosing methylated forms of B vitamins like folate and cobalamin are important for some individuals, as a common genetic defect prevents some of the population from turning the inactive forms of these vitamins into active, usable forms.

Rhodiola Root Extract: This plant is used in traditional medicine in Eastern Europe and Asia to enhance physical and mental performance. Studies of the plant have actually shown improved physical and mental performance, reduced stress-induced fatigue in humans, and improved stress symptoms in general. I typically use this herb with the “worn out student” type person.
Probiotics: Health begins in the gut. Probiotics can help restore the balance of good bacteria and improve the assimilation and absorption of the nutrients you need for proper brain function. If you can’t digest food well, it makes getting the nutrients you need for brain function difficult.

There are many medical conditions that impair mental function, such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dementia, or even clinical depression. Low iron stores (serum ferritin), zinc deficiencies, food allergies, and heavy metal toxicity have all been associated with ADHD symptoms and poor cognition. If you or your family member experiences difficulty with brain function or completing tasks, it’s important to have an evaluation by a physician to make sure the underlying problem is identified and addressed before you self-treat with herbs or supplements.

Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk is a licensed Naturopathic Physician (ND) specializing in integrative primary care medicine. She is a current faculty member at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon and sees patients privately at U.P. Holistic Medicine in Marquette, MI.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Fall 2014 issue, copyright 2014, Intuitive Learning Creations.

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How To. . . Make Your Own Natural First Aid Kit, by Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk

Our 2014 Summer Fun Issue – For Kids & the Kid In All of Us – is now out!

Enjoy the following article from this edition!

The weather has finally broken here in the Upper Peninsula and we’re able to take advantage of all the outdoor summer activities this beautiful area has to offer. With the warmer weather inevitably come bumps, bruises, insect bites, scrapes, and other minor injuries associated with living an active lifestyle. If you aren’t lucky enough to have Dr. Oz’s number on speed dial, the next best thing is to have a fully stocked natural first aid kit so you can address most minor accidents without having to run to the store.

Most pre-packaged first aid kits will need to be personalized and added to in order to be fully functional for your needs. When you’re setting up your kit, choose containers that are roomy, durable, easy to carry, and simple to open. Plastic tackle boxes are ideal since they are lightweight, have handles and offer plenty of storage space.

In addition to the basic first-aid kit contents (bandages, alcohol pads, tweezers, scissors, sterile saline solution, hydrogen peroxide, disposable gloves, ibuprofen, antibiotic cream, Benadryl, rehydration fluid, etc.), here is a list of my most-used natural first aid remedies.

NAUSEA, VOMITING & UPSET STOMACH

Activated Charcoal: Coming down with food poisoning while traveling or camping is the pits. I’ve been there and it’s awful. Taking activated charcoal can help with upset stomach, especially if food poisoning is suspected. The charcoal absorbs the poison, which is then eliminated from the body. Activated charcoal comes in the form of powder, capsules, or tablets and the dosage varies depending on the form. The oral dosage is 1 tablespoon of powder stirred into water, 4 capsules, or 8 tablets.

Candied Ginger: Ginger is very soothing to stomach. Candied ginger is palatable and easily stored. It’s nice to have around for unexpected car sickness and general nausea.

CUTS, INSECT BITES & BRUISES

All Purpose Salve: Made by Wise Woman Herbals, this salve contains herbs and nutrients that help your cuts and scrapes heal more quickly and with less scarring. Apply salve directly to cuts and cover with a bandage if needed. This salve is mildly anti-bacterial but will not replace Neosporin in treating an infected wound.

Antibacterial Tincture: This herbal combination contains echinacea, goldenseal, gotu kola, and calendula, and is a great alternative to Neosporin. These herbs are strongly anti-bacterial and help wounds heal more quickly. I usually apply this tincture to a cut or scrape three to five times a day until it is scabbed over.

Bentonite Clay: Bentonite clay is a fantastic drawing agent. A small bag of bentonite clay goes a long way. Mix with water to create a paste and apply to any bug bite with toxins or venom. This works great for spider bites, bee stings and the really nasty mosquito bites. It can help reduce itching on small children so they don’t rub themselves raw (if you can get them to leave the clay on for long enough). Leave the paste on until it dries if you can.

Apis, Homeopathic: This homeopathic is made from bee and this gives you a big clue as to how it’s used. Just think of the last time you had a bee sting. Use this homeopathic anytime you have a bug bite that is painful, red and swollen.

NERVOUSNESS & ANXIETY

Rescue Remedy: Rescue remedy can be purchased at many natural food stores. It is a combination of flower essences that have been selected to help with general anxiety. It can be very useful to have around. Often people become anxious when they’ve injured themselves and this can go a long way toward calming their nerves. It also works great before a stressful test or pre-date jitters!

SPRAINS, STRAINS & MUSCLE CRAMPS

Traumeel: Traumeel is a topical cream that is a combination of the most common trauma-related homeopathics. It can be helpful for bumps and bruises but also for deeper injuries like sprains, strains and over-use injuries. This is a great substitute for tiger balm for all you weekend warriors! Apply the cream to the affected area as needed. This can be used in conjunction with internal homeopathics.

Arnica, Homeopathic: Homeopathic arnica is indicated in many acute traumas. Arnica can help reduce bruising and decrease healing time. Arnica is best indicated in cases of blunt trauma, such as any injury where bruising is the primary concern. In an acute situation, take three to five pellets of arnica 6C, 12C, or 30C under the tongue. Let the pellets dissolve and don’t eat or drink anything but water 15 minutes before or after taking the homeopathic. For a serious injury, homeopathic arnica can be taken every 30 minutes to 2 hours right after the injury and 1-3 times daily for a few days after. For a more minor injury, take arnica only once. Stop taking the homeopathic if the pain and bruising resolve.

These items are a great addition to a standard first aid kit. They will give you more flexibility when dealing with many common injuries and situations. These treatments don’t take the place of consulting a physician when needed. If you experience a serious injury or a wound which is not healing properly, please seek medical care. Enjoy your summer adventures and be safe!!

Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk is a licensed Naturopathic Physician (ND) specializing in integrative primary care medicine. She is a current faculty member at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon and sees patients privately at Apis Integrative Health in Marquette, MI.

 

This article was reprinted with permission from the Summer 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Why I Don’t Use Agave, by Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk

The agave craze has caught on in the world of natural cooking and healthy eating.  Agave is a honey colored liquid that tastes sweeter than sugar, is gluten free, vegan and low on the glycemic index.  Because of its glycemic index rating, it is often marketed as “diabetic friendly”.  What you might not know about this sweetener is agave nectar is basically high-fructose corn syrup masquerading as health food.  The high level of synthesized fructose puts people at risk for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance.  Sally Fallon, nutrition expert and author of “Agave Nectar: Worse Than We Thought“, found that obese individuals who drink fructose-sweetened drinks with meals have triglyceride levels 200 times higher than equally obese individuals who drink glucose-sweetened drinks.  

Agave is not natural

Agave was developed in the 1990’s primarily in Mexico.  There actually is no such thing as agave nectar.  The sweetener is made from the starchy root of the yucca plant.  In order to produce agave nectar, the leaves are cut off the plant once it is between 7-14 years old and juice is expressed from the core.  The juice is then filtered, heated (to hydrolyze the polysaccharides into simple sugars), then converted in to liquid nectar using caustic acids, clarifiers, and other chemicals.  The end result is syrup that’s 70%-92% pure fructose- an even higher amount than high fructose corn syrup, which contains 55% fructose.

The Burden of Fructose

Glucose is metabolized by every cell in the body for energy production.  Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver, putting a significant burden on an already taxed organ of detoxification.  Animal studies have shown that livers of animals fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty cirrhosis of the liver.  The same studies also show that consumption causes insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and hypertension, all of which are leading causes for the chronic health problems Americans face – obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

If diabetes and coronary artery disease don’t scare you, fructose has also been associated with cancer.  Many researchers believe that it is sugar in the modern diet that provokes cancer growth.  Studies have shown that having insulin resistance actually promotes tumor growth.

What to use?

Honey and grade B maple syrup, used in moderation, appear to be the sweeteners our bodies are best able to deal with and also contain additional nutrients.  Both have more complex flavors than cane sugar so people tend to use less. This is really the only difference between the sweeteners because your body processes all forms of glucose in the same way.  If you’re on the GAPS or SCD diet, honey and dates are best because they are simple sugars.  And of course, eat whole fruit in moderation.

Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk is a licensed Naturopathic Physician (ND) specializing in integrative primary care medicine.  She is a current faculty member at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and sees patients privately at Apis Integrative Health in Marquette, MI.  

This article was reprinted with permission from the Winter 2013 – 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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Anti-inflammatory Diet, by Jessica Nagelkirk

Today’s research shows a clear link between our health and the food we eat.  Poor nutrition choices and hidden food allergies over-stimulate the immune system causing an inflammatory response.  At first the inflammation causes changes in how the body functions creating symptoms like joint pain or mood disturbances.  Over time, chronic inflammation can cause physical changes in the body, leading to irreversible joint damage, heart disease, or even cancer.

Try to eat only the following foods for 21 days and see how you feel:

Steamed vegetables:

  • The primary reason for steaming vegetables is to improve utilization and/or availability of nutrients.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables that you tolerate, excluding members from the nightshade family that are know to be inflammatory like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.
  • Avoid use of aluminum cookware or a microwave.

Grains & Legumes:

  • Allowed grains are millet, basmati or brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, oatmeal, barley, buckwheat, rye, and teff.
  • Allowed legumes are split peas, lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, soy beans, mung beans, garbanzo beans, and adzuki beans.
  • Many people feel best when they eliminate grains and legumes completely.  Check out the book Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo for awesome grain-free recipes.

Fish:

  • Eat fish, preferably deep-sea fish such as salmon, halibut, cod, sardines, tuna, and mackerel.
  • The fish should be poached, steamed, or broiled.

Chicken:

  • Eat only white meat from free-range or organically grown chicken.  Do not eat the skin.
  • The chicken should be baked, broiled, or steamed.

Fruit:

  • Eat 1-2 servings of fruit like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or apples

Sweeteners:

  • Very small amounts of maple syrup or honey may be used.
  • Absolutely no sugar, NutraSweet, or any other sweetener is allowed.

Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk is a licensed Naturopathic Physician (ND) specializing in integrative primary care medicine.  She is a current faculty member at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and sees patients privately at Apis Integrative Health in Marquette, MI.  

This article was reprinted with permission from the Fall 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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Cold & Flu Prevention Tips & Tricks

By Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk

Bieler Broth

This nutritious broth is helpful during acute illness or as part of a detoxification program.

Vegetables Needed:

2 medium zucchinis

2 stalks celery

clove of garlic

1 cup green beans

chopped parsley

Chop 2 medium zucchinis, 1 cup of green beans, and 2 stalks of celery and steam until soft (about 10 minutes).  Place steamed vegetables, 3 cups of water, and a handful of chopped parsley in a blender and blend until smooth (about 1 minute).  If you like garlic, a clove or two can be added as you blend to help stimulate the immune system.

Warming Sock Treatment

This treatment acts to reflexively increase circulation and decrease congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat.  It has a sedating action and many patients report that they sleep much better during the treatment.  This treatment is also effective for pain relief and increases the healing response during acute infections. The wet sock treatment is best if repeated for three nights in a row, or as instructed by your physician.

Indications:

Sore throat or any inflammation or infection of the throat, neck pain, ear infections, headaches, migraines, nasal congestion, upper respiratory infections, coughs bronchitis, and sinus infections.

Supplies:

1 pair white cotton socks

1 pair thick wool socks

Towel

Warm bath or warm foot bath

Directions:

  1. Take a pair of cotton socks and soak them completely with cold water.  Be sure to wring the socks out thoroughly so they do not drip.
  2. Warm your feet first.  This is very important as the treatment will not be as effective and could be harmful if your feet are not warmed first.  Warming can be accomplished by soaking your feet in warm water for at least 5-10 minutes or taking a warm bath.
  3. Dry off feet and body with a dry towel.
  4. Place cold wet socks on feet.  Cover with thick wool socks.  Go directly to bed.  Avoid getting chilled.
  5. Keep the socks on overnight.  You will find that the wet cotton socks will be dry in the morning.

Check out the next post for more information from Dr. Nagelkirk on this topic!

Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk graduated this past spring from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon as a Naturopathic Physician (ND) and is part of its 2012 – 2013 faculty.

*Learn more about Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk on our Writers page.

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How Can You Prevents Colds and Flus?

by Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk

Each winter, the influenza virus wreaks havoc on our ability to work, learn, and play.  Common symptoms of flu include fever, sore throat, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, and cough.  The conventional approach to flu prevention includes vaccination, but there are many natural ways to boost your immune system this flu season that can be done in addition to, or instead of the flu vaccination.

Vaccination

The influenza virus is remarkable for its high rate of mutation, so your body never really gets a chance to build immunity to the virus.  Scientists use their best guess as to which new variants will appear and include them in the vaccine each flu season. The effectiveness of the vaccine therefore depends on the scientists’ ability to match the virus.  Some years it’s very effective, and some years less so.

More than ninety percent of influenza-related deaths occur among people over sixty years of age.   A new study shows that influenza vaccination in older patients is associated with a reduced risk for hospitalization and almost fifty percent reduction in fatality.  Flu vaccination is recommended in adults over age 65, persons with chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, kidney, or liver disease, diabetes, intellectual disability, neurologic disorders, immunosuppression, women who are pregnant or up to two weeks post-partum, and residents of nursing homes.   Both healthy individuals who opt out of a flu vaccine and those at risk who do receive a vaccine can increase their chances of making it through the flu season unscathed using some natural therapies to enhance the immune system.

Nutritional Supplements

Vitamin C has been shown to inactivate the influenza virus and can aid in the prevention of influenza as well as shorten the duration and severity of infections already contracted.  Vitamin C can cause diarrhea and is usually dosed in acute situations “to bowel tolerance.”  Dosage can be repeated every few hours. You might test out 500 mg. at a time to start.

Zinc plays an important role in maintaining healthy blood cell function.  Taken at 30 mg doses for short periods may help white blood cells fight infections.  Taking zinc for longer periods, such as more than one month, leads to depletion of other important minerals so please see your physician if you need to take zinc long-term.

Vitamin A is associated with white blood cell function and maintains the integrity of mucus membranes – the front line of our defense against microscopic invaders.  Do not take vitamin A supplements if you are pregnant as high doses can cause birth defects.

Botanical
Sambucol is a proprietary preparation of black elderberries and raspberries that has been shown to inhibit replication of influenza virus.  These berries contain vitamin A, vitamin C, and many flavonoids, all of which boost immune function.

Eupatorium perfoliatum, commonly called Boneset, contains immune polysaccharides that show significant immune-stimulating effects on white blood cells.  The homeopathic preparation is the recommended form unless given by a physician.

Steam inhalations with essential oils can also be helpful, especially when the upper respiratory system or sinuses are affected.  Oregano and thyme top the list for anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal steam inhalations.  Use 2-3 drops only, a little goes a long way in this case.

Lifestyle

Sleep is essential for keeping the immune system functioning optimally.  Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night to rejuvenate for the next day.  Interestingly, the timing of going to sleep is just as important as the duration.  Aim for going to bed between 9pm and 11pm for the best sleep.

Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and quality protein are the foundation for healthy immune systems.  Avoidance of sugary or processed foods is also important for avoiding the flu and other infections.  During times of acute infections, eating simple is best.  Try the recipe for Bieler broth in the previous post.

Stress is a part of everyday life, but excessive stress can decrease our immune system’s function.  Make a point to incorporate stress management techniques into daily life, especially during flu season.  Try meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.  There are plenty of local or free online resources out there, use them!

Most over-the-counter (OTC) flu medications only treat the symptoms of the virus and don’t strengthen your immune system.  If you do take OTC medications, make sure you are also supporting your body’s natural defenses.  Talk to your doctor about the best choices for you this flu season.

*For additional tips and tricks such as the warming socks treatment and homeopathic options, check out the Health & Happiness U.P Magazine website, healthandhappinessupmag.com or Dr. Jessica’s blog, Modern Naturopath.

Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk graduated this past spring from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon as a Naturopathic Physician (ND) and is part of its 2012 – 2013 faculty.

*Learn more about Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk on our Writers page.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Winter 2012 – 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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What Is A Healthy Way To Lose Weight?

by Jessica Nagelkirk

The multi-billion dollar weight loss industry has a dirty little secret: Dieting doesn’t work. You name the diet, there’s a book selling it and people buying it. The problem is, most diets have it all wrong. Dieting typically focuses on food deprivation, which actually drops your metabolism and makes your body want to store fat. Here we’ll explore the physiology of metabolism and some simple steps you can take to change your life for good.

The Anatomy of Digestion

In the center of the brain, you’ll find the hypothalamus, an important regulation control center for your body. Appetite for food and thirst, as well as metabolism, are all controlled by this little almond-size structure. Here, two important hormone regulators, CART and NYP, are released to control the brain’s biochemistry of hunger. These hormones have opposing effects (CART increases metabolism and reduces appetite, while NYP makes you hungry) and are in a constant battle for control of your appetite. The release of CART and NYP are controlled by events that occur in the gut.

In the gut, when you eat healthy fat or protein, your intestines release a messenger called CCK that turns on the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system, allowing your body to focus all its energy on breaking down that meal you just ate. This messenger also causes the release of another messenger hormone, leptin, stored in fat cells. Leptin activates CART, telling you to stop eating.

NYP, on the other hand, is stimulated every 30 minutes by the stomach’s release of a substance called ghrelin. So why don’t we get hungry every half hour? It turns out the leptin pathway is able to override NYP’s response to ghrelin and keep you feeling satisfied. This is why including healthy fats and protein in your diet is so important for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

The Role of Food

A healthy diet is all about including healthy fat, fiber and protein. By eating the right kinds of foods, you can trick your brain into believing that you’re full. Eating a little bit of good fats, like a handful of walnuts, approximately 25 minutes before a meal, stimulates the production of CCK, activates CART, and helps you eat less at mealtime because you don’t feel ravenous. If you do this, you’ll be able to eat for pleasure rather than hunger.

An adequate intake of healthy fat, (around 25% of your daily calories), includes a healthy balance of omega-3, 6, and 9 essential fatty acids. Some good sources of fat include avocado, coconut, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters, fish and fish oils from deep-water fish, and organic eggs.

Eating a diet high in fiber slows the time it takes food to move from your small intestines to your large intestines, resulting in increased appetite-suppressing signals. Studies show that bulking up on fiber in the mornings makes you less hungry in the afternoons. Vegetables and fruits, (especially leafy greens and apples), are an excellent source of fiber. The revised USDA food guidelines suggest each plate at mealtime to be 50% vegetables. It is recommended to eat size to nine servings of fruit and vegetables each day.

Protein gives you energy, helps burn off extra calories, and satisfies hunger. Studies indicate that a high protein diet does a better job of reducing hunger between meals than high-carbohydrate vegetarian meals. According to the Mayo Clinic, a good, lean source of protein should make up 25% of your diet. Try free-range beef, eggs, dairy, deep-sea cold water fish, legumes, nuts, wild game, and poultry.

Bust a Move

After you eat, your body has glucose available for energy. Normally, the pancreas secretes just the right amount of insulin to move the glucose into muscle cells for energy, keeping the blood sugar stable. Many overweight people are insensitive to insulin so the pancreas secretes more and more insulin in an attempt to get a response from the body. An elevated level of insulin in the blood stream encourages fat deposition and the development of obesity. Clinical studies have shown that regular exercise improves the muscles’ sensitivity to insulin and lowers blood insulin levels. When you improve insulin sensitivity, you also reduce your appetite by preventing large swings in blood sugar levels. Excess circulating insulin in an insulin-insensitive person can cause blood sugar to drop too low, causing hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia makes you hungry, even if you have just eaten a large meal. Exercise sets the metabolic stage for weight loss to occur by controlling your blood sugar.

In addition to its effects on insulin, regular exercise can increase good cholesterol, reduce triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and have a positive impact on bone density.

Get Started

Here are some tips for applying the knowledge you now have about the physiology of metabolism.

Know where you’re starting. Get off the scale and pull out a tape measure. Studies show that waist circumference, not overall weight, is the most important indicator of mortality to being overweight. Measure at the point of your belly button. Measurements over 37 inches for females and over 40 inches for males indicate an increased risk to your health.

Eat before you’re famished. Eat a healthy balance of fat, fiber, and protein at each meal. Try using a nine inch plate if portion control is difficult for you.

Identify food sensitivities. Although the relationship between food sensitivities and body weight remains uncertain, according to research, chronic food allergies may lead to overeating, resulting in obesity. If you believe food sensitivities may be playing a role in your weight gain, contact your physician to talk about food allergy testing or an elimination diet.

Learn stress management techniques that work for you. NYP, the chemical in the hypothalamus that decreases metabolism and increases appetite, is a stress hormone. This may explain why some people in chronically stressful situations tend to gain weight.

Eliminate high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Your brain doesn’t recognize HFCS as excess calories or as a NYP suppressant. It may contribute to weight gain by both making you hungry as well as unable to shut off your appetite.

Exercise. In order to gain minimal health effects of exercise, you will need at least thirty minutes of aerobic activity at moderate intensity on most days, preferably all days, of the week. It’s important always to listen to your body and increase or decrease your exercise accordingly. Strength training is an extremely important aspect of exercise and should not be neglected. Work with a personal trainer, physical therapist, chiropractor, or your physician to come up with an exercise regimen right for you.

Every person is unique, Naturopathic physicians expect the reason for weight gain to be equally individual. Before starting any weight loss plan, consult your doctor to make sure your weight gain isn’t from a medical condition that requires treatment other than lifestyle changes. Implementing healthy lifestyle habits will not only help you shed those unwanted pounds, but also help you have more energy and less risk for serious medical conditions.

For more information on dieting, including low carb diets, the danger of yo-yo dieting, and more, visit my blog at http://modernnaturopath.blogspot.com/ and click on “weight loss”.

Jessica Nagelkirk, medical student at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon will graduate in the spring of 2012 as a Naturopathic Physician (ND).

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2012.

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