Sunday, November 26, 2017

Avoiding Illness During the Holiday Season

Unfortunately, the holiday season can bring lots of stress with it.   Combine this with travel, holiday parties and the flu season, and you have a recipe for getting sick!   So what can you do to prevent or minimize your chances of illness over the holiday season?   Here are are some steps you can take to help prevent illness:

Wash your handsThe importance of this simple step cannot be overstated.  Prevention is the best cure and unless someone coughs or sneezes directly in your face you acquire bacterial and viral illnesses through your hands!  Use hand sanitizer whenever you cannot wash your hands.  Bacteria and Viruses do not jump on you they must be transported to a place of entry (eyes, nose, or mouth).   During air, train or bus travel it is worth considering having anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down surfaces on and around your seat as well.

Exercise.   Who knew right?   Moderate exercise boost immune function through several well-established mechanisms so do NOT skip your workouts during the holidays!

Get your sleep. If you have not figured this out already let me clue you in – lack of sleep prevents recovery and wears your entire system down so make sure you allow time for adequate sleep.

Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplement.  This is not the season to be deficient in key vitamins in minerals – several of which will directly submarine your immune system.     There are many examples such as lack of adequate zinc and vitamin c.  Enough said – take a high quality vitamin and mineral supplement daily!

Limit Intake of Refined Carbohydrates.    Refined carbohydrates such as cake, cookies, candy, donuts, pie, juices (that’s right fruit juices are not the way to do – way to much sugar!), pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, cereal, etc.    All this sugar directly blunts immune response!

Avoid Trans Fats aka “Partially Hydronated Fats” prevalent in junk foods and fast foods.  These fats also blunt immune response.

Most respiratory and gastrointestinal illness are viral not bacterial.   Colds and Flu are viral infections and will not be helped by medication other than symptom relief.     So knocking down some of that leftover antibiotic in your medicine cabinet is a bad idea!   That being said, there are always exception so consult with a physician whenever you are in doubt!   If you are given an antibiotic for bacterial infection it is CRUCIAL you finish the entire prescription even if you feel better before you are done!

You can also add some of the supplements described below to help shorten the duration of your illness.    However, keep in mind that some antibiotics are effected by foods, vitamins, and minerals so make sure you read the instructions and ask the pharmacist.  For example, several antibiotics need to be taken on an empty stomach while others need to be taken with food and others can bind and become inactivated if taken at the same time as a vitamin or mineral supplement.

Antibiotics.   If you are prescribed an antibiotic one side effect is that it can kill the beneficial bacteria which are supposed to be in your intestines.  To prevent diarrhea and/or fungal infections which come as a result of killing the good bacteria take a probiotic supplement (beneficial bacteria) to replenish the bacteria during and for at least two weeks after using any antibiotic. 

Good brands include: Culterelle (available in many pharmacies and health food stores), enzymatic therapy acidophilus pearls, and best of all is Jarrow (Jarrow Dophilus).  Shelf stable brands such as these are BETTER then refrigerated products because the products requiring refrigeration WILL NOT be refrigerated during transport to the store.  Expiration dates are VERY important with these products.  They are safe for everyone and follow label directions for dosage

Do not take at the same time as you take the antibiotic because the antibiotic will kill the bacteria.  By the way eating yogurt to replace the bacteria is like throwing a brick in the Grand Canyon to fill it – way too little to be effective.   Probiotic supplements are inexpensive and worth every nickel if you are taking antibiotics – particularly for females who want to avoid yeast infections due to antibiotic use.

Specific Immune Enhancing Supplements

Alkyglycerols from shark liver oil.  The body uses alkyglycerols to create immune cells.   They are found in high concentrations in two places: mothers milk and shark liver oil.   Numerous controlled, peer-reviewed studies have established that supplemental intake increase can safely and significantly improve immune response by increasing the number of immune cells.  In fact, this supplement has been shown to prevent the immune suppression associated with chemotherapy and radiation.

This supplement can be very helpful for certain people because its method of action is to rejuvenate the immune system  by providing the raw material for creation of immune cells rather than merely stimulate the immune response like other supplements like Echinacea.  If the immune system is stressed immune stimulants like Echinacea may not work without the use of Alkylglycerols to build it up.

The most widely researched variety of this supplement is called Ecomer.  This particular brand was used in all the research studies.   A company called Scandinavian Naturals sells it under their label. Since shark liver oil can contain impurities such as PCB’s and other contaminents it is important that you buy a product using the Ecomer variety because it is molecularly distilled and free of all contaminants. 

The only people who cannot safely take this product are organ transplant patients since it could in theory counteract the immune suppressing drugs they take to prevent their body from rejecting the organ.   Even people with auto-immune disorders tend to benefit because this supplement tends to balance an overactive immune system as well.  This product can be taken during the entire cold and flu season and is very effective at reducing the incidence of cold and flues.  Dosage is 1 to 2 capsules per day with meals.  This product is moderately priced but very effective – particularly if you know that you have a tendency to catch more colds and flues then other people.

Astragalus Astragalus is a tonic adaptogenic herb used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine.   Tonic adaptogenic herbs are herbs that can be used for long periods of time and normalize the body’s response to stressors.  Astragalus acts as a deep immune stimulant.   It has been extensively researched and documented to improve immune response.  It is best taken for the entire season.  It comes as drops (called a tincture) or in capsules.   For tinctures excellent brands include: Herb Pharm, Gaia, and Natural Factors.  For capsules excellent brands include: Nature’s Plus, Enzymatic Therapy, Twin Lab, and Solgar.  The only known contraindication is for organ transplant patients.   Dosage: follow label recommendations.  Astragalus is very inexpensive and an excellent preventive measure that many people swear by.

Echinacea – is an extremely potent immune stimulant.  However there have been several studies showing little to no effect in human trials.  This occurred because an inferior product or insufficient dose was used in these studies.  Using the right product is VERY important.  The finest brand is unquestionably Natural Factors.  They control and test their product from seed to plant to end product.  They are one of two companies to insure standardization for the three key active chemicals. 

The controlled, peer reviewed research on their Echinacea known as Echinamide shows outstanding effectiveness for viral and bacterial infections.  Their products are made in tincture and gelcaps.   They also make a mixed product that includes astragalus, lomatium, and mushroom extract which is outstanding for preventing or mitigating viral infections (the vast majority of illnesses are NOT bacterial they are viral). Always see a physician to make sure you do not need another medication. 

Another outstanding product is called Quick Defense by Gaia Herbs which comes in a liquid or liquid cap.

Another excellent brand is Nature’s Way Echinacea in tincture form – it has also been used in several successful research studies. 

Another excellent product is Esberitox sold under the Enzymatic Therapy label.  It combines Echinacea, Thuja, and Blue Flag in chewable tablet form that tastes good (the tinctures mentioned DO NOT taste good, but they work).    Esberitox has also been proven effective in excellent research studies. 

It is VERY important to take an adequate dose of Echinacea to produce results.   Preventively you can take a much smaller dose, but to affect an illness that has started you really need to increase dose significantly so follow the label directions which provide for different dosing for prevention and use during illness. 

Probiotic Supplements – as mentioned above these supplements are key when taking antibiotics.  Good bacteria serve vital roles in human physiology and due to poor diet, toxin and drug intake many people lack the ideal levels of these helpful bacteria.  They directly stimulate immune response and can help prevent many of the causes of digestive illnesses such as food poisoning, yeast infections, etc.   The brands listed above are excellent.  

Vitamin C and Zinc.  Short term increased intake of vitamin C and Zinc can boost immunity during illness.  Be careful with Zinc because too much for extended periods of time can cause problems.   Properly manufactured Zinc lozenges such as Cold-Eeze are extremely effective if used as directed for SHORT term use only.  Your multivitamin will provide plenty for regular daily use. 

Vitamin C is extremely safe because it is never truly toxic.  If you take too much vitamin C your bowels will become loose. During illness you can usually tolerate much higher doses of Vitamin C (up to 20 grams per day in divided doses) without having loose bowels.  During illness start with 2 grams (2,000 milligrams) every 2 hours until you notice any bowel symptoms.  If you do back off the dosage slightly until the bowel symptoms go away.  If you do not have any bowel systems increase the dose. 

You will be amazed how much Vitamin C you can tolerate IF you are really sick, and it takes high doses to be effective when ill.  The best type of Vitamin C is a buffered time released for of Vitamin C.  Buffered C is easier on the stomach and boosts plasma levels of C more efficiently than regular C.  If you want vitamin C to help you have to take several grams at a time as indicated above.    All the studies with Vitamin showing lack of results used inadequate dosing.  If you use enough it is an amazingly effective and inexpensive strategy for colds and flu.  

Oscillocoxinum or Oscillo for short.  This is a homeopathic remedy specific and useful for one thing: the flu.  It MUST be used IMMEDIATELY upon symptom onset or it WILL NOT be effective.  Like all homeopathic remedies it is an FDA approved over the counter remedy that has NEVER produced side effects and is safe for anyone to use.  Several well designed clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of this product for the flu.  Simply follow label directions.    It costs about $15 for a complete supply that will get you through a bout of the flu.  When it works it is so effective that sometimes people think they did not have the flu which is very nice compared to getting the flu.

Combining supplements:  all of these supplements can be taken together without fear of interactions.  My suggestion is that in addition to the multiple vitamin you focus on the Alkylglycerols and a good probiotic supplement throughout the cold and flu season then have some of these products on hand in case you do get sick.  It is worth having a few of these products on hand (such as Esberitox Mentioned above) because they can shorten the duration and intensity of viral and bacterial infections but are only effective if started at the first onset of symptoms.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

How to Eat Healthy While Travelling Over the Holidays

‘Tis the season again – we are entering that infamous Thanksgiving through New Years stretch where the average American will gain 8 – 12lbs!    One of the main reasons for this is that we get out of our normal routines for both exercise and diet.   It is even more challenging if you are travelling during this season because you are out of your home and have less control over your exercise and eating habits.

However, where there is a will there is a way!  Here are some key tips to prevent weight gain during travel:

1       Plan your meals and your exercise.    This is probably the most important tip because with a little planning you CAN eat healthy and get in your exercise.

2      Start by looking at your travel schedule and planning your meals during travel.   We all know how lousy the food is on an airline so instead of being subjected to the lousy and unhealthy food bring your own.    

      In many airports today, there are plenty of healthy options that you can purchase and carry on the plane.     Great options include:

a.       Nuts – see below

b.       Ready to drink shakes like Muscle Milk (even starting to see this in an organic option in airports!).

c.       Nutrition bars – see below

d.       Hard boiled eggs

e.       Salads with chicken

3      Even better buy non-perishable food before you leave home.      Excellent choices for meals and snacks that are easy to travel with include:

a.       Nuts – come in cans and pouches with smaller packages being ideal because while nuts are healthy they are high in fats and even healthy fats have lots of calories!    No honey glazed and if you need to be concerned about salt stick with unsalted, roasted nuts.    Best choices include pecans and walnuts and brazil nuts followed by almonds, then peanuts and cashews in terms of sugar content.

b.      Nutrition bars – there are a ton of healthier bar choices now, and they have actually figured out how to make a healthy bar that tastes pretty darned good without a ton of sugar that have high levels of fiber, healthy fats, and protein.      Several variety of Kind Bars fit this bill including Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt; Caramel Almond and Sea Salt; and Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan.    These bars taste great and will satisfy you and travel well.

c.      Ready to mix shakes – there are many great options for shakes that are low in sugar and high in protein that taste great and come in packets that are easy to mix in a plastic shake bottle after you add water.   Gone are the days where these options must be blended in a blender.   Experiment a bit and you can find shakes that come in single serve packets that mix quite well in a plastic shaker bottle.

d.      If you are driving, consider bringing some pre-made meals in a cooler that are either ready to eat cold or can easily be microwave or baked when you arrive.   When you bring some of your own food and healthy desserts you know you will have good options!

4      Focus on a great breakfast because you can get eggs in every town in America both at restaurants and in people’s homes.   Eggs are fantastic nutrition that really satisfies, and they can be prepared in many different ways.  Starting the day off with 2 – 3 whole eggs along with some sautéed vegetables, some cheese and some berries will keep your hunger at bay and provide a healthy meal that is easy to come by!

5    Get your exercise in!  Plan before you leave – worst case you can use resistance bands and get a great workout in a very small physical space such as a hotel room.  You can also do highly effective body weight workouts while on the go and another fantastic choice for travel exercise is a suspension trainer like TRX or Core Flytes -  For resistance bands and workouts with them check out For a great bodyweight workout try this one:

6    Go for a walk and check out the neighborhood or go see some nearby sites.   Sitting on your butt all day while food is being prepared all around you is asking for trouble!   Get up and get out and active for part of the day or offer to do some shopping for the group or pitch in with some of the physical chores if you are staying at someone’s home.

      So while it is easy to gain weight during travel over the holidays – with a little planning you can come through with little to no weight gain or even lose a pounds or two over the holidays!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How to Enjoy Alcoholic Beverages Without Getting Fat During the Holidays!

The holidays are a time of celebration, and assuming you do NOT have a problem with alcohol and can drink responsibly, it is okay to imbibe!    The key to not getting fat from alcohol is to understand the calorie and carb content of alcoholic beverages and plan your intake ahead of time in terms of exactly what you chose to drink and how much you have.   

All alcoholic beverages tend to drive insulin production so they are a big no, no for diabetics and other people taking certain medications.   ALWAYS check for drug and alcohol interactions before drinking any alcoholic beverage.

It is also important to understand that in addition to the alcohol content itself alcoholic beverages are often full of sugar which further drives insulin and fat production.    The good news is that there ARE alcoholic beverages that are much lower in sugar/carb and calories.


One of the best deals for a low carb holiday beverage is champagne!   Champagnes have the lowest carb and calorie content of any wine so are a great choice – particularly dryer champagnes.   A 4-ounce serving contains just 1.6 grams of carb and only 84 calories making Champagne the best choice for holiday cheer!

Common White Wines

After Champagnes the next best choice is white wines (NOT including ANY dessert wines!)

Per 5 Ounce Serving Size:

Chardonnay -   120 calories and 3.43 grams of carb
Sauvignon Blanc – 120 calories and 3 grams of carb
Reisling – 120 calories and 5.54 grams of carb
Pinot Grigio – 122 calories and 3 grams of carb

Common Red Wines

Merlot – 118 calories and   grams of carb
Cabernet Sauvignon – 130 calories and 3.82 grams of carb
Burgundy – 122 calories and 5.46 grams of carb
Pinot Noir – 116 calories and 4 grams of carb
Shiraz – 116 calories and 3.79 grams of carb

 Low Carb Beers

Bud Select 55 – 55 calories with only 1.9 grams of carb
Miller64 – 64 calories with 2.4 grams of carb
Michelob Ultra – 95 calories with 2.62 grams of carb
Becks Premier Light – 64 Calories with 3.2 grams of carb
Miller Light – 96 calories with 3.2 grams of carb
Amstel Light – 95 calories with 5 grams of carb
Coors Light – 102 calories with 5 grams of carb
Bud Light – 110 calories with 6.6 grams of carb

Mixed Drinks

Liquor such as gin, vodka, scotch and rum, but are full of calories and to some extent act as a “super” carb driving insulin and hunger.    That being said they do not contain any carb whatsoever so as long as you mix them with no sugar/calorie mixers you can keep your carb and calorie intake somewhat under control.

One of the best choices is Vodka and Soda Water with Lime or Lemon coming in with zero carbs and about 100 calories!   Other examples are whiskey and diet coke, Seagrams 7 and Diet 7-up, Rum and diet cola, or Spiced Rum and Diet Ginger Ale.

What to avoid!

Watch those mixers when it comes to mixed drinks – most standard mixers such as all sodas, fruit juices, and tonic are full of sugar unless you use the diet versions.    All your Caribbean and Tropical drinks such as Pina Coladas, Daquireis, Mai Tai’s, and Margaritas, etc are chock full of sugar and calories.

Set a Budget for Your Intake!

Set a budget on your intake of alcoholic beverages and actually keep track as you drink them making a point of knowing how much you have had each hour.     Remember each beer, glass of wine, and mixed drink takes one hour to process for the average male (and longer for females) so anything above 1 per hour is getting you inebriated at some level.   

In addition to budgeting your intake drink a glass of non-alcoholic, no calorie beverage such as water or club soda for each drink/beer/glass of wine you have to slow yourself down and stay hydrated.

If you want to catch a buzz drink your limit and switch to all non-alcoholic beverages for 2 – 4 hours before driving.     

Even better – get a designated driver or use Uber or Lyft for travel to and from Holiday Parties!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Proven Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

As we head into the holidays most Americans will gain between 8 and 12lbs between Halloween and New Year’s Day.  However, there are ways to avoid this weight gain!

Here are some key tips:

Eat before you drink and celebrate and before holiday parties.     Going into a holiday party on empty and hungry is a sure-fire way to overeat.    Alcohol intake boosts appetite to begin with and if you start out without anything in the tank it just gets worse!    This does not mean overeating – eat a sensible meal about 2 hours before you go to the party.

Try to choose higher protein foods first because protein helps with satiety (feeling satisfied and not hungry).

Fill up on Fiber Rich Foods – which also help with satiety and help create a feeling of fullness when consumed with water.  Focus on the raw veggies and yes you can dip them in some dip that has some fat because together fiber and fat can really assist in managing hunger along with protein.

Eat some fat – that’s right eat some fat!   Fats also are key for satiety.   That being said a little goes a long way!

Bring your own food to a party.   Rather than having only high calorie, high sugar and high fat foods bring something you enjoy that is also healthy along with you!

Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly – seems simple and it is.    It is also VERY effective for limiting food intake!

Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses – all of which help to slow down food and beverage intake and make you more conscious of how much you are consuming!

Try to Minimize Sugar and Starch Intake – both sugar and starch wind up as glucose (blood sugar) and high intake drives insulin which results in rebound hunger.      High sugar and starch intake increases hunger – particularly when drinking alcohol because alcohol acts like a super sugar and also drives insulin response.

Pause before getting seconds – as with slower eating and deliberately chewing food this can give your body time to realize it is no longer really hungry.

If you are doing the entertaining have extra containers you are ready to give away so guests can leave with some of the extra food!

Try not to eat in front of the T.V. which distracts you from how you feel and results in mindless eating!

Consider planning a cheat meal but have a plan for how much you are going to eat!   One meal can knock you off course but most of the holiday weight gain comes from completely giving up on healthy eating for many meals.   Planning one cheat meal every week and planning on eating a set amount of the foods you may be craving can work for many people rather than mindlessly eating.      If you plan your meal including your portions of alcohol, sweets, fat and sugar you can limit the damage and still have a great time!

Drink Water.   Often quoted and still true - water is the best beverage and avoiding sugar laden drinks in favor of still or sparkling water can make a big difference in minimizing holiday weight gain.

Workout!   Working out improves mental outlook and burns some calories while reducing stress levels!    When we are stressed we overeat!   Just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference!

Get Your Sleep.   Lack of sleep is terrible for your health and particularly bad for driving appetite and overeating.   Lack of sleep causes hunger and excessive eating because the normal feedback mechanisms that tell you that you are full do not work properly when you are tired.   Basically, a tired brain tells you to eat to feel better and it is VERY hard to resist these urges when tired!