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Sunday, 30 November 2014

So THAT's why women's feet and hands are always cold! Why they are slaves to their hormones


My health complaint is starting to affect my love life.

When I go to bed at night, my boyfriend wriggles to the other side and wraps himself in the duvet to create a barrier between us.

The problem? My icy hands and feet.

‘Get them off me!’ he wails as I try to warm my toes on his toasty calves. 
‘Why are your feet so cold?’

It’s something I’ve started to wonder about myself. Since childhood, I’ve always had cold hands and feet, and put it down to bad circulation.

But the recent cold snap has rendered them so numb that when I pull off my gloves and boots, I half worry they’ll be left behind.

It seems worse this year than ever, and no amount of woolly socks, slippers or hot baths will shift the deep chill. 
In fact, the only time I can say I’m truly warm is when I wake up in the mornings — but within minutes of pulling off the duvet my feet are numb.

I decided to do some investigating, and the experts have some reassuring news: cold hands and feet reflect a perfectly natural process by which the body keeps your vital organs safe and warm.
The problem is that if you’re a woman, this happens much more easily and dramatically — we do feel the cold more, and it’s all down to hormones.

All of us — men and women — feel cold when our skin gets cold.

Thermo-receptor cells, less than a millimetre below the surface of the skin, are what cause us to experience changes in temperature, says Michael Tipton, professor of human and applied physiology at the University of Portsmouth.
Normally, the skin is kept at a comfortable temperature thanks to blood pumping through the capillaries — tiny, branch-like blood vessels that make up our microcirculation.

But when the thermo-receptors detect cold, they react by causing the capillaries to shut down, diverting blood flow — and warmth — to the heart, lungs and other internal organs. This process is called vasoconstriction.

Incredibly, when we’re cold the amount of blood flowing into the skin in the extremities can become as low as  0.02 litres per minute (the maximum rate is two to three litres per minute).

‘It’s a bit like placing a blood pressure cuff on the arm,’ says Professor Tipton.

‘It’s the hands, face and feet that tend to be coldest and that’s partly because they’re exposed, but it’s also because the body will sacrifice these extremities to keep the internal organs warm.’

That’s why our hands turn white, and even blue, in the cold, and why those who survive extremely cold conditions lose fingers and toes to frostbite.

However, in some people — typically women — this process can go haywire, causing their blood vessels to shut down even from a minimal amount of cold.

‘We know from studies that if you lower people’s temperatures by placing them in cold air, vasoconstriction happens more quickly in women,’ says Professor Tipton.

‘The blood flow to skin is shut down sooner and more intensely than in men, and afterwards it takes women longer to warm up.’

So even though women may feel the cold more than men, it’s their skin temperature — not their core body temperature — that’s colder.
Indeed, a study of 219 people published in The Lancet in 1998 showed that while the body temperature of the women who were studied was on average 0.4 f hotter than the men, their hands were 2.8 f colder.

This is partly down to hormones. 

In women, the female hormone oestrogen regulates the peripheral blood vessels; high levels of this hormone make them more sensitive to temperature.

As a result, a woman’s temperature will vary during her menstrual cycle as oestrogen levels rise and fall. 
It’s suggested this mechanism allows a pregnant woman to ensure her baby is protected from cold, but the causes are still unclear.

There’s also the fact that women have 10 per cent more body fat than men. 
‘Insulation works both ways,’ says Professor Tipton.

‘The more fat you’ve got, the more you’re defending the inner organs, but it also means you’re stopping heat from reaching the skin.

‘And fatter people tend to have lower skin temperatures.’

This phenomenon also explains why women are five times more likely to have Raynaud’s syndrome, a disorder thought to affect 10 per cent of women in Britain to some degree.

It is characterised by extremely cold hands and feet when exposed to the cold — even touching something cold, such as reaching into the freezer.

‘Raynaud’s refers to a wide spectrum of conditions known as vasospastic disorders, which means your microcirculation system is very sensitive,’ says Ian Franklin, a vascular surgeon at Imperial NHS Trust and chairman of the Circulation Foundation.

This means that the natural vasoconstriction response to the cold is exaggerated. 
‘It overshoots, so only mild cold causes it to shut down,’ he says

Exactly what causes Raynaud’s is unknown, but it can run in families.
The problem can also be triggered by auto-immune conditions such as arthritis and lupus — when it’s known as secondary Raynaud’s.

In a Raynaud’s attack, the capillaries temporarily go into spasm and the blood supply to the extremities is so severely interrupted that the fingers change colour, going white then blue as the supply of oxygenated blood is cut off. 
When heat is restored, the hands may swell up and become red and painful as the blood flow returns.

‘Cold sets it off, but it can be triggered by many things, such as smoking — because nicotine shuts down circulation — and emotion or anxiety, because adrenaline diverts the blood to the muscles,’ says Mr Franklin.
Professor Tipton adds that the process of vasoconstriction is also thought to go some way to explaining why rates of heart attack go up during winter months.

This has previously been thought to be due to cold placing extra strain on the heart, but more recent work has suggested it’s to do with changes in blood flow.

‘If you become cold and the bloodflow shifts from the peripheries of the body to the centre, the body reacts by getting rid of some fluid to make room for the increased blood volume.

‘This is why you’ll find that after standing in the cold for a while you’re bursting to go to the loo.
‘However, all these fluid shifts also increase the likelihood of clotting, and we think that may result in the increased cardiac problems we see every winter.’

Cold hands and feet can occasionally be a sign of something more sinister — the blood flow in your body may be interrupted because a vein or artery in the leg has become furred up by fatty deposits, a condition known as peripheral arterial disease.

But here the cold feet tend to be accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain in the arms or legs during exercise (because not enough blood and oxygen is reaching the muscles), says vascular surgeon Jonathan Earnshaw at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

‘When people are referred to us with cold hands and feet, it tends to be Raynaud’s or that they have inadequate circulation because of narrowed arteries and veins,’ he says.

‘But this group tend to be older, smokers or diabetic.

‘If you’re young and you just get cold feet, you’re probably at the very mild end of the spectrum of Raynaud’s.’
So, apart from layering up, what’s the best way to stay warm? 

The experts are unanimous in their answer: light exercise. This restores blood flow to the muscles and skin.
‘Most people have problems in winter because they stop exercising,’ says Professor Tipton. 

‘If you cycle to work or jog while it’s cold, it takes four or five minutes to start to warm up.’
It really does work. I wrap myself up in a hat and gloves, and take my bike out round the local park. Within minutes I start to feel something I haven’t felt in quite some time: my feet.

Unfortunately, though, the effects last for only a short time after you finish exercising, so unless I go for a sprint before bed, my long- suffering boyfriend has no escape from my icy grasp at night.
All I can do is reassure him: ‘Cold hands, warm heart.’

Is Starch Dangerous? Why You Maybe Shouldn't Worry About Grain Brain

by Kevin Cann

Carbohydrates seem to be once again front and center of the nutrition world. Many of my clients have read or are reading Dr. David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain and are coming forward with many questions and fears. Dr. Perlmutter suggests in his book that a carbohydrate intake of over 60g per day can lead to a “toxic brain” and neurodegeneration. This includes diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. He suggests that everyone should be on a diet consisting of less than 60g of carbohydrates per day to prevent these neurological conditions. 

ketogenic diet, low carb, low carb diet, ultra low carb diet, carbs and athletesKetogenic diets are extremely useful therapeutic tools when fighting neurodegeneration. In fact, research has been around for over eighty years stating the positive benefits of ketogenic diets to treat diseases such as epilepsy. There is also abundant research showing that ketogenic diets are beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury, and stroke.1 But just because it is a beneficial diet to treat those withneurodegeneration, does not make it necessarily beneficial for the entire population. 

Let me clarify what I mean when I say starch. I think we all can agree thatrefined sugar and processed foods are bad for everyone. When I talk about starch I am referring to unrefined, whole-food carbohydrates such as fruits and root tubers. Fruits have been part of our diet since before we were even human. Dr. Daniel Lieberman goes into great detail about our evolution with food in his book titled The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease. He is a doctor of evolutionary biology at Harvard University and he believes that starches such as root tubers were a major piece in our evolution and allowed us to carry on and spread as a species.

Due to these benefits of starch, we have developed an increased means to digest it. In fact, humans contain anywhere between two and fifteen copies of the amylase gene. Amylase is an enzyme used to breakdown starch. The numbers of copies of the amylase gene varies amongst populations. Populations consuming more starch have more copies of this gene. This shows a positive selection of this gene.2 This shows natural selection favoring the consumption of starch. Is there a genetic variation in starch consumption? The answer to this question is more than likely yes. Some people will be able to tolerate higher levels of starch than others.

There are also modern day groups that eat a diet consisting of high amounts of starch.The prevelance of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and inflammatory disease is extremely rare. These groups include the Kitavans who consume 69% of their daily calories from carbohydrates, the Okinawans who consume 85% carbohydrates, and the Tukisenta who consume 95% of their daily calories from carbohydrates.

Having too few carbohydrates can have some negative side effects. For one, going too low carb can have some negative side effects on the thyroid hormones.3 This can make losing weight difficult, increase stress levels, and even make your hair start falling out. Also, going too low carb can have negative effects on steroid hormones such as testosterone.4

Gluconeogenesis is the process by which we make glucose from other substances such as amino acids and glycerol. The fact that we make glucose from other substances shows its importance to the human body. The process of gluconeogenesis is a stressor and raisescortisol levels. While a little bit of this can be good for weight loss, too much is a bad thing. Cortisol induces insulin resistance and insulin resistance can lead to diabetes and other major health concerns.5

Carbohydrates also play an important role in our ability to be physically active.Physical activity requires massive amounts of glucose. Carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that can be metabolized in an anaerobic state and depleting muscle glycogen, our storage form of glucose, actually leads to fatigue. This makes carbohydrates essential for performance and recovery.

Now, am I saying that everyone should be eating a high carbohydrate diet? Absolutely not. There are positive benefits to a low carb diet if we are overweight and have insulin resistance. Eating low carb can be a useful tool in helping reverse some parameters of metabolic syndrome. As I stated earlier there is also genetic variations amongst populations. Tinkering with carbohydrate intake may be necessary to determine where you feel best on the scale. Some people do much better on a lower carb diet and others do well on a higher carb diet.

But to remove an entire macronutrient group for preventative measures is unnecessary.Starch plays an important role in human function. It supplies us with the glucose we need to survive, it fuels physical activity, and in its absence we can run into thyroid and other hormonal issues. If we have some type of metabolic issues we may benefit from a lower carb diet, but healthy people, do not fear your carbs. Have some potatoes at Thanksgiving!

1. Gasior, Marciej, et Al., Neuroprotective and disease-modifying benefits of a ketogenic diet. PubMed 2006. Retrieved on November 11, 2013.  
2. Perry, George, et al., Diet and the evolution of human amylase gene copy number variationNature Genetics (2007). Retrieved on November 11, 2013.  
3. Danforth, E, et al., Dietary induced alterations in thyroid hormone metabolism during overnutrition. PubMed (1979). Retrieved on November 11, 2013.  
5. Khani, S and Tayek, JA. Cortisol increases gluconeogenesis in humans: its role in the metabolic syndromeClinical Science(1979). Retrieved on November 11, 2013. 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Finding the perfect portion size

The serving sizes on breakfast cereals might appear paltry to most adults, so will they really fill you up?

We all know – or you'd hope so – that a big part of the obesity crisis is inflated portion sizes. A single chocolate-chunk cookie from Starbucks, as big as a saucer, is 499 calories, more than a quarter of the energy a child needs in a day.
But while portions in cafés, bakeries and fast-food places tend to be massive – and don't get me started on cinema popcorn – the recommended portions on food packets are often minuscule. Tesco Jumbo Salted Cashews claim that a portion is 25g, providing just 155 calories. If there is anyone alive restrained enough to eat such a measly quantity of nuts, particularly at cocktail hour, I haven't met them.
The serving sizes on breakfast cereals can also resemble fantasy more than truth. Kellogg's Raisin Wheats claims that a portion is 40g, but this would hardly dent the appetite of my teenage boy (who admittedly is 6ft 7in). When you pour 40g into a cereal bowl, it looks paltry; maybe I should get smaller bowls. Yet 40g is generous compared with the 20g of Rice Krispies and 17g of Corn Flakes from the individual boxes of a Kellogg's variety pack.
What I didn't realise, until I spoke to Paul Wheeler, a spokesperson for Kellogg's, was that portion sizes for cereals 'are the same wherever you go in the EU'. A few years ago Kellogg's, Jordans, Weetabix and Nestlé all agreed to 'harmonise' their servings.
For most cereals it is 30g, though for muesli (which is denser) it's 45g. Wheeler tells me that the thinking on this was that 'the main consumers of breakfast cereal are children' and apparently lots of studies have shown that 30g is about what most children can manage. 'It's a really good portion,' says Wheeler, though he does admit that adults 'eat a bit more'. But the other crucial factor is that Kellogg's cereals are fortified and a bowlful is designed to deliver 25 per cent of the day's vitamins and minerals.
This doesn't apply to Dorset Cereals, whose mueslis and granolas are non-fortified mixtures of grains, nuts, seeds and fruits. Earlier this year Dorset launched some new 'breakfast pots' aimed at office workers: a single portable serving with room for milk (99p each in three varieties from Waitrose or Sainsbury's).
Mandy Cooper of Dorset Cereals explains how they decided the portion (75g). 'We just asked 50 people to pour out what they thought was a normal amount.' The quantities were then averaged out. This sounds nice and sensible.
The 75g in the pots is lots more than the 45g normally recommended for muesli, but still only 300 to 400 calories including milk. 'We thought, you're at your desk, you want a proper breakfast,' says Cooper. 'You don't want something where at 11 o'clock you think, "Crikey! I need a muffin.'
Funnily enough, though, when The Sunday Telegraph's Stella office tried these breakfast pots, they found them 'delicious but way too small'. The associate food editor, Katie Drummond, who is svelte and not greedy, said she was 'hungry about an hour later'.
All of which brings home how hard it is for the food industry to set credible serving sizes. One person's stingy helping is another person's overkill. Paul Wheeler of Kellogg's notes wryly that 'we can't be sitting next to you at breakfast', instructing how many Bran Flakes to pour out. And as Mandy Cooper at Dorset says, 'It all depends whether you're going to have toast as well.'

11 Foods to Avoid When You're Having Digestive Problems

By Christine Bahls

Some people treat their bodies like a Ferrari, others, like a clunker. A Ferrari-fed body is given a healthy diet with the right mix of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, water, salts, vitamins, and soluble and insoluble fiber — all requirements for avoiding indigestion. “If you’re missing any of those, it’s a problem,” says Benjamin Krevsky, MD, associate chief of gastroenterology at the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Good fuel enables the body to work more efficiently. When you’re having indigestion, which includes symptoms like nausea and bloating, what not to eat becomes equally important. Here are foods to avoid when you’re having tummy troubles.

Dairy Products

One food group that can be hard to digest is dairy — mainly because of the sugar lactose found in milk and other dairy products. When lactose isn’t digested properly, such as in people with lactose intolerance, gas and bloating result. If you consume too much lactose, it goes into the large intestine, and diarrhea can develop or worsen. During digestive problems, it may still be okay to eat yogurt and hard cheeses because they have no lactose, or you can try lactose-free milk.

Spicy Foods

If you’re experiencing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, you’ll want to avoid food choices that stimulate the digestive system, and these include spicy foods, says Jung Kim, a registered dietitian and specialist with Clinical Nutritional Support Services at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Spicy foods are “incredibly variable,” says Dr. Krevsky — they have no effect on some people, but cause indigestion for others. In general, you should choose bland foods when you’re having digestive problems, and be sure to avoid spices if you’re sensitive to them.

Acidic Foods

Tomato sauce and citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits, are acidic and can cause digestive problems. Many people don’t realize that carbonated beverages are also acidic — Krevsky says that if you leave a pearl in a glass of soda pop overnight, it will dissolve. When you have an upset stomach, avoid acidic foods, he says.

Fatty Foods

Fatty foods stimulate contractions in the digestive tract, which, surprisingly, can either slow down the emptying of the stomach and worsen constipation or speed up movement and worsen or lead to diarrhea. The effect can depend on the type of fat and your tendency toward constipation or diarrhea. When you’re experiencing a bout of indigestion, put low-fat foods on the menu and eat small meals spaced throughout the day, which can put less pressure on your stomach. Avoid high-fat culprits, like butter, ice cream, red meat, and cheese, at least for a while.

Fried Foods

The problem with fried foods is the same as with fatty foods — they can move, undigested, through the body too quickly, leading to diarrhea, or stay in your digestive tract too long, causing you to feel full and bloated. Many fried foods are low in fiber and take longer to digest. So if you’re dealing with either diarrhea or constipation, you’ll want to avoid fried foods for a while. The conventional wisdom, says Krevsky, is that when you have indigestion, you should avoid fried foods because they tend to slow down the emptying of the stomach.

Processed Foods

If you’re constipated, avoid processed foods because they lack fiber, which helps regulate bowel movements, Krevsky says. Processed foods also often contain preservatives and artificial coloring, Kim says, and people with allergies or sensitivities to these additives will feel their effects during digestive problems. Note that some packaged foods contain lactose, which can give you gas and worsen any discomfort you’re already going through.

Artificial Sweetener

The artificial sweetener perhaps most associated with digestive problems is sorbitol. It is a hard-to-digest sugar found naturally in some fruits, including prunes, apples, and peaches, and is also used to sweeten gum and diet foods. Once sorbitol reaches the large intestine, it often creates gas, bloating, and diarrhea. If you have diarrhea, read food labels so that you can avoid sorbitol, Krevsky says.


If you’re feeling nauseated, the last thing you should have is an alcoholic drink. “It will probably make you sicker,” Kim says. Nutritionally speaking, alcohol itself is a big zero. It has no protein, vitamins, other nutrients, or “good” carbs. As Krevsky explains, alcohol is toxic to the stomach lining and changes liver metabolism. Drinking too much can cause indigestion, among other health problems. Moderation is key.


Caffeine stimulates gastrointestinal tract motility, making contents move more quickly through your system, and excessive amounts can give anyone diarrhea, Krevsky says. So if you already have diarrhea, caffeine will only worsen your digestive problem. He also warns against simply switching to decaf coffee because it still has some caffeine. Remember that tea, soda, and chocolate are other sources of caffeine, and should be put on hold until tummy troubles go away.

Sweet or Salty

The body doesn’t like trying to digest foods that are super sweet or salty — it likes moderation. When you’re sick, “You want something that’s easily digested,” Kim says. “Some people are affected by sugar levels when they are nauseous.” Chocolate, a sweet-tooth favorite, is a culprit in many digestive problems, including heartburn and the more-serious GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Spoiled Foods

Many refrigerated foods can go bad, such as dated items like eggs, dairy products, and meat. Bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli can also pass from raw meat to veggies and fruits. Eating tainted foods can cause digestive problems or worsen existing ones, such as diarrhea and vomiting. Be aware of the symptoms of food poisoning — muscle pain, fatigue, and abdominal cramps — because food poisoning can be life threatening, Krevsky says.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Hill Sprints: How to Build Muscle and Burn Fat

by Curt Pedersen
Forget doing your cardio on a Stairmaster or treadmill. If you want to get into shape fast, burn fat, and buildmuscle hill sprints are the way to go.

They were the choice of NFL legends Jerry Rice and Walter Payton and should be your primary conditioning workout, too. This is because no other cardio workout produces results as quickly. The burning pain doing them creates builds mental toughness that will make you a better competitor too.

My Personal Experience With Hill Sprints

I began doing hill sprints several months ago and am as fit as I’ve been since I stopped playing competitive soccer after college. Within a few weeks of running hills I lost 10 pounds of fat without changing how I eat.

My joints don’t hurt like they used to when I would run sprints on flat ground, even though I am a decade older. The speed at which I recover between sets in the weight room is also improved as well.

Getting Started

Now that you know how great running hills are for your physical and mental fitness, it’s time to learn how to add them to your workouts. Below are a few guidelines for you to follow. Use it as a template to create your own program.

Step 1 - Find A Hill
The best way to find a good hill is to drive around your neighborhood and look for a hill that is at least 40 yards long. The longer the better. The hill should be steep enough so that it is challenging for you to walk up and down. The steeper the better, too.
If you can’t find a good hill this way, Google terms like sledding hills, landfills, and whatever else may work for your neighborhood. You should eventually be able to find something. Steep staircases are an adequate substitute as a last resort. If you’re going to run stairs, try to at least find a set that’s made from wood.

Step 2 - Go To The Hill And Get Ready

Begin your workout with a light warm-up. This will help prepare your body for the brutal workout ahead. I like to warm-up by performing 10-15 minutes of calisthenics and dynamic stretches. This includes arm circles, burpees, high kicks, jumping jacks and squats. Do 5 sets of each exercise for 5-10 reps and you’ll be ready to go.

Step 3 - Time To Run

Before you sprint make sure you have your technique down. Below are several tips to ensure you perform your sprints with proper form:

  • Keep your chin up and eyes forward. Don’t look down no matter how tired you get.
  • Your chest should be out and shoulders back as you run up the hill.
  • Don’t clench your fists. Instead, lightly squeeze your fists or run with hands open.
  • Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle and move them up and down. Don’t let them cross over your body as you run.
  • Pick your knees up high as you run and keep your hips forward. Never move from side to side.
  • Push explosively off the balls of your feet with every step. Your heels shouldn’t make contact with the ground.

The first time you run hills I recommend not doing more than 5 sprints at about 75% of your maximum effort. They really are brutal and you don’t want to burn yourself out on the first set. Increase your intensity with every sprint.

Add 1-2 sprints per week until you are performing 20 per workout with maximum effort.

Step 4 - Cool Down

Finish your workout by walking on flat ground until you are able to breath normally. You can then perform 10-15 minutes of static stretching for all of your major muscle groups to keep from getting tight.

Additional Tips

When You Should Do Hill Sprints

The best time to perform this workout is after you lift weights. This will keep your strength from being compromised in the weight room. If you can’t do your sprints shortly after you lift weights, do them several hours later or on your day off.

How Often Should You Do Hill Sprints

Start with 2 weekly workouts and increase to 4-5 per week over the course of a few months. Once you can do 20 hill sprints 4-5 times a week you will be in the best shape of your life. Guaranteed.

Making Your Workout More Challenging

Once you can perform 20 hill sprints with good technique it’s time to make the workout more challenging. Below are several ways to do so. Only try one of these at a time. Include more as your conditioning improves. 

  • Add an additional workout later in the week.
  • Increase the distance you sprint.
  • Decrease the amount of time you rest between eat sprint by running down the hill instead of walking.
  • Wear a weighted vest.
  • Perform a set of another exercise (i.e. bodyweight squats, kettlebell swings, push ups) before each sprint.


Now you know what I think is the best, fastest, and safest way to get into shape. Whether you want to shed excess fat, perform better, or simply improve your health hill sprints are the way to go. After all, if they’re good enough for some of the greatest athletes of all time, they’re good enough for me and you.

Do You Have a Fatty Liver? 90 Million Americans Do!

by Mark Hyman, MD

The most common disease in America is something you probably never heard of, but it affects 90 million Americans and is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart attacks, and even cancer.
It is called NALFD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) or fatty liver, for short, and is caused by the 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour in our diet.
How do you know if you have it? What’s causing it? And how do you fix it? Do you exercise, take drugs, change your diet, or take supplements to fix it?
Many of you are probably wondering, “What is a fatty liver?” Some of you may have heard of foie gras. Foie gras is the French term for fatty liver that is used to describe a delicacy made from duck or goose liver. What happens to the livers of these animals as a result of the controversial practice of overfeeding is what you could be doing to your own liver, unknowingly. For those people who have this disease, essentially what they have is a liver that is full of fat, and that is a major cause of chronic disease and inflammation in the body.
How is it that we live in a country where fatty liver is the single most common disease, but most people have never even heard of it? 70 to 90 million Americans have a fatty liver and almost none of them know they have it. In fact, you might have it, as well, and not even know it.
What causes it?
In order to make foie gras, ducks or geese are force-fed sugar in the form of corn and starch—a sad practice. In the body, this sugar turns on a fat-production factory in the liver, a process known aslipogenesis, which is the body’s normal response to sugar. Fructose actually ramps up the lipogenesis response.
The high fructose corn syrup found in our processed foods is the single biggest cause of fatty liver. Soda, which, frighteningly, is the number one source of calories in the American diet, is, then, the biggest cause of fatty liver.
How do you know if you have it?
There are blood tests available that can detect a fatty liver. You can also see it on an ultrasound. And if your test comes back abnormal, you are in trouble. But even if your test comes back normal, you might not be out of the woods. It’s important to know that a liver function test doesn’t always detect a fatty liver. An ultrasound can be more sensitive.
The bottom line is, if you eat a lot of sugar and flour, if you have a little bit of belly fat, or if you crave carbs, starch, and sugar, you probably have this.
Why is this a problem?
Fatty liver creates a whole cascade of issues. It causes inflammation in your body. This inflammation creates insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, which causes your body to deposit fat not just in your liver but also all around your organs and in your belly.
That dangerous belly fat caused by the sugar and starch in your diet then creates even more problems. It causes you to have high triglycerides and low HDL, the good cholesterol. It causes you to have small LDL, the dangerous cholesterol particles that cause heart attacks.
In fact, having a fatty liver puts you at great risk for having a heart attack, and most people have no idea they have it. Certain populations like Latin Americans have a much higher risk of having a fatty liver.
And shockingly, now, we see 12-year-old boys who have lived on soda for years needing liver transplants from fatty liver. That’s pretty scary, and we really need to think about what we are doing to our children by feeding them these toxic substances.
When you have a fatty liver, you need to think about the damage it’s causing. You don’t want to end up with a liver transplant. You don’t want to end up needing to be on medications to fix the complications of a fatty liver like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and abnormal cholesterol. You want to get to the root of the problem.
How to fix your fatty liver
There are some really simple things you can do with diet, exercise, and supplements to help heal your fatty liver.
  • Cut out all high fructose corn syrup from your diet. If you see it on any label for any product—whether it’s a salad dressing or ketchup or tomato sauce—don’t eat it. Think about it: most servings of tomato sauce that you buy in a jar have more sugar than a serving of Oreo cookies. Get rid of all that high fructose corn syrup from your diet, 100 percent, no exceptions.
  • Reduce or eliminate starchGet rid of white, processed flour. Even whole grain flours can be a problem. It’s common to find too much of these starchy foods in the classic American diet, or what we call the SAD (Standard American Diet). All of those things will promote a fatty liver. You may be surprised to learn that it’s actually not fat that causes a fatty liver. It’s sugar. To learn more about why this is true, check out my book, The Blood Sugar Solution.
  • Add some good things to your diet to help heal your fatty liver. Add plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Add lean animal protein like chicken and fish. Add good oils like olive oil, macadamia nut oil, avocados, coconut butter, and fish oil. Good fats like these are anti-inflammatory, and they help repair your liver.
  • Improve your metabolism through exercise. This is a fabulous way to improve insulin resistance and reduce fatty liver.
  • Use the right supplements. I do a lot of this with my patients, and I find it very effective. We give them herbs like Milk Thistle. We use things like Lipoic Acid, a powerful antioxidant, and N-Acetyl-l-Cysteine. These things help boost something in your liver called glutathione. I encourage you to read my blog on glutathione, which talks about how this wonderful detox substance in your liver can be regenerated with certain supplements. And we use other things like B vitamins and magnesium. All these things will help your liver repair and heal.
  • Eat detoxifying liver-repairing super foods. Focus on the broccoli family. I love this family of foods, and I try to have at least a cup or two every day. Kale, collards, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, arugula, daikon radish—all wonderful foods that help repair and heal your liver. Garlic and onions, also, are full of sulfur, which is a great detoxifier.
I promise you, you don’t want a fatty liver. You need a healthy liver to help you deal with all the junk and chemicals in our environment. When you have a healthy liver, your body stays healthy, you don’t get sick, and you can feel good, which is what I want for everybody.