Are Carbohydrates Bad For You ?

We are reductionists, things need to be good or bad and it is easier that way. This isn’t always the case, especially in nutrition. When it comes to nutrition context is king.

Everybody has different goals, genetic predispositions, sleep habits, familial medical history, metabolic flexibility, ancestry, stress levels and many more  factors that make the one size fits all nutrition approach a disaster. Are carbohydrates bad for you ?

Just like your ex that you still “hang out” with, Its complicated.

Because people differ so greatly, their ability to handle carbohydrates will also be different. A highly active athlete is going to require more carbs to fuel their activity and recover compared to a sedentary desk jockey who will need less.

Those who are obese or suffering from metabolic problems are going to do much better or fewer carbs because they do not metabolize carbohydrates very well. Your individual circumstances really dictate how your body is going to respond to carbohydrates.

For the average person who is noticing their waist growing each year and their belly getting larger and larger, dialing their amount and quality of carbs in the diet is going to be an important part of moving towards getting healthier and maybe losing some body fat.

If the weight gain stays steady year after year chances are there is some metabolic damage that could be addressed by lowering carbs as well.

Our standard american diet is very very heavy on the processed carbs and sugar, compared to how we have evolved to eat. This new carb dominant diet lacks the balance and nutrients  we have historically gotten from our diet.

There are absolutely cultures that eat a carbohydrate dominant diet and are in peak health. The carbohydrates in these cultures diets are natural sources though, not from cereal grains and sugar.

We have never before in mankind had the emergency need to lower blood sugar due to diet, until recently. It is not that carbs are evil, but a lot of times the poison is in the dose, and out standard american diet is causing us to overdose on carbohydrates.

This overdose of processed carbohydrates and sugar is reflected in the overall health of our society.  We are experiencing skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease as a society due to the way we are eating and living.


Abbreviated Blood Sugar Explanation

You consume a carbohydrate rich food which turns into glucose when broken down. The pancreas releases the main storage hormone insulin in response to the glucose in the system.

The body converts and stores that sugar in the liver, muscles and a little bit in the skeleton. When the basic needs for sugar are met the body gets the signal that all the necessary areas are topped off.

When the cells no longer accept any more sugar the body pumps out more insulin in the hope that more insulin will convince the body to respond. The body is smart and realizes that we are topped off, but have unlimited energy storage all round the body in the form of body fat.

This body fat can be utilized in times of food scarcity, the only problem is that the scarcity never comes and the body continues to get an influx of carbohydrates and sugar daily continually storing more body fat.

This daily blood sugar roller coaster keeps insulin elevated meaning that accessing that body for energy is impossible. Eventually our cells stop responding to the storage hormone insulin because it is constantly circulating.

You combine that insulin resistance with poor sleep and a basic sedentary lifestyle and you have a one way ticket to a wrecked metabolism and a host of health problems.

The Trinity

Carbohydrates comes in three basic forms glucose, fructose and fiber. The body uses glucose and fructose to produce energy. The body prefers to use glucose as its fuel over glucose.

Glucose in large amounts from non foods such as high fructose corn syrup is treated like a poison and shunted to the liver where it is processed. Fiber can’t be used as energy for the brain or cells, but does feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut.

An interesting fact is that carbohydrates are the only non essential macronutrient. macronutrients are protein, fats, carbohydrates and water.

The body is able to makes its own glucose using amino and fatty acids through a process called gluconeogenesis, however this process can fall short in providing what some will need.

This glucose is then used by the brain and the rest of the body. While this is an interesting fact I do not believe that going low carbohydrate is the best choice for everybody, but for some it can be very therapeutic.

Context is king, and your individual context matters in this equation.

Anti Nutrients: Phytic Acid & Lectins

Phytic acid is an anti nutrient found in large amounts in  commercial grains and legumes. Phytic acid is found in the bran of a grain and along with the protein layer in legumes.

Phytic acid binds to minerals in the body rendering them unavailable for absorption and turning into phytate.

Phytates prevent minerals from absorbed in the small intestine and negatively impacts the digestion of protein, fats and carbs causing digestive issues.

Lectins are a protein that can bind to cell membranes, and are found in high concentrations in commercial grains and legumes.

Lectins found in grains and legumes are resistant to digestion allowing them to pass through the digestive tract undigested. Lectins resistance to digestion causes gut inflammation by damaging the gut lining quicker than it can repair.

With the constant damage and inflammation, the gut starts to become leaky. Leaky gut allows undigested foods into the bloodstream causing inflammatory responses. When leaky gut happens it also allows essential nutrients to pass through the gut lining instead of being digested and used.

Gluten and Leaky Gut

Gluten, you knew it was coming and that I was going to to talk about it. Before we can talk about the negative impacts of gluten we should define it clearly.

Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley and is the protein combination of gliadin and glutenin. While there are people who have zero “reaction” to gluten on the outside, every client I have worked with has seen improvements in blood sugar and digestion after removing gluten containing foods.

The protein gluten is very difficult to digest and break down causing aggravation in the gut.The lining of the gut eventually gets worn down by the constant irritation of undigested foods.

Because the gut lining is worn down and beat up it allows improperly digested foods into the bloodstream.

The body only recognizes properly digested foods in the blood stream, and our immune system views these undigested foods as a foreign invader that needs to be attacked.

This also allows essential nutrients to pass through the gut lining instead of being digested and used. This chronic use of the immune system to attack foods leads to chronic inflammation and over time food allergies can develop.

The Good: Carbohydrates That Come From Nature

On to the good stuff already, enough doom and gloom already When you consume carbohydrates that come from nature, and are not man made many of these problems are avoided.

These sources of carbohydrates that come from nature are rich in vitamins and minerals and are packaged with enzymes that are beneficial to health.

Some great sources of carbohydrates to consume are: Spaghetti squash, Sweet potatoes, White potatoes ( if tolerated), Plantains , Acorn, squash, Beets , Parsnips, Winter squash, Cassava, Taro root, Butternut Squash, Yams.

The carbohydrates that are available from nature do not cause the same kind of blood sugar surges and insulin secretion that we experience from processed carbs for most people.

Have you ever eaten a bowl of pasta and felt tired/bloated afterwards ? You would be hard pressed to get the same feeling from eating blueberries or a sweet potato.

While they can be vilified carbohydrates do play some important roles in the body. Carbs provide a quick source of energy for muscles and help to shuttle protein into muscles for recovery after exercise.

Glucose is a source of fuel for the brain, but the brain and heart can also be fueled by fat in the form of ketones. Carbs do help with the lubrication of joints and contribute to the protective mucus produced in the highly acidic stomach, and can be helpful to some people who struggle with constipation.

Where to go from here ?

I hope that given the insights from above you have a general idea of where you fit from highly active athlete to sedentary with constant growing waistline or metabolically damaged.

I highly encourage you to experiment and find out where your specific sweet spot is with carbohydrates. Use the Primal Carbohydrate Curve from Mark's Daily Apple to help you find that sweet spot. 

The average american or those  looking to lose weight would do better to lower their carbohydrates, and make sure they are consuming enough healthy fats and protein.

There are some folks who would even do much better going very low carb and shooting to get into ketosis where the body uses dietary fat and body fat as the main source of fuel.

Those who are serious athletes or are frequently engaged in explosive physical activity such as crossfit or mixed martial arts are going to need more carbs to fuel their athletic endeavors.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.

 

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Fixing Your Digestion (Part 2)

When you have digestive problems it is on your mind frequently, and takes away from the pleasure of eating and sharing great  food with people that you care about.

Take it from someone who suffered from these type of problems for years. My digestive struggles always left me frustrated because I felt as though I couldn’t do anything to help my situation.

It wasn’t until I became a Nutritional Therapist and felt empowered to solve my digestive puzzle that I started to make progress and learned just how important and complicated the digestive system is.

If you have any digestive problems this blog posts should get you started on the path. If you have any further questions feel free to contact me evolvent.pdx@gmail.com

Pancreas: Enzymes Be Breaking It Down

When everything is working properly the highly acidic partially broken down food named Chyme enters the upper section of the small intestine.

This upper portion  of the small intestine stops chyme and is where the release of pancreatic juices take place, but this is dependent on the chyme being acidic enough, in most cases it is not.

When the chyme is not acidic enough the pancreatic juices are not secreted to break foods down further. Food also needs to become far less acidic before entering the small intestine to prevent burning the lining and causing ulcers.

The reduction in acidity is caused by a pancreatic juice named bicarbonate that doesn’t get released when the stomach doesn’t secrete adequate acid.

Gallbladder: All ABout The Fats

One of the biggest roles of our gallbladder is the secretion of bile which aids in the breakdown of fats for our body to use.

If you have made it this far in my blog you understand that fats from the right sources are a crucial part of nutrition. By going on low fat diets we make it very difficult to digest any of the fats in our diet.

 

What Is Leaky Gut ?

All undigested foods, but in particular undigested proteins from the poor digestive processes upstream cause these foods to wear down the microvilli of the small intestine.

These microvilli have the important job of letting digested foods into the bloodstream. As the microvilli gets worn down further it lets less and less digested foods into the blood stream.

These undigested fats and proteins that have been let into the blood stream causes an immune system response. When this immune response is triggered by foods all day long the immune system will get overwhelmed.

Our body only recognizes the properly digested foods,  the undigested foods are seen as a foreign invader in the body.

 

Large Intestine: Gut Flora Galore

Yet again the large intestine deals with the leftovers from digestion. When dysfunction happens these maldigested foods get to the colon full of undigested fats, microorganisms and and sometimes parasites. These poorly digested foods can feed the wrong bacteria in the large intestine causing a disruption in the natural balance of our gut flora. This imbalance in the large intestine can lead to inflammation causing problems with too frequent or inconsistent elimination.


Supporting You Digestion Tips Part: 2

Review Supporting You Digestion Tips Part 1: The fact of the matter is that supporting the digestion from the top is the best way to support all the functions that follow below it. Review these tips and make sure you are doing these.

Digestive Enzymes: We have a certain amount of digestive enzymes that we are given for our life. If we burn through those digestive enzymes by over burdening our digestive system it could be helpful to get take enzymes with meals so foods are broken down and digested better.

Eat Quality Fats: When you eat quality fats it stimulates your gallbladder  to produce bile which breaks down fats and allows the body to use these fats.

Eat Beets Cooked or Raw: Beets contain betaine which supports the liver/gallbladder in breaking down and digesting fats.

Bone Broth: Bone broth has a ton of gut healing nutrients, if you have any kind of digestive issue try having at least 4-8 ounces of bone broth a day to support overall digestion and gut health.

Consume Probiotic Rich Foods: Eating foods rich in probiotics helps to support the healthy gut flora in the large intestine. These foods would be sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, beet kvass, poke around your local health foods store. You can also get a probiotic supplement if you want to throw back a pill instead.

Magnesium: Magnesium can be helpful for constipation because of the role in the contraction and relaxation of muscles. You can get a good amount of magnesium from leafy green or you can use a magnesium citrate supplement to help.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.


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Fixing Your Digestion (Part 1)

Hey folks, if you haven’t read my previous post “Top To Bottom: How Your Digestion Works” I recommend reading it to give you the background necessary to get the most out of this post, and help resolve your digestive issues.

Your digestion works top to bottom (pun intended) starting with your brain ( top) and the anticipation of food, and ending with  elimination (bottom).

When addressing any kind of digestive dysfunction we need start from the top and work our way down. Problems start uphill and roll downhill in our digestion.

Before getting started I want to ask if you ever experience any of the following ?

  • Upset stomach

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Heartburn

  • Constant burping (especially around meals)

  • Indigestion

  • Feeling of excessive fullness after eating

  • Bloating

  • Indigestion

  • Gas within 1 hour of eating

These are all common signs that dysfunction is happening in your gut, or that the body is experiencing a healing reaction.

Most likely the body is trying to send you message that something is wrong and  needs to be addressed.

Most people experience the symptoms listed above and brush them off as “normal”. We tend to use medication to suppress symptoms, leaving the underlying cause unaddressed.

Enough with the doom and gloom though! the purpose of this post is to help inform and arm you with the knowledge and tools to begin solving your own digestive problems.

Throw away your package of tums and keep reading if you’re interested in improving your health and empowering yourself.

The Brain: Rest and Digest

We need to be in a parasympathetic state (rest and digest) to allow the body to get ready for food. This sets the stage for proper breakdown of foods in the stomach.

As a culture we are stressed out, and many people shovel lunch out of their tupperware into their mouth barely chewing.

All the while working on a on a new cover letter for the TPS report...your digestion did not get the memo.

Taking the time to get away from screens and relax around your food is crucial. It allows you to better digest foods , and gets you in tune with with your hunger. Are you still eating because you are hungry or are you in a robot like work mode ? Aim for eating until you are no longer hungry for the next bite, not until you are full.

The Mouth: Breaking It Down

We all know the person who inhales their food at a remarkable rate, then complains about how full they are or how bad their stomach hurts. Don’t be that guy.

Chewing is a fundamentally ignored part of our digestion, I’ll admit it is not sexy to talk to people about chewing and how their mom was right all along.

When you don’t adequately chew your food the brain doesn’t get the signal to prepare the stomach for the incoming food. Stomach acid is a critical part of our digestion, when we lack it we can’t properly break down and digest foods.

When we do not chew well enough passes the rest of that burden on to the stomach, and the production of saliva is not triggered. Who cares about saliva right ? it’s just our spit...well not exactly.

Saliva: Why Give a Spit ?

Out saliva is a complex blend of electrolytes, hormones and enzymes that play roles in our digestion. The main enzyme in our saliva is amylase which is responsible for the chemical breakdown of carbohydrates.

If we do not chew well enough amylase is not secreted and the breakdown of carbohydrates does not begin in our mouth.

By not properly breaking down carbohydrates in the mouth we leave the burden to finish job on our small intestine and pancreas, but without adequate chewing the stomach and pancreas can’t do their own job as well.

The key here is to chew your food well, at least 20-30 times per bite. Your food should be a liquid when you are done chewing. To help try putting your fork down in between bites.

The Stomach: All About The Acid  

As you learned from reading my last blog post, the stomach is all about creating an acidic environment so foods can be broken down and trigger enzyme release.

But there are a number of factors that prevent the body from creating the necessary acidic environment some include:

  • Not relaxing before Eating

  • Not chewing foods well enough

  • Stress

  • Excess carbohydrate consumption

  • Nutrient deficiencies ( Zinc & B Vitamins)

  • Alcohol Consumption

  • Allergies (Food or environment related)

The above bullets describe the average american which makes it  safe to assume that most of us are not producing enough stomach acid to digest foods optimally.

So what happens when we don’t have enough stomach acid ? Nothing good...

To begin with our first line of defense against pathogenic microorganisms is gone. The acidity of the stomach prevents bacteria, viruses and parasites from living and making it into our digestive tract and then blood making us sick.

The Heartburn Myth

When we are deficient in stomach acid the ability to break down foods and trigger further digestion is hindered. The partially digested foods sit and wait for the next step in digestion.

Over time these foods sitting in our gut  start to ferment causing bloating and pressure to build. The pressure has to be relieved and the valve between our stomach and esophagus is not meant to open upward - but with enough pressure it will be forced open.

The release of pressure upwards creates a reflux or backward flow of the acidic foods from the stomach into the esophagus. It burns the esophagus because it is not made for an acidic environment like the stomach.

Supporting Your Digestion Tips:

  • Relax Before Eating  - Put away all electronics and move away from the TV. Smell, see and even touch your food before eating to allow the body to begin digestion, and get ready to break down food.
     

  • Support Stomach Acid Production: Drink 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in 4 ounces of water  15-20 minutes before a meal to kickstart HCL production. You can use Digestive bitters 15 minutes before a meal or use a HCL supplement.
     

  • Drink Slowly At Meals: If you throw back two full pint glasses of water along with a lot of food at meal this will only further dilute stomach acid. Try to consume less liquid with meals and Sip slowly when you do.
     

  • Chew Your Food Well: No one wants to hear that their mom was right, but she was. Try chewing each bite 20-30 times, it should be closer to a liquid than a solid by the time you swallow it. Try putting your fork down between bites as  reminder.
     

  • Hydrate Throughout The Day: We are all chronically dehydrated. Too much fruit juice, coffee and soda and not enough clean pure water. Digestion is a taxing process for the body and many fluids are required , the base of those fluids is...water.
     

  • Eat Slower and Take Pauses: By chewing your foods better you will naturally slow down your eating a bit. This will allow your body to signal when you are no longer hungry for the next bite. Ask am I really hungry for the next bite ? When we overload our digestion with too much food we get bloated, gassy and have digestive pain.
     

  • Consume Less Alcohol and Processed Carbs: By consuming these alone or together at meals we squelch the production of stomach acid. Not to mention the extreme blood sugar spike and potential fat gain.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.


Evolve Nutritional Therapy Strategy Session


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Part 2 Coming Soon...

Top To Bottom: How Your Digestion Works

Copy of An argument for faster fat loss (1).png

When discussing health challenges people are quick to overlook digestion as a root cause of the issue, but recently people have started to overstep the bounds of what we can prove when it comes to gut health.

Now If we can’t properly break down and use the nutrients from foods we eat on a daily basis then yes we will lack the fundamental raw materials the body requires to make hormones, recover, repair and function properly. 

The big thing to keep in mind is that gut health while very important is not the cure all some people are claiming it to be, and there’s a lot of claims made that are plain untrue such as gut health stopping someone from losing body fat.

Fat loss is a calorie balance equation and microbes and or poor digestion can not change that, while they may make you feel bloated that is not true body fat.

 A future blog is going to be devoted to how dysfunction can take place at each stage of digestion, and how to address the underlying problem, not just the symptom of the problem.

It's important to understand how things work before trying to understand the reason for dysfunction  

Where It All Begins: The Brain

We have the rest and digest (think relaxing and eating) or fight, flight and freeze (think an argument with a stranger or doing a boxing class) states.

To be able to properly digest foods you need to be in the rest and digest state, as this allows your body to prepare for the process of breaking down and digesting food.

By taking the time to cook, smell, touch and just be around your food before eating it your body is allowed to prepare for food and you dive into the rest and digest state.

The salivary glands secrete saliva, and the stomach starts to release the proper gastric juice in anticipation of food. 

The Physical Gatekeeper: The Mouth


The mouth is where chemical and mechanical breakdown of the foods begin with our chewing.

Our mother was right when she told us to chew our food well as it can be a really helpful step in improving your digestion.

Saliva contains an enzyme named amylase which begins the breakdown of carbohydrates in the mouth.

The more we chew our foods and break them down, the less our stomach has to pick up the slack left by our lazy jaw habits. 

Interestingly enough some indigenous cultures that eat a very high carb diet naturally have much higher levels of amylase in their saliva

Big Poppa: The Stomach

When you food is swallowed it travels down the esophagus and enters into one of the most important organs of the digestive system, the stomach.

Because you did such a great job chewing your food the brain and stomach knew food was on the way.

Your stomach prepared for the that food by releasing the highly acidic gastric juices that are necessarily in this stage of digestion.

Those digestive juices include hydrochloric acid (HCL) and pepsinogen/pepsin.

The acidity of the stomach is important for killing bacteria and parasites from outside the body and from food as well. The acidity of the stomach is important for activating pepsin which breaks down proteins.

When the food arrives in the stomach it is coated in HCL further mechanically and chemically broken down and mixed until it becomes an acidic “paste”.

I know this sounds gross but its what happens every time we eat…

This very acidic paste named chyme is then released into the upper part of the small intestine. 


Small Intestine: An Organ and Gland

The small intestine secretes two important hormones into the bloodstream: Secretin and Cholecystokinin (CCK).  

Secretin triggers  the pancreas to release bicarbonate and pancreatic juices. Bicarbonate reduces the acidity of the chyme so it doesn’t burn the small intestine.

CCK signals the gallbladder to release bile, which is released to break down and absorb fats.

Pancreatic enzymes are released that breakdown of protein, fats and carbs once the chyme is less acidic.

Carbohydrates become glucose molecules, proteins becomes amino acids and peptides and fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol molecules.

By the time that the chyme leaves the small intestine it is almost completely digested, but not yet absorbed.

Millions of small finger like projections named villi stick up from the small intestine with the important job of absorbing the nutrient molecules.

The nutrient molecules are distributed throughout the body where needed. The leftover chyme consisting of indigestible fibers, bile and water get passed into large intestine (colon).

The Great Recycler: The Large Intestine

In the large intestine water is reabsorbed and recycled, and any lost nutrients that are still available are converted to fuel to nourish the colon cells and bacteria.

This colon also where the majority of the bacteria in your digestive system live as well.

These bacteria play numerous roles in everything from helping with digestion all the way to producing the Vitamin K2 thats import for bone and cardiovascular health.

These gut bacteria can impact mood and much more, however that is a subject for another blog! The digestive journey comes to an end with the forming and expulsion of the feces. 

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Fill out the coaching application and let’s chat about how to get you to your goals in record time while still eating your favorite foods.

Let’s set a game plan to finally fit back into those favorite pants, stop hiding in family and friends pictures and allow you to walk around with more confidence in yourself and your body everyday!


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