Top 8 Health Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are some of the most important nutrients you can put in your body. Not only are they extremely anti-inflammatory, but they actually make up some of the most important structures of your body like your brain and nervous system. Not getting enough in your diet increases your risk of many chronic illnesses so it is important that you understand the benefits of omega 3 fats.

This is something that if someone asks me, “Hey what are the MOST important supplements to take on a daily basis?” I absolutely recommend. Along with things like magnesium, Vitamin D, clean water, and an anti-inflammatory diet; omega 3 absolutely cannot be overlooked.

Types of Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids are what is characterized as long-chain fatty acids.  The 4 main types of these are ALA, DPA, EPA, and DHA. We are going to primarily focus on EPA and DHA as they are most commonly deficient while being the most important for overall health.

EPA and DHA are derived from mother’s milk, algae, fish, and grass -fed meat products. EPA and DHA can be synthesized in the body from ALA, however it is a very inefficient process and can put excess stress on the liver. ALA is derived from plant sources of omega 3 such as green plants, flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin seeds & walnuts.

Omega 3 & Omega 6

As with many things in the body, fats are the most beneficial when consumed in proper ratios. When talking about omega 3, the most important balance to consider is omega 3 fats in relation to omega 6 fats. Omega 6 fats are important for inflammatory processes in the body, however consuming too much in relation to omega 3 can become excessively inflammatory.

This inflammatory imbalance between omega 3 to omega 6 is extremely common in today’s society. For many other reasons, chronic inflammatory diseases are at an all-time high. This makes it imperative that you start employing anti-inflammatory nutrition and lifestyle principles. Increasing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids is an important step in this process.

Cellular Health

One of the most important roles of omega 3 fat intake is that our cells actually need these fats in order to function properly. Every cell in the body is made up of a combination of cholesterol, saturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats.

The saturated fats and cholesterol help to maintain the structural integrity of the cell membrane while polyunsaturated fats allow fluidity. This fluidity is important for the transportation of materials, cellular communication, and other processes that occur across the cell membrane.

You may not have known this but the polyunsaturated fats that make up part of our cell membranes are actually the omega 3 fats EPA and DHA (1).

Fights Depression & Anxiety

Depression and anxiety have been associated with something called neuroinflammation. This just means inflammation in the brain. Because increasing omega 3 intake can be highly anti-inflammatory, this could make it an important consideration in anxiety and depression.

Additionally, there have been several studies demonstrating the effectiveness of EPA and DHA in mitigating depressive symptoms (2).

Finally, there is some evidence showing that lower levels of omega 3 fatty acids are correlated with higher levels of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) which is normally released in response to stress. Chronically elevated CRH due to inadequate omega 3 intake could contribute to depressive or anxious feelings (3, 4).

Improves Sleep

Some preliminary evidence from a study published by Oxford in 2014 suggests that higher levels of dietary omega 3 intake are associated with lower instances of insomnia and less interruptions in sleep (5).

Considering the anti-depressive and anxiolytic effects mentioned above, it is realistic that omega 3 fatty acids may help one get a better night of sleep.

Another factor to consider is that chronic inflammation can have a detrimental impact on sleep quality due to increased levels of circulating stress hormones. Omega 3 intake can help to mitigate inflammation and improve sleep by lowering associated stress hormones.

Improves Eye Health

DHA is particularly important for development and maintenance of eye health. DHA is found in high amounts in the retina where it plays important roles in maintaining photoreceptor membrane integrity and ensuring optimal production of vision through light transmission (6).

Inadequate omega 3 intake has also been associated with conditions of dry eyes and poor eye structure development in children.

Finally, low intake of omega 3 is associated with increased rates of macular degeneration and retinopathy. Dietary carotenoids are also incredibly important for protecting your eyes from degeneration as illustrated below.

Strengthens Immunity

Poor immune function is often a result of chronic inflammation. Especially in cases of autoimmunity (overactive immune system), targeting underlying inflammation is extremely important for improving immune function. Increasing your intake of omega 3 fats is critical for this process.

In fact, a study performed on children up to the age of 3 showed that adequate DHA early in life is important for lowering instances of allergies and upper respiratory infections (7).

Promotes Brain Health During Pregnancy

Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, are incredibly important for the development of healthy brain tissue. Adequate omega 3 intake has been shown to provide benefits such as improved cognition, lowered stroke risk, improved cerebral blood flow, improved ADD/ADHD symptoms, reduced migraines, and decreased risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

As you can see, DHA intake is always important for ongoing brain health. It is critical that DHA needs are met during the developmental stages of a child’s life, particularly in the womb. As the brain undergoes rapid development, the mother will actually shed excess DHA stores in the body in order to support her child. If there is not enough, the child’s development may be significantly inhibited.

Improves Bone & Joint Health

Adequate omega 3 intake is important for optimal bone health. Like several of the conditions listed so far, poor bone health is associated with chronic inflammatory conditions in the body. This is the first and most foundational benefit of increasing omega 3 intake for bone health.

Additionally, omega 3 intake may improve bone health by helping to regulate calcium balance and osteoblast activity. Mostly animal-based studies point towards the importance of DHA for bone health (8).

Supports Heart Health

Once again, fish oil’s ability to mitigate inflammation has a powerful impact on the development and progression of cardiovascular diseases. One of the primary heart conditions, calcification of the arteries, is heavily influenced by inflammation and improper calcium metabolism.

As has been mentioned briefly, adequate omega 3 intake helps to promote healthy calcium metabolism. The anti-inflammatory benefits of omega 3 fats further promote heart health by helping to prevent the oxidation of the artery lining and cholesterol.

Studies have shown that fish oil can lower the risk of dying from a coronary heart disease event. Omega 3 fats also improve cholesterol, triglyceride values, and may help to lower blood pressure in some cases.

Fights Inflammation

If you have not noticed by now, one of the most fundamental benefits of increasing your intake of omega 3 fats is that profound anti-inflammatory effect. Because inflammation is at the root of almost all chronic diseases of modern times, this benefit is highly sought after.

For any of my patients who are suffering from a chronic disease and struggling to get well, increasing omega 3 intake is always a core strategy.

Studies have shown that a higher intake of omega 3 fatty acids can prevent or at least slow the progression of many chronic inflammatory disorders such as autoimmunity or neurological disorders. My experience working with people is that this strategy can be very beneficial.

Best Food Sources

Now that you understand the many benefits of increasing your intake of omega 3 fats, it’s time to learn the best sources. First and foremost, getting plenty of EPA and DHA from food-based sources such as wild-caught fish and algae grown in a clean-controlled environment, is the absolute best.

Some of the top sources include sockeye salmon, sardines, mackerel, and algae. There can be some conversion of ALA into DHA from foods like walnuts, flax, and chia. Conversion of ALA into DHA is typically not enough to reach optimal levels however.

Best Supplements

In addition to consuming fish or high DHA algae on a regular basis, it can be helpful to take an omega 3 supplement concentrated from fish or algae if you are a vegetarian/vegan. For therapeutic applications, taking in about 2-4 grams of omega 3 from EPA and DHA can be very beneficial.

It is in this range that I have noticed my clients get significant improvements in inflammatory markers and they notice other improvements in their overall wellbeing.

Nordic Naturals is my number one brand as they are concentrated and are held to extremely high-quality standards. For everyday use, Pro Omega or Pro EFA are my go-to choices. For people dealing with significant inflammatory conditions, Pro Omega CRP is one of the most effective supplements I have discovered.

Summary

Omega 3 fatty acids are vital to your health and wellbeing. Every single cell in your body and especially the tissues of your brain require omega 3 fatty acids in order to function properly. The two most important that are often deficient in people today are EPA and DHA which can be derived from fish and certain types of algae.

Daily intake of omega 3 fats should range from 1 gram daily (daily maintenance) up to 3-4 grams per day for significant health challenges rooted in chronic inflammation.  It is important to be sure you get a high quality purified fish oil that has removed any possible contaminants and is in the triglyceride form for optimal absorption.  This is why I really like the Nordic Naturals brand.

Sources For This Article Include

1. Valentine, R. C., & Valentine, D. L. (2004). Omega-3 fatty acids in cellular membranes: A unified concept. Progress in Lipid Research. PMID: 15458813
2. Grosso, G., Pajak, A., Marventano, S., Castellano, S., Galvano, F., Bucolo, C., … Caraci, F. (2014). Role of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of depressive disorders: A comprehensive meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. PLoS ONE, 9(5). PMID: 24805797
3. Nieminen, L. R. G., Makino, K. K., Mehta, N., Virkkunen, M., Kim, H. Y., & Hibbeln, J. R. (2006). Relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and plasma neuroactive steroids in alcoholism, depression and controls. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 75(4–5), 309–314. PMID: 16959481
4. Lang, U. E., & Borgwardt, S. (2013). Molecular mechanisms of depression: perspectives on new treatment strategies. Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry : International Journal of Experimental Cellular Physiology, Biochemistry, and Pharmacology, 31(6), 761–77. PMID: 23735822
5. Montgomery, P., Burton, J. R., Sewell, R. P., Spreckelsen, T. F., & Richardson, A. J. (2014). Fatty acids and sleep in UK children: Subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB study – a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Sleep Research, 23(4), 364–388. PMID: 24605819
6. Querques, G., Forte, R., & Souied, E. H. (2011). Retina and omega-3. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. PMID: 22175009
7. Birch, E. E., Khoury, J. C., Berseth, C. L., Castañeda, Y. S., Couch, J. M., Bean, J., … Scalabrin, D. M. (2010). The Impact of Early Nutrition on Incidence of Allergic Manifestations and Common Respiratory Illnesses in Children. Journal of Pediatrics, 156(6). PMID: 20227721
8. Maggio, M., Artoni, A., Lauretani, F., Borghi, L., Nouvenne, A., Valenti, G., & Ceda, G. P. (2009). The impact of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoporosis. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 15(36), 4157–64. PMID: 20041817

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7 Ways Magnesium Relieves Stress & Anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are THE leading mental disorder in the US today. Despite being highly treatable, less than 40% of those suffering from anxiety seek out help (1). Although not the only solution, I have found that magnesium relieves stress and anxiety better than almost any other natural compound I have come across.

As a cheap nutritional option to combat the insidious effects of chronic stress, I think magnesium could be one of America’s most critical nutrients. In addition to relieving stress, magnesium also has an incredible capacity to improve your ability to adapt and perform at a higher level.

How Magnesium Relieves Stress

Magnesium has a long list of benefits for the body. Because it is utilized by over 300 enzymatic processes in the body, just making sure you get enough will help ensure you are running at your full potential. This alone will reduce stress by improving your energy and ability to solve problems in your daily life.

In addition to this, there are a number of ways that magnesium acts in the body to reduce stress and anxiety.

Balances Blood Sugar 

If there was one factor that contributed to almost every chronic disease it would likely be blood sugar imbalance. This happens as a consequence of carbohydrate-heavy diets, sedentary lifestyles, malnutrition, and many other factors.

Rapid blood sugar fluctuations can contribute to chronic inflammation, hormone imbalances, neurotransmitter imbalances, and weight gain. All of these things can contribute to a subpar mental state, a lowered ability to handle stress, and an increased likelihood of experiencing anxiety.

One of the biggest symptoms that you are experiencing a blood sugar imbalance is something called reactive hypoglycemia. Shortly after a meal, you become tired and irritable followed by a rampant increase in hunger. Other symptoms include shakiness, anxiety, and dizziness. This condition is what we have come to know and love as “being hangry”.

In addition to following a healing diet low in carbohydrates and rich in healthy fats, magnesium supplementation has been shown to help prevent such drastic drops in blood sugar, helping to mitigate the inflammatory effects (2).

Stabilizes Cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone released in the body when we are under stress. While it has received a bad rap recently, cortisol is absolutely vital to health. When we are faced with a pressing situation that needs increased focus and energy to conquer, cortisol does this for us.

When under stress for long periods of time however, chronic elevation of cortisol can become a problem. Chronic elevation of cortisol contributes to neuroinflammation and blood sugar imbalances that throw increase the likelihood of experiencing anxiety.

Chronically elevated cortisol can also contribute to depression, memory loss, and brain fog, among other mental disorders.

During these times, magnesium can help by lowering cortisol, preventing neuroinflammation, and effectively lowering the tendency of anxious feelings (3, 4).

Improves GABA Levels

Mental states are heavily controlled by chemicals in our brains called neurotransmitters. When it comes to a balance between vigilance and relaxation, two neurotransmitters named glutamate and GABA are primarily responsible.

Glutamate is upregulated during times when we need to focus or be on our toes while GABA is what tells our brains to relax and rejuvenate. In our overstressed society, people tend to be glutamate dominant.

What should happen in a healthy individual is that excess glutamate in the brain is converted into GABA to help balance us out after stressful events. During times of chronic stress, we stop converting glutamate into GABA efficiently which leaves our brains in a stimulated state.

This leads to inflammation and high levels of damage to the brain tissue which is highly correlated with anxiety disorders. Magnesium supplementation helps to boost GABA production in two ways, by binding and stimulating GABA receptors and by increasing the conversion of glutamate into GABA (5).

You also rely on adequate levels of Zinc, taurine, Vitamin B-6, and glutamine to make adequate GABA, more on this here.

Reduces Brain Inflammation

As I have touched upon already, neuroinflammation is highly detrimental to a healthy mental state. Inflammation in the brain is thought to be one of the leading causes of anxiety and depressive disorders (6, 7).

The brain is one of the most concentrated areas of mitochondria in the body. If you are not familiar, mitochondria are structures in your cells that produce all of the energy for your body. The areas that have higher concentrations of them are indicative of the energy demands of those tissues.

Mitochondria are very sensitive to inflammation. When in an inflamed environment, they have a reduced ability to produce energy. In the brain, this can have many consequences. There are several ways this could be explained but if you think about it on a basic level, if your brain isn’t running efficiently, you won’t be able to handle the demands of a stressful life.

Magnesium deficiency is often found in those with elevated inflammatory cytokines, inflammatory immune modulators that are also high in people with autoimmune disorders. Magnesium supplementation may help to negate this inflammatory effect.

Alleviates Symptoms Of Depression

Anxiety and depression are often closely tied to one another. It has been estimated that about 90% of people who suffer from anxiety, also experience symptoms of depression.

Luckily, magnesium supplementation may assist with both (8). This effect is likely achieved by helping to balance neurotransmitters, lowering inflammation in the brain, balancing blood sugar, and assisting in mitochondrial energy production.

It has been shown in one study to be as effective as pharmaceutical anti-depressants, possibly by helping to upregulate the production of serotonin in the brain (9). Serotonin is the neurotransmitter in our brain responsible for making us feel happy and content so this is important.

Upregulates Neuroplasticity 

If downregulating inflammation in the brain is one of your primary targets in improving anxiety (and I think it should be), then increasing neuroplasticity should also be a target. Neuroplasticity is simply your brain’s ability to heal and create new brain cells.

Targeted together, lowering inflammation and increasing the formation of new brain cells will help the brain rebuild itself in a beneficial way.  Magnesium helps support the production of brain derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF) which improves the brain’s ability to rewire itself.

Magnesium is one of the few nutrients that has been shown to support neurogenesis (10). Specifically, a form of magnesium that can cross the blood-brain barrier may be the best for this. I go into my favorite forms of magnesium at the end of this article.

Detoxifies Heavy Metals

Heavy metals like lead, mercury, and aluminum can make their way into the brain tissues and cause massive amounts of inflammation. In fact, heavy metal exposure has been linked to anxiety in addition to a range of other neurological disorders like autism, ADHD, and depression.

Magnesium deficiency is correlated with reduced Cytochrome P450 and NADH cytochrome reductase enzymes which plays a vital role in phase I liver biotransformation.  Magnesium is also critical to the development of proper glutathione levels for phase II liver detoxification.

Magnesium can help with ridding the body of heavy metals to prevent them from entering the brain in the first place. It is possible that magnesium, if able to cross into the brain, could also pull heavy metals from within (11).

The Nutrient Of Resiliency

In addition to the benefits listed above, I consider magnesium an all-around master mineral that improves the function of almost every process in the body. By helping the body run more efficiently, you unlock extra energy that can be used to conquer the stressors of daily life.

By unlocking the ability to conquer your stress more effectively, you will likely experience much less anxiety as you go about your day. The way I see it, you can either spend your life trying to run from stress, or you can improve your ability to overcome stress. The latter is much more realistic given the demands of life we face in our society and magnesium is one key that I use every day to unlock my own potential.

Best Forms Of Magnesium 

Most magnesium supplements have a low absorption and an even higher proportion of those do not even make it into the brain. When looking to improve something like stress and anxiety, you absolutely have to consider this effect.

Magnesium L-Threonate

When I realized that most magnesium supplements do not provide the brain benefits they should, I decided to make my own.

A specific form of magnesium called magnesium L-threonate is the only form so far to be shown in animal studies to cross over the blood-brain barrier. Consequently, this form of magnesium has shown numerous beneficial effects on cognitive processes such as memory as well as measures of anxiety and depression.

Brain Calm Magnesium is one of the foundational supplements I recommend to just about every one of my clients, especially those dealing with increased stress. I get consistent feedback on what an immediate difference it makes in my clients’ lives just about every day.

Transdermal Magnesium 

For those with GI disorders inhibiting the absorption of nutrients or those who accumulate stress as the result of localized pain in the body, topical magnesium can be extremely beneficial.

Magnesium mineral sprays can temporarily reduce pain by becoming directly absorbed through the skin and alleviate pain entirely when used over long term periods. People experiencing symptoms of osteoarthritis can benefit from these mineral oil sprays by improving the balance of magnesium to the affected area.

Spray mineral oil daily over an affected area following a shower or before bedtime. Anecdotal evidence suggests that spraying magnesium oil over extended time duration can also alleviate cramping during menstruation.

For topical use, we have two forms of magnesium:

Magnesium Oil With MSM is great for reducing inflammation in achy joints and supporting healthy connective tissue.

Magnesium Lotion With Melatonin is a great solution for those who live stressful lifestyles and tend to have trouble sleeping at night.

Magnesium-Rich Foods

In addition to supplementation, there should be an effort to include as many magnesium-rich foods as possible into your diet. The following are the top food sources of magnesium you should be consuming on a daily basis:

Swiss Chard

Spinach

Grass-Fed Dairy (Butter, Ghee, Raw Cheese, Raw Milk)

Avocados

Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds

Pink Salts

Nuts

Dark Chocolate (100% Cacao with no added sugar)

Wild-Caught Fish

Sprouts

Sea Vegetables (Kelp, Wakame, Nori)

Organic Coffee

Summary

Magnesium is essential to human health and intricately involved in helping the body endure heightened levels of stress.

If you are a hard-charging person and tend to experience feelings of overwhelming stress and anxiety, make the conscious effort to increase your magnesium uptake and you will notice just how powerful this little mineral can be.

Mental health struggles are slow, silent killers sapping us of energy and happiness.

Whether challenged by depression, anxiety, stress, addiction or another manifestation, every single person is impacted and affected–you, your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers–either directly or indirectly every single day.

This Mental Wellness Summit Will Empower You Too: 

Overcome the silence, isolation and fear of your struggle

Transcend outdated, prescription-based healthcare systems

Find holistic practitioners and natural solutions for your pain

Implement expert practices, tools and tips into your daily routine

And so much more!

You can register for this event for free here

You will want to listen to my presentation on Friday, September 29th as I go through how to apply a ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation in your brain and improve your mood, memory and mindset!!

Sources For This Article Include:

1. ADAA: Facts & Statistics
2. Chaudhary, D. P., Sharma, R., & Bansal, D. D. (2010). Implications of magnesium deficiency in type 2 diabetes: A review. Biological Trace Element Research. PMID: 19629403
3. Dmitrašinović, G., Pešić, V., Stanić, D., Plećaš-Solarović, B., Dajak, M., & Ignjatović, S. (2016). ACTH, Cortisol and IL-6 Levels in Athletes Following Magnesium Supplementation. Journal of Medical Biochemistry, 35(4), 375–384. PMID: 28670189
4. Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 17(12), 1161–1169. PMID: 23853635
5. Moykkynen, T., Uusi-Oukari, M., Heikkila, J., Lovinger, D. M., Luddens, H., & Korpi, E. R. (2001). Magnesium potentiation of the function of native and recombinant GABA(A) receptors. Neuroreport, 12(10), 2175–2179. PMID: 11447329
6. Sathyanarayana Rao, T., Asha, M., Ramesh, B., & Jagannatha Rao, K. (2008). Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 50(2), 77. PMID: 19742217
7. Lucas, M., Chocano-Bedoya, P., Shulze, M. B., Mirzaei, F., O’Reilly, É. J., Okereke, O. I., … Ascherio, A. (2014). Inflammatory dietary pattern and risk of depression among women. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 36, 46–53. PMID: 24095894
8. Serefko, A., Szopa, A., & Poleszak, E. (2016). Magnesium and depression. Magnesium Research. PMID: 27910808
9. University of Maryland Medical Center: Magnesium Overview
10. Abumaria, N., Yin, B., Zhang, L., Li, X.-Y., Chen, T., Descalzi, G., … Liu, G. (2011). Effects of Elevation of Brain Magnesium on Fear Conditioning, Fear Extinction, and Synaptic Plasticity in the Infralimbic Prefrontal Cortex and Lateral Amygdala. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(42), 14871–14881. PMID: 22016520
11. Nutritional Magnesium Association: Magnesium Deficiency Found in Mild-to-Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease (Link)

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6 Ways A Ketogenic Diet Improves Brain Function

Ketogenic Diet Improves Brain Function

The ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920’s as a medical approach for reducing seizures in cases of pediatric epilepsy. Although we didn’t fully understand the mechanisms on how this worked, it was understood that elevated levels of ketones in the blood correlated with a significant decrease in epileptic episodes. Since then, we have come understand deeper ways in which a ketogenic diet improves brain function.

The ketogenic diet remerged in recent years when people realized they would have more energy and elevated mental acuity when following it. After years of sideways science claiming that the body must have a constant intake of carbohydrate to be healthy, people are discovering the truth.

On top of improved mental performance, the ketogenic diet is now being highlighted as a therapeutic strategy for mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases. Here I am going to break down the benefits and applications of the ketogenic diet for brain-related disorders.

Low-Carb Vs. Ketogenic

Before we get into it, it is important to understand what exactly a ketogenic diet is. If your goal is to employ the ketogenic diet as a healing strategy, it is important to be scientific to improve your chances of success.

Many people think that a ketogenic diet is simply a high-fat, low-carb diet. While this is true, it does not provide the whole picture. The goal of the ketogenic diet is to drop blood sugar so low that the body resorts to fats for energy instead. This means if you eat too many carbs or too little fat, you may not fully shift into ketosis. Consuming too much protein can also prevent a shift into ketosis as excess amino acids are converted into glucose.

Everyone reacts a little differently and so I usually recommend measuring your blood sugar and ketone levels throughout the process. This way you can pinpoint what levels of fat, carbs, and proteins your body thrives on. For more information on this, check out my top tips when following a ketogenic diet.

Health Effects

There are several clinical applications for a ketogenic diet. Before jumping into these, I highly recommend reading about and understanding what happens inside the body when you are burning ketones instead of sugar as your primary source of energy.

Mitochondrial Biogenesis

When it comes down to it, your body needs energy to do perform any of its functions. This energy comes in the form of ATP that is produced primarily by structures called mitochondria that inhabit just about every cell in your body. Cells in certain areas of the body have way more mitochondria than the rest and this reflects the amount of energy they need to function properly.

Among these areas is the brain. By improving the number and energetic output of the mitochondria in your brain, you provide a significantly higher amount of energy. This in of itself may provide much of the brain boosting benefits (1). Fasting and a ketogenic diet are some of the most promising methods for upregulating mitochondrial biogenesis.

BDNF 

BDNF stands for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Its main function is understood to be regulating the growth of neural connections in the brain. Low levels of BDNF have been correlated with mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s, depression, schizophrenia, and Huntington’s disease, making it a target for modern medical therapies (2).

It is thought that fasting or a fasting-mimicking diet (such as a ketogenic diet) have potential for improving neurodegenerative disorders by upregulating BDNF (3). This upregulation of BDNF practically combats neurodegeneration in a way by supporting the continued growth and development of neuronal connections.

Improved Insulin Signaling

Most people today are burning sugar as their primary fuel. In order for sugar to enter the cell to be made into ATP, it requires insulin to transport it. Due to chronic carb intake, many people develop undesirable blood sugar regulation that starts with a sharp rise in blood sugar and ends with a rapid crash.

This pattern of blood sugar imbalance is highly damaging to the brain which can be clearly observed in cases of congenital hyperinsulinism. A ketogenic diet has been shown to improve insulin signaling and lower the side effects associated with this rollercoaster blood sugar pattern (4).

Less Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is beneficial in small amounts, however in excess it can be very damaging to your mitochondria. Excessive oxidative stress creates inflammation and hampered mitochondrial energy output. Because oxidative stress causes damage on the mitochondrial level, this can negatively impact every cell in your body.

Also, because your brain is so reliant on healthy mitochondria, it is the first to suffer consequences of excess oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is a natural byproduct of energy production in the mitochondria. Ketone metabolism has been shown to create much lower levels of oxidative stress in comparison to glucose metabolism, effectively lowering inflammation and supporting mitochondrial health (5). Ultimately, this results in improved energy production.

Neurodegenerative disorders that are characterized by demyelination, such as multiple sclerosis, are thought to be heavily influenced by chronic inflammation, making the ketogenic diet a desirable therapy for yet another reason.

Glutamate GABA Balance 

Glutamate and GABA are two very important neurotransmitters that are responsible for focus and relaxation, respectively. Proper neurological function requires a balanced interplay between these two.

An imbalance in these neurotransmitters, which often manifests as an excess of glutamate, has been associated with brain disorders such as autism, Lou Gehrig’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), epilepsy, and mood disorders. Additionally, those with excess glutamate and low GABA levels will tend to feel anxious, have trouble sleeping and experience brain fog.

Chronically elevated glutamate is highly inflammatory as it continuously overstimulates brain cells. In a healthy person, excess glutamate should be converted into GABA to help balance neural processes. Following a ketogenic diet has been shown to help facilitate this conversion (6). The immediate effects of this are improved focus and lower levels of stress and anxiety.

Omega 3 Favoring

Most people today following the standard American diet are consuming lots of oxidized omega-6 fats and very little omega-3 fats from fish and pastured-raised meats.

Omega-6 fatty acids are utilized in the eicosanoid pathway in the body which is important for producing inflammation. While temporary inflammation is helpful for stimulating healing in the body, an excessive omega-6 level can contribute to chronic inflammation that only causes more problems.

The way I teach a ketogenic diet includes plenty of HEALTHY fats that help bring this ratio back to a balanced level and help lower inflammation. Increase your ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids can lower heart disease risk, improve arthritis, lower cancer risk, and improve brain function (7).

Therapeutic Applications

Now that we understand what goes on in the body when burning fat for fuel, we can start to discuss how a ketogenic diet may be used as a therapy for the sick.

Seizures 

The ketogenic diet was originally designed to help lower the instance of seizures in epileptic children so it is not news that it is still helpful for this today.  Although the exact mechanisms on how this works are not understood, a ketogenic diet or prolonged fasting have been shown to lower the frequency and severity of seizures in children.

In fact, one study found that out of a group of children that responded to a ketogenic diet, one third of them had a 90% or greater decrease in seizures (8).  These benefits can also be derived by simply increasing ketone levels in the body through exogenous sources such as MCT oils and possibly exogenous ketones (9).

Alzheimer’s & Dementia 

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that results in the cells of the brain becoming insulin resistant. It is believed that once brain cells become insulin resistant, they become highly inflamed due to a lack of energy. People in this state will typically experience a rapid decline in memory formation and retention.

Additionally, many Alzheimer’s sufferers have characteristics of hyper-excitability in the brain which may be due to excessive glutamate.

Ketones do not require insulin to enter the cell and a majority of brain cells have the ability to metabolize ketones. It is because of this that the ketogenic diet has become a potential therapy for helping to combat Alzheimer’s.

A study of 152 humans with Alzheimer’s saw significant improvements in brain function after ketone levels were raised during 90 days of MCT oil supplementation (10). Additionally, several animal studies have demonstrated a similar effect by implementing a ketogenic diet.

Parkinson’s Disease

While we don’t fully understand the mechanisms behind Parkinson’s disease, it has been studied as an energetic disorder. What I mean by this is that mitochondrial dysfunction and inhibited ability to produce energy is often a characteristic in Parkinson’s patients.

This metabolic insufficiency puts brain cells at an energetic disadvantage that results in massive production of free radicals. These free radicals cause oxidative stress on the brain tissue which leads to chronic inflammation and damage to its tissues.

Because of the ketogenic diet’s ability to improve mitochondrial function and lower inflammation, it is being investigated as a potential treatment.

Consequently, A small and uncontrolled study from 2005 monitored a group of Parkinson’s patients who followed a ketogenic diet for 28-days. At the end of the study, all patients reported an improvement in symptoms ranging from mild to drastic (11).

Although this is not sufficient evidence to declare the ketogenic diet a treatment, the low risk for complications should make it a consideration in these cases.

Migraines

Chronic migraines and headaches are common in today’s society. Many believe that chronic inflammation may be at the root cause of these unpleasant sensations.

Consequently, a ketogenic diet has been shown to lower the frequency and severity of migraines and headaches, potentially by upregulating energy production and lowering inflammation in the brain (12).

Depression

Depression is another mental state that is all too common in our society. While there are emotional factors involved, it can also be a byproduct of neural inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, neurotoxicity, or glutamate GABA balance.

Many people report a huge boost in their mood when following a ketogenic diet. It is likely that this occurs due to a mitigation of every one of the factors mentioned above. Although a ketogenic diet cannot change emotional trauma, it can help calm and clear your mind to help give you a better chance to do so.

Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB), a ketone body that is produced when following a ketogenic diet has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in brain tissues. A 2017 study observed in rats that BHB helped to mitigate stress-induced inflammation in the brain and exhibited anti-depressant activity (13).

Anxiety

As I mentioned earlier in this article, glutamate GABA balance in the brain strongly dictates our ability to balance work and relaxation. If glutamate becomes dominant over GABA, anxiety is commonly reported.

Following a ketogenic diet may improve anxiety by helping support the conversion of excess glutamate into GABA.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), such as concussions can have long lasting negative effects on cognitive function.  Chronically elevate blood sugar has been identified as detrimental to recovery from TBI.  There is also often an impaired ability to utilize glucose in TBI brain cells.

Providing the brain with ketones during this time has been shown to give the brain energy while improving structure and functionality during the recovery process (14).

Summary

The ketogenic diet has reemerged as a performance boosting hack for those wanting to be more productive. At the same time, it is emerging as a powerful healing strategy for metabolic, neurodegenerative, and cancerous states in the body.

Additionally, following a ketogenic diet is remarkably safe for most people to implement. So, whether you are battling a brain-related health challenge or just want to improve your mood and focus, a ketogenic diet may be a key component of your healing journey.

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Wallace, D. C., Fan, W., & Procaccio, V. (2010). Mitochondrial Energetics and Therapeutics. Annual Review of Pathology: Mechanisms of Disease, 5(1), 297–348. PMID: 20078222
2. Lu, B., Nagappan, G., & Lu, Y. (2014). BDNF and synaptic plasticity, cognitive function, and dysfunction. Handbook of experimental pharmacology (Vol. 220). PMID: 24668467
3. Masino, S. A., & Rho, J. M. (2010). Mechanisms of ketogenic diet action. Epilepsia, 51(SUPPL. 5), 85. PMID: 22787591
4. Maiorana, A., Manganozzi, L., Barbetti, F., Bernabei, S., Gallo, G., Cusmai, R., … Dionisi-Vici, C. (2015). Ketogenic diet in a patient with congenital hyperinsulinism: a novel approach to prevent brain damage. Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, 10(1), 120. PMID: 26399329
5. Greco, T., Glenn, T. C., Hovda, D. A., & Prins, M. L. (2015). Ketogenic diet decreases oxidative stress and improves mitochondrial respiratory complex activity. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism : Official Journal of the International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 1–11. PMID: 26661201
6. Maalouf, M., Rho, J. M., & Mattson, M. P. (2009). The neuroprotective properties of calorie restriction, the ketogenic diet, and ketone bodies. Brain Research Reviews. PMID: 18845187
7. University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
8. Kossoff, E. H., & Rho, J. M. (2009). Ketogenic Diets: Evidence for Short- and Long-term Efficacy. Neurotherapeutics, 6(2), 406–414. PMID: 19332337
9. Neal, E. G., Chaffe, H., Schwartz, R. H., Lawson, M. S., Edwards, N., Fitzsimmons, G., … Cross, J. H. (2009). A randomized trial of classical and medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diets in the treatment of childhood epilepsy. Epilepsia, 50(5), 1109–1117. PMID: 19054400
10. Henderson, S. T., Vogel, J. L., Barr, L. J., Garvin, F., Jones, J. J., & Costantini, L. C. (2009). Study of the ketogenic agent AC-1202 in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial. Nutrition & Metabolism, 6(1), 31. PMID: 19664276
11. Gasior, M., Rogawski, M. A., & Hartman, A. L. (2006). Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet. Behavioural Pharmacology, 17(5–6), 431–9. PMID: 16940764
12. C., D. L., G., C., & G., S. (2013). Short term improvement of migraine headaches during ketogenic diet: A prospective observational study in a dietician clinical setting. Journal of Headache and Pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3620251/
13. Yamanashi, T., Iwata, M., Kamiya, N., Tsunetomi, K., Kajitani, N., Wada, N., … Kaneko, K. (2017). Beta-hydroxybutyrate, an endogenic NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor, attenuates stress-induced behavioral and inflammatory responses. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 7677. PMID: 28794421
14. Prins, M. L., & Matsumoto, J. H. (2014). The collective therapeutic potential of cerebral ketone metabolism in traumatic brain injury. Journal of Lipid Research, 55(12), 2450–2457. PMID: 24721741

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7 Ways To Balance Cortisol Levels

If you are like most people in our society, you are under some form of stress every day. Everything from busy lifestyles, poor sleep, environmental toxins, to poor emotional health put an excess demand on our bodies. Typically when this happens, your body will be producing elevated levels of cortisol from the adrenal glands.

Cortisol is your body’s way of boosting your energy so that you can overcome your stressors. When it becomes dysregulated however, chronic cortisol elevation can have health consequences. With the increased demands of today, it is important to balance cortisol levels for optimal health.

What Is Cortisol?

Cortisol is notoriously referred to as the stress hormone. Over the years, various media sources have deemed cortisol the bad guy, claiming that it is bad for the body. What most people don’t realize however, is that cortisol is an essential part of how your body works.

Our ancestors often lived in hostile environments with immediate threats to their lives. In these situations, we needed a way to quickly maximize our energy and highten our senses to improve the chances that we could evade an immediate threat.

The cortisol response is essentially our way of increasing our ability to survive in a dangerous situation. When your brain perceives stress or an immediate threat to your wellbeing, it releases cortisol. When cortisol is released, it acts as a mild pain releiver and signals the release of stored sugars into the blood for immediate energy.

When there is a physical threat in our immediate environment, this is a very useful action from the body. However, in today’s culture many people get small cortisol releases throughout the day from stressors that do not get resolved or are simply derived from stressful thinking. A repeating cycle of this can cause many problems in the body.

High Cortisol

Most people who are under chronic stress will have elevated cortisol levels. This is because the body is trying to ramp up its ability to deal with an excess demand. While high cortisol levels are not a problem in of themselves, chronically elevated cortisol can be.

One of the big problems with chronic cortisol elevation is that we often see blood sugar imbalances. These are one of the most insidious robbers of our health. Blood sugar imbalance increases inflammation which puts more stress on the adrenals and begins a vicious cycle as they continue to make each other worse.

If continued long enough, this chronic elevation of cortisol can also throw off sex hormone balance and contribute to weight gain, brain fog, low energy, and an overall lowered vitality.

Chronically elevated cortisol (sometimes diagnosed as Cushing’s Disease/Syndrome) is often the beginning of adrenal dysfunction if nothing is done to restore balance (1).

Low Cortisol

Adrenal fatigue, or more accurately HPA axis dysfunction, is often characterized by a chronically low cortisol level. These people tend to feel tired and unable to handle daily stressors of life. Other symptoms could include weight gain, hormone imbalance, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and frequent crashes in energy.

This often occurs after a prolonged period of high cortisol and why it is so important to learn how to balance your own.

Low cortisol is often a sign that the body has been under elevated stress for an extended amount of time and can no longer handle the demand of its environment. This is when someone begins to progress through the various stages of adrenal dysfunction as cortisol output continues to decline.

This state can also be induced by Addison’s disease. Addison’s is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system begins to attack the adrenal glands, hindering its function (2).

Strategies To Balance Cortisol

The demands of today are not changing and our health is a reflection of that. Now, more than ever, it is critical to employ strategies to balance cortisol. This will ensure the body remains in an adaptive state rather than a maladaptive one. This will also ensure that you have the energy and mental clarity you need to have a deep experience of life.

When it comes to balancing cortisol and optimizing hormone balance, these are the strategies you must follow.

Anti-Inflammatory Healing Diet

One of the most foundational principles of balance in almost any body system is having a healthy blood sugar balance. This is because blood sugar imbalances can contribute to inflammation which throws off more processes in the body than one can count.

This means cutting out sugar, processed carbohydrates, and grains from your diet. These should be replaced with healthy fats from coconut, avocado, olives, grass-fed meats, wild caught fish, and dairy products from pasture-raised animals. Small amounts of nuts and seeds such as macadamia, sprouted almonds, and sprouted pumpkin seeds can also be a great addition.

Finally, you want to complete your meals with moderate amounts of protein from pasture-raised animals or wild-caught fish, along with lots of fibrous veggies. Because this aspect of health is so important, it is the basis for all of my health protocols. You can read more about the benefits of this style of eating here.

Reduce Stress and Promote Peace

When we are constantly grinding sometimes we forget how to relax. For example, many people who come to me with adrenal dysfunction often feel chronically tired, yet wired at the same time. If you don’t take time out to train your ability to relax, stressed out can become your default state.

This is why it is important to balance your stress with relaxation. This can be done in many ways. From a daily perspective, it can be super helpful to spend time in prayer, meditation, deep breathing, stretching, taking a healing bath, or gratitude journaling upon waking or before bed.

Additionally, you want to reflect on your life and see if their are areas of stress that you can cut back on. This could mean removing stressful people, surrounding yourself with uplifting friends, finding a way to reduce that long commute, improving communication skills (great for reducing stress in relationships), and anything else you can think of. Find those areas of your life that are robbing your energy unnesecarily and do what you can to improve them.

Sleep Well

As I said, it is critical to balance your stress with relaxation so that your body can rejuvenate and adapt for a stronger tomorrow. This is especially important when it comes to sleep. Getting high-quality, deep sleep on a regular basis can be just as much of a game changer as balancing blood sugar.

This is because deep sleep rejuvenates the brain and restores balance to the whole body in so many ways. Unfortunately, our modern-day environment is really messing with our ability to sleep.

On top of being under chronic stress, we are surrounded by blue light from electronic devices, EMF from phones and wifi, and we don’t spend time in the sun as much anymore. These are all things that control our brains internal clock that tells us when to sleep.

Deep Breathing

Deep breath work is a great way to quickly pull your body out of a stressed state. This is because, done correctly, it can activate the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system which is responsible for inducing a state of relaxation.

One common and effective way of doing this is to perform what is called the box breathing technique. This is a simple technique where you breath in, hold, breath out, hold, and repeat in increments of 5 seconds each. So breath in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, etc.

Many people will notice that this technique is great for grounding during a time of stress and quickly reduces any anxiety they are feeling. You can also employ an active form of this technique when you are walking somewhere. Following the same pattern, breath in, hold, breath out, and hold in increments of every 5 steps. This can be a great mindfulness strategy when you don’t have time to sit and meditate.

Grounding

Modern humans have largely separated themselves from the earth in many ways. We spend much of our time indoors and as a result we no longer receive regular sunlight or contact with the bare ground. These are both actually very important for our health. Our bodies are optimized to work with the light and magnetic forces that are put out by the earth and sun. When we do not receive these things, we experience consequences.

Studies have actually shown that getting barefoot contact with the earth can lower inflammation and improve stress levels in humans (3). To take these benefits a step further, I would recommend doing so in the sunlight with skin exposed. The best times of day to perform these activities are sunrise, midday, and sunset, this way your brain will reset with the circadian cues of the environment that tell us when to sleep.

Magnesium

Stress increases our need for magnesium while also rapidly depleting it from the body. Because magnesium is used for so many processes in the body, including energy production, a deficiency could make your stress more detrimental to your health. This can lead to a downward spiral of health consequences if it is not addressed.

While some people may be able to get away with consuming magnesium-rich foods, I often recommend supplementation as a way of topping off your body’s stores and improving your resilience to stress.

Specifically Brain Calm magnesium gets consistent results improving mood, promoting relaxation, improving sleep, improving blood sugar, and improving ability to adapt to stress. These effects collectively can help cortisol levels tremendously.

Adaptogenic Herbs

For additional support that can be easily implemented into a busy lifestyle, adaptogenic herbs can be powerful. These are herbs that strengthen your ability to handle stress by improving stress hormone signaling (4).

Improving stress hormone signaling is important to help with blood sugar and sex hormone imbalances which contribute to many health problems on their own.

One of the best herbs I have found for this is ashwaganda, which provides beneficial effects for both cortisol and DHEA (a sex hormone precursor). It has also been shown to lower subjective reports of stress and improve cognitive function.

Introducing Cortisol Defense

Other herbs that provide similar benefits are Magnolia of cinalis and Phellodendron amurense. Together these herbs help to improve cortisol-DHEA balance and improve perception of stress.

I have been working on a new supplement that incorporates these herbs, along with other powerful cortisol stabilizing compounds, to help combat the negative effects of chronic stress. Cortisol Defense is the result.

It is a powerful formula containing clinically tested extracts of these herbs that outperform all others. In addition to the lifestyle strategies outlined above, Cortisol Defense can help you conquer your stressful lifestyle once and for all.

Mental health struggles are slow, silent killers sapping us of energy and happiness.

Whether challenged by depression, anxiety, stress, addiction or another manifestation, every single person is impacted and affected–you, your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers–either directly or indirectly every single day.

This Mental Wellness Summit Will Empower You Too: 

Overcome the silence, isolation and fear of your struggle

Transcend outdated, prescription-based healthcare systems

Find holistic practitioners and natural solutions for your pain

Implement expert practices, tools and tips into your daily routine

And so much more!

You can register for this event for free here

You will want to listen to my presentation on Friday, September 29th as I go through how to apply a ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation in your brain and improve your mood, memory and mindset!!

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Tritos, N. A., & Biller, B. M. K. (2014). Cushing’s disease. Handbook of Clinical Neurology, 124, 221–234. PMID: 25248590
2. Husebye, E. S., Allolio, B., Arlt, W., Badenhoop, K., Bensing, S., Betterle, C., … Pearce, S. H. (2014). Consensus statement on the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of patients with primary adrenal insufficiency. Journal of Internal Medicine, 275(2), 104–115. PMID: 24330030
3. Oschman, james l. (2015). the Effects of Grounding on Inflammation, the Immune Response, Wound Healing, and Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Inflmammatory and Autoinmmune Diseases. Journal of Inflammatory Research, 8, 83–96. PMID: 25848315
4. Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2009). Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Current Clinical Pharmacology, 4(3), 198–219. PMID: 19500070

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What Is The Best Magnesium Supplement?

What Is The Best Magnesium Supplement? 

Magnesium is one of the most important nutrients for human health. I have covered this extensively on my website for years. After reading my articles, many people reach the conclusion that they would like to add a magnesium supplement to their daily regimen. If you go to a local supplement, health food, or online store you will notice there are A TON of different forms of magnesium. These are not all created equal. So, what is the best magnesium supplement for the most health benefits?

The different forms of magnesium are metabolized and have different effects in the body. Some provide negligible effects, some stronger, and some I would consider superior. This is something I observed early on when considering adding a magnesium supplement to my personal line.

The Fundamental Role Of Magnesium

I say magnesium is one of the most important nutrients in the human body all the time and there is a HUGE reason for this. One of the biggest predictors of your overall well-being is your body’s ability to create and utilize energy. From a cellular level, this energy comes in the form of a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

Your body is constantly operating within a balance of breaking down and rebuilding itself, a principal called homeostasis. On a very basic level, when you are breaking down faster than you are rebuilding, you have disease. When you are rebuilding as quickly as you are breaking down, you are thriving, adapting, and becoming stronger.

Every cell in your body relies on ATP in order to carry out its function. A fundamental principal of human physiology is that cells cannot effectively utilize ATP unless it is in its activated form, Mg-ATP. Magnesium actually binds to ATP and this important step allows our cells to use it more effectively.

Additionally, magnesium is intricately involved in the biological process of manufacturing ATP, so it could not be more crucial in this regard that you have enough magnesium to provide for the energy making process of almost every cell in your body. This is key in helping to optimize your body’s ability to heal and adapt.

Symptoms Of Deficiency 

Magnesium deficiency is often misdiagnosed because it is not easily detected in routine bloodwork. This is because almost all of the body’s magnesium is stored in the bones and organ tissues, particularly in the heart (1). It is estimated that only 1% of our total magnesium can actually be found floating around in the blood.

The organs in your body that require the most ATP include the brain, muscles (heart, digestive tract, skeletal muscle), and the ovaries if you are a woman.

Consequently, some of the most prominent symptoms of magnesium deficiency are brain fog, poor memory, trouble concentrating, muscle cramps/weakness, fibromyalgia, migraines/headaches, anxiety, depression, and PMS.

These are some of the common symptoms, however magnesium is also involved in over 300 different enzymatic processes in the body so symptoms of deficiency may vary widely. Some experts even claim that magnesium deficiency may contribute to over 20 different diagnosable medical conditions (2).

Why We Need More Than We Used To 

Although some magnesium can be obtained from the diet, there are a couple important reasons why I often recommend supplementation.

First, modern industrial farming practices have drastically depleted soil of its nutrient content, this means we are likely receiving much less than we used to.

Next, our environment is filled with new chemicals and biological stressors that increase our need for magnesium. These include things like EMF, pesticides, heavy metals, and general chronic stress involved with our chosen lifestyles. All of these things increase stress on our bodies, increase the need for ATP, and rapidly deplete magnesium stores as a consequence.

Supplementing with magnesium will help restore optimal levels to ensure effective energy production. Another cool thing I like about magnesium is that it can also improve your ability to adapt to a stressful lifestyle, similar to common herbal adaptogens.

Top Forms

There are A TON of different types of magnesium that are sold in stores. Many of these simply are not effective and will not do anything beneficial for your health. In fact, some forms of magnesium are not even absorbable by your digestive tract.

Below are some of my favorite forms of magnesium and the ones that are the most likely to benefit your health.

Malate 

Magnesium malate is magnesium bonded to malic acid. Malic acid is naturally occuring in many foods, especially fruits. This form of magnesium is theorized to be best suited for improving energy-related disorders.

This is thought because malic acid is a key component of the Krebs Cycle. The Krebs Cycle is the biological process that is responsible for manufacturing ATP, AKA energy. This is where magnesium malate may be helpful in conditions such as chronic fatigue or depression.

Animal studies have observed that magnesium malate may provide benefits for blood sugar regulation and magnesium/calcium balance, making it a solid option for supplementation (3).

Glycinate 

Magnesium Glycinate (or chelated magnesium) is a compound made up of magnesium and the amino acid glycine. This is thought to be one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium for supplementation as well as one of the most gut friendly. Many people experience diarrhea with magnesium supplementation so this can be an important consideration.

For clinically diagnosable magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesia), the glycinate or bisglycinate form of magnesium are typically the most recommended for correcting this.

L-Threonate 

Magnesium L-threonate (MgT) is a newer form of magnesium with significant implications for mental health. Some preliminary research has highlighted the cognitive boosting ability and potentially even neuroprotective effects against Alzheimer’s disease (4).

What is so novel about this form of magnesium is that it is the only form shown in animal studies to cross the blood brain barrier. This is important because having this capability allows it to exert its beneficial effects on the brain specifically.

Consequently, this form of magnesium has been shown to improve measures of cognitive abilities such as short and long term memory and learning (5, 6). Additionally, this form of magnesium may be superior for conditions such as depression, anxiety, and brain fog.

In this article, I go over this 2010 study where a MgT supplemented group was able to retain their memory of where a submerged platform was hidden after 24 hours.  Both young and old rats in the control group forgot and began randomly searching through the maze and took more than twice as long as the MgT supplemented group.  The results of the study showed that old rats saw a 100% improvement in spatial long-term memory and even out performed younger rats who had not used MgT (5).    

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Citrate 

Magnesium Citrate is one of the most commonly used forms of magnesium because it is relatively low cost while also being reasonably bioavailable when consumed orally.

This form of magnesium is unique because it is one of the only ones that is naturally acidic. This is due to it being bound to citric acid, a common food additive that also occurs in citrus fruits.

Two noteable properties of this form of magnesium are its ability to aid in bowel movements as well as potentially help with oxalate metabolism. I often encounter patients who have kidney stones due high levels of dietary oxalates (more on this here) so this may be helpful for them.

While it may be beneficial for someone with kidney stones to supplement with magnesium citrate, I have actually found potassium citrate to be powerful for this. In combination, they may both provide benefits.

Chloride

Adding a chloride to magnesium brings another broad-range support compound to the mix. When these two are broken down in the body, you get the benefits of both magnesium and chloride.  Magnesium chloride is the most stable form of magnesium and is especially good for detoxification and for kidney function.

Chloride ions are abundant in the human body. First of all, as an electrolyte, chloride ions help to assure the proper conduction of impulses within the nervous system. They work along with potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphate, and magnesium to assure proper muscle contraction, control blood pressure, and allow for healthy brain function.

Additionally, chloride combines with hydrogen in the gut to produce HCl (stomach acid). Adequate stomach acid is needed to properly digest our foods and to activate intrinsic factor for absorbing Vitamin B12.

Inferior Magnesium Forms

Forms of magnesium that are often cheap yet offer relatively low bioavailability include the oxide, dihydroxide (milk of magnesia), sulfate, aspartate, and carbonate forms.  These forms of magnesium do not absorb well and tend to offer little benefit beyond laxative or antacid properties.

Magnesium Sulfate (also known as epsom salt) may, however, be suitable for absorption through the skin. For a step above, in my opinion, I would recommend these Magnesium Chloride salts for soaking. They are more expensive but likely to be much more beneficial.

Before You Buy 

While there are many forms and many brands of magnesium available on the market that will likely provide you with benefit. There is one consideration that I find critically important however.

As with all supplements, it is important to ensure you are getting yours from a source that tests every batch to ensure you are getting what is on the label and nothing else. This includes things like unwanted toxins, allergens, and heavy metals.

All of my personal line products are pharmaceutical grade, GMP compliant. This means they are produced in strictly monitored facilities who also send batches of their product to third parties for analysis before selling to consumers.

Brain Calm Magnesium 

There are many different forms of magnesium and they seem to have slightly different effects in the body. When I decided to add a magnesium supplement to my personal line I wanted it to contain the best forms of magnesium to provide a well-rounded benefit.

Brain Calm Magnesium was the result of this. It contains patented malate, glycinate, and threonate forms of magnesium for maximum neurological and systemic benefits for the body.

I often recommend this supplement for most people as a cost-effective way to boost magnesium levels, increase the body’s resilience to stress, and promote a tranquil and relaxed mental state. 

Topical Magnesium Chloride 

If you are someone with a lot of digestive issues, you may want to consider a topical magnesium. This type of magnesium can be applied directly to the skin and absorbed into your blood stream for increased bioavailability.

This type of magnesium is also great for applying to tense muscles, aches, and pains. For this purpose, I have found that the Ancient Minerals brand works the best.

The topical magnesium with MSM is the best for applying to problem areas or as a general magnesium supplement. The combination of magnesium and MSM is powerful for controlling inflammation and strengthening damaged tissues. This form is also very suitable for athletes!

For those who have trouble sleeping at night, Ancient Minerals also carries a topical magnesium with melatonin. For this one I will typically recommend applying one pump to the bottoms of the feet or abdomen 30 minutes to 1 hour before going to bed.

Top Magnesium Foods 

While magnesium supplementation is often a great idea, eating the right foods is just as important.

In the video below I go into detail on my favorite dietary sources. For convenience, I have listed my top 12 below.

  1. Swiss Chard
  2. Spinach
  3. Grass-fed Dairy
  4. Avocados
  5. Pumpkin Seeds
  6. Pink Salts
  7. Nuts
  8. Dark Chcolate
  9. Wild-Caught Fish
  10. Sprouts
  11. Sea Vegetables
  12. Organic Coffee

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Mental health struggles are slow, silent killers sapping us of energy and happiness.

Whether challenged by depression, anxiety, stress, addiction or another manifestation, every single person is impacted and affected–you, your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers–either directly or indirectly every single day.

This Mental Wellness Summit Will Empower You Too: 

Overcome the silence, isolation and fear of your struggle

Transcend outdated, prescription-based healthcare systems

Find holistic practitioners and natural solutions for your pain

Implement expert practices, tools and tips into your daily routine

And so much more!

You can register for this event for free here

You will want to listen to my presentation on Friday, September 29th as I go through how to apply a ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation in your brain and improve your mood, memory and mindset!!

Sources For This Article Include: 

1. The AFIB Report: Magnesium
2. Magnesium: An Invisible Deficiency That Could Be Harming Your Health (LINK)
3. Virag, V., May, Z., Kocsis, I., Blazovics, A., & Szentmihalyi, K. (2011). [Effects of magnesium supplementation on calcium and magnesium levels, and redox homeostasis in normolipidemic and food-induced hyperlipidemic rats]. Orv Hetil, 152, 1075–1081. PMID: 21676674
4. Li W, Yu J, Liu Y, et al. Elevation of brain magnesium prevents synaptic loss and reverses cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Mol Brain. 2014 Sep 13;7(1):65. PMID:25213836
5. Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, et al. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-77. PMID:20152124
6. Abumaria N, Yin B, Zhang L, et al. Effects of elevation of brain magnesium on fear conditioning, fear extinction, and synaptic plasticity in the infralimbic prefrontal cortex and lateral amygdala. J Neurosci. 2011 Oct 19;31(42):14871-81. PMID:22016520

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How To Follow A Ketogenic Diet

How To Follow A Ketogenic Diet 

A ketogenic diet has been shown to help people lose stubborn weight, drastically reduce inflammation, boost energy, and improve brain health (1). With all of these benefits you might be wondering how do I follow a ketogenic diet? 

The research and consistent testimony behind a ketogenic style of eating is compelling. By teaching your body to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar, you improve the function of almost every cell in the human body. This is likely due to the anti-inflammatory effect of being in ketosis as well as the efficient energy production that takes place from ketones.

This article breaks down what exactly a ketogenic diet is and how you can develop a ketogenic plan that is ideal for your needs!

Why Would One Follow A Ketogenic Diet? 

The goal of a ketogenic diet is simple, to convert the body’s primary fuel supply from sugar to fat. Fat is converted into ketones which are very efficient for energy production while also limiting metabolic waste that contributes to inflammation.

To get into this state, you must follow a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein nutrition plan. By making this simple dietary change, blood sugar drops to a level where the body must learn to utilize fat to survive.

At this point, the body begins to convert fatty acids into ketones which are then used by the cells in the brain and body to produce energy. This state is sometimes referred to as being keto-adapted.

Because ketones result in more energy and lowered inflammation, you can expect to enjoy a heightened sense of wellbeing, a sharper mind, and a natural increase in fat loss.

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Why Most People Are Not Keto-Adapted 

The body naturally favors sugar over fat as an energy source. At the same time, most Americans have a crazy high reliance on carbs and sugars as the primary source of calories in their diets.

This is why a ketogenic diet is needed to essentially re-teach the body to use fat for energy. Most people spend the majority of their life in a sugar-burning state and their cells lose the metabolic flexibility necessary to burn fat.

This is why It usually takes about 2-3 weeks for someone to become fully keto-adapted after beginning a ketogenic diet. Even though the body will begin to produce ketones within a few days, it takes longer for the cells to begin converting them into energy.

Ketogenic Macronutrient Proportions 

While macronutrient needs can change based on individual needs and activity levels, the general breakdown looks like this:

Low Carbohydrate:  5-10% of calories from net carbs (total carbs – fiber)

Moderate Protein:  20-30% of calories from protein

High Fat:  60-80% of calories from fat.

This is a great blueprint to start with. Some individuals need to stick to 5% carb range while others can get away with 15%. If you are more active you will likely need more protein and more overall calories in general.

This is where measuring your ketones can be very helpful! I would recommend tracking your ketone levels using a Ketonix breath monitor or a blood ketone monitor like this one to determine where you feel best.

Fundamental Diet Swaps 

As I mentioned already, Americans love their carbs. Take a look at any given meal in the Standard American Diet and you will see lots of grains and starches like bread, pasta, potatoes, cereals, and corn.

Following a ketogenic diet requires ditching these foods and replacing them predominantly with high-fat foods. It is not enough to just eat tons of fat however, these need to be healthy sources of fat. Your body also uses fats to make new brain tissues and insulation for your nerves so healthy fats mean healthy brain!

Ketogenic friendly fats that I recommend are things like grass-fed butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, pastured eggs, olive oil, olives, and avocados. High-fat nuts like macadamias can also be great as a snack.

Meals

For me, the primary reason to be on a ketogenic diet is for health and performance. While some advocate for high consumption of bacon and other processed animal products, I like to focus on maximum nutrition while minimizing toxins.

As far as meal structure goes, you can either intermittent fast or consume regular meals. If you are someone who handles fasting really well, then I would recommend fasting through breakfast and consuming two meals later in the day.

If you do not do well with fasting then consume 3-4 meals evenly spaced throughout the day. Anything more than 4 meals may increase your blood sugar even if they are ketogenic.

Some of the typical meals I recommend are:

Breakfast: 2-3 Pasture-Raised eggs cooked in coconut oil with low-carb veggies (spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, etc.) OR One of our ketogenic coffee recipes.

Lunch: Chocolate Avocado Pudding or Gut Healing Protein Pudding (Or something similar)

Dinner: 4oz of Pasture-Raised Meat cooked in coconut or MCT oil (Pour on the meat after cooking) covered in lemon/lime juice, sea salt, and plenty of herbs. Along with a nice healthy portion of broccoli or other veggies covered in grass-fed butter, salt, and herbs.

Dessert: There are now tons of great keto dessert recipes that use stevia or monk fruit as a non-caloric sweetener. I make these Keto Cookies and this Coconut Milk ice cream when I’m looking for something sweet after dinner. The healthy fats help keep you full and blood sugar balanced so you can sleep soundly through the night.

These are just some ideas to get you going, but hopefully you get the general idea. These meals are high in fat and full of nutrition!

Salt and Other Trace Minerals 

One important aspect of following a ketogenic diet that is often overlooked is making sure you get enough sodium and minerals. When you are running on carbohydrates your body will retain sodium due to elevated insulin levels (2). Once you are running on ketones however, your body excretes sodium at a much higher level until you are fully keto-adapted.

This means while eating ketogenic it is important to use salt generously on your foods. I recommend either a pink Himalayan or Celtic sea salt as these contain naturally occurring minerals in addition to sodium.

So, salt your foods well but also eat plenty of mineral-rich foods like celery, cucumbers, and seaweeds. As an additional source of minerals, you can also sip on organic broth throughout the day.

Standard or Cyclical? 

There are two main types of ketogenic diet: standard and cyclical and one additional strategy for high intensity athletes called the targeted ketogenic diet.

Standard Ketogenic Diet: This is where you are trying to adapt your body to be in ketosis permanently. Here your carbs are limited to about 20-50 grams per day with moderate protein (0.8-1.2 grams/kg of bodyweight). The remainder of calories come from healthy fats.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: This where you periodically consume higher amounts of carbs in order to temporarily come out of ketosis. How often you cycle out really depends on your preference. I often recommend starting out with one day every week while some people like to do once a month.

Targeted Ketogenic Diet:  This is for high intensity athletes.  On this diet, you go low-carb for all meals other than right before the high intensity activities.  About 30 mins-1 hour prior to the activity you take in 25-50 grams of net carbs.

Note About Carbs: When we are talking about carbs, we are talking net carbs. When you are looking at the nutritional information on a food, net carbs = total carbs – fiber. This is because fiber is technically a carbohydrate but it is not metabolized into energy like other carbs and will not have any effect on blood sugar.

Deciding What Works For You 

Deciding whether or not you want to follow a standard or cyclical ketogenic diet is highly dependent on your current needs.

For people who are just starting out on a ketogenic diet, I would recommend following the standard ketogenic diet for the first 2-4 weeks until your body is keto-adapted (read this article to understand when you are keto-adapted). Once you begin to feel good on a ketogenic diet, then you can try a higher carb day to cycle out and see how you feel.

In general, I find that most people feel much better when they periodically cycle out of ketosis. How often you cycle out can vary by person so you have to do some experimentation here.

Try the following cycles: 2x/week, 1x/week, 1x/2 weeks, and up to once every month. I find that most people do well with the once per week cycle.

Why Cycling May Be Advantageous

Cycling is a relatively new concept. It is thought that because the ketogenic diet mimics a starvation state, our bodies have a stress response when in a prolonged state of ketosis.

When the body constantly perceives that it is in a starvation state, you will have a higher tendency to go into fight-or-flight mode. This chronic stress state can have negative effects on thyroid function, sex hormone balance, and other aspects of vitality.

By periodically cycling out of ketosis, it is thought to replenish glycogen stores and signal the body that there is not actually a shortage of food and thereby negating many of the side effects associated with the stress response of starvation.

The goal is to eat just enough carbs to replenish glycogen stores without contributing to weight gain.

Ketogenic Vs. High Protein

Many people make this mistake when they begin a ketogenic diet: eating too much protein. A ketogenic diet is actually a high-fat diet with only a moderate amount of protein.

This is absolutely critical because consuming too much protein can negate the benefits of being ketogenic. One of the biggest problems is that excess protein can actually elevate blood sugar and pull you out of ketosis. This is due to a biological process called gluconeogenesis where protein is inefficiently converted into glucose (3).

While a high-protein diet can be beneficial for building muscle and potentially losing some weight, becoming keto-adapted is simply not possible. Appropriate protein levels are about 0.8-1.2 grams per KG of bodyweight, where reaching the higher level of this range should be on days when you are active or performing intense exercise.

For high-level athletes that incur higher amounts of muscle damage, a range of 1.5-1.8 grams of protein per KG of bodyweight can sometimes be followed while maintaining a ketogenic state. Again, the best way to determine the right balance for you is to measure your ketone levels.

Ketogenic Vs. Low Carb 

The difference between ketogenic and low-carb diets is kind of like the rule you learn in math class about squares and rectangles. All ketogenic diets are low-carb but not all low-carb diets are ketogenic.

The goal of a ketogenic diet is to drop blood sugar low enough to where the body preferentially uses fat for energy over glucose. For most people, this requires an intake of about 20-50 net carbs in a day. Many low-carb diets allow for the consumption of up to 100 grams of carbs per day. 

While some people may go into ketosis on a low-carb diet, many people just end up chronically hypoglycemic and feeling awful.

Keto-Adaptation 

Keto-adaptation is the process your body goes through during the first 2-4 weeks of following a ketogenic diet. This is the period where your body actually has to recalibrate to burning fat for energy over glucose.

During this period, you can expect to feel minor side effects that will typically dissipate rather quickly. For more information on these side effects and how to avoid them, read this post.

A great strategy to track your body’s adaptation to a ketogenic diet is to monitor your ketone levels. For my top strategies on this check out this post where I break down each method and what my favorite is.

Mental health struggles are slow, silent killers sapping us of energy and happiness.

Whether challenged by depression, anxiety, stress, addiction or another manifestation, every single person is impacted and affected–you, your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers–either directly or indirectly every single day.

This Mental Wellness Summit Will Empower You Too: 

Overcome the silence, isolation and fear of your struggle

Transcend outdated, prescription-based healthcare systems

Find holistic practitioners and natural solutions for your pain

Implement expert practices, tools and tips into your daily routine

And so much more!

You can register for this event for free here

You will want to listen to my presentation on Friday, September 29th as I go through how to apply a ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation in your brain and improve your mood, memory and mindset!!

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Branco, A. F., Ferreira, A., Sim??es, R. F., Magalh??es-Novais, S., Zehowski, C., Cope, E., … Cunha-Oliveira, T. (2016). Ketogenic diets: From cancer to mitochondrial diseases and beyond. European Journal of Clinical Investigation. PMID: 26782788
2. Brands, M. W., & Manhiani, M. M. (2012). Sodium-retaining effect of insulin in diabetes. AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 303(11), R1101–R1109. PMID: 23034715
3. Veldhorst, M. A. B., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., & Westerterp, K. R. (2009). Gluconeogenesis and energy expenditure after a high-protein, carbohydrate-free diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 519–526. PMID: 19640952

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What Are Ketones and Are They Healthy?

What Are Ketones and Are They Healthy? 

If you are up on your health news or follow anyone in the health field, you have likely heard the term ketogenic diet. The goal of the ketogenic diet is to adapt the body to utilize fat as its primary fuel source instead of sugar. The body does this by first converting fat into what are called ketones that the cells can then burn as fuel. It is at this point that I typically get asked, “what are ketones”?

In this article, I am going to clear up any gaps, explain exactly how ketogenisis works, and why it can be so beneficial for the human body.

Biological Role of Ketones 

For our ancestors, eating three meals a day just wasn’t a thing. Instead they would hunt and forage for the foods they could find. When there wasn’t food, they wouldn’t eat.

What this means is that sometimes they would go for days at a time with no food. To sustain life during times of scarcity, the body is thought to have developed the ability to utilize fat as an alternative fuel source.

In a traditional nutrition course you would learn that sugar is the body’s primary fuel source while fat is a secondary fuel source. When sugar stores are burned up, the cells then convert to burning fat as an energy source.  What we are finding out now is that fat can actually be a healthier and more sustainable source of energy.

Our Society Is Full of Sugar Burners 

Modern day, we have an abundance of food that is available to us at all times. Most of us regularly eat three meals a day with intermittent snacking in between.

This kind of frequent eating, along with an overemphasis on carb-rich and sugary foods, causes a reduced ability to burn fat. As these foods damage our bodies on a metabolic level, we actually lose the ability to produce ketones.

This type of reliance on sugar creates massive blood sugar spikes, inflammation, hormone imbalance, and ultimately many of the chronic diseases that plague our society today.  Luckily, by adopting a more ketogenic style of eating, we can reverse this damage and revert back to the efficient fat-burning machines we were meant to be!

The Advantage of Ketones 

The energy currency of the body, comes in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). The mitochondria within every cell in the body either metabolize glucose or ketones to form this important energy molecule.

Based on what we understand of cellular energy metabolism, ketones are able to create much greater amounts of energy per molecule than glucose.   This means when the body begins to convert fat into ketones, you actually have a much more stable and sustainable energy source. 

At the same time, burning fat does not create the same insulin and blood sugar response that burning sugar does. This is part of the profound benefits of being in ketosis including, improved hormone balance, lowered inflammation and improved brain health.

Likewise, many people report feeling much more stable when they go into ketosis. Feeling less hungry, gaining control over cravings, and often experiencing a much more stable emotional state.

How The Body Gets Into Ketosis 

As I mentioned already, the body will either burn sugar or fat for energy. Sugar is converted into glucose while fats are converted into ketones by the liver.  When blood sugar drops and glycogen stores are burned up, the body begins to convert fat into ketones for energy.

As we find out more about the benefits of ketones, people are intentionally putting themselves into this state for therapeutic benefits as well as a heightened state of mental performance.

There are several ways to promote an increase in ketone bodies, outlined below. The general strategy is to supply the body with ample fats while depleting blood glucose to signal the metabolic shift towards fat-burning.

Types Of Ketones

Unlike the simple conversion of sugar into glucose, fatty acid metabolism actually results in 3 different types of ketones:

  1. Acetate (Acetone)
  2. Acetoacetate (AcAc)
  3. Beta Hydroxybutyrate (BHB)

BHB, based on its molecular structure, is not really a ketone. Yet its presence is part of the beneficial effects of being in ketosis. Among its benefits is the ability to modulate BDNF in the brain and stimulate the growth of new neural tissue (1).

AcAc is the primary ketone body and is either converted into energy or BHB.  Acetone exhibits the least metabolic effect and is mostly broken down and excreted through the breath and urine.  The acetone excreted through the breath is actually responsible for the “keto breath” that some people experience in the beginning stages of keto adaptation.

Measuring Your Ketone Levels 

When the body produces ketones, some are used for energy while the rest are circulated or excreted. Because of this, ketones are measurable in the blood, the saliva, and the breath.

Different ketones are measurable as follows:

BHB: In the blood

Acetone: In the breath

AcAc: In the urine

Although ketones can be measured in different ways, not all of them are quite an accurate representation of the body’s true ketogenic state. This is why most experts rely on the measurement of BHB through the blood as the ideal method.

Although this sounds invasive, new technology has actually made performing ketone measurements at home fairly simple and cheap.

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BHB: Blood Measurement 

As I said already, blood measurement for BHB is considered the most accurate depiction of the ketogenic state. This is performed in a similar fashion to blood sugar testing.

Many of the blood glucose monitors on the market also have the ability to read blood ketones. Using a different type of testing strip, all you have to do is prick your finger, collect a small sample of blood, and place it into the monitor for a quick ketone measurement.

The monitor I usually recommend is this Precision Xtra monitor.

The ranges you are looking for here are as follows:

Very Low Ketone Levels:  Less than 0.5 mmol/L

Mild Ketosis:  0.6-1.5 mmol/L

Optimal Ketosis:  1.6-3.0 mmol/L

Very High Ketone Levels:  Greater than 3.0 mmol/L

Although mild ketosis can be achieved rather quickly, it can take up to 2-3 weeks to enter an optimized ketogenic state (2).

The only downside with blood ketone measurement is that the testing strips generally run for about $4 per strip. To perform daily ketone measurements using this method you would be looking at around $120 per month on just testing strips!

Acetone: Breath Measurement 

For a ketone measurement that doesn’t require a blood draw or the recurring expense of test strips, breath ketones are also a reliable measurement (3).

Using a device such as this Ketonix breath analyzer, you can perform a simple ketone measurement anytime you need.  Although this device will run you for about $190, over time it will likely be a more economical option compared to blood testing since it is only a one-time fee.

It is important to note that while breath ketone measurement is mostly reliable, factors such as alcohol and water consumption may influence your measurements. Luckily you can take multiple measurements throughout the day to get a better idea of your average ketone levels.

Using the Ketonix breath ketones measurement, the device will light up different colors depending on your state of ketosis. Based on the chart below you would want to be in the yellow or red zone for optimal nutritional ketosis.

AcAc: Urine Measurement 

The body releases unused acetoacetate through the urine upon which it can then be measured using special testing strips. This is a simple option that is also very cost effective at about $10 per 100 strips.

Although simple and cheap, urine measurement of ketones can be somewhat unreliable. This measurement will allow you to see if your body is producing ketones, it doesn’t necessarily provide any insight into how well your body is utilizing ketones for energy.

Additionally, urine ketone measurements can vary significantly depending on the individual’s hydration levels. For example, dehydration will make ketone levels appear higher, while over hydration will make them appear lower.

During the beginning phases of keto adaptation, the body has a poor ability to utilize ketones as energy. Even if the body is producing ketones, most of them will be excreted. Once the body becomes keto-adapted, higher amounts of ketones are used as energy and less are excreted naturally.

So if you were to choose urine measurement for ketone analysis, I would recommend measuring daily from the very beginning of your eating plan. You should notice an initial increase in ketones into the high range followed by a gradual decrease as you become keto adapted.

Although your ketones will be high, you will actually be hypoglycemic until your body learns to utilize ketones effectively. As you become keto-adapted you should look for a drop in urine ketone levels between 2-3 weeks of eating a ketogenic style diet.

This drop in urine ketone levels lets you know that your body is becoming more efficient at actually using them for energy.

Concern: Ketoacidosis 

The state of nutritional ketosis is sometimes confused with a state referred to as ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is an extreme ketotic state that occurs mostly in diabetic populations. When an individual is unable to produce insulin, sugar cannot get into the cells. As a response, the body drastically upregulates ketone production.

In this state, there is both an extremely elevated blood sugar and blood ketone level simultaneously (4). This will cause the overall pH of the body to drop to a dangerously acidic level which can be fatal.  While this condition can be harmful for the individual, it is important to note that entering this state is actually very rare.

To put this into perspective, this condition mainly occurs in unmanaged diabetics. In this state, ketone levels will reach 20 mmol/L and beyond. An otherwise healthy individual could water fast for 20 days and still maintain a ketone concentration below 20 mmol/L.

In other words, unless you are diabetic, reaching a state of ketoacidosis through diet alone is virtually impossible.

Summary 

Ketones are the body’s alternative fuel source to sugar. Derived from fatty acids, they provide a much more long-lasting and stable production of energy. In addition to providing stable energy, ketones also do not promote the inflammatory rise and fall of insulin as does sugar.

Modern dietary habits have altered our metabolism and made sugar our primary fuel source. By following a ketogenic style of eating, it is possible to reverse these metabolic defects and take advantage of the benefits that ketones have to offer for our brains and bodies!

Mental health struggles are slow, silent killers sapping us of energy and happiness.

Whether challenged by depression, anxiety, stress, addiction or another manifestation, every single person is impacted and affected–you, your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers–either directly or indirectly every single day.

This Mental Wellness Summit Will Empower You Too: 

Overcome the silence, isolation and fear of your struggle

Transcend outdated, prescription-based healthcare systems

Find holistic practitioners and natural solutions for your pain

Implement expert practices, tools and tips into your daily routine

And so much more!

You can register for this event for free here

You will want to listen to my presentation on Friday, September 29th as I go through how to apply a ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation in your brain and improve your mood, memory and mindset!!

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Sleiman, S. F., Henry, J., Al-Haddad, R., El Hayek, L., Haidar, E. A., Stringer, T., … Chao, M. V. (2016). Exercise promotes the expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through the action of the ketone body ??- hydroxybutyrate. eLife, 5(JUN2016), 1–21. PMID: 27253067
2. GF Cahill Jr, T. A. (1971). Starvation and body nitrogen. Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, 82, 42–51. PMID: 4934018
3. Musa-Veloso, K., Likhodii, S. S., & Cunnane, S. C. (2002). Breath acetone is a reliable indicator of ketosis in adults consuming ketogenic meals. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 76(1), 65–70. PMID: 12081817
4. Westerberg, D. P. (2013). Diabetic ketoacidosis: Evaluation and treatment. American Family Physician, 87(5), 337–346. PMID: 23547550

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The 11 Most Common Keto Side Effects

The ketogenic diet is a powerful new tool to hit the mainstream recently. This style of eating has substantial data behind it showing that it can boost fat-burning, reduce inflammation, boost cognitive performance, and more. What has not been covered quite enough are common keto side effects and how you can avoid them to make the best of this powerful eating style.

Although there can be many different side effects that manifest while becoming keto-adapted, many of them stem from similar underlying issues. In this article, I outline what those underlying issues are, their related side effects, and simple strategies to overcome them so you can become keto-adapted as smoothly as possible.

Three Primary Causes

Although there are a variety of symptoms that can arise during keto adaptation, they mostly manifest from the same three underlying causes. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction, and electrolyte/mineral deficiencies.

While these three causes are seemingly different, they are actually all related. When becoming keto-adapted initially, your body has been running on sugar for years. When you suddenly switch to fats, your body has to essentially build the cellular machinery necessary to generate and utilize ketone bodies as a fuel source.

This means that instead of generating tons of ketones from the very beginning, most people experience hypoglycemia for a period of time. With hypoglycemia comes a disruption in cortisol signaling which is what accounts for the HPA axis dysfunction. Finally, HPA axis dysfunction leads to an increase in secretion of minerals from the body in the urine.

Together these three causes can create all kinds of side effects. Once you understand them, though, a little bit of extra planning can help mitigate them from ever happening.

Hypoglycemia 

As I briefly mentioned already, hypoglycemia is the first underlying cause to contribute to side effects during keto-adaptation. This is because the body simply doesn’t know how to burn fat for energy yet.

During the adaptation phase, people commonly feel brain fog, fatigue, dizziness, intense hunger, irritability, and depression.

Although hypoglycemia and its side effects should subside within weeks of beginning a ketogenic diet, look out for these signs and take steps to support your body during this time.

Keto Flu 

This is perhaps one of the most well-known ketogenic diet side effects. Keto flu is exactly what it sounds like, the onset of flu-like symptoms that arises shortly after beginning a ketogenic diet. This includes symptoms like fatigue, runny nose, nausea, and headache.

Keto flu is a classic manifestation of hypoglycemia that can be corrected with simple strategies that I will outline shortly.

Sugar Cravings 

Many people find that during the beginning stages of a ketogenic diet they experience intense food cravings. These food cravings are typically for high-sugar foods and tend to really challenge your willpower.

This is a classic hypoglycemia response as well. The brain in particular requires lots of energy for normal function. When it receives a signal that you are hypoglycemic, a panic response occurs because of an underlying perception that you are starving to death (even if consciously you know you’re not).

At this point your brain begins to tell you that, “YOU NEED IMMEDIATE ENERGY NOW OR YOU’RE GOING TO DIE”! This is when you have intense sugar cravings. Luckily, once you begin to produce ketones for energy this panic response calms down.

Dizziness & Drowsiness 

When you are hypoglycemic while also not being fully keto-adapted, you essentially have an energy deficiency within the body.

During this time, you will likely feel dizzy and drowsy due to a general lack of energy. You may feel especially dizzy upon standing due to blood pressure dysregulation and inappropriate cortisol response (HPA axis dysregulation which we’ll talk about shortly).

Reduced Strength & Physical Performance 

During keto-adaptation, your body is learning to utilize a completely new fuel source that it has not had to use before. The muscles (along with the brain) contain tons of mitochondria for energy production that must now learn to utilize ketones as an energy source.

During this time, you will likely feel a significant drop in strength and ability to exert physical energy. Luckily, once you become adapted you should see drastic improvements in these areas that are even greater than when you were sugar-adapted!

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Hypoglycemia Mitigation Strategies 

As you can see, a significant proportion of keto side-effects are attributed to hypoglycemia. These are my top strategies for addressing these issues.

  1. Eat Every 3-4 Hrs:  Eat every 3-4 hours when in the beginning stages of a ketogenic diet. This will help keep you satiated and blood sugar balanced.
  2. Drink Mineral Rich Drinks:  Instead of plain water, drink mineral rich beverages between meals. This includes organic broths or a high-quality electrolyte drink (like this one)
  3. Hydrating and Mineral Rich Foods:  Consume plenty of hydrating, mineral-rich foods and use salt generously. I like to snack on celery, cucumbers, and especially seaweed in the form of these Sea Snax. These are like seaweed chips that taste great and contains a lot of beneficial minerals.
  4. Use Magnesium Supplementation:  If you follow these strategies and continue to feel many of these symptoms, consider adding a magnesium supplement to your regimen. I would recommend taking the L-threonate form (such as our Brain Calm Magnesium) in a 1 gram dose – 3x per day between meals.

HPA Axis Dysfunction 

The HPA Axis is a series of three glands (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Adrenals) that are primarily responsible for regulating our stress response in the body.

When we experience hypoglycemia, as I mentioned before, the brain goes into an emergency response to starvation. In addition to sugar cravings, the adrenals will release cortisol. Cortisol signals the release of stored glucose in the body (glycogen stores) to provide immediate energy.

Because of this response, glycogen stores are quickly burned up, hypoglycemia reoccurs, and the cycle continues. This is where HPA axis dysregulation promotes the onset of related symptoms while also exacerbating hypoglycemia-related issues.

Sleep Problems 

With HPA axis dysfunction you are likely to experience a disruption in sleep. This is because cortisol is antagonistic to melatonin (meaning it opposes its function). When the HPA axis is thrown off, cortisol levels begin to fluctuate and interfere with the release of melatonin that occurs at night-time.

To review briefly, hypoglycemia stimulates the release of cortisol. Cortisol signals the release of stored glucose in the body, called glycogen, from the liver and muscle tissue. Cortisol is a stimulating hormone that can disrupt sleep if this response happens at night. This results in either insomnia or very poor quality sleep.

Although this cortisol response is helpful in emergencies, you want to try and minimize it as much as possible during keto-adaptation and especially at night.

Heart Palpitations 

Many people will notice heart palpitations during the early phases of keto adaptation. This can be attributed to Hypoglycemia, HPA axis dysfunction, and mineral imbalances.

During HPA axis dysregulation, cortisol can become abnormally high. If it remains high, the body will develop cortisol resistance. To compensate the body begins to secrete higher amounts of adrenaline which can then cause irregular heart rhythms.

Additionally, the loss of minerals that we are about to discuss, can lead to a reduction in blood volume and pressure that can cause the heart to pump faster or even irregularly.

Supporting The HPA Axis 

Like I said already, during the initial adaptation phase of a ketogenic diet, there is potential for the HPA axis to become dysregulated. During this time, it would be advantageous to take precautions to support the HPA axis as best as you can.

These are my top strategies for HPA axis support during keto-adaptation:

  1. Blood Sugar Balancing Strategies:  Follow the blood sugar regulation strategies outlined above. Hypoglycemia is one of the primary triggers of cortisol dysregulation so address this first!
  2. Magnesium Supplementation:  This is outlined above but I want to touch on it again here. Magnesium is powerful support for the HPA axis. Magnesium L-threonate in particular is the only form proven to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier which means it can exert its effect on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.
  3. Use Adaptogenic Herbs:  Although this strategy is not absolutely necessary, using adaptogenic herbs can tremendously benefit the HPA axis and help build your resiliency to stress. By supporting the HPA axis and helping to regulate cortisol levels, adaptogens may prove very helpful in mitigating HPA axis related side effects.

Electrolyte/Mineral Deficiencies 

Electrolytes and minerals serve the vital function of regulating hydration while supporting proper nerve conductivity. During keto-adaptation, an excess of minerals are excreted through the urine due to HPA axis dysregulation.

This is because in addition to cortisol, the HPA axis is also responsible for regulating hydration levels through the retention and excretion of minerals. In a sense, HPA axis dysregulation can also lead to hydration dysregulation. Likewise, there are common keto side effects that occur that manifest from these imbalances.

Frequent Urination 

The most obvious sign that your electrolyte/mineral balance is being affected is an increase in urination. On a low-carb diet, insulin levels drop which promotes the secretion of sodium in the urine. Sodium pulls more water into the urinary system which then is excreted as well.

Additionally, as your body burns through glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, excess water is released into the urinary system.

While getting rid of this extra water is helpful in releasing toxins from the body, you want to make sure you are taking in additional fluids, electrolytes, and minerals to avoid other related side effects.

Constipation 

Constipation is a key sign that you are not maintaining electrolyte/mineral balance during keto adaptation. The consistency of someone’s stool, and therefore the ability to pass that stool, is heavily influenced by its water content. The water content of your stool is likewise influenced by your overall hydration levels.

Additionally, constipation may also be a side effect of a change in your microbiome. Your gut bacteria makeup is largely determined by the kinds of foods you eat. When making such a drastic change in your diet, your microbiome will change which can also temporarily change your stools.

Also Consider: Certain foods can tend to be more conducive to constipation. Foods like eggs, cheese, and nuts may be contributing to constipation. Reduce intake of these at least during the initial phases of keto adaptation and see if that makes a difference. You want your stool to pass easily and resemble type 3 or 4 on the chart below.

Diarrhea 

Sometimes people will experience diarrhea during the initial phases of a ketogenic diet. Although constipation is typically more common, diarrhea may also manifest due to the changes in the microbiome that occur when changing your diet.

These individuals would benefit from taking a bulking and binding agent such as psyllium husk, citrus pectin, or my favorite, activated charcoal.  I have people do 2-3 grams of activated charcoal every 3 hours until the diarrhea subsides.

Also Consider: For some individuals, diarrhea may be brought on by low stomach acid and/or a sluggish gallbladder. Another possibility is that you have a low-grade food sensitivity to something you are eating such as eggs, nuts, and cheese.

Also, if you are supplementing with magnesium, it is recommended to back off of this until diarrhea has subsided as it draws additional water into the colon.

Muscle Cramps 

If you experience frequent muscle cramps while becoming keto-adapted this is likely due to mineral imbalances. As I mentioned before, minerals are crucial for proper nerve impulse conductivity. A muscle cramp is essentially a misconducted impulse brought on by poor hydration and mineral balance.

Maintaining Proper Hydration & Mineral Balance 

Now you are aware of the physiological changes that contribute to frequent urination, constipation, diarrhea, muscle cramps, and heart palpitations. Fortunately, the strategies to mitigate these side effects are quite simple. With a little proactivity and planning, these keto side effects will likely be less of an issue.

My top strategies for proper hydration and mineral balance are:

  1. Super Hydration: Drink plenty of water, mineral-rich broths, and hydrating beverages. You want to ensure any toxins being released are flushed out effectively.
  2. Use High Quality Salt:  Use a high-quality salt in generous amounts in all of your meals, This will add back in sodium and other trace minerals that are excreted more rapidly during keto-adaptation. I like either Himalayan pink or a Celtic (gray) sea salt as they are the highest in trace minerals.
  3. Consume Mineral Rich Foods:  Increase your intake of mineral-rich foods like leafy greens, celery, cucumber, and seaweeds. As I mentioned before, I love to snack on Sea Snax as they provide plenty of minerals and are ketogenic friendly.
  4. Use a Magnesium Supplement: Unless you are experiencing diarrhea, a magnesium supplement can work great for helping balance electrolytes and hydration levels. As you can see, magnesium can help keto-adaptation in many ways. Using 1 gram of the L-threonate form 3x daily is my general recommendation. If diarrhea occurs, lower to once or twice a day until it subsides.

Keto Breath 

Although not quite related to the three major causes we’ve discussed so far, keto breath is an unpleasant side effect that many people experience in the early stages of keto adaptation. When you begin producing ketones, you produce them in several different forms. The ketone that is released through the breath is acetone and is responsible for the keto breath that some people experience.

Luckily, acetone is only released in higher amounts during the initial adaptation phase and tends to wear off rather quickly (within 1-2 weeks).

Keto Breath Solutions

If this is an issue for you, you may consider brushing your teeth more frequently and using natural breath fresheners throughout the day. It is also important to maintain proper hydration during this time as a dry mouth can drastically exacerbate this side effect.

Some solid strategies include oil pulling with coconut oil and using a natural mouthwash when needed. I prefer this oral essentials mouthwash because it is natural and not as harsh as traditional brands.

You can also chew on fennels seeds, rosemary, mint, or parsley when needed as a natural breath freshener.

Precautions For Certain Conditions 

While the ketogenic diet can be therapeutic for individuals with certain conditions, precautions need to be taken to prevent any severe side effects. If you are medications to control your condition, this is especially important.

High Blood Pressure: When drastically decreasing carbohydrate consumption, blood pressure may drop naturally. You may want to discuss this with your prescribing physician before implementing a ketogenic diet and take steps to monitor your body’s response to the change in diet.

If you start to feel light-headed or experience heart palpitations, this may be due to a drop in blood pressure. It may be helpful to monitor your blood pressure during this time to quantify your body’s response to the initial adaptation phase.

Diabetics: When you are eating less carbs and sugar, you will likely need less insulin or blood-sugar lowering medications to maintain blood sugar balance. Again, speak with your physician about this potential change and work with him to coordinate proper medication dosage.

If you experience symptoms like fatigue, intense hunger and cravings, light-headedness, or heart palpitations, this may be a sign your blood sugar has dropped too low. Use a blood glucose monitor to track your body’s response to the diet change and make sure your body is adapting properly. If necessary consult your physician for necessary medication changes.

Summary 

The common keto side effects that people experience come down to three primary culprits: Hypoglycemia, HPA axis dysfunction, and poor hydration/mineral balance. The following strategies will help prevent these underlying issues and their respective side effects:

Stay Hydrated: Try to shoot for 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight (Example: 160 lbs. = 160 Oz). This may seem like a lot at first but try your best to hit this target.

Eat More Salt: Shoot for at least 2 tsps. of salt per day, if not more. My favorite sources are Himalayan Sea Salt, Redmond’s Real Salt and Celtic Sea Salt.

Increase Meal Frequency: Eating every 3-4 hours will ease the hypoglycemic stress on the body. This will equate to 4-5 small meals throughout the day. As you become adapted, fasting for longer periods of time will become much easier.

Use Organic Broths: Sipping on broths throughout the day is a great way to stay hydrated while also getting additional minerals and amino acids into your system. Try a good organic, free-range or pasture-raised chicken or beef broth. This can be a traditional broth or even bone broth.

Mineral-Rich Foods: Consuming mineral-rich foods will help maintain proper hydration and support the HPA axis. My favorites are celery, cucumber, and seaweeds. I like Sea Snax which are really tasty, totally keto, and provide a ton of healthy minerals.

Fat With Every Meal: Every meal should have at least one source of healthy fats. Ideally, you want to shoot for 70-80% of calories from fats for any given meal. My top sources are coconut (oil/butter/flakes/milk), grass-fed butter or ghee, olives/olive oil, and avocados.

Consider Adding Supplemental Magnesium: During changes in blood sugar, magnesium is used up quickly. Magnesium is like oil to a car and keeps the body running smoothly on the cellular level.

I have found that using this Brain Calm Magnesium throughout the day to be of tremendous help during keto-adaptation. I would recommend using 1 scoop in water 1-3 times per day depending on how your body is responding.

Mental health struggles are slow, silent killers sapping us of energy and happiness.

Whether challenged by depression, anxiety, stress, addiction or another manifestation, every single person is impacted and affected–you, your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers–either directly or indirectly every single day.

This Mental Wellness Summit Will Empower You Too: 

Overcome the silence, isolation and fear of your struggle

Transcend outdated, prescription-based healthcare systems

Find holistic practitioners and natural solutions for your pain

Implement expert practices, tools and tips into your daily routine

And so much more!

You can register for this event for free here

You will want to listen to my presentation on Friday, September 29th as I go through how to apply a ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation in your brain and improve your mood, memory and mindset!!

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5 Reasons You May Have an Amino Acid Deficiency

5 Reasons For Amino Acid Deficiency

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, many of us learn that in biology growing up. To paint a more in depth picture, amino acids are actually involved in many critical body processes from building muscle to synthesizing important neurotransmitters like GABA and dopamine.

When you digest any food with protein in it, you are breaking it down into these important amino acid compounds. Amino acid deficiency is something that too often gets overlooked, so in this article I’m going to cover the top 5 reasons that someone could become deficient.

The amino acids have been specifically studied for important roles they play in the body. For example, the branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are important for muscle synthesis (1). The amino acid glutamine plays important roles in maintaining gut lining health while also promoting a relaxed mental state.

There are 20 standard amino acids derived through the diet that all serve their own important roles in the body. 11 of these amino acids are considered “non-essential” meaning they are synthesized within the body. The other 9, however, are considered “essential” and must be acquired through the diet.

Poor Diet

One of the more obvious reasons for amino acid deficiency is the simple lack of proper nutrition. If your diet lacks the right foods with all essential amino acids, then you will not have them in your physiological arsenal.

One such diet that I often see amino acid deficiencies is a vegetarian or vegan diet. Because most foods on these diets are not complete proteins (not containing all essential amino acids), they require a little more planning to ensure adequate amounts of amino acids are absorbed into the body.

Also, a diet that relies on the chronic consumption of sugary and starchy foods and damaged fats (such as the standard American diet) can inhibit the ability of the pancreas to release proteolytic enzymes. Proteolytic enzymes are responsible for separating proteins into their individual amino acids.

Leaky Gut & Malnourishment

The lining of the gut is one layer of cells thin. This makes it very delicate but also very good at performing its function of regulating the absorption of nutrients from food. The spaces between these cells are tightly regulated to only allow certain things to pass while keeping the rest out.

When we damage these cells by consuming GMOs, foods with pesticides, chlorinated water, processed foods, taking antibiotics, or even from low-grade food sensitivities, the spaces between these cells are loosened. This is problem because larger food molecules get through into the bloodstream and the body mistakes them for foreign pathogens. This ultimately manifests in the body as sudden food allergies, autoimmunity, systemic inflammation, and malnourishment.

With a damaged gut comes poor digestion. At this point, even someone eating a clean healthy diet may not be extracting all of the important nutrients from their food.

Low Stomach Acid

A huge misinterpreted symptom in the body that I often encounter is heart burn. The traditional approach to correcting heart burn is to take something that neutralizes your elevated stomach acids levels. But what we know now is that heart burn is actually a sign of low stomach acid.

Stomach acid is what signals the esophageal sphincter (connecting the esophagus to the stomach) to close and prevent heart burn. So, the best way to mitigate heart burn is actually to support stomach acid.

Adequate stomach acid production is also critical for proper protein breakdown and amino acid absorption. Along with proteolytic enzymes from the pancreas, stomach acid must be present for proper digestion. Unfortunately, amino acids are also involved in enzyme synthesis so low stomach acid will typically also deplete digestive enzymes.

If you have acid reflux then this should be a huge indication that you need to start supporting your stomach acid production. If you do not have acid reflux but want to test your stomach acid levels, an easy at home test can help with this. Try the baking soda test outlined below and take necessary action steps depending on the outcome.

Blood Sugar Imbalance

Blood sugar imbalances lead to massive fluctuations in insulin and cortisol. When blood sugar spikes too quickly, insulin also spikes to shuttle sugar out of the blood and into the cells. This leads to a rapid drop in blood sugar and a spike in cortisol.

When your body is exposed to a stressor, cortisol will typically increase for a short period. Cortisol is catabolic, meaning it is responsible for breaking things down. After the stress has subsided, a healthy person would have a decrease in cortisol and the body would adapt and grow stronger during this rest period by repairing the damage that was done.

When cortisol is constantly spiking due to blood sugar fluctuations you get continued breakdown of tissues, chronic inflammation, and lowered ability to make important protein digesting enzymes.

The low blood sugar that occurs shortly after a high-sugar meal stimulates the body to shift into a state of gluconeogenesis (the body makes sugar from proteins). When in this state, the body rapidly degrades stored amino acids in the body, resulting in a potential deficiency much quicker (2).

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue manifests in several stages but ultimately disrupts many key processes in the body. First of all, adrenal fatigue leads to cortisol dysregulation which further exaggerates detrimental effects of blood sugar imbalance. As mentioned above blood sugar imbalance can often lead to gluconeogenesis which depletes amino acids.

Furthermore, adrenal fatigue often throws off key sex hormones that regulate anabolic processes in the body. Because cortisol shares a production pathway with the sex hormones, when adrenal function is hampered and the body’s stress response is dysregulated, the body favors cortisol production.

As mentioned above, chronically elevated cortisol leads to catabolism (breakdown) of body tissues and rapid degradation of amino acids. When sex hormones are compromised, the problem is only made worse.

Solution: Supplemental EAA’s

Essential Amino acids are those which must be consumed through the diet. Whenever I have a patient who has any of the conditions outlined above or I suspect an amino acid deficiency, I recommend taking these in supplemental form.

As I mentioned, amino acids are involved in several key processes in the body. Just as one example, because of their involvement in neurotransmitter production, amino acid deficiency can really throw off your mood. This is one case where supplementing with additional EAA’s can provide powerful relief.

Although not a long-term solution, supplemental EAAs can provide very effective relief while working on the underlying issues.

Additional Benefits of EAA’s

In addition, to their therapeutic benefits, essential amino acids can actually be supplemented for additional health benefits.

Muscle Development

Proper development of muscle tissue relies on amino acids. The branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine have been specifically studied in depth for their role in muscle formation (3).

Not only does this apply to normal growth of the body throughout life, but in other muscle development special cases. One such case is when muscle breakdown occurs due to resistance exercise. Amino acid supplementation can speed recovery and support muscle growth.

Additionally, amino acid supplementation may be helpful in cases of muscle wasting such as severe adrenal fatigue or during cancer treatment.

Bone Strength

The amino acid arginine plays an important role in bone formation and may reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

Arginine supplementation increases growth hormone and IGF-1 which both play a role in bone formation. Supplementation also increases nitric oxide in the body which is important for slowing the breakdown of bone (4). The action of these two mechanisms together act to increase bone density.

In addition to all the essential amino acids, you want to ensure you also get plenty of minerals and the vitamins D and K to ensure proper bone health.

Fat Burning

Essential amino acids can aid weight loss in a few different ways.  The amino acids arginine and lysine have been shown to support the production of growth hormone in some cases. Growth hormone has been known for some time to improve fat burning.

Additionally, lysine and methionine interact in the liver to form carnitine, an important transport molecule that moves fat into cells to be used for energy (5). This action literally improves your ability to burn fat.

Immune Health

Glutamine, arginine, and cysteine work to coordinate and support the immune system.

Glutamine interplays with lymphocytes and macrophages to coordinate necessary inflammatory reactions related to adaptive immunity. Arginine and cysteine both play roles in proper T-cell function (also important for adaptive immunity).

Adaptive immunity is the branch of your immune system that helps you build long-lasting defenses to pathogens like viruses and foreign bacteria. This is why most people only get the chicken pox once, their adaptive immune system has built defenses against it after the first exposure.

Deficiencies in these critical amino acids can contribute to significant immune suppression.

Cardiovascular Health

Circulation problems can lead to many health issues. Particularly organs that contain lots of tiny blood vessels, such as the brain, can be heavily impacted. Distal structures of the body such as the hands and feet will also be negatively impacted by poor circulation. Finally, sex organs will typically be impacted.

The amino acids arginine and citrulline may be able to boost circulation by supporting the production of nitric oxide (6). Nitric oxide is responsible for dilating blood vessels and allowing a greater amount of blood to flow through. This effect also helps to lower blood pressure.

Best Sources of EAAS

As I mentioned, amino acids come from foods with protein in them. In my opinion, the best sources of protein are sources that are low in toxins and contain a full array of amino acids.

Pasture-Raised Meats

Pasture raised meats are one of my top choices for getting a full range of amino acids while avoiding toxins that occur in conventionally raised meats. For example, beef from pasture raised cows is not only a great protein source, but also contains anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats.

Whenever buying the meat from an animal, always look for pasture-raised and organic. For beef particularly, look out for the 100% grass-fed signification. The pasture-raised certification also goes for poultry.

Whey Protein

Whey protein from grass-fed dairy is a great source of important amino acids. This source is particularly great for building and maintaining muscle because of its high amounts of the branched chain amino acids.

In addition to coming from grass-fed dairy, you also want a cold-processed, non-denatured whey protein. The heating and processing that a lot of whey proteins go through makes it harder for our bodies to digest and absorb.

Bone Broth

Bone broth has hit the mainstream hard the last few years and for many great reasons. Bone broth is a great source of amino acids along with gut healing nutrients like collagen and glutamine that are naturally occurring. Another huge benefit of bone broth is that most people tolerate it quite well with very little potential for allergies.

I think anyone could benefit from adding bone broth to their diet. It just has so many benefits.

You can buy already made bone broth at many grocery stores now, but there is question about quality variance between brands. You can also make your own using bones from pasture-raised animals. This method obviously requires a quality source of bones and the time needed to slow-simmer your bones.

The greatest bone broth solution to hit the market so far is bone broth protein powder. This bone broth has been dehydrated into a powdered form that contains 20 grams of protein per serving. Also, it tastes amazing. This is a great and economical way to include benefits of bone broth into our fast-paced lifestyles.

Vegan Proteins

There are a few complete sources of protein for vegans such as hemp and quinoa. As someone who doesn’t recommend a lot of grains in the diet, this can be tricky. Additionally, some of my patients have dairy sensitivities that make meeting dietary protein needs difficult.

For these cases I usually recommend a high-quality pea/rice protein. I made my own formula containing pea and rice protein along with several anti-inflammatory nutrients like ginger and l-glutamine. On top of the gut healing nutrients, this protein also serves as a powerful multivitamin source.  Check out the Gut Healing Protein here

In a lot of the cases that protein absorption is compromised, such as in the case of leaky gut, this combination of pea protein and gut healing nutrients can’t be beat. I use this one for many of my tough cases where digestive issues are present. After digestive issues have been resolved, I usually recommend my SuperDigest Protein for my vegan and vegetarian patients.

Amino Strong

When it comes down to it, one of the best ways to get amino acids into the body is to ingest them in their purest form. This way, there is very little energy that goes into breaking down the protein and your body absorbs them quite readily.

I formulated Amino Strong to provide a powerful source of all essential amino acids in specific ratios for therapeutic benefits.  Over 20 human trials have been conducted to arrive at this specific, patent-pending combination of amino acids in the most effective, anabolic ratios. The high absorbability of these amino acids also means greater support for the benefits mentioned above.

This is one of the primary supplements I used in my 20s when I was suffering from debilitating digestive issues and adrenal fatigue. It truly made a difference in my energy and performance and that’s why I have chosen to formulate this powerful blend.

I continue to use it today as a pre-workout powder and notice a huge difference in my strength, energy and muscle tissue development.

Mental health struggles are slow, silent killers sapping us of energy and happiness.

Whether challenged by depression, anxiety, stress, addiction or another manifestation, every single person is impacted and affected–you, your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers–either directly or indirectly every single day.

This Mental Wellness Summit Will Empower You Too: 

Overcome the silence, isolation and fear of your struggle

Transcend outdated, prescription-based healthcare systems

Find holistic practitioners and natural solutions for your pain

Implement expert practices, tools and tips into your daily routine

And so much more!

You can register for this event for free here

You will want to listen to my presentation on Friday, September 29th as I go through how to apply a ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation in your brain and improve your mood, memory and mindset!!

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Zhang, S., Zeng, X., Ren, M., Mao, X., & Qiao, S. (2017). Novel metabolic and physiological functions of branched chain amino acids: a review. Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, 8(1), 10. PMID: 28127425
2. Schutz, Y. (2011). Protein turnover, ureagenesis and gluconeogenesis. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 81(2–3), 101–107. PMID: 22419202
3. Tamanna, N., & Mahmood, N. (2014). Emerging Roles of Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation in Human Diseases. International Scholarly Research Notices, 2014, 1–8. PMID: 27351005
4. Visser, J. J., & Hoekman, K. (1994). Arginine supplementation in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Med Hypotheses, 43(5), 339–342. PMID: 7877530
5. Stephens, F. B., & Galloway, S. D. R. (2013). Carnitine and fat oxidation. In Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series (Vol. 76, pp. 13–23). PMID: 23899751
6. Stone, A. V, Vanderman, K. S., Willey, J. S., David, L., Register, T. C., Shively, C. A., … Ferguson, C. M. (2016). Impaired nitric oxide production in children with MELAS syndrome and the effect of arginine and citrulline supplementation, 23(10), 1780–1789. PMID: 26780180

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10 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Headaches

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10 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Headaches

Headaches are not only triggered by loud music but more commonly from stressors of everyday life. Maybe you have a work deadline and you feel overwhelmed or perhaps the way your in-laws try to help around the home offering their advice has your head feeling as if it is being squeezed in a vice?  Most often headache sufferers will readily reach for a painkiller to numb the throbbing and relieve the pressure.

The frequent use of painkillers for chronic headaches can mask a potentially dangerous health issue. Your headache is likely a sign that your body is lacking something. A headache may be your body’s voice of communicating with you that you are in need of water, a specific nutrient, or that you simply need a reminder to take a deep breath.

Headaches are caused by insufficient rest or sleep, stress, improper posture, eyestrain, hormonal imbalance, nutritional deficiencies, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), poor diet, allergies and alcohol or drugs. Learn to recognize your headaches as notification that your body is not functioning optimally.  These 10 natural ways to get rid of headaches will have you leaving the painkillers behind.

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1. Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a drug-free strategy to heal your body naturally without the need for surgery. Stress from our emotions, physical wellbeing and environment affect the body’s ability to function. A 2003 study showed that individuals who receive chiropractic care over more than 2 years had significantly higher levels of antioxidant compounds in the body (1).

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals which damage cells and tissue and are known triggers for degenerative disease. When free radicals are higher in presence in the body than their counterpart antioxidants, oxidative stress leads to DNA damage, protein and lipid damage and essential cellular abnormalities.

Other clinical tests support that chiropractic care helps to naturally heal migraine headaches. Such studies conducted show that people experience up 90% fewer migraine attacks and close to 50% of individuals experience a weakening in the intensity of the migraine headache. Other studies show that chiropractic care works as effectively at relieving migraines and exhibit fewer side effects from treatment. (2)

Chiropractic adjustments remove stress on the body’s system. Research thus far concludes that chiropractic care significantly benefits individuals with tension and migraine headaches. A review of 729 patients, 613 whom received chiropractic adjustments showed that this form of therapy is a better mode of treatment than the use of ice, stretching and medication (3). As a whole, research supports the use of chiropractic care a better treatment option at minimum when compared to nothing at all.

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2. Essential Oils

Essential oils are powerful headache remedies which can treat the root cause of pain. Calming and pain relieving properties of lavender and peppermint oil are excellent choices to provide headache relief. Lavender oil has been used in a variety of healing purposes including to stabilize mood, relieve hypertension and treat symptoms of anxiety amongst many more. Once case study showed that the inhalation of lavender oil for 15 minutes was an effective treatment for relieving headache symptoms. (4)

The effects of peppermint oil provide a cool and long lasting effect on the skin. This essential plant oil has been shown to alleviate headache suffering by inhibiting the smooth muscle contractions and increasing the flow of blood beneath the skin when applied to the forehead (5). This muscle-relaxing effect combined with the cool tingling of peppermint oil naturally inhibits the triggers of headaches.

Both essential lavender and peppermint oil are safe and effective treatments for natural headache relief. To get results using this remedy, place a few drops of one or a combination of the oils into the palms of your hands and rub the blend onto the back of your neck, temples and forehead. If you are sensitive to the potent smell of the oils, dilute the blend with an oil like coconut oil, almond or avocado oil. These oils will add additional benefits such as moisture and the use of coconut oil can help to balance hormones and reduce signs of wrinkles.

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3. Use Healing Herbs

Headaches triggered by tension can naturally be remedied through the use of some herbs. Specifically, feverfew has been demonstrated in study at The School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Science, U.K. to effectively aid in the prevention of migraine headaches without a major concern for side effects (6). This herb has traditionally been used in the treatment of numerous health ailments such as fever, stomach ache, severe migraine headache and headache relief, as well as to reduce the sensitivity of light and sound.

Feverfew products are easy to find and purchase if you are interested in this natural way to get rid of your headaches. You can find dry feverfew leaves, fresh or freeze-dried feverfew, and also tablets or liquid capsules containing feverfew extract. It is recommended to supplement with 50-100 milligrams of feverfew extract to reduce the frequency of headaches.

Another excellent herb useful in reducing headache symptoms is butterbur. Butterbur limits pro-inflammatory chemicals which result in headaches and migraines. Butterbur exhibits comparable effects as do beta blockers which normalizes blood flow to the brain.

Research completed at Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that butterbur is an effective mechanism to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks and provide symptom relief. Patients involved in the study who consumed 75 mg of butterbur extract twice daily reported 48% fewer migraine occurrences. The study also found that individuals who consumed less at only 50 mg did not experience benefits greater than the placebo. Thus a dose of 75 mg of butterbur twice daily is best recommended for optimal headache relief. (7)

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4: Magnesium

Magnesium is popularly recommended for headache relief and is significantly much safer than masking pain with medication. Chronic headache and migraine sufferers commonly have low concentrations of magnesium. Are you deficient in magnesium and can this nutrient reduce the occurrence of headaches and migraine attacks in your life?

People most at risk for magnesium deficiency include individuals with heart disease, alcoholism, diabetes and people taking diuretics to regulate blood pressure. Magnesium aids in preventing chemicals that transmit pain in the brain from firing and it supports platelet function. Magnesium improves the body’s healing processes and can inhibit cortical spreading depression. This occurrence is of brain wave signaling produces both sensory and visual changes evident during a headache and migraine. (8)

Adding more fiber containing foods into your diet is a simple approach to improving your magnesium deficiency. Magnesium rich foods include dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, seeds, broccoli and squash. Other foods with magnesium include raw chocolate, grass-fed meats and organic dairy products as well as coffee.

You may also consider consuming 500-1000 mg of magnesium daily to reduce your run in with headaches. Magnesium is a safe supplement when used by women who are pregnant and is available in both oral and intravenous forms (8). Magnesium supplements are safe and easily found. The most common side effect to magnesium supplementation is diarrhea so you may want to begin taking the lower recommended dose to begin working up to find the concentration that works best for you.

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5: B-Complex Vitamin

People who suffer from migraine headaches are commonly deficient in many B vitamins. Millions of Americans do not receive the necessary recommendation of B vitamins in their diets. These vitamins are essential in the formation of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Deficiency in B vitamins often results in fatigue, poor adrenal function, abnormal blood cells, impaired cognitive thought and symptoms of headache and migraines.

The vitamins composed in a B-complex vitamin include 8 water-soluble sources including riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, thiamine, biotin, and folate. This complex of B vitamins improves the health of the cardiovascular system, increases circulation and optimizes brain cell function and immune function.

Consuming too many B vitamins is rare as these vitamins are water-soluble meaning that the extra nutrients will be excreted in urine. Although the benefits of consuming a B-complex vitamin heal the body beyond headache relief, vitamin B2 has been shown to limit migraine frequency and duration and vitamin B3 supports blood flow, which eases blood vessel tension and relieving vascular headaches.

A group of 60 individuals participated in a study which assessed their psychological strain, anxiety, work demand, personality and mood in an environment of chronic work stress. The study lasted 3 months in which some participants received concentrations of B-complex vitamins. (9)

Following 12 weeks, those individuals receiving daily doses of B vitamins reported significantly reduced levels of “personal strain”, confused thought, depression or saddened mood. This research supports the use of a B-complex vitamin to improve the body’s perceived occupational stress on cognitive processing, mood and psyche.

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6: Proper Hydration

Next time you feel the pressure building in your head and your eyes beginning to tighten from signs of a headache, quickly sip on a couple cups of water. Headaches triggered by dehydration is easily avoidable but too often caused by increased consumption of sugary beverages, alcohol and coffee instead of pure water. Water is necessary for the normal function of the brain and supports the healthy balance of electrolytes. Remaining properly hydrated is a simple strategy to prevent headaches, help you feel energized and even relieve hunger pains we may mistake for needing food.

Research supports that headaches caused by the deprivation of water is a common occurrence. Dehydration can lead to reduce cognitive thought and irritability although the phenomenon is not significantly detailed in research. One study found that individuals with a headache who consumed the great concentration of water generally had the greatest reduction in the duration of the headache symptoms. (10)

7: Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is an easy relaxation technique that you can perform sitting at your work computer, behind the wheel stuck in traffic or before you spring out of bed in the morning. Deep breathing positively changes the response to stress hormones in the body which can trigger tension and headaches.

Deep breathing calms the heart rate, reduces stress hormones and relieves muscle tension. Most participants in relaxation studies continue the use of deep breathing relaxation following clinical tests because of its positive benefits, flexibility for use at home, at the workplace and while on the go. (12)

Studies show that deep breathing reduces physiological tension in individuals with high anxiety and alleviates psychological stressors (11). A deep sigh from frustration for example is a type of breathing strategy innate in animals to relieve both psychological and physiological stress.

So how can you incorporate deep breathing into your daily life to reduce the occurrence or severity of your headaches? Take 10 seconds in your day to deep breath whenever you are feeling stressed. Complete this technique for several rounds depending on your time and ability as many times throughout the day as you find appropriate.

  1. Inhale through your nose slowly over the course of 4 seconds.
  2. Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
  3. Exhale out your mouth slowly over another 4 seconds.

If feasible, find a dark and comfortable room away from stressors. Adding a wet, cool cloth to your forehead while you practice deep breathing can be soothing and calming. Try practicing deep breathing before bed to silence your thoughts and provide you with quick shut eye. Do you have 10 seconds in your day to find relief from your headache and migraines?

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8: Perform Stretching Exercises

Body tension is easily triggered from sitting behind a desk or remaining in one place for long periods of time. This tension in the neck and shoulders especially exacerbates symptoms of headaches. The modern ailment referred to as “texting neck” also afflicts many people today because constantly positioned with your head bent forward places a dangerous 20-30 extra pounds of pressure on the neck.

Avoid this major cause of tension headaches and take a break from sitting at your computer no more than every 60 minutes. Rotate your head in a circular motion both clockwise and counterclockwise while stretching your neck in the process. This exercise with help you alleviate built up tension that promotes headaches.

Performing yoga is another excellent exercise technique to loosen up your muscles and clear your line of thought. Yoga stimulates respiration and the circulatory system, improves muscle strength and promotes overall vitality. Next time you feel the beginning stages of a headache, take the time to perform a couple yoga poses such as downward dog to ease tension and support blood flow.

The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Finland performed a study in 2012 analyzing the effects of stretching on 60 women (13). A stretching program that lasted 12 months supported the decline in headache frequency and severity of symptoms by 69%. When individuals combined muscle endurance and strength training to their program there were further health improvements reported. Pain in the upper extremity region such as to the neck and head was greatly reduced.

9: Detox Baths

A detoxifying bath may be just what your body needs to flush the toxins out making you sick. In fact, ridding your body of these harmful agents can be one of the most useful tools in preventing headaches. Filling a bath with hot water that cools as you remain it draws toxins to the skin’s surface and effectively removes them from your body.

Here are a few strategies you can use to improve the tension-relieving factor of your detox bath:

  • Soak in a hot bath containing 1 cup of baking soda. Baking soda cleans the skin, destroys bacterial, improves skin conditions and leaves you feeling smooth all over. Add in 2 cups of magnesium salt to help draw deep circulation toxins to the surface.
  • Add your favorite essential oils for additional calming benefits. Lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, frankincense and sandalwood oil have soothing, invigorating and cooling properties which can help your body release built up stress and tension. Choose the scents that are most appealing to your mood.
  • Pour 2 cups of apple cider vinegar into your hot water bath. This vinegar has healing benefits for arthritis, gout, and provides headache relief. Apple cider vinegar does this by drawing uric acid out of the body and it can also provide additional skin toning benefits and heal the body from fungus, poison ivy and sunburn.

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10: Elimination Diet

Individuals whom suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) complications and also suffer from chronic headaches and migraine headaches may likely benefit from an elimination diet. Individuals with pain or bloating in their gut associated with symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and other inflammatory digestive conditions like celiac disease have been shown to have reduced symptoms of both migraines and GI complications following the elimination of specific foods in their diet (14).

Your body has a specific immune response to a variety of foods. Some common allergens such as MSG, gluten, shellfish and casein or lactose found in dairy trigger the release of inflammatory antibodies. Although a headache may present itself within the hour or 1 day later, identifying your food sensitivities can cause a significant improvement in your quality of life when you learn what foods to avoid.

Food sensitivity is a topic that has been researched since the 1900s and yet the role of diet and its influence on migraine attacks is still controversial and lacking adequate research. Approximately 25% of people report migraine attacks being triggered from a food intolerance. Could you be amongst this population of migraine sufferers? (15)

Use the following elimination diet protocol to determine if you have a positive reaction from the elimination of specific foods in your diet:

  1. Avoid common allergen or food irritants for about 3 weeks.
  2. Be sure to read all labels to avoid added ingredients like gluten and MSG.
  3. Complete a food diary journaling what foods you eat over this period of time and any positive or negative symptoms you experience.
  4. Slowly begin adding one fringe food item back into your diet at a single time. Consume the food for 3 days if possible while journaling your symptoms and any changes you observe. Only add 1 food item back into your diet until you can identify your sensitivities.
  5. If symptoms arise after you begin eating this fringe food again, eliminate the food immediately. If the food source was the only additional stress on your body during the period of time you noticed symptoms, remove this food from your diet.

EliminationDiet_5Steps

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2. University of Maryland Medical Center: Migraine Headache Link Here
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9. Stough C, et al. The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2011 Oct; 26(7):470-6. PMID: 21905094
10. Blau JN, Kell CA, and Sperling JM. Water-deprivation headache: a new headache with two variants. Headache. 2004 Jan; 44(1): 79-83. PMID: 14979888
11. Vlemincx E, Diest V, and Bergh V. A sigh of relief or a sigh to relieve: The psychoilogical and physiological relief of deep breaths. Physiol Behav. 2016 Jul; (16)” 30512-1. PMID: 27404329
12. Morgan M, et al. Patients experiences of a behavioural intervention for migraine headache: a qualitative study. J Headache Pain. 2016; 17:16. PMCID: 4769711
13. Ylinen J, et al. Effect of neck exercises on cervicogenic headache: a randomized controlled trial. J Rehabil Med. 2010 Apr; 42(4):344-9. PMID: 20461336
14. Aydinlar EI, et al. IgG-based elimination diet in migraine plus irritable bowel syndrome. Headache. 2013 Mar; 53(514-25. PMID: 23216231
15. Mitchell N, et al. Randomised controlled trial of food elimination diet based on IgG antibodies for the prevention of migraine like headaches. Nutr J. 2011; 10: 85. PMCID: 3199755

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