What is the Keto Diet?

Learn about the ketogenic diet and some of its benefits.

The ketogenic (keto) diet is a well-known diet that many people are having success with. The keto diet revolves around high fats and low carbohydrates. When people consume fewer carbohydrates, the body produces ketones. Ketones are small fuel molecules that are produced in the liver. When the keto diet is implemented, the body switches its fuel supply to regulate primarily on fat.

While implementing the keto diet, there are many different types of foods that should not be included in the diet plan. Most importantly, individuals will need to avoid foods that contain a high amount of carbohydrates. It’s suggested to keep carb intake under 50 grams per day. The fewer carbohydrates consumed, the more effective the diet.

Foods that should be included in the diet are natural fats such as butter, olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish and seafood, are encouraged. Proteins such as chicken, beef, and venison should be included along with a healthy dose of vegetables that are grown above ground. The keto diet also allows consumption of different types of cheese that are preferably lighter in color.

There are many health benefits of implementing the keto diet. Weight loss is one of the many benefits experienced by individuals using this approach. It also helps to lower blood sugar levels and can have a severe impact on high insulin levels, which helps with type 2 diabetes. The keto diet also assists in improving mental focus by adding more nutrient-rich food to the diet. When ketones are produced within the liver, individuals experience higher levels of energy and enhanced focus. Increase physical endurance, improve cholesterol, and control glucose levels by following the keto diet.

Winter Skin Care Tips

Dry skin and hair are common problems when the weather gets colder. Many people produce less sebum (oil) to naturally lubricate their skin as the air gets cooler and drier. Other contributing factors include less vitamin D from sun exposure and irritation from cold wind in the face. Indoors, the air gets drier as the heat comes on, and a closed-up home can lead to mold and toxin exposure, both of which can contribute to skin problems.

Other problems that can develop in the fall and winter months include dandruff, chapped lips, and aggravation of eczema. Some people further develop scaling, dull skin and hair, and even cracking and painful skin. Much of the damage to dry skin occurs because of disruption of the normal epidermal (skin) barrier, allowing skin moisture to evaporate out, and irritants and allergens to get in more easily.

There are several ways to protect yourself against the skin damage that cooler weather brings. These remedies include things you can do both internally and externally.

Bathe Less in the Colder Months
Perhaps the most important way to prevent dryness is to spend less time in the bath or shower, less often, and with less hot water and soap. When you do bathe, use a cleansing bar with extra oils added, to leave moisture on the surface of the skin.

Use the Right Moisturizer
Moisturizing wet skin after bathing with creams or oils is essential. No matter what product you use, it’s important to apply it when skin is still wet or damp, to lock moisture in.

If you tend towards eczema, products with ceramides in them may be more helpful in restoring the barrier. Numerous skin repair creams are available with antioxidants, to give your skin extra nourishment.

When choosing a cream to soothe your skin, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients in it. All creams include a detergent to keep oil and water mixed, and a preservative to keep bacteria and fungus from growing. These components, along with fragrance and other ingredients, can cause allergic reactions in some people, especially when put on irritated or inflamed skin. Many creams contain the same ingredients, so it might take some detective work to figure out what your skin can and can’t tolerate. Generally speaking, some ingredients to avoid in creams include:

Formaldehyde releasers, like DMDM hydantoin
Imidazolidinyl urea
For those with sensitive skin, using a pure oil instead of a formulated cream might be a better way to moisturize without irritation. You’ll need to reapply every few hours to keep skin hydrated. The thicker the oil, the longer it will stay on and keep working. Olive oil thickened with beeswax and shea butter are two examples of longer-lasting applications.

If your skin reacts negatively to one oil, you can try another. Allergic reactions can be immediate, from antibodies, or delayed, from the reaction by lymphocytes. Some of the less common oils are beneficial not only because of properties they have but also because you may never have been exposed to them before, so they are less likely to have caused an allergic reaction in the past.

Some oils you may want to try moisturizing with include:

Almond oil
Safflower oil
Coconut oil
Olive oil
Jojoba oil
Argan oil
Shea butter
Internal Remedies for Dry Skin
Drinking more water—at least four glasses per day in addition to what you drink with meals—is important for combating dry skin in cold weather. Adding omega-3s to your diet can help to keep skin hydrated as well.

Hair can become dull if overwashed, especially in cold weather when the skin makes less oil. People with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis may find that their scaling increases during this time. Taking omega-3 fish oils or eating flaxseed can help with both dry skin and hair. Flaxseed contains alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 oil which a small study from Germany showed can improve many aspects of skin barrier function. Omega 3 essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and protective of the skin barrier, which may help to improve numerous inflammatory skin disorders. Before taking omega 3s, you should discuss it with your doctor if you have frequent belching, are planning to get pregnant, or have bleeding issues.

Cold weather skin care can be a challenge, because it means changing habits, and because some products may cause irritation in damaged skin. Finding the right balance of internal and external products can help prevent the cycle of inflammatory changes that comes from a disrupted skin barrier and enhance your appearance throughout the fall and winter.

Exercise and Immunity—Can a Fitness Routine Benefit the Immune System?

We know fitness plays a positive role in our cardiovascular system, mental health, strength, and body composition, but we sometimes forget what else it does for the body. One of the unseen physiological adaptations that fitness can positively influence is our immune system’s health.

The immune system is incredibly complex and the research that links fitness to it is continuing to evolve. What we do know is that fitness can play a role in positively influencing our immune system’s health and functionality. This is key to understand, especially as we head quickly into cold and flu season.

In this article, we’re going to discuss what the immune system actually is and what it does, and how fitness may positively influence it.

‌‌‌‌What Is the Immune System?
The immune system is not just one thing—in fact, it’s an incredibly complex network composed of cells, tissues, and organs in the body. It’s a system in the body that we rarely recognize as constantly working to maintain our state of healthy homeostasis or consistent equilibrium.

When we encounter germs and bacteria from our external environment and they get into the body, they multiply at varied rates depending on what they are. When the rate exceeds our immune system’s capabilities, this is what we deem as an infection. The immune system then works to counter and prevent the multiplication of whatever germs and bacteria get into the body that will take us away from our homeostasis and lead to infection.

More specifically, the immune system works to identify different types of cells, then acts upon them if necessary. When identifying normal, healthy, and unhealthy cells, the immune system will recognize cues from unhealthy cells called danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Viruses and certain forms of bacteria can also release signals that our immune system recognizes as pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs).

These signals cue the immune system to respond in a way to counter whatever PAMPs they’re encountering in the body. Different types of viruses and bacteria will vary when it comes to the signals they produce, and our immune system will respond in a means that it deems best.

One of the coolest features of the immune system is how it essentially keeps a log of pathogens that it has encountered before, so it knows how to counter them in the future when it recognizes similar unhealthy cells and signal patterns.

The intricate network of cells, tissues, and organs that make up the immune system can be influenced by a variety of internal and external factors. And this brings us to the topic of fitness and the immune system. Various forms of exercise produce different physiological responses in the body and some of them have been suggested to play a positive role in our immune system’s functionality.

Learn more about the immune system:

Top 10 Natural Supplements to Optimize the Immune System
6 Signs Your Immune System Could Use a Boost
‌‌‌‌How Does Exercise Influence the Immune System?
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to remember that research linking fitness to immune health is continuing to evolve. The questions of how much is enough, how hard should you train, and how often are all questions that are frequently being explored.

It’s also useful to remember that it’s not an “all the time” kind of ordeal with fitness improving immune system health. For example, if one’s immune system is already compromised and the intensity of exercise exceeds a threshold that the body can handle, then exercise can be counterproductive for immune system functionality. After all, some forms of exercise produce fairly high amounts of internal stress on the body.

Again though, this is a case-by-case basis, and we have to remain cognizant of the bigger picture, which is… exercising regularly has been suggested to positively benefit our immune system’s health and that is critically important, especially from a long-term health perspective.

One of the main reasons that exercise has been suggested to positively impact the immune system is that it can enhance our body’s recirculation of immunoglobulins, anti-inflammatory cytokines, neutrophils, NK cells, cytotoxic T cells, and immature B cells. All of these have been suggested to play a role in positively increasing the immune system and metabolic health.

In other words, exercise can increase our body’s means of circulating key players in immune system support when countering pathogens. It’s important to note that this benefit is suggested to be most prevalent with exercise bouts that are roughly 60-minutes or less in nature.

The takeaway here is that when consistently performed, acute exercise bouts can be beneficial for the immune system’s health for a variety of reasons, and these bouts can positively influence healthy metabolism function.

As stated earlier, too much exercise has been suggested to have a counterproductive response in the immune system. When we exercise intensely, the body produces stress-related hormones to counter the stress we’re actively producing on the body.

If the intensity of exercise exceeds our body’s thresholds for managing the stress-related hormones, then we may experience periods of transient immune dysfunction, or a slightly weakened immune system. By understanding this, we can begin to create a game plan for intense exercise to promote better means of recovery and adaptation.

‌‌‌‌Building a High-Quality, Immune-Boosting Fitness Routine
Because our immune system’s functionality can become suppressed when exercising as stress-hormones pass the threshold of what our body can handle, we need to be strategic with our exercise programming, recovery tools, and nutrition.

Here are a few practical tips for anyone that trains hard often that wants to ensure they’re ramping up intensity accordingly and optimizing recovery.

1. Training Recommendations
For lifters, follow a training program that accounts for de-loads and ramp-up periods. This will provide your body with better means of increases in load management and give the body strategic periods of rest on a regular basis.
For cardiovascular athletes, increase training intensity slowly in small increments. Generally, an increase of less than 10% of your training intensity for a training week is a good and manageable strategy.
2. Nutrition Recommendations
Eat a balanced diet that is composed of high-quality nutritionally dense foods. Include plenty of vegetables, fruits, complex carbohydrates, and lean meats to ensure you’re getting plenty of micronutrients.
Be mindful of your pre- and post-workout nutrition. Consume complex carbs and complete proteins post-exercise to support recovery.
Consume plenty of water throughout the day to ensure natural hydration levels are met.
3. Sleep Recommendations
Try to go to sleep at the same time consistently every night to support the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
For those training hard, try to sleep a minimum of seven hours to ensure your body is resting enough to fully recover.
4. Supplement Recommendations
Supplements may play a role in immune system support, especially if we’re not naturally consuming enough of something that can support our immunity.

Some supplements that might be worth exploring include:

CoQ10: A naturally produced antioxidant that has been suggested to play a role in healthy cell growth and maintenance
Zinc: A trace element that helps support our immune system’s health and functionality
Vitamin D: A vitamin that plays a role in a variety of physiological processes and supports our body’s absorption of key minerals
These are only a few suggestions for anyone that likes to train hard and wants to ensure they’re providing the body with the tools it needs to recover.

Benefits of Collagen Supplements

Muscles, bones, skin, and tendons are composed primarily of collagen, the most abundant type of protein in the human body. To be specific, collagen consists of 30-35 percent of all the protein in the human body. Collagen protein is also known as connective tissue and is responsible for stabilizing our skin and maintaining joint movement and flexibility. In addition, collagen provides our skin with elasticity. Studies show that collagen supplementation has many benefits, which include reduced facial wrinkles and helping to get rid of cellulite. I will discuss this further in this article.

As we age, our skin loses its elasticity and becomes more wrinkled. The are many reasons for this- reduced ability to manufacture collagen is partly responsible while life’s stressors and oxidative damage also play a significant role. Those with extra melanin in their skin are more protected from ultraviolet sunlight and ultraviolet damage, which I call “melanoprotection”. However, those with less melanin are at higher risk for solar damage and increased risk for premature aging.

Collagen supplements usually consist of the following amino acids, which scientists separate amino into three categories:

Essential amino acids- This type of amino acid needs to be consumed in the diet and cannot be manufactured by the body. They include lysine, serine, threonine, leucine, valine, phenylalanine, methionine, isoleucine, histidine and hydroxylysine.
Conditionally-essential amino acids- This type of amino acid the body can usually make, but under physically stressful states, the body may not make enough and supplementation may be helpful. They include glycine, proline, glutamine (glutamic acid), alanine and tyrosine.
Non-Essential amino acids- This type of amino acid is very important to the body, but they are labeled non-essential as the body is able to make them. Consuming this amino acid in the diet is not required but doing so is NOT harmful. They include hydroxyproline, arginine and aspartic acid.
Various collagen manufacturers use different sources for their product. While some use bovine (cow) sources, others use fish. California Gold Nutrition uses a quality marine sourced collagen which makes it perfect for pescatarians, that is, those who avoid all meat aside from fish.

Collagen supplements contain a wide variety of amino acids necessary for hair growth as well as skin, tendons and bone health. Collagen is a good option for those who may want to ensure they are getting adequate amino acids but want to consume them using a gluten- and dairy-free supplements. Weightlifters frequently use collagen supplementation to ensure they maximize muscle growth. Sometimes they chose whey protein powder.

Types of Collagen in the Body
Scientists have identified at least 28 types of collagen. However, 90 percent of the collagen in the human body is Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, and Type 5.

Collagen Type 1 – Composes tendons, organ and bone. Type 1 collagen accounts for 80-90 percent of our collagen.
Collagen Type 2- Cartilage in knees, shoulders and other joints
Collagen Type 3 – Main type of cartilage of reticular fibers. Commonly present with Type 1.
Collagen Type 5 – Use to make hair and present on skin surface.
How We Destroy Our Collagen
Collagen levels start to diminish after age thirty-five. While we cannot stop time, there are some lifestyle behaviors many undertake that speed up the loss of collagen and subsequently, aging. Smoking is the number one thing a person can do to destroy and lose their collagen—it is the main reason a smoker often appears older than his or her chronological age. Exposure to excessive sunlight and frequent sunburns damage our collagen, as does a high-sugar diet that is low in antioxidants.

Foods Which Increase Collagen Production
While a supplement can help ensure a person is getting adequate collagen, there are also dietary measures a person can take to optimize collagen production. Holistic nutritionist Kim D’Eon recommends a list of foods to help one’s body make more collagen.

Vitamin A rich foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots and eggs
Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and broccoli
Onions are rich in sulfur, which is important for cartilage production
Garlic is also rich in sulfur, which is important for cartilage production
Blueberries provide antioxidant protection
Raspberries provide antioxidant protection
Oranges are high in vitamin C, which is needed for collagen production
Bell peppers are high in vitamin C, which is needed for collagen production
Strawberries are high in vitamin C, which is needed for collagen production
Nuts, like almonds, walnuts, legumes, and seeds are high in amino acids
Bone broth is high in amino acids, which are the building blocks of collagen
Joint and Bone Health
Scientific studies have shown that collagen supplementation can be helpful in optimizing joints and helping bone strength. Consuming a healthy diet and being physically active is also crucial to joint health.

Osteoarthritis results from the destruction of cartilage within joints. It is estimated that more than 250 million people are affected worldwide. In an attempt to avoid prescription medications, which have potential side effects, many choose natural arthritis supplements to reduce pain associated with inflammation. Perhaps we can help rebuild collagen and prevent loss of cartilage?

A 2017 study using an animal model showed that collagen supplementation not only reduced inflammation in joints but also prevented the loss of cartilage in the joint.

As one ages, bones become thinner. Osteoporosis is diagnosed by a doctor when bone density is thinner than expected for a person’s age. A doctor will order a bone density test to determine if the condition is present. Those with osteoporosis are at increased risk of bone fractures, the most commonly seen is a hip fracture during an accidental fall. Risk factors for osteoporosis include smoking, vitamin D deficiency and being a female 65 years of age or older.

According to studies using animal models, collagen can help increase bone strength. A 2005 study showed increased bone strength when a collagen supplement was taken.

Tendon Strength
Tendons are thick fibrous cords made of collagen. Tendons connect muscles to bones and are responsible for movement. Ensuring strong tendons is important to help prevent injury. Tendon injuries are common among athletes and weekend warriors. According to a 2005 study, collagen supplementation improves tendon strength while a 2016 study showed collagen supplements can help increase the Achilles tendon thickness in animal models.

Skin Health
It is estimated that worldwide, women spend 382 billion dollars on makeup and beauty supplies. Most of these products do very little to reverse the signs of aging though some do protect against solar damage. Due to exposure to chemicals and toxins, many elect to use natural beauty supplies and soaps. However, the question is, how can we also improve our skin from the inside out?

Studies show that collagen supplementation has numerous benefits for skin. Studies have shown that oral collagen supplementation could be helpful for those with cellulite and wrinkles. It may also improve the growth of hair and nails. It is estimated that during our mid-thirties, we start to lose about one percent of our body’s collagen yearly- supplementing with collagen should be considered.

Less Cellulite?
Cellulite is a condition that people have tried to reverse for decades. A double-blind placebo-controlled 2015 study concluded: “…long-term therapy with orally administered BCP (Bioactive Collagen Peptides) leads to an improvement of cellulite and has a positive impact on skin health”. In this study, women took collagen for at least 6 months. An improvement was seen as early as 3 months.

Fewer Facial Wrinkles
According to a 2014 study in Clinical Intervention in Aging, collagen replacement helps reduce skin wrinkles. In addition, a double-blind placebo-controlled study in 2014 showed improvement in skin elasticity in test subjects who took 2,500 mg of collagen daily for eight weeks, when compared to those who took a placebo pill. Another study in 2012 showed improvement in wrinkles and dryness when 1,000 mg of collagen was taken for 12 weeks.

A 2016 study in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture concluded that the use of oral collagen “led to more improvement in facial skin conditions, including facial skin moisture, elasticity, wrinkles, and roughness”.

A 2008 study concluded, “These results suggest that collagen peptide is beneficial as a dietary supplement to suppress UV-B-induced skin damage and photo-aging”. A 2015 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology reported a similar result with oral collagen supplementation. The researchers concluded, “The oral supplementation with collagen peptides is efficacious to improve hallmarks of skin aging”.

Nail and Hair Growth
Strong nails and healthy hair are an indicator of one’s overall health. A 2017 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology demonstrated that supplementation with 2,500 mg of collagen resulted in a 12 percent increase in nail growth rate and a 42 percent decrease of broken nails. Also, four in five agreed their overall nail appearance improved.

Other Benefits
Studies show that collagen can also be beneficial in those striving to improve their gut health. Collagen can also be helpful in optimizing cardiac health.

Leaky Gut
Collagen helps to support intestinal health. A primary reason is the high levels of the amino acid glutamine, or glutamic acid, in oral collagen supplements. Glutamine provides “food” for our gut’s healthy bacteria. Learn more about Leaky Gut and other ways to optimize gut health.

Cardiovascular Health
A large component of blood vessels consists of collagen, Type IV specifically. Vitamin C, lysine and proline are key components required for healthy collagen formation. In 1989, two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling proposed “A Unified Theory of Human Cardiovascular Disease”. He proposed that sufficient vitamin C, proline and lysine could help keep the arteries strong and prevent atherosclerosis. Collagen supplementation provides these important nutrients.

There are various formulations of oral collagen supplements available online. Some are of bovine (cow) origin while others are marine (fish) in origin. I recommend at least 3,000 to 5,000 mg daily be taken. Taking an additional 1,000 to 2,000 mg of vitamin C should also be considered to help optimize collagen strength and production.

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