Tag Archives: The Paleo Diet

Most baby boomers haven’t saved enough to live even a modest, middle-income lifestyle after work ends [1,2]. Unexpected post-retirement expenses can quickly overwhelm resources – especially medical expenses.

“Maintenance” medication expenses often take retirees by surprise as they transition to Medicare. Many don’t realize that Medicare has its own costs and, unlike private insurance, it has NO caps on most out of pocket expense. Even with supplementary insurance, some medical expenses never really go way – especially for drugs.

Typical maintenance medications are designed to treat diseases of lifestyle – illnesses that are heavily associated with the nutritional and exercise choices we make earlier in life. Baby boomers (including this writer) grew up in a pro-obesity, pro-diabetes, pro-cancer, pro-dementia, pro-atherosclerotic haze of misinformation and heavily processed food.

The consequences can be huge.

A Georgetown University study showed that 75 percent of adults ages 50-64 fill an average 13 prescriptions per year, rising to 20 per year for ages 65-79. Chronic disease patients fill a lot more (examples, across all age groups, include 34 prescriptions for diabetes and 30 for heart disease) [21].

The same study also showed that we pay more prescription costs out of pocket as we age – adults ages 65-79 pay 56 percent on their own costs and this rises to 67 percent by age 80.

And those percentages assume Medicare drug benefits are in force. The dollars alone strongly argue for diet and lifestyle changes.

Medicare Wasn’t Meant to Cover Everything

Whole books have been written about Medicare. Websites like Medicare.gov and CMS.gov (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid) have thousands of pages of information that is beyond the scope of this post. I’m just going to touch on some highlights which are current for 2019.

While Medicare is a valuable public program assisting millions, it is only partial coverage. There are startling out-of-pocket leftovers.

Some examples:

Medicare Part A (hospital)
$1341 deductible, per illness. $341 copay per day after 60 days, then $682 per day after 90 days [3].

Medicare Part B (outpatient)
After your annual deductible you pay 20% of all costs…forever. There is no cap [4].

Medicare Part D (drugs)
This is the hardest to nail down since most benefits are dictated by the private insurer you select.

The maximum annual deductible is $415 [5], but then cost sharing can vary [6]. Once your plan has paid $3,820 in benefits you enter the “coverage gap” and can pay:

  • Generic copay: 37% (no cap)
  • Brand name copay: 25% (no cap)

Catastrophic level: These coverage gaps are in place until you’ve paid $5,100 [7]. AFTER $5,100.00 of “eligible expenses” are paid in the plan year, coverage reverts to low copay but, again, without any cap [8].

Then there’s the question of whether your drug is on the plan formulary (list of approved drugs)? If so, does it get favorable “low tier” reimbursement? Some drugs don’t get full coverage, or any coverage.

The coverage gap is supposed to “close” in 2020 – but the current legislative trend is not pro-retiree, or even pro-consumer. Scheduled Medicare changes in the Affordable Care Act, designed to help retirees could be modified, delayed or even reversed by the current administration.

Will drug costs delay your retirement?

This glimpse of Medicare’s out of pocket expenses can be quite sobering the first (or even the 100th) time you see the big picture – especially if you retire on a modest budget while taking several prescriptions.

If you’re currently still working, you may be on generous group or individual health insurance through your job and not really notice your drug costs. But at some point, most of us lose our pre-retirement insurance plans and have to scramble for some combination of Medicare and supplementary coverage.

There is no guarantee that your medication(s) – or other medical treatment – will be covered the same way as before retirement.

Will you be part of the group that simply can’t retire due to drug costs? A 2018 Consumer Reports survey reviewed during a Senate Special Committee hearing on Aging in 2019, showed 12 percent of respondents delayed retirement specifically due to prescription costs [9].

Another survey showed that many older adults, especially in median income households, either delay or simply choose not to receive needed medical care due to cost [10].

Not surprisingly, unanticipated medical expenses are a leading cause of bankruptcy, especially for retirees [11].

There’s even a case of a retiree who robbed banks to pay for his medications [20]!

But are your medications (or your nursing home stay) really necessary?

Conservative financial advice recommends saving $275,000 to $500,000 just for out of pocket medical expenses in retirement. Yet, a large percentage of baby boomers haven’t even saved that much to live on.

These households simply can’t pay high medical costs on top of normal living expenses. This is especially true long-term facility care, which is not covered beyond 60 days by Medicare or any Medicare supplementary insurance.

Absent from most “conservative financial advice” is the idea that many of us can make lifestyle changes that could minimize or prevent future medical expenses.

Please reread that sentence.

The widespread availability of inexpensive, unhealthy food has led to a current “global pandemic of obesity and chronic diseases” that afflict many retirees including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other dementia [12]. These conditions account for a large percentage of medication use (and drug-intensive nursing home admissions.)

Our lifetime of “harmless” habits (including pancakes, donuts, bagels, PBJ, chips, cookies, crackers, toast, breakfast cereal, fried or processed food, sugar, corn syrup, questionable food additives, and pesticides) is closely linked to numerous chronic diseases—and related treatment costs [13,14,15].

While pre-retirees might find it inconvenient or challenging to make significant dietary changes, modest-to-median income households may wish they had done so much earlier.

Saying NO to Permanent Patient status

A naturally low-carbohydrate, nutrient-dense, whole food diet—like the Paleo Diet®—is an important step in the journey away from “lifestyle” chronic disease. Many Paleo adherents, including this writer, report improved health as well as weight loss and improved energy. All of which can reduce medication usage.

Some examples include:

Diabetes: in one study, a Paleo Diet dramatically outperformed the recommended American Diabetes Association diet with respect to glucose control and lipid profiles [16].

Heart health: numerous studies, including this one, demonstrate that Paleo dieting offers strong control of hyperlipidemia compared to “traditional grain-based, heart-healthy diet recommendations” [17].

Alzheimer’s: a growing body of research shows that Paleo- (or even ketogenic-) style dieting is can arrest or even reverse cognitive decline. [18].

Coupled with regular exercise [19], a dedicated Paleo Diet can strongly massage health outcomes in your favor.

To understand what this can mean in potential medical cost savings, here’s one example. Alzheimer’s patients survive, on average, 3-11 years after diagnosis [22]. Full-blown care in a nursing facility, based on 2018 figures, averages $100,380 per year [23]. This means that healthy lifestyle changes have the potential to save $301,140 to $1,104,180. Only some of which would have been covered by Medicare.

While no diet alone can guarantee you’ll never get sick, responsible lifestyle choices now – even if you’re already retired and on maintenance medications – can improve your well-being and protect your bank account.

REFERENCES

  1. Backman, Maurie. “Baby Boomers Are Overwhelmingly at Risk of Falling Short in Retirement -.” The Motley Fool, 30 Dec. 2018, https://www.fool.com/retirement/2018/12/30/baby-boomers-are-overwhelmingly-at-risk-of-falling.aspx.
  2. Nova, Annie. One-Third of Baby Boomers Had Nothing Saved for Retirement at Age 58. 7 Nov. 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/07/one-third-of-baby-boomers-had-nothing-saved-for-retirement-at-age-58-.html
  3. Inpatient Hospital Care Coverage. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/inpatient-hospital-care.
  4. Part B Costs | Medicare. https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs.
  5. Yearly Deductible for Drug Plans | Medicare. https://www.medicare.gov/drug-coverage-part-d/costs-for-medicare-drug-coverage/yearly-deductible-for-drug-plans.
  6. Copayment/Coinsurance in Drug Plans | Medicare. https://www.medicare.gov/drug-coverage-part-d/costs-for-medicare-drug-coverage/copaymentcoinsurance-in-drug-plans.
  7. Costs in the Coverage Gap | Medicare. https://www.medicare.gov/drug-coverage-part-d/costs-for-medicare-drug-coverage/costs-in-the-coverage-gap.
  8. “2019 Changes to Medicare Part D Coverage | Simplefill Prescription Assistance.” Simple Fill | Prescription Assistance, RX Assistance, Astrazeneca Patient Assistance – Portland, OR, 9 Oct. 2018, https://simplefill.com/heres-need-know-2019-changes-medicare-part-d-coverage/.
  9. Bowers, Lois. “Survey Finds That 12% Delay Retirement Due to Drug Costs, Senate Aging Committee Hears – News.” McKnight’s Senior Living, 8 Mar. 2019, https://www.mcknightsseniorliving.com/home/news/survey-finds-that-12-delay-retirement-due-to-drug-costs-senate-aging-committee-hears/.
  10. Bowers, Lois. “Healthcare Costs Worry Older Adults across Income Levels – News.” McKnight’s Senior Living, 3 Apr. 2019, https://www.mcknightsseniorliving.com/home/news/healthcare-costs-worry-older-adults-across-income-levels/.
  11. Brockman, Katie. “More Retirees Than Ever Are Filing for Bankruptcy — Here’s Why -.” The Motley Fool, 16 Dec. 2017, https://www.fool.com/retirement/2017/12/16/more-retirees-than-ever-are-filing-for-bankruptcy.aspx.
  12. Mozaffarian, Dariush, et al. “Role of Government Policy in Nutrition—Barriers to and Opportunities for Healthier Eating.” BMJ, vol. 361, June 2018, p. k2426. www.bmj.com, doi:10.1136/bmj.k2426.
  13. Thorn , Eric, M. D. “Carbohydrates Are Killing Us.” The Washington Times, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jul/8/fatty-foods-dont-cause-heart-disease-bread-and-pas/. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
  14. Livesey, Geoffrey, and Helen Livesey. “Coronary Heart Disease and Dietary Carbohydrate, Glycemic Index, and Glycemic Load: Dose-Response Meta-Analyses of Prospective Cohort Studies.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes, vol. 3, no. 1, Feb. 2019, pp. 52–69. PubMed Central, doi:10.1016/j.mayocpiqo.2018.12.007.
  15. Khazan, Olga. “The Startling Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s.” The Atlantic, 26 Jan. 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/01/the-startling-link-between-sugar-and-alzheimers/551528/.
  16. Masharani, U., et al. “Metabolic and Physiologic Effects from Consuming a Hunter-Gatherer (Paleolithic)-Type Diet in Type 2 Diabetes.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 69, no. 8, Aug. 2015, pp. 944–48. www.nature.com, doi:10.1038/ejcn.2015.39.
  17. Pastore, Robert L., et al. “Paleolithic Nutrition Improves Plasma Lipid Concentrations of Hypercholesterolemic Adults to a Greater Extent than Traditional Heart-Healthy Dietary Recommendations.” Nutrition Research (New York, N.Y.), vol. 35, no. 6, June 2015, pp. 474–79. PubMed, doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2015.05.002.
  18. Bredesen, Dale E. “Reversal of Cognitive Decline: A Novel Therapeutic Program.” Aging, vol. 6, no. 9, Sept. 2014, pp. 707–17. PubMed, doi:10.18632/aging.100690.
  19. Booth, Frank W., et al. “Lack of Exercise Is a Major Cause of Chronic Diseases.” Comprehensive Physiology, vol. 2, no. 2, Apr. 2012, pp. 1143–211. PubMed Central, doi:10.1002/cphy.c110025
  20. EndPlay. “Utah Man Robbed Bank Because He Could Not Afford Medications, Police Say.” WSOC, 8 June 2019, https://www.wsoctv.com/news/trending-now/utah-man-robbed-bank-because-he-could-not-afford-medications-police-say/956430486.
  21. “Prescription Drugs.” Health Policy Institute, https://hpi.georgetown.edu/rxdrugs/
  22. “What to Know about the Stages of Alzheimer’s.” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/alzheimers-stages/art-20048448.
  23. Cost of Long Term Care by State | 2018 Cost of Care Report | Genworth. https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html.

 

Fire up the barbecue and prepare for a classic summertime meal with these Paleo Diet® skewers. What makes these skewers so appealing in the summer? There’s no sweating it out in a hot kitchen with this one. The preparation is fast and easy, and the cleanup is minimal. But that doesn’t make it any less healthy. The chicken and vegetables are packed with nutrients in this delicious combination. Better make extra!

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast
  • 3 fresh limes
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated with micro plane
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 1 red onion, halved and halved again
  • 2 bell peppers orange and yellow, large chunks
  • 1 large zucchini, halved and cut into large chunks

 

Instructions

Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch chunks and place in a glass container.

Prepare the limes by first zesting, then juicing each into a medium bowl. Add the minced garlic, ginger, and coconut oil. Pour over the chicken and stir to combine. Cover the chicken and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.

Skewer chicken and vegetables alternating each until skewer is filled. Grill the kebabs over direct medium heat, keeping the lid closed as much as possible, until the chicken is firm to the touch and no longer pink in the center, 8 to 10 minutes total, turning once or twice during cooking. Take care not to overcook.

Serve with your favorite fresh, seasonal fruit for a complete Paleo meal.

Serves 4.

 

 

When I began my career in fisheries science 43 years ago, I had no idea a major debate over where we get our fish from would be as contentious as it has become.  

Admittedly, I was drawn to the important questions of our future food supplies and the role fish would play in that future. 

So, I ask here the burning question.  Should we buy fish sourced from the wild or from farms—also known as aquacultured fish?  Facts and science can lead us to an answer. 

If I know only one thing, I know this: the best way to analyze this question is objectively, using facts and science as the basis for that analysis.  Throughout my career, I have used objectivity and facts to guide my decisions.  This approach has served me well.  There are times to set aside dogma (otherwise known as “religion,” or, as I’m using it here, belief in something based purely on faith,) prejudicepreconceived notions, and tightly held beliefs when the facts—scientific facts—strongly suggest otherwise. 

If you consider yourself an environmentalist (however you may define the word,) I applaud you.  I am one of them and we need more of them in the world.  However, environmentalists are just as prone to misconceptions as anyone.  This is a human trait where we accept or reject a notion based on a mental construct we devise and build over time.  Indeed, that construct becomes more rigid as we get older, and tends to be reinforced by items of information that fit into or conform to that construct, while at the same time we tend to reject the items that do not fit the construct or are contrary to it.  In short, we believe what we want to believe.  History is full of examples (e.g., the earth is flat, we are at the center of the solar system and universe, alchemists can turn lead into gold, on and on). 

The belief that wild fish are “better for you than farmed fish—more wholesome and nutritious, more natural, better for the environment, live a better lifeis just one more example without a real basis in facts.  It’s religion. 

I know for some of you, I have just blasphemed!  How can I dare say cultured fish are superior to wild fish?  I apologize, but please, hear me out and read on!  Read what I am about to say and then form your own opinion.  I promise to be as objective and fact-based as possible.  Dogma, religion, and bias have no place in this discussion. 

 

The Science and Facts of Farm and Wild Fish – The Seas are Limited 

Here’s the predicament with which we are faced.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the overall demand and supply today in the world for fish and seafood is about 175 million metric tons per year (yes, that’s 385 billion pounds), and is growing at a rate of about 3 percent per year1.  The reasons for this rapid growth are numerous, but steady increases in world population and the rise of the large Chinese middle class (with more disposable income and an aspiration for higher-quality protein) are near the top of the list. 

Of the 175 million metric tons of supply, 90 to 95 million metric tons come from the wild.  The remaining 80 to 85 million metric tons come from aquaculture—fish farms—with a value that exceeds $231 billion.  The issue is that the seas have reached their production limits and did so more than 25 years ago.  Indeed, many wild fisheries are overfished and are threatened with collapse1. 

By the way, there is an additional 30 million metric tons per year of aquatics plants (mostly macroalgae) that are produced on aquatic farms in addition to finfish and shellfish. [1] 

Bottom line: wild supplies are finite!  So, we cannot expect any more production from the wild.  More wild fish will not miraculously appear, and we don’t want to slaughter every one of them.  That’s what would happen without aquaculture.  We would eat every remaining fish on the planet, and then a few days later we would be hungry again.  End of story.  It’s that simple. 

 

18 Reasons We Should Look to Aquaculture 

As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.  This cloud is no different.  The issue is the misconceptions and dogma. Many lump fish farms in with large-scale cattle and chicken feedlot farms with all the same health and environmental concerns. But that’s just not the case. 

So, bear with me as I explain, in an objective and fact-based way, why we should look to aquaculture as a solution to our predicament. 

1. Supplies from farms are not finite. This means that aquaculture will continue to grow rapidly (about 5 percent per year), and over time supplies from the wild will essentially fade into the backgroundthough not disappear entirely—as a percentage of total supply.   

2. True environmentalists are pro-aquaculture.  Aquaculture takeshuman supply pressure off wild stocks and puts it where it should be—on production from farms.  Aquaculture is agriculture.  Hunting and gathering must end in the seas as it ended on land 10,000 years ago at the dawn of terrestrial agriculture. 

3. Farmed fish are not abused! The notion of abuse is completely counterproductive to the best interests of the fish farmer and counterintuitive to their goals, which are fast-growing and healthy fish.  Water quality, fish densities, and nutrition are optimized to reduce stress and create a healthy production environment.  They are treated with the respect they need and   Happy fish create high rates of survival, smaller feed bills, and healthy profits for producers.  Humane treatment is simply good business. 

4. Aquaculture products are fully traceable, from feed to hatchery,to grow-out, to processing, to distribution, to endpoint of sale. [2]  We know exactly what went into their production and their exposure.  Traceability simply is not possible with wild finfish and shellfish!  We don’t know what they have eaten or what they have been exposed to (toxins, medical waste, plastics, heavy metals, etc.). 

5. Water use and discharge from many indoor facilities is limited by use of recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) technology.  This approach uses filters that reuse water again and again, filtering out wastes and replenishing oxygen.  This is a very frugal approach that uses minimal amounts of water as compared to other conventional technologies such as raceways, ponds, and ocean net-pens.

6. More and more fish farm operators use a technique called integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA).This is where the “wastes” from the fish facility are used as raw materials for production of other products such as shellfish and saleable plants. [3,4]  These secondary crops act as natural filters, turning potential liabilities (i.e., fish wastes) into raw material assets.  Operators literally make money from wastes.  Additionally, solid wastes can be used as high-quality material for composting and application to farmers’ fields. 

7. Aquaponics (i.e., integrated aquaculture and hydroponics) is one form of IMTA. This is a very popular land-based form of IMTA, usually with the fish in tanks in an insulated building and the plants in an adjacent, attached   This approach is highly scalablevery small and costing only a few dollars (and fits on a kitchen countertop), to very large systems capitalized with tens of millions of dollars. 

8. Discharge water is high quality when RAS and IMTA systems are used. The discharge water (what of it there is—only small amounts) is high quality or higher than the intake water. 

9. Indoor facilities can operate year-round. In good and bad weather and employ people who otherwise may not be able to find work.

10. The excessive use of chemicals and antibiotics in aquaculture is a myth in North America,Europe, and many parts of Asia.  In fact, as aquaculture is such a fledgling industry, the controlling government departments have made the use of these compounds more difficult than most other forms of agriculture.  In the USA, the FDA highly regulates use of most chemicals and antibiotics. [5]  They are only allowed after the demonstration of need through a clinical examination and/or under the guidance of a veterinarian. 

11. Aquaculture producers avoid the use of all therapeutants (i.e., antibiotics,sterilants, vaccines, etc.) whenever possible.  They are expensive and diminish profitability.  Instead, producers are turning to probiotics, superior management techniques and equipment, and other benign forms of health maintenance.  Farmed finfish and shellfish are health food—wholesome and nutritious.

12. Third-party certification programs are now the norm in aquacultureand in all parts of the worldMuch like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval or Underwriters Laboratories UL.  They guarantee fish welfare, sustainability, environmental sensitivity, sanitation, freedom from chemical residues, and wholesomeness. 

13. Fish have a much better feed conversion ratiothan any other agriculture species. The weight of feed to weight of fish is usually at or below 1.5:1.  By comparison, swine and cattle convert at rates as high as 8:1 or more, and poultry at 2-3:1. [6]  Because fish are cold-blooded (poikilothermic), little or no food energy goes into producing heat, so much more of it is directed toward growth.  Growth is regulated by the water temperature in which the fish live.  With proper species selection and/or supplying appropriate conditions, growth rates can be optimized.  Low feed conversion ratios mean more sellable production for each unit of food consumed. 

14. Aquaculturistscan easily adjust the nutritional qualities of their fish for consumers – by simple manipulations of their feed, including eliminating contaminants. [7]  Cultured fish are as nutritious or often more nutritious than their wild-caught counterparts. [8] 

15. Fish farms canactually use less water per unit of production than cattle ranches and feed lots.  And they are virtually odorless. 

16. Aquaculture in general offers a much more efficient use of space.  Aquaculture can produce a greater amount of product in a given area by virtue of production in a three-dimensional culture environment. [9]

17. Fish farms can be the envy of the nearby conventional and regional farmers as they become models of sustainability and environmental stewardship.  Their neighbors and other customers will be proud to buy products from these facilities. 

18.  If you want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, then support aquaculture and eat farmed products.  Avoid fish from the wild. 

 

Buy Farm Raised Fish 

Aquaculture is not perfect (again, aquaculture is not perfect!).  No one claims it is, and aquaculture is not a panacea Translation: my eyes and mind are wide open!  But improvements are implemented every day and every year, such as alternative and sustainable aquaculture (actually, this is true for all livestock including fish) and feed ingredients (e.g., insect- and algal-based proteins and oils) which are coming on strong.  I see it all the time.  Indeed, as a consultant, I can help fix what is wrong. 

Let’s allow the wild fish to live out their lives in peace and help them to contribute to the overall health of the natural aquatic ecosystems in which they reside, as they should.  When you buy fish, buy farmed products and rest comfortably that you are doing the best for yourself and the world.  

 

References 


1. FAO.  2018.  FAO yearbook.  Fishery and aquaculture statistics 2016.  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  http://www.fao.org/3/i9942t/I9942T.pdf 

2. FDA.  1999.  Guidance for industry: questions and answers for guidance to facilitate the implementation of a HACCP system in seafood processing.  U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/guidance-industry-questions-and-answers-guidance-facilitate-implementation-haccp-system-seafood 

3. Anonymous.  2019.  Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture.  Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_multi-trophic_aquaculture 

4. Boxman, S.E., A. Kruglick, B. McCarthy, N.P. Brennan, M. Nystrom, S.J. Ergas, T. Hanson, K.L. Main, and M.A. Trotz.  2015.  Performance evaluation of a commercial land-based integrated multi-trophic aquaculture system using constructed wetlands and geotextile bags for solids treatment.  Aquacultural Engineering 69:23-36. 

5. FWS.  2015.  Approved drugs for use in aquaculture.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  https://www.fws.gov/fisheries/aadap/PDF/2nd-Edition-FINAL.pdf 

6. Anonymous.  2018.  Feed conversion ratio.  Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feed_conversion_ratio#Beef_cattle 

7. Hardy, R.W.  2005.  Contaminants in salmon: a follow-up.  Aquaculture Magazine 31(2):43-45. 

8. Hardy, R.W.  2003.  Farmed fish and omega-3 fatty acids.  Aquaculture Magazine 29(2):63-65. 

9. Despommier, D.  2010.  Vertical farming.  Thomas Dunne Books.  New York.  305pp. 

Anyone lucky enough to live in Colorado, looks forward to the harvest of Western Slope peaches every summer. Perfect growing conditions harmonize to produce the unique sweetness and juiciness of this all-time favorite. At The Paleo Diet®, we’ve found the perfect pairing of grilled shrimp and peaches for a main course sure to please even the pickiest eater at your dinner table!

 

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 cup avocado oil, plus 1/4 cup for grilling* 
  •  1 bunch Italian parsley, stems removed, rough chop 
  • 20 leaves fresh basil, stems removed, reserve half for garnish 
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed, rough chop 
  • 1/2 bunch mint, stems removed, torn, reserve for garnish 
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced  
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 tablespoons red pepper flakes 
  • 5 firm but ripe peaches, pits removed, quartered 
  •  1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined 

*Extra virgin olive oil may be used in place of avocado oil.

 

Instructions

Note: You will need a grilling basket for cooking the shrimp.

Heat grill to medium high. In medium bowl combine lemon juice, 1 cup avocado oil (or olive oil,) parsley, basil, cilantro, mint, red onion, garlic and red pepper flakes. Place ½ of mixture in separate bowl and set aside.

Place shrimp in a third bowl and pour half of mixture over shrimp, let marinate for 30 minutes.

Brush peach quarters with remaining ¼ cup avocado oil. Place peaches on grill and cook until grill marks appear on both sides. Do not overcook. Remove shrimp from marinade and place in grilling basket. Place shrimp on the grill and cook until done, turning once.

Arrange shrimp and peaches on platter and top with reserved herb mixture.

Serves 4.

We Need Fat in Our DietsHealthy Eating | The Paleo Diet 

Avoiding fat in our diet was all the craze in the 80s and 90s, but the fact is that eating fat is how our bodies get their essential fatty acids. These fatty acids help our bodies in many ways, and we can’t produce them alone. We need to eat fat.  

Our brains are 60% fatty acids, so some fat is necessary for ensuring healthy brain function. Fat gives our brain energy and helps fight off brain disease. Monounsaturated fats play a major role in improving our learning and memory. 

And fat protects us. It’s a major building block that helps make up the walls that support and protect our cells. Many of the vital organs, especially the kidneys, heart, and intestines are cushioned by fat that helps protect them from injury and hold them in place. 

Triglycerides and cholesterol are two essential fatty acids that our bodies can’t produce on their own, and they insulate us, protect our organs, and store energy needed for exercise and everyday activities. Triglycerides can hold twice as many calories as carbohydrates and proteins, and they can be found in a variety of foods, including fruit, pork, starchy vegetables, and oily fish. 

Since the important vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins, consuming them with fats we find in certain foods helps us to absorb these vitamins into the body.  

Vitamin A is good for your vision and skin, and it helps your body defend itself from illness and infection. Eggs, fish, milk, yogurt and cheese are all sources of Vitamin A. Vitamin E also helps maintain healthy skin and strengthens the immune system. You can find vitamin E in plant oils, nuts, and seeds.  

Vitamin D regulates nutrients that keep our bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. An insufficient amount of vitamin D in a person’s diet can lead to serious issues, such as osteomalacia, or softening of the bones. A good way to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D is to get plenty of sunlight. Vitamin D can also be found in fish, eggs, and red meat.  

 

Different Types of Fat 

When learning about fat, we should recognize the differences between the kinds of fat in the food we eat. The three most common in our diet are saturated fat monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat.  

According to the National Health Service, only 50 to 70 grams of fat should be consumed per day, and only 20 grams should be from saturated fat. 

And saturated fat may be the most common. We find it all throughout our diets—in beef, lamb, pork, poultry, sausage, salami, cheese, butter, cream, and many snack foods and deep-fried fast food favorites. 

Monounsaturated fatty acids improve blood cholesterol levels, decreasing your risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats are found often in foods such as olive oil, nuts, avocados and whole milk. 

Polyunsaturated fats include omega3 and omega6 fatty acids. 

Omega3 fatty acids are proven to regulate blood sugar levels. A study in 2014 showed that omega-3 fatty acids can help regulate how we metabolize glucose. That means it can help to mitigate some of the harmful effects of consuming glucose and other simple carbohydrates. Omega-3 fatty acids are great for your heart—they help reduce the risk of arrhythmia, slow the build-up of plaque in your arteries, and lower your blood pressure 

Omega-6 fatty acids can help control your blood sugar, reduce your risk of diabetes, and lower your blood pressure. Though there are also negative health effects of over-consuming omega-6 fatty acids, which is common on a Western Diet. It’s important to keep a high ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. 

Almost all trans fats are byproducts of industrial fat production. This type is extremely unhealthy and grant no health benefits, unlike the naturally occurring fats.  

Low-fat and especially nonfat diets have many risks, including hormone imbalance and decreased brain function and health. Make sure to educate yourself on the healthy levels of the different types of fats. We tend to look at fat as a bad thing, but it is positively necessary for proper brain and body health. 

 

When those hot, dog days of summer arrive, it’s time to cool off with this refreshing and satisfying Paleo Gazpacho.  Nothing but the freshest of ingredients in this delightful meal, designed to take the edge off the heat.  Enjoy it on a shady patio or deck as the sun sinks below the horizon and the day draws to a close. Cool!  

 

Ingredients: 

  • 5 cups seedless watermelon (remove rind) 
  • 2 ripe heirloom tomatoes, chopped 
  • 2 large English cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1inch pieces  
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced 
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice 
  • 10 fresh basil leaves 
  • 2 Serrano peppers, stems removed and seeded 
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 

Place all ingredients into a food processor or high-powered blender and run on high to combine the ingredients – approximately 30 seconds or until fully mixed. Occasionally, the leaves may require a little more blending to be finely chopped. Once incorporated, run blender and slowly add extra virgin olive oil.  Pour into 4 bowls and top each with ¼ of the garnish.  

 

For the Garnish:  

Gently combine the following in a small mixing bowl and scoop onto gazpacho to serve. 

  • 4 wedges of fresh lime 
  • 1 English cucumber, small dice 
  • 2 cups watermelon, small dice 
  • 10 small fresh basil leaves 
  • 1 Serrano chili, stem removed, seeded and thinly sliced 

Serves 4. 

 

 

Please join us in congratulating Paleo Diet® writer Nell Stephenson on the birth of her first son! Here’s part two of the story of her big day and why she choose home birth. Check out Nell’s continued stories on her blog at The Paleoista!

Here we are on Yves’ 3 week ‘birthday’, getting some fresh air during our long morning walk, feeling stronger each and every day!

In my last post, I shared what I referred to as Part I of our home birth story.   I left off just about the time contractions had begun, although I didn’t know it at the time, nor could I have possibly predicted all that was to come during the next few hours.

So now, the story continues:

…As my low back grew more and more uncomfortable I began to attempt to breathe through it.

In retrospect, the only analogy I’d come up with in advance was quite ridiculous; I’d actually thought that being in labor and having contractions was going to be like doing intervals in training for triathlon.

Whether swimming, cycling, or running, you know what’s coming, you know it’s going to be challenging and you know there’s going to be a respite in the middle of each during which you can gather yourself, bring your heart rate down temporarily and then prepare to do it all over again.

The more you take advantage of the moment(s) to recover, no matter how brief, your confidence builds as does your focus, and you achieve that incredible feeling of accomplishment, having pushed yourself so close to the limit, but not too much as to overdo it.

Once labor began, that all went right out the door.

Chris’ efforts to time my contractions proved impossible as there was simply no break between them.

He called Aleks, our midwife, around 6:30 pm, then Patti, our doula, and explained what was happening.

Knowing it was my first birth and that there was a good chance of labor not being all that expeditious, Aleks calmly responded that the time was near and that she’d likely need to come over later that evening.

Chris called Patti as well, and she, too, said she’d be en route after finishing teaching her meditation class, at 8:30 or so.

We entertained briefly the idea of  having a nice dinner and early night, both of which went right out the door as I became consumed with whatever it was that was going on in my body, literally gripping me from the inside out, in a way I’d never experienced before.

Despite what I’d envisioned of keeping calm, cool and collected, going deep within myself to reach another level I’d never visited before, one guided solely by intuition and the most primal of focal points ever, I found myself moaning, wailing and even, as my midwife later put it, roaring.

Primal indeed, but in a vastly different way than what I’d pictured.

Throughout all this, Preston and Pele stayed calm and patient. They sat together way from where we were but still close enough to continue, observing, no doubt with some sort of profound knowing.

Chris called our Aleks and Patti again and told them time was of the essence; things were moving so fast that they’d need to come as soon as humanely possible.

And fly over they did!

Patti arrived first, having left her own class early, and I fell into her arms. She looked me in the eyes (I was seated, clothed, on the toilet at the time; one of the least uncomfortable places I’d discovered) and spoke slowly, methodically and encouraged me to take my wailing down into a more focused, very deep breathing and began to breathe in that manner so that I could follow.

I tried my best but was only able to do so for part of the time, during the fleeting period when the feeling in my back seemed to subside for seconds.

I moved around from toilet, to bed, to the tub, which felt wonderful for a brief moment as the hot water streamed down on my back.

The next contraction drew me out of the tub and back to shifting all over the place in search of some way to sit or stand or just be that wasn’t excruciating.

I had moments of doubt. I began to imagine stories of women I knew who’d had labor lasting days and I questioned how and if I could do something like that. It seemed incomprehensible.

No matter how challenging any race I’d done in the past may have been, the one theme all of them had in common was that the distance was a given. I knew where the endpoint was.

With labor? No idea. Especially the first birth.

Subsequently, I found myself asking questions like, “How much longer?” to which Patti replied, I don’t know.

How could she?

Yet I felt I had to ask again, I don’t know how many times, like a child asking his parents from the backseat of the car, “are we there yet”?

Aleks arrived shortly thereafter along with Jessika, her midwifery student, around 8:45 or 9, took one good sight of me and said to Chris – I found out later – “We’re having a baby here!”.

She asked if I felt ready to push and I said yes.

I’d always wanted to have my baby in the water, but when I got into our tub (we’d chosen not to have a birthing pool), I wasn’t able to push with the force I’d need, so I got out after what seemed like only a moment or two.

I was back and forth between all fours on our bed and a birthing stool, which is akin to the frame of a small seat, but without the seat, allowing the woman to grip the frame and bear down with as much pressure as possible.

After not too much time, Aleks asked if I’d like her to check me and I said I would and I was so relieved when she told me she was able to feel my baby’s head! That must mean, I thought, that so soon I’d be able to meet our son!

I felt a surge of renewed energy and force come over me and I began to push in sets of three, for no particular reason. I noticed that during the time I was going to push, I felt a huge relief on the pressure in my back.

I also noticed how exhausted I was growing and that I was beginning to feel a bit dizzy.

I spoke only in incoherent segments as all my energy drew from within, in order to push out our baby.

Aleks monitored the baby’s heart rate often through her stethoscope so I was able to rest assured he was fine and on his way.

I don’t know how long the pushing lasted; time didn’t seem to exist but Chris later told me that around 10:25, Aleks signaled to him to come around in order to catch his son.

I pushed, I pushed and then, in one last effort, Chris saw just the very top of the baby’s head emerge and suddenly… his whole body came out, landing safely in his arms.

I couldn’t believe it! I looked down and tried to look behind, and, as the placenta was still inside, Chris passed Yves to me through my legs.

The intense labor had lasted all of three hours and I was able to have a completely natural childbirth without pitocin, an epidural or anything else I’d envisioned I didn’t want.

Supported by Chris, Aleks and Patti, and holding our newborn son (who let out a few brief cries to clear his lungs), we walked (hobbled) over to the bed.

I lay down, wiped out beyond any level of fatigue I’d ever before experienced, and placed Yves on my chest.

I knew from all our research that he would recognize the scent in the nipples (the same scent of the amniotic fluid) and use that to wiggle his way up and begin to breastfeed.

Though we’d seen this in documentaries, all of it, to witness it firsthand with our own child was out of this world.

The three of us stayed there, suspended in joy and bliss as we allowed the blood remaining in the placenta (still inside) to pulse into Yves’ body through the cord (still intact).

After Aleks could see the cord conclude its work, she advised that about 30 or 45 minutes had passed and that it was past time I pushed out the placenta.

She handed a pair of scissors to Chris who cut the cord, then tied the stump of what was left of it.

“Ready to push?”, she asked? “ Yes ! ”, I responded.

But when I tried to push, the effort felt futile, to say the least. I literally had nothing left, nor did I have anything resembling a contraction.

More time passed and I was told that I’d lost quite a bit of blood, roughly 2 cups by that time, and it was becoming more and more pressing that I deliver the placenta.

But I just couldn’t.

Aleks suggested Pitocin, which, at that point, since Yves was not only not in my body anymore, but not even physically connected to me, made sense as there was no risk of harming him.

Injection administered.

No reaction and I was still losing blood, yet I had no indication of such.

I thought my fatigue and shaking (actual large muscle shaking uncontrollably) was due to having just given birth.

Jessika tried gently to asses the placenta and see if it was giving any signs of loosening up, but to no avail.

Aleks advised, much to my dismay, that the smart thing to do at that point would be to transport me to the hospital.

No!

How could this be?

After all had gone so well through the whole pregnancy and delivery?

I asked if Yves would have to come; the last thing I wanted was to have to have my newborn baby go to a hospital!

And as much as I abhorred the idea of leaving my new baby and husband, it was critical.

And there was a silver lining: Chris and Yves would be able to bond while I was gone, skin to skin, which, had I been there, would likely not have happened for a long period of time.

Aleks called 911 and an ambulance was there in no time.

I kissed my baby and my husband and left in tears.

I don’t remember walking downstairs ( or was I carried?) but once I was in the ambulance, I asked Aleks if I could give it one last try. Maybe I wouldn’t have to go after all?

No use. Nothing. The last push only resulted in more clumps of blood being pushed out.

Off we went to the hospital, and I felt a slight relief knowing we were going to UCLA, which has a midwife presence.

Aleks stayed with me the whole time which was a huge comfort, never having been a patient in a hospital before.

The anesthesiologist came in and then the surgeon, who explained she was going to have to attempt to remove the placenta manually.

The last things I remember are Aleks reading me the verbiage from a document I was asked to sign by the hospital, the room becoming wavy and then a shot being injected and my leg being placed in a stirrup as I lay on my back.

I woke in another room and Aleks was still by my side. She’d asked to save the placenta and when she showed it to me, all I could think was that it looked like roadkill that had been run over, and over and over.

She made sure I was okay and asked if it was okay for her to go back to our home to check on Chris and Yves, who was drinking milk from a donor mom, brought over by another doula, which gave me comfort, knowing my guys were not on their own.

By then it was 4am and all I could think about was how starving I was.

Nothing was open for delivery (who knew?) except a deli around the corner, and after a FaceTime with Chris and Yves, which made me weep, he ordered me what proved to be the best burger (with bacon, tomato, avocado and slaw ) I’d ever eaten.

A nurse came in and asked if I wanted to pump and I did; resulting in about 10cc of colostrum which I’d be able to save and take home to my baby.

I dozed a bit and all of a sudden it was 6 am and another nurse came in to check my vitals.

My supine blood pressure and heart rate was somewhat normal (after I explained my normal RHR is 39 and BP is 100 / 60, that is) and I was then asked if I’d like to try standing and walking across the room to my bathroom.
I stood… so far so good, but my blood pressure dropped to 80 / 40 and I grew dizzy.

I had to lie down again and was told best case scenario, I’d be home in 24 hours!

NO!!!

I dozed a bit, drank tons of water and visualized being home with my guys and sending energy to Yves, talking to him the way I’d done for the past 10 months in my womb.

When the next nurse came in a few hours later, I was able to stand and walk without my blood pressure dropping.

Chris came in not too long after, Yves safe at home with the doula… and with more food! Veggies, steak, avocado… exactly what I was craving!

To our surprise, the next charge nurse who came in was not a charge nurse at all, but a midwife on staff!

She knew the most important thing was for me to get home to our baby and since my vitals were looking up, she said she’d authorize my release to go home!

Still physically weak, having lost 1/2 my blood volume, I couldn’t wait to get home.

I was wheeled down to the valet and Chris drove us home.

I walked slowly up the stairs, took a shower to get rid of the hospital evidence and crawled into our own bed and held my baby for the second time… but this time I’d never let go.

Birth Day was a mere three and a half weeks ago, but it will be forever emblazoned in my heart, mind and spirit, as will the immense gratitude I feel for my husband for his never-ending support and belief that I could do it, for our birth team, Aleks, our midwife (1), Patti our doula (2), Jessika, Aleks’ midwifery student and Preston and Pel, our two ‘older kids’, who contributed, as always, they magnificent, benevolent energy and calm.

Thank you, with so much love.

(1) Aleks Evanguelidi, Los Angeles Midwife

(2) Patti Quintero, Uma Mother

When the stock of the meat-alternative company Beyond Meat (symbol BYND) debuted on the NASDAQ stock exchange on May 2, 2019, there were immediately high expectations.  Optimism for the company founders and their ambitions were being fueled by the high demand by some consumers for alternatives to traditional animal-based types of protein. 

Beyond Meat representatives and their stock underwriters were not disappointed.  By the end of the first day of trading, the stock had climbed from $25 per share to an amazing price of $65.75—an astronomical one-day gain of 163 percent!  As a long-time stock market observer, I can confidently say this type of move is practically unheard of.  As of this writing the stock is listed at a price of about $165 per share. 

I had not taken much notice of the company or its products before the initial public offering.  But I am generally a curious person and was eager to learn more of what was behind all the excitement.  Indeed, I wanted to taste this “revolutionary concept.” 

Recently, I visited a local Natural Grocers market and purchased a package of the Beyond Burgers.  The two frozen patties—8 ounces total net weight—were heat-sealed in a plastic container, with a “diaper” beneath each to absorb moisture, and further wrapped in a cardboard display sleeve.  (As an aside, I questioned if thiwas a bit excessive for a company that might be focusing on a customer base that is sensitive to over-packaging and waste volumes, but I digress.) 

I thawed the burgers and broiled them, just as I would regular beef patties.  They sizzled, they released what appeared to be a light-colored oil, and browned after several minutes. 

After cooking and to make the eating experience as similar to my beef burgers as possible, I added some light condiment, topped them with some tomato slices, fashioned a lettuce-leaf wrapper around each, and down the hatch they went. 

My palate was adequately impressed.  The taste was good, as well as the texture, which can be difficult if you’ve tasted other attempts to imitate beef.  And my expectations were high after the clerk at the food store commented, “You’ll like them even better than regular burgers. 

 

They Taste Good but Are They Healthy? 

Despite my relatively positive culinary experience, the next step of my evaluation was truly the most revealing.  I read the ingredients label and Nutrition Facts. 

My assumption was that the health of the consumer was a driving force in the development of Beyond Meat products, but I could not have been more wrong. I was really quite stunned by what I read! 

Here’s the ingredients list—verbatim: 

Water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, contains less than 2% of the following: cellulose from bamboo, methylcellulose, potato starch, natural flavor, maltodextrin, yeast extract, salt, sunflower oil, vegetable glycerin, dried yeast, gum arabic, citrus extract (to protect quality), ascorbic acid (to maintain color), beet juice extract (for color), acetic acid, succinic acid, modified food starch, annatto (for color). 

The ingredients list is followed by this warning. 

Peas are legumes.  People with severe allergies to legumes like peanuts should be cautious when introducing pea protein into their diet because of the possibility of a pea allergy.  Contains no peanuts or tree nuts. 

In an attempt to reassure the likely target audience, the package also states the product is certified vegan, is soy-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO.  Well, thank goodness for all of that (I say with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek)! 

 

How Lean Ground Beef Compares  

The Nutrition Facts disclosure gave the following information about the Beyond Burgers:  

One 113-gram patty contains a total of 270 calories.  A whopping 170 calories of the 270 come from fat.  Total fat equals 20 grams, or 31 percent of the daily value.  Saturated fat equals 5 grams, or 25 percent of the daily value.  Trans fat equals zero.  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are not specified on the package. 

Cholesterol content equals zero.  Sodium content equals 380 milligrams, or 16 percent of the daily value.  Potassium content equals 340 milligrams, or 10 percent of the daily value. 

Total carbohydrate equals 5 grams, or 2 percent of the daily value.  Dietary fiber equals 3 grams, or 13 percent of the daily value.  There are zero additional sugars. 

One patty contains 20 grams of protein, or 32 percent of the daily value, no vitamin A, 6 percent daily value of vitamin C, 2 percent daily value of calcium, 30 percent daily value of iron, and 25 percent daily value of phosphorus. 

When I compare a Beyond Meat burger to regular, low-fat ground beef (i.e., 96 percent lean, 4 percent fat), some of the differences are stark. 

One 113-gram patty contains a total of 150 calories, with only 50 of those calories contributed by fat.  Total fat equals 6 grams, or 9 percent of the daily value.  Saturated fat equals 2 grams, or 9 percent of the daily value. 

Cholesterol content equals 70 milligrams, or 23 percent of the daily value.  Sodium content equals 75 milligrams, or 3 percent of the daily value. 

Total carbohydrate content is zero, one patty contains 25 grams of protein, and 15 percent of the daily value of iron. 

While this comparison shows that low-fat, store-bought, readily available ground beef is not perfect or ideal, it certainly is decidedly nutritionally favorable to a Beyond Meat burger.  Grass-fed ground beef probably would compare even more favorably. 

 

The Untold Story 

If we lift the proverbial curtain even further, we can see some other glaring and undesirable realities.  Not only is a Beyond Meat burger high in saturated fat and high in sodium, the only protein it contains is derived from peas—a legume, no less. 

My friend, Dr. Loren Cordain, put it best in a recent e-mail to me about the Beyond Meat burger.  “The potassium/sodium ratio (340 mg/380 mg) equal to 0.89 represents an impossible value not found in virtually any natural foods (plant or animal).  Yes, the amino acid profile of legumes is imbalanced and not close to what is found in real meat or animal products.  Further the addition of sunflower oil and refined coconut oil gives this product an n3/n6 (omega) fatty acid balance which is totally uncharacteristic of any meat, fish or real animal food.” 

Without the benefit of education in the arenas of human nutrition and optimal diets, the vast majority of consumers are sorely lacking in the ability to objectively evaluate the appropriateness of Beyond Meat products in their routine diet choices. 

For most of these well-intentioned people, it’s an assumption that Beyond Meat has the consumers’ best nutritional interests in mind.  Instead, their product may appear more as pandering to an audience that wants to “do the right thing,” “avoid unhealthy meat,” “save the animals,” “help the planet,” or numerous other points of focus. These well-intentioned people are predisposed to believe that a product like the Beyond Meat burger is actually health food.  In short, it makes them feel good about what they eat.  But that is all. 

In truth, it’s more of a lifestyle choice than a health choice, as the facts suggest here. 

As Dr. Cordain pointed out, the protein amino acid balance is poor (i.e., skewed toward plant proteins rather than more optimal animal proteins), and the fatty acid balance has way too much omega-6 relative to omega-3.  This imbalance favors an inflammatory physiological response to the product.  Throw in way too much sodium relative to potassium, and you have a potential recipe for hypertension, increased cardiovascular disease risk, and other problems. 

 

The State of the Nutritional Art 

It is clear in my mind that Beyond Meat made a strategic decision to focus on taste, palatability, and protein source rather than nutrition.  This sells more burgers (and by the way, they sell sausage and other meatless products,) but it’s highly doubtful they don’t understand the consequences of their choices.  I am not revealing profound secrets here! 

When it comes down to it, a decision to avoid high-quality animal protein comes with unavoidable consequences, with the highest on the list being nutritional. 

I don’t blame Beyond Meat for trying to bridge the gap between a non-meat menu and good nutrition.  Maybe in the future some company or someone will make that a reality.  But so far, Beyond Meat can’t claim to be the ones to have done it.  

Please join us in congratulating Paleo Diet writer Nell Stephenson on the birth of her first son! Here’s the story of her big day and why she choose home birth. Also, to quote Nell, after having been through this pregnancy journey and learning, unfortunately, that the medical model of care for pregnant women is based not in the best interest of mother and baby, but on the very lucrative model of The Business of Being Born, as so eloquently put in the documentary with the same name. It’s akin to our broken healthcare model as it pertains to nutritional advice and  I now feel just as passionate about educating people on what they need to know when they go the traditional route as I do about educating them about a proper Paleo approach!”

 

Hello from Babyland! Or, as our midwife and doula have referred to the area we’ve been spending much of our time these past two weeks… Bed Island.

On May 9, 2019, at 10:25pm, our son, Yves Blake Stephenson was born safely at home after a three hour labor. He weighed 6 pounds, 11 oz and is a healthy, happy boy, breastfeeding and sleeping like a champ.

I’d created an entry on my calendar and although the day began as planned – morning master’s swim, followed by a trip for a blow out (what can I say? I wanted to look my best when our son arrived!), I felt absolutely no different that day than I had during the past several weeks.

Still working, still exercising daily, and while I was moving considerably slower, I had none of the signs of early labor we’d learned to be on the lookout for.

I wasn’t remotely worried as I’d also learned that the due date has a five week leeway around it, from three weeks before to two weeks after during which delivery would still be considered timely.

Many women with whom I spoke over the next week all offered reassurance that this was normal and that they too had delivered a week or longer after their due date, and although I didn’t need it, it was good to hear.

I knew our son just needed a little more time and that he’d start the process of being born when he was good and ready.

The only factor we needed to consider was that in California, a midwife can only attend a birth up until week 42 in home.  Fortunately, ours has a colleague who is an OBGYN that exclusively delivers in home and even works with high risk pregnancy, so even if I were to carry past term, it wouldn’t mean our dream to have a home birth would have to change.

I welcomed input from our doula and midwife and collectively we decided I’d do a few acupuncture sessions as well as up the ante on raspberry tea and increase the number of dried dates I was eating (both have properties to help  bring on and support labor). (1,2,3).

Nothing happened Friday. Or Saturday. Or Sunday.  Customers and friends at my weekend markets as well as Monday in the commercial kitchen commented, “Oh, still pregnant!  Why are you still working?”

Nothing Tuesday, or Wednesday when I was out for my usual 3 hr hike with the dogs on the trails and same questions, all out of care and concern.

Why?

Because I felt great and had zero signs of labor.

Until the next day.

I woke at 5 a.m. to go to the pool and saw a small splotch of blood (about the size of a silver dollar) on the ground near the toilet that must have dropped in the night.

Was this the mucous plug?

I texted our midwife and she said probably, yes… don’t go swimming.

Anything else I should or should not do?  No, she said, just keep alert for other signs.

The day progressed as normal, yet I noticed an odd feeling of a pulled muscle in my right low back.  So mild that simply changing positions completely alleviated it.

I went to my scheduled acupuncture appointment, this time with micro stim, and then had this strange desire for a smoothie.

I’m not a smoothie gal and had zero cravings during pregnancy.

But something told me to stop at one of the smoothie shops that had pregnancy specific smoothies. (4)

I drove home and hubby and I and the dogs went up to the trail head for an evening walk.

We only went for a short loop and the back sensation I’d been feeling was making itself more and more known.  By the time we headed back down, I was considerably more uncomfortable.

We got home and while hub prepared dinner, I found myself unable to find a comfortable way to position myself.

Yet I still had zero indication that this was labor… after all, nothing was going on in my abdomen. I had no new sensations.

So what was going on?

 

Stay tuned for Part II…

 

References

(1) Raspberry leaf and its effect on labour: safety and efficacy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10754818

(2)Raspberry leaf in pregnancy: its safety and efficacy in labor. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11370690

(3) The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989

(4) https://www.livebeaming.com

Thanks to Aimee McNew at at PaleoHacks for this great article!

Move over, vitamin C—there’s a new flu buster in town 

It turns out that vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is every bit as important as its antioxidant counterparts whenever the immune system is under duress, like during a cold or flu.  

If you’re one of those people who keeps getting sick and you don’t know why, read on. Here’s how this underestimated sunshine vitamin can help boost immunity and fight viral infections.  

 

The Basics of Vitamin D 

First, it’s important to understand that vitamin D isn’t a “vitamin” at all, but rather a prohormone that is synthesized in response to interaction between cholesterol, the skin, and sun exposure.  

Vitamin D is widely studied for all kinds of health benefits, like bone health, calcium absorption, heart health, and immunity. [1-10] While experts differ on how much vitamin D is needed to provide protection and avoid symptoms of insufficiency or deficiency, nearly everyone agrees that you can’t get enough vitamin D from food alone. [8] This might explain why even if you’re sipping on that gut-healing bone broth, it might not be enough to keep you fully protected from the flu.  

 

Why You Need Vitamin D to Boost Immunity 

When you take vitamin D, you lower your chances of getting sick from viral infections, like colds and the flu, by at least 10 percent. But people who are deficient in vitamin D actually see a greater protective benefit when they supplement, reducing their risk by 50 percent. [11]  

Most Americans get far less than the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D of 600 IU, setting the stage for rampant deficiencies. Certain people, like those with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, osteoporosis, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have an even higher risk of being deficient because of issues with absorption in the intestines and because of greater demands. 

Cold and flu viruses are contagious respiratory infections that affect the nose, throat, and lungs with symptoms like congestion, coughing, wheezing, sore throat, body aches, and fever. The flu, in particular, can have serious consequences in people who are at risk: the elderly, infants, young children, people with suppressed immunity, and those with other chronic disorders. On any given year, approximately 10 percent of the population gets the flu, but during epidemic flu seasons, it can be as high as 20 percent. [12, 13] There are several overlapping factors that are associated to both the severity of the flu and being at risk of vitamin D deficiency, including: 

  • Age (under age 2 or over age 65) 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Chronic disease (diabetes, heart disease, autoimmunity, etc.)
  • Suppressed immunity (HIV, AIDS) 

 

Vitamin D Reduces Risk of the Flu 

While flu vaccines are common, they only address a few strains based on the best guesses by experts of which strains will predominate. Sometimes experts guess wrong, rendering the flu vaccine less effective during those seasons. What doesn’t change, however, is the immune system’s reliance on vitamin D levels, making it a more secure way to boost immunity and avoid the flu. Research even shows that optimal vitamin D levels boost the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. [14] 

One study even drew a direct link between vitamin D levels and the risk of getting the flu: Those with the lowest serum concentrations had the highest chances of getting viral infections[15]  

Receptors for vitamin D are located on cell surfaces in the immune system, allowing vitamin D to bind to them. When this happens, vitamin D reduces inflammatory cytokines that perpetuate illness. It also boosts the proteins that fight bacteria and viruses; which are essentially the natural versions of antibiotics that protect the body from infection. 

Vitamin D boosts the innate branch of the immune system – the body’s first line of defense against infection – which mounts an attack against foreign invaders. The response time for this branch of the immune system is strongly associated with our ability to ward off illness or shorten the duration of sickness. [16] When vitamin D levels are low, immune cells respond slower and the innate immune response is not as rapid as it should be. 

Even if you do get sick, increase your vitamin D levels immediately for faster recovery. When your levels are too low, your body will struggle longer to bounce back. 

Research shows that for every 4 ng/mL increase in your vitamin D concentrations in the blood, you lower your odds of getting the flu by seven percent. It’s not coincidental that flu season peaks as our natural ability to produce vitamin D falls due to reduced sun exposure in the colder months. [17]  

 

How to Supplement with Vitamin D 

If you cannot get sun exposure regularly—as many Americans do not from September through March each year—then supplementation is essential to maintain steady levels. Vitamin D3 is considered to be the natural form and is most effective at raising serum concentrations[18]. Dosage recommendations range from 400 IU to upwards of 10,000 IU, depending on health conditions and other factors, like absorption. [19] 

The Vitamin D Council suggests that adults take between 5,000 and 10,000 IU per day, depending on body weight. Children should take 1,000 IU daily per 25 pounds of body weight (up to 125 pounds). The best bet when it comes to supplementing with vitamin D is to have your doctor test your levels and advise you on the proper dosage for your health factors. 

Vitamin D supplements absorb best when paired with fish oil or fatty foods to optimize absorption. [20]  

Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient – meaning your body has limited ability to excrete it – levels can become toxic in the body with over-supplementation, so get your blood levels checked before supplementing. A healthy blood range is above 30 ng/mL, with insufficiency falling between 20 and 29 ng/mL, and deficiency anything below 20 ng/mL. [21]  

 

Bottom Line 

Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for immune support. When the body is low in this nutrient, immune system cells will have slower response times to viral invaders, sickness duration will be longer, and overall immunity will be suppressed. 

Vitamin D is one of the few nutrients that doesn’t have an abundance of food sources. Wwere designed to produce most of the vitamin D we need in the skin from sun exposure. But between food and supplements, as well as sun exposure in the warmer months, we can optimize our vitamin D levels for overall health. 

 

References 

1.Klibanski, A., et al., Osteoporosis prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. Jama-Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001. 285(6): p. 785-795. 

2.Holick, M.F., Vitamin D: importance in the prevention of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004. 79(3): p. 362-371. 

3.Dawson-Hughes, B., et al., Estimates of optimal vitamin D status. Osteoporosis International, 2005. 16(7): p. 713-716. 

4.Bischoff-Ferrari, H.A., et al., Estimation of optimal serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D for multiple health outcomes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006. 84(1): p. 18-28. 

5.Holick, M.F., High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2006. 81(3): p. 353-373. 

6.Jackson, R.D., et al., Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and the risk of fractures. New England Journal of Medicine, 2006. 354(7): p. 669-683. 

7.Holick, M.F., Vitamin D deficiency. New England Journal of Medicine, 2007. 357(3): p. 266-281. 

8.Holick, M.F. and T.C. Chen, Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008. 87(4): p. 1080S-1086S. 

9.Ross, A.C., et al., The 2011 Report on Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D from the Institute of Medicine: What Clinicians Need to Know. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2011. 96(1): p. 53-58. 

10.Gillespie, L.D., et al., Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2012(9): p. 408. 

11.Martineau, A.R., et al., Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ, 2017. 356: p. i6583. 

12.Molinari, N.A., et al., The annual impact of seasonal influenza in the US: measuring disease burden and costs. Vaccine, 2007. 25(27): p. 5086-96. 

13.Shrestha, S.S., et al., Estimating the burden of 2009 pandemic influenza A (H1N1) in the United States (April 2009-April 2010). Clin Infect Dis, 2011. 52 Suppl 1: p. S75-82. 

14.Gruber-Bzura, B.M., Vitamin D and Influenza-Prevention or Therapy? International journal of molecular sciences, 2018. 19(8): p. 2419. 

15.Laaksi, I., et al., An association of serum vitamin D concentrations < 40 nmol/L with acute respiratory tract infection in young Finnish men. Am J Clin Nutr, 2007. 86(3): p. 714-7. 

16.Cannell, J.J., et al., On the epidemiology of influenza. Virol J, 2008. 5: p. 29. 

17.Berry, D.J., et al., Vitamin D status has a linear association with seasonal infections and lung function in British adults. Br J Nutr, 2011. 106(9): p. 1433-40. 

18.Nair, R. and A. Maseeh, Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, 2012. 3(2): p. 118-126. 

19.Heaney, R.P., Vitamin D in health and disease. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol, 2008. 3(5): p. 1535-41. 

20.Korkor, A.B. and C. Bretzmann, Effect of fish oil on vitamin D absorption. Am J Kidney Dis, 2009. 53(2): p. 356. 

21.Holick, M.F., et al., Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2011. 96(7): p. 1911-30. 

 

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