The best thing to avoid when hopping on the “new lifestyle bandwagon” is bad news/research sources. They tend to lead to a close minded approach to a new lifestyle, and make the supporter look foolish when finding out their facts are wrong. I have seen a lot of paleo supporting blogs citing sources that are hilariously bad. I would definitely recommend sticking to trustworthy sources. I recently came across one source that was particularly informative and helpful. In addition to that, it’s extremely trustworthy. It is found on thepaleodiet.com, which is the website behind Dr. Loren Cordains book “The Paleo Diet”. I have provided the link below. Feel free to check it out.
Researchers in both mental and nutritional health fields are trying to find links between mental health and what we eat. We know that diet can have an effect on mental health, but we know nothing of the specifics and severity of its impact. It is difficult to pin point how too much/too little of a particular chemical can affect the brain. The link below provides us with some direction as to what nutrients may have the greatest impact, and its backed by a very trustworthy source, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
As for what they have found, here it is (keep in mind a lot of this stuff is research that has been summed up. If you want the actual numbers and geeky stuff feel free to Google some of the research mentioned):
- Omega-3 fatty acids: researchers think omega-3’s affect how your brain sends signals throughout your body.
- Tryptophan: aids with serotonin release, which can improve mood as well as many other mental functions. Tryptophan is actually clinically used to treat depression.
- Magnesium: helps maintain critical body functions, such as heart and artery function. It also aids in the bodies ability to produce energy.
- Folic Acid + B12: aid in metabolic function and are linked with dopamine and noradrenaline production.
The point is, it may very well be possible to significantly control the levels of certain neurotransmitters simply through changing your diet. In which case, the whole point of this blog would be justified. We could finally say you don’t need a pill, you just need to eat properly. Which will be a great day in my book. **This does not pertain to severe mental illnesses. Just like it would be unwise to treat a person suffering from severe chest pain with some vitamin B12 supplements and a defibrillator.**
After all, what could be better than being prescribed to eat more food??
Sometimes it seems like people are overhyping exercise when they treat it as if its some sort of magical cure for every health related issue ever. But, in some cases those people are actually right! The science supporting exercise as a valid benefit to mental health is absolutely legitimate. As I said in the About Me section of this blog, exercise is who we are. Fundamentally, your genes say that you should not hate exercise. The people who hate exercise are the same people that think the best way to exercise is by doing a 3 mile run while listening to a Justin Bieber playlist. Remember, desperately gasping for air while moving your legs (jogging) is only a small fraction of what qualifies as exercise. There are so many better workouts you can do that don’t involve desperately gasping for air. Those workouts can get your buns moving, heart rate up, and actually burn calories faster than running/jogging/mundane activity/why am I doing this?/you get the point. To check out the master list of exercises you can start here. Matter of fact, thats such a good link… I think I will post it again… just because… http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/fitness-a-to-z.
Anyways, back to the science. We need more science to convince people that exercising enhances your brain activity. Exercise directly affects how much energy (glycogen) the brain can store. When exercise is done on a consistent basis, lets say over the course of a few weeks, levels of energy skyrocket in the cortex and hippocampus regions of the brain. The cortex and the hippocampus are critical to learning and the formation of new memories. Also, this effect is more or less permanent so long as you continue to exercise on a consistent basis. The level of energy stored also builds on itself, so exercise enhances the brain over time. Although the evidence is convincing enough to make a solid argument out of, scientists do not know for sure how that extra energy is used in the human brain. But, this evidence indicates that it may help to improve overall brain sharpness. For the information supporting this post check out this article.
Check out the link below for a great list of foods for brain optimization. All of them, with the exception of whole grains and beans, are paleo. Let me just clarify why those two trouble makers are mentioned. Whole grains are suggested because they promote good cardiovascular health, which promotes good blood flow to the brain… but so does eating paleo. The paleo diet promotes high levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) and low levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol). For more about cholesterol and why it matters check here. So you can just ignore that part about whole grain. And it mentions beans for blood sugar (glucose) reasons, but thats just silly because the average diet contains TOO MUCH glucose (carbohydrates)… not too little. Its better to just get your carbohydrates from other natural sources that are less dense in glucose and provide you with the actual amounts you need rather than an overabundance. Also, remember your liver can produce glucose from various amino acids you consume via protein/fat sources, so glucose is the least of your worries. Actually the process is really cool its called gluconeogenesis. Hows that for a ten dollar word?? Also yes, dark chocolate is absolutely allowed on the paleo diet. Just watch out for sugar intake. I find it more of a tease than anything else, but its still paleo.
Researcher Malcolm Peet was just as surprised with his discovery as some of you reading the title of this post may be. There are two main reasons that this holds some weight:
Reason Numero Uno: Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor… Lets just call it BDNF
BDNF is a hormone that aids in maintaining healthy neurons (brain cells). Not only that, but it is critical to memory function. The hormone actively triggers the growth of new connections between neurons. The more connections, the stronger a stored memory is. This means that it will not only stick around longer, but it will be quicker to retrieve when needed. Sugar reduces the activity of BDNF in the brain. In both depression and schizophrenia, extremely low BDNF levels are present. Thus establishing a potential link between the two.
Reason Numero Dos: Inflammation caused by sugar
Sugar leads to inflammation, which isn’t a bad thing in sparse amounts. Inflammation actually triggers immune system activity, so without it you would probably die. But, with too much of it you’ll also die. There is a very important balance that must be maintained with inflammation. Thats why the paleo diet stresses balanced omega 3 to omega 6 ratios so much! Too much inflammation can lead to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, some forms of cancer, and as the title of this post suggests, increased risk of depression and schizophrenia.
If you read the cited article of this post you’ll see that the author mentions that while cutting out sugar from their diet, his patients noticed remarkable improvements in mood, energy, and mental clarity. I can attest to that as I noticed all three of those things first and foremost when I started living a paleo lifestyle!
I have always felt that actions speak louder than words, and any diet backed by a life insurance company must have some validity. Obviously as a life insurance company AARP wants you alive as long as possible so you can give them money. Okay maybe at some level they are concerned for your health and it’s not all business… Either way they backed a Paleo book and that’s hysterical (in a good way). Check it out now on iBooks: “The Paleo Answer”. It’s a relatively new release (the AARP edition that is) having been put on iBooks just this past March. The diet is still young in a social sense (and really old in a historical sense) and has been gaining momentum by being promoted heavily by Robb Wolf and Loren Cordain Ph. D. Any support by outsiders is always a plus, especially AARP.
Nothing goes without skepticisms, even great things such as the Paleo diet. But for the right reasons! We can’t just take everything at face value. Its good to have your way of thinking challenged every once in a while. It keeps you on your toes. So why are experts so skeptical of the Paleo diet? Because to the normal outsider the Paleo diet is just another “fad diet”. Despite all of its criticisms, the diet is very legitimate.
Wheres the fiber?!?
One of the main skepticisms is the supposed “lack of fiber” the diet has. It is said that men should get 38g of fiber a day, whereas women should get 25g a day. Although I don’t know why women would need fiber since they don’t poop or fart… but regardless we will follow these guidelines. So somewhere along the line fruits and vegetables, pretty much two staples of the Paleo diet, just got ignored. Matter of fact, if you follow this link you can see that this skepticism isn’t valid at all. Actually, you would have to mess up pretty bad to not consume enough fiber on the Paleo diet…
But… but the food pyramid says?
Ya I know we all took health class, and learned about the food pyramid in all its whole grain glory. Why is there such a push by the government for whole grains. Whole grains are a great source for nutrients, protein, and fiber!!! No where in the promoting of whole grains are any of the harmful components mentioned. Typically thats how these things work. Since its not a pill, side effects of whole grains are neglected. Not to mention, I think the biggest health benefit from avoiding whole grains is that they simply just have staggeringly lower amounts of nutrients when compared to vegetables and other paleo food sources. Also, we made it millions of years without them…
So I googled “grains bad for you” and nothing reliable came up. Whats up with that?! Well, that is true. But how about we look up, for example, lectins. Lectins are a protein found primarily in grains and legumes (beans). We find this incredibly legitimate article. If you don’t believe so, just check the sources it cites. I mean, I can nit pick this all day and I am sure you could too, but whats the point?
Another big reason whole grains are pushed by the government is bioavailability. Grains are way easier to grow and mass produce than vegetables and fruit. Theres so much of it, they’re feeding it to the animals we eat too! A good example of why grains might not be intended for digestion by humans is what they do to a cows digestive track. Yes, that is a picture of a cow with a hole in its side so that farmers can pull out the waste they produce from eating grains because they can’t get rid of it themselves. Actually, thats how harmful strains of E. coli are produced! Yummmm! Although, it is absolutely true that on a large scale it’s not feasible to feed everyone the paleo diet. But then again, our ancestors did not have that problem.
Calcium! Your bones are going to explode!
Again, bioavailability is a huge factor here. The American government heavily subsidizes dairy products. Why? Because its a convenient way to obtain calcium! Forget that you aren’t meant to digest it past the first couple months of your life, and that eastern cultures barely bother with it! Just drink it! Well, if you would kindly follow this link containing a list of high calcium foods you’ll see that dairy is not far ahead of other calcium sources. The daily recommended amount of calcium for most ages is around 1000mg per day. The government has you wiping that out with 2 cups of milk… Thats just silly! Your average salad with spinach gives you half your daily dose of calcium. How did our ancestors ever survive without dairy?! Well, they did a pretty good job considering 6 billion people now live on this earth, and most of them don’t snap their bones in half daily. The point is, if you’re actually worried about calcium on the diet then take a supplement. Calcium supplements have been proven fairly effective at preventing bone deterioration. Yay! More pills!
High fat diets will make you drop dead from a heart attack
This one is less specific to paleo and has been argued possibly more than the whole “eggs are good/eggs are bad, but wait no they are good if you don’t eat the yellow part, but okay now eat the yellow part because its tuesday so its okay”. Lets keep it simple. The French have one of the highest saturated fat diets in the world, yet one of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease. Yes, its true and its called the French Paradox. The french also get most of their fat from natural sources. Just like our ancestors did, with the exception of the French’s dairy consumption.
If you have any more skepticisms or if this wasn’t good enough feel free to email me at email@example.com. Thank you!
This post was brought to you by our very own, genetics! Some may have realized that in my “About Me” section of the blog I bash competitive exercise a little bit. I kind of wanted to go a bit more in detail on that since I am sure some people may not entirely agree. If you actively compete in athletics for better times and so on you might as well stop reading here. Being better than someone else is going to require hard work and suffering through workouts no matter what. It may not be optimal in the realm of health, but at least at the end of the day you’re better than someone else. And thats all the really matters, right?
Fight the pain! No… don’t fight it. Its this simple, if you are eating correctly and exercising comfortably the weight will fall off. No need to run 4 miles, up hill, both ways… Losing weight and rock hard abs shouldn’t be the concern here, it should be overall health. Believe it or not, there is a valid reason for those stupid heart rate charts on the treadmill. I find that all too often competition breeds injury. Even on the most basic level with male testosterone in the weight room. I have witnessed a man squatting tear his quadricep and watched it as it rolled up… Although I’m sure there was a completely rational reason that he was squatting 5 plates on each side, it didn’t end well to say the least.
I will start here because from my experience most people see exercise as mindlessly running 4 miles. Why is that bad? Well, its not that its bad, its just the biggest turn off I have ever heard of in terms of exercise. Not to mention its completely inefficient if all you’re trying to do is keep healthy or look good… How many of us have things we want to get done other than run for an hour?? I want to introduce you to interval and circuit training. In about a fourth of the time it takes you to run 4 miles you can burn the same amount of calories, get your heart rate up and in a comfortable spot, and get PLENTY of rest. I won’t throw science at you, instead I will throw common sense at you.
Lets go back to the caveman era. When our ancestors were hunting and gathering for food I am willing to bet you they did not run at an 8 minute mile pace for 45 minutes straight. Why? Because they stopped… maybe picked some berries, attended to natures call behind a tree, and god forbid maybe just took a second to catch their breath. Who would have thought? You can exercise and not be constantly gasping for air and uncomfortable? YES! Matter of fact, thats why our bodies get tired and uncomfortable after prolonged periods of exercise. There is a reason our bodies do these things. They aren’t just there to be ignored so that you can be the next Usain Bolt. Just like when your body tells you you’re hungry. It doesn’t want to be ignored so that you can be the next Ghandi (Ghandi did a lot of fasting).
So my honest suggestion is to look up interval training and circuit training. Its fun, different almost every time, and comfortably convenient. Who cares if you look like a total jack ass jump roping and doing push ups in the park near your house? I guarantee it looks better than looking like Quasimodo on mile 3 of your daily run…
Here are two great places to start learning about interval/circuit training:
This one is simple. If you want to maintain healthy joints and look toned/muscular go out and buy some kettlebells and also learn some bodyweight training exercises. Bodyweight training is just a fancy term for using your own body to work out. If you’ve ever done a push up you’ve done bodyweight training. On the contrary, if you would like to destroy your joints and possibly turn your quadricep into a fruit roll up, hit up the gym, pump iron, eat steaks, and crush beer cans on your head. Just kidding, there are smart ways to lift heavy weight.
Here are some links to get you started with kettlebells and bodyweight training:
**Ladies, please ignore that the second one is on “mensfitness.com”. It applies just as much to you as it does men. I promise if you use low weight doing the same exercises you won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger like all of you seem to be afraid of. Instead, you’ll have healthy and toned muscles with no flabbiness McFlaberson!**
Over my years of being in the gym I have noticed a very common trend. People new to the world of fitness tend to get overwhelmed by the wealth of information and tremendously in shape people that come with it as baggage. Just remember to keep it simple, and use the internet. You do not need to spend 8 million dollars on fitness classes to obtain extremely good health, and look good for beach season. Remember Google is your friend.
Since the 1980s researchers have noticed a link between celiac disease and depression. One might ask, what does celiac have to do with the human brain? One might answer with, damage to the small intestines caused by celiac prevents proper absorption of essential nutrients that the brain uses to both create and release serotonin. Most notable of these are zinc, tryptophan, and B vitamins. There is a clearly established link between low serotonin levels and depression. Matter of fact, the standard clinical way of treating depression is by prescribing an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). Serotonin being the chemical we need for proper brain function. Reuptake being the process of the brain reabsorbing released serotonin. Inhibitor being the process of stopping that reuptake. Yes, the reuptake is bad. Think of SSRI’s as a cloth plugging the drain in a sink so that water (serotonin) is allowed to build up.
Although the former applies mostly to celiac patients, new research suggests that there may be a separate gluten condition from celiac called gluten sensitivity. Established links between gluten sensitivity and depression have not been made as of yet. Nor has gluten sensitivity been concretely defined, but it is an interesting concept to ponder given the apparent link between celiac and depression. If you would like to read more about gluten sensitivity, this would be a good place to start.
Simple. For millions of years our ancestors ate nothing but fruits, nuts, meats, fish, vegetables, and spices. We evolved eating exactly those 6 things. Roughly 10,000 years ago agriculture and the domestication of animals were introduced to the human diet. Thus, all other elements of the modern diet were added. This is of course excluding the fancy engineered chemicals we eat on a daily basis, yum! Since then, we have seen countless diseases plague humanity such as: Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), diabetes, and cancer. Research leans more towards causation as opposed to correlation on this issue.