Monthly Archives: November 2011

What Makes You Feel Good – Sugar or Protein?

Ever wonder what really makes you feel good? Many people will answer “sugar” because they notice the “high” as sugar is flowing into their blood stream and giving them energy. Of course, we all know what follows – the “low” as the sugar runs out and we crave more sugar to feel good again. As you may have guessed, the correct answer is protein. It makes you feel good for the long haul. Why is this? Because protein is the structural basis for our body – our muscles, organs, glands, nails, hair, vital fluids (blood, hormones, neurotransmitters) and enzymes are all protein based.

We can certainly see the physical nature of proteins – a healthy and strong body contributes to how we feel. But that alone does not do it. We need the mind as well. This is where the neurotransmitters come in to play – the “messengers” from the brain to the body. Protein is essential for building neurotransmitters and their receptor sites on cell membranes. Think of receptor sites as parking spaces and the neurotransmitters as cars. Without a place to park you just keep driving around in circles. Once you are parked you can go about your business. The same goes for neurotransmitters and receptor sites. You need the message to be sent and for it to reach its destination – the cell.

Quite simply – neurotransmitters give us the ability to be happy, alert, remember, and focus. There are two types of neurotransmitters. Excitatory neurotransmitters energize, excite, stimulate, focus, learn, and remember. Inhibitory neurotransmitters keep us happy, relaxed, and peaceful. As with most areas of life, it is all about balance.

There are six key neurotransmitters: For focus – dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine; for learning and remembering – acetylcholine; for feeling relaxed – GABA; and for being happy – serotonin.

Perhaps the most significant of all is serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression. The major anti-depressant medications (Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro) are known as SSRIs (or serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors). These drugs work by making serotonin last longer in the brain so that you feel good longer. Of course this is not addressing why one would be low in serotonin in the first place. Low serotonin is also linked to cravings, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggressive behavior, and headaches. Another important feature of serotonin is that it converts into melatonin. This hormone regulates sleep and is an important antioxidant. Some sleeping disorders may be from lack of melatonin. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan which is found in turkey and seafood. Also note that serotonin is depleted by high sugar (carbohydrate) diets.

Dopamine is our pleasure and reward neurotransmitter. It is responsible for keeping us focused and alert (thus allowing us to receive our reward!). Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine which is found in poultry, fish (particularly tuna), eggs, beans, nuts and seeds. Epinephrine and norepinephrine work with dopamine and are stimulating and energy-giving. They are made from the amino acids tyrosine and phenylanine. Low levels of dopamine are associated with attention and behavior disorders (such as addiction).

Acetylcholine supports our memory, attention, and ability to think. One of the key ingredients is choline – found in highest quantities in eggs, beef, and beef liver, but also in broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

GABA is our calming neurotransmitter. It is made from the amino acid taurine. Taurine is a non-essential amino acid that can be manufactured from cysteine in the liver, but vitamin B6 must be present. Taurine is found naturally in seafood and meat. Low levels of GABA are associated with panic attacks, anxiety and insomnia.

As you can see protein (and mainly animal based protein) is a key source of the nutrients required to build our neurotransmitters. Unfortunately, many of our diets lack sufficient protein. If we follow the food pyramid or the new food plate we are getting approximately 10% of calories from protein while consuming 60% of calories from carbohydrates. To your body carbohydrates are sugar, so this is a high-carbohydrate diet which depletes nutrients required for building neurotransmitters.

Proteins come from both animal (meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese, eggs) and plant sources (whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds). Only animal proteins are considered “complete” amino acids, containing all the essential amino acids. If we are not eating sufficient animal protein, there is a considerable risk of not having sufficient raw materials available to make the neurotransmitters that are so crucial to our mental health. So there are two inherent nutritional risks – first not eating sufficient protein and second not eating enough complete proteins. Since our body is constantly building and repairing itself and our brain is constantly working, it requires a constant supply of protein. Therefore I recommend protein is consumed with each meal. Following this type of diet your protein consumption will be more like 30-35% of daily calories consumed.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. He has offices in Thiensville and Glendale, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at bernie@brwellness.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

I’ve often spoke of how confusing nutrition can be – one week we hear one news item and the next week the complete opposite. Well, here we go again. Last week the local paper that publishes my articles carried a syndicated article from a Dr. Komaroff “Coconut Oil No Substitute For Healthier Vegetable Oils.” Of course I needed to respond!

If you’ve been reading my articles for the last few years you know this is exactly the opposite of what I’ve been saying. The underlying premise of that particular article is questioning why coconut oil is catching on among the health conscious given that we “know” that saturated fat is bad for us and that coconut oil is one of the highest in saturated fat.

Let’s start with the basics – why our body needs fat and what the different types of fat are and what they do in the body. The bottom line – we need fat but we need the right kind. It is this “right kind” where we find the disagreements.

Fat is used to build our cell membranes and is the starting point for many hormones. It is the saturated fat that is critical to cell membrane structure and ultimately the health of the cell. A less than optimal structure will lead to a less than optimal cell. Hormones direct most of the body’s critical functions. Not enough fat, not enough hormone production. Fat provides the body with energy, and saturated fat is the main source for the heart. Just as glucose fuels the brain, saturated fat fuels the heart.

Fat is required for our body to absorb the fat soluble vitamins – A, D, E, and K. If we are not eating the right fats our body will not utilize these vitamins. Ever wonder why there seems to be this Vitamin D crisis in the country? Everyone you know is told they are Vitamin D deficient. Perhaps they are not getting sufficient fat to utilize the vitamin. This is why I am particularly fond of traditionally produced cod liver oil. It contains the essential fatty acids (Omega 3) that the body needs plus natural Vitamins A and D. All together in one package as nature designed.

Fat regulates body temperature and cushions the organs. It is essential for infant brain development and for the female reproductive system. A woman will not ovulate unless she has sufficient body fat.

There are two types of fats – saturated and unsaturated (further defined as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Saturated fats are solid while unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are much more sensitive to light and heat. When heated they oxidize forming “free radicals” that damage cells and are linked to a variety of diseases including cancer and heart disease. This is the whole key to fats! Saturated fats can “take the heat” so they are useful in cooking. This is why I recommend butter and coconut oil. These fats will not be oxidized by cooking. It is the unsaturated fats, such as (yes) olive oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil that are damaged when cooking. Olive oil when used in salad dressings and not heated is very healthy, so continue to use it in that manner. Please note the health statistics. Since we’ve been encouraged to use vegetable oils for heart healthy reasons their consumption has increased and so has heart disease!

Another fat we hear of are trans fatty acids. These are formed during the process of hydrogenation. Polyunsaturated oils, usually corn, soybean, safflower, or canola, are heated to high temperatures and injected with hydrogen atoms. During the heating process the nutrients in the oils are destroyed, the oils become solid and have oxidized. Trans fats have been linked to many ailments, including cancer, heart disease, and reproductive problems. Trans fats are commonly found in commercial baked goods, cookies, crackers, margarines, vegetable shortenings, and processed dairy products.

Back to coconut oil. First if you read the aforementioned article closely the author does not ever come up with a reason coconut oil is bad. His only defense is, “Although it seems like it has positive effects on cholesterol, we don’t really know how coconut oil affects heart disease.” This seems a bit odd as the whole argument against saturated fats is that they cause cholesterol to increase which causes heart disease. If you read my articles you know that is a questionable claim as well. But regardless, if you follow his logic, since coconut oil has positive effects on cholesterol, it should therefore have positive effects on heart disease. So how could that be bad?

Here’s the rest of what he didn’t tell you about coconut oil. It is rich in lauric acid – an antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiparasatical, and antiviral substance. It supports thyroid function, skin, heart health, and weight loss. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are converted in the body into quick energy, and are not stored as fat. Coconut oil is the best oil for heating. It can be used in baking and is the best choice for light stir frying or frying.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He has offices is in Thiensville and Glendale. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call (262) 389-9907, e-mail bernie@brwellness.com or go to www.brwellness.com.

November Newsletter – The Holidays Are Coming!!!

Yes I Know It’s the Holiday Season – You Still Need to do Your Best!

It’s that time of the year – the Nutritionists’ nightmare – the holiday season is just beginning. We’ve had Halloween, next is Thanksgiving, and then the big ones Christmas and New Years. People eat and drink poorly and in excess; they know it and they don’t want to talk about it. Don’t worry – I’m here if you need me!

I’ve already heard of too many “treats” for Halloween, which to your body are really “tricks.” If you still have a pile of candy around the house you might want to refresh yourself on the evils of sugar. For that I direct you to a great website of Nancy Appleton and the 141 ways sugar ruins your health: http://nancyappleton.com/141-reasons-sugar-ruins-your-health/.

Let’s accept that it is tough to avoid all the Holiday foods. That’s fine. However, it means it is even more important that you eat healthy foods to maintain some semblance of balance in the body. For your review are two past articles Ten Foods to Have in Your Healthy Diet and Ten More Foods to Have in Your Healthy Diet.

http://brwellness.blogspot.com/2011/10/ten-foods-to-have-in-your-healthy-diet.html

http://brwellness.blogspot.com/2008/10/ten-more-foods-to-have-in-your-healthy.html

Balance Your Gut Flora

One of the areas of the body that can get way out of balance, particularly from holiday excess, is the gut. This is your whole gastrointestinal tract including the stomach, small intestine, color, and the microorganisms (flora) that live there.

Yes, the flora is part of you. There is about 4-6 pounds worth. There are more flora cells than human cells in your body. There are infinitely more flora genes in your body than human genes. That’s a lot to manage and balance.

Fortunately Standard Process has developed a new program designed to cleanse and balance your GI tract. Many of you have done their Purification Program which targets primarily the liver and kidneys for detoxification. This is different as it targets digestion and immune system function. For more information please call, e-mail, or click here to read more about the GI Flora Balance Program: http://www.standardprocess.com/display/1686.spi

GreenSquare Center for the Healing Arts Health Fair

Want to learn lots of great stuff about integrative health care and meet some wonderful practitioners? Come to GreenSquare Center for the Healing Arts on November 13 from 10:00 to 2:00 for a FREE health fair. For more information click here:

http://www.greensquarecenter.com/view/NOV-2011-Health-Fair