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Filtering by Tag: diet

Intermittent Fasting 101 - A Brief Overview

As I alluded to in my last article, I have been playing with intermittent fasting recently. I kept seeing information on it blowing up many of my acupuncture groups, and like I said last time - I thought “there is no way I could do that!” which is my personal signal that I need to try something.

There are many different ways to fast, but first let’s define what it means to fast - it’s an absence of food and caloric drinks. So on a typical fast you may consume tea, black coffee and water and that’s it. 


Intermittent fasting means that you are fasting for regular periods between normal eating. There are many different lengths:

12 hours

This used to be the way we ate in our country. We would have our regular 3 meals spaced out throughout the day, and finish eating within 12 hours of breakfast.

16 hours (16/8)

This is probably the most popular version of intermittent fasting - it incorporates 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8 hour eating window. Most people achieve this by skipping breakfast, but some choose to skip dinner. You can still eat 3 meals within the eating period, it’s up to you!

20 hours (20/4)

Some people find this length of fasting the most beneficial to them. I think you just have to play around with the different windows and see what works well for you.


Why do intermittent fasting?


Fasting improves insulin levels

Fasting lowers insulin levels and improves insulin sensitivity, reducing insulin resistance. This is good because insulin resistance is linked to a lot of diseases and conditions such as PCOS, diabetes, alzheimer’s, stroke and abdominal obesity. 


Fasting can increase adrenaline and speed up metabolism

This is the primary reason I wanted to try intermittent fasting - the reports of increased energy levels. Instead of leaving you tired and sluggish, curled up in the fetal position on your couch, fasting actually gives you more pep in your step. For me this also took a reset of my mindset, but once I wrapped my head around the science, it made sense and I was able to stick with it. 


Human Growth Hormone Increases

Waning HGH levels have been associated with many aging processes, so increasing this hormone by fasting may help slow down the clock. 


My personal experience with intermittent fasting 


I was so surprised when I started to do this - my energy levels DID go up. I didn’t get all hangry and I didn’t waste away. I did it by cutting out breakfast (or pushing it a little later into the day), and I still enjoy breakfast 1-2 times per week. But I have to admit that the days I eat breakfast I don’t feel quite as peppy. 


Of course, continuing to eat well is an important aspect of this type of eating. Lots of veggies and whole foods are key. If you think that you can do the 20/4 fast and eat junk and still see great results...well, just feel free to let me know how that goes. :-)


The D Word

Ever since the 30’s we’ve all been through the ringer of what the FDA deems as “healthy” when it comes to the food we eat. Every food group has had its turn on the list of shame. First, fat was the devil. Then it was sugar. Next was dairy. And now, carbs are currently taking a hit. It’s hilarious to look back at it now, after 40 more years of research, to see what trends were completely bonkers and what actually had some substance behind it. I think we’re finally starting to grasp how the body works, how to optimize our health, and how to maintain a healthy weight.

I often get really funny looks from new patients in clinic when I ask “how is your diet?” at that particular portion of our intake. Many of them respond with…. “I’m not on a diet,” with an uneasy look on their face like I’m administering a lie detector test. Obviously the word “diet” has many connotations. When we talk about it, ultimately we just want to know WHAT you’re eating.

There are so many different ways to eat based on your budget, lifestyle, ethics, health concerns, etc. Some people eat everything! And if that works for you - have at it. However, if you’re one of those that is constantly chasing the scale trying to get in shape, or looking for alternatives to relieve various symptoms, some of the diets listed below might be a good option for you. I’ll go through a few of the current fad diets, so you all have an idea of what each means and what would be the benefit of eating that way.

Paleo

The paleo diet is based on “what a caveman (or woman) would eat.” The theory is, early humans were foraging and eating what they could find and kill, so that represents the cleanest form of food. Paleo has a higher emphasis on protein from meat and carbs coming from veggies. Processed foods aren’t allowed on the paleo diet.

YES: All veggies, fruits, fat, nuts, seeds, and meats. (Yes, bacon included).

NO: Grains of any kind, corn, soy, legumes, dairy, sugar.

Now, this one has varying degrees of intensity. If you’re doing a Whole30, which is a super strict paleo cleanse for 30 days, you’re more restricted in what you can have. If you are trying to find a healthy balance, and be less restricted, then supplementing with things like organic local honey in your tea, cooking with organic butter (Kerrygold is my personal favorite) and eating nuts and seeds, is 100% fine.

I gravitate towards the paleo style of eating because to me, it makes the most sense. It removes the 3 heavy-hitters (sugar, dairy, grains) that so often contribute to inflammation in the body. You’re not eating processed foods, so it becomes more of a lifestyle shift as well, by cooking lots of the meals you consume. This is most often my recommendation to people trying to lose weight, identify allergens, target symptom inducers, or just to be healthier overall. If you aren’t a meat eater however, this might not be the best fit for you.

Keto

The ketogenic diet is similar to the paleo diet, with a few distinguishing characteristics. The goal is to use FAT instead of CARBS to shift your body into “ketosis” or a metabolic state to create and use its own energy. In this way of eating, the macronutrient distribution in your diet dramatically shifts. Keto has a higher emphasis on fat instead of protein, unlike the paleo diet. The macro breakdown looks like this: fats should be about 60-80% of the diet, protein at 20-30% and carbohydrates at 5-10% of the diet. I know all of you low-fat-diet people are screaming bloody murder out there. Remember: fat is our friend, not foe! In the keto diet, you have to stay within the very strict guidelines in order to actually achieve ketosis. Any variability might negate the body’s ability to actually get there, which nullifies the point of being keto.

YES: Fat, protein, dairy, limited fruits and veggies.

NO: Grains, legumes, sugar, most fruits, and starchy veggies.

Studies are showing that unless recommended otherwise by your doctor, the keto diet should only be utilized in small spurts of time. Because it is so heavy on the fats, people with high cholesterol, heart disease, or other conditions needs to be closely monitored in order to make sure serious health conditions are stable. Ideally, doing a two-week stint on a keto diet to jump-start your metabolism 3-4 times a year is ideal. In between those times, incorporating a paleo-like diet seems like a great combination to lose some substantial weight. If you want to read more about the difference between paleo and keto, go here. (link: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/paleo-vs-keto#keto )

Vegetarian

Vegetarian diets are just like they sound -- all plant-based. There is really good research that says that eating a plant-based diet is the BEST way to eat. Even though I’m not personally a vegetarian, I try to pile on as many veggies as I can with meals so I’m getting all of that good fiber. The only questionable foods vegetarians can overdo are grains and soy products. Tofu and tempeh are commonly used as meat-alternatives for vegetarians. In moderation, this is fine, but both products are heavily processed and are estrogenic, so not necessarily the best choice for an every-day thing. You don’t want to mess with the hormones too much. Over time that can lead to some serious health concerns. If you need another good option, try jackfruit instead! Most vegetarians will still have eggs, which is a great source of protein for this category of people.

YES: All veggies, soy, grains, dairy, beans, legumes, fruit, eggs, and fish (if pescatarian).

NO: Meat

Vegan:

All the same information goes for vegans as vegetarians, but vegans take out dairy, fish, and eggs as well. There’s only a small percentage of people that really thrive on this type of diet. Most of the time, we see people who have tried going vegan and unfortunately, their digestion tanks and are chronically fatigued after a short period of time. On the other hand, some research shows that eating vegan or vegetarian raises the pH in the system and can be incredibly beneficial for someone who is fighting cancer. With a higher pH, the body becomes more alkaline. The theory is, cancer can’t thrive in an environment that is alkaline in nature. A list of acidic foods (which lowers the pH of the body) can be seen here https://www.healthline.com/health/acid-foods-to-avoid#highacid-food-and-drink. This list includes a lot of fish and meats, which are considered acidic.

YES: All veggies, soy, grains, beans, legumes, fruit

NO: Meat, dairy, eggs, fish

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a really interesting way to look at HOW you eat; not just WHAT you eat. This is something you can incorporate with any of the diets above or whatever diet works for you. Dr. Valter Longo is one of the premier doctors researching how intermittent fasting can benefit your health and longevity of life. According to his research at USC, there are a couple different ways to go about intermittent fasting. His ideas are that we give our body and mind a rest by sleeping every night, why wouldn’t we give our digestive tract a rest? If we’re constantly eating and digesting food, it never gets a break.

He came up with a couple of ways to go about trying intermittent fasting: The first way is to do a 5-day water cleanse to reset the system. Heavy exercise or work during this period of time is not recommended, as you can imagine. This seems really, really hard and crazy-making. I pride myself on experimenting with all sorts of diets and intermittent fasting, but I haven’t worked up the courage to try this one yet. If I decide to try it, I’ll make sure I update you on my findings! There’s a good chance someone might have to bail me out of jail by the end of the 5 days though. Or check to make sure my husband is still alive…

The second way is MUCH easier and I personally incorporate this trick at least 3 times a week. Here’s how it works: you have an 8 hour window to eat and fast for the other 16 hours of the day. For example, I’ll often have my first meal at 12:00 pm and my last meal or snack by 8:00 pm. The hours can vary based on your schedule/ bedtime/ wake time/ etc. It’s easier than it sounds, due to the fact that you can have plenty of fluids or a cup of coffee in the morning. That helps curb the cravings for food and help reset the metabolism.

To find out more information about Dr. Longo’s findings and programs, listen to this podcast I found fascinating. https://goop.com/the-goop-podcast/is-intermittent-fasting-the-key-to-health/

All in all, my advice is to do your research and TRY different kinds of diets. It’s really fun to experiment and see how you feel adding or subtracting certain things into your daily routine around food. Like Kailey said in her article, it’s about the quality of life and appreciating the ambivalent middle. My only recommendation is to stay away from any “diet” that sells you premade meals or food. I’m not talking supplements, but actual meals or meal-replacements. Those tend to have high amounts of sugar and ingredients that are less than ideal. Say it with me: Real food = real health. If you experiment with these diets and/or the intermittent fasting, let me know! I love hearing stories of people trying new dietary things and how it makes them feel. Give it a try!


How to Shift Your Eating Habits for the Better and Not Hate Your Life

Eating. We all have to do it to stay alive. Until Google or Apple or one of the other big technology companies can upload our brains into a giant computer simulation and we can opt-out of having a digestive tract entirely, we all have to find ways to balance good nutrition with our increasingly busy and complex lives.

Even though I work in healthcare and practice East Asian medicine, I can admittedly be a little ambivalent when it comes to the topic of nutrition. Maybe it’s because I spent too many years living in uber-healthy Boulder and got tired of being asked what I thought about Michael Pollan’s ‘Food Rules’ for the ten-thousandth time, or for being made to feel unenlightened for committing some perceived dietary sin, such as eating cheese fries. I grew up in the Midwest, and I am pretty sure that at a certain point in time while I was in high school my blood tests would have registered the amount of Doritos and Chipotle I was consuming on a regular basis.

But I can also very much appreciate the very real relationship between good nutrition and improvement in quality of life. For many people struggling with chronic pain, psycho-emotional distress such as anxiety and depression, and autoimmune conditions, high-quality nutrition can mean the difference between barely functioning and regularly suffering, and having a high quality of life and accomplishing what you need and want to do on a daily basis.

So this article is for those of us in the ambivalent middle. Those of us who know we can do a tiny bit better when it comes to how we feed ourselves. As the author Anne Lamott once said, “Food; try to do a little better.” Improving your diet does not mean having to move away to live on “Deprivation Island” all by yourself. Doing a few simple things can help improve your overall quality of life. This list is by no means exhaustive, but just a starting point with a few suggestions to consider.

Conquer Breakfast

If you really, really struggle in the breakfast department, as in you wake up every single morning and five minutes before you have to run out the door it occurs to you that it might be a good idea to eat something, or you regularly drive down I-70 with a microwaveable Starbucks muffin thingy in your hand, then just focus on breakfast. For 30 days, just focus on making some improvements with that one meal, arguably the most important meal of the day and the one that can set the tone for how you eat the rest of the day. Figure out what you want to eat in the morning. Maybe make it the night before. Read some articles online. Teach yourself how to poach the most exquisitely beautiful egg, or how to make the most delicious omelet. Spend some time on the weekends trying new recipes. Read about what other cultures eat for breakfast. Just start with optimizing one meal and go from there.

Vegetable-ize Your Life

This is a big one. A really big one. When I am regularly excelling in the vegetable-eating department, I basically feel like a different person. Happier. Way more energized. Lighter. I never utter a snarky word to my husband. Blue birds land on my shoulder. It must be what Gwenyth Paltrow feels like all of the time. Simply and utterly amazing. So how does one do this, you might ask - this eating-of-the-vegetables? Well, it definitely requires an open mind. Maybe you don’t like asparagus, or celery, or Brussels sprouts. But maybe you do. I didn’t grow up eating sweet potatoes and different types of squashes, and never thought that I would like them, and now they are a few of my absolute favorites. Maybe you just haven’t found a way to prepare certain vegetables - how to prepare them to your maximum culinary satisfaction. This might require experimenting with different recipes, or trying different preparations when you go out to eat at restaurants. Roasting vegetables in the oven is incredibly easy to do. There are YouTube videos galore on how to do this. Roasting vegetables requires minimal preparation and effort. It’s incredibly simple. One very easy (and admittedly lazy - lazy is good!) way to eat more greens is by keeping a few types of fresh greens on hand (arugula, spinach, and romaine are a good combination) and making a quick simple salad to go with whatever you’re eating. Chopped up and put in a bowl with a little bit of olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Don’t Let Yourself Get HANGRY

‘Hangry’ is the act of becoming irritable and bad-tempered as the result of being hungry. When I eat irregularly or go too long between meals, my husband says I turn into Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors (“FEED ME SEYMOUR.”). I do not recommend letting this happen to you. Not only will you have to put all of your disposable income towards marital counseling, it’s a set-up for your eating to go completely off the rails - eating too much, eating too much of the wrong thing, torpedoing all of your good intentions to eat well. If you’re finding yourself hangry on the regular, there are some things you can do: Eat small meals every 3-4 hours. Keep snacks on hand - nuts, fruits and veggies, protein drinks. My experiences with being hangry (and I think I have enough to write a memoir at this point) have really driven home how important it is to have good food in the house and plan for the week accordingly. Otherwise I may find myself coming home at 8 o’clock on a weeknight, famished and hangry, and all kinds of foods that I would otherwise try to steer clear from start to look very tasty. Like all those cheese fries.


Body Image and Good Health

It's the new year. We're all thinking about getting healthy again, and working out and eating well are at the top of most people's list. And while I will always always always encourage you to eat well and move your body, I want to be clear about my intentions.

Eating well is not dieting. Its main focus is not losing weight, being skinny, or looking a certain way. It is about giving our bodies good nutrients, good fuel so that it can function optimally. 

It's all about feeling good. 

I know plenty of people who are extremely healthy, but they don't look like models. Come on, by now we all have seen what it takes to look like one of those people in a magazine. Make-up, hair, and lighting for the photo shoot, followed by major photoshopping before it goes to print. We know it's not real, so why should it be something to strive for?

Instead, let's strive for health. Let's feel good, sleep well, and have great energy that gets us through the day. Let's find happiness outside our appearance and take joy in what it feels like to be healthy.

Here's to a happy, healthy 2017, with or without those few extra pounds!

How to deal with overeating this season

The Holidays are Coming!

As the holiday season rapidly approaches, our excitement level builds and builds. There are so many things to look forward to- family togetherness, spiritual celebration, the food, the drinks, and too many traditions to count. Even though the holidays mean different things to different people, they almost always center around food. Grandma's stuffing to your Mother's pies-- its all the ultimate comfort food. On days like Thanksgiving and Christmas, it's important to be mindful during meals, so that we can avoid making ourselves sick by eating too much (even though its oh so good). Here are a few tips to avoid overeating:

  1. Smaller Portion Size. There will be about a million delicious dishes to try on your Thanksgiving table. By limiting your portion size, you can get a satisfying taste of everything you want without being deprived. Once finished, take a half hour break before serving yourself another helping, to ensure you're not already full.

  2. There's No Shame in Leftovers. Instead of trying to finish everything in one meal, make sure you have leftovers to pop in the fridge for later or to take home with you. If Thanksgiving is your favorite meal of the year, why not enjoy it more than once! Combined with smaller portion size, you'll hopefully have enough to enjoy for the days following.

  3. Drink water. Along with how much you're eating, make sure you're drinking enough water throughout the holiday season. Its common for people to mistake the feeling of hunger with being slightly dehydrated. Before each meal, drink one to two glasses of water to ensure you're staying on top of your water intake. This will also help with appetite control.  

Damage Control: Have herbs on hand in case you accidentally DO overeat. Our favorite "food stagnation" formula is called Bao He Wan. This formula includes many herbs that help with upset stomachs due to overeating, gas, bloating, or any other symptoms that revolve around eating something that doesn't agree with you as well as other foods. Pick up your bottle next time you're in for a treatment! 

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