Brooke-Sleep-Trouble-e1420744268881 This post was originally published on this site



Lack of sleep is the sad status quo for most of us.


Most of us perpetually feel either ‘tired and wired’ (can’t fall asleep at night), OR ‘wiped out yet waking’ (tired, but have a hard time sleeping through the night, or waking too early).


Sleep is a hormonal domino; once it goes down then come the cravings, moodiness, missed workouts, and on down the spiral we go.


I know you’ve read many a blog on “sleep hygiene”: the basics of sticking with a sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine too late in the day, using a white noise machine, and not surfing the web or checking Facebook when you should be turning in.


So, let’s talk about another aspect of sleep – hormones.


Sleep Trouble Can Mean Cortisol Trouble

Sleep problems can be more serious such as sleep apnea (although a good diet does a world of good here) or other sleep disorders, but the bulk of us are not having pathological sleep issues. Instead, we’re having cortisol issues and thus, blood sugar problems.


In a nutshell, cortisol’s job is to raise your blood sugar during any type of stress, including a fight with your boss, skipping breakfast, a spin class, etc. Your body calls on cortisol (and adrenaline) to release stored sugar to keep you going.


This is also how you can sleep through the night without having to get up and eat every few hours.


Cortisol has a natural rhythm of output: lowest at bedtime, rising throughout the night and highest around 5am.


At least, that’s what should happen. Unfortunately, many of us have abnormal secretion in terms of timing and amount of cortisol.


While cortisol’s job is to get blood sugar up, insulin’s job is to get it down.


Insulin is released when we eat, but insulin is also released when cortisol is high, because if cortisol is high then blood sugar will soon be high, too. This tug of war is happening in all of us all the time, as our body aims to keep our blood sugar just right – not too high and not too low.


Cortisol creeps up with chronic stress and with insulin resistance (like with PCOS), where cells stop responding well to insulin’s message.


They stop letting glucose easily into the cell, causing us to secrete more insulin to get the message across. Here we see higher blood sugars after we eat, along with higher insulin secretion as we release, release, release until we finally get it down.


Often, this overshoots the mark and then we need cortisol to come in and level us out. You can see where imbalance in one of these hormones quickly causes an imbalance in the other.


On the flipside, when we don’t have good cortisol reserves or a good cortisol response when our blood sugar is low, we have to rely on cortisol’s heavyweight sister to get blood sugar up: adrenaline (aka epinephrine).


Rather than having a hard time lowering blood sugar after a meal, these people have a hard time keeping blood sugar up between meals and throughout the night.


Now, back to sleep trouble.


Cortisol and, even more so, adrenaline, are stimulating hormones and can keep us awake. With insulin resistance, particularly if we stress that insulin system too much with a big dinner, or too many, or not enough carbs at our last meal, it’s easy to have higher cortisol come bed time.


This can leave us with a racing mind, having us lay awake for hours trying to fall asleep.



: It can be such a frustrating experience to lie in bed for hours, watching the clock, counting the hours left before your alarm rings.

It can be such a frustrating experience to lie in bed for hours, watching the clock, counting the hours left before your alarm rings.



Intermittent periods of high stress can also create higher cortisol at night. If it’s too high at bedtime, we can’t wind down even though we’re exhausted. This is that ‘tired and wired’ feeling where you want to sleep, but just can’t.


With this logic in mind, wouldn’t lower cortisol be ideal for better sleep?….Sort of.


Like any hormone, cortisol has to be just right. High cortisol can keep us from falling asleep, but low cortisol throughout the night will prevent us from staying asleep.


As our adrenal glands (source of both cortisol and adrenaline) work to keep our brain, heart, and everything else going throughout the night without a food supply coming in for energy, we employ these stress hormones to keep us tapped into our sugar stores.


However, if cortisol is low our body has to rely on adrenaline to get that stored sugar free. Adrenaline is like high octane, whereas cortisol is more stimulating and it will wake you up.


Some people with lower cortisol/lower blood sugar problems wake feeling anxious, or even hungry.


Many have a really hard time going back to sleep, lying there for an hour or more unable to fall back asleep. This can mean waking frequently in the night or waking too early (e.g. up at 4 am and can’t go back to sleep).


This may sound a bit complicated, but the treatment is pretty straight forward: manage blood sugar throughout the day and sleep better, because it helps these hormones stay in a good balance.


However, while you’re working to eat regularly, ensure enough protein and veggie fiber for nice level blood sugar, and avoid sugar and alcohol (both blood sugar crashers)  – you need to sleep better tonight, don’t you?


Here are a few nutrition tips for managing both sides of this troubled sleep coin:

• If you have a hard time falling asleep try a moderate carb dinner – think vegetables and protein, plus enough carbs for your UCT (your unique carb tolerance). Missing your UCT will stress your insulin mechanism and keep you wrestling with those ruminating thoughts.


An example of a moderate carb dinner could be fish or other protein, with potatoes, and a salad or veggie slaw.

An example of a moderate carb dinner could be fish or other protein, with potatoes, and a salad or veggie slaw.


• If you have a difficult time staying asleep you should consider a bedtime snack as a regular habit. This mini-meal should consist of protein, veggies for fiber, and a small amount of starch or sugar (such as 1/3 cup sweet potato or a small apple). This type of sleep issue really needs a well rounded snack closer to bedtime.


I know, I know. You’ve heard that you shouldn’t eat after dinner if you want to lose weight. You’ve heard you need an empty belly to get maximal responses from leptin, growth hormones, etc.


This is all true…in perfect physiology.


All of these higher level hormones, like leptin (a key hormone in regulating appetite and fat loss), can’t really be affected until we have a good cortisol and insulin balance.


Start there, before getting into these more nitty gritty hormones. And, guess what? Many of them normalize when we fix insulin and cortisol anyway.


Note: Blood sugar balance also drives neurotransmitter levels in the brain so even if the cause of your sleep issue is low serotonin or trouble with GABA (our best calming chemical), sorting out blood sugar will help to a large degree here also.


Many people have been so stressed for so long that this insulin:cortisol relationship is really out of balance and they have trouble with both too high and too low blood sugar.


This may warrant employing some adrenal support, such as the herb rhodiola, as well as supporting the insulin mechanism with nutrients such as chromium, magnesium, and alpha lipoic acid, plus these evening eating strategies.


What To Do When Eating Right Isn’t Enough

Often these nutrition guidelines are enough, but sometimes our adrenal and blood sugar systems are so stressed that we need to follow these rules and employ natural sleep aids, or even sleep medications, to get a good night’s sleep.


Sleep remedies abound at your local natural food market, but what should you take?


There are a few things to skip if you have certain conditions and below you’ll find a guide for which products, herbs, and nutrients may work better for you depending on your particular flavor of sleep trouble.


Think Twice Before Going For Daily Melatonin

While melatonin is sold freely over the counter, don’t forget this is a hormone, meaning it is a powerful messenger to your body.


When we take melatonin our body can’t gauge how much melatonin it needs to make on its own so it slows, and eventually almost halts, its own melatonin production.


Melatonin is meant to be taken just for 3 days or so; thus, is ideal for travel, especially across time zones, but not a good idea to take daily.



While melatonin may be a great short term help, it is not an effective long-term solution to optimal hormone balance.

While melatonin may be a great short term help, it is not an effective long-term solution to optimal hormone balance.



I know many fitness gurus tout the benefits of daily melatonin but if you understand how it shifts the immune system, interacts with other hormones, and shuts down your internal melatonin production, it is a terrible idea, in my opinion.


Getting your own melatonin production and rhythm out of whack from taking it daily is a problem because melatonin and cortisol regulate each other. These two hormones have opposite rhythms and timing of release (cortisol is high in the morning, lower at night and melatonin is opposite of that).


As we shut down our own melatonin release from daily use, we will cause cortisol abnormalities and quickly both stress and blood sugar issues arise as well.


Never forget that your hormones are a tightly knit web. When cortisol is off, soon thyroid, female hormones, fat loss, immune system, and more all get out of balance.


And, because so many women have Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune diseases, it’s absolutely important to respect the immune system when it comes to supplements like melatonin.


Here’s the deal:


Both cortisol and melatonin have profound effects on your immune system. Cortisol is usually deemed as “bad” while melatonin is often touted as “good” for the immune system. Good and bad are relative depending on your particular shifts towards one arm of the immune system (known as the TH1 or TH2).


Everyone with an autoimmune disease has an imbalance towards TH1 or TH2. The problem is you probably don’t know which one (there are not great lab tests to discern this for you).


Cortisol stimulates TH2 and melatonin stimulates TH1, so if you have a dominance of TH1 you will make your autoimmune attack on your tissues much worse by taking melatonin.


So, you can see, the advice of using melatonin daily as a sleep aid or “immune booster”, even though these claims may be true, even research based, isn’t wise.


If you have autoimmunity, avoid “immune boosting”, or, “immune supporting” supplements as they can increase your immune based attack (e.g. on the thyroid in Hashimoto’s). This includes melatonin.


Autoimmunity puts you in a ‘special class’, ladies. Remember that when you read nutrition and health advice.


The best strategy is to boost YOUR own internal melatonin production. Here’s how you do it:

  • Keeping lights low in the hours before bedtime, and keep sleeping environment as dark as possible.
  • Because serotonin is the precursor for melatonin, utilize serotonin boosting supplements like 5HTP and methylating nutrients such as B12, folic acid, B6, etc to boost serotonin.
  • Address any cortisol issues (high or low) as your body makes melatonin by trying to coordinate with cortisol’s rhythm.


If you’ve been taking melatonin for years you may not be able to sleep without it. If you try and just can’t manage, then we know your own melatonin production and rhythms are disrupted and can assume you have some cortisol and blood sugar issues because of it.


In this case, you may simply need to stay on the melatonin to be able to sleep.


Increase GABA & Serotonin – Your ‘Wind Down’ Brain Chemicals

Your main natural calming neurotransmitters are GABA and serotonin (largely because it gets converted into melatonin).


Having enough activity of these guys helps you relax and unwind, countering some of the effects from cortisol abnormalities. Sometimes while you’re working on setting blood sugar and cortisol issues straight, you need to boost nature’s chill pills to get some zzzs.


Many herbal “bedtime” teas have GABA boosting herbs. Teas are a tried and true way to use herbs but keep in mind these are low dose, so tea alone may not be enough for some of you. However, it’s a simple and cozy way to turn in so try a strong tea (start with 2 bags and increase to 4 if you aren’t getting relief).



Having a cup of herbal tea as part of your nighttime wind down routine, can be a great addition.

Having a cup of herbal tea as part of your nighttime wind down routine, can be a great addition.



If you have a hard time staying asleep, (lower blood sugar issues) try:

  • Yogi Tea with valerian, chamomile, passionflower and skullcap, as well as a bit of licorice.
  • Calm chamomile tea, from Tazo – a classic. Calm has lemongrass for a different twist and a touch of licorice as well.


If you have a hard time falling asleep, (struggle with higher blood sugar) try:

  • Get Some ZZZs tea, from Republic of Tea. Roobios base with valerian, passionflower, and chamomile.
  • Tulsi Chamomile Tea. Tulsi is a great herb for managing high cortisol, making this a great tea for trouble falling asleep.


When teas aren’t enough, here’s a few supplement ideas to affect these GABA & Serotonin:

  • Herbs that boost GABA include: Valerian, Chamomile, and passionflower (my calm+sleep fits this bill).


GABA deficiency signs include:

  • Feeling anxious or panicked or overwhelmed for no reason.
  • Feeling knots in stomach, dread or doom; inner tension or excitability that’s difficult to turn off.
  • Mind feels restless and you can’t turn it off when you want to relax.
  • Worry or guilt about things that didn’t used to bother you.


Herbs and nutrients that boost Serotonin include: St John’s Wort, 5HTP, and SAMe.


Serotonin deficiency signs are:

  • Depression that feels guilty (life isn’t so bad, you feel guilty that you aren’t more happy), the “blues”.
  • Losing enjoyment and pleasure from things you used to enjoy.
  • Feel more susceptible to pain and get angry more than before even when unprovoked.
  • Feel worse in grey, overcast weather.


Other Relaxing Nutrients for Better Sleep

These three calming nutrients work for any type of sleep issue and can easily be combined with teas or herbs above:

  • Magnesium: Try 300-400mg (many of us are very deficient in magnesium and need to use this dose several times per day).
  • Inositol can be relaxing and is also great for female hormone issues of many sorts. Try 500-1000mg at bedtime.
  • Theanine is the relaxing amino acid found in green tea. Try 100-300mg at bedtime (found in calm+sleep).


Nighty, night! Zzzzzz……



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Here’s another easy trick for successful long term weight loss.
…save room for dessert.
It’s a simple strategy, but it works.
I don’t really count carbs or fats. I count protein and calories, and even then, most of it is a guess.
But that’s just me, really it doesn’t matter what it you count, this trick is the same – save some of your calories / carbs / fats for dessert.
Whatever you count, save some of it for dessert.
My choice is usually mint chocolate chip ice-cream. I don’t go crazy with it – A cup of ice-cream in the evening is all I need to not feel like I’m depriving myself.
Give me a pint of Guinness at dinner and a bowl of ice-cream before bed and I can be 100% on track with the rest of my eating for months and months.
Deprivation kills consistency, and consistency is where your results come from.
If a diet […]

Original post by Brad Pilon

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pimg class=”alignright size-full wp-image-55302″ src=”” alt=”” width=”320″ height=”202″ /Behind all good intentions #8211; the long-range vision, the a href=””ultimate goals/a, the short-term strategies or a href=””daily routines/a #8211; is our bottom line. What is the least we are willing to accept from ourselves in a given day? This question is probably the most important you will ever ask yourself./p
pExperience tells me the biggest obstacle for people is their perception #8211; their a href=””perception of their circumstances/a, their perception of time, their a href=””perception of their bodies/a, their perception of their potential. Anyone can dream up goals, but it’s how we weave our intentions into our daily reality that matters./p
pspan id=”more-55295″/span/p
pWe go through the day perceiving our own intentions to be a href=””important but negotiable/a. Simultaneously, we consciously or unconsciously view others’ intentions for us (e.g. our time and energy) as fixed, non-negotiable. And there’s where the process falls apart./p
pstrongBecause here’s […]

Original post by Mark Sisson

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BlackWidow-713x570 This post was originally published on this site

Originally posted at:

The Avengers are in need of a hero.

Tony Stark created an artificially intelligent being by the name of Ultron, and Ultron decided to go off the rails and attempt to take over the planet. He and his minions have incredible intelligence, lightning-quick speed, tons of raw power, and are hell-bent on destroying his creator.

If the robots win, then we’ll end up in a future not unlike the Matrix. Suck!

Fortunately, despite dilly dallying across multiple movies and ridiculously fantastic plot points, the Avengers have assembled yet again, and are ready for the challenge to defeat Ultron and save Earth yet again from calamity.

Are you ready?

You have been presented with a unique opportunity to join the Avengers, but you’ll need to complete a trial to show the world you’re worthy of joining the cause.

Ultron is going down! Sorry James Spader.

The Avengers Workout Challenge


Complete the recommended reps of each exercise in as few sets as possible while following good form. (Any time you rest and put the bar down, that is considered a set). So, the best possible score would be to complete each movement in a single set, for 6 sets total across the challenge.

Complete all of the first exercise before moving on to the second exercise. Remember – we would rather you do the exercise spread across more sets with great form, than less sets with form that breaks down. If you can’t complete the prescribed movement, try the S.H.I.E.L.D. version of the movement.

As always: warm up before, and cool down after! Complete each of the movements below with great form and not focused on time.

This is a full body routine, so make sure you take a day off from strength training the day after. No gym access? Complete one of our other workouts that don’t require equipment, like the beginner bodyweight routine.

This isn’t meant to be a full workout routine to be done multiple times a week, but more as a one time challenge.

1) BLACK WIDOW MAKER SQUATS: 20 reps of barbell squats with the bar remaining on your shoulders. You can’t kick ass like Black Widow if you don’t have killer legs (see what I did there?), and there’s no better way to build leg strength and power than with a widowmaker set of squats.

Complete 20 reps at a weight on the bar that equals your bodyweight. You can rest for a moment, but the bar must remain on your shoulders.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: Complete 20 reps at a weight that’s comfortable for you, taking as many sets as necessary (instead of one 20-rep set).


2) HAWKEYE PULL-UPS – 20 Archer Pull Ups (10 each side). You need serious back strength to launch arrows with the power and accuracy of Hawkeye. And what better way to get that strength than with the appropriately named Archer Pull-up?

S.H.I.E.L.D.:: Unable to do archer pull ups? Do regular pull-ups, assisted with a band or on a machine.


3) IRON MAN BOOSTS – 20 Box JumpsImagine you have a rocket propulsion system strapped to the bottom of your feet. Stand in front of a box or bench at least 24 inches tall, and launch yourself as high as possible, landing softly on the bench or chair. And then STEP DOWN (don’t jump down).

S.H.I.E.L.D.:: Step ups onto the bench.


4) CAPTAIN AMERICA SHIELD LAUNCHES – 30 Plyometric Push-ups. Imagine you have a shield made of vibranium, and there is a robot on the other side of it trying to get through. You want to push that robot 100 yards away with your super soldier strength. Complete plyometric push ups as if you were launching your shield into an enemy.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: 40 regular push-ups, or knee push-ups.


5) HULK LIFTS – 30 barbell deadlifts at bodyweight. The Hulk has tree trunks for legs (though thankfully his shorts increase in size when he transforms). If you’re going to pick up cars and throw them at people, or toss enemies around like rag dolls, it’s time to level up your barbell deadlifts.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: 30 deadlifts at half-bodyweight. Reduce the weight – a great place to start is half bodyweight, but don’t be afraid to try less!


6) HAMMERS OF THOR – 30 swings of a sledgehammer into a tire. Thor can call the power of lightning, but it’s his strength that allows him to wield his famous hammer.

No access to hammer and tire? Do Kettlebell/dumbbell clean and presses, as if you were picking up Thor’s hammer and raising it to the heavens.

S.H.I.E.L.D.:: 30 kettlebell/dumbbell clean and presses of 30 pounds (or less depending on your skill). No prescribed weight.

How did you do?


You can download a PDF of the workout here: Avengers Workout.

So, Avenger…how did you do? Keep track of how many total sets it took you to complete all of the movements above.

  • 6-9 total sets: Avenger Hero
  • 10-15 total sets: Avenger Recruit
  • 16-20 total sets: SHIELD Agent
  • 21+ total sets: SHIELD Agent in training



photo source: Meet the Chembeques: lego avengersJD Hancock: Universal AvengersmarvelousRoland: Black Widow

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pema href=””img class=”alignright wp-image-55205″ src=”” alt=”thrivemda_300x250_r2″ width=”320″ height=”267″ //astrongToday, I#8217;m releasing two brand new Primal Blueprint eBooks and giving away several gifts as part of a a href=””special offer for Mark#8217;s Daily Apple readers/a (you!). The offer lasts just one week (April 29-May 6). You won#8217;t want to miss it. But more on that in a moment#8230;/strong/em/p
pOne of the primary challenges to living a primal-adapted lifestyle is accessibility. Make that emaffordability/em and emaccessibility/em. One of the constant refrains I hear from Groks and Grokettes is em“I just don’t have access to primal-friendly foods in my small town”/em or em“paleo foods are so much more expensive that it’s hard to stay on track.”/em/p
pspan id=”more-55202″/span/p
pI hear you…and that’s partly why I invested in a href=”” target=”_blank”Thrive Market/a, an online health food co-op that takes accessibility and affordability out of the equation (emwe’re talking Whole Foods products with Costco prices but in […]

Original post by Mark Sisson

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pimg class=”alignright size-full wp-image-55272″ src=”” alt=”” width=”320″ height=”217″ /A few weeks back in the #8220;a title=”25 Ways to Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity” href=””How to Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity/a#8221; post, I apparently dropped a bit of a bombshell: that very low carb diets can induce insulin resistance. Many of you wrote to me asking about the effects of low-carb dieting on insulin sensitivity and wondering whether you should begin eating more carbohydrates to counter it. Well, maybe, but there#8217;s a right way and a wrong way to eat carbs if you#8217;re low carb. The wrong way is to just add a ton of carbohydrates on top of your low-carb Primal eating plan without changing anything else. Doing that, especially in perpetuity, will likely lead to weight gain, hyperinsulinemia, and even more insulin resistance. Bad all around./p
pNow, many people are perfectly happy on a perpetually low-carb diet. I function quite well on […]

Original post by Mark Sisson

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ThinkstockPhotos-478803971-200x200 This post was originally published on this site


At the California Center for Functional Medicine, a significant number of our patients list anxiety or depression as one of their top three health concerns. This is not at all surprising given that anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health issues in our society, with anxiety disorders affecting approximately 18% of adults in the U.S. (1) Anxiety and depression are not the same, but they are often experienced together as a complex set of emotional and functional changes. (2)

Both anxiety and depression, along with other mood and neuropsychiatric disorders, such as eating disorders, bipolar disorder or sleep disorders, generally result from a complex interplay of factors. These may include a combination of nutritional, physical, environmental, social, emotional, and spiritual factors, affecting your genetic tendencies and brain biochemistry (meaning that your neurotransmitters, or the chemical messengers within your brain, can be affected by these key components of well-being). You can think of anxiety and depression as disruptions in brain health.

Treating the cause not just the symptoms

While conventional medicine, not surprisingly, offers medications to treat the symptoms of anxiety and depression with somewhat limited success (data suggests that 30 to 40% of patients do not respond to current drug strategies), we take a very different approach in our functional medicine practice. (3, 4) It’s important to recognize that medication, particularly antidepressants, can be essential for some people, particularly those with more severe depression, and a decision to start or stop antidepressants needs to be discussed with your health care provider. I never recommend coming off antidepressants too quickly, and there are times when patients clearly benefit from the support of these medications.

What surprises many of our new patients who ask for help with their anxiety or depression is that we start by looking at the health of the gut. For those of you who have followed this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably picked up on a common theme here that you have to have a healthy gut microbiome for optimal well-being.

Having trained in conventional medicine, this idea was not intuitive to me even five years ago. But now, after reading the scientific literature on the microbiome-gut-brain axis, and working with patients to heal their gut and seeing the incredible improvements in mood, I’m convinced this is the starting place to heal anxiety and depression.

Anxious, stressed, or depressed? Healing your gut may be the solution.

A growing body of evidence shows that our beneficial gut bacteria support positive mood and emotional well-being

The gut microbiome, which we’ve discussed in a number of prior articles and podcasts (here and here), refers to the microorganisms, predominately bacteria (somewhere on the order of 10 to 100 trillion) and their genes, living within the human gut. Many of these microorganisms are in fact essential for good health. When the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut is disrupted, disease can occur.

The relatively new understanding of how microorganisms affect every system of our body, along with the incredible volume of research on the microbiome is leading to a shift within medicine, and specifically a shift towards appreciating how important it is to care for our healthy gut bacteria.

Differences in the gut microbiome exist between people with anxiety and depression and those without

Numerous studies in animal models show convincing evidence of a strong relationship between the gut microbiome and mood. For example, studies have found significant differences in the types of gut bacteria in animals exposed to various types of stress such as maternal separation early in life, social stressors, or prolonged restraint. (5, 6, 7)

One study, published this month, examined the specific differences in the bacterial make-up of the microbiome in patients with major depressive disorder in comparison with healthy individuals. (8) Significant differences were identified between these two groups. Additionally, the severity of depressive symptoms was related to the amount of a specific bacterium. A lower relative abundance of Faecalibacterium was associated with more severe depression.

Altering the gut microbiome with probiotics can decrease feelings of anxiety and positively affect emotional processing

Several studies show evidence for reduced feelings of anxiety and improved aspects of well-being after taking probiotics. (9, 10, 11)

One study used functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which is a type of imaging that looks at brain activity, to evaluate the influence of gut microbes on emotional behavior and underlying brain mechanisms. (12) Specifically, three groups of women were given either fermented milk with probiotics, non-fermented milk, or no intervention, twice daily for four weeks. Functional MRI was performed both at the start and completion of the study to look at brain activity in response to an emotional attention task.

The women who consumed the fermented milk with probiotics showed changes in regions of the brain crucial in emotional processing. This study provides further evidence that supporting the gut microbiome can provide measurable changes in emotional processing within the brain.

Additional support for the connection between the gut microbiome and mood came from a study that showed the use of specific probiotics significantly decreased anxiety-like behavior in rats and reduced psychological distress in humans. (13)

Nourishing your beneficial gut bacteria will also reduce anxiety and decrease stress

A recent study evaluating the effects of prebiotics on well-being provided additional evidence of the gut bacteria positively affecting mental health. (14)  Prebiotics are carbohydrates that humans cannot digest, but bacteria in our guts can.

In this study, 45 healthy individuals were asked to take either a prebiotic or placebo every other day for three weeks. Cortisol measurements were taken from saliva samples at the beginning and end of the study to evaluate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity (an important factor contributing to anxiety and depression). After three weeks, the participants completed a series of tests designed to assess how they processed emotional information, such as processing facial expressions of the six basic emotions, and responding to positive and negatively charged words.

The results showed that individuals who had taken the prebiotic had significantly lower cortisol after three weeks, meaning they showed physiologic evidence of a decreased stress response. And the prebiotic group paid more attention to positive information and less attention to negative information when compared to the participants who were given placebo. This suggests that when confronted with negative stimuli, the prebiotic group would have less anxiety, similar to that which has been observed in some people taking antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Use an integrated approach

Therapy and, in some cases, antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications can be important pieces of treatment. But if underlying imbalances in the gut microbiome are to blame (which is often the case in our experience), you won’t heal until they are addressed.  This functional medicine approach to mood disorders is something we specialize in at the California Center for Functional Medicine. It is an approach we frequently find to be more effective than conventional treatments, allowing many of our patients relief from their symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Now I’d like to hear from you: Have you noticed any improvements in your mood by adding prebiotics or probiotics to your routine? Or, have you noticed changes in your mood after becoming sick with food poisoning or other GI illness that disturbed your microbiome?

Amy NettAbout Amy:  Amy Nett, MD, graduated from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 2007.  She subsequently completed a year of internal medicine training at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, followed by five years of specialty training in radiology at Stanford University Hospital, with additional subspecialty training in pediatric radiology.

Along the course of her medical training and working through her own personal health issues, she found her passion for functional medicine, and began training with Chris in June of 2014.  She has recently joined his clinical practice to work with patients through a functional medicine approach, working to identify and treat the root causes of illness.  Similar to Chris, she uses nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, supplements, stress management, detoxification and lifestyle changes to restore proper function and improve health.

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This post was originally published on this site

Isn’t it disappointing to cut into an avocado you’ve been nurturing to perfect ripeness only to find a brown, slimy mess inside? Avocados are usually sliced open just before serving, so this is especially frustrating. But worry no more! There’s a simple, foolproof way to tell whether you will discover a creamy, luscious green interior or a brown slimy mess the next time you cut open an avocado.


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Karen-squat-collage-1024x683 This post was originally published on this site

(Note from GGS: Before we get any hate mail, yes, we LOVE Hip Thrusts for building a bigger and better booty as well, and plan to have an article about them very soon! Stay tuned! )


On numerous occasions my students and clients have walked into the Lululemon store in the town where I used to live, and they’ve immediately been asked, “where do you train?”


When they would answer, “Kettlebell Elite,” (the gym I owned at that time), the women would always respond with, “All of the women who train there have the best butts!”


Why do my students have the best butts? Because they squat and they squat often.


Squats are a natural and safe movement that almost all of us are capable of performing as children. Aaaand then we grow up and often lose the ability to squat well. We can lose our ability to squat well for a number of reasons, including but not limited to: lack of physical activity, sitting throughout the day, joint or muscle stiffness, lack of stability, previous injuries, and more.


Squats are great fundamental movement for improving mobility, stability, and strength, and they have tons of real world carryover. What about a better bum? In my experience, heavy squats are fantastic for increasing and lifting your ASSets.


I’ve yet to meet a woman who didn’t appreciate the higher, tighter, lifted glutes that come from adding squats to their program. In the kettlebell community we call this result a “bell butt.”


Before we discuss the various squat variations, let’s talk about squat form.


The main difference in a squat and a hinge (deadlift or swing pattern) is that while they both require a nice, flat back, the shoulders and hips should descend and ascend at the same rate when squatting. While in a hinge the hips hinge back and the shoulders stay much higher.


Left: Squat; Right: Hinge

Left: Squat; Right: Hinge



You may have heard the old adage, “don’t squat past parallel because it’s bad for your knees.” However, the truth is, squats, and even deep squats, are not bad for your knees. Squatting with bad form is bad for your knees. If you’d like to learn more about that, check out this article from fellow Girls Gone Strong Advisory Board Member and Physical Therapist Ann Wendel: Do Deep Squats Cause Knee Pain?


“Rock bottom” (i.e. deep) squats are perfectly fine when performed with proper technique. Most often when I see people stop at parallel, they are actually putting more pressure and stress on their knees by leaning forward with their knees too far forward over their toes, instead of sharing the load among their hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and knees.


Below are some examples of improper squat form:


Left: Improper due to heels being raised, you may see this if you are lacking in ankle mobility Right: Improper due to rounding of the back and hunching over which drops the elbows past the knees


  • Left: Improper due to heels being raised, you may see this if you are lacking in ankle mobility.
  • Right: Improper due to rounding of the back and hunching over which drops the elbows past the knees.


Left: Improper due to rounded back  Right: Improper due to Valgus Collapse (knees caving in) or Pronating (ankles caving in)


  • Left: Improper due to rounded back.
  • Right: Improper due to valgus collapse (knees caving in) or Pronating (ankles caving in)


Left: Approved Squat  |  Right: Proper Depth for Deep Squat


  • Left: Approved Squat
  • Right: Proper Depth for Deep Squat


While the photo on the right above shows proper depth for a deep squat, I would currently stop short of this depth. Notice the current asymmetry in hip level. This would cause a dysfunctional squat pattern at this time. Always a good idea to have a coach or take a video of yourself to check your form.


If you feel pain when squatting, read Ann Wendel’s recent article on deep squats and knee pain.


I often see people stop short when squatting or say, “I can’t squat.” While sometimes this may truly be the case for some, most often it isn’t. After doing a few assessments and drills, we can determine if it is a mobility issue in the hips or ankles or if they are just afraid of squatting.


At a recent workshop that I was teaching I had a student that was not squatting down to parallel. I began asking questions and assessing her body to determine the issue. After a few drills and more questions, I found out that it was just a fear of falling backward. The following video will demonstrate how to help someone get lower and determine if they have the proper mobility to squat deeply.



In order to get into a proper deep squat:


  • sit down (pulling your butt between your knees)
  • knees should track your in line with your toes
  • hip joint should be past your knee joint
  • back should be flat (no rounding in the t-spine or lumbar)
  • pressure on your whole foot (keeping your toes gripping the ground
  • maintain glute and core tension


Note – If you are super mobile and can easily squat to rock bottom and hang out there while relaxed, you may be losing some of the benefit of the deep squat. Try stopping 1 inch higher where you can still maintain the tension in your legs, glutes, and core.


Now that we’ve covered the technique, lets discuss the best place to start squatting or have your students or clients start squatting. I recommend that you always pattern a move with your own bodyweight prior to loading it with a weight (kettlebell, dumbbell, or barbell). I begin with an assessment first, like “Face The Wall Squats,” then proceed to loading the squat in a variety of ways. Below are a series of videos to illustrate this process:


FACE THE WALL SQUAT (bodyweight)








KETTLEBELL PISTOL (bodyweight/loaded) vs. SINGLE LEG SQUAT (box)


My preference is to normally train low reps with heavy weight. An example of this would be 5 sets of 5, however with the tremendous amount of travel I am doing these days I also do a lot of bodyweight training. Below I have added a Bonus Bodyweight Squat workout that you can do while traveling or anytime you see fit. Weight can also be added to this workout over time.


BONUS: Bodyweight Squat Ladder workout

This workout is great when you are traveling or maybe even try it loaded sometime to make it more advanced. Start this workout at the top of a 10-rung ladder. You will do each rung then rest before going to the next rung, it may not seem like you need the rest at first but I promise it will catch up with you. Each rep you will pull yourself to a rock bottom squat, come up ½ way then go back down to rock bottom then stand to equal one rep.


After you have finished the first 5 rungs (10-6) we change it up for the last 5 rungs (5-1). For the last rep of each of these rungs you will add a hold at the last ½ mark. Each rung the last rep hold gets longer.



10 reps – rest
9 reps – rest
8 reps – rest
7 reps – rest
6 reps – rest
5 reps (4 reps, then on #5 Hold 10 sec at ½ way point, then down, then up)
4 reps (3 reps, then on #4 Hold 15 sec at ½ way point, then down, then up)
3 reps (2 reps, then on #3 Hold 20 sec at ½ way point, then down, then up)
2 reps (1 rep, then on #2 Hold 25 sec at ½ way point, then down, then up)
1 rep (rock bottom, then ½ way up, Hold 30 sec, then down, then up)



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pimg class=”alignright size-full wp-image-55251″ src=”” alt=”X-ray image of legs” width=”320″ height=”223″ /For today#8217;s edition of a title=”Dear Mark” href=””Dear Mark/a, we#8217;ve got a three-parter. First, I try to help out Karson, a guy who#8217;s trying to convince his osteoporotic, sun-starved mother to try a few lifestyle interventions that may improve her condition without coming off as smug. Hopefully I#8217;m persuasive enough. Next, is it really possible to gain body fat on a caloric deficit, or is something else going on? And finally, Dawn seems to be doing everything right, but she#8217;s not losing any more weight — weight that she feels should be coming off. What can she try next?/p
pLet#8217;s go:/p
pspan id=”more-54738″/span/p
blockquotepDear Mark,/p
pSince you have a persuasive way with words, I was wondering if you have any suggestions for my mother. My tone sometimes comes off as smug and preach-y. She recently turned 60 and her osteoporosis is progressing. Her job […]

Original post by Mark Sisson

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