The Holiday Red Zone – Watch Out for Fumbles

by drpaul

In football jargon, the area within twenty yards of the goal line is called the Red Zone. There is nothing more disheartening to a football fan (and team) than when their team makes it inside the 20 yard line but fumbles the ball away to the other side. Both fans and coaches will go ballistic if their team loses possession from a fumble or an interception inside the 20 – turnovers are never good in football, but when they occur inside the Red Zone, at best it’s a momentum shift; at worst, it can be a game changer.

For our health, the ‘Red Zone’ is the holiday season – the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. As it is, the seasonal change from Fall to Winter is hard on our immune system, and it’s the beginning of cold and flu season. Without a doubt, this time of year is made worse by the abundance of unhealthy food choices that overwhelm us during the holidays. From people bringing baked goods and candies into offices to the numerous parties and family celebrations that seem to be anchored around Christmas cookies, pies, and cakes, temptations are all around.

The double … no, triple … no, quadruple whammy This is not an idle threat – not only is sugar bad for our health, but pies, cakes, cookies, and crackers are made with refined flour, which acts just like sugar when digested, and flour comes with inflammation-promoting gluten. So pies and other holiday “treats” create a triple whammy of sugar and refined flour, both of which cause rapid increases in blood glucose levels, resulting in decreased immune function, and finally, some disease-promoting inflammation. And finally, as a quadruple whammy, eating nutrient-poor sweets causes us to not eat (or displaces) the nutrient-dense foods we should be eating for our health in general and the immune system in particular.

Sugar Decreases Immune Function It’s long been known that sugar intake causes decreased immune system function. Studies have shown that the immune system is weakened substantially within minutes of eating refined sugar; the more you eat, the more your body’s insulin response system is compromised. The body’s cell-mediated immunity uses specialized white blood cells called neutrophils to attack tumors, viruses, and bacteria,  and is decreased when there is elevated blood glucose, which is caused by eating refined carbohydrate foods such as sugar and white flour. [Sanchez A, et al. Roles of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. Amer J Clin Nutr 1973; 26:1180-1184. (view article)].  What’s more, not only are we more susceptible to getting colds and flu, even our body’s ability to fight cancer is compromised when we eat sugar. [Ely JTA, Krone CA Controlling Hyperglycemia as an Adjunct to Cancer Therapy. Integrative Cancer Therapies 2005; 4(1): 25-31. (view article)]

Don’t Fumble – Hold Onto the Ball So, how does one avoid the temptation of all those seemingly “yummy” foods that we’ve grown up with? First, we must own up to the fact that “a little won’t hurt” is a lie – sugary foods will hurt your body, and the more you indulge, the more it hurts your body – yes, it’s cumulative (in case you were wondering, that’s how people end up overweight, with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer). Second, if the temptation is at the office where holiday cookies, cakes, candy canes, etc. are everywhere, pack nutritious snacks and lunches to take to work – if you have strong fall back foods, you’ll be less likely to indulge. Third, if you’re headed to an office Christmas party or some other holiday celebration where you know there are going to be ample opportunities to indulge in an array of ‘disease foods,’ here are some good strategies: (a) eat healthy foods before you leave for the party; (b) bring some healthy munchies yourself – look at it as an opportunity to share how great a Paleo diet style can be; (c) when eating at a party, focus on eating the veggies and other healthy, nutrient-dense foods first; that way, your appetite will be satiated before hitting the desserts or other non-food health ‘derailleurs’.

You can do it!

Yours in health, Dr. Paul

Sugar – the devil’s food

by drpaul

After the Jesuits’ introduction of sugar in 1751, sugar became less expensive to produce (thanks in large part to slavery), and sugar/sweetener consumption has risen steadily (per person/per year):


  • 1821:     10 lbs.
  • 1880:     38 lbs.
  • 1970:  119 lbs.
  • 1990:  132 lbs.
  • 2007:  158 lbs.

It’s contained in many, many foods; it wreaks havoc with many of the body’s physiologic systems and plays a central role in the current heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity epidemics. The culprit: plain old sugar, and its thinly disguised evil cousin, high fructose corn syrup.  Yes, they will kill you. Maybe not overnight, but over time, sugar and corn syrup-derived sweeteners will erode your health, leading to many fatal diseases.

Sugar is a super-concentrated, unnatural food – the fact that it comes from something natural doesn’t make it natural to the body (gasoline comes from something very natural – oil – and is therefore essentially a natural product, but you wouldn’t want to eat it).

In the past 75 years, our modern industrial culture has seen a unique convergence of many negative lifestyle factors that have lead to a dramatic increase in ‘lifestyle behavior diseases’ which include heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, senile dementia, and cancer (yes, cancer is a lifestyle disease, not a genetic one as is commonly believed). This “Perfect Storm” of disease-producing lifestyle behavior choices includes the following:

  • A decrease in the intake of micro-nutrients and trace elements within our food supply due to commercial farming practices utilizing year-round growth cycles and nitrogen-based petrochemical fertilizers, creating epidemic nutritional deficiencies or malnutrition within modern industrial nations, as well as food processing methods that strip nearly all nutrients from our food.
  • An increase in toxicity of our food supply due to the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides in combination with modern food processing techniques utilizing chemical additives, and preservatives.
  • An increase in consumption of food that has been processed to the point where there is little to no nutritive value.
  • A pronounced decrease in physical activity levels unprecedented in the history of mankind.



Omega-3 and Your Health

by drpaul

Why Omega-3?
The cell membrane of nearly every cell in the human body is made up of cholesterol (cholesterol is good for you, by the way, not bad for you) and phospholipids (essential fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahaexanoic acid (DHA)).  For example, the brain is made up mostly of fatty acids; the synapses (the connections) between neurons (brain cells) are 80% fatty acids.

Sugar impairs your brain function, memory and cognitive ability. Omega-3 deficiency makes it worse. [Read abstract] [Journal article]

So, not only are essential fatty acids critical structural components of our cells, but much of the body’s physiologic function is dependent upon having sufficient essential fatty acids in general and omega-3 in particular. Combined with the importance of these essential fatty acids is the fact that our modern culture is terribly deficient in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Because we eat grains and vegetable oils, and because we eat domesticated grain-fed animals, we eat waaaayyyy to much omega-6 fats. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in most people is so imbalanced it causes people to be unhealthy, very unhealthy. You can’t say this too much. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in most people is so imbalanced it causes people to be unhealthy, very unhealthy.

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The O-3 : O-6 Ratio
Research has shown that the human body is healthy when our dietary intake of essential fatty acids is a ratio of 1:2 between omega-3 and omega-6. Current research shows that people today are eating a diet style of processed foods (which contain vegetable oils high in omega-6), and grains (which are high in omega-6), and finally, grain fed animals, creating average ratios of 1:30, even 1:50 in people today.  This gross imbalance of essential fats is resulting in many disease processes among modern cultures.

Inflammation and Omega-3
When the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 gets too high, dangerous inflammation results, causing many diseases, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • High Cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Autoimmune diseases (Lupus)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • Strokes
  • Premature and low birth weights
  • Neurodegenerative dementia diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

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