Flu Season, or Holiday Season?

You know the all too familiar feeling….a slight achy feeling, tiredness, throat starts hurting, and pretty soon you’re down on the couch with the dreaded flu. They call this time of year, “flu season”, but is it really flu season or just sugar season? Note that the CDC shows that the flu season is basically October – February.

Exactly what happens in October – February? Lots, and lots of parties. What is at the parties? Unhealthy foods and sugar!!

October: Halloween
November: Thanksgiving
December: Christmas
January: New Years
February: Valentine’s Day

I’m just like you….I have a sweet tooth as big as a house, and if I don’t pay attention, I’m loading myself down with all the goodies. Not only do I feel icky, but then I get sick.

Why would sugar have anything to do with getting sick? Well believe it or not, refined white sugar is very hard on the immune system because it damages your white blood cell count. We want good, healthy blood cells that can be mighty fighters!! We want to keep them hungry so that they can eat up all the bad bacteria (think flu germs), fungus, and any foreign matter that shouldn’t be in our system. If you want a really cool word to throw out to your friends, this process is called phagocytosis.

When the white blood cells are damaged by our unhealthy diets, they get weak. Take a look at this data from JoAnn Rachor, in her book entitled Of These You May Freely Eat, she illustrates the impact of sugar on white blood cells activity. She shares the following, explaining that this is over a four-hour period:

  • No sugar in the diet…..white blood cells can kill 15 (foreigners…viruses, bacteria, parasites, cancerous cells) over a 4 hour period with no decrease in immunity
  • 6 t/sugar (½ can of soda) …..white blood cells can kill 10 = 25% reduction in immunity over next 4 hours.
  • 12 t/sugar (full can of soda or frosted brownie)….white blood cells can kill 5.5 = 60% reduction in immunity over next 4 hours
  • 18 t/sugar (piece of pie with ice cream)….white blood cells can kill 2 = 85% reduction in immunity over next 4 hours
  • 24 t/sugar (banana split with all the fixin’s)…white blood cells can kill 1 = 92% decrease in immunity over next 4 hours

Yikes!! So we go to parties, eat lots of junk, and hang around with all those people with probably at least someone in the midst that is carrying a virus, and boom, the next week we’re also down for the count.

So maybe totally avoiding sugar is pretty much impossible this time of year, but maybe cutting down as much as possible and building up the immune system in as many ways as possible with stave off the colds and flues that plague so any of us this time of year!

I recommend lots of clean water, exercise, probiotics, Vitamins B, C, D, lots of healthy veggies and fruits, elderberry syrup, and I have also successfully staved off sickness by taking echinacea capsules when I feel something coming on.

Contrary to what you might think, I am not a spoil sport, and I do indulge in all those wonderful treats from time to time, but I do everything I can to kick my immune system into gear at the same time.

Hoping you have a healthy Christmas and happy New Year!




Sugar Addict

Are you a sugar addict? I always knew that I loved sugar, and that I have a hard time controlling the amount I eat once I start eating it. I didn’t have a full realization of my addiction until I went on a fast.

It almost scared me how bad the cravings were, and how my body kept telling me how badly it needed sugar.

When I started researching they why’s, I found out that people who are addicted to sugar are experiencing the same effects that a drug use experiences.

When we eat, dopamine, a pleasure hormone is released that wants us to go back to that same activity. it’s the exact same hormone released when we feel “in love”.

The problem is that sugar and other highly processed foods make dopamine release at extremely high levels, so much so that the addiction can be as strong as illegal drugs. Scientists have done studies to prove that the brain lights up when it is subjected to sugar in the same ways it lights up when the person has used drugs. The same brain pathways are activated.

In the same way that drug users need more and more drugs to satisfy them, so sugar addicts need more and more sugar to satisfy their desires. This happens because as the body is exposed to more and more of the addictive substance, it becomes tolerant, and reduces the number of dopamine receptors. With fewer receptors, a larger dose is needed to reach the same effect.

If you doubt the addictive nature of sugar or junk foods, try quitting cold turkey. Your addiction will manifest itself as cravings! This happened to me recently when I changed my diet completely. I was actually shocked at how badly I wanted sugar, and even felt physically ill to the point that even with my strong will power, I grudgingly allowed myself a cookie or two.

There’s no way to really scientifically measure your addiction to sugar or junk foods, but doctors have begun using drug treatment medications for food addictions! If that doesn’t put a little bit of concern into your heart for what our SAD (Standard American Diet — which is indeed SAD!!) has done to us, I’m not sure what will.

I was actually able to come to the place where I said no altogether to processed sugar and junk, and you can too. Sometimes just grabbing a wonderful juicy peach or  your favorite fruit is a great way to quench those desires. Just not having junk near you helps, but a lot of times that’s pretty much impossible. I’ve found that drinking water with Stur, a natural flavoring with stevia, helps my cravings a lot. It feels like I’m having a treat, but I’m not putting poison in my body.

What tricks have you used to end your sugar addiction?




Whole Wheat Flour: The Big Hoax

bread-1329360-1279x1074 There’s a huge hoax in the world of health information today, and it has to do with a common household staple. You’ve already guessed by now from the title — I’m talking about wheat.

So if you eat wheat, hopefully this post will make things clear —- hopefully clearer than mud anyway :).

By in large, studies have shown that 73% of shoppers believe that wheat flour and whole grain flour are the same thing. Even labels are deceiving, stating that certain healthy products are “made with whole grains”. When you turn the package over, and look at the ingredients, they might say something like: wheat flour, whole wheat flour, or enriched whole wheat flour.

Why is wheat flour not the best thing to be eating? Well, if you look on the list of ingredients I mentioned above, that means that the natural vitamins and minerals have been stripped from the wheat, and the mill has enriched it, or replaced a few of them back.

Like a friend of mine says, if you had 21 dollars, and a robber came and took all 21 of your dollars, and then returned 3, would you feel “enriched”?

That’s exactly what happens when flour is enriched. The mill strips 21 nutrients from the natural grain, and then replaces 3 of them. It doesn’t sound so great now, does it?

So why is it done in the first place?

Well, natural grains are prone to going rancid, so when a mill refines the flour, it increases the shelf life for quite a long time.

Often, the “enriched” or “replaced” vitamins and minerals are also synthetic, and not even the natural ones originally found in the wheat in the first place! The companies can claim that a product is whole wheat or whole grain if at least 5% of the wheat is whole grain.

Why would this be a problem? Well of course if a natural food is stripped of its vitamins and minerals, it’s a lot less nutritious and you’re just eating junk food disguised as healthy food.

“Unbleached whole grain flour” is also a very misleading term. Whole wheat flour is never bleached in the first place, so this term only serves to make you feel better about the junk you just bought.

So what conclusion should you come to if you’re looking to eat wheat in a healthy way?

In the US, simply look for “whole wheat grain flour” as the first ingredient on the package. Don’t trust the flashy front label to tell you whether it’s made from whole grains or not, look on the ingredient facts on the back of the package.

This may vary in other countries. In the US, if the ingredients say “whole wheat flour”, it must contain the complete whole grain. In Canada, the whole grain will be labeled “whole grain whole wheat flour”. In the UK, it will be labeled as “wholemeal”.

If you’re concerned about getting the best nutrition available, avoid these ingredients:

Wheat flour
Enriched wheat flour
All-purpose flour
Unbleached wheat flour
Bread flour
Cake flour
White flour

Hope this helps with all the confusion.

Talk to you later,
Deborah Leaverton

The Battle of Motivation vs. Habit

Is motivation the real thing that gets people to change? That’s something I’ve had to think about for a while. I brought it down to real life.

How often do I feel motivated to clean the kitchen, do the laundry, or cook? For me, that answer is, “rarely”. How often do I feel motivated to make healthy choices or exercise. Again, my answer is, “rarely”. Now you might want to just call me lazy, and you might be mostly right :).

The fact is, with the exception of feeling more comfortable in a clean house and not embarrassed when people stop by, or feeling good about my health because of exercise and a good diet, these sorts of things don’t really cause me a lot of joy.

I cook because my family likes to eat LOL (don’t tell them that…although I’ve told my husband on numerous occasions that I could give up cooking forever and it wouldn’t bother me a bit!), yet I continue to do all of these things daily.

The thing I’ve had to do in my life because of the lack of motivation, is to develop good habits.

When you make a good habit into a daily habit, it changes who you are.

“You are the culmination of your habits.”

Exercise, as I mentioned above, is a perfect example of something that I wanted to change.

You see,  when it comes down to it, motivation is a myth. How do I know that? Because even if you’re motivated for a while, it wears off.

It’s not just you or me. Did you know that even after an athlete consistently trains for years and years, most of them only feel motivated to work out half the time?

A habit is something you do automatically,  and that’s what athletes do. They train whether they feel like it or not. It’s just a part of who they are.

You can set goals for yourself, and setting goals will help a lot, but there will never be a permanent change unless you learn how to make them a habit in your life.

The real struggle with changing bad habits into good ones, is to figure out how you can convince your brain to make permanent habits that will bring lasting change to your body and health.

If someone could make you change your habits so that you enjoy making healthy choices and exercise, they would have hit the jackpot!

What are your best tips to change a habit, so that it doesn’t matter whether you’re motivated to accomplish the task or not?

For me, I have to write the task down, and put it somewhere where I can see it constantly. For me, that’s the dining room table at the place where I usually sit. Now that’s not earth shattering, but since I also sit there to work on my computer, I see my list often through the day. Maybe you need to set an alarm on your phone. Maybe you have a certain person that you do things with on a regular basis, so seeing them reminds you of that goal you need to accomplish every day.

Whatever it is, you need to have something that makes you do what you set out to accomplish every day, until it becomes a part of your life, and you need to do it to feel accomplished.

To good habits for life!
Deborah Leaverton

A Small Positive Change Forever

bottles-774466_640Have you ever wondered why you keep falling off the health bandwagon over and over? Even more important, how can you get healthy and stay that way?

Everyone knows that you can’t just do pushups for a while, then stop, and expect that your body will stay as strong as it was before. You also know that you can’t just eat healthy for a while, lose some weight, then eat a bunch of junk food, and keep your weight where it was.

So how can you make positive changes in your life, and stick with them forever?

I think the best way is to make very small changes over time.

A lot of people jump into a diet and exercise program, all excited that something will finally work for them, but a week or so later, the excitement has rubbed off, and they quit.

I’m pretty sure a lot of that has to do with toxic shock syndrome — no, not a dread illness you’ve heard of, but often the shock of changing everything  at once is way too much.

How about instead, you write down 10 things that you would like to change to get healthier. They could be things like

  • Adding exercise 3-4 times a week
  • Drinking half your body weight in ounces every day (if you weight 200 lbs., drink 100 ounces a day)
  • Eating 6 small meals a day
  • Eliminating excess sugar
  • Eliminating carbonated beverages
  • Eliminating artificial sweeteners
  • Adding healthy fats
  • Cutting our processed foods
  • Taking time to relax
  • Going to bed at a decent time

If you do all of the 10 things listed above all at once, you will probably quit almost as soon as you’ve started. It’s too much, too overwhelming, and most likely a recipe for disaster.

If your focus truly is to become healthy, why not try to take each thing you’ve put on your list, and take a whole 30 days to implement each one. For instance, to me, exercise was the more important thing on my list when I first started my journey. So I purposefully set out to find exercise that I could enjoy, and made sure I got into the habit of doing it.

The funny thing about habits is, you will actually miss that activity after 30 days if you don’t do it. Trust me, it truly becomes part of your life the longer you do it.

After the first thing on your list truly is a habit, try adding one more. If you chose exercise as your first goal, you might have realized that you’ve already begun drinking more water. So now your next challenge will be to make sure you’re getting enough water for the next 30 days, and so on.

Now don’t get frightened on me here …. but your goal is to make very small changes that you can stick with FOREVER. If something should come along to make you misstep, don’t panic. Take a few minutes to reevaluate what caused your failure, and what you will do to change it. That’s it.

Be mindful          Be purpose driven      Be intentional

Don’t make excuses for yourself. Own your decisions. Find out what you can do to make things easier on yourself.

If you have a job where you travel a lot, or work late and can’t have supper, then come home and go into a big sugar binge, what could you do to change that? Most of us can’t change a work or travel schedule, but we could take along a bottle with a protein drink in it, or have a handy healthy snack in our pocket so we’re not starving.

Make a plan and stick with it and you’ll be happier (and healthier) for it!

Make some healthy, lasting, lifestyle changes!


The Stinkin’ Truth About Acid Reflux


A huge problem for most of us as we age, is heartburn and acid reflux problems. I used to have it so bad, that even drinking water would start the painful burning! Pardon me if this is TMI, but I regularly had acid shooting up into my mouth. That’s a dreadful feeling and taste for sure!

When I went to the doctor, he prescribed a strong acid reducer. It worked sometimes, but as time went on, neither that, nor the OTC meds helped for long.

It’s easy to believe that if acid is shooting up into your mouth, or you’re clutching your chest in agony from heartburn, that your stomach is making way too much acid. That’s why a doctor will prescribe you an antacid – a medication to reduce acid in your stomach.

This is actually a horrible solution, because as you can see in my case, and other cases, the acid problem gets worse and worse.

Listen to what a friend of mine said about her GERD (acid reflux) and the medications that her doctor gave her:

“When I got up, I got the package inserts and stuff out for the medicine I’ve been taking for my acid reflux and was sitting at the kitchen table with it for a good while.  Bob (husband) asked me what I was doing and I said I was trying to decide if I was going to put that poison in my body today or not.  I finally decided not to take it and went and got one of my Pepcid Complete to take instead.  Why this decision, you ask?  Well, because, last night I happened to look down at my feet and I didn’t recognize them!!!!  My feet and ankles were swollen, and that can’t be a good thing!!  That was the final straw.  In the list of stuff that might happen (side effects), I’ve had muscle aches and cramps, bones hurting, itching (my left palm itches a lot lately), and now the swollen feet and ankles.”

If you see from what she said above, she grabbed the Pepcid that she used to take instead of the prescription, because it has less side effects than the prescription.  She’s terrified not to take anything because of the side-effects of going off the meds quickly, and the horrible discomfort of the heartburn.

What’s the shocker? Research shows that heartburn and acid reflux is due to your stomach not having enough acid in it, not too much!

So why does the acid come up into the esophagus and mouth? Well, when not enough acid is produced, the food that we eat ferments in our stomach, instead of digests.

I would hazard a guess that most people with heartburn and acid reflux are also constipated. When the food sits in your stomach and ferments, you will have gas and bloating.  The gas and bloating pushes the stomach up into the diaphragm, and then into the upper valve so that acid goes up into the esophagus.  There’s enough acid in this fermented mess to burn esophageal tissues leading to what is called “acid reflux” or heartburn.

The only way to make this situation better is to supplement your meals with HCI (hydrochloric acid). This is the exact same acid that your stomach makes. Especially when your adrenals are out of whack, your stomach quits producing the acid it needs to digest the food, leading to heartburn and the whole digestive mess that is very common to us as Americans.

HCI is readily available, and it only takes a few tablets along with your meals to end your digestive nightmare!

The best kind I’ve found is Metagest from the Metagenics Company. I take at least one with my meals, or if it will be a heavy meal, I take several.

So, back to my friend with the acid reflux problems…..did she listen to my advice? Even when I told her the relief I got from HCI? No she didn’t. She told me it was nice that I had gotten help, but she wasn’t interested. Am I discouraged? No, just dreading hearing more of her GERD stories….

What about you? Do you want to join me in actually digesting your food, instead of it sitting in your stomach fermenting into a smelly mess?

To your health,


Are We In Control Of Our Food Cravings?


One of the most common complaints I hear from people when it comes to dieting is that they do well for a few weeks, but then it seems like after one bad weekend they just can’t get back into it.  Well, there may be a scientific reason behind this.

While it is true that dieting is extremely psychological, we may not be in control of our cravings.  Let me explain.  Inside all of our digestive systems live millions of different kinds of bacteria.  While this may be kind of disgusting to think about, these bacteria play a very important role in our digestive processes.

Each bacteria plays a role in the breakdown of different foods.  For example, one type of bacteria may break down carbs/sugars, while a different type may break down protein in meat.  Most people understand this much.

However, what you probably didn’t know is that the type of foods you eat affect which types of bacteria populate the majority of your gut.

For example, when you eat healthy, the bacteria that break down these healthy foods actually reproduce and multiply, making up the majority of the bacteria in your gut.

Inversely, if you eat fatty, greasy, high sugary foods, the bacteria in your gut that feed on these substrates will multiply and make up the majority of the bacteria in your gut.

So why is this a problem?  This is where my research comes in.

The bacteria in your gut get hungry just like we do.  Remember, since these bacteria only feed on certain substrates, they need certain types of food otherwise they die and can no longer reproduce.

So how does a bacteria that feeds on greasy fat survive if you’re eating fruits and vegetables?  Well, if these bacteria make up the majority of the bacterium in your gut, they send signals to your brain in the form of chemicals in your blood telling your brain to eat that food.

How does this equate for you?  Well, do you ever crave sugar?  Fat?  Grease?<

While these bacteria don’t know what foods contain fatty grease, your brain does.  These bacteria trick your brain into craving certain foods in order to satisfy their hunger.

So in reality, your cravings for bad food may not be your fault.  HOWEVER, we can combat these bacteria in a number of ways.

First, start by eating healthy foods.  Fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, etc can help you grow the healthy bacteria in your gut that feed on these complex sugars while slowly starving the bad bacteria that feed on simple sugars.

The longer you stay on a good diet, the less you will crave bad foods (we normally just say we have acquired the taste for these foods when in reality the healthy bacteria in our guts are signalling our brain to eat good foods).

Second, you can promote the growth and reproduction of healthy gut bacteria by taking probiotics.  It seems that in the last few years probiotics have exploded in today’s grocery stores.

You can find probiotics in Greek yogurt.  But beware, buying flavored Greek yogurt is full of added sugars.  I suggest buying plain Greek yogurt and then adding your own natural sweetener or fruit.

Also, make sure you check the yogurt container so that it says “contains live colonies of bacteria x.”  This way, you know you are getting healthy bacteria that will feed on the bad bacteria in your gut and promote healthy bacteria health.  If it doesn’t say that it contains live colonies, then it is full of dead, worthless bacteria.

So to summarize… your cravings for fast food or fatty/sugary foods may not always be your fault.  However, you can control what you do or don’t eat.

Remember, falling off of your diet for one night is not the end of the world.  But, beware that after that you may crave more of that food initially since the bacteria that feed on that type of food are thriving and are sending chemical signals to your brain to consume these foods.

The longer you stick to your healthy diet, the less you will crave bad foods and the more your body will respond to good foods.  So the next time you have a craving….are you going to let some little disgusting bacteria control your actions?

Posted by permission and researched by Jordan Mitzel, Athletic Trainer