It’s a big big world out there with lots of information. It can be hard to sift through the weeds, and feel overwhelming. There’s no much to do. It seems so complicated, expensive, and exhausting. Eat liver, make bone broth, sprint, count macros, don’t eat this, always eat that, ferment vegetables, find a farmer, plant a garden, get blue-blockers, raise chickens. We may want to do everything, but sometimes we have no idea where to start.
Here are 5 things that you can start implementing right now to start making little changes towards a healthier life. Tiny steps, big impacts.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Poor digestion is a major, if not the primary, road block to better health. When digestion is working properly, proteins are broken down in the stomach by hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) into amino acids. These amino acids are then taken through the rest of the digestive system, into the blood stream and used by our bodies for a variety of tasks from transporting minerals, building muscles, and forming blood cells and strengthening the immune system. It would make sense, then, that if this process is not working properly, that it would result in mineral deficiencies, lack of adequate protein for muscle synthesis, and a weakened immune system.
Hypochlohydria, or lack of adequate stomach acid, is extremely common today. When there is not enough stomach acid present to get the food in the stomach to the level of acidity required to trigger its continuing through the digestive process, it gets stuck in the stomach or even makes its way back up the esophagus. This results in bloating shortly after eating, heart burn and/or acid reflux and once it finally forces it’s way through, you may be surprised with undigested food in the toilet after nature calls. So how does vinegar help with stomach acid? Doesn’t heartburn mean there’s too MUCH acid? Oh, but the contrary. Lack of stomach acid is caused by a variety of things, like mineral deficiency, but is most commonly attributed to the inability to get into ‘rest and digest’ mode. When you are stressed, in ‘fight or flight’, digestion shuts down. When we eat on the run, while doing work, barely chewing our food, or fighting with the kids while we shovel our meal down, we don’t let the basics of digestion take place. This includes the production and release of HCl.
Apple Cider Vinegar (organic, and ‘with the mother’: Bragg’s in my favorite brand), gives your digestion a jump start and triggers the release of stomach acid. Add a tsp to 1 tbsp of water to shoot 5-10 minutes before meals, and take a few deep breaths before you begin to eat and you’ll see a world of difference.
Better digestion isn’t the only thing on ACV’s resume. Read more here.
While many health professionals may caution against caffeine, I see your daily cup of joe as a ‘gray area food’. It is very true that some folks can come far too reliant upon it, and in times of very high-stress or in cases of adrenal fatigue, it’s often best to avoid it (at least for a time). For many of us, though, coffee can be a welcome port of a healthy diet, and there is even research pointing to it having tremendous health benefits all its own when it’s well tolerated.
Now, these benefits come with a caveat. Aside from coffee not being well tolerated by everyone, the quality of the coffee matters tremendously. Coffee is one of the most widely-traded commodities in the world, and in turn, one of the most heavily chemically treated. From Equal Exchange, “It is steeped in synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides – a real mouthful with a bad taste. Not only does the environment suffer from this overload, but so do the people who live in it. Farmers are exposed to a high level of chemicals while spraying the crops and while handling them during harvest. The surrounding communities are also impacted through chemical residues in the air and water. These chemical presences are not just unpleasant; many are highly toxic and detrimental to human health.”
Even if we one day discover that ‘organic’ is BS, I’m fine with paying an extra $2/lb of beans to err on the side of safety, aren’t you?
Money and tight budgets are the major reasons people give as to why they don’t buy organic produce or local proteins from farmers markets. It may be true that you simply don’t have the income to facilitate an all-organic and grass-fed household. Switching to organic coffee is a very affordable way to lessen the amount of chemicals that you consume on a daily basis in your food.
*Still, caffeine is dehydrating so make sure to drink plenty of water as well as enjoying your daily brew.*
Eat The Yolks
Egg yolks got a bad wrap for far too long. It’s really a huge disservice to your health to avoid these golden nutrient power houses. Egg yolks are one of the single most nutritious foods you can eat, and yet they were put on the naughty list due to their cholesterol content. The fear of cholesterol has seen been disproven and egg yolks have officially been given the green light. The committee that wife’s the US dietary guidelines, recently revoked the warning on cholesterol, stating that there is “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Eggs are one of the few sources of high levels of choline, which helps prevent fatty triglyceride deposits in the liver and aids in detoxification. They are also high in omega-3 fats, which we know to be essential for heart health. Also tucked away in there are fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are being more and more pointed to as being vital for overall health.
Vitamin A, in particular, is very important for skin and eye health. True vitamin A (retinol) is only found in animal foods and is the primary form used by the human body. The vitamin A we see on the label when we look at carrots and other plant foods is actually beta-carotene or another ‘caratenoid’ form of vitamin A. These plant-based forms can be converted by the body into true Vitamin A (retinoid forms), though not very well. It’s important that we get both forms of Vitamin A from both plant and animal sources as they each offer their own unique benefits. Retuned forms, it should be noted, are especially important for pregnant women, despite the old-school advice that they avoid egg yolks. Grass-fed butter is another excellent source of these fat soluble vitamins.
The type of eggs you buy also matters. Nutrients are highest in products from animals that consume their natural diet. For chickens, that means grasses with bugs and worms. Organic, Pasture-Raised is the gold standard, but opt for organic and cage-free at the very least.
The low-fat diet dogma may be the single most detrimental and damaging thing that has been hoist upon the American Public in recent history. Healthy fats play a major role in good health. Each and every cell in the human body has a structure, the outer layer of which is built of a combination of fatty acids (it’s called the lipid bi-layer). It’s what allows cell walls to be flexible, allowing glucose in for use for energy as well as all for the other minerals, vitamins, and nutrients that need to get in and/or out. Fats, specifically cholesterol-containing saturated ones, are used to build sex hormones, like testosterone and estrogen. It is a wonder that after a generation of low-fat dieters, we’re seeing larger number of infertility in young adults than ever before?
When we avoid natural fats, like that from animals, olives or coconuts, we inherently increase the consumption of commercial vegetable oil and trans fats. These throw off the delicate balance of Omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) and Omega-6 (pro-infammatory) fatty acids and can actually cause damage to the liver and cell walls.
Continuing with digestion, fats are used to create bile which is made by the gallbladder. The release of that bile is triggered by the presence of fat. So, when you don’t eat fat and it’s never signaled to release into the stomach to emulsify that fat, it builds up and gets thick and sludgy. Another catch-22 when we look at what is often recommended for healthy gallbladders. A low fat diet may be one of the most gallbladder damaging routes to take.
Fat is also the bodies source of long-term energy. It helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and control the metabolism of carbohydrates. DHA, a fatty acid found in animal products but highest in wild caught fish, is essential for brain function. I could go on, but I will refer you to this article by the Poliquin Institute for more reasons to consume healthy fats.
Start adding things like grass-fed butter, coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed beef, wild caught fish, and eggs to your daily routine for an easy fix to improve your health.
Give Up Alcohol For 2 Weeks
OK, so this takes a bit more effort than adding eggs and butter to your menu. While alcohol can be included on occasion in a nutrient-dense, health promoting diet, it’s also something that gets in the way of making progress with your health (and losing body fat) in a plethora of ways. It’s the step that, in my opinion, yield the largest return yet is also the thing that folks are most desperate to hang on to.
Drinking alcohol, of any kind, forces your liver to focus only on metabolizing and eliminating the alcohol. This is true wether it’s a low-carb, low-cal, or skinny-girl cocktail. Alcohol is alcohol when it comes to your liver. When you’re liver is busy working on that, it stops doing it’s other jobs until the alcohol is out (this can take up to 72 hours). Namely, detoxification, utilizing body fat for energy, and supporting the immune system.
Eliminating alcohol completely for a minimum of two weeks allows for your body to reset, in a way of speaking. It let’s your liver recovery, allows your body to rehydrate and your immune system to amp up again. Skin looks better, sleep improves, the brain becomes more focused, and the metabolism kicks back into gear. It may be the single most impactful thing you can do to feel better quickly.
Overhauling your health and forming a life based in wellness takes time. It’s a slow process, adding on layer by layer until one day you realize that you’ve totally changed your life! Start by taking little steps, and making small, easy changes. Build a foundation and just keep on adding to it. Today, butter, tomorrow bone broth, and the next day…who knows?