Tag: momblog

How to Beat Brain Fog

Do you ever find yourself in a room with no idea why you were there? Waking up sluggish? Drinking a third cup of coffee and still not feeling like the brain has turned on? That has been me the last few weeks. I have been experiencing some serious brain fog and even though I am certain it is because I am juggling multiple things right now, I need to take control.

If you are not familiar with the term brain fog, it is loss of focus, inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and memory issues. It’s that feeling you have when your brain is “tired” but not at a time that it should be.

Some of the main things that can cause brain fog are stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes. diet, medications, and medical conditions. I am going to stay away from the latter two, as these are things you should be discussing with your doctor. Aging is another one, which is considered a medical condition, but I will touch on that today.

Chronic stress is a biggie. Not only does it wreak havoc on your brain, but it can cause a number of issues affecting the entire body.  It can also lead to lack of sleep and cause hormonal changes – both of which increase brain fog.

Diet is one of the main factors of brain fog. Allergies, food sensitivities, an overload of carbohydrates or sugar can all trigger that foggy feeling.  Vitamin deficiencies, specifically B-12, will give you brain fog as well. And, unfortunately, if you are past the age of 40, you know all too well that you are just not the same cognitively anymore. Years of stress and dietary miscalculations create the perfect recipe for brain fog.

So what can we do? Fortunately there are several things.

Hands down my favorite, Bulletproof Coffee is one. Your brain needs fat to function optimally, and the combination of grass-fed butter and MCT oil give it exactly what it needs. The caffeine gives you a little boost and gets the neurons firing on all cylinders as well. If you want to skip the caffeine, you can make a sugar-free bulletproof hot cocoa with water, a scoop of cacao, grass fed butter, MCT oil and stevia. (I have a recipe if you want it). It also works well with tea. Fat bombs are also a great way to give your brain a quick hit of the fat it needs.

Another way to quickly banish the fog is with B-12. If you are not able or willing to have B-12 shots on hand, you can get a liquid that goes under the tongue. It isn’t quite as effective, but you will still notice the effect. You will feel the fog melt away pretty quickly with this. You can get B-12 injections over the counter in some countries, but in the USA it is prescription only. You can also get them at the local med spa. Liquids are available online and in most health food stores. Quality is key, and remember that you get what you pay for.  I don’t recommend relying on multi-vitamins for B-12, as you don’t absorb much of what is in them. The exception is a live vitamin like Sport Formula.

If you have read anything I have posted, you probably know what is coming next… exercise. Get up from your desk. Take a walk. Run the stairs a few times. Even doing  some stretching at your desk can help stave off that feeling. A morning workout can rid yourself of brain fog for the entire day, and an after work session will banish the stress and anxiety that builds during the day.

And of course, get some sleep. If sleep doesn’t come easily to you, check my bog post on sleep. My current favorite is California Poppy Seed Extract, followed by Brandon Burchard’s Release Meditation. This combination has finally allowed me to stop falling asleep to old television shows and sleep in the dark like a normal human.

As I wrote this I literally took my own advice. It is too late for coffee so I chose a B-12 shot and a fat bomb. Feeling better already!

 

PROMO ALERT!!

Free Kindle downloads this weekend in honor of the audio book release!  You can also get the audio book for free here.

Click on the link under Get the Book to grab your free copy starting tomorrow.

Happy reading!

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Most of my life I struggled with low blood sugar.  I was tested on multiple occasions and everything was functioning properly, so I can only assume that it was because of an undiagnosed eating disorder that led to me not eating right, or just not eating at all at times.

When I started having health issues several years ago, having too much blood sugar never occurred to me. However, after studying insulin resistance for the last month or so, it looks like it is time to consider it as a factor.

What is insulin resistance? In a nutshell, its when your body stops using the insulin it produces. This leads to results in your cells not using blood glucose, which means the means the sugar you ingest stays in your blood. As you can imagine, this is not a good thing. It causes weight gain, lethargy, brain fog, hormonal disruptions, and can lead to type II diabetes.

According to and article in Everyday Health, titled What is Insulin Resistance? Everything You Have Ever Wanted to Know, “insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas, and it plays an important role in metabolism. Your pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream after you eat a meal. Insulin allows sugar in your bloodstream to enter into muscles, cells, and fat.  This hormone is also important because it stops sugar from accumulating in your bloodstream. The more you eat, the more insulin your body releases to regulate your blood sugar and keep it within a healthy range.”

For an explanation of the process, Medical News Today outlines what is known currently as the following  process:

  • “The cells of the body develop a resistance to the effects of insulin.
  • Insulin is essential for the regulation of the glucose circulating in the blood – it induces glucose to be taken up by the cells.
  • Insulin is also the chemical messenger that signals to the liver (which stores glucose), to hold on to its glucose and store it rather than release it into the blood. Glucose is packaged up for storage in the liver in the form of glycogen.
  • Insulin normally maintains a fine energy balance, never allowing the blood glucose level to rise too much for too long.
  • Resistance initially results in the pancreas simply secreting more insulin to maintain safe blood glucose levels and keep high blood sugars at bay.
  • Insulin resistance can eventually be accompanied by persistently higher glucose levels (prediabetes), and then the persistent hyperglycemia of type 2 diabetes; the release of extra insulin cannot be maintained to compensate for the increasing insulin resistance.”

In other words, resistance results in the manufacturing of more and more insulin to keep blood sugar within a normal range, and eventually your pancreas can no longer keep up. This eventually leads to pre-diabetes and finally, diabetes.

Factors that can cause insulin resistance are age, diet that includes excess alcohol, high amounts of sugar, processed foods and dairy, lack of physical activity, and stress.  Family history, steroid use and certain health conditions, such as PCOS, can also contribute to insulin resistance.

Testing for insulin resistance is difficult because while your pancreas is working, it is providing the amount of insulin needed to control the blood sugar, even if it working overtime. Apparently there is no test for the amount of insulin being produced, just the concentration of sugar in your blood.

Insulin resistance can be controlled with diet and lifestyle changes. A low carbohydrate diet combined with regular activity can reduce or reverse the effects of insulin resistance. Intermittent fasting can help regulate blood sugar and aid in controlling insulin resistance.  Lack of sleep, smoking and chronic stress all contribute to insulin resistance. Making lifestyle changes to ensure adequate rest, reducing stress and stopping smoking will also assist in controlling insulin resistance.

And yes, diet and lifestyle changes means cutting out foods that contain sugar or convert to sugar. 

The effects of insulin resistance sounds like my laundry list of issues that caused me to start biohacking. Due to an eating disorder outlined in my book (restriction of foods to an extreme level that left little on the menu, healthy or not) I certainly had the diet issues. Once I added chronic and extreme stress, my body broke down.  I was extremely lethargic, I gained weight rapidly despite restricting calories to an unhealthy level, I couldn’t think straight and couldn’t recall basic words and my memory was non-existent.  I also felt like what I was experiencing mimicked a metabolic condition – all of which is what insulin resistance can do. 

During all my blood work, I was tested for diabetes and my blood sugar levels were found to be in the normal range. However, I think this bears more investigation and perhaps more testing. Definitely more experimenting with Intermittent Fasting, the Keto Diet and things yet to be discovered. 

If you want more information on insulin resistance, there is a great article from NIH (National Institute of Health) that you can find here.

Check back in for updates as I biohack this. Let’s see what we find out!

 

 

Favorite Biohack #10 – Coconut Oil

Am I beating a dead horse with this one? Yes. I can’t say enough about coconut oil. I covered it under MCT oils, Bulletproof coffee, and in a host of other places and posts. However, there is a reason. This stuff is amazing.  I use it as lotion, to remove eye makeup, on my hair after blow drying, on my dog’s skin, and for hiding dog pills.  I also cook with it (food grade) and use it in fat bombs. In a pinch, it will go in coffee as a substitute for MCT oil if I am out.

Other using include oil pulling, which removes toxins, whitens teeth and freshens breath, to kill lice when combined with apple cider vinegar, to clean and moisturize makeup brushes, a body/lip scrub, a massage oil, eyelash growth serum, cold sore treatment, to reduce indigestion, and a chest rub when combined with eucalyptus oil.

I started using coconut oil in 2008 as a moisturizer. I had to use something all-natural for a few weeks on doctor orders, and never went back to traditional lotions again. I liked the smell and the way my skin reacted (or didn’t react, is more like it) so much that I haven’t used traditional moisturizer since that time.  Not only does it moisturize well, the antibacterial properties help heal small cuts and scrapes quickly and without scarring.

It also aids the treatment of minor  skin problems, such as psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema, (fortunately I have no experience with these) and helps to delay the appearance of wrinkles. The is the result of its antioxidant properties. and is part of the reason coconut oil is often included in soaps, lotions and creams.

However, I prefer the raw form.  I use Parachute, which is pure coconut oil. It is somewhat greasy and will ruin clothing if you use too much, so beware, but the moisturizing properties and healing effects far outweigh the occasional clothing mishap. My teenage daughter adopted it  about a year ago and now refuses to use anything else on her skin.  Even my husband will use it on occasion.

I have previously covered the benefits of MCTs on weight loss and energy (see Favorite Biohack #1, Bulletproof Coffee), so I won’t go into detail on that again, but do not forget those benefits. They are important ones when you hit midlife.

Also don’t forget that it can help fight and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. There is an NIH sponsored study on this ongoing. Results are pending, but you can check it out here if you would like more information on the study, or read this article from a few years ago for more detailed information on a previous study.

Still think I am off my rocker? For a review of the top 77 uses for coconut oil, some of which I have listed already, view this article from Dr. Josh Axe. He isn’t off his rocker.

What are you thoughts in this? Do you use coconut oil? If so, for what?

 

 

 

 

Favorite Biohack #9 – External Testosterone Cream

Another disclosure on this one:  Consult your physician before using this.  This is my experience based on my particular situation and it may be different for you.

Back when I was trying to figure out what was “wrong” with me, I had a full panel of lab work done and in doing so, discovered that I was not producing anywhere near the acceptable level of testosterone.  Because my health insurer decided I didn’t need the prescribed medication regardless of what my doctor said, I turned to biohacking.

Enter testosterone cream. I tried a few before settling on the one I use now (click here for the details) from BioLabs Pro. I like this one because its not greasy and absorbs well, so it easily fits into my post-shower ritual.

I noticed a huge difference in my attitude using this. For example, I stopped crying over EVERYTHING, which was really annoying. I gained my normal edge back, and a little more bravado as well.  (I did manipulate this when I discovered I don’t like going over obstacles during Spartan training. A little more cream and over I went with no problem. I don’t condone this, fyi. It worked, but probably not the best idea I have ever had.)  I would like to say I put on more muscle using this, but it could also be from increased weight training. I would also like to say I was leaner (before getting sick) but that may also have been due to the increase in workout intensity.

You will deal with some acne while adjusting to this, as it is a hormone, but it went away after a few months. The annoyance factor of that was offset by my skin healing faster.  I also noticed a need for stronger deodorant. That did not go away. Be prepared!

There are also some nasty side effects to testosterone supplementation, such as an increased risk of cancer. and some lesser ones like increased hair growth,  changes in sleep and appetite, and headaches. (For the full list from the Mayo Clinic, click here.) Definitely get your lab work done before taking this on because if you don’t need it, it may not be worth the risks.

Small annoyances aside, I feel better overall when I use this cream. I simply function better.  To me, it is worth trying just for that.

*image from BioLabs Pro site

Favorite Biohack #8 – Exercise

Let me start by saying that my daughter says I should have moved to this number one.  Apparently I am crazy and obsessive about exercise. This from a teen who thinks exercise is getting up to go to the kitchen…but I digress.

I am not going to beat a dead horse and tell you exercise is important. You know it is. What I am going to tell you is why its one of my favorite biohacks.

Exercise a biohack because it is a fast, easy, and proven way to change how you feel immediately, and it changes both the way your body functions and your body composition based on the effort you put in.  In other words, you are doing something that makes your body act in a certain way.

I work out five mornings a week and rest two. I work out in the morning because it gives me endorphins, and that means I start every day with my stress worked out, endorphins flowing and feeling energized  Plus it is done, so I don’t have to think about it for the rest of the day, worrying about when I will get to it and thus adding stress.

My regular daily workout is P90X3. I do it at home because it works with my schedule, and I enjoy it. Enjoying your workout is key – you are not going to do what you hate. I found something I like so I actually look forward to it. Most days, anyway – I am not superhuman and some days it takes a bit to get me off the sofa.  However, it is a lot easier to get off the sofa for something you enjoy.  I like being at home because I do it when I want and I don’t have to sit in traffic, deal with the locker room, wait around for equipment or a class time, or deal with the gym hours. All of that would be a source of stress for me, and that negates the point of a stress reliever!

When I exercise, I feel better about myself. I am still struggling with the hormonal issues that made me start biohacking, so when something happens (like being sick for two months, which just happened) I still gain weight. However, as soon as I am able to I am back to the workouts, and even though I still have some weight to work off from this last round of illness, I feel like I am doing something about it. I do not like the feeling of being helpless and if I didn’t work out, I would feel like my physical condition is out of my control. I also feel stronger and able to do more.  For my crazy life I need to be able to do more, and this is my key to making sure I can keep up with myself.

We all know cardiovascular health increases with exercise, so I will only say that I think its nice to be able to go up a flight of stairs and not be winded.

Exercise increases BDNF, an important factor in memory, focus and overall cognitive function. If you would like a more scientific explanation of that, please refer to this article from the Harvard Health Blog from the Harvard School of Medicine.  For this blog, suffice it to say that it clears the brain fog that we can feel from a number of different factors. It is amazing what you can accomplish without brain fog and with increased focus.

I touched on the stress relief factor, but it bears mentioning again. Exercise can reduce the damaging effects of stress by reducing stress, but also by increasing your ability to deal with stress. It increases the cheicals in your brain that are responsible for mood regulation and calm, and it promotes cellular rejuvenation, which helps your body defend against and repair the damage that stress does to your systems.

The benefits of exercise go far beyond just losing weight. If you already exercise regularly, awesome! If not, just try it. Find a class or an activity that works for you, give it a week or two and see what happens. See how you feel. Then let me know!

 

P.S. I am in the photo above –  this was my first time doing Acroyoga at SunSpark Yoga. If you haven’t done this, do it. Its a lot of fun!

Favorite Biohack #4 – Exogenous Ketones

Exe-what?? That is what I said when I first heard the term exogenous ketones. Had it not been from someone I trusted (the almighty Tim Ferriss, who you can find here) I probably would have thought it was something made up and overlooked it. However, when Tim says try something, I have learned to try it – with some exceptions, of course – and now it makes my list of top hacks.

Exogenous ketones are BHB (beta-hydroxybutyrate) salts. Ketones are produced naturally and used for energy by your body when fasting or when carbohydrates are restricted. They are referred to as energy on demand, and in my experience, that is exactly what occurs. Ketones are easily accessible to the brain, more so than glucose, so when in a state of ketosis or taking ketones, the brain also has a ready supply of fuel. This adds to clarity and focus, and often enhances mood as well.

Exogenous ketones are essentially packaged ketones that are ready for you to take when needed. Common uses are before a workout, to extend a fast, to provide instant energy and focus if you are in an afternoon slump, to get back into ketosis after consuming sugar, or added to your morning coffee.

There are powders, liquids, bars, drinks, creamers…whatever tickles your fancy, there is a way to get your ketones. I started with a liquid that tasted like sea water and looked like…well,I probably should not say what it looked like but let’s just say it was not my favorite presentation. I tried disguising the taste in all sorts of concoctions and finally decided to just down it.  The result was worth a moment of sea water and besides, who hasn’t drank sea water on multiple occasions without getting the energy and focus afterward. I tried a few different types of powders, coffees and creams after that and finally settled on my favorite, Keto/OS from Pruvit. It is combined with powdered MCTs and the jolt of energy, mood enhancement and focused mind that I get is worth dealing with its odd taste. (You stop noticing the weird taste after a while, I promise.) I have the caffeinated version for mornings, the non-caffeinated version for any other time of the day, and the Kreme for midday hot cocoa (Keto Hot Cocoa – half a mug of water, half heavy cream, a heaping scoop of cacao, and a packet of Kreme. Tasty and good for you too!).

When I am asked about ketones by someone for the first time, I often recommend KetoForce’s Keto Sports liquid, which you can find by clicking this link. It is a good entry into what exogenous ketones can do for you without some of the interesting side effects of the more powerful ones (also known as disaster pants – see the Bulletproof blog here for an explanation of that.)  It is what I started on as well.

If you are ready to go straight to the top (in my opinion, at least) you can find Keto/OS or other Pruvit products through my affiliate link here or by going to their website.

I am not joking when I say this is energy on demand. I wish I had known about this when my daughter was little, and wish more people knew about it now. We don’t have to be tired all the time, we just need exogenous ketones!

Let me know if you have questions, and if you have tried them,  what your experience has been with exogenous ketones.

Favorite Biohack #3 – Intermittent Fasting

After being a slave to my blood sugar for years, I knew fasting wouldn’t work for me. I tried those juice fasts everyone did back in the day, and I was ready to kill someone on day 2, so that was it for me. I was NOT trying it again, I didn’t care who said what.  Enter a hormonal imbalance and a hefty tire around the middle, and suddenly I was a little more open-minded.

I was all in for the low carb diet and even adding fat back into my diet. My energy skyrocketed when I did that, and the pounds melted off, until that dreaded last ten pounds.  Reluctantly, I agreed to try Intermittent Fasting for a few days, mostly because my mentor promised I would see a benefit and I wanted to prove him wrong so he would stop hounding me about it.

The theory behind intermittent fasting, also known as IF, is that it forces your body to use its stored fat instead of having a steady supply of food to use. By restricting calories to certain intervals, it prompts your body to release Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and insulin, both of which are the primary hormones that cause release of fat stores. Insulin also regulates blood sugar, and when properly released into your system, you can use your stored fat for energy instead of crashing.

I decide to go for a 16 hour fast because that apparently has the best benefit. I thought I was going to die at about hour 12. I was used to getting up, having bulletproof coffee and working out, followed by breakfast. But on this morning I watched the sunrise over black coffee, worked out fasted and was then flat on the floor until hour 16. Keep going, my mentor said. I was promised it would be worth it and that it would take a few days to adapt.

It took three days to adapt. Those three days were rough, I have to admit. On day three, I limped through my workout, made it to hour 16 and gulped down a bulletproof coffee, and then it hit me. I had more energy than I knew what to do with. My brain was firing on all cylinders and then some. I was insanely happy. A new day had dawned for me, and I was officially in.

So much for proving my mentor wrong. It was looking like I was going to have to tell him he was right.

I kept it going to for a few weeks, during which time I was so energetic and happy I could barely stand myself. I even had someone tell me I was too happy and needed to be brought down, because no one wants to be around that. (To that I said ‘Fine!’ and walked away. If I am too happy for you, that is your issue, not mine.) My waistline decreased noticeably, and so did my appetite. It all but went away and I would forget to eat. Who forgets to eat!

I still wasn’t entirely convinced for some odd reason, so I let the fasting go when I went away for a weekend. I noticed an immediate change in energy and mood. When I returned I went back to it, and BAM! Back to being happy.

Ok, I said to myself, this is the real deal. I played with timing, anywhere from 12-16 hr fasts, even going as high as 26 hours on a couple of occasions.  I have found 16 hours to be my sweet spot, when I get the most impact on energy, appetite and mood.

Unfortunately, as I write this I am just coming off a lengthy illness, during which time both the keto diet and IF fell off for me. My mid-section can tell, so I am getting back into both again and it feels amazing to be doing so. I graduated into 16 hours of fasting this time, so I didn’t feel like I was ten seconds from a murderous spree. It took about a week and I am back to 16 hour fasts and back to feeling the way I like to.

If you are interested in trying IF, graduating into it is a good way to do it. Start with 12-14 hours, whatever you can handle, and work up from there. Before long you will start to notice changes in your  appetite and it will feel natural to go longer and longer. Once you have experienced the elevation in energy and mood, you will want to keep going. Experiment with different fasting and feeding periods to find what works for you.  A 9am – 5pm feeding period works for me, and fasting overnight. (I do take exogenous ketones pre-workout to give me enough energy to get through a strenuous workout; watch for the blog post on that.) You can vary your fasting/eating times to tailor it to your schedule.

Don’t believe me yet? Here are a few resources for you to do your own research.

Here is a Google search of people who have had success with IF.

Here  is a post on LifeHack, a biohacking website.

Here is an article from Healthline Magazine.

Here is a post from Diet Doctor.

As with anything I post about, I recommend you do your own research. If you decide to try it, let me know what you think. I would love to see you on one of the above searches as a success story!

 

 

 

Favorite Biohack #2 – The Keto Diet

Endless lettuce, always tired, perpetually starving and uncontrollable grouchiness is what dieting means to most people. Sounds like heaven, said no one, ever. With the keto diet, there is a better way.

I have been low-carb for as long as I can remember. Going back to the late 90s, when Jennifer Aniston became the new It girl and was on the Zone Diet, she introduced us all  to a diet of lean protein, fruits and veggies with no processed carbohydrates or diary. I figured out then that I felt better without carbs, and had been doing some modification of that formula until I discovered the keto diet.

If you read my book, you know that I wasn’t just low carb. I was also low sugar (limited fruit) and low-fat (no dairy), which didn’t leave much out there for me to consume. I was addicted to anything that claimed it was low fat and low sugar, and stuck in a never-ending cycle of eating what I thought was right, starving, binge eating carbs because I needed energy, and feeling bad about myself for doing it. It’s no wonder I was grouchy and a slave to my blood sugar.  All that changed when I found ketones, and shortly thereafter the keto diet.

In a nutshell, the keto diet is an ultra  low-carb diet that limits all foods that contain sugar or convert to sugar. However, you eat healthy fats, so your body still has something for fuel. I eat bacon, olive and coconut oil, nuts, cheese, red meat, and even red wine in moderation.  I don’t eat pasta, potatoes, rice, or any other grains. I must admit that I will cheat with the occasional sweet potato. I love those. Aside from that, I don’t really miss any of it. I am happy, energetic and satiated. All the time. Not many people on a “diet” are able to say that.

Am I super skinny? No. I never will be, I am not built that way. What I am is in decent shape, strong and happy. That works for me. I also don’t feel like I am on a diet. I eat this way because I choose to, because it is what feel right for me. It is what fuels me and allows me to do what I do without diet pills, stimulants or other “miracle” pills.

The science behind the keto diet is strong and compelling. Unfortunately, so is the army of uninformed that are against it. In my opinion, those against it fail to understand that different diets work for different people, based on each person’s makeup and circumstances. That aside, lets talk about what the science has found in support of keto.

The name keto comes from ketones, which is a what your body produces when food or carbohydrates are restricted for an extended period. Put simply, ketones are what happen when the body converts your stored fat to a fuel that your body can use.

When in a state of ketosis (producing ketones), your body will use stored fat as its fuel. This helps with weight loss and energy.  It also helps with memory and focus, because your brain uses this same fat for its fuel. With a steady supply of healthy fat and ketones, your brain is never lacking in what it needs to function, so you don’t feel brain fog, scattered or like you just can’t think straight. (Not from food, at least. Life still happens.) With a constant source of usable energy, you don’t get blood sugar dips accompanied by grouchiness and tiredness.

The science is best explained by those who do it for a living, so I will defer to Dr. Josh Axe, who explains the principles behind the keto diet and why it works here, and the Ketogenic Bible by Dr. Jacob Wilson and Ryan Lowery. There is more information in this book than you can imagine, and it runs the gamut from how to do the diet to its potential effects on diabetes and cancer. It’s definitely worth a read.

If you aren’t up for a big book, check out the podcast Keto for Normies at ketoconnect.libsyn.com.

You can can also follow some keto and fitness rockstars like Dominic D’Agostino, Joe Rogan or Ben Greenfield on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

For an easy to follow guide, check out the Diet Doctor website, which you can find here:  https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto. You will find tips, tricks, recipes, and a great explanation of how and why the keto diet works.

I could go on about keto all day (which apparently I do, and I am often told to pipe down at home) so I will stop here. If you would like more information on this subject, check out the people above, or just let me know. I am happy to expound. My family will be happy that I have someone else to talk about it with too.