Simple Ways to Avoid a C-Section: Holistic Pregnancy Tele-Summit Call with Dr. Stacey Rosenberg

We’re off to a great start so far with the Holistic Pregnancy Tele-Summit! This evening is our 2nd call in the series: “Simple Ways to Avoid a C-Section” with our resident expert Dr. Stacey Rosenberg D.C., chiropractor and author of Natural Pregnancy, Natural Baby.

I was impressed by the depth of knowledge that Stacey has when it comes to having a healthier pregnancy and safer, more efficient childbirth. As both a chiropractor that specializes in pre-natal chiropractic care and a mother of two, she has more than one perspective on this subject!

We’ve set an intention for tonight’s call:  Help you understand how the physical changes during pregnancy can lead to situations that require a C-Section and simple holistic ways to address them to minimize the likelihood that you will need one.

Tonight we’ll be talking about:

  • Some of the major physical changes and common spinal issues that can weaken you during pregnancy and lead to problems during childbirth
  • The role that chiropractic care can play in helping you enjoy a healthier pregnancy and a safer childbirth
  • Knowing when a C-Section is really necessary and how to minimize the likelihood of having one
  • Simple but specific exercises you can do to naturally move your baby out of a breech position (one of the main conditions that lead to needing a C-section!) if it happens to you.

We’re going LIVE at 5PM Pacific/8PM Eastern. There’s still time to register and get onto this call. If this subject interests you then please register now. Even if you can’t make it to tonight’s call you can still access the audio replay up until midnight pacific time on Saturday, May.

Your Best Birth: Are You Ready? Recap of Holistic Pregnancy Tele-Summit Kickoff Call

Wow! What a great way to kickoff the Holistic Pregnancy Tele-Summit series! Last night’s call rocked! I loved hearing from all of the participants. I’m so inspired by their interest and desire to empower themselves with knowledge and choices that support them in having their ideal birth.

Here’s a quick recap and my “Cliff Notes” in case you weren’t able to join us last night  . . .

Are You Ready for Your Best Birth?” 5/21/13 Training Call with Stephanie Dawn

  1. Labor is like the waves of the ocean and you, the laboring Mama, are the surfer. If you run from the wave it can clobber you. Such is the power of the ocean. Such is the power of birth. If you breathe deeply and really become one with the wave, you surf! One of the ways you can overcome your fears around giving birth is to open up to the powerful energy of giving birth. It’s resistance to this power that makes it scary and difficult!
  2. Asking the right questions will help you select the best practitioners for your Sacred Birth Team. Choose those who share your consciousness so they can truly support you in achieving your vision for an ideal birth. For example, you may want to ask your OB/GYN what her/his rates are for C-Sections and episiotomy. If they are high then you may want to consider working with one who doesn’t rely so heavily on this method of delivery. If you want to include a mid-wife or doula on your team you should also quiz your OB/GYN to glean their general attitude towards midwives and doulas.
  3. Have a written Sacred Birth Plan that details how you want your birth process to unfold to ensure you have the birth experience you desire –especially if you opt for a hospital birth. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or long. Just a one-page plan outlining what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to you during the birth process and anything or anyone else you feel you need to have present. This is one of the ways you can make your hospital birth more like a home birth. And just the act of putting all this stuff down on paper can help you get really lclear on your vision of what constitutes an ideal birth for you!But remember, unexpected developments can alter the best-laid plans, so be flexible but stay in control of your journey!

There’s still time to register and access the audio replay for this call which includes instructions on how to claim your FREE copy of Stephanie’s book: The Sacred Birth Workbook and it also includes the BONUS session we did during the “after party” for participants who stayed on the line with us. Stephanie guided us through a powerful visioning exercise to help participants create a vision for their ideal birth.

If you’re pregnant now, are planning to become pregnant, work with pregnant women and want to better support them through this journey, or know anyone who fits any of these criteria, please share this with them and encourage them to register at: http://www.dropwise.info.

The Holistic Pregnancy Tele-Summit Kick-Off Call with Stephanie Dawn

I’m excited to announce that our Holistic Pregnancy Tele-Summit starts TODAY at 5PM Pacific/8PM Eastern. Our topic for tonight’s session is “Your Best Birth: Are You Really Ready?” and our speaker and resident expert, is Stephanie Dawn. I invited Stephanie to kick-off our tele-summit because I think the work she is doing to expand consciousness and empowerment around giving birth –especially from a spiritual perspective– is so important. I just know she will inspire us with her message and empower our Tele-Summit participants what she’s going to share with us tonight.

Together, she and I have set an intention for tonight’s session: To provide our participants with tools and guidance to help them stay centered throughout pregnancy and create an environment that supports them in having their ideal birth.

Stephanie is a super cool lady who has done a lot to support expectant parents in creating a “conscious” birth and train birthing professionals to do the same with their clients. She is an Agape Licensed Spiritual Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in the healing arts, and over 9 years of offering support around pregnancy and birth as a spiritual path for expectant parents.

Stephanie is the creator of Sacred Birth Work, a teaching she offers to birth professionals around the world through her Sacred Birth Mentor Program.

She is also the author of The Sacred Birth Workbook –a step-by-step method of transmuting fear, creating confidence, engaging in excellent self-care practices, fostering understanding of the importance of pleasure and birth, and creating a heightened awareness of the transformative landscape of birth.

Tonight we’ll be talking about:

  • What it means to have a Sacred Birth and why it matters
  • Creating your Sacred Birth Team –who should be on it and what to ask when deciding
  • Getting a Sacred Birth Plan together to support you in having your ideal birth
  • Spiritual tools and secrets to overcome your fear before it overcomes you

Make sure you stick around to the end of the call to find out how you can get Stephanie’s generous gift AND her surprise BONUS for tonight’s participants!

There’s still time to register and get onto this call. If this subject interests you then please register now. Even if you can’t make it to tonight’s call you can still access the audio replay up until midnight pacific time on Thursday, May 23rd –which coincidentally, is the date of the 2nd call in our Holistic Pregnancy Tele-Summit series.

Dropwise to Host Free Holistic Pregnancy Tele-Summit May 21st-June 6th 2013

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from blogging since the end of 2012 as I’ve been super busy since the beginning of the year putting together an exciting new virtual event —The Holistic Pregnancy Tele-Summit: A Celebration of New & Vibrant Life.

Holistic Pregnancy Tele-SummitThis is a ground-breaking FREE tele-seminar series that brings together some of the foremost experts in natural self-care and childbirth to address the #1 fear most pregnant women have and reveal the secrets to delivering healthier, happier babies. This event is FREE for participants and consists of a series of 6 ground-breaking tele-calls (also accessible via the Web) delivered over the span of 3 weeks. I’ll be interviewing some of the foremost experts in natural childbirth to uncover the secrets for delivering healthier and happier babies. I’ll also be giving a presentation myself titled “How to Look and Feel Your Best Without Compromising Your Baby’s Health.”

The purpose of these calls is to help women better understand their childbirth options; teach them how to overcome the stress and fears common to pregnancy; transform their birth experience from one of fear and pain to one of joy and ecstasy; and transition into or embrace a holistic lifestyle prior to childbirth and beyond.

It starts next Tuesday, May 21st and runs through June 6th. If you or someone you know is pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or works with pregnant women then please share this link with them now: http://www.dropwise.info. This is where they can get all the details and register. Registration will remain open though 3PM June 6th (the date of our last call). Participants will have access to audio replays for a limited time after each call –in case they can’t make it to a particular call, but they have to register to get the details.

I’m really excited about this event. I’ve got some great speakers lined up and I’ll be posting more about them and the event in the coming days!

Smart Bombs and Tea Leaves: The Future of Breast Cancer Treatment

self breast examOctober is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In the breast cancer world there’s always a lot of talk about “finding the cure.” I don’t know that it’s possible to find a cure for any type of cancer. I think that addressing cancer has to consist of a two-pronged approach: 1) Focusing on the causes so we can effectively engage in prevention and 2) Finding better (i.e. more effective and less devastating) treatment options for those who already have it. I firmly believe that prevention is the best long-term solution for significantly reducing the incidence of breast cancer (or any other type of cancer for that matter) and developing better tools and technology for early detection are also critical. There are many things we can do to lower our risk of developing cancer, but at the end of the day, if we’re not so lucky, having a wider range or treatment options would make a difficult situation a whole lot better and improve our odds of survival.

Despite all of the support and funding for breast cancer research and the advances in treatment achieved over the past 20 years, women diagnosed with breast cancer today still have limited and often devastating options for treatment. Depending on the type of breast cancer and the stage that it’s diagnosed at, women basically have three options: surgery to remove part or all of the breast, chemotherapy, or radiation –or some combination of these.

If you or someone you know has suffered through breast cancer treatment, then you know how hard it is on both the body and the mind. But there is a glimmer of hope that more and better treatment options are on the horizon. A number of recently concluded studies reveal new treatments for breast cancer with promising results.

The first study, sponsored by Genentech, tested a new treatment that targets and kills breast cancer cells while leaving healthy cells undamaged. Nearly 1,000 women with advanced breast cancer took part in the study, and according to researchers, the treatment stopped the progression of breast cancer for several months. This form of highly targeted treatment also appears to improve survival rates. Compared to another group who were given standard cancer treatment drugs, 20 percent more of the women involved in this study were still alive after two years.

This new treatment, called the T-DM1, is being dubbed “smart bomb” by researchers. Researchers combined Herceptin (the first gene-targeted therapy for breast cancer) with a chemotherapy that is normally too toxic to give on its own and another chemical that keeps the two substances bonded together until they reach a cancer cell. Once the cancer-killing cocktail comes in contact with a cancer cell, it releases the toxin to kill just the cancer cell.

The researchers in this study are confident that this double weapon will not be as damaging to the body as current treatments for breast cancer. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, an OB/Gyn and former medical correspondent for CBS News explains it like this: “Think of it like a heat-seeking missile with a nuclear warhead. So it travels around the body, does no damage until it meets the cancer, and then it deploys a massively toxic dose that wipes out [just] the cancer.”

While some of the women on T-DM1 showed signs of minor liver damage and low levels of blood clotting agents, most did not experience the usual problems of chemotherapy. The study’s leader, Dr. Kimberly Blackwell of Duke University added: “People don’t lose their hair, they don’t throw up. They don’t need nausea medicines, they don’t need transfusions.” You can view the ABC News story on this here.

Another study in England took a look at a more natural treatment approach for breast cancer. Scientists at Aston University in Birmingham and Russells Hall Hospital in Dudely examined the effects of a plant extract on cancer cells. The plant is called Virgin’s Mantle (Fagonia cretica) and it grows in the desert regions of Pakistan, India, Africa, and parts of Europe. It was chosen as the focus for this study because virgin’s mantle extracts are used to make medicinal tea in some of these places. In fact, a small hospital in Pakistan began using the herbal tea 40 years ago to treat breast cancer patients.

Though the treatment has long been regarded as folklore or placebo, the study found surprising results when the plant extract was combined with cancer cells in a lab. Tests showed that the extract stopped the growth of cancer cells within five hours and killed them off within twenty-four hours. Not surprisingly, women who take the tea report that there are no serious side effects –like those that result from conventional chemotherapy.

What causes the plant extract to be so effective? According to the researchers, the extract has a unique mechanism that can fix defects in the cell DNA that normally prevent tumor growth. When DNA is not properly functioning, cancer can flourish and even the effects of treatments such as chemo are less effective.

Researchers are quick to note that more research is needed to demonstrate if the plant extract is as effective at killing cancer in the body as it is in the lab and how it can be used to develop a new treatment drug.

 

Copyright 2009-2012 Dropwise Essentials

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Donya Fahmy, is a green business owner and the creator of Dropwise Essentials’ spa-quality aromatherapy body products that help you safely relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or simply manage your emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. For more free tips and valuable information visit www.dropwise.com and subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News Ezine or blog feed.

There’s A Lot Of Room For Improvement In Early Breast Cancer Detection

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything on the subject so it seems like a good idea to re-visit it. If you’ve been following my posts here or are a subscriber of our Health & Beauty News ezine and have been reading it for some time you know that when it comes to cancer –which is often though not always, the end result of a prolonged state of imbalance or “dis-ease” in the body– I’m a passionate advocate for prevention.

We now know a hell of a lot more about the role of food and nutrition in preventing disease and the role that antioxidant-rich foods and nutrients play in protecting us from cancer. At the same time, there’s been a growing movement to create awareness and educate about the role of repeated toxic exposure in promoting the development of cancer –thanks in large part to the work of the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. But there’s still a lot of work to be done in this critical area.

When it comes to breast cancer, there’s also a lot of room for improvement in the area of early and accurate detection. Thinking about some of my friends and loved ones who have faced (and thankfully survived) breast cancer, I wish that there had been better ways to detect the cancer much earlier so as to open the door to more treatment options with less devastating consequences. As I learned a couple of years ago while researching this subject, by the time a cancer tumor or growth is large enough to be detected by a mammogram, it has already been developing in the body for 7 or 8 years!!

I used to believe that until this aspect of breast cancer was drastically improved, women who are diagnosed would continue to be faced with limited and far less than ideal treatment options. But at last, there’s some good news to share on this! Some recently concluded studies are revealing promising new treatment approaches that, if they pan out, will at least offer some kinder, gentler treatment options. Stay tuned as I will share some of the results of these studies in an upcoming blog post.

Got a Blank Space Where My Mind Should Be: Can Aromatherapy Cure Memory Loss?

Some people are fond of saying that our memory is the first thing to go as we age. The conventional wisdom is that as we age, our memory inevitably gets worse. We just have to accept things like not remembering where we parked the car or forgetting a new person’s name within seconds of meeting them, as unavoidable signs of aging.

While most people will experience a decline in memory as they get older, there are some simple, natural things you can do give your brain a little “tune up” from time to time when you need some help remembering things. A number of recent studies have demonstrated that aromatherapy can stimulate positive significant change in all of the functions of the brain, from increasing mental focus to making people more likely to remember things.

One study conducted by the University of Northumbria in the UK observed the effects that different scents had on memory and mood. The study found that subjects who inhaled a peppermint aroma performed better on memory tests than subjects who inhaled a ylang ylang aroma, while those who were given the ylang ylang reported being calmer than the group that had received the peppermint. That’s because peppermint is one of the most well known aromatic stimulants. Now we know that in addition to its cooling, analgesic, and digestive properties, it can be used to improve mental performance too!

An earlier study conducted by the same University in 2003 used a different set of essential oils in order to measure their impact on memory and concentration. In this initial study, scientists had subjects work in rooms that were filled with either rosemary or lavender aromas. While both scents made subjects think longer about their answers to their memory test, those under the influence of lavender got more answers wrong. By contrast, those who were in the room filled with rosemary gave significantly more detailed and higher quality responses to their memory test questions.

This research clearly reveals some of the interesting and important benefits of using aromatherapy to aid in the area of memory and concentration, but even more astounding are the results of a recent study in Japan that measured the effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Japanese study examined the curative effects of aromatherapy on the behavior and cognitive function of 28 elderly patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The subjects received aromatherapy treatments twice a day for a full month. Rosemary and lemon essential oils were used in the morning treatments while lavender and orange essential oils were used in the evening treatments. They were given three different tests to evaluate how well they functioned both before and after the thirty day period. At the end of the month-long study, patients “showed significant improvement in personal orientation related to cognitive function,” and no side effects associated with the use of aromatherapy were noted.

Impressive as these results are, they are not as surprising as they may seem. The link between scent and memory is well-known, and has been for centuries. The parts of the brain that are associated with memory and feeling are all part of the limbic system, as is the olfactory bulb (the area of the brain that processes scent). Because of it’s position in the brain, the olfactory bulb has easy access to the hippocampus, which is responsible for creating long-term memories, and the amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain.

What researchers concluded from these studies is that aromatherapy stimulates the creation of new cells in the memory center of the brain. The creation of these new cells improves the higher functions of the brain, such as memory recall and abstract thinking.

So how can you use aromatherapy to benefit your own mind? There are a number of different scents you can use to boost your brainpower, and a variety of ways to use them. Your best choice would be the essential oils used in these studies that generated the greatest results like peppermint, rosemary, and lemon. The best time to use them is right before you need to focus on something, like at the start of your work day, or right before you do something that you want to remember well, like the beginning of a study session or lesson or even at the start of a movie if you have trouble remembering scenes.

If you have any of these essential oils on hand, you can mix 70-75 drops of one (or a blend) of the oils with 3 oz (or 80 ML) of purified water inside of a spray mister bottle (a 3% dilution). Shake the bottle to make sure the oils are evenly mixed then spray in the air and inhale deeply whenever you need to. For faster and more direct results you can inhale the essential oil or blend (undiluted) directly from the bottle. If you are blending oils be sure to place the oils into a dark glass bottle, and don’t overdo or over-use this method as it can sometimes result in the opposite effect of the intended or desired result.

Some of these scents can be obtained directly from the natural ingredients themselves only in a much less concentrated form. For example, you can grow fresh mint in your garden, kitchen, or on your desk and use it to make tea or crush some leaves to release their scent. Or you can throw the peel and rinds of some oranges, lemons, and/or limes into your garbage disposer and run it for a few seconds to grind the fruit and release it’s natural scent.

Copyright 2009-2012 Dropwise Essentials

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Donya Fahmy, is a green business owner and the creator of Dropwise Essentials’ spa-quality aromatherapy body products that help you safely relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or simply manage your emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. For more free tips and valuable information visit www.dropwise.com and subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News Ezine or blog feed.

Curb Your Cravings and Get Off the Sugar Treadmill for Some “Sweet” Relief

Are you aware of the effect sugar has on the way you feel everyday? Is the short-lived euphoria you experience when eating a sweet treat followed by feelings of depression, crankiness or even mental fog? Do you find yourself reaching for another snack or sweet to counteract those feelings or just to feel better? If you answered yes, then you are probably a true sugar addict. How can you know for sure?

People with a “sweet tooth” report many of the same common symptoms that all addicts have: increased consumption of the substance over a short period of time, withdrawal symptoms when it is denied, and regular intense cravings for it. Apparently, sugary treats stimulate the brain’s reward center in the same way that alcohol and drugs do, by sparking the release of the pleasure chemical dopamine.

While sugar does give you a temporary lift, over the long haul it can cause major damage through repeated stress on the body and its systems, which is accelerated in addicts. If you’re not a sugar addict, your body can easily handle isolated doses of sugar and the temporary insulin spikes and other reactions they can trigger. We’ve all had this experience in some form or another. The afternoon rolls around and you’re feeling a little sluggish or even hungry, so you reach for a candy bar or other sugar-laden snack to give you a little boost. Shortly after, you start to feel tired again and even a little cranky or depressed. If you had a cup of coffee with that snack, then the effects can become even more magnified and you start to feel like you’re having a mild anxiety attack –-heart palpitations, nervousness, or an upset stomach. Ironically, most people never grasp the connection between these feelings and the sugar they consumed that triggered them.

Each spike in our sugar consumption generates a correlated spike in insulin and a subsequent nosedive in our blood sugar. Every time this happens our adrenal glands respond by releasing anti-stress hormones, which in turn release the sugar that is stored in our liver for emergencies to restore balance.  Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Unfortunately, most sugar addicts unwittingly repeat this pattern over and over until the roller coaster ride eventually wears out all their organs (including the pancreas) –leaving them in a weakened state where they are unable to fight disease or other stresses.

If you’re on the sugar treadmill, it should come as no surprise when you feel run down in spite of getting a good night’s sleep, or if you’ve become more susceptible to colds and flu, or when you become prone to general malaise. With all your anti-stress hormones being usurped to balance out your blood sugar spikes, there isn’t much left to help you stay on an even keel. In that state, a lack of food can put you into a tailspin.

So how can you take control of your cravings and get off the sugar treadmill? Here are some tips that may help:

  1. Identify Your Triggers. Know what situations or circumstances typically lead you to consume unnecessary or excess sugar and develop strategies to avoid them or consciously work around them. For example, if you feel pressured to have dessert at a dinner party or restaurant gathering, tell people that you’re “pre-diabetic” and have to carefully watch your sugar intake or you’ll develop full-blown diabetes. It’s highly unlikely that anyone will argue with that!
  2. Plan Ahead & Stock Healthy Foods. Plan your meals in advance and make a point of stocking your pantry and your fridge so there are enough healthy foods on hand for meals and snacks including healthy versions of salad dressings and condiments (where added sugar is often hiding) and whole grain cereals, oatmeal, or plain low-fat yogurt for breakfasts. Don’t keep cookies, cakes or other sugary snacks in your house!
  3. Commit to Your List.  Take a list with you when food shopping and commit to buying only the items on your list. Not only will you save money by doing this, you will avoid the temptation of buying or snacking on foods you don’t need or are loaded with sugar.
  4. Hydrate with Unsweetened Beverages. About 46% of Americans’ added sugar intake comes from beverages. Replace sugar bombs like soda (and even diet sodas), alcohol, bottled iced teas, flavored waters, and fruit drinks, with purified water and herbal teas. You can flavor your own water by adding a drop or two of essential oil (peppermint, cinnamon, or lemon) to a quart or squeeze fresh lemons or limes directly into it.
  5. Don’t Skip Meals. Skipping meals results in low blood-sugar levels which leads to impulsive eating –often of sweets. Try to eat something every 3-4 hours and substitute sweets or refined carb treats with protein, healthy fats (nuts and seeds), and plenty of veggies. Be sure to eat a protein-rich breakfast to maintain blood sugar balance throughout the day.
  6. Spice Up Your Life. Get in the habit of using herbs to add flavor to your food instead of dressings and sauces that often contain hidden sugar. Cinnamon has been shown to help regulate blood sugar. Use it in place of sweeteners in your desserts, breakfast foods, smoothies, and even in your coffee. Its thermogenic (fat-burning) properties can help you lose weight too!

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Donya Fahmy, is a green business owner and the creator of Dropwise Essentials’ spa-quality aromatherapy body products that help you safely relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or simply manage your emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. For more free tips and valuable information visit http://www.dropwise.com and subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News Ezine or blog feed.

Sugar Showdown! Finding Healthier Substitutes for Your Sweet Tooth

It seems like lately, every time you turn on the television or radio, or pick up a magazine there’s a story about sugar and its role in the nation’s growing epidemic of diabetes and obesity. You’ve likely been hearing a new term called Diabesity, which encompasses the intricate relationship between sugar, diabetes, and obesity.

Ever since the American Heart Association’s 2009 recommendation to limit our daily consumption of added sugar to between 100 and 150 calories (vs. the 355+ calories that is actually consumed), the link between our overly sugar-laden diets and our ever-expanding waistlines has become painfully clear.

Understanding the potential health consequences of eating too much sugar is one thing, knowing what to do about it is an entirely different story … Looking at sugar consumption as a long-term health imperative rather than a simple weight management issue might give you the motivation you need to tackle it. Start with small manageable steps and work up from there.

First, aim to significantly reduce your consumption of (and eventually eliminate) highly processed sugars like corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup –which can be addicting and wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels.

The next step (which can also be taken simultaneously) is to substitute whole grains for white flour and add more raw fruits and vegetables. After that, try to uncover all the hidden sources of added sugar that may be sabotaging your best intentions, and find healthier alternatives. I’m talking about sugar that’s added to less obvious things like peanut butter and spaghetti sauces, and frozen, canned, or other packaged foods. Avoid fruit juices with added sugar and watch out for those flavored yogurts that boast only 150 calories per serving! Some of those tiny containers have as much as 45 or 50 grams of sugar per serving!

Last, but not least, become a savvy consumer of alternative sweeteners. The marketplace for alternative and especially natural sweeteners has exploded over the past few years, but with no practical means to evaluate all the options, the average consumer still turns to artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet, Equal, or Splenda, as low-calorie solutions to manage their weight.

The problem with artificial sweeteners is they may actually contribute to obesity because they trick the body into thinking they’re sugar molecules. When the tongue and brain recognize sugar the body produces insulin. Excess insulin in the body is converted into fat, leading to weight gain. Several studies support this finding while others conclude that Aspartame, for example, may be neuro-toxic under certain conditions and should be avoided altogether.

So how can you work your way through the maze of alternative sweeteners (natural and synthetic) to find the right substitute? Here are some quick tips to help you get started:

  1. Compare Glycemic Index Scores. Look first and foremost for the impact of a sweetener on your blood sugar levels. The easiest way is to find its Glycemic Index (GI) score and compare it to that of white sugar (68). The Glycemic Index basically measures how fast carbohydrates convert to glucose in the blood. The higher the number the faster the conversion. Lower numbers are better. Honey is in the 70s, maple syrup is around 55 and high fructose corn syrup is just above 90, while palm sugar is around 35 and agave nectar is in the low teens.
  2.  

  3. A Sugar By Any Other Name. Make sure that your sweetener of choice isn’t simply another version of white sugar. Most of the sugar in the food and beverages that people purchase at the supermarket is refined cane sugar. Evaporated sugar cane juice is simply the solid that remains when sugar cane juice evaporates. It’s considered less refined than white sugar but has the same GI score so avoid products made with this sweetener.
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  5. Weigh Pros & Cons. Not all natural sweeteners are created equal. Some have better GI scores than sugar but no nutritive benefits. Others like Molasses, are high in minerals and antioxidants but not suitable for broad use as a sweetener. Stevia has added health benefits, almost no calories, and a GI score of zero, but sometimes leaves a bitter after taste. Sugar alcohols like Xylitol and Erythritol are very low in calories and have dental health benefits but are not natural and if eaten in excess, can have a laxative effect.
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  7. Context, Texture and Taste. Find out which natural sweeteners work best for sweetening beverages and which work best for cooking and baking. Many times, these may not be one and the same. Erythritol and Stevia are often recommended for sweetening beverages, while Brown Rice Syrup (made from sprouted brown rice) and Agave tend to work better for baked goods. Keep in mind, the latter are liquids so they can’t be used spoon for spoon as a substitute for table sugar in recipes.

Above all, stay open minded and willing to experiment with different types and brands of sweeteners, until you find the right combination for your particular needs. Remember to balance your taste buds’ needs with your body’s overall health needs and don’t rely strictly on substitutes as a way of managing your weight or your blood sugar levels. Try to get most of your sugar from natural sources and limit the amount of sugar per serving to 12 grams or less.

Is Your Love Affair with Sweets Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts and Putting You at Risk?

It’s a new year and every new year brings with it “New Year’s resolutions” designed to help us improve our lives in some way –either by ditching a bad habit or acquiring some new good habits. By far, the most common New Year’s resolutions have something to do with losing weight or getting into shape. And somehow, no matter how well intentioned these resolutions are, for many of us, our weight loss efforts never seem to really get off the ground.

If losing weight and getting into shape were that simple we all would have accomplished it by now! The truth is, there are many factors that contribute to weight gain, and consequently our ability to successfully manage our weight. While most of us are focused on how to lose weight we may be ignoring an even more insidious health threat that coincidentally, also hinders our ability to diet successfully.

Whether you follow the weight loss advice of health gurus like Dr. Oz or Dr. Mercola, or if you keep up with the latest findings on weight loss, one thing is becoming very clear: managing your body’s insulin response is the key to not just weight loss but to ultimate health. That’s because too much sugar creates a cascade of health problems that not only hinder our attempts to lose weight and keep it off, they put us at risk for chronic inflammation which is now considered to be the main contributing factor in the development of most diseases –including heart disease and even cancer.

The statistics on sugar consumption are staggering. By one estimate, the average American consumes over 150 pounds of sugar and sweeteners (like corn syrup) every year! Phew! That’s a LOT of sugar. According to research and analysis firm Datamonitor, U.S. consumers’ reliance on sugar and sweeteners for total energy consumption is more than twice the global average.

Other studies indicate that 75% of the American diet is made up of refined carbohydrates like sugar, white flour, white pasta and potatoes. It turns out that sugar is actually more fattening than fat. What that means for anyone who is serious about losing weight and getting healthy is cutting way back on sugar and simple carbohydrates, which your body quickly converts into sugar!

Sugars and starches are carbohydrates and carbohydrates are one of our body’s main sources of energy (the other being fat). When your body needs energy it will first look for carbohydrates to burn as fuel. If there are fewer sources of carbohydrates available, then your body will break down your fat reserves for energy. That’s the key to successful weight loss and maintenance. By limiting your intake of sugars and starches, you force your body to use up your fat reserves instead.

What happens if you don’t? The opposite. When you consume more sugar than your body needs for energy, your blood sugar becomes elevated so your pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin is designed to balance blood sugar by carrying glucose to your cells where it is normally burned off for energy. Storing sugar in these cells is your body’s way of balancing its blood sugar levels. This is a normal insulin response. But if we consume more sugar than our body needs for energy then the excess insulin in our blood is stored as fat to be burned for energy at some point in the future.

Like it or not, most of us have become addicted to sugar in one if not all of its various forms. Our love affair with sweets leads to consistently elevated blood sugar levels. When that happens, our energy-burning cells begin to become resistant to the action of insulin (hence the term “insulin resistance”).

If insulin can’t be balanced due to insulin resistance, our entire hormonal system can be thrown out of whack, leading to unintended weight gain and ultimately to diabetes and obesity. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that as we age our metabolic processes slow down and we simply don’t need as many carbohydrates as we did when we were younger, so our continuing overconsumption of sugars and simple carbs makes it all the more difficult to lose those extra pounds!

While weight gain is the most visible result of this hormonal imbalance, a much deeper more insidious process is taking place within our bodies that is far more dangerous to our long-term health. Sugar is acidic, so when large quantities of sugar remain in the body, it creates an acidic and hostile environment that leads to cellular damage and inflammation. This causes us to age prematurely on the inside as well as on the outside.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, sugar and other refined carbohydrates appear to trigger a chemical reaction that creates pro-inflammatory compounds in the body. A conclusion that is further supported by the findings of a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that women who consume excess sugar are prone to chronic inflammation.

If you’ve resolved to lose weight and get healthy this year, first consider some of the ways you can cut back on your consumption of sugar (especially processed sugars) and simple carbohydrates. Part of the trick is to free yourself from the addictive taste of sweets and the best way to do it is to go cold turkey for a couple of weeks. This may seem difficult at first, but you may also be surprised to learn that after doing without for a while, you no longer crave sweets as much as you once did. If you’re really lucky you might actually find the overly sugary taste of certain foods a turn off to your taste buds!

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