Monthly Archives: July 2015

Does Gluten Free Automatically Mean Healthy? Let’s Break It Down.

Gluten free

Gluten free is all the rage right now. Although it’s estimated that only one percent of Americans have celiac disease – an autoimmune disorder that results in immune attacks that damage the small intestine in response to gluten – about twenty percent of Americans say they avoid gluten. We’re not here to try to prove either stance. Whether the science says that gluten-free sensitivity exists or not, it’s hard to discredit the thousands of people who have stories of improved health when removing gluten from the diet.

If removing gluten makes you feel better, there’s really no harm in it – when you do it right. We just want to make sure you know that going gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean you’re eating healthy. Let’s get into why that is.

What is Gluten?

It’s probably helpful to take a step back and talk about what gluten is. Gluten is a protein that’s found in wheat, barley, and rye. Oats, which are naturally gluten-free, are often contaminated with gluten during the manufacturing process so unless oats specifically state that they’re gluten-free, you can lump oats in with the “gluten-containing grains” category, too. When avoiding gluten, it’s necessary to cut out these gluten-containing grains and all foods made with them from your diet.

The Confusion

This is where a lot of the confusion from going gluten-free comes in. Replacing gluten-containing foods like cereals, crackers, breads, cookies, etc. with gluten-free cereals, crackers, breads, cookies, etc. does NOT necessarily mean that you are eating healthier. Packaged, processed gluten-free foods are just that – processed. They may not have gluten, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t loaded with sugar, sodium, fat, and other undesirable ingredients. The gluten in these products is often replaced with corn and soy products, which aren’t any healthier than gluten itself. To add to that, crackers and cookies (whether they contain gluten or not) aren’t exactly health foods – they’re low in nutrients and high in refined carbohydrates – and should only serve as an occasional treat.

Making Gluten Free Work

If you’re going to go gluten-free to try to improve your health, it’s best to replace gluten-containing foods with fresh, whole foods. Instead of swapping whole wheat bread for gluten-free bread, try making a sandwich on a lettuce wrap. Instead of dipping gluten-free crackers in hummus, try cutting up some fresh veggies and eating those with your dip. Replace bagels and muffins with a veggie omelet and pasta dishes with lean protein and vegetables.

Here are even more ideas to get your creativity flowing: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/how-to-use-vegetables-in-place-of-conventional-carbs-on-a-gluten-free-diet/

This doesn’t mean that you can never have cookies and crackers again, but just don’t make them a staple in your diet. Focus on clean, whole foods and occasionally allow yourself a gluten-free treat.

Bugs in your Gut: The Benefit of Probiotics

It was Hippocrates – who is often coined as the “Father of Medicine” – who said that all disease begins in the gut. The gut has become an increasingly popular topic over the past year or so and we think you should pay attention.

You may have heard that probiotics should be a part of your daily routine, but do you know what probiotics are or why they’re beneficial? Although proper digestion is a major benefit of probiotics, it goes far behind that. Let’s back up a minute and talk about your gut.

You are actually more bug than you are human. Now don’t be alarmed. All that means is that the number of bacterial cells in your body outweighs the amount of cells that are actually “human”. Although you may think of bacteria as nothing more than bugs that cause disease, this is largely untrue. The bacteria in your gut play crucial roles in digestion, nutritional status, and your immune health. There are many different strains of bacteria that live in your digestive tract – and each one of these strains has its own specific function, however, as a whole, these bacteria help produce vitamins, like vitamin K, and break down carbohydrates that you would otherwise be unable to digest. There is even some research that shows that the bacteria in your gut play a role in your mental health.

The bacteria in your gut – also lovingly called your intestinal flora – also helps your immune system. When potentially harmful bacteria – or other types of pathogens – enter your digestive tract, the bacteria already living in your gut help suppress them and prevent them from expressing and causing an illness. If the bacteria in your gut are out of balance, you become more susceptible to infection from these invading bacteria.

Because the bacteria in your gut are living organisms, they can actually die off when conditions aren’t suitable for them. Poor diet, stress, chronic use of antibiotics, and illness can all change the environment of your gut, which also changes the balance of gut bacteria. If your intestinal flora becomes imbalanced, it can lead to things like gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, increased susceptibility to illness, and even depression.

The key to keeping your gut bacteria happy is to eat a proper diet and to supplement that diet with probiotics. So what is the proper diet to promote a happy, balanced gut?

Good bacteria thrive on fiber, so high-fiber goods like legumes and vegetables are an ideal food source for the bacteria in your gut. Fermented foods, like saukerkraut, miso, and tempeh contain probiotic cultures that actually help increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. It’s best to avoid refined sugar and fruit in excess, which can feed yeast – another organism in your body that can outnumber the good bacteria and cause infection.

If you’re dealing with digestive distress, a probiotic supplement, like our Probiotic-5, may be just what you need. Probiotic supplements actually contain live bacteria that you swallow (usually in pill form) to repopulate your digestive tract. A good probiotic can help improve GI function, increase immunity, and promote overall health.

probiotic

Do you currently take a probiotic? If so, what differences have you seen in your health since starting your supplement regimen?

Reducing Stress: Your Key to Weight Loss (Part 2)

Managing stress is such a vital factor in taking control of your health that we didn’t think it was right to dedicate only one blog post to it. We wanted to make sure that you had a good idea of all the things you could do to help manage and/or reduce your stress levels so that you’d be armed with as many tools as you need – and so that you’d be able to find something or a combination of things that works for you. In today’s fast-paced, modern world, chronic stress has become the norm and we want to work to help you change that.

stress

In addition to the stress-reduction techniques we introduced in the last blog post, here are some more things you can start incorporating into your life right now to help combat stress and push you one step further to reaching your health goals.

Yoga

We get a little opposition when we mention the word yoga and we think it comes from the same misconceptions that surround meditation. Like meditation, yoga is a practice. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You don’t have to be flexible or zen to start. You develop these things once you get deeper into your yoga practice. Over time, yoga helps to reduce stress and anxiety and brings together body and mind.

Sleep

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it until you start doing it – get enough sleep! When you’re stressed out, it’s easy to skimp out on sleeping in favor of trying to get work done instead. Don’t do it! Sleep is the time when your brain and body repair and recharge and it is vital to managing your stress levels. Sleep also contributes to mood, energy level, and ability to concentrate. Make sure you’re hitting the sheet by 10 PM and getting 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.

Music

Listening to or playing your own music has been shown to decrease stress hormones, reduce muscle tension, and provide mental distraction. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, crank up the volume on your radio and just let loose. Bonus points for dancing along to the tunes.

B Vitamins

Stress depletes the B vitamins in your body, which help you handle stress. In times of chronic stress, you should take a multi-vitamin or a B complex supplement, like this one, to replenish these critical nutrients daily so that your tank doesn’t run out.

Reducing Stress: Your Key to Weight Loss (Part 1)

stressIn previous blog posts, we touched briefly on the role that stress plays in contributing to weight gain – or the inability to lose weight – but recently we’ve had several conversations with patients and friends and we’ve come to realize that stress is a larger factor than most people give it credit for. Stress not only prevents you from reaching your weight loss goals, it can do a number on your health in general.

One of the immediate ways stress contributes to weight gain is by tempting you to reach for comfort foods – like pizza or ice cream – that you may not crave if your stress levels were under control. We’ve all heard of emotional eating, right? Although some people tend to lose their appetite under high stress, many have an increased appetite for foods that are just not conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

Chronic stress also causes an increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone and when your body is constantly pumping it out, it can make it more difficult to lose weight and lead to an increase in belly fat, particularly.

It’s not just weight that is a concern with high stress levels, though. Chronic stress is also linked to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few.

If there’s one thing you need to do today, it’s figure out the best ways for you to lower your stress levels. Once your stress levels are under control, you’ll be able to focus your attention on your eating plan and following the steps to help you reach your goals. Here are a few of our favorite tried and true stress reduction techniques.

Exercise

This one probably isn’t a big shocker, but it tops the list because it’s simple to incorporate and regular exercise has been shown to be just as effective as anti-depressants in some studies. Exercise increases endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals in your body that help enhance your sense of well-being. To benefit from the stress-relief effects of exercise, you don’t have to hit the gym hard for 2 hours a day, 7 days a week. A thirty minute light walk in the morning or after dinner is enough to do the trick.

Social Contact

When you’re particularly stressed, it’s often tempting to hole yourself up and remove yourself from the world, but this can actually increase your stress levels. Social contact provides a distraction from daily stressors and your social network can serve as a support system. An added bonus – you’re more likely to laugh when spending time with family and friends whose company you enjoy and laughter is its own stress reliever. Laughter promotes physical changes in your body that can reduce your stress load and help get you feeling better.

Deep Breathing

When you’re stressed, you tend to take quick, shallow breaths that come from your chest rather than your abdomen. When you breathe deeply from your abdomen instead, you take in more oxygen which helps you feel less anxious, less short of breath, and more relaxed. Learning how to take deep breaths can take practice, and this is how you do it:

  1. Sit up straight or lie on your back somewhere comfortable. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take deep breaths in through your nose. You should feel the hand on your abdomen start to rise, but the hand on your chest should move very little.
  2. Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can. Repeat this process until you feel your body start to calm down.

Meditation

Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, reducing anxiety and making you more resilient to stress. There is no right or wrong way to meditate so don’t let your preconceived notions about what meditation is supposed to be deter you from starting your own practice. If you’re new to meditation, you can start by following along with some guided meditations. There are a plethora of videos available on YouTube for free to get you started.

Get a Massage

A relaxation massage not only works out the knots and tension that can build in your muscles following a period of chronic stress, the touch of a massage also helps release oxytocin – a neurotransmitter that helps make you feel good. Schedule a weekly or monthly relaxation massage and allow yourself to fully enjoy this treat.

5 Science-Backed Weight Loss Tips That Work

The weight loss industry is loaded with myths, old wives’ tales, and just downright bad advice. With the world focused on quick fixes, it can be difficult to differentiate between what’s real and what’s just a marketing scheme developed to try to take your money. We’re big fans of science, so we’ve compiled a list of 5 science-based weight loss tips that actually work.

These suggestions may not be mind-blowing to you. In fact, you’ve probably heard most of them before, but we wanted to make sure you know the WHY behind each suggestion. Sometimes, when you know why you’re doing something, it’s easier to stick to it.

So without further ado, here they are:

1. Drink water before meals.

Drinking approximately two cups of water about 30 minutes before a meal can help you eat fewer calories and lose up to 44 percent more weight, according to one study. Drinking water also boosts your metabolism up to 30 percent for about an hour after consumption.

2. Use smaller plates.

This one is more of a mind trick. When you use smaller plates, you fool your mind into thinking you’re eating more because less food fills up the plate. Use an appetizer plate instead of a dinner plate for meals.

3. Do cardiovascular exercise.

You probably already know that cardiovascular exercise helps burn calories, which can help you lose weight, but the weight loss benefits go beyond that. Cardiovascular exercise is particularly effective at helping to reduce belly fat (also called visceral fat) – the fat that can accumulate in your belly and around your organs and contribute to metabolic syndrome.

4. Chew slowly.

Sometimes people tend to eat faster than their brains are able to register that they’re full. You can help prevent this by eating slowly and chewing your food thoroughly and carefully. Eating slowly not only gives your brain time to catch up to your mouth, it also gives your body time to release the hormones associated with satiety.

5. Don’t drink calories.

With the exception of whole food protein shakes that replace a meal, you should not drink any calories. Studies show that liquid calories may contribute to weight gain – and the inability to lose weight – more than any other aspect of your diet. This not only applies to the obvious, like soda, it applies to fruit juice, coffee drinks, and sweetened teas.

Stay away from liquid calories like fruit juice.
Stay away from liquid calories — even fruit juice.

Need support losing weight and putting these tips into action? Give us a call! It’s what we do.

Is Yogurt Healthy? How to Narrow Down Your Options

Since 2010, more than 670 new yogurt products have made their way into your local supermarket. Yogurt manufacturers market these yogurts as a healthy, waist-reducing option, but that’s not always the whole story. It’s true that yogurt can make for a great breakfast or on-the-go snack, but you have to choose wisely. Some yogurts contain almost as much added sugar as a can of soda! Others may not have added sugar, but are loaded with artificial ingredients that you should steer away from. Yogurt can quickly turn from “healthy” to “junk food” if you’re not careful. With so many choices out there, how can you narrow it down? Should you make yogurt a part of your diet or should you skip it altogether?

yogurt

Because yogurt is a rich source of calcium and protein – and many have the added benefits of live cultures that can improve your digestion – we think that yogurt has earned its place in your diet. We’re going to make it simple for you to choose a healthy yogurt by letting you know what to look for and what to avoid.

Sugar Isn’t So Sweet

The first thing you should do when choosing a yogurt is check the sugar content. Flavored yogurts and yogurts that have fruit on the bottom contain approximately 26 grams of sugar – that’s a LOT of sugar. Some of this sugar is naturally occurring, but about 14 grams are added – and those are the grams you want to avoid. Steer clear of any flavored yogurts or yogurts with added fruit or granola and opt for plain, non-fat varieties, which contain only 6 grams of naturally-occurring sugar, instead. You can spice up your yogurt by adding some fresh berries, a handful of crushed nuts, or some chia or flax.

Investigate the Ingredients

The only two ingredients needed to make yogurt are milk and live bacterial cultures — specifically Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus — yet many commercial yogurts contain unnecessary added ingredients like sugar, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and gums. Read the ingredient list and choose a yogurt that contains only milk and live, active cultures.

Figure Out the Fat

Yogurt comes in three main varieties – nonfat, low-fat, and full-fat. Full-fat yogurts can contain 16 grams of saturated fat, which is about 80 percent of the amount you’re supposed to eat in an entire day! Instead of getting a full-fat yogurt, opt for low-fat or nonfat yogurt instead. You can add in your own healthy fats – in the form of a handful of nuts or a drizzle of almond butter, if you’d like.

Protein Power

Protein promotes fullness, so choosing a yogurt that is higher in protein makes it more likely that you’ll get through the afternoon without overeating or reaching for unhealthy snacks. A 6-ounce serving of regular yogurt contains 9 grams of protein, while the same 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains about 15 to 20 grams. Opt for yogurts that have a higher protein content.

We want to hear from you! What’s your favorite yogurt? What are your go-to yogurt toppings? Let us know on our Facebook page!

Product of the Month! Skip-a-Meal Meal Replacement Beverage

As you may know by now, we run a special every month. With this special you receive 4 WEEKS of everything listed below for only $295 (that’s a savings of over $200)!

Physician Consult & Weekly Weigh-ins
Meal Plans
FDA Approved Medications
MetaBlast Supplements
Craveaway Supplements
Weekly Upgraded Injection of B-12
Bi-Weekly Injection of Lipo X
Full Body Analysis on our BODYCOMP Scale
Product of the Month

skip a meal

We like to keep things fresh and interesting over here at Valley Medical by changing the product of the month every month. This month we’re offering the Skip-a-Meal Replacement Shake by Progressive Laboratories.

The Skip-a-Meal Replacement Shake is a whey protein meal replacement shake that serves as a high-protein, low calorie replacement for a higher calorie meal. You can replace one meal with a shake each day, or all three meals. It’s totally up to you.

In addition to being low in calories (only 192 per serving!), the shake is also loaded with several vitamins and minerals so it serves as a balanced nutrition source, just like a healthy meal would. One serving of the Skip-a-Meal replacement shakes provides at least 30% (in some cases, it provides 35%) of each of these vitamins and minerals: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, vitamin D, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, vitamin B-12, biotin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc, and copper. So if you’re drinking the meal replacement three times a day, you don’t have to worry about getting the nutrients you need.

A single serving of the shake also provides 24 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber but only 2 grams of sugar and 5 grams of fat. The even better news? One tub contains 15 servings and you get it FREE when you sign up for our monthly special. Choose from vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry.

If you have any questions about Skip-a-Meal or you want to take advantage of our monthly special, contact us TODAY!

DISCLAIMER * These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.