Wednesday, January 24, 2018

That Time at Girls’ Night…

This post is sponsored by LOLA.

Warning: Once you read this blog post, you cannot unread it.

At a girls’ night not too long ago, the topic of tampons came up. I know, it was a little random, but both the wine and laughter were flowing, and I think it was related to doing Double-Unders at the gym and then who knows how the conversation ended up where it did. #girlsnight

Anyway, one of my friends ignited the conversation by asking the group: Do you KNOW what’s in tampons?!? With the way she said it, I was all ears because, honestly, I hadn’t thought much about tampons and my health. Her first point was that our epidermis (skin) in our largest organ, including our vaginas (male readers, if you haven’t left already, feel free to do so now) and anything that is in or on a tampon can easily be absorbed into our bodies. Yikes. I hadn’t thought about that. We chatted a little more about the topic, and, eventually, the conversation moved onto something else, but, of course, I was so intrigued about tampons and what I was putting into my body, I spent the next few days researching on my own. Here’s just a sampling of what I found:

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  • The FDA does not require brands to disclose a comprehensive list of ingredients in their feminine care products, so most of them don’t.

  • Because tampons are considered medical devices (I know, right?), there’s no labeling requirement for ingredients. Even when you go to specific tampon brand websites looking for this information, it’s still not totally clear.

  • Major brands use a mix of synthetic ingredients in their tampons, including rayon and polyester – not just cotton. Their tampons may also be treated with harsh chemical cleansing agents, fragrance, and dyes.

Over the past year, I’ve been working to transition all of my beauty and bath products to ones that are more natural. The process started when a LEAP food sensitivities test revealed that I had a ton of chemical sensitivities. I had so many, I was actually pretty freaked out and immediately started making changes to my lifestyle habits. Nowadays, especially with an autoimmune disease and some wacky hormones, I’m so much more aware of just about everything that I put in and on my body.

Over the past several months, I’ve made the switch to natural skincare, makeup, hair products, soaps, deodorant (although, I’m still looking for the perfect one) as well as a number of household cleaners. Now that I know the truth about tampons, they’re the next product in my life to be swapped, so I’m especially happy to have found LOLA when I did.

LOLA products are simple, natural, and easy to feel good about. I was happy to see that the ingredients are clearly listed on the side of the box. The ones I use include just two ingredients: 100% organic cotton and BPA-free plastic for the applicator. LOLA also makes cardboard applicators, non-applicator tampons as well as pads and liners.

Another great thing about LOLA is that it makes life so much easier with their subscription service. No more running out at the last-minute for a box of tampons! Their subscription is fully customizable so you can choose your mix of light, regular, super, and super+ (or mix of day and night pads), your number of boxes, and frequency of delivery. LOLA’s subscription is also super flexible, so you can change, skip, or cancel at any time.

Pricing is $10 for 1 box of applicator tampons (or $18 for 2 boxes per month), which is a little more than I typically pay, but I often find myself shelling out the extra money with other beauty products and food, so why would tampons be any different? It’s definitely a purchase I feel good about.

Even though I received a LOLA box for free to review, I’ve since signed up for a reoccurring monthly subscription. After our chat at girls’ night and a bunch of my own personal research, it was a no-brainer. Plus, now that I know what I know, I can’t go back to using regular tampons.

If you’re interested in trying LOLA too, the first 100 readers to use the code Carrots on LOLA’s website will receive 50% off their order! The offer is only good for new customers and those in the continental US (unfortunately, LOLA does not ship to Hawaii or Alaska).

Question of the Day

Have you ever researched feminine care products? Are you as surprised as I was? 



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Grok Didn’t Take Supplements, So Why Should I? (and a Giveaway)

Young serious men in red shirt holding some pill hand. IsolatedThe main objective of following the Primal Blueprint is to extract the healthiest, happiest, longest and most productive life possible from our bodies – and to look and feel good in the process.

Our 10,000-year-old Primal genes expect us to emulate the way our ancestors ate and moved; and the Primal Blueprint says we should do exactly as they expect. While there are many things we can do (or eat) today that very closely approximate what Grok did to trigger positive gene expression, there are also a number of obstacles that can thwart our attempts to be as Primal as possible. Artificial light prompts us to stay up too late and sleep too little. Electronic entertainment competes for our time when we should be out walking and basking in sunlight. We don’t always have access to ideal foods. We shower too much in water that’s too hot. We use medicines to mask our symptoms instead of allowing our bodies to deal directly with the problem. You get my point. You can’t go back to the paleolithic.

One of my tasks is to find the shortcuts—the easy ways to get the same genetic expression benefits Grok got—but by using 21st century technology or just plain old common sense. Working out in Vibram Fivefingers to simulate going barefoot is an example. Or learning how to spend time in the sun without sunscreen AND without burning. Getting more from a 20-minute full-body exercise routine than from a 3-hour cardio workout is yet another example. And given the lack of certain critical nutrients in even the healthiest diets, finding the best supplements is another.

Here are a few of the best categories of supplements I can recommend to just about everyone:

1. Antioxidant Booster

Some people claim exogenous antioxidants are useless or even harmful because we already have our three main internal “onboard” antioxidant systems that take care of most of the normal oxidative damage when we are healthy, unstressed and eating well (catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione). But these systems can come up short when we are under stress (who isn’t), eating too many sugars and other carbs, trans and hydrogenated fats, or drinking alcohol, or when we are exercising inappropriately. Theoretically, that still ought to be no problem, because our bodies were designed to get additional antioxidant support—and hormetic stimulus— from the foods we eat.

Unfortunately, many of our historically healthy sources of dietary antioxidants have gone extinct or have been rendered impotent by today’s aggressive factory farming techniques. In the fruit industry, for example, obtaining the highest possible sugar content has replaced antioxidants as the focus. Fruit is bred for sugar and durability, rather than nutrient content.

That’s one reason why I’ve always emphasized and encouraged the consumption of non-starchy veggies and brightly colored berries—they’re some of the most antioxidant-rich produce around. But I believe that we also need a broader mix of different antioxidants in order to emulate the wide variety of wild plant foods we evolved consuming. That means taking a supplement to obtain hard-to-get nutrients like full spectrum vitamin E (not just alpha tocopherol), mixed carotenoids (not just beta carotene), tocotrienols, NAC, alpha lipoic acid, curcumin, resveratrol, milk thistle, CoQ10 and quercetin to name a few. Now, you could make sure to eat all the foods that contain those nutrients, and in an ideal world I’d prefer you do that. But not everyone can, or even wants to. The convenience of modern technology is a reality, a tool that can be used to good effect.

Of course, too much of any one single antioxidant (in the absence of others) has been shown to have potentially negative effects. But when you take a good broad-spectrum antioxidant formula, all these antioxidants can work synergistically to mitigate oxidative damage and then help each other recycle back to their potent antioxidant form after donating an electron to the antioxidant effort. For that reason, I take a high-potency multi-vitamin loaded with extra antioxidants on an irregular basis.

Irregular? Huh?

Nowadays, I’ve got my health dialed in. I eat right, move correctly, sleep well, and kinda-sorta handle stress adequately. I don’t need to take an antioxidant supplement on a daily basis, so I take it intermittently. One pill after breakfast one day, three the next day, and none for half a week. Then I’ll take it every other day at varying dosages, then back off for another half week. That’s just an example, not a prescription. I jump around, basically. What’s funny is that because I’m fairly healthy, taking Master Formula every day could conceivably offer diminishing, or even negative returns. The same negative effects you see bandied about. Taking it the way I do now has a hormetic effect, the phenomenon whereby a moderate stressor upregulates your own antioxidant mechanisms to make you healthier and more robust.

2. Probiotics

Grok ate dirt. All day, every day. Hey, when you never wash your hands or your food (or anything for that matter) you pretty much can’t avoid it. But with all that soil came billions of soil-based organisms (mostly bacteria and yeast) that entered his mouth daily and populated his gut. Most were “friendly” bacteria that actually helped him better digest food and ward off infections. In fact, much of Grok’s (and our) immune system evolved to depend on these healthy gut bacteria living in us symbiotically. Grok also ate the occasional “unfriendly” organisms that had the potential to cause illness, but as long as the healthy flora well-outnumbered the bad guys, all was well. Several trillion bacteria live symbiotically in our gut today – some good and some bad. Much of your health depends on which of the two is winning the war.

The problem today is that we don’t eat dirt; we wash everything. Of course, given the crap that’s in and on the dirt around us, it’s probably best that we do wash it all. But in the process we never get a chance to ingest the healthy bacteria that our genes expect us to. In most healthy people this doesn’t usually present a problem. As long as there are some healthy gut bacteria present, as long as we don’t get too stressed out (stress hormones wreck the gut), too sick (diarrhea and vomiting are ways the body purges bad bacteria – but it purges good bacteria with them), or take antibiotics (antibiotics tend to kill both pathogenic and beneficial bacteria), and as long as we are eating well, those healthy bacteria can flourish and keep us well.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when stress is everywhere, where we do tend to get sick or take antibiotics, where certain processed foods support the growth of unhealthy bacteria and yeast forms while choking out the healthy flora. Many people whose diets include daily doses of yogurt or acidophilus are able to maintain healthy gut flora, but these sources aren’t always reliable (pasteurizing and added sugars can reduce their effectiveness), and not everyone can tolerate dairy that well.

For that reason, I think it’s wise to take probiotic supplements on occasion. Not necessarily every day, since once these “seeds” have been planted in a healthy gut, they tend to multiply and flourish easily on their own, especially if you feed them (see the next section). I’d certainly take extra probiotics under times of great stress or when you’ve been sick or are taking (or have just taken) a course of antibiotics. The reversal of fortune from a few days of taking probiotics can be dramatic. Better than eating dirt, I always say.

3. Prebiotics

For most of human history (and prehistory), carbohydrates were different. Rather than refined grains, white sugar, and white rice, we had wild tubers. There’s something to understand about the wild tuber: They generally don’t turn into creamy smooth starchy goodness when baked. They’re tough, fibrous things that provide a fraction of the usable energy modern cultivars provide (PDF). Whereas your typical kilogram of potato offers over 1000 calories, a kilo of many wild tuber varieties hover at around 300 calories. Eating these would have provided a moderate dose of glucose – akin to, perhaps, butternut squash—plus a load of prebiotic fiber for the gut bacteria.

That’s very important. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that we cannot digest. When we eat them, they pass through to the colon where our gut bacteria consume them. In doing so, they create short chain fatty acids like butyrate and propionate, which have a host of health benefits. This is in addition to supporting the growth and stability of our healthy gut bacteria.

We get a lot of prebiotics through foods like garlic, onions, leafy greens, and other plant matter. But it’s often easier and more reliable and more commensurate to the doses our ancestors commonly ate to take prebiotic supplements like inulin and raw potato starch (a source of a particularly potent prebiotic, resistant starch).

5. Fish Oil

In Grok’s day, virtually every animal he consumed was a decent source of vital Omega 3 fatty acids. The fish he caught had eaten algae to produce Omega 3 fatty acids rich in EPA and DHA (which helped build the larger human brain over a few hundred thousand years). The animals he hunted grazed on plants that generated high levels of Omega 3 in these meats. Even the vegetation Grok consumed provided higher levels Omega 3s than today’s vegetables. In Grok’s diet, the ratio of pro-inflammatory (bad) Omega 6 to anti-inflammatory (good and healthful) Omega 3 was close to 1:1.

Unfortunately, most people with a typical American diet today get way too much Omega 6 from seed oils and way too little Omega 3 from seafood and pastured meat, and that unhealthy ratio tends to keep many of us in a constant state of systemic inflammation. Since Omega 3 oils are found in fewer and fewer modern foods (fish being one of the few, but fresh fish also being impractical to eat regularly due to heavy-metal content) the single easiest way to overcome this serious deficit and rebalance your Omegas is to take highly purified Omega 3 fish oil supplements. The research on fish oils is extraordinary, showing benefits across the board from decreased risk for heart disease and cancer to lowering triglycerides, improving joint mobility, decreasing insulin resistance and improving brain function and mood. The drug companies are even starting to recognize the power of this “natural” medicine and have begun promoting prescription fish oil (at four times the normal price, of course!).

Nobody “needs” fish oil. But not everyone’s willing to eat seafood on a regular basis and avoid seed oils high in omega-6 fats/

6. Meal Replacement

The reality of modern life means that sometimes there just isn’t enough to time to lovingly cook a real Primal meal. Sometimes you need something quick, easy, and nourishing. To fit these requirements, I created Primal Fuel. It combines coconut milk (for healthy saturated fats, including medium chain triglycerides for easy ketone production), whey protein isolate (single most bioavailable protein around), and prebiotic fiber for a low-carb, moderate-fat, high-protein meal. Add a few ice cubes, a cup of water, maybe some greens or berries, blend it all together, and you’ve got yourself a legitimate meal in a cup. The coconut milk provides creaminess and texture, so it tastes almost exactly like a milk shake.

I’m a busy guy, though. That’s why I needed something like this to have on hand. I just find it useful to have something quick and shelf-stable that doesn’t compromise my eating regimen or health. Eating low carb often means being at a loss as to what to have for a snack or a small meal. We are so used to reaching for the bagel, a few pieces of fruit or something sweet as a snack. On the other hand, there are also times when we just don’t feel like fixing a full meal or we are strapped for time.

7.  Collagen Powder

In a world full of shrinkwrapped steaks, roasts, ground meat, and other examples of lean muscle meat, people often forget that about half of a cow is “other stuff.” That other stuff includes marrow, liver, kidney, heart, and other organs, but the vast majority of the other stuff is bone and connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.

These days, the bones and connective tissue usually go into pet food, glue, and other industrial products. But for millions of years, right up until your grandparents’ time, hominids consumed as much of the animal as possible. They made soups, stocks, broths, aspics, head cheese. They ate the tendons straight up. They gnawed the gristly bits at the end of bones. In other words, they consumed a lot of collagen along with the muscle meat.

Most modern people eat only the muscle meat, and this is significant. Muscle meat has a totally different amino acid profile than collagen. Meat is rich in methionine. Collagen is rich in glycine. Methionine metabolism requires and depletes glycine. In animal studies, diets high in methionine lower lifespan and cause a range of health issues—unless the diet is also balanced with glycine. We see glimpses of this occurring in humans, too.

To skirt around it, and to reduce the need to spend all my time making bone broth (which I still do, just not enough), I take collagen powder.

8. Vitamin D3

For tens of thousands of years, we lived and worked “outside.” This was the situation because, for all intents and purposes, “inside” didn’t exist. Now, we spend all day inside. Many of us simply can’t get the amount of sunlight our genes expect because of where we live, like the Toronto transplant whose ancestors evolved along the equator. For many, it’s a rare treat to see the sun, feel its rays, and make some vitamin D the old fashioned way, yet our bodies are set up to obtain vitamin D from sun exposure. It’s safer that way—we only produce as much as we need. It’s more enjoyable that way—we make endogenous opioids in response to sun exposure.

We can get vitamin D from foods, but it’s tough. Unless you want to exist entirely on a diet of sockeye salmon (there are worse things to eat, I guess) and cod liver oil, you won’t get enough vitamin D from your diet.

It’s true that sun itself carries some unique benefits separate from vitamin D. We should strive to get moderate sun exposure. But vitamin D is the most important benefit of sun exposure, and it’s coincidentally a really easy—and incredibly important—one to replace with supplementation.

9. Vitamin K2

We can eat it in natto (a sticky, gooey fermented soybean from Japan), aged gouda (my preferred method), goose liver (I always grab goose paté when I see it), and some other foods—see here for a comprehensive database—but the most reliable way to obtain this scarce yet vital nutrient is through supplementation.

Why do we care so much?

Vitamin K2 essentially directs calcium to the right spots. If you have good vitamin K2 status, calcium goes to teeth and bones. If you have bad vitamin K2 status, calcium may go to the arteries, leading to calcification.

10. Primal Calm

Instead of facing the kinds of chronic “made-up” stress we have today—like jobs we hate, traffic we hate more, and other trappings of modern society—our early ancestors faced acute stress—like encounters with dangerous animals or enemy tribes and intense hunting sessions. That’s the environment in which we evolved: big spikes in stress followed by long valleys. The environment we have now: constant elevations in stress with very little respite. The situations have flipped. Our bodies are set up to deal with acute stressors and woefully unequipped to deal with chronic stressors. That’s where supplementation can come in.

Phosphatidylserine is the lead ingredient in Primal Calm, a custom formulation that blunts the spike of cortisol in the bloodstream in response to stress. As I mentioned in yesterday’s video, my old training partner Brad and I used PS for over 20 years to help speed recovery from our crazy training binges, but PS and the supportive ingredients in Primal Calm are also effective against routine modern life stressors like jet travel, hectic daily routines, work stress, compromised sleep, and so on. 

While I don’t categorize this as a daily supplement (long-term anyway), it wouldn’t be unsafe to use Primal Calm that way if that fits your needs (just check with your doctor if you have a health condition or take any medications—standard suggestions for any supplement protocol). Personally, I’ve benefited from using Primal Calm as a “situational” supplement—taking a few capsules when my body and/or emotions are under extra stress.

Now for the Giveaway…

For one randomly chosen commenter on today’s post, I’m giving away a bottle of Primal Damage Control, a Primal Essentials Kit (Primal Omegas, Primal Sun, and Primal Probiotics) and a package of my unflavored Collagen Peptides. It’s a full Primal arsenal of nutritional support for your health and performance.

Just tell me what questions you have about supplementation. Are you wondering about specific nutrients? Special circumstances or health conditions? Particular uses or formulations? Don’t be shy.

*Be sure to comment before midnight tonight (1/24/18 PST) to be eligible to win.

I hope this post opens up the conversation to a topic I feel quite strongly about. If you have any questions or comments please drop me a line in the comment board.

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Primal Action Point: Upgrade Your Pantry

Inline_Food_Nutrition_Live-Awesome-645x445-01Often the first action people take at the start of the new year is to clean out their kitchen. Personally, I highly recommend it. There’s something gratifying about creating space for a new habit—and the foods that will support it. Yet, I know some folks hang onto previous food purchases to “cycle through” what they have on hand and gradually introduce the new into their cooking routines.

For those ready to overhaul their kitchens—or for anyone interested in fine-tuning how they stock up for Primal eating, I wanted to point out an article I offered up just a few years ago that is as relevant now as it was then: “Top 50 Essential Paleo Pantry Foods.”

With everything from canned food suggestions to appropriate snack options to Primal/paleo baking supplies (several of you have asked about these lists this month), it’s an easy way to make sure you have everything you need on hand for good, Primal eating every day.

More to come today, everyone! Thanks for stopping by.

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Lately

Morning! I recently went over to Great Harvest for some bread, walked by the shelf of Naturally Nuttys and realized I hadn’t had one in ages! I bought a jar of the Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Butter and omg – so good!!! I love their new labels too.

I’m checking in with some real meals we had lately. Blueberry Swirl bread for Mazen and me (plus apples with peanut butter for him and a fried egg for her.) Apples and pears are just about the only fruit Mazen will eat these days! He takes after his grandma KK who thinks all fruit is too tart and has to force herself to eat it! :mrgreen:

I’ve been eating leftovers for lunch this week, getting creative with the meats we grilled over the weekend. This was a  box of tomato soup with chicken and leftover Brussels sprouts, and crackers on the side!

Spotted on the school bulletin board: silly Mazen the Snowman

KK sent Mazen this Mine For Fossils set for Christmas, and it made for a lovely TWO HOUR afternoon activity.

While it was quite messy, and we had to turn the brick to mud by dumping lots of water on top, he eventually uncovered all 10 fossils and then played with them for a while afterwards. I just bought him some of these eggs that might make a great shorter activity, and this dino poop kit is sure to get some laughs.

I have never really been wild about getting on the floor to play Batman or Legos or trains or trucks, but mommy LOVES playing games! I’ll happily sit on the floor and play Candyland or Shopping List or Connect Four for hours. I just bought Guess Who to break out on a slow afternoon – one of my favorite games from my childhood.

Games are also extra fun if I have a little vino to sip! ; )

Dinner this week was brought to you by Miss Peanut Butter Fingers! I made Julie’s Sheet Pan Salmon and it was a hit. I used butter instead of ghee, but otherwise followed the recipe fairly closely.

Had the leftovers for lunch the next day!

We also had Mona Lisa Pasta lasagna night! Served with a side of Brussels and peppers that were sautéed in bacon grease.

What was your favorite game growing up? I also loved Clue and Dream Phone (“He likes most sports….but not surfing!”) Clearly I loved ‘figuring it out’ style games the most!

And lastly – check out me talking about the benefits of peanut butter v. almond butter on Monica’s podcast this week!

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