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Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
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Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
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Lifestyle: Your Every Day Habits Are Essential to This Plan

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Your general lifestyle plays a big role in improving your health. If you follow healthy dietary recommendations but fail to make positive and conscious lifestyle choices, then all your hard work will go to waste. Here are some crucial lifestyle tweaks you should address in this phase.

Keep Calm and Stress-Free

Excessive stress affects your body through memory loss and troubled concentration, and leads to a higher risk of chronic inflammation, gut disease, anxiety, depression, and hypertension.

I recommend trying the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a psychological acupressure practice that involves tapping your fingertips on “meridians” in your face, chest, and arms, while voicing affirmations. This clears up the “short circuit” in your body’s bioenergy system, resulting in a restored mind and peaceful balance.

EFT can help lessen food cravings, discard negative feelings, and create affirmative goals. In this video, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates the basics of EFT.

The Benefits of Sun Exposure

Sunlight, UVB rays in particular, is one of the best sources for vitamin D, since it speeds up your body’s production of it. UVB rays from the sun have lower wavelengths, but can’t enter the deeper skin layers because of the presence of protein, DNA, and other chemicals in the epidermis (the skin’s upper layer), which is why it works well for you.

Optimized vitamin D levels may significantly lessen your risk for cancer, type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, age-related macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin D can also combat infections and control seizures, especially for epileptics.

Ensure That You Have Optimal Iron Levels

Iron plays an important role in your wellbeing, as it is crucial for production of various proteins and enzymes, oxygen transport, and regulation of cell growth and differentiation. It also provides hemoglobin, the protein found in your red blood cells. This is why too little iron can have negative effects on your health, and can be serious if left untreated.

However, did you know that too much iron can be equally deadly as well? Yet it is far more common than iron deficiency and occurs because of a hereditary disease called hemochromatosis. Over 20 years ago, through a simple test, I discovered that my dad had extremely high ferritin levels – close to 1,000 – due to a blood disorder called beta-thalassemia. If this had not been addressed, it would have been extremely fatal.

Through regular phlebotomies, my dad’s iron levels have normalized, and the only side effect is that he has type 1 diabetes, because the high iron levels have damaged his pancreatic islet cells. I have unfortunately inherited this condition, but I manage to keep my iron levels normal by removing a quart of blood every year (through several dozen deposits).

Ferritin Screen – One of Your Most Important Health Tests

Monitoring iron levels is a personal issue for me because of that eye-opening experience with my dad’s health (and because I inherited the condition). I believe that doing a serum ferritin test is one of the most important precautionary measures you can do to protect your health. This test measures ferritin, a protein found inside your cells that also acts as the carrier molecule of iron. Ferritin stores the iron, so if your ferritin levels are low, it means your iron levels are also low.

The healthy serum ferritin range lies between 20 and 80 ng/ml, but the ideal range is between 40 to 60 ng/ml. If your level is below 20, this is a strong indicator that you are iron deficient. If it’s above 80, then you have an iron surplus. The condition is worse at levels over 100. Beyond 300, it is particularly toxic and, in the long term, may cause serious damage.

Remember that your body has a limited capacity to excrete iron, which means it can build up easily in organs, like your pancreas, liver and heart. This is why it’s important to find out if your levels are high. If iron build up in your organs, it is extremely dangerous as it works as a potent oxidizer that can damage your body tissues and cause severe health issues, such as:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Liver cancer
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Type one diabetes
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Bacterial and viral infections
  • Bowel cancers

How to Address High Iron Levels

When I was still seeing patients, I used to screen all of their ferritin levels. I noticed that nearly a quarter of them had elevated levels. I strongly encourage you (and your loved ones) to undergo screening annually. Remember that it is so much easier to prevent iron overload than it is to treat it.

Aside from donating blood, getting a prescription for therapeutic phlebotomy is one way to address high iron levels. Avoid consuming excess iron in the form of supplements, in your drinking water (well water), from iron cookware, or in fortified processed foods. These natural remedies may also help address high iron levels:

  • Green tea and rosemary are phenolic-rich and may reduce iron absorption
  • Curcumin, found in turmeric, is a polyphenol that acts as an iron chelator
  • Astaxanthin may help reduce iron-induced oxidative damage

Why Meal Times Matter

Most people don’t realize you don’t need food all the time to feel better. It was proven by our ancestors, who didn’t have 24/7 access to it, and as a result, adjusted the human race’s genes and metabolism for non-eating.

I recommend scheduling your meals, which helps resolve insulin resistance, a common factor in chronic illnesses. If you’re starting out, intermittent fasting – or what I call Peak Fasting -- is one strategy you can do. This involves limiting calories and eating only during a six to eight hour interval everyday while fasting during the remaining hours. It is not just a strategy that helps with weight loss, but a lifestyle that should be consistent.

When fasting intermittently, eating unlimited amounts of organic vegetables and moderate amounts of high-quality protein from grass-fed animals during the hours that you do eat are important. The same goes for healthy fats — with 50 to 85 percent of daily calories coming from avocados, organic grass-fed butter, pastured egg yolks, coconut oil, and raw nuts.

Fasting intermittently (13 to 15 hours a day) can improve insulin and leptin sensitivity, and retrain your body to burn fat for fuel. Various studies showed that intermittent fasting lessens cancer risk, enhances brain health, cellular repair, and waste removal processes, and even prolongs life.

Intermittent fasting also benefits mitochondria, one of the most vital components of the body. The mitochondria uses food you eat to make energy by producing electrons that are transferred to the ATP. If you eat too much food without burning adequate calories, the electrons stay inside the mitochondria, where they’re prone to being highly reactive and leaking out of the transport chain.

The mitochondria are killed, and cell membranes and DNA can follow suit. To prevent this, a healthy eating strategy like Peak Fasting, along with exercise, is key.

Sleep Isn’t for the Weak

Many people today disregard the importance of good sleep to optimal health. The truth is adults need around eight hours of sleep per night. Anything less than that and you’ll end up not only nodding at your desk, but also increasing your risk for numerous health hazards. Sadly, 40 percent of Americans are not getting enough sleep.

Sleep deficiency can lead to weight gain, because your body’s levels of appetite-inducing hormones rise. It also affects your brain, reducing its ability to think, and may lead to a higher risk of depression and chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular and heart diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer.  If you find it difficult to get a good night’s rest, I suggest you try any of these 33 tips to help you sleep, which include:

  • Sleeping in complete darkness (or close to it)
  • Exposing yourself to sunlight during the day – especially in the morning -- frequently
  • Refraining from using gadgets before bedtime
  • Calming yourself by establishing a wind-down routine before sleeping
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule to ease the body into sleeping and to wake up more easily

Exercise Regularly to Stay Physically Fit

If you need to lose weight, you need to incorporate regular exercise in your routine in this phase. While there are many workouts to choose from nowadays, not all of them are effective in helping you reach your fitness goals. For a workout that’ll deliver weight loss results and provide additional benefits as well, I recommend:

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT). This requires just 20 to 30 seconds of maximum effort, followed by 90 to 100 seconds of rest. HIIT improves your muscle tone, promotes higher energy levels, enhanced production of the HGH, or human growth hormone, and leads to increased calorie burn.
  • Strength training. This has been shown to improve muscle strength, tone, and elasticity, create strong connective tissues, tendons, and ligaments, and slow down and even reverse risk of Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

    While some shun strength training for fear of bulking up, most don’t realize that muscle growth is modulated mostly by genes and food intake, and the possibility that your muscles will get noticeably larger is quite small.
  • Active isolated stretching (AIS) - A routine developed by Aaron Mattes, AIS makes use of specialized repetitive stretches in a particular order that targets muscle and connective tissue injury and restriction. This allows the tissues to elongate without triggering the body’s protective systems that would prevent safe and effective stretching and overall flexibility.

    Compared to static stretching which decreases the blood flow within the tissue, leading to localized ischemia (blood supply restriction) and lactic acid buildup, AIS:

    • Works with the body’s natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase muscle joints’ elasticity
    • Allows the body to help in repairing itself and preparing for daily activity
    • Can be easily incorporated into even the busiest of schedules

Drugs Can Devastate Your Health

Most Americans rely on drugs to treat different pains and illnesses. But research has shown that instead of making you feel better, they do the opposite.

Studies have showed that over-the-counter (OTC) medicines increase your risk for acetaminophen overdose, and may lead to liver injuries and kidney damage. Meanwhile, statin drugs lower your body’s cholesterol levels which are essentially its purpose. However, cholesterol is actually vital for the body as it helps in cell membrane, hormone, and bile acid production, and even for synapse formation, which connects the brain’s neurons to make one learn new things and store memories.

Instead of taking these drugs, opt for safe and effective alternatives. N-acetyl cysteine is a supplement that’s used in cases of acetaminophen overdoses and helps prevent organ damage, and it works if you take Tylenol occasionally. Aside from this, herbs and spices like ginger, curcumin, and boswellia (my personal favorite) work to treat inflammation in your body.

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