Whether it was a period of reckless abandonment during your teenage years, or decades of putting your health on the back burner, you don’t need January to hit to create a resolution. In fact, summer is often the best time to clean things up on the health front and start fresh. The better news is that there are things you can do today to repair the health blunders of yesterday.
I was recently on The Dr. Oz Show and he asked his viewers what their most-regrettable health habits were. We collected the top four and I provided holistic ways to counteract them. Read on for what I told Dr. Oz, and use these tools to make up for some past mistakes:
1. Recover from years of yo-yo dieting
When that crash diet you went on to get into that little black dress supersedes a calorie- (and often carb-) dense binge, it’s more than your waistline that suffers. Most of us can attest to the fact that these short-term victories are often followed by rebound weight gain since our hormones and appetite kick in to return the body to status quo. Meanwhile, the increase in stress hormones, caused by excessive caloric restriction, is highly destructive and will actually cause you to want to overeat. The kicker here is that repeatedly losing and gaining weight is also linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and altered immune function.
Bottom line: To start fresh, and protect your arteries and metabolism from a checkered diet history, consider guggulipids. In the past, guggulipids have shown to reduce serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels by up to 23 percent, and more recent studies have shown their anti-inflammatory efficacy.
Guggulipids can also stabilize blood sugar levels and even boost a sluggish thyroid, which may have gone downhill from excessive calorie restriction. They’ve also been shown to enhance the conversion of your less-active thyroid hormone, known as T4, into the metabolic master, T3.
Take 500 mg up to three times a day.
2. Regenerate your liver after too much drinking
Many of us like to enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine once in a while, but we need to approach these drinks with caution. Alcohol is a known appetite stimulant and frequently causes us to overeat because it also lowers our inhibitions. Even a little bit of alcohol (more than the recommended four glasses per week for women, seven for men) lowers leptin and raises cortisol. This leads to disturbed sleep, night-waking and those signature-cravings for greasy hangover foods the next day. Over time, chronic alcohol abuse can reduce the body’s responsiveness to insulin and cause sensitivity to sugar in even healthy individuals.
Bottom line: To combat the effects of drinking look for an herbal tincture or capsules of milk thistle (standardized to contain 70 percent silymarin).
Milk thistle (silybum marianum) has been used as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments — particularly liver, kidney, and gall bladder problems — for thousands of years. Research suggests that substances in milk thistle (especially a flavonoid called silymarin) protect the liver from toxins and even certain medications which can cause liver damage in high doses. Silymarin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may help the liver repair itself by growing new cells.
3. Make up for lost sleep
If you’ve ever taken a red-eye that left you with little sleep, you may not be surprised to find yourself battling flu-like symptoms the very next day.
Sleep is a fascinating, innate function that depends on the intricate interplay of environmental signals and various structures and chemicals within our body. It begins with the hypothalamus gland that regulates our internal clock (or the circadian rhythm), which dictates our natural sleep/wake cycle. When this is disturbed, one of the natural immune-enhancing hormones, melatonin, also takes a nosedive.
Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that maintains youthfulness, improves sleep, perks up libido and boosts energy and resistance to infections. It affects your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and your sleep quality.
Bottom line: Consumption of tart cherry juice (1/2 cup a day) and walnuts (1-2 tbsp a day) have both been found to naturally increase melatonin levels. You can also take 1-3 mg of melatonin approximately one hour before bed, particularly if you’re travelling and your sleep patterns have been disrupted.
4. Repair sun-damaged skin
Whether you tanned too much as a teen, or have ever underestimated the strength of your sunscreen, without proper skin protection you’ll find yourself paying for those hours in the sun. The epidermis is the top layer of skin and it’s what determines how youthful your skin looks. The good news is that with a few internal changes you can help epidermal cells renew every four to five weeks.
The Skin Study Center at University Hospitals of Cleveland found the antioxidants in green tea can reduce the harmful effects of a sunburn. The most abundant polyphenol in green tea, EGCG (also used for its benefits in weight loss), appears to bring dying skin cells back to life when it’s applied to the surface of the skin.
Bottom line: Look for an organic skincare moisturizer or serum that incorporates green tea for best results. Alternate it with a good vitamin C serum for an anti-aging, anti-sun damage protocol to keep looking fresh going forward.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.