What Causes Sleep Apnea and What You Can Do To Fix It

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In 2009 I was lucky enough to travel to Munich, Germany to take an advanced certification test (Diplomate in Applied Kinesiology) and was able to take my mother, who had never been to Europe.  We shared a room, and the trip was amazing.  However, my mom did manage to scare the hell out of me in the middle of the night the first night when she would just stop breathing for a breath or two, several times.  If you’ve had the misfortune of ever witnessing this, you understand what a disturbing experience it is.

I made her go to a sleep center when she got home, and they officially diagnosed her with sleep apnea.  This is a common chronic disorder, that disrupts the sleep of close to 25% of the population in the U.S.  And if left untreated, it can be extremely dangerous.

There are two types of sleep apnea.  The first and most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, in which your airway becomes blocked, or even collapses. Most of the time the cause of the obstruction is an inhibition of the muscles at the back of the throat.  These muscles are controlled by the twelfth cranial nerve, which arises from the medulla oblongata.

This causes shallow breathing and actually stops your breathing, as many as 30 or more pauses or in an hours time.  The pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes.  Then with a snort, snore or a choke, you resume your normal breathing.  However, because of these pauses, you never enter a deep sleep, which means you’ll end up more tired throughout the day.

Since sleep apnea occurs at night when you’re sleeping, most of the time you won’t even know you have it unless a bed buddy tells you!  And it’s a sure bet your bed buddy will know because any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring.  While obstructive sleep apnea can affect anyone, it is more common in people who are overweight.

The second type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea.  This occurs if the area of your brain that controls your breathing doesn’t send the right signals to your breathing muscles.  This means you may make no effort to breathe for short periods.  Like obstructive sleep apnea, anyone can be affected, but people who are on certain medications or have certain medical conditions are more prone to this type of apnea.  One way to discern if you’re suffering from obstructive or central sleep apnea is that typically, with central sleep apnea, you don’t snore.

Some of the problems you might face if you let your sleep apnea go unchecked are high blood pressure, risk of heart attack or heart failure, stoke, obesity, diabetes, and the possibility of irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).

The good news, though, is that sleep apnea can be easily be treated without surgery.   This can be done by regulating your diet, maintaining your weight, getting proper exercise, and generally reducing stress in your life.

In my experience there are a few things that can help to clear up apnea rather quickly:

  1.  Remove all food allergens, which include wheat, corn, diary and soy.  These tend to inhibit the nervous system
  2. Get Adjusted, upper cervical bio-mechanics have a lot to do with snoring and how well your muscles that control your throat and palate work.
  3. Lose just 10 pound (which cutting out your food allergens enables you to do quite often).  This helps keep the airway open while sleeping.
  4.  Walk just 20 minutes in the morning.  Exercise even just a little bit increases your stamina and can drop a few pounds.
  5.  Increase your water intake to about 30 oz. per 50lbs of body weight.
  6.  Limit alcohol to 1 drink every other day at the most.  Alcohol is a depressant and causes inhibition of the nervous system.

Friday Feast – Smoked Salmon Casserole & Sauteed Red Pepper and Kale

Smoked Salmon Casserole & Sauteed Red Pepper & Kale

This is a quick and easy Paleo/Primal meal that was great for dinner or a Sunday brunch with the whole family!

Smoked salmon eggSmoked Salmon Casserole
1 T Butter
3 cup pulled smoked salmon
3⁄4 cup chopped green onions
2 tsp. minced garlic
12 large eggs, beaten
1⁄2 t kosher salt
1⁄2 t black pepper
Red Pepper Kale
3 T Butter
2 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 T minced garlic
2 lb chopped kale
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Rub butter in a 13×9-inch baking dish.
Sprinkle salmon, onions, and garlic in bottom of dish.
Whisk together eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl until fluffy.
Pour into baking dish.
Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until center is set.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add red pepper and garlic; sauté 4 minutes.
Add kale and cook 5 minutes or until wilted.
Stir in salt and pepper.

Eat Locally and Ancestrally

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One of the main tenants of the Ancestral Diet (Paleo or Primal) is to eat locally.  As we were ‘growing-up’ as a species, before the advent of agriculture, we could only eat what we could find growing wild or what we could hunt.  Hence, we were hunter-gatherer’s.  We did this for around 200,000 years.  This means that our genes are designed to eat a variety food that can be walked to in less than a day.

Unfortunately, today our diets can’t be considered local. In fact, they are far from local.  The average distance an American meal travels from farm to fork is about 1500 miles! This is basically the distance from my office here in Dallas, TX to Boston, MA.  There are significant problems with this in regards to the freshness of the food.  Usually it takes three to five days after harvest to get to your local grocery store, so these foods were harvested five to ten days before they were ripe or when our ancestors would have eaten them.  These last few days of ripening on the “vine” are crucial for the vegetable or fruit when some of the last and best nutrients are concentrated.  And we haven’t even mentioned that growing seasons, climate and even the types of agriculture are significantly different over these 1500 miles.

There are also major draw backs from the massive distance the food travels, the large consumption of fossil fuel, generation of carbon dioxide emissions (some more polluting than others), and sacrifice of quality of product.  With the increase in the “Eat Local” movement its truly becoming increasingly unnecessary for this ‘traveling’ of our food to take place because we really can eat locally – and seasonally – with very little sacrifice.  In fact it may be the only way that we can move to a sustainable lifestyle.

I am lucky to live in North Texas, and thanks to the wealth of farmer’s markets and food co-ops that have popped up (all over the country, actually) its becoming very easy to eat locally.  There is even a Guild that produces zip code specific honey.  They have a dozen properties around town where they raise their bees.  Their raw unfiltered honey provides a local element and is a great benefit to your system and allergy relief.

Better health isn’t the only benefit that we’ll get if we eat locally.  There are actually many benefits, one of them being the fulfilling experience of getting your hands dirty planting and growing your own food as we are loosing our connections to the land.  And it is an interesting experience to shake the hands of the people who grew your food, especially if it was right around the corner.

Take a look at a couple of very informative articles – one about cultivating a healthy food system, and the other, eat local, save energy.

Here’s a site that will whet your appetite and encourage you to walk – around the corner for your food!  Check out Edible Dallas for 24 – yes, 24 – local farmer’s markets located in Dallas, Richardson, McKinney, Frisco, Rockwall, Keller, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Prosper, Denton, Arlington, Balch Springs, Ft. Worth, Waxahachie, and Coppell.  Some are open only on weekends, some all week-long.  You can find fresh produce, nuts, eggs and meats to compliment your paleo menu.

If you’re interested in joining a food co-op, check out Urban Acres, Eden Co-Op, or Cross Timbers Food Cooperative.

No matter where you live, on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Farmer’s Market Directory site you’ll find literally thousands of markets all across the land with an abundance of fresh food.  For example, the list shows 822 markets in California, about 650 in Florida, almost as many in New York, and several hundred across the state of Texas.  It’s growing every day and was just updated this month.  So there really are no excuses to not eat locally.  There is also a ton of great info on sustainabletable.org, it’s an amazing site about the sustainable food movement.

Beans, Not So Good for Your Heart!

If I told you that one food group has been linked to osteoporosis, depression, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, dementia, bowel dysfunction, potential male impotence, and iron deficiency anemia, would you eat those foods?  Although it seems pretty impossible, there is one toxic food that can cause all of these problems.

This horrible plague of a crappy food is actually any grain, nut, seed or legume:  Wheat, Oats, Quinoa, Spelt, Almonds, Soy beans, etc. All have significant amounts of Phytic Acid, or phytates.

These phytates are what are called chelators, meaning they bind things up, which prevents your gut from absorbing them.  Now if we were to simply talk about chelating Uranium, then that’s a great thing.  However, these phylates also bind up important minerals like Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and Zinc.

If you eat grains, nuts, seeds or legumes you may experience some of these symptoms:

  • Calcium deficiency, which can present as osteoporosis
  • Magnesium deficiency, which can be related to Cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure and depression
  • Iron deficiency, which will cause anemia
  • Zinc deficiency, which can cause dementia, sexual dysfunction, decreased gastric function and alteration of your sense of smell and taste

So if the myriad of adverse reactions that most people have with gluten wasn’t motivation enough to avoid grains, I hope this is the push you needed to cut all grains out of your diet.  Some may suggest that sprouting of the beans or grains can be beneficial but I have clinically found this to not be true.  They still tend to irritate the gut and are best to be avoided in my opinion.

Friday Feast – Greek Herb Crusted Cod and Mint Roasted Beets

Friday Feast – Greek Herb Crusted Cod and Mint Roasted Beets

By J. J. Gregor

This was SOOOO fast easy and great!  Next time I do it though I will skip the mint on the beets.

Cod and beats

1/2 T. oregano
1/2 T. garlic powder
1/2 T. thyme
1/2 T. parsley
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 T. fresh mint chopped
4 8 oz. cod filets
3 medium sized beets (we used red and gold)
1 pat of unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Wrap the beets in aluminum foil with the pat of butter and roast for 1 hour.  Remove and let cool, then peel with a paper towel.  While the beets are cooling combine all the spices in a bowl.  Wash and pat dry the cod.  Coat the cod with the spice blend.  Put cod in roasting pan bake 15-20 minutes until the cod flakes easily with a fork.

What It Really Means To Be Gluten Free

Gluten free diet concept - handwritten with white chalk on a blaI was reading a post in a chron’s disease forum, and I couldn’t believe it when I saw someone was excited because they discovered Cocoa Puffs cereal was gluten-free.  I wanted to scream.

There has been a lot of noise in the media about the benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle which has caused the food industry to produce a mind numbing array of gluten-free labeled “foods.”  We have talked in the past about wheat and grain but lets dive a little deeper into gluten and why gluten-free is gaining popularity.

Gluten is a protein that is a composite of gliadin and glutenin.  These are what actually cause the allergic reactions.  And Celiac Disease, which is an allergic/autoimmune disease to gluten.  People suffer abnormal immune reactions to partially digested gliadin.  In other words, they have major inflammation in their small intestines.  Gluten intolerance or sensitivity, symptoms can include bloating, abdominal discomfort and pain, diarrhea, muscular disturbances, and bone or joint pain.  Gluten is also being shown to be linked to several neurological symptoms from Multiple Sclerosis to Lou Gehrig’s disease.

To avoid these problems, a gluten-free diet has gained massive popularity over the past few years.  There are many foods that are naturally gluten-free such as beans, seeds and unprocessed nuts that people use as substitutes. Additionally, there are some grains and starches that, if not processed or mixed with gluten-containing grains, are safe gluten “free.”  These include amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn and cornmeal, flax, hominy, millet, rice flour, soy flour, quinoa, sorghum, and tapioca.  Unfortunately, many times, through cross-contamination in storage, transport and processing they usually come into contact with other gluten containing foods.  So it’s suspect how gluten-free they really are.

So, it might be understandable that you would get excited if you noticed that your kids favorite sugary cereal was now gluten-free.  Even if you were a bit delusional and thought that Cocoa Puffs were good for you after they removed the gluten, you would still be wrong.  Here is are the first few ingredients of Cocoa Puffs with 25% less sugar:

Whole Grain Corn (SUGAR), Sugar, Corn Meal (STARCH), Corn Syrup (SUGAR), Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Canola and/or Rice Bran Oil, Caramel and Beet Juice Concentrate Color, Salt, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Trisodium Phosphate. BHT Added to Preserve Freshness.

As you can see the first three ingredients are starch, sugar, and corn (which we talked about previously).  That is the major problem with some “gluten-free” labeled products, is that they’re loaded with sugar and starches.  This can be overall worse for your health than the gluten, and I think gluten is pretty awful for you! All the increased sugar can lead to diabetes and excessive weight gain that can wreak havoc on your health in the long run.

Other problems with gluten-free foods is that they will often substitute nut, seeds or legumes for the flour or fillers.  This can be problematic because of the Phytic acid that can bind minerals and not allow you to absorb them.  Also, one of the legumes that is often used is soy which we previously discussed the health implications.

Avoiding gluten in my opinion is essential to your health.  But eating “gluten-free” foods may be just as dangerous and you may just want to avoid them altogether.  Stick with the unprocessed foods that are naturally gluten-free.

updated 5/22/2013 @ 2:46

The Science Behind the Adrenal Gland

Stress Meter Showing  Panic Attack From Stress Or Worry

by J. J. Gregor

I’ve discussed the causes of stress, and how proper adrenal function is crucial for for other parts of you body.  Today I’d like to get more into the specifics of what actually takes place with adrenal gland stress.  Not only are there physical and mental reactions to stress, but there are a large number of hormones that ‘kick in’ and compound to that stress.

Let’s start with Epinephrine (Adrenaline).  Obviously, it’s produced in the adrenal gland and is the hormone that creates the immediate “fight or flight” reactions we experience when a stress arises.  Here’s an example:  Your driving, and the car in front of you slams on its breaks.  You quickly change lanes to get out of the way, barely missing him.  Your muscles are tense, heart is pounding, and breathing is rapid.  That’s epinephrine at work.  Epinephrine is also the ‘survival’ hormone in that it will give you a surge of focus and energy, particularly if facing a dangerous situation.

Next there’s Noreprinephrine.  Similar to adrenaline in that it’s released from the adrenal gland, it differs in that it is also released from the brain.  Noreprinephrine is responsible for arousal, more wakefulness, and more responsiveness.  Additionally, noreprinephrine will shift blood flow away from less essential areas, like skin, to more essential areas, like muscles, that you may need during a stressful situation (like having to run away from danger!)

If your adrenal glands are not functioning properly, norepinephrine will kick in to take up the slack because epinephrine and norepinephrine works as ‘back-ups’ to each other.  Depending on how you’re handling your particular stress and whether or not it’s long term, it could take anywhere from a half hour to a few days for your body to return to its normal restful state.

Finally, there’s Cortisol which is also produced by the adrenal glands.  This is the steroid hormone, commonly know as ‘the stress hormone’.  Unlike the others, cortisol takes a few seconds to respond, and it can take up to minutes for you to feel it’s effects.  This is because there are two additional hormones involved that create a multi-step process.

Once the amygdala, a part of your brain, recognizes a threat (Fear) it sends a message to the hypothalamus, another part of your brain.  The Hypothalamus tells the pituitary gland to release an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).  THEN the ACTH tells your adrenal glands to produce cortisol.  So it’s definitely lots of steps in order for it to work.

Optimal amounts of cortisol can be life saving if you’re in survival mode.  Cortisol can help maintain your fluid balance and blood pressure.  It can also continue regulating your body functions that are not crucial at the moment, like the reproductive drive, immunity, digestion, and growth.

So if you are ‘stewing’(any long term stress) on a problem or constantly on the blood sugar roller-coaster, your body will continuously release cortisol.  For example, when you eat a high carbohydrate, grain and sugar based diet you will be constantly spiking and crashing your blood sugar.  When your blood sugar quickly falls, you will release cortisol.

If you are on this roller-coaster then your cortisol levels will become elevated and serious issues can ensue.  Too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, decrease libido by altering your sex hormones, increase blood pressure and sugar, cause obesity, produce acne, long term abuse could also lead to infertility issues, and more.

A few other considerations.  The hormones estrogen and testosterone are also steroid hormones and affect your body when you come under stress, as do the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.  But the three major hormones – epinephrine, noreprinephrine, and cortisol – are the main players in your body’s reaction to stress.  Understanding them and their impact will enable you to get back on track and move ahead more quickly when faced with a stressful situation.

The best way to help balance your adrenal glands are to remove the stresses of your life, whether they be Mental, Physical, Chemical, Electromagnetic, or Thermal.  Remember that the two biggest stresses that we can control are physical and chemical.

You Might Be More Stressed Than You Think

StressDo any of these sound familiar?  Low energy and chronic fatigue.  Dizziness, especially when you stand up quickly.  Asthma and allergies.  Sun light sensitivity, (bright lights hurt your eyes, you have to constantly ware sunglasses)    Muscle and joint problems.  Anxiety, panic attacks, and blood sugar stress.  Insomnia.  Low sex drive.  Digestive issues.  Heart and thyroid problems.  Sure, these may seem random, but surprisingly enough, there’s one common link between all of them.  They’re all related to stress and adrenal gland Hypo-function.

Unfortunately, most traditional doctors don’t consider this conglomeration of stress symptoms to be a hypo-function of the adrenal gland.  In the orthodox world of modern medicine there is usually only Pathology or “Health”.  We need to realize that pathology is usually a gradual onset.  For example, people don’t wake up one day with massively clogged arteries or cancer.   Instead, these results are cumulative and occur in stages.  Then we can assume that certain organs or glands must function less than optimally and start to break down in order for pathology to occur.

Hans Selye, was the first person to demonstrate biological forms of stress and was the originator of the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) and coined the term ‘stress’.  There are three stages in the  Adaptation Syndrome. First there’s Alarm.  Then if the stressor isn’t removed, we enter the Resistance stage.  Last, we enter Exhaustion of the gland, organ or system reserves.

Today we think of stress in only its emotional forms, but we neglect to think of other potential types of stress:

Physical: this includes over or under exercising, breaking a bone or injury of some kind

Chemical: this is the biggest stressor of today’s society in my opinion, it can include poor diet, too much sugar, not enough fats, or possibly exposure to allergens (food or airborne)

Thermal: this can be things like heat stroke, going from 100+ degree heat into 70 degree air-conditioning.

Electromagnetic stress:  This could be constant exposure to fluorescent lighting, cell phones or a sunburn

These forms of stress are cumulative, so although you may not feel that stressed, your body and adrenal glands still could reach exhaustion.   And if you have too much stress you may even skip over both stages of stress, straight into the exhaustion stage.  All of this stress affects the adrenal glands, which consequently affects every organ of the body.

When stimulated, the adrenals secrete hormones to help support your body so you can function normally.  Our adrenals and nervous system are very well designed to deal with short-term high intensity stress, but stress today is very long-term.  Thanks to long working hours, and family stress, we never get a break to rest and heal.  Unfortunately, that rest and healing is what our bodies were designed to have.

So how can you fix this since taking a vacation every other week really isn’t an option?  Well, it’s crucial to get the glands functioning normally again.  We can do this by looking at the factors of stress that we can actually control.  First, changing your chemistry (i.e. diet)  is by far the easiest and most productive.  When we eat foods that we are sensitive to (see previous posts about wheat and corn), eat foods that are to high in sugars or starches that cause a rapid spike and fall of your blood sugar, not eat enough food (low-calorie diets), eat too much food, not eat often enough to maintain a constant level of your blood sugar, eat too often, or not drink enough water, we affect our total stress load.

Second, you can affect stress levels with physical activity.  When we look at humans as a species, we’re meant to do lots of low intensity exercise with short bursts of high intensity throughout the week.  Most people, though do the opposite with high intensity all week-long.  They may add a day or two of ‘cardio’, but it’s really not true cardio  (see exercise post earlier).  You need to flip it, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel by doing a few little tweaks and getting more rest.

If you’re worried that your adrenal glands might be out of balance, A qualified Applied Kinesiology Doctor can assist in determining if they are and help in re-balancing through a course of care, dietary and exercise modifications.

Friday Feast – Almond Crusted Halibut & Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Friday Feast – Almond Crusted Halibut & Roasted Brussels Sprouts

By J. J. Gregor

This was a simple, quick meal that was amazing!

Halibut and Brussels1 ½ pound of halibut
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup finely chopped almonds
2 Tablespoon olive oil

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
2 T olive oil
2 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F. Dredge in egg wash, and then dust with chopped almonds. Transfer to a baking sheet rubbed with oil. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through.

Combine sprouts, oil, sage, garlic, salt and pepper in a jellyroll pan or shallow baking dish. Bake at 450°F for 18 minutes or until browned, stirring once.

Soy – It’s Not What You Think

Soy has been labeled a super food that’s been said to help menopausal symptoms, decrease the risk of heart disease, reverse osteoporosis, and fight cancer.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe it to be the amazing thing it’s made out to be, and it’s time to reconsider soy’s place as a panacea of modern society.  Very few of these benefits have been substantiated and in-fact may be outright miss-representations of the facts.

So let’s talk about all the adverse affects of soy, which are a lot and not good for your body.

“Soy foods can prevent osteoporosis.”  This fallacy came out of the observation that Asian cultures ate soy and have little or no incidents of osteoporosis.  This is absolutely not true, soy foods can cause deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, both needed for healthy bones. Calcium from bone broths and vitamin D from seafood, lard and organ meats prevent osteoporosis in Asian countries—not soy foods.

“Soy can prevent some cancers” this thought is based on the fact that soy contains phytoestrogens that can mimic natural estrogen.  Estrogen CAN be protective against a few types of cancer, the problem is that some of the most aggressive and horrible cancers are estrogen dependent, meaning that the more estrogen you have the fast, bigger and more invasive the cancer.  Also, when soy protein is processed, it results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine, and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.  So the little protection you get from soy is no where near worth the potential downside in regards to cancer

“Soy helps with menopausal symptoms” while this can be true, its kind of like trying to stop the bleeding of a gun shot would with a band-aid, it doesn’t fix the real problem and doesn’t even do that great of a job fixing the symptom.  Soy phytoestrogens can act on receptors that may help deminsih some of the menopausal symptoms but it will disrupted endocrine function and the potential for causing  breast cancer in adult women and men.  Soy is also linked to hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer. The phytoestrogens are a potent antithyroid agent and if you are inhibiting your thyroid you will have worse symptoms than menopause.

Soy foods may contain high levels of aluminum, toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys.  Also, soy contains large quantities of free glutamic acid, also known as MSG, which is a potent neurotoxin.  It is formed during soy food processing and there can be additional amounts added to many soy food products.  This neurotoxin has been linked to: MS, Lou Gehrig’s, Alzheimer, obesity, cancer, autism, migraines and depression.

There are high levels of phytic acid in soy, that effect the assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc.  During ordinary preparations of soy, such as soaking, sprouting and long slow cooking, soy is not neutralized.  A high phytic diet has shown growth problems in children.

When it comes to soy, the analogs in Vitamin B12, necessary to the body, are not absorbed.  Therefore, the body’s requirement for Vitamin B12 is actually increased.

So overall, soy really isn’t the great thing that it’s been made out to be.  Oh, and I haven’t even touched the topic of Genetically Modified (GMO), which is abundant in soy.

For more in depth information, visit:  Weston A. Price Foundation