Fasting and Autophagy

How many of you have heard of the word “autophagy”?  What does it mean?  If you have ever done a fasting program it is possible you would have heard of this.  Basically, the word autophagy is derived from the Greek words ‘auto’ – meaning ‘self’ and ‘phagein’ – meaning ‘to eat’.  So, the word literally means to eat oneself.  Say what?  Autophagy is simply a natural process by which our cells disassemble and remove their waste products.  When you trigger autophagy, you allow components of your healthy cells to hunt out dead or diseased cells and then eat them.  It is a regulated, orderly process to degrade and recycle cellular components by ‘lysosomes’ (the part of the cell that destroys stuff).  It’s like taking out the garbage.  This is actually very similar to what is called ‘apoptosis’ also known as ‘programmed cell death’.  Cells divide over and over however after a certain number of divisions the cells become old and are not able to do their jobs any more so they are then programmed to die.  This is an essential part of life to maintain good health.  What activates autophagy?  Nutrient deprivation is the key activator of autophagy.  When we fast, our insulin level goes down and our glucagon level goes up which stimulates the process of autophagy.  During sleep, we are essentially fasting which is a huge boost to autophagy.  When we wake up and eat, especially sugar (glucose), we turn off autophagy, so the process of autophagy is unique to fasting.  Of course, as with anything, there needs to be a balance.  Too much autophagy is just as bad as too little and will make you sick.  This brings us back to the natural cycle of life – feast and fast.  This allows for cell growth during eating, and cellular cleansing during the fasting times.  It’s all about balance.

Keep in mind, when I am referring to ‘fasting’ I am referring to the times in which we are not eating, such as when we are sleeping.  Doing an intermittent fast has been shown to be very helpful to stimulate autophagy.  You would be better off consuming no calories at all and doing an intermittent fast, rather than breaking your fast with a small number of calories and stopping autophagy.  For example; let’s say you eat dinner around 6 p.m.  You go to bed and get up at 6 a.m.  So, you haven’t eaten anything for 12 hours, however it takes 6-8 hours for your body to digest the dinner you had the night before.  Only after that 6-8 hours is when you start your fasting time.  Technically, you’ve only had 4-6 hours of fasting which is why they recommend that you do intermittent fasting.  Intermittent fasting typically lasts 24-48 hours and is done once per week but there are many different variations of it.  Also, know that exercise helps to stimulate autophagy so whether you do an intermittent fast or not, keep up your exercise regime.  The benefits of autophagy include: reduces inflammation, strengthens immune system, slows down the aging process, eats up cancerous cells and tumors, and kills toxins and infectious agents, basically cleaning out the bad stuff from your body (the garbage) and helping the protecting agents (our bodies soldiers) to keep us healthy.

What’s The Scoop on Turmeric?

I think by now most of you have heard about the amazing spice, turmeric.  The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin.  Turmeric is a popular spice similar to ginger, known for its bright yellow/orange color and is used in curry powders and mustards.  This plant grows across India and other areas of Asia and Central America and is considered an Ayurvedic medicine.  Ayurvedic medicine (or Ayurveda for short) is one of the world’s oldest holistic (whole-body) healing system.  It was developed almost 4,000 years ago for medicine in India and is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body and spirit.  Unlike traditional medicine, Ayurvedic medicine’s main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease, however treatments may be geared toward specific health issues.  Turmeric has now been studied extensively and there are more than 15,000 manuscripts published about curcumin and about 50 manuscripts are added to this collection every week, according to the National Institute of Health.  There just has to be something to this.   So why is turmeric so popular?  Because according to the majority of users, it simply works.  Its main use is for its anti-inflammatory properties.  You will find it in almost all arthritis formulas and is endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation.  The foundation recommends taking 400 – 600 mg of turmeric up to three times per day for inflammation relief.  It is also great for pain because inflammation causes pain.  Reduce inflammation, reduce the pain.  Also, some studies show that turmeric (at 800mg levels) seems to work as well as ibuprofen in people with arthritis in their knees.  Turmeric is also gaining a lot of attention for improving liver function because of its powerful antioxidant properties.  In fact, the antioxidant effect of turmeric appears to be so powerful tat it may stop your liver from being damaged by toxins.  This is great news for people who are taking strong medications long-term, which have a negative impact on their liver.  You will find turmeric (curcumin) in many liver detox products.  Turmeric has also shown to have anti-cancer properties and as a treatment for cancer.  Turmeric can hep with digestion so add it to as many foods as possible when cooking.  Not only does it add a lot of flavor, turmeric can contribute to healthy digestion due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as healing gut permeability and gut inflammation so if you have gut issues such as IBS, learn to cook with turmeric.  You can get turmeric in your diet in a number of ways.  Add turmeric to your salad dressings, marinades, spice mixtures, eggs etc.  You can certainly get turmeric in powder or capsule form at your local health food store.

Why Not Drink Turmeric Tea (aka Turmeric Milk)?

You can make your own turmeric tea using your own recipe or you can purchase it already made at your local health food store.  There now are a number of turmeric milk powders to choose from but I have two favorites.  The first one is the “Botanica Turmeric Golden Mylk” which comes in regular and chocolate flavor and packs a whopping 2,000mg of turmeric per serving in the regular flavor and 1,000 mg in the chocolate flavor!  Its all-natural ingredients are made with cinnamon, ashwagandha (another ayurvedic ingredient), cardamom, dates, coconut, and black pepper.  They recommend that you add one teaspoon into warmed almond or soy milk.  Some may like to add a little sweetener such as stevia or honey for a little sweetness.  My second favorite is “Organic Traditions Turmeric Latte with Probiotics and Saffron”.   This powder contains dried turmeric along with a supercritical turmeric dual extract, saffron, probiotics (I billion per serving), supercritical ginger and cinnamon dual extracts in a base of coconut milk and coconut palm sugar.  This one you shouldn’t need to add any additional sweetener to it due to the coconut palm sugar.  It only has 1g carb and 1g sugar so it is great for people following a low carb/low sugar diet.  You can make a nice warm latte with either of these powders or you can add them to a smoothie.  You can even add it to your coffee!  I suggest you try it because it is by far one of the healthiest drinks you could possibly sip on.

Can Vitamin D Help You Lose Weight?

Many of us know that our bodies need vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth.  Too little vitamin D results in soft bones in children, known as rickets, and fragile bones in adults.  Vitamin D is needed for many important functions in the body other than building strong bones such as strengthening the immune system, protecting us from cold and flu season.  Vitamin D also plays a major role in the life cycle of human cells.  A deficiency of this important vitamin could result in health problems such as depression, weight gain, cancers, and heart disease.  Vitamin D is so important that your body makes it by itself through exposure to the sun however if you don’t expose your skin to the sun, you use a sun block when in the sun, or you have dark skin, you may be at risk of low levels of vitamin D.  You can however get vitamin D from some foods such as fatty fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna), beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, and some foods fortified with vitamin D such as some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk and cereals.  You can also take vitamin D in capsule or liquid drops which ensures you are getting enough.

Did you know that getting in an adequate amount of vitamin D can help you lose weight?  Recently, researchers from Canada found that people with higher levels of vitamin D also have lower levels of body fat.  The connection isn’t a coincidence.  Vitamin D helps you feel fuller because it releases more leptin, which I have discussed in my past blogs.  Leptin is a hormone made by the fat cells that is essential to weight loss for a number of reasons.  It controls appetite and food intake so we don’t overeat and plays an important role in controlling body weight.  Vitamin D also helps you store less fat by decreasing parathyroid hormone, which makes you hold onto fat.  Best of all, vitamin D literally burns more fat by reducing the production of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’.  Remember that when our cortisol levels are high, it makes the body think you are in a fight or flight situation and when that happens, the body automatically stores fat because it needs to store energy (fat) as it doesn’t know how long you’re going to fight or run for.  You will need at least 3,000IU to 4,000IU per day if you want to see best results.

Can You ‘Spot Reduce’ When Trying to Lose Weight?

When people ask me what body shape I have, I always say ‘big’ but in all honesty, I have to admit I am apple shaped like the rest of my family.  There are basically four different body shapes (apple, pear, rectangle and inverted triangle) but we are going to focus on apple and pear shapes.  Apple-shaped people carry most of their fat around the abdomen and for some time have been thought to be more at risk for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes than the pear-shaped person because their fat is stored around all of the organs.  Pear-shaped people carry their extra weight in the hips, buttocks, and thighs.  Is your shape hereditary?  The answer is ‘yes’, genetics is the most important determinant for where fat is stored.  Chances are high that your body shape is similar to one of your parents.  Gender and age are also part of the equation where men tend to carry more weight around their midsection and women tend to have more fat around the hips and thighs.  Hereditary factors may play a role in your total body weight not only due to genes but also eating habits.  If your parents are overweight and have an unhealthy diet, chances are you were fed an unhealthy diet growing up which is why you may be overweight as well.  We all know some people who have a tiny upper body, small waist and then bulge at the bottom, or the person who has the ‘pregnant’ belly and skinny little legs and no bum.  I have had people ask me numerous times if they can ‘spot reduce’ meaning can they lose weight JUST in their hips and thighs or wherever…  I’ve heard many women who are pear-shaped and are trying to lose weight in their lower body only to find that their boobs and waist get smaller which is the last place they needed to lose weight.

So, can you ‘spot reduce’?  The theory of spot reduction, or losing weight in a targeted area only, has been promoted in the health and fitness world for some time but there’s really not a lot of evidence to support it.  An example of spot reducing is doing sit-ups in an effort to reduce your belly weight.  To know if spot reducing is possible, one must understand how fat loss works.  The fat in your cells is found in the form of triglycerides which can be broken down later for the body to use for energy.  Before they can be burned for energy, they must be broken down into smaller fats called free fatty acids and glycerol.  Once they are broken down, they enter the bloodstream and then, during exercise, they can be used for fuel.  It is important to note that the ‘fuel’ you are burning come from the whole body, not specifically from the area that is being exercised.  Having said that, if you are doing sit-ups to burn belly fat, you are not just burning fat from the belly however, you are strengthening the muscles of the abdomen but you just can’t see it due to the fat on top of the abdomen.  My husband says he has a washboard stomach but there’s a load of laundry in the washer (ha ha).  So, whether you are apple-shaped or pear-shaped, you cannot lose weight only in a specific desired area of the body.  When you lose weight, chances are you will likely be the same shape, only smaller.

New Business Venture

Hi everyone

First, I’d like to thank everyone who is following me and liked my posts.  As you may have noticed, I have changed my name to Yates Health Consulting.  I wanted to tell you that I am starting a consulting business soon.  I will be available to come to your homes and do a health talk for your group.  We can talk about any subject you want such as weight loss, cancer, stress, hormone balance, skin care, vitamin supplementation and anything that your guests would like to learn about.  I will keep you posted as I continue to set this up and let you know when I will be available.  In the meantime, if you feel you would be interested in having me in your home and talk to your friends, please let me know what topics you would be interested in so I am prepared.  I am very excited about this new venture and hope that you are too.



How Has Canada Food Guide Changed and Has it Helped Us?

Did you know that Canada’s Food Guide no longer includes how many servings of different foods to include daily, but urges people to eat more of some things and less of others?  They say to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat.  The iconic rainbow of the Canada’s Food Guide recommended eating 4-10 servings of vegetables (1/2 cup serving size) has now changed to a ‘plate’, half of which is now fruits and vegetables.  One quarter of the ‘plate’ should include whole grains like pasta and rice and the other quarter should be filled with protein, preferably plant-based like nuts, tofu, lentils or beans.  They recommend plant-based proteins in order to increase fiber intake and lower intake of processed meats and saturated fats (to reduce risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and colon cancer).  Missing on this new ‘plate’ are the ‘milk and alternatives’ food group which may reduce key sources of many nutrients that many of us fall short of.  Although dairy products are not shown on the ‘plate’ they do say that you can include low-fat dairy products like milk and cheese as a protein source.  Where do fats fit in all of this?

There are no fats showing on the new ‘plate’ however they say that choosing foods that contain mostly healthy fats are the way to get your fats into your diet and are recommended such as nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, vegetable oils and soft margarine.  Soft margarine????  Really?  So, I supposed they are not opposed to partially hydrogenated fats which are essentially trans-fats and are used in most soft margarine.  They do not recommend saturated fats such as fatty meats, high fat dairy products and oils such as coconut oil (old school thinking).  When preparing foods, they recommend using healthy oils such as olive, flax seed, safflower, sunflower, soybean, peanut, sesame, canola and corn oil.  OK, so we know that saturated fats have been given a bad wrap in recent history as being bad for our health, particularly heart health.  Most of this advice is backed by flawed, incomplete scientific studies that ignore the principles of the ketogenic diet which we now have numerous scientific data to back this diet up, and more keep coming.  Also, a lot of the old research that condemns saturated fats failed to consider or take into account the high consumption of carbohydrates alongside the fat intake of the research subjects.  Of course, when you mix high fat with high amounts of carbohydrates, you are just asking for trouble.

I know it’s hard to change your thoughts on what we have been ‘trained’ to believe over the past number of years but if what they say is true in terms of better health, why is obesity a major epidemic right now, especially among children?  We have a lot of scientific data that shows that people who are obese have a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer ad premature mortality than a normal weight person.  This alone has been estimated to cost our Canadian economy by approximately $4.6 BILLION, which is an increase of about 19% from 2000.  So where is the disconnect?  At the same time, we are now gathering so much evidence that the low-carb and keto diet are much healthier for you mainly because you are drastically reducing your sugar intake.  Remember EVERYTHING with the exception of meat and fat is sugar.  ALL carbohydrates (simple and complex) and ALL other foods break down into glucose.  I believe, as many health professionals believe, that sugar is the culprit to ill health.

Ok, so we know that sugary foods such as sugary drinks, donuts, cakes and candy are bad for you but keep in mind, as much as these are very high-sugar foods, they are still bad because it’s sugar.  How does sugar affect our health?  Did you know that an abundance of sugar may cause your liver to become resistant to insulin, which helps turn sugar in your bloodstream into energy?  This means your body isn’t able to control your blood sugar levels as well which can cause type 2 diabetes.  When you eat excess sugar, the extra insulin in your bloodstream can affect your arteries causing the walls to grow faster than normal and get tense which adds stress to your heart and over time, damage to the heart which can lead to heart disease.  Sugar creates a surge of dopamine in your brain (the feel-good hormone) and your brain starts to need more and more sugar to get that same feeling of pleasure creating more and more sugar cravings that are hard to ignore, causing you to eat more.  Eating something high in sugar can give you a quick burst of energy aka ‘sugar high’ by raising your blood sugar levels fast.  However, when your levels drop as your cells absorb the sugar, you may get the ‘sugar crash’ which makes you feel jittery and anxious.  Studies show that a high sugar intake is linked to a greater risk of depression.  Sugar also causes inflammation in the body which is NOT a good thing!  I could go on…

Conclusion?  Canada’s Food Guide is predominantly sugar in one form or another.  Think about it…half of your ‘plate is fruits and vegetables (sugar), one quarter of the ‘plate’ is grains (sugar) and the other quarter of the ‘plate’ is protein which they recommend plant-based proteins (sugar again).  I would like to know what they based their changes on for the new ‘plate’ over their ‘rainbow’ guide (which wasn’t any better).  According to The University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine “Canada’s Food Guide needs a facelift.  The blueprint that informs our relationship with food fails to help people make the heathiest choices.  In the midst of an obesity crisis that threatens our health and our health care system, this document is obesogenic.  We need to do better.”  I agree.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…

Happy Valentine’s Day! Bring on the Chocolate! Wait…is chocolate ok?

Valentine’s Day allows you permission to eat chocolate right?  Right!  And, chocolate is actually good for you, depending what type of chocolate you’re eating so, you can eat it guilt free.  Whew…  Chocolate got a bad rap due to it’s high calorie and fat content and its link to obesity, diabetes, acne and heart disease but recent studies show that chocolate actually has many health benefits.  This is due to cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate.  Cacao contains biologically active ‘phenolic’ compounds, giving it a very high antioxidant profile.  Chocolate’s antioxidant potential may have a range of health benefits. The higher the cocoa content, (as in dark chocolate) the more benefits there are. Dark chocolate may also contain less fat and sugar, but it is important to check the label.  Look for dark chocolate with no less than 70% cacao but getting closer to 90% is even better.  Cacao can have a strong bitter taste so the higher the cacao content the more bitter it may be.  OR…you can make your own chocolate!  I have posted my chocolate recipe before but since it is Valentine’s Day, I thought I would post it again.  This is the yummiest, healthiest chocolate you could possibly eat and there are so many variations in making it to suite your taste buds.  So here is the basic recipe and some great ways to spice it up!  Go ahead and enjoy your chocolate, without the guilt!


1 cup cacao powder

½ cup melted coconut oil

(This is the basic recipe but if you add the powders and other ingredients you will need to add more coconut oil)

½ cup powdered peanut butter

3 heaping Tbls greens powder (to make it even healthier)

3 Tbls phytoberry (this is what I use to sweeten it, if you don’t use this you can add stevia or xylitol or anything to taste)

½ cup Hemp seeds

Crushed nuts of your choice

½ tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp Cayenne (I add a bit more as it gives it a nice kick)

1/2 tsp salt (optional)

You can basically add anything you want….like fruit but it makes it chewy.

Melt the coconut oil, add the cacao powder and mix all ingredients together.

I put them in ice cube trays but you can pour it on wax or parchment paper on a cookie sheet

Freeze until firm and store in fridge or freezer as the coconut oil will melt if you don’t.

Thought:  Since it is Valentine’s day you can use a cookie cutter in the shape of a heart or buy a heart shaped ice cube tray and pour the chocolate in them to have heart shaped chocolates.