Sleep in Times Past: 4 Hours at a Time

sunriseUntil recently, the supremacy of 8 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep for optimum health has gone unchallenged. A peaceful night of continuous sleep seems to be the elusive goal that doctors recommend and that we are all hoping to obtain. Yet many of us, despite following the advice of sleep therapists or owning a comfortable mattress, continue to wake up in the middle of night. To compound matters, random waking can cause anxiety about getting enough rest before work the next day, making falling back to sleep that much more difficult. Recent research, however, may explain this late-night tossing and turning and perhaps shed light on one of the causes of elevated stress levels in modern society.

In At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, historian Roger Ekirch reveals that before the Industrial Revolution, people used to sleep in two distinct chunks, which people from the time referred to as “first sleep” and “second sleep.” Psychiatrists and other researches call this type of sleep cycle “polyphasic” or “bi-segmented.” A bi-segmented sleep pattern has been observed among some primitive cultures, as well as various animals, but until now it was assumed that most people throughout history slept once per day for a continuous period. It turns out, however, that before the invention of electricity, people were more in-tune with the natural rhythms of light and dark in creation.

By reading hundreds of documents from the early modern period (1500-1800), Ekirch found that people repeatedly referred to a “first” and “second” sleep, as well as a period of semi-wakefulness in-between sleeps. People would usually wind down for bed as soon as it started to grow dark, fall-asleep for about 4 hours, wake for 1 to 3 hours, and then fall back asleep for another 4 or more hours. The time between “first” and “second” sleeps was used for a variety for purposes. After a long day of work, for many it was the best time of peace and relaxation, the perfect time to visit with loved ones or friends. For others, such a writers and philosophers, it proved the perfect time for thinking and journaling. Doctors advising married couples on how to conceive, recommended it as the best time to have sex, as it was during this period that the couple would be most relaxed and rejuvenated. Psychiatrist Walter Brown believes that such a sleep schedule may have helped people better cope with the stresses of daily life.

The tendency for humans to sleep in two phases in the lack for artifical light was confirmed recently by several experiments performed by psychiatrist Dr. Wehr. In one experiment in-particular, Dr. Wehr found that when individuals were transfered from 16-hours of light exposure (what most experience as a result of artificial lighting) to only 10-hours of light exposure per day (equivalent to a winter day without any artificial light), the subjects sleep cycles naturally split into two distinct periods with 1-3 hours of wakefulness in-between.

So is there a lesson from all of this? At this point it’s difficult to say for sure, but it’s not hard to imagine that living without artificial lighting would help us get more rest and better deal with the stresses of life. Yet while going without artificial lighting for a time might be a fun experiment, for most of us it’s unrealistic. If anything, maybe we can try to live a little more with the rhythms of creation by turning the lights or TV off a little bit earlier at night. Also, in the event we do wake up at night, perhaps we can find some solace in the knowledge that it might be because of our body’s natural sleep cycle. Honest research continues to reveal how technology and societal “advancements” affect our health in unforeseen (and often negative) ways. Personally, I believe that the more we trust in God’s provision and enjoy the goodness of his creation, the healthier we will become.

References: At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, by Roger Ekrich; In short photoperiods, human sleep is biphasic. Dr. TA Wehr; Acknowledging Preindustrial Patterns of Sleep May Revolutionize Approach to Sleep Dysfunction Dr. Walter Brown

Recommended Reading: The Neuroscience of Sleep with Russell Foster

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Originally posted 2013-03-13 23:30:56.

The Ultimate Ancient Exercise

Our ancestors practiced this ancient exercise on a regular basis, lifting stones and logs for shelter and other survival activities, but now we rarely do it as part of daily life. Yet, while it’s gone by many names and has fallen out of regular use, it remains one of the most important exercises for athletes of all kinds — it’s most commonly known as the deadlift.

The human body is specially designed to pick things up, to lift heavy objects. The ability to lift things well sets us apart from most other creatures. And since we have this special gift, we need to exercise it in order to maintain optimum health.

The largest muscles in the body (the glutes, hamstrings, core, and back) are all activated by this powerful lifting movement. These muscles, in fact, depend on lifting things for health. The ancient deadlift is probably the best overall exercise for strengthening the core, building strength, reinforcing the spine, and improving posture.

The deadlift can be included as part of a variety of fitness routines. Whether you want to strengthen your back and improve general health, burn excess fat, or build muscle mass, lifting heavy things will do the trick. Weight lifting boosts the body’s resting metabolism, which means burning more calories while not even lifting a finger. The deadlift is particularly good at boosting the metabolism because it activates so many major muscle groups at once.

If you want to build strength and muscle mass, deadlifts performed with heavy weight will activate the central nervous system and signal the body to produce growth hormones, increasing the body’s anabolic activity. Deadlifts also help develop a solid foundation of muscle for improved performance of all types of weight lifting exercises and athletic activities. In addition to strengthening the legs, core, and back, deadlifts are effective at improving grip strength, which can have great turnover application for sports like rock climbing.

There are a number of ways you can go about incorporating deadlifts into your fitness routine. If you want to start with something light or minimalistic, pick up a medium-sized rock during your next run. Grasp it with two hands, then pick it up and lower it to the ground in one smooth motion. Try doing three sets of 15 reps. If you want to get more serious about it, the best way to perform a deadlift is with a barbell. If you’re aiming for basic strength and fitness, start with a weight you can perform three sets of 12 reps with. If you’re hoping to add muscle mass, I recommend using a weight you can perform five sets of five with, or try increasing your weight progressively during each set (a pyramid lift).

femaledeadlift1The deadlift is an extremely taxing exercise, so most people only include this exercise in their fitness routine once a week. Also, it’s crucial that you maintain proper posture:

Keep your feet shoulder width apart, and stand with the middle of your feet under the bar, then reach down and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Your arms should be perpendicular with the floor.
Your knees should be bent and your upper body slightly leaning forward. Keep your back straight or slightly arched, then lift the weight, pushing up with your legs.
Shoulders should be slightly back and down.

Do not jerk the weight. Rely on the legs to lift the weight during the initial phase, then allow the momentum to assist your arms and back in lifting the weight the rest of the way.
Lockout in the standing position, then return the weight to the floor by pushing your hips back first and then bending the knees when the bar is at knee level.
Maintain posture and control as you return the bar.

If you’re a beginner, I recommend watching a few videos first and exercising with an experienced partner that can offer helpful pointers. It’s also a good idea to stretch and warm up with a few body weight squats before performing deadlifts.

Most importantly, have fun joining the ranks of ancient fitness practitioners with one of the most effective and practical exercises known to man!

Originally posted 2013-02-21 19:15:00.

Cure Hemorrhoids Naturally

 

Since “hemorrhoids” and “natural treatment for hemorrhoids” were two of the most popular health related searches on Google last year, hemorrhoids seemed like an important topic to address.  It’s estimated that about 50% of adults in the United States will have a problem with their hemorrhoids some time during their lives. Many seem to be unaware that there are natural remedies for inflamed hemorrhoids and ways to prevent hemorrhoid problems to begin with.

When one’s hemorrhoids are functioning properly, they play an important role in maintaining contenance, but when inflamed and stretched out, they can cause tremendous pain.  The exact cause of inflamed hemorrhoids is debated, but anecdotal evidence indicates that there are two primary causes: excess strain and weak hemorrhoid structure.  Fortunately, there are a number of remedies that address these two causes of hemorrhoids that people have had success with.  While surgery is a necessary option for some, it isn’t always needed.  Also, surgery doesn’t solve the root problem; people with inflamed hemorrhoids often have to return for surgery several times throughout their lives.  This article isn’t meant to replace the advice of a licensed physician, but the remedies presented are worth a try!  

1) More fiber and water:  On average, Americans only consume about 15 grams of fiber per day, which is only 50% of the amount recommended by the Institute of Medicine for optimum health.  To prevent the strain on the hemorrhoids that can result from constipation, the body needs plentiful amounts of fiber and water.  Together, fiber and water create enough fecal matter to promote healthy and strain-free bowel movements.  The best sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables and properly soaked nuts and beans.  Research continues to reveal a number of important health benefits from fiber, so eat up!

2) Wait to use the restroom:  Trying to relieve oneself before the body is ready can result in unnecessary strain.  Don’t go number two until you really need to go.

3) Use a squatty potty: Most of the world’s population doesn’t sit on a toilet, they squat.  Is it a coincidence that in places where people squat there are lower incidences of hemorrhoid problems?  Probably not.  Here’s why: There’s a strand of fibers called the puborectalis that forms a sling around the rectum to help maintain continence.  The sitting position only slightly releases the puborecatlis’ tension, making elimination difficult and causing strain.  The squatting position, however, releases the puborectalis sling enough to make elimination easy.  It’s easy to make your home toilet work as a squatty potty, using a simply squatting stool.

4) Get more exercise: Regular exercise is associated with a decreased risk of hemorrhoids.  It probably has to do with the healthy effect exercising has on the vascular system (which hemorrhoids are a part of).  Exercise can also help promote increased nutritional intake and health bowel movements.  

5) Consume more vitamin C: A recent study looked at the molecular structure of inflamed hemorrhoids, and it was found that unhealthy hemorrhoids had less collagen than healthy hemorrhoids.   Collagen is a flexible and strong protein that is synthesized in the body using vitamin C.  People that smoke or don’t consume enough vitamin C may not produce enough collagen to promote a strong vascular structure.  If you’ve had a problem with hemorrhoids consider eating more foods that are high in vitamin C and /or taking two 500 mg vitamin C tablets per day.  

6) Apply herbs and vitamins topically:  Many have had success healing hemorrhoids by applying some variety of herbal/vitamin mixture.  These mixtures can help strengthen the vascular structure and reduce inflammation.  They should only be applied after properly cleansing the area during a shower.  Here are a few of the topical mixtures people have reported success with:

  • Honey, olive oil, and beeswax
  • Cocoa butter, comfrey powder, and white oak bark powder
  • Natural vitamin E oil (d-tocopherol) 

Eat healthy foods, drink water, get exercise, and squat for healthy hemorrhoids!


References:
Hemorrhoids: A Collagen Disease?
Study of Honey, Olive, Oil, and Beeswax Mixture
Fiber for the Treatment of Hemorrhoids

Originally posted 2013-02-15 23:32:00.

A Diet to Cure Acne

In the United States it’s estimated that 50 million people and 95% of adolescents suffer from acne! Yet, anecdotal evidence indicates that there is a simple diet that will cure acne for most people. Without over simplifying the matter, the acne-curing diet is essentially a creation-based diet, free of industrial and processed foods. If you’ve heard people say that diet doesn’t affect acne, they’re misinformed, and I’ll provide the evidence. Here’s how it works:

How acne develops: Acne is caused by two basic imbalances in the body. First of all, an increase in growth hormones in the body can cause the skin’s sebaceous glands to secrete an extra amount of oil. This oil is called sebum and is essential for healthy skin and hair. Sebum provides moisture and assists the immune system in creating a barrier against bacteria and viruses. Excess oil production wouldn’t be such a big problem on its own, but it often occurs simultaneously with a second imbalance: excess shedding of skin cells. Acne forms when dead skin cells plug the skin’s hair follicles, causing oil to accumulate in the pores. Once the oil is trapped, the clogged pores can become environments where bacteria grows, which leads to acne.

The underlying causes: Since high levels of growth hormones can cause excess production of sebum, adolescents are more prone to acne than any other age group. Drugs and foods that throw normal hormones off balance, however, have a more significant role in causing acne than adolescent hormones by themselves. Milk and high-glycemic foods are thought to exacerbate the imbalance, but based on the combined evidenced, it appears that the quality of food has a greater effect than the type of food on whether a person produces excess sebum or not (at least in most cases). Diet quality also affects the skin’s overall health and the rate at which it dries and sheds. Inflammatory diets, high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (refined seed oils) and refined sugar, cause dry skin and promote problems like eczema and acne. The problem is compounded when ones’s diet is deficient in vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and other healthful plant nutrients. Without these important nutrients, skin cells don’t have adequate defenses against all the bacteria, toxins, and UV rays they are bombarded with, and the sebaceous glands can’t produce high quality sebum to nourish the skin.

The remedy: The cure for acne (in most cases), as stated at the beginning of this article, is essentially a creation-based diet. Recent research has revealed that acne is extremely rare among people from non-industrialized or pre-colonized cultures. People from these cultures tend to eat diets that consist entirely of whole foods from their environment and from limited agriculture.

A study published by JAMA in 2002 looked at the prevalence of acne among people from two non-industrialized cultures, the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and the Aché hunter-gatherers of Paraguay. After examining hundreds of people from both cultures, ZERO cases of acne were found among adults or adolescents. Being from very different cultures and geographic locations, the influence of genetics was ruled out and diet was recognized as the most significant factor. Their combined diets consist primarily of tubers, fish, fruit, vegetables, coconut, peanuts, maize, and wild game. They eat little or no flour, sugar, cereals (such as wheat or barley), dairy, or alcohol. Though some researchers have said that a high-glycemic diet is what causes acne, the diets from both cultures emphasize very high glycemic foods (although they do tend to be low glycemic-loading foods).

While it seems clear that highly domesticated and industrialized foods are a major cause of acne, the affect dairy has on acne, in my opinion, is less straight forward. There are several studies that demonstrate a correlation between dairy consumption and acne, however the quality of milk used in these studies was likely very poor. Most Americans drink highly processed milk that comes from cows treated with hormones and fed grain instead of grass. The milk also usually comes from cows that are pregnant, which means that there are increased levels of natural hormones in the milk. People from many non-industrialized cultures drink milk and dairy products as a primary component of their diets, and as far as I know they don’t have the problem with acne that we have in the US. For example, the Bantus, Todas, Zulu, and Maasai, all consume dairy as part of their traditional diets, and at least among the Bantus the incidence of acne is known to be low. Unless a person is lactose intolerant, dairy from grass-fed cows has many important health benefits that make it a valuable food to include in ones diet, so I don’t feel it should be eliminated from the diet needlessly.

If you suffer from acne, I recommend making the switch to a creation-based diet for at least 30-days. It takes time to see changes in the body, so you can’t expect to see your acne go away over night. Eat only whole, unprocessed foods like the Kitavans and Ache eat: potatoes, sweet potatoes, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts. Also, try cutting out wheat, but feel free to eat rice and other gluten-free grains. Many people are more gluten-sensitive than they realize, and I think the leaky gut associated with gluten intake can contribute to acne development. Also, avoid refined seed oils and sugars that will cause inflammation. If you continue drinking milk, switch to organic milk or milk that’s locally produced and from grass-fed cows. If you continue to have an acne problem after 30-days, try cutting milk completely out of your diet.

Feel free to eat chocolate, just make it at least 70% cocoa! Also, feel free to eat oils, but they should be the minimally refined varieties, like butter, extra virgin olive oil, and extra virgin coconut oil. Eat organic and free-range as much as possible to make sure you’re getting fewer toxins and more nutrients (including omega-3 fatty acids).

I’m 29-years old and had problems with acne until the last few years when I switched to a creation-based diet. I’m also able to eat organic dairy without a problem. I wish I would have know this information when I was in high school; it would have saved me from a lot of unnecessary embarrassment! While, overall, acne is a less pressing matter that most of the health problems associated with our society, it provides another example of how reconnecting with God’s creation promotes optimum health!

References:
JAMA Study of Kitavans and Aché
Nutrition and Acne
Mayo Clinic
The Relationship of Diet and Acne

Originally posted 2013-02-05 21:33:00.

Benefits of Using a Squatty Potty – a measure against hemorrhoids and colon cancer?

While most people in U.S. are accustomed to using the modern toilet, there’s reason to believe that squatting is superior to sitting for purposes of elimination. Toilets as we know them are a relatively modern invention – throughout history and in most of the world today, people squat to relieve themselves. Biological evidence suggests that our bodies were designed to most efficiently answer the call of nature in the squatting position. Squatting is also the most natural position to take if unaided by toilet technology.

Research suggests that squatting may prevent colon cancer, cure hemorrhoids, relieve constipation, and prevent a number of other health problems. The detrimental health effects of sitting rather than squatting result from the differing position of the intestines. The sitting position required by using the toilet puts a kink in the large colon, resulting in unnecessary strain (which causes hemorrhoids) and incomplete elimination (which can cause colon cancer). By contrast, the squatting position puts the intestines in the right alignment for complete and effortless elimination. The practice of squatting also improves posture and strengthens the legs. Moreover, for women, squatting can prepare the body for natural, less-painful birthing.

A host of health problems are virtually unknown to most of of the world’s population, because most of the world squats to answer the call of nature. You can join the majority in good colon and intestinal health by making a simple change of habit. For more information about the history and evidence supporting squatting for optimum health, or to purchase your own squatty potty, I recommend visiting Squatty Potty LLC.

Originally posted 2011-02-07 21:01:00.

Boost Your Metabolism with NEAT Fitness

Have you ever found yourself circling the parking lot to find the “best” spot…at the gym?? Did you ever stop to think that since you are there for a workout anyways, you might as well get in a few extra steps? Chances are you thought about it, but decided you didn’t have the time.

These days we are all about efficiency: efficient offices (sitting all day), efficient communication (e-mail), efficient appliances (that do all the work for us), and efficient commutes (driving everywhere). I drive most places even though I have a Target less than a mile away. We also have an elevator in our apartment building, and I have to talk myself out of taking it.

With the modernization of household and work-related tasks, we aren’t required to move as much throughout the day as our ancestors did. Instead we sit all day and tell ourselves we need to hit the gym HARD to make up for our lifestyle, but can working out for an hour a day even make up for the relative physical inactivity many of us have chosen during the remaining 23 hours of the day?

What if there was a different way? What if we could incorporate movement into our days little by little?  

NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is one way our body burns calories and in turn, boosts our metabolism.

Exercise is by definition planned, structured and repetitive physical activity aimed to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness. NEAT fitness is simply daily activities that require bodily movement. Studies have shown that lean individuals tend to have more NEAT in their day than overweight or obese individuals. These little movements add up over time..so let’s take a cue from our lean friends!

It’s not tough to incorporate these types of movement into your day. Try adding some of these activities or increasing their frequency in the following week to help boost your metabolism:

  • Taking the stairs
  • Doing the dishes
  • Vacuuming
  • Parking further away and walking
  • Walking the dog
  • Getting up from your desk once an hour to walk around
  • Window shopping with friends
  • Taking out the trash or recycling
  • Rearranging your furniture
  • Cleaning out your closet
  • Scrubbing the toilet
  • Folding clothes
  • Yardwork
  • Chasing your kids around (or the neighbor’s kids…preferably with their permission)
  • Walking instead of using the moving ramp at the airport
  • Cooking or baking from scratch
  • Fidgeting (who’d have thought my annoying leg jiggling habit was actually doing me some good?)

The funny thing about this list is that these might be things you are avoiding but need to get done. Attempting to do physical work around the house or enjoying some fun with your loved ones can actually benefit your health and boost your metabolism!

So the next time your honey asks you to take out the trash, you will jump up and do it with a smile, right?

Questions:
How can you incorporate NEAT into your life?
Do you make an effort to get up once an hour if you sit all day?

You Might Also Enjoy:
Creation-Based Keys to Longevity
Office Job Hazards
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Sources: Essentials of Life Cycle Nutrition by Judith Sharlin et al, Lifetime Physical Fitness & Wellness by Werner W. K. Hoeger et al

Originally posted 2013-08-14 09:00:47.

Make Your Own Sauerkraut

There’s nothing quite like brats or corned beef with some fresh homemade sauerkraut!  Sauerkraut has been made at home for centuries as a way to preserve and enjoy the cabbage harvest.  Cabbage is one of the healthiest vegetables known to man, and sauerkraut makes it even healthier by adding probiotics!  It’s unfortunate that not as many people are making sauerkraut at home these days, since it’s easy to make and more delicious than the store-bought stuff!

sauerkraut-ingredients
All the ingredients you’ll need: cabbage, salt, jar, and knife!
cabbage-chopped-1
Chop the cabbage according to your preference.
cabbage-salt-2
Any salt will work, but we like pink Himalayan because of its extra trace mineral content.
cabbage-wilted-3
After the salt is added and the cabbage is massaged, the cabbage will shrink down considerably.
After the cabbage is thoroughly wilted and massaged, put the cabbage and extracted water in a jar and wait patiently!
After the cabbage is thoroughly wilted and massaged, put the cabbage and extracted water in a jar and wait patiently!

Originally posted 2013-07-13 01:44:23.