#057 How to End Insomnia and Weight Gain

December 27th, 2014 by

How to End Insomnia and Weight Gain

Do you suffer from fatigue, stress, depression, anxiety, brain fog, high cholesterol, or a raging appetite?  If so, there is a good chance you are one of 70 million Americans who also have difficulties sleeping.

Could the dramatically rising rates of sleep deprivation over the last 50 years be responsible for why most people are gaining weight?

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

A recently published study showed that sleeping an average of just 5.7 hours a night for one week changed the expression of 711 genes in the body!  Many of these genes are the very same genes that cause obesity, heart disease, and dementia.  Is it any wonder that insomniacs are 55% more likely to die from heart disease.

Even as little as one night of severe sleep deprivation can cause the same injury to the brain as a concussion. If you are part of the 10% of Americans who even occasionally take a sleeping pill like Benadryl or an antihistamine, your risk of premature death is 3 times higher!

My Struggles

I have battled with insomnia for most of my adult life.  It started in college and has been with me ever since.  I suspect much of my battles with insomnia are due to stress, travel, and disrupted sleep from being on call for the hospital at night.

I have found that when I am sleep deprived from stress, travel, or being on call for my hospital that I tend to have a ravenous appetite.  In a previous blog post, I shared my 10 strategies to better sleep.

The topic of this article is how can we channel our increased appetite from sleep deprivation into better sleep?  In other words, how can we eat our way to better sleep and weight loss?

How a Lack of Sleep Changes Our Hormones and Metabolism

1. It Increases the Stress Hormones (Cortisol and Adrenalin)

When we are sleep deprived it increases our stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin.  With regards to weight gain, cortisol is particularly troublesome.  As anyone who has ever taken cortisol, in the form of Prednisone or a short course of steroids, will tell you that while they took this drug their appetite was intense and they gained weight.

2. It Increases the Hunger Hormones (Low Leptin and High Ghrelin)

Have you ever felt yourself craving sugar after a bad night of sleep?  Why is this the case?

When we are sleep deprived our leptin levels are low and our ghrelin levels are high.  Leptin is the hunger hormone that tells our brain we are full.  Ghrelin is the hunger hormone that tells us it is time to eat.

When these hormones are particularly out of sync, we tend to crave the high sugar and fatty foods.  Unfortunately, the fatty foods we tend to crave in this hormonally disrupted state are the unhealthy fats like those found in french fries or processed foods.

With low levels of leptin our brains never get the signal we are full.  Likewise, with surging levels of ghrelin we feel compelled to eat even when we have already eaten.

3. It Raises Our Blood Sugar

Our blood sugar levels tend to be high when we are sleep deprived.  There are many reasons why this happens.  Some of these include the decreased use of glucose by the brain, insulin resistance, and from the high levels of cortisol.

When our blood sugars run high, the body compensates by releasing more insulin.  Insulin not only can stimulate hunger, as any diabetic quickly finds out when they start taking insulin shots, but it also drops blood glucose.  When our blood sugar levels bottom out from insulin it triggers the hunger hormones which again tell us we are hungry and it is time to eat.

How to End Insomnia and Weight Gain in 7 Steps

As we have now covered how sleep deprivation changes our hormones and metabolism to eat more, I now want to discuss how we can reverse this process.  Yes, it is very possible to channel our increased appetite from sleep deprivation into eating our way to better sleep and weight loss.  Here are my best 7 strategies to end insomnia and weight gain.

1. Shut the Kitchen Down at 7 pm

Eating late at night not only leads to weight gain but compromised sleep as well.  Indeed, in this study researchers found that late night eaters had worse sleep quality.

Late night eating is an important cause of acid reflux.  Acid reflux is a well-known cause of poor sleep at night.  Even if you don’t get the typical chest pain that often comes from acid reflux it can still disrupt your sleep.

In addition, there is a growing body of evidence that intermittent fasting or time restricted feeding can reverse obesity.  In this recently published study in mice, researchers found that just by timing when mice ate determined whether they were lean or obese even though they ate the same number of calories.

The best way to make intermittent fasting or time restricted feeding work for you is to stop eating early in the evening.  By the time breakfast arrives, at least 12 hours will have passed and you will have accomplished intermittent fasting or time restricted feeding without even trying!

2. Have “Tryptophan Nuts and Seeds” for Dinner

Have you ever felt tired after a big turkey dinner at Thanksgiving?  Odds are that the sleepiness was due to high levels of tryptophan from the turkey.  Tryptophan is a sleep promoting amino acid that helps your body to produce melatonin.

Nuts and seeds are the perfect dinner time food for sleep and weight loss.  They are packed full of protein, healthy fats, and fiber which means they will keep you full until morning so you won’t be tempted for a bedtime snack.

In addition to the perfect trifecta to staying full (protein, fat, fiber), the tryptophan nuts and seeds will help to put you to sleep.  The nuts and seeds high in tryptophan include walnuts, cashews, and sesame seeds.

3. Eat a High Magnesium Dinner

Magnesium is a mineral that 60% of Americans are deficient in.  Magnesium relaxes muscles and our nervous system.  Magnesium has even been shown in clinical trials to improve sleep.

Some excellent choices to increase your magnesium levels would be pumpkin seeds, spinach, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, or pecans.  Not only will more magnesium help to improve your sleep but  it can also help with anxiety.  Anxiety robs many of my patients from blissful sleep.  To learn more about the many health benefits of magnesium, here is a link to an article I wrote on magnesium.

4. Have “Lettuce Opium” for Dinner

From as far back as the ancient Egyptians, the milky fluid part of lettuce has long been known to produce opium like effects.  Not only does lettuce taste great in a salad but it can also reduce pain and promote sleep.  This is especially helpful as I have found that so many of my patients are kept up at night from chronic pain.

Studies have now been done to prove what humans have known for thousands of years, namely that lettuce has sleep inducing qualities.

5. Eat a High Calcium Dinner

Like magnesium, calcium also relaxes muscles and the nervous system.  Although the data are somewhat limited, there is some evidence that calcium with magnesium may help to promote sleep.  In addition, calcium can help the brain to better utilize tryptophan in the production of melatonin.

While dairy is certainly a good choice for obtaining calcium, often overlooked options for calcium include tofu, sardines, sesame seeds, spinach, or kale.  To learn more about what foods contain calcium here is a good link.

6. Eat Vitamin B6 Foods for Dinner

Vitamin B6 plays many different roles in the body.  One of these include regulation of tryptophan and serotonin which are important for healthy sleep.

Some excellent foods that are high in vitamin B6 include tuna, salmon, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach, or a banana.  It is best to get vitamin B6 at night from foods rather than supplements as vitamin B6 supplements taken at night may cause vivid dreams.  When you are sleep deprived state the last thing in the world you want is to be awakened from an intense dream.

7. Eat Cherries to Boost Melatonin

In one study, cherry juice was shown to boost natural melatonin levels and improve sleep quality.  While drinking your calories is not a good option for weight loss, the same sleep promoting benefit could be obtained by eating whole cherries.

Putting it All Together: The Perfect Dinner for Sleep

I realize that I just shared many different strategies to eat your way to better sleep and weight loss.  How do we put it all together?

Let me share with you my perfect dinner for when I need a good night of sleep.  Have the following before 7 pm at night for best results.  This simple dinner will cover all 7 strategies discussed in this article.

Eat a lettuce and spinach salad loaded with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and almonds.  By loading your salad with nuts and seeds it will keep you very full until morning.  For a sleep enhancing dressing try a healthy cherry vinaigrette dressing made with dried tart cherries or a tart cherry juice instead of orange juice in this recipe. Although this recipe does not call for a blender I would suggest using one for the optimal consistency of this dressing.

What do you eat for dinner when you need a good night of sleep?

#027 Do You Have Any of These 12 Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms?

August 11th, 2014 by

Do you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

You probably have no idea that you are currently suffering from magnesium deficiency. Indeed, studies show that up to 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient.  Read on to see if you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Jill’s Experience

Jill was a 45-year-old woman suffering from a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation. It made no sense why someone so young should develop this heart condition as she didn’t have any of the usual atrial fibrillation risk factors.

The only tip-off as to the cause of her atrial fibrillation was that she was taking Prilosec for acid reflux, Lasix occasionally for leg swelling, and she was eating the “Standard American Diet.” Even though her magnesium levels came back normal on her blood test, I suspected a magnesium deficiency as the cause of her heart problem.

Interestingly, once I convinced her to replace all added sugars and processed foods with real foods which included a massive salad every day, she immediately lost 20 pounds without even trying. In no time at all her acid reflux was gone and she was off the Prilosec. Also, with no added sugars or processed foods, her legs no longer swelled so there was no further need of diuretics.

Best of all, she felt better than she had ever felt and her atrial fibrillation went away. As she made many lifestyle changes, it was impossible to know what exactly drove her atrial fibrillation into remission.

However, in my mind, I’m sure replacing her magnesium stores played a role. Continue reading to figure out how she boosted her magnesium stores.

Can you test for magnesium deficiency?

While you can test for magnesium deficiency, you probably don’t want the test your doctor orders. The reason for this is because the standard magnesium test only measures the magnesium in your blood.

As 99% of your magnesium is not freely floating around in your blood but rather is inside of your cells and bones, you need a better test for magnesium deficiency. Of the various ways to test for magnesium deficiency, probably the best is the RBC magnesium test. The RBC magnesium test measures the amount of magnesium inside of your red blood cells.

Who is at risk for magnesium deficiency?

Many things contribute to magnesium deficiency. For example, if you are under a lot of stress, you likely are not absorbing much magnesium from your food.  Those who love drinking filtered or bottled water also aren’t getting much magnesium. And processed foods are notorious for being completely absent of magnesium.

Other conditions contributing to magnesium deficiency include being overweight, diabetic, or over age 60. Likewise, many prescription medications like diuretics or acid-blocking medications are also keeping your magnesium levels dangerously low.

Do you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

1. Weight Gain/Diabetes

When you don’t get enough magnesium in your food and water, it can cause glucose and insulin levels to rise.  When insulin levels are high, you may suffer from food cravings.  Unfortunately, these food cravings are generally for sugar or processed carbohydrates which lead to further weight gain.

2. Fatigue and Muscle Weakness

Magnesium is a critical component of energy production in the body.  In fact, the body’s energy molecule, ATP, is created through magnesium dependent chemical reactions.

If you are tired all the time, you are probably magnesium deficient.  Likewise, if your muscles are weak, you may also not be getting enough magnesium.

3. Anxiety

People under high levels of mental or physical stress, poorly absorb magnesium from the gastrointestinal tract. Contributing to a downward spiral, magnesium deficiency is a significant cause of anxiety.  Fortunately, studies show that restoring the magnesium may help in the treatment of anxiety.

4. Insomnia

Having enough magnesium balances out your stress hormones.  Magnesium also helps the body maintain sufficient melatonin and other sleep hormones.  Indeed, magnesium supplementation has been shown to help with sleep.

5. Depression

Magnesium deficiency and depression go hand in hand.  Low magnesium stores lead to depression and people suffering from depression are more likely to eat a diet low in magnesium.

6. Dental Cavities or Osteoporosis

Dental cavities and osteoporosis are two more signs of magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium affects vitamin D metabolism and osteocalcin which play a vital role in bone turnover and formation.

Ironically, if you are taking calcium supplements for osteoporosis, you may be making matters worse. Calcium supplementation can throw off your calcium/magnesium balance.

7. Constipation

If you suffer from constipation you probably are magnesium deficient.  Magnesium in any form is an excellent laxative.

8. Muscle Cramps or Migraine Headaches

Do you suffer from leg cramps, eye twitches, or muscle spasms?  Do you get frequent headaches? These may all be magnesium deficiency symptoms.

9. Inflammation, Arthritis, or Autoimmune Diseases

If you suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or autoimmune diseases, you may be magnesium deficient.  Studies have linked magnesium deficiency to arthritis and elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) blood tests.

10. Palpitations, Heart Attacks, Heart Failure, or Cardiac Arrest

Most forms of heart disease are linked to magnesium deficiency.  This mineral is critical to optimal cardiac function.

11. Thyroid Problems

Thyroid problems are widespread in the U.S.  Research suggests that many thyroid issues may be due to magnesium deficiency.

12. Cancer

Cancer may be a wake-up call that magnesium levels are low. Magnesium is a critical nutrient for many DNA repair mechanisms.   As new cancer cells are created every day in your body, you need your DNA repair mechanism functioning optimally.

Magnesium in Our Water

Our ancestors used to get large amounts of magnesium just from their drinking water.  Mountain spring water is naturally high in magnesium.  Unfortunately, many municipalities remove magnesium as part of their water treatment process.

If you want to see how much magnesium is in your drinking water, click here.  In general, the “harder” your water, the more magnesium you are getting.

Interestingly, drinking hard water may lower your risk of heart disease.  If you happen to live in a city with naturally hard water, you can get up to 30% of the magnesium you need each day from water.

Unfortunately, water softeners, water filters, reverse osmosis devices, and bottled water are generally all depleted of magnesium.  If you drink any of these magnesium depleted water types, you have to get 100% of your magnesium from food.

Magnesium in Our Food

Once upon a time, our soil contained much more magnesium.  Unfortunately, modern agriculture has stripped this essential mineral from the ground.  Processed foods are even worse when it comes to magnesium content.

Fortunately, organically grown produce has been shown to have up to 29% more magnesium.  To get enough magnesium in your diet, make sure you eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, especially spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes every day.  To see a breakdown of which foods contain the most magnesium click here.

Can you get too much magnesium?

In general, it is very tough to get too much magnesium from your food and water unless you have kidney disease.  Certainly, it is possible to get too much magnesium if you are taking supplements.

How much magnesium do you need each day?

The recommended daily amount of magnesium varies depending on your gender and age. Assuming there are no problems with magnesium absorption, you need about 400 mg of magnesium each day. If you can get at least 400 mg of magnesium daily from your water and food, you can start to enjoy the health benefits of magnesium.

Magnesium in China’s Longevity Village

As you know, we have been studying the residents of China’s Longevity Village for many years.  We have found that these people do not suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

The mountain spring water they drink is extremely hard and packed full of essential minerals.  Researchers suggest that these people get up to 50% of their magnesium just from the water.

Also, modern agriculture has yet to put a stake in the ground in this rural area of China.  Thus, the soil is extremely high in magnesium and other minerals.

Their diet, which is very high in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans, only further augments the magnesium they are getting every day.  We suspect that the magnesium in their food and water may be a major reason why heart disease is very uncommon, and people live to old ages free of chronic medical conditions.

To learn more about why China’s Longevity Village has the highest known concentration of centenarians in the world, please be sure to pick up a copy of our new book, The Longevity Plan.

How can you correct magnesium deficiency?

Let me give you five simple steps to correct magnesium deficiency.

1. Drink hard or mineral water.

2. Eat a heaping salad with spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes daily. 

3. Embrace the stress in your life.

4. Talk with your doctor about magnesium supplements.

5. Talk with your doctor about medications that may be contributing to your magnesium deficiency like diuretics, acid reducing medications, or calcium supplements.

Practical Tips

As 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient, there is a high likelihood that you may be one of them. Fortunately, magnesium deficiency is easy to correct.

I know I used to be one of these people. Before my health transformation, I required Prilosec daily for acid reflux, ate the Standard American Diet, and was always stressed. These three things alone probably put me also into a state of magnesium deficiency.

Now, in addition to eating a diet very high in magnesium, I have found that taking a magnesium supplement before bed helps me to sleep. Indeed, medical studies show that magnesium supplementation is an effective treatment for insomnia.

If you suspect you may have a magnesium deficiency as well, correct anything that can be fixed to boost your magnesium stores. Also, speak with your physician about whether a magnesium supplement might be right for you.

If you enjoyed this article, please be sure to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and podcast. Also, to learn the secret to fantastic health at any age, please be sure to read our new book, The Longevity Plan.