My prediabetes diagnoses started with a visit to my doctor to discuss months of irregular bowl habits. I went from very regular to using the bathroom only once or twice a week in a few months time. It wasn’t lost on me that this happened after a transition from a lot of physical work (construction projects) to sedentary work at my desk. What I didn’t know was why.
My doctor suggested a change in my diet, including dietary fiber, and regular exercise. I made these changes, with no real change to my regularity. It simply didn’t get things moving again. So I started my research, which lead me to three bits of information that changed everything.
First, I learned about the correlation between our spine and good digestion.
Chiropractors, yoga masters, and alternative health practitioners have long known the benefits of keeping your spin aligned. One of the chief benefits is proper digestion followed by weight loss. It has to do with metabolism.
One of the best ways to boost your metabolism is through basic chiropractic care. Our spine is an important part of our central nervous system. Its health is crucial. When the spine is unhealthy, it causes other functions in the body to slow and become inefficient. Digestion is the best example.
This made total sense to me. As a result of sitting at my desk for 8 to 10 hours a day, then in my favorite living room chair for 3 to 4 more hours each night, my spine was constantly out of alignment. The 20 to 30 minutes of exercise I get each day isn’t enough to counter my sitting habit.
When the spine is properly aligned, most people experience an improvement in digestion, including a regular bowel. The faster our digestion moves along, the more energy our body consumes, which speeds up our metabolism. Essentially, keeping your spin in line impacts your digestion and your ability to lose weight.
Dr. Oz recommends rolling as an easy way to align the spine. He suggests that rolling for 3 or more minutes each day, on a $15 foam roller, will help us with weight loss. It feels really good, too, and it’s a great way to stretch things out and get your blood moving before exercise. If you’re not familiar with these exercises (I wasn’t!), check out this YouTube video.
Second, I learned about proper gut flora and the importance it has on digestion.
Nutritionists tell us how our gut has both good bacteria and bad. Our intestine does the most amazing thing by allowing nutrition to flow into our blood stream while keeping bad bacteria out. But it needs more good bacteria than bad to do its job properly.
I thought I was doing the right thing for my gut health by regularly eating Greek yogurt. As it turns out, this is a total scam, because the yogurt I was eating contains sugar. Most do. Huffington Post reported that many yogurts contain more sugar than a Twinkie. Can you imagine that? What a scam!
If you’re wondering what this has to do with gut flora, in a word, plenty. A recent Scientific American study suggests that both sugar and artificial sweeteners promote the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, which kills the good bacteria and negatively affect digestion. Need proof? Here are some of my research:
- Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats.
- Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.
- Artificial Sweeteners May Change Our Gut Bacteria in Dangerous Ways.
With all of the fructose and artificial sweeteners in our diet, is it any wonder that proper digestion is a problem? For me, I finally understood why my morning coffee wasn’t getting me going. I was using sugar-free Nestlé Coffeemate, which is loaded with corn syrup, which Nestlé claims “Adds a trivial amount of sugar.”
Armed with this new information, I turned my research to improving my gut flora, leading me to probiotics and research on digestive enzymes. I found myself immersed in hundreds of opinions from “diet experts” and a few researchers.
The basics of probiotics are simple. Probiotics are microorganisms (“good bacteria”) that offer health benefit to the host. They are believed to play an important role in regulating proper digestion by balancing intestinal microflora.
According to the World Health Organization, good bacteria are considered to be:
live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.
Probiotics are normally consumed in fermented foods with active live cultures. Natural yogurt, as you might make at home, is a good example.
Probiotics are also available from supplements. There are dozens of these products available on the market, and they all claim a health benefit. So I set out to learn the difference. In a nutshell it comes down to:
- Strains of micro organisms
- Quantity of individual micro organisms
- Micro organism survival and growth in the gut
Needless to say, not all probiotics are created equal. You can do your research on sites like ConsumerLab.com, LabDoor.com, and ConsumerHealthReport.com. They all have different testing methods. My research takeaway was that the highest rated products contain 8 to 10 strains of probiotics and have 10,000 or more individual micro organisms. To learn more about probiotic survival and growth in the gut, see this 2001 report by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition.
How aligning my spine and taking probiotics fixed my irregularity.
Three weeks after taking steps to align my spine (3-5 minutes of rolling daily) and one week after daily consumption of a probiotics supplement, my bowl was regular again (daily bowl movement). I feel better and have more energy, too.
In conjunction with the above changes, I modified my coffee consumption habit. A Navy man, I started drinking coffee when I was 17. I love it, and always have. I like it fully caffeinated with cream and sugar. At times I consumed as many as 10 to 12 cups a day. I’m now down to a single 16 ounce cup a day without cream or sugar.
As I said, the change for me was noticeable and came quickly. I was so encouraged that I continued my research into digestion.
Third, I learned how three digestive enzymes can turbocharge digestion and curb your appetite.
I have always been a healthy eater. Raised on a ranch, my family grew almost all of its food. We had a large vegetable garden, groves of fruit trees, and a barn yard with chickens, turkeys, rabbits, sheep and pigs. We even grew food for the horses and other livestock, but we store bought our milk, beef, cereals, grains, bread and beans.
As a result of my country upbringing, I love whole foods and naturally canned and preserved foods. Working hard on the ranch gave be a big appetite and a metabolism that matched it. My appetite and metabolism continued in my early years in the Navy. Shipboard life can be very demanding.
Now approaching age 60, my appetite for big meals has not changed, but my metabolism hasn’t kept pace. And, even though I’ve cut way back on fried foods, pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, sugar, and wine, my body craved more food.
My doctor told me I can have as many non-starchy vegetables as I want, and I was craving more and more, and I wanted to know why. My continued research into digestion uncovered an interesting fact:
In order to break down food efficiently and effectively, your body needs a sufficient supply of digestive enzymes. Some of these digestive enzymes come from the pancreas, others are produced in the stomach, and still others are secreted by the salivary glands and glands in the small intestines. (Source: Dr. David Williams)
One Google search later I ran across an article from a type 2 diabetic woman who reported that a supplement containing digestive enzymes caused her blood sugar to drop dramatically. More research turned up more information about how the digestive enzymes lipase, amylase and bromelain help digestion.
Digestive enzymes are best understood for their role in breaking down the foods to produce nutrients that can be easily absorbed. What is less known is how digestive enzymes, in supplement form, can be used to help control blood sugar.
There are three essential digestive enzymes. Protease, found in the stomach, pancreas and intestine, helps break down proteins. Lipase, also in the stomach and pancreas, helps digest fats. Amylase from saliva, pancreatic and stomach, helps us digest carbohydrates.
We know that diabetes impairs our natural ability to metabolize sugars. However, it’s also associated with abnormal metabolism of fats and proteins. When I put these two facts together the light went on for me about the critical importance of good digestion.
KEY FACT: All three essential digestive enzymes — protease, lipase and amylase — are important in managing blood sugar because they help digest all three groups of nutrients: proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
You might be wondering what all of this has to do with appetite, and I’m getting to that. Multiple studies suggest that enzyme supplements may boost energy and reduce appetite. Specifically, because appetite is heavily regulated by gastric and intestinal mobility of food, supplements that help to regulate this movement will likely have the most beneficial effects on appetite regulation.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research was conducted to determine the blood glucose and lipid profile in 110 type 2 diabetes patients compared to healthy individuals of the same age and sex. The research concluded that wherever blood sugar levels were higher, serum amylase activity was found to be significantly lower. This discovery was reflective of pancreas malfunction and highlights the importance of a healthy pancreas producing healthy amounts of amylase. This and other studies show the ability of digestive enzymes to maintain normal blood sugar levels and help treat or reverse diabetes symptoms.
Armed with this new data, I started taking a digestive enzyme supplement by Zenesis Labs that contains amylase, bromelain, protease, lipase, and 14 other enzymes. Within three days my blood sugar dropped by 10 mg/dL (both fasting and post meal levels) and my apatite was significantly curbed. After a week my blood sugar was down 20 mg/dL, I no longer felt hungry after a large meal, and I began losing weight (as first recognized by taking in my belt one notch).
NOTE: In an attempt to further reduce my appetite I added a natural supplement containing caralluma to my diet. Caralluma is a succulent plant (cactus) from India. Indian tribes chewed caralluma to keep from being hungry during a long hunt. For me it almost completely cut my hunger and allowed me to reduce my meal size.
Step 1 Summary
Digestion is a complex part of human anatomy. I freely admit that much of my research is way above my head. I’m a computer programmer, not a dietitian or a medical doctor. However, I can put 1 and 2 together to get to the 3 changes that fixed my digestion:
- Keeping my spine aligned keeps things moving in the right direction.
- Reducing my sugar and artificial sweetener consumption, and adding probiotics to my diet, brought health back to my gut.
- Adding digestive enzymes curbed my apatite and lowered my fasting and post meal blood sugar levels by an average of 20 mg/dL.
After 60 full days with these combined changes, I lost 10 pounds, my blood sugar is normalizing, I have a lot more energy, my mood is significantly improved, and my occasional headaches are all but gone.
Unfortunately, the three dietary supplements I added to my diet were costing me close to $80 per month. Once again I turned to Google search, this time to find a solution to the cost (not to mention so many tablets!). What I found is an interesting supplement that contains everything I was taking and a little more. The “little more” is the antioxidant that comes from green tea extract, EGCG. You can do your own research on its benefits.
Interestingly enough, a friend tried to tell me about the supplement a while back. I blew her off, believing it was nothing more than another acai berry pyramid scheme concoction she tried to get me into.
Ooops! Sorry. My bad.
The supplement is called Bio-X4. It’s by California based Nucific, and was developed in conjunction with Dr. Amy Lee, M.D. At $99 for a 30-day supply, you might think I have flipped my lid thinking it’s cutting my cost. However, by joining their mailing list I received an instant discount that cut the cost by more than 60 percent.
Using Bio-X4 I’m experiencing the same positive results. I simply take one table before eating and enjoy my meal as usual.
NEXT » Step 2: An 8-Week Very Low-Calorie Diet