Sweet Stuff

There has been a lot of interest in the media about the ill effects of sugar consumption.  Intuitively, most of us know that eating a diet high in sugar can contribute to ill heath effects. According to the USDA, over the last 30 years Americans have increased their sugar consumption by 20 pounds per year per person to 100 pounds. In the same amount of time, there has been a significant increase in chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. We are eating too much. More specifically, we are eating too much sugar. The ‘low fat’ movement prompted food products once filled with fat to be manipulated and then re-filled with sugar. Packaged food products have some amount of added sugar; it is everywhere we turn, making it difficult to avoid and keeps us in the sugar addiction loop.

Sugar is a generalized term for the class of sweet carbohydrates. There are monosaccharides anddisaccharides all considered simple carbohydrates or simple sugars. Simple sugars are broken down very quickly and used in the body as a source of fuel or if in excess, can be stored as fat. It should be noted that sugars are different than sweeteners although many use these terms interchangeably. Below are some examples:

Glucose: a simple sugar that fuels every cell in our body. Extra glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen.

Fructose: a simple sugar that is found in fruits and vegetables. it is not inherently a problem, but becomes one when there is long term over consumption.

Sucrose or table sugar. It is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

High fructose corn syrup: It is a 55:45 mix of glucose and fructose. It is highly processed and contains a bond that our body can’t break down. It is is sweeter than sucrose and highly subsidized.

There are sugar alcohols which are increasing popular and are neither sugar no alcohols: xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol. They are not completely absorbed in your small intestines, have fewer calories but for some may cause digestive distress (bloating, diarrhea, flatulence).

Sucralose (Splenda) is NOT a sugar, It is a chlorinated artificial sweetener along the same lines as aspartame and saccharin, with similar detrimental health effects.

Agave syrup: Touted as a healthy sugar having a low glycemic index (doesn’t spike blood sugar), it is typically HIGHLY processed and is up to 80 percent fructose. The end product is very different than the original agave plant.

Maple syrup: when minimally processed, primarily contains sucrose and water. It has several nutrients in it not found in table sugar. This is not that same as ‘maple syrup flavored syrups, which should be avoided.

Honey: is about 53% fructose. It is completely natural in its raw form and has many health benefits when used in moderation.

Stevia: is a sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, which is completely safe (in its natural form). It has next to no calories, doesn’t spike blood sugar nor have detrimental  health effects. It comes in green powder, white powder and liquid. The green powder is the most natural, as it is just the stevia leaf ground up.

While sucrose, or table sugar, used to be what was used to a large extent to sweeten products, there has been a trend towards fructose. Many feel that it is the fructose in excess that is to be blamed for the growing number of metabolic problems that people suffer from. Most are aware of the perils of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) a cheap, manipulated sugar that taxes our body and has a higher content of fructose than sucrose. It is used as a sweetener in many many foods, which we suspect may be promoting more consumption and leading to more fat production. You may be thinking, ‘fructose is naturally found in fruit, fruit is healthy’ -this is correct. Keep in mind that the packaging is important. The effects of eating an apple is really different than drinking a glass of apple juice. A piece of fruit contains vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients and fiber that tempers the effects of the fructose. Juice (sweetened with HFCS or not) can have a negative effect due to its larger fructose content. While one can argue that juice has nutrients in it that say, a can of soda doesn’t, when it comes to fructose content they can be virtually the same.

cup filled with sugarAccording to Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, fructose can be blamed for several health problems:

It is mostly metabolized in the liver, which, in excess gets stored as fat. In part, this can contribute to (non alcoholic) fatty liver, increases in abdominal fat, elevation in triglycerides, elevation in uric acid, promoting high blood pressure, contributes to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.

It interferes with hormone signaling (insulin, leptin and ghrelin) making it difficult to know when you are full, actually tricking you into thinking that you are still hungry. This leads to more calorie consumption.

Currently, food labels do not separate out natural sugar in food from added sugars. Here are other names to watch out for:

  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Sugar molecules ending in “ose”
  • (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Beet sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sugar syrup
  • Rice bran syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Palm sugar

Most people need to reduce the overall consumption of sugars, regardless of the source. It is doesn’t matter if it is organic sugar bought from the Natural Food Store.  It is all about what happens when the sugar hits your blood stream. The answer, as we know, to return to a more natural diet, meaning a diet of whole organic foods, cooked from scratch, without added sugars and other chemicals.

Here are some rules of thumb:

To figure out  how many teaspoons of sugar are in something, divide the sugar content by 4. For example if the label says it has 24 grams of sugar, that’s 6 teaspoons, or about 96 calories from sugar.

Avoid sugared beverages. This is huge source of excess sugars. Sports drinks, soda, energy drinks, fruit juice. If you do drink juice, limit it to 4-6 oz at a time. For those of you who like to juice at home, I was recommend juicers that use the whole fruit separating the pulp (fiber) out. 

Rely on whole foods to satisfy your sweet tooth: example: Sweeten your muffins with dates or bananas.

Consider natural raw honey, stevia, xylitol, (real) maple syrup, as sweeteners in small amounts.

For those of you interested, there are some great documentaries out there speaking to the over consumption of sugar (amongst other things) and the motivations behind it.

Weight of the Nation

King Corn


NY times:Is Sugar Toxic? Gary Taubes

 Nina Paroo, ND

Get your ZZZZZ

Sleep is a basic necessity of life. We can’t do without it,sleeping lady similar to air, food and water. Many of us don’t get enough, or have disrupted, un-refreshed sleep which over time has a huge impact on overall health.  Sleep is a time when we restore and re-generate. Many of us feel that we are wasting our time sleeping spending hours being non-productive. Actually, our system is not sedentary at all, it is just more responsive to internal stimuli rather than external stimuli.

Allowing for enough consistent, restorative sleep has many positive benefits:

  • helps support a balanced immune system. When we sleep molecules are secreted that increase our resilience to ward off foreign invaders such as infectious bacteria and viruses that we may be exposed to during the day
  • reduces inflammation in the body. Sufficient sleep has a direct effect on our cardiovascular system.  High levels inflammatory markers, as seen in people with chronic sleep deprivation, have been correlated with heart disease.
  • maintains our weight.  When we sleep, hormones that regulate our hunger and appetite are secreted. With sleep deprivation these hormones are affected, driving our appetite and cravings for food high in calories, carbohydrates and fat. If you are having trouble loosing weight, sufficient quality and quantity of sleep is of utmost importance.
  • reduces stress. Sleep encourages a state of relaxation and helps reduce elevated level of stress hormones. Chronic sleep deprivation will affect our mood to the point that many can suffer from fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, poor memory and impaired judgment. This cycle can feed on itself, further reducing our ability to manage stress on a day to day basis.

It is suggested that the most restorative sleep is achieved by going to bed before 12:00 midnight, ideally as early as 10:00 pm. Every hour of sleep before midnight is twice as restorative as each hour after midnight. Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well. Our systems go through different phases of activity throughout the night. For example, your gallbladder dumps toxins during the hours of 11-1 am. If you are awake, the toxins back up into the liver that then secondarily back up into your entire system and cause further disruptions in health.

Most adults needs between 7.5-9 hours of sleep a night.  Some may think they can get away with less and then catch up on the weekend, but unfortunately we don’t have a sleep bank account; being sleep deprived during the week is not rectified by periodic times of more sleep.

Your surroundings (sleep environment) and activities around sleep (sleep hygiene) have a profound impact on quality of sleep. Here are some recommendations to achieve deep, restorative sleep:

  • sleep in complete darkness or as dark as possible. It is important for your brain to secrete the appropriate hormones for sleep initiation and maintenance. Computers, tv, night, lights street light can all disrupt our sleep wake cycle.
  • avoid shift work  Those that perform shift work, esp working from 12-8 am can have a very difficult time maintaining their health. this is because the body never adjusts to this artificial cycle. and it is difficult to get the same quality of restorative sleep during the day
  • avoid alcohol  Although alcohol will make people drowsy, the effect is short lived and people will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep.  Alcohol will also keep you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of its healing.
  • exercise  Movement at the appropriate time of day has a substantial effect on the quality and ability to fall asleep.  For some, exercise in the evening can cause too much stimulation so that it is difficult to wind down.  On the other hand a sedentary day may provoke insomnia as the physical body may not be fatigued
  • avoid caffeine  Research shows that in some people, caffeine is not metabolized efficiently and therefore they can feel the effects long after consumption.  That midday cup of coffee, tea, soda, or chocolate will keep some people from falling asleep.  Also keep in mind that some medications, particularly diet pills, contain caffeine
  • no TV or computer work right before bed  Even better, get the TV/computer out of the bedroom. The time before bed should be occupied with calming soothing activities so the body knows that it is time to wind down.  The stimulation of TV/computer will give the opposite message to the body and it will take longer to fall asleep.  It with also disrupt the pineal gland as stated above.

There are several other recommendations we have  for achieving and maintain restful sleep. Proper sleep will absolutely boost your health, your mood, and the quality of your life. Remember: sleep it not a luxury; it is essential for life!

Nina Paroo, ND

Steps Towards Healing: It’s All in your Head

The last part of our philosophical discussion is focusing on mental/emotional health which refers to our overall psychological well-being.  Most are familiar with this part of the triad but may not realize what a profound influence challenges to this area can cause.


                                                          Chemical                Structural

Stress is ever present. Experiencing some short term stress is actually helpful since it is stimulating and provides an impetus for productivity. When we are under chronic mental emotional stress or chronic over stimulation, it can begin to take a toll on our overall health.

We all fall somewhere in the continuum of the emotional spectrum. During different times of life we may be more or less capable of managing emotions.  It is part of life to experience mental emotional distress. The difference is, people with good emotional health have an ability to bounce

back from adversity, trauma, and stress. They remain focused, flexible, and creative in bad times as well as good.  The capacity to recognize emotions and express them appropriately helps us avoid getting stuck in depression, anxiety, or other negative mood states. It is when we get stuck in an emotional state that it starts to have more of a negative effect on our health.

There are several factors that can positively or negatively influence our psychological well-being. The following are important in supporting mental emotional balance.

  • Having our basic needs met (food, shelter, clothing)
    Feeling connected to others/ having a supportive community

  • Having enough time for leisure activities and fun

  • Having a purpose whether that is in the context of meaningful work, hobbies or relationships

  • Maintaining a good level of physical health

Sometimes, there is an opportunity because of a stressful episode, for change (relationship, work environment, etc). When chronic stress can not be avoided, it is imperative to engage in managing the stress until the situation can change. This may include more rest, exercise, meditation, massage, acupuncture, naturopathic care and support from a mental health practitioner. Commonly the knee-jerk reaction is to reach for a quick fix be it alcohol or food to help manage the situation; unfortunately this is not really a solution and may lead to deteriorating health.

Don’t forget that mind and body are linked. When you improve your physical health, you may also experience improved mental and emotional well-being. For example, exercise not only strengthens our heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that energize us and lift our mood.

Your outlook on life, attitude and  emotional health greatly influence your quality of life.  Whatever internal or external factors have shaped your mental and emotional health, it is possible to make changes that will improve your psychological well-being. Positive influences such as strong relationships, a healthy lifestyle, and coping strategies for managing stress and negative emotions can profoundly affect this part of the triad and therefore influence overall health.

Nina Paroo, ND

Steps Toward Healing: How your Structure Influences how you Function

Continuing our discussion of some Naturopathic concepts,  this post I am focusing on structural health.  The simple way to think about your structure is your bones and muscles but our structure is more than that. It is musculoskeletal (muscles, bones and attachments), dura (the envelope around brain and spinal cord), fascia (layer of fibrous tissue that surrounds most nerves, bones, muscles, blood vessels and organs) and viscera (internal organs). What is most important to keep in mind is that structure dictates function on all levels

                                                                    Mental/Emotional                                                         Chemical                Structural

Our bodies are built to move, but all day long most of us  sedentary in our chairs.  Moving your body regularly even if it is only walking affects your health profoundly.  Engaging in appropriate exercise has a huge effects on all systems in the body, from improving cardiovascular capacity to balancing hormones to improving energy.  It also provides an irreplaceable outlet for managing mental/emotional stress.

Often we don’t think about getting regular body work (massage, acupuncture, chiropractic) unless we have pain, but structural misalignment will affect long term health.  Imbalances will affect our nervous system, immune system, hormonal system and overtime can contribute to lack of adaptability or dis-ease.  Sometimes in practice we see people with structural stress contributing to digestive issues or even the ability to take a deep breath. To this end, if you are not digesting properly oPosturer your breathing capacity is affected two major routes of elimination are being compromised which will lead to overall system congestion, Relieving structural burden will improve overall communication all the way down to your cells.

Another way to think about it is if you are structurally misaligned or have poor posture it will take a lot of energy to defend against these misalignment instead of allowing your body to focus on other vital functions. Chronic stress interferes with health. If constantly stressed, the less you can rest, digest and heal.

Nina Paroo, ND

Steps Towards Healing: Chemical Imbalances

When thinking about your health it is common to focus on the name of the condition or diagnosis that you have been given. While this can provide information about symptoms, it doesn’t often speak to the “why or how” this condition arose and ultimately, what to do about it.

All chronic conditions have three main areas of underlying distress or imbalance:


                 Chemical                     Structural

How much imbalance will vary from person to person, but all are affected to some degree.  This is because everything is interrelated. If one area of the triangle is affected, it is affecting the whole. Our tendency is to compartmentalize our condition, and think, “oh, I have indigestion, it must be something that I ate”, when it could be more an issue with the amount of emotional strain or stress that you are experiencing that is at the root of the digestive distress. It is important to take a step back and look at all the influencing factors that could be contributing to health imbalances and not just the ‘tip of the iceberg’

The Chemical piece of the triangle refers to the processes occurring in the body influenced by internal and external factors. Some of the external factors include diet, environmental exposures, medications, supplements, viruses, bacteria etc. Keep in mind that everything your body comes into contact with, it has to process and your ability to do this efficiently can vary greatly.  Internal factors mainly refer to how your cells, tissues and organs function and the subsequent byproducts that are produced. These byproducts also have to get removed so that they don’t accumulate in your tissues. In light of this, improving your body’s biochemical ability involves: 

  • reduce our exposures (ex. eat organic, fresh, seasonal food) 
  • make organ systems work better (ex. improve how you digest and absorb nutrients from food)
  • Efficiently remove what we don’t need (ex. eliminate waste products regularly)

Often, in order to improve your internal functioning requires that you avoid something (ex foods that you react to) for a certain amount of time, or, that you add something into daily regimen such as drinking more water to help kidney function.  I may suggest something for you to do such as castor oil packs or hydrotherapy which encourage the removal of impurities from your body.  The bottom line is that whatever the condition, as we focus on improving how your body’s chemical processes, you will move towards improved health. But this isn’t the whole story. In future posts I will discuss how mental/emotional and structural imbalances affect your over all health.

Nina Paroo, ND

Monkey Mind

We live in the Age of Distraction. Yet ironically, the success of our future is influenced by the ability to pay attention to the present.

The behaviors of being still and slowing down are not only dismissed but carry the reputation of being unproductive, a waste of time, even lazy. Nothing could be further from the truth. By slowing down and being present, our ability to see our situations with more clarity improves, as does our mental resilience and flexibility. Some of the most profound moments come from watching the grass grow.

Mindfulness is in part about observing the ‘monkey mind’, the constant chatter that is ever present. Instead of directly trying to quiet or calm the mind (because lets face it, this is very difficult to do), it is more about looking at the spaces between thoughts. Living in the moment is a very active state. It is the the practice of being active, open, and placing intentional attention on the present, so that you are not dwelling on the past or projecting into the future. When this is practiced you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judgment, neither grasping a thought or pushing it away.

Road in the ForestMost of us are constantly running away from something or towards something. For example, not wanting to deal with argument that you got into yesterday with your partner or counting down the days left before you leave for vacation. Of course we all have mundane tasks that we would rather not do, as well as having things we look forward to. If you are able to stay in the present moment, accept what is in front of you, take some deep breaths, re-center your attention, watch your thoughts as they rise and fall, you will be able tend to the task at hand in this moment, rather than being caught up in the past or the imaginings of the future.

So why do we want to do this? This non-judgmental awareness of the present imparts several benefits. It has been shown that mindful people are happier, more enthusiastic, more empathetic, and more secure. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the impulsiveness and reactivity that may underlie attention problems and binge eating. Mindfulness reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, boosts immune functioning, and reduces chronic pain. An article in the  Washington Post taught the beneficial effects of mindful meditation for war veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

water dropletWe need to keep in mind that mindfulness is not an end goal. We don’t achieve mindfulness, we practice it.  There are more formal ways of practice such as mindful meditation, but don’t let this intimidate you. Simply set your intention to pay attention to what is happening right now. You can perform any task in a mindful way. You are basically doing the opposite of multi-tasking (which none of us can really do efficiently anyway). The very act of being present, focusing on the here and now, will paradoxically improve your ability to manage more things with less effort.

Here are here are a few ways to practice being in the present.

Embrace Fretting

Who doesn’t worry about the future? As Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Anxiety about the future is often driven by imaginings and fear. Some suggest setting aside to ‘just worry’ in a non-judgmental accepting way. If you can sit with the sensation in the here and now, usually the anxiety will start to dissipate.

Breathe Deep

When you find yourself feeling consumed with thoughts of the present or past focus on your breath. This is a centering exercise that will bring you into the present and into your body. there are several breathing techniques. One of my favorites is belly breathing: Put one hand on your belly and the other on chest. Breath in through your nose and feel your belly expand and your hand rise. Hold for a few seconds and exhale.

Give your self a break

This doesn’t need to take up hours in your day. For as little as 15 minutes, set aside some time where there is little distraction. Turn off anything that beeps, rings or buzzes. Stop the knee jerk reaction to check your cell phone/computer or electronic devises. Tend to yourself verses others around you. What are your senses telling you? If you tap into your senses you will be amazed as to how often you perform things on auto-pilot. A common habit is to eat meals while surfing the Internet, working or watching TV. Try not doing this. Eating mindfully will no only improve your digestion, but you will enjoy your food in a completely different way.

Nina Paroo, ND


What’s in Your Toilet?

We are going to discuss poop.  Many don’t really pay attention to what is coming out the other end. Shocking, I know. What your stool looks like is an important indicator to what is going on in your digestive system, as well as your overall health. bathroom toilet

So what does a healthy stool look like? Typically, a healthy stool is medium brown. This is in large part because of bile.  Bile is formed in the liver and secreted by the gallbladder, is incorporated into the food that you have eaten to aid in digestion. Bile is actually dark green in color, but as it travels through the intestines its color changes, most often resulting in the characteristic brown stool. A healthy stool should have the form of a sausage or a snake, and have a smooth texture.

Lets focus on bowel movements that are deviations from normal.  Keep in mind that medication and some foods can change the color of your stool and must be considered before thinking that there is something wrong! There is a range of ‘normal’ when we are talking about what your stool should like and most often, an isolated incident of deviation from normal is not cause for alarm. Generally speaking, If it happens multiple times, or there is a significant change in bowel habits it should be investigated.   This color guide  can help bring some clarity to what deviations from normal can mean.

Tarry/ black: This could indicate a bleed coming from the upper part of the digestive system, namely the esophagus, stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. This is because The blood is reacting to the digestive enzymes in the small intestines.

There are other reasons for very dark brown/black stool that you should be aware of. Iron supplements, supplements/medications containing bismuth (Pepto-bismol), activated charcoal can all turn your stool very dark, which is not an indication of a problem. Discontinuing the culprit should return your stool to a lighter shade of brown.

Red/maroon: If you stools are red or maroon it could indicate bleeding in the lower part of your intestines.  There are several conditions that can lead to a red appearance to your stool: Diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, colon polyps, colon cancer, internal or external hemorrhoids (very common), anal fissures (tear) can all lead to various amounts of blood in your stool. But wait! Very often food can influence this to. The most common is beets. Other red vegetables and red food dye can turn your stool a red/maroon color as well.

Green: Green stools are generally the result of bile in your stool that is moving through your intestines too quickly and isn’t able to go through chemical changes to darken your stool. Some may experience this if they have diarrhea. You can also have greener stool if you eating a lot of green vegetables.

Yellow: Infection with giardia lamblia (a parasite) produces a characteristic yellow diarrhea. Gallbladder dysfunction leading the the improper handling of bile can also cause yellow stool.  Pancreatic disease which can result in too much undigested fat in your stool, may cause your stool to have a yellow appearance. Often it will also have ‘greasy’ appearance and can be quite malodorous.

Clay/Grey: This can happen if there is little or no bile in the stool, or the flow of bile is blocked. Liver disease, gallstones/gallbladder disease, and a pancreatic tumor blockage are all reasons stool could have this appearance. The change of stool color to gray or clay typically occurs gradually as these medical conditions progress relatively slowly and stool becomes pale over time.

Now that we have discussed color, lets move onto the shape and consistency of your stool. A helpful chart is the Bristol Stool Chart. This depicts the continuum of consistency, from hard stool to loose stool:

Hard Bowel Movements If your stool is difficult to pass, infrequent, and you have straining, or discomfort, your stool is too hard. Often times stool will be smaller in pieces, dry and/or have cracking. This can be a sign of dehydration, not enough fiber, lack of exercise, food sensitivities, stress, structural misalignment, influence from medication, and changes in daily routine are some common reasons for harder stool.

Loose Bowel Movements  If your stool doesn’t hold its shape or is watery (diarrhea) this is considered to be loose. A variety of things can result is loose stool: infection, food poisoning, food sensitivities, stress, drinking too much alcohol, and hormonal fluctuations can all result in stool that is loose.

There are a varying opinions of how often someone should have a bowel movement. Most sources say that moving your bowels daily to 3 times a week is normal. I tend to disagree with this. Generally speaking, I think that a healthy digestive system is reflected in having 1-3 bowel movements a day. If you are eating then you should expel waste by products often.  If there is a straining, rabbit pellets, thinly shaped stool or it doesn’t feel like a full evacuation, I consider this a sign of constipation. Also, having undigested food in your stool is an indication that perhaps you aren’t chewing your food well enough, and/or your body isn’t breaking down your food properly. Having a small amount of mucous in your stool is ok, but a lot of  mucous in your stool can be an indication of inflammation in your digestive system.

I have been asked many times what the ideal stool looks like, and here is my answer:

It should have a gentle S shape (following the shape of the lower colon), evacuated easily without a lot of straining. It should gently sink to the bottom of the toilet bowel. It is medium brown in color. And finally, it is a ‘one wipe wonder’



Nina Paroo, ND