Can Working From Home Affect Your Mental Health?

Can Working From Home Affect Your Mental Health?

Can Working From Home Negatively Affect Your Mental Health?

Can working from home negatively affect your mental health? In the era of COVID-19, many of us have discovered what it is like to be a remote worker. Our working days often look very different than they used to. In many cases, these changes can have a negative effect on mental health.

Experts predict that many jobs will remain remote after the effects of COVID-19 begin to disappear. In one mid-pandemic survey, more than 80% of employers said they were considering offering more work-from-home options even after the pandemic ended. If there is a chance that you will continue to work from home for some time, it may help to know how to set up your work environment and routines to better protect your mental health.

It’s Not Just You: Working From Home Can Be Stressful

Can Working From Home Affect Your Mental Health?

As many as 3 out of 4 workers in the U.S. have reported feeling stressed during COVID-19. And research from before the pandemic began has found that remote workers tend to feel more stressed than those who work on-site.

Stress can come with many symptoms. The following signs may indicate that your stress levels are high:

  • Feelings of nervousness or uncertainty
  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Tiredness
  • Feelings of anger or irritability
  • Low motivation levels
  • Difficulties with paying attention
  • Sleeping problems

There are several things that can be adding to workplace stress during COVID-19. Many people have additional duties, both at work and at home. Some people may not have all of the tools they need to get their job done from their house. Additionally, changes in routine, uncertainty about the future, and worries about health concerns all add up to more stress.

Sometimes, you only experience stress for a short period of time, such as when you’re in a new, scary, or dangerous situation. This is known as acute stress, and is normal – it’s the body’s way of keeping us safe. However, when stress lasts long-term, it can become a problem. This type of stress, called chronic stress, can lead to negative effects on mental and emotional health.

Mental Effects of Stress

If your brain is feeling foggy or if it seems like you just can’t get things done like you used to, there’s a good reason. High levels of chronic stress can cause memory problems. Stressed people are also more likely to have low energy levels and difficulty focusing. Increased stress also leads to more serious mental health problems. Nearly a third of telecommuters say they have experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic. People are also increasingly turning to drugs and alcohol to cope.

When stress remains a constant presence hovering in our minds, it can cause burnout. People who are burned out have very negative feelings about work. They often feel very exhausted, distance themselves from work or from coworkers, and don’t get as much done. Burnout is a real diagnosis and one that I continue to see in my medical practice in the last 14 months. Burnout affects the way the brain works. People who feel burned out have a harder time remembering things and paying attention. On the other hand, some research has found that when people feel better about working from home, they are less likely to feel burned out. Finding ways to make telecommuting more enjoyable may help protect your mental health.

Impacts on Physical Health

People who experience long-term chronic stress are also more likely to have various physical health problems. These can include:

Stress can also negatively affect sleep, which can in turn cause additional health problems. Among people who have started working from home due to COVID-19, at least half report that they aren’t getting as much sleep as they used to.

The Benefits of Working From Home

Working from Home 3

Although working remotely can be stressful in some ways, it may help to know that setting up in a home office can positively affect your mental health too. If you’ve been working at home for over a year, you may not be remembering all the stressful parts of your previous in-person role.

No Commuting

The average commute time for Americans was at an all-time high before the pandemic hit. Spending a lot of time in the car every day can increase stress levels, leading to negative effects on physical and mental health:

Staying at home during your workday may mean that you avoid stressful traffic, have more social time, and get more sleep.

Productivity Boosts

Some research shows that when people work from home, they get more done. Additionally, the vast majority of employers have said that productivity has increased during COVID-19. Believe it or not, you may be doing better at your job now than you were when you were going into the office.

Other Benefits

Working from home may help you save money. You aren’t paying as much for commute-related expenses, and eating lunch at home is usually cheaper than buying lunch at work. Additionally, you could move to a more affordable location and work from there. If you plan your schedule right, you could also have more time for other non-work activities like exercise or hobbies. Many people enjoy their jobs more when they can do them from home.

Mental Health Solutions for Remote Workers

Telecommuting can be both a relief from stress and a source of it. If you restructure your working day and make the most of working from home, you may end up feeling better about your job and having less mental health worries.

Create a Separate Work Environment

Trying to resist temptation and avoid distractions wears down your mental energy, which can make you feel more stressed at work. Take a look around your home workspace. What catches your eye? A cluttered desk, television, or nearby smartphone may be a constant source of distraction. Separate yourself from temptation as much as possible while working. This separation is crucial so that you can close the door to work, both figuratively and literally, after your workday is complete.

Eliminate Multitasking

Research shows that people who multitask more often are actually worse at it! If you’re trying to do multiple things at once, you may not be doing as good a job as you think you are.

Workers in one survey spent an average of 40% of their day multitasking by communicating with coworkers while trying to accomplish other tasks. Technology like Microsoft Teams and Slack makes it possible to work from home, but also provides another source of distraction. Studies have found that people who are regularly messaging while they work take longer to get things done. Try to avoid checking these apps while in the middle of a big project, or schedule time to catch up on messages once every couple of hours.

Work Smarter By Using Your Body’s Internal Clock

Different processes within the mind and the body follow a pattern called a circadian rhythm or a biological “clock.” At different times of day, things like alertness, digestion, and body temperature naturally change. You likely feel more energetic and focused during specific times. One study found that students were likely to get better grades during morning classes, while another found that test scores improved after lunch.

Try noting how you feel at different times each day, or track your activities with a time-tracking website or app. When you look back at what you accomplished over multiple days, you might see a pattern. What time of day do you usually get the most done? Try scheduling tasks that require a lot of focus during times of higher energy and productivity. Then, plan to check email or take meetings when your amount of focus is lower. If you seem to hit a slump at the same time each day, try taking a break right before you usually reach that point.

Stick to a Set Work Schedule

Does avoiding a daily commute mean you have more free time? Not always. A pre-pandemic study found that people who telecommute work an average of 3 hours more per week. During COVID-19, the length of the average workday increased further. More work may equal more stress.

Try to set consistent work hours each day. If possible, choose a start time and end time to your workday, and make sure to also schedule in some break periods to give your brain a chance to recharge. Sticking to a schedule can help give you a stronger sense of control.

One of the major reasons people have been working longer during the pandemic is that they spend more time on email. Try taking your work email off of your smartphone and only answering it during working hours. If you sometimes need to respond to email during the evening, designate one small block of time for checking your messages and stay out of your inbox for the rest of your non-working day.

Once your workday is done, it’s time to distract your brain. Try building a habit of doing a certain ritual once you’re finished each day. This can help signal to your brain that work is done and it’s time to switch gears. Engaging in a more passive activity like watching TV makes it easy for work-related thoughts to creep in. Instead, try activities that require your full attention. Picking up a new hobby, planning some social time with a loved one, or cooking a fun dinner can help you leave your work behind and fully enjoy your free time.

Move Your Body

Sitting all day is bad for your health. It increases risk of many different health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Even if you regularly schedule exercise sessions outside of work, it doesn’t undo all of the damage of sitting down for the remainder of the day.

Make time for movement throughout the workday. Do a couple of stretches during a 5-minute break or take a 15-minute walk around the block. Try not to remain in your seat for large blocks of time. I often tell my patients to take a short break every hour if sitting at a computer. Your eyes will also thank you, since computer work causes strain to the eyes.

Get Some Sunlight

Going on a walk is a great step, but location matters too. Some studies have found that there is a difference between walking around in the city and spending time in nature. In a city setting, there is more chaos – honking cars and bright billboards are calling out for your attention. However, when you take a walk through a more natural setting, your brain gets a chance to reset and you can improve your ability to focus. Other research has found that walking through nature lowers anxiety levels and improves your mood. Find a park nearby to spend some time in, or schedule time on the weekends to immerse yourself in a natural environment.

Stay Socially Connected

Telecommuting often means that you’re spending a lot of the day on your own. Make sure you’re engaging in social time, both inside and outside of work. Take a bit of time during your workday to check in with coworkers. During work breaks, message a friend or family member. Outside of work, spend some quality time playing with your kids, or plan a visit or phone call to catch up with a loved one. Making time for social activities can boost your sense of belonging, improve self-esteem, and provide an outlet for giving and receiving support.

Balancing Responsibilities at Home

When you work from home, it may seem like it should be easier to keep up with your roles around the house, but the opposite is often the case. Work and home stress can easily bleed together, with one set of jobs distracting you from finishing the other.

Women are particularly facing difficulties in this area. 44% of women and only 14% of men say they are the only one in their household with childcare duties. Women are also more likely to feel under pressure, exhausted, or burned out at work. Overall, many parents are finding it very difficult to work from home while also overseeing their children’s online schooling.

Work with your family or housemates to find a solution that works for everyone. Try to lessen the amount that you multitask by setting up a schedule with your spouse to divide childcare or pet-related responsibilities. Make sure you’re devoting some time to the kids, but also set aside time where you’re only thinking about work. Have your spouse or another family member keep an eye on the kids, even if just for an hour or two. Try to set boundaries to protect this time – it’s okay to say “no” sometimes.

Remember That This is Temporary

Yes, remote workers have reported higher levels of stress during the pandemic – but so have on-site workers. A great deal of the stress that people are feeling right now is not just due to working conditions. Living through a global pandemic has meant that many of us are dealing with health concerns, isolation from loved ones, financial difficulties, and new routines. These other factors all add to our stress levels, making working from home seem especially difficult right now. It’s possible that once the number of COVID-19 infections drops and regulations are lifted, some of these other stressors may improve. Working from home may become more enjoyable once the effects of the pandemic lessen.

Know When to Ask For Help

Long-term stress can easily turn into more serious mental health problems. If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed or are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression, talking to a healthcare professional may help. Bring up these feelings at your next appointment with your primary care provider, or seek out a psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor. Many different websites and apps now also offer virtual counseling sessions. Talking to a professional can help you further learn how to manage stress and improve mental health.

Conclusion

Despite the possibility of added stress, most people like to work from home at least some of the time. In one recent survey, nearly 3 out of 4 people said that in the future, they hoped to be able to split their time between working at home and working in the office.

There are many strategies that can help you lessen stress while remote working. Even though you may have been working from home for over a year now, it’s possible that you still haven’t found a good routine or an effective work-life balance. Continuing to use trial and error to find potential solutions may help you protect your mental health.

If you would like a physical check-up please make an appointment with Dr. Connor.

How to Prevent and Reverse Sarcopenia

How to Prevent and Reverse Sarcopenia

Is losing muscle just a normal part of aging? For some people, a drop in muscle mass and strength can be a serious health problem known as sarcopenia. People with this condition may be more at risk for falls and can have trouble performing daily activities. There are many risk factors for sarcopenia. Some of these, like not getting enough exercise, can be prevented. Additionally, muscle loss can be reversed. Strength training, a healthy diet, and supplements may all help treat sarcopenia.

What is Sarcopenia?

People with sarcopenia have low levels of muscle mass (the total amount of all muscles found in your body). They also have decreased muscle strength or function, which can be measured using things like walking speed or handgrip strength. This loss of muscle happens over time, usually due to aging.

The process of losing muscle starts happening earlier in life than you may think. After a person turns 30, they begin to lose about 3-8% of muscle per decade. This process speeds up even further when a person is in their 60’s. By the time someone reaches their 80’s, they may have lost up to half of their original muscle mass.

As many as one in three people over the age of 60 has sarcopenia. While sarcopenia is usually seen in older people, it may also be seen in younger people as well. For example, people with inflammatory diseases are more likely to develop sarcopenia.

Why is Sarcopenia a Problem?

sarcopenia

Sarcopenia can lead to multiple other physical and mental health issues. People with this condition may be more likely to get broken bones. They may also walk more slowly, which can be a sign that a person has a higher risk of sickness and death. Sarcopenia may also lead to disability and a greater risk of falls.

People living with sarcopenia also say that they experience many other physical and mental issues as a result of their condition, such as:

  • Trouble standing
  • Balance problems
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Feeling afraid of being injured
  • Feeling embarrassed about their health
  • Feeling lonely or meeting up with friends and family less often

Many people with sarcopenia have a harder time meeting their own needs. Sarcopenia can make it harder to do everyday tasks such as cleaning up around the house, showering, and driving. This may mean that they are less able to live independently.

Finally, people with sarcopenia may have a shorter life expectancy. Focusing on sarcopenia risk factors and working to build more muscle can help you live a longer, healthier life.

How Do You Know if You Have Sarcopenia?

If you think you may have this condition, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may run several tests in order to make a diagnosis, such as:

  • Imaging scans in order to see how much muscle you have throughout the body
  • Tests that test measure how strongly you can grip, in order to see how strong your muscles are
  • Tests that measure how quickly you can walk or climb stairs, in order to see how well your muscles work

If your doctor thinks you may have sarcopenia, they can help you come up with a plan to prevent further muscle loss and even build new muscle.

Preventing Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia has been linked to several risk factors. For example, this condition becomes more common with age. Additionally, up to 30% of your risk of sarcopenia may be linked to genes passed down from your parents. While you can’t control your age or your genetics, there are other risk factors that you can change.

 

 

Exercise
sarcopenia
Not getting enough physical activity can increase your chance of developing sarcopenia. Getting more exercise can reduce your risk and lead to more muscle strength. When healthy adults undergo strength training, they build muscle and can perform everyday tasks more easily.

Many different forms of physical activity can help. Some types of exercises that have been used in studies to help protect against sarcopenia include:

  • Resistance training: This type of workout, also known as strength training, helps build up muscle. It includes exercises that use weights, resistance bands, or body weight.
  • Functional training: This type of movement trains people to better carry out everyday life activities. Functional training strengthens multiple different muscle groups and helps them work together better.
  • Aerobic exercise: Exercises in this category increase your heart rate and make you breathe faster. Aerobic exercise, or cardio, includes activities like running, walking, and swimming.

Diet

Nutrition also plays a key role. People who eat more protein and get more vitamin D are less likely to get sarcopenia. If you want to lower your chance of being diagnosed with this condition, eating a balanced diet where you’re getting enough of these nutrients may help.

Other Factors

Certain diseases may also lead to more muscle loss. These include heart disease and cancer. Factors like eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and not drinking alcohol heavily can help with your heart health. These healthy habits can also reduce cancer risk, and in turn, may lower your chance of getting sarcopenia.

Other risk factors of sarcopenia include:

  • Changes in hormones
  • Damage to the nervous system
  • Inflammation
  • High levels of fat in the liver
  • Not getting good enough nutrition

These health issues can often be detected during regular doctors’ visits. Talk to your doctor about how often you should have check-ups and health screenings.

Sarcopenia Treatments

There are no official treatments that the FDA has approved for sarcopenia. However, there are several things that people with this condition can do in order to build up more muscle and improve their strength.

Exercise

Many different types of exercise can help people with sarcopenia. However, one of the best types of workouts may be progressive resistance training, or PRT. During PRT, people focus on building up strength using things like resistance bands, free weights, or weight machines. As a person gets stronger, the amount of weight or resistance used is slowly increased.

In one set of studies, researchers found that PRT helped older people gain an average of 2.4 pounds of muscle. In another analysis of 121 clinical trials that included 6700 people, researchers found that PRT could help people:

  • Walk faster
  • Get out of a chair more quickly
  • Go up steps more easily
  • Gain stronger muscles
  • Have less arthritis pain
  • Have enhanced physical ability
  • Complete daily activities like cooking or bathing more easily

Studies have found that performing more repetitions of an exercise or doing higher-intensity exercises can lead to more improvements in building muscle for older adults. However, too much exercise can lead to injury, so it’s important to start slow. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new workout program, especially if you have other health conditions. Your doctor can give you recommendations for an exercise plan that is best for you.

You can start using PRT by making a habit of strength training. Experts recommend that older adults perform exercises that are focused on muscle strength two times per week. Try taking a class geared towards seniors at a local gym, community center, or online. You can also try tracking your exercise with activity logs or with smartphone apps. Additionally, PRT is not the only type of exercise that can improve your health. Many people living with sarcopenia have found that exercises like cardio, physical therapy, and pool exercises have helped them improve their flexibility and strength.

Nutrition

sarcopenia

Because eating low levels of protein has been linked to sarcopenia, it’s important for older adults to make sure they are getting enough of this nutrient. Eating more protein can help older adults gain more mass and increase their life expectancy. Experts recommend getting 25-30 grams of protein at each meal. Foods that contain a lot of protein include meat (beef, pork, sausage), poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), seafood, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and soy foods (tofu, tempeh, edamame).

A Combination of Better Nutrition and Exercise Is Even More Effective

Getting enough nutrients, and especially eating enough protein, is important if you are also getting more exercise. Eating a nutritious diet can help exercise be more effective for people living with sarcopenia.

In one clinical trial, researchers tried to help older, frail nursing home residents build muscle. Participants who exercised had some improvements in muscle strength and were able to walk faster and climb stairs more easily. People who got better nutrition in addition to being put on an exercise program had even larger improvements.

Other studies have had similar findings. Another clinical trial showed that when older adults got aerobic exercise, their bodies were better able to absorb nutrients and deliver those nutrients to the muscle. People who used a combination of healthy eating and exercise built more muscle than people who got better nutrition but didn’t exercise.

Supplements

Sometimes, it’s hard to get all of the nutrients you need from diet alone. Taking supplements may help you make sure you are reaching your nutritional goals.

One easy way to get extra protein is by taking high-protein supplements. Many of these supplements contain essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and “essential” amino acids are ones that your body can’t make itself – it needs to get them through the diet. When people over 65 years old take this sort of supplement, they have more muscle strength, fewer health problems, and less hospital visits.

Vitamin D is an important nutrient for those with sarcopenia. Older adults who don’t get enough vitamin D are four times more likely to be frail. Whether vitamin D can be used as a sarcopenia treatment is less clear, however. Some studies have not found any benefit for people taking more vitamin D. On the other hand, other studies have shown that getting more vitamin D can increase physical function and reduce the risk of falls. If you have sarcopenia, taking a vitamin D supplement may help.

Another useful supplement ingredient is omega-3 fatty acids. These molecules are found in fatty fish and in fish oil supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids can:

  • Build more muscle
  • Reduce inflammation in the muscle
  • Help people build muscle following resistance training

Hormone Treatments for Better Muscle Function

Hormones are natural chemicals produced by the body that help different parts of the body communicate. Levels of certain hormones change as we age, and this may play a role in sarcopenia.

Testosterone is a reproductive hormone that is primarily important for the development of male sex characteristics and sexual function. Testosterone also helps support healthy bones, blood cells, and muscles in both men and women. As we age, both men and women experience a drop in testosterone levels. This may be one of the reasons why we lose muscle as we get older. When older men get testosterone treatments to increase their levels of this hormone, they often gain muscle mass and strength. However, it is important to know that taking testosterone may lead to side effects such as acne, joint pain, insomnia, mood swings, and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Another key hormone is human growth hormone (hGH or GH). Like testosterone, hGH levels decrease about 1% per year after a person turns 30. People with sarcopenia tend to have lower levels of hGH in the body. Some studies have shown that hGH treatment, alone or in combination with testosterone, can improve muscle strength. However, other studies have found that people with sarcopenia don’t gain muscle mass after taking hGH. hGH supplements may also come with side effects such as swelling, joint pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Hormone therapy may help some people build muscle, but it doesn’t seem to work for everyone. Additionally, some people may experience side effects from taking hormones, while others feel just fine. Talk to your doctor to see if the possible benefits of taking testosterone or hGH outweigh the potential risks.

Conclusion

Sarcopenia can be a serious condition, leading to many additional physical and mental health problems. If you feel like you may be losing muscles and are not as strong as you used to be, exercise and a healthy, protein-rich diet can help you build up strength. Some people may benefit from taking hormones such as testosterone or human growth hormone. If you think you may have sarcopenia, talk to your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that can work well for your needs, or make an appointment with Dr. Connor.

Will a “Hormone Diet” Help You Lose Weight?

Will a “Hormone Diet” Help You Lose Weight?

Will a hormone diet help you loose weight? New diets and fitness fads are constantly popping up. Most of them promise easy weight loss and long-lasting health benefits. However, the science doesn’t always back up the claims, and it’s hard to know which weight loss strategies will provide real results.

One diet that has been popular in recent years is the hormone diet. There are a few different versions of this eating plan floating around, although they all promise to help you rebalance hormones in order to lose weight and achieve better health. The people who sell these diets claim they work. But what does science say?

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are chemicals that are made by organs called glands. Their job is to act as a messenger between different organs or different body parts. For example, the gland in one part of the body may send out signals that affect how cells in a different area behave. Hormones affect many processes, such as metabolism, mood, and reproduction.

Some examples of hormones are:

Growth hormone: This hormone is made by the pituitary gland, found in the brain. Growth hormone helps children grow and develop. It also necessary in people of all ages for functions like breaking down and storing fats, making proteins, and keeping brains and bones working properly.
Cortisol: The adrenal glands make cortisol when you’re feeling stressed out. It helps control inflammation, blood pressure, sleep, mood, and metabolism.
Insulin: Insulin, made by the pancreas, is also linked to metabolism. It helps cells absorb sugar from the blood to use for energy.
Thyroid hormones: The thyroid, located in the front of the neck, makes hormones called T3 and T4. These control metabolism and help the bones and heart work properly.
Reproductive hormones: Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone help the reproductive system develop and work properly and are important for healthy sexual function.
These and many other hormones affect the way the body breaks down food, stores it, and uses it as fuel. When hormone levels are too high or too low, they can cause someone to lose or gain pounds. This has led many people to study the connection between hormones and weight loss.

What is the Hormone Diet?

Hormone Diet
The first person to start promoting the hormone diet was Dr. Natasha Turner, a naturopathic doctor who published the book “The Hormone Diet” in 2009. This book claimed that following a particular eating plan and adopting certain lifestyle habits would change the levels of 16 different hormones in order to burn more fat. Dr. Turner has since published two more books that further explain how to optimize hormone levels. Since “The Hormone Diet” was published, many other people have begun promoting similar diets. Dozens of books have now been published that claim that eating or avoiding certain foods or applying other habits can put your hormone levels in balance.

What Do You Do on the Hormone Diet?

The original hormone diet lists three separate phases: Phase 1: The first part of the diet is detox. People avoid certain foods for two weeks, including gluten (found in certain grains and bread products), cow’s milk and dairy products, peanuts, alcohol, caffeine, corn, sugar, and certain citrus fruits such as grapefruit. Additionally, processed, man-made foods are off-limits. According to the diet, these foods can cause inflammation and make it hard for your digestive system to absorb the nutrients it needs. Instead, people are told to eat foods such as rice, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, poultry, fish, and eggs. Dieters are also instructed to take supplements such as probiotics and fish oil. The hormone diet is supposed to help people lose 12 pounds during this first phase, in addition to lowering levels of hormones like estrogen and cortisol. Phase 2: After two weeks of detox, a person starts slowly adding some foods back into the diet. However, they are told to pay attention to how their bodies respond to these foods. For example, a person may notice that eating dairy products tends to give them a stomachache. People following the hormone diet are still told to stay away from processed foods and foods with preservatives during this time. Phase 3: At this point in the hormone diet, people continue the same eating plan but begin to exercise. They also add other healthy habits into their routines, such as getting good sleep and reducing stress, as these habits play a role in the levels of certain hormones.

Does the Hormone Diet Work?

Hormone Diet
The best way to know whether or not a diet works is for researchers to conduct a clinical trial. In this type of study, researchers divide participants into groups. One group would follow the diet, and other groups may follow different diets, or no diet at all. The researchers would then compare results between the different groups to see whether the diet actually made people lose weight, and whether it affected other factors such as hormone levels. This type of clinical trial has never been conducted for the hormone diet. This means that we don’t know for sure if this diet works better or worse than other weight loss strategies, or even if it works at all. However, we can look at other types of studies that have studied the link between weight loss and hormones. For example:

    • Multiple studies have found that when people lose weight through different methods, including eating fewer calories or getting weight loss surgery, they can normalize their levels of thyroid hormones.
    • When people lose weight, their insulin levels decrease and their bodies can use insulin more efficiently.
    • In one clinical trial, overweight women who had gone through menopause used diet, exercise, or both to lose weight. All of the women who lost weight, but especially those in the diet plus exercise group, also had a decrease in levels of estrogen and testosterone. However, it is imperative to note that the study participants had elevated hormone levels at the beginning of the study.
    • The bottom line: for the most part, we don’t yet know enough to be able to say which specific foods can raise or lower the levels of specific hormones. However, we do know that losing weight using a variety of strategies can help keep hormones at normal levels.

What’s Good About the Hormone Diet

    • Some parts of the hormone diet encourage habits that science has shown to be helpful for losing weight and gaining health. Some of these include:

      • Natural, whole foods: The hormone diet tells people to avoid processed, man-made products. These foods tend to have extra calories without providing much nutrition, so cutting them out of your diet is a good thing. Processed foods can make you overeat and gain weight and increase your risk of heart disease.
      • Good nutrition: The foods that people eat on the hormone diet are fairly similar to those eaten on the Mediterranean diet, which has been extensively studied. The Mediterranean diet has many health benefits, such as healthy aging, weight loss, and a lower risk of heart disease, brain disease, and some types of cancer.
      • Paying closer attention to what you eat: The diet encourages people to find out whether they are intolerant to certain foods by avoiding those products for a couple of weeks, and then trying them again. It’s possible that some people are intolerant to foods such as gluten and that avoiding these foods will help make people feel healthier.
      • Exercise: The hormone diet encourages people to get cardiovascular or aerobic exercise as well as strength training or weight lifting. Physical activity is essential for many aspects of health, including weight loss.
      • Stress management: Feeling stressed on a regular basis can lead people to gain weight, but learning how to better deal with stress through relaxation techniques and breathing exercises can help people lose pounds.
      • Getting enough sleepQuality sleep helps people burn more fat and stay at a healthy weight, making it an important weight loss tool.
    • These tools may or may not change your hormone levels in a predictable way, but they can help you lose weight. Following these parts of the hormone diet can help you lose pounds and reduce your risk of disease, even if you don’t follow the exact plan that the book recommends.

What’s Bad About the Hormone Diet

    • Unfortunately, there are some parts of the hormone diet that probably don’t work or could even be harmful. These include:

      • Fast weight loss: Sure, dropping pounds quickly sounds great, but it’s not very realistic. Often, it takes a while for the weight to come off. Additionally, losing weight quickly is not very healthy. While the hormone diet expects people to lose 12 pounds in the first two weeks, the CDC says that people who lose 1-2 pounds per week are more likely to keep the weight off in the long term.
      • Changing your hormone levels may be risky: Hormones are involved in nearly every process in the body. Your body normally tightly controls levels of these molecules in order to keep everything working correctly. If you do end up drastically altering your hormones, you may end up with negative effects in other parts of the body. Please talk with your physician about this as hormone balancing is a very comprehensive undertaking and must be done with the help of a board-certified physician.
      • It’s hard to know if your hormone levels are actually changing: Even if you follow the hormone diet exactly as written, you won’t necessarily be sure which hormones are increasing or decreasing, or how much they’re changing.
    • Overall, trying to control the levels of your many hormones through food might not be realistic, and could lead to further problems. If your body is healthy overall, then your hormone levels will be where they need to be. Abnormal hormone levels are often a sign of other health concerns.

Do You Need to Worry About Hormone Levels?

    Hormone Diet

    The body tightly controls how much of each hormone is made. Sometimes, health problems cause certain glands to make too much or too little of a hormone. This can lead to a hormone disorder, which may also be called an endocrine disorder. The most common disease in this category is diabetes, which occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin, causing blood sugar levels to get too high. Another example is hypothyroidism. In this disorder, the thyroid doesn’t make enough T3 and T4 hormones, leading different body processes to slow down.

    Finding Out Your Hormone Levels

    If you think that you may actually have a problem with certain hormones, the first step is talking to your doctor. Your primary care provider can help you test your hormone levels by drawing your blood. If you are female, you may also be able to have your gynecologist measure levels of your reproductive hormones. Your doctor can then help you understand whether there are any problems and what steps you can take.

    Some companies also sell kits that allow you to test your hormone levels at home. This often involves collecting a sample of saliva, blood, or urine and mailing it in to a company. The company will then send you results that say what your levels of different hormones are and whether they are in a normal range. Again, it is important to take this information to your physician to review with you.

    Treatment

    If you are diagnosed with a hormone imbalance, there may be several different treatment options depending on what exactly the problem is. For example, if your thyroid produces too many hormones, you may be able to fix this through medication, radioactive treatment, or surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid.

    Low hormone levels may be able to be fixed by taking man-made hormones in order to replace the ones that your body isn’t making. One example of this is someone with diabetes taking insulin in order to help control blood sugar levels. Another example is a woman taking hormone replacement therapy while going through menopause. True hormone imbalances can usually be solved through medical means, rather than by going on a diet.

    Conclusion

    Overall, there is much we have yet to learn about hormones and the link with our food to our hormones and weight loss. Following the hormone diet could help you shed pounds, but any weight loss you see may be simply due to the fact that you’re eating healthier foods and exercising more. Regardless of whether or not you’re resetting your hormones, the hormone diet does contain many great ideas that can help people become healthier and weigh less.

    For more information on what type of diet would benefit your body, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Connor.

      Do the Three Most Popular Diets Really Work?

      Do the Three Most Popular Diets Really Work?

      Do the three most popular diets really work? There’s so much health, nutrition and fitness advice out there, and some tips seem to contradict others. Additionally, trends are constantly changing, and it’s hard to know what is actual good advice and what is just a passing fad.

      Here, we’ll break down the three most popular diets. These eating plans each come with some benefits that science shows may help your health. They all also come with advice that may be ineffective or even harmful for certain groups of people. Paying attention to the parts that work may help you learn how to maintain a healthy weight.

      What Are the Most Popular Diets?

      One way to tell which diets are the most popular is through surveys and studies. One such study is conducted each year by the International Food Information Council (IFIC). In 2020, the IFIC surveyed over 1000 Americans about their food habits and beliefs. 43% of Americans said that they had tried a diet or eating plan within the last year. This number was an increase compared with the past few years.

      The 2020 IFIC survey found that the three most popular diets were:

      1. Intermittent fasting
      2. Clean eating
      3. Ketogenic or high-fat diet

      Of course, just because a diet is popular doesn’t mean that it works for all or even most people! Here, we will dive into the science behind each of these diets and explore whether these eating plans are worth the time and effort.

      Intermittent Fasting

      How Do You Try Intermittent Fasting?

      Intermittent fasting doesn’t involve counting calories, eating certain foods, or avoiding certain items. This type of diet doesn’t tell you how or what to eat – it just tells you when to eat. However, the intermittent fasting diet is much more effective if — when the “eating” window occurs — one eats healthier options rather than higher caloric, heavily processed and unhealthier options. That is, if one engages in eating these very unhealthy options during this time, the effects of the intermittent fasting diet is diminished.

      There are many possible intermittent fasting plans you can follow. Some examples are:

      • Alternate day fasting: With this method, people fast every other day. On fasting days, a person only eats a couple hundred calories or doesn’t eat at all. On other days, a person eats normally.
      • 5:2 diet: This is a type of alternate-day plan where you eat normally for five days per week. On the remaining two days, you eat two very small meals totaling 500-600 calories. For example, you may decide to fast on Tuesdays and Fridays.
      • Eat-Stop-Eat: This plan involves fasting for a full day once or twice a week.
      • 16/8 method: On this plan, you fast for 16 hours and then eat all of your meals within an 8-hour window. For example, you may skip breakfast, and then eat a couple of meals between noon and 8:00 pm. Other similar plans exist, such as the 14/10 method, where you fast for 14 hours and eat for 10 hours.

      Many people are more successful at IF when they ease into it more slowly. Starting with the 16/8 or 14/10 method, or even just starting with skipping breakfast, may be easier than jumping right into alternate-day fasting.

      What is the Science Behind Intermittent Fasting?

      When you avoid food for a bit, several changes happen within your cells. Right after eating, the level of sugar in your blood gets higher. Your cells use this sugar to make energy. When you fast, you have less sugar in your blood, and your cells switch from using sugar to using stored fats as fuel. Additionally, during fasting periods, your cells can more easily heal damage.

      What Are Possible Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

      IF seems to help boost metabolism, spurring your body to burn more calories. Many clinical studies have shown that IF can help people shed pounds. This seems to be especially true for people who already weigh a little more. Additionally, when fasting is combined with strength training workouts, it can help people lose more fat without losing muscle.

      IF may also lead to other health benefits, including:

      Additionally, fasting plans may be easy to follow. You don’t have to plan or prep specific meals, or keep track of your foods. You can still easily visit restaurants and enjoy your favorite foods, which may be more difficult when following other diets.

      Are There Any Cons to Intermittent Fasting?

      Fasting can lead to many side effects, like extreme hunger, headaches, problems focusing, irritability, or bad breath. However, side effects may start to go away after several weeks.

      These side effects can make fasting hard to stick with. In clinical trials, people often eat more than they are supposed to on fasting days. Some studies have found that that IF leads to a larger drop in pounds compared to traditional calorie-cutting diets, while others have found that both diets produce similar amounts of weight loss and other health benefits. This means that if you’re more likely to stick with a standard low-calorie diet than an intermittent fasting plan, it may be better to just do that.

      People who try intermittent fasting should also know about other possible health issues while following this plan. Fasting can increase levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Fasting can also be risky for people with certain health conditions, such as diabetes. If you’re interested in trying IF, talk to your doctor first to get advice on how to fast safely.

      Clean Eating

      The second most popular type of diet in 2020, according to the IFIC survey, was clean eating. These diet plans emphasize eating whole foods that are in their natural state, as opposed to processed foods. People who follow clean eating plans say that they can lead to weight loss and better health.

      What Foods Do You Eat On a Clean Eating Plan?

      “Clean eating” does not refer to just one specific diet. It’s more of a loose, flexible set of guidelines. Clean eating plans encourage people to eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, non-fatty proteins, and healthy fats. These foods should also be eaten in their natural forms, without being altered, whenever possible.

      People on clean eating plans avoid foods that are processed. Any time a food has been changed from its original form, it’s not considered to be as “clean.” For example, clean eating says that eating whole fruits is better than drinking fruit juice. There are some exceptions, however. Frozen veggies and fruits are usually picked and frozen at their freshest, and are considered clean eating. Additionally, while cooking is technically a form of processing food, it’s fine to cook your meals when you’re on a clean eating plan. Examples of processed foods to avoid when following clean eating plans include:

      • Pre-made, pre-packaged, ready-to-eat foods
      • Frozen or microwaveable meals
      • Items with additives and preservatives
      • Foods with added salt, fat, or sugar

      Check the labels of the foods you eat. If there are multiple ingredients you don’t recognize, that item may not be part of a clean eating plan.

      Does a Clean Eating Plan Work?

      Clean eating has not been directly tested in clinical trials. However, some of its principles have been.

      People who eat a lot of processed foods are more likely to be obese. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that cutting out processed foods will automatically make you start dropping pounds – it may be more complicated than that. Clean eating as a weight loss strategy has not yet been well-studied. However, clean eating is similar to the Mediterranean diet, which also emphasizes whole, fresh foods. Many studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can help people lose fat and achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

      Clean eating principles can potentially have other health advantages, too:

      Should You Follow a Clean Eating Plan?

      Clean eating hasn’t yet been well-studied enough to know whether or not these eating plans generally lead to weight loss. However, clean eating plans can likely provide many health benefits.

      It’s important to consider that clean eating means avoiding ready-made meals. Many restaurant or fast-food meals are also off the table. This means that you will need to cook most of your meals at home. This may be a good thing. It probably means that you’ll be saving money on your food bill. However, if you don’t have a lot of extra time to cook, it might be difficult for you to follow this plan.

      Ketogenic or High-Fat Diet

      A ketogenic diet, often simply called “keto,” is an eating plan in which people control the amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that they eat. People following this diet will eat much fewer carbs and more fats than usual.

      What Is the Science Behind Keto?

      Keto works in a similar way as fasting. The cells in your body typically use carbohydrates, including sugars, as fuel. When cells aren’t getting enough carbs, they turn to a process called ketosis. During ketosis, fats are converted into molecules called ketone bodies, which are then used by cells to make energy. During this time, the body also stores less sugar and fat.

      Do Keto Diets Work?

      Several studies have found that high-fat diets can lead to greater amounts of weight loss than low-fat diets. Keto may help you lose weight by burning extra fat and by helping decrease your appetite and encourage you to eat less.

      Ketogenic diets help with other health issues, too. These diets have been used for nearly 100 years to help treat epilepsy. Modern studies have also found other benefits. Keto can:

      What Are Some Potential Problems With the Keto Diet?

      Keto can lead to side effects like nausea, tiredness, sleeping problems, and constipation. However, these side effects usually don’t last more than a few days, or occasionally up to a couple of weeks.

      Additionally, only a couple of studies have taken a deep look at how ketogenic diets affect health long-term, and we know that there are several long-term side effects that must be taken into consideration before one starts a ketogenic diet. These include the following: fatty liver (hepatic steatosis), low protein levels in the blood (hypoproteinemia), kidney stones (renal calculi), and certain mineral and vitamin deficiencies and it is possible that there are other long-term side effects that we don’t yet know about. Additionally, keto can increase your cholesterol levels, so if you already have high cholesterol, this diet may not be a good fit for you.

      How Do You Follow a Keto Diet?

      If you want to try keto, you will need to eat a lot more fat and a lot fewer carbs. There are different keto plans that advise eating different amounts of these nutrients. Many plans encourage people to eat foods in the following ratios:

      • 55-60% of the calories you eat should be fats
      • 30-35% of your calories should be proteins
      • 5-10% of your calories should be carbohydrates

      In order ensure you’re hitting these goals, you will have to track everything that you eat and drink. Several websites and apps can help by allowing you to log foods. These tools can then calculate how many of your calories come from fats, proteins, and carbs, and help you see if you are on track.

      Will Any of These Diets Help You?

      Most diets give people good results after six months. They often help people lose weight, lower blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels in the short term. However, in the long term, these benefits often disappear. People gain back the weight and their blood pressure and cholesterol levels go back to where they were before.

      One reason is that diets are very hard to stick with. It’s somewhat easy to see results when a diet feels new and exciting. It’s harder to have momentum. For this reason, it may be better to build up eating habits that you know you’ll be able to stick with. Take a look at your needs and preferences, including how much time you have available to cook your own meals and the types of foods you usually like to eat. Try to find a diet that doesn’t involve a lot of big changes, and start slow.

      Fasting, clean eating, and keto can all probably help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your health. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new diet or eating plan, because they can help you do so safely and minimize possible health problems.

      If you would like to learn more, schedule a consultation with Dr. Connor

      When Can Toddlers Take Vitamins?

      When Can Toddlers Take Vitamins?

      What is the right age for toddlers and vitamins?

      I am often asked by my patients what their little ones should be taking—or if they should—with regard to supplements and vitamins, especially if mom and dad are concerned because they have a picky eater or their child is not gaining weight the way that mom and dad expect.

      Read the article in vitaminsonly.com where I join other health and medical experts to discuss toddlers and vitamins.

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