Nutrition

Learn more about Nutrition and it’s effect on living a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition is a factor in stress and weight gain.

7 techniques to reduce stress and manage IBS symptoms

Q: I’ve noticed that since Covid, my digestive system has not been performing as well. Is there a relationship between stress and how my intestines work?

A: Studies around the gut-brain connection are increasing, and proving something that we’ve always noticed; that our digestive system talks to our brain, and our brain talks to our stomach, intestines, and other organs. Reflect on the last time you felt butterflies when you are nervous or anxious about an outcome or nauseous over an event, or even had a gut-wrenching experience. All forms of emotions can be located in our body if we pay attention and research is showing that some of the more severe or persistent feelings and thoughts can be reflected in some of our digestive system illnesses. According to Harvard Health Science, emotional and mental stress can be a major contributor to some of the common gastrointestinal illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome, gastro reflux, upset stomach, constipation, and, diarrhea. Unfortunately, these illnesses and the pain and worry associated with them can lead to increased anxiety and depression for many people, and it becomes a negative cycle.

Chronic stress affects your Gut Health & Metabolism

When stress is chronic and not managed, our sympathetic nervous system triggers the release of many hormones including cortisol to help us physically resolve a perceived threat with the options of fight and flight. Cortisol signals some organs and systems to ramp up, and others to turn off. For example, saliva and stomach acid secretions are stopped as digestion is a waste of energy when trying to outrun a mountain lion. The peristaltic contractions that move food through our intestines are also stopped to save energy for fleeing. Heart rate increases and the release of blood sugar becomes more available to power our muscles. Our sympathetic nervous system ramps us up for a survival scenario, and after the event, it’s our parasympathetic nervous system that brings us back into a “rest and digest” equilibrium for balanced health. But, what if there isn’t a cougar to outrun, but instead it’s our thoughts and feelings about situations in our life that keep us in a chronically elevated state of stress? Fast forward to the effect of having a vigilant nervous system triggering too much cortisol on an ongoing basis and the effect on our digestive system can turn into an illness. Add the fact that our parasympathetic nervous system operating from the vagus nerve’s connection to all of our internal organs connects the brain to our guts and is responsible for digestive enzyme release, intestinal contractions, immune reactions to allergens, and hormonal movement back and forth between our head brain and our gut-brain, and we can see how medical and psychological researchers are looking for ways to minimize stress’ effects on the body and brain. On a simplistic level, this communication is responsible for letting us know when our stomach is full before we stretch it with overeating, and on a complex level, it works in concert with our gut microbiome to ensure complete digestion and absorption of nutrients.

7 techniques to reduce stress and manage IBS symptoms

From research reported through the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical, and Psychiatry Magazine among others, it is becoming more mainstream to consider the inclusion of psycho-social tools and practices to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while improving gut biome, immune function, and stabilizing many digestive disorders. Here are some examples being touted as beneficial to repair the gut-brain issues that have become even more prevalent during the stress of the Covid pandemic.

1. Mindfulness training

Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the present moment. During mindfulness practice, you are encouraged to notice and accept your thoughts and feelings without trying to change them. Over time, mindfulness helps you reduce stress by improving your ability to accept change and let go of worries. Research indicates that mindfulness can prevent and ease IBS symptoms.7,8

2. Relational Somatic Therapy

Connecting body sensations with feelings and implicit memories to heal developmental, attachment, and trauma from childhood in order to learn how to self and co-regulate the sympathetic nervous system in order to increase one’s tolerance to previously stressful triggers.

3. Cognitive behavioral therapy

Sessions with a trained counselor can help you learn to modify or change your responses to stress. Several studies suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy provides a significant and long-lasting reduction of IBS symptoms.1,6-8

4. Hypnotherapy

During sessions with a trained professional, you enter a relaxed state and are then guided through visualizations and suggestions designed to help you control your symptoms and calm your digestive tract. Several studies support the long-term effectiveness of hypnosis for IBS.1,6-8

5. Biofeedback

During these sessions, electrical sensors help you receive information (feedback) on your body’s functions – heart rate, for example. The feedback helps you focus on making changes to manage stress and ease symptoms.7,8

6. Progressive relaxation training

These exercises help you learn how to relax your muscles. For example, you might start by tightening the muscles in your feet, then slowly releasing that tension. Next, tighten and relax your calves. Continue up the body until all your muscles – including those in your face and head – are relaxed. This progressive tightening and relaxing of your muscles are typically coupled with breathing techniques – breathe in while tightening the muscle group, breathe out when relaxing the muscles.1,6,7

7. Yoga

In a review of several studies, individuals with IBS who practice yoga experience fewer bowel symptoms, decreased IBS severity, and lower rates of anxiety compared with conventional treatment.9


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Are powdered greens good for you?

powdered greens on a measuring spoon

Q: I find that with juggling all my family responsibilities, long work hours, and fast-paced life (whether working from home or when I was traveling before Covid), that I’m not getting enough plant food in my diet. Other than a salad for dinner, I think I may be short-changing the minerals and vitamins I need. I’ve seen a surge of “powdered greens” products being marketed these days. What do you think about their benefits? Are powdered greens good for you?

A: It is very understandable that time and energy to include more (appetizing and filling) plants in our diet can seem daunting. Other than including a piece of fruit for a snack, it can feel like adding vegetables to our meals means complicating preparation and adding cook time. Consequently, if at all, we include our vegetables in our largest meal of the day… dinner.

This imbalance is where powered greens as vegetable supplements can have their place. However, let us not forget to be discerning before submitting to manufactured products designed and marketed to make our go-go life maintain its go-go-ness at all costs! From our perspective on balanced health (which includes nutrition, movement, sleep hygiene, detoxification, and mental/emotional and spiritual well-being) the branch of nutrition is primarily focused on “nutrifying” (absorbing ample nutrients), fueling, and reducing inflammation in the body and brain. If we are not averaging approximately 66-75% of our food intake from the plant kingdom, we are likely not getting enough of the nutrients required for a healthy body and brain. Phytochemicals, minerals, most vitamins, antioxidants, omega 3 oils, many amino acids (building blocks of protein), and fiber all come from the kingdom of plants. The color green is only one color from the full spectrum of phytonutrients required for balanced nutrition, with every other color provides different building blocks.

Another consideration is the potency and absorbency of the powdered greens you take. From our experience, whole, unprocessed, fresh, local, and organic are important considerations when prioritizing which form we get our vegetables from. Perhaps you are breaking your fast within 30 minutes of rising and for ease and convenience, a smoothie is all you think you have time for. Adding powdered greens to your smoothie will contribute more micronutrients than your typical banana and blueberry inclusion.

Greens powders typically have a green hue and can taste a bit grassy (so adding them to a smoothie makes them more palatable). The produce used in these supplements is generally dried and then ground into powder. Alternatively, some ingredients may be juiced, then dehydrated, or certain components of the whole food may be extracted and dried. There are also sprouted and fermented greens powders, which can provide an easier-to-digest, more absorbable option. Ensure the product label does not include artificial colors, added sweeteners, and is ideally manufactured from organically sourced vegetables in order to minimize pesticides and fungicides.

So, if we are aiming to add more plant-based nutrients across our day, and dinner is covered by a variety of raw salad ingredients, some roasted, steamed, or stir-fried veggies, and breakfast is augmented with some frozen or fresh fruit and a high-quality greens powder supplement in a smoothie, what can we do that’s healthful and easy across the workday? Remember, besides nutrifying the cells of our body and brain, we need to provide ongoing fuel for optimal brain function and energy management. Otherwise, the dreaded 2 o’clock crash hits us hard and we turn to a comforting cup of caffeine-laced coffee. But at least a 1/3 of that caffeine is going to still be coursing its way around your body by the time your head hits the pillow. Not ideal. There’s a better way: eating every 2-3 hours keeps our brain fueled for optimum mental clarity and decision-making potency. Enliven your lunch sandwich or salad with radish, endive, pumpkin, pea, or sunflower “microgreen sprouts”. A sprouted seed has many times more available minerals and vitamins than a full-grown plant and has a variety of fresh flavors to enrich your mid-day meal. A morning snack can be as simple, nutrifying, and blood-sugar-balancing as a piece of seasonally fresh fruit accompanied by a couple of tablespoons of protein-dense nuts and or seeds. And to counter the mid-afternoon energy drop we feel as cortisol wanes, consider having some pre-washed and cut veggie sticks on hand to dip into a delicious protein-based dip-like hummus, or our Golden Almond Butter Dip. Mixing our various veggie snacks with protein gives a more sustaining energy release and avoids blood sugar and insulin spikes.

In summary, utilizing quality green powders to augment rather than replace fresh, unprocessed, and potentially organic fruits and vegetables can support the cellular requirements of plant-kingdom building blocks. As an enticement to eat more varieties of vegetables, remember savoring their textures and flavors will be easier when we chew them rather than gulp them.

Learn more about Mountain Trek’s Nutrition Principles.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

The Cause of your low energy and how to fix it

Feeling tired and low on energy has a dramatic effect on your life. Being low on energy reduces productivity, happiness, longevity, and your overall health. Understanding what causes a lack of energy and how to fix it is critical, and what we aim to share with you in this article.

What Causes Low Energy

Essentially all life in the universe is composed of energy. And, energy (which is never created or destroyed) is constantly changing into one form and through utilization or decay into another. In the cells of our human body, we take in thermo-electric energy from our sun that has been converted into plant life (and up the food chain into animal life) in the form of glucose (sugar). Tiny organelles in each of our cells called mitochondria convert the sugar transported by blood (“blood sugar”) into energy to power every organ, muscle, and neuron. These 1000-2500 power houses extract energy from food and supply it to all parts of every cell in an energy currency called ATP. The healthier and more efficient our mitochondria are, the healthier and more efficient our bodies are.

How To Fix Low Energy

Now if energy is never created or destroyed, how come we feel like we are losing energy? Aging and our lifestyle choices affect the efficiency and longevity of our mitochondria. Oxidation (the bombardment of mitochondria and other cell components with “free radical” electrons from energy production), nutrient deficiencies, and environmental toxins are the root causes. According to Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, “the better a species does at protecting its mitochondria, the longer a species lives”. So, in a nutshell, we need to ensure our lifestyle supports our mitochondria operating efficiently.

Optimize Your Nutrition and Meal Timing

The primary way mitochondria are protected from ‘oxidative stress’ is through plant-based dietary building blocks containing CoQ10, manganese, glutathione, and vitamin E from omega 3 oils. Then there is the need for rest. Intermittent Fasting for as close as possible to 12 hrs through the night, gives the mitochondria a break from energy production so they can repair and regenerate.

Reduce Toxin Exposure

Decreasing toxin exposure (plastics, petrochemicals, heavy metals, alcohol, etc.) lessons damage.

Build Muscle Mass

And, building muscle mass counters the diminishing number of mitochondria as we age. Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates warn us about sedentarism contributing to a loss of muscle mass prematurely lowering our number of mitochondria and ATP production. Strength training rebuilds energy-producing mitochondria in our muscle cells.

Reduce Stress Hormone Cortisol

Stress reduction is important to lowering cortisol which through both the increase of inflammation and reduction of ATP production becomes another energy zapper.

Prioritize Sleep

It’s one thing to target longevity through incorporating as many balanced health lifestyle habits as possible (refer to the previous blog on Blue Zone Centenarian lifestyle commonalities), but living consciously now with a focus on supporting our cellular energy engines and maintaining a charged battery with deep sleep will keep you feeling youthful until your ‘due date’.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

How Chronic Inflammation Causes Metabolic Disease, Dementia, and Cancer

According to the Mayo Clinic, 90% of the illnesses they deal with are caused by lifestyle, while only 10% are congenital. These are illnesses we have all come to accept as just a part of life, aging, and luck; demential, diabetes, and cancer to name a few. But now, more than ever, we are realizing that there is something familiar, yet very misunderstood at root of those lifestyle illnesses: inflammation. Specifically, chronic inflammation.

Acute Vs. Chronic Inflammation

Acute inflammation is the body’s immune and repair response to an injury or a harmful substance or invader entering our body. Low-grade chronic inflammation is the result of an imbalance in our immune function due to ongoing stress or lifestyle choices that keep our immune system working overtime. Research is showing us that balanced health measures that prioritize regular movement (through a variety of exercises), an anti-inflammatory fiber-rich diet, deep regular 7-9 hr sleep, and stress-reducing activities like meditation coupled with trauma resolution therapy, counter chronic inflammation and reduce the likelihood of contracting these and other diseases.

Chronic Inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome is a combination of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke (and its contribution to dementia), and cancer. These conditions include abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, impaired glucose tolerance, abnormal negative cholesterol levels, and chronic inflammation from an overactive immune system. Metabolic syndrome, obesity (over 30% body fat), and type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance) are interconnected. All 3 are linked by genetic markers, overeating an unhealthy diet, and lack of consistent movement/exercise… as well as a chronic state of inflammation in the body. Most of us think that fat cells are inert storage containers, however, newer research has shown that belly fat is metabolically active and produces pro-inflammatory substances that contribute to insulin resistance. It’s confusing, but chronic low-grade inflammation has been identified as both a cause and consequence of metabolic syndrome!

Chronic Inflammation and Cancer

When infections, autoimmune responses, or conditions such as obesity go unchecked the ensuing inflammation can promote the growth and replication of cancer cells. Type 2 diabetes (from insulin resistance) is associated with a higher risk of liver, pancreas, ovary, lung, bladder, and breast cancers. According to Harvard Health reports, chronic inflammation and high blood sugar levels also contribute to the general development of cancer cells through the damage to cellular DNA and the creation of an environment hospitable to cancer growth. An estimated 1 in 5 cancer cases stem from a combination of excess fat stores, inactivity, poor nutrition, excess alcohol use, and unresolved stressors.

Chronic Inflammation and Dementia

Dementia including Alzheimer’s, like heart disease, has its root cause in plaque build up in arteries and between neurons. Research still isn’t clear about what is behind these protein deposits, but what we know is the protein plaque deposits in brain tissue and cardiac arteries initiate an immune response. Microglia and white blood cells will attempt to eradicate the plaque, but it isn’t as easy to destroy as viruses or harmful bacteria. Cytokines and other inflammatory chemicals are released in a long-held effort which amps up the immune system creating more chronic inflammation. Research is also seeing how chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, atherosclerotic heart disease, and diabetes have been linked to an increased risk for depression! Recent findings suggest inflammation may increase depression risk by suppressing the birth of new brain cells (neurogenesis).

Though there are many ongoing experiments and tests utilizing medications like anti-inflammatories to help turn off an over-functioning immune system and lower chronic inflammation, the safest and most effective approach is to focus on lifestyle interventions like diet, exercise, stress reduction, sleep depth, and detoxification.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Food Sensitivities and Elimination Diets

We all inhabit different bodies. With that comes an almost infinite variety of genetic variations, four different blood types, and unique reactions to our inner and outer environments. Some of us have allergies to pollen, bee venom, nuts, or shellfish. Some of us get runny noses in the spring and some of us have itchy skin when we wear wool. Just as there are no two fingerprints the same in all of humanity, there is no digestive or immune system alike.

When our body finds a certain food difficult to digest, it can be like a stressor to our internal organs. If we eat too much of a particular food or eat it too often, it can not only inflame our intestinal tract but can also invoke our immune system to counteract the food particle’s effects once it passes into our bloodstream. This adds even more stress on many of our systems. Our stress hormone cortisol will rise, our mucous membranes may become inflamed, and our energy levels will drop as our body fights to eliminate the unwanted particles. A variety of symptoms ranging from those that are barely noticeable to some that are chronically depleting are unique to each of us. To add to this complexity, if we’ve been consuming certain foods over a lifetime, we may not be mindful that our body finds certain items distressing as we have desensitized ourselves to the symptoms or the energy drain.

Determining whether any particular food stresses our bodies can seem daunting. But if we take the approach of being an investigator, and bring mindful curiosity and a willingness to experiment with our nutrition, it is possible to become free of the internal stress and regain health and vitality. There are three basic categories of digestive and immune difficulties when it comes to eating.

Food Allergies

Food allergies are typically an acute immune response to proteins in certain foods that our body isn’t designed to digest and assimilate. Common allergies are shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts. The reaction is often so strong that it can be life threatening.

Food Intolerances

Food intolerances are non-immune based responses to difficulty digesting certain foods. These substances may be certain sugars or proteins which we are not genetically able to produce the digestive components to down and assimilate them. This inability can lead to digestive inflammation. An example could be lactose a sugar found in dairy foods not being able to be broken down by people who stop producing lactase after the age of 2.

Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities are again unique to each of us and could be to certain chemical compounds that are found naturally in certain foods like alkaloids in the ‘nightshade’ family, or histamines in fermented food and beverages, dried fruits and avocados, or salicylates found in some foods and medications such as aspirin. We can also be highly sensitive to certain chemical compounds found in our food such as pesticides (like glyphosate), and food additives. These foods or substances cause a delayed immune reaction that may not peak symptomatically for 3 days after ingestion, making it difficult to pin point the stress causing culprit.

Common symptoms of food sensitivities and intolerances

  • Bloating in our lower belly after eating including gas and or water retention in the bowels.
  • Irregular bowel movements or stool consistency.
  • Water retention throughout the body.
  • Joint pain.
  • Sniffling, runny nose, postnasal drip, or sneezing.
  • Itchy skin or skin eruptions like eczema, or acne.
  • Brain fog, headaches, low energy, mood shifts.
  • Asthma or other respiratory difficulties.
  • Poor depth of sleep.
  • Low functioning immune system leading frequent bouts of cold and flu.
  • Cravings for carb, fat, and salt snacks to offset the increased levels of cortisol from internal stress on our digestive and immune system.

Health professionals like a Naturopathic Dr., or Allopathic Dr. (MD) can help determine whether we are reacting to an allergy, intolerance or sensitivity. They may employ blood work, or a skin prick sampling of a specific food or chemical to look for immune or inflammation measures. At Mountain Trek, we prefer utilizing an “Elimination Diet”, in conjunction with a Naturopathic Dr., where you strategically remove suspected foods and chemicals for 14-30 days. Important to this effort is mindfully self monitoring and journalling to track physical, mental, emotional and energetic reactions when carefully and strategically adding items back into our diet. It is worth the experiment to reclaim our balanced health and energy!

Learn more about symptoms and elimination diets from Mountain Trek’s Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Kimberley.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How Do I Stop My After-Work Wine Habit?

Pretty, young woman drinking some nice red wine at home, in the evening after work on her sofa (color toned image; shallow DOF)

Q: How do I stop my after-work wine habit?

A: Making new choices isn’t easy, even when we consciously know what we might prefer to do—such as kicking the after-work wine habit (substitute any post-work relaxation habit you may wish to replace). We are wired, by our survival instincts, to hunt down carbs, fats, and salts, so it’s no wonder our taste buds are a primary means for rest and relaxation in our culture—eating tells us we’re safe. But being seduced by our tongue will often derail our evenings and, subsequently, affect our sleep and following day. If this pattern repeats we will typically wake up one day and find ourselves in a hole that is tough to climb out of. However, one of the blessings of our new work-from-home reality is that we have newfound time to cement new healthy habits. With the additional time once spent on commute and travel, we can now repeat a new action more frequently and anchor it into a healthy lifestyle habit in less time.

Know it’s a need, not a want

It’s very common to want to relax and reward our efforts at the end of the day. Come 5 pm or 8 pm, or whenever it is you get home from work, cortisol (our stress hormone) has been elevated all day, helping us stay focused and on-task with zoom meetings, calls, and a mountain of emails, we’ve made thousands of choices and decisions, and our willpower is spent. Now, our brain is craving a relaxing bath of feel-good neurotransmitters—serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin—to help us let go of it all. This craving to feel good is actually a “need” we need to be conscious of if we want to make different choices at the end of the day to unwind. Our bodies need to unwind after a full day spent in a stressful, vigilant state. We are wired this way in order to regain some semblance of balance and not physically burn out (aka survive). So, whether it’s that glass of wine or perhaps some chips and guacamole, know that you are consuming these carbs, fats, and salts because of a primal need to slow down and find balance.

Rather than thinking about your post-work choice as a “should” (e.g. I should go work out, or I should eat a healthy snack), remember it’s a “need”. If you don’t proactively answer that need, your body will resort to those feel-good fats, carbs, and salts to comfort itself. Take time to honestly reflect on what need is not being met. Then you can more easily find other sources of pleasure to satiate this need.

Find Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives that could be woven into your workweek as a replacement to snacks and alcohol—proactive, healthy alternatives that will fill your need for feeling good at the end of a stressful workday, lower your cortisol levels, and bathe your body with ‘feel good’ hormones:

  • Pet an animal lovingly for 10 minutes.
  • Go for a 20-minute walk in nature. “Warm-up” your hike by spending the first 5 minutes focusing your awareness on sights, sounds, smells, and even touch. This will slow your mind down and bring it to the present moment, reducing cortisol and anxiety.
  • Meditate in a quiet nurturing place for 5 minutes.
  • Spend 20 minutes working on something creative to get into the ‘flow state’. Some great options are gardening, playing an instrument, writing poetry, or tying fishing flies—anything that captures your attention and is solely for your joy.
  • Connect your mind and body with your breath while unwinding on the yoga mat for 20 minutes.

Document Your Intentions and Experience

Make a list of 3-5 benefits that you might receive by altering your after-work routine. This will give your effort significantly more meaning. Next, write down three obstacles that could derail your efforts and match each of those obstacles with three solutions (contingency options determined in advance). Now you’re fully prepared for any curveballs.

Frequently stop, take a few breaths, and notice thoughts and feelings. Journal (before bed or after awakening is best) the insights you have noticed about your sleep, digestion, moods, mental focus, energy levels, and replacement choices. Be curious. This will help you notice and appreciate the benefits of your new habit-to-be.

Manage Cues

Cues are triggers for your bad habit. Common cues are time of day, such as happy hour, physically seeing your favorite bottle sitting on the counter when you walk in from work, your emotions, such as stress or exhaustion, and people that you may typically drink with. You should let your best friends know that you’re working on changing your habits, so when you decline their invites for happy hour, they understand why.

Create Your Own Positive Cues

Replace negative cues with positive ones. Consider setting an alarm on your phone right at 5 pm reminding you of your goals and suggesting one of your replacement actions. Write a note to yourself and stick it to your wine fridge. Put a sticky note on your office door that reminds you of your goals right as you leave work. There are so many other creative ways to help you snap out of the post-work trance and make a mindful decision on how you want to spend your evening.

Be Kind To Yourself

Do your best to be kind to yourself as you start the processes of nurturing yourself (rather than soothing or numbing) after work. Strive not for perfection, or you can certainly expect internal rebellion. Take baby steps on your journey up the mountain. Begin by setting goals that are seemingly trivial—e.g. one night a week where you have a healthy after-work activity. Then, after a few weeks of this, move on to two nights a week. Stop at no more than 5 nights a week to leave yourself room to be human.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: Why is sugar bad?

Q: Why is sugar so bad for us, and why is it so hard to avoid?

A: First, let’s redefine “bad”. Sugar, or glucose, is not “bad” for us—in fact, it is an essential form of energy for the cells of our brain and body. Our tongue even has a specific taste bud allocated to finding it for our survival. The problem with sugar is when it’s added in addition to naturally occurring sugars. This “added-sugar” is so prevalent in our manufactured food that we are taking in way too much, way too often. Let’s shed some light on “too much”; in the year 1700, the average amount of sugar intake, including natural sugars, was approximately 4lbs per person annually. That like two nalgenes full of sugar. In the year 1800, sugar cane plantations made it more available than just to the wealthy, and the average increased to 18lbs. By 1900 it was around 40lbs per person per year. Today? Depending on the study you read, the American consumes between 60 and 150lbs per adult annually! That’s like a wheelbarrow full of sugar…

This number is so high because sugar is now added to everything. The American Heart Association has put out a recommendation to limit added-sugar to no more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories) of added-sugar per day for men, and 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) for women. That gets immediately allocated with just one 12oz can of soda. Forget the fat-free salad dressing or ketchep for our french fries or vanilla yogurt that all have equal amounts of sugar. Today, almost everything that has been prepared for us has sugar added to enhance flavor or shelf-life.

To be fair, a vast amount of our food contains natural sugars. The obvious is fruit. The less obvious, however—starchy “simple carbs” like pasta, white rice, bread, crackers, and so on. The starch in these carbohydrates is a carbon chain of sugar molecules that is broken down into blood sugar by the amalayse in our saliva. By the time these foods are broken down they aren’t much different than table sugar.

But there’s a massive difference between whole natural sources of sugar like fruit or fiber covered carbohydrates like whole grains and the sugar added to soda. These natural sources of sugar come with an added benefit of fiber, which helps us avoid the ‘sugar bomb’ by slowing down the digestion of sugar, which avoids a blood sugar spike and the consequential insulin spike which leads to insulin resistance the main cause of type 2 diabetes. So, this leaves us with added-sugar and simple carbs as leading causes why Harvard labeled sugar as one of the greatest threats to our cardiovascular health. 

Some other negative health symptoms from eating too much sugar or simple carbs are:
– Premature aging as sugar can damage skin proteins, collagen, and elastin leading to premature wrinkles.
– Increased inflammation, weakened immune and hormonal imbalance as undesirable gut bacteria and yeasts that live off sugar out-compete our fiber eating positive flora communities.
– Constant cravings are a part of the dopamine reward system that our brain has been wired for survival. The Food industry capitalizes on the addictive quality of sugar in processed food.
– Inconsistent energy levels as our pancreas manages the sugar bomb with insulin and we experience an energy spike followed by a drop and crash.
– Bloating from sugar bugs off-gassing and of course belly fat
– Diseases like Heart and Cardiovascular disease, Fatty Liver, and Diabetes

To avoid excess sugar intake, avoid the top processed food sources; soda, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit juices, grain- and dairy-based desserts. But be aware that even ketchup has as much added sugar per gram as a soda!

To add to the fact that sugar is now present in nearly everything we eat, it also elicits a dopamine response when consumed. Dopamine is a feel-good hormone, so we can actually get addicted to sugar because of the chemical response it causes. To work with dopamine-driven sugar cravings, employ mindfulness moments to ask the following questions before reaching into the fridge:

  • “Is this really what I need right now (or is it a want)?
  • what am I feeling?
  • what am I thinking?
  • what do I really need right now (if I feel, exhausted, bored, overworked, lonely, sad, etc)? Perhaps a glass of water or a crisp apple and a few nuts could meet my hunger and energy needs while connecting with a close friend could help on the emotional side.

We hope this article helps you curb your sugar intake!


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Pros and Cons of Keto, Whole30 + Intermittent Fasting

cutting board and knife with healthy nutritious vegetables and eggs

Are you thinking about trying a new diet? Quick fixes that jolt our systems are tempting to turn to, but we encourage lasting lifestyle changes. While fad diets may be tempting, there are both pros and cons to Keto, Whole30, and Intermittent Fasting.

No diet is worth doing if you can’t do it for the rest of your life.

We asked our nutritionist Jenn Keirstead to weigh in on a couple of popular diet fads. She details how restrictive programs can lead to yo-yo dieting – rapid weight loss followed by a rebound that sees you gaining everything, and sometimes even more, back – and why you should invest in a sustainable long-term nutrition plan.

Pros and Cons of the Keto Diet

The Ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates.

At its core, this is an extreme version of the low-carb diet. When you deprive your body of all carbohydrates, your body must use ketones as fuel. To put your body in a state of ketosis, around 80% of your diet must come from fat.

Pros of Keto

Promotes healthy fats

In the 90s, fat got a bad rap, but it’s crucial to our bodies. Fats, (animal-sourced or otherwise) can offer an excellent variety of fat, protein, and vitamins. However, it’s extremely important to source the highest quality. Look for certified organic, grass-fed/pasture-raised, or visit your local Farmers’ Market and talk to people responsible for raising your food.

Besides promoting a diet ample in healthy fats, there’s not much else that is terribly healthy or sustainable about this highly restrictive eating style.

Cons of Keto

Cuts out key nutrients

The Ketogenic diet is one of the most restrictive diets on the market. Your diet is limited to 15-20 grams of carbohydrates/day — the equivalent of a small handful of baby carrots. This leaves out most fruits and vegetables, which can deliver crucial nutrients.

Unsustainable

This biggest issue with this diet is what will happen once the person adds carbohydrates back into their diets. Hint: you might gain some of that weight back.

Pros and Cons of the Whole30 Diet

Whole30 is a 30-day fad diet that emphasizes whole foods and during which participants eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy from their diets. Whole30 is similar to but more restrictive than the paleo diet, as adherents may not eat natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

Whole30 has gained popularity due to its “challenge program” style, which is designed to restart your body and change how you think about food. This diet is described as a whole foods approach to eating, and I’m certainly an advocate of eating real food.

Pros of Whole30

Introduces a variety of whole foods

The advantage of experimenting with a diet such as this is that you’re introduced to many new, healthful foods. Whole food types of diets tend to involve more time spent in the kitchen. Cooking from home can be a wonderful way to gain more control over the quality of your food, which of course, is a fantastic advantage to your health.

Cons of Whole30

Cuts out food groups we love

The challenge is not just to eliminate processed and packaged foods from your life for 30 days — You are also instructed to avoid beans/legumes, starchy vegetables, dairy, grains, sugar (including natural sweeteners), and alcohol. From our vantage point, moderate amounts of beans, legumes, dairy, and grains are good for your body. Unless you plan on never eating them again, you risk putting the weight right back on once you reintroduce them.

Too restrictive

One of the common cautions you’ll hear related to Whole30 is how restrictive it is. It’s a diet based on highly rigid rules and “slip-ups” are unfortunately unacceptable. If you “slip” you start over. The rules may make it feel impossible to be successful on a diet like this, and like many challenges or diets, that can be detrimental to one’s self-esteem. Restrictive behaviors with food may also trigger disordered eating in susceptible individuals.

Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, or intermittent calorie restriction, is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period.

Intermittent fasting includes everything from periodic multi-day fasts to skipping a meal or two on certain days of the week. The theory is that this type of diet will help decrease appetite by slowing the body’s metabolism.

Pros of Intermittent Fasting

The body should take some breaks between eating

Fasting can be beneficial, and we believe it’s best done in the evening, continuing on throughout the night while you’re sleeping. An earlier dinner allows for 3-4 hours before bed without food, which helps support proper digestion and — as an added bonus —potentially a much deeper sleep.

You’ll feel hungry when you wake

Another benefit is you will feel hungry when you wake and therefore be encouraged to eat during the earlier part of the day when you’re more likely to burn the calories off. Studies also show that our hormones, enzymes, and digestive systems are biologically best prepared for food intake in the morning and early afternoon.

Cons of Intermittent Fasting

Can cause overeating

There’s a strong biological push to overeat following fasting periods. Your appetite hormones and the hunger center in your brain go into overdrive when you are deprived of food.

Unbalances blood sugar levels

Restricting calories during the day can lead to unbalanced blood sugar levels, which not only promotes low energy levels but the desire to overeat at the end of the day when the body is gearing down for sleep. The idea of “rest, not digest” is a concept that assists in the digestion of your food hours before bedtime, so that your body can fall into a deep sleep on an empty stomach. This also promotes hunger in the early morning, when your body needs the calories the most.

In a nutshell, fads deliver quick results – they don’t provide long-term solutions. Rapid health resets can be beneficial, but know what you’re getting into. Find a wellness approach you can commit to, if not for life, for the foreseeable future. Learn more about our approach to balanced nutrition.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia and featuring daily sunrise yoga and night-time restorative yoga, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What is OMAD and is it healthy?

Plate with cooked salmon and veggies on blank table

Q: What is OMAD and is it healthy?

A: OMAD means One Meal A Day. The “One Meal a Day” diet is gaining popularity for its simplicity and supposed benefits. The premise behind this eating plan is that you eat one meal a day—ONE meal, that’s it! You have a 1-hour eating window, where you consume your single meal, but the other 23 hours are spent in a fasted state. This means no calories whatsoever, including beverages!

During this 1-hour eating window, you can eat and drink whatever and as much as you want. This includes ice cream, french fries, and wine. Yes, that right, any food, and any amount—as long as you do so during your scheduled mealtime. Some modifications include only eating as much as you can fit on one dinner plate, or only piling your plate up to 3″ high. Regardless of the specifics, the underlying belief is that you can only consume so many calories in one hour. That amount of calories will always be less than you burn for the other 23, therefore having a calorie deficit for the day and leading to weight loss.

An Expert’s Opinion

We took this question straight to our nutritionist, Jenn. Here is what she had to say:

This 23:1 fasting:eating plan screams extreme to me! Here are some reasons why:

  • In terms of blood sugar management, this eating style could be very damaging. During the one hour window in which any food—in any amount—is consumed, your blood sugar levels would spike substantially.
  • When I try and imagine someone spending nearly the entire day avoiding food and beverages altogether, I see a trend that’s entirely unsustainable in the long term.
  • Eating in this way could be very isolating; resulting in missed social engagements, due to food avoidance.
  • Such dietary restriction could encourage an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • A diet such as this could lead to binge eating, a preoccupation with food in general, extreme hunger, and low energy during the 23 hour fasting period.
  • If someone was to choose highly processed foods (high in refined sugar and salt) for their one-meal, it could easily lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Here is our favorite quote from Jenn: it all just seems so ridiculous! As I’m researching this, I feel like I’m being punked!

Healthy and Sustainable Choices for Results

We agree with you, Jenn. This diet seems about as far from balanced as you can get. At Mountain Trek, we believe and have proven, that eating a balanced diet is not only the most effective for increasing energy levels, balancing hormones, and weight loss, it is sustainable. Our plan incorporates intermittent fasting, but we follow a “12 on, 12 off” schedule, eating for the first 12 hours of our day (ideally from 6 am to 6 pm) and then fasting for the next 12 hours. This promotes better sleep, reduces calorie storage, lowers LDL cholesterol levels, and reduces the potential for insulin resistance (precursor to type 2 diabetes).

Eating during the day is important. Your body and brain are most active for the first 12 hours of your day, and they both need fuel to operate. We break our calorie intake during those 12 hours into 6 meals, starting with a smoothie immediately upon waking (ideally within 30 minutes). Continuing to eat every 2-3 hours allows us to stay ahead of hunger (when we make poor decisions) and ultimately, balance both our energy levels (no highs and crashes) and hormones. The end result is a sustainable balanced, nutritious plan that feeds our bodies the calories we need when we need them.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below: