10 Natural Sleep Aids: What Works and Why

By now, the average person grasps just how important sleep is for our overall health. It seems like every month there’s a new popular science book extolling the virtues of sleep. Parents remember the zombified newborn days and can see (and hear), firsthand, what happens when a toddler doesn’t get enough sleep. And on a visceral level, we feel the need for slumber. Even if we’re unaware of or refuse to accept the health dangers of long-term sleep restriction, there’s no getting around the abject misery of a bad night’s sleep.

We all want better sleep. We all need better sleep. But how?

Sleeping pills are not the answer for most people.

(But please note: Don’t discontinue or alter a prescribed treatment or medication regimen without consulting your doctor…and, likewise, don’t begin a new regimen—like those below—without running it by your physician.)

In one recent “positive” study on the effects of sleeping pills, almost every single subject suffered one or more side effects, ranging from headaches to nausea to irritability to dizziness to dysgeusia (a condition where your sense of taste is altered).

In another, taking Ambien the night before decreased cognitive performance and increased subjective sleepiness the next morning.

Studies aside, there are thousands of horror stories about people ruining their lives (or behaving in a way that had the potential to do so) after taking sleeping pills. Twitter rants that get you fired, sleep driving, tooth grinding, furniture rearranging, sleep eating. And those are just the ones that people live to tell.

That’s not to say sleeping pills are useless. They’re legitimate drugs to be used for specific medical conditions, in specific patient circumstances. They aren’t to be trifled with. But if you’re just trying to “get better sleep,” you’ve got options. And I’m not even mentioning the lifestyle and behavioral modifications you can make to improve your sleep.

Here are my favorite natural sleep aids….

1. GABA

GABA is the inhibitory neurotransmitter. It calms the brain. It soothes the brain. It de-stresses the brain. And it’s a major factor in the creation of melatonin, the hormone our brain uses to trigger sleep onset. Insomniacs have reduced brain GABA levels compared to non-insomniacs; the same goes for people with sleep apnea. Restoring physiological levels of GABA, then, is a first line of defense against poor sleep.

Oral GABA has a blood-brain barrier problem—it doesn’t cross it particularly well. Children have more permissive BBBs, but most of my readers aren’t children. Nitric oxide tends to increase GABA diffusion across the blood brain barrier, and there are a couple of ways to increase nitric oxide in conjunction with taking GABA to make the latter more effective for sleep.

You could sunbathe. That increases nitric oxide release. The only problem is that most sunbathing occurs during the midday hours, not at night. It’s unclear how long the boost from sunlight lasts, though it certainly can’t hurt.

You could take apocynum venetum, an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine that increases nitric oxide release. In fact, one study showed that taking GABA with apcynum ventum improves sleep quality.

Before you start sedating yourself, see if GABA has an effect.

2. Melatonin

When it’s bedtime for your brain, your pineal gland starts pumping out a hormone called melatonin. This initiates the onset of sleep and triggers subjective feelings of sleepiness; it also sets your circadian rhythm.

Supplemental melatonin crosses the blood brain barrier and acts very similarly to endogenous melatonin.

Don’t use melatonin every night. Not because you’ll get “addicted” (you won’t) or “your natural production will stop” (it won’t), but because you should focus on producing your own. If I get a big dose of late night blue light, I might nibble on a little melatonin. If I have more than a single glass of wine at night, I’ll have some melatonin before bed as alcohol depresses its production. And when I travel, I always take a few milligrams an hour before my desired bedtime in the new time zone.

The main reason you shouldn’t rely on melatonin for everyday use is that supplemental melatonin pharmacology doesn’t quite emulate endogenous melatonin pharmacology. The way most people take it is in a single dose before bed. The way the brain produces it is consistently through the night. If you want to emulate physiological levels of melatonin, you’re better off taking a single dose of instant release melatonin followed by a dose of slow release melatonin, or a supplement that includes both forms. Even then, it’s not the same.

3. Collagen

I still remember the first time I drank a big mug of bone broth at night. It was one of the not-as-rare-as-you’d-think cold “winter” nights in Malibu. I was sitting on the couch, reading a book, and got about 3/4 of the way through a mug of chicken foot broth before, apparently, falling asleep right then and there. A bit of research the next day revealed that glycine, the primary amino acid in collagen/gelatin/broth, can have a powerful effect on sleep quality. Not only that, glycine also lowers body temperature (an important part of the sleep process) and improves wakefulness the next day. And if you’ve got REM sleep behavior disorder, glycine may be the solution.

In fact, the glycine-sleep effect was another consideration in creating Collagen Fuel and Peptides. Everyone talks about the benefits to joint health, performance, skin, nails, hair, and general inflammation, but I want folks to also discover the benefit of glycine-enhanced sleep, too.

If you take collagen, aim for at least 10 grams at night. If you’re taking straight glycine, 3 grams is the minimum dose. Those are threshold doses; more may help even more.

4. Magnesium

We talk a lot about “age-related” declines in health, vitality, performance, and basic physiological functions. We also talk about how much of what we call “age-related” isn’t inevitable. It’s not so much that the passage of time degrades our bodies and how they work, but that we become more susceptible to poor lifestyle, dietary, and exercise choices because of compounding negative interest. We’re born with robust health and if we fail to maintain it, our health worsens as time progresses. If we never stop moving, lifting weights, and eating right, aging doesn’t happen to the same degree.

One thing that changes with age is how we sleep. In older people, sleep architecture is different: More time is spent awake and there’s less slow wave sleep. Sleep spindles, those oscillating bursts of brain wave activity, begin disappearing. Sounds inevitable, right? Except that research shows that taking magnesium reverses these age-related changes to sleep architecture.

Taking some Natural Calm (a great magnesium supplement) after your CrossFit workout and falling asleep faster is one thing. But to actually restore youthful sleep architecture? Amazing.

5. CBD Oil

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis.

And to me, the most interesting aspect of CBD lies in its potential to improve sleep. A 2017 review provides a nice summary of the effects of CBD on sleep:

In insomnia patients, 160 mg/day of CBD increased sleep time and reduced the number of arousals (not that kind) during the night.

Lower doses are linked to increased arousals and greater wakefulness. Higher dose CBD improved sleep.

In preliminary research with Parkinson’s patients, CBD reduced REM-related behavioral disorder—which is when you basically act out your dreams as they’re happening.

More recently, a large case series (big bunch of case studies done at once) was performed giving CBD to anxiety patients who had trouble sleeping. Almost 80% had improvements in anxiety and 66% had improvements in sleep (although the sleep improvements fluctuated over time).

Here’s how to find a good CBD oil.

6. Theanine

Theanine is a chemical found in tea, especially tea grown in shady conditions. Because it is structurally similar to glutamate and easily passes the blood brain barrier, theanine binds to various glutamate receptors in the brain, inhibiting the action of some and promoting the action of others. It also increases serotonin, GABA, and glycine in the brain—all chemicals that can pave the way for better sleep.

Theanine is another of those sleep aids that isn’t expressly about sleep. It’s about relaxation, about letting you get out of your own way. If in the course of relaxation and stress reduction you end up taking care of the thing that’s messing up your sleep, theanine can be said to be a big sleep aid.

This is a good theanine. I also make a supplement (Adaptogenic Calm) that contains theanine and other stress-reducing compounds.

7. Lutein and Zeaxanthin

One of the most powerful sleep aids is wearing a pair of orange safety goggles that blocks blue light after dark. Viewed after dark, blue (and green) light suppresses melatonin secretion, pushes back sleep onset, and throws off your entire circadian rhythm. Blocking the light with goggles allows normal melatonin production to proceed and promotes earlier bedtimes and better, deeper sleeps.

What if you could take a supplement that simulated the blue-blocking effect of a pair of orange safety goggles? Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids, plant-based pigments found in colorful produce and pasture-raised eggs that are actually incorporated into the eye where they offer protection from sunlight and inhibit the melatonin-reducing effect of nighttime light exposure. Human studies show that taking lutein and zeaxanthin on a regular basis improves sleep quality, reduces sleep disturbances, and lowers dependence on supplemental or pharmaceutical sleep aids.

Here’s a good one. Trader Joe’s also has a good supplement called Super Vision.

The best natural sleep aids restore the ancestral sleep baseline. At baseline, humans should be walking around with good GABA levels. They should be getting enough magnesium, collagen/glycine, and carotenoids from their diet. It’s normal to produce melatonin after dark. And even though humans haven’t been dosing themselves with CBD or theanine for very long, it also isn’t normal to be inundated with chronic, low level stress and persistent anxiety—the type of stress that ruins our sleep, the type of anxiety that CBD and theanine can regulate.

What else?

8. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is an herb in the mint family. The fragrance is intoxicating (I’ve even used lemon balm in a roasted chicken), but not the effects. It doesn’t directly induce sleep—it’s not a sedative or a hypnotic—but if stress and anxiety are getting in the way of your sleep, lemon balm will help clear them out.

9. Valerian

Valerian root has a long history as an anti-insomnia herb. The ancient Greeks used it and traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medical traditions continue to use to it to treat bad sleep. Valerian contains a compound that slows down the brain’s metabolism of GABA, thereby increasing GABA levels and letting what the brain already produces hang around even longer.

I’ll admit I’m more ambivalent about these last two options. While they’re certainly gentler than pharmaceutical sleep pills, and lemon balm in particular is a legit way to deal with stress and anxiety, their efficacy for sleep is questionable. The evidence just isn’t there, though I grant that many people report good results.

10. Combinations

Many of these individual compounds become more powerful and more effective combined with each other. Since these aren’t pharmaceutical drugs with very narrow safety profiles rife with contraindications, taking them together usually isn’t an issue, but check in with your doctor anyway (especially if you’re taking other medications or have known health conditions).

And today’s list isn’t exhaustive. There are other compounds, herbs, and supplements that can probably help people improve their sleep.

Most of the adaptogens, like ashwagandha or rhodiola rosea, have been shown in one study or another to improve sleep in humans. Anything that helps get you back to baseline, back to homeostasis, back to normal—will restore your sleep if it’s suffering. And if you’re suffering, your sleep is likely suffering because sleep is such a fundamental aspect of the human experience. Anything that improves your health will also probably improve your sleep.

This goes without saying, but don’t limit yourself to natural sleep supplements. Don’t forget about the importance of lifestyle, of exercise, of diet, of morning light exposure and nighttime light avoidance. Supplements can help, but they can’t be the foundation for good sleep hygiene. You’re just asking for trouble—or subpar results.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Now, let’s hear from you. What natural sleep aids have you found most useful? Is there anything I overlooked or forgot? Let me know down below.

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References:

Pinto LR, Bittencourt LR, Treptow EC, Braga LR, Tufik S. Eszopiclone versus zopiclone in the treatment of insomnia. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2016;71(1):5-9.

Dinges DF, Basner M, Ecker AJ, Baskin P, Johnston S. Effects of Zolpidem and Zaleplon on Cognitive Performance After Emergent Tmax and Morning Awakenings: a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Sleep. 2018;

Yamatsu A, Yamashita Y, Maru I, Yang J, Tatsuzaki J, Kim M. The Improvement of Sleep by Oral Intake of GABA and Apocynum venetum Leaf Extract. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 2015;61(2):182-7.

Held K, Antonijevic IA, Künzel H, et al. Oral Mg(2+) supplementation reverses age-related neuroendocrine and sleep EEG changes in humans. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2002;35(4):135-43.

Kim S, Jo K, Hong KB, Han SH, Suh HJ. GABA and l-theanine mixture decreases sleep latency and improves NREM sleep. Pharm Biol. 2019;57(1):65-73.

Rondanelli M, Opizzi A, Monteferrario F, Antoniello N, Manni R, Klersy C. The effect of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc on primary insomnia in long-term care facility residents in Italy: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011;59(1):82-90.

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What Breaks a Fast: Supplement Edition

Last week, I explored the impact of all the various foods, beverages, and food-like substances people consume while fasting—and hoping to maintain a functionally fasted state. Does MCT oil break the fast? What about coffee, tea, or bone broth?

There were more than a dozen, and I even did a follow-up. Today I’m going to discuss whether commonly-consumed supplements break the fast.

Let’s go:

Fish Oil

Fish oil is pure fat. If you’re taking the average supplemental dose of 1-2 grams of fish oil, it’s not a problem. That’s not even a teaspoon. It’s about 9-18 calories.

You may burn slightly less fat than you would otherwise, but in the grand scheme of things, a few grams of fish oil won’t break the fast.

Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil is fish oil with extra vitamin D and vitamin A. As long as you keep the doses low enough, cod liver oil won’t break the fast.

Multivitamin/Multimineral

Multivitamins do not break a fast. They are usually non-caloric. However, not all of their components will be absorbed very well on an empty stomach, so keep that in mind.

If you’re still not on board, note that in the older studies with really overweight people who fasted for upwards of a year straight, they usually supplemented with a multivitamin.

Food-Based Multivitamin

A popular one I’ve seen around—Alive, made from kale and raspberries—has just 2 grams of carbs per dosing. It’s not ideal, but it’s not a deal breaker—or a fast-breaker.

Gummy Vitamins

Gummy vitamins have the potential to be about 5-6 grams of sugar, a gram of protein (from gelatin), and a gram of fat (if including omega-3s) per serving, so they’d arguably break the fast. Plus, they taste like candy and are likely to stimulate cravings and make fasting harder.

Gummy vitamins break the fast.

Potassium

Potassium is non-caloric and does not break the fast. In fact, it can help you handle the fast better by replenishing electrolytes.

Potassium doesn’t break the fast.

Creatine

Creatine contains no calories and has no effect on insulin secretion (or glucose in the absence of calories).

Creatine does not break the fast.

Protein Powder

Protein powder provokes an insulin response, which opposes autophagy, which means you’re breaking your fast. Plus, protein powder contains calories.

I’m going to say “yes, protein powder breaks the fast.

Collagen

If you’re strict and technical, then yes, collagen breaks a fast. There’s evidence that glycine—the most prominent amino acid in collagen—can inhibit autophagy, but it was a convoluted animal study where inhibiting autophagy with large doses of glycine after brain injury actually improved outcomes. It probably doesn’t apply to someone adding a scoop of collagen to their coffee. Besides, even if it slightly reduces autophagy, a little collagen won’t negatively impact ketosis, fat-burning, or energy intake.

I’m going to say “technically yes,” but “realistically no, collagen doesn’t break the fast.” Avoid if your main focus is autophagy, however.

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs trigger an insulin response and thus stop autophagy…and the fast. That said, many proponents of fasted training recommend using BCAAs before a workout to help preserve muscle and improve the post-workout anabolic response.

I’m going to say “yes, BCAAs break the fast.”

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is fat soluble and thus comes packaged in an oil carrier, but the dosage is so small that it won’t affect your fast.

Unless you find that 1/8 teaspoon of olive oil ruins your fast, vitamin D won’t break a fast.

Probiotics

Probiotics contain no calories and will not break a fast. However, they are best absorbed in the presence of food—the food protects them as they travel through the digestive system, and most probiotics occur naturally in food—so taking them during a fast is probably, mostly useless.

Probiotics don’t break a fast, but why take them during one?

Prebiotics

Pure prebiotics will not break a fast, as they contain no digestible carbohydrates. Prebiotic-enriched foods will break a fast, as they do contain calories.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are compounds, usually herbs or herb derivatives, that modulate your stress response. They improve your ability to tolerate and respond to stressful situations; they don’t blindly inhibit the stress response if the stress response is warranted. They keep you honest and counter unnecessary stress responses. They contain no calories, unless you’re chowing down on a big hunk of maca or ashwagandha root. In fact, most adaptogens have traditionally been consumed in tea form, extracting the active compounds and leaving behind any calories. Have at ’em.

Adaptogens do not break the fast.

Mushroom Extracts

Medicinal mushroom extracts come from mushrooms, which are technically food. But the amounts you take are so low—usually no more than a teaspoon—that they won’t impact your fast or provide any significant amount of caloric energy. Four Sigmatic has those “mushroom coffee” blends you add to hot water. They can get up to about 30 calories per serving, but even that’s going to let you maintain most of the fasting benefits.

Mushroom extracts don’t break the fast.

Melatonin

I used to keep the old Trader Joe’s melatonin on hand because it was half a milligram, whereas most other melatonin supplements are in the 3-5 mg range. It was also sweet, tasting like those white Valentine’s Day mint hearts you used to get back in the day. I haven’t come across any sweetened melatonin supplements since Trader Joe’s phased those out, but that’s the only thing I’d worry about on a fast.

Melatonin does not break a fast.

Final Note: Most supplements are okay to take on a fast, though the lack of food may make absorption more difficult. If you have any other questions about supplements on a fast, drop them down below. Thanks for reading, everybody.

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Dear Mark: What Breaks a Fast Followup

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a round of questions drawn from the comment section of the “What Breaks a Fast” post. You folks had tons of follow-up questions about whether other types of foods or compounds break a fast. Does a teaspoon of honey? Does elevated insulin from BCAAs? Does coconut milk? Does pure prebiotic fiber? What about longer fasts—are they recommended? And how about unsweetened cocoa powder? What explains my ability to predict your questions? Do sausages break a fast? Does liquor? How should you exercise?

Let’s dig right in:

Hey, what about honey? 1 tsp in morning tea?

A teaspoon or less of honey is fine and won’t negate the benefits of fasting. I alternate between doing collagen coffee and coffee with cream and teaspoon of sugar (which was my typical morning coffee for over a decade). No reasonable person should fear a teaspoon of sugar or honey.

For what it’s worth, honey isn’t “just” sugar. It elicits a more beneficial (or less negative) metabolic response than other forms of sugar.

I’m shocked about the BCAA. I used to fast and take BCAA’s (yes, to continue dynamic exercise). I used to find it extremely difficult to fast compared to now when I fast without taking them. Does that mean that the insulin response made fastic more difficult?

It’s possible. Insulin impairs lipolysis—the release of stored body fat into circulation for energy usage—and the success of fasting depends on lipolysis. Without lipolysis, you can’t access all that stored energy.

Thank you very much for this info!! I am a butter-coffee-for-breakfast drinker, and I always worry about the ingredients breaking a fast. Could you please comment on coconut milk (in the can)? I love putting that in my coffee/breakfast.
Thanks.

Coconut milk is a less concentrated source of medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs (as in MCT oil). MCTs convert directly to ketones, making MCT oil and to a lesser extent coconut oil or coconut milk a potential “boost” for fasting. Still, energy is energy, and any energy you take in is energy you won’t be pulling from your body.

I find MCTs and coconut to be more useful when someone is just getting the hang of fasting or ketosis—as a nice boost to get things moving in the right direction.

Keep your coconut milk under a tablespoon and you’ll be fine.

Does prebiotic (resistant starch) fiber break a fast? Acacia senegal or potato starch? Thanks!

No. If you’re worried, test your postprandial blood sugar after eating the fiber.

Great input Mark as someone 3days into a 7day water fast with electrolytes of course what’s your view on longer fasts.

Check out the post I wrote on long fasts. Potentially beneficial but the risks accumulate the longer you go. You just have to be even more careful and methodical.

How about unsweetened cocoa?

A tablespoon runs just over 12 calories (depending on the brand; some cocoa powders contain more fat and thus more calories), with around a gram of net carbs and a gram of fat. Also a nice source of potassium and magnesium, along with a ton of polyphenols which can have fasting-mimicking effects on their own.

Eating enough unsweetened cocoa powder to knock you out of your fast would be incredibly repulsive. Probably impossible.

Cocoa is definitely a nice addition.

Okay it’s almost creepy the way Sisson answers my questions before I even ask them! I was wondering about this yesterday and then this post popped up in my inbox.

How does he do that…? ?

Kraft-Heinz has a strong relationship with Google and Amazon, and the Kraft acquisition gave me access to Alexa/Google Home datasets and the ability to predict what my readers are wondering about.

Just kidding, though it’s scarily not out of the realm of possibility anymore.

What about a small snack of paleo sausages, smoked or dried? So meat and fat (beef, pork or lamb), and some spices. Maybe 100g worth.

Well, that’s a legit snack bordering on a small meal. That will break the fast, but it’s not all for naught. There is the whole “fasting-mimicking diet,” where you eating very few calories for several days out of the week and retain many if not most of the benefits of full-on fasting.

Let’s just say if you ate a small snack of paleo sausages on your “fasting” days, you’d still be way ahead of 99% of people.

But do try a full-on fast at least once. You might surprise yourself.

Great post! What about alcohol? Specifically, a shot or 2 of liquor. I would assume beer and wine would break a fast, but what about whiskey or tequila?

When alcohol enters the system, utilization of all other energy sources is suspended until the alcohol is burned. Back in 1999, researchers did a study where they gave fasting adult men the equivalent of a couple shots of liquor. They stopped releasing stored body fat, stopped burning body fat, and began burning way more acetate (a product of ethanol metabolism). They didn’t exactly “break” the fast, but all the metabolic trajectories we love about fasting took a big pause.

Good morning Mark,
How does one exercise in the morning while fasting? When to eat?

You can exercise any way you like, but I change how I train based on when I’m going to break the fast with food.

If I’m going to break the fast with a meal right after, I train any way I like. I’ll do sprints, HIIT, weights, anything.

If I’m going to keep fasting after the workout, I like to stick to strength training and low-intensity movement (walking, hiking, standup paddling). The strength training is essential during a fast because it’s an anabolic signal to your muscles—move it or lose it. Simply lifting heavy things during a fast can stave off muscle loss.

That’s it for today, folks. Stay tuned later this week for “What Breaks a Fast: Supplements Edition.”

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How I Take My Coffee (+ Ultimate Coffee Giveaway)

I’ve got another awesome success story coming up later this morning, but first…coffee.

As I said on Friday, I take my coffee very seriously. So, no April Fool’s here. Just a great giveaway for any coffee lover out there…

I’m not a breakfast eater as many of you know. As a result, my morning coffee is important to me. It’s a sensory experience I enjoy as well as a ritual that kicks off my day. Sure, the caffeine offers a little pick-me-up, but I make it count nutritionally with a collagen boost, too.

I love Caveman Coffee, and it’s my favorite brand of beans to start with. After grinding those fresh (one of the great sensory pleasures of human existence), I pour them into my French press—the only way I make coffee. Once I add the hot water, I’ll let that sit for a couple minutes. In the meantime, I put one scoop of Vanilla Collagen Fuel in my cup and add just a bit of my prepared coffee—not quite a 1/4 cup. I’ll stir it up (the best way to blend everything in my experience), then pour in the rest of my coffee and enjoy!

Here’s what it all looks like, plus a little commentary on coffee and collagen for a morning fasting routine.

Now For the Giveaway…

The Prize:

Everything you need to make a great cup of Collagen Coffee and then some…

  • Variety Pack of Caveman Coffee (Blacklisted, Mammoth, Mammoth Plus, and Sabretooth)
  • $100 of Primal Kitchen products, including 2 Canisters of Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel
  • Le Creuset Stoneware 27 oz. French Press
  • Primal Kitchen Yeti Tumbler

How To Enter:

Simply enter your email below. Your information won’t go anywhere other than to our newsletter list and Caveman Coffee’s newsletter list, either of which you can opt out of at any time. (If you’re already a subscriber, still enter your email address to enter.)

But, wait! Get a *bonus entry* while you’re at it by following us @marksdailyapple and @cavemancoffeeco on Instagram. Follow both and comment on the Mark’s Daily Apple giveaway post to tell us you’ve entered.

Deadline:

Closes April 8th, 2019, midnight PDT.

Eligibility:

Open to those in the U.S. only on this one. Must be 18-years-old+ to enter.

How the Winner Will Be Chosen:

I’ll choose one random winner from those who enter before the deadline. The winner will be contacted on 4/9/19 and will also be announced on social media.

Good luck, everybody. And in the meantime, let me know how YOU take your coffee. (I’m always up for new ideas.) Have a great week.

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Success Story Follow-Up: Finding My Passion Through Healing

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

This is a follow-up post from a former MDA success story, Andy Hnilo. In response to his original story, a number of readers had questions about Andy’s routine he used for healing and the ingredients his research showed were effective for various skin repair and restoration purposes. He’s answered those questions in this follow-up post. Enjoy, everyone!

After a car accident left me with seven broken ribs, a collapsed lung and “the worst compound fracture’ the maxillofacial specialist at the hospital had ever seen, my body was wrecked and my confidence not far behind. For any person, this would be a traumatic experience, but as a 30-year-old working actor and model, my future was suddenly completely unsure. As easy as it would have been to give up, my near-fatal accident turned out to be the ultimate blessing in disguise — that experience sparked the fire in my soul’s purpose. A walking ball of inflammation, I began researching ingredients for how I was going to accelerate my healing both internally and externally. Along the way, I shared everything I had learned about nutrition, natural healing, skincare and how to feel better about the reflection in the mirror with the rest of the world.

There came a point in my accident recovery where new passion, fun and hobby displaced my previous worry and intermittent pain. Researching and experimenting with various therapeutic ingredients became a creative outlet for me. While many of my friends found my new ‘hobby’ a bit crazy at times; I never let that stop me. In addition to the obvious results, I found a sense of encouragement for my recovery in researching and learning about certain studies and ingredients that helped others heal their scarring. It gave me hope and further validated the physiological capabilities of my ‘crazy’ concoctions.

For those of you like me, who share in the joy of science, biology and nature’s magic, I would love to share with you some of the most impressive research on the ingredients that accelerated the healing of my skin after my accident.

Skin Restorative Ingredients: What My Research Revealed

Medicinal Clays

It turns out, clays have been used therapeutically throughout various cultures. While one might be quick to discredit someone with mud on their face, the fact of the matter is there are many scientific discoveries associated with use of hydrated clays. There are 2500 scientific articles published in PubMed to sort the scientific works have been done on the effects of this clay on body function.

For example, Illite and Kaolin have ionic properties that affect antibacterial activity. In fact, studies have found that the natural and ion-exchanged illite clays significantly decrease bacterial load, skin inflammation and gross wound morphology. There’s even research that dives deeper into the chemistry of clay’s antibacterial effects, providing evidence that suggest some antibacterial clays can promote similar bactericidal (bacterial death inducing) reactions as effect as synthetic antibiotics. 1,2

Pearl Powder

Pearl Powder is perhaps the most sophisticated exfoliates created by Mother Nature. If you’re unfamiliar, Pearl is one of the well-known traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) tonics used for treating various skin disorders and beautifying the skin, mostly due to its abundant antioxidant, protein and mineral contents.

In one study, pearl powder supplemented people showed a substantial increase in total antioxidant capacity. Tests done found a significant increase in master antioxidants glutathione and SOD (superoxide dismutase) content and activity. It was also found that pearl considerably suppressed lipid peroxidation, which is the oxidative degradation of fats in the body. These outcomes sum up to one clear fact about pearl, it is a supremely potent antioxidant and thereby makes a novel, natural remedy for treating various age-related degenerative disorders. For me, this is the kind of data that helps me make sense of why pearl powder makes my skin soft and smooth. 3

Colostrum

Colostrum is yet another power-house ingredient backed by science. In short, it is a natural source of many important vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids. However, perhaps the most impressive part of colostrum is its unique content of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).

In regards to skin health and regeneration, colostrum and its IGF-1 content sparked great interest for me. IGF factor 1 (IGF-I) is widely distributed in various tissues, including the skin. It turns out, IGF-I is strongly expressed in injured areas, where it plays an important role in epidermal and dermal wound healing. Repeated studies have shown the beneficial effects of topically applied IGF-I on wound healing, due to its stimulating effects on collagen synthesis in skin fibroblasts, the proliferation of fibroblasts and keratinocytes, and angiogenesis. 4,5 As collagen production starts to decline with age, it is essential to make healthy skin care a priority by choosing products with ingredients that will keep your skin functioning at its peak, no matter what age you are. 6,7

In simpler terms, colostrum promotes the regeneration of fresh skin. I greatly attribute my regular use of colostrum and its effects to a surprisingly minimal appearance of scarring after my accident.

Pracaxi/Acai Oil

After my accident, I had the worst compound jaw fracture the resident maxillofacial surgeon of Cedars Sinai had ever seen. We actually had to hire a private surgeon and he assisted him. So you can only imagine the wounds that inflicted my face, negatively affecting the integrity of my skin. Normally, intense wounds means equally intense skin scarring. Luckily, scar formation itself varies based on many factors and can be mitigated by therapeutic agents, such as the beneficial fatty acids found in pracaxi oil.

According to clinical research, the topical application pracaxi oil to injured skin led to considerable improvements in wound healing and scar attributes. Additionally, it has been found that acai oil, applied topically to diabetic ulcerations can dramatically improve healing, up to 100%. With my initial fear of scarring after my accident, discovering natural ingredients with regenerative abilities were a true saving grace. 8 9

Plant-derived Stem Cells

When I said I was willing to try anything to improve my recovery, I meant it. Somewhere along my journey, I came across compelling research on the use of plant stem cells for skin regeneration. The science and use of plant-stem cells is an interest focus for leading edge cosmetic treatment. When you consider the unique self-pairing, tissue regenerative processes of plants; it’s amazing to think that we could utilize their cells to also assist our skin cells in regeneration. That’s what plant stem-cell science is all about and it’s quite intriguing.

According to the research and experimentation, plant-stem cells contain phytohormones that have an antioxidant effect on the skin. In fact, one study found that a product derived of plant-stem cells greatly reduced wrinkles in the crow’s feet area of the face 10. It was found that the depth of face wrinkles became shallower by 8% after 2 weeks and shallower by 15% after 4 weeks. 11

Plant-Derived Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays major regulatory roles in the functioning and health of the skin matrix. Vitamin A is typically found in two forms; carotene or retinol. However, with the help of modern technology, we are capable of extracting a retinol-like plant-based vitamin A, derived of the popular superfood, Alfalfa.

Plant-derived Vitamin A has some amazing science behind it. Sourced organically from France, it contains similar beneficial polysaccharides as retinol, called galactomannans. This gives plant-derived vitamin A retinol-like-activity because it’s working on similar biological markers. Best of all, it achieves these effects without inducing irritancy on the skin like Retinol so often does. It can greatly improve the appearance and health of aged skin by significantly reducing fine lines and Crow’s feet.

In fact, study has found that topical plant-derived Vitamin A improves fine wrinkles associated with natural aging. The induction of glycosaminoglycan; beneficial mucopolysaccharides, increase collagen production and are most likely responsible for the minimization of fine lines. Additionally, plant-derived Vitamin A treated skin improves skin matrix synthesis, making it more resilient to skin injury and ulceration. 12

CoQ10

Also known as ubiquinone coenzyme q10, CoQ10 is an endogenously synthesized lipid-soluble antioxidant, which is essential for cellular energy production. However, like all aging, this precious molecule is diminished with skin aging too. Stress of all sorts all tend to decrease the antioxidant presence and activity of coQ10. Luckily, both dietary and topical Q10 treatment is incredibly beneficial with regard to effective Q10 replenishment.

In study, application of Q10-containing formulas significantly increased the levels of this particular quinone in the skin surface and even in the deeper layers of the epidermis. More importantly was the effect this had on the skin; the results founds that stressed-skin improved by reduction of free radicals and the increase in antioxidant capacity. In other words, the topical use of CoQ10 improves the skin’s resilience to oxidative stress. Considering that oxidative stress results in the well-known signs of skin aging, like the appearance of wrinkles and lines as well as loss of elasticity, CoQ10 application serves as a useful anti-aging novelty. These are just a few of the reasons I feature CoQ10 in both my Night Cream and Gold Serum. 13, 14, 15

How I Applied My Research To My Routine

Purely through self-experimentation and trial and error, what made most sense to me was combining THE best, most effective ingredients that I could source from nature along with the latest and greatest in cutting edge science. The process began by isolating carefully sourced ingredients based on texture alone, then combining them with different carrier oils then moving forward and adding essential oils and extracts that fit my creation and desired emulsion.

I knew I wanted a dense feel that would be there throughout the night, nourishing and healing the scar area through deep hydration. I tried a couple products in the beginning before making my own, and they would absorb quickly leaving me questioning its level of effectiveness if it is gone within minutes. What made the most sense to me is a rich concentrated emulsion that was thicker, therefore moisturizing the target areas for longer periods of time. Devoid of harsh, drying ingredients. In search for the perfect blend of botanicals, it was fascinating to me to learn of certain ingredients like Sea Buckthorn and find out about it’s very rare Omega-7 fatty acid capacity.

In my night cream specifically, in a cast iron pan, I would melt down thicker ingredients like Beeswax, Cacao Butter and Manuka honey then combine with cold-pressed oils to create an highly concentrated, nourishing emulsion for my skin that I would apply after rinsing off The Clay Mask. I still have that first concoction with little dimples of cacao butter strewn throughout, preserved solely by K-Factor 16 Manuka Honey. That concoction turned into what is now, our award-winning Alitura Night Cream.

As you can see, my skin-care craze isn’t as whacky as it seems—there is credible scientific evidence that backs my madness. In a culture that is quick to go under the knife or get an injection it’s imperative to remember that none of those options actually help keeping the appearance of the skin youthful and glowing. Using skincare products that are dense in topical nutrients are vital for healthy looking skin. 16,17 At this point, you’re likely wondering how to put it all to practice. So, without further ado, I’m happy to share with you my personal skincare routine…

Here’s What It Looks Like To Date:

Pearl Cleansing: I start off my skin-care routine with a traditional step; cleansing. However, I use a not-so-conventional cleanser, the Pearl Cleanser. As we discussed, this unique cleanser cleans the skin while protecting it from the stressful effects of free radicals.
*Wet your face with warm, clean water
*Apply the cleanser with your hands, gently working it into the skin
*Wash it off
*Let your face dry

Derma Rolling: Next up is Derma Rolling. Derma rolling is one of the most powerful weapons for getting the what I call the “Alitura Glow.” This is one of the many high-end medi spas best kept secrets. Microneedling, a.k.a. Collagen Induction Therapy, is exactly that: an effective way to stimulate collagen synthesis and simultaneously break down malformed tissue such as acne and surgical scars (keloid scars are the exception as Microneedling can cause more keloid scarring).18 It works by creating “micro-tears” or generating acute, inflammation, that initiates the healing or regeneration of the outer layer of the skin. It also helps open the poors up, allowing any of the medicinal ingredients in your serums or moisturizers to absorb more deeper.

Home-use vs. Medical Microneedling has everything to do with needle size. The Alitura Dermaroller comes in .25 mm, .5 mm, and 1 mm needle sizes making it ideal for safe home use. Within just a few treatments over the course of 6-8 weeks you will notice visible changes in the texture of your skin at the surface level and plumpness and contour since your dermis has more collagen giving the understructure a firmer foundation for a more youthful contour to the jawline and cheekbones.

In addition to these benefits, derma-rolling can improve collagen synthesis, heal scars, prevents premature skin aging, reduces stretch marks and helps balance skin tone. 19

Clay Mask: My third step is to follow up Derma Rolling with The Alitura Clay Mask. As we’ve discussed, the mask on its own is a wonder treatment that thoroughly purifies, exfoliates, detoxifies and revitalizes the skin by stimulating blood flow. Combined with the Derma Roller; however, the benefits are increased exponentially!

Check this article out for full instructions on how to use the Clay Mask.

Alitura Night Cream: I ‘stack’ my Night Cream and Gold Serum before bed. I apply a thin layer of The Gold Serum all over my face, neck and eye area and then follow with thin layer of The Night Cream as a protective, ultra-hydrating barrier that deeply conditions the dermal layer of my skin which is the most important time to do so, while you are in one position for hours. Wake up looking renewed, refreshed and with a plump, radiant complexion. Great way to start the day if you ask me! Enjoy 🙂

To me, there truly is nothing better than feeling good with your what you see in the mirror. One thing I don’t touch on enough is that my journey into skincare really started in college where I became insecure to take my shirt off because of bad back acne that I had. Growing into my body, hormones racing, using poor products and consuming inflammatory dormitory food at UC Berkeley led to it. It was a bit deflating to wake up and see some type of irritation on my face and body and it really bugged me. Made me self conscious. It was then and there that I started to pinpoint the problem. I was a scrawny freshman athlete at Cal, and needed to gain weight quickly as a Division 1 Pac-10 athlete, so I was always scouring the back of food labels for the big three: 1) Protein 2) Calories 3) Fat. That attention to detail on labels led me to look down into ingredients on skin and hair-care as well. Tossing the heavily marketed, big brand name skincare for a better, cleaner ingredient deck yielded results and my knowledge grew year after year.

After my accident that knowledge grew quickly as I voraciously read and researched ingredients and topical remedies to heal myself. It has been said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ and I couldn’t agree more. My accident not only led to me finding my passion through healing myself, but I found my purpose along the way. To be able to share what I have created with people all over the world in an effort to make people feel better about what THEY see in the mirror… it gives me goosebumps as I type this. I am grateful.

I want to give a HUGE thank you to the incredible people at Mark’s Daily Apple, Primal Blueprint, Primal Kitchen, and of course Mark Sisson for letting me share a piece of my journey. Thank you for reading.

All the best,
Andy Hnilo
CEO & Founder
Alitura Naturals

The readers featured in our success stories share their experiences in their own words. The Primal Blueprint and Keto Reset diets are not intended as medical intervention or diagnosis. Nor are they replacements for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. It’s important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program, and please consult your physician before making any changes to medication or treatment protocols. Each individual’s results may vary.

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References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26508716
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3126108/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29389568
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4184407/#b5-ijn-9-4551
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4184407/#b6-ijn-9-4551
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4089350/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1606623/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4257951/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4857298/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5674215/#B11
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5674215/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17515510
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4737275/#biof1239-bib-0004
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4737275/#biof1239-bib-0003
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4737275/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428712/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4976400/

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The Definitive Guide To What Breaks a Fast

One of the most common questions I get is “Does [x] break a fast?”

What they’re really inquiring about is: “Does this interfere with, negate, or nullify the benefits of fasting?”

These benefits include:

Ketosis: Fasting is the quickest way to get into ketosis, an metabolic state characterized by increasing fat burning, fat adaptation, and—in some people—improved cognitive function.

Fat Loss: When you’re fasting, you’re not eating, and not eating is the best way to force your body to burn the fat it already possesses. Fasting also means no additional calories are coming in, and many people find that fasting is a great way to control their calorie intake.

Autophagy: Autophagy, or “self-eating,” is the process by which our cells prune damaged components, maintain proper function, and keep aging at bay. Fasting triggers autophagy. Breaking the fast will stop autophagy.

Let’s go through the most popular queries one by one and figure out how each one affects an intermittent fast.

Common Drinks

Coffee

Depends on who you ask. Some say the fact that coffee triggers a metabolic response means it breaks the fast. I say that coffee increases fat mobilization and burning, independently triggers autophagy (something we’re looking for when we fast), and makes it easier to stave off hunger. For my full treatment, check out this post on coffee and fasting.

I’m going to say “no.”

Tea

Tea contains no calories, improves metabolic health, and can aid fat burning. All signs point to it being great during a fast. Of course, if you had a tablespoon of sugar and a half cup of milk, you’re breaking the fast. But tea itself is a great addition.

I’m going to say “no.”

Yerba Mate

Yerba mate is essentially non-caloric, like tea or black coffee. It also has beneficial effects on glucose tolerance, which is a big plus.

I’m going to say “no.”

Bone Broth

I covered this in full a few months ago. Go read that post. In short, a bit is probably okay. Just keep in mind that the more gelatinous your broth is, the more collagen protein it will contain and the greater its potential to inhibit autophagy. This isn’t established in humans yet (see the collagen section below), but it’s worth considering. A nice salty broth has gotten many a faster through a tough fast, especially if they’re still learning the ropes and need some electrolytes.

I’m going to say “technically yes” but “realistically no.”

Lemon Water

A tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice has a couple calories and a decent amount of potassium. Combined with salt, lemon water is actually a nice way to hydrate during a fast without breaking it.

I’m going to say “no.”

Diet Soda

Diet soda may mess with your gut. It’s linked to weight issues, though not conclusively and certainly not in a causative manner; it’s just as likely that the relationship can be explained by overweight and unhealthy people using diet sodas in a bid to lose weight. I don’t like them myself, and I’ve witnessed people fail to ever kick the sweet tooth as long as they drank diet sodas. But many people find they do improve dietary adherence and do improve fasting tolerance. If that’s the case, they are very pro-fasting.

I’m going to say “no.”

Juice

A juice fast isn’t really a fast. You’re consuming fewer calories than you might eating normal food, but you’re still consuming a good number of calories—most of them carbohydrate, no less.

I’m going to say “yes” unless you’re specifically engaging in “juice fasting,” in which case it’s still not fasting despite what you call it.

Common Drink Additions/Condiments

Cream (Unsweetened)

Technically, as a source of calories, cream breaks a fast. But it doesn’t provoke an insulin response when consumed in isolation, it doesn’t impact ketosis, and many people find it makes sticking to the fast easier.

I’m going to say “technically yes, but realistically no—just keep it to a couple teaspoons or less.”

Almond Milk

It depends on the almond milk. A full cup of the standard sugar-free almond milk has just 36 calories, about a gram of carbs, 2 grams of fat, and a gram of protein. That’s almost nothing. You could probably get away with a quarter or third cup and have minimal impact on your fast, but why not just drink some water or coffee?

I’m going to say “technically yes,” but you can get away with a little bit.

Butter

Like cream, butter doesn’t provoke an insulin response in isolation. It’s more calorically dense than cream, though, so watch how much you eat.

I’m going to say “technically yes, but realistically no as long as you’re not using more than a teaspoon.”

MCT Oil/Coconut Oil

MCT oil is pure fat and thus calorically dense, but it has three benefits going for it. First, it doesn’t provoke an insulin response in isolation. Two, it increases energy expenditure. Three, it converts directly to ketones. People new to fasting can often speed up the fat adaptation process by incorporating a little MCT oil. Coconut oil is the main source of MCT oil, so it’ll have similar effects, though not as pronounced.

I’m going to say “technically yes, but realistically no—and it may even enhance your fasting experience when consumed in moderation.”

Cinnamon

I don’t advise eating cinnamon alone, dry, and isolated. It’s a terrible and potentially deadly idea. But in some coffee or tea during a fast? Sure. It can even improve insulin sensitivity.

I’m going to say “no.”

Salt

Salt does not break a fast. Actually, adding a pinch or two of salt to your water during a fast can increase your tolerance of the fasting process and improve hydration status.

I’m going to say “no.”

Non-caloric Sweeteners—First Natural, Then Artificial

Stevia

Stevia contains no calories and has no effect on insulin secretion (if anything, it increases insulin sensitivity). However, it’s often used to sweeten foods that do contain calories, so be mindful of how you’re using it.

I’m going to say “no.”

Monk Fruit

For a good overview of monk fruit, read this. Suffice it to say, monk fruit is similar to stevia in that it’s a non-caloric, naturally-occurring sweetener with unique health effects. It will not break your fast.

I’m going to say “no.”

Swerve

Swerve is a sweetener that blends erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and oligosaccharides (a prebiotic fiber that tastes kinda sweet) with natural flavors. Erythritol has no effect on insulin or blood glucose (you just pee it out mostly). I couldn’t find any studies on oligosaccharides during a fast, but as humans cannot by definition digest them, they shouldn’t affect the course of a fast.

I’m going to say “no.”

Xylitol

See the gum section above. Stick to reasonable amounts.

I’m going to say “no.”

Sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda)

Sucralose does not provoke an insulin response or increase blood glucose—great news for fasters who want to use it—but it does seem to impair whole body insulin sensitivity. That’s bad for everyone.

I’m going to say “no,” but there are other downsides.

Aspartame

Those same studies on monk fruit and stevia also tested aspartame, finding similar results. Aspartame does not provoke an insulin or glucose response. I’m no fan of the stuff, but I don’t see any evidence that it will break a fast.

I’m going to say “no.”

Supplementary Powders, Oils, Etc.

CBD Oil

Assuming you’re doing the kind of hemp oil that comes in droppers and not the kind that you pour from a culinary oil bottle, the caloric content can’t possibly impact your fast. There are no studies examining the metabolic effects of CBD in the fasted state, but I don’t see any reason why it would impact ketosis, autophagy, or fat-burning—and without psychoactive THC involved, you won’t be getting the munchies.

I’m going to say “no.”

Protein Powder

Protein powder provokes an insulin response, which opposes autophagy, which means you’re breaking your fast. Plus, protein powder contains calories.

I’m going to say “yes.”

Collagen

If you’re strict and technical, then yes, collagen breaks a fast. There’s evidence that glycine—the most prominent amino acid in collagen—can inhibit autophagy, but it was a convoluted animal study where inhibiting autophagy with large doses of glycine after brain injury actually improved outcomes. It probably doesn’t apply to someone adding a scoop of collagen to their coffee. Besides, even if it slightly reduces autophagy, a little collagen won’t negatively impact ketosis, fat-burning, or energy intake.

I’m going to say “technically yes,” but “realistically no.” Avoid if your main focus is autophagy, though.

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs trigger an insulin response and thus stop autophagy and the fast. That said, many proponents of fasted training recommend using BCAAs before a workout to help preserve muscle and improve the post-workout anabolic response.

I’m going to say “yes.”

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is made by double fermenting the sugars present in apple juice. First, yeast convert the sugars to alcohol. Next, the alcohol converts to acetic acid. The result is a liquid that’s virtually calorie-free. Studies showing that consuming vinegar lowers the blood glucose response to a subsequent meal aren’t really relevant if you’re fasting, but they don’t hurt.

I’m going to say “no.”

Electrolyte Powder/Tabs

Electrolyte powders/tabs used to come festooned with sucrose, making them decidedly anti-fasting. These days, most of them are sweetened with stevia or some other natural non-caloric sweetener. Even the ones that have a little bit of sugar (1-2 g) are probably okay to consume without much negative effect. Best of all, electrolytes can really help you tolerate a fast.

I’m going to say “no.”

Breath-Freshening Items

Gum

If we’re talking sugar-rich gum, the answer is yes. Those definitely break a fast. If we’re talking xylitol gum, the answer is more mixed. In healthy individuals, 30 grams of pure xylitol triggers a small but significant rise in glucose and insulin. That might sound scary to a prospective IFer, but most people aren’t chewing gum made with 30 grams of xylitol. The average piece of xylitol gum barely weighs a gram.

I’m going to say “no,” unless you’re chewing gum made with real sugar or you’re throwing back 30 pieces of xylitol gum in a sitting.

Toothpaste

I always consume my toothpaste (around a tablespoon of the good stuff per brushing) and I’ve never had it knock me out of ketosis, autophagy, or in any way shape or form break my fast. I’m kidding. I don’t consume my toothpaste, but brushing your teeth doesn’t break a fast.

I’m going to say “no.” Don’t eat it though.

Mouthwash

Pretty much the same as toothpaste. Look for a brand that doesn’t contain sugar or one of the artificial sweeteners above that trips insulin. As the instructions (and common sense) suggest, don’t drink it.

That’s it, folks. If you have additional questions about what does or doesn’t break a fast, leave them down below. Thanks for reading, and I hope you found the post helpful. Forward it on if you did.

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References:

Hansson P, Holven KB, Øyri LKL, et al. Meals with Similar Fat Content from Different Dairy Products Induce Different Postprandial Triglyceride Responses in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Cross-Over Trial. J Nutr. 2019;149(3):422-431.

Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, et al. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite. 2010;55(1):37-43.

Ili? V, Vukmirovi? S, Stilinovi? N, ?apo I, Arsenovi? M, Milijaševi? B. Insight into anti-diabetic effect of low dose of stevioside. Biomed Pharmacother. 2017;90:216-221.

Noda K, Nakayama K, Oku T. Serum glucose and insulin levels and erythritol balance after oral administration of erythritol in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1994;48(4):286-92.

Müller-hess R, Geser CA, Bonjour JP, Jéquier E, Felber JP. Effects of oral xylitol administration on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in normal subjects. Infusionsther Klin Ernahr. 1975;2(4):247-52.

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19 Keto Soups

Thanks to the good folks at Paleohacks for today’s recipe.

There’s nothing quite like cozying up on the couch with a warm bowl of rich and hearty soup. Unfortunately, hearty soup recipes often rely on high-carb ingredients like potatoes, rice, and noodles to achieve comfort food status.

Luckily, we know tons of Paleo-friendly soup recipes that fuel your body and nourish your belly – all while keeping you in ketosis. Think fat bomb hamburger soup loaded with veggies and beef, or a velvety, dairy-free celeriac soup with chorizo, sage crisps and walnuts. If you’re craving takeout, there’s keto-friendly hot and sour soup, or if you need something that takes hardly any effort, we have a go-to chipotle chicken soup you can make right in a slow cooker. Whatever you crave, there’s a healthy soup to enjoy this fall. Check out these 23 keto-friendly snacks to keep you going between meals.

This low-carb hamburger soup is loaded with healthy fats to keep your body in ketosis, thanks to the addition of buttery organic red palm oil.

Celeriac, also known as celery root, is a hearty root vegetable ideal for a smooth, creamy soup. In fact, it’s the perfect replacement for high-carb potatoes!

Craving creamy beef stroganoff without the carbs? Try this soup! It’s chock-full of umami steak and mushrooms, made velvety smooth with silky coconut cream.

Skip the takeout and make this Chinese mainstay soup at home. This healthy version is made with thin slices of pork tenderloin and gets its characteristic tang from gut-healthy apple cider vinegar.

This simple and satisfying butternut squash soup is spiced with fall flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg and thyme. Try blending in some cauliflower to make it even thicker.

Who doesn’t love those super simple recipes where all you have to do is dump everything in the slow cooker? Let your crockpot do all the work in this flavorful chipotle chicken soup recipe.

You might not typically think of salmon as soup-worthy, but this recipe will convert you. Use seafood broth to boost that savory, comforting factor.

Garnish this smoky, Spanish-inspired soup with diced avocado, and get ready to warm up quick.

This gorgeously-colored soup is loaded with anti-inflammatory turmeric, juicy chicken thighs, and tons of veggies. It’s good for you all-around.

A drizzle of nutty tahini and a scattering of crispy bacon on this asparagus soup makes for a work of art.

Feeling under the weather? Get the classic fix with this herb-filled chicken soup, made right in the crockpot.

What is it about this spinach and mushroom soup that makes it feel like “a hug in a bowl”? It’s loaded with health-boosting ingredients, like bone broth, collagen peptides, coconut vinegar, nutritional yeast and ghee.

Do you have a freezer full of frozen seafood like fish and shrimp? This is the soup you need to cook up tonight. Enjoy succulent seafood in a rich, creamy tomato broth.

Cassidy’s Craveable Creations | Meatball Soup

Spinach-packed beef meatballs are surrounded by veggies like zucchini, tomatoes and carrots in a rich broth of tomatoes, stock and balsamic vinegar.

Go Greek with this tangy lemon chicken soup with hearty kale and cauliflower rice.

Why slave over finicky cabbage rolls when you can get the same flavor and texture in soup form?

This autumnal pumpkin soup is loaded with warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Bacon and cauliflower are the perfect couple in this creamy, chowder-like soup.

Boost your go-to tomato basil soup with thick slices of Italian sausage for a meal you can enjoy on its own. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, serve with this cauliflower grilled cheese for dunking!

Thanks again to Paleohacks for today’s recipe. Have a great Sunday, everyone.

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Seasonal Eating: 9 Tasty Springtime Recipes

We love comfort food as much as the next Primal type, but it’s something of a relief to welcome the lighter fare of spring. With early crops of greens, berries, radishes, herbs, asparagus, and young onions (to name just a few), there’s a definite call to cooler dishes and lighter cooking. It’s a traditional time, too, for citrusy flavors and springtime classics like lamb.

We’ve got nine of our favorites today—everything from cool drinks to fresh salads to hearty but bright-tasting dinners. Grab some inspiration (and leave a comment with your spring favorites) today.

Fresh Salads

Strawberry Spinach and Basil Salad

Simple, fresh, and sweet, this salad is a perfect accompaniment to a weekend omelet breakfast or a grilled chicken dinner, but it’s also a satisfying light meal in its own right.

Thousand Island Kale and Radish Salad

Combining the classic flavor of Thousand Island with the mild bite of spring radishes makes for an easy, flavorful salad dish. Serve with roast chicken or fish, or enjoy all on its own.

Keto Chicken Citrus Salad

It’s no secret that Mark’s (current) favorite dressing is Lemon Turmeric, and there’s no end to the salad combinations he uses it with. With his go-to ingredients, chicken and avocado, this one’s become a fresher take on the Big-Ass Salad tradition.

Savory Main Courses

Lemon and Sage Chicken In Cream

Rich, creamy and citrusy, this recipe blends the best of succulent meat with a smooth and flavorful sauce. The addictive lemon and sage scent alone is reason enough to cook this spring dish.

Salmon Steak Salad With Lemon Turmeric Dressing

Broiled salmon steaks are served over seared tomatoes and peppery arugula for a warm and bright main course.

Leg of Lamb with Pistachio Pesto

Rich and tender, this leg of lamb (cooked with the joules sous vide method or regular oven method) is as foolproof to make as it is delicious to eat. Serve this cut with pistachio pesto and roasted potatoes or a low-carb side of your choice.

Turmeric and Ginger Fish

This recipe is a good reason to grab that bottle of turmeric in your spice rack and put it to work adding bright orange color and extra flavor to mild fish like cod. The slightly bitter taste of turmeric all but disappears when cooked with buttery ghee, ginger and garlic. Serve with a favorite salad or another spring favorite, asparagus.

Cool Drinks

Low-Carb White Mint Julep

With a bright taste and fresh bite, mint juleps are perfect for warm spring (or summer days). Usually they’re made with bourbon and syrup, but here’s a lighter, less potent version of a julep with just as much classic flavor.

Strawberry Rosé Mocktail

Yes, it’ll be strawberry season before you know it (not that most of us with a local grocery store really need to wait…). For now—or later this spring—here’s a refreshing three-ingredient mocktail that includes a healthy dose of vitamin C and collagen.

Have a favorite here, or did a certain recipe inspire? Have other great spring eating ideas to add? Share them below, and have a great week, everyone.

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2 Meat, 2 Pepper Chili

Thanks to the good folks at Paleohacks for today’s recipe.

This rich keto chili is made with two types of beef and slow cooked in bone broth for stick-to-your-ribs heartiness. This rich and simple crockpot recipe combines sirloin steak, ground bison, sweet bell peppers, and smoky ancho chiles for a recipe that is anything but ordinary. Best of all, this chili can be prepped ahead of time for a meal that reheats in a pinch throughout a busy week.

The stock for this chili is made from bone broth, or slow-simmered beef bones. When bones simmer in water overnight, they release their amino acids into the liquid, creating a liquid golden broth full of gut-healing collagen. We love this potent and flavorful bone broth recipe with leeks and rosemary, but you can also purchase plain bone broth online or in most grocery stores if you’re in a pinch.

Most of the flavor in this chili comes from dried ancho chiles. These are made from smoked poblano peppers, condensing their sweetness and adding a complexity to chili that raw pepper alone can’t match. This pepper is not spicy, making it one the whole family can enjoy. You can find dried ancho chiles in the ethnic foods aisle of most grocery stores.

Lean ground bison and tender chunks of sirloin beef are browned in a skillet before being added to the crockpot. This gives them a chance to caramelize, deepening the flavor of the chili. Both grass-fed beef and bison are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contain more free-radical fighting antioxidants like vitamin-E than their factory-farm counterparts.

Get started by heating ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes, then pour them into the crockpot. Next, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the diced steak and ground bison to the skillet to brown for seven or eight minutes. Drain and discard any fat, then pour the meat over the onions in the crockpot.

Add the ancho chiles, tomatoes, bone broth and dried herbs to the crockpot, then cover and set to low heat for six hours. Add a chopped green bell pepper to the crockpot for the last hour of cooking to help keep it crisp. Ladle the chili into bowls and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.

Looking for more keto recipes? Check out these 23 paleo and keto-friendly snacks.

Time In the Kitchen: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours, 15 minutes

Servings: 6

Tools:

  • Large skillet
  • Crockpot

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 lb sirloin steak, cubed
  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 2 medium, dried ancho chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef or bison bone broth
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • Chopped cilantro, for serving

Instructions:

1. Heat ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the onions into the crockpot and return skillet to the stovetop.

2. Add the diced steak and ground bison to the skillet and turn the heat up to medium-high. Brown the meat for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and discard any fat. Pour the meat into the crockpot.

3. Add the ancho chiles, tomatoes, bone broth, cumin, oregano, paprika and sea salt to the crockpot. Cover and set to low heat for 5 hours.

4. Add the bell pepper to the crockpot and cook on low heat for one more hour.

5. Ladle the chili into bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Nutritional Info:

  • Calories: 257
  • Carbs: 4.7 grams
  • Fat: 11 grams
  • Protein: 34 grams

Thanks again to Paleohacks for today’s recipe. Have a great Sunday, everyone.

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Living a Life Like This Is Amazing

It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

My Primal story starts in 2014. I had a one-year-old baby. I was healthy. I was taking vitamins and supplements and I did exercise. I jogged and lifted weights. I only gained 10 pounds during my pregnancy because of my exercise routine.

The problem was my diet. But I didn’t know that. It all started with my skin and my teeth. I had eczema, red inflamed skin on my face, neck, knees, etc. and I always had cavities every time I went to the dentist. And I had THE best, the Absolute BEST Dental hygiene. I flossed after every meal. I water picked at night. I brushed my teeth 3 times a day. And without fail, every time I went to the dentist there would be a new cavity.

So. I am at the dentist. It’s 2014. He tells me that I have a cavity and he was going to fill it. I was very upset. I said “NO.” I told him not to fill the cavity. I told him I was going to heal it. The dentist is taken aback. He laughed at me.

I went home and Googled “How to heal a Cavity”. And it took me to this oil pulling sight. And it was a domino effect from there. I bought a book called Heal Cavities and Cure Tooth Decay, and I read that book cover to cover. And that book mentioned another book called The Paleo Manifesto, and it also talked about diet and how cavities start from the INSIDE out. So I immediately went out and bought The Paleo Manifesto and read that cover to cover. And that book took me to (you guessed it) The Primal Blueprint. I read that book cover to cover.

I already had a good exercise routine. But those books helped me to clean up my diet which led me to clean up my makeup routine, soap, shampoo, dental routine. It was a complete 180. I went totally green. Also the Primal Blueprint helped me to raise my exercise game and take it from good to Great.

And from there, I gained lean muscle mass. I STOPPED having and getting cavities. My skin cleared up and my eczema completely went away.

After I read Cure Tooth Decay and Heal Cavities, The Paleo Manifesto, and The Primal Blueprint, I STOPPED brushing my teeth so often and so hard. Everything in moderation. I started oil pulling in the morning. I started brushing and flossing my teeth ONLY at night before bed. And I started using mineralized tooth powder. From Primal Life Organics or Raw Dakota Tallow. And just by doing these 2 things, my tooth sensitivity went away immediately. And I started to notice that I could eat hot and cold foods again without any pain. I did this same routine for 6 months and now this is my normal routine. Since I started taking care of my teeth like this, I have NO sensitivity. My enamel that I spent my entire life eroding has come back. I have NOT had a cavity since 2014 and my gums are beautiful and healthy. I no longer dread going to the dentist.

My skin care changed a lot. After reading those books and going Primal/Paleo. I stopped immediately using conventional skin care. I started ONLY using castile soap from head to toe. I started using an acidic toner on my face to bring back the acid mantle that I spent my entire life eroding. I mix up equal parts (1 to 1 ratio) of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the mother and water. And I spray that on my face at night after I wash my face with the castile soap. And I use tallow as my face cream. From Raw Dakota Tallow or Vintage Traditions. And I do use conventional makeup. I have tried healthy, green makeup, but that is expensive and doesn’t do the same job as the regular conventional makeup. But since I started taking care of my skin this way ALL of the redness and eczema went away completely.

So in these pictures you can see me without makeup and the top picture is my clear, healthy skin now and the bottom is the red, inflamed skin from before. And you can see the lean muscle mass in the gray dress as opposed to the portly me on the Ducati before I went Paleo/Primal.

I do lift weights every other day and I do cardio every other day. My cardio is walking with alternating sprints. And I never miss a workout. But I never train super hard. I stand at work all day and I do a lot of slow movement throughout the day.

I do eat organic when I can. But that is not always possible. So I do eat conventional produce and meats. But I eat nose to tail. And I eat a lot of colorful veggies. I stopped eating sugar entirely. Cold turkey. I STOPPED eating all carbs and sugar. I did that for 6 months and then started slowly bringing back carbs, but healthy carbs like sprouted and fermented sourdough breads with European butter. I follow and maintain a Paleo/Mediterranean diet. My family is from Spain so I do eat a lot of ancestral food and I do drink wine. I was always a steak girl but now I eat lots of healthy vegetables with the steak. I eat lots of dark chocolate. But my treat is white chocolate.

Since I went Paleo/Primal (and I ONLY did this to heal a cavity) I am the healthiest I have ever been. I am 41 and I look like I am 26, and I feel like I am 26. This lifestyle, this way of life is really a lifesaver. Looking back now, I can see how the Standard American Diet and health care and personal care (dental and skin) are slowly poisoning the American people and were slowly eroding my health. This journey is NOT easy for some people. It was easy for me. In order to do this you have to be comfortable doing your own research and you have to be comfortable questioning what you have been taught, conditioned to think and you have to be comfortable questioning what you have been told.

I always took a multivitamin. But after reading these books and doing my research I started talking Fermented Cod Liver Oil, and High Vitamin Butter Oil. I take collagen. I take Iodine (Triodine) I take a really good multimineral (Concentrace minerals) I take a good multivitamin, I take Fermented Skate Liver Oil. But NOT all at once and NOT everyday. Every other day. I take a combination of these.

Do what works for you. I am NOT orthodox paleo/primal/Mediterranean. Living a life like this is amazing.

I would NOT recommend this but, it in my experience it can be done. After having appendicitis, and routine (best case scenario) appendectomy you can snow blow your driveway. I had appendicitis and the appendectomy on Tuesday. I went home from the hospital on Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. I slept till noon on Wednesday and then I got up and started walking around. I had a good high fat, high protein lunch. And then I snow blowed my driveway (I live in Layton, Utah and we get a ton of snow where I live and it had snowed for 2 days straight). I did that because I figured that Grok did NOT have the luxury of being injured and then laying on the couch all day long and watching T.V. I figured that Grok would be up and walking around. At least foraging for food, for his tribe.

I am healthier than I have ever been in my life, and I have the energy to play with my 5-year-old and keep up with him.

I will Never, Ever go back to what I did and thought and believed before going Primal/Paleo. And it really is a domino effect. Once you start down this journey it will simply but take over every aspect of your life.

I want to thank MDA, The Primal Blueprint, Raw Dakota Tallow, The Paleo Manifesto and Cure Cavities and Heal Tooth Decay, as well as myself for my Amazing transformation. I was always skinny, but I am in PERFECT health because of this journey.

Elsha

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