What’s for Dinner?

When you sit down at the table to eat, what do you think makes for a great meal?

My first rule of thumb is quite simple – all food must taste good and be good for you! Those rules simply cannot be broken. Next, once it meets those qualifications, it is really important that it is truly scrumptious. If given a choice, why go for food you don’t really love, and who doesn’t love to eat? Eating is one of the true joys of life, and it makes me, and actually everyone, happy and satisfied when eating wonderful food.

Second, we should think about nutrition – is the food we’re eating supporting our long-term health. If it isn’t, then we’re setting ourselves up for all the dangerous health consequences that plague PCOS women: obesity, pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.

And of course we will think about the toxin content of the food. Is it organic or not? What chemicals are contained in it or is it a processed food, which, by the way, I never will eat! And is it fresh and full of nutrients, or old and wilted.

Rarely, however, do we think about the food we eat in terms of feeding the 30-40 trillion (that’s right, trillion!) bacteria that inhabit our GI tract, call the gut microbiome. This is a lot more important than you might think, because the latest scientific research is telling us that these little fellows – who have been part and parcel of who we are for the past several million years – have an incredibly powerful impact on virtually every organ system in our bodies.

They help digest and process our food and create a vast range of metabolites that we absorb and use all over our bodies. They also produce neurotransmitters that control our feelings of anxiety and depression and also help regulate our blood glucose levels through several mechanisms – and that’s just scratching the surface.

So, the bottom line is: when you sit down to eat, remember that you’re not just eating for yourself, the 20-30 trillion (yup, there we go with the trillion again) human cells that make up your body, but also for the gazillion microbial guests, who are also seated at the table.

And exactly what, you may ask, would they like to eat?

Fortunately, the answer to this is relatively straightforward and not at all discouraging. They like to eat high-quality, whole foods, and they like variety. They love lots of vegetables, both above ground and root vegetables, and a slightly lesser amount of fruit, especially when they are organic and not tainted by residues of herbicides and pesticides. They prefer plant-based sources of protein (beans, lentils, quinoa, and amaranth) over animal-based sources and do well with good doses of the fatty acid, Omega 3. And please avoid simple sugars and sugar substitutes, as they are quite toxic to the microbiome. It is simply much better to be focusing on carbohydrates containing lots of fiber. Fiber is the foundational food for the microbiota which dwells within our gut.

If you give these single-cell companions what they want, they will reward you in spectacular ways. Your weight, blood pressure, body fat percentage, cholesterol levels, and fasting glucose level will drop, all of which will lead to substantial reductions in inflammation and oxidative stress. And, if you stay tuned to this blog, we’ll give you wonderful recipes and cooking advice that will make your new diet every bit as delicious as it is good for your health!

PCOS Diet: 7 Tips for Timed Eating, Weight Loss Gut Health and Better Sleep

We are “what” we eat, that remains true. But just as correct, is the very new notion that we are “when” we eat! 

The newest data now shows that when you eat can determine how long and how strongly your heart will beat. Incredibly, the timing of meals may be as important for health as is diet composition and amounts of calories.

Research now shows that there are clocks in our bodies which are very involved in cardiovascular function and risk, and that this relates to the time of eating. One research study with fruit flies showed that limiting their eating to only 12 hours of 24 led to healthier hearts compared with allowing fruit flies to eat whenever they wanted to eat.

The body’s master clock is located in the brain, in the section called the hypothalamus, and sits atop the optic nerve so it can glean whether it is day or night, based on the light received to the retina. But there are other peripheral clocks located in all the cells of the body which are regulated by the master clock, the only clock which sees light and dark. Although the peripheral clocks cannot see light or dark, they can sense when there is feeding happening, and that is an important component of how they can be set!

Previous research has shown that timed eating, limiting all food intake to a maximum of 12 hours per day, can protect mice from obesity and other metabolic problems. Mice’s hearts do not easily get altered, and so studies with fruit flies were done, with dramatic results. Two groups of fruit flies were used. They both ate the same amount of food, but one group ate for only 12 hours a day and the other group had 24 hour access to the food and snacked at night. Both groups had the same amount of activity, but the flies who did all of their feeding within 12 hours did most of their moving during the day and slept better at night.

The hearts of the flies were examined at different times. At 3 weeks of age, the flies in both feeding groups had similar regularly beating, healthy hearts. At 5 weeks, which is the fly’s middle age, the 12 hour eaters had hearts which maintained a steady rhythm of one beat per second. The other group which ate at any hour of the day or night, had hearts with irregular beats, sometimes skipping a beat, and sometimes quivering. By 7 weeks, the anytime eaters had hearts which beat with badly damaged heart function.

In other studies, restricted timed eating helped stave off the harmful impact of high-fat diets.  And also interesting, when the researchers disabled the clocks throughout their bodies, restricting the feeding times did not help the hearts of the flies, suggesting that functioning clocks are important for heart health.

The researchers also looked at the effects of timed eating on gene expression and activity. Circadian rhythms are powerfully expressed in genes, which peak in activity at certain times of the day. The flies which ate only during 12 hours had peaks of gene activity which maximized right before breakfast and just before the final bite. The flies which could eat around the clock had several smaller peaks of gene activity throughout the day, suggesting that timed eating led to better coordination of gene activity. Tightly controlled gene activity may permit more efficient energy use and prevent the build-up of metabolic byproducts which can damage tissues.

Additionally, it is now recognized that the bacteria within our colons have their own clocks, and when eating is done properly, their clocks are perfectly synchronized with the clocks in our own cells. The only way for the bacteria to synchronize their clocks with our own, is through timed feeding. And we clearly know that it is necessary for the microbiome to be happy and healthy if we are likewise to be happy and healthy.

My advice is easy. Begin with this simple plan:

  • Eat no more than three meals a day
  • Avoid snacking
  • Stop eating at 7 pm, but at least by 8 pm
  • Have at least a 12 hour fast between dinner and breakfast
  • Eat mostly plants with many vegetables, beans, lentils, and whole grains
  • Avoid or limit grains which have been pulverized (aka-bread and crackers)
  • Eat at the same times every day

By eating the timed way, you will lose weight and feel better, even if you consume the same number of calories. I am not going to say that calories don’t count, but they count far less than once was thought. Eating at the right times matters as much, and likely more.

The gut microbiome requires timed eating to properly care for them. Focus on caring for the microbiome with lots of fiber and plant based foods. By finally nurturing the microbiome with the right food choices and with timed/restrictive eating, it will take care of you.

*This is a repost of a guest post Dr. Gersh originally posted on PCOS Diva at: http://pcosdiva.com/2016/06/pcos-and-circadian-rhythm-part-2/