Archive for November, 2008

Tryptophan and the “turkey snooze”

Just so everyone knows, it’s not the tryptophan in turkey that makes us so tired after our Thanksgiving meal.  So, what is it then?

We know that Tryptophan is an amino acid present in many foods. However, in no way does turkey have an unusually high concentration.  In fact, many beans and even beef has more tryptophan than turkey. It is true that tryptophan can help put you to sleep only because it feeds a pathway that creates melatonin (the sleep hormone).  Scientifically the conversion goes like this: 5 HTP converts to serotonin which converts to melatonin and that equals “lights out.” The problem is that amino acids are absorbed at different rates and tryptophan is very, very poorly absorbed.  If there were a race with different amino acids trying to get through one door, tryptophan would be the slow runner who is also wearing lead shoes.  So, in fact, not very much tryptophan at all is absorbed when taken with a meal.

The answer to the snooze after the fabulous dinner lies on the plate in front of us.  That wonderful plate usually contains a mound of carbohydrate-rich foods (that converts to sugar) which lead to a surge in insulin levels.  Our pancreas is not always adept at matching the release of insulin, to our sugar intake, especially when large quantities of sugar are ingested. Many times the insulin surge is much too large; far exceeding the amount our bodies actually need, causing a sharp drop in blood glucose (sometimes referred to as bonking).  This is called “reactive hypoglycemia” and we are all susceptible.   As we start to store all that carbohydrate induced sugar, along with the tryptophan are some other amino acids that also get stored.  This can increase the relative concentration of tryptophan, and even when running slow in lead shoes the tryptophan can still win the race .

So it’s a complex combination of many factors, two of which we discussed here, that create the turkey snooze. Most biochemists would agree that while the tryptophan plays a role, the sugar rollercoaster that the carbohydrates puts us on is the major causative factor.

Now, while we would usually advise that you avoid all those simple sugars and the subsequent “snooze” on that celebratory day, enjoy the food, the fun, and the nap.

Happy Thanksgiving


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The Dirt on Dirt

The soil that we depend on to plant our crops and sustain life through plant growth and oxygen production is being quickly destroyed.  Soil degradation may be one of the most important issues facing our world in the coming years.  By the year 2030 estimates show the population exceeding 8.3 billion, that is of concern when we are already experiencing food shortages in the current year.  At the least shortages cause significant price increases, in worst case scenarios food shortages can incite riots like they already have in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  The UN estimates that to support 8.3 billion people farmers will have to produce 30% more grain than they do today.  Unfortunately, as we demand more from our soil and “improve” farming techniques, we are accelerating the process of degradation of our soil.  The major factors contributing to our loss of soil are erosion, compaction, and pollution.  People are choosing to buy organic food in ever expanding amounts because study after study shows that the nutrient content is better and the chemical residues of conventionally grown food can be damaging to health.  Sustainable organic techniques can and do produce equal and even better yields while supplying more nutritious food.

Big Picture

The biggest study ever done on soil integrity came from the ISRIC – World Soil Information in 1991 and stated that we had degraded 7.5 million square miles of land and that we are rapidly degrading a land mass the size of the United States and Canada combined.  In the developing world, water and wind erosion are rapidly causing desertification. Continue reading ‘The Dirt on Dirt’

Why Detox?

Cleansing or Detoxing (as some people refer to it) is the process of removing unwanted and unusable chemicals from the tissues of your body.

Your body is constantly working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year cleansing and removing unwanted particles from its cells (the popular terminology “free radicals” sound familiar?).  This is an inborn process you don’t have to think about or push a button to get started.  The problem comes when your body loses the ability to remove these unwanted particles as fast as they are coming in.

These particles come from the environment… your environment.  Any substance that can’t be used normally in the body’s physiology is considered an unwanted particle or a toxin and must be removed.  If these toxins are allowed to stay in your body they will start to cause a breakdown of one, if not more than one, of its chemical processes.  Most of us don’t realize how bombarded our bodies are everyday by toxins in our environment. Think about this:

  • did you use shampoo and conditioner in the shower?
  • did you use soap?
  • did you use shaving products?
  • do you use lotions, make up, aftershave?
  • did you put on cologne, perfume?
  • the clothes you are wearing.  did you use detergent, dry cleaning solutions, dryer sheets, softeners?
  • did you have coffee for breakfast? use a microwave?  what did you eat?
  • did you travel on the roads today?  inhale any car fumes?
  • ever hear of out-gassing?  it is when molecules are being released from a solid or liquid into the atmosphere.  this is caused by carpets, painted or stained woods, plastics that are heated, industrial factories, synthetic items (even if you don’t notice an odor). Continue reading ‘Why Detox?’