The importance of healthy liver function

It’s important to briefly touch on the liver before reviewing some of the various dietary approaches to a healthier lifestyle.  Why?  Because your liver is one of the most vital organs in your body, performing dozens of functions – only a handful of which we’ll look at here.  Without your liver you cannot live, and without a healthy liver, you cannot be healthy.

The liver is the largest organ of the body – a few of it’s most important functions are:Liver

  • Helps metabolizes nutrients
  • Detoxifies harmful substances
  • Storage of glycogen for later use
  • Production of bile
  • Helps break down insulin and other hormones
  • Production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)
  • Production of ketones

While there are many other important functions of the liver – these are the ones I wanted to focus on as we look at a healthy diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Consider these four important facts regarding your liver:

  1. A healthy liver is important (and necessary) for daily health and living.  Impaired liver function can cause many serious diseases and conditions.
  2. Your lifestyle and diet can have a great effect on the health of your liver and it’s overall function
  3. A healthy liver is *crucial* to the proper metabolism of fats in your diet (especially if you intend to live a low-carb lifestyle)
  4. There are specific dietary and supplement approaches to assist in keeping your liver healthy

Upcoming we’ll look at

  • one specific herbal supplement to aid in healthy liver function
  • the liver’s function in low-carb and very low carb diets
  • some of the benefits of a low-carb diet as a part of a healthy lifestyle
  • some first-hand experiences with a low-carb approach to a healthy diet


Have a question or something to add?  Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t I just need to go by the RDA?

Ask many people about vitamins supplements and they’ll tell you that they get everything they need from the food they eat.  “Besides” they’ll tell you – “I get the RDA (recommended daily allowance of everything I need.”  The unfortunate fact is that you probably don’t get everything you need just from the foods you eat (see Do you need supplements).naturevalley

It’s helpful to start by asking – What is the RDA?  If you’ve looked at the side or back of most packaged food products you’ve seen a label similar to this one:

If you’ve wondered what the RDA is or where it came from – here’s the background, and here’s why it’s probably not a good measure of what your nutrient needs are for optimum nutrition and health.

The RDA is based upon calculations made in 1941 during World War 2.    The RDA was calculated based upon Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) which were the levels estimate in order to meet the basic nutritional needs of 50% of the people  (keep in mind that this was an across-the-board calculation for soldiers, citizens, and people facing food rationing).  While the levels and amounts are reviewed every 10 years or so, even these are designed to meet an average requirement in order to avoid the diseases of deficiency, and to provide basic nutritional needs (not what I would call optimal health).

So what does all this mean to you if you’re seeking to live a healthy lifestyle?

  1. Understand and be in touch with your body and your specific needs
  2. Do your research on what are considered levels for optimum nutrition.
    One excellent source for this is Life Extension Foundation.  Their stated mission is “to help you stay younger and healthier longer … looking for new and better ways to prolong youth, health, life.”  That sounds pretty good to me – most people are interested in staying healthier longer and being able to prolong health – I know I am.
  3. Adjust your lifestyle and diet accordingly.  As I’ve pointed out many times, you should focus on a healthy diet that supports a healthy lifestyle – not on going on a diet.  Remember – diets don’t work.
  4. Add the right foods and supplements to your diet to ensure that you are setting yourself up for optimum health, not just avoiding the diseases that come from nutrient deficiency.

If you are only going by the RDA printed on your processed food packages, I think you are doing yourself a great disservice and not setting yourself up for optimum health.  Remember – these calculations which formed a basis for all this were done during a time of scarcity and in order to avoid nutritional deficiency diseases for an average person with average needs.

In future posts we’ll review so of the specific vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements I believe you should consider adding to your diet to preserve, protect and prolong your health,


Do you need supplements?

Along with the subject of the foods that you do (or don’t) consume, it makes sense to also consider whether or not you need supplements; vitamin, mineral, herbal.   The whole reason to tweak or change your diet is to move toward a healthier lifestyle – that is the same reason you should consider which supplements you might will help you – and which ones you may need.By Ragesoss (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

There are several reasons you should consider adding nutritional supplements to the food and beverages you consume, but the biggest reasons are to add in nutrients that may be lacking or in short supply in your diet (there are many reasons behind this), and in order to address with specific physical issues.

The bottom answer for most people to this question is YES.   When most people start logging the foods they eat, they discover that their diet is quite as “balanced” as they thought it was.  Also, many of today’s foods are grown with intensive practices in depleted soils  – resulting in foods with significantly lower nutrient levels than in previous decades.

In upcoming posts, we’ll look at the nutritional measurement RDA in more detail and look at some more specific herbal, vitamin, and mineral supplements you should consider adding to your diet.


Questions or comments?   Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.


What did you really eat

So what did you eat today?

Can you answer that accurately and in detail?
If you are wanting to move toward a healthier diet and healthier lifestyle you need to know the answer to these questions. Just like when using a map or GPS – the first thing you have to do in order to plot a course to get somewhere is know where you’re at – identify your location.Ciruelas rojas y amarillas.

When I coach people on improving their overall health, I find that it is crucial that they keep a food log or diary of all they consume.  It is also important that they keep track over the course of several days. By tracking over the course of several days or a week and logging *everything* you consume, you’ll get a more accurate picture or where you’re at, what items are normally found in your diet, and what you need to change. Once you’ve done this, you can begin to pick your targets for change.

Coming up – next steps:  what changes should you target and what about jumping into one of the more popular diets?

Questions, comments, or just want to chime in?  Use the form below – I’d love to hear from you.

So what is the deal with all these diets?

Seriously – there seems to always be some new diet that is all the rage; some dieimage courtesy of qualitystockphotos.comt or hot new method to lose weight, cleanse your body, detox … you get the idea.  All it takes is a glance at the magazines at any grocery store checkout to see what the celebrities consider to be the latest and greatest way to shed some pounds.  The promises are many – this is the hidden secret, this is the one that doesn’t make you change what you eat, this one lets you eat as much (fill in the blank) as you want, the Paleo diet, Keto diet, Low Carb diet, All Carb Diet, Gluten Free Diet, Peanut Butter Diet, All Veggie Diet, and the list goes on and on and on.  But do these really work, and are they good for you?

Upcoming are several posts that will deal with these questions, questions about diet, diets, and dieting, and also some guest posts that will give you some real-life firsthand accounts of experiences as a result of various diets and approaches to a healthier lifestyle.

As a foundational truth though – remember that diets don’t work – not in the long term and not for lasting change toward a healthier lifestyle.  Sometimes they can be helpful (and just the thing you need) to shed a few pounds or kick start a change in lifestyle – but “going on a diet for a while” is almost always destined to fail since you’ll eventually end up right back where you started (or worse off) once you return to your old ways.

The bottom line – “diets” in the traditional sense don’t work – but a change in your diet can work if you incorporate those changes into your daily life and make them foundational for a new lifestyle.  If you do that – there are several different dietary approaches out there that do work.  Upcoming posts will take a closer look at these questions, provide some real-world feedback, and attempt to address any questions you might have.

Questions or comments – please use the form below – I’d love to hear from you.

Get out and find something new

This is another post about fitness as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

While I talk about running below – this could apply to walking, hiking, biking, or any activity that gets you outside and exploring new vistas.

And exploring new vistas is another one of the things that I love about getting out when I travel.  I never know just what I might find on a run or walk in a new place, but it’s always a great way to get my bearings for what’s around and see what interesting sights I might find.gators

On a recent business trip to Florida, I decided head out one day and get off of the paved paths and see what unpaved trails I could find for a run.  For me – this was like finding a prize:

While the places I discover typically don’t have warning signs like this or hold this promise of potential adventure, nonetheless it’s still fun to see what you might find as you walk/run/hike and explore your surroundings. I think you can make it a fun challenge to find new and different places to incorporate some sort of physical activity as a part of your healthy lifestyle.

So whether it’s at home, in your neighborhood or some part of the city or town you live in – or somewhere new while you are traveling – get out and explore!  You just might find a new favorite place to get out and move!

Questions, comments, or your take on this?  Use the form below – I’d love to hear from you.

Another Reason I Run

I’ve considered myself to be a “runner” for over 25 years.

What started out as a move of desperation to try to burn off some quickly accumulating post-marriage pounds became something I love, and is now a passion – one that I enjoy, and that I enjoy sharing with others.

One of the true pleasures that I get from running is sharing some of my favorite trails and routes with friends.    I’m blessed to live in the mountains of North Carolina, which gives me access to many horse trails for running.

I love the beauty of the outdoors, the fresh air, the time away from the noise and buzz of society and the opportunity to enjoy the sounds of nature.  I also enjoy being able to share these paths and trails with friends.

This also serves me well as a motivation for running.  Believe it or not – even someone who loves running needs a little motivation once in a while – whether to pick up the pace, or sometimes just a little extra encouragement to get off my butt and hit the trail.

You may also find the sense of reward and fulfillment that comes from sharing a fitness activity you love, or sharing a favorite trail – or from just helping someone make regular fitness activities a part of their lifestyle.robert2-1

In this case, I was able to share one of my favorite routes with my friend Robert.   While Robert is already a runner – he had never run this trail before.  In this picture we had just finished the 4 mile ascent and were taking a moment to enjoy the view before starting back down the trails.

Whether it’s sharing the love of running, or sharing a favorite route – I think you will also find the rewarding feeling that comes from sharing your passion for fitness with someone.  You just might be the encouragement they need to make fitness a part of their healthy lifestyle.

Questions or comments – use the form below – I’d love to hear from you.


Sometimes I Even Touch the Ground

Today’s post is from a friend and running buddy of mine.  After telling me about his new running shoes, he agreed to share his experience with them here:

Sometimes I Even Touch the Ground
Dean Moyer
Valle Crucis, NC

Last summer I was doing some speed work when a younger runner went flying by me. At one point I think he even touched the ground. As he disappeared into the distance I wondered how fast he’d be running when he was fifty. I continued. Several miles later, shortly after a turn-around, I heard the rushing of wind behind me when my young runner friend suddenly reappeared. This time he slowed, touched the ground again long enough to ask, “hey mind if I run with you?” I chuckled and said, “if you can keep up.”  As we finished out the run I asked about his shoes. Every runner I know is looking for perfect shoe, the perfect shoe deal or both. I’m no different. He told me about his SKORAS. My interest was piqued. But then a shoulder injury sidelined me for three months. Argh!SKORA

After a three-month hiatus from running, I had not forgotten about the SKORAS. In fact I had been plotting. I decided to reward myself with a new shoe. It was time. The perfect time. They were on sale. I strapped on my new BASE and I was hooked. An almost perfect fit (I’ll get to this later), cool look and an awesome feel. As a forefoot runner these were “it.” After several weeks of running in them I decided to get a pair of their premium shoe, the FORM. I’ve run in them for just over a hundred miles now. Can I tell you how much I love my new goat leather foot gloves?!

Here’s a brief review:

Sizing/Fit: For the BASE, it was suggested I order an 8. As a normal 8.5 wearer I found them to be slightly small. My toe doesn’t rub. But I’m afraid to do long miles in them. So for the FORM I ordered an 8.5. Much better. However, if truth be told, I think an 8.25 would be best. But not to worry. The elastic adjustment strap on the heal snugs the shoe to fit nicely.

Comfort: Both shoes are extraordinarily comfortable. But you can’t beat the feel of leather on skin. FORM wins! I did go through a very brief period of blistering. However, I think it may have more to do with the tenderizing of my feet due to the surgery hiatus. I wore socks once. I prefer the no sock fit and run. Neither shoe shows any signs of wear. Granted, I am not a 50 mile a week runner. But at 25 per week, they look like new. (Okay just a little worn.)

Terrain: My running route surfaces consist of mountainous paved roads, gravel roads, and trails. I feel stable and comfortable on all.

Performance: The design enables me to maintain a running form which is efficient and frankly faster. I am not a fan (One who watches from the sidelines) of the SKORA. I am runner who has found gear that helps me do what I love: run stronger, run faster, and sometimes I even touch the ground.


Questions or comments?   Please use the feedback form found below – I’d love to hear from you.


Can you change your running style and your foot-strike?

I’ll start this post with a quote from a recent New York Times article  that  I referenced on April 5th in this post: So what does barefoot running do for you?  “Proponents [of barefoot running] say barefoot running is more natural — humans evolved to run without shoes — and economical. When you lift a shod foot, you have to lift the weight of the shoe, and that requires energy. Added to that effort is the cushioning in shoes, which absorbs energy that should go into propelling you forward.”  Proponents of barefoot running also point out that a mid-foot or forefoot strike more evenly distributes the force of the strike throughout the foot structure instead of directing the force up from the heel to the knee and hip joints.

This is what makes barefoot or minimalist running so interesting and so compelling – because it forces your running style into one that is more natural, probably more efficient, and one that helps protect you from injury.  But it is important to keep in mind that the gain comes from the type of foot strike that you will naturally move toward with barefoot running and the bio-mechanics that occur when you run barefoot or with minimalist shoes.  Another way to think about it is that you will be more likely to prevent all of the possible bad effects of a heel-strike if you change to a fore-foot or mid-foot strike.   So why not just change your running style to accomplish these goals?

Good news:  you can – and you don’t even have to change shoes to do it (more on that later)

Bad news:  you have to be careful changing your style so that you don’t injure yourself in the process, you need to do it rather slowly over time to allow your body to adapt, you are going to get sore in the process, if you’ve been running (with a heel-strike) for some time, you will most likely have to retrain yourself and you’ll find that as you get more fatigued, you will probably fall back into more of a heel-strike.

The best news of all is if you are new to running.  If you start your running “career” by incorporating some barefoot running into your routine or with minimalist shoes, your style will naturally evolve to more of a fore-foot or mid-foot style.  By being careful and conscious when you do run in conventional shoes you will be able to feel when you are shifting toward more of a heel strike.

Unfortunately, if you are an established runner it’s a more difficult task – and that deserves a post of it’s own, and we’ll look at that in one of the next posts.

Questions or comments?  Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.

Does your style of foot-strike really make a difference?

The last several posts have been about running and there are a few more things to cover before we move on to other topics.  In my last post, I raised the questions of whether your foot-strike really does make a difference, can you change it, and if “barefoot” running is the only way to get these benefits.

The way your foot strikes the pavement (or trail) when you run definitely makes a difference.  There are some good sports medicine articles that cover this in greater detail, but in a nutshell – when you strike with your forefoot or mid-foot, the bones and tissue of your foot absorb and distribute the force of the strike.  When you heel-strike that force is either absorbed and foot-strike2distributed by the materials and construction of the running shoe, but some of it is transmitted up the leg to the ankles, knees, and hips.

It is interesting to note that much of the running shoe development over the last several decades has been in the area of shock absorbers (gels, waffles, waves, cells, ridges and even airbags!) to absorb and distribute the force of a heel-strike and transfer that energy out through the shoes rather than up through the leg and body.  However there is always some force transmitted upward, and depending upon the how worn down the shoes are, the type of surface (cement, asphalt, trail, grass, etc) and the style of the runner, there can still be a considerable amount of force transmitted upward into the body and joints.  If you are a heel-striker you know what this feels like as the cushioning material begins to break down and you begin to feel more pounding in your knees and hips.

In the next post we’ll look at if and how you can change the type of foot-strike you have.


Questions or comments – use the reply form below.