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So Long Sleep

Have you said “so long” to sleep?

Do you find yourself exhausted and running on fumes throughout the day?

Does your day begin with a cup of coffee and then as 3 pm hits, you need another pick me up?

If, so I have a treat for you! Read on for some tips and a fantastic recipe.

The science of sleep is continuing to evolve; it is fascinating, complicated, and growing.

Sleep is a necessary body function which is often taken for granted. It is more than just waking up feeling rested. The research on sleep is growing, and we are just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and the factors that can impact it.

Lack of sleep can influence just about everything in your body… AND mind. Lower levels of sleep can lead to alterations in mood and a higher risk of diabetes, some cancers, hypertension, and heart disease. Low levels of sleep also impact the hormones which control hunger, determine satiety, and regulate blood sugar—and not in a good way. This can contribute to metabolism alternations and weight gain.

Sorry to say that isn’t the whole picture…

Having too little sleep also changes a person’s ability to learn and think. Alertness is also affected, which results in small lapses, which are believed to be microsleeps of only a few seconds. Have you ever been so tired you spaced out, and something had to “snap” you back into the present? If so, you were probably experiencing a microsleep. In fact, a study has shown that 17-19 hours without sleep resulted in alterations in performance similar to those with having a blood alcohol level of 0.1 percent or more. To put this level in perspective, most states set their DUI levels at 0.08 percent.

Memories made are consolidated when we sleep. If you aren’t sleeping or sleeping well, your memory is also impacted. So, if you are cramming for a final or some big presentation, pulling an all-nighter is probably not helping you!

Your immune system also needs sleep to operate well. Sleep enables your immune system to concentrate itself to address the next threat to your body. Without it, this immune fighter system is compromised, and it can lead to other issues in the body, including increased inflammation.

And if you still think you can get by without sleep since you are eating well and exercising, you may want to think again. You should probably know that a lack of sleep may also negate those health benefits of your exercise program.

Say what??? What aspect of health does sleep not affect???

There are three main objectives of sleep:

  • To restore our body and mind.  Our bodies repair, grow, and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
  • To improve our brain’s ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity.”
  • To conserve some energy, so we’re not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.

What are your sleep needs?

Depending on your age, your sleep needs change. While infants need up to 17 hours a day, growing kids may require up to 15 hours a day. Even teenagers need up to 10 hours a day, and adults need 7-9 hours a night.

Think about it, are you getting enough?

If not, don’t worry, I have you covered! Take a look at the tips below.

Tips for better sleep

  1. Develop A Consistent Body Clock: Set consistent rising and bedtimes. This might mean turning off your lights 8-9 hours prior to when you know your alarm will go off, or for some of you when your alarm will go off the first time! As hard as this is, it should be done. Seven. Days. A. Week.
  2. Listen to Your Body: Yes. Your body is talking to you. If you feel tired and feel you need to go to bed at a slightly different, earlier time or sleep a little later go ahead and sleep!
  3. Balance Blood Sugar: This means eating less refined and processed foods and more whole foods which have blood-sugar-balancing fiber. Make sure you are getting some protein when you eat as well.  Also, try and avoid stress-inducing activities- this might even include stressful discussions or watching an intense movie.
  4. Avoid stimulants: This means that afternoon coffee or caffeine push at 3pm is a no go. In fact, you should cut off caffeine afternoon. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!). This also includes cigarettes, alcohol, and chocolate (yes, even chocolate). While alcohol can initially induce sleep, it has been shown to disturb later sleep cycles.
  5. Improve Your Sleep Environment: Everything from what you wear to bed, your bed itself, and the room temperature (ideal temperature is 60-67 degrees) should be comfortable. And this next item is tough- remove exposure to all blue-light devices within two hours of going to bed. This includes televisions, smartphones, computers, and tablets. The light from these devices can interfere with melatonin, which helps regulate the sleep-wake cycles.
  6. Get Sunshine & Exercise: During the day, get some sunshine and exercise. Notice I said during the day for exercise? Exercising too closely to bedtime can impact sleep. By doing these during the day, it affirms for your body that it’s daytime; time for being productive, active, and alert.

So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?

Recipe (Caffeine-free latte for your afternoon “coffee break”): Caffeine-Free Chai Latte

Serves 1-2

  • 1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
  • 2 dates (optional)

Instructions:

  • Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.
  • Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender.
  • Blend until creamy.
  • Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavor combination you like the best.  Cashew butter anyone?

References:

http://www.thepaleomom.com/gotobed/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/hacking-sleep

Williamson, A., & Feyer, A., (2000). Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57(10), 649–655. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.57.10.649

Everyone Counts Calories, but Counting Macros?

Many people use apps or other tools to count their calories. In a previous post, I talked about metabolism and explained total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), that is the number of calories you need to exist as well as cover your needs to function, work and exercise over a 24-hour period.

While calories are important, they don’t represent the whole picture. How those calories are further broken down is very important because they behave differently in your body. In other words, it is also important to understand the macronutrient breakdown of those calories.

Wait, what? What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients (macros for short) describe the three food groups our bodies need in large quantities (hence the prefix “macro”) to function:

Protein– Help to build and repair the structure of the body and for internal communication

Carbohydrates (“carbs”)– The primary fuel for the brain, cellular genetic material, muscles and for your microbiome (aka the “healthy bugs” in your gut)

Fats- The fuel important for cell structure, as well as the nervous and reproductive systems

The body primarily uses carbohydrates as a fuel source, but it also can utilize fats and proteins. Each macronutrient contains a specific number of calories per gram of food:

The recommended percentages of calories from each macronutrient are as follows:

  • Protein 10-35%
  • Carbohydrates 45-65%
  • Fats 20-35%

How is the counting of macronutrients relevant?

Each day you eat a variety of foods which are comprised of different types of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. For instance, you could eat 2,000 calories in a day and of those calories, a certain number would come from each of the macronutrient categories:

Calories from Percentage of

Total Calories

Protein 400 20%
Carbohydrates 1,000 50%
Fats 600 30%
     TOTAL 2,000 100%

Or you could consume the same number of calories in a day, but with different foods having a different macronutrient breakdown:

Calories from Percentage of

Total Calories

Protein 300 15%
Carbohydrates 1,300 65%
Fats 400 20%
     TOTAL 2,000 100%

As you can see, the number of calories is the same in both scenarios, but the breakdowns of macronutrients are very different.

Each meal, or a day of meals, should have a good balance of all three macronutrients. For instance, if you aren’t consuming enough protein, you could end up losing muscle mass. Or if you aren’t having enough healthy fats, you could feel hungry more often and negatively impact your hormonal balance. If carbohydrates are too low, you might feel more tired, and if they are too high, you may negatively impact blood sugar levels and make losing weight more difficult.

When you understand and start to monitor macronutrients, you also indirectly start to control your calories as well. But more importantly, you become aware of what is or is not a quality macronutrient.  For instance, say you consume a snack of a medium apple and two tablespoons of almond butter. You’d have consumed 270 calories broken down into 144 calories from fat and 126 calories from carbohydrates and protein. You would have also consumed 8 grams fiber. On the other hand, you could also consume 270 calories from potato chips. But these calories would primarily be from carbohydrates and fat, you’d have minimal fiber and you’d also have a minimal amount of nutrition coming from the potato chips themselves. If you are only counting calories, to you it doesn’t matter- a calorie is a calorie. But if you are counting macros too, you begin to also evaluate to quality of the calories consumed.

Also, no matter what your goals are, understanding your macronutrients will help better position you to reach your health goals whether it is to lose or gain weight or to achieve a certain level of physical performance.  It is especially helpful if you are trying to maintain an overall lower daily intake of carbohydrates.

You may be thinking… I just don’t know if I can do this…..

To begin, you need to establish your caloric needs given your body’s needs and activity level. Next, you need to begin to define a macronutrient breakdown of these calories. Assuming good health, you can begin by estimating your body weight in kilograms and multiplying this by .8.  This will give you the minimum protein you need to consume per day. From that, you can estimate out the number of calories you need to consume to achieve the target in grams. This will typically fall into the lower end percentage targets for protein. From there you can determine what you want your targeted ratios to be for fats and carbs given your unique physical needs and goals.

If this is too overwhelming, you can also just use my calculator here to map out your needs. For instance, if you are looking to lose weight or are more sedentary, you may want to set your carbohydrate intake at the lower end of the spectrum at 45%. However, if you exercise an hour or more a day, you may need to have a higher ratio of closer to 50%, and you may also want to increase your protein intake slightly as well.

There is no clear-cut formula, and this may take a bit of trial an error before you find ranges for each which work best for you.

You’ve defined your ranges, now what?

The next step is tracking your intake. I’ve found that this is most easily accomplished with an app like My Fitness Pal. Within the app, you can outline your macronutrient and caloric goals. Then for each meal or snack, you record what you’ve eaten, and the app will show where you are relative to your caloric and macronutrient targets. If you are also active, you can begin to see if the macronutrient ranges you’ve defined for yourself are meeting the energy or performance goals you are trying to achieve. Regardless, I highly recommend keeping notes of how you feel in the notes section so that you can come back and see how you and your body are reacting to the food you are eating.

Sometimes it is hard to know where to begin, or how to make this work within your life and with your lifestyle and your goals. In these situations, you may want to work with a professional to guide you. If this sounds like you, feel free to set up a free 15-minute informational session through the schedule an appoint button.


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Learning to Be Mindful

One thing I began to do a few years ago was select a mantra for the year. No, not a novel, but just a few words- or even one word to guide me through the upcoming 365 days. Over 2018, the mantra I chose even evolved a bit to two words, “Be still.” There were a few challenging times last year where I needed reminding of that and to this day I still wear a bracelet with those words on it.

As 2019 approached, anticipation filled me as to what to choose as my guiding word(s) for this year. Every New Year brings with it a new slate and endless possibilities. How on earth was I to capture everything I had in my mind for it? Inside, however, I think I already knew.

On one of the few days this past December, I went for a glorious hike with my family. As I hiked up the mountain, I’d stop every once and a while to listen. The sounds were different depending on where I was- a trickle of water from the prior day’s rain descending through the rocks, an animal scampering through the leaves, a dog barking or the sound of a train in the distance. Regardless of the sound, I listened. I checked my breath and noticed the change in my heart rate or increased feelings of warmth. In short, I was present in those moments; I was mindful.

Managing work and raising two teenagers can leave a person distracted and overwhelmed. It is easy to become lost in thinking about what could have been done better and managing the minutia of the current day and future. Mindfulness gets lost.

But it can’t get lost. It is too important. I knew this was an area I needed to focus on: being mindful.

Learning to be mindful is about having a state of awareness of your experience but without being overly reactive. It is also actively being present for your spouse, your kids, your friends, your coworkers and, in my case, my clients. It is being so actively aware of the present moment that you listen to what your body is telling you, without being distracted by an internal dialogue of judgment.

In future posts, I will go over the sciency stuff related to mindfulness in more detail, but until then, you may be wondering… how do I learn to be mindful?

The good news is that being mindful is something that already resides in you; it is just a matter of learning to develop that skill.

How to develop mindfulness:

  1. Make a plan. You don’t need a lot of time, 5 minutes or less will do, and you don’t need a special place or gear. You just need a plan to train your mind.
  2. Observe. Wherever you are, take a moment to observe the moment using your senses. What do you notice?
  3. Ignore the inner judgy voice or the ongoing dialogue of what else you should be doing. The voice will come, the trick is to acknowledge it and let it go. I visualize these elements being put on clouds as I acknowledge them and then watch them drift away. You do what works for you; this is perhaps the hardest part of the process.
  4. Return to observing. Once you let those interruptions pass, you return to observing the present moment.
  5. Rinse and Repeat. This is a process of observing, acknowledging wandering and sometimes judgy thoughts, and returning to observe the moment.

It really is that simple to incorporate into your world.

You can take a few moments during a lunch break or even while waiting for your kids to finish up their sports, dance or other extracurricular activity. Now although it is “simple” to incorporate into your day, I have to say… it isn’t necessarily easy to do. If you are like me, those wondering thoughts will come crashing through and sometimes I have a hard time getting them up onto the clouds to drift away fast enough. Becoming more mindful, like any other training, is where practice comes in. The more frequent you do it, you begin to change the structure of the brain, and it will become easier to do.

Three Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals

Three Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals

Sometimes those special occasion feasts are just amazing.

And it’s not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance.

It could also be that the occasion, like Valentine’s Day, is associated with a particular food (umm can anyone say chocolate?)

It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days.

But it doesn’t always stop there.

Maybe it is just dreary out. Or cold and snowy. Where something warm and comforting is all we crave.

Or, we may just overeat on regular days.  Or at regular meals.  Or All. The. Time.

Here are three tips to avoid overeating at meals.

(Psst, turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!)

Tip #1: Start with some water

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it’s too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.

But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger?  Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten.  And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (…just sayin’).

Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.

Win-win!

Tip #2: Try eating “mindfully”

You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?

This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion.

Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment, being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.

But how do you do this?

First, check in with your hunger. Assess it. Where is it coming from? Check in with yourself to determine if you have emotional or physical hunger.

Are you currently feeling bored, stressed or sad? Are you craving something sweet? Did your hunger come on rapidly? If you answer yes to these questions, your hunger may be more emotionally than physically driven.

Do you sense a physical hunger which is steadily increasing? Has it been a while since you last ate? Is your stomach grumbling? If you answer yes to these questions, your hunger may be more physically driven.

Eating mindfully is about focusing more on fulfilling physical hunger needs. If you find that more of your hunger is emotional hunger, take a moment to journal about it. Understanding what is driving emotional eating is an important step to resolving it.

Mindful eating can be accomplished by eating slower, taking smaller bites, chewing more thoroughly, and savoring every mouthful. With each bite, notice and appreciate the smell, taste, and texture of the food you are consuming.

How can this prevent overeating? Eating slower often means eating less because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full. When you eat quickly, your brain hasn’t caught up with your consumption.

Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.

Tip #3: Start with the salad

You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.

But don’t start there.

(Don’t worry, you can have some…just after you’ve eaten your salad).

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller.  They’re “satiating.”

And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal.

Summary:

Have your glass of water, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.

Recipe (Water): Tasty (and beautiful) Pre-Meal Water Ideas

If you’re not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:

  • Slices of lemon & ginger
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
  • Chopped pineapple & mango
  • Blueberries & raspberries
  • Blueberries, raspberries, a sprig of mint and even a splash of lemon or lime juice

Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning.  They’re already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer. If using fresh berries, you can press them a little in the water to help release the flavor. If you let them sit for 30 minutes, or even overnight, you will get a more infused flavor.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/

http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

What is Metabolism?

Metabolism. You may know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  But what exactly does this all mean?

Your body is comprised of a series of biochemical reactions. It is an amazing machine that takes in nutrients and oxygen and uses them to fuel everything you do. The word “metabolism” actually describes all those biochemical reactions that an organism, in this case, you, need to live. It’s three main purposes are to: help convert fuel for use in cellular processes, provide building blocks for cell growth and healing, and for elimination processes.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

-Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).

-Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heartbeat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).

-Allow storage of excess energy for later.

When you put all of these processes together to form your metabolism, sometimes they can work too quickly, too slowly, or (ideally) just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate.”

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in kilocalories, or more commonly abbreviated to just “calories.”

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

-Fuel physical activity (i.e. work, exercise, and other activities).

-Fuel for biochemical reactions in your body to exist.

-Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine, the more calories you burn as fuel for activities or biochemical processes, the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how many calories your body needs just to perform the basic functions to live like your heartbeat, moving your blood through your body, fueling your lungs to breath.  Imagine what your body needs to function while you lie in bed without any physical activity; this is your RMR.

Now imagine you get up, go to work, hit an exercise class and later return to bed. Just like a car, your body needed more fuel for those activities. This is where the other energy expenditure measurement comes in. The “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) includes both the resting metabolic rate (RMR) or what you need to just exist AND includes the calories you need to actually function, work or exercise over the course of a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

More than you can imagine!

Age, gender, and body size all play a role. But it isn’t just about size, what is also crucial is body composition.

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you’re not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program.  Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.

Sometimes when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen.  So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

Speaking of exercise, physical activity is also important.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work.”

When people have a hard time losing weight, sometimes they will wonder if their thyroid is operating properly. The thyroid gland is located at the front of your throat and releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn. If the thyroid is not producing enough hormones, your metabolism will be impacted. This is a great example of how a hormonal imbalance can impact metabolism.

Other factors which can impact your metabolism might include genetics; environmental changes such as heat or cold variances; certain medications and even dietary intake.

Yes, the type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

Fats, for example, increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%.  By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.  However, be mindful. This is not an excuse to eat only proteins. Too much protein can actually be tough on your kidneys.

Last, but not least, don’t forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows stress and sleep have an influence as well.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breast

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serves 4

2 lemons, sliced

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 tablespoon thyme

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)

dash salt & pepper

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive old

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F.  Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper.  Place remaining lemon, herbs, and garlic on top of the chicken.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Cover with a lid or foil.

Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  If you want the chicken to be a bit more roasted, then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

Summer Hydration Tips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our bodies are comprised of 50-70% water. A reduction of as little as 1-2% of our body water can result in cognitive issues and increased fatigue. The heat of the summer will drive water losses through sweat, and even more with exercise, all of which can lead to dehydration. So what can you do to make sure you are covered this summer?

  1. Drink water as your primary beverage and avoid high sugary drinks, alcoholic drinks, and caffeinated beverages.
  2. Monitor your intake through a smartphone app.
  3. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (yes they contain water!).
  4. Keep a graduated water container in plain sight as a reminder to drink.
  5. Mix it up by drinking infused water. It tastes great and doesn’t contain added sugar or chemicals.

Infused water is easy to make and one of my favorite things to do. I typically will toss some fruit or berries into one or more largemouth mason jars and let them infuse overnight, so I am ready for the morning. I like watermelon and basil or mint; slices of grapefruit or blood orange; cucumber, mint and a slice of lime; or just simple lemon water. At a minimum, you will want the mixture to infuse for 3-4 hours.  If you are looking for further inspiration, Wellness Mama has some great recipes for this! https://wellnessmama.com/3607/herb-fruit-infused-water/

If you engage in summer exercise, hydration is especially important. But instead of drinking down an athletic drink, which can have 34 grams of sugar (almost as much as a 12 oz soda) and is full of food coloring, why not try one of these healthier alternatives?

  • Coconut water
  • Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator
  • Nuun Hydration

 

A Tea for What Ails You

When you think of oregano, maybe a good tomato sauce comes to mind. While that is certainly a good use for it, oregano also has antibacterial, antifungal and analgesic properties which shouldn’t be overlooked.

This time of year it seems like everyone is picking up a little bug, or in some cases even the flu. Although I haven’t broken out this recipe yet for myself this year, I have used it in the past when I’ve felt like I was beginning to get sick.

It is really quite easy:

-9 teaspoons of fresh oregano chopped
-24 ounces of boiling water

*Optional Additions Include:
– a clove of garlic
– red pepper flakes

You can put the oregano in an infuser, or just into the cup itself and pour the boiling water over it. Let steep for 20 minutes and then sip.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical care or treatment. Results are not guaranteed.