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Categories Diet, Patient Education, Weight Loss

Your Circadian Clock and Weight Control

It’s 6:00 in the morning, sunlight is peaking through the bedroom window, the snoozed alarm begins ringing aloud, and the idea of waking up and opening the cocoon of blankets that is enwrapped to provide warmth seems impossible. Sound familiar? 

The human body has an innate internal clock that influences our sleep and wake cycle, it is known as circadian rhythm. Many of our body’s physiological processes, such as metabolism, body temperature regulation, and hormones work in conjunction with our circadian rhythm. This rhythm signals the body to turn genes on and off depending on the time of day. For example, in the morning the body kickstarts metabolism and increases the hormone cortisol to provide us with energy to begin our day. In the evening, metabolism slows down and the hormone melatonin is released to get us ready for sleep so the body can focus on repair and regeneration. 

How Does the Circadian Clock Affect Our Hormones? 

The body stimulates two hormones that regulate our hunger and metabolism — grehlin and leptin. Both grehlin and leptin levels have been shown in research to be affected by our circadian rhythm and quality of sleep. 


Grehlin is secreted by our stomach and signals the hypothalamus in the brain to stimulate appetite. In other words, when grehlin is high we feel more hungry and may eat more. In contrast, leptin is secreted by our fat calls and signals the hypothalamus that we are full.


A cohort study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Medical School found that getting less than 8 hours of sleep has a direct correlation with increased BMI. The study observed a 14.9% increase in grehlin, and 15.5% lower leptin in individuals who got 5 hours of sleep versus 8 hours. High levels of grehlin and low levels of leptin increases appetite and decreases signals to the brain to alert us that we are full. This can lead to excess caloric intake causing weight gain and increasing the risk of obesity and diabetes. 


Keeping our circadian rhythm on the right schedule has a huge impact on our health. Unfortunately, in a society guilty of late night snacking, abundant blue light exposure and  stress-filled mornings our circadian clocks are no longer functioning optimally.


Tips to Regulate a Healthy Circadian Clock?

The circadian clock is largely influenced by environmental factors, such as meal times and light exposure. This means there are certain actions we can implement to keep our circadian clock ticking correctly. 

  • Set a sleep schedule 
  • Step outside in the morning to get natural light 
  • Eat 3 balanced meals a day at consistent times, avoiding eating too close to bedtime; a good rule of thumb is to allow 12 hours between dinner and breakfast
  • Get regular physical activity, but avoid exercising 1-2 hours before bed
  • Limit caffeine in the late afternoon or evening 
  • Decrease use of technology and exposure to blue light 1-2 hours before bed 
  • Dim lights around the house in the evening time 
  • Set an evening routine — this will signal to your brain it is time to wind down 
  • Avoid naps during the day 


Implementing the tips above can reset the circadian clock improving sleep, which can promote healthy weight management and reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and other chronic disease. 


Looking for more guidance on regulating your hunger hormones? Contact our registered dietitians at the Nutrition Professionals. Our RDN’s can assist you in a personalized plan to implement at home and additional strategies to address healthy weight management. 



PLOS Medicine Journal, Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index

Categories Uncategorized

7 Signs You Might Have an Unhealthy Gut

Do you assume that symptoms like heart burn, constipation, bloating are just consequences of every day life?  How often are you sidelined by these annoying symptoms?  These common symptoms can happen to all of us at one time or another, but they shouldn’t be happening so often that it negatively affects your life.


You may be suffering from a gastrointestinal disorder called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  It is the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal disorder in the US.  IBS comes as a collection of common symptoms.  Can you relate?

  • Did you wake up bloated or feel bloated at the end of your day?
  • Did the pants you put on this morning feel tight at night?
  • Do you experience changes in your bowel movements that include diarrhea and/or constipation?
  • Do you often feel pain in your abdomen? 
  • Do you experience excessive gas at inopportune times?
  • Do you cramp after eating certain foods?
  • Do you feel more tired than you think you should?


So, what’s really going on? Consider this…your brain and your gut (technically speaking, it is called the microbiota gut-brain axis) are constantly communicating. That communication influences how our food makes us feel by affecting the flow of digestive enzymes, how quickly foods move through our system, and the experience of pain after we eat. This disorder can be embarrassing and often disrupts your daily life, but the good news is that there is something you can do about it.

Several factors impact our gut health including how we manage our stress, what and how we eat, poor sleep habits and lack of physical activity.  When you don’t feel good it seems overwhelming but small changes can give you big results.

Think about how when you experience anxiety or stress you often feel it in your gut in the form of butterflies, nausea or a quick trip to the bathroom….the gut really is connected to the brain.

When we experience the “stress response” there are chemical changes that happen in our body.  When our stress becomes chronic these changes begin to wreak havoc on our health.


Our food choices and eating habits also play an important role in our gut health. Often eating becomes a coping skill when we are stressed, and poor food choices can create oxidative “stress” which can cause inflammation wreaking havoc on our health.


The release of chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol cause a chemical cascade which results in:

  1. Changes in heart rate, blood pressure and energy level.
  2. Increases blood sugar levels which over time cause insulin resistance.
  3. Changes in the gut flora (bacteria) by reducing beneficial bacteria and increasing harmful ones.
  4. These changes create inflammation in the cell lining causing intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”.
  5. Inflammation disrupts our immune response which can put us at risk for infections and exacerbation of disease.

Are you “stressing” yourself out trying to find a solution?  Have you followed too many diets that your friend or coworker recommended that didn’t work for you?  Is it gluten?  Should I avoid dairy?  Does organic matter?  Sugar is in everything!  How do I avoid that?

The solution you are after may just be working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.  Sometimes figuring out which foods are aggravating your symptoms can be an overwhelming experience, this is where the expertise of a dietitian can help. A plan developed with you in mind helps you better manage stress by putting you in control of your food choices.

You don’t have to do it alone! Call The Nutrition Professionals to help guide you and find relief today. 


Stephanie Espinoza, MA, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

The Nutrition Professionals |  nutritionpro.net


Leandra Durham, Dietetic Intern, University of Alabama at Birmingham






The Nutrition Professionals is a team of registered dietitian nutritionists who provide evidence based medical nutrition therapy to improve health through improved nutrition.  We assess the nutrition and lifestyle needs of our clients and develop an individualized plan that achieves specified health goals.

nutrition myths
Categories Uncategorized

Setting the Record Straight: 4 Facts about Carbohydrates

nutrition myths


I am sure we have all heard it before: “Carbs are bad for you, “Carbs make you fat.” The media and diet culture has led people to believe that carbohydrates are the enemy. Diet culture refers to a set of beliefs that values appearance above health and well-being. It is important that you learn the facts before you fall victim to this myth.



Carb Fact #1: Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source

When you consume carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into simple sugars which are absorbed in the bloodstream. These are known as blood sugars or blood glucose.  Next, the pancreas releases insulin – a hormone that moves glucose into the cells and converts it to energy1. Your body uses this energy to fuel your brain, muscles, and any activity you perform; whether you’re running a marathon, or simply breathing.2.


Carb Fact #2: Different types of carbohydrates react differently in the body

  • Simple carbohydrates– these types of carbohydrates are found in foods that are processed, refined, or contain added sugars and lack nutritional value. When consumed, simple carbohydrates are digested very quickly and cause a spike in glucose levels. This is why you may feel a rush of energy followed by fatigue when the glucose is depleted3.
    • Examples: candy, regular soda, juice, syrups, foods with added sugar (donuts, cakes, cookies, etc), and refined grains such as white flour or white rice
  • Complex carbohydrates- these types of carbohydrates are found in foods that have not been processed, which means they retain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs to function3.
    • Examples: oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and 100% whole grain bread or pasta, fruits, milk, and starchy vegetables3. These carbohydrates benefit the body by providing vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and fiber.


Carb Fact #3: Carbohydrates have many benefits

Whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. Whole grains and beans have a higher fiber content compared to fruits and vegetables, but all sources of fiber contribute other significant nutrients. Fiber has many benefits. It can help reduce cholesterol, which helps prevent heart disease. It is essential for a healthy digestive tract and helps keep you full longer, aiding in weight management. Fiber is the fuel source for the good bacteria that lives in your gut and together they produce short chain fatty acids which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties4. Carbohydrates provide a rich source of polyphenols. Polyphenols are the colors in your foods, especially in fruits and vegetables. As with the short chain fatty acids, these also provide powerful anti-inflammatory components that are crucial for good health7.


Carb Fact #4: Harsh effects of carb restriction

Without whole grains, fruits, or starchy vegetables you are robbing yourself of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. When carbs are restricted, intakes of vitamin A, C, K and folate are usually low5. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the brain and muscles. Lack of intake could lead to muscle loss, headaches, and low energy levels. Eliminating anything from your diet for the rest of your life will likely cause cravings, especially eliminating an entire food group6. Limiting carbohydrates is a very restrictive and unsustainable diet. I mean, do you really want to go your entire life without eating bread? I wouldn’t. Work with a registered dietitian at The Nutrition Professionals to destroy dieting myths like this one and begin adding carbohydrates to your life in a healthy way.







  1. American Heart Association. Carbohydrates. www.heart.org. Published 2010. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/carbohydrates
  2. Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet – Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrates/art-20045705?p=1
  3. Whole Grains, Refined Grains, and Dietary Fiber. www.heart.org. Published 2016. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/whole-grains-refined-grains-and-dietary-fiber
  4. Ellis E. Fiber. www.eatright.org. Published November 3, 2020. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/fiber
  5. Gordon B. What is the Ketogenic Diet? eatright.org. Published May 15, 2019. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/fad-diets/what-is-the-ketogenic-diet
  6. Food Cravings | Winchester Hospital. www.winchesterhospital.org. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=13944
  7. Tangney CC, Rasmussen HE. Polyphenols, Inflammation, and Cardiovascular Disease. Current Atherosclerosis Reports. 2013;15(5). doi:10.1007/s11883-013-0324-x
Cancer Prevention Food and Nutrition Tips
Categories Medical Nutrition Therapy, National awareness, Patient Education

The link between COVID, Inflammation and Diet

COVID-19 has dominated our lives since it showed up over a year ago.  To date over 500,000 Americans have lost their lives to this infectious disease making COVID one of the leading causes of death in 2020. Inflammation has been implicated in the severity of illness.  Vaccination efforts are ramping up but many people are still at risk of getting infected and we are months away from being able to breathe easy.  Studies indicate that nutrients we get from eating whole, plant foods just may hold the key to a more resilient immune system and reducing inflammation.  Optimal nutrition and dietary nutrient intake impacts the immune system and puts the body in the proper state to fight infection.

With that said, here are some hard facts. 90% of Americans have at least one nutrient deficiency, yet only 1 in 10 of us eat enough fruits and vegetables to meet nutrient needs.  Nutrients like vitamin A, C, D, B complex, zinc, iron, selenium and omega 3 fatty acids are integral in supporting a healthy immune system and reducing inflammation.  When your cells are experiencing inflammation you are more susceptible to a COVID infection and will contribute to the severity of the disease.  A healthy diet that controls inflammation ensures a functioning immune system.


nutrient dense foods


The foods we choose to eat can either be inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.  The standard American Diet which includes highly processed foods, sugary beverages and lots of eating out is highly inflammatory putting us at risk.  A plant rich diet such as the Mediterranean Diet which includes olive oil, fish, honey, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and herbs are rich in polyphenols, vitamins, minerals and fiber and is anti-inflammatory. 

While there is no single food or nutrient to prevent, heal or treat COVID all nutrients obtained from nutrient dense foods work together to create a healthy body and a healthy immune system.

So how do we build a resilient immune system?  We are what we eat!  The nutrients we get from whole foods provide the building blocks for all the processes that occur in our bodies.  Here are a few and how they function to keep us healthy.

  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A helps to reduce inflammation and functions as an antioxidant. Inflammation makes us more susceptible to illness and infection. Some foods that are good sources of vitamin A are eggs, cheese, milk and yogurt, red and yellow fruits and vegetables. 
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that strongly supports the immune system by helping the body fight infections. It can also reduce the risk, the severity, and duration of many infections. Good sources of vitamin C are peppers, citrus fruits, and strawberries. 
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E also helps decrease inflammation in the cells while also protecting them so they can function properly. Some food sources of vitamin E are nuts, seeds and plant oils. 
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps the body protect against respiratory infections, has an anti-inflammatory effect and is essential for bone health. Food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, egg yolk, and fortified foods like dairy and cereals. 
  • Selenium: Selenium can inhibit the entrance of viruses into the cells. A deficiency in selenium is associated with inflammation in the body. Dietary sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, fish, meat, and eggs. 
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids not only help fight inflammation, but some studies show they may help with interference of entry and replication of viruses in the body. Fatty fish, walnuts, and plant oils. 
  • Zinc: Zinc helps your immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. Your body relies on zinc for wound healing and your ability to taste and smell. However, zinc is a micronutrient that has a small gap between an adequate dose and a harmful one. It is recommended that you get your zinc through food sources and not supplements.  Food sources of zinc include meats, yogurt, and cashews.  
  • Copper: Copper helps to decrease inflammation in the body. Copper deficiency is linked to higher rates of infection. It can be found in foods like nuts and shellfish.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium works with copper and zinc to help reduce inflammation in the body. Magnesium can be found in spinach, nuts, and whole grains. 
  • Iron: Iron is used by the body to help defend against respiratory infections and helps in oxygenating blood. Iron can be found in dark, leafy greens, beans, and nuts. 
  • Phytochemicals: Phytochemicals are the chemicals found in plants such as polyphenols and antioxidants.  There are thousands of phytochemicals in your fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Good sources of  polyphenols are berries, nuts, vegetables, and beans.


Changing our health habits isn’t always easy.  Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help you build a plan that works in your life and to start achieving those goals!


Stephanie Espinoza, MA, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

The Nutrition Professionals |  nutritionpro.net










The Nutrition Professionals is a team of registered dietitian nutritionists who provide evidence based medical nutrition therapy to improve health through improved nutrition.  We assess the nutrition and lifestyle needs of our clients and develop an individualized plan that achieves specified health goals.

Categories Medical Nutrition Therapy

2020 has arrived!

2020 has arrived! You might be embarking on a new weight loss journey this year and The Nutrition Professionals are here to help!

Exercise will help us push through weight loss plateaus, maintain healthy hearts, mobile bodies and clear minds but studies have found that foundation for weight loss is actually what’s on your plate.

If you’re already headed to the gym, rather than thinking about adding an extra chunk of time to burn off that cheat meal you ate today – it might be easier and more time effective to switch up your diet.

Ultimately, it’s more about what to eat than what not to eat.  If you fill your plate with the right foods in the right amounts, you will give your body the ingredients to properly fuel your workouts, to feel energized throughout the day and make progress toward your health goals.

Dietary changes alone have been shown to have greater impact on weight loss than exercise alone.  Pair them – and you’re in for greater results and a healthier life overall!

Come visit The Nutrition Professionals to see how we can help you with your resolutions this year!

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