4 Tips For More Restful Sleep

If you feel that a full night of rest isn’t really important, think again.  Without restful sleep and enough of it, your entire health suffers.  Sleep is important for youthful skin, mental clarity, a strong immune system and for maintaining a healthy weight.  Not to mention you’ll make healthier food and lifestyle choices then if you’re tired and lacking motivation.  Even if you eat well and exercise enough, but just aren’t seeing the results you desire, it could be your sleep to blame.

 

Minimize Media Time

It seems most people are on their phones all day.  I am like most people, except that once I realized that the light emitted from my phone (along will all my other devices) impacts sleep quality, I replaced checking my phone or computer before bed with better habits. What happens is that our electronics and energy-efficient lightbulbs all produce artificial light. When exposed to this light in the evenings, our bodies circadian rhythm is thrown off.  During the day, these blue lights are actually meant to keep us alert, but at night they are harmful to our health.  These artificial lights will disrupt the secretion of melatonin, the sleepy-time hormone that influences our circadian rhythm.  A lack of melatonin and working the night shift has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (source: Harvard Health Publications).

So, what to do?  Minimize exposure to blue light at least an hour before bed.  You can also install dim red lights which have the least impact on melatonin and circadian rhythm. You can also purchase a pair of ultra-sexy, blue-blocking glasses.  They actually aren’t cute at all, but if you’re someone who has to be on your computer or up working late, I’d definitely consider buying a pair.

1. Create Calming Nighttime Habits

So now that you won’t be using your electronics before bed, you’ll need a replacement nighttime routine.  Instead of browsing Facebook in the evenings for probably the 100th time that day, I have some tips of other things to do.  Remember those things called books?  Try reading one.  Had a stressful day and have a ton of things on your mind? Journal or try coloring in a coloring book.  Feeling achy?  Take a warm shower or bath.  Have a significant other?  Talk to them.  Or try some of these other recommendations below.

2. Use Essential Oils

I have an essential oil for nearly every situation or ailment, but nighttime is when I use my oils the most.  Lavander, chamomille, ylang ylang, cedarwood, bergamot, and sandalwood are some of my personal favorites for calming my body.  There are a few ways to use essential oils, although my preferred methods are to diffuse them into the air using a diffuser, or use them topically on the soles of my feet, on my wrists, or behind my ears (the oils can be used topically on other parts of the body too).  Sometimes I will sprinkle a couple drops of oil on the bottom of my steamy shower so that the scent can rise all around me. Other times I will put a couple drops on a tissue, then rub it over my pillow. Just make sure you get quality oils, like the ones from doTerra, which are certified therapeutic grade.

3. Use Magnesium

Even if you’re getting enough magnesium in your diet, the body can actually only absorb about 50% of it.  Magnesium is beneficial for sleep in that it moves calcium for your bones to your bloodstream, thus acting as a natural muscle relaxant.  If you are someone who really struggles with sleep, I absolutely recommend taking magnesium supplements, bathing in a magnesium bath, or using magnesium oil.  To see what else magnesium can help with, check out its 101 uses.

4. Meditate

There are different ways to go about meditating, so figure out what works best for you.  To calm my mind and body before bed, I like to drape my lavender-filled eye mask over my eyes while I focus on breathing.  I start with even breathing by inhaling through my nose for about four seconds, then exhaling through my mouth for four seconds.  After breathing like this for a few breaths, I then switch it up to the 4-7-8 method so that I’m breathing in through my nose for four seconds, holding it for seven seconds, then exhaling through my mouth for eight seconds.  Try this at least three times in a row.  If I don’t do this, I also like to use the meditation app called Headspace.  It takes ten minutes of your time a day and is particularly great for those new to meditating.

 

Try out all these tips for quality sleep.  If you are still having trouble sleeping or are continuing to wake up feeling exhausted, then let’s talk.  Schedule a complimentary 50-minute consultation with me and we will get to the root of your health concerns!

Reasons You Should Cook With This Cancer-Fighting, Pain-Reducing, Immune-Boosting Spice (plus recipe!)

Spices should not be neglected from your cooking, because most spices have health benefits and add amazing flavor or color to foods.  Today I want to talk about the brightly-colored spice, turmeric, which you may have tried before, especially if you’ve eaten Indian food.  Turmeric is argued to be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence, and speaking from personal experience, holy shit! This stuff works.

I started taking turmeric, or curcumin (the main active ingredient in turmeric), in supplement form last year to treat chronic wrist and hip pain. Curcumin fights inflammation and contains lots of cancer-fighting antioxidants.  Within days my pain dissipated.  Here are some other uses for the spice:

Arthritis, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach pain, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems, gall bladder disorders, headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, menstrual cramps, depression, Alzheimer’s, water retention, worms, kidney problems, and cancer.

Sound too good to be true?  There’s a reason this spice has been used to treat illnesses for centuries. It works! Cooking with turmeric alone may not be a high enough dosage to make a huge impact with helping any of the above issues, but you can also find turmeric in supplement form to get the full effects.

Turmeric goes very well with black pepper, especially because the black pepper enhances the effects of the curcumin. Turmeric also goes great with other spices like cumin, coriander, curry, etc.

Crispy Turmeric Tofu Tacos

Ingredients:

For the tofu…

-extra firm tofu, drained, cut into cubes (to drain, place tofu block in a colander over a bowl and place a plate with something heavy on top of the tofu for anywhere from 20 minutes- hour).

-spices: turmeric, black pepper, salt, cumin, any additional favorite spices  *turmeric stains bright yellow, so clean immediately if you spill!*

-EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

Extras for the tacos…

-favorite beans, soaked, rinsed and cooked

-taco shells

-avocado

-raw red onion, diced

-fresh corn off the cob

-optional: cheese

Instructions:

1. Turn over to 400 degrees F.

2. After tofu has drained and is cut into cubes, toss the cubes in a bowl. Add spices (I eyeball it out, but probably about 1/4 teaspoon of each spice) and oil and coat evenly.

3. Place tofu on lined baking sheet.  Put in the oven on the bottom rack for five minutes. Flip tofu and place in oven for another five minutes, then repeat once more for a total of 15 minute cook time.

4. Put tacos together- cooked beans, raw onion, corn, tofu, and avocado on shells. Serve up and enjoy!

If you have leftover tofu, I like to do another easy dish of sushi rice, veggies, and tofu.

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For the original crispy tofu recipe, sans tacos, click here.

Other Sources: Whole Foods

All Hail Kale

kale-heartProbably five years ago or so, I don’t believe I had ever heard of kale.  It seems like the green, leafy vegetable blew up to celebrity status overnight, suddenly becoming the most talked about superfood.  This vegetable has become one of my personal favorites and with any vegetable, if you know how to prepare it right, it can be delicious.

Buying vegetables, whether it’s kale or other green vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, spinach, etc, is cost effective and leaves less of a carbon footprint.  While animal agriculture has many implications like land degradation and reduction of biodiversity, vegetables have a very low environmental impact and be grown in most climates.

Kale, because of it’s high nutrient value, is a good option to replace our society’s high meat consumption.  I’m not saying cut meat out entirely, but I think people can certainly add in more vegetables to crowd out large portions of meat.  Everybody’s body is different, but vegetables are an important part of our diet, and lots of us don’t get the correct amount of vegetable servings in our diet.  Here are some reasons kale is one of my favorite vegetables:skinny-bitch3

Anti- Inflammatory

Dark leafy greens are an important source in reducing inflammation in the body.  Vitamin A, selenium, and beta-cryptoxanthin are some of the few anti-inflammatory agents found in vegetables.

Fiber

Our ancestors had way more fiber in their diets than we do today.  Fruits and vegetables are a fantastic source of fiber, especially kale, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and avocado.  Fiber maintains bowel regularity and prevents the risk of health problems.

Iron 

Some people believe that it’s difficult to get healthy amounts of iron in our diet if a person doesn’t eat meat.  This simply isn’t true.  In actuality, some vegetables contain higher levels of iron than animals foods, especially vegetables like Swiss chard, soybeans, lentils, spinach, and turnip greens.

Calcium

Milk is believed by many to be the greatest source of calcium, however, vegetables have high calcium amounts that’ll keep our bodies strong.  That being said, don’t rely solely on vegetables as a source of calcium, because it’s harder for our bodies to absorb calcium from vegetables.  Kale, collards, cabbage, arugula, and bok choy are some examples of vegetables containing lots of calcium.

Healthy Fats

As I’ve written about before, getting healthy fats in our diet is very important, and there is a distinction between good and bad fat.  Omega fatty acids are necessary to our diet.  Lots of people take fish oil capsules, but kale actually contains both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

Is Gluten the New Fat?

For the past 40 years, Americans have been lead to believe that any form of fat and all types of cholesterol were bad for us.  New studies have proven that this idea is outdated, but today, the new “evil” is gluten.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are by now you’ve at least heard the word gluten.  There are entire sections at the grocery store devoted to gluten-free products and I don’t know about you all, but out of the blue everyone I know is suddenly gluten intolerant.

What is gluten?

Gluten, Latin for “glue,” is a name for proteins that act as an adhesive glue, keeping together foods like breads, pastas, flour, etc.  Gluten exists in wheat, barley, and rye and can be found in many products, whether it’s our food or personal care products, like toothpaste or shampoo.  The “sticky” nature of gluten makes it hard to breakdown and absorb nutrients.

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What are some symptoms of gluten sensitivity? 

Depression, inflammation, joint problems, gastrointestinal problems, or fatigue, ADHD, anxiety, hives/rashes, miscarriages, nausea/vomiting, sugar cravings, brain fog, malabsorption of food, dairy intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or infertility.

Inflammation can also cause “leaky gut,”which makes us more susceptible to future food sensitivities and puts us at risk for developing autoimmune diseases or neurological disorders in the future.  Some of these diseases linked to inflammation include: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroidtis, arthritis, or schizophrenia. People with Celiacs disease share these same symptoms but on a more extreme level.  It’s also possible that some people just don’t show symptoms, but are fighting the attack elsewhere in their body, like in the nervous system.

But didn’t we always eat gluten? 

Our diet has changed drastically from what our ancestors ate. We used to thrive off of high-fat diet, low-carb diets, but now our diet consists of mainly carbs and significantly less fat.

Ancestors                                  Modern Diet

-Fat 75% of diet                            -Carbs 60% of diet

-Protein 20% of diet                     -Fat 20%

-Carbs 5% of diet                          -Protein 20%

evolution_of_man

We have far more disease today and different types of diseases than we ever did before.  The majority of our great-grandparents and generations older than them died from old age, but today many of us are plagued by cancer, heart disease, brain disease, obesity, or diabetes.  The answer to this conundrum exists not just in genes, but in our food.

As you can see from the numbers above, most of us eat an unbalanced diet.  Our percentage of carbohydrate intake are at unnaturally high levels, which takes a toll on our bodies. The first sign of celiacs, however, traces all the back to the first century AD, when a Greek doctor named Aretaeus of Cappadocia wrote about the symptoms and used the word “celiac” to name the illness in a medical textbook.  Gluten has always been a part of our diets since our ancestors learned to farm and mill wheat.  The gluten we eat today, though, hardly resembles the gluten in our diet ten thousand years ago.  Today our food is far more processed and bio-engineering has us growing structurally-modified grains containing gluten that’s less tolerable.

So is a gluten-free diet for me?

Although I know people have healed themselves of ailments by removing gluten from the diet and although I’ve read the research on the links between gluten and neurodegenerative conditions, I full-heartedly believe in the idea of everything in moderation. I personally have not given up my bread products yet, but I eat much less of it and not every day, because a little bread every now and then probably won’t kill you.  The problem is, carbs, like sugar, can be addicting, so some people have a much harder time removing gluten from the diet.

One way to cut back on carbs, processed foods, or sugar is to fill up on proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats.  By adding in these other foods, it’s easier to naturally crowd out carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar.  I highly encourage everyone to do research for themselves, rather than hopping on the bandwagon without really knowing why.  There are probably way more products containing gluten than you know, some which may be surprising, and I’ve listed some of these products below.  I highly recommend the book Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD if you’re looking for more research and information.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), or diabetes, or if it runs in your family, then I would think it best to stay away from gluten.  If you’re eating gluten and finding yourself suffering from headaches, abdominal pains, or any of the other symptoms previously mentioned, then try at least one week of cutting out gluten and see if you can notice any improvements.

Which grains are gluten-free?

Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, millet, potato, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca, and tee.

gluten-free-grains

Which gains contain gluten?

Barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat, and wheat germ.

Random things that contain gluten:

Cosmetics, lipsticks/lip balm, medications, non-self-adhesive stamps and envelopes, play-doh, shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste, some vitamins and supplements.

There are lots of other foods and ingredients that contain gluten, so do some research if you’re planning on going gluten-free.

Sources:

Perlmutter, David, MD. Grain Brain. New York, NY.  Little, Brown and Company.

Probiotics for Beginners

You may have been wondering what the kombucha hype is all about, and seriously, what the heck is tempeh anyway? Maybe you’ve heard of or seen probiotics before, but you don’t know why they’re important.  It’s also possible you’ve consumed probiotics, maybe most of your life, and didn’t realize.

Bandit wondering, what is this kombucha?

Bandit thinking, what is this kombucha stuff mom drinks?

TN_Lede_Probiotics_0911Our bodies contain around 100 trillion microbes, most of them bacteria, and some beneficial bacteria.  Probiotics are the good bacteria.  These living organisms reside in our colons and small intestine.  They keep our guts clean, aid in digestion and add bulk to solid wastes.  Probiotics also fight disease-causing microbes, and can help with health problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), infectious diarrhea, and antibiotic-related diarrhea (webmd). Probiotics are important to take while on antibiotics, since antibiotics cause a loss of healthy bacteria. home-care-options-abound-for-people-suffering-from-depression-in-home-care-support-services

Stress or poor diet might reduce the numbers of healthy bacteria in the small intestine as well, and vice versa, a lack of healthy bacteria has shown to trigger feelings of depression and anxiety when there’s an imbalance within the gut (beginwithnutrition).

There are different types of probiotics and various ways to consume them, either through supplements or through various foods.  Skip the supplements and experiment with eating some of the following foods:

Yogurt- Yogurt is made from fermented milk using certain bacteria, but only types labeled as containing live bacteria (“active cultures”) are actually probiotic.

Kefir- Similar to yogurt and contains sometimes up to ten diverse strains of good bacteria.  It’s fermented using a combination of bacteria and yeast with milk proteins and complex sugars.  Made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, coconut milk, soy milk, or rice milk.  Kefir is a good choice if you’re lactose intolerant, because the lactose it once contained is broken down through fermentation.

Buttermilk– Made with strains of lactic acid-making bacteria added to regular pasteurized milk.

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Raw Milk- Maybe only five states in the U.S. actually allow the sale of raw milk and there are debated health risks, but raw milk drinkers swear by the stuff because of all the good bacteria.

Soy Milk- Must say “contains active cultures” on the label.

darkchocolateDark Chocolate- Certain types of high-quality chocolate contain probiotics.  Dark chocolate is also a source of antioxidants!

Miso- A staple of Japanese cuisine, miso is made with fermented soy, barley, wheat, or rice with a fungus that produces a red, white, or dark brown salty paste.  When cooking with miso, add it to hot foods at the end of cooking to preserve the probiotic cultures as much as possible.

Tempeh- High in proteins and minerals, tempeh also promotes intestinal health.  Tempeh originates in Indonesia and is made with cooked soybeans and an added fungus culture. It’s then fermented into a thick, meaty block.

natto-kinoko-8-of-8

Natto- typical Japanese breakfast dish


N
atto- Made from fermented soybeans with a distinctive flavor, smell, and sticky texture.  Also a stap

le of the Japanese diet.

Kimchi- A pickled Chinese dish of cabbage, eggplant, or other vegetables fermented with red chili and other spices for at least a month.  Kimchi is full of fiber, vitamins, iron, and various types of probiotic bacteria.

Sauerkraut- German for “sour cabbage,” sauerkraut is made from fermented, finely shredded, salty cabbage and contains a variety of heathy bacteria.  Buy fresh sauerkraut that contains lives cultures, versus some commercial brands of sauerkraut.

Pickles- These crunchy treats contain lots of probiotics.

brew_dr_kombucha_smKombucha Tea- This Asian drink restores energy and aids digestion.

Olives- Olives in brine are probiotics, because the brine allows probiotics to survive and thrive.