Beat PMS Symptoms Naturally

I’ve received several requests now for a post on PMS and how to naturally deal with unwelcomed period bullshit.  You know, the bloating, the unhealthy cravings, the cramps, the mood swings… It can be a total downer, although I’ve learned to view my period as a cleansing process for the body to make the whole situation a more pleasant experience.  A positive attitude is everything in life, but sometimes you also need a little help to minimize symptoms.  Here are some of my top recommendations for reducing PMS discomfort:

Diet

When I was younger, a friend and I used to have a “fuck you, period!” ritual every month where we’d pig out on burgers, chili cheese fries and milkshakes at a local diner.  Why is it that when we get our periods we often crave the foods that feel good in the moment, but actually make our symptoms worse?

It wasn’t until I replaced the crap for nutritious, wholesome, REAL food that I really noticed a big reduction in my PMS symptoms.  Eating nutritious foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is what the body thrives on, especially during that time of the month.  Fill up on alkalizing foods like leafy green vegetables and fruit, healthy fats high in omega-3s like salmon, nuts or chia seeds, and unprocessed whole grains, like quinoa or rice.  Eating foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium will help reduce cramps, so eat bananas, dark chocolate (the darker the better), and spinach.  If you’re craving meat, eat some red meat (preferably grass-fed organic).  It’ll help restore depleted iron levels. Feeling bloated?  Drink plenty of water, but also eat foods that are natural diuretics (aka, foods that make you pee more).   Parsley, pineapple, lemon, celery, ginger, cabbage, and apple cider vinegar are all examples. I like to start the morning off with my Daily Green Smoothie which is packed full of nutrients and will typically drink warm lemon water with ginger throughout the day.

Light Exercise

While some people feel like being sedentary during their periods, I’ve found that light exercise can be quite beneficial.  Exercise helps reduce stress and when I’m feeling depressed and irritable, exercise makes me feel relaxed.  Try exercises like walking, running, swimming, biking, or some gentle yoga poses like these ones here:

Essential Oils

Aromatherapy  has been used for many thousands of years as a way to lower stress levels, relieve pain, improve mood, and suppress cravings and nausea. Essential oils have even been demonstrated in lab studies to kill flu, E. coli, and cancer cells (source: Women’s Health Magazine, Cancer Tutor).  Different oils initiate different responses in the brain, which in turn, directs your nervous system to say, “relax” or “spring into action.” During or before menstruation, I recommend clary sage, lavender, chamomile, ylang-ylang, grapefruit, jasmine, or cedarwood to ease symptoms and lift your mood.  I personally like to mix a couple drops of oil with some coconut oil and rub it on my stomach if I’m experiencing discomfort.

Cannabis

Finally, more people are publicly acknowledging the wide-ranging medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant.  For period-related struggles, cannabis can be amazing, and a great alternative to pharmaceutical pain medications that may be harsher on the body. Cannabis rich in the compound CBD is gaining popularity due to its ability to greatly (and in most cases relatively instantly) reduce pain and inflammation while lifting your mood.   In fact, Queen Victoria, as well as many other recognizable, historical women, used CBD-rich cannabis in the 19th century to reduce her menstrual cramps (source: Project CBD).  CBD differs from THC-rich cannabis in that CBD-rich cannabis has little to no psychoactive effects or the “high” most people associate with cannabis.  It’s for this reason that strains high in CBD make it a premier choice for many users.

Remember to Breathe

This tip is for everyone, but especially for those women who get anxious, crampy, depressed, or tired during their periods.  So much can be controlled not only by the brain but by the breath.  Start by taking deep, even breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.  If you can, incorporate some of the yoga poses from above.  Focus on your breath and remind yourself that everything will be ok!

 

Have comments, questions or suggestions?  Have additional methods for relieving cramps or PMS symptoms? Leave a message below, or reach me through my website.

Thanks for reading!

The Importance of Your Poop

Even though it feels a bit embarrassing to post about poop, there’s no denying that our bowel movements are extremely important. If you want to know what’s going on with your body and your health, then start by looking at your poop.

Let’s begin with the gut. The gut is the body’s second brain. In fact, it actually sends messages directly to our brain up top. It impacts mood, digestion, the immune system, and even how you think. While thought processes like writing or math are up to the big brain, the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which runs down from our esophagus to our stomach, small intestine and anus, is comprised of 100’s of millions of neurotransmitters that affect mental state and contribute to certain diseases in the body (source: John Hopkins). This network of neurons is similar to those found in the brain and act as a complex circuitry allowing the gut to think independently, learn, remember, and even experience gut feelings. 80% of cells from the immune system are located in this digestive tract, so it makes sense that the colon can dictate your overall health.

Because of the impact your gut health has on mood and overall health, many gastrointestinal disorders like Colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome stem from issues in the gut. When you poop, you eliminate toxins, and when you don’t poop those toxins build up and can contribute to disease and illness. Constipation can be caused by a disease, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or from something like stress or poor diet.

Are you pooping enough?

Your poop can tell you whether your body is properly absorbing the nutrients that you consume. Ideally, you should poop between 1-3 times every day, but no more than 5. If you’re pooping five or more times daily, this is likely diarrhea and can be dehydrating. Many people refer to having regular bowel function as being “regular,” but regular really means easily passing soft yet well-formed bowel movements anywhere between 1-3 times a day to 3 times a week (source: continence.org).

The type of poop you make is quite important. Thankfully, there is this handy dandy poop chart to help you identify your stool category according to research by the University of Bristol:

If your poop most closely resembles types 1-3, this indicates constipation. Types 3-4 are ideal; 5-7 indicate diarrhea.

What can you do to become a “regular” and healthy pooper?

If you’re not a category 3-4 pooper, then I have some tips for you!

If you really want to give your colon a good cleanse, try a colonic. Colonics cleanse your colon by flushing the large intestine out with warm water via the rectum in order to remove waste and exercise and hydrate the colon (source: SF Colonics). Some places that do colonics will even sell add-ons with the colonics, like coffee enemas or vitamin B implants.

Diet can play a huge role on gut health. Try adding more fiber to your diet since fiber gets waste to move through the intestines. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber, and I highly recommend my Daily Green Smoothie for a powerful dose of fiber and vitamins needed to cleanse the body of toxins. I also suggest taking a daily probiotic and digestive enzymes. Probiotics can come in the form of food or supplements, but basically, probiotics are good bacteria that are essential to proper gut function and good health. Digestive enzymes will help you get the most from the nutrients in your food by breaking the food down into more digestible components. Even if you’re someone who eats well all the time, if you don’t have enough digestive enzymes you will not absorb all the good nutrition from your food (source: Whole9). Stress, low stomach acid, aging, and inflammation all are very common occurrences that can deplete levels of digestive enzymes.

Because of the direct link between the gut and colon, constipation or diarrhea can signal something stressful going on, whether it’s something emotional buried deep or something going on presently, like a big presentation at work (source: Harvard). To reduce stress, I can recommend a number of therapies which I’ve tried. These include health coaching, acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy, emotional freedom technique, or yoga. There are many ways to reduce stress on your own too, like breathing exercises, regular physical activity (but tailored to fit your body’s needs), essential oils, or a good ole’ warm bath.

I have worked with many women who suffer from chronic constipation. In fact, chronic constipation is a large, somewhat unspoken epidemic. I work with these clients to improve diet and lifestyle and to identify areas of stress or emotional trauma in their lives. If you’re someone suffering from gut problems, or if you would just like to improve your overall health, please set up a complimentary consultation with me so we can review your health history and discuss how health coaching can best help you.

I received my training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I learned about more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. Drawing on this knowledge, I will help you create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.

 

 

Five Tips for Winter Weight Loss

By now you are two weeks deep into your New Years Resolution. At this point you are either killin’ it with your goals, forgotten all about them, or are somewhere in between. Of course, if your goal has to do with weight loss, January is not the most ideal time to start this mission. Not only are humans programmed to eat differently in the winter and to store fat for survival, our Vitamin D and Serotonin levels drop, which are both partially responsible for regulating appetite control (source: The Week). While storing fat for survival isn’t really necessary for the modern person, it’s still coded in us, and can make weight loss at this time more difficult. Not to mention while our ancestors were out fighting the brutal cold, we are inside sitting at our computer moving less. If your resolution (or whatever you’re calling it) has to do with weight loss, then try some of these tips:

Add in more vegetables, whole grains, and protein to naturally crowd out unhealthier056dc8b9-0d45-4361-9623-ac8de532a497 foods. The more you can fill up on healthy, whole foods, the less room you’ll have in your stomach for junk. Everyone is different, so while you may thrive on a high-carb diet, others might do best on a high-protein diet. Experiment for yourself and find what works best for YOUR body. Whatever you find, stick to warm, grounding foods in the winter and try as much as possible to eliminate processed foods, soda, and sugar from your diet to see weight loss results.

Eat more sweet vegetables. If you’re at all like me and get crazy sugar cravings, then try incorporating some sweet vegetables into your diet like carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, or beets. I’ve found this helps satisfy the craving, and if it doesn’t, then sneak in a little bit of quality dark chocolate earlier in the day. Because our will power is strongest in the morning, I like to add some cacao nibs to my breakfast smoothie to get that craving out of my system.

infused waterDrink more water. Sometimes when you feel food cravings come on even though you just ate a meal and shouldn’t really be hungry, this can be a sign of dehydration. Try having a tall glass of water before reaching for the snacks, and if you want extra weight loss points, then fancy up you water by infusing it with a lemon slice or some cucumber slices. Lemon water has great benefits for weight loss by helping with digestion and detoxifying the body, but the benefits are greatest when the water is served warm.

Eat more mindfully. How many meals have you consumed in your life without even having a chance to really enjoy or process the meal?  Maybe it’s because you didn’t eat all day and by the time you eat you’re starving, or maybe it’s because your busy schedule doesn’t allow you time to sit down and even smell your coffee, but eating more mindfully means sitting down, chewing your food, breathing as you eat, and really appreciating the meal. It’s not unusual in our fast-paced society to just scarf down a meal (sometimes even on the go!), so just make a bigger effort to give yourself enough time to eat. The slower you eat the greater chance your brain has to catch up and realize when it’s full. This is often the cause for overeating when you eat so fast that your mind doesn’t catch the moment it should be signaling you to stop eating. If you want a book full of tips on how to eat more mindfully, check out this book by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Switch up your workout. I’ve found that switching up my work out has incredible results for weight loss. Changing things up gives your body a challenge and helps you work the various muscles, versus doing the same routine and plateauing with your weight loss. Although I’ve learned by now that abs are truly made in the kitchen, exercise is still important for weight loss, plus mental and physical strength.Sweat Ladies, I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO LIFT WEIGHTS! Weight lifting gets you toned and builds strength without bulking up, not to mention it’s important for bone health. Mix this into your workout at least a couple times a week if possible, and try out some other fun exercises like walking, dancing, barre classes, pilates, swimming, etc. If you don’t really know where to begin with your exercise regime, I like to tell my clients to think back to what activities they loved doing as kids. Quite often the same activities we loved as kids still are fun for us now, especially if you can find a workout buddy to do them with. I’d also like to note that you should listen to your body. If you’re feeling burnt out, or if you just did an intense workout the day before, do not be afraid to do a restorative yoga class or go for an easy walk, something that still gets you moving without overdoing it.

 

If you found this post inspiring, or if you have tips of your own, please share in the comment section! Just remember to keep a positive attitude with your weight loss goals, because weight loss doesn’t just happen over night.
Learn to fall in love with the process and the results will come!

8 Tips to Help Yourself Eat Better During the Week

We are busy people and not enough of us make the time to take care of our health. Eating well is much easier when we plan ahead, and even easier when we get other people involved.  When we designate one day for food prep, we allow ourselves more time during the week to rest, relax, and enjoy our pre-prepped food.  I recommend Sunday as the day for cooking and preparation.  This way, when our lives our full of stress and things to do, we have pre-prepped meals to look forward to.

Top tips for eating better during the week:

1. Make a batch of your favorite whole grains 

Whole grains can be very versatile.  I love to cook a big thing of rice or quinoa that’ll last me through the week. For breakfast I personally love putting eggs over rice with avocado and hot sauce, and then for other meals top the rice with vegetables or other forms of protein.  Fried rice is an easy enough recipe that’s always a favorite.  For more information and a list of all whole grains, click here.

2. Designate one day for prepping

As mentioned above, one of the most useful tips I have is to prep ahead of time. On your designated prep day, slice all your veggies, cook your whole grains, and soak your beans.  This saves time and makes eating healthy more realistic.

3.  Cook once, eat twice (or more!)

Prepare enough food while cooking to have leftovers.  Take advantage of the time you have to cook, because it can be hard to guarantee you’ll have time or even want to cook the rest of the week.

4. Keep a food journal

It’s easy to forget the meals we eat.  If your goal is to lose weight or discover what foods work best for your body, I always advise my clients to keep a food journal. Keeping a food journal not only helps us track what we eat eat and our portion sizes, but we can note things we are feeling emotionally or physically when we eat or after we eat. Identifying our emotions or even things we are feeling physically from eating helps us pinpoint food intolerances or allergies, and can even answer questions about other physical ailments.

From my own experience, it wasn’t until I started noting how I felt physically and emotionally after I ate processed foods and sugar that I was able to solve feelings of anxiety and depression. I realized those foods made me physically sick to my stomach, and I was also experiencing high levels of serotonin while eating the food, and suffering from low dopamine levels after the sugar high wore off.  Most of us probably aren’t conscious of these things as we’re eating and going about our lives, but once we stop and think about it, we may discover things we didn’t realize about our bodies.

6. Cook at home

I love going out to eat.  It’s convenient, there are lots of options, and the food tastes pretty good, but why not save some money and calories by cooking yourself?  When we eat out, there’s no way of controlling what exactly goes into our food.  I enjoy cooking because I know exactly where my food comes from, I have control over what I put in my food, and I get to pick what I want to eat.  Aim to eat at least two homemade meals a day, then work toward three meals at home a day.

7. Plan your meals

It’s much easier to eat well during the week if we take some time to plan meals ahead of time.  Make a grocery list and write out what you plan to eat every day. There’s no need to get fancy.  If you like having oatmeal for breakfast every morning and vegetable stir fry for dinner, then go for it!

8. Add in vegetables, nuts, legumes, fruit, and whole grains

By adding in more vegetables, nuts, legumes, fruit, and whole grains to our diet, we can naturally crowd out unhealthier foods and prevent unhealthy food cravings.  When we fill up on foods that nourish our body, we become more satisfied quicker, so we’re less likely to go for the desserts or snacks after we eat.

Looking for more tips?  Subscribe to my newsletter!

Pay me a visit at www.jkhealthcoach.com to learn more about how working with a health coach can benefit you and the ones you love!

Meatless Monday- Rice with Kale and Toasted Cashews

We live such busy lives that we deserve an easy, warm, home cooked meal. So many nights I find myself digging through the pantry looking for an quick dinner.  This rice dish with kale and cashews is great because it’s simple and it offers a little bit of everything- whole grains, protein, healthy fat, and leafy green vegetables. I also love it because it can last a few days, so you only need to cook once and eat three or four times, something that’s ideal for the average busy person.

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Ingredients:

-1 cup uncooked arborio rice

-3 cups water or chicken broth

-a couple handfuls of cashews

-1 bunch laciano kale, stems removed and leaves massaged

-1/2 cup chopped onion

-1 tablespoon organic butterunnamed-2

-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

1. Saute onion in oil and butter in a skillet for three minutes.

2. Add rice and stir for two minutes.

3. Stir in 1 cup broth or water. Cook and stir until liquid is absorbed.  Gradually stir in next cup of liquid.  Add kale to rice and mix in.

 

4. When liquid is absorbed, add remaining one cup liquid.  Meanwhile, toast cashews until unnamed-3golden brown, about three minutes.  When the last of the broth/water is absorbed and kale is wilted, add toasted cashews. Serve and enjoy!

Whole Grain Living

Americans have seemingly been conditioned to classify all carbohydrates as bad.  Certain diets, like the Atkins diet, have created a bad rep for carbs, but there needs to be some distinction.

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Whole grains, a type of carbohydrate, are actually essential to our diet and have been central to the diets of several cultures around the world since ancient times.  It’s typical in Japanese culture, for example, to eat a carb-heavy diet consisting of lots of rice. Yet, most Japanese people are very thin, so explain that Atkins!

Everyone’s body is different, however, so a high-carb diet may not work for everyone.  There are pros and cons to every diet, so here is what to expect from a high-carb diet:

Pros:

  • Fiber
  • Nutrients
  • Constant energy drip
  • Protein in grains
  • Whole foods
  • Lowers cholesterol

Cons:

  • Diet doesn’t work for everyone
  • Some people gain weight
  • Some people lose weight
  • Affects blood sugar levels
  • Indigestion
  • Gluten
  • Phytic Acid

There are so many whole grains to choose from, some which may sound unfamiliar.  I recommend experimenting with different whole grains to see what you like.  Make whole grains a part of your daily diet and aim for at least three servings a day.  Whole grains have many health benefits, but are linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.

FYI- sugary cereals like Lucky Charms, although advertised as “magically delicious” and made with whole grains, does not count!  Those cereals, and similar products, are processed and full corn syrup, corn starch and sugar (bad carbs!) and don’t have the same healthful effects as unrefined grains.  The same goes with oatmeal.  Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast dishes and can be very healthy, unless you’re eating the packaged instant oatmeal that’s filled with sugar.  Try steel-cut oats instead and top with fresh fruit.  Just remember,  the more processed something is, the less healthy it is.

*Note- When choosing whole grain foods, be weary of false advertising words like multigrain, 12-grain, stoneground, high fiber, enriched, wheat flour, whole wheat and whole grain (surprise!).  Look for 100% whole wheat instead.  “Bad” carbs generally consist of processed foods, like breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies, fried foods, white bread (vs. 100% whole grain bread), etc.  “Good” carbs are those which are full of fiber, like vegetables, beans, fruits, and whole grains.

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Whole grains should be consumed daily.  Some unrefined grains you may not have heard of, but are now becoming more common in regular supermarkets.  Although some of the names of the following grains may sound unfamiliar, give them a shot and possibly try out some of the recipes I’ve provided.

  • Quinoa– mild, nutty, slightly bitter.  A gluten-free option that’s extremely versatile and can be used in salads, pilafs, stuffings for meat or vegetables, soups, stews, porridge and desserts. An ancient grain of South America full of protein and dietary fiber, quinoa has been linked to reductions in the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.  Rinse before cooking to remove the bitter coating around the grain.

quinoa

Quinoa Stuffed Squash

Cinnamon-Scented Breakfast Quinoa

  • Amaranth– herbaceous, grassy, sticky.  Gluten-free and is used in porridge, salads, soups and stews.  Originally grown by the ancient Aztecs, Incas and Mayans, and still cultivated in Mexico.

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Banana-Pecan Amaranth Porridge 

 Amaranth Fish Sticks

  • Buckwheat– Earthy, dark, slightly meaty.  Gluten-free and is used in risotto, salads, pilafs, soups and granola.  Use buckwheat flour for pancakes or other baked goods.  Found mainly in Russia and China.

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Porcini Mushroom and Kale Buckwheat Risotto 

Buckwheat Pancakes

  • Brown Rice– nutty, slightly sweet, chewy.  Gluten-free and used in salads, risottos, pilafs, stuffings, stir-fries and rice desserts.  There are now brown rice pastas being sold and I really like them.  A main dish in Asian culture.

brown-rice

Brown Fried Rice

Stracciatella With Brown Rice

Chicken and Brown Rice

  • Millet– Buttery, corn-like.  Gluten-free and used in pilafs, salads, stuffings, porridge, soups, stews, desserts and to make polenta-like dishes.  A typical grain eaten in Africa and Europe.

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Millet Muffins

Roasted Chicken with Millet Stuffing

  • Oats– creamy, slightly sweets, toasty.  Made in granola, porridge, baked goods, and coatings (instead of bread crumbs).  A typical grain of Scotland.

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Homemade Granola

Maple Oatmeal Bread

  • Kamut– buttery, nutty.  Used in salads, pilafs and stuffings.  Flour is used for baked goods like bread and pasta.  This grain originated around Egypt and has more protein than common wheat.

Kamut

Kamut, Lentil, and Chickpea Soup

Falafel Burgers (with kamut flour)

  • Spelt– Nutty, slightly earthy, chewy.  Good with Mediterranean flavors like basil, olives, tomato, cheese and eggplant. Used in salads, pilafs, and stuffings for meat or vegetables.  Spelt flour is used in bread, pasta, baked goods, and desserts.

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Toasted Spelt Soup with Escarole and White Beans  

Whole Spelt Pumpkin Muffins

  • Farro (cracked)– nutty, mild, slightly chewy. Ideal with Italian flavors and used in salads, pilafs, risotto, stuffings, stews, soups and pasta.  This grain is believed to predate all other grains and originates with the people of the near East and Mediterranean.  It’s currently grown mainly in Italy. Farro is often soaked overnight to soften the grain and to reduce cook time.

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Farro Salad with Asparagus, Peas and Feta

Mustard Crusted Pork with Farro and Carrot Salad

Greens and Grains Scramble

  • Pearl Barley– nutty, slightly chewy.  Used in salads, pilafs, risotto, stuffings, soups, stews, and sweet desserts.

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Pearl Barley Casserole 

Beef and Barley Soup

Sources: LiveScience, ABCNews