Personal Health

Seasonal Allergies, Relief and Preparation

Spring is upon us and for approximately 25% of the population that means so are seasonal allergy symptoms.  The level at which you respond to seasonal allergies primarily has to do with your body’s current state of immune health and inflammation.  If your immune system is not 100% ready to deal with pathogens such as pollen or other airborne allergens you may experience allergic reactions.  

  • Start with the gut - 80% of your immune system is in your gut, it is the place where your body interacts most with your outside world via nutrient consumption and pathogen elimination.  Work to heal any know gut disorders such as IBS or leaky gut, rebalance gut bacteria with healthy probiotics and anti-inflammatory foods.  

  • Protect your external environment - have any carpets or rugs cleaned, replace and clean all air filters or bring in air purifiers or indoor plants to help.  

  • Focus on adding anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying foods and/or herbs to your diet.  Here is a great article on histamine reactive foods.  

  • Try adding a natural anti-histamine supplement such as quercetin, bromelain, and vitamin c.  The use of local honey is also said to help prepare your body best to deal with local pollen sources.  

The best way to fight seasonal allergies is to get ahead of them by preparing your immune system and strengthening its fighting power.  Reach out if you would like additional resources to combat allergies naturally. 

Stay Well While you Travel - 5 Tips

Many of you will hit the road for spring break, here are 5 things to remember while you are away!

  1. Re-Energize - Start your day off with a little energy boosting exercise routine.  Here’s one to get you started. http://www.ideafit.com/workout/169067%3Fshared%3D1

  2. Get Grounded - Take off your shoes and put your feet on the earth, this is especially great if you are somewhere warm.  Otherwise, get as close to nature as possible with the intention of connecting, feeling the ground beneath your feet, breathing the air, feeling the texture of trees or grass.  

  3. Practice gratitude – Make time in your day to verbally express (or write) your gratitude, this is a great family practice too!  

  4. Go Tech-free – Schedule time where all devices are powered off and stored somewhere, another good one for the whole family.  I dare you to do it for a full day! 

  5. Play – find care free moments to play, Marco Polo in the pool anyone? Try a board game or something that gives you a good belly laugh.

 

Stroke Prevention, Diet & Awareness

In light of the sudden death of Actor Luke Perry, stroke prevention awareness is pouring into mainstream media and health and wellness channels alike.  Here’s what you need to know and share! 

A stroke can happen at any age, often without previous warning and to healthy people.  It is most important to notice the signs of a stroke and seek medical attention immediately, do not wait out symptoms, as time is of the utmost importance when a stroke is occurring, time is usually the difference between surviving a stroke or not. 

The attached handout from the American Heart Association provides information that you can share, including what a stroke is and how to recognize one F.A.S.T. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911). Here are 7 additional and often overlooked signs of a stroke.  Seek medical attention right away if you observe these symptoms in yourself or a loved one and are concerned they could be signs of a stroke.

 Confusion or difficulty understanding – a puzzled look, hard time focusing, trouble making decisions or understanding information.

Dizziness or loss of balance – unsteady movements or staggering, holding on to stationary objects to keep balance.

Numbness or tingling – usually in the face or body, constant touching, massaging, or shaking of the numb areas.

Trouble speaking – missed words, words that cannot be understood or sentences that do not make sense.

Severe headaches – headaches without known cause or discomfort in the head, scalp or neck.  Sometimes leading to vomiting.

Trouble walking or weakness – trouble with ordinary tasks, wanting to sit or laydown often, trouble walking.

Changes in vision – blurred vision or trouble with one or both eyes or unable to read.  Sometimes wanting to squint or rub eyes.

Aside from awareness, managing your diet, exercise, and stress levels are most important.  Traditional guidelines will have you believe that a saturated fat and dietary cholesterol are to blame when more recent research shows that high carbohydrates, refined sugars, and processed foods are and have been the real culprit.  To read more, check out this is a great post outlining the research from one of my wellness colleagues and mentors, Functional Medicine Practitioner Chris Kresser.  https://kresserinstitute.com/functional-perspective-diet-cholesterol/

The basics are that a low-carb diet proves time and time again to be the healthiest diet across multiple health concerns and wellness/lifestyle goals.  Low carbohydrate diets are considered to be when 10- 15 % of your daily calorie intake comes from carbs, not including veggies.   

SPOILER ALERT: Here’s the math, a look behind the “nutritionist” curtain.

1500 calorie diet – 150 calories form carbs per day, 37.5 grams of carbs per day

2000 calorie diet – 200 calories from carbs per day 50 grams of carbs per day

(carbs have 4 calories per gram, to give you a reference 1 cup of cubed & cooked sweet potatoes is 28 grams.  These numbers do not count green veggies, eat them freely for a total carb intake of under 100g per day). 

This story is personal to me as someone very important to me (who happens to be in impeccable health) suffered a stroke at the young age of 50.  His story is not uncommon and had nothing to do with lifestyle, but a little hold in his heart that did not close after birth and went unnoticed until his stroke.  (for more on that condition look up Patent Foramen Ovale or PFO).  Because of his healthy lifestyle and awareness of his own body and these out of the ordinary symptoms, he went immediately to the ER and recovered with no damage to his brain and the rest of his life to live. 

Sleep Tracking

3 reasons you should track your sleep & 3 gadgets to help - they are also great gift ideas! 

 You should track your sleep if: 

  1. You wake up frequently through the night

  2. you are sleepy throughout the day, even with a full night’s sleep 

  3. you want to optimize your performance (cognitive or physical)

Sleep trackers are booming in the wearable health technology space, the debate still remains as to their accuracy and efficacy for severe sleep disorders and use for medical reference.  Most doctors agree that sleep trackers and other wearables can help inform them to influence their diagnosis and treatment plan, but cannot alone provide an accurate diagnosis.

*If you are worried about a more serious sleep disorder, please see your health care provider.  

There is no debate over their efficacy in helping people change unhealthy behaviors.  These changes are driven by community and personal accountability and the awareness of patterns or habits that do not yield favorable results. All resulting in positive behavior changes that lead to healthier outcomes.   

Here are my favorite 3 sleep trackers currently on the market:

  1. Beddit Sleep Monitor - $150

  2. SleepScore Max - $150

  3. Withings Sleep  - $99

*note that some wearables (such as the aura ring, fitbit, apple watch, etc.) also excel at sleep tracking sleep, but are not included in this list since they are multi-purpose devices.  

Sleep tracking and other biometrical data, can teach you:

  • How many hours of sleep you actually need

  • How well you tolerate caffeine or alcohol

  • The best temperature for you to have the most restful sleep

  • The best times to fall asleep and wake for your individual physiology

  • The best times for you to exercise and how well you recover from exercise

  • How well you are tolerating stress

  • Meal times and foods that work best for you

Depending on the tracking device you choose and your individual health & wellness goals, the opportunities to track, record, and modify are endless. 

Avoiding Burn-Out

With school starting in a couple of weeks, the final days of summer  seem “officially” upon us.  For most of us that’s the end of summer scramble, which if juggling kids, work, families friends, or just you & a couple of dogs (like me), can be extra stressful.   

No matter your situation, burn-out is usually inevitable if you are not maintaining a self-care or anti-burn-out routine.  If you don’t have one or have lost your way with it.  Here are some tips:

1.     Claim your day, start with your mornings - How you start your mornings can set the tone for your entire day.  Here are a few options:

1.     Take time, 5 minutes is enough.  Meditate, practice gratitude (written is my fav), or visualize a positive outcome for your day. Triple down with all 3!

2.     Do one thing for your physical health. If you have time to workout or do yoga, do it.  Otherwise, contributing to your personal health with a healthy breakfast, green juice, or morning tonic can make you feel off on your best foot!

3.     End your shower with a few minutes of cold (last week’s email), to boost energy, mood, increase immune system activity and decrease inflammation.  That’ll wake you up!

2.     Set your calendar for a couple, 5-minute breaks. -  You are you most important client.  Scheduling even 3 minutes to do something for yourself can save you time by re-focusing and slowing down.  Go outside, meditate, listen to a relaxing song, or just practice deep breathing.  Studies show that breaking up the day with short breaks actually increases productivity.  Give it a try!

3.     Say “NO” -  Sometimes putting yourself first means that you have to say not to some people and things, let that be ok, particularly if it will allow you more sleep, downtime, or rest as they are vital during times of higher stress. 

As my friends at American Airlines say “Put your own mask on first before helping those around you”.  If you cannot show up for yourself first, you can’t possibly bring your best self to anyone else, including your clients. What are you doing each day just for YOU?

Go Jump in a Lake!

Jumping into a cold body of water is more than just a refreshing break from the summer heat. Taking a plunge into the usually 60-70 degree summer water is actually good for your health and a great way to exponentially increase your daily calorie burn and turn back the clock without exercise or diet.
 
Why cold is cool…..
 
Boosts Metabolism - Turns on brown fat cells & increases calorie burn without exercise.  Brown fat is marked as “good” fat, we have the most of it when we are babies and recent research shows that adults have small amounts that can be increased and turned on with cold therapies, exercise and quality sleep.  Brown fat is good because it attempts to cool us down without shivering which requires much more energy in the form of excess calories.
 
Boosts Mood - Mood boosting neurotransmitters are released for feelings of happiness.  Cold therapies are even being used to help treat depression.
 
Additional Benefits are increased cardiovascular and lymphatic circulation, stronger immune system, reduction of inflammation, improved melatonin production and better hormone regulation.
 
Don’t have time for a lake plunge, you can do this at home in the shower, yep a cold shower is good for your health.  You can ease into it by alternating 20 seconds of cold to 10 seconds of hot.  Start with a couple of minutes, then increase it up to 5 minutes.  By the time you sing your favorite song it will all be over!
*cold therapy is not recommended for those with medical conditions, always check with your physician.


Want to learn more, check out this 14 minute TEDx-CU talk by Scott Carney.
http://www.scottcarney.com/2017/05/tedx-cu-how-the-environment-shapes-human-biology/

Summer Time, Summer Travel Tips

Summer time means summer travel!

 In addition to doing my best to eat healthy, sleep well, and exercise while on the road, here are my top 3 summer travel tips to keep you well & healthy through your travels.

  • Water – drink 2 -3 times more water than you think you need, especially when flying.

The humidity in an airplane has been reported around 12%, which is lower than being in a desert.  Most of us are comfortable at 30% and higher.

*fun fact – The Boeing 787 is said to be the healthiest commercial plane in the air because of its air filters with an efficiency of 99.97% and higher humidity than most.

  • Pack immune boosting Vitamins & antioxidants, along with digestive support, probiotics, and natural sleep support for time changes.

Immunity is my biggest concern while traveling, mostly due to dehydration and excess stress traveling, both of which deplete vitamins and antioxidants.  Particularly Vitamins A, D, and C, plus zinc & glutathione.  I always travel with a good probiotic supplement and my favorite Po-Chai pills (Chinese medicine digestive support), and lastly a little melatonin (.5 to 2mg) to help me sleep and beat jet lag when adjusting to different time zones.

  • Connect with your destination & disconnect from technology – Life is busy and many of us seek vacation to relax and recharge, except that often with travel stress, scheduled activities, checking in with work and events back home.  Many people can come home feeling more stressed than when they left. 

Try grounding yourself and connecting with the earth by walking barefoot in the grass or sand or even sitting for a few minutes in nature. Eating seasonably and locally also helps your body connect to the environment around you. Lastly, take a digital detox by giving yourself a cell phone break to take it all in!

Adapting to Adaptogens

He, She, Who?.... No, He Shou Wu, who knew!  

Tongue twister, maybe, but He Shou Wu is one of many adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogenic herbs are simply herbs that help to support your body during times of stress, essentially helping you physiologically adapt to your environment.  Stress comes in many forms as you “wellness buffs” now know.  You can pick from a variety of adaptogens, toss them in your smoothie, over a salad, or even make a healthy latte.  Yep, a latte.  Check out the attached recipe to make yours at home, if you love it, share it!  

Here are my top 5 adaptogens:

Ginseng  Supports physical endurance, mental clarity and is a great antioxidant.  This herb is great for cardiovascular and immunce system support.

He Shou Wu
A restorative herb that recharges your “battery pack” allowing you to be more resilient. Tonifies and nourishes the hair and skin.

Ashwaghanda
Supports healthy immune response throughout the body. Great for hormone balance in both men and women. Nourishes the thyroid, normalizes sleep cycles, lowers morning cortisol levels and helps with mild anxiety and depression.

Reishi
Helps to build, support and modulate the immune system. Promotes relaxation, reduces stress and supports adaptability.

Astragalus
The optimist’s herb - is uplifting and supports a positive world view! A protective herb that increases circulation and supports a healthy immune system.

 

Your Heart is Talking to You

Heart Rate Variability (HRV), is one of the most important measurements of your heart and one of the least used in mainstream health & fitness. HRV is the measurement of time between heartbeats and can be an indicator for how your body handles stress.  This could tell you if you are about to get sick, if you are training too hard, or if you are more predisposition to stress, anxiety, and even more serious conditions such as heart disease. 

It is commonly understood that the heart beats consistently, much like a clock, in fact the opposite is supposed to be true.  The more variable your heart beats are the more adaptable you are to stress.  If your HRV is low, your body is not handling stress very well and you may need to step up those breathing exercises, focus on relaxation, recovery, and getting more restful sleep! 

Though you can use a heart rate monitor for HRV, the “HRV4Training” app uses your phone’s camera and only takes 60 seconds each morning. Many wearables that have heart rate monitoring capabilities can also capture HRV, take the apple watch for example, it measures your HRV every time you put it on or when you use the watch’s native breathe app.


LINKS:

Article: Heart Rate vs HRV



Hidden Stress and Your Hormones

Hidden stress can be wreaking havoc on your hormones:

Most people associate stress with negative external factors beyond our control, the loss of a job for example.  What most people are not aware of is the hidden stress that if untreated has the ability to slowly cause damage to our body by disrupting hormone function.  Hormones are the body’s main communication system and help to regulate our emotional, mental, and physical heath. 

Here are 10 symptoms of stress, that some people think are normal or no big deal.  These are warning signs that something is wrong, like the “check engine” light in your car.   

Unexplained headaches / digestive problems (gas or trouble in the bathroom) / muscle tightness (men low back, women neck & shoulders) / Foggy memory or frequent loss of concentration / hair loss or breakage / excessive allergy or cold symptoms / low libido or more severe period symptoms (women) / excess sweating or thirst

Keep in mind that on top of everyday stresses like being too busy, not sleeping, always on your phone or email, there are a host of hidden stressors that can be exasperating these problems.  For example, food intolerances, such as dairy or gluten, blood sugar regulatory problems, and problems arising from lack of deep or restful sleep. 

The good news is that our bodies were meat to deal with small amounts of stress, so your goal can be to minimize what you can, and offer your body support to deal with the rest.  

Aside from avoiding foods known to cause inflammation (sugar, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, additives, trans-fats, etc.) Try one (or all) of these things daily.. 

Try one now… like right now! 

   What, are you too busy?

                                           You see the problem, right?

Take a 10 breath break break  –  place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, close your eyes and breathe deeply, allow your belly to fill and feel it move with your hand, do this 10 times, trying to breathe slower with each breath and remain present to the physical feeling of breathing in your body. 

Dance in your underpants! Ok, maybe not in your underpants, but it sounded cute.  

Crank up the tunes and move your body. Try dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy”, it usually does the trick for me.  This one isn’t a joke! Try it, you’ll feel like a carefree kid! 

Practice gratitude – write three things that you are grateful for each day, I recommend a paper gratitude journal, there are apps for that, but this is a stress reduction practice so let’s put the phone down! You can even write them on a sticky note, try sticking them all over your walls for some wallpaper you can be grateful for!


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Protecting Your Noodle

This isn’t about noodles you eat, they have too many carbs! (That’s a wellness joke)…. Anyone?…  I’m talking about the noodle that sits on top of your shoulders, your BRAIN.  When we talk about healthy food, it is often in relation to our physical body, which foods to eat to lose weight or gain muscle, etc.  Food however either nourishes or disrupts all of our deep cellular activity, including our brain or neural function.  Foods that are disruptive for our brain can cause brain fog, fatigue, forgetfulness, anxiety and mood swings. 

You won’t be shocked to hear that the two biggest culprits are sugar and processed foods.  However you MIGHT be shocked to hear that not enough good quality fat in your diet can also be disruptive.  Your brain is made of 60% fat and is the fattiest organ in your body. It requires essential fatty acids (EFAs) not manufactured in your body, so you must eat them.  Best sources are certain cold water fish, flax seed, olive oil, chia seeds, walnuts, & egg yolks.

 In addition to EFAs, the best foods for your brain also contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.  Here are my top 5 favorite foods to incorporate into your diet for a healthier brain:

  1. Avocados – The avocado fruit is one of the healthiest fruits you can eat, its high fat and low sugar content keeps blood sugar stable and your skin glowing.  Loaded with vitamins B, C, K, and folate.  Toss them in a blender to thicken a smoothie or mix in a salad dressing. 

  2. Beets – Packed with antioxidants, beets help reduce inflammation and rid your body of toxins.  They also contain natural nitrates that boost blood flow to the brain helping mental and physical performance.

  3. Broccoli – Full of vitamin K and choline, this vegetable helps keep your memory in tip-top shape.  Also packed with vitamin C and plenty of fiber to keep you full for longer. 

  4. Coconut oil – This should be a staple in everyone’s pantry, great for fighting bad bacteria in your gut and reducing inflammation. This is another healthy fat.

  5. Egg yolks – Packed with choline and capable of breaking down bethane a chemical that produces hormones related to happiness, egg yolks are great brain fuel & they can make you happy!  Recent research shows that eating eggs including the yolk had no negative effect on cholesterol levels, in fact they may contribute to increased levels of the good cholesterol. Always go for organic, free-range when possible. 

To make room for these healthy foods, see what “not-so-healthy” foods you can eliminate form your diet.  Move over French fries! 


DIY Daily Detox

Apple cider vinegar has been known to have several health benefits such as, reducing blood pressure and blood sugar, delivering enzymes and healthy bacteria to the gut to fight unwanted pathogens, boosting energy and metabolism, and containing anti-microbial properties that can be great for your skin. Combine that with the alkalizing power of lemon juice and the detoxifying power of cayenne pepper and you have yourself a powerful detoxification drink you can make right at home!

Add those three ingredients to warm water each morning on an empty stomach for added benefit.  If you feel brave you can experiment by choosing to add ginger (digestion), turmeric (anti-inflammatory), or cinnamon (antioxidant).  If you can’t stand the taste you can add a bit of honey, make it raw & local honey for another boost to your health. 


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