If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, here’s a unique strategy… eat pistachios! They are a surprisingly excellent source of the hormone melatonin that helps us to sleep. Most foods have 1, 10, or even 100 ng/g of melatonin, but pistachios have a whopping 200,000 ng/g!
I purchased a huge bag of pistachios before I learned this, and have been eating a couple tablespoons of them daily for about a month. I gotta say, I’ve been sleeping like a LOG! I was actually wondering why. When I came across this study, it all made sense. The good thing about my own accidental experiment was that it ruled out the placebo effect.
And don’t worry, eating them during the day won’t make you sleepy because of all the ambient light. But when the lights go out, you’ll have more than enough melatonin to help you get and stay asleep.
If you don’t need to improve your sleep, you’re lucky! But you might want to consider adding these tasty morsels to your diet anyway. Melatonin is a potent antioxidant with far reaching benefits. Pistachios also have other notable antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and polyphenols. Antioxidants help protect you from chronic disease and slow the aging process. Pistachios are also one of the lowest calorie nuts, and eating the ones with shells helps you to slow down and eat just the right amount.
In my last couple posts, we discussed ways to reduce sugar and why that is so important for your health. Today, let’s talk about some simple yet powerful strategies to reverse direction when sugar has led you down the path to prediabetes, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome.
First, I want you to know that these metabolic challenges can be reversed, even if you’re already taking diabetes medication. There are countless stories of people reversing entrenched cases of diabetes with diet and lifestyle improvements. It’s not even a long complicated process. It can be done in months, weeks, or even days.
There are many books written by nutrition minded physicians who have had great success in reversing diabetes. Some recommend a low fat vegan diet (like Dr Barnard and Dr Fuhrman) while some go to the opposite end of the spectrum and recommend a more Paleo type approach, and everything in between. Although we love it when there’s one clear magic bullet, the great news is that there isn’t just one way to regain optimal blood sugar control. This means that we have flexibility in making the changes that resonate with us, that we can enjoy and sustain.
Although the general sentiment is that you have to dramatically reduce carbs, it turns out you can reverse diabetes with a high carb, low fat diet as well as a high fat, low carb diet. Although these approaches seem contradictory, what they have in common is the most important:
They are not both high carb and high fat. This appears to be the most dangerous combination, and unfortunately is typical of the Standard American Diet. French fries, anybody?
They emphasize whole foods. It’s the processed, damaged, stripped, destroyed, chemicalized, fake, sugar drenched foods that are making us sick on all fronts, not just diabetes. In theory we all understand this. But we have trouble applying it because so much of the standard American diet is processed, including everyday items like pasta, bread, pizza, muffins, cereal, cookies, and cake, which are made with processed flour that is stripped of its nutrients, protein, fat, and fiber. Grains that are dismantled in this way are rapidly digested and spike blood sugar, which then spikes insulin, and metabolic mayhem ensues. Some people choose to avoid all grains when reversing diabetes or trying to lose weight, but actual whole grains like quinoa and brown or black rice can be part of a therapeutic diet. Fiber seems to be the key. Eat foods that naturally have ample fiber.
They eliminate sweeteners, even the “healthy” ones. Just like processed grains, sweeteners (most of them also highly processed) permeate our food system. Our palates and pancreases have become unknowingly habituated to them. This became very obvious to me personally when I noticed that green tea and strawberry jam seemed sad and boring when they didn’t have added sugar! You can use stevia for a period of time as you wean off sugar, but ultimately, it’s very helpful to eliminate that too, so your palate can start appreciating then natural sweetness in foods again.
Alcohol in moderation if at all. Alcohol rapidly raises blood sugar and contributes to fatty liver, one of the hallmarks of diabetic metabolic dysfunction. If an alcoholic drink is something you really enjoy, instead of carb loaded, sugary beverages, opt for vodka or tequila with soda water with a lime or splash of cranberry. Just have one if possible.
Move your body and use your muscles. Insulin resistance starts in the large skeletal muscles when they’re not being used for long periods of time. If you’re logging a lot of sedentary time working at a desk, watching TV, or driving, try to take some movement breaks. Get up regularly and run up and down the stairs, do some squats or pushups, or sun salutations. Moving throughout the day is key, not just one workout followed by hours of sloth. Keep those muscles active and taking in glucose!
CAUTION: If you are currently on hyperglycemic medication of any kind, let your doctor knowbefore you start making these changes. Your need for medication can reduce dramatically within days, and we don’t want to risk hypoglycemic episodes.
If you just followed these basics, you’d make wonderful progress. You’d lose weight, have better blood markers, and feel more energetic. Next time, I’ll expand on these strategies a bit, including some helpful supplements.
I want to apologize if my last post about what sugar does to the body was a bummer. If you felt that way, just know that I totally agree. Most of us grew up eating lots of sugar, believing that the worst it could do is give us cavities. It was a treat we enjoyed all during our formative years and it’s deeply embedded in our psyches. It was a reward, a comfort, and is associated with wonderful memories. So the thought of breaking up with sugar is especially rough because there’s an emotional and physical component to it. Sugar and I have parted ways several times, and I know how depressing it can feel at first.
But! After you get over that, you feel SO much better! No addictions, better energy, more emotionally even, clarity of mind, weight loss, less puffy… the list goes on.
In addition to those tangible benefits, your risk for all the major chronic diseases goes down. So, even though it may feel impossible, sad, and extreme, it’s worth the effort. If you’re not willing to ghost your sugar completely, just reducing your intake is fantastic too.
How to Reduce Sugar Cravings
As you reduce/eliminate sugar, cravings are sure to rear their ugly head. The good news is that they go away almost completely in as little as a week. You almost can’t even believe that you were so addicted to the stuff. Until you get there, here are some of my favorite methods for avoiding and dealing with cravings:
Stay hydrated – start your day with a couple big glasses of water and sip it every half hour for the rest of the day. Dehydration makes you feel depleted, and more likely to grab any quick energy fix.
Eat protein rich meals. This is filling and increases satiety.
Be sure to have regular meals – getting hangry is a recipe for disaster.
As you transition, enjoy some whole food,natural sweeteners in moderation – like raw honey, pure maple syrup, raisins, figs, or dates.
Eat sweet potatoes and other sweet vegetables. Soon these will taste really sweet!
Experiment with spices like coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. Cinnamon has been shown to stabilize blood sugar.
Slow down and find sweetness in non-food ways. Despite what we learned growing up, a treat does not = sugar! Sugar is certainly not a treat for your body.
Move in some way – take a walk, dance around, do some pushups, jumping jacks, or a few sun salutations. It’s energizing on its own and distracts you from the craving.
Brush your teeth. When your mouth feels refreshed, subconsciously you don’t want to muck it up with all that sugar.
Reduce strong yang foods and beverages like animal protein and coffee, because they increase cravings for yin foods like sugar and alcohol as the body tries to rebalance energetically.
In the midst of a full fledged craving, drink a glass of water. If it’s still there, eat a nice refreshing apple. If it’s still there, have a protein smoothie. If it’s still there, take a nap if possible. Lastly, the craving will usually go away in less than 20 minutes, so waiting it out is an option too.
I’d love to hear how these suggestions work for you and also what tips you have used successfully that aren’t on my list!
I’ve always loved Halloween, but this year seeing the Halloween decorations actually filled me with dread*. Halloween is supposed to be pretend scary, but it does have a truly sinister side that harms people and causes a great deal of suffering.
The real monster is the sugar.
If it were just during Halloween, we would surely survive. However, our sugar problem is more like 24/7/365. Our taste buds have adapted and now we “need” a certain level of sweetness regularly to feel satisfied.
Our taste buds aren’t the only thing that have adapted. Sugar affects every cell, organ, hormone, and tissue in our bodies. Here’s the short and not-so-sweet progression of what happens when we eat our body weight in sugar every year:
First the pancreas obliges by churning out more insulin to get that sugar into the cells.
Once sugar intake is chronic, the pancreas gets in the habit of churning out high insulin all the time.
Our cells get inflamed from all the sugar being forced into them by the insulin, and they don’t work as well as they should.
Insulin stays consistently high, which inhibits fat burning, and we become resistant to fat loss.
Eventually, we have way too much blood sugar regardless, and the liver starts packaging it into fats called triglycerides, which then deposit not only in fat cells, but also in the liver, the muscles, and even the pancreas. This is toxic, inflammatory visceral fat, which often takes the form of a beer gut.
Then our cells start resisting insulin, causing blood sugar to stay high, where it damages our blood vessels.
Plaques form in the blood vessels causing hardening of the arteries, blood pressure rises, and the eyes and kidneys show early signs of damage.
If you’re getting bummed out, just skip to the last bullet point.
Since we can’t get the sugar into the cells because they’re now resisting insulin, we don’t have the fuel to create cellular energy. On top of that, the high insulin shut off fat burning. So we have a plethora of fuel, but our cells can’t burn it. Sugar and fat end up where they don’t belong. We’re exhausted.
Our sex hormones even get whacked out on all the sugar. Men grow “moobs” and women grow facial hair. Libido is a thing of the past.
The immune system is suppressed and we get sick a lot.
Our risk of every health horror imaginable goes way up.
We gain weight. We feel tired and old.
We think this is just “getting old”, but it’s all accelerated by the SUGAR!
This process is reaching epic proportions in the US and around the world. More than half of the adult population has prediabetes or diabetes. Even scarier, Type 2 diabetes diagnoses in kids is skyrocketing.
This scary story can have a happy ending. The great news is that it’s all reversible, even entrenched cases of diabetes. It’s in your power! So don’t worry. Instead, get motivated!
To summarize – if you’re tired, unable to lose weight, having health and hormone issues, aging fast… maybe it’s the sugar. I wish this were all “pretend scary” like the rest of Halloween, but hopefully it’s made you more aware of how insidious and far reaching our collective sugar addiction is.
If you want more energy, clarity of mind, to be in a better mood, to love and be comfortable with the skin you’re in, to heal from chronic symptoms, be stronger, love better, sleep better, poop better, and more… we wrote this for you.
All of those goals are your natural state of being. If you’re not feeling optimal, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s just a mismatch between how you want to feel and the environment you’re asking your body to live in.
“We are not designed to be stressed, toxic, inflamed, infected, malnourished, & unrested and still find a way to thrive, grow, reproduce, be thin, and have great sex. This combination would be Not Natural.”
Tracy Harrison, the founder of the School of Applied Functional Medicine
So the question is, are we stressed, toxic, inflamed, infected, malnourished, and/or unrested and what are we willing to do about it? For most of us, wellness usually comes down to optimizing diet/digestion, reducing stress, and releasing toxins. Yes, genetics does play a role, however we do have the ability to control which genes are activated through diet and lifestyle. This exciting field called “epigenetics” assures us that we are not doomed by our genes; our genes just tell us how we should be living.
Methods for optimizing our genes are often so basic and seemingly obvious that we tend to ignore them. We love shiny objects, new pills, ancient secrets, new workouts, etc. But the answers have been hiding in plain sight for years. We can dramatically increase our energy and vitality through simple practices like mindfully eating whole, nutrient dense food, reducing stress (and having fun!), and perhaps a bit of gentle detoxing. This is all easy to say, but when the rubber meets the road, people are often at a loss because we’re so deeply entrenched in our processed food, stressful western way of life.
Follow these three simple steps to get more thrive into your life:
Eat & Digest Nutrient Dense Food: Ditch all processed food (including anything made with flour, refined sugar, and chemicals) and eat more organic produce. Plant foods are nature’s medicine chest, and you get thousands of healing, anti-inflammatory compounds with every serving of fruits and vegetables. Eat mindfully, in a relaxed state, and chew well.
De-stress (+ have fun): Make stress reduction a process of continuous improvement. Many people are so used to being stressed, they don’t even realize they are! Even the busiest people can fit a little meditation, deep breathing, fun, and attitude adjustment (if necessary) into their day. You can too. It’s just a matter of recognizing the importance and making it a priority. You can start with just 5 minutes, if that’s all the time you feel you can spare. The many online resources for meditation, including Head Space and the Chopra Center’s 21 Day meditation series, make it easier than ever. Breathe deeply in the car, while waiting in line, when your computer hangs up, etc. Let those inconvenient moments be like mindfulness bells. When you catch yourself dwelling on negative thoughts, replace them with gratitude. Check out your local yoga, Pilates, and fitness studio – lots of resources there!
Detox: Up your intake of detox veggies, including broccoli and cauliflower, onions and garlic, radish, cilantro and parsley. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Sweat and move daily. Be sure to have at least one bowel movement per day and if you don’t, click this green text. Upgrade the toxic products in your home and personal care. If it’s not too much trouble, consider giving your liver a break from alcohol for a week or two. We promise – you can relax and have fun without wine. 🙂
We cover all this in great detail in our gentle 4-week program “The Ultimate Rejuvenation Cleanse”, where we guide you every step of the way into more relaxation, more nutritious foods, and more self care. We provide daily inspiration, all of the how to’s and the why’s, SO MANY delicious and easy to prepare recipes, and multiple ways to connect with us and other cleansers. Our next group cleanse begins on January 20th. We’d love for you to join us. To learn more, click here.
Wishing you glowing health, energy, and joy in the coming year!
I can’t tell you the number of friends that have asked me recently how to prevent their skin from getting dry and shriveled during the winter. Since “winter is coming”, skin care is on our minds, especially those of us in our 40’s and 50’s who really notice the cold weather effects. Here are our best recommendations for youthful, glowing skin all winter.
Abhyanga – daily self massage with high quality oil. See our separate blog post about it here. This is one of Ayurveda’s top anti aging practices!
Stay hydrated. Although obvious, this is easier said than done. The cold temps can make us averse to drinking enough water (even room temperature), and we need to overcome that if we want hydrated skin through the colder months. Let’s make ultra hydration a goal this winter! Every morning, drink one or two glasses of room temperature water (bonus with fresh squeezed lemon!). Then, for the remainder of the day, have a mouthful of plain water every half hour. This makes a huge difference on your skin, energy, digestion, immunity, and clarity of mind.
Avoid beverages and foods that dry your skin and mucous membranes out. Tannins found in wine and black tea (and to a lesser extent green tea and coffee) in particular are very drying. As the days get colder, we crave more warming drinks. Instead of black tea, opt for herbal teas like rooibos, ginger, and Throat Coat. (Remember that tea doesn’t count for hydration!) Drying foods like tortilla and potato chips, crackers, etc are highly processed, contain no moisture, and drain your body’s water reserves during digestion.
Focus on hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables, as well as foods with fat and protein. Be generous with your healthy oils, nuts, and seeds this time of year. Ground flaxseed and chia seed contain omega 3 fatty acids and are mucilaginous, both a boon to your skin. The fatty acids in the oils will make their way to your skin cells, keeping them nice and supple. Toss them in smoothies and on salads and try this delicious chia pudding!
Okay… don’t kill the messenger, but we should mention that alcoholic beverages are also very drying. If you are out on the town, stick to the rule of having a glass of water between alcoholic beverages. You’ll thank yourself when you look in the mirror late in the evening and also in the morning when you wake up refreshed!
Use a humidifier in your bedroom. The indoor and outdoor air is very dry over the winter months. If you humidify your room at night, your skin will be exposed to a humid environment approximately a third of your day. It really helps!
On cold days, everything in you may want to soak in a steaming hot tub or stand under a hot shower for a long time. Unfortunately hot water dries your skin out (in a particularly cruel twist of fate). Using the coolest shower water you can tolerate will help a lot. I find I can do this best when I shower right after a workout when my body is still warm. There will be days when your desire to warm up exceeds your desire for younger skin, and that’s okay. It’s what we do regularly that makes the biggest difference.
No one should have to feel old, dry, and shriveled all winter long. We hope that these suggestions serve you well in the coming months. Let us know how they work for you by commenting below!
Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic practice that involves massaging good quality oil into your skin every day. It’s the perfect remedy for the cold, dry, winter air! Most obviously, daily oiling helps your skin retain its hydration and luster. When you oil your skin in the morning, you feel warm and cozy all day, as if you were wearing silk long underwear. Oiling your feet at night helps you to get more restorative sleep. The physical action of massaging oil into your skin and joints helps to relieve stiffness and improves circulation, giving your whole body a nice glow and boosting energy and overall health. Since there is so little circulation in the joints, they can really benefit from the extra attention. You can even put a little oil in your nostrils to help keep the sinuses moist, which helps you to avoid colds and sinus infections.
The benefits of abhyanga don’t end with the physical. According to Ayurveda, the cold winter air can also impact the mind, causing us to feel jittery, scattered, and exhausted. Regular application of oil infuses your body-mind with a grounding energy that soothes any winter-induced anxiety or forgetfulness. All of these symptoms (cold, dry, stiff, anxious, scattered, tired) that we can relieve with abhyanga are often associated with aging. This is why abhyanga is considered one of Ayurveda’s top anti-aging strategies!
How to oil
Since your skin absorbs whatever you put on it, use the highest quality oil you can find – organic, cold-pressed, and in a glass bottle when possible. Jojoba, sesame, and coconut are great choices. Most of these are available at the grocery store. However, you can also purchase wonderful oils infused with herbs or essential oils (we especially love Sarada’s Woman Power oil!). Natural, cold-pressed oils contain fatty acids, vitamin E, and other antioxidants that promote healthy skin. Sure, lotions often add vitamin E, but not the whole vitamin E complex, like natural oils have.
Before your shower, rub the oil into your skin, using long strokes on the long bones, and circular motions around the joints. Be sure to pay attention to your toes and feet, fingers, and neck too. Enjoy it!
You don’t need to use a lot of oil.
If you like, you can rub some into your scalp. This helps keep your hair healthy and conditioned. (When doing the hair, it’s great to let it soak in for 10-15 minutes if possible.)
Using your pinky finger, you can apply a bit of oil to your nostrils as well. “Nasya” oil was created for this purpose, and is usually infused with sinus opening herbs like eucalyptus. But of course regular oil also works well.
When you shower, the warm water will help the oil to sink in. Be sure you don’t use soap on the arms and legs. You may need to shampoo twice if used a lot of oil in your hair. Blot your skin dry after the shower.
An alternative option is to apply the oil after your shower. Just use less oil, and give it a few minutes to sink in before getting dressed.
When you’re cooking, rub extra olive, sesame, or coconut oil into your hands!
Ayurveda is pretty obsessed with oiling. They even put drops in eyes, ears, other places :-0 and swish with oil like mouthwash. It’s really good for dental health. Swishing with coconut oil actually whitens your teeth while improving dental health! If you decide to try this, swish for about 10 minutes as you do your morning routine, and spit the oil out in the trash, not the sink (because it can clog the sink over time).