Category Archives: Health

A Tasty Technique for Better Sleep

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.

Image credit: Mae Mu

A Winter Storm Warning

For most of us, snow removal is an inconvenience that usually results in a runny nose, sore muscles, or at worst, a sore back. But some of us aren’t so lucky. Every year, approximately 100 men suffer from a heart attack during or just after shoveling, and many more head to the ER with chest pain or other cardiovascular concerns. Removing loads of heavy snow can be quite an intense workout that the heart muscle may not be ready for, especially first thing in the morning, and especially in those that don’t regularly engage in physical activity. The cold temperature compounds the problem by increasing blood clotting and blood pressure, resulting in a devastating perfect storm.

Here in Massachusetts, we just had our first heavy snowfall. Tragically, a truly great guy from my high school graduating class lost his life after shoveling out his home. He left behind a beautiful wife and two wonderful kids. It’s a tragedy that should never happen.

Whether you’re a couch potato or in good physical condition, it’s important to warm up before shoveling or snow blowing. Do some stretches, jumping jacks, march in place, sun salutations, ride your exercise bike, or walk on your treadmill if you have one. Don’t go out there cold and half asleep – your cardiovascular system may not be ready for the Herculean effort. Make it easier on yourself! Opt for smaller, lighter loads over heavy ones that make you strain (you’ll save your back too!). And just like any other long workout, stay hydrated and take breaks. This is not an exaggeration.

Getting regular exercise throughout the year will also help you stay strong, healthy, and resilient, even when faced with a mountain of snow. If you currently have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, you might want to consider hiring your neighborhood kid to do the dirty work until you improve your health and lifestyle.

Please spread the word – it could save a life.

Dedicated to Cavie and his family.

Image credit: Todd Trapani

What’s the Best Diet for Type 2 Diabetes?

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 know before 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.

Image credit: Jacob Postuma

Shush the Sugar Cravings

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.
  • Drink licorice or Gymnema Sylvestre herbal tea which also help regulate 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! 

Image by Stephanie Wu Photography

EEE, WNV, and Lyme! OH MY!

In our area, everyone is on high alert about mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Add this to on-going fears about the West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and the upcoming flu season, and many of us are in a legitimate tizzy, dousing ourselves with chemicals and avoiding the great outdoors. Which of course makes sense on some level, but you know what makes even more sense? Keeping our immune systems robust and balanced. 

Louis Pasteur, the father of germ theory, said on his death bed, “The microbe is nothing. The terrain is everything!” By the terrain, he was referring to whether our inner tissues are hospitable to microbes or not. Is our immune system nourished and balanced or suppressed and depressed? 

Unfortunately, most of our Standard American Lifestyle is a direct assault on the immune system. With all this going on, it’s time to bring our A game. A strong immune system makes us less vulnerable to the ravaging effects of all of these pathogens, even the really scary ones. Here are some reminders that will help keep you healthy and strong no matter what microbes are lurking nearby.

Top 8 Actions for Robust Immunity

  1. Sleep well. Get regular, excellent quality sleep. Prioritize your sleep, aiming to go to bed around 10 PM and wake up with the sun, between 5 and 6 AM. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, try the heavy blanket! It’s super soothing and sleep inducing.
  2. Reduce stress. Yup, this again. When you’re stressed, your body de-prioritizes immunity because getting over a cold is way less important than escaping from a tiger. Deadlines, relationship stress, financial worries, etc might not feel like being chased by a tiger in your mind, but your body experiences it that way. There’s enough evidence about the negative impact of stress on our whole body. Now is the time to become aware of your stressors and do something about it. Yoga, meditation, exercise, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction are all effective strategies. Drinking beer and eating cake is not (although admittedly fun and tasty).
  3. Optimize immune nutrients. Your immune system relies heavily on vitamins A and D and zinc. Get out in the sun for D (or supplement with D3 drops). Eat your darkly colored veggies for beta carotene (which gets converted to A). Snack on pumpkin seeds for zinc (these are a great option because they’re sprouted, and therefore more digestible and nutritious).
  4. Reduce sugar as much as possible. A high sugar meal suppresses the immune system for hours… Just in time for your next obscenely decadent latte or snack. If you think about it, most Americans are immune suppressed all day long due to regular sugar spikes.
  5. Nourish your microbiome.We do this in three ways. First, consume probiotics (beneficial bacteria) daily whether through unpasteurized fermented foods like Real Pickles veggies, or a supplement. Second, feed those critters with lots of fiber from plant foods. A highly processed, low fiber diet starves them. That’s mean! Third, avoid the stuff that kills them – antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary), excessive alcohol, glyphosate (which conventional wheat is saturated with – get organic whenever possible), artificial sweeteners like sucralose, pesticides, and conventional meat and dairy (because they contain antibiotic residues and crowd out the fiber rich foods).
  6. Stay hydrated. Dehydrated mucous membranes are more vulnerable to microbes. Drink a couple glasses of water first thing in the morning (with fresh lemon juice as a vitamin C bonus!) and then sip water throughout the day.
  7. Exercise! You know it, but here’s a journal reference if you need one. Just do it.
  8. Be happy, positive, and loving! I know, that sounds woo woo. But research shows that a positive mindset, connection with loved ones, and physical touch all improve immunity. Go hug someone today!

Image credit iStockPhoto

Did you get enough D?

After a long summer of gorgeous sunny days, our vitamin D levels should be stellar! That’s because our skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight. But some of us don’t have optimal levels even at the end of August. Below I discuss why that might be, as well as testing, and important considerations when supplementing.  

The Many Roles of Vitamin D   

Back when I was in nutrition school, vitamin D was mainly appreciated for its role in bone health. But after decades of research, this vitamin is now recognized for its vital role in many aspects of our health. It controls genes related to cancer, autoimmune disease, and the immune system. Low levels have been associated with increased mortality, cardiovascular events, various cancers, a weakened immune system, Multiple Sclerosis, dementia, Type 2 diabetes, depression, and systemic inflammation (which in and of itself contributes to all types of chronic disease).   As we go into the fall, having an optimal level of the sunshine vitamin is especially important because low levels can make us vulnerable to colds and the flu, as well as seasonal depression.      

Why We May not Get Enough   

Clearly, we need to have enough vitamin D to stay healthy. But many of us don’t for a variety of reasons. We generate our own vitamin D by exposing large areas of our skin to direct sunlight, ideally 10-15 minutes a day a few times a week. This is limited by:  

* Working full time indoors.
* Using sunscreen when outside (which blocks about 97% of vitamin D production).
* Living above the 37th parallel (which is basically everything north of Texas). There is only sufficient UVB to make vitamin D during the summer months in the north.
* Having darker skin.
* Aging. Older adults make about a quarter of the vitamin D a younger person does.  

Since most of us have one or more of these factors, Houston, we’ve got a problem. (Well, not technically in Houston.) Indeed, research has demonstrated that 50% of Americans and 70% of children aren’t getting enough vitamin D.      

Checking your Levels   

Because insufficiency can have such far reaching effects, I highly recommend staying abreast of your vitamin D status. It would be interesting to know whether it’s in the optimal range after months of sunshine.    

The conventional range for vitamin D is usually 30 – 100 ng/mL. But it’s important to understand that conventional lab ranges are just statistical norms that encompass 95% of the population (determined by going 2 standard deviations from the mean value). So the conventional ranges represent normal values for a pretty unhealthy population, not something to strive for. Research has shown that having at least 50 ng/mL of vitamin D is better for optimal health. (Be aware that sometimes values are reported in different units.)    

What to do if it’s low? Get on that right away through more sun and/or supplementation (food isn’t a very realistic source). Work with your doctor through regular testing to ensure that your vitamin D is in the optimal range.    

Boosting your Levels   

Research has demonstrated that taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 (the active form) is beneficial and completely safe. Even up to 10,000 IU has been shown to be safe for up to 5 months, but I don’t recommend that high dose unless there is a demonstrated need because very high doses suppress the immune system. Taking drops under the tongue helps to ensure absorption, especially if there is insufficient fat absorption in the intestines.  

Nutrients work in teams, and your body’s final conversion of vitamin D uses a significant amount of magnesium. Magnesium is one of the top three nutrient deficiencies in the US. Taking some magnesium with your vitamin D would help avoid further depletion. Symptoms of magnesium insufficiency include constipation, tight muscles, cramps, anxiety, headaches, blood sugar issues, high blood pressure, and acid reflux. Be on the lookout for that in general, and if especially you’re supplementing with vitamin D.      

Magnesium comes in different forms. A great form that won’t affect your bowels is magnesium glycinate. Magnesium citrate can cause loose stools but is a great option if you have constipation. The oxide and carbonate forms are not well absorbed, and are usually found in low quality brands. Be sure to get your magnesium in capsules, not compressed tablets, which don’t get absorbed as well. This is a great brand.    

Summary   

Stay healthy! If your levels are less than 50 ng/mL;  

* 2000 IU of vitamin D3 drops under tongue
* 100 – 200 mg magnesium glycinate
* Regular assessment of your vitamin D levels with your doctor, adjusting your supplemental dose as necessary

Image: Catching Cabo Sun by Sand Storm Trooper and Ruler of the Sea

Introducing The Summer Party Cleanse!

I used to think that everyone naturally gets healthy and fit in the summer because of all the juicy fresh produce, more outdoor activities, and the tendency to eat a little less when you’re in a bathing suit. Well, maybe that was true when we were in our twenties, but beginning in our forties, it seems that a new pattern emerges. It’s called “summer is the new holidays”. Dun, dun, dunnnnnnn.

Our quintessential summer vacations, bbq’s, picnics, fried beach food, and ice cream stands are no longer fully counterbalanced by healthier summer habits. I know this is a common problem because of all the emails I predictably receive in September from previous cleansers eager to start the fall cleanse immediately!

I’m just going to come out and say it – this is wrong! I’ve long been a proponent that you can live a totally fun life and be healthy and fit. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. It’s about balance, quality, and mindset (aka not totally giving up and ditching your healthy habits just because you downed a Kimball’s-sized ice cream sundae).

So here’s what I’m doing about it… I want to support you in both having an epic summer and feeling energetic, thinner peace, and healthy going into the fall. This well rounded program includes highly effective tenets near and dear to my heart – variety, flexibility, super efficient forms of exercise, exceptionally nutritious food, and self care. It won’t be hard to work the cleanse guidelines into your schedule. Nothing is off limits. You won’t be dieting. Instead, you’ll be having a wonderful summer while staying balanced, and hopefully even feeling better than ever when fall hits.

When you join the program, you’ll get:

  • A short eBook with the full, easy to implement plan (so you’ll still have time to read all your novels this summer)
  • A weekly checklist so you can easily keep track of your Summer Party Cleanse activities
  • Lots of wonderful recipes perfect for the summer and even parties
  • A weekly email with inspiration, more ideas, and recipes of the week
  • Membership into our private Facebook group so we can all chat, share
    tips, and encourage each other (this is permanent, like Hotel
    California)

Because this is the first time I’m offering this, I’m also pricing it super low to get as much participation and feedback as possible. I may get some flack for this, but here it is… I invite you to join the Summer Party Cleanse for just $25. Not because it’s not valuable, but because I want it to be a no-brainer for you to join me. The 8-week program begins July 7th (and your eBook will arrive June 30th). Join here!

Image by DisobeyArt

3 Ways to Cleanse with Us

… Even if you’re not cleansing with us

If you didn’t join our group cleanse this spring, we want you to know that we’re still thinking about you and want to support you from afar! Spring is the time when your body really wants to cleanse. It’s truly is primed and ready to release anything unneeded, like toxins, extra adipose, water retention, and the like. To feel truly vibrant, help that precious body along!

  1. Drink lots of water. Start your day with one or two big glasses of water with fresh lemon in it, and then sip water all day long between meals (not with meals).
  2. Sweat that out with exercise, an IR Sauna, and/or a hot Epsom salt bath.  
  3. Go light on the fat and sugar, and hit the greens hard… lots of leafy greens – arugula, parsley, cilantro, baby spinach, kale, microgreens. Be sure they’re organic and chew them well to extract as much nutrition from as possible!

And if you still feel like you need some extra support, we have another smaller group beginning their cleanse on May 12th. Stay tuned!

Image credit: Speleolog

Where our Goals Intersect

I hope you’re crushing those New Year’s Resolutions! Or moving towards your dreams in a way that makes you feel hopeful and happy. Progress, no matter how tentative, builds momentum and life force energy. There’s so much reward even in taking just one step forward.    

If you’re looking for a little activation energy to get started on your wellness plan, this is where our goals intersect.    

I LOVE helping people transform their health the natural and lasting way. I’ve dedicated decades of my life to learning how to do that through many disciplines, including traditional nutrition, holistic health coaching, functional medicine coaching, yoga, and yoga’s sister science Ayurveda. Then I poured the best combination of that knowledge and experience into The Ultimate Rejuvenation Cleanse.     

It is a cleanse, and so much more. In this 28-day program, you’ll cleanse out toxins, sugar addiction, and inflammation. You’ll also infuse yourself with deeply nourishing foods, habits, self care, and perspective shifts. You’ll learn experientially which foods serve your unique body and which ones don’t.   

All these gains will stick around, and propel you towards your goals even after the cleanse is done. This is not one of those one-dimensional, deprivation diets where you drop some pounds and gain it right back plus a few more. The goal of this program is multifaceted nourishment so your body heals, rejuvenates, and you reach your ideal weight almost as a side benefit.    

Additionally, you’ll cultivate fantastic energy, glowing skin, mental clarity, and profound wellness. You’ll learn a lot, get excited and inspired, discover great new things, and have expert support.     

The program follows a gentle, luxurious pace. Slow and steady wins the race! In the first seven days, we build a strong self care foundation before we make a single change to our diets. During the second week, we start to make a few dietary shifts towards whole, unprocessed food. The third week is the official full cleanse week, with plenty of delicious food and self care the whole time. Finally, the fourth week is when we test for food sensitivities. Often it’s those hidden sensitivities that cause pesky health issues like low energy, weight gain, brain fog, sinus and skin issues, digestive woes, etc. This is a major key to well-being that most people miss.

You’ll get a content rich, inspiring email every morning, a 200+ page eBook with everything you need to know about the cleanse plus lots of bonuses, 150+ delicious cleanse friendly recipes, a Quick Start Guide that cuts to the chase, a private Facebook group to chat with me and other cleansers, a few optional live events including 2 conference calls, a shopping trip, and celebration dinner (if you’re local).

If this sounds like the perfect program for you right now, let’s take that step forward together –  join the cleanse today! We can also stay connected on Facebook.

Image credit: Al1974ex

I bet you never heard THIS productivity secret!

There’s so much excellent wisdom about increasing productivity that you could get seriously behind in your work researching the many ways to be productive. The books, blog posts, and TED Talks are shiny objects that I cannot resist. However, despite all the time I’ve spent unlocking the secrets to my productivity, I can’t say any of of the techniques became my permanent M.O. I suspect I’m not alone in that.

I do however have a pretty awesome productivity secret of my own that my clients and I have discovered along the way. It’s a little different because it’s not about setting up systems, planning, or scheduling. It’s more about removing what is blocking your mental clarity, energy, and motivation. From your dinner plate.

It’s gluten.

Surprised? If I had a dime for every client that has been truly astounded at how much more mental clarity and energy they gained by removing gluten from their diet, I’d be able to make a long distance call from a payphone. If I could find one. Here’s what one client said after being gluten free for about a month, “I got done in one hour what used to take me all day. The mental fog is totally gone.” Other clients (myself included) noticed how much less we procrastinate. Getting things done doesn’t feel like such a slog. There is more ease and less resistance. So your work gets done more efficiently, and more effectively as well.

I can’t help thinking… if going gluten free can make that much of a difference in productivity for one person, imagine if a whole company did it? Whoa.

Millions of us suffer from what is called “non-Celiac gluten sensitivity”. That’s when the proteins in gluten don’t necessarily cause digestive distress, but they do make you physically fatigued, mentally lethargic, and struggling with motivation. There is a whole spectrum of other conditions that glutlen sensitivity can lead to as well, from annoying to debilitating.

If you’re suffering from low energy and mental fog, try removing gluten from your diet for a few weeks and see what happens. Odds are you’re going to start feeling a lot better and getting your work done like a boss. Without blood, sweat, or even coffee.

Going gluten free might seem daunting at first because gluten is omnipresent in our diets. But it’s really not that difficult once you learn a few tricks. Restaurants are getting on the bandwagon and offering more and more gluten free options.

Do yourself a favor by doing it the right way. Swap all that bread and pasta for nutrient dense whole grains like quinoa, brown or black rice, and other whole food starches like sweet potatoes, not highly processed gluten free white bread and pasta. We want you to get healthier too, not just more productive.

And now a word from our sponsor… In my cleanse, I can show you how to go gluten free (and test for other common food sensitivities), significantly upgrade your nutrition, and get you taking better care of yourself than ever before. When you do that, your vitality, mood, and productivity skyrockets!

Now back to work!

Image credit: Alper Kutay Erke