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The Nocebo Effect: Can You Think Yourself Sick?

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The Body is Not A Textbook

When it comes to healing the body, I’m the type practitioner who believes it’s more an art form than a science, but only because I’ve witnessed what happens when we reduce the body to a textbook.

 

You see, for many years, I made my body a textbook. I figured the more I knew the better, and set out to learn everything I could about the intricacies of internal human landscape as I worked to heal my own debilitating conditions. I was the woman “doing everything right,” by all evidence-based standards, but who was still mired in fear, doubt and a host of physical ailments that left me hanging by a thread. And, not only was I caught in this puzzling web of confusion, but I still see it time and time again in my practice in women dealing not only with whatever diagnoses or host of symptoms they’re plagued with, but also burn out from all the routines, rituals, supplements and protocols of which they’re strictly adhering.

 

To be fair, these prescriptions and recommendations are helpful. For short term data-collection, plans and supplemental support can absolutely be useful, and I’ll never be one to refute the power of cleansing leafy greens or gut-healing bone broth. Yet, ultimately, finding out what the body needs to repair itself requires more than a pantry full of vitamins and piles of expensive doctor bills. Rather, it requires a gentle, subtle tuning in that starts with our beliefs about it’s ability to do so.

 

Many of us have heard of the placebo effect in medicine and health, but less so the Nocebo effect. While the placebo effect demonstrates the positive correlation between the mind-body connection (the body’s ability to heal itself), the nocebo effect points to it’s negative implications. Essentially, the nocebo effect is a branch of mind-body healing dedicated to understanding the correlation between the negative beliefs we hold about our body and how they manifest physically and mentally.

 

What I I want to discuss in this post is how certain beliefs and thoughts you may harboring could be holding you back from that which you want – to live a healthy, free and happy life.

 

Understanding the Mind-Body Connection

 

The mind is powerful, this we know. But just how powerful is less charted territory, particularly because our Western medicine culture doesn’t leave a lot of room for anecdotal, or what is often termed woo-woo, evidence. Without good hypothesis and proof, we don’t consider research like that to be valid. And we certainly don’t find clinical evidence to be enough to constitute fact. Meaning that just because I see something repeated in my practice, doesn’t mean it’s true. But, nonetheless, when all else fails and we’ve tested every lab imaginable with no movement toward improvement, its worth looking into what else could be causing the block.

 

Enter: Mind-body healing. Unfortunately, it’s still last on the list for most people after all other efforts have failed, but then again, I don’t really care how you got here, only that you did.

 

To demonstrate the Nocebo Effect in action, let’s take a look at a few examples that have been recorded throughout the years:

 

·      In a controlled study done for a new chemotherapy drug, control patients were given saline water as their placebo, yet 30% of them lost their hair.

 

·      In another study, control patients were given a sugar pill they were told could cause nausea. 80% of them vomited.

 

·      Patients on antidepressants who were reporting a decrease in depression were told they would be getting randomized placebos – meaning they may or may not be continuing their medication. Both patients who continued their medication, and those on the placebo, reported a returning and worsening of symptoms.

 

Now, these are just three of many studies done on the same topic, but they aptly showcase what I mean when I say “the mind is king.” In other words, what you think you shall see. NOT what you see, you shall think.

 

Our brain’s ability to construct our reality is real, and worth examining if we find ourselves unable to kick certain illnesses, symptoms, beliefs, patterns or conditions.

 

How to Know If The Nocebo Effect is Affecting You

 

I often tell my clients to start out writing a list of things they believe to be true about their bodies. For example: If someone is struggling with chronic fatigue, they may list out beliefs like:

 

I’m always tired.

I can’t exercise without needing a nap.

I don’t’ sleep well.

I never know how my body will feel.

I’m just kind of a weak and sickly person. Always have been, always will be.

 

Someone who is trying and failing to lose weight may believe things like:

 

I can’t quit sugar, I’ve tried hundreds of times

Working out is really hard

I just look at food and gain weight

My love handles get bigger every year

My body was just built to be big

 

Bear in mind that these will vary depending on whatever it is you’re considering a struggle.

Then, after they’ve done that, I ask them to see how many on their list serve them well and how many do not. And by serve them, I mean are helpful to their healing. Most of the time, there are very few which serve them, and many, many that hinder their efforts and cause emotional responses like depression, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness and powerlessness.

 

When we get clear on what our beliefs about our body or condition or life circumstances are, it becomes easier to see what sorts of responses are resulting as a consequence. Simply put, if I wake up everyday believing that I am tired and didn’t get enough sleep, that is what I will most likely find to be true day in and day out.

 

While the Nocebo Effect isn’t widely understood from a scientific viewpoint (it’s hard to get approval for studies that knowingly cause harm), some researchers point to the stress effect that negative beliefs or thoughts can have on the body and attribute the physical decline that occurs in response to the Nocebo Effect. In other words, your worrisome and stressful thoughts about your condition trigger a physical stress response in your body which causes all kinds of symptom manifestations.

 

Yet, this doesn’t necessarily describe the “how” behind the specificity like the cases listed above. But, whether or not we have a fully functional explanation, it’s clear to see that the mind plays a HUGE role in whether or not the body will be able to heal, and I see this in my practice often. Which is exactly why I believe healing the mind and body must be done congruently. When we talk about root cause medicine, we’re referring to finding the root of the problem and digging it out so to speak to the issue can resolve. When the root cause is a belief, that must be addressed as well and can start with something as little as being willing to notice the beliefs that are working for your benefit, and the ones that are not, and then working to replace them slowly.

 

Even a statement as tiny as, “I don’t know if my body will ever heal, but I’m willing to hold out hope,” can be enough to open up the door of possibilities previously closed to you by your unwillingness to see them.

 

We know that the power of the placebo effect is real and mighty and can lead to dramatic, spontaneous healings in the body and mind. With that said, it would only make sense that the opposite it true as well, in which case, paying attention to our daily, even moment-to-moment, thoughts about our life could and would be worthwhile.

 

Til next time,

Sy

 

 

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Using food as a form of self-love

Let’s face it – you have a body and it needs nourishment, but you also have a body you feel needs to fit certain standards of beauty within a cultural context. Sadly, these two needs don’t fit into the same box for most women and, more often than not, we find ourselves sacrificing health for beauty or, conversely, believing that we have to sacrifice beauty for health. I don’t know about you, but the conversation I’m interested in having is one in which sacrifice is not invited to the party and we can literally have our cake and eat it too – honestly, why would you want cake you can’t eat anyway?

 

Most women, including myself at various times throughout my life, I know tend to view food in a very dogmatic, data-driven, numbers sort of way.

 

How many calories does it have?

Will it fit my carbs for the day?

Is it a bad food or a good food?

How many miles will I have to run to get rid of that dessert?

 

We act like food is merely an annoyance to deal with, something we’d really prefer not to engage with if we could just figure out how to bypass our biology…

 

“If only I wasn’t so hungry all the time!!! I’d totally look like a bikini model. Damn appetite. Damn body”

 

Comical yes, but sad and true nonetheless.

 

But what if there was a different way? A way to love and appreciate food. To court our food like a romantic, Italian lover and to fall in love with the very essence of it? To tap into the sensual, inspired side of food and to revel in its colors, tastes and smells? To find gratitude for its nutrients and excitement in its stunning beauty? And, further, what if the path to this glorious relationship with food was through our relationship to ourselves?

 

You see, whether you like it or not, you were given a body. And that body of yours is a precious gift. We, as in our consciousness, are not our bodies, but rather souls that reside in a body until we decide to leave. In that sense, your body really is on loan from forces that extend further than your ability to see them.

 

Imagine this: Let’s say that when you are born you are given a car. This car is meant to last you your whole life and get you everywhere you need to go. Now, knowing how fickle cars can be, I’m betting you’d treat your car with the utmost respect, love and appreciation. You’d feed it quality gas and take it for regular tune ups. You’d keep it clean and fueled up with all the right fluids and treat it with loving kindness. You wouldn’t push it to do more than its capable of because you’d understand that you don’t get another one if it were to die out, and you have places to go, people to meet, things to do! Ultimately, this car would be your most prized possession because without it your life would be incredibly difficult to maintain.

 

As clunky and mismatched as this analogy may be, your body IS your car and you do only get one in this lifetime. Your body was given to you for a very special purpose, and truthfully, I believe you picked it out with utter excitement knowing all that you could do together. You said, “that’s the one I want! Just look at it!”

 

In return, your body wants nothing more than to please you, to help you get around, to house an intelligent brain and take you on grand adventures – but you, in your human nature, are over here berating it, punishing it, scolding it and hating it. You curse your body and say mean things to its face. You talk about it behind its back and criticize it every time you see it. You expect it to perform like a work horse on a peasant’s diet and then get angry when it holds on to its last shred of comfort in your thick thighs, beautiful, soft belly and full cheeks.

 

Can you really blame it? I don’t know anyone or anything that can thrive under those conditions.

 

So let’s change the narrative. Let’s become renegades in the world of food and nutrition and diet, and say “No more” to the ceaseless marketing meant to make us feel bad about our bodies!

 

Let’s fall in love with food and get excited about what our “car” needs to keep living up to its fullest potential. Next time you’re in the grocery store, imagine what your car might need in this moment… What sounds delicious, fresh and vital? What makes your heart dance a happy dance when you think about it?

 

Can you imagine the perfect crunch of a salad leaf?
Can you taste the sweetness of a fresh peach?

Can you imagine a bite of nourishing, creamy butter on a warm piece of toast?

Is a delicious bite of decadent dark chocolate calling your name?

Does a bittersweet glass of red wine on the patio make your toes tingle with anticipation?

 

Intuitive eating and eating out of love are about so much more than always choosing the “healthiest” foods or foods that we deem good. Sometimes, in a moment of pure joy and self-love, a piece of dark chocolate with some smooth, creamy cashew butter just lights me up. Other times, I really want to snuggle on my couch, watch a good movie, drink some wine and indulge in a gluten-free pizza. The key being that both scenarios involve love, not angst, worry or guilt.

 

Choosing to fuel your body isn’t always about drinking green smoothies and eating salads, although those are great choices in moderation. Using self-love to heal your relationship with food means caring about the way you feel (emotionally) and eating with love on your mind and in your heart. It means getting excited about your meals, trusting your body to absorb the nutrients and tuning into what your body is asking for in that moment. It’s living moment to moment and understanding that you are a dynamic, changing being, and therefore, your food choices will be too!

 

At first, it can seem scary to let go of the rules and restrictions, especially if we’ve had them in place for a while. And for a tiny bit, you may go off the deep end eating everything you can think of in that moment. That’s ok. If there is one thing I can promise, it’s that if you approach it with a feeling of curiosity and love, you will come back to center and your body will balance itself out. After one too many pints of ice cream, you WILL crave some veggies, and in that powerful moment, you are on your way to intuitive eating. That is what it means to use cravings to your advantage and to listen to the messages.

 

Intuitive eating, born out of self-love, is not a dietary strategy. It is the relationship you were always meant to have with your body. The one where you wake up in the morning grateful for its existence and say, “what do you need today, how can I serve you? What would make you happy?”

 

The rewards from tuning in and listening to those messages are countless, but the greatest one I believe it the sense of complete confidence you begin to embody as you recognize the effort you’re willing to make for this priceless friend of yours. Knowing you are doing all you can for yourself in order for you to thrive brings about a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude for yourself, and that, my friends, is true self-love.

 

 

Happy eating!

 

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Why I'm Changing the Direction of My Business, and Why I'd Love for You To Come Along!


Blog Post – Why I’m Changing the Direction of my practice, and why I’d love for you to follow along

 

 

I have a confession. I’ve been struggling for a while now, and truthfully the only people I’ve expressed it to are my closest confidants. I don’t mean to imply that anything is wrong, because its not, but I haven’t felt aligned with my practice for a couple of months now and the frustration has been swirling and building and gestating. Recently, this somewhat irritating energy finally decided to express itself, and I experienced a pretty major meltdown. However, once I finally dried my tears and got myself out of the shame/blame game, I realized the clarity that had been born from the moment. You see, I started out in the health and wellness community very passionate and excited about nutrition and its role in the vitality of the human body. I thrived on learning how to heal from chronic conditions that the conventional medical community dismissed such as anxiety, autoimmunity, depression and hormonal imbalance and ate up every piece of information I could. From there I got interested in other physically-focused aspects of health like sleep, exercise and the stress response, but then as I continued my research, work with clients and personal journey into the space of living well, I realized there was a big, fat hole no one was talking about. Well, not no one, but at least not the majority of practitioners I knew and listened to. The disconnect was: How other pieces of our lives such as work, relationships, self-acceptance, mindset and our ability to lean into feelings like love, vulnerability and joy fit into the puzzle of wellness AND can stop us from really ever getting out from under the story we feel is ours to bear. You see, many of my clients (including myself at one point) hit a wall and stalled out when we focused solely on nutrition. Sure they’d get results and feel or look physically better, but they would either fall back into old habits OR still walk away feeling like there was something missing. They’d get stuck in “healing mode” for months or even years at a time always looking for the next protocol, lab or aha-diagnoses to finally cure their issues, not realizing it all had to do with alignment.

 

The deeper I got into my own path with these internal subjects, the more I started sharing with my clients and the more results they started getting as well. They were becoming happier, calmer, more joyful and less anxious. They were aligning more with their soul paths and learning all about self-love and compassion and taking time, maybe for the first time, to implement self-care, which led them to show up better for everyone around them as well. WE began talking about relationships, and shame around money and their unwillingness to forgive themselves for not being perfect and as I watched these transformations unfold, I realized that I no longer aligned with just a nutrition-centered practice, but still wasn’t sure how to bridge the gap between where I was with my business and where I really wanted to be.

 

Then this last week, in the middle of another frustrating battle, and subsequent breakdown, with my copy, messaging and marketing (all things I dread by the way), I realized something – It wasn’t flowing because it wasn’t my truth. Well, not my whole truth anyway. You see, I’m not interested in taking my clients half way and focusing in on what I consider to be only one aspect of healing and transformation. I’m interested in co-creating and rendezvousing with those who are ready to chew on the whole enchilada. Those who are looking to wake up a year from now and say, “I don’t even recognize the person I used to be.” Those who are willing, able and committed to finding purpose and passion every day and who are ready to fight the good fight to bring forth their authenticity and divine truth.

 

Does nutrition line up with this? Absolutely. You must have a well-oiled machine if you want to win the race, but is it the whole picture? Not from what I’ve found. In fact, over the last couple years, I’ve found that there are really 6 key areas of the human experience that impact whether or not we will ever reach our fullest potential and live a life of freedom and happiness, of health and wellness. They are: Diet, Sleep, Exercise, beliefs/mindset, relationships and finances. And yes, I’m aware that the last one is a loaded topic, but it’s true. I’ve met people who were eating the best diets and sleeping 8 hours a night, but were riddled with dis-ease because they were constantly worried sick about money or, on the flip side, who felt terrible living large because what they really wanted was to live off the grid in a more sustainable way. Like it or not, money plays a role in all of our lives and our alignment with what feels good to us matters – whatever that may be!

 

In my mind, each one of these aspects compliments the others like a beautiful tapestry with multi-colored threads woven throughout. The picture simply wouldn’t be complete without each individual colored strand, and that is the way I have found healing to occur. I believe with my whole heart that when we are not in alignment with the higher purpose we come here to this earth for, that our bodies will find a way of telling us this. Maybe it starts out small like feeling a little tired and burned out, but as we continue to ignore the messages, our body and inner beings turn into screaming toddlers, throwing tantrums and trying every trick they know to get our attention.

 

The more we ignore the message, the louder the fits get until finally, and usually in a grand-gesture of frustration, we end up with something more serious like autoimmunity, heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, thyroid issues or some psychosomatic condition conventional medicine has no answer for (um, hello me). Then, and only then, with our backs pinned against the wall, do we usually listen up and THIS is the pivotal moment where we have a choice. A choice to choose a new path, the one that’s always been waiting for us, being held in trust by our higher consciousness, or to turn away in fear and continue to live a life with our hearts and souls closed off to all that we are wasting away what precious time we have left in this mortal body.

 

For those who choose option A, the path will not always be clear or easy – that is to be expected, and where I come in as a coach. I decided to go at this journey alone, but not because I wanted to. At the time, I simply didn’t realize there were coaches out there who were acting as mentors and guides and facilitators for those like myself who were walking the path of awakening and transformation, or I would have absolutely enlisted the help someone wiser. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t’ have teachers. I read books, I listened to books, I listened to podcasts, I read blogs, I Googled an inordinate amount of questions, I went to retreats, I spoke with friends and family, I saw therapists, I went to yoga classes, I meditated, I saw energy healers, I followed inspiring Instagram accounts and so much more. I submerged myself into the space of transformation because it was what I wanted more deeply than anything I’d ever wanted, and you can too. I went through much trial and error in my own journey, and while I certainly don’t preach one way of living (there are a million different ways to align), I do feel like all those experiences put me in a much better position to guide others down the path of awakening and reformation.

 

I believe that there are more of us than ever hearing the call. The call that says, “There’s more. I am more.” It is when we hear this call that we must listen or our resistance to it will build and gain so much momentum that our lives will begin to disintegrate before our eyes as the universe drags us along down the path to our dreams. We can go kicking and screaming, getting beat up along the way by the dusty road of stagnation and fear, or we can let go, surrender and trust that where we are heading is grander than anything we could have imagined for ourselves. It is our choice.

 

So, with that being said, this is the gentle, but exciting shift I will be making with my clients and in my platform. I’m not entirely sure how it will all unfold, and that part is exciting to me now. But I do know that this new, more expansive direction feels right and feels good. I can’t wait to be a part of the many journeys of total life transformation that are to come. Nothing gives me more joy than seeing my clients lives improve as they learn to lean into their intuitive nature and step into their power and vitality. But none of that is possible without addressing more than just our diets. More than just what’s in front of us in a way that we can see, touch and hear. We must go deeper if we are to truly change, and that is what I hope to bring to the table in this new direction. I hope you’ll stick along for the ride. I have a feeling it’s only going to get bigger and better from here. Until next time...

 

Much love, 

Sy 

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How Food Affects Your Mood: Part 1, Anxiety and Nutrition


A Real-Food Approach to Anxiety

Anxiety and mood disorders are huge topics when it comes to health and wellness. In fact, millions of people are currently on prescription anti-anxiety medication and struggle with the effects of their condition daily. As someone who battled chronic anxiety and panic attacks for over 20 years, I understand just how crippling and mind-numbing it can be. Not only does anxiety play a large role in our emotional wellbeing, but more and more research is pointing to the physical effects stress has on our bodies as well. While there are several factors to consider when it comes to managing your anxiety, one of the most influential and foundational facets is nutrition. Generally speaking, our nutrition has either the ability to bring us closer to wellness or closer to disease, depending on how we incorporate it into our lives. My aim in this series is to discuss the ways in which food can restore health and vitality and to give you some simple tips for nutritionally calming down your nervous system.

 

Simply put, your nervous system is directly affected by what you eat. When we eat food, it gets broken down by our digestive system into small nutrients like sugars, amino acids or fatty acids which can then be used by our body for various functions. For example: Amino acids are needed to make neurotransmitters that help our brain to feel happy, alert and energetic, and we get them from protein-containing foods such as meat, fish and eggs. Certain foods are higher in nutrients than others, which is what makes them part of a healthy diet. These nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, which we’ll refer to from here on out as The Gut.

 

One of the ways we can increase levels of anxiety is by not getting enough of these nutrient building-blocks in our diet. Like we mentioned above, many of the neurotransmitters and hormones that our brain needs to work optimally are made out of nutrients such as amino acids and essential fatty acids. Before we digest them, these are known as proteins and fats, but what we don’t realize it that not all nutrients are created equal. When we eat processed, synthetic foods (mostly found on the shelves of grocery stores), many of the nutrients have been destroyed through the manufacturing line, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates. This means we are left with a lifeless food that our bodies aren’t quite sure how to use. As we become more and more deficient in these essential building blocks, we become less and less able to manufacture our feel-good brain chemicals which leads to all kinds of imbalances, including anxiety. While it might seem over-generalized, the statement, “you are what you eat,” couldn’t be more true.

 

Tips for Nutrient Density

Eating a nutrient-dense diet means that our food is coming from real sources which have been minimally processed to retain the most nutrients possible. It also means avoiding foods we call pseudo-foods, or in other words, foods which have been made with ingredients that disrupt our health such as high amounts of sugar, synthetic vitamins and minerals, chemical preservatives and fillers, artificial flavors and colors, sugar substitutes and other hard-to-pronounce items. But, you may be wondering at this point how to determine which foods fall into this category and which foods you should be avoiding? Below, I’ve outlined three easy principles to get you started on the path to real-food living and towards greater health and less anxiety.

 

1.     Shop the perimeter. This advice has been used a lot, but that’s because it still rings true. Most of the foods you should be eating (meats, vegetables, fruits, eggs, etc.) are found on the outside aisles of the grocery store rather than down the middle lanes. There are definitely exceptions to this rule such as with nuts, seeds and some healthy snacks, but as a general rule of thumb, you will do well with shopping the perimeter. To further nourish your body, look for pasture-raised meats and eggs, organic vegetables and fruits and minimally-processed condiments and snacks. If you are eating foods with labels, make sure you check the ingredient list for items you can recognize. If it sounds like a chemical, it probably is, and you’ll be better off looking for another brand or alternative option to drop in your cart. Shopping at local farmer’s markets is also a great way to ensure you’re getting fresh, vibrant and whole foods into your diet.

 

2.     Don’t Fear Fat. Sadly, we’ve spent many years fearing healthy fats and thus created the low-fat/no-fat fad that’s just now starting to get debunked. Healthy fats do many things for our body, but they are particularly nourishing and soothing to our nervous systems because of how they interact with our blood sugar. If you’re currently experiencing anxiety, adding in one source of fat into every meal can greatly reduce low blood sugar episodes which tend to look and feel a lot like anxiety. Healthy sources include: fattier cuts of meat including beef, fish (especially salmon), seafood, whole eggs, organ meats, butter and ghee from grass-fed cows, olive and olive oil, avocado and avocado oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, sprouted or soaked nuts and seeds, nut butters and raw cheeses and milks.

 

3.     Limit Sugar Intake. In part 3 of this series, we’ll dive even deeper into sugar’s effects on the body and brain, but for now, realize that sugar can significantly impact your mood, and usually for the worse. While sugar gives us an instant “high” and makes us feel good temporarily, it’s usually followed by a crash and burn where we feel terrible. This usually shows up as jitteriness, headaches, shakiness, extreme hunger, irritability or racing thoughts, which are eerily similar to anxiety attacks. For the best results, aim to eat no more than 25-30 grams of sugar a day, mostly coming from natural sources or sweeteners like fruit, raw honey or dark chocolate. At first this can be difficult, but as your blood sugar begins to even out and cravings are diminished, you’ll see energy levels increase and anxiety levels decrease.

 

 Navigating the waters of anxiety can be tough, but with a compassionate, curious approach, you can dramatically shift the way you interact with the world and learn to live free from fear, worry and panic. Stay tuned for part two of this series where we’ll talk about how food sensitivities could be triggering an immune response in your body and revving up stress and anxiety. Now go enjoy some yummy, healthy food! 

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How to Keep Your Energy During the Holidays


 

 

So, we’re officially in the throws of holiday season and you know what that means…

 

More:  Sweets, alcohol and stress

Less:    Exercise, sleep and healthy meals.

 

For a while, this is manageable. Our bodies are pretty durable and it may take a while for the negative consequences to show themselves. But, if you’re anything like most people, after the New Year festitivies have worn off and all the hustle and bustle of the holidays is over, you’re left feeling lethargic, stuffy, out of your routine and a bit sick of sugar but also unable to stop eating it. Sound familiar?

 

If so, keep reading. Today I’m sharing my top five tips for beating the holiday health blues as well as how to do a bone broth fast, which is my number one when it comes to avoiding that icky bloated, heavy feeling that comes with too many indulgences.

 

If the holidays were literally one day, we wouldn’t have a problem. The issues lies in all the fun leading up to and surrounding them. Wait- that sounds pretty grim. Let me rephrase. The issue is NOT in the fun itself but in the amount of opportunities it presents for us to “derail” from our nutrient-dense diets and stress-reducing practices. Again, letting go and balancing out with more relaxed time is not a bad thing, in fact it’s equally necessary for good health, but most of us get more than we bargained for when it comes to all the holiday parties, commitments and activities that pile up.

 

So, how do you “get back on track” after the actually event itself then? Over the years, I’m come up with a few strategies that help me recalibrate after the excitement which also allow me to head into the new year with lots of energy, excitement and good health.

 

My Top Tips:

 

1.     Do a mini bone broth fast. Fasting is one the best ways for us to give our digestive system a rest and to reset the hormones that play a role in blood sugar regulation and hunger signals. If you have a particularly hard time with bloating or with cutting out the sugar and alcohol, a bone broth fast will be your best friend. When we constantly bombard our digestive system with extra food and sweets, it can get “backed up” so to speak. Giving it a day of rest, while still supplying your body with easy-to-digest proteins and nutrients gives you all the benefits of a fast without the cravings and hunger pains usually associated with it. I personally find that fasting for the day and then finishing off with a light, healthy dinner works best, but if you feel fine fasting for a full 24 hours, go for it! I’ve put instructions for how to do the fast below.

 

2.     Force yourself to move. When you’ve been indulging in sweets, skipping workouts and staying up a little too late, getting in some exercise can seem like the last thing you’d rather do, but it’s also one of the most powerful ways to stimulate motivation and energy levels. I’m not saying you have to go smash a CrossFit workout – although if that feels good to you, by all means. Just work to get some type of movement into your day and I promise it will shift your mindset and energy for the better. You could start with a simple walk, some yoga, some stretching, a good run, lifting some weights, taking a dance or fitness class, taking your dogs out to play. Any and all of that will be good to get blood flow moving and your lymphatic system clearing out all the gunk. The key here is: Even if you don’t feel like it, DO IT. (unless you’re sick, then stay home J )

 

3.     Aim for extra veggies. I’m not saying count calories or get super strict about your food intake. That usually sends most of us into a rebound effect anyway where we rebel and eat ALL the nasty food we can get our hands on. All I’m suggesting is that you focus on increasing your vegetable intake to 2 or 3 servings a day and see what happens. I’m willing to bet that diet, exercise and mindset practices sort of fall into place as you commit to this one small goal daily. Vegetables are full of anti-oxidants and offer us the micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that support our immune system, energy levels and general metabolism, so eat up!

 

4.     Schedule in some self-care that excites you. The key is that you feel good about whatever you’re scheduling in. If going for a run makes you feel exhausted just thinking about it, that’s probably not the best option. However, if dry brushing and taking a bubble bath sounds delightful, then it could be just what you need to start your motivation train. Eating well, exercising and taking care of one’s needs are forms of self-love and self-respect. When we feel loved and taken care for, we are much more likely to continue the habits we know make us feel good. It’s cyclical in nature, so taking the time to schedule out some self-care can be the starter to that fire. Some of my favorites include: Getting a fresh haircut, doing my nails, taking a bath, going to do something I love like skiing or hiking, reading a great book all day long, splurging on a new supplement (yes, I’m dorky like that) or going shopping for a new outfit. All of these make me feel joyful and loved and motivated to keep the feeling alive by continuing healthy habits.

 

5.     Lastly, one of my favorite ways to keep motivation high is to set daily reminders on my phone to go off at various times throughout the day. I don’t recommend setting too many as science shows that constant notifications can actually be stressful, but setting 1 or 2 throughout your day is helpful. Whatever it is that you’re trying to work on that day, write yourself a little note and set it to remind you once in the morning and once at night to help you keep motivated and aware. For example, if I’m concerned with slowing down and being mindful during my day, I might write something like, “Take a deep breath, notice your surroundings, all is well.” And then, when this reminder goes off, I’ll take a moment to check in and do whatever it is my reminder is telling me to do. Creating new habits can be challenging when we don’t remember them until the day is over – this is why I love reminders so much, because let’s be honest, most of us are attached to our phones! We might as well make them useful in a positive way.

 

 

So, that’s it guys. Today is short and sweet, but hopefully you can take one or two of these tips and weave them into your routine. As always, let me know your thoughts in the commentsand feel free to share your own tips and tricks for staying well through the holiday season!

 

 

Bone Broth Fasting:

1.     Make or purchase your bone broth. Depending on your blood sugar regulation, you will want 3-6 meals worth. I personally go through about 3-4 mugs during my day, but when I first started these, I was closer to 6 because my blood sugar was a little wonky.

2.     Substitute your breakfast, lunch and any snacks during the day for a mug of bone broth. If you feel extra hungry or unable to fast completely, I recommend adding 1-2 eggs into your broth like an egg-drop soup.

3.     You may have another mug for dinner, or if you’re feeling ready to break your fast, shoot for a light, healthy dinner such as an easy protein like chicken or fish, some veggies and a healthy fat like butter, coconut oil or ghee.

4.     The next day, you may eat as usual.

 

I try to do one mini fast per week during stressful or crazy months as they keep my digestive fire stoked, my energy levels up and my immunity high! 

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What Digestion has To Do With Your Energy



Adrenal and chronic fatigue are funny creatures. And when I say funny, I don’t mean in the humorous sense. Not even a little bit. They’re hardly funny and often bring the people experiencing them many, many tears and feelings of frustration. What I mean by funny, is that they’re extremely non-descript, which can make them tough to wrangle. I see so many women (and sometimes men) getting caught up in the tiny nuances that can be easy to get carried away in when it comes to adrenal and endocrine issues.

 

What is my basal body temperature?  Which minerals am I lacking?  What does my cortisol panel look like? Which supplements should I take? What can I DO?!

 

While I understand how easy it can be to travel down the rabbit hole (Trust me, I was once the most neurotic of them all!)  getting back to the basics and setting up stellar foundations is often what tips the scales in our favor. It’s hard to have a healthy, well-functioning body without a sturdy base. Similar to a house, our foundation is of the utmost importance and digestion is one of those pillars –in fact, arguably the absolute most important one.

 

You see, digestion affects every cell, in every tissue, in every organ, in every system in the entire body. Think about that for a minute. Really let is sink in.

 

As a society, we’ve become very disconnected from the idea that food is our livelihood. I think this has happened in part because it’s so readily available. We have the wonderful luxury of thinking about our food in terms of taste and calories and weight gain or loss – but ancestrally speaking, it was about staying alive. Without the nutrients we receive from food, our cells quite literally shrivel up and die. We are made of cells so… I’m sure you can see where this is going. Therefore, to think that food can’t change the landscape of what’s going on in our bodies would be illogical.

 

Moving forward, digestion is the process by which we extract nutrients from the food we eat and turn them into usable energy in the cells we talked about above. When our digestive process is broken or sluggish, we aren’t able to extract the vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbs which all play irreplaceable roles in the body’s metabolic functions. Without the basic building blocks it needs, it becomes taxing for your body to do its many jobs which can make us feel depleted, tired and fatigued. For example: amino acids from protein are needed to repair the body’s tissues, carry toxins out of the body, build hormones and much more. Without sufficient stomach acid, we cannot cleave the proteins we eat into their amino acid form. If those proteins never get digested/broken down, we can’t carry out the necessary processes from above. Now, the body has to work twice as hard to carry out those functions AND it will probably steal nutrients from other stores to get the job done, depleting your body even further. It is here that we start to see how fatigue ties in to digestion.

 

This is just ONE simple scenario, but there are thousands of functions that suffer when we aren’t able to break down our food. In a way, you can think of it like a car without gas. A car can’t run without gas, and digestion is the process of going to the gas station and filling up so that you can continue to drive.

 

I’ve never met someone with adrenal or chronic fatigue that didn’t also suffer from some sort of digestive issue. The sad thing is, sometimes we get so used to having them, that we forget what proper digestion feels like. In case you’re not sure whether or not your digestion could use some TLC, here are the most common digestive symptoms you may experience: bloating, heartburn, indigestion, nausea, alternating diarrhea and constipation, feeling of fullness or tightness in stomach or intestines, pain when pressing on stomach, gas, burning feeling after eating. These responses to eating are by no means optimal nor are they pleasant and a lot of times, it can even become painful or unsatisfying to eat.

 

So, knowing that digestion is integral to energy production, what can we do about it? Well, each person is unique in the way that their body processes and responds to foods, and it can take some navigation. The foods I eat may be really irritating for another and my given levels of stress, exercise, blood sugar regulation etc… will also affect my outcomes. However, there are a few tried and true basics you can use to get yourself started on the right track and I’ve listed my favorite 3 below:

 

1.     Work to increase stomach acid, naturally or supplementary. Foods that increase stomach acid are usually bitter and sour. Some of my favorites include lemon, apple cider vinegar, green apple, bitters, ginger, papaya, and pineapple. Things which decrease stomach acid are: eating while under stress, eating without chewing, eating too quickly, diets high in sugar, drinking too much liquid with meals, use of antacids, over the counter pain meds like ibuprofen, and highly processed foods. By introducing healing foods and taking out the stressors mentioned above, we can go a long way in increasing our best ally when it comes to digestion.

 

 

2.     Add in digestive enzymes. If your digestion has been suffering for a while, chances are you are low in the enzymes which do the job of breaking down proteins, fats and carbs that you eat. Adding in a supplemental enzyme is not only beneficial, but a highly safe and easy way to aide digestion. This is especially important is stomach acid is low as that is usually the first line of defense in breaking down proteins. Once your food reaches the small intestine, it needs to be in small enough molecules that it doesn’t irritate the delicate lining of the gut. Enzymes will help to ensure that foods enter the gut in smaller, more manageable molecules which means easier absorption and more nutrients and energy for you!

 

 

3.     Relax. I know it sounds easier than it is, especially if you tend to be tightly wound, but digestion is a parasympathetic activity, meaning it can’t take place in a physically or emotionally stressed state. Try taking a few deep breaths before you eat, or practicing real, true gratitude for the meal you’re about to eat. Thinking about things that make us smile, or feel grateful, instantly puts us in a state of relaxation and peace. Taking time to sit down for meals can greatly help rather than standing at the counter or eating over your laptop while you work. The body puts safety and survival before anything else and digestion is not imperative to survival when faced with a life-threatening stressor. Fortunately, these days we don’t deal with many life or death situations like running after or away from our food, but our brain doesn’t really recognize stress that way. Stress about our boss or spouse could easily be stress about a tiger as far as our brain is concerned, which means out with digestion and in with adrenaline. Reframing is also another powerful tool for moving out of stress, as is picking up a daily meditation or mindfulness practice. You can find out more about those at www.headspace.com .

 

 

Hopefully this gives you a brief look into why digestion is so closely linked with our energy levels. If you’ve been battling fatigue or adrenal symptoms for a while now, I would highly suggest starting with the basics and diving head first into healing your digestion function. Until next time!

 

Much love,

Sy

 

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10 Tips for Boosting Immunity this Fall and Winter



Hello!

First off, I want to start out by saying that Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year! Not that it really matters in regards to this post, but I thought you might like to know J  I love the crispness in the air and the break from the exhausting heats of summer. While spring and summer are energetic times for exploration, fun and travel, I equally love the winding down of fall and inward reflection that winter brings. However, the downside of this wonderful season is the increase in colds and flus that rear their ugly heads during the colder months.

 

There are varying opinions on why this happens and research proposes several different theories for the almost unavoidable flus which circulate during school season. Some people think that immunity goes down during the fall and winter months because we spend less time outside and therefore get less immune-boosting Vitamin D. Some believe it has to do with higher sugar intake or the dry air from heating systems. All of these theories have great science backing them up, and each are probably contributing factors, but regardless of the reasons, the fact remains that most people tend to get sicker during fall and winter months.

 

So what to do about this conundrum?

 

Well first, it’s important to understand what immunity is on a broad scale so we then know how to support it in the best way possible. Overall, the reason you feel symptoms of illness is because of the processes going on in your body that are working to kill off harmful bacteria and viruses. You have amazing cells built specifically for the job, but unfortunately, their work (which includes killing off harmful invaders) can leave you with some pretty nasty side effects: Think runny noses, fevers, chills and aches.

 

Often, I hear people bragging about the fact that they haven’t been sick in years. While I’m happy they aren’t suffering, as a Nutritional Therapist, that statement actually raises some red flags for me. A well functioning immune system is one that can work to rid the body of infections before they take up permanent and chronic residence in the cells. While it doesn’t feel good to go through this process, it does signal that your body is doing its job protecting you. Now, to be clear, I’m not referring to illnesses that last weeks to even months, or lingering coughs that won’t clear up. But getting the sniffles for a day or two here and there is a good sign that your immunity is alive and well.

 

Repeated or long-lasting sickness is a different animal and definitely a sign that those immune cells could use some support or reinforcements. If we are constantly bombarding our bodies with invaders, (in the form of toxins, food sensitivities, chemicals and other environmental pathogens), it will have a hard time mustering up the strength to fight off an actual bacteria or virus when it reaches our bloodstream. So, boosting immunity is both a game of removing stressors and strengthening weaknesses.

 

70-80% of the immune system is actually found in the gut and if you stop to think about it, you’ll recognize that your digestive system is actually the barrier between the outside world and the inside of your body. Everything you ingest, knowingly or not, makes its way through your digestive tract to the small intestine where your gut lining decides whether or not it will absorb that substance into your body or reject it. This is called selective permeability. However, food intolerances, antibiotic use, chronic stress, chemical exposures, environmental toxins and other factors all contribute to something called hyper-permeability, or leaky gut. What this means is that your gut lining becomes somewhat leaky and loses its ability to filter between substances it needs and ones it doesn’t. This triggers your immune system to be on alert almost all the time, instead of just when pathogenic bacteria and viruses are able to sneak in on occasion. So, supporting the gut lining and healing any “leakiness” becomes paramount when also working to support the immune system.

 

In no special order, here are 10 ways you can help your body stay healthy this fall and winter season:

 

1.     Sleep – hacking your sleep can be one of the absolute best ways to combat illness in the colder months. Sleep is the time when our bodies repair from damages done during the day. Shorter days traditionally meant more sleep when we needed it most. But now, with artificial lighting and screen time in the mix, we are still pulling long days during the times when our bodies need extra repair. Start by dimming lights in the evening, minimizing screen time at night and giving yourself permission to have earlier bed times and relaxing evenings.

 

2.     Remove food intolerances – Eating a food over and over again that your body is not keen on is highly stressful to an already heighted immune system.         If you’re not sure whether or not you have sensitivities going on, try eliminating the most common culprits for a while to see how you do. The most common include: grains/gluten, dairy, soy, corn, nuts and eggs. I recommend that my clients remove them (either all together or one at a time) for at least 30 days before reintroducing them.

 

3.     Reduce emotional stress levels – Emotional and mental stress play a huge role in gut health. Mental stress raises the hormone in your body known as cortisol, which has several roles in the body. Unfortunately, overly high levels of cortisol have a thinning-out effect on mucosal linings in the body, including your gut. Overtime, this wears down the lining and leads to the leakiness discussed above. Acute stress is not as damaging, but the chronic, long-term stressors most of us feel daily play a big role in this pattern. Find stress-reducing techniques that work for you and try to incorporate a weekly or daily practice. Meditation, walking, therapy, yoga, reading and breathing exercises are all good options for physically reducing stress in the body.

 

4.     Add in gut healing foods – There are certain foods you can eat that act as healers to the lining of your gut. Some of them contain collagen, the main connective protein found in your gut, and some are healing because of vitamins, minerals and other anti-inflammatory compounds. Some of my favorites include: bone broth, cabbage juice, sautéed cabbage, apple cider vinegar, pineapple, ginger, beets, lemon water, butter from grass-fed cows, raw dairy (if tolerated) and healthy oils like avocado, olive or coconut.

 

5.     Add in gut healing nutrients – Sometimes, if significant damage has occurred, food might not completely cover the healing needed. In this case, adding in some quality supplements can be helpful to expedite the process. Some great ones include: Collagen peptides, cod liver oil, digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid. Collage and cod liver oil help to repair the gut lining and enzymes and hydrochloric acid help the breakdown of your food so that when it reaches the gut, it doesn’t irritate it any more.

 

6.     Take a quality probiotic supplement – Assuming you aren’t suffering from a bacterial overgrowth or dysbiosis, adding in a quality probiotic can drastically improve immune function. The microbes in our gut are essentially the choirmasters of the body. They dictate thousands of functions in the body and play a huge role in determining gene expression as well. Technically speaking, there are way more microbial genes in our body than actual human genes, so it would make sense to support these beneficial organisms. Adding in regular doses helps them to colonize, or take permanent residence, in our guts, essentially crowding out other harmful or pathogenic microbes.  

 

 7.     Herbals – If you happen to get sick, there are certain herbal compounds which act as support to your immune cells, helping to fight off infection. Some of the most anti-viral and anti-bacterial ones are: Elderberry, Echinacea, Ginger, Oregano, Calendula, and Astragalus. Always check for contraindications or allergies when starting a new herbal remedy and if you begin to feel worse, or get any new symptoms, it’s a good idea to stop use and check with a doctor before continuing.

 

8.     Up your dose of Vitamin C – Vitamin C, as most of know, plays a large role in immunity and general health. Vitamin C is used by the cells of your immune system to carry out their attacks on pathogenic microbes. By upping the amount of Vitamin C available to them, you essentially make it easier for them to complete their tasks which results in less time spent feeling sick. Using a minimum of 2000 mg/day of vitamin C can be extremely helpful when already sick or as an immune boost during colder months and stressful periods.

 

9.     Add lots of healthy fats to your diet – Healthy fatty acids play a huge role in the inflammatory process in the body. While inflammation has gotten a bad rap over the last couple years, it is actually an integral part of the healing process. Inflammation is sent to an area of the body when that area is in need of repair. You can think of the heat, swelling and irritation as signals that call in the ANTI-inflammatory crew to help repair the damage. Without fats, we are unable to form the inflammatory hormones called prostaglandins which take care of both inflaming and un-inflaming our body during illness. Good sources of fats include: fish, seafood, coconut oil, avocados and oil, olives and oil, grass-fed meats, eggs, pastured meats, liver, nuts and seeds, palm, butter and ghee, tallow and lard.

 

10.  Gentle movement – Your immune system is moved through the body by the lymphatic system, similar to how blood is moved through the body by your bloodstream. Unfortunately, the lymph system doesn’t have a heart which mechanically pumps it through the body and instead relies on the contracting of your muscles to pump it through. This means that gentle, non-stressful movement can be one of the best ways to circulate immune-boosting T and B cells through the body. Walking, running, bouncing on a trampoline, jumping up and down, stretching, yoga, pilates, tai chi, qui gong, and hiking are all great ways to stimulate this movement. If you’re already sick, stick to extremely easy exercises so as not to stress your already tired body even more. 

Until next time, 

Sy

 

 

 

 

 

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