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When You Feel Ready to Snap...


WHEN YOU FEEL READY TO SNAP  

Do you ever have those days (or perhaps weeks at a time) when you just can’t pull it together? The days when you’re not even sure what’s going on because nothing is particularly wrong, yet you find yourself irritated with every little thing that’s done or said around you, and after a while, it begins to look like a pattern?  Those times when no matter who is doing the talking, you just wish they’d shut up and leave you be?

 

Even on the days where you wake up and promise yourself you’ll be better today – more patient, more understanding and less bitchy – you still find yourself exasperated for no reason and wish you could just crawl under a rock, cover your ears and drown everyone out. Those are the days/weeks/months I’m talking about. And yes, if you’ve been having “a month,” it’s ok. That’s what we’re here to uncover and unpack today. No, you’re not broken, you’re not a terrible person and you’re not certainly not doomed. And no matter what your spouse, best friend or boss says when they are frustrated with you, you are not always like this. You are, however, in a need of a little compassion and that’s what we’re here to give you. Before we get started, however, I want to share a beautiful quote from the Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching that will give you a look into the journey we’re headed into today. Read it slowly, and twice if you have to, but let its profoundness sink in. Swirl it around on your tongue like ice cream and taste its sweetness. These words might just be your saving grace…

 

“A man is born gentle and weak.

At his death he is hard and stiff.

 

Trees are tender and filled with sap in life.

At their death, they are withered and dry.

 

Therefore, the stiff and unbending are the disciples of death.

The gentle and yielding, disciples of life.

 

Thus, a man without flexibility never wins a battle.

A tree that is unbending is easily broken in the wind.

 

The hard and strong will fall.

The soft and weak will overcome.”

 

When you feel ready to snap, ready to explode, ready to fall apart, its never for the reason you think…

Your life may not be falling a part, in fact, I’m willing to bet you work very hard to make sure it stays pulled together...

Your life may not be falling a part, in fact, I’m willing to bet you work very hard to make sure it stays pulled together - completely in tact, not a hair out of place. Your surface probably looks shiny and bright to the untrained eye, and even those who know you best may not understand why on earth you react the way you do sometimes. But when you least expect it, its there. A bubbling anger that threatens to spew out like vomit when the kids suddenly break a dish or the dog jumps in the car with muddy feet. YOU might not even understand why the smallest, and most trivial of problems can spin you into complete melt down.  One minute you’re happily milling along, checking things off your to-do list, and the next, someone cuts you off in traffic, you spill coffee on your new blouse and your entire day is ruined.

 

The tighter you hold on, the stiffer you become. The stiffer you become, the more likely you are to crack.

When we hold tightly onto sand, it will pour out every crevice and crack in our fingers until there’s nothing left but a few grains. But, if we open our palm, and let it sit there, we could hold it indefinitely. And such is life.

The more you squeeze, and perfect, and wish, and grip, and control and manipulate and mold your life and everyone in it, the more they start to slip away. The more things start to stiffen up, with no room for error. No space for breath. No wonder you feel like snapping. You’re stiff. You’re holding on so tight trying your damnedest not to get bucked off the bull, how could you possibly make room for love, fun, lightness and laughter?

 

But here’s the thing. Your soul is speaking to you. Your highest self is calling out, telling you something is amiss. This is what we refer to as “the snap.”

You’re not losing it on the customer service rep because they lost your package. You’re losing it because you’re tight.  

You’re not yelling at your husband because he got home from work late and forgot to call. You’re screaming because you’re contracted.

You’re not crying on the floor because you’re stressed about work, three days late on your period and looking at a stack of bills. You’re sobbing because you’re losing the control you grip so tightly to.

These experiences of breakdown are your soul’s ways of calling attention to the areas that need some healing and compassion. Every time we contract, we’re afraid. Yet, we don’t know how to handle this fear, so we snap. We project. We push it off of ourselves and onto any and every person we come in contact with just so we don’t have to feel it burning a hole in our skin. Perhaps if we knew what we were afraid of, we could fix it, but we don’t even know what we’re running from. We’ve never turned around to look at it, we just know it’s big and scary.

But what if there’s a better way? What if you didn’t have to run around stiffer than the tin man in his body armor warding off any potential mistakes, mess ups or tricky spots? What if, instead of living from the view point that the world is about perfection and achievement, you started toying with ideas of curiosity, kindness and compassion? Do you think that vice grip might loosen around your chest a bit? And the rubber band around your head might relax? And if happened, do you think that last straw would feel so definitive? I’m here to tell you that it wouldn’t.

Millions of people are walking around right now feeling that they aren’t enough and this makes us tense. This makes us feel like we have to protect ourselves and be ready to fight for our place in this world at any moment.

THE REAL REASON YOU SNAP

Millions of people are walking around right now feeling that they aren’t enough and this makes us tense. This makes us feel like we have to protect ourselves and be ready to fight for our place in this world at any moment. Our lives aren’t enough, our homes aren’t enough, our families aren’t enough, friends, clothes, intelligence, kindness, charity, cars, you name it. Not enough. And not in an ungrateful kind of way, but in a fearful, scarcity-based kind of way. If WE aren’t enough, nothing else can be either. It won’t matter if every day is a perfect day where nothing goes wrong and everyone around you shows you unconditional love. That’s not the issue.

The issue is that you’re hiding an unspeakable, shame-based fear that no matter what you do, say, think or are, it won’t be enough, and this fear then colors every interaction you have with the world and those around you. This makes you tight and ready to snap. THAT is why you yell at your sister on the phone after you tanked your work presentation earlier that day. THAT is why you can’t stand your mother-in-laws criticism when your kids are acting up and lash back in anger. THAT is why you break down crying when your spouse teases you about your shortcomings in a loving way you can’t see.

 

You’re not snapping because whatever or whoever pissed you off. You’re snapping because those things remind you of the fact that, no matter how hard you try to hold it all together, at the end of the day you’re not enough.

 

But this is where we get it wrong. You see, you are more than enough. No matter what you’ve done, not done, said or not said, been or not been, it doesn’t change the fact that you are everything you’re supposed to be and more. Can you imagine living from this space? Can you imagine what the entire world would be like if we all just took a deep breath and knew internally that We. Are. Enough.? How many arguments, fights and even wars could be avoided if we weren’t so scared that there was never enough? How many “snaps” we’d pass by if we weren’t wound like a guitar string waiting to pop on the first person who suggests we didn’t get it right?

 

AWAKEN TO YOUR COMPASSION

With this in mind, I have a challenge for you. As one of my favorite writers coined, I challenge you this week to “live loved.” Live as if everyone and everything around you loved you. Live as if you KNOW how much the universe and God conspire FOR you, not against you.

 

If you’re living loved, what would you do differently? Would you take better care of yourself? Would you laugh more? Rest easy knowing everything would be ok? Smile at that stranger instead of wondering why they were starring? Laugh at your lover’s jokes instead of find them offensive? Collaborate with your boss instead of assuming she has it out for you?

 

Find ways to Live Loved and see how it transforms your life. As always, feel free to share your experiences. I love hearing from you.

 

Much love,

Sy 

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Commitment Issues


Commitment: It’s Not What You think

 

Yesterday, I was listening to one of my favorite books in the car, and a certain line jumped out at me that I wanted to share with you guys, because, well, you’re my people. In fact, I think it could be one of those life-changing, one-liner concepts which seem creep up on us the more we think about it. I’ll give you the idea, and then we’ll expand upon it a bit. Get fleshy and intertwined with it... take it to bed and discover all its curves…

 

The radical thought of the day is:  We are just as committed to our negative stories and habits as we are to wishing for and thinking about positive changes.

 

Now, if that doesn’t make sparks go off in your world or give you Goosebumps upon hearing it, that’s ok. I’m pretty sure once I’m done explaining it, you’ll get what I mean when I say it’s life-changing information.

 

Usually when we use the term committed, it’s in a positive light. As in: “They’re a committed couple,” or “She’s committed to accomplishing all her goals,” or “One day he just committed and everything changed,” or even “I’m committed to learning ­­­­XYZ.”

 

Each and every one of these scenarios denotes a special sort of dedication, admirable in any society for the strength and perseverance it implies. Commitment is something we strive for, yearn for and search for. It’s something that leads us to where we hope to be and carries us through rough seas. It’s a word that gives us resolve when we feel weak and is a virtue to uphold when we feel confused or apathetic. Commitment is the difference between dreaming your dreams and making them a reality. The difference between those who merely get through life and those who LIVE a life… right?

 

Now that you’re all fired up and feeling sufficiently motivated, let’s look at this from another perspective. Commitment is, after all, a neutral word. We can be, and are, committed to many things, most of which don’t actually serve us in any way, shape or form.

 

That two o’clock soda run you go on every day? Commitment. That yoga class you sign up for every week but never go to? Commitment. That argument you swear you won’t start with your spouse but just can’t resist? Commitment. That judging stare you give the mom with the screaming toddler? Commitment. The story you keep telling yourself about how you could never leave your 9-5 job and start your own business? Commitment.

 

Commitment, commitment, commitment.

 

We are dearly committed to our negative, self-sabotaging stories, yet we look at them as if someone else is doing these things to us. We complain that we just can’t seem to break our bad habits as if we are a puppet and our master is forcing us to oblige. Yet, if we sit back long enough, we’ll see that actually, we’re just committed. We’re committed to living in fear and smallness, and we’re absolutely committed to living within our routines.  Why? Because it’s what we know. If you’ve ever tried to make a change, of any kind, and found yourself diving back into old patterns, you’re a victim of your own commitment issues. You’ve committed yourself to living, being and showing up in  a certain way, as a certain person, and dammit, you’re going to follow through with it. I know this because I too fall into these traps. I once was terribly committed to being the anxious, judgmental, scared and closed-off girl I’d always pictured myself as. I was also committed to the idea that my body would never look or feel well and that I was destined to be sickly forever. And you know what? My commitment paid off. I WAS all those things and more. Every thought that crossed my mind and every action I took was based off this platform – this commitment – and boy did it show.

 

Fast forward a bit …

 

One day, I remember thinking to myself that I would never be able to make a difference in anyone’s life because I didn’t get along with people. I was callous and nobody liked me. How would I ever become like the women I so admired who were filled with joy, vitality, enthusiasm and kindness?

 

You can probably see where I’m going with this, but, without knowing it at the time, I shifted my commitment. I decided I would fake it ‘til I made it and COMMITTED myself to living “as if.” As if I already was that woman I knew was in there waiting to be released. And you know what? It worked.

 

So, I ask you: What stories are YOU committed to that are holding you back? Where does your commitment lie and what is it costing you? Are you committed to fear? To unhealthy habits? To sadness and depression? To anxiety? To judgment? To eating a candy bar everyday? To skipping your meditation? To choosing a petty argument over real connection? To remaining stoic rather than diving into the sticky waters of vulnerability?

 

WHAT ARE YOU COMMITTED TO????

 

My hope in sharing this with you is not to shame you. We ALL have commitment issues. There’s not one single person walking this earth who hasn’t at one point or another had several commitments that would be best put to rest. You’re not alone in your fears,  and you’re certainly not alone in your wounds. The parts of ourselves that we’d like to cover up and hide are really just wounds to our delicate, childlike souls. The places that don’t see much light and we’d rather keep tucked away than have them paraded about for the world to see. And that’s ok.

 

Changing your commitments doesn’t have to be a public event. It doesn’t have to be posted about on social media (but if you’re motivated by that then go for it!). These can be private shifts, but I urge you to take a look and see what you find.

 

You might be surprised to see just how many commitments you’ve made in your lifetime after all.

 

Much love, 

Sy

 

 

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Stress and Carbs: Unpacking Low Carb Diets and Female Hormones


How Does Stress Affect Our Bodies? 

Carbs. Most of us these days have a love-hate relationship with carbs, particularly since the introduction of low-carb diets like Atkins and the South Beach Diet. Many people have seen wonderful results switching from a SAD (Standard American Diet) to a low-carb approach and, arguably, many lives have probably been saved with the reduction of starchy, sugary carbohydrates like bread, pasta and pastries. Today’s post in no way, shape or form is meant to demonize low-carb diets or spread dogmatic information related to carbohydrate intake. However, as with any dietary strategy, it’s seem that we’ve taken this one a bit too far, especially as women, and I want to discuss some of the long-term ramifications that an extremely low-carb approach can have on our overall health.

Women are complex creatures. Just ask any man and he’ll most likely back this up! Sadly, most of us have come to despise the beautiful, feminine qualities that make us who we are, a.k.a. hormones. Either we spend our time trying to cover them up and push them away or we don’t give them much though at all and can’t figure out why we feel “off” or not “quite like ourselves.” Simply put, hormones are messengers. They carry signals from your endocrine glands around to various parts of your body to manage processes like hunger, menstrual cycles, stress levels, sleep, bone density, thyroid levels, sex drive and many other daily, bodily functions. In a word, hormones are VITAL to our health. But what happens when they get thrown out of balance? As you can see, hormones play a role in almost every function you can imagine, so they create quite a stir when things get thrown off kilter.

What Do Carbohydrates Have to Do with Hormones?

In order to understand why carbohydrates are important to hormone balance, it’s important to know a little bit about the stress response in the human body and you’ll also need to understand something called the “Pregnenalone Steal.” We’ve talked a lot about stress and how it effects the body. You can find more on the topic here. However, its safe to say that stress comes in both physical and emotional packages. When we refer to stress, most of us are talking about perceived stress, or emotional stress. This is the type of stress that exists in our mind when we’re feeling overwhelmed, scared, anxious, busy, angry etc. The reason we called it perceived stress is because of its relativity – what stresses me out might not bother you one bit and vice versa. Then there’s physical stress, which is the result of outside forces causing internal stress such as too much exercise, eating foods that don’t agree with our body chemistry, lack of sleep, etc. Both of these combine to make up our total stress response.

Now, the main hormone responsible for regulating our stress response is named Cortisol. Cortisol has several really interesting jobs in the body, but it’s mainly used to mobilize and gather up glucose to provide our arms, legs and heart with the energy they need to deal with a given stressor. For example: Let’s say you’re walking down a dark alley (not sure why, but just go with it) and a man in a dark hoodie comes up to you with a gun and asks for your wallet. In this instance, your body is immediately going to go into what’s called Fight-or-Flight mode, or in more technical terms, sympathetic dominance. During this time, you’re making split decisions about whether to fight him off or run away. Either way, you’re going to need a lot of extra energy and wits to get the job done, and this is what cortisol and adrenaline are responsible for. They do things like increase your heart rate and blood pressure, break down stored glucose for energy needs and increase your cognitive abilities. Cortisol is also released like this during exercise, which is why some people can get addicted to high intensity regiments. Cortisol makes us feel powerful, alert and energetic…to a certain point. You see, cortisol was never meant to exist in our systems for too long. It was made for acute, more natural, stressors like the scene described above. Similar to recreational drugs, the effects are only fun for the body and brain up to a certain point, at which they become degrading and dangerous.

So here’s the thing: The stress response will ALWAYS take precedence over every other function in the body. It was meant to get you out of dodge and save your life and dag nabit that’s what it’s going to do. Heading back to the scene above, do you imagine your body is thinking about digesting your dinner or making a baby? If you’re not sure, the answer is NO! Your body is thinking about two things – fighting or “flight-ing.” So – stay with me here and listen closely to this next part. Cortisol is released during both acute bouts of stress (the gunman) AND chronic ones. Chronic referring to: traffic on your way to work, fights with your spouse, hating the job you go to every day, eating too much sugar, eating foods you’re allergic or sensitive too, exercising too much with little recovery, worrying about money, worrying about health, worrying about your weight, worrying about anything and everything, staying up late watching TV instead of sleeping… you get the idea. Basically, most of us have created lives for ourselves that require us to put out much more than we put in and our scales are left way out of balance. During all of this, cortisol is being released leading to heighted and chronic amount circulating through our blood stream, which, funny enough, is stressful to our body.

Now, back to that strange term, “prenenalone-steal.” Your sex hormones and cortisol are made from the same building block called pregnenalone, which is made from cholesterol. In a perfect world, pregnenalone gets evenly distributed to all the different hormone pathways and all is well. However, in someone with high stress levels, there is a greater need for cortisol which means there is a higher need for pregnenalone. Your body will shuttle any and all pregnenalone to the process of making cortisol in order to keep up with those stress demands to the detriment of your other hormones. This is why we refer to it as a “steal,” because cortisol is essentially hogging all the good stuff for itself and leaving everyone else high and dry.

Tweetable (or something like that): If you’re experiencing chronic stress, and not taking any measures to reduce it, it will be impossible to balance your hormones.

So What’s the Deal with Carbs?

Now, you might be wondering at this point how your carbohydrate intake fits into this picture. We’re getting there, just had to throw in the foundations first. Carbohydrates play sort of a double role here.

In times of stress, we use up more nutrients because stress is expensive. It amps up our bodily functions and puts us in a state of high alert. This means we need more calories, more carbs, more fats and proteins and more vitamins and minerals than we usually would to keep up with the demands. This goes for physical AND emotional stress. Now, our bodies are pretty neat since they can literally turn proteins and fats into usable glucose. But, and here is the caveat, that is a slow process no matter how efficient your body is at it. Eating carbohydrates will always be the fastest way to increase blood sugar levels, thereby usable energy. When blood sugar levels drop, this is registered as a top priority stressor to your body. So – what happens? You’ve probably got it by now, but yes, cortisol gets called to action once again, further perpetuating the cycle. This is why, particularly in times of stress, eating some slow-digesting, complex carbohydrates can go a long way in putting a wrench in the nasty blood sugar/cortisol cycle we see so many women going through. Often times you’ll see someone start on a low-carb/high fat approach and it works wonders (by the way, we’re talking 10-50 grams of carbohydrates daily here) Their skin clears up, their energy shoots through the roof, the fat melts away and their periods balance out. But then, a little while later (sometimes months, sometimes years) things start to shift. Usually, we can trace it back to a stressful time period or event, and they start to feel terrible. They begin to feel bloated, tired and heavy, their cycles get irregular or go missing all together, their energy plummits and sleeping becomes erratic and unsatisfying. They can’t understand what happened or why they aren’t feeling good, so they naturally think, “I must be eating too many carbs again,” and start to restrict even more leading to greater and greater disturbances.

Often times, fixing these issues and imbalances is merely an equation of carbohydrates. Our needs to various nutrients change as the season and tides of our lives change as well. Sure, maybe high fat and 20 grams of carbs a day worked, but then you had a baby, started working out more to lose the post-pardem weight, got a full time job, lost a full time job, went back to school, had another baby, started eating more sugar because you’re tired all the time, started exercising even more to make up for it, and on and on and on… Life happens. Our job is to flexible and intuitive enough to understand this and to adjust our nutrition and exercise with the tides of our life. When our body needs a rest, give it a rest. When we are working harder than usual, give it more carbs. When you’re feeling rested, pull back a bit or up the exercise volume. Listen and flow. Usually when we get stuck, it’s because we’ve gotten stiff. Dead trees are stiff trees and they break in the wind. Trees that are full of life sway and bend when the winds of life stir. Which one would you rather be?

That’s all for today friends. If you’ve been struggling with any of the issues above or have been considering changing up your nutrition routine, you can always schedule a free discovery call here to see if Nutritional Therapy could benefit your health.

Much love,

Sy

 

 

 

 

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Making Resolutions Stick


 

New Years Changes. We all want to make them, but some of us seem to struggle more with the fulfillment of those resolutions than others. You may have all the best intentions in the world, but come February, you’re right back in the same old rut and beating yourself up for your failed attempts while throwing back another glass of wine and some chocolates to drown out the disappointment. Sound familiar?

 

Take a breath. It’s ok. Trust me, failing to follow through with your New Year’s resolutions does NOT make you a failure at life. It does not make you a failure at your job, or your health, or your relationships, or your finances or anything else that you so desperately want to change but just can’t seem to nail down. In fact, I want to throw out the notion of New Year’s resolutions all together and instead start talking about small, gentle shifts in action and perception that close the doors on shame and fear and open the doors to curiosity and acceptance.  

 

Many people come to coaches, personal trainers, nutritionists and other healing practitioners in order to make monumental changes. You’re tired of living out the same old habits that leave you feeling like less than the amazing person you are but aren’t sure where to start or can’t find the motivation to get there on your own. But over the years, in watching people make transformations, I’ve come to determine that there are a few simple rules to follow that either make or break our goals.

 

One of the common, and yet most detrimental, things we as humans tend to do is to bite off way more than we can chew and then give up when we can’t swallow. Gross metaphor, but you get it. New Year’s resolutions tend to bring out grandiosity and future-tripping. What I mean by this is that we get caught up in these stories of “When I do this, then I’ll be perfect…” or “Once I do this, I’ll be happy…” “This year will be my best year ever and I’ll never experience a set back ever again!” --- and we run off into the sunset not realizing we have no idea where we’re going or how we’re going to get there. I’m sure you can see where this is going, but ultimately, we end up feeling defeated, lost and confused and right back at square one believing all the worst things about ourselves.

 

But what if there was another way? What if there was another route we could take that would lead us not into despair and hopelessness but into joy, creativity, kindness and openness? Wouldn’t you rather take that journey?

 

The way to this path is not as shiny. It doesn’t reside in 12-week total body transformations you see on social media platforms or ‘6-months to become a millionaire’ e-books. No, this type of transformation is the smaller, quieter of the two. Its changes come in gentle nudges, often along with dark nights of the soul, and the tiny voices that whisper “keep going” on days when it doesn’t feel so pretty and shiny.

 

When we truly sign a contract with the universe, it doesn’t matter any more how long it takes us to fulfill it, because our consciousness can no longer live in the space it once did. It’s an in-between space, and one that often makes us a bit queasy, a bit unsettled, but is necessary to reside in until we come out on the other side. It’s the space where we know we can go back but we also aren’t entirely sure how to BE this new person. It’s unfamiliar and even painful at times, but if we can learn to exist peacefully and willingly in this space, without running from the unknowning-ness of it, we will get to the other side much faster. This is what separates those that attain their goals from those who continue to run in circles back to comfort. The ability to lie in the waiting space, the uncomfortable space, the space where we feel like children learning to walk again. We will be wobbly. We will fall down. But we will also rise, let go of the chair and walk and, one day, even run. But it takes time, and commitment and practice and anyone who tries to tell you different most likely hasn’t gone through the process fully.

 

So, how do we make these long-lasting changes stick?

 

Make smaller, more manageable goals. Instead of committing to “lose weight” or “quit eating sugar,” which are incredibly vague and intangible, shoot for something you can do every single day consistently. For example, perhaps I’m going to lose weight turns into “I’m going to eat a salad 4 days of the week” or “I’m going to yoga class every Tuesday and Thursday.” And that’s it. You don’t pile on 5 other goals or overshoot and try to do more. You simply do that, every week until it’s a consistent habit, so much a part of your life that it doesn’t feel like work. Then, and only then, when you have mastered the baby steps and they have become almost mindlness activities, do you tackle another one. And then another and another and another until you’ve slowly woven this new perception into the daily fabric of who you are. This is where real change exists my friends. This is how you peel back the layers covering up the beautiful essence of who you really are and blossom into the best version of yourself. It’s not through willpower or force. It’s not through deprivation or restriction. It’s through love, and gentleness and kindness. It’s through treating yourself like you would a dear friend or a child learning something new for the first time. It’s with patience and acceptance of the journey.

 

Happy New Year! Wishing you a beautiful journey!

 

Much love,

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Cultivating Calm - A Look at Mindfulness Meditation


 

So, let’s face it, most people cringe when they hear the word meditation and they immediately think of a new-age, hippie fest where everyone talks about color auras and crystal healings. And hey, I’m personally all about those healing modalities, but I’m also in tune enough to know that they don’t resonate with a lot of people - and that’s just fine. However, I do truly believe that it would be a shame to miss out on all the amazing benefits and life-changing lessons that mediation has to offer just because we’re a little unsure of it’s tangible-ness. Yes, I make up words from time to time.

 

Meditation is a practice that dates back thousands of years which obviously gives it a significant place in history. Even more interesting is that there are multiple types of meditation, each bringing a unique experience to the meditator. In our discussion today, we’ll be covering one of my favorite practices called Mindfulness Meditation, or formally MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) which calls the practitioner to a state of present awareness.

 

One of the main concerns people have when beginning a practice is that they can’t shut off their brains or sit still without wanting to move. They assume that because they have these feelings they aren’t a “good” meditator. What I want to bust through today is the idea that there are good and bad meditators. Meditation is not, in fact, about turning off your thoughts but rather about coming face to face with them and sitting with them – in some ways, nailing ourselves to the present moment so that we are forced to stop running and just BE with whatever is present for us in that moment. It is from this platform, based in reality, that we actually gain the power to shift and change our circumstances.

 

In our society, we are afraid of stillness. We work like madmen, we run the kids around to a million different activities, we do chores and schoolwork late into the night, we exercise like we hate ourselves, we grab a diet coke and chocolate to get us through the afternoon and we text, call and scroll all day long. Then, as nightfall drifts in, when we’re physically and mentally exhausted, we turn on the TV or Netflix to drown out the last bits of piercing, uncomfortable silence we’ve been running from all day before we fall into a restless, unsatisfying sleep. If we sit in stillness, it’s as if all of a sudden we can’t stop the influx of thoughts. It’s as if meditation actually makes us think MORE, so we decide that all these crazy yoga people must not have stressful lives because how else could they possible turn off the relentless jibberish going on in the mind? Sound famililar?

 

Here’s the thing. Meditation and stillness do not actually bring up more thoughts. They simply allow space for what is already there to make itself known. If you’re mind and thoughts feel jumbled, hectic and chaotic when you sit down and notice them, I assure you they are that way all throughout your day. You’ve just gotten very adept and skilled at pushing them out of the way in favor of staying busy. And by busy, I don’t just mean that you are an a-type, go-getter who burns the midnight oil. I’m also talking about that nagging feeling to pull out your phone as your wait for a friend at a restaurant or while you’re in line to get a coffee. I’m talking about the need to fill the silence of an uncomfortable conversation with more talking. I’m referring to our inability to sit in pain and instead escaping our reality through a drink, drugs, sex, work, social media or any other mind-numbing activity. I’m talking about the habits we all fall into so easily that we don’t even consider them problematic.

 

So, you might be wondering what’s so wrong with this picture? Well, as you’ve heard me talk about hundreds of times, stress is harmful to the body. And the stress of unresolved, unnoticed or undealt with emotions can congest the body in physical ways. When we spend all our time running from our emotions and uncomfortable feelings, we never get to process them and let them go. They stay congested and buried deep in our souls just waiting to come out – and come out they will. The mind-body connection is a powerful tool for healing, but it is also a powerful promoter of imbalance and dis-ease if not tended to. We talk a lot about the healing power of food and all the tangible ways to attend to our health, like sleep and exercise. Less talked about, however, are the metaphysical, emotional and energetic modalities which I have found play an equal, if not more important, role in health and wellness. We spend so much time trying to think ourselves happy, calm and relaxed, but what if, instead, we just eased into the knowing space of meditation and let the rising and falling tides of our emotions do just that – rise and fall. Can you imagine the freedom that comes when you just let go? Your body certainly can as studies have shown that mindfulness meditation actually shrinks the part of the brain associated with fear, anxiety and stress by switching the nervous system over to a parasympathetic state – the state of Rest and Digest.

 

Anxiety, stress and worry are future based. Without thoughts of the future, these feelings don’t exist. What mindfulness mediation does is brings us into the present moment, effectively extinguishing these emotions. As we become better and better at bringing ourselves present in our meditations, new pathways in our brain bring this awareness into other areas of our life as well. We find ourselves slowing down, processing deeper, thinking clearer, speaking kinder. The tonic to busyness is not relaxation. The tonic to busyness is stillness. It is the yin to our modern day yang.

 

So, how does it work? Mindfulness meditation asks the practitioner to sit in awareness by focusing the mind on a ‘home base’ of sorts, which is usually the breath. See, and here you were worried about turning off your brain! No, actually, we are giving your brain something to focus on, something to hold on to as you watch all the thoughts pass by rooting you in what is happening here and now. When you first begin a meditation practice, it can feel pointless and chaotic. Know this is normal and fine. Stick with it and get past the first few clumsy attempts -This is when the real magic begins. Below I’ve outlined the steps to begin a mindfulness practice. However, I highly suggest working with a coach of some type who can walk you through all the potential questions or roadblocks you might come up on. There are also wonderful apps you can use that offer guided meditations. I personally love and use Headspace, but I’ve heard great things about Calm as well. If you’re more interested in going it alone, I also use an app called Insight Timer which simply times my meditation with the starting and finishing gong chimes.

 

Mindfulness Meditation

 

1.     Begin by sitting either cross-legged on a pillow or mat or sitting in a chair with both feet on the ground. If either of these are too uncomfortable for your posture, you may lie down.

2.     Close your eyes and take a few deep breathes. Notice how your body feels sitting on the floor or in the chair. Listen to the sounds around you.

3.     Begin to check in with your breath by noticing the breaths in, the pauses between and the breaths out. You don’t need to change your breathing, simply notice it’s normal pattern and the way it feels going in and out of your body.

4.     As you sit noticing your breath, thoughts will pop up and you may even get carried away by them. If you catch yourself being carried off by thinking, simply notice it, say the word “thinking” and gently come back to noticing your breath. Let the thought pass on by without giving it any more attention.

5.     Do this for 5-10 minutes a day to start with and be kind with yourself as you learn this new skill.

 

Remember, there are no good or bad meditations, only distracted and undistracted. The more time you spend in meditation, the more periods of un-distraction you will experience.

 

As always, I’d love to hear about your personal experiences with meditation and mindfulness. Comment below or find me over on social media and let’s chat!

 

Much love,

Sy

 

 

 

 

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Low Energy? Check Your Liver


So, let’s face it. Most people these days walk around feeling perpetually tired and a little overwhelmed. In fact, one of the biggest issues my clients talk about is feeling fatigued and unable to muster the energy to accomplish everything they need to do. Often women tell me they can barely make it through a movie without falling asleep BUT as soon as they hit the pillow at night they can’t turn their brains off, which leads to yet another exhausted morning. Can you relate?

 

In today’s post, we’re talking about how one of your most important organs, the liver, plays a starring role in energy production and how supporting it might be the missing link in your otherwise healthy regiment.

The liver is an amazing organ and has hundreds of jobs to do daily. You cannot live without it and it’s the only organ which will regenerate itself if it becomes damaged. It’s THAT important! So what does the liver do? Well, it’s main job is to act as a detox organ filtering out all of the incoming toxins and chemicals we deal with on a daily basis. Two of it’s other highly important jobs include blood sugar regulation (keeping blood sugar steady between meals) and hormone de-conjugation – in less fancy words, making sure hormones are broken down and excreted from the body so they don’t build up in excess. All three of these systems, or functions, impact our energy levels. If you’ve ever been a victim of low blood sugar, you’ll know that your energy goes way down before you get your hands on some food. Similarly, when our hormones are imbalanced, one of the first symptoms we see pop up is fatigue or low energy. And finally, when we are bogged down and swimming in a pool of unfiltered toxins and gunk, well, you can see just how energy draining that can be.

 

Since getting rid of the toxic build up we incur is the main job of your liver, other functions will take a back seat in the face of incoming junk.  This means that both the systems of blood sugar and hormone regulation will be receiving the last, tired, half-assed efforts of your liver leading to even lower energy levels.

 

When I see women who are feeling like they are doing everything right and yet still struggle with low energy and motivation, or feel like something still isn’t clicking, I tend to look to the liver for clues. Often, by supporting this hard-working organ, we see pieces of our health fall into place that we couldn’t quite nail down before.

 

So, here’s the thing. Most of us don’t feel like we are walking around feeling extraordinarily toxic. Unfortunately, we live a world these days that sneaks man-made chemicals into our lives without us even noticing. The question isn’t “Am I toxic,” but rather “How toxic am I?” To get an idea of the areas of our life causing us the most strife, let’s look at the possible sources of toxicity.

 

Environmental toxins such as vehicles fumes, air pollution and industrial pollution

Home Toxins such as cleaning supplies, cosmetics and beauty care, perfumes, paint, mattresses and clothes with flame retardants, fragrant plug ins etc…

Processed foods, preservatives, food dyes, pesticides and herbicides.

Plastics from foods, water bottles, appliances containing harmful BPAs and PCBs.

Pest control chemicals and weed killers.

Alcohol and prescription or recreational drugs

 

While list seems small, it’s important to keep in mind that the average woman is exposed to 126 different chemical ingredients every single day JUST in her personal care products. Add in all those other categories and that’s quite the tall order for your liver to process.

 

But look, it’s not all doom and gloom. The really good news is that your liver was made especially for this process. The not so good news is that it wasn’t necessarily designed for a burden this large. So, our job is not to entirely live a toxic-free, bubble-boy style life. Our job is to reduce the damage as much as possible and then include lots of supporting foods and supplements as we begin to feel the negative consequences of all this exposure. The equation is: Remove the stressors and strengthen the defenses. So, how do we do that?

 

One of the easiest, and gentlest, ways to support the liver is by including lots of fresh green foods in your diet. The phytonutrients we get from plant foods are extremely helpful in helping the liver do its job effectively and have been shown to provide energy to humans as well via chlorophyll. It’s like a two-in-one since our focus today is, in fact, energy levels.

 

Some of the best for liver include:

 

Leafy greens – kale, spinach, chards, micro greens, broccoli sprouts, watercress, collard greens, cabbage, leeks

Brussel sprouts

Broccoli

Beets

Green apples

Grapefruit

Lemon

Garlic

Green Juice – Low sugar ones or homemade (shoot for 6 or less grams of sugar when doing store bought)

Cranberries or cranberry concentrate

Bone Broth

Artichoke

Asparagus

Nettle

Peas

Sea vegetables

Fresh herbs – parsley, basil, cilantro

Superfoods – Chlorella, chlorophyll, barley grass, Spirulina or other algae, chia seeds, flax seeds.

 

Try adding in two or more servings of these foods daily when focusing on liver health. Not only do they benefit the liver, but they provide tons of other nutrients as well which will have an effect on energy. The next thing we can do is to take a look at the products we purchase and aim for more less harmful alternatives. The Environmental Working Group has a great app for your phone that allows you to scan in a product and see it’s toxicity level right away. I’ve used this lots when I’m out shopping and unsure or unable to decipher a tricky product label. Opting for more natural cleaning solutions and beauty products is one of the quickest ways to reduce the toxic load on our liver. Trying to purchase organic food as much as possible will go a long way in lessening our load and looking for free-range or pasture raised meats and eggs will ensure that we aren’t dealing with hidden antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or other unknown gunk in our foods.

 

Making time for stress reducing practices is a huge part of supporting our liver. Detoxification is a parasympathetic activity, meaning it can only happen when we are in a state of Rest and Digest, NOT Fight or Flight. When we refuse to take time to relax or unwind, we do our livers a huge disservice. If you’re the type of woman who has a hard time giving yourself permission for self-care, consider this your permission slip! By taking time to unwind, eat well and support your liver, you’ll actually end up with more energy and vitality for the ones you love most. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like the best, rested version of ourselves more than the tired, fatigued, irritable, exhausted version?

 

Lastly, adding in some key supplemental support can help your body to do the jobs it’s already doing better. Two of my favorites include chlorophyll and Milk Thistle. I personally take them on a daily (well, mostly) basis, especially during times when I’m not eating, sleeping or exercising as well I could be. They are pretty standard supplements and can be found at your local natural grocery store or sometimes even vitamin shop.

 

Supporting your liver can be a long process, but these suggestions should give you a place to start. As you begin to incorporate more healing foods and reduce personal exposures, energy levels will begin to rise giving you even more motivation to continue your awesome new habits. Until next time.

 

Much love,

Sy

 

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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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Joint Pain, Body Aches and Myalgia


So, one of the less talked about symptoms of Adrenal Dysfunction is achy, flu-like pain in the joints and sensitivity of the skin. Technically speaking, this symptom is known as Myalgia. Now, if you haven’t had these, let’s hope you don’t ever get them! But, if you have, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when I say it’s just a general pain, ache or heaviness in your limbs that often is most intense in the joints like your hips, shoulders or neck. The best way I know how to describe this pain is that it’s like the body aches you get before or during a cold. The kind where you can’t get comfortable, feel like you’ve just run a marathon and even the blanket feels like sandpaper against your skin.

 

But if you’re not sick with the flu, what are the other reasons this kinds of pain can randomly pop up? Today I want to dive into how digestion, specifically eating foods that cause reactivity in our bodies, lend their hand to achy, painful sensations in our limbs and joints and give you some tools to start addressing the problem at home.

 

So, here’s the thing. If your stress response has been working overtime and you’re feeling burned out, chances are your digestion has gone to shit as well. Digestion is a parasympathetic activity, meaning it only occurs when we are in “rest and digest” mode, in other words, a calm state of mind. When we are feeling stressed, anxious, hurried or overwhelmed, the processes which break our food down into usable nutrients get down-regulated. In other words, they either don’t work as efficiently or they get turned off completely. This leads to a breakdown in function that eventually leads to inflammation in the gut. This inflammation then wears down at the gut lining creating what we call Leaky Gut, or “holes” in the gut lining that are larger than they should be. A few other things contribute to Leaky Gut, the main players being food sensitivities and high levels of stress/cortisol.

 

So now that you know how stress contributes to leaky gut, let’s focus the rest of of the post on food sensitivities and intolerances and their role in inflammation. All of us have bio-individual nutrient needs which is just a fancy way to say that our bodies are all unique and different. The foods that make one person thrive and feel amazing will make another feel sick and beat down. Genetics, along with our personal environment, are what make up this ability to tolerate or not tolerate certain foods.  The problem arises then when we choose, knowingly or not, to eat the foods which we do NOT tolerate sometimes on a daily or meal-by-meal basis. These foods then become like a sort of poison in the body having the opposite effect of giving health and instead cause chaos and illness.

 

We’ve talked a lot about healthy digestion but remember that an optimal digestive system breaks down foods into smaller, usable nutrients and then your small intestine decides which ones to let into your blood stream. When leaky gut is a problem, this barrier is compromised and now anything and everything can flow easily into our body. Assuming some of the ‘anything and everything’ is food that your body reacts to, an attack from your immune system is triggered.

 

During an immune attack a few things happen. White blood cells are triggered along with certain cells that are specifically designed to attack certain foods. You’ll also see things like inflammation pop up which kill off invaders entering from the breached gut. If you’ve ever had a cut, you know what inflammation feels and looks like. It causes redness, heat, swelling, pain and sometimes infection. This same process is happening internally when inflammation is trying to “kill” an invading problem such as a food your reactive to.

 

Some of the proteins released by your immune system during the inflammatory process are called cytokines. Some of these cytokines are pro-inflammatory and are responsible for the pain felt during the attack process. These are also the proteins which are released during a cold or flu that cause body aches. It’s kind a neat process if you think about it. Our body can’t “speak” to us in a language we understand, so you can think of pain and symptoms as just that. Joint pain, body aches or muscle pain are ways for our body to tell us that something is off, something isn’t right and to pay attention. So fascinating!

 

So, now that you know WHAT causes this pain, you’re probably wondering HOW to get rid of it. When working a client through adrenal dysfunction, one of the first things we do is to do some food elimination testing and find out which foods are causing stress and inflammation in the body. It’s a pretty simple technique, but almost infallible when done correctly. I suggest working with a practitioner who can guide you through the ups and downs and details of the process, but if you want to give it a shot on your own here is the basic premise.

 

1.     Choose a food you think may be causing you problems. The most common culprits tend to be gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs and nuts.

2.     Remove this food (or multiple foods) for a minimum of 30 days, preferably 60-90. This allows your gut to rest and repair fully and is an important step in getting an accurate test result.

3.     At the end of the elimination period, choose one food at a time to add back into your diet and check for reactions of any kind.

4.     Continue this process, waiting 72 hours between reintroductions, with a new food until you have worked them all back into your diet.

5.     If reactions occur, remove the food responsible for another 90 days and try reintroducing once again after that period. Sometimes more gut healing is required and you can once again eat that food. Other times, it’s fixed allergy and you’ll want to find alternatives for the future.

 

Personally, I found that after I removed dairy for a year, I can tolerate it in small, irregular doses and feel just fine. This is just one example, but keep in mind that food elimination and intolerances are not always linear and fixed. Your body is ever changing as is the world around you. Learning to listen to the signals from your body, such as joint pain and digestive issues, will give you all the insight you need to stay tuned in and aware of your body’s changing needs.

 

Until next time.

 

Much love,

Sy

 

 

  

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Digestion and Hormones: Why they aren't so separate as we think


If you’re a woman, and you most likely are if you’re reading this, (don’t worry though fellas, this applies to you too), then you’re probably familiar with your hormones and all the chaos they create when imbalanced. Maybe this shows up for you in your monthly cycles, or maybe it’s in the persistent acne that won’t let up, or maybe you’re having a hell of a time with those hot flashes and mood swings that started around your birthday this year. No matter where you are in your life cycle, hormones can be a bitch to deal with and a headache to figure out.

However, from a nutritional therapy standpoint, there’s an easy way to comb through the web that is our hormonal system and make sense of the complexity surrounding it. We do that by coming back to the foundational aspects of good health, in particular, digestion.

 

In conventional medicine and structure, we think of the body as made up of separate systems that work independently of each other. This is a reductionist point of view that has gotten us in a lot of trouble as we continue to prescribe a “pill for the ill” and fail to recognize the wide-spread effects they have on other systems. Pharmaceutical ‘Side effects’ are the manifestation of this paradigm. If your digestive system wasn’t connected to your mineral balancing system, we wouldn’t see osteoporosis as a side effect of acid blockers. Similarly, if you’ve ever had a nervous stomach before publicly speaking or performing, you’ll understand that the gut and brain are connected as well. The body is made up of relational systems that each build upon, support and work in conjunction with one another. It is for this reason that we can address deficiencies in one and make a significant impact on another, like we are going to talk about today in relation to digestion and your hormones.

 

Coming back to foundational principles of health is essentially the process of filling in the holes letting out the most water so that we can bring the boat back to optimal function and safety. Digestion is the process by which we extract nutrients from our food. We take for granted that when we eat a food, it will go to where it needs to go and do what it needs to do. This isn’t necessarily the case. Our digestion needs to be strong in order to do this, but dietary habits, stress, inflammation and a host of other factors can impede these processes.

 

All of our hormones are made up of either proteins, fatty acids or cholesterol as their main component. So where do we get these substances? From our food! The food we feed our bodies supplies the building blocks to manufacture hormones in our body. Interesting, right? So you can see how if we are deficient in those nutrients, either because we aren’t eating them or because we aren’t digesting them, we won’t be setting up a very good foundation. It’s kind of like trying to build a house without tools - you’re probably not going to get far.

 

We’ve talked a lot about digestion in previous posts, but what are some of the ways that things can go wrong? Well, to start with, we are usually eating in a sympathetic state, or in other words, stressed. We are rushing, eating in the car, standing up or walking, hurrying back to work, etc. as we eat. Digestion, unfortunately, is a parasympathetic activity, meaning it happens we our body and brains are at rest or calm. When our brain registers stress, all energy and focus goes to getting through that stressor and moves away from stimulating digestive juices and processes. This means that nutrients are not being absorbed from our food leading back to a low supply of those building blocks. Another common dysfunction occurs when we have too little stomach acid being produced. A highly acidic environment is needed not only to chemically break down our food but to stimulate other digestive processes. Digestion is sort of like a water cascade, wherein the water supply of one pool directly affects the next process in line. Without this very specific pH as a trigger, we don’t release certain enzymes or bile that also work to break down proteins and fats. Yet another way that digestion affects hormones is through reabsorption. Hormones are meant to be excreted from the body via our elimination systems. However, if our colon is sluggish or backed up, this allows extra time in which our hormones can be reabsorbed into the body and recycled. This is when we see things like excess estrogen or testosterone. There are lots of other ways in which digestion affects our hormonal system, but hopefully you are starting to get a picture of why this fundamental process is to vital to our endocrine health.

 

So, what can we do? Well, I personally recommend that we begin to look at the ways in which we eat and start there. Simple shifts can make a big difference, and before overwhelming yourself with tons of new habits, just try taking some time to sit and enjoy your meals. Begin to thoroughly chew your food and perhaps start a sort of gratitude practice for the meal you’re about to eat. Gratitude immediately puts us into a parasympathetic, (rest and digest) mode. If you want to take it further, begin to address possible food sensitivities that are creating inflammation and introduce some gut healing nutrients and foods. Adding in a hydrochloric acid supplement can help to get that acidic stomach pH and enzymes will ensure that your food is being digested, even if your natural digestion isn’t where it needs to be yet. Lastly, addressing possible infections in the gut, such as SIBO or candida, will be necessary to improve digestion long-term. These small but easy changes can make all the difference if hormonal imbalance is something you’re dealing with and will give you something to focus on when the task seems overwhelming at best and defeating at worst. Hormonal balance is our body’s natural state of being. Our job is simply to remove the barriers and stressors creating the imbalance in order to bring back our vitality and see the world through those rosy, hormonally-balanced lenses once again.

 

Until next time…

 

Much love,

Sy

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What IS Adrenal Fatigue Anyway?



So, there’s a term that’s been floating around for a couple years in the health and wellness sphere, but it’s still not one you’re likely to see plastered on the pages of magazines or even books for that matter. The term is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and if you’re a woman who feels tired, overwhelmed and generally “off” there’s a good chance you’ve got it goin on. Before you panic, though, keep in mind that Adrenal Fatigue is NOT a disease nor is it something sufferers are plagued with for life. Rather, it’s a syndrome, which essentially means it’s a name for a bundle of symptoms that no one can quite put a finger on.

The name Adrenal Fatigue is actually a misnomer, as it implies that your adrenal glands (which sit on top of your kidneys/renals) are tired, which in fact they are not. However, I personally think it does a wonderful job of explaining just how adrenal dysfunction feels, because at the end of the day there is an intense fatigue of both the body and mind. A better, more correct, title is actually HPA-Axis dysregulation which stands for Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis and describes the chaos that occurs when those three main organs responsible for your stress response are out-of-balance, overworked and unable to cope with the demands placed upon them.

So, while I’ve talked a lot about adrenal fatigue in posts, I realized that it may not be exactly clear what I’m referring to and wanted to throw together a description to avoid confusion. Before we move on, I’m going to list out the common symptoms of Adrenal dysregulation, but please be aware that stress in the body can take on hundreds of different faces, and this list is by no means exhaustive. If you have several of these symptoms mixed with some others not on this list, I would highly suggest speaking with a practitioner about the possibility of adrenal dysfunction, hormonal imbalance or digestive problems.

 

Symptoms:

 

Feeling burned out, overly stressed or unable to unwind

Bloating after meals

A burning or gnawing feeling after meals

Excessive hunger or no appetite at all

Any and all digestive issues including heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation

Moodiness and irritability

Lightheadedness, particularly when going from sitting to standing

Harsh PMS or menopause

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar swings)

Frequent nausea

Feeling unmotivated or “lazy”

Intense fatigue

Brain fog or feeling spacy with an inability to concentrate

Joint pain, muscle aches or sensitive skin

TMJ or jaw clenching

Anxiety and depression

Cravings for sugar or salt

Feeling tired but can’t sleep – Tired and wired

Frequent colds or flus that lasts for weeks

A feeling of shaking or vibrating on the inside

Feeling abnormally cold or hot

Flushing easily, particularly during winter

Dizziness or feeling disconnected from conversations and activities

Intolerance to caffeine or alcohol

Weight loss resistance or “spare tire” despite lots of exercise

Low sex drive or inability to orgasm

 

So, what causes adrenal fatigue? Well, in a word: Stress. But I’m not just talking about emotional, or perceived, stress. I’m also referring to physical stress which is just as harmful to the body as mental stressors. Essentially, your adrenals are the organs in your body responsible for managing the stress response in your body, whether it comes from external or internal sources. Some of the main external sources of stress I see are food intolerances, over-exercising, environmental toxins, and eating a diet high in sugar. Some internal sources include negative emotional experiences, worrying or apprehension, perception of fear or anxiety and internal inflammation. When your brain registers stress of any kind, it sends a message down to the adrenals to release stress hormones, mainly cortisol and epinephrine. For purposes of this post, we’ll mostly be focusing on cortisol, but it should be noted that the effects of epinephrine take several days to exit the body and is highly stimulating. Not a state we want to be walking around in consistently.

Cortisol gets a bad rap, but it’s really very vital to our survival. Cortisol has several functions, but three of the most notable are to raise blood sugar, raise blood pressure and to work as an anti-inflammatory substance. The first two are key players when we are under stress becausestress is known as expensive. What does this mean? It means that when we are stressed (again physically OR emotionally), our body requires more nutrients than normal to function. This means that we are using up blood sugar faster, which is full of nutrients we get from our food. So, cortisol signals to the body to produce more blood sugar out of stored energy found in our muscle and liver. This is how we continue to produce energy during activities like exercise. Cool, right?

Well, yes and no. If we only triggered this response every once in a while, things would be great. Cortisol would do its job and then a negative feedback loop would turn production off body allowing us to come back to center. Unfortunately, we are being bombarded by stressors these days, particularly environmental and food stressors, and are triggering this response almost all day long. From traffic accidents to sugar donuts for breakfast and fights with our boss or spouse we are under constant attack. Chronic elevated cortisol leads to raised blood sugar and raised blood pressure – for a while. And here is where adrenal fatigue sets in…

 

Eventually, in the presence of all this sugar in the blood from cortisol doing its job, the cells become resistant because they’re packed to the brim and don’t need anymore. Basically, they push the plate away and tell us they’re full. At this point, we may have plenty of circulating cortisol, but it’s messages are not being received and we actually see blood sugar begin to decline and blood pressure as well. It’s like someone put a cement wall up between cortisol and the cells and no communication can take place. This is in the later stages of adrenal dysfunction and what contributes to symptoms of fatigue, lightheadedness, feelings of insatiable hunger or weakness and hypoglycemic episodes. Now, we have a cycle where we are stressed to the max and still pumping out cortisol but not feeling it’s effects because the cells won’t let it in. So, we continue to pump out more and more essentially “exhausting” or fatiguing the adrenal organs and the entire stress response.

 

As with any syndrome, disease or condition, these details are more nuanced then we can describe in one measly blog post. But hopefully it gives you an idea of how Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is essentially a stress syndrome of the 21st century. Never before in history have we been bombarded by so many external and environmental stressors or been able to explore our emotions beyond survival. While this has afforded us many opportunities and growth, it’s also opened up a whole new can of worms when it comes to our tolerance levels for stress. So, what are some of the biggest ways we can make a dent in our stress cup?

 

Here are the ones I see most in practice that are really putting a burden on people’s bodies:

 

1.     Food intolerances and poor digestion. Eating something your body can’t process every single day is stressful. Period. It will be nearly impossible to clear up imbalanced cortisol without also addressing digestive function and food choices because every cell in your body is dependent upon those nutrients, so I highly suggest taking on some sort of elimination protocol or hooking up with a practitioner who can guide you through the process.

 

2.     Over-exercising and training. You remember how we mentioned that cortisol raises blood sugar and pressure? Well, it’s main job is to do this during intense activity, which also includes exercise. Assuming you have no other stressors, this would be fine. But pile it on top of everything else going on in your life and it’s a recipe for disaster. Try cutting down on intensity, duration or frequency to give your adrenals the rest they’re craving or add in some gentle exercise in place of your regular routine.

 

3.     Lack of sleep. The body repairs and detoxifies while sleeping. If we aren’t giving it the rest it needs to do these jobs, it will become congested and backed up which leads to things like recycled chemicals and hormones. This is stressful for the body as your toxic load builds up. Sleeping does more than just make us feel good and it’s important to respect the processes of repair just as much as the others. Hacking your sleep will be on the best decisions you can make for your health.

 

4.     A negative emotional outlook or self-loathing and perfectionism. Ok, so this one is really much larger than one sentence can sum up, but taking a serious approach to shifting your mindset is the most important key to clearing up adrenal fatigue. Sadly, this piece is missing in most protocols because we get so caught up in the nitty-gritty physical aspects of healing and miss out on all the juiciness that comes with the spiritual, energetic growth. Many people say that they were never able to shift out the adrenal fatigue cycle until they finally began some sort of emotional stress reducing practices.

 

5.     Not making any time for connection and fun. Bluntly put, I know this can be hard when you feel like shit. You may not feel like connected with friends and family or you may not have a whole lot of interest in activities that used to bring you joy. That’s ok. Do them anyway or find some new ones that agree with your symptoms more. Eventually, when you are feeling better, you will be amazed at the growth and strength of your relationships for having weathered the storm together. Writing in a gratitude journal can very soothing to the body as it releases feel good hormones and allows us to step outside of our mind’s chatter for a moment. Even if you only find a moment’s worth of peace, cultivating authentic, vulnerable relationships will go a long way in making the healing process easier and more enjoyable. And if you’re worried, try having a conversation and letting those around you know that you may not be fully yourself right now and could just use a little support. Most people are very willing, loving and accommodating if you give them the chance to be. Remember, they love you too.

 

 

So there you have it. A generalized look at what this thing called Adrenal Fatigue actually is and some ways to help mitigate the nasty symptoms that come with it. Again, if you are reading this blog and feel like you might be experiencing this condition, never hesitate to reach out to a practitioner or do some research. There are so many valuable resources online and some great practitioners who are aware of stress’ harmful effects on the body. It is very real and very important so don’t let anyone tell you it’s all in your head or that you just need to “try harder” to feel good. Until next time.

 

Much love,

 

Sy

 

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