health

Mindful Eating And Easy Ways To Improve Your Diet

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Maybe you’re eating a pretty healthy diet already; you’re all about that morning smoothie and make sure to get a good dose of leafy greens regularly. Or maybe you’re eating a pretty standard diet and looking for a few new ways to make it healthier. To get an energized and healthy body, you don’t need to restrict; you just need to get more mindful. Making your diet more mindful is all about being aware of what you’re consuming, opting for healthy alternatives where possible, and living a little bit greener.

Practicing a mindful diet is pretty simple once you get savvy about a few areas like additives, whole foods, healthier replacements, and new additions. I’ve put together this guide to making more mindful choices accessible for those looking to make both big and small changes to their routine.

Ditch food additives:

This is the biggie. One surefire way to get healthier is to avoid food additives that can range from preservatives to unnatural colorings to weird-sounding substances that you definitely wouldn’t see outside of a lab. Processed foods (i.e., most packaged foods) generally have additives and are linked to chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. A few additives in particular to avoid are sodium nitrites, sulfites, trans fats, monosodium glutamate, and FD&C yellow No. 5 and No. 6.

I go by one major rule: Only buy foods with ingredients you know and recognize. The best way to avoid additives and overly processed foods is to buy and eat whole foods (as in foods that don’t come from a factory in a colorfully designed package), like fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and pseudograins (like quinoa), eggs, organic and antibiotic-free meat, and wild-caught seafood.

Prepare whole-food-based meals during week:

Preparing your own food requires you to be mindful. Cooking with whole foods can have a big impact on how you think about food and eating. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and you don’t have to be a talented chef—in fact, simple preparations are some of the best. Look for organic options and non-GMO varieties of your foods when available.

I understand buying organic can sometimes be more expensive than buying conventional, but the good news is, you don’t have to buy everything organic. Look to the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists to determine which foods you can get away with buying conventionally without worrying that you’re taking on too many chemicals.

Cooking and preparing meals with these foods can be as simple as a smoothie or a salad; don’t make it hard on yourself, especially if you’re just starting out.

Observe your eating habits for how much sugar you’re consuming on a daily basis:

We often don’t realize that we’re eating and drinking waaay more sugar than we think. Sugar can be inflammatory in large doses, and while a little bit of sugar daily is natural, it’s a great idea to get most of your sugar from natural (minimally processed) sources. If you’re just looking for a little sweetness in your morning coffee, there are a ton of great alternative ingredients, with sugar-free sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit sugar becoming far easier to find.

If you’re looking to use fruit for natural sweetness, dates and bananas are great for sweetening dishes while still providing healthy ingredients that benefit the body. In addition to the natural fiber they bring, sweetening with fruit also provides essential vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium.

Pay attention to how your body feels when you have dairy:

It’s true that many people are dairy intolerant. If you find that your stomach is upset or constipated, or your skin breaks out after having dairy, you might want to explore reducing your intake and see how you feel. It’s easy to find high-quality alternatives to butter, milk, and cream—if you know what to look for.

Unrefined coconut oil is a great alternative to butter for baking. You can also use olive oil, ghee or avocado oil for everyday cooking and sauteing. Try to opt for organic versions where you can. If you’re looking for milk alternatives, consider coconut, hemp, and almond milks—again, being aware of any weird-sounding additives.

If you eat a lot of wheat-based foods, try eliminating them or finding alternatives for a couple of weeks and see if you feel a shift:

While there are plenty of gluten-free products on the market, many aren’t automatically healthy, so as usual, ingredients are something to be conscious of. Or better yet, opt for great healthier replacements to gluten-free foods like oats, buckwheat, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and brown or black rice to get your carb fix.

Eat a super green food with every meal for a week and see how you feel:

While you can elevate your normal greens consumption with concentrated green superfood powders like spirulina and chlorella, don’t forget the original super green foods that are affordable and easily accessible like:

  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Arugula
  • Mustard greens
  • Collard greens
  • Asparagus
  • Swiss chard
  • Zucchini
  • Avocado
  • Herbs

There are tons of ways to incorporate these veggies into every meal.

Get intuitive about eating:

The practice of listening to your body and eating intuitively, is possibly the most important piece of this mindful diet equation. It’s about listening to your body’s hunger cues—so eating when you’re actually hungry and stopping when you’re full. This sounds simple but can actually be quite challenging when you’ve become disconnected from your body. Becoming more aware of how your body feels before, during, and after mealtimes can reinforce this important connection. Get more mindful at breakfast, lunch, and dinner by:

  • Removing any screens from the table (hard, I know)
  • Eating without any other distractions
  • Focusing on chewing your food
  • Putting your fork down in between bites
  • Taking a deep breath in between bites
  • Reminding yourself there will be more food later if you’re hungry

 

Having a mindful diet can be easy. Don’t get overwhelmed, just pick one change or action from above and start there and look for the positive differences in your life. This is an ongoing process that will ultimately pay you back with improved health and a stronger mind-body connection.

 

health

Common Mistakes We Make On The Elimination Diet

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An elimination diet is a short-term eating plan that eliminates certain foods that may be causing allergies and other digestive reactions – then reintroduces the foods one at a time in order to determine which foods are, and are not, well-tolerated.

Starting an elimination diet can be a great way to learn what foods are triggers for your condition, and it can ultimately help you feel better when you know what foods to avoid. I recommend starting an elimination diet that eliminates corn, soy, gluten, dairy, and eggs since those are the most common allergens.

However, there are a few common mistakes that people make that can cause an elimination diet to be less successful.

1. Not scheduling appropriately.

A proper elimination diet requires a time commitment of about six weeks, including the reintroduction process. Scheduling this over a vacation, wedding, or a bunch of parties can be very challenging. Sometimes it’s better to wait until you have the time to do it correctly.

2. Having too many processed foods.

Don’t just aim to follow trendy labels like “gluten-free” or “dairy-free.” Eating an excessive amount of processed foods, even if they’re free of the eliminated foods, may not lead to the results you want. Try to stick with all-natural, whole foods.

3. Not having enough healthy food.

Because you are eliminating foods, it’s important to plan and make sure that your body gets the nourishment it needs. An easy way to do that is to add in plenty of vegetables, fruit, and clean sources of protein. By doing this, you’ll also feel less restricted.

4. Loading up on certain foods.

Nuts, avocados, and honey are common staples that people tend to enjoy a little too much when on the elimination diet. Eating these in excess can cause GI distress, which can interfere with your ability to pinpoint food sensitivities and give your gut the rest it needs. These foods are also either high in calories, fat, or sugar, which can lead to unintended weight gain.

5. Restricting calories.

You can’t just take out the bad without putting in more good. For every calorie that you are removing from your diet, you should replace it with one from a nonprohibited food, particularly foods filled with antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients, which can help your immune system in a number of ways.

While some people do use elimination diets to lose weight, restricting calories can create unwanted symptoms like fatigue that mask how you ought to feel. You shouldn’t be starving yourself or skipping meals; rely instead on natural reductions from cutting out processed and inflammatory foods.

6. Failing to keep a written log of symptoms.

During the reintroduction phase of the process (when you add back the foods you’ve eliminated), you have to write it down and analyze everything you consume right away. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to remember accurately, you’ll never see the patterns, and the whole experiment becomes a missed opportunity.

7. Expecting that you will feel miraculously better.

Everybody is different, and it may take time to see and feel results. While many people do feel great, don’t expect to feel amazing on Day 1, Day 3, or even Day 15, but rest assured every day is a step closer to healing your gut and identifying triggers for chronic ailments.

If you’ve unsuccessfully tried an elimination diet previously, now may be the time to try again. By following the proper steps and avoiding these common mistakes, you will better understand which foods you should avoid and which foods fit into a balanced diet that can keep you feeling great.

health

Tired All The Time? Heal Adrenal Fatigue Naturally

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Have you ever caught yourself thinking, Wow, I’m burned out! It’s a feeling most people can identify with. But what does that really mean, and how does it happen? Do you go to sleep feeling exhausted, sleep 8 hours and wake up still feeling tired? Foggy brain, irritable? Are you drinking coffee throughout the day just to keep yourself going?

Adrenal fatigue is a phenomenon characterized by a disruption of your adrenal glands’ ability to make cortisol in the right amounts at the right times in response to stress.

The adrenals are the body’s hormonal powerhouse. Two little glands that sit on top of your kidneys, they’re the linchpin of a feedback loop coordinating nearly every hormone in your body.

The Three Stages Of Adrenal Fatigue

There are three stages of adrenal fatigue. Each one is associated with a different type of cortisol imbalance, and typically people progress from stage 1 to stage 3 sequentially over time.

Stage 1: Wired and tired

This stage is characterized by high cortisol levels, especially at night, leading to insomnia, insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain. People often feel energized but in an edgy “wired” way.

Stage 2: Stressed and tired

In this stage, many people wake up early in the morning (often around 3am) and are unable to fall back asleep. Later in the day some stressor kicks in, and they feel more awake. Their cortisol peaks early, flattens out, but often has midday or early evening rise.

Stage 3: Burnout

This stage is characterized by exhaustion regardless of hours slept, a flat cortisol curve, and in some cases low DHEA and thyroid hormone levels. I’ve been in stage three for a while now due to Lyme disease which is a dangerous place to be because it’s associated with higher risk of autoimmune disease.

So what can we do about it? 

1. Follow the adrenal diet.

This means getting rid of foods that you are sensitive to and foods that cause inflammation, and eating lots of brightly colored vegetables, lean clean protein, and whole grain gluten-free carbs.

Eliminating dairy, eating more vegetables, and eating more carbs. A strict no-carb diet can stress the body even more, worsening adrenal burnout. Of course, don’t eat cookies and cakes, but rather quinoa, lentils and buckwheat.

2. Go to bed early.

Getting to bed before 11pm is a must in any stage of adrenal fatigue. Many people get a second cortisol surge after 11pm, which further disrupts sleep patterns.

3. Flood the adrenals with B vitamins.

B vitamins (B5 and B6 in particular) are food for the adrenals and can be low in a high-fat, low-carb diet. B12 and folate also help with energy production.

4. Cool inflammation.

Using omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, and vitamin C supplements lower systemic inflammation levels allowing the adrenals to recover.

5. Replace important nutrients.

Vitamin D, selenium, magnesium and zinc are all important for proper thyroid function and adrenal function.

6. Focus on hydration.

Dehydration is also a hallmark of adrenal fatigue. Try adding a multi trace mineral supplement to absorb more water into your cells. You can also add fresh lemon juice or Himalayan sea salt to your water instead.

7. Use adaptogenic herbs.

Licorice root, ashwagandha and rehmannia help balance and stimulate the adrenals. Always check with your doctor first.

8. Build rest into the day.

The last thing you need is high-intensity cardio that would further burn you out. Try adding yoga or walking into your schedule a few times a week. Take time to breathe and restore your body.

9. Change your perspective.

Is your definition of success killing you? In many cases, what you perceive as success is driving you into adrenal overload. We have to realize that “it” (whatever it is) doesn’t have to be perfect to be great.

For most people who live their way into stage 1, 2 or 3 adrenal fatigue, it’s just a matter of living their way right back out of it and into balance with their bodies.

 

 

 

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How To Deal With Negative Thoughts And Emotions

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Emotions are a normal part of life. I don’t think it’s normal to be happy all the time. It’s natural to feel depression, anxiety, sadness, grief, and anger at certain times in our lives. What I have found is that often it’s not the negative emotions that are bad, it’s that we don’t deal with them and let them linger in our minds.

Here are some things which have helped me when I haven’t been feeling great. I hope they help you, too.

1. No feeling is ‘wrong’.
There seems to be a common belief that negative emotions are “bad”, that we shouldn’t get angry, lose our temper, or ever get upset. Here’s the thing, though – our emotions are there for a reason. It’s natural for us to be angry or sad, the important thing is to find a healthy way of letting them all out, including the ones we have considered ‘bad’.

2. Emotions are always telling us something.
Hiding somewhere beneath the surface, we might feel not good enough, unsupported, or perhaps be grieving the loss of something or someone important to us. Listen to those feelings, and respond compassionately. If something is bothering you, ask yourself why. You’ll often find it’s something deeper than what you envisioned initially; and once you get to the root of the cause, it’s always easier to remedy.

3. Give yourself what you need.
Whether it’s a day on the couch with your favorite tv show or movie, snuggling up in bed with a good book, a hot cup of tea, or a warm bath – you know what you need. Slow down and take some time to do what nourishes you. The world won’t stop if you have a day off and relax. We live in a society of gritting your teeth and ‘getting on with it’, but self care is necessary. Taking time to slow down and listen to your soul and body may seem like it will be counter-productive, but I promise if you incorporate this into your lifestyle, it will work out better for you in the long run. I promise.

4. Crying is good. 

So many people respond to someone crying with “don’t cry”. They think they’re being helpful, but it’s commonly said because crying makes them feel uncomfortable. Think back to times when you’ve cried and how you felt afterwards. Chances are you felt better – lighter and relieved. Let yourself cry; it’s not a weakness – it’s a natural release and you’ll pretty much always feel better afterwards.

5. All feelings pass.
You’ve heard it before, and it’s such an important quote to me that I have it engraved on a ring I wear as a reminder – this, too, shall pass. It’s true, though, it may not feel like it, but all things pass. Happiness won’t last, and neither will negative feelings. Emotions are energy in motion. So the best we can do is feel them, and allow them. It’s okay to not feel happy every day. You’re human. But by the same token, it’s not normal to feel sadness and despair every day. If this is the case, I encourage you to see a doctor or a therapist.

6. A suppressed emotion will only get worse.
When you try to ignore a feeling, it’ll only get more intense and urgent as time goes on. It’s much easier to let the emotion out than try to push it down and hide it. If you keep forcing it away, eventually it’ll become a volcano inside you and will have to erupt; most likely scalding the ones you love most.

7. It’s normal to go through a range of different emotions during a day.
Have you noticed how pets can go from laying in the corner looking depressed, to bright and perky all within the hour? We all go through a range of emotions. We are trying to fit into this society where many believe they are ‘too busy to feel bad’. It is both normal and natural to experience an array of different emotions on a daily basis. You’re not crazy, you’re human.

8. Emotions are energy in motion.

So get moving. Walk and talk with someone you love, or even better – buy a punching bag or take up running, weight training or yoga. Whatever makes you feel good and gives you the release you need. Find something to channel your negative emotions into. It doesn’t have to be expensive, you can hit a pillow if it makes you feel better. Find passive ways to get your aggression out. Physical release is powerful, and finding a healthy way to let your emotions out without hurting anyone, including yourself, is a tremendously helpful gift to have.

9. Give yourself space to feel what you feel.
Walk away if you’re angry. Take some time out. Allow space for your sadness; if that means cancelling your afternoon plans and curling up with a movie, do that. Let yourself really feel what you need to feel, knowing it’ll pass once it’s done.

10. Substance only masks the issue. 
If you’re over-eating/having a cigarette/drinking alcohol/popping pills every time you start to feel something you don’t want to feel, you’ll end up with a habit on your hands. You likely won’t feel any happier and your feelings will be more intense when you’re not on the substance. It’s a band-aid solution and you know it. If there’s something unhealthy you do when you’re upset, try asking yourself what you’re feeling before you indulge. Simply asking and answering honestly is a big step to success.

11. Get outside.
Nature is balancing; allow it to balance you. Take your shoes off and walk in the grass or sand. Or just take your lunch to the park. Get outside when you usually wouldn’t. You’ll feel much better for it.

 

health

5 Easy Ways To Overcome Lymphatic Congestion

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As I’m progressing through different stages of my Lyme treatment, I’m noticing symptoms and changes in my body that haven’t been there before. Based on my experience in natural medicine, I know that the symptoms I’m experiencing are due to an overworked and clogged lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is one of the most overlooked yet significant systems in the body. This expansive system travels throughout the body to remove waste from every cell while helping to regulate the immune system. It includes a complex network of vessels, ducts, lymph nodes, the spleen, the thymus, the adenoids, and the tonsils.

Lymph fluid is propelled by breathing and other muscle movement as it is transported through many filtration points known as lymph nodes. The lymph nodes contain collections of white blood cells (lymphocytes) that identify and help destroy harmful pathogens or toxins. The lymph must flow freely to ensure that waste products and fluids do not build up in the tissues.

The lymphatic vessels act like a giant drainage system for the body that needs to stay clear for it to work properly. Just like in your home if the drains are clogged in your toilet or sink, you can’t get rid of waste effectively—the same is true for your body. Stagnant lymph flow leads to waste and toxin buildup, weakening immunity and leading to a wide variety of health issues.

How do you know if you’re suffering from lymphatic congestion?

Almost every part of the body can be affected by poor waste removal in the lymphatic system. When your lymph drains become congested you may notice:

  • Stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy and dry skin
  • Bloating
  • Breast swelling with each cycle
  • Holding on to water
  • Brain fog
  • Swollen glands
  • Stubborn weight gain
  • Chronic sinusitis, sore throats, colds, or ear issues
  • Cellulite
  • Cold hands and feet

If you are experiencing symptoms of lymphatic congestion, it may be time to decongest your lymph system. Opening up your lymphatic channels is crucial for my recovery since I can’t heal if the toxins aren’t being removed from my body.

So what can you do to move your lymphatic system? It’s actually pretty easy. Just try these 5 things:

1. Detox your environment.

The lymph must deal with the body’s “waste products” that are produced internally like dead cells as well as toxins that are introduced from the external environment. Systemic inflammation creates congestion and swelling in the tissues, which impairs lymphatic flow. Oxidative stress damages the lymph vessels and breaks down their ability to effectively transport lymph fluid and wastes.

Therefore, it is important to reduce your exposure to chemicals in food, air, personal care products, and water while increasing your intake of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients to prevent damage. Opt for an organic, anti-inflammatory diet filled with green leafy vegetables, cruciferous veggies, omega-3 fatty acids, and herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, and garlic. Avoid processed additives, chemicals, and artificial ingredients.

2. Stay hydrated.

Lymph fluid is about 95 percent water and becomes thicker and less fluid when you are dehydrated. In fact, one of the most common causes of lymph congestion is dehydration. Stay well-hydrated by sipping warm purified water throughout the day to help keep your lymph flowing well. Avoid sugar-laden soft drinks, processed juices, sports drinks, and alcohol, which add an additional metabolic burden on the body as well as too much caffeine, which dehydrates the body.

3. Incorporate raw foods.

A sluggish digestive tract also congests the lymphatic system. Ayurvedic medicine teaches that naturally red foods like berries, pomegranates, cherries, cranberries, and beets keep the lymph moving freely. Beets are particularly valuable as they help thin the bile for healthy fat digestion, scrub the intestinal villi where the lymphatic vessels originate, and help keep the lymph flowing. Incorporating raw foods into your diet is another way to keep the lymphatic system healthy. The naturally occurring enzymes and bioflavonoids in raw fruits and vegetables help to break down toxic buildup and free radicals while fiber promotes regular elimination and cleansing of the intestinal villi to keep the intestinal lymphatic system healthy.

4. Move your lymph naturally.

The lymphatic system does not have a built-in pump like the heart, which propels blood through the circulatory system, where it gets oxygenated, filtered, and circulated. Therefore, the lymphatic system relies on the contraction and relaxation of the muscles and joints to move the lymph. The rhythmic tensing and relaxing of the muscles during physical movement wring out the tissues and propel fluid through the lymphatic channels.

Laughter and deep breathing involve movement of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles that help push lymph through the vessels. Dry brushing and lymphatic massage also help to support healthy lymphatic flow in the skin-associated lymphatic tissue. The coarse bristles of a dry brush encourage movement of the lymph and blood in the underlying tissues, which helps move out built-up toxins. Brush or massage your body gently, working toward the heart and paying special attention to the head, neck, feet, breasts, and abdomen, where lymphatics are concentrated.

5. Cope with stress through mindfulness.

Oxidation and lymph congestion increase when you are physically and/or emotionally stressed, so having an effective routine for coping with daily stress is key. There are many mindfulness practices to help you cope with the inevitable stress of life and minimize its effects on your lymphatic system, digestion, and overall health including meditation and spending time in nature. Having the ability to slow down, pause, and remain calm in the present moment can allow you to decrease stress. Practices like tai chi and yoga that coordinate the breath with movement can be especially effective at reducing the state of constant hyperarousal, which is detrimental to digestion and lymphatic health. When you learn to understand your emotions and responses to stress and adopt healthy ways to manage stress, your lymph and life will flow more smoothly.

When your lymph is flowing well, it will support natural revitalization and cleansing of your body. Follow these daily habits and exercises to naturally decongest your lymphatic system for vibrant skin, digestion, and health!

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