AntiAgeing Savantess

Global Wellness, Skin Care and Aesthetics

Posts from the ‘Health’ category

EAT YOURSELF BEAUTIFUL:   Protect, Plump and Burn

eat yourself Beautiful

I believe core health stems from how we nourish it. Every meal can make a difference in your mood, immunity and overall well-being. I have discussed how what you eat can affect your mood in a previous post. Today, I how to encourage you to eat well for sake of your physical well-being. It does help that these same nutrients also highlight our aesthetic virtues! So, arm your image naturally and incorporate these key beauty foods daily!

I have broken up these beauty foods into two posts. This first post I will address the key Sun Protecting, Collagen Promoting and Fat Burning nutrients and their food sources.

In the next post, I will address the nutrients which best Detoxify, Promote Muscle and Vascular Health.

All the foods discussed will help balance, restore and vitalize the body. With these foods, we can function optimally and reveal our most beautiful selves!

Sun Protecting Nutrients

With summer imminent, we need all the help we can get to increase our defenses from harmful UV radiation.

  •  Lycopene: A carotenoid that serves to protect the skin from the long-term effects of radiation. Carotenoids are critical to the photosynthetic process and protect a plant or organism from damage by light and oxygen.

sun protecting watermelon

Best Sources: Cooked tomatoes (offer higher lycopene concentrations than raw option) and Watermelon. Studies show that cooking in olive oil greatly increases absorption and therefore benefits of carotenoids like lycopene (Asia Pacific J Clin Nurt 2005, Journal of British Dermatology).

  • Astaxanthin: Another super-carotenoid that attributes to the coloring of many marine and aquatic animals. Works as a internal sunscreen, protecting the skin from UV damage with added anti-aging benefits. Studies have shown 4-6 weeks of supplementation can help reverse signs of UV aging such as wrinkles and sun spots. (Experimental Derm 2009).

protect yourself from sundamage with salmon

Best Sources: Wild Salmon best, trout, shrimp and lobster also good sources.

  • Beta Carotene: Helps repair skin damaged from sun exposure.

carrots and sweet potatoes for skin health

Best Sources: You need about 30 mg daily, equivalent to 6 carrots or a sweet potato. Other sources include kale, spinach, mangos and apricots.

  • Antioxidants: Protect and reverse free radical damage caused by sun exposure. For some ideas on how topical antioxidants can help further protect the skin from sun effects, please refer to my previous ¨Skin Youth and Antioxidants” post here.

pomagranate and blueberries protect skin

Best Sources: Dark color fruits and veggies. Pomegranate and blueberries have especially high levels of antioxidants and reduce ability of UVB induced cancer cell formation.

  • Triterpenoids: 2007 study at Cornell University found this group of important chemical compounds which act as natural anti-inflammatory agent and prevent formation of skin cancer cells.

apple peels for skin health

Best Sources: Organic Red Apple, grape tomato and olive skins.

  • EGCG: A natural phytochemical that fights free radicals and decreased sun induced inflammation. An ideal anti-aging agent.

organic green tea protects skin

Best Sources: Green Tea.  A 2011 report in Journal of nutrition saw improvements in elasticity roughness, scaling and moisture content in those who consumed green tea regularly over 12 weeks. Other studies have shown that green tea can also help prevent non-melanoma skin cancer by limiting blood supply to abnormally behaving cells.

  • Quercetin– Another helpful chemical which helps protect skin form oxidizing sun effects.

black tea for skin health

Best Source: Black Tea

  • Selenium: Essential mineral which acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and is needed for skin repair. Selenuim is needed to make a potent antioxidant glutathione peroxidase which fights development of cancer and skin aging. Also helps decrease incidence of sunburn and promote even skin tone.

crimini mushrooms for skin health

Best Source: Crimini Mushrooms and Fish (especially Red Snapper).

  • Omega 3: A 2013 study from the Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that regular supplementation of omega 3s, protected skin from UV induced immunosuppression. This ability is what assures skin maintains its defenses to cancer and illness. For more on Omega 3s see my post “10 anti-aging things you can do every day”.

fish and flaxseed for sun protection

Best Source: Cold water fish, flax seed and walnuts.

  • Melatonin:  Melatonin acts as an antioxidant in the skin and protects DNA from UV induced damage. Melatnonin is best know for its ability to regulate the sleep cycle. For more information on this check out my post on “Beauty Sleep” here.

melatonin from cherries good for sleep and skin health

Best Source: Montmorency Cherries. These tart cherries have surprisingly high levels of melatonin, making them an ideal for both pre bed-time snack and a part of your summertime skin diet.

Collagen Promoting Nutrients

Collagen, elastin and soft keratin attribute to the connective tissue base of skin. This base provides strength and structure to our skin. As normal aging occurs collagen production and restructuring processes slow down. Because of this, our skin becomes increasingly thin, less elastic and weaker. The result is increased incidence of wrinkles, sagging and greater propensity to accumulate broken blood vessels and sun spots. There are treatments to help awaken sleepy skin, but, without appropriate and adequate nutrition, collagen cannot be made! Protecting skin from sun-damage will also help slow collagen degeneration so incorporating sun-protecting habits will assure strong, healthy and plump skin.

  • Turmeric: This anti-aging nutrient serves as a potent antioxidant which resists collagen degradation by producing protective hyaluronic acid.

kidney beans increase hyaluronic acid in skin

Best Source: Red Kidney Beans. Two tablespoons of beans a day help maintain healthy hyaluronic acid levels!

  • White tea: A study published in 2009 reports that White tea, above all others, has the most protective properties on collagen and elastin. (Journal BioMed Central Complementary and Alternative Medicine). Its extremely high concentration of polyphenols and antioxidants should be enough to convince you to make White Tea your go-to collagen preserving beauty drink!!

collagen stimulating organic white tea

  • Sulfur, Taurine and Lipoid acid “Collagen Trio”: Supports healthy production and repair of collagen.

Garlic and collagen production

Source of Collagen Trio: Garlic!!

  • Vitamin C– This Vitamin is critical for the skins defense against free radicals and is necessary collagen production and repair! Many current studies are reiniterating the importance of this basic vitamin in the prevention of premature skin aging and in healthy restoration of damaged skin.  For information on topical products incorporating Vitamin C for skin protection, see my previous post here.

lychees help encourage collagen production

Best Sources: Hot peppers, guavas, sweet peppers, black currants, lychees and rose hip plant.

  • Genistein: An element essential in promoting collagen production while also protecting existing collagen by inhibiting certain enzymes responsible for its degredation.

organic soy products for collagen

Best Sources: Organic Soy Products.

  • Manuka Honey: A honey variety from new Zealand, promoting cellular renewal, anti-inflammatory effects and formation of stronger, more resistant collagen.

Manuka honey for collagen

  • Plant Steroids: Encourages collagen production.

avocado oil for collagen

Best Source: Avocado oil.

Fat Busting Nutrients

Who doesn’t need a little boost in fat metabolism? Keep these foods readily available, especially during pool time festivities!

  • Capaicin: Boost fat metabolism by increasing the body’s internal temperature and caloric needs. Studies show consistent appetite suppression and weight loss with regular consumption!

spices for metabolism

Best Sources: Cayenne and jalapeño peppers.

  • Sulfur and B complex Vitamin rich foods: Support function of metabolism stimulating adrenal gland.

Sulfur and B vitamin foods for weight loss

Best Sources: Garlic, apples strawberries blueberries and lemons.

  • Thermogengic foods– These foods require more calories during digestion than they provide when consumed.

Thermogenic food for fat metabolism

Best Sources: Broccoli, spinach and tomatoes.

  • Leptin reducing foods: Studies done in mice and other animals show that lower leptin levels are associated with faster metabolisms and more efficiently burn fat. (University of Wisconsin) We believe that leptin has similar effect in humans.

sashimi

Best Sources: Fish

  • High Fiber Fruits: Help your body burn fat by helping mobilize contents through the digestive tract faster. This favors the absorption of vital nutrients essential for optimal metabolism and fat oxidation! For more on the benefits of a high fiber diet check out my post on ¨10 Anti-Aging Things You Can Do Every Day¨

strawberries and blueberries for fat metabolism

Best Sources: Strawberries, blueberries

  • Citrus Foods:  The chemical properties of these fruits help decrease insulin levels and promote faster metabolism and weight loss.

kiwi and grapefruit fat burn

Best Sources: Lemons, kiwis and grapefruit.

  • High Protein, Calcium Products: Organic sources usually supply high quality amino acids and proteins which help suppress appetite. Rich supplies of calcium assure healthy blood levels and avoid triggered release of calcitrol. Keeping calcitrol low is smart since it encourages storage of fat. Calcitrol also lowers production of the stress related hormone cortisol. Cortisol encourages accumulation of dangerous visceral fat. For more on dangers of cortisol and visceral fat see my previous post “ Your Waistline and Health”.

tofu and arugula fat burning foods

Best Sources: Fat free organic dairy, Tofu, Leafy Greens and Legumes.

Fat metabolism super nutrients? Although I´m not prepared to talk about these supplements in this post, there is some interesting evidence supporting their fat metabolizing abilities!   Goji Berries, African Mango and Green Coffee Bean extract are gaining tremendous momentum in the weight loss and fat burning arena.  I may decide to revisit in future post but until then, feel free to investigate on your on your own and inquire at your nutritionists office about their potential benefits. 

So, I hope from this post you have learned what foods encourage you natural beauty by:

  • Improving your skins ability to protect and repair itself from sun,
  • Preserving youthful skin structure and collagen production and …
  • Revving-up your fat metabolism!

Check back next week for my next post where you I fill you in on the key beauty nutrients responsible for helping our body detoxify, promoting lean muscle and improving circulatory health! 

Cheers to promoting beauty with food and a colorful, spicy and refreshing summer diet!

2 Comments
Aging Elengantly

Want to age like a pro?

As much as I love youth promising products and treatments, the most important things we can do to promote quality longevity are simple lifestyle modifications. What we eat, how we act and think, are what will ultimately dictate our biological age. How you age is really up to you! Genetics aside, we have the power to incorporate life enhancing acts to ward off the illnesses most commonly associated with our physical, mental and health decline.

     1. *****Make sure getting your vitamins and antioxidants!!

Juicing2

These are your primary defenses against cancer causing free radicals and stress related aging and disease!

How-to-tip: Make Fruits and veggies your go-to food .

  • Try Juicing in the morning, snack on veggies and include a variety of colored foods in your diet! Find some recipes and      tips on this helpful site All About Juicing.
  • The stronger in color, the higher vitamin and antioxidant power!
  • If you don’t trust you are getting in enough  antioxidants, try a trusted supplement like the one below from MacroLifeNaturals… Try the MarcroGreens or Miracle Reds! In Spain, a brand called Salangei makes some fantastic antioxidants supplements in capsules, check out  their product Phytomatrix here!

antiox supplement Miriacle Reds

     2. ****Drink purified water!! 

purified water benefits

Municipal water has been reported with potentially toxic amounts of Cholrine and Flourine. These chemicals have been associated with health hazards and urinary tract cancers.  Other toxic substances commonly found in tap water include lead, pesticides, benzene and heavy metals.  Taking into account we need 8-10 glasses daily to stay healthy, we should be wary of the quality of the water we drink!

How-to-tip:  Pass on sugary, artificially flavored, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks and drink filtered water.

  • Buy a filter! I have to be honest, after researching, it’s still unclear to me how to choose the best water purification system. There have been numerous reviews stating ” the reverse osmosis types using a thin film composite membrane” are best! Readers Digest recommends the Aquasana brand. If anyone has any insight or opinions to share I would love to hear from you!
  • If you’re interested in learning about the reverse osmosis filtration process and a thin film composite membrane, I found      this link here quite informative. http://espwaterproducts.com/about-reverse-osmosis.htm.
  • To give flavor kick to your filtered water try adding a bit of vitamin and antiox goodness with citrus fruits!

Choose water

Kleen Kanteen

  • Lastly, if you’re going to go for store-bottled water, beware that not all are created equal. Bottled water seems to be less often screened or controlled than we might think. Also, mineral contents vary and could mean different health implications. Do your research on your favorite brands!

     3. ****Meditate!!

meditate for health

Daily meditation has been cited to be more effective than any other relaxation technique to lower long-term anxiety, ultimately, improving mental function and preventing premature aging. According to a Study conducted by Dr R Keith Wallce, those who meditated for more than 5 years averaged 12 years younger biologically than non-meditating counterparts!

How-to-tip: See my instructions in my post on Beauty Sleep!! (Won’t hurt to pick up some tips on sleep, as proper rest is vital in combating stress and disease! (: )

  • Set aside 5-15 minutes a day to recharge and unwind.
  • If you find sitting quietly too stressing , try a walking meditation or listen to meditation guidance tapes.

      4. ****Squeeze in 30 minutes of daily cardio!!

take the stairs for health

Cardiovascular activity helps prevent heart disease (hence the name), decreases stress and improves metabolism! All of this helps cut your chances against developing the most common diseases related to decreased quality of life and premature disease.

How-to-tip: Cardiovascular exercise has mean any activity which raises your heart rate and makes you sweat a bit. The gym is a great place for motivation and wide variety of aerobic classes and “cardio machines”. Power walking sessions, jogging, bicycling, gardening and even certain types of house cleaning can also serve as great ways to activate the body, exercise the heart and increase metabolism.

  • If you need some motivation to get in your morning workout check out my previous post for some tips “ABCs for a Rejuvenated Morning”.
  • If you just can’t seem to make time during your hectic day, take the stairs and walk every chance you get.
  • Avoid couch potatoe -ing at all costs! I guarantee, a fresh walk will feel so much better or your mind and body than ingesting both extra calories and exogenous TV anxieties.

     5. **** Include Omega 3s in your diet!!

omega 3 brain power

Increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis have been shown in those consuming diets low in Omega 3s. Poor cognitive function, depression, fatigue, memory, attention deficit issues, inflammatory conditions and even Alzheimer’s can all be warded off with regular consumption.

How-to-tip: Try incorporating cold water fish, walnuts, flaxseed or eggs from hens fed on greens to your daily diet.

Flaxseed Smoothie

Get your Omega 3s! Add flaxseeds to your smoothie

Nordic Natural Omega 3

        6. ****Wear Sunglasses!!

sunglasses for eye health

Not only do large chic sunglasses give you a few points on the fashion scale…. They can also help protect your from wrinkles, cataracts and growths such as pinguecula or pterygiums! The amount you squint is directly proportional to the stress you are implementing on the ultra sensitive skin around the eyes…Sunglasses minimize the need to squint. A pair of groovy shades also works to protect the peri-orbital skin from UV exposure and associated increased risk for skin cancer and signs of aging.. Lastly, sunglasses help protect the eyes from the above eye diseases which could affect your sight. Cataract formation is many times genetic and, for many,considered a normal part of aging (50 % of those over 80 have signs of cataracts). We can, however, slow their insidious onset by protecting ourselves when outdoors with UV protective lenses. Studies have shown those who protect themselves in early life with sunglasses are less likely to develop cataracts and other disturbing eye growths.

      7. ****Add Fibrous foods to every meal!!

High Fiber Foods AntiAging diet

The benefits of a high fiber diet include: decreasing risk of heart disease, aiding in excretion of cholesterol, maintaining digestive health, preventing diverticular disease, helping manage healthy blood sugar levels and diabetes, removing cancer causing toxins from gut and helping you control hunger and fight obesity.

By maintaining digestive health, high fiber diets also help stabilize feelings over all wellbeing. Furthermore, the fact that those who eat diets high in fiber tend to be able to control their appetite and weight better, means less risk of eating foods containing unhealthy fats and sugar. Proper nutrition further protects you from heart disease and diabetes.

AntiAging gurus from around the globe have one unified message in mind…longevity is strongly linked to diets with high Fiber:Sugar-Ratio! More fiber and less sugar is the definite formula to wellness!

How-to-tip: To find out how much fiber you need and some high fiber food suggestions see Mayo Clinics site.

  • For more on Anti-Aging foods check out this slide show from the Dr. OZ website site.
  • If you can’t seem to get enough dietary fiber in your diet…..take a trusted supplementary source. I kinda like this list of supplements listed on Top10Supplements.com….sorry kinda cheesy site but really liked their choices (:

organic fiber supplement

     8. ****If you have to drive….don’t forget your seat belt!!

Wearing Seat Belt AntiAging

Wearing Your Seat Belt can Assure Quality Life

Ok so this may not be directly antiaging but its LIFE PROLONGING! The number one cause of non-disease related death is car accidents. This said, you can decrease your risk in three ways 1) DON’T DRIVE 2) IF YOU DRIVE, DRIVE A BIG CAR (increases your chances of survival but at the cost of the environment) 3) WEAR A SEATBELT.

use of alternative transport could be life prolonging

Embracing alternative transportation is AntiAging

How-to-tip: At the least, fasten your seatbelt.

  • If you can avoid driving, do it! Live in a community which is accessible on foot or with use of alternative transportation. Choose to live close to your work and children’s school.
  • I’m not going to lie…I hate seat belts (they trigger a sense of claustrophobia), furthermore don’t like driving! I limit my families necessity for use of automobiles by limiting our activities to the areas of the city where we can easily get to by tram, metro or on foot. This is a personal lifestyle choice which I understand may not be ideal for many, for this reason I stress the importance of the alternative! Wear SEAT BELTS please!

     9. ****Shave!!

shaving is antiaging

Great news girls!…Mens graceful aging secret’s out!… Apart from the fact that men have better structured collagen, more active fibroblast activity (those cells which make collagen and elastin), their smooth, wrinkle free skin is partially due to the fact THEY SHAVE!!! Shaving is an amazing way to stimulate healthy cellular turnover and keep skin looking and acting young! I’m not telling the ladies to start shaving to keep their faces looking youthful, but I am giving the act of shaving some props after over a decade of bad press from the laser hair removal advocates! What I do want to stress is before you go off and laser those legs is that there may be another reason, other than economical, to choose shaving! We may consider it an antiaging act! I’m not sure this should be in the top 10 but definitely something you could do everyday to keep skin looking youthful!

     10. ****Protect your skin from UV radiation!!

protect skin from UV radiation

UV radiation and smoking are probably the 2 factors most strongly linked to premature skin aging. UV radiation is also our strongest correlating factor to skin cancer. Those desiring a skin ageing prevention technique need to start with the basics of UV prevention. Since most sun damage is occurred prior to the age of 18, it is vital to educate our children and loved ones to take precautions.

How-to-tips:

  • Use antioxidant products daily. See my post on “The Power of Antioxidants
  • Wear Sunscreen with SPF 30+ with UVA and UVB Protection .If you read the above post on Antioxidants you will notice I tend to prefer those which offer physical UV radiation barriers over chemical.
  • Place tinted UV-protective film to your car’s side and  rear windows as well as to house and business windows. According to Skincancer.org, these can block up to 99% of harmful UV radiation while  letting in 80% of light.
  • Wear special UV protective clothing when outside. Look for the Ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), the higher the better. I love CabanaLife, Mott50 and Coolibar for kids.
Protect UV clothing Cabanalife

Protect yourself with UPF Clothing

  • Invest in a Laundry UPF additives. These will potentiate clothing’s ability to protect you from the sun. SunGuard is one example, using a sunscreen chemical called Tinosorb FD. One wash with SunGaurd gives you a new UPF of 30 for up to 20 washes thereafter.
SunGuard protective UV wash

Add to your laundry wash for extra UV protection

  • Choose dark, tightly woven and loose-fitting clothing to provide the best barrier for skin from the sun.

Hope you enjoyed my recommendations and hope you find a way to apply them to your daily life!! If you need help on making better choices, talk to your doctor, nutritionist, fitness expert or antiaging guru and get a customized consultation!

Cheers to staying healthy and maintaining your most youthful you!

7 Comments

healthy habit sign

Although, my life vocation is centered on the creation of beauty… health is my foremost objective and I make sure it’s never sacrificed. In fact, my premise has always been that when we cultivate health, the beauty will follow. Beauty is identified by both its interior and posterior components. We are our best version, when we are healthy…we radiate a light which transmits as balance of the mind and body.  With this balance we are able to help and inspire others to be responsible and gentle with one another and ultimately create a more intelligent society. I truly believe health and intelligence breeds happiness, less hunger and violence, and greater advancements.

As a wife and mother, I wish to help my family achieve optimal health by serving as a good role model. This means living happy, health consciously, and helping them stay away from hazards that may get in the way of them doing the same. Hidden dangers lie in misconceptions about the food we eat and we often underestimate what we can do to keep ourselves healthy. I hope to help share data which has helped me make better choices for my family. Below I list some healthy tips I incorporate into my family’s life and I have hopes you too will incorporate into yours.

        1.       Eliminate Sugary Drinks and all Sodas

Consumption of sugary drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic (reported JAMA 2012). Survey conducted show that we derive at least 50% of our daily sugar in take from sugary fruit drinks, soft drinks and sports drinks. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends your daily diet consists of no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar (100 calories) for women and 9 teaspoons of sugar (150 calories) for men. Noting that just one regular soft drink contains 8-10 tsp (over 130 cal), you can see that these drinks put us at risk for not only obesity but all other related diseases. With one of three children in US overweight or obese, sugary drinks should be limited, if not completely eliminated from your family’s life!

high sugar drinks

With limited or no nutritional value, the health concerns out way their benefits!. CNN reported that scientific research has linked higher death from diabetes, heart disease and cancer in parts of the world where sugary drinks are most consumed. Although there are obviously other attributing factors to these scary incidences, the American Heart Association has linked each to elevated sugar intake.

What about diet drinks/sodas? We have recently been uncovering the mechanism these previously thought to be “healthier sodas” contribute to obesity. The artificial sweeteners, fructose or sugar alcohol used in diet sodas, tend to slow our metabolism and decrease our sensation of “satiety” or “feeling full”. One of the ways they do this is by altering the activity of the bacteria in out gut. According to a report in the Obesity Reviews, the bacteria begin to produce a short chain fatty acid that, when accumulated, increases hunger by blocking signals of satiety and causing a type of inflammation. This inflammation has been associated with tendency to develop insulin resistance, diabetes, increased risk of stroke and heart disease. Furthermore, the brain responds to non-caloric sweetness as it would real sugar and therefore triggers pancreatic insulin release. This insulin serves to deplete available blood glucose and induces a hunger response to replenish its stores.

It’s clear that those who consume high sugar drinks or sodas of any kind are at risk of increased risk for a multitude of health concerns. I propose to try keeping sugary drinks for special occasions and making water, herbal teas and freshly squeezed juices as your go-to drink option.

natural fruit drinkslight water drink with lemos

        2.       Forgo Using the Microwave

Scientific studies have been conducted from well-respected Swiss, German and Russian scientists on microwaved food.  Results have shown that microwaving food decreases it nutritional value and alters it to producing harmful, even cancer causing, substances.

Microwaving

Findings have included that microwaving causes the following changes:

  • To meat: May produce some nitrosdienthanolamines (known carcinogens believed to be linked to stomach and colon cancer) and decrease its nutritional value.
  • To thawed fruit: Converts glucosides and galactosides into carcinogens
  • To vegetables: Removes nutritional benefits from plant alkaloids and cause more difficult to digest.
  • To vitamins, minerals and healthy fats: Leads to structural degradation leading to decreased bioavailability.
  • To antioxidants: Removes potency more so than steaming or stir-frying (also reported in Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture 2003).
  • To garlic: Depletes it of cancer protecting ingredient.
  • Alters amino acids of proteins so to make them unusable for the body.

microwave effects 2

Other studies have shown unhealthy blood alterations, mental decline and nutritional deficiencies in those who exclusively cook in microwaves. As if all this is not enough, if you add the carcinogenic effects of heating in plastic, the impact of microwaving doubles in its gravity to our health!!

For the sake of our families health we need to limit our exposure to toxins and carcinogenic substances. In my house, we are not waiting for the American Medical Society to issue warnings against microwave use, nor are we waiting for a large scale study which can hurt the billion dollar industry. Being a medical practitioner myself, I know what it takes to get a study approved and done well. It takes a lot of money and dedicated scientists working over decades to evaluate the long term results. This said, I don’t foresee this ever being done and therefore our children will continue to suffer from strange disease processes resulting from cumulative effects of modern life and its technologies. What we can do is be aware and incorporate what we know in our guts to be true… most often the simpler and the closest to nature, the better!

Being raised with minimal use of microwaves, we had the opportunity to know the luxury of stove/oven cooked and raw food. Seeing that these methods of food preparation are actually healthier, why not give that to our children as well?

raw food

With cancer and immune system disease on the rise…let’s leave microwaving for emergencies and try to preserve the nutritional/health integrity of the carefully chosen food we eat.

        3.       Be Wary of Canned Foods

can food

A concerning percentage of canned food is contaminated with Bisphenol A or BPA.  To all you moms out there, BPA may hit a soft spot. BPA is known as the scary chemical we all look out for when choosing baby bottles and other items babies tend to put in their mouth. BPA is a common component of polycarbonate plastic and is used in many food packaging items, kitchen ware and yes…. baby bottles. It is released from these products over time and gets into the food we then feed our families with.

BPA is a chemical that has known health hazards and more so when exposed to children’s bodies. Even in acutely low doses, BPA, which can mimic effects of human estrogen, interferes with the human hormone system (officially stated in 2009 Endocrine Society). It also has shown to alter mammary gland development in animals and increases breast cell proliferation in human cells. Studies have shown when pregnant mice were exposed to BPA, it increased their offspring’s risk of breast cancer. Furthermore, there have been connections to regular consumption of BPA contaminated food with prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity and ADHD.  Because of such reports the EU, Canada and even China have prohibited its uses in baby bottle productions. France is also in the process of banning BPA in all food application products. Government involvement or not… is it not time we take precautions to protect our families from limit BPA exposure? Savvy moms now know to only buy “BPA-free” when selecting children’s plastic items.

But, are we overlooking other sources of BPA intoxication of which we should all be aware? As concerning as the BPA levels in plastic is, we are now more aware of it and companies are making strides to protect our children from contamination. Our real hidden threat of BPA is now in canned goods. It was just recently that scientists have analyzed and found significant levels of BPA in a range of popular canned goods. From corn to canned soup…. the epoxy-resin lining of these tinned foods are contaminating contents with this sneaky health hazard. Food manufacturers use this material due to its protective properties against bacterial contamination, but, is it worth the risk of the above mentioned issues? Again, until the FDA gets involved and bans use of such dangerous materials, it may be worth it to forgo canned foods all together. Seeing that canned foods often are high in sodium and use concerning preservatives….I feel it may be an all-around good omen to purge our cupboards of can-derived nutrition…don’t you?

Canned food and risks

For those of you who cannot live without your favorite canned food…. There are BPA free manufactures. Some examples are Eden Foods and Trader Joes. The website Tree Hugger or Organic Grace also has a list of safe varieties.

For more information on the danger of canned food check out this well written article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

  

      4.       Make Exercise A Regular Family Event

For adults, the health benefits of exercise are well published. There are a dozen reasons why exercise is important to your physical and mental well-being. But as most of you know, getting started on a fitness regimen can be difficult….especially if you have little free time to dedicate to your relationship and family. For this reason many give up their right to exercise to spend time with the ones they love.

But why not combine fun/family time with physical exercise? This option allows health benefits for the whole family and promotes bonding in your relationships!!This is the premise on which my family and I live! We make exercise a family event. My family and I spend hours on the weekends running together and biking. Exercising has provided us with many of our happiest moments!  I wish the same for you!

family exercise

Teach your children that physical activity is a normal part of their routine. Encourage rollerblading, bicycling, yoga, running, stretching and sports by participating in these activities with them.

Not especially sporty? Start with long walks and go from there!

Living in the cold? Bundle up and go for a walk or take on winter sports (let’s learn from the Europeans whom never let the cold stop them from getting outside!).

The benefits of exercise for children are irrefutable. The below offers you some insight on what exercise can do for your children.

exercise on brain power

  • Regular exercise can increase children’s ability to think, plan and do math (Journal of Health Psychology).
  •  MRI guided studies from the Health Science University in Augusta Georgia have shown exercise to increase executive function of children’s brain and improve overall social behavior. Improved executive function means improving self-control, reasoning and abstract thought.
  • Another study showed children who exercised 40 minutes every day for 3 months increased 3.8 points on scores of cognitive planning. It seems the more kids exercise the more intelligent they become!

Brain power aside, exercising together can help build lifelong healthy habits, create memories, get you and your family in the fresh air more often! It’s also an affordable activity and by stimulating healthy appetites, might get them to finally have a go on that quinoa dish or grilled fish you have been pushing on them. (:

Chris Carter PhD recently wrote a similar article, in the Huffington Post, on effect on exercise and brainpower, for those interested in an additional read check it out here.

    4.        Limit Toxins and Chemicals Exposure by Buying Safer Products.

This can be achieved by choosing your food and household products wisely. Below I offer you a few ways to achieve this and reason you should be a more intelligent consumer.

Food and Cosmetics: When choosing food or plant derived products, chose organic. Organic labeled products are those in which manufacturers have complied with strictly controlled procedures in their production. This means they have been produced without synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics or preservatives. Foods labeled organic have been grown on land which has also been protected from such chemicals for at least three years. Animal products such as eggs or dairy must come from free range animals that eat only organic feed.

Why Organic?

La boquerilla Organic is Orgasmic

La Boquerilla Barcelona

•  Consumption of organic food can help decrease allergies. A study by the British Journal of Nutrition found decreased eczema and wheezing among 2 year olds who consumed organic dairy products.

Less exposure to organophosphate pesticides. A study from the University of Washington found lower levels in those preschoolers who ate organic vs. conventional food. Elevated levels of these pesticides are associated with mental health issues like depression and memory problems (BBC report in 2006).

warning of pesticides

Less resistance to antibiotics. Because organic farming prohibits non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock, meat, dairy and eggs we are less likely to acquire resistance to life-saving antibiotics.

organic farming 

For more info on the safety of meat and other foods click WebMD link and see here.

It’s totally understandable that organic food may be just too expensive for some households. It is for this reason The Environmental Working Group has created a Shopper’s Guide which dictates which produce carry most risk of contamination. We can then prioritize our organic shopping and buy the foods which carry the highest risk, with highest pesticide levels, or those which our family consumes the most, such as milk and eggs. The foods with lowest contamination are the ones you should buy from a local source. Buying local is a good option for those who can’t afford organic. Local farmers worry less about preservation, since not traveling long distances to get to the consumer.  This means fresher food and less use of harmful substances in cultivation.

Veggi Wash

You can also use food washes such as Environne and Veggi Wash to help remove contaminants from your food. There are also homemade recipes for food washes using vinegar and water click here for one example. You may also need a vegetable brush for some fruits and veggies with thicker skin. It is not recommended to use detergents to was your food, risks may outweigh benefits.

Vinegar produce wash

Household Products: Many products we use for cleaning and air-freshening have harmful effects to almost every bodily system. Cumulative effects of their exposure have raised concerns and are now thought to be correlated to increasing epidemics. Most concerning are the effects they may have on small children. Trends reported include an increase in learning and developmental disabilities, asthma, childhood cancers, ADHD, as well as decreasing IQs. Scientists believe pesticides to be one of many culprits in these growing issues related to our children’s health. For more on this please refer to this report published by The Pesticide Action Network :A Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health & intelligence.

chemically grown food cost more

It is up to use to protect ourselves and our children from these effects by limiting pesticide contamination.

Some tips when choosing Household Products:

non toxic cleaning

  • Read the label and avoid these ingredients: Diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) (can be carcinogenic and easily penetrate skin), butyl cellosolve or ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ammonia (can irritate respiratory pathways), Sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite (bleach which damage repiratory pathways and skin), chlorinated phenols (hazards to lungs and circulatory system), diethylene glycol (depress nervous system), formaldehyde found in deodorizers (respiratory irritant and suspected carcinogen), petroleum solvents in floor cleaners, percholethylene in spot removers and many others.
  • Use sparingly any product with labels which include DANGER or POISON. Chances are they are affecting your families’ health with regular use.
  • Try cleaning using gentle non-toxic ingredients to clean your home. Examples of such are Baking Soda, Unscented Liquid Soap, Lemon, Borax – (sodium borate),White Vinegar, Washing Soda, Sal Soda, Isopropyl Alcohol in water and Cornstarch Citrus Solvent. For indications of use please refer to this website.

nontoxic cleaning

pesticide free

I hope that these tips have helped make you more aware of how you can contribute to making sure your family has the best chances of living a longer, healthier, more quality life.

I have about a dozen more tips up my sleeve… but I thought I might spare you from the information overload. (:  I plan to offer these in post soon to come ….stay tuned!!

As those of you who already have gotten to know me have figured out…I’m passionate about wellness! I hope you are enjoying my journey to keep you all your youngest, healthiest and most beautiful selves!

Cheers with Love from my family to Yours!

Heathly life habits

My husband and children heading out for family activity. Here you see daugter Valerija!

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massage therapy benefits

                                                  5 Reasons why Massage Therapy is Anti-Aging

Massage has been used for centuries for both therapeutic and pampering purposes. Modern medicine has, however, changed our perception towards massage and created an illusion in which massage is seen as a luxury in which most cannot invest.

I mean to help change this perception and rather reform massage therapies fame! It is, and should be used as, a preventative medicine technique. Its preventative health benefits should be valued and its uses expanded to conjunctive therapies for many diseases.

Recent studies have shown proof, massage therapy can provide us with much more than just a temporary feel-good effect.

These studies show, using massage, we are increasing our overall psychological feeling of wellness. We are also, via its physiological benefits, preventing ailments that tend to occur as a result of aging. Massage Therapy should, therefore, be considered Anti-Aging.

Below are my top 5 reasons why Massage Therapy should be incorporated into our lives and used to help keep our bodies youthful.

healing massage

1.   Massage can decrease stress response and its health related issues.

I have spoken about the medical concerns stress brings about in previous posts. (See previous blogs, “Your Waistlines and Health” and “Beauty Sleep”). Stress is a detrimental age accelerator than costs you your looks, your health and your sanity. It must be controlled and massage can help.

Chronic stress causes, among other things, an increase in cortisol and insulin levels. Cortisol leaves our body tense, our heart rate and blood pressure high and puts pressure on our organs to work harder. This increase demand on all our body systems also puts us at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attack. Chronic insulin release can lead to insensitivity in the bodies insulin receptors (eventually not responding to insulin as before), and therefore higher risk for diabetes.  The worst part of these stress effects is that the often feed off on another. Once the body starts to suffer from tension, increased heart rate and extreme variants in glucose levels, it goes into alert mode. Each sign of stress signals further physiological symptoms which also signal stress. This dangerous cycle is very tiresome for the body and it is in desperate need for a recharge, a way to relax and be comforted.

This is where Massage Therapy has its value. Studies reported in the Intensive and Critical Care Nursing Journal that during the five minute foot massage, critically ill patients experienced decrease heart rate, blood pressure and respirations. This evidence was used to make conclusions that massage induced relaxation resulted in physiological health benefits. Another long term study showed that massage programs can decrease blood pressure and cortisol stress hormone levels, improving cardiovascular health and decreasing anxiety and depression.

How does massage therapy decrease stress?

There are several mechanisms of action which massage therapy has shown its value.

  • Decrease cortisol and insulin levels while increasing calming serotonin and dopamine: see above.
  • Encourages oxytocin release: Oxytocin is a stress reducing, bonding hormone most famous for its role in birthing. It helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system to slow down heart rate and breathing, relax musculature and improve digestion.
  • Increases endorphin release: Endorphins are pain reducing neurotransmitters.  Anxiety created by stress can cause increase sensitivity to pain. Endorphins help stop transmission of pain signals.
  • Decrease Beta Brainwave activity: This leads to increase stimulated release of relaxing neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine as well as decreased release of cortisol levels.
  • Stimulates Delta Brainwave activity: This type of brain activity is one which facilitates deep sleep induction….explaining the natural tendency to dose off during your session!

2.   Massage Therapy can help improve circulation.

The circulatory system is compromised of the cardiovascular system and lymphatic system.

Our cardiovascular system is responsible for circulating blood and therefore distributing oxygen and nutrients to all tissues. As we age the cardiovascular system declines due to buildup of plaque (vessels become smaller and blood flow impeded due to poor high cholesterol diets), reduced elasticity of vasculature (vessels loose ability to dilate and contract due to loss of collagen, elastin and plaque) and stress (receptors become less responsive due to over stimulation, resulting in high blood pressure and poor circulation to various tissues). Massage may not be able to control your cholesterol level but can help decrease stress on cardiovascular system and improve vessel health by improving overall tissue nutrition.  Seeing that cardiovascular disease is a strong risk factor for premature death, (heart disease is still number one cause of death in most developed countries), a natural way to help decrease influencing contributors should be put into practice.

Our lymphatic system plays an important role in waste removal and in aiding an efficient immune system response. The waste it removes includes excess fluid, pathogens, dead blood cells, toxins and cells implicated in cancer. It assists immune function by distributing immune cells throughout the body to help filter out and protect against harmful agents. An efficient lymphatic circulation mean rapid defense against infection and cleaner blood and tissues.  A person with poor lymphatic system circulation can suffer from a variety of discomforts including pain, pooling of the fluid in the extremities (arms and legs), cold hands and feet, fatigue and achiness. Massage can help improve lymphatic circulation system and prevent toxic waste accumulation causing these symptoms and improve overall health.

Lymphatic circulation

Lymphatic circulation

How does massage work to improve circulation? 

  • By creating strategic manipulation and pressure along the various tissues and along the extremities, it facilitates improved blood flow.
  • By Releasing points of the pressure, we cause fresh oxygenated and nutrient rich blood to perfuse congested areas.

massage point

  • By working along musculature we are helping disperse lactic acid and carbonic acid waste which builds up in muscles after activity and get it into lymphatic circulation. By removing waste out of muscle and into a mobilized lymphatic system, we are preventing pain and muscle fatigue they cause.
    • Massage has proven to be 3 to 4 times more efficient at recovering muscle than rest alone. Boxers are commonly massaged between rounds to help recharge muscles and combat fatigue.
    • Since lymphatic system runs quite superficially under the skin, specific massage techniques have well developed to encourage better flow and ultimately allowing the technician aid in more efficient removal of lymphatic fluid.
  • Improves removal of lymphatic fluid both helps improve removal of metabolic waste and reduce leg swelling and leg vein engorgement.  This also means improvement in the appearance of cellulite and aid in the prevention and treatment of engorged leg veins.

massage improves circulation leg health and cellulite

  • Improves lymph circulation puts less pressure on arterial blood pressure receptors and therefore keeps blood pressure low and avoiding unnecessary stress on cardiovascular system.
  • Skin related benefits include assistance in overall cellular function and increasing production of skin-nurturing sebum. Sebum is our bodies’ natural lubricant; it protects, cools, calms and maintains skins youthful properties.

3.     Massage Therapy can help us obtain heightened Immunity against illness and disease.

Your immune system is your body’s natural defense against foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and tumor formation. A strong immune system means we have optimal protection against getting sick.  We depend on the production and activity of a group cells called lymphocytes, (white blood cells), to initiate an immune response and prevent illness. These cells are produced in the bone marrow but many times need to mature and differentiate in a lymphatic organ called the thymus gland.   Once matured, they are release into circulation and, in larger concentrations, in the lymph fluid and nodes. Once in circulation they scavenge for signals of trouble and initiate a response to destroy pathogens and tumor cells.  The lymph nodes are widely distributed and connected by a network known as the lymphatic circulation. Within lymph nodes, are a tightly packed unit of lymphocytes and macrophages which fight off any circulating offenders collected in the lymph fluid.  It is for this reason we lymph nodes swell during sickness. The swelling is direclty coorelated with the disease fighting activity.

lymphnodes assesment

In a study conducted by Gail Ironson, M.D., HIV positive men responded to regular massage by increasing cellular immune profile, increasing blood serotonin levels, and improving overall effectiveness in fighting disease. Another report in the Journal of Complementary Medicine in 2010 reported an increase in these immune cells following massage therapy 3 times a week for 30 minutes in women with breast cancer. In addition to improved health and disease fighting ability, these patients also reported less depressed mood, anxiety and pain after their sessions.  Additionally, a report in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 2010 showed that leg massage promoted and reinforced the immune system by increasing the secretion of peptides which aid in fighting bacteria.

How can massage improve immunity?

  • By Improving lymphatic circulation
    • As touched upon above, by improving the lymphatic circulatory system, we improve the immune response by filtering the blood better and getting more lymphocyte exposure to where these pathogens or tumor cells might be brewing.
  • By increasing immune systems cytotoxic capacity
    • Massage has shown to naturally improve the the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity by increasing the Natural Killer cells (a type of WBC or lymphocyte that has large role in our immune response and releases cytotoxic granules to fight viruses and tumor cells).
  • By decreasing circulating levels of cortisol and insulin and increasing serotonin and peptides.
    • Since both cortisol and insulin are linked with impaired immune function, massage can also help immunity by controlling levels of these stress hormones.
    • Serotonin releases and bacteria fighting peptides have been linked to improved immunity.

4.    Prevents Muscular Strain

Regular massage therapy can help prevent muscle tension, spasms and pains in joints as they are repeatedly overused, unconditioned and dedicated to keeping us in unnatural, uncomfortable positions. As we age we have less time to take care of ourselves and nurture our decreasingly elastic muscles and stiff joints.  It doesn’t help that we tend to gain weight, sit at desks hours on end and use our muscles in the same way for the same functions day in and out.

bad habits bad posturebad posture at work

With Time Magazine reporting 8 of 10 Americans complaining of debilitating back pain, we need all the help we can get to improve workplace efficiency and prevent and treat contributing factors. Both muscular strain and bad skeletal alignment (see below) can contribute to back pain. Any natural treatment which can help treat pain in general without the use of aggressive and dangerous medical interventions (medications, injections, surgery), needs to be considered. Massage therapy is an ideal preventative and alternative therapy for musculoskeletal issues.

A study published in Science Translational Medicine in 2012 reported a short 10 minutes massage helped reduce inflammation post workout quickly. This allowed athletes to recover in a much shorter time period and perform more efficiently in their next session.

sports recovery massage

How can massage therapy help combat muscular tension and pain?

  • Regular massage therapy relaxes these muscles and passively stretches and lengthens them. Massage is able to move our muscles in ways which help combat the tensing habits we commit them to in daily routine.
  •  By encouraging better blood perfusion to these tissues, we are nurturing healthier oxygen and nutrient exchange, improving its ability to regenerate and heal itself and reducing tension and pain.
  • By increase blood perfusion, lengthening and softening our muscles we are also protecting our selves from injury. The healthier our muscles are, the better they can accommodate sudden movements and twists. This protects muscles from strains, tears.
  • By increasing endorphins, dopamine and serotonin hormones release we can further promote muscular relaxation and health.
    • Endorphins, serotonin and dopamine serve to help calm nerves and decrease pain perception.
    • Can be seen as a natural alternative to reduce pain perception and stiffness. Since using pain medications can further damage your body and age you prematurely, alternative and natural pain management should be embraced whenever possible.

back pain points addressed by massage

  • Massage encourages joint health by stimulating synovial fluid, (which nourished and lubricates joints), and improving elasticity of the connective tissue and muscles that support them.
    • The more flexible the tissue and muscles around the joints, the less the tug and pulling on them, preserving their integrity and health.

massage for joint health

An additional note about massage therapy and pain relief: According to the Arthritis Foundation, massage therapy is becoming an increasingly popular alternative therapy to treat painful symptoms of arthritic disease. Doctors are realizing the efficiency and cost effectiveness to alleviate their patients of their chronic and debilitating disease related pain. Many massage therapists report that their arthritic clients find better and longer-lasting relief from massage than from pharmaceuticals.

Less pain, less medication means a longer quality life….what can be more anti-aging than that.

 

5.       Improves posture

Poor posture doesn’t just upset your grandmother; it causes some muscles to get shorter and tighter, while allowing others to virtually wither away.  Misalignment of your spine also puts added stress on your circulatory, digestive and nervous systems. As a result of poor posture, we also suffer increasing pain in various joints and along back, nerve related pain (due to pinching in spine or other constrained area), deformities which may be difficult to correct, improper digestion and limited breathing capacity (as chest and spine cave in on lungs).

How can massage help you correct this?

  • Again, massage therapy relaxes and loosens the muscles and teach you what it feels like to be in proper alignment. During a massage you can experience natural muscle movements and skeletal positions. After your massage, you will be more likely to seek out these healthier movements and positions with less discomfort, ultimately contributing to improved posture and its benefits.
  • The more relaxed our muscles feel the more liberated our joints feel and our journey to a better posture will be made easier.
  • The more space we will be able to create between our spinal vertebra and joints, the less risk for adding on to intervertebral stress and compression which can attribute to disc degeneration, nerve and vascular damage. This translates to less back pain, less sciatica and prevention of both muscular overuse and atrophy.
  • Regular massage can ultimately encourage a more balanced, elongated body.
aging spine

aging spine tendencies

improving posture

skeletal alignment decreases pain caused by tension

Proper posture is usually compromised further as we age. Your skeletal alignment is one of the defining factors of an aged person….an image of a 60+ person usually includes some sort of hunching or slouching position. This aging silhouette IS NOT inevitable!! We can prevent unnatural painful spinal curvatures by working on our skeletal alignment. Its true massage alone cannot correct bad posture but along with conscious correction, appropriate exercise and stretching, massage can help!

preserve alignment..massage can help

The Savants have spoken!! Massage Therapy IS Anti-Aging!!

Massage Therapy benefits include:

  • decreases stress related disease,
  • increases overall feelings of wellness,
  •  improves the way we combat illness,
  •  improves health and nutrition to every tissue of the body,
  • encourages toxin elimination,
  • decreases pain and
  • maintains youthful anatomical structure and function.

Are these not good enough reasons for you to incorporate to some extent massage therapy into your youth and health maintenance routine?

If you were looking for an excuse to get a massage, look no further…. you may have your ultimate defense right here! Conscious assured, massage therapy can prove to be a valuable tool to sustaining a long healthy life.

Cheers to being pampered, feeling good and most importantly leading a long healthy life!

create your happiness....use massage

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        happy snacking or breakfast         

I’m sure you have noticed….. your mood changes after eating.

One would expect happiness after feeding a famished belly, but many times, that is not the case. Instead, your diet can sometimes contribute to your tired, irritable or lazy demeanor, when what you really need is to feel energized and prepared for your day. Let’s face it, now a day; we need every bit of energy we can get! This modern life requires us to get through our tightly packed schedules motivated and with the right attitude. Later, we need to adjust to transition theses energetic days to relaxing nights, assuring a rejuvenating nights rest. Whether we have an important meeting, a life changing exam, a long list of draining tasks or just to spend time with family or friends, we always want to feel sharp minded, positive and with no excuses for not giving ourselves 100%.  With that said we should want to know how to feed ourselves to optimize our mood. I would want to know, for example,  if there was something I could do to help me be less anxious when I have to present in a meeting or to have optimal stamina before going to the gym or to be more relaxed when spending time with my mom….wouldn’t you?

I hope to help you understand how to use the power of food to set the mood for what could be your best day yet!

Our brain is ruled by Neurotransmitters

neurotransmitter

The central nervous system, composed of mostly our brain, controls not only the way our heart beats  and the way we breathe, but most other processes that our vital to life itself. In addition, the stability of the nervous system is key in regulating our mood, sense of well-being, energy and mental clarity.  It is for this reason that neurotransmitters (NTs) are so important to our overall health and mental state. These chemical messengers are released from one brain cell, or neuron, to another to initiate a chemical reaction causing nerve impulses which ultimately preside over how our bodily systems function, feel and act. In fact, NTs are the key players in regulating messages between over 100 billion neurons that make up and control our entire nervous system. Healthy brain function depends of a balance and regulation these NTs production and release.  Even small imbalances in the proportions of NTs can affect our mental health. Since the precursors of these NTs are primarily derived from food, (include vitamins, minerals and most importantly amino acids), what we eat can have an immense impact on their presence and activity. Depending on what we eat, and in what proportions, we can alter the prevalence of one neurotransmitters production and activity over another’s. Since different NTs have different actions we must strive to supply our body with the right dose of materials needed to produce healthy levels of each type. Our food choices can, therefore, attribute to how we physically and mentally maneuver through life.

Mood NTs

Although there are hundreds of neurotransmitters active in our bodies, for the purposes of this post, I will discuss only those which have the most influence on our mental state and their effect on our overall mood.

First off, it’s important to know that we have two major classes of neurotransmitters, inhibitory and excitatory. The inhibitory neurotransmitters are those that serve to calm and stabilize mood. While the excitatory help the body prepare for activity, mental acuity and stress.

Two important inhibitory NTs are Serotonin and GABA.

  • Serotonin is necessary to relax the mind, calm anxiety and nervousness, decrease sensations of pain and help prevent overeating.  Additionally, when Seratonin is balanced, you have a better immune and digestive function overall. We all know what sickness and bloating does to our mood…. Needless to say Seratonin helps balance our minds and our tummies, and does wonder for feelings of happiness.
  • GABA is known as our bodies “natural valium-like NT”, and is mainly responsible for keeping you calm in moments of stress.

The excitatory NTs are Norepinephrine and Epinephrine.  Appropriate levels of norepinephrine are required to wake up the nervous system and keep you energetic, focused and productive throughout the day.

  • Norepinephrine plays an important role in alertness, motivation and concentration. It also has a role in helping produce long term memories and keeping your metabolism in check.
    • Epinephrine most important role is in blood pressure and heart beat regulation, however, is also released in response to stress.
    • High levels of these excitatory NTs can in the short term give us the power we need to pull through an energetically demanding event BUT long term excess has health risks including damage to our circulatory system and kidneys.  Apart from stress, certain foods can promote chronic excitatory NT release, causing the associated physical damage and additionally inhibitory NT depletion (in failed attempt to compensate for excess excitatory NTs effects). Too much excitatory NTs cause anxiety, stress, and insomnia and contribute to alterations in mood.

Certain NTs can both be both inhibitory and excitatory depending on the receptors present. Dopamine and Acetylcholine are two such NTs.

  • Dopamine is important to mood stabilization, as it can calm the mind to focus and prevent depressed mood.  In elevated concentrations it is also capable of contributing to nervousness or anxiety.
  • Acetylcholine (Ach) is a NT necessary for memory retention, mental acuity and alertness. Deficiency in Ach is seen in Alzheimer patients. For more info about Ach and Alzheimers click here.

How can what we eat affect what neurotransmitters are prevalent in our systems?

Food, depending on it’s nutritional composition, offers our body different precursors for production and stimulated release of certain neurotransmitters. Nutritious foods are the best sources of these NTs and proteins are often our ideal source. Proteins and NTs share a common building block, known as amino acids. When ingested our body breaks down proteins into amino acids and if the appropriate supportive nutrients are present (vitamins, minerals etc.) in the appropriate nurturing environment, the NTs are produced. Amino acids themselves can serve as NTs, stimulating neuron receptors to the release of other NTs. Appropriate nutrition is essential to provide the body with the correct elements needed to produce the correct NTs in the correct proportions. The ratio of these NTs produced allow our body to maintain a healthy neutrality and balance irregularities produced by stress, hormones, illness or other. This complex balance can be thrown off if we have any nutritional deficiencies (vitamin, mineral or protein), ingest food which deplete certain NTs (such as sugar, alcohol, medications or  excess carbohydrates), or have chronic digestive or hormonal issues. Although this science is complex and can be affected by various factors, we can help contribute to the health of our mental state by providing our body with a nutritionally balanced diet and avoiding excess of those toxins which can throw NT balance into a disarray.

To eat in a way which we can precisely acquire certain energy levels or to balance our mood is not easy. We can, however, learn a few guidelines which can help us seek out certain nutrients, and avoid ingestion of interfering substances, to help assure we are the happiest, most easy going and sharpest selves.  

DAY TIME FOODS- Uplifting, Energizing, Mind-Sharpening Effect

Seek Out:

  • Tyrosine rich foods for energy
    • The amino acid tyrosine promotes production of the excitatory NTs…dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine.
    • Foods high in protein like eggs whites, soy products, meat, wheat germ beans, legumes and cheese. Almonds, pumpkin and sesame seeds are also great sources and can be used as snacks.
    • Chicken is a great source of tyrosine and therefore excitatory NT precursor. Chicken additionally provides the brain with a source of coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 additional supports the energy generating potential of the neurons.
    tyrosine rich groups

    tyrosine rich foods

    tyrosine rich food

    • Antioxidant rich foods to assure alertness and motivation
      • Dopamine is essential for alertness and motivation. Unfortunately it is easily oxidized and therefore must be protected by adding foods which have high antioxidant power
      • Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best dietary antioxidants and help maintain and increase your dopamine levels by fighting the harmful free radicals which threated its oxidation and destruction.
      • Watermelon (excellent source of super antioxidant B6), apples (contain quercetin well known for dopamine protective properties), bananas (shown to increase dopamine levels), beets (contain natural antidepressant betaine which also essential in dopamine production) and avocados are best dopamine protecting or enhancing properties.

      perfect mood antioxidantsavocado and bananas to set the mood

      • Choline for concentration and memory
        • Choline, a B complex vitamin, is the precursor to acetylcholine (Ach). Ach is a neurotransmitter essential to memory and whose deficiency is liked to Alzheimers.
        • Choline is found in high concentrations in cholesterol containing foods. I’m not saying go back to fried eggs and butter for breakfast but a whole boiled egg might pay off resulting in better concentration before a big exam.
egg yolk for the mind

a bit of cholesterol can sharpern the mind

        • Other sources of choline include beans, cauliflower, soy products, cheese, oats, wheat germ and whole grain.

**Diet tips:

To assure energy? For breakfast, try an egg white omelet with a half a cup of cottage cheese or a soy milk fruit smoothie with a teaspoon of wheat germ.  For an energizing lunch, try a nice chicken breast meal with sautéed veggies or bean salad.

flaxseed soy smoothieegg white omlete with antioxidants

For a brainy breakfast? Try a egg sandwich on whole wheat with slice of low fat cheese.

egg sandwich cheese wheat

food for your brain

High Sugar Processed Foods? Don’t do it! Although these options may seem like a perfect fix for an energy slump they are short lived and ultimately result in a brain and energy slump. These non-nutritional food sources supply our blood stream with lots of free glucose (sugar energy source), but this activates the pancreas to work into overdrive producing a compensatory insulin surge. Insulin causes cells to take in this free glucose for storage. Once glucose taken into cells, we are left with no free energy source in blood stream, causing us to suffer an energy crisis, commonly referred to as a “sugar crash.” Since out brain cells do not have a way to store glucose for use in such an energy crisis, our brain “starves” and we suffer symptoms of weakness, confusion and headaches.  My advice, skip these food choices and focus on the nutritionally rich sources, offering you vitamins, proteins, complex carbs and nurturing fats.

avoid high processed sugar food

avoid sugar and processed food

FOODS TO CORRECT YOUR MOOD: For a Stabilized, Content and Relaxed Mind

Seek out:

  • Tryptophan to decrease anxiety and increase sense of wellbeing
    • Tryptophan is the amino acid building block to serotonin, our happy and relaxing NT.
    • Bananas, turkey, egg yolk, hazelnuts, beans and cheese are great sources of tryptophan.
    • To benefit from tryptophan we must balance with a serving of a healthy carbohydrate. The problem lies in the same high protein foods rich in tryptophan may also be great sources of tyrosine, the energizing NT precursor. To make sure we benefit from tryptophan and are not affected by the presence of the tyrosine, we need the accompanying carbohydrate.
tryptophan balance

tryptophan balanced meal

How does the carbohydrate help tryptophan stimulate inhibitory or relaxing NTs and prevent tyrosine over stimulating the excitatory NTs??

  • The carbohydrate triggers insulin release to divert other amino acids from brain so tryptophan can gain access to the receptors it needs to, to get converted into serotonin. As I explained before serotonin is a inhibitory neurotransmitter which promotes balanced mood and a general state of well-being.
  • Getting a good source of tryptophan to brain can result in a natural, non-medicated way to help decrease anxiety, decrease pain leading to more rational behaviors and mood. 
  • Tryphtophan rich foods accompanied by a healthy carb snack can also set the mood for easy sleep induction! Melatonin, an important hormone in sleep the sleep/wake cycle regulation, is made from serotonin.  A lack of seratonin, may therefore, contribute to sleeping problems. Please see my post on Beauty Sleep here for more insight on ways to get restorative sleep.

**Diet Tip:

Dieters beware!! A strict no –carb diet will most definitely result in a very unhappy, and difficult to deal with, individual. By not supplying your body with normal trigger for insulin release (the carb), you are basically limiting production of serotonin. No wonder No Carb= No Fun!! The anxiety usually results in increased appetite and foul mood. Take a break and eat a whole grain toast with a slice of low fat cheese or a whole grain pita with some hummus!

perfect mood stabilizer meal

dieters escape from moodiness

  • L-glutamine to induce relaxation
    • L glutamine is an amino acid precursor for GABA, our relaxation NT.
    • Pork, beef, sesame and sunflower seeds are good sources of this.

**Diet tip:

Seeking a more hearty way on a cold day to relax? Try a beef or pork based dish accompanied with a sesame garnish and brown rice pasta.

pork, sesame brown rice pasta

fighting stress with a nutritious and satisfying meal

    • Selenium to decrease irritability and moodiness
      • Selenium is a mineral which works with vitamin E to assist in serotonin production. Also has shown to prevent toxicity from exposure to certain metals (by binding to them and producing nontoxic forms and preventing neurotoxicity)
      • Deficiency in Selenium contribute to irritability
      • Sources include tuna, tomatoes, eggs, and broccoli and sunflower seeds.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids to stabilize mood and sharpen mind
    • Omega 3s have shown to improve the communication between brain cells by improving the conductivity of the brain medium through which NTs must travel through.
    • Omega 3s increase levels of available serotonin.
    • Supplementation linked to better mood and memory.
    • Sources include cold water fish, such as cod and salmon, flax seed and olive oil.
salmon for omega 3
Salmon is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Phenylethylamine to lift spirt and calm mind
    • PEA is a small neurotransmitter and neuromodulator that’s actions include stimulating release of norepinephrine and dopamine.
    • Chocolate, especially dark organic types are good sources of this!!!! Although the normal metabolism of chocolate limits the concentration of active PEA available to brain, purer sources of cocoa do offer us some PEA benefits.
    organic dark chocolate

    organic dark chocolate

    • To avoid the high sugar effects of milk chocolate and to benefit from maximum availability of PEA try a bit of dark chocolate as your desert choice… studies have proven it can simulate better mood and soothe at the same time! Hurray!!

**Diet Tip:

Noticing you may be starting your day off on the wrong foot?  Try a tuna salad with tomatoes and eggs or have a grilled fish with sautéed broccoli in olive oil with sunflower seeds.  If you need a snack, try some mixed some nuts. Avoid foods with high glycemic index such as pasta, white breads and sugary foods.  For a sweet desert my choice would the obvious few squares of dark chocolate!! (:

tuna salad tomatoes and sunflower seeds

fix moodiness with a balanced fresh diet

  • Caffeine to elevate depressed mood
    • Caffeine stimulates neurons to release excitatory NTs
    • Although too much caffeine can stimulate depletion of certain neurotransmitters and cause other mood issues such as irritability or anxiety, a little can help stimulate the nervous system just enough to get you out of your blues.
    • Try a nice cup of green tea over coffee. Green tea is a vasodilator (improves circulation) and an antioxidant and therefore, has more benefits over coffee.
    organic green tea

    Clippers organic green tea….pure bliss!

    • If you choose to have coffee as your caffeine source, don’t surpass a 2 cup serving as it could bring about negative physical and mental symptoms.
    • Folic Acid (vitamin B9) to prevent depression
      • Studies show link between low folic acid levels and subsequent lower brain serotonin levels. This is hypothesized to be because of folic acids role in the production of a vital serotonin precursor know as S-adenosyl-methionine.
      • Low levels of folic acid are more commonly seen in depressed and psychiatric patients. Studies show patients supplemented with  200 mg of folic acid greatly improved feeling of overall wellness.
      • Good sources of folic acid found in papaya, oranges, grapefruits, avocado, asparagus, beets, spinach (or other green leafy veggies), soybeans, peanuts and turkey.

**Diet tip:

Feeling like you might need food remedy to help with depressed mood? Try starting the day with a cup of green tea and an papaya, orange and grapefruit salad. Lunch can include a turkey or avocado whole grain sandwich with spinach salad.

fruit salad papaya grapefruit

happy breakfast bowl

 

The Bottom Line/Summary

The proper release of these neurotransmitters,(NTs), is key in giving us the control we desire over our mood and rational mind. Since our diet supplies the body with the key elements for NT production and balance…we need to pay more attention to what we eat! By choosing wisely what eat, we have a better chance at predicting what our day might be like. Our meal plans may shape the days productivity level, your likability and overall effectiveness.

All this said, remember, food are not the only things that can affect NT levels and healthy balance. Stress can cause neurons to release excess excitatory NTs. Anything hindering digestion, (food allergies, inflammatory reactions, undigested food, lack of certain digestive enzymes etc.), can inhibit the way we absorb nutrients necessary to make certain NTs.  Digestion, is especially important for serotonin presence and activity in the body as approximately 90% is produced in your gut and must be reabsorbed across a healthy intestinal wall  in order for the body to be able to utilize it. An inflamed gut could limit absorption of serotonin and therefore contribute to depressed and anxious mood. Chronic excess of alcohol, drugs, toxins, metals and medications can also effect digestion and absorption of many NTs or alternately act directly on neuron receptors to inhibit their action. Appropriate levels of vitamins and minerals, are needed for both production and release of NTs. Hormone imbalances can cause NT imbalances by affecting both production and release.

foods that destablize mood

foods that destabilize mood… use coffee and chocolate in small doses and in emergencies only!!

NT balance may seem complex but if we in general lead a healthy life style and keep stress at bay, we should be able to take control of our energy levels and mood by simply controlling our diets!

If you feel persistently overly moody, irritable and nervous, you should see your doctor. Ask about testing your NT levels.  This test is easy, safe and most often covered by insurance. With luck, your doctor will attempt amino acid supplementation to balance your NT imbalance prior to using medications (which have their own dangerous side effects)!

My Ultimate Diet Tip? Next time think twice prior to reaching for that doughnut or greasy fast food item! These foods may seem necessary to relieve your distress but, remember, as much joy as it may bring you in that instant, its consumption will surely add on to your list of troubles. Along with the extra weight and health problems, these non-nutritious foods will leave you with additional anxieties, irritated and less prepared to make the right choices.  So do yourself and everyone around you a favor….reach for an apple, get a massage, go for a run or hug a friend!  You will thank yourself later!

kick out the junk

kick out the junk… and say hello to an improve you!

Cheers to feeling happy, relaxed and more productive!

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 beauty sleep man

Eventually, we all come to realize what are elders have been communicating to us for over generations…no beauty regimen can compensate for a healthy sleep routine. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is vital for adults to receive between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night.  The scary fact is that chronic sleep deprivation takes a toll not only on the way we look but our overall wellbeing and function. Almost immediately, a week of sleep deprivation results in an impaired memory, decreased productivity, irrational thinking, mood swings and in general low energy levels. With time, lack of sleep translates to stress in the body, leading to weight gain, hair loss, bad skin and low immunity.  Health issues linked with chronic sleep deprivation include depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke.

sleep deprivation

To make matters worse, once we realize the importance of sleep has on our livelihood and sanity we often let the pressure of sleeping cause us additional anxiety. This anxiety serves only to worsen our sleep impairment! There are ways we can take action and stop worrying about quality sleep. By implementing some rituals around bedtime, surrounding ourselves with soothing elements and avoiding what may contribute erroneous bodily signaling, we can encourage longer and more restful sleep.

Below I list the key players affecting sleep patterns.  I also list some suggestions as to what we can do to cultivate the right sleep formula for ultimate health and beauty.

Activity

Your level of activity, especially around bed time can greatly affect your ability to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night. We want to stay active throughout the day and start winding down as we approach bedtime. Here are some guidelines about which activities should be avoided and sought out as we approach nighttime.

  • Avoid stimulating activities 3 hours prior to bed.
    •  High intensity exercise close to bedtime such as boxing and running may give you more energy just when you need less.  Too close to bed time, these excersies may be translated by your body as strenuous and  result in increase alertness and body temperature,  making sleep induction more difficult.
    • Stressful work can negatively affect sleep. Unless you job involves singing, painting or playing with children, try to refrain from it prior to bedtime.
    • Difficult conversations with your friends, spouse, family or others late in the day can attribute to sleep difficulties. These are the type of issues that translate to stress and will keep you up thinking all night.
    • Violent shows or news reports also have shown to agitate the mind and increase physiological stress making sleep more difficult.
  • Seek out relaxing activities as your day is coming to an end.
    • Reading a book and taking a bath do wonders for your mental state.
    • Use a pre-bed beauty routine or self-massage signal to your body sleep time is near.
    • Yoga has shown to induce on-command relaxation due to its ability to slow breath (slows neurological centers in brain) and reducing muscular tension.  A few yoga poses with concentration on the breath prior to bedtime can be used to transition your hectic day to peaceful night. Click here for some yoga poses beneficial for insomnia.

    sleepyoga

  • Go to bed at the same time every night.
    • This will naturally set your circadian rhythm by offering environmental signals for pro-relaxation hormone release and temperature adjustment.

Diet

Foods can stimulate or calm depending on which metabolites provide to the body.

  • Avoid stimulants after 3 pm.
    • Stimulants include sources of caffeine (coffee, green tea), chocolate, high sugar foods, some types of pain relievers and diet pills.
    •  Heavy, fatty meals are also to be avoided as they require lots of energy to help appropriately digest them and may cause discomfort as your body is trying to unwind.
    • Alcohol decreases the time you spend in deep restorative sleep phase called REM sleep. You will wake up more easily to any stimulus and will awaken feeling as if you are still in need of sleep.
  • Seek out sources of the amino acid tryptophan combined with a carbohydrate rich snack prior to bed. Tryptophan is the precursor needed for serotonin production, the sleep and happy hormone and neurotransmitter. The carbohydrate assures insulin release which diverts other amino acids from brain so that tryptophan can have priorities over the receptors which are responsible for serotonin production and release.  There are a number of foods which contain tryptophan.
    • My favorite tryptophan sources for sleep time are chick peas, bananas, oatmeal, eggs,  peanuts,  low fat milk, cottage cheese or greek yogurt, unsweetened soy and miso soup.
    • Healthy carbohydrate complements could include a slice of whole grain toast, a half a cup of rice, half of a baked potato, or half a cup of unsweetened whole grain cereal.
    • Beans are both a great source of tryptophan and a great carbohydrate but can cause gas in sensitive stomachs. Meats also have tryptophan but create digestive challenges which could create discomfort.
  • Seek other foods encourage sleep by offering a low but natural source of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin regulates our internal sleep wake cycle (synchronizes are circadian rhythm) and when high stimulates sleep.
    • Cherries, tomatoes, olive oil and walnuts are ideal foods to incorporate in your late night snack.
  • Seek out sources of magnesium which promote muscle relaxation and switch the body to rest and repair mode.
    • Bananas and almonds are amazing sources of this and perfect to combine in a pre-bed snack.

foods helping sleep

Some examples of ideal dinner/late night snack for a good night sleep? Try slice toast with sliced hardboiled egg and tomato drizzled with olive oil.  Other suggestions include hummus spread on whole grain pita with some cherries for dessert or small bowel or Irish oatmeal with bananas and unsweetened soy milk….. Get creative, think healthy, light and satisfying!

Aromatherapy

Although aromatherapy cannot cure the cause of your sleep problems it can help calm the mind so that you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Aroma therapies use essential scents from natural plant sources to alter ones mood, cognitive function or health.lavander aromatheraphy

  • Seek out chamomile, sandelwood, valerian and lavender oil. These oils have been used for centuries as natural sleep remedies. Spray or dab on pillow prior to bed or put a few drops in your pre-bed bath! Some of my favorite products include Perfect Potions Pure Essential OilsValerian and Hops Sleep Well Herbal Bath and the Thymes Lavander Candle and Wash.
  • Avoid cyprus, rosemary, peppermint, grapefruit and lemon oil scents prior to bed…these are great to get your mind sharp and concentrated but can be stimulating and make it difficult to sleep.

Supplements

When it comes to treating sleep problems, lifestyle adjustments are always  to be attempted prior to seeking out the help of supplements. Lifestyle adjustments aim at treating the cause of your sleep insufficiencies, are free of side effects and are much healthier for you in general. Supplementation however, may be the right choice for you if lifestyle adjustments have failed or you have specific work or traveling schedules which may require additional support. These are a few that I find the safest and most effective.  

  • Melatonin, as mentioned above, is a hormone the body produces naturally to induce sleep.

melatonin concentration

    • Supplementation at .3-.5mm (low doses) may be a safe and effective way to induce sleep for those who suffer from short term insomnia. Melatonin is released from the pineal gland in the brain around 9 pm every night. As its concentration builds it causes one to feel sleepy and therefore induce restful activity and preparation for sleep.
    • Those with hectic irregular schedules, who fly across time zones or have been watching too much late night TV may need to reboot their circadian rhythm with the help of melatonin. Light exposure disrupts the release of natural melatonin and therefore may be a source of sleeping issues.
    •  Since long-term supplementation or high dose melatonin in the blood can cause health problems it’s always best to consult your doctor and try and address lifestyle habits which could be affecting sleep first.
  • L-theanine is an amino acid which is naturally found in low dosed in green tea. It promotes a calm, balanced mood.
    •  Suntheanine is a brand of a supplement which provides an effective dose of pure L-theanine for a deeper night sleep.Suntheanine
  • Valerian is an herbal supplement which when taken in doses of 200-8-00 mg prior to sleep can help provide you with a deeper quality sleep.
    • This is one of the oldest well studied sleep remedies with virtually no side effects when used correctly. The two downfalls are 1) it may take a week or two to gain the full  benefits supplementation and 2) in 10% of patients valerian may cause alertness (not relaxation) and therefore make sleep induction even more difficult! ….I suggest trying this out on a weekend!

Environmental Influences

  • Seek out an hour of morning sunlight to initiate onset of day time bodily functions.  Healthy exposure to daylight is imperative to create a healthy wake sleep cycle. Those who go to work before the sun comes out and arrive as it is already setting may be missing out on the correct dosage needed to naturally cue the bodies’ circadian rhythm.
  • For those who cannot change jobs or who work from home in a climate which offers little daylight…..full spectrum lights and sun alarms can be purchased to set healthy internal  sleep clocks.
  • Sun alarms can offer a natural easy way to set your internal wakeup and sleep rhythm and a gentle way to ease you out of bed in the morning.

  • Seek out and create sleep conductive environments. This translates to a dark, cool, quiet and comfortable room. Since we lose our ability to regulate extreme heat or cold during deep REM sleep we need to make sure the room is as close to ideal temperature for comfort and that we balance our clothes and bed dressing appropriately to balance temperature.
  • Avoid any source of light close to or during bedtime. This can inhibit pineal gland activation and therefore melatonin production resulting in inability to enter sleep.
    • Light exposure can include TV, computer or even bed clock exposure. Avoid these at all costs at least an hour prior to bedtime.

light and sleeping

The mind

Racing thoughts and uncontrollable obsessive thinking can keep us from sleeping. Women, especially have a hard time shutting down the brain prior to sleeping. This can result in a chronic sleep disturbance resulting in a compromise of both health and psychological wellbeing.

It’s very difficult to help yourself or anyone else suffering from this sleep neurosis. Figuring out what to do to stop worrying can be overwhelming. Life never ceases to test us and to give us new problems for which we feel we must endlessly ponder.  It’s up to us to learn to manage and calm our mind so it doesn’t negatively affect our health. Here are some tips for a calming the mind:

  • Keep a notebook by your bedside. Write down your list of things to do prior to bed. Also use to jot down additional concerns or worries and even some thought to make lists of solutions. If something keeping you up write it down to contemplate at a time during the day.
  • Make plans to talk to someone who can understand or at least sympathize. Again, if possible, best to make this a breakfast or lunch time appointment.
  • Try Acupuncture …it worked for me! Prior to moving to Europe I felt overwhelmed with uncertainness, excitement and guilt for leaving people I loved behind. Acupuncture helped calm my nervous system so I could channel my concerns and deal with them in a more organized way.

accuputure and sleep

  • Meditate prior to bed. Mediation is the ideal way to calm the mind and stop unhealthy thought processes which may interfere with sleep induction.
  •  How to meditate? Sit cross legged and comfortably on the floor in a quiet room. Turn off the phone and other source of distraction. Sit up straight, relax and focus on breathing slowly and deeply. Focus on a specific point or close your eyes and attempt to visualize a place which calms you. Begin to count breaths 1-10 repeatedly until no thoughts intrude your mind. With time, the necessity to count will go away and you will be able to enjoy the benefits of giving your mind a break prior to bed time.  Set a timer form 5-10 minutes to make sure you are not thinking about the time you have left.

meditation in pjs

  • According to Harvard Medical School research,  practices like mediation and yoga activated disease fighting genes decreasing incidence of sickness, cancer and inflammation related pain. Other, studies have shown mediation has a direct link to higher immunity, increase fertility, emotional balance, lower blood pressure and calmness.

Other Factors

Increasing age is NOT considered a reason to sleep poorly. It is most often associated with underlying health problem, less than ideal lifestyle habits or stress management. Below are a few of the reasons why aging adults tend to suffer from sleeping issues. If you have tried to modify your lifestyle and still find it difficult to sleep, see your medical doctor to rule out some of these factors.

  • Hot flashes cause fluctuations in temperature and therefore can cause difficulty in both sleep induction and ability to stay asleep. Hot flashes are a symptom of  irregular hormone surges and are many times suffered by peri-menopausal women and other disorders interrupting hormone regulation.
  • Medications are the root cause of many types of sleep disorders. This should be one of the first things evaluated if a medicated person complaining of sleep disturbances.
  • Snoring is, according to the national sleep foundation, a primary cause of sleep problems in a large percentage of ageing and overweight adults. This is an especially alarming if it is a symptom of a disorder associated with high blood pressure and other health concerns called Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
  • Disorders such as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), OSA and Gasteroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also be major causes of sleep disruption.
  • Psychiatric illnesses are almost always related to sleep disturbances. Depression is the most common psychiatric illness affecting both our energy levels and sleep patterns.
  • Napping frequently during the day, may be a major cause in a person’s ability to get the restorative sleep they need at night. It can many times cause a vicious cycle where one who is not sleeping well during the night becomes exhausted during the day and, as a consequence, requires daytime naps, further attributing to their night time insomnia.

 

So….What to do for the occasional sleepless night??

  • IF you CAN’T sleep and you find yourself lying awake at night. The worst thing you CAN do is to continue lying there….this will just further increase sleep anxiety!
  •   I suggest…. get up, jot down any annoying thoughts, warm up a glass of milk with honey, drink it and put on some light music till you get tired. Alternatively, you could read a relaxing book with a soft light, try a few stretches or yoga moves.  Try and relax and not to stress about not sleeping…it will just make matters worse! Hopefully you will be falling into sleep mode shortly after a quick recharge!

reading and milk

When sleeping problems become frequent, it’s a sign that something in our life is unhealthy. Whether this may be a underlying disease process, poor diet, poor lifestyle (stress, smoking, alcohol abuse or other) or unhealthy relationship….we need to try and resolve it!

I hope that with this information I have inspired you to embark on a mission for better sleep! I know, I was inspired, at just the thought of writing this post! Born as an energetic type A personality, I have struggled with sleep issues for years.  Regular exercise, yoga and attempting to be as organized as possible have helped me achieve healthier sleep patterns.

As many of you can relate…the symphony of lifes hecticness (in my case three kids, a demanding job, and active lifestyle), requires the guidance of a good conductor to set the pace and keep the rhythm. By implementing good sleep habits, we are allowed to be the best conductors we can be! These habits enable us to make beautiful music every day, despite the noisy realities of life! The better equipped we are to maneuver life in a balanced harmonious way, the better environment we create for everyone around us to do the same. Sleep is one of the most essential ingredients needed to create this environmental harmony. It can, therefore, be said that the more of us who sleep well, the closer we may be to a smarter, better organized, less violent, healthier and happier world!

sleeping couple

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YOUR WAIST, YOUR FAT and HEALTH DANGERS

abdominal fat

During mid-life women tend to gain 1 lb or .5 kg per.  Men too, find weight gain and more specifically a growing waist circumference almost inevitable approaching 40-year-old. This, more than just an aesthetic concern of not fitting into your favorite jeans, is a major health concern. Hormones, stress, genetics all play a role, but they should not be used as an excuse to embrace a life of increased health risks. You owe it to yourselves and to your families, to put up a fight. By educating yourself you can be proactive and take the right measures to getting fit and healthy. A healthy waistline will allow you to be the positive support and role model for those you want to enjoy life with.

Most concerning about being overweight, is not the weight in general (which is still associated with increase cardiovascular disease and diabetes) but where you accumulate the fat. The shift in fat stores to your abdomen and waist most probably translates to the biggest life risk factor to your health and longevity.

Although many tend to point blame at hormones and genetics when it comes to unexplained weight gain, there are other factors we need to be aware of so we can change our bodies tendencies. It’s the way our body ages and the way we let our environment (stress, diet and lifestyle) influence our health, that becomes key to a quality long life.

The Scary Fat: Visceral Fat

The fat most likely contributing to an increased waist line is one called visceral fat. This fat, unlike the subcutaneous fat  you can pinch and found just underneath your skin, contributes to most of our health related risks. Visceral fat is the fat underneath your muscles and found around organs. It is a “metabolically active fat” that’s directly linked to health concerns such as immunological diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and colon and breast cancer. It is one of the few independent factors that put you at risk for premature death. By metabolically active we mean that it works as a gland which produces hormones like other organs. An example of it’s’ activity is its production of adiponectin. Adiponectin is a hormone which inhibits leptin, another hormone which is normally released after a meal to make us feel full. It is therefore visceral fats fault that those who have a thickened waist tend to feel the less full after eating a meal, eat more and continue to put on weight. Adiponectin also makes cells less responsive to insulin. Insulin is the hormone which controls how we use glucose (sugar) for energy. Normally the pancreas releases insulin in response to increase glucose associated with a carbohydrate meal. Insulin maintains healthy blood glucose levels by bringing glucose into cells. Cellular responsiveness to insulin is important because if impaired cells don’t help decrease blood glucose as they should, we call this insulin resistance. Insulin resistance ultimately means we are often put in a state of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Hyperglycemia is terrible for the body as it means damage to organs such as the kidneys, increased glucose storage as fat and increased risk for diabetes. As a result our bodies also make more cholesterol, control blood pressure worse (leading to high blood pressure), have increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Visceral fat activity also negatively affects how our immune system functions by pumping out excess levels of cytokines, especially two known as tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6. These cytokines are bad news in excess as they promote chronic inflammation and also further cellular resistance to insulin. This puts our body in more risk of a hyperactive immune system and autoimmune diseases and once again issues related to diabetes.

In addition, visceral fat cells also produces biochemicals which could contribute to increased blood pressure, problems with blood clotting and increased cholesterol.

Visceral fat activity therefore can be blamed for a variety of hormonal, biochemical and immune disruptions which throw our body into a chaotic cycle of imbalances resulting in mismanagement of vital systems needed to keep our metabolism, weight and overall health in check. The less we have of it, the better overall we are going to feel, look and function.

viseral fat diagram

The Measurements that put us at risk: When should we worry?

A waist measurement of 40 inches (102 cm)  for men or 35 inches (88 cm) for women equals abdominal obesity. New England Journal of Medicine reported when your waist is over 120 cm (men) or 100cm (women) you are twice as likely as those below 80 cm (men) or 65 cm (women) for premature death.

Ideal waist measurements correlating to quality and healthy lives have been reported below American Heart Association standards ( 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men).

Even if you are above or even at the ideal waist circumference limits there are enough reasons for you to be conscious of the consequences related to correlated health concerns. Get educated as to why this may be happening and start the process of slimming down and taking control of your health.

So what are the contributing factors to increased visceral fat?

Visceral fat is accumulated due to a combination of factors including environmental, genetic  and hormonal influences.  Below I outline some of the biggest contributors to dangerous belly fact.

Cortisol is a hormone made by the adrenal glands above the kidneys.  Cortisol affects almost every system in the body but its main functions include increasing blood sugar (by breaking down glycogen to glucose in liver), aiding  in fat, protein, carbohydrate metabolism and suppressing the immune system. Most of these functions aim to help the body focus effort on those processes which will help the body have fast energy and also prepare itself for some stressful event. In regards to our waistline concerns, cortisol is one of our main villains. When chronically elevated, cortisol is responsible for relocating fat cells into visceral cavities of the abdomen.

This brings me to explain how cortisol levels get increased to begin with.

  • Increased Stress–>Increased Cortisol

When you are confronted with stress, your body’s initial response is “fight or flight.”   Its signals your body to release the hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine to deal with the stressful situation most effectively. It helps us get the energy our body feels it needs quickly and reverts the body from utilizing the energy inefficiently in things like digestion and reproduction. If the stressful situation is long term and you begin to feel distressed and defeated, the hypothalamus in the brain becomes involved, eventually leading to the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. Along with cortisol we experience increase appetite and increase insulin levels so that we not only intake more calories but we get them stored to prepare for what the body perceives as a “dramatic event” which may require extra physical efforts. Cortisol then stimulates additional glucose production from glycogen stores in the liver. In addition, chronic cortisol increased inhibits normal metabolism of fat. The results of this all means excess un-utilized calories stored as fat, decreased fat burning and inevitable weight gain.

Cortisol’s influence increases appetite by making us less sensitive to a hormone called leptin, the hormone that makes us feel full, this results in eating more. Again, the excess calories are stored as fat around the abdomen.

  • Estrogen Excess/Depletion:

The Estrogen Saga; How levels affects how we produce and store fat!

Estrogen is in  balance with other hormones in the body such as progesterone in women and testosterone in men. A balanced hormonal level helps to maintain our metabolic functions. When these hormones are present in unbalanced proportions, disorders and diseases can occur.

Natural Estrogen, when in correct levels and appropriately counter-balanced with other hormones, is vital to, especially women’s health. The issue occurs when we are exposed to, or ingest exogenous sources of estrogens which throw our body into disarray and in a state of estrogen excess. Exogenous estrogens are everywhere.They’re in the air, car emissions, detergents, paints, nail polishes, lotions, soaps, plastics, food and water. Most notable sources of estrogen chemicals are petroleum based products, pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and plastics (found in our air, on our food, cleaning supplies, toys and storage containers for food and water).  Exposure to these estrogenic chemicals are virtually unavoidable and they are the source of many health mysteries. They when ingested mimic our natural estrogen and have been linked to a variety of problems such a slowed fat metabolism, increased abdominal fat deposition, allergies, low immunity, fatigue and mood swings.

If progesterone and testosterone hormone levels are not where they should be, and our diet doesn’t include certain nutrients, we are unable to offset this estrogen excess. As a result we are  we are thrown into a metabolic disarray and the problems listed above.

Most often as we age an additional problem contributes to this already concerning issue. Progesterone and androgen hormones which normally help balance estrogen, are converted into renegade estrogen.  This puts many peri-menopausal women into a paradoxyl estrogen excess just as they start to produce less natural estrogen. Losses of androgen hormone levels in men also result in accumulation of abdominal fat and its related health issues. These concerns are the focus of anti-aging medicine doctors and their commitment to treatment through bio-identical hormone replacement (discussed below)!

Some signs you may be in estrogen excess? Symptoms of excess may include: craving of carbs and sweets, fat selectively deposited in the center of your body, low energy, headaches, digestion issues, water retention, lack of clear thinking, depressed mood. The “thickening” of women’s bodies and the “softening” of men’s bodies are often related to excess estrogen.

To avoid estrogen excess we must avoid sources of exogenous estrogens. This means avoiding toxins and chemicals at all costs. It also means eating smartly to avoid processed, hormone pumped and toxic foods. See diet consideration in the Diet section outlined below!

The estrogen saga thickens: What about those of you in Menopause? Unlike pre-menopausal concerns relating to estrogen excess, the problems associated with first 10 years of menopause are actually related to an estrogen decrease. Natural estrogen production has found to have many protective qualities to women. One of them have to do with preventing visceral fat accumulation. Women have an enzyme that when activated by high fat diet, slows the way we metabolize and burn fat. This enzyme is more active in the abdominal visceral fat. Estrogen suppresses the enzymes activity and therefore women in menopause have a greater tendency to suffer from the enzymes overactivity when exposed to high fat diets. Its is for this reason why women tend to accumulate more fat around their waists and more so after menopause. The mechanism of action seems to be related to the enzymes effect on Vitamin A metabolism. When the enzyme is present and active, it promotes Vitamin A metabolism to retinoic acid. Retinoic acid production has shown to be directly linked to visceral fat development. This enzyme has been identified as Aldh1a. And studies in mice have shown that those without it dont produce retinoic acid and therefore didn’t have ability to produce visceral fat. At least one function for this enzyme is the production of a powerful hormone, which then drives up the formation of visceral fat cells. The source of this hormone is vitamin A. A study in the Journal of Diabetes published that this enzyme was more present in obese womens visceral fat than in lean women. In summary, although genetics, gender and hormone levels all play a role in visceral fat formation, your can limit activation of Aldh1a by avoiding high fat foods.  Women can also see their doctor and discuss custom bio-identical hormone therapy to balance estrogen and other hormones which may affect the way you develop and burn fat.  Doctors and researchers are also now putting efforts in finding medications who can block the enzyme Aldh1a, in hopes to prevent retinoic acid effects on producing visceral fat.

  • Poor Diet Habits

In general, we need to eat in order to our bodies natural circadian rhythm which is dictates by our adrenals system cortisol release.  Adrenal health is vital for a healthy metabolism and in otherwise healthy individuals should dictate how, what and when we eat. There are two ways to do this. First eat when cortisol levels are naturally high and second making sure to eat well consistently throughout the day to avoid the body not signally a “starvation mode” which is perceived as stress to the adrenal system and therefore outputs cortisol.   Cortisol is naturally highest in the morning and therefore eating the most in the morning naturally follows the body’s natural tendencies to create more natural energy. Snacking correctly maintains healthy blood sugar and helps moderate the natural downward slope of cortisol through the day. Low carb snack at 3 pm helps avert an energy slump and eating light and early dinners helps us maintain the natural low quantities of cortisol our body sends out in the evening. Keeping with this natural cortisol output puts our body at easy and our metabolism in check.  Avoiding hunger also makes sure not to stress our body into releasing cortisol when not necessary and therefore prevents fat cells deposition into the visceral area.

The Solutions!!!

Ok so now you know the culprits. Let’s go over some of the ways we can decrease stress, cortisol, balance estrogen, improve your diet, implement lifestyle practices and get your doctor involved!!!

  • Decrease Stress

As seen above cultivating low stress lifestyle is key to limiting the bodies stress response and high cortisol levels. Stress and cortisol promote visceral fat storage. Making time for activities and practices to help you deal with stress are extremely important for you and your family’s life.  Some studies have specifically been linked to help control cortisols’ influence on our health. Supplements shown to decrease cortisol levels include magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids and black tea. Activities such as music therapy, massage therapy, laughing and dancing have also shown to positively affect cortisol levels. Make time for whatever you feel helps you manage your life. Walks, meditation, shiatsu, tai chi, yoga, tea breaks with your best friend are to be made mandatory if they help you remain calm and balanced when dealing with life.

meditation and relaxation

  • Diet Modifications/ Toxin Avoidance

Diet is essential when living in a world of chemicals, toxins and impure foods. We need to be picky about the food we ingest and the products we buy. You may not realize the health benefits “eating organic” or using eco-friendly cleaning products may bring you, but the cumulative detrimental effects creep up on you in the form of unexplained weight gain, low energy and diseases.  Be mindful when deciding what to feed yourself and your family…. you will be happier healthier and live longer for certain!

Our objective is to avoid accumulation of estrogen and limit its effects on our fat deposition, metabolism and side effects. The solution to excess estrogen requires the means to counterattack estrogen and its excess in a natural and safe way. To effectively defend the body against excess estrogen, one should increase the intake of estrogen inhibiting compounds, and decrease the intake of estrogen promoting compounds in the diet.

  1. Avoid toxins, hormones which lead to estrogen excess….Simply Choose Organic! The key is to avoid estrogen excess is to avoid foods high in estrogenic compounds. Anything that is processed increases the concentration of food estrogenic component. Non organic meat, processes soy, licorice, pesticides found on non organic fruits and vegetables,  non organic meats and dairy, plastic derivatives in found in packed food and water, diets high in animal fat and excessive consumption of omega 6 oils such as canola, corn and safflower can all lead to estrogen excess and therefore more deposit of visceral fat.
  2. Incorporate estrogen inhibiting compounds: Eating more plant-based food such as leafy greens can help combat excess estrogen. Plant compounds from the flavonoid and indole family can help the liver metabolize estrogen and therefore prevent its negative effects. These estrogen inhibitors work not only to inhibit estrogen production but lower receptor sensitivity and shift estrogen metabolism to more beneficial metabolites.Flavonoids and indoles, are also potent antioxidants and have anti-cancerous properties.

•Estrogen inhibitors can also be found in any of the following:  passiflora, chamomile, bee products, citrus fruits, onion, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage). It is for this reason it is pertinent to healthy fat metabolism to include these sources in your diet.

cruciferous vegtables

•Other foods which help limit the effect of estrogen excess on the body are omega 3 fatty acids which can be found in flax seeds, hemp seeds and fatty fish.

3. Balance the effects of estrogen excess by eating food which encourage progesterone production.      Progesterone will help balance estrogens. Good fats like avocados, olives, nuts and seeds are great simulators for healthy progesterone levels.

good oils avocado nut olive

             4. Incorporate detoxifying spices like curry and ginger can help clear the body of excess estrogen.

Additional diet considerations for Post Menopause:  In addition to the pre-menopause tips, women after menopause have an additional concern once natural estrogen levels start to drop. It becomes exceedingly important to avoid high fat diets.

Diet low in saturated fats and high in nutritional foods such as vegetables, grains, good oils and lean proteins can help keep metabolism in check and avoid high fat food binges. As mentioned above drastic diets that keep calories to minimum do not work! We need to avoid being hungry at all costs! Starvation mode, slows metabolism and paradoxically signals a stress response and causing it to store fat rather than to burn it for energy.   Eating smartly is the key. Find a way to enjoy eating for health. If you can’t figure it out, there is no better investment than seeing a nutritional specialist. Remember the is no price for a quality healthy life…. There is no better time than the present to invest in your health.

  • Whole Body Workout

Exercise is a great way to combat visceral fat. Studies from Duke University Medical Center and University of Pennsylvania showed how cardiovascular and weight training can combat abdominal fat. Walking or jogging 12 miles/week helped subjects lose up to 9 % of visceral fat in 6 months and that weight training twice a week can reduce body fat by an additional 4%.  What was not seen was visceral fat loss by doing abdominal specific excercise. A whole body work out effort is necessary to effectively address abdominal/visceral fat concerns.

healthy life pic

BHRT is a method of alternative medicine which uses hormones, which are bio-identical to the ones our body naturally makes, to compensate and balance the body of certain hormones which decline with age. The aim is to treat symptoms related to aging and help restore patients health found in youthful years.  By implementing BHRT doctors have been able to give patients those hormone ratios needed for ideal bodily function.  Declining estrogen, DHEA, and testosterone have all been linked to increased body weight, waist circumference, and an overall decreased metabolic profile. Those doctors who have been certified in the practice of BHRT can measure patients specific hormonal profiles and supplement with the bio-identical hormones to improve energy, weight, mental and physical function, and the defenses to help minimize the effects of stress and cortisol.  SInce these hormones are indistinguishable from the ones our body naturally makes, they unlike other forms of hormone replacement, implicate no risks of health concerns. If you are over 35 and feel that your body and energy level are changing beyond the control of exercise and diet, I suggest you seek out an anti-aging physician who can run tests and offer you council on BHRT.

In short, our best anti-aging tool when it comes to overall health come down to a fey key practices. Don’t smoke, avoid excess alcohol intake, exercise, RELAX, watch your diet carefully and DON’T GAIN WEIGHT!!! Again if you feel you can’t manage it alone there are people who can help.

active for life

Also, for those who have mothers, aunts, fathers and loved one’s who just are too easily accepting of their new body and waist…..PASS ON THE POST!!! We love them too much not to help them see it’s more than just an increase dress or pants size they need to worry about!

fitness for life

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