Stress Awareness Month: Products I’m Loving to Support STRESS Management

April is Stress Awareness Month, and wow, what a year for stress, right? After devoting several presentations and podcast episodes to the importance of stress management, I’ve learned that the topic never gets old…because as much as we can manage it, stress never goes away.

Your body experiences stress on a physiological level. Every thought you think is a chemical messenger to your body, so when you are in “fight or flight” mode in your brain, the rest of your body listens and acts accordingly. Digestion may shut down, reproductive function can be altered, your blood sugar response may be affected, and your blood pressure will send signals as well.

Learning to manage stress matters, and it’s not something we are taught growing up. In fact, we often get the opposite messaging. Culture tells us to push through, work harder, and there aren’t enough hours. We’re led to believe that poor sleep, afternoon fatigue, and relying on caffeine for energy is normal. It may be common, but it should never be normal.

I say this all the time, but if we don’t learn to manage stress, our stress WILL manage us. It will show up in our bodies and cause all kinds of health problems. Stress creates inflammation, and inflammation creates chronic disease.

This is why I’ve created a list of my favorite stress-supporting products. If we can decrease our response to stress, we can decrease the effect stress has on our bodies.

To be clear, I often get to to try out lots of cool new products, whether it’s for social media promotion or podcast sponsors or podcast guests’ companies or suggestions. I’ve sorted through what I’ve been trying lately, and what follows are my favorites. Do you have to try them all, like me? Of course not! There is no one size fits all to health, and our bodies will all respond to products differently. I believe many supplements should be rotated seasonally, and sometimes it will even depend on the time of month – or even what phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in.

Continue reading “Stress Awareness Month: Products I’m Loving to Support STRESS Management”

Five Triggers for Anxiety (That Your Doctor Might Not Tell You About)

What’s Behind Your Anxiety?

If you struggle with anxiety or depression, you know it affects your entire life. It affects how you move (or don’t move), your concentration, your ability to sleep, your interactions with others, even your bathroom habits. Because anxiety is on the rise, and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, I want to share some little-known triggers for anxiety that you may not be hearing about from anyone else!

Like everything I share, remember that your body’s response to food or internal/external stressors is individual to YOU. What is a trigger for one person might not be a trigger for you. Being aware of how your unique body responds to this world is only something you can determine.

Five triggers for your anxiety that your doctor might not tell you about: 

  1. Artificial sweeteners and dyes – not only do they disrupt nervous system function, but sucralose decreases beneficial gut bacteria and aspartame increases anxiety and depression (just another reason to lay off the Diet Coke). Sweeteners can also negatively impact blood sugar – which can increase panic attacks! Food dyes may trigger “mind-storms,” which are issues with the brain’s wiring or electrical activity. No bueno!
  2. Too much screen time – blue light from screens can suppress the hormone melatonin which is needed for restful sleep. Screens can also disrupt the calming neurotransmitter Gaba, along with serotonin – the happy one.
  3. Magnesium deficiency – magnesium calms your nervous system and prevents the creation of excess cortisol, the stress hormone. Some call it “nature’s Xanax.” It’s needed for just about every process in the body. It’s found in nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens, but it’s also an inexpensive supplement! Two of my favorite formulations are the Plexus one, here, or Nutritional Frontiers, here.
  4. Excess caffeine – a little is fine, but too much can stimulate the fight or flight response and trigger racing thoughts, or even panic attacks. Some people metabolize it slower than others, so keep that in mind when you have your afternoon coffee or tea break – your mind might be racing at 1 am!
  5. Stored trauma that hasn’t been addressed – trauma can keep our bodies in that constant fight or flight state, which can lead to poor sleep, inability to concentrate, and panic attacks. Fortunately, there are a wide range of trauma therapies, and many mind-body strategies available to help your body unlock trauma and heal! EMDR and EFT (tapping) are two of the most popular. The wellness center I work with has some amazing trauma therapists and resources here.

Honorable mention:
Blood sugar issues: when we’re riding that blood sugar roller coaster it can cause all sorts of poor mental health symptoms. Limit sugar consumption to limit the swing. Consume plenty of fiber-rich vegetables, brain-boosting fats and quality protein with each meal. Many times we fail to fill up on necessary nutrients so we stay hungry, reaching for quick fix glucose fuel and perpetuating the cycle of brain fog and hunger.

Poor digestion: If you can’t digest protein, you can’t make the neurotransmitters needed for mental health. Period. You know that old saying, “you are what you eat?” It’s not true. It should be, “You are what you are able to digest.” When we can’t create serotonin from our food nutrients, we can’t access melatonin either, which affects mood AND sleep. Taking digestive enzymes and working on gut health can help, something I love helping people with!

The next round of Feast 2 Fast, an online coaching group that pairs science-based nutrition principles with timeless spiritual truth to reset your mind, body, and soul starts May 3. Join the wait list here.

How Stress Makes You Close-Minded

Brain health truth bomb: When I am living under chronic stress, in “fight or flight,” I am physiologically incapable of accepting other perspectives and showing empathy. My brain can’t make sense of new information, especially information that is contrary to what I believe is necessary for my survival.

This is becoming more and more apparent to me, this year especially. I typically love welcoming other perspectives and opinions, which is the reason I will interview anyone and everyone on my podcast, no matter what side they are on for any issue.

So when I’m feeling triggered by something someone says, it’s a sign to me that I am not carefully self-regulating or taking care of myself the way I need to.  I have to do a self check-in.

Continue reading “How Stress Makes You Close-Minded”

Feast 2 Fast Lent Round

The Lent round of Feast 2 Fast, starting February 17, is open for registration!

Typically, Feast 2 Fast is 4 weeks long, as we systematically use a pattern of feasting and fasting to increase metabolic flexibility and restore nutrient density. The Lent round is six and a half weeks long. We start with a brief sugar detox and incorporate a weekly superfast. We are encouraging each other to give up a food/practice/poor habit for the duration of Lent, while also adding in a divine activity to level up the spiritual focus and become more mindful and purposeful in who we are.

We are simplifying our lives to focus on what truly matters, and I hope you will join us! For more information or to sign up, click here.

  • No calorie counting.
  • No logging macros.
  • No mandatory workouts.
  • No shakes or supplements.

In this program, we use intermittent fasting in a way that works for YOUR unique body. We introduce real food carbs, whole food carbs, and my favorite – heck yeah carbs – which not only encourages metabolic flexibility, it encourages a healthy mindset toward food as well!

Weekly Zoom meetings are available for those wanting more individualized support, but they aren’t mandatory. You get to go at your own pace and use what components work best for you!

Sign up here.

A Functional Nutrition Approach to Children’s Mental Health

Children’s mental health issues continue to rise, and now one of every four children will be diagnosed with a chronic condition by the time they are eight years old. How can we support the health of our children through nutrition?

Reed Davis, Founder of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, joins the podcast once again to offer his expertise after decades of helping thousands of clients get to the root of their health issues. Download the episode here or find wherever you get podcasts.

Continue reading “A Functional Nutrition Approach to Children’s Mental Health”

Building a Healthy Brain for a Lifetime

We are all at risk for cognitive decline. While there can be a genetic component to Alzheimer’s, that is not the only factor. There are so many ways to protect your brain and prevent cognitive decline – and it starts 20-30 years before a diagnosis!

In this episode of the podcast, I speak with Cathy Williams, who I found on Instagram and instantly was drawn to her clear information and beautiful graphics. She gives simple tips for improving brain function that everyone can employ. Download here or listen wherever you get podcasts!

Continue reading “Building a Healthy Brain for a Lifetime”

Spicy Black Eyed Peas with Bacon and Bone Broth

Happy New Year!

I woke up with a pep in my step today, not so much because it’s a new year, but because December is OVER. Historically, the month of December is rough on my mood and this year was no exception. Too much activity, too much planning, too much sugar and alcohol always puts my sensitive brain on overload.

But today marks a new month and whole new year! My newest Feast 2 Fast nutrition coaching group starts on Monday, and I can’t wait to get back to allllll the veggies!

At the last minute, I decided to whip up some lucky black eyed peas in honor of a fresh start. Full disclosure: I’ve never made black eyed peas. I remember my grandparents always had them on New Year’s Day, and as a little girl I turned up my nose at them and thought they were icky.

Not to brag or anything, but I made a mean red beans and rice one time, so I figured it couldn’t be that different. The ingredients are simple and tasty. The bone broth gives your gut microbiome some love, and the bacon adds an extra kick of flavor that partners well with the spice from the jalapeno pepper (which is an idea from my brother when I told him I was attempting to make black eyed peas).

Like all legumes, black eyed peas are a great source of soluble fiber, which helps support healthy blood sugar metabolism. Soaking them overnight can help reduce the antinutrients in order to make them more tolerable for digestion and to optimize health benefits. They’re very high in folate as well, which is a brain-boosting bonus. I enjoyed a bowl of the spicy peas right after my New Year run, and I may even end up blending some up to make a hummus dip – who knows!

 

Ingredients: Continue reading “Spicy Black Eyed Peas with Bacon and Bone Broth”

The Gut-Brain Connection and What You Can Do About It

We are in the middle of a mental illness epidemic. According to a report done by the CDC in June, 25% of people between the ages of 18-24 seriously have considered suicide since March. The percentage was 16% for adults 25-44. 31% of all age groups reported experiencing anxiety or depressive disorder, and over 40% experienced adverse or behavioral health symptoms. “The prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%), and prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (24.3% versus 6.5%) (2).” See full report here.  

These numbers affect me on a very personal level.

I was diagnosed with PTSD at a young age, followed by depression, followed by a diagnosis of bipolar disorder by the time I was 18. I was on many different medications to attempt to treat my mental disconnect, and while some of the worked, some did more harm than good. I understand what it is like to experience the deepest of lows and the highest of highs. I know what it feels like to have a brain that you can’t control, a mind that races and thoughts that spin around and threaten any kind of peace or stability.

One thing I have learned, in my last decade of mental stability, is that our mental health symptoms are always responses to an imbalance in our internal or external environment. External triggers could be grief, stress, or lifestyle disruption. Internal triggers could be something like blood sugar issues, thyroid dysfunction, nutrient deficiencies… or poor gut health. Learning about the gut/brain connection and addressing key areas in my physical health made a huge impact on my mental health.

Now, there is no one size fits all. What worked for me is not going to work exactly the same in someone else. But I do believe everyone can benefit from improving gut health.

img_2877

In a perfect world, the lining of the intestine allows entry to nutrients from our food to be absorbed and go where they’re needed. This lining is supposed to prevent toxins, bacterial overgrowth, and food products from exiting the gut lining. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. When you have poor gut health, thanks to stress, toxins in the environment, overconsumption of sugar and processed foods, overuse of antibiotics or other common medications, and a whole lot of other triggers, the intestinal barrier becomes permeable, and endotoxins leak out. This is what the phrase “leaky gut” refers to. The inflammation that results leads to a myriad of health issues, but what is being studied a lot right now is the effect on the brain and mental health. Many psychiatrists are suggesting that poor gut health is at the root of many of our mental illnesses.

To further that point, it’s important to note that over 90% of our serotonin (the “happy” neurotransmitter) is produced in the gut, and serotonin cannot be produced without the assistance of amino acids. So if what we eat impacts the way our neurotransmitters are produced, it stands to reason that what we eat impacts the way our brains receive neurotransmitters and find mental wealth.

There are many lifestyle interventions that are FREE, that can benefit our brain function as well as our gut. To break it down in the most simple form possible, here’s the acronym LIVE to help you get started and give you some practical ways to start taking nourishing your gut and brain together!

Continue reading “The Gut-Brain Connection and What You Can Do About It”

Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food

“People don’t make the connection between how they eat and how they feel emotionally through the brain. They don’t realize there is a connection to food and the brain and emotional well-being.”

Dr. Uma Naidoo is a board certified psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutrition specialist. She is the director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and also on faculty at Harvard Medical School.

In this fascinating episode, we discuss her exciting new book, This Is Your Brain On Food, which I highly recommend. Listen to the entire episode and subscribe wherever you get podcasts or listen here.

Key topics of our conversation include:

  • img_0728a.wDr. Naidoo’s journey as a psychiatrist and professional chef
  • How what we eat affects our brain
  • The origin of the gut/brain connection
  • The rise of mental health concerns
  • Food to avoid for mental well-being
  • Inflammatory foods
  • Orthorexia and food obsession
  • How to add more diversity in your diet
  • The impact of caffeine and alcohol on mental health
  • So much more!

Learn more about Dr. Naidoo here.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @drumanaidoo

Find her book on Amazon or your favorite bookstore. This book is so helpful and needs to be part of your mental health library!

Why a Deep Breathing Practice Impacts Your Mental Health

Are you breathing? Like, for real?

I don’t remember a lot from my Latin class in college, but I remember this one phrase: “Dum spiro, spero.” It means, “While I breathe, I hope.” This quote has been heavy on my mind in light of everything going on today.

There is so much confusion and uncertainty causing mental distress and pain. It seems as if everyone is divided, and we are required to take extreme stances for every issue. I swear, if I wrote up a post about why I love having a dog, the cat people would come after me and attack my character. Totally kidding, but do you get what I’m saying? Have you felt the same way recently? It’s like everyone is on edge and forcing each other to pick sides… but when it’s the “wrong side” – you’re cancelled.

It’s exhausting. I find myself tense and edgy as a result, quick to react instead of thoughtfully respond. It keeps me in a triggered state. It keeps me STRESSED.

Chronic stress, or being in a constant state of fight or flight, can have negative effects on our immune system, digestive function, blood sugar, blood pressure, reproductive organs, decision-making ability, empathy, and so much more!

However, a regular practice of breathwork (deep intentional breathing) has been proven, time and time again, to take our body out of chronic “fight or flight” and straight into “rest and digest” mode. When we are only taking short, shallow breathes through the mouth, we perpetuate that stressed state. I’ve recently found that wearing a mask for a long time disrupts my breathing. I start breathing through my mouth more and I begin to feel a little panicked. I know that’s no bueno for my overall health.

If you could do JUST ONE THING for your health today, can you promise me you will take a few deep breaths?  As you may know, I’m a big fan of the simple 4-7-8 approach. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7, and out through your mouth for 8. Repeat two to three times. There are excellent apps to help get you started in a regular breathing practice as well, from Headspace to Insight Timer, to faith-based apps like One Minute Pause and Abide.

For more on the importance of deep breathing and how to incoporate it into your daily life, check out my video below!