Why Sugar is a Drug and How to Quit It

She is a neuroscience researcher who has published over 100 peer-reviewed scholarly articles. Yes, I said 100. She’s an associate professor of neuroscience at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. And she’s bringing her research on sugar and the brain in a new book called Sugarless, out in January.

I loved getting the opportunity to have Dr. Nicole Avena on the podcast. We bust up some myths on what sugar actually does to the brain in this episode. Yes, changes are happening to your brain when you overconsume sweetened beverages and treats. It’s not fun to hear, but I know I needed the reminder.

Bio: Dr. Nicole Avena is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and a Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University. She graduated from Princeton University with her PhD in Neuroscience and Psychology, and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in molecular biology at Rockefeller University in NYC. She is a research neuroscientist and expert in the fields of nutrition, diet and addiction, with a special focus on nutrition during early life and pregnancy, and women’s health. Her research achievements have been honored by awards from several groups including the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In addition to over 100 peer-reviewed scholarly publications, Dr. Avena has written several books, including What to Eat When You’re Pregnant, What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler and What to Eat When You Want to Get Pregnant. She has the #2 most watched TED-ED Health talk, How Sugar Affects Your Brain, with over 13 million views and counting.

Download this episode here, or find wherever you get podcasts.

Continue reading “Why Sugar is a Drug and How to Quit It”

Five Things You Do Every Day That Impact Your Hormones

It may be common to feel exhausted, moody, depressed, with low energy – but it doesn’t have to be normal. There are things you can do every day to create a balanced body and mind. This episode is a practical breakdown of things you can do every single day to impact your health on a whole body level.

Amanda Hinman is a Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach who specializes in helping successful women over 40 who are struggling with hormone imbalance and exhaustion to heal naturally and gain 3 hours of energy every day so they can maximize their impact on their career and family. Amanda founded the Hinman Holistic Health Institute and together she and her team have helped 100s of women reclaim their health from the terrors of Hashimoto’s, hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, anxiety, PCOS, pituitary tumors and more.

Download this episode here or find wherever you get podcasts.

Continue reading “Five Things You Do Every Day That Impact Your Hormones”

The Pantry Item That Could Be Wrecking Your Mental Health

Lately I have been on a rampage against commonly used inflammatory vegetable oils. They are everywhere, in every dressing, sauce, packaged good, and even in frozen vegetable mixtures and “healthy” items. Because of what I know about how these inflammatory oils impact our cell membranes and lead to oxidative damage, I get enraged that so many food companies and “health coaches” or nutrition experts promote their use.

The main oils I try to stay away from are vegetable, corn, soybean, canola, sunflower, and safflower. The reason these oils wreak havoc on cellular health is because they are in the category of omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAS). Omega 6 oils are not bad on their own, and we actually need them, but when we are consuming more omega 6 oils than omega 3s, excessive inflammation can occur. Also, these oils are very sensitive to oxidation under high heat, which can also cause damage on the cellular level.

In a perfect world, we would have a balance between omega 3 fats and omega 6 fats. In the era of processed convenience food, it just isn’t the case. Excess intake of vegetable oils like canola and soybean have been linked to anxiety, aggression, and poor cognitive function. While intake of omega 3 oils (found in fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds) has been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and even chronic pain.

Most restaurant items contain inflammatory oils, because they’re cheaper. Even if you go to a restaurant and decide to make a “healthy” choice of ordering a salad, chances are that salad dressing is packed with canola or soybean oil, along with lots of sugar. I try to avoid restaurant salads as much as possible. The last time I mistakenly ordered a shrimp salad at a chain restaurant, it was so sweet it tasted like dessert!

But here’s the thing – I like eating out. It can be a fun treat, and my family usually eats restaurant food about once a week. I don’t want to be the food police at a restaurant. I don’t want my need to control or stress about food to ruin an enjoyable dining experience.

This brings me to my pantry. I have control over what I make at home. I love cooking from scratch, using whole food ingredients as much as possible. I love knowing that I am supporting my family’s brain health through nourishing recipes that keep us full and fueled for our busy lives.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Continue reading “The Pantry Item That Could Be Wrecking Your Mental Health”

Stop Using Exercise to Punish Your Body; Use It to Connect WITH Your Body

Beyond the brain health benefits, beyond the physical health benefits, moving your body is a way to intentionally connect to it and create space for safety and healing and growth.

When you have trauma of any kind, when you have body image issues or a history of disordered eating or disordered exercise behaviors, when you are fighting a chronic disease or are consumed by depression or anxiety… the last thing you want to do is intentionally connect with your body and be present with it.

For this reason, I hold a deep appreciation for movement like yoga or slower, low impact exercises. When I was a runner only, I could escape from the racing thoughts. I could “beat my body into submission,” by pushing harder, increasing my miles or my speed. But in yoga, where the moves rarely change, or when I’m walking slowly through my hilly neighborhood, I’m trapped in my thoughts – and my body. I have learned to lean into the discomfort of being present with my body, instead of punishing it for not acting how I want it to act.

I heavily dislike anyone promoting that you shut down the signals your body sends to you. I recently saw two shirts pop up in Facebook ads (thanks algorithm) that bothered me on such a deep level. One shirt read, “FIT: F*&% I’m tired” and the other read, “Shut up, legs, you’re fine!”

Listen. If I’m tired, I probably need to rest or make an adjustment in my schedule. It is simply unhealthy to keep pushing forward. If my legs are hurting during a workout, I probably need to take a breath, ask my body how to provide it further support. Exercise is an incredible tool for growth and healing. It’s a hormetic stressor that can create stress resilience.

It is not for dissociation and punishment. 

Moving my body is a way to engage, not disengage and dissociate. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is be present and move with the body I have – not punish my body for what I don’t.

Movement is therapeutic, it’s a celebration, and yes – it can even be a form of worship.

What a joy to intentionally flood our brains with endorphins and serotonin and GABA and brain-derived neurotrophic factor. What a gift!

Exercise and moving your body isn’t just something that impacts your physical health. Like with the act of eating, your mindset matters. Your thoughts matter, and they send signals to every cell in your body. Using your time of movement to renew your mind, renew your thoughts about your body, and celebrate what your body can do goes beyond simply pumping your arms and legs and getting your heart rate up.

I love moving my body. I love connecting to it and creating space for safety and healing and growth. I DISLIKE shutting down the signals my body sends me. 

Remember: every thought you think is a chemical messenger that brings information to your cells, positive or negative. Partner with your body; don’t punish it.

How Your Brain Responds to Processed Food

Can your brain become addicted to processed food? According to recent podcast guest Dr. Joan Ifland, who recently published the textbook on processed food addiction, our brains are extremely susceptible to processed food addiction. In this recent episode, she explains why we get addicted to processed food, how the food companies encourage it, and how the healthcare system gaslights patients who can’t get out of the addiction cycle.

Download and listen to the episode here, or find wherever you get podcasts.

Continue reading “How Your Brain Responds to Processed Food”

Favorite Foods for Brain Health

I love supporting my mental health through nutrients from food. When I stopped dieting and started focusing on ADDING colorful variety and nutrient density, it was a much needed mindset change.

This helped me to learn to listen to my body’s needs, instead of viewing my body as a project I needed to perfect and relying on diet and food companies’ marketing instead of my own intuition.

I spent many years choosing food items with the marketing phrases “diet,” “reduced fat,” “low fat,” “low calorie,” and “sugar free,” never knowing that those things were harming my mental health.

It has been so freeing to find what nourishes my unique body and not being enslaved to anyone else’s rules. These three categories (protein, veggies, and fiber) are things I have learned make me feel great when I include them every day!

What are your must haves? My guess is yours might look different than mine, which is a beautiful, bioindividual thing!

It’s Not Either/Or; It’s Both/And

I started my website four years ago because I wanted to share my story of surviving mental illness, and I wanted to give hope for healing for those that are continuing to struggle with errors. I wanted to share how it isn’t just chemicals in the brain, how it isn’t just in your head, and how there are very real physical deficiencies and imbalances at play, just as much – if not more than – imbalances at the brain level.

I have never been anti-medication, and I have never recommended anyone go off their medication without consulting their health practitioner. But I have always wanted to be realistic about the risks that come with taking medication. While medication may have served its purpose for me in the short term, there were plenty of unpleasant side effects I experienced when I took the wrong medication, or medication at too high of a dose, or because the medication I was given didn’t fit the disorder that I was experiencing. I never hallucinated or heard voices or saw strange things… until I started taking an antipsychotic.

With that being said, there are plenty of people in the world that do benefit from medication and will need to be on that medication long-term. For other people, there may be different solutions that improve their quality of life more than medication does. There is no one-size-fits-all to mental health.

I started my podcast because I wanted to seek out experts in the field who are doing things differently, who are looking for new solutions to an age-old problem that isn’t being solved with medication and talk therapy alone.

Because of what we know of the gut-brain connection, the HPATG axis, the vagus nerve, and even mitochondrial function, we know that there is so much going on under the surface when it comes to mental and physical health. We know that our body works as a network, one huge spiderweb, and nothing occurs on its own.

We are living in a time when everything is being polarized and divided into either/or categories. If you look at alternatives to medication or vaccines, you must be anti-med or anti-vaccine. If you take medication, you must be anti-natural health. If you are promoting any kind of nutritional support, you must be promoting dieting. These things aren’t true. It isn’t either/or. We can live in a both/and world.

Continue reading “It’s Not Either/Or; It’s Both/And”

Why Glutathione May Be the Missing Puzzle Piece in Your Health

I’ve never devoted an entire episode to ONE powerful antioxidant, but thanks to my guest, Dr. Nayan Patel, this discussion about glutathione is fascinating.

Dr. Patel is an internationally recognized expert, consultant, lecturer on glutathione, and has been a respected pharmacist for twenty-five years. Dr. Patel received his PharmD degree from the USC School of Pharmacy, where he now serves as an adjunct faculty member. He has traveled the world educating practitioners and pharmacists on advanced biochemistry and anti-aging science. His book, “The Glutathione Revolution” is available now.

Download and listen to this episode here or listen wherever you get podcasts.

Continue reading “Why Glutathione May Be the Missing Puzzle Piece in Your Health”

Five Things I Do For My Mental Health Every Day

While I was officially given a mental illness diagnosis over 22 years ago, I struggled long before that.

That means I’ve spent most of my life battling my brain.

These five things help me manage my symptoms and keep me checking in with myself. When I’m feeling off, I check in and ask myself how I’m doing in each category.

Continue reading “Five Things I Do For My Mental Health Every Day”

Super Spinach and Artichoke Dip – and Other Healthy Game Day Appetizer Ideas

It seems that every game day side item is loaded with cheese, cheese, and more cheese…in the form of cream cheese, sour cream, shredded, melted (called “queso” if you live in Texas), and maybe yogurt if someone is getting creative. I love dairy just as much as the next person, but it doesn’t always make me feel my best, and I’m pretty picky about when I choose to consume it. So I wanted to offer a few of my favorite non-cheese game day side options.

  1. Spinach and Artichoke Dip

All right, this recipe is not my own creation. I like to give credit where credit is due. The original recipe is here. It’s delicious, and doesn’t taste dairy free at all!

Continue reading “Super Spinach and Artichoke Dip – and Other Healthy Game Day Appetizer Ideas”