The Superfoods Wrecking Your Health

I’ve gotten soooo many messages about this latest episode. How can spinach be toxic? And sweet potatoes, too?

This fascinating interview takes on the topic of oxalates. In this episode, we discuss the research behind oxalate overload, the problems with promoting superfoods that contain these toxins, and how to learn to start your own low oxalate journey.

Sally K. Norton, MPH holds a nutrition degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree in Public Health. Her path to becoming a leading expert on dietary oxalate includes a prior career working at major medical schools in medical education and public health research. Her personal healing experience inspired years of research that led to her forthcoming book, Toxic Superfoods, which was released on December 27 everywhere books are sold.  As a leading expert on oxalates in food, Sally’s work has been featured by podcasters, radio shows, and several online and print journals. In this episode, we discuss the research behind oxalate overload, the problems with promoting superfoods that contain these toxins, and how to learn to start your own low oxalate journey.

Download and listen here or find wherever you get podcasts.

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Transform Your Health Using the Power of Awe

How can engaging one emotion reduce depression by 24% in 21 days? Tune in to this awe-inspiring episode to find out! I loved this interview and was completely mind blown by the research being done.

Jake Eagle, LPC, is a psychotherapist, mindfulness instructor, fellow/member/trainer of the International Association of Neuro‑Linguistic Programming. After thirty years in private practice, he now works part-time as a meta-therapist, working with people who want to go beyond the bounds of traditional therapy. He is co author of the new book, THE POWER OF AWE: Overcome Burnout & Anxiety, Ease Chronic Pain, Find Clarity & Purpose—In Less Than 1 Minute Per Day

Download and listen here or find wherever you get podcasts.

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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.

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Putting My Mental Illness into Remission

I was medicated for bipolar disorder for 18 years. Ten years ago, I went off anti-psychotic medication. Eight years ago, I weaned off my remaining medication, an SSRI antidepressant.

Today, I am mentally healthier than I’ve ever been, particularly in the last five years, since I have been (mostly) gluten free and eat a lower carbohydrate diet. In fact, my husband would agree that since I changed my eating habits, there has been more of an increase in my mental stability. The times that I consume a bit of gluten here and there, and eat a little more carbs than usual, I typically start to sense some mental instability creep up. The connection between gluten, carbohydrate content, and psychiatric disorders has much clinical evidence behind it, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

I always feel the need to offer a few disclaimers before I share more of my story. Number one, I never encourage anyone to go off medication cold turkey or without the support of a medical professional. Unfortunately, many medical professionals don’t offer much caution in the tapering of medication, so there must be more of a support team in place, in my opinion. Going off medication cold turkey can lead to many unfavorable side effects and can often lead to a person feeling worse than they did BEFORE medication, so it is a very bad idea. When I weaned off my last med, I had a support team in place, and I had established many health practices that had me in the best physical shape possible. It wasn’t a quick decision; it took a lot of detailed planning and prayer.

Number two, every mental illness manifests differently in every individual who experiences symptoms. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999, back when they still called it manic-depressive illness and didn’t distinguish between bipolar 1 or 2 as they do now. The symptoms I experienced at the time met the diagnostic criteria. Unlike most clinical diagnoses, diagnosing a mental illness means checking boxes on a list of symptoms, not looking at a blood test – and definitely not a brain scan. Because of that, and because I no longer experience the same symptoms, I consider myself to be in remission from this illness.

Here are the symptoms I experienced at the time that categorized me with bipolar disorder: periods of depression, lasting longer than a week where I felt fatigue, loss of interest in regular activities, sadness, apathy, worthlessness, and an inability to get out of bed at all. I also experienced symptoms of mania and hypomania, which meant that for short periods of time I felt increased energy, euphoria, an inability to sleep or slow down, racing thoughts, distractibility, and an increase in risky behavior and impulsivity.

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Immune Health and Neurotransmitter Function: What You Need to Know

Fun fact: a hijacked immune system means hijacked neurotransmitters, especially in the case of tryptophan.

The primary pathway for tryptophan metabolism in the body is the kynurenine pathway, needed for supporting inflammation and immune function in case of virus or infection. In fact, tryptophan is so crucial for fighting inflammation that a recent study on mice found that mice who consumed diets low of tryptophan have altered gut bacteria and increased inflammation.

Tryptophan is needed for so many functions in the body. We need tryptophan to make serotonin, which definitely has an impact on mental well-being. We need it for sleep support, as serotonin flips the switch to melatonin at night, and we even need tryptophan to regulate GI function.

Tryptophan plays an important role for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well, so if the immune system is under attack, or the body is dealing with any other threat, tryptophan may not be available to support mood health. This is often referred to as the “tryptophan steal.” Some studies even suggest supplementing with tryptophan may be just as effective as taking an antidepressant to ward of seasonal depression. This make sense, because SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) work on the synapses of the brain to keep serotonin available for longer. If the body isn’t getting tryptophan to make serotonin, there isn’t much available to “inhibit reuptake.”

You can support tryptophan by focusing on getting more tryptophan rich food into your diet or by taking a tryptophan supplement, but I advise you to check with a professional before adding in a supplement like tryptophan.

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Tryptophan-rich foods I love and how I incorporate them:

Bananas – Not only do they contain tryptophan, they are a great source of B6, needed for the metabolism of tryptophan. I love having bananas on hand to eat with peanut butter, throw in a smoothie, or add to oatmeal or chia pudding. Which leads to…

Oats – I love making overnight oats, using a cup of liquid, 1/4 cup oats, nuts and seeds, protein powder, all mixed in a jar and put in the fridge overnight or for a few hours. I also love making power balls with a mixture of oats, peanut butter, honey, and other add-ins like coconut and chocolate chips. My boys help me roll the mixture into balls and set in fridge. Usually it gets eaten immediately!

Chocolate – The darker the chocolate, the higher the amount of antioxidants and tryptophan. I love a square in the evening, or mid-afternoon if I’m having a craving for something comforting. I love dipping a square in organic peanut butter (with one ingredient: peanuts).

Dairy – This is when quality goes a long way. For those who can tolerate dairy, looking for full fat, grass-fed and organic dairy will give the most nutrient value. Because dairy is such a staple in the American diet, I don’t need to specify how to incorporate it. But be sure you tolerate it well and the quality is top notch, or you won’t be getting the full benefits.

Tuna – Quality is extremely important in all seafood, due to water contamination. Look for wild-caught, sustainable versons, especially when you’re looking for shelf stable tuna to mix as tuna salad.

Various nuts and seeds – Pumpkin seeds are great sources to throw on a salad, while I love adding chia and flax seeds to my kids’ oatmeal or yogurt. Cashews and pistachios have more tryptophan than peanuts, but organic peanut butter is such a great quick source and can be added to anything to up the flavor (I’ve even drizzled it onto my stir fry dishes).

Chicken/Turkey – Always look for pasture-raised, antibiotic-free sources. For turkey, this is particularly challenging, so I usually stick to chicken.

Because we are in the middle of cold/flu season, our bodies are constantly fighting viruses and our immune systems are more vigilant than ever. Those with more adipose tissue will carry a higher viral load, so it is extremely important to load up on tryptophan-rich foods as much as possible.

If you’re curious to know more about tryptophan and how to supplement with it, message me. I’d love to support you as you support your neurotransmitters this season!

What Do I Do With All That Candy?

It’s the day after Halloween, and my dining room table is completely covered with candy. Some of my old favorites are featured: Reese’s pumpkins, peanut M&Ms, Milky Way, and Heath. In our house, my kids get to pick their favorite pieces, no more than ten (I’m flexible because the size varies), and the rest gets donated. Mom and Dad get to save a few as well, because ’tis the season, right?

I know there’s an intuitive eating movement to let kids have all the access and listen to their bodies for stopping cues, and I respect that… but it doesn’t line up with what we know about brain health. Big Food Patriarchy wants your kids (their consumers/users) hooked on candy for a lifetime, so of course they develop their products to hit the bliss point of food, without ever feeling the physiological satiation or urge to stop.

I’m all about teaching my kids to listen to their bodies, but we also have to understand the neurotransmitter hijack that occurs with these engineered food products and the long term impact on developing brains.

It’s not about willpower, discipline, or being able to eat intuitively. It’s about understanding that our brains are wired for survival. And anything that gets our serotonin and dopamine hitting harder and faster pumps up our norepinephrine to make us feel good in the moment – until we don’t anymore, and we need another stronger hit.

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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.

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How to Decrease Stress Through Nervous System Regulation

Polyvagal Theory is a term thrown around quite a bit in the world of counseling and functional medicine, but how does it play a role in our stress responses in the day-to-day? That’s what this episode focuses on. This is a deep dive into understanding what it means to be in a state of “fight, flight, or freeze,” and how to support your body in healing so that you can become more stress resilient!

Carly Stagg is a former nutritional therapist turned family nurse practitioner specializing in functional medicine. Her professional practice focuses on autoimmunity, hormone balance, and thyroid care, as well as complex chronic conditions such as mold, Lyme, PANS and PANDAS with a nurturing, gentle approach. She is passionate about the innate self-healing capacity of the body and especially practicing medicine in a way that supports the body in regaining balance rather than competing with its natural state. She currently sees patients via telehealth at Ritual Functional Medicine. She has partnered with Chelsea Blackbird in creating the upcoming School of Christian Health and Nutrition, a 9-month training program focused on empowering and equipping those who feel called to work in the field of health and nutrition.

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

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How Adverse Childhood Events Impact Your Health

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls impulses and helps to manage behavior. This area is rapidly developing all throughout childhood and adolescence. Many people don’t realize that chronic stress can shrink the prefrontal cortex and inhibit proper decision-making. So what happens when a child encounters trauma or chronic stress? This interview breaks down what adverse childhood events are, and how the brain and body responds to them.

Patrick Wanis, PhD, helps people rapidly change their behavior. As a Human Behavior & Relationship Expert, Wanis has developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and is now teaching it to other practitioners. Wanis has also developed multiple online psychological and behavioral assessments on Emotional Intelligence, Empathy, Mindfulness, Relationship Breakups, Self-Defeating Behavior, Individual Core Values, and Authenticity. His clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers.

CNN, BBC, FOX News, MSNBC & major news outlets worldwide consult Wanis for expert insights and analysis on relationships, sexuality, human motivation, trauma, communication, body language, and persuasion. Over five million people have read Wanis’ books in English and Spanish.

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

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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.

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