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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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

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Real Talk About Trauma

For most of my life, I didn’t view my trauma as Trauma. Yes, I was diagnosed with PTSD; yes, I dissociated; yes, I struggled with nervous system dysregulation… but I minimized my trauma.

It was just one thing that happened to me on one day when I was a child. It wasn’t ongoing. There are people who experience much worse than me.

When I minimized the trauma, I minimized the effects.

Everyone dissociates once in awhile, right? It’s not uncommon to view yourself outside of yourself when you look back on memories, right? Everyone has episodes of depression during April, right? We all are just waiting for the next big tragedy, right? None of that really MEANS anything.

That’s what I believed.

Add to that thought pattern all the ways we talk about trauma: we use phrases like big T, little t… say things like, “real trauma is only seen in war veterans…” or “trauma is just part of life.”

I minimized my trauma, and I minimized the effects, over and over again.

In high school I wrote an essay about the unique scents of each season and the memories attached (it actually became a finalist in a state writing competition, you know I have to throw that in there). In this essay, I described how the scents of spring felt sad to me because they reminded me of my grandpa’s traumatic death on my front lawn. Even when I wrote the words at the age of 17, I didn’t understand the effects of that trauma the way I do now.

Now I understand that because of that trauma, I dissociated often. I stared off into space randomly, sometimes in the middle of engaging conversations. In the early aftermath of the trauma, I was frequently sick with stomachaches and infections, namely tonsillitis and bronchitis. When an emergency situation arose, I froze, and watched everything that happened outside of my body until I felt safe to return to it.

None of this was intentional, and that is important to understand when we are talking about trauma. These responses were the ways that my brain protected me from a repeat injury. These were signals from my brain to my body, so that my body could go on alert and keep me safe in the way it was designed to.

We all, at some point in our lives, will experience trauma. It may not impact your brain and body the way it impacted me. But it will happen, and it will impact you, if it hasn’t already.

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This Is Your Child’s Brain on Processed Food

This is a tough conversation, but it is important to be aware of the way our kids’ nutrition impacts mood, concentration, focus, and overall health. Nutrition plays a direct role in neurotransmitter function, so we can’t have an honest conversation about kids’ mental health without addressing nutrition!

Dr. Joan Ifland, PhD, MBA, FACN, is a Nutrition Researcher & Processed Food Addiction Counselor. Dr. Ifland is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition and she holds her PhD in Addictive Nutrition. She has 20 years’ experience in the field of food addiction and recovery. The Founder of Food Addiction Reset, Dr. Ifland is a leading expert in the field, author of the textbook on the topic. Processed food marketed to children has a powerful impact on their brain function with long-term consequences.

Download this episode here or find wherever you get podcasts.

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Limiting Beliefs That Impact Your Eating Habits

Brittany Braswell is a Registered Dietitian who runs a private recovery coaching practice helping Christian women ditch food rules and negative body image so they finally get off the dieting hamster wheel and experience true and lasting freedom in Christ. She has been featured as a guest expert on podcasts, at virtual summits, in blogs, and at universities. She is the creator of two exclusive courses — one on improving body image, and another on recovering from disordered eating on her website here, both of which serve women using a Christ-centered approach.

In this episode, we tackle the tough topic of how our disordered relationship with food can often reflect a disordered view of ourselves and our purpose. Download here or find wherever you get podcasts.

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Why You Need More Protein for Your Mental Health

In light of the new research being published on mental health, this episode is important! Our brains need key nutrients to function, and if we want to support the root cause of brain balance, we need to be aware of what nutrients we need. Because protein is crucial for building our neurotransmitters, it takes the primary focus in this podcast episode.

Christina T. Veselak, MS, CN, LMFT, is the founder and director of the Academy for Addiction and Mental Health Nutrition which teaches practitioners around the world how to use diet, along with amino acid and nutrient therapy to help prevent cravings and recurrent use by restoring neurotransmitter function and keeping blood sugar in balance. She has been a licensed psychotherapist working in the SUD treatment field since 1985 and a certified nutritionist specializing in mental health and addiction recovery since 1993.

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

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Yes, You Are Swimsuit Ready!

A few days ago, as I was getting ready for the day, my youngest child, who’s five, squeezed my belly and asked me why my skin is different than his. He compared by attempting to squeeze skin from his belly, which obviously didn’t happen.

So I told him how my skin is more stretchy and elastic, and it has been stretched out quite a few times from getting bigger and smaller, and back again, because our bodies protect us and keep us safe by always changing. And how amazing is that???

I love warm weather and being in the sun, by the pool, or at the beach. I don’t love bathing suit season. Never have. But every year, I’m reminded of what my body went through in the last year to keep me safe. Whether that’s mood instability, weight gain or weight loss, autoimmune flares, gut issues, skin problems… our bodies do what they can to create balance in a continuously imbalanced world. 

So when that same five year old catches me in action like this (while I am trying to prepare my skin for an upcoming beach vacation) and tells me, “lift your arms up” for the picture…. I let him.

This pose represents one more year that has passed with me in a vessel that has worked so hard for me for a very long time. One more year that I’m still swimming, maybe doggy-paddling my way through life… but keeping my head above water.

My body is amazing. So is yours. Don’t let your current disappointment in your symptoms keep you from being present for the sunshine.

How Your Gut and Skin Microbiome Affect Acne

Yes, your gut microbiome is important… but what about the microbiome on your skin? Do we need certain types of bacteria for healthy skin?

In this recent episode of the podcast, we dig into the gut AND skin microbiome to discuss just how much your microbiome plays a role in your skin health. Download here or find wherever you get podcasts!

Dr. Yug Varma has 10+ years of microbiome research experience including an extensive background in bio-organic chemistry, microbiology, and synthetic biology. Dr. Varma received his scientific training at several distinguished academic institutions, including Johns Hopkins University (PhD) and University of California, San Francisco. His scientific work has been published in many prestigious journals, including Nature. Dr. Varma’s mission is to change the way we treat chronic bacterial diseases, and is working tirelessly to achieve this goal with a microbiome-based technology platform. He is passionate about promoting scientific literacy, and devotes a significant amount of time demystifying microbiome research and making the latest research accessible to the general public.

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Popular Phrases That Don’t Support Whole Body Health

If we’re going to partner with our bodies for whole body healing, we need to understand that the way we choose to talk to our bodies about our choices of nourishment impacts the way we digest and utilize nutrients. A body in stress won’t digest! Our thoughts pave the way for everything that happens on an intercellular level. If we are stressed about our food choices, it alters the way we digest.

Does what you put into your body impact your health? Of course! But what you tell yourself about your food and your body determines if you can access “rest and digest,” which is important for healing and restoration.

During a meal, we want to be relaxed, filled with gratitude, and completely present in our bodies to load our senses with the pleasure-filled experience of eating.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Food is not just fuel. Food is comfort, healing, information, and nourishment on so many levels.

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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.

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