Womanly Hormones – get that sh*t under control

HORMONAL (IM)BALANCE and LIFE BALANCE go HAND in HAND

From a functional nutrition standpoint, hormone imbalances like PMS, uncomfortable peri-menopausal or menopausal symptoms, even bad blood sugar or stress response, can be caused by many factors; High stress hormones, high toxin levels, inadequate sleep, low nutrients, and gut issues being primary amongst them.

Addressing lifestyle factors like these ^^^^^ first can often help to alleviate symptoms.

In fact, you may need no further treatment, if you address lifestyle stuff. But, we need to know what nutrients and actions may aid detoxification in order to improve our health.

I like to encourage women to create lives that are more pleasurable, less stressful. I like to help them to do whatever they need to do to get a better night’s sleep, even if that means helping them with their money issues, not their diet.

And … I always focus on aiding women to lower their exposure to toxins and improve their biotransformation and elimination of toxins. Doing this can result in a proper menarche, comfortable menstruation, optimal fertility, and easy menopause, and beneficially impact their overall health.

 

WHAT DOES DETOXIFICATION HAVE TO DO WITH IT

Detoxification is a missing piece, in conventional treatment, but it is crucial – we need to clear toxins to balance hormones.

The toxins that are the focus here are the ones that mimic estrogen but act in it’s place in a dysfunctional way – turning off and on things in ways that might shift our metabolism down or our anxiety up – for example, but there are many possible symptoms; Anxiety, depression, irritability, tenderness, cramps, skin issues, bleeding irregularly, fluctuating sexual responsiveness, fluctuating energy levels, etc..

We can feel these symptoms creep up on us slowly over time, especially after certain triggers – hormone changes and stress – during adolescence, pregnancy, and peri-menopause. These changes in our bodies, along with other stress, and especially if coupled with nutrient deficiencies, can cause epigenetic changes – aka changes to our gene expression.

So, you have to clear toxins and manage stress to avoid the big problems.

My preferred approach is to look first at lifestyle factors, especially nutrition, but a full workup should include other lifestyle factors beyond nutrition, such as exercise, toxicity and stress.

There are many lifestyle factors that can lead to hormonal problems.

I am years past the baby making phase. 8 years to be exact. I went through menopause really early, and I am not alone. If you are an otherwise healthy, slim, fit woman, you might be prone to going through it early too. Why do I say that?

If the case of early menopause, there are such lifestyle factors as a history of anorexia and or bulimia, being an athlete/long distance runner, very thin, or a vegetarian, or having low cholesterol levels (such as can be caused by chronic low fat eating).

And it isn’t just early menopause – what about late menarche? I know an athletic, thin, vegetarian woman with no exposure to toxins in any great amount – I mean she was VERY protected and NEVER even had sugar, fast food or alcohol in her whole life – who still had not hit menarche and was going off to college.

So yes, there can be things ASIDE from toxins that can mess with your hormones. Our genetics can be triggered by stresses such as malnutrition, such as was the case for this young lady. What she thought was an ideal diet, her body took for starvation.

But toxins definitely play a role, for many people a huge role. We can feel the symptoms of these things come upon us in an accelerated manor if we get a sudden, noticeable influx of toxins – such as can happen if we get breast implants, or are exposed to mold in an infested home or car.

In the very sensitive, the ones we call the canaries in the coal mine, I can often see toxins slowly dragging them down. If they get get daily exposure to BPA in a job as a cashier, bagging groceries, or if she invests a lot in toxic beauty, such as lip injections, face fillers, keratin hair smoothers, and regular nail treatments, she may have a lot of pain, inflammation, and fatigue.

So I use a functional nutrition approach that looks at the whole person through the lens of systems biology and examines the underlying cause of hormone dysregulation, which can include the effects of endocrine disruptors, aka toxins.

 

TOXICITY

It is now clear that our individual ability to detoxify aka to bio-transform and excrete toxic and synthetic substances is of critical importance to our overall health. We are exposed to a greater quantity and a more complex array of toxic compounds in our air, water, and food than ever before. Understanding toxicity and taking practical steps to improve biotransformation are essential and critical pieces in any integrative approach to health and well-being.

I want to be clear about the concept of detoxification.

We cannot really “do a detox” and force our body to detox. The phases of detoxification undertaken by the liver (there are 3, 2 of them very well recognized) and the clearing of toxins is done by the body automatically, in conjunction with the kidneys/urinary system, lungs, skin, and more, not by any product we take. However, we can give the organs what they need to do these processes, and we can use binders to help to keep some things from recirculating, and we can help them get flushed out faster, which is often called “cleansing”.

The concept that toxins accumulate in the body and are the cause of various health problems has long been a fundamental tenet of traditional healthcare systems around the world. Removal of toxins from the body has long been an integral part of Ayurvedic, yogic, and naturopathic medicine. We know that in Canada, the Ojibwa used an 8 herb formula, drunk as a tea, and in Ayurveda, panchakarma and triphala are some of the methods employed. Naturopaths may use herbs or coffee enemas.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention began measuring human exposure to chemicals in 1976, and more recent science has really taught us a lot about how toxins affect us, where they originate, and how to improve our ability to detoxify. There is a very long list of chemicals we may encounter daily. Biomonitoring of subjects is ongoing and they continue to find new toxins in subjects’ blood and urine. Some of these include pesticides like DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and glyphosate, BPA (bisphenol-A) from plastic bottles, food containers and cash register receipts, and phthalates from toys and shampoos.

Most people are born with chemicals like these in their blood, and then have a persistent, detectable amount of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in their blood most of the time ever afterward. What endocrine disrupting means is that they look like estrogen in the body, but estrogen that misbehaves, even doing evil, like something out of the movie V, or Men in Black, or even American Psycho.

Several of these hormone-f-ing chemicals have been linked to early menarche and early menopause.

Earlier menarche means starting your period young, and it is associated with some bad health outcomes. Around the world, the age of menarche keeps getting younger and is linked to exposure to a common fumigant, according to an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data.

The NHANES researchers measured a single chemical in girls 12-16, but there are hundreds of known endocrine disruptors in our everyday environment, affecting women of all ages. In a different analysis of the NHANES data, 15 known toxicants were identified as contributors to early menopause in women, including persistent organic pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and common endocrine disruptors like phthlates. You are also more likely to reach menopause early if you are unfit, overweight, or if you have irritated ovaries, or pituitary gland problems, or have never had kids, or if you smoke…so again, it isn’t just about chemicals – but they sure don’t help.

 

WHAT TO DO

First of all, I recommend that you be careful to reduce your toxin exposure.

Filter your water. If you can, filter your air. Change filters often. Open your windows year round.

Say no to paper receipts.

Get better shampoo, or no shampoo. Use natural, clean and vetted body care, and less of it. Refuse to use regular nail polish, or to hang out in salons, or in places with toxic air. Don’t use hair treatments like Keratin smoothers or perms that use formaldehyde. Use non-toxic menstrual products.

Don’t buy new carpets, or sofas, buy second hand. If you buy furniture, like mattresses, check what they might be made with, and then, if you can, plan to sleep out of your house for the first week or two that they are in your house, to let them air out. Air out new dry cleaning for a week outside of the house in a covered area while they off-gas. Try not to move into places right after they are built – give them a year.

Eat cleaner, cook for yourself. Don’t eat canned food. Bring your own containers – don’t get take out in styrofoam and thin plastic – especially things like hot soup. Get organic food, pastured animals, don’t eat animals that eat conventional grains – they eat too many sprays.

Give up the dryer sheets, and beware of anything perfumed. Don’t hang out near the dishwasher when it is running. Use safer soap in the dishwasher, and run the kitchen exhaust fan when it runs, and go into another room. Hire someone to dust and to vacuum, and don’t let your kids play on the floor.

It’s along list, and you might feel crazy at first, but just try to work at it little by little.

You might need to do things even harder than avoiding toxins.

You may need to get a more understanding and helpful and supportive partner. You might need to earn more money. You might need to say no more and get what you need help with more. You might need to go dancing more, or accept yourself as you are, or tell an asshole to f off. You might need to make seasonal detoxification a regular thing you do now. You might need to really eat nutritiously, not just eat to stay thin. You might need to say NO to the beauty treatments, like the lip fillers, the Botox, the Keratin treatment, the toenail polish, that you think makes you beautiful, and realize how beautiful it is to think clearly in your forties, and to feel better then, and to be glad you worked on your confidence instead of your forehead wrinkle. You might need to drink less alcohol and coffee, so that you can go the F to sleep. You might need to adopt a habit of doing a little walking, a little weights, and a little yoga, instead of nothing, or everything, like a maniac.

Start practicing now, and you can avoid a lot of headaches in the future.

xox

Dana

 

 

Why is My Metabolism Slow?

You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight.  Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”.

You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.

Why does this happen?  Why do metabolic rates slow down?

What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy.  And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”!  In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.

 

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

 

 

Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism.  When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down. The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active. Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right. But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course. Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine, zinc or selenium) for example.

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested*

 

 

Your history of dieting

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down.  This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food.

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have.  As you know more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it.

 

 

Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates.  This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one.

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy.  Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat.  This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

Tip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass.

 

Which leads us to…

 

Your activity level

Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

Even little things can add up.  Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

Tip:  Incorporate movement into your day.  Also, exercise regularly.

 

 

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night. 

 

Recipe (Selenium-rich) Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4

 

½ cup Brazil nuts (pictured)

2 cups water

nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)

½ cup chia seeds

¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

 

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk.  If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth. (I don’t strain, I keep it all!)

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

 

Serve & Enjoy!

Tips:  Makes a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries. Also, buy your Brazil Nuts in a place with high turnover, getting them fresh is a MUST! They should taste creamy, mild and delicious.

 

* About Thyroid tests:  if you feel really bad and have many signs of thyroid imbalance, get more than your TSH (the standard) tested if possible. Knowing the status of your T4, T3, Reverse T3 as well as checking for anti-thyroid antibodies such as TPO can completely change your options and radically change how you feel and what you do next. If you can, speak to a functional doctor or naturopath for these tests.

 

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/metabolic-damage

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/thyroid-and-testing

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-mistakes-that-slow-metabolism/

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

http://summertomato.com/non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis-neat

Going DUTCH – all about the dutch HORMONE test

The dutch hormone test (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones) requires you to collect urine samples on card stock/paper, dry the paper out, and send it to the Precision Analytical lab for testing.

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Dutch Hormone Test

 

The great news is that it’s better than a blood test, and it will soon make things to do with your hormones much clearer. Knowing (if you are in menopause, have high cortisol or adrenal fatigue) is waaay better than not knowing, IMO!

 

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I got my test kit!

Here’s some things I have learned.

In an ideal scenario, you’ll have lots of good instruction on the dutch from your health care practitioner – the one who ordered the testing, such as a functional MD, holistic nutritionist (update – this is now out of scope of practice) or naturopathic doctor – ahead of time, and know WHY you’re doing it.

If you take 5-HTP, Tryptophan or L-tryptophan, SAMe, tyrosine, L-Dopa, DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA), macuna, quercetin / EMIQ or St. John’s Wort, consult them before testing.

 

Open this package at home, take a look through the package, and check your calendar. Check to see when there are a couple of days when you can collect the urine specimens in the convenience of your own home, preferably.

 

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Dutch Complete contents: return envelope, commercial invoice, requisition form, instructions, the 5 urine collection devices and a plastic bag to hold them.

 

[I say preferably, because you CAN take the samples on different, non-sequential days, and you CAN do it out of the house, but you must let the urine-soaked papers fully dry before folding them up, and I’m not sure you want to do that anywhere outside your own home, especially since it is important to not be overly hydrated, to ensure the urine is concentrated…AKA, smelly. Ew.]

 

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Detailed instructions

 

When picking a day to start, you’ll count back at least 72 hours (3 days) ahead from a good day to be home drying pee papers, and then you’ll be sure to stop taking any supplements that might affect your results, (like 5-HTP or quercetin, and others, and if your practitioner agrees), 72 hours prior to your test.

(Note: You can keep taking birth control, necessary mood regulators, some hormones, and creams or patches, so check the guidelines carefully, and get assistance.)

This step is important, especially because you may need to plan your meals.

You’ll want to avoid Avocado, Bananas, Eggplant, Kiwi, Butternuts, Pecans, Walnuts (and associated nut butters), Pineapple (and pineapple juice), Plantains, and Plums for 72 hours prior to your test, if possible, and Caffeine during the testing.

 

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Timing your food/water and sleep does matter. There are specific instructions for supplements and caffeine, even water intake.

 

For the Complete, there are 4 urine samples to take and 5 papers to do it with.

You either get an extra, bonus urine sample, to take at night if you wake up, or a do-over urine paper, in case of a mistake.

Think of a place to dry the pee papers, where they won’t get licked by the dog, or noticed by company.

 

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When you have collected all samples, put the urine test papers (seen on right in their own mini baggie) into this human specimen bag.

 

For those with brain fog, knowing what to do in advance, and reading the instructions a few times might be good. Set your alarms, do what you got to do.

If in doubt, ask your health care practitioner for help.

 

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Requisition form side 1 – you’ll need to know what testing is being done (OAT? Complete?), and what (if any) hormones or other prescriptions you take.

 

Fill out the form – it has 2 sides – so the lab will know about you.

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Requisition form side 2 – you’ll be telling them a bit about what you suspect is happening, what you hope for, what symptoms you have, and other things about your current health.

 

After you’ve collected and accomplished all the necessary steps, put the now-dry urine sample papers into the little bag, and then put them in the human specimen bag, and then put it and the requisition form, all in the floppy plastic envelope.

 

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Put everything (except the Commercial Invoice) into this and seal it up.

 

Complete and then slip the mailing instructions for customs into the clear pouch on the outside of the plastic envelope. For some people (I see you, receptionists!) this step will be elementary, but some people have never done this kind of thing (like, never used snail mail!).

 

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Fill this Commercial Invoice out and place it in the outside pouch on the return envelope.

 

It’s quite simple, but if you want more guidance about timing and meds, the company has handouts online and makes great videos.

If you normally take 5-HTP, Tryptophan, SAMe, Tyrosine, L-Dopa, DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA), Macuna, Quercetin or St. John’s Wort, do not stop them unless you consult with your health practitioner and they counsel you to do so.

 

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Precision Analytical have informative videos – go check them out!

 

I hope that was helpful!!

And I hope whatever ails you gets better soon!

xox

Dana

SLEEP HYGIENE part 2

Sleep. Some people can sleep on the train, some people can sleep sitting up on the couch with the TV blaring….others can’t sleep unless the room is sealed against every sliver of light and sound…

adult book boring face
Some people can sleep anywhere, how about you?

Sleep hygiene refers to what we do to protect, covet and ensure good sleep.

And because of the above, it might be a bit different for each of us. However, we are all human, and there are some thingswhich make a big difference for most of us;

 

  • Part of it is timing. When to go to bed, when to turn off the light, how long to stay there, and when to get up.
  • Part of it has to do with cycles of light – when to be exposed to bright lights, when to avoid them, what colours or spectrums of light to look at, when.
  • Part of it has to do with other things we use to cue our internal clocks. Things like food and exercise.

 

You may have seen my previous tips from my first post on Sleep Hygiene, or learned before how a Lack of Sleep can lead to Weight Gain. It was such a big topic, I decided to return to cover more of it. The truth is, there are many things that contribute to good sleep.

 

TIP: Pick one area, and try to make some improvements there.

Here are easy sleep hygiene tips to improve your sleep quality.

 

LIGHT

  • Expose yourself to bright light/daylight/sunlight as close to when you (wish to be) awake in the morning as possible. Repeat daily to set your internal clock.
  • Using blue light devices (electronics) is best in the day.
  • Use blue light protection (such as the f.lux app) on devices after 5pm.
  • Try wearing orange-tinted glasses, or blue-light blocking glasses, in the evening.
  • Keep your lights low and warm-toned in the evening.
  • Turn off blue light devices like iPADs 1 hour before going to bed.
  • Avoid using an e-reader as your book before bed.
  • Use black, light-blocking curtains and/or a sleep mask to sleep in darkness.
  • In the night, try to leave the lights off, use dull orange night lights in the bathroom.

MANAGE STRESSORS

  • Always be honest and speak your mind clearly in the day.
  • Avoid caffeine and stimulants like nicotine, especially after 3pm.
  • Don’t watch aggressive or scary movies late at night, as they raise your cortisol.
  • If you feel scared at night, check your door and windows before bed, avoid news.
  • Make a to-do list the night before, to reduce worrying.
  • Don’t go to bed angry.
  • Avoid chewing over things said or unsaid in bed, instead, meditate.
  • Leave a notepad on the bedside to write down things, to clear your thoughts.

EXERCISE RIGHT

  • Get moving and listen to music, talk to people as soon as you can in the morning.
  • Do any kind of exercise daily, it helps with sleep.
  • Exercise when you wake up, or at noon, or mid afternoon, not at night.
  • If you do exercise at night, avoid aerobic with lights and loud music, try yin yoga.
  • If you NEED more sleep, find out why you are so tired (I can help!).

BEDROOM HABITS

  • Keep the bedroom for sleep and intimacy.
  • Keep all wifi emitting things away from your sleep area.
  • Keep watching movies and TV to another room.
  • Keep the bedroom calm, associate it with sleep.
  • Keep the room cool and fresh – a few degrees cooler than during the day.
  • Add some air purifying plants like snake plant or peace lily.
  • Try to create air flow.
  • Keep the bedroom soothing, with dark, calming colours.

BUILD A BETTER BED

  • Put an extra warm blanket on the foot of the bed/ keep your feet warm.
  • Try a weighted blanket for extra calming.
  • Wash your sheets and pillow in hot water every couple of weeks to kill mites.
  • Vaccuum your mattress at every change of season.
  • Dogs and cats are fine, as long as you are not allergic or cramped.
  • Try warm sleeping socks, as warm extremities help you sleep.

EAT FOR GOOD SLEEP

  • Do not eat 2-3 hrs before bed. 
  • Avoid heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks in the last couple of hours before bed.
  • Get protein every day to get enough tryptophan.
  • Carb cycle, eating only carbs in the last meal/ snack of the day (no protein), to push the tryptophan into the brain at night, to ease low mood.
  • To avoid night waking from low blood sugar, adopt a higher fat lower carb diet.

BEDTIME ROUTINE

  • Have a bedtime routine that includes face washing.
  • If you can, sleep at the same time every night. Try to have a consistent bedtime.
  • Get to bed at least 1 hour before midnight.
  • Have a bath routine in dim or candle light before bed.
  • Lavender essential oil is nice at night.
  • Try a warm bath in Epsom salts before bed.
  • Set your alarm for a multiple of 90 minutes, this allows you to get fully in and back out of a sleep cycle, so that you do not wake up mid-dream.

HOW TO SLEEP

  • Sleep on your back, or the left side, most of the time.
  • Sleep on the right side after a heavy meal if you are prone to acid reflux.
  • If you get painful heartburn that disrupts sleep, sleep with your pillow raised.
  • Sleep for 7.5-8.5 hours
  •  If you nap*in the day, do so for either 20 or 90 min to maintain circadian rhythm.
  • Don’t let yourself sleep for more than 8.5-9 hours most of the time. Too much sleep is as bad as too little. So get up.

I hope these tips help you to get a good, deep, restful sleep!

woman sleeping

Gettaing a restful sleep is easier in a cool room.

Still feeling TIRED?

If you still suffer from insomnia or poor sleep and feel tired in the day when you must be alert, you should know about the coffee nap*.

Coffee napping is a special trick with its basis in science. It has been proven to work better than either napping or coffee alone for increasing alertness and feeling of renewed energy.

What you want to do is to get a coffee.

Do not request it extra hot. Do not request half-caf or decaf. A black coffee is ideal. It will get through digestion in less time.

Prepare yourself for a nap. Find a quiet, comfortable spot, get yourself prepared. Set a timer for 20-25 minutes. Grab an eye mask, a blanket, some earplugs, whatever.

Now, drink the coffee, as quickly as you can.

ceramic mug with coffee
Drink the coffee quick, and take a 20 minute nap.

And close your eyes, lay down, and nap. Coffee nap.

You see, it takes about 20-25 minutes for the caffeine in coffee to take effect.

When you wake up, you’ll be refreshed by the nap (of the perfect length) and your caffeine will just be kicking in.

I hope this was helpful!

xox

Dana

 

How IF and TRE work – Fasting, simplified

woman eating bruschetta
Chow down!

HOW Intermittent Fasting or Time Restricted Eating help our bodies and brains

How do we explain the health benefits that IF has on our bodies and brains? One way is that a “metabolic switch” is flipped during fasting.

While continuous calorie reduction and IF have many of the same health benefits, IF might have a different biological mechanism at play. Some research suggests that I.F. might “flip” a metabolic switch.

Here’s how it works.

After we eat our bodies use carbohydrates (e.g. glucose) from our food for fuel. If there is extra left over, then it’s stored as fat for future use.

With fasting, just as during extended exercise, our bodies flip from using glucose (and storing fat), to using that stored fat and ketones (made from fats) for fuel. Sometimes called the “G-to-K switch,” (glucose-to-ketone) the ability to flip what our bodies use as fuel (between glucose and ketones) is called “metabolic flexibility.”

photography of woman eating

It’s thought that we, and many animals, evolved to have this ability to survive short periods of fasting from when we were hunter-gatherers. There were times when people didn’t have a lot to eat, but they still needed to survive and think clearly enough to successfully hunt and gather food. This can explain why our bodies and brains don’t necessarily become sluggish when we’re fasting. It makes a lot of sense, although it has yet to be tested in current-day hunter-gatherers.

This metabolic switch can explain some of the health benefits of fasting.

When our bodies prefer using fats for fuel, the body starts burning our stored fat. This is how IF helps with overweight, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. When the body uses fat for energy this decreases the amount of fat in the body. Reduced fat reduces weight, and health benefits from weight loss (like lower blood pressure and insulin resistance) are felt.

This “flipping” of the metabolic “switch” happens after the available glucose, and the stored glucose are depleted. This is anywhere from 12-36 hours from the last meal, depending on the person.

At this point the fats in our cells start getting released into the blood and are metabolized into ketones. These ketones then go to fuel cells with “high metabolic activity” – muscle cells and neurons.

Since the body is burning fat and using ketones to fuel the muscles, IF can preserve muscle mass. Some studies of IF show that it preserves more muscle mass than regular calorie reduced diets do.

The other high metabolic activity cells fueled by ketones are neurons (in the brain and nervous system). IF helps our brains because when our neurons start using ketones for fuel, it preserves brain function and increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is very important for learning, memory, and mood.

glasses woman person face

BDNF also helps enhance synaptic plasticity (changes in our brain that help with learning and memory) and allows our neurons to better resist stress. These are all improvements in brain function, and some animal studies also show improvements in the structure of the brain too. For example, new neurons are produced in the hippocampus (the part of the brain important for short- and long-term memory) in animals who IF.

According to Anton, 2018:

“In these ways, events triggered by the metabolic switch may play major roles in the optimization of performance of the brain and body by IF.”

Whew! That’s a bunch of good science, I guess sis knows a bit about this stuff.

Here she is (I guess it works!).

Zoe-Hard-Core

Next time  I blog on IF, I’ll sum up the conclusions, and share all the science links I found on all of this.

xox

Dana

Mindfulness and the Brain Dump

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My sister Zoe is a mindfulness and meditation guide. I mean, she helps people do nothing.

That’s a job.

Her main clients are busy, successful executive types.

Mindfulness can be challenge for chronic over-doers, and for those with ADD. Their minds are already so FULL, it is hard to follow their thoughts, and be present in the moment.

One trick that is helpful for these folks (erm, me) is the Brain Dump.

A Brain Dump is when you take everything you have swimming around in your head, that you think you HAVE to hang on to, mentally and GET IT ALL OUT.

Write.

Write and write and write.

According to Wikipedia, (who we REALLY SHOULD give a toonie to every once in a while, eh?), a brain dump is “the transfer of a large quantity of information from one person to another or to a storage and retrieval medium.”

In this case, I mean to a storage or retrieval medium.

Like your journal or your laptop or your fancy phablet.

Write out everything that might take up your mental space.

Check in to see if you still feel like you have things to hang onto, write that, and then make sure you keep all of what you’ve written.

Now, you can have the enjoyment of crossing things off. And until then, you have a reference place.

It can be such a load off.

All you do is

  1. WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING THAT COMES TO MIND

Here, I am about to practice and instruct in the art of the brain dump.

AND

I will be brain dumping everything that I think I Cannot Forget or need to remember about Mindfulness for an upcoming blog post.

Except now, this is that blog post! I love it when doing nothing is productive. HA!

What happened is that I took my brain dump, and I organized the ideas.

I already jumped ahead to step 2, which is COMPLETELY optional:

 2. ORGANIZE IT

 

So here are my organized thoughts

 

Mindfulness

Courses

One thing/Dr. Rick Hanson, Mindfulness-based stress reduction program from Jon Kabat-Zinn, Lifehacker’s Guide to Meditation for the Rest of Us, Greater Good’s mindfulness webpage: education, videos, & resources

Good articles to read/listen:
■ UCLA Meditation podcast, “5 Reasons You Should Start Meditating Today”

■  Self-Talk Plus recordings to program your subconscious in a mindful, purposeful way

■ Greater Good’s Mindfulness Quiz

Good books to read:

  • Meditation for Beginners, by Jack Kornfield
  • Buddha in Blue Jeans, by Tai Sheridan
  • The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
  • Wherever you go, there you are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • 10% Happier, by Dan Harris
  • There is No App for Happiness, by Max Strom
  • When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron

A different approach

Another way to approach mindfulness is to check out forest bathing. It’s like an easy hike, no, a walk in the woods, but way, way slower, more contemplative, more tuned-in, deeper.

 

Good Meditation Apps (Post Script: what was the result of word association had an unintended hilarious result, ha!)

■ Headspace

Fun and intuitive to use and very well known. Good variety of free and paid guided meditations for beginners and beyond.

■ Happier

Great if you are not into “woo-woo” stuff. This is a no BS kind of app, no extra stuff, but guided meditations. I love a good toothbrushing meditation, yes I do. This is kind of the app version of the book 10% Happier – they are both “for fidgety skeptics”

■ Omvana

Guided meditations, Energy, health, sleep, a bit more for those sensitive to their “fields”.

■Mindfulness Training App

Great for beginners but gives science and context too for those who want it.
Teachings from popular mindfulness instructors Jon Kabat-Zinn and Jack Kornfield.

■ Calm

If you like outdoor sounds, you may like this one, go check it out. Free download, paid subscription. I didn’t pay, so I can’t say much more.

■ Stop, Breathe & Think

Recommends specific meditations based on your answers to questions about your
emotional and physical state.
You can download varying lengths and types of meditation practice including a pack of meditations narrated by KD Lang.

pexels-photo-394545.jpeg
Forest Bathing is a form of mindfulness meditation.

Whew.

I hope that was as satisfying for you as it was for me!

xox

Dana

Self Care II – Mental Self Care

Self Care Ideas for the Mind

man siting on log in center of forest panoramic photo

Today we are going to focus on the mind.

Your mental health is just as important as the food you eat. Today we often aim to fit a lot in, without a lot of down time, leaving room for stress to creep in and take charge.

If you feel stressed, anxious, overworked or generally unhappy or uninspired then it is even more important to give your mind some extra space and calmness.

Many of us find it difficult to quieten the mind so here are a few ways you could start to
take care of yourself which literally can take up only 5 minutes a day!

• Sit outside and watch the clouds for 5 minutes
• Listen to your favourite song with your eyes closed
• Meditate for 10 minutes
• Read a positive book or magazine
• Unplug for an hour – flight mode on all devices and recharge
• Focus on your breathing – take a few deep breathes in and exhale out what
doesn’t serve you anymore (emotions, energy, words…)

photography of woman sitting on chair near window
Doing nothing, or daydreaming, is a perfectly viable option for today.

With a healthy self care routine for the mind you’ll be well on your way to feeling better
in no time.

Sometimes it can take just 5 minutes in your day to change how it is going.

A little mental space goes a long way.
What are some of your favourite ways to clear the mind and look after your mental health to de-stress at the end of the day?

I like to

  • listen to self-talk (selftalk classrooms of the mind)
  • talk with my life partner
  • ask my son about his latest obsessions
  • brain dump (write everything on your mind down)
  • enjoy an herbal tea
  • do a short meditation on my breath
  • read in bed
  • do something creative (crafting, sewing, dancing, writing blog posts or making social media imagery, making homemade greeting cards)
  • go outside and watch the lights twinkle, take some breaths

What are some of your favourite ways to clear the mind and look after your mental health to de-stress at the end of the day?

xox

Dana

Self Care – part 1 of 4

Self Care

Each person has their own version of what self care means.

It’s all about the individual.
What works for you may not work for the next person. This is the same as your diet and the food you consume. Put simply: There is no one-fits-all guide to self care.

What does Self Care look like?

Only you will know what is good for you and what ignites your energy and joy.  Not sure what that is yet?

YOUR MISSION: Start making a list!

Today go and spend 5 minutes thinking about ANYTHING that makes you feel good.

I’m talking about the things you WANT to do or have but never get around to doing! (I’m not talking eating a bag of chips or a chocolate bar, but, if that’s what comes up, write it down – the best way to brainstorm is to just let everything flow out of you, so go ahead, write it out, and later, if it is all about eating sugar, you’ll have learned something, and then you can just make a mental note, and cross those off the list!).

Some ideas to spark your self care list could be:
– Something that makes you forget about work – even for 5 minutes
– Taking a warm bath
– Eating a chocolate-dipped banana
– Being with friends
– Jumping on a trampoline

– ANYTHING!

All you need to do is sit quietly and connect to yourself to find out what makes you smile,
gives you goose bumps or that feeling of peace and calmness. This is what your self care list will look like!

20180921_133149
Me taking a ‘time out’ in the middle of my work day with my feet up and my mind at ease by the calm edge of the Fraser River.

Now take a look at your list.

Is “playing an instrument” on the list? Or “going for a bike ride”?

Try and incorporate one thing a day/every couple of days. Or even once a week. These things should form part of your self-care routine so that you can start to feel better in your personal life and health.

PAY ATTENTION: You may find that the more you take the bike out, or pick up the ukelele, the easier it becomes to get into the flow. The bike will be better maintained, less likely to have a flat, the ukelele will be tuned and the melody fresh in your head. You’ll find you get even MORE enjoyment from these activities, more easily.

What does your self care list look like? What can you work on today?

I am going to go dig out some candles, have a candle-lit epsom salt bath, deep condition my hair, and then read in bed.

xox

Dana

Sleep Hygiene – 9 tips for better sleep

TIPS FOR GETTING BETTER SLEEP – AKA SLEEP HYGIENE

The continuation of my post of Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain

photo of person holding alarm clock
WHAT IF YOU WOKE UP AT THE RIGHT TIME WITHOUT YOUR ALARM?

Well, this might seem silly but…

1 – Make sleep a priority.
Let’s admit that, for a lot of us, the lack of sleep we’re getting is often because we simply give other activities priority. Making something a priority will help you achieve it.

I once gave a talk to a room full of yogis – people who prioritize health – they regularly exercise, use glass containers and toxin-free body care, eat their veggies, practice meditation, and otherwise live very healthfully. Even they did not sleep 7.5-8 hours per night on average. Even they were used to pushing their schedules to bursting.

Even if this is the only tip you follow, do give it a shot. You may need to completely re-think your priorities, and even get your partner/ family members on board.

2 – Be consistent with your sleeping times.
Your body loves routine, and having a consistent bedtime can actually train your brain, your body’s clock (circadian rhythm), and sleep hormones to follow suit.

3 – Eliminate stimulants after noon.
Ideally, you won’t expose your body to chemical stimulation for the whole afternoon and
evening. This includes caffeine (coffee, black and green teas, chocolate) and nicotine
(cigarettes).

4 – Get some exercise and sunshine during the day.
Of course exercise and sunshine have many health benefits. They also tell your brain that it’s daytime, so it can help to set your body’s clock.
Tip: Be sure to finish exercise at least three hours before bedtime, as it may stimulate some people and keep them awake.

5 – Stop eating and drinking a couple of hours before bed                                                 By cutting out your bedtime snack you will eat fewer calories, and you may even have a better night’s sleep and wake up more alert. Also, by not drinking fluids a few hours before bed you’ll reduce the need to go the bathroom in the middle of the night.

6 – Lower your lights when the sun goes down
If your brain thinks it’s daytime it will not make the sleep hormone melatonin so it can stay awake. So, having bright white (or blue-ish) lights can trick your brain into thinking that it’s daytime.

So, you can dim your lights, buy amber/red light bulbs and/or blue-blocker glasses, turn off electronics (or at least use the f.lux or twilight apps), and if you do need to go to the bathroom during the night, don’t turn on the light.

7 – Create a relaxing pre-bed routine
Choose something that you enjoy and will help to relax your body and mind and prepare it for a good night’s sleep, whether it be a warm bath, or reading a book.
And when you start feeling drowsy, just go to bed.

8 – Keep your bedroom comfortable
Having a room that is too hot, bright, or noisy can keep you from having a good night’s sleep. Ideally your room will be cool, completely dark, and either silent or with white noise.

9 – Get light as soon as you wake up
Turn on the lights or open the blinds as soon as you wake. This tells your brain to wake up and start the day.

 

man sitting on edge facing sunset
HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE YOU’VE WATCHED THE SUN RISE?

I hope you find these tips actionable, and give them a try.

It can make a world of difference.

xox

Dana

Update: there was so much to write about, there is a follow-up post with more tips here.

The Sleep-Weight Gain Connection

alone bed bedroom blur
POOR SLEEP IS CORRELATED WITH POOR HEALTH OVERALL.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION AND WEIGHT GAIN – WHAT’S THE LINK?

There may not be an obvious link between sleep deprivation and your weight, but more and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your mood, mental performance, overall health and wellness, and especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.

Many studies show that people who have a short sleep duration simply weigh more. And, in fact, as the levels of chronic (long-term) sleep deprivation have increased over the past 50 years, so have the growing epidemics of being overweight or obese.

And many studies now agree that lack of sleep is an “independent” risk factor (i.e. a direct risk) for weight gain and obesity.

Especially for women.

One large analysis of 45 studies which included over 600,000 people says, “studies from around the world show a consistent increased risk of obesity amongst short sleepers in children and adults.” The increased risks were 89% for children and 55% for adults.

The overall data in that study suggests that a reduction in one hour of sleep per day would be associated with about 1.4 kg in additional weight.

Right now, 40% of American adults say that they get less than 7 hours of sleep per night, and 7 hours is the minimum recommended nightly sleep, with 9 being the maximum.

HOW SLEEP DEPRIVATION LEADS TO WEIGHT GAIN

Overall, there are two main ways (with two factors each) that we think that lack of sleep
contributes to weight gain and obesity.

First, it increases calorie intake in two ways.
● It allows more time available to eat; and
● It messes with your hunger hormones.

Second, it decreases your ability to burn off calories in two ways.
● It can slow your metabolism; and
● It can cause fatigue and, therefore, reduced physical activity.
Let’s talk about all four of these factors.

 

woman wearing pink knit top opening refrigerator
FRIDGE INVESTIGATIONS…?

LACK OF SLEEP INCREASES TIME AVAILABLE TO EAT

Some researchers suggest that the longer the time you’re awake, the more opportunity you have to eat, or more specifically, to snack. In fact, some studies have shown that these tend to be nighttime snacks.

And guess what many sleep-deprived people tend to snack on at night?
You guessed it…high-fat, sometimes high-carb, and less protein and fibre snacks.
Which, of course, can lead to weight gain.

And, at least one study shows that eating at night increases the time it takes (healthy people) to fall asleep. Especially for women. So there is a bit of a “vicious cycle” in play here.

 

turned on laptop on bed
NO LAPTOPS IN BED.

LACK OF SLEEP MESSES WITH YOUR HUNGER HORMONES
Many people who sleep less tend to eat more calories throughout the day. And not only due to increased time available for snacking, but also because of how lack of sleep can mess with the hormones that control both hunger and appetite.

How does this happen?

This is a “double-whammy” because some studies show that lack of sleep not only increases the stomach’s hunger hormone “ghrelin” (making you hungrier), but it also decreases the fat tissue’s fullness hormone “leptin” (making you feel less full).

These changes can clearly lead to more eating, and eventually weight gain or even obesity.

It’s possible that this is a natural mechanism that our body uses to make sure we get enough food for longer waking times. But this doesn’t always serve us well, as it tends to make us “overshoot” our energy needs and take in a bit more than we actually need.

woman measuring her waist
ITS NOT JUST ABOUT WHAT YOU EAT

LACK OF SLEEP MAY SLOW YOUR METABOLISM
Research is just emerging on this topic, but it seems to show that sleep deprivation can lower your “energy expenditure” and body temperature?

This means that your body may naturally burn less fuel at rest during the days when you’re sleep deprived.

When you burn less, you store more.

LACK OF SLEEP REDUCES EXERCISE
You know how tired you feel after not getting enough sleep?

This is the fourth way that lack of sleep affects weight.
By increasing fatigue, sleep deprivation can reduce the motivation to exercise.
And when you’re burning less fuel at rest (slower metabolism), and less likely to exercise, you’re at risk of gaining weight.

man lying on rubber mat near barbell inside the gym
NOT PRODUCTIVE.

WANT TO KNOW THE GREAT NEWS?

Lack of sleep is considered a “modifiable risk factor”.

This means that, although it increases our risk for obesity, we have some power over it.
How well you sleep and how much sleep you get is something that you can improve by putting into place some tips and making them regular habits.

Good sleep habits may improve your metabolism and help you to avoid other bad habits and weight gain.

Good sleep practices, practices to improve the quality of our sleep, are referred to as Sleep Hygiene. For more on the specific ways you can improve your sleep, check out my Sleep Hygiene post that I will post in a couple of days.

Until then, sleep well!

xox

Dana

 

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Crispim CA, Zimberg IZ, dos Reis BG, Diniz RM, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Relationship between food intake and sleep pattern in healthy individuals. J Clin Sleep Med. 2011 Dec 15;7(6):659-64. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.1476.
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Dashti HS, Scheer FA, Jacques PF, Lamon-Fava S, Ordovás JM. Short sleep duration and
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