Tag Archives: lifestyle

The Hormone Effect

aromatherapy bamboo basket candlelight

It doesn’t matter what health issue you want to address, hormones are playing a role.  It does not matter if you are suffering from fatigue, irritability, sleep deprivation, reproductive issues, anxiety, depression, blood sugar problems, headaches, or just about anything you can think of – hormones are playing a role. This can be an intimidating thought. Let’s face it – hormones seem to have a mind of their own.

So let’s talk about stress.  Why? Stress is everywhere these days.  Would you agree?

Stress is chronic.  And it’s not awesome for your health.

We feel it when we wake up, when things happen during the day, and we even take it to bed with us.

When we’re stressed our body reacts in a couple of ways, one is by releasing the stress hormone cortisol. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

And you can imagine that there are natural ways you can lower it.

So check out my list of recommendations to reduce cortisol.

How to Naturally Lower Stress Hormone (Cortisol)

 Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?

Do you experience any of these? Well, read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!

Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.

Of particular focus are those foods high in the B vitamins, which are considered the anti-stress nutrients, and magnesium known as the ‘relaxing’ mineral.

Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.

Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.

Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.

Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.

Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.

Conclusion

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. Include foods high in B Vitamins and Magnesium.  And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.

In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/ways-to-lower-cortisol/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cortisol

https://authoritynutrition.com/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

 

 

 

 

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

We know as we age our metabolism tends to slow down.  As a post-menopausal woman I can attest to that! Is this you?

That’s why I went for the Metabolic Balance® plan.  It focuses on just that: balancing metabolism using a unique combination of nutrients.  Taking the guesswork out of what to eat and thank goodness, no counting calories or adding up points!

MBresetballoon

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 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:  In addition to a regular exercise routine, keep moving. Incorporate movement into your day.

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. You can read more tips for a better night’s sleep here.

Want more information about the Metabolic Balance® program? visit http://bit.ly/tnweightloss or send me an email tessanp@shaw.ca

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/

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

A quick guide to reading Nutrition Facts tables

I admit it, I don’t pay much attention to the Canada Food guide but there are many positive changes in the new guide, including changes to food labels to make them easier to understand.

Even though the changes are going in the right direction food labels and the Nutrition Fact tables continue to be a source of confusion for most of us.

Let me ask you. Do you ever look at the Nutrition Facts tables? Do they help you decide which foods to buy or not? Do the numbers even make sense?

To be honest, I don’t think that it’s the most user-friendly or helpful tool. But it’s good to understand it since it’s here to stay.

So let me give you a primer on reading the Nutrition Facts tables, and give you a few hints on the new changes coming soon (you may have noticed some changes already).

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How to Read the New Nutrition Facts Tables

The Nutrition Facts table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.

The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, they should be able to eat better, right?

Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not, let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay!

Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.

Step 1: Serving Size – MOST IMPORTANT

The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So, it’s tricky.

All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.

Take Note:

In Canada, in the next few years (between 2017-2022), serving sizes will be more consistent between similar foods. This will make it easier to compare foods. The new labels will also have more realistic serving sizes to reflect the amount that people eat in one sitting, and not be artificially small.

Let’s use an example – plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco.

Walnuts

As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.

FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts).

Step 2: % Daily Value

The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.

NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.

The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.

You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.

NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it’s missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn’t an agreed “official” %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.

Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)

Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.

Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g – 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).

Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. It’s easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).

Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.

Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.

Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)

The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Potassium is now at the bottom of the table, and vitamins A & C will become optional.

Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you’ll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.

Conclusion

I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.

Do you have questions about it? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for sugar? If so, leave me a comment below or send me an email tessanp@shaw.ca

 

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

References:

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/changes-modifications-eng.php

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/understanding-food-labels/percent-daily-value.html

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/regulatory-guidance-directives-reglementaires/daily-values-valeurs-quotidiennes/guide-eng.php#p1

My Surprising Addiction

IMG_XCskif

No, it’s not a food and neither is it an illegal substance!

This story is about my love of cross country (XC) skiing.  I hope your’e not too  disappointed.

Perhaps you wanted to read a story about how I overcame my addiction to sugar or carbohydrates or fast foods.  That I had some incredible Aha moment or devastating health crisis that led me to pursue Holistic Nutrition.

Not really, I have always been a healthy living nut and I doubt that that will change any time soon.  I’m not that geeky about it, after all I drink wine.

Besides, I’ve seen first hand the devastating affects of food addiction.  You can read about that in my blog post, saving my sister’s life with food. 

About XC skiing, an activity I was ready to give up not that long ago.  I had been XC skiing for years.  Living in Alberta with all that snow it just seemed like the right thing to do.  Downhill skiing was not appealing; to expensive and too many people on the hills.

I decided I was better suited to XC skiing.  I figure if I could walk I could XC ski.  Wrong!  I spent my time shuffling along the flats (getting nowhere), falling on the down hills and slipping and sliding (mainly backwards) on the uphills.  No one told me that XC ski trails had hills.  I thought the terrain would be flat, not some of the time but all of the time.

It was brutal for about 20 years (I know, it’s embarrassing). I took lessons, but they didn’t seem to help much, well maybe my diagonal glide improved slightly on the flats. I have no idea why I persevered for as long as I did.

Being outside in the winter wonderland was appealing to me and very Canadian.  I wanted to be part of that experience.  And  I’m one of those people who likes to finish what I start.  I don’t give up on things very easily but you’d think after 20 years……Come on!

My Aha moment came when I said to my husband “you know what, I’ve been doing this for years and I’m just not improving.  I think I’ll take up snowshoeing.  At least that way I can still enjoy the snow”.  He shrugged and said “fine, whatever you want”.  I think he was secretly relieved.

I’m not exactly sure when things changed.  Maybe when I discovered this beautiful network of trails about 4 years ago close to where I now live in Kelowna, BC. It’s become by far, my favourite place to ski and there are many choices in the area and I have been to most of them.

It seemed relatively undiscovered, with a quaint main cabin at the trail head and a series of cabins through out the trail system. It’s quite lovely, very peaceful, lots of trees and gorgeous vistas and most important many trails for the novice!  I couldn’t have been happier, I was there, often.  I would ski the easy trails and look on with envy when my husband would take off on one of the more challenging trails. I wanted to go there too.

I once again started to work on improving my ski skills, the herringbone (to get up a hill) and the snow plow (to come down a hill) and of course, the all important diagonal glide.  Then magically it seemed to “just happen”.

Not really, it took time on the ski’s and it seems it was the right time and the right place for me.  Now that’s an intangible I can’t explain.  There is no moral to this story other than sometimes you just have to accept where you are at but also be ready that things can change even when you strongly believe something isn’t possible.

I love this activity, I like that it’s demanding both physically and mentally, I get to enjoy nature, quiet time with myself, the winter season and spending time with like minded people.  No matter how I feel when I start out on a trail, the end result is that I feel happy and energized.

And one more thing, I just skied my first 21 Kilometre trail that had a section clearly stating not for novice skiers.  I hesitated for a moment. My husband saw my hesitation and turned turned to me and said ” you are no longer a novice, let’s go”. I did it and it was amazing.

Detoxification Debate

On January 5 I held a presentation titled Understanding Detoxification.  Given the popularity of the topic and the time of year, I suspected I would get a decent turnout. I was not disappointed.

As the registration process began people kept commenting on how badly they needed a detoxification protocol, not uncommon after the Christmas  and New Year festivities.

As the presentation evening approached I started getting nervous because I had no intention of talking about detoxification protocols, kits, cleanses, fasting or special drinks(other than drinking plenty of pure water) as a means of achieving the ultimate detox!

What I really wanted to talk about was how the body performs the detoxification process naturally, on a regular basis and the type of nutrition and lifestyle strategies that support the body systems that perform the process. In fact, if toxins actually accumulated in the body we would have all suffered a rather unpleasant fate or require serious medical intervention.

I also thought it important that people understand that toxins are not just something “out there” and that we, through our normal state of metabolism generate toxins-yes, really!

For most people that’s about as exciting as the old adage eat well and exercise.  I did not have a magic bullet, but that’s the truth when it comes to detoxification. Just ask Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta and the Author of two books: The Cure for Everything, Untangling the twisted messages about health fitness and happiness and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: when celebrity culture and science clash.

Mr.Caulfield has spent many years studying the impact of celebrity culture on our health decisions and according to his research many of the evidence free health trends would not have become billion dollar industries without celebrity endorsements and that includes detoxification.

The reality of it is that achieving and maintaining good health requires a sustained and continuous effort and your body will reward you by functioning optimally. Over indulging during holidays, celebrations and special events does not mean all that good work is undone; your body will remind you through some unpleasant responses that there is a better way.

As for detoxification the debate goes on.  For me the evidence is not very convincing.  I’m sticking to the old adage of eat well (which also seems confusing to most people) and exercise.

Here are some simple tips to support your body’s detoxification process:

  • Eat real food and enjoy foods in their natural state.  Focus on fruits and vegetables as they play a major role in a health body and contain compounds that help the body deal with ingested chemicals.
  • Take a break between meals.  This allows your body to digest more ly completely and helps the body perform, what I call it’s “scavenger duties” (clean up of stored toxins).  This is particularly effective during the overnight fast-meaning when we are asleep.
  • Move, get some exercise and sweat.  Our skin is a major elimination organ.
  • The kidneys are a major elimination organ, support them with plenty of hydrating fluids including pure water.
  • Be aware of food allergies and note any food intolerances.  This can impair digestion and disrupt nutrient uptake.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Take care when choosing personal care and household cleaning products.  The chemicals used in many of these products are absorbed through the skin and inhaled by the lungs and contribute to our toxic load.
  • Remember to breathe!

 

 

 

 

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.