Tag Archives: Stress

The Stress Mess:How it Messes with Your Health

We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.

Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It’s the chronic stress that’s a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.

And right now with the Coronavirus pandemic, we are all experiencing elevated stress levels

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let’s dive into the “stress mess.”

Mess #1 – Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes

Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.

Stress increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood “thickness,” as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.

Mess #2 – Immunity

Did you notice that you get sick more often when you’re stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that’s because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.

Mess #3 – “Leaky Gut.”

Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as “intestinal permeability.” These “leaks” can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Picture this: Have you ever played “red rover?” It’s where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though.  Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!

Mess #4 – Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health.  Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren’t doing you any favours.

Stress-busting tips

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.

Can you:

  • Put less pressure on yourself?
  • Ask for help?
  • Say “no”?
  • Delegate to someone else?
  • Finally, make that decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Walk in nature
  • Unplug (read a book, take a bath)
  • Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)
  • Connect with loved ones

Positive Affirmations in Stressful Times: We are in this together!

How do we practice gratitude and abundance when we feel stressed or overwhelmed?

  • Affirmations are a simple and proven way to rewire our brains.
  • Much like exercise feeds our bodies, affirmations feed our brain.
  • Ever hear the saying, “We are what we think”?
  • This means that your life is dictated largely by your thoughts.
  • But recognizing this is just the first step. You must then translate those thoughts into words – and then into actions.

Here are some positive affirmation examples you can try today:

“Today, I am content and calm.”

“I am blessed with so many talents that I will use today.”

“My body is healthy, my mind is strong, and my soul is content.”

“My thoughts are filled with positivity and thankfulness today.”

“I radiate positivity, kindness, and encouragement.”

I encourage you to come up with your own affirmations that fit your life and try saying a couple out loud now.

Conclusion

Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize.

Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.

There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.

You can ditch that stress mess!

Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

Serves 1

1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled

1 peach, diced

Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.

References:

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress

https://www.thepaleomom.com/stress-undermines-health/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/good-stress-bad-stress

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

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 diet, taking supplements or making any changes to your health care regimen.

Support your good health

Concerns are still growing around the coronavirus pandemic .  To stop the spread, it’s important that we follow the guidelines set out by the public health authorities.  Not only to protect ourselves but also to protect others.

Along with frequent hand washing, social distancing and self isolation, support for the immune system is vital. What we eat and drink on a daily basis makes a big difference in helping us fight infection.

Read on or listen here.

immune system support

These are my top pick 5 picks for  your kitchen:

Vitamin C rich foods-you probably knew this one already but sometimes a little reminder helps, particularly during times of stress-like what we are going through right now.

The best source are fruits and vegetables so include plenty, and a variety in your daily meal plan.  There is clear evidence that vitamin C rich foods are  supportive to our immune system and  Vitamin C also protects against free radical damage and viruses.

An added bonus of vitamin C, it’s great for skin. It is essential for collagen production, the glue that holds the body together and keeps skin youthful and supple.

Zinc rich foods.  Zinc is an important trace mineral, that we often don’t think about in relation to immune health.  And a little goes a long way.  This mineral  acts a an antioxidant and is known to lower infection rates  

Zinc is also involved in a multitude of body functions, including the metabolism of many enzymes used for digestion and nerve function.

Zinc is most abundant in animal foods but can also be found in pumpkin seeds, mushrooms , chickpeas, hemp seeds and seafood, particularly oysters.

Protein rich foods are important for making antibodies that fight infection. Inadequate protein lowers immunity and your body’s ability to fight infection. Aim for 30-50 grams per day.

Eat mushrooms!  Long known for their medicinal properties, mushrooms  contain beta-glucans which support the immune system.  They enhance macrophages and natural killer cells.  Mushrooms have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, Selenium and vitamin D

Keep your digestion healthy as much of our immune system lives in our gut.  Eat prebiotic foods such as oats, onions, leeks, flax legumes, cruciferous vegetables,  these foods feed the good bacteria.

Include Probiotic foods which maintain  the good bacteria.  Kefir, youghurt, sauerkraut, miso are good sources of probiotics. Read here for more on how you can support gut health.

Join my community and get my quick guide to pre and probiotic foods. It’s free!

Additional tips

If you enjoy tea,  Rosehip and Elderberry tea are a good source of flavonoids and Vitamin C.

Oil of Oregano or Oil of thyme are anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial. My go to right now is Black seed oil which I mix in with a little Black Cherry Juice, Vitamin D Drops and Omega 3 oil.

Please note these oils contain powerful compounds so are very potent.  Follow the directions on the bottle/packaging very carefully and only use for a limited time.  Better yet get advice from a trusted health and wellness practitioner.

Want more information on how to choose a supplement?  Read here.

And remember to  drink plenty of water.

Conclusion

While we are in the midst of the Coronavirus, we must all follow the advice of the public health agencies, wash hands frequently, self -isolate and practice social distancing.

In addition to managing stress, prioritizing sleep and breathing in clean air,  eat well, whole natural foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables are your best bet.

Medical 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 diet, taking supplements or making any changes to your health care regimen.

Is My Poop Normal?

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Yes, I’m serious! (And don’t you sometimes wonder anyway?)

You already know that your poop can reflect your physical, and sometimes even emotional, health.

You may get constipation or have diarrhea when you eat something that “doesn’t agree with you,” or when you’re super-nervous about something.

And what about fiber and water? If you’re not getting enough, it’ll probably show in your poop.

What about the all-important gut microbes? If they’re not happy, it’ll probably show in your poop.

Are you getting enough healthy fats?  It always surprises people to learn that healthy fats are important for a healthy poop.

Here’s a trivia question for you:

Did you know there is an “official” standard for poop? I mean a university-created chart! One that is used to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Meet the Bristol Stool Scale

The Bristol Stool Scale was created at the prestigious University of Bristol in the UK back in 1997.

You can see the chart here.LINK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_stool_scale

The scale breaks down type of poop into seven different categories ranging from type 1 which is very constipated, to type 7 which is diarrhea:

1 – Separate hard lumps (very constipated).

2 – Lumpy and sausage-like (slightly constipated).

3 – Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface (normal)

4 – Smooth, soft sausage (normal).

5 – Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (lacking fiber).

6 – Mushy consistency with ragged edges (inflammation).

7 – Liquid consistency with no solid pieces (inflammation).

Other “poop” factors to consider

You probably guessed that the shapes described in the Bristol Stool Scale are not the only thing to consider for poop health.

Think about how often you go. At least once per day, up to 3 times per day is pretty good. Less than one, or more than three can mean there is something going on.

What about how hard you have to try to go? You want it to be as effortless as possible.

And the colour? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest.

And if it’s green after a day of massive veggies, or red after that large glass of beet juice, you’re just fine.

But if you see an abnormal colour, like red or even black, that you can’t explain based on what you ate or drank in the last day or two, you probably want to get that checked out.

What do you do when you have “imperfect” poo?

Well, the first thing to consider is how imperfect it is, and how often it is like that? Once in a while, things aren’t going to be perfect, and that’s A-OK.

If you know you need to get more fiber or water, then try increasing that.

If you haven’t had enough probiotic foods, then try getting more of them.

If you’re super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or having a warm bath.

Oh, and don’t forget the two most basic pieces of nutrition advice:

  • First, eat a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, including a lot of fruits & veggies (and their “fibrous” skins, wherever possible). The fiber in these is not only helpful for pushing food through your gut, but they also feed those millions of amazing helpful critters that live there (your friendly gut microbes.)
  • The second piece of advice is to eat slowly, and mindfully, chewing thoroughly.

These are good habits for anyone and everyone, even when you have perfect poop!

Of course, long-term issues might require a more thorough review with a qualified health care practitioner. Don’t suffer from poop issues for too long before seeking help.

 

 

 

 

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_stool_scale

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/poop-health

 

 

 

Yep, you gotta read the small print, its important:
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.

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 your waist circumference matters.

appetite apple close up delicious
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You totally want to ditch your scale, don’t you?

You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”.

I mean, it doesn’t define you (obviously).

What you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.

Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine).

Just like my friend did and was pretty upset to learn that her waist circumference put her at higher risk of some serious health issues.  “But how can that be” she said to me, “my weight is within the normal range?”

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes), and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).

Yup – that apple!

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is.  It’s this “un-pinchable” fat.

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

According to an article written by Silvia Burkle, Food Technologist and co-developer of the Metabolic Balance® nutritional concept, excess visceral abdominal fat puts us at higher risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.

Ms. Burkle goes on to say that the cause of to much abdominal fat is not an uneven energy balance alone, in other words it’s not necessarily about the number of calories ingested exceeding the calories that are expended.  A study published in the Journal of Nutrition, for example, showed that a diet with a very high proportion of carbohydrates and a simultaneous reduction of the protein content, especially the essential amino acids, may lead to more abdominal fat¹.

And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important than how much you weigh.

Am I an apple or a pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

Women, if your waist is 35” (88cm) or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

For men the number is 40” (102cm).

Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.

If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

  • Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day. Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles. If you are unsure about how much protein to eat contact me at tessanp@shaw.ca for more information, I can help.
  • Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more. Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  It all adds up.
  • Stress less. Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look). 

 

 

 

References

¹Donald K. Layman et al.: A reduced ratio of Dietary carbohydrate to Protein improves Body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. Journal of Nutrition 2003; vol. 133 no 2 411-417

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-abdominal-fat-and-risk

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/visceral-fat-location

http://www.drsharma.ca/inspiring-my-interest-in-visceral-fat

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/abdominal-obesity/

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/weights-poids/guide-ld-adult/qa-qr-pub-eng.php#a4

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-proven-ways-to-lose-belly-fat/

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-tips-to-lose-belly-fat/

 

 

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.