Anti-Anxiety Hot Cocoa

Anxiety and I are casual friends, and she shows up whenever I’ve got the absolute most going on in my life. I’ve been trying to be rid of her for decades, now, but it’s a process right? I move to Los Angeles in two weeks and she’s been in my nervous system turning all the way up. In addition to massage, acupuncture, meditation, and yoga, I’ve started adding this grounding and immune system supportive beverage into my daily routine. When I have the time, it’s part of my breakfast, or maybe it’s an after lunch snack, but I try to drink it before 2 pm because it’s energizing and it will keep me up at night. Full disclosure, I can’t drink coffee because it makes me jittery, but if you drink coffee at all times of the day and you still sleep like a baby, then this cautionary tidbit doesn’t apply to you.

On a scientific note, I chose cacao because it’s been proven to have polyphenols that are key in helping to ease anxiety and promote increased calmness. Reishi made the cut because I’m always looking for ways to add this sort of cocoa-tasting adaptogen into my beverages. Reishi generally gives me powerful physiological boost, so I add it in whenever it makes sense to.


Estimated Prep time: 5 mins

What you’ll need:
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
2 tablespoons of Raw cacao powder or a dark chocolate bar that’s at least 90% cacao
1 tablespoon of powdered Reishi
1/4 teaspoon of cardamom
10 oz or 1 1/4 cups of Almond Milk

Now what?
After heating my pot for a few minutes on medium/low, I add the coconut oil. If it’s not already melted, I’ll wait a few and then add the cocoa in coconut oil, wait for that to dissolve and then in goes the reishi, and cardamom. I’ll immediately turn the heat down to the lowest setting, because who wants burnt hot cocoa? I’ll let it simmer for no more than 2 minutes. Don’t walk away from the pot! Now for the final ingredient. I pour the 10 oz of either almond or sometimes oat milk while stirring. I love using a handheld whisk to add some froth so I feel fancy at home, and who doesn’t love feeling fancy at home.

References:
Latif, R. (2013). Health benefits of cocoa. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 16(6), 669–674. https://doi.org/10.1097/MCO.0b013e328365a235

Wachtel-Galor, S., Yuen, J., Buswell, J. A., & Benzie, I. F. F. (2011). Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): A Medicinal Mushroom. In I. F. F. Benzie & S. Wachtel-Galor (Eds.), Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects (2nd ed.). Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/



6 Tips to Improve Your Overall Health

  1. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep nightly.

    Fact is, your body is at its optimal state when you’re well rested. Food is more easily digested, nutrients are better absorbed, your immune system is stronger and stress levels are reduced. This translates to more energy, the need for less caffeine, healthier food cravings, and deeper mental clarity–which means better decisions.

    What you eat and your overall lifestyle can affect your sleep. If you’ve been playing games with your sleep and need some ideas on how to reset it, check out my post about reclaiming your sleep.

2. Drink a glass of hot water with lemon juice and mineral salt.

After hopefully a solid 7-8 hours of sleep, the first thing you're body will need is hydration. The easiest way is to take about 8 oz of hot or warm water add about a half of a lemon’s juice and 1/4 of a teaspoon of himalayan or celtic sea salt. What you’ve got here is a natural electrolyte beverage that will rehydrate you and rev up your digestive system. This is helpful to increase your metabolism especially if you’re like me and aren’t always the hungriest first thing in the morning.

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3. Move in some way between 3-4 times per week.

Whether it’s running, spinning, dance classes, swimming, weight training, yoga, or basketball, pick one form or as I personally enjoy, a mix of movement modalities to keep you healthy throughout your week. I know life can get crazy, but take some time try new workouts and set your life up around staying active. This might mean scheduling your workouts in advance, meal prepping, making an effort to get to bed earlier. Moving 3-4 times weekly has been proven to increase your metabolism, reduce stress levels, increase energy, improve brain activity and much more.

Start slowly by committing to two workouts and every two weeks add another day until you’re working out as much as you’ve set out to. Be patient with yourself and steer towards rest when deciding whether or not to exercise while sick, it oftentimes ends up making things worse because you’re causing added stress on an already weaken immune system. Bottom line, treat your workouts like your work meetings and start off slow and steady as you working towards your wellness goals.

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4. Balanced servings of protein, carbohydrates, and fats at each meal.

The best thing you could do for yourself to improve your health is to find out how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat your individual body needs to function optimally. How you ask? Plug your height, weight, and your activities to a food dairy site like myftinesspal.com or cronometer.com and it will tell you exactly how many grams of each macronutrient you’ll need to be your best self. Now this method doesn’t won’t support you if you’ve got anything out of the ordinary going on with your digestive system, so I suggest scheduling an appointment with a functional nutritionist if that’s you.

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5. Take a food-based multivitamin

Odds are you’re not getting all of the micronutrients your body needs through food, so adding a multivitamin to your daily routine could help balance out some of your body’s nutrient stores. This can help boost energy, strengthen your immune system, improve sleep and lower stress levels. While I would suggest getting a basic metabolic panel test completed to identify which nutrients you’re actually deficient in to experience real results, supplements can be a great starting point. In addition to supplements, continue to add foods that are high in the nutrients you need.

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6. Start a gratitude journal.

Whether it’s first thing in the morning while you drink your warm water and lemon juice or right before bed, take some time to focus in and write down a few things you are grateful for in your life. It’s often easier to focus on temporary issues plaguing us rather then the deep and meaningful, but often overlooked staples in our lives. Access to food, a warm and clean bed, family, friends, and community are all things we sometimes overlook, but can shape our mindsets for the better.

Confessions of a Fatty Liver

What is Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)?

It’s exactly what it sounds like–when areas in your liver that normally have blood flowing through them, accumulate fat from the high consumption of alcohol, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, and processed/factory-made foods. Extreme rapid weight loss, smoking, as well as the frequent use of illicit and pharmaceutical drugs, can also be a factor fatty liver disease. This build-up of fat slows down the flow of nutrients to the liver and causes possible inflammation. While the fat continues to build up, the liver also reduces the speed it’s making the nutrients the body relies on it to make. When the liver doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, it can’t do its job like metabolizing or processing protein, carbohydrates, or fats and detoxifying of the body’s toxins. When the liver isn’t optimally functioning, it operates like it’s being attacked and basically anything you eat will be treated as a toxin. If this progresses and the health of your liver continues to decline you may be at risk for cirrhosis of the liver.

What now?

At the core of it, the statement “you are what you eat”, couldn’t be truer here. Whether you’ve been waiting on the new year to start, now is actually the time to adopt a new eating style and start exercising regularly. For the purpose of keeping this short, let’s focus on the Mediterranean diet as the primary solution and we’ll get into how exercise helps in a later post. Not only do I find this diet to be rather tasty in its options, but it’s also been proven to improve one’s liver status, reduce fat levels, decrease insulin sensitivity and prevent NAFLD-related disease.

Check out what foods to eat plenty of and some you might consider avoiding below.

Eat Plenty of:

Beets, dandelion, globe artichokes, garlic, green tea, apples, broccoli, eggs, cabbage, walnuts, almonds, avocado, spinach, carrots, cauliflower, grapefruit, coconut, olives, brussels sprouts, fennel, onions, shallots, scallions, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, lettuce, arugula, swiss chard, and dark colored fruits.

Consider Avoiding:
Dairy
Hydrogenated/ processed oils Trans fats
Saturated Fat
High fructose corn syrup
Agave
Artificial sweeteners
Processed & refined carbohydrates and meats
Fruits with high fructose contents like bananas, pineapple, watermelon, mango

This diet is the truest champion when it comes to nutritional support for NAFLD because it requires you to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts (soak and roast raw ones at home to limit gut irritation), cage-free and hormone-free poultry, wild caught and cold water fish like salmon, cod or halibut. Whole grains are okay here, but I would focus on ditching processed foods and consume primarily earth-grown foods because the fewer toxins you consume, the less work your liver has to do. Limit your consumption of grass-fed red meat, high fructose corn syrup, alcohol and try to eat organic when you can so you’re limit. At this point, your liver is packed with saturated fats and adding healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, coconut butter, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, or fish oil will support in reducing the harmful fat in your liver.    


References:

Abenavoli, L., Greco, M., Milic, N., Accattato, F., Foti, D., Gulletta, E., & Luzza, F. (2017). Effect of Mediterranean Diet and Antioxidant Formulation in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Randomized Study. Nutrients, 9(8), 870. doi:10.3390/nu9080870

Pizzorno J., Murray M., Joiner-Bey, H. (2008). The clinician’s handbook of natural medicine. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone.

Suárez, M., Boqué, N., Del Bas, J. M., Mayneris-Perxachs, J., Arola, L., & Caimari, A. (2017). Mediterranean Diet and Multi-Ingredient-Based Interventions for the Management of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Nutrients, 9(10), 1052. doi:10.3390/nu9101052








Depression: The Not So Casual Blues

What causes depression?
Depression is the slump that you can’t seem to pull yourself out of because you don’t quite realize how long you’ve been in this slump. Once you realize you’re in this seemingly everlasting slump you don’t have the tools to navigate it or something in your environment whether physical, social or emotional has triggered you in an unexpected way. Some of these triggers could be connected to a loss.  For instance, the loss of a loved one, a professional job, a home or a safe living environment, a relationship, like a breakup and/or divorce or really any extremely stressful life event involving a loss like childbirth or a miscarriage. Depression can also show up as a way of gaining control of a person supporting you or trying to avoid the reality of a situation. It can also be genetic and can even be onset by generationally learned behaviors like helplessness, pessimism, or perceived vulnerability.

What now?
There have been numerous studies proving the direct connection between the gut and the brain so in addition to finding your way to a trusted source of support whether it be an app, group therapy or one-on-one therapy sessions, by mindfulness of your lifestyle and how it could be contributing to your mood. Limiting processed sugar, caffeine, alcohol, food you’re allergic to or have reactions are an ideal practice. Focus on including whole (earth-made) foods and avoiding chemically preserved foods to help your balance return to balance. Anti-inflammatory eating plans can be supportive to reduce the inflammation that tends to accompany depression.

Is St John’s Wort an answer?  
St. John’s Wort scientifically/botanically known as Hypericum perforatum, has been used for decades to support with serotonin-related depression. I say serotonin-related because it might be worth getting some blood work done to identify your nutrient deficiencies and your serotonin levels. Constituents like hyperforin and hypericin are responsible for the antidepressant properties of St. John’s Wort (SJW), but essentially it’s in the way the herb bio-actively works with the body to manage depression is what makes it so effective for mild to moderate depression. SJW has been shown to inhibit the body’s absorption of serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine, mimicking the action of serotonin inhibiting the antidepressant class of medications like Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. The sides effects and adverse reactions from St. John’s Wort are far less than those of pharmaceutical medications, and they generally are the occasional dry mouth and constipation. Both positively encouraging you to drink more fluids.   

It’s strongly suggested to work with a trained herbalist to ensure you’re getting the right dosage, and that it’s safe for you personally (some contraindications with high blood pressure and the intake of other medications) but if your options for seeing an herbalist are limited be sure to purchase your supplement from a reputable source only if you’re not on any other meds. When you’re incorporating St. John’s Wort into your routine to supportive mild-moderate depression aim for .3% hypericin and  4% hyperforin in dosages of 300 mg up to three times a day for roughly four to six weeks to feel any improvements. If you’re currently on a prescribed medication, do not, I repeat, do not stop taking them without seeing your doctor and a trained herbalist. Tread lightly and consider the safety of SJW if you’re already on medication and read the possible drug interactions SJW is known to have here.


References:

Cui, Y., & Zheng, Y. (2016). A meta-analysis on the efficacy and safety of St John’s wort extract in depression therapy in comparison with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in adults. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 12, 1715–1723. https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S106752

Mahan K., Raymond J. (2012). Krause’s Food & The Nutrition Care Process. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

Pizzorno J., Murray M., Joiner-Bey, H. (2008). The clinician’s handbook of natural medicine. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone.

Wong, S. (2012). Evidence-based naturopathic practice literature review: Hypericum perforatum. Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine, 24(3), 97–99.






Reclaiming Your Sleep

Question:

I’ve read that people often use melatonin to help them fall asleep. I need to try something because I can’t seem to fall asleep and it’s making me extremely tired throughout the day. Would you recommend this? If so how much and will it mess with my sleep cycle?

Answer:

These are some great questions! Way to do your own research and I’ve totally been there, and not being able to fall asleep can be super frustrating. To answer your first question, yes, melatonin is an effective way to help you fall asleep that I would recommend. Before we dive into how much to take and when let's note that melatonin won’t behave like a sleeping pill. It will only act as a sedative if your melatonin levels are low. If the reason you can’t fall asleep isn’t melatonin-related, this may not be the solution for you. If you do take it, try it 45 mins before bed and aim for at least .3 - 3 mg capsule (start on the lower end and gradually increase nightly until you feel the effects). I scoured the academic and evidence-based interwebs and I’ve come up with nothing but mixed information about melatonin disrupting your normal sleep cycle, so I would only use this as a temporary fix while you try to find the root issue if isn’t something standard like jet lag or stress. Before you run to your local health food store, let’s look at a few other factors that might be affecting your ability to fall asleep.

6 Reasons You Could Be Struggling to Fall Asleep

First, you drink the coffee, then you do the things?

Is coffee or caffeine bae? Perhaps you’re indulging a bit too much. Unfortunately, it’s quite possible that your beloved is keeping you awake at night. Try having your caffeinated beverage or food of choice early in the day and definitely at least six hours prior to shutting it down for bed and always before 2 pm.

You’ve been drankin’

Who doesn’t like a glass of something after a long day, but your favorite nightcap could be putting a damper on your quality of sleep. As much as the world loves alcohol, alcohol is indeed a poison, so drinking too much before bed could put your detoxification system on overdrive, thus keeping you up at night. Limit your evening drinking to at least six hours before bed and alongside a meal.

Doing things in your bed other than sleeping or having sex: watching TV before bed, browsing the interwebs, and/or just playing on your phone

Take the electronics out of your bedroom, even if you’re temporarily removing them at night before bed. Electromagnetic waves from your devices placed too close to your head can inhibit your ability to fall asleep. Look into creating a bedtime ritual that begins to slow your brain activity down before actually getting into bed. If you need to do something before bed, listen to soothing music, read something that inspires you or write in a journal. Try to reframe how you use your bed. Keep your bed solely for sleeping and intimacy, so when you lie down, your mind and body know it’s time to sleep!

Your bed and/or bedroom is a hater

Have you considered whether or not your bedding, pillow(s), and mattress quality and style are matched for your personal needs? Invest in the best quality bedding that you can afford, trust me, it makes such a difference. Do you sweat at night? They make bedding sweat-wicking cool temperature bedding and pillows! Maybe invest in a fan or figure out how to keep yourself cool while your rest? Are you a side sleeper or a back sleeper? Invest in a pillow specific to your sleeping style to eliminate the tossing and turning to find your most comfortable sleeping position. Have you had your mattress for a over a decade and whenever you lie down, you wonder if you’ve found yourself in the sunken place? Do yourself a favor and let your sunken mattress go! Are you sleeping on an extremely firm mattress, but prefer something in the middle or vice verse? Check out your options for pillow top covers to make your current bed feeling like the dream bed at the Westin (I promise you it's #bedgoals).

Got everything covered with the comfortability of your bed and bedding? Wonderful! Is your bedroom not the most inviting and are you a creature of clutter (Marie Kondo saves lives)? What’s your lighting like? Would some blackout curtains help keep your room dark if you’re fortunate enough to have the sun shining into your bedroom? Make sure your bedroom is actually somewhere you want to fall asleep. Picture your ideal sleepy wonderland, and create your version of that filled with plants and cleanliness. Do whatever you need to do to keep the clutter out of sight and to create a peaceful sleeping haven.

Nighttime munchies gone awry

No matter how hangry you are before bed, the heavier you eat closer to your bedtime, the higher the likelihood of your digestive system remaining active while you’re trying to get to sleep. For the long days and late dinners, opt for something light like a mixed greens and fruit salad, or some fruit and dairy-free yogurt. On the other hand skipping dinner all together will have an adverse effect, so at least eat something small.

Sleep usually ends up at the bottom of your to-do list

Life is unpredictable, but setting yourself on a regular sleep schedule would be your best chance towards the road of effortlessly falling asleep. Adequate sleep is an antioxidant for your brain, so if the healthy functioning of your brain means anything to you, carve out the time to get to bed to get the suggested amount of hours of sleep your body might need (see the chart below).

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As always, thanks for writing!

All the love,
Sabine


References:

Healthy Sleep Habits and Good Sleep Hygiene. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2018, from http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits

Pizzorno, J. Murray M., Joiner-Bey. (2016). The clinician’s handbook of natural medicine. (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone.

Russcher, M., Koch, B. C. P., Nagtegaal, J. E., van Ittersum, F. J., Pasker-de Jong, P. C. M., Hagen, E. C., … ter Wee, P. M. (2013). Long-term effects of melatonin on quality of life and sleep in hemodialysis patients (Melody study): a randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 76(5), 668–679. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcp.12093

STREPchanges_1.png (951×913). (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2018, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/STREPchanges_1.png

Tags: sleep, melatonin, mindfulness, stress, supplements, insomnia