MINDFUL EATING

So often we eat mindlessly. We stuff food in while working on our computer, watching TV, or on the run. The pleasure of eating lies in slowing down and fully experiencing all elements of food. Take some time to explore each of the following during your next meal:

Sight: In many cultures, the aesthetics is just as important as the taste of the meal. Take a moment to recognize the art in food.

Smell: Bring the food up to your nose. Without naming the scent, experience smelling the food, then describe what you smell.

Physiological reaction: Now focus on what is going on in your mouth. Begin to notice that saliva happens, even though you haven’t put the food in your mouth. You’re noticing a mind/body phenomenon: the senses responding to the anticipation that something’s going to be eaten.

Touch: Now explore how the food feels. Without naming the feeling, just experience touching your food.

Motion and movement:  How is it that your hand actually knows how to get the food to the lips, without going past the face altogether? As you bring the food up to your lips, notice what happens next. The mouth receives the food. Nothing goes into the mouth without it being received. And who or what is doing the receiving? The tongue. Now watch what the tongue does with it. How does it get the food between the teeth? It’s amazing that the tongue is so skilled, such a remarkable muscle that it can actually receive food and then keep it between the teeth.

Taste:  After becoming aware of the food in your mouth, start biting into it, very slowly. Then begin to chew. Notice that the tongue decides which side of the mouth it’s going to chew on. Give all your attention to your mouth and take a few bites. Then stop to experience what’s happening. And what’s happening is invariably an explosion of hundreds of words that describe the experience called tasting.

Texture: As you continue to chew, the taste changes. And so does the consistency. At a certain point you will become aware of the texture of the food because the taste has mostly passed. The texture becomes a bit aversive and you may want to swallow it.

Swallowing: Don’t swallow it yet. Stay with the aversion, as well as the impatience and the inborn impulse to swallow. Do not swallow until you detect the impulse to do so. And then observe what is involved in actually getting the food over to the place where it’s going to be swallowed. When you detect the impulse to swallow, follow it down into the stomach, feel your whole body and acknowledge that your body is now exactly one bite heavier.

Breath: Next, after a pause for a moment or two, see if you can taste your breath in a similar way. Bring the same quality of attention that you gave to seeing the food, feeling the food, smelling the food, tasting the food to the breath.

Silence: Then, drop into silence. By this point, you understand something of what meditation is. It’s doing what we do all the time, except we’re doing it with attention: directed, moment-to-moment, non-judgmental attention.

The main thing is to have fun, learn something and understand yourself better.  Here is a checklist that will help get you going:

Natural High

CONTRAST THERAPY 

On top of providing a massive energy boost, bursts of cold come with numerous health benefits.   When we challenge our body with the discomfort of freezing water it becomes more resilient and is given the chance to acclimate.  After we expose the body to extreme cold it stimulates brown fat to heat itself back up.  This is a “good” fat which facilitates temperature control and increases metabolism.  Let’s take a look at several other advantages of contrast therapy.

STRENGTHENS IMMUNITY 

In 1993, a study conducted by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England showed that participants who took daily cold showers saw an increase in the number of virus fighting white blood cells compared to individuals who solely took hot showers. Researchers involved with the study believe that the body’s attempt to warm itself up increases metabolic rate, which activates the immune system and in turn releases more white blood cells.

BOOSTS MOOD 

According to research at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, showers with intermittent cold water may stimulate the brain’s “blue spot”.  This brain’s main source of noradrenaline which tends to mitigate depression and anxiety.  Also, because we have a high density of cold receptors in our skin, the cold shower sends an immense amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, providing a natural antidepressant effect. 

ENHANCES CIRCULATON 

Good blood circulation is vital for overall health as we know it’s our blood that is delivering precious oxygen to our tissues and organs.  We also experience a quicker recovery time from strenuous tasks and exercises when our circulation is healthy.  Not to mention a sharper mind!   Using contrast therapy when you shower is an easy way to improve your circulation.  The cold water will shunt your blood to your internal organs to keep them warm while the warm water will counter that and move your blood toward your skin’s surface.  

HOW TO PERFORM CONTRAST THERAPY

While finding easy access to a cold plunge is not always realistic, finding one’s own shower is a piece of cake.   If you dig into contrast therapy online you’ll find people suggesting 20 minute sessions, however you can actually benefit from just a few minutes of contrast therapy and will save a lot of water!   Personally, I do about 3 minutes worth at the end of my showers.  

Here’s how it works: 

  • Ease your way into it.  Start with a normal shower, then shift into the hot/cold contrast.  For your first time start with 10 or 15 seconds of each, then work your way up to 30 sec or 1 minute.  
  • The hot is not meant to be scorching of course.  Just a bit warmer than your comfort level.  During the cold bursts try to relax and control your breathing.  
  • Stay calm.  Don’t tighten or clench up every muscle.  Focus your mind on the sensation of the cold and relax into it.  I like to count my breaths rather than watch a clock.  
  • If full body contrast therapy is not your thing, you can use a Thermipaq set to reap the benefits in a focused area.  For instance, over your liver or low back.  

This was crater lake… talk about a delicious natural cold plunge!

IMMUNITY SERIES #1: SLEEP

Clearly we are far from eradicating COVID 19 from our environment, but we do have the power to boost our own defenses.  As we learn how to increase our protection and tolerance to severe disease, we can diminish our fear of infection.   My intention is to spread vetted information on how we can best KISS. Keep Immune Systems Strong!  

Today’s post will delve into the Sleep point of the KISS star.. are you getting your zzz’s?

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE:

During sleep our bodies produce cytokines and T-cells.   Both of these play a vital role in immunity.   Cytokines create an immune response by targeting infection and inflammation, while T- cells kill virus infected cells via toxic mediators.   Studies have shown that lack of sleep (both quality and quantity) does indeed weaken our immune system.   Those who are skimping on zzz’s are more prone to get sick after being exposed to a virus.   Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to ensure you support your body’s production of cytokines and immune cells.

SLEEP HYGIENE TIPS:

SLEEP: 

  1. Create a sleep ritual (a special set of little things) to do before bed to relax the body.  Here are a few ideas: stretching, meditation, breathing exercises or gratitude journaling.    
  1. Create an aesthetic environment that encourages sleep. Use serene and restful colors and eliminate clutter and distraction.  Scan your room for any lighting that might interfere with your body’s natural release of melatonin.  For instance, a light from a charger – keep all electronics out of your bedroom!
  1. Use your bed for sleep, reading and sex only (not for screen time ) 😌
  1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.  Our physical bodies are designed to operate on routine! 
  1. Be mindful of your alcohol and caffeine consumption.   Avoid excess caffeine, and no caffeine after 1pm.   Aim to consume no more than 1(for females) or 2 (for males) alcoholic beverages per day.  Give yourself a break from alcohol at least 3 days per week!  While alcohol will help you fall asleep, too much will have you “ping” awake in the middle of the night.  This will drastically affect your quality of sleep. 
  1. Create total darkness and quiet. Consider using eyeshades and earplugs.  If your room has a lot of windows, blackout curtains are essential!
  1. Enjoy outdoor fresh air for at least 1 hour daily.  Sitting outside can reduce blood pressure, lower heart rate, and decrease cortisol levels. When we are outside our body slows down, helping us feel peaceful and calm.  
  1. Write it out!  We’ve all experienced those nights where the monkey mind won’t leave us alone as we desperately attempt to drift off to la la land.   Our minds are designed to create thoughts rather than hold them – be sure to write out all of your ‘to do’s’ for the next day so your mind can be clear and relaxed when you hit that pillow. This will allow your energy to go toward sleep! 

9.  Raising your core temperature before bed helps to induce sleep.  If you have access to a tub, consider taking a hot salt & soda aromatherapy bath before bed.  

DIRECTIONS: mix 1- 1.5C of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) with 1- 1.5C baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to your bath.  Absorbing the magnesium through your skin and receiving the alkaline balancing effects of the baking soda will leave you in a relaxed state ready to fall asleep.  Add a few drops of eucalyptus or lavender oil to the tub for the ultimate unwind.  

Another popular option for warming your center is to use a hot water bottle which you can easily find online.   Personally, I find hot cold packs even more convenient than filling up a water bottle!  My go to, thermipaq, is affordable and high quality:   ThermiPaq Reusable Ice Pack and Hot Cold Pack

10. If you are really struggling to fall or stay asleep, there are many vetted supplements that will help you overcome your struggle.  

HERBS AND SUPPLEMENTS: 

  • Try 320 mg to 480 mg of valerian root extract standardized to 0.2 percent valerenic acid one hour before bed.  Herb pharm also makes an alcohol free version: alcohol free herb pharm valerian
  • Oral lavender tincture (be sure the bottle says safe for consumption, there are many lavender extracts that are made for diffusers only).
  • Take 200 mg to 400 mg of magnesium glycinate (citrate is for constipation, glycinate is what you want for sleep)  before bed. This relaxes the nervous system and muscles. I use pure’s brand – vetted and provides a 3 month supply. 1-3 of melatonin 1 hour before bed. 
  • GABA 

Note: When using supplements and herbs, it is important to change them up every month or so, this way your body will not become dependent on them. Also note that (with the exception of Magnesium) they are not intended for long term use.

NOW IS WHEN WE NEED TO K.I.S.S.

From my knowledge as a Licensed Health Coach and Physician Assistant S-2, I have designed a 5 point approach to Keeping our Immune Systems Strong.  

Clearly we are far from eradicating COVID 19 from our environment, but we do have the power to boost our own defenses.  As we learn how to increase our protection and tolerance to severe disease, we can diminish our fear of infection.   My intention is to spread vetted information on how we can best KISS. Keep Immune Systems Strong!   This blog series will address each point of the pictured KISS Star.  Today’s initial post is a general overview of each prong.  In the following weeks I will delve deeper into each component.

SLEEP 

During sleep our bodies produce cytokines and T-cells.   Both of these play a vital role in immunity.   Cytokines create an immune response by targeting infection and inflammation, while T- cells kill virus infected cells via toxic mediators.   Studies have shown that lack of sleep (both quality and quantity) does indeed weaken our immune system.   Those who are skimping on zzz’s are more prone to get sick after being exposed to a virus.   Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to ensure you support your body’s production of cytokines and immune cells. 

EXERCISE

Research has proven that because it causes chronic inflammation, obesity impairs immune function.   Exercise in moderation not only keeps you at a healthy  body weight, but it also prevents your immune system from aging prematurely.   Physical activity can aid in flushing bacteria out of your airways and slows down the release of stress hormones.   Exercise also increases the production of macrophages, which are a type of white blood cell that destroys harmful viruses and bacteria in the body.  

DESTRESS  

Cortisol is the main hormone our  adrenal gland produces while under stress.   While we are in flight or fight mode cortisol does a lot of important things for us – for instance, it increases glucose levels in our bloodstream.  We want vital energy to get away from that saber toothed tiger!   However it also suppresses certain facets of our immune system. That said, chronic stress becomes a problem and makes us more prone to infection.    

FOUNDATIONAL NUTRITION

Every stage of our immune response depends on micronutrients.    Ensuring you are eating a variety of whole, nutrient packed is vital to keeping your immunity strong.  Certain nutrients are crucial to the function and growth of immune cells.  These include vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron, vitamin C, and protein – including the amino acid glutamine.   The SAD (standard American diet) tends to consist of highly processed foods which lack these essential immune boosting factors.   Watch out for refined foods, stick to God’s garden! 

HERBS & SUPPLEMENTS

Mother Earth has provided us with a plethora of anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral herbs that can increase our protection against pathogens.  Research and trials have shown us how beneficial these plants can be to our immune health. 

SERTONIN SERIES Pt 5

Serotonin is a key hormone that deserves our full attention as it impacts our entire body!  Most people know that this hormone stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness.   But it doesn’t end there.  Serotonin helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.  It also enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other.

While we cannot directly ingest serotonin from our foods, we can fill our plates with the key players in the serotonin making pathway. This blogpost is going to be #5 of a five part series – with each part focusing on a different player.  Today’s MVP is Fiber.

WHAT IT IS AND WHY WE CARE: 

  • Fiber is a key nutrient that keeps our blood sugar stable and our appetite in control by regulating the way our body processes sugar.   
  • It is unique as it cannot be broken down into sugar molecules like other carbohydrates can.  Instead, fiber remains undigested as it passes through our digestive tract.
  •  Even though we do not metabolize fiber, it still offers us many benefits.   For instance, fiber takes up space in our stomach which makes us feel fuller for longer.  This helps us maintain a healthy weight, because it prevents us from overeating. 
  • Diets high in fiber fuel healthy gut bacteria, which play a key role in serotonin levels through the gut-brain axis.

 

SEROTONIN SERIES Pt 4

Serotonin is a key hormone that deserves our full attention as it impacts our entire body!  Most people know that this hormone stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness.   But it doesn’t end there.  Serotonin helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.  It also enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other.

While we cannot directly ingest serotonin from our foods, we can fill our plates with the key players in the serotonin making pathway. This blogpost is going to be #4 of a five part series – with each part focusing on a different player.  Today’s MVP is Magnesium.  

WHAT IT IS AND WHY WE CARE: 

  • Magnesium is a mineral found in the sea, plants, the earth, humans and animals.  In fact every cell in your body contains it and needs it to function!  
  • As the second most abundant intracellular cation after potassium, it is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that manage various biochemical reactions in the body.
  • To name a few of its important roles, magnesium is required for muscle contraction and relaxation, ATP metabolism (which is vital to energy production), bone formation, blood pressure, heart rhythm and normal neurological function.   

LOW LEVELS OF MAGNESIUM HAVE BEEN LINKED TO:   Hypertension, ADHD (attention deficit disorder), Alzheimer’s disease, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and  migraine headaches  Scientific literature shows that magnesium intake has decreased over the years especially in the Western world.  Deficiency is not uncommon among the general population and Prominent cardiologists have even called magnesium deficiency a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis.

SEROTONIN SERIES Pt 3

Serotonin is a key hormone that deserves our full attention as it impacts our entire body!  Most people know that this hormone stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness.   But it doesn’t end there.  Serotonin helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.  It also enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other.

While we cannot directly ingest serotonin from our foods, we can fill our plates with the key players in the serotonin making pathway. This blogpost is going to be #3 of a five part series – with each part focusing on a different player.  Today’s MVP is Vitamin B6.  

WHAT IT IS AND WHY WE CARE: 

  • Vitamin B 6 is important for our mood because it is needed to convert niacin (vitamin B3) into tryptophan, which is needed for serotonin synthesis.
  • Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in many foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement
  • Acting as a coenzyme, it performs a wide variety of functions in the body and is involved in more than 100 enzyme reactions, mostly concerned with protein metabolism

SEROTONIN SERIES PT 2

Serotonin is a key hormone that deserves our full attention as it impacts our entire body!  Most people know that this hormone stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness.   But it doesn’t end there.  Serotonin helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.  It also enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other.

While we cannot directly ingest serotonin from our foods, we can fill our plates with the key players in the serotonin making pathway. This blogpost is going to be #2 of a five part series – with each part focusing on a different player.  Today’s MVP is Vitamin D.  

WHAT IT IS AND WHY WE CARE: 

  • Vitamin D is needed to activate Tryptophan, the essential amino acid that makes Serotonin
  • It is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in a few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement.
  • It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.
  • It helps your body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks for strong bones. Together with calcium, vitamin D helps protect you from developing osteoporosis
  • Your muscles need Vitamin D to move, and your nerves need it to carry messages between your brain and your body. 
  • Your immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.

SEROTONIN SERIES

Serotonin is a key hormone that deserves our full attention as it impacts our entire body!  Most people know that this hormone stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness.   But it doesn’t end there.  Serotonin helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.  It also enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other.

While we cannot directly ingest serotonin from our foods, we can fill our plates with the key players in the serotonin making pathway. This blogpost is going to be #1 of a five part series – with each part focusing on a different player.  Today’s MVP is Tryptophan. 

WHAT IT IS AND WHY WE CARE: 

L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning the body cannot make it on its own. This protein building block is vital not only for serotonin production, but also to make melatonin and niacin (vitamin B3).   Clearly it is imperative that we make Tryptophan an integral part of our diet.   Check out these food sources!