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!
We’ve all tried it at some point or another, using that non dominant hand. And let’s face it, it feels awkward! But don’t we need to work those weak spots to grow stronger? The answer is yes. Here are 3 great reasons to use your dominant hand as often as you can.
1. It makes you think! The concept is analogous to repeating the same workout over and over again in the gym only to hit a plateau. If we do not challenge our body, we will stop progressing. Like our bodies, our brains stay stagnant, or even get weaker, if we do not challenge them. . If we keep plowing the same neural pathway again and again we deprive our brains of the chance to adapt and become stronger.
2. It opens your mind! Recent research based on brain imaging technology has shown the ‘left brained person vs. right brained person’ theory to be false. However, what is 100% true is that our cerebrum is divided into two major parts: the right and left cerebral hemispheres. Fascinating research suggests we can enhance the usage of both hemispheres by performing complicated movements with our non-dominant side because it creates new and stronger connections between both sides. In fact, musicians who use both hands had a 9% increase in their corpus callosum, which is the connector between the two halves of our cerebrum. When we use our non dominant hand we are activating the non dominant hemisphere which is related to an increase in intuition, creativity and the ability to empathize.
3. It balances you out! I’m convinced that the reason the majority of my massage clients have an overly fired up right quadratus lumborum (right lower back area) is because of driving. Think about the fact that every time you have driven a car you are creating an asymmetry in your body as your right leg is typically more extended and doing the work, naturally shifting your pelvis off balance a bit. While my dream of stand up driven cars is far from reality, one thing we can do is notice how bent we keep our left knee in effort to create some balance. Along these lines of rebalancing, using our non dominant hand as often as possible helps to bring our body back into balance. The way we were designed to operate 🙂
Simply put, fiber is a type of carbohydrate. And what exactly is a carb? A carbohydrate is a group of organic compounds which contain a 2:1 ratio of hydrogen:oxygen, just like water (H20). The two main types of carbohydrates are complex (starches and fiber) and simple (sugars).
WHY IS FIBER SO IMPORTANT?
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. Which by the way is one of the secrets to longevity! Take it from the Okinawans who have some of the highest life expectancy in the world. When it comes to eating, they embrace the “Hara hachi bu” style – which means “Eat until you’re 80% full.”
THERE ARE TWO MAIN TYPES OF FIBER: SOLUBLE VS. INSOLUBLE
cannot dissolve in water, instead it absorbs water
moves food through your digestive system
often referred to as “bulky” fiber
gives you a sense of satiety
cleanses your GI tract
lowers the risk of colon cancer
Slowly (if at all) fermented by our gut microbiota
dissolves in water
once dissolved becomes gel-like and absorbs sugar and fat from other foods
slowly releases these sugars and fats throughout the day to give us energy
helps stabilize blood sugar
aids in lowering blood cholesterol
easily fermented by our gut microbiota, in essence it feeds our good bacteria
makes short-chain fatty acids which provide nourishment to our colon wall.
Clearly, both soluble and insoluble fiber are vital to our health. Within these two broad categories of fiber, there are actually seven types of fiber that are worthy of mention which I will delve into at the end of this post. First I want to be sure to provide you with a list of high fiber foods.
Like any shifts in your diet, when increasing the amount of dietary fiber be sure to start slow and gradually increase.
How much fiber should we eat daily?
In the past century, the amount of fiber we eat has decreased by about 90%! In fact, most Americans are only getting about 15g of fiber per day when really we should be aiming for closer to 38g (males) and 25g (females)each day. Although these numbers vary slightly depending on your age and gender. See these tables below for the current fiber RDI. I would be remiss in my health coaching duties if I didn’t remind you that too much of a good thing is not always good. Aim to stick close to the RDI, too much fiber can create bloating and stomach upset. Not to mention diarrhea which would leave you deplete of minerals and nutrients.
RECOMMENDED DAILY FIBER INTAKE
ADULTS (50yo +)
CHILDREN & ADOLESCENT:
26g (f), 31g (m)
26g (f), 38g (m)
SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT???
Ideally we are getting both our soluble and insoluble fiber from our foods rather than supplements because whole, natural food is best for our body and our gut bacteria. High fiber foods contain key health promoting nutrients that supplements do not. While fiber supplements such as psyllium and wheat dextrin can contribute to your daily intake, it is important to first discuss the idea with your primary care physician. There is no evidence that usage of fiber supplements is harmful, however they can in some cases cause intestinal upset and interact with certain prescription medications. Because fiber slows down digestion, it may decrease the rate at which some drugs are absorbed. So again, have a conversation with your doctor if you are considering supplements
Personally, I aim to get my fiber through food but on the rare occasion my digestion feels like it needs a little oomph I resort to psyllium. Like any supplement, it is crucial to find a quality, vetted brand. Organic India is my favorite. You can take psyllium in the morning or night, I prefer to take it before bedtime. PLEASE NOTE YOU MUST TAKE PSYLLIUM WITH WATER. Because it absorbs water so quickly, it needs to be taken with a full glass of water to reduce the choking hazard. I find a little goes a long way and only take ½ a TB in 1 cup of water, which is ½ the recommended serving size. Some of my clients feel the same way, but others use a full TB. I’m an advocate of always starting with the lower dose to see if you can achieve your results. You can always go up from there if need be.
OK.. last but not least… here are the 7 forms of fiber mentioned earlier!
Lectin is a natural fiber found in the cell walls of plants. It falls under the soluble category and is a key player in the game of blood sugar control. By stalling glucose absorption, it dampens the glycemic response of the foods we ingest. Say see ya to blood sugar spikes! Our gut bacteria can easily ferment pectin and it has been shown to lower LDL (the “bad” cholesterol). FOOD SOURCES WITH THE HIGHEST AMOUNT: Citrus fruits: Pears, apples, guavas, quince, plums, gooseberries, and oranges
Like pectin, lignin is abundant in the cell wall of plants however it is not a soluble, but rather an insoluble, fiber. As mentioned earlier this means that instead of dissolving in water, lignin will actually absorb water. No wonder it helps keep us regular! While insoluble fiber speeds things along in the GI tract, it decreases the amount of time cancer causing agents can spend interacting with our tissue. Researchers believe this to be the reason it is considered protective against colon cancer. FOODS HIGH IN LIGNINS: Root veggies, Fruits with edible seeds (tomatoes, strawberries, avocados), Green beans, Flaxseed
Cellulose is another insoluble fiber that helps comprise the cell walls of plants. Since your body cannot digest it, cellulose will latch on to other food pieces you have ingested and help move them along your digestive tract. Again, promoting regularity and keep your GI tract clean. FOOD SOURCES HIGHEST IN CELLULOSE: Legumes (peas, beans, lentils); cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts, collards, watercress and radishes); bran and nuts
Inulin is a soluble fiber, so we know it helps control blood sugar spikes. What’s neat is that it is also a prebiotic that can be used as food for the beneficial microflora that live in our large intestine. Better yet, inulin has been shown to create an environment in the colon that prevents the growth of harmful bacteria such as e. Coli. One thing to keep in mind is that because this fiber is so easily fermented by our gut bacteria, if it is consumed too quickly or in very large amounts it might cause GI discomfort. Our ancestors ate tons of roots and tubers where inulin concentration is quite high, in fact they consumed up to 15-20g! Today, the average american consumes closer to 2g of inulin per day. One of my favorite ways to ensure a safe amount of inulin in my diet is to drink teecino, a delicious coffee substitute made from chicory root. Having experienced a lot of anxiety in my life, teecino has also been a saving grace while cutting down my caffeine intake. Other foods high in inulin are: burdock root, dandelion root, asparagus, garlic and leeks.
Another soluble fiber that is considered a prebiotic for our gut bacteria is beta glucan. Like most soluble fibers it helps control spikes in our blood sugar and increases satiety. It is also closely linked to heart health and improving serum cholesterol levels. Because of its powerful effect on our immune system, beta glucan is becoming a hot item in many research studies. While many people promote beta glucan supplements, there are many yummy foods that will give you plenty of this soluble fiber. FOODS HIGHEST IN BETA GLUCAN: nutritional yeast, oats, barley, shiitake mushrooms, reishi mushrooms, seaweed and algae.
Depending on where it is along its journey through our digestive tract, resistant starch is similar to both soluble and insoluble fibers. Most starches are rapidly broken down into glucose in our small intestine. “Resistant” starch, however, resists digestion until it reaches the colon, just like insoluble fiber. Then, like soluble fiber, it is fermented by the good microbiota that live in the colon. Needless to say, resistant starch helps to protect the GI tract from harmful bacteria, control blood sugar, maintain a healthy weight and regulate digestion. Not to mention, it is one of the best sources of short chain fatty acids which, again, help to maintain the health of colonic cells. FOODS HIGHEST IN RESISTANT STARCH: oats, brown rice, green bananas, legumes (esp fava beans!)
Psyllium is a soluble fiber and is what is found in most fiber supplements, such as metamucil. In fact because psyllium comes from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds it is only available in supplement form. Like all soluble fibers, psyllium binds with water in the gut to create a gel-like substance which grabs on to sugars and inhibits reabsorption of cholesterol in the GI tract. Because it absorbs so much water from the intestines, psyllium is referred to as a ‘bulk forming laxative’ as it adds bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass. With its lubricating and absorptive properties, you can think of this fiber as a gentle internal scrub brush for the colon. Lastly, psyllium is a prebiotic, once again meaning it acts as food for that ‘good’ gut bacteria. Again, here is my favorite brand:
“In remote mountain highlands of Asia, a group of Buddhist monks called the Luohan achieved enlightenment and ascension through meditation and pure living. In this primeval forest, the monks discovered a rare superfood prized for its sweetness and its ability to raise chi, or life energy.”
Whole Foods based multi, with vitamins, iron, folate (no fake folic acid!), probiotics & more. Garden of life makes products that are USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project verified. They are all about real, whole and plant-based foods.
What I love about this multi is that it is backed by consumer labs – meaning it is a supplement that actually contains what it claims to on its label! Since it is whole foods based you can take it on an empty stomach or with food, your choice. I only take 1/4 the recommend dose because I feel my diet is full of fruits and veggies. I supplement with this because even with a healthy diet it is smart to fill in those nutritional gaps! Plus, they add in just the right amount of immune and gut support.
I like to think of adaptogens as nature’s pharmaceuticals. Stress can cause physical changes in the body, and many of them harm our neurological, endocrine, and immune systems. With the magic of their stimulant properties, adaptogens like ashwagandha neutralize those harmful effects. I have been searching for an organic ashwagandha supplement with organic black pepper powder that comes in a tablet form for years, well before this amazing ayurvedic herb was all the hype! Truvani is the true deal. The black pepper is key for optimal absorption and you can also blend the tablets in your smoothies or hot drinks if you prefer. Feeling the effects of that stress?
I alternate between Vital Protein’s Marine Collagen and Collagen Peptides Powder. If your goal is hair health, go with the Marine Collagen as it is the one that has been shown to be the most effective on hair health in multiple studies. When it comes to benefiting your connective tissue, both of these products get the most valuable player award. I alternate between both because the peptides have more protein per serving – so I will add it to my lunch beverage if my meal needs a lil’ protein boost.
Luo Han Guo (Monk Fruit) is native to southern China and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for decades.
Because of its many healthy benefits, it is commonly called “the immortal’s fruit”.
Why should you care? Read on…
Luo Han Guo is an ideal sugar substitute and will help you kick that sugar addiction to the curb!
It gives you the sweetness of sugar without affecting your blood sugar. In fact it’s glycemic index is zero.
Monk fruit’s sweetness does not come from fructose or sucrose. Instead it comes from mogrosides which are antioxidants – substances that protect your cells against free radicals. Mogrosides, specifically Mogroside V (found in monk fruit), as well have anti inflammatory properties.
Because of these naturally occurring mogrosides, this immortal fruit is 150x sweeter than sugar.
There is promising research taking place that delves into monk fruit extract’s ability to inhibit cancer cell growth.
Since it does not have an effect on one’s blood sugar, Luo Han Guo can safely be used by diabetics. Allowing for sweetness without the negative side effects!
CHECK OUT WHERE MONK FRUIT STANDS ON THIS GLYCEMIC INDEX CHART:
Often sugar cravings are a sign of dehydration. Before you give in to that sweet tooth be sure to quench your thirst. You may just find that craving loses its grip on you. I love to add a tiny pinch of sea salt and squirt of lemon to my room temp water. Because of its mineral content, sea salt is a great source of electrolytes and lemon is the king of citrus when it comes to those electrolytes!
Sweet is one of the five basic tastes that our taste buds perceive and guess what? Nature has provided plenty of sweetness for our satisfaction. To avoid craving artificial sweets (which have no nutritional value!) be sure to incorporate plenty of naturally sweet foods into your diet. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, strawberries, yams and cinnamon are my favorites.
SLEEP!!! When we are sleep deprived our bodies look to a quick fix for energy and we are vulnerable to those sugar cravings. If you find yourself constantly fatigued it is time to analyze your sleep habits. Of course we are not going to always be able to get that idealized 8 hours of sleep. A great trick to combat fatigue is a simple 5 minute eyes closed reset when that feeling of utter exhaustion hits you.
Kick the caffeine to the curb, or at least decrease your intake. The highs and lows of this stimulant include blood sugar swings, dehydration and mineral depletion. All of which will increase your cravings for the white stuff.
If you are going to use sweeteners, opt for the gentle ones. These include maple syrup, brown rice syrup, raw honey, dates, blackstrap molasses, coconut sugar, stevia and monk fruit.
Move daily. Whether this is walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, gardening – get that beautiful body in motion! Even just 15 minutes a day will help balance your blood sugar levels and reduce tension.
Forget about fat-free. Typically when makers remove the fat, they add in sugar to compensate. Plus, fat free processed foods are far from satiating and will leave you hungry. Which of course leads to sugar cravings.
Take inventory of how much protein you are eating. Adequate protein intake is a sure way to stabilize blood sugar levels and stave off sugar cravings. Be sure to choose high-quality whole food sources like lean meats, fish, chicken, nuts, and legumes. To figure out your daily requirements, it is wise to run the calculations based on your age, weight, activity level and health goals. Here is a great free calculator from bodybuilding’s website: https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/calpro.htm
Add some spice to your life! They will naturally sweeten your food and satisfy your sweet tooth. My favorite is cinnamon which has also been shown in research studies to lower blood sugar levels. Other sweet spices to experiment with are nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and coriander.
Make life sweeter! Enjoy extra time with and hugs from family – soon enough you can add friends to that hug list too I hope (post pandemic). While your body can survive with zero processed sugar, we all know it that it needs connection to thrive. Be good to yourself and practice self love and care. Warm baths, walks in nature, meditation, stretching, massage and breathing exercises are all easy ways to give yourself a little TLC.
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.
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.
Since less than 1% of our total Mg is in our blood serum (50-60% is in our bones and then the rest is in our soft tissue), it can be difficult to measure our levels. However, we can easily assess whether or not we have symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Are you deficient? Check out Dr.Day’s article to help assess:
Dr. Day’s article on COMMON SIGNS OF MG DEFICIENCY:
The great news is that this mighty mineral is plentiful in so many delicious and healthy foods. While using Food as medicine to intake our nutrition is the ideal way to go, fortunately there are many quality Mg supplements out there today. More information to follow at the end of this article.
Warm up your tortilla in the toaster oven to keep it supple.
Spread your almond butter in the center of the tortilla.
Lay your banana on top of the almond butter.
Sprinkle on your flaxseed seed and cinnamon.
Rinse and dry your berries and add them as a side dish.
SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT?
When making a decision on whether or not to supplement, it is vital to know your numbers and consider certain factors. Keep in mind that the recommended daily intake (RDI) includes mg from the foods we eat as well as supplements we ingest.
Factors for consideration:
What is my intake?
Your magnesium needs are based on your age and sex. Compare your intake to the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) from the National Institutes of Health’s table below.
What medications do I take that may be interfering with my magnesium absorption?
PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) such as Prilosec (omeprazole) or Prevacid (lansoprazole) are linked to low levels of Mg
Chemotherapy medication such as Cisplatin is known to cause low Mg.
Thiazide diuretics such as Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide)may deplete cellular Mg, especially in the elderly.
Metformin, a diabetes mellitus type 2 medication, is connected to significantly lower serum Mg levels.
3. Do I have kidney disease, parathyroid issues or any condition like Crohn’s disease that affects my digestion? All of these are linked to lower levels of Mg.
4. Do I drink more than 1 alcoholic drink per day or 7 alcoholic drinks per week? Mg deficiency is very common among excessive drinkers.
5. Do I experience restless sleep and wake frequently during the night? Mg has shown to lead to deeper, more sound sleep.
Armed with the above data about your individual status, you are ready to make an informed decision on whether or not to supplement with Mg. Of course, one should always check with their current Physician before they start taking any supplements. So what kind of supplement is best?
Types of Magnesium Supplements
Magnesium Glycinate — This type is considered ideal when trying to correct a deficiency because it is in a form that is easily absorbed. It also has less tendency to cause loose stools. It is most helpful for inflammatory conditions, insomnia, stress and anxiety.
Magnesium Chelate — This form is in a similar state as the food we eat and as well is easily absorbed by our body. “Chelated” simply means the mineral is bound to a chelating agent, such as an amino acid, to improve absorption.
Magnesium Citrate — Only use this form if your purpose is to increase bowel movements. It is a saline laxative that increases fluid in the small intestine.
Magnesium Threonate — This is considered the only type of mg that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and penetrate cell membranes. It is used for its potential brain benefits.
20% of people who take Mg supplements can experience diarrhea and loose stools when taking 600mg or more per day. It is best to stay closer to the 300mg range or less.
As the temperature drops in our environment, it is natural for our bodies and souls to needed a lil’ extra TLC. There is no denying that we are stepping into winter 2020 with already stressed out nervous systems. I feel it is safe to say that between the pandemic, fires and a crazy election lies a hint of insanity for us all! That being said I wanted to create a post to encourage you to push pause and check in with how your body is feeling. Perhaps exhausted, perhaps tense, perhaps out of balance – wherever you find yourself there is always space for some self care. Here are a few ideas ♡
STRENGTHEN YOUR CONNECTIONS
Think about the “3 C’s”: Connect with yourself;Connect with others; Connect with your community
HOW TO CONNECT WITH YOURSELF:CHECK IN! How am I doing today? How do I feel? What is bothering me? Where do I need to spend less energy, where do I need to spend more? A powerful tool I use daily is to free speak into a voice recording and then play it back to myself. Listening to my free thoughts allows me to wade through the crud in my mind and get to the crux of what I need to do to take better care of myself. I can then in turn be a better mother, partner, friend and practitioner. Once you are clear on what needs to happen, write it down! Put a due date on the item and stick to it. You and your loved ones are worth it.
HOW TO CONNECT WITH OTHERS: Figure out who really means a lot to you in your life and make it a priority to speak to them in the next week. There are many ways to connect – phone, live, via a letter/email – you name it. I’d encourage you to take time to get quiet and realize how easy it is to throw our energy all over the map. That may not be a bad thing, however the more I live out these days the more I realize true satiety comes from depth rather than grazing the surface. Honor your heart’s knowing of who are your true connections and spend your time strengthening those.
HOW TO CONNECT WITH YOUR COMMUNITY: Explore, venture out and find out! There are so many ways to engage in our communities. There are social groups, volunteer opportunities and physical activities to get involved in. Commit to trying something new before the year lets out.
2. DELIGHT YOUR SENSES
I love reminding myself of the smell-brain connection as I soak in the scents of my new essential oil diffuser. When our olfactory receptors are stimulated, they transmit impulses to our brain. This pathway is directly connected to our limbic system, the part of our brain that deals with emotions. Essential oils can be used to harness those emotions of ours that tend to run wild… My go to for quality and affordability are Rocky Mountain Oils. https://www.rockymountainoils.com/. If you do not already have a basic essential oil kit and diffuser you may consider getting one!
3. EASE THE MIND TENSION THROUGH MEDITATION
Deep breathing. Sit or lie down comfortably. Rest your hands on your stomach. Slowly count to four while inhaling through your nose. Feel your stomach rise. Hold your breath for a second. Slowly count to four while you exhale, preferably through pursed lips to control the breath. Your stomach will fall slowly. Repeat a few times. Mindfulness Meditation. Focus on your breath. Notice anything that passes through your awareness without judgment. If your mind starts to tackle your to-do list, just return to focusing on your breath. Visualization.Close your eyes, relax and imagine a peaceful place, like a forest. Engage all your senses: Hear the crunching leaves, smell the damp soil, feel the breeze. Repeating a mantra. Sit quietly and pick any meaningful or soothing word, phrase, or sound. You can repeat the mantra aloud or silently. Experts say the repetition creates a physical relaxation response. Participate in a meditative form of exercise.Try tai chi or qi gong, which use soothing, flowing motions.
4. GET YOUR LAUGH ON
Laughter really is medicine. Not only does it boost our mood by stimulating the brain to release endorphins, but it also bolsters our immune systems and raises our pain tolerance. Go ahead – watch that comedy flick, funny youtube video or read that joke. Here is one to get you started!
A priest, a minister, and a rabbi want to see who’s best at his job. So they each go into the woods, find a bear, and attempt to convert it. Later they get together. The priest begins: “When I found the bear, I read to him from the Catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his First Communion.”
“I found a bear by the stream,” says the minister, “and preached God’s holy word. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him.”
They both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a gurney in a body cast. “Looking back,” he says, “maybe I shouldn’t have started with the circumcision.”
We all love the sweet fragrance and taste of cinnamon – it’s nothing short of a delight. Given the current state of the world, “Immunity Boosting” is quite the catch phrase. That being said I am happy to pay homage to this popular medicinal spice that is used across the globe. Cinnamon is thankfully easy to come by and infusing it in a cup of water creates a super drink that has healing properties.
This wonder spice is packed with antioxidant polyphenols and proanthocyanidins which are what give our immune systems that boost. Not to mention, cinnamon is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal – which all reduce the risk of developing respiratory disorders and other health hazards.
I like to keep it simple and have found the easiest way to extract the goodness from cinnamon is with cinnamon sticks. Add 4 sticks to 2 quarts of water and let them infuse (either covered at room temp or in the fridge) for 2 hours before enjoying!! The water will keep for about 2 days. A tablespoon of honey is a nice addition too not only for taste, but also for extra antibacterial power. 😘