Anxiety, it’s perfectly normal…yes??

Anxiety is a perfectly normal response to stressors, like being caught in up a dangerous situation, taking a test, or having to make an important decision, but when anxiety becomes a constant response or a response to inappropriate situations, it becomes problematic. 

Anxiety affects many people throughout their lives. For some, it is merely situational, but for others, anxiety is constant and can lead to disorders. These include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

Especially this time of year, it seemd like problems arise everyday.  I haven’t even started to decorate yet, yep, no tree yet.  There’s some major health issues going on in my family right now.  It makes me feel anxious because there is nothing I can do about it.  BUT, it’s temporary and I am focusing on some major self care to combat it.

Some causes of anxiety include:
-stress
-trauma
-thyroid disorders
-dysfunctional serotonin
-excessive alcohol consumption
-caffeine and sugar intake
-hormonal imbalance

Physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety include:
-muscle tension
-chest tightness
-heart palpitations
-high blood pressure
-insomnia
-digestive problems
-panic attacks
-irritability
-difficulty concentrating
-restlessness
-sweating
-anxiousness
-inability to socialize

Psychotropic drugs and cognitive behavioral therapy are the conventional methods for anxiety treatment, and with an estimated one-third of the population suffering from anxiety, it is no doubt that the number of medications is equally high.

However, there are many natural remedies for anxiety out there that have been proven effective without the adverse side effects. These include several changes to diet and lifestyle.

Here are some natural, proactive lifestyle changes that can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety:

Avoid Sugary and Processed Foods
Consuming foods with a high glycemic index, like processed and fast foods, can contribute to anxiety and depression. Additionally, sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate wildly, increasing anxiety, nervousness and fatigue. 

Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can both enhance anxiety symptoms by causing tension, moodiness, and the jitters. Reduce anxiety by avoiding alcohol completely, or by limiting your intake to 1–3 drinks per week, with no more than two at a time. Limit coffee or black tea to no more than one cup per day.

Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha, a powerful herb, is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety, as it helps to stabilize the body’s response to stress. Ashwagandha improves focus, reduces fatigue, and helps to fight anxiety without the attending side effects of anti-anxiety medications. 

Kava Root
Kava root is used to treat anxiety by stimulating dopamine receptors in the brain, which induces euphoria and a sense of wellbeing. It is a great alternative to anti-anxiety medications because it is non-addictive and non-hypnotic, but still increases positive mood and relaxation. Kava should be taken under the guidance of a health care provider, as it has been known to interact with certain medications. 

Magnesium 
Because magnesium is a common deficiency in adults, you should consider supplementing as it is great for relaxing muscles and the nervous system.

Lavender Oil
Lavender is a natural sedative, and it helps reduce anxiety by allowing the body to relax. 

Physical Activity
Physical activity helps to reduce stress, improve sleep, reduce inflammation, increase energy, and boost confidence. It takes around half an hour of sustained exercise to see the effects on anxiety levels.

We are motivated to educate as many people as possible which is why a new monthly membership is coming. Monthly educational experiences to virtual webinars and even great recipes and eating ideas. I encourage everyone to get registered with all of our offerings. Learn more in our free Healthy Journey group.  Join us here: Imagine Fit~Healthy Journey

And just in time for the rush of the season, grab your Quick Holiday Smoothie Guide, enjoy good nutrition in the rush of the season!

10 signs you may have a hormonal imbalance – and what to do about it

Hormones are like chemical messengers, and govern nearly every cellular action in our body.

While very important, our sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are actually not essential for our survival.

They’re responsible for sexual functioning and fertility, as well as in more of a “beauty” capacity – keeping our skin, hair & nails vital and youthful looking.

On the other hand, stress hormones (like cortisol & epinephrine, also known as adrenaline) are critical to our survival because they synthesize proteins, maintain cellular electrolyte balance, regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, and transport glucose into our cells – essentially feeding our brain.

These hormones are so crucial, that in times of chronic stress, cortisol (the “hormone of stress”) will be made at the expense of sex hormones. No wonder we can start feeling whacked out at certain stages of life!

So what happens when hormones stop playing well together?

We can often experience a ripple effect, even when there’s a slight hiccup in hormone function.

Also, due to the fact that the interconnected nature of your endocrine system, one hormonal imbalance can lead to an additional one, causing multiple symptoms and overlapping health issues.

The 10 most common signs that you probably have a hormonal imbalance

 

  1. Poor sleep – not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep
  2. Fatigue that’s not alleviated by sleep
  3. Night sweats and hot flashes
  4. Resistant excess weight and body fat, especially around the belly
  5. Low libido or sexual dysfunction
  6. Acne or other skin issues
  7. PMS symptoms
  8. Foggy thinking (brain fog!) and difficulty concentrating
  9. Mental health issues – depression and anxiety in particular
  10. Mood changes like irritability and anger

The main causes of hormonal imbalances

While there are many causes, here are the most common ones that have been identified:

  • Age and stage of life
  • Chronic stress
  • Medications (e.g. the Pill)
  • Toxins and endocrine disruptors like xenoestrogens
  • Poor nutrition and lack of adequate key nutrients
  • Blood sugar regulation problems
  • Disrupted circadian rhythm
  • Chronic inflammation (e.g. leaky gut & digestive system inflammation)

Simple ways to support and rebalance your hormones naturally

Eat whole foods: processed, packaged foods offering little to no nutritive value will also offer little to no fuel for your hormones.

Be sure to eat fresh over packaged foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and quality sources of free range and grass fed meats and eggs. Also, if tolerated – nuts, seeds, and legumes in moderation.

Grains and dairy may cause or exacerbate hormonal problems for some people.

Eat more good fats: Good fats are essential for hormonal health because sex hormones need fat as a building block – and your body can only use the ones you give it.

Opt for sources of good fats from whole foods, such as avocados, raw nuts & seeds, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, real butter or ghee (grass fed preferable), wild-caught salmon, and free range eggs – yes, you can eat the yolks!

Exercise daily: Working out on a regular basis, engaging in resistance (or strength) training, and incorporating a specific workout called HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been proven to be especially beneficial for keeping our bodies AND our hormones fit.

Better sleep: getting deeper, more restorative sleep can be the key to supporting your hormones, above all other measures (but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the other ones!)

Stress management & self-care: the truth is – stress can be devastating for hormonal health.

We need to equip ourselves to manage the stress and “business” of everyday life through the actions that bring back balance and wellbeing to our bodies AND our minds – like good nutrition, exercise and sleep!

Learn better coping mechanisms (like breathing techniques), practice mindfulness and be sure to engage in daily self-care.

References

 https://draxe.com/benefits-high-intensity-interval-training/

https://www.womenshealthnetwork.com/hormonalimbalance/what-is-hormonal-imbalance.aspx

 

 . 

Hormone-friendly Cho-Coco Fat Bombs

Ingredients:

 ½ cup almond or other nut butter, no sugar-added (if nut-sensitive, use sesame tahini or sunflower seed butter)

½ cup virgin coconut oil

3 Tbs raw, unprocessed cacao powder

stevia, xylitol or monk fruit to sweeten to taste

silicone candy mould or mini-muffin pan

Optional add-ins:

  • splash of real vanilla extract or vanilla powder
  • cinnamon or ginger
  • pinch of Himalayan pink salt or Celtic grey salt

How to prepare:

In a large skillet melt coconut oil and nut butter over low heat.

  1. Stir in cacao powder and desired sweetener.
  2. Remove from heat and add vanilla (+ other add-ins), if using.
  3. You may want to pour mixture into a “spouted” cup to make pouring easier.
  4. Pour mixture into silicone candy molds or mini-muffin pan (about 1 Tb of mixture)
  5. Put in freezer or fridge until set.
  6. Remove from molds and store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Be mindful that each fat bomb is considered a full serving of fat – great for curbing the appetite, satisfying a sweet tooth and supporting your hormones with the building blocks they need!

Pros and Cons of Eliminaton Programs

 

Pros and Cons of Elimination Protocols

Our digestive system is a huge portal into our bodies. Lots of things can get in there that aren’t always good for us. And because the system is so complex (knowing which tiny molecules to absorb, and which keep out), lots can go wrong. And that’s one reason why 70% of our immune system lives in and around our digestive system.

This makes food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances a huge contribution to an array of symptoms all over our bodies. Things like autoimmune issues, inflammation, and even our moods can be affected by what we eat. If you have digestive issues or any other unexplained symptoms, you may consider trying an elimination diet.

 

An elimination diet is one where you strategically eliminate certain foods to see if you react to them. It can help immensely when trying to figure out if a particular food is causing symptoms because you’re sensitive to it.

 

You generally start out by eliminating the most common food allergens for a few weeks. Then you slowly add them back one at a time and note any symptoms (better or worse).

Let’s go over the pros and cons of this protocol.

Pros:

 

  • The main benefit is that, by tuning into your body’s reactions to certain foods, you can pinpoint sensitivities and intolerances that you may not otherwise know of. Experiencing results first-hand can be very motivating when it comes to sticking to eliminating a certain food. 
  • Elimination protocols can be less expensive, and in some cases more reliable, than standard allergy testing
  • It can also be very empowering to be in control of what you eat, learn about food and the compounds they contain, and try new recipes that exclude eliminated foods. Having a good plan makes things much easier (even exciting). If you love grocery shopping, cooking from scratch, and trying new recipes, you’re going to draw on all these skills.
  • These protocols can be customizable, which is a great pro (see first con below).

  CONS:

  • You may not figure out everything you’re sensitive to. Your plan should be strategically created to ensure that the most common food allergens are eliminated. This will give you the highest likelihood of success. It can become complicated if you let it.
  • It’s a commitment for around 4-6 weeks, if not longer (which can be difficult for some people).
  • If you’re not used to tracking all foods and all symptoms every day, you’re going to have to start doing it.
  • You may find that you’re intolerant to one of your favorite foods, or even an entire group of your favorite foods.

 When you’re eliminating certain foods (or parts of foods, like gluten), it can be HARD! You almost need to prepare all of your foods, snacks and drinks yourself from scratch. If you don’t take full control like this, it can be so easy to accidentally ingest something that you’re cutting out. And at that point, you might need to start all over again.   Conclusion Elimination diets can be a very useful tool to identify food sensitivities. They can be empowering and customized. However, they can be difficult to adhere to and, sadly, you may find out that you’re sensitive to your favorite foods. Have you done an elimination diet? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments below.   Here’s a great recipe to use. 

Steamed Salmon and Vegetables

(Elimination diet friendly)

Serves 2

2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly 

½ pint mushrooms, sliced

2 tsp avocado oil

4 tsp water 2 boneless, skinless salmon fillets, no more than 1 ¼ “ thick

½ clove garlic, diced

salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions: Preheat oven to 450F. Toss vegetables with oil. Tear two sheets of parchment paper and fold in half. Open the sheets and place half of the vegetables onto each sheet on one side of the fold. Add 2 teaspoons of water and place a fillet on top. Top with garlic, salt, and pepper. 

Fold the other half of each sheet over the fish, and tightly crimp the edges.

Put packets flat on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and check to ensure fish flakes easily with a fork (be careful the steam is hot). Open each pack and place onto plates. Serve & enjoy!    Tip: You can mix up the vegetables or herbs, following your elimination diet protocol. References: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet http://www.dietvsdisease.org/11-warning-signs-you-have-a-food-intolerance/  

       

What exactly are “healthy” fats – aren’t all fats bad!

 All fat is NOT created equal!

 

Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients; along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super-health-boosting; and, others are super-health-busting.

 

Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods. Health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods). So, this is why the information I’m sharing today is so important.

 

As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right?

 

So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to ditch.

 Health-boostin fats are from:

  • Nuts and seeds (hemp, flax, and chia)

  • Fish

  • Seaweed

  • Pasture-raised/grass-fed animals/eggs

  • Olives

  • Avocados

I love “virgin” oils, and here’s why. Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing, or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).

 

According to the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius:

 

“Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”

 

For example, Extra virgin olive oil must:

  • Be cold pressed

  • Not contain any refined olive oil

  • Possess superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics.

Don’t you think these standards ensure higher quality? I sure do!

 

Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-Win!

 

Health-busting fats are from:

  • Seed and vegetable oils like safflower, soybean, and corn oils

  • Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated

Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!

 

Don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed foods that contain them.

 

How to get more health-building fats

First, you have my permission to ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or any hydrogenated oil. Soybean oil alone accounts for over 75% of oils consumed by Americans, so it’s pretty popular in the “non-health food” department.

 

Second, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flax oil in your salad dressing, avocado and/or olive oil in your cooking, and coconut oil in your baking.

 

Third, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods. I’ll help you out now with my super-simple mayonnaise recipe below. It’s way better for you than the unrefrigerated stuff you find at your grocery store.

 

Now tell me: What’s your favorite fat and why? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Recipe (healthy fat): Mayonnaise

Makes about 1 ½ cups

1 large or extra large egg

2 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp salt

1 tsp Dijon mustard

                  1 clove garlic

                  1 cup olive or avocado oil

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients except oil to your food processor. Process until creamy (about 10 seconds).

  2. With the food processor running, add a few drops of oil into the egg mixture. Every few seconds add a few more drops. Continue until the mixture starts to thicken.

  3. Now you can do a slow drizzle. Stop pouring, every once in a while checking that the oil gets fully incorporated.

Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use this in place of mayonnaise for egg, salmon, chicken salads, etc.

For more Mayo inspiration:  Check out this blog!

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-homemade-mayonnaise-recipes#section1

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-healthy-fats

https://authoritynutrition.com/extra-virgin-olive-oil/

https://authoritynutrition.com/saturated-fat-good-or-bad/

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/fats-and-oils/eng/1392751693435/1392751782638?chap=5

https://eatingrules.com/cooking-oil-comparison-chart/

Ahhh, the “stress mess.”

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.

SO…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. 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 favors.

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

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/

 

I specialize in supporting women just like you…focus on delicious foods that boost metabolism while eating with confidence and mindful intention!  Are you looking to enhance your healthy journey? Got questions? Need support? Join us here and add your “aha” moments…or your great recipes…or just hang out for support. Comment on things…share something that pops out to you. 

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