Beating heart, flowing veins

Cardiovascular Health

Low calorie, low fat, right? Avoid eggs, red meat and I’m good to go, right?

Nope. In fact, enjoy those eggs and healthy animal fats. The real culprit behind cardiovascular disease is sugar. Cholesterol jumps in to help save the day, and has gotten much of the blame off and on for many years. What’s really going on? Inflammation.

Eggs and spinach

Eggs and spinach

Cardiovascular health myth: follow a low-fat diet if you have high cholesterol. The Reality: Often people associate high cholesterol with dietary cholesterol intake and hence cut out nearly all of the fat from their diet, thinking it will reduce their bad LDL cholesterol levels. Excellent, beneficial foods such as nuts, olive oils, and guacamole get eliminated. Unfortunately, slashing fat intake too drastically can cause ‘good’ HDL levels to drop as well. Foods rich in monounsaturated fats like nuts, olive oil, and avocados help to lower total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol, without dropping good HDL cholesterol.  Atherosclerosis is progressive, but it’s also preventable.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries, a fatty buildup along arterial walls throughout the body. It is an underlying condition leading to heart attacks, strokes, and central to all forms of heart disease. Atherosclerosis is caused by the formation of plaque along the walls of the blood vessel. Plaque formation is a gradual process that occurs over several years. As plaque accumulates, it narrows the arterial lumen and restricts blood flow.

1. Oxidative damage to the endothelium (arterial wall) induces secretion of growth factor[1] and causes plaque to form. This layer protects the endothelial cells. Result: endothelial cells are exposed to damage by free radicals.

2. White blood cells migrate to the site of injury and attach to the endothelium. Plaque begins to form. The white blood cells also initiate an inflammatory reaction. In response to the inflammation, cholesterol and other immune cells are deposited at the site of the injured arterial wall to help repair the damage.

3. Cells from smooth muscle layer also migrate toward the lesion.

4. The deposits lose their endothelial covering, allowing blood platelets to adhere and secrete potent growth factors.

5. The endothelium may remain intact, but growth factors secreted by smooth muscle and endothelial cells continue to enlarge the plaque.

Clogged blood vessels increase the risk for clot formation (blood doesn’t flow smoothly through vessels) by increasing platelet aggregation (blood thickens). Clots in an artery that lead to the heart are what cause a heart attack, clots that lead to the brain are what cause strokes.

Cholesterol numbers. There are several types of cholesterol that can be tested from the blood. 

  • Total cholesterol: shows the total number of each of the following. Alone it is not very useful as it includes both HDL nad LDL (good and bad) levels of cholesterol. The ratio between these is much more important and informative to cardiovascular health
  • LDL (low density lipoproteins, recommended to be lower than 130mg/dl), and VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) are the ‘bad’ cholesterol numbers.
  • HDL (high density lipoproteins, recommended to be greater than 35mg/dl) is the ‘good’ cholesterol number.
  • Triglycerides (recommended to be lower than 150 mg/dl) show fat levels in the blood, which can be raised by high intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates. How
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity
  • Low antioxidant intake (veggies & fruit)
  • Low levels of essential fatty acid intake
  • Mineral deficiencies
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • High cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal obesity
  • Uncontrolled Stress
  • Excess alcohol intake

Nutritional Protocols

The foundation of prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis is based on minimizing oxidative damage and inflammation. The following are major nutrients for treating and preventing atherosclerosis. The best protocol is to remove the substances that cause harm: environmental toxins, especially smoking, oxidative foods such as rancid oils, hydrogenated oils (trans fats), sugar, and processed foods; and increase vegetables and health-promoting fats.

  • Increase fiber (aim for 35-50g/day), fiber has a number of jobs in the body. Primarily it helps slow the absorption of glucose (sugar) to balance blood sugar levels, and it also helps ‘clean’ the digestive track, keeping good bacteria and getting rid of all the ‘junk’.
  • Reduce sugar as it causes systemic inflammation.  Sugar: refined sugar, refined carbohydrates (reduce/eliminate gluten), and artificial sweeteners (they create an insulin response in the body).  Reduce processed foods and table salt (processed foods are often also loaded with sugar and highly processed sodium).
  • Eat ‘real’ food. Turn to produce for carbohydrates, get more vegetable based proteins, increase dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (chard, kale, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts). ‘Cleaner’ meats and dairy, such as pasture raised, hormone/antibiotic free, will contain less toxins that that body will not have to process (which results in more stress on the liver, and oxidative stress in the blood).
  • Increase vegetables: The more vegetables you can consume, the more fiber and phytonutrients your body will have to combat disease and ‘clean’ out the systems for a healthy body.
  • Omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFA): will provide the nutrients that every cell in the body needs to survive, and help to raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels.  These fats are absolutely essential to keeping cells healthy, well lubricated, and help protect against oxidative damage. Examples are avocados, nuts, seeds, fresh fish, olive oil, etc.

Antioxidants are very important to combat oxidation in the body, they block the formation of harmful compounds:Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Flavonoids (found in red wine, berries, grape seed extract, and pine bark extract),Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), Essential fatty acids (EFA) (tuna, herring, salmon, mackerel and sardines, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts). Fish oil, such as cod liver oil, is a good supplement to add to the routine (2,000-3,000mg+/day), and magnesium, potassium (Swiss Chard, yams, spinach, papaya), and calcium (tofu, sesame seeds, sardines, goat milk, collard greens, spinach).

Focus foods

  • Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, kale, chard, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage
  • Garlic, onions
  • Dark berries, nuts, seeds, flax seeds, walnuts.
  • Flax seed oil or fish oil (cod liver oil, i.e.).
  • Cold water fish: mackerel, herring, halibut, salmon
  • Eggs, legumes, ancient grains (amaranth, quinoa, etc.), poultry

Lifestyle recommendations

  • Exercise: pushes the big muscles of the body, strengthens the heart, reduces stress reactions in the body, and helps maintain a healthy weight (or reduces obesity). Minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity (increase heart rate!) 5 days a week.
  • Limit alcohol (more than one drink for women, one or two drinks for men, per day).
  • Quit smoking &/or exposure to cigarette smoke. Smoking contains chemicals that can directly tear and damage arterial linings, increases clotting risks, increases blood pressure.
  • Reduce stress. Stress has a direct chemical reaction in our bodies. The hardworking body does not know the difference between a mountain lion attacking or stressing over bills, work, a big test: it reacts the same chemical way. Stress can affect everything from food cravings (leading to obesity) to exhaustion/fatigue, and poor health.

[1] Growth factor is a protein molecule, a naturally occurring substance made by the body. It regulates cell division and cell survival.

The most important.

What is the first thing you consume in the morning? Is it something to hydrate, nourish, stimulate, or something that smells good, looks good to you along your daily commute? What do you consume and why?

It was a busy morning rushing around getting the dogs walked, cleaning up little messes, getting to the grocery store, and my fridge was bare to the condiments. I knew I needed something soon, least my cranky, unfocused, and unmotivated empty tummy monster emerges. I grabbed some left over green juice from the night before. WOW! It has been a while since I’ve had blended greens for breakfast. I had forgotten how much of a punch they pack in the energy department. The punch is way more potent than what coffee ever gave me, and it lasted much longer.

ZING!Why is this meal so darned important? It’s important, so very important, because it sets up our metabolism for the day. It helps feed the adrenal glands (these puppies work hard to help us deal with stress of all kinds) and strengthen our cortisol output (this naturally rises and falls throughout the 24-hour day). If we give the body what it needs at the start, it can function exponentially better the rest of day (&/or better deal with whatever junk we toss it later, food or stress). If we set up our metabolism so the organs (brain included) have the nutrients they need to function well, cravings diminish, excessive weight drops off, moods improve, afternoon slumps dissipate, and our hormones are regulated. All this is from good nutrition, good day-starting nutrition.

What is the best way to start the day: pack in the greens, good fats, protein, and carbohydrate from a vegetable/fruit source (sweet potato, beets, carrots, apple, pear, peach, etc.). With a nutrient dense breakfast the body is ready to roll with the fuel it needs most. If you give it sugar and caffeine only, you’ll have problems later in the day. The mid-day crash will be hard, food cravings will increase (especially for quick boosting, and consequently fast energy dropping, foods such as refined sugar and processed carbs, caffeine), and likely sleep will be disrupted from the blood sugar and hormonal imbalance from the sugary and caffeinated ‘pick me up’ foods.

Guidelines

Ideally we should replenish the body within an hour of waking up. If you work out first thing in the morning, have a small snack before your workout, and a full meal after. If not, your body will quickly go into ‘starvation mode’ and the cravings can get out of control, fat can be stored and muscled burned for energy. I’ll write more another time on athlete nutrition and how to turn the body into a fat burner instead of muscle burner.

Greens/veggies, protein, fat, vegetable carbohydrate. I start each day with some eggs, greens, or left overs from dinner the night before. Dinners usually have a lot of good breakfast components, so don’t be shy in digging in to the yummy goodness of last night’s chili. Soups are also a quick and easy to-go breakfast. Boiled eggs, or a salad are also an easily packable breakfast. Here are some egg combinations I love.

My favorite egg dishes are usually two eggs and left overs (over yesterday’s chili, or roasted veggies, or salad). Here are seven of my favorite combinations. Note: I cook them in butter (more good fats), but I also recommend coconut oil for cooking. You can see more here about eggs.

  • 2 eggs over medium, half an avocado, Celtic sea salt, dash of hot sauce
  • 2 eggs, spaghetti squash, spinach, salt
  • 1 egg over green chili, 1t goat cheese, roasted butternut squash
  • 2 eggs, spinach, ½ avocado, lime juice, salt, dash of hot sauce
  • 2 eggs, kimchi (or other fermented veggies), avocado, spinach, sea salt
  • 2 eggs, 2T onion minced, 1/4c yellow squash (or any kind), ½ avocado, lime juice, turmeric, sea salt
  • 2 eggs, mixed greens (lettuce, kale, chard), shredded raw (or cooked) beets

Blend it. Is that still too much work for what you have time for? Skip it and juice it all up! See my post on Green smoothies 101 for some blended goodness you can toss in your to-go mug and hit the day.  Just make sure that you get some fat for the fat soluble vitamins in your greens: toss down a handful of nuts, or add some chia seeds (good omega 3 fatty acid!) or flax seeds into the blender.

What will you make for breakfast tomorrow?

Crisis Mode

Life has a funny way of tossing the unexpected at us. There is always the potential for something to derail us from our goals. Getting derailed can be very disheartening, and, sometimes, it can even be devastating. The tricky part is getting back on track, pave a new path, or even to set new goals. The biggest challenge is letting go of those goals after you’ve invested a lot of your energy, emotion, and time into them. It can be pretty damn depressing. However, I have learned that it’s naive to put all your energy into only one goal and expect happiness. Why? Because life happens, and as a friend of mine says, ‘life doesn’t ask permission’, it just keeps charging forward. Charging forward is my mantra these days. Being in my own crisis mode, the very least I can do for now is to keep moving forward and set new goals for happiness and health.

This past summer I was hit hard with a tragic family crisis. Unfortunately the end of this crisis is completely unknown, unless I walk away, which I’m not ready to do yet. It’s been an ongoing nightmare. It’s affected nearly every aspect of my life, and, due to the intense stress, it has been inching in on my health. Being a Master Nut, I know how to heal myself in theory. I also know first-hand how easy it is to slip down that slippery slope and make unhealthy choices.  My greens intake decreased significantly, I haven’t been cooking for myself very much at all. I’ve noticed the physical effects: headaches have returned, sleep isn’t as sound, joints ache more, and depression threatens. But wouldn’t all this be because of stress? Yes, definitely. However, stress works a very specific chemical process in our body that robs us of nutrients, affects hormonal feedback loops, and further causes crisis on the body’s systems, which results in a plethora of symptoms, far greater what I’ve listed already.

Break the cycle.

My approach is to chip away at the unhealthy habits, bit by bit, and add in a healthy habit. Just the idea of diving back into cooking all my meals again, on top of everything else I’m managing: not helpful and even more stressful. I’m requiring very little, manageable rules:  one thing at a time. This week, for example, I have been ignoring all else and adding in more water. I tell myself I can do/eat whatever, but I have to finish the pitcher of water on the counter. Next weekend, I will work on the cooking and plan to make a big pot of stew I can have for the week. Bit by bit, I take manageable bites.

Forgiveness.

Knowing what I know about nutrition and how stress affects the body, I am my biggest critique, which also, is stressful. The other step of this process is to let go and forgive myself. The damage from the cookies I ate will be plenty reminder to myself (migraines), no need to berate myself on top of it all, right? It’s easy to tell someone to ‘take care’ of themselves, but much harder to actually follow up on that.

First steps.

These are the most important nutritional steps for me to take, to get out of this crisis mode and get back to better health. Hopefully they offer some help for your own crisis, or even nutritional ruts we often slip into.

  1. Take supplements. Supplements are critical right now, since I’ve been eating poorly. These will give me some bare minimum nutrients (especially for brain chemistry) to keep on top of everything. If my mind is in the game, the rest will follow.
  2. Drink more water. Being essential, this will give my body the building blocks to utilize any good nutrients I take in and help flush out toxins from stress and poor food choices. Being well hydrated will also help keep my sugar cravings down to a dull meow.
  3. Eat more greens. Greens have exponential amounts of needed phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients) that the body uses to function and thrive. As much as some (self included) would like to live off cookies, potatoes, and meat, it’s not enough to keep the body working at optimal levels. Getting enough phytonutrients, feeding the body the nutrients it needs, will also help kill cravings.
  4. Cook food. This is not only a way to get better nutrition, but it’s also a form of self-appreciation, a mental health exercise (use that brain and feed it good stuff).  It is also much easier on the wallet than eating out every day.

What have you done in the face of your own crisis? How have you helped pull yourself back up again, and thrive? What other tools do you have to deal with life’s challenges?

Brain pain

There are many types of headaches, and even more potential causes to headaches. Food intolerances, however, are the most common, and yet, the least-considered source of many headaches, especially chronic migraines. Other common causes (which I’ll save for another post) are aspartame, candida, and other types of bacterial overgrowth. The health of the gut is a direct indicator of the health of the brain. The two are inseparable for good health.

My headache story. My headaches grew over time. They seemed to get the most intense when I was in my late 20s and 30s. I was afflicted with daily headaches (they would last anywhere from 2 to 6 days), sinus headaches (which I thought all of them were initially, turned out many of my ‘sinus’ headaches were migraines), exercise-induced headaches, low-estrogen headaches, and eventually chronic migraines. I would get about one migraine a week (or more). I had a daily prescription medication for the daily headaches, another for when I ran, and another for the migraines, in addition to taking over the counter medicines (NSAIDs, pseudoephedrine). Needless to say, my liver wasn’t doing too well (it has to process all these medications). I was also put on birth control for the low estrogen levels, with the idea that would help keep enough estrogen in my system to keep my bones strong. I tried every treatment I could think of and that was suggested: acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care, hydrotherapy, a neurologist (cat scans), a general practitioner physician, and an ObGyn.

The Nature of Headaches. Headaches have a tremendous variety of causes and types of pain. Their pain can range from mild, steady, dull, to a vise-like aching in the head. They can be the result of a severe medical condition such as a brain tumor or simply from dehydrated. Tension headaches and migraines tend to be the most common for which people seek medical treatment. Migraines are the most painful. Headaches caused by brain tumors are very rare. According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, the primary classifications and subclasses of headaches are the following:

  • Vascular headaches include migraine, cluster, hangover, exertional, hypertension, and toxins/drug-related headaches.
  • Nonvascular headache include tension, TMJ, brain tumors, sinus/dental/inner ear infections.

migraineTension headaches are the most common type of headache. They are generally a steady, constant, dull pain that starts at the back of the head or in the forehead and spreads over the entire head­­ –­ like a vice grip on the skull. These types of headaches are usually caused by the tightening of face, neck, or scalp muscles (can be the result of poor posture and/or stress). The tightening of the muscles results in a pinching of the nerve or its blood supply, which results in the sensation of pain and pressure. Relaxation usually brings immediate relief.

Migraine headaches are vascular headaches, throbbing or pounding sharp pain, often associated with symptoms of nausea, sensitivity to light and noise. This type of headache is not as common as a tension headache, but they appear to be on the rise. Vascular headaches are caused by an excessive dilation of blood vessels in the head. The pain comes from lining of the brain (meninges) and from the scalp. Some can come on without any warning, other times some have a warning ‘sign’ or symptom, an ‘aura’ before the pain starts. An aura is an optical condition that can last from a few minutes up to 20 minutes. It is usually a visual experience of blurring, fragmented light/vision, or bright spots. Auras are also sometimes accompanied with anxiety, fatigue, numbness, or tingling on one side of the body. There is a theory that some famous artists suffered from optical auras (and the following migraines) and that the visual effects influenced their art, such as Picasso’s abstract paintings.

What Causes of Headaches. Tension and migraine headaches can have many causes, as I’ve learned. However, more often than naught, they are linked back to a few underlying issues such as food allergies or food intolerances, poor serotonin levels, or stress. Other common causes are from sugar, caffeine, withdrawal of addictive substances, low estrogen, PMS, dehydration, and/or chronic use of pain relievers. TMJ (temporomandibular joint) dysfunction syndrome, time zone changes, chemical inhalants (perfume, etc.), altitude, bone structure misalignment, nutritional deficiencies, or even fatigue. Many of these causes can be triggered by food allergies/intolerances. According to common research theories, the metabolic pathways leading to migraine headaches are triggered by serotonin, platelet disorder, stress, vascular instability, and/or nerve disorder.

Serotonin. Research suggests that migraines are partially caused by a drop in serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter in the brain). Serotonin is a chemical that serves many functions in the body: sleep regulations, feelings of wellness, and blood vessel health. Serotonin also plays a role in the state of relaxation or constriction of blood vessels. Too little serotonin can trigger constriction of the blood vessels, causing pain, which can play a role in the onset of a migraine. A deficiency may result in chronic pains, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression and a overeating. Low serotonin levels are found in migraine sufferers with increased frequency including depression, irritable bowel syndrome, as well as, other chronic pain syndromes.

Platelet disorder. Migraine sufferers, in research studies, show spontaneous clumping of platelets during and between headaches and significant differences in the structural composition of the platelets.

Stress. Emotional stress is one of the most frequently cited triggers of migraines and also could explain, in part, why art has a therapeutic effect on migraine headaches; creating art increases serotonin levels, which reduces stress.

Vascular instability. Studies have shown reduction of blood flow prior to the migraine attack. This is followed by a stage of increased blood flow that can persist for more than 2 days. The abnormal blood flow appears confined to the outer portion of the brain.

Nerve disorder. The nerve disorder hypothesis is that the nervous system plays a role in initiating the vascular events. The nerve cell dysfunction releases into the blood vessels a compound known as “substance P” (P = pain). In addition to substance P being released, is the release of histamine and other allergic compounds by specialized white blood cells known as mast cells. Chronic stress is thought to be an important factor with nerve disorder.

The most common migraine triggers that stimulate the above action are as follows:

  • Low serotonin levels (genetics or shunting of tryptophan into other pathways)
  • Foods: food allergies, histamine releasing or containing foods ß primary cause of most migraines
  • Alcohol, especially red wine
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Chemicals: nitrates, MSG, nitroglycerin
  • Caffeine or drug withdrawal (blood-vessel constricting drugs)
  • Stress
  • Emotional changes (especially post-stress let down, and intense emotions: anger)
  • Hormonal changes: menstruation, ovulation, birth control pills, very low estrogen
  • Too little or too much sleep
  • Exhaustion
  • Poor posture
  • Muscle tension
  • Weather changes (barometric pressure changes, exposure to sun)
  • Eye strain
  • Drug-induced headaches
  • Substance withdrawal

Food allergies. Food allergies induce migraines as a result of platelets releasing serotonin and histamine. There are two primary types of food irritants, IgE (immunoglobulin E), which is an immediate severe reaction, rare, such as anaphylaxis reaction, and food intolerances or sensitivities, IgG (immunoglobulin G), delayed reaction, common, which causes systemic inflammation in the body. The immune system and inflammation reaction both play a role in a vast number of migraine cases. Identifying and eliminating allergic or intolerated foods has shown, in many double blind studies, to greatly reduce migraine symptoms in the majority of patients.

Dietary amines are another cause of migraines; amines such as chocolate, cheese, beer, and wine. These examples contain histamine and /or other compounds that are common migraine triggers in sensitive individuals, causing the blood vessels to expand. Red wine, for example, contains histamine that stimulates the release of vasoactive compounds by platelets (20-200x more than white wine). It is also higher in flavonoids (which are a good antioxidant) that can inhibit the enzyme phenolsulphotransferase, an enzyme that normally breaks down serotonin and other vasoactive amines in platelets.

Conventional Medical Treatments. Standard medical treatment for most headaches is over the counter (OTC) medication, generally non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Tylenol, or ibuprophen. There are also a variety of prescription pain medications prescribed for severe and chronic migraine headaches that do not respond to OTC. These drug treatments, however, only address the symptoms of a migraine or headache, not the underlying cause.

Alternative Protocols. Alternative protocols for most headaches are generally more physically based: relaxation techniques, stress management, massage, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS–low levels of electricity stimulate the muscles to cause them to contract and then relax)—such forms of body work have shown to be very effective. Headache relief from these protocols indicate that the headache is structural in nature; so addressing the physical body can often offer relief to chronic suffers of tension headaches. Other therapies that have been affective are art therapy and guided meditation or imagery.

Chronic migraines, however, that do not respond to structural therapies, require a more in-depth look at the body and what could be triggering the migraines. Keeping a journal and identifying triggers is a first step, next is to identify food allergies, and finally look for trends and/or the metabolic action of any medications taken that could be a contributing factor.

Nutritional Protocols for Prevention and Treatment

Elimination Diet. Given that there are so many potential food irritants that can contribute to systemic inflammation and consequently headaches, one of the most effective first steps is to identify and eliminate those irritants. The Elimination Diet (or Challenge Diet) is an effective means to doing that; no blood test or doctors needed. An initial phase removes common food irritants and then slowly adds them back in, noting any negative reaction. The most common irritant foods are gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, yeast, and soy. Removing (at least) these food categories, along with eating a diet high in plant fiber, calms inflammation and gives the body a break.

An anti-inflammatory diet can also significantly help reduce body-wide inflammation and eliminate inflammation-related headaches. An anti-inflammation diet is two-fold, one part riding the body of irritants, removing processed foods, pollutants/toxins, and increasing foods that will reduce inflammation. Following are the anti-inflammation diet’s guidelines.

  • Avoid foods that cause inflammation:  trans fats (hydrogenated), carcinogens; most vegetable oils, fried foods, breads and other refined carbohydrates, packaged foods/microwave meals (processed foods), fast food, fruit juice beverages, sodas, and remove (or at least limit) nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers).
  • Eliminate sugar: refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, refined grains, sodas (diet and regular).
  • Embrace foods that reduce inflammation: omega 3s, antioxidants; olive oil, wild-caught cold water fish, fresh vegetables, low-glycemic fruits (berries), pasture-raised meats, game meat, mineral water.
  • Eliminate toxins by choosing organic produce, pasture-raised meats, dairy, eggs, and wild-caught cold water fish. This is one of the best first steps to reducing inflammation.
  • Wide variety of vegetables: this will increase nutrients via the countless phytonutrients vegetables provide.
  • Choose herbs and spices over table salt.
  • Use coconut oil and grapeseed oil for cooking, olive oil for salads, raw foods. These oils have a higher heat tolerance and will not go rancid.

Specific Nutrients for Headaches. The following supplements can help headache sufferers, especially if there are deficiencies, but if the underlying condition is a food allergy, the supplements cannot replace following an elimination and then anti-inflammatory diet.

  • Magnesium
  • 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Essential Fatty Acids, always and forever: every cell in the body needs good essential fatty acids, especially the brain.
  • Riboflavin can increase cellular energy production, which could potentially have preventative effects against migraines.
  • L-tryptophan to increase serotonin, L-tryptophan crosses the blood-brain barrier, which is necessary for serotonin to be made in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Willow bark extracts
  • Feverfew, can help to decrease the frequency and intensity of headaches & migraines.
  • Ginger. Anti-inflammatory and has significant effects against platelet aggregation.

It is possible. But not always an easy journey.

Currently, I only occasionally get migraines, at most (knock on wood) 2-3 times a year. The rest are mostly gone. I do still have a sensitivity to heat that causes some headaches, which I am working on and hope to have figured out soon. I’ve been through this headache journey, and I know there are answers to the signals the body gives us of dysfunction.

Eliminating these headaches took a lot of work and investigation on my part. There was no one answer. I had to work at it and keep track of my daily foods, stress, and pain levels. I learned I had to eliminate many foods that were irritating my systems and made significant changes to my lifestyle (stress management) that brought about headache-free days. I am a living example that committing to addressing intolerances, removing toxins, reducing stress, and learning what triggers headaches can greater improve the quality of life of headache sufferers.

On top of the world and FREE of brain pain.

On top of the world and FREE of brain pain.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources.

Spring up!

The tulips and hyacinths are pushing through dirt on my little chunk of land. I’ve gone to 5 yoga classes in 6 days and am feeling sore, but also a little bit stronger. Yoga and spring, right after a detox is all such great timing for me. Although, any time we make positive changes in our lives is great timing. Now that I’m feeling a little strength come back, I feel more motivated to do even more. Get outside in fresh air, reconnect with friends and family I haven’t seen in a while. Weed the garden.

Exercise is the other critical factor to good health. Nutrition and exercise work together so well. Our organs and bones will age with us, but we can do a lot to keep them strong and functioning well into old age through exercise and eating nutrient-dense, foods (a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, especially). Muscles, however, are another story. We lose muscle mass in old age because of inactivity, not because of aging (excluding a very few disease conditions). If we strength train when young, middle aged, or when elderly, it will benefit our strength, stability, digestion, moods, and of course that cute tush. Some moderate cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and good nutrition can set up a beautiful foundation for health, energy, and quality of life.

What do you do to stay motivated to exercise?

Happy hiker.

Happy hiker.

Forward we march

Post detox. My cravings were anxiously waiting for the end of the 21-day detox; the end arrived, and well, meh. I wasn’t so interested in binging, splurging, indulging, or otherwise reverting back to where I was. Yes, this is a good feeling. The feedback from the other detoxers is also exciting. The level of compliance varied, but so did the individual goals. Any change we can make toward eating more health-supportive foods is a great accomplishment. Here are the most common results from the fellowship:

  • Cut out some processed foods and drank less soda/alcohol
  • 100% compliant with the protocols
  • Increased energy levels
  • Weight lost (5-15lbs!)
  • More real food intake
  • Less processed food intake
  • Cholesterol levels were cut
  • Tummy aches, sinus issues, were eliminated
  • Sleep was deeper and more restful

Those were just a few of the most common results of this detox. But the one I love most of all: awareness. Awareness was increased around foods that heal and foods that make us sick, stuffed up, and inflamed. Of course, a detox isn’t the answer to all that causes ill, but it can be a start. It can help give the liver a break so that it can function better. Bigger issues can take longer to heal and require specific nutrients, and lots of patience.

My next personal challenge: 20 yoga classes at my local studio in April. I’ve been out of practice for a couple months, too laden down by work, school, other work, pups, life. But I’m going to take advantage of this sense of commitment and get back to it! It’s all part of the equation to live long, strong, and energetically.

What is your personal challenge this month?

Day 20.

20/21 One more day!

This past week was a nutritional monkey wrench for me. I caught a stomach virus and was severely limited to what I could tolerate to eat and drink. But don’t fear, I still stuck to the detox protocols! Although, it was also because the protocol was what was best for me. My tummy and conscious limited me to mostly meals of brown rice, apples, and ginger kombucha. The kombucha was a life saver, packed with good probiotics, energy-boosting B vitamins and enzymes that help make everything work. It’s definitely the best replacement I’ve found for the ‘flat soda’ that seems to be common.

Ginger is an excellent tummy settler. Everything from when you’re sick and nauseous to pregnant and having morning sickness. Ginger also helps with nasal congestion, settling a bloated-gas belly, improves the absorption and assimilation of essential nutrients in the body, and it’s even been known to be an aphrodisiac. wink-wink!

I knew it was time to move back to more substantial food when I started to get a headache. It was a clear signal from my body saying “OK, we’re done healing, now let’s get back to full speed.” Not that I recommend getting sick, but I have to admit, I feel fully cleansed having done an unplanned mini fast this week. And, it’s nice to know my immune system is working! It was pointed out to me yesterday that getting sick now and then is a good sign that the immune system is doing what it’s supposed to do, keep us healthy and strong.

I let breakfast this morning go to whatever I craved, within reason; I needed more nutrients, so almost ‘anything goes’. When I say ‘whatever I craved’, I always think about my cravings, and try to get to the root of the real need. Craving: Big burger, cheese, and fries? Analysis: I need some minerals and protein. Action: What’s the best source for that? I had some roasted ham (pasture raised, no nasty additives) and juiced up some carrots, a beet, half an apple, and a lemon. Result: Happily, I am feeling very satisfied!

Done, good, completely rebooted, and strong. I also feel like the sugar-craving devils have been reduced to little mini devils I can squash out easily.

How do you deal with cravings?