The holiday season can be for many of us, bitter sweet. Along with spending some quality time with friends or loved ones, sharing in gift giving and indulging in decadent treats, it can also trigger and invite some unwanted guests - stress, anxiety and depression. Indeed, the holidays present a dizzying array of demands with all of the baking, cleaning, spending, entertaining and time spent with some you'd rather just avoid. When the stress of this is at its peak, it can be difficult to stop and regroup. Incorporating the following practical and preventative stress relieving tips, may help you to enjoy the holidays greater than expected.
Tips to Ease and Prevent Holiday Stress, Anxiety and Depression:
1. Acknowledge and validate your feelings. If you have experienced loss in your life and the holidays trigger feelings of grief, recognize that it is absolutely normal to feel sadness at a time where sharing with loved ones is so heavily emphasized. Take time to cry and give voice to your feelings. Perhaps plan a memorial activity to do on your own or with others to commemorate your loved one's life. Check out this link for instructions on the Balloon Release: How to Use Balloons in Memory of Your Lost Loved One
Read more : http://www.ehow.com/how_5560227_use-memory-lost-loved-one.html
2. Be realistic with demands and expectations. Listen to the language of the body. If you have been experiencing a rise of physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive distress or overall exhaustion, these are often signals that you may need to re-evaluate expectations and emotional needs. Remember, the holidays do not have to be perfect. As families grow and adapt to new changes, traditions and rituals often transform as well. Choose those that are realistic to hold on to, and be open to collaborate on new ones.
3. Say no when necessary. Saying yes when you should say no only leaves us feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Friends, family and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every event. If it's not possible to say no, try to remove something else from your agenda that will balance out the loss of time.
4. Take a breather. Scheduling in some time for yourself without distractions, can help you to regroup. Simple strategies include:
o Lay down and listen to soothing music.
o Try out this Three-Minute Breathing Space Mediation: http://franticworld.com/free-meditations-from-mindfulness/
o Read a book.
5. Reach out or Seek professional help. If you are feeling a sense of loneliness or isolation, seek out community, religious or other social events for comfort and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others is also a good way to lift spirits and broaden friendships. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can find ourselves feeling persistently anxious, overwhelmed and sad, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, feeling agitated and hopeless. If these feelings last for a while, reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Let's Dig Deeper...
Yes the Star is right. Unregulated oils pose health risk. HOWEVER, they just hit the surface. Reality is, that most oils pose a health risk especially when exposed to light or when heated. There is so much to discuss when it comes to oils and thus I recommend you do your research, but for the sake of this post the overall truth is that you want to choose stable oils enough to resist chemical changes when heated in high temperatures or else you run the risk of damaging your health. You see, oils such as trans fats including vegetable oil and canola oil, are formed when hydrogen is added during its processing (hydrogenation), to keep if from spoiling, so that foods have a longer shelf life. Through this process, and when exposing these oils to heat, they actually become "rancid" due to oxidation (being exposed to oxygen). One of the ways cooking with vegetables oils can pose a threat to your health is by converting your good cholesterol into bad cholesterol - by oxidizing it which can directly lead to vascular disease. Research has also found that trans fats also contribute to cancer (heated oils are carcinogenic), bone problems, infertility and difficulties with lactation, neurological conditions such as learning disabilities, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Inflammation, ADD/ADHD, liver issues, growth problems, hormonal imbalance, skin conditions and many other degenerative diseases. Furthermore, many of these vegetable oils are made from genetically engineered crops and are then heavily processed. Therefore, not only is their oxidation, but these oils are containing other toxins such as glyphosate (found in Roundup) and Bt toxin found in genetically engineered corn and soy.
What oils should we be cooking with then?
Out of all of the oils on the market, coconut oils is the best choice for cooking as it is a saturated fat and thus less susceptible to heat damage. Don't be afraid of the term "saturated fat", it truly is the trans fats and hydrogenated oils that we want to avoid. Beyond being the best oil to utilize when cooking in heat, coconut oil contains so many other reasons to consume it, as it is antibacterial and a great way to slow down the release of glucose in the blood stream as well as the digestive process, to allow you to feel more satiated, while regulating your blood sugar levels. Coconut oil is also anti-inflammatory and promotes weight loss amongst many other amazing benefits.
What about Olive oil?
Once thought to be the healthiest oil to incorporate in the diet, researchers have now found that olive oil is not an oil we want to be cooking with. Although it is more stable than other oils, it contains an overabundance of oileic acid which can create imbalance and has been associated with increased risk for breast cancer, heart disease and oxidation. However, olive oil UNHEATED has many health benefits, so utilizing extra virgin ideally organic olive oil (in a black bottle to avoid oxidation) for salad dressings is a great way to incorporate healthy fat into your diet.
Homework for you...
Homework for all you readers: Go into your cupboards and pull out your jars of oils aka canola, olive or vegetable. Take a whiff and smell them. Do they smell rancid to you? Chances are they have a bit of a tar like smell. This is oxidization and you want to replace them immediately. Try to stick to olive oil and organic nut oils for dressing that are purchased in a black bottle to avoid oxidization from light, as well as coconut oil for cooking!
Have you ever experienced strong cravings to sugar, wheat or dairy? Ever struggled with the cycle of emotional eating, binge eating, preoccupation or fixation on food? I want you to truly hear me when I say, you are not alone and most importantly, that this is NOT all in your head or as simple as sheer "will" power. It is truly my passion to expose the facts around the foods that we are promoted, marketed and pushed towards consuming and the realities in how they are impacting us physiologically and psychologically. No.. it is not as simple as "just chew a piece of gum and walk around the block!" How feasible is that when our bodies and minds are screaming to be nourished? Unfortunately, we tend not to crave celery and broccoli in those moments, but there is science behind why that is and understanding this is truly where empowerment lies.
Now this post is not intended to freak you out about food. Quite the contrary. I am a total foodie and am the first to preach that we need to reconnect to food! In fact so many of us disassociate from our relationship with food due to convenience foods, our fast paced lifestyles and as a result of our "beauty" and image driven society. Indeed, a lot of shame has sifted into even the very act of eating in general, which impacts so many of us not only in relation to our feelings of self worth, but metabolically as well.
Well today I am eager for you to read and continue to educate yourself on the reality of food cravings and really, food addiction. I call it addiction because so many of the food and products being sold in our supermarkets today contain highly addictive substances that trigger an opiate like response in the pleasure centres of our brain, to which triggers a vicious cycle of cravings. Indeed, a whole array of research has now been investigating the realities of our food industry. One significant thought leader who I highly recommend you read up on is Michael Moss who exposed in his investigatory novel "Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked us", the extensive research and labour that actually goes into producing foods that create consumer demand. As Moss discusses, exact formulations of foods that are addictive such as junk foods and beverages, are not accidental, but methodically calculated and perfected by scientists, specifically hired by big corporate food companies, to establish what he calls the "bliss point", or the exact amount of sugar, fat and salt to which will guarantee to have consumers hooked. Ever eaten a "cheesie"? It's got that perfect cheese, salt, sweet, the perfect crunch and melt in your mouth like butter effect...that is science. Oh ya and the whole "betcha can't eat just one?" chip campaign?... yup science. They know you can't!
Following Michael Moss is an array of recent studies of the brain through MRI imaging that have demonstrated how the same areas in the brain light up when consuming high sugar "junk foods", as does those who were administered an opiate. In fact, exposure to especially palatable foods, such as cake and ice cream, has shown to activate several brain regions including the anterior insula and right orbitofrontal cortex which underlies the motivation to continue to eat despite feeling full.
As I mentioned in the previous post, sugar is the main culprit in terms of its affect on the brain and yet surfacing research has now shown how the breakdown of both wheat and dairy interestingly have similar effects on the brain as well. Indeed, several studies have shown that protein components of wheat and dairy (gluten and casein), when not fully or properly digested, breakdown into gluten exorphins and casmorphins peptides. These proteins and their molecular structures are closely related to the well known opiod, morphine, and exhibit many of its addictive properties. Once absorbed into the bloodstream, gluteomorphins and casomorphins cross the blood-brain barrier causing an opiate response in the brain that researchers say is similar to that of heroin or cocaine, based off of the behavioural responses that are associated. Most interestingly for me, is how several recent studies have detected large quantities of gluteo-morphins and casomorphins in the urine of those specifically suffering from schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, post-partum psychosis, epilepsy, depression, and some autoimmune problems, like rheumatoid arthritis. There is a reason why so many children who are autistic are being put on a gluten and casein free diet. Remove the casein and gluten and so many children with autism have had a reduction in what once were debilitating symptoms, some of whom have regained significant levels of functioning and speech.
The bottom line is educate yourself. Be a smart, conscious consumer. Spread the word and help to shift public recognition of the importance of sound nutrition on our bodies and mind. So many suffer with lack of access to healthy nutritious whole foods. So many financially just cannot afford organic produce and simply have to resort to cheep takeout or food banks to support their families. This is not a solution to our Nation's lack of policy on Food Security. In fact, it is total backwards thinking. Support your local community gardens, farmers and think consciously when you donate to food banks. Swap Kraft Dinner donations with dried beans, fresh produce, gift cards to grocery stores, etc. and most importantly, speak out about what you learn to help spread awareness and shift public recognition.
1. David H Epstein and Yavin Shaham, 2010. Cheescake-eating rats and the question of food addiction.
2.Millward C, Ferriter M, Calver S, Connell-Jones G. Gluten- and casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(2):CD003498.
Reichelt KL, Knivsberg AM. Can the pathophysiology of autism be explained by the nature of the discovered urine peptides? Nutr Neurosci. 2003 Feb;6(1):19-28.
3. MA Landgreme and AR Landgrebe, Celiac autism: calcium studies and their relationship to celiac disease in autistic patients, The Autistic Syndromes, Amsterdam: North Holland; New York; Elsevier, pp. 197-205
4. Alberti A, Pirrone P, Elia M, Waring RH, Romano C Sulphation deficit in “low-functioning” autistic children: a pilot study. Biol Psychiatry 1999 Aug 1;46(3):420-4.
5. Horvath K, Papadimitriou JC, Rabsztyn A, Drachenberg C, Tildon JT. Gastrointestinal Abnormalities in Children with Autistic Disorder. J Pediatr. 1999 Nov;135(5):559-63.
6. McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, Crumpler D, Dalen L, Grimshaw K, Kitchin E, Lok K, Porteous L, Prince E, Sonuga-Barke E, O Warner J, Stevenson J. “Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.” Lancel. Published Online, September 6, 2007. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61306-3.
7. Micheal Moss - Salt, Sugar, Fat Politics - How the Food Giants Hooked us
8. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD - Gut and Psychology Syndrome
9. Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Hoien T, Nodland M. A randomised, controlled study of dietary intervention in autistic syndromes. Nutr Neurosci. 2002 Sep;5(4):251-61.
Many suffer in silence with their addiction to various foods, one in particular; sugar. Indeed, there continues to be a lack of awareness of sugar as a form of addiction, despite the scientific research that exists. Several studies for instance, have shown that sugar can cause an opiate-like response in the brain, crossing the blood brain barrier and hitting our reward pleasure centre. This is perpetuated by a diet high in sugar, which can cause blood sugar fluctuations and thus increased sugar cravings. Imagine for a minute you've just eaten your morning breakfast bagel. At the beginning you may feel an energy boost. Yet, internally this high amount of sugar in the blood, causes the body to release insulin resulting in an energy "crash", or state of "hyperglycemia". This is when cravings tend to set in, as the body calls on us to search for the quickest form of energy, which typically includes sugary, carbohydrate dense foods: cookies, bread, candies and cakes! Although there may be more going on unique to your physiology that can contribute to sugar cravings, the take home message here, is that it isn't all in your head. That it is not all about "will power" and that you are not alone.
Important to note are the emotional effects that our body's response to sugar can cause as well which can perpetuate feelings of shame, increased cravings and addiction to sugar. For instance, when in a state of hypoglycemia, associated symptoms also include;
Next time you are feeling anxious or low, ask yourself what have I eaten today? Have I skipped a meal? Is there a blood sugar imbalance at play? Supporting your body with nutrient dense, whole foods while reducing sugar intake, can help make choice more manageable as your cravings decrease and your mood elevates. The following healthy foods help make this happen:
Making the change to reduce sugar can often bring up emotions. Some have noted actually going through a "grieving" process when cutting out sugary foods that were no longer serve them. Having support as you journey through this is essential and receiving guidance from a counselor that understands the food-mood connection can assist in working through the patterns and stories that often go hand in hand with our physical attachment to the foods that we eat.
A good friend of mine sent me this cartoon and its just so powerful that I have to share. The message in this cartoon reinforces the innate inner strength that we all possess and can tap into at any point in time. Just love this!
Have you ever experienced butterflies in your stomach?
An undeniable "gut instinct" or "gut feeling"?
There's a reason these sayings have come to be and that is the rising scientific recognition that there lies a connection and interplay between our brain, our thoughts our feelings and our gut physiology - the "Gut-Brain Axis". The idea that the gut, can not only affect us physiologically, but can affect the mind, as neuroimmunologist John Bienenstock (MD of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario) states, "has just catapulted onto the scene". OR has it? Just over 200 years ago, Hippocrates stated the all famous quote...
"All disease begins in the gut".
Recent studies have now proven that the human gut contains what they've coined as our "second brain", which is housed under the mucosal lining and between the muscular layers of the esophagus, the stomach and the small and large intestines. Our second brain or the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) within our gut, contains a complex network of neurons and neurochemicals that are able to sense and control events in other parts of the body, including our brains. In fact the number of nerve cells in the second "gut" brain, is significantly greater than the number of nerve cells in the spinal cord! What connects these responses is a communication from the brain to the gut and vice versa, through what is known as the Vagus Nerve, which within our gut is surrounded by a host of over 100 trillion microorganisms and bacteria, collectively referred to as the microbiome. This microbiome of flourishing bacteria, influence neural development, brain chemistry and wide range of behavioral responses, such as emotional behavior, pain perception and how our stress response system functions. So sophisticated is this neural network of bacteria, that it can continue to perform its functions even if the Vagus Nerve is severed!
More reasons why our gut bacteria so essential to how we are thinking and feeling emotionally and physiologically:
Briefly stated, if we are stressed, our body's go into what is known as "fight or flight", which draws our blood flow away from our digestive system to our extremities, our muscles, our heart etc., in order to survive a state to which the body is identifying as a threat. Consequently, this impairs the breakdown of our food, causing digestive distress which results in undigested food entering the intestinal system and thus compromising our healthy microbiome of bacteria. Poorly digested sugars from carbohydrates for instance (the dissacharides) will eventually cause bad bacteria and pathogens to begin to produce and flourish taking over good bacteria and causing a host of symptoms, which I'll save for another post! Ultimately, we must consider how we can make stress management a priority in our lives as it directly affects our gut health, which we now know has a direct effect on our brain and mental health!
Do you or someone you know suffer from a high stress lifestyle, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn's Disease, Anxiety, Depression, Schizophrenia, Bi Polar, Eating Disorders, Addictions, ADD/ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder? They may be experiencing an underlying compromised microbiome and gut health that can be supported and rebalanced.
Although seeking a holistic nutritionist for a diet plan tailored to your individual and unique biochemical makeup can be greatly beneficial for supporting your journey to improved physical and mental health, here are some important steps you can take to protect and flourish your good bacteria and support gut health for improved mental health:
The important take home message here, is that we can no longer compartmentalize and disconnect the body from the mind (or the spirit for that matter - but that's a later topic ;)...). If we hope to begin to adopt lasting lifestyle changes and improve our state of physical and emotional wellbeing, we must first understand, the full picture and the underlying imbalances at play that may require addressing. Remember knowledge is power. The more you become in tune with your body, your mind and their interplay, the greater your potential to reaching your balance, your vitality and all that you dream to aspire or acquire in this journey of life. Never stop learning!