Deanna's Blog

How stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals 
 
You probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that more stress and stress hormones promote weight gain, would you?
 
But what exactly is stress, and how does it keep you from your weight loss goals?
 
In fact, there are actually many links between stress hormones and weight.  We’ll talk about six major reasons how stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals. These include the effect stress has on digestion and gut health, inflammation and the immune system. Stress can cause cravings, increased appetite, and “stress eating.” It can promote fat storage around the waist with its effect on insulin sensitivity. Stress can also be mood-busting and demotivating, not to mention how it worsens sleep. 
 
All of these can work to keep you from your weight loss goals.
 
Let’s go over the effects of stress and stress hormones, and exactly how they all tie into weight loss. Then we’ll end off with two strategies (and several of my best tips) how to manage stress. 
 
Because, as you know, weight loss isn’t just about calories.
 
WHAT IS STRESS?
 
When you hear the word “stress” do you think it’s dangerous or unhealthy?
 
In actual fact, stress itself is a totally normal response to a sense of danger. It can be your friend or foe.
 
You usually can’t fully control it. It’s your body’s way of protecting you with the “fight or flight” reaction. It can help you survive.
 
Stress can help you to become more focused and have energy when facing an immediate threat. This infrequent short-term stress can help you to run to your kid when (s)he is hurt, or avoid a collision. It can even help you to meet deadlines or get to appointments on time when running late. It’s also what makes some people enjoy roller coasters or dangerous activities (skydiving anyone?). Have you heard the term “adrenaline junkie?”
 
These are examples of infrequent short-lived stress called “acute” stress, or even “good” stress. And when the situation is over, the stress fades and your body goes back to normal. Ideally, this is how stress should be, infrequent and short-lived. The problem is that in today’s society, many people feel stress often, and for a long time. It’s neither infrequent nor short-lived. It’s more “constant” or “chronic.”
 
This is different.
 
This can be from having or caring for someone with a major illness, or long-term relationship problems.  Maybe you have a crummy and long commute to a not-so-awesome job every single day.
 
And that chronic stress (“bad” stress) can affect you in so many ways. It can affect your digestion, moods, and sleep. And, not surprisingly, it can affect your ability to lose weight. In fact, studies show that chronic stress is associated with obesity and metabolic disease. And this is especially true for women. Women are at greater risk for stress-induced emotional eating, and obesity.
 
This kind of stress can negatively affect your digestion, your mood, your health...and keep you from your weight loss goals.
 
SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
 
When your body senses danger (real or imagined), it immediately reacts with the “fight or flight” reaction to help you...well, “fight” or “flee”.
 
Things essential for survival are prioritized. Things like perception, decision making, and energy for your muscles. The other “rest and digest” functions are put on the backburner until the stress levels start fading.
 
You probably know how stress affects you. Do you get cravings or indigestion? Do you feel more aches and pains, or get sick? Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you have more difficulty losing weight?
 
Let’s touch on the physical effects of stress, and then dig into how these effects can keep you from your weight loss goals.
 
STRESS RESPONSE - NERVES AND HORMONES
 
Stress-related symptoms are from the physiological effects of stress. Basically, how it affects our nervous system and hormones.
 
Both of these have profound effects on the body because they’re trying to help you save your (or someone else’s) life.
 
First up, the nervous system. The “fight or flight” part of your nervous system that is activated by stress is called the “sympathetic” nervous system. This part of your nervous system is usually (ideally) nice and quiet. It’s on “standby” until needed.
On the other hand, there is the “rest and digest” part of your nervous system called the “parasympathetic” nervous system. 
 
So, as you can imagine, when you have chronic stress your body isn’t doing much resting or digesting. And both of these are important for optimal health...and weight.
 
Secondly, let’s talk stress hormones. Have you heard of “cortisol” and “adrenaline?” These hormones are released by your adrenal glands. Adrenal glands look like little walnuts on top of each kidney, and they release a number of hormones, including these stress hormones. 
 
STRESS HORMONES
 
When you perceive danger (real or imagined), this starts a hormone cascade that moves from your brain to your adrenal glands. It’s basically like when a bunch of people are in a circle and they’re passing the ball to the person beside them. But with stress hormones.
 
First, a part in the brain called the “hypothalamus” gets your nervous system ready. It also releases a hormone to trigger the next hormone in the cascade. (Here’s the first pass of the ball.)
 
Second, when the pituitary gland (also in the brain) gets that hormone, it releases a different hormone to trigger the next hormones in the cascade. (Here’s the second pass of the ball.)
 
Third, when your adrenal glands (on your kidneys) get that signal, they release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Here’s where things get interesting.
 
The fancy name for this connection between the brain’s hormones and adrenal hormones is called the “hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis”, or the HPA Axis. 
 
There is more and more research that shows a link between a dysregulation (improperly functioning) of the HPA Axis, and its association with insulin resistance and abdominal obesity. And, ideally, you want to minimize insulin resistance and abdominal obesity, right?
 
The stress hormone cortisol affects many things in our bodies. Things like digestion and gut health, inflammation. hunger hormones, insulin release and sensitivity, mood, and sleep. All of these that are affected by stress hormones can also affect your weight.
 
STRESS HORMONES AND WEIGHT
 
We now see that there are many, many effects that stress hormones, mainly cortisol, have on your body. Including the link that people with abdominal obesity tend to have higher cortisol levels.
 
Let’s dive into each one and see how stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals.
 
1 - Poor Digestion and Gut Health
 
As mentioned already, being in a state of stress puts digestion on the back burner. This is because your body is ready to “fight or flee,” rather than “rest and digest.”
 
One of the most obvious impacts stress has on digestion is “transit time.” You may notice that stress can either quickly speed up how fast your food moves through you (diarrhea). Or, it may slow it down quite a bit (constipation). Neither one of these is ideal.
 
So, even if you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, you may become nutrient deficient! And proper nutrition is needed at the best of times, let alone when you’re stressed and trying to lose weight.
 
New research is also showing the impact that stress has on our friendly gut microbes. We’re just beginning to understand the influence that our gut microbes have on all aspects of health, including weight loss. It may be surprising to know that there seems to be a link between stress and gut microbes (in animals). Seriously!
 
Stress is also linked with tiny holes or “leaks” in your digestive tract. This means that incompletely digested food particles can get into your body through these leaks. This can cause a ton of inflammation.
 
Which leads us to the second major way stress keeps you from your weight loss goals.
 
2 - Inflammation and immune system dysregulation
 
Guess where 80% of your immune system is located?
 
Right around your digestive tract!
 
So, you can imagine if chronic stress is messing with your digestion, it’s going to also mess with your immune system.
 
More and more research is suggesting that inflammation is part of many chronic diseases. When you’re chronically stressed, this affects your immune system which is supposed to control inflammation. It can make your immune system either hypervigilant, or less-responsive. And both of these can keep you from reaching your weight loss goals.
 
If your immune system is hypervigilant, you can develop high inflammatory levels.
 
If your immune system is less-responsive, it can allow your body to get sick more often, and stay sick longer.
 
For optimal health, and the ability to lose weight, you want your immune system to work properly (not too high, nor too low).
 
3 - Cravings, increased appetite, and “stress eating”
 
When you’re stressed do you reach for celery? Or do you prefer fatty or sugary snacks?
 
Many people tend to eat more food, particularly comfort food. Things that tend to be fatty and sugary. And there is science to back this up.
 
Scientists are now looking at interactions between stress hormones and the “hunger” and “fullness” hormones.
 
I don’t even have to tell you how this is going to keep you from your weight loss goals.
 
4 - Insulin sensitivity
 
Stress also increases your blood sugar, to make sure that your muscles have the fuel (sugar) they need to “fight” or “flee.” And if your muscles are not working and using up that excess blood sugar (i.e. you’re not running for your life), your body secretes insulin to re-absorb that sugar into your cells. 
 
This increase in both cortisol and insulin promote both insulin resistance and fat storage. Especially around the middle.
 
5 - Mood-busting and demotivating
 
Stress can not only bring down your mood, but that can also be terribly demotivating. When you’re feeling stressed, you may start feeling moody. You may also have less motivation to do the healthy weight loss activities that you really want to do.
 
If you’re down in the dumps and not motivated to prepare healthy meals or snacks, or get some exercise, then you’re less likely to do those things.
 
And we all know how important they are for weight loss.
 
6 - Negatively affects sleep
 
Cortisol is part of your natural sleep-wake cycle. Under normal (non-stressed) conditions, cortisol levels would increase before waking, and slowly drop during the day.
 
And this makes sense, because we know that it helps increase mental clarity as well as blood sugar to fuel your muscles. And we need mental clarity and to move our muscles, especially when we are awake.
 
But we also need this effect to “wear off” by the end of the day so we can start getting tired and relaxed enough to get a good night’s sleep. In other words, in the evenings, we want to start more resting and digesting.
 
And getting enough sleep is probably a more common reason why people don’t reach weight loss goals than most people think. Science is showing the links between not getting enough quality sleep and obesity.
 
Now that we’ve gone through six major reasons how stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals, let’s talk about what the heck you can do about it.
 
STRESS-REDUCING TIPS
 
I’d love to help you manage your stress better so that you can meet your weight loss goals.
 
There are really two main strategies to go about reducing your stress. 
 
First off, you can reduce the amount of stress put on you by re-balancing some demands. Try:
Saying “no”;
Getting more support;
Delegating to someone else;
Re-negotiating deadlines that seem unreasonable;
When working, focus on just one thing at a time (don’t multi-task).
 
Secondly, since you can’t (and maybe don’t want to) completely remove stress from you life, you want to learn to deal with it better. You can improve your personal stress tolerance by trying to:
Have some fun and laugh;
Make time for people (and pets) you love;
Get more, better-quality sleep;
Be mindful and live more “in the moment”;
Have one or two cups of green tea (which has been shown to lower stress levels);
Do light exercise most days per week (e.g. yoga, swimming, or tai chi);
Go for a walk outside;
Spend more time in nature;
Eat a nutrient-rich diet;
Meditate or deep breathing;
Relax every evening (e.g. have a bath or read a book);
Listen to soothing music;
Do a “brain dump” every night before bed where you just make notes of things you’re keeping track of in your head so you can relax more;
Treat yourself to a massage, nice meal, or pedicure.
 
SUMMARY
 
Stress has six major effects that can keep you from your weight loss goals. It affects digestion and gut health, inflammation and the immune system. Stress can cause cravings, increased appetite, and “stress eating.” It can promote fat storage around the waist with its effect on insulin sensitivity. Stress can be mood-busting and demotivating, not to mention how it worsens sleep.
 
All of these effects can keep you from your weight loss goals. Definitely try some of the many ways to deal with stress, but also try to reduce some of the causes of stress in your life.
 
Your mind and body will thank you!
 
REFERENCES
 
Brzozowski B, Mazur-Bialy A, Pajdo R, Kwiecien S, Bilski J, Zwolinska-Wcislo M, Mach T, Brzozowski T. Mechanisms by which Stress Affects the Experimental and Clinical Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Role of Brain-Gut Axis. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2016;14(8):892-900.
 
Chao AM, Jastreboff AM, White MA, Grilo CM, Sinha R. Stress, cortisol, and other appetite-related hormones: Prospective prediction of 6-month changes in food cravings and weight. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Apr;25(4):713-720. doi: 10.1002/oby.21790.
 
Chen WQ, Zhao XL, Hou Y, Li ST, Hong Y, Wang DL, & Cheng YY. Protective effects of green tea polyphenols on cognitive impairments induced by psychological stress in rats. Behav Brain Res. 2009 Aug 24;202(1):71-6.
 
Clarke G, Stilling RM, Kennedy PJ, Stanton C, Cryan JF, & Dinan TG. Minireview: Gut microbiota: the neglected endocrine organ. Mol Endocrinol. 2014 Aug;28(8):1221-38. doi: 10.1210/me.2014-1108.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24892638
 
Fernandez-Rodriguez E, Stewart PM & Cooper MS. The pituitary–adrenal axis and body composition. Pituitary 12 (2009):105–115 DOI 10.1007/s11102-008-0098-2
 
Hewagalamulage SD., Lee TK., Clarke IJ. & Henry BA. Stress, cortisol, and obesity: a role for cortisol responsiveness in identifying individuals prone to obesity. Domest Anim Endocrinol. 2016;56 Suppl:S112-20. doi: 10.1016/j.domaniend.2016.03.004. 

Incollingo Rodriguez AC, Epel ES, White ML, Standen EC, Seckl JR & Tomiyama AJ. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation and cortisol activity in obesity: A systematic review. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Dec;62:301-18. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.08.014.
 
Kolbe, I., Dumbell, R. & Oster, H. (2015). Circadian Clocks and the Interaction between Stress Axis and Adipose Function. Int J Endocrinol. 2015:693204. doi: 10.1155/2015/693204.
 
Lucassen EA, Cizza G. The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, Obesity, and Chronic Stress Exposure: Sleep and the HPA Axis in Obesity. Curr Obes Rep. 2012 Dec;1(4):208-215.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3498460/?report=reader
 
Michopoulos V. Stress-induced alterations in estradiol sensitivity increase risk for obesity in women. Physiol Behav. 2016;166:56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.05.016.
 
Pasquali R, Vicennati V, Cacciari M & Pagotto U. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Annual NY Academic Science, 1083, 2006;111–128. doi: 10.1196/annals.1367.009
 
Schorr M, Lawson EA, Dichtel LE, Klibanski A, Miller KK. Cortisol Measures Across the Weight Spectrum. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Sep;100(9):3313-21. doi: 10.1210/JC.2015-2078.

 

 
 
There may not be an obvious link between sleep deprivation and your weight, but more and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your mood, mental performance, overall health and wellness, and especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.
 
Many studies show that people who have a short sleep duration simply weigh more. And, in fact, as the levels of chronic (long-term) sleep deprivation have increased over the past 50 years, so have the growing epidemics of being overweight or obese.
 
And many studies now agree that lack of sleep is an “independent” risk factor (i.e. a direct risk) for weight gain and obesity. 
 
Especially for women.
 
One large analysis of 45 studies which included over 600,000 people says, “studies from around the world show a consistent increased risk of obesity amongst short sleepers in children and adults.” The increased risks were 89% for children and 55% for adults.
 
The overall data in that study suggests that a reduction in one hour of sleep per day would be associated with about 1.4 kg in additional weight.
 
Right now, 40% of American adults say that they get less than 7 hours of sleep per night, and 7 hours is the minimum recommended nightly sleep, with 9 being the maximum.
 
HOW SLEEP DEPRIVATION LEADS TO WEIGHT GAIN
 
Overall, there are two main ways (with two factors each) that we think that lack of sleep contributes to weight gain and obesity.
 
First, it increases calorie intake in two ways.
It allows more time available to eat; and 
It messes with your hunger hormones.
 
Second, it decreases your ability to burn off calories in two ways. 
It can slow your metabolism; and 
It can cause fatigue and, therefore, reduced physical activity.
 
Let’s talk about all four of these factors.
 
LACK OF SLEEP INCREASES TIME AVAILABLE TO EAT
 
Some researchers suggest that the longer the time you’re awake, the more opportunity you have to eat, or more specifically, to snack. In fact, some studies have shown that these tend to be nighttime snacks.
 
And guess what many sleep-deprived people tend to snack on at night?
 
You guessed it...high-fat, sometimes high-carb, and less protein and fibre snacks.
 
Which, of course, can lead to weight gain.
 
And, at least one study shows that eating at night increases the time it takes (healthy people) to fall asleep. Especially for women. So there is a bit of a “vicious cycle” in play here.
 
LACK OF SLEEP MESSES WITH YOUR HUNGER HORMONES
 
Many people who sleep less tend to eat more calories throughout the day. And not only due to increased time available for snacking, but also because of how lack of sleep can mess with the hormones that control both hunger and appetite.  
 
How does this happen? 
 
This is a “double-whammy” because some studies show that lack of sleep not only increases the stomach’s hunger hormone “ghrelin” (making you hungrier), but it also decreases the fat tissue’s fullness hormone “leptin” (making you feel less full).
 
These changes can clearly lead to more eating, and eventually weight gain or even obesity.
 
It’s possible that this is a natural mechanism that our body uses to make sure we get enough food for longer waking times. But this doesn’t always serve us well, as it tends to make us “overshoot” our energy needs and take in a bit more than we actually need.
 
LACK OF SLEEP MAY SLOW YOUR METABOLISM
 
Research is just emerging on this topic, but it seems to show that sleep deprivation can lower your “energy expenditure” and body temperature?
 
This means that your body may naturally burn less fuel at rest during the days when you’re sleep deprived.
 
When you burn less, you store more.
 
LACK OF SLEEP REDUCES EXERCISE
 
You know how tired you feel after not getting enough sleep?
 
This is the fourth way that lack of sleep affects weight.
 
By increasing fatigue, sleep deprivation can reduce the motivation to exercise. 
 
And when you’re burning less fuel at rest (slower metabolism), and less likely to exercise, you’re at risk of gaining weight.
 
WANT TO KNOW THE GREAT NEWS?
 
Lack of sleep is considered a “modifiable risk factor”.
 
This means that, although it increases our risk for obesity, we have some power over it.
 
How well you sleep and how much sleep you get is something that you can improve by putting into place some tips and making them regular habits.
 
TIPS FOR GETTING BETTER SLEEP
 
1 - Make sleep a priority.

 Let’s admit that, for a lot of us, the lack of sleep we’re getting is often because we simply give other activities priority. Making something a priority will help you achieve it.


 
2 - Be consistent with your sleeping times.

Your body loves routine, and having a consistent bedtime can actually train your brain, your body’s clock (circadian rhythm), and sleep hormones to follow suit.


 
3 - Eliminate stimulants after noon.

 Ideally, you won’t expose your body to chemical stimulation for the whole afternoon and evening. This includes caffeine (coffee, black and green teas, chocolate) and nicotine (cigarettes).
 
4 - Get some exercise and sunshine during the day.

 Of course, exercise and sunshine have many health benefits. They also tell your brain that it’s daytime, so it can help to set your body’s clock.

 Tip: Be sure to finish exercise at least three hours before bedtime, as it may stimulate some people and keep them awake.


 
5 - Stop eating and drinking a couple of hours before bed

By cutting out your bedtime snack you will eat fewer calories, and you may even have a better night’s sleep and wake up more alert. Also, by not drinking fluids a few hours before bed you’ll reduce the need to go the bathroom in the middle of the night.
 
6 - Lower your lights when the sun goes down

If your brain thinks it’s daytime it will not make the sleep hormone melatonin so it can stay awake. So, having bright white (or blue-ish) lights can trick your brain into thinking that it’s daytime. 
So, you can dim your lights, buy amber/red light bulbs and/or blue-blocker glasses, turn off electronics (or at least use the f.lux or twilight apps), and if you do need to go to the bathroom during the night, don’t turn on the light. 
 

7 - Create a relaxing pre-bed routine.

 Choose something that you enjoy and will help to relax your body and mind and prepare it for a good night’s sleep, whether it be a warm bath, or reading a book.

 When you start feeling drowsy, just go to bed.


 
8 - Keep your bedroom comfortable.Having a room that is too hot, bright, or noisy can keep you from having a good night’s sleep. Ideally, your room will be cool, completely dark, and either silent or with white noise.


 
9 - Get light as soon as you wake up.  

Turn on the lights or open the blinds as soon as you wake. This tells your brain to wake up and start the day. 
 
 
REFERENCES
 
Cappuccio FP, Taggart FM, Kandala N-B, et al. Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults. Sleep. 2008;31(5):619-626.
 
Crispim CA, Zimberg IZ, dos Reis BG, Diniz RM, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Relationship between food intake and sleep pattern in healthy individuals. J Clin Sleep Med. 2011 Dec 15;7(6):659-64. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.1476.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3227713/
 
Dashti HS, Scheer FA, Jacques PF, Lamon-Fava S, Ordovás JM. Short sleep duration and dietary intake: epidemiologic evidence, mechanisms, and health implications. Adv Nutr. 2015 Nov 13;6(6):648-59. doi: 10.3945/an.115.008623. Print 2015 Nov.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4642416/
 
Di Milia L, Vandelanotte C, Duncan MJ. The association between short sleep and obesity after controlling for demographic, lifestyle, work and health related factors. Sleep Med. 2013 Apr;14(4):319-23. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2012.12.007. Epub 2013 Feb 16.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23419528
 
Lucassen EA, Rother KI, Cizza G. Interacting epidemics? Sleep curtailment, insulin resistance, and obesity. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012 Aug;1264:110-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06655.x. Epub 2012 Jul 24.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3418485/
 
Markwald RR, Melanson EL, Smith MR, et al. Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2013;110(14):5695-5700. doi:10.1073/pnas.1216951110.
 
McHill AW, Wright KP Jr. Role of sleep and circadian disruption on energy expenditure and in metabolic predisposition to human obesity and metabolic disease. Obes Rev. 2017 Feb;18 Suppl 1:15-24. doi: 10.1111/obr.12503.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28164449
 
Patel SR, Hu FB. Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Mar;16(3):643-53. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.118. Epub 2008 Jan 17.
LINK:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2007.118/full
 
Shlisky JD, Hartman TJ, Kris-Etherton PM, Rogers CJ, Sharkey NA, Nickols-Richardson SM. Partial sleep deprivation and energy balance in adults: an emerging issue for consideration by dietetics practitioners. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Nov;112(11):1785-97. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.07.032.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23102177/
 
Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Med. 2004 Dec;1(3):e62. Epub 2004 Dec 7.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/
Friday, 26 May 2017 14:12

Probiotics for Moods and Stress? Yes!

Written by
 
 
What do you do when your mood is off or you’re stressed to the max?

 Eat ice cream? Binge watch Netflix? Call your bestie?

 After reading this article, you may consider yogurt, a handful of walnuts, or maybe even some dark chocolate as your go-to mood-boosters and stress-busters.

Today, we’ll unpack some of the exciting (and preliminary) new research about the link between your gut health and moods/stress. 
 
We’ll talk about your friendly resident gut microbes (mostly bacteria), probiotic foods and supplements, as well as foods to feed those gut microbes and probiotics (aka “prebiotics”). 

WHAT THE HECK ARE “GUT MICROBES?  ”

Oh, our friendly “gut microbes.” 

They are the trillions of microbes that happily live in our gut. They help us by digesting foods, making vitamins, and even protecting us from the not-so-friendly microbes that may get in there.

Believe it or not, these friendly microbes have mood-boosting and stress-busting functions too!

FUN FACT: There are more microbes
 
FUN FACT: There are more microbes inside our gut than all of the human cells that make us. Yup, we’re more than half microbe! So, how can they NOT impact our health?

It’s a hotbed of research right now and we’re finding out more about their awesome health, and mood/stress benefits every day.

And, while the research is just starting to figure out the many gut microbe-brain connections, it’s such a cool new topic that I couldn’t wait to share it with you!

GUT MICROBES AND PROBIOTICS

The microbes that live in our guts are known as our “gut microbiota”. 
 
The microbes that we can ingest are known as “probiotics”.

“Probiotics” are live organisms that you can eat, drink, or take as a supplement. They’re what turn milk into yogurt, and cabbage into sauerkraut; and they are great for both your gut health and mental health.

Special probiotics that have mental health benefits are called “psychobiotics,” (psycho = mental health, and biotics = live). They’re live organisms that can benefit our psyche.

So, what’s the link between gut microbes, probiotics, and moods/stress?

  BAD MOODS/STRESS CAN MEAN BAD MICROBES

.  Stress can affect our friendly gut microbes.

 Several studies show that stressed rodents not only have increased stress hormones and stressed behaviours; but, they also have different gut microbes!

And this has been studied, to a small extent, in people too.

 One study showed that moms with high levels of stress hormones during pregnancy had infants with more of the “bad” gut microbes. 

But, can it work the other way around? Can changing our gut microbes affect our moods and stress responses?

Studies of rodents that grow up without any gut microbes at all (in a “bacteria-free” environment) respond to stress more than mice with normal gut microbes. Then, when they’re given either a probiotic or gut microbes from non-stressed mice, their stress responses often go back to normal.

The gut microbe, probiotic, and mood/stress connections are starting to get interesting, aren’t they?

  BAD MICROBES CAN MEAN BAD MOODS
 

“Gut microbiota and probiotics alter behavior and brain neurochemistry.” (Ait-Belgnaoui, et. al., 2012)

That’s a pretty powerful statement, don’tcha think?

Many animal studies show positive effects on behaviour when they get probiotic supplements.

For example, after a probiotic, stressed rats had lower levels of both stress hormones and an inflammatory molecule associated with depression (“LPS” - lipopolysaccharide).
 
 
One fascinating study showed that when people took probiotics, brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) tests showed reduced brain activity for negative and aggressive thoughts!

So, as you can see, there is some exciting research on the positive effect that probiotics can have on moods and stress.
 
You might be wondering how exactly your gut can influence your moods...
 
HOW IS THIS GUT-BRAIN CONNECTION POSSIBLE?
 
It may not seem obvious or intuitive, but your body is interconnected in many ways.
 
And more and more research is figuring out the “microbiota-gut-brain axis.” It’s the very complex connection between your gut, its microbes, and your brain.
 
This new field has been called a “paradigm shift in neuroscience” (Dinan, 2017).
 
In fact, there are a number of ways that we’re beginning to understand how our gut microbes can affect our brain.
 
One is via the “vagus” nerve, which is a nerve that directly connects your gut to your brain. 
 
The other ways are through “biochemical messengers.” Biochemicals that are made in your gut and travel through the body to communicate with other parts, including your brain. Biochemicals like short chain fatty acids, cytokines, and even tryptophan (the amino acid that the neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin are made from).
 
The exciting thing is that this may help us with not only moods and stress, but the microbiota-gut-brain axis may one day prove to be helpful for other conditions like autism and Parkinson’s.
 
So, your trillions of gut microbes seem to be more closely interconnected with our moods than we used to think.

So, what can you do to nurture your own healthy gut microbes?
 
HOW TO NURTURE HEALTHY GUT MICROBES - PROBIOTICS
 
First, eat (and drink) probiotics. 
 
Probiotics can be eaten in yogurt, sauerkraut (and other fermented veggies), miso, tempeh, and kimchi. You can drink them in kefir or kombucha. Be sure to choose unpasteurized ones that will be refrigerated in your local grocer. 

Of course, there are a number of probiotic supplements available too. Look for one that’s refrigerated and has at least 10 billion active cultures. I also suggest you look for one that has been “third party tested,” which means someone outside the company has tested it and says it’s a quality product.

  Oh, and always read the label before taking any supplements.

 The probiotics with the most research are of the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus types. But we still don’t know enough about the psychobiotic effects to make specific mood-boosting recommendations...just yet.
 
HOW TO NURTURE HEALTHY GUT MICROBES - PREBIOTICS
 
Second, consider that our resident gut microbes don’t just live inside us to help us - they get something out of the deal too.

Food!

PREbiotics are “compounds that, when fermented in the gut, produce specific changes in bacterial composition or activity”. They are your friendly gut microbes’ favourite delicacies so they’ll happily grow, and multiply. 
 
Prebiotics are basically foods that contain fibre. Things like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Even dark chocolate (preferably with at least 70% cocoa).
 
Giving animals prebiotics can reduce stress hormones and anxiety-related behaviours.
, and in people, studies show that taking psychobiotic's along with prebiotics can improve both the microbes in our gut, as well as our mood. 
 
How amazing is that?

CONCLUSION

The science behind interactions of gut microbes and mental health is still new and ongoing. Much of it is in rodents, with a few studies in people. Some show interesting links and promising potential to help with moods and other areas of mental and brain health.
 
CONCLUSION

:  The science behind interactions of gut microbes and mental health is still new and ongoing. Much of it is in rodents, with a few studies in people. Some show interesting links and promising potential to help with moods and other areas of mental and brain health.
 
More research, especially in humans, is needed; so I’ll be on the lookout for new studies in this young and promising area of mood-boosting and stress-busting nutrition.

What if one day we were able to help mental health by fixing gut health? What an amazing, and less moody, a world that could be!
 
Try eating more probiotics like in yogurt, kefir, miso, kimchi, and kombucha. Consider taking probiotic supplements (making sure you read the label and follow directions).
 
And don’t forget their favourite foods called prebiotics. Those are in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds (and even dark chocolate). 
 
Optimize your gut for more than just gut health, but mood-boosting and stress-busting too.
 
Buh bye blah moods.
 
REFERENCES
 
Ait-Belgnaoui, A., Durand, H., Cartier, C., Chaumaz, G., Eutamene, H., Ferrier, L., Houdeau, E., Fioramonti, J., Bueno, L. & Theodorou, V. (2012). Prevention of gut leakiness by a probiotic treatment leads to attenuated HPA response to an acute psychological stress in rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 37(11):1885-95. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.03.024.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22541937
 
Bailey, M.T., Dowd, S.E., Galley, J.D., et al. (2011). Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation. Brain Behav Immun. 25(3):397–407.
 
Bharwani A, Mian MF, Foster JA, et al. (2016). Structural & functional consequences of chronic psychosocial stress on the microbiome & host. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 63:217–227.
 
Cryan, J.F. (2016). Stress and the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: An Evolving Concept in Psychiatry. 
Can J Psychiatry. 61(4):201-3. doi: 10.1177/0706743716635538. 
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4794959/
 
De Palma, G., Blennerhassett, P., Lu, J., Deng, Y., Park, A.J., Green, W., Denou, E., Silva, M.A., Santacruz, A., Sanz, Y., Surette, M.G., Verdu, E.F., Collins, S.M. & Bercik, P. (2015). Microbiota and host determinants of behavioural phenotype in maternally separated mice. Nat Commun. 2015 Jul 28;6:7735. doi: 10.1038/ncomms8735.
LINK:  http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8735
 
Dinan, T.G. & Cryan, J.F. (2016). Mood by microbe: towards clinical translation. Genome Med. 8(1):36. doi: 10.1186/s13073-016-0292-1.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822287/

Dinan TG1, Cryan JF. (2017). The Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis in Health and Disease. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2017 Mar;46(1):77-89. doi: 10.1016/j.gtc.2016.09.007.
 
Kelly, J. R., Kennedy, P. J., Cryan, J. F., Dinan, T. G., Clarke, G., & Hyland, N. P. (2015). Breaking down the barriers: the gut microbiome, intestinal permeability and stress-related psychiatric disorders. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 9, 392. 
 
Messaoudi, M., Lalonde, R., Violle, N., Javelot, H., Desor, D., Nejdi, A., Bisson, J.F., Rougeot, C., Pichelin, M., Cazaubiel, M. & Cazaubiel, J.M. (2011). Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. Br J Nutr. 105(5):755-64. doi: 10.1017/S0007114510004319.
LINK:  https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/div-classtitleassessment-of-psychotropic-like-properties-of-a-probiotic-formulation-span-classitaliclactobacillus-helveticusspan-r0052-and-span-classitalicbifidobacterium-longumspan-r0175-in-rats-and-human-subjectsdiv/2BD9977C6DB7EA40FC9FFA1933C024EA/core-reader
 
O’Mahony, S.M., Marchesi, J.R., Scully, P., et al. (2009). Early life stress alters behavior, immunity, and microbiota in rats: implications for irritable bowel syndrome and psychiatric illnesses. Biol Psychiatry. 65(3):263–267.
 
Rea, K., Dinan, T.G. & Cryan, J.F. (2016). The microbiome: A key regulator of stress and neuroinflammation. Neurobiol Stress. 4:23-33.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5146205/
 
Rieder, R., Wisniewski, P.J., Alderman, B.L. & Campbell, S.C. (2017). Microbes and mental health: A review. Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Jan 25. pii: S0889-1591(17)30016-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2017.01.016. 
LINK:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159117300168
 
Romijn, A.R. & Rucklidge, J.J. (2015). Systematic review of evidence to support the theory of psychobiotics. Nutr Rev. 73(10):675-93. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv025. 
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26370263
 
Sarkar, A., Lehto, S.M., Harty, S., Dinan, T.G., Cryan, J.F. & Burnet, P.W. (2016). Psychobiotics and the Manipulation of Bacteria-Gut-Brain Signals. Trends Neurosci. 39(11):763-781. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2016.09.002.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5102282/
 
Sender, R., Fuchs, S. & Milo, R. (2016). Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body. PLoS Biol 14(8): e1002533. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002533
 
Sherwin, E., Sandhu, K.V., Dinan, T.G. & Cryan, J.F. (2016). May the Force Be With You: The Light and Dark Sides of the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in Neuropsychiatry. CNS Drugs. 2016 Nov;30(11):1019-1041. doi: 10.1007/s40263-016-0370-3
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5078156/
 
Steenbergen, L., Sellaro, R., van Hemert, S., Bosch, J.A. & Colzato, L.S. (2015). A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood.
Brain Behav Immun. 48:258-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2015.04.003.
LINK:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159115000884
 
Zijlmans, M.A., Korpela, K., Riksen-Walraven, J.M., de Vos, W.M. & de Weerth, C. (2015).  Maternal prenatal stress is associated with the infant intestinal microbiota. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Mar;53:233-45. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.01.006.
LINK:  http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(15)00020-7/abstract
Saturday, 13 May 2017 13:03

3 Reasons to Stop Eating Cereal

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3 Reasons To Stop Eating Cereal… 
And What To Replace It With
 
You wake up late because you had a horrible night's sleep, so instead of taking the extra 3 minutes to have eggs or make a shake you quickly scarf down a bowl of cereal or eat a bagel (same as cereal). 
The box of cereal claimed that it was whole grain (as was the bagel) so you wrongly believe that it must be an okay choice. You grab your large cup of coffee with 2 milks and 2 sugars and head to the office. 
What happens at 10:00am? 
 
The familiar feeling of hunger sets in around mid-morning. You walk to the office kitchen to grab your fat-free, fruit flavoured yogurt for 60 calories and take another cup of coffee. 
By lunch all you can think about is either a burger with fries or a big plate of Thai noodles (you get the point). 
 
Why? Have you ever stopped to think about why you crave what you crave? 
Let’s work through the 3 reasons to ditch cereal once and for all. *Note the reference to cereal is a general example. Replace cereal with whatever processed carb you choose for breakfast (whole wheat toast, English muffin, breakfast bar, etc.)
 
Reason # 1: Cereal promotes fast carbohydrate metabolism
When we consume high impact carbs (cereals, whole wheat, processed carbs) without adding in a significant amount of protein or fat the carb is quickly digested into glucose. 
When carbs digest quickly into glucose your pancreas is forced to secrete insulin (fat storing hormone). Since most of us are sedentary we don’t need the energy from the carb we just ate. Our muscle cells are full with glucose waiting to be used so insulin deposits the glucose (carbs) to your fat cells for later use (which we never use). 
 
Reason # 2: Processed cereals increase food cravings
Using the logic listed in reason # 1 we can better understand cravings. When you choose fast digesting carbs your blood sugar levels increase quickly and drop quickly. 
When your blood sugar levels drop your body sends you a craving to regulate them again. It’s a physiological response that is intense and hard to ignore. 
 
Reason # 3: Cereals lack protein and fat
Starting your day with a protein and fat helps to regulate blood sugar and trigger your satiety hormones. Protein supports your immune system and keeps energy levels stable. Fats are important for proper hormonal function and balance. 
When your breakfast choices are made up of processed carbs then you are setting yourself up for food cravings, energy lows and a day long battle with your will power. 
 
3 Breakfasts That Help Balance Hormones And Promote Fat Loss 
 
Breakfast # 1
2 whole eggs

2 handfuls of dark leafy greens (cooked with eggs)

1-2 tsp of coconut oil 

1 cup berries (any kind) 
 
Breakfast # 2
2 scoops protein powder

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (add more if desired)

1 cup frozen berries

1 tbsp of chia seeds

½ tsp cinnamon 

2 handfuls of spinach 
Blend and enjoy. 
 
Breakfast # 3


½ cup steel cut or slow cooking oats (plain) (cooked)

¼ cup unsweetened almond milk (to mix with oats) 

1 tbsp of chia seeds

1 tbsp of hemp seeds

1 scoop of protein powder (mixed into oats)
 
½ cup of berries 
 
All of these choices can be partially or fully made ahead of time. They are quick and simple to make. Best of all when you eat breakfasts like the ones listed above you won’t experience intense food cravings, you will feel full and lose weight faster. 
 
Monday, 08 May 2017 12:35

5 Ways to Rev up Your Metabolism

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How do I speed up my metabolism?

You aren’t the only one asking this question. It’s a hot topic of discussion this time year. Spring and summer are right around the corner. That means tank tops, shorts and the dreaded bathing suit.
Unfortunately, there is no right answer to that popular question. How your body burns calories is dependant on a variety of factors. Age, weight, height, level of activity, medications, sleep quality and stress levels all play a role in regulating or revving up your metabolism.
Men burn more calories than women, even while resting. Both men and women over the age of 40 have a harder time losing weight because metabolism starts to naturally slow down.
Don’t be so quick to blame your winter weight-gain on your metabolism. Your food choices and exercise level or lack thereof, play a significant role in helping to speed up your metabolism.
Read on for my list of top 5 ways to boost your metabolism.

Fill Up On Fibre:
Starting your day with a high fibre choice helps to regulate your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full throughout the morning. You are aiming to get 25 – 35 grams of fibre per day. Fill up on berries, beans, lentils, whole grains and chia seeds for added fibre.

Lift Weights:
The resting metabolic rate is much higher in people who have a good body composition. Every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories per day just to sustain itself. The more lean muscle mass you have the more calories you burn sitting around doing nothing.

Drink Green Tea:
Green tea is a known super food. Research has shown that those people who drink 2 – 4 cups of green tea per day may push the body to burn 17% more calories during moderate to intense exercise. Here’s a tip, brew your green tea and throw some ice cubes in and drink it while you are working out.

Have a Lean Protein With Every Meal:
Protein burns more calories during digestion then both carbohydrates and fat. Protein helps to stabilize blood sugar and helps you to feel fuller for a longer period of time. You should aim for 20 – 30 grams of protein per meal.

Stop Crash or Yo-yo Dieting:
A crash diet means eating less than 1000 calories per day. Most people don’t even realize they are engaging in a crash diet 2-3 days out of the week. Then the weekend hits and they binge to make up for the lack of calories missed throughout the week. If you do lose weight through yo-yo dieting the weight loss often comes from a loss of lean muscle mass, which further slows the metabolism.

The bottom line is that everybody is different that no two people will burn calories in the same way.

If you are looking to boost your metabolism to shed the weight you gained over the winter I suggest you give me a call at 519-270-1889 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sunday, 07 May 2017 23:54

3 Ways to Calm Your Sugar or Salt Cravings

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Have you written your cravings off as normal because you’ve been experiencing them for so long? It’s possible that you’ve created quick fix solutions to satisfy those cravings just so they don’t drive you crazy.
There is no shortage of “health” products that make BIG claims to help you lose fat, get rid of cravings or balance your hormones. You’ve probably already bought or tried many of these products in an effort to slim down.
Even with all of the free information available now it’s seems harder than ever to get a straight and reliable answer from a trusted source on how to balance your hormones, stabilize blood sugar levels and lose weight without depriving yourself, feeling depressed or angry.
Here’s the harsh reality…
There is no one single food, pill, powder or tea that will give you the results you are looking for.
While that might be hard to hear it’s true.
When you have cravings it’s a result of multiple of physiological triggers that come together to signal you to eat, usually a sugary or salty food. In fact, the signal to eat something sugary or salty can sometimes be so strong that no amount of willpower can overcome it.
So how do you overcome your cravings in a realistic way that is maintainable long-term?

Tip # 1 Ditch The Idea Of The Magic Pill Solution
No matter what your friends, colleague’s, Doctor’s, health food store or Dr. Oz says there is NO one magic pill to get rid of cravings or help you to lose weight.
Yes, there are certain supplements that support blood sugar stabilization, but if you first don’t remove the food triggers no amount of supplements will help you.

Common Food Triggers:
Coffee
Diet Coke or diet beverages
Dried fruit
Flavoured oatmeal
Wheat
Alcohol

When you are constantly looking for a quick fix magic pill to end your cravings and solve your weight problems you deny your personal responsibility involved in your behaviour (food) choices.
You can start by accepting that it will take work and effort to balance your hormones and lose weight. After all, you didn’t put the weight on in 14 days… it’s not going to come off in 14 days.

Tip # 2 Start Your Day With P & F
Do you know why oatmeal is considered to be a good breakfast choice?

Why are eggs a popular breakfast food?
What you choose for your first meal of the day is probably the most important food choice you can make when you are trying to calm cravings and lose weight. This is because your break-fast sets your hormonal tone for the day.
So when you choose foods that spike blood sugar, even if they are “healthy” you are not setting yourself up for an energetic, craving-free day. Just because something is touted as healthy doesn’t mean that it’s the right food choice for you.
Start your day with PROTEIN & FIBRE to stabilize blood sugar, help you to feel full and energetic all day long.

Good P & F Choices:
1 cup plain Greek Yogurt + 2 tbsp of chia seeds
2 whole eggs with 1 cup of blackberries (or mixed berries)
Shake with 1 scoop of protein powder with 2 tbsp of chia seeds
Chia seed pudding made with 1 scoop of protein powder

Tip # 3 Know The Foods That Cut Cravings
Even when you make the best food choices, have the right breakfast, plan and prepare your meals you still might have sugar or salt cravings. We live in the real world where there is NO SUCH THING AS PERFECTION.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to know which foods satisfy you without setting you up for more cravings later on in the day. Since we all have different food likes and dislikes you will want to test out these foods to see which ones work best for you.

Foods That Curb Cravings:
1 tbsp of raw almond butter
¼ - ½ cup of guacamole with 12 Mary’s crackers
1 ounce of full fat cheese
¼ cup of homemade trail mix
1-2 squares of 75% or higher dark chocolate
¼ cup salted cashews
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce with 1 tbsp of chia seeds

Start using these 3 tips to calm your cravings this week and see how you feel.

Sunday, 07 May 2017 23:32

Can't Sleep? Try These Tips

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It’s been proven that sleeping through the night will help you lose weight. The more up and down you are throughout the night, the more likely you are to not only not lose weight- but you’re more prone to gain weight. This is related to a hormone level reaction. Waking up throughout the night disrupts how this hormone reacts and is made within the body, thus leading to weight gain. Researchers believe (and have proven over and over again in studies) that sleeping throughout the night helps to regulate all hormones, improving your metabolism and promoting weight loss.

Ok, this is easier said than done- right? Wrong. You can get a good night’s sleep. In fact, sleeping through the night is not only good for your waistline, it’s great for productivity purposes, too. Here are my seven tips for getting more sleep each and every night!

1. Don’t drink anything caffeinated after three in the afternoon. This sounds obvious, but it’s hard to do. Coffee, green tea (well, any tea), and sodas (which you shouldn’t drink anyway) are all sources of caffeine and beverages we’ve learned to drink well into our favourite primetime programs. Cutting off caffeinated drinks after three in the afternoon will improve your ability to go to sleep on time and stay asleep throughout the night.

2. Keep your bedroom at 68°F and dark. This temperature is scientifically proven to help people sleep through the night. The warmer your room, the harder it will be to sleep. And bright lights or bright paint will not help your ability to sleep. Think ‘bat cave’ at a cool and crisp sixty-eight degrees.

3. Have a ten minute prior to bedtime routine. This will help you psychology prepare for sleep. Don’t just fall asleep whenever. Set a time and then set up a routine that allows your brain and body to cool down before you attempt to sleep. Some people write down what they’re thankful for ten minutes before bedtime, others pray, some people sit quietly and meditate. Do whatever works for you that doesn’t involve checking your phone or email.

4. Take the clock out of your room. You don’t need this. You think you do, you don’t. Trust me and try it for a week. Your body will naturally know when to wake up once on schedule. So, put the alarm clock down the hall or outside the door until you can get your body trained to wake up on time and without the clock. Having a clock in your room adds a subconscious pressure that awaits tomorrow’s stress. Don’t think about time or tomorrow, remove the clock and focus on being present in your bed.

5. Don’t eat heavy meals after seven at night. This will help you avoid digestive issues that will have you back and forth to the bathroom during the night. It also helps avoid foods that are prone to disrupt sleep. The same goes for drinking. Try not to drink anything (including water) an hour before your bedtime to avoid unwanted interruptions.

6. Shut off the phone. Many smartphones have sleep modes. Set your emergency numbers and ringtones to how you desire. Shut off the email and other non-essential alerts. Make sure the phone is across the room where you can’t see, hear or sense it.

7. Don’t go to the gym at night. Working out releases hormones and dopamine in the brain, which can make you feel great and even ambitious. So ambitious that you can’t seem to ‘settle down’ and you just have to send an email, plan out an idea or concept, etc. Plan your fitness routine for the mornings. Even if you have to wake up early, getting to the gym or walking early in the morning or late in the afternoon is far better than working out past dinner time.
Sleeping consistently is a crucial step in any fitness or weight loss routine. Getting a good night’s sleep can also help prevent strokes and heart disease and improve productivity. It also reduces stress levels. Don’t be one of these people who claim they don’t have time to sleep a full six to eight hours a night. That’s nonsense and it will eventually catch up to them medically. Our bodies sleep for a reason and we shouldn’t ignore our body’s natural urge to rest for more than four hours.
Sleep can also reduce how old you look. Proper sleep helps to improve skin elasticity and decreases bags under the eyes. By sleeping a minimum of six hours per night, for three months straight, you can take three to five years off of your appearance without any cosmetic procedure.
So look great, become healthier, and improve productivity simply by implementing these easy-to-follow seven tips into your daily routine!

If you think you might need more help, book an appointment with me to talk about hormone and blood sugar balancing, or perhaps helpful supplements.

Sunday, 07 May 2017 20:54

Self-Care For Mother’s Day

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We all do it, I am guilty of it too: not allowing enough time (or any for that matter) for ourselves. We are busy people, always rushing from here to there, running errands, trying to drop the kids off on time, preparing food, cleaning the house, walking the dog - making sure that everyone else is happy. But where does that leave us? Usually overtired and somewhat unhappy.

This Mother’s Day I challenge you to take some time for yourself and increase your happiness factor. I don’t mean taking an hour to sleep in on exactly Sunday the 14th of May – I mean scheduling time for yourself on an ongoing basis. How can this be done? Well, by starting out slow, creating time and then rekindling something that you have put on the backburner.

1. Find some time for you -  Take a walk, go to a yoga class, pour a glass of wine and a bubble bath and lock the door.  Make it a priority to just shut out the world for an hour or two and enjoy some time to yourself.

2. Improve your sleep - Improving your sleep can be accomplished in a couple of ways. First, turn off your smartphone and laptop 1 hour before bed time. The blue screen from these devices tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime and makes it harder to fall asleep. Second, download all that info that is swirling around in your brain – that is, make a to-do list before bed, or just write down the things that are bothering you, so they won’t keep you up at night.

3. Spend one hour doing something that you love - Knitting, gardening, baking, reading, chatting with a friend, drawing, dancing, singing, cuddling, walking, biking, soaking up some rays…the sky is the limit. By incorporating something into your day that you left behind once the kids came around you will start to feel like you are yourself again – boosting your happiness.

I know some days are harder than others, and that we all are super busy, but taking these small steps will help you in the long run, and your improved mood will also reduce the stress level in your house, bumping that happiness factor up even more.

Saturday, 29 April 2017 19:14

Top Foods for Tissue Health

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Top Foods for Tissue Health
 
If you're pretty active like I am, you want to protect your tissues.  
 
Did you know that the most abundant tissue in the body, which is also extremely important for anyone who works out, is none other than “connective” tissue?
 
Connective tissue “connects” things in your body to help maintain structure.  It basically supports and anchors parts together.    
 
For example, your joints have ligaments (that attach bones to each other), as well as tendons (that attach muscles to bones).  These are examples of “dense” connective tissue made mainly of collagen.  
 
Your joints also have cartilage and fluid to “cushion” the ends of the bones when you move so they don't rub against each other and cause pain or “wear and tear”.  Cartilage and fluid are also part of your connective tissue.
 
Basically, connective tissue is composed of collagen and elastic fibers (elastin), cartilage, other specialized cells, with a healthy dose of cushioning fluid too.
 
All connective tissue is super-important for a well-functioning body, and of course, there are certain key foods and nutrients that support optimal tissue health!  And because some parts of your joints don't have a huge blood supply, they can take months (or longer) to heal after an injury.  
 
So, let's make sure that you're constantly supplying your joints (and the rest of your body) with ample nutrition to make them as robust as possible!
 
Let's go over a few top foods for your tissue health.
 
PROTEIN
 
You heard me mention collagen and elastin above, and you probably won't be surprised to know that they are made of protein!
 
So, of course protein is incredibly important to optimal tissue health.
 
Protein itself is made up of a bunch of amino acids strung together. When we eat them, our digestive enzymes break down that “string” so that you can properly absorb and digest the individual amino acids. Your body uses those amino acids to create the myriad of proteins that it needs. Yes, things like muscle, bone, and skin; and also important connective tissues like collagen and elastin. Eating enough essential amino acids is key.  
 
Examples of protein-rich foods:
 
Eggs, legumes, and minimally processed meats
 
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FATS (omega-3s)
 
We all know that omega-3s are good for you. They are “essential” for good health and have been researched quite a bit for their potential to lower the risk of many heart and brain issues.  One way omega-3s help us is because of their anti-inflammatory properties.
 
The problem is that most people simply don't get enough essential omega-3s.
 
What foods should you eat more of to get your daily supply of omega-3s?
 
Fish, shellfish, algae, nuts (particularly walnuts), & seeds (especially flax, chia & hemp)
 
ANTI-OXIDANT AND ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PLANTS
 
You totally know that eating plants is good for you!  
 
One of the many reasons why is that they contain anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.  Not to mention the fact that many are vitamin and mineral powerhouses as well. 
 
You know that inflammation is part of so many short-term and long-term health concerns, including joint pain.
 
Which plants have the most anti-oxidants?
 
Colourful ones! Eat the rainbow by choosing from a variety of colourful plants (think: red, orange, yellow, green, and purple)
Blueberries, grapes, green tea, & cocoa (yes, you read that right...unsweetened cocoa of course!)
 
FOODS RICH IN VITAMIN C
 
You remember that collagen is a critical part of your connective tissue, especially in joints.  You also remember that you need protein amino acids as building blocks to make the collagen.
 
Vitamin C is a critical “assistant” that helps your enzymes make the collagen from those amino acids that you get when you eat protein.
 
So, vitamin C works hand-in-hand with protein for healthy collagen in your tissues.
 
Vitamin C is also an anti-oxidant, and since exercise can cause increased production of free radicals, anti-oxidant nutrients are extra-important for tissue health.
 
Foods rich in vitamin C include:
 
Guava, red bell pepper, broccoli, green bell peppers, strawberries, grapefruit, kohlrabi, papaya, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, mango, & oranges
 
WATER
 
Of course, since your connective tissues and joints need enough fluid to cushion them, water is another essential “food” for tissue health.
 
When you're exercising, slight dehydration (from sweating) can cause you to become too hot, and reduce your performance, so water is obviously super-important when exercising.
 
Always drink when you're thirsty.  And if you want (or need) a bit of sweet flavour for your water, throw a handful of frozen berries or chopped fruit into your water bottle.
 
SUMMARY
 
Tissue health is important for everyone, and especially people who exercise.  Eating a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally inflammatory foods is key.  Foods that contain enough high-quality protein, omega-3 fats, as well as plants that are rich in anti-oxidants and vitamin C.  And don't forget to stay hydrated.
 
REFERENCES:
 
Katz, D.L. & Meller, S. Can we say what diet is best for health? Annu Rev Public Health. 2014;35:83-103.
 
Screen, H.R., Berk, D.E., Kadler, K.E., Ramirez, F. & Young M.F. Tendon functional extracellular matrix. J Orthop Res. 2015 Jun;33(6):793-9.
 
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Monday, 24 April 2017 20:50

Tips for Choosing Supplements Wisely

Written by
 
 
We all know the vast array of supplements on the market today. It seems that new ones are launched every day and there is more and more marketing lingo that promises to save your health.
 
But you are a savvy health-conscious consumer. You want to make sure you're making wise choices with your health (and money).
 
Here are eight expert tips for you when choosing supplements:
 
Tip #1: If you’re in a country that licenses or pre-approves supplements (like I am in Canada), then make sure you’re getting the real thing, and not some illegally imported bootleg of a product.
 Why?
 

This is your health, and it’s important enough to make sure you’re getting a product that at least meets the minimum requirements in your country. There are always recalls and safety alerts issued for contaminated supplements or products that don’t even contain what they say they do.

  Don't get me wrong! This health authority approval is not a perfect gauge of quality, but it does have some benefits worth considering.
 
How?

In Canada, you would check its approval by making sure it has an 8-digit “NPN” number on the front label. This number means that the company meets the required standards (including quality standards and truthfulness of their labeling). And, if something does go wrong, there is someone who you can complain to (the company or Health Canada's MedEffect program) and who is responsible (the company).

If you’re not in a country that pre-approves supplements, make sure what you buy meets the regulations of your country. If you have to look up the company or product online or call them, please do it – don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions before you use any health products. If the only address or phone number is not in your country, then steer clear, because if something goes wrong it’s possible that nothing can be done about it.


 
Tip #2: Read (and heed) the warnings, cautions, and contraindications. 
Why?
 
You don't want a reaction, right?
 
How?
 
Check the label for things like:
 
To consult a healthcare practitioner if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, or
If you have certain medical conditions (e.g. high blood pressure, auto-immune disease, diabetes, ulcers, etc.), or
If you are taking certain medications (e.g. like blood thinners or immune suppressants, etc.) or
If you are taking other supplements, or
If you shouldn't take it for more than a certain length of time (e.g. 6 or 8 weeks).
 

Tip #3: Look at the medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients for things you might be allergic to or have reacted to in the past.
 Why?
 
Just as you would do this with foods, do this with supplements. Again, you don't want a reaction, right?
 
And even if you've used a product before, check it each time you buy it. Manufacturers may make changes to ingredients from time to time.
 
How?
 
Any credible supplement company will list every active ingredient, as well as the inactive ingredients. The print may be small, but worthwhile.
 
Info not there? Give them a call. Most reputable companies have a toll-free number on the bottle or at the very least their website address.
 
PRO TIP: You can look up any Canadian NPN number on Health Canada's database here:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Tip #4: Read the labeled “Indications” or “Uses” (a.k.a. How can this product help me?).

Why?
 
Bullshit alert. What is the company claiming that their product can help you with? Beware of people  who tell you that this product can help you beyond what’s on the label. If they heard about it, or found it in a book, that may or may not be reliable information.
 
How?
 
Ask for scientific studies, or look it up on credible websites that don’t make money from selling supplements (such as Examine, or the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements).


 
Tip #5: What “dose forms” can you get (i.e. tablets, capsules, powder, liquid, etc.)?

 Why?
 
I personally prefer capsules. This is because tablets and caplets are not very easy to absorb because they’re compacted into a hard rock-like form that sometimes doesn't break down in your digestive system.

Powders and liquids are easier to swallow and to absorb, but they can go “off” quicker because every time you open the bottle, you’re exposing all of the contents to the oxygen, moisture and microbes in the air. They can also be difficult to get accurate dosing (especially if they need to be shaken well).

Capsules (my preferred form) are powders placed into tiny dissolvable...capsules. You can get vegan capsules or gelatin capsules. They’re not compressed, so they're more easily absorbed (they're still loose powder), and the capsule itself provides an extra layer of protection from oxidation and contamination from the air. 
 
How?
 
The front label should mention this loud and clear. Along with how many are in each bottle.


 
Tip #6: How much/many do you need for a recommended dose?

 Why?
 
This is important to keep in mind because you may not want to take several capsules per day in order to get the recommended dose. Plus, many (but not all) bottles contain a 30 day supply. This helps you see how much you need to take, as well as the real cost per serving/dose.
 
How?
 
Read carefully.
 
Is the label information based on one capsule, two...maybe six? The amounts of each nutrient listed on the label may be based on each dose, or the entire daily dose. 
 
For example, if a label recommends you take 2 capsules per day, the active ingredient amounts listed may be the total amount in those 2 capsules, unless it says "per 1 capsule".
 
Yes, for this one you do need to read carefully.
Tip #7: Check the storage requirements and expiry date.

 Why?
 
These two go hand-in-hand because the expiry date is based on how that supplement degrades over time at certain temperatures, humidity and light exposure.
 
How?

If the bottle says that it should be refrigerated, make sure it’s in the fridge at the store, or shipped in a refrigerated truck. 
 
If it says to refrigerate after opening, then make sure once that seal is broken, you keep it in your fridge.

If it says to keep out of sunlight, make sure the store/shipping company is doing that, and that you do that too. This is sometimes why supplements are in dark or opaque bottles – to prevent sunlight from degrading it before the expiry date.
 
And, of course, I wouldn't recommend taking supplements past their expiry date. After this date the manufacturer does not guarantee the quality or dose of the product.

Tip #8: If you’re trying a new supplement for the first time, start slow.

Why?
 
Keep an eye out for both positive and negative reactions, and act accordingly.
 
How?
 
You don’t have to dive right into a full daily dose on day 1. Try starting with half-doses, or skipping days for a week or two before ramping up to the recommended dose. 

I hope these eight tips serve you well!
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