Being overweight is not just the result of diet or not enough exercise. According to leading-edge science, there are silent saboteurs in our daily lives that contribute significantly to our obesity epidemic: obesogens. These weight-inducing offenders, most of which are chemicals, disrupt our hormonal systems, alter how we create and store fat, and change how we respond to dietary choices. Because they are largely unregulated, obesogens lurk all around us: in food, furniture, plastic products such as water bottles and food storage containers. Research has even shown that the effects of some obesogens can be passed on to future generations by irreversibly interfering with the expression of our genes. The good news is we can protect ourselves by becoming more informed consumers.
There are many factors that play a role in our development of chronic diseases. One of the most common chronic diseases we face today is obesity. There is not just one root cause to this condition, but many such as environmental factors, stress, food availability, social factors, etc. However, the most common factor that many people think of when considering chronic conditions is genetics.
At most visits to your family practitioner, they review your health and family history. This isn’t just mundane paperwork they must fill out, there is a reason to the 100 questions about grandma Betty’s breast cancer. A family history of chronic disease increases the likelihood of that chronic disease being present in our future1. However, though our genes can be prone to certain disease, ongoing research in epigenetics continues to show that environment IE what surrounds us and our choices determines 70-95% of the risk for developing most disease because it is those things that influence the genetic expression of health or disease.
Similarly with obesity, many studies have been done exploring the relationship between genes and obesity. In particular, one review article explains that certain individuals have predisposed genes to obesity and that those genes interact with the environment, allowing the individual to be more vulnerable to obesogenic environments2. Obesogenic environments are those that have unlimited supply of food, a promotion of physical inactivity, or other factors making it easier to gain weight.
With the enormous amount of research that has been compiled over the years on looking at specific genes and obesity, scientists have found that this relationship is polygenic, meaning the interaction of many genes contribute to obesity. In another study observing twins (identical, fraternal and virtual), researchers identified that the differences among sets of twins in BMI change was due to heritability (~65%) compared to environmental influencers3. With genetics playing a large role in our perceptibility to chronic conditions like obesity, there are still preventative measures we can take to counteract our DNA.
- Physical activity can diminish the effect of fat promoting genes4
- Having a balanced diet of healthy foods can promote satiety and decrease hunger
- Anti-inflammatory diets counteract part of gene-related, long-term weight gain. And obese individuals with genetic susceptibility to obesity can experience a greater chance of weight loss success by following the dietary patterns based on a whole foods, anti-inflammatory approaches like the Mediterranean diet
- Decrease time spent in sedentary activities (watching tv, computer time, etc.) Aim for at least 10k steps/day.
- Decreasing the amount of processed foods
As one scientist puts it, “Genes may co-determine who becomes obese, but our environment determines how many become obese.”5
Depending on your family history and ethnicity, most of us probably have a genetic predisposition for obesity. Conscious of that, changes can be made to counteract the chances including changes in lifestyle, diet or environment. Let Thrive Nutrition partner with you today to help you lead your best lifestyle!
For centuries, people have been in search of the “magic bullet” that will grant them a long life. Many forms including pills, diets or surgeries have been explored. However, the question remains, how can we achieve a longer, better quality life?
Most Americans live a lifestyle that is constantly pushing on the gas pedal, so is there is a brake? The most common accelerators include stress, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and inactivity. Many of these factors have been shown to have an inverse relationship with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer1,2. There have been numerous research studies on how to prevent these diseases, but one expert has traveled the world to seek out the longest living people and ask them how they have lived such a long, high quality life. Author and explorer Dan Buettner has written a book titled The Blue Zones (which is also our April Book Club pick!) describing his findings on how centenarians have lived. The 9 lessons he has concluded to be the best practices include:
Plant Slant--Centenarians have a diet consisting of plant-based foods, beans and few helpings of meat
Move Naturally--Forgoing the weights and machines, these people live in a place where they move without thinking, growing gardens, house or yard work or simply walking for their commute
Purpose-- they may have their own phrase for it, but it simply means “why I wake up in the morning”. Knowing your sense of purpose can add on years to your life.
Down Shift-- taking time to relieve stress can be anything from taking time to reflect on your day, or spending time in a yoga practice. Whatever your go-to relaxer is, make sure to incorporate it in your day
80% Rule-- In Japan they call it “Hara hachi bu”, meaning stop eating when your stomach is 80% full. Since it takes time for your stomach and brain to get on the same page regarding when you’re full, this could aid in the benefit of weight loss.
Wine @ 5-- Most of the centenarians drink red wine, but the idea is to drink 1-2 glasses a day, not save up and drink it all on the weekend. The antioxidants in red wine have been linked to an increase in HDL cholesterol ("good cholesterol"), possible decreasing the risk of heart disease.3 **We are not encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol, especially if there is a family history of abuse!
Belong-- All but a handful of centenarians interviews belonged to a faith-based community.
Loved Ones First-- Putting their families first meant keeping aging parents at home, caring for the children and committing to a life partner.
Right Tribe-- The longest living people surrounded themselves (whether by choice or birth right) with a social community that supported healthy behaviors. Studies have shown that smoking, obesity, happiness and more are contagious and spread by those you surround yourself with.4, 5
While all these lessons might be hard to incorporate into your lifestyle at once, start off with a couple you know are achievable. At Thrive Nutrition, we love to help people overcome barriers that might be in place to help achieve a healthy lifestyle. If you are interested, we will be reading this book as a part of our book club next month on April 30th (below for details). Hear the stories and interviews of the longest living people, and discover why changes in your lifestyle may be necessary to extend your quantity and quality of life.
It seems like a pretty simple question, but alas, it is not. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) admits that low carbohydrate diets would help patients manage their blood sugars, but the organization still recommends a high carbohydrate dietary approach. Why?
According to Regina Wilshire, science writer, the ADA feels that low carb diets are too difficult for people to follow. This is obvious if you pick up any diabetes publication off the supermarket shelf. Most of them have a picture of a chocolate cake or plate of cookies right on the front cover.
The over-riding position is that patients can’t or won’t do it, so we shouldn’t deprive them unnecessarily. There are new drugs and medications approved and many more in the pipeline to control blood sugar, so why ask people to give up their favorite foods?
This type of thinking, of course, is dangerous and narrow-minded. And, it’s led us to the position of having a run away train destroying the health of our country and the developed world. Diabetes is beyond epidemic already, and it’s predicted to triple in the next 35 years.
Other so-called experts tell patients that low carb diets can even be dangerous. That if they don’t get enough carbs, their brain will starve, that it will put them in a state of keto-acidosis, or that too much protein will destroy their kidneys. None of this is true.
“Carbohydrates, whether derived from gluten-containing foods or other sources, including fruit, sweetened beverages, and starchy vegetables, are dangerous as they relate to brain health in and of themselves” – David Perlmutter
The Nurses Health Study, a large study conducted using over 1600 nurses found that a high protein diet was not dangerous or harmful in women with normal kidney function. They also found no detrimental effect of animal protein in comparison to vegetable protein. That said, the diet we recommend is not high protein and it is important to limit protein consumption for other reasons.
These same experts warn that fat is the real enemy and that the ideal diet for diabetics is low in saturated fats and high in whole grains. Again, this is simply not true. In fact, the Women’s Health Initiative, an eight year, $415 million study, showed that a low fat diet had no reduction in risk for diabetes or heart disease.
“The new research suggests that it’s not the fat in your diet that’s raising your risk of premature death, it’s too many carbohydrates – especially the refined, processed kinds of carbs – that may be the real killer”.
In contrast, several studies have shown a benefit to low carb diets in diabetes management. One such study, published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism, showed an average reduction in HgA1c from 7.5, down to 6.3 in the group eating a low carbohydrate diet.
Is it really that hard to eat low carb? Well, that may depend on your brain function, physiology, hormone balance, and addictions. Carbohydrate addiction is really real and it’s a powerful force that can be difficult to resist. Insulin resistance leads to a relative lack of sugar in the cells, which triggers the body to crave more carbohydrates. Extra adipose tissue, or fat, over produce leptin which makes you resistance and takes away your body’s natural protection against over-eating.
To overcome all of these obstacles, you need a plan, a good system, and you need support. You need strategies to overcome your carbohydrate cravings and/or addiction, and you need to address the root cause of diabetes, rather than just trying to suppress sugar levels with medications.
“Insulin is not a cure for diabetes; it is a treatment. It enables the diabetic to burn sufficient carbohydrates so that proteins and fats may be added to the diet in sufficient quantities to provide energy for the economic burdens of life” – Frederick Banting
Traditional medical care and endocrinology does not address these things. Most conventional medical practices follow the ADA guidelines and recommend a diet high in whole grains, wheat bread, fruit, vegetable oils, and unnatural products, like artificial sweeteners. Carbs turn to sugar. Sugar in the diet raises blood sugar.
This all seems so logical, it’s hard to imagine or rationalize why the mainstream, conventional diabetes community is still recommending a diet high in carbohydrates for anyone, especially those with diabetes. Regardless, the evidence is clear that low carbohydrate diets are more effective at reducing blood sugar and preventing post-meal glucose spikes. Perhaps it’s true that common sense is not so common.
Do you ever notice how you’re often hungrier once the cold season hits? Granted, there are many opportunities to endlessly bake and celebrate with family over food. However, on a daily basis you crave more food with substance (ie, higher calorie food) and maybe you have snacks throughout the day. Some researchers suggest there may be a primitive response in us, warning us to stock up on calories for the winter ahead. However, the dwindling daylight hours, colder temperatures and the increase of time spent at home can all contribute to changes in eating habits during the winter months.
The sun has many benefits, allowing us to get adequate vitamin D, which builds our melatonin and increases our serotonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that is key to the ever revolving sleep and alert cycle of your body. It is important to get enough, resulting in a good night’s sleep. Melatonin is produced in the nocturnal hours and stops when the body is exposed to optimal sunlight in the morning (or screen time at night!). The sun is often clouded or rising later in the winter, resulting in a longer duration of melatonin production, meaning this could be a reason you are often drowsy during the days1. When you are sleepy throughout the day, or don’t get enough/good quality sleep, it leads to over-consumption. The hormone that tells the body when you are full, Leptin, is stunted and the hormone, Ghrelin, that tells us when we are hungry is amplified by lack of sleep2.
The precursor to melatonin is serotonin, which is a hormone responsible for your positive and calm moods. Serotonin has been effective against seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression found in the winter months. With low levels of serotonin coming from the sunlight in the winter, people often consume more carbohydrates, which also increases serotonin levels. Because of the insulin secretion causing the serotonin boost, people often crave high-carb foods during the winter to improve their moods3.
With colder temps and darkness settling in sooner, we often hunker down in our homes and are less likely to go outside for any activity. The more time spent in our homes creates a greater temptation to snack between meals. The decrease of physical activity, along with the increased chance of over-eating has many people gaining weight during the winter months. Some helpful tips to get you through, until the light at the end of the tunnel called Spring arrives, are:
Consume foods that are higher in protein and healthy fats, which will have you feeling fuller longer
Enjoy your winter favorites, just remember our favorite saying “everything in moderation”
Whether you have to bundle up and take a stroll outside during your lunch break, get some physical activity (hopefully involving sunlight!)
Get a good night’s rest
Avoid snacking, instead drink a cup of hot tea or warm water which creates that fullness affect
Partner with Thrive Nutrition today and let us help you tackle obstacles that might be preventing you from living your best, healthiest life!
It’s that time of year again, when the holiday season has passed and Spring seems too far away. You start to notice the sky is more cloudy and gray. With the sun being less frequent, we need to be mindful of our Vitamin D intake. About 50% of the population gets an insufficient amount of vitamin D.1The benefits of getting adequate vitamin D include maintaining bone strength by aiding in the absorption of the important minerals calcium and phosphorus (without vitamin D, we would only absorb about 15% of calcium and 60% of phosphorus we ingest), helping muscle function and supporting the overall health of your immune, brain and nervous systems.2
Several studies have found that vitamin D can even be a better preventative measure against the flu than the actual flu vaccine! Researchers have found that when individuals are low or deficient in vitamin D, they report more cold and flu cases. Antimicrobial peptides have an increased presence in your lungs with greater vitamin D intake, offering protection from respiratory infections. The theory that scientists have come to believe is that the reason we see most flu and cold cases in the winter is because there is less sun, therefore we intake less vitamin D.3 The sun is a great provider of this vitamin, but on dreary days, where can you seek solace?
Honestly, sun is the best and most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays). This can happen very quickly, particularly in the summer. You don’t need to tan or burn your skin to get vitamin D. You only need to expose your skin for around half the time it takes for your skin to begin to burn. In the winter, UV levels are much lower making it almost impossible to make vitamin D in our skin. The other way to get vitamin D is through what we eat, though there are not many foods that are good sources of vitamin D. Options include:
- Fish - the most common sources are salmon, tuna, cod liver oil and wild-caught fatty fish
- Beef liver, cheese or eggs have smaller amounts
- Fortified milk and cereals, as well as yogurts, soy beverages or orange juice - however these food tend to be processed and aren't generally a recommended way to get your vitamin D
- Supplementation - Most people benefit from some form of supplementation, especially in the winter. Recent research found that vitamin D3 is twice as effective as vitamin D2 at raising blood levels, which is important because a lot of prescriptions for vitamin D are in the D2 form.
The recommended intake of Vitamin D according to the Institutes of Medicine are4:
- Infants 0-12 months - 400 IU (10 mcg).
- Children 1-18 years - 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults to age 70 - 600 IU (15 mcg).
- Adults over 70 - 800 IU (20 mcg).
- Pregnant or lactating women - 600 IU (15 mcg).
Current recommended intakes for vitamin D is to achieve a serum level status of 20 ng/mL. That level has been hotly debated as not nearly being high enough. Multiple studies support the need for vitamin D levels above 20 ng/ml for optimal health, finding that levels below 40 ng/ml are linked to chronic diseases like lung, colon, prostate and breast cancers, depression, autoimmune diseases and reproductive disorders like PCOS. The published journal article: The Big Vitamin D Mistake calls for new vitamin D recommendations as follows: 1000 IU for children <1 year on enriched formula and 1500 IU for breastfed children older than 6 months, 3000 IU for children >1 year of age, and around 8000 IU for young adults and thereafter. That's a big difference from current RDA guidelines!
Research has shown that lifeguards, farmers near the equator and sun dwelling hunter gatherers maintain blood levels between 40-80 ng/ml on sun exposure alone. As Dr. Cannell once said, “Humans make thousands of units of vitamin D within minutes of whole body exposure to sunlight. From what we know of nature, it is unlikely such a system evolved by chance.”
Because vitamin D is not overly common in our food, supplementation may be a solution for you. Those at risk of having deficiencies are older adults, those with chronic conditions, infants, those with darker skin, immune compromised patients, those living in northern climates (Hello Minnesotans!) and obese individuals. However, at Thrive Nutrition we see that most healthy adults not supplementing are deficient as well, which makes sense because adults rarely go outside during the week due to 9 am to 5 pm jobs. When we recommend vitamin D supplementation, we also either tie in vitamin K supplementationeither in with Vitamin D, in a multivitamin or through your diet with fermented foods. Because vitamin D increases calcium absorption, we need to make sure vitamin K is there to tell the calcium to get out of your arteries and into your bones, where you want it! *Consult your health care practitioner before starting supplements.
We partner with Fullscript for supplements, and through it we offer a discount of 15% off on pharmaceutical-grade, pure and potent supplements. Even non-members get the discount, so start getting cheaper supplements today, sign up is easy!
From The Institute of Functional Medicine
The impact of the microbiome on the onset of autoimmune conditions is well established—especially in the connection between ankylosing spondylitis and Klebsiella infection.1 Research on other autoimmune conditions, the microbiome, and the effects of sex hormones is unfolding. For instance, children with type 1 diabetes are known to have dysbiosis when compared to healthy controls.2 This dysbiosis creates a pro-inflammatory state, and in animal models, modulating the microbiome can reduce type 1 diabetes risk.3-4
Strategies to introduce bacteria into high-risk individuals are being explored with fecal transplants in animal models. Transfer of the gut microbiota of adult male non-obese diabetic mice into young female mice led to “elevated testosterone and metabolomic changes, reduced islet inflammation and autoantibody production, and robust T1D protection. These effects were dependent on androgen receptor activity.”3
In a mouse model of lupus, microbiome treatment improved symptoms in female mice and castrated mice but not in intact males,5 reinforcing the role of sex hormones in the link between the microbiome and autoimmunity. The impact of sex hormones on autoimmunity is not new; as far back as 1991,6 prevalence of autoimmune conditions was known to follow a woman’s menarche to menopause, increasing during the former and declining during the latter.7Since the microbiome affects sex hormone production, and vice versa, the role of estrogen and the microbiome in autoimmunity continues to be of interest.8-9 Tailoring treatments for each gender may have beneficial effects in a range of conditions, including IBS.10 LINK
Healthy eating can be quite confusing. I hear about it all of the time and I get it. We get bombarded with advertising, we are told we need to count calories, track everything on our smart watches, that fat is something to fear, sugar entices us around every corner and we're busy living our lives, which means we don't have time to research all of the facts. Plus, a lot of associations that we look to for advice have been bought out by Big Ag, Big Pharma or both (I'm looking at you American Heart Association!)
As you can see below, I've provided a picture of what I believe healthy eating looks like on a plate. No counting, weighing or scrutinizing required! When I give this handout to my clients, most often my clients see that their vegetable intake needs a big boost and there are usually plenty of questions about ferments and how about that amount of recommend fat intake?!
Here are some pointers on how to get started with eating more like the plate:
- The ultimate goal is to eat healthy/according to the plate 80% of the time. However, if you're currently eating this way 25% of the time, the next step for you may be 35% and slowly work your way up. Big changes happen from continuous small changes over time.
- If you don't get in vegetables at breakfast, make it an extra effort throughout the day to eat them. This may mean having a salad for a meal (I am a huge promoter of having one salad a day), offering two sides of vegetables for dinner and/or having veggies for snacks. Breakfast ideas that include vegetables can simply be throwing in some spinach and onions with your eggs or an easy vegetable hash with sweet potato, peppers and chorizo. The possibilities are endless!
- Vegetables are always more delicious with fat, so top some butter on them (bonus points for grass-fed options like Kerrygold)! I make sure my salads have lots of healthy fats such as avocado, seeds, cheeses like feta, hardboiled eggs and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. A beautiful salad like that keeps me full for 3-4 hours and no energy crashes.
- Remember when I mentioned veggies for snacks? Well, don't have them plain, pair them with healthy fat and protein like string cheese, guac, hummus, homemade blue cheese dressing, etc. The amazing this is that we actually NEED fat in our meal to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K offered by vegetables.
- Ferments are becoming more popular, but are new to most people I work with. Fermented foods are a traditional way of preservation (before canned foods and refrigerators). Through this process natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Fermented foods aids in promoting digestion, immune function and balance bacterial populations.
*Clients with compromised digestion would eat differently to help their GI system heal. Once their digestion is working better, we would focus on eating according to the above recommendations.
It's officially the New Year! We have survived the holiday frenzy and have entered into a time of self-reflection, self-improvement and resolution setting. I have a proposition for you. Instead of setting a New Year's Resolution - IE lose weight, lose 50 pounds, exercise more, insert repetitive New Year's goal here, I want you to come up with a word or phrase that inspires you to dedicate to 2018. For instance that word or phrase might be: joy, one more (one more vegetable, one more walk, one more glass of water), play, slow down, phoenix (one of my clients chose this to symbolize rising from the ashes after a particularly hard 2017).
As you can see, these words and phrases are positive, not numerical and ultimately powerful. There is no pass or fail with this approach. The cool thing is, you'll remember this word and be excited about it for the whole year, not just the first month or two. Give it a shot!
Lastly, I came across this article yesterday and I love it so much I needed to share it with you, it's another view on how to flip the script on setting New Year's resolutions. Click for link.
We all want the best of ourselves. We want to do our best, look our best, perform our best. So it’s natural to make goals that we hope will bring us closer to our own ideals. This isn’t a bad thing! But what often happens is that we inadvertently pick up other peoples’ standards and pin our self worth on achieving those.
At the start of the new year, we often make resolutions that are a reaction to what we dislike about ourselves. I don’t think this is loving or constructive. Too often, these goals revolve around dieting and becoming thin.
I’m afraid I have some bad news: Becoming thin will not make you happy or more valuable. And punishing your body into submission will not make you love it more.
So why make these your top priorities? Our bodies are always (always!) doing their best for us. We don’t need to beat them into submission– we need to practice gratitude and do our best to nourish and protect them so they can keep on helping us live life to the fullest.
So how about some body-positive, alternative resolutions for the new year?
Here are 18 Body-Loving Resolutions for the New Year
I will stop using numbers (weight, clothing size, inches) to influence my sense of self-worth.
I will never talk about food or body shapes/ appearances (including my own) negatively in front of children and I won’t let others do it when I’m around, either.
I will remove morality-related words from the way I talk about food (like sinful, naughty, bad, guilty etc.).
I will eat for nourishment and pleasure, without guilt.
I will find ways of moving my body that feel pleasurable to me.
I will rest when my body needs it.
I will respond to my body’s messages when I am in pain– I will get bodywork or a massage, take a hot epsom salts bath, stretch, take it easy, etc.
I will eat when I am hungry.
I will get more sleep– which means I will have to make it a priority in my busy life.
I will purge my closet of all of the clothes that no longer fit me or that don’t make me feel good when I wear them.
I will not say mean things to myself about my body. And if I do, I will apologize and find something honest and kind to say.
I will express gratitude for all of the things my body does for me every day.
I will accept compliments instead of deflecting them, simply saying “Thank you.”
I will treat my body as a friend, not a foe– after all, it is with me from the beginning of my existence, until the end– who else can I say that about?
I will practice listening to my body, and hearing what it is trying to say to me– that I need to slow down, speak up, avoid certain situations, etc.
I will try new ways of taking care of my body– from seeing a chiropractor to getting acupuncture or scheduling a bodywork session.
I will help others to relax and enjoy their bodies by showing them love and acceptance, and modeling this in the way I talk about and treat my own body.
I will try new ways of moving my body– to give myself new opportunities to see what it can do, and what it enjoys.
Hope you're doing well this holiday season! We have just a week and a half left until Christmas, so I thought I would help you out a bit with some holiday recipes you can add to your meal plan. These recipes will go over well with everyone you might be sharing your food with!
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta & Sage
- 2 lbs Brussels Sprouts, halved
- 1 large leek, thinly sliced
- 4oz pancetta, thinly sliced
- 1 TBSP fresh sage, chopped
- 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
Set your oven to 375. Place the Brussels Sprouts, leek, pancetta, and sage on a large rimmed baking sheet. Add the olive oil and salt. Toss until coated. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the Brussels Sprouts begin to lightly brown and the pancetta becomes crispy.
Slow Roasted Prime Rib
Prime Rib is a holiday tradition for many and oh so delicious.
Honey Garlic Chicken Wings
There are plenty of people who don't like spicy, so these wings are a nice option along side the hot ones.
Tahini Vegetable Dipping Sauce
Serve with carrots, cucumber, radishes, olives, cauliflower, and broccoli.
With cranberry sauce like this, no need to limit it only to Thanksgiving!
Superfood Chocolate Bark
Just yum. Simple and delicious.
I recommend using the coconut oil with these snickerdoodles. They're a huge hit every time! If you don't have a sifter, put the flours through a fine strainer. And remember they need to rest in the fridge for an hour before going in the oven.
Salted Caramel Pecan Pie
A new family favorite and easy to make!
Christmas Cutout Cookies
It's nice to have a healthier option for this fun holiday tradition!
In case you missed it, I talked all about staying healthy over the holidays in the newsletter right before Thanksgiving. Even if you're not able to cook all the healthy options you desire, the tips I shared will help you to let go of the guilt and take actions that will still support your health.
The holidays are a stressful time of year for many people. It's definitely not supposed to be, but all the plans, the food, the gifts, the traveling, and the days full of family time can really wear you down. It's a lot! Especially when we have 2 major holidays within about a month of each other. Who thought that was a good idea?!
It's important to stay on top of your stress during this time of year. Focusing on reducing it and maybe even having an action plan to get ahead of it can help you enjoy the season as intended.
Tips for managing holiday stress
Get your hygge on
Hy-what? Hygge is a Danish term for getting cozy and you pronounce it "hue-guh". My favorite thing about hygge is that you don't need to buy anything to help bring this into your life. I really like the way Hygge House talks about it. It's something that can be experienced in completely different ways by each individual. For me, hygge is curling up in a cozy blanket on the couch with a warm cup of tea and a good book. It's enjoying the moment for what it is by being present to the simplicity and charm. It can also be eating your favorite nourishing meal and savoring every bite. Maybe it's lighting a candle and taking a bath, or meditating in your favorite room. Finding ways to hygge every day, to take care of yourself and notice the simple, cozy moments in your life can really go a long way for helping manage your stress.
Plan ahead & delegate
Knowing where you have to be and when is half the battle. The other half is knowing what you're bringing, whether it be food or gifts. If you're hosting an event, create a list of the foods needed. Ask people to pick a dish or assign a dish to everyone so you're not the one cooking all the food. For the things you do need to cook yourself, don't be afraid to make things ahead of time. Most things can be prepared 2-3 days in advance, or even a couple weeks in advance if you throw it in the freezer. Leaving it all for the day of is a recipe for stress.
It might be a little late to use this tip for this year, but I like to keep a list of gifts I find throughout the year for my family members on my phone. Whenever I hear them talking about something they want or see something that would suit them perfectly, I hop into the note on my phone and write it down. This makes gift buying so much easier each year, especially for those who say they don't want or need anything. I also keep a running list for myself so when someone asks me what I want for Christmas, I can send over something from my list really easily.
Don't feel obligated to spend $ on gifts
The holidays can be a financially stressful time of year due to the cost of gifts. It definitely doesn't have to be that way. Consider giving experiences over physical gifts. These experiences may cost money, like a trip to the zoo or dinner at a popular restaurant. But you can also give experience such as a half day hike at a local state park. Gifts like these cost time, but are very achievable financially. They're fun to give as well because they're often cashed in at a later date. If you're going along on the experience you're gifting, you get to spend some time together again outside of the holidays.
Take time for yourself
Spending some extra time and maybe even $ on self-care this time of year is definitely worth it. A client of mine spent the morning of Black Friday on self-care after spending Thanksgiving day with a lot of family. She went to yoga, then got a massage, and then did an infrared sauna session. It took a little over 3 hours and allowed her to recharge and de-stress. Consider carving out some time for a candlelit bath, a meditation, or a bundled up walk in the woods. Self-care doesn't always have to cost money, but sometimes a massage or facial is just what you need to get back on track.
Only say "yes" to things that bring you joy
There are so many awesome events that could easily fill up your nights and weekends during the holiday season. For many people, this doesn't bring joy at all. It brings a whirlwind of socialization that leaves you exhausted and wishing for it all to be over already. Consider saying no to the things that don't sound as exciting. Maybe there are multiple events happening with the same people and you can attend the one that works best for you. Or maybe you can suggest postponing until January to spread things out a bit. Whatever it is, consider if it'll actually bring you joy, make you feel good, and give you energy. If not, it might be best to say no. And you never have to feel guilty about taking care of yourself.
But, there will always be some things that you're obligated to attend, so to that I say...
Set a time limit
If you have to attend an event and you're not wild about it, agree to attend for a specific amount of time. There's nothing wrong with looking out for yourself. People will be glad you attended even if you couldn't stay the whole time.
I hope these tips help you to have a wonderful holiday season.
If you need more support with your stress or getting back on track after the holidays, you know where to find me!
Depending on when you are reading this, it’s either winter and everyone is prepping for the holidays, or its Summer and everyone is kicking back. Regardless the time of year, its always good to have a holiday game plan you can stay on track for your health goals.
In many situations, the holiday season ends up being a time warp, so it’s extra important to stop and think early about genuinely realistic ways to maintain your health. However, breathe a sigh of relief: you can eat your holiday favorites and stay on track with your health goals.
Goodies and health goals can happily coexist with some strategic planning! By creating specific action steps to use at holiday meals, dinner parties, galas, cookie swaps, or work outings, you can maintain your health over the holidays. This means that you don’t have to restrict yourself from eating anything “fun.” Honestly, that would be lame and would create an opportunity for binging later, which is the opposite of reaching health goals. Below are some examples of the healthiest ways to eat your holiday indulgences!
Eat Your Calories, Don’t Drink Them
Drink lots of water, especially on days where you might be tempted with lots tasty treats. If you sit next to a treat cube, you may want to drink lots of water all of the time! Not only is drinking water good for dry winter skin, but it also helps keep you from having excessive cravings. Sometimes when we are dehydrated, we mistake those thirst signals for hunger. Fewer cravings let you zero in on your favorites and less of the other stuff. There are lots of apps out there that can help you track your water.
Only Eat Your Favorites
This seems simple. We think that we would only eat the foods we like and love, but we can often find ourselves eating just to eat. Are you bonkers for mashed potatoes but also end up eating 2 store-bought dinner rolls that are just so-so? Is your grandma’s pumpkin pie the best but your dinner plate also has Auntie Kate’s creamed corn that is just meh?
Our advice: skip those foods! Don’t waste your holiday eating on things that don’t taste special or delicious. Save room for the good stuff. Also, sometimes we eat a holiday favorite and it, unfortunately, is a major letdown. It’s okay to not finish it. You hopefully will have the opportunity again very soon to have a delicious version, or you can make your own!
Make Veggies The Centerpiece
Veggie trays are a sad afterthought. It’s sort of a last-ditch effort at getting in a measly serving of vegetables. Instead, put them front and center, next to the turkey even! Play with mashed cauliflower with butter and cream. Brussels sprout slaw with bacon, almonds, and cranberries is quite festive! Try a “better” veggie tray: a crudite board that has ferments, raw veggies (try radishes, baby peppers, thin asparagus spears), pickles, olives, nuts, dried fruit and spreads like hummus or guacamole.
When you eat slowly, you are able to taste every morsel and savor every bite. You can really pick up on the nuances. Not only is the meal more enjoyable, but you also allow your brain time to assess the food. That process better helps your brain determine when you should finish your meal. Can you even have the ability to leave the meal with more energy and not feel what most people end up feeling: stuffed and lethargic. This is intuitive portion control; you aren’t forcing yourself to stop, you’re letting it happen naturally.
Eat a Breakfast High in Healthy Fat and Protein
When you eat a breakfast high in healthy fat and protein, you might find that you have fewer sugar cravings the rest of the day. It’s also easier to say ‘no’ to the goodies the look good, but you’re not crazy about. Start your day off with eggs, cheese, and salsa. Or try chicken sausages with avocado and a small amount of fruit.
Eat With Pleasure!
When you give in to pleasure and thoroughly enjoy the food you are eating, you speed up your metabolism and better regulate your appetite. Would you believe me? Most people think that pleasure is entirely separate from the nutritional process and serves no metabolic function. People believe that if food makes them feel good, the body is automatically stimulated to eat more. However, author of The Slow Down Diet, Marc David examined the relationship between our biochemistry and the chemical cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK is produced by the body in response to protein or fat in a meal and performs some versatile functions. First, it directly aids digestion by stimulating the digestive organs. When it’s released in the brain, it shuts down appetite, and it encourages the sensation of pleasure in the cerebral cortex, the highest portion of the brain.
The same chemical that functions to metabolize our meal also tells us when it’s time to finish that meal and makes us feel right about the entire experience. It shows us how pleasure, metabolism and a naturally controlled appetite are interwoven to the core. If you’re still not convinced, know that consuming treats with a full measure of delight prompts the hypothalamus to send activation signals via parasympathetic nerve fibers to the majority of our digestive organs. Digestion will be stimulated and you’ll have a fuller metabolic breakdown while burning calories more efficiently. It’s a win-win!
Go For a Walk!
Nothing beats a nice walk outside in the fresh, crisp holiday air. A quick walk can suppress your appetite, refresh you and help you burn up some energy.
Hopefully at least one of these suggestions is something you would like to try. At the very least, consider the timing of everything. The holidays may not be the best time to lose weight compared to the rest of the year. It’s okay to cut yourself some slack. Most of my clients are focused on weight maintenance during this time. They find that they feel less pressure and it makes this time of year more enjoyable. Whatever your goals may be – have a happy, nutritious and pleasure-filled holiday!
I hope this newsletter finds you in good health as we move into cooler weather. I always get really into soups this time of year. Purees with seasonal squashes are amazing, and I love making my own homemade bone broth as the base for all my soups.
If you've never tried making your own bone broth, I highly recommend it! The flavor is incredible and you can easily make an incredibly gelatinous, nutritious, healing broth.
Bone broth has been around for thousands of years, but it's not as common to find people making it at home these days. I'm glad it's becoming more popular again, because the nutrient density is pretty incredible. As Chris Kresser says, it's a "nutrient gold mine". Check out his article about the benefits of bone broth. Some of my favorite nutrients in bone broth are collagen and glutamine. Collagen is important in our bodies as it is the main component of our connective tissues. It gets a lot of credit for how nice (or not so nice) our skin looks since it plays an important role in cell development and regulation. Glutamine is an important amino acid, especially for healing the lining of our gut. A lot of my clients suffer from leaky gut, and bone broth is one of my top healing recommendations for gut issues.
When I started making bone broth a few years ago, I'd pick up whatever beef bones were in the frozen case at Whole Foods and throw them in my slow cooker. The broth was always great, and definitely nutritious, but I'd see people online making gelatinous broths and wonder how they were getting it to be like that! Mine always stayed pretty thin and watery. I wanted the jiggle! The more it jiggles, the more collagen-rich it is. (Don't worry, it only jiggles when it's cold. It turns back into soup when warmed.)
I quickly found out that certain types of bones were a lot richer in collagen. These bones include chicken feet, which creeped me out for a long time. Okay, they still do. But sometimes I take one for the team (the team being my health) and use them in my broth. Since I've started braving the chicken feet (with tongs, of course), my broth has been incredible!
Bone broth has to cook for a while in a slow cooker or on the stove top, but the effort is really minimal. Some of my clients use their Instant Pot, which is a pressure cooker that takes 2-4 hours instead of 24 hours. It's definitely a game changer.
A simple bone broth recipe
- Beef or chicken bones (2+ lbs. - fill roughly half full)
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- Water - fill about an inch from the top (or a little below the max fill line)
- Optional: Add an onion, celery, carrots, garlic, or herbs to add flavor
- Slow cooker or stovetop: Cook on low for 24 hours
- Instant Pot: Press "Soup" and set the time for 120 minutes
- Let cool a bit before straining through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Store in large mason jars for easy access in the fridge or freezer.
Tips & Tricks
- You can usually find “soup” bones in the fresh or frozen section of a co-op or Whole Foods-type store. Ask at the meat counter and they can point you in the right direction.
- Cook a whole chicken, and use the chicken carcass for broth + a few chicken feet for extra collagen.
- Purchase soup bones + a package of chicken feet, then use half of each and freeze the other half for your next broth.
- If you're using an Instant Pot, fill it 1-2 notches below the max fill line. You could have issues with pressurizing when filled too far.
- Freeze half to use another day if you don't need it all. You can pre-measure common amounts your recipes call for to make it super easy on yourself.
- You can reference this article if you need help troubleshooting your bone broth consistency.
- There's really no perfect way to make broth, and you'll figure out what you like best over time. Don't over think it!
When you're in a pinch, you can even buy bone broth pre-made. You can often get it hot at a co-op, or find it refrigerated or packaged as well either in store or online. Here are a few brands I recommend:
Happy soup season! Hope your broth turns out fabulous!
If you need help with any of your health goals, set up your free consultation so we can discuss how Thrive Nutrition can help.
It's that time of year where things start to cool down and I sometimes find myself longing for some heat. The days are shorter, which means a lot less sunshine to boost our spirits (and our vitamin D!). We're also moving into "sick season", and I'm all about finding ways to avoid coming down with anything nasty. This is where my love for the infrared sauna comes in!
Infrared saunas are a healing modality I often recommend to my clients. You can find many claims of health benefits, like these outlined by Sunlighten, a maker of infrared saunas. There hasn't been in-depth research on many of the benefits though, so some may be skeptical. I can say from personal experience, and the experience of my clients', that I definitely notice some of the benefits when I use the infrared sauna throughout the winter months.
Besides warming my body up when it's -20 below, I experience a boost in my mood and my immunity. And it feels so good to sweat out all the junk in my system! Whenever I feel something coming on, or if I have a stuffy nose, the infrared sauna provides relief. It's also a great place to disconnect and catch up on some reading or meditation.
How does an infrared sauna work?
The temp in an infrared sauna is much lower than a traditional sauna. It's usually adjusted between 110-150 degrees and your session is 15-40 minutes. If you've been in a sauna in the past, know that an infrared sauna will feel very different.
These types of saunas use heat and light to create the warmth that penetrates your body and helps you to detox. It's similar to the infrared rays of the sun, which are the healthiest rays. There are near, mid, and far infrared rays and each have different benefits. It can be most beneficial to get the full spectrum, which many infrared saunas have available. Fun fact: these rays are the same type used in neonatal units for premature babies.
Some of the immediate effects you'll notice:
- Lots of sweating: This is how your body detoxes. It can sometimes feel like you're doing a super intense workout even though you're just sitting there. Definitely bring a couple towels with you and water to replenish.
- Increased heart rate: Your body is heating up and your circulation and blood flow are improving, so your heart rate increases slightly as well. It can truly feel like a little workout even though you're not moving.
- Relaxation & decreased stress: This is similar to effects you may get from exercising, but you're relaxing in an infrared sauna instead.
What are a few of the potential benefits?
- Detoxification: All that sweating you'll be doing? It's helping move the toxins stored in your body out through your sweat.
- Pain relief: The heat penetrates your muscles and can provide relief from chronic pain.
- Stress reduction: It's easy for your stress to reduce when you're in a relaxed state. The gentle heat relaxes you and can also improve your sleep.
- Lower blood pressure: Your heart rate and blood flow increase while your blood pressure lowers.
- Skin purification: You can notice glowing skin immediately after detoxing in an infrared sauna because the impurities are pushed out.
- and so much more!
For more info on infrared saunas, benefits, and even some research, check out this article from Dr. Axe or this article on 23 Health Benefits of Saunas, According to Science. And if you want to read about someone's experience in an infrared sauna, you can read this article from the HuffPost.
Feeling enticed? Awaken for Wellness in St. Paul is my favorite place to go for infrared sauna if you're in the Twin Cities area. If you're not, there's likely a holistic practice, yoga studio or spa near you that offers it.
As always, I'm here if you need support for detoxification. It's so important that it's built into many of my healing programs here at Thrive Nutrition.
Something super exciting happened recently in the real food community that I wanted to be sure you all heard about! It's great news for anyone who believes in or has experienced the healing power of food. There was research done on the efficacy of the autoimmune protocol, also known as the AIP diet, and it was a success! If you don’t know what the AIP diet is, it’s a more modified version of Paleo. Sometimes I work with my clients to start Paleo first, see how they feel and then progress to the Autoimmune Protocol. Not all clients with autoimmunity need to go full AIP, so we modify based on symptoms and progress.
In this study, a total of 15 individuals with autoimmune diseases followed the autoimmune protocol. By week 6, 11 out of 15 of them had achieved clinical remission. They maintained remission throughout the remainder of the study as well. You can read more about the study itself in the link above.
This is only the first of many studies to come, but it's really encouraging to see evidence building around this healing lifestyle. There are thousands of people who suffered for years before discovering AIP and finding relief. The more evidence we have to show that healing diets are working, the sooner we'll hear doctors recommending special diets as a way of healing disease over medicine.
Many of my clients have autoimmune diseases and follow AIP to reduce inflammation and remove common food allergens until their guts heal. It's pretty rare to find a standard medical doctor who has studied nutrition and knows the healing power food can have. Autoimmune diseases are often treated with a variety of medicines that don't bring any relief for some people, don't bring lasting relief for many others, and others still are left with symptoms they can't get relief from. I've seen people start to get results in a matter of days after starting AIP. That's how powerful food can be!
It's all about getting to the root cause of the problem instead of masking the symptoms with medication. This is exactly what we do at Thrive Nutrition. Once we figure out why the autoimmune disease, or any other adverse health condition, has happened in the first place, we can treat the root cause and work to alleviate the symptoms that stem from it.
If you have an autoimmune disease or digestive issues, Thrive Nutrition is here to help. When you schedule your free 30 minute consultation, we can discuss your symptoms and what an approach to healing might look like for you.
With these newsletters I've been trying to strike a balance between nutrition and lifestyle tips. Health is about so much more than just nutrition. Your environment and your mindset make a huge difference as well.
That's why I wanted to talk a bit about meditation today. It's a powerful tool I use to reduce my stress, improve my concentration, and ultimately achieve the balance I need in my life to experience my best health.
My favorite time to meditate is before I leave for work each morning. When I don't have time to meditate, or I miss multiple days in a row because of a trip, I can truly feel the difference. I'm easily agitated, more prone to anxiety, and don't have the normal sense of calm and emotional resiliency I usually experience on days when I meditate.
These days I dedicate 20-30 minutes a day to meditation, but I definitely didn't start out that way. And some days I only have time for 2-5 minutes of focused breathing before heading out the door. It still works better than skipping meditation completely and helps bring focus to my day.
Over time, I've also become better at listening to the cues my body is giving. When the muscles in my jaw, neck, or shoulders are tense, or my breathing is shallow, I know I need to pause and take a few deep breaths. Meditation doesn't have to be a long guided experience in a quiet space every time. It can look very different every day depending on what you feel you need.
The only health benefit I knew of before I gave meditation a try was that it helped with anxiety. I began to notice many changes in my life, and when I dug into why I began to understand the true power of meditation.
Did you know meditation can:
- Lower blood pressure & improve chronic illness
- Increase the gray matter in areas of your brain responsible for learning and memory and the regulation of emotions (check out the study here)
- Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
- Decrease negative emotions/increase feelings of positivity
- Improve concentration & focus
…and the list goes on
It's pretty incredible that paying attention to your breath and your mind can have such a profound impact on your life.
There are many different types of meditation as well. The one you likely hear about most is called mindfulness. This is what I practice most commonly. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment and non-judgmentally paying attention to your thoughts, sensations, and experience. Mindfulness meditations are typically guided by someone telling you what to pay attention to, but they can be unguided as well once you get the hang of it.
If mindfulness doesn't seem like a good fit, there are many other types of meditation available.
Here's an overview of 23 different meditation types if you're interested in exploring more of them. They all have different methods and benefits, so there's surely one out there that will resonate well with you.
Think you're ready to give it a try? Here are some apps I recommend:
- Headspace: I got started with Headspace using their Take 10 program, which is 10 minutes a day for 10 days. It really helps you understand how to meditate using the mindfulness strategy.
- Insight Timer: This is my favorite app these days. It's kind of like social media for meditation. You can see ratings and reviews and you can even see what meditations your friends are doing if you connect with people. There are over 2 millions meditations available and many different types as well. They're all organized by category and you can filter by length of meditation.
- Calm: I got into this app after Headspace. All the meditations are by the same woman, so if you like her voice, you're golden! I love to go to the calm website while I'm working and turn on the nature sounds (called scenes) for calming background noise.
As always, I'm here to help when you're ready to take your health to the next level! I love helping my clients find balance in their lives so they can achieve their optimal health.
Just like that, cold season is upon us. I don't know about you, but I hear a lot of sniffles going on at my office! I've been lucky to escape them so far. I wanted to share some of my go-to remedies with you in case you find yourself with a cold or even the flu.
I rarely end up using the same combination of remedies when I'm feeling under the weather. I like to listen to my body and use what sounds good to me in the moment. There are definitely a few things I use every single time though. And I suggest using these remedies as soon as you have an inkling you might be coming down with something.
But first, let's talk about a couple things you can do to keep your body in tip-top shape and maybe prevent getting sick in the first place!
How to stay healthy during cold & flu season
- Sleep: Getting adequate sleep is so important for healing your body and for staying healthy. If you're not getting around 8 hours of sleep a night, try to go to bed a bit earlier. If you struggle falling asleep, you could look into buying some blue light blocking glasses like these babies. Blue light from our electronic devices harms our melatonin production. Getting sunlight as early in the morning as possible and keeping your room cool for sleeping also help.
- Reduce your stress: Chronic stress is bad news for your immune system, which makes you more prone to getting sick. Remember the info I shared about meditation two weeks ago? It might be time to give it a try if you've been stressed for a while and haven't found relief. I also suggest making some time for yourself even when life is busy. A nice massage, a long walk in the sunshine, or an Epsom salt bath can go a long way.
- Eat healthy & eliminate sugar/processed-foods: Did you know that even though sugar tastes so yummy, it decreases white blood cells that help fight off infection? Couple that with lack of sleep and you have an illness just waiting to happen. I always thought it is interesting that cold and flu season is also the time of year we eat a ton of sugar: Halloween treats, Thanksgiving pie, Christmas cookies, etc. Try to focus on foods that give you energy throughout the day - try eating higher fat, lower carb, as sugar cravings tend to disappear and you can be more clear headed and able to focus.
- Stay hydrated: Hey, I don't mean to be nosey, but what color is your pee? A faint or light yellow is what you're shooting for. Hydration helps your body flush out toxins and run more smoothly.
And if you still end up getting sick, here are some of my favorite remedies:
Natural cold & flu remedies
- Honey Lemon Ginger Tonic: I love this drink even when I’m not feeling under the weather! I like to add more ginger to it so it's a little spicy. And I often leave out the honey unless I'm actually sick. Manuka honey is what I like to use in this drink because of its powerful antimicrobial properties. This type of honey is actually beneficial to use both inside and outside your body. You can use it to help heal cuts as well as sore throats! Check out Dr. Josh Axe's article to learn more about benefits, uses, and how to purchase manuka honey. See this Honey Lemon Ginger Tonic Recipe for details on how to make this delicious, healing drink. You'll use a garlic press to make your own ginger juice, and it's amazing!
- Essential Oil Steam Treatment: Add eucalyptus essential oil to a bowl and fill with boiling water. Put your face over the bowl and cover your head with a towel or scarf. Breathe in the steam for 5-10 minutes. Eucalyptus has anti-bacterial and decongestant properties that'll help relieve your runny nose or congested lungs. I love to use a scarf to cover my head and then wear it around the rest of the day smelling wonderful.
- Elderberry: Elderberry boosts your immune system which helps you fend off the cold or flu. If you're already sick, using elderberry has been found to relieve symptoms an average of 4 days earlier. Check out the study here. I like to buy elderberry in syrup form at my local coop.
- Colloidal Silver: Colloidal silver is antibacterial and antiviral. It also has immune boosting benefits which is perfect for cold and flu season. When I feel something coming on, I often like to add this in for an extra boost. You can find it at health foods stores with the supplements.
- Echinacea: Echinacea is a flowering plant that grows in the U.S. and Canada, and it's been used as medicine for centuries. There are nine species. Some of its common names are the purple coneflower or black-eyed Susan. The leaves, stems, flower, and roots are used to make supplements, liquid extracts, and teas. You should start using echinacea at the first sign of a cold, taking a total of about 900 mg of extract divided into two or three doses per day for one to two weeks.
- Berberine: Berberine is an extract from Goldenseal, Oregon Grape and Barberry. You can see the bright gold color of the berberine glowing in the roots and rhizomes of these special plants. This is the bright yellow glow of nature's pure anti inflammatory action. It is oftentimes considered to be “nature’s antibiotic” and if you work we me, regardless of what for, there's a good chance at some point you'll be taking berberine. Berberine effectively restores serum blood sugar balance. Berberine herbs purify heat toxins from the blood and reconditions the mucous membranes that line and protect our vital organs. This makes them particularly suited to regenerating both the upper and lower digestive tracts. Berberine is very efficient at killing bacteria, preventing inflammation, and treating inflammation once it has already occurred. Because of this fact, it is a great option for treating both coughs and colds.
- Bone Broth: Contains amino acids and minerals that naturally support immunity. Consume soup made of real bone broth and vegetables.
*Please consult your doctor before any use of supplements.
You might choose to use one, a couple, or all of these remedies depending on how you're feeling. This isn't even an extensive list of all the natural options out there, but these are the ones I use myself and recommend to my clients. I hope they'll help you feel your best again quickly if you find yourself getting the sniffles!
Ready to learn how to boost your immune system, reduce your stress, and improve your health for good? Schedule a free 30-minute consult!
I'm excited to share some great info about the liver with you today. It's an organ that is responsible for so much, but we talk about it so little. Let's show it some love!
What the liver does for your body
The liver is quite incredible. It has responsibilities for both detoxification and digestion. Anything you eat, breathe, or absorb goes through your liver for processing and is either circulated through your blood, stored for future use, or detoxified and flushed from your body through urine or stool. When your body needs the nutrients your liver has stored, your liver knows to release them. An example of this is regulation of your blood sugar levels. If your levels get too low, your liver will break down glycogen and release the sugar into your blood. Your liver also knows when to release stored vitamins and minerals to keep your body functioning optimally. It's truly incredible what the liver can do, and we've barely scratched the surface! It's also incredible what can happen if your liver is overburdened.
Signs your liver may not be functioning optimally
There are many symptoms that can indicate if your liver is overburdened. This list is not exhaustive, but includes some of the common indicators that we need to do more to support our livers. When you begin to support your liver, other organs improve their function as well. There's definitely a domino effect when your liver is taxed and also when it's functioning well. In fact, a lot of healing diets and protocols include phases, foods, or supplements that support your liver because it's just that important to your overall health.
Here are a few of the common signs of poor liver function:
Digestive disorders & bloating
Pain/discomfort under your right-side ribcage
Hormonal imbalance/irregular menstrual cycle
Unexplained weight gain
Dark spots on the skin
Acne or other skin rashes
How to detox your liver
Change up your diet: Some of the best foods for your liver include sour foods, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and fresh herbs. Buying organic when you can will reduce the pesticides you consume through produce. You can also add in some apple cider vinegar to help stimulate digestion. Eliminate alcohol, sugars, a diet with multiple servings of grains and grain products (bread, pasta, etc.), and processed foods including high fructose corn syrup and agave, which can all lead to an excessive toxic load on your liver.
Reduce the toxins in your life: From cleaning chemicals to beauty products, we're subjected to chemicals that we often don't know about hundreds of times each day. There are many non-toxic options out there these days that are worth checking out. I've started to replace things with safer options as I run out of what I already have on hand. It's not always financially feasible to replace everything at once. You can also easily make your own home cleaners with vinegar, baking soda. lemon and essential oils.
Use herbs & teas to boost your liver function: Milk thistle and tumeric herbs are great for liver function. Dandelion root and green teas are great as well! I love roasted dandelion root tea in the morning. It's dark and has a lovely nutty flavor.
Exercise: Moving your body is a great way to expel toxins from your liver and your body as a whole via breath and sweat. Another option to get your body sweating without strenuous activity is the infrared sauna and there are several in the local Twin Cities area! This is one of my favorite things to do in the winter, which will sadly be here in a mere few months!
Need a little help with your liver health? Schedule a free 30 minute consultation to see if Thrive Nutrition is a good fit for you.
I was recently listening to a podcast recommended to me by a friend who happens to be a runner. It was episode 188 of The Running Lifestyle Show. The topic was actually acupuncture, which I'll definitely be sharing more about in the future. The thing that really grabbed me was right at the end, and I knew I wanted to share it with you!
Health is SO much more than nutrition. It's also about sleep, movement, taking time for yourself, finding joy in life, and reducing stress.
Worrying can be a source of stress for many people, including myself from time to time. You know that feeling when you lay down to sleep and your mind starts racing? Or you wake up in the middle of the night and that flight you have to take or important conversation you need to have pop into your head? Here's an approach shared by Kari on the podcast to help calm your worrying, reduce your stress, and improve your sleep.
When a worry arises, acknowledge it and determine a specific time you'll dedicate to thinking about it. If it's the middle of the night, you might determine you'll think about it at 7am when you wake up. This will hopefully allow you to fall back to sleep without trying to get rid of the worry completely.
When the time you're dedicating to the worry arrives, do the following forecasting exercise:
Worst case scenario: what is the absolute worst thing that could happen?
Best case scenario: what is the best thing that could happen?
Most likely: What is the most likely thing to happen?
Chances are, the worst case scenario will rarely happen, but this exercise will help you think through and prepare for whatever you're worrying about.
Here's an example of how this could be applied in real life based on something that often causes me to worry. Job interviews always tend to be stressful for me, even when I know I'm a great fit for the job. It feels like there is a lot of pressure to be absolutely perfect in these situations.
Worst case scenario: I don't get this particular job and I have to continue my search.
Best case scenario: The interview goes amazingly well and I get offered the job on the spot.
Most likely: There are things I could've done differently, but overall I feel good about how it went and I'll hear back from the hiring manager soon.
Now, whenever I'm starting to worry or hear someone else worrying, I can give this forecasting exercise a try. I hope you find it as useful in your life as I've found it to be in mine.
Hope you're having a lovely July. It's pretty incredible how quickly the summer seems to go by compared to the winter. I've been soaking it up as much as I can! It's exciting to be able to eat my own fresh veggies from the garden or buy fresh-picked produce directly from farmers at the farmers market. I love that pasture-raised meats are also available at many of the markets.
I'm sure you've seen many headlines about pasture-raised or grass-fed meats in the news and the grocery stores in the past couple years. As with many things, it might seem like the latest craze that isn't going to last. However, there are many nutritional and environmental reasons why pasture-raised meats are truly better for us.
Why pasture-raised is worthy of the hype
Meat from pasture-raised animals contain 3-5x the normal amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). This important antioxidant has been shown to help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more.
There are higher amounts of omega-3 fats (the good fats!). These fats play a role in every cell and system in the body. You know those fish oil pills everyone takes? It's because of omega-3's.
Vitamins A and E (as well as many other vitamins and minerals) are higher in pasture-raised animals due to the animals eating the foods they were meant to consume.
Just like humans, animals store toxins in their fat. When they're heavily exposed to toxins from the foods they eat and the environments they live in, we end up eating those toxins. Conventionally-raised (factory-farmed) animals rely on grains for their diet. These grains are often heavily sprayed with RoundUp and other industrial chemicals. Conventionally-raised animals are also injected with steroids and antibiotics, which are compounds we indirectly get from their meat.
Pasture-raised animals are also better for the environment. I'm sure you're aware of how bad it smells when you drive by a factory farm. There isn't anything bad to smell when you drive by a farm where animals are pasture-raised. Their waste goes into the ground and enriches the soil instead of producing excess methane gas in a cesspool of waste on a factory farm.
It's more humane. Cows, pigs, and chickens live as they were designed to with space to roam around. They get to play, soak up the sun, lay in the grass and eat their native foods. Some farms even strive to kill animals in their natural environment to evoke the least amount of stress possible.
Pasture-raised is better for the animal and ultimately better for you.
How to keep the cost down
Pasture-raised meats are definitely more expensive than factory-farmed. The animals require a lot more land and often more time to grow than factory-farmed animals, but I’ve even gotten my dad to convert, who was raised on a semi-conventional dairy farm! There are ways to help bring the cost down so it's more affordable to eat regularly.
Check out Eat Wild, an online resource you can use to locate farms that sell pasture-raised meats across the US. You can often buy directly from the farmer.
Purchasing meat in larger quantities reduces your cost as well. It's been fairly easy to find groups of people to go in on a whole cow or pig with. 1/8 of a cow fits easily in a standard freezer.
Watch for sales and stock up. I belong to a co-op that has a big meat sale once a year. I get 3-4 months worth of meat at that sale because it's so much cheaper, sometimes 40% off per pound or more!
Starting slowly and buying it whenever you can is a good way to go. That's exactly how I got started.
In the end, we're healthier when the plants and animals we eat are healthier. I also like to think of buying pasture-raised meats and organic vegetables as voting with my dollar. Together, we can start to drive change in the food industry when we buy healthier, properly raised foods. For now, we'll be a bit healthier ourselves by eating this way and supporting local farmers at the same time.