With the winter season coming in full effect some might say catching a flu or cold is inevitable. We wake up anticipating a burning throat, watery eyes and blocked sinuses. Especially following a day of your co-worker ever so graciously coughing into your cubicle or your 5 year old innocently sneezing directly into your face. Unless you plan on hibernating or avoiding all contact with society, you are likely to be exposed to a variety of the years’ active and eager viruses.
Luckily there are several defensive measures you can take to boost your immune system as well as measures you can take to speed your recovery and lessen the severity of your symptoms.
Probiotics – 70% of our body’s immunity is in our gut, good gut health = improved immunity
Vitamin A, C, E, D – antioxidants, immune system boosters
Echinacea – immune enhancer and defender, increases white blood cells
Zinc – increases white blood cells and interferes with viruses’ ability to reproduce, shortens during of colds, reduces severity of symptoms
Natural Anti-Bacterials and Anti-Virals
Oil of Oregano – antimicrobial herb to help to kill off the bacteria and viruses, topically and orally as effective as prescription anti-fungal drugs
Goldenseal – ‘the herbal antibiotic’ with anti-bacterial properties, considered a natural antibiotic and is often paired with Echinacea to promote a strong immune system
Ginger – powerful root that is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, eliminates congestion, combats chills
Baptisia – member of the wild indigo family that clears infections of the mouth and throat with a potent concentration of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components. Eliminates dangerous pathogens and bacteria. Also can alleviate symptoms of discomfort.
Yarrow – a member of the sunflower family used for fever; induces sweating to ‘break’ fevers and colds, shortens duration of cold and flu and improves relaxation during illness.
Elderberry (cold/flu) – boosts immune system; rich in tannins, vitamin C and other anti-oxidants; and reduces length and severity of symptoms
Boneset (bone aches) – treats flu, cold, fever and rheumatism; relieves congestion; and aids with bone pain caused by influenza
Magnesium – helps to break down mucus and congestion; as Epsom salt topically as a detoxifier and sleep aid
What you do and do not eat can also impact your susceptibility to illness as well as your ability to recover quickly. When things go viral and you’re feeling ‘under the weather’ you want to
Load up on:
Garlic - (antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties) garlic is most effective when raw and can be helpful in people with low resistance to infections
Onions – helps to cure coughs, fevers and flu; also a natural anti-histamine
Ginger – grated, as a tea, or as a powder this is a antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-congestion superstar
Protein - strength and repair, repair, repair!
Honey – antibacterial and soothing for inflamed membranes; eases cough
Caffeine, sugar and alcohol - paralyzes our immune and causes inflammation!
Dairy – very mucus forming and congesting!
Stay hydrated, and stay well!
When you’re depressed, you cope with sugar. When life calls for a celebrate, you celebrate with dessert (aka sugar). Sugar has become the quick fix to deal with all of our feelings and problems. This is because sugar stimulates the "feel-good" chemicals serotonin and dopamine in our brain. The problem is that sugar is highly addictive, as dramatic falls or spikes in our blood sugar affect the part of our brain controlling impulse. This leads to impulsive binging, irritability, and cravings for unhealthy sugary foods.
Research has shown that sugar is an addictive toxin. Today, the average sugar intake in North America is roughly 22-24 teaspoons per day, which is four times the amount that the World Health Organization suggests is healthy. This excess sugar contributes to a laundry list of health conditions including diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
One of the most noticeable and rapid effects of sugar is weight gain. When we eat refined sugar, our bodies break it down into glucose and fructose. Fructose not only activates processes in your body that make you store fat, but the high supply of glucose exceeds our energy demand, which again becomes stored as fat by the liver.
Why do we crave sugar?
Sugar addictions can be triggered by several underlying causes and can signify the presence of an existing health problem or condition. Some of these potential underlying causes include:
Adrenal overload or tiredness – Because your body can convert sugar into energy so quickly, eating sugar gives your body a fast and temporary boost of energy. Often when we crave sweets we really just need fuel.
Hormones – Women experiencing menopause as well as those who experience PMS, often crave sweets before menstruation. This is because hormonal fluctuations can trigger strong cravings for quick energy provided by sweets.
Depression and anxiety – Many people seek sugary foods when they experience certain emotions and develop an emotional connection with sweets. Sugar makes you ‘feel good’ temporarily before it causes you to crash, and consequently crave more.
Candida – Candida is a yeast that grows in your intestines due to an imbalance in gut flora. Candida feeds off sugar which causes you to crave refined carbohydrates and refined sugars. This in turn causes ‘bad’ bacteria overgrowth which causes several digestive problems.
Taste – The simple fact is sugar tastes good. People enjoy eating it because the truth is, it’s delicious.
So how do you kick refined sugar to the curb?
One of the key reasons I'm so passionate about being a health and fitness coach is that the weight loss journey really hits home for me. I myself struggled with body image and self-esteem throughout my teenage years. After gaining more than 25 lbs in university I developed a terrible perception of myself. When I looked in the mirror I was not happy. I did not have the resources or support on how to make a lifestyle change and it was a huge challenge. Going from a diet of lasagna, breaded veal cutlets, nachos, pizza and having delicious homemade desserts frequently at my disposal made even the thought of 'dieting' seem too difficult to accomplish and the ability to lose weight far beyond my capabilities. However, through every struggle I persevered and began to understand strategies to make this a lifestyle change instead of a 'diet'. Through this experience I developed an immense passion for food and fitness and I have developed and evolved both physically and mentally into a much stronger and happier woman.
Learning how to create recipes that taste AMAZING and never make me feel like I'm missing out, and developing an extensive understanding of food and nutrition by becoming a Registered Holistic Nutritionist have helped me to become someone who has knowledge and experience in making a positive and dramatic change in your life.
Since then I have lost and kept off almost 40 lbs and never looked back. I truly believe that if I was able to do it, anyone can.
I truly want to change people's lives and help them to be successful. Helping people to look and feel better and take back their health is the most rewarding and fulfilling experience I could imagine. Through giving extensive support and educating people how to make changes in a HEALTHY and DO-ABLE way will undoubtedly lead them down a path to success.
If you asked 100 people if they’re stressed, I would not doubt that 98 of them would say yes. Stress has become a factor in several areas of our lives and opportunities for emotional chaos are everywhere. Although the stress response can be a useful and motivating mechanism, exposure to chronic stress can have seriously damaging effects to the brain and body.
What is stress?
The stress response also known as the flight-or-fight response, triggers the body for action to protect you from danger. The brain sends messages to the adrenals which stimulate hormones like cortisol to raise blood pressure and blood sugar. This may be useful to motivate or challenge us to complete tasks, or as a survival tactic to provide us with the energy and adrenaline to escape dangerous situations. However, when our stress response is followed by sitting on an office chair for 9 hours, we are left with an excess of unused glucose circulating in our body which can contribute to weight gain and other health imbalances.
There are three types of 'stressors' that cause a stress reaction in the body:
Chemical - caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, drug use, high fat diet, household and environmental poisons
Physical - physical inactivity or over activity, noise pollution, accidents, lack of sleep, weather changes
Emotional - fear, anger, guilt, sorrow, jealousy, hurt, anxiety
When stress becomes prolonged, the body is forced to maintain higher levels of these natural chemicals. This leads to burn out, or ‘adrenal fatigue’ from having to function in overdrive for long periods of time. Each person has a stress threshold. While some people can handle stress well, others don't. When we reach our threshold, physical and/or emotional breakdown can occur.
Other serious side effects of stress can include neurotransmitter imbalances or hormone imbalance. These can lead to numerous symptoms or conditions like depression, anxiety, difficulty losing weight, weakened immune system, hyperactivity, cognitive disorders, insomnia, chronic pain, excessive fatigue, allergies, addiction, dysglycemia, type 2 diabetes, and more.
Since our diet plays an important role in how we can cope with stress as well as the damaging effects it may have, here are the best & worst foods for beating stress.
1. Nuts & Seeds – contain valuable stress busting nutrients like vitamins E, B, magnesium, essential fatty acids and fiber. They are also rich in zinc which is important because low levels of zinc have been linked to anxiety and depression.
2. Avocado – Avocados are rich in stress-relieving B vitamins as well as vitamin E and fiber to boost the immune system in times of stress.
3. Dark chocolate – Contains magnesium and supports healthy mood, alertness, and may help to reduce anxiety (and tastes delicious to give you that ‘sweet fix’ you seek when under stress)
4. Oatmeal – A complex carbohydrate that causes your brain to produce serotonin (our feel-good chemical) which also creates a soothing feeling. It’s magnesium, fiber, chromium, and B vitamin content also aid in combating stress.
5. Berries – contain antioxidant vitamins and phytonutrients and are rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to be helpful in combating stress.
6. Green Tea – Has smaller amounts of caffeine and an amino acid called Theanine which has been shown to be a brain booster and enhance mental performance. This would be a great replacement to coffee and energy drinks!
7. Salmon/wild fish – One of the best sources of Omega 3. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps to prevent cortisol and adrenaline from spiking when you're feeling tense.
2. Coffee and 'energy' drinks
Combining caffeine and sugar is basically a recipe for disaster. It can raise levels of cortisol and put enormous stress on the adrenal glands. It also gives you the ‘jitters’ and rapidly spikes our blood sugar which will lead to a huge crash soon after. This causes us to require MORE stimulants and repeats the cycle.
3. Alcoholic beverages
Many people drink a glass of wine or pop open a beer to help them unwind. However, alcohol does not calm you—it actually stimulates the body’s natural stress response. It also disrupts sleep (critical for stress management), and increases your risk of cancer, stroke and heart attack.
4. Processed foods – candy, packaged cookies, donuts, crackers, cakes, muffins, brownies
5. Fried foods – fries, chips, poutine, fried chicken
These foods have little to no nutritional value but are high in refined sugar salt, calories, and artificial ingredients which only increase stress hormones and send blood sugar levels sky rocketing causing an intense sugar crash soon after.
This puts stress on the immune system, digestive tract, adrenal glands, pancreas, liver, and cardiovascular system to figure out what to do with all the excess.
These foods can actually increase anxiety and uneasiness, because without fiber to slow digestion of sugar, glucose levels spike, and so do stress hormones.
Magnesium. A remarkably powerful therapeutic nutrient that provides benefits for a wide variety of conditions and is used by every organ in your body. This magical little mineral's extensive health benefits include:
○ Prevention and treatment of muscle spasms & cramps - particularly Epsom salt (Magnesium Sulfate) which loosens tight muscles, reduces swelling and minimizes soreness
○ Decreases stress, nervousness and anxiety by relaxing the nervous system
○ Aids in restful sleep
○ Alkalizes the body and helps to return the body to it's natural pH balance
○ Helps to create ATP aka your body's energy molecules
○ Relieves PMS symptoms & menstrual cramps
○ Works hand in hand with calcium to aid in the proper formation of bones and teeth
○ Relaxation/dilation of blood vessels beneficial for blood pressure and heart health
○ Helps with constipation (particularly Magnesium Citrate) by attracting water to the colon
○ Regulates blood sugar levels by facilitating sugar metabolism
○ Is an electrolyte necessary for hydration
○ Helps the production of protein, enzymes (stimulates every chemical reaction in the body!), and antioxidants
Whether through foods sources, taken as a supplement or used topically (Epsom salt, magnesium mineral oil) make sure you get your magnesium in!
Whether you suffer from dry skin, dandruff, acne or psoriasis the look and feel of your skin can make you uncomfortable both physically and mentally. While certain health conditions may be a factor in your less-than-perfect complexion, there are a few vital nutrients that can promote beautiful, glowing and healthy skin.
Drinking water may be the most important factor in healthy skin and flushing out toxins. How much? Aim for 1 ounce per kg of body weight as a good starting point.
Omega/Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
Sources: Olive oil, flax seed oil, nuts, seeds and avocados.
Why? These are necessary to nourish your skin and keep the texture smooth and strong.
Sources: carrots, sweet potato, red bell peppers, dark leafy vegetables, cod liver oil, egg yolks
Why? Anti-aging & prevents acne, blemishes, dry skin, and skin cancer.
Sources: Grass fed beef, turkey, oysters, wild seafood, egg yolks, nuts & seeds (pumpkin seeds*), legumes, whole grains, spinach, carrots, squash
Why? Treats acne and aging skin, speeds wound healing and promotes skin renewal
Sources: Almonds, salmon, avocados, bananas, oats
Why? Strengthens skin (and nails) and is a major component of collagen which keeps skin toned and soft
Sources: Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes), kiwi, red bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach
Why? Increases collagen production, reduces free-radical damage, reduces skin discolorations, anti-aging
Sources: leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, avocado, egg yolk, cold pressed oils
Why? Anti-inflammatory, speeds wound healing, treats wrinkles topically, reduces free-radical damage, anti-aging
Sources: Eggs, Wild Salmon, Chicken, Hemp Seeds
Why? Getting enough protein is essential to make amino acids used to build and repair skin tissue and promote cellular turnover.
Sources: Whole grains, legumes, vegetables
Why? Helps with elimination of toxins which can affect skin and cause break outs.
In addition, avoiding or limiting common dietary irritants such as sugar and caffeine may help to prevent skin reactions, in turning helping you to achieve healthy glowing skin.