Is food giving you a migraine?

For those of us who have had migraines, we know it’s not just a really bad headache.

migraine-headache

It’s mind numbingly painful and can completely destroy your day or even week depending on how long lasts.  I first started getting migraines in elementary school – my mum often received calls from the office asking her to come pick me up.

migraine infographic

She tells me I described seeing “stars” before the headache set in and was able to piece together the visual problems, headaches, and nausea as a probable migraine.  Having a migraine isn’t really about the pain as much as it is a total disruption of life.  Often, during bouts of frequent migraines, I’m afraid to make plans and fear that one will strike me at work.  I remember worrying on my wedding day that I would get one…thankfully, I didn’t!

Migraine Aura:  partial loss of vision

Migraine Aura: partial loss of vision

The way a migraine starts is pretty interesting.  Something triggers our prostaglandins (a type of hormone) to initiate platelets to cluster together which in turn signals our body in increase the levels of serotonin in the blood stream.  This increase in serotonin then causes our blood vessels to constrict meaning less blood flows to the brain.  The decrease in blood to the brain creates a sort of acidic environment which then results in the vessels dilating which causes pain.  The aura I mentioned previously (vision problems) is caused by the changes in nerve cells and blood flow.  Aside from visual auras, other warnings that a migraine may be on the way include numbness, weakening, dizziness, vertigo, speech and hearing problems, and issues with memory.

mechnismmigraine

Migraines are a very complex neurological disorder with many contributing factors (genetics, environment, etc) but we do know that they are instigated by triggers such as:

  • skipping meals
  • stress
  • hormonal changes
  • caffeine or withdrawal from caffeine
  • over sleeping or not getting enough sleep
  • exercise
  • travel
  • weather changes
  • menstrual cycle
  • certain medications
  • constipation (see this post and this one as well for ways of reducing this problem)
  • food

The thing with migraines is that they can almost be a response to too many things going on at once.  If you’re tired, stressed, and the barometric pressure is low and then you eat food that is aggravating to your system, it can be that last thing to send you over the edge.

migraine

On my lifetime journey to healing myself or at least reducing the frequency of migraines I know that it’s crucial for me to eat regular meals, keep my stress levels under control, get enough sleep, an also to avoid food triggers.  Here are some common dietary contributors:

  • diary (especially cheese) – contains histamine
  • wheat
  • corn
  • soy
  • sugar
  • coffee
  • chocolate – contains histamine
  • citrus fruit
  • nuts
  • strawberries
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • shellfish
  • MSG
  • food colouring – contains histamine
  • Alcohol (red wine and beer especially which contains histamine)

When we eat something that we’re allergic to, our immune system releases histamines which trigger an inflammatory response (migraines!) so if you suffer from migraines it may help to take Vitamin C everyday since it helps breakdown histamine.  Other natural sources that help the body to break down histamine include Vitamin B and Quercetin.

Vit CVit B6Quercetin

Other natural remedies worth trying out include Magnesium (minimum of 300 mg/day) and Feverfew which comes from Feverfew leaves and is helpful as a preventative mechanism (50-100 mg/day).

For more information on migraines and nutrition, contact thehealthjunction@mail.com.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“A migraine is like a tornado.  It attacks fast, usually without warning, and wreaks havoc regardless of what’s going on in your life at that moment.”

–  Stephen Silverstein, M.D., Director of the Jefferson Headache Clinic in Philadelphia

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Why Cats Don’t Suffer From Adrenal Fatigue…

For such a small and often overlooked body part, the adrenal glands sure do pack a hormone infused punch.  The adrenal glands are located just above our kidney’s and are the key gland that control our reaction to physical, environmental, and emotional stressors.

adrenal glands

Among the host of hormones produced by the adrenal glands are cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.  Cortisol works by increasing the level of glucose in our blood, controlling inflammation, reducing swelling, and inhibiting pain-causing prostaglandins.  In addition, cortisol plays an integral role in regulating fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism, our immune response, and blood pressure.

Frustrated Businesswoman on Telephone

What’s up with adrenaline and noradrenaline?  Much like cortisol, these hormones are released when we feel threatened and cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.  Another result is the dilation of passageways, including those in the lungs so that more oxygen and glucose can circulate and help us combat the impending stressors.

Stressor

Now, you may  know that I enjoy cats and members of the cat family.  However, if this guy above was chasing me I would not enjoy it and my adrenal glands would spring into action by secreting the hormones described above to help me run faster, breath better, utilize energy most efficiently, and get myself to safety.  Fantastic.  But, what happens when we are exposed to long-term stress?  The kind that sort of just hangs around and is constant?

chronic stress

If the acute stress we are supposed to be able to handle becomes chronic, eventually our adrenal glands become less responsive and putter out because they are tired – hence a very common condition called Adrenal Fatigue.  The main cause of adrenal fatigue is actually low levels of cortisol because our adrenals simply can’t keep up with demand.  Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

Symptoms of AF

  • Feeling tired
  • Trouble getting out of bed despite adequate sleep
  • Feeling rundown
  • Difficulty recovering from stress
  • Difficulty recovering from illness
  • Food cravings; sugary and salty
  • More energy in the PM as compared to the AM
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Low blood pressure (worse when moving from a sitting to standing)
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Pain
  • General Inflammation
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Inability to sleep soundly
  • General lack of wellness

How can adrenal fatigue be addressed?  Both lifestyle and nutritional modifications can help revive your adrenal glands and pave the way for a happier, healthier you.

LIFESTYLE CONSIDERATIONS

A great first place to start is a book called Adrenal Fatigue:  The 21st Century Stress Syndrome written by Dr. James L. Wilson.

Adrenal-Fatigue-Cover

In his book, Wilson writes about the lifestyle factors that need to be addressed in order to treat the root cause of why adrenal fatigue exists in the first place and the obvious first factor to consider is stress.  Are there constant stressors in your life that need to be dealt with?  Common stressors include; work commitments, being unhappy in your workplace role, family obligations, lack of time to oneself, inability to express emotions effectively, etc.  Wilson asks readers to ask three questions regarding stressors:

  • Can you change the situation?  If so, then do.
  • Can you change the way you adapt to the situation?  If so, then do.
  • If all else fails, can you leave the situation?

Sleep

Aside from identifying and reducing the stressors in your life, you’ll be better able to cope with day-to-day obstacles when you’re well rested and so, 8 hours of sleep is recommended and it’s best to be in bed by 10 pm.  Also, if possible try to avoid being on the computer or watching TV a few hours before bed.  Also, strongly consider removing chocolate, coffee, booze, cigarette’s, and other known stimulants from your diet as they interfere with sleep patterns.

Exercising Cat

Exercise helps to release stress and energizes both the mind and body – try your best to work in 30 minutes of physical activity a day.  If you’re not in shape, start with brisk walking…do whatever it takes to get your body moving.

Laughing Cat - Vitamin L2

Figure out ways to make yourself laugh.  It will make you feel better and helps to relieve stress.  See this prior post for more on this topic.

Cat Nap

Take naps during the day, but only for 15-minutes and lay down when you do it.  A snooze on the subway doesn’t count.

NUTRITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

Nutrition is an integral component of correcting adrenal fatigue and the recommendations below will work hand in hand with the aforementioned lifestyle changes.

1.)  There is a relationship between stress, cortisol, and blood sugar levels.  Earlier in this post, I explained that cortisol in part, helps to bring up blood sugar levels during times of stress so we can hypothetically fight off whatever is putting us at risk.  Another reason why our glucose levels might be low and require cortisol is when we have large spikes and dips in our blood sugar levels brought on by foods that cause an exaggerated metabolic response to food.  Food that can cause rapid spikes and then dips in blood sugar levels include:

  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Tea
  • Alcohol
  • Fruit

While fruits and grains are good for us, people suffering from adrenal fatigue may consider holding off on eating fruit and grains in the morning in order to prevent a cascade of inappropriate blood sugar fluctuations throughout the day.  When selecting grains, always choose whole grains and when considering fruit, select low glycemic index fruits which will have the smallest impact on our blood sugar response.    Click here for a list of low glycemic index fruits.

Meal Time

2.)  Eat regular meals.  This is closely tied with the information above as it is crucial to keep blood sugar levels stable in order to regulate cortisol and insulin levels in the blood.  Try eating breakfast within an hour of waking, have an early lunch (11 – 11:30 am), a snack at 2:30 or 3 pm, and then dinner between 5 – 6 pm.

3.)  Limit fatty foods and excessive salt.

4.)  Plant and animal sterols are useful to help keep the immune system in balance which is often a problem when one is exposed to prolonged periods of stress.  Food sources of plant and animal sterols include fresh (low GI) fruit, organic free range eggs, nuts, seeds, veggies, healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil), fresh fish.

Cat Eating Veggies

5.)  Get your vitamins and minerals through lots of leafy greens and orange/red/yellow/purple veggies.  Vitamin C, and the B Vitamins are often depleted during stress and can be found in the food listed.  additionally, these foods are high in magnesium which is helpful in promoting relaxation and supporting anxiety and depression.

6.) Give your digestive system a break by choosing high quality proteins such as organic free range chicken, wild fish, beans, nuts, and seeds.  These proteins are less taxing on the hydrochloric acid required to break protein down and will allow for easier digestion not only of proteins, but all foods ingested.

Cat Having Tea

7.)  Consider taking some adaptogenic herbs which may help your body adapt and manage stress.  One great adaptogen is ginseng which can be taken as a supplement, a tea infusion, or a tincture.  To make a tea, try boiling a small pot of water with 3-5 slices of fresh ginseng and allow it to steep for 5 minutes.  You can also purchase ginseng tea or ginseng supplements from most health food stores.  Siberian, Panox, and Indian Ginseng are all good options.

8.)  Consider taking Vitamin C (2 grams/day), Vitamin B5 (1500 mg/day), and Magnesium (150 mg twice a day).  Food sources of each of these nutrients are listed below:

Vitamin C: papaya, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, kiwi, oranges, kale.

Vitamin B5:  whole grains, cauliflower, broccoli, salmon, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.

Magnesium:  pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss Chard, soybeans, sesame seeds, halibut, black beans, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds.

 

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Cats have it all – admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it.”

– Rod McKuen

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Because sometimes laughter is the best medicine…

A while ago, I discovered that there is a little known vitamin that we can’t live without – Vitamin L (check out this prior post) where the “L” stands for love.

love-vitamin01

It’s true, without love from our partners, family, friends, pets, neighbours, and community…where would we be?

Note:  I am not normally a fan of self-portraits but this one couldn't be helped.

Note: I am not normally a fan of self-portraits but this one couldn’t be helped.

But there is another Vitamin “L” on the block and I think it’s just as essential as Love and it’s called Vitamin L(aughter).  Call me a cheese ball if you want (I’ve been called worse) but there’s something to laughing that makes us feel awesome.

cheeseballAt a very basic level, laughter helps to relieve stress and since stress lowers the immune system – I would consider laughter and immune booster.  There is a whole field of medicine called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) which looks at the relationship between the way we think, and the way our body responds.  Research on this topic has exploded as scientists look to better understand the connection between our nervous system and the ways in which we deal with stress and our immune system – the findings thus far have been pretty extraordinary.

PNI

There was an interesting experiment conducted by scientists at the Rochester University Medical School in which rats were given a sweet drink of water at the same time as an injection of a drug that lowered the response of their immune system.  As expected, the immune system function of the rats decreased.  However, when the rats were then given just the sweet drink, their immune system was compromised which can be explained by the fact there was a learned and conditioned response that caused the immune system to react in a certain way.  What is fascinating about this is that it shows that thoughts and beliefs can actually change the way our immune system responds for better or worse.

PNI Experiment

This brings me back to Vitamin Laughter – lets’ call it Vitamin L2.  If we know that stress reduces our immune function and that laughter decreases stress…wouldn’t Vitamin L2 help prevent immune system lowering in times of stress?  I’m not a scientist, but in my own (albeit poorly designed study) Vitamin L2 makes me feel better in times of stress.  Why not self-prescribe Vitamin L2 each day?

Laughter

Vitamin L2 also apparently helps to increase blood flow and improves relaxation and sleep.  With that in mind, here are some tidbits that no matter how many times I’ve seen them…always provide much-needed Vitamin L2.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Laugh.  Laugh as much as you can.  Laugh until you cry.  Cry until you laugh.  Keep doing it even if people are passing you on the street saying, “I can’t tell if that person is laughing or crying, but either way they seem crazy, let’s walk faster.”  Emote.  It’s okay.  It shows you are thinking and feeling.”

– Ellen Degeneres

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When you just don’t feel like it…

There are times where, if you’re like me, you just really don’t feel like it.  What is ‘it’?  ANYTHING!

sorry-i-m-not-in-the-mood

Working, socializing, cleaning, cooking, and all the stuff in between.

For me, it happens when I’m either really stressed out or when I’m not being challenged (mind and body).  These days, it’s more a stress related response as I busily prepare to complete and test for my designation to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.

study-stress

Stress and anxiety have such a profound impact on the digestive system and in case it hasn’t been emphasised in prior posts, I wanted to touch upon this again.  When we are stressed, our body shuts down systems that are not vital for survival.  The two systems of the body that are commonly impacted by stress and emotional distress are the reproductive and digestive systems.

Stressed

Our digestion becomes compromised and leads to malabsorption of nutrients which cascades into a ripple effect because we need the right nutrients, in the right proportions to thrive.  For example, not absorbing enough Vitamin B12 will have a negative impact on our entire nervous system which is already likely weakened due to feeling stressed in the first place.  Aside from digestion and reproduction, stress and anxiety negatively impact the endocrine, cardiovascular, nervous, immune, and respiratory systems so you can see how your entire balance can be thrown off.

Stress and Body Systems

Once of my teachers likened feeling anxious, stressed, or even depressed to having a blockage that simply needs to be released.  She said that the stagnating energy needs to be moved and actually suggested simply jumping up and down on the bed.  By the way, if you just google “Jumping on Bed” you’ll get a good laugh which should cheer you up!

Jumping on bed

I’m not into jumping up and down on a bed (what would my cats think!?) but it’s helpful to simply move when you feel emotional distress.  Do some yoga (click here for my favourite FREE online yoga resource), go for a walk, move around your kitchen (cook!), or dance (I just found this gem…you can thank me later because I’m busy getting my moves on), cycle, swim…whatever it takes.  While petting cats is the number one stress relieving mechanism (so says The Health Junction) moving is a close second in stress reduction.  So close this post down and get moving!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” 
– Tina Fey

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The Big Brown Elephant In the Room: CONSTIPATION!

I’m only a little bit embarrassed to admit that one of my favourite topics of conversation is in fact “moving of the bowels”.  My fascination with poop started way  before I became interested in nutrition, and long before I decided to become a Nutritionist.  Maybe it’s because for many years of my life, I simply couldn’t poop properly – it’s not like I never went but it was a once or twice a week deal.

Bieber

I remember my first nutrition teacher exclaiming to the class “can you imagine that some people only go once a week” and the class was dismayed to say the least.  People were shouting in disbelief “NO!  IMPOSSIBLE” to which I silently said “oh, it’s possible Sally and I’m living proof”.  Going once a week isn’t normal, and all joking aside is a major indicator that something isn’t quite right with the digestive and gastrointestinal system.  Since March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, I thought constipation was a good place to start in optimizing the health and balance of our colon and ultimately, entire body.

Constipation

The Mayo Clinic defines constipation as infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools.  It feels unfomfortable and can leave people with bloating and gas and according to this BBC article, leads to “rabbit pellet” like bowel movements.  When one is constipated, the bowel movements are normally small and hard which can tear the anus causing further discomfort and pain – and often causes people to “hold it in” to avoid more pain which further exacerbates the issue.

Rabbit

The issue with constipation is that it allows waste to sit and stagnate in your colon for a longer period of time than it really should.  Imagine that the colon cell walls probably don’t like to have toxic waste touching them day in and day out.  Over time, this toxic environment causes intestinal cells to become weak.  In fact, not having a bowel movement daily increases your chances of getting colon cancer, heart attack, colitis, and IBS.  Stagnating toxic stool, when sitting in the colon longer than it should, causes inflammation and allows toxins to be reabsorbed into the body where they can cause cellular damage system wide.

Colon

So, you can see that having a poorly functioning colon can negatively impact your entire body and we can safey “poo poo” constipation.  Bowel movements are actually classified based on their appearance according to something called the Bristol Scale – constipation would be a 1 or 2 on the scale below.  What we are actually aiming for is something more like Type 4 “like a sausage or snake…smooth and soft”.

bristol-scale

Constipation is diagnosed as an infrequent bowel movement and so I think it would be helpful to quantify the term “infrequent”.  Conventionally, anything less than three bowel movements a week is considered constipated.  From in the holistic nutrition/naturopathic viewpoint a food should pass through your system between 18-24 hours after ingestion – so the long of the short is that you should be moving your bowels daily.  The time taken, by the way, from when you eat a food to when you excrete it is called Oral-Fecal Transit Time (OFTT) and you can test this at home with one simple ingredient – sesame seeds.  Swallow a tablespoon of sesame seeds in a 1/4 cup of water without chewing the seeds.  Then wait and prepared to  be amazed when you see those seeds again in your toilet – hopefully within 24 hours.

Oral-Fecal Transit Time

What if your OFTT is  more than 24 hours?  What is causing this?  It’s likely due to lack of hydration or not eating enough fiber.  Both of these elements are required to lubricate the intestine and bulk up stool so that it easily passes through your colon.  Other factors include lack of movement because not getting enough exercise keeps you both physically and mentally stagnant and perhaps even a change in your routine could throw off your bowel balance.  Another common culprit is stress and not taking the time to go to the washroom when nature calls.  Some medications and illnesses are known to factor into a slow transit time but really, if you want to avoid constipation here are four simple steps.

STEP 1:  drink lots of water.  Start you day off with two large glasses of water with fresh lemon (1/4th of a lemon should do).  Make sure that by bedtime you have had 10-12 glasses of water.

STEP 2:  you need fiber to have healthy bowels.  Aim for 50 grams a day.  Good sources of fiber include beans, raspberries, leafy greens, whole grains (barley, brown rice, oats), flax seeds (milled), beets, carrots, Brussels Sprouts, apples, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, bell peppers, cabbage, celery, avocado, buckwheat, sweet potato, prunes, onions, bananas.

STEP 3:  make time for going to the washroom.  Enough said.

STEP 4:  move your body and that will move your bowels.  You need to get daily physical activity.

Some supplements that may help support your colon and healthy gut flora include omega-3 fish oil and probiotics which can lubricate the stool/reduce inflammation and help provide “good” bacteria respectively.  If you have tried the above steps and are still experiencing less than ideal oral-fecal transit time, it could be related to a food allergy or sensitivity or a hormonal issue related to thyroid function – these are options which you can explore further with a Nutritionist (see the services page of this website) or a Naturopathic Doctor (click here for how to find an ND in Canada).

Stay tuned for more posts this month related to colorectal health and learn how you can keep your colon supported throughout the years to come.

* I would like to note that I no longer suffer from constipation…horray for water, fiber, and lots of veggies!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Sex is interesting, but it’s not totally important. I mean it’s not even
as important (physically) as excretion. A man can go seventy years without a
piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement.”

–  Charles Bukowski

When you don’t have 2 hours and $22 to take a yoga class…

Restorative Yoga

Like many of you reading, I quite enjoy yoga but find it really difficult to actually make it to classes.  There are two reasons for this and the primary is that it’s a huge time committment.  Classes are usually at least one hour and when you factor in the time getting there and home you’re looking at 2 hours of you day.  Secondly, I’ve been finding the prices of yoga classes exorbitant these days.  With tax it can be upwards of $25 dollars which is ridiculous!  It’s a nice treat every now and then, but it got me wondering how to get more yoga into my life without breaking the bank and my schedule.

Time and Money

Earlier this week, I paid a visit to Toronto’s best esthetician Louise T who at nearly 60 is fit as a fiddle and beautiful to boot.  While we were taking care of business she mentioned the idea of finding yoga videos FOR FREE online.  It doesn’t cost a penny and puts you in charge of the time you spend in your practice.  I’ll gladly take advice from Louise T.

yoga at home

So, here is how it works.

1.) go to YouTube

2.) search for the type of yoga you like and then the number of minutes you want to spend.  ex:  “restorative yoga, 15 minutes”

3.) save the clips that interest you to your favourites and enjoy!

Here are some of the clips that I liked:

Restorative Yoga (12 minutes):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzZM-pPM0mk

Hatha Yoga @ Home (10 minutes):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAA-SZ05zSg

Hip Opening Yoga (45 minute):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lUqo5Qceh0

Morning Yoga for Flexibility (7 minutes with Tara Stiles):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRsC1YdXqOc

De-Stress Yoga (10 minutes with Tara Stiles):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqWpt1xyn8A

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Yoga is the study of balance, and balance is the aim of all living creatures: it is our home.”

– Rolf Gates

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Myth Busting: Cholesterol-Hysteria & Eggs

The other day on the phone, my mum was talking about how she is thinking about reducing her daily cottage cheese and berry breakfast in an effort to cut down on diary.  When I suggested eggs for breakfast she sounded frightened and said “but I don’t want to risk getting high cholesterol” to which I replied “don’t worry momma, that’s a big old myth”.

Momma

Not really my momma

So, why do eggs get a bad wrap especially when it comes to cholesterol?

First up, let’s talk about cholesterol – start here for a prior post.  Cholesterol is part of a response to injury and the whole process starts with damage to the inner arterial wall.  Something nicks the artery usually as a result of viscous blood – or thick blood.  The cut to the arterial wall causes an inflammatory response and macrophages come to help repair the damage.  Macrophages attract LDL “bad” cholesterol where it forms a fatty streak or what we could describe as a sticky band-aide.  Smooth muscle then proliferates over the cholesterol and now we have plaque.  Plaque causes narrowing of the arteries, atherosclerosis, but you can see now that elevated cholesterol is actually a symptom & response to damage and not the cause of the damage itself.

What causes blood viscosity – or thickening of the blood?  There are several risk factors to having viscous blood; obesity (especially around the abdominal area), smoking, heavy drinking, diabetes, high blood pressure, family history, chronic kidney issues, being a man over the age of 40, being a woman over the age of 50.  Most of these risk factors are actually caused though by poor diet and a lack of physical activity.

Lack of physical activity

There are many key functions of cholesterol aside from acting as a “sticky band-aide”; it’s the precursor to hormones, bile, required for the production of Vitamin D and is part of what constitutes the outer layer of our cells.

LDL vs HDL Cholesterol

Have you every wondered what the difference is between LDL and HDL cholesterol?  We are looking at the ratio of lipid (fat) to protein.  So LDL cholesterol has less protein and more lipid and HDL has a higher ratio of protein to lipids.  LDL and HDL cholesterol function very differently too which is why it’s important to look at both types of cholesterol when reviewing blood results with your health care professional.

LDL VS HDL1

LDL cholesterol is “bad” because carries cholesterol from the liver to our cells and if there is too much, it’s deposited into the cells.  HDL is good because it carries cholesterol to the liver where it is broken down and excreted by the body.  Interestingly, exercise helps to increase HDL cholesterol and reduce LDL cholesterol.  HORRAY!

Sources of Cholesterol

What is probably a little known fact is that 70-80% of cholesterol is made in the body and the rest comes from food.  Removing high cholesterol foods from the diet will have an impact on total cholesterol levels, sure, but it’s only 20-30% of the larger picture.  The balance of cholesterol is produced internally in response to what is required – if there is a lot of inflammation going at the cellular level then more cholesterol is produced – especially LDL which as you’ll recall takes cholesterol from the liver to the cells to help with repair.

Eggs

The general recommendation regarding cholesterol intake from food is to keep it around 300 mg’s/day (or 200 mg’s if you have elevated cholesterol levels) – and one egg has about 100 – 200 mg which is in all fairness one of the highest dietary sources of cholesterol available.  What is often missing from the “egg story” is that eggs are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and contain every vitamin and mineral (minus Vitamin C), are high in good sources of fat, and are an excellent source of choline.  Choline helps to reduce inflammation is involved with methylation which reduces homocysteine levels – high levels of homocysteine are markers for cardiovascular disease risk and osteoporosis.  Choline is also one of the key ingredients mothers-to-be are encouraged to consume during pregnancy since it is known to be beneficial to overall brain health.

eggs2

Here is some other interesting research.  Eggs are a good source of protein (6 grams per egg) and help people feel fuller longer which is known to prevent over eating later in the day and is can contribute to the prevention of long-term weight gain.  A 2007 study published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (funded by the American Egg Board so take from it what you will) found that when subjects (n=160) were fed either two eggs for breakfast or the caloric equivalent in bagels for 8 weeks, the egg group lost twice as much weight and had an 83% decrease in waist circumference (as compared to the bagel group).  Another large scale study published by Harvard University in 1999 of 115,000 people found no connection between an egg a day and increase risk of cardiovascular disease (a co-factor for elevated cholesterol levels) except for those with pre-existing diabetes.

In summary, eggs are not what is causing high LDL cholesterol.  It’s a lack of physical activity and dietary choices which cause cellular damage such as refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine, and pop.  Inadequate consumption of fiber contributes to the inability to rid the body of excess fats.  Lifestyle choices such as a high degree of stress, lack of sleep, and perhaps most importantly failing to exercise daily are far greater contributors to hypercholesterolemia than the consumption of eggs a few times a week.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”

– Plato

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The Health Junction’s 100th Post: A Year in Review

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since the inception of The Health Junction.  I started out with one faithful reader, Sophia P, and now there are over 400 loyal followers – I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have your support.  Not too sure how you ended up reading The Health Junction, but however you ended up here, THANK YOU!  It makes it much more enjoyable to write knowing there are people actually reading the material!

Sophia P (on the left) – my first and most loyal reader!

This time, a year ago I was working as a Marketing Project Manager in the media industry and though the job was a promotion for me, I felt disconnected from the work and uneasy with what I was putting out into the world (see this prior post) through my job.

Marketing Project Manager

It was a very troubling feeling for me to be doing a job that didn’t align with my personal values and it seems like it was fate that one day, while at work, I visited the continuing education site of a local community college to find something that piqued my interest – I randomly came across a course in wellness and nutrition.  I’ve never looked back!  After completing a community college certificate, I’m now pursuing school full-time working towards a designation as a registered nutritionist and it’s been such an amazing experience so far.  I quit my job and am now working as a part-time Nutritionist where I have the privilege of teaching nutrition and cooking to middle school kids – going to work everyday really does make me happy and when I leave…I still feel happy.

Watermelon Smoothie Demo @ The Coady Street Party (thanks Carly D!)

Health, wellness, and nutrition is something that I love because it’s something we have total control over and even a small change can significantly improve the way we feel.  The benefits of working towards a balanced approach to living healthily are quickly compounded; doing something small and realising that we feel better motivates us to keep it up and maybe try for further improvements.  So, in light of this huge milestone for The Health Junction, here are the top 10 things I learned about nutrition, health, and wellness over the past year.

1.)  Drinking Water Is The Bomb.  Drinking 10 glasses of water a day is probably the easiest and fastest thing you can do to immediately improve your health.  It gets things moving, helps us to eliminate toxic waste, and on and on.  Check out this post on water if you need a “refresher”.

2.)  Moving Every Day Is Also The Bomb.  If you want to be healthy, half the picture is moving your booty each and every day.  Even if it’s for a walk up and down stairs or a brisk jaunt around the neighbourhood your body needs to move in order to maintain health.

3.) Chew Your Food.  It improves digestion and makes you feel fuller longer.

4.) Your Mind & Body Are Connected.  It’s not some new age mumbo jumbo and though I would have balked at this notion in the past, I truly believe that the way we think and feel impacts our physical health.  Science has backed me up on this one time and time and time again.  If you want to be physically fit, it’s imperative to find ways of managing and eliminating stress and emotional distress.  Getting enough sleep will help you cope with stress better.

5.) Leafy Greens:  Suck It Up Sally.  Sorry to be a Drill Sergeant here, but you need to eat your leafy greens.  They provide a host of important minerals, vitamins, and fiber.  They help clean out our body and nourish us with the nutrients we need to thrive.  How can you do this?  Start by eating two cups with a side salad at lunch each day.  Believe the hype on this one and if you don’t like the taste, give it some time.  Your taste buds will adjust and before  you know it, you’ll be craving kale.

6.) The Sunshine Vitamin.  If you live in a colder climate you should be taking a Vitamin D supplement between the months of September and April – or all year if you want to simplify things.  Check out this prior post on why Vitamin D if you want more info, but in short, you would be wise to take 1000 IU of Vitamin D every day.

7.) You The Single Most Important influence On Your Kids Dietary/Health Habits.  Check out this study if this subject matter interests you, but here is a poem that best encapsulates why eating healthy helps your kids.

Roses Are Red

Violets Are Blue

Monkey See.  Monkey Do.

8.) Say “So Long” To Energy Suckers.  You can’t like or get along with everyone…well, the Dalai Lama might be able to, but for the rest of us, it’s not realistic.  Life is too short to continually expend efforts and energy on one way relationships or people who leave you feeling upset.  Clean house and concentrate on people who make you laugh, are fun, and are doing good things in the world.

9.) Choose unrefined whole foods.  Whole grain breads over white.  Brown rice over white.  Vegetables and fruit.  Nuts and seeds.  Organic high quality proteins.  Oatmeal instead of store-bought cereals.  Nut butters.  Beans.  You will feel fuller, get more nutrients, and live longer if you choose smarter whole foods more often.

10.) Slow and Steady Wins The Race.  This is a toughy…for me and probably many of you reading.  When I started out as a nutrition student, I wanted to make every change possible to improve my eating habits.  Trying to do too much too quickly resulted in doing none of it well.  I’ve come to realise that making real changes comes from small steps that over time add up and those are the changes that are longterm and sustainable.  If you’re not sure where to start, check out #5 🙂

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” 

– Dalai Lama XIV

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Chakrama Series: Personal Power is Necessary for Health

Having just finished a module on mental health and nutrition, I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective.  With regards to the connection between emotional health and physical health, the crux of the teachings of this class could be summarized in a line from the booked Anatomy of the Spirit bt Carolyn Myss – that line is:  personal power is necessary for health.

This could be interpreted many ways, but I believe it comes back to the notion that when we give up power to other people or things we effectively resolve ourselves of any responsibility into our own wellbeing.  For example, having a job that sucks up all your time is often the excuse used by people when they aren’t able to exercise or eat well.

This may result in longterm health complications but it all started with the idea that at that time, we felt powerless to our job.  This common example showcases that we always have the power to influence both the situational and emotional outcome.

Taking it back to my own life, I had a not so great day earlier this week when I had to pay out $110 for a ticket I got on my bicycle.

I felt like the situation wasn’t fair…”why me”, there is no justice in the world, why don’t cars who go speeding down residential streets get tickets.  And on and on I went.  In fact, the night of my court date, I was speaking to a friend about my day – well, ranting is more accurate.  He listened quietly without interrupting and at the end asked me why I didn’t consider volunteering for a police watch dog organization.  I thought it was so interesting that his suggestion on how to deal with my frustration was to look at ways of giving myself power over the situation.

There are many things I love about this friend; he’s generous and giving, kind and compassionate.  He’s humble and always sees the best in other people (but not to a fault…like if someone is being a doofus, he’ll acknowledge it).  He’s also very accepting of people and situations.  Actually, I would describe him as “zen”.  I learn a lot from watching this guy deal with problems.

I asked him how he does it and he said “I enjoy going through life more when I’m not angry” and proceeded to tell me that earlier that day the ferry he was taking to Toronto Island left the dock 4 minutes which resulted in him waiting around for 30 minutes.  He was originally frustrated but explained that he walked through all the possible reasons why the ferry had left early.

Maybe they looked out to the waiting area and didn’t see anyone.

Maybe the clock on the boat was fast.

Maybe it was weather related.  They have to move thousands of people across the water everyday in all kinds of weather conditions.

He went on to tell me that he had been rushing too much lately anyway and decided to relax and do some work while he waited for the next ferry.  My friend was able to take some control back (did some work and relaxed) while realizing it wasn’t really about him but instead a whole host of other factors.

As a result he felt happier and less stressed than the alternative; getting ticked off and stewing over the early ferry departure…much like I had been stewing over the bicycle ticket.  It’s really freeing to know that no matter what situation we are in, we always have decision-making power on how we respond and react to a challenge.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“We need to learn how to want what we have NOT to have what we want in order to get steady and stable Happiness

– Dalai Lama XIV

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There are 7 billion of us yahoo’s out there….

I find it interesting that there are 7 billion of us walking around out there – each with our own unique lens and view of the world.  The difference in the way we see situations and events can be a source of learning or frustration, dialogue or monologue (or silence!) and it can bring us together or cause a rift.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this lately is because I’m currently doing a course at school on mental health and nutrition.  5 years ago if you asked me if I considered stress and anger to be a source of disease and ill-health, my answer would have unequivocally been “no”.  Though I was once a naysayer, I’ve totally changed my mind on how I view the connection between mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing.  Over and over in my studies, stress and poor emotional wellbeing are listed as a main cause of hundred’s and hundred’s of symptoms.  It’s hard to discredit study over study linking poor health with emotional distress.  One of my best friends is a psychiatrist and explained it really well when she mental health is a spectrum and we all fall somewhere…that “somewhere” definitely sways depending on what’s going on in our life.

In The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama explains that the human community has one basic thing in common – that is we’re all working towards happiness and contentment.  He goes on to explain that how we perceive our level of contentment is unfortunately very much based on how we compare ourselves to others.

One of the studies discussed in The Art of Happiness was this one – in it researches compared subject’s level of happiness before and after the subjects had viewed pictures of hardship during the turn of the century.  They found that happiness increased after the subjects had viewed pictures depicting others struggling.  Conversely, in another study, researchers asked subjects to rate their level of happiness before and after repeating two statements.  The first was “I’m glad I’m not a….”.  The second was “I wish I was a….”.  They found that happiness decreased after the second phrase was repeated.

All this to say, we know that being happy relieves stress and having less stress makes us mentally and physically healthier.  One simple way to do this is to consider those who are less fortunate than us instead of comparing ourselves to those who have more.  Just trying to remember how lucky we are to have friends, family, and health is enough to make us feel pretty good.

I have to say, I’m in to the Dalai Lama (or the DL as I like to call him) these days…and so, I’ll leave you with this quote:

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” 

– Dalai Lama XIV

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