If This Is Out Of Order Then Everything Else Falls Apart

Can you guess what I am going to say? If you are thinking sleep, you are close! And nearly correct, but I am putting my finger on the root of the problem, which also disrupts sleep: Stress.

Stress is defined as a constraining force or influence. That is it. Just a force. But now, how can this force call for so many problems? When we are stressed our capillaries constrict, our thought processes are interrupted, focus is lost, we either reach for sugar and can’t touch food, sleep goes out the window, perhaps cholesterol levels go up, along with blood sugar and blood pressure, and geesh! We forget to breath. Yet, I know I am not addressing anything new, but the reminder this post serves to cope successfully with stress is needed; especially around the holiday season.

What are your go-to mechanisms for coping with stress? Do you call your mom? Does that do you worse? Do you go on a walk? Drink tea or water? Watch a comedy? Run? Walk? If you said yes, to any of the above, you are on a great path. But what other simple things can help you de-stress and reach your best health? How about some of these ideas?

  • While in Australia I had the pleasure of meeting with an inspiring lady who was a psychologist. We had a chat about the mad increase in anxiety currently being experienced by the common person. What is the cause? Well, there are probably a hundred things including technology, which makes us all feel like we need to know everything about everything. But the important thing to spend time on, is learn how to manage anxiety. This lady suggested for people to listen to their breathing, yet, quite often this can cause more stress. As a second recommendation, or perhaps first, she tells her patients to take 3 deep breaths every day. Or maybe twice a day. No matter what, whenever someone thinks of it, take 3 deep breaths, and soon one will find out their anxiety is less overall.
  • Gratitude. Start every morning by writing down something you are grateful for. This will assist you to practice mindfulness which is much stronger than stress.
  • Pay it forward. I think we all understand what it means to “pay it forward,” and in doing this everyone once in a while, allows us to stop and smell the roses and realize whatever race is running through our minds does not have to the tone of our day.
  • Use online free resources to help consumers manage stress, steps, food diary, labs and more.
  • Journal. Very much like the suggestion to write down one thing you are thankful for, it is also good to journal your thoughts. This is especially handy before bed. With a calm mind, comes a solid sleep.
  • Meditate. Using free resources again, iTunes has some free meditation downloads. Take advantage and decide which podcasts works best for you.
  • Exercise. Most recently I have been participating in FitGirl’s candlelit yoga sessions and they are just wonderful. I perform yoga poses in ambiance and leave with a clear mind.

Between holiday shopping, cooking and entertainment, take care of yourself with a mind, body approach.

Cheers to you and good health, Kel

Steps to Better Sleep

Sleep is a crucial element to health. It is the basis of our well-being and if we cut ourselves short, not only will our afternoons seem harder, but our waistlines and blood sugars can pay for it.

Suggested steps for better sleep:

  1. Black out your room. Completely. No clocks, no blinking laptops, no light. If your iPhone is your alarm, set your alarm in advance and change your setting to “Do Not Disturb,” and plug in your phone, face down.
  2. Do not check email, Facebook, social media for at least one-two hours before bed. Believe it or not, that email, notification and feed will still be there tomorrow. You need to actively take steps for better sleep. Make it a habit to put technology aside in the evening and if this is not possible, dim to brightness on your computer and phone.
  3. Don’t eat for at least 2 hours before bed. If your body is trying to digest food, you may not be able to fall asleep as soundly. This is especially true if you are eating something that doesn’t agree with you i.e. gluten, dairy, sometimes garlic and onions bother people too.
  4. On the contrary, eating carbohydrates later in the day can help you fall asleep. Carbohydrates boost tryptophan, which is a precursor to the feel good hormone serotonin. As well, the practice of consuming carbohydrates in the latter part of the day help with insulin sensitivity, thus improve sound sleep.
  5. Clean your room. Not in a mom-like suggestion but clear the clutter. A messy, cluttered space can clutter your mind and distract you from falling asleep faster.
  6. Assess your caffeine intake. If you are reliant on caffeine to keep you going – cut back. The first week of cutting back on caffeine will be hard, but then it will become manageable.
  7. Get in bed earlier and aim for 8-9 hours of sleep. Sleep can be the secret weapon for better digestion and weight loss. When we trim our sleep we become insulin resistant, we crave sugar and our hunger hormone (leptin) is deregulated. Guess what? Bedtimes are not just for kids. You now have a bedtime.
  8. Take magnesium before bed, or natural calm magnesium (this is a brand). I highly recommend and provide Standard Process supplements to clients – if interested you are welcome to email me with inquiries.
  9. Have a notebook next to your bed – if your mind is running about a project, a to-do, an upcoming event, make note of it and shut your mind off.
  10. Take 3 deep breaths, let your stress of the day go, say in your head or out loud something you are thankful for, close your eyes and fall sleep.

As for carbohydrate choices, I do not give all foods my blessing. I think there are better choices than others including:

  • Vegetables: Starchy tubers (sweet potatoes, japanese sweet potatoes, yams, tarot, jerusalem artichoke, cassava, and bamboo) and winter squash such as pumpkin and butternut squash.
  • Fruit (berries, cherries and bananas)

References:

De Castro JM. Macronutrient relationships with meal patterns and mood in the spontaneous feeding behavior of humans. Physiol Behav. 1987;39(5):561-9.

Brinkworth GD, Buckley JD, Noakes M, Clifton PM, Wilson CJ. Long-term effects of a very low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet on mood and cognitive function. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Nov 9;169(20):1873-80.

 

See You Later Hypertension

Last fortnight I was asked to participate in an online interview (article originally published on: http://www.bloodpressurecharts.net/kelly-o-connell-interview.html) about natural ways to manage high blood pressure. Not only was this request interesting but it is a topic that needs more coverage. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a silent killer. I hate to be so blunt but there is no way around it – one in four adults (US data) have hypertension. Untreated hypertension can get ugly causing kidney damage, stroke, heart disease, dementia and more. However, with most things related to health, you can turn it around for the better. If hypertension is something you deal with personally, consider the below to incorporate with your daily routine. As always, if you need some help, feel free to contact me.

  • What supplements/foods do you recommend people with high blood pressure try, to help lower their blood pressure?

Before advising someone on what to eat and what to supplement with, I first need to understand if there is anything else going on with their health, such as diabetes, kidney disease, etc. I also want to know what medication they are taking.

Generally speaking though, I advise eating a moderately high protein and fat diet, with moderately low (less than 150 grams per day) carbohydrates. Carbohydrates should be mainly sourced from vegetables, legumes/lentils, tubers and fruit.

Important foods to consider are those rich in potassium (bananas, avocado, herbs, cocoa, nuts, and tomatoes), magnesium (pumpkin, squash, cocoa, nuts, fish), vitamin C (citrus fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, celery) and vitamin E (almonds, herbs, olives), omega 3 fatty acids (fatty fish like salmon or sardines) and flavonols (red wine, grapes, cocoa). Do you see a trend? I am a believer in dark chocolate/cocoa nibs and consume cocoa in one shape or another daily.

However, more important than knowing what to eat is knowing foods to cut back on, including foods high in fructose and processed foods (chips, deli meat, bread, pastries, cookies, desserts, etc).

Fructose, simply put, is a type of sugar. It is under a lot of scrutiny causing detrimental things to our health including hypertension. While the jury is still out, there is a true consensus that fructose does more harm than good. The important take away is to know what foods are high in fructose i.e. candies/lollies, cold breakfast cereals, desserts such as ice cream, cake, muffins, salad dressing, breads, pizza,crackers, canned fruit and juices with added sweeteners and more.

My recommended supplements include high-quality fish oil, a strong probiotic, magnesium twice a day, Himalayan sea salt and CoQ10. Food always comes first.

  • What are your thoughts on salt and high blood pressure? Should we be limiting salt intake or is the salt thing all blown out of proportion?

You may be surprised to hear that I do not stress salt restrictions. Processed foods should certainly get more vigilance in this space. I think overall sodium claims are blown out of proportion and certainly, I strongly advise the use of Himalayan sea salt. Overall, individuals need to self-assess how salt makes them feel. If the consumption of salt makes someone retain fluid or make their heart palpitate/speed up, then a reduced salt intake should be implemented. However, I think there are far more important actions to take than demonizing salt. Focus should zero in on stress levels, adequate sleep, exercise, eating whole foods (this does not include whole grains) and maintaining a healthy weight.

  • Not necessarily specific to high blood pressure, but what are your top 5 healthiest foods we should all be trying to eat more of, and why?

Grassfed/free range meat – protein is essential and free range meat, ideally, beef, has an optimal fatty acid ratio, up to 6 times more omega 3’s compared to the grocery store variety. Certainly, omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in every cell and system in our bodies. Beyond the nutrient profile grassfed/free range beef offers, it is a great tool for optimal health. It is satiating, protective against cancer and cardiovascular disease, has low insulinogenic properties and more.

Coconut – whether it is coconut oil, flour, cream or milk, I welcome it all. I consume this functional food daily, reaping one of the thousands of benefits it offers. In traditional medicine, coconut is used to treat a wide variety of health problems and it is so versatile to use. I make pancakes from coconut flour and milk, I cook with coconut oil, especially with eggs and coconut cream is delicious with berries.

Pumpkin – is loaded with healthy starches and it is absolutely delicious. Pumpkin is nutrient-rich, easy to make and can satisfy a sweet or savory craving. I have learned to cook pumpkin in a variety of fashions from pumpkin soup (with coconut milk and cinnamon), roasted pumpkin salad (with pine nuts, spinach, feta and homemade balsamic dressing) to pumpkin porridge (mixing puree pumpkin with eggs, nuts, and raisins).  Pumpkin can also serve as a dessert by garnishing it with spices and honey.

Free range eggs – they are one of few foods that naturally contain vitamin D and are far superior to caged eggs when it comes to nutrient content. They are rich in vitamin A and E and omega 3 fatty acids, among many other important vitamins and minerals.

Fermented foods – I am all about gut health and a happy gut, makes a good immune system. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, etc provide probiotics to our intestines. There are plenty of benefits to adding probiotics to our bodies, including protection from colon cancerrelief from lactose intolerance and diarrheareduction in cavities, and more. Improved digestion means more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are absorbed, making you an overall healthier being.

Cheers to you and good health,

Kel
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Tying in Health When Traveling

This month was uber fun, yet, I have sat on an airplane more than I have laid in my own bed. With late dinners and early mornings I bank on my diet to pull me through these busy events.

I take my hat off to anyone who is a consultant and is always on the road. It is tough – routines are forgotten, meals are unplanned, and sleep…good luck. Yet, I have some go-to habits that help keep me sane including clean eating.

1. Food

You don’t always know what you are going to eat or when. If I didn’t pack my go-to travel foods, I would go on famished or even drowning myself in whatever I could get my hands on.

I always carry food on my trips, well at least all the types of food I can travel with from state to state in Australia (here you are not allowed to take fruits, vegs, meats and many other quarantined items from one state to another). While traveling I am constantly bouncing from one meeting to the next. What could be a fast food drive through, I turn into a quick stop at a park (if I am lucky) and eat something I have on hand. My travel foods include: hard boiled eggs, canned tuna in olive oil (100% olive oil), macadamia nuts, and dark chocolate. All these foods are good, nutrient-dense and satisfying. Since I can’t take vegetables from one state to another, I may pick up a salad and dress it with my tuna and hard boiled egg. If my flight is bright an early, I will again often source a hard boiled egg or two.

2. Fitness

Regardless of where I am traveling and for how long, I have a workout outfit, comfy shoes to swap out my heels for to get in a quick walk, goggles and a swimsuit. The best way to get to know a city is on foot. When a day of meetings wrap-up, I will throw on some joggers and get in some fitness before the sun goes down.

3. Fasting

If there are no good food options and my blood sugars are pleasing, I will partake in an intermittent fast. I may also do a fast when my meals are too plentiful, for example last week I was at a conference and there was a buffet breakfast, morning and arvo tea (which means coffee, tea and food), lunch and then a dinner. Grains avoided or not, I still overate and an intermittent fast gets me back on track. I usually only fast for about 14-16 hours, eating dinner then again the following day around 11am.

4. Water bottle

Staying hydrated is key. I take an empty water bottle through the security at the airport and top it off right away and continue to do so throughout the trip.

5. Sleep

It is not always a good nights sleep in a new place and new bed, but I take some decaf tea with me, along with some magnesium supplements to help wind down. I also make the bedroom as dark as I can (block the clock) and turn the thermostat on the cold side.

6. Me time

Travel can be lonely but also an awesome opportunity for some personal time. When on the road set aside time to just relax and digest any stress going on in your life. Depending on where I am, I like popping downstairs to the hotel bar and getting a nice glass of red  and get comfortable in my room by reading or catching some cable (we don’t have cable; crazy? Yes).

These are just a few things I have adapted in the last year and will continue to strive for optimal health, diet and fitness when wining and dining.

Cheers to you and good health!

Alternative Health

Perhaps “alternative medicine” is a better term since health is such a loose word, but medicine seems so intimidating and foreign.

Most recently I have been surrounding myself in some new practices – acupuncture, Chinese herbs and meditation. All of them have been great, especially since my glass is currently spilling over with stress while we are figuring out our visa situation here in Melbourne and considering a move back to the US in August. Yes, that is about 3 months away and we have no confirmed plans, nor know where we will move to or what/if I will have a job. It is no bed of roses, but I have been trying to enjoy the confusion. Oh! And I will be having jaw surgery again in July. 

Life goes on and why not try meditation and acupuncture to cope, right?

Sure enough, it has helped. I am pleasantly pleased with the outcome of both meditation and acupuncture. I think the expensive Chinese herbs could fall by the wayside though. I am not sure if I notice anything different when drinking them in dissolved warm water and I cannot fail to mention how awful they taste. Has anyone else tried them? Do you have any insight to share?

The meditation is so interesting too. It is actually funny how I got involved in this. I purchased a yoga voucher and quickly learned there was more focus on breathing, etc than downward dog poses.

However, anything I do, I try to go into it with an open mind regardless of what it is. At my first session, I sat there thinking to myself, “I know how to breath, why do I need someone to tell me to take a deep breath and scan my body while listening to some weird sounds?” But gosh by golly! By the end of each session I feel pretty content. I have since been, a handful of times, and plan on continuing some sessions every month. Overall, I have realised I handle stress better, I go with the flow better and live in the moment a bit more.

I highly recommend meditation and suggest doing it at least a few times. It is a great way to shut off any chaos in your life and feel more comfortable in your own skin. 

Now onto acupuncture – why did I try this out?

Besides Robb Wolf preaching how great it is among many other health advocates, I wanted to reduce my hay-fever symptoms (I take anti-histamines every day and want to wean that down), try something new and see what it did for my diabetes (type 1). On a side note, I strive to eat paleo every day but sometimes that does not happen. When it doesn’t I often see fluctuations in my blood sugars and pay for it. So overall, I wonder what acupuncture can do for my cravings, circulation and over blood sugar stabilisation.

So far, things feel pretty good. After session one I felt engerized and invigerated. It’s not everyday someone sticks a needle in the top of your head and forehead wrists and tummy. I have session two this weekend and look forward to what differences, if any, I feel. I will be sure to provide an update on anything surprising.

Overall, the prices for alternative medicine are a little high, but I think they are worth it. They are natural and a new approach for caring for yourself. I am personally all about touting the benefits of a good diet and often forget the other sides of health including stress, sleep, movement, and fertility. These alternative health practices have helped me bring my well-being full circle.

Cheers to you and good health!

Stay Alert Throughout the Day

Energy Boosts at Work
Stay Alert All Day, Every Day

You see the computer screen, but you really don’t. It’s more like a two-foot blur. Your eyes are between open and closed, although you’re not sure where. At the moment, you have no idea what you’re working on. And it’s only 3 p.m. Sound familiar? Is this a typical afternoon or morning? Are you looking for an energy boost at your desk? Office life can suck the energy right out of you, if you let it. But, there are numerous ways to take advantage of your workspace and stay energetic all day.

Did you realize bad posture alone can give your brain up to 30% less blood and oxygen? Along with good posture, the most effective way to fight energy lulls is with heavy doses of good stretching and good breathing. Shoot for five minutes of mental or physical activity per hour, every hour at the computer.

Here are more, different ideas for rejuvenating your mind and body. Each will only take a few minutes.

– Go to the staircase and step up and down the bottom step, like in step aerobics.
– Massage your head and shoulders.
– Find trigger points of tension in the shoulders and base of the skull.
– Hold pressure for 6-10 seconds. Don’t forget your face and jaw.
– Take two steps back from your desk and lean forward until you’re at an angled push-up position against the edge of your desk. Do a couple quick sets.
– Lift 1-3 packs of printer paper in each hand. Curl them like weights or lift them over your head. – Close your door and shadow box. Imagining a stressor while you’re punching will increase your energy, guaranteed. Jumping jacks. Simple, quick and pumps you up. Squeeze a stress ball.
– Relieves stress while strengthening forearms and wrists for typing.
– Try word puzzles.
– Keep a jigsaw puzzle in your office.
– Switch hands with whatever you’re doing. Stand perfectly still for two minutes. Regroup.
– When you first arrive at work, take as long as possible before sitting down.
– Forget the boardroom.
– Hold walking meetings.
– Hand-deliver mail, memos and faxes.
– Chat face-to-face instead of by e-mail or phone.
– Use a bathroom on the other side of the building or another floor.
– Have a lot of phone time? Buy a cordless and move around while talking.

Another approach, one that adults rarely consider but could greatly benefit from, is a nap.

A 2001 survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that 63% of Americans don’t get enough sleep. Naps will combat this. They cannot replace a good night’s sleep, but they can help you perform at your peak throughout the day. Plus you can save that daily $4 on Starbucks, because the energy you gain from a nap is better and longer lasting than caffeine. The ideal nap length is 20 minutes, easily squeezable into the workday.

No matter the method, try to find tricks that work for you. Remember, if you don’t want to feel drained at the end of the work day, you don’t have to.

Full article click here: SparkPeople

Have a healthy and fit day!