Anxiety can occur as an acute episode of highly intense feelings of stress that overwhelm the individual (such as panic attacks), or as more generalized chronic feelings of stress, uneasiness and being wound-up.
Chronic anxiety can often include headaches, chronic fatigue, insomnia, digestive distress, muscle tension, dry mouth, excessive perspiration, increased heart beat, and may cause you to startle easily.
Over time, too much stress and anxiety will age you faster because they put your body into 'emergency mode' - where your energy is diverted away from maintenance and repair and towards physically having to react to the stressful event.
Here are my Top 3 Tips for Reducing Anxiety:
1. Upgrade Your Diet:
Reduce (or avoid completely) your intake of stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and refined carbohydrates like sugar, baked goods, and white bread. Eat a nutrient-dense whole-food diet in order to balance out blood sugar levels throughout the day and prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Deficiencies of B complex vitamins, iron, taurine, magnesium, and chromium can all lead to increased feelings of anxiety and decreased ability to adapt to stress. Other biochemical imbalances that can lead to anxiety include low histamine/high copper, lactic acid build-up, and undiagnosed food allergies.
2. Use Calming Herbs and Nutrients:
GABA, Passionflower, Magnesium, and Valerian all promote a calming effect in the body and can be very useful when trying to reduce anxiety. Some of these supplements do interact with medications, and GABA for example needs to be avoided if you drink alcohol. Always check with your health care provider before taking any of these supplements. There are some great combination formulas available that combine many of these herbs and nutrients. Adaptogenic herbs are another great option, especially if you experience a lot of stress.
3. Grow Your Inner Garden:
Balance your gut bacteria with fermented foods, and a wide variety of plant-based whole-foods. We are starting to find out how the balance and types of gut bacteria we have greatly influences our neurotransmitter levels and nutrient absorption.
Read More About the Gut-Brain Connection:
It can be overwhelming to try to jump into this yourself and there are numerous benefits to working one-on-one with a nutritionist, such as individualized recommendations, support, and help with deciphering the confusing and conflicting health information out there.
Book your complimentary 15 Min Discovery Call today to find out how I can best support your health goals.
This TED Talk about stress, biochemistry and work-life balance is one of my favourites. It not only highlights how much pressure we put on ourselves but also clearly explains what happens to our hormones when we are continuously operating in 'fight or flight' mode and how this affects our weight, mood, energy levels, and overall well-being.
I can very much relate to this –– it is very easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks and forget to dedicate some time to essential rest and relaxation. This is all too common, especially for us entrepreneurs, so this video is a great reminder to take better care of ourselves and learn how to avoid 'burn-out'.
This is extremely important, because if our life is not balanced between work and rest then we won't have the energy to do the things we love.
There is a big price to be paid for constantly running off of adrenaline and cortisol as it leads to hormone imbalances, infertility, lack of quality sleep, low energy, mood imbalances, and impedes healthy weight management (the body doesn't want to burn fat when we are in constant 'fight or flight' mode). It is easy to constantly be working but this is not sustainable or healthy.
This is a topic that my clients often ask me for help with. It is all too common for women entrepreneurs to end up in this unhealthy cycle of adrenal fatigue and then relying on coffee and sugar just to get through the day.
If this sounds like you and you would like to learn about specific foods, herbs, and lifestyle factors to support and balance your stress levels, just click on the link below and book your complimentary 15 Minute Discovery Call.
Mint Moringa Smoothie
2 ripe banana
1 tbsp Moringa Powder
1/4 cup fresh mint (loosely packed)
1 cup spinach
2 cups water
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with strawberry and mint.
Moringa is a very nutrient-dense leafy green from a tree that grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas such a Africa, India, and Latin America. The leaf contains many antioxidants in addition to the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids and has been researched for many of its health benefits.
Lemon Berry Avocado Pudding
2 medium avocados
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup yacon syrup or maple syrup
1 tsp Simply Organic Lemon Extract
1/4 cup Organic Traditions Antioxidant Berry Blast Powder
2-4 tbsp water or almond milk
Add all ingredients to a food processor, NutriBullet, or Vitamix and blend until smooth.
Adjust the amount of sweetener to your preference. Adjust amount of liquid to desired consistency. Garnish with strawberries and coconut chips.
Gut microbiome research is a fascinating area of nutritional science and has even been called the "future of medicine".
The bacteria that live on our skin and in our digestive system outnumber our cells by 10 to 1, so it makes sense that the health of our microbiome is so essential for our overall wellbeing.
This is an excellent presentation introducing the many reasons why this research is extremely important and how we can support the health of our microbiome.
There are many steps we can take to maintain the health of our microbiome, including:
1. Eat unpasteurized fermented foods on a regular basis. I try to include a serving of fermented vegetables in either my lunch or dinner or sometimes both! Examples of unpasteurized fermented foods are: sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, water kefir, and home-made coconut yogurt. *Avoid fermented foods if you have histamine intolerance. Please email me if you would like to learn more.
2. Eat organic and Non-GMO to avoid pesticide residue.
3. Eat plant-based whole-foods. Many types of fibre contained in these foods are prebiotics that help build and maintain proper microbiome balance.
4. Limit your consumption of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates since these are the preferred food for non-beneficial yeasts and bacteria - the kind we don't want.
5. Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. If you must use antibiotics, it may be helpful to follow up after with a high quality probiotic supplement to help rebuild the population of good bacteria in the intestines.
6. Live dirty! Spend time in nature, play in the soil, and garden. Try not to over-sanitize your indoor environment with antibacterial sprays and cleansers. Of course this is best if done from an early age in order to strengthen and train the immune system, but if you are healthy and do not have a compromised immune system then it is never to late to start. Training of the immune system from a young age is an important factor for the prevention of autoimmune conditions, where the immune system confuses our own cells with something that needs to be attacked.
I hope you enjoy the video!
Feel free to book a complimentary 15-min Discovery Call if you would like one-on-one support for 'growing your inner garden' and improving your digestion, mental clarity, and energy levels.
Everyone, regardless of whether or not they are vegan, needs to be aware of any nutrient deficiencies they may experience due to an unbalanced diet and/or poor digestive function - you are not what you eat, you are what you absorb!
The need for supplements is definitely not limited to vegans, however, for the purpose of this article we will focus on some of the deficiencies that may develop if a vegan diet is not properly balanced.
The discussion of supplements for vegans is not an argument for vegan diets being unnatural, because many omnivores also have deficiencies. Personally, I would rather take a couple supplements and be super healthy and full of energy than to avoid supplements in order to try and prove that vegan diets are our natural diet (since doing extensive research for teaching the Evolution of Cultural Diets this may be a topic for a future post!). It is interesting to note that the animals people consume are fed a supplemented diet and dairy is also fortified with many nutrients, so an omnivorous diet relies on supplementation as well.
Please note, not all supplements are created equal and are never meant to replace a healthy balanced whole-food diet.
Here Are The Top Nutrients To Be Aware Of And The Best Ways To Meet Your Needs:
Vitamin B12 - if you eat packaged foods that are fortified with B12 you will be getting trace amounts, however, I still recommend a sublingual methylcobalamin supplement, especially if you eat a lot of seaweed and algae - these foods are great and there is no reason not to eat them but they do contain B12 analogues which can bind to and block B12 absorption.
Vitamin D3 - there are now lichen-sourced vegan D3 supplements available. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere it is best to supplement 1000IU from October - March (or even a higher dose if you have low levels - work with your ND to determine your individual dosage), and perhaps continuing with a lower dose in the summer if you do not spend enough time outside.
DHA/EPA - these are the long-chain active forms of omega-3. Chia, flax, hemp, and walnuts do contain ALA omega-3 but the body has to convert this form into DHA and EPA and the conversion rate is very low. Definitely try to eat lots of omega-3 rich foods but I also recommend an algae-sourced DHA/EPA supplement for some people. They are available in capsule or liquid form.
Iron - if you are eating a wide variety of plant-foods and don't have any digestive issues it shouldn't be difficult to get enough iron. However, if you know you are low from getting a blood test done, then look for an iron bisglycinate supplement that also has vitamin C.
Calcium - again, if the diet lacks variety (especially dark leafy greens) or there are issues with digestion (both iron and calcium require sufficient stomach acid in order to be absorbed) then you may need to look into supplementation. It is beneficial to find an algae-based calcium supplement combined with D3, K2, and trace minerals. Otherwise, a vegan diet with lots of leafy greens, nuts, and seeds should supply enough calcium.
Iodine - seaweeds and iodized table salt contain iodine, however, if you do not consume much of these foods it might be worth it to start adding iodized salt or take a supplement. Unrefined sea salt and Himalayan rock salt contains only trace amounts so it is best not to rely on these as a source. Seaweeds contain varying amounts so you never really know how much you are getting.
Cholesterol - we need cholesterol, it is so important in fact that our liver, and many other cells in the body produces it. Plant-foods do not contain cholesterol, however, when a vegan diet includes enough healthy fats and our liver is functioning properly then we will be able to produce all the cholesterol we need. Deficiencies may develop on extremely low-fat vegan diets.
Vitamin K2 - we can get lots of K1 from leafy greens but K2 is a bit harder to come by (Natto - a very fermented soy product contains K2). However, when we have a healthy balance of beneficial intestinal bacteria then these bacteria can produce enough K2. To support a healthy intestinal microbiome it is important to eat fermented foods as well as eat a wide variety of fibre-rich plant foods. Certain types of fibre are the food for intestinal bacteria, they are known as prebiotics. If dysbiosis (unbalanced or low beneficial intestinal bacteria) is present or if there are issues with bone density it may be advisable to take a K2 supplement.
If you have any questions feel free to book a Complimentary 15min Discovery Call.
I recently started a new exercise plan and find I need a little boost to get me going before my workout. I went to my local vitamin store and almost all of the pre-workout powders had artificial ingredients like colours, flavours, and artificial sweeteners, as well as having really high amounts of caffeine and other synthetic ingredients I do not want to consume.
Is there anything I can put together myself that will provide sustained energy during my workout?
You are making a great decision by avoiding the pre-workouts with synthetic ingredients and artificial sweeteners and colours.
It is quite simple to put together your own mix of ingredients to help power you through your workout and even provide extra benefits for recovery.
Choose high quality matcha green tea powder or brewed black tea
Choose coconut water or coconut water powder, fresh lemon or lime juice
For Adrenal Support and Energy:
Choose maca or ginseng (powders or liquid extract)
For Flavour and Fuel:
Choose yacon syrup or maple syrup (or green stevia powder for low intensity workouts)
For Anti-Inflammatory Effects:
Choose turmeric powder or ginger, beet juice is also great to include because it helps improve circulation via NO precursors.
As you can see, you can easily select a number of ingredient combinations to shake with water and enjoy before your workout. For extra flavour you can squeeze fresh lemon or orange juice, or add a few drops of Simply Organic Natural Liquid Extracts (peppermint, lemon, orange, etc).
Green smoothies and green juices also make excellent pre-workout drinks. You can also incorporate any of these ingredients into a smoothie or juice.
The possible combinations are endless! Play around and experiment with different combinations to find out what flavours you enjoy and how your body responds to the different ingredients.
For more information regarding Sports Nutrition stay tuned for my online Sports Nutrition Course available this Summer.
2-4 collard leaves
De-stemmed, or if a small leaf simply turn over and filet the stem by cutting away most of the bulk, without cutting through the leaf.
Garlic Cheese Pate:
1 cup brazil nuts
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp coconut aminos
Combine in food processor until desired consistency reached. Spread along middle of collard leaves.
Remember to try to include all the colours of the rainbow!
1/4 cup shredded purple cabbage
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup sliced peppers (yellow)
1/4 cup broccoli sprouts
Add favourite veggies, roll up gently without tearing leaf, and slice in half and enjoy!
Since I started teaching a course on the Evolution of Cultural Diets I have been researching some really interesting topics, including what our ancient ancestors really ate and when we starting using fire to cook our food.
This is a fascinating TED Talk discussing some of the evolutionary changes that may have resulted from the use of fire to cook our food.
The fact that humans are the only animals that cook their food is an argument made by both proponents of the raw foods diet as well as those that think it is essential to cook our food:
When we start looking at our brain and the number of neurons it has compared to other animals we start to realize that we are quite unique. It is thought that what allowed our brain to increase its number of neurons was the cooking of food, because this allowed for more energy to be absorbed from our diets.
Now, what does this mean in terms of our modern day diet? And is this a solid argument against raw foods?
If we look at the status of our health, especially in North America, it is obvious that most of our chronic health conditions are the result of eating too much calorically-dense and nutritionally-void foods - essentially we are overfed and under-nourished.
We no longer have the food scarcity and inconsistency that our gatherer-hunter ancestors did, a diet that most likely was not able to provide enough energy for our expanding brain size and thus would have greatly benefited from the utilization of cooking.
What is important to realize is that we now have the tools, technology, and nutritional research to allow help make raw foods be easier to digest. They can be great part of a healthy, well-rounded plant based diet, but it may not be easy enough to rely solely on raw foods:
Does this mean I am advocating a 100% raw food diet?
Well, not really. I feel like that should be up to you and be based on your own individual health goals, lifestyle, climate you live in, and intuition - learning to listen to your body is incredibly valuable.
Raw food recipes are very versatile and can be tailored to your individual constitution and seasonal changes, but it is also a very restricted way to eat, making it difficult to get a proper balance of macronutrients and micronutrients.
I invite you to experiment and find what works for you, and to never ever feel deprived or restricted by what you eat - food is supposed to bring us joy and nourish our mind, body, and soul.
I hope you enjoy the video! I don't really agree with everything in the video, especially whether or not we can fairly judge other animals in terms of consciousness - we don't speak their language so how can we ever know for sure the inner workings of an animals thoughts and awareness.
Also, there are of course other theories for what led to our evolutionary changes, and it may in fact be a combination of many factors, however, I still find that this is an interesting video.
Happy New Year!
We are celebrating the New Year by taking a look back at some of our favourite nutrition and health news of 2015:
First, we will take a look at some of the noteworthy sustainability stories that caught our attention.
1. Edible Yards Proliferate in Vancouver - The number of people wanting to grow food in their yards instead of grass is gaining popularity.
2. Organic Food Demand is Absolutely Exploding - "In fact, consumer demand for organic food is seeing double digit growth year over year, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping."
3. Venezuela Bans GMOs - "The law is a victory for the international movements for agroecology and food sovereignty..."
Next, some of the news and nutrition research reflecting the growing interest in a plant-based lifestyle.
4. Top 10 Plant-Based Nutrition Research of 2015 - New Paleo, Kidney Health and More
5. Vegan is Going Mainstream - Veg Related Content Mentioned 4.3 Million Times in 90 Days on Social Media
6. Great Vegan Athletes - 16 Vegan Athletes to Watch Out for in 2015
7. Whole-Food Based Vegan Cheeses Available Online - A great alternative to highly processed vegan cheeses, and convenient for those times you don't have time to soak and ferment the nuts/seeds.
8. Plant Protein Better for Glycemic Control - "Those who replaced approximately 35 percent of animal protein with plant protein per day reduced their HbA1C, fasting glucose, and fasting insulin levels."
The remaining stories highlight the increasing research into the microbiome (the balance of intestinal bacteria) and the growing trend of fermented foods. This is an exciting area of research, especially when it comes to the connection to our mood and mental health.
9. Probiotics and Asthma Risk - Are Our Environments Too Clean?
10. Fermented Food Benefits - Increased Awareness of the Importance of Supporting a Healthy Intestinal Microbiome
11. Probiotics May Hold Key to Improving Mental Health - Our Gut May Be More of Our Second Brain Than We Realize
A note about Histamine Intolerance: Those with higher levels of histamine or a greater intolerance to histamine need to be mindful of their fermented food and probiotic intake and may have to avoid altogether, at least until the underlying reasons for the high levels and/or intolerance are addressed.
Shawna Barker BSc., RHN is a nutritionist specializing in vegan diets.