5 Things You Can Do Now To Repair Your Brain

Did you know that Alzheimer’s starts 30 years before any symptoms appear, and that it affects 50% of people over 85? Or that depression is one of the greatest killers of our time?

Our brain is sometimes overlooked because we can’t see it, unlike our skin, hair, and body size, but it is vital to enjoying a healthy life. Our brains are involved in everything that we do: thinking, feeling, interacting, intelligence, character, planning, and decisions.

The bottom line is, when our brain works right, we work right, so it’s crucial that we take care of it to the best of our ability.

Here are 5 things you can do that will start repairing your brain right away:

1. Take probiotics

Scientists are finding out that there is a major relationship between our gut health and our minds. It turns out that if our gut is in a depressed, so is our mind. Doctor’s prescribe serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitor medications (SSRIs) to treat symptoms of depression and memory loss. But did you know that you gut is responsible for making 80-90% of the serotonin available to your body? (i) When your gut bacteria is not healthy, inflammation occurs. And this inhibits the amount of serotonin available to your brain, resulting in depression. Dr. Perlmutter notes in his book “Brain Maker”:

“As a neurologist, for example, I find it intriguing to note that today’s antidepressants purportedly work by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and yet the precursor for serotonin-tryptophan-is tightly regulated by the gut bacteria. In fact-a particular bacterium, Bifidobacterium infantis, does a great job of making tryptohan available”. (i)

By taking a dose of probiotics everyday, you will see huge results. Take a high grade probiotic in the morning and in the evening. Also, eat at least 2-3 servings of fermented foods everyday.

2. Exercise  

Exercise will not only release serotonin and make you happier, but it will also help maintain your weight. There have been 24 recent studies proving that as weight goes up, the size and function of your brain goes down, and cognitive scores have also been shown to improve with weight loss.

3Get 8 hours of sleep

It’s crucial you get enough sleep, as this is when the brain repairs itself. If you deprive yourself of sleep, your brain will degenerate quickly.

 4. New Learning

Your muscles aren’t the only things that need a workout! If you don’t use your brain you will lose it. New types of learning can include reading books, taking an online course, doing crossword puzzles – get creative!

5. Drink Green Tea

Green tea is amazing for a plethora of reasons, one being that it helps the brain function. Green tea has caffeine and the amino acid L-theanine, which when paired together help the brain work. L-theanine also has anti-anxiety effects and increases dopamine.

And don’t forget to practice gratitude!

Write five things you are grateful for everyday and you will see an increase in happiness, which will have an overall positive effect on the health of your brain.

For further reading about keeping your brain healthy, I recommend Dr. Daniel Amen’s book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life”.

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Sources

Perlmutter, David, and Kristin Loberg. Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life. Print.

 

5 Tips On How To Stay Healthy During Long Flights

While traveling is fun, flying on an airplane for long hours takes a major toll on the body. I used to have issues with constipation, bloating and fatigue for days after a long flight. After years of trial and error, I have discovered some excellent ways to stay healthy while traveling.

1. Hydrate

It might seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people in general walk around dehydrated. Take into account the low humidity of the cabin air while traveling, and you are on the fast track to dehydration. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated, so it’s best to keep on drinking water throughout your journey.

I never rely on the puny little cups the stewards hand out. Instead, I bring a water bottle on the plane, and ask the steward to fill it up. Many airlines have a filtered water tap by the kitchen and will even let you fill it up yourself – much easier than having to bug the stewards every hour for a new cup of water.

Another way to avoid becoming dehydrated is by taking it easy on the caffeine and alcohol. I know many airlines offer free coffee, tea, and booze, but just because it is free, doesn’t mean it is good for you!

2. Bring Your Own Food

This one is so crucial. Airline food is loaded with sodium as it is an easy and cheap way to add flavor to otherwise bland mass-produced food. The recommended intake of sodium for the average human is 1500mg per day, and I’d bet that most airline meals exceed this amount. Excess salt can make you swell and bloat.

Seeing as I prefer not to arrive at my destination looking and feeling like a Goodwill blimp, I always bring my own meals. This week I will be flying to France, and I have 19 hours of travel ahead of me, so I am packing my dinner and breakfast. For snacks, I always bring raw almonds and walnuts to munch on, or RX Bars, as they keep my blood sugar stable throughout the journey. And for my sweet tooth, a few squares of organic dark chocolate.

If packing your food is out of the question, I read that some airlines offer low- sodium meals as a special meal option: United, Delta, Lufthansa, Emirates, Thai, Japan, Alitalia, Turkish, Swiss, and Iberia all have histories of providing low-sodium meals, but be sure to check with the airline directly. And as always, try your best to find the healthiest options during layovers, as your body will be able to defend itself from the jetlag better with good fuel instead of junk food.

3. Avoid Germs

In addition to dehydration, low humidity also increases the risk of catching a cold. When the air is too dry, the mucous in your airway can’t do its job, and bacteria and viruses can enter easily.

To best protect myself I always bring my own blanket (I bring a light weight sarong) and pillow on the plane, as the ones the airlines use are not washed with every use (gross!). I also wipe down my tray with anti-bacterial wipes (who knows the last time it was wiped down?) because I’ve seen babies get their diapers changed on them many times.

One last thing I do to protect myself from getting sick is to bring a bottle of orange oil to breathe in occasionally during the flight, as it is anti-viral. Doterra also makes an antiviral, antibacterial, anti-infectious blend called OnGuard, which is a blend of clove, cinnamon, wild orange, rosemary and eucalyptus essential oils.

4. Sleep

Stick to your sleep cycle and try to get some shuteye. I know sleeping on a plane is far from ideal, but I find that applying lavender oil to my temples and to a sleep mask always helps me sleep a little better, as the lavender is calming, and the sleep mask prevents my neighbors’ movie screen or book light from shining in my eyes. I also make sure to wear my blue blocker glasses on the plane to avoid overexposure of blue light from the screens around me; this hack will help you sleep better and prevent jet lag.

5. Stretch

Keeping circulation going on a flight is crucial, so when you are not sleeping try to get up at least every hour to stretch. This will get your blood circulating and prevent cramps and blood clots. I’m a fan of walking to the back bathroom with lots of space, and I feel no shame for doing a few toe touches or side stretches. Here is a list of good yoga stretches you can do in your seat. 

As a final tip, if you tend to get constipated when flying I recommend taking magnesium citrate before you go to sleep. Without a proper movement your body will not be able to flush out all the toxins accumulated from your long flight, so it’s crucial. I always bring my Magnesium Citrate with me while traveling and it has been a life saver.

What are your favorite ways to keep healthy during travel? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below!

Happy Travels!

Health Coach Jenna

Steamed Sweet Potatoes with Wild Rice, Basil & Tomato Chili Sauce

Steamed Sweet Potato with Wild Rice and Tomato Chili Sauce

I’ve been looking forward to trying out this recipe from This Rawsome Vegan Life for a while.

I currently live in Taiwan where the sweet potato is the national vegetable because they grow abundantly on the island, and the vegetable itself resembles the shape of the country.  It only seemed fitting that I make this dish while living here, plus I absolutely adore sweet potatoes.

Sweet vegetables such as these are an exceptional  food to eat if you have a sweet tooth, as the natural sweetness tends to satisfy cravings. They are also very nutritious, being a good source of vitamin B6, C, and D, as well as magnesium and iron.

I found this dish very simple and easy to make. The sauce was the highlight, as it really brought out the flavor of the sweet potato, and the basil was a nice final touch that tied the dish together. I enjoyed the sauce so much, that I made some the next day to make vegan sushi.

STEAMED SWEET POTATOES with WILD RICE, BASIL & TOMATO CHILI SAUCE (1 serving)

Sauce:

1 tomato
1 tablespoon nut butter (optional)
1 tablespoon miso paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon chili powder, to taste
1 garlic clove

Other ingredients:

1 large sweet potato, sliced and steamed until soft and tender
1 cup cooked wild rice
1/4 cup basil leaves

To make the sauce: blend all the ingredients until smooth. Mix the sauce into your rice and sweet potatoes in a bowl, then top with basil leaves and enjoy!

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

pgfudgePeanut Butter. Chocolate.  I really don’t think it gets much better than this. For those of you who have a sweet tooth like me, having healthy dessert options on hand means you are less likely to eat unhealthy sweets.

This peanut butter chocolate fudge, however, is the perfect combination of sweet and creamy, leaving your sweet tooth satisfied without all the refined ingredients. They are also a perfect dessert to make when having company. Simply prepare the fudge, stick it in the freezer, and whilst cooking dinner and dining, the fudge will be freezing! Your guests will thank you.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Freeze time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup natural peanut butter ( the kind you have to stir because the oil separates)
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 4 ounces quality dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions:

1. Cream peanut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup, and sea salt in a bowl

2. Pour mixture into a 8×6 baking dish, lined with parchment paper

3. Top with chopped chocolate and freeze for two hours

4. Remove from freezer, carefully remove fudge by lifting edges of parchment paper

5. Cut into 1 inch squares and store in freezer separated by parchment paper

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6 Steps to Get Rid of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is your body’s way of telling you that something is off with the way you are eating. Our body speaks to us in sensations, so it is extremely important to listen to them. If you are experiencing acid reflux, then your body is trying to communicate that you need to add more alkaline foods to your diet.

All foods are alkaline or acidic. Here is a chart to refer to in order to distinguish where they fall on the pH Spectrum. I recommend you print this out and place on your fridge for an easy reference.

Photo originally published on MindBodyGreen
Photo originally published on MindBodyGreen

You will notice that coffee, alcohol, meats, and breads are on the acidic spectrum, and that water-filled, fiber-laden foods like fruits and veggies are on the alkaline spectrum.

6 Steps to Get Rid of Acid Reflux:

1. Start every morning off with a cup of WARM water and half a lemon. I know you might be cringing right now as you read this, but if you don’t wish to take acid reflux medication, this is crucial. Lemons balance your PH immediately, so ingesting this first thing in the morning is imperative. It also flushes your body of toxins, and helps move the bowels.

2. Take digestive enzyme capsules before each meal.

3. Add as many green leafy veggies to your diet as possible as they are alkalizing. Try to get a serving at every meal.

4. Cut one cup of coffee out a day (or completely if you really want to show acid reflux who is boss), and replace with a cup of green tea. Bonus points if you add lemon!

5. Eat one green apple a day. Apples create an alkaline state in the stomach, neutralizing excess acids and aiding in digestion. They don’t say, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” for nothing!

6. Eat one to two fermented foods a day, as they bring the blood and vital fluids back to a correct hydrogen level of pH7.35. Fermented foods are also packed with glorious digestive enzymes that your gut needs and craves to create healthy gut flora. And no! Wine doesn’t count while experiencing acid reflux. Fermented foods can be in the form of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar sipped twice a day (2 tablespoons before lunch and before dinner), or by drinking kombucha or water kefir. Other examples of fermented foods are sauerkraut and yogurt.

*Bonus step for those Wellness Warriors : Cut out red meat from your diet, and reduce all meat consumption in general. Once the acid reflux goes away, you can gradually introduce some red meat (humanely raised, grass fed, and hormone free please!) if desired. Making sure your beef is grass fed is crucial, as cows fed on corn makes for extremely acidic meat.

If the acid reflux persists and doesn’t go away by doing this, next step is to go on a vegan diet for at least one month,incorporate high-grade probiotics daily, and to address what is most likely a case of leaky gut.

Helpful articles:

4 Easy Ways to Eat Alkaline

Alkaline-Acidic Food Chart

 

 

Energy Boosting (and Cramp Fighting!) Hot Cacao

For an alternative to coffee for your energy boost in the morning, check out this creamy and delicious hot cacao. Not only does it provide you with magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants, but it sends your body a steady stream of energy that will not spike and crash like the rush from coffee.

As for women, this drink is an excellent cramp fighter! I like to enjoy this little cup of goodness on the first day of my Ladies’ Holiday, when I am prone to cramps. The caffeine in the cacao will alleviate your cramps, and the *maca is an adaptogen, facilitating the body’s ability to adapt to and regulate stress responses, as well as balance hormones.

Yes, please!

Energy Boosting (and Cramp Fighting!) Hot Cacao with Maca

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Raw Cacao Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Maca Powder*
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cups full fat coconut milk
  • (optional) 1 tbs raw honey or stevia
  • Omnivores-add in a scoop of collagen!

Directions:

Mix ingredients well in a sauce pan over low to medium heat. Pour and enjoy.

Do you have any other natural remedy for cramps? What’s your favorite? Please share in the comments section below!

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How to Avoid Chemicals When You Can’t Buy Organic

Photo from Pixabay

Buy organic. Don’t buy organic. Buy organic. Regardless of your decision, the bottom line is that eating fruits and veggies is better than not eating them at all.

I try to eat organic every chance I get in order to protect myself from the harmful pesticide residue. Luckily, I currently live in a country (Taiwan) where it is affordable and easy for me to purchase organic fruits and veggies. I know, however, this is not the case for everyone.

Buying 100% organic can be expensive, but just because you can’t always afford to buy organic, doesn’t mean you deserve to be doused with toxic chemicals.

That is why I’ve provided a list of the “Clean Fifteen” and the “Dirty Dozen” to help you decide when you can save money by buying conventional, and when it is crucial to spring the extra bucks on organic.

“Clean Fifteen”

Avocados
Sweet corn
Pineapple
Cabbage
Sweet peas (frozen)
Onions
Asparagus
Mangoes
Papaya
Kiwis
Eggplant
Grapefruit
Cantaloupe
Cauliflower
Sweet potatoes

“Dirty Dozen”

Apples
Strawberries
Grapes
Celery
Peaches
Spinach
Sweet bell peppers
Nectarines (imported)
Cucumbers
Cherry tomatoes
Snap peas (imported)
Potatoes

Source (TakePart)

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Movie Producers of “Fed Up” Say F.U. to Congress

Photo from RadiusTWC
Photo from RadiusTWC

Before Congress voted on the School Lunch Vote this week (which includes a rider that would allow public schools to opt out of a set of nutrition standards that Michelle Obama pushed forward in 2010 if they demonstrate that implementing the standards presents undue financial hardship) the movie directors of “Fed Up” sent a special message.

According to an article this week in The Huffington Post:

“The producers of hit food documentary “Fed Up” delivered “Fed Up”-themed M&M’s to 29 members of the House of Representatives today, to encourage them to vote against an agriculture appropriations bill that the producers said could make school lunches across the country less healthy than they already are.

Each 1.5 oz tin of M&Ms — which were stamped with the words “Fed Up” and colored red and blue, to match the candies on the movie’s poster — contained 24.75 grams of sugar, less than half the 55 grams that the producers found are in a typical school lunch today.”

This is awesome.

Kudos to filmmakers Stephanie Soechtig and Laurie David, for both making the film “Fed Up”, and for having the grit to send the message that it is imperative for our schools to serve children  more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and less processed foods full of salt and sugar.

And for f**k’s sake Congress, pizza is not a vegetable.

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Vermont Expected to Be First State to Mandate GMO Labeling

Consumers in the U.S. want to know what is in their food. It’s that simple. According to an article posted this week in the Los Angeles Times, Vermont might be the first state to mandate labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs).

As stated in the article, “under a law signed this month, the tiny New England state, population 626,000, will soon require that food companies tell consumers which products on grocers’ shelves have genetically modified ingredients. In doing so, Vermont could force food growers, processors and retailers to upend how they serve hundreds of millions of customers nationwide.”.

The biggest argument up to date for the opposing side, is that foods made from genetically modified crops are no riskier than non-GMO foods.

“But backers of GMO labeling argue that the issue shouldn’t be about safety, but rather about a consumer’s right to know. Orange juice from concentrate is safe, they note, yet the FDA requires it to be labeled. The U.S. is one of the few developed nations that does not mandate labels for genetically modified foods”.

I agree. The issue is not about safety or whether or not scientific studies have proven that GMOs are unsafe or not. The issue is about the consumer’s right to know.

It’s saddening that the U.S. is one of the few developed nations that doesn’t mandate labels for GMOs. Americans live in a country that continues to serve the corporations, and not the people. And if it wasn’t always evident, then it was made plain as day after Obama signed the Monsanto Protection Act in 2013.

Americans deserve to know what they are buying, and we shouldn’t settle for less.

 What can you do to help?

  1. Write a letter to your State Representative (click HERE for a list by state) urging them to support labeling of genetically engineered foods. You can also sign this online petition.
  2. BUYING POWER. Refuse to buy GMOs, and support organic farming. And please support you local farmer’s market when possible.
  3. Start your own garden! How To Start an Organic Garden in 10 Steps

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Raw Food Diets Dangerous for Children?

The New York Times published an article this week about the dangers of putting children on a raw food diet.

Here are some highlights:

“Many doctors are cautioning against the trend. A child’s digestive system may not be able “to pull the nutrients out of raw foods as effectively as an adult’s,” said Dr. Benjamin Kligler, a family practitioner with the Center for Health and Healing in Manhattan.

Over the last year, Dr. TJ Gold, a pediatrician in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a strong focus on nutrition, has seen about five families who are feeding their children, including toddlers, raw diets. Some of the children were severely anemic, she said, and the parents were supplementing the diets with vitamin B12.

“If you have to supplement something for children in order to do it, is that really the right diet for them?” Dr. Gold said.”

I’m a firm believer in bio-individuality, and therefore don’t think it is necessarily the best decision to impose a special diet on children. Just because you are a vegan/vegetarian/raw foodist doesn’t mean your child has to be.

I try to eat at least 51% of my foods raw, and don’t eat meat. But when I have kids will I make my kiddos do the same? NO. I will encourage them to listen to their bodies and eat what they crave (as long as it is not refined sugar, GMO, factory farmed meat, or processed junk that is ).

Are you a parent? What is your opinion on diets and children? I would love to hear from you.