- Make sure to get enough sleep, especially between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am. If you are asleep during these hours every night, you will be doing your adrenal glands a big favor. The adrenal glands are restored by good sleep especially during these hours. Make sure to make your bedroom cool and block out all sources of light, as any light in the room can inhibit melatonin production.
- Mind your liver! The liver is actually an extremely important organ for hormonal health, even though it isn't technically part of the endocrine system. Old, spent hormones are detoxed through the liver, and new hormones are conjugated and converted to their active forms. Poor liver function can lead to symptoms such as sluggish thyroid and low sex drive. To help the liver, limit alcohol and sugar intake, and eat veggies such as greens and beets. Also ask me about the 21 day purification program, which is a super boost for your liver health.
- Limit sources of stress. Stress impacts our hormones because we will start producing cortisol and adrenaline instead of the hormones we want like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and thyroid hormone. Stress is always going to be present, so limiting unnecessary sources is essential. Start paying attention to how you feel doing certain activities. Do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach when you watch the news on TV? Does your heart race when you see drama on Facebook? Is there a certain friend you have who makes your hair stand on end? Life is too short to allow things into your life that are causing you stress. Consider a news and/or Facebook "fast" for 30 days and see how you feel. Also consider limiting exposure to "toxic" people in your life.
- Find restorative activities to replace stressful activities. Hormonal health is about living a balanced life. Gentle yoga classes, walking, reading inspiring books or picking up one of those adult coloring books are all good examples of restorative activities! Treatments such as massage and acupuncture are wonderful for relieving stress and thus balancing hormones.
Our hormonal system isn't just about "that time of the month." Our hormonal health includes our thyroid, our pancreas and our adrenal glands (our body's stress barometers) as well as our estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Hormonal health is very important for our wellbeing including our mood, our energy and our sleep. Here are a few tips for achieving hormonal balance:
Stress Buster Treatments: $50 Each (Unlimited in April)
About two times a year I offer special "stress buster" acupuncture treatments at a reduced rate, specifically designed to relieve you of stress and transport you to a relaxed and rejuvenated place. April is that month! For the month of April 2016, you can get unlimited "stress buster" acupuncture treatments. This offer is good for new or established patients. Aromatherapy can be used at no extra charge during your session, to enhance the stress-relieving benefits. Just ask for it!
These sessions last for 1 hour total, and include treatment for stress reduction. No other specific medical conditions will be targeted in these sessions (i.e. back pain, fertility, headaches, digestive complaints, etc.).
Read this article from TIME Magazine on how acupuncture works for stress.
Soup, not dip!
When I went to make broccoli soup today, I discovered that my broccoli was yellowed and dry. That usually never happens in our house (veggies going bad) but this time I just waited too long. I hate that! I still wanted some creamy, nutritious veggie soup, so I improvised with what I had on hand. I came up with this soup that capitalizes on the flavors of spring.
Spring Spinach & Artichoke Soup
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
generous "glug" of avocado oil (could use olive oil)
1 package frozen artichoke hearts
1/4 cup cashews, raw and in pieces
2-3 Tbl lemon juice
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups fresh spinach
salt and black pepper to taste
Heat oil on medium heat. Add onion and stir until translucent. Add garlic and cook for about a minute, taking care not to burn it. Add artichoke hearts and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or so. Turn off heat and add your cashews and spinach, let wilt in the hot broth. After 10 minutes or so (give the cashews time to soften), add to a blender and blend on high until very smooth (or use an immersion blender - I want one!). Add in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy this creamy, tangy and veggie packed soup!
Guys...sleep is SO important! I can't stress this enough. It is right up there (maybe even MORE important) with your food choices and exercise.
We all seem to be in an energy crisis these days. Everyone is exhausted and reaching for whatever can give us an energy boost...sugar, coffee, etc. and then at night many of us push through our needs to sleep.
I'm not immune to this, and sometimes I struggle to wind down at night, particularly on the nights I work late (I usually end up leaving the clinic around 8 pm or so three nights a week). I get home at 8:30 and I'm a little amped up and I end up wanting to watch TV or get on Facebook to wind down. It makes sense, these are mindless activities. They are also the WORST activities you can do to help you go to sleep. The blue light that is emitted from these devices stunts the production of melatonin and generally just wakes up your brain.
So, starting last week I made some changes in my nighttime routine, and it is going well so far. I thought I'd share the changes I'm implementing, along with some general tips to help you sleep like a baby!
General Sleep Tips:
The Lifestyle Tips I'm Implementing:
On nights that I work late, here is my plan to make sure I sufficiently wind down and go to sleep at a good time (10:30 or earlier!). A lot of my changes start before I even get home.
I hope these tips help you to make sleep your own top priority! Please let me know what helps you wind down at night.
"Good broth will resurrect the dead." -South American Proverb
Bone broth is superfood. When I was going to school for Chinese medicine, my Chinese professors gave us recipes for bone broth on the first day of class.
According to Chinese medicine, traditionally prepared bone broth nourishes something called kidney "jing," which is also called kidney essence. Kidney essence is best translated into modern terms as "genetic material." It is said to be passed on from our parents at birth. It is what determines our inherent constitution and general vitality. "Good genes" or "bad genes," if you will. Kidney essence is said to govern reproduction, growth and development across the lifecycle. It is considered very important for fertility (in both men and women) and a successful pregnancy. There are few things that can build-up kidney jing in the body. Mostly it's believed that jing is inherited from the parents and simply needs to be conserved. It is believed that over-work, drug-use, too much sexual activity and a junk-food rich diet will deplete kidney essence. Luckily, bone broth is a kidney essence tonic!
Bone broth has been a traditional dish in every culture throughout the world. A few years ago, a top Italian chef in New York, Marco Canora, became a bone broth lover. Lucky for us, because he has been on the forefront of popularizing this traditional dish in this country. He started selling bone broth by the cup on the streets of New York and soon found great demand for the magical potion.
I recommend bone broth to my patients all of the time for the numerous health benefits:
This book is a nice little primer on bone broth. The author details the numerous health benefits, including the personal benefits he saw from consuming the broth on a regular basis. It goes over selecting bones of high quality and which ones to use. In addition--he is a top chef after all--he includes some interesting recipes to make with the broths and ingredients to infuse into the broths after you've made it.
Traditional Bone Broth Recipe from Marco Canora:
Golden Chicken Broth
3 pounds chicken feet
5 pounds chicken wings
7 pounds chicken backs and necks
3 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
6 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
5 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorn
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
Fine sea salt
1.) Place all chicken parts into a large stock pot and cover with water by 3 to 4 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam about every 15 to 20 minutes.
2.) As soon as the liquid boils (this could take awhile), reduce the heat to low and pull the pot to one side so it is partially off the burner. Simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes, skimming once or twice.
3.) Add the onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns and parsley and push them down into the liquid. Continue to simmer 3 to 5 hours, checking once or twice to make sure the bones are still fully submerged.
4.) Use a skimmer to remove the solids. Strain the both through a fine-mesh strainer. Season with salt to taste.
5.) Transfer cooled broth to storage containers (leaving sediment on the bottom of the pot) and refrigerate overnight. Spoon off any solidified fat. Store the broth for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months.
When I make bone broth, I've always added a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the cool water with the bones. This is how I was first taught to make it, and the idea is the acidity of the vinegar helps to release minerals from the bones. I don't think this is entirely necessary, but it can't hurt to add it.
I think it's important to note the the packaged bone broth that has turned up on grocery store shelves in recent years (because of the popularity bone broth has garnered) is NOT traditional bone broth and doesn't have the same health benefits. The signs of a good broth is that it will gel when cooled, because of its high gelatin content. I've seen several online suppliers of bone broth who claim they make their broth traditionally, and these may be better sources if you can't or don't want to make it yourself. Bare Bones Broth is one of these companies. I haven't tried their broth myself yet, but I just might in the future!
This book offers great insight into creating positive and helpful habits and breaking negative or destructive habits. Perhaps it's the ultimate New Year's Resolution book - fitting I read it in January!
I found a lot of useful information in here, and some great practical tips. The author, Gretchen Rubin, is the author of a popular blog turned book called The Happiness Project (which I'd never heard of before). Apparently this book, Better Than Before, grew out of The Happiness Project.
The author asserts that by developing habits we can be happier and healthier. She states that most people want to form the "Essential Seven" habits for themselves. These might manifest differently for everyone, but they are:
The book seems very well-researched and takes you through lots of different psychological and sociological theories into why people are able to make good habits and break bad ones. It also acknowledges that everyone is unique and has a different personality when it comes to forming behaviors. The author develops four different personas when it comes to habit formation - Obligers, Questioners, Upholders and Rebels - and gives practical tips and insights into each type.
Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to become more mindful of their habits and how they impact their life!
The book was provided as a free review copy through Blogging for Books.
My good friend Becca Borrelli is an artist based in Austin, Texas and above are some examples of her work. She is the author of The Austin Coloring Book, she creates sign art all over Austin and she also teaches art classes for children and adults. She is not just an amazing artist but a kind and wise person. She sends out a weekly newsletter called "Museletter," with her thoughts about life, art and the intersection of the two. She recently sent out a piece about her New Year's Resolution to eat foods that are kinder to her body. I loved what she said so much about making and keeping goals that I asked if I could share it with my readers and patients. Please check out her story below, and you can find more of her art at http://beccajborrelli.com (and even subscribe to the Museletter yourself!).
New Year's Resolutions and Art by Becca Borrelli
Resolution talk. Have you ever chatted with someone about your resolutions, and they kind of slam on them a little? Like, not in a crappy "I hope you fail" kind of way, but in a "that's too much for me, you're very brave" kind of way.
I was telling someone the other day that I wanted to eliminate dairy and gluten more permanently from my diet this year, because overall my health sky-rockets when I do.
And they said the most FASCINATING thing:
"I couldn't imagine doing that."
They used the word IMAGINE.
You probably have heard this in other contexts:
"I just can't imagine giving up sweets."
"I just can't imagine my life without him/her."
"I just can't imagine saving twenty percent of my income."
"I just can't imagine leaving my job for a better one."
I love that people use the word IMAGINE. It's a CLUE.
Struggling with change isn't a crisis of effort. It's not a crisis of laziness. It's not a crisis of intention.
Struggling with change begins as a crisis of imagination.
I mean, how in the world am I supposed to change my diet if I can't imagine myself with tons of energy, lit up with nutrition, glowing hair, skin and nails? How will I possibly change what my meals look like if I can't imagine myself savoring the most delicious clean proteins and home-grown market veggies? How will make changes to my grocery list if I can't imagine going to the farmer's market for my snacks. Sun in my hair, jazz music in the background... savoring the sights and smells... instead of the convenience of the corner gas station?
What if the people who grow into higher and higher versions of themselves aren't simply warriors? Like, we have this idea that people who make positive change are some how more tough than we are. Gritting their teeth and bearing the brunt of this ridiculously hard change they are embarking on. They prevail! They have enough stamina!
But what if they aren't more tough?
What if they are more imaginative?
What if they are artists?
When you're an artist, you don't do battle with that thing... your imagination does battle for you.
So when I get home starving for a snack, my boyfriend's box of Joe Joe's doesn't do battle with my freaking willpower (I would lose, let's be honest.) Instead, it does battle with a vivid, crisp, technicolor, artistic vision of myself, calm, energized, full of life from all the nutrition in my body.
An imagination like that kicks the Oreos a** every day of the week.
Becca Borrelli is an admirer of doodling, lettering, and art teaching. Since graduating with a MA in Art Education from The University of Texas, she has been working as an art teacher at The Contemporary Art School, and establishing an illustration and sign making business. She is inspired by the invisible connections between all things, and her works aims to be a playful, bright, and hopeful interpretation of the world's whimsical and magical sides.She has fallen in love with her hometown in Austin, TX where she spends free time jogging Town Lake, collaborating with local businesses, and hunting for the best breakfast tacos
This cookbook by Rebecca Katz is beautiful and the recipes are equally like little creations are art. Rebecca Katz has been around for in the healing foods world for awhile and she has worked with people such as Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra to develop tasty recipes for healing.
One of the biggest things I noticed is that she is a true chef. The way she combines flavors in her recipes is masterful and she takes care to impart wise flavor combinations on each dish.
The emphasis of this book is ingredients that are in their natural state and of the highest quality to boost both cognitive function and mood. They are all free of gluten and mostly all are free of dairy (she includes some recipes that have the option of using small amounts of cheese). The recipes are low on grain (she uses some non-gluten grains in a few recipes) and high on veggies. She uses healthy animal proteins and legumes. It's important to note that grains and legumes may not be appropriate for some people (like those with autoimmune disease, diabetes or digestive diseases) but for the majority of healthy, active people they aren't usually a problem.
The photos, though unfortunately not included with every recipes, are gorgeous. Oh, there are desserts, too.
Some of the recipes I'll be trying ASAP are:
Provencal Seafood Stew
Avocado Citrus Salad (I'm going to add shrimp)
Kale with Delicata Squash and Hazelnuts
Baked Halibut with Tomato, Mint and Fennel Vinaigrette
Grilled Bison Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Crispy Shiitakes (served on lettuce leaves)
Disclosure: This book was received for free through the Blogging for Books program.
Welcome 2016, Happy New Year!
I don't know about you, but today I am eating black-eyed peas and collard greens. These are the traditional southern foods that are said to bring good luck and prosperity in the new year; and should be consumed on New Year's Day. I'm not taking any chances! ;)
We hear a lot about "detoxing" this time of year, but what does it really mean, and do we need to detox?
Here's my take: Toxins are a real threat to health. They are either produced inside the body (as by-products of eating, drinking and breathing) or enter the body as water or air pollution, chemical by-products in our food and poor dietary choices like high fructose corn syrup and denatured, rancid vegetable oils.
Luckily, we have built in systems in our amazing bodies that help to facilitate the removal of toxins. The liver, gallbladder, lymph system and large intestine all play important roles in removing toxins from our bodies. However, these systems can get overwhelmed in our modern society because of unprecedented pollution, exposure to chemicals in plastics, cleaning products and personal care products and nutritional deficiencies/poor dietary choices. The truth is, we are detoxing every day, some may just be doing it better than others! I don't know about you, but over this holiday season I indulged in a few foods that I normally wouldn't eat. which has left me feeling a bit sluggish and tired.
The body requires certain nutrients in order to carry out its detoxification processes. If we aren't giving our bodies these nutrients, either from our food or through specific herbal and nutritional supplements, our detoxification system can become compromised.
Some symptoms of poor detoxification can include: headaches, mood issues, digestive difficulties, low energy, fatty liver, hormonal imbalances, acne, allergies, body pain and more. Read this article from Dr. Mark Hyman about how low glutathione (the body's master detoxifier and anti-oxidant) plays a role in almost all chronic disease.
I made this soup today with ingredients especially targeted to facilitate detoxification (and to encourage a happy new year!):
Ingredients in this Soup that Aid Detoxification:
Collard Greens - Collards are in the cruciferous, or brassica, vegetable family. These veggies (which also include broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and others) are rich in sulfur and also have precursors to glutathione production, which is the body's most powerful antioxidant and detoxifier. The bitter taste of collard greens also stimulates bile flow to remove toxins.
Onions and Garlic- Rich in sulfur, selenium and antioxidants to help the liver complete its detox duties.
Artichoke - Has been prized for centuries as a potent tonic for liver health and especially gallbladder health; it assists with bile flow to help remove the converted toxins from the liver
Turmeric - My old friend turmeric again. I've written about it for it's anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant capability. However, it also aids the liver to secrete toxins and stimulates bile flow.
Gelatin - A natural component in traditionally prepared bone broth, it contains important amino acids (specific proteins that aid in many metabolic functions) like glycine and cysteine which serve as raw materials to help the liver do it's job.
Lemon Juice - In Chinese medicine, the sour taste is said to stimulate the liver. Lemons are also rich in Vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and aids in some important processes for liver detoxification.
Fiber - Found in ample supply in this soup in the black-eyed peas and the veggies, fiber is crucial to bind the toxins that the liver has packaged up for removal, and facilitate their exit through the large intestine. If the toxins can't get out - the detox was for nothing!
New Year's Good Luck/Detox Soup
Generous "glug" of olive oil (a couple of tablespoons)
1 package frozen artichoke hearts (I used Trader Joes)
1/4 cup lemon juice, organic
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 cups collard greens, chopped (I was lucky enough to get some fresh from my parent's garden)
4 celery ribs, organic, diced
6 cups chicken broth (either homemade and prepared traditionally, or add some gelatin to organic store-bought broth if you are short on time)
1 can black-eyed peas, or cooked from fresh or dried (Eden brand canned beans are the best in my opinion, because there is no BPA in the can lining)
1 tsp turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Pour olive oil into large pot and heat to medium-low. Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add in carrots and celery.
2. Once the veggies are soft, add your broth. Also put in the bay leaf at this time.
3. Turn up the heat to bring to a simmer. Add the artichoke hearts and the black-eyed peas. You can add your turmeric now too. Cook for about 10 minutes or so, until everything is tender.
4. Turn off heat and add your lemon juice, collard greens and salt and pepper to taste.
That's it! You can add some protein like chicken, turkey or grass-fed beef if you need a more substantial meal (quality protein assists detoxification too - but I opted for a lighter soup today).
I'm wishing you all the best in 2016! Happy and Healthy New Year!
Have you heard about the benefits of turmeric? Many people have these days, but you may not know the specifics.
Turmeric is the bright orange spice (it looks like a bright orange ginger root in it's natural state) that comes to us from the Indian culinary and medicinal traditions. It has been used forever in India to make the delicious yellow curry dishes that many of us now know and love. Turmeric also has a long history in Chinese Medicine as a herb used to treat disease (it is called Jiang Huang in Chinese). One of it's main medicinal functions according to Chinese herbal tradition is to alleviate pain almost anywhere in the body--but especially in the chest or abdominal area (think menstrual cramps) and especially the shoulders. It is considered a "blood-moving" herb, which means it helps to move out stagnant blood and increase circulation. According to the book Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology by John and Tina Chen, Jiang Huang (Turmeric) has the following pharmacological actions: anti-viral, anti-hyperlipidemic (lowers cholesterol), anti-inflammatory, anti-neoplastic (anti-cancer), anti-platelet (helps prevent blood clots and increases circulation), and hepatoprotective (prevents damage to the liver). This book is an authority on Chinese medicinal herbs because John Chen is not only trained as a Chinese herbalist but also is a Western Trained Pharmacist.
So in summary: Turmeric can help decrease inflammation (more on that soon), lower cholesterol, prevent blood clots, protect the liver and may have some effect against tumor formation.
Let's talk a little about inflammation. Most of us know that inflammation is Bad with a capitol B. That is very true, when inflammation gets out of control and becomes chronic. It is important to note that some inflammatory processes are actually natural and beneficial for the body. When you injure yourself or even when you get a cold, your body produces inflammatory chemicals to help you heal. That's good. However, inflammation has a tendency to become chronic in our modern world. This is bad because inflammation contributes to numerous chronic disease processes including arthritis, auto-immune diseases, diabetes and metabolic syndrome and heart disease. In addition, there are many diseases with the suffix -itis on the end. You've heard of many of them--bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial tubes in the lung), tendinitis (inflammation of the tendons), colitis (inflammation of the colon), sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus), etc. All of these conditions have an inflammatory aspect to them. In addition, have you ever had a headache or muscle ache and took an Advil, Aspirin or Aleve and felt better? If so, you have experienced pain caused by inflammation. These drugs are considered anti-inflammatory medicines and the way they work on pain is by decreasing the inflammation that is causing it. So what is the cause of inflammation? According to Dr. Mark Hyman, functional medicine doctor, the most common sources of inflammation are poor diet, stress, sedentary lifestyle, hidden or chronic infections, hidden food or environmental allergies, and toxins in the environment such as mercury, molds and pesticides. So it's best to reduce inflammation by improving these at the source.
Inflammation contributes to body pain, diabetes, auto-immunity, heart disease and numerous other conditions.
Food Is Medicine
Something you can add to your diet that has anti-inflammatory properties is Golden Milk. Golden Milk comes to us through the tradition of Ayurveda--or Indian Medicine. It should be noted that turmeric is a powerful medicine and certain populations should use caution and ask their health care practitioner first before using turmeric medicinally. Those who are pregnant, have congestive heart failure, have gallstones, kidney stones or complete bile duct obstruction should use caution with turmeric (consult a practitioner before using it medicinally). You should also stop turmeric in medicinal doses at least a week before surgery due to the anti-platelet effect. Additionally, those who are on blood thinning medication should talk to their doctor before consuming large doses of turmeric because it can increase the anti-coagulant effect of the drug. According to traditional medicine, turmeric is warm in nature, so those with a hot or warm constitution should use caution with turmeric--if you constantly feel hot in your body or have hot flashes, turmeric may be too warming for you in large doses or over time. You could work with a practitioner of Chinese or Ayurvedic medicine to balance out the heat in your body with other herbs and still be able to use turmeric medicinally.
Golden Milk Recipe
Step 1: Make Turmeric Paste
1/8 cup organic turmeric (dried, ground)
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
Black pepper is used because it increases the body's absorption of the turmeric. Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until a paste forms. This does not take long, so monitor your pan and don't burn your paste. Transfer into a small glass container. This can be stored for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Step 2: Make Your Golden Milk
1 cup unsweetened almond milk or other milk (raw dairy, cashew, hemp, coconut)
1/2 to 1 tsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp or more of turmeric paste (start low to see how you respond and then increase)
Sweetener of choice-honey, maple syrup, stevia or coconut sugar (optional) - I prefer stevia.
Add-Ins of choice-cinnamon, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, almond extract, clove, etc. (optional)
Gently heat turmeric paste, coconut oil and milk. Don't allow to boil. Coconut oil is used because fats also help to increase the absorption of turmeric. Pour into your mug and add optional sweetener and add-ins. Play with it to find your perfect drink and enjoy! Drink once a day in the morning or evening.
Kendra Lay, ACN