What does self-care look like for you?

What does self-care look like for you?

No matter which way you slice it, more often than not we as adults struggle with self-care. Ironically enough, many of us in the healing field commonly have issues in this area. I think the reason for this is we are constantly looking to help everyone else, and women, specifically mom’s, give a whole new meaning to “martyr”.….BUT you know what they say on an airplane about putting on your own mask first, right? It is time to fill our cups first!

We may have weeks where we do really well with showing ourselves the extra love and attention we deserve, and others where it seems we can sometimes be nicer to a stranger than we our to ourselves…exaggerating, of course…or am I? I fell into a non-existent self-care routine recently. There were many reasons for this, but were they actually excuses? (And maybe this sounds familiar to you) Banish those excuses!

Self-care can mean many things to many people, but my definition would definitely be doing things for me and only me, and nothing to do with technology. So watching a movie does not count in my rulebook, nor does spending quality time with my boys. Now, quality time is equally important to me but does not qualify as self-care…hence the “self”.

So, today I just want to give you three ideas, in case you are feeling a bit lost in this area. (More blogs to follow)

 

“You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside”. –Wayne Dyer

 

Take a Breath on the Go

Sometimes, the car is the ideal place for me to bring myself back to center as I am somewhat held hostage away from all the should’s at home: laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc etc. Practicing mindful breathing can be done with your eyes open, very successfully at that.

Before you run out of the house, grab a cotton ball or cotton round and place 2 drops of the essential oil that brings you to a calmer place. Get in your car and push it inside your air vent. Here are a few ideas, but you very likely may already know exactly what you will use:

Bergamot Citrus bergamia
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
Mandarin Red Citrus reticulata
Orange Sweet Citrus sinensis
Sandalwood Santalum spicatum
Vetiver Vetiveria zizanoides

This 4-7-8 breathing technique was created by Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. (See his video here: https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/) (1)

The basis of this 4-7-8 breath is truly to create awareness of conscious breathing. It works wonders, and the car is a great place to practice it. If you embrace it, the 4-7-8 breath will become a habit in no time! For those of you saying, I breathe every second of every day…so not the same. Practice it and you will be sure to notice the difference immediately.

According to Dr. Maxwell Maltz, “It takes 21 days to form a new habit”, but other research states it takes a bit longer, on average two months (2). We can all do something for two months to make a fresh new habit that fosters wellness, right!?!

 

“Breath is the link between mind and body”. –Dan Brule

 

The Lovely Bath Time Routine

Do you love to take a bath as much as I do? First things first, even though my boys are now 9 and 11, the second I hit the bathroom is still the second that they need to tell me something, are looking for something, or need something. So I work to get them involved in something first, then I head to my sanctuary.

Essential oils are a treat for me. I do not use them every day, but bath time is a must! I typically add crème as a luxury item too. Heck if throwing in some rose petals makes you feel like the goddess that you are, then definitely do that!

Here is one of my favorites:

 

Vanilla Rose Goddess Bath Time Blend

Rose Absolute Rosa x Damascena 3 drops
Vanilla Vanilla Planifolia Oleoresin 2 drops
Epsom salt 1 cup
Unscented fragrance free shampoo 1 tbsp
Full fat crème ½-1 cup

Mix and add to bath after water has run.

I like to light candles, and have a glass of red wine. It is up to us to totally pamper ourselves, no one else. So go all out!

 

Transport Yourself to a Happy Place

 Are you familiar with guided imagery? This is my go to when meditation fails me. I have been meditating for over 10 years, and sometimes I still fail….we all do. Dust yourself off and move on to something else that might work. Over the years my self-care routine evolves. What used to work like a charm may not so much anymore. So when I try to sit in meditation and the monkey mind does not stop knocking, guided imagery it is.

I typically do not recommend making purchases in my blogs, but this time I am making an exception because I feel it is THAT GOOD. I am not an affiliate or getting paid to make this recommendation, I just feel it is a tool that I use, my kids use, and many of my clients use….and I have yet to hear anyone say they do not LOVE it.

The website is called Meditainment. (see link below) There are 20 audio recordings in all, complete with a beautiful voice, sounds effects, and stories with a purpose. You will be able to transport yourself to a beach, an ocean, a garden, even the moon. Well worth the investment in your health.

This is typically a time that I diffuse essential oils. For example, if I listen to the recording marked “Island Paradise”, for rapid relaxation, I will diffuse what to me says beach, tropical, and relaxation. What that is for me, may be different for you, but here is a diffuser blend to try:

Diffuser Blend (Drops appropriate for a 400ml water reservoir)

Orange Sweet Citrus sinensis 5 drops
Sandalwood Santalum spicatum 3 drops
Vanilla Vanilla Planifolia Oleoresin OR CO2 1 drop
Jasmine Absolute Jasminum sambac 1 drop

Be sure to practice safe diffusion times.

Want to know more about what the health benefits of guided imagery are? Cleveland Clinic touches on it here. (3)

 

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere”. –Carl Sagan

With the high levels of stress that most of us are under, and the turmoil in the world, self-care is crucial. What are you doing for yourself today?

 

References

(1) Weil, A. Video: Breathing Exercises: 4-7-8 Breath Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/

(2) Clear, J. How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science) Retrieved from http://jamesclear.com/new-habit

(3) Guided Imagery Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/departments/wellness/integrative/treatments-services/guided-imagery

Resources

https://www.meditainment.com/

Like so many practices in life, I encourage you to become educated on the proper use of essential oils. When using them, please do so cautiously, understanding that there is often misinformation on the internet. You can be assured that I support only educated and proven resources. While essential oils should not be feared they should be respected and used properly to ensure the safety of the individuals using them.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

Essential Oils And Our Microbiome (AKA…Our Gut Bugs)

Essential Oils And Our Microbiome (AKA…Our Gut Bugs)

There have been many blogs stating that essential oils are great for our gut health, and that they provide us with a healthy microbiome. The issue with statements like these is that people walk away from reading these articles thinking that essential oils work much like a prebiotic or probiotic….when that has yet to be proven. With an education in Aromatic Medicine, I can see how these statements or claims are somewhat like a telephone game. My goal is to help you see what I mean by that. Let’s take a look at our gut health…one of my favorite topics, and how essential oils can play a role. It’s not what you think!

 

There are many things that can disrupt the function of our gut, which is also called our second brain. There is a strong relationship between the food that we eat as well as our levels of stress in regards to how our gut functions, and our overall health. Chronic stress is not our gut’s friend. Other things that effects our gut health are alcohol, antibiotics, modern day wheat, NSAID’s, and the jury is still out on GMO’s (although I believe they are detrimental on more levels of our health than we can even imagine).

 

When we look at how many things in modern day society is wreaking havoc on our gut microbiome, looking at statistics of how many people are dealing with afflictions such as leaky gut, dysbiosis, SIBO, Crohn’s disease, C diff, and others…it is quite dizzying how “dis” eased our digestive systems really are. Experts publish articles and books every day on this very topic, discussing what we can do to restore healthy levels of bacteria.

 

You see, our gut bacteria is a complex system, with good and bad forever seeking balance. Just as all of our bodies have cancer cells, and our immune systems are always working to combat these cells and “eat/destroy cancer cells” or what is termed phagocytosis, our guts always have “bad” bacteria. The goal is to keep balance. Here is previous article of mine speaking to how food and emotions play a role in our digestive health.

 

On to Essential Oils

 

You will be hard-pressed to find papers or research studies that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that essential oils provide your gut with healthy bacteria, that is not their role. Essential oils can be used to bring balance in another way. If you are suffering from too much unhealthy bacteria (overgrowth), essential oils can help! Challenges aside, as we know that essential oils being used as medicine, specifically Aromatic Medicine, is yet to be accepted here in the United States as legal by any aromatherapist OR Chiropractor, etc.. Back to the facts.

 

If you were suffering from SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or C diff (clostridium difficile colitis) for example, essential oils taken via a suppository and/or capsule can assist in killing off the bad bacteria.

 

This first study, looking at overall dysbiosis (a term used for overall microbial imbalance), it was found that specific essential oils can help to bring about balance by killing bad bacteria: Caraway Carum carvi, Lavender Lavandula angustifolia and Bitter Orange Citrus aurantium var. amara were the essential oils highlighted in this study. This study was performed in-vitro, which means in a test tube or petri dish, or elsewhere outside of a living organism. The essential oils tested showed to have significant antimicrobial activity. Now, those that are trained in the more advanced topics of aromatherapy know that what happens outside of the body via a test tube or petri dish does not always equate to what happens inside of the body, but this study is promising.

 

Other essential oils that have been shown to have antimicrobial activity are Basil Ocimum basilicum and Oregano Origanum vulgare (not an all-inclusive list).

 

This next study shows how the antimicrobial effects of Oregano Origanum vulgare were successful at restoring balance from Salmonella Enteritidis in minced sheep meat, again an in-vitro study. You can read the full report here.

 

*TIP- Do not confuse Oil of Oregano with Oregano Essential Oil. They are not the same thing, nor do they provide the same benefits in every instance. 

 

What these studies and many more show are that essential oils can work to reduce bad gut bacteria or overgrowth to restore balance, to coax the gut back to health.

 

Essential oils have not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to wipe out good bacteria as well like we know that antibiotics do, but perhaps more importantly…essential oils do not provide our gut with good bacteria. What are a few things that do?

 

Bring on the Good Bugs

There are plenty of things that we can do to maintain or restore a healthy balance in our microbiome. (If you have been diagnosed with SIBO, or C diff, etc., be sure to seek out medical care). Let’s very briefly look at the top three:

1.Fermented Foods

Sauerkraut, kefir, miso, and yogurt provide us with various types of probiotic bacteria. When looking at volume consumed, you need very little of any one of these per day to obtain very large levels of beneficial bacteria.

 

2. Prebiotics

Any food that supplies you with healthy soluble or insoluble fiber is something to think about. Think freshly ground flaxseed, chia seed, or beans and legumes for example. You may be thinking that you are always hearing about probiotics, why prebiotics? A good way to look at it is probiotics replenish, and prebiotics nourish. They are both very much needed for gut health.

 

3.Probiotics

You can purchase capsules of probiotics to take every day. The number of strains per capsule is not as important as which ones you are taking for your specific situation. A great resource that covers everything gut related, including plenty of gut healthy recipes was written by a friend and colleague Lindsay Boyer entitled: The Everything Guide to Gut Health. This is one book you should definitely invest in if your gut health needs attention.

 

What You Should Avoid

I see both on the Internet and in social media people stating that they take Oregano essential oil in capsules every day for gut health. I hope that now you can see how that is detrimental to your gut health. IF you know you have a problem and are under the care of a trained professional, that is one thing (Someone trained in Aromatic Medicine would not suggest ongoing treatment, there is a time frame for treatment, 7-10 days for example. All dependent on the severity of the issue). Abuse of essential oils can and do cause more problems than they help.

It is equally important to not take the advice of someone who is not heavily trained. Opinions on how to use essential oils are rampant on the Internet, we must always utilize caution in what we read or are told. I am a stickler for this, even when I am given a prescription from a doctor, I ask a million questions and research the pill and it’s side effects before I take it. It is crucial you do so as well. The statement that all essential oils are natural and are therefore safe, does not hold water here.

 

Closing

As we can see, there are some things we do know about essential oils and our gut, but others are not yet clear. Please do look through some of the references and resources for further reading on the topic, when we know better we do better.

 

 

 

Papers Referenced Within the Article

Hawrelak, J. et al. (2009) Essential Oils in the Treatment of Intestinal Dysbiosis: A Preliminary in vitro Study. Alternative Medicine Review Vol. 14 No. 4 http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/14/4/380.pdf

Govaris, A. et al (2010) The antimicrobial effect of oregano essential oil, nisin and their combination against Salmonella Enteritidis in minced sheep meat during refrigerated storage. International Journal of Food Microbiology. Vo. 137. Issues 2-3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168160509006709

Additional Studies for Review

Gong, W. et al. (2005)Antimicrobial activity of essential oils and structurally related synthetic food additives towards selected pathogenic and beneficial gut bacteria. Journal of Applied Microbiology. p 296-305 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2005.02789.x

Logan, A. Beaulne, T., (2002) The Treatment of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth With Enteric-Coated Peppermint Oil :A Case Report. Alternative Medicine Review. Vol.7 Number 5. http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/7/5/410.pdf

Santos, F. Miranda-Novales, M. (2012) Essential oils from aromatic herbs as antimicrobial agents. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 23:136-141.DOI 10.1016/j.copbio.2011.08.005

Further Reading

Junger, A. Clean Gut

Tetro, J. Allen Ver-coe, E. The Human Microbiome Handbook

Resources

Digestive Center for Wellness. Retrieved from https://www.digestivecenterforwellness.com/

Gut Microbiota for Health. Retrieved from http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/home/

Your Digestive System: 5 Ways to Support Gut Health, via John Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/your-digestive-system-5-ways-to-support-gut-health

Like so many practices in life, I encourage you to become educated on the proper use of essential oils. When using them, please do so cautiously, understanding that there is often misinformation on the internet. You can be assured that I support only educated and proven resources. While essential oils should not be feared they should be respected and used properly to ensure the safety of the individuals using them.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

 

Abhyanga for Well-being and Longevity

Abhyanga for Well-being and Longevity

Abhyanga, or annointing yourself from head to toe with warmed oil, is an ancient form of self-love, and is a beautiful practice to do every day for well-being and longevity. 

 

Depending on the type of oil you use, you will likely want to do this before a shower. Your blend will also dictate whether you use it before you start your day-invigorating, or before bed-for restful sleep.

 

There is not “one” way to accomplish the goal. This daily practice is said to balance the dosha’s in Ayurveda, and keep you incredibly grounded in the present. (Link below for more details on the doshas)

 

“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age”

Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89 (One of the Great ancient texts of Ayurveda)

 

Make sure you are in a warm, comfortable space. If you enjoy a piece of music, now would be a good time to play it. You “can” run the diffuser, but since you are making up a massage oil blend, it is not necessary. Do not leave any body part out.

 

Move slowly with intention in circular strokes, chopping motions, whatever feels good. Do not make this a mindless practice, stay present and feel all there is to feel.

 

invigoratingrelaxing-blend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***As I am not aware of your medical condition, please be sure to research the oils listed to make sure they do not have any contraindications for you.

Click here for more self-care tips incorporating mind body balance and aromatherapy.

 

References:

Benefits of Abhyanga

Understanding the Doshas

 

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions. 

 

 

 

Preparing Your Mind and Body for Fall

Preparing Your Mind and Body for Fall

Summer is over, with the exception of a joyful Indian summer day like I had today in Southeastern Wisconsin. The temperature topped 75 degrees with the allure of the myriad of fall colors. But my mind and soul are preparing for fall and what that means symbolically.

The fall is when the world begins its descent into slumber for the upcoming winter, a time that we all know as a time for harvesting our crops…but more importantly a time when we quiet our spirits; ushering a time of stillness, much like the earth as it goes into hibernation.

Focus on the Mind

What should we be contemplating during this time? A great start would be to cleanse yourself and your surroundings. I am not a big fan of sage burning, I would replace it with cedar; but I prefer to burn the resin of frankincense and myrrh.

Celebrating with friends around a bonfire is a great way to welcome the changing of seasons. If you so desire, this would be a great time for intention setting, or a ceremonial spell.

If you have an alter in your home, add things to it during this time to set intentions for the slumber. What do you need to look at internally in yourself? Where have you lost focus? The western world is inherently trained for doing, acquiring, and a frenzy of hard work with no rest, always focusing outward. Downtime is crucial for our wellness and going inward. When I say downtime I do not mean watching television or scrolling through Facebook. We must find that crucial balance for wellness.

alter

This is my alter

Make Your Lists

One of my first mentor’s Dr. Deb Kern taught me to do things that make me happy. Sounds simple right? For many people it isn’t. Many of us are martyr’s and the first thing that may come to mind are things like spending more time with your kids or your friends/family, or doing things for them, seeing them smile, etc. These are NOT the kind of things I am talking about. The things that make you happy have to have NOTHING to do with another person. This is ALL ABOUT YOU.

Grab a piece of paper and a pencil. Make sure you are alone so you can have some real time to think. I want you to write a list of pleasures. Don’t leave anything out. What do you like to do? What makes you happy? What are your talents? What is something that you used to love to do only you feel you have no time for it anymore…write that down! Pleasures should include your deepest desires. Ones that may make you blush if someone else read your list. Do not leave anything out. The list may be hard to write at first, but don’t give up! Revisit it over a period of a few days. You might surprise yourself with how long your list becomes.

Now sit back and read what you wrote. How many things on your pleasures list do you do everyday? None? One? Many?

This season is the PERFECT time to indulge in your pleasures. You may be thinking you are too busy, how am I going to have time to do these things. TRUST ME, if you are dedicated to a pleasure or a friend or loved one, you make the time. I like to aim for one thing a day, but if you can do three things…you are way ahead of the game.

I found when I first made my lists that I barely touched any of those things in a weeks time, or even a month! It was truly a shocking realization for me. I stared at my list and thought, where did I go wrong, what do I do that keeps me nourished? When did I stop doing these things? I make sure to revisit the list often to check in with myself and make sure that I am staying on track. I know exactly where my lists are at all times, because the more I do these things the more I find that I love and have to add to my list!

This is a great start to moving toward the slumber that is the winter. The more you practice these things, I guarantee the more you will learn about yourself in the process.

Resolutions and Intentions

I am not a fan of new years resolutions set one time of year. I make them all year long. Positive affirmations or mantras are a great way to follow through with any particular resolutions or intentions you may have.

A great tip is to make sure your resolutions or intentions stay on the positive. Never start them with “I will stop”, “I will quit” or anything that says you want to refrain from doing something. Here are a few great questions to ask yourself to frame your affirmations:

1. What can I do this season to bring more pleasure into my life?
2. How can I best focus on what I am grateful for?
3. What can I awaken inside of me to make life the best it can be?

Once you can sit with these questions and formulate some wants and needs, you can begin to create affirmation or mantra. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. I feel safe in the flow of my ever-changing life.
2. I deserve the best, and I accept it now.
3. I am open to new and powerful changes.

The possibilities of affirmations are endless; just remember to keep them positive. I have post-it notes around my home and in my car reminding me of some of my favorites, and I say them often.

Bringing the Body Into Balance-Balancing Darkness with the Light

Nourishing your Body

Do you eat for the seasons? What I mean by this is do you eat food that is in season in your local area? There is much reasoning behind this practice. Have you ever noticed that during the winter when you eat a salad or have a fresh squeezed vegetable juice that you are left feeling cold all day? Reason being, you are meant to eat those things in the heat of the summer to cool you.

Another mentor Andrea Beaman states, “Seasons change and so should we”. Eating for the seasons is by for one of THE best ways for keeping the body in balance.

Andrea states:

“As we move from summer to fall the air grows cooler and the body begins to slightly contract. This naturally starts the process of “release.”

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs and large intestine do their job by pushing excess sugars and sweets (fruits) that were abundantly available during the summer season out of the body. This helps prepare the body for winter.

Most people recognize this “squeeze” as a cold, runny nose, or congestion at this time of year. It’s perfectly normal. There’s no need to run to the pharmacy for cold medicine to stop this discharge process – just let your body do what it is designed to do… release and clear out some excess stuff”.

So what should you be eating this time of year? Warming pungent soups is a great place to start. Pull out that crock pot and fill your home with the wonderful aromas that soup can bring. Bone broth, ghee, and herbs such as parsley and garlic are also great choices.

Yoga

Not a yogi? You don’t have to be. Cultivating a yin yoga practice is ideal for fall and healing and does not take years of practice to do. Yin poses are passive poses those that are held for 3-5 minutes. Think sweet surrender. These poses help you to gain insight and clarity as you move into the dormant period of winter.

Pranayama (breathing) practice is also beneficial during this time to open the lungs and clear out stagnant energy.

Here is a great link to help you on your way to some basic yin yoga poses for this quiet and introspective time of year.

Meditation

Do not let the practice of meditation intimidate you. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and your mind will never stay “silent”, so if that is your fear or reason you have been discouraged in the past….wipe that slate clean. Meditation helps the body and mind, so it could fall into both categories,. I have been practicing meditation for more than a decade. The ability to do so has waxed and waned over the years, but at the height of my yoga practice, I was sitting for 30-45 minutes performing meditation. During this time I was very mentally fit, and it took quite a bit of external stimuli to shake me. Today, the amount of time that I meditate is directly reflected on the state of my inner dialogue throughout the day (it needs improvement). In other words, the more time you take to quiet the mind, the stronger and more at peace you will feel throughout the day.

What are some of the benefits of meditation?

meditation2

Here is a great link to help get you started.

Exercise

I do not like to place a large emphasis on vigorous exercise during this time. Yoga will go a long way to keep your body, joints, and muscles supple, but do not hesitate to get outside and feel the crunch of leaves or even snow under your feet with a nice nature walk, everyday if it suits you.

I still practice earthing during this time of year. The cool grass between my toes is a welcome pleasure. When I am feeling out of sorts and need to feel more grounded, I take my bare feet to the earth.

Another way I get in a little bit of exercise and movement AND check off one of my pleasures is to dance. I have been known to dance alone (often), and my kids are very versed on random dance parties in the kitchen. Expressing myself through dance and feeling the music is very healing for me, and really gets the stagnant negative energy on it’s way out!

Closing

Fall reminds of of the impermanence of everything. The more we contemplate these changes in nature, the more we can appreciate life and it’s continual change. In order for there to be light, there needs to be dark. Embrace it.

 

 

Growth is not Optional

Growth is not Optional

Have you heard the statement, “Life is change, growth is optional?” I do not agree that growth is optional; it is a must. Many people struggle with change, some more than others. I believe if you start to shift your thinking to growth rather than change, which is ultimately how each of us expand and become better people, the changes that happen in life can be a little bit easier. Beginning your journey of development and personal growth can be overwhelming. I hope to cover some ideas that have helped me navigate it with grace, through some of my own personal experiences. You will falter at times, as I have. Having a good support system is critical.

 

Growth

 

I have actually just begun a new journey, one that is a bit overwhelming at times with multiple possible endings, but I have found that staying in the present as much as possible, and allowing short periods of reflection has suited me well. I set a time limit about thinking about the future possibilities and problem solving.  I journal about these and other things to help to get them out of my head and off of my heart, then move back to the present moment, which is the only moment that any of us has to be happy in.

 

The first step in growth and personal development is to firmly make a decision that you are THE most important thing. Whether you are a mother, father, have a big responsibility at your place of employment, or anything else; the first thing to understand is that you come first. Working to constantly become a better version of your former self is one of THE most important things you can do in this life.

 

There are a few things that I recommend in the growth process, it is not necessarily step 1, 2, 3, and so on. In the larger picture, the first thing to be aware of and try to do is step out of your comfort zone. No growth or change happens within that space of comfort. You can come back to a comfort zone of sorts when needed: meditation, guided imagery, time in nature, etc. Whatever helps for you to become centered again is not falling back into old habits at all and is quite necessary to rest your heart, body, and mind.

 

Before you jump into a crazy list of expectations for yourself and things that you want out of life, start with really getting to know yourself. A better list whether in your head or on paper is knowing what you don’t want. As you begin to drop away old patterns of thought and behavior that is not for your higher good, you will begin to shed some light on what it is that you do want. This is a discovery process that will unfold as you contemplate what it is that you want to leave behind. Growth involves changing your inner world more than the outside world around you. Keep a firm grasp on the fact that you are the only person you have control over and understanding that those around you may not be along for the ride is a risk you have to walk through because your growth is not optional.

 

Once you have figured out what it is that you do not want, and you are beginning to realize what it is that you do want out of life, what you are passionate about…begin to set small goals to move in that direction. Everything does not need to happen all at once, you can move slowly or quickly, whatever suits you. I received wonderful advice from a beautiful friend recently, she said, “Whatever happens, move through it with infinite love for everyone involved and affected”. Thinking and acting this way will help everyone involved, but in the end knowing that you always acted the best that you could in every situation with love and grace will only serve you well.

 

Take the First Step

 

Some steps will be easy. Others may be painful. Continue forward, taking brief respite in things that make you calm and centered. Remember, you do not need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

 

Whether it is something small or something life changing, growth is not optional. Starting in your journey of development and personal growth will be one of the most important ongoing things in your life, and if you know yourself, what you don’t want, set a few goals, and most importantly continue to step out of your comfort zone often, you will be able to make changes in the area of your life that are needed.

 

 

 

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digestive Sense: Defining How Our Emotions and the Food We Eat Affects Our Gut Health

Digestive Sense: Defining How Our Emotions and the Food We Eat Affects Our Gut Health

A big factor in determining our overall health involves an organ system that many of us ignore and disrespect. This system does so much for us but does not get the respect it deserves; that system is our gut. However, once our gut is in a state of distress, we are not likely to ignore it any longer. There are many things that can disrupt the function of our gut, which is also called our second brain. There is a strong relationship between the food that we eat as well as our levels of stress in regards to how our gut functions, and our overall health.

Have you heard the term your second brain? Contrary to what most know to be our one and only brain located in our head, our gut actually holds what is called the second brain. Dr. Alejandro Junger explains that your first brain serves as your intellectual hardware and your second brain-the gut-is your spiritual and emotional GPS. (Junger) Each of us has a digestive brain, or ENS (enteric nervous system), that has millions of neurons which, via multiple neurotransmitters, have the power to influence both our digestion and our psychological state. (Matveikova) So as Dr. Junger states, your second brain, or your gut, is where you’re spiritual and emotional center is. This is because 90% of your serotonin levels are produced there, with the remaining 10% being produced in the brain in your head. (Gershon) Therefore, if your digestive system is out of whack, your feel good hormones are also disrupted.

Stress, tension, never ending work, no vacations, and the standard American diet (SAD) exhaust the body and the mind and cause the systems of the body to become compromised—beginning with our digestive system. Do you show symptoms of stomach upset when you are under high levels of stress? How about when you make a less than healthy meal choice? Both of these things can result in the exact same symptoms. These can include:

  • Stomach upset
  • Constipation or diarrhea, gas, bloating
  • Cramping (IBS)
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Acid reflux
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Excess mucous
  • Sinus pressure
  • Skin eruptions
  • Joint pain
  • Inflammation of any kind

If you have many of these symptoms your digestive system is likely totally out of whack. Gut issues have also been linked to seemingly unrelated conditions like: obesity, arthritis, cancer, vaginitis, and even mental conditions including depression, attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder (ADHD), and bipolar disorder. (Wallace) Hippocrates stated that all disease begins in the gut. I think he was on to something.

health_brain-gut

Even if you do not have some of the many symptoms mentioned above you may find yourself in another situation, that of developed food allergies or sensitivities.  I have had to learn, and troubleshoot my newly developed health issues the hard way. I did not have any of the classic digestive symptoms, but in the recent years have been under extremely high levels of stress. I have endured the loss of a parent, a severe car accident resulting in years of chronic relenting pain, a surgery, and the common life challenges that a mom of two young boys and being a full time student brings. My health issues started in the gut, but did not show it until I was way beyond a simple fix. You see, once the digestive system is under constant assault with stress, bad food choices, etc., the gastrointestinal (gut) microbiota is negatively affected, and this is the cause of the various possible health issues listed above.

It is important to sit and observe your gut, as it is trying to speak to you. Once symptoms arise such as painful bloating, cramps, and diarrhea, your gut is beyond talking and is now yelling. Observe your gut signals when there is no pain, both on an empty stomach and after meals. Is there rumbling, dull aches, throbbing, emptiness, or minor bloating? Listening to your gut can help to identify foods that are irritating, as well as our guts overall state of health during any given moment of the day.

It is equally important to observe your stresses. Everyone is stressed, and there are many ways to cope. Many are surprised when they learn that the amount of stress they are under directly correlates to the health of their gut. Stress is a normal part of life, but it is important to recognize and observe it, as well as to do things to find relief. When you are under undue stress, pay attention to how your feel. Is your stomach tight and in knots? Do you have more indigestion? Constipation? General stomach aches?

Meditation

Try to sit in silence and see what your gut is telling you when you are in a stressful situation. Maybe you have never paid attention before. You may find the sensations are very strong. This is the gut-brain connection at work.

Have you ever heard the phrase over 70% of your immune system lies in your gut? This is our gut microbiota, or gut bugs. For the most part we live in harmony with the bacteria, viruses, and fungal organisms that typically inhabit the gut (called the gastrointestinal microbiota), and these have played a vital role in maintaining human health. Gershon stated that the rigors of the modern lifestyle, overuse of antibiotics, and the SAD diet have done much to restructure the once symbiotic relationship, resulting in significantly disrupted gut environment.

Some indicators of a happy and healthy gastrointestinal tract include 2-4 bowels movements per day, feeling good and energized not only after eating but all day long, sleeping well, and having no extreme mood swings or food cravings. These indicators are pretty rare; do you have all of them? What can we do to help to restore the gut microbiota of our gastrointestinal tract as well as our health? A good first step is to avoid processed foods; eat less from a box, bag, or can.  The main culprits of food sensitivity include but are not limited to: wheat, gluten, yeast, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, nuts, and coffee. Taking a high quality probiotic is critical to keep the balance of your microbiota healthy. Digestive enzymes are naturally produced in the body but are on the decline as we age. It is important to eat plenty of raw uncooked fruits and vegetables to get enzymes naturally; cooking kills the enzymes in our food. If you are having digestion issues, taking an enzyme may prove to be very helpful. Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of fiber. Equally crucial to overall health is reducing stress. Do something every day that makes you calm, happy, and brings you back to what is really important in life.

Some simple ideas on how you can improve digestion when eating a meal:

  • Eat in a relaxed state
  • Take time in between bites
  • Make sure to chew your food thoroughly
  • Do not drink a lot of liquid during your meal

Another great recommendation is to keep a food journal. Recognizing what you have eaten before you became bloated, gassy, and irritable will be very helpful to finding out what is not working for you.

I hope that this short explanation of our digestive system has led to a better understanding of why it is vitally important to provide your body with the good food and good attitude it needs; and what can happen if you don’t. Remember, your digestive system is very complex, and is there to protect you; but it needs your constant attention so be sure to take care of it. 

 

References:

Gershon, M. (1999) The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestines. New York, New York. HarperCollins Publishers

Junger, A., M.D (2013). Clean Gut-The Breakthrough Plan for Eliminating the Root Cause of Disease and Revolutionizing Your Health. New York: HarperCollins Publishing Inc.

Matveikova, I., M.D (2014). Digestive Intelligence. Scotland, UK: Findhorn Press

Wallace, TC., Guarner, F., Madsen, K., Cabana, MD., Gibson, G., Hentges, E., Sanders, ME., (2011) Human gut microbiota and its relationship to health and disease. Nutr rev. Jul;69 (7); 392-403

 

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions. 

 

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