Mindfulness and Meditation…Do They Really Work?

Well…yes, they do really work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.

Before we dive in, let’s make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”

“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.

Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.

The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction

Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors’ visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!

So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.

Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.

I’ll briefly go over the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too. (more…)

Sugar: How Much is Too Much?

It is official! Organizations and governments have declared a maximum amount of daily sugar intake. However, they don’t all agree with each other.

We all know sugar is NOT a health food. It’s not full of nutrition. It’s not associated with great health, when over consumed.

Here’s the problem – sugar is everywhere. It’s not just added to almost every processed food there is but it is naturally occurring too. The “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.

So, let’s talk about how much sugar is “too much.”

Added sugar vs. naturally occurring sugar. What do some of the officials say?

Before we talk “official” numbers,” you need to know the difference between “added” versus “naturally occurring” sugar.

Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals (chemical compounds produced by plants). They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases as well as help you with your goal to lose weight. (more…)

Water – How Much Do I Really Need to Drink?

Water is essential for life. You can only survive a few days without it. And being hydrated is essential for health. One could argue that water is the most essential nutrient of them all. Water is needed for every cell and function in your body.

Water is a huge part of your blood; it cushions your joints and aids digestion. It helps stabilize your blood pressure and heart beat. It helps to regulate your body temperature and helps maintain electrolyte (mineral) balance. And that’s just a few of its roles.

Dehydration can impair mood and concentration, and contribute to headaches and dizziness. It can reduce your physical endurance, and increase the risk for kidney stones and constipation, which can lead to that feeling of bloat. It can make you feel like you are hungry. Extreme dehydration can also cause heat stroke.

Water is critical for life and health.

But, just as way too little water is life-threatening, so is way too much. As with most things in health and wellness, there is a healthy balance to be reached.

There are conflicting opinions as to how much water to drink. Is there a magic number for everyone? What counts toward water intake? Let’s dive in. (more…)

Turmeric – Is it Really a Miracle Spice?

Turmeric is a rhizome that grows under the ground like ginger. It has a rich, bright orange color and is used in many foods. Originally used in Southeast Asia, it’s a vital component for traditional curries. Dried powdered turmeric can be found in the spice aisle of just about any grocery store. Sometimes they carry the fresh rhizome too (it looks like ginger root, but smaller).

Turmeric contains an amazing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compound called “curcumin.” Curcumin has been studied like crazy for its health benefits. Many of these studies test curcumin at up to 100 times more than that of a traditional diet that includes turmeric.

Health benefits of curcumin

There are dozens of clinical studies using curcumin extract (which is more concentrated than ground turmeric).

Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory compound. It fights inflammation at the molecular level. Some studies even show it can work as well as certain anti-inflammatory medications (but without the side effects).

Curcumin is an antioxidant compound. It can neutralize free radicals before they wreak havoc on our bio-molecules. Curcumin also boosts our natural antioxidant enzymes. (more…)

Mediterranean Diet Low Down

While the Ketogenic diet is what everyone seems to be talking about these days, the Mediterranean diet is actually one of the most studied diets out there. I wanted to share it with you since in a recent post I gave you similar information on the Keto diet.

It’s based on the traditional foods that people who lived around the Mediterranean Sea ate about 50 years ago. Back then, in the mid-20th century, researchers noted that people in Spain, Greece, and Italy lived longer and healthier than Americans. And they had lower levels of heart disease, the #1 killer.

So, they set out to find what was so healthy in this part of the world. The research kept coming in and it’s pretty impressive.

Eating a Mediterranean diet is linked with

  • Less overweight and obesity (better than low-fat diets)
  • Better blood sugar control (for diabetes and metabolic syndrome)
  • Lower risk of heart disease and stroke (think cholesterol and triglycerides)
  • Reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Fewer cancers (breast & colorectal)
  • Less premature death

Overall, it’s simply really good for you.

NOTE: Recent research even links the Mediterranean diet to better gut microbes! This makes sense when you feed your friendly gut microbes their favorite foods including fiber, fruit, and vegetables. (more…)

Migraines – What to Avoid if You Get Them

I am not going to lie – migraine headaches are terrible. The pain, vision problems (including aura), nausea, etc. can be debilitating; especially if they stick around for hours or even days.

Migraines affect about 15% of adults, so they are fairly common. And, while the exact cause is not known, there are a lot of known triggers. Many foods and drinks are common triggers of migraines. You may have noticed that certain foods and drinks trigger your migraines. Sometimes the migraine comes on within an hour of consuming the food/drink. Other times it may happen several hours, up to a day later, and this may have you wondering what it is that brought it on. Of course, avoiding these triggers can help.

One of the main ways these foods and drinks trigger migraines is by their action on the blood vessels in the brain. When the brain’s blood vessels constrict and then dilate (widen), this seems to cause migraines. Many of the foods listed below affect the constriction and dilation of blood vessels during a migraine.

If you or someone you care about suffers from migraines, this post lists common triggers. Avoiding these can be a great tool to reduce these uber-painful headaches. You may be sensitive to one, or many of these foods/drinks. They act as migraine triggers in some people, but not all. You can find out by eliminating them and see if avoidance helps you. (more…)

Keto Diet 101

So, what is this ketogenic diet? In a nutshell, it is a low carb, high-fat diet.

It’s recently gained a lot of popularity in the wellness sphere for some of its health benefits and its ability to help a person lose weight, even with high fat consumption. It can also help improve certain health conditions, like epilepsy in children.

Read on for some of the lowdown on how it reprograms your metabolism (for “ketosis”), and whether or not it’s something for you to consider.

What is “ketosis?”

Carbs (sugars & starches) are the preferred fuel for your brain and muscles. They use carbs first, whenever they’re available. This is why maintaining stable blood sugar can affect your attention, mood, and energy level.

However, when very low amounts of carbs are available for fuel, your body starts making compounds known as “ketones.” These are your body’s “backup fuel.” And your body makes them from fat.

Ketogenic literally means “the generation of ketones.”

After a while being on a diet very low in carbs, your blood level of ketones increases. This is the metabolic state known as “ketosis.” It’s the same process that your body goes through if you’ve fasted for 72 hours and depleted your supply of carbs as fuel. That’s the trigger for turning fat into ketones.

Note: “Ketosis” from a ketogenic diet is not the same thing as the dangerous condition known as “ketoacidosis.” (more…)

Green Tea versus Black Tea

Tea is said to be the most popular beverage in the world. It’s been consumed for thousands of years by millions, maybe billions, of people.

Tea has also been shown to have many health benefits. And some of these benefits are thought to be related to tea’s antioxidant properties. These properties are from its flavonoids known as “catechins.” Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and have a range of health benefits that I talk about in this post.

What is the difference between green tea & black tea?

What do green and black teas have in common? First of all, they both come from the camellia sinensis shrub that’s native to China and India. Green tea contains slightly more health-promoting flavonoids than black tea. How is this?

The difference lies in how they’re processed. If the leaves are steamed or heated, this keeps them green. The heat stops oxidation from turning them black. Then they’re dried to preserve the color and flavonoids which are the antioxidants. Hence you have green tea.

If the leaves are not heated, and are crushed and rolled, then they continue to oxidize until they’re dry. This oxidation uses up some of the flavonoids’ antioxidant power, so black teas have slightly less ability to combat free radicals than green tea does.

NOTE: Adding milk to your tea reduces the antioxidant ability.

Both green and black teas contain about half of the caffeine in coffee. That translates to about 20-45 mg per 8 oz cup. (more…)

How Do I Know if I Have a Leaky Gut?

“Leaky gut” is a popular topic in the health and wellness spheres these days. It’s been blamed for many symptoms and conditions that seem to be all-too-common. Allergies, intolerances, joint pain, even autoimmune diseases can all be linked back to leaky gut.

But what exactly is leaky gut? What causes it? What kinds of issues are related to it? And most of all, what can you eat for leaky gut?

What is a leaky gut?

Simply put, your “gut” (a.k.a. “intestinal tract”) is a tube that makes up part of your digestive system. It’s not as simple as a hose or pipe; it’s an amazing tube made of live cells tightly bound together. Your gut helps your body absorb fluids and nutrients, digests your food, and houses billions of friendly gut microbes.

It’s also selective to what it allows past its barrier. Your intestinal tract purposefully keeps some things from being absorbed, so they pass right on through to the other end to be eliminated as waste. You don’t want to absorb harmful microbes or toxins into your body, right?

Did you know that about 70-80% of our immune system is housed around our gut? So, it’s ready for foreign invaders. (more…)