Surely this sounds insane! Yet, if you are chronically stressed, your cortisol levels are going to be detrimentally high. And cortisol raises blood sugars. One of the most effective ways to re-train your body to recover quickly from stress and to remain in a restful state is to stimulate the vagus nerve. That’s where gargling comes in.
Here’s the background on why gargling works. Cortisol is a mobilization hormone. It takes you from a state of being to a state of doing. It is a messenger that tells the liver to convert protein stores to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis – literally the creation of new sugar from a non-carbohydrate source. Cortisol’s primary job is to make sure that quick energy (i.e. blood sugar) is available to the muscles (including heart and lungs) when action is necessary. Should you be startled and need to flee, cortisol insures that you have a fuel source to burn.
You don’t need a spike of cortisol to digest, sleep, or laugh with loved ones. These are performed in a para-sympathetic state – the place of being. But you do need cortisol to meet deadlines at work, handle that family crisis, save your child from a biting dog, and host the dinner party you forgot about. When demands are constant, cortisol never lets down. That means blood sugars remain dangerously high, putting you at risk for diabetes – not because of the pastries you ate but because you can’t relax!
Christopher Bergland wrote for Psychology Today that your vagus nerve is the commander-in-chief when it comes to having grace under pressure. While cortisol revs you up like the gas pedal in an automobile, the vagus nerve does the opposite. It slows you down like the brakes on your car, using neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and GABA to literally lower heart rate, blood pressure, and help your heart and organs slow down.
While there are dozens of ways to stimulate the vagus nerve that I teach, I like gargling because anyone can do it anywhere at anytime – though I don’t recommend right in the middle of staff meeting! If you are being conscientious about hydrating, you can gargle a bit every time you sip from your water bottle.
The muscles that contract the back of the throat are controlled by the vagus nerve. That’s why gargling stimulates it. The more it is stimulated, the greater your ability to stay collected during the storm. And the more stable your blood sugars will be as a result.
The big, fat problem with heart disease isn’t the fat; it’s the sugar. Your sweet tooth is literally creating a sweet heart that is up to four times more likely to have an attack.
Simply put, sugar increases insulin output. Continuously high insulin damages the lining of the blood vessels, driving inflammation up to make repairs. Meanwhile, insulin resistance sets in as a high-sugar diet continues. Insulin resistance blocks the PG-1 anti-inflammatory pathway, preventing the body from putting the brakes on the inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation in the blood vessels compounds placque build-up and escalates heart attack risk.
To compound matters, insulin resistance also spurs mineral deficiencies. Both macro- and micro-minerals are blocked from entering the cells. Since rhythmic, powerful heart contractions depend on a balance of calcium and magnesium, insufficiency of one or the other contributes to arrythmias.
Love your heart. If you want to treat it right, don’t treat it with sweets. The heart is an endurance muscle, so its primary fuel is fatty acids. For heart health month, replace some of your carbs (white flours, fruit juices, soda, and desserts) with whole food carbohydrates (vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits with the peel) and traditional fats (fish, avocado, olives, coconuts, butter).
Aim to get approximately equal calories from proteins, appropriate fats and carbohydrates. Watch your food labels. Dr. Mark Hyman, author of the Blood Sugar Solution, notes that “most of us don’t know that a serving of tomato sauce has more sugar than a serving of Oreo cookies, or that fruit yogurt has more sugar than a Coke, or that most breakfast cereals — even those made with whole grain — are 75% sugar. That’s not breakfast, it’s dessert!”
Worst of all is the soda, which can contribute up to 500 calories per day just from sugar. So love your fats and give your heart some sweet relief!
Go ahead, break the mold! Life is too precious to not savor each moment!
That’s why it’s important to start each day by truly nourishing your body and soul. If you go into flight-or-flight from the moment the alarm goes off, and rush through your preparations only grab a doughnut and coffee on your way out the door, you are setting yourself up for instability the rest of the day. You’ve got adrenaline pumping, you’re dehydrated, and you’ve just given yourself an insulin surge that’s going to drop you cold about 10 a.m. How can you engage with life in a meaningful way if your energy is flat and you have no reserves?
Breakfast is a top priority for me because it lays the foundation for my well-being the rest of the day. I aim to eat equal proportions of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats to give me a long, slow, even burn – instead of the roller coaster ride I used to experience with my repertoire of muffins, pancakes, and cereals. It can be rather liberating to stop the all-carb breakfast that is the American tradition.
Here are three well-balancedrecipes to start your day off right:
Sourdough Bread or prepared whole-grain pizza crust
Vegetables – chopped spinach, sliced tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, etc.
Fried or scrambled eggs, optional
Spread bread/crust with ricotta cheese and sprinkle with basil. Add vegetables and top with bacon. Add egg if desired.
Chocolate-Cherry Smoothie (“It’s chocolate pudding ice cream!” –Nathanael, age 3)
1 c. spinach
½ c. coconut milk
2 Tb. cocoa powder
2 Tb. collagen powder, optional
1 c. frozen cherries
½ c. cherry or pomegranate juice
Blend until smooth, adding water if needed for mixing. Serves 2
Note: freezes well for popsicles!
Buttered Crock Pot Oats
1 c. steel-cut oats
2 c. water
1 c. milk, any kind (it’s nice and creamy with coconut milk!)
1 egg (or 2 Tb. collagen powder)
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 Tb. butter, preferably grass-fed
Salt to taste
Nuts, berries, honey (optional)
Whisk eggs with milk and water. Combine with oats, seasonings and butter in a crock pot. Cook on low for up to 8 hours. Serve with additional milk and top with honey, berries and nuts if desired. Serves 4.
Over the last 35 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has quadrupled, from 5.5 million to 22 million. Further, one third of Caucasian children born in the United States after 2000 will develop diabetes, and half of Hispanic and African-American children will end up with the disease, according to the Center for Disease Control. Our risk for the disease is sky-rocketing.
Blood tests are an accurate way of determining whether you are headed toward diabetes. An A1C result of 5.7 or greater, or a fasting blood glucose level above 100 are considered pre-diabetic. But there are correctable indicators that can be spotted years before you reach these points.
- Do you get 60% or more of your daily calories from carbohydrates?
- Do you crave sweets?
- Are you dependent on sweets to keep you going?
- Do you become irritable when meals are delayed or missed?
- Are you grouchy in the morning?
- Do you become lightheaded, shaky, jittery, agitated, or nervous when you don’t eat?
- Are you forgetful?
- Do you feel mentally foggy or sluggish?
- Do you have blurred vision?
- Are you dependent on stimulants for energy?
- Do you feel hungry constantly?
- Are you unsatisfied after a meal?
- Are you compelled to snack through-out the day?
- Do you feel tired after you eat?
- Do you have a general sense of fatigue all the time?
- Does it take you hours to fall asleep?
- Do you awaken in the wee hours of the morning and find it difficult to get back to sleep, even when you’re exhausted?
Nutritional Therapy is a highly-effective way of addressing these red flags and reversing the trends early in the game. A Nutritional Therapy Practitioner can assess strain on the pancreas and other organs through the use of reflex points. She can determine the burden on the body and can use pure-grade supplements to support the body in a healing journey while diet modifications are being made.
One of the most effective lifestyle changes you can make is changing your ratio of carbohydrates to fats. Most Americans get at least 60% of their calories from carbohydrates. By replacing some of those calories with calories from healthy fats, you can reduce your insulin surges and moderate blood sugar spikes and dips.
Never before in the history of mankind has there been such an emergency to lower blood sugars – and the tragedy is that most individuals don’t even realize the danger they are in. We are delighted to offer one-on-one consultations as well as classes to help individuals identify their risk and stabilize their blood sugars.
Is moderate use of sugar okay? A little sugar can’t be all that bad, can it?
Well, how much is a little? In the 1700’s, moderate use of sugar was 1 pound per person per year! A hundred years later, it was 10 pounds per capita. Now, estimates are that the average American consumes 180 pounds (405 cups) every year! That’s enough sugar to fill 25 gallon-size paint cans!
Where is it all coming from? The primary source is beverages, but even those who are not drinking pop daily get sugar from many hidden sources, starting with that bowl of cereal for breakfast, the condiments at lunch and the packaged products you open your dinner. So read your labels! Even my tomato sauce has high fructose corn syrup in it!
Look under the Nutrition Facts on the food label to compute how much sugar you are eating. Every five grams of sugar is 1 teaspoon. Since Americans eat nearly a half of a pound of sugar each day, that’s the equivalent of 225 grams or 45 teaspoons daily!
But is sugar actually harmful? Don’t ask the sugar specialist; ask you body. Here are ten ways sugar affects your body:
- It triggers the liver to store globules of fat that condition you for fatty liver disease.
- It causes insulin surges, which in turn stop your cells from receiving the minerals they need as they become resistant to insulin. You end up deficient in magnesium chromium, zinc, and other important nutrients.
- It puts you at higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
- It suppresses your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infection.
- It accelerates aging.
- It alters your metabolism and leaves you short on energy.
- It creates an addictive response in the brain, fueling cravings for more.
- It promotes fat storage and weight gain.
- It contributes to chronic cortisol output, which weakens the gut; increased gut permeability fuels inflammation, food sensitivities, and auto-immunity
- It imbalances your sex hormones, spurring mood swings, low libido, PMS, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
To reduce your sugar consumption, try the 8 tips below, and enroll in this course to curb your cravings.
I cut my teeth on sugar. By 2nd grade, I could make no-bake cookies unsupervised. I was incapable of conceiving the ramifications of the trans-fats and sugars on my health. But regeneration and renewal are possible! Cells are under constant turn-over, and every nourishing habit you implement today impacts your physiology forever after. Re-vamping the snack list is a good place to start. Here’s my make-over of an old favorite.
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/2 c. almond flour
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tb. honey
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
Pistachios, craisins, or additional coconut flakes for rolling
Cream coconut oil and almond flour. Stir in salt, honey, vanilla and coconut flakes. Mix until smooth. Form balls and roll in nuts, dried fruit or additional coconut flakes if desired. Store in the fridge. Makes 1 dozen
Photo Credit: Mordi Photographie
I’m a very tense backseat driver. When road conditions are dangerous, my clutched hands, feet moving toward an imaginery brake pedal, and spontaneous outcries can put any conscientious driver into a state of panic. So last winter I tried something new. When the traction and visibility were severely limited, I hummed Christmas carols softly to myself – for about 90 miles! My partner, who tends to be very attuned to my moods, commented that my serenity helped dissipate his nervousness and aided his focus .
Stress is a silent killer. It elevates cortisol levels, which, when chronic, raise blood pressure, disrupt digestion, abet sugar issues, exacerbate inflammation, and skew hormone balance. But humming can change all that!
Your vagus nerve runs right past your vocal chords; humming helps tone that nerve! From this previous post, you know that when the vagus nerve is strong and resilient, so are you! You are less likely to stay in “fight-or-flight” when you are triggered, and everything from your inner organs to your external relationships benefits! You are able to maintain that more relaxed parasympathetic state, and even your blood sugar levels become more stable.
It doesn’t work to just think a song in your head, though. There has to be actual vibration to bring about the benefits. But apparently, it doesn’t matter whether you hum a melody or just create a monotone sound. The longer the voice is engaged, the greater the results. At least one study shows that humming for even five minutes can reduce diastolic blood pressure significantly.
Other benefits to the parasympathetic nervous system include:
- slowed breathing
- relaxed muscles of the head, shoulders, and neck
- greater focus, mental clarity
- subdued anxiety, enhanced cheer
- deeper sleep
- increased blood oxygenation
- softened abdominal tension
Here’s a fun exercise to try the next time you find yourself getting angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed: unleash your inner pirate! Start with a deep growling “aaarrrrgh!” Prolong the vowel, keeping your mouth open and sound resonating. Then slowly raise the pitch and tone of the cry into one more melodic. Try imitating an opera star or singing “hallelujah!” Notice your mood change as you continue to add vocal fluctuations.
Humming not only can be healthy, it can be fun, too!
Perhaps you haven’t thought about soup much more than to enjoy its steamy fragrance as you thaw yourself out from a snowy day, but it’s likely that soup existed in the earliest societies. Once cultures learned that they could create a clay vessel or watertight basket to hold their food instead of just waving it over the fire, they would have added water to their ingredients so that the contents would cook nicely. Traditional societies that hunted and gathered would have simmered bones in the liquid in order to salvage the last scraps of meat. Hence, our word for soup today actually comes from the Latin suppa, meaning bread soaked in broth. It was customary to “sop” or moisten bread in the watery mixture to utilize every drop.
Soup has been prescribed for invalids since ancient times, but it was the French who capitalized on that idea. In the 16th century, shops in France that sold a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup, advertised as an antidote to physical exhaustion, were called “restoratifs,” or as we say today, restaurants. Indeed, science is proving now that broth-based dishes full of cooked vegetables are not only easy to digest, they are healing to the gut.
But soup isn’t just physically restorative. It has a sort of emotional appeal as well, being comfort food when the weather outside is frightful. It also is an excellent way to stabilize blood sugars. So celebrate soup month by whirring up this easy recipe to enjoy by the mugful!
Spiced Cream of Butternut Soup
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tb. coconut oil
2 c. cooked pumpkin or butternut squash*
1 c. bone broth
1 c. canned coconut milk
1/2 tsp each cinnamon, coriander, and allspice
1 lb. cooked sausage, ground beef, or chicken breast, if desired.
salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion in coconut oil until translucent. Combine onion, squash, broth, coconut milk and spices in a blender and process until smooth. Adjust seasonings. Add cooked meat. Heat to marry flavors.
*To roast a whole pumpkin or butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down on a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until soft when pierced with a fork. Cool completely, then scoop flesh out of the rind.