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Night-time Relief

Have trouble getting to sleep? Or wake up and can’t get back to sleep? Sleeplessness can be a sign of wonky cortisol levels. A non-alcoholic nightcap might be just the thing to give you a restful night.

Cortisol is a hormone that has the job of raising your heart rate, quickening your breath, and raising your blood sugars so that you are ready to act. Normally, it should drop off in the evening allowing you to enter parasympathetic state, to stop churning through your list, and to catch your 40 winks. It typically rises toward morning as your blood sugars gradually fall from your night’s fast. This sloping increase of hormone gently brings you out of slumber.

When blood sugars plummet dramatically – as they always do after the insulin surge that accompanies high-carb eating – cortisol will rush to save the brain from “starvation” by sending a signal to convert amino and fatty acids into glucose (the brain’s primary fuel). There will be an accompanying increase in heart rate and breathing, tipping the body out of its “being” state into its “doing” state. Even if it’s the middle of the night!

And if this high cortisol state is chronic, getting to sleep in anything less than two hours may be completely futile. This happens if your adrenals – where cortisol is produced – are overworked; if your stress is chronically high; or if a carb-heavy diet keep cortisol pumping long into the evening.

A mug of warm coconut milk mixed with ashwaghanda and cinnamon is a perfect remedy for such a vicious cycle. The coconut milk provides enough fat to fuel your body through the night without a “sugar crash.” The ashwaghanda relieves stress (see this post); a pinch of salt supports the adrenals; cinnamon helps blood sugar regulation; a spoonful of honey makes it yummy, and the soothing warmth promotes relaxation. Try it!

 

Coconut Milk Nightcap

6 oz. boiling water

1 capsule (500 mg) ashwgandha root

2 oz. full-fat coconut milk without additives

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. honey

Open the ashwagandha capsule and sprinkle it into the hot water. Steep for 10 minutes. Add the other ingredients and stir. Sip slowly while reading a book, soaking in the tub, watching the stars, or some other relaxing activity.

Is There A Pill for That?

High blood sugars, chronic cortisol output, overwhelming stress, crippling anxiety… these are the modern plagues that keep you from feeling peace. Wouldn’t it be simple if there were just a pill that could fix all that?

The bad news is that no supplement will compensate for poor lifestyle choices. But the good news is that if you are addressing dietary and emotional factors and still experiencing some extremes, ashwagandha may help modulate your responses. This herb, also known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry, has been revered for millenia in Ayurvedic medicine. Native to India, its name means “strength of a stallion.”

The root is the part used in nutritional therapy and can be steeped in teas, or ground for use in capsules.

What are the purported benefits of ashwagandha?

  • Regulating blood sugars
  • Lowering cortisol levels
  • Blocking anxiety and relieving stress
  • Decreasing inflammation by reducing C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Enhancing the immune response by stimulating the activity of natural killer cells
  • Promoting anti-oxidant activity to improve brain function and memory
  • Boosting thyroid function
  • Reducing cholesterol and high triglycerides
  • treating adrenal fatigue

The beauty of ashwagandha is that it’s an adaptogenic herb. That means it will treats extremes and tends to bring into equilibrium both highs and lows. So it may be used for both hypo- and hyper-thyroidism, and for depression as well as anxiety.

But before you order some, be aware that it should be tested on you by a certified practitioner, particularly if you have an auto-immunity. Since ashwagandha is a member of the solanacea family, individuals with an auto-immune response may experience extraordinary results if they are TH-1 dominant, but it could exacerbate their condition if they are TH-2 dominant because of its effect in stimulating natural killer cells.

Doses of ashwagandha are typically around 500 mg, taken once or twice a day. It works best when combined with a diet high in healthy fats and proteins, as well as a diet void of sugars.

Italian Parmesan Patties

Comfort food! Here’s a meal that fills your soul and your belly! Not only is it richly satisfying as a home-cooked meal that feels like restaurant fare, it is also nutrient-dense, featuring all-star root vegetables, hidden organ meat (you’ll never know it’s there) and gut-healing bone broth.
 Italian Parmesan Patties
4 c. peeled and grated turnips, or rutabaga (spiralized if you have that gadget)
1/4 lb. liver, frozen
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. each: rosemary, oregano, thyme, garlic powder and salt
2 tsp. onion powder
16 oz. tomato paste
2 c. bone broth
1/2 c. fresh basil, tightly packed
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Layer the grated vegetable in the bottom of your crock pot. Grate the liver and mix with the ground beef and seasonings. Form six patties. Blend the tomato paste, broth and basil together. Lay 3 patties on top of the grated vegetable. Pour on half the sauce. Lay the remaining patties in the crock pot. Pour on the rest of the sauce. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Top with parmesan cheese and serve.

Gargle to Lower Blood Sugars?

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.

Is Your Sweetheart Killing You?

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!

Un-American Breakfast

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:

Breakfast Pizza  

Sourdough Bread or prepared whole-grain pizza crust

Ricotta cheese

Basil

Vegetables – chopped spinach, sliced tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, etc.

Crumbled bacon

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

1 avocado

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.

Are You At Risk?

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.

How Much Sugar Can I Eat?

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!

via GIPHY

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:

  1. It triggers the liver to store globules of fat that condition you for fatty liver disease.
  2. 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.
  3. It puts you at higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
  4. It suppresses your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infection.
  5. It accelerates aging.
  6. It alters your metabolism and leaves you short on energy.
  7. It creates an addictive response in the brain, fueling cravings for more.
  8. It promotes fat storage and weight gain.
  9. It contributes to chronic cortisol output, which weakens the gut; increased gut permeability fuels inflammation, food sensitivities, and auto-immunity
  10. 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.

No-Bake, No-Guilt Cookie

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.

Gourmet Eskimos

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

Coca-mos

Same as Eskimos, except add 2 Tb. cocoa powder with the almond flour.

Photo Credit: Mordi Photographie

3 HEALTHY Uses for Sugar

I’m under a microscope when it comes to sugar use! Is the blood sugar specialist 100% sugar free? NO!!! The solemn truth is that I use refined sugar every single day. Here’s how:

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