5 Great Foods to Boost Your Mood

For those of you who have read my about me page, you know that I have been researching and improving my health for over 18 years.  Last year I completed a sports nutrition certification and realized, yet again, how many of the health issues we face today can be altered and slowly improved with just the right tweak in our diets.  I believed so much in it, that in just 1 year, I had completely turned my life around from removing the foods that were causing me pain and “flare-ups” of my diseases.  Depression was not going to get me once I identified what foods made me worse.

So today, I was minding my own business gathering ingredients for a nice big salad, when a processed food display jumped right up and tried to grab me.  <<< not really, but it almost did.  Chocolate is my weakness.  But this chocolate was on something that is a known flare for me and causes me to crash so much right after eating it I feel like I can’t move.  I become that tired.  So I knew what I had to do and I want to help you do the same.  Let’s grab some of these great foods instead!

5 Great Foods to Boost Your Mood:

  1. Go bananas <<< technically I linked to my favorite dry snack, but I love this version of dried bananas.  So what do these yellow fruits help us with?  Bananas employ mood-lifting power, with their combination of vitamins B6, A, and C; fiber; tryptophan; potassium; phosphorous; iron; protein; and healthy carbohydrates.  What happens in the body?  You get a quick boost from the fructose as well as sustaining energy from the fiber, which helps prevent a blood sugar spike and ensuing drop in energy as well as mood.  Mind you, this is natural and not some made up thing like “high fructose corn syrup”.  <<< icky for autoimmune responses…well just plain bad honestly. So I always stay away from that.  At our house, we tend to use bananas in smoothies, but if they have been there and are ripe, I will actually cut them up and put them in the freezer for later use as “banana cubes” in my blender.
  2. Sunflower seeds (or butter) <<< I love this stuff times 10.  I was doing research a few years ago on a theory I had that my prior acid-blocking supplements (completely weaned myself off them using natural remedy) were causing an issue with my magnesium levels.  Why is this important?  Magnesium, in addition to regulating mood, is vital for many body functions to operate normally. Magnesium deficiency can be responsible for feelings of fatigue, nervousness, and anxiety (triggers increase in adrenaline), and it’s been linked to various mood disorders. However, stable magnesium levels can help the body and mind achieve a calm and relaxed state.  Some scientific studies have shown magnesium supplementation to be beneficial in treating major depression, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.  Boom!  There it was yet again.  That feeling to go down the right path and unravel the mess my doctors, no offense to anyone, had caused in my gut.
  3. Dark chocolate is the bomb dot come in my world.  <<< the one linked I often see in my grocery store as a savior if I am desperate to have something chocolate.  I have to read all ingredients, but this one is safe for me.  The organic cacao powder is my go-to for smoothies, baking and drinks of the hot kind.  Yummy.  How does this help me?  Sorry men, but PMS time, seriously, come in the house with this in the shopping bag.  Here is why: Among its many nutrients, cacao beans contain a slightly stimulatory, mood-boosting caffeine derivative called theobromine. Theobromine, a molecule with a structure similar to caffeine, has been shown to support mood and increase focus:)  I am big into plant-based or phyto healing, so as this chocolate melts on your tongue, a number of reactions occur, including the release of serotonin in the brain and mood-elevating endorphins in the body.  Yummy.
  4. Pass me my green tea y’all.  <<< I linked my all-time favorite recent discovery of this muscle recovery tea I drink after a hard day of yoga.  So why is tea, especially green tea helpful?   Tea, the green variety more so, provides catechin antioxidants that have been shown to support brain function and promote proper balance of the stress hormone cortisol.  Further, a toasty mug of tea can supply you with L-theanine, an amino acid that might promote you being alert a bit more.  Also a report published in Public Health Nutrition showed that study participants who sipped four or more cups of green tea daily reported having a more positive mood.  I recently started making my green tea 30 minutes ahead of time in the fridge using cold water and mint leaves.  I then drink it cold and I know that provides a metabolism boost as well.
  5. Walnuts were also on my list of foods to eat.  <<< again, I have to be careful.  No glaze, no almonds (I personally found out they cause me stomach pain…who knew? Autoimmune is a tricky navigation.), no additives.  JUST walnuts!  Why are they helpful?  Walnuts contain a handful of components that contribute to the elusive good mood, including omega-3s, vitamin B6, tryptophan, protein, and folate.  Higher blood levels of omega-3s have been linked with better mood and lower rates of depression, while lower blood levels of omega-3s have been associated with higher rates of depression and negative feelings.  Boom!  Grab you some walnuts friends.  Or nutty friends…either way. Normal suggested dosage of omega-3 oils is one gram (1,000 mg) per day. You’ll get about the same amount, as well as a healthy dose of fiber and protein, in just half an ounce of walnuts.  I put them on my yogurt, but yogurt is a whole different story, so read the ingredients!  I personally have been enjoying some Brown Cow yogurt…but prior to that is was the Stonyfield Farms kind.  Again, navigate so that you can actually read all the ingredients as I discuss in my 4 Weeks to Wellness course.  You don’t want things you can’t read going into your body.  It really does flare all kinds of things that are just bringing you down.

Thank you guys for reading this and go out and clean your pantry today!  Stock up for better health!

Anything's possible

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5 tips to boost your mind.

Brain based research has been around a very long time.  I remember the first time it came around when I was teaching…how can I use this information to better my teaching?  To engage students more?  I used techniques that were thought to be ahead of the times…each and everyday in my class.  I never thought that as I got older I would be applying that same idea to my research in depression and what causes us to become depressed.  I found so many links to neurotransmitters in the gut I was astonished.  I was finally getting somewhere and like each and every time I have found something important, I get this tingle.  I knew that I was on the right path to helping others like me.  Here are a few things I learned to boost my head:

  1. The dreaded word exercise.  You know the whole a body in motion tends to stay in motion theory?  Same for a body at rest. A 2010 study on primates published in Neurosciencei also revealed that regular exercise not only improved blood flow to the brain, but also helped the monkeys learn new tasks twice as quickly as non-exercising monkeys, a benefit the researchers believe would hold true for people as well.”  I just wanted to throw that in because sometimes I read scientific research for fun.  But let’s suppose you have brain fog like I do…it comes from things like fibromyalgia as well as my hemochromatosis.  Sometimes, I can’t remember things, so on days that I do yoga, I feel amazing and notice I have less brain fog.  I know this is the day I can read up on new things and process better.  So if you have a hard time learning new things, exercise before.
  2. The good fat…coconut oil.  Sooooo.  My family has a track record of some pretty ermmm crappy genes.  I have inherited a few, but the thing I am concerned about it that at such a young age, I started showing signs of the above brain fog I mentioned.  The brain needs glucose and it actually manufactures it’s own insulin to convert glucose in your bloodstream into it’s food…if it is starving, think Alzheimer’s patients.  What I would like to know, is where was this research about 17 years ago that I am about to share?  Maybe it was known…maybe not.  BUT, I wish I could have slipped my grandpa some bulletproof coffee.  What am I talking about?  This!  According to research by Dr. Mary Newport, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons) would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of MCT, which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases, or as a treatment for an already established case.”  P.S. That link is to one neat coffee recipe I found.
  3. Fix your gut…but seriously.  I will never forget the day I started my second brain research.  It was amazing to me what my doctors had missed when they had put me on proton pump inhibitors, and I started telling everyone who would listen to get off them.  For those wondering, that’s acid blockers like omeprazole.  Anyway, my gut was a mess, my acid reflux was a mess, but the pills actually were making everything worse.  I got off them, and learned what gut health meant.  It could actually be it’s own post…and oh, it was.  Up there I linked it.  But seriously…your gut bacteria is actually closely linked to food.  That is why I counsel all my clients, ALL my clients, to tell me how they are eating.  We really get into it and I start to get them to see a pattern.  Because let’s face it, when you tell people your food is actually making you crazy, they get a little mad at you.  Even if they know they need to eat better and get off processed foods, and white sugar.  Probiotics are your friend.
  4. Vitamin D.  This one is quite easy, but often overlooked.  I went for years before anyone even thought to check my levels..and here I am not supposed to go out of the house without SPF 50.  But let’s not check her levels.  Hmmm.  Moving on.  IF appropriate sun exposure is not an option, cough porphyria, not an option, then get on readily available vitamin d.  Basically it’s liquid form.  Just get checked.  Don’t skip this.
  5. Meditate.  You knew it was coming probably.  Since I completed my 200 hours of Vinyasa yoga teacher study…I know that I need quiet time.  Okay, well, I kind of have a problem with noise now that I didn’t have before fibromyalgia anyway, but seriously, meditation is superb.  After only 20 minutes, we start to show a decrease in beta waves, which is basically like we are learning how to halt the processing part.  I know that I have probably put this in here at some point, but one such interesting brain researcher who I love is Jill Bolte Taylor.  Her understanding of the brain after her stroke is outstanding and I cry every single I watch it.  I can’t explain why…it’s just wonderful.  Okay, maybe I can explain a little.  I think about the part where she talks about not having to process and how she can just float…and everything seems to be a beautiful experience and that my friends, that is what meditation at the highest form would be like for me.  If I was there.  Which is why I keep practicing.  Because sadly, I have a hard time.  Imagine that.  This point is technical, but it’s really interesting. The more we meditate, the less anxiety we have, and it turns out this is because we’re actually loosening the connections of particular neural pathways. This sounds bad, but apparently it’s not.

I created my own way of healing and invite you to join us in the Head|Heart|Health Club to learn more.

Quiet the mind

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Autoimmune help on Christmas Eve.

Hi friends.  I wonder how many of you suffer from autoimmune diseases and just don’t realize it?   It’s been one year since I gave up processed foods, sugar, flour and any word on an ingredient list I couldn’t pronounce or immediately recognize.  I have good days and bad days just like anyone else.  It’s been almost 2 years since I started figuring out what triggers my “flare ups” and mood swings.  I still don’t have it down to a science the way I want to.  For example, yesterday my children and I made a gluten-free eggnog cake.  Sounds delicious huh?  It was.  I have everything on Pinterest🙂  Anyway, after eating it and drinking my tea, I began to feel weird.  I got a bad headache and my throat started hurting…signs there was something that was triggering an autoimmune reaction.  Later, bloating.  When I woke up today, red eyes that were sticky.  If you have been following me for a while, you might recall when I started putting all this together.

Bad food triggers bad responses.  Period.

I was doing research on neurotransmitters and the brain…but more specifically how food triggers reactions in the stomach to the brain thus causing depression and/or mood swings that come out of no where.  Anyway, that was last year and you can find it by searching for “New Year, New Brain?” over there on the side search thing a ma jig.  I can’t stop researching.  I probably can…but I haven’t yet.  So a friend suggested a while back that I get a light box to help with my moods during the winter as it’s harder on me.  Fibromyalgia flares up in the cold, there are people making things I can’t eat, and after 38 years of basically eating whatever anyone put in front of me, including sushi, it’s difficult for someone who loves food to be able to cope with what my body is doing to me.  It doesn’t help that every single time we go out, no matter how hard my dad tries, he passes me the bread when we get it and I say no thank you and he keeps saying “I’m so sorry.  I forgot.”

So I came across this interesting talk, and I wanted to put it out there as a reminder that there really are things we can still control without pharmaceuticals.  I know that I am the rare person trying to reverse this without “drugs”, but more and more people are thinking about this I hope.  So here it is, Brain Chemistry Life-hacks:

My husband was just shaking his head at me as I listened to this “guy”, you know a clinical neuroscientist, because he tells me to move more.  I know exercise is important.  I do.  I get it.  That’s why I go to yoga, but I don’t go enough.  So I need to change that.  I need to go at least 3 times a week.  It can be 2 yoga days and 1 walking day, but it does matter.  I have GOT to do better…at something I used to like doing.  The mind is very powerful and we have to learn how to control it as I believe it’s the key to helping people like me fight off the diseases.  Once my body is brought back into fully functioning mode, I have to take care of it better.

Getting autoimmune help is just a matter of learning your body and how it reacts.

So if you are like me, you have autoimmune diseases, fibromyalgia or anything that causes flares/pain, pay attention to what you are doing.  Eating.  Putting into your body.  Stay away, far far away, from sugar.  Do not feel bad you are not putting “cocaine” as Steve Ilardi calls it into your body…he gets to that at around 8 minutes in.  Listen carefully (as a side note, I use only coconut palm sugar or pure maple now as it breaks down differently.  I also take Omega-3 supplements, mine, so see the tab Vitalize You for how to purchase what I use.  Everything I take is all-natural, with no additives, and is made using phytotherapy or plant based methods.)  It became so important to my health, that we started a business called Vitalize You Wellness.

This video runs about 10 minutes and if you are having a hard time during the Holiday season, really pay attention.  You can help your own moods, depression, and life.  You can.  So my gift to you is to think about happy thoughts, get a light box if needed, take care of yourself, go to yoga or exercise, grab a buddy, and don’t ruminate on those negatives in your head.  Don’t.  Experience changes the brain.  Change your thoughts.

** Author’s note, this was written before I went through 200 hours of yoga teacher certification, completely re-trained my body to move again, and then was additionally trained in using yoga to help with pain and arthritis.

Gift 2 you

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The Thief of my Youth.

The Thief…

I remember when it first started. Old age, I thought, was a bitch. Little did I know that it was not, in fact, normal aches and pains. The first sign was when my shoulders started tensing up. They hurt so bad I could not cross my arms in front of me. Each day I would get up, put on my “happy face” and work a full day with 18 tiny people staring at me. I sang songs, songs about being happy. I had to force the pain down each and every day. Doctors couldn’t help me. It was just a flare. Bursitis said one. Arthralgia with a question mark wrote another. Cortisone shot said yet another. So I agreed. I had the shot and was in the worst pain I have almost ever felt in my life. It froze my shoulder up even more and then I cried each time I moved. I had to prop my arm on a pillow that night. I couldn’t even change out of the clothes I was in.

Over time, the pain moved to my spine. It started at the base of my neck and went down until I could feel every single vertebra in my entire spine. I was never aware of my bones before. They were simply there. The pain radiated out to my shoulder blades. I became angry and more distant with people. I was coming home from work and just withdrawing into my own shell. I would put blankets all over me because I could not get warm. I had heating pads on my back and shoulders. I’d try to do things, but simply couldn’t function after working all day long.

Whenever I tried to sleep, I could feel the bones. I would toss and turn and try to get comfortable. By the time I got to sleep, my husband was bringing me coffee. Coffee was the only way to get me up in the morning, and yet it felt like I had just gone to sleep. The cycle was horribly draining on my well-being. Not just physical, but mentally as well. There was not one person I could tell this to. Not one. Do you know what they had called me at work? Mrs. Happy. I was Mrs. Freaking Happy.

I’d alternate between praying and being mad at God. He knew what I was going through. He knew, and yet there were no answers. None. One day a co-worker slapped me on the arm and I almost slapped her across the face for touching me. Yup. I did. It took all the self-control I had to say through gritted teeth “Never, ever touch me again.”   We were not particularly close, and she had a habit of thinking things were funny and slapping my arm like I agreed. The only thing I thought was funny at the moment was watching her face as I explained how much what she did hurt. Yes, it wasn’t nice, I know.  Pain doesn’t care.

Around that time I realized I couldn’t work around people and keep up appearances. That’s when a plan starting forming in my head that I needed to work on getting better if such a thing was possible. The pain, fatigue, and doubt about whether I would be able to hold down a job with my amount of pain wore me down. Every night I would cry. If I wasn’t crying, I was pretending I was fine…until I started getting sick to my stomach almost every single day. At that point, I could no longer pretend I was fine. Food was making me violently ill and I had not been allergic to any food before in my life. A thief came in and stole my youth. I looked like a 20 something year old healthy adult with the body of an 80-year-old woman on the inside.

This was how my story started, but by God it wasn’t how it was going to continue.  If this sounds like you, please read more under the search term Health.  If you want to start tiny baby steps towards your own change, check out 4 Weeks to Wellness.

 

Pain

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Motivational Monday…say no to stress

Today is my husband’s name day.  Day of birth as you might call it.  Years ago, I met a shy poet who told me the only thing he wanted for his birthday, was me.  He is, quite frankly, the love of my life.  Then why am I so stressed out all the time?  Ha.  I don’t know.

This was an interesting article on Stress Symptoms and the warning signs.  The health problems that are exacerbated by stress include some of my own.  So I started thinking about why people with autoimmune diseases would tend to be more stressed out than others.  I thought about the article I read when researching my topic on neurotransmitters and the stomach.  The blog post New Year, New Brain?

When am I most irritable?  When do I start getting mad or not being able to let something go?  When I have had a bad flare up??  When I have eaten something that makes me hurt and be in pain?  Yes.  I focus most on what is wrong when I am in pain.  Why do I do that?  Some sort of pathway that was there for a while.  Okay, next step.  Recognize the signs.

So, after I realize what I am doing, my next step is to focus on doing things I like.  Things that make me happy.  Reading.  Holding my dogs.  Writing.  Snuggling with my kids.  Hugging my husband.  One tight hug to let me know it’s okay.  Him getting me to focus on the fact that it will be okay, even if it’s not okay at this moment.

I have used my “hibernate and ignore” tactic in order not to let things upset me.  Stress is very bad for my health in more ways than one.  So I say to anyone out there with stress, ummm, well let’s just say everyone reading this, as difficult as it is, focus on the positive.  Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.  What do we do?  We swimmm.  Oops.  You are still here.  Ahem.

Swim

 

 

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New Year, New Brain?

You knew it was coming.  I might, just might, be doing a tiny bit more research.  I know.  Some people are addicted to finding answers.  I guess that’s me.  Ever since my body started attacking me, and I was well, not happy about it, I have been on a mission to find out where all this was coming from.  I know that as a child I was sick more often than not.  By 5 years old, I had tubes in my ears, and had been on antibiotics so much that I looked forward to the pink medicine my mom gave me.  I remember being sick, shivering under crocheted afghans, on the mildly scratchy brown plaid couch.  The pattern continued to repeat all the way into adulthood.

Knock on wood, but right now, since changing things with my body, and the way I eat, I have started to heal internally…I think.  I have not gotten sick even though I have been around others who were very sick.  My stomach is leveling out and my “second brain” is healing.  Wonder what I am talking about?  Read this article on How the Gut’s Second Brain Influences Mood and Well-being.  I know this to be true because when I was under constant attack only a few months ago, I was perhaps the worst mood-wise I have ever been.  I back this up with research that has been ongoing for years:

DO BACTERIA CONTROL THE BRAIN?

A study published in the journal Neurogastroenterology and Motility indicates that it is not simply the neurons and neurotransmitters in the stomach that play a role in signaling to the brain.  In fact, a large part of the work may be done by the “intestinal microbiota” in your gut—a.k.a. the germs in your stomach.

There are approximately 100 trillion bacteria that reside in your intestines, reports Psychology Today.  Researchers in Canada have studied these microbes and have concluded, “that the presence or absence of conventional intestinal microbiota influences the development of behavior and is accompanied by neurochemical changes in the brain.”

Some believe that this study could serve as a gateway to treating stress-related disorders such as depression, reports Psychology Today.

Not only do I believe this, but I have been conducting research on my own, and using myself as a test subject.  Why?  Because I had nothing to lose.  I was already in pain, so I needed to start at ground zero.  The good news is that after taking some of the food triggers away and adding the healing supplements I have been taking, I seem to be able to know how to balance myself out.  The bad news is that my gut has more triggers than most.  The autoimmune disease I have thinks most food is trying to attack me, so I have been very careful.  I have messed up twice during the holidays and immediately had another attack.  It is when I eat any food other than prepared by my household that I have pain.

Lastly, I just wanted to throw this bit of news in here.  After years of research on keeping the gut balanced, the body aligned and your head clear of extraneous mood triggers, I developed 4 Weeks to Wellness.  Feel free to check it out!  Hover over the link to go there and click it to learn more.

I will

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