Your Health Matters Every Day

Hi all! And Happy New Year! To start off this New Year I have a guest on the blog — Jennifer McGregor! Jennifer McGregor co-created Public Health Library to make it easier for people to find high quality health info. She is a pre-med student who enjoys writing about health and medical topics to help the readers find reputable health resources.

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We all do it. We notice we’ve gained some weight, so we started dieting. Our skin starts to look bad, so we invest in makeup and face creams. But, if you take care of yourself every day, you’ll find that you don’t have to take corrective action for your health quite as often. Especially if you suffer from chronic pain. Here are some great ways to prioritize yourself all the time.

Get more sleep

The benefits of getting a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night are many. Your skin will look better, you’ll have more energy, and you may even suffer from fewer aches and pains since nighttime is when your body recovers from muscle strain. You’ll also enjoy the side effects of REM sleep, which is restorative to the mind. Give yourself enough time to rest each night. To promote better sleep, you should keep your room cool and dark. It can also help to do some decluttering in your bedroom and using a hypoallergenic pillow.

Take your vitamins

There are many different types of chronic pain, and no matter what you suffer with, chances are, you can benefit from keeping your body properly nourished. While this is accomplished primarily through foods, certain supplements, such as 5-HTP, riboflavin, and turmeric, may help ease symptoms. Those who suffer with daily pain might also consider solutions like taking ginger and glucosamine

Meditate

Chronic pain and stress are two conditions that tend to overlap. And there is little doubt that stress can exacerbate pain. For this reason, it makes sense to take proactive measures to reduce stress in your life. Per Mayo Clinic, meditation is one of these. When you meditate, you connect your mind and body. You gain a new perspective on the things that cause you anxiety and you can transfer your attention from negative to positive feelings. While this may not eliminate your pain altogether, it will help you cope.

Limit stress

Stress and chronic pain are definitely intertwined, and high levels of stress can exacerbate pain. While reducing stress in this day and age can feel like an impossible task, there are small changes you can make that truly add up. For example, try saying “no” more often so you’re not overextended, or you could try journaling to get worries out on paper. You could also deep clean your home and clear clutter so your home remains a refuge from stress. You can even find ways to outsource help around the house so you’re not overwhelmed. There are myriad ways to reduce stress, so find your sweet spot and make it work. 

Exercise

The thought of regular exercise when you live with chronic pain may sound challenging. However, exercise can make a significant difference in your pain levels and your overall physical well-being. Activities like walking, yoga, strength training and bicycling can be great choices to help those with chronic pain stay active. Plus, with the advent of smartwatches, you can track your exercise and even monitor your sleep so you can see the results of your efforts in real-time and stay accountable. 

Eat anti-inflammatory

You’ve likely heard of the arthritis diet, but you do not have to suffer with arthritis to enjoy the perks of eating anti-inflammatory foods. For instance, you can start eating a Mediterranean diet, which can lower your blood pressure and curb inflammation. It may even lead to weight loss, which, if you are significantly overweight, can help reduce tension and strain on your joints. A Mediterranean diet isn’t boring, and includes fish, fruits and vegetables, beans, grains, and olive oil. Rossella’s Farmacy has a number of great nutrition articles and recipes to help you develop a better, healthier diet.

When you live each day in pain, you have to do everything you can to reduce this for your mental and physical health. The changes above are easy to implement and won’t interfere with your current lifestyle. They are all simple self-care strategies that will go a long way toward helping you live your best, pain-free life.

What ways do you plan to incorporate self-care into your life this year? Share below!

How to Prevent Dry Skin & Stay Hydrated This Winter

As winter approaches us, we humans tend to neglect hydration. Some believe hydration is not as essential as during the summer since we are not sweating as much, while others opt for warm diuretic-containing beverages such as coffee and tea (guilty). However, these cold-weather months can be extremely dry, wicking the moisture from our skin. The skin on my face and hands has already started to feel the effects of it. This is all the more reason to keep the momentum going and continue our healthy hydration practices from the hot summer months!

There are several ways we can help our bodies maintain hydration besides simply drinking water. I will outline some of my favorite, winter-friendly strategies below:

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Dry Skin Brushing: Benefits & How to Do It

We all brush our teeth and even hair, but have you ever brushed your skin? Perhaps you weren’t even aware this was a thing!

Dry brushing is a practice that has been gaining popularity, and for good reason! It is the practice of quite literally brushing your skin with a firm brush, typically before taking a shower. I started this habit several weeks ago and have noticed softer skin, but there are many other more significant benefits as well worth note.

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How to Supercharge Your Detoxification Systems

On a daily basis we are exposed to hundreds of different toxins. They are found in the air we breathe, water we drink, food we eat, and even the different products we expose our skin to. Our body has natural fighting systems to clear out these toxins such as our lymphatic system and liver. However, our lifestyle choices can determine how efficient these systems work. Although detoxification is a naturally occurring process, there are many steps you can take to raise the level of efficiency. Supporting your daily detoxification processes is essential to prevent disease and feel your best!

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Top Foods and Habits For A Healthy Brain

Most of us know someone with some type of neurological disease. Globally, neurological disease accounts for over 6% of disease burden, and it can be extremely traumatic for both the individual and their family. Diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke, and headache disorders all fall into this category.

At the present, conventional medicine lacks effective and long-term treatments for most of these diseases, and most are seen as irreversible. Prevention is by far the best option. To keep our nervous system healthy and functioning optimally, we must keep channels of communication open between the gut and the brain. This is referred to as the gut-brain axis. A healthy intestinal microbiome facilitates efficient communication between the gut and the brain. Therefore, supporting our microbiome with good nutrition is key. Stress, certain medications, inadequate sleep, junk food, and vitamin deficiencies can all impact your microbiome and cause your “good bacteria” to be replaced by “bad bacteria”. Below I will dive into some of my favorite foods and habits to help optimize brain health and function.

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How to Maintain Healthy Eating Habits While Traveling

Maintaining a healthy routine while traveling and on-the-go can be a challenge. This past month I was activated in the Air National Guard to provide assistance in the fight against COVID-19. During this one month period I lived out of a hotel room, which hosted only a mini fridge and microwave. While many of the other military men and women I was working with lived off fast food and donations of chips, pop, and canned tuna, I was fortunate to be able to maintain an eating lifestyle similar to what I live at home. This is how I did it.

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My Top Tips and Supplements to Boost Your Immunity Naturally

With cold and flu season still upon us and COVID-19 starting to really fire up, maintaining a top notch immune system is important for protecting not only ourselves, but our family and friends as well. While maintaining good hygiene (i.e. hand washing) is very important, developing and sustaining healthy lifestyle practices is vital for optimizing your immune system so it is strong when times such as this should occur. Below are some of the top ways I have managed to stay healthy and avoid both the cold and flu for TWO years straight (knock on wood)!

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Meal Planning 101 for Diabetics

A new diagnosis of diabetes can be scary. Individuals often leave their doctors office knowing little to nothing about the disease, feeling completely overwhelmed, and provided only a few words along the lines of “your blood sugar is abnormally high so now you need to check it on a regular basis”. You may be experiencing crazy symptoms like excessive thirst and hunger, fatigue, frequent urination, and maybe even blurry vision. You might be told you need to improve your diet, exercise, and lose weight, but are not explained even the slightest how.

Who can relate to this? Over the years I have dealt with numerous patients who have stepped into my office knowing nothing about their disease or how to control it. Well today I am going to help solve that issue and discuss diabetes meal prep basics.

“What the heck can I eat?”

Whether you’re a new diabetic or have had diabetes for 30 years, it is important to understand how foods will affect your body and impact your blood sugar. Let me introduce you to the diabetes plate method. This is a way of helping you to control your portions of starchy, carbohydrate containing foods. It also will help you be more mindful of what you are putting on your plate.

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Got a Sweet Tooth?

If your holiday and end of year celebrations were anything like mine, they were probably overloaded with candies, cakes, your aunt’s delicious cookies, endless vino, and so forth. By the time New Year comes around I am exhausted, bloated, and feeling something like this:

This inspired me to complete 30 days of no sugar, no booze, no excuses. Since I started this past Monday, January 6, I have already lost count of the number of times I have been asked “….why?” Sugar has become so mainstream in our diet it has actually changed, for many, the ability to appreciate unsweetened foods. A perfect example of this is peanut butter. Many brands are loaded with high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar, and when individuals try clean, raw peanut butter with no additional ingredients, it tastes off. Sugar lights up the reward centers in our brain, similar as to cocaine for an addict. After going a period of time without it, as the body stars to rebalance, you start to crave them all over again.

Sugar is also a tremendous contributor to blood sugar dysregulation (another cause of sugar cravings). According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2015, an estimated 33.9% of US adults 18 years or older had prediabetes along with 48.3% of adults age 65 or older. An additional 9.4% (30.3 million) of the population has actual diabetes. My family has not been an exception, so preventative measures early on have been a priority of mine!

Chronically elevated blood sugar (BS) levels result in inflammation as high BS is damaging to our nerves and small blood vessels. High intake of refined sugar also results in the formation of AGEs, or advanced glycation end products, which are destructive molecules that trigger inflammation. Inflammation is thought to be the underlying cause of many chronic diseases.

If I have not yet convinced you that sugar is evil, this study demonstrated that ingestion of sugar can alter the function of phagocytes (cells that ingest harmful bacteria, particles and dead cells) for at least 5 hours. In other words, after eating a piece of chocolate cake, your immune system will become suppressed, leaving you more susceptible to catching a cold or flu. Not ideal this time of the year.

There are several steps I took to prepare for this little endeavor:

  1. Recruit a support system. Maintaining any type of lifestyle change is not only easier but can even be fun when you have a team that supports you, or even better, will do it with you! Two of my sisters and my fiancé have agreed to participate. This has been a gamechanger in maintaining my motivation.
  2. Prepare. Don’t start immediately. I took a couple days to get rid of any leftover holiday goodies and meal prep for the week ahead. My sisters also took time to read food labels and clear out any foods that would not be acceptable to avoid temptation. We also discussed healthy, sugar-free alternatives.
  3. Make specific goals. I wrote out a list of guidelines and ingredients that were to be avoided for the next 30 days including: all added sugar, artificial sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, agave nectar, cane juice, caramel, barley malt, and glucose to name a few.
  4. DO NOT say “I will try”. This is one phrase I always make a point to avoid saying, otherwise I might as well not waste my time. It indirectly gives me permission to fail, which I do not want as an option.

What healthy habits have you committed to this year? If you are interested in trying 30 days No Sugar. No Booze. No Excuses. the guidelines are as follows:

30 DAys no sugar. no booze. no excuses. guidelines

  1. No sugar or hidden sources of sugar (refer to chart below)
    • Beware of foods such a bread, peanut butter, ketchup, dried fruit, chips, milk alternatives, and pasta sauce that could unexpectedly have some form of added sugar (TIP: if it has a barcode, check the ingredients)
  2. No honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, maple syrup or any other “healthy” form of sugar
  3. No alcohol (wine, liquor, beer, etc).
  4. Approved:
    • Fruit (beware of sugar added to store-bought smoothies or açaí bowls). Ideally no more that 2-3 servings per day. Berries are best as they are lower in sugar.
    • Stevia or monk fruit (0 calorie natural sweeteners) in small amounts

5 Tips Help Recover from a Gluttonous Thanksgiving

No matter how mindful we intend to be during Thanksgiving festivities, it is a safe bet that most of us will leave the table feeling overfull and defeated. There is no shame in allowing yourself some food freedom once in a while, especially on what may be consider the ultimate cheat day of the year! From my experience, it is not Thanksgiving Day itself that sabotages health goals or weightless efforts; it is the days following filled with endless amounts of leftover pie and stuffing. To avoid being set off track from your long term goals, I put together a list of some of my favorite ways to recover and detox post tryptophan binge (an amino acid found in turkey commonly proclaimed to make people sleepy).

  1. Move. I always tend to feel better after a good sweat. Doing something active that you enjoy is a great way to get back into the swing of things. If you want to get the most bang for you buck, HIIT, or high intensity interval training, will help you burn the most calories in the least amount of time.
  2. Hydrate. Especially if alcohol was involved in the festivities. Hot water with lemon is a wonderful way to help detoxify your liver and boost your metabolism. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in kilograms each day.
    • Example: If you weigh 200 pounds, divide by 2.2 = ~91 kilograms. Therefore, a 200 pound individual should drink approximately 90 ounces (~11 cups) of fluid each day!
  3. Utilize your freezer. Rather than aiming to eat all your leftovers in the few following days, freeze the less healthy options. This will not only make it inconvenient for you to grab as a quick snack, but it will also encouraged you to eat it over a longer period of time and (ideally) in smaller portions.
  4. Fast. Fasting has been associated with a host of benefits including increased metabolism, reduced inflammation and improved blood sugar control. Visit my blog post What is Intermittent Fasting? Key Components for Success for the specifics.
  5. Drink a smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to obtain a ton of nutrients in one meal. Blending the foods can improve digestibility and make them more palatable, particularly for those spinach and kale haters. I love referring to Simple Green Smoothies for inspiration and recipe ideas!