“I Don’t Want to Hate Christmas This Year” Campaign

I love Christmas. But I hate it too, and just go into survival mode each year as the season approaches and I am behind on everything.

I love Christmas decorations, Christmas movies, Christmas songs, and atmosphere of anticipation along with that certain wistful, homey feeling. And I really love the spiritual part too, feeling awestruck, and the building up to celebrating the birth of Jesus. But I hate the too-much-to-do, the crazy spending, the pressure to find the perfect gift for tons of people, the feelings of guilt when I just can’t pull off sending Christmas cards yet another year, and the pressure I put on myself to create a magical time for my family.

This just isn’t healthy at all.

My solution is to start in August. I hear others have done this, and I have planned to for about the last umpteen years, but this year I am actually going to do it. In fact, I already bought 2 of the 300 presents that I need to buy (or make, hahaha), bought some Christmas paper and ribbon, and scheduled our company Christmas dinner at the venue of our choice. And today I started perusing catalogs. So far, so good.

I also really do not like decorating for Christmas and then undecorating a few weeks later. However, I really love my home decorated for Christmas. Such a dilemma.  I have already tried simplifying and downsizing, but it still takes many hours. I am pondering how to be wise about this. Maybe this year I could try hiring a teenager to help. Maybe I could simplify and downsize more. Maybe less is more.  I will try to convince myself of that between now and then.

Another strategy I am going to employ is not taking on too many things, after all a person is finite.  Last year was probably the most insane Christmas season that I can remember, and I definitely do not want a repeat of that type of Christmas. Here are some of the things that were on my plate:  I was in the middle of my last class for my bachelor degree – Statistics, no less; I volunteered to be in charge of the Ugly Sweater Contest at work; I was responsible for hosting my husband’s company Christmas party in our home;  I made Christmas-in-a-Bag’s for all the members of our church; I needed to make an impressive basket for a silent auction for my husband’s client; and we had a 5 day trip to Disney World the first week of December. Noodled into all of that was the usual holiday “necessities” and festivities.

No wonder I felt overwhelmed, but the clincher is that I really enjoy doing all of those things. I just need to know my limitations and be judicial in what I agree to take on.

So, this is a nudge to all of you who find yourselves in similar straits in December, and an encouragement to start now and approach Christmas in a wiser way.

Merry Christmas!  Truly!!!

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Correlation of Brain Health & Nutrition

Dr. Terry Wahls in her book called “The Wahls Protocol” reports about The Oregon Brain Aging Study that was done in 2004 involving 104 adults with the mean age of 87 and the effects of various nutrients and anti-nutrients. They analyzed 31 blood levels including such things as antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and essential fats. MRI’s were also done, as well as cognitive ability tests.

It was found that those who had high levels of B vitamins and vitamins C, D, & E had the best brain health. And those with high levels of vitamins A & K & antioxidants showed better ability to think and had increased brain volume.

That’s the good news.

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The bad news is that those who had high blood levels of trans fat, which is hydrogenated vegetable oil, had smaller, more shriveled brains and performed worse on thinking tasks, thus at greater risk for dementia. Actually, they were probably showing signs of it already.

Some sources of trans fat foods are French fries, doughnuts, deep-fried anything pretty much, frozen pizza, microwave popcorn, margarine, and many of the pies, cupcakes, cookies, and candy that you eat.

Incidentally, Dr. Wahls advises 6-9 cups of vegetables and fruit daily, eating a variety of colors, and making sure you include leafy greens; sulfur-rich vegs like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mushrooms, onions; and brightly colored fruits and vegetables. She admits that this is a lot of food, but the bonus is that it crowds out less desirable foods while providing outstanding nutrients your body will flourish on!

I’m gonna up my game.

 

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Probiotics-A Quick Take

I highly recommend probiotics.

Anything pro is good, right? I recommend skipping conbiotics and amateurbiotics.

Kidding aside, what are probiotics, you may ask? Probiotics are good bacteria that live on the lining of the intestines and are responsible for important tasks such as immune support, crowding out bad bacteria, and improving digestion and gut health, as well as many more things crucial to good health.

Some of the other things probiotics help with:

  • Nutrient absorption
  • Improving diarrhea from rotavirus and other pathogens
  • Restoring balance of microflora in urogenital tracts
  • Preventing/managing eczema & psoriasis
  • Reducing incidences of yeast infections
  • Promoting anti-tumor and anti-cancer activity in the body
  • Preventing and treating urinary tract infections
  • Weight loss
  • Acne & rosacea
  • Reducing colds and flu’s
  • Brain function and moods
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Dental health
  • Bacterial vaginosis, prevention and recurrences
  • Anti-aging
  • Constipation

More and more doctors are now prescribing probiotic supplements when prescribing antibiotics because antibiotics kill off the good bacteria as well the bad.  This puts a person at risk for a number of undesirable things, one of them being the dreaded Clostridium difficile, commonly called c diff, a dangerous infection in the colon. Probiotics significantly help lower the risk of this infection developing.

*It is important to note that when taking an antibiotic, the probiotic must be taken at least two hours apart from the antibiotic or else the antibiotic will kill the probiotics, thus rendering the supplementation worthless.

However, probiotic supplementation is recommended for just about everyone now because of the assault on the good bacteria in our guts from too much sugar, toxins, stress, GMO foods, and tap water.
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Sources of probiotics:
*Capsules – There are many on the market. I usually buy a brand that is on sale, that have at least 30 billion count of bacteria, and a variety of bacteria. Some of them are in the refrigerated vitamin section, while others are manufactured to be stable without refrigeration. I often purchase this one.
*Fermented foods such as kombucha, kimchi, water kefir, apple cider vinegar (with the mother like Bragg brand), and sauerkraut contain probiotics. By the way, fermented vegetables are easy and inexpensive to to make.
*Yogurt with live cultures.
*Dirt – Great for children to play in, also I like to not scrub vegetables like organic carrots too well, thus consuming the bits of dirt in the crevices. Dr. Josh Axe even wrote a book addressing this called, Eat Dirt.

Personally, I usually supplement with at least 30 billion daily, plus drink kombucha, eat fermented sauerkraut, and slightly dirty carrots, beets, and radishes often. (My young grandchildren love to drink kombucha out of shot glasses. It’s pretty cute!)

It is best to get your probiotics from a variety of sources because there are many different strains of bacteria, some of them being present in one food and other ones in another.

One consideration though: Individuals who are immunosuppressed or who have been taking immunosuppressants medications should consult their doctor before taking.

If you only take a few supplements, probiotics is definitely be one to consider including. I believe probiotics have made, and continue to make, a significant difference in my health in so many ways. I cannot urge you strongly enough!

My other posts on probiotics for more information:
Quirky Thursday/Probiotics
More on Probiotics, The Good Guys
Water Kefir (recipe)

You can also check out the sites below for even more information:
https://draxe.com/probiotics-benefits-foods-supplements/
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/c-difficile/home/ovc-20202264
https://www.worldhealth.net/news/probiotics-skin-health/
Other References:
Bowen, D. (2013). Probiotics and oral health. Journal of dental hygiene, Feb: p5.
Dimidi, E., Christodoulides, S., Fragkos, K. C., Scott, S. M., & Whelan, K. (2014). The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(4). 1075-1084
Jafari, E., Vahedi, H., Merat, S., Momtahen, S., & Riahi, A. (2014). Therapeutic effects, tolerability and safety of a multi-strain probiotic in Iranian adults with irritable bowel syndrome and bloating. Archives of Iranian Medicine (AIM), 17(7), 466-470.
Parma, M., Vanni, V., Bertini, M, & Candiani, M. (2014). Probiotics in the prevention of recurrences of bacterial vaginosis. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, 20, 52-57.
Shmuely, H., Domniz, N., & Cohen, D. (2013). Probiotics in the prevention of colorectal cancer. Curr Colorectal Cancer Rep 9, 31-36.
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Increase Your Happiness Level

We all want to be happy, right?  I wrote a post on happiness before, but I thought I would take another dive into it after reading an interesting article by Eric Barker titled, New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happymost of it taken from research done by Alex Korb, PhD. Barker distilled it quite a bit, and I will distill it even more, plus add a few thoughts.

These are the 4 rituals Barker listed:

  1. Gratitude, or practicing gratefulness. Worry, pride, guilt, and shame activate the brain’s reward center, but these emotions are not recommended as they are not helpful in the long run.  However, it is probably why we keep doing these things. Interesting! But there is something recommended. According to Korb, the drug Prozac elevates serotonin, which is a feel good hormone and neurotransmitter. Another drug, Wellbutrin, boosts dopamine, also an important brain chemical; one that helps regulate mood along with other important brain functions. However, gratitude increases both serotonin and dopamine!!! Korb goes on to explain that even trying to think of something to be grateful for is helpful; it increases serotonin, and the more one practices gratitude, the easier it becomes.
  2. Identify Negative Feelings. Gleaning again from Korb, Barker advises that when you are experiencing anger, sadness, shame, boredom, anxiety, etc., do not try to suppress those feelings. Instead, use a few words to describe them. This helps reduce the emotion. I have long noticed that writing down fears, anger, and other negative thoughts have helped me.  Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist, started calling negative thoughts ANT’s, for Automatic Negative Thoughts.  I like that.  You will want to learn more about ANT’s. Very good stuff. One idea I am stealing from Dr. Amen is to get a toy anteater to remind oneself to destroy the ANT’s.
  3. Be decisive. It not only helps you solve problems, but also reduces anxiety and worry, per Dr. Korb. He advises to be intentional, plan, and make goals.  Making decisions can be stressful , so aim to make “good enough” decisions. Do not try to make perfect decisions.  Eric Barker quoted Barry Schwartz that, “Good enough is almost always good enough”.  I like that too! In addition, Korb found that making decisions increases feelings of pleasure and helps you feel in control.  As an RN I can attest to that.  One of my nursing instructors in nursing school taught me to give a patient choices whenever you can because it helps them feel in control in situations where they typically feel like they have no control.  For instance, I have witnessed that even something small like, “Mr. Smith, which arm do you want to me give your injection?” or “Would you like to have a bed bath now or in 30 minutes?” goes a long way.
  4. Physical Contact & Relationships. Hugs, massages, holding hands are some examples.  Interestingly, it was found that telephone calls and personal contact was found to increase brain chemicals that promote happiness, whereas texting did not. According to Korb, massages reduce cortisol levels, and increase serotonin and dopamine; long hugs release oxytocin; and hand holding can reduce pain and worrying.

Now I tried to think of a cute acronym for those 4 “rituals”, but the words Gratitude, ANT’s, Decide, and Touch would not cooperate with me. I ended up with GADT. Maybe it is so lame it will go viral.

Anyway…wishing you much happiness. I hope you enjoy practicing GADT.

Here I am with my granddaughter Maya, happy to be spending time together.

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Importance of Exercise

Exercise is the topic for today. You know its good for you.

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So, why don’t some of us make time for it?

Let me try to inspire you with 29 reasons I came up with. Nice prime number.

Why exercise:

Enables you to climb stairs without looking sweaty and out of breath

Reduces stress – burns up cortisol

Enhances mitochondrial function, especially burst training or sprinting

Helps regulate insulin levels

May reduce humility

Decreases blood sugar levels

Improves balance

Reduces risk of looking lame as you age

Burns more calories

Can aid weight loss

Improves mood – releases endorphins, dopamine

Delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and organs

Promotes better sleep (just don’t do too close to bedtime)

May improve sex life

Can improve depression

Boosts confidence

Improves appearance

Prevents cognitive decline

Increases the chance that you will spend time outdoors in the fresh air

Reduces risk of cancer and heart disease

Reduces fall risk

Improves likelihood of looking like a babe on the beach

Builds stronger bones

Anti-aging, promotes graceful aging

Improves posture

Enables you to hike, and bike, and other fun stuff

Improves memory

Assuages feelings of guilt for not doing it

Increases your likelihood of winning the lottery (hahaha, just wanted to see if you are still reading this)

How and what:

Health guru Mark Sisson at http://www.marksdailyapple.com advocates 3 types of exercise weekly. And his reasoning makes good sense to me, so I will share his plan in a very condensed version.

  1. Cardio where you get your heart rate up to 180 beats per minute minus your age. So if you are 40 years old, it is recommended that you do not go above 140 for a sustained workout. He recommends accumulating 2.5 to 5 hours of cardio weekly.
  2. Strength training (especially good for bones) should be done 2-3 times weekly, making sure all of the major muscle groups are worked. These workouts should last 10-30 minutes. Kettlebells, resistance bands, and weights are helpful, but you can also use just your own body weight.
  3. Sprints or an equivalent, 1 time weekly. This needs more unfolding to make sure you do it safely. But basically, you do an all out effort for 8-20 seconds, then rest, and repeat several times.  Mark’s Daily Apple site has helpful info on all of this.

If you are not already exercising, just start somewhere and do more. Then build on that.

I challenge you to start this week by accruing those 2.5-5 hours of cardio. If you wear a Fitbit or Garmin I suggest counting the steps above a baseline of 4000. Thus, every 1000 steps after the first 4000 can count as 10 minutes. By the way, I strongly recommend a tracker that has the heart rate feature so that you can better assess your effort level.

Happy accruing!!!

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Paleo/Primal Dinner Ideas

Roasted chicken is one of the meals I make the most frequently. It is so easy and delicious. Salt the chicken front and back, then bake at 375 degrees for about 1.5 hours. Save the carcass for bone broth.

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How nice of her to pose for me!

Below are some other ideas to whet your appetite and spark your imagination in coming up with food options that are definitely tasty and not boring.

Stir Fries – Beef, chicken, or pork cut into small pieces, cooked in a wok or skillet, then added to vegetables such as carrots, celery, bok choy, spinach, onion, broccoli, zucchini, which have been sautéed. Serve over cooked cauliflower rice (Trader Joes has cauliflower rice in the frozen section) or cooked *shiritake noodles.

*Shiritake noodles are made out of yam flour and have only 1 gram of carbs. They don’t have much flavor, so they need to have a sauce or topping, but they have a nice mouth feel for those who miss pasta. They are also a great pre-biotic, feeding the good intestinal bacteria.

Bowls – One dish meals like chicken curry with vegetables served on a bed of cauli-rice or shiritake noodles; or for a refreshing summer supper a scoop of tuna or chicken salad, some avocado, blueberries or strawberries, maybe some cold leftover cooked vegetables, or handful of olives served together.

Stews or Soups – Can be cooking all day in the crock pot. Many possibilities with different meats, vegetables, herbs and seasonings.

Plates-A protein, at least 1-2 vegetables or side green salad (with a couple of topping such as cherry tomatoes, green onion, avocado, black olives, etc.); some good fat, herbs & spices, and occasionally sweet potatoes, quinoa, or wild rice

Think roasted chicken – whole or pieces, crock pot roast, grilled meat, grass-fed hot dogs (Applegates), baked pork chops, meatloaf made with almond meal instead of breadcrumbs; served with steamed zucchini, sautéed asparagus, roasted beets and carrots or brussel sprouts, butternut squash, eggplant, broccoli, etc.

Entrée Salad: See the recent post under lunch ideas

Mexican:

Fajitas with seasoned meat, onions, green/yellow/red bell peppers, guacamole, salsa, cheese if tolerated (skip the tortillas, beans, rice, etc.)

Taco Bar with seasoned ground, shredded, or cut up beef, turkey, chicken, or pork; and lettuce, with toppings such as tomatoes, avocado, onions, black olives, cilantro. Can serve as a salad or large lettuce leaves.

Italian:

“Spaghetti”- Meatballs or ground beef in marinara sauce served over spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles made with a spiralizer, or kelp noodles, or shiritake noodles.

For Recipes:

Check out these websites for help with recipes:
http://nomnompaleo.com/
http://drhyman.com/blog/category/recipes/
https://www.drkellyann.com/paleo-recipes/
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/recipes-home/

It is so easy to get in a rut, yet so needless with all of the options available. I hope you branch out a bit, and even share new go-to’s.

 

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Quick Meal #1-Super Entree Salad

Quick meals are an important food skill to learn in order to eat nutritiously, otherwise it is just too tempting to start stocking frozen meals, eat junk food, or drive to the nearest fast food joint. There are a few different basic meals that are versatile and delicious. Meet Super Entree Salad in this post.

I remember not too long ago when I did not know how to make a salad I could enjoy. Lame, I know. But I was baffled. My daughter Tara, on the other hand, always could whip up something delicious. So one day when asking her for advice how to make a great salad she wrote down a list of possible ingredients that I could choose from to include. That is my inspiration for this post, which I thought I would share in case you are also mentally challenged in the salad department. Incidentally, now salads are one of my favorite lunches. They are so delicious I never feel deprived. And they are chock full of life-giving nutrients. Below are some ideas to build a stand-alone salad for a meal, but the ideas can still be used to create a great side dish salad.

Super Entrée Salad

Choose from each category to create a delicious, unique salad. But feel free to expand on this list as it is, of course, not exhaustive. Experiment with favorite flavor combinations.

Lettuce bed:
(Choose 1 or more)
Mixed greens
Romaine
Arugula
Spinach

Protein:
(Choose 1 or more)
Deli Roasted Turkey, Chicken, Ham, or Beef
Hard-boiled egg
Tuna, Shrimp, Salmon, Sardines, Crab
Leftover Steak, Chicken, Turkey, Ham
Hamburger Patty, Turkey or Beef (hot or rewarmed)
Taco meat (seasoned ground beef warmed)
Bacon

(Choose at least four other toppings from the ingredients below for more nutrients and interest. )

Vegetables:
Celery
Avocado
Cucumber
Carrots, shredded, diced, or coins
Green onions, or yellow or purple onions
Olives, any kind, but pitted might be safer
Cilantro, parsley
Beets, cooked or raw
Shredded cabbage
Hearts of palm
Tomatoes
Peppers: Green, Red, Yellow
Sprouts
Radishes
Any leftover steamed or roasted vegetable
Fresh herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, sage, chives

Other toppings:
Seeds: Sunflower, pumpkin
Nuts: slivered almonds; chopped macadamia, cashews, walnuts, pecans
Capers
Fruit in small amounts: apple, pear, peaches, grapes, berries
Raisins, cranberries
Shredded cheese or globs of goat cheese, if you tolerate dairy

Dressing:
(Choose one.)
Extra virgin olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice, fresh or dried herbs optional
Bottled dressing without bad oils. Primal Kitchen has some excellent ones. My favorite one is their dairy-free Ranch dressing
Homemade dressing made with good oils like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil
Avocado blended with Bulletproof MCT oil or Brain Octane oil

Below is a salad I made for lunch on St. Patrick’s Day before I added the chicken and the dressing:

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The possibilities are endless. Happy creating!

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