Summer is usually a time where people take time off and get outside more. There is less on TV and longer days and much more to do. However, when you are suffering from a Chronic Illness such as an Autoimmune Disease, it can be tempting to stay indoors and avoid the heat and humidity. But this season is an important opportunity for our health. You may have seen that meme on Facebook or Instagram that says “Winter Microbiomes are Made in the Summer”. I gotta be honest, this one made me think. But it is true! Below I have made a top ten list of healing activities you can and should do before Summer is over to take advantage of the healing opportunities that this season has to offer you and your healing journey. Each section has a why, but there are more reasons than I was able to list- so make sure you look up more that seem approachable for you and find out more reasons that it may benefit you.
Eat dinner outside. This one is fun, especially on nights that are not blistering hot. Eating outside reduces stress, and exposes us to increased oxygen levels from surrounding plants. It also removes us from the daily toxin and fumes released by the furniture and building supplies surrounding us inside our homes and offices. Taking a break and breathing in some clean air instead of the formaldehyde, paint fumes and recycled air we breath every other moment of our days. Increased oxygen makes our brain and bodies healthier. It not only helps us detoxify, but feeds and supports healthy cells and helps defend against unhealthy cells. The de-stressing of sitting outside can also help your adrenals and immune system work better by placing your body in a parasympathetic (healing) state and turn off the sympathetic (fight or flight) state in which we often reside at the end of a work day.
Watch the sunset (as often as possible). Doing this regularly can reset the circadian rhythm, making it easier to go to sleep at night and also allow us to rest more deeply so that we wake up refreshed. Watching the sunset releases hormones in your brain, telling your body what time of day it is and preparing it for bedtime. Avoiding blue lights such as LED lamps, phones, computers and televisions will help this also.
Put your feet in the grass. Placing your bare feet in the grass, or Earthing as some call it is very healing to the body. The earth releases negative charges that help regulate our electrical systems in the body. This can help heal the body of a wide range of maladies, especially useful in neurological and cardiovascular disease due to the electrical quality of these systems.
Eat watermelon.. and other fruits. The abundance of both sunshine and fruits during this season is an opportunity to load up on nutrients and their benefits to our body. Potassium, Vitamin C and many others are in high supply during this time while they are in low supply during winter months. By loading up now, you can give your body an advantage during the months that these nutrients are not as available. These days, many fear fruit, even during the summer months. But we are designed to be able to handle more carbohydrates in the summer months than we are able to handle during winter months, when less carbohydrates are available. So having one to 3 servings a day should be fine and beneficial (check with your doctor for your individual recommendations). A rule of thumb is that you can have up to 1 fruit for every 2 servings of vegetables. By using this rule of thumb, you should have no problem enjoy the bounty while keeping things in a healthy range.
Go to the Beach (Or mountains). Let’s face it- these environments are healing. But the summer, best known for beach trips, is a great time to take advantage of the healing properties of the ocean. The salt, the sand and the sun all offer something to a healing journey. Many feel rejuvenated at the ocean and this is for good reasons. For more information on the healing benefits of the ocean click here and at the end of this article is 2 more articles on how the ocean heals you. Do you think this means we can write off our beach trips as a medical deduction? (just kidding.. sigh)
Get some Sunshine. Did you know that your body stores Vitamin D (and other fat soluable vitamins) to be used for a later time? This means that by storing up the sunshine we get in the summer, we can protect our immune system during the dark winter months. If that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is! While sun cancer is a scare, a moderate amount of 20 minutes, unprotected exposure a day is recommended for most, regardless of the season. This amount is great for most Caucasion skin tones, while those with darker skin tones will actually need more and very pale skin tones will need less.
Swim in a lake. If you have ever been in a “swimming hole” then you know that these are not the places to wear a bathing suit with white on it! That is because swimming in lakes and such is dirty. But a lot of fun! Not only do these places provide good fun but also expose us to the environment that builds a good microbiome and a strong immune system. Being exposed to dirt, mud and lake water increases our microbiome diversity and helps us body, mind and soul.
Eat fresh Seafood or Fish. I’m talking straight out of the water food. Whether you or your family fish or if you buy it straight off the pier from a local fisherman, this is a great time to get some wild-caught and delicious seafood or fish. While eating seafood, you have an opportunity to catch up on natural iodine and selenium (don’t worry, the selenium balances the iodine!) and lean protein. The fresh caught fish provides good lean protein and a lighter, easily digested meal.
Eat straight out of the garden. You may have seen the suggestions to “eat dirt” or have seen bottles with “soil based probiotics” listed on the ingredients. Fact is, that eating straight out of the garden exposes our GI tract to beneficial bacteria that help our bodies work better. This can help stomach issues, brain issues and the immune system all work better. While we don’t always know what else is in someone else’s garden and may want to be wary of things like chemicals, pesticides and improper fertilizers used elsewhere, growing something in a pot on our own porch or even in our own raised-bed garden is a great way to enjoy food “straight from the garden” and where we can feel comfortable eating a food that has not been washed. After all, we wouldn’t put anything on our greens, or onions or tomatoes that we wouldn’t eat- would you? If you are new to gardening, I can say that micro-greens, herbs, leafy greens, and spring onions are very easy to grow for first time gardeners. Try growing these and eating a sample as you pick them, before washing them. Your body will thank you.
Camping. Ok, this may be something you city gals and guys have to build up to doing. But let me assure you that there are places with showers, blow dryers and working real toilets. There are tents (and campers..if you must) with screened in porches. There are electrical plugs at campsites and you can bring a grill. But let me point out that if you do this activity, you can combine all of the first 9 on this list into one weekend. My family goes camping near the beach where we eat fresh seafood from a local fisherman and spend one of our days at the beach. By the time a long, 4 day weekend is over, we have reset our circadian rhythms, have more energy, are better rested, and have an energy boost that lasts all month. It is truly healing. While we do not go in the heat of summer, we do go at Easter and again at labor day weekend. In the heat of the summer, we would like to go into the mountains to escape the heat but still enjoy the fruits of summer (where it is about 20 degrees cooler).
So there it is: Your summer bucket list. There is still time to book your weekend for labor day and get it all done. Remember-life is for living. Summer included.
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Summer celebrations are here and it is time to grill! Memorial day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Saturday, Sunday, everyday…It’s time to eat! First let’s set a menu. We know there are going to be meats galore.. because that is how American’s celebrate! Right? First thing is first.. for your convenience, this post may contain affiliate links. To read my full disclosure policy click here.
Main dish ideas:
Burgers- see my sliders post for inspiration for toppings! (and a sweet potato “bun”)
Ribs- Pork or Beef Short Ribs- Rub them down with garlic, lemon and herbs!
For spice blend ideas, the best source I have seen are in this recipe book here. (Honestly its the best cook book EVER! It will blow you away!)
BBQ is synonymous with 4th of July and it is definitely time to fire up the grill! (Make sure to make extra as part of your weekly batch cooking! Meat freezes also– hello, easy and delicious meals of my future!) To make this feel like an extra special BBQ day, try this AIP friendly BBQ sauce from Enjoying This Journey. You can also buy this pre-made AIP friendly BBQ sauce.
Cole Slaw– use apple cider vinegar and oil, with a bit of sea salt and honey to season.
Apple Slaw– Same dressing as above but shred an apple with your cabbage.
There is a great paleo version of german potato salad over at Fast Paleo (click here to see the original) But it is not AIP. However it can be made AIP using these changes:
6 Slices Bacon
1/2 c. Yellow Onion, Chopped
1/2 c. Coconut Vinegar
1/2 c. Water
1/4-1/3 c. extra ilght virgin olive oil (see notes)
1/8 tsp. Stevia Extract or 1 tbsp honey
Celtic Sea Salt
Dressing: In a skillet, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove bacon and set aside. Pour bacon grease into glass Pyrex measuring cup.
Add onions to skillet along with a couple tablespoons of bacon grease and cook on medium high heat until browned and translucent.
To the cooked onions add the vinegar and water to deglaze the pan.
Add enough olive oil to the bacon grease to equal 1/2 c. and then add to the onion, vinegar, water mixture.
Whisk in stevia as well as salt and onion powder to taste.*
Crumble bacon and add to dressing.
Store refrigerated in glass jar or container. Reheat as necessary.
Salad: There’s really nothing to it, clean, chop and steam up a head of cauliflower, add as much Hot Bacon Dressing as you desire and garnish with some fresh or dried chives.
*Changes made to some parts to make the recipe AIP. Content taken from Fast Paleo (link above to original) There are several faux-tato salad recipes on Pinterest, but many need to be slightly altered to make them AIP.
Sweet Potato Fries (or any root vegetables: parsnips, turnips, carrots, etc.
Broccoli Salad. Here is an AIP version from Adventures in Partaking.
AIP Caesar Salad (see Dressing Recipe Link Below). Use these Pork Clouds for croutons.
Nice cream: Here is a recipe from Diet Hood using blueberries. But the blueberries can be subbed for other fruit like mango or strawberry. You can also use just the banana and add things like Coconut cream or vanilla, apple sauce and cinnamon, or carob and mint extract.
Sorbet. Freeze fruit (maybe watermelon?) and stick it in the food processor to make it smooth.
As I virtually “live” in the world of chronic illness, I see a lot of stories of people who publicly live their lives as representatives of the chronically ill. I see those who work really hard to heal, leaving no stone unturned. I also see the others who have accepted their “fate” and have taken their illness in stride; they do life the best they can and put on a brave face. But these tips are based on the best advice that I have been given (and taken!) and seem to be the defining difference in the camp who continues to heal and the camp that continues to decline. They are
1. Never give up hope.
The minute you start to believe that you cannot heal, is the minute you guarantee that you cannot. I reversed brain damage and motor skills, nerve damage, my ability to see in my peripheral field, my balance, and even turned my hair from white back to color. I reversed all the daily symptoms from a neurological syndrome for which I was told there was no cure. If I had believed that there was no cure, I would likely be fully disabled today and having daily seizure like episodes, unable to fix a meal for myself or leave the couch for more than a minute or two. Instead I wake up every day and work, workout, and continue to improve constantly. I still have bad days and I keep unraveling the layers of my root causes, but I continue to improve every year. On bad days it gets frustrating and it is tempting to give up hope. But I know that the minute I do that, I lose out on all the progress that I will make in the upcoming year. And I remind myself what would have happened if I gave up hope 3 years ago when I couldn’t shower unless I sat in a chair and needed my husband’s help to do so.
2. Leave no stone unturned.
Be willing to try almost anything. I refuse to think that only food and stress management are my only tools. I will pray, meditate, journal, use essential oils, anything to get well. If it won’t hurt me, it’s an option. If someone told me that standing on one foot while singing “row your boat” out the left side of my mouth would work, I would try it. And it it made things better, I’d keep doing it. Things that may work for you that don’t work for others include things ilke psychotherapy to work on childhood trauma, acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic, earthing, and much more. I encourage you to try them ALL. This means being open to new things even if you don’t understand them or necessarily believe in it either. If it works, you will believe later. If it doesn’t, what did you lose by walking barefoot in some grass This does not mean shelling out my life savings to something that doesn’t align with my morals or common sense. But acupuncture, while against western common sense, is aligned with eastern common sense and is not tens of thousands of dollars. Walking barefoot is absolutely free. Neither is going to hurt me: What do I have to lose? In the grand scheme of things, spending 30 dollars to try acupuncture and find out it doesn’t work for me is worth the next thing I spend 30 dollars on that does help me. After all, what wouldn’t I spend to get well? Every person’s answer to that will be different. 3. Value primary foods.
Primary foods are the things that feed us that don’t come on a plate. And they can improve your health. Spending more time with friends means you can spend more time in a healing state because it activates what is called the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is necessary to heal and turns off oxidative stress states caused by the opposite side of your nervous system, the Sympathetic Nervous System (also referred to as fight or flight).
Cuddling can improve the function of specific parts of your brain. Spending time barefoot in the grass can reduce stress and regulate your body’s electrical system. Whether it be pursuing a fulfilling career, participating in spiritual practice, exercising, doing activities that bring you joy (karaoke a dance party during your drive-time) or just spending more time with family– these things can affect your health and healing. I encourage you to check out this wheel of primary foods, also called the “circle of life”, and identify which ones of these are out of balance in your life. Make a note to do one thing to work on an area that could use some more attention.
I hope these tips are helpful. I encourage you to pray, meditate, or journal about these ideas and focus on one that resonates with you on your journey. If you have any questions or requests, don’t hesitate to hit reply and tell me what is on your mind. I love hearing from my readers! If you would like some help on your healing journey, whether you are working on these primary foods, or just trying to figure out how to Take Your Body Back, or are somewhere in between, feel free to contact me to set up a free consultation today. Your location doesn’t matter, sessions can be conducted by video or phone. If you would like more information but are not ready to get started on a guided journey, feel free to sign up for my newsletter below and receive a free gift: My 7 Day Healing Meal Plan to help you get started today. It’s never too late to take your first step.
If you’ve seen any documentary on how food and nutrition affects health then you know that food can be a powerful agent of either good or bad. It is said that “every bite you eat is one step closer to health or disease”. And a journey is made up of several small steps. I’m going to break those steps down for you below and at the end, I am going to give you an opportunity to receive a free healing menu plan. I am also going to give you an opportunity to sign up for my free 7 Day kickstart, a 7 day email series to help you through your first week if you decide to start a healing journey. But for right now, let me tell you why these steps are the basics of healing most chronic conditions.
As a health coach I work with many chronic conditions and we work on many related parts that attribute to and are a part of chronic conditions. We balance blood sugar, improve energy, reduce pain and inflammation, increase energy and mobility, identify food triggers, and we also improve digestion and cognitive function. We even grow better hair and nails! When you have a group of people with chronic conditions you often find that there are some overlapping categories that seem to pop up in most of your clients. The individuality of each person is very unique but the causes are generally the same. So I wanted to give an overview: how does one reverse or improve a chronic condition?
While not every situation can be reversed, it is not unheard of to reverse type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disease, depression or ADHD. If they cannot be reversed, then they can be improved most of the time. Most of these chronic conditions can be improved by focusing most of all of the following health categories:
1. Improve Gut Health.
Gut health is being linked to every chronic condition from autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune, diabetes, Parkinson’s, depression, anxiety and even hormonal imbalances. So much of our immune system, hormone and neurotransmitter production, the ability to break down our nutrients and get rid of toxins (a source of physical stress and oxidative damage) is dependent on the health of our Gastrointestinal tract. The “gut” includes the stomach, intestines, gallbladder, liver, and pancreas. For this reason, we often start with gut health in our journey toward healing.
2. Identify food sensitivities.
Food sensitivities have been linked to ADHD, depression, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and other inflammatory disorders. A food sensitivity is different than an allergy and can simply mean that a person feels better without the food than with the food on their plate. This may mean that their digestion improves, their energy, or even their blood sugar or pain levels in their joints. Identifying any foods that may be aggravating your health, is a key step in feeling better sooner. Many food sensitivities can be reversed, which means removing them may be temporary.
Toxic buildup can put stress on our bodies, causing inflammation, weight gain, pain and dysfunction. It can affect any body part including the digestive system, the brain, or your joints. Supporting your body in getting rid of stored toxins can reduce inflammation, pain, weight, swelling, or dysfunction. Also, avoiding exposure to toxins where possible can make it easier for our bodies to store less of these chemicals in the future.
4. Support the Immune System.
Autoimmune, chronic viruses, Chronic Fatigue, Lyme disease, and possibly others whose causes are “unknown” may benefit from boosting the immune system. A dysfunctioning or suppressed (or even seemingly overactive) immune system can make one feel “yucky” all on its own. By supporting the immune system, but not stressing it, we can possibly return it to its normal functioning state. A normal immune system can fight the “bad guys” like chronic viruses and also knows when to “turn it off” so it doesn’t attack us!
5. Support the Adrenals.
Let’s face it: Chronic conditions are stressful. Even if you do not have adrenal fatigue, (but especially if you do) life and illness can be very hard on our bodies. For this reason, supporting the adrenals can not only improve your sugar-handling (the ability to maintain healthy blood sugar levels), inflammation, wear and tear on the body, reduce heart attack and stroke risk, regulate weight and hormones, alleviate depression and anxiety, affect sleep, digestion, and much more.. it can help you heal from chronic conditions. It can also improve energy and the immune system.
6. Targeted Nutrition.
This is where things get even more unique to you. While each of the above categories are addressed differently for each person according to their own body and unique situation, this area is the most unique to you. In this category, we not only focus on specific foods to improve the health of a specific organ or body system (such as the thyroid, or the nervous system, or even the brain), but also have to address any deficiencies. We may optimize a nutrient to manipulate the body into doing its job better, or your body may just need more of a specific nutrient to thrive than your mate’s body needs. An example of this may be to focus on electrolyte rich foods to help regulate blood pressure or heart rate. We may reduce high glycemic foods for a person with Diabetes, or incorporate bone broth for someone with leaky gut.
This area is similar to targeted nutrition but the “nutrition” in this case refers to lifestyle changes. This includes working on “primary foods” a term coined by Joshua Rosenthal to refer to the things that feed you but don’t come on a plate. It may refer to exercising to reduce inflammation or increase mobility. It may refer to prayer or meditation that helps you reduce adrenaline or cortisol. It may mean incorporating social time into your schedule to increase your body’s ability to heal. It can also mean watching the sun set to help with adrenal fatigue, sleep and circadian rhythms. Regardless of which areas of your life need help to improve your chronic condition or the symptoms that bother you, there are often “bio-hacks” to help you get the results you are looking for on your journey.
That was a lot of information, wasn’t it? And it is a lot to think about.. but I want to assure you that I don’t expect you to go out in one day and do all of this. Remember above that I said that we often start with the gut. If you haven’t gotten started with your gut health, then check out my beginner’s guide to healing your gut. If you have a chronic condition of any type, I suggest starting there. As always, If it is too overwhelming or you are feeling unsure, hit the reply button and I’ll be happy to schedule a free health coaching consultation to help you decide what the right next step is for you.
If you are ready to get started and would like to try my 7 Day Kick-start Email Series, or to simply receive my free 7 Day Take Your Body Back healing meal plan, click here and it will take you to the page to opt-in for both of those. By signing up for my newsletter there, you will be given a free downloadable meal plan and an option to enroll in the 7 Day Kick-start Email Series. Again, the 7 Day Kick-start Email Series is completely optional but is great if you need someone to help you through the first steps.
If you simply want to know more but aren’t ready to sign up for the 7 Day Kick-start or the meal plan and just want to learn more, simply sign up for the newsletter at the top of the page. This will ensure that you start receiving emails that tell you more about the above steps. This will not give you the free download or the option to start the 7 Day Kick-start.
Feel free to comment below, I love hearing from my readers. You can also contact me directly through the email in the top menu bar if you have any questions or would like to sign up for a free consultation to see if health coaching is right for you. A free consultation is a great option for someone who thinks they may need help continuing their journey. This is great for someone who has either has 1.limited time or 2 doesn’t want to figure things out on their own or 3. has already healed their gut and is eating an anti-inflammatory and healing diet but wants to take things to the next level of their healing journey. It may also be appropriate if you find getting started intimidating, overwhelming, or want to explore other options and paths to wellness.
No matter which options you decide to explore above, I look forward to hearing from you and hope to get to know you better! Until then, enjoy your healing journey!
So apparently there is this big debate as to whether or not vanilla is considered AIP: but this post from Sarah Ballantyne, also known as the paleomom, and author of “The” book om the autoimmune protocol says it is not. I tend to be a bit legalistic and really wanted to do things “by the book” this time around. As a result, I found some variations on the AIP collagen bars that I actually like much better than the original recipe, (each to his own, eh?) which is vanilla and referred to as “cake batter” flavored. I took a recipe that I was introduced to while at an AIP group meeting and remade them into other “flavors” to both avoid vanilla and in an effort to make things a little more exciting for me. For the original recipe, click here. But if you prefer things to be a little less “vanilla” then keep reading!
As a result of some experimentation, I came up with these 2 recipes as a definitely compliant alternative. I love that in the recipe, the proteins and carbohydrates are naturally balanced and it has a healthy dose of good fats. It has collagen, which is great for gut health and joints. It is also full of healthy coconut fat that is also good for gut, and much more! For your convenience, I have included some affiliate links to help you locate some items. For my full disclosure policy, click here.
melt the coconut butter by placing the jar in very hot water for a few minutes until it is able to be stirred easily and poured into a measuring cup. Add this to a bowl, followed by the collagen powder. mix thoroughly, then add honey and mix thoroughly again. Add the coconut oil, either melted or slightly soft, and mix that in thoroughly as well. Zest the lime then mix again. Follow with the lime juice last, again mixing until it is well blended.
Take the batter and move it to a parchment paper lined baking dish and form it with your hands until it is a large, flat square. Score the square and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or until the ingredients have reached solidity again. Cut all the way through and enjoy. Makes about 3 servings.
This recipe makes a more tart, lime-y bar but for a more sweet version, you could increase the honey content.
For “Lemon Cookie” collagen bars, follow the same recipe as above, replacing the lime for lemon.
I am so happy with this recipe, that I have decided I am going to develop multiple flavors fashioned after my favorite desserts..recipes coming soon! So if you want to make sure you don’t miss a thing, sign up for my newsletter at the top of the page. You will receive health articles, meal plans, offers, and more straight to your inbox. Feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email. I love hearing from my readers!
This post really isn’t really about sliders. I mean, it is. But it isn’t. We all know how to make burgers. We all know to make small burgers. But the bun is made of White Sweet Potato Toast (not my idea but I really don’t remember where I got it, but here is a video on how to make it) and that alone makes it something delicious. However, it is what you put ON a burger is what makes it your own. So I wanted to share some ideas (ok, and some pictures) of great and fun, allergy free AIP/Wahl’s Friendly Recipes so you can have a junk food night and still stay on track. Most of these ingredients you can find at any grocery store but if something is obscure, I went ahead and included some affiliate links for your convenience. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.
AIP and Paleo Toppings:
This is a southern tradition that goes back probably a few hundred years. Simply slice cucumbers and some red onion and soak overnight in water with some Vinegar (for this recipe makeover we are using Apple Cider Vinegar) and some sea salt. Black Pepper optional (AIP reintro). The real flavor is from the red onions and vinegar.
Dairy Free and Nut Free Pesto:
A cup of Basil and approximately a 1/4 cup of olive oil with 1 to 2 raw garlic cloves placed in a food processor. Add the olive oil gradually so that you can control the thinness or thickness of the pesto as you see fit.
chopped cabbage, Apple Cider Vinegar and Olive oil with a pinch of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of honey make this dish simple. For add-ins, you can add tomato (not aip) or avocado or fresh herbs like cilantro but that is certainly not necessary.
Same dressing as above but with Italian seasoning and marinated overnight. I suggest steamed asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, yellow squash and some fresh celery, red onion or cucumber.
Root Vegetable fries
You can make this with any root vegetable, tossed with olive oil and sea salt (extra seasonings optional) and broil or roast them until they are crispy. You can use sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, or others to make your “fries”.
Ready for burger night yet?
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Anxiety is rooted in 2 places. The physical and the mental. As a long-time anxiety sufferer, I have some simple natural solutions… and some not as simple ones. But I think they are all important to mention. Some treat the cause and some are just ways to get you through without damaging your body and creating more problems. So because I don’t want to hold you up, let’s get started!
Magnesium. Experts estimate that approximately 80% of us are deficient. I know that even with an impeccable diet, some people will still do better with more magnesium than other people. It is recommended to get yours from foods first but supplementation is also recommended: usually 200 mg is recommended. Some people will need more. Other signs of possible low levels or deficiency are constipation, tense muscles, stress, pain, and more. A blood test is not a suitable test for testing your body’s magnesium levels.
Magnesium is a complex mineral to address by supplement because it has a relationship with the other electrolytes and can affect and be affected by the levels of potassium, sodium, and calcium you consume and have in your body. It also regulates heart rate and blood pressure. If you decide to take more than the recommended dose of 200 mg, I encourage you to do so under the guidance of a trained healthcare professional to prevent negative side effects. This doesn’t mean I think you should be scared to take more, but I would hate for you to be the person that has negative side effects. Also, different forms of magnesium will effect your body differently.
I most recommend magnesium glycinate because it is the best absorbed form or magnesium threonate because it is the best for neurological treatment. I also am a huge fan of Epsom salt baths, especially for children or added supplementation with adults (especially those adults with compromised digestion). Since anxiety effects the nervous system, either of these would be appropriate for long term use. You will see others for short term use, like Natural Calm which is magnesium citrate (best for constipation). Be sure to balance your magnesium with adequate potassium and calcium intake for best results.
L-theanine: this extract from green tea is used as an anti-anxiety in functional and integrative doctor’s offices. But don’t think that all brands will give you the same result. Pharmaceutical strength brands will be much stronger and you will have to take much less. It is not recommended for an adult to exceed more than 800 mg per day. Smaller amounts are safe for animals. This supplement will not leave you tired, drugged, or high feeling but will simply chase the anxiety away
Valerian. Often called herbal valium, I find that this stinky herb (you cannot taste it in this tea) is quite effective but not as long lasting as the L-theanine. It also will not leave you feeling high or drugged. This one actually calms the central nervous sytem, as well as your muscles and the GI tract.
Skullcap. Also an herbal relaxant. Used often with those that experience high strung mania, which is anxiety based.
Chamomile: the gentlest anti-anxiety (second to lavender) and is available in tea form most of the time.
Lavender: although this is in some teas, it is mostly used aromatically, as an essential oil used in a diffuser or topically on pulse points. It is proven to calm those who use it.
Kava Kava: I haven’t tried this one personally, but hear that it can be a little strong. It is often used for sleep and sometimes is mentioned as a substitute for marijuana (but I cannot confirm that at this time).
Foods and Eating
Leafy Greens: for their magnesium content and detoxification support. Those with mthfr need extra detoxification support and folate to help manage their anxiety. Anxiety disorders are common with a mthfr gene nutation. Also, eating a nutrient dense diet is key to any health problem. If you aren’t sure if your diet is nutrient dense, then track your nutrition for a week to see your average daily intake. I use cronometer.com to give me an idea of how my intake looks and I recommend it to others.
Sulphurous Vegetables. This group of vegetables that include garlic, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, mustard greens, arugula and more are particularly helpful in detoxification
Detox: Doing regular detoxes and supporting detoxification can reduce anxiety. Other things that support detoxification are Ascerola Cherry powder, a potent whole food form of Vitamin C which chelates heavy metals. (too much can lead to low levels of necessary minerals) 1000 to 2000 mg is recommended. (3) For best results, sip on 1 to 4 teaspoons diluted in water daily with added lemon or other citrus. A whole food source is always best for any vitamin, whenever possible, to avoid negative side effects.
Balancing Blood Sugar: Balancing your blood sugar can prevent highs and lows which can lead to ups and downs with any mood related chemicals. It also helps to control inflammation, which is a cofactor in anxiety disorders (1).
Lifestyle habits that help
Meditation. This can actually help to rewire your brain and calm your central nervous system while activating you parasympathetic nervous system (your relaxed state nervous system- the exact opposite of fight or flight). A simple method for beginners is to simply count your breath. (2)
Coloring. While this is touted to mimic meditation, I do not think it is as beneficial but can still be relaxing. It forces you to be mindful and still (in your thoughts). This is especially helpful for children but can also be used with adults if they enjoy it.
Yoga or Tai Chi. Like coloring, this encourages you to be mindful and present but also focuses on deep breathing. Excercising also reduces anxiety levels. This also activates the parasympathetic nervous system. It also relieves tension in muscles to stretch them as one does in yoga.
Regular Aerobic Exercise. Even just 10 to 30 minutes will release anxiety and calm a body. Exercising outdoors or in the woods (such as hiking) will only increase the calming effects of exercise.
Spending time outdoors. Eating outside, going for a walk or simply sitting in a chair and thinking or reading a magazine has an effect on the nervous system that sitting inside just does not. I encourage you to find time to be outside as often as possible. Daily time outside encourages us to slow down, breath fresh air and be still and present. You may choose a stroll or just staring at water or tress, but you will be surprised how relaxed just getting outdoors can make you feel.
Warm baths. I don’t have to tell you that an Epsom salt bath, both because it contains magnesium sulfate (and hopefully some essential oils too!) can be relaxing. I find this a great time to read or catch up on Netflix (keep the computer away from the water, right?!)
Support Your Adrenals: Getting enough carbohydrates (but not too much) and the right nutrients in addition to any necessary herbal support (as determined by your health care practitioner) will improve your physical response to stress. Having strong adrenals is a major player in the battle against anxiety!
Support your gut health. Serotonin, known as the happy chemical, also effects anxiety levels. If your gut health isn’t stellar (acid reflux, candida, bacterial overgrowth or leaky gut for example) then you may have trouble producing and managing neurotransmitters and hormones that are crucial in regulating anxiety levels. The GI tract is called the second brain for a reason!
Practice mindfulness and being present. Anxiety is the habit of living in the future and focusing on fear of things that have not happened yet. True, it is also a physical thing. But some of the equation is up to us. If you find your thoughts thinking about what may happen or what has not happened yet, then practicing mindfulness and practicing being “present” is definitely something to start practicing! Mindfulness means that you r mind is on what you are doing, where you are doing it and when and how you are doing it. This focus on what is happening now will help you be more present.
Another tactic to practicing being “present” can be an exercise during meditation or yoga. Simply draw your attention to your breath, close your eyes and notice the things around you: the sound of the hum of the fridge, the birds outside, the rhythm of your breath, your body, how you feel and how the room feels and sounds to you. Take in the details, all the things your mind usually shuts out and doesn’t notice. Experience what it is like to be completely aware of what is here and now. Now notice that you are not thinking of what isn’t here and now. Use this memory to practice the same exercise later when you are experiencing high anxiety, even if you cannot close your eyes and get on your yoga mat. Wherever you are, you can focus on the what, where, when and the environment’s details to bring you to the moment of now and away from negative thought that are in the future and therefore, imagined as of yet.
Dance Party. I actually learned this from my friend Heidi (pictured above), who is one of the happiest people I know. When she gets stressed, she throws an impromptu dance party. She puts on a happy song and starts to boogey! I tried this and I will definitely be keeping this habit in my mental tool box. I even keep a list of songs that make me happy just for this and mood boosts. I highly recommend this, even if you only are dancing with your dog. It usually makes the dog happy too. Unless it’s a slow dance. They don’t always like that.
Laugh. It releases endorphins and happy chemicals that relieve stress. So laugh. Call a friend, go have some fun, watch a comedy, whatever it takes. But laugh.
What to avoid
Sugar, and Refined grains. These foods make it difficult to control blood sugar (see above for why that is important). They also are devoid of nutrients and keep you from absorbing minerals needed for a calm mind and nervous system
Caffeine. This is the worst thing for anxiety! It literally activates the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight part of your central nervous system) and depletes your adrenals, which are in charge of how you handle stress.
For more ideas on mood management, be sure to read my post on Depression Solutions, as the two often go hand in hand and even when they don’t, some of the same ideas and supplements work. It goes into more depth about ways to help brain function and resources for “bio-hacking” your brain and body to get the results you want. Here is the link.
This week I am taking a moment to talk about something serious. This subject is often a chronic illness on its own; but when you suffer from any other chronic illness, you are statistically likely to deal with this as a symptom of the bigger picture. Those with chronic illness are also more likely to have childhood trauma. Dealing with that trauma and the related present-day manifestations of those issues is a root cause all by itself. But it can both lead to and be aggravated by the chemistry of our own body and environment. Our body chemistry can develop in response to this trauma as our brains, especially developing ones, are rewired by the events in our lives. The depression and anxiety from these events then often leads to lifestyle that is not supportive of breaking the cycle of depression. This is not our fault. Our body was designed to both seek the path of least resistance and also to comfort itself for the sake of survival. And let’s face it: The world is a crazy place. That alone makes breaking the cycle challenging, to say the least. Even if you don’t have a trauma from your childhood to add to your foundational make-up, you may still deal with depression and/or other chronic illness.
Depression can be a touchy subject. We are so programmed to believe that we cannot change depression: both by the depression’s voice and also by society’s insistence that you cannot change your brain chemistry (or any health condition). If you believe that you cannot change it, then this article is not for you. If you want to believe it or do believe it, then keep reading. I encourage you to find a health care practitioner(s) who will be supportive of your desire to find root causes, heal and address these causes and experiment with techniques and habits that may help you to rewire your brain and break the cycle. It is not a simple one size fits all quest; It is not a simple one and done solution and then you are done (not for most, anyway). Depression is often what we call a mosaic disease (as are most chronic illnesses), meaning there is often a “perfect storm” of attributing factors. For this reason, I apologize now if this article is a bit on the long side. But I didn’t feel like this subject was really a “part one and two” kind of subject. I also didn’t want to leave anything important out of the discussion; I felt that was disrespectful to the people who deal with this.
“Bio=hacking” is a term used that means that you investigate your own body, its chemistry and its unique history and then apply that knowledge and gathered research to manipulate your body to get any desired result. Bio-hacking your depression is an example of that. This means that you will either research, test or experiment to figure out your biochemistry: what chemicals are not balanced and why they are not in the amount and balance desired. You then experiment with available stimuli (like nutritional supplements or medicinal herbs, dietary and lifestyle changes, and other various techniques like biofeedback or meditation) to manipulate your body into putting things into balance. You keep what works and move on when it does not work, often looking for the next clue or stimulus. Because of the nature and seriousness of adverse side effects, I highly suggest enlisting holistic healthcare professionals to help you lead this experiment, especially when using medicinal herbs or nutritional supplements. Some things may not work or even have adverse side effects or consequences. For example, my functional medicine doctor was able to guide me the best nutritional supplement for my body; she warned me that the other option may not be suitable for me because of my tendency towards anxiety. As a result, I tried the one and it worked as a replacement for my prescription anti-depressant but with less side effects, long-term consequences and better results. I was more comfortable with this solution. I felt more “me” and true to my beliefs. But before you get to the point of finding all your solutions, you must first figure out your body’s root causes. So let’s take a look at some possibilities that may help you find the root cause of this silent passenger. Quick note: there are a few affiliate links below for your convenience to help you find resources that may help you. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.
Possible Root Causes
Our great grandparents didn’t have depression like we do. They got down or anxious when things got tough, but there was not the epidemic of depression as we know it in our modern society. A few reasons why: They ate whole, unprocessed foods that were not chemically altered or treated. To them- a pesticide meant friendly pests, something from their kitchen that the bugs didn’t like, or planting things together that chased off the other plant’s pests. An herbicide was usually something like vinegar and tobacco protected their peppers from bugs. They also rotated their crops, grass fed their cows, and the only processed foods they would buy is a limited amount of flour and sugar and coffee (2 out of 3 of those foods have changed drastically since those times due to American farming “innovations”). They spent more time outside, got more exercise and made all their foods from their garden or neighbor’s farm. This meant that they had less toxins in their body (toxins cause inflammation- and in the brain or nervous system this means dysfunction) (5). Modern, man-made chemicals (like pesticides) also damage the gut microbiome where many of our hormones and neurotransmitters, including serotonin, are made. ( This stress can damage the vagal nerve which is integral in our body’s managing its fight or flight regulation, digestion, gut health and the ability to absorb nutrients. (1)
Rotating their crops prevented the soil from being depleted and in modern times we have depleted our soil of important nutrients that are supposed to go into the food that comes out of this soil. As a result, it has made it challenging to get enough nutrients in our diet, even when the diet is impeccable.
Eating whole foods meant that they didn’t have foods that were “low fat”; sugar and calorie free “food” have led to modern products that are devoid of important essential fatty acids and filled with processed chemical based ingredients. Fat is necessary for every cell in your body and protects your nerves and brain (4, 7). Without adequate necessary fats found in grass fed and pastured meats, wild fish, leafy greens, wild and foraged foods, and garden vegetables we have a nutrient deficiency that affects every cell in your body. When we chemically alter foods, we either introduce things that our body doesn’t recognize as food (a foreign invader or toxin) or we throw the balance off. For example: The coca leaf is not harmful but when you extract the cocaine from this coca leaf, you strip it of other components that balance this chemical. Without that balance, it becomes harmful. The same happens when we change the balance of food to make them have more protein (our wheat has 4 times the gluten it had than in 1960), less fat (low fat cheese), or sweeter (high fructose corn syrup). They also ate whole foods that ensured a nutrient dense diet made up of the animals that local farms pastured, the food from their garden and maybe a little bread to sop up the gravy. Today we eat a plate filled with pasta, processed rice or low nutrient potatoes and then cover it with more meat than we need and maybe one serving of fruits or vegetables. We snack on low fat foods, crackers, chips, cookies, fast food cooked in toxic oils and are overfed and undernourished.
They worked outside which meant they had plenty of vitamin d, fresh air to help them detox, and exercise to keep them active and healthy. We sit at desks and computers, only getting sun when we go to and from our car and if we are disciplined, try to make up for it on the treadmill in a room full of recycled air.
Our forefathers spent time in the garden which replicates meditation, activating their parasympathetic nervous system , a relaxed state and balancing their stress. They didn’t spend all day racing towards deadlines, rushing kids to soccer while trying to get everything done. Their lives were simpler and their stress not constant. These breaks from stress allow your body to heal. Without them, we accrue damage with little time to heal.
Addressing Depression in modern times
A lot of those factors, we cannot change. We cannot always change our job or how we spend our time (sometimes we can). We can try to get the best quality food we can afford and make good choices. We can try to get outside regularly and more on vacation. We can implement good stress management techniques. But let’s face it: if it was that easy we wouldn’t need help and everyone would be doing it. Those ARE good ideas and are a great beginning. But usually we need targeted, specific things addressed. What your body needs may be slightly or greatly different than my body. As you can see, there can be a lot of moving parts to address.
So let’s break this plan down into simple categories:
I often coach clients to address these four categories in order to address depression. We do the best we can for these four categories and then see what will heal while we figure out what may or may not need additional support beyond what we can accomplish through these. We then look at supplements or medicinal herbs to help finish the job. Medications (including herbs and supplements) are used (by direction of their doctor) to support or finish the process as needed on this journey.
Brain and Nervous system health
Nutritional deficiencies ( I will optimize nutrient intake that may be lacking)
Many hormones and neuro-transmitters are made in the gut, as well as many toxins that are released by “bad” gut bacteria that may be present in excess amounts. We have beneficial bacteria and “bad” bacteria that are part of a healthy gut and GI tract. But when we do not receive the “good bacteria” through normal experiences like vaginal birth, exposure to germs in childhood, and then combine that with high stress and the unnecessary use of antibiotics (like in the case of using it for viruses, or as a placebo) then we kill the good bacteria and then a poor diet will feed the “bad” bacteria and an imbalance will occur. All of these things can cause a chain of internal events which then affect the ability to regulate mood, anxiety and energy (and who feels good when they are tired all the time?).
These are some examples of gut “issues” which would need to be addressed:
and detoxing your GI tract to prevent the above and ensure that all organs are working at their full capacity. Your liver can lose 80 to 90 percent of its function before anything shows on a test!
Your functional or integrative medical doctor can easily and simply test you for any of these. They may only test you for what they think is likely. It would be extremely unlikely for you to have more than 2 to 4 of these. They are simple to address by dietary and lifestyle protocols. Herbs and focus foods are often used in these treatments. (Focus foods means concentrating on certain foods to bring about a desired effect)
I once read a study where 50% of the bipolar patients in a mental hospital were released after they removed grains and dairy from their diet. It is not uncommon for these foods to cause neuro-inflammation. Neuro-inflammation causes neuro-dysfunction. This can cause any type of imbalance in brain chemicals. (5)
Now of course (Murphy’s law) I couldn’t find that study when I went looking for it, but there was plenty of information on the role of foods on brain health and depression. Here were my search results.
An elimination diet, such as the AIP diet can be especially helpful in identifying food intolerances. If you need help executing or navigating this process, feel free to contact me for a free consultation. This offer applies to any protocol you read about in this article.
Brain and Nervous System Health
You can promote brain and nervous system health easily with diet. I particularly like the Wahl’s Protocol to address brain health. The basics of brain and nervous system health include:
Eat plenty of good, quality fats: At least 30 percent of your calories is suggested.
Balance blood sugar– having a palm sized portion of protein at each meal balanced with a plate full of vegetables of a variety of colors while limiting or avoiding high glycemic foods like grains, sweets, and white potatoes.
Eat a nutrient dense diet. If you are not sure if your diet is nutrient dense, then use something like cronometer.com to track your nutrition for a week to get an idea of what your nutrition looks like on average. It would be unlikely that you wouldn’t need to make some changes like adding some focus foods.
Consume targeted nutrients: Things like organ meat, green vegetables, coconut oil (and other good fats) and superfoods are a great place to start.
Address nutrient deficiencies. You may need more of a nutrient to heal than if you are healthy. You may need more than the person next to you. We will talk more about specifics below.
identify and remove food intolerances.
Seek nutritional supplements or medicinal herbs that may help
Put simply (and a bit oversimplified), if you body doesn’t have the raw materials to make the chemicals that make you happy or the chemicals to keep you from being sad, then it cannot make them. Period. Even on a great diet, it can be challenging to get the nutrients necessary due to soil mineral depletion and modern stress levels. Being ill will only increase the need your body requires to heal. Most of us don’t have great diets. And depression creates a nasty cycle of craving the very foods that are harming us. We often turn to nutrient void foods like processed grains and sugar because they give us an instant boost in our brain chemicals that make us feel good for a short while but leave us depleted long-term.
Magnesium, Iodine and B Vitamins are all nutrients to examine in your quest to help your body balance it’s brain chemistry. (1) A low fat diet can also contribute to depression (2)
Magnesium helps with anxiety and stress, heal the adrenals and relax the body (necessary to heal). A deficiency or low levels are hard to recognize/diagnose through a blood test but if you have been under a lot of stress, you will need more. This stress could be physical or it could be mental. This mineral is found in green leafy veges but it is common to need to supplement when the need is higher than foods can provide. Other deficiency symptoms may or may not include constipation, anxiety, slow healing, adrenal insufficiency, or insomnia.
Iodine, famous for regulating thyroid hormone production (a sluggish thyroid can cause symptoms that affect mood. This would still be applicable even if your tests come back “normal”. Anger, for example, is not an uncommon side effect from thyroid inefficiencies. Some say that anger and depression are the same emotion. Depression is anger turned inward. (This may explain why more women are depressed. They often don’t feel permission to express anger). Modern American diets are often low in Iodine. Even if you use iodized salt, it is better utilized by the body from a whole food source such as seaweeds or shellfish. This nutrient is not for everybody and should be used with caution or direction from your doctor if you suffer from thyroid disease.
B Vitamins are necessary for neurological function and can affect stress, anxiety and depression. They fuel the brain and the nervous system. It is not uncommon to be lacking these vitamins, especially in those with an mthfr gene mutation (50% of the population). This can be especially problematic if you have been supplementing with synthetic vitamins as they can then cause increased anxiety in these individuals. Even if you choose to supplement, it is best to get these from whole foods such as this one here. (check ingredients to make sure it is compatible with your dietary needs or restrictions and your body) If you can find a whole food one that is liquid, then that would be even better. (liquids are more available and therefore better absorbed)
Vitamin D3 Also called the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is actually a hormone. It is created by the body when exposure to sun turns our cholesterol into the hormone. Low levels can result in an inadequate immune system and also in seasonal defective disorder. This is when the depression only shows up during low sun exposure months (winter). But the same thing can contribute to depression year round as a result of sunscreen use (anything over an spf 8 blocks your vitamin D absorption), and low exposure (like when you work inside all day). With our modern lives, this makes it a challenge to get enough any time of the year. Sun exposure also has a lot to do with our energy and circadian rhythms (whether or not we are night or morning people). I prefer that people get this from the sun instead of a supplement when possible. Fair skinned people need 45 minutes a week of sun exposure and dark-skinned people need about 2 hours a week of sun exposure. Generally, I recommend people aim for 20 minutes up to an hour a day. A supplement is recommended when daily outside exposure is unavailable.
Other nutritional deficiencies (or for some, low levels) include zinc, selenium, iron, amino acids, and folate. (3) and healthy fats like omega 3’s, dha and epa.
Low fat diets are fairly new in our society. Just 100 years ago, we ate whole foods with their natural fat levels. We didn’t “create” new foods by separating the fat from the milk or processing corn to create our oils. We cooked in lard, ate eggs and beef with what came from our garden and didn’t think about fat, a necessary nutrient for many bodily functions. A lack of fat can cause a malfunction in almost every cell in your body and especially your brain cells, which are mostly fat. Pastured cows (and other animals that are eating their natural diet, not corn or other grain), wild fish, leafy greens at most meals (which most of us rarely eat), nuts and seeds: these all contain necessary fats for brain function. Omega 3 fats (found in those foods) are linked to better mood regulation in studies. Specifically, EPA and DHA fats are called out as necessary. (2) Dr. Terry Wahls mentions that fat is a necessary component in brain function and actually uses these foods and also MCT sources (including coconut oil and palm oil) to heal the brain. (4) I can attest from my own experience (Her protocol has also been through clinical trials and is used in her own traumatic brain injury clinic on patients with MS, Parkinson’s, ALS, brain injury and more) that this is very helpful.
Balancing Blood Sugar
When blood sugar is constantly spiking and/or dropping, it can aggravate moods. While this alone can make someone moody, it can aggravate the moods of someone who is depressed even greater. It can attribute to manic depressive disorder, depression, anxiety and concentration as well as inflammation. When blood sugar spikes it may feel good or even feel like a “high” for some people. For others, they may feel a little “off”. Whether or not it is spiked by primarily fructose or glucose may affect which of these two feelings the person gets from a blood sugar spike. For some people, sugar may make them feel high but an apple, which is higher in fructose than it is sucrose, can make that same person feel “funny” or “off”.
When the blood sugar crashes, one can also have a wide range of reactions. For example, a person may get tired, or cranky, or even sad. An extreme drop in blood sugar could even cause psychosis, hysterics, or extreme feelings of “fading” or feeling “faint” (or worse in very extreme cases).
Dr. Daniel Amen, neuropsychiatrist and author, talks about balancing blood sugar to control brain chemistry and refers to The Zoneprinciples to help specific brain chemistry. This method of balancing proteins, carbohydrates and fats at each meal or snack is a method used to control blood sugar, inflammation, health and performance through controlling and managing the chemical processes of the body.
Several things can cause nuero-inflammation. Injury, body chemistry, and toxins can cause neuro-inflammation and dysfunction. Food intolerances and MSG are an example of toxins in the brain, especially gluten and dairy. Leaky gut (see gut health) can lead to leaky brain and allow food particles that were never meant to reach the brain get past the blood brain barrier and cause inflammation and dysfunction in the brain chemistry.
Environmental toxins can also do this, especially if you have MTHFR gene mutation, which is present in 50% of our population. Not all of this will lead to depression as it may inflame another part of the brain or body but depending on the toxin and the person, damage may incur. It can also occur due to viruses. This list is not exhaustive.
Body chemistry could also cause dysfunction. This may be because of an imbalance in hormones, a nutrient deficiency, or result of a dysfunctional gland or body system such as the gut or the HPA axis, or central nervous system.
Toxins are in our soil, our furniture, our cosmetics and toiletries, and even our walls. They are getting into our body and causing inflammation everywhere, including our brains. They are affecting our gut health and burdening our liver, and even traveling to our brain and causing inflammation and havoc there. The burden on our liver taking precious energy away from expelling the toxins our body normally makes as a part of daily existence. We are consuming so many that it is more than our body can handle and therefore we store them. While we cannot rid our environment of all toxins, we can reduce our toxic exposure by choosing organic foods, non-toxic products and supporting our body’s detoxification pathways by eating the right foods. The Wahl’s Protocol is a great protocol that addresses this need by recommending daily requirements of detoxing foods. Additionally, doing regular detox protocols are also a great way to help our body’s out in our modern environments.
Hormonal Imbalances (including Adrenal Fatigue)
I had a client who had a history of sometimes severe depression. This woman had also suffered from chronic adrenal fatigue for decades but had experienced a full reversal of her depression (for the first time ever) when she was first treated for Adrenal Fatigue. Although she later had to address other factors to maintain this progress (because those factors became bad enough to contribute to her tendency towards depression), it gave her a major breakthrough in what she considered to be a “genetic” and therefore permanent burden on her life. Supporting her adrenals are apart of her continuing protocol.
This imbalance was affecting her ability to deal with stress and when she was under stress she felt she was in a situation that was more than she could handle. As you could imagine, this sense of having “more to bear than you can handle” can lead to feelings of hopelessness and overwhelm which so often are the description of depression. This led to a cycle of stress, anxiety, depression and related symptoms and problems.
Other hormones will also play a role. Hormones are neurotransmitters. You will see a mood shift in puberty and menopause and any change in life because our bodies are complex hormonal machines. The wrong shift in these chemicals and all hell breaks loose (just witness a 13 year old when her blood sugar is low and she has bad pms!). The not-so-funny thing about these things is that if you throw off one of these things, it throws off a whole chain of them. Adrenal Fatigue, for example, throws off insulin, cortisol, and thyroid hormones. So then you have AF, the thyroid is not functioning at its prime (even if it is normal) In addition, sugar handling such as hypoglycemia enters the picture. Hypoglycemia by itself causes fluctuations in mood and an inability to stabilize energy. Then you add that the adrenal glands cannot make the nuero-transmitters for the hypothalamus and pituitary to function at its prime. These two now under-supplied parts of the brain are sitting right in the middle of the part of the brain that is responsible for our outlook on life. That alone is a recipe for disaster without external stressors. Add the right stress and it becomes disaster. (5)
Since all hormones are made from cholesterol, it is necessary to have both adequate levels of cholesterol to create good hormonal health. Hormones have a LOT to do with moods. Another reason to have a balance of both macro- and micro- nutrients.
Let’s also look at estrogen. Estrogen dominance is rampant in our culture and is often paired with low progesterone. Add in xeno-estrogens that we ingest from factory farmed foods, soy, plastics, and cosmetics and the relationship between these 2 becomes even more off balance. I remind you that it is not uncommon to have all the hormones mentioned in this section off balance in the same person.
Often fatigue both comes with depression and can aggravate depression. This can be a result of the aforementioned stress on the adrenals, a suppressed immune system (common in Adrenal Fatigue, Chronic viruses, Thyroid disease, and Autoimmune Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and much more) by itself can cause fatigue. Supporting Adrenals, Immune System, and the thyroid with targeted nutrition can often help with fatigue. This is a little more specific than “eating right and exercising” (although that is a good idea also).
Stress is a major factor in depression and addressing this means learning stress management techniques, making hard choices to remove sources of stress from our lives, and drawing boundaries can all be examples of how to reduce stress. Nutrition, exercise appropriate for your body, and supporting the adrenals (even if you do not have adrenal fatigue) are all parts of this part of the picture.
Anxiety and ANTS/Getting stuck in the ugly cycle.
Dr. Daniel Amen talks about ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) and how we get stuck in these cycles of negative thoughts. They start as a survival mechanism. This part of our brain tries to protect ourself from harm by always being on guard for something that may cause us harm but then our brain rewires itself to think this way all the time.
Anxiety is defined as fear of things that have not happened yet. So if you are anxious you are living in the future and if you are angry, then you are living in the past. Starting a mindfulness practice to literally “practice” being “present” can aid in changing this mindset. Take time to check in with “right now”: I use the “who what when where and why” trick to help myself do this.
Who:It reminds me that I am me, and not what someone says I am.
What: I am not what I did or didn’t do in the past.
When: It reminds me that I am here today not tomorrow or a year ago
Where: I am in this room not in a state of danger or under attack
Why: I am hear because I chose to leave that situation or be here at this time. I can choose where I am at any time.
It sounds ridiculously mundane and simple but it removes my thoughts from the past or future and puts me in a room where I am completely safe and my true self. But I have to consciously choose where my mind is at those times.
So What should you do?
Let’s go back to that first list: 1. Gut Health, 2. Brain health, 3. Hormonal Balancing and 4.Address Nutritional needs. More specifically it would be:
Test for gut health issues with your functional or integrative health care provider. While you are there get tested for other underlying health issues like adrenal fatigue and hormone imbalances.
Heal the Gut and then Support Gut Health continually for the rest of your life.
Try an Elimination Diet to see if food intolerances are playing a role
Eat a nutrient dense diet full of whole, unaltered foods in their natural, original forms. Get adequate but not excessive amount of healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates and exercise.
Eat to balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation.
Support Detoxification of your body by eating sulphurous and green vegetables daily like the Wahl’s Protocol Suggests. Add a detoxification protocol to your routine regularly whether one day a week, one weekend a month or a full 2 to 4 week protocol each 3 months. Do this under the direction of your health coach and/or medical practitioner.
Focus on foods that are specific to your body’s needs. Your health history should give some clues as to what those are. A little research can help you find the foods you really need. (see resources for a start)
Enlist help if needed. A functional medicine doctor, a holistic health practitioner and a health coach are all great places to start this journey. A coach can both work with your doctor/practitioner and help you with your journey.
Foods to Definitely Avoid:
Some foods can specifically cause problems in people such as (3)
Gluten-can cause neuroinflammation in many
Dairy– can cause neuro-inflammation in many
Caffeine– stimulates and burdens the adrenals, therefore creating a cycle of low energy and mood disruption that only increases problems long term. Consider caffeine to be “borrowed energy”. It is not a replacement for listening to your body and giving your body what is asking for when it is tired.
Refined Sugar– creates blood sugar instability and makes it hard to control mood and brain chemistry. It is also devoid of nutrients.
Refined flours and starches– Your body metabolizes these similar to sugar. They also are low in nutrients. This includes “whole grain” processed foods like pasta, crackers and cereals.
Processed and Factory Farmed Fats and Oils– This includes cottonseed, canola, soy, corn, canola, rapeseed, and fats from factory farmed or conventionally raised animals. These fats are full of toxins and highly processed with chemicals and can create neuro-inflammation.
A Note about fats: I would caution about eating “bad fats”. The information concerning missing fats from our diet should be used to encourage high quality fat sources but is not an excuse to gorge yourself on factory farmed fatty cuts of meat. (yes, you may find it delicious!) The toxins from conventional farm feed (full of pesticides) stores in the fat and bones of the animal. So If you cannot get organic or pesticide free, grass-fed meats, then lean cuts may still be the best for your health. Also, moderation is key in any macro-nutrient (this term refers to fat, carbohydrate or protein). Too much or too little of anything is not good.
Soy– and endocrine disruptor, it can throw off your body’s ability to regulate its own chemistry.
Supplements to ask your health care practitioner about:
Note: please consult an herbalist, a functional medicine doctor or other healthcare provider before using any medication, or removing a medication from your regimen. One man’s cure is another man’s poison. Depression is nothing to mess around with!
Fish oilcontaining EPA and DHA- to promote proper brain function and health
5-htp– taking this may help your body to address a serotonin deficiency
SAMe– often used for depression
St. John’s Wort– increases a sense of well-being.
Turmeric– some claim for this to be as effective as antidepressants
Coconut oil– helps repair and increase brain function
Magnesium– helps the body heal, enter healing states and relax.
B Complex– important for neurological health and moods
Vitamin D– deficiencies are related to depression and immune function
Saffron– shown to help with depression
Deal with the Pa
If you suffer from depression, it can be a long journey to find a solution that is best for your situation. My own involved both things from above as well as some intensive therapy for childhood and family dynamics. So that is one thing that is not mentioned above that is helpful. There can be a lot of unresolved self-blame, shame, anxiety and anger based on fears or events from the past Talking alone will not help someone resolve these things, especially if talking about them just makes the person relive the trauma. I found that I had to analyze, forgive, meet unmet needs, create new positive experiences to replace old negative ones, and seek more answers than anyone could ever list. Journaling about my feelings was integral in becoming aware of patterns and dynamics so that I could get to the root cause of my emotions (past events or series of events) so that I could deal with that: I had to identify the root of the emotion, recognize the wrong that was done to me, choose to forgive them and find a way to heal the person that went through it so that I could accept it and move past it. Moving past it meant looking forward to a future that didn’t involve repeating those dynamics and didn’t involve anyone that would do to me things like what had been done. I had to look at my own choices and make better ones and I even had to cut some people out of my life in order to protect my future. I also had to deal with feelings about myself: cutting out the negative thoughts those experiences had imbedded in my mind and instead replace those thoughts with the truth: this also meant I had to find those truths.
I hope this helps someone in their journey. If it doesn’t help you then I hope someone does help you. I encourage you to never give up hope and never stop looking for the answer. I truly believe it is out there for the finding. If you like this content and would like to receive other health related articles, recipes and offers to help you on your journey, please sign up for the newsletter at the top of the page. Feel free to email me or comment below with any feedback; I love to hear from my readers! I also encourage you to check out my related post on Anxiety solutions. Anxiety can often trigger depression. Even if you don’t have anxiety, the suggestions and solutions for that will often help depression. Here is the link.
One of the first things I suggest when someone is suffering from chronic illness is an elimination diet. We do this for various reasons. Certain foods are known for causing certain symptoms just as some are known for aiding in healing symptoms. (Check out this video for natural solutions to pain) I constantly see people who are dealing with chronic pain and these same people are trying to “eat healthy” but it is clear to me that they don’t know what that means for theirbody, especially when every time they are in pain they just posted a picture of their food on Facebook. It doesn’t take long for me to see that every time they are in pain, they have just posted a picture of a plate with the same food. But they are not putting it together. This is very common. Some “healthy” foods may be great foods in general but if you are dealing with chronic pain or inflammation (and if you are in chronic pain then you have chronic inflammation on some level, whether systemic or local).
So what are the foods that may be causing pain?
Potatoes, Peppers, and Tomatoes.
These foods are part of what is called the “nightshade” family of foods. Related to the infamous belladonna plant, these are notorious for causing pain associated with arthritic conditions. For a complete explanation of how these foods are connected to chronic pain and inflammation, click here. Potaotes are especially problematic as they are also have a high glycemic index and a high glycemic load. (see below for more information on this)
High glycemic foods like sugar, potatoes and grains (grains include foods like wheat and corn and rice).
When something has a high glycemic index it is metabolized fast and effects the blood sugar quickly. this number is calculated by how many carbs are in the food versus its fat and fiber content, which slow down the release of the glucose into the blood stream. A potato is lower in fiber so it goes into the bloodstream quickly, as does sugar or flours.
The glycemic load is how much the food impacts the blood sugar after it gets into the blood stream. For example. A sweet potato and shredded wheat are only slightly different in how fast they go into the blood stream but vastly different in how much they spike the blood sugar when they get there. This difference is why a sweet potato is metabolized differently than shredded wheat and why a sweet potato will not cause the inflammation that shredded wheat will cause. ( Source 1, source 2)
Dairy is notorious for causing inflammation for in the nuerological system. But its effects don’t stop there. Dairy has been tied to causing acne, mood disorders, and joint pain. While the research both supports and diffuses the argument against dairy as a cause of basic inflammation, it has been linked to specific inflammatory conditions and this controversy may be supported by the theory of bio individuality. For this reason, I suggest that the only way to know how your body reacts to any food that may or may not be causing inflammation is to remove it and observe the reaction. Then upon reintroduction, you may observe again to see if there was a change nnot observed in step one (omission) . This bio individuality is why omitting a food may be a “cure” for one person but create a deficiency in another. (3 , 4 )
Legumes- including peanuts
Legumes are always touted as a healthy food. And for some, they are healthy. But for many people they cause inflammation (6). One of the reasons for this is that traditionally, cultures have soaked and sprouted legumes to get rid of lectins. Lectins are in all foods but there are ones that are harmful and ones that are not. In legumes (and grains) there are a large amount of harmful ones, especially for those with autoimmune disease (5). Depending on the individual, you nay need to avoid this group of foods or you may be able to consume them provided you return the traditional practice of soaking and sprouting. (6) This would mean avoiding canned or frozen beans and instead buying fresh or dried beans that could then be soaked or sprouted to remove these lectins. You would then cook these beans to further reduce these toxins before consuming. I suggest omitting the food until you are pain free and then reintroducing then this way when you can observe how you respond to the food.
At the same time, beans can reduce inflammation in some people. (7)Confusing huh? For this reason, I suggest experimenting with how your body reacts to this food and soaking and sprouting the beans to get the benefits with the least amount of negatives. I also suggesting reading the links provided, as they suggest that beans are good for inflammation in the joints but may be aggravating for those with gut issues. This could be a decision to be made with a trusted healthcare advisor if you have a complex situation such as RA (gut issues and arthritic conditions) , as you would concerned about both issues.
Additional notes about the inflammatory properties of grains- and how to make it better.
Grains contain phytates and lectins. These antinutrients steal minerals from your body by preventing absorption of the very minerals you may need to reduce inflammation. Again, soaking and sprouting grains can reduce these but you will need to experiment or seek guidance to see if they are right for you. Since they are low in nutrients to begin with compared to other whole foods, I am inclined to discourage their consumption generally speaking. (5,8)
Toxins coming from food- pesticides, antibiotics, hormones
Toxins come in many forms, including food intolerances and chemicals involved in producing foods. A build up of toxins (when you have taken in more toxins than your body has been able to neutralize and dispel) can cause inflammation and pain. For this reason, I suggest that everyone buy as much organic foods as possible. If this is a stress on your finances, then I suggest taking a look at the EWG’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen, which lists the foods that contain the highest and lowest tested amounts of pesticide residue. Starting with these two list, you can start with the dirtiest foods as the ones to definitely buy organic. You can save on the clean list until if and when you are ready to take the plunge and embrace a fully organic foods diet.
GMO’s in particular, should especially be avoided as the pesticide has been engineered to be a part of the plant. This can cause an inflammatory response in the body. (5 )
Hormones and hormone like substances can also cause inflammation in those who are sensitive to the effects of these on their own endocrine system. Excess hormones or an inbalance of hormones can put a burden on our own detoxification pathways as our bodies are constantly cleaning out hormones and similar compounds as they are utilized by our body.
Food intolerances (much more common than you think).
Another form of toxins are food intolerances. This may be to some of the foods listed here and I include allergies with intolerances in this group. (see difference here). Certain foods may cause an inflammatory response in your body that are not on this list (but its a good place to start). The best way to test for this is to get a food intolerance test and/or a food allergy test. You will need to see a functional medicine doctor for these tests as they are new and I have found allopathic or traditional doctors are often unaware of recent developments in this field of medicine, as it is not taught in medical school but in continued education such as fellowships or other additional learning opportunities. Either one can cause an inflammatory response from the immune system, just in different ways. If the food that irritates your body is eaten occasionally, it may cause a “flare” while if it is a constant food source (such as wheat, corn or soy on a standard American diet) it could be causing constant pain or inflammation.
The good news is that if the food is an intolerance, omitting the food while you follow a gut healing protocol can often reverse the intolerance. Some of these foods are responsible for causing what is called “leaky gut” which can be a cause of food intolerances (a gluten intolerance, as opposed to a gluten allergy or celiac disease for example) as well as a cause for both leaky gut and the intolerance itself. So depending on the intolerance, you may be able to enjoy the food again regularly or it may be suggested to be only an occasional food after healing.
If this information is overwhelming or intimidating to you, don’t fret.
Let me simplify this for you.
Eat organic or pastured meats from trusted sources/farms.
Eating from local farms is a great way to know what you are eating. Getting to know your butcher from local markets is a great way to ensure that you can ask questions from someone who knows where their product comes from and they will often be able to contact the farmer to ask any questions to which they don’t already know the answers. Things you may want to ask are: Do you feed the animals antibiotics, hormones or pesticides? You are hoping the answer is that no unneccesary use of any of antibiotics or hormones are used and that no pesticides are used in the feed. Ideal is that the “feed” is grass (for cows) or plants and bugs (for chickens) with maybe some supplemental pesticide free feed when needed. Fish should be wild caught and pork pastured from a clean field and free of feed where pesticides are used.
Eat the best quality of fruits and vegetables you can afford- and LOTs of them- except for the ones listed above.
If you can afford all organic, then do that. If you cannot, at least “splurge” on organic for greens (readily available), tomatoes, peppers and anything where the skin will be consumed. Use the EWG’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen as a guide for when to splurge and when to save on organic. Look for sales, grow your own or barter for pesticide free brands. Some conventional brands are pesticide free but you don’t know unless you ask the farmer. This may mean something as simple as making a phone call asking a question on their Facebook page. So ask questions. ( Especially if you see the PLU code begins in a “9” but they are not officially organic!)
Try avoiding the foods that may cause pain until you see an improvement in how you feel. Then, one at a time reintroduce a food and see how you feel as you eat it. You may tolerate it fine, you may experience a flare. A flare can show up quickly or it may show up only after the food is eaten in excess or after a few days, depending on the person and how fast their body reacts to that food at that time. Keep the foods that do no harm and avoid the foods that hurt. Even if you choose to eat the foods that cause you pain, at least you are making an informed decision, choosing the bagel at the cost of a flare. This will help you gain control over your health.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions by commenting below or shoot me an email if I can answer any questions, I love hearing from my readers.
Also, if you like the content and want to know more about ways to promote health, gain control or prevent chronic illness, inflammation and related health issues, please make sure to sign up for my newsletter at the top of this page so you can receive recipes, articles and more directly to your inbox. Together, we can take your body back.
Funny story: I’m the youngest offspring of a Sicilian and Irish family. My grandfather was an immigrant from Sicily but we know little about our family history or heritage and all the elders slightly disagree on the details. I learned just a few recipes from my father and I am sure that each generation put their own spin on these recipes. When he taught me how to make this one, he told me that cacciatore meant “stew” in Italian. He was kinda wrong. It actually means “hunter” but maybe he meant “hunter’s stew” and I’m the silly goose. Either way, he makes a delicious chicken cacciatore. And now, like every generation before me, I’ve modified his recipe to make it my own version of this family tradition. It is, in my opinion, an even better than grandma’s soup: it’s the Italian grandma’s chicken soup. And as we all know, everything is better when it’s Italian, right? To make this truly paleo and allergy friendly, you will need to make sure your products are allergen free (Most contain corn or dairy or other preservatives or additives). Or you will have to make your sauce from scratch… which really isn’t that hard but that is another cooking lesson:) locate the best quality ingredients, when applicable. If you need a recommendation, I have included affiliate links for your convenience. For my full disclosure policy click here.
For my AIP followers who have not introduced tomatoes, I would sub the tomato sauce with Nomato Sauce. A recommendation was given to me for the recipe here. I would make a large batch and freeze or can my own for future uses. Marinara is so versatile, it is definitely something to make in a large batch!
You will need
A large stock pot
One half of a whole chicken, cut into parts.
1 quart bone broth
2 quarts tomato sauce. I used store bought spaghetti sauce with no added sugar, corn, gluten, dairy or preservatives (this is one) but you can also use canned tomato sauce with no added ingredients. (this one is free of additives). Of course, for the elimination phase of AIP, use the Nomato Marinara Sauce mentioned above with link provided.
1/2 to 1 tbs. dried oregano (or to taste).
1/2 to 1 tbs. dried basil (or to taste)
the lesser amount is for mild and the greater amount is for more zesty
If using Nomato Sauce, then it is probably already seasoned but if you want to add more to taste, use your best judgement. This goes for both of the herbs above as well as the onions and garlic.
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt (unless your bone broth is already salted)
5 large cloves fresh chopped garlic
8 cups vegetables. I used the measurements that follow: but any combination of the vegetables that you like are good.
2 cups onions or leeks
4 cups zucchini- can be chopped or made into zucchini noodles that are added approximately 10 to 20 minutes before eating time.
2 cups broccoli
Note: I added more vegetables the next day to the second half (another four cups with only half the “sauce” in the pot) and 8 more ounces of chicken- they wouldn’t fit until the first round of vegetables shrunk as a result of cooking.
This is one of the easiest things you will ever cook. You will literally just put everything in a stock pot and bring to a medium simmer with slight bubbling then turn to low and put a lid on. You will let it simmer on low for 1 to 2 hours, until the chicken is falling off the bone. Alternatively, You could cook this in a crockpot on low for 4 to 6 hours. As with most recipes based on tomatoes, it is always even better the second time you eat it, so make plenty and eat on it (or freeze it) for a second meal. Top with some sautéed spinach, kale or collard greens and you have a complete bowl of healing, comforting nutrition.
I hope you enjoy this (I know you will ) and I guarantee it will be a family crowd pleaser! So grab a bowl, snuggle up with your family and enjoy this warm bowl of comfort food.
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