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Do you feel like there is not enough hours in the day? Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Or, do you feel that your stress levels are low but you get pretty tired around mid-day? Life stressors can have a silent impact on physical and mental health, but they don’t have to.
2012 has been an amazing year so far. I graduated from medical school, married the Love of my Life, moved from BC to the East Coast, I am becoming a new father at the end of November, and I am starting my practice as a naturopathic doctor in January 2013. These are all welcomed changes and have brought me lots of happiness, therefore you would expect my stress levels and the impact of stress on my life to be low, right? However, when I just completed the Life Stress Test my score was is rated in the ‘high stress range’ stating that I have a “90 percent chance of developing an illness.” How could this be, I don’t feel stressed?
According to Dr. Holmes and Dr. Rahe, the original researchers who designed the Life Stress Test, any change, positive or negative, is perceived by the body as stressful. For example, getting married (one of the happiest moments of my life) is considered more stressful to the body than getting fired (50 points vs 47 points, respectively). Or, the moment everyone is waiting for and counting down to, retirement, is considered more stressful to the body than if your spouse was diagnosed with cancer (45 points vs 39 points, respectively). Therefore, it is important to have a few key stress management techniques to handle all life’s changes and stressors, even if they appear to be positive.
So how do you not let stress or life’s events impact your health? There are negative ways of coping and there are positive ways.
Negative ways will reduce stress in the short-term, but the hidden stress will still have an impact on your health long term.
Some common negative ways of coping with stressors are:
- numbing ourselves with TV, internet, and busyness
More positive ways to deal with the stress in your life, and to help prevent the impact to your health include:
- daily physical movement
- spending time in nature, outdoors, or somewhere that makes you feel relaxed & calm
- eating a healthy diet
- improving time management skills
- regular meditation and breathing exercises (as little as 5 minutes/day can be helpful when they are done regularly)
- improving the quality of the important relationships in your life
I know, I know…you already knew these…..but are you doing them?
What is your Life Stress Score?
Follow the link to take the questionnaire: http://www.healthcentral.com/sleep-disorders/stress-test-3454-143.html
It’s important to choose organic produce, meat & dairy as often as possible to reduce pesticide exposure and toxic overload on the body. (more on this to come)
Follow this link to learn about which veggies & fruits on the ‘2014 Dirty dozen and Clean 15 List’ http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
Foods to Help Liver Detox
- Lemon & water – add juice of ½ a lemon to 1 cup of warm water and drink in the morning. Helps stimulate bile production and gets digestion moving.
- Garlic & onions – have sulfur compounds that are necessary in liver detoxification
- Cruciferous veggies – brocolli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts all have compounds that help neutralize toxins & make glutathione (antioxidant for the liver)
- Asparagus, watermelon, brocolli – sources of glutathione
- Beets – are purifying to the blood
- Berries – blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries – all are high in antioxidants. Choose organic as much as possible to avoid pesticide intake
- Apples – high in fiber and pectin, which helps liver detox & malic acid to strengthens the cell’s energy-producers, the mitochondria
- Green leafys – think romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, etc – are all high in antioxidants and slightly bitter to stimulate digestion
- Artichoke – increases bile production and is helpful in liver detox
- Turmeric, dill, caraway – a great spice to add to cooking to help liver detox effects
- Green tea– contains catechins to help neutralize toxins
- Healthy oils – fish oil, flaxseed oil
- Purified, filtered, or spring water – contains the least amount of potential toxins
- Eat organic as much as possible – to reduce toxic load on the liver
Foods to Avoid
- Saturated fats (meat, cheese, eggs) & hydrogenated oils (margarine, shortening) – obstructs the liver’s ability to function properly
- Sugars & refined carbohydrates (white flour, sweeteners, dried fruit) – causes instable blood sugar levels which makes your liver work harder to keep it stable
- Caffeine – interferes with liver enzyme activity
- Alcohol, tobacco, food preservatives – all slow the liver’s ability to function properly
- Try to eat dinner 2 hours or more before bed. If you are hungry before bed, have a snack with protein. For example, apple or toast with nut butter, cereal with yogurt or milk, yogurt with fruit or cottage cheese, 5-8 crackers with goat cheese.
- Do something relaxing before bed – set aside 20 mins of time to have a hot bath or shower to help relax your muscles and slow down. Add lavender essential oil to your bath for added relaxation effects. Or do a visualization with deep breathing such as this one: Sit or lay in a comfortable, quiet position. Take 10-15 deep belly breaths (in through your nose, out through your mouth) while clearing your mind. Visualize a blue sky and any thoughts that come into your mind are white clouds. Watch the white clouds float by your gaze without putting emotion or attention onto it. When you get distracted, come back to the breath. Focusing on the feeling of the air passing over the end of your nostrils.
- Black out any light in your room (streetlights, alarm clock, electronics) so that you can maximize your production of melatonin, which is necessary for natural sleep-wake cycles.
- Spend time each day out in the sun – walking, exercising, listening to music, reading your book, forest bathing (taking a walk in the forest with no cell phone, ipod or other stimulus).
- Turn off the TV & computer 1 hour before bed to journal, read, stretch, chat with family, draw, do deep breathing, meditation, bathing, spending time with the cat, progressive relaxation exercise, visualize your goals and future, write in your gratitude journal (5 things that you are grateful for today – can be as simple as someone opening the door for you).
- Get a night-light for bathroom & hallway so you don’t have to turn on the light to pee in the middle of the night.
Check out http://thehealthyshopper.ca/e-coupons for coupons on natural health products and food. You need to become a member to get the coupons, but there is no fee. And the coupons are valid anywhere in Canada. You can also pick up the 2013-2014 coupon book at the Moncton Naturopathic Medical Clinic.
These coupons are great to save on grocery items you buy each week or to save on a new product you’ve been looking to try!
Health food stores & grocery stores (even Bulk Barn!) accept these coupons.
Coupons that we frequently use are:
—- $0.75 off Blue Diamond Nut Thins
—- $1 off Nature’s Path or EnviroKidz cereal (they have wonderfully tasty & crunchy gluten-free cereals such as Millet Rice & Mesa Sunrise, or whole grain cereals such as Heritage Crunch and Flax Plus)
—- $0.75 off Olympic yogurt (if you haven’t tried the French Vanilla flavour, you’ve got to give it a taste and let us know what you think! We very very rarely go a day without it in our fridge.)
—- $3 off Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
—- $1 off So Delicious products (includes coconut based products such as Coconut yogurt & ice cream)
Murray and Diane Tweedie own the Wildberry Blueberry Meadows Farm in Kouchibouguac, NB. You can find them at the Dieppe Farmer’s Market http://www.marchedieppemarket.com/home.cfm each Saturday morning from 7am-1:30pm. They have a unique farm with acres & acres of wild blueberries. They sell frozen blueberries & fresh (when in season), and are famous for their wild blueberry juice – which is definitely something to talk about! Here we froze the juice in ice cube trays to use in smoothies or to eat on their own (a frequent pregnancy craving!)
CREAMY PESTO PASTA (gluten-free)
This recipe is a favorite in our household – definitely a once per week dish (at least!). It’s easy to make and is so satisfying with the perfect combination of mixed greens, pasta, and creamy pesto. The ingredients list may look daunting but it’s only because this dish is loaded with tasty veggies! And in the end, this dish is very versatile – you can use any combination veggies that you have on hand and it will be delicious.
- 1 package of your choice of pasta or spaghetti noodles*, cooked
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ purple onion, chopped finely
- 1 cup broccoli, chopped (use both floret & stem)
- 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (ideally organic – it’s high on the Dirty Dozen List)
- 6 sprigs of asparagus, chopped into 1” slices
- 6 mini portabello mushrooms, sliced thin
- ½ cup plain organic yogurt (optional)
- ½ – 1 cup your favourite homemade or store-bought pesto
- baby mixed greens – spinach, mustard greens, baby kale, arugula, frisee, mizuna
- handful cherry tomatoes, halved
- green onions, for garnish (optional)
Optional addition for meat or meat alternative:
- 1 chicken breast, cut into 1” cubes, cooked
- 12-18 small prawns, deveined & shelled and cut in half, cooked
- ½ block extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2” cubes sauteed in 1 Tbsp each olive oil & soy sauce
*Feel free to use any type of penne or long thin noodle… Try Tinkyada brown rice fettucini or spaghetti, TruRoots Ancient Grains Spaghetti, Prairie Harvest linguine or spaghetti, or TruRoots Penne (available at Costco) to keep it gluten-free. Or, you can use whole wheat spaghetti, spaghettini, or linguine if gluten is not a worry in your household
– Prepare pasta by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Break uncooked pasta in half and add to boiling water, along with a pinch of salt. Turn heat to medium-high and let boil for 7-10 mins, or until el dente. Drain & put aside when done.
– In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add all veggies into the pan and sautee until veggies are tender (but still a little crunchy) – about 7-8 mins.
– Turn heat down to low, add yogurt & pesto to veggies. Add pasta and stir to coat.
– Arrange baby mixed greens on a large plate. Add halved tomatoes on top of greens. Top this mixture with pasta & veggie mix, optional garnish, and serve while hot.