The Brain/Body Connection: Stress

How are your New Year health resolutions going?  Are you staying focused?  A healthy body requires a healthy brain.  Chronic stress can interfere with both.

Chronic stress constricts blood flow to the brain, which can lower brain function.  A Canadian study showed that stress hormones decreased activity in the brain that controls cognitive function and emotional balance.  This makes it harder to stay focused and make healthy decisions.

Stress increases cortisol levels.  One study showed that older adults with chronically high levels of cortisol performed worse on memory tests than those with low to moderate cortisol levels.

Chronic stress and high cortisol levels are linked to an increase in appetite and cravings for carbohydrates and sweets.

Stress can interfere with sleep, and a lack of sleep (less than seven hours per night) can trigger an increase in cortisol and interfere with hormones that control appetite.

Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, digestive disorders, and weaken the immune system.

Stress can make you feel tired and less inclined to exercise.  A lack of exercise can decrease blood flow to the brain.  On the flip side, too much exercise can promote physical stress.

Some ideas for managing chronic stress:

  1.  Prayer has been shown to calm stress and improve brain function.  Studies point out that prayer reduces depression and anxiety, improves focus, and protects the brain from cognitive decline due to aging.  Prayer seems to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex part of the brain, the area involved in planning, making decisions, and self-control.  “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”  Isaiah 26:3.  “Give all your worries to God, for He cares about you.”  1 Peter 5:7
  2. Uplifting music can calm the mind and body.
  3. Lavender has been researched and shown to reduce cortisol levels and promote relaxation.  Add it to a bath or diffuser.  I like to buy small glass bottles with roller tops to make lavender oil to rub onto wrists or temples to help calm stress.  It may even help to lower blood pressure.
  4. Laughter really is the best medicine!  “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”  Proverbs 17:22.  Laughter releases feel-good hormones and helps reduce dangerous stress hormones.
  5. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps increase serotonin and/or dopamine, which act as natural anti-depressants.  L-theanine can also be found in supplement form but should not be taken by pregnant women or nursing mothers.
  6. Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.  Negative thoughts produce stress!  “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8.
  7. Eat foods high in B-vitamins to help with mood and stress.  They also help metabolize fats, which are needed for brain health.  Whole grains, nuts, seeds, brown rice, and nutritional yeast are some good sources of B-vitamins.  A healthy balance of good intestinal bacteria helps the body make B-vitamins.

Keep learning to be healthy!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist & Health Coach

1 Corinthians 10:31–“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory!”

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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need. Consult your health care provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.

 

 

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A healthy lifestyle is the best detox!

After the holidays, we seem to instinctively know that we need to detox.  There are many popular detoxes on the market, but in my opinion, a lifestyle detox is the best choice.

There’s nothing wrong with a short-term cleanse, like juicing or using special detox aids (apple cider vinegar, activated charcoal, bentonite clay, aloe vera juice, chlorophyll, etc.), to help us push the reset button and head in a healthier direction.  These aids an also help us recover from a health crisis (food poisoning, virus, bacterial infection, etc.).  A cold or flu is one way the immune system cleans out toxins, which are eliminated through the colon, kidneys, lymphatic system, skin, and lungs.

On the down side, if a detox causes an overload of toxins to be released from the cells into the bloodstream, you can feel pretty lousy.  Some people may even get too sick, because their bodies aren’t strong enough to eliminate an influx of toxins.  Once the crisis has passed, without the support of a healthy lifestyle, toxins will continue to accumulate and affect our health, including weight loss.

Eat foods that naturally detoxify the body.  Add a serving of sulfur-rich foods to your daily diet.  These include eggs, garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, arugula, watercress, and radish).  Eat a minimum of 25 grams of fiber each day from whole foods.  This will help bind toxins and move them through the colon before they can enter the bloodstream.

Drink enough pure water to help dilute and eliminate toxins.  Add some lemon to aid the liver.

Replace unhealthy fats (hydrogenated and refined oils) with healthy fats at every meal.  Avocados, coconut, olives, olive oil, flax oil, fish, nuts, and seeds, are some good choices.  This will help reduce inflammation in the body.

Eat healthy protein at each meal to help build a strong immune system.

Eliminate refined sugar from your diet for 10 days and see what happens!  You’ll have to avoid most processed foods and become a label reading detective.  This one step alone, especially when accompanied by the above recommendations, will go a long way toward improving your health!

Make a plan to manage stress from all sources:  emotional, physical (lack of or too much exercise, lack of sleep, toxic food and personal care products, environmental toxins, etc.), mental, and spiritual.

These are some good first steps to creating a healthy lifestyle detox!  It’s easier when you have some ongoing support, so I’ve created a Facebook support group for this purpose.  It’s free, and you’re invited to join if you want to connect with others to give and receive support and encouragement for your health journey.  I’ll pop in to answer your health questions and post health-related information, and it will also be a great place to share healthy recipes and tips for staying healthy.  We can also pray for each other.  (Please don’t use the group for soliciting products or services.)

Here’s the link to join:  www.facebook.com/groups/learningtobehealthywithlisa.  You’ll need to click on “join” to be part of the group.  The group is closed, so any posts will be seen by members only.

Keep learning to be healthy!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist & Health Coach

1 Corinthians 10:31–“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory!”

www.learningtobehealthy.com

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need. Consult your health care provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.

Date nut bread–a delicious and healthy Christmas treat!

Date nut bread is one of my favorite recipes that can be eaten for breakfast, dessert, or as a healthy snack.  If you are gluten intolerant or don’t eat wheat, substitute the whole wheat flour with almond flour or coconut flour.  If you don’t care for pecans, try walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, etc.

The recipe:

2 eggs (whole or just the whites)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or expeller-pressed grape seed or avocado oil)

1/4 cup raw honey

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (or almond or coconut flour)

1/4 teaspoon mineral-rich salt (optional)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

8 ounces coarsely chopped dates

2 cups raw pecans (or other nuts)

Beat eggs with honey and oil.  Mix flour, salt, and cinnamon, then stir into egg mixture.  Fold in dates and nuts.  Grease a baking pan with oil (coconut, olive, grape seed, or avocado).  Bake at 350 degrees until toothpick inserted into batter comes out clean.  A 9 x 5 x 2-inch loaf pan takes about 45 minutes.  An 8- or 9-inch square pan takes about 25 minutes.  Cool and cut into squares or slices.

The nutritional value:

Dates, nuts, and raw honey contain boron, a trace mineral which helps boost blood levels of estrogen and other compounds that help prevent calcium loss and bone demineralization.

Dates are high in natural aspirin and have a laxative effect.  They are linked to lower rates of certain cancers, especially pancreatic cancer.

Nuts are a key food among Seventh-Day Adventists, who are known for their low rates of heart disease.  Most nuts are high in vitamin E, shown to protect against chest pain and artery damage.

Nuts and cinnamon help to regulate insulin and slow down blood sugar spikes.

Whole-grain wheat contains selenium, a trace mineral important for the immune system and thyroid.

Extra-virgin olive oil is a good source of vitamin E, making it beneficial for heart health.

Egg yolks contain vitamin D and choline, a B-complex vitamin needed for liver and brain health.

Date nut bread makes a yummy Christmas gift.  I often bake it in mini loaf pans for this purpose.

Make your holiday celebrations delicious and nutritious!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist & Health Coach

1 Corinthians 10:31–“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory!”

www.learningtobehealthy.com

www.facebook.com/learningtobehealthy

www.pinterest.com/healthywithlisa

www.learningtobehealthy.mynsp.com (Nature’s Sunshine supplements)

www.mealgarden.com/expert/lisahernandez

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need. Consult your health care provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.

Holiday scents–harmful or therapeutic!

We want our homes to smell good for the holidays, but beware of toxic chemicals!  Company is coming, and we need to hide our “home” odors.  We quickly reach for a can of fragrance to spray into the air, or maybe we light an aromatic candle.  Could these odor maskers contain toxic ingredients that may be harmful to our health and that of our friends and family?

Conventional air fresheners contain phthalates and other harmful chemicals that have been linked to infertility, brain damage, hormone disruption, cancer, respiratory problems, and other chronic illness.  Many contain isopropyl alcohol, which can adversely affect the nervous and respiratory systems.

During burning, candles made from paraffin wax generate benzene and toluene, both known to be carcinogens.  Many candles contain artificial fragrances and colors that can irritate lungs and cause inflammation.  Wicks often contain lead, a toxic heavy metal.

Instead, try a chemical-free room spray made with essential oils like frankincense and myrrh, or lemon, orange, cedar, lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, clove, or rosemary.  Zum Mist makes a wonderful line of products with ingredients pure enough to use on your body!  I found mine on Amazon.

You can also make your own air freshener by combining 4 ounces of water, 1 ounce of alcohol-free witch hazel (I like Thayer’s brand that you can buy in a drugstore), and approximately 20 drops of pure essential oils.  Shake and spray!  Tip:  You can also use witch hazel as a facial toner.

In addition to their amazing fragrance, essential oils have many therapeutic benefits.  All contain anti-microbial properties, making them useful as disinfectants against viruses and bacteria.  Many are beneficial for the respiratory system, including peppermint, eucalyptus, and frankincense.  Natural chemicals in essential oils can help relieve depression and lift spirits.  Choose those that resonate with you when you inhale them.

God’s pharmacy of essential oils include cinnamon, clove, fir, cedar, lavender, grapefruit, lemon, orange, rose, patchouli, sandalwood, spearmint, frankincense, myrrh, peppermint, wintergreen, ginger, rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, chamomile, etc.  You can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to a diffuser to fill the air with a continuous mist of aromatherapy.  Nature’s Sunshine has an amazing holiday special that includes a mini travel diffuser and 10 essential oils.

Look for candles made with lead-free wicks, made without paraffin, artificial fragrances, and dyes.  Amazon sells several varieties, including Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, which you can also find at Walmart.

Keep learning to be healthy!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist & Health Coach

Matthew 2:11–“Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

www.learningtobehealthy.com

www.learningtobehealthy.mynsp.com (Holiday essential oil kit and travel diffuser special)

www.facebook.com/learningtobehealthy

www.pinterest.com/healthywithlisa

www.mealgarden.com/expert/lisahernandez

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need. Consult your health care provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.

 

 

A favorite Thanksgiving salad recipe!

My daughter, Lisa Rae, brought this salad to our Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago, and it was a hit!  We’ve been making it ever since.  I want to share the recipe with you, along with some of its “food as medicine” health benefits.

Cranberry Spinach Salad

Combine in a lare bowl:

1 10-ounce package fresh organic spinach

1/2 cup dried cranberries

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese (optional)

1 cup pecans (raw or lightly roasted)

To roast, spread pecans in a single layer on a stainless steel baking pan, and roast in a 300-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes.  When you begin to smell the pecans, check them.  They can burn quickly.

For the dressing, whisk together:

2 tablespoons balsamic or apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon raw honey

1 teaspoon Dijon or brown mustard

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Just before serving, toss salad with dressing.

For the nutritional information, check out this link.

Health benefits:

Cranberries are beneficial for bladder and urinary tract health.  They also contain polyphenols, an antioxidant that helps preserve brain function.

Spinach contains saponins, which help to lower cholesterol.  Studies show that people who eat diets rich in saponins have lower rates of breast, prostate, and colon cancers.  Spinach also contains beta-carotene, lutein, and zeanxanthin, all found to help protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.  NOTE:  If you are predisposed to kidney stones caused by oxalates, you may need to replace the spinach with romaine lettuce, as spinach is high in oxalates.

Feta is lower in fat than some cheeses, like cheddar, and provides calcium and vitamin K2, needed to transport calcium into the bones.

Pecans are a good source of vitamin E and ellagic acid, both found to be effective against cancer.

The olive oil in the dressing is a healthy fat that helps the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K, along with lutein and zeaxanthin.

Mustard contains turmeric, which is anti-inflammatory.

Balsamic or raw apple cider vinegar aids digestion and can help control blood sugar.

Raw honey has been known to help with constipation and diarrhea, as well as ease ulcer pain.

Black pepper helps with nutrient absorption.

I hope you have a blessed and healthy Thanksgiving celebration!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist & Health Coach

1 Thessalonians 5:18–“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

www.learningtobehealthy.com

www.learningtobehealthy.mynsp.com

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www.pinterest.com/healthywithlisa

www.mealgarden.com/expert/lisahernandez (Find the Cranberry Spinach Salad recipe and its nutritional information here.)

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need. Consult your healthcare provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.

Some of my favorite cold and flu remedies!

  •  Echinacea is an immune stimulant and blood purifier.  This herb works with your immune system to fight off viruses and bacteria.  It’s not recommended for those with autoimmune disorders, those taking medications to lower their immune system response, or for anyone that is allergic to plants in the daisy family.  Echinacea is best taken at the first sign of illness, and then discontinued after seven to ten days.
  • Colloidal silver is my go-to for home and travel to kill all manner of viruses and bacteria.  It’s a good choice for those who can’t take echinacea, because it doesn’t stimulate the immune system.  You can learn more about colloidal silver from my blog post:  My home and travel first-aid essential:  Colloidal Silver.
  • Oscilloccoccinum by Boiron is a homeopathic remedy that helps reduce the duration and severity of flu-like symptoms, including body aches, headache, fever, chills, and fatigue.  It’s sold in many drugstores and grocery stores.  I bought mine on sale at Whole Foods.
  • Elderberry has been shown to shorten the duration of cold and flu viruses.  You can find it as tea, syrup, tincture, capsules, or chewables.  I buy Elderberry D3Fense from Nature’s Sunshine for myself, which combines elderberry and vitamin D3 in capsule form.  I keep Sunshine Heroes Elderberry Immune Soft Chews on hand for my grandkids.  Elderberry is good to take for prevention, especially when you know you’ll be in large groups of people (school, church, events, etc.).
  • Peppermint leaf tea is wonderful to have on hand for fever, nausea, and congestion.  Buy organic and sweeten with a little raw honey.
  • Ginger root tea helps reduce inflammation and nausea.  You can also buy ginger root capsules.
  • Raspberry leaf tea is one of my grandchildren’s favorite.  It’s a good remedy to help calm diarrhea.  Again, organic is best.
  • Salt water gargle to reduce sore throat irritation.  Stir about 1/2 teaspoon of salt into about four ounces of water, warm enough to dissolve salt.  Gargle each mouthful for several seconds, and then spit it out.  Do this every one or two hours, as needed.  Salt is a powerful anti-microbial.  Never gargle with hot water!
  • Aloe vera juice helps to calm the stomach and acts as a mild laxative.
  • Essential oils to diffuse into the air, bath, or shower.  One to three drops is all it takes.  Too much can overwhelm your system.  Add three drops to your bath or shower to create a “steam room” effect.  Diffuse a few drops into the air with an aromatherapy diffuser to help kill airborne viruses.  Mix one to three drops with one tablespoon of a carrier oil (olive oil, almond oil, or coconut oil) and rub onto chest, back, or feet.  Keep away from eyes!  Before applying essential oils to large areas of the body, first test for a reaction by applying one drop (mixed with carrier oil) to the inside of your wrist and waiting for 20 minutes.  If you have redness, itching, swelling, or any other unfavorable reaction, wipe off the essential oil with a carrier oil (olive, coconut, or almond), and do not proceed to use that essential oil.
  • Lavender is anti-viral, calming, and good for fevers.
  • Thyme and eucalyptus are both anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and especially useful in cases of respiratory congestion.  Research at the University of Brighton, East Sussex, found that thyme essential oil could kill MRSA, a form of staph that is resistant to regular antibiotics.  This study was published in the International Journal of Essential Oil Therapeutics in 2010.

TIP:  Add some fresh thyme to your Thanksgiving turkey!  It contains vitamins A, B, and C.

  • Garlic has been proven over and over to be effective against viruses and bacteria.  Add fresh garlic to your food often during cold and flu season.  Garlic oil has been successfully used in cases of ear infections.  Here’s my “knock-it-out” recipe for when I feel like I’m coming down with something, especially if my throat feels scratchy:
  • Mix three to five cloves of fresh-pressed garlic with a teaspoon of raw honey and some cayenne pepper to taste.  Eat it from the spoon, or spread onto apples slices or sprouted whole-grain toast or crackers. (Don’t worry about the odor–no one needs to be kissing you!)

Keep learning to be healthy!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist & Health Coach

1 Corinthians 10:31–“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory!”

 

Healthy Holidays–Mindful Eating Tips!

Celebrating the holidays comes with a certain amount of feasting.  Enjoying God’s abundance, especially when we enjoy it with others, is among life’s greatest pleasures!  Unfortunately, too much feasting can turn a joyful celebration into days or weeks of uncomfortable recovery.

Eating too much puts stress on your body.

Food sensitivities can often result from eating too much at one time.

Food sensitivities can lead to health problems, like indigestion, headaches, joint pain, skin rashes, depression, sinus problems, achy muscles, weight gain, and fluid retention.  You might even feel like you have a cold or the flu!

Here’s some tips for enjoying the holiday abundance without sacrificing your health:

  1.  Don’t “save up” for the big meal or party food by not eating.  This makes it easier to overeat and is harder on digestion.  Instead, eat a healthy snack an hour or two before the event.
  2. Eat smaller amounts more often than too much all at once.  Pay attention to portion sizes (see Mindful Eating Tips).
  3. Consider taking plant-based digestive enzymes to help you handle bigger meals.  I carry Papaya Mint chewables in my purse as a natural digestive aid.  (They also make a nice hostess gift.)
  4. Consider taking a multi-strain probiotic capsule at bedtime to support the good bacteria in your intestinal tract.  Too much sugar and alcohol can cause an imbalance, which affects digestion and the immune system.
  5. Avoid eating when stressed, and practice mindful eating.  Download the free Mindful Eating Tips PDF.

Keep learning to be healthy!

Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist & Health Coach

1 Corinthians 10:31–“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory!”

www.learningtobehealthy.com

www.learningtobehealthy.mynsp.com (Papaya Mint, Proactazyme Plus, Probiotic Eleven)

www.facebook.com/learningtobehealthy

www.pinterest.com/healthywithlisa

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need. Consult your health care provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.