Vitamin D, Immune Health and COVID-19 Risk
Beyond cautionary measures like proper hand washing, masks and social distancing, your best defense against COVID-19 and influenza is a well-supported immune system. Learn how to keep it in fighting shape this season with my ongoing immune health series.
A recent comment on the national news got me so revved up it has brought me back into the blogosphere to set the record straight. Admittedly, I don’t watch much news lately, but my ears perked up when a national reporter asked a prominent MD:
“Other than following the CDC guidelines for diligent handwashing, wearing a mask, staying hydrated, and eating our veggies, is there anything else the American public can do to support their immune system?”
This was it … a great question! I was on the edge of my seat hoping this MD would come through and provide solid recent research and empowering strategies for an American public trying to weather a major pandemic.
But the MD’s response was a major missed opportunity. I was beyond disappointed by her answer, which I must respectfully call uninformed. She stated that eating a well-balanced diet and getting enough sleep was important … which I wholeheartedly endorse. But she followed by saying there was little research at this time that supplements or other interventions are helpful to support the immune system. She added there is some inconclusive evidence about vitamin D and that medical professionals don’t recommend people necessarily supplement.
My jaw was on the floor. This interview took place just last week, after over a dozen studies on vitamin D have been released in the past 6 months examining its possible preventive role against COVID-19. These studies are, of course, limited by the challenge of gathering data in the middle of an emerging and evolving pandemic. But several of these studies demonstrate a clear connection between low vitamin-D levels and the risk of COVID-19 infection. Further, the authors of these initial studies also connect their findings with solid prior evidence on vitamin D’s function in preventing and reducing the severity of influenza and other respiratory illnesses, as well as its ability to enhance and modulate the immune system in general.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Role of vitamin D in preventing of COVID-19 infection, progression and severity
This study examined vitamin D levels and the number of COVID-19 cases in 20 European countries. It found that lower vitamin D levels were associated with an increased number of COVID-19 cases.
- The role of vitamin D in the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 infection and mortality
The authors of this study found a similar correlation between lower vitamin D levels and the number of COVID-19 cases this spring in Europe.
- Low plasma 25(OH) vitamin D level is associated with increased risk of COVID‐19 infection: an Israeli population‐based study
In an analysis of 14000 Israeli patients tested for COVID-19, low vitamin D levels were found to increase the risk of both infection and hospitalization.
- Effect of calcifediol treatment and best available therapy versus best available therapy on intensive care unit admission and mortality among patients hospitalized for COVID-19: A pilot randomized clinical study
This study randomly assigned 76 patients admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 to receive standard care alone or standard care plus high dose vitamin D. Only 2% of patients who received vitamin D went on to be admitted to the ICU, compared to 50% of those who did not receive vitamin D.
I continue to struggle with understanding why ALL medical doctors are not checking vitamin D levels on their patients and why research-based supplementation guidelines are not being offered to help people have greater control over their health. Individualized and monitored supplementation is necessary to promote the most favorable outcomes.
A robust immune system is the heart of both preventing COVID and minimizing its impact should you catch it. Since we know vitamin D and other supplements can support the immune system, it seems irresponsible to me not to recommend their use in the face of a deadly global infection.
And the same is true for other interventions. Research is clear that lifestyle, environmental factors, and the health of your gut are vital to optimal immune health. That is why over the coming months I will be reporting on solid evidence-based research and strategies that I have been providing to my own clients and followers. I want you to find freedom from the paralysis of fear and give you effective tools that can support your immune system in the fall and winter months, and beyond.
So, keep your eye on this blog as I dive into your many options for optimizing your immunity: including diet, supplements, lifestyle practices, and how to support your immune system’s key regulator — your gut.
Before I sign off for today, let’s get back to the question of vitamin D.
Making the Vitamin D Decision
Are you getting enough vitamin D? Should you supplement?
Your skin produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun, and you need between 10-20 minutes of exposure on your arms and legs a few days per week, typically between the hours of 12-3pm to provide a baseline level. But this is greatly affected by cloud cover, skin color, elevation, use of sunscreen and, especially latitude. I live in Florida, where the sun is strong enough all year to trigger vitamin D production. However, most people in the US live above the 37th parallel, and this means they can’t make vitamin D from the sun November through March each year, and they must rely on whatever stores they’ve built up in the summer months. This is one reason why vitamin D levels plummet in the winter and seasonal infections like the flu rise at the same time.
You can get a small amount of vitamin D from foods, especially fatty fish like tuna and salmon, and some from liver, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified foods like dairy, dairy substitutes and cereals. The recommended amount for an adult daily is 600 – 800 IU. Three oz of cooked salmon has 450 IU; an egg yolk has 37 IU, and a serving of milk offers 2 IU. As you can see, supplementing in the winter in northern states may be your only easy option to ensure adequate vitamin D levels unless you really, really like sardines.
If you choose to supplement, it’s important to use high quality products from professional supplement lines and know that proper dosing can be affected by supplement quality, concentration of active ingredients and other factors. For the highest safety and greatest benefit, it’s best to consult a qualified clinician for testing and recommendations. The typical recommended dose is 800-2000 IU/day of Vitamin D3. Those with certain genetic variations or other conditions can require up to 5000 IU/day and in some cases 10,000 IU/day may be indicated for a short time span. Supplementation should always be done in conjunction with a licensed qualified practitioner.
With the correct supplement and dosing schedule, it’s possible to restore inadequate vitamin D to a healthy level, often in a few weeks to a few months. If you have low vitamin D levels and you supplement, it is important to recheck your levels in 3-4 months.
2020 has taught us that our health can easily be taken for granted … But I feel it may offer a needed wake-up call! There is so much we can do. Instead of just hunkering down and surviving this pandemic, let’s all commit to emerging stronger and wiser than ever. It is my hope that, individually and collectively, we learn to take steps to prioritize our health. It is not selfish or indulgent, it is necessary. Optimal health not only helps us to thrive, but it gives us the power to care for our loved ones, our communities, and the world.
Coming soon — more research-supported supplements for immune health
January is almost over…. how are you doing with your New Year’s goals? I personally stopped setting “resolutions” years ago and now focus on specific goals for each area of my life and/or set a specific word or mantra to help me focus on what I wish to achieve.
New Year’s resolutions/goals don’t need to happen on New Year’s Day, they can happen any day! When you take control of your health and your life, you feel empowered. Choose to feel empowered any day and don’t let the calendar dictate when you establish them… let it be on your time and in your style.
Here are 7 “fast” strategies that you can begin to incorporate into your life to help balance mind, body, and spirit. The best thing…you can start them any day of the year. Consider choosing 1-3 that are most important to help you get closer to your Wellness Vision for a spectacular 2018!
- Fill your Plate with 75% Non-Starchy Veggies. Yes, this means those with LOTS of color and ideally at least 3 different colors at one time to provide an array of nutrients. Unfortunately, carbs get a bad rap. Carrots and ice cream both fall into the carbs category, but we all know one is healthy and the other isn’t. Ideally, about 75 percent of your carb intake should come from mostly non-starchy veggies with a little addition of fruit. So decide to add as much COLOR and VARIETY as possible this year. (Both are the “spice of life” :))
- Go All-Out with 7 Minutes of Intense Exercise. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves working at the very top end of your capacity for 45 – 60 seconds, then recovering for 3 minutes by walking or a slow jog, then returning to very high intensity for another 45 – 60 seconds. Don’t let the short time fool you! You’ll see significant fitness gains very quickly. You can do it walking, running, biking, jumping rope, dancing, or even swimming. Just focus on getting your intensity up to a 8 or 9 on a 1-to-10 scale during the intense intervals, and then allowing your system to recover as much as possible during the rest cycles. Be prepares to work up a sweat!
- Practice Good Sleep Hygiene. Going to sleep and waking at the same time each day creates a rhythm for your body. Only use your bed for sleep or romance. Don’t keep a television in your bedroom! Studies show the artificial, bright light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones like melatonin. (This is a hormone that can also impact your gut!) Consider an hour before bed…turn off your phone, all electronics, and find a relaxation technique (such as a hot bath, reading a book, meditation, etc.) that helps you drift into deep sleep.
- Spend 2-Minutes Meditating – Morning and Evening. What a great way to begin and end your day. The effects of chronic high cortisol and other stress hormones on our brains deplete brain power and leave us tired and often overweight. You don’t need 30 minutes of meditation or an hour-long yoga class to lower stress hormones. A 2-minute breathing practice, yoga, or meditation exercise can do wonders for your mind and body. Here’s a breathing exercise called “Take 5” you can do several times each day. Sit on a chair, or propped up on pillows in your bed, or cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. Close your eyes and your mouth. Breath in slowly through your nose to the count of five. Hold to the count of five and then slowly breathe out to the count of five.
- Cultivate a Healthy Community. Friend power, not willpower, is the key to success with your health goals. When you shift focus and prioritize your friends, family, and coworkers, you deepen your connection with them and feel more fulfilled. Sometimes those connections might feel uncomfortable, but they’re worth it. Social media has its place, but most of us spend far more time there than we do interacting in real life, which new research shows it impacts our health and happiness. Instead, be sure to spend an intentional 5 minutes a day connecting with a loved one.
- Use a Gratitude Journal. There is great research that gratitude can transform your life by helping to develop greater positivity and happiness. A little reflection on your life and what you are most grateful for each day can help set your day (and perspective) up for success. One of my favorite little finds this year that I have been using is the 5-Minute Gratitude Journal. I love that it asks the questions and you journal your reflections both in the morning and the evening…all in 5 minutes tops!
- Capture Your “Mantra or Word” for the Year. What is it that you want to improve, achieve, give back, and/or strive toward in the New Year…how can you put that into one word to help you refocus and connect with your priorities for the year? Spend some time reflecting on what is most important to you. For example: “Balance”, “Authenticity”, “Fitness”, “Family” – could help you stay grounded and focused.
Incorporate these fast, effective strategies and watch your life improve!
Your resolutions and goals can happen any day.
Get started today 🙂
This is something I talk about a lot and try to practice in my own life. Gratitude helps me stay grounded while supporting my health goals. Thanksgiving is the perfect time time to be reminded of this practice. Gratitude IS indeed a practice, since it takes intention and mindfulness.
As you enjoy delicious food, family time, making memories, travel, and opportunities to “give back” … seek ways to embrace gratitude! While most of us have good intentions for gratitude throughout the year, it is easy to slip out of focus. Surprisingly, only 20 percent of Americans rate gratitude as a positive, constructive emotion. Expressing gratitude isn’t just a nice thing to do, is it one of the most basic things you can do to transform your life…and there is no better time to start!
4 Reasons to Practice Gratitude
Just in case you need some actual research and extra motivation after the Thanksgiving season, here are scientifically-proven benefits of practicing gratitude.
- Practicing gratitude will make you happier than money or “stuff.” It is so easy to focus our attention on what we “don’t have” and strive “to get”. Concentrating our attention on what we actually “have” will impact our overall happiness more than pursuing money or material objects. For example, the act of using a gratitude journal each day for a month has been shown to have a 10 percent increase on subjective happiness. Believe it or not, that’s the same reported increase as doubling your income! The Gratitude Journal by Catherine Price is one of my favorites used in the JBS Detox Program.
- Practicing gratitude makes us stronger emotionally. Not only does gratitude improve our self-esteem and lower our risk of depression, it also improves our resilience and ability to deal with trauma. Additionally, it reduces toxic emotions like envy, resentment, and regret! Choose gratitude over negative emotions when they creep in… it can transform your day!
- Gratitude heightens our immune system (aka: our gut!) It has been shown to support blood cells to fight disease and decreases stress hormones like cortisol by up to 23 percent. It also decreases blood pressure and heart rate variability. It is important not to underestimate emotions as a root cause that lead to impacting health.
- Practicing gratitude helps us sleep better. Gratitude increases sleep quality, reduces the time required to fall asleep, and increases sleep duration. In one study of 65 subjects with a chronic pain condition, those who were assigned a daily gratitude journal to be completed at night reported half an hour more sleep than the control group. In another study of 400 healthy people, participants who had higher scores on a gratitude test reported significantly better sleep. Consider adding this to your daily sleep routine.
The science is in, gratitude has a positive impact on our overall well-being. As 2017 draws to a close consider reflecting an all that you are grateful for and make a list… but don’t keep it to yourself, share it with someone!
With THANKS for YOU!
HAPPY NEW YEAR! As we get ready to kick off the new year with our goals and aspirations for 2017, I took some time to reflect on the past year. I like to look back as I determine my top areas to focus on moving ahead. I thought it would be fun to reflect on my top favorite ” foodie finds” from 2016 that I have fallen in love with and now can’t live without!
Check out my top 8….then leave a comment and share your “favorite food finds” that support your wellness goals.
ps…and if you give one of my top 8 a try…. come back and share your thoughts!
- I Love Beets: No more excuses of why you can’t indulge in all the benefits of beets! Toss in smoothies, slice on salads, eat as a snack….options are endless . Despite this little gem as my “go to”….I do still prefer getting my organic beets and roasting them…especially this time of year when they are local and in season! But let’s face it, sometimes life calls for a little convenience! (ps. if you saw my cake recipe in the last newsletter – these work great!)
- Braggs 24 Herbs & Spices Seasonings: I have tried so many spice blends but am often less than pleased with lack of flavor or versatility to use with a wide range of foods. This blend seems to be great on anything…sprinkled on salads, dips, added to dressings, mixed with roasted or steamed veggies, added to soups! Not only is this blend delicious, but adds a punch of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties to your meals… a win-win in my book!
- Clean Soups by Rebecca Katz: If you want to master delicious soups filled with amazing flavor and ingredients… this is the book for you! This goes beyond your basic soup cookbook and gives the true meaning of “food as medicine” in each and every recipe. Colleague and culinary guru, Rebecca Katz, is known for her amazing gift of of healing and health for those impacted by cancer. From broths and stocks, blended soups, to more hearty soups…each recipe is perfected to brilliance! (I include many of her recipes in my 10-Day ECF Detox – perfect for gut-healing and detoxifying!)
- Good Karma Flaxmilk with Vanilla: I admit… 12 years ago when I had to give up milk, it was hard. But when I switched to organic soy milk, it seemed to fit the bill for all my needs for years. However, due to my own health issues and concerns with soy… last year I said goodbye to my daily soy milk and switched to organic coconut and almond milk. The downside to the change is no protein, and I didn’t like either in my coffee. After trying almost everything, while refusing to go with sweetened creamers… I found cold-pressed flaxseed milk. It was the right creaminess with the extra protein and now a regular staple!
- Cardamom: It wasn’t until the past 2 years that I had been introduced to this amazing spice.Related to ginger (another favorite) it can be used to combat nausea, acidity, bloating, gas, heartburn, loss of appetite, constipation, and more. This spice helps the body eliminate waste through the kidneys, and why I will use this in my detox regimens. I would love to say I am uber creative with this spice, but mainly I toss it in teas, hot cereals, pancakes mixes, and have used as a rub for chicken! Check out more about benefits of cardamom! If you don’t have this spice in your cabinet…perhaps it’s time to jump on the bandwagon.
- Organic Red Lentil Rotini: Non-GMO, organic, gluten free, high in fiber (11 grams), high in protein (21 g), rich in minerals and essential vitamins, cholesterol free…..and cooks in 8-10 minutes! Besides the fact it is in a box (but is recyclable)….you can’t go wrong with this product when it comes to nutrition benefits. Taste is great and since it is so high in protein, it makes a super fast meal paired with veggies and your favorite sauce. Try homemade marinara or pesto… or my new favorite – Creamy Avocado Pasta!
- Avocado Oil: This has been the year of avocado for me. I can’t get enough… and almost panic if I am without…avocado in smoothies, avocado cream sauce, dressings, and now oil! I love using this in place of my EVOO when roasting veggies, making dressings, and sautéing at high heat when making stir fry (Check out my blog – are you hurting your health by choosing the wrong oil!) Be sure to look for cold-pressed and non-GMO.
- Truly’s All Natural Deodorant: OK, so I know this is not “food”. However, with only 4 ingredients (organic coconut oil, organic powdered sugar, baking soda, and beeswax) it practically qualifies. (grin). I had to share due to my enthusiasm. My 2 year search for an all-natural deodorant (that works!) in order to avoid the toxic aluminum and other ingredients has ended. Numerous bottles can be found in my drawers that failed to deliver anything close to my clinical strength deodorant. This was the BEST find of 2016 for me. Works perfectly and covers me in any and all sweaty and stressful circumstances. Truly’s is my new “true love” for my personal hygiene needs!
Do you want to achieve your wellness dreams in 2017… beat the bloat, lose the weight, regain control of your health, renew your vitality, discover the root cause of your health struggles? If so, give me a call. I would love to hear about your wellness dreams and help you discover abundant health in the New Year!
In the meantime, leave a comment about YOUR favorite 2016 FOODIE finds!
Wishing you a healthy and vibrant 2017! Julie
Here it is again – the importance of SLEEP! Around the holidays is often a time to skimp on sleep. But it is the MOST important time to be proactive and make sleep a sacred part of your wellness routine. The stressors of holidays can take a toll on our health without time to rest and recharge.
Before your head sinks into the pillow at bedtime, there are some very simple things you can do to prepare mind and body for a night of deeply restful sleep. The evening hours are a time when the busyness of your day should begin to wind down. It’s important to create a bedtime ritual that will help tame the thoughts that may still be racing through your mind and which can prevent you from falling or staying asleep throughout the night.
In addition to the lifestyle tips for better sleep that are described in my blog- Sleep – Essential to Mind-Body , try adding some of the following naturopathic and holistic approaches to your evening routine.
7 Strategies to Support Sleep
- Enjoy a warm bath including Epsom salts and/or lavender oil. Diffuse essential oils while bathing or in the bedroom. (Check out Natural Partners for discount on essential oils and diffusers)
- Consider adding a quality magnesium glycinate – this type of magnesium is well absorbed and particularly good for aiding in sleep since over 50-75% of us are deficient!
- Listen to the relaxing sounds of ocean waves, classical music, or chimes. There are specialized acoustic recordings that are orchestrated to affect specific brain wave patterns for relaxation or sleep.
- A guided recording of progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, restorative yoga poses, can help the body create the ‘relaxation response’.
- Herbs and other botanical or aromatherapy treatments are useful for calming down after a stressful day. Lavender used topically or diffused in your bedroom can be effective. Try a cup of chamomile tea. Additional teas and tinctures may be effective such as valerian, passionflower, or lemon balm.
- Try meditation, beginning with just 10 minutes a day. Meditation has numerous health benefits and recent studies show it can significantly affect quality of sleep. (Check out a user-friendly introduction with 10 minute/day – HeadSpace)
- Be sure to have your vitamin D and B-vitamin levels checked annually. Both can contribute to poor sleep due to underlying deficiencies!
Do not undermine the importance of sleep when it comes to your health. If you have difficulty concentrating, feel anxious during the day, can’t lose the extra 5 pounds, and have trouble managing stress…check in with the amount and quality of sleep you get each night.
If you are not getting 7-9 hours of sleep, it is time to make a change!
Remember, without adequate sleep….all the healthy lifestyle changes you make will have little impact on your health.
Make it a priority to rest and reboot for amazing health!
ps. Need some support to individualize an effective plan that is right for you? Contact me.… jump start your New Year with amazing health!
One of my favorite ways to concentrate on sleep and rest is through my 10 day Detox challenge!
What does the word DETOX mean to you?
If you are thinking about starving yourself, eating only 4 foods, or drinking liquids for a week…that is not the way to healthful detox! Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about the meaning and proper practice of detox. Even for me… years ago I thought it was a crazy practice to entice people to drink liquids and drop weight fast (absolutely the worse thing to do for your body!)
Proper methods of detoxing is not about depriving your body of food or nutrients! It is an opportunity to provide your body with the essential nutrients needed to support your body’s natural detox process to bring you into balance. It is a chance to introduce your palate to foods that will help your body balance and heal from the inside out!
Approaching a detox in a positive and healthy way can help you to re-establish a baseline and allow your cells and organs to function at their optimum potential. By introducing key foods and nutrients (eliminating others) while focusing on mindfulness, proper rest, movement, and environmental factors, your body will experience a well-balanced and effective detox.
Why is a detox a good idea?
- Detoxification is a normal but complex process where the body neutralizes and eliminates toxins through its major organs such as the liver, colon, kidney, lungs, lymphatic system, and skin — your body efficiently does this every day! But our self-cleansing system can get overloaded…even more so today than ever before…by unhealthy food, lifestyle habits, exposure to environmental toxins, and emotional stress. Sometimes it needs a break and a little support to function at its best!
- Many factors contribute to toxicity in the body….processed foods; alcohol; sugar; outdoor pollution and smog; harmful chemicals in the home and office, including kitchen and bathroom cleaners, detergents, etc. Some of us are more efficient than others in the detoxification process.
- We may have limited control over the environment that we are exposed to, but we have total control over the food we eat and the products we use on our body and in our homes.
- Even if your diet is good, a cleanse or detox can restore and boost your immune system…as well as protect against environmental toxins that pave the way for disease-bearing bacteria and viruses and increase risk of chronic disease.
A detox program may be right for you if you experience:
- Low energy, and fatigue
- Cravings for sugar, salt, and processed carbs
- Bloating, gas, and indigestion
- Skin problems like acne, rashes, or eczema
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
- Dry skin and hair
- Depression, moodiness, irritability
- Lack of concentration
- Weakened immunity
OR if you are ready to reset and refresh your system to experience greater health, vitality,and energy! (especially after overindulging during holidays!)
What are the benefits?
- Rest the organs and eliminate stored waste (you may even lose weight!)
- Improve vitality and energy levels
- Enhance and improve digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Clearer skin and complexion
- Greater productivity and calmer mind and spirit
- Enhance mental clarity
- Improve immune function
- Greater sense of well-being
- Lower risk of disease and illness
When is a good time for a detox?
It can be different for each person but change of seasons, around the new moon, or after a time of overindulging (the NEW YEAR is a perfect time).
Stay tuned for my upcoming online detox programs!
Thanksgiving is over…but I am still enjoying leftovers! How about you? The holiday eating season has begun…the time when most of us indulge in our favorite treats and have a busier social schedule. We are less than 5 weeks away from New Year…when a majority of Americans will gain weight and look back wondering if it was worth it?
Eating well is not about perfection, or giving up your favorite foods. A better approach involves honoring your body and knowing what works best for you and just as importantly… what doesn’t work. For example, if I go to a party and eat sugar-laden treats and cheese, I will definitely feel the after effects. Feeling sick, tired, and bloated is not how I want to feel the next day.
Mindful eating aims to reconnect you more deeply with the experience of eating and drinking. It is the process of deliberately paying attention to what is happening both within yourself and in your environment during mealtime and social events. Often this can help you to make better choices based on past experiences. When you eat mindfully, you are in tune with the aroma, taste, and texture of food and become more aware of your appetite. Mindful eating brings enjoyment (and control) back to eating. It helps sheds light on how food affects your body – positive or negative.
NOW is a perfect time to try a new approach and bring greater mindfulness into your planning and indulging this season! Try some of these strategies to keep you focused on your wellness goals. Just like anything else in life….preparation is the key.
8 Strategies to Slow Down and Stay on Track During the Holidays
- Remember your goals. It is a good idea to write down your wellness goals before you hit the holiday parties and festivities. If you want to feel great (and avoid the extra pounds), you will be less likely to over-indulge. Set an intention for how you would like to feel after each meal and hold yourself accountable by sharing with a friend or spouse. Sometimes treating yourself to your favorite sugary sweet and other pleasure food is exactly what the moment calls for…however, most of the time, you will feel better if you refrain!
- Pause & connect. After you give thanks for your meal, but before you pick up your fork, take a moment to connect with your appetite. How hungry do you feel? Of all the food on the table, what are you truly hungry for? What flavors will nourish you and replenish your energy? Fill your plate first with the nourishing foods your body needs most. Then, finish your plate with smaller amounts of those traditional holiday favorites.
- Clear digital distractions. At holiday time when family and friends gather from near and far, it is easy to forget to turn off the digital devices that are such a huge part of our lives. Sure, someone may complain about missing a key play in the big game (my house on Thanksgiving;)), but what is truly important? Everyone at your table should be in the moment for the main part of the meal…free of distraction and enjoying a precious time of fellowship.
- Relax…and engage the senses. Take five deep breaths before your meal. Take small bites and focus on chewing slowly… notice the smell, color, and flavor of your food. Consider the nutrients that the food will provide for you. Digestion begins with the act of chewing. Salivary enzymes break down food the moment it enters your mouth. Your taste buds awaken to flavors as you chew. Pause between bites to set your utensils down and breathe.
- Respond to pushers politely. Perhaps you know exactly what I mean. That friend or relative that asks you repeatedly why you are not indulging at a party or having dessert (or seconds!) Consider responding politely that you are there for the people and fellowship, not the food. Perhaps you have already eaten your dinner so you can focus on the people and have a good time. This limits the risk of offending anyone…especially the cook.
- Avoid or limit alcohol. Alcohol reduces your inhibitions and can therefore cause you to overindulge, making poor choices. Most types of alcohol are filled with sugar and empty calories. Instead, bring or ask for sparkling water with lemon or lime. If you do drink…stick to one drink and sip slow and make it last, then switch to water.
- Stay active and people-focused rather than entirely zeroing in on the food. Plan on an activity to look forward to after a meal like a walk on the beach, miniature golf, or visiting with other friends or family. Offering to clean up and help your host helps prevents overeating or reaching for dessert. Sit next to someone you find genuinely interesting and engage in conversation with them.
- Don’t beat yourself up. I see this all to often with my clients…they are laden with guilt over slipping back into old habits. Leave the guilt behind! Guilt is a toxic emotion that creates more harm than good. When things get out of control (which they do), simply make a change and begin to revert back to your healthy habits. If you indulge a little, be gentle with yourself and don’t judge or be critical. Ask yourself if you enjoyed the process. How did you react to the food that you ate? Pay attention and move on by making a U-turn back to the foods and activities that make you feel your best!
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season! Be sure to stay connected. I will be sending out exciting information about the New Years ECF Detox Program and discounts for 2017! If you want a sneak peak and are ready to kick off the New Year feeling your best then CLICK HERE for all the juicy details!
I am so excited for 2017 and all that is in store for YOU! Together let’s work to meet your wellness goals so you can accomplish all your dreams for the New Year! ~ Julie 🙂
How has the time change affected you? Are you energized, tired, indifferent? Do shorter evenings inspire you to get into bed earlier for some extra zzzz’s? Or do you find yourself struggling….failing to feel a sense of refreshment and vitality upon rising?
A growing area of health concern is lack of SLEEP – quality and quantity! More than 20 years of research shows us that sleep is vitally important to physical and mental health. Yet, over 50% of clients I work with struggle in this area. Without sleep, all other therapies related to nutrition and lifestyle have little effect. Sleep is often the most important area to address.
What happens to the mind and body when we don’t sleep enough, or at all? Research, both animal and human, shows us that living without sleep for even a few months resulted in death. Sleeping fewer than 7 hours a night on a regular basis is associated with increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke, depression, colds and flu, and obesity.
What Happens When We Sleep:
Sleep affects brain chemistry and has an important role in the functioning of the nervous, immune and endocrine systems. During sleep we develop and reinforce neural pathways involved in memory, learning, and emotion. New research suggests sleep helps flush toxins from the brain.
While we are sleeping, the body manufactures hormones that repair damage caused by stress and the environment in which we work and play. Growth hormones cleanse the liver, build muscle, break down fat, and help normalize blood sugar. We also produce hormones that help fight infections. If we aren’t getting sufficient sleep, we get sick more often and take longer to recover. Lack of sleep increases inflammation, which has been linked to heart disease and stroke. (Sleep is pretty important!!!)
Skimping on shut-eye is linked with obesity in adults and children. And lack of sleep even interferes with the levels of ghrelin and leptin, metabolic hormones that signal when you’re hungry and when you’re full.
How Much Do You Need:
The amount of sleep you need varies based on age, activity level, quality of sleep, and genetics. Infants typically require 14-15 hours of sleep per 24-hour period; young children about 12 hours; teens about 9 hours, and most adults 7-9 hours. A general rule of thumb for determining your sleep requirement: If you do not wake feeling refreshed, you may not be getting enough sleep.
Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep
- Keep the bed for sleep and sex only. If you don’t feel sleepy, leave the room and do something relaxing until you feel drowsy. (See the blog on Natural Therapies for Amazing Sleep). Then, go back to bed.
- Set a sleep schedule. This includes a soothing pre-sleep routine, such as a warm bath, reading or gentle yoga. Go to bed and wake at the same time each day. This trains your body rhythms, making it easier to fall asleep. If you need a nap, get it in before 5:00 PM; limit to 20 minutes.
- Surround yourself with cave-like ambiance. A sleeping space should be quiet, dark, and cool (between 60-72°). If you do shift-work, use blackout shades or an eye mask.
- Remove electronic devices, computers and TVs from your room. Research shows that use of digital devices within an hour of bedtime has a negative effect on sleep quality.
- Let the light in early and exercise regularly. Natural light helps regulate hormones that promote ideal sleep-wake patterns. Open the curtains as early as possible and get outdoors during the day. Exercise during the day or early evening makes it easier to fall asleep and increases the amount of deep sleep obtained.
- Eat a light dinner 2-3 hours before sleep is ideal. A full stomach interferes with sleep as the body works at digestion. Steer clear of spicy or fatty foods that can cause heartburn. If you need a bedtime snack, combine a carbohydrate and protein, such as almond butter on an apple or organic Greek yogurt with pumpkin seeds.
- Avoid products containing caffeine, sugar or nicotine as their effects can last several hours.
Are You Sleep Deprived?
You don’t have to pull “all-nighters” to become sleep deprived. A sleep debt of just 1-2 hours a few nights a week can affect your health and performance.To become fully well-rested and regain energy after a sleep debt, get an extra hour of sleep each night for one week. If you experience any of the following signs of sleep deprivation, talk to your healthcare provider about natural approaches to getting your sleep back on track.
- Daytime drowsiness; fatigue
- Poor memory; difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty dealing with stress
- Muscle tension; impaired vision
- Increase in accidents or clumsiness
Is your sleep quality and quantity suffering? If so, consider making sleep your top priority! Feel like you have tried everything and still can’t sleep, consider talking with your doctor to help identify any underlying health condition. Many key nutrients are essential for sleep and many medication may impact getting adequate amounts. This is why SLEEP is an essential area I address when working with clients!
Wishing you good health & good night sleep! ~ Julie 🙂 ♥
ps. Are you ready to take your health to the next level? Let’s connect to see how we can best work together to make your wellness dreams come true!
Are you a strawberry lover? If so, you are part of the vast number of Americans who enjoy one of the most popular, refreshing, and healthy natural treats on the planet!
All fruits shine with rich colors, signifying they are bursting with antioxidants that help fight disease and benefit your health! Strawberries are no exception, plus they are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals…which include folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and are one of the highest fruits in Vitamin C. Is it any wonder they have won the title as one of the top 10 “super foods”!
Armed with this information, you may not be surprised that Americans consume about eight pounds of strawberries per year -nearly four times as much compared to 1980. But what you may not know is that we are also consuming dozens of pesticides, including chemicals that have been linked to cancer, neurological problems, and shown to disrupt our hormones and reproductive systems. (Many of these chemicals have been banned in Europe.)
Years ago I loved picking strawberries by the bushel each Summer…and the excitement and enjoyment that came once a Season, and now they are available anytime. Ever wonder what may have changed over the past decades to allow that to happen? Sadly, an increase in chemically-aided growing methods and use of pesticides are largely to thank for making strawberries available year round. Strawberry growers in particular, have been found to use jaw-dropping volumes of not only pesticides, but poisonous gases to sterilize their fields before planning, killing every pest, weed, and other living thing in the soil.
Here are a few Facts from the USDA’s 2014 testing of 176 batches of strawberries:
- Almost all samples – 98% – had detectable residues of at least one pesticide
- 40% had residues of 10 or more pesticides
- The dirtiest strawberry sample had residues of 17 different pesticides
- Strawberry growers used 60 different pesticides in various combinations
Want to know more and just how hazardous these chemicals are? Read the full report from the Environmental Working Group.
The report is short and a must-read to be informed. EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. EWG is unique in that it offers reliable factual information that is not skewed by the government or big food companies.
So How Do You Reduce YOUR Exposure to Pesticides? …Go ORGANIC!
Just last month the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released the 2016 edition of the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. For the first time, it elevated STRAWBERRIES to #1 on the top of the Dirty Dozen List! (It took the lead after conventionally grown apples topped the list for the past 5 years.)
So, to help keep you up to date, and give you the facts so you can be the most informed consumer… here is your own copy of the 2016 EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce! For more information on Pesticides in Produce see my past blog post. Remember… organic produce is also free of GMO! If you read April’s newsletter, you may have hopped on the non-GMO bandwagon.
One of my favorite ways to “carry” my shopper’s guide with me, (to remember top fruit and veggies that are on the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 list) is by using the free app! Check it out and never leave home with out it!
Oh and by the way…
Please support our wonderful local farmers…many of which are certified organic or use less pesticides than other conventional growers. Check it out – What’s In Season in Florida in May!
Drop me a line and let me know if you found this to be helpful. Do YOU plan to use EWG’s Shopper Guide?!
Let’s strive together for Food Safety and Optimal Wellness!
“Oil is oil right?” Oh, this couldn’t be farther from the truth! (I cringed slightly as I heard this walking down the aisle of the grocery store.) Just like any other product we choose to consume (food, beverage, or supplement), we need to be mindful and informed shoppers to protect and optimize our health.
You may have seen the 60 Minute episode recently that showed olive oil imported from Italy really wasn’t olive oil at all. Yikes! And just the other day I picked up a jar of coconut oil and it listed palm oil on the back? I must confess, up until several years ago, even I was deceived by the marketing! Not only that… but I realized how I was actually using them was HURTING my health. Not anymore, and why I chose to post a blog to help you!
I find that clients are finding it exceedingly challenging to navigate not only the supermarket aisle, but filter through consumer ads, friend’s recommendations, and “health expert” blogs. So I want to give you the most accurate information on how to make the best informed choice for your health. Here you will find pointers and some of my favorite brands to help you when selecting 2 popular and healthy oils – olive and coconut.
Quality is key… as well as understanding how it is Sourced and Processed.
You can imagine how competitive selling olive oil can be due to its popularity and touted health benefits. In his book Extra Virginity, Tom Mueller takes us through the sublime, scandalous world of olive oil. He discusses how resellers add lower-priced, low-grade oils filled with artificial coloring to extra-virgin olive oil. In fact, one study demonstrated about 69% of olive oil imported and labeled “extra-virgin” failed to meet standards in an expert smell and taste test. Crazy! When it comes to olive oil (or really any oil), you have to do your research and pick the best ones. While most oils are refined, olive oil is one of the few oils we still consume mostly unprocessed.
Here are important considerations when choosing olive oil:
- Always choose extra-virgin, which is the oil that is derived from the first pressing of the olives. This version of the oil contains many nutrients (such as polyphenols) that protect it from heat damage. One study compared the anti-inflammatory power of the oil from the first pressing of olives with that of later pressings. Researchers found extra-virgin olive oil lowered inflammation, while oil from later pressings did not.
- Choose unfiltered. Unfiltered olive oil will appear to be cloudy because it contains naturally occurring elements like antioxidants which protect against oxidative damage.
- Look for cold-pressed olive oil, which means manufacturers use very little heat when processing olives to get the oil. Cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil provides the strongest possible nutrient value because of low-heat processing, along with the oil’s first pressing high phytonutrient content.
- Be aware of misleading claims by big food companies who throw around terms like “pure olive oil.” These somewhat misleading phrases often signify a mix of unrefined and refined virgin olive oils.
- Avoid extra-light olive oil. Companies love slapping this “light” term on foods because it appeals to those consumers looking for “low fat”. These terms subtly suggest all fats are bad and make you fat, absolutely not the case! Low-fat or “light” foods are often highly refined and processed. (Oh, we have come a long way since the “fat-free” days of the ’80’s…thankfully our culture and consumers are beginning to demand more wholesome foods, free of preservatives, additives, and dyes!)
Other tips to get the best out of your olive oil…
- Storage is important because heat and other factors can trigger oxidation and other problems. Always store olive oil in a dark, cool place. Keep it sealed tight and out of direct sunlight or away from other heat sources like near the stove. (boy did I get this one wrong years ago when I stored it smack up against my oven; and then often waited to put the cap on after I was cleaning up after my meal!)
- Use olive oil within one to two months once you open it for optimal health benefits. (Hint: that may mean purchasing a smaller bottle!) Research shows quality and health benefits decline after two months, even among properly stored olive oils.
Coconut oil has hit the market and boomed in sales over the past several years touting its health benefits…in particular for its medium-chain-triglycerides, a beneficial fat that may boost metabolism and convert to energy quickly in your body, and also help with overall gut health!
- Just like olive oil, always select coconut oil that is organic, virgin, cold-pressed and unrefined.
- Avoid products that are deodorized or bleached.
- Coconut oil is one of the most versatile oils because it’s very stable. You can bake with it and use it when cooking meat, veggies and sauces over medium-high heat. You can put it into your smoothies, hot beverages, or stir into hot cereals.
6 Strategies for Buying Oils
The next time you purchase olive oil, coconut oil, or any other type of oil, consider these six strategies. (Oh and remember…use a wide variety of healthy oils (listed below). Each offer benefits so don’t just stick to one type of oil, explore!)
- Always choose organic, unrefined, cold-pressed, or expeller pressed. These terms ensure you’re purchasing a quality, highly nutritious and sustainable product. Organic production prohibits genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) and the use of toxic solvents (such as hexanes) for extraction in oils. If possible, check out the company directly. Ensure the product is truly cold-pressed and lives up to its claims and standards, and that the manufacturer does not use toxic solvents in the refining process. Check out websites and don’t hesitate to email or call them with any concerns.
- Choose oils in dark, not clear bottles. The dark color helps protect the oil from direct sunlight exposure, which can cause it to go rancid.
- Store the oil in a cool, dark place away from heat and light exposure such as cabinets or the fridge in airtight containers. Never store oils on sunny kitchen counters or next to the stove.
- Always tightly close the lid after using. Oxygen can make oil go rancid quickly.
- Purchase the correct size and consume in the time recommended. Remember oils tend to go bad after a span of a few months or years depending on the type of oil. Those mega-store gargantuan containers, are not such a great buy if you don’t use the oil.
- Choose the right oil for the job. Because different oils have different smoke points, it’s important to choose the right oil for the task at hand. Here are the temperatures at which some of the more popular oils reach their smoke points (lowest to highest):
- Sunflower oil, unrefined: 225 F
- Red Palm oil: 302 F
- Walnut oil, unrefined: 320 F
- Coconut oil unrefined: 350 F
- Extra-virgin olive oil: 375 F
- Macadamia oil: 413 F
- Almond oil: 420 F
- Grape seed oil: 420 F
- Hazelnut oil: 430 F
- Avocado oil: 520 F
My top picks for Olive and Coconut Oil:
Since I often have clients ask me “what do you use”…here you go:)! I am not necessarily promoting these specific products, these are just one’s I have come to use and love. (Be sure to check out the link above where the olive oil expert Tom Mueller provides an extensive list of his picks for the best quality and best-priced brands.)
Coconut oil: I like Nutiva because it’s cold-pressed, virgin, organic, never refined and ethically sourced. Nutiva also carries a red palm oil I have yet to try.
Hopefully armed with these strategies you will feel empowered and confident to make sure you are purchasing and using high quality oils good for your health!
Leave a comment and share some of your favorite picks of oils you use and love!
With you on the Journey Toward Optimal Health & Abundant Living,